Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The blog is dead, long live the bulletin board!

We have a nice bulletin board system up now; you can find it by clicking on the phrase "bulletin board" on the links above. Henceforth, we'll be able to carry on our discussions there in a more organized fashion. I expect that we'll be abandoning this blog soon, replacing it with topics in the bulletin board.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Swat Version 0.52

I have just uploaded Swat 0.52 to our website manager, Paulo. He's in a different time zone, but he'll get it up soon, probably before you read this. Here are the changes in this version:

1. A new menu, Swat, which contains the about box with the version and date, and a preferences pane that permits you to turn off the sounds.

2. A Redo function, but it doesn't work right, so it's disabled.

3. A scroll bar for the script pane.

4. Corrected a bug in which paste only works once. It arose because I failed to clone the object being pasted.

5. I attempted but failed to get working a feature that would preserve the state of the script tree under editing. Right now, if you close some of the operators, every time you edit something, they all open up again. Fortunately, this problem is partially ameliorated by the addition of the scroll bar to the script pane. I'll try to get this working.

6. A number of programming changes that make the code more robust.

See, I really do pay attention to your complaints and suggestions!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Immersive tutorial

Comments, evaluations, and questions about the immersive tutorial go here.

Step-by-step tutorial

Comments, evaluations, and questions about the step-by-step tutorial go here.

Questions about Swat

Post your questions about Swat here and someday we might even be able to answer them!

bugs in swat

Report bugs here. We know it's crawling with big, ugly bugs, but there's a good chance that you've found one of the three million species that we still haven't catalogued.

Swat is up!

At last, at last, Swat is up for downloading! At last you can see what all our hype is about. Just click on the link above that says, "swat", and it will take you to the introductory page that gives you all the information you need. We'll be posting specific blog entries for your to post your comments; please make sure to put your comment in the correct place (assuming you can find one that fits -- if you can't, just put it where-ever seems best to you.) We are already looking for proper bulletin board software so we can keep all this stuff straight.

We're eagerly looking forward to your reactions!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

He who praises me lavishly is my enemy; he who criticizes me correctly is my friend

...or at least that's my recollection of the adage. I don't know who the volunteer lab rats were, but you really tore my tutorial apart, and you have my sincere gratitude for it. I have been writing the Storytronics documentation for months, without actual feedback from budding storybuilders outside Storytron. I had to rely on a mental image I created of a beginning storybuilder, a poor substitute for the real thing. The present version of the tutorial is much improved thanks to you. May you treat it as harshly.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Quantifier Quandary

I'm writing this to talk my way through a tricky problem involving Quantifiers, the terms used in Deikto to express the magnitude of some trait or to modify a verb. From the outset, Quantifiers were designed to operate one a zero to five scale. The standard quantifiers were zero, tiny, small, medium, big, and max. However, we have shifted to a bipolar system in which most (but not all) values run from -1.0 to +1.0, with the values representing a kind of percentile distribution -- so that a value of 0.0 indicates the norm, with half of all plausible values above it and half below it, while +1.0 represents the highest plausible value, and -1.0 represents the lowest plausible value.

So what should the Quantifiers be? It now appears that we need many more Quantifiers, and they must be adapted to this probabilistic scale. I'd like to have 11 Quantifiers, but the problem is, English doesn't have that much resolution in its quantifier set. Here's a seven-step scale:

minimum, tiny, small, medium, big, huge, maximum

That's not much resolution. But going to a nine-step scale requires us to resort to some sloppy terms:

minimum, tiny, small, minor, medium, major, big, huge, maximum

It's possible to use compounds to get somewhat better results:

minimum, tiny, small, medium-small, medium, medium large, large, huge, maximum

But taking this all the way to an eleven-step system gets cumbersome:

minimum, super-tiny, tiny, small, medium-small, medium, medium-large, large, huge, super-huge, maximum

Moreover, we get into some issues with the semantic linearity of this scale. Here's how it would look as a table:

-1.0 to -0.9: minimum
-0.9 to -0.7 super-tiny
-0.7 to -0.5 tiny
-0.5 to -0.3 small
-0.3 to -0.1 medium-small
-0.1 to +0.1 medium
+0.1 to +0.3 medium large
+0.3 to +0.5 large
+0.5 to +0.7 huge
+0.7 to +0.9 super-huge
+0.9 to +1.0 maximum

Let me remind you, this system has to work for all variables in the system. Deikto is smart enough to be able to substitute different labels for quantifiers used on each word -- but that makes the job of designing these words even more difficult.

Right now I'm inclined to accept the nine-step system. The eleven-step system seems too clumsy.


Friday, April 28, 2006

Chris on podcast

Christy Dena, an Australian media research, has interviewed me and prepared a podcast of the interview. You can download the podcast at:

Comments and criticisms of my wild claims made in the interview are welcome here.

Friday, April 14, 2006

D&D: Deadlines and delays

I had been planning for some weeks to release the first pre-alpha version of Swat on Tuesday the 11th. Perhaps you noticed that this did not happen. After nearly a week of smooth sailing during which no serious bugs cropped up, all of a sudden bugs began coming out of the woodwork in droves. I tried to stomp them one at a time, but eventually realized that there were too many. The problem lay in my poor design of the data structures behind the undo feature. I had to throw the entire system away and start all over. But then I realized that changing the undo feature would require me to change another data structure, which in turn mandated a change in the Dictionary file, which led to... well, you can see how these things go.

I have just finished the major redesign and have begun testing it. So far so good. If all goes well, we should be able to release the pre-alpha version in a few days. Jonathan has been writing up the tutorial, and so all the pieces are coming together. Keep your fingers crossed...