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Moose Crossing (Essay)

Squeak vs. MOOSE

We've learnt a lot about a completely object-oriented programming language called Squeak in CS 2340. Through a series of miletones, we have designed and implemented a text-based adventure game that anybody (who's interested) can play. With short, simple commands, one can eat some cake or slay a daemon. We can go to different rooms, meet interesting characters, or die an exciting death. Living in this world of make-believe that we created ourselves seemed like quite an achievement until I came across MOOSE.

What's MOOSE ??

MOOSE is a completely object-oriented programming language, in many ways similar to Squeak. It is a MUD (Multi-User Dungeon). Both MOOSE, the language, and MOOSE Crossing, the virtual place, have been created by Amy Bruckman at MIT as the focus of her thesis. But fortunately, Georgia Tech has her now :) Amy started MOOSE Crossing because she believed that it " focuses on seeing the Net as a place for learning through community-supported collaborative construction." (Bruckman, 1997)

To put it simply, constructionism is the idea that if acquiring knowledge benefits the learner, then sharing that knowledge as it is acquired benefits the community that the learning is shared with. If all computer scienctists could be better coders by writing one new program every day for the rest of our lives, we would do so. But we don't. We have team projects. We all don't need to re-invent the wheel everyday to use it. Since somebody else has already made it, we can now afford to spend our time, intellect and energy on modifying it to better suit our requirements.

What can you do in MOOSE Crossing?
Whatever you want. Kids as young as 7 years of age have programmed in MOOSE. Which is not to say that it is so simple as to bore an older mind. It is quite diverse and varied in degress of complexity. You can find something to challenge your own skills (whether you're new to MOOSE or not ) and proceed to meet it. If you're done with that, you can advance to creating challenges for other people. You can simply explore to your mind's content, or decide to make some objects. You can make generic objects that everybody can use. You can write short (or not-so-short) scripts to make the existing objects do fun things. I recommend the 'Fireworks' tutorial where you get to make your fireworks explode in many ways. It gives you the chance to write some scripts too, to customize your own fireworks or even the explosions! You can talk to other people (kids if they are kids and rangers if they're not). You can page people, you can think, and if you're talking to yourself, nobody can hear you :) You can be a ranger and it will then be your offiicial duty to help other poeple online, among other things. You get merit badges(of course, only if you're good), and you can give out badges too.
And if you're more interested in the behind-the-scenes action, there's still a lot you can do. You can create some tutorials to help out kids who use MOOSE. Or you can be part of the team that is constantly working on fixing bugs in this still-quite-fresh environment. You can get involved with the administration department that deals with the registrations and other details.

Why MOOSE Crossing is more fun that Squeak was this semester :)
To begin with, there are a lot more places to go! Since MOOSE Crossing already has quite a few "regulars", a lot of different rooms and other interesting places have been created that can be explored. Apart from the the new hot-spots in the world, there are many things to do as well. For example, if you're in a room that has a swimming pool in it, you can throw somebody in! (just like you would in the real world) One reason I really like MOOSE Crossing is because whenever you examine an object, you get a list of all the commands that can be used to play with it :) This means that you don't have to guess. Also, you can "talk" to people in the same room and "page" people in different rooms. Now that's pretty cool! You get to create your own home where you'll start everytime you enter MOOSE Crossing. And "create" in this case involves interior designing along with the architecture if you want it.

Privacy in such a public place
Of course, you get to create your own character and you real personality remains anonymous. However, not just anybody can register a character if they wish. They have to submit a request for it, and they have to actually sign a physical form (it conatins the usual details about code of conduct etc.) which is sent to MIT for approval before registration. For minors, theire parents have to sign as well. Also, since MOOSE Crossing was mainly created to help children learn, everything that is typed there is recorded and this data is then reviewed to check that progress. Recording this data may be considered an invasion of privacy by many people, but considering the main objective behind this project, it is a necessity. All members are informed of this before they register.

Check it out!


and guess what? they want the entire system redone in squeak! There is a UROC for the job - at least there was. Webb

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