Daily Screens
How to Derail Web Extremists
It seems like anytime someone talks about Muslims on the Web, everyone is bundled together as one radical mass. According to the panelists this afternoon at Online Extremism – and the Muslims Who Fight It, people need to get smarter not just about who is radical and not, but what kind of radical.

So what should people really look for? "Violent radicalization, and that violent part is important," said Shaarik Zafar, senior policy adviser with the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Since so many people (including policy makers) have so little grasp of Islamic scholarship and its myriad, complicated theological strands, they miss the big difference between the ascetics of Sufism and a bomb-building terrorist, like there is between a Quaker and a white supremacist.

"You can't kill and capture a website," said Frank Cilluffo, director of Homeland Security Policy Institute. He called Al-Qaeda a brand more than an organization, and a brand name can be damaged like any other brand, by tackling and discrediting them. That meant not attacking Muslim religiosity on the web, but encouraging (without co-opting) Islamic scholars to highlight the intellectual bankruptcy and un-Islamic nature of some radicals: to find "a Tookie Williams of terrorism." They exist, he said: several former spiritual advisers to Osama bin-Laden have now renounced him.

2:52PM Sat. Mar. 8, 2008, Richard Whittaker Read More | Comment »

Harold and Kumar and Vaginas in Louisiana
Here's an easy prediction: The showing of Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay tonight at the Paramount Theatre will turn people away. A full house counting in the hundreds listened this afternoon as stars John Cho, Kal Penn and Neil Patrick Harris and writer/directing tag team Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg discussed the political ramifications of the sequel.

"I felt like it was a device to amp up the stakes," Cho said of any fun the film will have with the Bush administration's treatment of foreign prisoners. "I don't think the movie has anything to say politically. It just uses the current political climate to make vagina jokes.'

2:49PM Sat. Mar. 8, 2008, Joe O'Connell Read More | Comment »

Exclusive SXSWI Interview: Tim Langdell, Part Two
(Part one of this interview is now online)

Something is making gaming innovator and SXSW:IA panelist Tim Langdell scratch his head. "The biggest selling-game ever was The Sims 1. The biggest selling game for women was The Sims 1. Why is that the games industry didn't pick up on this?"

Big as it is, Langdell (appearing today at 3.30pm in room 6 at the Austin Convention Center at Redrum in the Rue Morgue': Collaboration in International Communities) thinks gaming as a business is missing out. "It's a $100 billion industry that's underperforming," he said. The trick is guessing what will work, and the problem has been that the industry has as bad a track record of spotting the next big thing as any other industry.

Take MMOs. "if you'd have asked people in the mainstream game industry five years ago, they would have said that if you got 100,000 on Everquest, that's good going." That meant that investors were wary of sinking cash into them. When it came to Blizzard and the monster that is World of Warcraft, according to Langdell. they struck a deal to basically operate under the radar, and "were able to develop it as a really-high-end independent developer."

1:34PM Sat. Mar. 8, 2008, Richard Whittaker Read More | Comment »

The Compost of the Mind
Endless lines of people that wrap around the building, cyber geeks of every shape and form, and 30-pound bags full of marketing trash – the madness has begun.

I jump-started this year but hitting events back to back, wasting no time waiting in the halls, verbalizing my résumé to strangers or punching random buttons on my cell phone like I have someone important to call. The first event I attended was at 3pm, Book Reading: The Principles of Beautiful Web Design with Jason Beaird. I expected to pick up some new-age technology tips of designing our online commercialism, but it was nothing of the sort.

8:20AM Sat. Mar. 8, 2008, Carson Barker Read More | Comment »

ZZ Top and Morgan Fairchild
The strangest revelation at the Texas Film Hall of Fame was Morgan Fairchild at age 15 dated a drummer who ended up in a band called ZZ Top. Frank Beard offered a lame denial, but, hey, every girl's crazy about a sharp dressed drummer.

11:29PM Fri. Mar. 7, 2008, Joe O'Connell Read More | Comment »

Battledecks II: It's On
Poetry slams and rap battles are soooo OS9. All the cool kids are throwin' down with battledecks, the hardest version of a Powerpoint presentation ever. Competitors have five minutes to put together a presentation to a series of random slides. And random means screengrabs of Digg, scaleable horses, charts of pudding versus skin, and massive Amy Winehouses. The results are judged on conviction, jargon, interpretive dance, Husker Du references and how disgusting your fund is.

SXSW regional Battledecks champion Anil Dash of Six Apart Ltd. put his success down to "Passion. No, I like to have a good time and I'm pretty comfortable with crowds." He also, he admitted, got lucky with the slides, saying, "I thought there would be a Winehouse, and I was thinking a lot about what I would do if she turned up." But he puts his final victory down to a brief video clip of Rick Astley. This would have thrown a lesser battler, but not Dash. "Throw in a Rick Roll and you can't go wrong, that's just magic in a box."

7:50PM Fri. Mar. 7, 2008, Richard Whittaker Read More | Comment »

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Wiki Communities Never Sleep
Down at the Edit Me! How Gamers are Adopting the Wiki Way panel: The big question. Why do people wiki?

After all, for games this used to be the stuff of expensive printed game guides (official and unofficial) done for profit. Angelique Shelton of Wikia Inc. uses the basketball analogy: "Have you ever played ball in the street? Well, there's people in the NBA who get paid to do that."

NCSoft community manager April Burba has a pretty good idea who these volunteer encyclopedia builders are: "The users of wikis are people that are into producing documentation." They serve a double purpose for developers: not only do they keep the discussion going and get more people involved, they keep players playing.

4:00PM Fri. Mar. 7, 2008, Richard Whittaker Read More | Comment »

Exclusive SXSWI interview: Tim Langdell
"You have to collaborate in development." That's the simple message from Tim Langdell (appearing as a SXSW Interactive panelist at Redrum in the Rue Morgue': Collaboration in International Communities, Saturday at 3:30pm in room 6 at the Austin Convention Center). He should know. He's helped build the industry for three decades.

"I'm incredibly interested and excited by the direction the game industry is taking," said Langdell, "which is back to the vibe of the early 80s, for the independent game developer to have a voice." Co-founder in 1979 of UK-based EDGE Games (one of the world's oldest computer games firms and for many years effectively SEGA and EA's European divisions), Langdell also helped establish the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, and wrote and taught the first games entertainment curriculum for USC film school. He's now head of the videogaming department at National University in California, the first academic institution in the US to offer an MFA in videogame production. Increasingly, his interests have turned towards building collaboration into games and game development.

11:45AM Fri. Mar. 7, 2008, Richard Whittaker Read More | Comment »

Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop Into the Unwired Place
I've always been fascinated by the left-field ascent of a trend, a movement, even just a turn of phrase, as when snark … the word … went from non sequitur to ubiquity to backlash in the blink of an eye, or when that Hasidic reggae rapper starting popping up everywhere. And while we're at it … there's the increase in the arbitrary insertion of a period to create a sort of oh-so-clever stopgap, followed by a sentence fragment.

Which totally drives me crazy.

11:07AM Fri. Mar. 7, 2008, Kimberley Jones Read More | Comment »

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