Archive for January, 2011

Common themes in flash and social media; Ipad Flash

(Copyright Bill Amend)

(and Jerry Siegel) (and Stan Lee) (and Fox/Lampert)

For an excruciatingly long while, one of the major annoyances among the tech crowd in regards to Flash was it’s inability to run on the ipad. Though Apple doesn’t find it a problem (and many expect Jobs was intentionally blocking the code), many others do. But, I mean, really, what does flash do other than those stupid games?

Let me remind you: ESPN, Hulu, Disney, Miniclip, Kongregate, JibJab, Etc. None of these would be viewable without flash. Adobe is somehow less than pleased, for obvious reasons.

In fact, many of the blogs I read had some things to say about the brokenness of not including it, and how hard some are trying to find a way around the problem.

Adobe: http://blogs.adobe.com/flashplatform/2010/01/apples_ipad_–_a_broken_link.html

Wired: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/11/skyfire-ios-app/

Gizmodo: http://gizmodo.com/5547713/try-this-proof-of-concept-flash-plugin-for-ipad-now

One major issue is this: If developers and coders can make a work-around to display flash, the hardware is not incapable of rendering the content. In fact, why block it in the first place? The only reason I can see is that people might see copyrighted content from a source that’s free, and not have to shell out two dollars for a tv episode at the Itunes store.

Not only is this a greedy course of action, but it leads to a corruptive line of thinking. Namely, “If Apple (Steve Jobs’ title being momentarily shaky) doesn’t like flash, and doesn’t think it viable for the future of technology, and if Apple are the sole visionaries of the future of personal media (many believe they are), the bottom line is flash is a dying breed and we need to put it down.”

No, no, a thousand times no. I am usually open to interpretation, feeling everyone is entitled to their opinion. But to say that flash is obsolete is just. plain. wrong.

Look, there are multiple browser apps that are getting closer to full ipad integration. People know what they want, and when crucial parts of the internet are built around a system because of stability and ease, people will get their media.

And I understand the Apple phenomenon. I adore my Classic 120 Gig player. But the ipod is not a simulated laptop computer. The ‘pad sort of is. Safari runs flash, but a more slab-like Mac can’t?

People will buy it. The casual users will be in bliss. The ones who know what they are missing shall wail and gnash their teeth. And if I see that broken link symbol much longer, Apple will not see my money.

But, hey, a restructuring is in the works, right?

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Occasional Philanthropy

Even the myopic little despots who create flash have their good sides. I kid to you crazy kids who make games and stuff and are fairly sane.

There are dozens of great charities borne of original content. Many of the games in the humble indie bundle, a promotion which involved independent game developers giving their most famous small games away mostly to charity, started as humble flash games. It stands as a social innovation in that you name your own price; yet they have a updating feed of the average price to stop those less charitable who pay a penny. It’s been quite the hit both times they’ve tried it so far.  IGN certainly gave them positive reviews.

There are other ways flash artists can contribute to a greater cause. For instance, there are pages for Breast Cancer and Care Charity that artists can link to and share advertisement revenue with. I wish we knew for sure whether these accounts were truly linked to the sponsors.

The Stanford University Hackathon was a flash game competition with a theme of charity and benevolence. While not technically raising money, charity can be as simple as putting the idea of giving in someone’s head.

And then some flash artists are just jerks who make things like this. Haha, it funny because it make you think helping the world but in fact children are starving! Hilarious! Sarcasm!

All in all, there have been some strides in the relatively young life of truly newbie-created flash that has broader goals than stupid jokes. And then some things never change.

Links, Links, and more Links

As much as I would like this to be a Legend of Zelda blog post, I feel contractually obligated to talk about the sources that will fuel the upcoming “meat” of this here blog.

STOP! BLOGROLL TIME!

This is by no means a list of websites I like best, but just a random sampling of that which informs me. Bullet points make everything more interesting, right?

  • Gizmodo– They specialize in, guess what, gizmos, and many of today’s devices, like phones and new types of computers (see iPad) use flash for many applications.
  • Official Adobe Flash Blog– An obvious choice, but an essential one. For the uninitiated, Adobe makes the program for creating and viewing Flash content. Anything about updates, program use and technical version stuff will likely be covered here.
  • Boing Boing– They are… varied. Granted, much of their site is less news than comedy, but they certainly have an archive of articles about games, projects, and videos rendered in flash. Plus, they have hard-hitting moments of pure journalism.
  • Jay is Games– This site was a pleasant surprise. Other than what I expected, namely, a bunch of casual flash games and inane comments by bored moms, I found a man with his pulse on the Flash industry who just enjoys connecting people with indie games. He has frequent news on the meatspace happenings of flashers (not sexual deviants) in all walks of life.
  • Kotaku– An immensely popular gaming site. Granted, much of the press goes to console happenings, but the underrated gems in Flash often gets articles, especially ones that become console games: Alien Hominid, Super Meat Boy, Castle Crashers, to name a few. Kotaku gives you for free the quality of writing and professionalism found normally in magazines.
  • Lifehacker– A fascinating read. They are a different sort of technology blog, specializing in practical uses for high and low-tech objects. It would not be the first time Flash’s open programming gave a platform for creative control.
  • Newgrounds Blogs– This is a consolidated list of all the blogs held by flashers, administrators, and general users with an account at newgrounds. A fair amount of material, but only a slight proportion is worthwhile. Much like the submissions to NG itself, you have to wade through gallons of waste to find nuggets of intellectualism.
  • The Google Blog– Google is poised to rule the internet. Flash is a widely used and effective tool. Enough said.
  • The Flash Blog– The name is pretty generic, but Lee Brimelowe is a dedicated evangelist for platform technology. This is by far the most tech-centric site on this list, but he does his job well.
  • Flash-Enabled Blog– I find the humor here is that this site does as much for informing me in blog management as much as text for the actual content of my blog. I can use this website to make my blog look nicer with flash-related tools, and at the same time self-help by showing the capabilities of said program.
  • Flash Com Guru– Another techie, this time more about debugging and making Flash run better, with some general stuff about specific plugins/programs.
  • Flash Stream Works– Part gadgets, like Gizmodo, with some practical use, like Lifehacker, and a little flash usage debate, ala The Flash Blog.

Whoo. And who knows what else I might find to make this list more exhausting?

Everything, by Everyone.

The very essence of why I love flash starts with the site which is synonymous with the form. Newgrounds.

Here’s the actual history from the horse’s mouth, but I want to give a synopsis of innovation rather than biography.

Newgrounds had humble beginnings in the dark days of dial-up in essentially 1999 or so. Some college kid(Tom Fulp) made a site for his games about murdering celebrities and killing animals in the very first version of the Flash software.

Little did he know it would become a corporation, and spawn his own console video game company(The Behemoth).

Many of the common memes of our time came from this site where anyone could submit their content. A meme, by the way, is : an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture. According to Merriam-Webster, that is. Here are two that I would shocked if you haven’t heard of them:

I apologize in advance:

This one is more awesome:

Both came into existance, for good or ill, because of flash and Tom’s site where anyone could submit.

This of course led to what the internet is most notable for: spam. One of the fascinating features introduced later was the flash portal, and it’s streamlined system for self-regulation. He figured if the users could be tasked with submitting content, they could handle moderating it themselves. Saving himself a lot of trouble and putting power in the hands of the users was the best of both worlds. Though many of the worst individuals use the internet for their annoying habits, the system actually works, deleting content that falls below a certain score of quality. Seemingly, trolls are just a vocal minority.

At a later point I’d like to touch on other parts of the site related to flash, but that is a story for another day.

Experimental flash- Music

Here’s an oldie but a goodie that is super-interesting both as an experimental flash and a tool for easy music creation.

Now that you’ve seen it in action, play it here! It is incredibly easy to use, whether you know the science behind 16-step sequencing or just want to hit random spots.

Just be careful not to lose track of time. It’s addictive.

I for one love the appearance, which gives a visual representation, a wave, of the tonal frequencies that are being manipulated. The black and white motif shows the positive and negative spaces.

Plus, it’s made in the same vein as audiotools, which are known for audio creation tools right in your browser. In many ways, it’s a simple toy. On the other hand, it revolutionized what flash was for back in 2009, and possibly introduce midi sequencing to a new audience. Also, it’s on the iphone, which could be a mind-blowing format in a world of fart buttons.

Flash can have extremely utilitarian purposes. There are many online flash tuners which make fine-tuning an instrument a snap. There are tools for playing mp3 files right through you browser(great for websites or blogs), virtual piano keyboards, and I even found a flash tool for learning the fretboard of the guitar online! These are just a few tools that showcase the awesome breadth of useful software available for musicians.

Best of all, most flash content is free. Or at least a free demo.

Flash is by far the most versatile platform ever created, and goes way beyond games and cartoons. I look forward to a revolution in music media. Feel free to give suggestions of your fave music-related flash tools in the comments!

Rights and regulations

Every other time I load a flash, I have to sit through a text wall and do a mental tl;dnr with all the apologies to what an artist is ripping off. These splash pages are a pathetic attempt at seeming legal.

They can take it either way: they say they are doing a “tribute,” or a parody, so no copyright infringement has occurred, or they actually put the trademark symbol to show that the content is originally trademarked to someone else. Though neither have any legal bearing, at least they made an attempt, rather than the poorly animated cartoons with Mario sprites from the actual game so common.

I was wondering what actually constituted copyright infringement when it comes to flash. This conversation at mochi games raised some valid points, despite the typical childish banter. The idea of slightly changing the name of a character to something similar but different enough to detract attention is shaky at best. Just make an original character, it’s not that difficult.

I find it both hilarious and disturbing that a search for measures against theft of corporation’s ideas in flash animations comes up empty, but there are countless forms for protecting and reporting of games and art by flash users, who may or may not have infringed certain elements themselves. Seriously, they have forms at addicting games, at flash arcade, at mochi, etc. But this is the internet era, the golden age of passing off others work as your own. Even colleges have to deal with plagiarism.

Sadly, it is exposure that dictates legal action. If the flash doesn’t have critical appeal, the companies like Disney or Nintendo really have no idea this is happening (on a case-by-case). Popularity becomes a double-edged sword. Until the impossible day when everyone craves true and original work, and don’t want the instant gratification and page views of slapping a recognizable anime ninja on their project, we live in an internet cesspool anyone can edit.

 

Creation is painful.

Can’t think of a project for my personal blog that isn’t too broad or stupid. But let’s just brainstorm one anyways.

I had a long conversation with a professor once named Jim Bissett about the future of media, and how flash content was a major part of that. Flash is more than a way for office workers to get fired from their jobs; it is the future of personal artistry, a medium for art and animation that anyone can do with a little practice. Sometimes people do it with no practice. Many pro advertisements are done with Macromedia Flash, and multitudes make a decent living monetizing their indie art.

I realized half the people I follow on twitter that I don’t know personally are prolific flash artists. Newgrounds.com is one of my favorite sites, and while not always high-brow, there are always things of worth there. I can highlight ones of interests later. There are also things of national importance,  scandals involving current events and celebrity outrage.

Adam Phillips is a great example of flash and art being joined. An ex-disney animator, he now creates flash as a hobby and psuedo-job. He raises the bar for what flash can be with his “Bitey of Brackenwood” series and related videos. A work is only as pure as the maker, after all.

As far as journalism is concerned, the news sometimes latches onto the free expression of these works, but usually negative. For example, an unnamed game that put you in the shoes of the Columbine shooter. Less morbidly(and more recently), there was a game where Mario had to plug the BP oil spill with dead fish in the heyday of that recent fiasco that was a very topical parody.

This could be interesting. I could concern myself with shoving my opinion in people’s faces that flash is a medium which changes the very core of media, as well as  giving history and reviews and stuff, or this may be deleted and replaced with something better and more “journalistic.” We’ll see.