Do adblockers favour legacy brands?

With the advent of ‘content-blocking’ in iOS 9, I run an adblock on all my devices* – desktop, laptop, phone, and tablet. Like several hundred million other people, I see next-to-no display adverts on the web. After a few days it becomes so normal to see the online world without ads that it’s a genuine shock when you have to turn your adblocker off.

Assuming that adblocker usage grows and isn’t negated by in-app advertising (e.g. in Facebook and Twitter) or native ads (e.g. in Buzzfeed), who does this favour? Could it be the biggest ‘legacy’ brands from Proctor and Gamble and Heinz who can afford to run expensive, unblockable ad campaigns during live TV events, along with outdoor display advertising? After all, I can’t run an adblocker on my eyes quite yet, so I still see billboards and posters and store promotions – most of which seem to be for the biggest and oldest brands.

Perhaps their ultimate advantage will be small. Adblocker uptake on mobile devices won’t be significant for a few years, which is plenty of time for big and small companies to find alternatives. Although I’m not sure what the alternative will be when we have heads-up displays that do block ads.

*I offset my guilt about this by spending quite a bit of money on subscriptions and memberships

Sentience Footprint

I’m confident that in a hundred years, eating meat will be regarded in the negative way we now view racism or sexism – an ugly, demeaning, and unnecessary act. Like smoking, it will simply fall out of fashion because we’ll find better and healthier alternatives, although we’ll still occasionally eat humanely reared-and-killed animals. Note that I still eat meat even though I should know better.

The interesting thing about eating meat is that it encapsulates a multitude of sins. You might worry about its impact on your own health; or perhaps on the environment, given the amount of water and land that a cow requires and the methane greenhouse gases it produces; or of course, on the life and suffering of the animal itself.

From an environmental standpoint, we should be eating far fewer cows and far more chickens, since the latter require less energy input to grow for a given calorie, and therefore (all things being roughly equal) produce less of negative impact. Or we should forget about the chickens and eat sustainably caught-or-farmed fish, which are even more energy efficient and have the smallest carbon footprint.

But what about from a suffering standpoint? You can feed far more people with a single cow than a single chicken, so if we want to reduce the suffering of animals, maybe we should be eating cows. But are cows more sentient than chickens? I don’t know how you measure that. And maybe the environmental impact of a single cow produces more suffering on other sentients than a chicken.

I feel like I’m taking utilitarianism to a place far beyond its ability to survive. I should probably read more Peter Singer.

Two Million Runners Five

Zombies, Run! just passed the two million sales-and-downloads mark. It’s the fifth-most popular running app in the US, and the most successful smartphone fitness game of all time — a phenomenon on par with Soulcycle, Crossfit, or Tough Mudder.

Four years ago, we began as an fun, amusing app idea on Kickstarter. Today, we’ve become a massive community with mountains of fanfic, incredibly supportive players, meetups across the world, and this month, one of the world’s biggest virtual races.

This is the story of how we got there — told through a lot of graphs and data.

It’s also the story about how we achieved our goal to make running more exciting, by putting you into a world where running really matters.

In Zombies, Run!, you aren’t running just to get a faster split time or to lose a couple of pounds — you’re doing it because a young child has been abandoned in the zombie-infested wilderness, or because a horde is headed right for the neighboring town and their radio is out, or because a traitor has stolen vital supplies and people will die unless you track them down.

Role-play for running

In 2011, I sat down with our co-creator and lead writer, Naomi Alderman, to sketch out the game’s design and story. As ‘Runner Five’, it would be your mission to collect supplies, rescue survivors, avoid zombies, and rebuild your base from a few shivering survivors into a fortified beacon of civilization. And you do this by walking, jogging, or running in the real world.

You’d automatically collect supplies (like ammo, water, food, and electronics) so you’d never have to look at your phone or press any buttons while running. Instead, the game would use your speed as input and your headphones as output.

In other words, Zombies, Run! was born as an app. It needs GPS or accelerometer sensors so we can adapt to how fast and far you’re running, and it needs headphones to deliver the audio story and notifications.

Our reliance on technology isn’t necessarily a virtue — it can make everything more expensive and complicated — but it’s the only way of delivering the immersive, reactive experience we wanted.

We decided that experience would include 23 story missions and 7 procedurally-generated supply missions in Season 1. And if it went well, maybe we’d make a second season!

Yep, it went pretty well!

We didn’t need to worry about that, as Zombies, Run! became the most successful videogame on Kickstarter in 2011. Even better, it was released precisely on time six months later. Since then, we’ve released four seasons spanning over 200 missions and 40 hours of audio story.

Our guest writers include Margaret Atwood, Joanne Harris, and Elizabeth Bear. Our voice cast and production — led by Audio Director Matt Wieteska — is second to none. As Naomi often says, Zombies, Run! is far better than it needs to be. Continue reading “Two Million Runners Five”