May « 2015 « Tidepool News

In today’s podcast, I broke down the eight core concepts in programming and came up with examples for how to implement them in Tidepool.

Specifically:  variables, expressions, statements, blocks, conditionals, loops, events, rules.

Tidepool has a few constraints that make designing this new language more difficult than the norm.  For one, it has to be easily understandable by young children (ages 7 and up), which means it cannot rely on strict syntax and a lot of punctuation.

Another constraint is that it has to be easily typed as a chat message … line by line … so, no colored blocks and tiles and no text editor formatting.  Related to this is that it must be able to be SPOKEN easily.  We want voice input to remain an option, particular when people use Tidepool on small devices.

Anyway, I came up with a small test bed of statements that I’ll start implementing today:

* seymour, forward 10
* seymour, when anyone is near, forward 10
* seymour, begin, forward 10, turn 90, forward 10, turn 90, forward 10, turn 90, end
* seymour, repeat forward 10

Syntax will very likely change many times before things settle, but this is a good enough start for now.

Yesterday was all about luring people on my alpha list to actually respond.  Turns out my mailing list announcement on Saturday ended up in most people’s spam (or worse), so I took the time to individually address all 100 people, asking them to click a link to let me know they’re out there.  Yes, sounds desperate, I know.  And I kinda was.

I made a landing page that summarized how to download and play the new Tidepool release once I realized that most people didn’t get the first email.   The good news is that my response rate greatly increased … almost half have at least clicked through the link and seen the landing page.  Still very few downloads and NO players except me, my wife, and daughter.  Yes, I know, it’s been less than a day for most of them.  I’m impatient, okay?

In other news, today’s podcast discusses thorny addressability issues in-game, such as what does it mean when you type “seymour forward 100” when you’ve got two agents named seymour by different players AND a player named seymour.

Well folks, hell did indeed freeze over last weekend.  After six months of financial limbo, I was finally able to fix Tidepool’s remaining bugs and ship Alpha 2 to my 100 alpha testers.

You can see my quick tutorials here.

Now begins the fun part … adding my own programming system that will let players code their creations. No, I’m not using a traditional scripting language like JavaScript or any other C-derived procedural bag of control-structure tricks.  Instead, I’m using my years of teaching young children how to program to make something more contextual, more flexible, more like human language.  It’ll be rule-based, much like Prolog, but more …. event-driven.

To hear me ramble about it for 20 minutes, listen to today’s podcast episode.

My current schedule has me finishing this current milestone by early June.  As for Colossal Cave, I decided to hold off on the core logic so that I can use Tidepool’s rule system to implement Crowther&Wood’s action mapping.

Hi everyone,

Some Windows users are having trouble.  To get Tidepool working on Windows, install these SAFE extras from Microsoft: (if your Windows is 32-bit) (if your Windows is 64-bit)

If you don’t know if you’re 32 or 64 bit, install both and it should work fine.

If you’re like me and have NO IDEA where it PUT Tidepool on Windows 8, type “Tidepool” in the search field in the upper right of the boxy Start screen.

You can then right-click on “Tidepool” and do “Pin to Start” or “Pin to Taskbar” to find it more easily later. Be sure to wait a while while it first loads.  Seems extra long, but it might just be my machine.

And yes, I will make this easier in the next version.  Today was my first attempt using Windows 8.

Take care,


Hi everyone,

At long last, I’m thrilled to announce that Tidepool Alpha 2 is available for download!

You’ll need to log in first, or create an account if you haven’t already.  If you need help remembering your username, password, or secret code (needed to create a new account), reply to this email.

To learn about Tidepool, either press F1 ingame for the help section or watch these short videos.

Keep in mind that this is an ALPHA release, which means There Will Be Bugs.  Also, everything is slower and less polished than it will be later.

** If you’re using Windows, you may see a box that says “Failed due to exception from main class.”  Simply click OK and wait for the program to start.  This bug is harmless.

If you find new bugs, let me know by sending me an email or by adding an “issue” on our tracker:

And thank you for being one of the hundred alpha testers on my list.  Whether you find time to try Tidepool or not, it helps to know I’m sharing this journey with colleagues, friends, and family.

Now begins my big push to expand Tidepool in time for the ISTE conference in late June.  ISTE is the world’s largest education technology conference, and this year it’s being held nearby in Philadelphia.  Only 42 days to go!

Take care,Tim

ps, here’s the latest book chapter.

Hi everyone,

While we had hoped to launch Tidepool Alpha 2 today in-person with the kids, they can still be among the first to try it at home.

Instructions for downloading Tidepool and watching tutorial videos will follow shortly.

Each child in the Kismet club has their OWN account, so you DO NOT need to make an account for them. Their username is <hidden>.  Their password is: <hidden>

Encourage them to watch the videos and make sketches for the other kids to see.

One hundred people from around the world are being invited to try Tidepool today.  Your children were all given prime real estate, as you can see in the attached map of the Tidepool world.

Call me anytime with questions at <hidden>

Take care,


Today I release Tidepool Alpha 2.

Imagine me pausing a minute to let that sentence sink in.  After six months of corporate distraction, after 72 seemingly never-ending bug fixes, after near daily grieving of my delayed dream, I’m finally able to show what I’ve been working on since last July.  Tidepool now lets you create sketches, animations, scaffolding, and stories.  There’s quite a lot that’s changed.

Even better, I now get to move forward with the much anticipated Alpha 3.  When this new version is done, you’ll be able to code your agents to do your bidding, letting you learn real programming.  It’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve been dreaming up how to do this for nearly eight years.  In all that time teaching with tools like Etoys and Scratch, I’ve imagined how I’d change things.  Now I get to put words to action.

My hope is to have something genuinely cool to show while attending ISTE in late June, so I can find collaborators from among the hundreds of ed-tech enthusiasts at this industry leading event.  I need a team to help me create courseware this summer.

And I need players, lots of players.  From today forward, it’s all about luring people to play.  Starting with my hundred colleagues, friends, and family members, I now need to slowly grow our community, one player-minute at a time.

Right now on our server, the Tidepool world sits empty, waiting to be filled.

You may begin.

Hi everyone,

It’s been two weeks since my Kismet Club invite.  With only four kids confirmed (and one of these just for Saturday), I’ve decided to cancel the in-person classes until there’s more interest.

I completely understand.  Spring is a busy time with many activities.

In a few days, you’ll all get an email to try out the new Tidepool release.  If you have time, please show the tutorial video to your child and help them download Tidepool.  We’ll be unveiling Tidepool to the world in a month or two, so their creations will be the first for many other children to see.

If there’s renewed interest after you kids have tried Tidepool at home, perhaps we’ll reschedule the classes.  Otherwise, I’ll reach out to a new group (probably homeschoolers) for July & August.

Take care, and have a great summer!