Switchback: Talking Tech (July 25)

Jul 25, 2014

The team from The Switch discussed everything from the latest political tech news to the gadgets you’re eyeing.

Hi everybody -- We're ready to do this!

Hey gang — just a reminder that if you're in D.C. next Tuesday, come to our reader meetup to celebrate The Switch's one-year anniversary. Let us know you're coming here.

Although I see I'm already out of luck with the intro, is there any chance we can limit the gifs this week?

Just curious, what don't you like about them?

I'm really curious to know what you guys think of this Comcast ad. If you were just coming to it without having followed any of the net neutrality debate, how would it make you feel?

I've been told that Google Glasses will be given out at the birthday party to all attendees. Is this true, and if not, why do you hate Google?

The Google Glass is a lie -- but the cake might actually not be... 

(sfpelican / Flickr)

(sfpelican / Flickr)

And we don't hate Google  -- but Hayley sure did hate wearing Google Glass in public

The challenge is that not everyone has the benefit of fast in-the-office broadband. It's important to remember that when creating web content, a growing percentage of the consumers are on mobile or sorry McDonalds-level wifi.

This is a really good point. Thanks!

Hayley, I want to hear more about your lunch with Sid Meier. What other observations about Civilization: Beyond Earth were you unable to fit in your review?

Sitting at lunch with him and a bunch of game designers was a total nerd-dream come true. It actually inspired me to work on another story just about Firaxis and what makes them tick.

I think the coolest part of the lunch was when Sid talked about how he thinks soccer is a totally broken game -- this was just after the World Cup final, you must remember -- and then he went on this 10 minute riff about how to fix it. I think the conclusion he came up with was that, instead of the extra 30 min. time period and then penalty kicks, they should borrow a page from hockey and just yank the goalies out for about 15 min or so of frenzied play. 

We also spent some time talking about the current state of the sim genre, in light of the development of things like the goat sim and rock sim. Most of that time period consisted of him shaking his head and saying, basically that it seems like everything's been done in that genre. But he also seemed to embrace the goofiness of it.

NOOOO I'm all about the gifs. Don't let the haters get you down.

I think, at our birthday happy hour, the pro-GIF readers and the anti-GIF readers should fight.

Bad news! Technical difficulties are keeping Nancy out of the livechat for the second week running... But at least there aren't bears, this time.  

It makes me feel just the same about Comcast: that it's an evil, rapacious, criminally customer-unfriendly juggernaut run by the idiot son of a guy who was right-place-right-time when he began stringing wires and handing out briefcases of cash for franchises. Since you asked.

But tell us how you really feel.

Honestly, do you think people who haven't followed the net neutrality debate would even understand that ad? They're expecting people to see the words "net neutrality rules" and know what that is all about and why they should want it. I'm trying (only somewhat successfully) to follow the net neutrality debate, and that ad doesn't have nearly enough context for me.

That's a conversation we had a lot in the Switch pod while Brian was writing that story: How the ad was likely aimed at a very narrow audience of policy professionals who, as it turns out, tend to read the Washington Post. 

As I mention in an answer down below, I generally think that's right — although what's to be gained when the policy experts already know where Comcast stands on everything?

I've been looking at a Surface Pro, but I can't quite figure out why it's better than, say, the Asus Transformer, which has windows and office and is much less expensive. What does the Surface offer that computers like the Transformer don't? Thanks!

Good question! The answer, really, is not much. The Surface Pro is a solid machine, but it's just one of a handful of  Windows tablets on the market. 

And, among those tablets, the Asus Transformer Book T100 is a great choice for anyone looking for full Windows on a tablet -- actually, probably one of the top choices, especially given its price. It doesn't have the same power as a Surface Pro, which is probably its main comparative drawback. But I know plenty of people who opted for it and have no problems using it for the things they do day-to-day. 

I'm here now! It wasn't a bear, but ferrets. Long story. But happy to start chatting. 

The Comcast ad isn't even about the net neutrality rules. It is definitely directed at the policy folks - but at the policy folks reviewing the Comcast/Time Warner merger proposal.

Yep, that's probably right. The question is, those policy folks already know what's going on. How much benefit is there, really, by running an ad directed at people you're already talking to?

So Comcast does not allow its users to access HBO GO via roku. Its another reason that Comcast is so hated and not a respectable organization. When I tried to complain about this, I was basically told to take a hike. Who would I be able to contact at Comcast to explain this concern.

Well, don't try this guy... 

Thank you for the preview of this! I'll be glad to see more reviews of games showing up in the normally straight-laced Post. There will be more, right? How about the new installment of Tropico? Banana republic despot would be right up our alley here.

Thanks! We're definitely trying to do more on the gaming world, so we appreciate the feedback!

Plus, I *love* Tropico. There's something so satisfying about it.

I'd love to get in on this action, too. Any other upcoming games you guys are excited about that we should look at?

The ad is not for the people actually reviewing the Comcast Time Warner merger, it is for their bosses, and Congress critters, who are unaware of of the specifics. it is an attempt to cause them to potentially overrule the professional subordinates who actually know something about the situation, if Comcast does not get its way in the first round.

I think there's a lot to that thinking. The targeting of advertisements in DC is a fascinating topic, and the folks who do it know, as you describe, that there are still a great many people who are often still grappling with the basics of debates that might seem to some of us as pretty ripe. Even on the staffer level -- for example, a couple weeks back there was a briefing on the Senate side of Capitol Hill on the nuances of net neutrality regulation with Sen. Franken, Free Press, a representative from Etsy, etc. There were scores of aides listening attentively. And the degree to which that is going to influence their bosses' actions are an open question. The flow of information is, I think, far more ad hoc than, I think, we'd like to think. 

The ad would definitely raise my eyebrows. I'd want to know more about the ways Comcast upholds net neutrality and how it intends to extend open Internet protections to more people. But for a handful of bad actions over the years, it seems that ISPs really don't stand in the way of an open Internet, and that they, in fact, are really promoters of open access. I mean, that is their business, right?

To answer your questions:

1. Comcast is required to obey the 2010 version of the FCC's net neutrality rules. It so happens that these rules have since been struck down by a federal court, which is why we're talking about net neutrality all over again right now. But Comcast's commitment to the 2010 rules is only applicable until 2018, after which Comcast will only be bound by whatever new rules the FCC comes up with.

2. Comcast says it'll extend its commitment to net neutrality to cover all the Time Warner Cable subscribers it would pick up as a result of its proposed merger. Again, however, Comcast's commitment to those subscribers would expire in 2018.

ISPs do need to keep their customers happy. But as the D.C. Circuit court wrote in its January opinion on net neutrality, ISPs have an incentive to behave in ways that benefit their bottom line at the expense of consumers. Dividing the Internet into fast and slow lanes might be one way they could do that.

At one point in time there was a map that showed the deadline for rolling out FIOS in the various neighborhoods in DC. I know I've seen it online, but I can't seem to find it now. Any ideas. I lose my Comcast service about every 3 months (either cable, internet, or both) and am sick of paying them over $30 each time to come fix it (and then having to insist they stay until it works when they say they don't know what is going on and it is my TV/computer). I can't get RCN, so I just want some form of competition.

I'm not sure about the map, but I do know that Verizon has extended its plans to roll out FiOS in D.C. from nine years to ten years -- which, I know, is a very long wait indeed.

I had FiOS when I lived in LeDroit Park, and it was glorious. Sadly, since then I've moved to another part of town and I'm back to Comcast, which is noticeably slower.

Question to the room: I'm inspired by the gaming question. Are there other areas of tech coverage that you'd like to see more of from The Post?

I'm from Chattanooga, and my options here for cable or DSL make me sad. Outside of municipal fiber networks, is there any other way to get the benefits of net neutrality when a dominant internet and cable provider is also the content creator? Or will they always have the incentive to prioritize their own offerings and degrade the offerings of others?

That's a great (and complicated) question. I confess that there may not be a good answer. But I'd say that given how our cable system evolved (with local franchises), it's only natural that an incumbent would want to hang onto their position.

Incidentally, I'm taking another look at Chattanooga for a story today, and I'd love to hear more about your experience there. If you feel like chatting, e-mail me on the side: brian.fung@washpost.com.

In your opinion, what is the greatest cat gif of all time?

This is a really subjective question -- basically it all depends on mood, right? Sometimes when I wake up, I really identify with this guy:

Or this guy:

But as far as as a feel good gif, I think this one is winning for right now...

I'm a fan of the classics. Maru forever! (Apologies to the person who doesn't like gifs.)

And on that note, we're done for the day! Don't forget to come meet us IRL on the 29th. It's going to be fun.

In This Chat
Brian Fung
Andrea Peterson
Hayley Tsukayama
Nancy Scola
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