Instagram Live Now Hosts More People With ‘Rooms’

Everything may be happening on screens these days, but people haven’t let that box them in. Musicians have made music videos on Zoom, with backup dancers performing choreography in their own separate squares. Public figures have given interviews on Clubhouse, with audience members asking heated questions from their homes. Chefs, whose restaurants had closed, are offering cooking classes to audiences on Twitch, preparing the same meal miles apart.

People have also turned to Instagram Live, as Verzuz rap battles became appointment viewing and influencer interview series made headlines. But the feature, which has been around since 2016, always had one major limitation: You could only broadcast with one other person at a time. Now, Instagram is expanding Live with Live Rooms, a feature that lets up to four people join a broadcast. The company hopes it results in more creative use of its platform, as it competes to keep people’s attention amid a growing number of options.

While Instagram Live has supported two-person streaming for years, the company says it was never a very popular feature. Then the pandemic arrived, and that changed dramatically. Last February and March, the company says it saw 70 percent more viewership on Instagram Live than in previous months. Creators also started going live with a partner more often. Having more than one guest, however, required some juggling. When Diddy hosted a charity event on Instagram Live for health care workers in April, he had to rotate celebrities like Cardi B, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Michelle Obama in and out of the second spot.

“The number one most requested feature was, ‘Can I go live with multiple people?’” says Kristin George, Instagram’s director of product for creators. With Live Rooms, anyone can start a live broadcast and then add up to three guests, who will receive a push notification inviting them to join. Each person appears in their own square, similar to a video call, but with the usual trappings of an Instagram stream: Live comments appear onscreen, creators can use augmented reality filters, and viewers can pay money in the form of “badges,” Instagram’s version of a digital tip jar. When building the function, George says four people seemed like the maximum before rooms felt too crowded, but it’s possible that number will increase in the future.

rooms invite

With Live Rooms, anyone can start a live broadcast and then add up to three guests.

Courtesy of Instagram

Instagram started testing Live Rooms several months ago in India and Indonesia, large markets that had been extremely active on Instagram Live in 2020. So far, George says, she’s seen creative uses of the feature. One beauty influencer invited three friends to do a tandem makeup tutorial, showing how the products worked on different face shapes and skin tones. Another creator hosted a Bachelorette-style show with a woman and two potential suitors.

These types of crossover events aren’t just about creative expression—they’re also a growth strategy. By appearing together in a stream, creators can build each other’s audiences and cross-pollinate their networks.

For its global rollout on Monday, Instagram has organized a week of events to show what else the new feature can do. Programming includes several round-table discussions with creators, including two sessions to discuss the #BuyBlack movement, an effort to support Black-owned businesses that gained more attention last summer. Another Live Room, with prominent queer creators like Alok Vaid-Menon, Basit, Travis Alabanza, and Pidgeon, will raise money for the Transgender Law Center.

“I really believe collab culture is the future,” says George. “People want to create together even when they’re apart, or maybe especially when they’re apart. What’s been really interesting about what’s happening in the market right now on social media is that everyone’s leaning into that trend in a different way.”

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The Best Fitness Trackers and Watches for Everyone

Like every piece of gear you wear on your body day in and day out, fitness trackers are incredibly personal. Not only do they have to be comfortable and attractive, but they must also accommodate your lifestyle and when and how you like to work out. Did you just buy a Peloton, or can you only squeeze in a lunchtime walk? Studies are mixed on their benefits, but there’s never been a better time to find a powerful, sophisticated tool to help you optimize your workouts or just get in a few more steps every day.

We’ve tested dozens over the past four years to bring you these picks. Not quite what you’re looking for? Check out our guides to the best smartwatches or best running gear.

Updated March 2021: We removed older picks and added new trackers, like Amazon’s Halo.

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One Free Press Coalition Spotlights Journalists Under Attack – March 2021

In May 2019, WIRED joined the One Free Press Coalition, a united group of preeminent editors and publishers using their global reach and social platforms to spotlight journalists under attack worldwide. Today, the coalition is issuing its 25th monthly “10 Most Urgent” list of journalists whose press freedoms are being suppressed or whose cases demand justice. This iteration focuses on women in anticipation of International Women’s Day observed March 8.

In an industry long dominated by men, more and more female journalists around the world are telling important stories and reporting the news for their communities. These brave journalists face a unique set of challenges and threats. More than 70 percent have experienced more than one type of harassment, threat, or attack in the course of their work, according to a 2018 report published by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) and online threat monitor Trollbusters. Given the social stigmas tied to gender-based violence, many women may choose not to report incidents or to leave the profession.

Six of the women on the list this month are behind bars, and 13 percent of all imprisoned journalists in 2020 were women. One of the journalists on the list this month was murdered in connection to her reporting, and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has documented 70 female journalists murdered since 1992. At least one of the cases on this list has faced some form of targeted online harassment, an issue endemic to the industry. In terms of beat, the journalists on this list cover a wide range of issues and stories, but politics remains one of the most dangerous for journalists globally, according to CPJ research.

1. Tal al-Mallohi (Syria)
Syrian journalist, currently held without charge, has spent more than ten years in total behind bars. She is detained on the orders of a security adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Asad.

2. Solafa Magdy (Egypt)
Imprisoned freelance journalist faces rapidly worsening health conditions, medical neglect and abuse in detention.

3. Katsiaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova (Belarus)
Independent journalist and camera operator each sentenced to two years in prison relating to coverage of anti-government protests.

4. Maria Elena Ferral Hernández (Mexico)
March 30 marks one year since two unidentified men on a motorcycle shot and killed newspaper correspondent following prior threats.

5. Pham Doan Trang (Vietnam)
Web reporter and magazine founder, held in pre-trial detention since October, awaits trial on anti-state charges after facing years of threats.

6. Frenchie Mae Cumpio (Philippines)
Web journalist and radio anchor, who covers alleged police and military abuses, has been detained one year and could face a prison sentence of 6-12 years.

7. Anastasia Mejía (Guatemala)
Indigenous journalist was arrested for broadcasting—and accused of participating in—a protest against a local official. Her home was raided on the same day, and she was held in pre-trial detention for over a month.

8. Ayşegül Doğan (Turkey)
Turkish journalist is currently free, pending appeal, but faces more than six years’ jail time for bogus terrorism charges.

9. Neha Dixit (India)
Freelance reporter recently endured an attempted break-in, stalking and months of threatening phone calls that included death threats and references to her journalism, as well as an ongoing defamation case.

10. Haze Fan (China)
Bloomberg News Beijing staff member was detained on suspicion of endangering national security.

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What Life Is Like Under Myanmar’s Internet Shutdown

Rumors of a coup were spreading before the military acted. Sophie*, an American software developer, was at home with her young son and her husband Aung*, a union worker and Myanmar national, when Myanmar’s military took control in the early hours of February 1.

As the nation’s military leaders arrested Aung San Suu Kyi, president Win Myint, and other senior government figures, they also deployed a blunt tool of censorship: turning off the internet. Sophie, who was up early with their son, could still access the internet at home, as only phone data had been limited. The first she heard of the coup came from a New York Times article shared by a friend.

In the weeks since Myanmar’s military took control, internet shutdowns have become common, as documented by internet monitoring group NetBlocks. As protests have grown there have been total internet shutdowns and limits placed on individual services such as Facebook and its Messenger app. For most people in Myanmar, Facebook is the internet and is the main way people access news and chat with friends.

NetBlocks reports that for the past 12 nights the internet has been turned off like clockwork from 1 to 9 am. Civil rights group Access Now says the periodic shutdowns “facilitates abuse by, and impunity for, the military junta.” The shutdowns have been condemned internationally and make Myanmar the latest of more than 30 countries to turn off the internet in an attempt to assert control.

People in Myanmar also fear the internet shutdowns are being used to cover up nighttime arrests and violent crackdowns on protestors. When the shutdowns started the Myanmar division of telecoms operator Telenor started publishing orders it received but now says “it is not possible.”

The shutdowns have stopped friends and families from communicating and made it hard for people to work. But, more perniciously than that, it has added to the sense of fear in Myanmar. Sophie has recently returned to the US with her son while the coup is continuing, while Aung has remained in central Yangon and has been attending protests with thousands of others. With the nightly internet shutdowns and time difference with the US, their conversations are limited and difficult. Here they explain the reality of living through the shutdowns. The conversations have been edited for context and clarity.

The Coup and First Shutdown

Sophie: We were in our condo when the coup happened. I woke up early to look after my son and one of my friends from the US had messaged me a New York Times article about Aung San Suu Kyi being arrested. I had warned someone ahead of time that if they don’t hear from me that I’m fine. Everyone was really afraid and stayed inside.

Aung: I have a lot of union workers on my Facebook. They were all offline—the family I was talking to 20 minutes before were offline too. I couldn’t see anything on the internet, I couldn’t communicate from my phone. So I have to go out to my balcony to see what’s going on on the street. I could see my neighbor watching cable TV—we don’t own one—so I shouted across asking what was happening.

Sophie: You’re completely in the dark. There’s nothing to do because you’re so reliant on your phone, but you start to talk to your neighbors. That first weekend it was completely shut off. Nobody had the internet, nobody had a cell phone connection and we would hear protesters going down the side streets or the main streets. The ATMs and the banks were down and it had a huge impact because there’s no way to access money.

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Period Underwear Changed My Life—and I’m Never Going Back

I’ve tried six different brands with differing absorbency levels. You can read about them more in-depth in the menstrual products guide, but I have some favorites. If you want to make the switch, I suggest trying a few different pairs to find what works best for you and your body.

My favorite is Modibodi. It has the biggest range of absorbency levels with heavy-overnight and 24-hour options that should last you all night or all day without worry. It also has a patent on its lining design. The lining includes a top bamboo layer that wicks moisture and curbs odors, plus a merino wool middle layer that absorbs that liquid and keeps it locked in place to avoid getting your clothing bloody (or your skin from feeling wet). There’s also an extra waterproof bottom layer as an additional defense against blood soaking through them and staining your pants.

Another of my favorite pairs comes from the brand Knix. The company’s nylon styles were by far the comfiest; the silky feeling against my skin was a nice change of pace on those normally uncomfortable days. If you’ve ever felt like you could take on the world because your bra and underwear match despite no one else knowing, you’ll understand the feeling these nylon underwear give me. Maybe I’m bleeding and pretending my insides aren’t cramping up, but at least my underwear feels good, you know?

Knix uses a cotton top layer with spandex and carbon for moisture wicking and odor suppression, plus polyester middle and exterior layers for absorbing and trapping liquids.

Safety Concerns

I couldn’t rave on about how much period underwear has changed my life without mentioning the elephant in the room: in 2020, PFAs were found in certain pairs of Thinx menstrual underwear. Sierra Club writer Jessian Choy sent in several pairs of her Thinx underwear and Lunapads (now called Aisle) to Graham Peaslee, a physics and chemistry researcher at the University of Notre Dame. Peaslee found high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (chemicals commonly known as PFAs) in two of the three Thinx pairs, but not in the Lunapads. (Peaslee had previously discovered PFAs in fast-food wrappers.)

“It was enough PFAs that we are sure it was intentionally added to make a layer water resistant—which is a lot of PFAs in general,” Peaslee told WIRED when asked about his findings. Peaslee can’t say whether the amount of PFAs found in the underwear posed a risk to the wearer (PFAs are more harmful if ingested than if worn) but he does believe such “non-essential” use of these toxic chemicals should be avoided.

I talked to every company I tried, including Thinx, and all assured me that there are no toxic chemicals in its underwear. Some even started including language in their marketing noting that their products are PFA-free. We’re going to continue researching the topic, but we think these brands are being truthful about the makeup of their menstrual underwear, especially after this finding.

There’s not a lot of research in general about menstrual products. In fact, when I reached out to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists when I first wrote the menstrual products guide, it couldn’t answer much about any menstrual products at all because of the lack of peer-reviewed scientific research. Like a lot of aspects of personal care that women deal with, we have to take a leap of faith that the products designed for us aren’t going to harm us.

I just know that there’s little that makes me feel good when I’m bleeding from my vagina for the fifth straight day, and if period underwear can help me even a little, I’m not letting it go.


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The SolarWinds Body Count Now Includes NASA and the FAA

Some blasts from the past surfaced this week, including revelations that a Russia-linked hacking group has repeatedly targeted the US electrical grid, along with oil and gas utilities and other industrial firms. Notably, the group has ties to the notorious industrial-control GRU hacking group Sandworm. Meanwhile, researchers revealed evidence this week that an elite NSA hacking tool for Microsoft Windows, known as EpMe, fell into the hands of Chinese hackers in 2014, years before that same tool then leaked in the notorious Shadow Brokers dump of NSA tools.

WIRED got an inside look at how the video game hacker Empress has become so powerful and skilled at cracking the digital rights management software that lets video game makers, ebook publishers, and others control the content you buy from them. And the increasingly popular, but still invite-only, audio-based social media platform Clubhouse continues to struggle with security and privacy missteps.

If you want something relaxing to take your mind off all of this complicated and concerning news, though, check out the new generation of Opte, an art piece that depicts the evolution and growth of the internet from 1997 to today.

And there’s more. Each week we round up all the news we didn’t cover in depth. Click on the headlines to read the full stories. And stay safe out there.

In addition to infiltrating the unclassified networks of seven other US government agencies, the suspected Russian hackers who compromised the IT services firm SolarWinds as a jumping off point also penetrated NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration. Researchers and officials testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday about the scope and scale of the attack. The Washington Post reported ahead of the hearing that the Biden administration is preparing sanction against Russia related to the SolarWinds espionage operation and other recent incidents of aggression. The seven other breached agencies are the Departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, Energy, and State, the US Treasury, the National Institutes of Health, and the Justice Department. The White House said earlier this month that hackers also compromised 100 companies in the spree. “This is the largest and most sophisticated sort of operation that we have seen,” Microsoft president Brad Smith said during Tuesday’s hearing.

The New York City Police Department has a robot dog called “Digidog,” and the AI canine is already being deployed for real police work, like investigating a recent Bronx home invasion. For those concerned that police around the country might someday turn Digidog on a crowd of peaceful protesters or law abiding citizens, though, people are already trying to figure out how to disable the robot pups. Ideas include finding a way to flip the dog over, grab the hatch for the battery pack, and remove the doggo’s lithium-ion power. There are also power and “motor lockout” buttons on the dogs’ butts where you can deactivate them. Not quite as friendly as a wagging tail, but good to know if you’re ever in a bind.

Mozilla launched a new version of its browser on Tuesday, Firefox 85, that includes an expanded anti-tracking feature called Total Cookie Protection. It uses a technique known as “cache partitioning” to make it more difficult for third parties to track you as you browse the web. Cookies are assigned to individual sites, but if companies embed elements (like “iframes” and scripts) from each others’ infrastructure on their own sites, they can all start to build a picture of users’ browsing. By siloing the cookies your browser saves from each other, it’s more difficult for companies to use this technique.

After a week of revelations about major security shortcomings, Jamaica took down its JamCOVID website and app late Thursday. The platform is used to post statistics about Covid-19 infections and process travelers. It also has a self-reporting feature for virus symptoms. The platform exposed quarantine orders for more than half a million travelers who entered Jamaica back to March 2020. The orders include travelers’ names and their addresses while quarantining in Jamaica. The local news outlet Jamaica Gleaner first reported the exposure. Last week, TechCrunch found that Amber Group, the contractor that developed the platform, had an exposed Amazon Web Services cloud server that contained more than 70,000 negative Covid-19 test results and more than 425,000 immigration documents from travelers entering Jamaica.


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Clubhouse Cured My Imposter Syndrome

After just two months on Clubhouse, I finally understand how Theranos happened.

While articles, books, and films have covered the saga in excellent detail, some of my curiosity lingered: How could we be bamboozled by bullshit of that size and scope? I am curious no longer.

After surfing hundreds of rooms on the popular new social media app, I’ve been exposed to dozens of clones of Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes, some of them running companies that have (allegedly) raised tens or millions of dollars.

Clubhouse is a sort of audio Reddit, a throwback to the internet’s message board days, when exchanges were confined to singular spaces rather than the open-air experiences of Twitter and other platforms. Its distinct use of audio communication also creates unique opportunities and challenges.

Clubhouse users interact in “rooms.” In each room is a “stage,” where individuals can talk, and an “audience” full of people just listening, muted. Audience members can “raise their hand” and be brought onstage. Perhaps most important, rooms are started and governed by “moderators,” in charge of setting the stage, and ideally, curating the conversation.

The tech sector was the first to migrate to Clubhouse during the spring and summer of 2020. Though it has since expanded to many different subcultures and millions of users, the Silicon Valley signature remains strong. Among those who frequent the scene are the biotech companies that I’ve come across, the ones I call clones of Theranos and Elizabeth Homes.

On stage, these startup owners confidently utter things that either cannot possibly be true or are based on technologies with logical gaps so enormous that no informed person would bother investing as much as a Monopoly dollar.

I hear about reversing the aging process based on broken knowledge of cell biology, gene modification based on wild takes on quantitative genetics, artificial intelligence to cure Covid-19 without either a decent handle on the natural history of infection or the basics of how AI actually works.

When on stage during these exchanges—and able to speak—I mostly hold my tongue, even as my eyebrows undulate in skepticism or confusion.

Occasionally I’ll ask a C-level executive a probing (but friendly) question or two about basic, foundational things about how the technology works, and I’m greeted with a barrage of “I’ll get back to you,” “that’s a good question,” or the best: “Well, we’ll be able to address that after the next round of fundraising.”

The biotech sphere isn’t Clubhouse’s only arena of Theranos-level bullshit. Charlatanism lives in many rooms, including the ones that brought me onto Clubhouse in December: debates around Covid, and especially the vaccine. Since late fall, panels of physicians and scientists have utilized Clubhouse as a way to answer questions and keep communities informed. This is especially true for Black physicians and scientists, who spread information after early data that suggested that African Americans were relatively resistant to getting the vaccine.

Much of Clubhouse’s dynamism can be found in a lively Covid-19 discussion. There are eager and curious people with perfectly valid questions about the safety of the vaccine. There are skeptics who have been lost in a web of YouTube-inspired science fiction about vaccines infused with nano robots. And then there are people who actively attack medical and scientific expertise, and its purveyors. For example, I’ve been threatened with physical harm, criticized for pushing a “European education agenda,” and chastised for pushing a “Stalinist medical agenda.”

The misinformation and grifting doesn’t end there: On Clubhouse, there are “geneticists” whose main claim to fame is in putting a battery in the back of white supremacists, “quantum experts” who speak of alien intelligence, and “scientists” who argue that aging is a singular disease whose death burden can be compared to that of Covid.

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NFTs Boom as Collectors Shell Out to ‘Own’ Digital Art

NFT technology, Harrison says, provides a way to attach a price tag to digital art, tapping into that primal high-quality hoarding instinct—the quest for status-affording Veblen goods, coveted only insofar as they are pricey—that is behind many collectors’ urge. Mix that with a frothy community eager to trade and meme any new shiny blockchain-adjacent construct to considerable prices and the trick is done.

“In this digital world, we have accelerators: Suddenly you could get three or four times what you paid for something—tomorrow there is someone ready to buy it,” Harrison says. Even better, blockchains are also able to keep track in a secure, immutable way of how a token originated and changed hands over time. “Provenance is obviously an important part of the value of art,” Harrison says.

The crowd buying NFT-linked art is varied. Some of its members are cryptocurrency magnates looking for the newest thing to plunge their savings into. “People who were early in crypto and have a bunch of ether [Ethereum’s cryptocurrency], they’re looking for ways to use it,” says James Beck, director of communications and content at ConsenSys, a blockchain company that has built an app to store and manage NFTs. They want to show, Beck says, that they are “patrons of the art on the internet.”

It helps that some NFT marketplaces allow people to showcase their purchases like in an online gallery or museum. Jamie Burke, founder and CEO of blockchain investment firm Outlier Ventures and an NFT enthusiast, is one of those keen about their newfound role as digital arts supporters. Burke says that he was initially turned off by the early, “self-referential” cryptocurrency-focused artworks—strewn with Bitcoin signs and pixelated memes. But when he got more interested in the space, in summer 2020, he was “blown away” by the new artists.

“This was art in and of its own right that I would buy, and I liked the idea that I could have a unique digital edition of it,” he says. “I just started collecting, personally, and trying to get new artists and professionals who are coming into the space. I’m building a bit of a collection.” That does not mean he turns down a good deal when it presents itself. On February 13, he sold an NFT he had paid $500 for, for $20,000 in ether. Announcing the sale in a tweet, Burke said he would use the return to buy more art.

Harrison says that while the market right now is crawling with speculators who would buy and flip any blockchain-based asset in the hope that it increases in value, bona fide collectors are increasingly getting involved. “It’s a combination of people who are just speculative and people who want to collect and have something cool,” he says. “My role is to balance an element of speculation with enough people that want to buy something because they like it, and they want a hot collection habit. If everyone is buying to speculate, it doesn’t work, then it just becomes another tradable token.”

Some digital artists are welcoming of the trend. Most platforms are simple to use, allowing them to upload their works, automatically “mint” NFTs, and wait for the offers to rain in—and these are often higher than the sums they would receive if they tried to sell their digital artworks online or as prints. Brendan Dawes, a UK graphic designer and artist who creates digital imagery using machine learning and algorithms, says that a print of one of his pieces would typically sell for $2,000, while his latest NFT sold for $37,000.

The profits don’t stop there. NFTs can be designed to pay their creators a cryptocurrency fee every time they change hands. If a buyer of one of Dawes’ pieces resells it, Dawes automatically receives 10 percent of the price paid. “That’s again one of the differences when compared to the traditional world. You get this ongoing royalty.”

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The 20 Best Weekend Deals If You Work From Home

We’re coming up on a year since the pandemic first imposed a lockdown in the US, forcing many people to work from home for the first time, and kids to learn remotely. If you’ve yet to make a home office of sorts, temporary or not, now is still a good time, as the pandemic isn’t disappearing just yet. We found several deals this week that can help you get it together, and if you already have your own space, maybe you’ll find something here that’ll make remote learning and working just a little more comfortable.

Our guide on setting up a home office and our work-from-home gift guide have more ideas.

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Workspace Deals

standing desk
Photograph: Amazon

If you need a new desk, chair, or monitor, a few of our favorites are on sale. You’ll also find a deal on a standing desk mat and monitor mount, among others items.

  • Jarvis Bamboo Standing Desk for $479 ($50 off): This is our favorite standing desk. There are desk frames in three height ranges to choose from, and the site explains how to measure and find the perfect fit for your needs. You can save four presets to easily switch between your preferred heights. Depending on the finishes you choose, this desk can cost slightly more, but with the current sale, you can get higher-end finishes for less than normal.
  • FlexiSpot EN1 Standing Desk for $300 ($60 off): WIRED senior associate editor Julian Chokkattu notes that this desk is slightly more time-consuming to assemble than the instructions suggest, but it has the perks of a motorized standing desk at a cheaper price. It can go from a height of 28 to 48 inches, and you can save three height presets. The surface is made from environmentally friendly chipboard, and it doesn’t feel cheap.
  • Staples Ardfield Mesh Back Fabric Task Chair for $60 ($70 off): Reviews editor Jeffrey Van Camp recommends this chair after testing “all the chairs at all the stores” (in the Before Times). It’s not his favorite—that’d be the Staples Hyken, also slightly discounted—and it may not last you a lifetime, but it’s significantly cheaper than most options, especially on sale.
  • LG 34-Inch Ultrawide Monitor for $320 ($60 off): Ultrawide monitors are nice if you need more screen—you can run two full-size browser windows side by side, and many of the Gear team members own one. Van Camp recommends this model, which has a 2,560 x 1,080 resolution, HDMI and DisplayPort inputs, and a speedy response time (if you game during downtime).
  • Vissles-M Portable Touchscreen Monitor for $189 ($20 off): A portable monitor lets you tote it from room to room, so you don’t necessarily need to stay tethered to one desk. It plugs into your laptop via a cable, and you can use it as a secondary screen. Our review has more information.
  • Amazon Basics Premium Single Monitor Stand for $124 ($11 off): Mounting your monitor to an arm such as this one helps you get back some of your desk space. If you have a monitor that’s 32 inches or smaller (that leaves out the ultrawide above), you can use this Amazon Basics arm. We haven’t tested it ourselves, but it comes highly recommended. Need something for a bigger monitor? We like this one from Monoprice.
  • Logitech G513 Mechanical Keyboard for $131 ($20 off): This is our favorite keyboard for most people. It’s relatively quiet (for a mechanical keyboard), comes with a NumPad, and has RGB lighting, but you can turn it off if you prefer.
  • Logitech G203 Wired Mouse for $28 ($12 off): This is in our Best Mouse guide, and it is our pick for the best under $50. Don’t let its low price fool you—it can compete with higher-priced models in sensitivity, and you get six buttons.
  • Aukey FHD Webcam for $28 ($32 off): It’s not our favorite webcam, but it’s one of the only ones consistently in stock, and it’s affordable. It reliably sits on top of a monitor.
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 and 27-Inch M5 Smart Monitor for $620 ($100 off): If you already had any interest in getting an Android tablet, you can save $100 on Samsung’s new smart monitor if you buy them together. The tablet is rugged, so it’s meant for a more active environment, and the monitor has a TV interface for when you’re done with work. An option will come up to add the monitor once you add the Galaxy Tab to your cart.
  • CubeFit Terramat for $100 ($5 off with coupon): It’s not a huge discount, but an anti-fatigue mat like this can make standing at a desk more comfortable. There are built-in ridges and bumps that help stimulate and massage your feet, plus a balance bar to work your core and wedges positioned to stretch your calves. Click the on-page coupon to see the discount.

Work From Home Accessory Deals

Image may contain Electronics Phone Mobile Phone and Cell Phone
Photograph: Upright
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How Blizzard Transforms Its Fans Into Employees

“My interview was right after the first Blizzcon,” he said. “I really felt like Blizzard was, and is, a haven for how games should be made. A lot of the leaders in the company are video game creators. We kinda understand the player ethos.”

Brack touches on a refrain you hear constantly the longer you spend around the games industry. Blizzard is not the largest or most profitable publisher in the business. (In fact, it’s not even in the top five.) But traditionally, it has carried a bespoke milk-and-honey aura that none of the other major players—not EA nor Ubisoft nor Microsoft—can muster. It’s hard to say why that is. Obviously, Blizzard possesses some remarkable gameplay bona fides; the company’s multiverse is beloved and untouchable, and it often seems like everyone who identifies as a gamer has at least one Blizzard franchise that they obsess over. But there’s also this strange, ethereal quality to its mystique—as if the studio represents the game-dev equivalent of Shangri-La. You feel it from the moment you step onto the Irvine, California, campus and stand under the bronzed Orc warrior who guards the circumference of gray, sunbathed office buildings. Even if you have no vested curiosity about 3D modeling or AI or any of the other grimy challenges that come with building a video game, you’ll still feel like joining the cult.

Cora Georgiou would know. She tells me she majored in communication in college, and never expected to work in a gaming studio. After graduation, she got involved in the Hearthstone esports scene where she commentated on tense playoff matches between wordless grandmasters, but had grown fatigued of the inconsistency in contract work. That’s when she saw a posting for a Hearthstone design job. Georgiou suspected that she’d be out of her depth, but resolved to shoot her shot anyway.

“I was used to being the expert in the room, and now I was the small fish in a big pond. I went into every stage of the process not expecting to get further, and then I was offered a job and it was very, very real,” she said. “I was moving across the country to do something that I didn’t let myself really think I would be able to do.”

Georgiou believes that her passion for Hearthstone—hewn through five years of travel, tournaments, and interminable shifts in the broadcast booth—has helped her handicap for the elements of game design that she’s learning on the job. She may not be a balance maestro or a C# wunderkind, but she does know how much the community hated the Patches meta. Sometimes, that’s more than enough, and certainly enough for Blizzard who saw her as essential to their staff.

“You know how design philosophy has changed over time. You know which mechanics worked and which didn’t. You know what separates a good theme from a great one. You know exactly which designs we’ve already done,” said Georgiou. “This is just knowledge that we pick up over

time because we love playing so much. We know what we love most about playing Hearthstone, and what we don’t.”

Alec Dawson, another Hearthstone developer who previously broadcasted tournaments for the game, mentions that in total, there are five former competitive players on his team. Sometimes, thanks to their sixth sense for hidden synergies in the cards, they can flag an overpowered combo long before the other developers catch on.

“[They can] tell you what’s going to be broken when the next set comes out. They’ll use their competitive side to break whatever you throw at them,” said Dawson. “We actually had a recent hire come into our team-wide playtest and decide that he wanted to build his own decks instead. I only remember this because in our QA report it was pointed out that one player used an unassigned Mage deck and then went 13-1.”

Allen Adham, one of Blizzard’s co-founders, says it’s crucial to keep new blood like Georgiou and Dawson rotating into the company’s brigades. A superfan’s instincts can challenge the orthodoxy established by those who’ve been around a project since pre-Alpha. As Adham puts it, game development is a bit like cocooned in a spaceship. You’re bouncing ideas off the same handful of people everyday, and sometimes an injection of fresh blood may be in order to break up the echo chamber. However, Brack also mentions that sometimes, a grognard’s perspective on what a game needs can be equally skewed. A hire that has 300 days played in World of Warcraft doesn’t necessarily ensure that they’ll be a great developer. “Someone who is really hardcore is not going to understand the first-time user experience, or someone who’s a 35-year-old dad coming into the game,” he said. “You need to screen for that.”

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