Detecting Jackwagons in Online Games

griefing

Reddit Syndrome, The Eternal September, et al.

Counter Strike Global Offensive (CS:GO), a game I have been playing often since summer of last year (2013), is currently facing a dilemma that all online multiplayer games (and many social networks) face: as it grows in popularity, which is required to grow the monetary kick-back for developing and running the service as well as pushing the service’s features forward, the average level of player maturity decreases in proportion, to the point where older players who are used to playing with a more mature player-base will flee the game for some other outlet until this process takes over that one, and so on. It’s important to note that I’m not speaking about the skill of CS:GO players, since that is handled quite well by their Elo ranking system, but instead the maturity level, which means things like the level of racist voice and text chat, lack of statesmanship, etc.

Paul Graham’s Hacker News experiment is an attempt to solve this problem on the social news side of things. He writes about several of his reasons behind the choices he has made while running the site.

I wonder…

Is there a way to programmatically ensure that higher-maturity players do not intersect with lower-maturity players while not specifically removing the lower-maturity players from the player-base, since those lower-maturity players are required to keep the service growing?

My idea is that the service would have two or more pools of players, which would be kept secret from the player-base. My supposition is that lower-maturity players are “high-churn” in that they will likely not stick with the game for a great length of time and will instead switch their attention to some new game that arrives 3-6 months later. This “high-churn” player-base would essentially subsidize the higher-maturity players and game without the higher-maturity players ever having to intersect in game-play with them.

How do you detect an asshole, in code?

My guess is that this will have to be done in a similar way to detecting email spaminess: users will have a value between 1 and 100 for assholery. Being an asshole in online forums such as games is not binary (being either true or false) nor can any one action or decider change your state to true or false. So, it will have to be a collection of actions, over a given space of time, which will increase or decrease your assholery value.

Counter Strike Global Offensive offers a way for players to report users for griefing which offers one opportunity, though I’m not sure how much weight to put on it since it could be easily gamed directly by the assholes we’re trying to prevent.

A manual process is, at first glance, out of the question, since it’s not scalable. Thousands of games are on at any given point in a day. How could you possibly oversee them to identify assholes? Here, Counter Strike Global Offensive offers us a unique idea: Overwatch. As a developer, this solution smells bad because it feels like something we should be able to automate.

Perhaps a combination of encouraging users to not act this way combined with an Overwatch-for-Assholes system would reduce it.

I don’t have an answer

This problem is not going away and will only get worse as the gaming population grows.

Discuss on Hacker News.

All that, for this.

Interview on NPR with John C. Inglis of the NSA:

While Inglis conceded in his NPR interview that at most one terrorist attack might have been foiled by NSA’s bulk collection of all American phone data – a case in San Diego that involved a money transfer from four men to al-Shabaab in Somalia – he described it as an “insurance policy” against future acts of terrorism.

(Source)

Emphasis mine.

On being secure

With all the recent news about the US government collecting and analyzing everything we do online and in our daily lives, we’ve all been looking for ways to increase our privacy.

Today, an article was posted on Hacker News about Google Analytics not being served over https. After reading this, I remembered that I use it and questioned whether or not I should keep it on this blog. Google Analytics has been installed on this blog for years, but today I found it hard to answer exactly why. It provides no real value to me other than satisfying my curiosity.

In the end, I decided to remove it. Not only because it is not served over https, but because the only real parties it benefits are Google and the NSA. My site is not large or popular, but it’s just one less site on the network being tracked through that channel.

I believe, in life, we should lead by example. I believe the web should be secure by default. I believe web servers should only function when using encryption (Supporting http was a design flaw, https should have been the only option. Even a self-signed certificate is safer than plaintext http.)

To that end, I’ve come up with a short list of simple things us website owners can do in order to hinder attacks or snooping by third parties. I’ll compare my own site against this post and update as I move toward compliance (red means failure):

  1. Serve content only when encrypted by perfect forward secrecy.
  2. Serve content entirely from web hosts and CDNs under your control.
  3. Encourage others to do the same.

It’s amazing how quickly my view on this has changed. If you would have asked me a year ago whether or not it was important to self-host images and scripts used on your site (or whether you should even be hosting your blog yourself versus using a third-party service like Tumblr), I would have answered an emphatic no and provided many reasons why letting a bigger, better player handle that is much better.  As a site operator, I want my site to be as fast as possible. As a web user, I want to be as secure as possible. Which is more important?

With the way things are now, it’s worth being a second or two slower to serve knowing that your stuff is your own.

An open response to Anthony re: The Problem with Parking

This is an email response I sent to Anthony Reinhart, who wrote a fantastic article on parking lots in the Innovation District in Kitchener.

I’d love to get your feedback on my ideas and hear what you have to say on the subject.

Hi Anthony,

Thanks so much for writing your “Problem with Parking” article on View From The Loo. I’ve seen you around the hub; I work with Ivan on Will Pwn 4 Food.

It’s an issue that’s dear to my heart, especially since I spent 5 years in walkable, lovely downtown Guelph. After getting the gig with Ivan, I knew that I’d have to move here, so I found a spot to rent across the street from Communitech on Victoria (I’m right across from Oak St., near the green Vidyard home).

I use my car to go a few blocks, just as you said, and I hate it. I would never have done such a thing in Guelph. After living here for 10 months, there are certain things that make being a pedestrian almost impossible.

We need a pedestrian-first mindset in this city. Here’s what I think needs to change to support that:

  • 40km/h speed limit in the Innovation District, rather than the 50km/h default, strictly enforced
  • All intersections default to crosswalks on. Currently, if you don’t press the crosswalk button on the corner of Victoria and Joseph (Communitech’s location), you are not allowed to walk across the street even when the light turns green (and lasts < 10 seconds I might add)
  • Pedestrian crossing light on Joseph for people who park in the stone parking lots behind Communitech. Currently, everyone j-walks and it’s very dangerous, especially in bad weather
  • A “scramble” crosswalk at the corner of Charles and Francis, giving us tech workers quick and easy access to food downtown without fear of being run over (I see many people crossing diagonally already)

To help support the discussion on this topic and keep the ball rolling, I’m going to CC this email to my blog. Is there a forum I can link to, as well, in case people have responses?

Best,

Don’t always listen to advice

When showing someone your start-up/product/service, it’s easy to let them guide your thinking unconsciously. It feels like there’s an inverse proportion of weight given to feedback to sample size, especially if it’s the first time taking the cover off.

Here’s a really great example of why one should always take every bit of advice as advice and not gospel:

advice

 

 

 

Kitchener: Street Cars Please

Have you ever been on Fischer-Hallman? It’s an ugly street, full of cars and traffic signals. Not pretty or pedestrian-friendly.

It’s also one of the busiest roads in Kitchener.

While this city is not the richest or the largest in Ontario, it’s to the point now where street cars can alleviate one of the biggest problems here: getting around.

The two lines presented below would let anyone go from the Downtown Go/Via station at Weber/Victoria to the Wal-Mart on Ottawa. Beautiful. As an added benefit, the Wal-Mart location is very close to the Conestoga Parkway, making it a great location to be picked up or dropped off by friends who use cars.


View Larger Map

Where LinkedIn Fails

linkedin-fail

I’ve interacted with Adrian Banninga before on Twitter. I wrote about his game in a Fund This Game article on my gaming site. He re-tweeted my post and #ff’d me. So why do I need to know someone in between him and me before we can connect?

As a huge fan of LinkedIn I’ve recommended it to a ton of people. How can I continue recommending it when I am unable to perform this site’s most basic function: add a person to my network?

Gonna Be Pretty Quiet Around Here…

Will Pwn 4 Food Logo

I’m not abandoning this blog, not by a long-shot. Still, my current work eats up my life these days.

If you wanna follow what we’re doing at Will Pwn 4 Food (and you know you do, because you like videogames just like I do), then come our first game, DodgeBots, and subscribe to our blog.

How to disable mailto links in your browser

Outside of accidentally opening Internet Explorer the biggest annoyance on the web is mailto links. These are usually masqueraded as a ‘Contact Us’ link which you’d expect to forward to a web form. What ends up happening is either your operating system attempts to open a mail program (who still uses those, seriously?) or it forwards you to Gmail (less annoying but still annoying as hell).

Here’s how to disable mailto links in Firefox and Chrome.

My Car Makes a Nice Office But…

While I wait patiently for Canada to adopt a comprehensive high-speed rail line and commuter service, the next best thing is a car for working on the go. Though I’m the primary driver these days, there have been times when I’ve been the passenger. I write this now from a very comfortable position next to Exhibition Park in Guelph. I’m doing work on the laptop in the passenger seat (using a 3G USB adapter from Wind mobile).

Rail is my favourite mode of transport because:

  1. You face people. Seats are positioned in a way that fosters communication, unlike cars, in which everyone faces the same direction and it’s hard (and sometimes impossible) for people sitting less than a metre away in the back seat to hear conversation in the front seat.
  2. Free Wifi.
  3. Work while you travel. When you’re driving, you can’t do anything but drive. It’s dead time; a complete waste of human existence. If you travel by rail, you can accomplish work, read, think, relax, read.
  4. It’s fast. Even current rail service in Canada, specifically between Guelph and Toronto, isn’t that bad in terms of speed. My GPS reported that we reached 140km/h at one point. With some proper funding and planning, that could be the average speed, not the top speed.
  5. It’s safe. Rail is a very safe method of travel, especially compared to the car.
  6. You can pee. Every car has a washroom built right in. You don’t have to stop transport to pee.

Still, for times when I need a third place and cafes are closed, I use my car. It’s a 2001 Chrysler 300m. Here are a few things that could have been done better.

  1. Built-in inverter. My car has two access points to DC electricity: One in the front and one in the centre console. It uses the traditional cigarette lighter type adapter, to which I plug in an inverter which gives me AC electricity for my laptop.  (An even better solution would be to buy laptops that include a DC plug as well as an AC plug so I could just plug straight into DC since that’s what laptops use natively).
  2. Auxiliary input for the car stereo. I won a free car stereo and had the installers provide access to an AUX IN jack so I could plug my laptop audio in but it would be awesome if this came included out of the box. I have all of my mp3s, oggs, and music modules on my laptop.
  3. DC Access point for the back seat. Currently there is no way to access DC power in the back seat except through the centre console, which, when left open, is uncomfortable for the driver.
  4. Better fuel economy. While I’d love to have a fully electric car (such as the Ford Focus Electric), I realize that in 2001 the technology wasn’t close to being ready. My car gets an average of 11L/100KM in town and 7L/100KM highway. It would have been nice to have the ability to switch the engine between performance mode and economy mode whilst in the city.

Spending Less Time At Facebook These Days

Facebook has recently changed the way it handles my news feed. Because of this, it’s likely that I’ll be reading it less and keeping it around just to post things and check up on to make sure I haven’t missed a message.

Here’s why: I don’t equate friendship with following.

When I’m your friend, I want to keep in touch, maybe hang out, and share something with you directly. I don’t want to see your thought stream.

Don’t take it personally because it isn’t personal. When I read stuff online, it’s usually news. I want to learn something new about the fields in which I am excited, not in which you are excited. If it’s not news, it’s an editorial on said fields. If it’s not an editorial, it’s a tweet from someone who might be generating the previous two examples.

I had spent the last 6-12 months whittling down my Facebook news feed to weed out most people’s/most page’s posts from showing up.  The little down arrow icon with the “Hide all from xyz” was my best friend.

Then, a week or so ago, all those settings got wiped in favour of a new “acquaintences” system where you specifically select which group you want to read from.

Here’s why it doesn’t work: I have no clue what people are going to say before they say it, so I have no idea who I would like to follow. But, once they’ve said it, I sure as hell know who I would like to unsubscribe from.

This doesn’t mean I don’t want to be their friend, it just means I don’t want to mix their stuff in with mine is all.

Awesome Vegetarian Restaurants in Downtown Toronto

Staying at the Hotel Victoria in downtown Toronto for the last week with my girlfriend Amy has opened us to a ton of new, fantastic vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Google has helped us find them all, but I wanted to take a second to put together a small list in case you’re downtown Toronto for a while and are looking for great places to eat.

I’ll separate them by category.

Pizza

Pizzaiolo
http://www.pizzaiolo.ca/
There are probably 15 to 20 of these around Toronto, but the one we went to was just a few doors down from our hotel on Yonge St. It was amazing. In fact, it was so amazing, we ordered pizzas there two days in a row. They have a ton of vegetarian and vegan choices and each are made fresh right in front of you. It’s amazing.

Take-Away and Fast Food

Urban Herbivore
http://www.torontoeatoncentre.com/EN/Directory/Stores/Pages/UrbanHerbivore_F018.aspx
Like most food places in Toronto, there are a few locations. The one we went to was in the Eaton Centre, and it was fantastic. I ate the BBQ Tofu sandwich and loved it even though I’m not normally a huge fan of tofu. It was quick and cheap. Like all great vegetarian food, if you didn’t know it was vegetarian you wouldn’t be able to tell.

Sit Down

Fresh Toronto Vegetarian FoodFresh
http://www.freshrestaurants.ca/our_history.asp
Fresh was, without a doubt, our favourite. It’s got great style, it’s busy, it’s fast, and the food tastes fantastic. Amy loved it so much she bought one of the recipe books they offer on sale.

King’s Cafe (Kensington Market)
http://www.kingscafe.com/
This is the sister restaurant to our favourite vegetarian restaurant in Guelph, Zen Garden. Great food and amazing Lychee Black tea.

YouTube’s New UI

If there was one website that needed a new UI it was Youtube.com. The site’s design hadn’t changed significantly since it’s introduction in 2005 and it was slow, heavy, and out-of-date.

Since the purchase of Youtube by Google, a few new features have shown up from time to time including the ability to sign in with your Google Account. Unfortunately, the site still felt like a third-party product and not part of the Google package.

In line with the across-the-board design upgrade to all of Google’s offerings, Youtube has just upgraded its design to match its Google siblings, Gmail and Docs. It’s a huge boost in terms of design and functionality, but it’s not all peachy. First, the bits that work well.

  • The Account Switching feature that’s found on Google Docs and Gmail is a very welcome addition, especially for people that make Youtube videos but also have a personal account with separate preferences and subscriptions.
  • The site is much faster. It’s hard to describe how good it feels to actually watch videos on the site now. Before, the site would stop loading randomly, usually just as we sat down to eat after clicking Play or when showing someone a video you’ve raved about.
  • Buttons are in the right spots and don’t move while the site is loading. I’ve griped about this sort of UI mistake before on other websites, especially twitter.com. The problem is something will move as soon as I go to click on it because another part of the website has loaded. I end up clicking on something else (usually an ad) that I didn’t want at all. It’s terribly frustrating and (thankfully) has been much improved in the UI upgrade.

And now for the not so good. Don’t worry, there isn’t much.

Is this Yahoo or Google?

There is way too much stuff on the front page. When Google first launched their search engine, designers lauded the simplicity of their design. It was common to compare yahoo.com up against google.com. Unfortunately, the front page of Youtube seems to be going in the wrong direction: more and more things just keep getting piled on the front page until it becomes a cluttered mess and I’m unsure exactly what I’m supposed to be looking at.

What’s your take?

Dropbox For Teams?

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of Dropbox and have been using it for years. I learned about a new service that they’re offering called Dropbox Teams. One would assume that this version of the software would offer tighter integration with teams or some other features to justify the $795 cost which includes 5 seats.

Looking over the FAQ offered a lot of technical questions and answers but not what I was looking for: Why would anyone choose this option over the free or $10/month 50GB option?

Is there anyone out there using Dropbox Teams that can shed some light on why they went that route versus the regular service?

Edit: I see now. It’s basically a huge jump in the amount of storage capacity with some support thrown in that one will likely never use.

Wireless in Welland, Ontario, Canada

Over the holidays this year I’m in Niagara staying at my parents’ place. Used to working at the Red Brick Cafe in Guelph, I was worried heading back to an area without a focus on tech would mean staying in the basement to do work. I searched for a few hours online and talked to some folks to figure out where the wireless hotspots in Welland are.

I couldn’t find much.

So, I figured I would list wireless hotspots I had found in the area to let those who come after me to know where they can get some work done in a comfortable environment.

The List So Far

Cafe on Main

Where: 91 East Main Street.

Hours: Mon-Fri – 8am to 5pm, Sat – 9am to 3pm, Sun – Closed.

The best cafe experience in Welland, bar none. Take the #9 or #10 bus to the downtown terminal and walk a block toward the historic bridge. Located directly across from the courthouse, it offers a quiet and comfortable atmosphere and includes a fireplace. If you’re in the area and are looking for a place to get a good latte, this is it!

Seaway Mall Food Court

Where: 800 Niagara St., Welland, Ontario, Canada (view map)

Hours: Mon-Fri – 10am to 9pm, Sat – 9:30am to 5:30pm, Sun – 12pm to 5pm

Seaway Mall’s food court has several wireless hotspots and some work better than others. I had great experience with SSID SeawayMallA but almost none with SSID SeawayMallE.

Cafe Mochaccino in Seaway Mall

Where: 800 Niagara St., Welland, Ontario, Canada (view map)

Hours: Mon-Fri – 10am to 9pm, Sat – 9:30am to 5:30pm, Sun – 12pm to 5pm

Great (and inexpensive!) cappuccino but no in-house wireless. Using Seaway Mall’s wireless required me to sit at one of their tables just outside of the cafe.

That’s it, for now. Expect this post to grow as time goes on and more wireless hotspots are discovered. And, by all means, if you find your own wireless hotspots in Welland please list them in the comments!

Windows Azure is Windows 8

I sat in my office last night trying to identify what Microsoft is doing to combat upstart thin-client operating systems like Google Chrome OS, continue making money with its very popular offline Office suite and offline Windows platform, and compete against Amazon for data and web services now that the world is moving into cloud services.

They will have a lot of competition in the next 3 to 5 years against their core, money-making software products and I believe their plan is to leverage the millions of existing .NET developers and all of the skills they’ve spent years developing to change Windows from a boxed product to a subscription-based “Windows-As-A-Service” service.

I’ve been working with the Windows Azure platform for a few weeks now and I have to say I’m quite impressed. Launching apps is pretty easy once you have the required software installed and there are plenty of projects already listed at CodePlex to get you started. Moving from .NET development to Azure development is a piece of cake. They also appear to be much more open to supporting non-Microsoft development languages such as Ruby and PHP. As a Linux guy, I have to admit they’ve put this together pretty damn well.

Currently, the industry has only paid attention to the web application deployment features of Azure. I believe the true power of Azure is not just deploying scaling web applications but in its ability to launch virtualized desktops from the cloud. Let me explain what I envision Microsoft’s plans to be for the future of the entire software lineup.

The Home PC Market

Imagine you’re a standard, nuclear family buying a home PC in the year 2015. You go to Staples (or whatever your big box store of choice is) and look at what they offer. They have a number of PCs for sale but because by this time most computers have enough horsepower for the home user, the hardware statistics are subdued or even missing. Instead, the software features are prominently displayed.

Available for sale is a home PC that will give you Windows Azure (includes 5 users, Internet Explorer, Office Home, Zune music and PC game marketplace). There are three prices, depending on how long your contract term is, similar to a mobile phone.

  • 3-year contract: $249 hardware cost + $99.99 / year Windows Azure subscription
  • 2-year contract: $499 hardware cost + $99.99 / year Windows Azure subscription
  • No contract: $599 hardware cost + $99.99 / year Windows Azure subscription

You bring the PC home after buying the 3-year contract (who replaces a home PC within 3 years anyway, right?) and turn the machine on. The default software on the machine is a thin-client that simply facilitates the connection to Windows Azure. You create the users for each of your family members and in behind the scenes each of them gets a virtualized desktop (probably Windows 7 renamed to be Azure Home or something of the sort), hosted in the cloud. Instantly all activation, piracy, and product key woes are a thing of the past.

Because the virtualizations are hosted in the cloud, all of the annoyances that current operating systems have would be minimized or eliminated. Consider: All updates to the operating system could happen while the PC is, effectively, off. If Microsoft chose to solidify the hardware requirements for manufacturers, the platform would no longer need drivers after a fresh install and driver updates would happen transparently.

On the each virtualized desktop is an icon for the Zune marketplace where users can purchase Windows apps like iPhone subscribers can: from their app store. Clicking purchase would instantly make available the software you’ve purchased.

The benefit of all this is that of every cloud: You don’t always need to be on the same PC to do your work. You could sit at any computer in an airport, school, library, cafe, or your home and access your desktop from anywhere. Truly this is the stuff of the future.

SMB Market

Because the virtualized desktops will be running the Windows everyone already knows, application development will remain just as easy as it ever has. Developers who are out there, making applications on the Windows platform will only need to learn “What’s new” instead of “What’s changed?”

Businesses will be sold on cost reduction since the Windows Azure platform removes almost all administration and IT support requirements from the business. If you can plug a PC in, you’re pretty much good to go. No more crazy Windows product keys or version incompatibilities. All apps on your virtualization would be incrementally updated over time. Since everyone on the service is paying yearly, this would cover the cost to Microsoft normally attributed to upgrading.

The Windows Azure Business option would also include an SLA.

Corporation / Government Market

For this market, Microsoft would take the SMB Market platform and simply multiply it to handle thousands of PCs. Likely they would offer additional support, a better SLA, and decreased per-unit cost due to bulk sales and contracts.

All of this is really magical stuff and I really hope the future turns out to be something similar. The other exciting part of Azure is what most people focus on: the fact that it offers nearly unlimited storage, computation, and development possibilities for developers and businesses. And that’s where Microsoft needs to cut the mustard. Or else, this whole thing is for nothing.

In order to get businesses and users to adopt the new platform, there has to be killer applications available on it. New stuff, not just Office and IE. Fun stuff like Google Goggles or Twitter. And that can only come from a completely open and available system to let the minds of developers take their crazy dreams and put them into code.

If I could make an impassioned plea to Microsoft, from a developer, please offer us an Azure development option at no cost. We’re not asking you to host our million hits per day website for free, just something we can log into, put up and app and see if it gets some traction. If it’s good and generates some revenue, give us a call and we’ll sell it or start paying.

What do all of you think of the possibilities of this new service? Are you excited about Azure? Let me know in the comments!

Google Chrome for Linux Now Available

The world’s fastest web browser, Google Chrome, has recently been released on the Linux platform. This is big news since it will greatly improve the web browsing performance of many of the world’s netbooks.

I’ve been a huge fan of Google Chrome since it appeared in the summer of last year, but haven’t used it heavily simply because of the lack of Linux support. It is installed on my Windows 7 virtualization, however.

Word on the street is that Google Chrome is also available for Macs, so if that’s your platform, take a look!

One thing that I think is important to note that I haven’t seen anyone pick up on is this line on the Official Google Blog post about Chrome being available for Linux and Mac:

“At Google, most engineers use Linux machines …”

Hmm.. No wonder they’re winning! ;)

Go for it -> Download Google Chrome for Linux