Wasting time at the cutting edge

I am hopelessly addicted to Babble. I’ve always been a bit of a Boggle fan, but having a single puzzle every day that I can log into from any web browser and keep open in the background as I do my work is enough to keep me coming back. (Sudoku players, of which I am not one, have their own version over at Iron Sudoku.)

I guess this is the problem with a browser-based computing experience – all the little time wasting applications that have developed over the years for our desktop operating systems are beginning to make the transition. That could be disastrous for productivity, because whereas previously you actually had to install games at an office workstation to play them, now you can just wander off to the website. No content filter will be able to cope with that – and nor should it, because if your students or workers are slinking off to play games, your problem is mostly with the culture of your organisation rather than their computing habits.

What it does illustrate is how things are changing. We’ve already more or less got web office suites; I give it until the end of the year before we have a proper massively multiplayer RPG that runs in a browser window; it might be a top-down Zelda kind of game rather than a 3D World of Warcraft / Second Life experience, but you’ll be able to interact with a virtual world without installing any software. It’ll likely even have an advertising-based option, allowing you to log in for free.

After that, it’s only a matter of time before someone creates distributed offline game playing system. Much as eJamming allows distributed musicians to play together, someone could write a distributed system to allow roleplaying geeks to play Dungeons & Dragons from anywhere in the world. Or nomic, if you were so inclined. The possibilities for timewasting behind your boss’s back are endless …

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