I await the Klein four-group nations.


A Contributional Solution to Uniqueness-Dependent Namespace Collisions

Once someone else has picked a username in a site, chances are you can’t have that username now. This is also true of several other namespaces, inside and outside of the computer world.

There are extensive problematic things about this. Perhaps you’ve been to a site that allows one-character usernames, and then modified the URL from a profile page to see who the lucky ones were that got the one-character usernames, and discovered many accounts where barely any activity has occurred beyond the creation of the account. What a waste! This could even be done maliciously, to claim an account that’s a natural moniker for someone before that person can get to it. There’s in fact this entire TLD that’s pretty much a namespace extortion market.

But this problem could be solved. A provider of a namespace could select a set of usernames that could be desirable, and assign pre-specified levels of contribution (maybe measured by posts, publications, victories, or some combination of what’s available in a site) necessary to actually be able to acquire that username permanently. Other usernames that one would expect would not be competed over can be guaranteed permanent upon acquisition, just not these particular ones, one-character and two-character usernames, and often-desired usernames like “dragon”, “monkey”, and “shadow”. (Bonus thought inquiry: is the state of password standards of the populace still so despondent that if you implemented this standard on the password field people would still fight for the convenience?) Thus, if you turn out to be a major contributor to the site (measured in some means), and someone just parked such a username and did nothing with it, you become entitled to have that username instead.

Thus, we have a system for which:

  1. One can’t successfully just prevent others from getting nice or appropriate usernames by parking an account.
  2. If one wants a permanent username but is worried about their level of contribution, there’s still a large set of usernames that one could choose from.
  3. One who picks a username that is tentative knows there’s a threshold after which they are safe and can be assured they have that username permanently, and doesn’t need to worry about future username-seizing by other users.

I’m curious why this seems to not have been implemented anywhere prominent yet, actually: I’m sure I can’t be the first to think of this. There is an alternative solution to this problem that I have seen, utilized by Discord, for example, where all usernames have a site-assigned number suffixed to them, so that multiple people can in fact choose the same username, and have them still be distinguishable. I like this solution as well, my only complaint (and a small one) being that one then doesn’t have full control over what becomes their particular unique identifier.

Pokémon Go: Days 550 to 600

Shortly after reaching Level 40 in Pokémon Go on my 543rd day of playing, I decided to track 6 statistics on a one-update-a-day basis for 50 days. The raw cumulative data is available here, along with some Ingress stats. Here’s a chart of totals per approx-day over this period.


Notably, Pokémon Caught and Gym Berries Fed seem to be the most correlated statistics. This actually makes sense given that both are statistics correlated with ample consistent play (the latter due to berry limits).

Over this period of time, my Battles Won and Hours Defended stats tracked remarkably close to each other, cumulatively.


Note that this is actually extremely unusual: for most Level 40 trainers, hours defended vastly exceeds battles won. The ratio is nearly 1 for me mainly due to gym activity mostly being in the blisteringly-high-turnover grounds of the MIT area.

Jarring Lack of Theme

When one is giving creative names to a set of related entities, one tends to expect a theme. A theme in the names gives a sense of cohesion to the various parts of a unit.

Street names make a particularly good example of theme-naming. Check out, for instance, the clear naming themes going on in these two places.



Sometimes, however, a situation really looks like there should be a theme, and one can’t find one. In these cases, it’s easy to believe there’s just no theme intended or that there’s some theme one’s missing, but occasionally it just seems unsettling that a set of entities does not have a theme.

Continue reading “Jarring Lack of Theme”

Alaska is Smaller than Larger-than-you-think

You may have seen several visualizations or statistics on how massively large the state of Alaska is: a juxtaposition of Alaska onto the contiguous states, or a reading on how many degrees of longitude Alaska spans. These often drive home the point that Alaska is much larger than one might be convinced it actually is, from maps of the United States where Alaska is in a small inset, and the such.

Indeed, Alaska’s contribution to American area is substantial, without which the United States would actually be smaller than Brazil. It is by quite a margin the largest state. It is also easy, however, to arrive, particularly from such visuals, to the conclusion that Alaska is larger than it really is.

There are two factors at play here:

  1. Alaska is very far north, and thus is portrayed as disproportionately large in popular projections like Mercator.
  2. Much of Alaska’s impression of massiveness comes from significantly long “appendages”: the mightily extended Aleutian Islands and the also impressive Alaskan Panhandle. There is a lot of not-Alaska within Alaska’s bounding box.

When looking at the main mass of Alaska, here’s what we find from some comparisons with Texas:

  • The distance from Barrow to Anchorage is 1164 km. The distance from Amarillo to Brownsville is 1117 km.
  • The distance from Nome to Tok is 1099 km. The distance from El Paso to Houston is 1086 km.
  • One can’t actually fit Texas inside Alaska, no matter how one rotates it.

Alaska really does just have seriously extended protrusions: Juneau is 924 km from Anchorage, nearly four-fifths the height of the main part of Alaska. Ketchikan is 1246 km from Anchorage: around this height, and closer to Seattle than to Anchorage.

Attacker-Defender Balance (and Curious Reflections in Culture) in Ingress and Pokémon Go

This post will delve a fair amount into specific mechanics of Ingress and Pokémon Go. I will try my best to provide a good context of relevant details and aspects for those that have not played the games.

Although Ingress is older than Pokémon Go by several years, I only started playing Ingress after I started playing Pokémon Go. On top of this, I started playing Pokémon Go more than a month after release, at a point when many have already quit.

I’ve on several occasions had the pleasure to listen to stories from Ingress players that have been there from the beginning, and thus got to learn, for instance, how even though Ingress seems really stable now, Ingress’ first few months were actually as painfully glitch-ridden as Pokémon Go’s. (So given this and how much of Pokémon Go entities are taken from Ingress, why didn’t Niantic do it right this time around given how well Ingress has come to run?) It’s really interesting to find out about the various ways veteran Ingress players view the rise of Pokémon Go and the Pokémon Go community.

I will start with pointing out that the current four most upvoted posts to r/Ingress all remark on Ingress and its relation to Pokémon Go. It’s pretty much impossible to be an Ingress player unaware of the presence of Pokémon Go, whereas it’s quite possible to be the other way around. And there are quite a significant number of such Pokémon Go players. Many Ingress players have some quite extended opinions and thoughts about Pokémon Go players and the newer game’s incredible rise.

One thought I hear substantially frequently is that Pokémon Go players are very obvious and open about their playing, a thought conveyed sometimes as just an observation but sometimes with annoyance. It is in fact the case: Pokémon Go players usually make no effort to hide themselves as Pokémon Go players, whereas Ingress players much more tend to operate subtly and secretly. There’s several conventions that are likely contributing factors.

  1. Players in Pokémon Go are ‘trainers’, in a Pokémon context. Players in Ingress are ‘agents’, in a sci-fi context. Ingress’ backstory much further suggests to the player that the role they are taking in the game is one associated with subtle operating.
  2. Pokémon Go has frequent (several occurrences a day) events—called ‘raids’—that often require people to work together in groups, and thus to actively look for and contact other Pokémon Go players, including from other teams. There is no such parallel in Ingress. Many people often pull large operations in groups with their faction, but these are also executed in elevated secrecy to those not in on the operation, and for good reason, as will be touched on later.
  3. Although both communities acknowledge the issue of GPS spoofers, Pokémon Go has had substantial enough of a spoofer problem that people are quite actively wary for spoofers. Letting oneself be visible to others when taking action (attacking a gym, participating in a raid) confirms to them that one has brought their physical body to an area, demonstrating playing honestly. There is no corresponding confirmation tendency in the Ingress community.

But this difference in openness of playing actually also parallels differences in strategy in optimal playing between the two games.

Continue reading “Attacker-Defender Balance (and Curious Reflections in Culture) in Ingress and Pokémon Go”