Monday, April 16, 2007

The curse of the hanging blog

Right click, blog this!

Yes that's how I managed to get this 'update', for want of a better word, to happen.

I know I'm not the only one having a hard time logging into Blogger either. What I want to know is what the hell Google did to the place when they made it more betterer because the old Blogger was doing pretty damn well for the 6 years I've been using it and the instant Google bought it, things have been going wrong.

Can't log in, can log in but can't post, can post but can't publish... wtf!

Out of beta and into the hanging screen of blogless death.

Anyway, now that I'm here in spirit if not in physical presence, what I wanted to blog about was a report in today's Boston Globe about playgrounds.

Yes, playgrounds.

On the third page of the report, the following paragraph appears...

"And in the past 11 years, working with tens of thousands of volunteers and various corporate partners, the nonprofit organization KaBOOM! has built nearly 1,200 playgrounds all over North America, using a collaborative method in which local children help design the playgrounds that are going up in their neighborhoods."

Eliciting input from children to help design playgrounds?

Strikes me as being similar to asking an obese person to construct a slimmer's dietary regimen.

I'm curious to know what sort of input kids might have had in designing playgrounds.

Page 4 has the best info in the whole article though.

Gems like the following...

"According to psychologists and specialists in early childhood education, to be valuable, play needs to be creative, but there also has to be an element of danger."

"When they play, kids make their own rules -- then they have to negotiate to get others to follow them. In sports, adults make and enforce the rules for them."

"To a young child," Hart says, "the idea of a playground is ridiculous in the first place. The whole idea of being taken to a place to play is almost an oxymoron. Children want to play everywhere."

Roger Hart is director of the Children's Environments Research Group at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

When my mother wanted me to teach her how to use Photoshop, I told her to get a photograph and mess around with it. I told her to play with it until she got bored playing with it. That was 18 months ago and she's still not bored, but I have to admit I'm bored shitless of getting photoshopped pictures of her holiday snaps of Europe in my inbox.

What do most of us do on the internet? We play in it. We bump into each other and gets cuts and scrapes and bruises - and some people get bullied and take their modems and mice and go and play somewhere else.

What are the internet ogres trying to do to it? Stifle that rambunctiousness and make it a safe place to play, but more importantly to them - wait for it - to do business.

There's money to be made out of the internet and in online businesses - hadn't you heard?

But what kind of businesses open their doors in a playground? Particularly one which doesn't like the imposition of restrictions?

The smart ones operate in proximity to the playground and shore up their Windows against accidental or deliberate breakage stemming from activity going on in the playground. (Ok, rotten pun. Get over it.)

The even smarter ones learn how to operate as an adjunct to the playground and get as involved in its activities as it is practicable to do so.

Now, where have I heard THAT before?

Whilst watching my screen do nothing tonight, I noticed at the bottom that my Spybot S&D was preventing bad sites from loading. You know, those sites that drop tracking cookies on your hard drive? Never used to get those with the old blogger.

These new owners have messed around trying to turn this bit of the playground I've called my own for 6 years into yet another shopfront. In the past, I was offered the option to upgrade to a paid account where better features and tools would be available. Now, I'm being subjected to tracking cookies and my software is getting indigestion and preventing me from continued usage of the old free product. Mostly.

Perhaps getting kids to help with the design of playgrounds is less like fatties doing diet menus than it is like asking the sales department to design a better internet.

The answer, as became apparent in the Boston Globe story, was to take as much design out of the playground and let the users decide for themselves why they want that place to play at all and the answer was - to be creative. Provide sand and water and a place where the two could be mixed and let the kids sort out the rest.

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