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Crime / JusticeI’ve used law to attack NSA surveillance, CIA criminality, and neo-Nazis. I’m John Tye and I help whistleblowers avoid prison.

Dec 11th 2017 by tyejohn • 19 Questions • 142 Points

Introduction:

I’m Asher Fergusson. This past September, my wife and I experienced two consecutive Airbnb nightmares that left us and our 10-month-old son on the street in Europe. It was a horrible experience.

As a result, I decided to conduct an Airbnb guest research study, and subsequently wrote an article about its findings. My research partners were Sheana Ahlqvist, PhD and Erin Smith. They are also joining me on this AMA.

We’re doing this AMA because we want to see Airbnb succeed, but our findings indicate they are not doing a good enough job keeping up with their massive growth. We uncovered multiple dangerous loopholes & scams that are going unchecked and we want to bring awareness to these issues.

Summary of our research:

According to Airbnb customer service, 3% to 7% of stays turn into a “problem stay” (that’s over 2 million ruined trips per year). Here’s what’s most likely to go wrong on your next stay based on 839 3rd-party online reviews shared by dissatisfied Airbnb guests:

Host cancels stay (20.5%), Scams (15.4%), Unsafe conditions (13.4%), Not as described (12.2%), Fake Listings or Reviews (3.8%), Discrimination (1.1%)

We found that Airbnb customer service makes everything far worse: 82% of the people who had a problem with their Airbnb stay mentioned customer service as a problem. 57.5% of those people listed customer service as their primary complaint.

See our full infographic that was submitted Monday to /r/Dataisbeautiful here (it has over 2,000 comments, many of which are stories from other dissatisfied Airbnb users) : https://www.reddit.com/r/dataisbeautiful/comments/7hk5xu/according_to_airbnb_customer_service_3_to_7_of/

Other key findings from our research:

  1. Lax or nonexistent ID requirements and background checks for hosts
  2. Price point arbitrage scam with duplicate listings
  3. Co-founder Brian Chesky claims a natural “immune system” is supposed to regulate good and bad users, but the review system is flawed and often biased.
  4. A scammer can use the same listing photos on multiple accounts.
  5. A host who has been "permanently banned" can get back on the platform instantly under a different name.
  6. Listing addresses are not verified so a "bad" host can list any address whether they own the property or not.

Proof:

If you would like to read our full article, our published study or our video with proof, you can find it on Asher’s website here: https://www.asherfergusson.com/airbnb/

ASK US ANYTHING!

Edit: Thanks everyone! We signing off at 4:30pm PST but will check back in the morning to see if there are any unanswered questions. Cheers, Asher, Sheana and Erin.

Q:

Do you consider yourself a whistleblower? I know you did not publish classified information and everything you did had been in accordance with the NSA etc.

What's your opinion on Edward Snowden?

You fought against collecting data from american people but what about all the people outside of the USA, do you think the NSA should spy on them?

A:

Hello! I immediately fell in love with APOPO as soon as I discovered you guys and I've been a monthly contributor ever since. Thanks for doing what you do.

1) Is there any way for a traveler to see your workers and rats in action? Perhaps a volunteer mission?

2) I requested hi-res photos of your trainers and rats in action to hang at my home for visitors to see in hopes of encouraging them to get involved. Your people totally hooked it up. Animal-lovers dig it, but since most people think rats are gross, what other ways would you suggest to help turn people on to your cause?

Thanks


Q:

If your immortal soul had to be locked behind a lootbox or paid content, how would you design it?

A:

Perfect reply.


Q:

How strict are strip clubs about following the rules regarding prostitution? Is there a sense of "for the right price?"

A:

What is the most common misconception about wilderness survival that gets people killed?


Q:

While in Barcelona staying at a VRBO/Friendlyrentals unit, our (well-secured) room was keyed into the night before we were to leave and everything was taken except for our passports. Well over $5,000 in value.

Googling this, I found many other similar horror stories about the Barcelona rentals market.

How often have you run into this type of scam?

A:

Thanks for a great first question. Will answer in segments.

(1) Yes, I do consider myself a whistleblower. Leaking classified information is not always the same as being a whistleblower


Q:

Thank you so much for the kind words. Yes, travelers can see our rats in action - most convenient is in our training centre in Tanzania or in our recently opened APOPO visitors centre in Siem Reap. Thanks also for promoting us with the photos! We appreciate any initiative which will support us, be it word to mouth, be it organizing a group or a visible event - sure everyone has skills to contribute. You can also adopt a HeroRAT which makes for a great holiday gift!

A:

Cracks Knuckles Let's do this dance!

  • My soul is the chase prize in a lootbox, along with other, extremely valuable content (gotta be in good company after all). We'll call this box 'The Soul Box'.
  • You can't directly purchase The Soul Box from the store. It's a rare drop on a powerful, Dark Souls style boss monster. High HP, insta-kill attacks, very timing heavy, the works. We'll just call this 'The Boss Monster'.
  • The only way to fight The Boss Monster is with a Boss Fight Ticket, which is the rare chase prize in the 'The Wheel Game Loot Box'. A ticket cannot be obtained any other way.
  • The Wheel Game Loot Box can only be obtained by getting the Five Keys from the Wheel Game. It costs hard currency (currency bought with real money) to spin the Wheel. Getting the Keys is rare, spins usually get you lesser loot boxes. Each of the Five Keys is different, and you can get duplicates. This means that you could have 20 of the other Keys, but still need to get the Fifth Key, just to unlock one of the Wheel Game Lootboxes.
  • The Fifth Key is way rarer than the other Keys. Like, suspiciously so.
  • Keys can be redeemed for other prizes, like event-unique cosmetics, just for that added temptation. They look amazing.
  • The Wheel Game has a ridiculously long spin animation, with lots of flashing lights and grating music. Neither of those can be disabled. You must sit through it. Every. Single. Time.
  • That Boss fight? You can't save up tickets for it. You're not allowed to spin the wheel when you have a ticket (the button just greys out). This means that learning the fight patterns is extremely difficult, as you're looking at hours (and tons of money) between fights.
  • PvP is enabled during the fight against the Boss Monster. If another Player kills you during it, you lose the fight and they get half of the hard currency you spent getting the ticket. Prepare to get mobbed by griefers every time you get within a mile of that thing.
  • Did I mention that the presence of so many PvP players in the Boss Fight will cause terrible lag spikes during the fight? Because that's a thing.
  • The Boss Monster has an unskippable cutscene, every time you fight it. He wants to destroy the world because everyone is too sad. The voice acting is horrendous.

I think that covers everything... I'm feeling pretty good about the sanctity of my soul.


Q:

nice try.

A:

In Vegas they're pretty strict about it. If a club is caught allowing that then they are at a serious risk of having the entire operation shut down. Vegas really markets itself well with the "Sin City" tag, but it's not quite as "anything goes" as people think. Even some cities in the U.S. have more lax rules than Vegas.


Q:

It's just a day hike I don't need a survival kit or training.

A:

ASHER: There were some examples but it was very rare.


Q:

Do you consider yourself a whistleblower? I know you did not publish classified information and everything you did had been in accordance with the NSA etc.

What's your opinion on Edward Snowden?

You fought against collecting data from american people but what about all the people outside of the USA, do you think the NSA should spy on them?

A:

are your humans assigned their own rat to work with, or do they rotate assignments?


Q:

A 12 year old Korean kid is going to have your soul by April.

A:

How do you handle what seems to be a majority of people's "fear of math" (for lack of better term) when incorporating math in your story telling?


Q:

How many people go just for the free buffet?

A:

What are some general survival tips that everyone should know?


Q:

are there any characteristics to look for that decrease the chance of it being a bad experience?

A:

I was a whistleblower, reporting (still ongoing today) 4th Amendment violations by the NSA, without leaking classified information.


Q:

Usually they have their own rat, but for example when staff members take their holidays, their colleagues will be happy to take over. This also happens when rats move between countries - they will encounter new trainers.

A:

My only weakness! How did you know?!


Q:

I find it's best to not tell them it's a math story! One great thing about math is that it's embedded in everyday life, so you can connect it to things that people already identify with.

A:

A lot of the locals


Q:

Always have a small, easy to carry kit that will get you through the night when going to the outdoors.

Always form an emergency signal as soon as possible in an emergency.

Get a wilderness first aid card.

Hydrate well before hitting the outdoors, it's better for every climate/altitude.

Take a class with me.

A:

ASHER: My top tips are to only stay at places that have a shit ton of reviews, only stay at places that have a 5-star average, only stay with Superhosts. Don't stay with a host who has more than one or two properties.

You can read all 54 of my tips on my site here: https://www.asherfergusson.com/airbnb/#safety-tips


Q:

Do you consider yourself a whistleblower? I know you did not publish classified information and everything you did had been in accordance with the NSA etc.

What's your opinion on Edward Snowden?

You fought against collecting data from american people but what about all the people outside of the USA, do you think the NSA should spy on them?

A:

Is there a registry or memorial of hero rats who have died in the service?


Q:

Upvote for Harold and Kumar reference.

A:

What would you say to your students who are reading this thread?


Q:

Any celebrities or famous people walking into your place? Whats the most amount of money you have seen someone spend?

A:

What's the biggest mistake people commonly make in a survival situation?


Q:

My friends and I were staying at a home in Nashville for a bachelor party. The owner was coming in to check on us throughout the week (totally understandable). But our third night there we noticed a camera in one of the bedrooms and asked him about it. He said he'd check on it the next day. While we were out getting lunch he stopped by and said there was no camera and he wasn't sure what we were talking about. We went back to the home and sure enough the camera was gone.

We complained to Airbnb and got no response or refund. The big fear that we had was that there were some provocative things happening in that bedroom that we wouldn't like the world to see (remember, bachelor party). If any of those videos were ever to be found somewhere online, do we have a legal leg to stand on in terms of suing the host?

A:

So those first two examples show whistleblowing and leaking can be different. But the hardest cases are where, in order to expose government lawbreaking, someone feels compelled to break the law. This is the intersection of the "whistleblower" and "leaker" circles in the diagram. And often, people strongly disagree about whether people in this intersection have done things right or wrong


Q:

We had a ceremonial burial in Cambodia this year when one rat passed away due to illness. It was attended by all trainers in Cambodia.

A:

True story: My dream is that, when I die, I'll have the time to say "<Cause of death>, my only weakness! How did you know?!" just to fuck with anyone who watches me die.

The more specific about the cause of death, the better.

Like, imagine if I got hit by a car. And there's this terrified student driver (who just hit me) and some EMTs trying to help my dying ass, and I just manage to wheeze out:

"A '97 Chevy Impala... my only weakness! How did you know?!" Then, just die on on the spot! Everyone would be baffled and traumatized for life.

It'd be awesome.


Q:

Homework is still due tonight. If you're not done, close this tab.

A:

$150,000 was the most I've ever seen spent. It was a husband, wife and their son who came in at 5am and didn't leave until around 3pm. They each had their own VIP room with their own stripper. The guys had a female stripper and the wife had a male stripper.


Q:

Failure to make a signal of any kind. There's usually A LOT of people looking for you; helicopters, atv's, crews on foot, etc.

A:

ERIN: That’s more of a legal question, and it involves several layers of legality. Full disclosure: I am NOT a legal expert, nor are Asher or Sheana. I do not claim to know the laws of every state or governing location.

  1. Some states in the US, for example, are one-party consent states. This means of the recorded parties, only one must consent (obviously the person doing the recording consents, so done and done). Other states may require majority consent, while still others require all-party consent.
  2. Some laws may differentiate between video-only, video+audio, and audio-only recording.
  3. Some legal proceedings may require the incident to have been reported to officers of the law, and may require certain types of and amounts of proof. Other types of infractions may not require such evidentiary support.
  4. If the cameras were disclosed, I seriously doubt there’s anything to be done about it
  5. If they were not disclosed, it may even depend on what was recorded? Hard to say.

Long story short, there are so many jurisdictional overlaps here that it would be hard to say for sure what legal protections there are, but it’s likely that the victim(s) of privacy-infringement in the context of hidden cameras would have some recourse.

In any case, you should absolutely take the matter to the police as soon as it happens and have full photo/video evidence.


Q:

Do you consider yourself a whistleblower? I know you did not publish classified information and everything you did had been in accordance with the NSA etc.

What's your opinion on Edward Snowden?

You fought against collecting data from american people but what about all the people outside of the USA, do you think the NSA should spy on them?

A:

I love APOPO! Thank you for doing this AMA. I have always wondered why landmines and TB? These are obviously worthy causes but how and why were they selected against the many other applications that the rats could have been trained for?


Q:

Candy corn shaped anal beads that have been used three times... my only weakness! How did you know?!

A:

How did you go from hating math to being a math major and CS professor? (And why did you hate math in the first place?)


Q:

How has constantly being around a highly sexualized environment affected your perspective and interactions with people in the 'real' world?

A:

What kind of signals would be good? I understand at some point a guy took out a large power line so they would have to send a crew out but I'm not sure how he did that and I also don't know what kind of signals would be good or how to make them.


Q:

put cameras on the doors and windows, disclose active monitoring of security cameras. being someones "house" having security system isnt skeevy. but nannycams in the house are.

A:

But I believe he was also a whistleblower. The documents he exposed showed that the NSA was and is engaged in massive operations that violate the rights of Americans and people around the world, and that not even Congress knew this was happening.


Q:

When we started my colleague Bart Weetjens got intrigued by the landmine problem and after an analysis immediately found that the detection of the landmines is the hardest part. Rats came up as part of a systematic study and brainstorm comparing possible detection techniques. After a feasibility study we moved to Tanzania where our University had a collaboration in the field of rodent research. However, Tanzania has no landmines, but is one of the high burden TB countries. Again - detection was the main problem, as 30% of the people dying from TB are never diagnosed.

A:

The EMT vomits. The priest faints. The bank teller just wishes we would leave.


Q:

When I was growing up, math seemed formulaic and uncreative. It seemed just like regurgitation: if I figured out how to e.g. add fractions, it would be the same method anyone else would use. In particular, I found calculus boring and resolved not to take any more after high school.

In college everyone was required to take one semester of math, so I took number theory, thinking it would be easy. Numbers are simple; how much theory could there really be? Under Jordan Ellenberg, it turns out, a lot. Jordan showed me the creative side of mathematics, and I was hooked! Meanwhile, I got rejected from the Princeton creative writing class.

A:

You get to see some of the more primal side of people. It's interesting seeing wealthy businessmen, a lawyer, a teacher, a doctor, etc. behaving in a way that you just have a hard to imagining if you were to see them in their daily work environment.


Q:

A large triangle, x, or sos on the ground, anything reflective, anything brightly colored, fire, and smoke. Thanks for participating. Symmetry, reflectivity, unnatural coloration, all catch the eye.

A:

SHEANA: Yes, this study was focused exclusively on guest experiences, and only negative experiences at that. Because Airbnb is a two-sided marketplace (i.e., there are both guests who stay at Airbnbs AND hosts who offer Airbnbs) there is the potential for abuse on both sides. Your concern sounds similar to the finding here, that customer service was a frequent complaint among guests.


Q:

Do you consider yourself a whistleblower? I know you did not publish classified information and everything you did had been in accordance with the NSA etc.

What's your opinion on Edward Snowden?

You fought against collecting data from american people but what about all the people outside of the USA, do you think the NSA should spy on them?

A:

Could you put tiny cameras on them with microphone/speaker/gps?


Q:

BROTHA I AM PINNED HEAH

A:

What, or who, inspired you to become a writer? What about a computer science professor?

My boyfriend is currently studying computer science, he's unsure of what he wants to do quite yet but I think that's okay. He'll figure it out. What advice would you give to people who want to get into the computer science field? What about those who'd like to write a book?

How long did it take you to write the book for children?

By the way, thanks for doing this for us. I'm usually too shy to participate and ask questions but I decided to try today so I'm really sorry if one of my questions is too nosy or worded bad.


Q:

What is your favorite place to party in Vegas and why?

Edit: no spell good on mobile

A:

Local folklore says that even though the hunter started the campfire, it was a USFS helicopter that fanned the flames and made it spread. What eventually happened was that the hunter was held in jail for 364 days, the charges were dropped, and he was let go. The case never went to trial. Makes one wonder how the fire was really started.


Q:

Where has your study been published - can you please share the DOI link? I can't find it on your website.

A:

In general I support following the laws. But I also agree that there is a role for civil disobedience in every democratic society for laws that are fundamentally unjust. And sometimes we know that the government misuses the classification laws to hide its own lawbreaking or wrongdoing. There are no easy answers to these kind of dilemmas. I want Whistleblower Aid to make things easier on whistleblowers so they're not faced with prison for following their consciences


Q:

Yes we can! We did an initial experiment some years ago in first study to use rats for search and rescue. Meanwhile the technology has evolved and we are talking with a Search and Rescue group as well as with engineers to develop the technology for this same purpose, using infrared cameras to find survivors, which would also have to include GPS and communication equipment, all in a small backpack. Currently we are testing a small electronic ball-pull switch around the neck to see if rats can give just an electronic response in situations where we could not observe their behavior.

A:

Shit, now I'm afraid the Magpies are gonna steal my Soul Box.


Q:

What, or who, inspired you to become a writer?

When I was at camp as a kid, we used to always tell ghost stories. But I didn't find them very scary. So I started to come up with my own. My whole cabin got nightmares.

How long did it take you to write the book for children?

We spent about a year on the initial draft, and then another year revising & getting it published. The most important part of writing a book is finishing it!

What about those who'd like to write a book?

As you can imagine, I was busy with many other projects during those two years. I think it's important for writers to have perspective on & experience in the world around them -- otherwise you just end up writing about writing.

A:

I'm not the biggest party person (it helps me keep my sanity while working in nightlife and avoid burnout), but any of the popular nightclubs will do if you want to go hard. Hakkasan and Omnia are really popular since they're newer and so massive. Other clubs like Drai's, XS, Hyde, etc. are fun too. I actually think that the day clubs and night swims are more fun than nightclubs. Rehab was the first day club I went to, and it was awesome. XS night swim is something I encourage everyone to try during the warmer months.


Q:

He wasn't charged, I believe, because he was without water for ten hours on a hot day before using his flare.


Q:

What's your job. Does it have a title? Kinda sounds lawyerly.

A:

Where do you get these rodents of unusual size? Florin?


Q:

is there any literature or theory that is popular among f2p companies re: psychology of f2p and how to maximize profits along those lines, or is every company re-inventing the wheel from a behavioral psychology POV?

A:

How can I stop my daughter from hating math?


Q:

Whats the craziest thing you've seen in there?

A:

What are your thoughts on the Primitive Technology guy?


Q:

Fergusson himself is clearly biased into wanting to prove Airbnb and its support are terrible, because of his bad experience with the moldy Airbnb rental. There's no real scientific basis for this, but hey, it does give a nice infographic.

A:

Well my business card says i'm "founder + executive director" of whistleblower aid.

Yes, it's kinda lawyerly. I manage both the legal work and the organizational development for whistleblower aid. I love my work because i get to make a difference in my client's lives, and hopefully on some policy issues too.

but being a lawyer can obviously be stressful. i feel like i have to become an "actor" playing a "role" -- which is to be the person that my clients need me to be. Like, maybe i feel bad one day, but i have to find a way to project the right attitude if we're meeting with opposing counsel.


Q:

Cricetomys or African Giant Pouched Rats are quite common in Sub-Saharan Africa, from East to West. One can see them mostly roaming at night, during daytime they mostly spend underground. However, we only train rats which have been bred in-house.

A:

Reinventing the wheel, constantly. You would be shocked at how non-standardized the game industry is, from a development perspective.

Obviously, different kinds of games have different development needs, but even things as a simple as job titles can mean completely different things from company-to-company. Which is ridiculous and I think that'll need to change within the next 5 years.

At Kabam, we had elaborate spread sheets to keep track of all of our loot boxes and approximate "market values" for items. Still, sometimes things really came down to observation and the gut feelings you get from working on a game, 8 hours a day, for over a year.


Q:

Tell her that you hate math. Then hating math won't be cool anymore.

(stay tuned for more serious advice to come :) )

A:

When I was working at a previous club, there was a guy who puked in his private booth during his 30 minute session with a dancer because he just drank too much. Once he was done puking the dancer continued to stay and finish the time even though she didn't have to. That one was strange.


Q:

Awesome. I just hope people realize that the footage is done over time, and those projects are done in half a day or anything lol. He's putting a lot of effort into those projects.

A:

ASHER: I partnered with Sheana and Erin to remove my bias. If you read the paper you will see this:

The primary coder studied sample reviews and created a coding system to represent the seven most common complaint categories. A second coder also scored a sample of responses, and their agreement met the standards of interrater reliability (Cohen’s kappa = .82). Team members read the reviews and determined which category or categories each review fit into based on predetermined qualifying reasons or problems.


Q:

What's your job. Does it have a title? Kinda sounds lawyerly.

A:

What's your favorite rat story?


Q:

[deleted]

A:

I also “hated math” when I was in high school so I dropped it after I hit my requisite 2.5 years (I think I really just didn’t understand what its value was). I never finished algebra or took calculus or trigonometry. In college I was a political science major so I got away with only taking statistics.

Now I’m a lawyer and I realize that I probably would have been good at math and enjoyed it. In my line of work I can get by without it, but I deal with a lot of economics/econometrics expert reports and could add value if I understood the math.

Plus I want to exercise my formal logic muscles because they’re getting flabby.

What’s the best way to hop back into it? What websites/apps/etc. will not only teach me in an engaging way, but help me figure out where I should start?


Q:

What are the girls like at work vs. not working?

A:

How many times have you drank your own pee?


Q:

This comment should be higher up. When questioned where it was published he linked his own site. I think this information is pertinent when absorbing information possible for possible bias, inaccuracies and lack of peer review.

A:

The fact is, vested interests often do have something to lose from transparency and accountability.

"Vested interests" can be as big as the big as the business model of the coal industry -- or about expediently pleasing our foreign allies at the expense of human rights -- or about a selfish bureaucrat who wants to keep their job and their power in the office.

Each case is different and honestly it is crucial to see the world from your adversary's perspective. Our most important work is to understand what is important to our clients, and what is important to their adversaries. Sometimes there is a genuine conflict -- a zero-sum situation in which one party's gain is the other's loss. But sometimes there are creative solutions that meet everyone's needs

One of our best arguments is always "maybe it seems easy for the government to cut this corner now -- but in the long term it's better if we protect the Constitution and the rule of law."

There will always be conflicting interests and in those cases there just isn't an easy answer -- this is where we hope to add value. It requires law, politics, relationships, communications, arguments.

Not ideal, but better than solving problems with violence (which is how it used to be)


Q:

Hehe...I will never forget the moment when we just started our feasibility study in Belgium, where a loose rat walked up to a heap of sand. What it didn't know but what I witnessed was a cat walking up the same heap of sand on the other side. They met each other on top of the pile...nose to nose..I thought damn, this is not good for ratty! But what happened, the rat blew its pouches and the cat ran off scared like hell.

A:

Common truths? Hmm... here are some of the guidelines I remember using. Things will, of course vary between teams and companies.

  • Don't publish the odds, it causes more confusion than help. People will think that buying 100 loot boxes guarantees them a 1 in 100 drop, then get angry when it doesn't. That's not how statistics work.
  • Always make the minimum prize the same value as the lootbox cost. That way the player is never losing value for buying a lootbox.
  • The top prize (sometimes called the 'chase prize') has to be something that isn't available any other way. The event is centered around this chase prize.
  • Include several smaller chase prizes, like chase prizes from a few months ago, at better odds. This lets people who missed out last time have a shot at them.
  • Aim for lower lootbox cost when possible. Lower price means a lower barrier to entry.
  • Reward people for buying in bulk.
  • If you're going to do a big event, always give every active player a free lootbox. It feels nice to get presents, it increases player goodwill, and it gets otherwise ambivalent players excited about the event. It's also funny as hell when a new, low level player gets the chase prize in their free lootbox. Rare, but awesome.
  • You can piss the players off, or you can ask them for money. Doing both at the same time is suicide.
  • After every big lootbox event, there will be a 'hangover' where nobody wants to spend money. Make sure that your sales schedule accounts for this.

Q:

Great question! This is something I'm pretty passionate about.

In undergrad, my senior thesis was a book that would gradually introduce formal proof techniques to curious people with no more than a high school background, tentatively titled "Proof By Numbers". Princeton University Press was interested in helping me bring it to a wider audience, but then I left for grad school and didn't have time to go through their revision process. I plan to revisit that manuscript soon -- if you want to be a "beta" reader, please email [email protected] with "Proof By Numbers" in the subject line.

In the meantime, I'd recommend How Not to Be Wrong by one of my undergrad mentors, Jordan Ellenberg.

A:

When they are at work, they are in a different mentality because they have to make money. They know that they have to get guys interested to get them to spend money. Outside of work you wouldn't even know that a lot of the girls are actually strippers. I've seen plenty of strippers that I would never think do it for a living if I were to see them out in public.


Q:

Mine? Twice. My boyfriend's? Countless times.

A:

ASHER: Since we are fully independent researchers we needed to start somewhere and Reddit is a great place for that. If there is anyone who would like to help us get the data peer-reviewed and published in an academic journal we'd love to collaborate.


Q:

What's your job. Does it have a title? Kinda sounds lawyerly.

A:

How do you ensure that your rats stay disease free?


Q:

That's interesting -- nobody in any f2p company you've heard of has a psychology background?

A:

Can you tell us more about what it's like to work at IEX? As a quant for a fund that I assume is nonprofit what kinds of problems are you tackling? From what I know, most quants are trying to make more money for their firm.

How do you balance being a quant and a professor at the same time?

For context to others, IEX is a stock exchange founded by Brad Katsyuma to combat the exploitative methods of high frequency traders. He is the protagonist of Michael Lewis' Flashboys.


Q:

It is a common belief that strippers have personal issues in their life that lead to this career path. What do you think of it? How much of it is true.

Also, compared to female dancers, how do the male strippers compare in terms of income?

A:

With a Sawyer squeeze, probably all the time.


Q:

Has Airbnb contacted you regarding your research? Will you continue to investigate more Airbnb cases and have you considered expanding your investigations spectrum into other industries like Uber? What is is the most shocking case you stumble upon in your Airbnb investigation?

A:

Thank you all for your questions. Stay in touch!!

-John


Q:

We have daily visual checks of the rats, and weekly thorough checks by a qualified veterinary doctor. Being native to tropical climates, they are well adapted to the environment they work in.

A:

While I'm sure some of my coworkers were psych majors in college, it never really came up. I've never seen (or even heard of, actually) anyone bringing in a practicing psychologist to work on loot boxes.

I don't think it'd be efficient to do so either. I feel like it'd be similar to bringing in an architect to solve a carpentry problem. Yes, they're in similar fields and there's similar study, but one is focused on the large scale problems and the other one is focused on the moment-to-moment problems.


Q:

For a sample of the kind of work I do for IEX, you can see my recent whitepaper: The Evolution of the Crumbling Quote Signal

I try to balance work in industry and academia because I felt that staying only in academia was handicapping me in understanding real world systems, and I wanted to work directly on things that have a positive social impact.

In terms of time and energy, it is a difficult balance. I teach crypto at night.

A:

It is a really common belief. It exists because there is some truth to it. There are those who have issues, grew up in really shitty situations, etc. and feel like they don't have a lot of options to make a lot of money. Many see dancing as a quick way to make a lot of money. The problem is that many of them spend their money as fast as they get it.

The men can make good money, but their earning potentially overall is nowhere near what the women can make. Most women don't spend very much money. It's men who are spending serious cash inside the club.


Q:

Sadly, they don't desalinate. I do recommend them for hiking though.

A:

ASHER: Airbnb has not contacted us yet. We may consider researching other companies. What would be the most interesting is to build upon our Airbnb study by doing a similar study of hotels but that would require a much bigger research budget. The benefit would be that we could make a comparison of what's most likely to go wrong at an Airbnb vs hotel.

Here are some of the most shocking Airbnb guest horror stories we found on major news websites:


Q:

What's the difference between a Walmart $10 whistle and a boutique $1000 whistle?

A:

What's the danger of the rats triggering the landmines and how do you mitigate that?


Q:

[deleted]

A:

I noticed that your TEDx talk uses the gruesome example of hiring assassins to showcase the need for encryption. I understand that the example is far removed from reality (need to replace the head of the Rabbithole IT department to save some kittens).

How do you feel about the stance of some governments against encryption, and the argument that citizens who have nothing to hide shouldn't be using methods that can prevent interception from law enforcement?


Q:

Would you ever date a stripper?

A:

right. imagine if they did? you'd survive for months at sea in a dinghy.


Q:

Sex offender. It's mind boggling that Airbnb does not vett hosts in any way. That is super scary.

A:

money


Q:

There is virtually no danger, since rats are too light to set off a landmine. However, demining is fundamentally dangerous work and we take every precaution to keep our rats and human staff safe. We follow strict safety procedures in line with international protocols. We’re aware that a problem could strike at any moment and we keep a trained medic on site at all times.

A:

I'd say that, on average, pay-to-win tendencies increase as a game's popularity goes down over time. When the game first starts out, balance and preserving the player ecosystem is everything.

As the game gets older, people start moving onto the next big thing, but a core sticks around. There's less of them, but they tend to spend more, on average.

As the game reaches it's final stage (sometimes called Farm Stage), a very small team is in charge of keeping the game on life support. They may love the game, but their development resources are tiny. The only thing they can do is fiddle with numbers. If you can't get your remaining players excited with new art, levels, or mechanics, what do you turn to?

The same items, but with bigger numbers.

Also, check out the Extra Credits video on Design by Accretion. It's a great insight for folks who aren't in the industry.


Q:

In my opinion, encryption and related tools are incredibly important even to citizens with "nothing to hide."

Even if I don't have sensitive information in my communications, I may still want to access the internet in such a way that my view is not filtered and targeted to my identity or my location, for example. Frankly I am as concerned about companies on this front as I am about governments.

Mandating that all information flow must be able to be monitored and outlawing things like end-to-end encryption would make it impossible for people to access information in an unlinked and "neutral" way. Imagine a world where everything you can see is tailored to your identity and history - without you having any way of knowing that this is happening! We need to give people tools to control how they receive information, not just how they send it.

A:

It would depend on the person she is. I've come across a few that were in it temporarily until they had enough to reach a certain goal like build a home, start a business, etc. That's the small minority though. A lot more become dependent and attached to the work with practically no future plan


Q:

they make hand held desal filters but they're like $700.

A:

ASHER: In that case, the guy didn't show up in the sex offender databases so even if they did background check him they wouldn't have found him! :*(


Q:

What's the difference between a Walmart $10 whistle and a boutique $1000 whistle?

A:

Is there anyway or plans to expand APOPO into other countries / areas that have mines?


Q:

What do you think about this whole "loot-boxes = gambling" idea?

A:

Thanks for doing this!

How do you come up with ideas for new research?

How do you handle when a research project you spent a lot of time on fails to work?


Q:

The men can make good money, but their earning potentially overall is nowhere near what the women can make.

1) What about gay men as patrons.

2) Why aren't there any good gay strip joints in Vegas?

A:

I've never seen an AMA host answer this deep into a comment chain. Well done for venturing this far into the Reddit wilderness.


Q:

What are your thoughts on the Adam Ruins AirBnb segment of his show? Does his claims hold any water?p

A:

Nevertheless, the US does have relatively strong whistleblower laws compared to most countries on earth. Except for a few countries in Europe and maybe Canada, we're relatively better.


Q:

We are currently preparing for operations in both Zimbabwe and Colombia. In Zimbabwe the rats will help save elephants, as the 37 km long mine belt we have been allocated, is in the midst of one of the largest trans-frontier wildlife parks in the world, and is actually a wildlife corridor. Colombia on the other hand, is littered with improvised explosive devices.

A:

I have to admit, I'm of really mixed feelings.

Back when I was making them, the justification was:

  • The player always gets something from the box
  • They can't cash anything out for real money
  • The paid content will be grindable in a month or two

This wasn't just internal chatter, this constituted a legal justification in several countries that our games were available.

However, while those criteria take away a lot of the problems with loot boxes/gambling, I also used to be a customer support guy on those same games. I've seen players with lifetime spend counts of over $50,000 on those games. People spend a lot of money on hobbies, that's a given. However, that kind of amount starts to worry you a little. Is this someone who really loves our product, or are we taking advantage of a compulsion?

Still, I don't think classifying loot boxes as gambling is a good idea, because it's going to have huge unexpected side effects. If loot boxes in games are gambling, what about Magic the Gathering card packs (the original pay-to-win lootbox)? What about loot drops on monsters in an MMO? Legally defining a 'loot box' in a game is extremely tricky, especially because most lawyers and lawmakers neither know, nor really care how games work.


Q:

Failure happens a lot!

I like to have multiple areas of research going at once, which increases the chance of something working. It helps that cryptographers are unusually good at turning failure into results: when a system breaks, we all learn something. (when we fail to break a system, we're also happy, for different reasons!) Often, these failures lead to ideas for new research.

Also, I have a favorite boxing gym.

A:

Gay guys come to see male strippers sometimes, but the strippers often times don't want to dance for men.

The market is only so big for straight women to see male strippers, let alone for gay men to see male strippers. There's only 2 strip clubs in Vegas with male strippers. I think one gay nightclub has some male strippers on occasion, but I'm not sure.


Q:

Ha thanks!

A:

ASHER: We have seen the video but we haven't gone through it point by point. If I recall, all his points are backed up by major news outlets but some of them might be out of date now. Overall he makes some very good points especially with explaining how Airbnb impacts housing markets.


Q:

What's the difference between a Walmart $10 whistle and a boutique $1000 whistle?

A:

When the rats "retire" do staff adopt them?


Q:

What’s the most rewarding thing about being a game designer?

A:

Do you play vidya games?


Q:

Do you guys serve food?

A:

I am a biologist working with anthrax ecology in the Namibian deserts. Sometimes I have American students, and they tend to bring just too. much. stuff. Like the safari tourists who all come in full khaki clothing to sit in their buses. We have to occasionally burn our clothes when they get too contaminated, so expensive "outdoors clothing" would be an intolerable waste of money on a researcher's budget. It is just working outside, and even the lions are almost never a problem as long as we work in pairs. How can we teach kids to freak out a bit less, and not see every contact with nature as a case of extreme survival needing expensive gadgets?


Q:

I have found what appears to be a number of apartments in the same area run by one person or company under different host profiles.

Is this common? And is there a reason for this?

A:

beyond legal services, we are already providing social support services -- including temporary rent or mortgage support for people who lose their jobs, medical or psychological support, and job networking to find a new job in case they're fired.


Q:

No, we have our own retirement home for the rats. It are spacious cages in open air, but covered from sun and rain, where they have different levels so they can climb and have toys to play. We make sure they receive good food every day and live out their days in comfort with us!

A:

Suspension of disbelief. When someone talks about your game, which is really just a bunch of blips on a screen, like it's something tangible and real.

No matter how big, visually stunning, or immersive a game is, there's still a huge gap between the game and reality. The space in-between has to be made by people. When their eyes light up and they tell you about the cool thing they did, or happened to them in the game, you can see a moment that was only possible when they put themselves in your game.

As a designer, you can never do that. You can never bridge that gap for them, but the player can do it themselves. It's rewarding. It's also extremely humbling, the first time it happens.


Q:

No, my little brother Pat (who's always had a dark sense of humor) beat me at Nintendo too many times when we were kids, and I lost the spirit.

A:

Yes


Q:

I would say put them through a basic field course first. Once they are i the field with nothing, they learn to appreciate how little they actually need. Thanks for participating!

A:

ASHER: From our little look in Paris, London and New York City it is very common. Airbnb seems to be doing nothing to prevent these duplicate listings. If a host is legit they would list all their properties under one profile but if the properties are all listed under different host accounts they will almost always be connected to a scam. This is exactly how I got scammed in Paris and I consider myself a savvy user. I've successfully used Airbnb since 2012 until this past September when I had trouble two days in a row.


Q:

What's the difference between a Walmart $10 whistle and a boutique $1000 whistle?

A:

how does rat sniffing and detection dffer from that of dogs? aren't rats at risk to contract TB because of sniffing?


Q:

Now that some countries are investigating loot boxes and possibly ban them, what are the possible alternatives to monetize players in video games? Also, thanks for the ama.

A:

Hi! As a freshman CompSci major who also loves to read/write and isn't in love with math, I'd like to know in what other ways have you seen people blend the two besides writing for children?


Q:

What was your worse night like involving workers or customers?

A:

Good point. Do you have any good suggestions as to where I could refer prospective US students to go get some experience before coming over?

My problem is, I don't have the opportunity to teach basic field to American students, me being a Norwegian working in Namibia in this case. As we in Norway have conscription, and I spent some time deployed after that and work with some other ex-military colleagues from the Namibian and South African armed forces, I expect 25-year old grownups to have a decent amount of field experience before they come to work on my projects, but this is often not the case. So having somewhere for them to get a bit comfy before they come, so they don't burn themselves out unnecessarily just living in a comfy camp would be excellent.


Q:

I got my MBA in sustainable business and focused a lot of my work on the sharing economy. I found it to be a shame that companies like AirBnB and Uber have a fundamentally sustainable business models (on paper, it's to utilize unused resources), but have devolved into traditional mindsets of short-term profits. Particularly, I feel both companies have an arrogance about them when it comes to playing with regulations. I think OP's third findings address this - CEO Chesky hides behind the guise of neo-liberalism and innovation to circumvent what's best for society and ultimately, their own sustainability.

A pattern that I noticed between those two companies is arrogant leadership. It's reductive to say, but for the sake of brevity, both CEO's strike me as Silicon Valley fratboys. I think the curtain has fallen around Uber a bit, given all of their problems with sexism that I believe comes from a culture straight from the top.

Anyways, back to AirBnB's point, I think they have been repeatedly making the mistake of ignoring requests to sit-down with governments to talk about regulations. They have a good chance to pave their own destiny - one that would inevitably mean regulations that cause less profits in the short-term, but ultimately better in the long-term. I have no doubt that it's going to take a few more highly-publicized disaster stories before politicians decide to really crack-down on them. Going back to the Uber comparisons ...it has already happened to them. They are banned from a few major cities because they didn't bother to sit down at the table with the government before it was too late. AirBnB can be proactive about protecting themselves now, but they choose not to. Good though. I'm waiting for a better behaving replacement.

A:

In that case, the way to avoid prison is pretty straightforward: don't share classified information or documents with someone who isn't cleared and with a need to know.


Q:

Both animals are so sensitive that we lack the analytical equipment to measure difference in sensitivity. Rats have more functional genes for the olfactory system than any other mammal. The difference comes in mainly that dogs are a bit more intelligent, can do more independent work - but are quite attached to their trainers. Rats instead like very much repetitive work and it takes less specialized skills to train a rat.

A:

No problem!

You're certainly asking the right question. Games cost a ton of money to make, to promote, and operate past launch. AAA titles started getting into the loot-box thing because $60 per unit isn't enough to reliably recoup the $100+ million investment it took to make the game. You also need to pull a healthy profit, so you can have enough spare cash to start work on the next game.

However, the price of individual games can't really go above $60. Remember when it went up by $10? It was pandemonium, despite the ridiculously good fun/dollar ratio games provide.

A drink in a bar costs me $6 and gets me 1 hour of fun. A movie costs $10 and gets me 2 hours of fun. Wasteland 2 cost me ~$50 and got me over 80 hours of fun.

Still, people can't afford games being more than $60 right now (economy, etc...). I think micro transactions/opt-ins have a place in all of that, so that people who are really into the game can spend more to get more out of it. It just needs to be done elegantly, in a way that doesn't feel grimy and bad. Expansion packs are a perfect example of this.

Liked the campaign? How would you like more campaign, but in a different enough setting that it wouldn't have fit into the regular game?

Spoiler: I shell out for campaign expansions all the time. I love stories in games.


Q:

I'm encouraged to see the explosion of apps & games written by young people. I'm not an app developer myself, but I think interactive storytelling is a growing opportunity to advance both technology & culture.

On a totally different note, I like seeing CS researchers try their hand at automating humor. For instance, my colleague Lydia Chilton has a paper on AI joke writing!

On an other other note, you can come hear me perform nerdy standup at Caveat's "Symposium" in NYC!

A:

I had to tackle a guy once who punched an entertainer in the VIP room, and tried to run out of the club. I was working the door, and was the last guy with a chance to take him down. I had to make an open field tackle like I was a safety lol. I got him down, everyone else jumped on, and we cuffed him until the police showed up. He had at least one warrant out for his arrest. I don't know if it was my worst day, but it was nuts.


A:

ASHER: This is really well said and is exactly our conclusion.

This is an excerpt from The Upstarts by Brad Stone:

…Chesky had subscribed to the purist’s view of online marketplaces: Users were supposed to police one another by rating their experiences. Untrustworthy actors would be drummed off the platform by bad reviews, rejected by the web’s natural immune system. It was a libertarian view of the internet and had the whiff of Silicon Valley snake oil. The prospect of a negative review is of little use after a serious breach of etiquette —or a criminal act. But because of their shared faith in the power of self-policing marketplaces, Chesky and his colleagues hadn’t made serious investments in customer service or customer safety. The fact that Blecharczyk, as well as the company’s controller, Stanley Kong, had been put in charge of customer service at a company now with over 130 employees while the other founders looked for an executive to run the department was telling. “We viewed ourselves as a product and technology company, and customer support didn’t feel like product and tech,” Chesky says. Source

This below text I've taken out of my article but furthers the points.

Here is a quote from a recent interview with Fortune on October 23rd, 2017 with Brian Chesky (Airbnb co-founder).

Interviewer asks: “You’ve also had your share of controversy and you’ve run into all sorts of challenges whether it’s safety incidents, legal pushback or discrimination. What of those has been hardest for you?”

Brian Chesky replies: “Well I think that the first one one was by far the hardest. The first big, big crisis or challenge we had. We didn’t have robust 24/7 customer support, we didn’t have a trust and safety team, we didn’t remove very many users and then a woman’s apartment got trashed and it was a huge wake up call. It told me that though our thesis was our community is an immune system, people didn’t want to wait for the immune system to kick in. That we had a responsibility to prevent these bad things from happening. It completely changed our model. Now we’re pretty hands on in managing the marketplace.”

When Chesky says “immune system” I believe he means that when Airbnb users go out and stay at bad listings they will then write bad reviews that will inform future travelers.

Are you kidding me, Mr. Chesky?!!

You’re expecting us, travelers, to spend thousands of dollars on a trip and then have our vacation ruined so that we can be part of your “immune system” in order for you to make more money at our expense?

This logic is ridiculous. I can see how an “immune system” works on websites like Reddit, Facebook or YouTube where inappropriate content gets flagged by users. But the stakes are low there since we’re separated from “bad people” by our computer screens.

With Airbnb, it’s completely different. Accommodation is the most important base need for successful travel and usually costs $1000s. An “immune system” in this case is just not good enough.

How do we know we’re not going to be staying with a convicted felon or sex-offender when you allow anyone to become a host? How do we know the place we’re renting is even legal? And after years of Chesky’s “immune system” being up and running, we’re still seeing hundreds of problems with false, deleted, censored, and untrustworthy reviews plus dangerous stays and hosts, so the immune system is obviously not working.

It is apparent that Chesky has had this idealistic view from day one. He didn’t think customer support was that important because the users would self-govern. This is total BS considering the fact that it wasn’t until August 2017 that they allowed reviews to be shared even if someone cancelled their stay or left early.

Those censored reviews are the most important reviews to create an effective "immune system" because if someone finds the place in that bad shape they have to leave it must be really bad. But of course, those bad reviews would have drastically reduced Airbnbs revenue because no one wants to stay at a place 3-stars... Seems pretty damn shady to me.


Q:

What's the difference between a Walmart $10 whistle and a boutique $1000 whistle?

A:

Are loot box revenues accounted for, or expected, when budgeting to build a game? As in, if they didn't plan on having them would they adjust the cost of the game up front?


Q:

How many math classes did you take to get a CS degree? Would you consider a B.S. in computer science to be worth it?

A:

Are the free limo ride and other offers given out by “promoters” a scam? If not, how much does it actually end up costing the patron?


Q:

That sounds like great fun! I'd love to participate in one of those.

And first aid and map navigation are crucial basics! Very useful!

But apart from that I was more thinking of simple everyday things like:

How to remember to fill the extra jerrycans of fuel and water before going out, but FFS don't tighten the lid in the cold morning so it bursts in the heat of the day. Calculate fuel for gravel roads correctly.

How to drive on gravel roads without fucking up your tires or tipping your car, and without shaking your kidneys loose, and watch out for those overloaded trucks.

How to maintain an old car so it doesn't break down on you. The closest triple A equivalent might be days away if at all.

It will break down sometimes nevertheless. How to make it still go to where you need. Or use a fucking VHF for when you absolutely can't.

Some spiders and snakes are venomous. Some are not. Don't freak out over the ones that aren't, you're not getting them out of the shower anyway.

There are snakes and scorpions. Bring your flashlight when you go out at night, and keep an eye on the ground for the darn puffadders, but otherwise learn that they aren't out to get you so relax.

There are occasional leopards. So have your kid make noise when he needs to go out at night, but remember they don't attack adults.

How to talk to people that don't think your own country is the best of the world. Most are still nice. Including the poor and black ones. Learn to recognize the exceptions to this rule without being scared to go out to the pub at night when we have some days in town!

When to shut up and GTFO. When to stand up and pick a fight. How to not get on the wrong side of the local police or other powers that be.

Learn how much food you need, and what will spoil before you can eat it, so you don't have to trek to the shop every week!

How to maintain your boots and other kit. How to not have your shit stolen.

Learn that jackals may have rabies, so don't feed them from your fucking table! And avoid feral dog packs. But don't kill the neighborhood stray -some kids love that dog and their mom may be manning the local Police checkpoint tomorrow morning...

Etc. etc.

A:

If I charge more, am I less likely to get a complaint? (cognitive dissonance)


Q:

The general sequence is to help a client file a claim with their agency Inspector General (which is supposed to be the "watchdog" of the agency), then with the relevant Congressional oversight committees, and then to use the pre-publication review process to lawfully publish their claims.

A:

Generally speaking, yes. Every company is different, but I worked in Free to Play and even when a game was in the planning phases, metrics were getting set. For example:

Servers cost $ a month, the team running the game costs $ a month (pay, health insurance, office space, etc...), and total cost of development for the base game is projected to cost $$$. The game's expected lifespan is X.

These costs together show the amount per month the game needs to pull in, in order to make a profit. You don't just to stay neutral, you need to pay back the development costs, and get enough money to pay for the next game the company wants to make.


Q:

My first two degrees were in math, so, a lot! That's not a typical path, but it gave me a strong foundation.

I think CS degrees and math degrees are both valuable, and I encourage people to take classes in both.

A:

Promoters on the strip have a reputation for being some of the biggest scumbags and liars in Vegas. The shit that they tell people to get them to the club sometimes is absolutely ridiculous. That's part of the reason I even started a youtube channel was because I knew there had to be a better way to reach people before coming to Vegas, and informing them of how clubs work.

Promoters have deals that they can do based on contracts worked out with clubs. You won't know what deal they can get at any particular club, so you're at a real disadvantage. I suggest planning ahead and not even dealing with street promoters. Many of them will lie through their teeth about prices, what they will get you (a free dance, a free bottle, a VIP table, a ride back to your hotel, etc).

Many Vegas strip clubs charge anywhere from $40-50 for entry. I've seen groups come to the front to get told what the cover charge is only to say that the promoter told them it was $15 or $20, and that was supposed to include drinks, a bottle booth, a guaranteed table because they're his "VIP"' customers, blah, blah, blah. I say don't bother with them because there's a good chance you won't get what they are telling you, and it will cost you more than what they are telling you.


Q:

It would be simple for us to customize a course based on these needs. It's basic field stuff in austere conditions. One of our team is a certified snake handler (out of Australia no less) and we both have experience in Africa and other remote locations.

A:

SHEANA: Great question (and I’m assuming you’re asking as a Host?). Unfortunately, the current study didn’t analyze any pricing data, so we can’t make any conclusions about Airbnb specifically. That being said, there is some evidence that pricing does influence perception https://www.vox.com/2015/5/20/8625785/expensive-wine-taste-cheap so it’s possible that could happen here as well to small some degree. I’d love to pull some data to look into this!


Q:

What's the difference between a Walmart $10 whistle and a boutique $1000 whistle?

A:

"Check it out if you're interested in rogue-likes/Japanese dating sims set in 18th century France."

Wouldn't it have been easier to just email that guy personally?


Q:

To a computer engineering graduate (bachelor's) with average mathematical knowledge, do you recommend MS in CS or is it safer to just go work in some coding job?

A:

How did you get into this line of business?
What are the best and worst parts about the job?


Q:

Can I send you some of our stretchy tactical pants to get your take on how they hold up? We're a family owned company, been making uniforms for public safety for 81 years. This is not a promo thing.

A:

Thanks! Maybe a future project. I asked as a potential host. I suspect that people that stay at the Waldorf complain as they feel entitled, but an Airbnb is different. I also wonder if people skip over the very low price option as it appears unfit for price alone.


Q:

So as you can see, that process won't always work.

But still, it's more powerful than you might think. First, the government is hesitant to redact things, because that just draws more attention to them. Like, journalists will start asking around, "what was in that redacted sentence?"

A:

Would you believe I tried? I think I got caught in his spam filter.


Q:

If you have the option to work in CS, I usually say "take it". You will learn more about what you do & don't know, and what areas of study interest you. If you then decide to go back to school, you have that option.

Otherwise, I typically only recommend a MS in CS to those whose undergrad degree is in something else.

A:

I actually started working in nightlife in CA back in 2006. I did it during the off season from football while I was in college. In CA I mostly worked nightclubs doing security and management operations. After finishing my MBA, I had a ton of debt from school. The cost of living was really high in my part of CA, and they just passed another state tax increase right before I left. I had experience in nightlife, I knew in Vegas you could make good money doing it, and once I saw how cheap it was to live there (plus no state in come tax), I was pretty sold on the idea.

Best part about the job is that it's not a "normal job" in the corporate world. Plus, being in Vegas, you meet a lot of cool people and make connections at other clubs and in the hospitality industry.

The worst part is just some of the bullshit that you have to put up with-drunken idiots, people wanting to fight, threatening to sue, false complaints made about you to try to get you in trouble, unbelievable entitlement some people exhibit, people lying to you, people trying to haggle prices like they're at the flea market, etc. Sometimes it comes from customers, sometimes it comes from dancers and sometimes it comes from coworkers. If the club is managed well, then that stuff can be kept to a minimum and they know when something has merit or it's just bullshit.


Q:

wow that would be great! I love new gear, and all of my work pants must have stretch. please DM me here and I'll send a shipping address. If they're great I'll recommend them!

A:

ASHER: Airbnb markets itself as a competitor to hotels. Its prices are in most cases every bit as expensive as a hotel, and they advertise that with Airbnbs you can count on amenities that you couldn’t easily find in a hotel. They also advertise that their Customer Experience team is available 24/7 to assist you. They position themselves as more than a cheap alternative, and many families use the site to find reasonable and comfortable accommodations for larger groups.


Q:

What's the difference between a Walmart $10 whistle and a boutique $1000 whistle?

A:

When using sliced pancetta for antipasto, do you need to heat it up first or can it be eaten straight from the packaging?


Q:

What storytelling techniques are your favorites, for science?

A:

What's one thing you love about your job, and have you ever played host to anyone famous?


Q:

What's the best pocket knife for under $20?

A:

What do you think AirBnB should be doing to improve their dismal customer service?


Q:

This whole process also can take months. But still I recommend it because it means our client will avoid prison

A:

Pancetta is a cured meat, so you should be able to eat it straight from the packaging safely. In the case of antipasto, I actually like keeping it cold, as it provides a contrasting temperature against the other dishes.

Food isn't just about flavor. Texture, temperature, spice, acidity, and color all have a role to play.


Q:

For young audiences, I like to personify abstract concepts as living, talking characters. We took this approach in Funville.

For older audiences, abstract concepts are more likely to become plot devices, with dramatic consequences. So in my TEDx talk, attribute-based encryption became "the safe way to hire an assasin".

Either way, it has to be funny.

A:

I love the fact that it's very different than most jobs. Whenever I tell someone what I do, they usually have a follow up question or two. It's so out of the norm that they find it intriguing. I've come across some famous people. It's usually pretty unexpected. Sometimes the person comes on their own or in a small group and sometimes they have an entire entourage of people with them.


Q:

Not quite a pocketknife but the Mora Companion is razor sharp, made in Sweden, and will last you a lifetime. $12-$16 on Amazon

A:

ERIN: We found that their customer service team is incredibly disorganized, unhelpful and even rude when something goes wrong. They don’t offer enough support for finding new accommodation and may leave their guests on the street to fend for themselves. They also don’t have any customer-facing support ticketing system, instead, they rely on all emails going through [email protected]m which is a black hole.

To remedy these issues, it'd be ideal to:

  • Retrain all staff on high-tension call and problem-solving techniques, and have regular reviews to ensure that the trainings are being utilized and implemented successfully.

  • Be sure there is an effective support ticket system which includes call-logging, and which all Customer Experience Specialists have access to so that they can view past calls and current tickets, including who is helping the caller with existing issues. All photos, documents, and logged calls should be in the same place, and the support ticket system should also be customer facing so that this information is fully transparent all cases are logged in a history.

  • Designated calls to very specific, specialized teams so that each type of call finds the most experienced CES possible. Have a superior available to each team at all times to ensure swift assistance and the ability to escalate situations as necessary.

  • Make the Airbnb contact information more readily available on the website and mobile app, and in multiple locations available to both guests and hosts.

Above all, it’s absolutely crucial to execute reorganizations and re-trainings in one fell swoop, and to address this with existing Customer Experience Specialists as a sort of “new leaf”. Customer service and call centers are already infamous for having extremely high turnover rates, and Specialists with Airbnb have been quoted describing Airbnb Customer Experience as a terrible place to work because of the stress, negativity, and burnout. Approaching this as a fresh start will typically re-invigorate existing representatives, and often allows for almost immediate positive results.

These are just a few suggestions that we think will help tremendously. We obviously don't know the inner workings of Airbnb but through our research, we can easily infer that all these problems need addressing.


Q:

How common is that? I feel like 99% of bad government behavior is probably classified.

A:

Dude I cannot believe I just found a DoA dev while scrolling down reddit! I had a great time playing it with my brother and some randoms on facebook. I remember getting out of school and opening the challenges prizes, checking with my brother who got better loot. Loved your game so much :).

Were you aware at Kabam of the amount of "cheaters"? Tbh literally everyone used add-ons and etc, how did you tried to fight against it? If I remember correctly there was a point at which players got kicked of the game for opening stuff too fast, being marked as cheaters, but that decision received a lot of hate for slowing down a core of the gameplay. In what ways did you have to change designer stuff, what did you learn from that?


Q:

How can Computer Science and other STEM majors attract more women?

A:

I've come across some famous people.

So it's more than just "hosting" for you?


Q:

Good to know the morakniv I bought was worth it

A:

Do you have any tips to help pick out AirBnB listings and avoid horror stories?


Q:

Definitely not. There is a lot of stuff hiding in plain sight, especially involving contractors who are insufficiently accountable to the government.

But even in the classified area, it's typically possible to describe most of the issue without mentioning classified information. For example, i was able to write my op-ed that alerted the advocacy community (EFF, ACLU, etc.) to the issue of NSA collection under EO 12333, but didn't have to use classified information to do it.

A:

Dude, you would not believe the meetings we had about add ons. The main reason we banned add on users was because the code in the add ons was complete amateur bullshit. The calls were so numerous and inefficient that it was slowing down the servers. The crazy part? People were even paying for some of these add ons!

An engineer and I were constantly pushing the idea that we should create our own add ons, that integrated smoothly with the code base, then sell them at a tiny price (like $0.99) and cut those guys out of their own market. The game would go faster, we'd make a little money and everything would be fine! Nobody would ever listen to us.

The way I see it, if people are trying to automate away a part of your game in order to have fun, something went wrong and needs to be fixed. The problem is justifying the cost of fixing it, to your superiors.


Q:

For one thing, I think we need to push back against the myth that if you haven't started in computer science/STEM very young, you won't be able to keep up. Also, we need to do a better job of showing all students the role that STEM can play in domains they may already care about: like the role of mathematics in medical imaging, the role of computer science in disaster relief and response, the role of statistics in baseball, etc.

But actually we are starting to see more women in STEM majors in some undergrad programs these days, for example at Columbia, though this trend is far from universal. But retaining women in the academic pipeline and industry at large beyond that remains more of a challenge.

A:

This is why I love reddit


Q:

Heck ya it was!

A:

In my article, I shared 54 tips. These suggestions are based on my experience using Airbnb since 2012 and the collective experience of over 50 travel bloggers with a combined total of over 1200 Airbnb stays all over the world.

If we had followed all those tips we wouldn't have ended up at the moldy place in Paris or gotten scammed at the next place. And I believe these tips would make the likelihood of something going wrong to be less than 1%.

https://www.asherfergusson.com/airbnb/#safety-tips


Q:

Just FYI you can make multiple paragraphs in a Reddit comment, just hit return twice. No character limit either. Carry on, I’m learning a lot here.

A:

Totally agree with you. I'm glad I found a cool dev open to talk about this matter and that even shares an anecdote, you made my day.


Q:

Can you sum up computer science in one sentence?

A:

Is there anything different between a normal strip club and a Vegas club? (other than the income tax)


Q:

How many pushups can you do?

A:

[deleted]


Q:

Apologies. My first time here!

A:

No problem! Glad I could help!


Q:

Computer Science is the study of what can & cannot be computed, and how efficiently. An example of something that cannot be computed is a one sentence explanation of computer science.

A:

Off the top of my head-Vegas clubs are usually much bigger, have more dancers, and the prices are higher than most other cities.


Q:

About 70.

A:

ERIN: I think it’d have to be a multifaceted approach. Airbnb’s idea is clearly a great one and we want to see them succeed - we just don’t want anyone to get hurt in the process.

  1. The first step would almost certainly be a customer service overhaul - without that, you can’t clean up your reputation or fix existing issues.
  2. The second would absolutely have to be better security and identity verification, along with address verification for listings to avoid scams and duplicate listings. In many countries, you can sign up to be a host within 10 mins and the only form of ID required is a phone and email. No background checks (unless they have the real name and date of birth of the host and you're a US resident). No proper screening either.
  3. Some sort of insurance might be nice? Or at least an optional insurance package that can be charged a little extra for or something.
  4. Airbnb ABSOLUTELY MUST honor its own policies and refund promises when they make them. This is a top customer service complaint. If they continue to take actions that seem to exploit their users, they’re going to have a hard time solving problems.

Does that answer your question?


Q:

what are your 3-5 best examples within the last 5-10 years about why we should care that anyone that does not have any preconceptions would understand?

links answer this questions are good as well

A:

Big picture question:

Do you perceive video games as an artistic medium? If so, does this necessarily mean that making a game with the intent to keep a company afloat is artistically destructive? If not, what worth do video games actually have?


Q:

I'm not sure if you'll see this, but this AMA caught my attention because I'm studying Computer Science, and there aren't many women in this field, so I'm grateful I've found someone I can aspire to be.

What's some advice you'd give another woman trying to survive in this field? I'm so close to graduation, but I'm terrified of the real world setting, and that I'll get swallowed up in the male dominated field.

Also, I'm a CS tutor, and yet I struggle with math (I took PreCalc this semester and did horribly on every exam). How do I get better outside the classroom when I don't give a damn about math? I read your comments about applying math in a 'fun' way, but how do I get through boring coursework in the meantime?

A:

Have any of the dancers (male or female) had regular customer turn stalker? How does the industry protect the help?


Q:

I can do 12.

A:

[deleted]


A:

I absolutely see games as an artistic medium of expression, similar to theater, film, or performance art. I was actually a Fine Arts major at university. One of the first people to recognize games as an art form was Marcel Duchamp (one of the founders of the Dadaist movement). He was an avid chess player, and said "While all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.”

The act of playing games can be seen as a kind of performance art, where you suspend your priorities in the 'real world', choosing to subsume yourself in an artificial one. How many times have you seen someone go utterly apeshit during a game of Monopoly? To them, in that moment, that game is more real than the actual world around them. If they win or lose, their material world is unchanged, but that means nothing to them. Those pieces of tin, card and paper are their world, and the injustice or triumph they feel is real, in their heart.

Those who make games construct these circumstances for such performances to play out. A painter cannot control the reaction to their painting, but they can influence it by painting a particular way. Game creators cannot control what our players do, but we can guide them in certain directions with mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics.

I do not see art diametrically opposed to material profit. Some of the most profitable games have been the ones that have made us feel most profoundly. However, these paradigms do often come into conflict. A ceramic mug with a stupid Minions meme on it is still a sculpture, even if it's not a very good one. However, that mug and its replicas will probably sell more copies than the avant garde work of some person trying to convey the feelings of their latest breakup through abstract forms in clay. Which is better? Depends on what you want to accomplish. Is it artistically destructive for an artist to be able to pay their rent, buy groceries and pay for medicine? I don't think so.

I don't know if that actually answered your question. I'm sorry.


Q:

What's some advice you'd give another woman trying to survive in this field? I'm so close to graduation, but I'm terrified of the real world setting, and that I'll get swallowed up in the male dominated field.

First off, don't disqualify yourself from a game you want to play. If it turns out you can't do something, learn that the hard way. If you quit preemptively, you definitely can't do it. You don't have to commit to this industry (or any industry) for the rest of your life. The skills you pick up in tech will serve you well in whatever you decide to do. And there are lots of different kinds of jobs and different kinds of companies in this industry - it's ok to switch around until you find what suits you in a place with coworkers who don't suck.

A:

Numerous times I've worked at places where we had to ban someone that was a regular customer getting too close (for lack of a better term), or ex-boyfriends.


Q:

I love you.

A:

What your describing is very fishy and I wouldn't stay in those places as they are definitely going to be connected to a scam. Do they have different price points?

In my video, I show the scammer who got us in Paris having four different listings within 6 weeks all with different "hosts". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAAQgP6Tg-4


Q:

How big is the target demographic for rogue-like Japanese dating Sims set in 18th century France?

A:

Any advice for a computer science undergrad looking for internships/work?


Q:

I'm organizing a bachelor party in Vegas in a week and trying to find unique stuff to do. What's your favorite place to eat or do down there?

A:

What are your thoughts on the show, Naked and Afraid?


Q:

Who funded your study?

A:

According to our Kickstarter so far, around 646 people. We're also getting a surprising number of people for whom this is the first project they've ever backed. That signals to me that there's an opening in the market that isn't being met. People want to play something like this, it's just not being made.

Though, to be fair, 2 of those backers are my parents. Not sure if they count.


Q:

Make sure they pay you in USD, not ETH.

A:

For bachelor parties, I recommend eating at a steak house at least once. There are a ton on the strip, but I also encourage you to look off the strip. Especially at the Brazilian ones where you pay a flat fee and can eat until you're totally stuffed.

Shooting ranges, ATVs, renting exotic cars, zipline, are all cool things to do in addition to bars and clubs for bachelor parties.


Q:

Fun to watch, I understand that it's entertainment more than anything. I've worked with three of the women; Ky Furneaux (tough as nails), Anastasia Ashley (great and creative girl), and Manu Toigo (can probably kick your ass). Also one of the guys trolled me on instagram and challenged me to a jiujitsu match to decide who the best survival expert is. I like the women better.

A:

ASHER: I did. I have no connection to any organization.


Q:

I think the model that Elder Scrolls Online uses of paying for cosmetics and content only is the fairest method. Would you agree?

A:

Hi can you fill out my course equivalency form for Crypto? lol


Q:

Have you met Larry Flynt? Id so how is he in real life?

A:

Do you find the show somewhat accurate?


Q:

Sorry, I haven't played ESO (though a few members of our team are active players), so I can't give a detailed answer.

I definitely think that paying for cosmetics is a great way to go for online multiplayer games. It doesn't hurt the game, as long as your clever with the cosmetics (changing character silhouettes too much can cause confusion in PvP).

However, the cosmetics thing only works in online multiplayer. Single player games will need to find another solution.

A:

Your email has been queued.


Q:

I have not met him. He actually is not the owner of the club. The company just pays him a royalty to use his name.

A:

I would say somewhat.


Q:

Thank you for your response.

A:

What would you recommend for someone that wants to get into teaching CS?

I have a Bachelor's in Computer Engineering, a lot of software engineering and dev experience, and I've tutored in CS. I've also done technical training for junior team members at my current job.

I'd love to be a CS teacher, on the high school level—maybe even college, though I'm not so sure they'd take me seriously without a masters or PhD. I'm just not sure where and how to get started. I could take education classes, but my state (PA) doesn't have much in the way of certifications for computer science.

How did you get into teaching CS? Any words of wisdom for someone aspiring to teach CS?


Q:

I’ve know a few strippers, seems like a lot of them sleep with guys that work at a strip club. Do you notice any of that?

A:

I've never heard of a "Survival School". What does this entail? Is there a curriculum? Grades/levels? How was this school developed? Grants? Funding? What does an entry-class look like? So many questions. I'm so sorry. But truly. I'm intrigued.


Q:

No problem! Thanks for asking questions, it wouldn't be interesting without people like you here!

A:

In general, I do think we need to encourage more people with your kind of experience into the classroom. Unfortunately I'm not an expert on getting through state certifications. You may be better off working backward: find the schools or universities nearest you and ask them how you can pitch in.


Q:

I wouldn't say a lot, but it happens. I've seen hosts and managers who openly or secretly date and sleep with dancers. The policy really depends from club to club on their attitude towards that.

A:

We teach individuals and organizations how to respond to outdoor emergencies, especially in remote environments, as well as wilderness medical certification programs, and technical outdoor skills. I developed the curriculum myself based on my experience as a professional outdoor rescuer and wildland firefighter. I am a Search and Rescue Technician, Ropes Rescue trained, Swift Water Rescue Technician, helicopter host rescue trained, confined space rescue trained, former EMT, and I am working on the first national certification program for basic outdoor safety and survival. Here is my catalog https://www.californiasurvivaltraining.com/our-courses


Q:

What are games you have played that have inspired you to be a game dev?

A:

Hello, Ms. Bishop!

I'm in a very similar circumstance to you right now - I've spent most of my teen life dreaming of writing, but now I want to be a cryptographist/infosec specialist.

My question for you: do you feel as if you approach what you do differently from your peers?

I'm taking a programming course in my high school right now, and oftentimes my solutions to assignments are vastly different from others in the class (who seem to have a much lower tolerance for varying approaches to similar but unique assignments). For example, we're currently making a program that determines end behavior of a polynomial - in approximately 200 lines of code, I check for degree (regardless of format - location of degree term doesnt matter), sign of the degree term, and error-check user input (of the polynomial). Many other students in the class are struggling to find the sign of the polynomial's degree term if the function is not written in standard form, and I think my writing background (and probably massive interest) are helping me a lot. There's not a lot of writers-turned-programmers that I know, so I'd be interested to hear what you think. :)


Q:

Have you ever thrown out a celebrity?

A:

Confined space rescue. That's gotta be the scariest position to be stuck in. Literally. Do you have any story's from people getting caught in caves or rocks or anything that either made it or did not? I hope most of your rescues have been successful but you must have seen some bad stuff. Not sure how much you're willing to talk about but I and others are interested in failures or body retrievals.


Q:

In no particular order:

  • Mechwarrior 2 - First thing I ever saved up for (I was 8, or so). From the moment I watched the first cinematic, something in me clicked. I knew that I wanted to make games.
  • Fallout 2 - First serious RPG I ever played. The idea of a super violent game where you could still talk you way out, absolutely blew my mind when I was a kid.
  • Planescape: Torment - Best writing in any game (personal opinion, obviously). Solidified my love of pacifist runs in any game that allows them. I legit teared up in a few places.
  • Final Fantasy 7 - My first JRPG, it introduced me to my love of playing as set characters in games (as opposed to build-your-owns). It just felt so grand. I'd never felt anything like it, at the time.
  • Dungeons and Dragons - I've been playing since 2nd ed, back when it was still AD&D. Tabletop will always have a special place in my heart, and is what first got me into writing for games.
A:

My writing background helps me intuitively find the simplest explanation that makes sense. I try to avoid over-engineering for the same reason I strive for brevity.

The best advice writers get is don't be afraid to "kill your darlings". A lot of engineers need to be told that, too.


Q:

I was at the front when we turned away rapper V-Nasty at one place I worked. I had two coworkers who said that they had to turn away Three 6 Mafia and his group at the front door.

A:

The worst I've seen was a wrecked cattle carrier full of sheep. Detached from the truck and slammed into a hillside at 50mph. It was 90F+ out too. The extrication was some straight PTSD shit lmao. Sheep carnage.


Q:

Great list of games. As a guy in my mid 30's I grew up on a similar stable of titles and in many ways it has influenced my gaming habits today. None of these (obviously) are pay too win or had micro transactions at all.

My concern, and I would guess the concern for many, is that there a time rapidly approaching where the only way to beat a game is through micro transactions. You've already seen this in online multiplayer titles (COD games, Battlefront Battlefield 2, destiny) where PvP is all but ruined when those who pay get an advantage. It's now entering the realm of AAA titles to simply finish the game. Shadows of War, for example, forces you to go through an absurd slog at the end during the "Shadow Wars" sequence that makes it almost impossible not to pay.

My question is, does it concern you that there won't be games like the ones you mentioned above because micro-transactions have simply made it too profitable to make a game that forces you to get good and win? Are F2P and Pay to Win games raising a generation of young gamers that will only know that and thus leaving our generation doomed to only play older titles?

A:

Thank you so much for the response! It's nice to feel a bit of vindication.

Followup question: what do you mean by "dont be afraid to 'kill your darlings'" in reference to programming/engineering?


Q:

[deleted]

A:

As someone who loves to learn and who has worked in curriculum development, I'm intrigued how your courses must/have to simulate different climates and terrain? How did you plan that? California must be a Godsend because it's such a diverse state (everything from sand dunes to National Forests to the Ocean) but still... What does your planning look like for these kinds of courses? Do you get feedback from others? Or are you kind of a trailblazer in your own right?


Q:

The industry is constantly shifting and I'm sure a new financial paradigm will show up to displace loot boxes. Will it be better or worse? No idea.

As for older styles of games, I don't think they're going away. Television didn't kill movies. Movies didn't kill theater.

'Old School' style, micro-transaction free, games will always be getting made, just maybe not with the same level of financial investment as AAA titles.

I thought the Isometric PC RPG was dead, but so many new, good ones have come out in the last 5 years that I haven't even had the chance to play all of them.

There hasn't been a AAA 2D platformer in forever, but indie studios are cranking them out at a rate faster than anyone could ever play them.

Will the younger generation play different games? Probably, but that's always been the case. Tastes change. I could never get into Undertale, and Friday Night at Freddy's feels moronic to me and I've never even played Minecraft, but that's what the next cohort was playing a few years ago.

The world changes, but rarely are art forms truly abandoned.

A:

Don't be afraid to:

  • Simplify your designs, eliminating things that you thought were clever but turned out to be less important.
  • Test your attack surface! Better for you to break your design than other people.

Q:

We shut down the night it happened, but reopened the next for business as usual.

A:

I've done long distances survival "expeditions" in the various terrains I teach in, have worked in them extensively in terms of firefighting, guiding in parks, and natural resource rehab. I've been trained in environmental biology and high performance in extreme climates. The curriculum is based on what is most useful when you are out there with little to no gear, weak, and tired. Of course, the curriculum develops as my skill set does.

Yes, I am a bit of a trailblazer. We know of know other school with our diverse offerings and I can lead nearly all of the courses personally (with the exception of the counter custody/tactical stuff). There are many many many schools, like 20 in California alone- many of which simply copy me- the website, prices, all that stuff. I also no of no other civilian instructor/school that has worked this extensively with the military.


Q:

Luth, what was it like growing up in a small town, and having your big brothers best friend be so cool? Playing paintball in the jagged teeth with them, driving around in his "super cool" dodge stratus, and uhhh... yeah I got nothing else. Super proud of you buddy!!! Grats on the game and the AMA. Love ya dude!

A:

How did you find a publisher willing to sign you up when you had no background in writing?


Q:

What is your typical night like?

A:

If I haven't overstayed my welcome, are there skills you haven't mastered that you're looking forward to? Like you said, your curriculum develops as your skill set does. That's an interesting challenge. Gives every day some higher stakes.


Q:

Love you too, bro!

A:

We sent a draft to Natural Math and they liked it! I hope you do too!


Q:

Kind of depends on what position you're working. I've worked the front door, the floor and the VIP in multiple clubs. A lot of your job is really just facilitating the operations of the club. If you're at the door then you're mostly keeping underage people, weapons and drugs out of the building. If you're on the floor then you're walking customers to tables, setting them up with requested dancers, getting them change, taking them on a tour of the club, setting up their bachelor or 21st birthday boy to go on stage, handling disputes involving dancers, customers, waitresses, etc. You have to put out fires, and do your best to maintain the operation of the club.

A:

I need to up my jungle and arctic survival games.


Q:

Did you work on Realm of the Mad God, that Kabam acquired but sold off to DECA recently? If so, what was your opinion on the permadeath game which would encourage more players to buy the gear available for real money?

A:

How do you feel about Columbia's stress culture? Do you think the CS students are overworked?


Q:

What is drug use like among VIP clients? Have you witnessed a lot of drug use since you’ve started? If a customer pays to get a VIP room, is he just free to do whatever the hell he wants in there? Like doing a bunch of cocaine off/with his stripper?

A:

I have a question in hopes of being better. Can't hurt to ask someone who's life is survival training. I don't normally wear my disability on my sleeve (most people I meet are none the wiser) but I am Deaf with cochlear implants. In some ways I've turned this into a major advantage (I read lips proficiently and am always tuned into my surroundings and especially body language for cues) but... I'm Deaf. If I'm not fully focused on something, I'm oblivious. Any advice for my day-to-day life to be safer?

P.S. Hope you master the jungle and arctic survival games! I'd say have fun, but, yeah. Be safe.


Q:

I never worked on the Realm of the Mad God team, but I sat a few sections away from them a few years ago. They were fucking awesome.

I once walked by them having full-on meeting discussing the cost/benefit analysis of their team pooling their personal money, to have their team join a 'pie of the month club'. There were Powerpoint slides and everything. They knew how to have fun, but still get the job done.

As for permadeath, it was a fascinating decision to have permadeath in the game, and eliminating that would have destroyed Realm (permadeath was such a central pillar to their design). However, community management was a nightmare for them. Everyday, some high level player would die, lose a ton of stuff and go nuts all over the forums, which would make everyone else angry that someone is spamming and flaming everyone within 50 miles of them. I can guarantee you that they never wanted to kill players, just to reap a few extra dollars. The hassle was way too big.

For those wondering, I don't know if they ever managed to put PvP in there, but they really wanted to. The problem was making the server code reliable and exact enough for it. You can fudge numbers a little for PvE and nobody cares. PvP? With permadeath? It has to be utterly perfect, which would have required them to tear out and remake the netcode. That's too big of an investment and way too risky. What if they fuck up and break the existing game?

A:

I do think students these days are overworked. It's not unique to Columbia or CS, but I think we as a faculty and institution in general should do more to give students better perspective & balance. 5 years from now, nobody will care if you got a B+ instead of an A-. But it doesn't always feel that way at the time.


Q:

Not really. I've caught a lot of drugs at the front door on people. The clubs still have to operate within the law.

A:

If it is affordable, there is a lot of great technology out there that may come it handy. Like the doorbells that are also cameras that show the person at your door on your phone. To be honest, this question is out of my league. Thanks and best wishes!


Q:

Why do you think that AAA game companies are rushing to monetize as much as possible when indie successes like Stardew Valley or Terraria can survive without putting in any monetizing elements in?

A:

Are you self publishing through Amazon/Createspace or did you go the traditional publisher route?


Q:

How important is the biker facial hair in your industry?

A:

I'm going through your course catalog. Can I say because I'm seriously impressed with your course catalog and mission that I've noticed some grammatical errors? For instance, "Whether your an individual looking to avoid a group..." It's "you're". It's not a big deal and I know you're not a Writing Camp but it's imperative that you represent yourself well. No response to this required. Honestly, no action required either. If you're interested, you can represent yourself better.


Q:

Successes like Stardew Valley and Terraria are extremely rare. For a point of comparison, around 20 new games are released on Steam, every single day. Most of them will never make their costs back, even some of the really good ones will get lost in the flow.

Small indie studios go broke all the time, it's just that nobody notices.

Big companies need guaranteed wins, because they're answerable to their stock holders. It's why they go so nuts with marketing and finding a way to get a financial edge with every, single, little thing. Big ads? Go for it! Celebrity endorsements? Pile 'em on! Branded Dorritos? Sure!

Bigger isn't always better, but it's often more reliable. When you're making huge AAA titles, you automatically stand apart from the indie games, just with size and production values. Your competition shrinks massively, but the costs are enormous.

A:

We were published by Natural Math, and also did a Kickstarter for initial funding. So, neither solo nor fully traditional!


Q:

Not very important

A:

dang it! thanks I'm on it. fixed it. the last thing i want on my site is the internets most hated grammatical error!


Q:

HI SENPAI ITS ME YOUR FELLOW EX COWORKER PLEASE NOTICE ME?

A:

Did you always want to write children's stories, or was there another genre you were interested in writing about growing up?


Q:

Has the legalization of weed changed anything for you?

A:

I do a lot of multi-week motorcycle camping trips in the more remote areas of the western states. I carry a lot of the typical expensive outdoorsy gadgets that you'll find most yuppies have (InReach, jetboil stove, kurydan filter, tent, sleeping bag, etc), but is there anything really simple that you find people often overlook that can make a huge difference to survival or enjoyment of trips?


Q:

NOTICED!!!!

A:

Growing up, I was constantly writing murder mysteries. Even today, in most of my stories, someone dies. (except in children's books!)


Q:

No. It's not allowed in the building or on property.

A:

Don't do Inreach or Spot, do ACR. Even the Coast Guard uses them and no subscription needed. Also, satellite phone rentals and minutes are more and more affordable.

Making fire from scratch in foul weather is the most difficult survival skill. Not very many people carry a good accelerant. I recommend either esbit cubes, fast fire, or webber grill cubes. Wet fire cubes are also good but they come in smaller portions which mean shorter burn times. They all burn at over 1000F but the first 3 last for over ten minutes, wet fire averages around 5-6. Also, UCO stormproof matches only. Go for the titans if you have room. Once lit they can't be extinguished, they even burn under water. Forget fire steels. Thanks for your question!


Q:

What is your favorite loot box/crate opening animation?

A:

Do celebrities really go into strip clubs and throw down like we sometimes imagine they do? No named needed, but if you feel like naming names/telling stories, go for it.


Q:

Really appreciate the advice! I hadn't thought about fire starting stuff, definitely going to google everything you recommended and get something to carry with me.

I like the InReach not just for the SOS, but so my friends and family can track my progress on maps and for the bi-directional texting.

A:

Hearthstone packs. The Hearthstone team has that shit on lock-down so hard that I actually felt a little disappointed the first time I opened an Overwatch loot crate. It helps that the Hearthstone UI feels so tactile. It makes the cards and movements feel more significant than standard UI, that just looks like boxes and lights.

Also, flipping over the individual cards, one a time, with the different audio reactions/particle effects? Perfection!


Q:

Not really. The most I've known a celebrity to spend was $15,000. It was a boxer that pretty much everyone knows. I wouldn't say that celebrities regularly drop a bunch of money. I've seen several not spend a dollar.

A:

they've failed me in the field.


Q:

Is consumer trust a calculatable variable when making games?

For example, if instead of loot boxes, you could just buy the outfit you want.

I feel that would produce consumer trust in your product, meaning more long term revenue, but less short term. Is this something that's accounted for when considering monetization of a game?

A:

Do you accept bitcoin yet? They should put QR codes on strippers' asses which corresponds to a crypto transaction when scanned.


Q:

Everything helps in a survival situation. Being well prepared having basic survival knowledge is key but what i have noticed about survival training and information is that it's always based on having these survival items with you. My first question is how do you train to survive with absolutely nothing. Example ; you're hiking in the mountains of northern California in January. You fall into a fast moving river and lose everything now what? Question 2 is a person can be prepared with tangible items but is mental preparation just as important? The ability to handle violence or severe circumstances?

A:

You've really hit the nail on the head with a real problem in games (and in companies, in general). Consumer trust cannot be meaningfully quantified, so it's often left on the back burner. However, it obviously has real, tangible value.

EA and Nintendo could announce the exact same decision on the same day. People would hate EA for it, and love Nintendo for it. A few months later, a 'hot take' would appear on Twitter, pointing out the disparity, but nobody would care at that point.

So, even though consumer trust is real, and extremely valuable, it's undervalued because it can't be quantified. This happens elsewhere in business too. The sales team makes more money than everyone else because you can easily quantify the money they make for the company (how many units did they sell). But if the product wasn't as good, how would they be able to sell it? Surely the designers and engineers have an influence here, but you can't quantify it because the market is affected by a ton of intangibles.

The sales team makes more money because their value is obvious. Everyone else lags behind because it's easier to minimize their value.

PS: If you solve this particular problem, you'll win a goddamn Nobel Prize in economics. I'll also give you a hug, because I used to be a community manager and tried to argue this like, every other week.


Q:

Working on it

A:

That's one thing about my school that makes it fairly unique; we have minimalist training in actual wilderness environments (namely Alaska). We teach people how to survive with little to no gear. Understand, not everything is survivable. If you fall into a fast river in January, you'll likely drown from the soaked heavy clothing, or rapidly succumb to hypothermia once you self rescue. You have minutes to strip down and make a fire in freezing conditions before your brain switches off. You have to be lucky, in great shape, have close to dry weather, and lots of good accelerant and UCO matches immediately at your disposal, and be in an area with dry wood.

Mental fortitude is key. Anyone can build a shelter on a nice day with a lunch in their pack. It takes fortitude to do it with a fractured ankle while you're going hypothermic. The "I can, I will, I must" attitude and the ability to think critically and use your training in extreme circumstances.


Q:

Any crazy violent stories?

A:

Do you have any tips on dealing with feet/hands getting too cold? I find myself losing feeling in my extremities anytime I ice climb or even ski now.


Q:

I mentioned earlier taking down a guy a two different occasions. One for punching a stripper and the other for throwing a rock through the glass doors at the front. Also had a guy that turned out to be a pimp inside one night. He smacked a girl that was working for him, and casually walked out of the club. He was banned after smacking her.

A:

Get hand warmers. They are a game changer. I use them inside jackets and sleeping bags all the time too.

Also if you have yet to try smart wool socks, the heaviest weight and highest percentage wool. expensive but will last for years and years. They also insulate very well when wet, as sweat may be the issue there.


Q:

Would you rather fight 10 duck sized strippers or 1 stripper sized duck?

A:

What is the longest distance you've walked in a day?


Q:

1 stripper sized duck. It's easier to fight one opponent

A:

Roughly 30 miles.


Q:

Other than you under cooking roots..... What's the downright stupidest thing you've seen someone do after or during one of your training camps?

A:
  1. During a crew hike we found two teen boys trying to catch a bear cub, they had it cornered. Talked them into stopping.

  2. A woman with a folding knife that didn't lock tried to carve a stick with it, backwards, aggressively. 8 stitches. She was a champ though and came right back and finished the course. I've actually done it too.


Q:

What is the most useful survival tip for beginners to know?

A:

Always have a small kit on you whenever heading to the outdoors. Have the minimal you need to spend the night. If you're not in an extreme environment (frozen or desert) that can be kept to 1lbs or less. The #1 killer is exposure so prep for it.

Fire: UCO stormproof matches & Wet Fire/Fast Fire/Webber Grill Lighter Cubes (all the sam material which burns at over 1000F for several minutes, the last two brands over ten min)

Water: Aqua Tabs and/or a Sawyer Squeeze

Shelter: Heat Sheet and nylon twine

There's more but it can depend on your climate, activity, and circumstances.


Q:

Do you have any knowledge of the Military's SERE school? How do you feel about it?

A:

I taught a 10 day course at the USMC Mountain Warfare Training Center and have worked with SERE instructors from more than one branch. It's excellent training, wish I could get in on a course. We have retired instructors running a civilian version at our school. Thanks for the question!


Q:

Can you professionally instruct me on how to survive for a week with nothing but a bag of lays sour cream chips??

A:

Step 1: Eat Chips, except 1.

Step 2: Use chip for fire tinder

Step 3: Boil water with a hot stone inside the bag to quench thirst from salty chips: https://www.instagram.com/survival_expert/

Step 3: turn the bag inside out to use reflective surface as signal to get rescued


Q:

Step 4: jerk off a bunch

A:

that's just a given with those greasy fingers.


Q:

How do you ensure that water isnt contaminated (wont give you bad case of the runs), since chlorine and iodine tablets aren't enough usually?

A:

According to the CDC guidelines for backpackers pre treatment with chem tabs then >2 micron absolute filtration and you're good to go. This is why I love the sawyer squeeze and life straw gravity filters (they have pre treatment reservoirs). https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/travel/backcountry_water_treatment.html


Q:

What Survival TV shows are the most informative? And which are full of it?

A:

Sadly to say they are basically all full of it. All are staged, some claim for safety but it's more for skill, and they often portray methods that just don't work in real life. With one exception, Ray Mears and his stuff. I love that guy, he's a real legend. His episodes are real tutorials.


Q:

Ray Mears is amazing. I've got all his books. I love how unpretentious and informative he is.l

A:

100%. He's my favorite. I hope I can work with him someday.


Q:

If you were in the movie Cast Away, how differently would you have handled it?

A:

I would have poked a hole in wilson and filled it with coconut guts... for snacking.


Q:

This guy Reddits. Thanks for your time on this AMA!

A:

Thank you!


Q:

Are you able to accurately predict who's going to fare best in a survival situation when you meet the people ahead of time?

A:

I always say you can never predict how someone will act in an emergency. When we're operating field courses, sometimes the most unsuspecting people will dominate. Sometimes office social dynamics change after our corporate events, because of what it brings out in people. People always surprise me, I love people, I want them to survive.


Q:

Greetings from Down Under Sir,

Have you had any strange / freaky experiences you can talk about in any searches or your time in the field?

Thankyou in advance.

A:

One night two people woke up on a desert field exercise screaming from nightmares at the same time, on opposite sides of camp. Freaked everyone out.


Q:

Growing up in Idaho I used to take flint and steel with me everywhere in the backcountry. It worked well for most situations outside of when it was wet and I didn't have anything dry on me... but best of all the thing seemed to last forever.

What's your preferred/recommended fire starting tool/method?

A:

There's plenty of great ways to start a camp fire, but for emergencies I only recommend:

UCO Stormproof matches combined with either esbit/fast fire/or webber fuel cubes.


Q:

Quite an impressive biography. How can you make a simple fire with stuff you find in the woods ? I know its difficult but what would be the best way?

A:

Thanks! Bow and drill friction fire method. That's really the only viable way that's useful anywhere. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bb-OZvbjE9S/?taken-by=survival_expert


Q:

Can you please tell me a funny story of something that happened to you? Would love to see everyone's reaction here. :-)

A:

I took the US Marine Corps lead survival instructor, and a Master Sergeant on a 3 day 40 mile backcountry hike, with no food or water and almost no gear (a knife/bottle/piece of string/filter, that's it- not even a med kit). The hike was mostly above 7000' and up to 10,000 at time. I was showing them how I do my expeditions after the 10 day course I taught at their base, as they wanted to learn more. Day 2 we cooked soap roots I harvested for breakfast. I under cooked them. I also ate the center. They felt a little queezy for a few minutes, but I puked bad, real bad, for about 5 hours off and on. I refused to end it or quit. I was so embarrassed. It happened at 9000'+. Step step puke step, step step puke step. Cleared up just fine though. In the end they were almost more impressed. Type 3 fun.


Q:

Have you ever worked with the USAF’s SERE? If you have, what is your impression with their overall skill?

A:

That's the only one I haven't yet. I have worked with 2 or 3 of their EOD teams though, which are outstanding.


Q:

What would be in your terms, the easiest region/area to survive in? I live in eastern ky, spent many nights camping and many days hunting. I would assume a region such as mine would be very productive for survival. Abundance of easily made shelters with rock out cropping, caves, dense forests, and plenty of food sources with a relatively mild climate.

Also the hardest?

A:

Really if California was in the original shape we found it in, like say Alaska, it would be easiest. A Mediterranean climate that also has extensive aquifers filled by nearby mountains, with plenty of coast to fish and game to hunt is awesome. Really any place remote and wild is good. It still has life. Hardest... I'll say anywhere arctic.


Q:

What is the worst situation you have been stuck in where your survival skills saved the day?

A:

Gosh I can't really say I was stuck but this hurt really bad: https://www.mensfitness.com/life/outdoor/miles-to-nowhere-hiking-death-valley


Q:

Oh wow. I've never been to death valley and even lived in California for about a year... I always wanted to go on a brutal march there.

A:

Train and acclimate first. It can easily kill in the time of year I went. https://www.mmamania.com/2008/09/08/evan-tanner-dies-in-the-desert-seriously


Q:

Honestly, Death Valley is a must see

A:

Agreed, it is beautiful. Darwin Falls runs year long and fresh celery and watercress grows along the banks. Most people don't know there's a beautiful oasis there.


Q:

As a structural FF, what drove you to the insanity it takes to be a smoke jumper?

A:

Ha thanks. Helitack Rappeller actually, I slid down a rope. Grew up in abject poverty. For me it was just such an honor to have that title, to be able to make such a difference, and I've been into extreme physical challenges since I saw Jack La Lane on tv when I was 12. The opportunity presented itself, so I lept on it.


Q:

Hello, thanks a lot for doing this! I've always loved to go on long hikes and do outdoor activities, but never really looked into learning any sort of survival skills. Living in the UK, do you know if there are any courses that are similar to what you have to offer? I am sceptical of the few that I have found and not sure if they will actually teach anything that can be applied in real life scenarios or they are just there to make money.

A:

I would recommend ray mears. I think his schoo is called Woodlore. He is a legend. Thanks for participating!


Q:

I've heared that they are not comparable, but noone could explain why exactly, so can you explain why swiss army knives and leathermans are so different, while both are considered multitools?

A:

Leatherman implies pliers while swiss knives don't. Usually multi-tool is reserved for models with pliers.


Q:

Which celebrities have you trained? Been on television? Written any Survival Books? Ima big fan of Baer Grills and Less Stroud. Do you agree or disagree with their skills/training?

A:

Rob Riggle, Stephanie Beatriz, Mike Rowe, and The Golden God off the top of my head. I love Bear and he's very talented- but his stuff is all staged with a lot of help with outside experts. Les isn't too bad but I don't know about his bigfoot stuff lol. I've been on tv a lot, CNN with Mike Rowe's old show Somebody's Gotta Do It, CBS News, ABC News, KTLA, a bunch of news stuff mostly. A lot of publications as well, and some YouTube stuff like with the Try Guys. Book coming early 2018, DVD on wild plants available on Amazon "Off The Land"


Q:

By Golden God, do you mean Dennis Reynolds? Or...

A:

You know exactly who I mean. Is this not reddit?


Q:

Oh shit! How was it?

Are you his source for the dangers (implications) of sea travel?

A:

Hardcore dude. Highly motivated and intelligent. Very skilled. Insists on personal success. Great conversation.

No sorry lol!