Pre-ordering or buying used games: an open letter to Boogie

The following is an open letter to YouTube user Boogie2988. His channel is absolutely amazing, and his opinions related to gaming are invaluable to me. He’s also well-known for his comical characters Francis and Jessie. However, this one particular video, regarding why he believes people should not buy from gaming store GameStop, I take issue with. That is what the letter is addressing:

Hey Boogie, I’m sorry, I love your videos, but I have to say I disagree with you here. I hate EB games (which is what our local equivalent of GameStop is known as), and refuse to buy from them. However second-hand games, I love, and I’ve got nothing wrong with buying them through a store. In reality, I actually don’t buy from any physical stores, because the prices in Australia are stupid ($100 or more for what would be $60 in the US: despite the exchange rate being more or less 1:1), but in principle I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I have a friend in the UK who will buy second hand from GAME because she can get second hand games super cheap (much more than the $5 discount you talk about). If that were an option for me you bet I’d take it, and be happy for it. I don’t think that giving more money to EA or Ubisoft is an aspect that should cross my mind at all.

To take things off on a slight tangent, how about Steam? Steam is lauded for the way they revolutionised the gaming industry, and yet they’ve created a culture where many people refuse to pay full price because “it’ll be on sale in a few weeks”. One could argue that this is as big an issue as second hand games. It means people won’t pay the developers the full price of the game that they’ve worked so hard to create.

Regarding pre-orders, I personally don’t pre-order games because I prefer to wait and see what it’s like, and also wait for any day-one bugs to be ironed out. However, I don’t see anything inherently wrong with pre-ordering either. Often it enables you to get the game cheaper than it otherwise would be, and you can get cool stuff for it. I agree that taking extra gameplay features out of the main game for people who don’t pre-order is terrible, but getting the OST thrown in, or an action figure, model, map, logbook, or other physical item is totally fine. The same is true for in-game aspects that don’t affect gameplay, like custom skins or whatever. Day one DLC is shitty. Removing content for those that don’t pre-order is shitty. But pre-ordering itself, for extragame features (i.e., features outside of the game) or to get the game cheaper, is a great way to show support to devs while getting a better deal yourself, or to get a hot-button game immediately at release (if that’s what you would prefer to do) when it may be sold out otherwise.

On a similar note, what do you feel about Kickstarting games? Planetary Annihilation would almost certainly have never been made without Kickstarter, and yet Kickstarting a game is fundamentally very similar to pre-ordering the game (only without necessarily the guarantee it will end up being a real game). You’re giving the devs money well in advance of when you will be able to receive the actual game, in exchange for cheaper prices or extra stuff, and for allowing them the ability to create the game in the first place. This isn’t necessarily the same as pre-orders, but it seems a similar issue.

So while I personally follow your advice on both second hand and pre-ordered games, I don’t see why it should be a general rule. It seems unfair to expect everyone to pay full price when they can’t always afford that, and when there are perfectly viable alternatives that exist.

P.S., Boogie, you’ve got some trolls wondering around the comments of your videos, you might wanna do something about mustacheftw, in particular. He was being an awful troll in the comments of the video in question.

Problems with IB

This post is about some of the biggest problems that I have with the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma programme. I just want it to be completely clear, however, that I love the programme overall. Everything I’ve heard about alternatives; such as A-levels, the American system, the French Baccalaureate, and the Queensland system; make me think that IB is truly by far the best of the ones I know about.

At the bottom is a quick glossary of IB-related terms for those that aren’t acquainted with the IB.

EE poor marking

My first problem is more of a whinge than anything else. I haven’t got a great deal of evidence about this. But first, the backstory.

I did my EE in Music, which is my strongest subject, and the only subject I got a 7 in as my final result. I put a lot of effort into my EE, not at all leaving it to the last minute, and doing a lot of research and work well ahead of deadlines. I made sure to consult with my supervisor frequently, and took his suggestions into account and made many corrections to my EE. My supervisor was really good, very efficient and quick to get back to me after any queries. The essay was well referenced using the MLA format (IB specifies that any system may be used, as long as it is used consistently). In the end, I was predicted to get a high A for my EE.

The IB gave me a B. Keep in mind, I wasn’t predicted to be near the borderline, but to get a solid A. Another student doing a Music EE, who was far less hard working with it—frequently missing deadlines and causing trouble for their supervisor many times—also got a B. Not only a B, but one point higher than I got overall.

I’ve been told (informally) that our school would challenge my result if they had more weight behind them. If we were one of the bigger older IB schools that would have their challenge taken seriously. This result cost me one point, as I also got a B in ToK (also a relatively sketchy grade, but I have nothing to point at for that).

All this comes from a fundamental problem with the way EEs are marked. The person who marks them isn’t necessarily educated in the subject of the EE. My topic was quite esoteric, and as such would have been fairly inaccessible to a marker who does not know and understand all the music terminology. It’s really a simple fix: EEs need to be marked by people who have had extensive experience in the subject of the EE. It’s not perfect, because even then they may not have access to everything they need to understand the EE (for example, in the case of a music EE, they don’t typically have to listen to the music being studied). However, this simple change would produce much better results for all the students doing their EEs. For such a core part of the course, it’s embarrassing that they don’t have proper examiners already.

Group 6

Many fans of the British A-levels criticise IB for being too generalised. I’m not going to get into how terrible their assessment is (that’s a debate for another day, perhaps), but I will say I might agree with that criticism, albeit for a different reason. I believe IB is either too general, or not general enough.

The problem comes in with group 6, named “Arts & Electives”. The choice is either an art (Visual art, Theatre arts, Music, as well as a pilot dance programme), or an elective from groups 2 – 5. If you don’t want to do an art, you could do a second second (a third?) language, a second humanity or science, or from group 5 you could do Further Mathematics or Computer Science. When compared to all the other groups, which are mandatory, this seems unfair. Why is it required that everyone study a second language, or a humanity, but not everyone must do an art? Alternatively, why is it that someone who may want to do Further Maths or Computer Science would not then be able to take an art? In this sense, group 6 is not held as an equal to all the other groups.

But not to be a complete whinger, I do have a solution to this particular problem—or, to be specific, I have two possible solutions that would solve this problem that they could consider.

  1. They could make group 6 mandatory, like all the other groups are. Everyone would have to do a single subject from each of the six groups. This could a problem for people who want to, or for whatever reason need to, do two subjects from the same group, such as two sciences, however I believe the IB has some subjects that count for two groups, which would allow a person an alternative way to do two subjects from one group. I can’t be sure exactly how this works, as my school didn’t offer any such subjects.
  2. This is probably the better option: relax the rules a little to allow people to opt out of any one of the groups if they wish, not just group 6. If a particular person didn’t want to, they could choose not to do a Second Language, but they would then be required to do an Art, as well as groups 1, 3, 4, and 5. Instead of doing their Second Language, in this case they could fill it with a subject from any of the other groups, such as a second Science, Further Mathematics, or even a second Art.

Either of these solutions would solve the inequality that The Arts face under IB, but the second would by far be the better one for students, giving them more choice in their subjects, whilst still maintaining most of the IB Diploma’s prized well-roundedness.

“Core” weighting

IB has a concept of what it calls its “core”. This is the EE, Theory of Knowledge, and CAS, which are done by all diploma candidates. The thing is, although they’re core in name, they certainly don’t get treated as core. For the EE and ToK, a maximum of just three points are available, and CAS is worth no points: it’s pass or fail. With CAS, this means a student that just barely does enough after much nagging by their supervisor is on equal footing to one who puts a huge amount of effort into it throughout the two years on their own initiative.

In my school, we spent two periods a week on ToK, as well as two a week on CAS (SL subjects got 4 periods, and HL got 6). We were also given some amount of time at school for the EE. Needless to say, all of these also require a great deal of time outside of school, especially the EE. For all this, why are these core requirements only worth 3 points, compared to 7 for all normal subjects? I propose that the matrix for ToK and the EE be changed to a 5 point maximum, such as the one shown below:

A B C D E
A 5 4 3 2 2
B 4 3 2 2 1
C 3 2 2 1 1
D 2 2 1 1 0
E 2 1 1 0 Fail

The only part I would strongly state is that an AA would be the only way to get 5, and two Es is the only automatic fail (as it currently is). The rest could be changed, and someone more skilled than myself could probably work out a better system than I.

The advantage of this system, as well as rewarding effort in these subjects more than it currently does, is that it allows for a slightly finer gradation in the marks awarded, as shown by the 5 for an AA, but a 4 for AB, whereas they were previously both awarded 3.

Furthermore, I would award up to 2 points for CAS. This way people who put more effort into their CAS programme would be rewarded more than those who barely do enough. Under this the grades available would be a fail, 0, 1, or 2. Students who fail to complete their CAS would fail their diploma, as is already the case, but then students who only barely do enough would pass, but add 0 points to their total. For achieving a greater level with their CAS, students could get 1 point, and for going above and beyond what is required, they could gain themselves 2 extra points. How these gradations would be determined I am not exactly sure, but my suggestion would be:

Fail Failed to reach the level required to pass
0 As previously: reached the minimum required level to pass
1 Did a good amount of extra CAS work, but failed to document correctly
2 Did a good amount of extra CAS work, with thorough documentation

Under this system, the core requirements would, combined, be worth the same as any individual subject, bringing the total maximum possible IB points to 49. At the moment many students who do incredibly well in their main subjects slack off at the core, and fail to put any effort into them. I don’t believe it is fair that this is not accurately reflected in their scores, and my proposed solution would solve the problem. Someone in my year got 42 points, including only a 1 for their EE and ToK. They received a C and a D, I think. They also were not very involved in CAS, so under this system they would have gotten 42 or 43 out of 49 (86% or 88%), which looks much less impressive than 42 / 45 (93%).

If the IBO wanted, they could find some way of giving out one more point, to bring the total to a nice round 50, but I can’t see exactly why that would be necessary. Perhaps they could give schools the option (heavily moderated, of course, especially in the larger school known for doing shady things in order to boost their marks) to give students who they think deserve a bonus point for all-round attitude and effort in school and school life/community. This isn’t a central part to my argument, though, and I would be perfectly happy with a score out of 49.

Glossary

IB: International Baccalaureate, the high school programme run by the IBO (International Baccalaureate Organisation). When used here, I am usually talking about the IB Diploma programme.

IB Diploma programme: The main IB programme, where students must take 6 subjects, one in each of six groups—Language A1 (mainly literature), Second Language, Individuals and Societies (Humanities and social sciences like Geography, History, Economics, and Psychology), Experimental Sciences (the main three: Physics, Chemistry, and Biology, but also Design Technology and a few others), Mathematics and Computer Science (CS can only be taken in addition to a normal Mathematics course, however), The Arts & Electives. Three of these must be taken at Higher Level, and three at Standard Level (4 HL and 2 SL is also an option, though not commonly taken). In addition to this, students must complete a CAS, EE, and ToK “core”.

CAS: Creativity, Action, Service. Currently, CAS is pass or fail. If you fail CAS, you are automatically not awarded your IB Diploma. Students have to undertake a variety of activities that meet these criteria. Creativity is things like the arts and languages, Action is sports and physical activities, Service is community service, and helping people. Previously, 50 hours of each was required, but now the requirement is simply to have put in a consistent amount of work into each of these, and to be able to show documentation (photos, videos, and written reflections).

EE: Extend Essay. A research essay with a 4000 word limit that each student must complete in a subject of their choice. It does not have to be in a subject they take, or even a subject offered by the school, although this is recommended. Students are assigned a supervisor within the school who can help them and give them advice. Assessed externally via a specific marking grid, although the criteria are quite vague in many cases.

ToK: Theory of Knowledge. This is a basic philosophy-like course about understanding how we know things, teaching IB students to question their understanding of the world. It is assessed via an internal presentation in groups of up to 5 (individual presentations are also allowed), and an externally marked essay on one of a group of assigned titles.

Facebook’s proposed policy changes: VOTE

Your voice. Your vote.

Facebook has proposed a number of policy changes to their “Data Use Policy” and their “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” (SRR). Users have been given the ability to vote on whether they want these proposed changes to go ahead or not. The result of this vote is only binding if at least 30% of all of Facebook’s over 1 billion active users vote, otherwise it is only “suggestive”.

Unfortunately, Facebook has made it difficult to see what exactly the changes are. The only way is to actually read through all four documents: the proposed and current SRRs, and the proposed and current Data Use Policies. To help you make an informed decision in your vote, I’ve gone through them both and highlighted the important changes for you.

If you wish to read these documents yourself:

Facebook’s current Data Use Policy

Facebook’s proposed Data Use Policy

Facebook’s current SRR

Facebook’s proposed SRR

If you want to go and vote on the decision, and I strongly encourage you to do so, then please go to The Vote Page by clicking here. Make sure you do so before 10th December, 2012, because that is the deadline (12:00 PM PST, or 20:00/8:00 PM UTC). Do it at some time on the 9th or earlier to be safe.

The first, and in my opinion most important, change made is the removal of the following statement that was present in the original SRR. A similar removal was made from the Data Use Policy.

If more than 7,000 users post a substantive comment on a particular proposed change, we will also give you the opportunity to participate in a vote in which you will be provided alternatives. The vote shall be binding on us if more than 30% of all active registered users as of the date of the notice vote.

This means that future changes would not be subject to a vote in the same way that this one is.

They have also removed some of the control over Facebook email, and who can control what gets sent. In the following quote, all but the first sentence was removed (the part struck out did not exist on the proposed document).

Your Facebook email address includes your public username like so: username@facebook.com. You can control who can start a message thread with you using your “How You Connect” settings. If they include others on that message, the others can reply too.

The following few quotes were added in which seem to simply clarify practices already undertaken by Facebook, rather than actually changing Facebook policy.

When you hide things on your timeline, like posts or connections, it means those things will not appear on your timeline. But, remember, anyone in the audience of those posts or who can see a connection may still see it elsewhere, like on someone else’s timeline or in search results. You can also delete or change the audience of content you post.

And

But remember that people can still find you or a link to your timeline on Facebook through other people and the things they share about you or through other posts, like if you are tagged in a friend’s photo or post something to a public page.

And

As described in the what your friends and others share about you section of this policy, your friends and others may share information about you. They may share photos or other information about you and tag you in their posts. If you do not like a particular post, tell them or report the post.

In addition, they are now more clear about which pieces of information—which you have already provided them—they may use in order to show you more relevant ads.

If you indicate that you are interested in topics, such as by liking a Page, including topics such as products, brands, religion, health status, or political views, you may see ads related to those topics as well. We require advertisers to comply with our Advertising Guidelines, including provisions relating to the use of sensitive data. Try this tool yourself to see one of the ways advertisers target ads and what information they see at:https://www.facebook.com/ads/create/

Other clarifications regarding users who violate the terms of service:

We also may retain information from accounts disabled for violations of our terms for at least a year to prevent repeat abuse or other violations of our terms.

Finally, they add new information about Facebook “affiliates”, which include Facebook-owned properties like Instagram, Facebook Inc., and Facebook Ireland Ltd

We may share information we receive with businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Facebook is part of, or that become part of that group (often these companies are called affiliates). Likewise, our affiliates may share information with us as well. This sharing is done in compliance with applicable laws including where such applicable laws require consent. We and our affiliates may use shared information to help provide, understand, and improve our services and their own services.

I hope that this summary of the changes helps you to make an informed decision on whether you believe the proposed changes benefit Facebook or not; and regardless of whether you prefer the current documents or the proposed changes, I hope that you will vote for your preferred choice. Please share this information with as many people as you can in order to try and reach the immense goal of over 300 million votes and make this referendum binding.

Click here to go to the voting page and cast your vote!

The benefits of publicness

My YouTube videos and comments now show my real name.

My YouTube videos and comments now show my real name.

I recently made the move of switching my usernames on various websites to be my real name. Previously, many websites I went on used the name “Zagorath”, or some form of it, like LOTRzagorath which I used on YouTube. Most notably, I linked my YouTube with my Google+ so that it is now using my real name for comments and uploads, and I changed from @zagorath to @jimcullenaus on Twitter.

But why would I go to the effort of making the change, potentially losing recognition among the few people that have come to know me (a few smaller YouTubers, particularly, on whose videos I regularly comment), and gaining a longer Twitter name?

For me, the main reason is simply consistency. I have a Google+ account tied to my real name, and I wanted the benefits of linking my YouTube account to that. In addition, I liked the idea that people could see my real name on both, so it was immediately clear that they were the same person. This second reason is also part of the benefit of changing Twitter along with them. Previously many of my accounts online could be split into two categories: those where I used my real name, and those where I used the handle Zagorath (or some variation thereof). Facebook, email, and Google accounts were probably the only ones that fall into the former category, while most others used Zagorath. However, even for this latter group, it has always been easy to find out my real name because in many cases that same account had my real name entered into another field. The best example of this is my Twitter account, where my real name has always been visible along with the handle.

Other than that, I believe that by using my real name people will be able to trust in what I have to say. By knowing this is a real person attaching their real name to what they do, I believe people will be less inclined to subconsciously discount or devalue what I have to say because of my anonymity.

Over time, I’ll see about changing over what I haven’t already changed (this blog, for example—Wordpress does not allow you to change your username, although you can change the URL), but for the moment I’ve made the changes on the majority of the accounts that I use regularly that I would wish to change

After I had drafted most of this post, I realised that this was something journalist and advocate of openness Jeff Jarvis (who I know from the This Week in Google podcast he co-hosts weekly on the TWiT Network) probably had something to say about, so I did a quick search and it turns out he’s done a post with the exact same title. His post is a far better one at actually describing the general benefits of being public and open. It’s a brilliant read, based on a chapter from his book “Public Parts” which—from what little I’ve read about it—looks like a really enlightening book. That post brings up some great benefits to publicness in a more general sense, and talks about being public not necessarily (or, not only) with your name, but with sharing information and knowledge in a public and open way. It’s a sentiment I can definitely agree with.

I definitely see the advantage of anonymity. It can allow people to express unpopular viewpoints without fear of potential retribution—social, political, or otherwise—but for me personally I think the benefits of publicness outweigh the negatives.

Idea: Partial fullscreen

Both Microsoft (with Windows 8) and Apple (since OS X 10.7 “Lion”) are moving towards a paradigm in their desktop operating systems that encourages the use of full screen apps. Whether you love it or hate it, this seems to be the way things are moving in the near future.

Even for those that like it, there are certainly some drawbacks. Some programmes just work better when they can be used on top of others. Note-taking apps like TextEdit or Notepad can work great over the top of a full-screen web browser, and it would be nice to be able to call up an IM window without having to switch over to another space if you’re working on a full-screen document.

Apps could use a partial fullscreen API to specify that they are suitable for being used on top of fullscreen applications, and then any windows open in them would appear in a menu after opening a drawer that is on one edge of the screen (perhaps some form of gesture or keyboard shortcut could also be used, or it could auto-hide, to preserve screen real estate).

In Windows 8 this could be added to the Charms menu, in OS X, I would say a three-fingered swipe from the very edge of the touchpad, but really any method could be used if the drawer were to be hidden when not in use.

When you pull out the drawer, a menu of all installed apps that can use partial fullscreen would appear, and upon clicking on the one you want, it would appear in the place of the drawer at the edge of the screen. Perhaps there could also be a simple tabbed system to switch between different partial fullscreen apps, such as different text windows, IM windows, etc.

People could benefit from something like this in a variety of ways:

  • Note taking while browsing websites for research purposes
  • Instant Messaging/chat while browsing the web
  • Audio libraries during fullscreen production or web browsing
  • Watching video while browsing the web

Fullscreen applications are great. You get more screen real-estate, they can help to minimise unwanted distractions. The problem is there are some cases where you want to be able to see more than one window at a time, for a variety of purposes. Partial fullscreen would help get the best of both worlds.

What do you think about partial fullscreen? Leave a comment down below.

Learning the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard

This is a brief instructional blog post on how to switch to the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, an alternative to the standard QWERTY keyboard layout used by most English speakers. The advantages are that it is much faster than QWERTY, and it involves far fewer hand movements, making its users less susceptible to RSIs like carpel tunnel syndrome.

First thing I would recommend: DO NOT buy stickers for your keyboard, or a keyboard with the keys in a different layout. These will help you short-term, but will be a serious hindrance in the long-run. By not having the keyboard layout visually correct, you will be unable to look down, and will be forced to learn to touch type. I know that myself, even though I could mostly touch-type QWERTY before, I still looked at the keyboard a lot. Now, I don’t need to do it at all. This allows me to type a lot faster than I could before, even ignoring the advantage inherent in the Dvorak keyboard.

A good idea would be to print out a copy of the Dvorak keyboard (linked directly below this paragraph), and place it under your monitor, where it can be easily seen. Draw lines under the U and H, just like on the F and J on a QWERTY keyboard, to help give you a visual reference.
http://www.theworldofstuff.com/dvorak/dvorak.png

Then, go to the keyboard preferences, and install the Dvorak keyboard. Let me know your Operating System and I can provide more detailed instructions on how to do that, but it’s quite easy. No CDs or downloads required.

Next, you should find somewhere you can take lessons online. I’ve posted two of the sites that I used when I made the switch.
http://www.powertyping.com/dvorak/typing.html
http://www.typingweb.com/tutor/

Now comes the key point: type in Dvorak as much as you can. Let your friends know what you’re doing, and tell them to expect slow responses on Instant Messengers and Facebook, etc. Only go back to using the QWERTY keyboard in times where you really need to type fast.

Two extra pages that can be really useful, are
http://www.theworldofstuff.com/dvorak/
http://www.theworldofstuff.com/dvorak/compare.html

I hope you can keep in touch and let me know how it goes! Comments on this blog are appreciated, and if you Reddit, then consider joining /r/dvorak
Good luck!

What is the greatest invention of all time?

My school recently ran a discussion on what is the most important invention of all time.

Portrait of Louis Pasteur

Louis Pasteur, courtesy of Wikimedia

Before I jump to what my answer was, and why, I just want to provide some context. Last term, they ran a similar debate where people had to vote for what one famous person in history they thought was the most important. On this list were such horrible examples as Alexander the Great, Ho Chi Minh, at least one British queen, and a past US president (I think Washington). There were also better examples, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela. These people I ruled out early in my selection process because although they did great things, their achievements were largely limited to a particular demographic in their effect. While it was incredibly important for that demographic, and therefore humans in general, it couldn’t really have the same effect as same of those that will come later.
My top three were Steve Jobs, Louis Pasteur, and one other person who’s name I unfortunately have forgotten, as I didn’t actually know it at the time. I looked it up, and found that their contributions to medicine were astounding. I ended up knocking out Steve Jobs relatively easily compared to the other two, but finally decided on the unknown person. When the school’s votes were tallied, Steve Jobs won. While I’m not surprised at this result, I am disappointed. I defend my position in putting him in third place by saying how much of an indirect effect he and Apple have had on technology, which I’m sure many of you probably already know (but I’ll go into more detail if anyone asks). Not just through Apple products, but nearly all computer-type devices today, from the traditional desktop and laptop computers, to smart phones and tablets. Not to mention the music industry.
However, I definitely don’t think that these achievements trump pasteurisation, germ theory, and the rabies vaccine (all Pasteur’s discoveries); and again, you have to take my word that I thought this third person’s medical discoveries trumped even that, at least in my opinion.

So, fast- (or not so fast) forward to the current discussion. I saw a poster about the debate on what is the greatest invention of all time, and decided to hop online just to make sure people weren’t voting for the iPod. It turned out they weren’t, but a couple of other interesting things came up.

The first was simple, but fundamental to the question. What is an invention? How does one distinguish between an invention and a discovery. I’m sure anyone would agree that we discovered fire, or that we invented the computer. But what about the wheel? The argument was that round objects exist in nature, and it may have been observed that they could be useful for various human purposes. Other things suggested that can’t really be considered inventions include language, mathematics, and steel. All of these, in my opinion, are things that either existed naturally or were developed in an organic and natural way, rather than being specifically invented.

People also suggested refrigeration (which I would consider a discovery), the Internet, contraceptives, electricity. These all have their advantages, but for various reasons I would not consider them as important as my suggestion, which is (finally…)
The printing press.
The printing press allowed, for the first time in human history, mass availability of information to anyone who wants it. It made learning to read so much easier, and allowed people to be more informed about what was going on outside of their immediate area. I believe that this spread of knowledge is a crucial part of the long-term scientific and cultural advancement of the human species. Let me consider each of those points one by one:

Easier education

The printing press made the supply of books cheaper, which in Economics is a shift of the supply curve to the right, and results in a higher quantity supplied at a lower price. This means that more people can get books, and it is cheaper for them to do so. Whereas previously only the most affluent few could afford books, as a result of the printing press nearly anyone can afford to own a book today.
Because they are able to have books, they are then able to use them to learn. First to learn to actually read, which is arguably the most important step in primary education, and then to use that ability to read to get more comprehensive education in all areas.

Spread of information

A printed book

From the Flickr Commons

The printing press made it possible for written information to easily be spread to further areas. Because a written work could now be produced in large quantities, that written work no longer had to be kept carefully in the area which it was most relevant to. Because it can be spread information like this, people could, for the first time, learn about things that were happening thousands of kilometres away. The printing press made it possible to have newspapers that could be spread around the general public. For the first time, the general population was able to learn about events in faraway places such as politics, natural disasters, and scientific discoveries. This last point, in particular, is key. It makes it easier for new discoveries to be built upon old ones. Newton’s work on gravity was based upon the previous work of Kepler. Without easy access to this work, Newton not have so easily been able to form his theories. Every major advancement in human history has been built upon previous ideas. Because of the printing press, written information can be copied and sent to different areas, to make it more readily available to people hoping to build upon it.

Freedom of speech

The printing press was perhaps the ultimate symbol of freedom of speech and freedom of press in its time. The printing press greatly increased the availability of a wider variety of information, as it was relatively easy for one to obtain a printing press and distribute media. A great example of this is in the 1983 French film “Danton”, starring Gérard Depardieu. In it, the titular character, Danton, runs a publication that the local government disapproves of, which he is able to distribute widely thanks to the power of the printing press.

What about the Internet?

Map of the Internet

A map of the Internet, from Wikimedia

Sure, the Internet has been an even greater tool in promoting the spread of information and in promoting free speech than the printing press. It gives a much wider degree of anonymity, wherein people can speak out even against governments that may otherwise attempt to persecute them. Danton ended up being executed, but had he been distributing his message via the Internet, that likely wouldn’t have happened.
The Internet is also a much more effective way of spreading information. With the printing press, we can have multiple copies of the same work sent out to various areas, but they must still be carried there by hand. The Internet allows instantaneous availability of content anywhere in the world.
The reason I decided against choosing the Internet is that I feel its philosophy is a direct descendant of the printing press. In my opinion, all these great benefits of the Internet came about directly as a result of the philosophy of the printing press, allowing freedom of press and the easy transference of information.
Another factor others considered for why the Internet should not be the most important is that it’s not a tangible item. I personally don’t think that this matters, as it is nevertheless something that had to be invented.

There  you have it, my opinion on the greatest invention of all time. What do you think? Are there any important points I’ve missed out? Do you have another invention that you think trumps the ones I’ve mentioned? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.