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Brandon Downey
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Brandon Downey

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Too real. 
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"With arms open ".That was a great episode. Also the acting was great the frustration he felt trying to decode what the other captain was saying felt real. 
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Great idea. But you know, probably would have more credibility if your intelligence agency wasn't trying to inject flaws into products, you know? 
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"Made in China" might be as suspect to foreign countries as "Made in the U.S.A." is to everyone.
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"Some thoughts on future artifact games"

So, everybody is all abuzz with rumors of a new artifact game. Some people (maybe those who have never played in an artifact game) are really excited. Some people hear the news (these people may have stayed up for 36 hours following an artifact) and crave death. Others (maybe most people) hear the news, and are completely indifferent -- “what’s an artifact?”. 

As someone who has played all the roles in a shard/artifact game: Planner, operator, key trafficker, logistics, linker under fire, and (of course) guardian of a shard for a gruelling day-long block of time (Where’s the badge for ‘Ring-bearer’?), these are my suggestions about what could be done to make the game a lot more fun, and, well, fix what was clearly a broken process. 

1: Artifacts should be an order of magnitude less buggy. 

The most common problem with artifacts in Helios were that they would regularly simply fail to behave as the rules suggested they would. In particular, there was some sort of anti-spoofing protection in place that nobody understood, and it resulted in disasters like ops which had taken countless hours to plan and hundreds (in some case thousands) of dollars failing as legitimate players in legitimate PITA locations in legitimate monsoons (<3 you India) were unable to even do basic tasks like link an artifact portal.

2. Niantic needs to communicate early and often and establish clear lines of communication.

When 1. happened, no one at Niantic would publicly comment. Supposedly it was because the anti-abuse technology was so hush hush it couldn’t dare be mentioned because people could circumvent it. 

This was a disaster. 

Players already knew this would happen, they were just in the dark as to why legitimate players were failing to make links from artifact portals -- actual cheaters had a zillion zillion bots to test with until they got what they wanted. 

Leaving players in the dark pretty much was the worst. 

3. Have a clear process for arbitrating bugs and rule clarifications/updates.

I think most of us understand that no set of rules survives first contact with reality. Certainly, none of the artifact rules have! 

But you can spare a lot of misery and hurt feelings from players if there is a clear process for arbitrating these effects. 

Large scale sports have this as a day to day problem -- and have evolved fairly comprehensive systems to deal with them. 

I could write a whole doc about what this arbitration system should look like, but the basic idea is that the process should be:

- Fair
- Consistently applied
- Subject to input from both sides
- Decided by impartial referees

4. Niantic needs to be available. 

Despite the efforts of some heroic community managers (Brian Rose chief among them), Niantic’s support staff for artifacts largely operated out of the business hours for the offices they were in. In remote corners of the world, bad stuff happened with artifacts, and it was really, really hard to get remediation before irreversible changes happened. 

5. The actual cheaters need to be dealt with

There was no greater worst day for artifacts in Helios than watching artifacts being blocked from moving by links thrown by spoofers; or by artifacts held in place by the efforts of the Vilnius botmaster [*] deploying very rare shields on all portals in a city.

As I write this, there are new spoofing frameworks in place that have resulted in an increase in spoofing all over the world. What’s worse: these spoofers are neither being detected, nor are they being dealt with. 

I can give you dozens of documented evidence of this, but why don’t I let the botmaster speak for himself?

Followup from victims:

6. Niantic should think about unintended consequences.

The hard part about designing any system, and maybe especially where the system is a game, is about predicting the consequences of rules. This is hard not because of what we do know about the game, but more about the things that are not immediately obvious.

I could give you a ton of examples here, but for Niantic folks reading this, just think of the unintended consequences of something like the Guardian badge. 

How much time and effort has been spent on dealing with the player behaviors this badge has induced? Now, imagine how various artifact decisions have resulted in drastic, unexpected player behaviors. 

It is worth thinking about how things might break in unanticipated ways when you make any change. 

7. Do not make artifacts 24/7

I saved this for last. It is the most ‘concrete’ suggestion, but it is important for Niantic to hear this: 

Making a game which is 24/7 is ruinous on the health, wealth, and psychological well-being of its obsessed player base. There are good people who will run themselves into the ground if the game doesn’t stop, burn themselves out, and generally sour people on the prospects of artifacts.

I say this as someone who has met any number of amazing and borderline psychopathic friends from the people willing to do this. But because they are my friends, I don’t want to see this happen to them again.

I don’t want people to see an artifact descending on their city to be like a Biblical plague. It shouldn’t be, “Oh crap, A24 is here. What next, locusts?”

There are better ways to do an artifact game.

The following are just suggestions -- there are any number of ways to make artifacts not 24/7, just take these as ways to improve it:

* Artifacts one weekend, anomalies the next
* Artifacts occur in an N hour chunk of time (perhaps following the  septicycle), and we get a moving block of time each day
* Artifact game unlocks when players accomplish some in game action (total MU?) for a period of time. 


Thanks for reading, and hope those who have lived through previous iterations of the artifact game can chime in as well.

+Brian Rose +John Hanke 

+Daniel Musto +Terry Stout +Wendy Pyle ("When do I get to be marooned on an island again?")+Kris Habraken +Dustin Harwood +Jennifer Barry +Jennifer Pisano +Jon Harmon +Thrakazog +Kevin Wojta +John Hyrne 

+Kris Murray +Dwayne Maxwell +John Mazur +Michael Wylie 

#artifacts   #shonin   #artisane  
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+Alex Glabrezu Whatever.

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Brandon Downey

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+Brian Rohan I'm still not sure you're understanding the concept of evolution. Humans are not averting it, it's an ongoing process that is still happening to us today. To think that we're above evolution is wrong, because we're not. We are however manipulating natural selection, and it's important to make the distinction here on both counts. Natural selection still happens, it's not being averted at all. Even at a subconscious level, humans still choose to mate with whom they perceive to have the best genes - be it the man with the deepest voice or strongest muscles, or the woman with the shiniest hair, or most symmetrical facial structure (and increasingly, personality traits like intelligence or compassion play a part in this as we no longer need to selectively breed for strength and health) - and we call it attraction. There are a bunch of psychology papers on the topic, but again that's another discussion for another day.

As for the distinction between natural selection and evolution, natural selection is a contributor to evolution, but it isn't the only contributor. Mutations, the slight differences between a child and the combination of it's parents are the biggest contributor to evolution. Some mutations are good and others are bad, and over the generations, with selective breeding they compound and over time the difference between different subspecies grows.

Now, onto your question, and I'd like to point out that humans have been manipulating natural selection for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptian's selectively bred cat's and dogs from agressive, wild animals into friendly, domestic pets, and even more aggressive, hunting animals. We've also manipulated our shelter, food sources and water sources (we no longer live in whatever cave we can find, drink from a puddle and hunt for our food). Quarrying is manipulating the natural process of erosion to create structures like the pyramids, 4,600 years ago (and we still quarry today). In many countries, we successfully combat drought through irrigation, which is itself manipulating the flow of water. So, for things that humans have manipulated without negative consequences, there are many examples, and it's important to note that we have been doing many of these things for literally thousands of years.

I'll also note that natural selection isn't necessarily a good thing. Human extinction of animals like the passenger pigeon, or the thylacine, can be classified as natural selection (we are fitter than they were, and as a result we hunted them to extinction), and as a result a large part of their ecosystems are damaged and we need to intervene, and manipulate natural selectuon to repair them. Without restricting and manipulating natural selection in the ways that we do, humans would have completely destroyed the earth by now, we'd all be extinct, and we wouldnt be having this discussion.

All that said, this is 100% off topic from the original post, and as such, I'm not going to derail it anymore. If you want to make a separate post on the topic, I'll happily debate it with you there, but this isn't the place for it.

Also, sorry for the tl;dr;... #notsorry
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FYI, we all felt really dumb in the states after we went all crazy with 9/11, would be nice if Europe didn't do the same thing, k thnx. 
"France is also charging forward with attempts to expand government powers to monitor threats — and to punish those who praise or do not readily condemn terrorism. Leaders this week called for new legislation to significantly bolster domestic intelligence agencies."
Both nations seek sweeping new powers to curb terrorism as arrests proliferate across Europe.
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Dear Niantic,

If you want to know why veterans of artifact games talk about how they hate it, it's a misery, and artifacts coming to town are like a plague of locusts visiting, please take a look at what happened at the last minute.

After days of planning and trying, the Enlightenment got two artifacts to the Netherlands. As we lined up our shot to the target, through a maze of blockers and links, intel cut out...

10 minutes before the target.

Here's the deal:

It is horrifyingly disrespectful to your players that these bugs and crashes keep happening. People are spending hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars for these ops, and considerably more in human time. I wrote a post before artifacts started again how the #1 thing you should do is to fix the bugs with the artifact game. 

Clearly, that hasn't happened. 

If you can't ensure a reliable platform for playing artifacts on, then you need to design another contest that can run. Otherwise you just risk burning out and pissing off legitimate players. 

+John Hanke +Brian Rose 

+Albert Mark +Daniel Musto +Mar Romero +Travelling Particle +Vitaly Kabernik +Jennifer Barry +Dustin Harwood 

+Dwayne Maxwell 
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+Kevin O'Rourke Don't let it fragment.
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"Some further thoughts about artifacts"

So, I understand that our previous post about artifact suggestions was more or less ignored, but based on the prima facie evidence of the last 48 hours spent getting two artifacts moved out of California, I'm clearly a masochist. So, here goes: 

I've looked around everywhere, and there is no scoreboard for the artifact game. Not only is there not a scoreboard, there aren't even posts about what's happening in the shard game. In fact, I have to use a borderline TOS-violating extension to even get a list of the portals a shard is on and what portal owns them in one place. 

This is ridiculous. I understand that Niantic, for whatever reason, is leading a bizarro crusade against scoreboards, or good scoring, but you'd think somebody there could take some 20% time to whip up a website with the artifact locations, and (I know, it's crazy) a little animation of where they currently are, and who owns them.

In the ideal world, the moves would be followed like other spectator games, like League of Legends or the like, because there's a heck of a lot going on. 

There are a lot of good reasons to do this:

* It drives community engagement. As is, people are like 'What's an artifact? And why are these links all going crazy!"

* It is a vehicle for advertisers to advertise on, if you get people coming to check up on a post.

* It makes for a better game, because people like scoreboards. Look at every sport and every game ever, and scoreboards are a huge deal. Hell, look at baseball, where it's like all numbers, and people sit around obsessing over them. Note that this argument also applies to scoreboards for other states in the game, which people currently use third party apps to generated scoreboards for. 

Why are these features missing? Why would you have a global game that makes it harder for people to follow? 

It's a mystery to people in both factions, and maybe if you can't fix it, you can at least clarify why it is that way if the artifact game is so important. 

+John Hanke +Brian Rose 
+Terry Stout +Crystal Bell +Kevin Wojta +Josh S +Jennifer Barry +Dustin Harwood 
+Kris Murray +mark dobson +Dwayne Maxwell 

#shonin   #artifacts   #scoreboards  
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Ellison may be loony as hell but one of the smartest things he's done was to get Stan Honey on board to do the America's Cup TV graphics.

I watched the hell outta that thing and never before cared less about a boat race. A decent Artifact Tracking map would be so awesome and would also save a lot of us a lot of time making one ourselves. [Since we have shards to chase and anomalies to win.]
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"After the storm"

A bunch of people queued up to catch the glorious storm breaking over San Francisco on Sunday. Some great images, but I liked this one I got after the fact. 
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Picture ain't a picture without some people in it
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A post yesterday was spreading information about what we down at the north anchor of Friday/Saturday's gigafield. 

A fuller sitrep for this field (#nuclearwinter) will be forthcoming, but one of our Canadian operators has provided a riveting account of some of the challenges faced by our team at the north anchor.

Many people I know on Ingress often do things that push the limits of human endurance and capability to reach difficult anchors, but the lesson here is that research, planning, and the recognition that you it's better to be safe than sorry (such as calling in the mounties when there is real trouble) are always the best approach. 

My heartfelt thanks to members of both factions who helped in this situation -- I am glad we have all of you in Ingress. :)
Paul Chavady originally shared:

Written from the perspective of a first time operator

2 weeks ago, +Derek Perrin  invited me to run point together with +Suzanne Huggins  on an operation he had dreamed up. He told me he wouldn’t be present at the time but wanted us to coordinate the clearing of lanes in Saskatchewan and Alberta. I agreed, having NO idea what I was in for. The next thing I knew I was in hangouts and slack with people around the world, including the legendary +Brandon Downey . Suzanne and I started planning our clearing with the help of the veterans and not long later we had our plan in place. On Friday evening +Lisa Chavady  and I settled in to ‘Mission Control’ and started our arduous lane crawl. Our mission was to clear lanes from a cabin deep in Prince Albert National Park to the US border for a lane that would end up all the way down to the site of the first nuclear explosion, codenamed Trinity by Robert Oppenheimer in New Mexico. In addition we were clearing the Canadian portion of lanes to the Lockheed Martin facility in California, as well as ‘Stone Cairn’, a portal not far west of the Nevada border. We had everyone in place between one and two hours before throw time, and though we had a few last minute blockers pop up, we had a quick response from some agents in the field including +Scott Rattray  and +Jeff Olfert . At this point we were awaiting a check-in via Telegram from the Grey Owl team, consisting of Derek Perrin, +Tremaine Lea  +Josh B  and +Chris H-L . They left Saskatoon on Thursday and started their hike to the northern campsite. They spent the night in the middle of Kingsmere Lake at sub-zero temperatures and reached the northern campsite Friday afternoon. They warmed up and then departed the Northern Campsite and were snowshoeing the rest of the way, a 1-2 hour trip. With all agents in position, they checked in at 22:11 Saskatchewan time, right on top of the portal. They reported that they were concerned about getting out of there due to soft ice, but were ready for business. They logged off, promising to check back in at 22:45. Just after this check-in we ran into a snag in New Mexico with a blocking portal that was unreachable due to a gate. +Andrea Stansbury  was on the case, and rerouted the players to the other end of the area to try and reach it from there. Unfortunately this would cause a 20 minute delay in throw time. Soon after that the Stone Cairn team checked in and informed us there was in impassable rock fall 7 miles from the portal and they would have to go on foot. We advised them to go ahead but didn’t hold out much hope for a second layer. 22:45 ticked by and we waited for check-in with bated breath. 10 minutes later, they checked in and reported slight device issues, but nothing they couldn’t handle. We informed them of the now modest delay. At 23:14 we gave them the go-ahead to claim the portal and they proceeded to do so. It took a little longer than we anticipated as the system to get them all on wifi at once wasn’t working, and they had to log on one at a time but they got it done, apparently unnoticed. In the mean time, we started dropping our blockers and finished up in 17 minutes across both countries. The first link was thrown and just over 6 minutes later the field was closed up. Not long after that Derek messaged his girlfriend +Karen Innes, a Resistance agent, on COMM, stating they were in trouble. He then popped back into Telegram and stated that they needed help. I immediately called Prince Albert National Park, who defer emergencies to 911. I called 911, who transferred me quickly to the RCMP in the area. I gave the sitrep, including portal locations and medical status and shared all pertinent info. I believe Karen was doing the same thing at the same time. I then proceeded to contact a close friend of mine who lives in the area and knows the RCMP officers there (he happened to be in California at the time). He spoke to his friend who confirmed that they were suiting up to get there with snowmobiles but anticipated an ETA of 3-4 hours. I relayed that to the Grey Owl team and they advised that they thought the medical issue was too severe for that long of a wait. I passed the info back and waited. Not long later, Karen informed me that they are dispatching STARS air ambulance with an ETA of 2 hours. 

The Medical Situation

As anyone who does any kind of hiking knows, it’s important to plan for every eventuality. The Grey Owl team did just that and consulted with all the right people, including the park ranger for Prince Albert National Park. There is always a chance that something comes up that you can’t handle yourself, and in that case you need a plan to contact emergency services. Think of it as the same as a skier stuck on a mountain, or a hiker who breaks his/her leg and requires an evac. Keeping that in mind, here is the medical side of the story.

As mentioned earlier, they were to depart from the northernmost camp to snowshoe to the actual portal. The plan was for them to do that, finish their work and snowshoe back to camp, where they would stay the night. On the way to the portal, about 50 meters to their destination, Tremaine stepped in icy water/slush. This had not been an issue for the days preceding, but it happened to be right at the shore, where often the ice pack can separate from the shore, allowing icy water from underneath to flow overtop of the ice. That is what occurred here. They rushed to the cabin, which is a heritage site and therefore has no functional stove or other means of heat. They removed the boots and socks, and proceeded to warm his feet as well as dry his boots/socks. This is standard procedure in this situation. Between their arrival and the end of the throw, the situation started to worsen. They couldn't dry the garments and the foot started to grow frostbitten. That’s when Derek made the decision to call for help. If they tried to head back to camp to bring help or, it would be a 3 hour hike (add an hour due to the dark) and they would have to leave Tremaine behind. Rule number one of being stuck in the cold is to stick together so they ruled that out. A six hour round trip like that would almost certainly be fatal. They could stay behind and warm Tremaine until help arrived for him, but by that time they would be too cold to successfully return to camp. Lastly, they could call for help and request an evac for all four, which is the route that was chosen, and the right call for all. They warmed Tremaine’s feet with their cache of chemical hand warmers as well as by placing his foot on their stomachs and rotating periodically so as to not lose too much of their own body heat. Tremaine was airlifted by STARS and Derek rode along, while Josh and Chris waited the additional hour for the snowmobiles, which took them back. Tremaine was treated and released, and suffered second degree frostbite with mild blistering. This would have been much worse if the team didn’t know what steps to take. He is walking already, albeit gingerly.

Big thanks to the following people:

A huge thank-you to:

+Pardeep Bains  who put up Tremaine for the day
Willie Birss  who helped Pardeep retrieve Tremaine’s vehicle from the tow lot
+Heather Dorosh   who drove Tremaine's girlfriend Laurie D from Calgary to Oyen
+Keith Galenzoski  who drove Laurie from Oyen to meet Tremaine
And the Saskatoon and Calgary Enlightened and Resistance who are raising money to cover costs

It was a hairy experience, but it was handled professionally and in a timely manner. The way these things should be.
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Brandon Downey

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I thought it was a bad part of hippie culture on the left leading to #antivax  stuff, but I have to remember severe conservatives have anti-science as a value too. 
Amid an outbreak of measles that has spread across 14 states, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey on Monday said that parents “need to have some measure of choice” about vaccinating their children against the virus, breaking with President Obama and much of the medical profession.
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How republicans think of humans: "The state doesn't own your children," Mr Paul, who has placed near the top of many polls of Republican primary voters, concluded. "Parents own the children."  (source:

As if ownership is the only possible relation with children.  It was best said by Kahlil Gibran, but that's probably beyond them. 
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Brandon Downey

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Anti-vaxxers threaten the lives of children everywhere -- I know this post will convince no one, but if you are reading this, please stop being dumb. :( 
An unvaccinated child who went to the doctor with measles in California sends another baby into quarantine, leaving one mom to ask why it is allowed.
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Yeah, now that we know that flu vaccine causes narcolepsy (like to more than the 1/8000 that reported it) it likely won't be used. Every human immune system is different (good thing too, or smallpox would have killed everyone, rather than one in twenty of every generation since it evolved).

I took that Mexican (or swine) flu vaccine when it came out, as I work in a big multinational, I didn't want to bring it home to my kids. I was protecting them more than me (kids die from flu, adults don't usually).

Also, every vaccine the flu mutates around causes the flu to be less virulent, as it has to mutate around out immune systems. That's a plus..
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Not that you'd expect much better, since the administration already backs mass data collection for the whole world. But you know, with two years left as President, way to take a stand for... diminished civil liberties? 
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+Ryan Schoppmeyer yes technically encoding is the process, encryption is the result. Encrypting might not have any thing to do with code and is why the use of the term "encryption ban" seems unspecific and dangerous. I would be able to speak publicly without using government approved words in government approved order. 
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Have him in circles
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Network Security Engineer
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I push boulders up hills.

I work in computer security. I love writing, photography, mathematics, and generally having 'ah-ha' experiences.
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Mountain View, CA