Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Audible Badges and the Keymaster

In the slightly less than four days since I finished the blog post before this one (Audible Badge Collection Revisited) a flood of email messages from other Audible Listeners (that's what we call ourselves and each other it seems - as Audible Listeners) has illustrated for me just how popular the service has become and, what is more, how intense the feelings are that exist within it.  I received a lot of email - a LOT of email - almost all of which was both supportive and equally of note, demanded to know what my personal Badge Count is?  With details?!

This Audible dot Com Thingy

As the exclusive supplier of audio book content to both iTunes and Amazon the folks at Audible have something like a monopoly (but not really) in the area of digital books and audio entertainment (not including music and/or songs) whose primary delivery system is the Internet via the World Wide Web -- the notion that a community, or perhaps a community of sub-communities would be a better take on the matter? Well, either way, the fact that such a community has sprung into existence really is not all that surprising. 

This being a very busy time of year for me, I cannot indulge in the philosophical aspects inherent in developments such as this, despite the fact that they practically beg for me to do so.  If ideas could talk this one would be saying "Explore me!  Delve into the quirky and yet mind-boggling fact of my existence!  Find the humor in me, it is there!  Really it is!  Please?"

But they cannot - and I wouldn't have the time anyway, in fact the best that I can do is jot down these notes and the briefest of observations as I attempt to fulfill the requests that have been made of me, and share with you the details of my Audible Badges since this appears to be a rather urgently important matter some of you...

Just be thankful that I am not Stephen King.  

I recently sent an email to the human interface at his publisher to whom one sends such requests  asking for just three minutes of his time to ask and obtain the answer to the questions: "How important would you say that your experiment in publishing your recent book exclusively online was?"  And "What did you learn from the experience?"

Those two questions are central to the issue that I will be examining in a column I am working on that explores the whole issue of PoD and online publishing. 

It has been suggested that we, each of us, have a book floating around in our heads waiting to be written, and but for the lack of a publisher to take our project on would all of us be published authors...

Of course Stephen King has never heard of me and I have no doubt was completely unaware of the exchange between myself and some faceless drone at his publisher whose job is to read the email that is submitted by that form on his "official" web page on their website. 

The fact that this particular drone has allowed their "power" to rush to their head and so chose to deny me in so transparently obvious and passive-aggressive a manner, well, I try not to take that sort of thing personally.  I understand - he is so busy he just cannot find the time to answer those questions.  Ever.

I am just saying that you should be happy I am not the Kingster - or more to the point, you should be happy that I do not have such a tool screening my email; if I did we would not be having this little experience that we are having, and where was I?

Oh yes!  My Audible Badges!
The Audible Listener Badge Collection has become something of a point of pride and, for many audiobook fans, a symbol of accomplishment...  For this Audible Listener the badges represent pleasurable hours spent multi-tasking while he earned his TCoB Badge!  Yeah, I've pooped in the woods...

The Official Badge Count (and information)
of Audible Listener CM Boots-Faubert

So the email that I have been receiving from readers has included their present badge status and nicely and politely requested that I share mine.  Since it was nice and polite for the most part, I figure what they heck, why not?  So here is my Audible Listener Badge Collection Status as of 0600 GMT -5 on 31 July 2013:
  1. Stenographer - Silver
  2. Social Butterfly - Silver
  3. Audible Obsessed - None
  4. Weekend Warrior - Gold
  5. Repeat Listener - Silver
  6. All Nighter - Diamond
  7. Marathoner - None
  8. Undecider - Silver
  9. Flash 80 - None
  10. High Noon - Diamond
  11. Binge Listener - Silver
  12. 7 Day Stretch - Silver
  13. Procrastinator - None
  14. The Stack - Silver
  15. Mount Everest - None
Thanks for your email, thanks for reading the blog, and thank you for reading the paper!



Saturday, July 27, 2013

Audible Badge Collection Revisited

Back in January of 2012 -- during a period wherein I was gathering information for a column that related to early adoption of consumer technology for the column that I write for the Cape Cod Times (Digital Grind, appearing every other Tuesday in the Business & Tech Section of the newspaper) and having  accidentally stumbled upon the Audible Listener's Badge Collection built into the iOS version of the audio book app from online audio book website --  I ended up briefly covering the subject in that blog entry.

I mention this for two reasons... 
The first reason being my genuine surprise at the explosive interest in that subject as shown by my readers.  In fact the post generated a whopping 73 email messages on that subject -- not counting the replies to my replies to those 73 original email messages mind you --  and considering that I did not know I had 73 regular readers for this blog, let alone 73 readers who were invested in it to the point that they would actually take the time and make the effort to send me email about something I had written about in it, well, let us just say that it was a gratifying experience indeed! 

This was a matter I found to be worthy of note personally as well as professionally, though come to think upon it, certainly it can be argued that as my activities with respect to the blog Speaking of... are more in the way of uncompensated and voluntary writing as opposed to writing assigned by an editor and in the general scheme of things, compensated, it is... but I digress...

The second reason has to do with the significant number of follow-on email messages addressing the subject that have been reliably appearing in my In Box over the course of the past eighteen months, the most common topic of which being genuine inquiries as to my own progress with respect to the Badges I have unlocked and, naturally, the sharing of their own progress in unlocking said badges.

My loverly wife and companion Yvonne, avid Pokemon Trainer and willing co-conspirator in the ongoing seemingly never-ending quest to obtain each rare and special Pokemon as those made available at GameStop's everywhere (or at least in the case above, at GameStops in Mashpee, Massachusetts), which is to say located in Paradise save for the fact that it is Winter in Paradise at the time that this snap was made so really not so Paradise as one might expect Paradise to be, there being no brilliant sun, heady temperatures, and Boat Drinks - mustn't forget the Boat Drinks, just saying...

Gibbs, Calvin, and the Odd Photo or Two
In my initial efforts to document the extension of what had at that point become a very well accepted and recognized means for promoting individual and group cohesion with respect to the obtaining of an established and valued visual symbol of status and rank in terms of participation in a given activity - in this case listening to Audio Books - I made it a point to include wholly unrelated photographs in the interest of illustrating that piece, and in keeping with that tradition endeavor to do so again herein...

Really though if you pause to give the matter thought, the present level of both popularity and success that this particular form of rank and recognition enjoys can be said to have a shared link not only to the more obvious military practice of the display of square ribbons on the breast, but in more contemporary terms the dashingly successful affiliated Gamerscore and Achievements systems created by Microsoft for its Xbox 360 games console (about which I have written upon numerous occasions, including here, and here, and also here, not to mention here and here!).

It turns out that the Audible Badge Collection is not only of particular interest to the very large community of Audible Listeners (of which I am one), it also appears to be of interest to a somewhat larger community of potential Audible Listeners - that is to say consumers of audio books who are not as yet customers of (by the by, I have in no way been compensated for the above plugs and promotion of the audio books from Audible - I am no shill, I just happen to really like and enjoy that service, for which just like you, I pay with my own money to enjoy).

It may interest you to know that I have been a client at Audible since the very month that it was launched in the previous century by founder Don Katz, and in fact I have actually written about the service - see my column titled Heard any good books lately? (DigitalGrind, Cape Cod Times, 27 May 2008) - just to comply with my own policy of full-on transparency.

Wouldn't it be great if the services of the Winebulance (photo inset above) truly were available throughout the USA?  The UK-based parent company and its rather interesting concept now available in the Miami, Florida area and elsewhere - but sadly (and I firmly suspect that the laws pertaining to alcohol where I live, on Cape Cod which is to say in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts though there are plenty of locals who might argue that we only slightly accept the notion that the Cape is part of Taxachusetts, it being a nation in its own right) would prohibit the operation of such a clearly convenient and valuable service.  If  we measure political independence by arbitrary scales such as fun, peace, and tranquility than Cape Cod is clearly an independent nation along lines similar to those of the Conch Republic...

Audible Badge Collection
The badges that make up the Audible Listener's Badge Collection at the present time (and as of the writing of this post) consist of a total of fifteen (15) unique badges, each of which have at least three distinct and graduated levels, those being Silver, Gold, and Diamond, which are based upon the level in a particular category unlocked by the individual user.

Each of the Badges represents a specific action (or nature of actions) and each offers the listener a means by which they can visually gauge their participation in a meaningful way while at the same time present that participation in a format that suggests rank or standing in the Audible listener community, and how cool is that?

The current list of Badges consists of the following, with meaning, as presented in the iOS App version:
  1. Stenographer - add a bookmark/comment X times.
    Silver = 10
    Gold = 40
    Diamond = 125
  2. Social Butterfly - spreading the Audible word via Twitter, Facebook & etc.
    Silver = x5 shares
    Gold = x25 shares
    Diamond = x100 shares
  3. Audible Obsessed - you have used the app for X days straight.
    Silver = x7 days
    Gold = x30 days
    Diamond = x90 days
  4. Weekend Warrior - listened to X number of hours on the weekend.
    Silver = x5 hours
    Gold = x10 hours
    Diamond = x24 hours
  5. Repeat Listener - listened to X number of books over again.
    Silver = x3
    Gold = x10
    Diamond = x20
  6. All Nighter - listened to X number of hours at night.
    Silver = x4 hours
    Gold = x6 hours
    Diamond = x8 hours
  7. Marathoner - listened to X number of hours straight (uninterrupted)
    Silver = x16 hours
    Gold = x18 hours
    Diamond = x24 hours
  8. Undecider - listened to parts of X number of different titles in one day.
    Silver = x3 titles
    Gold = x15 titles
    Diamond = x40 titles
  9. Flash 80 - awarded for checking your stats screen X number of times.
    Silver = x50 checks
    Gold = x200 checks
    Diamond = x500 checks
  10. High Noon - listened to X number of hours during lunchtime.
    Silver = x2 hours
    Gold = x3 hours
    Diamond = x4 hours
  11. Binge Listener - listened to X number of books start-to-finish in one go.
    Silver = x2 books
    Gold = x5 books
    Diamond = x10 books
  12. 7 Day Stretch - complete X books in a single week.
    Silver = x7 books
    Gold = x15 books
    Diamond = x50 books (whoa)
  13. Procrastinator - have X books downloaded but not marked finished*
    Silver = x10 unfinished books
    Gold = x20 unfinished books
    Diamond = x75 unfinished books
  14. The Stack - have at least X number of books in your library.
    Silver = x50 titles
    Gold = x200 titles
    Diamond = x500 titles
  15. Mount Everest - completed a book that is X hours in length.
    Silver = x30 hours
    Gold = x40 hours
    Diamond = x50 hours
The inclusion of all of the X's above is, of course, meant to represent the sliding scale of numbers that relate specifically to the Level of the Awarded Badge - that is to say that the number is going to be different depending upon whether it is for the Silver, Gold, or Diamond Level Badge Awarded.

The inside colour does not appear to mean anything with respect to the badges but the outside rim of the badge clearly does - as you can see above the Marathoner Badge is "Diamond" Level while all of the others appear to be "Silver" Level...  The disturbing bit is that at some point in the recent updates to the app it appears that the edge graphic has been disabled, as there seems to be no relation between their colour and their status.  For example, one I know is Diamond Level has a gold border, and one I know is Gold Level has a silver boarder, while a Silver Level one has a silver border, and so on...  I very much dislike being confused like this...  Sigh.

* Note that with this badge if you delete the book from your device you can "lose" the badge since it appears to apply to the present inventory/status on the device.

In addition to the above, you should be warned that IF YOU CHANGE YOUR LOGIN for Audible - say if you have more than one account, or your significant other wants to listen to books from THEIR account on YOUR iOS/device this will wipe and reset ALL of the stats.  When you log back into your own account your stats will be reset to zero on all.

The Badge Collection is also now available for the Android version of the app.

Listening Level
In addition to the Badges listed above there is also a screen whose title is Listening Level and upon which is displayed the five levels of Audible Mastery, which are:
  1. Master
  2. Scholar
  3. Professional
  4. Novice
  5. Newbie
I do not actually know what the required times are precisely, though you can probably figure them out for yourself simply by reviewing my status at the time that this post was written (though bear in mind that the status only accounts for my listening statistics since I installed the app on my most recent iPhone - as my actual number of hours listening to books via Audible is a MUCH higher number spread across all of the platforms, from iOS to PC):
  1. Master (1907 hours to go)
  2. Scholar (907 hours to go)
  3. Professional (407 hours to go)
  4. Novice (7 hours to go)
  5. Newbie (Achieved on 12/13/12)
Based upon the numbers above the overall total appears to be based upon 2000 hours of listening...

Back in 2000 my wife Yvonne had her own "webcam" that featured two field mice that she had captured in humane traps that had, until their capture, been playing hell with our stored food stuff as well as anything in a cardboard box in the basement - but once the outlaws were captured became the focus of Mousecam!  That's right, the image of their domesticated mouse dwelling was shared online via the web every 30 seconds.

You Know, Whatever?
If you are curious, 2000 hours of listening breaks down to:
  • 83.333 Days
  • 120K Minutes
  • 7.2 Million Seconds
  • Number of hours of Cosmetology Classes required by the State of Utah in order for an applicant to qualify for a state license to work as a Hair Braider for pay.
  • The minimum number of hours that a non-partner lawyer is expected to bill in a 48-week year (they get four weeks holiday each year don't you know).
  • Number of volunteer man hours it took to build the 2,000 Hour Trail on the western slope of the Massanutten Resort by the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition.
  • From planting of the coffee tree to your first sip, 2000 man hours go into making that cup of coffee. (
  • Amount of time that budding game designer Alexander Velicky spent creating a mod for Skyrim just to get a job interview with Bethesda Softworks.

Friday, July 5, 2013

bringing a matter to your attention without offending you.

An Open Letter to a Farmville Friend

Farmville is a game that was built upon the social networking platform called Facebook with the idea being to enhance the experience of game play by making it a mixture of group and solo play and adding into the game a measure of reliance upon one another that, when it functions at its best, has the effect of doubling the positive results.

Among that aim is the practice of performing Helper Actions on the farms of your friends and your neighbors - and I am not speaking of the briefest of mouse clicks to the affirmative when the system pops up a notice stating that Friend/Neighbor X has asked you to help out on their farm and will you do it?

I am speaking instead of the willful action of actually visiting the farm of your friend/neighbor, selecting five (or more depending upon the level of County Fair Medal you and your mate have) specific items and committing to helping with them.

While this action narrows the Help to the specific object with which you have interacted, your mate has the option of picking the stage at which this Helper Action is applied, so for instance they can arrange it so that your Helper Action truly IS a help, providing water to a parched plant that does not deduct that water from the limited resources that are available to your friend.

In every sense your choice to take a few moments out of your day and actually visit your mate's virtual farm and help out is not just a good thing, but it is often a necessary act if your mate is going to complete a mission and its quests that are overly resource-dependant.

Having your animals wandering free is a great idea if the freedom from pens for virtual animals on your virtual farm is one of the ways you like to express your concern for the animals you keep in your farm and from whom cruelty free resources are obtained...  But it is not so great if you want other farmers to be able to help you out on a regular and predictable basis through applying helper actions to specific objects on your farm...  Just saying...

I am talking about You

You are a unique person and I am always pleased that you choose to call me friend.  The world is often made brighter by your presence, and I know in my heart that you are a good person, and that you would never accidentally insult or hurt another person because when you do choose to insult or hurt another, it is always on purpose.

Which makes the odd and careless actions that you have taken in the game difficult to understand.

Of course I have not come right out and forced your attention to the details because I know you.  I know that for most of your teenaged years your step-father was verbally abusive and never passed up an opportunity to insult you or degrade you, and tell you how stupid you were whenever you made a mistake - often mistakes that anyone could (and often would) make under the specific circumstances.

As a result of the way that that bastard treated you, you do not suffer criticism very well or quietly, and in fact it is fair to say that criticism of any sort - even the good sort - invariably results in a quiet and seething anger on your part.

I suspect that opportunities for good friendships with others have been burned at the stake of your sensitivity to criticism of any sort, which is largely why I (and others I know for certain) take care not to be seen to criticize you.

A nicely designed pen containing all of the objects that your farm animals could desire from water to housing and even the shade of a few trees can easily be accomplished using the fences that you can buy cheaply in the Farmer's Store - it just requires a minimum amount of effort on your part...
That Thing You Do

When you came to me and asked me to add your farm to my daily visits list, and for me to water that specific tree grove, I agreed to do so.

I knew that you were one of those players who keeps a silent score in your head - and I knew that you never visit other players farms to provide helper actions unless they first visited yours - I don't hold that against you even though it is not the way I choose to play the game.

When you asked me to help out with that Helper Action and I agreed, you might recall that I mentioned in passing how annoying I found it when farmers in Farmville 2 leave their animals wandering unconstrained in the game on their farm, and how that often made it difficult to select a specific object on a farm to apply a Helper Action because the game would often refocus the pointer at the nearby animal...

That it for some strange reason the game often gave precedence to the animals over crops, trees, and groves.  It even seems to prefer to move the pointer selection to other inanimate objects like a post, fence rail, or the like rather than the object - in this case a grove - that you mean to apply the Helper Action to.

The reason that I brought that up to you in that casual fashion was that I was trying to clue you in that YOU have all of the animals on your farm wandering around rather than placed in pens, my hope being that you would sense the advice that I was offering without viewing it as criticism...

You failed to do so.  In fact it was as if I had not been speaking at all.  Either that or in your mind you saw me as criticizing OTHER less worthy players, but certainly not YOU.  The thing is, yeah, I meant that hint for you.

In fact making a separate place for each type of animal - or at least for the strategic ones that will be getting a lot more attention in Helper Actions than others will - not only makes a certain sense, it also makes the act of helping you out with Helper Actions all that more convenient and easy since your mates do not have to carefully hunt through feed bubbles and hope that they are clicking on the right animal - and that the server has not re-tasked their selection using some strange logic of its own...  Just saying...
Today and a Fail

Today I went to water your grove and the server had me instead feed your deer.  When I tried again instead of the grove it had me feed a chicken.  I only have six Helper Actions to give you each day, and I had used up two because the server has that strange quirk...  Well that and because you allow your animals to wander unchecked on your farm.

The last time that this happened - that the server forced the pointed on to animals instead of the grove and as a result I "failed" to water the grove - you sent me a text telling me - and I quote: "I meant for you to water the tree grove NOT feed the animals!  Billy is feeding those animals, I need YOU to water the trees!"

Clearly you decided that I was being careless, or that for whatever reason I failed to grasp the simple task you asked me to do for you - and forgetting for the moment that you forget to return the courtesy and visit my farm to use your daily Helper Actions more often than you remember to do that - I am not your bitch.  I don't OWE you the Helper Actions that I have been making.

Today it happened again.  I very carefully targeted the grove, clicked on the mouse, and in the process another chicken walked close to the grove and the server retasked the pointer to it, and I used a third Helper Action on the chicken instead of the grove of four trees, which meant that I no longer had a sufficient number of Actions to use, and that means that your grove will not be getting watered by me anyway, today.

I fully expect you will be annoyed.  I am annoyed, but not for the reason you are I bet.

I have a new policy - this is NOT criticism aimed at you mate - but I have a new policy in that I no longer visit and apply Helper Actions on farms that have their animals wandering free.  If the animals are not penned up, I do not visit or help out.

So if you want me to continue to water your trees you are going to need to build some animal pens.