About Mary Hamilton

I'm a journalist-type tech-ish geek person, working in that interesting ambiguous place where reporting the news meets all sorts of peripheral skills. In my spare time I herd zombies, design games and write stuff.

Goodbye, Australia

Sadness resists description. I am trying.

Last time I left a place it took me four months to say what I wanted to say about that process, and somewhere it stopped being about me but became about a single emotion, the way it hurts when you have constructed yourself through the things you take with you and then you are forced to leave them behind.

If I were making Detritus again, this time, it would not be about objects. It would be about people. It would be much closer to the bone and much messier. It would be about Australia.

I’m not very good at talking about emotions. I’m better at writing them, so long as they are righteous anger or contemplative melancholy. I am not good at joy; I hesitate to put words on it, to name it, in case it dissipates. I am even worse at pain.

I am heartbroken to be leaving. There. That is a way of wording it that does not say too much. It implies a great deal but leaves me some cover, some distance from the emotions themselves. I am not saying that at some moments my heart feels like it will burst out of my chest. I am not admitting that I wonder, truly, whether I will ever be at home anywhere again. I am not speaking on the rending of bonds that are no less strong for being relatively new. I am not even mentioning the loneliness I fear, the life I am leaving, the friends I love intensely who I might never have met, so easily, and now might never meet face-to-face again.

Never is a long time. I can safely say: I will come back, if it is within my power. It will not be the same; that’s safe to say too. I won’t come home to these people in my house, grinning and gaming and asking how my day was. I won’t be able to pop for coffee with them of an afternoon after my shift ends. I won’t jump off things and fall over in the same room any more. My Sundays won’t be proper Sundays. We will still talk. We will still jump. We will still game. We will still drink coffee. We will be many thousands of miles apart, but long distances are not the barrier they once were.

It is probably not safe to say the partings feel like grit scraped over raw bruised skin, each one a new pain on top of pain.

It’s right to talk about how excited I am about New York (and I am!), how much I am looking forward to the work (because I am!), how thrilling it is to live this ridiculous life, to live in these wonderful cities, to span the world (and it is, truly, it is). It’s good to say these things. It’s good to remember them. Even aside from the work, which promises to be wonderful, I am looking forward to arriving, to finding and furnishing an apartment, to MOMA, to Broadway, to the tall buildings and the shops and the crush of the city, to the food, to the rush and thrill of a new place and new people.

And it’s good to talk about how proud I am of what we’ve done out here, how lucky we’ve been to find such friends, to take such joy in work, to play in new cities and to have the great privilege of beginning to discover a country. How happy I am to be able to call Sydney home, even for such a short time. I would not swap this sadness for the sadness of never having come here, or the sadness of not making friends: I am glad to have made marks on this place, and to be marked by it in return. I have had a wonderful time.

But I’m scared, too. I’m scared we won’t find new people. I’m scared that this is my tribe and I’m making a terrible choice by leaving them, no matter that it is the right choice for my work. I’m scared that I’m fucking up. I’m scared that, of these two delicious cakes, the one I’m not choosing will be the tastiest. I’m aware of how incredibly lucky I am, to be able to be scared about all this.

Sadness is hard. My heart will not break, but it will scar; it always does, though this will be the worst wound I have inflicted in some time. My world will expand again and it will fill with new people and I hope, desperately, breathlessly, so hard I screw up my eyes and clench my fists, that the friends I’ve met here will never leave my life, even though I’m choosing, geographically, to leave theirs. I am an idiot for throwing away such happiness. I am making the right choice, to chase more. I am so lucky and so frightened of getting lost.

Goodbye, Australia. See you soon.

Pocket Lint #27: dragons

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Five stories about how, why and where we move.

That Dragon, Cancer – in its final hours of funding on Kickstarter.

“Mr. Jones, 64, has an intellectual disability and a swollen right hand that aches from 40 years of hanging live turkeys on shackles that swing them to their slaughter. His wallet contains no photos or identification, as if, officially, he does not exist. And yet he is more than just another anonymous grunt in a meat factory. Mr. Jones may be the last working member of the so-called Henry’s Boys — men recruited from Texas institutions decades ago to eviscerate turkeys, only to wind up living in virtual servitude, without many basic rights.”

What it’s like to be pregnant, bipolar and at significant risk of post-partum depression in the UK.

The truth about the teenager who disappeared in the Michigan State University steam tunnels, sparking a national panic about Dungeons and Dragons.

“Do your best. Every deity and the spirits of your dead comrades are watching you intently. It is essential that you do not shut your eyes for a moment so as not to miss the target. Many have crashed into the targets with wide-open eyes. They will tell you what fun they had.”

Parable of the polygons: a playable post on how a small amount of bias leads to segregation in society.

“Whites can live, love, study, work, play and die in segregation … and still profess that race has no meaning in their lives.”

The woman who saw dragons.

The Magic Circle is set inside a high-fantasy remake of a fictional 80s text adventure, also called The Magic Circle, that has been in production for many years. The original was made by Ish Gilder, “a mild-mannered game designer who won’t let us call him a genius” in the words of a fake website for the game. An audio diary early on (of course there are audio diaries) reveals that The Magic Circle has been in production for two decades. It’s vapourware. The environment resembles a whiteboard outline that has been erased and redrawn – a beautiful, sinewy vision of sketch lines and uncertain clouds, with only occasional flashes of colour showing live elements.”

The Rosetta landing, cartooned live, in gif form.

“The moon is much larger than it appears to be. This is worth remembering because next time you are looking at the moon you can say in a deep and mysterious voice, “The moon is much larger than it appears to be,” and people will know that you are a wise person who has thought about this a lot.

Poem of the week: Us Two, A. A. Milne

Game of the week: Detritus, which I made last time I moved 10,000 miles around the world.

Tumblr of the week is an Instagram instead: Follow Me.

Pocket Lint #26: implicit

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“The 22 bus is the only route that runs 24 hours in Silicon Valley and it has become something of an unofficial shelter for the homeless. They call it Hotel 22.”

The problems with capitalism, as explained by a Minecraft hedge fund manager.

A medical actor who fakes illnesses so trainee doctors learn empathy. “Empathy means realizing no trauma has discrete edges. Trauma bleeds. Out of wounds and across boundaries. Sadness becomes a seizure. Empathy demands another kind of porousness in response.”

What does an orgasm look like?

Every email is a ghost story.

Harvard’s tests for implicit associations about race, gender and sexual orientation.

“With my form of multiple sclerosis, I quickly started to realise that while the disease would likely never kill me by itself, the sheer weight of time could still do some serious damage. You know. All the wonderful things I should have done before. All the terrible things that might now happen. Playing Spelunky’s genuinely refreshing in this regard: it’s a reminder that the only moment that really matters is the moment that’s currently unfolding. Strategy dries up and blows away in the present, and in its place you’re left with tactics, with what to do for the next thirty seconds. Forget the City of Gold – how do I handle this frog that’s blocking the exit? Forget my plans for the afternoon, what’s with this stutter?

On being a black male, six feet four inches tall, in America in 2014.

“Capturing Knight was the human equivalent of netting a giant squid. He was an uncontacted tribe of one.”

Revenge bento.

It’s a bad fence.

Poem of the week: Epistle: Leaving, Kerrin McCadden

Game of the week: Crossy Road

Tumblr of the week: To My Unborn Son

Ophan, the Guardian’s live stats tool

Digital audience editor Chris Moran, my former boss at Guardian UK and an all round top bloke, has explained Ophan to journalism.co.uk, and if you’re interested in knowing what I do or understanding how I do it, it’s an excellent primer on how we’re building analytics into the newsroom:

“We know everything about print, pretty much, there’s not many tricks left in the bag, we’ve done it for 200 years and we’re used to it. But the internet’s changing all the time, as much as anything else.”

An idea central to Ophan, said Moran, was for it to be useful to everyone working at the outlet, something he referred to as the “democratisation of data”.

This is at the absolute heart of what’s worked for us out here in Australia. We couldn’t have had the success we have out here without this feedback loop – not just the data, but also editors, subs and reporters all working with and caring about the data. Ophan’s transformed how we work, and will continue to do so as it adapts to the changing internet. There are no analytics tools on the market that do what it does, and building it into the heart of the newsroom is a crucial part of making it successful.

In other news, it’s been a little quiet round here as I gear up for leaving Australia; lots of small projects are on hiatus while I pack up life into boxes again, including Pocket Lint, my ongoing game design work on BOPTUB, and standard curmudgeonly blogging approach. Normal service will be resumed as soon as we are sure what is normal anyway.

Pocket Lint #25: permeable

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She’s not playing it wrong.

“The euphoria made time pass quickly, and the light outside faded as it got later and later into the evening. We were sitting at a table drinking, and talking, and she was telling me about a tattoo she planned on getting on her upper arm. She grabbed my hand, and ran my fingertips slowly over the spot she wanted it, staring into my eyes. Oh yes, something was building. The moment is burned into my memory, the moment before everything changed.”

The line between terrorism and mental illness.

How extreme isolation – as used in prisons and as a torture tactic – breaks down the human mind.

Climate change is a mental health issue: “The ability to process and understand dense climatic data doesn’t necessarily translate to coping with that data’s emotional ramifications. Turns out scientists are people, too.”

NASA has posted a huge library of free-to-use space sounds.

“A few weeks ago I killed a patient.”

Pop Up Playground are crowdfunding to support Melbourne’s Fresh Air festival next year. Without them, Spirits Walk and Ludonarrative Disco Dance would never have happened. If you like fun, accessible, games in real space, even if you can’t make the festival, please support them; they help keep game makers making.

Poem of the week: since feeling is first, e. e. cummings

Game of the week: TAKE CARE

Tumblr of the week: Clickbait Dissertations

Pocket Lint #24: hills of beans

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“People do still donate at churches and other places. We literally have ten tonnes of beans. We have a ‘bean room’ at our central storehouse. People for some reason associate a foodbank with beans. But actually what we need is coffee, sugar, UHT milk, tinned fruit, tinned fish. A whole range of things. So we try and get the shopping list to people and ask them to buy from it. But whatever you do, you still get lots of beans.”

The rise and fall of Default Man: “When we talk of identity, we often think of groups such as black Muslim lesbians in wheelchairs. This is because identity only seems to become an issue when it is challenged or under threat. Our classic Default Man is rarely under existential threat; consequently, his identity remains unexamined. It ambles along blithely, never having to stand up for its rights or to defend its homeland.”

Of GamerGate and disco demolition.

Trouble at the Kool-Aid point.

handler/the-paranoid-style-in-gaming-misogyny-1d412f212bda">The paranoid style in gaming misogyny.

I Know This Sounds Like Spam, But I Really Did Double My Mass In TWO WEEKS And Now Women Can’t Get Enough Of Me And I’m SCARED

If you only come into contact with one thing about GamerGate, make it this video.

Robert Webb on growing up male: ‘Nobody ever told me: you don’t have to waste years trying to figure out how to be a “man” because the whole concept is horseshit. We are people, individuals comprising a variety of sexes, races, shifting sexualities and all the rest of it. Every convention that tries to reinforce this difference is a step back. Notions of gender pointlessly separate men from women, but also mothers from daughters and fathers from sons. The whole thing is – at best – just a stupefying waste of everyone’s time.’

Shadows of Mordor, Watch Dogs, and the politics of NPC agency.

‘The first funeral parlour he went to, in Hoxton, east London, told him they needed £2,500 upfront for the church and the vicar. “I said: ‘I can’t afford that.’ They said: ‘You won’t be able to bury him without that money’,” he says, at his flat. His father’s finch whistles in a cage by the window. Griffin is a former landscape gardener who gave up his job to care for his father when he became unwell. Another firm quoted him costs of around £4,000, asking for £1,000 upfront. “I told the funeral office I would just go to the unemployment office to see what they can give me. They said, ‘Oh no, we need the money upfront’. That’s when I started to get worried.”’

Tip sheet and resources for journalists – and others – dealing with graphic images and material.

What to expect when the internet tries to ruin your life.

Poem of the week: Proserpina, Going Deeper, by Jack Hollis Marr

Game of the week: Realistic Kissing Simulator

No, good content is not enough for Facebook success

At the recent ONA conference, Liz Heron, who oversees Facebook’s news partnerships, came in for some questioning about how news organisations can do well on the platform – something that’s a cause of some consternation for many, as it becomes increasingly clear how important it is as a mass distribution service. This is one of her responses:

This is a familiar line from Facebook – I’ve been on panels with other employes who’ve said exactly the same thing. But while I have the greatest respect for Heron and understand that she has to present Facebook’s best side in public – and that a tweet may be cutting context away from a larger argument – this statement is demonstrably false. Even skimming the rather fraught question of what exactly “good” means in this context, it’s questionable whether quizzes and lists such as those that have brought Playbuzz its current success are in any meaningful way replicable for most news organisations.

It’s not that Playbuzz is “gaming the algorithm” necessarily, though it may be. It’s that the algorithm is not designed to promote news content. Facebook’s recent efforts to change that are, quite literally, an admission of that fact. Facebook itself knows that good – as in newsworthy, important, relevant, breaking, impactful, timely – is not sufficient for success on its platform; it sees that as a problem, now, and is moving to fix it.

In the mean time, creating “good” content will certainly help, but it won’t be sufficient. You can bypass that process completely by getting your community to create mediocre content that directly taps into questions of identity, like Playbuzz’s personality quizzes, and giving every piece absolutely superbly optimised headlines and sharing tools. You can cheerfully bury excellent work by putting it under headlines that don’t explain what on earth the story’s about, or are too long to parse, or are simply on subjects that people will happily read for hours but don’t want to associate themselves with publicly.

Time and attention are under huge pressure online. Facebook are split testing everything you create against everything else someone might want to see, from family photos to random links posted by people they’ve not met since high school, and first impressions matter enormously. “Good” isn’t enough for the algorithm, or for people who come to your site via their Facebook news feed. It never has been. Facebook should stop pretending that it is.

Further reading: Mathew Ingram has context and a longer discussion.

Pocket Lint #23: the work we do

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What do homeless veterans look like?

The women I pretend to be.

“I have never been more resolved, in 18 years of practising journalism, of the absolute importance of our function in a democracy. I have never been more sure that the opportunity cost associated with doing this job is, actually, worth it. I believe we matter. I know I’m not alone in that belief. Yet we act as though we don’t matter, and facts don’t matter, and truth doesn’t matter. Call this Dispatch this particular weekend a love letter to my profession, and an outpouring of grief at its failings.”

The mother question.

‘Two days before CoverGirl, the NFL’s “official beauty partner,” was forced to respond to the league’s handling of the Ray Rice case, I helped three girls on the internet find concealer to cover up their bruises and self-harm scars.’

A woman is in jail in the US for helping her daughter have an abortion.

Is it a crime to raise a killer?

Gender disparity in corporate fraud. Even in white-collar crime, the pay gap persists.

This Is Katie Fucking Ledecky: A Thesis About Kicking Ass. The only column I’ve ever read that has instantly made me watch several videos of swimming on YouTube.

A non-definitive ranking of the Mitford sisters.

What Kim Kardashian: Hollywood can teach us about Carl Jung.

[shameless self-promotion] “Some people find it easier to put aside their fear than others; I find it almost impossibly difficult. It would be easy to give up, knowing that even if I manage to conquer my lack of coordination enough to run up a wall, I’d still struggle with the fear of getting down again.”

“The right leg of Leo Bonten broke after a stupid accident. There was an infection, it was off. But Leo wanted to keep his leg per se. To make a lamp out of it.”

Confessions of a former internet troll: “If there was a difference between trolling and schoolyard taunting, it was trolling’s particular take on the best way to be an outsider. The prototypical rebel without a cause is either a nihilist or self-serious, disappointed by a vapid world or giving up on it entirely; in either case, he is not content to gossip while there are motorcycles to be ridden in stoic search of the real. For us, it was neither possibility: the world was the place that cared too much, but the way to be above it all was to take aim at its vanity, to embarrass those who thought themselves too composed and too in charge to ever be caught flustered by something petty. We engaged. We had a cause. Whether it was a worthwhile one was a separate issue entirely.”

The Ballad of Marine Todd: how the internet created a morality play and remixed it into infinity. Little Red Riding Hood for the modern age.

Cat performance review.

Tumblr of the week: Women in space.

Poem of the week: Interview, Dorothy Parker

Game of the week: You won’t tell anyone, right?

What’s next: New York

So this is what’s next: I’m going to New York. I am hugely, hugely excited to say that I’m going to be assistant editor of Guardian US. Sometime towards the end of the year, Grant and I will pick up sticks and head back to London for a short while before living in New York for the next couple of years.

I am so incredibly sad to be leaving. I’m so proud of what we’ve done out here. We’ve made Guardian Australia into a formidable force on the Australian media scene, in a very short space of time. We’ve punched well above our weight in terms of the stories we’ve broken, the readership we’ve gotten, and the response to our presence – it’s impossible to deny that we’re here, and that we matter, now. What we’ve achieved in so short a time is absolutely amazing. None of that will end when I leave, of course; I was only a small part of that incredible growth, and Guardian Australia is in a great place now to grow even more over the coming months and years. I’m so proud of it, and of all my colleagues, and I’m going to miss them enormously.

I’m going to miss Sydney too. I’m going to miss my new friends more than I can say, and I’m going to miss so much about the city too: the botanic gardens, the sky dinosaurs, the red lights on top of the Westfield tower, the ability to go to Bondi beach after work if I want to. I will be very sad to say goodbye.

But I’m so excited about what’s next. Grant and I get to go explore New York. We get to embark on another adventure, so soon after the last one. We get to go across the world, again. And, most excitingly, I get to be a big part of what’s next for the Guardian in the US. I am thrilled to have this opportunity. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Pocket Lint #22: tomorrow, and tomorrow

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THE FLOOR IS MADE OF HOT LAVA AND THE GIRLS ARE RUINING IT.

A history of ‘Can This Marriage Be Saved?’, a relationship advice column in Ladies’ Home Journal, founded in 1883.

There’s an adage amongst storytellers: “Show, don’t tell.” With games, you should go a step further: Don’t even show! Let the audience find the answer. Put interesting things in your game — you were going to do that anyway, right? — and then don’t call attention to them. A cool thing that can be missed makes the world feel more like a real place and less like a clockwork puzzle constructed purely for the benefit of the player. And don’t worry about people missing your cool thing, because players will tell each other about what they’ve found.”

A first-person account of Cotard’s delusion, in which the sufferer believes they are dead.

[The old man offers a response—and thinks it came out OK—but sees on the face of the other guy that not one word was understood. This other guy, he resembles the old man—the old man of a few years ago, at least—and is speaking to him now, but the old man is not sure which language he’s using.] Take the steps slow, your correspondent is telling him as they duck into the subway station. Real widow-makers, these. [The old man looks up at him with lamblike credulity in his eyes. He has no choice but to believe he is being led somewhere in good faith.]

Women have always fought.

“It sounds bizarre, in some ways, to talk about creativity apart from the creation of a product. But that remoteness and strangeness is actually a measure of how much our sense of creativity has taken on the cast of our market-driven age.”

Who is U2?

A definitive and important ranking of animal penises.

Tumblr of the week: Grandpa and Grandmaster Flash.

Poem of the week: Japanese Maple, Clive James.

Game of the week: Stop the Boats, a Tony Abbott simulator.