Nothing to See Here

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Mar 2, 2021

Filed under: Random 85 comments

This post was supposed to be a monster 6,000 word critique of EA CEO Andrew Wilson’s anti-management over the years. Normally I’d take something that big and divide it up into three posts that would appear over the course of three weeks.

But then I realized that the structure didn’t allow for that sort of division. Each section built on the previous one. Also, you REALLY don’t want to post an assertion and then have all of the supporting arguments appear a week later. That’s a good way to lose your mind by fielding dozens of objections. I’d end up posting the same reply over and over again, “Yes, I know this doesn’t make sense now. But next week you’ll see what I’m talking about.” That’s not fun for either of us.

Yes, you can fix this by making sure a point is never separated from it’s supporting arguments, but then you’re trapped by the length of those points. I wouldn’t want to public a three-part series that took the form of 4,000 words, 500 words, 1,500 words. That’s just silly.

While I was puzzling over how to partition the article, I realized that this shouldn’t be a column at all. It should be a video. It’s actually a natural follow-up to my previous video on executive salaries.

But a 6,000 word video? That’s going to end up being half an hour to forty minutes in length. That’s about double the size of my usual video.

Anyway, now I need to figure out what I’m going to do with this thing. This last-minute realization left me without content for today.

So… here’s a bunch of crap from my “This might make a good article someday” list:


Link (YouTube)

Publisher Nacon purchased and downloaded the indie / mid-market game The Sinking City, and uploaded it for sale on Steam, under their own account. They also did a hilariously bad job of covering their tracks, so the developers were able to find out where the pirated game was purchased, how Nacon (attempted to) cover up the crime, and even the individual that hacked the game to strip out all of the developer’s logos.


GTA V is infamous for its excruciating loading screen for Online mode. It can take over SIX MINUTES of your precious human life to get into the game proper. Oddly enough, getting better hardware doesn’t help nearly as much as you’d think it would.

Someone going by the handle t0st looked into it and discovered that the delay is the result of horrendously amateurish code that locks the entire application to a single core and then reads a massive 10MB JSON file in the most inefficient way possible. t0st created a workaround to fix this, and loading times fell by 70%.

This is one of the most profitable games in history. It’s been out for 8 years. The game has been patched countless times to add more crap for people to buy with Rockstar’s obnoxious microtransaction-powered currency. But it never occurred to them to spend an afternoon to investigate this long-running and vexing problem?

I wonder how many human lifetimes worth of time have been wasted on this this needless loading screen?

Oh, but I’m sure this is just more of Rockstar’s special brand of satire. See, they’re not incompetent, they’re just satirically making fun of the avarice and sloth of all those other videogame publishers. Good one, Rockstar. You had me laughing so hard. And you kept up the joke for eight whole years.


Andrew Spinks is the developer behind the hit Terraria. A month ago, Google hit him with a full-spectrum Google Services ban that locked out of his gmail account of 15 years, locked him out of all the Google Play stuff he’d purchased, and locked him out of his YouTube account. This would also lock you out of Google Docs, Google Sheets, and your Google drive. Depending on what you do for a living and what tools you’re using, this sort of thing could be life-changing.

Worse, they never gave him a reason for the ban. No warning beforehand. No notification afterwards. They never responded to his pleas for support.

Finally he announced he was canceling his plans to bring Terraria to Google Stadia. He posted all of this on Twitter where his 70,000 fans saw it. The story caught on in the press. Everyone wanted to know, “Hey Google, why did you ban Andrew Spinks?!” I’m sure various Google accounts were flooded with requests and outrage.

But Google remained silent. Apparently they weren’t even willing to answer one of their own development partners.

Aside: This story really scared me. My gmail account is 13 years old, and is used in dozens of VERY IMPORTANT logins. At the time I was worried what would happen if something went wrong with my domain. My main email was [email protected] and I was worried that if my domain lapsed, I’d have no way to recover it because my email was based on the domain itself. I wouldn’t even be able to email support or do a password reset. I’d simply be locked out forever. But now I’m thinking about what a nightmare it would be to lose my gmail. Now I have the same problem, but it’s tied to a giant corporation that’s notorious for “accidentally” nuking accounts and being impossible to reach. If I lost my domain I might be able to call up my host / registrar and fix things over the phone. But there’s no fixing it when Google decides to step on you.

Google did this to YouTube superstar CGP Grey. Grey got it sorted out, but what chance would a small-fry like me have?

I’ve been using Google Docs for years. I’ve got over a decade of articles in there. What would I do if they cut me off while I was 20,000 words into my 30,000 word retrospective on the Shoot Guy series?

Worse, I don’t know where else to take my business. I need something not tied to my domain, and large enough that I can count on it still being around for years. Where else can I go if I don’t want to do business with a scary unaccountable monolith? That’s all that’s left these days. Facebook? Microsoft? Huawei? Yahoo? Those monoliths all have the same privacy and reliability concerns as Google, and are generally much lower quality.

I don’t know what the answer is here, but it’s nice to have something new to worry about.

Anyway, this week the whole situation between Andrew Spinks and Google magically resolved itself without explanation.

So what happened? Who messed up? Why was Google silent for so long after getting called out by a reasonably famous business partner? How did Spinks fix this?

ARG. This entire story boils down to one of those Stack Overflow threads that ends with, “Nevermind, I figured it out myself.”

 


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85 thoughts on “Nothing to See Here

  1. MerryWeathers says:

    Andrew Spinks is the developer behind the hit Terraria. A month ago, Google hit him with a full-spectrum Google Services ban that locked out of his gmail account of 15 years, locked him out of all the Google Play stuff he’d purchased, and locked him out of his YouTube account. This would also lock you out of Google Docs, Google Sheets, and your Google drive. Depending on what you do for a living and what tools you’re using, this sort of thing could be life-changing.

    Reminds me of this video

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Password managers also usually use an email address for logins. So…hope you don’t need any other digital services you use. :|

  2. Geebs says:

    Worse, I don’t know where else to take my business. I need something not tied to my domain, and large enough that I can count on it still being around for years

    Sorry Shamus, your only remaining option is Apple.

      1. Blue+Painted says:

        .. because Apple is SO much more reliable and trustworthy!

        (note sarcasm filter)

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          It’s unironically true though. If you asked me whether I’d rather be tasked with dealing with this kind of situation from Apple or Google, it’s really no contest. Note how long it took that developer to get Google to even *talk* to him.

      2. Geebs says:

        That guy’s kinda full of it. He says he neglected to actually send the computer he was trading in but somehow expected credit for it; Apple trade-ins – in at least two different countries I’ve lived in – only give you the actual credit once the machine has been received and checked.

        Then he got into trouble for defaulting on a credit card payment.

        Nothing about that is unique apart from the bit where he, and I feel I have to repeat this, neglected to send in the computer he expected to receive credit for and forgot to pay his credit card bill.

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          I can have some sympathy for the fact that he asked for the return kit and didn’t receive it, twice. I know I’ve had stuff like that where I think “Okay, now I’m just waiting and can go think about something else!” And it does feel like after he contacted Apple they should have been able to tell him the real problem sooner. But yes, even to the extent Apple can be blamed here I think this is understandable if infuriating corporate inefficiency. And even as mad as this guy got, I started the post thinking his problem would be solved without literally making national news, and it was. And it says a lot that this is the worst Apple story I’ve ever seen, while stories like Spinks’ are usually met with a bunch of “yeah, Google pulls that shit all the time. Maybe you’re an important enough business partner that they’ll care. Hope they haven’t cancelled Stadia yet so you have some leverage!”

  3. Yerushalmi says:

    Shamus! You are so famous for how much you hate depending on other people’s servers for video games when who knows if they’ll still be around tomorrow. Why the heck are you doing your editing in the cloud?

    Use OpenOffice, LibreOffice, even Microsoft Office. Download local copies of everything. Email too. If you can’t pick it up and hold it, it doesn’t exist.

    I don’t trust the cloud and never have. Nothing of mine would get touched if the internet were hit with the Tsar Bomba.

    1. Daimbert says:

      Yeah, I tend to feel the same way. The one thing that I had on Google Docs were spreadsheets and a doc for modding Arkham Horror PBF games so that I could mod the same game from work and from home, and then my workplace blocked Google Docs for at least a short period of time, so I went to a USB drive instead. Having it all under my own control is just a lot safer.

      (Of course, I DID misplace the USB drive last year, but I had blanks of the spreadsheets as well so it wasn’t an issue, and at least there if things go wrong it’s all my own fault and not the whims of an external entity).

      1. Liessa says:

        Same here – wouldn’t touch online storage with a bargepole. Save everything locally and back it up to an external drive.

        As for email, couldn’t you create another account with a different service (or multiple services) and set up your Google account to forward everything there? That way you’ll at least have a backup.

    2. tmtvl says:

      For important stuff there is always the rule of 3:

      1) Local copy on an external HDD.
      2) Online copy on something like tarsnap or a Digital Ocean droplet.
      3) Online copy on a behemoth like Google Drive or Dropbox.

      1. Crokus Younghand says:

        Just remember to encrypt the off-site copies. A backup software (like Duplicati) will usually handle it automatically.

        1. Thomas says:

          And then remember not to lose either the key or the passphrase to the key.

    3. Shamus says:

      Back in the day, I needed to be able to share documents with others. They didn’t want to play File Format Bingo with a dozen contributors, so they wanted stuff in Google.

      Also, the problem with most word processors is that they’re bloated. GDocs opens and it’s running instantly. No dawdling load time. Now stupid splash screens. No “An update is available, would you like to download it? Yes/Yes”

      I agree that the cloud is fickle and scary. But everything else has more friction.

      1. Yerushalmi says:

        Somehow though Google Docs has always been that tiny bit less responsive while it’s running. I could never get used to the tiny delays in seeing what I type appear on screen; I don’t get how anybody else can stand it, but maybe I’m just the crazy one :) The splash screen at the beginning bothers me a lot less, especially since nowadays we restart our computers so rarely that you can basically just leave Word open permanently. (I hear you about updates. I’ve always commiserated with your articles about putting them off as long as possible.)

        I used to upload things to Google Drive, but only to transfer them from one machine to another or to share them with other people. The main version was always on my hard disk. (And that was prior to my de-googling, a step I will never regret taking.)

        1. Shamus says:

          Hm. I’m not sure what’s wrong, but it feels like we must be using different products. I’ve never seen a splash screen.

          I do run into latency typing, but only when the document gets over 100,000 words.

          Are there different versions of Google Docs?

          1. Daimbert says:

            I think that the splash screen being referred to is from the word processing product, not Google Docs. And the latency typing might depend on what other things are running and how good the Internet connection is.

          2. Yerushalmi says:

            Daimbert is correct. I meant the splash screen at the beginning of local word processing software bothers me a lot less than getting tiny delays in typing and opening menus throughout my work.

            (I just opened a blank Google Document to see if maybe the latency issues have improved since the last time I tried to use it. They have, but not enough to make me happy. Most of the typing is fine but every so often there will be a “hiccup” and it will wait a half-second or two before catching up to what I typed. Maybe I’m more sensitive than most but that’s just intolerable…)

    4. RamblePak64 says:

      I ended up using Google Docs almost exclusively due to the fact that I would do some work on my PC, some work on my laptop, and doing it all through the Cloud was the easiest way to go about it. Now – especially with the lock-down in place – I’m mostly working on my PC.

      So, before you even commented, I was thinking that maybe it’d be better for me to do as you say and start using my copy of LibreOffice more often. Download what I can off Google Docs and perhaps invest somewhat into OneDrive for when I need to start doing work on my laptop again. Even though I’m not nearly in a position like Shamus is, what with being an even greater nobody, that’s still a lot of content that I’d like to not lose.

    5. Jordan says:

      Google Docs is way, way, *waaaaaaaaaay* more resistant to failures though. Powercut, hard drive crash? Goodbye to all your work. Housefire? The same. Google docs pretty much requires someone to intentionally ban you from the service before you lose access. If you’re making the occasional backup to another service or a hard copy, you’re pretty safe in that regard. In Shamus’s case, so long as he occasionally actually uploads his works to the website his risk is minimal compared to LibreOffice. There’s still downsides, but you can mitigate them.

      1. Richard says:

        Weeell, Google bans (as with all the big Cloud) are carried out by their bots without any human intervention.
        All it takes is for some activity related to your account to match one of the multiple fuzzy or “AI” ever-evolving rulesets and poof, you’re gone.

        The humans don’t even know why you were killed, just that you were.

        1. Erik says:

          True only for values of “bots” that actually mean “underpaid middle-aged women in the Philippines in a Mechanical Turk system”, which are the “bots” that Facebook (for the example I have personal knowledge of) uses for most of its first-line community moderation. When combined with the local nature of so many issues, they moderate based on a strange mix of imperfectly instructions from headquarters, their own local standards, and their best guess at US standards based on media. This often leads to… odd choices in moderation.

  4. Dreadjaws says:

    I don’t remember how old my gmail account is, but it’s back from when the service was new. At the time you could only get one by invitation from someone who already had a gmail address. That’s how I got mine, so it’s certainly at least as old as yours, maybe even more. Google was the up and coming company everyone was trusting back then.

    So yeah, I had the same worry when I heard this story. Losing access to it would complicate my life in several ways. I have a few extra email accounts, but still, what a nightmare.

    1. Yerushalmi says:

      My Gmail account also stems from those days. When I de-Googled about half a year ago, I opened an Outlook account and transferred everything (inbox and outbox) over to there. Then I had Outlook download the entirety onto my home computer. It took a few hours but now I’ll never lose anything.

  5. bobbert says:

    With regards to the google-scandals, this is a good time to restate one of the iron-laws of business: “You get what you pay for”

    1. Will says:

      “If you’re not paying them, you’re not their customer.”

      What you are varies—in Google’s case, you’re their product (they sell your attention to advertisers).

      1. etheric42 says:

        I hear that a lot, but wouldn’t that apply to a lot of manufactured/consumer goods?

        Only some retailers are set up on a consignment model. Many purchase your goods outright from a wholesaler who may purchase them outright from the producer.

        So when you buy a Levi’s (not sure if they specifically have consignment contracts or not, but you get the idea) do you need to make sure to remember that you aren’t Levi’s’s customer, you’re Target’s customer? And to Levi’s they’re just selling your attention to Target?

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          The point is that in the google scenario, you aren’t paying money at all.

          In the jeans analogy, you’re paying the store for the product whether that store manufactured the product themselves or not. When you use a “free” google service, an advertiser is the revenue stream for google.

          1. etheric42 says:

            Yes, but you have the same relationship to the producer of the good in both circumstances. You don’t give Google money, you give its advertiser eyeballs which encourages the advertiser to pay Google. You don’t give Levi’s money, you give Target money (or in the case of things like loss leaders, boots in the store) which encourages Target to pay Levi’s.

            In both cases, the producer is producing goods that are for you to use, that they want you to use, because they know it will have an impact on their market channels, but they aren’t there for your money.

            1. Daimbert says:

              The idea, I think, is that with Google they are selling you to the advertisers and are using their services as their way to produce that product, which is a sufficient number of people looking at the ads. With Levi’s, Target is their customer and you are Target’s customer, and the product in each case is the jeans.

              I think a better analogy is to services. A tax accountant sells you their services to fill out your tax return, and so the product is their services. In the Google case, it LOOKS like they’re providing a service for you, but in reality they are providing a service for their advertisers, which is you. So, again, your services — looking at ads and hopefully buying something from them — is the product.

            2. Chad+Miller says:

              Yes, but you have the same relationship to the producer of the good in both circumstances.

              No, you don’t! In one circumstance, you control the money. In the other, the advertiser does. Even if you make some circuitous “but the advertiser is ultimately hoping to get your money” argument, whether you provide money has absolutely no bearing on what service google is providing you, while in the jeans analogy your money is exactly the thing that decides whether you wear a pair of jeans or not.

  6. Thomas says:

    I try and spread my accounts between the various monoliths. Microsoft for email, Google for Docs, Firefox for browsers (hey that’s not a monolith!). I figure if Google can’t get your data from anyone, it’s probably Microsoft, and vice versa.

    But Google still owns enough things that they could wreck me in ways I can’t avoid if they chose to.

    1. Boobah says:

      The problem with your monolith theory is that, as monoliths, they each have a lot of data. Which means that one of the cheapest ways to get more data is to negotiate with other monoliths. So Facebook shares with Amazon shares with Apple and so on.

  7. Thomas says:

    The Rockstar thing is kind of incredible. I went down the list trying to give them the benefit of the doubt and it’s just not there.

    1) Did they not know the problem existed? No. It’s a 6 minute load time right at the beginning (some people said it was 15 minutes for them!). The most basic testing will show that.
    2) Was it a hard problem to diagnose? No, a stranger diagnosed it without access to the source code.
    3) Was it a hard problem to fix? No, the same stranger fixed it, again without access to the source code.
    4) Were they going to fix it but hadn’t got round to it? No, the game is 8 years old.
    5) Was the problem not worth fixing for the players? No, it’s a 6 minute load time. Each player individually has probably lost hours of their life to this one bug, and times that by millions of players.
    6) Was the problem not worth fixing for Rockstar? No, this game is their largest ever money making source, and reducing monstrous load times would definitely help retain their playerbase. I’d never play a game with load times that long.

    If I had a money making machine printing me millions of pounds a year, I personally wouldn’t walk away for it for almost a decade and never check that it’s still working, or trying to tune it up, but I guess I’m not Rockstar.

    1. Daimbert says:

      I think one consideration for 6) is that if I’m understanding it right it only happens right at the beginning of the session and once you get into the game the load times are at least more sensible. If that’s the case, then a lot of people will wander away and do other things and then come back when it’s ready, making it something to laugh at but not the huge impediment that would spawn a demand that it be fixed. And while someone looking for it specifically found it pretty quickly, it might be hard to find if someone wasn’t … and chances are that person happened to find it because they were looking at the relevant handling for different reasons in some detail and then happened to notice that it was doing it incredibly inefficiently. Or else they had the theory first and was just confirming it.

      1. Thomas says:

        I’m sure it dinged their retention rate. Some people in the Reddit thread were saying the delay had been the reason why they stopped loading. I know it would affect how often I played it. If I know it’s going to take me forever to load something up, I sometimes just pick something quicker or watch youtube instead.

        Heck I do that with games which take less than 2 minutes to load.

    2. MerryWeathers says:

      Was the problem not worth fixing for Rockstar? No, this game is their largest ever money making source, and reducing monstrous load times would definitely help retain their playerbase. I’d never play a game with load times that long.

      That’s probably the reason, if the game was already (and still is) making boatloads of money for Rockstar then why bother fixing it?

    3. Crokus Younghand says:

      Was the problem not worth fixing for Rockstar?

      Never played GTA 5 (or Online), but I’ve heard that they show some kind of advertisements on loading screens. Is that true? Because that might explain not fixing it.

      1. Pax says:

        There are loading screens that shows whatever the most recent update added, but I always saw them less as advertisements and more as something to look at during the long-ass loading times. They do show the new cars and whatever you can buy, but they also tell you about new missions to do (that sometimes don’t even require you to buy a new multi-million dollar property!), or deals that are currently active (okay, that’s much more ad-like, I guess.)

        Though I have friends who’ve told me that they don’t bother to get on GTAO to grab something free (like the free monthly million dollars they’ve been giving away!) just because it takes so long to load.

      2. Chad+Miller says:

        We’re talking about loading times on the order of 15 minutes even for people who otherwise find the game playable.

    4. Robyrt says:

      My theory is that Rockstar thinks this inefficient load is an anti-cheat feature. A QA tester 8 years ago probably discovered you could inject a duplicate item list at the end of the ‘items.json’ string where all the prices are $1, and now this clunky hash array has a comment at the top saying it’s a bugfix.

      1. Richard says:

        It’s not, it’s just the dumbest of the dumb quadratic algorithms.

        Bruce Dawson calls O(n^2) the “sweet spot” of inefficient algorithms – fast enough to make it into production, slow enough to make everyone miserable once it’s there.

        It was almost certainly implemented when the list had under fifty items in it, so nobody in QA noticed as that will have been nearly instant.

        The list has been getting longer over the last 8 years, and now it’s killing the game.

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          Funnily enough, some open-source project discovered a highly similar bug. After reading the other bug I realize now what’s going on with the sscanf/strlen issue. Essentially:

          * Programmer needs to capture something specific from the string
          * Programmer thinks that sscanf is just going to start at the provided index, grab the data asked for, and return
          * sscanf actually starts by checking the length of the string
          * Because of how C strings work, this means starting at the beginning of the string and running through each character to find the null byte at the end, before doing anything else

          The last part is why GTA chokes on all the JSON.

          1. Echo Tango says:

            If you’re writing in C, you can save the length of the string and jump around the positions of a string all day long.

            1. Chad+Miller says:

              Yes, but sscanf is a standard library function that, for better or for worse, doesn’t do that. What you just described is most of the reason t0st’s fix works.

    5. I’m guessing that the list being directly tied to cash transactions plays the biggest part in this. This might be an easy fix from a coding perspective, but I imagine the legal department isn’t willing to take even the slightest risk that it could screw with the money somehow.

      1. Thomas says:

        Apparently it’s not the list of cash transaction items.

  8. Lino says:

    Typolice:

    I wonder how many human lifetimes worth of time have been wasted on this this needless loading screen?

    Needless “this”.

    Also, I can’t believe this post doesn’t mention the new gameplay footage from the System Shock Remake! I guess we’ll be getting a separate article on that (or at least a segment in the next Diecast).

    Also, also: YAY! New video about EA! I can’t wait!

  9. Christopher+Wolf says:

    Shamus, if you just want to store documents digitally for back up purposes, how about Dropbox. A free account can hold a lot of documents. No idea what the Youtube equivalent would be these days, but I think it would at least hold your writing needs.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      There’s also NextCloud which is self-hosting based on open-source software. However, I’m not sure how much that helps, if he can’t have things like email and collaborative document-editing, as he noted above.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Nextcloud allows you to do collaborative editing through Collabora.

  10. Olivier FAURE says:

    I recommend NextCloud.

    Open source, can be self-hosted or installed on a general-purpose cloud comapny, has some text editing apps (not sure how good they are).

    I mean, it’s a step down from the simplicity of Good Docs, but with some tweaking it can get pretty reliable and painless.

    1. Anorak says:

      I “like” Next Cloud. I mean, I use it, and I like what it’s supposed to do well enough. I’ve been using it since it was Owncloud.

      It’s been a pain, though, to keep it stable. Sometimes updates don’t work, or you have to run a load of SQL commands after the upgrade. I had a Maps plugin for it (which is great!), that somehow prevented any upgrades. I had to clear out a load of tables manually before the upgrade would go through.
      It’s stable for now, but upgrades haven’t always been smooth.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      I didn’t see this comment until I’d also posted about NextCloud. ^^;

  11. Anorak says:

    I’ve been watching various full-spectrum google account lockouts for a few years now. If the person can get their story heard on twitter, or reddit, or hacker news, then theirs a non-impossible chance that someone internal to google will see the thread/story whatever and do something about it.
    But the user has no way to actually raise a case about it, Google are famous for automating as much of their support as possible, and so much of it is done by ML models that are non-predictable and non-reproducible that sometimes it’s literally “computer says no”.

    I’ve been de-googling for a few years now. It’s not a quick process, and will never be 100% complete for a few reasons.

    The first step was moving away from Google Mail. I’ve had a google mail account for about as long as you have, Shamus. I think I probably opened it in 2006, when I met someone at a university open day who could invite me to join.

    I have my own domain, and for a while I hosted my own email, but managing spam reputation became too involved. What I did in the end is actually pay someone to host my email for me. I use fastmail for this, but it could be anyone, and I can move at a moments notice and it won’t matter because it’s all done with my own domain.

    Then I had to switch over my services to my own domain email address, instead of gmail. This took a while, but I did it in stages. I did this by – every time I had to log in to a service or account, I would make the change then.
    Over time my logins to my gmail account trickled down to nothing.

    Of course the single point of failure now is that if my domain lapses or my registrar bans me, then I lose it all anyway. There’s no real change there, but I think the smaller registrars are less likely to ban without warning / reason or whatever.

    The other google services I ditched:
    Search – DDG works most of the time. Maybe once a week I need to use the g! command to see Google’s results
    Youtube – nope! never going away.
    Contacts – host my own Caldav server. This one is unreasonable to ask most people to do.
    Calendar – same as above
    Photos – NAS at home

    I actually still have the account, but I’ve got to the point now where if it got deleted or banned, I would lose nothing and I might not even notice for a while. That was always the stage I needed to get to before deleting it, but I haven’t done so yet. It’s partially nostalgia, I have had it for a really long time.

    My wife was starting to hit the limit for free storage, so we did a Google Takeout (which lets you download _ALL_ your google account data). I then had to write something to parse the photo metadata so I could work out what folders to put the downloaded photos in on the NAS. It worked well enough. So all her photos are on the NAS as well.

    All of the above is more effort than most people are going to want to put in, and I don’t blame them. Sometimes I wonder why I’m bothering.

    1. Crokus Younghand says:

      Of course the single point of failure now is that if my domain lapses or my registrar bans me, then I lose it all anyway.

      It’s worth spending some time into researching a registrar with reputation of providing good support (and not screwing up in general). I went with EasyDNS who do seem to have said reputation, but they are a bit pricier than usual. That, combined with Fastmail for email and a $5 Digital Ocean VPS for other stuff, takes care of the pretty much everything.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      It seems like the best would be if you could have one company hosting / managing your email, with a second company acting as a backup. I have no idea how much effort that would be, or if there’s even any standards around how to set that up, or if any companies have anything like this. (Especially considering the business-proposal is basically, “we need to accommodate another company you have a contract with, in case you stop being our customer some day”.)

  12. SidheKnight says:

    But a 6,000 word video? That’s going to end up being half an hour to forty minutes in length. That’s about double the size of my usual video.

    I don’t see any problem with that. There are YouTube videos that are just as long if not longer (streams, video essays, etc..) and people still watch them.

    Does the algorithm punish you in some way for uploading longer videos? If you’re worried that people won’t watch a 40 minutes long video, well I can only speak for myself, but I wouldn’t mind. Your voice is like ASMR to my ears.. wait, that sounded really weird.

    1. Lino says:

      Does the algorithm punish you in some way for uploading longer videos?

      In a roundabout way – yes, it does.

      Say you mainly upload 10-minute videos. Let’s assume your audience (in YouTube terms that means not only your subscribers, but the people who regularly watch your videos when they see them on their front page) usually watches 80% of each one of those 10-minute videos. To YouTube, this means your videos are good, and it shows them to more people that are similar to your audience.

      But suddenly, you upload a massive, 65-minute video. Maybe your subscribers and the people who really like your content watch the entirety of that video. But not all of your audience is that engaged with you. Most people are only casual viewers. And if they’ve mainly watched your 10-minute videos, then that probably means they’re the type of viewer who likes shorter videos. So when most of them don’t watch your 65-minute video, YouTube says “OK, this channel sucks now!”, and in the future your videos don’t get recommended.

      Or at least that’s how most Internet Marketers interpret some of the data they see. This is why every big YouTube channel that has a podcast uploads that podcast on a separate channel, while their main channel has videos that aren’t nearly as long.

      1. SidheKnight says:

        I didn’t know it was based on percentages. Makes sense.

        1. guy says:

          The google algorithms for everything are secret and ever-changing, which prevents competitors from copying them and limits SEO gaming them, but for individual users means they’re fiddling around inside a black box that could destroy their livelihoods at any moment.

          Supposedly, it’s really important that people actually finish the video, which is why post-credits jokes and outtakes are so common.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            It might be because that’s when the “end of video” ad might play, or YT shows you more videos and if you start a new one or it autoplays you get an ad. Essentially this is that whole “you’re not a customer” thing that people mentioned a couple times around here, they’re not interested in your viewing experience beyond whether or not it will allow them to serve you more ads.

  13. Leipävelho says:

    But a 6,000 word video? That’s going to end up being half an hour to forty minutes in length. That’s about double the size of my usual video.

    There is nothing wrong with the occasional longer video, if the subject demands it.

    1. Richard says:

      The Algorithm appears to deem highly variable video lengths Bad.

      One does not wish to annoy The Algorithm

      1. guy says:

        Sacrifice a fatted calf before uploading.

  14. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Microsoft has a ton of problem but I haven’t heard of them just random locking people’s accounts just for the evulz and never replying to their requests.

    1. Mistwraithe says:

      Agreed. Google seem to have a special combination of reliance on automated algorithms to do everything (DMCA, banning people, etc) and then being completely unwilling to have a human review the decisions the algorithms have made when people complain about them.

      You can fault Microsoft for being bureaucratic and Apple for believing they know best about everything, but at least you can usually get support if there is a serious enough problem.

  15. CountAccountant says:

    If you have genuine insight into EA CEO Andrew Wilson’s anti-management over the years, that’s a far bigger audience than a three part blog post or video. Credible allegations of mismanagement against the CEO of a publicly trade company are easily a full Wall Street Journal / CNBC news cycle.

    Unfortunately – and I say this as a person who has respected you for years and almost always agrees with your insights – your prior industry coverage has struggled to dig beyond speculation based on publicly available information. They lack credibility. The Jason Schreier-esque exposes that blow up the internet have punch because they are backed with interviews and vivid stories from people with firsthand knowledge. Without them, Schreier would be just another loud complaining guy on an internet that has thousands of them.

    The effect is your industry posts never gain real traction. The casual video game fan generally doesn’t care enough to drive engagement and views, and actual business people never hear about them because they lack the credibility to gain traction in the first place. Your target audience becomes “people who already read Shamus’s blog”.

    No amount of agonizing over whether to produce a video or a three part series will change that. Doing the investigative research to give credibility to your allegations will.**

    I hope this doesn’t come across as critical. My intent, to paraphrase your car mechanic example from many years ago, is just to tell you what does and doesn’t work during a time it sounds like you are doing some soul searching on your industry analysis format.

    **Or being a very entertaining or very controversial, obviously, but business analysis is a challenging medium for either approach.

    1. Daimbert says:

      Credible allegations of mismanagement against the CEO of a publicly trade company are easily a full Wall Street Journal / CNBC news cycle.

      Some issues with this assessment:

      1) The really big ones are about DELIBERATE mismanagement, which as you note Shamus doesn’t have evidence of. You don’t really get that much coverage for someone being an idiot.

      2) When you DO get that coverage, you get it because the company has failed, which is why you can get the interviews with associated parties. EA’s stock price, at least, is high enough that we aren’t there yet, and the Disney move is subtle enough to not be seen as a disastrous failure.

      3) We’re talking about VIDEO GAME companies, which aren’t seen as being as vital or iconic as other fields and so the business side will ignore them more often than not.

      On top of that, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for Shamus to focus on his current audience instead of fishing for another audience that may not be interested anyway. Making his videos and posts more reporting than analysis would take a lot more work, require a lot more contacts, and would likely run into the issue that Shamus isn’t all that credible in the space and wouldn’t be doing anything that others are already doing better than him. But as a slightly deeper analysis of the field in general it can do something that no one else is really willing to do and thus draw in the video game market, even the casual one. And to that degree it could draw people in for that deeper analysis who stay for other topics as well.

      The fact that Shamus does more text posts than videos probably hurts his video numbers more than anything else, since a lot of the really interesting stuff isn’t on the same list as the videos.

  16. Lino says:

    You pretty much nailed it, I think. Also, I don’t think Shamus really wants to be like Jason Shreier. Bit of a side note, but Shreier’s exposes:
    A) Usually attract the sort of people who like controversy (which is something Shamus avoids at all costs)
    B) Don’t really get anywhere beyond the video game space. The reason he’s now working for Bloomberg is thanks to his many contacts within the industry, not because his exposes were wildly successful (yes, they were successful, but not much outside of the gaming circles).

    If anything, I think Shamus is mainly aiming at the sort of people who watch the likes of Jim Sterling – viewers who follow gaming news, and hate the shallow, cash-grabby trends in modern mainstream games. In general, they’re the types of people who want to see a better run industry.

    But as well-intentioned as they are, most of them have an extremely black-and-white worldview. If they were to express their opinions to the people in charge of the industry, they would sound woefully uninformed and naive, and no one would take them seriously.

    I think what Shamus is trying to do is help those kinds of people have a more nuanced view of the industry, so they can better articulate what their problems with today’s AAA games are. And you don’t need insider info or incriminating evidence in order to do that.

    EDIT: Whoops! This was supposed to be a reply to Daimbert’s reply to CountAccountant! Sorry!

    1. CountAccountant says:

      The purpose of doing investigative research is to find evidence to support the analysis, not to do reporting for its own sake or produce shock pieces like Shreier. It’s no different than any other financial analysis.

      More generally, there is a much larger market for genuine business insight than Shamus is currently reaching. He can reach that market by providing credible reasons to take his insights seriously. And he can gain that credibility by showing he’s done the due diligence research that separates his analysis from run-of-the-mill opinion and speculation. None of this should be controversial.

      I’m a bit a surprised that those points were interpreted as “Shamus should do less analysis and more sensationalism.” Given that both you and Daimbert reached that conclusion, I assume the issue lies in the clarity of my original post. What should I do differently to communicate more clearly in the future?

      1. Daimbert says:

        From my perspective, I was taking your point as that he should do less analysis and more sensationalism, but more that you think he should do more reporting by digging up the facts and details about what was going on and less simple analysis of the market and audience, joined with a notion that he should focus more, as you say here, on providing business rather than video game insight. I think that it will be more difficult than you suspect for Shamus to make that shift and draw in the business market, and that much of his existing audience won’t stick around for that.

      2. Boobah says:

        The purpose of doing investigative research is to find evidence to support the analysis…

        Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse? You do research, that gets you data, and then you analyze that data, yes? I realize this is a little simplistic, but doing it the other way ’round tends to be a complicated way to lie to yourself and your audience.

    2. Fizban says:

      If anything, I think Shamus is mainly aiming at the sort of people who watch the likes of Jim Sterling

      I watch the Jimquisition, but I’m pretty sure many commenters here have said they don’t, or stopped. Either way, Shamus’s point in a previous article about how a given CEO/whatever’s yearly salary could be worth only a month of gamedev time, is the kind of counterargument that Jim lacks.

      I expect Shamus’s article/video will be in many ways a summary/roundup of what others have been reporting over the last few years, plus some extra Shamus commentary. And that’s pretty useful when the Jimquisition is a weekly news/rant, Jason Schrier pieces are about airing specific problems that are being backed by sources, and plenty of people don’t follow one or either. It most likely won’t matter to the Algorithm, but I expect it should be useful to some of this particular audience.

  17. etheric42 says:

    Have you checked into services like Spanning? If you make your living off of cloud services, it may make sense to pay a nominal fee to a third party to back up that cloud service. If something nukes your account, you’d be able to restore it (or restore it to a different account that you set up in the case of Google locking you out).

  18. Paul Spooner says:

    Yeah, the Google dependancy bit me a few years ago, back when I talked about it on Diecast #217. I occasionally make backups of important documents, and I have an external drive for backups as well, and I have a Hotmail account that I use for a lot of things in the hopes that Microsoft will have my back if Google turns on me, but I don’t have a systematic approach to data security. I think of it something like a house burning down, where having a document safe will help preserve some things, but it’s still going to be immensely painful if it happens.

  19. RFS-81 says:

    Completely unrelated to anything, but I just have to share it: Shamus has described Spec Ops: The Line as a game about a shooter protagonist living in a world with consequences. Well, I watched a video about The Mystery of the Droodz Druids yesterday. Apparently, it is Spec Ops for point&click adventures. Except it has a happy ending and you save the world with the power of sociopathy.

    Inspector Halligan is hated by his colleagues at Scotland Yard because, well, he constantly behaves like an adventure protagonist. Stealing and borrowing things that are never seen again, using police databases for his own harebrained schemes and so on. It never really looks like a parody, but it’s just so absurdly cruel that it has to be some sort of commentary. Like, you poison a homeless person to steal his change because Halligan has lost his wallet.

  20. guy says:

    Man, I pretty much just use Google for email, sharing a couple things across drive, one phone game, and watching Youtube, and even for me a ban would be catastrophic. I use it for doctors’ appointments, bank reminders, and job applications. And with no indication of why he got banned I have no idea what to do to avoid the same fate. I guess “be less active so I have fewer things that might trip the wrath of the algorithms” but I doubt that’s what they’re going for.

  21. Alec W says:

    Shamus you could just post a big long article. I’d read it.

    1. Vulpius says:

      I was gonna say that. Wouldn’t mind if there were some days/weeks without new posts either..

  22. Jeremy Audet says:

    Where else can I go if I don’t want to do business with a scary unaccountable monolith? That’s all that’s left these days. Facebook? Microsoft? Huawei? Yahoo? Those monoliths all have the same privacy and reliability concerns as Google, and are generally much lower quality.

    These concerns are what led me to jump from gmail to protonmail. Their flagship selling point is privacy. I’ve found them reliable, and as a provider that’s been around since 2014 and with ~20 million users, I expect they’ll stick around for a while. They do close accounts at times (of course), but I’m under the impression that they have have humans available to handle support requests.

    All that said, this isn’t a silver bullet. I’m trusting that Proton Technologies is, in fact, being privacy conscious and will stick around. They have mail, calendar, and contacts, but none are as slick as what Google offers. (I miss the auto-filling location addresses when creating calendar events!) They don’t have an online office suite, and while I find file syncing (with Syncthing) and off-site backups a fine replacement, it’s a fundamentally different approach. And I’m still putting a lot of eggs in one basket.

    1. WWWebb says:

      I pay Yahoo 25 bucks a year, and they don’t show me ads, read my email, or try to up-sell me on their other products. They also have a decent set of apps for my phone and still support SMTP/POP3/IMAP if I want to read my mail offline.

      I also think it’s worth it to not have to worry about Swiss international politics. Their banks caved to international pressure. I suspect their servers will too eventually.

  23. tmtvl says:

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned Kolab yet, which you can self-host or get hosted for you on the cheap.

  24. EmmEnnEff says:

    > I don’t know what the answer is here, but it’s nice to have something new to worry about.

    Software and services that run on your computer, with regular backups to two separate cloud providers.

    Your own e-mail domain that redirects to whatever front-end-of-the-week you want to use.

    Not using federated-by-google/twitter/facebook/whatever logins.

    In short, doing a lot of annoying sys-ops stuff.

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