Monthly Archives: December 2008

Clean Feed Delayed.

Well it comes of little suprise that the trial has been delayed until mid January, with no explanation (other than straight up incompetence). Source from the ABC:

The Federal Opposition says it is not surprised the Government’s mandatory internet filtering trial has been delayed.

The trial, which was meant to begin today, has been postponed until mid-January 2009 and the internet service providers (ISPs) who will participate will be announced at the same time.

ISPs iiNet and Optus both said yesterday they had not heard anything about their applications to participate in the trial, and doubted the Government would meet its own deadline.

The article also mentions a report comissioned by the Howard government on Internet filtering:

Senator Conroy was unavailable to speak to the ABC today, but released a report commissioned by the Howard government into internet filtering.

The Internet Industry Association-produced report concluded that mandatory filtering would slow internet speeds, be easy to get around and would not block all undesirable material.

But Senator Conroy said the report included no empirical testing, instead relying on literature review, interviews and surveys.

Senator Minchin says he disagrees with Senator Conroy’s attempt to devalue the report, saying it is an “insult to those involved”.

[They] are leading experts in this field, particularly the lead author of the report,” he said.

“[His] frustration with the Government in hiding this report led to the Fairfax newspapers having a detailed briefing on the content then forcing Senator Conroy last night to release the report 10 months after he received it.

“The report does identify some very, very serious issues with any attempt to impose this mandatory ISP-level filtering system, but it leads me to believe it’s almost impossible to do this with any degree of effectiveness.”

This shows a blatant disregard for expert opinions and singals the fact that the Clean Feed proposal is nothing more than an appeal to emotion and an attempt to censor information that should be rightly available to Australians. Whilst that sounds alarmist, if Senator Conroy had taken these opinions and acted on them then he might’ve redone the proposal to something a bit more sane than its current incarnation.

What makes a successful MMORPG?

I initially wrote this as a response to a forum post and after spending an hour on writing it up I thought I’d share it here.

So what does it take to make a successful MMORPG these days?

Taking a look at some of the biggest MMOs gives us an idea of what makes a MMO successful. Just because there’s not really a better figure than active accounts to judge this we’ll have a look at the biggest ones by this number:

RuneScape: 15 Million (free) accounts
Second Life: 11.7 Million (free, non trial) accounts
World of Warcraft: 11.5 Million (paid, active) accounts

Aggregated statistics from here and here.

So what does each of these games provide that attracts so many people to it? Well I’ve had experience with all of these so I’ll give you an overview of why they are so popular.

Runescape is free to play and only requires that you have a web browser to play it. When I used to work in childcare many of the kids there would play it, since they could all play with each other for nothing. The idea of being able to try something out for free with your mates without even having to install something is a powerful marketing tool, and it’s obviously working extremely well. It’s this extrodinary mix of portability, availability and socializing that has made RuneScape what it is.

Second Life provides a massive sandbox for you to share with many other people. It takes online chat that one step further, allowing people to alter their persona and appearance online and then communicate with others. Linden Labs has made headways in marketing the base client for free whilst giving people the oppotunity to buy land or items from each other for linden dollars which can be exchanged freely with real US cash. This idea has attracted several different niche players, some who wish to free themselves from the real world and those looking to turn a profit from virtual goods. Its this combination of sandboxing and real world value that brings people to Second Llife and keeps them there.

WoW has become the benchmark for all new MMOs due to its popularity and dedication in development from Blizzard. Starting out with the phenomenal IP that is the Warcraft universe Blizzard kept on its track record of releasing highly polished games with specifications so that nearly anyone could play it. After keep it in beta for well over a year the hype was definitely ramping up and the launched, whilst riddled with problems on high population servers, showed that Blizzard had the infrastructure ready to handle a massive playerbase and continued to improve their services over the coming years.

Initially WoW focused directly on the crowd that all MMOs traditionally marketed to; the hardcore MMO crowd that would play new content until it was beaten and then eagerly await the next big challenge. This was easily demonstrated by the first few big content patches that released big dungeons such as BWL, AQ and later Naxxramas. Whilst they tried to cater to the smaller groups with things like Zul’Gurrub there was a definite disparity between hardcore players and casuals, leaving many casuals behind in terms of both PVP and PVE content.

The BC set out to address these issues and made large headways in doing so. Blizzard gave up the idea of trying to make horde and alliance balanced, but different and gave Shamans and Pallies to their respective opposing sides. Whilst this initially met with friction it broke down many walls that kep Blizzard from improving gameplay in other ways. Additionally the introduction of Arenas, Dailies and two-tier dungeons (Normal/Heroic) allowed casual users to get a look in at the content whilst giving the hardcores something to shoot for.

Now we come to WotLK and the focus has shifted directly towards the casuals. Why did they do this? Well I can tell you it is the same reason that Nintendo designed the Wii, to convert non-gamers into players. WoW has consistently grown its userbase by targetting the largest untapped market of MMO players, the ones not playing it. With things like Recruit a friend its no wonder people are constantly drawn to this epic MMO.

In short, WoW is targeting non-gamers and as such has a larger target audience then the traditional MMOs. Should they continue down this path they will start to lose the super-hardcore players to other MMOs, but this does not bother them. Their bread and butter is the mum and dads with their 2 kids playing together whenever they have a spare couple hours. They are the ones who will spend $15 a month to play for only a fraction of the time of the hardcore people, thereby increasing their profit dramatically. This lets them develop more content driving up their interest even further.

Each of these popular online games provide a dramatically different experience and as such targets a different niche of the market. The trouble with many new MMOs is they try to replicate one or more parts of these already succesful business models and don’t try to bring something new to the table. Whilst many of them will succeed in obtaining a loyal userbase (which by all accounts is success) none of them will make it “big” until they bring in a paradigm shift as all of these MMOs did.

Facts and Figures – The Internet Filter

It’s come to my attention that some lobbyists don’t agree with my figures of the slowdown being upwards of 70% in the worst case, and have dredged up some figures of their own:

ACL managing director Jim Wallace said those campaigning against the filter were selectively quoting figures.

”This is quoting the high end figure, when equally one could say that Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) trials have shown that one filter product slowed internet performance by less than two per cent, and three products slowed it by less than 30 per cent with technology improving all the time,’

Mr Wallace said the Christian Lobby believed claims that filtering was ineffective were unfounded, with ACMA trials showing about 92 per cent of illegal and inappropriate content was blocked, and over- blocking was less than three per cent.

”Rather than rallying on the basis of misinformation, people should be giving this very worthwhile proposal their full support particularly ISPs who profit so much from ordinary Australians,” he said.

Let’s be honest and state that neither of us know exactly how much this filter will slow everything down and that any solution that is currently being tested now will not behave the same way when it is implemented. Sure, we could get away with a minor amount of slow down but as Jim Wallace has shown the majority of programs will more then likely exceed 20%. It could be all the way up to 29% if we read far enough into his vague statements.

So let’s take a quick look at what this will cost Australian broadband users in real dollars using real figures. Australia has approximately 5 million broadband subscribers according to the OECD. Additionally they have provided some figures based on average price, with Australia’s coming out to approximately US$61 (AUD$89) per month. This comes out to roughly AUD$445 million per month that Australians spend on broadband connections.

If we take the best estimates of a 2% slowdown that is equivalent to all those subscribers losing 2% of their bandwidth per month, effectively costing Australians approximately $9 million a month in lost services. That’s at the very best of the figures quoted, coming out at a grand total cost to all Australians of around $107 million a year. If we go for what appears to be the majority of cases, say 20% to make it easy, it will cost us $90 million per month which over a one year period will total over $1 billion.

That’s right, if we end up with a filter that slows down only consumer level broadband by 20% it will cost Australians a billion dollars. I shudder to think of the figure that I would get if I did the calculations including high end business and government links.

Do we really want to implement something that costs us this much?

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick one to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a safe holiday season. We all forget to take a step back sometimes and just relax with family and friends, but today is one of the days when the world as a whole reflects on itself.

All the best!

Internet Filter continues down the road to stupidity.

Well it seems that the DLC must have been heard by Senator Conroy and his party members, since he’s decided to add in some additional features to the proposed filter:

18. Is it true that ISP filtering is unable to filter non-web based traffic such as peer-to-peer and chat?

ISPs in other developed nations that have introduced filtering have done so mainly to help address the proliferation of child pornography on the web using a blacklist of mainly child pornography sites. These blacklist filtering services do not deal with non-web traffic such as peer-to-peer and chat.

The Department understands that a number of ISP filtering products allow blocking of non-web based applications, and that vendors are undertaking development in this area. A small number of ISPs in Australia and overseas provide ISP level filtering services that seek to help parents manage non-web based applications such as peer-to-peer and chat.

To the extent possible, the Pilot will test the effectiveness of more sophisticated ISP level filtering services and products to help parents manage use of non-web applications.

It is understood that technology exists to filter peer-to-peer networks. If such technology is proposed as part of the Pilot by an ISP it will be considered.

Full FAQ from the deparment here with coverage from PC MAG.

Now I know that many of the ISPs would be fully aware that blocking Peer to Peer (P2P) traffic is not only complicated but will also guarntee slowdowns that are far in excess of current estimates. To give you an idea of how complicated it is here are a couple ways of detecting Peer to Peer traffic:

  • Deep Packet Inspection: Basically opening every packet and looking at the packet structure to determine what it is and where it is going to. This means that the packet is delayed whilst it is inspected, and this could lead to lengthy delays in delivery espeically if the packet is big. Say goodbye to reliable VOIP services if this kind of inspection gets put in.
  • Connection/Traffic Trending: This is watching the connections a client makes and building up a trend map of them to determine which ones are legitimate and which ones aren’t. Bittorrent and other P2P applications usually open up lots of connections and transmit small amounts of data over them, so they will build a model off that principle. Once they think they have a P2P connection they’ll terminate it by various methods (RST Injection or just drop the connection entirely). Inheritly flawed and will cause issues with any technologies that utilize P2P as a distribution method (World of Warcraft uses it for their client patches).
  • Port blocking: Simply denying all traffic on the ports that P2P applications typically use. Easily cirumvented.

The Internet Filter proposal itself was unacceptable already, this just puts it into the realm of insanity. At the rally I talked about what kind of impact this would have to businesses and introducing something like this would just make the effect even worse. Just because P2P may be responsible for some un-scrupulous people using it for nefarious purposes doesn’t mean that everyone should suffer, and I really do mean everyone in this respect.

Probably my biggest concern are the people who support Free and Open Software with their contributions to things like Linux. They use Bittorrent to distribute their software and blocking this service will mean a severe detriment to the free service that they provide. Whilst solutions like Ubuntu will still function thanks to the generous support of people like Mike Shuttleworth I’m afraid the smaller ones will be hit severely by the decision to include P2P in the filter.

If we see something like this get put in I can see so many business with strong web presences moving their services overseas. When you rely on your web services in order to generate revenue slow down means lost dollars and customers, neither of which a company will endure just to host a service in Australia. We’re already behind in terms of broadband proliferation and web services, do we really want to continue down this road of making Australia an Internet backwater?

Space, my dream.

I’d love to say that ever since I was a little boy I would lie awake at night staring at the stars and wanting to go up there, but I would be wrong. As a kid I barely knew about the wonders of space and the kinds of technology that have taken us up there. It was only after I turned 21 did I start getting interested in space, only just on a year ago that I decided I would be visiting outer space in my lifetime, by any means possible.

Anyone who knows me will tell you how passionate I am about space and how humanity must become a spacefaring civilisation. As a child born many years after our glory days of landing on the moon I’ve only been able to witness humanities various robotic accomplishments (which are great and many) and the wonder that is the International Space Station. For the next 10 years though I will be on tenterhooks as we, hopefully, plan to make our glorious return to the moon and beyond. That gives me something to look forward to, no matter what else happens along the way.

The reason I’m so passionate about space is that whenever I start talking about it most people will only know about the Apollo missions, the Shuttle and possibly the Mars rovers. Few know about the bravery of the Mercury and Gemini Astronauts, or the amazing inginuity of the Mir space station. It seems that ever since the end of the Apollo missions, humanity has found space to be boring and kids don’t grow up wanting to be Astronauts anymore.

I’ve come into the world of Aeronautics late in life, and I sometimes lie awake at night wondering what kind of life I would be leading now if I realised that my passion lied in outer space. Who knows, I might be living in the United States right now eagerly awaiting my first shuttle flight (although, history has shown youngsters like myself aren’t usually considered for another few years). What I do appreciate though is that the world in its current state is on the verge of a critical mass in terms of space for the masses. Soon we will have sub-orbital flights (a la the Mercury Program) and when that all goes well, we’ll be seeing orbital flights not too long afterwards.

I guess I just long for the days when you asked kids what they wanted to be when they grow up many of them would say Astronaut. The reason I miss those days so much is because it meant that Space exploration was so mainstream that even the children knew about it and were excited to participate in it. We’re really still in the infancy of Space flight (regular flight has really only become mainstream in the past decade) so it is with our children that the future of humanity in Space will lie.

To get you a little inspired, here are some pictures from the recent shuttle mission STS-126, which upgraded the International Space Station in order for it to handle double the crew starting next year.

Canberra Rally Video.

We had Jonathon Reynolds at the rally on the weekend recording the whole event for us. Whilst I did not get a chance to thank him personally I hope this link to his vimeo on my blog can count as a belated thank-you 🙂

The video is below. I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet but I’m sure that I made some good points, even if I had only 10 minutes to prepare for it!

Canberra Rally.

Today was the Digital Liberty Coalition’s rally against the Clean Feed. We had a good turnout in Canberra with about 100 or so turning up to Caroline Le Coutuer (Greens Party), Hannah Mae Koenig (Event Organiser), Nathaneal Boehm (DLC Member) and myself speaking about why opposing this policy matters and what it means for Australia.

It was great to see the support that came out for this cause and I thank everyone who came out today to discuss the Clean Feed and all its implications. Whilst Caroline focused on the policy I gave a brief overview of the technical and business implications of the Internet Filter. I’m glad that many people are now more informed about this issue and can now impart knowledge on others in order to raise more awareness.

I was very impressed by the reception we got from the general public as well. Many people stopped to listen to us give our views on this policy, and a couple even stayed behind for a good chat afterwards. It was great to hear that all of them would be coming back for the big rally in March, which I’m hoping will draw much more interest from the media.

Hopefully I’ll have some pictures/videos/links once they start coming my way. I was going to take my camera along but being the busy boy that I am I remembered I’d left it at home 5 minutes before I was in Civic for the rally. I’m going to write up a summary of the whole event for the Chronicle and I’ll have a link to it once it’s up.

Interview with 2CC’s Mike Jeffreys.

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by 2CC’s Mike Jeffreys this morning. We discussed some of the points of the proposed internet filter and what it will mean for the public at large.

Whilst I’m all for protecting children on the Internet there are far better ways to do it than what Senator Conroy is proposing. I’m glad that Mike was on-board with what I was talking about and he brought up some really good examples of how the government has pulled these kinds of stunts in the past. Whilst I don’t want to go too far into tin foil hat mode, the whole internet filter smacks of government control of information. I’d happily support an opt-in filter for concerned parents (even opt-out at a real stretch) but only as long as it didn’t impact on people who didn’t want it.

My main point on all this is that many people don’t know enough about the Internet and the way it functions to make informed decisions on ideas like this. In many cases your average Joe will hear the words “Protecting our children” and instantly rubber stamp their approval. It’s a slippery slope once we give the government this kind of power, and I’d rather block this proposal in its entirety rather than have to circumvent it later on.

If you’re reading this and you’re concerned about your children and the dangers of the internet there are a couple pointers I’d like to give you:

  • Put the PCs in a main room like the living or family room. Children are far less likely to go looking for questionable content if you’re there with them
  • Get yourself online. If your kids know you’re on Facebook/MySpace/etc they’ll behave themselves. Many kids will keep doing something until they think they might get caught
  • Use online technologies like email, instant messaging and so on to get a feel for what they are experiencing online
  • Promote education instead of prohibition. Forbidden fruit is always more tantalizing then well trodden paths

I’ve attached an MP3 of the interview for you all to listen to, enjoy!!

David Klemke 2CC Internet Filter Interview

Good news everyone!

My blog is now up and running! It’s been a long time coming but since I started to get the itch to dump my brain online it’s been a hard thought to get out of my head.

Stay tuned as since I’ve taken up the media spokesperson role for the Digital Liberty Coalition there’s going to be an interesting run of blog posts over the next few days.