The UpStream

Twitter CEO Blames Himself for Escalating Problem of Trolls and Abuse on the Platform

posted Sunday Feb 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Twitter CEO Blames Himself for Escalating Problem of Trolls and Abuse on the Platform

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo finally admitted this week that Twitter sucks. Granted, he was specific about where exactly the sucking was occurring, but it still makes me feel good to begin an article with that sentence.

Being completely accountable for his platform staff's inaction when it comes to trolls and abusive tweets, Costolo said that, "it's nobody's fault but mine." He added that there will be change soon and that the nonsensical accounts, and sexual and racist posts, are causing people and businesses to steer away from Twitter. All of this was posted on an internal forum, where he addressed these concerns.

We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years. It's no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.

I'm frankly ashamed of how poorly we've dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It's absurd. There's no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It's nobody else's fault but mine, and it's embarrassing.

We're going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them.

Costolo then posted another memo, which stated that Twitter needs to stop dragging its feet when it comes to dealing with these issues. He said that he takes personal responsibility for the company failing at it, then essentially repeated what he said in the message before.

While it's better late than never, the recent wave of attacks have been more extreme and more personal than ever, especially during incidents like GamerGate and almost anything involving women. It'll be interesting to see what Costolo's next move is and exactly how he plans on handling the problem.

Staples Acquires Office Depot in $6 Billion Deal

posted Sunday Feb 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Staples Acquires Office Depot in $6 Billion Deal

It seems like this was a week of big shakeups in the tech space. Add Staples acquiring Office Depot to the list of buyouts and closings for the first quarter of 2015.

Staples will be purchasing all outstanding shares of Office Depot, and in exchange, all shareholders for Office Depot will get $7.25 for each share, in cash. They will also receive 0.2188 of Staples stock, which is quite a strange amount. All in, the acquisition places Office Depot at $6.3 billion in valuation. Staples and Office Depot started to discuss the deal back in September and the terms were unanimously passed in a vote by the Board of Directors for both companies.

Ron Sargent, CEO of Staples said that this move would allow Staples to serve its customers better.

This is a transformational acquisition which enables Staples to provide more value to customers. We expect to recognize at least $1 billion of synergies as we aggressively reduce global expenses and optimize our retail footprint. These savings will dramatically accelerate our strategic reinvention which is focused on driving growth in our delivery businesses and in categories beyond office supplies.

Buzzwords aside, if joining forces would effectively save $1 billion annually, I'm shocked it took this long for the deal to go down. Between employee reduction on the administration end, distribution reduction and cuts in the size of the total retail space, Staples might positively refocus itself by taking a long hard look at its own costs.

Office Depot's CEO Roland Smith added that after adding OfficeMax to the Office Depot portfolio over the past year, this acquisition made a lot of sense "over the long term." He closed his statement by saying that, Office Depot "look(s) forward to bringing our experience and knowledge to the new organization."

For the Board of Directors, Staples will approve adding two more members to its Board, increasing the size to 13. Sargent will continue running Staples as CEO and the corporate HQ will stay in its home in Framingham, MA. The transaction should clear by the end of 2015 pending shareholder and any SEC clearance.

Columbus Nova Acquires Sony Online Entertainment, Renames to Daybreak Game Company

posted Sunday Feb 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Columbus Nova Acquires Sony Online Entertainment, Renames to Daybreak Game Company

Sony Online Entertainment, the game studio behind popular titles like EverQuest, PlanetSide and more recently H1Z1, has been acquired by Columbus Nova, an investment group. SOE will now become its own standalone studio and will operate independently under a new name.

Since 1999, Sony Online Entertainment has been creating top titles that have won over gamers from around the world. Now, the studio will be rebranded and called Daybreak Game Company. The new owners of the company said that its acquisition will stay true to the course of making new online games and placing those games on multiple platforms. The company also said they would not be shutting down any current SOE titles or services.

Jason Epstein, senior partner with Columbus Nova, said in a statement,

Sony Online Entertainment, newly rebranded as Daybreak, is a great addition to our existing portfolio of technology, media and entertainment focused companies. We see tremendous opportunities for growth with the expansion of the company's game portfolio through multi-platform offerings as well as an exciting portfolio of new quality games coming up, including the recently launched H1Z1 and the highly anticipated EverQuest Next to be released in the near future.

The terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed. However, given Sony's current status and how infectiously popular (no pun intended) H1Z1 has been even before launch, it's not surprising to see the studio picked up by a group that has a lot of cash to throw around.

Columbus Nova has been around since 2000 and has had a hand in numerous ventures. The investment management firm brought back Rhapsody from the brink of disaster in 2013 via a huge cash injection, and the company has also invested in companies like Fiverr and Rabbit. Additionally, Epstein purchased Guitar Hero from Viacom in 2010, so take that how you wish.

Perhaps with a bit of cash and the freedom to produce a great game, H1Z1 might get the support that PlanetSide 2 lacked. Daybreak Games might end up being a formidable opponent in the videogame space.

Potential Multiple Swatting Perpetrator Arrested in Las Vegas

posted Saturday Feb 7, 2015 by Scott Ertz

A huge problem in the online gaming world, particularly within the streaming sector, is a phenomenon called swatting. In this, a person makes an illegal prank call to local emergency services for a game streamer. They then claim that, within the home of said streamer, a terrible crime has been committed or is in progress. A common claim is a murder or hostage situation. The home is then swarmed by the local SWAT team.

Obviously, this is both dangerous and stupid. First, it wastes the time and resources of local law enforcement. More importantly, though, it is massively dangerous for the people in the home. If a law enforcement officer is a little trigger happy, or there is a misfire on a weapon, people within the home can be injured or killed. Even if everything goes right, a person can be injured being taken to the ground, etc.

A fairly well-known incident on July 10, 2014, might have revealed a bigger problem. 19-year-old Brandon Wilson, who goes online by "Famed God," was arrested in Las Vegas in conjunction with the July event. Among the evidence for this incident found on Wilson's computer was evidence of his participation in other swatting events across the country.

In addition to the swatting evidence, there is evidence that Wilson threatened at least one other gamer and hacked into online accounts of two others, changing or stealing their information. It is possible that, with this information, he might have been looking for addresses for future "pranks."

Wilson is currently facing up to 5 years in prison for the variety of charges. He is currently waiting extradition to Illinois, as the crime falls within the state's jurisdiction.

RadioShack Files Bankruptcy, Signs Deal With Sprint for New Store Concept

posted Saturday Feb 7, 2015 by Scott Ertz

RadioShack Files Bankruptcy, Signs Deal With Sprint for New Store Concept

After nearly 10 years of CEOs who were either shysters or morons, and a board of directors who may not have known what the company sold, the inevitable has happened: RadioShack has filed chapter 11 bankruptcy. This comes mere hours after the New York Stock Exchange delisted the company's stock because of corporate value.

While announcing the filing, the company also announced part of their plan to deal with bankruptcy. Currently operating over 4,000 stores, the company will sell between 1,500 and 2,400 of the stores to General Wireless. General Wireless is a new company, formed between Standard General and Sprint, who will create a "new" store within a store concept.

This new concept will move in to 1,750 of these acquired stores. The store will sell exclusively Sprint-owned wireless services (including Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile) in one-third of the store, paired with mobile-supporting RadioShack-branded products in the rest of the store. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said,

We've proven that our products and new offers drive traffic to stores, and this agreement would allow Sprint to grow branded distribution quickly and cost-effectively in prime locations. Sprint and RadioShack expect to benefit from operational efficiencies and by cross-marketing to each other's customers.

Interestingly, this is not the "new" concept that Sprint or RadioShack would have you believe. In fact, Sprint once operated a smaller concept of the same store within a store within RadioShack for many years. The difference here is that Sprint employees will be tasked with selling Sprint services, as opposed to RadioShack employees. Also, these stores will be co-branded, with Sprint being the primary brand, as opposed to RadioShack.

In addition to the sale of some stores, the company also plans to close another 1,784 of their stores in 3 rounds. Those stores have been detailed: many being expected, some a bit surprising. In our local market, a brand new store (less than 6 months old) will be closed and not transferred to Sprint. It would appear that the intent is to close its mall stores, leaving mostly neighborhood stores behind. The stores that will be going away are planned to close by the end of March, giving them very little time to accomplish the goal.

If these closures go as previous RadioShack closures, a liquidation company like Hilco, who also handled Circuit City and Kmart/Sears Essentials closures, will be brought in to accomplish the goal. This means that if you are looking for deals on tech products, checking out whether your local store will be closing or not might be a great idea.

Disclaimer: The author is a former RadioShack employee with 10 years with the company in a variety of roles.

Netflix to Produce Live-Action Zelda Series [Report]

posted Saturday Feb 7, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Netflix to Produce Live-Action Zelda Series [Report]

Nintendo just announced their best quarter in years, and they pulled it off, at least in part, through creative licensing. Our good friend Jason Michael Paul, who produced rePLAY: Symphony of Heroes, has begun touring with The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, the latest Zelda-themed orchestration.

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Nintendo is currently in talks to bring Link and Zelda to a new venue: Netflix. If this report turns out to be correct, it would mark a pretty major diversion for the company from its long-standing avoidance of live-action. The unwritten policy has been in effect since the very odd film interpretation of Mario and Luigi, Super Mario Bros. in 1993. Since then, the company has smartly avoided anything live-action stemming from their IP.

In addition to their own bad experiences, there is the issue that videogame adaptations are traditionally terrible. Resident Evil has turned out some mediocrity, but in general, live-action videogame content has not been successful. The tides could be turning, with films based on the Warcraft and Assassin's Creed universes in the works, but those are franchises with well-established characters and stories - Link and Zelda don't have that.

As much as we all may love the games presented in this universe, I don't think many of us can attribute it to deep character development or loving stories. Instead, our love for the games comes from incredible gameplay, unique visuals, carefully considered level design and unmatched music. Our main character Link hasn't really spoken, outside of nonsense grunts, in what would seem like decades. Zelda hasn't done anything remarkable, outside of becoming Sheik. Even Ganondorf, our bad guy, seems to have very little driving him under the hood.

Now, the other side of this coin is that this could give the series developers full control over where these characters go and, more importantly, where they come from. It would give the series the ability to create stories from nothing, giving characters backstories who have, until now, had nothing but a goal. With full control, we could see the Zelda universe turn into something truly beautiful.

However, we are still dealing with the modern Nintendo, who has not had a great track record of letting things go recently. A company once known for their open acceptance of fan art and production, has begun cracking down on footage and music used on YouTube and Twitch. The Nintendo of 2015 might not let Netflix or their how runners have full control; in fact, they might not let them have any control. That could shoot this project in the foot before it even gets off the ground. This is a case where you let people work on the parts of the industry they are talented in, but Nintendo is unlikely to let that happen.

If the project does make it into production, it would certainly be interesting to see the final product. The good news is, even if it is a Bloodrayne-quality disaster, it is unlikely to do any lasting harm to the franchise. If Phillips was unable to sink the franchise in the 90s, Netflix is unlikely to accomplish it today.

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