At work, I have taken it upon myself to try and spearhead various initiatives within our Customer Success team that act to push forward how we work and what we work on, as iteratively as possible, taking into account various feedback channels and measurements, and involving anyone who is interested either in reporting something that could use optimization or helping to optimize something that needs help.

We use a threaded discussion system called P2 to do most of our asynchronous communication at work, as we are a globally-distributed company. I have teammates around the world, and we need to collaborate and work with each other “overnight” (which is a relative term, as is, say “summer,” or even “Thursday”).

For each P2, we have a small sidebar image, tagline, and site icon that’s generally chosen by the person who starts that P2. Here’s what I chose for the Quality project P2:

The sidebar from the P2 in question, including a still image from the movie "Tron: Legacy," and the logo of Garlond Ironworks from Final Fantasy XIV. More details are below in the post text.

I felt like sharing why I went with these things, because I don’t ever choose anything for no reason, though I am known for occasionally doing so out of whimsy.

The sidebar header is a moment from Tron: Legacy, as the film heads into its climactic scene, and the main characters are on the run. Flynn explicitly takes a moment to stop, head to the deck of the solar sailer, close his eyes, and find calm.

As he leaves to do so, he says:

“The old man’s gonna knock on the sky; listen to the sound.”

“Knock on the sky; listen to the sound” is apparently a somewhat old Zen saying. Sometimes, calming your mind and opening it to what is around you is the way to find inspiration, insight, or guidance that might be in front of you. It’s challenging to do this when you are running from thing to thing, or very frustrated, or distracted—but that’s maybe when you need to do it the most.

The site icon is the logo of Garlond Ironworks, a group of scientists who study various ways to use machines in the world of Final Fantasy XIV. The motto of Garlond Ironworks is:

“Freedom through technology.”

They intentionally do not study or manufacture anything that can be used for tyranny’s gain. It is a gathering of intelligent people who wish to utilize and study technology for purposes of lifting up all people.

Now, I don’t remotely pretend to view the work I do on supporting customers or improving internal things as being relevant to that ethical quandary specifically, but it does serve to remind me of two things: that ingenuity can come from a variety of sources and from all sorts of people, and that we have a choice regarding whether to further technology to good or evil ends. (The former is definitely why I chose to use it in this specific context.)

The desktop wallpaper for Final Fantasy XIV patch 4.2, "Rise of a New Sun," with artwork depicting the members of Garlond Ironworks.

Chris Klimek, The Dissolve:

I still had to pedal my bike to a video store to get these movies back then. In 2014, the idea of impressionable tweens requiring protection from upsetting material they encounter in a movie theater is a similarly quaint notion. The most lasting effect of the PG-13 rating seems to be that it’s kept most mainstream pictures clear of the profanity and sexual candor that populates critically acclaimed cable dramas. Is it coincidence that while major studios have never been less inclined to invest in movies that won’t sell toys, or open huge in non-English-speaking countries, the quality of television storytelling is the strongest it’s ever been?

It’s long been obvious that movie studios’ blind adherence to “keep it PG-13 so the teens can give you their money” has been holding back artistic vision. As the article later states, once the budget reaches a certain value, it’s likely that creators lose control over the audience they wish to target.

Matt just retweeted a link on Twitter to this post on Engadget, referring to the fact that at least to date in 2014, no album will have gone platinum in the United States:

The decline in album sales is certainly nothing new, thanks to the smattering of streaming options now available to eager listeners. However, 2014 looks to be particularly awful.Forbes reports that nearly 10 months into the year, no release since January has yet to reach platinum status — a release that sells 1 million copies (in the US). What’s more, only one has sold a million copies: the Frozen soundtrack that hit shelves last year.

I’ve been pondering this recently. Album sales are down across the board. Single sales are also down, at least as far as they are tracked. Usually, what’s blamed for this is the rise of the streaming model, where you pay a single subscription and get access to as much as you want.

But in a world where scarcity is no longer a thing, what if it’s rather that our consumption is changing?

I first started thinking about this when I changed my method for purchasing games to a digital one, both in terms of using console services and with my switching back to using the PC and Steam as the primary source of my game purchasing.

I noticed rather quickly due to that the fluidity of pricing, the types of recommendations I was receiving from friends, and the ease of publishing in a post-physical-media games economy, I was purchasing more things that years ago I would not have considered—or in most cases, would never have been made.

You can see this happening in terms of availability and ease-of-publishing. Just take a look at services like Loudr or Bandcamp. More people are able to publish more types of music or movies than ever before in the history of either medium. Digital makes things cheap and accessible. It democratizes them. (Look at what you are reading now. Fifteen years ago this was barely possible.)

So what’s the longer tail on sales of things like games, music, and movies? What if the future isn’t in huge sales numbers for a very few projects or products, but in smaller sales numbers spread across a far greater number of creators and artists? The removal of scarcity and the (relative) ease of production means that if I have a singular focus or preference as a consumer, I can focus in just those things.

If I like a specific flavor of jazz, I can listen to just that as long as I’m able to find artists that play it. If I like a specific genre of game, often now I can live just within that genre and play those things to my heart’s content.

And even further, the creators of the things I consume are closer to me than ever before due to the rise of blogging and social media. I can interact with them. They can engage with me, increasing my interest and the depth of my support for what they are doing. Everyone is a potential artist. Everyone is a potential curator, sharing their likes and dislikes as I often do here. Everyone can find others that share their unique interests, which further stokes the fire.

The future is less a handful of blockbusters, and more a broad swath of interests that engage a relative few, but more strongly than ever before. It’s already happening in games. It is starting to happen in music. Movies will be the last to change.

It’ll be fascinating to see how the entrenched industries keep up with this shift.

You might have noticed the large-size artwork I added to the top of my music post this week. If you are ever looking for proper-sized or high-resolution artwork for your music collection, Ben Dodson has written a really cool little web app using the iTunes Search API to find the album artwork you need.

I use this tool to find artwork for albums that iTunes tends to miss in the automatic process, as well as for TV shows I have on DVD that I’ve ripped to my iTunes library (so the artwork looks correct on an Apple TV).

Check it out and search for something. The only downside is that stuff that’s not on the iTunes Store won’t return anything, but that’s rarely a problem in my experience.

Go back and watch the original Robocop; I did recently. It’s not really notable as an action movie. It’s crazily satirical and accusatory of the overindulgent and corporatized 80s. That’s why it works and that’s why it’s great. (If you’ve never seen it, I recommend it. Plus, it’s oddly prophetic regarding Detroit.)

This just looks like yet another boring action movie retread. I hope I’m wrong and it actually has some soul. But given that it has four screenwriters credited, I’m not crossing my fingers.

The reaction to the film has been well-beyond anything we thought possible when we started the project two years ago.  The film is currently experiencing really great word of mouth (some higher profile examples: here, here & here).  One of the things we hearing is how the film is great way to show & explain to non-gamers or non-devs what goes into making a game and/or why they love games the way they do.

People seem to like discovering and sharing the film.  And today, we plan to make that discovering & sharing a l’il bit easier.

Go get it.

$5 gets you access to the film in both on online stream and as an up-to-1080p DRM-free download. I haven’t watched it yet but have heard it’s amazing and am looking forward to it. 96% “fresh” rating on RottenTomatoes.

One of my Christmas gifts was a copy of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a movie of which the following are true:

  1. I heard a lot of good things about it.
  2. I wanted to see it but didn’t because I don’t get out much.
  3. A lot of people I know who are similar to me really enjoyed it.
  4. I am a nerd.

All right, so the fourth one is really true about me, but I think you can see where this is going. Having not read the books on which the movie is based, and currently being stuck on the fifth stage of the game that is not really based on the movie but is actually based on the books, I can say that I really, really enjoyed it.

Watching it was a bit of a “birthday eve” treat, and Amanda and I grabbed some dinner and sat down to watch it. She was a bit confused, and I will be the first person to admit that it moves really quickly and can be a bit hard to follow in some places. I would say not to let that prevent you from watching it. If you are remotely close to my age (which will be 31 tomorrow), you really should watch this movie—especially if you grew up with the second wave of video games like I did (meaning the NES and what followed).

The premise is simple. Scott Pilgrim is in love with Ramona Flowers. But first, he has to defeat her seven evil exes. (He does not know this right away.)

The execution of the movie elevates it to a certain level of awesome. It has a certain style that is part action film, part comic book, and part video game all rolled into one. It jump cuts from scene to scene, sometimes in mid-conversation. The narrative plays with your expectations: are these real events? Are they fantasy? Is Scott Pilgrim supposed to be a “real” person, or a character in a video game? Scenes move from reality to fantasy with reckless abandon.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter in any way more than that it’s entertaining and tells a fun and enjoyable story that doesn’t need reality to work. If you like video games or even have a passing familiarity with them, it relies on their various idioms and tropes to get its point across and delight you. The setpieces are what they need to be, the action is surprisingly well done, the soundtrack is right on the money, and the actors pull everything off just the way you need them to.

I know that it’s a self-contained story, won’t have a sequel, and was a gamble for Universal to back. Unfortunately, it seems not too many people went out to see a movie about life in Toronto (but who can blame them, really).

But it is worthy of your attention, and in my opinion is one of my Movies You Should See.

Things to look out for in this clip:

  1. Chest hair.
  2. Snap zooms.
  3. Dialog.
  4. Sweeping the leg, Billy Zabka-style.
  5. Over-the-top brass when the fight gets really serious.

I say Chuck loses because he didn’t yet have his beard, which is clearly the source of his power.