Two points that came up at PAX East were the need to better use the tools we have already, and the fog of war around extensions. Extension authors don’t get much feedback about whether or how often their extensions are being used, and game authors don’t often realize there are extensions available to do exactly the thing they’re having trouble with. This is a problem because extension authors don’t get much positive feedback, and game authors spend time reimplementing the wheel that could be spent on more interesting parts of their game.
I have an idea for a sort of “Extension Census,” that would let people associate games and extensions in a way that archives this information from either side-- so you can see what extensions a certain game uses, and also what games use a certain extension. The idea would be to shine a spotlight on all the great extensions that exist for Inform 7 (and any other language with extensions).
To incentivize, I might offer goofy prizes to the person who tags the most within the run of the census (maybe 2-4 weeks), or the extension author whose extensions turn out to be most popular (probably excluding extensions distributed with a language). I would also encourage people to blog about favorite extensions during the run of the project. I envision the website staying active after the “Census” ends, so people can continue tagging with new games/extensions.
At the moment, it seems like the best idea is to set up the tagging mechanism on its own website, then make the data available in a portable format for anyone who wants to import it into something else. If people wanted IFWiki, Baf’s guide, or Inform7.com to have extension info on their game pages, the data would be there for the taking. Before I get started on any of this, though, I wanted to see if people see any flaws with this plan or have any better ideas-- maybe working with one of the aforementioned sites directly would be more effective.
Anyone have any thoughts?
As someone who has spent on an ambitious set of extensions that will probably explode into complete obscurity on release, I am definitely sympathetic to the attempt to expand the visibility / reward / feedback factor for extensions .
To the cool idea of an extensions census, I would add that it would be nice to (somehow) get author-bloggers to review extensions; i.e., to make discussion of extensions more a part of the “culture” of IF authorship. Especially in the case of Inform 7, with its minimal standard library, extensions are a key component of the system, so the I7 news page really ought to make mention of at least the most newsworthy extensions. (There doesn’t seem to be a TADS equivalent to the news page, unfortunately. I’ve also found it somewhat difficult to find TADS extensions.).
(For me, extensions have also been extremely important central to learning the software. Want to really get into Inform 7? Write a complex extension, preferably one that has you scraping around in the I6 layer…)
Back to the census: it seems to me that it would be a lot less work for the organizer to simply use the IFDB. It already has a tagging system, and it would be easy to glom onto that. Of course, the tagging system isn’t ideal for this purpose, but it’s probably good enough. (It might be nice to segregate extension tags from others, though; maybe via a subcategory of authoring system tags?)
Following this model, the census site could be a check-offable list of games to be tagged, a list of official tag names (to prevent orphaned tags that are spelled differently and thus don’t group with others), and maybe a discussion board…?
I think this is a good idea in general, but Erik’s suggestion of the IFDB made me wonder if a more ambitious proposal shouldn’t be made to Mike – to include extensions and development systems within the purview of the IFDB.
Currently the IFDB hosts everything to do with playing IF, including clubs, lists, polls, etcetera. However this same infrastructure would be ideal for pages about extensions and even development systems, with instant support for tags, reviews, and ratings, allowing for searches of popular extensions, for including extensions along with lists of games for a particular list or poll.
It would be ideal for making extensions first-class citizens along with the games they help create, and create a positive feedback loop for people who write good extensions.
You could do the same thing on the IFWiki, but the infrastructure would be better supported on the IFDB IMO.
George, this is an awesome idea, whether on IFDB or a new site.
Well, I’ve emailed Mike Roberts to ask regarding the IFDB.
Yeah, the IFDB is a great idea. I didn’t think about the tagging system allowing two-way connections for free, which is great. Getting them even more integrated support is an even better idea.
If we go with the IFDB, I don’t think the project even needs its own site, at least not one with any custom back-end. We could maybe have a post here that people update with their progress-- “OK guys, I’ve done all the XYZZY nominees from 2005-2008.”
George, thanks for offering to put this in front of Mike. Let us know what you hear back.
Mike likes the idea and put it on his feature list for IFDB, but it may be a while before he rolls it out (I’m guessing here that he wants to distinguish extensions from games in the DB). In fact he had already thought of having IF development systems pages. Sounds good to me, unless Aaron wants to move faster given his own schedule?
Hmm-- well, I think in this case waiting for official support would be more productive than trying to hack something together that wouldn’t be as immediately useful. I’ll e-mail Mike and see if we can stay in touch about his plans for this feature, and maybe try to coordinate the Extension Census for when it rolls out.
In the meantime, I may try to blog about extensions more regularly, and see if I can do other things to raise awareness.
Thanks all for the ideas and suggestions!