The UpStream (Page 126)

Reddit on Verge of Staff vs. Community Battle

posted Sunday Jul 5, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Reddit on Verge of Staff vs. Community Battle

Reddit is an incredibly popular community on the Internet, referring to themselves as "The front page of the Internet." I have personally never understood the appeal of the site, but I have understood that it is a place where people can go and have frank, open discussions about topics of the day. The topics tend to be based on opinions that are not based in reality, but people are welcome to talk about whatever they like.

The community is falling apart, however, because of the decisions of interim CEO Ellen Pao. For those who follow the tech industry, that should be a familiar name, as she is the woman who lost the gender discrimination case against venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers. The same attitude that led to the tenuous case also led to some decisions inside the company that is pushing the community away.

The turning point was the way the company handled firing Victoria Taylor, a popular admin on the site. In solidarity with Taylor, many boards closed to the public, making Reddit a very quiet place to be. As criticism mounted against the company and Pao in particular, she made a public statement, saying,

The bigger problem is that we haven't helped our moderators with better support after many years of promising to do so. We do value moderators; they allow reddit to function and they allow each subreddit to be unique and to appeal to different communities. This year, we have started building better tools for moderators and for admins to help keep subreddits and reddit awesome, but our infrastructure is monolithic, and it is going to take some time.

We hired someone to product manage it, and we moved an engineer to help work on it. We hired 5 more people for our community team in total to work with both the community and moderators. We are also making changes to, adding new features like better search and building mobile web, but our testing plan needs improvement. As a result, we are breaking some of the ways moderators moderate. We are going to figure this out and fix it.

While an interesting statement, it does not address the issue at hand at all. The community, in particular the moderators, have issues with how the firing went down, not about how hard it is to moderate. In addition to the privatizing of boards, a petition is also circulating asking for Pao to step down as interim CEO. Based on her poor handling of her own life, followed by her handling of the company, in addition to the public backlash received, that might just be the best idea right now.

Miyamoto, Gun-Shy Over VR, Doesn't Understand the Hype

posted Sunday Jul 5, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Miyamoto, Gun-Shy Over VR, Doesn't Understand the Hype

Augmented and Virtual Reality technology is all the rage right now. Both technologies have a lot of potential in the gaming space, I cannot see VR having a lot of success outside of gaming; certainly not in the same way as AR. As Microsoft readies their HoloLens AR headset, Sony readies their Project Morpheus and Valve readies their SteamVR platform with partner HTC, the only major player not involved is Nintendo.

This could be because Nintendo, way ahead of the technology, released their own VR headset, the Virtual Boy, in 1995. The headset was really great at making people sick to their stomach, but not very good at anything else. This could definitely have poisoned Nintendo towards VR or AR technology. It could also be because Nintendo has twice consecutively launched consoles based on novel peripherals and not had huge sales successes. No matter the cause, Shigeru Miyamoto had some harsh words for the technology and its announcements.

I got the general impression that they were showcasing not only the products for this year but also many products for next year or the year after and, because of that, introductions for many of their software titles were done visually, not with playable demos. Also, many demonstrations for virtual-reality devices have been conducted at recent trade shows, and at this year's E3, I noticed a number of dream-like demonstrations for which the schedule and format for commercialization are unknown.

The current software for these virtual reality devices cannot be played simultaneously by a number of people. And since it is generally expected that the development for the applicable software for a high-performance device will take two to three years, there were a number of visual demonstrations for virtual reality devices.

Nintendo took a very difference approach to their E3 presentation from its competition - rather than showcases for stuff coming in 2017 or 2018, Nintendo had a lot of playable games that will be released in the near future. Whether Miyamoto understands VR and AR in today's world, Microsoft, Sony, Valve and Oculus believe they have the next exciting gaming technology on their hands and are putting a lot of their resources behind it. Let's see if Nintendo's cautious approach to the future or everyone else's approach will work better.

AT&T-DirecTV $48.5B Merger Should Clear Approval Process This Week

posted Sunday Jul 5, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

AT&T-DirecTV $48.5B Merger Should Clear Approval Process This Week

While T-Mobile might still be trying to merge with Dish Network, an approval for AT&T and DirecTV to join forces might come through as early as next week. The rapid progress behind the $48.5 billion merger will result in an OK from the FCC as by Friday according to sources inside the negotiation room.

If it seemed like this came out of nowhere to you, don't worry, because it sort of did. While the world was talking about T-Mobile-Dish and Charter-Time Warner in 2015, last May AT&T and DirecTV landed the deal and have been quietly hammering out the details. So far, nobody has really batted an eye to the deal like they did with both the T-Mobile-AT&T and the Comcast-Time Warner attempts. The Department of Justice has already cleared the deal, so now it just rests on the Federal Communications Commission to finalize everything.

The merger has been slowly moving through the FCC approval process, with the Commission collecting the necessary documents along the way. The FCC has also delayed their "timer" on the merger while awaiting to receive contracts and other information. AT&T went ahead and filed an extension with the SEC to push the break-up trigger back from two months ago to August, which still gives the companies a month to nail down an approval.

The DoJ's approval process took almost no time at all, with the Department closing the investigation without any stipulation or complaint. Aside from the FCC's go-ahead, both AT&T and DirecTV still require the DoJ's antitrust committee to analyze the deal and OK it as well. This should come during the same time of the FCC approval, so long as everything passes over there.

What does this mean for consumers? Right now, a whole lot of nothing. That is, until all the transitional logistics take place over the next year or so. From there, it could mean that a lot of different things, but AT&T has a roadmap in place for its ideas. In a statement, AT&T said that, "AT&T will use the merger synergies to expand its plans to build and enhance high-speed broadband service to 15 million customer locations, mostly in rural areas where AT&T does not provide high-speed broadband service today."

Details Emerge About Minecraft: Story Mode at Minecon 2015

posted Sunday Jul 5, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Details Emerge About Minecraft: Story Mode at Minecon 2015

Microsoft's acquisition of Mojang and Minecraft for $2.5 billion finally made sense to me this week at Minecon. At the game's convention in London, details were finally announced about how Microsoft will completely change the way you look at Minecraft with Minecraft: Story Mode, expected to be released later this year. Using the power of Microsoft, the Mojang team rang up Telltale Games to produce this new title.

Until this weekend, there was no other information other than a new storyline surrounding the popular block building game. Telltale Games told us that there will be one new story, launched in five episodes. You will play the protagonist Jesse - who is not the beloved Steve - in an effort to save the world. No word on if Herobrine makes an appearance.

Players will control protagonist Jesse throughout the season, as portrayed by actor Patton Oswalt. Jesse and his group of friends revere the legendary Order of the Stone; four adventurers who slayed an Ender Dragon. The Order are the very best at what they do: Warrior, Redstone Engineer, Griefer, and Architect. While at EnderCon, Jesse and his friends discover that something is wrong... something dreadful. Terror is unleashed, and they must set out on a journey to find The Order of the Stone if they are to save their world from oblivion.

So having Patton Oswalt lead this new game with his incredible voice acting is pretty great. However there's definite bonus points that need to be awarded as well, and it's to Billy West for also taking on a role in the game. I can't see a way that this combination won't be a totally good thing.

As far as the game itself, Telltale says it is working closely with Mojang to make sure this Minecraft experience is as good as it can be. The game can be played many different ways, as the scenarios are completely choice-based. This means you can change the story based on the decisions you make as you play. Sometimes, those decisions may not have the best results.

Telltale said that each episode of the game will take around two hours to complete, and that a Season Pass of sorts will be available for purchase that should save you money over buying each of the five individually. The game will be launched on the 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC, Mac, compatible iOS devices, Android and the Amazon Fire TV.

Microsoft Gives Insiders 4 Builds as July 29th Approaches

posted Sunday Jul 5, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Gives Insiders 4 Builds as July 29th Approaches

Microsoft's big day, July 29, is coming quickly. On that day, full-screen Windows 10 versions officially make it to the public. These versions are Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education. Essentially, if it will normally run on a screen larger than 7", it will be available on that date. As the day comes closer, it is expected that incremental builds of the base will become more stable.

Microsoft's Insider release rules are based on stability. Gabe Aul, the voice of the Insider Program, has said that builds are tested internally and if they are found to be stable, they are released to the Fast Ring users. This week he said,

We're focused at this point on bug fixing and final polish, so it's much easier for each build to get all the way through than earlier in the cycle when we're adding big new features. now we find ourselves in a great situation, with an abundance of build candidates.

With this abundance of builds, Fast Ring Insiders saw an overabundance of new builds released: 3 for PC and 1 for mobile. The mobile build had been available previously, but had an upgrade bug that meant anyone who wanted to try it was forced to clear their phone back to Windows Phone 8.1 and upgrade form there. The new release made it possible for anyone to get the build.

Where the excitement came in was the 3 PC builds. 10158 was released on Monday, June 29: one month before the official launch. It was based on bug fixes and final polish. We saw icon changes, tweaks to the Start menu and Microsoft Edge branding. Continuum saw updates, as well as Cortana and Photos. The biggest change, however, came in the list of known issues; there were none. In fact, rather than a long list of known issues, the release notes instead said,

We don't have any significant known issues for this build worth noting in the blog post, but we are servicing several issues so make sure you check Windows Update for those.

Before anyone had enough time to prove that statement true or false, Microsoft released Build 10159 only 24 hours later. It included the new Windows 10 hero image on a tweaked login screen, as well as including it on anyone's desktop that had not already set an image. That was really the major change to this new build, though it was a welcomed change.

On Thursday, just in time to experience for the weekend, Microsoft released Build 10162. This build was very focused on bug fixes and performance than any previous build. Aul said,

Build 10162 is another great one. In fact, our testing and internal telemetry metrics show it has better reliability, performance, battery life, and compatibility than any Windows 10 Insider Preview build so far.

The company also released installation ISOs for the build, which they only do when they are very confident in a build. They are also already considering rolling it out to Slow Ring users, another sign of confidence. All of this movement is a great sign for what is to come with the final build in just under a month.

GameStop Launches Old School Game Retail Site

posted Sunday Jun 28, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

GameStop Launches Old School Game Retail Site

GameStop is taking it back to the old school with a new online website dedicated to the games and consoles of yesteryear. Titled Retro Classics, the online shop features the expected array of popular 90s and early 2000s consoles, along with your favorite games that take you on a trip of pure nostalgia.

Already up and running, Retro Classics shows off the NES, Sega Genesis, SNES, N64, PlayStation and even the Dreamcast box. Pricing seems to be matching eBay's prices, with the highly sought after DuckTales fetching around $20. GameStop said these prices will change as often as needed to properly meet demand.

A good example of that is the price of Mario Party which has already risen $5 to $40 for the cartridge on the N64. Nintendo's console that needed three hands to use its controller has been re-popularized in the past two years, with old school and new gamers alike both wanting to play the array of hit Mario titles.

An interesting point is not all games come with an original box and/or receipt. In true GameStop fashion, you may end up just getting a disc with a hand-drawn box art along with it. For the hard-to-find Power Stone 2, that may affect its going rate of $70 by about twenty bucks in some cases. The good news is that I can still pick up a second Duck Hunt gun for $13.

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