Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Census Addon Complete…

July 2, 2010

… more or less. It’s actually not that hard, and it served as a great introduction to the more complicated addons I’ll have to put together. The next on my list is the auction house scanner. This will take some more exploring.

In the meantime, I’m taking a completely random sample of the game world by zone. This is a ‘first step’, and it includes unlikely places such as old raid zones, arenas, and five-man dungeons – such as Scholomance and Botanica – that are never used anymore because they were designed for the endgame of the previous expansion (or the original game).

From this, I’ll be putting together a list of zones to sample that will vary with server time (probably by the hour, but perhaps only by every 4 or 6 hours). In particular, to identify players it is only useful if an average of 2 characters is observed in a zone at any one time. So i’ll probably exclude zones from future samples if they average less than two characters, and especially if I never see more than 2 characters there. I’ll also have to design a search-text parsing algorithm in order to break out the population in cities, where the number of characters in-zone is greater than the social interface maximum of 49.

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Search terms: rearing their ugly heads again

June 17, 2010

In my last post I outlined the three addons that I will be designing. Recently I’ve focused on designing the census addon, because before I can write it I need to be able to determine the frequency and breadth of samples as well as the total time to run my experiment. This is a vexing problem. I commented a long time ago on the importance of finding appropriate search terms before you can get your project off the ground. Today I had a minor breakthrough after throwing up my hands and consulting a former colleague at the FTC. I had wondered whether there weren’t situations analogous to mine, where one can view a characteristic of interest directly, but not its underlying source. He gave me a vital moment of inspiration when he pointed out that web analytics faces a similar problem when attempting to identify unique visitors to a webpage. After 45 minutes of scratching in the googly dirt, I hit upon a search phrase that produced myriad valuable results. The phrase was: “Unique visitors” probabilistic.

WHAM! That did it. I uncovered a slew of papers on a matter that is mostly of interest in database design: probabilistic counting.

This is some intense stuff. It will take a while to comprehend. But the main theme of this post is not the discovery, but the search! Added to my previous strategies for uncovering search terms, one must include “Thinking of analogous situations”. If you’re stumped on a problem, chances are high that someone else has been in a similar spot and come up with a cool new way of dealing with it. Analogous situations in fields that are far-flung from one another show up all the time, but their solutions are grounded in the same mathematics. By searching for papers on those analogous problems, you may find some very helpful ideas in designing a methodology to deal with your own.

WoW Account Hacked, Redux

June 3, 2010

…. and as if that weren’t enough, my attempt to log on to my WoW account was again thwarted last night, for someone had just changed the email address associated with my Battle.Net account.

According to CNET, there is evidence that thousands of players have had a keylogger installed on their computers. The keylogger is apparently selectively targetting WoW accounts only.

This is the only plausible explanation. The password I created yesterday for my account was very strong, and there were no unauthorized users logged into my email account this time. I scanned my password with no less than four anti-virus/anti-malware scanners last night, but found nothing. As I understand it, this means the thing is probably working at the kernel level, which means that my best bet is to completely wipe my hard drive(s) and start fresh. Oh joy.

Well, I suppose I’ll just continue to fight the good fight. Updates forthcoming when I have more to go on.

Update: I should point out that the hack of my account coincided almost perfectly with my download of the WoW Addon Studio. I’m not sure if there’s any actual chain of causation, but the coincidence is suspicious.

Update: I am now getting ready to run a LiveCD antivirus and antimalware scan of my PC. Results to be posted when I have them in hand.

Why WoW? A note on world choice.

June 1, 2010

At State of Play VI Dimitri Williams received applause when he stated emphatically that “You can not study virtual worlds if you do not use them,” – a point reiterated in his paper on mapping and which I discussed with him at Terra Nova.

As noted in that last link, I am skeptical of this point. However, I think I understand why it received such praise at SoPVI: serious gaming has long been the object of perceived attacks in papers on media effects. Nonetheless, if you’re getting ready to be a serious scholar with a focus on MMOs or VWs, you might get discouraged that your work will not be taken seriously if (again like me) your experience in them is limited.

So: Why WoW? My experience is limited solely to playing World of Warcaft. Its where I intend to perform my studies. I have tried other games (EQ II, Final Fantasy), but none has ever drawn me in like WoW, and this is mainly because I play WoW to socialize with my brother, who is also an exclusive WoW player. Because of this, I know its history, I’m intimately familiar with its trends and mechanics, and – most importantly – I understand its economy extremely well. I have thought of creative ways to get at the data I need, and given careful consideration to the many and sundry pitfalls in my way. Your world of expertise may be different than mine.

Why not WoW? From an economics perspective, there’s no good reason. There’s nothing in my toolbox to make me think that gamers, once in their particular world, will react to incentives in functionally different ways between worlds. Some might argue that WoW is not a rich enough economy to attract serious study, but I disagree that richness of environment qualifies a world for study. Rather, its all about the richness of data and the ease of acquiring it. And it is data, ultimately, that an economist needs in order to study something.

Finally, a brief note on applicability beyond the game. One might question the inevitable heavy focus on WoW in games research because the results will have some sort of unobservable WoW-bias. Maybe this is true (though I am skeptical). Do not be paralyzed by this concern, however. Let others repeat your experiments in other games and try to reconcile their results with yours. In the mean time, priority one is producing research with robust results that merit publication in your field of study.

B+

December 17, 2008

I got what I expected in Real Analysis – a B+.  It was neither exciting nor disappointing, since – like a true economic agent – I had already set my expectations using all of the information I had at hand. 

I was hoping for an A-, though.  All the forums for economics PhD applicants make it sounds like you have to be perfect if you want any kind of success.  I’m not perfect, but I am intuitive and creative, so it will merely be very important to express these compensating characteristics at application time.  Besides, I may have a publication under my belt by the time applications come due.  More on that some other time, though.

A lingering thought remains, however: Should I try to retake analysis at another school next fall?  Hmm….

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

May 6, 2008

A millionaire ex-first lady senator from New York called me an elitist the other day.  Hah…

Talkin’ ’bout my generation

January 13, 2008

It has been a while since my last post, but there will be no updates here.  I have been moved from my blogging slumber by two recent posts – one at Pedablogy and the other at Loaded Learning – concerning “my” generation.  I’m not sure I want to defend my generation from what I think are undue conclusions as I want to remind previous generations that they, too, are and were quite imperfect, and that in some ways those imperfections are far more insidious than our own (I hope you’ll pardon my tone, but I suppose you might say I feel a bit offended). 

Because really, inter-generational comparisons are little more than nostalgic, romanticized versions of what it was like “back in the day.”  By Steve’s reckoning,

My generation believes that if we work hard, learn much, and save, we will be economically successful. And we largely have been, as illustrated by the wealth of the baby boomers.

The younger generation seems to believe that they will be economically successful, whether or not they work hard, learn or save. And as a consequence, they don’t seem to be doing those critical activities very much.

Let’s take the first quote.  “My generation” includes a lot of people.  The sentence implies that if one (in Steve’s day) fails to meet one of three conditions (work hard, learn much, save), then one will not be economically successful.  To this I would add the conditions “white” and “male,” since by and large the older generation was far more prone to reinforce race and gender inequalities that prevented most minorities from really experiencing any great deal of success.  Women, of course, are more successful now, but largely as a result of their own work in the 1970’s and 80’s.  Blacks, I suppose, are not being lynched anymore, and they managed to get themselves the rights promised them decades prior, and we can agree that’s a good thing. Of course, when they were being lynched and denied the right to vote, it was by people who espoused the work hard/learn much/save more mantra of the baby boomers and their parents.  Point being, my parents generation was successful conditional upon being born with a particular color of skin and structure of genitalia, and probably a number of other things besides work ethic and education.

With respect to the second quote, I simply don’t agree.  Yes, as students only one or two years out of high school, we are certainly spoiled and unaware of the world around us.  But worry not, we will soon be thrust into reality and become painfully aware of what it will require of us.  For those members of my generation who didn’t go to college, I  seriously doubt that they think they will be successful regardless of how hard they work, how much they learn, or how much they save; rather, they probably think that they will only be successful if they do those three things, or that they will never be successful regardless of whether or not they fulfill those three qualities.  The black members of my generation, especially those in college, are probably thinking “even if I do work hard, learn much, and save, it might not matter; but I’m going to do it anyway.”  Of course, then there are those single mothers in my generation who have no hope because society has abandoned them (a society, by the way, run not by my generation, but by my parents’ generation). 

So my point is twofold.  First, making generalizations about generations is a bad idea, no matter how it is caveatted.  Talk about spoiled white middle class college students all you want (I know I do), but that’s where such commentary should end.  Second, if you don’t like what you see in the world around you or what it portends for the future, and if you’re a baby boomer, then for the love of God please understand that you are the one with the power to change it.  Your generation runs everything.  If you don’t like what you see, then change it.  My generation may be young and passionate and idealistic, but we don’t have the power – yours does.  It is your divisions that you think are sending this country straight to hell. It is your fear and your hate and your arguments that perpetuate war, and inequality, and apathy.  You run everything, or at least some of you do, and you’re the ones who are teaching us how to run it. 

So if you promise to try and fix it, I will be at your side.  But don’t blame me and my friends and peers.  It’s not our fault…

…at least, not yet.

Music in my life

December 12, 2007

From about the ages of 12 to 18, I played French Horn in middle and high school with occasional forays into trumpet for Jazz Band.  When you play classical music long enough, you develop a special affection for a select set of pieces.  For me, there are two pieces (one that I played, one that I have only heard played by other sypmohnies) that really stand out.

The one that I’ve played is the fourth movement from Antonin Dvorak’s 9th symphony, a.k.a. the New World Symphony.  The song begins and ends in glorious fanfare of arpeggiating low-end brass (the beginning prominently features the french horn [I played the solo in middle school!]).  My band instructor later gave me a CD of a recording of the entire symphony, including an unabridged version of the fourth movement, and also a recording of Dvorak’s 8th.  I would listen to both all the time and really came to cherish that music. (You can find fairly decent recordings of both here.  They are noticeable flaws, though.)

The song that I’ve heard several times but never played is called “One-Winged Angel” by Nobuo Uematsu.  Uematsu is actually a paragon of video game music; his compositions won him fame in the early nineties for his work in the hugely successful Final Fantasy series.  As the technology improved and video games moved to CD, so Uematsu was able to write longer pieces for inclusion the Final Fantasy video game series, beginning with Final Fantasy VII for the Sony Playstation.  The climax of this game (“the last boss fight” in video game parlance) is accompanied by a fierce work (OWA) that, even when rendered in MIDI, is quite gripping.  One-Winged Angel was later rearranged for symphonic orchestra with choral parts.  Rendered this way, OWA is, in my humble opinion, a modern masterpiece.  (I haven’t been able to find a recording of OWA, but there are several YouTube videos of live performances of it.  Here’s one.)

I respond viscerally to both of these pieces when I hear them.  I get chills and goosebumps.  They stand their own as truly fantastic classical pieces, well worth a listen for anyone with an appreciation for excellent classical music. 

Incidentally, video game music is becoming a premier new forum for classical composition.  My brother and I attended a concert of orchestral arrangments video game music at Wolf Trap in Fairfax, Virginia about a year ago.  They played OWA, as well as themes from The Legend of Zelda, Mario Brothers, World of Warcraft, Sonic the Hedgehog, and several others.  Lest we demonize the video game too much (and it does have its negative aspects), no player will go long without being exposed to some truly exquisite compositions.

Because every personal revelation should start with a relevant quote

September 20, 2007

When one is young, one venerates and despises without that art of nuances which constitutes the best gain of life, and it is only fair that one has to pay dearly for having assaulted men and things in this manner with Yes and No. Everything is arranged so that the worst of tastes, the taste for the unconditional, should be cruelly fooled and abused until a man learns to put a little art into his feelings and rather to risk trying even what is artificial – as the real artists of life do. The wrathful and reverent attitudes characteristic of youth do not seem to permit themselves any rest until they have forged men and things in such a way that these attitudes may be vented on them – after all, youth in itself has something of forgery and deception. Later, the young soul, tortured by all kinds of disappointments, finally turns suspiciously against itself, still hot and wild, even in its suspicion and pangs of conscience.  How wroth it is with itself now! How it tears itself to pieces, impatiently! How it takes revenge for its long self-delusion, just as if it had been a deliberate blindness! In this transition one punishes oneself with mistrust against one’s own feelings; one tortures one’s own enthusiasm with doubts; indeed, one experiences even a good conscience as a danger, as if it were a way of wrapping oneself in veils and the exhaustion of subtler honesty – and above all one takes sides, takes sides on principle, against “youth.” Ten years later one comprehends that all this, too – was still youth.

 -Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 31

The Last Semester

August 26, 2007

Tomorrow begins my last semester as an undergraduate.  I have a lot on my plate as I attempt to get in those last few classes that I need/want to take. 

Economics Thesis – The topic is corruption, especially in developing countries, and this project will receive a great deal of attention here over the next few months.

Symbolic Anthropology – Some of my best friends are/were anthro majors.  It’s high time I learn the lingo in a more structured environment than a coffee shop.

Probability and Statistical Inference – As I’ve started to really plumb the depths of econometrics and economic modeling, I have felt handicapped by an absence of advanced mathematical understanding.  Hence, over the past year and a half or so, I have tried to remedy this by taking multivariable calculus, an elementary discrete mathematics course, and linear algebra.  My hope is that not only will this course keep me on a path of a deeper understanding of the more abstract notions in my chosen field, but will also attract more potential employers to my resume. 

Existentialism – Why do you think my blog is called Philosonomics?  I find philosophy courses to be fantastic exercises for the mind, as well as fascinating in their own right.  I think my unofficial minor in philosophy puts real meat on my intellectual bones.  This course will taught by the notoriously tough department head, so since it is not required for graduation, I may switch it to pass/fail.

The Fed Challenge – I came to the realization late in the Spring that I have focused on heterodox methods in my economics education at the expense of developing a deeper understanding of the very mainstream that those methods purport to challenge or amend.  In a sort of last ditch effort to alleviate the consequences of that, I chose to join some of my fellow econ majors in preparing for and competing in the Fed Challenge, an annual academic competition held by the central bank.  I don’t know much about it, but my hope is that in the process of preparing for it, I will acquire some of the depth that I seek.  And of course, if we win, its a great resume booster, too. 🙂  This is a wildcard, though; I’ll probably write on this a fair bit in the coming months, as well. 

And now for lunch.