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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsTidepool, a codable storytelling world for kids
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Author Topic: Tidepool, a codable storytelling world for kids  (Read 29984 times)
teefal
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« Reply #60 on: July 01, 2015, 01:19:41 PM »

book chapter #22) thank you philadelphia

Four full days of wandering the cavernous halls of the Philly Convention Center, I’m mentally numb and exhausted, yet thankful and amazed at the reception Tidepool has gotten from the many I’ve spoken with here at ISTE 2015.  Working alone for so long, I’d all but forgotten the reason for it, but after a few hundred short conversations (and a couple very long ones), I’m entirely convinced of Tidepool’s merits.

Again and again, I’d start a conversation with someone nearby, ask where they were from and what they did, get to talking ed-tech, then do my quick Tidepool pitch:

“I’m making a programmable game world for kids (show the card).  The inaccurate but easy way to describe it is “Minecraft meets Scratch.”  It’s not like Minecraft because it’s a single multiplayer world, an MMO, that’s entirely hand-drawn.  All content is made by players.  They can change anything they see.  It’s not like Scratch because the programming model  is more flexible, more robust.  No top-heavy tiles that box you in.  We’re using a conversational approach where players literally chat with the agents they’re coding, using AI tech to make syntax and vocabulary more forgiving.”

Usually this led to the particulars they were most interested in, which then led to a larger conversation about the conference, ed-tech, or more personal topics such as family.  As the conference wore on, I spent less time talking ed-tech and more time talking about personal things.  Hearing yourself say the same thing over and over is its own kind of hell.  I began to crave connection more than bullet-point delivery.

Aside from my Tidepool talks, the conference itself was incredible.  More than 20,000 people who like what I like, with a huge expo hall filled with robotics, 3D printing, desktop VR, and much more.  The presentations and group talks filled my sails for a good time to come.

Now to drive home and sleep through the long-weekend.  I’m tired many times beyond what I thought possible, but eager to pick up my tools again and finish the next version, so my new friends can try Tidepool and help me build a new world.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2015, 07:11:26 AM by teefal » Logged

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JobLeonard
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« Reply #61 on: July 02, 2015, 12:40:36 AM »

 Hand Thumbs Up Right Smiley
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teefal
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« Reply #62 on: July 04, 2015, 03:21:03 AM »

After two days of sleep and Netflix binge-watching, I've started this morning on my pre-conference schedule, intent to get back to regular billable/Tidepool hours.

I've been brushing up on my computational linguistics, since the natural language interface seemed to interest people the most.  I'd actually bumped the cognitive agent (which has the NLI) to after the beta, but have now put it back.

Here's a quick GIF showing the scene I made for the handouts.  Note the way I'm mixing 2D and 3D.  Also note how I erased on the walls to make cool windows.  The colors are flattened out here because my GIF isn't great.



In other news, I've added all the podcast entries from the conference and beyond.  Mostly status stuff.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2015, 06:27:46 AM by teefal » Logged

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jgrams
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« Reply #63 on: July 04, 2015, 09:52:35 AM »

That looks really interesting. I'm a little skeptical about one or two of your design decisions, but it sounds like you've been doing this for long enough that it's pretty likely that you're right and I'm wrong. Wink I'll be very curious to see how this works out.

Are you still allowing people to join the alpha?



One tiny bit of feedback:

I was watching the July 2nd gameplay video and when you were painting, the active zone of the eraser struck me as odd: most basic mouse cursor arrows have the hotspot on the top left, and even if that's not an issue for your target demographic, the part of the eraser that stands out (to me) is the white end. So I was very surprised when it erased from the bottom right. Do you have a particular reason for doing it that way?

https://youtu.be/xTf4j0o5gyE?t=1m38s
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #64 on: July 04, 2015, 10:54:15 AM »

Found a pretty neat iPad app similar to this the other day. Had fun with it and it was nice to see someone else who doesn't really program manage to get stuff working in it too. Was a little too complex still and a little bit too programming-like for kids and newbies IMO. It's called Hopscotch. Might want to check it out to get some ideas of you haven't already seen it.
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jgrams
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« Reply #65 on: July 05, 2015, 05:54:54 AM »

Hopscotch

Yeah, clones of MIT Scratch are popping up all over the place these days. My experience is with my ten-year-old niece and Scratch suggests that kids pick it up just fine. Don't tell them that it's "programming-like" and they won't notice. Wink

The problems I saw her having were more because of the truly awful design: Scratch seems to be little more than a half-finished research project in that regard. The drag-n-drop targets are gratuituously tiny and the visual feedback about where your blocks will go when you drop them is extremely poor. The beginning tutorial is all about moving things and animation-like stuff, but she had trouble several times with Scratch's inconsistent poorly-thought-out model of how time works: some things happen asynchronously, somethings happen sequentially, some things have delays built in, some don't...it's a big mess.

I did really like the blocks model though. As presented in Scratch and Tynker and so on, it seems pretty rigid. But if you used it just as a visual presentation of a more "conversational" underlying model...?  I can see it being really great for reducing nesting and making scoping very natural.  Boxer Logo certainly claims that it has those benefits, e.g. in 20 Reasons Why You Should Use Boxer.  And I don't see why you couldn't have a visual nested box model which supported drag-n-drop construction and a text-input-based tree editing mode like Emacs' ParEdit or something...



Gah. Got off track there; back to Tidepool...

From the stuff I've read on its site, Tidepool is trying to break away from and go beyond that model. Reacting against that model, maybe? I'm a little concerned that he's throwing out the baby with the bathwater; some of the things he says in his podcasts sound suspiciously like the command-line over GUI arguments, and we know how that generally ends.  But we'll see where he takes it.  Looks like it has the potential to be really cool, and there are some great tidbits in there.  I love the bit about the graphics being deliberately childish so as not to deter children from creating their own. I'd never thought about that but it totally makes sense.
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teefal
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« Reply #66 on: July 05, 2015, 02:01:58 PM »

jgrams, thanks for your comments.

Yes, I'm reacting against Scratch and its clones, given my long experience with Etoys, which is the precursor to Scratch.  (The guy who made Scratch at MIT worked for the same team that made Etoys).  As I've said many times, Scratch has a low curb (learning curve) and low ceiling and Etoys has a high curb and high ceiling.  Scratch gets very cumbersome, very quickly.  Tidepool is my attempt to make a low curb and high ceiling, with a reason to keep playing it without adult encouragement.

One design constraint is that all coding has to be able to spoken aloud through voice recognition ... it all has to be codable through the command line.  No visual formatting a la Python or the block languages.  The coding will also be more forgiving, more flexible, using natural language understanding techniques to seem smarter.

I'm currently designing the director box, which is essentially the Tidepool IDE.   I'm not yet sure whether to put a blocks UI layer on top of everything also ... my instinct is NOT to and see how well kids do chatting with their agents.  Part of my goal here is to promote reading and writing skills.  I think much of the negativity regarding command lines has to do with the unforgiving syntax of them, not their text nature (texting is after all, very common).

As for the eraser, you're not alone in that observation.  Will be flipped in the next release.

And yes, please signup to be a tester.  Simply make an account and you'll get notified when alpha 3 comes out (by month's end).


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teefal
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« Reply #67 on: July 05, 2015, 02:16:01 PM »

One other point ... Scratch, Hopscotch, Tynker, and the rest ... they do a good job of introducing basic sequential programming with simple loops and branches.

I'm not convinced this is useful beyond a few weeks of exposure.

My goal is to teach children how to create complex systems that interact with each other using events and messages.  While Scratch and Etoys allow this, their design doesn't really encourage it.   (Etoys is better than Scratch).

By making agents characters in a story that you can teach rules to, Tidepool is aiming straight at this space ... I'm not teaching coding so much as systems thinking.

"mouse, when the fox gets near, make a sound and run away"

"fox, if the mouse runs fast, chase after it"

These are easy examples, but it gives you an idea where I'm going.  Event-driven, rule-based programming using other tools is many layers more abstract than I want for the age I'm most focused on (7 to 11).

Teaching a robot how to navigate a maze is one thing ... having a kid create their own 3D Colossal Cave is quite another.
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« Reply #68 on: July 06, 2015, 08:08:25 AM »

Hey, I think I know two languages that have some interesting ideas you might be able to steal some stuff from.

The first is Rebol. It's a language inspired by Self, Forth, Lisp and LOGO. It's a bit hard for me to explain why I think you might find some interesting ideas there, but one reason is that it inherits the "words separated by spaces" paradigm from Forth, but without the brainbending postfix (or untyped stack). So in some ways can end up more "human readable".

It also has an interesting approach to lists, called series. It's both oddly familiar and different. To grok it, your best bet is to skim through it's documentation

The second language is Céu, which is a one-man research project at the moment (sound familiar?). This one is interesting because of it's approach to concurrency: event based, reactive, singlecore, synchronized. It's modelled on Esterel, but tries to be more approachable than that.

It's approach to object orientation using "organisms" is also quite similar to agents, and might fit your needs. Try the video on the webpage for quick and clear introduction to its concepts. The (incomplete) documentation of the language here is also a good explanation of the paradigm.
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teefal
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« Reply #69 on: July 07, 2015, 07:23:57 AM »

JobLeonard, these sound very interesting.  I've been re-learning Prolog as a primer, and remember Forth from a while back too.  Also, the interactive fiction language, Inform 7, has caught my eye.  Will definitely check these others out.
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teefal
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« Reply #70 on: July 10, 2015, 05:47:47 AM »

Usually after pushing myself too hard, as I did before and during the ISTE conference, I lapse into a period of "lateral drift", where I focus on unnecessary things, things that are not "shoulds".  Some of my best ideas come during these times, though they're always at the expense of something else I should be doing.

This week I added functionality to my Storymill web app (the Tidepool hub) to let me send email announcements to various groups that I define, such as courseware authors.  I also integrated Tidepool into a nifty new multiplatform IRC-like app called HipChat.  You can now click "chat" on the website to enter our chatroom, where you'll see the chat within Tidepool itself and be able to talk with Tidepool players and other Hipchatters.



Now back to real work Smiley
« Last Edit: July 10, 2015, 06:43:06 AM by teefal » Logged

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teefal
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« Reply #71 on: July 10, 2015, 08:58:24 AM »

Just finished the favicon for http://playtidepool.com .  This was a lot harder to do than you might think.

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JobLeonard
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« Reply #72 on: July 10, 2015, 12:05:31 PM »

Oh, I've tried favicons in the past. I know how hard they are to get right.
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teefal
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« Reply #73 on: July 12, 2015, 03:56:03 PM »

We just made our first Let's Play Tidepool episode, with Zeripa, GreenGozer, and me.

The see it, and future ones, visit:  http://lets.playtidepool.com

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teefal
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« Reply #74 on: July 17, 2015, 07:22:27 AM »

For the last week, my wife and daughter have been helping me make "Let's Play Tidepool" videos.  We're using the latest dev version, which is all but untested.  As an incentive, I'm offering my daughter a popsicle for every bug she finds, and my wife a 15 minute back massage.  Needless to say, my bug count has skyrocketed in the last week.

As my mistakes are more visible, both at home and on YouTube, I've been on a bug fixing spree, which is probably a good thing.  While big-ticket new functionality like the scripting IDE is getting pushed back, my new bug focus keeps my efforts low to the ground.  I make smaller, safer changes knowing that later that day I'll be hearing my daughter chant, "I found a bug!"

Yesterday I fixed the oldest bug in my tracker, one I've deemed optional for over a year.  The white dots around images are now gone, as can be seen on the bottom shot.  While it's a subtle change, the world feels much cleaner as a result.  Little changes mean a lot.



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jctwood
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« Reply #75 on: July 17, 2015, 07:46:01 AM »

This looks really interesting. Is there a painting tool in the world? Sorry if this is something you have discussed previously.
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teefal
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« Reply #76 on: July 17, 2015, 08:55:31 AM »

Thanks.

Yes, painting, animating, and building.  All content is made in-world.
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« Reply #77 on: July 17, 2015, 09:39:55 AM »

That seems like an extremely competent toolset. I would love to have used this as a kid and probably would enjoy using it now. : )
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« Reply #78 on: July 17, 2015, 11:45:47 AM »

We have different opinions on what is considered "subtle" Cheesy

This would would be a high priority bug for me! Glad you fixed it :D
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teefal
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« Reply #79 on: July 17, 2015, 12:04:44 PM »

Ha!

Yes, I'll admit it drove me crazy, but in the context of much larger things (multiplayer stuff, data synchronization, etc, etc), it never ranked.

My wife and daughter didn't notice the difference, so I guess to people who don't know what alpha transparency is, it's subtle Smiley
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