My Tour of Pixar

Last Wednesday, I got to visit Pixar’s Emeryville campus, which is just a short bus ride from my house. We got visitor badges from the security guard, and entered the campus. It’s gorgeous. There are lots of tree-lined paths and brick, metal, and glass buildings. Our friends Patrick James and Kim Ross who work at Pixar gave us a tour of the facilities.

Visitors are normally only allowed to visit the parts of the office with wood flooring. The carpeted areas are off-limits. You’re not allowed to take pictures in the upstairs gallery. After we walked around the balconies and bridges that surround the Cafe Luxo and Pixar Gift Shop, we walked on the forbidden carpet and walked past Pixar’s beast of a render farm and into the sports area. In addition to the soccer field in front of the Steve Jobs Building, Pixar has a basketball court, a heated swimming pool, and a volleyball court. Pixar encourages their employees to take breaks regularly to prevent injury.

After lunch (a delicious spiced-chicken piadina at the Cafe Luxo) we went back past the sign reading “Closed Set; Producer approval and employee escort required” with our guides to see Pixar’s crazy offices. I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures, but you can search online for pictures of the crazy cubicles. Here are my favorites:

  1. The small, Mexican-themed shed, complete with a sign reading “Tacocat Taquera” and wall of books about Pixar and animation.
  2. The Indiana Jones-inspired cubicle with old maps, props, and photographs, and vines hanging from the curved ceiling

We also saw a group of people wearing blue and red jumpsuits. They’re the animation interns, and they always wear ridiculous outfits on certain days. It supposedly comes from an “old” Disney tradition.

What Does Facebook Know About You?

The internet is an integral part of everything that we do. We use Google Drive to do work, watch our favorite shows on Netflix, and connect with our friends on Facebook and Instagram. News about Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, and Russian meddling has raised questions about our privacy online, and what is done with the wealth of information collected by Facebook and other websites.

Recently, Facebook added the ability for users to download a “data archive,” a large file that contains almost everything Facebook has collected about them. Many people have been surprised, and even horrified by what they have found in their archive. Dylan McKay discovered that Facebook had logs of calls between him and his partner’s mother. He posted a screenshot on Twitter, and numerous other users replied that they had found similar data in their archives.  Facebook stores information many feel is unnecessary. Following the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal involving the sale of data from more than 87 million users, many internet citizens worry about the safety of their personal data. Facebook claims that they do not share your data, and that it is used for internal purposes only, but these claims are obviously no longer dependable.

Facebook claims that they do not share your data, and that it is used for internal purposes only, but these claims are obviously no longer dependable.

As if the billions of active users on Facebook didn’t generate enough information, Facebook also has ways of collecting information about users when they’re not on the Facebook website or in the Facebook app. Facebook provides many “free” services to website owners to enhance their websites that tend to also benefit Facebook. One such service is called a Social Plugin. Social Plugins, as Facebook calls them, are small pieces of code that developers put on their websites that allow users to “like” that page or user without visiting Facebook. Even if one isn’t logged in to Facebook, the plugins are also used to track the websites that users view, because Facebook can connect an IP address (a unique set of numbers that identifies your computer online) to a Facebook account. Another way they can track users is with Facebook Logins. A Facebook login is a way that websites can have you log in to their services. Instead of entering a username and password, users can click a button to sign into a website using their Facebook account. Like social plugins, these track your browsing history to target ads. Another tool developed by Facebook that can collect information is the Facebook Audience Network, Facebook’s advertising network. Like Google’s AdWords network, this allows website owners to display ads from Facebook advertisers on their website for a small profit.

“So, how do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?” Senator Orrin Hatch asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on April 10. A smirking Zuckerberg replied, “Senator, we run ads.” While the 84-year-old senator from Utah may not have completely understood how Facebook makes money, it is important to understand how Facebook profits off user data. The Washington Post reported in August of 2016 that Facebook has more than “98 personal data points that [they use] to target ads to [users].” When Facebook updated the Ads Manager (the platform used to create and publish advertisements) in 2015, they added hundreds of categories for advertisers to target users. Some notable data points include house square-footage, political affiliation, year house was built, and net worth.

It’s just a matter of time until Facebook slips up again.

Advertisers use these advanced features to target ads to very specific groups of users. They can even pay Facebook to send ads based on location. According to CBS News, Facebook can track users’ locations even when they aren’t using the app. This allows Facebook to push ads for stores and offers near users’ current locations. Facebook will also “suggest” content and advertisements based on places visited in the past. Even worse, Facebook keeps a map of users’ precise locations. While some users have disabled this feature, it is still an unsettling thought for most people.

With new data laws and lots of bad press, Facebook has started working to collect less information on billions of Instagram and Facebook users, and improve the security of that data. However, Facebook is an advertising company at its core, and they will always probably know more about you than you expect. It’s just a matter of time until Facebook slips up again.

Adobe’s Pricing Sucks

TL;DR: Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, Adobe should let users mix and match.

Let’s suppose that I want to purchase Photoshop. I head to the Adobe website, and navigate to Photoshop’s page. So far, so good. I choose “Buy now.” This is where everything falls apart.

For $20.99/month you get:

  • Adobe Photoshop CC
  • 100GB of cloud storage

For $19.99/month you get:

  • Adobe Photoshop CC
  • 1TB of cloud storage
  • Adobe Lightroom CC
  • Adobe Lightroom Classic CC

Yeah. It makes no sense to me either. I’m sure there’s some logic behind it, but I haven’t figured it out yet. I saw this, and immediately thought of a better way to do this. I’m not sure if it’s financially viable for Adobe, but here it is:

When I go to buy Photoshop, I now only have two options. One option is to purchase all the apps in the Adobe Suite for a certain monthly fee. The new second option is to mix and match. Here’s how that would work:

  1. Choose how much cloud storage you need: 20GB, 100GB, 1TB, etc.
  2. Choose the apps you need. The apps would be priced similar to how the single app plans are now. The more popular apps would be more expensive, but as you added more apps to your plan, the monthly price for each app would decrease until all the apps had been added, and the mix and match price was the same as the full suite price.

Let me try to rephrase that if you didn’t get that. The more apps you buy the cheaper each app gets. The apps keep getting cheaper until the entire Adobe suite is added to the plan and the price is the same as the plan that includes all the monthly apps. Cloud storage can also be easily chosen, as all of Adobe’s apps have some kind of connection to the cloud. Someone with Adobe InCopy CC (text files) won’t need as much space as someone with Adobe Lightroom CC (full-resolution, usually RAW, image files).