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Galvanic Response


You know that tension you feel when you’re almost completing something so enormously overwhelming so single-mindedly that you know that the next minute will either bestow godhood or endless damnation? When a royal flush could be in the river, or your microwave oven is only within a few tenths of a cent short of either destroying your neighbour’s overused hifi system or your own? Your jaw clenches, your heart quickens and your palms sweat. That last one is called a galvanic skin response by polygraph operators (or body thetans by Tom Cruise). This is a deck for Magic: The Gathering Standard Constructed that gives you a galvanic response.

First, a word about Magic: the Gathering in general. It’s a collectable card game that’s been around almost 2 decades. There are just short of 12,000 different cards. If you were to print out the rules, it would be about eighty pages where almost every other game would fit on at the very most around four. It’s the most complex game in the world. And it’s one of the very best. They’ll be quite a few articles on here about getting your feet wet, so if you’re curious, pull up a feed, or grab Duals of the Planeswalkers for your gaming platform of choice: it really is an exceptional introduction to the game, and depending on the version you can get you some real cards by buying it.

So. Galvanic Response. It uses Myr Galvanizer to create infinite mana and then uses that mana to win you the game. I’ve had quite a bit of success with it in casual circles and in the casual decks area of Magic Online, but it’s also really inexpensive. You can build it online for about 3 tickets, and if you’ve got any kind of a card pool you probably already have it. Here it is:

The Engine



It wouldn’t surprise me if this isn’t original or that clever, but let me walk you through it. You want to get enough mana myrs in play to generate 2 mana, and two Galvanizers. You can then cast Fireball or Exsanguinate for infinity, winning you the game. The engine works thusly:

  1. Tap all your mana myrs, generating m mana in your mana pool. Mana pool = m.
  2. Use the first Myr Galvanizer’s activated ability to untap all your other myrs for 1 mana. Mana pool = m – 1.
  3. Tap all your mana myrs again. Mana pool =  2m – 1.
  4. Use the second Myr Galvanizer’s ability to untap all the other myr, including the first Galvanizer. Mana pool = 2m – 2.
  5. Go to 1.
  6. You’ll end up with a mana pool of nm – n, where n is the number of times you do it. Do it a hundred times, you’ll have 100m – 100. It should be apparent that as long as m is greater than 2 you can create an unbounded amount of mana.

So ideally, it plays like this:

  1. Land, Go.
  2. Land, Silver/Iron/Lead Myr. Go.
  3. Land, Palladium Myr. Go. Bolt something.
  4. Myr Galvanizer, Myr Galvanizer. Go.
  5. Recur unboundedly and cast Fireball or Exsanguinate for a googolplex. Win.

A turn 5 win against goldfish is pretty good. Not super great, but for three bucks worth of cards it punches well above its weight. In case it doesn’t go that swimmingly (but it often does), there’s insurance. Need something? Diabolic Tutor for it. Need another Galv? Clone. Something irritating the opponent has? Bolt it. Exsanguinate and Fireball are both great at buying time, by adding some time to your clock or by removing one or a bunch of their guys. And hey, if they don’t have anything and you haven’t drawn any spells, you can smack them with pumped up adorable myr.

Fixing the Social

Diaspora, a hobbyist Facebook clone recently released some pre-alpha source, to disastrous results:

[Users] are going to get burned in a very serious manner very, very quickly if they actually succeed…

People are so desperate to run buggy, awful code because the Web is in a weird place at the moment. Lots of people are using services they don’t really like or trust, more-or-less because it’s what everyone else is using and they don’t see any alternatives.

I’m certain that there are ‘working groups’ and ‘conferences’ on the idea of distributed identity and distributed social networking beyond the adorably anaemic XHTML Friends Network. However, I am equally certain that talking to them or even doing the most basics of preliminary research on this important topic would tempt death like never before. And I’m positive none of this ‘work’ has seen the light of day in a mainstream way.

Fact: The Web is already a social network. It’s just horribly impossible to manage as a friend list. I have a different friend list on every damn website ‘community’ and because of this (and because I am fairly unlikable) most of the time those lists are completely empty. Until this is fixed, the web will continue to be fucked.

The reason for this fuckedocity is most communities, blogging tools, forums, et cetera and ad nauseum, are horribly confused about their purpose and identity. This results in applications greedily hogging friends lists because they are afraid something better at part of the melange that is their feature set will take users away.

See, every visible action on the web is one – and only one – of four things:

  1. Publishing: creating content for a wide audience. This is old-school blog-ass blogging, what I’m doing now. It’s also the good bits of YouTube, news sites, and the Twitter accounts of people that you’ve never met but still follow. Publishing. Stuff you’re not obliged to read, stuff you want to read.
  2. Communicating: creating content for a narrow audience. Most of Twitter, comments, most of every forum, e-mail and Usenet, IRC, IM, Skype, et cetera. Many people confuse 1 with 2, resulting in abominations like LiveJournal: blogs that aren’t for publishing. Stuff you’re interested in because it’s addressed to you, from someone you care about.
  3. Recommending: passing on content someone else has published, annotating it with critical or taxonomical metadata. Digg, Reddit, Twitter a lot of the time, tumbleblogs, linkblogs, some forums, Metafilter, Delicious. Search engines are also recommending; they just base them on search terms and stuff like PageRank rather than, say, pure subjective criticality like DiggStuff that points to (or occasionally away from) other stuff.
  4. Advertising: getting you to buy something or (usually) just to pay attention to an awful brand by generally being as irritating as possible, turning people you love into viral marketing engines, astroturfing, stupid Facebook fan pages, email chains, spam, Tweetblasts. The excrement of disposable marketing executives that always has and probably always will exponentially increase in any social networking service to the point where the service becomes unusable.

Take a look at Facebook. It’s a mess. All four of those things are mashed in there, where really most people only use it because it has a particularly effective contact list. This is the problem with many services like it, they start off with the friend list and go from there, building everything you could want to do with your friends into their service and then getting destroyed by the sewage of advertising and sometimes just plain ol tragedy of the commons.

Delicious, for example, is in my mind an effective recommendation service because it’s just that: a recommendation service. While it’s certainly very stagnant thanks to their Yahoo overlords, it’s a service that I continue to use as it works well and has a widely implemented API with some excellent third party tools.

As a counter example, YouTube is almost unbearable. It’s a publishing service for video, but it also attempts the other three, with embarrassing results. Now, Google are far from great designers, but YouTube is in a different league. A special league.

Communication-wise, it’s awful. People constantly uploading poorly lit, unedited ‘video blogs’ for their friends alone is poor enough but they add to that a bare-minimums messaging system that is a sub-sub-sub-set of e-mail. From a company with the most popular e-mail service in the world. Why not just let you receive and send your ‘personal messages’ from Gmail? That’s what it’s for! This lack of cross-application integration is what Wave was such a tremendous failure, by the way, above and beyond the terrible performance and mystifying UI. As for comments, well, there’s a Safari extension to get rid of them. There’s a Google-developed feature that will read you what you wrote so you understand how awful they are. It’s that dire.

Recommendation-wise, it’s even worse. I have never once enjoyed a single video YouTube’s Recommended for You section has returned. Its logic is baffling most of the time, and the times it isn’t it’s laughably misguided in a manner reminiscent of the University of Aberdeen’s Joking Computer. For example, because I watched the excellent song Donuts, Go Nuts!, a profoundly excellent musical interlude featured in the Xbox Live Arcade title ‘Splosion Man, it believed that I would be interested in watching someone cook up some donuts. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it appears just about anyone can send me their own recommendations, resulting in constant recommendation spam.

And of course, advertising-wise, it’s barely tolerable, even with AdBlocker and ClickToFlash running at full capacity. There are porn sites with less invasive advertising. Porn sites.

So what should have Google done? Separation and integration. Make videoing privately, commenting and private messaging a function of Gmail, make social recommendation  part of Buzz or whatever horrific social recommendation experiment they’re trying this week in Labs and make advertising fit into their old-school advertising aesthetic of small, out of the way and relevant.

You see, when you combine multiple barely-related functions you result in a product that is worse, not better. Take my shitty Canon ‘multifunction device’. It can barely print even when it isn’t out of expensive, expensive ink, and the scanner is well below adequate for something that was made in the late 2000s.

To summarise: the social is fucked at the moment because contact lists aren’t being distributed between web applications in an intelligent way, and social web apps try to be the whole social web instead of being part of it. To fix, do the latter and not the former.

You’re welcome.