Goodbye #GamerGate

Via Twitter, I happened upon Rob Pegoraro’s post — A grab-bag of #GamerGate responses — and his comments rang true after following the story for a while and after getting attacked on Twitter by sock-puppet accounts operated by the young and the deluded. #GamerGate has been a big deal in the tech world for a while now, but I think we’re finally seeing it die.

Here are my own thoughts after reading Rob’s piece, and after more than a week of watching this train wreck…

You’re either naive or lying

The call for a “pure” form of games journalism — one free of graft or political intermingling of producers and reviewers — is either

  1. driven by hard-core gamers that tend to be young and poorly informed about the world, or
  2. an intentional cover-up of the deep and ugly misogyny that started the whole GamerGate mess, or
  3. a little Column A, a little Column B

Every industry, every job, and every aspect of public life has ethical dimensions. Some people walk one side of the line while others walk the opposite. That’s life. You have to assess which side a given writer is coming from and take an appropriately-sized grain of salt with what they say. It’s true for every form of journalism, commentary, blogging, prognosticating, business, politics, relationships — everything.

People talk about the cozy relationships of the press and the political class all the time. It’s the subject of TV and radio shows, blogs, books, podcasts, speeches… there’s an endless discussion about ethical dilemmas created by these relationships (and rightly so). But they don’t slap “-gate” at the end of every media analysis show and then threaten to kill a few women for participating in the conversation.

So either GamerGaters are deeply naive about the real world — which is lamentable but means we can ignore them — or this violent call to arms over ethics is really just a cover for the violence itself.

Or, again, a little Column A, a little Column B.

When attacking women, the safe word is “ethics”

I suspect this #GamerGate mess can be boiled down to a simple sequence of events brought about when both kinds of GamerGaters (the naives and the misogynists) came together around the hashtag itself. The “pivot” from misogyny to ethics worked like this:

  1. A few prominent games voices took note of several things surrounding the dissolution of the gamer identity via the arrival of new thinkers, producers, and ideas as the games world expanded. With just a few posts, the scapegoating and anger quickly gelled around those “outsiders”: women, and especially women that took public positions out of step with hardcore games culture. There were some interesting elements in this phase that focused on ethics, but they were relatively minor. Still, this is where the naives and misogynists first teamed up, but for different reasons.
  2. The attacks quickly went way over the top, driven by the misogynists, which attracted attention from responsible writers in the games world. Once cooler heads showed up saying, “You guys are disgusting…” the naive attackers realized, “Maybe this doesn’t look so good from the outside…” and turned their attention to the journalists themselves and cried out, “It’s about ethics!” And there’s just enough meat on that bone to make a soup, so it’s the perfect diversionary pivot.
  3. As #GamerGate flame wars continued to expand (and get automated with bots), it even got the attention of mainstream journalism and culture, but not in the way the GamerGaters hoped. Everyone — outside of hardcore misogynists and naive GamerGaters — was utterly horrified. The full-on mainstream cultural backlash began, including articles in major publications that exposed the horror and didn’t give a rip about any #GamerGate reactions. (Sadly the games press was stunned by the controversy and couldn’t mount an effective backlash themselves.)

Game Over. Insert 25 cents to continue.

So that’s where we are today: #GamerGate Over. Even celebrities are speaking out against it.

The only folks still beating the “games journalism ethics” drum at this point are folks that don’t yet realize the war is over and #GamerGate lost: the naives and the folks that feel guilty for saying some truly awful things.

Pro Tip: If you want to discuss games journalism ethics now — and by all means, go for it — you’ll need a new hashtag. This one’s ruined.

Thank you for Alaska, Joe McGinniss

I was very sorry to hear about the death of writer Joe McGinniss. He had a large, and unexpected impact on my life, though we never met (but I did once see him at Bernie’s Bungalow in downtown Anchorage). He’s a big reason I moved to Alaska briefly in 1996, and again for a much longer 12-year stay starting in 2001. He wrote Going to Extremes.

Published in 1980, Going to Extremes was a sort of journal McGinniss kept as he traveled around the state, from southeastern Alaska to Barrow on North America’s northern edge, from Bethel to Anchorage and Fairbanks and along the pipeline — everywhere. He visited at the end of the 1970s and traveled like a local, using the Marine Highway (the ferry) to travel up from Bellingham, Washington and then ride with a gregarious salesman in a new pickup truck into Canada and back down to Anchorage in the dead of winter. He flew in small planes, tasted the bitter petroleum ice smog of Fairbanks, discovered the depression and racism of Barrow, and the culturally enticing yet isolating communities of the Y-K delta. He watched midnight sun baseball and recounted rampant drug abuse in Juneau at a time when the State was rolling in new oil money and didn’t really know how to govern itself.

I read this book back in the mid-1990s before moving to Alaska in the summer of 1996, after a failed attempt at teaching high school. I was drawn to the land of extremes, the world of possibilities that an Alaska re-invention represented. I left at the end of that summer, returning to reality in the Lower 48. But the romantic notions of the Last Frontier never left me.

I took my girlfriend to Alaska in March 2000 for a brief vacation and proposed to her in the back of a flightseeing plane after landing on a frozen lake. That wasn’t as romantic as it sounds, however, due to the drunk guys also in the little plane. But you know, Alaska and alcohol have a long history together. 😉

After the dot-com crash of 2000, things slowed down at my job and we looked west for adventure, for something new. I stumbled across a job in Anchorage, took my fiancee with me on an interview trip, and by February 2001 we were packed into a Honda CR-V with a dog, a cat, and a lot of stuff, heading north from Louisville, Kentucky. We figured if we didn’t try Alaska then, while we were younger, we’d never try it. We thought we’d move there for 2 or 3 years, then move back.

12 years later we finally left Alaska. But in those years we explored the state and hosted friends and family that wanted to sample the adventure. We were hugely separated from family most of the time, but we found a new community while there, one we’re not finding so easily now that we’ve returned to the Lower 48. Anchorage is a city of transition for so many, and we fit in there. Not so much down here.

Sure, McGinniss wasn’t the only reason I moved to Alaska. But that book had an effect. And I can tell you his perspectives from the late 1970s still apply today. Alaska is indeed a land of extremes, whether it’s the dramatic swings of day and night, of heat and cold, of ice (glaciers) and fire (volcanoes), the earthquakes, the political insanity (McGinniss also wrote a book on Sarah Palin), and the many cultures across the state. I even asked a friend in Bethel whether he’d met any of the characters described in McGinniss’ book. He had. Were the descriptions accurate? They were — absolutely. Some people were proud to have been in the book, while others thought the descriptions were unfair.

Naturally, I recommend the book, and I’m sorry to hear McGinniss has passed away. His writing fired up my imagination and allowed me to experience the romantic draw of a life on the modern frontier — a place where you can start over, where you can define yourself, and where you live in a community so small it’s naturally close-knit.

He’s better known for other books, but to me he’ll always be the guy that captured the spirit of Alaska like no other writer before or since.

ICYMI: Google’s 2012 year-in-review videos

As a Google Apps administrator and user (I converted our health center to Google Apps early in 2012 and have converted other nonprofits in the past) and an enthusiastic user of many Google services, I appreciate them putting together this pair of year-end videos as just a little memento of what we’re leaving behind in 2012.

The first video is serious, covering major news and cultural events of the last year. Notably absent from the video is any reference to the Newtown massacre, because the video was compiled too early.

The second is hilarious, gathering major YouTube stars to do humorous covers of the two big ear worm musical numbers of 2012: “Gangnam Style” and “Call Me Maybe” with copious references to major videos from the year.

See ya later, 2012.

Thorium nuclear power: Let’s do this

It never ceases to amaze me how our political systems and the power of giant corporations consistently holds us back as a species.

Watch this fast-moving video to learn more about thorium-based nuclear power. It’s safe to operate, has a small environmental footprint, could be cheaply developed at large or small scales (including transportation platforms), and we could use it for millions of years at current energy consumption rates.

Imagine: all-electric transportation vehicles and systems driven by battery and/or hydrogen storage + fuel cells, with the power for hydrogen separation or battery recharges coming from thorium-based nuclear plants setup in highly distributed smart grids. Imagine a world without coal-fired power plants.

A final quote from the video:

In conclusion, this gives us options for inherently safe, proliferation-resistant, economic nuclear power that can last thousands if not millions of years. This really could be the silver bullet that enables us to power our industrial society. And this also offers real options for solving the long-term issues surrounding our existing spent nuclear fuel and ultimately preventing the formation of new transuranic waste.

Comment on “How sticky is Android?”

If you’re not reading Horace Dediu’s asymco, you’re missing out on the best mobile systems analysis and numbers in the business. I took the time to comment on his recent How sticky is Android article and I’m reprinting here for the record.

I appreciate the “sunk cost” notion [of smartphone stickiness], but I think for most users in most cases, that’s a non-issue beyond any given 2-year period. When the phone costs $100 to $300 subsidized but your monthly cost is already $75+, the hardware cost is not a barrier to switching. In fact, anyone that doesn’t upgrade their phone — and posisbly switch platforms — at the turn of their contract is leaving money on the table, based on the way carrier contracts work today. I routinely talk with friends whose contracts are coming up and they usually consider their options. Some are loyal to a platform, but most aren’t.

What seems to create loyalty or stickiness are only a few factors, and rarely are all at play for any single user:

  1. some number of platform-specific apps that the user considers critical to smartphone value
  2. a large number of platform-specific apps or media on which the user spent a lot of money and wants to retain that value
  3. direct ownership experience with both iOS and Android, after which the user has made a choice and plans to stick with it (so far, iOS is winning in this category amongst my peers)
  4. irrational love of or hatred of either iOS or Android based on emotional criteria (generally Android wins in this category because that torch burns particularly bright, similar to the way some people support Linux)

By the way, on #3, there hasn’t been enough time for most people to have owned both platforms yet. The first true smartphone was the iPhone in mid-2007. Android with comparable features didn’t come until much later. We’re only at the opening of 2011 — only 3.5 years into the iPhone and 2.5 or less into Android. Even if you bought an iPhone in July 2007 and bought an Android in July 2009, only this year would you be eligible to switch back. That’s not enough competitive time to draw conclusions yet on stickiness.