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SIMs Devastated as Llama Fund Dries Up, Opens Micro Black Hole that Swallows Simtropolis

If you’ve played some of the earlier SIM City games, you might remember the news ticker and its strangely charming “news reports” about things going on in your city or SIM nation.   Today’s headline is in homage to that style.  For one reason or another the staff at Maxis games had an obsession over llamas, and based on a 2000 interview the original architect revealed why (here is the entire interview):

Question from strat440: Why are there so many references to llamas in “SimCity”?

Will Wright: Good question. Actually, many years ago, we had a company-wide vote for our informal company-wide mascot, and the choices came down to the Boston tree fern, beef tape worm and a llama. And somehow the llama won the vote!

In case you missed it, “SIMs Devastated as Llama Fund Dries Up, Opens Micro Black Hole” is a reference to the huge debacle faced by developer company Maxis and current parent company Electronic Arts (EA) on the latest SIM City release this past Tuesday, March 5, 2013.  In short, folks that had already spent countless hours building their municipality were suddenly kicked offline and all of their work disappeared forever.  As of late as Friday, there were still legions of SIM fans demanding refunds due to ongoing poor access to play the game along with a host of companion issues from the blackout.   There is even a Change.org petition going around about the issue that features a video of what is considered by gamers to now be a “broken promise” issued by a producer of the game.

As I read the comments in various forums, it appears EA was slow to respond to refund requests at first. By the weekend, EA seems to have finally ironed out customer service policy from the top on down to service agents in order to please irate gamers.

You might be wondering, how did all this happen, can’t people just not go online to play this?   Nope.

There’s this hot topic called Digital Right Management (DRM) = going cloud-based/online only to stop some piracy while creating inconvenience for paying customers.

Also, the game was built with the hopes that entire regions of cities could be crowdsourced together by all the users combining their individual efforts, a virtually-based positive economic impact if you will.

Here are some other problems that have stemmed from the blackout issue:

In the past, major game companies always had a leg up on being able to distribute game discs and cartridges through standard retail channels.   Now that game distribution is being pushed more into cloud-based services, foul-ups such as this leave companies such as EA in a very vulnerable position of staying at the top of the heap for the longer term.   The success of such indie online games like Minecraft and a whole host of app-based games like Rovio’s Angry Birds, who used to make games FOR EA, was nearly bankrupt in 2009 and somehow set out on their own to release the smash hit, point to building evidence that a relative no-name can grab market share quite quickly if the game play and access to the games works fine.

Among others, a special thanks to the crew over at Polygon.com, it’s a great site that has a real pulse on the gaming world if you’re in to that and I have found it to be a great resource throughout my IMC 619 Emerging Media and the Market course and this particular blog post.

While I am bummed to see this happen to the denizens tethered to the PC-only release, I’m hopeful that the MAC version coming out later while leave me pleased as punch.  Otherwise I’ll be

Get Analog – Hands

Gosh.   I sat for a good twenty minutes trying to come up with something less morbid than I’d normally, ideally want to lead with on my first post for ThinkKit.  But, it was the biggest part of my life in this past year – the passing of two other lives.

Not only did I lose a grandparent on October 21 and December 3, each time my mother lost a parent.  As the eldest of her siblings and I that of the first cousins, we both would come to feel many implicit responsibilities take shape in the time leading up to, during, and after these deaths.  As a close-kin, able-bodied guy, I was inevitably called to serve as a pallbearer for my grandmother, Mary M. May.  Just six weeks later I did the same for grandpa Thomas B.  They had stuck together through thick and thin for almost 55 years.  It was an overwhelming time for all, to lose them in fairly rapid succession and under certain conditions.


I don’t know if you’ve ever been a pallbearer, but one thing I kept telling myself both times was “don’t trip” and “don’t lose your grip”.  My hands were tasked with doing one of the most symbolicly important things I would ever do in my life – honoring my grandparents’ corporal side of the journey to their final resting spots.

My grandmother happened to pass on Back to the Future Day, noted for when Doc, Marty and Jennifer time-traveled from 1985 to reach what is now the past in the first sequel of the movie franchise.  Even though I had been reveling in the buildup and buzz focused on the occasion, I let myself wonder how I could even dare try to have fun on such a sad day.  I had to prepare to re-arrange  work and travel down to my hometown in a couple of days.  Not to mention, I needed to get my suit dry-cleaned before then (one that grandma helped pick out and buy many years ago).  The more I thought about it, grandma would not be encouraging my moping around.

I skipped all the special Back to the Future movie screening opportunities, such as the one at the IMA, because I knew I’d struggle to not be a Debbie Downer.   Although, the next day I took solace in picking up an old-fashioned newspaper with my bare hands.   This wasn’t just any old newspaper though.  It was the exact version of USAToday that was featured in Back to the Future II.  How cool.

As my grandpa’s health further deteriorated after grandma’s funeral, I continued to put in some time working at a local running store.  Part of the job was helping people try on shoes – up to and including tying their shoes.  A fellow runner or walker is very particular about tying shoes –  no sloppiness allowed!  Sometimes you have to re-lace the shoes in unique ways to get them to feel just right for the customer.  Either way, it becomes more of a habit when you are doing these fittings so it’s easy for your mind to wander.   In these days of grief for grandma and with the dark clouds gathering around grandpa, my thoughts, on several occasions, threatened to shut my hands down from their duties.  But, I pressed on best I could so as to not disappoint the customer’s experience.

Is there a happy ending to all of this hand talk?  Of course there is, my dear reader.   I am certainly an experiences over materials person, but sometimes in passing of someone, their former possessions are a strong stand-in for memories of certain experiences.   Remembering the importance and pride I felt during a summer job as a teen selling Cutco knives, my mom let me pick out any pieces of the giant set I had sold grandma and grandpa.   They were a big part in helping me get going with confidence and I did well enough that I ended up being able to almost build my own set from acheived sales incentives.  One thing I never got but aspired to were the Cutco forks and spoons.  Now, every time I eat a meal, my hands will be holding the prompts for memories of family meals at my grandparent’s house.



Mapmaker, Mapmaker (My first ever ThinkKit post)

#1,  I want to point you over to the ThinkKit blogging project, which is responsible for the prompt to get this post going.  Thanks much!  Check it out:  http://www.thinkkit.org/thinkkit/2015.
Below is my mind’s map of how it relates my home state of Indiana to where I temporarily reside, for my 7th of 9 months, West Virginia.   Specifically, I’m in Morgantown, just south of the WVU campus.  I’m a graduate assistant with my online integrated marketing communications graduate program.  Irony of ironies, I still take classes online (18 graduate-level hours in total from Aug-May) but in order to be a graduate assistant and get the sweet tuition deal, I must be physically present.  It’s all good though, as I could never do sponsorship work & networking with local businesses for our annual conference, INTEGRATE, all the way from Indiana.  In a relatively short time I’ve met a lot of  business owners/managers  and learned the lay of the land in ways I never would have expected.   By finally taking classes full time, I’m also cutting off about two years from my original graduation trajectory.  Now I’ll be all done in May!
I first traveled with the intent to stay an extra day in West Virginia during my first INTEGRATE conference several years ago.   I took my bicycle and rode close to 40 miles the day after the conference on the Deckers Creek Trail. Bottom line, I was kinda hooked on the outdoorsy-ness of the environs. In addition to my initial experience, there were several trails within easy commute from Morgantown that put the famous Monon to shame in terms of avoiding vehicular traffic and sheer mountainous beauty.  (See map, where the blue dot shows Morgantown right on the edge where it starts getting “super mountainous” in terms of the Appalachian range). This inaugural bike ride was in May, as in most places at this longitude, it’s pretty amazing weather. To be perfectly honest,  I don’t recommend Indy or Morgantown during Jan-Feb, at all…head for your nearest fully-heated interior cultural destination…or, Netflix. One nice thing though about being in the mountains, the wind chill seems to be cut to about 1/4 of what it is on the midwestern plains.  I didn’t mind that – but in trade – the snow seemed slicker than what I’ve been accustomed to my whole life.  Basically a parked car could slide off the road if it wanted to.  Also, I ran into scenarios where mud was encapsulated under ice, plus, add a few inches of snow.   These special combinations got my car stuck twice. There is something about a concrete jungle of a metropolis that I never thought I’d appreciate – there’s always a parking spot somewhere that doesn’t involve things that sink under the weight of a car!   Frankly, those experiences were the strangest aspects of this first ever winter for me outside of Indiana.
But enough about winter!  Like any good map I included the location of the Pirates, the Pittsburgh version, located just about an hour north of Morgantown (see map).  I’ve never been to see them at home, but maybe I will before I head out.  They are a National League Central team, so I’ve been to plenty of games where they have been the visitors (Cubs, Reds, Cards are all a short drive from Indy and my hometown of Evansville).  The Pirates also happen to be the parent club of the minor league team in Indianapolis AND Morgantown!   The Black Bears play here but not until June, when the WVU baseball team finishes up their season.  The view of the stadium is wonderful as it provides an overlook of the main campus across the Monongahela River.    I went to a game there this past weekend as the Mountaineers took on the Butler Bulldogs…the DAWGS were slow to start but made it interesting in the last few innings.
So, there you have it!  My mapmaking between my home Indiana and my adopted home West Virginia.  I’ll see all you Hoosiers in June!

Vine, Vine, Extra Fine.

Just over a year ago, I wrote about Vine, the then newly-released micro video-sharing app produced by Twitter. One of the concerns of many viewpoints was whether it would be overrun by porn.   We don’t have numbers, but apparently Twitter said enough was enough.  Today it was announced that sexually explicit material will no longer be tolerated on Vine.   Users not meeting the policy were sent a notice that their accounts would be suspended – provided another user has reported the account.   Buried a notch below that announcement was that now users can download their Vines.  Expect Vine compilations proliferating across YouTube channels beyond the current handful such as this one.

Sick of the Yellowbook Landing at Your Door? – How to Opt Out!

For some reason or another, you rarely find phone phone books useful any more (*cough, interwebs*).   You’ve probably come up with a creative use for them, or you simply recycle them.  Below are some common things that happen with newly arrived phone books.   If you don’t see something you’ve done with them please share in the comments below.  You’ll also see the quick and painless website that I recently used to opt out from yellowbook.


Booster Seats

College Dorm Furniture

Architectural Inspiration

Sarcasm Inspiration

More Sarcasm

Last but not least, Doorstop

I couldn’t find any closeups of people using the books for kindling, which I find reassuring that people aren’t quite that daring to shove their camera too close or perhaps we all actually still know how to relax amidst a crackling fire.

During a recent IMC619 class discussion about privacy on mobile platforms, part of the conversation (as they often can with our multiple online discussion threads) took a turn towards a related matter: opting in or opting out of marketing services.   I was excited to uncover and share with my classmates and colleagues a link that you can visit to register your email and home or business address and select how many yellowbooks you would like to (not) receive.   Obviously you can set everything to zero, or if you are a budding AirBnB entrepreneur and want to impress your guests (I guess?) you can request up to three of each kind.   Just don’t forget if you ask for more, in many areas, you’ll get two updates per year.   FYI, I haven’t received any emails yet after registering, but those can always be filtered out later and it’s a small price to pay for some front stoop solace and helping he environment. 🙂

Here’s the secured data (https) opt out link!    https://www.yellowpagesoptout.com/

Please don’t forget to comment below on your creative uses for phone books and kindly take the quick poll on how many phone books you currently get or hope to no longer get.

Get on the Level

The Social Layer “Will affect our lives more deeply and more invisibly”   – game dynamics implementation according to Seth Priebatsch, the charismatic and almost always orange-clad founder of TheLevelUp.

LevelUp is a hybrid mobile payment system that includes elements of a debit card, Foursquare, a daily deals site, and a reviews site.  It’s also a game.  Priebatsch believes that Facebook’s Graph API is the decided default framework for the next decade of social interactions in much the same way certain web browsers dominated the first decade of the WWW.

“Leveling Up” is a compelling motivator for people and is the game layer on top of the social layer.  To hear more in-depth about what this all means, check out Priebatsch’s TED Talk.

The Game Layer

Some people believe gamification was a social media concept that was DOA.  Personally, I still am evaluating what this next step in fluid media could mean for privacy.  What do you think?

The List of Angie and Your Health

This week in class we covered a lot in crowdsourcing, buzz marketing and word of mouth.   Since I’m feeling a bit under the weather, my mind has drifted to one of my favorite word of mouth, crowdsourced endeavors, Angie’s List, which happens to include a section on health care providers.


Angie’s List gives power to the people, and lets them rate businesses in specific terms and top businesses gain many advantages in the process.  Also, businesses are able to respond to complains in a moderated fashion via the site.    The content on Angie’s list can be generated by paying users, the businesses themselves, guest writers and Angie’s own staff writers, such as this guy I went to grade school and high school with.  Obviously I am a bit biased, but the company does its best to hire level-headed, inquisitive and very fair writers.  Businesses are allowed to contribute articles when they have achieved high consumer ratings, helping them achieve even greater positive buzz.

While many articles do cover the pros and cons of services and general matters, Angie’s Twitter account has the approach of a daily reminder that if you aren’t helping yourself enough to take care of things maybe you should check out a provider listing.


Ok, that makes me want to sneeze even more.  X< 8 <

The only drawback to Angie’s List is that its most useful content – the provider ratings – is behind a pay wall, and beyond the free trial  an annual membership is required for continual access.  While I was able to find 655 results on WebMD about “sore throat” for free, Angie’s List is mostly meant for that next step where you need to go locally to get looked at further if it doesn’t subside.  In fact, Angie’s List shows WebMD as a top reference site.

While Angie’s list isn’t entirely free, there is a very interesting new feature called “Band of Neighbors” that lets neighborhoods share safety and news matters in a conveniently secure fashion.  Paying members and non-members are both allowed unfettered access to this feature.   This is an excellent way for Angie’s List to build additional community affinity for the brand, and hopefully some conversions to annual memberships.


Vine, Vine You’re So Fine

Is Twitter’s new Vine feature the ticket for moving up the food chain in fluid media?


“Vines to the Sky” – Matt Krack, digital photo, 2012

If you don’t know what Vine is, it is a lot like and a lot unlike Twitter itself.  Instead of a text and links only format of a tweet, a Vine video is limited to 6 seconds of audio+video footage.  Outside of choosing which 6 seconds of reality you can consecutively squash into your file, no editing is allowed.   Once the indication bar tells you that your footage has hit 6-seconds, you can either send it or delete it.   Because Vine is only enabled on iOS for the moment (<get it there and follow me @mkrack <WARNING- I CAN BE A HAM>), at least that 6 seconds is in sweet High-def format, the standard for iPhones.  Speaking of Apple, it has been purported that the tech behemoth has been  in secret talks with the Twitter camp since July 2012.   With Apple being a lover of rich media applications, is Vine ready to soon be unleashed on a much wider scale than just the early adopters of the service?   My thought is perhaps it will never make it to Android or any other non-Apple platform, but they might “share” with others later on.

It’s been over a month since the release and no non-Apple developers have been able to pounce on – I’m calling it for Vine now – the hottest new platform since Pinterest, though porn posters have threatened its long-term viability.   My confidence lies in Twitter Co. to figure out how to suppress and weed out the vast majority of those posts by creating slight posting delays for suspect posts to be able run them through some sort of recognition algorithm perhaps.  Anyone else have ideas on how Twitter could keep porn from running rampant over Vine?   I also think if Apple is really going to step in on this one, they are the de-facto experts in creating a safe and fuzzy environment for everyone.

Vine is also competing against a plethora of platforms already out there such as Branch, which is already on iOS and Android, not to mention a whole host of other thornily-competing apps and platforms.

So, what do you think?

Thou Shalt Not Tweet

So the big news today is that Pope Benedict has announced his retirement from the Papacy.   That hasn’t happened in over 600 years!   What gives?    Many are wondering if it’s because of another impending scandal in the Catholic church.  The Pope claims he is just really tired.   Either way, this event might also be historic in that it may highlight the most widely followed, most followers per tweet and shortest “celebrity” twitter account ever.   That account is @Pontifex (His Holiness Pope Benedict) a.k.a. the certified Twitter account of the Cardinal formerly known as Joseph Ratzinger.

“You beat me to it – I see you!” – Prince (does not tweet, or has a ghost tweeter at best)

With only 34 tweets posted to the @Pontifex account in just two months, the Pope has amassed over 1.5 million followers.    Not surprisingly, all of His Holiness’ tweets have been either been very inspirational and/or very holy.   In homage to the Pope’s brief time in the Twitter spotlight, I thought it would be fun to post a couple of “thought shalt not” lists for uncertain Twitter users.

Top 13 Twitter Don’ts – PCMag.com

Ten Don’ts For Marketing on Twitter – Dummies.com

In case you were still wondering or didn’t bother to check, the sole 8 lucky followees of the Vatican resident:

More Pope Benedict accounts, but just more of him in 8 other languages.