Owlchemy Labs Scooped Up By Google

In your latest sign that VR software development is totally unsustainable as a standalone business, Owlchemy Labs has been bought by Google:

Today, we’re thrilled to welcome Owlchemy Labs to Google. They’ve created award-winning games like Job Simulator and Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality which have really thoughtful interactive experiences that are responsive, intuitive, and feel natural. They’ve helped set a high bar for what engagement can be like in virtual worlds, and do it all with a great sense of humor!

This doesn’t bode well for Owlchemy’s future output. I look forward to their shares vesting and the developer’s inevitable exit back to independent companies who actually make games again.

PewDiePie And YouTube Are Still Getting Paid

Jacob Clifton writing about the recently publicized (on the WSJ) anti-semetic videos from Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg:

With a celebrity like Kjellberg, it also invokes the idea that, if being a “fan” is part of your identity, any questioning of him is an indictment of you on at least two levels: both as a heroic independent thinker, and as a man with refined enough tastes to like the thing that you like. An exploration of your culture, whether that’s video games or YouTubers or white supremacy, is absolutely an attack on you, from an angle you’re no more likely to see than you are the back of your own head.

The title of the article was “PewDiePie Isn’t a Monster, He’s Someone You Know” before it was edited to “The Downfall Of YouTube’s Biggest Star Is A Symptom Of A Bigger Illness.” I suffer from the same syndrome of changing headlines, but I believe the first title was more appropriate.

There’s a combination of a 27-year-old with money and fame, and a regular theme from gaming culture online that it is standard and expected to say bad things and prove how little you care, that created this. It’s the smug attitude you might expect if you picture a late-90s hacker, or all of the communities on reddit, 4chan, IRC networks, and elsewhere that celebrate hate as a matter of course.

They will be up-in-arms at every attack on PewDiePie and their right to be assholes. I left one of my favorite gaming communities on IRC when it turned into a place where anti-semetic, racist, and homophobic views couldn’t be questioned. My hope came from the others that left first when we met up again in another online place.

Clifton:

Are they monsters? No. But you use the “monsters” to keep yourself from recognizing this about them, to avoid talking to them about it, to keep from opening the can and seeing what’s inside. You’d prefer to wait, and hope that the endpoint of the story in his case is something different. Violence, hatred, and organized activity are for the ones other people associate with, not the ones you know and love.

PewDiePie’s response, besides deleting the videos with anti-semetic messages, is that the reporters are to blame. He spends the first few minutes of the video explaining that because he’s rich, and he pushes back on “the media,” that’s why, he says, they highlighted his anti-semetic videos.

During the video Kjellberg says he’s sorry that although some people thought what he did was funny, others didn’t think like his jokes. His joke was hiring people to hold up a sign that says “Death to all jews.” It’s the kind of apology that a teacher would describe as “Not good enough.”

Kjellberg also complains in the response video that it’s a generational gap that makes people not understand his not-at-all-funny anti-semetic jokes.

Finally, Kjellberg ends the video by thanking the people that support him and flipping off the camera with a sarcastic “Thanks, Wall Street Journal.”

Kjellberg is not a monster, he’s not sorry, and he will continue to receive advertising dollars from every video he puts up. Google’s YouTube business will still get paid, as well, they only removed ads from some of his videos before but declined to remove them from YouTube. If he had actually made a sincere apology, I wouldn’t have a problem with him continuing, but without that he has emboldened his fans to make their own anti-semetic jokes and nothing has changed.

Google Play Music App Getting Podcasts

Elias Roman:

To that end, today we’re launching a portal for podcasters to start uploading their shows to Google Play Music before we open up the service to listeners.

Translated from Google-speak: The Google Play Music app for Android (and iOS) is going to download podcasts to Google servers and rehost them on their own servers. Podcast publishers will only have access to listener metrics for Google Play Music listeners through Google’s interface. Google will also insert extra ads around the podcasts that aren’t from, and won’t benefit, the podcast publisher:

Google reserves the right to show display (image) ads alongside podcast content. Google will not insert any pre-roll ads before podcast content starts or mid-roll ads during a given podcast episode. Google reserves the right to serve post-roll video or audio ads after podcast content. Google Play Music does not provide direct payment or revenue share for podcast content.

Today, podcast publishers put up an RSS feed that anyone can use. It’s an open standard that any client can download one of these RSS feeds, get a list of episodes, and download them. Publishers interpret the one metric that matters, downloads, and use that in addition to occasional surveys of their listening audience to sell ads to advertisers if they choose to run advertising. If Google Play Music becomes the way that most people listen to podcasts it will destroy the open standard and increase the number of advertisements that people are forced to listen to. This is not good.

Attack code exploiting Android’s critical Stagefright bugs is now public

Dan Goodin:

Attack code that allows hackers to take control of vulnerable Android phones finally went public on Wednesday, as developers at Google, carriers, and handset manufacturers still scrambled to distribute patches to hundreds of millions of end users.

The critical flaws, which reside in an Android media library known as libstagefright, give attackers a variety of ways to surreptitiously execute malicious code on unsuspecting owners’ devices. The vulnerabilities were privately reported in April and May and were publicly disclosed only in late July. Google has spent the past four months preparing fixes and distributing them to partners, but those efforts have faced a series of setbacks and limitations.

Can Apple ship that switching app for Android before stagefright gets patched in the majority of devices?

Will anybody even be able to find it in the Google play store among the scam apps that claim to support iMessage and make your Android device have an iOS-style (but terribly implemented) home screen?

YouTube’s Upcoming Paywall

Micah Singleton writing about the changes:

The way you experience YouTube may be dramatically different before the end of the year. According to multiple sources, the world’s largest video-sharing site is preparing to launch its two separate subscription services before the end of 2015 – Music Key, which has been in beta since last November, and another unnamed service targeting YouTube’s premium content creators, which will come with a paywall. Taken together, YouTube will be a mix of free, ad-supported content and premium videos that sit behind a paywall.

How much do I have to pay YouTube to prevent copyright trollbots from destroying the service?

YouTube Gaming

YouTube’s Twitch-competitor, YouTube Gaming, launched yesterday as an app on mobile devices and as a website. There are three major improvements that the announcement touts:

  • YouTube Gaming is your go-to destination for anything and everything gaming because it automatically pulls in all gaming-related videos and live streams from YouTube.
  • Viewers get personalized gaming recommendations based on the games and channels they collect. With over 25,000 game pages and even more gaming channels, it’s never been easier to connect with your gaming community.
  • We’ve also made it easier to create a live stream – check out the beta version of our new way to go live at youtube.com/stream today.

Lets talk about them in reverse order, starting with the streaming improvements.

If you wanted to stream to YouTube before, you had to manually schedule a start time and end time as an upcoming event. Scheduling didn’t suit the unplanned streams that are typical of Twitch and other game streaming sites. There’s a new dashboard for streamers as well that is a definite improvement over the Twitch dashboard because it seems like someone at YouTube actually put some thought into the design and what information streamers want to see when they’re streaming. Large text lets you know the health of your stream’s quality, how many people are watching, and how long you’ve been streaming for.

When you’re finished streaming, the stream will be archived by YouTube and begin processing immediately. Twitch only saves your videos temporarily and waits a short time for you to create highlight reels from them with a YouTube export option. For people who don’t have storage space or the upload bandwidth and time to dedicate to editing and re-uploading a local copy of their recorded stream this could be a great improvement. 

Of course there are the typical launch-day issues.

Yesterday, when I first attempted to stream Black Ops 3 to YouTube Gaming from Open Broadcaster Software, the new live video dashboard said that my stream was fine but all viewers saw was a blank “offline” message. Later in the day the issue cleared up and streaming worked.

Overall, the front-end for viewers on YouTube Gaming is redundant when all of the same content is available through YouTube proper. Scrolling through the homepage can best be described as an experience in wondering how a website from a major technology company in 2015 with so many resources can perform so poorly and slow your browser down so much if the new site loads at all. Today when I browse to gaming.youtube.com in Chrome I get a 404 page. Now we’re into launch week issues.

When it does load, YouTube Gaming’s front-end is fine and replaces the most common textual searching for live and archived game videos that users do with graphical box art of games to follow and click on to find what they’re looking for. The carousel of the most popular live video streams at the top of the page is a major improvement over the similar feature on Twitch’s front page. Twitch’s front-door carousel immediately starts loudly defiling your speakers or headphones even if you’re just momentarily browsing the front page while looking for something else or logging into the site. YouTube is nice enough to mute the audio.

The duplicated content just makes me think Google is getting ready for when, like other Google products have done after 6 months to a year, YouTube Gaming goes kaput and reintegrates with YouTube. This is a product that doesn’t need to exist. It is a sub-brand of a sub-brand of a product at a company that was fine without a gaming-specific site. At a time when the major improvement YouTube needs is a reduction in automated copyright notices that deny gaming video creators the ability to monetize their work on that platform YouTube is instead focused on recapturing a group of live streamers that long ago departed for the more live stream friendly waters at Twitch.

Competition for Twitch is good, but in order for a site to compete with Twitch effectively it needs to be useful from day one. YouTube Gaming is not quite there yet.

Goodbye, Android

Rightfully scathing article from Vice’s Motherboard’s Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:

I’ve been antagonistic with Apple products ever since I was a teenager, when Apple used to try to shove its apps down my throat (cough iTunes cough) whenever I just wanted to watch a movie trailer on Quicktime. I never liked Apple’s walled garden and “we-control-everything” approach, and I particularly disliked Apple fanboys’ dumb “oh my god there’s a new iThing coming out” reverence and hysteria.

So when the original iPhone came out a few years ago, I swore in multiple heated discussions with friends and strangers that I’d never buy an iPhone. Since then, I’ve only owned Android phones. First a few HTC ones, now a Sony phone.

Well, I’m sick of it. And I’m ready to go to the dark side.

I love the Android users in the comments chiming in that rooting a device and installing a custom ROM is a reasonable thing to do for Android devices that receive no updates from their carriers and manufacturers.

The ability for devices to receive updates in a timely fashion is critical to having even the vaguest hint of security in our post-Snowden revelations world. Windows 10‘s silent update mechanism is a great step in that direction for end-user security. Google even does it for their Chrome browser. Everybody else needs to get on board with it.

YouTube Gaming

Alan Joyce:

This summer, we’ll launch YouTube Gaming, a brand new app and website to keep you connected to the games, players, and culture that matter to you, with videos, live streams, and the biggest community of gamers on the web–all in one place.

YouTube Gaming is built to be all about your favorite games and gamers, with more videos than anywhere else. From “Asteroids” to “Zelda,” more than 25,000 games will each have their own page, a single place for all the best videos and live streams about that title. You’ll also find channels from a wide array of game publishers and YouTube creators.

Keeping up with these games and channels is now super easy, too. Add a game to your collection for quick access whenever you want to check up on the latest videos. Subscribe to a channel, and you’ll get a notification as soon as they start a live stream. Uncover new favorites with recommendations based on the games and channels you love. And when you want something specific, you can search with confidence, knowing that typing “call” will show you “Call of Duty” and not “Call Me Maybe.”

 Live streams bring the gaming community closer together, so we’ve put them front-and-center on the YouTube Gaming homepage. And in the coming weeks, we’ll launch an improved live experience that makes it simpler to broadcast your gameplay to YouTube. On top of existing features like high frame rate streaming at 60fps, DVR, and automatically converting your stream into a YouTube video, we’re redesigning our system so that you no longer need to schedule a live event ahead of time. We’re also creating single link you can share for all your streams.

A sub-site specific to games with custom search isn’t going to solve everything wrong with using YouTube for game streaming and pre-recorded videos but the other changes are very important. Scheduling a live event ahead of time makes sense for developers and publishers live streaming but doesn’t always work for people like me who would rather build up an audience of subscribers who get notified when I go live.

The most important change YouTube could make is to recognize that I’m in a game and more intelligently handle copyright notices. Video games are full of copyrighted music, and without legal advisement it is difficult to navigate YouTube’s current copyright notice system. To be fair, YouTube is more intelligently handling that problem than Twitch’s policy of just muting the audio for the portion of the video where the copyrighted music is present. I’m still terrified that my YouTube account will get shut down if I dispute the copyright notices with a claim of fair use, which is the only way to get some videos to be viewable again in the United States.

We’re All Doomed: Part LXVII

Chris DiBona announces the shutdown of Google Code:

When we started the Google Code project hosting service in 2006, the world of project hosting was limited. We were worried about reliability and stagnation, so we took action by giving the open source community another option to choose from. Since then, we’ve seen a wide variety of better project hosting services such as GitHub and Bitbucket bloom. Many projects moved away from Google Code to those other systems. To meet developers where they are, we ourselves migrated nearly a thousand of our own open source projects from Google Code to GitHub.

As developers migrated away from Google Code, a growing share of the remaining projects were spam or abuse. Lately, the administrative load has consisted almost exclusively of abuse management. After profiling non-abusive activity on Google Code, it has become clear to us that the service simply isn’t needed anymore.

Beginning today, we have disabled new project creation on Google Code. We will be shutting down the service about 10 months from now on January 25th, 2016.

There are a ton of abandoned but still useful projects on Google Code, most of which will be lost after 2016 if nobody clones them and puts them online somewhere else. Fortunately there is at least an Export to GitHub button on every Google Code site now, .

This is your continued reminder that Google, and start-ups funded by VC money, are not a safe place to store your work. Own your shit before GitHub starts inserting malware into downloads or sells out in some original and disruptive way. Get a domain, some shared hosting, maybe a Linux or BSD VPS if you’re rich. With git it is easy enough to move a project if you have cloned the project locally and have established a web presence that people can check for updates. At the very least, don’t make the GitHub page the public-facing home for your project.

Even Google isn’t stupid enough to put their most important projects on another company’s servers:

Google will continue to provide Git and Gerrit hosting for certain projects like Android and Chrome. We will also continue maintaining our mirrors of projects like Eclipse, kernel.org and others.

You can be sure their internal code for things like search aren’t hosted on GitHub, either.

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