Category Archives: Uncategorized

In case you missed the news, there was an ‘incident’ at youtubes headquarters recently… Here is a summary:

A woman shot and wounded three people at YouTube’s headquarters in Northern California before killing herself, police say.

Police have named the suspect as Nasim Aghdam, 39, and say they are still investigating a motive.

They say there is no evidence yet that she knew the victims, a 36-year-old man said to be in a critical condition, and two women aged 32 and 27.

Aghdam had in the past posted material venting anger at YouTube.

The more interesting part of the story is this:

She appeared often on YouTube and in one of her videos criticised the platform for discriminating against and filtering her posts.

On her personal website she accused YouTube of taking steps to prevent her videos from getting views.

“There is no equal growth opportunity on YouTube or any other video sharing site. Your channel will grow if they want to!” she wrote.

I know there is a ‘mental health’ angle here, and also a ‘gun laws’ thing here, but I’d like to focus on what I think is more interesting, and more widespread and more relevant to what i do, and the people who read this. In summary, this was a woman with an active youtube channel, who was obviously very invested in growing her channel and earning money from it. This was very important to her. This was SO important, that when she felt (rightly or wrongly) that youtube were preventing her getting the views and monetisation she expected, she actually went to kill people.

The scary thing here (apart from the obvious) is the huge disconnect people have between what they think the job of a third party company that they are uploading content to is, and what it actually is.

Youtubes job is to make money for alphabet shareholders. They are a private company, not a government organisation or a utility. When you upload videos to youtube, you are quite clearly stating that you agree with their terms and conditions, terms which that company has the right to change at any point. When you talk about YOUR youtube channel and YOUR subscribers, or YOUR facebook page or YOUR facebook followers etc…. be aware that this is just a fantasy. This is an artificial construct put together by marketing experts because long ago they discovered that implying ownership where it was not true (for example ebay referring to YOUR item, before the auction ends) gives you a greater sense of investment in the ‘product’. The accounts on facebook belong to facebook, not you. They might have a database of connections on THEIR servers which allow you (at their discretion) to communicate with other accounts that they also OWN, but do not in any way kid yourself that you are in control or have ownership of your facebook page, your twitter account, or any other third party social media site you are ‘invested’ in. That goes for twitch too, obviously. Youyr streaming career is a single mouse click(by someone else) away from being obliterated, and you would have ZERO recourse.

I love being indie, and unlike a lot of newer indies, I understand the meaning of the word independence. True independence is way, way trickier than the false sense of independence you are given by social media firms who are basically just using you as social data contribution vectors. Unless you PAY for something, its not yours, and youtube lets you have an account for free…

I’m fairly ‘invested’ in youtube, as I have 60+ Production line blog videos up there, but I am fully aware that I cannot make it a cornerstone of my business. I have 10k twitter followers, but I also value those at close to zero, as ultimately I have no control over them, or my access to them. This blog, is a notable exception. It runs wordpress (which is free) but its hosted on MY server, which I pay monthly rent for. Nobody can discontinue my wordpress account and shut down this blog. So even if twitter, facebook, youtube all turn the screws and close off my access to ‘my followers’ I still have this blog, my forums (remember… ‘your’ steam foruns, belong to valve), and my email mailing list. How independent is *your* community?

Never confuse the illusion of independence and control with real independence and control.

 

Is this the year I got old?

December 03, 2017 | Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m 48 years old. Thats old for an indie game dev. However, its also an age where I find myself looking at the world and going ARGGHHHH. Not just in a ‘things are bad’ sense, which I think a lot of younger people would assume, but in other ways. For the record, ‘things are bad’ is always how people feel who look at the wider world, especially if you are political, or read the economist (or worse still…the ecologist). People often forget about things that have got better, and immediately discount them. Here, for balance is some of the stuff that has ‘got better’ since I was a child…

I live in a hugely less racist society than when I was young. Most of the words used to refer to non white kids at school, I cannot even bring myself to type here as examples. We had a single prominent black TV presenter (Trevor McDonald) and eventually a female black newsreader, and then a single black comedian (Lenny Henry). These were watershed moments. Racist humour was a regular prime-time TV event, thanks to ‘comedians’ like Jim Davidson, Jim Bowen and Bernard Manning. There were racist TV comedies about foreign people learning english, or being (OMG) your neighbour.

I live in a hugely less sexist society than when I was young. TV music shows had sexy dancers dancing to the music, game shows always had silent but pretty female assistants to do menial work for the main host (always a man), workplace inequality was huge, and men doing housework or cooking at home was mocked. Sexist humour was everywhere. The pay gap was way worse. We had typing pools (all women) and all nurses had to be women.

I live in a society which has much more opportunity for entrepreneurship than when I was young. There was no concept that you could start a business and build it up and make money, at least not without help from your rich relatives who would first give you a job in ‘the family business’. When I was young, working class people going to university was extremely rare, and class-snobbishness was rife. Yes its bad now, it was worse then. I’m a working class kid ‘done-good’ living in a relatively wealthy rural community, and nobody gives that a second thought now. They would have done so back then… As a kid, the TV example of a small businessman was considered a joke (del trotter), now we have dragons den, which has actually spun out some very successful businesses. Owning shares and investing is easy now. When I was a kid…nope.

Technologically, life is absolutely incredible compared to my youth. We had a sony walkman (if you were lucky) which you could listen to your poor quality cassettes on, and that was it for personal entertainment.  TV had just 3 channels, and it was not broadcast between around midnight and 9AM. Obviously TVs had small screens and weighed about a ton, plus we had no remote control. My grandfather had a black and white TV right up till his death. We had no washing machine, certainly no dishwasher, and no microwave. Coffee was instant coffee, there was no other option. Obviously there was no internet. We had libraries instead. I can see more amazing tech from my keyboard sat here than I thought even the super-rich would ever enjoy in my lifetime, and its all pretty cheap.

I grew up assuming there would be nuclear war before I reached this age. It was pretty much a given that¬† the USSR and the US would nuke each other, and that living in London I’d be vaporised along with everyone I knew. This was a popular TV drama at the time, and its terrifying. This wasn’t fear of a short exchange of nukes between US and N Korea, this was an assumption of Armageddon. I had regular nightmares about it.

So things are pretty awesome right? And certainly things have worked out well for me, with my own business, some stuff in my past I’m very proud of (the African school and war child being the most obvious examples), so why am I worried about the world?

CHANGE.

Its common that people accept the findings of studies that show that younger people are more accepting of change, and that people become more conservative as they age. Its another thing entirely to experience it. Frankly if I could press a button that froze the world in 2017 right now, I’d be tempted to hit it, even though I know we have problems and a lot needs fixing. Why? what on earth am I so worried about. Heres the less good-news list :D

Climate Change. This is the big one. Unless we do some pretty drastic stuff, we as a society are fucked. People just glaze over when you look at the evidence, and dont want to hear the reality. Ignore the temperature change and the sea level rise, they never seem *that bad* to us intuitively (whats a few inches of water and a few degrees right?), think through the deeper implications. Much lower crop yields and more extreme weather leading to food shortages and massive food price spikes. Mass emigration (and thus immigration) as land becomes useless for agriculture. Think about all of the cultural, religious and ethnic tension you get when a few tens of millions of desperate people try to walk into their neighbouring countries. I would be amazed if we dont see border disputes with countries gunning down migrants at the border in the next 10 years. Am I’m talking Europe, not Africa.

Inequality. Jeff Bezos is worth 100 billion, and wants to build a space business. Thats great jeff, but how about paying your fucking workers decent salaries and letting them take breaks first before you play around with rockets? The sheer lack of empathy at the top of many silicon valley firms baffles me. Again, in the next ten years I think we will see this spill over into violence. You can only kick the poorest in society so many times before they tear your leg off and beat you with it. The recent tax changes in the US point to this amazingly getting far WORSE not better.

Technological change. Stuff is going to change REAL FAST. In fact it already is. Robots, self-driving cars, AI…we are looking at a sudden massive upswing in technology that wwill change everything, put tens or hundreds of millions of people out of work and nobody is prepared for it. This is scary. I like the benefits of the new tech (amazing electric cars, fast computers, VR), but oh my god its going to transform society like crazy, and our elderly and tech-illiterate politicians are too busy with Brexit to even notice.

Political Partisanship. With the rise of social media and more of our lives spent online, everyone lives in their carefully curated echo chambers and polite debate with people who have different views is now rare. Cross-party co-operation is now zero, leading to stagnation or regular wild swings to left and right which benefit nobody. Politicians are either saints or sinners, depending which team you are on, and this is getting worse and worse. The next elections will be won by the best media teams, the actual candidates and policies are now irrelevant. This is a disaster.

So yeah, I feel conservative, and scared. I try not to be, but holy crap, there is a lot going on in the world right now. I feel I could spend my whole life sat reading the news, biting my nails and getting miserable. Apparently its called middle age. Probably all of the problems IO list above can be fixed if everyone buys Shadowhand on the 7th December on steam :D

 

Long long ago, people used to think about what people needed, and make that thing, and sell them. people needed a table, so a carpenter made a table, and sold the table to the person. Then the person would need another table a few years later, and another table would be made. Then carpenters developed better tools, and the process of making tables, clothes, food and everything else became quicker, easier and cheaper, and we made more stuff.

Soon everyone could have not only a shared table, but their own table, and not only that, they could have multiple sets of clothes, not just for when some were being washed, but separate clothes for separate occasions. You could afford your work clothes, and you had separate leisure clothes. Even special clothes to sleep in, and then came ‘formal’ clothes, the suit for weddings and posh events. Eventually we progressed to a situation where you would have an entire wardrobe of clothes, and you picked them based on what mood you were in, or the season.

Then fashion came along and told you that even though you had enough clothes to wear, and clothes for doing X and for doing Y and clothes for Summer, and clothes for Winter, and clothes for the evening and for the afternoon, and for sports, and even for different sports (golfing trousers…) suddenly all of that was going to change because your clothes were UNFASHIONABLE. That meant you had to ditch all your clothes and buy completely new ones.

And once that worked, clever people who had by now long discovered psychology, started to apply the principles of fashion to other things, including the thing that was for many people the second most expensive purchase of their lives : cars.

Suddenly cars were ‘old fashioned’ and despite happily fulfilling the task you bought them for, you wanted a new one. This spread to almost all consumer products, not least TVs, and personal computers. We ended up buying a new laptop, not when the other one died, or got broken, but when a newer model came out that was slightly thinner, slightly lighter, slightly faster (for a while at least).

Now fast forward to a dystopian future where you don’t have a trained psychologist working in marketing, but EVERYONE is the marketing department studied behavioural economics, psychology and neuroscience. A future where most employees in the PR and marketing department are data scientists. A future where the amount of information collected about customers, and their use patterns, and their desires, and dreams, and fantasies and ideals…was all gathered by private companies who would use it, not so much for the improvement of mankind in any way…but to make a product that those people would always buy.

The endgame, the final desire of such a system is to produce a product that has multiple contradictions. It has to be seen as exclusive and premium, and luxury, and yet at the same time be marketed to everybody. It has to have a premium price, despite having no features that any rival product does not already has. It has to appear cool hip and desirable, and the company that makes it portrayed the same way, regardless of how that company behaves behind closed doors.

It doesn’t have to be any good, have any improvements whatsoever over any other version of EXACTLY the same product. It only has to be *seen to be* better, not actually be a better product. And if at all possible it needs some tiny visual indicator, visible to someone nearby, on the same table, or bar, that the person who has the product most definitely has the very expensive new one. Thats all it needs to do. And in this dystopian future, they can sell a product to you that bad, and they can be that blatant about it, because they have totally and utterly weaponized modern science when it comes to manipulating your psyche so that irrationally, you still want it, and you will still buy it, and you will make that company the wealthiest company on the planet.

Academia: School simulator

August 31, 2017 | Filed under: Uncategorized

Squeaky wheel, the guys who made Political Animals (which I published) have a new game coming to steam early access in a few days. here is the trailer:

And here is the store link.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/672630/Academia__School_Simulator/

Hope you like it :D. I think it will do very well indeed… if you think ‘oh itts that same style for art everyone is cloning’ then…well yeah, that’s ryan’s art. he did the artwork for Prison Architect which started all this, so he gets a free pass :D

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Inefficiency really annoys me. I see inefficiency almost everywhere I look. I guess as a coder, I am on the lookout for it, as it makes the product I sell worse, but that has hugely spilled over into my observations of life in general. It seems that inefficiency is accepted, tolerated, in some cases even encouraged by almost everybody around me.

In the UK, members of the house of parliament can only vote if they are inside the walls of the palace of Westminster. To do so, they have to all walk out of a special room, then walk back into it through one of two doors, while people in stockings and buckled shoes count them. I am not kidding. Its 2017 and we are talking about sending people to Mars and strong AI, but our country is run by people who think walking through a door in a queue is the best way to record decisions. We defend this gross inefficiency as ‘tradition’.

If I want to send a payment to another country in another currency, my bank either wants a phone call, a fax, or a physical letter. Why does the fax machine even exist? Its like amazon sending you your orders by canal barge. Its 2017. Lets kill the fax machine stone dead. it should not exist, in any form, under any circumstances.

To charge my car at a non-tesla point I have to use the QR code reader on my phone, enter the last 3 digits of my credit card number, please 3 or 4 confirm buttons, and THEN plug my car in. Did I mention its 2017?

I am not a superhero with fast reactions (although to be fair I did once beat a ‘professional cowboy’ in a speed-draw gunfight) yet I can open a new browser tab to googles homepage and start typing my query before that tab is rendered and the search box has focus. How is this possible? My Blu-ray player takes actual seconds to power-on to the state where it can eject a disk. Actual seconds.

The vast majority of traffic lights in the UK and dumb systems that are not traffic aware, and not able to adjust to changes in traffic flow. Right now tens of thousands of citizens are sat at a traffic light that is red for NO reason. The same inefficiency is pervasive throughout all common goods and utilities. We have ‘peak’ times on trains and buses and roads because we all decide to work at the same time, and everyone drives to work with 3 empty seats in their car, and nothing in the luggage compartment.

Every time an empty van drives anywhere, its an inefficiency. Any time someone waits in a queue, its an inefficiency. Every time you pick up the phone and it has a queue, rather than a ringback system, its an inefficiency.

I reckon on average, a UK citizen is ‘efficient’ in what they are trying to accomplish whilst awake maybe 20% of the time. 80% of our time is literally wasted, thrown away. We queue to buy food, we queue to speak to the bank, we receive telephone calls and post instead of email. We sit in traffic. Even people sat at a desk all day theoretically doing productive work are incredibly inefficient. How many people know to use CTRL+C, CTRL+V, WIN+F, CTRL+HOME, ALT+TAB and the thousands of other productivity tips? How many people who need multiple monitors don’t have them? or don’t know how to use WIN+UP/DOWN/LEFT/RIGHT to organize their work?

How efficient are you?

 

And expand this out to the whole world. How much time is wasted with millions of people fetching fresh water by hand because we haven’t installed piped water to their homes? How much time is wasted because people have not got the education to grow their crops efficiently, to do their work efficiently? How many people are still using 1970s technology in their day-to-day lives. Imagine a world where we all operated with efficiency all the time. No wonder the vulcans beat us to lightspeed.