The secret to Farmville’s popularity is neither gameplay nor aesthetics. Farmville is popular because in entangles users in a web of social obligations. When users log into Facebook, they are reminded that their neighbors have sent them gifts, posted bonuses on their walls, and helped with each others’ farms. In turn, they are obligated to return the courtesies. As the French sociologist Marcel Mauss tells us, gifts are never free: they bind the giver and receiver in a loop of reciprocity.

A great essay and a look into why so many of the people on your Facebook friends list are playing a game they will never win that intrudes upon their real life and isn’t even fun.

(via Cultivated Play: Farmville | MediaCommons.)


This is just a quick note to inform those of you who follow me that I’m going to be restricting my flickr photostream much more than previously starting tonight. Most of the photos taken will now be set to private, with access to most of them granted to friends and family.

I will still publish a handful of photos of certain events as public images, but I think I’d like to make things a bit more controlled from now on.

If you are a friend and I have “met” you either in real life or through an online contact that I trust, I will certainly grant you access if you send a contact request using flickr.

Note that this change will also affect the photos shown here (which I’ve been thinking about changing anyway).

(Photo credit: “colorful but difficult” by bitterlysweet)

Last year, we planted a flowering cherry tree in our front yard. By the time we bought it, it had already flowered for the year. This is the first year we’ve been able to see it in bloom. The 桜 (sakura) appear in bunches of three on the branches. It’s not overly impressive yet, but I imagine as it matures, it will become very impressive to see.

As we are scheduled for some rough weather in the next couple of days, I decided to take some pictures now while the blossoms were still in one piece. I hope to take some pictures a little later after more of the buds have properly opened.

Perhaps we’ll grab a picnic blanket and lunch and celebrate 花見 (hanami). It’s nice to have a fun connection—however tenuous—both to our nation’s capital and to friends who live quite far away.