When the hell did that happen? The Nethernet liberates their source code.

PMOG Announces that they are going to open their source. They create a page for it, claiming that they are released under the GPL. But things are not as they seem…

Continuing with my reporting of the wacky antics over at The Nethernet (check the previous articles I’ve written on this)  I’ve just now noticed that they’ve apparently and silently liberated their source code under the Affero GPL. This is indeed good news and precisely what I was calling for when I they first declared that they’re shutting down the game 1 year ago.

It seems they had announced that they were going to open their source a few months ago but since I had stopped monitoring their blog since the new relaunch, I missed it. Since April which was their latest update, it appears that there’s been no more information forthcoming and the final release of the source was never properly announced. Put that down to the fact that they seem to have fired their old community manager ((I just noticed that this is quite an old post. It seems that Burdenday is still active in the community on a semi-official role)) and perhaps they have neglected to pick up his duties.

In any case, nobody seems to have picked up on this and doing a quick search online reveals no results. Looking deeper, it seems that the code has not actually been published on GitHub yet, even though the page about being open source currently exists and seemingly links to GitHub repositories. Those repositories do not exist however and it appears that I’m not the only one who has noticed this. I have no idea what is going on to tell you the truth. The forums are almost dead and the main devs of The Nethernet don’t seem to be taking much of an active role in their community (which is a pretty bad idea in the first place).

The only thing I can assume is that they are still preparing the code for an open source publishing but for the life of me, I can’t imagine what’s taking them so long. The original announcement was about 2 months ago and yet there’s been no progress yet. Unfortunately this also means that their community is slowly stagnating as there’s nothing new coming to the game, no events happening, no excitement from the ones who should be the most excited (the devs) etc. The more they wait before completing their move to open source, the more likely that they’ll simply end up releasing it after any and all interest in the game has died. It would be a sad tale indeed.

Anyway, I’m interested to see what, if any, will come out of this. Hopefully they’ll proceed with the code liberation and this very interesting concept for a game can finally be truly expanded through community effort and creativity.

The Nethernet is back!(?)

The Nethernet, the original PMOG, is back in a surprising turn of events.

Image representing PMOG as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

2010 enters with a interesting bang. The previously through dead PMOG (Passively multiplayer online game) Nethernet has returned from the land of 404 apparently, in what seems like a total change of heart from the part of the developers.

By now information is still scarce. Some of the old faces are back, the game’s code has been rolled back to a previous version which had far less tools and did not use the purchasable currency, bacon, which is btw not going to be returning. This is quite perplexing since from the information we were given after the game was originally shut down, it looked as if the old code was just not salvageable (Emphasis mine.)

For the record, I’d like to say I think uselessness is dead on. There is very, very little hope of saving TNN/PMOG, even if it were to go open source. This is for a number of reasons, having seen the code, I may have a slightly better idea than the average player of just how server hungry, and just how hacked together the majority of it is.

Additionally, while I worked at GameLayers, there was no magic wand that could be waved to revert back to a previous version (on the server side). At time we’d revert to a later commit, but to revert to one of the final PMOG builds or a 0.8 version of TNN is more than likely impossible — the data just isn’t there.

It seems then that Gamelayers did exactly what was then seen as a bad move, possibly wiping a lot of data in the process, as seems to be the case.

Still though, this means that they are still using the old, badly-optimized code which was severely overloading their servers. They mention that now they are funded for a good part of 2010 which obviously means they’ve got new venture capital injections but from whom and why we still don’t know. I find it hard to believe that it’s from the old venture capitalist and I’m guessing that someone new has stepped up.

Half-arsed theory I’ve got now is that after Gamelayers tried their luck in Facebook with Mafia Wars clones and the like, they quickly discovered that that area is over-saturated already and not easy to monetize. Furthermore, the passion of the Nethernet refugees and the interest in making another PMOG (and the subsequent creation of Nova Initia to replace the Nethernet) gave them hope that there is still interest in PMOGs. That, combined with the fact that The Nethernet was more than likely their favourite project, drove them to attempt and reignite the game.

So there is a lot of speculation at the moment until the original developers chime in but honestly, I’m not expecting the whole truth from that front either. This comeback is just too weird and they don’t have exactly a great track record on openness (just look at the suddenness and secrecy which surrounded the original shut down and months previous to that). However on the positive side, they seemed to have moved to a donation-based system rather than perk-purchasing system which is a good move imho. If they are smart, they’ll open source it as well and let the community help out with optimizing the code as much as they expect it to be improving the content. They seem to recognise the power of crowdsourcing and hopefully they’ll recognise that providing freedom to their playerbase is also a powerful form of reward on its own.

So lets see what the future holds for the revived Nethernet. Many are pessimistic and expect it to shut down again in a couple of months so obviously the community’s trust has been wounded. Still many more are glad to have it back again. In any case, it’s an interesting case study of internet startup development and progress.

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The end of the Nethernet(?)

The Nethernet is turning off its lightposts, powering down its portals and slowly going dark. Lets hope they enter the liberating portal of Free Software.

Nethernet LogoThe Nethernet, a browser-based game formerly known as PMOG was an innovative attempt to make the whole internet a virtual playground where people could interact passively during their normal use. As a concept I found it brilliant and I blogged about it when I first started using it as I thought it had a lot of potential to spread ideas around while being fun.

However I soon stopped using it as the experience was very buggy on a GNU/Linux system and it was having very infrequent updates, not enough features to make it more addictive and it just couldn’t keep my interest (although that’s nothing new, WoW couldn’t keep my interest either.) Nevertheless, I had subscribed to their official blog to keep abreast of their progress and hopefully jump in at some point when it would be more fully fledged. And in fact I did, just a few days ago, shortly after the Nethernet toolbar finally hit version 1.0.0.

Well to my surprise, today my RSS reader brought up the post announcing the end of the Nethernet, ironically called “The Nethernet Moving Forward”. In short, The Nethernet is being shut down because of the very high costs associated with hosting and developing it. While the shutting down news came as a bit of a surprise, seeing as there was no warning at all and everything seemed to be like business as usual until the weekend, the ongoing troubles they were having with bandwidth were noted while their sudden and heavy handed attempt to introduce micro-payments were an obvious display of their monetary troubles.

Personally I smell the investor’s hand in this. Gamelayers and the Nethernet was quite a bit backed by venture capitalists and their board of directors is practically run by them. As such, it was a matter of time before a resource-heavy game that failed to find a business plan to monetize all their traffic would start to raise questions about its viability by the investors. My impression is that the developers were given an ultimatum on this by their investors: “Either find a way to make money out of this within the next month or we stop funding you.” Or something to that extent. As such we saw the wholly misguided attempt to introduce “bacon” (ie micropayments) to the game which had the effect of driving a very considerable number of the community away (Just look at the comments on their post about it).

And now, almost exactly one month later, once it became obvious that their community abandoned them (or once a deadline was crossed?) the plug is pulled. The question is, what now? I mean, it’s obvious that the hosting won’t continue for much longer by Gamelayers (possibly until their server leasing expires?) so at some point the Nethernet will go 503.

But what happens to the assets? Personally I think it would be a shame to simply lose all this effort in code and artwork and I think the very best idea would be to simply open source the source of the servers and the firefox extension (if it isn’t already) and allow people to possibly find a way to continue with it. It obvious from the developers’ point of view that they’re not going to be working on the game any time soon so why let it go to waste.

What I did find interesting as well was the number of people who suggested the exact same thing in the fora, before I even came around to add my own voice. There were at least 5-6 different people suggesting an open sourcing of the game which just goes to show how mainstream the idea of free software has already become. But I digress…

But if the costs were too high for gamelayers, why would a free software adaptation of it be possible? Well because the code might be modified so that the resource use becomes distributed. I think the biggest mistake of Gamelayers was their protective and secretive nature on all things related to The Nethernet, even up to and including the announcement of the shutdown that came as a surprise even to some of the most valued members of their community. If they had allowed far more crowdsourcing of various aspects of the game, (eg: badge creation), perhaps this unfortunate fate might have been avoided.

But where Gamelayers failed, perhaps the community driven creativity, from players, for players, might make the Nethernet what it could have been. I can only imagine solutions such as federated servers, each of them possible to be hosted by any person’s desktop, sharing resources to allow the game to run smoothly. A team of free software programmers simply coding in the tools that people really want to have, that will make the game far more immersive and exciting, instead of the semi-boring event it is now. And by the nature of Free Software, you might see other versions of the Nethernet spring up, based on different universes rather than the same Victorian Steampunk one PMOG was always based on, again connected via distributed computing.

The possibilities are always there, but it is the curse of closed source initiatives to be always be based on the limited perspective of the developers, rather than opening up to the creativity of people “scratching their own itch”. Lets all hope that in the end, they will at least do the right thing and release the code under the AGPL as Nethernet’s last hurrah.

Pathfinder Db0, signing out…

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PMOG Mission: The War on Science

A Mission on the Nethernet about how Science is assaulted when it conflicts with Dogma

This is a post, for completeness and awareness sake, in regards to the new mission I’ve just created in PMOG

Initially the plan was just to type a short post with a link to the mission for anyone who wants to take it, but since I write pretty long descriptions, I think it would be a shame to just lose them. To this end, I’ve decided to post the whole descriptions, along with the links to the mission articles themselves, which will also serve as a notification to the blog authors that they’ve been linked to.

So, my newest mission is The War on Science.

If you have a PMOG account, you should already be taking it and if not, well…get one already 😉


Science is the accumulated knowledge of humanity that we have achieved through the scientific method and it has managed in a short 150 years to provide us with tremendous leaps in all aspects of human life.

However, this pure and neutral attempt of humanity to understand the world around it has been coming more and more under attack in recent years because it casts light into the shadows that people use to hold onto power

Follow me into a dangerous mission to understand why this is happening and how.

The Mission

Reining In the Fallacious Human Belief Machine

Our first stop is a more relaxed presentation of the Scientific Method (than a wikipedia article that is) and the classic problems you run into if you avoid it.

It is an unfortunate fact that human reasoning alone is not sufficient to understand the world. We are simply to error prone and this is why 2000 years of philosophy have not accomplished even a bit of what science did.

Why Things Suck: Science

But if science has managed to provide us with so much in its short time of use, why is it creating so many negative feelings?

Short answer: It makes us look bad,

Skepticism and Informed Consensus

But of course, science is not at war with everyone. Indeed, it is an invaluable boon to sceptics everywhere as it provides a rock-solid base for their beliefs.

The ability to question theories which go against real knowledge without having to “re-invent the wheel” every time is a great resource that helps to debunk and refute unrealistic or dangerous beliefs

The “Radio Wave” Argument

It is a common tactic of science-opponents to claim knowledge of something undiscovered or to hide in the gaps of our knowledge

But what people do not understand is that this is useless. Claiming to be able to see, feel or hear something no one else can, is of use to no one but yourself. And even that is disputable

Science vs. religion: no contest.

It is common for Science to be misrepresented as an “Atheist’s religion”, especially by religious proponents.

In truth, science has no direct relation with atheism other than the fact that it is, often enough, a fortunate result.

Science is not here to assault religion but it also does not care to appease it by conforming to it.

The Value of Science in Education

Science is oft misunderstood for it’s lack of absolute answers. While it can occasionally give you very high probabilities, it will never give you a 100% answer.

But is this a weakness? Far from it. It is, in fact, its greatest strength.


But is religion and superstition the only enemy? No.

Every belief that is unfounded in evidence has the habit of turning against science when truth does not conform to its wishes.

Witness how the Soviet Union in its anti-capitalistic fervor ignored the scientific findings, with catastrophic results for its food production.

Inhofe’s 400 Global Warming Deniers Debunked

The most high profile wars on science at this moment happen on the fronts of Evolution – from religious opponents – and Global Warming.

You see, where religion attempts to discredit the scientific method, the vested interests behind Global Warming denial are waging a war of misinformation, attempting to slow down governments acting on what Science has discovered in order to retain profits.

It has happened before with the Tobacco industries, and it is happening yet again.

Incredible Machine Full Version “AKA Pipe dream”

But science does not have to always be boring and difficult. As previous articles have said, there is beauty in science.

I will leave you thus with an amazing video of a purely mechanical construct that by using the laws of physics can produce a wonderful result.

PMOG: An unforeseen boon to the atheosphere.

Fellow Atheist, did you recently notice a sudden flux of visitors from blog posts that are not seemingly linking to you? Is so, this is because I’ve been playing around with a new online game and I’ve chosen some of your articles, that I consider interesting, to insert into the playfield, so to speak.

But even if you were not one of those few bloggers who’s posts I’ve chosen for my initial experiment, please bear with me and read the rest of this post. It might be interesting to you.

What I’ve discovered is a very new and fresh on-line game which does something novel. Instead of making players actively participate in the game, like all othe browser games, and as a result require a level of attention that not everyone can afford; it turns the concept on its head and makes the whole internet the playing field. This name of it is PMOG and I think it might have the capacity, if used right, to help the blogosphere and especially the atheosphere, become both more contextual and fun.

I will not go into the details of what PMOG is or how it’s played but I want to explain why it has such a potential.

if you set aside than silly mine pranks and random fooling around with friends, the game’s true power appears in the form of missions. Basically what missions are (at least currently) is a collection of links to various pages in a serial format, along with a short description provided by the player who built the mission. This seemingly simple concept, allows something that is sorely missing.

You see, we currently have so much content produced every day that it is night impossible to find the truly interesting posts.The atheist blogroll is closing to a 1000 active blogs and it will only keep growing from there. I’m currently subscribed to almost all the blogs in the blogroll through an aggregator and I have to wade through a lot of uninteresting and repetitive posts every day just to find one or two that say something worth reading (for me).

Yes, I’ve prioritized a few blogs where almost everything written is interesting but I truly feel that there are underdogs out there who’s thoughts remain untapped while the big hitters like Pharyngula draw all the attention. Sure, places like Challenge Religion and the Carnival of the Godless help to cut through the mud, but their posts always seem disconnected from each other.

My idea then, is to use the mission capability of PMOG in order to create ad hoc “carnivals” that follow a theme and can also provide a customised commentary from the organiser in the form of pointers or clarifications.

This will have two effects that I can initially see:

  • We have cohesive groups of posts that do not depend on a computer algorithm or people belonging to the same group. Thus I may have a mission about ethics and link to people who are members of the atheosphere (generally Atheist blogroll or Planet Atheism) along with ones who are not but have something relevant to say and most of us would miss.
  • Given enough of us participating on this and allying with each other, we can push our missions to the top of the pile. This provides us with access to eyes we could not reach before.
    Already, one mission on morality that I’ve created which hit 4/5 stars rating, generated 50 hits to my article which is almost as much as a CotG. If you consider that this game is still very very new and attracts people outside atheism as well, there is true potential to increase readership on the articles that are worth it.

Now, this is just the tip of the iceberg as well. Using items like portals for example, we can utilize our distributed power to create a network of relevant links. Imagine for example someone visiting the Expelled official website and the first thing that pops up is a 5-stars Expelled Exposed portal that the owners of Expelled cannot remove. As the popularity of the game increases, this can only grow more powerful for us, which is an even better reason to join in early.

Currently most missions are the random favorite sites each player has which just as fun (AKA not) as surfing on del.icio.us and makes the overall quality very low. I believe that if we can start improving this quality through the blogosphere, with better descriptions and interesting (underground or not) articles, we can easily take over.

Finally consider that the game can only become more interactive as time goes on. It will not be too long until we can create missions with riddles, votes and whatnot.

In any case, this was my little idea for the day. You can see the two initial missions that I’ve created as a proof of concept. For them, I used the items I marked as shared and starred in my google reader (It pays to do that sometimes).

Hopefully, I’ve managed to convince at least a few of you to try this out just in case it’s worth it. In case you do, please add me as an ally so that I am aware of you and we can run & rate each other’s missions.

One last thing. Currently the game is under a lot of load from a recent sudden popularity hit so you might run into the occasional slowness or outright failure. Also, I failed to mention it until now but it requires Firefox and a special extension in order to play it.