# Random Thoughts – Randocity!

## Fallout 76 Rant: The Impact of Legacy Removal

Posted in botch, video game, video game design, business by commorancy on January 25, 2023

While Pipe might be life in Fallout 76, the Legacy removal might actually mean the death of Fallout 76. While some gamers are praising the removal of Legacy weapons from Fallout 76, those who are impacted by this change might actually have the power to sink the Fallout series, and possibly even Bethesda itself. Let’s explore.

Misguided Maneuver

It’s clear that Bethesda is horribly misguided internally. On the one hand, I get Bethesda’s rationale behind the removal of these “illegal” mods from Legacy weapons. On the other hand, Bethesda’s rationale is entirely misguided and fails to take into account the real damage that has now been inflicted on the game and, ultimately, the game’s player base. The real question now is not whether the game is better, but whether Fallout 76, ironically a survival game, can survive this change.

One thing is certain, some players are reeling from this change and rightly so. Bethesda itself also doesn’t seem to fundamentally understand the player base which has been born out of these legacy weapons having been included in the game for literal years.

What is a Legacy Weapon? A Legacy weapon is any weapon that was formerly in the game and could be obtained through loot drops, but was removed from the loot drop list by Bethesda Fallout 76 devs in the game’s early years (loot drops removed around 2018-2019). This meant there was no way to obtain these weapons after the loot drops stopped… until Legendary Modules were introduced when Nuclear Winter began in 2019. Once these legendary modules were added, for a short time it may have been possible to craft such weapons on a crafting bench until the crafting of these weapons was also patched. Since then, these weapons have been unavailable.

Which Weapons were Removed?

The “Legacy” weapons to which this article refers are any legendary energy or plasma weapon with an explosive attachment. These explosive attachments have now been deemed “illegal” by Bethesda even though they were perfectly legal when they originally dropped. Such weapons could be obtained earlier in the game’s life legitimately, but today are no longer obtainable and are now marked as “illegal” by Bethesda’s Fallout 76 team. Weapons which have now been removed include:

• Explosive Gatling Plasma
• Explosive Laser Pistol
• Explosive Laser Rifle
• Explosive Gatling Laser
• Explosive Flamer
• Explosive Gauss Rifle
• Explosive Gauss Shotgun
• Explosive Gauss Minigun
• Explosive Gauss Pistol
• Explosive Tesla Rifle

All of the above weapons have had their explosive attachment removed by the Fallout 76 devs, turning many 3 star Legendary weapons into 2 star weapons.

Note, I won’t even get into the severe bugs introduced as a result of the removal of these Legacy weapons… bugs which have heavily impacted many rogues in addition to the Legacy removals. It’s not pretty for Bethesda or Fallout 76 right now.

Righting Wrongs

Once Bethesda knew these weapons shouldn’t have been included in the game back in 2018-2019, a patch should have been swiftly crafted and implemented then to remove these “illegal” weapons. This would have saved Bethesda this headache today. Instead, Bethesda waited and let this situation fester for going on nearly 5 years now. Not only did it fester, it actually born a whole new type of gamer in Fallout 76… a type of gamer willing to spend real cash money to not only obtain and own these “illegal” weapons, but who were also willing to pay Bethesda for Fallout 1st and pay Bethesda for Atoms to buy the Atomic Shop’s literal valueless junk.

Yes, this new type of gamer is the one who is literally propping up Bethesda’s Fallout 76 game. These are the gamers who are paying Bethesda’s bills, keeping Bethesda’s lights on and ensuring their staff remain employed.

Removing these weapons is literally a situation of “biting the hand that feeds you!”

Fallout 76 Gamer Types

When Fallout 4 began and also when Fallout 76 began, the primary type of gamers that Bethesda had hoped for were those interested in playing the game firmly on their “golden path”. In programming, a “golden path” is the path that most users will take when using any piece of software. This path is the path the engineers design the game for users to find and use. I dub these types of users the “golden” users. The vast majority of software users fall into “golden” users. Video game software users take a different route.

Gamers are somewhat different for this “golden path” approach for a number of reasons. The primary reason gamers are different is that video games entice children to play. By the very nature of this product being a video game, children are naturally one of the video game industry’s primary demographics… regardless of the game’s rating.

Let’s define children. Children include ages 8-17, with the primary age of most children playing ranging from 12-14. Because children don’t have a lot of life experience, their minds aren’t constrained by “adult” thinking. Children play games in ways that suit their fancy, which means children do not always remain on the golden path. In fact, in most cases, children stray from the golden path frequently in video games. Children actively try to poke holes in, find problems with and generally do things that an adult gamer might never think to try.

Children aren’t the only players doing this, however. Many adults can maintain this childlike poke and prod thought process well into their 30s. This leads to the next type of gamer I dub the “rogue” gamer.

Rogues vs Golden

Rogue gamers don’t follow the golden path laid out by the developers. These gamers intentionally and actively seek to find bugs, exploit holes and obtain “rare” objects in a game, including weapons. Almost every “rogue” gamer seeks to one-up their fellow player by finding something that their friend doesn’t have, whether that be a way to build under the map, go out of bounds or obtain a weapon that few other players have.

Rogue players don’t play the game as intended and are unwilling to follow EULA rules. They’re so flippant in the way they play the game, they actually don’t really care if their account gets banned or if Sony shuts their PlayStation down by disabling their PSN account, for example. In the gaming world, Rogues don’t care about the rules or abiding by them. With that said, they do care about finding the latest rare thing to have in the game.

The thing is, many of these rogue gamers come from well-to-do, dare I say wealthy families. This means they are willing to pay and pay and pay. They will pay for Fallout 1st. They will pay for Atoms in the atomic shop. They will even pay other players real cash money on places like eBay to buy rare in-game items.

In short, many rogue gamers keep Bethesda’s (and by extension, Microsoft’s) bills paid and the lights on. That’s not to say that every rogue gamer is wealthy enough to do this, but many are. At this point, I think you might understand where this is heading.

One thing that rogues typically don’t care about is the game itself or even the game’s story. They’re not playing the game because it’s Fallout and they’re not playing it because it has interesting lore or interesting quest lines, they’re playing the game because it’s an MMO, because it has multiplayer, because it has combat and because they can find and exploit heavy guns that no one else has. Rogues will only follow down a quest line because it unlocks their character to have or use something unique or better than someone else, not because of interest in the RPG aspect or the story.

Golden players, on the other hand, play the game by the rules using weapons considered legal within the game. These are also players who typically respect the Fallout canon, who are genuinely interested in the story being told, who play by the rules, who choose to play using guns the game provides and who don’t stray outside of the bounds simply because they find a loophole. These are dedicated Fallout players who’ve likely played many previous Fallout games, if not all of them.

Mixing The Two

These player types are not hard walled into two groups. Some players remain mostly golden, but go occasionally rogue when they deem appropriate. For example, some of Bethesda’s rigid game rules go too far. Some players become rogue when it’s necessary to bypass some of these Bethesda rigid rules, simply to save time, to cut weight down or for other reasons that help them play the game better.

Bethesda doesn’t get its player base

One thing is certain, Bethesda does NOT fundamentally understand who’s actually playing Fallout 76 and who is actually paying their bills. It goes even deeper than this.

Because there was a whole separate black market for these high powered “illegal” weapons, Bethesda completely overlooked this aspect of its game. Instead of taking advantage of these payers and bilking them for money, they decided to remove the weapons from the game.

It’s clear, you can either benefit from these players by making real money off of them or you can alienate them… and alienation is exactly where we are now.

Black Tuesday

On Tuesday January 24th, 2023, rogue players had to say goodbye to their “illegal” weapons. Bethesda removed weapon modules from the game, which during the 2018-2019 years were perfectly legal to own and use. This change sends not only a mixed message to players, it sends an exceedingly bad message.

It says that Bethesda really doesn’t give one crap about a huge segment of its very player base who are paying its bills, keeping its staff employed and keeping the game from going under.

This change is likely to be the beginning of the end for Fallout 76. Why?

Perplexed

Rogues are as perplexed and mystified by this late change now as anyone. For years these weapons were in the game and remained so. However, it’s just now that Bethesda decides to rid the game of these weapons?

Because these rogue players comprise a substantial portion of the revenue given to Bethesda for Fallout 1st and other pay-for-play features, it’s surprising Bethesda was so willing to risk losing that revenue and possibly even the entire game over this silly change.

Rogue players must now make a choice. They can either stay and play a hobbled version of the game using no special weapons or they can go find a new game where they can, once again, feel special and own special weapons. This is the actual real danger to Fallout 76. Rogues are fickle players. They only stay and play where they can find their “specialness”. If they can’t find and remain special, then the game is done and they leave it.

That’s exactly the crossroads at which Bethesda now finds itself. The question is, are there enough newbie players to keep the lights on and the staff employed? The answer to this question comes in how Bethesda chooses to respond.

High Levels and Endgame

After playing any game, not only have you amassed levels for your character, you have unlocked perks and skills. The problem is, once the quests have ended, what do you do with these skills? That’s fundamentally the problem with most games. You spend your time playing through the quest lines leveling up your player only to find that when you reach the end, all of that leveling up and those perks were for nothing… as there’s no endgame content.

Many gamers find little to no endgame content to utilize that high level skill. That means, you reach the end and you go find a new game to play.

Fallout 76 is only different in its endgame because it offers Events (and Legacy weapons). After the quests are done and there’s no more quest lines to follow, the Events and Daily quests are what’s left. These are repetitive activities that offer a slight chance for rare loot rewards. It also offers the chance to try out a new overpowered weapon.

Leveling up in Fallout 76, unfortunately, is mostly worthless. Because guns cap out at level 45 or 50, that essentially means your player is capped out at level 45 or 50, regardless of the level number your player may actually achieve. The only benefit to leveling up is to max out the Legendary perk cards, an addition that gives higher level players a tiny bit of an incentive to stay with the game.

Once a player reaches level 650-700, that player can easily have maxed out the Legendary Perk cards.  Max leveling these Legendary Perk cards sees a tiny bit more damage out of weapons, if utilized correctly. So then, what’s left after this? Not much, other than going Rogue and trying to find unobtainable, but overpowered weapons which formerly existed in the game.

While these weapons were once in the game circa 2019, they have since stopped dropping as loot long, long ago. That means that new players can’t easily obtain these overpowered weapons unless they monetarily buy them from another player. Hence, a player economy is born.

Initially, caps were the answer to this economy. Unfortunately, caps became mostly pointless as a currency in the game when Bethesda moved to bullion, scrip and stamps offering up the newest, most rare items. This is when players moved to selling these highly prized and overpowered weapons for real cash money, as in USD. Internet forums and trading boards came to exist to list and sell these weapons for real money.

In one fell swoop, Bethesda shut all of this down… the trading, the sales, the weapons, all of it. Without these weapons in the game, there are no more sales of them. You can’t sell what’s no longer in the game.

It goes way deeper than that. Not only did it kill third party sales of in-game weapons, it is poised to see a massive number of high level players abandon Fallout 76 and cancel their Fallout 1st subscriptions. Why play a game when there’s nothing special left?

Endgame content is firmly limited to Events. Unfortunately, in retaliation for these high powered weapons being in the game, Bethesda ramped up these events to be likewise overpowered. Without these weapons in the game, the events are STILL way overpowered…. to the point where these events are likely to FAIL the vast majority of the time when using standard weapons. Bethesda retaliated against the players by removing the weapons, but failed to reduce the overpowered nature of the events back to a level where standard weapons can be successful. Right now, these “golden” level 45 and 50 level weapons are not enough against these highly overpowered event enemies.

It gets worse, as players dwindle from the game due to natural attrition and now because Legacies have been removed, new players will be hard pressed to find enough higher level players on a server to take on the Scorchbeast Queen, the Titan or even Earle. These events are now so overpowered because Bethesda souped them up against Legacies, it’s near impossible to win these events with non-Legacy weapons, especially if a server has maybe 10 players on it.

Bethesda is definitely at a cross roads.

Microsoft

Now that Microsoft owns Bethesda, Bethesda is most definitely playing with fire. In fact, Bethesda’s choices surrounding Fallout 76 have always been questionable. Legacy removal is probably one of THE most questionable changes Bethesda has ever made for Fallout 76, considering when the problem actually started. Why does Microsoft matter? We’ll come to that answer in a bit.

For now, Fallout 76 is on the cusp. We don’t yet know the fallout (ha) from Bethesda’s meddling with Legacies. The point is, we cannot know how the rogue players will respond or how much financial damage these players who abandon the game can literally do to Bethesda.

It’s clear, without these Legacy weapons in the game, rogues who were playing Fallout 76 solely because these weapons existed will evaporate… and along with that, so will the income from Fallout 1st and all other income that keeps Fallout 76 afloat. Are the rogues a big enough population to make a dent in Bethesda’s income stream? My personal guess is, yes… at least for the longevity of Fallout 76. Without the rogues, Fallout 76 may be hard pressed to remain a viable entity, let alone Fallout as a franchise.

Does Fallout keep Bethesda afloat? It most certainly isn’t the only game that Bethesda publishes. However, Fallout 76 is currently the only Fallout franchise title available. In short, probably not.

Obsidian, another developer, was purchased by Microsoft in 2018, the same year that Fallout 76 released. Obsidian contains the remnants of Black Isle Studios, the original studio who developed the Fallout franchise. Because Microsoft now owns both Bethesda and Obsidian, it’s possible that someone at Microsoft could easily mandate the transition of the Fallout IP and franchise from Bethesda back over to Obsidian to handle.

Bethesda is clearly out of their depths with Fallout and they clearly don’t understand the franchise. Worse, they don’t even understand multiplayer systems in relation to Fallout. This first multiplayer Fallout game is probably the worst implementation that could have possibly been imagined. Partly this is due to its design goals, but partly it’s due to the inept team who couldn’t actually build a workable product… and here we are today. Because the Fallout 76 team failed to build a workable product, they’re now forced to remove a feature from the game that shouldn’t have been in it in the first place. Yet, that feature remained for nearly 5 years, solidifying them as legitimate in the game.

What Bethesda has done is tantamount to yanking a baby bottle from a baby after that baby has already begun to drink. If you didn’t want to give the baby bottle to the baby, it’s simpler not to do it up front than yanking it away after you’ve already given it to the baby. Heartless.

Can Fallout 76 tank Bethesda?

At this point, maybe not. What the loss of Fallout 76 will do is sour future gamers towards Bethesda games.

“Once bitten, twice shy.”

Few will step up to the plate again knowing the disaster that befell Fallout 76, especially once it disappears. Believe me, Fallout 76 WILL end. The question isn’t if, it’s when. After this Legacy removal, I believe Fallout 76’s end days are here. It’s just a matter of time before the remaining high level players (many of whom are now rogues) walk away and find a new game.

Gamers are fickle and these kinds of stupid maneuvers are ripe for rage quitting. Some die hard gamers will remain and play, but only for a short time until they become frustrated with the crappy standard weapons and find a new game to play. At a minimum, I’d certainly expect to see a rash of Fallout 1st subscriptions cancelled in the next 30 days.

The answer is that, alone, Fallout 76 likely can’t tank Bethesda. However, Fallout 76’s demise can most certainly make a big enough dent that someone at Microsoft (Phil Spencer?) retaliates against Bethesda through layoffs (Buh Bye Todd Howard), closures and by handing over various game IP to better equipped and better managed studios.

It’s clear, the current developers are ill equipped to understand what Fallout 76 should be. Let’s understand why…

Rogues, Games and Marketing

Rogues, whether a game studio likes them or not, are a market force. These are players who have money and are willing to spend it. A game studio can either embrace this fact, or go bankrupt trying to eliminate these gamers from the game. As they say, “Get woke, Go Broke!”

Bethesda is firmly in this latter camp. I don’t know what impetus is driving Bethesda’s management team and devs to take this “woke” approach, but clearly it’s not about trying to make money. Clearly, rogues represent real money sales. If a single player is willing to pay $20 or$50 or $150 real cash money for a single over powered weapon in the game, then Bethesda clearly isn’t actually trying make money. Who leaves money on the table? Leaving an untapped market on the table is not only stupid, it’s probably one of the stupidest things I’ve seen Bethesda (or in general, a game developer) do. Pay for Play As much as gamers harp on the pay for play scheme, it’s a real thing, it exists and it needs to exist. Yes, buying an in-game weapon for real cash money is considered pay for play. You can’t deny that. Whether pay for play is good or bad thing is entirely debatable. One thing is certain. Pay for play makes money… and that’s exactly why game developers are in business, to make money. In fact, pay for play already exists in Fallout 76 with Fallout 1st and Scrap Kits and Repair Kits and the list goes on. Even foodstuffs like Perfect Bubblegum and Lunch Boxes are forms of pay for play. Selling overpowered rifles for real cash money is just the next logical step. At this point, Fallout 76 is almost 5 years old. When a game is brand new, perhaps pay for play isn’t something that’s needed. However, 5 years later with 95% of players at endgame, then pay for play is perfectly fine and, dare I say, necessary. It extends the life of a game. Anything that extends the life of a game I consider a good thing. It allows new players to step in and know their time won’t be wasted because the game must close down due to lack of players. It allows rogues and endgame players a means of keeping the game interesting and keep them coming back for more play. Anything that keeps players playing is a good thing. That alone continues to make money for Bethesda. I’d say that’s win-win-win all around. Everyone wins. High Level Players, Veterans and a New Map One thing that Bethesda has failed to take into account, in among Fallout 76’s many failures, is the failure of planning for high level players reaching the endgame. In The Elder Scrolls Online, this game’s devs seemed to properly plan for endgame high level players. In fact, ESO devs went so far as to convert level 100+ players into then new “Veteran” levels. For example, for every 100 levels, you got 1 Veteran level. A level 300 player would convert into Veteran level 3. These new Veteran levels were denoted by a Veteran symbol next to the player’s new rank, just above their head. This distinguishes Veteran players from low level players of a similar number. In addition to being converted into Veteran levels, this change also unlocked the game to be played from the beginning using a new harder Veteran challenge level. Eventually, the devs even opened up a new Veteran level territory that required teaming up with other Veterans to handle this new difficult area. This area was so challenging, in fact, there was simply no way to solo it. The hordes were so difficult, you were forced to go in with a team even as a high Veteran level. While the lower level territories remained trivially easy for a Veteran, the Veteran territories were intensely challenging. Even group dungeons were incredibly challenging. Likening this to Fallout 76, there is no way to liken this. While Fallout 76 devs are busy introducing silly and bugged out territories like Nuka World and slapping high level players on the wrist by removing legacies, the ESO devs (at about this same time in ESO’s lifecycle) were treating high level players like valued players and giving them more challenges. Effectively, the Fallout 76 devs are treating high level players like a nuisance when they should be celebrating players who’ve made it to level 600 or 800 or 1200 or 2000. This celebration should include rewarding these players, not chastising them. If a player has given up a year or two of their life to play Bethesda’s Fallout 76 game and reached level 1000 (and who continues to actively play it), that’s a celebratory moment. Bethesda devs should be celebrating long standing players who continue to play the game instead of slapping these players on the wrist and saying, “Bad”. ESO celebrated high level players the right way. Fallout 76 devs treat high level players like nothing more than a mere annoyance. Here you have one team at Bethesda who fully understands and embraces their entire player base. On the other hand, you have an inept team who hasn’t the faintest clue of who their player base even is. I shake my head at this incredible disparity within the same corporation. It simply makes no sense. Inept Developers You’d think that if anything, The Elder Scrolls Online would have taught the Fallout 76 team some valuable lessons. Unfortunately, you thought wrong. It seems that these two MMO system teams do not at all communicate their valuable lessons from one team to the other. The reality, which has become incredibly apparent, is that the Fallout 76 development team is wholly and completely inept; not just from a development perspective, but from a money making perspective. They don’t seem to understand the value of keeping ALL of the players happy and, most importantly, paying. A game studio makes money by keeping people playing the game WHILE spending money. You don’t make money when you chase away your paying players. It’s pretty simple. Removing legacies from the game is a seminal chase-away-players moment. It’s also quite clear that the Fallout 76 developers and even the management team don’t get the real danger here. Instead of embracing the legacies and the whole real money economy that’s grown up around these weapons’ accidental existence, Bethesda turns its back on the players by removing the weapons from the game. Not only has this shut down that entire real world economic situation (which Bethesda could have tapped), players who wanted these items have no reason to stay, pay and play the game any longer. This means some walk away from Fallout 76 immediately and others leave slowly over time as they lose interest, “because it’s boring”. Some players, specifically rogues, must make their own fun in a game. Legacies were the rogue’s way of making that fun and cutting the boredom. Without the legacies, there’s honestly no reason for these players to remain playing the game… let alone spend any more money on it. Business Lessons While I hadn’t intended this article to become a business lesson, it’s moving quickly in this direction. Let me take this section to discuss this aspect of business operations. Every college student should be required to take at least one or two business classes. What I mean here is that it’s vitally important for students learning software development to understand how their work impacts the bottom line of the company. Not all software features are good for business. There is no more clear illustration of that here than the removal of the Legacy weapons from Fallout 76. Adding new features can help out users. Removing features can easily cause people to walk away from your product. This is where business classes come into play. Business classes teach students to have the smarts enough to realize that, “Hey, this feature that I’m being tasked to implement has a high chance of losing 70% of our PAYING clients!” Businesses must empower all employees to speak up when they see problems like this. While software architects come up with ideas, they may not be privy to exactly how many people might actually be using a given feature. Before implementation of any feature that impacts the userbase, someone needs to put on the brakes and say, “Let’s pull the numbers of how many people are actually using this feature before rolling it out!” Sanity must always prevail in any software business. You can’t simply roll out a feature without understanding exactly how it might impact your existing bottom line. This is why business classes, and more importantly, business intelligence and reporting is important. Blindly making changes without understanding the business impact can easily tank a business. Case in point, Musk’s incredibly poor handling of Twitter. Now we have yet another poor business case, Bethesda’s shitty handling of Legacy removals in Fallout 76. Too Late This article is written after-the-fact. Unfortunately, removing these weapons is more or less a done deal. What I mean here is that knowing the way that Fallout 76’s code is written, there’s no way to undo this change. Meaning, it’s easier to stop a code rollout before it happens than it is to undo a change already made. In many cases, it’s actually impossible to undo code changes due to the nature of the way it was rolled out. At this point, Bethesda is stuck with this change, for better or worse. At this point, unfortunately, we’re probably at the “or worse” point. As I said above, we’re nearly 5 years into this game’s lifecycle. Instead of Bethesda celebrating high level player achievements, these players are being chastised and chased off by removing weapons these players relied on. The point in becoming a high level player is to take the benefits that go along with that high level, which includes high damage weapons. That’s an expected staple of any game that supports having high level players. If level 1000 players are reduced to using weapons at the same level as a level 50 player, what’s the point in playing Fallout 76? In fact, what’s the point in leveling up beyond level 50? Not only does this Legacy removal impact high level players, it impacts low level players because they know they can’t get these weapons in the future. That means that players who might have hung around to level their character up to level 1000 for the chance of getting one of these weapons might now get to level 100, quit and go buy something else. That drastically reduces the income of Bethesda… and by extension Microsoft. When the Fallout 76 team could have embraced these weapons and monetarily leveraged the external market by retooling them to be legitimate and finding legitimate ways to sell and use them, the Fallout 76 team’s lack of business intelligence and foresight prevailed. It’s anyone’s guess if Fallout 76 can recover from this change. My guess is that this Legacy removal will be the last major thing the Fallout 76 team does before the plug gets pulled on Fallout 76 by Microsoft. Bethesda, prove me wrong. Compensating Controls This final thought is yet another failure of business intelligence on the part of Bethesda management regarding the legacy removals. One idea that many game developers employ to soften the blow of any negative change is introduce a compensating positive change. For example, when something gets removed from a player’s inventory because of a policy change, the developer will offer up some kind of freebie for all of those players who are impacted. This can include free currency, a free new weapon, a freebie in the game store or something similar. This freebie offsets that player’s item loss in compensation. Unfortunately, with this Legacy removal, Bethesda offered players no form of any kind of compensation for the loss of their weapon. They still had their weapon, yes, but severely altered. Bethesda might as well have removed the weapon as the weapon that remained is pretty much worthless. It’s surprising that Bethesda has offered up no compensation at all, but here we are. For all of the above reasons, the rogues are likely to abandon this game entirely… perhaps even the franchise itself… said as if rogues even care about Fallout as a franchise. That leaves the golden players left to carry the weight, but unfortunately there are likely not enough of these golden players willing to shell out for Fallout 1st in the numbers needed to keep the game afloat. Thus, this change is likely to be Fallout 76’s death knell. Way to go, Todd! Phil, if you’re reading this, you probably need to have a sit down with Todd to figure out what the hell is going on with the Fallout 76 development team. Update: 1/29/2023 — Positive Changes vs Balance While I didn’t discuss this above, there was really no need to state the positive changes by removing legacy weapons. We all know that exactly what taking overpowered weapons from the game means. For those who need this spelled out, it means less powerful weapons now exist in the game. That means shooting more, making more ammo and grinding more to keep your guns working. It also means the need for finding more ways to buff your weapons using Magazines, Bobbleheads and other consumables. It also means reworking perk cards to max out the damage done with these weapons. In short, it means spending more time reworking your character to find the highest damage build based around the game’s crappy level 45 and 50 weapons. Ultimately, it’s an exercise in futility. Does the game have balance after legacies? No, it does not! Fallout 76 is actually quite unbalanced. It is entirely because Bethesda has now given enemies many questionable unbalanced buffs. Removing legacies from the game doesn’t in any way negate these problematic introductions around enemies. Let’s list these enemy problems… • Enemies are allowed to instantly and silently teleport right behind you and instantly damage or kill you. Not balanced. • Enemies are still given perfect aim with every single shot, where players are given VATs that misses more frequently than it manages to hit. Not balanced. • Enemies have perfect accuracy with every single shot and are given 100% anti-armor per shot while players must live with weapons that afford drastically reduced accuracy and are given zero anti-armor per shot unless using perk cards and/or Anti-Armor legendary weapons. Even then, anti-armor afforded to the player is never 100% even though enemies are given 100% anti-armor shots. Not balanced. • Enemies have majorly enhanced perception, which can instantly negate Sneak cards. For example, if one enemy “sees” you, the horde around them all instantly see you. It’s not enemy by enemy, but by the horde. Not balanced. • Daily Ops is worthless due to actual enhanced perception given to enemies. Players spend major amounts of time building their character’s method of combat. If the player has chosen a sneaky sniper build, for example, Daily Ops entirely negates that. This means Bethesda expects us to completely retool our build strictly around Daily Ops? Not balanced. • Daily Ops, once again, is worthless due to stealth fields given to all enemies. Stealth invisibility fields negate using VATs. If you’ve built your character around using VATS criticals, once again Bethesda has negated that. Not balanced. • HP bar above an enemy lies. If an enemy’s bar says level 50, yet it takes hundreds of shots to kill it, that’s not level 50. A level 50 enemy should take a similar number of shots to kill it no matter what type of enemy it is. Not balanced. • Weapons show a high level of accuracy in the UI, but do not provide that high level of accuracy when shooting. Not balanced. • Weapons show specific damage numbers, but never actually provide that level of damage when shooting. For example, an Instigating Fat Man purports around 1500 damage in sneak, but never actually shows more than about 100-200 damage when landing a direct hit while sneaking. Not balanced. As you can see, the vast majority of Fallout 76 has no balance at all. Unless you consider enemy tactics and damage stacked against the player as balance, there is very little balance about the game. The legacies were, in fact, the only way to negate Bethesda’s entirely unbalanced game. In fact, the legacies gave balance back to a game against Bethesda’s unfair and unbalanced enemies. Unfortunately, we’re now right back to a completely unbalanced and unfair game, where enemies can cheat against the player using tactics like teleportation where the player been given no such ability or defense. Balance in Fallout 76? Hardly. ↩︎ ## One Cockpit Pilot for Commercial Jets? Posted in airline, botch, business by commorancy on November 30, 2022 The airline industry has continued reeling ever since the start of the pandemic. I won’t get exactly into why that is, but let’s just said that the Airlines caused this problem for themselves. As a result, pilot shortages are now seemingly commonplace. Commercial airlines are now seeking ways to reduce their pilot shortage, but not in sane ways. One idea is that pilots should be reduced to one in the cockpit. Let’s explore why this is probably the single worst idea that could be floated. Health Problems Let’s jump right into this disastrous idea and understand why one pilot should never be considered for nor allowed on any commercial carrier flights. The #1 combined reasons why this practice should not ever be allowed is health concerns and redundancy. Having two pilots in the cockpit allows the second pilot to take over should the first one become incapacitated or incapable of flying. Effectively, having two pilots offers a backup system, human redundancy. Human redundancy is the difference between a successful flight and a crashed flight. Think about it. If a single pilot in a single pilot cockpit becomes ill, incapacitated or worse, who’s going to fly the plane? Are the airlines going to require one or more of the flight attendants to have extensive pilot training so they can assume the role as pilot under this circumstance? That would mean that every flight would need to have at least one flight attendant who is qualified and capable of piloting that specific plane. How many flight attendants would be flight attendants if they were trained to be a pilot? Short Flights Some might argue that flights under an hour might offer the possibility of a single pilot cockpit. I contend the opposite. The flight duration does not reduce the danger level. For short flights, that danger level might even increase. Commercial jumbo jets do not run themselves. Like driver assisted motor vehicles, commercial jets require someone to read the controls and understand if the automated systems are functioning correctly. With only one set of eyes on the controls, it’s easy to miss critical information. Additionally, cockpits are designed to have two sets of eyes and hands. One pilot cannot reach over and touch the far controls that would be handled by a co-pilot. Unless jumbo jet owners plan to retrofit the ergonomics of every cockpit’s controls to accommodate a single pilot’s reach, a single pilot might be required to stand up and move to the second station to mess with those controls. Yes, most controls are right in front of the pilot, some may not be on some cockpit designs. In other words, one size may not fit all in this scenario. Still, short flights are just as dangerous as any longer flight. Long Flights For international flights which might be 13-20 hours, you can’t expect a single pilot to work that many hours continuously. That flight must have at least two pilots simply to handle the shifts require to prevent overwork fatigue. On top of that, pilots need breaks. Who’s going to watch the cockpit when he or she needs a nature break? A flight attendant? For a single pilot cockpit, on long haul flights, is that pilot simply going to leave the cockpit to go take a snooze for hours? Yeah, for long haul flights, it’s simply not practical. At least two pilots are a must. There’s no other way. Remote Control Some have argued that having the ground control able to remote control the flight safely from the ground could become a workable solution for a one pilot cockpit. Right now, we’re nowhere near allowing flight control to safely control a jumbo jet from the ground to a safe landing. Should that become a reality in the future, perhaps pilot free cockpits might work. There are literal dead spots between control towers that would see a jumbo jet crash. We simply don’t have reliable means to remote control a jet through its entire journey, particularly those flying over open ocean areas where radio contact can sometimes not even be available. Airlines and Cost Cutting Airlines can’t just cut the flight crew down to one and “hope for the best”. That’s entirely reckless. It doesn’t matter how young or fit or well or able bodied that a pilot is. Health conditions can come on suddenly and incapacitate someone at any age… even simply from eating a bad meal on board a flight. The point here is that if pilots are reduced to one, every airline is rolling dice in the hopes that nothing bad happens. It’s pretty much guaranteed that allowing a one pilot system would very likely lead to more deaths in the airline industry. Overworked Pilots If pilots think they’re being overworked now with this pilot shortage, moving to a single pilot cockpit is most definitely going to cause even more fatigue and burnout with the existing pilots. Being a single pilot in the cockpit puts all of the flight stress and pressure onto one person who could easily make a mistake without knowing it. That’s tough. If commercial airlines want to chase away pilots, moving to single pilots is most definitely the way to do it. The whole point to a second pilot is for the second pilot to check the first pilot’s work and suggest any corrections. The point in a team is to manage the flight together and agree that everything has been done correctly or disagree and correct the problem. Without that second person, there is no possibility of disagreement. There’s no way to call any airline safe who chooses to practice having only one pilot at the controls. Flight Attendant Training To become a flight attendant, a person must go through rigorous safety training which lasts weeks. Some training can last months, depending on the airline’s requirements. Flight attendants must also reaffirm their training at least once a year to remain certified with the FAA. This training consists of medical training along with safety exercises such as how to safely and quickly evacuate everyone from a plane in emergency conditions using the evacuation slides. They also learn how to perform their duties and must take practice flights to better understand what’s required of them while in flight. If a flight attendant is also required to know how to pinch fly a jumbo jet, that takes their training to a whole new level. As stated above, if they’re effectively required to get a pilot’s license, then why become a flight attendant? Airlines must either force some flight attendants into pilot’s training or technology must catch up to allow for remote control piloting. Either road leads to obstacles for airlines… and may simply shift the problem to a different business area. While it might help to reduce pilot shortages, it may move those shortages to flight attendants or in flight controllers. It’s never a workable solution to think you can make one change and not affect a whole lot of other people down the line. That’s exactly what will happen here. Would you fly a commercial airline with only one pilot? Sound off in the comments below. Please click the follow button on your device to receive notifications of new content, but sometimes more frequently. ↩︎ ## Why I stopped using Twitter Posted in botch, business, california by commorancy on November 25, 2022 Based on my recent article, Is the Demise of Twitter imminent?, I have outlined the reasons why I believe Twitter is very close to closing down entirely. While that is a reason not to use the platform, it isn’t my primary reason for leaving Twitter. Twitter has a lot more wrong with it than potential closure. Let’s explore. Content Moderation and Trust Let’s jump right into the heart of the reason why Twitter is in serious jeopardy. Any social network that offers User Generated Content (UGC) is at risk if the operators of the site are unwilling to handle that UGC appropriately. Terms of Service (TOS) agreements and Acceptable Use Policies (AUP) exist to protect the site from lawsuits. Meaning, so long as the site adheres to the terms laid out in their agreements, then the site is said to be doing its fiduciary responsibility to its users. TOS and AUP agreements define what is considered acceptable conduct by anyone who uses the web site. Most such agreements lay out that conduct such as hate speech, harassing speech, bullying, threats of violence, death threats and any conduct which is considered illegal federally or locally is prohibited on the web site. The article I mentioned above also touches on this topic. Whenever a site is created that publishes such user generated content on behalf of its users, a site must make sure that the speech remains within the confines of acceptable use. That means offering such mechanisms as user reporting features (allowing users to report offensive content), automated scanning of content to detect such infringing content and a team of content moderators to remove or suspend users who willfully break the rules. Why do these agreements exist? Trust. These agreements are in place to help users understand that Twitter is a safe and trustworthy space. As long as the agreements are upheld, then users can know that Twitter is looking out for them. Without such agreements or, more specifically, knowing the agreements aren’t being enforced, then the safety level of the site drops precipitously, along with the site’s level of trust. Politics and AUP Recently, too many people on Twitter are now seeing everything through the a political lens. Specifically, the right wingers are now seeing everything they say through a political lens of free speech. Let’s understand first and foremost that First Amendment Free Speech DOES NOT apply to Twitter or any non-governmental organization operating a social network. It never has. The First Amendment only applies to Governmental organizations and staff. While your local county official cannot abridge your freedom of speech or freedom of press, Twitter can. Further, let’s understand that terms of service (conduct) agreements are not built with politics in mind. They are built by lawyers who are paid to provide legal services to corporations. These agreements are not political leaning. These agreements apply to everyone using the services equally. Anyone who infringes the agreement is subject to disciplinary action… yes, ANYONE. Right Wing Activists and Lying Right wingers have been completely jumping on the bandwagon that somehow Twitter is selectively applying its rules only to right wing activists and not to left wing activists. That would be unfair application of terms of service, but it’s also a false statement. That kind of false rhetoric is now a staple with right leaning conservatives. They’re willing to lie about nearly anything and everything. Why would social media be an exception? It isn’t. Twitter has applied its rules equally to all people who infringe, left, right or center. It doesn’t matter what your political beliefs, if you put forth infringing content, you’re suspended or banned. Left wing activists have also been banned from the platform. Thus, this right wing falsehood is just that, a falsehood… like many others. Yet, they keep saying it with careless abandon as though saying it multiple times will somehow make it true. It doesn’t. As of this moment, right wingers are completely out of control on Twitter… running afoul of Twitter’s rules without any disciplinary action by Twitter staff. That’s not to say left wingers aren’t out of control, because they are also. In fact, there are a lot of apolitical people on Twitter simply playing games with Twitter’s rules because Twitter isn’t enforcing them…. and here is the problem in a nutshell. Rules, Chaos and Crowd Sourced Moderation Rules exist to stem the chaos and enforce trust. Without enforcement of rules, a social media site is simply a cesspool without trust… and that’s exactly where Twitter sits right now. If Twitter had been designed to allow thread creators to manage and moderate user comments within their created thread, like YouTube owners can moderate comments on videos, then Twitter would be in a much better place right now. It would mean that I, as a Twitter user, could dump off comments from my thread that break not only Twitter’s rules, but my own personal rules of decorum. Unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t afford that level of content moderation to the thread creator. That means relying on Twitter’s now non-existent staff. Of course, when that staff doesn’t exist, there’s no one there to do the moderation work that’s needed. If Twitter had moved to crowd based moderation, the platform would be in a much better place. It wouldn’t need nearly as much moderation staff as thread creators could simply remove comments from threads they own. If someone chimes in with an insensitive, inappropriate or problematic comment, then “Delete” and the comment is gone. No Twitter staff needed. In fact, this is the way social media needs to operate now and in the future. Twitter still firmly believes that it is Twitter’s staff sole responsibility to moderate content. That’s not doable when you have perhaps billions of messages being sent daily. A company can’t grow its moderation team to scale to this number of messages. It is also an antiquated idea that should have been gone years ago. However, at the time of Twitter’s conception, crowd managed UGC wasn’t really commonplace. Partly that’s something that wasn’t being done, but partly it’s because Jack Dorsey’s team didn’t have the foresight to realize staff moderation of billions of small messages was not humanly scalable. In recent years, crowd managed moderation has become not only more acceptable, it’s become commonplace and even important. YouTube has allowed this for quite some time. It allows the channel owner to remove any and all messages from its videos that the content creator deems problematic. It firmly puts the burden of content moderation on the creator. That’s also a completely acceptable situation. Crowd Moderation Wikipedia has completely proven that crowd moderation of content works. As a company, you can’t afford to hire the thousands of people needed to scout billions of messages all over the platform. Instead, it’s better to empower content creators to manage a much smaller number of messages. Reporting inappropriate comments is still available, however. This allows staff the opportunity to jump in and manage inappropriate content if the content creator reports a comment. However, conscientious creators should be willing to hold and moderate comments prior to allowing them to be published. With Twitter, publishing is instantaneous with no advanced moderation possible. Considering the sheer volume of messages on Twitter, it might be almost impossible to handle a single hold-queue style moderation system. With a spam filter, it may be possible to separate the wheat from the chaff into more easily manageable piles. Trust, Quality and Moderation Here’s something that Twitter has needed for a very, very long time. Twitter is chock full of bad actors. Any bad actors who consistently write bad comments of low or questionable quality would see their comment moved into the “junk” moderation pile for the content creator to manage and/or report. Such a system would allow Twitter to offer up content moderation for all of its content creators. Enabling content moderation places moderation in the hands of the content creator using a hold queue. This halts many instant responses, but it ensures higher quality comments. Comments are then examined and filtered into trust and quality buckets. High quality comments from more trusted individuals get placed into the pile the creator manages first. Successively lower quality comments from lesser trusted people get moved into successively lower moderation piles. Content creators can both move comments from one pile to another and they can mark commenters so that future comments get placed into specific piles all the way to a block which prevents the user from commenting at all. For example, piles might be labeled as: • Instant Publish • Mostly-Trusted • Semi-Trusted • Untrusted • Untrusted Junk • Junk These 6 piles are a good starting place. Instant publish is for your most trusted followers. You know that these followers can be completely trusted to instantly publish a high quality comment with no holds. No moderation is needed for fully trusted people. For people who are mostly trusted, these comments go into the mostly-trusted pile for moderation hold. These are people who are very close to getting instant publish, but you still need to hold their messages because you want to read the comment first. All other piles are reviewed at the sole discretion of the content creator. If the content creator chooses not to look through the remaining piles, then the comments get purged after 7-30 days on hold. How does a user become trusted? Trust comes from both following and adding a new button labeled ‘trust’ along with an assigned level (1-6). Following someone only places someone into the Semi-Trusted pile. Meaning, you’ve followed them so you’re assigning them the default trust of level of 3. However, you haven’t completely trusted them. This means you’ll need to moderate comment content. As a user gets more and more messages posted out of moderation, the user will automatically move up the ranks of trust, eventually reaching Instant Publish unless the content creator explicitly sets the user’s trust level. User trust levels can also be managed by interactions with others. A content creator can enable “inherit trust averages” to new followers. This means that user’s trust level is calculated and inherited based on past interactions. If a user has consistent bad interactions, been reported a number of times, been blocked by many people and so on, these bad activities affect the user’s inherited trust level and the user’s trust level goes down. Instead of being assigned a default of level 3, the user might inherit a level of 5 or 6. Note, being blocked by lower trust level users doesn’t influence a user’s inherited trust. Only people of higher trust levels who block them influence the inherited trust level. This stops bad seeds from gaming this system and attempting to lower a person’s trust level by creating hundreds of accounts and blocking someone of higher levels of trust. The only trust levels that impact a user’s inherited trust level when blocked is if the blocking user has a trust level above 2. That means bad seeds would need to work their hundreds of accounts up to level 2 before blocking people to reduce trust. Even then, any user attempting to game the trust system will automatically be banned. Note that there are effectively two trust levels at play. There is the inherited trust level of the user themselves, which is gained by behaving correctly, producing high quality content and, in small amount, by having someone follow you. The second trust level is set by a content creator. Even if a person is inherited with a 90% trust level, if they follow someone and comment, the content creator can set that 90% trusted user down to level 6 if they choose. That moderation trust level only applies to the content creator, but doesn’t impact the follower’s inherited trust level… unless many high level trusted people all mark that user down. Trust levels are the means by which the bad actors go to the bottom of the pile and good actors bubble to the top. To date, no social networks have instituted such a trust system. Instead, they have chosen to allow chaos to reign supreme instead of forcing users to learn behavioral norms when interacting on social networks. Enforcing behavioral norms is something social media desperately needs. Trust Numbers Implementing a trust numbering system would also add more control by users and content creators alike. Users who insist on being untrustworthy, to lie, to generally be toxic will see their trust numbers reduced. It doesn’t matter if it’s a celebrity or a nobody. Trust numbers are what people will judge. Like any score system, it can be used to allow users to auto-block and auto-ignore users who choose to have trust cores below a certain threshold. If a comment from a user with a trust level below 50 would appear on a timeline, a rule saying hide comments from users below trust level 50 would automatically weed out toxic comments. More than this, if a user has a less than 50 trust score, a content creator can make a rule that prevents low score users from commenting at all. In effect, the trust score auto-blocks the user from comments. If the user wishes to make a comment, then they need to do the right things to raise their trust score. A trust scoring system is the only way for users and content creators to know that they can be safe on a platform like Twitter. Chaos now reigns at Twitter Because Elon Musk has decided to cut over half of Twitter’s staff, there’s really no one left to enforce much of anything on Twitter. In effect, Twitter is now overrun by untrustworthy, lying, conniving bad actors. It is these toxic people who don’t deserve to have any interactions at all. They are the absolute dregs of social media. These are toxic people you would never interact with in person, yet here they are on full display on Twitter. Because Twitter has no moderation staff left to manage these bad seeds, the platform is overrun by people of bad intent. These are people who insist sowing seeds of chaos and doing as much damage as possible all with providing no value to the platform. Their comments are worthless, bordering on toxic and are sometimes even dangerous. With no moderation team, there’s no one at Twitter who can review these comments for their toxicity, let alone do anything about it. Worse, Elon Musk is pushing a “new freer” Twitter, which simply doubles down on this level of toxicity all over the Twitter platform. If Twitter were to introduce a trust and moderation system as described above, Twitter could forgo the moderation staff, instead letting content creators manage these bad seeds to push them off of the platform. Such a moderation system would also take a huge burden off of Twitter’s staff. Bad seeds would eventually disappear when they find their comments don’t get published. They also can’t claim Twitter is a fault because a content creator moderation system would mean people of all political persuasions would be kicking these bad seeds to the curb. There’s really no other way for Twitter to manage such bad seeds other than a crowd managed moderation system like the above. Unfortunately, Twitter’s staff is dwindling at an astonishing rate, including the very software engineers needed to design and build such a system. If Twitter wants to become a platform about trust and safety, it needs to institute a mechanism that enforces this philosphy, like the above content creator moderation system. Without such a system, Twitter remains chaos. Toxic People Toxic people are everywhere, but it seems that social media like Twitter attracts them in droves. I don’t know why other than the anonymity that seems afforded. Suffice it to say that while Twitter was relatively toxic prior to Musk’s takeover, the content moderation staff took care of a lot of that toxicity through suspensions and banning. Unfortunately, Musk seems to have reversed that stance and is now allowing (and even condoning) toxic people back into Twitter who were formerly removed. That means Twitter is now becoming even less of a safe and welcoming space than it formerly was. Toxicity now prevails. Toxicity is something no one needs in their life, least of all on Twitter. Toxic people are draining for all of the wrong reasons. • Toxic people waste your time — Toxic people ask you to do stuff for them while providing nothing in return. Even if you do spend the time providing what they request… • Toxic people always criticize you — Wasting time on someone toxic, they will turn that wasted time against you by arguing and criticizing what what you provided was not what they requested. • Toxic people spread negativity — Even after trying to talk to them to convince them, they will still turn it back around on you as a negative, as though you did something wrong. You didn’t. • Toxic people are jealous — The most likely reason they interacted with you in the first place is that they are jealous of what you have. In order to make themselves feel better, they will argue and downplay over whatever they are jealous… or they will try to make you feel jealous by claiming they have something that they don’t actually have. • Toxic people play the victim — Instead of accepting their own faults and failings, it’s always someone else who is to blame for them. If you happen to get in their way, you will become the victim over their having been victimized by you. That goes back to being jealous. If they are jealous over something, they will blame you for their being victimized by their own jealousy. • Toxic people are self-centered — This is a form of narcissism. How bad the narcissism is depends on them, not you. This means that not only are they likely to blame you for them being a victim, it all revolves around them, never around you. These people never see you as anything more than a punching bag to inflate their own ego. • Toxic people really don’t care — In other words, they argue with you because it inflates their ego, but honestly they don’t care about you or how you feel as long as it makes them feel better. It’s a form of manipulation. • Toxic people will manipulate you — This is another form of narcissism. It all ends up revolving around them. Most toxic people don’t care about your feelings at all. All they care about is getting whatever they want out of you. If that’s money or a ride or food, they’ll do or say whatever makes that a reality. On Twitter, you have to be cautious as money is really the only motivating factor. If Twitter enables money transfers, expect these toxic people to turn into scam artists. Twitter currently enables, facilitates and now condones these toxic types of people on Twitter. Not only will they waste your time, they will attempt to play the victim game as though you caused them to be the victim. They will always claim that you are the one who is wrong and they are the one who is right. There is no middle ground, concession or compromise with toxic people. It’s always them and no one else. If you feed into their garbage, you are likely the one to be harmed by them. Don’t allow it. As soon as you see someone like this, block them instantly. Don’t interact with them. If Twitter isn’t willing to handle toxic people, you have two choices, block and hope they don’t come back using another account or stop using Twitter. Leaving Twitter What Twitter currently means for sincere AUP-abiding content creators is increased effort to block toxic people, which actually does little to stop that user’s toxicity. They simply move to other victims to vomit their toxic rhetoric, with those users being forced to block them also. In other words, there’s nothing at all a standard user or content creator can do to stop toxic people from being toxic on Twitter (other than blocking that person for themselves). The best a legitimate person can do is block these toxic people for themselves alone, but that doesn’t make any impact on that toxic user’s account. Even reporting such an account today is likely to go ignored by Twitter. Musk appears to have no interest in holding rule breakers accountable. A trust system would change this game. Meaning, users who insist on being toxic get to share in their consequences of being toxic. The more toxic they become, the more their account gets moved to the bottom. When the account gets down to a certain threshold, this allows Twitter to review these accounts for being a problem… thus requiring far less staff. Unfortunately, Twitter has now placed this time suck burden onto each user to block, mute and dump users and to clean up the mess after. I don’t have time for that. Not only is that a complete waste of my time, I’m not being paid by Twitter to do it. It also means Twitter is not a safe or welcoming space. Spending my time managing my account only affects my account alone. It doesn’t in any way stop those toxic bad seeds from laying siege to other users on the platform. Since Twitter has no staff to manage these toxic bad seeds, Twitter is simply a chaotic cesspool of the lowest social media dregs all running amok in a quagmire of chaos. No one is safe from these toxic people. If you’re looking for a safe and trusting space where you can feel like the social media site is looking out for you and your best interests, Twitter is not that place. Twitter has now become literally the worst, most toxic environment you could join right now, second up only to Facebook. Twitter doesn’t care about trust or safety or protecting you. They’re only interested in letting toxic social media users run roughshod all over everyone else. For the reason of toxic users and Twitter actively choosing to be unsafe, I am off of Twitter. I simply cannot condone using a platform where the management is more interested in allowing chaos to rule over offering up appropriate safety measures for its users to use against toxic people. Twitter’s Safety Rating Safety: 1 out of 10 Toxicity: 10 out of 10 Recommendation: Avoid until Twitter closes or Musk figures it out ↩︎ ## Is the Demise of Twitter imminent? Posted in botch, business, california by commorancy on November 20, 2022 With Elon Musk’s$44 billion hostile takeover of Twitter now closed, it’s clear that Musk is way out of his depth operating this social media platform and with that inexperience, this platform is very likely to die. Note, this is an unfolding story. Please check back for new updates to this article over Twitter’s latest blunders. Let’s explore.

The rise of Jack Dorsey’s Twitter was rather unexpected considering its severe limits, such as its initial 140 character limit which was later doubled to 280 characters. Small messages are akin to SMS messages and I suppose that’s why so many people readily adopted this character limit.

Twitter has gained a lot of “people”, but unfortunately has also gained a lot of “bots”… which at this moment appear to far outnumber actual live people.

Blogging platforms, like WordPress.com on which this article is hosted, allows users to mostly say whatever they like. However, saying things isn’t without problems. Sure, free speech is important on blogging platforms, but what can be said isn’t without bounds. There are, in fact, TOS limits that prevent certain types of speech. For example, there are rules against hate speech, perpetuation of misinformation and disinformation and there are even laws against certain types of speech like “fighting words” and “defamation”. Free speech most definitely has its limits. Free speech is also not without consequences.

Freedom of speech is not truly “free” in the sense that you are free to say whatever pops into your head. You do have to consider the ramifications of what you say to those around you. One classic example is yelling, “Fire” in a crowded theater. That’s a form of trolling. It is most definitely not protected speech and could see the perpetrator fined and/or jailed for performing such reckless activities. Yes, freedom of speech has limits.

Suffice it to say that Free Speech, as I reiterate again, has limits and boundaries. You are not allowed to say whatever you want when using private company services. Other violating examples include such speech as death threats, threats of self-harm or of harm to other people, bullying, harassing others, inciting people into violence, stalking others or any other activities which are considered illegal or condone violence upon others.

Freedom of Speech

Many people hold up the first amendment as though it’s some sort of shield when using platforms like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. The First Amendment is not a shield! Let’s examine the text of the First Amendment to better understand where and how it applies:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Let’s break it down. “Congress shall make no law” firmly states that the limits of the First Amendment are strictly on the Congress and, by that same extension, all Government entities. The Constitution strictly governs how the U.S. Government operates. It does not cover protection of speech for private businesses at all. Thus, the text of this amendment does not apply to how Facebook, Twitter or any other social media site operates unless that service is wholly or partially owned by the Government. How the First Amendment applies is by preventing Government workers, including any branch of the government, from abridging speech either written (press) or verbal (protests).

For example, using sites operated by the U.S. Government, such as the FTC’s call for comments area, the First Amendment fully applies. If you say something that may become publicly visible on such Government web sites, your speech is protected by the First Amendment. However, if you say something on Twitter, a site not owned or operated by the U.S. Government (or any government), your speech is not protected by the First Amendment, but instead is governed by Twitter’s Terms of Service agreement and/or any other associated agreement(s).

Too many people believe that First Amendment free speech rights apply to private enterprise, but it does not. While most speech is allowed on these platforms, some speech forms are not and those that are not are clearly written into the Terms and Conditions to which you must agree by opening an account.

For example, Twitter only allows impersonation of accounts as parody when the parody accounts are clearly labeled in specific ways. This Twitter rule restricts your freedom of speech in very specific ways. Meaning, you are not allowed to impersonate an account in a way that makes it appear as if you are genuinely the person you are attempting to impersonate. If you don’t label your account according to Twitter’s rules, your account is considered in violation and will be disciplined accordingly.

The First Amendment doesn’t restrict this type of impersonation activity, however. Other state or local laws might restrict such impersonation activities, but the First Amendment does not. However, Twitter does restrict this activity via its rules to which you must agree as part of using its services. There are other such activities which are also considered in violation of Twitter’s rules which can also become apparent after you violate them.

In other words, Free Speech on Twitter is firmly at the whims and rules of those who operate Twitter… rules that can be changed at a moment’s notice.

Prior to Elon Musk’s takeover, Jack Dorsey (and his successor team) operated the platform in a way that many political pundits believed to be unfair to certain parts of the political spectrum. Politics are generally divisive. After all, there are two parties and each party believes they are superior to the other. I won’t get into who’s right or who’s wrong politically, but suffice it to say that the rules must apply to political activists in the same way as any other person using the platform.

Unfortunately, Musk is now seeking to shield political activists from Twitter’s rules. Instead, choosing to not hold any political activists accountable to Twitter’s established rules.

For example, Musk has recently chosen to reinstate Donald Trump’s account to Twitter. Donald Trump intentionally and willfully violated Twitter’s rules in the past. Yet, because Musk now owns Twitter, he has forgiven Donald Trump those past transgressions and has reinstated his account. This is a very clear example of how Musk chooses to break Twitter’s own rules at Musk’s own whim.

“Rules are made to be Broken”

This is an old saying, but it’s one that has no place in Social Media. If rules only govern some people, but not others, then there can be no ethics or justice. Rules must apply to all or they apply to none. Selective rule application is the basis for no rules at all. That’s how law works. If law enforcement fails to enforce laws on some criminals, then laws mean nothing. Likewise, if rule breakers can get away with breaking rules, then rules mean nothing.

Twitter has firmly moved into ethically questionable territory. If Musk thinks that selective application of rules to some people, but not others, is a recipe for success, then Twitter is truly no platform anyone should be using. It’s part of the reason I am no longer using Twitter. I have walked away from the platform and will not return. Here’s another example of Musk applying selective rules.

Musk’s Selective Rules and Instant Rule Changes

With Kathy Griffin’s suspension, Musk has made it clear that Musk makes the rules and no one else. This means that if someone does something that Musk doesn’t like, he’ll instantly rewrite the rules to satisfy his own whims. That’s actually called a moving target. Any user who ends up rubbing Musk the wrong way might end up with a suspension simply because Musk decides he doesn’t like whatever it was and he’ll then rewrite the rules instantly to make that activity against Twitter’s terms.

He did that with Kathy Griffin. She parodied Musk in a way that Musk didn’t like, then Musk retaliated by strictly applying Twitter’s terms, but more than this, he also rewrote Twitter’s rules by not giving her the 3 required warnings. Instead, he gave her zero warnings and instant suspension. Twitter’s rules about warnings are clear. You’re supposed to get at least 1 warning in advance of suspension. Kathy Griffin didn’t get that. She got the boot from Musk without any warnings at all.

Again, that’s a moving target. If you don’t know what the full rules are, you can’t abide by them. Sure, Kathy should have read the terms of impersonation more closely to prevent even getting warned. However, Musk should have read Twitter’s terms and upheld those rules by warning her before suspension, not change the rules on a whim. Both Musk and Griffin are guilty of not following the rules.

For Twitter users, it means Musk can instantly rewrite Twitter’s rules without warning and then suddenly a user is in violation. That’s no way to run a site. The rules are written in advance so we all understand them and have a fair chance at abiding by them. Instant changes mean there’s no way to comply with randomly changing rules simply because you can’t know what they are or what they could become if Musk gets triggered.

[Update 11/25/2022] Twitter’s new “freer speech” rules combined with its lack of enough staff to manage the deluge of hate speech on Twitter is leading Twitter down many wrong paths. In addition, Elon Musk is also complaining about losing between 15% to 30% of its $8/mo subscription fees to Apple and Google when purchased in-app. Because Apple is also now investigating Twitter’s latest “freer speech” maneuvers, Twitter is poised to potentially lose its app listing in the Apple Store over Twitter’s own inability to abide by its App Store agreements with Apple. Apple is already investigating if this is the case now. If Apple shuts Twitter out of the app store, Google is likely to follow suit for similar reasons. That leaves Twitter with no new users. Existing Twitter app owners can continue to use the Twitter app, but new users will be shut out. That means new users will be forced to use a browser to consume Twitter. An app store removal is an even bigger blow to Twitter than the mere loss of 15-30% to Apple’s and Google’s in-app purchase fees. Elon Musk is playing with fire by not honoring its own Terms of Service agreements against both previous and current violators, a fact that could lead to an app store removal. Instead, Twitter is also giving former violating accounts “amnesty” allowing them to be reinstated. App store agreements require that apps providing services must adhere to Apple’s app store has rules against apps which don’t properly handle hate speech and other objectionable content. With Twitter’s more lax rules around objectionable content and reduced “freer speech” filtering, Twitter is very likely now in violation of Apple’s developer rules. Such an app store removal would have a devastating effect on Twitter’s bottom line, especially after advertisers have begun abandoning the platform. When even Apple staffers are abandoning Twitter, that doesn’t say good things for Twitter’s longevity: Over the weekend, Phil Schiller, the former head Apple marketing executive who still oversees the App Store, apparently deleted his widely-followed Twitter account with hundreds of thousands of followers. —cnbc.com [↩︎] Twitter’s Demise In addition to all of the above, Musk has saddled Twitter with mountains of debt numbered in the billions of dollars. Some people speculate that it’s$13 billion because that’s what banks have issued Musk in loans. However, that doesn’t take into account the “investors” who Musk didn’t pay out or private investor loans from people who aren’t banks. Twitter’s debt is likely well higher than $13 billion, it’s just that$13 billion is what we can visibly see. Since Twitter is now private, Musk is not obligated to report anything to anyone about the Twitter’s total debt burden or any of its other finances.

One thing is certain, Twitter (and by extension, Musk) was required to pay out all shareholders to take Twitter private. That payout delisted Twitter’s stock and made Twitter a private company. If Twitter was in debt at around $1 billion prior to the takeover, Twitter is likely carrying at least 20-30x more debt now. If Twitter couldn’t make ends meet prior to Twitter’s takeover, there’s absolutely no way Twitter has any hope of doing that under Musk’s “leadership” (and I use this term quite loosely). When attempting to reduce expenses in any company rapidly, there are only so many places to begin. The first place is in staffing. Staff reduction is low hanging fruit and it’s relatively easy to let staff go to stop at least that cash hemorrhaging quickly. It’s also the first place where Musk chose to begin. Nine days after taking over Twitter, Musk let half of Twitter’s staff go. But that’s not where the staff changes end. That’s just the beginning. In amongst Musk’s crass jokes and public displays about these staff reductions on Twitter, Musk continues to reduce staff every single day. There’s no way to know when Musk will be satisfied with the staff reductions. In fact, he could eliminate every single staffer and still not reduce expenses enough to keep Twitter from running out of money. Other places to reduce after the above low hanging fruit include real estate (i.e., leases), employee perks and travel expenses. Employee Perks Musk has also taken aim at employee perks. Musk has claimed that it cost Twitter upward of$400 to feed each employee per day at the Twitter’s onsite employee cafeteria. While that claim is bold, it’s not really backed up with actual information. Though, Musk has claimed that less than 10% of the company participates in that free food program. If that’s true, then…

My assumption is that the cafeteria continues to buy enough food to feed an overly large lunch crowd every day, yet much of that food goes to waste as employees don’t show up. That’s really a food expense and food prediction problem.

If you want to operate a cafeteria, you have to buy enough food to handle future crowds. You can’t buy only enough food to handle 10% of the employees because then you’ll run out of food when 20% of the employees show up. The first option for this free food perk is to shut it down. If you don’t want to pay for the food expenses of a cafeteria, then you don’t run a cafeteria or you run it more intelligently.

For an example of a more intelligently run cafeteria, the cafeteria could publish its menu a week in advance. Employees who wish to order a meal for any given day submit their orders early. The orders would be accepted up to two days before to prevent people ordering a week’s worth of food in advance, but never show up to eat it. They also can’t order the “day of” because a cafeteria can’t operate that way without over ordering. This then allows the cafeteria to know a few days in advance how much food to order to handle that day’s lunch orders. This limits the food order costs to only those who order meals and only to the amount foods needed to create those ordered meals.

The cafeteria could add on a limited number of extra meals beyond those that were ordered to handle a limited number of walk-ins as well as replacement meals, just in case.

Alternatively, Twitter could contract with a meal provider like Eat Club, which essentially does the same as what I describe above. You order your meal up to a couple of days in advance. This allows Eat Club to only need food enough to cover the meals ordered. It also means that Musk doesn’t need to operate a cafeteria at all, removing food costs and all cafeteria staff.

Beyond smartening up food costs of a cafeteria, other perks may also be targeted for removal, such as child care, reimbursement of certain types of expenses and other employee benefits which are costly. The public may never know about the other perks that get eliminated unless Musk states them publicly or employees speak up, but that’s unlikely because Musk has likely required an NDA for all employees.

To reduce yet more expenses, the next place for a CEO to look is to expensive office leases. Twitter operates in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the nation, San Francisco, California. Worse, Twitter operates in San Francisco city proper. While San Francisco has, at least in the past, been amenable to offering tax incentives and subsidies to companies willing to remain in San Francisco, there’s no way to know if Twitter benefits from those.

Unfortunately, San Francisco does not extend those tax breaks and incentives to individuals who work in the city. San Francisco is one of THE most expensive places in the nation to live and work. That’s why so many people commute into San Francisco rather than actually living there… that and the crime rate in SF is astonishing. If you work in San Francisco and commute there, expect to spend at least $340 per month simply for a parking space every day. And no, most companies operating in San Francisco won’t pay parking expenses for employees. That’s simply a pay cut you deal with when working at San Francisco companies. The same lack of reimbursement goes for gas expenses or choosing to ride BART or Caltrain every day. What this expensive lease means for Twitter staffers is that eventually Musk is likely to move Twitter’s HQ to Texas along side Tesla’s HQ. That means that staffers will eventually be forced make the decision to move to Texas or find a different job in California. This mandate has not yet come down from Musk, but looking ahead to the future, this is very likely Musk’s trajectory. That all assumes Twitter doesn’t fail long before a move. Bankruptcy Twitter may not quite yet be on the verge of bankruptcy, but only because Musk apparently still seems to have some liquid cash stashed somewhere to pay Twitter’s bills. He may even be using some of his own personal cash to prop Twitter up at this point. Considering that many advertisers have left Twitter, which is made worse because the previous management team failed to secure pre-buys for advertising in 2023, Twitter is about to come into a cash crunch very soon. No advertisers means no ad revenue. For this reason, Musk has his hands tied trying to keep Twitter from running out of cash. Hence, Musk’s$8/mo plan to try and keep Twitter afloat. If Twitter runs out of cash, it’s all over.

There are very likely no banks willing to extend Twitter yet more loans amid the billions that Twitter has already leveraged in Musk’s ill advised buyout. Musk knows this. That’s throwing good money after bad.

Once Twitter’s liquid cash runs out, there’s no way to pay the server bills or staff or electric bills or any other bills. Considering how drastically and rapidly Musk is cutting, Twitter’s cash flow situation must be relatively dire.

What that all means is that Twitter is very likely just weeks away from bankruptcy, which is dependent on Twitter’s cash burn rate. As I said above, Musk may be dipping into his own personal wallet to fund Twitter at this point. If so, it’s understandable why Musk is cutting so deeply and so rapidly. Who wants to prop up millions in cash burn every day? Musk is wealthy, but that’s not a smart way to use (or rather, lose) money.

[UPDATE] It looks increasingly likely that Twitter will need to file bankruptcy. This New York Times article explains that some of Twitter’s bills are now going unpaid. That’s the first step toward not being able to pay any bills.

But once Mr. Musk took over the company, he refused to reimburse travel vendors for those bills, current and former Twitter employees said. Mr. Musk’s staff said the services were authorized by the company’s former management and not by him. His staff have since avoided the calls of the travel vendors, the people said….

Twitter’s spending has dropped, but the moves have spurred complaints from insiders — as well as from some vendors who are owed millions of dollars in back payments. —New York Times

Yeah, this is a bad sign. If vendors are now going unpaid, that indicates lawsuits from just about every angle are imminent against Twitter. It’s also a matter of time before Musk stops paying other critical bills.

Check Mark for $8/mo One additional thing that Musk has banked on to increase revenues over Twitter’s loss of advertising revenue is to charge users$8/mo for Twitter. Not only was Twitter free to use in the past, the compensation for using Twitter was Twitter’s free access to the IP content generated by its users.

Instead, Musk has forgotten and ignored that gentleman’s agreement between Twitter users and Twitter, instead choosing to try to make money off the backs of its content creators. That would be tantamount to YouTube charging its content creators monthly for the privilege of creating content for YouTube. It’s a ridiculous ask.

The Check Mark verification system originally instituted by Twitter was intended to prove that those with a check mark are who they say they are. Unfortunately, by reducing this feature to an $8/mo plan and because more than half of Twitter employees have been sacked, there’s effectively no one left at Twitter who can actually verify someone who buys the$8/mo plan.

That fact was born out when Musk released the not-ready-for-primetime feature to the public before it was ready, let alone tested. A bunch of bad actors all paid $8 and then began impersonating nearly every celebrity that you could possibly think of. This then forced Musk to halt the program, but not before much damage had been done to the platform and the reputation of the “new” Check Mark program. Musk was forced to shut down the subscription plan in an attempt to revamp it. So far, the fixed plan has not been released. Those who purchased and who played games were left holding the bag when they were unable to change their usernames back. Irony shines hard on bad actors for being bad actors. Anyway, Musk is a loose cannon and this is clear example of that. Musk was so desperate to make revenue, he was willing to release an unfinished feature that was easily gamed by the bad actors on Twitter. Worse, it has brought even more bad actors to the platform and those are now beginning their own tirades. Yet, Twitter is now so understaffed and because the bad actors know this, they are running rampant all over the platform harassing, trolling, spewing hate speech and there’s no one there watching or enforcing. Twitter is literally a cesspool. If we thought Twitter was bad under Dorsey, it’s 1000 times worse under Musk… and Musk literally doesn’t care. Above all of this, Musk plans to prioritize tweets for those who pay and de-prioritize tweets for those who don’t. Meaning, if you pay, you get placement and visibility. If you don’t, your tweets don’t get seen. More than this, Musk even admitted to hiding tweets that he doesn’t like. I’ve even seen this behavior. Hidden tweets are not new. Thread creators can hide tweets of those they don’t like. This goes one step beyond hidden tweets. This allows Twitter to hide tweets silently. No one knows tweets have been hidden unless you go check. Even then, you can’t know it’s been hidden unless you see certain behaviors within Twitter’s UI. Your tweet could be visible one moment and invisible the next, with no notification. This behavior goes way beyond benign and lands well into nefarious territory. There is zero difference between suspending people over bad tweets and hiding people’s tweets from view without warning or notification. They’re both forms of oppression and speech suppression by an overly wealthy man-boy who simply becomes triggered too easily. This cliché comes to mind, “Out of the frying pan and into the fire!” Which leads to… The Rise of Oligarchy in Journalism Make no mistake, even 280 characters is considered a form of journalism. However, because users aren’t journalists, they aren’t bound by journalistic ethics. Meaning, bad actors believe they can say anything they wish, sometimes even doing so willfully to test the boundaries for how far they can take their speech. Regardless, wealthy individuals are beginning to buy up these large platforms for their own egocentric interests. For example, Rupert Murdoch purchased Fox News (and other similar news outfits) to push his own personal political agendas. Later, after Warner Brothers Discovery purchased CNN, we’ve come to find that billionaire John Malone is a large stakeholder in this new CNN acquired outfit. The latest, of course, is billionaire Elon Musk who has now purchased Twitter, yet another more or less news outfit. Even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has his own biases which get injected into Facebook’s operation… and yes, Zuckerberg is also considered a media influencing oligarch. Oligarchy is now firmly entrenched in our media sources in ways that are not amenable to providing unbiased news sources. With Fox News’ right leaning bent at the hand of Rupert Murdoch and now CNN’s more-or-less right leaning bent with John Malone and Musk’s somewhat right leaning bent with Twitter, more and more news organizations are becoming right wing news sources because of these right wing billionaires. Yet, the government is doing nothing to halt or stymie this harm to consumers. Overall, right wing propaganda is getting more and more intense, with these right wing news organizations spewing false propaganda claiming it is the left who is doing the damage? It’s not left wing billionaires buying up news sources. Note, there is another blog article here yet to be written which is born out of this section, look for it soon. I’m not saying that left wing or right wing political slants are at all good business for media. However, it appears that the vast majority of false disinformation is coming from right wing media. False information that is perpetrated as truth, particularly about left wing politics. I’m not here to get into who’s right and who’s wrong. I’m simply disclosing that the political discourse in many media platforms are now being swayed by right wing billionaires. This is to the loss of professional unbiased journalism. It will have to fall to small blog article sites, like WordPress, that are independently run not by right or left wing billionaires where news can be had in unbiased ways. That assumes that right wing billionaires don’t buy up these blogging sites, too. Unfortunately, too many people are willing to listen to these biased news organizations thinking they are both unbiased and purport truth when, in fact, they do neither the vast majority of the time. Alternative Platforms While there isn’t a clear winner for a Twitter replacement, some are in the works while others are trying. For example, both Tribel and Mastodon are giving it a good college try and likely have seen an influx of traffic since Twitter’s wobbly last few weeks. One might also consider Truth Social were it not simply a playground for Donald Trump’s exceedingly fragile ego. If you go over to Truth Social, expect to be barraged by ads. Also, don’t expect to be able to say anything negative about Trump or any of his sycophants or you’ll be banned. Freedom of speech is most definitely not alive and well at Truth Social. As for Tribel and Mastodon, read their terms and conditions closely before opening an account. Tribel, for example, requires you to agree to hand over all rights to any Intellectual Property (IP) that you upload into Tribel. You forfeit all rights for anything you submit to Tribel. Twitter’s terms allow you to retain ownership, but give Twitter rights to use it. However, with Musk’s haphazard behavior, anything is now possible. I simply can’t trust that Twitter is a safe space any longer. One possibility is waiting for Jack Dorsey’s BlueSky social which is based on a decentralized system like Mastodon. However, there’s no way to know if Dorsey’s BlueSky will become the defacto Social Media site like Twitter was. However, it may be worth waiting for BlueSky to see if it can become a sufficient replacement for Twitter. For now, there’s no real leader in social media… unless you trust Facebook and its ilk completely (i.e., Instagram and WhatsApp), which I personally do not. Facebook, or more specifically Meta, has proven itself time and again to be a completely untrustworthy organization. And now, Twitter has fallen into this same trap of being entirely untrustworthy. Overall Twitter is a train wreck unfolding right before our eyes. Musk says he wants Twitter to succeed, but his actions say the opposite. From his lackadaisical application of Terms and Conditions to random suspensions to sacking half of Twitter’s staff without understanding that there’s no one there to moderate the platform. Because of all of these factors, Twitter has effectively become a free for all for bad actors. By ‘Bad Actors’, I mean people who are intent on causing mischief, trolling, attacking people and being general nuisances all without any supervision. In effect, the crazies are running the show at Twitter and Musk clearly doesn’t care. Unfortunately, I don’t have the hours needed to spend babysitting Twitter trolls. Prior to Musk, at least 50% of the time you could have civilized discourse between various people. Now, there’s almost no one willing or able to have civilized discourse on Twitter, instead choosing to attack, troll or vomit random memes in hopes of solely getting a rise out of someone… simply to pick a fight. I don’t have time to become a babysitter for Twitter babies. That’s Twitter’s job, not mine… and Twitter is not doing it. Twitter doesn’t pay me to do that work, yet I’m expected to deal with it? No. As long as Twitter can’t get their shit together, I’m out. I simply can’t spend hours babysitting a Twitter account to continually mute, block and report thousands of users for inappropriate behavior. I don’t even want to think about what celebrities are going through right now with perhaps tens of thousands or millions of followers. Twitter is simply a disaster. One thing is certain, there will be a dedicated chapter written over “How not to run a business” in business school textbooks for Musk’s incredibly shitty handling of Twitter. Once Twitter folds, the best thing I can say about it is, “Good riddance to bad rubbish.” I’ll also say that, for the record, it does appear that Twitter is on the brink of collapse. Clearly, Musk didn’t perform his fiduciary responsibility to ensure Twitter’s books were solid before making an offer to purchase. Instead, he harped only on the excessive number of bots on the platform. If Twitter was in this dire of a financial situation prior to the purchase, that should have been enough for Musk to squash the purchase contract. Who agrees to buy a financially insolvent company? Musk, if you’re reading… . If you enjoy reading Randocity, I urge you to click the follow button to continue to get notifications for all new content. ↩︎ ## Elizabeth Holmes: Why aren’t more CEOs in prison? Posted in botch, business, california by commorancy on August 23, 2022 On the heels of Elizabeth Holmes’s conviction for four counts of fraud, the question begs… Why aren’t more startup CEOs in prison for fraud? Before we get into the answer, let’s explore a little about Elizabeth Holmes. Theranos Theranos was a technological biomedical startup, not unlike so many tech startup companies before it. Like many startups, Theranos began based out of Palo Alto, California… what some might consider the heart of Silicon Valley. Most startups that begin their life in or around Palo Alto seem able to rope in a lot of tech investors and tech money. Theranos was no different. Let’s step back to understand who was at the helm of Theranos before we get into what technology this startup purported to offer the world. Theranos was helmed by none other than Elizabeth Holmes. Holmes founded Theranos in 2003 at the age of 19, after she had dropped out of Stanford University. In 2002 prior to founding Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes was an engineering student studying chemical engineering. No, she was not a medical student nor did she have any medical training. Clearly, by 2003, she had envisioned grandiose ideas about how to make her way in the world… and it didn’t seem to involve actually completing her degree at Stanford. Thus, Theranos was born after having she had gotten her dean, but not medical experts at the school, to sign off on her blood testing idea. Medical Technology What was her medical idea? Holmes’s idea involved gathering vast amounts of data from a few drops of blood. Unfortunately, not everyone agreed that her idea had merit, particularly medical professors at Stanford. However, she was able to get some people to buy into her idea and, thus, Theranos was born. From the drawing board to creating a device that actually does what Holmes claimed would pose the ultimate challenge, one that would see her convicted of fraud. Software Technology Most startup products in Silicon Valley involve software innovation with that occasional product which also requires a specialty hardware device to support the software. Such hardware and software examples include the Apple iPhone, the Fitbit and even the now defunct Pebble. Software only solutions include such notables as Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office and even operating systems like Microsoft Windows. Even video games fall under such possible startups, like Pokémon Go. Yes, these standalone softwares do require separate hardware, but using already existing products that consumers either own or can easily purchase. These software startups don’t need to build any specialty hardware. Software solutions can solve problems for many differing industries including the financial industry, the medical industry, the fast food industry and the law enforcement industry and even solve problems for home consumers. There are so many differing ideas that can make life much simpler, some ideas are well worth exploring. However, like Theranos, some aren’t. Theranos vs Silicon Valley Elizabeth Holmes’s idea that a few drops of blood could reveal a lot of information was a radical idea that didn’t, at her young age of 19, have a solution. This is what Elizabeth Holmes sought to create with Theranos. Many Silicon Valley startups must craft a way to solve the problem they envision. Whether that be accessing data faster or more reliably to creating a queuing system for restaurants using an iPhone app. It’s not so much the idea, but the execution of it. That’s where the CEO comes into play. The CEO must assemble a team capable of realizing and executing the idea they have in their head. For example, is it possible to create a device to extract mountains of data from a few drops of blood? That’s what Elizabeth Holmes was hoping she could create. It was the entire basis for the creation of Theranos. Investors To create that software and device, it takes money and time. Time to develop and money to design and build necessary devices using R&D. A startup must also hire experts in various fields who can step into the role and determine what is and isn’t possible. In other words, a CEO’s plan is “fake it until you make it”. That saying goes for every single startup CEO who’s ever attempted to build a company. Investors see to it that there’s sufficient capital to make sure a company can succeed, or at least give it a very good shot. Early investors include seed and angel investors, where the money may have few if any strings and later stage investors such as Venture Capitalists, where there are heavy strings tied to the money in the form of exchanging company ownership in exchange for money. Later stage investors are usually much more hands-on than many angel or seed investors. In fact, sometimes late stage investors can be so hands-on as to cause the company to pivot a company in unwanted directions and away from the original vision. This article isn’t intended to become a lesson for how VC’s work, but suffice it to say that they can become quite important in directing a company’s vision. In Theranos case, however, Elizabeth Holmes locked out investors by creating a … Black Box One thing that Silicon Valley investors don’t like are black boxes. What is a black box? It’s a metaphor for a wall that’s erected between a company’s product and any investors involved. A black box company is one that refuses to share how a startup company’s technology actually works. Many investors won’t invest in such “black box” companies. Investors want to know how their money is being spent and how a company’s technology is progressing. Black boxes don’t allow for that information flow. Theranos employed such a black box approach to its blood analyzer device. It’s actually a wonder Theranos got as much investor support as it did, particularly for a CEO that young and, obviously, inexperienced when insisting on a black box approach. That situation is ripe for abuse. At 19, how effective could Elizabeth Holmes be as a CEO? How trustworthy and responsible could a 19 year old be with millions of dollars of funding? How many 19 year olds would you entrust with millions of dollars, after they had dropped out of college? For investors, this should have been a huge red flag. There’s something to be said for the possibility of a wunderkind in Elizabeth Holmes, except she hadn’t proven herself to be a prodigy while attending Stanford. Even the medical experts she had consulted about her idea clearly didn’t think she had the necessary skills to make her far-fetched idea a reality. A chemical engineering student hopping into the biotech field with the creation of small, almost portable blood analysis machine at a time when commercial blood analysis machines where orders of magnitudes bigger and required much more blood volume? Holmes’s idea was fantastical, yet clearly unrealistic. However, Theranos’s black box, dubbed the Edison or miniLab, was a small piece of equipment about half the size of a standard tower computer case and included a touch screen display and blood insertion port. Unfortunately, this black box was truly a black box in all senses of the word, including its actual case coloring. Not only was the Edison’s innards kept a strict company secret, its testing methodologies were also kept secret, even from employees. In other words, no one knew exactly how the Edison truly worked. No, not even the engineers that Theranos hired to try to actually make Holmes’s vision a reality. Theranos and Walgreens By 2016, Theranos had secured a contract with Walgreens for Walgreens to use Theranos’s Edison machine to test blood samples by medical patients. Unfortunately, what came to pass from those tests was less than stellar. It’s also what led to the downfall of Theranos and ultimately Elizabeth Holmes and her business partner, Sunny Balwani. The engineers that Theranos hired knew that the Edison didn’t work, even though they hadn’t been privy to all of its inner workings. Instead, what they saw was those tiny vials of blood trying to run samples on larger blood testing machines like the Siemens Advia 1800. When the engineers, Erika Cheung and Tyler Shultz, confronted Holmes and Balwani about the Edison machine’s lack of functionality and about being asked to falsify test results, they were given the cold shoulder. Both Cheung and Tyler decided to blow the whistle on Theranos’s fraud. Cheung and Schultz both left Theranos after whistleblowing to start their own companies. Ultimately, Theranos had been using alternative medical diagnostic technology in lieu of its own Edison machine, which the Edison clearly didn’t function properly and neither did the third party systems with the amount of blood that Holmes stated that it required. This left patients at Walgreens with false test results, requiring many patients to retest with another lab to confirm the validity of Theranos’s results. Elizabeth Holmes Fate? In January of 2022, Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty of 4 counts of fraud. However, the jury acquitted her of all counts involving patient fraud… the patients were, in fact, hurt the most by Theranos’s fraud. The jury awarded monetary rewards to the investors, not to the patients who may have been irreparably harmed by her machine’s failure to function. Why aren’t more CEOs in prison for fraud? While the Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes case is somewhat unique among Silicon Valley startups, it is not completely unique. Defrauding investors is a slippery slope for Silicon Valley. Once one company is found perpetrating fraud on investors, it actually opens the door up to many more such cases. Taking money from investors to attempt to bring a dream to life is exactly what CEOs do. However, Theranos (and Elizabeth Holmes) between 2003 and 2016 couldn’t produce a functional machine. Most CEOs, given enough time and, of course money, can likely produce a functional product in some form. Whether that product resembles the original idea that founded the company remains to be seen. Some CEOs pivot a year or two in and change directions. They either realize their initial idea wasn’t unique enough or that there would be significant problems bringing it to market. They then change direction and come up with a new idea that may be more easily marketable. Startups that Bankrupt In the case of Theranos, other startups that go bankrupt could signal the possibility that CEOs may now be held accountable to fraud charges, just like Ms. Holmes. The Elizabeth Holmes case has now set that precedent. Taking investor money may no longer be without legal peril directly to company executives. If you agree to bring a product to market and are given investor capital to do it… and then you fail and the company folds, you may find yourself in court up on fraud charges. Silicon Valley investors do understand that the odds of a successful startup is relatively low… which is why they typically invest in many at once. The one that succeeds typically more than makes up for the others that fail. If more than one succeeds, even better. It’s called, “playing the odds”. The more you bet, the better chances you have of winning. However, playing the odds won’t stop investors from wanting to recoup losses for money given to failed startups. The Elizabeth Holmes case may very well be chilling for startups. It’s ultimately chilling to would-be CEOs who see dollar signs in their eyes, but then months later that startup is out of cash and closing down in failure. CEOs and Prison Time Elizabeth Holmes should be considered a cautionary tale for all would-be CEOs looking for some quick cash to get their idea off the ground. If you do manage to secure funding, you should be cautious with how you use that cash. Also always and I mean ALWAYS make sure the progress in building your idea is shown to your investors regularly. Let them know how their investor money is being used. When software is available for demonstrations, show it off. Don’t hide it inside of a black box. Black boxes have no place in startup investing. As with Elizabeth Holmes, she’s facing up to 20 years in prison. However, her sentence has yet to be handed down, but is expected to be no less than 20 years. Though, it’s possible she may be given the possibility of parole and the possibility of a reduced sentence for good behavior… all of which is up to the sentencing judge. Elizabeth Holmes opened this door for startup CEOs. It’s only a matter of time before investors begin using this precedent to hold CEO founders to account should an investment in a startup fail. ↩︎ ## No Man’s Sky Review: What are Expeditions? Posted in botch, video game, video game design by commorancy on July 27, 2022 What exactly are No Man’s Sky Expeditions? Simply put, they are extended gameplay tutorials. Let’s explore. Early Tutorials Sometime around the year 2000, game designers found that it was simpler (and cheaper) to include a small intro tutorial in the game than producing an expensive and time consuming instruction manual. The purpose of a tutorial is to show the gamer how to use basic game mechanics to accomplish various tasks. It’s easier to do this interactively than trying to explain it in a written manual, which ultimately no nobody really reads. In games like Call of Duty, these tutorials show you how to use the weapons, learn the button controller layout, such as stealth moves and so on. These tutorials began as simple introductory systems. These tutorials typically occur outside of the game’s normal play mode. Some games force tutorials to be completed, which prevents you from progressing into the game’s normal play mode until you complete all of the necessary tutorials. However, game developers quickly realized the problem with these locked tutorials. Gamers weren’t happy with this forced intro system which tested a gamer’s patience before they could actually begin playing the main game. Gamers simply wanted to get into the meat of the gameplay immediately and couldn’t while locked into completing a silly, but long tutorial session. Worse, many of the tutorials produce situations that ultimately never materialize in the game. It’s really frustrating to teach a gamer a specific technique which is never useful once actually in the game. The Titanfall game is guilty of forcing such a tutorial system, which also taught techniques never used in the game. What was the point in teaching a useless technique? Tutorials Today Today, game developers still use these in-game tutorial systems in various forms. Rarely are these tutorials forced, like in the above example. Many games allow you to skip the tutorials entirely, but they allow you to revisit any of the tutorials later if you want to learn a specific move, understand a mechanic better or simply hone skills around specific mechanics. The best of all worlds is when a game developer chooses not to force a tutorial, but allows the player to skip them and revisit them later if needed. If tutorials are required, then the game developer should offer up a reward for completing them… as is done in the No Man’s Sky Expeditions. Since most games have settled on standard controller layouts and many use similar mechanics, most gamers can easily fall right into a game within a few minutes, being required to learn only a few new concepts specific to that game. No Man’s Sky has taken Tutorials to a New Level (aka Ways to Improve) With the introduction the Expedition idea in 2021, Hello Games has turned long, but very basic tutorials into a gameplay mode, for better or worse. It is a gameplay mode that sees gamers earn rewards for all of their other game saves, but only after enduring very basic tutorial concepts. Personally, I’d have preferred if Expeditions could be played on our existing game saves rather than cluttering up our game with a bunch of new saves, each used for a separate expedition. It’s a waste of space on our PC or console… space that we can’t get rid of easily because those saves earned the rewards. More than this, I’d like to see expeditions offer us more than the simple, basic tutorials. Instead of teaching us basic concepts like using a portal, flying our starship, using hyperdrive on our freighter or installing technology modules, I’d prefer adding much more advanced features added to the expeditions that eventually get added into our normal play after the expedition is over. Basically, Hello Games should use expeditions as a preview mode for new features that eventually get rolled up and unlocked for our regular saves. As for these tutorials, the vast majority of players aren’t playing No Man’s Sky for the first time. We already understand all of these basics in abundance. That we must endure a somewhat condescending tutorial gameplay mode just to get some very basic rewards is quite time-wasting and insulting. I’d have preferred a system that turns No Man’s Sky on its head, like allowing us to test out new features before being fully release to all game save modes. As an example, pick a planet and setup a PVP area. Then flatten that area and allow players to use a new unique vehicle to enter a new arena tournament. This allows full on competitive PVP on a specific planet. More than this, allow normal save players (not part of the expedition) to visit and spectate if they choose not to play the expedition. Simply spoon feeding us basics to collect a few low-level rewards seems mostly pointless. Instead, design brand new creative uses of the game engine, worlds and environments… then allow players to use those new areas in completion of an expedition. Better, use expeditions as a pre-release area to entice gamers to want to see what’s new and what’s coming. Another example. Most worlds have large cave systems. Enable some kind of “egg hunt” in the caves of a specific world. Once you collect all of the necessary items and turn them in, you’ll get your expedition reward. This might require a new technology to be equipped on the scanner to allow searching for underground cave hollows. As it is now, it’s almost impossible to locate caves, thus a new technology must be added to the Multitool to allow for locating hollowed areas underground. Such a new Multitool feature would be an excellent use of an expedition to test this tool and get player feedback. Now, I’m not advocating for expeditions to become strictly beta test areas, but pre-releasing fully working, but unreleased ideas allows Hello Games to understand if a feature is a hit or a bomb. No Man’s Sky — 2016 Version When No Man’s Sky (NMS) arrived in 2016, it had no tutorial. Gamers had to learn to play by doing. That’s fine, too. I find that tutorial systems take some of the fun out of learning the mechanics of the game and how far you might be able to take those mechanics. Tutorials teach you a straight-and-narrow approach for an individual mechanic, but it does not at all teach you the ways of using those mechanics in creative and unique new ways… ways that the developers might not have intended or, indeed, understood. No Man’s Sky Expeditions Let’s get into the meat of this review. What exactly is an expedition? To make an analogy, an Expedition is to No Man’s Sky as a Season is to Fortnite… mostly. More than this, an expedition is simply an extended tutorial for No Man’s Sky. There are a number of pluses and minuses to expeditions and that’s what this article intends to uncover. Before we get into the advantages and disadvantages, let’s understand deeper what an expedition further is. Extended Tutorial Yes, a No Man’s Sky expedition is effectively an extended tutorial. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Hello Games takes you on a long-winded, convoluted journey by teaching you how to use, obtain and unlock features in No Man’s Sky in each expedition in an extremely detailed tutorialized way. Along the way, this very long extended tutorial will unlock a few exclusive items such as decals and decorations and an occasional piece of technology. These are both a plus and a minus. If you’re thinking you would like to jump into the latest expedition, understand that it really only serves to teach you, in an almost condescending way, how to do extremely basic things in the game. When you complete a single phase milestone, the game unlocks certain rewards. For example, in Expedition 8 (the current expedition running as of this article), visiting another player’s Freighter (a milestone), the game will give you a full Atlas Pass set, 5 million units and unlock all of the Portal glyphs. Nevermind that you have to find a random gamer, team up with them in a group, then hop aboard their freighter. Other player freighters don’t appear in multiplayer. They only appear after you’ve explicitly teamed up with another player. A hassle, to say the least. Why HG couldn’t have improved the game to allow all active gamer freighters to be visible and visitable without teaming up is unknown. That would have been an exceptional improvement to the game. Almost all of the items that a phase milestone unlocks can usually be had without a phase milestone. It’s that if you perform a specific milestone, you’ll unlock them more quickly and easily in one step. The exceptions here are the expedition exclusive rewards. You can’t easily see which one these are, but you’ll know if you’ve played No Man’s Sky before. In effect, think of an expedition as a way to cheat your way through the game in just a few weeks simply by following the extended tutorial. By cheating, I mean that you get “sets” of basic items unlocked, like the Portal Glyphs, simply by doing a fairly simple thing. In a “Normal” game, it would take you way longer to get these Portal Glyphs. On the flip side, however, the “new” exclusive Expedition rewards require extensive hoop-jumping exercises before the game unlocks these. If it’s an old mechanic, one thing unlocks the entire set. If it’s a new mechanic, expect to spend hours and hours jumping through burning hoops to unlock a couple of silly decals. Advantage: Milestone Rewards As mentioned just above, each phase milestone issues various rewards, most are standard while a few are exclusive to the expedition. While this is technically an advantage, it’s also a disadvantage because the game teaches you to get the basic items simply by performing basic milestones. With exclusives, you can only get these by performing a milestone. With the basics, you can get them by performing the milestone (the fastest way) or by doing standard in-game play (slower). While this is considered mostly an advantage, it honestly teaches the gamer the wrong way to get the basics if you intend to play using a “Normal” save. In other words, to get the basic rewards in a non-expedition save, you’ll have to do a whole lot more work by following the originally designed and intended method. There are no “expedition shortcuts” available in a normal game. Disadvantage: Crap Rewards Likewise, the primary disadvantage of expeditions is that they offer fairly crappy exclusive rewards. What I mean by that is, for example in Expedition 7, the final “big” reward was collecting the Living ‘Leviathan’ Frigate for your frigate fleet. While this frigate is unusual in its looks, it’s really nothing special as a frigate. It doesn’t have any features that are more unique than any other frigate you can find in the game. It’s a living frigate, but beyond that skin on the ship, it offers little unique benefit. In fact, it’s not even really a great frigate in and of itself. I have way better frigates in my fleet than this “reward” frigate. What that means then is spending 6 weeks working your way through achieving 40 different milestones, each taking a substantial amount of time to complete. Then, only to be rewarded with something that isn’t substantially better than what you can buy with a couple million units. You can spend 6 weeks getting this “reward” or you can spend 6 weeks or less gathering enough units to buy several regular frigates, not just one. That’s not say that the unique rewards, such as decals, aren’t somewhat interesting, but it may not be worth spending 6 weeks to complete an expedition that’s effectively a basic, but very extended tutorial. Advantage: Rewards collected on other saves Since the introduction of the Quicksilver shop in the Anomaly station, Hello Games has added the ability to collect expedition rewards for all of your game saves. So long as you play through an expedition, it will unlock unique rewards during that expedition. Thus, your other game saves can also collect those rewards, such as the Leviathan Frigate. That’s cool and all. Again, is it really worth spending 6 weeks just to unlock this reward for another game save? Disadvantage: Starting Over Starting any expedition, you must start a brand new game save. This means starting No Man’s Sky over from scratch with a minimally configured Exosuit, Multitool, Starship and, if given, a Freighter. It also means spending loads of time again collecting resources, units and nanites. It further means you need to collect salvaged data so you can, once again, unlock all of the unlockables at the Anomaly station and it means spending loads of time finding, then unlocking features in the Exosuit, Starship, Multitool, and Freighter. In the case of Expedition 8, this “tutorial” is all about the newly introduced Freighter features. I’ll specifically discuss Expedition 8 more below. This means that Expedition 8 is effectively a very long tutorial to teach you how to unlock rooms in your freighter and build them. As a tutorial, it’s really basic. There’s a huge disadvantage to Expedition 8 in and of itself and I’ll also discuss that below. After about the 3rd time going through an Expedition, the entire having-to-start-over thing gets very old. Being plopped down in a system with hazardous planets and being forced to forage for resources on these annoying planets is at once, time consuming and yet very, very pointless. If you choose to join an Expedition, that’s where you start. Hello Games needs to figure out a way for us to import our character and at least one starship from a previous save into an Expedition save so we can start off with our suits and ships unlocked. Unless the goal is to tutorialize our way through the Exosuit and the Starship, then give us the ability to import those things that make no difference to the Expedition. Why make us continually start over from the beginning when it isn’t needed or relevant? It’s pointless and actually a severe disadvantage to expeditions. It also makes an expedition take way longer than is necessary. Disadvantage: Slots When starting over from scratch, that means minimal slots unlocked on the Exosuit, Multitool, Starship and Freighter… with the Freighter being the most difficult to unlock and the Exosuit being the most expensive. You can wait through achieving milestones to unlock some Exosuit and Multitool slots or you can buy your way into unlocking them. During Expedition 8, I needed my Exosuit slots unlocked much, much faster than the milestones were offering. There were simply not enough slots given on the Freighter or Starship or Exosuit to proceed. I decided not to wait and paid 6 million units to buy 72 Drop Pod Coordinate Data, which I randomly found at a single Trade Terminal vendor. I’d already paid to unlock all of the “General” slots by visiting space stations and the anomaly station. These slots are relatively cheap to unlock with the most expensive costing around 220,000 units. The only slots left unlocked are the incredibly expensive “Cargo” slots. I could spend a million or more units to unlock 1 slot at a time (after the first two or three) or I can pay 6 million units and chase down Drop Pods on a planet. I chose the latter. I found a suitable anomaly “mushroom” planet, which has perfect weather and few sentinels. Then, I went to work with my trusty Signal Booster. Just craft this bad boy and drop it on the ground. Then use it to locate a Drop Pod using one of the purchased Drop Pod Coordinate Data items each time. Rinse and repeat. I did this maybe 45 times or however many slots were locked. It’s also way faster to do it this way than hyper traveling to system after system to unlock them at new space stations. After I finished unlocking all Cargo slots, I proceeded to unlock the remaining Technology slots. That left me with 26 unused Drop Pod Coordinate Data items. I sold them back for 3 million units. To unlock almost every single Cargo slot and half of my Technology slots cost me around 3 million units all told… way, way cheaper than purchasing Cargo slots from a bunch of newly discovered space stations. In fact, if I had paid at space stations, I’d have spent maybe 20-50 million in total to unlock all of the Cargo slots. No. Using Drop Pod Coordinate Data is the cheapest and fastest way to unlock Cargo slots… and, it can be done on one single docile planet. In my case, unlocking that number of slots took me around 2 hours of real time. It’s pretty monotonous and repetitive, but once it’s done you don’t need to do it again. Expedition 8: Polestar Let’s review this latest expedition. With Expedition 8: Polestar, Hello Games has introduced some questionable new additions to the Freighter that really offer no added value to the game or to the freighter itself. To reiterate, these new freighter room additions really add no substantial value to the overall game. In fact, the building additions dumb down parts of the game so much as to take the game in a completely wrong direction. Building and Freighters Building in No Man’s Sky has always been about using a construction kit and then placing specific technology objects wherever the player chooses. It’s a creative and rewarding endeavor because the player can use these objects in creative and interesting ways. The construction kits offer basic room designs that can be placed in unique layouts, including upper and lower floors. Unfortunately, Hello Games has taken a huge step backwards with this latest freighter update. Gone is the basic room construction kit in the freighter and in replacement we get dumbed down and stupid single purpose rooms. Worse, though, is that these single purpose rooms are unconfigurable. Meaning, you must plop the room down as a whole as is. Gone is the empty room where you can place technology objects creatively. Now it’s just a single purpose whole room. Nothing creative at all about that. Worse, Hello Games has decided to force the player to unlock these rooms from the freighter configuration area using Salvaged Frigate Modules (a form of in-game currency). Unfortunately, bar none, these modules are the single most difficult items (and currency) to locate in the game world. The only way to obtain them is by random spawn only. The chances of one of these spawning is probably 1 time out of 50, with the odds perhaps even higher than that. Meaning, it’s rare that these will spawn. They can’t be purchased at all with any other more abundant currency, such as units or nanites. Nope. You must spend loads of time grinding in and around places that may or may not randomly spawn them. Prior to this latest update, there were limited unlocks that required the need for the Salvaged Frigate Module currency. Since this update, there are many, many new items that now require them. Yet, Hello Games has not improved the spawn rate of these modules or made them easier to locate, making this Freighter update (and this expedition) at best a chore to complete. Worse, few of the expedition rewards offer Salvaged Frigate Modules as rewards. When they do, it’s between one and three at most, when the game ultimately requires around 15-20 of them to unlock all of the rooms, not counting the need for at least that many again to unlock hyperdrive add-ons and other useful freighter features. When you’re playing outside of an expedition, you could spend several weeks and chase down only a handful of Salvaged Frigate Modules. Yes, they’re that rare. Hello Games did a complete disservice to us with this update. Not only are these rooms almost 100% pointless to unlock as they don’t increase the freighter’s usefulness (thus wasting Salvaged Frigate Modules), the game itself is worse because of the new dumbed down building system combined with the need for even more Salvaged Frigate Modules to unlock these new features. Overall, Endurance (the name of the update) is probably one of the crappiest updates Hello Games has dropped for No Man’s Sky. New Rooms vs Old Why is it so crappy? Because these new rooms don’t play well with one another, but more importantly, with the older legacy rooms. When you put these new rooms side by side with an older room, there are too many glitches and visual problems. Sometimes, the game leaves huge gaping holes. Yes, it’s that bad. It’s also crappy because of the dumbed down building. With a game that includes building features, we don’t want single use rooms. We want a construction kit that offers creative building options. By dumbing down the construction in this way, Hello Games clearly doesn’t understand what us as gamers want from a building mode. Though, Hello Games was on the right track with the newest construction kit add-on for bases, these new one-use rooms in the freighter are a huge step backward for the game. Freighter Improvement? That’s the question, does this update greatly improve the freighter? No. Why? The freighter’s two main purposes include 1) being a starship garage and 2) launching frigate missions. That’s really the entire purposes of a freighter. With this update, nothing’s changed. The freighter’s usefulness is still limited to those two purposes. It’s far easier to equip your Starship for long distance hyperdrive travel using easier-to-obtain Nanites than trying to chase down rare Salvaged Frigate Modules only to get maybe half the distance with a freighter. No. The way to hyperdrive travel long distances in No Man’s Sky is still by using a starship. You simply cannot equip a freighter to achieve the hyperdrive distances that a starship can when properly equipped with technology modules. Freighters still do not offer enough technology modules in this or any other area. With Endurance, we are once again forced to run around re-buying and re-unlocking all of the technology we had already spent weeks unlocking for base building. Instead, Hello Games has firmly separated base building from freighter building to the detriment of No Man’s Sky. Freighter and base building should remain interlocked using the exact same features. If there’s a zone where you can build, all building construction tools should be available in every location. Instead, now we have these stupid one-use rooms that only work on a freighter and which also make zero sense. This change effectively takes the fun of building out of the game. Base Building The bigger problem is that, eventually, Hello Games will pull these single purpose rooms down into planetary base building. It doesn’t make sense to support two completely separate build systems. Eventually, Hello Games will want to marry this newer room based build system onto all build zones. What that means is that eventually base building will inherit this single use room concept, doing away with all of the current structures and technology by replacing them with these insipid all-in-one rooms. For a game with construction capabilities, this really takes No Man’s Sky too far backwards. If you’re planning to take building back this far and dumb it down this much, then simply take building out of the game entirely. There’s no purpose in offering single purpose rooms and calling it “building”. Plopping down a handful of single purpose rooms is not considered in-game building. There’s nothing at all creative about that. Creation comes from construction kits, not from single pre-configured rooms. This idea as a huge mistake and it is also badly implemented. In short, it’s an extremely disappointing move for No Man’s Sky. Should I play No Man’s Sky Expeditions? It depends. For Expedition 8, I’d suggest not. The Freighter additions are ultimately pointless and useless. With the exception of one thing, the Singularity Drive. This drive might be worth playing through to get this. Unfortunately, to get this drive, you have to play through Phases 1-4 and parts of Phase 5 to unlock it. There are still questions surrounding this drive, though. Since it’s a Singularity Drive, that means it likely uses the same jump mechanism as a black hole. When you traverse through a black hole in No Man’s Sky, technology ends up breaking once you emerge. This means repairing technology after using a black hole and likely after using the Singularity Drive. I’ve stopped using this mode of travel because 1) it’s too random, 2) it doesn’t really get that much closer to the center and 3) technology breaks after using it. Traveling through a black hole is like circling a drain. You pop a teeny bit closer to the center, but you’re still just circling. It takes hundreds of hops through a black hole to get you even the tiniest bit closer to the center. It’s really, really pointless and it means repairing lots of technology with wiring looms along the way. Outfitting your starship with the longest light year jump distance is really the best way to get to the center of the galaxy. It also avoids the broken technology problem each time you jump. I really despise it when Hello Games insists on breaking technology on the ship after using a jump technology. It’s such a complete waste of time and resources. Also keep in mind that the Polestar expedition is entirely designed as a tutorial to teach you about these pointless freighter add-ons. Since the freighter itself isn’t drastically improved by these additions, I can’t recommend playing Polestar. Play if you like, but don’t expect great things if you do. I also find that the rewards from the expeditions don’t match the time and energy expended to get through the milestones. While the rewards are “nice to haves”, they’re not ultimately required to play the game. That’s partly because Hello Games knows there’s no other way to get these rewards other than completing an expedition that eventually ends and may never return. That means that if you never play a single expedition, you’re locked out of those expedition rewards. You can’t unlock them in any other way than by playing the expeditions. Ultimately, that means that the rewards offered by playing an expedition must ultimately remain inconsequential to any other game saves you may already have. This is why most of the rewards consist of posters or decals or other cosmetic items to decorate your base, with only one or two rewards being even moderately functional items. Completed [Updated Aug 6, 2022] I’ve recently completed Expedition Polestar. I didn’t complete the “Optional” milestone because it is a pointless multiplayer exercise that does nothing to help this expedition succeed; with its reward of 5 million units, unlocking of 16 glyphs and Atlas Pass set. The extra units are actually the most useful portion of this milestone, but units can be had in so many better ways than this. Unlocking the portal glyphs and the Atlas passes are entirely pointless as they are unneeded. After completion of Expedition Polestar, there are still a large number of unresolved problems. The first problem is that while Starship Hyperdrive plans are unlocked, the red, green and blue drives are not! This means that your Starship is limited to yellow star systems only, forcing you to unlock all of the drives for the freighter ?!?? This also means that even though you have completed the expedition, the game is still nowhere near close to a “normal” save game mode. Secondarily and more importantly, the base computer remains locked with no way to unlock it. This precludes any base building after completing Expedition Polestar. Worthless! I don’t know if the lack of unlocking these items was a simple oversight on the part of Hello Games or if they’re intentional. Either way, the left over save is pointless. Not only can you not build bases after you’ve completed this expedition, you can’t mine for resources on planets. This means you’re stuck using your crappy multitool alone to continue to gather resources from resource piles on planets. A complete waste of time and effort. Some may think that these plans might get unlocked after the expedition clock times out weeks later, but I doubt it. If it hasn’t unlocked by the end of the expedition as part of the expedition, it’s never likely to unlock for that expedition save. If you’re thinking of playing this expedition with the intent you can continue to use this game save after, you likely won’t want to. Even the biggest reward, the Singularity Drive, is more of a gimmick than it is useful. I wouldn’t suggest playing this expedition strictly for the Singularity Drive. It’s really not worth it for that. In fact, it seems Hello Games has been giving us ever crappier rewards (and saves) for each successive expedition. To be honest, this is not only the single crappiest update for No Man’s Sky, Expedition Polestar is the single crappiest expedition to date. There’s nothing really of value to be had from these Freighter additions. In fact, these additions are so bad as to take the game back to a worse state than before the update… not just from a bugs perspective, but also from the single-purpose room building that Hello Games has now foisted onto us. There’s really very little that’s redeeming about this expedition overall. Recommended: No Stars: 1.5 out of 5 Play Value: 1.5 out of 5 Overall Rating: 1.5 out of 5 Overall Comment: Don’t play expeditions unless you really enjoy condescending tutorials that take forever and offer mostly pointless rewards. ↩︎ ## Are Nielsen Ratings Accurate? Posted in botch, ratings, television by commorancy on June 9, 2022 This article seeks to show that how Nielsen Media Research chooses its ratings families may alter the accuracy of the Nielsen’s ratings. More than this, this article seeks to uncover just how antiquated and unreliable Nielsen’s household rating system actually is. Let’s explore. What is Nielsen? I’ll give a small synopsis here, but Wikipedia does a much better job at describing who and what Nielsen Media Research (one of this company’s many names) is. For all intents and purposes, I will refer to Nielsen Media Research as simply Nielsen for the purpose of this article. Nielsen is a research group who seeks to identify how viewers, among other avenues of information that they gather, watch Television. During the 70s, this was the primary means by which TV executives learned the ratings fate of their television programs. How does Nielsen work? Nielsen still relies on its Nielsen households to provide the vast majority of its television ratings information. It does this by sending out unsolicited mail to households around the country attempting to solicit a household into becoming a Nielsen household. By using this moniker, it means the family who resides at a specific household must do certain things to not only participate in the Nielsen program, but must also provide feedback to Nielsen around its viewing habits. How does Nielsen collect its ratings information? According to Nielsen’s own site, it says the following: To measure TV audiences and derive our viewing metrics (i.e., ratings, reach, frequency), we use proprietary electronic measuring devices and software to capture what content, network or station viewers are watching on each TV and digital devices in the homes of our Nielsen Families. In total, we measure hundreds of networks, hundreds of stations, thousands of programs and millions of viewers. In the U.S., electronic measuring devices and millions of cable/satellite boxes are used to provide local market-level viewing behaviors, enabling the media marketplace to gain a granular view of TV audiences. What that means is that, as a Nielsen household, they will send you a device and/or require you to install certain software on your existing devices which will “measure” your viewing habits. In other words, they spy on what you’re watching and it reports back to Nielsen what you specifically watched and for how long. For example, Nielsen might install software onto your smart TV device, Roku, TiVO, Apple TV or possibly even your cable TV provider’s supplied box. Nielsen may even be willing to supply you with their own device, which you will place in-line with your existing TV and devices. It does say “devices and software”, meaning one or both can be used. Rural vs Urban Typically, larger urban city areas tend to vote Democrat more often than Republican. These urban areas are also typically more densely populated. On the flip side, rural areas tend to vote Republican more often than Democrat. Why is this information important? It’s important to understand these facts because it can drastically alter the accuracy of Nielsen’s ratings. Let’s understand why. For participating in being a Nielsen household, you’re given a stipend. In other words, you’re paid for this service. Let’s understand more about this pay. You’re paid around$10 a month to participate. If you remain a Nielsen household for a certain period, around 6 months, Nielsen will pay you a bonus. All told, for 6 months of service, a Nielsen household will receive around $200. Here’s where the Urban vs Rural comes into play. Rural areas tend to be more depressed economically. Meaning, income is generally less and the need for extra money is, therefore, higher. Urban areas tend to boom more economically meaning the need for extra money is, therefore, lessened. If a rural household receives a card inviting them to become part of the Nielsen family, explaining all of the “benefits” (including the pay), rural viewers are much more likely to take Nielsen up on their pitch. It seems easy enough to get paid simply for watching TV. On the other hand, urban areas are less likely to take Nielsen up on their offer not only because the pay is so low, but because urban viewers are much more savvy around their privacy. Who would intentionally invite a company into your household to spy on you, even for money? One might say, well there’s Alexa. Alexa offers benefits to the user far greater than what Nielsen provides. Nielsen provides spying for cash. Alexa offers app features, smart house features, music, calling features, recipe helpers, and the list goes on. Nielsen’s device(s) and software(s) don’t provide those much extended features. Nielsen’s spying is one tracked and only helps out TV executives. I might add that those TV executives PAY Nielsen to gain access to this information. Which means that if you’re a Nielsen household, you’re getting paid out of money collected from TV executives. In effect, it is the TV executives who effectively sign your Nielsen paycheck that you receive. I digress. Random Solicitation Make no mistake, Nielsen solicits households through a random mail selection process. It sends pitch cards out to inform and solicit households to participate. They may even include a crisp$1 bill to entice the household. Nielsen knows that a certain percentage of people will take Nielsen up on their offer to participate in the program.

The difficulty is that this selection process relies on random chance for whomever chooses to participate. This goes back to Urban vs Rural argument. Because depressed areas are more “hard up” for cash, they are more likely to take Nielsen up on their offer than Urban areas, who urban viewers are not only likely to be mistrustful of spying using digital devices, these people also don’t necessarily need the small-ish amount of cash that Nielsen is offering… considering the amount of time required to watch TV (and do whatever else Nielsen requires). Yes, Nielsen requires you to watch TV to participate. The whole thing doesn’t work unless you actually watch TV.

This ultimately means that it is more likely rural Republican areas of the country are over represented in Nielsen’s households and equally likely Democrat areas to be under-represented in Nielsen’s ratings. While Nielsen has no control over who chooses to accept the “Nielsen Household” solicitation, Nielsen does control the parameters to entice people into the program. Thus, their parameters are skewed toward lower income households, which are likely to be in predominantly rural areas.

In other words, depressed rural areas are far more likely to need the extra cash and be willing to jump through Nielsen’s hoops than more affluent urban areas. That’s not to say that there won’t be a percentage of viewers in urban areas as some households in those areas may elect to participate.

Disposable Income

Urban areas can be a bit more affluent than rural areas. Urban area residents may have more in disposable income, but also because it’s a larger city, it has more entertainment options. This means entertainment options besides watching TV. When you live in a small rural town, entertainment options can be extremely limited even if disposable income is available. Rural townships tend to encourage more TV watching more often than urban areas where night clubs, restaurants, theme parks, opera, live theater events, shopping and large cinemas are common. More entertainment options means less need to watch TV as often.. except for specific shows.

Thus, urban viewers are less likely to want to participate in Nielsen’s household program than rural viewers, whose entertainment options may be limited by both what’s available near them and by their disposable income.

Extrapolation

Here’s the crux of Nielsen’s problems. Based on the over and under represented areas due to Nielsen’s flawed selection process, they attempt to make up for this by extrapolating data. Regardless of how the households may be skewed, Nielsen intends to extrapolate its data anyway.

Nielsen estimates that it has around 42,000 households participating in 2022. Though, I’d venture to guess that that number is not completely accurate. I’d suggest Nielsen may have perhaps half that number actively participating at any one time. There might be 42,000 households signed up as a Nielsen household, but likely only a fraction actively participate at any specific moment in time.

For example, not every household will watch a specific sporting event when it’s on. Only those who truly enjoy watching a specific football game might be watching a specific game. This could drop that 42,000 households down to under 5,000 viewers. If it’s a local sporting event, it could drop that number down well below 1,000 and maybe even below 200 actively watching.

200 equals 1 million, 5 million, 100 million?

How does this affect the ratings? Good question. Only Nielsen really knows. The problem is, as I stated above, Nielsen uses extrapolation.

What is extrapolation? Extrapolation is the process of using 1 viewer to represent many viewers. How many is a matter of debate. It is a process that Nielsen has employed for many years, and it is highly inaccurate. It makes the assumption that for every one viewer watching, there will be a specific number also watching. How many are extrapolated is really up to Nielsen. Nielsen must come up with those numbers and herein lies the inaccuracy.

Effectively, Nielsen fudges the numbers to appear great (or poor) depending on how it decides to cull the number together. In other words, extrapolation is an exceedingly poor and inaccurate way to determine actual viewership numbers. Yet, here we are.

Digital Media Streaming

With digital streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Crackle… more specifically, devices such as DVRs like TiVO and devices like Apple TV, Nielsen’s numbers may be somewhat more accurate when using these devices. However, one thing is certain. Nielsen still doesn’t have 100% accuracy because it doesn’t have 100% of every TV household participating.

Again, Nielsen’s numbers may be somewhat more accurate because we now have active digital streaming devices, but Nielsen still employs extrapolation to inflate the data they collect. Nielsen takes the numbers they collect, then guess at how many might be watching based on each single viewer’s behaviors.

Why Extrapolation over Interpolation?

Interpolation requires two distinct sets of data points in which to fill in the interior data gap between those two sets. Filling in data between two distinct sets of data is a bit more accurate than attempting to guess at data points outside of them.

With viewership numbers, it’s only one set of data at a single point in time. Everything that is gleaned from that single set of data is always considered “outside” or “extrapolated” data. There’s nothing in a single data set to interpolate. You have 42,000 households. You have a smaller number watching a TV program at any point in time. That’s all there is.

If Nielsen ran two unique and separate sets of 42,000 households of viewers (a total of 84,000 viewers), interpolation would be possible between those to separate sets of 42,000. Nielsen doesn’t utilize this technique, thus making interpolation of its collected data is impossible.

How Accurate is Extrapolation?

Not very. I’ll point to this StackExchange article to explain the details as to exactly why. In short, the larger the number gets outside of the original sample size, the larger the margin for error… to the point where the error outweighs the value of the extrapolation.

[Extrapolation] is a theoretical result, at least for linear regression. Indeed, if one computes the so-called ”prediction error” (see this link, slide 11), one can easily see that the further the independent variable 𝑥 is away from the sample average 𝑥¯ (and for extrapolation one may be far away), the larger the prediction error. In the link that I referred to one can also see that in a graphical way.

In a system where there is no other option, such as during the 70s when computers were room-sized devices, extrapolation may have been the only choice. Today, with palm sized internet enabled phones containing compute power orders of magnitudes faster than many of those 70s room-size computers, continuing to use extrapolation honestly makes zero sense… especially when accuracy is exceedingly important and, indeed, required.

Extrapolation Examples

If 1 Nielsen viewer represents 1,000 viewers extrapolated (1:1,000), then 100 Nielsen households watching suggests 100,000 viewers may actually be watching. If 100 Nielsen viewers watch a program and each household represents 100,000 viewers (1:100,000), then this suggests 10,000,000 viewers may be watching. Just by changing the ratio, Nielsen can alter how many it suggests may be watching. Highly inaccurate and completely beholden to Nielsen making up these ratios. As stated above, the larger the number diverges from the original sample size, the larger the margin of error… possibly making this data worthless.

These suggested extrapolated viewership numbers do not actually mean that that many viewers were, in reality, watching. In fact, the real viewership number may be far, far lower than the extrapolated numbers suggest. This is why extrapolation is a bad, bad practice. Extrapolation is always error prone and usually in the wrong way. It makes too many assumptions that are more than likely to be wrong.

Unless the person doing the extrapolation has additional data points which logically suggest a specific ratio is at play, then it’s all “best guess” and “worst error”.

How many businesses would choose run their corporation on “best guess”? Yet, that’s exactly what TV executives are doing when they “rely” (and I use this term loosely) on Nielsen.

Biased

Even above the fact that extrapolation has no real place in business, because of its highly inaccurate and “best guess” nature, these numbers can be highly biased. Why? Because of the Urban vs Rural acceptance rates.

Unless Nielsen explicitly goes out of their way to take the under vs over represented nature of Nielsen households into account when extrapolating, what Nielsen suggests is even more inaccurate than I even suggest just from the use of extrapolation alone.

CNN vs Fox News

CNN has tended to be a more liberal and, thus, a Democrat favorable news organization. Though, I’d say CNN tends to be more moderate in its liberal Democrat leanings. Fox News, on the other hand, makes no bones about their viewpoint. Fox News is quite far right and Republican in too much of its of leanings. Fox News is not always as far right as, for example, Alex Jones or other extremist right media. However, some of its leanings can be as far right as some quite far right media. Here’s an image from the Pew Research Center that visually explains what I’m describing:

Whether Pew’s research and datapoints are spot on, I’ll leave that for you to decide. I’ve reviewed this chart and believe it to be mostly accurate in terms of each outlet’s political leanings. Though, I personally have found PBS to be somewhat closer to the “Average Respondent” location than this chart purports… which is why even Pew might not have this chart 100% correct. For the purpose of CNN, Fox News and Hannity, I’ve found this chart to be spot on.

As you can see in the chart above, Fox News itself is considered a right leaning news organization, but not far off of center at around a 2. However, the Sean Hannity show is considered just as far right as Breitbart at about 6-7. CNN is considered slightly left leaning at around a 1 (less left leaning than Fox News is right leaning at 2).

What does all this mean for Nielsen? It means that those who are Republican, which tends to include more rural viewers than urban, those rural viewers tend to be conservative. Because Nielsen is more likely to see participation from rural viewers than urban viewers, due to its enticement practices, this skews Nielsen’s accuracy towards conservative viewership and away from liberal viewership. Nielsen’s enticement practice isn’t the only problem which can lead to this skew, though.

Meaning, Fox News viewership numbers as stated by Nielsen may be highly overestimated and inaccurate. Quantifying that more specifically, Fox News viewers may be over-represented where CNN viewers may be severely under-represented. It further means that unless Nielsen actually realizes this liberal vs conservative under vs over representation disparity in its Nielsen households (respectively) and, thus, alters its extrapolated numbers accordingly, then its viewership numbers published for CNN vs Fox News are highly suspect and are likely to be highly inaccurate.

Worse, Fox News is owned by Rupert Murdoch. Because this man is in it for the cash that he can milk from the Fox News network, he’s more than willing to pay-for-play. Meaning, if he can get companies to favor Fox News by asking them for favors in exchange for money, he (or one of his underlings) will do it. Murdoch can then make more money because more advertisers will flock to Fox News under the guise of more viewership. Fake viewership is most definitely lucrative. Because Nielsen extrapolates data, this makes faking data extremely easy.

Unlike YouTube where Google has no reason to lie about its reported views, Fox News has every reason to lie about its viewership, particularly if it can game other companies into complying with its wishes.

Nielsen Itself

Nielsen purports to offer objective data. Yet, we know that businesses are helmed by fallible human CEOs who have their own viewpoints and political leanings and who are in it for the money. One only needs to look at Rupert Murdoch and Fox News to understand this problem. Some CEOs also choose to micromanage their company’s products. Meaning, if Nielsen’s current CEO is micromanaging its ratings product, which is also likely to be Nielsen’s highest moneymaking product, then it’s entirely possible that the ratings being reported are biased, particularly in light of the above about Rupert Murdoch (who is also a Republican).

Conflict of Interest

When money gets involved, common sense goes out the window. What I mean by this statement is that since TV executives / networks pay Nielsen to receive its ratings results periodically, Nielsen is beholden to its customers. The word “beholden” can have many meanings in this “sales” context. Typically in business, “beholden” means the more you pay, the more you get. In the case of Nielsen, it’s possible that paying more to Nielsen potentially means that business may get more / better ratings. That sort of breaks the “objective” context of Nielsen’s data service. It’s called “Conflict of Interest”.

In essence, in this case it could represent a pay-for-play solution, a true conflict of interest. There’s honestly no way to know what deals Nielsen has brokered with its clients, or more specifically with Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Network. Most companies who do sales deals keep those details close to the vest and under non-disclosure binding contracts. The only way these deals ever get exposed is during court trials when those contracts can become discovery evidence for a trial. Otherwise, they remain locked in digital filing cabinets between both parties. Even then, such contracts are very unlikely to contain words disclosing any “back room” verbal handshake deals discussed. Those deal details will be documented in a separate system or set of systems describing how to handle that customer’s account.

Let me count the ways

There are many problems in the Nielsen’s rating services that may lead to highly inaccurate information being released. Let’s explore them:

1. Nielsen’s solicitation of households can easily lead to bias due to its probability of luring in people who are hard up for cash (e.g., rural Republicans) vs those who are not (e.g., urban Democrats).
2. Nielsen’s products and software spy on knowing users about viewership habits. Spying of any variety is usually viewed with skepticism and disdain, especially these days and especially by certain types of people in the population (usually liberal leaning individuals). Rural Republicans are less likely to understand the ramifications of this spying (and more willing to accept it) than urban Democrats (who tend to be more likely to work in tech based businesses and who see this type of spying as too intrusive).
3. Nielsen’s numbers are “fortified” using extrapolation. Fortified is a nice way of saying “padded”. By padding their numbers, Nielsen staff can basically gyrate the numbers any way they want and make any channels viewership numbers look any particular way. Which ties directly into…
4. Nielsen sells its ratings product to TV producers and networks. Because these deals are brokered separately for varying amounts of money, the network who pays the most is likely to see the best results (i.e., pay-for-play).
5. Nielsen moved away from its “on paper” auditing system to the use of digital device auditing. Because Nielsen removed the human factor from this ratings equation (and fired people as a result), it also means that fewer and fewer people can see the numbers to know what they truly are (or at least were before the extrapolation). Fewer people seeing the numbers means higher chances of fabrication.

Looking at all of these above, it’s easy to see how Nielsen’s numbers could be seriously inaccurate, possibly even intentionally. I won’t go so far as to say, fake, although that’s entirely possible.  However, because Nielsen employs extrapolation, it would be easy for a Nielsen staffer (or even Nielsen’s very CEO) to make up anything they want and justify it based on its “proprietary” extrapolation techniques. Meaning, numbers stated for any network’s viewership could be entirely fabricated by Nielsen, possibly even at a network’s request or possibly even as part of that network’s deal with Nielsen.

In fact, fabrication is possible based entirely on number 4 above. A TV network could pay significantly to make sure their network and their programming is always rated the highest, at least until they stop paying for it. With Nielsen’s extrapolation system and when data can get played fast and loose, it’s entirely possible for such a sales scenario to manifest.

Why are Nielsen’s Numbers Important?

Advertising. That’s the #1 reason. Companies using TV advertising wish to invest their advertising dollars into channels with the highest viewership. The higher, the better. Nielsen’s ratings are, therefore, indicative that a higher ratings share means higher viewership. The problem is, Nielsen’s extrapolation gets in the way of that. Regardless of whether or not cheating or fabrication is involved, the sheer fact that extrapolation is used should be considered a problem.

The only thing Nielsen really knows is that of the 42,000 Nielsen households that it has devices in, only a fraction of those households watched a given program or channel at any specific time. Meaning, the real numbers of viewership from Nielsen offers a maximum of 42,000 viewers at any moment in time… no where close to the millions that they claim. Any number higher than 42,000 is always considered fabricated whether extrapolation or any other means is used to inflate that number.

That companies like Procter and Gamble rely on those 42,000 Nielsen households to determine whether to invest perhaps millions of dollars in advertising on a channel is suspect. That companies have been doing this since the 70s is a much bigger problem.

In the 70s, when there was no other way to really determine TV viewership, Nielsen’s system may have held some measure of value, even though it used extrapolation. However, in 2022 with live always-on internet enabled phone, tablet, computer, game console and other smart TV devices, measuring actual live viewers seems quite feasible directly from each device tuned in. If someone is live streaming CNN over the Internet, for example, it’s not hard to determine and count this at all. If hundreds of people are streaming, that should be easy to count. If millions, it’s also easy. Why extrapolate when you can use real numbers?

The days of extrapolation should have long ended, replaced by live viewer tallies from various digital streaming devices, such as phones, computers and Apple TVs. Whether these devices are allowed to phone home to provide that data, that’s on each viewer to decide. If the viewer wishes to opt-in to allowing their viewership metrics to be shared with each TV station, then that’s far more realistic viewership numbers than Nielsen’s extrapolated numbers. If they opt-out, then those stations can’t see the numbers. Opting in and out should be the choice of the viewer.

That’s where privacy meets data sharing. Some people simply don’t want any of their private data to be shared with companies… and that’s okay. That then means some level of extrapolation (there’s that word again) must be used to attempt inflate the numbers accordingly.

Let’s consider that 42,000 is 0.01273% of 330 million. That’s trying to represent the entire population of TV viewers in the United States from less than 0.01% of people watching. Insane! With always-on digital devices, if 10% opt out, that’s still provides 90% more accurate viewership numbers than relying on Nielsen’s tiny number of households. Which means there’s way less amount of data to attempt to extrapolate. That advertisers don’t get this point is really surprising.

Auditing

You might think, “Well, isn’t Nielsen audited?”

Most companies dealing with numbers are typically audited. Unfortunately, I’ve found that working in a tech business which sees regular audits can still have fabrication. How? Because those who work on the technical side of the house are not those who get audited. Meaning, those systems administrators who maintain the logs and records (i.e. databases) aren’t under the scrutiny that the financial side of the house gets.

If it relates to money and sales, auditing of the accounting books is a regular occurrence and must uphold specific standards due to legal requirements. Auditing when it relates to anything else is catch-as-catch-can, particularly when laws don’t exist. Meaning, the auditors must rely on the statements of staffers to be accurate. There’s no way for an auditor to know if something has or hasn’t been fabricated when viewing a log.

Worse, if the company employs a proprietary algorithm (read private) to manage its day to day operations, auditors typically are unable to break through its proprietary nature to understand if there’s a problem afoot. In other words, auditors must take what’s told to them at face value. This is why auditing is and can be a highly inaccurate profession. I should also point out that auditing isn’t really intended to uncover treachery and deception. It’s intended to document what a company states about specific questions, whether true or false. Treachery and deception may fall out of an audit, but usually only if legal action is brought against the company.

In the case of money, it’s easy to audit records of both the company and third parties to ensure the numbers match. In the case of proprietary data, there’s no such records to perform this sort of matching. What an auditor sees is what they must accept as genuine. The only real way that such deception and fabrication becomes known is if an employee performing such fabrication blows the whistle. An independent auditor likely won’t be able to find it without a whistleblower. Because jobs tend to be “on the line” around such matters, employees are usually told what they can and cannot say to an auditor by their boss. Meaning, the boss might be acutely aware of the fabrication and may instruct their employees not to talk about it, even if directly asked.

In fact, employees performing such fabrication of data may intentionally be shielded from audits, instead throwing employees who have no knowledge at the auditors. It’s called, plausible deniability.

Overall

None of the above is intended to state that Nielsen fabricates numbers maliciously. However, know that extrapolation of data is actually the art of data fabrication. It takes lower numbers and then applies some measure of logic and reasoning that “makes sense” to deduce a larger number. For example, if one person complains of a problem, it’s guaranteed a number of other people have also encountered the same exact problem, but didn’t complain.

The art is in deducing how many didn’t complain. That’s extrapolation by using logic and reasoning to deduce the larger number. Extrapolation clearly isn’t without errors. Everyone who deals in extrapolation knows there’s a margin of error, which might be as high as 10% or possibly higher and which grows as the extrapolation data size increases.

Are Nielsen’s ratings numbers accurate? Not when you’re talking about 42,000 households attempting to represent the around 122 million households with TVs. This data doesn’t even include digital phones, tablets and computers which are capable of streaming TV… which smartphones alone account for about 7.26 billion devices. Yes, billion. In the United States, the number of smart phone owners is around 301 million. There are more smart phones in existence in the United States (and the rest of the world) than there are TV’s in people’s homes.

So, exactly why does Nielsen continue to cling to its extremely outdated business model? Worse, why do advertisers still rely on it? 🤷‍♂️

↩︎

## Rant: Fallout 76 Event — Invaders from Beyond

Posted in botch, video game design, video gaming by commorancy on March 11, 2022

On the close of the Fasnacht event, not a week later Bethesda launches Invaders from Beyond, a new limited time “seasonal” Fallout 76 event. Let’s explore.

Since the inception of Fallout 76 (and indeed, the Fallout franchise), hints at aliens have been littered throughout the lore. However, Bethesda has now taken the leap and created a full fledged event out of aliens. Too bad they released this just a month or so after the alien invasion in Grand Theft Auto. This one feels like Bethesda is ripping off Rockstar.

The event begins with a round typical saucer ship hovering overhead. The aliens are typical and what you might typically expect when you think of an alien, but a bit more menacing looking with jagged teeth. There are some in power armor. There are also robotic floating drones, for whatever reason.

Fallout 76 has hinted at the presence of aliens with the inclusion of the Alien Blaster weapon since the launch of the game. This weapon could be found in Toxic Valley in a sunken and broken safe, along with a few other items and a key since day one of the game. This weapon, unfortunately, has always been more of a joke than useful. In fact, it still is. Additionally, while a small amount of AB rounds of ammo have been available in the game, it could never be crafted. Thus, you had to get the plan to convert the Alien Blaster to use Fusion Cells, which could be crafted.

Unfortunately, the conversion to using Fusion Cells with the Alien Blaster heavily nerfs the damage output of this pistol, making it effectively worthless for in-game use. Even with the AB rounds, it’s not that powerful.

With the introduction of the Invaders from Beyond event, the Alien Blaster Pistol and the new Alien Disintegrator Rifle plans now drop as potential loot from this event. In addition, not only can the weapon plans drop, so to do the mod plans that go with them adding cryo or poison damage to the each gun’s energy damage, in addition to some other limited mods.

Additionally, there are a number of CAMP decoration plans which can drop, such as Alien Autopsy Bed, Alien and Human Tubes, an Asteroid and an Alien Stashbox. Because of the new Alien Disintegrator addition, Bethesda has unlocked crafting of AB ammo, which works in both the Alien Blaster and the Alien Disintegrator.

Unfortunately, Bethesda forgot to unlock AB round creation in the CAMP ArmCo Ammo appliance and supplying AB rounds in the Ammo Converter appliance. This is currently Bethesda’s half-assed method of operation. Unlock something new in one place, like the Tinker’s bench, but then forget all about all of the other places where it also needs to be supported.

Bethesda did this same shtick with Fallout 1st members. Sure, Bethesda gives us an infinite Scrapbox with Fallout 1st, but then conveniently forgets to support Fallout 1st members at train stations by adding Scrapboxes there. Fallout 1st members should be considered “premium” players. First members are actively paying monthly for that service. Yet, Bethesda still treats Fallout 1st members as second class players, giving priority to non-1st players. It makes zero sense. I digress.

Locations for the Event

This event, unlike Fasnacht which spawns only in Helvetia, spawns in a number of different locations on the map. The multiple event location is both a good and bad thing.

The good thing is that it prevents players from nuking the area in advance of the event. Though, they could wait and nuke the location immediately after the event starts. It’s possible, though, that the event disallows nuking while active. I haven’t tried nuking the area with the event active to find out.

The bad thing is that one of the locations entirely sucks when playing this event.

The event locations are as follows:

• Dyer Chemical (The Mire)
• Charleston (Forest)
• Sparse Sundew Grove (Cranberry Bog)
• Garrahan Mining HQ / Garrahan Estate (Ash Heap)
• Monongah (Savage Divide)
• Wavy Willard’s (Toxic Valley)

Couldn’t they have chosen some better locations? These locations really do suck overall.

The event claims to be “Easy”, but that is all dependent on the player and the location where it spawns. It also depends on your character’s build. For example, Sparse Sundew Grove is the most difficult location, but only because the plants are like rocks and immovable. What I mean is that, unlike most plants in most games (and in real life) which move out of the way when you intend to shove past, you know like plants actually do, these plants do not move. The game offers no physics on these plants at all, preventing the plant from moving should you run into them. They become like brick walls that block movement. This makes the event much more difficult than it should be.

Additionally, unlike Helvetia where the Scorched are temporarily removed to make way for the event, these event locations are not cleared of enemies, requiring players to clear the entire area of the existing enemies prior to starting the event. Way to go, Bethesda. You had one job.

This event is narrated by “Homer Saperstein” and the event has 3 “Brainwave Siphons” which must be destroyed. To do this, you must kill all of the aliens in each wave (30), then kill the bosses that appear for each siphon. The final siphon boss is a 3 star legendary which drops random legendary loot, usually worthless one-star crap.

By the second siphon, the overhead alien ship changes tactics and begins dropping grenades, denoted by a red streak. The grenades aren’t randomly dropped. Oh, no no no. The game explicitly targets gamer positions, sometimes multiple times in a row. Sometimes even without warning. Just, boom and if you’re Bloodied, you’re dead. No warning.

Let’s talk about the worst location for these grenade drops. Because Sundew Grove plants don’t move with physics, if you get pinned by one of the plants, unable to move, the grenade will hit you. In open areas like Dyer Chemical or Garrahan, there’s no problem moving away. With these stupid plants, it can make player movement impossible. Even simple movement like jumping or running can see the player blocked by a plant. It’s a pain in the ass. The lack of plant physics makes this event 3 times harder in this grove than it is in other open area locations. Simply even walking through the plants is a pain in the ass.

Why is all of this important? It’s important because Bethesda has changed how (and where) characters respawn. No longer do you spawn near where you fell. No. Now you respawn sometimes so far away you’re outside of the event area. You have to spend at least 30 seconds running at full speed to get back to where you were. By that time you reach that location, it’s too late to participate because other players have already killed everything and the event is over. This respawn mechanic fucking sucks. So too do these fucking grenades.

Crap Event for Bloodied Build

Here’s where things get exceedingly dicey when you’re running a bloodied build. This event explicitly targets bloodied players, both in dropping grenades on them and in heavily nerfing bloodied weapons against the aliens at the same time. Oh, it gets so much worse. Because a bloodied build must rely on ranged weapons, implicitly requiring VATS, to effectively make the bloodied build actually work, Bethesda heavily nerfs VATS against the Aliens. Where you can stand a car length away from any other enemy in the game and see a 95% VATS hit chance, Aliens show 72% or less. Way less if you’re a house distance away or more.

Bethesda has explicitly targeted bloodied builds to make this event much more difficult for no added benefit. I also find that alien grenades target my bloodied character way more frequently than other players.

The “Brainwave Siphons” also aren’t siphons. What they are is big ass grenades. When they go off, they wipe away HP instantly. If you’re running a bloodied build, being anywhere near a siphon will instantly kill you when it pulses. Homer says that the siphons may “sting” a bit. It’s way more than a “sting” if you’re running a bloodied build. However, it is simple enough to stay far away from the siphons. The grenades, on the other hand are frustrating as hell for all the reasons I discuss above (and below).

Sneak Card

This event negates the Sneak perk card entirely specifically against alien grenade drops. The point in the Sneak card is that if you’re [ CAUTION ] or [ HIDDEN ], then nothing should know you’re there. Yet, the grenades ALWAYS target my character directly even when [ HIDDEN ]. The red warning indicator doesn’t land in front of my character or next to my character. It always lands directly ON my character. Sneak should protect you from grenades if you’re seeing [ CAUTION ] or [ HIDDEN ]. Yet, many of these crap Bethesda events entirely disable Sneak from functioning. This Sneak card bullshit started during the first Daily Ops event when Super Mutants had stealth ability. That Daily Ops bullshit sneak card problem is the reason I don’t play Daily Ops at all ever. It seems Bethesda intentionally keeps bypassing Perk cards willy nilly with these new game modes. We spend our time tweaking our character build and combat strategies and Bethesda spends their time building game modes that bypass it all.

What’s the point in buying into this perk card system (or, indeed, this game at all) if you don’t intend to use it as it was built? Why even have a Sneak card if you don’t intend to honor it ALL of the time? Or, do you Bethesda guys sit in a room when designing and say, “Fuck the Sneak card users. Let’s target them anyway.” ??

Invaders from Beyond is a Technical Failure

This event shows everything wrong with Bethesda in one single event. Not only does the event unfairly target certain players types, it does so with intentional vengeance. Yes, I said intentional. Basically, the event intentionally penalizes bloodied builds for being bloodied. Not just from the player health perspective, but reducing damage output from bloodied weapons to be mere pin pricks on the aliens, reducing VATS to being entirely useless and by negating perks from perk cards. Literally, targeting the torso (the most basic of VATS hits) misses at least 50% of the time even when VATS shows 95% chance). Missing 50% of the time is not a 95% chance.

While other non-bloodied builds can shred aliens almost instantly, bloodied characters must take 6-10 (or more) shots to kill a single alien. It’s ridiculous. Bloodied weapons that shred HP on robots, Liberators, Scorched, animals and even Super Mutants can’t kill one tiny alien in one or two shots? It doesn’t make any sense and it’s entirely fucked up. Because it makes no sense, it means Bethesda has intentionally targeted Bloodied build characters against this event unfairly, though this issue probably also affects other player builds to a lesser degree.

And yes, it even gets worse. The grenade drops are timed perfectly to interfere with the event. Right when the boss arrives, within 5-10 seconds, a barrage of grenades fall, typically targeting my player. This means I have to stop what I’m doing, move far away to avoid grenade damage, which means I can’t even shoot at the boss (or at anything). Typically, that allows other players to shred the HP of the boss with their OP weapons while I’m trying to avoid a stupid grenade.

Once the boss is down, within 5-10 seconds of that and right after Homer suggests we start shooting the siphon to destroy it, another huge barrage of grenades fall from the sky again targeting my character. This means I have to move again to someplace else, preventing me from, you know, actually shooting the siphon.

This event should not be about avoiding damage from fucking grenades! It’s about the combat against the aliens. Why the hell should I invest time in an event when the only thing I’m doing is avoiding fucking grenades? Grenades that I shouldn’t even be avoiding because my Sneak 3 card is active and my screen says [ HIDDEN ]. If I’m hidden, then those grenades can’t find me. Capeesh, Bethesda? That the grenades can and do find me with the Sneak card active is fucking insane.

“Don’t play Bloodied”

I can hear some players exclaim. To that I say, “Fuck Off!” It took me months to get my character tweaked to be a bloodied character. I can’t just turn it off overnight and choose an entirely different play style. That means not just redoing my character’s stats and SPECIAL, that means changing crap tons of things about my character including carry weight, finding entirely different weapons and armor and completely rearranging my perk card stack to accommodate that new build. I don’t tell you how to run your character, don’t tell me how to run mine. So, “Fuck Off”.

To Bethesda and this event I also say, “Fuck Off”. Do you really want us to play this game or not? Why must you keep rewriting the game’s established rules arbitrarily for each of these events? If my gun does a specific and expected level of damage using VATS, then stick with that on ALL enemy types. These aliens aren’t special. In fact, they’re weaker than even a Ghoul. So why the hell are my weapons so fucking nerfed during this event?

Environmental Perks

Here’s something that’s ongoing with the game, but is now exacerbated by this event. When your character picks up any environmental perk, such as Kindred Spirit, Strength, Agility, Luck or Endurance perks via camp items like the exercise bike, the weight bench, the fortune teller or similar, Bethesda has not only reduced damage resistance while these perks are active, but allows enemies to unfairly target your character.

It’s even worse, though. It seems the game has seemingly put a bright red halo around the character alerting every enemy in the game of the character’s presence while carrying these perks. It also seems that the more of these you stack, the brighter that halo becomes. Not only is your damage resistance drastically reduced by carrying these perks, the game allows enemies to find and target your position in an attempt to instantly kill you. Carrying these perks even seems to give the enemies better accuracy. Worse, it seems that this “halo” allows enemies to teleport instantly to your position and silently attack from behind. If you’ve been wondering what the hell is going on with this game, well this is it!

Again, it’s another case of Bethesda intentionally, yet unfairly targeting players who are using standard in-game features, like a bloodied build and bloodied weapons AND environmental perks.

The problem with these environmental perks is that they’re instantly wiped away upon death and respawn. It’s like someone at Bethesda doesn’t want you to actually use or carry these perks. Why the fuck did you include them in the game if you didn’t want us to use them? Worse, why the hell are you penalizing us when we do use them?

Literally, one swipe from a ghoul of any level can kill my character instantly with ANY environmental perk active. Without these perks, a swipe with my character carrying the same exact amount of HP only does half the damage and my character remains alive. I’ve tested this. Why the hell did Bethesda reduce damage resistance while carrying these perks? I don’t know, but it’s entirely facetious.

Bethesda also knows these perks disappear after a character death. Why paint a huge fucking target on me when I carry them? That’s not cool at all and it’s entirely unbalanced and unfair gameplay… which is entirely what Fallout 76 has devolved into.

Why Intentional?

Because of the duping scandal in the game’s early life, Bethesda has been itching to take intentional vengeance against ALL players by specifically and unfairly targeting players choosing to play using officially supported builds and taking advantage of official environmental perks.

Worse, it seems that Bethesda is now targeting not only players carrying environmental perks, but those also playing using a bloodied build. How do I know this? Because whenever I kill legendary enemies, the chances of a bloodied weapon drop have drastically increased. Just like the game knows that I’m predominantly using a .45 ammo weapon and drops this exact kind of ammo with every enemy’s loot, the game knows I’m playing using a bloodied build and using a bloodied weapon. Thus, the chances of receiving a bloodied drop is drastically higher.

The game is now unfairly targeting bloodied build players to not only instantly kill them as often as possible, the devs are also intentionally nerfing damage output and screwing with VATS percentages to reduce the frequency of hits and damage output. Again, I call bullshit on this.

Bethesda, if you don’t want us playing a bloodied build, then remove all of these fucking bloodied weapons and all perk cards enabling this build. Simply remove it. Don’t play internal games to fuck us over in an attempt to deter us from using this build, simply TAKE IT OUT entirely. If you don’t want us playing this build, then take it out! Don’t silently fuck us over because we have chosen to use this build.

Losing Perks after Death

This one chaps me so hard. Oh no, can’t lose that stupid disease after death and respawn, but yes, we’ll wipe away all of those environmental perks and force you to go get them all again. What a fuck job, Bethesda. Even Homer’s Aid remains after death and respawn, which is the same fucking thing as an environmental perk. Oh sure, that one can remain, but not Kindred Spirit. Not the SPECIAL perks. Oh no. Gotta fuck us over, but keep only the things you think we should keep.

This game is completely inconsistent and ridiculous. If one perk can remain, then they all can. If one can’t remain, then they ALL must be wiped away. That’s what consistent means. Having these exceptions is bullshit.

Crashing

The one last important thing I almost forgot to include is crashing. The game client now officially crashes just as often as the Beta in 2018. Probably more often. Bethesda had been working towards some semblance of stability in the game client, but it seems that has all been tossed out of the window. Now the game crashes randomly after having played the event.

I’m playing on a PS4, so I guess Bethesda has given up any thought of trying to keep this game playable on the “last gen” consoles. If you’re going to go so far as to abandon all stability for the game, then just pull it from the platform entirely. Why support a “last gen” platform when the game literally crashes at the drop of a hat?

Crashing was bad during Fasnacht, but is officially twice as bad with Invaders from Beyond. And note, I’m no longer reporting crashes on my PS4. They never fix the bugs anyway. So, why bother reporting them? If they can’t be bothered to fix bugs, I can’t be bothered to report them. Seems only fair.

Rating

Overall, I give this event 1 star out of 5. Not only is the event insanely predictable and stupid easy once you know what to do, the fact that Bethesda has chosen to play fuck games with certain types of player builds makes this event (and this game) completely worthless. More than this, the loot drops are effectively junk. The best items are the CAMP decorations. The weapons are worthless.

The reason for the 1 star and not 0 is that the event is playable and it does drop loot. You can also choose to stand at the edge of the event border, do nothing and collect loot from the event and not participate. Though, I expect Bethesda will nerf this too. At some point, events may require participation (i.e. killing at least one enemy) to get dropped loot out of the event. I wouldn’t mind this change as it prevents players from idling while farming events for loot.

The lowered rating is also because the alien grenades are entirely pointless and they intentionally bypass the Sneak card. Bloodied weapons are nerfed all to hell and so is VATS making the event frustrating and pointless for no real benefit. So now, there are other builds that are way overpowered. It used to be Bloodied builds that were, but Bethesda has seen to it that anyone running a bloodied build is now so weak it’s pointless. But, I’ve seen other non-bloodied builds that can shred the HP of the final Legendary enemy in seconds. In fact, this same build can shred the HP of any of the alien enemies in seconds.

So, what was the point in screwing with bloodied builds here, Bethesda? You simply pushed the problem off to other overpowered builds. Now, those overpowered builds are the ones using machine gun weapons or shotguns. Are you going to go and nerf those builds and weapons, too?

If you plan on nerfing every single build in the game, then why even run Fallout 76 as a game? The point in this game is to build out high powered characters. That’s the reward for reaching the endgame. That’s why we as gamers play your games. That’s why we spend time getting our characters to level 400 or 500 or 1000 because we want to have an overpowered build.

By picking these builds out and nerfing the hell out of each and every build (because some random game player complains), you’re simply chasing more and more gamers away. Leave the game the fuck alone. If you don’t want players building overpowered characters, then just shut the game down. Don’t fuck with nerfing every single weapon, armor and build in the game. SHUT IT DOWN. There’s no point in running a Fallout game if players aren’t rewarded for reaching the endgame and reaching a high level.

Instead, it seems we’re expected to live with level 1 underpowered weapons because you want to fuck us over with every single release and every single event type. Stop screwing with us. If you can’t do that, then just shut the whole fucking thing down. There’s no reason to keep the game system alive if all you want is for every player to play with level 1 powered weapons against level 100 enemies.

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## Can the Steam Deck succeed?

Posted in botch, business, gaming, portable by commorancy on February 28, 2022

I’ve not yet had my hands onto this new Valve bad boy of a handheld, but I still want to give my first impressions of this device with its base $399 price tag. Let’s explore. Handhelds in Gaming Before I jump into my opinion of Valve’s new Steam Deck, let’s take step back in time to understand this device’s origins. I’m sure you may already be aware of many of the devices listed, but for those who may be new to some of them, I’ll list them below. Handheld gaming began with Nintendo going as far back as early 80s with the Nintendo Game & Watch series of handheld gaming devices. These were single game devices that played very simplistic games, such as Fire and Ball. These simplistic games had you doing very simplistic things, such as with Fire, catching people as they tumble out of a burning building or in Ball, juggling balls. Nintendo realized the magic of these small single-game handhelds and introduced the more flexible cartridge based GameBoy. Using cartridges, this handheld gaming unit offered the ability to switch games out and play many different games, up to as many as cartridges were made. It also offered game play on the go in a compact format. Since then, we’ve seen a number of portable gaming handhelds in the subsequent years including: • Gameboy Color • Gameboy Color Clamshell • Atari Lynx • Sega Gamegear • Nintendo DS • Nintendo 3DS • Neo Geo Pocket • Sony PSP • Nokia NGage • Sony Xperia Play • Sony PS Vita • NVIDIA Shield • Nintendo Switch and now we have the Steam Deck to add to this list. I didn’t include the Nintendo Wii U because while it had a portable element in the Gamepad, it simply wasn’t possible to play games strictly on the Gamepad on-the-go. The Reviews The early reviewers of the Steam Deck call it groundbreaking. Yet, the Steam Deck doesn’t solve any of the fundamental problems of handheld consoles of this variety. So, how exactly is it groundbreaking? It isn’t. It has one huge limitation that makes it fall far short of “ground breaking”. It’s also buggy as all get-out in far too many places that matter. Let’s take a closer look at the Steam Deck. From the above image, it looks like a fairly standard kind of handheld with … • A large touch screen • Two thumbsticks • A D-Pad • ABXY buttons (using the Xbox Controller layout) • A ‘Steam’ button • A ‘…’ menu button • Two shoulder and two trigger buttons • (new) Two trackpad buttons below the thumb sticks • (new) Two additional buttons (View and Options) between the thumbsticks and the D-Pad and ABXY buttons. • Power, volume up (+) and down (-), headphone jack, USB-C port and reset buttons are on the top edge. This console runs Linux, or rather SteamOS, apparently. I’m uncertain why Steam chose to go with Linux on this handheld when choosing Windows would have been a much more compatible option. I mean, every single PC game would operate right out of the box on a handheld built on Windows. My only thought is that Gabe Newell didn’t want to fork over a bunch of cash to Microsoft to make this console a reality. Using a Linux based SteamOS meant cheaper outlay and no royalty fees. Unfortunately, that design choice immediately sacrifices game compatibility right out of the gate. No where is this more apparent than when you attempt to play some games, which simply crash outright. Seeing as this is Linux based, it must use a Windows compatibility stack. The SteamOS apparently uses the open source Proton for its Windows compatibility stack, in similar form to Wine (Wine Is Not an Emulator). In fact, Proton’s Windows compatibility is based on Wine, but is being developed and improved by Valve and CodeWeavers. If you’ve ever used Wine, then you know it’s not ready for everyday use the vast majority of the time. Valve’s Proton layer may be better, but it can’t be that much better than Wine. One thing I’ll say about compatibility is that it can work great one minute and suck hard the next. It’s entirely dependent on so many tiny little things to line up. Instead of fighting with compatibility layers, the Steam Deck could have run Windows directly and avoided all of these compatibility problems. Assuming the the point is to play Windows games, then why fake Windows when you can use the real thing? If the Steam Deck had at least been given the option of loading Windows as its operating system, then a buggy Windows compatibility layer wouldn’t have been required. Pricing The Steam Deck isn’t cheap. Let’s examine the Steam Deck’s pricing levels: For$399, that gets you an entry level handheld device and a carrying case. I’m assuming the Steam Deck also ships with a power cord and power brick, but it’s not listed in the above. If you want the top end version of the Steam Deck, you’re going to fork over $650 … more once you’ve bought accessories and games and paid taxes. Let’s put this into perspective. For$499 ($100 more than the Steam Deck’s base model), you can buy a PS5 or an Xbox Series X. Both are true gaming consoles, but not handhelds. PlayStation Vita, NVIDIA Shield, Nintendo Switch All three of these consoles are the most recent iteration of touch screen “tablet” handhelds. These are the handhelds that should have been able to perform the best. In fact, the NVIDIA Shield should have been competitive with this console. Although, the Shield is now several years old at this point. However, the Shield tried exactly what the Steam Deck is now trying. To bring PC gaming to a handheld. Yet, for whatever reason, it hasn’t ultimately worked. That’s not to say that the Steam Deck won’t have some success, but ultimately it likely won’t succeed in the way Gabe hopes. It’s not for lack of trying. This format has been tried multiple times each with varying degrees of success, but none so runaway as to call it massively successful. As I said above, though, there’s one huge fail in the Steam Deck’s design. I’ll come to this shortly. Of all of them, Nintendo’s Switch is probably the closest to a ‘runaway success’, but it’s still not winning the handheld space. What is? The Smartphone. Why? Because of it’s multifunction purpose. You can play games as easily as answer the phone as easily as book your next flight to Aruba. A phone supports always on data and, thus, gaming can take full advantage of that fact… making carrying around a phone the easiest gaming handheld available. On top of this, smartphones are updated about every year, making them 100% compatible with your current software, but allowing them to run that software much more fluidly. Gaming handhelds, like the Steam Deck, are lucky to be updated once every 3 years. The point is, the handheld market is dominated by smartphones, not gaming handhelds. The reason for this, as I stated above, is clear. Not to mention, the battery life on phones, while not perfect, is about as good as you can expect in that sized device. It lasts all day, at least 8 hours. Many phone batteries can last up to 12 hours. Handheld Gaming Battery Woes Handheld gaming devices, at best, offer about 2 hours of play time with the best games. That’s a problem with the Nintendo Switch, the PS Vita, the NVIDIA Shield and, yes, even the Steam Deck. The point is, 2 hours of play time is simply not enough when you’re attempting to become immersed in a brand new game. All immersion is immediately broken when you see that sad red flashing battery icon letting you know your battery is about to die. Sure, you can then find a wall outlet to plug into to continue your gaming, but that can be a hassle. This is also the fundamental problem why such handheld gaming consoles don’t sell as well as they should. You can’t produce fabulous looking games at a rock stable 60 FPS gaming experience when you’re limited to 2 hours of play time. The OS must then play internal conservation tricks with frame rates, CPU power levels, GPU power levels, shutting hard drives down and so on. These power saving techniques mean better battery life, but poor gaming performance. It also gets worse as the battery runs down. Less amperage and voltage means limiting CPU and GPU computing speeds. This problem exists even with the Nintendo Switch, but Nintendo has taken a balanced approach by reducing the resolution to 720p when playing on the console’s screen. Moving the Switch to OLED, though, likely means even better battery life. An LCD screen backlight is a huge power drain. When using OLED, each LED in the screen uses much less overall power than a full sized backlight. Unfortunately, OLED also raises the cost of the unit simply due to its inclusion. Basically, to get a small amount of battery savings from an OLED display means the consumer shelling out$50 more ($349) to replace a Switch that you may already paid$300 previously.

Display Technology

Unfortunately, Valve chose not to use OLED to help save battery power for the Steam Deck. Instead, Valve chose to build it with a TFT LCD screen with a backlight. Let’s talk about the screen for a moment. What type of screen does the Steam Deck offer?

• 7-inch touchscreen
• 1280 x 800 (16:10)
• 60 Hz
• IPS (In-Plane Switching)
• Anti-glare etched glass

This is a decent screen type for handheld. Consider, though, that the Nintendo Switch offers OLED at 1280×720 (720p) at $349, meaning that the screen on the Steam Deck is only 80 pixels wider. However, even were the Steam Deck to ship with an OLED screen, the CPU and GPU are the power hungry hogs in this unit. Yes, the Backlight does consume power, but not at the same rate as the CPU and GPU. An OLED screen might buy the unit an additional 15-45 minutes of play time depending on many factors for how the screen is used. Meaning, the fewer pixels lit, the less power it takes to drive the screen. On a handheld, OLED should always be the first consideration when choosing a display, if only because of the backlight power savings. For a TV monitor, OLED’s benefits are inky blackness in dark areas. I give it to Valve, though. You gotta start your design somewhere and LCD was the easiest place to start the Steam Deck, I suppose. Let’s hope that the next iteration, assuming there is one, that Gabe considers the power savings an OLED screen affords in a handheld design. Can the Steam Deck succeed? Unknown, but probably not this version. Did I mention that one huge flaw in this design? It’s still coming. Though, based on its current specifications, I’d give it a relatively low chance for success. Why? Because a gaming-only piece of hardware swimming in among a sea of smartphones doesn’t exactly indicate success. Oh, the unit will sell to various die-hard gamers and those who really want to be out-and-about gaming (ahem). But, those die-hard gamers are not going prop up this market. If that were to happen, the PS Vita would have succeeded. Yet, it hasn’t. The only reason the Nintendo Switch has done as well as it has isn’t because of the Switch itself. It’s because of the franchises that Nintendo owns: Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Pokémon, Animal Crossing, Super Smash, Zelda, Mario Party, Kirby, Metroid and so on. These franchises drive the sales of the device, not the other way around. Nintendo could put out the worst piece of handheld garbage imaginable and people would still flock to it so long as they can play Pokémon. Unfortunately, the Steam Deck doesn’t have legitimate access to these Nintendo franchises (other than through emulation after-the-fact). The Steam Deck must rely on games written for SteamOS or that are compatible with SteamOS. Even then, not all of these Steam games work on the Steam Deck properly, because they were designed to work with a mouse and keyboard, not a console controller. In essence, putting these games on a Steam Deck is tantamount to shoving a square peg into a round hole. Sometimes you can get it to work. Sometimes you can’t. Ultimately, what this all means for the Steam Deck is a mixed bag and a mixed gaming experience. Games Should Just Work Consoles have taught us that games should simply “just work”. What that means to the gamer is that the simple act of opening a game on a console means that it launches and plays without problems. Though, recently, many games devs have taken this to a whole new and bad level… I’m looking at you, Bethesda. With the Nintendo Switch, for example, games simply just work. The Nintendo Switch is, if nothing else, one of the best handheld gaming experiences I’ve had with a handheld. Not from a battery perspective, but from a “just works” perspective. I can’t even recall the last time I ran a Nintendo game that crashed outright back to the dashboard. Nintendo’s games are always rock solid. Unfortunately, for the Steam Deck, that experience doesn’t exist. Some games may work well. Some may work halfway. Some may crash part way through. Some games won’t launch. The experience is a mixed bag. This poor level of experience is exactly why the Steam Deck may or may not succeed. That and the Steam Deck’s one big flaw… yes, that info is still coming. When paying$400-700 for a gaming console, you expect games to play. Yet, even though the game is listed on the Steam store doesn’t imply the Steam Deck will run it. That’s a fairly major problem with the Steam Deck.

Instead, the Steam Deck folks need to create a tried and tested list of Steam Deck games and limit only those games to being visible, available and playable on the Steam Deck’s interface. Basically, the unit should prevent you from seeing, downloading and attempting to play any game which has not been thoroughly tested as functional on the Steam Deck. This vetting is important to bring the Steam Deck back into a similar stable play experience to other handhelds, like Nintendo. If a game doesn’t work, you can’t see it or download it on the Steam Deck.

This “games just work” mentality is an important aspect to a gaming handheld like the Steam Deck. It’s a make or break aspect of marketing this handheld. It’s not that difficult to limit which games can be seen and downloaded. There’s absolutely no reason why this handheld shows games that knowingly don’t work or that are knowingly unstable. Yes, such limits will reduce the amount of games available, but will improve the overall play experience of this device for buyers.

When spending $400, we’ve come to expect a specific level of sanity and stability. This goes hand-in-hand for the price tag, even for the Steam Deck. Yet, reviewers have stated that their review models have experienced a completely mixed bag. Some games that work, work well. Some games that were expected to work, haven’t worked at all. Some games that worked well have crashed the following day of play. This problem all comes back down to the Proton compatibility problems mentioned earlier. Success or Failure? At this point, it’s too early to tell, but one big flaw will likely prevent full success. However, let me dive right into my own opinion of this handheld console. My first observation is that the Steam Deck is physically too big. I understand that Steam wanted it to have a big enough screen with the Steam Deck, but its simply too big and bulky. With the added bulk of the controls, it simply becomes oversized. Instead, how I would handled design of this platform would have been to use a separate remote joystick. Design the screen to be a simple tablet display with a hefty fan, kickstand and no controls on the tablet at all (other than volume, power, reset and headphone jack). Then, have a separate joystick that can be charged and carried separately. This does a couple of things. Joysticks with separate batteries mean no drain on the console battery under use. Additionally, a battery in the joystick could be hefty enough to be used as a supplemental power source, which can be tapped by the console to extend its battery life once the console is out and about. Having a separate battery means longer play time, thus carrying a separate and charged joystick means extra playtime. Separate joysticks also feel better in the hand than attached joysticks on handhelds like this. The wide spaced joystick always feels somewhat awkward to use. This awkwardness can be overcome after using it for some time, but I’ve never really gotten past the awkwardness of the Nintendo Switch. I always prefer using the Pro controller over the attached JoyCons. The mechanics used to drive the sticks in a small form factor like the Steam Deck are squashed down and usually don’t feel correct. Using a full sized joystick, these awkward sizing and design issues don’t exist. With the PS Vita, this spacing problem was less of a problem due to the smaller screen. Though, playing games with the smashed-flat thumbsticks on the PS Vita always felt awkward. I do get having an attached controller, though. For places like on a train or a bus or in a car, it may be difficult to use two separate devices. Thus, having a controller built-in solves that problem in these few situations. Yet, I don’t know if I’d hamper a handheld device’s size simply to cover a few limited places where having a separate controller won’t easily work. The vast majority of out-and-about play locations would allow for using a controller separately from the LCD screen base, which can be propped up or even hung. However, these are all relatively minor problems not likely cause failure of sales of the device. The major problem with this device is its lack of additional functionality. For example, it’s not a phone. You can’t make calls using the device. SteamOS also seems to also offer limited productivity apps, such as word processors, video editors and so on. It does have a browser, but even that seems limited because of the limited controls. You’d have to pair a keyboard if you want more functionality. Because SteamOS is based on Linux, there’s limited commercial software available for Linux. Unlike MacOS X and Windows, where the vast majority of software is being written, Linux doesn’t have many of these commercial software options. To run Windows apps requires a compatibility stack like Proton, to which those problems have been discussed above. The Steam Deck goes way deeper than not being a phone, though. It has no cell phone data capability at all. I’ve been teasing the Steam Deck’s biggest flaw… so here it is. No on-the-go always on networking. Meaning, there’s no way to play multiplayer games while out and about without carrying additional devices. Which leads to…. Multiplayer Games? Don’t go into the purchase of a Steam Deck for any purpose other than single player offline gaming. Know that you won’t be making cell phone calls nor have any easy always-on data options available. If you want data while out and about, you’re going to need a WiFi network handy, to carry a MiFi hotspot with you or use your phone as a WiFi hotspot. This means you’ll need to carry a second device for playing any games which require multiplayer. Because too many games these days require multiplayer always-on Internet, the Steam Deck substantially misses the boat here. Even still, using a phone or MiFi hotspot may limit your speeds enough to prevent the use of multiplayer in some games. If you try to use a Starbucks or Target store WiFi, you may find that gaming is blocked entirely. This is a huge downside to this device for out-and-about multiplayer gaming. Basically, the only games you can play while out and about are single player offline games only, not multiplayer. While some offline games are still being made, many games now require online Internet at all times, regardless of whether you are playing multiplayer. As more and more game devs require always online status, this will limit the usefulness of this model of the Steam Deck over time. Instead, Valve needs to rethink this design of the Steam Deck. Valve should include a cell phone radio so that this unit can join a 5G network to enable always-on networking. This is a huge miss for the Steam Deck… one that shouldn’t have been missed. Multiplayer gaming is here to stay and pretty much so is always online Internet. As I said, many game devs require always online Internet. The lack of a cell phone data network on the Steam Deck limits out and about play for far too many games. Ultimately, the novelty of the Steam Deck’s handheld’s remote play basically limits you to playing multiplayer games in and around your home or at places where you know high speed online gaming is allowed, which isn’t very many places. Even Hotels may limit speeds such that some online games won’t function properly. Thus, the lack of always-on Internet actually undermines the portability of the Steam Deck, making it far less portable for gaming than one might expect. Instead, Valve needs to team up with a large mobile carrier to offer always-on data networking for the Steam Deck that also allows for full speed gaming. Thus, this would mean including a built-in cell phone radio that offers purchasing a data plan offering high-speed 5G always-on network multiplayer gaming. Once this is achieved, only then could this device be considered ‘ground breaking’. Without this always-on networking capability, the Steam Deck handheld is firmly tied to a past where fewer and fewer offline games are being created today. Success or Failure Part II Circling back around… the Steam Deck, while novel and while also offering access to the Steam library of games may not yet be all that it can be. This handheld needs a lot more design consideration to become truly useful in today’s gaming circles. Some gamers may be willing to shell out$399 to play it, but many won’t. The limitations of this unit far outweigh it’s usefulness as a modern handheld console. Back when the PS Vita offered two versions, WiFi only version and a Cell Phone version, that was at a time when multiplayer gaming was still not always online.

Today, because many games require always-on Internet, not having a cell phone network available on this gaming “tablet” (yes, it is a tablet), is highly limiting for multiplayer gaming. Multiplayer gaming isn’t going away. If anything, it’s getting bigger each year. Choosing not to include or offer a cell phone data version of this tablet is a huge miss.

My guess for success of this specific version of the Steam Deck is that its success will be limited. It will sell some, but only to very specific gamers. I seriously doubt that it will be considered “ground breaking” in any substantial way, particularly after missing the general purpose nature of a tablet combined with including an always-on a cell data network feature.

I felt this way both with the Nintendo Switch and with the NVIDIA Shield. Both of those tablets have done okay with their respective markets, particularly Nintendo’s Switch. It’s done exceedingly well, but only because of Nintendo’s major game franchises and because none of those franchises (other than Mario Kart) require heavy networking. The Shield, like this tablet, has only done okay in sales. Not great, not horrible.

If Valve wants to sell this gaming tablet as it is, it needs to strike while the iron is hot and while this tablet is new. Advertise the crap out of it everywhere. Because it’s new, people will be interested to have a look. Many more will buy it because it’s new. Eventually, all of the above limitations will be apparent, but only after people have paid their cash and already purchased it.

Personally, this unit has too many limitations for me to consider it. If this gaming tablet offered both cell phone data options AND full Windows gaming compatibility, I might have considered it. It isn’t enough to offer many from the Steam library of games. It also needs to offer the fundamental basics for multiplayer gaming.

For example, you wouldn’t be able to play Fallout 76 while out and about without access to a high speed MiFi hotspot. Thus, you also won’t be able to play multiplayer games like Fortnite, Overwatch or Destiny using a Steam Deck while riding a train to work. The lack of a multiplayer always-on data network is huge miss that ultimately undermines the usability of the Steam Deck and is also its biggest design flaw; a flaw that shouldn’t have been missed by the Valve team at the Steam Deck’s price tag.

Overall, I can’t personally recommend the purchase of the Steam Deck as a portable modern gaming device strictly because of its lack of thoughtful design around multiplayer gaming while on the go. However, the Steam Deck is probably fine if used as a home console device using a wireless controller while hooked to a widescreen TV and connected to a home high speed WiFi network. It may also be worth it if you intend to use it primarily to play offline single player games or if you intend to use it as a retro emulator for 80s and 90s games. Still, it’s way overpowered for the likes of Joust, Dig Dug or Defender.

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## CEO Question: Should I sell my business to a Venture Capital group?

Posted in botch, business, howto, tips by commorancy on February 5, 2022

This may seem like a question with a simple answer, but there’s lots to consider. The answer also depends on your goals as CEO. If you’re here reading this, then you’re clearly weighing all of your options. Let’s get started.

Selling Anything

A sale is a sale is a sale. Money is money is money. What these cliché statements lack in brilliance is more than made up for in realism. What these statements ultimately mean is, if the entire goal of selling your business is to make you (personally) some quick money, then it honestly doesn’t matter to whom you sell.

Because you are here reading and you’ve got some level of interest in the answer to the question posed, I assume, then, that you’re here looking for more than the simple “paycheck” answer. With that assumption in place, let’s keep going.

Companies are complex beasts. Not only does a company have its own product parts that makes the company money, companies must also have staffing parts, the people who are hired to support those product parts and maintain those new sales.  Basically, there are always two primary aspects of any business: product and staff. As a CEO, it’s on you to gauge the importance levels of each of these aspects to you. After all, your staff looks to you for guidance and they rely on you for continued employment. There’s also your legacy to consider and how you may want to be remembered by the business (and history): positively, negatively or possibly not at all.

Reputation

Let’s understand that in countries like China, reputation or “face” is the #1 most important aspect of doing business. I don’t mean the business’s reputation. I mean the person’s own reputation is at stake. If the person makes a critical misstep in business, that can prevent future opportunities. In the United States, however, “face” (or personal reputation) is almost insignificant in its importance, especially to CEOs. Short of being found guilty of criminal acts (i.e., Elizabeth Holmes), there’s very little a CEO can honestly do to fail their career.

Indeed, I’ve seen many “disgraced” CEOs find, start, and operate many more businesses even after their “disgrace”. It’s even possible Elizabeth Holmes may be able to do this after serving her sentence. As I said, in the United States, someone’s business reputation means very little when being hired. In fact, a hiring business only performs background checks to determine criminal acts, not determine whether the person has a success or failure track record at their previous business ventures.

Why does any of this matter? It matters because no matter what you do as a CEO, the only person you have to look at every day in the mirror is you. If you don’t like what you see, then that’s on you. The rest of the industry won’t care or even know what you’ve done in the past unless you disclose it.

At this point, you’re probably asking, what about those Venture Capital Buyouts? Are they good deals? That really all depends on your point of view. If you’ve put “blood, sweat, tears and sleepless nights” into building your business from literally nothing to something to be proud of and you still hold any measure of pride in that fact, then a Venture Capital group buyout is probably not what you want. Let’s understand the differences in the types of buyouts.

Thus, the difference between these two types of purchases is quite noticeable, particularly to staff who must endure them.

Undervalued

[Update 2/8/2022] Everything up to this point has only implied what this section actually states. I’ve decided to explicitly state this portion because it may not be obvious, even though I thought this information was quite obvious while writing the initial article.

Even the smartest, brightest, most intelligent CEOs can be taken in by the lure of a Venture Capital Group company purchase offer. Know then that what VCs have offered you isn’t what your company is actually worth.

Ultimately, it also means that you as the seller are being taken for a ride by the VCs. You can dress up your own company and do exactly as the VCs. Then, find a direct buyer willing to pay double what the VCs offered, which will make you twice as much money AND remove the VCs entirely from the picture as an unnecessary profiting middleman.

Acquisition Woes

Being the acquired company in an acquisition is hard on staff. Lots of questions, few answers and during the transition there’s practically silence. It’s a difficult process once the deal closes. It only gets worse. Typically, the then CEO becomes a lesser executive in the new firm. However, most times the CEO changes position not because they want to, but because the buyout contract stipulates a 6-9 month transition period and obviously most companies don’t want two CEOs. Though, I have rarely seen transitions that agree to co-CEOs. It’s an odd arrangement, though.

This means that the newly demoted executive is only on board to complete the transition and receive 100% of their contractually agreed buyout payment. In fact, most buyout contracts stipulate that for the CEO to receive their 100% payout, they must not only remain on board in a specific position for a specified period of time, they may also be required to meet certain key performance indicator (KPI) metrics. So long as all goals are met, the contract is considered satisfied and the former CEO receives 100% payment.

However, if some of the goals are only partially met, then reduction of payment is warranted. Such other metrics may include retaining key staff on board for a minimum of 6 months. If any general staff have ever gone through a buyout and have received a special bonus or incentive package, that’s the reason. The incentive package is to ensure the CEO’s KPI is reached so that the contractually defined buyout payment is paid at or as close to 100% as possible. This is also why these acquired executives can get both grumpy and testy when they realize their KPIs are in jeopardy.

Trust

Let me pause for just a moment to discuss a key issue, “trust”. While contracts stipulate very specific criteria, such as payment terms, not everything in a buyout is covered under the contract. For example, the acquiring company’s executives can find anything they wish wrong with the KPIs to reduce payment. Contracts usually do not contain intent clauses that hold the acquiring company execs accountable if they “make up” flaws in the agreement that don’t exist. It is ultimately the acquiring executives who decide whether the KPIs have been met, not the incoming CEO. If you trust these people to be morally and ethically sound, then you have nothing to worry about. However, because Venture Capitalists aren’t always practical in what they do and are driven by the need to see a return on their investment, they could find faults in the KPIs that don’t exist, solely to reduce payments. Basically, you’ll need to be careful when extending trust. Meaning, you must place full trust in those VCs willing to purchase your company. This means, doing your homework on these people to find out where they’ve been, who they’ve worked with and, if possible, get references. Let’s continue…

Every buyout has strings attached. No buyer will purchase a company outright for straight up cash without such strings. Such strings ensure the company remains intact, that key staff remain on board and that the product remains functional. These are handled via such stipulated “insurance policy” clauses in the form of KPIs applied to acquired CEO and executive team. These KPIs, when reached, allow the business seller to receive payment for reaching those KPIs. Were key staff to leave and the product have no knowledgeable or trained staff left to operate the product, then the purchase would be useless and the product would fail. For a buyer, requesting such insurance policies in the contract is always a key portion of buyout contracts. Expect them.

Saving Face

Circling back around to Venture Capital group buyouts, it’s important to understand that the point of such a buyout is for those “investors” to return their investment sooner rather than later. The sooner, the better. That means that their point in a company purchase by a Venture Capital group is not to take your business into new and bigger directions by dumping loads of money in and growing it. If they dangle that carrot in front of you, know that that’s absolutely not how these deals work. Don’t be deceived by the dangling of this carrot. This carrot is absolutely to get you to sell, but will almost just as definitely not pan out… unless it’s contractually obligated.

On the contrary. They’ve spent loads of money already simply buying the company. They’re not planning on dumping loads more cash into it. Instead, they plan to lean it out, get rid of stuff that wastes money (typically HR, insurance and such first), then move onto erasing what they deem as “useless” staff and wasteful costly third party services (ticketing systems, email systems, marketing systems, etc).

As for staff cuts, this means asking managers to identify key staff and jettisoning those staff who aren’t “key”. This usually comes down in the form of a mandate that only X people can be kept on board out of Y. For example, 10 people may be employed, only 3 may stay. Who will you pick? That then means jettisoning 7 people from the staff roster.

You won’t know this aspect going into the deal because they won’t have made you privy to these “plan” details. It also likely won’t be in the buyout contract either, unless you requested such a buyout stipulation. It’s guaranteed you’ll find out this plan within 10-20 days after the deal closes. As I said, the Venture Capitalists don’t look at it as an ongoing business to help flourish, they look at it as commodity to lean out, pretty up and hope for a high priced buyer to come along.

Venture Capitalists understand that it does cost some money to make money, but they’re not looking for a money pit. The purchase price is typically where the money pit ends. You shouldn’t expect an infusion of cash as soon as the Venture Capital firm closes the sale, unless such investment has been stipulated in writing in the purchase contract. Of course, you are free to take some of your own sale money and invest it into the business, but I don’t know why you’d do that since you no longer own the company.

What this means and why this section is labeled “Saving Face” is that eventually you’re going to have look into the face of not only the 7 people you had to fire, but the 3 people left and explain what’s going on. These situations are extremely hard on morale and makes it exceedingly difficult for those 3 who stayed on to remain positive. Surviving a huge layoff cut is not a win. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It’s also not simply a perception issue, either. Such a huge layoff places an even bigger burden on those who remain.

The 3 who remain feel as though they’ve lost the lottery. Now those 3 must work at least 10 times harder to make up the work for the 7 who are no longer there. Honestly, it’s a lose-lose situation for the acquired company. For the venture capitalists, it doesn’t matter. They’ve leaned out the company and the books now “appear” way better and the business also “appears” far less costly to operate in the short term. “Short Term” is exactly what the VCs are banking on to sell the company. This makes the “business” look great on paper for a buyer. As I said, the quicker the Venture Capitalists can flip their investment and make their money back, the better. The VCs are more than willing to endure hardship within the acquired company to make the company appear better for a buyer. As the saying goes, “It’s no skin off their noses”.

Technologists vs Venture Capitalists

Being a Venture Capitalist and being a Technologist are two entirely separate and nearly diametrically opposed jobs. It’s difficult to be both at the same time. As a technologist-founder-turned-CEO, the point is to build a business from scratch, allow the business revenues to help grow the business further and expand and build a reputation and customer base. Building a business from scratch is a slow road to a return on investment, which typically takes many, many years. That investment takes years to accrue, but can make an executive a lot of ongoing money. Just look at Jeff Bezos and Amazon. It can and does work.