DRM or How to lose a customer


Like many of you SimCity was one of the first games I ever played on the computer. I knew that a new version was coming out, but didn’t really keep up with the news about the release – until now. Apparently the newest SimCity was released about a week ago and has been making a splash in the news. Not because it’s an awesome game, but because of horrible DRM and failing servers. EA games has decided that in order to play SimCity (even in single player mode) you have to be on the Internet. While this fan refuses to support software with such insane DRM, many others did and it crashed/slowed the servers to such a point that no one could play the game.

This from ReadWrite:

Server problems wouldn’t normally hamper a video game’s launch, unless that game is developed by EA. In an effort to combat piracy – or something, it’s not quite clear – EA deployed an online-only Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology through its Origin service for SimCity, which came out on March 5. That means in order to play the game, you need to be online at all times and connected to EA’s servers, even when playing the single-player mode. When player demand starting causing the servers to fall, it also brought down nearly every player’s ability to play any aspect of the game.

To apologize EA is offering people effected a free game from their catalog – but why the heck would I want yet another game with DRM that makes it so that I can’t play games when I’m on the road? SimCity was the perfect game to play when on a train or a plane when you don’t want to pay for Wifi … in fact that’s how I still play SimCity 4.

I understand that gaming companies are worried about piracy, but this kind of DRM is not the solution. I’m sure someone will crack it eventually – but more importantly it is stopping loyal fans like me from continuing the buy in to the franchise.

Going forward, the only real solution may come from the most helpful 1-star review on Amazon, from a user named Malor who earned more than 7,700 recommendations. He noted that SimCity is not a typical game with a beginning, middle and end. It’s a toy, and you used to be able to buy that toy and play with it. But now, Malor wrote, “You don’t even get to buy your toy. Rather, you rent a toy from EA, who lets you play with it only in very limited, circumscribed ways, only on their servers.”

Malor’s final recommendation offers perhaps the best approach: “You would be wiser to take three twenties out of your wallet, and light them on fire.” In other words, don’t waste your time or money on products with draconian DRM, no matter how intriguing they might be otherwise. Only when DRM affects sales will EA and other publishers take this situation seriously.

Delete individual autofill entries

Address Bar

Today I did some clean up of my data on my computer. I created some groups in LastPass and did some site title clean up. I also did some research on how to get rid of autofill entries that aren’t right or got added without me realizing. I found this handy article on Lifehacker on doing just this.

For example, I visit TripIt a least once a week and one time I typed it wrote as tripti.com and so that is always the first address I pick from the address bar. So using the tip from Lifehacker I just moused over that entry in my address bar and hit ‘Shift+Delete’ on my keyboard and it disappeared. I was also able to delete typos in my log in forms this way as well.

Macbook Vending Machine

Drexel Macbook Kiosk

I just learned that Drexel’s Hagerty Library is not only lending out Macbook Pros to those on campus, but is doing so via a vending machine type interface.

Drexel University introduced a 24-hour, self-service vending machine located in the W. W. Hagerty Library that will dispense MacBooks for use by students, faculty and staff. Drexel is the third university on the East Coast to introduce the kiosk, which holds up to 12 MacBooks that could be checked out free by anyone with a Drexel ID for five hours.

The kiosk provides a 24-hour solution to students who want to work on projects and assignments or study at the library late into the night.

Found via Gizmodo that pointed me to Drexel’s official release.

Downgrade from Windows 8


Disclaimer: I’m not a Windows user … not even a Windows fan … but this is probably of interest to some of you so I’m sharing.

The other day my Dad was asking about buying a new computer. He didn’t want Windows 8 so he wanted to hurry and buy a computer soon so he could get Windows 7. It seems to be a common theme I’m seeing on the tech blogs – Windows 8 is a disappointment. So that’s why I thought I should share this Lifehacker article about easily downgrading your Windows 8 machine to Windows 7.

If you’re planning on getting a Windows laptop/computer soon and want Windows 7 be sure to read the tips from Lifehacker.

IL2012: Artificial Intelligence Transforming Reference

Screen Shot 2012-10-23 at 3.16.52 PM

Deeann Allison and Lorna Dawes spoke to us this afternoon about Pixel a chatbot that is used at the University of Nebraska.

First, what is a chatbot? It’s a software application that designed to emulate conversations with human beings. It’s frequently text based, but it can include sound and visual effects. The software is usually developed on top of a database so that the bot can match metadata from questions to the data in the database to “answer” questions. Some places you can get chatbots : Pandorabots and Program O (this is the one Pixel uses).

Emma and Stella are two other examples of library chatbots that are out there.

The chatbot is handy because it’s safe – so people don’t worry about their question being stupid and it still answers in regular language. With Pixel they pull info from the library site (hours and directions), the librarians, and they train Pixel by going in to the back end to review questions that she didn’t answer that well.

Pixel has over 84,000 categories (a single piece of information or bit of knowledge) in her database and she knows 214 spelling variations (this needs to get better/more thorough). According to Google Analytics the average visit duration with Pixel is 5:53 minutes whereas visitor spend less than 4 minutes with the catalog.

Chatbots require lots of set up in how they understand questions. For example if you want Pixel to find info on recycling you need to tell her to look for three variations (* is a wildcard) ‘Recycling’ (for if someone puts in a keyword only), ‘* Recycling’ (finds ‘what do you know about recycling’), or ‘* Recycling *’ (finds ‘what do you know about recycling cans?’).

Pixel has trouble with very detailed questions. I also did a little test to find open source software information at the library and it took me several tries to get the question right. Pixel kept asking if I wanted to know about her source code. One concern at the library was that Pixel would replace them, based on my little Q&A session with her I don’t think you need to worry about that. I think that pixel is great for handling the easy stuff like “I want books on XYZ” and general info. A human would have gotten me an answer in one step instead of the 6 or 7 it took. (Click the images below to see my chat with Pixel).

I played with Pixel for a while to hopefully help the librarians teach Pixel more about open source :)

What Pixel is is an advanced search tool. Students like to use Pixel to find things on the library website because the site is so dense.

IL2012: Retail & Technology Trends

The Loop Business Model

Up first for me this morning is a talk about baseball and shopping! :)

Seriously though, the speakers were from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and were talking to us about parallels between retail and libraries and what we can learn from the retail industry.

Consumers have changed! People are using mobile devices while in stores today. We’re scanning barcodes and checking prices online to find the greatest deal while in the store. This scares retailers (with good reason). This empowers the consumer and makes them need advertising less to make decisions. We’re using the Internet to research our purchases now.

The decision making process has changed from a funnel …

to a more of a loop (according to the Harvard Business Review) …

This change is primarily because of millennials and those of us using the Internet in the palm of our hands to shop. Retailers are paying attention to this. Shopping is now done in many new/different ways:

  • Ecommerce
  • M-Commerce (mobile)
  • Web-nflueced sales
  • cross channel commerce
  • shopping 3.0
  • Omni-channel retailing

So, retailers are getting more in to social experiences with shopping. Tools that the speakers mentioned included: Pinterest, Milo, Yelp, and Shopkick.

Another way retailers are responding to these changes is in the design of their physical stores. Target now has city versions that are smaller to fit in urban spaces – many retailers are doing this now. Swivel is a completely virtual dressing room where you pick what you want to try on from a screen and see what it looks like on you (I personally don’t know how much I’d trust something like this … and I kinda like to feel the clothes on me and in my hands). Another new style of store is the “pop up store” and libraries are doing this kind of thing as well. San Francisco PL has pop up libraries and Projekt Ingeborg puts up QR codes around town (if I understood right) that link to open access content.

Something else we’re seeing in stores is augmented reality. You can try on an outfit, stand in front of a mirror and it will show you the outfit in different colors. Topshop partnered with Kinect to let you stand in front of the mirror and see yourself in different outfits.

When it comes to hand held devices, users are looking for apps, not mobile websites, they want easy one click access to content. We’re also looking for tools that let us store all of our cards on our mobile device and simply scan our phones in the store to make purchases or use our loyalty cards (it would be great to do the same thing with our library cards).

Some stores doing neat things include Neiman Marcus (touch screen device that will tell you more about the product), Macys (the endless aisle that shows you items that are not actually in the store), and Warby Parker (does pop up shops that have computers that scan your face and recommend glasses for your face shape).

The key is personalization and interactivity. Amazon recommendations has been around forever, but is a good example of this. An example of this in libraryland is BookPyschic from the Portland Public Library and LibraryThing. Other cool library innovations include the Type-Truck, augmented reality apps (in museums let you see more info on art or show you pieces not in the museum), makerspaces, Art House Co-op, ShelvAR, and DIY History.

How to not do support

Pinterest in Libraries

Disclaimer: I work for a support company so I might be biased in saying this – but we are way better at support than Pinterest is. David Lee King summarized his support experience with Pinterest. Pinterest was messing up links from his catalog so he thought he’d try support.

My first attempt wasn’t a good one. I submitted my ticket, and was immediately sent a link to the “here’s how to create a PIN, dummy” link (ok – they didn’t really say “dummy” – but they might as well have said that). Then they added this: ”If you’re writing about another issue, please submit a new ticket under the right topic to get help as quickly as possible.”

The story goes on. I already said that I work in a support company … but so do many of my readers! If you work in a library you’re in a service industry and a lot of what you’re doing is support (maybe not all technical) – learn from David’s story and don’t make the same mistakes that Pinterest did!

Treat joy and passion as your guide


I was reading an article by Tim O’Reilly and just had to share it with you all. One of the things I talk about when teaching open source is how the people involved in open source products love what they’re doing. It’s fun to them, not just work. O’Reilly’s article talks about that with a bit of history thrown in:

There is a prevailing mythology that new industries start when creative entrepreneurs with ideas for new businesses meet venture capitalists. The reality turns out to be different. New industries start with people having fun.

Most of the people who launched the personal computer industry three decades ago weren’t entrepreneurs; they were kids to whom the idea of owning their own computer was absurdly exciting. Programming was like a drug – no, better than a drug, or joining a rock band, and certainly better than any job they could imagine.

He ends the article by reminding us all that in order to succeed as an entrepenuer (and I’d say in order to succeed in your career in general) you need to “…treat joy and passion as your guide.” I couldn’t agree more!

Read the full article in Think Quarterly.

Hacking and a rant on texting

Drawing of a key by John LeMasney via 365sketches.org

I just finished reading an article by Mat Honan on how his digital life was hacked and totally destroyed due to one hacker who just wanted to get his hands on Mat’s 3 letter Twitter handle. This is a must read! More and more of our lives are in the cloud and more and more of our content accessible via other accounts (Google linked to Twitter linked to Amazon linked to iCloud …) making it easy to get in to all of them with info for just one.

Drawing of a key by John LeMasney via 365sketches.org

One of the things that Mat recommends is to turn on two factor security in Google (and so do others). So I went right to that because I am an Android phone user and have an Android tablet and Google is my life. Here’s where it gets tricky though! In order to do this I have give them my cell phone number so they can text me, well I don’t pay for a texting plan because why bother when I have data and Google Voice. Why waste my money each month on a texting plan that I don’t need to send texts? So, now where am I? Forced to pay per text so I can set up this two factor security? Of course I’m going to do it, but I’m just annoyed at the number of services out there that assume that you have a texting plan and don’t accept VOIP texting services (like Google’s own). I also get automated messages sometimes from new sites I sign up with or new services (like my new salon) I make appointments with – what is up with that? There was a time that no one would send a text without first asking if it was going to cost you to receive it?

Anyway, the real point of this post was to point you to this very important article on how hackers can get in to your accounts so you can protect yourself … the rant was just to make me feel better :)

If you’re using the extra authentication in Google I’d love to hear if you think it’s worth it and if it’s easy enough to use and if it sends more than one text message so I can budget for using it ;)