Category Archives: Web/Tech

Google is doing it wrong. Again.

I'm putting this update at the top of this post as well as at the bottom, so nobody misses it:

Updated: It appears that Google engineers are actively working on a way to fix this thing, and that it may not have been intentional. I sincerely hope that that's the case, and will just point out that, if Google didn't have a pattern of social network behaviour to the contrary, I'd be way more willing to give Google the benefit of the doubt.

And it isn't lost on me that my G+ experience is likely quite different from most people's, I get that. If my opinion on this is somehow distressing to you because your experience is different, and you feel a need to be really shitty to me about it, I suggest you save us both the headache and keep it to yourself. Nobody is forcing you to listen to me.


Earlier today, I took a break from work to look at my G+ timeline, and saw that it was absolutely flooded with Event invites.

I thought maybe it was just me, so I asked on my G+ thing:

Did G+ roll out some new "invite everyone you follow to an event" thing? My feed is completely overwhelmed with "everyone's invited to XXXXX event" notices, and I'm having a hard time actually seeing posts from people I'm following.

Oh, and the spammer scumbags have figured out that they can make an invite to an event that's nothing but spam. 

Is there a way to opt-out of event invites from people I don't follow or have circled? Is this yet another thing Google rolled out without thinking it through clearly?

After a little bit of research and a lot of comments from a lot of people, it's fairly clear that this is yet another thing Google rolled out without thinking it through clearly… or, worse, this is exactly the way the company intended to do it. I swear to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it's like Google has learned nothing from Buzz, nothing from this, and is actually doing this sort of thing on purpose.

Here's my follow up post on G+:

Google's Event thing is something the company has worked very hard on, and has a lot of big plans for.

It's too bad that I'll never use it, because Google has, yet again, made a product that may be useful and cool, but forced it upon users without giving users any control over how invasive it is.

I don't know how it is for anyone else, but here's what has happened to me today: my timeline, which I look at at least once an hour on a regular day, is nothing but invites to events from people I don't know, or — worse — invites to an "event" that is really a spammy advertisement like "You're invited to buy [something] at [dodgy website].

As a result, G+ is useless to me today, and for as long as it takes the company to actually fix this, assuming they ever do. Yeah, it's a first world problem for me, but it's also a problem for Google, because even if 1% of G+ users feel the same way I do, that's a lot of people Google has unnecessarily pissed of and possibly alienated.

Am I supposed to believe that in the development of this event thing not asingle person said, "Hey, maybe we should limit this event invitation thing to people a user has already circled."? Really? After the Buzz fiasco, not a single person in the company spoke up and pointed out that forcing something on users that they don't want and may not need without asking them first or giving them an option at rollout to disable it was a good idea? 

Instead of talking about how cool this thing is, and how excited we are to use it, a significant number of G+ users — and people like Linus Torvalds, who are way more influential than I am are among them — are talking about how annoyed they are and how much they hate it.

Is that the rollout that Google was hoping for? Has Google learned nothing from doing things like this in the past? I'm starting to believe that this isn't an accident or poor planning, but by design; I just can't figure out why. Why does Google want to annoy its users? 

Google isn't stupid, and the Google engineers who work on this stuff are very talented, but someone at the top of Google's Social Networking unit just keeps doing it wrong. If any company wants people to adopt their services, they need to earn it by being awesome, not by clumsy and invasive product or service rollouts that inconvenience or annoy people who would probably like those things otherwise.

Google is going to want a lot of people to buy their Nexus Q and their Augmented Reality Glasses, and I bet those products will be pretty cool… but I'm not going anywhere near them, and I'm not going to encourage anyone else to go anywhere near them, until Google indicates that they have some concern for the end user experience, and seriously thinks through the consequences of forcing things onto their users that they may not want, or need.

Please pay attention, People-Who-Sit-In-Boardrooms, to someone who is actually using your products and isn't surrounded by corporate lackeys telling you how to "leverage" the "intersection" of "unique assets" and "corporatespeak that means nothing but sounds impressive to you": You get people to enthusiastically use services by making them compelling and awesome and easy to use. You don't get people to enthusiastically use your services by forcing them to. In fact, that's probably a great way to ensure that a huge number of people who may have been interested in trying out your service never even look at it.

And if I'm not someone you listen to, People-Who-Sit-In-Boardrooms, maybe you'll listen to Neil Gaiman:

I wish Google would leave the Social Network thing to others. When Google does what it does, and does it well, it changes the world. When it rides bandwagons, it’s irritating.

Come on, Google. I really want to like you, but you're making it really difficult. Honestly, how hard is it to give users a heads up? Doesn't it make more sense to get us excited about something in advance, so we're looking forward to it?

Updated: It appears that Google engineers are actively working on a way to fix this thing, and that it may not have been intentional. I sincerely hope that that's the case, and will just point out that, if Google didn't have a pattern of social network behaviour to the contrary, I'd be way more willing to give Google the benefit of the doubt.

And it isn't lost on me that my G+ experience is likely quite different from most people's, I get that. If my opinion on this is somehow distressing to you because your experience is different, and you feel a need to be really shitty to me about it, I suggest you save us both the headache and keep it to yourself. Nobody is forcing you to listen to me.

Mental Floss really likes Tabletop, and I talk to Nerdist about Second Watch

Two things for you, free of charge.

1. Mental Floss said really nice things about Tabletop:

So Wil Wheaton has a YouTube show about boardgames, and it’s awesome. It’s called TableTop, and it’s a long-form (about a half hour per episode) look at various good boardgames, including a basic explanation of how to play each — plus an actual play session so you can actually get it. Whether you’re a boardgame nerd or a “normal” person looking for a fun diversion for your next party, this is for you.

I'm crazy about Mental Floss, so this means a lot to me. I think Mental Floss reaches people who don't already know about Tabletop, and I'm hopeful that this will bring some new viewers and eventual new gamers into the world.

Also, I met a woman in Trader Joe's today who watches Tabletop. This is how I recounted it to Twitter:

Girl in store: Do you make that tabletop show? Me: Yes! Her: My husband and I love it! We have a game night because of it! Me: AWESOME!


Her little girl: Daddy's favorite is the trains! Her: We love Ticket to Ride. Anne: Careful with the board. Me: Voice of experience, here.

Her husband told me via the tweety box that she was there to get snacks for their weekly boardgame night, which exists because they were inspired by Tabletop. 

Mission: Accomplished*

2. I talked with Nerdist Incorporated about Falling Skies Second Watch, Tabletop, and the new media revolution:

N: 2nd Watch will be living on the web. In what ways will the show’s format be taking advantage of its portal?

WW: Hopefully, it will let us reach out to and embrace the audience in a more interactive way than we can with television, which is one-way communication.

N: With after-shows like this and Talking Dead, you and Chris are acting as ambassadors to the community on behalf of those shows. Do you think networks are finally seeing the value in personally connecting with the audience? And how does having the trust of an audience weigh on deciding whether or not to take on a job like this?

WW: It’s a huge responsibility to host one of these shows, because we need to know as much about the individual episodes and the cast as the most über of überfans. We’re essentially acting as a bridge between the fans of the show and the people who make it, so we absolutely need to have our shit together. I take the responsibility very seriously, and I know that there’s a certain amount of “this is awesome” implied when I agree to do something like this, which is why I wouldn’t have said yes if I didn’t absolutely love the show.

The networks are taking baby steps, as younger executives who have grown up with the Internet replace retiring executives who are still trying to fight the Napster battle. One of the key areas (in which) indies are destroying the majors is with fan outreach, no region-locking, no DRM, and things like that. It makes me really, really happy that TNT and AMC are seeing that the old style of one-way, top-down network to audience relationships need to adapt and change to meet what audiences expect right now.

There's a lot more to our interview, which I hope you'll read because I spent a lot of time thinking about and writing my answers down. For you. For science. You monster.


*And not in the fake codpiece way.



I’m hosting Falling Skies: Second Watch


Wil Wheaton hosts Falling Skies Second Watch for TNT

Two creators, one geek.


Remember when I said 

I don't cancel convention appearances lightly, because I know how disappointing it is for the people who are attending. I assure you that this isn't a ploy to win a game of Mystic Warlords of Ka'a, or even a bowling match… this is just something that happens from time to time when someone like me is lucky enough to land a dream job that conflicts with a planned trip out of town.

This is what I was talking about:

TNT announced the launch of a new web show, 2nd Watch, hosted by Trek and Leverage star Wil Wheaton. The show will air on with a live premiere episode on Sunday June 17 at 11pm ET – following the two-hour East coast season premiere of Falling Skies.

I love Hardwick's show Talking Dead (even though I wasn't crazy about last season's Walking Dead), so when TNT asked me if I was interested in hosting a similar show for Falling Skies, of course I said yes.

I mainlined Falling Skies over two days, watching every single episode from the first season and everything that they gave me for the second season. Also, [REDACTED]. 

I'm really excited about this for a few reasons: Number one, it's online, so you can watch it anywhere in the world whenever you want to see it. I believe that this is a fantastic step in the right direction for TNT (and all networks) because — let's face it — online is the future where everything is happening right now, and making it easy for fans to gather in one place and geek out over the shows they love just makes sense.* (Now if HBO would only listen to all the cord cutters who want to give them money… but that's slightly off topic.) Number two, I get to spend a ton of time geeking out with writers and actors who make a show that I love, and I get to ask them pretty much whatever I want. Number three, I'm standing on the shoulders of Chris Hardwick, which is always a nice place to be**. 

Most of the episodes are taped, but the season premiere and season finale will be followed by a live show (this is why I can't go to the Denver Comicon, and why I may have to miss GenCon this year.) I really want to say a lot more, but the NDA I have with TNT is terrifying, so I'm going to err on the side of shutting the fuck up, which is a new thing for me.

* I see in comments that you have to be a cable subscriber to get access to the show. Damn. Well, baby steps, I guess.

**I love this guy!!

This is really obnoxious, TypePad

Oh, hey, look! It's time for another ranty rant about the Internet. I swear to FSM, I've become Grandpa Simpson.

When TypePad was bought by an advertising company, we all knew the clock was ticking, and it would eventually be time to start looking for an alternative. To be honest, I'm surprised (happily) that it took this long.

Earlier today, I started composing a new post, only to see this on my composing screen:

Screen Shot 2012-06-04 at 10.53.50 AM
Little nuclear bombs went off in my eyes, and I wrote the following on Tumblr:

This is REALLY fucking obnoxious, Typepad.

Presenting this “easy way to embed relevant links” into a blog post may be worthwhile to some people, but not letting those of us who don’t care completely ignore the stupid thing and then putting precisely the kind of advertising we hate into it is worthy of me collating paper.

It’s bad enough that you won’t let me collapse this stupid window by default, but shoving promoted bullshit advertising into my fucking composition window on my own fucking blog when I am paying to use your service is totally unacceptable.

Small but important note: I use disconnect in my browser, so I suspect that it preventing TypePad from saving my preference to keep this stupid goddamn window closed. So that's on me. The argument about why we need to even use disconnect is its own thing, so I'll stay away from that, but it's relevant, nevertheless.

This is part of a pattern that I find exceptionally disturbing, and it's probably why I get all ranty when it happens: a company or product I love is bought by a company that I hate, and the thing I love is changed in subtle and unsubtle ways until it's just another example of why I hated that company to begin with. I'm always happy for developers to cash in and profit from that amazing thing they made that I loved, but I wish there was a way for them to do it without guaranteeing that that thing I loved will be trashed.

I really, really, really hate the entire concept of "promoted" anything — Tweets, posts, links, whatever — because it's advertising that tries to pretend that it isn't. At least on other services, I can accept it (they're free, after all, and everyone has to pay the bills) but when I'm paying a subscription fee to a service and this bullshit still shows up? HULK SMASH. 

I was a Movable Type user way back before TypePad even existed [HIPSTER KITTY], and a Grey Matter user before that. I love TypePad, and it's been a fantastic platform and service for me since I hosed my database at WWdN. In fact, it's been so easy to use and so stable, I haven't had much incentive to collect all of my things here in Exile and move them back to WWdN…

…until today. I guess it's finally time to leave Exile and go home. It will take a couple of weeks to get it all set up, but to be honest, it's something I should have done a long time ago.

an example of the usefulness of bittorrent for entirely legal purposes

I frequently find myself in an unpopular position in the entertainment industry: I believe in network neutrality, I don't believe that piracy is the end of the world as we know it (I particularly don't believe that a download or file shared automatically equals a lost sale*) and I don't believe in crippling the Internet to protect a business model that desperately needs to change.

One of the things that drives me crazy is the belief in Hollywood that bittorrent exists solely for stealing things. Efforts to explain that this is not necessarily true are often met with hands clamped tightly over ears, accompanied by "I CAN'T HEAR YOU LA LA LA."

As an example of the usefulness of bittorrent for entirely legal purposes, I present the following comparitive images:

Screen Shot 2012-05-13 at 10.39.50 AM
Screen Shot 2012-05-13 at 10.39.56 AM

So yesterday, I decided that I'd download Ubuntu and put it in a Virtualbox on my iMac, just to see how the distro is doing these days. As you can see from the images above, if I'd downloaded the iso straight from their server, it was going to take the better part of an hour, so I decided to grab the torrent instead. Turns out it was a good choice, because it was finished in about six minutes.

I was so happy with the speed and performance, I seeded it until I got to a ratio of 3.0, to give back, you know?

Some ISPs are blocking all bittorrent traffic, because bittorrent can be used to share files in a piratical way. Hollywood lobbying groups are trying to pass laws wich would force ISPs to block or degrade bittorrent traffic, too. Personally, I think this is like closing down freeways because a bank robber could use them to get away, which I know is an imperfect comparison, but is the best I can do after a night of not-especially-good sleep.

Anyway, my point with this post is to illustrate that the bittorrent protocol is useful for more than just infringement, so when you hear industry lobbying groups making a lot of noise about piracy, you'll remember that they aren't giving you all the facts.


*Longtime readers may recall that I did not always believe this, but I've, uh … evolved … on the issue.

Google is making a huge and annoying mistake.

I like Google Plus. Some of the smartest people I've ever read are on Google Plus, and the Hangout is amazing.

But Google is doing everything it can to force Google Plus on everyone, and it's pissing me off.

Yesterday, I tried to like a video on YouTube. I wasn't signed in to my Google Plus account, and this is what I saw:

Where the thumbs up and thumbs down used to be, there is now a big G+ Like button. When you go anywhere near it, you get a little popup that tells you to "upgrade to Google plus" for some reason that I don't remember, because the instant I saw it, I made a rageface.

Here's what I wrote on Tumblr:

Oh, go fuck yourself, Google. This is just as bad as companies forcing me to “like” something on Facebook before I can view whatever it is they want me to “like.”

Just let me thumbs up something, without forcing me to “upgrade” to G+, you dickheads.

The worst part of this? For a producer like me, I’m going to lose a crapton of potential upvotes for Tabletop, because the core of my audience is tech-savvy and may not want to “upgrade” to yet another fucking social network they don’t want or need.

I am adding now: Those upvotes are incredibly important to us, because we need them to earn another season of our show.

I'm even more grateful now than I was yesterday that we own the IP for Tabletop, because we can produce it ourselves, or crowdfund with Kickstarter, or something like that, if Google keeps doing things like this that will negatively affect how users can interact with us on YouTube.

I was reblogged by Neil Gaiman, who added:

I wish Google would leave the Social Network thing to others. When Google does what it does, and does it well, it changes the world. When it rides bandwagons, it’s irritating.

I’m not on Google Plus, and I suppose that I won’t be liking YouTube videos any longer.

John Green also reblogged me, and he said:

I strongly agree with this. Making it so that only google plus users can decide whether a YouTube video is worth watching benefits no one except for Google Plus: It is bad for viewers, bad for video creators, and bad for YouTube’s ability to curate and tailor videos to potential viewers.

By crippling functionality on sites Google owns (like YouTube) and forcing users to "upgrade" to a service that they may not want or need to get that functionality back, Google is making a huge and annoying mistake. You get people to enthusiastically use services by making them compelling and awesome and easy to use. You don't get people to enthusiastically use your services by forcing them to. In fact, that's probably a great way to ensure that a huge number of people who may have been interested in trying out your service never even look at it.

Someone found my Kindle on the airplane this weekend. I’d really like it back.

I left my Kindle on an airplane this weekend (post-convention exhaustion will do that to you), and someone found it.

I know that someone found it, because they've been using my account to buy games and books. Based on the purchases, I'm fairly sure the person who found my Kindle (which is named Wheatley) is young, possibly a teenager or a college student. He or she likes Scrabble, Battleship, Spelling Star, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and something called Telesa. He or she also hopes to learn Samoan, French, and Spanish. He or she has spent a fair amount of my money on these things.

I used Amazon's Personal Document thing to send a note to my Kindle, thanking the person for finding it, and telling them that I can be contacted at [email protected] to arrange its return.

I'm hopeful that this person will do the right thing and get in touch.


I called Amazon, reported it stolen, and they deactivated it after refunding me the fradulent purchases.

This isn't the end of the world; I can afford a new Kindle (thank Steve the Fruitbat), and in the grand scheme of things, it isn't the biggest of deals… but I sincerely hoped that whoever has my Kindle now would have read the note I sent to it, which is titled TO THE PERSON WHO FOUND MY KINDLE, and gotten in touch to return it to me. I want to believe in the basic goodness of people.

I really hope that it wasn't just taken by some kid who decided to keep something because, you know, Finders Keepers. I really hope that it was taken by some dirtbag who turned around and sold it to a kid who is too young to know that "this Kindle comes with whatever you want and you never have to pay for it, just give me fifty bucks for meth!" or whatever is a pretty clear flag that something isn't totally honest with this thing.

Anyway, it looks like I'm not getting it back, and all someone has for their trouble is a useless piece of plastic and wires.

life imitates art (or: I don’t know much about brain scans, but I’ll help you fix your computer.)

Earlier today, I got an email from a Star Trek TNG cast member who will remain nameless. I've chosen the pseudonym Jonathan Frakes for the purposes of this post.

"Jonathan Frakes's" email had been compromised, and I'd gotten one of the things it sent out, so I pinged him and offered to help him fix it, if he needed assistance. "It turns out I still have a little Wesley Crusher in me," I typed. Then I thought for a moment and added, "…eww. That doesn't sound right at all."

I walked him through scanning and removing spyware and malware, mostly via text messages… which was hilarious to me, because my text message alert tone is the original Star Trek communicator sound.

It all ran smoothly, but "Frakes" was concerned about his CPU maxing out. "It's using all the power," he typed to me. Then, and I swear to whatever god you believe in that this is true, he followed that up with: "I'm givin it all I can, Captain!"

I typed back, "Okay. Run a level five diagnostic and emit an inverse neutrino pulse through the main navigational deflector."

A moment later "Jonathan Frakes" replied, "All done! It worked. Thanks for your help."

"Any time," I replied. Then I collapsed into a fit of giggles.

This was funny to me, because we're two Star Trek guys (with magnificent beards), making contextually-relevant Star Trek jokes with each other. More significantly, though, is that we did this using handheld computers which were inspired by the show we were on twenty-five years ago.

Finally, in a nice, poetic bit of closing the circle: twenty-five years ago, I helped Patrick Stewart set up his first Mac II computer. It was an incredible technological marvel, that blew me away… and it didn't have a fraction of the computing power or memory of my four-and-half ounce smart phone.

I love living in the future.

So I broke down and made a Facebook thing…

I’ve resisted using Facebook for years, mostly because I have a huge problem with the privacy policies. I’m really happy using a combination of Twitter, Tumblr, and Google Plus to do all my social media public life stuff, and I don’t really want to add something else.

But I’ve talked with friends who I trust and respect, people who create and produce awesome things for the Internet, and they have all told me that even if I don’t like Facebook personally, having at least some kind of Facebook presence is an important part of our public lives, especially because there are thousands and thousands of people who get online and never really leave Facebook… so I asked Felicia Day to help me figure out Facebook, and with her help I think I made the privacy things work as best as I can, so I can have a Facebook… thing. Page. Whatever. Like This. Something.

I know that a PR person would tell me to “spin” this as something I think is totally awesome, and brand something and interact with synergy excitement Bieber, but the truth is: I feel weird and not entirely comfortable doing it. I feel like I’m compromising something I’d rather not compromise. But I’m there because I know that even though I’m not crazy about Facebook, a lot of people are, and it’s silly to ignore all those people because I’m a cranky old man. Also, being on Facebook affords me some business opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have, and being able to support my family is more important to me than shaking my fist at a windmill every day.

I told my wife, “I know that I’m an adult, because I made a compromise that made me uncomfortable, because it was in my family’s best interest.”

Then I said, “But it still feels weird.”

So I have a Facebook thing, which I hope to turn into something cool, or at least interesting. If you care about that sort of thing, now you know about it.

Just so you know what to expect if you subscribe to it:

I have currently connected Twitter and Tumblr and occasionally my blog to the Facebook thing, so all my things are in one place. This means that there will occasionally be a huge flood of Twitter things or Tumblr things posting here automagically. Also, I say "thing" a lot. 

I'm happy with this, and I honestly like having one place on the Internet that holds all of my stupid things together. I realize, however, that not everyone shares this opinion, and if you're one of those people, you should probably unsubscribe; no big deal.

 A few other things you should probably know:

  • I'm opinionated.
  • I love hockey.
  • I'm a progressive populist.
  • I'm a secular humanist.
  • I have zero patience for people who are dicks, and I block pretty ruthlessly.
  • I love science.
  • I don't really censor myself. I swear a lot.
  • Occasionally, something will show up here from my Tumblr that's NSFW.
  • I'm probably going to disappoint you in some way.

I've been there about a week, and I don't completely hate it. I read as many comments there as I have time to read, and I'm not able to respond as often as I'd like.

However, love it when some silly or stupid thing I did sparks a conversation between people who have nothing in common other than reading whatever that thing is. Maybe some of you will become real life friends, and come to a w00tstock together, and then you'll be all, "Hey, we met because we both liked that thing, and now we're here together." Then we'll all high five, take a picture, and post it online.

Okay, that's all. If you still want to subscribe to it, I hope it's worth your time.