Top 10 Web Design and Development Newsletters

I get asked this question all the time “Andrew, where do you get all these things to post?” Usually I just tell them I read a lot on the web and leave it at that. Today, I am going to give you some of my secret sauce: I follow a ton of newsletters and blogs and this is how I have so much content to share. Literally, I have a list sitting in Notational Velocity (nvAlt, for those who care) of hundreds of links that I have yet to catch up to. Really, when you get to having so many newsletters and blogs, you aren’t keeping up, so much as staying afloat curating the curated content. There is something that can be said about this curation of curation, but I think I am going to reserve that for a later post (and put that in a NV note as well).

Anyway, below are my top 10 newsletters that focus on web design, web development, UX, UI, and general topics that encompass that which is the Web in which I work in. Fair warning: you may find after subscribing to several that they repeat content between each other; this isn’t too surprising once you think about the viral effect that the web and social media brings to articles. Also, I should note that these are in no particular order:

 

Web Design Weekly (WDW)

I will have to admit, Web Design Weekly was my first web-related newsletter. It offers a great survey of web-design-related links split between articles, tools, resources, inspiration, and major headlines of the past week. They also offer a link or two at the bottom of some web oddities or funny sites to give you a bit of a smile or “Huh, interesting” moment for the day. The newsletter design is simple, straight-forward, and quick to skim as each link has a one or two sentence intro that you can get a feel for the link before diving it. Like many others, there is a Job section where companies can advertise one or two jobs each week and all the content of the email can be found on their site; in the WDW case, it is on their blog.

 

Web Tools Weekly

Web Tools Weekly feeds my tool-searching itch each week. I actually stumbled on this development-centric newsletter several weeks ago when I was searching for a tool for work. What I love about this newsletter is that not only does it feature some super awesome tools, but each week the newsletter starts out with a helpful mini-lesson on something Javascript related and why it matters. Generally, the newsletters follow a kind of theme like “JS Frameworks” or “Learning Tools”. Not everything here is simply a plugin to slap on your site; Louis Lazaris does a great job of balancing tools that code-based and tools that go alongside your work like color-pickers, testers, and learning aids. If you do a lot of development or are interested in seeing the absolute smorgasbord that is out there in web tool land, you must subscribe.

 

Responsive Design Weekly

This newsletter follows a very similar format to WDW but focuses almost solely on responsive design (surprise, right?). Articles cover everything from legacy testing to point-counterpoint articles about best practices and the tools cover plugins, tutorials, and presentations from recent conferences. Responsive Design Weekly also has a great interview series that break up the normal weekly newsletters and offer great insights to how people like Dan Mall, Brad Frost, and others think about responsive web design and what kinds of challenges we should all be thinking about. This should be your go to if you are deep in the RWD atmosphere.

 

Smashing Magazine

Need I really say more? They offer a newsletter that is packed with a range of current and past articles that touch on tips, techniques, and theory that we wrestle with everyday. If you work on the web in almost any capacity, you should be reading their newsletter. Disclaimer: Their newsletters tend to be quite long, as do their articles, but it is almost always well worth your time; I enjoy reading them on Sunday’s if I have time after breakfast/brunch.

 

David Kadavy

Kadavy is a super smart web denizen who has written things like “Design for Hackers” which gives developers a great overview and grasp on design principles to help understand why they get those crazy layouts. He doesn’t have a direct newsletter, but rather runs them several times a year as a kind of “course” that you read from regarding things like design theory. Each newsletter series is generally capped at several hundred readers so that there is a more likely chance you can interact with him and grasp the concepts better. Stay on the lookout for his next newsletter.

 

Hack/Design

Speaking of courses, Hack/Design is probably the best overall design/theory/development course I have encountered online. Each week a new person curates a “lesson” of multiple articles, tools, and exercises for you to complete and up your design game. I’ll admit that it isn’t a newsletter, but the format is pretty close and they always offer the best lessons in everything from UX to color theory. Best part is: it’s free! If anything, Hack/Design is a great resource for jack-of-all-trades like me to stay current and knowledgable about a wide breadth of the web.

 

Sacha Greif

If you haven’t heard of Sacha Greif before, you should. He is easily one of m favorite writers on the web and is quite knowledgable and willing to interact if you have questions. His newsletter focuses on design, the business of the web, and success stories and is served up on Sundays for you. One of the more unique things about this newsletter is that like Web Tools Weekly, you can submit questions/tips for him to discuss and he will even make entire newsletters devoted to just answering user questions. They are also generally very quick reads and don’t make you drag along forever with unnecessary details or pictures.

 

CSS Weekly

I think by now you should be getting the gist of these: the name tells you what you’re getting, which is rare nowadays. CSS Weekly is a great resource of articles, tutorials, and CSS theory crafting that leaves me both feeling inspired and in awe of all the things that it can do (and the amazing things others pull of using it). CSS Weekly is also nice because it does not focus on merely one thing (only RWD, only SASS, only BEM, etc.) and makes sure to showcase articles that cover the wide range of CSS possibilities. And, since it’s not tool based, you get a much deeper range of articles rather than just a few for each section. Front-end person? Then subscribe yesterday.

 

Codrops

If you know me, then you know I love Tympanus’ Codrops blog. Granted, they don’t have a newsletter per-se, so I just made an IFTTT recipe that shoots me an email whenever they make a new post. This is great because I can keep track of not only their weekly Collection series, but also keep up with their great line of demos and cool new web tricks. The Collection series is what really hooked me initially because they do a collective post of awesome from around the web that was posted or found in the last week. Usually there is a good mix of tools, inspiration, code, and theory but sometimes it can be more tools or code heavy. Overall, they are a great way to stay current with the web while touching on most aspects of the process.

 

Web Designer Depot

Last but not is Web Designer Depot. This one I have a love-hate relationship with because it shows some really great icons, themes, and tools, but at the same time can come off as overly commercial as they do want you to buy things from their network. So far, it has seemed rather balanced in their network versus others, but I reserve the right to just unsubscribe. Generally this newsletter focuses on the visual aspect of the web and is much heavier on assets than theory and tools. It is a good resource if you are looking for something different to spice up your visual palette without being bogged down in things like code or thoughtcraft.

 

Maybe, if there are some requests, I could be willing to share the blogs I follow…

Tools of an Interactive Producer

As an Interactive Producer, one wears many hats (though in my case it typically ends up being the project manager hat) and those hats need some associated tools to make life easier. So here is what I use on a fairly regular basis. Some of the stuff I use by choice, some of it I am forced to. In the list I will differentiate what I have to use and what I choose to use (and in a few cases what I wish we use).

 

Development

What we use: SVN
What we are transitioning to (maybe): GIT

If you don’t know what these are then you are already behind the game. Everyone should know rudimentary commands for both (things like init, pull, clone, commit) because version control can save your project and help keep development changes straight. Use it or lose it. It being version control in the first case and your project in the second case.

 

What I use: Sublime Text 2

I had been using Comodo IDE for about a year and fell in love with how an IDE treats projects and elements and had an expedited workflow. Then, on a whim I tried Sublime Text 2 after seeing it was simple and at the time I needed something quick but better than Text Wrangler. Sublime Text gives you a vast syntax highlighting library with a eye-friendly built-in theme (Monokai) but these are just candy; multi-select/edit, multi-file search, highlight-skip-highlight, and term highlighting is what really puts ST2 above the rest. Soon thereafter I heard about Package Control for ST2 and with that add-on ST2 had me sold. It is virtually infinitely extensible and blazingly fast even with a dozen packages installed. I’ll have to do a breakdown of my packages at a later date.

 

Design

What we use: Photoshop (technically we use CS5)
What I wish we used: Sketch

Photoshop. You know it. We all use it. It is great. But it allows you to do things you can’t do on the web (with CSS3, sure you can do many of the things you can in Photoshop but those aren’t always cross-browser compatible and can still be very time-consuming to replicate). This is why I really wish we used Sketch. It better constrains you to elements on the web and keeps things vector which allows you to create more scalable graphics and elements. This may sound like a bad idea, but in most cases being constrained forces you to become more creative and find innovative solutions to the problem. Photoshop is a tool for other heavier hitting needs in the graphics world whereas Sketch is a precision instrument to aid in designing for the web and mobile apps.

 

Wireframing

What we use: Protoshare
What I use/wish we used: Balsamiq

Wireframes are important 75% of the time. The 25% of the time can become a massive time suck. Sometimes it is quicker and easier to just roughly sketch something out then do the visual design instead of getting mired in worrying about the pixel widths of gutters  and every little piece of content. Protoshare is nice but past the multi-user review capabilities and some extra levels of interactivity, all Protoshare happens to be is Photoshop without the visual eye candy. Balsamiq is good because it de-emphasizes the exacting visuals and puts the show on the general layout and interaction patterns. Protoshare and other programs like it tend to make you start worrying about pixel perfection too early and extract you from caring about usability and how users will actually use the site. Also, web-based interfaces can also be finicky,  slow, and completely unusable if you are offline (what happens when I need to wireframe something while on a car ride to the client?). Don’t get me wrong, I find that interactive prototypes can be extremely helpful and illustrative but they are not appropriate for every project. I could write an entire post on wireframing; I more than likely will in the near future.

 

Project Management

What we use: Basecamp, Dropbox, Cloud.App, Google Chat

Project management is one of those things I loathe doing but do realize that it is important. Managing a digital project requires a variety of tools too keep everything going. Basecamp acts as a document storage and conversation archive for projects; put something on there and it is dated/timed and filed within a project so that it is easily searchable and accessible by anyone on the project. “New” and “Classic” Basecamp both have their sweet features and glaring flaws, but it is overall one of the best and easiest to use programs for Project Management. Sometimes Basecamp isn’t the best place for files (oops I uploaded the wrong one; gotta delete that version and hope nobody downloaded it) which is why we also use Dropbox. If you don’t use Dropbox, or Box, or Google Drive, then you are missing out on some of the best ways to keep files/folders synced between team members, clients, and computers. Cloud storage is an invaluable tool, though it should go without saying, you should not entirely rely on it as your only form of storage for some files; keeping your own copy elsewhere will save our skin. Cloud.App was something I had never heard of before starting at MadMonk. Everyone used it and kept using some crazy jargon about sending clouds or “CL’s”. I thought they were crazy until someone sent me one. Then I saw the magic: being able to quickly (and in some cases automatically) upload files/screenshots/documentation/text files/items directly from your clipboard to their cloud storage and generate a link to share is freaking genius. You can share screenshots without worrying about attaching them to emails or send a quick text file you just need to read and not necessarily open/save on your computer. If you are on a mac and aren’t using it, then you are majorly missing out.

 

Of course after writing this I must say that this is by no means definitive, and as you can tell, I am critical of what I use. If there is something better out there, I want to try it and if I like it, massage it into my toolbox and workflow. Constantly evolving, finding new techniques and tools, and willingness to try something new help keep an interactive producer fresh and not stick in 1995. An interactive producer needs a little bit of everything to stay on top and having the right tools can help. If you have any ideas or thoughts on the tools I use (or should use) just drop me a line. Pinging me on Twitter is usually the best way.

On Things

This is my first actual post on here in 7 months (not that anyone reads these really anyway). I generally like writing a good blog post when I have something to say. And I haven’t posted not for a lack of things to say, but rather a lack of general time. I’ve been working through a few ideas to write about like power creep in games (looking at something like Magic: The Gathering vs. League of Legends and how power creep affects them differently and the merits of power creep, if any) or certain thoughts about games I have recently played.

Why do I have no time? Sure, I don’t have homework or class anymore but there is one thing I have. A job. Jobs are great: they provide money and (usually) contribute something to society. Jobs are (though in reality this is more oft an aught rather than an is in my limited experience) an on-going learning experience and that learning can be slow or quite fast. Or sometimes it can be going until it abruptly stops until it affects someone’s bottom line. When it stops is when it becomes an issue. Suddenly you know enough to do something but not enough to understand how to replicate it in an easy manner. Then you run into overages, late nights, stress, and the inevitable burnout. The last two in particular I have found to be endemic to the job.

Stress and burnout drain you. Physically and mentally. Nothing is left in the tank. You go full bore 5 days a week but then can’t get it off your mind for the two you are supposed to have off. When this becomes the norm, you can quickly atrophy in both empathy and skill. Maybe empathy is the wrong word. It is more drive. You become so emotionally and physically drained that it is difficult to even bring yourself to touch anything remotely in the area that you work; you just have to veg-out to stay remotely sane. Eventually you have to get tired of being tired.

And, I think I have reached that point. It is time to fight back. Be more active. To slowly rebuild to who I was before: a person passionate about boardgames and learning something cool (like I did today with learning some Processing) and obsessing about Megatron being killed off in Transformers: Regeneration One to actually going out and hiking and playing some disc golf and working out and doing more than just running necessary errands. Things tend to get sucked out of you. You get beat down by the situation, by others, by life (looking at you student loans). Now, I know I am not living on the street, living wanting, or wondering if  food will be on the table. I have lived some of that before. It isn’t pretty. And I know many, many, many people are worse off than me. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t strive to be more. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t stop striving to be more either. You just have to keep fighting until something changes. Once you stop striving you stagnate and nothing enriching happens; you just fall into a pit that isn’t benefitting anyone, especially those near and dear to you.

Today, I started fighting again.

/rant;

Congratulations, You’ve Won a WordPress Snippet!

After constantly forgetting about these quick tweaks to excerpts in WordPress, I figured I would put them somewhere memorable. Like my blog and GitHub (making my first gist as well). So, enjoy two quick WordPress snippets:

What you are seeing here are two minor ways to tweak WordPress’ excerpt to be a bit more robust and configurable. The second bit of code is rather straight forward: you can easily change the number of words that are displayed in an excerpt. This can be very useful when having a mini list of posts in a sidebar and you only have a fixed amount of space.

The first bit of code is where you can get a bit fancier. This is changing the [...] you always see at the end of an excerpt. The ellipsis can be annoying since depending on the theme you are working with, you might or might not have a link to the post at the end of the excerpt. What the function does is completely replace the [...] at the end of the excerpt with whatever you have within the ” after the return. What you see here is that I have it set to add an ellipsis then “Read More…” wrapped with a permalink to the post. This is nice from a usability standpoint because it gives the reader/user an obvious way to continue reading the post.

But you can get even fancier than what I have in the code. One way to fancy it up is to add a particular function that links into a plugin that you only want to use on pages that show excerpts. For instance, you could have the end of the excerpt enqueue a sharing plugin that you made that had originally only shown up on single posts. Another thing you can do is also add the post meta information at the end rather than the beginning of the excerpt.

Really, the possibilities are endless but I know I always forget such simple things when trying to tackle larger problems. Hopefully more snippets are to come. Some point soon may have me showing you how to work Sublime Text 2 into a super editor.

Hedron Usability Testing

This post is about looking at the data from my usability test of Hedron, a social check-in site for gamers that I have developed. Having rolled out an alpha version to 22 people, 16 responded and completed the survey. Users were given a prompt (which can be found here) that would effectively give them a tour of the site while also testing all the interactions possible with the site. After completing the tasks, users were asked to complete a survey that gauged ease of use along with leveraging what functionality and interactions other social media sites, like Foursquare and SCVNGR, have. The survey was conducted remotely using SurveyMonkey.com to keep responder anonymity and allow users to feel more comfortable about taking the usability test.

Demographics
There was an even split of male and female responders, 8 and 8. The median and average age of responders was 24, which is in the targeted age-range of Hedron (18-35). The ages of 22 and 24 were the modes of the data set. All responders had some level of collegiate education with the majority (9) holding a graduate degree.

 

Results
12 out of the sixteen 16 responders play video games and 9 out of the 16 responders play multiplayer games. 9 out of the 16 responders also identify as playing “social games” like Farmville and Draw Something. 12 of the 16 responders have used social check-in apps like FourSquare and GetGlue.

Pie Chart of Responders About Video Game Playing Habits

Responders On Video Game Playing Habits

Responders On On Multiplayer Game Use

Responders on Social Games Use

Responders on Social Games Use

Responders on Use of Social Check-in Apps

Responders on Use of Social Check-in Apps

Responders were asked to rate from 1 to 10 (10 being easy to use) the ease of use of each of the core functions on Hedron including checking-in, the messaging system, account creation, following/unfollowing users, and creating/updating a profile. “Sending a Message” had the lowest average score with 6.69 with “Replying to a Message” being second lowest with 6.81. “Check-in” was third lowest with an average score of 7.06 and had the widest range of responses, having at least one response for each number between 2 and 10, though a rating of 10 had the majority of responders (5) for that task. All other tasks averaged above 8.1. “Creating an Account” was the highest rated function with a 8.56 average rating.

Ease of Use Chart for Hedron

Responders on Ease of Use of Hedron

Users were also asked qualitative questions regarding to positives and negatives about the site along with features that the responders thought were missing. Positives included ease of use, simplicity of design/layout, and catering to a specific demographic (gamers). Negative aspects noted by responders included no option to choose “mobile” as a platform, check-in area was too small, and the messaging system. When asked what features Hedron lacked when compared to other social check-in sites, responses around gamification, an incentive/reward system, and a better ability to share content.

 

Conclusions/Suggestions for Improvement
Looking at the data, Hedron should be considered easy to use overall. Though the site is generally easy to use, it is important to note that there are several different things that could be improved. The messaging system could use improvement with adding a notification system and an easier way to navigate how to send someone a message. The check-in system could also be improved by adding more platform options to select from and to create a larger, more graphical interface for users. Overall, since Hedron is lacking an incentive system that would help retain users, some kind of system that gives ranks, achievements, and/or rewards would help users create a stronger bond with the site/program and encourage continued use.

Hedron Development Blog Part 2

v 0.2.3
Encryption/Decryption fixed and salt changed. Fixed various typos and added commented code. Fixed all whitespace errors.

v 0.3
Added frame for check-in engine. Issues with check-in engine writing to database. Added stylesheet and jQuery to header.php.

v 0.3.1
Created specific CSS for check-in page. AJAX call doesn’t work and runs without error. Switched to check-in being opened in Shadowbox. Added Shadowbox.js with CSS to header.php.

v 0.3.2
Check-in engine now fixed and writes to database. Updated database table to add one check-in per check-in rather than just putting in a random number. Also changed DB layer to add hidden AUTO_INCREMENT user ID.

v 0.3.3 
Fixed issues with profile not uploading/saving picture and displaying picture correctly after upload. Start adding regular HTML tags to HERE_Docs in PHP.

v 0.4
Start styling site. Switch over to HTML doctype and nav structure.

v 0.4.1
Added js fade to pages for a dynamic look. Added logo.

v 0.5 (Full Alpha Version)
Made browser responsive (with the exception of IE because lets face it, IE is still crap). Full width-responsiveness with text scaling down to mobile sizes. Added logic to exclude “Other Members” from profile/member pages; now only shows on member page and home page. Added various comments to code. Launched for user testing.

Hedron Logo

Things in the pipeline:

  1. Fixing top-/bottom-padding (to 3px) on <nav><a> to eliminate miss-clicks
  2. On site message notification system (still experimental)
  3. Switch “Other Members” to “Friends” on home page (will require much more logic)
  4. Mobile responsive
  5. Button stacking on profile
  6. Re-style check-in dialogue
  7. Running database of games and check-ins to those games
  8. Erasing messages has suddenly quit working (unknown reason; no error thrown or “die()” tripped)
  9. Basic achievement/leveling system
  10. Set up logic of dynamic logo links
  11. Various minor bugs (“friends.php => messages=?”, names on messages no longer go to profile pages, random replication in friends list, friends list only showing mutual friends)
  12. Shadowbox full-size profile images? (questionable due to having multiple versions of pictures/resizing them; server load issues)
  13. New password encryption method: preg_split()/explode() input, combine with an array of salts, implode() new array, explode() array and salt again, implode() and MD5.

My conclusions from this project? One-man-banding sucks but is ultimately rewarding and allows you to control the product rather than having to worry about dozens of fingers in the concrete all trying to leave a unique mark on the project. The frustrating part is not having anyone else to rely on to get help or take a break and know work is still getting done. Google is your best friend and Netflix is your worst enemy.

Interactive Empathy

Creating empathy online can be a difficult. The fact that a screen is talking to you rather than being in the presence of a flesh and blood human means that there is a lack of physicality in the conversation. The lack of physicality does not bring the certain level of connection we have come to expect as humans interacting with other humans; if you instant message me telling me you are crying I will have a different physical and emotional response to actually being there while you are crying.

Though this disconnect may be true, there are ways to get around it. The TV has been around for much longer than the internet and they understand how to employ empathy rather effectively. Take the video below of an ASPCA commercial my Sarah McLachlan. It, by far, has to be one of the most depressing commercials/PSAs of all time and makes you want to go out and adopt every single animal in shelters. How did they accomplish that? For this ad they used a combination of music/sound and visuals that are meant to pull you in, no matter how stoic you may be. The music is slow and somber and the pictures and vignettes are slow and poignent. If anything, what you can learn from this ad is that pacing and visuals matter even when the message is simple.

 

Another good example of interactive media and empathy is the Mass Effect series. Throughout the trilogy of games, players make decisions that not only affect the outcome of a particular mission but also affect the lives of the player’s crew and those you encounter. When characters die, even minor characters die, it can be a heart-wrenching experience because the player builds up a rapport and deep relationship but talking to them and learning more about the characters through different interactions. Each interaction adds a new piece of information that allows players to emphatically feel sad when something happens to the character. Players begin to see how the relationships work and begin to understand the plight of someone who actually doesn’t exist. What someone trying to build empathy through interaction can learn from the Mass Effect series is that story and dialogue play a large part in establishing empathy; the small things and the big chunks of information come together to create an experience that people can easily connect to.

The Double-Edged Sword of Writing Online

Content creation on the internet has suffered from one perennial problem: how long should content be? Do the shorter attention spans of those wired-in reward shorter content?

Websites like Cracked.com thrive on short bursts of content that users just eat up. When I was looking around Cracked, this article on the implications of Harry Potter was trending and showcases the craft of short content design. “6 Horrifying Implications of the Harry Potter Universe” gives users content in a list format that makes it easy to skim. Not only that but the information under each category is broken into very short, succinct paragraphs with rather simple sentences. This style is nice for making users remember content since the readers have an obvious delineation of ideas and content.

But sometimes that style of writing is not appropriate for everything. Though users will want to get their information quickly and succinctly, the shortest way is not always the best, especially when people are looking for things like reviews on products. Reviewing the new Kid Icarus offering for the Nintendo 3DS, the reviewers at Pikigeek.com flirt the line between short enough to keep attention spans and long enough to present all the information possible. In this particular case, it is more important for users to understand the minutiae of the topic (in this case a game which users may or may not be familiar with) than to just issue a quick dose of laughter or information.

Even looking at a modern news network online, Al Jazeera (English), pushes the boundaries of the length of content for a news article. The article linked talks about growing tensions around the immanent North Korean launch of a missle of dubious intent. None of the paragraphs are more than two sentences long while still maintaining clarity and conveyance of the most information possible in such pithy statements. Combined, the article is not terribly long but the formatting makes it look longer than it really is, which is a visual trick used to make something appear more meaty and full of information than it really is.

What it all comes down to is what one is trying to aim for. If you intend your readers to bounce quickly from article to article or to get sucked into to lots of little content, then it is better to aim for something short. If you are shooting for people to get something out of an article, you are just better off with writing an average sized article. Really, like anything on the web, it just matters on what you, the creator, want and the tools you choose to make it with.

Virtual Worlds Short Assignments 2

Motivations of Play

I think that though Yee does achieve finding 10 of the correct motivations in categorizing why players play [Yee 4-5], but I think he is missing a prime component: fulfillment. Achievement is similar to fulfillment but I would say ultimately different because achievement is more about completing goals whereas fulfillment is actualization of those goals or aspirations. I think that the research could be furthered by considering even more MMO games [et. al. 3-4] and even just online games in general. What is the motivation for casual players of non MMOs? The motivation to play MMOs can be seen through other games and not just the narrow lens of MMOs. It is like looking to thermodynamics to inform economics; sometimes theories apply from other disciplines that the researchers may not even have considered before.

Yee, N. (2007). Motivations of Play in Online Games. Journal of CyberPsychology and Behavior, 9, 772-775. http://www.nickyee.com/pubs/Yee%20-%20Motivations%20(2007).pdf

Nick Yee et. al. “Virtual Worlds Round Table” Journal of Virtual Worlds. Found at: http://journals.tdl.org/jvwr/article/view/505/435

 

Making the Group Smarter than the Individual

Games make “smart tools” out of people [Gee, 8] by forcing them to engage in more than just one specialization while completing a task. Having to worry about several different feeds of information simultaneously requires one to do the work of several. When there is a team of people coming together to work towards a unified goal, each person can focus on being more efficient at several tasks and also be cross-checked by other individuals which is an opportunity that does not arise when working only by one’s self. Playing games helps stimulate all of this because through playing a game users have to optimize their play-style (i.e. be more efficient) and be able to manage data feeds that effect decisions that can and should be made during gameplay. Especially looking at team games, the group becomes smarter than the smartest individual because there is a pooling of knowledge, skill, and expertise that many people can call upon and works of off synergy.

Gee, N. (2009). Games, learning, and 21st century survival skills. Journal of Virtual Worlds, 2 (no.1), 772-775. https://journals.tdl.org/jvwr/article/view/623/468

 

NEXT

Geek’s Guide to Elon

When looking at schools, one would not see a traditional, Southern college as a bastion of geekery. Seersucker and bow ties do not equate to rolling a D20 to find a hidden door and the loot behind it. Surprisingly enough, Elon and the surrounding area has a stable geek culture that will more than satiate the geek within you.

Geeks need several things to thrive in an area: a geek community, somewhere geeks can meet, and somewhere that geeks can purchase necessary geeky goods. Below, I will outline some of the best places and groups in the area around Elon that will help the geek survive in such a traditionally non-geeky place.

 

Finding A Tribe That Does Not Meet in a Hive filled with Scum and Villany

Greensboro Meetups
Sometimes you just have to meet people IRL to really find your groove or routine in a new area. A great place to meet people is at a meetup. Luckily there are plenty of meetups in the area spanning everything from coder/app developer groups to my favorite, the “Greenspielers.” The Greenspielers is a weekly meetup for (mostly board)game enthusiasts that meets at a different member’s house each week. They are a great group of people  and even represent different levels of play along with being open to play just about anything.

Elon Chess Club
Don’t let the name fool you. The Elon Chess Club is more than just a bunch of pocket-protected nerds who get annoyed at bad grammar and unorganized sock drawers. Well, you should be annoyed by poor grammar, but that is beside the point. The Elon Chess Club offers the ability to get crushed in chess along with several other board games. You can even rent games like Power Grid and Settlers of Catan from them in the library if you need a bit of fun outside of normal hours. If you want to inquire further talk to the advisor, Prof. Aaron Peeks.

Hypermind
Hypermind has an unassuming website; you would think that the store would be super sketchy and or closed from the lack of updates. But you would be wrong. The shelves are stocked with everything from your standard fare of Euro games to comic books to educational games. Tuesday nights are board game nights where they will play something from the store shelves or you can bring in something and  you will easily find someone to play. For the Magic the Gathering players, Fridays are regular FNM events and Hypermind also hosts pre/releases along with informal EDH leagues.

Lazer X
Laser tag. Pew pew. ‘Nuff said.

The key to surviving such a seemingly geekily dry area is to not be afraid to embrace the fact that you know the statistical likelihood that you can hold Australia in a game of Risk or that your best friend is actually the murderer in a game of mafia or can name the principle composer of Final Fantasy. Strike out and find your group; you do have a +4 geographic bonus…

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