Tag Archives: Twitter

Friday Bullet Points while Twitter Burns

It has been a good couple of weeks to drop bad news while Elon Musk’s gross mishandling of Twitter has been grabbing all the attention on the tech front.  You might not have noticed Facebook or Amazon or some other tech firms laying off thousands.

Going around the Twitterverse

And this week’s Twitter fiasco was Elon’s great loyalty oath campaign.  The remaining employees had to sign the oath or, if the refused, be laid off.  Some huge percentage of the survivors are said to have not signed, leaving critical systems unattended.  This caused Elon to panic about sabotage or something and he had the offices closed and the employees locked out like the unhinged oligarch he aspires to be.

Twitter isn’t down, and there is no plan to shut it down, but if some technical hiccup brings it offline, getting it back up and running might not be easy.

Last night on Twitter was like the end of high school, with everybody signing each other’s yearbooks and promising to keep in touch.    It is still up today, but the threat looms.

But there are other things going on in the world, and not even all of it is bad.  Most of these items I learned about on Twitter, but I am reluctant to link there now.  I don’t need any more dead links on the site.

  • Blizzard and NetEase Part Ways

This was telegraphed in the Activision Blizzard Q3 2022 financials, but it feels like there should have been more emphasis on it if the collapse of the relationship was going to be announced a week later.  But the other shoe dropped this week with a press release.

NetEase is Blizzard’s partner in China, which means more than you might think.  Doing business in China means working with a company there as a joint venture (a term which always reminds me of late Soviet perestroika) where the local partner holds a controlling interest.

NetEase controls the business that runs games like World of Warcraft and OverWatch in China.  If you fall out with your partner you have to find a new one, which can be a convoluted mess in any circumstances, but much more so if it needs the approval of a totalitarian government.

Blizzard has been through this before, so if they want to keep doing business in China they need to find somebody new to work with.  Meanwhile, the deal with NetEase expires on January 23, 2023, after which point most Blizzard games will be turned off in China.  Diablo Immortal, which was made under a different agreement is the exception in this.  The horrible cash grab Diablo mobile game will remain active.

As for why this has come about, NetEase, following the example of its governments diplomatic policy, is aggressively blaming Blizzard and one individual in particular for the parting.  I don’t doubt Bobby Kotick is a jerk, but I don’t see any evidence that NetEase is somehow the victim in all of this.

  • EVE Online FanFest 2023 Announced

CCP has staked out the dates for EVE FanFest 2023, which will celebrate the 20th anniversary of EVE Online.  And it is going to be… in September?

Yes, the dates are September 21-23 in Iceland, which will put Fanfest a good four months past the games 20th birthday, but when you’re booking an event big enough to show a blip on the countries MER I suppose you have to work with multiple factors in order to find a viable time slot.

Early bird tickets are already on sale and should be much easier to obtain that Taylor Swift tickets.

  • CCP Embraces a Bullshit Metric

When is a bullshit metric even more bullshit?  When you use only at its peak without giving any context.  I have criticized Blizzard for moving from subscriber numbers to MAUs as a transparent attempt to hide the actual state of WoW from investors, but at least they give us a number every quarter so you have some context.

So when CCP CEO Hilmar Petursson came out and said that EVE Online had hits its second highest DAU count since 2016, there were layers of BS to unpack.  To start with, CCP never tells us MAU or DAU numbers, so how do we know?  Was the day a lot better, a little better, not really better at all?

The game is clearly seeing more players.  The daily concurrent user graph over at EVE Offline shows that.  The expansion has sparked fresh interest.  But those graphs also show the peak concurrent for 2022 landed in January during the Doctor Who event.  So what is going on?

Well, as I noted, CCP had a login event with the expansion and gave away 7 days of Omega time to all players, which is a double incentive to login, because you need to do so in order to claim your prizes.  So last Sunday may have been a good day, but was it really a “best in the last six years” sort of day?  I suspect not.

Anyway, glad the game is doing good, but talking about numbers you won’t share in front of a crowd armed with spreadsheets is always a risky move.

  • Enad Global 7 Q3 2022 Financials

Things continue to look good for EG7.  Daybreak continues to dominate revenues on the video game side of the house.  Daybreak executives continue to run the show.  Things are going well.

However, the presentation itself was somewhat terse compared to previous ones.  Few insights and no future statements or handy graphs about upcoming titles.  Just the bare minimum to get by this time around.  Which is fine.  But that doesn’t give me much to build a post around.

  • Pokemon Violet and Scarlet Launch

Hey, it is also a Pokemon launch day, as Pokemon Violet and Pokemon Scarlet go on sale today!

New Pokemon to catch, a new land to explore, and a new adventure to complete!

Nintendo very much has a cycle nailed down for these launches, landing just before Thanksgiving in the US which heralds the start of the holiday shopping season here.  Plenty of time for parents and grandparents to buy copies for the kids that haven’t gone out and bought it on day one already.  And, of course, lots of holiday free time during which to play.

This time around I am not joining in.  My daughter and I played the Pokemon Diamond & Pearl remakes last year, and they were a lot of fun.  But I am not feeling it for another new title.

  • Valheim Mistlands Preview

Finally, the dev team working on Valheim have a game play preview video for the Mistlands biome that we have all been so (im)patiently waiting for.  But we’re going to have to wait for it too, because the video doesn’t unlock until November 22nd.  Dammit!

I hope there is a launch date in there, but I guess we won’t know until next week.

Anyway, that is what I had piled up for Friday.  Bring on the weekend.

Friday Bullet Points on Veterans Day

It is Veterans Day here in the US, though it was Armistice Day at one point because my grandparents used to call it that.  It is a day set aside to honor those who served in the armed force, which includes my brother, who managed to serve in both the army and the navy.  There is a story in that, but it his to tell.

For the first time I can remember I get the day off.  Most companies in the US give you the day off after Thanksgiving and if you ask them about Veterans Day HR will tell you that the former is a stand in for the latter.

Anyway, I will probably spend much of the day looking for a car to buy… another story in that I might get around to telling.  In the mean, there are a few small items I want to cover.

  • Crowfall Going Offline

Well, that didn’t go so well.

Is this even still their logo?

Crowfall, which raked in $1.7 million in their 2015 Kickstarter campaign, then shipped back in July of 2021, only to have to find a new home at Monumental last December, where additional funding was expected to improve the title, has decided go offline on November 22nd for a rework.

From the official announcement:

Over the past few months, we’ve been evaluating the current state of Crowfall. One of the biggest challenges has been the sheer amount of development effort required to build new campaigns and keep the game running daily. In order to refocus our efforts from live operations to development, we have decided to take the Crowfall live service offline for the time being.

On November 22, 2022, at 11 AM CST Crowfall will go dark, and the game servers will be unavailable. Until the service goes offline, take this time to try out all of the cool buildings, mounts, and emotes for free in the Crowfall store.

We’re going to use this time to map out the future of the game. We have yet to determine what that looks like, but we are investing in and rethinking every part of the game – from the core technology and tools to art, design, and gameplay. Nothing is off the table.

We’ll share the plan with the community as it shapes up.

It is not impossible it will comeback better and find success.  Some titles do come back.  Multiple times, if you count Hellgate: London.  But it is a rare thing.

  • New World Spike

New World has been enjoying a bit of a revival with the Brimstone Sands update that launched last month.

Brimstone Sands

But the real win seems to have been the fresh start servers they launched, letting players get that new New World world smell in their nostrils, boosting concurrent player counts on Steam beyond the 100K mark for the first time in almost a year.  That is still well shy of the 900K peaks of launch, but is much better than the doldrums that the game has been in for most of its run so far.

I have always said that half of the draw of retro servers of the sort we see with EverQuest or WoW Classic is the chance to start anew in a fresh world.

  • EverQuest II Anniversary Mount

I mentioned the EQII 18th anniversary already this week, but it was only after I had written and posted that I got the email about a special mount for players as part of the celebration.  The… uh… Stomposaurus Thunderstrider is available for all players for 1 silver from vendors in various cities.  I got mine out in the Frostfang Sea… or New Halas… or whatever that place it.

My own Stomposaurus

The mount will be available until November 22nd.  Details about where to buy the mount are in the 18th anniversary round up post on the EQII site.

  • Retroactive Recruitment in EVE Online

The recruit a friend option in EVE Online will get the friends who click on your link a quick 1 million skill points, a non-trivial amount when you’re just starting out.  But what if they made their account and forgot to click the link?  CCP has added retroactive recruitment.

When somebody clicks on your link and lands on the account creation page, there is now an “Already Have An Account?” option at the bottom of the form that lets you just log in and collect the reward… so long as you have not been recruited previously.

one meeelllion skill points

I have five accounts and, as it turns out, four of them were never recruited, so I just added 4 million skill points to the New Eden ecosystem.  I was even able to cross-recruit between two accounts.  What a country!

  • WoW Character Stories

Blizzard has been trying to build up hype for the upcoming World of Warcraft Dragonflight expansion and its own 18th anniversary in a number of ways.  One them is on Twitter.

Yes, Twitter is a spectacular dumpster fire as Elon Musk… very much the Tech Trump these days… careens from one bad move to the next.  However, the site is still up and running and honestly probably more popular at the moment due to the complete debacle unfolding as people discuss it on the site.  It is as if the passengers on the Titanic suddenly began discussing and debating maritime safety regulations, the effects of hypothermia on the human body, and the correct method of filling and deploying lifeboats, with great vigor.

But I digress.  If you tweet at the @Warcraft account with your WoW Character name, server, and region, along with the hashtag #WarcraftStory, a bot will reply to you with an image and a little tale about your character.  So I did it with Vikund, my main of mains, and got this.

Vikund, pet battler

The algorithm it uses will draw from the database the most rare or outstanding of your achievements… based on a list of possible options… and throw that back at you.  So, pet battles were my main thing on retail I guess.

And if you don’t like the result, you can try again and it will go down the list.  So I went again and got this instead.

Vikund and his dungeon achievements

I feel like 116 is both a big and a small number.  Dissatisfied with that, I rolled again and got this.

Vikund the raider? Yeah, right!

I am pretty sure my raiding prowess is made up by maybe half a dozen LFR runs over the years and then farming old raids solo for specific pet, mount, and transmog drops.  It that even a thing anymore with the level squish?

I tried doing the story thing with alts, but since pet battles are shared across accounts, the first thing I got back was the same as my first one with Vikund.  And subsequent stories were all pretty disappointing.  But, still, it is a neat little gimmick.

I almost didn’t notice it too.  I saw Blizz tweeting about it, but figured it was something Dragonflight exclusive.  But then I saw the post about it over at Blessing of Kings and gave it a try.  I think Shintar saw my responses on Twitter and has a post of her own about the stories of her characters.

A Week of Musk Era Twitter

At the end of this nightmare, I better get a cash prize

-unknown Twitter employee hoping to get laid off with severance pay

When I wrote last week’s post about Elon Musk acquiring Twitter, I figured there would be a few interesting twists but that the whole thing would play out over time.  I’ve been on both sides of mergers and acquisitions.  It is pretty much a fact of life with tech, bound as it is between attempts to satisfy Wall Street’s motto of “If you’re not growing you’re dying” and VCs and founders trying to cash out.  I’ve seen them done badly and I have seen it done well.

Tweet, tweet motherfuckers

Doing it well generally involves the “boiling the frog” method, a slow approach of small changes over a year or more.  Doing it badly means being in a hurry, trying to establish dominance, driving people out by doing things like firing everybody and making everybody re-apply for their jobs, and any number of other things that disrupt productivity and otherwise devalue the asset being purchased.  I’ve been through all of those bad routines and some more along the way.  I have some stories, but this post will drag on too long if I get side-tracked by that.

Financials

I wanted to run through the highlights of the week in chronological order, but everything that is being done is driven by the financial situation.  Musk paid $44 billion for Twitter, $12 billion of that came in the form of loans and, in order to make the payments on them Twitter needs to generate about a $1 billion in net profit annually.

Twitter occasionally makes money, more often though it operates at a loss.  You can Google the Twitter net profit numbers for details, or you can run through the Twitter thread that has lots of financial details and links to a list of sources in the end, but either way you will see that Twitter needs something drastic to happen in order to be able to put up those sort of numbers.

So he has a company that mostly loses money and needs a billion dollars of net profit out of it.  What is an egomaniac to do?

Advertisers and the Moderation Learning Path

I mentioned last week that, despite his promises, Musk cannot unleash the “free speech” revolution his follows seem to crave.  97% of Twitter’s income is from ad revenue and, as might be obvious to even Elon at this point, most brands don’t want to tie themselves to a toxic cesspool of conspiracies and misinformation.

And you can bleat about censorship, but this is capitalism in action.  This is literally the market place of ideas, and some ideas are so bad that they have negative value.  And the impact can be immediate.

Elon retweeting a deranged MAGA conspiracy theory (since deleted) about Paul Pelosi sent a message and some major advertisers are already holding off on more ad placement buy decisions until they see how this plays out.  That tweet undid his reassurances that Twitter wasn’t going to become a free for all hellscape.  He is trying to blame outside pressure, but it is clearly his own words, and Twitter’s complete inability to assure advertisers of anything reasonable because of Musk, that is killing ad revenue.

This is where a billionaire learns he doesn’t get to do whatever he wants if he is using somebody else’s money.  So he is currently speed running the lessons learned about online online moderation over the last 30 years.

Until Elon gets to the point where advertisers are comfortable that he has his erratic behavior under control… and him buying Twitter is a prime example of such behavior… income will suffer.

Basically his claim to want to deliver free speech to his followers… the moronic, ego-driven factor that got him into this mess… has been crushed because even billionaires need to bow to market forces… or at least they do if they want to stay billionaires, and Elon would rather be rich.  Of course the same people crying about this failure to deliver are keen to crush free speech they don’t like, so the howls of hypocrisy continue to flow.

Code Reviews, the 84 Hour Work Week, and Layoffs

The other way to boost profits is to cut staff.  The truth about a software company is that most of the value is in the staff who write the code, but staff is also a huge chunk of the expenses… and it is often the easiest substantial expense to cut.  Twitter can’t stop paying its internet bills, it can’t shut down its server farm, it can’t stop paying its taxes or rent.  All of those would impact the business immediately.

But you can lay a bunch of people off and skate by with the status quo for a while.  Anybody working at a company with more than a thousand people in it know that you can probably shed 10% of the workforce and see an overall increase in productivity.  Jack Welch spent years hawking his business model from GE which said companies should fire the bottom 20% of their staff based on performance reviews annually.  I worked at a company that did this one year then stopped because they created too many open positions that they couldn’t fill.  HR was crestfallen about their power mad dreams being crushed.  They tend to worship at the altar of St. Jack.

The key is letting the right people go, and Elon is in kind of a hurry, so he put the screws to everybody, making an 84 hour work week mandatory if you didn’t want to be simply fired for cause. (That is 12 hours a day, seven days a week.)  I mentioned last week they were having people print out the code commits for the last 30 days, and he had engineers from Tesla in to do some sort of code review process.

His need for speed meant that this review was laughably cursory at best and the rumor going around was that developers were ranked by the number of lines of code they had committed recently when determining who can laid off.

Up to 3,700 of the company’s 7,500 employees got the sack yesterday.  The office was closed, access badges were turned off, and if your Twitter company login stopped working the night before, that was a pretty good sign you were getting cut.

As noted at the top, getting laid off with some severance might be a blessing given the hellscape that working at Twitter was rapidly becoming.

The cut will get Twitter some expenses off the book once the severance is paid out and the inevitable lawsuits run their course.  But we don’t know if that will be enough because, you know, the advertisers.

Revive Vine

In a look to add something to the revenue mix, Musk put a group onto the Vine codebase with an eye towards reviving the short form video format that Twitter bought in 2014 then shut down in 2017, there being no money in short format video content.

The word is that Elon has assigned a team to get Vine back up and running, no doubt with an eye towards how well Tik Tok has been doing.  But unattended code does not age well and unless some of the original Vine team is still around, an early revival seems unlikely.  Once again, I’ve been there, with all the source code for a much simpler product, and my team spend well over a month just trying to successfully recreate the build system.

But the Vine project team doesn’t have a month.  Word is they were given two weeks to do it or they would all be fired.  Would you spend two weeks working on that or just started updating your resume and calling your friends on LinkedIn about open positions?

Blue Check Mark Negotiations

Another revenue scheme from the mind of Elon was to charge people for their blue check marks.  Those were introduced so that people of a certainly level of celebrity could verify the person’s actual identity so you would know you were following the real individual and now some parody account.  We don’t need that sort of chaos.

That would be crazy

His proposal was to open the gates and charge $20 a month for anybody who wanted a blue check mark.  He was a little vague on the validation side of things, but it didn’t matter because the celebs were not having it.  Elon got into a negotiation with Stephen King of all people, dropping the proposed price to $8 a month.

As somebody pointed out, that was rather like trying to charge Taylor Swift to perform at your stadium.  It isn’t the venue, it is who there is to see.  One of the magic bits of Twitter is that it managed to hit a critical mass of celebs and politicians and other notables, which is part of what makes the Twitter experience worthwhile.

Again, Elon is playing the buffoon card, a billionaire out there trying to make millionaires look cheap because they won’t pay for their blue check mark.  But not only is he once again waving a red flag at advertisers, he needs those celebs and such a lot more than they need him.  And, just to compound that situation, the presence of the famous makes the platform worth advertising on.  It is like he is trying to set his primary revenue stream on fire every day.

Infrastructure

Did I say something about not paying the bills up above?  Yeah, forget that.  Most recently, the word is that Elon has told the company that it needs to cut its infrastructure costs by $1 billion annually.

The estimate is that they spend $2 billion every year on infrastructure, so chopping that in half seems… unlikely.  Again, I have a nice thread on Twitter exploring the options if you are interested… there is some irony in that most of what I read about how Elon is trying to fix this horrible deal he couldn’t get out of is on the platform in question… but the idea seems pretty far fetched.

Yes, as with staffing, there is probably a tidy little sum that could be saved by optimizing or shutting down little used services.  But half is laughable unless he is willing to run a Rube Goldberg setup with multiple points of failure that could bring the whole enterprise down and be left unable to restore it.

As much as a pwipe of Twitter might seem amusing, it would be a costly affair.

Plans and Fallout

There has been some talk of people losing followers.  I lost eight over the course of the week, 1% of my small following.  All eight were shown as “account suspended or deactivated.”  While eight is a small number, movement on my total followers in excess of three coming or going over the course of a week is exceedingly rare.  Is it a sign?

There is also a good deal of talk about what the threshold should be for bailing on Twitter.  Certainly Musk can make things much worse on the site, and part of the reason for staying is to watch the struggle between his ego and his desire to not set $44 billion on fire in front of a world audience.

Then there is what one should do in a post-Twitter world.  As I noted previously, there is no real substitute for the experience.  Facebook, which is falling apart on its own, is intolerable to anybody who has even a few nutcase relatives they can’t block for fear of blow back at Thanksgiving.  Instragram is pictures Facebook, TikTok is spyware, and everything else falls into smaller and smaller silos.

For Twitter competitors, there are some MAGA hidey holes like Parler and Truth Social, where the snowflakes who fall apart at the mention of pronouns can feel safe.

Then there is Mastodon, which keeps coming up.  Every time Belghast writes an explainer about it, it seems less of an option.  It is siloed and insular in the way of any old school online forum, with social norms like not saying “Twitter” that will make current users hostile to any new comers.

The thing is, Mastodon could work, if it gained enough critical mass in the form of celebs and politicians and other notable people.  But the current long time users would hate that, because they didn’t go there because they loved the noisy chaos that can be Twitter.  It would be the September that never ended all over again, with the the old users complaining about how all these new people destroyed the vibe and the new users neither knowing nor caring.

As Belghast wrote, celebrity ruined the internet… at least for the people who arrived early.

(Also, watching various people try to explain/troubleshoot Mastodon on Twitter brings its own humorous surrealism to the who scene.)

So watching the train wreck and having no real parallel options is keeping most people on the Twitter roller coaster, even as they eye the exit turnstile.

Next Week?

And that is all in just one week.  The crazy train will not be derailed it seems and I am now curious to see what he will come up with next and how long it will take him to finally shut up and stop setting his fire to his own house of cards.

The End of Twitter as we Know It?

Elon Musk… backed by some sort of consortium of financiers, because there wasn’t $44 million in quarters in that sink he hauled into Twitter HQ this past Wednesday… has purchased Twitter.

Tweet, tweet motherfuckers

The sink was an attempt at a visual gag because Twitter had to “let that sink in,” one of those quips that he loves to append random statements that he thinks lend substance to his ignorance.

So there goes the neighborhood.  His publicly stated plan is to restore free speech by firing 75% of the company employees.  Anybody who has worked in tech knows that most companies over a certain size can shed 10-20% of their workforce and likely see a dramatic rise in average productivity.  But 75%, that might kill the company, because the high performers who can get another job quickly will walk the moment things get too bad.

The starting point was the executive staff, which was probably to be expected, including Vijaya Gadde, who was in charge of the company’s legal policy and who probably did more for free speech on the platform than we will likely ever see during Elon Musk’s stewardship.

Basically, protecting their users personal information from litigious rich people and foreign governments by going to court rather than just handing over the data was far more important as a free speech concept than being able to harass people and use the n-word about anybody with a dark skin tone.

But now Elon owns the place and, as I said last time this threat seemed to be looming, he can’t just burn the place down.  He isn’t the sole owner.  He has financing from other sources, including loans, and his backers will be pissed if he takes this $44 billion boondoggle… probably double the price it was really worth… and devalues it through stupid egoistic blundering.

The problem is, that is kind of his brand in public.

I mean, he may actually be the technical genius his fanboys claim he is, but as this article over at The Verge points out, the problems with Twitter are not technical.

I mean, not that he doesn’t believe somehow there is a technical fix to perfect Twitter.  Leaked internal email says that he wanted to personally review code with all of the developers on the team, actually asking them to print out their last 30 to 60 days of code submissions so they could review it with him… only to have that order countermanded later in the day, with instructions to shred all those print outs.

The problem with content moderation is that it always seems like an easy problem to solve with code… right up until you start trying to actually do it.  And I speak as somebody who spent half a decade working with attempts to automate responses to support request email messages.  That was summed up nicely by a Stanford grad student who interned with us over a summer to do research on text analysis.  His grand summing up was to announce that the fewer sorting categories we had, the more likely we were to route messages to the right one.  He was not amused when I asked if that meant if we just had a single “miscellaneous” category we would achieve 100% accuracy.

But I digress.  There is no technical solution to what ails Twitter… though that won’t stop somebody suggesting blockchain to make everything worse.

There is no problem so bad that blockchain can’t simultaneously make it worse, dumber, and more expensive in one go.

No, the problem, as The Verge points out, is political, and even Elon knows that is the real truth.  While he may be yanking the collective chains of his developers, probably looking for people to fire as much as anything, his first outreach as head of the company was to advertisers promising them he wouldn’t be turning Twitter into a free-for-all hellscape.

Twitter is barely a break-even situation even on its best day, so driving away advertisers willing to spend money on promoted Tweet would only make things worse for the whole enterprise, no matter how many people he lays off.

Still, laying people off is every the tech company’s solution to budgetary problems.  He’ll do that, probably move the HQ to Austin, and freely hand over user information to any subpoena or  totalitarian regime that requests it.  That last will save a lot in legal fees.  Expect more people getting jail sentences in dictatorships.

Content moderation though… even he is backing off of his grandiose pronouncements.  Nothing is being changed today, Trump hasn’t been unbanned, and as much as the MAGA “own the libs crowd” has been crowing, it still looks more like Elon got taken to the cleaners his, chained as he is to this $44 million albatross.

But I am going on about the absurdity of the situation, which I find both funny and horrifying in various measures.

The question I should probably get to is what am I going to about it?

Probably very little right now.

To start with, as with every takeover or merger, not much is going to happen after the first few dramatic firings.  And it will be hard to look away from the train wreck, should it come to pass.  I don’t plan travel to totalitarian states, so I should be safe.

But mostly I am going to stick around because I don’t have a good replacement for Twitter.

Everything else is either too siloed up into little friend groups (Mastodon, Discord) or are worse hell holes than Twitter has ever managed to be (Facebook, NextDoor, Reddit).

Twitter is kind of a strange mix of people I know and follow, people who are interesting to follow, and random reactions to news and events, often before I hear about them elsewhere.  It works for me in ways other options do not.

So I will continue hanging out, at least until something really stupid happens.

Something About Twitter

Elon Musk is buying Twitter because… reasons.  He likes free speech, or he doesn’t like content moderation, or he likes to show off for his fans, or he wants to stroke his ego in front of us all, or he wants to prove that the ultra rich can do whatever they damn well please, pick your poison.

Tweet, tweet motherfuckers

And this has caused a bit of a panic in some.  If you simply don’t like Elon that is certainly a good enough reason to dump the platform.  And if you’re worried that he’s going to turn it into a toxic stew of harassment by entitled assholes… more so… then you might at least be eyeing the exits, looking for alternatives.

The whole state of affairs hasn’t exactly put a spring in my step.

But I am not running for the exits myself.  Not yet at least.

To start with I am not sure where I would even go, except for “away.”

What am I going to do, move to Facebook?  That would be a leap from the frying pan into a toxic waste fueled fire.  Instagram… Facebook lite… is garbage except for cat and old car pictures (Fiat 124 Coupes for the win), Tumblr is garbage in general whether it is mostly porn this week or not, Google+ is long gone (and was garbage), LinkedIn is business Facebook and, unless you’re looking for a job, is a lot of self-promoting garbage.

Frankly, part of what appeals to me about Twitter is that people are limited to 280 characters.  That keeps the amount of noise in one post down to a manageable level.

Of course, there are a bunch of “We’re going to make a better Twitter” alternatives out there, some of which planned to go full free speech relative to Twitter’s rather modest content moderation scheme… who really either planned to moderate even more harshly Twitter or found out the hard way that content moderation isn’t optional and free speech is a dubious proposition on social media for all sorts of legal, moral, and financial reasons.

Also we’re all a bunch of jerks really, and seem to remain so no matter where we go.

I do not subscribe to the “anonymity + audience = raging idiocy” school of thought, if only because I’ve been to Facebook and know full well that anonymity does even enter into it.  People will say the most ignorant, offensive things you can imagine and post it with not only their name but their real life picture on it.  And if there are even the most minor of consequences… which there so rarely are… they’ll be flabbergasted and complain about being censored and bring up the first amendment and what not.  Sometimes I think we deserve all of this.

Anyway, I digress.  I am not going to leave Twitter mostly because I am comfortable there and have, over the last dozen years, honed a list of people to follow who keep me informed on the things that interest me.

I am loathe to give up on that list.  I wouldn’t even know where to find most of those people elsewhere on the internet.  How would I ever get by not knowing how Alikchi’s epic year and a half long so far game of War in the Pacific turns out?  Priorities man.

I am also not in the panic some are in.

Elon Musk can be a chaotic, immature, mercurial, self-absorbed, egotistical twat, but he isn’t a complete idiot.  He was born rich, sure, but he has made himself obscenely rich since then, so he has something going for him.  He hasn’t, like certain ex-presidents of the United States, blown his father’s fortune on bad investments and only pretends to be a billionaire.

As such I don’t think he’ll burn Twitter to the ground by removing all moderation or whatever people think will happen.  Rich people don’t stay rich that way.  They stay rich by getting their good investments, like Tesla, to buy out their bad investments, like Solar City, to stick the bad decisions on the stock holders.

Also, he is financing $25 billion of the deal… again, rich people don’t need to spend their money because banks are sure they’re worth it… so there will be lenders who will be able to pressure him to not make a mess of the whole thing.  The worry should probably be that they’ll insist that he monetize the crap out of Twitter to pay them off sooner, because the deal will leave the company heavily leveraged and one of Twitter’s larger problems has been generating revenue relative to its perceived influence.

And the deal might not even come to pass.  Things could happen.  He might not get the financing lined up.  Tesla or Twitter… or both… might fall in value enough to make the deal non-viable.  Or some new shiny object might grab his attention.

Anyway, I am following my usual course of laziness and sticking around for now.  This post was mostly to remind myself in a year that this was a thing so I can see what happened.

Discord as a News Source

One of the ongoing issues of the blog over the last decade and a half has been consistent access to a reliable news feed when it comes to the games I follow.  I’d like to write about what they’re up to if only they would take a moment to let me know.

You can find a few rants early on in the life of the blog where I am frustrated that a given company… usually SOE… has a new page on their web site dedicated to a game and then won’t update it, or breaks the RSS feed, or insists on putting any useful information deep the forums, where no sane person dare go, or, perhaps most common of all, simply fails to update anything anywhere for long stretches of time.

That was in early days of social media, when Twitter and Facebook were something of a novelty and community teams mostly hung around on the forums or made podcasts, which were the hot new thing.  There was a long stretch of me dissecting each SOE podcast for news, back when that was a thing.

Social media has made things a bit better.  At some point various studios realized that they needed to raise their profiles on the various social media outlets, so we got official accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and where ever else one might find potential customers.  Some go so far as to post game news on LinkedIn, which has basically become “business Facebook” because the advice of every half-assed consultant demands that you build your brand by posting nonsense there.

The problem is that social media platforms are bad at timelines.  Twitter seems distressed that I follow so few accounts (I keep a hard cap of 500), so gleefully injects all sorts of suggested accounts into my feed, muddying up the waters.

And they are great compared to Facebook and Instagram, where time apparently has no meaning (I seem to get all the Instragram “Going into Friday like…” memes on Tuesday for example) and once you’ve seen something it gets stored somewhere you can never find it again.

And even when they are not screwing with your timelines, you do need to be there and looking at their site when something gets posted in order to see it in a timely fashion… or at all… which, admittedly means being online and ready at some point after 4pm on a Friday looking for bad news.

That used to be a standard Daybreak move, though CCP ran with the same plan for the great price increase news this past week.

Things have gotten better in that various community and marketing teams seem to get that they have to, you know, keep the players informed in order to keep them engaged.  That is literally the base function of their positions.  If you can only do one thing, do that.  But consistency remains spotty and, as noted, the social media platforms seem to be working against any sort of useful information getting to people since that doesn’t drive engagement like inflammatory political rantings from niche players you would never have heard of except that the know how to play to the algorithms.

Getting timely updates remains harder than it should be.  And don’t even get me started on the Bizarro world that is Google Alerts, which will go out of its way to tell me about every sketchy analyst group that wants to sell me a report on battle royale games but doesn’t seem to know that Massively OP is a thing when I get results for “Daybreak.”  (And when Pokemon has a “Daybreak” update… fergetaboudit.)

Then I ran into a Discord feature that allows game companies who run their own server to setup a news channel that you can subscribe to and pipe into your own server in order to get updates as they get posted.

Unity through Discord

I took the TAGN Discord server, which I setup back when Fantasy Movie League was a thing, and created a new channel in it, and went around and subscribed that channel to the news feeds of various video games.

And it has worked pretty well.

It has its limitations, the largest of which is that a studio has to set up its own Discord server and actually maintain it.  But Discord is popular, even by my own meager measuring, and has become a go-to spot for a lot of companies since gamers are already there.

For example, Daybreak seems to have bought in fully on running a Discord server for at least a couple of their games.  I am subscribed to the news feed for the EverQuest and EverQuest II servers and, for maybe the first time in the life of the blog, I feel like I am getting timely and relevant updates for those games.

Granted, Daybreak as a studio has gotten much better at communication, but this puts updates in my field of vision faster than ever.  They seem committed to the platform for now.

Valheim also provides updates in a timely and consistent fashion.  The Forza Horizon team might be a bit too eager to share, though I will admit everything they post is relevant for players of their titles.

Amazon Games is a little iffy.  They do post updates reliably, but seem to forget that they have more than one game.  They seem to copy an update from either New World of Lost Ark and post it to Discord without actually mentioning which game the news is for.  Usually it is somewhat obvious, but if they announce server restarts and don’t mention a game, do I assume them both?

And then there is Playable Worlds, which has yet to discover the subscribe feature… but they also don’t have a lot of news yet that is worth digging into.

So, for game companies that commit, it works very well for me.  The problem is that not every studio is that into the idea, and those that are do not exactly advertise their servers very well.

I know that Daybreak, as a studio under Enad Global 7, is very much into the Discord thing, but you had to know the servers were even a possibility in order to find them.  LOTRO, in a classic, old school move, announced their server in the forums… more than five years ago.  Early adopter, but non-obvious if you’re looking for it today. (They have social media button for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch on the front page, but no Discord.)

Addendum May 10, 2022: That was actually a third party LOTRO server that was being promoted, and it has since decided it isn’t interested in LOTRO anymore, so forget about that.

CCP, which does like to get into the trenches with customers now and then, seems reluctant to go the Discord route with an official server, but then made a server for Fanfest which quickly became the official server by default because they ran it.

And some companies… well, they just aren’t that into us.  I was kind of surprised to find that Gamigo actually has a couple of servers for former Trion Worlds game, including Rift and Trove.  I am not sure how useful they are… Rift seems to mostly be about the weekly cash shop deals and server restarts, which is not news that interests me… but it is there if you’re still playing.

Anyway, a new option in the struggle to find news.  It is out there, though your mileage may vary.

My Handle Finally Finds its Comedy Moment

I have mentioned somewhere along the way that I came up with my gaming handle, also now my nom de blog, Wilhelm Arcturus, was back in 1986 when playing Stellar Emperor on GEnie.

In short, I picked Wilhelm and then, because I flew with a group that went by the name The Arcturan Empire (AE!), I tacked on the last name d’Arcturus, which I later simplified to just Arcturus.

Emperor of the Galaxy – 1987

I revived the name when I made my first, and still main, character in EVE Online and eventually adopted it here on the blog after being Wilhelm2451 for a while. (2451 was my player ID number in Stellar Emperor.)

I have pondered the name over the years, wondering if it was a wise choice.  It doesn’t flow well, it isn’t particularly easy to say, and people who say it aloud often try to imbue it with an overwrought German pronunciation.  While I have occasionally used Wilhelm IV in games, I am not trying to be the Kaiser.

On the upside, it is fairly unique.  You don’t find a lot of others trying to pass off that name.  If you Google it, you get me and one of the brothers Grimm, due to Arcturus Books publishing some of their works.

It is one of those things, like the name of this blog, that I think could have been better, but which I am pretty much committed to at this point.  I am unlikely to come up with a better name that would make the effort of changing worthwhile.

And then Jeff Edwards threw out a line for me that made the name useful for a moment.

Jeff Edwards was the author lined up for the ill-fate Fountain War book Kickstarter back in 2015.  I am pretty sure I started following him on Twitter back then and have carried on since.  This past week he tweeted something to which I had to respond.

The setup and reply

You can go your whole life, or at least 35 years, waiting for a setup like that.

And he seemed to appreciate the humor.

The reply

So that’s it, I guess I am now fully committed to the name now that it has delivered on the humor front.

A Decade of Twitter

Twitter just reminded me this past week that I had been hanging around for ten years now.

I am sure this image was unique and exclusive to my anniversary

I want to say up front that I actually like Twitter.  I certainly enjoy it more than Facebook, which I mostly avoid.  I also have an Instagram account, but it somehow became dedicated entirely to posting pictures of our cats.  And I guess the blog is social media of a sort.

But I was little dubious about the idea of a 140 character… now 280 character… “micro-blogging” service back when it started to become popular, so I waited a bit before joining in.  But after ten years I will say that I am satisfied at what I get out of the service.

That, I would guess, is largely based on my use pattern and expectations, both of which are relatively low.

As of this moment, Twitter says I have made about 17,500 tweets, which feels like a big number, but really isn’t.  Divided over 10 years, that is about four tweets (including replies) a day.  Since I hooked up both of my blogs to auto-post any new article to Twitter, about 25% of my tweets are blog post links.

And of the other posts, most of them are pretty light.  Attempts at humor.  Responses to other people.  Nothing all that big, interesting, or controversial.  I often start replies then delete them because I don’t feel they add anything to the discussion or because I am sure somebody must have made the point I want to make already.  As my profile says, I try to keep things mostly about video games.

Twitter Me

I do try to steer clear of politics, but I also have no interest in having multiple accounts, so that does get mixed in there at times.  I follow a number of free speech advocates, which started with Popehat, whose blog I used to read back when he had time to blog.  That seemed safe to me as I view free speech as pretty non-controversial.  People who seek to limit speech are almost 100% interested in only limiting speech they disagree with and whine incessantly if they feel their speech rights are somehow being impinged upon, even when they are not.

Free speech is a root freedom which makes other freedoms possible.  Kill the root and the tree dies.

Of course, here in 2020, everything is now political, from anything that might help control the current pandemic to vaginal lubrication, and some things are just so stupid that I cannot stay away.  But it isn’t my normal mode.

Mostly my tweets, my non-blog post tweets, are interactions with people I probably have some other connection to… though that connection is likely the blog, so things do seem to come back to this site.

Part of my enjoyment of Twitter is probably also related to who I follow.  I think one of the keys to the platform is not following everybody who might say something in which you are interested, but finding people who do follow a lot of people and retweet only the interesting bits.  (A hat tip to Popehat for that yeoman effort.)

Having discovered that, I set an arbitrary limit of following only 500 accounts.  That seems to be, for me, about the threshold of my ability to read/care.  I would guess that maybe 400 of those accounts are very low traffic, made up of people I know and official game company accounts, along with a few key developers.  Some of those accounts generate no traffic.  I am still waiting and watching for any news about Planet Michael.   The last tweet there was in 2011, but the next one could be any time.

And, because I follow and interact with people in other forums as well, I don’t feel the need to follow everybody on every service.  If your Twitter feed is mostly blog posts and I already subscribe to your RSS feed in Feedly, I probably don’t feel the need to also follow you on Twitter.  It isn’t that I don’t like you, it is just an attempt to keep Twitter manageable and I already read your stuff elsewhere.

I am sure that not playing the follow back game religiously costs me some followers, but the people into that… and I get some follows from people obviously looking for that reciprocity… probably aren’t worth my time anyway.

I also very rarely block people on Twitter.  Blocking is an extreme measure in my view, they can no longer see your tweets and you can no longer see theirs, plus they get a notification about it I think.  It sends a strong message in my opinion, so I try to save it for those who really earn it.

I do mute people though.  That is a much softer touch.  I might do that to people who I follow and enjoy, but who are getting a bit spammy about something that isn’t all that interesting to me.  I declare a mute amnesty every once in a while and go unmute everybody again and start over.

I do not follow many big celebrities.  Or any, really, depending on your measurement of “big.”  Their accounts are inevitably disappointing.  They either have a social media person running their account, so their feed is safe and bland, or they don’t, and you quickly realize they live in a bubble so outside the experience of average people as to be bizarre.  The meme is “first world problems” but there is clearly a step beyond that with “rich people problems.”

So it goes.

In the last decade, my greatest Twitter achievement ever involved me tweeting the following:

65 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser?

David Burge, whom I follow for his car pictures (and #DavesCarIDService) posted a few car pictures challenging his followers to do the identifications themselves.  I got the first one right.

I imagine I will never top that.

(A neighbor years back had a 65 Oldsmobile hearse, so I knew the body style for that year, and Olds had a series of wagons with that popped up roof with the extra window under the Vista Cruiser name for about a decade, so it was right up my alley.)

So, as I said at the top, I like Twitter, but largely because I have found a way to get value out of it without expending too much effort.  There are times, especially these days, when I doom scroll with the best of them, rolling through all the bad news popping up.  But mostly I try to keep it light, just reading what comes by and not responding if I do not have anything to add. (Which includes checking to see if somebody has already replied with what I wanted to say.  No need to have it said twice.)  I mute the crazies, avoid the spammy, and try not to take it all that seriously.

And that is about it.  I have cranked out more than a thousand words about a service that limits you to 280 characters per message, which I am sure says something about me.

What is EVE Project Galaxy?

Earlier today CCP let slip on Twitter something about a new game called EVE: Project Galaxy.

So many questions now…

The tweet was quickly deleted, but it was captured and posted to Reddit pretty quickly, from where I got the above image.  Nothing posted to the internet ever really disappears.  Massively OP picked it up as well, but has nothing further that what is pictures above.

Now, of course, there are nothing but questions and no answers in sight.

This is apparently in addition to Project: Nova and Project: Aurora, the latter which we saw at EVE Vegas last year and which has since been christened EVE: War of Ascension.

NetEase is of course the Chinese giant that, among many other things, owns titles like Fantasy Westward Journey and runs games like World of Warcraft and Minecraft in China for Blizzard and Microsoft respectively.  So a big company with a big staff and plenty of resources to throw at new titles.  The positively dwarf CCP by most any measure you care to mention.

And then there is the mention of Apple’s ARKit 2, which is their augmented reality framework for mobile apps.  Augmented reality and EVE Online?  Internet spaceships in our personal spaces?

So how does a huge Chinese developer and augmented reality mix together in a mobile app… excuse me, a mobile MMO… in a way that will “bring an authentic EVE Online experience” to people?  I am not sure how that all adds up.

Anyway, if nothing else, Net Ease being involved probably means that few if any EVE Online development resources were moved off to work on this.  But I am curious to see what all of this adds up to when CCP finally gets around to announcing it for real.

Addendum: Since this post went up, the tweet has been tweeted again:

Still no idea what it really means.  As for timing, I gather it was just to get some traction from the ARKit 2 announcement at the Apple WWDC.

Addendum 2:  CCP Falcon describing the difference between the two mobile games being developed:

EVE: War of Ascension and EVE: Project Galaxy are two different games.  War of Ascension is being co-developed with Kongregate, and Project Galaxy is being co-developed with NetEase.

War of Ascension is designed from the ground up to be a mobile game that gives a taste of the EVE Universe, where as Project Galaxy’s aim is to bring the actual 3D feel of the desktop version of EVE to mobile

And CCP Falcon on where the dev resources are coming from:

Resources aren’t being diverted from EVE Online to develop Project Galaxy.

It’s being co-developed with a partner in China, NetEase, who’re working on the game itself, with CCP as a strategic partner and the owner of the IP. We’re working close with them to make sure we get the best possible experience of EVE on a mobile device.

Addendum 3:  These are alleged to be early pictures from the game in one of the videos from the ARKit 2 page.

The familiar shape of an Apoc on the screen

Shooting a TCU maybe?

I am not sure how AR makes this better, but there it is.

When I Look at that Cloud, I see Juche

There is a little thing on Twitter right now called Word Cloud Bot that will create a word cloud from your Twitter feed.  Not the first one of these I have seen, and it likely won’t be the last.  But this one is at least simple to use and you don’t have to authorize it to take over your feed.

Anyway, this is the cloud it generated for me.

@wilhelm2451 cloud

@wilhelm2451 cloud

I find the whole thing aesthetically pleasing to look at.  The colors are soothing and I like the way smaller words are woven in.  You really have to click on it and view it in full size to appreciate it.

Apparently the bigger the word, the more you use it.  So “EVE,” “Draenor,” “Pokemon,” “WoW,” “Blizzard,” and what not… those all make sense.

But the biggest word in the whole thing is “post,” which I find odd because as far as I can tell, I rarely, to the point of almost never, use the word “post” on Twitter.  And I would be surprised to find that I used the word “blog” that often.  Maybe “play” or “year,” but the most likely words seemed to be much smaller.  After all, a good portion of my feed is automatic tweets of post titles with a link, so the cloud ought to be heavily influenced by my titles here. “Quote” ought to be huge, given my run of “Quote of the Day” posts.  I can see the influence of post titles, especially from my EVE Online Pictures site (Basilisk!), but those words are all pretty minor.

So I went poking around to see if there was a description somewhere about how this bot does its thing.  And, sure enough, there was a bit right there in its feed.

I use the last 1200 tweets to build the word cloud. Common words are excluded. There are at most 180 words in a word cloud.

I reply to a request every ~30 seconds, I can’t go faster than that because otherwise Twitter will block me, so you may have to wait a bit.

That was interesting, but not exactly useful in answering my question, which still stands even if we limit the tweet corpus to 1,200. (That is less than a year of Twitter, and just under 20% of my 6,104 tweets up to this time.)  My only guess is that when WordPress.com tweets about a new post for me, somehow the word “post” is embedded in there.  And I suppose that even if the word is not literally in my Twitter feed, it is there metaphorically with each tweet that WordPress.com does, so the size of the word “post” probably represents the prevalence of blog post notifications in my feed.

My favorite word in the whole thing… and there are a number of good/amusing words scattered throughout in tiny print… is Juche.  It is right there between the “L” an the “O” in “Blog,” below “soe” and “close.”  And SOE being close to Juche is pretty funny as well.

Anyway, I like it.  Tweet Cloud might be more accurate in representing the words I use.

Tweet Cloud covering approximately the same time period

Tweet Cloud covering approximately the same time period

The word “post” is still in there, though “time” outweighs it.

But the result is not nearly as interesting to stare at.

And for those who cannot get enough of the style of that first word cloud, I also have the cloud generated for my awful spam Twitter feed, which reflects what Rift and Raptr have tweeted for me in the past.

The pain of that feed, but fun to look at still

The pain of that feed, but fun to look at still

That feed has been quiet for a while, though I suspect it will liven up again with Blizzard giving us Twitter integration in the WoW 6.1 patch.  You never have to see a bit of that from me so long as you do not follow my second feed.