Toys to Work

I wouldn’t say that I am an ‘early adopter’… especially when it comes to the latest gizmo all the kids are using I am normally a good year behind or more. But I do love to play with toys, particularly the free online toys. Lately however, I have started seeing some of the things I just thought of as toys showing up at work… and I don’t just mean fidget spinners being given away as swag.

Though I never became a publisher, I had an early interest in the Open Gaming License put out by Hasbro. The intention of the license was primarily to allow 3rd parties to publish adventures for Dungeons and Dragons while protecting Hasbro’s intellectual property with other uses being considered edge cases. Publishers quickly established other uses but one that remained tricky for a while was incorporating game rules into software.

Because the licensing had requirements about human readable formats, software developers struggled for a while to figure out how to code around that. One of the more successful iterations of the code was HeroLab by LoneWolf development. Their code stored the game specific elements (the open content of the license) in mostly human readable xml files which the binary portions of the code uses to generate character sheets.

I’ve been using HeroLab to handle first my Mutants & Masterminds and now my Pathfinder character sheets for over ten years now. Today I had a demo for a similarly configured software that had separate xml files for handling government reporting.

Another software I use regularly is called IFTTT (If This Then That). Likely if you are reading this post then you are doing so because I configured IFTTT to capture my blog post and post it on social media.

Actually, it is even worse than that. You may notice that there is no navigation on this site. You need to be given a link to read any of these articles. The add-in that does this also blocks any kind of publicizing. To get around that I have another add in that automatically creates a shortlink for any new item added to this blog. IFTTT is connected to so that any new links are automatically added to my (formerly save for later) account. I then share this link directly from there. I won’t even get into the PowerShell scripts I have running to send things to pocket via the API.

Last week, work sent me to a conference for Microsoft products. One of the tools that was being promoted there was Microsoft ‘Flow’. Flow is basically IFTTT for Business instead of social media… though I am pretty sure that you could use it to generate a word document every time you tweeted to a certain hashtag.

I haven’t played with it too much but it took me all of 10 minutes to create a Flow tool that triggered whenever a new event was added to my work calendar to create a new page on the ‘Meeting Notes’ section of my OneNote document.

All of this is to say that I now have new faith in the ‘play based’ education my children get at preschool.