Sunday, July 11, 2010


I'm a Facebook Friend of Dan Patterson, and usually enjoy his comments about social media (particularly from his perspective as being part of the "old world" media). But I had never paid much attention to his Zombie Doom project before he posted a link to TechCrunch: Foursquare's Next Game: Choose Your Own Adventure (which is commenting on part of a podcast fromTheBigMoney) where he commented that this was what they were trying to do with Zombie Doom as well.

You can understand why I got interested.

But from what I can make out of both projects so far (not much, to be honest), they both sound like they're making an adventure and not an addventure, which is surprising considering both should have an understanding of user created content, not just user participatorycontent. And certainly when it comes to Foursquare, they want to keep a very tight control over their brand and the quality of what they provide, so an addventure could be a challenge for them.

I once wrote a text-based adventure game (zork style thing) that was set in Paris (it was for a French class... so sue me). You started with a clue that would send you to a location in the city, and went from clue to clue until you found the final prize. I can almost see a geo-based treasure hunt of this sort being something that can be created by users, but still "run" by Foursquare.

A geoAddventure would take this one step further. Maybe even several steps. Not just clues at each point, but multiple clues. And getting to an empty location (once you figured out that location) lets you... set clues to a new place? I dunno... still seems like there might be serious quality control issues at play. And how do you keep that within any sort of a story line? We had enough trouble with straight text addventuring!

But if you don't... I can see users solving the adventure quickly... and then getting bored with the new feature.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

wiki Thoughts and Conversations

A friend and coworker posted the following on FaceBook today based on a conference she was attending:

N: Wiki red links. That's just like addventure

which sparked a conversation between her and I, first on FaceBook, then in chat:

what what what?

N: Wikis are like addventure, the way you create content and leave links to "content to come" red links. No, it's not the same, but it's not that different either. Maybe the wiki concept was inspired by addventure?

P: I've pondered that. And have part of a write-up for a blog about it.
The big difference was that Addventure never had a red link.
All Addventure's pages were static.
N: I'm sure you could change the wiki to display unwritten articles the same as written ones. The rest is implementation details

P: Yeah, but a key one at the time. We just didn't have the technology. We talked about "guides" that would be able to tell you where there were episodes that needed writing, but much more wasn't available with static pages at the time.
And yes, I see wikis as something of a descendent of Addventure. More free-form, of course. Makes me wonder if there are literary wikis (to tell a story, not to talk about a story) and how they handle some things.
N: there was a story-telling on a wiki done in an elementary school. Some succes, but the whole "story" was planned ahead, in small teams. but no one has seen a proper "addventure wiki"

P: and it might work in very small teams that coordinate... but the whole nature of a wiki is too dynamic. what happens if part of the backstory changes in a way to change subsequent episodes? you end up with a three dimensional story you're trying to tell. which might be good for a time-travel story, but horribly confusing to read.
It is certainly an interesting thought, wondering if a wiki would be suitable to collaboratively create a story. It certainly would have some advantages over the very rigid system that Addventure provided, but I think a wiki is... not rigid enough. Or at least not a conventional wiki that most people are used to nowadays.

Part of what I think was important about Addventure was the structure that it did allow authors to work in. When writing, you could be sure that you chose the options and how many options there were (within reason). As a reader, you could be sure there weren't "too many" choices in each episode. The choices were clear - they weren't links embedded in the story itself.

Are there lessons to be learned from a wiki? Absolutely. The whole concept of "wiki editing" was that it could be "quick" to create and edit a page. Addventure had a similar goal, but didn't have the technology to back it up too well at the time. But simple editors and simple markup I think would need to be the hallmark of a future Addventure. I also think that requiring an account would hamper the dynamics of Addventure, just like it hampers the dynamics of many wikis. But there should be benefits to having an account!

We'll explore all of this later.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Episode 293 of "cowbirds in love" in an interesting take on the "Choose your own Adventure" books. What if every page was blank? I think Addventure's solution was better.

(My thanks to Kazrak for pointing this out to me.)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Some perspective

When I first started working on Addventure for the World Wide Web, there wasn't a lot around I could actually compare it to. The stuff I was doing was cutting edge at the time - and has improved a lot since! I'll be going over all of these in more detail in the future, but till then here are a few highlights:
  • HTML was in it infancy, with no published standard. The "modern" browsers supported a proposal called HTML+, which first introduced forms, and enabled Addventure to actually work.
  • These forms were still new, so they were used for pretty simple things. Although it was possible to create a multi-line text entry area, the most popular use was for guest book pages. Collaborative writing was nearly unheard of before Addventure.
  • To handle these forms, a new protocol called CGI had been invented. It was... inefficient, to say the least, but it was all we had for a while.
  • And what kind of program was called with the CGI? In those early days it was perl or a simple shell script, usually, but Addventure used C++
  • People were expected to write in HTML, and we trusted that we would write HTML that was good! Wanted some space between a paragraph? Good luck! A slightly larger font? Wasn't happening.
Lots of differences between then and now. I'll be exploring these and more.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Episode 2 : A Staircase Leading Forwards and Back

16 years ago today, I launched my first experiment with this new hypertext tool called the World Wide Web and let a few friends know about it. A collaborative story, branching out to infinity, I branded it Addventure, after a high school project that inspired it.

It was such a success, that within a year, two more versions of the story had launched. And yet, within just a few years, it closed to new collaborators and has mostly faded into history.

This blog is an attempt by me to record some of the thoughts I still have about Addventure, what role it served in my life and in the life of the Web, what lessons I learned from it, what lessons it can learn from where the Web has evolved... and what path I can take with it next. Like Addventure itself, there were many paths and many choices I could have made over the years. Now seems like the right time to look back at some of those paths, and to set the foundation for the Addventure of the future.

I will also be moving some old release logs and notes to the blog, dating them with their original dates, and tagging them with the label "history".