Microsoft Office 365 – convenience in the cloud or an open invitation to hackers?

The question is this. Is this skepticism based on fact or as a result of that well-established human trait – resistance to change? In other words, does the convenience offered by a cloud app outweigh potential security threats such as hacking, and how susceptible are SaaS (Software as a Service) cloud apps to attack in the first place? To answer this question, let’s consider Microsoft Office 365, which is one of the most widely used software packages on the planet with more than 27 million consumer users and over 100 million enterprise users.

via Security Magazine http://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/92706

Cybercriminals Carried Out Phishing Attacks By Spoofing Accounting Software Like QuickBooks

Cybercriminals have been using several tactics to compromise their victims. In a recent attack, attackers used spoofing, phishing, CEO-fraud, and other techniques in a single attempt to deploy malware.

What happened

Recently, a cybersecurity firm Darktrace spotted few waves of phishing attacks against a specific organization.

  • The attackers launched two phishing waves targeting the technology company Intuit’s platform QuickBooks (an accounting software package), which is in high demand due to the upcoming July 15 tax deadline.
  • In the first wave, the attackers spoofed QuickBooks to send phishing emails, in which they pretended to be from QuickBooks developer Intuit with the address quickbooks@notification[.]intuit.com. The email contained a file attachment (Microsoft Office document) masquerading as a legitimate monthly invoice.
  • In the second attack wave, the attackers compromised the email address of an accountant to send a phishing email directly to the CEO, tricking them to enter their login credentials on a phony Skype page.

Other recent threats to accounting software

Hackers target accounting firms and software to gain privileged access to their clients’ most protected sensitive information.

  • In June 2020, the vulnerabilities (CVE-2020-2586 and CVE-2020-2587), dubbed “BigDebIT” were found in Oracle’s E-Business Suite (EBS) which if exploited, could allow bad actors to target accounting tools such as General Ledger in a bid to steal sensitive information and commit financial fraud.
  • In May 2020, a Belgian firm HLB, which has accounting businesses in 130 countries, was hit by Maze ransomware. The attack caused data leak of business contracts, accounts statements, confidential memos, and other general documents.
  • In May 2019, a cyberattack on Wolters Kluwer, one of the world’s largest accounting software platforms, caused a shut down of many of its tax and accounting software applications (Taxprep T1, Taxprep T3, CCH SureTax, and CCH Axcess).

Stay safe

The tax professionals should follow best practices on priority. Most of such attacks can be prevented with strong passwords, encrypted files, two-factor identification, and careful guarding of account access. To protect against phishing attacks, email-signing certificates, which enable email signatures, can be also helpful.

via Cyware News – Latest Cyber News https://cyware.com/news/cybercriminals-carried-out-phishing-attacks-by-spoofing-accounting-software-like-quickbooks-d21a9a74/?&web_view=true

It’s too late to stop QAnon with fact checks and account bans

Twitter is perfect as a megaphone for the far right: its trending topics are easy to game, journalists spend way too much time on the site, and—if you’re lucky—the President of the United States might retweet you.

QAnon, the continuously evolving pro-Trump conspiracy theory, is good at Twitter in the same way as other successful internet-native ideologies—using the platform to manipulate information, attention and distribution all at the same time. On Tuesday, Twitter took a step aimed at limiting how successful QAnon can be there, including taking down about 7,000 accounts that promote the conspiracy, designating QAnon as “coordinated harmful activity,” and preventing related terms from showing up in trending and search results.

“We will permanently suspend accounts Tweeting about these topics that we know are engaged in violations of our multi-account policy, coordinating abuse around individual victims, or are attempting to evade a previous suspension,” Twitter announced. The company added that they’d seen an increase in those activities in recent weeks. 

The New York Times reported that Facebook was planning to “take similar steps to limit the reach of QAnon content on its platform” next month, citing two employees of the company who spoke anonymously. On Friday, TikTok blocked several hashtags related to QAnon from search results.

This most recent push to limit QAnon’s reach follows two high-profile campaigns driven by QAnon. First American model and celebrity Chrissy Teigen, who has more than 13 million followers on Twitter, was the target of an intense harassment campaign, then more recently, QAnon accounts were instrumental in spreading a bogus human trafficking conspiracy theory about the furniture marketplace Wayfair. The claims spread from Twitter’s trending bar to Instagram and TikTok accounts promoting the conspiracy theory to their followers.

“That activity has raised the profile of the very long-standing problem of coordinated brigading. That kind of mass harassment has a significant impact on people’s lives,” said Renee DiResta, research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory and an expert in online disinformation. 

But Twitter proficiency is only one small part of why QAnon wields influence, and just one example of how platforms amplify fringe beliefs and harmful activity. To actually stop QAnon, experts say, would take a lot more work and coordination. That is, if it’s even possible.  

An omniconspiracy

QAnon was born in late 2017 after a quip President Donald Trump made in a press conference about a “calm before the storm” spawned a series of mysterious posts on 4chan attributed to “Q,” predicting the coming arrest of Hillary Clinton. Although that didn’t happen, “Q” continued to post, claiming to know all about a secret plan led by Trump to arrest his enemies. 

“QAnon has its origin in a multiplatform conversation that started off on social media, in a pseudonymous environment, where there’s no consequence for speech,” says Brian Friedberg, a senior researcher at the Harvard Shorenstein Center’s Technology and Social Change Project. The posts have moved from one site to another following bans, and now appear on a messageboard called 8kun.

The posts have attracted followers who spend their time interpreting these messages, drawing conclusions, and leading campaigns to make the messages more visible. Some QAnon adherents have led coordinated harassment campaigns against journalists, rival online communities, celebrities, and liberal politicians. Others have shown up at Trump rallies wearing “Q” themed merchandise. The president has retweeted Q or conspiracy theory-related Twitter accounts dozens of times, although it’s an open question how aware he is of what Q is, beyond a movement that supports his presidency on the internet. And there have been multiple incidents of real-life violence linked to QAnon supporters. 

The traditional understanding of QAnon was that its ideas are spread by a relatively small number of adherents who are extremely good at manipulating social media for maximum visibility. But the pandemic made that more complicated, as QAnon began merging more profoundly with health misinformation spaces, and rapidly growing its presence on Facebook. 

At this point, QAnon has become an omniconspiracy theory, says DiResta—it’s no longer just about some message board posts, but instead a broad movement promoting many different, linked ideas. Researchers know that belief in one conspiracy theory can lead to acceptance of others, and powerful social media recommendation algorithms have essentially turbocharged that process. For instance, DiResta says, research has shown that members of anti-vaccine Facebook groups were seeing recommendations for groups that promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory back in 2016. 

“The recommendation algorithm appears to have recognized a correlation between users who shared a conviction that the government was concealing a secret truth. The specifics of the secret truth varied,” she says. 

Researchers have known for years that different platforms play different roles in coordinated campaigns. People will coordinate in a chat app, message board, or private Facebook group, target their messages (including harassment and abuse) on Twitter, and host videos about the entire thing on YouTube.  

In this information ecosystem Twitter functions more like a marketing campaign for QAnon, where content is created to be seen and interacted with by outsiders, while Facebook is a powerhouse for coordination, especially in closed groups. 

“Q” has made many incorrect predictions, and continues to advance the belief that there is a ‘deep state’ plot against Donald Trump.

Reddit used to be a mainstream hub of QAnon activity, until the site started clamping down on it in 2018 for inciting violence and repeated violations of its terms of service. But instead of diminishing its power, QAnon simply shifted to other mainstream social media platforms where they were less likely to be banned. 

This all means that when a platform acts on its own to block or reduce the impact of QAnon, it only attacks one part of the problem. 

Friedberg said that, to him, it feels as if social media platforms were “waiting for an act of mass violence in order to coordinate” a more aggressive deplatforming effort. But the potential harm of QAnon is already obvious if you stop viewing it as a pro-Trump curiosity and instead see it for what it is: “a distribution mechanism for disinformation of every variety,” Friedberg said, one that adherents are willing to openly promote and identify with, no matter the consequences.  

“People can be deprogrammed”

Steven Hassan, a mental health counselor and an expert on cults who escaped from Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, known as the “Moonies”, says that discussing groups like QAnon as solely a misinformation or algorithmic problem is not enough. 

“I look at QAnon as a cult,” Hassan says. “When you get recruited into a mind control cult, and get indoctrinated into a new belief system…a lot of it is motivated by fear.” 

“They’ve had three years of almost unfettered access to develop and expand.”

“People can be deprogrammed from this,” Hassan says. “But the people who are going to be most successful doing this are family members and friends.” People who are already close to a QAnon supporter could be trained to have “multiple interactions over time” with them, to pull them out. 

If platforms wanted to seriously address ideologies like QAnon, they’d do much more than they are, he says.

First, Facebook would have to educate users not just on how to spot misinformation, but also how to understand when they are being manipulated by coordinated campaigns. Coordinated pushes on social media are a major factor in QAnon’s growing reach on mainstream platforms, as recently documented by the Guardian, over the past several months. The group has explicitly embraced “information warfare” as a tactic for gaining influence. In May, Facebook removed a small collection of QAnon-affiliated accounts for inauthentic behavior

And second, Hassan recommends that platforms stop people from descending into algorithmic or recommendation tunnels related to QAnon, and instead feed them with content from people like him, who have survived and escaped from cults—especially from those who got sucked into and climbed out of QAnon. 

Friedberg, who has deeply studied the movement, says he believes it is “absolutely” too late for mainstream social media platforms to stop QAnon, although there are some things they could do to, say, limit its adherents’ ability to evangelize on Twitter. 

“They’ve had three years of almost unfettered access outside of certain platforms to develop and expand,” Friedberg says. Plus, QAnon supporters have an active relationship with the source of the conspiracy theory, who constantly posts new content to decipher and mentions the social media messages of Q supporters in his posts. Breaking QAnon’s influence would require breaking trust between “Q,” an anonymous figure with no defining characteristics, and their supporters. Considering “Q’s long track record of inaccurate predictions, that’s difficult, and, critical media coverage or deplatforming have yet to really do much on that front. If anything, they only fuel QAnon believers to assume they’re on to something. 

The best ideas to limit QAnon would require drastic change and soul searching from the people who run the companies on whose platforms QAnon has thrived. But even this week’s announcements aren’t quite as dramatic as they might seem at first: Twitter clarified that it wouldn’t automatically apply its new policies against politicians who promote QAnon content, including several promoters who are running for office in the US.

And, Friedberg said, QAnon supporters were “poised to test these limitations, and already testing these limitations.” For instance, Twitter banned certain conspiracy-affiliated URLs from being shared, but people already have alternative ones to use. 

In the end, actually doing something about that would require “rethinking the entire information ecosystem,” says Diresta. “And I mean that in a far broader sense than just reacting to one conspiracy faction.”

via MIT Technology Review https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/07/26/1005609/qanon-facebook-twitter-youtuube/

‘It’s like telling a reporter he can’t have a Twitter account’: Reporters are starting their own newsletters outside of their employer

The reporter-written newsletter has become
an obsession among freelancers
looking to scrounge up support wherever they
can find it. But the newsletter-as-side-hustle has gotten traction among
salaried writers and editors too.

Just as media companies embraced newsletters because they offer a direct
audience connection
that platforms and website do not, many reporters now
treat them as a tool to communicate more directly with readers, test out new
ideas, and nurture obsessions. Some treat the newsletters as a kind of
aggregator of their own work; others use them to sound out thoughts that are
still forming, hoping that responses from readers will help solidify them into work
they can complete at their day jobs.

Consequently, the number of full-time journalists joining newsletter
platform Substack has been growing steadily since the platform’s launch in 2017,
cofounder and chief operating officer Hamish McKenzie said. The same thing is
happening on newsletter platform Revue, according to its CEO, Martijn de
Kuijper; neither executive had hard data about how many of their users were
full-time reporters or editors.

But these kinds of newsletters also fit into a professional gray area. Most
media companies prohibit their reporters from doing freelance work that could
be seen as competitive with their day jobs, and managers in any talent-focused
industry have always worried about the talent building an audience their
employer doesn’t control and can’t monetize.      

“I think some editors look at this as, ‘Some reporters will
leave with my audience,’ but it was an amazing retention play,” said Alex
Kantrowitz, who launched a newsletter, “Tech Giant Update,” while working at
BuzzFeed News. Kantrowitz worked at BuzzFeed News for five years before leaving
this summer.

Kantrowitz created the first version of his newsletter using
Tinyletter about two years ago. Around the same time, BuzzFeed had announced internally
that it would help to promote the newsletters its talent had created. That move
“showed that BuzzFeed had my best interests in mind,” Kantrowitz said, so much
so that the promotion kept Kantrowitz at BuzzFeed News longer than he’d planned
to stay.    

Reporters have parlayed the success of their side newsletters into jobs in
the past. In 2016, Will Sommer launched a side newsletter about right wing
media and communication called Right Richter while he was working as an editor
at Washington City Paper. Two years and two jobs later, Sommer joined The Daily
Beast to cover the same topics. He brought the newsletter with him.

But even though side newsletters often focus on the same topics journalists report on at their day jobs, their reporters see them playing a complementary, rather than cannibalistic, role.

David Turner, who started the streaming music newsletter Penny Fractions as
a side project while he was covering the music industry for Gizmodo Media, said
his newsletter topics were often pitches that his Gizmodo editors had rejected.
 

Helen Lewis, an Atlantic staffer whose newsletter, the Bluestocking, has
been around since 2015, said she uses her newsletter to share rougher, less
developed thoughts with readers, as well as links to content she finds
interesting, much the way that many writers used to do with blogging.

“There was a [curatorial] function of blogs in the early 2010s that doesn’t
really exist anymore, and there isn’t a formal space for it in most
publications,” Lewis said. “But there’s still a kind of great hunger for
author-led curation.”

The Bluestocking also allows Lewis to have deeper conversations with readers
than a platform like Twitter might, which gives her an opportunity to sharpen
her thinking in ways that help future Atlantic pieces, she added.

Managers hoping to capture all the upside of newsletters without the risks,
have begun testing out ways to give their reporters newsletters that they
control. McKenzie said Substack is having conversations with numerous media
companies about how they can use his company’s product to build newsletters for
their reporters or organizations; in late May, for example, four Wall Street
Journal staffers debuted a collaborative newsletter on Substack, called Elevate
with clear WSJ branding.

But even if side newsletters present pros and cons to editors, many reporters see them as a tool that no reasonable editor could take away.

“It’s like telling a reporter they can’t have a Twitter account,” said Steve O’Hear, a reporter at TechCrunch who’s maintained a newsletter, In the Know, since 2016.  

The post ‘It’s like telling a reporter he can’t have a Twitter account’: Reporters are starting their own newsletters outside of their employer appeared first on Digiday.

via Digiday https://digiday.com/media/its-like-telling-a-reporter-he-cant-have-a-twitter-account-reporters-are-starting-their-own-newsletters-outside-of-their-employer/

U.S. is probing allegations TikTok violated children’s privacy

(Reuters) — The Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Justice Department are looking into allegations that popular app TikTok failed to live up to a 2019 agreement aimed at protecting children’s privacy, according to two people interviewed by the agencies. The development is the latest bump in the road for the short video company, which is popular with teens. TikTok has seen scrutiny, including from the national security-focused Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, rise sharply because of its Chinese parent corporation.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that the United States is “certainly looking at” banning TikTok, suggesting it shared information with the Chinese government, a charge it denied. A staffer in a Massachusetts tech policy group and another source said they took part in separate conference calls with FTC and Justice Department officials to discuss accusations that TikTok had failed to live up to an agreement announced in February 2019. The Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and others in May asked the FTC look into their allegations TikTok failed to delete videos and personal information about users age 13 and younger as it had agreed to do, among other violations.

A TikTok spokesman said they take “safety seriously for all our users,” adding that in the United States they “accommodate users under 13 in a limited app experience that introduces additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for a younger audience.”

Officials from both the FTC, which reached the original consent agreement with TikTok, and Justice Department, which often files court documents for the FTC, met via video with representatives of the groups to discuss the matter, said David Monahan, a campaign manager with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “I got the sense from our conversation that they are looking into the assertions that we raised in our complaint,” Monahan said.

A second person, speaking privately, confirmed that advocates had met with officials from the two agencies to discuss concerns TikTok violated the consent decree.

The FTC declined to comment. The Justice Department had no immediate comment.

TikTok has grown increasing popular among U.S. teenagers and allows users to create short videos. About 60% of TikTok’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the United States are aged 16 to 24, the company said last year. U.S. lawmakers have also raised national security concerns over TikTok’s handling of user data, saying they were worried about Chinese laws requiring domestic companies support and cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party.

TikTok, owned by parent company ByteDance, is one of several China-based firms that have had to navigate heightened U.S.-China tensions over trade, technology and the COVID-19 pandemic. Under intense U.S. regulatory scrutiny, it has poached Disney’s Kevin Mayer to be its chief executive and is trying to project a more global image, with offices in California, Singapore and elsewhere.

via VentureBeat https://venturebeat.com/2020/07/07/u-s-is-probing-allegations-tiktok-violated-childrens-privacy/

150 Photos Of Animals Having A Worse Day Than You

There are days when it feels like the world is going against you. You’re late for work, and the keys have just fallen into the drain hole. But day-breaking fails have been well documented in the history of humankind, and there’s a silent agreement not to talk about ‘em too much. Unless it’s the misfortune of others and in that case, you may wanna hit Bored Panda’s previous compilations herehere, and here.

But what hasn’t been chronicled that well is animals going through a rough day, and we are about to change that. You heard me right. Our beloved furry companions have vile days too and they’re just as painfully funny. Squirrels, horses, doggos, they’ve all had their fair share of 24 hours turned nightmare.

So get some popcorn ready ’cause you’re about to see what a bad day looks like in the animal kingdom. And trust me, just because they don’t have keys to fall into a drain hole doesn’t mean they have it easier.

#1 I Had To Cut Down A Tree In My Yard And Now I Feel Bad

Image credits: wer190

#2 A Friend Left Her Dog At Home And Came Back To This. Oreo Apparently Found A Bag Of Charcoal And Played With It

Image credits: iamsecondtonone

#3 It Was Not A Squirrel

Image credits: boyilltellyouwhat

#4 Bought A Couch From Craigslist, Heard Noises Coming From It After Bringing It Home. Cut It Open And Found A Cat

Image credits: Mushroom_Therapy

#5 Doggo Arrest

Image credits: emmethompsonn

#6 My Goat Broke His Trampoline And He’s Very Upset. Anyone Have A Small One For Cheap?

Image credits: harboringgrace

#7 My Friends’ Cat Got Its Head Stuck In A Vase, Freaked Out, Broke The Vase, And Was Left With This

Image credits: Hardin314

#8 Oh Heck

Image credits: elllenrebecca

#9 "There Might Have Been Some Miscalculations In My Plan" – Dog

Image credits: StazzyDVlad

#10 My Husband And I Can Officially Check "Pull A Balloon String Out Of A Cat’s Butthole At 11:30 At Night" Off Our Bucket List. Finally

Just a reminder for those who might experience this in the future. You can cut the protruding rope and let the cat keep passing it. Pulling it out can damage their little organs.

Image credits: dishie

#11 My Friend’s Dog Ate A Bee

Image credits: skyline_kid

#12 My Dog’s Facial Expressions When I Didn’t Turn Towards The Dog Park

Image credits: TJNel

#13 I Came In To Find My Tortoise Like This

Putting the clues together, it seems he pooped, got it stuck on his foot, ran in circles trying to get it off, and flipped over. Good job buddy.

Image credits: Pigglepoo

#14 My Pitbull Always Thought He Was The Biggest Dog At The Dog Park

Image credits: warros

#15 My Buddy’s Dog Saw A Moose

Image credits: skiroads

#16 My Friend’s Dog Is Not Happy About Leaving The Dog Park Early

Image credits: hawk-queen

#17 The Moment He Realized We Went Past The Dog Park And We’re On The Way To The Vet

Image credits: firemike28

#18 My Friend Took Her Cat To Get Fixed And His Face Shows Exactly His Thoughts About It

Image credits: kclark2293

#19 Loved Having Grandma Over For Thanksgiving. Dog Was Annoyed

Image credits: ravennasoftware

#20 Is This What People Mean When They Say Their Dog Is Broken? Asking For A Friend

Image credits: wideawaketheysleep

#21 Ran Through The Tall Weeds With Her Velcro Fur. Took A Bath And Nearly 2 Hours Of Brushing To Get Them All Out

Image credits: Tacocat0927

#22 Dog Bumped Into Me While I Was Carrying My Cereal Bowl. He Was Very Sad About It

Image credits: Wavesonics

#23 This Fat Fool Had To Be Rescued By Animal Control

Image credits: mysweetriot

#24 No Matter How Bad Your Day Was I Can Assure You That Peanut’s Was Worse

This is an old pic. He just got groomed yesterday. We don’t groom as often as we would like due to his age and the stress it causes him. We’ve found a new groomer who is patient with him, so we are doing better now.

Image credits: sarcasticfatwhiteguy

#25 One-Year-Old Bulldog Keeva Was In The Attic Looking For Her Toys When She Crashed Through The Ceiling

Image credits: highlandsamantha

#26 My Cat Got Stuck In The Wall On Christmas Day

The basement kitchenette ceiling was left open when it was built a few months ago, so he climbed onto the cupboards and into the ceiling before falling into the wall.

This was at my mom’s house and he was stuck for about 2 hours while we tried to figure out his exact location and cut a hole to release him. He is perfectly fine and even tried to go back in the hole!

Image credits: therealIndigocat

#27 So This Happened (Yes, I Rescued It)

Image credits: GoAskAlice

#28 Owner Used The Wrong Shampoo (It’s Hair Dye)

Image credits: mimi.joy826

#29 We Actually Had To Help Him Down. Idiot

Image credits: mrstoness

#30 Left A Can Of Tuna In Here To Lure A Pesky Raccoon, Found This In The Morning

Image credits: sassysazz

#31 Our Dog Opened The Upstairs Screen Door And Followed Our Cat Onto The Roof. He Required Consoling Before Coming Back Inside

Image credits: CallMePancake

#32 My Son Feeding His Fake Dog Goldfish While His Real Dog Sits Outside, Pissed

Image credits: forester1983

#33 This Cat In A Cone

#34 This Is Why You Shouldn’t Leave Your Kids Alone With The Dog

Image credits: crazysnake

#35 Let My Dog Out Into The Garden, Two Minutes Later I Hear Her Barking And Go Outside To See This

Image credits: Nolanus

#36 Our Cat Steals And Hoards Bottle Caps. Found His Stash While Cleaning

Image credits: devvy_downer

#37 This Was The Picture Doggy Daycare Sent Us In Penny’s First Report Card To Show Us How Much She Was "Loving It" There

Image credits: AttacktoWin

#38 It’s Not My Fault That Someone Fell Into Their Own Poop And Couldn’t Clean Themselves

Image credits: giraffondo

#39 Oh, Ralph

Image credits: dog_rates

#40 My Coworker’s Dog Got Herself Stuck Underneath Their Shed

Image credits: justintylrallen

#41 Dad Took Our Dog Archie For A Walk. When They Got Back Dad Went To Eat Breakfast

He came back outside afterwards to see Archie was “stuck”. His back foot was on the lead so it strained when he walked forward. So he was “trapped”. Dad lifted his back foot and saved him.

Image credits: Astrid00

#42 My Dog Managed To Get Into A Pack Of Frozen Fish Fillets And He Would’ve Gotten Away With It If He Didn’t Get Stuck And Had To Come To Me For Help

Image credits: xenphioncrisux

#43 A Little Hamster With A Broken Bone, The Doctor Had A Hard Time Dressing It

Image credits: club26212960

#44 This Is My Cat After Trying To Run Out The Door – Into A Wall Of Snow

Image credits: Slaughterizer

#45 My Dachshund Puppy Got Stuck In The Couch Cushions

Image credits: ItHirtsWhenIP

#46 My Poor Cat Got Stuck In The Laundry Room

Image credits: bshigem

#47 My Cat Got Stuck Between The Glass Door And The Screen Door

Image credits: dylan_smith58

#48 Roomba, The Nope Of Dog World

Image credits: Makattic

#49 I Think My Dog Just Died A Little Bit On The Inside When I Didn’t Give Her The Last Bite Of My Burger

Image credits: waxiestapple

#50 My Friend’s Cat Had Surgery And Now He Has No Pants

Image credits: edwardhowrongtu

#51 I Think A Squirrel Fell Off My Roof

Image credits: beefyfritosburrito

#52 Sarah (Dog) Stole A Bite Of Stella’s Food And Stella Came Running To Me In The Kitchen To Complain About It

Image credits: jamiejo389

#53 He Was Just Trying To Take A Nap

Image credits: Chivobear

#54 Dutchie Opened The Window During A Car Wash

Image credits: JKreines

#55 This Is Cessy, She Is Fun But Aggressive Towards Lil Dogs. Except This Guy

Image credits: SpacePantsByRav

#56 Little Dog Is Wary Of His New Friend

Image credits: Awkward_Dog

#57 Wife Ordered A Pool For Our Dog And This Is What We Got After Waiting For A Month

Image credits: ljorges

#58 My Poor Dog Got Her Tail Caught On A Glue Trap For Insects Underneath The Fridge, While Patiently Waiting For A Treat

Luckily, none of it was pulled out. Just required a trim.

Image credits: Shark-Farts

#59 Trapped Himself In The Shower At Some Point During The Night. Woke Up To Scared Whining

Image credits: macthebearded

#60 Dachshund Learned The Hard Way That Bees Are Friends And Not Food

Image credits: Marra88

#61 When You Love The Smell Of Bacon, But Get A Little Too Close To The Frying Pan On The Stove

Image credits: strooticus

#62 Mistakes Were Made. The Dog Got Into The Weed Cookies. Money Was Spent. Doggo Is Fine. Owner Feels Dumb

Image credits: Sorrymateay

#63 My Cat Is Not What You Would Call The Smartest Of Cats

Image credits: MissNicolicious

#64 Dog Poops On Tortoise

#65 A Bird Has Just Pooed On My Dogs Head

Image credits: frankswift

#66 Came Home To Find My Dog Had Eaten My Snack Mix

Image credits: AdmiralLobstero

#67 I Farted And My Dog Moved To The Far Side Of The Sofa And Has Been Looking At Me Like This Since

Image credits: Jaisyjaysus69

#68 My Dog Ran Away, After Hours Of Looking I Came Home To This

Image credits: Cowdimples31

#69 This Idiot Got Himself Stuck Today

Image credits: ausfez

#70 When You’re Annoyed By Cuddles

Image credits: stephtobin17

#71 Dachshund Problems

Image credits: GordonMaw

#72 When You Didn’t Expect Your Owner To Come Right Back Cause They Forgot Something

Image credits: BenitoGarcia70

#73 Poor Little Cat Got A Bit Too Close To The Fire

Image credits: cyabits

#74 Her Bowl Is In The Dishwasher

Image credits: noiamnotyourfriend

#75 She Likes To Nap On The Air Vent, But Always Gets Stuck To It

Image credits: Extirpative

#76 Woke Me Up To Get A Cheez-It Box Off His Head

Image credits: YoureARealCunt

#77 No BBQ For You

Image credits: childrenoftherice

#78 Friend’s Dog Got Skunked And She Tried To Use Tomato Sauce To Get It Out. He Looks Like He Just Committed Murder And Got Caught

Image credits: wolfinsheeps

#79 Dog Caught In A Stringy Situation

Image credits: tumblr.com

#80 My Friend Set Her Cat’s Food On A Timer. All He Does All Day Is Wait For The Food Gods To Bless Him

Image credits: emzieees

#81 My Cat’s Face Before And After My Wife Told Her That The High Chair Is Not For Her

Image credits: healzman

#82 I Moved Today, My Cat Isn’t Taking It So Well

Image credits: jmelina

#83 Next Door Has A New Kitten. We Have Rabbits

Image credits: mattstillbust

#84 Silly Bird Hit My Car Yesterday. It Flew Away But May Have Left Its Soul Behind

Image credits: dead-w8-

#85 So My Bird Was Stuck In My Bathroom

Image credits: MooSaysCow

#86 This Is How My Dog Greets Me At The Door Today

Image credits: dirtyfacedkid

#87 Spike Only Wanted To Help Cook Dinner

Image credits: SpikeTheBeetle

#88 I Kicked Over My Cat’s Milk And Had No Replacement. He Sat Opposite Me As I Ate My Dinner Looking At Me Like This

Image credits: fieldsc

#89 Stop Taking Photos And Help Me, Please

#90 You Think You’ve Had A Bad Day And Then You Come Home And See This. He Wins

Image credits: ac-unit23

#91 This Morning A Bat Crashed Into My Face And Fell Into My Breakfast. He Seemed Fine

Image credits: pabbit41

#92 Mistakes Were Made

Image credits: brainphillps

#93 Owl Got Stuck In The Net, Delaying Our Game For 30 Minutes. He Was Removed And Is Currently In The Zoo

Image credits: BradyH4

#94 When You Check In On Your Dog To See If He’s Having A Good Or Bad First Day Of Doggie Daycare. Hint: He’s The White One

Image credits: loosetingles

#95 A Bad Day: Sprayed By A Skunk And Forced To Take A Bath

Image credits: Oliver700

#96 I Bought A Cat Tower Online That Turned Out To Be Much Smaller Than Expected. Trevor Is Still Trying To Be Appreciative Tho

Image credits: SageKitty666

#97 So My Mom Accidentally Ordered An XS Dog Bed, But He’s Still Grateful

Image credits: paetonmathes

#98 My Golden Retriever Decided To Roll On The Freshly Mowed Lawn. Hulk Dog

Image credits: Henderp

#99 My Dog Made A “Nope” Circle This Morning

Image credits: gregrawry

#100 Just Thought I’d Check In On The Dogs

Image credits: wps1991

#101 I Had To Lock Her In The Dog Crate Because She Was Going To Break Something From Being Over Hyper. I Think She Hit Her Breaking Point

Image credits: Der_Bosewicht

#102 This Is My Dumb Fish, Deb, Stuck In The Mouth Of A Dragon Decoration For The Third Time This Week

Image credits: Lontology

#103 "Get In The Box" She Said. "It’ll Be A Quick Ride" She Said

The SPCA gave us the cardboard box because they said it will have his smells on it (my mom’s carrier had her cat scent on it). Gina, the kid I’m nannying for, took the pic. She insisted that the box be strapped in with the seat belt. Buddy, the cat, didn’t like the box (for obvious reasons) so he chewed himself an arm hole so he could hold hands with gina.

Image credits: c4chop

#104 My Boyfriend Doesn’t Believe That His Cat Bullies Mine

Image credits: lls1494

#105 Saw The Vet Today. He Said I Should Stop Eating My Delicious Cardboard Scratcher, Then He Called Me “Unruly”

Image credits: NotedHeathen

#106 My Dog After Realizing A Ladybug Was On His Bed. He Is Very Sweet, But Very Easily Frightened

Image credits: arduyina

#107 Just Another Day In Montana. Cat Chasing A Bear Out Of The Backyard

Image credits: BozoTheTown

#108 Wife Frantically Called To Tell Me Our Dog Got Stuck In The Fence And Couldn’t Breathe. Came Home To This

Image credits: skooba83

#109 Got Home From Work To Find Lil Norman With His Head Stuck In The Lid To The Cat Food. That’s Not How It Works Buddy

Image credits: yourfavoritevegan

#110 A Memorial For The Squirrel That Ate Through A Wire That Canceled Classes For Two Days. It Was Paid For By The Undergrad Class

Image credits: Lynncy1

#111 My Dog’s Face The Moment He Realized I Didn’t Actually Have A Treat In My Hand

Image credits: thejesskat

#112 Took Our Dog Swimming For The First Time. Some Of Us Had Fun

Image credits: Guestaloompa

#113 Dog Stuck Inside Toilet

Image credits: KRONC27

#114 Just A Cat Falling Off A Table

Image credits: yekm

#115 Caught The Perfect Shot Of My Mom Trying To Get The Cat Out Of The Tomato Garden

Image credits: kaasett

#116 Saw A Goose Sitting On Some Eggs At The Grocery Store

Image credits: Ihatetobaghansleighs

#117 Smile And Wave Boys

Image credits: Calzel

#118 My Brother’s Dog Had To Do An Ultrasound Because He Ate A Rock

Image credits: oobrickheadoo

#119 My Cat Has Been Looking For And Can’t Find The String He Was Just Playing With A Minute Ago

Image credits: steeemo

#120 Do You Think This Is Funny?

Image credits: boyroid

#121 My Sister Sent Me This Pic Of A Raccoon On Her Neighbor’s Roof

Image credits: c-root

#122 My Boy Decided To Investigate A Candle

Image credits: beeappy

#123 When The Kitten Discovers That She Can’t Walk On Bubbles And Thinks You Have Betrayed Her

Image credits: Ekd7801

#124 Oh

Image credits: Annon8765

#125 Someone’s Missing Their Dog?

Image credits: Maklo_Never_Forget

#126 Didn’t Measure My Cat And Bought A Carrying Pack Way Too Small For Him

Image credits: Omg_Itz_Winke

#127 My Dog Got A Little Excited When I Arrived Home For The Holidays

Image credits: -GremlinDVa-

#128 This Picture My Wife Captured At The Perfect Moment Of Our Cats

Image credits: DizzyApps

#129 When My Dog Decided To Sit On My Cat

Image credits: pulchritude022

#130 My Pup Injured Her Eye And Now Is Having To Wear Goggles When She Goes For A Run

Image credits: Jimmymgs

#131 When My Dog Got Stuck In A Hole And Couldn’t Get Out By Himself

Image credits: flowersunscreen

#132 So My Cat Got Her Head Stuck In A Roll Of Tape

Image credits: not-a-pretzel

#133 A Wasp Steamrolled By A Train

Image credits: Mana999

#134 Our Dogs Were Not Prepared For The Level Of Emotional Support We Require During Quarantine

Image credits: happygrapefruit3337

#135 We Ruined This Cat

Image credits: ArmageddonWasp

#136 My Friend’s Goose Reacting To The Snow

Image credits: ttmatthews_

#137 A Disgruntled Customer Has Been Staring At My Mom Through Her Office Window Because The Bird Feeder Is Empty

Image credits: tremillow

#138 My Cat Wanted A Closer Look At The Birds

Image credits: marley2012

#139 My Dog Murdered A Pen

Image credits: PARAN0lA

#140 My Cat, Discovering That My Mother Has Placed A Vase Of Flowers Where She Normally Sits In The Sun

She immediately came inside and sat as close as she could to the vase while also yelling at my mother.

Image credits: Carpe-Asinum

#141 My Cat Is Upset She Has To Wear A Cone, It Makes It Hard For Her To Hide In Her Favorite Spot

Image credits: The_Scrub

#142 My Friend’s Cat Got Stuck Inside A Plastic Hanger

Image credits: adholden

#143 Dog Thought The Door Was Open, It Wasn’t

Image credits: bars1979

#144 My Brother’s Doggo Leaned Against That One Wall With Fresh Paint

Image credits: Khuteh

#145 She Immediately Regretted This

Image credits: cptnredbeardo

#146 My Mom’s Cat. 100% Stuck And Not Nearly As Amused As I Was

Image credits: shade-tree_pilot

#147 My Dog, Harry

Image credits: SuperBox36

#148 My Spirit Animal

Image credits: bakerie

#149 I’m Posting This For My Dog

Image credits: Drumlin

#150 Baby Bird Landed In One Of My Customers’ Chicken Marsala

Image credits: choxie

via Bored Panda http://www.boredpanda.com/funny-animals-bad-day/

Wary of Subways? 6 Electric Options for a Solo Work Commute

DESPITE WHAT you’ve heard about the myriad ways sweatpants and Zoom calls will forever transform work in America, most professionals still yearn for the normalcy office life brings. According to a May survey by Gensler Research Institute, only 12% of office workers plan to toil from home full-time after the pandemic subsides. The rest will happily don constricting clothing if it means a return to making decisions over coffee rather than during pixelated meetings spent spying on each other’s bedroom décor.

What might change…

via WSJ.com: Technology https://www.wsj.com/articles/wary-of-subways-6-electric-options-for-a-solo-work-commute-11593230421?mod=rss_Technology

5 Free Apps for Creative People and Teams to Collaborate Digitally

Brainstorming Ideas

Creative teams depend on the free and easy flow of ideas to collaborate and inspire new thoughts. When you have to work digitally, these free apps help foster creativity and brainstorm fresh ideas.

The most obvious starting point for creative brainstorming is to use a mind-mapping tool. This article won’t go into that because we’ve already reviewed the best free mind-mapping apps for single users or teams.

Instead, we’ll focus on tools that ease creative collaboration across a range of fields, like design, writing, music, and more.

1. Red Pen (Web): Fastest Way to Collaborate on Images, Designs, and Mockups

Red Pen is the fastest way to annotate and comment on images as a team

Red Pen is the fastest and easiest way to collaborate on images, designs, and mockups. Create an account, upload an image, give it a name and description, and you’re ready to go. Click anywhere on the image to start a new comment. Then share the link with collaborators.

Anyone with the link can now see all the comments on it. You can mention other users in comments by adding @username. Press Ctrl+C to see all comments in a list form.

You can also create Projects, which are essentially folders in which you add as many images as you want. Red Pen offers unlimited images and unlimited collaborators.

The website has a scary “14-day trial” sign at all times, but don’t worry, Red Pen is still free after that time period. You will then be on the basic plan, which lets you upload single images (no projects) that last for 20 days before being auto-deleted. If you want projects and images that last forever, check out the plans that start at $5 per month.

2. Dextra (Android, iOS): Social Network to Find Free Creative Collaborators

Where do you go to find creative people looking to collaborate on your ideas? Try Dextra, a social network for painters, designers, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and all other types of artists to discover like-minded collaborators.

The first step is to create your own profile and add “dexes”, which is the social network’s term for your skills. Add as many as applicable, and choose your proficiency level in each. Based on these skills, Dextra will show you a feed of open projects by others looking for collaborators. It spans a variety of project fields; for example, if you’re a writer, you will see everything from blogging to writing film scripts.

You can also create your own project, fill in its details, and hope others sign up for it. The next step is for the collaborators to talk and see if they’re the right fit as a creative team. Once you tick all the boxes, add the project to your ongoing portfolio. Meanwhile, keep browsing other projects to find something cool to get your creative juices flowing.

Download: Dextra for Android | iOS (Free)

3. Chanty (Web, Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS): Chat App with Task Management

In simple terms, Chanty is a chat app like Slack, but with robust task management and to-do list features baked into it. The free version allows up to 10 people in one team and has everything you’d need from a chat app for collaboration.

Any line said in chat can be turned into a task. That task can then be reassigned to any team member. You can view all tasks in the handy “Tasks” room, and interact with each task to mark it as done, comment on it to create the task’s own discussion thread or delete it forever. Funnily, there’s no simple way to set a deadline for any task.

Apart from the tasks, Chanty does most of the things that any chat app like Slack would. You can create rooms, search through chat history, leave voice messages, share files (up to 20GB), integrate other apps, and talk like you would in any chat room.

Download: Chanty Desktop for Windows | macOS | Linux Deb | Linux RPM (Free)

Download: Chanty Mobile for Android | iOS (Free)

4. CryptPad (Web): Privacy-Focused Collaborative Online Office Suite with Chat

CryptPad is a privacy focused online office suite with built-in chat and other collaborative features

CryptPad is a privacy protecting alternative to Google Docs, Microsoft Office Online, and other online office suites. And while protecting privacy, it still allows for real-time collaboration between creative partners.

The suite includes rich text (like a word processor), presentation, spreadsheet, coding, kanban board, whiteboard, online polls, and cloud storage. Registered users get 1GB of free storage, and you’ll need to sign up to share files with others. However, those users don’t need a CryptPad account to open or download the files you send them.

The apps themselves look and behave like any office suite, so you’ll feel right at home while using them. In a nice move, CryptPad adds a chatroom to the apps, so apart from comments, you can actually chat with collaborators for a more free-wheeling discussion. It’s one feature you won’t find in Google Docs or Microsoft Office, and it could be a game-changer.

5. Brainsparker Creativity Cards (Web, iOS): Brainstorming Cards to Spark New Ideas

Brainsparker's Creativity Cards will inspire new thoughts to break out of creative mental blocks

Stuck in a creative rut? Brainsparker’s free online cards help spark new ideas and provide creative inspiration. Use it by yourself or as a team to kickstart the brainstorming process.

It’s a cool but simple process. Once you find yourself stuck, open the card deck and play it. The animation cycles through all of Brainsparker’s cards at a fast pace. Pause or screenshot the video to find a card, and write or discuss all the thoughts that the card inspires. Use the best free screen-sharing apps to turn the card game into a collaborative experience with creative partners.

There are five free card packs on the website, as well as on the iPhone app: starter, vision, journal, kids, and kickstart. Each has its own set of inspirational ideas to change your perspective, like “challenge the viewer” or “trust your intuition” or “create a limitation” and so on. Go through the exercise a few times and you’re bound to break through your mental block.

Download: Brainsparker for iOS (Free)

Best Free Whiteboard Apps

If none of these apps are what you’re looking for, maybe you simply need a blank space where you and your collaborators can brainstorm. The internet has some free digital whiteboard alternatives you should check out.

Read the full article: 5 Free Apps for Creative People and Teams to Collaborate Digitally

via MakeUseOf https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/ree-apps-creative-teams-collaborate/

Bot mafias have wreaked havoc in World of Warcraft Classic

For months, clusters of bot-driven accounts have trawled around high-level zones, attacking monsters with uncanny precision before rotating toward their next target in robotic 90° angles.
Enlarge /

For months, clusters of bot-driven accounts have trawled around high-level zones, attacking monsters with uncanny precision before rotating toward their next target in robotic 90° angles.

Blizzard

Bots are terrorizing World of Warcraft Classic servers, stealing precious resources, monopolizing rare monsters, and inflating the virtual economy with truckloads of illicitly earned gold. Today, WoW Classic developer Blizzard Entertainment announced it has suspended or closed over 74,000 WoW Classic accounts over the last month, many of which were automating gameplay with bots.

For months, clusters of bot-driven accounts have trawled around high-level zones, attacking monsters with uncanny precision before rotating toward their next target in robotic 90-degree angles. These in-game characters are operated by scripts, programmed to optimally kill monsters and obtain rare, valuable items that drop from them. Lately, they’ve been targeting the sought-after Black Lotus, a necessary item for some competitive, high-level play.

World of Warcraft Classic is a punishing game by design, a harkening-back to the early days of World of Warcraft. It boasts little of the expediency that defines modern massively multiplayer online role-playing games; everything is an intentionally slow grind. To obtain a Black Lotus, players had to identify the specific spots where they spawn and camp there for between 45 and 75 minutes, waiting and warding off any competitors. For the last several months, when human-run characters attempted to muscle their way into the mix, coordinated groups of bots threatened them or closed ranks around the flower. So in late May, Loknar—who plays a healing priest in WoW Classic but still tries to kill bots whenever he sees them—decided to hold an anti-bot protest in the in-game city of Orgrimmar.

“There were over 50 people doing a line walk and yelling,” says Loknar. He was trying to draw attention to the issue, asking passersby not to buy the Black Lotuses that bots put on the auction house at an inflated 300 gold. (The normal price on most servers, he says, is about half that.) Loknar made a racket, but the mafia knew how to shut him up. The bots mass-reported him to publisher Blizzard for “abusive chat.” Blizzard muted Loknar’s account, and those of other protest participants, for 24 hours. In the meantime, the bots got their Black Lotuses to the auction houses, where they maintained their monopoly.

“Whether they’re a mafia, whether they’re a crime mob, whether they are a syndicate, whether they’re an Illuminati; whatever metaphor you want to use for them, the end result is the players are getting fucked,” says World of Warcraft Twitch streamer Asmongold. “They’re completely arrogant about it. . . they advertise the services that they’re going to do and they’re hacking while they perform the services.”

Dozens of websites easily found on Google sell code or services that automate the World of Warcraft Classic experience. Some individual players pay to hand their accounts over to a bot to level up their characters in the slow, meditative game while they’re at their day jobs or snoozing. Others turn a profit by automating groups of accounts that kill specific monsters and farm specific resources to earn mass amounts of in-game gold. Some use game-breaking techniques to gain an edge, like flying in the air and massacring rare monsters that can’t fight back. (Characters cannot fly in-game.) Then, they round up the goods.

Bots attack the integrity of WoW Classic, a game built on time investment and patience. (In an interview with WIRED, Asmongold compared it to earning a four-year college degree just moments before your college started giving them out for free.) They also undermine the game’s economy. Gold has less buying power when it’s obtained with no labor or time cost.

“There’s no limit to money creation,” says Michael Morrison, an Edinboro University of Pennsylvania economics professor who wrote his dissertation on the World of Warcrafteconomy. “In the real world, money is created through a federal reserve. Historically, the limit was how much gold was in the ground. In World of Warcraft, currency continues to grow with play. The more people play, the more hours played, the more money is in the system and the more inflation you see.” More organized botters sell the in-game money or high-level characters they obtain to players in exchange for cash on third-party websites. On Loknar’s server, 100 gold goes for $4.79, while 1,000 gold goes for $47.73. (No bot-makers or gold sellers agreed to an on-the-record interview for this article.)

Inflation

The influx of bots and bot mafias has had a complicated impact on the WoW Classic economy. Some items are worth less because bots are working 24/7 to achieve them; others are worth more because bot mafias have hogged goods. Tarek Beutler from NexusHub.co, a site that collects analytics from World of Warcraft, crunched the numbers across different WoW Classic servers’ auction houses. The price of a Black Lotus jumped 600 percent over six months, he says, until Blizzard added more Black Lotus spawns in an attempt to fix the problem. He estimates that inflation rates over the last six months have averaged 2.26 percent for US servers and nearly 7 percent for EU servers.

“Black Lotus for example is a scarce resource and can only be up on a few spawn points in the world at the same time. It’s pretty easy for botters to control these spawns and gauge the prices, so they go up,” Beutler says. Other resources that spawn in dungeons—which may be disconnected from the shared experience of other landscapes—don’t have that restriction. Botters can speed through these dungeons, gather rare resources and dump their wares onto the auction house, which artificially lowers their value.

“On a macroeconomic scale, some of these activities are a driving factor in gold inflation, while others are moving gold around the economy. All of them are harmful to ordinary players who are trying to trade goods and services within the game economy,” says a spokesperson for the WoW Classic development team. “The presence of bots has a strictly negative impact on the game experience, and we are completely aligned with our players in a desire to eliminate them.”

Desperate times

That tie to real-life economics can breed desperation. On Blizzard’s WoW Classic forums, one player complained about another who allegedly operates 15 bots controlling the Eastern Plagueland for 12 to 14 hours a day. Anyone who kills the bots is subject to “obscene language and various kinds of threats,” says the poster. Two other sources described chat restrictions and threats they say they received from accounts that utilize bots.

Despite Blizzard’s recent crackdown, players have criticized how slow the studio has been to stomp out botting in WoW Classic. Unstrategic, too. Blizzard recently adjusted the drop rate on the Black Lotus so that it’s less rare, and ideally, less easily monopolized. The value crashed across servers, but unfortunately, players say, that just means more flowers for bots. “They would sell them at an inflated price and purchase anyone who tried to undercut and resell the item for the higher price,” says Loknar.

In a blog post today, Blizzard explained why it’s been slow to act: after using automated systems to determine if an suspect account is in fact a bot, official moderators must manually gather evidence, a “time consuming and complex” process. “While today’s suspensions were applied in a batch (often referred to as a “banwave”), it is a top priority for us to identify accounts that are botting and remove them,” the company wrote. “Our team works around the clock, every day of the week, and many of the suspensions and account closures over the last few months have gone out in the middle of the night, or on weekends.”

Although Blizzard recently erased tens of thousands of bots from the game, players are concerned that more will easily crop up to replace the old ones. Between banwaves, bots are leveling themselves up. It’s Whac-A-Mole. “People using bots are going for months without getting banned,” says Asmongold. “Blizzard isn’t fixing it because they’re so set on the way they solve problems that they’re unable to adapt to the way things have changed.”

One player, Tpyo, says he quit over the bots. They messed with the economy. They made it hard for him to get materials for high-level raids. And they intimidated him when he spoke out, earning him a chat restriction. “The world is full (of bots) and feels entirely empty when you’re in it,” he says. “It kinda killed the community feeling that kept me in the game.”

via Ars Technica https://arstechnica.com/?p=1685095

Why you won’t get a Netflix of gaming

Recent announcements of new game-distribution services from Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nvidia, and Tencent—as well as reports of a prospective Amazon offering—have caused widespread industry speculation that video-game distribution could move from the still-dominant á la carte model toward Netflix-style subscriptions.

If subscription services were successful, power could shift from game studios and publishers to a few digital distribution giants with massive scale and market share—analogous to the rise of Netflix in digital video.

However, comparisons with the TV and film business don’t entirely hold up—digital subscriptions will not translate to video games easily. Gaming’s unique consumption model and economics arguably make the challenge of altering consumer behavior to create all-you-can-eat offerings at massive scale a lot tougher than anything Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix have faced.

Still, the stakes are so high—video games generated $120 billion in revenue globally in 2019—that the recent service launches are probably just the opening gambits. Any of the players making (or contemplating) bets on such a seismic shift in distribution and consumption would be wise to keep in mind that video games have several characteristics that make them ill-suited to the Netflix model.

Games are increasingly open-ended experiences

Until the early-to-mid 2000s, video games were primarily linear forms of entertainment: Gamers engaged with the narrative, and most games had a clear beginning, middle, and end, very much like movies.

That design framework has since dramatically evolved. Although some linear experiences still exist, engagement with today’s most popular games relies, more often than not, on infinitely playable “loops,” which can be competitive (for instance, play to improve, compete, and climb leaderboards) or loot driven (such as collecting a never-ending set of items of increasing rarity and value). These loops feed the digital identities and status of players within their online communities.

Such experiences, by design, never end, which is reflected in the astronomical amount of time devoted to top games. According to Steamspy.com, players spend almost two hours a day, on average, in the popular MOBA game DotA 2 and more than one hour a day in the online shooter CS:GO. When Destiny launched, Activision announced that players were spending, on average, three hours a day in it. More than 70% of Fortnite players spend in excess of six hours a week playing, and at least 20% spend 16 hours or more.

Because the average Netflix user watches it for just 18 to 27 minutes a day, Netflix as a whole generates less engagement than any of these games individually, despite spending $12 billion a year to produce 1,500 hours of original content and to license thousands more.

Games are turning into free-to-play services and platforms

One of the main motivations for the transition from linear narratives to “live” products was the desire of the game publishers to stabilize and more actively control their revenues.

The traditional model required risky, multimillion-dollar bets, with uncertain returns, in search of blockbusters. In the live model, game publishers have turned their products into services, constantly investing in frequent releases of new content, features, events, and competitions to keep players active—all supported by an obsessive focus on analytics-based decision making.

Games that demonstrate mass appeal become platforms and spur the creation of new communities: all-encompassing experiences with social, competitive, and personal-status elements.

To minimize initial barriers for new players, many games have embraced the free-to-play business model. Publishers are deeply committed to expanding their audiences and focused on the long-term sustainability of these businesses. They therefore willingly sacrifice upfront revenues (a one-time $60 payment or a monthly $15 subscription) for the longer-term opportunity to make money from usage, through microtransactions for in-game goods and services.

The world’s most popular games in terms of hours spent and the number of active players and revenues are mostly free to play. According to SuperData, for example, Fortnite generated $2.4 billion in 2018 and $1.8 billion in 2019, despite being completely free to play. According to AppAnnie, 99 of the top 100–grossing mobile games in the United States are free. On PCs, six out of the world’s top ten titles (and four out of the top five) in April 2020 are as well.

Console gaming is the last bastion of the traditional paid model, but free-to-play experiences such as Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Roblox [Full disclosure: D’Angelo is a VP of product at Roblox] have launched on console and found significant success. Even Call of Duty, historically a premium game only available on console and PC, was recently released as a stand-alone, free-to-play Battle Royale experience (Warzone). It is enjoying strong early momentum, with 50 million players in the first month from launch.

Premium games in a subscription format might not be a winning formula

These trends make gaming subscriptions a hard sell.

The Netflix proposition is a practically inexhaustible library of compelling content, with a core that is exclusive to the service. Free-to-play games, by definition, don’t make sense behind a subscription paywall, especially on PCs and mobile (console providers charge a monthly fee to access online features). What’s more, the game-as-a-service model does not lend itself to a large portfolio of games, implicit in the value proposition of all-you-can-eat subscriptions, because that gaming model is all about limitless engagement with one destination.

To succeed, a gaming subscription would therefore need to offer access to otherwise-premium (paid) games, a $18.5 billion global market, which is smaller than the approximately $90 billion free-to-play market and growing much less quickly. The premium game market is heavily concentrated: The top ten franchises, such as Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Uncharted, Red Dead Redemption, and FIFA, account for roughly half of the market’s revenues. (By comparison, the top ten blockbuster movies accounted for only 33% of the U.S. box office in 2018.)

These games would be prohibitively expensive for a subscription service to carry:

  • Most users interested in blockbuster premium games buy them right away: On average, 50% to 60% of the lifetime units are sold in the first month after launch. For example, Red Dead Redemption 2 sold 17 million units in its first 12 days. To be attractive, a subscription service would have to feature blockbusters at or near their launch dates.
  • Currently, a game publisher nets at least $42 per unit on a $60 game sold digitally or physically. That’s probably what publishers will expect from any distribution outlet, including subscription services, that offer their products. The leverage for blockbuster games lies squarely with the publisher—more so than for video entertainment.
  • Licensing just two blockbusters a year could cost a platform $8 per user every month. That would be 80% to 100% of subscription revenues if game services were priced in the same way over-the-top (OTT) videos are.
  • Past game-subscription services (such as GameTap and OnLive) have faced this very problem and ended up with either older games that publishers were willing to license cheaply or with unsuccessful titles that quickly moved to the bargain bin. As a result, these remained niche services.

Game development for subscription services would be prohibitively expensive

The concept of a Netflix for gaming is even more ambitious than it seems. Services like Netflix attract subscribers with their own exclusive offerings. Repeating that playbook would probably require game-subscription services to develop first-party blockbuster titles and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on product development and marketing.

This is the strategy Microsoft seems to be pursuing with its Xbox Game Pass service: It offers most of its first-party titles as part of a subscription service when those games become available at retail. Microsoft has also been acquiring multiple studios, ostensibly to expand its subscription catalog. Xbox Game Pass has recently announced that it has 10 million subscribers, but the economics of the service are unclear.

With Apple Arcade, Apple, too, has made a big wager on content, reportedly investing $500 million in small indie games. It is betting that the sheer quantity of titles will eventually outweigh “must play” content in helping to acquire players. Other companies are trying a lower-investment, long-tail strategy—for instance, Sony PlayStation Now, which had 2.2 million subscribers as of April 2020, focuses on the back catalog.

For pure-play subscription services, developing exclusive games would be a tall order. A triple-A game can cost $50 million to more than $100 million to develop, not including marketing costs, which can easily double that budget. Such games have no certainty of success. Competition is intense, particularly since gamers, unlike consumers of video content, are less likely to sample lots of different titles, focusing instead on just one or two titles for weeks or months at a time. Subscription platforms would need to become (or acquire) full-fledged game publishers with multibillion-dollar commitments in order to compete for subscribers against industry powerhouses, the à la carte AAA blockbusters and free-to-play games that already have vibrant communities of players and unpaid streamers.

A YouTube of gaming?

If the Netflix playbook can’t be easily rerun in gaming—where exclusive content, the free-to-play model, and a service mindset drive engagement—does this mean that no digital-content platform can serve as a model for reinvention?

Not necessarily.

YouTube might be the better model. Much as its platform for user-generated content (UGC) disrupted traditional video, so might a UGC gaming platform create a profitable, scalable alternative to traditional games. UGC gaming offers open-ended experiences, created by gamers, that can generate revenues in a variety of ways—limited paid access, microtransactions, and advertising—even if none of them are subscription based.

Minecraft (owned by Microsoft), for example, is primarily a traditional paid product, boasting 112 million monthly active users as of September 2019. But it also has a thriving, fast-growing private-server scene, where community members create custom settings and rules that offer varied experiences, environments, and game-play types (from open-world adventures to shooters and anything in between).

Some of these servers make money through donations and ads, and a select few have massive audiences. Hypixel, spun off into a stand-alone company (Hypixel Studios) that was recently acquired by Riot Games, reportedly has more than ten million accounts.

Fortnite‘s massive success has been driven by studio-made content, but in December 2018 the game introduced UGC through its creative mode, providing players with spaces and tools to build structures and game modes and to invite friends to join.

In mid-February 2020, Sony released Dreams, an intuitive environment with tools to create a broad range of experiences, from art showcases to actual games, that are published within the Dreams client on PlayStation 4.

All of these companies are sidestepping the cost of exclusive content by offering tools that tie creators to the platform in exchange for visibility and a captive audience. Traditional gamers might criticize UGC experiences because they look cruder and play less smoothly than professionally produced titles do. However, UGC gaming’s mass-market appeal cannot be denied, suggesting that low-budget, grass-roots game designers can thrive, even in competition with deep-pocketed game publishers.

The gaming community’s creativity has been responsible for a meaningful amount of past gaming innovation. In fact, the entire MOBA genre (League of Legends and DotA 2, for example) was established by Defense of the Ancients (DotA), a mod for Warcraft III. The original class-based shooter Team Fortress (which inspired titles such as Overwatch) was originally a Quake mod. The hyperpopular shooter Counter-Strike was born as a Half-Life mod, and the cult zombie PVP game Left 4 Dead started as a Counter-Strike mod. The entire Battle Royale genre, popularized by games such as PUBG and Fortnite, was first developed as a mod called PlayerUnknown Battle Royale for military shooter Arma 2. Even Minecraft is taking cues from its private servers to update the official game.

UGC gaming platforms are much closer to YouTube (or streaming services like Twitch) than to Netflix. They give gamers free access to potentially endless experiences while still offering financial incentives to nonprofessional developers.

Part of the future of gaming, then, might not be Netflix-like subscriptions but rather open platforms with unique experiences, built by trusted community participants, that grow organically into small to midsize development studios.

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Dan Singer is a partner in McKinsey’s New York office. Enrico D’Angelo, a McKinsey alumnus, is vice president of product at Roblox.

via Fast Company https://www.fastcompany.com/90518787/why-you-wont-get-a-netflix-of-gaming?partner=feedburner&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feedburner+fastcompany&utm_content=feedburner