The New York Public Library is training computers to recognize building shapes and other information from old city maps, and they need your help!  Take a few minutes to help hone the data; no experience or knowledge required! This is a very neat experiment in crowdsourcing data aggregation for use to improve civic society.

He puts up a Christmas tree once a week and decorates it, then takes it down the next morning.

A voracious reader of history, he’s been known to clip favorite words from books and eat them. Sometimes he’ll eat whole paragraphs. His New York Public Library card has been permanently revoked.

He doesn’t observe Tuesdays. He wears a watch that he smashed on purpose at exactly twelve o’clock. As a result, scheduling is not his strong suit. He famously missed his own birthday by three months.

Awesome character sketch via Bob Odenkirk

In the 1950s, having the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the bookshelf was akin to a station wagon in the garage or a black-and-white Zenith in the den, a possession coveted for its usefulness and as a goalpost for an aspirational middle class. Buying a set was often a financial stretch, and many families had to pay for it in monthly installments.

After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses, by Julie Bosman

This is sad, even though I understand all the reasoning and good that will come from pouring energy into the online and educational resources. But gosh, I used to LOVE spending hours reading our encyclopedia (circa 1996) and accidentally learning about alphabetically-similar places, ideas, tools, and people to what I was intending to look up. That stumble-upon method of learning is continuing to be lost on the dusty shelves of libraries in lieu of curated, search-by-keyword internet sites.

Although what I think I feel is sad, it’s probably more so nostalgia. We should embrace the exciting opportunity to have greater access to up-to-date resources at lower cost rather than wanting something that certainly was incredible for 244 years but perhaps is becoming too outdated for this increasingly fast-changing world.

Here’s to the next era of Britannica.

New York architect John Locke saw a unique opportunity and now has made very cool-looking and practical libraries/book drops that fit nicely on our existing infrastructure. Some say they will be trashed, but I honestly don’t think they will be any more than anything else.

I support this project and will definitely donate a book when I find one!

Well, I’m officially a published author.

Shouldn’t there be some sort of super-excited-feeling that goes with this?!?!

I never wrote an “aftermath” post to the Find the Future game that I played back in May, because the truth is, I felt a little deflated. Unimpressed for sure. Disappointed overall. It was tricky to articulate that, because I didn’t want to pop the balloon for everyone else who (completely fairly) loved it.

The library itself is a masterpiece, as are the artifacts in it including books, paintings, technology relics, timepieces, cultural symbols, the stacks, and the architecture itself. The game was not a masterpiece – what work really is on the first go around though? – but to me fell very short.  It fell a little bit too short, where I felt like many driving game mechanics for me – including the hand-in-hand qualities of cooperation and competition, and following a set of rules – missed the mark, and where the seven secrets (of the artifacts, powers, stories, teams, collaboration, clock, and stacks) felt terribly unimportant for and disjointed from the achieving the ultimate goal of writing a book. The size of the game, web interface, time of play, and mechanism for unlocking each artifact seem like the biggest areas of improvement, and their combined shortcomings unfortunately lowered my appreciation for the game. The experience on whole was fine enough, but the promise of a really neat social game was relatively unfulfilled. 

I think I felt let down on the game aspect because I went in with very high expectations. I love Jane McGonigal‘s whole paradigm of changing the world through games, because it makes sense both in theory and, with time, in practice. The short term game didn’t live up to either my personal expectations or the expectations created from the opening speech, that’s for sure, and the structure and mechanics just felt off. But, Jane did say that we wouldn’t play the whole game that night. What she meant in context was that we’d have to come back to find all of the artifacts on our own and write all of our own stories, but my glimmer of hope is that the game’s not done in a different way. The game might, in the long term, ultimately be a success in the change-the-world kind of way because of this: I (and, I think, everyone else there) met some pretty neat people and interacted with even more. I’m now buddies with them on Twitter and Facebook. As a result, they have and continue to in many ways influence my thinking, and my future opportunities, and my approach to group interactions. So, while this doesn’t help me win the Find The Future game anymore, I think there’s potential for the overall experience to feel like a win over time.

So, am I psyched about the published author thing? Meh. But maybe when I go see what promises to be a gorgeous book with some stuff I’ve never read in it, it’ll hit me how cool this is and how we won together.

Well, I’m officially a published author.

This video fairly well answers the question “So what happened at the library?” A few of my new buddies are in it, too! It doesn’t show all sides of it, of course, but it sets a good foundation for conversation and “getting” the general game structure (as much as it can be generally understood).

For the rest of your questions, stay tuned! I’m still compiling my thoughts… but ask away!

Thoughts going into today’s Find the Future

Many of you have been following (in one way or another) my thoughts and learnings leading up to tonight’s Find the Future at the New York Public Library. I feel the need to make a statement before it all begins, so here goes:

What I think will be most interesting on a micro level is how people cooperate to compete. So many games are about working together when it’s convenient and then ultimately striving to do what it takes to independently win. This, however, is a 500 person cooperative effort. We either win together or lose together. But, with 500 people, most of whom are complete strangers, what’s the winning strategy? Who takes the lead in organizing that strategy, and figuring out the best possible way to use everyone’s personal talents for the good of the team? Not everyone speaks up, but if everyone did, it would go nowhere. SO, I am wondering how it begins, and to what level cooperation will need to be organized by players instead of just manifested naturally. Will people show patience and fortitude throughout, or will irritability and absorption into the personal experience of the game take over? Will age, background, profession, or neighborhood be serious factors, or will the NYPL coupled with a game level the playing field? 

On a macro level, Is Reality Broken and will working together fix it? How will #findthefuture carry forth into the online open-to-the-public portion of the game? Will the library become known in it’s 101th year primarily for this historic event, or will the actual history of both the building and the entity be the highlighted point of preservation? More broadly, does the future promise to be made up of strong-headed, proactive conquerers who take big leaps of self-righteousness and then infuse it into the future without looking back at the building blocks, or will it be a thoughtful collaboration of a team of various types of leaders that is organized through a semi-scientific collection of historic data and application of relevancy and creativity? OR, does the future promise neither and is largely unchangeable?

I’m immensely looking forward to this adventure and opportunity, but have no idea how I, the lucky 500, or the future will emerge.