Thursday, December 27, 2012

Moving to a new blog

Hey guys,  I'm moving my blog over to my main website, so everything's all in one place.

Come say hello!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Declaration of Internet Freedom Bus Tour Visits St. Louis

So last night the founder of Reddit was in town and gave an epic talk on freedom on the Internet.  Where were you?

A little background: Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, has been campaigning for Internet freedom in the Declaration of Internet Freedom Bus Tour: From Denver to Danville.  Internet freedom has recently come under fire in the US from the proposed SOPA and PIPA acts.  The Bus Tour is intended to visit a number of cities, including sites of the presidential and vice-presidential debates, to talk to people about the importance of a free and unrestricted Internet.

The Bus Tour’s visit to St. Louis was hosted by StartLouis: The St. Louis Startup Circle; and BuildGuildSTL, at the T-REx Incubator in Downtown St. Louis. The Bus did a tour of small local businesses that grew from the Internet before coming to the talk at the T-REx.  

Erik Martin, general manager of Reddit, kicked it off with a slideshow of the Internet Bus Tour so far.  “One of the things we wanted to do on this tour was get as many people as possible to physically sign this beautiful document of Declaration of Internet Freedom. It might be the first magic marker signed document in the Library of Congress,” joked Martin.

Martin and Ohanian talked about all the people they’ve met on the tour so far -- each and every one of whom has a story about how a free and open Internet has improved their lives.   

“The Silicon Valley myth -- the idea that this kind of innovation is only happening there, needs to go away,” said Ohanian, when discussing the vibrant startup communities in Boulder, Colorado, and other cities.

Alexis Ohanian went off on a short tangent in the middle of the night.  “Does St. Louis have an official song? A jam,” Ohanian asked the crowd.  “Nelly!” came the reply.

So that’s how over 100 people mangled the chorus to “It’s Getting Hot in Here” to a poor woman on speakerphone, whose only crime was supporting Internet freedom -- she was a donor to Reddit's crowdfunded campaign to pay for part of Declaration of Internet Freedom Bus Tour, and won a “drunkdial” from the Reddit team.  

Martin and Ohanian talked about their next idea as well -- Geek Day, a scheduled “flash mob” where geeks representing every district in the country would set appointments and go see their state senators and representatives in Washington, to talk about issues important to the tech/geek/startup communities across the country.

“You should have every politician representing you in DC on speed dial. Because they work for you,” said Ohanian.  He then told us about how a group of school kids in Nebraska peer pressured him into actually making that call, when Ohanian made that statement to those students.  There’s an app for that, apparently.

After the talk, everyone was invited to Urban Chestnut Brewery, where Ohanian and Martin sampled St. Louis microbrews and played the locally-created iPhone game, Circle of Death, a drinking game designed by IDC Projects.

The Bus Tour left this morning for their next stop, Louisville, Kentucky.  But not before having breakfast at St. Louis landmark Uncle Bill’s Pancake House.  I’m curious to find out what stories about St. Louis the reddit team will tell at their subsequent stops.  Because we’re doing some cool stuff here in town with our startup community and our tech community.  

Friday, August 3, 2012

The August 2012 St. Louis Game Jam: Let the Games Begin

Another third of the year, another game jam. Woo!

We kicked off with our new and improved team sorting method -- the programmers divide up by language, then they grab the artists, then teams recruit designers so teams are balanced by skill.

Once again, we were short on audio/sound people, so the three guys with that skillset grabbed a corner, dubbed themselves "The Sound Department" and set up a workflow and went around to all the teams to find out what sounds and music they would need.

I'm on a team doing a geocaching location-based text and image game built on Whereigo, for smartphones. We are still hashing out the "spine" of the game, but when that's ready, I will be writing a LOT of descriptions -- characters, items, locations and actions.

I'm super pleased to see that way more fellow ladies showed up for this game jam as compared to previous game jams. More ladies in game development and tech, always a good thing.

This post was crossposted to the STL Game Jam blog here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Don’t Make These Website Mistakes

You've got three seconds. Just three seconds to persuade that random person who surfed to your website from Google to stick around and read your website. You can't afford mistakes with such a thin margin of error.

I write web copy. I've worked as an editor at several online publications. I have looked at a lot of websites over the years, and it amazes me that so many websites contain the same basic mistakes.

  • Mistake #1: Not updating the copyright date. Seems like such a tiny thing. I mean, it's a number at the bottom of your website, in tiny print, and really it's just there to keep people from jacking your content. But if you don't have a blog front and center, or other dynamic content, this is what readers use to tell if you're currently in business. Really, how do they know that you didn't go out of business in 2005, or 2006, or in 2008 after the economy tanked? For every potential customer who does take the chance and e-mail or call you, there are more who simply skip to the next Google result, which has an up-to-date copyright.
  • Mistake #2: Not having all types of contact info. I personally despise contact forms. If that's the only way I can contact a company, if I can't see the e-mail address of the person I'm writing to, or a phone number to call to get a real person, I won't bother to do business with them. That's potential money walking away. Other people hate e-mail, and want to call your office to talk to a real person. Still others hate phone calls, and would rather come to your office to meet face to face. Be able to accommodate a number of communication styles. Have a contact form AND an e-mail address AND a phone number AND a snail mail address AND links to all your social networking pages. The more contact methods you have, the more contacts you get.
  • Mistake #3: Crazy navigation. Don't make your readers guess where stuff is on your website. Use common phrases like "About Us" "Work Samples" and "Contact" in your navigation so people can easily find what they are looking for. The worst example of navigation I ever saw was a graphic designer who used single letters for each part of his navigation menu. I don't want to have to guess that "Q" stands for "About The Company."
  • Mistake #4: Fancy flash graphics. Not everyone has the fastest computer or the most up-to-date browser. If a potential customer gets a "You need Flash plug-in Number X to view this website" message when trying to enter your website, chances are they'll just go somewhere else.
This post originally ran on the Indie Arsenal blog in September of 2009.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

St. Louis Game Jam

The Saint Louis Game Jam this weekend kicked off with a bang.  After arriving at the Simutronics offices, all the participants (about 60 of us, all told), crowded into the conference room for the ritual drawing of the theme.  The noun picked was "Justice", and the adjective was "Light" -- so our theme this weekend was "Light Justice."  Sounds like an Internet meme to me.  :)

We then divided ourselves up by specialities -- programming, art, design, and miscellaneous (where I, as a writer, ended up).  Then we put together our teams for the weekend. 

(Photo credit by Dave B.) The team I was on, led by Simutronics staffers Elonka Dunin and Jen Patton, tossed around ideas and came up with the bare bones idea of a platformer, where a cat finds scales scattered by a rainbow trout god, which we presented to the Game Jam (under the name Team Rainbow Killer).  And then we buckled down and got to work.

We further refined our game idea.  We went with a Japanese motif, and you control a white cat that is catching the rainbow scales that are falling off of the rainbow trout god, and restoring the scales.  Periodically, a black cat will run across the screen and knock more scales off of the rainbow trout god, for the white cat to try to catch. 

The name we came up with for the game is Scales of Justice. 

I will quote you the game intro text, which yours truly wrote:

"In the dawn of the world, legend tells of the rainbow trout god, Nijimasu-sama, who controlled all the colors of light, keeping each color safe and tucked away in his scales.

Until one day, the trickster cat Fusei, stole away Nijimasu-sama's scales, scattering them across the land.

Fusei's sibling, Kouhei, swore to recover Nijimasu-sama's scales, and restore justice to the world.

You are Kouhei, seeking out and collecting the missing scales of each color, returning them to Nijimasu-sama.

But beware! Fusei is not through making mischief!  He continues to attack Nijimasu-sama, scattering more scales for Kouhei to find."

Our team coded the game in Flash.  The game has nine levels, since cats have nine lives.  :)

And now it's Sunday morning, our game is up and running, our team is play testing it and tweaking the game play.  In a few hours, we'll show off our finished game to the rest of the game jammers. 

This is my second game jam, and I enjoyed it more this time around, since I knew what to expect.  I like the game, Mobius, that I worked on at the January Global Game Jam, but I like Scales of Justice more -- it's a more fun game, and has better gameplay than Mobius, in my opinion. 

Overall, I like game jams and intend to do more of them in the future.

One thing I did find disappointing, though, was that there were not many other women participating in the Game Jam.  It was the same at the January Game Jam as well.  I would love to see more fellow women get involved in events like this, and in the game development industry in general.  Part of it might have been the timing -- this Game Jam was scheduled for the same weekend as Anime STL. I actually attended Anime STL on Saturday and talked to the staff of Happy Badger Studio, an indie game and app development studio here in town.  The two staffers, both women, admitted that they would have attended the Game Jam if they hadn't already been committed to presenting and manning a booth at Anime STL.  (Happy Badger Studio did the official Anime STL app for both iPhone and Android.)

So yes, I'm hoping to persuade more women to participate in future Game Jams. 

Otherwise, I'm looking forward to the next St. Louis Game Jam, in August!

Crossposted to the Scales of Justice website

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Another one bites the dust

The Sci Fi Lounge at Crestwood Art Space is officially closed forever.

Yet another fantastic venue here in town is gone. I hosted my monthly comics meetup, C4: Comic Creators Coffee Club, here for about a year. We loved meeting here, the fantastic ambience, the way owner Coyote went out of his way to welcome us. Not to mention that he joined us as well, since he's a comic artist himself.

I will miss you, Sci Fi Lounge. You introduced me to the weird, can't tear your eyes away from it, Indian sci-fi epic movie, Robot. I could always wander in on a Friday or Saturday night, and be assured of something fun and interesting to do -- a D&D night, themed movie night, a performance by local bands, Draw Club with sci-fi themed models, the list goes on.

Owner Coyote has said he's not planning to reopen in a new location. I can't blame him, he's not going to find rent as cheap as ArtSpace was offering anywhere else. I only hope in a few years, he might change his mind.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Shameless Grounds

If you are a nerd and you have not been to Shameless Grounds yet, you are missing out.

Shameless Grounds is a sex-positive coffee shop one block west of the intersection of Jefferson and Gravois. It's located in the same building as Koken Art Factory, the venue that puts on the yearly Naughti Gras erotic art show.

Shameless Grounds hosts a variety of great events in their own right: the monthly Literary Nudes figure drawing event, Off the GRID (Genderfuck Retro-Alternative Indie Drag Show), PJs and Movie on Wednesdays, Tenacious Trivia on Mondays, Rope Bite chapter meetings, Kinky Bingo, Kinky Book Club, and more.

At the center of the shop lies Shameless Grounds' lending library, which contains a variety of material that relates to human sexuality, both to educate and to entertain.

In addition to being a welcoming area for many of St. Louis' alternative lifestyle groups, and a great place to hold meetings, Shameless Grounds is also a pretty damn good place to get coffee and some food. The menu is small but tasty, and includes a variety of vegetarian and vegan offerings. The shop also often has lunch specials for around $6.