Select Page
An Interview With a Guy Who Got a Vasectomy During the East Coast Earthquake

An Interview With a Guy Who Got a Vasectomy During the East Coast Earthquake

A 4.8-magnitude earthquake shook parts of the East Coast of the US on Friday. I was safe in my apartment wondering if the violent rocking in my building was because my neighbor was running their washing machine or if my building’s bad pipes were finally about to rupture in a spectacular fashion.

But Justin Allen, a stay-at-home father from Pennsylvania, was probably in the absolute last place you’d want to be during an earthquake. He was laid out on an examination bed with a doctor’s hands, and pointy objects, snipping at his testicles.

About an hour after Allen left the clinic and ran to the pharmacy, he called WIRED to chat about the absurd timing of his vasectomy.

Makena Kelly: OK. First off, are you all good?

Justin Allen: I’m good. Just got home. Starting to relax now.

Were you already nervous before the procedure started?

I already have white-coat hypertension. So my blood pressure was already super high when I got in, and I was definitely nervous. The doctor walked me through it step-by-step, which was calming throughout the whole thing, but I’m always nervous over things like that.

At what stage of the procedure did this happen?

We were probably almost at the midway point. Essentially, the procedure started around 10:10 [am ET] and it was 10:24 or 10:25 that the earthquake hit.

Could you, uh, paint the picture for me of what it was like on that table?

I’m laying there. He’s in the middle of whatever he needs to do down there, and the whole building started shaking. I wasn’t sure what was happening. It definitely felt like an earthquake, but we don’t normally have those. I didn’t know if there was a train nearby or something that would cause the building to shake.

And then the doctor was like, “Oh my, God. That’s an earthquake.” I thought he was messing with me. I thought it was just him trying to be funny. But as this was happening, the desk staff outside the room started screaming about an earthquake, and I was like “Oh, wow this is really happening.” And the doctor puts the tools down and asks, “How long does an earthquake normally last?” and the nurse said, “I think about a minute or two.” So we stopped and waited, and he resumed as soon as it was done.

So he stopped right as the shaking happened?

I think so. He was toward the end of whatever step he was doing right then and there. But he did set the tools down for a moment to recalibrate.

And at that moment, how were you feeling?

We were laughing about it, because we’ve never really experienced it. So it didn’t seem like a dangerous earthquake. It was just kind of rumbling. And then the doctor, the nurse, and myself were all joking about how we’ll never forget where we were at this moment. I get this whole story for the rest of my life. That I had a vasectomy and the earthquake happened and I’m not living in California or anything like that. On the East Coast, it just doesn’t happen. It was certainly a surprise.

The Small Company at the Center of ‘Gamergate 2.0’

The Small Company at the Center of ‘Gamergate 2.0’

“There are marginalized devs who work on these games, and they want to put that stuff in their games,” Belair says, adding that it’s strange that players feel like characters of color, for example, need to have their presence justified in any way.

“I’m a huge Uncharted fan,” Belair says.”’Why is Nathan Drake white?’ is not a thing we have to justify. He just is.”

Online, other devs at studios Sweet Baby works with have come to their defense. In a thread on X, a writer from Insomniac Games confirmed that, as consultants, Sweet Baby offers ideas, feedback, and writing. “But none of that gets into the game unless THE CORE DEV TEAM AGREES WITH IT,” the writer, who has since locked their account, posted. “Sweet Baby is not, nor is any consulting group, coming in to wreck games. They’re helping smooth out plots and deepen characters. They ease the burden on the core narrative team.”

The thread’s top response? “Get out of our hobby and take them with you.”

The harassment campaign against Sweet Baby comes as the game industry undergoes a period of immense contraction. Some 8,000 gaming industry employees have reportedly already lost their jobs in 2024. Nearly one-third of developers were impacted by layoffs last year, and there’s a growing movement within the industry for workers to unionize to protect the jobs that remain. The collective loss of talent the game industry is undergoing will inevitably have an impact on the quality of video games to come.

Yet, on the Sweet Baby Inc Detected Discord, where users often decry what they see as a decline in video game quality, there’s little care for the tumultuous year the industry has had. “I feel nothing for these developers who lost their jobs,” wrote one user.

For Sweet Baby cofounder David Bédard, that dissonance is jarring. “They love games but hate the people who make them,” he says. “They won’t get games if there’s no more people making them.”

This is true outside Sweet Baby’s ranks, too. Last year, a poll conducted by the organizers of the Game Developers Conference found that more than 75 percent of game devs surveyed believe harassment from players is a “serious” or “very serious” problem.

All this amounts to Sweet Baby becoming a scapegoat for anything players hate in games, especially as it relates to diversity and inclusion . Before, Bédard says, “they had nobody to point a finger at.”

“What they’re telling us is we’re the reason all these games are flopping. Some of these games are the most nominated or [award]-winning games from last year,” Bédard adds.

However Sweet Baby Inc Detected tries to paint the company it’s rallying against, Belair says the two have more in common than they think. “I don’t want tokenization either,” she says. “I don’t want forced diversity either.” Part of Sweet Baby’s job is to make characters more authentic and dynamic within their worlds—strong characters, she says, in the sense of how well they’re written and realized.

Frankly, Belair says, there are positive and interesting conversations to be had. “But they can’t start from this place,” she continues. “You can’t convince the conspiracy theorists. You can’t convince people who are hateful. You can’t change those minds necessarily. But at the very least, we can give other people a place to speak about what they believe, speak about their values, and to rise above it.”

Sweet Baby’s founders say that as far as the company’s business is concerned, the harassment campaign so far has been unsuccessful in interrupting their work. Their clients are supportive, says Belair, because many game studios are familiar with online abuse. Sweet Baby has been hesitant to directly address which characters or storylines it’s worked on, because Belair worries that could lead to harassment of other developers on those projects.

“You shouldn’t be sending this kind of hate to anybody,” Belair says. “If you didn’t like something, that’s just fine. Deal with it. Don’t buy another [game] if you don’t want to, but you don’t need to launch a whole campaign about it.”

Bluesky’s Future Is Social Media’s Past

Bluesky’s Future Is Social Media’s Past

Like any good citizen of the internet, I went hunting for memes when I first heard the news. Rachel Dolezal, the notorious race grifter who courted controversy in 2015, had been fired from her teaching gig for operating an OnlyFans account. I was in need of a good laugh. Only, I wasn’t having much luck.

I happened to be in foreign territory, on Bluesky, the Jack Dorsey-endorsed social media app hailed as The Next Big Thing, when News4 Tucson broke the story. A specter of a bygone era, Dolezal is considered Peak Internet. In June of 2015, while serving as president of a local NAACP chapter in Washington state, she was outed for racial cosplay. Although born a white woman, Dolezal posed as Black.

Debates ensued. Everyone had an opinion about her. There were thinkpieces, and thinkpieces about those thinkpieces. People accused her of co-opting a culture she had no right to, wearing a kind of blackface for personal gain. “Why can’t Rachel Dolezal transcend race?” Barrie Freidland asked in the Baltimore Sun. Ultimately Dolezal resigned and moved on with her life. That was the story, anyway, until News4 reported that she was now going by Nkechi Diallo, was living in Arizona, and had been recently let go from her teaching position in the Catalina Foothills district after officials there discovered she was moonlighting as a sex worker on OnlyFans.

The bounty and curse of social media are its users, and reaction was volcanic across several platforms as the news made its rounds—except on Bluesky, where the overall temperature was one of balmy disinterest. Dolezal’s local scandal isn’t exactly a litmus test for the app, but it does underline what Bluesky lacks: a harmony of difference.

The app opened its doors to the public this month, and genuinely curious what it had to offer, I decided to devote my first 48 hours to finding out, forgoing my typical media diet: doomscrolling Twitter, ogling TikTok videos shared in group chats, lurking on Instagram. I happened upon a few casual jabs—“A horny cringe demon is summoned from the internet archives. Pandora, close the damn box,” writer Saeed Jones posted—but the response was relatively tame. There was chatter about the shooting at the Chiefs Super Bowl parade. I even stumbled across a sweet photo of Alexander Chee’s french bulldog, Freya, who has a particular liking for the sound of wind chimes. Yet news of Dolezal’s firing could barely produce a decent meme.

My WIRED colleague Kate Knibbs is correct that Bluesky is “easy to use, but that’s because it’s so unoriginal—if you’ve ever tweeted, you’ll be familiar with the interface.” There’s a lightness to interaction that recalls so much of what I loved about social media’s sunrise years: posting for the pure fun of it. My first 48 hours on Bluesky were kind of like finishing a puzzle: anticlimatic, mildly entertaining. I kept waiting for more to happen. The first day especially was wasted by the tedium of finding people to follow, curating the flow and types of conversation that fit my needs. Of the conversation taking place, very little seemed to be happening in real time.

Part of that is a people problem. According to estimates from Similarweb, a digital data and analytics company, when Bluesky ended invite-only memberships it had nearly 2 million active users on Android, compared with its previous daily average of 600,000. The sudden slump resembled the same boom-and-bust pattern that occurred with Threads. Three days after opening the platform, Similarweb found that Bluesky’s Android daily active user count had dropped by 25 percent. (The company did not have estimates to share for iOS users.)

The life cycle of the social internet is one of tenacious rebirth, and it could be that my current frustration is about having to start over. Are we doomed to rebuild our digital presence every few years as platforms die out and new ones replace them?

TikTok’s Missing Music Is Making Users Very Upset

TikTok’s Missing Music Is Making Users Very Upset

#SwiftTok had a rough day. Early Thursday, after Universal Music Group and TikTok failed to reach an agreement on licensing music from UMG artists on the app, sounds from those artists—including Taylor Swift, Drake, and others—went silent.

“Some of my most viewed videos are ones talking about Taylor Swift that have Taylor Swift songs in the background,” says Savannah Delullo, a Wordle influencer on TikTok and a Swiftie. “So, them being muted is pretty sad, because we put in all of that work.”

Delullo notes that creators might switch over to alternative versions of the official songs or experiment with ways to avoid copyrighted music altogether, but still the mood on #SwiftTok is far from light.

“Half my drafts are muted now,” says Madeline Macrae, a Swift fan and TikTok creator. While initially frustrated by the change, Macrae thinks there might be positive impacts. Even though many ardent fans value the online community built through social media, some are also uncomfortable with the flattening of poetic songs into 60-second memes. “Songs that Swifties would usually gatekeep aren’t going to be TikTok-ified now,” she says.

It’s not just Swifties who are missing music on TikTok. Multiple videos posted on Olivia Rodrigo’s official account, including one with over 50 million views, are now quiet. Similarly, TikToks with UMG licensed music posted by Billie Eilish to promote her album display the message “This sound isn’t available.”

During recent years, UMG and other labels have built marketing strategies around getting songs to go viral with the TikTok algorithm. Younger users see the platform as a great way to discover their next favorite song and build out cool playlists. If TikTok and UMG don’t reach a new deal soon, the prohibition could dramatically alter how artists tease new music and connect with fans through social media.

In an email to WIRED, Barney Hooper, a global head of music communications at TikTok, indicated that the change impacts only music from UMG and confirmed that videos with previously licensed music will stay muted until another deal is closed. Soon, TikTok might also take steps to remove songs in the Universal Music Publishing Group catalog, which would increase the number of impacted artists.

So, licensed music from UMG artists is gone from TikTok, for now, but it remains unclear what will happen to unofficial remixes and mashups as the catalog is wiped from the platform. Viral sounds on TikTok are sometimes warped versions of an original song, with vocals frequently sped up, and while some of those sounds remained on the platform Thursday, they may not for much longer.

A well-known musician for almost two decades, Swift has seen her popularity skyrocket in recent years. Her Eras Tour is so massive it has the power to impact local economies and her appearances at NFL games to watch her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, play have altered football viewership this season. Losing her music as well as tunes from Drake and others in UMG’s lineup could alter the fabric of TikTok itself.

Swift’s songs may no longer be all over the platform, but music remains core to the user experience of scrolling through TikTok. The cascade of snippets from huge artists disappearing could even usher in a new era on the For You Page feed. “I feel like a silver lining to this is that smaller or independent artists can have their chance to go viral,” says Macrae.

With Its WWE Deal, the Netflix Pivot Is Complete

With Its WWE Deal, the Netflix Pivot Is Complete

A few years ago, Netflix fine-tuned its formula for success: original content, no live TV, no ads, and an unrivaled library of movies and series that it can air across the globe. As recently as last year, it mostly stuck to that plan. But as the streaming wars have evolved, the company has increasingly welcomed other peoples’ movies and shows onto its platform. And after dabbling in livestreaming with a Chris Rock special, a new deal with WWE to stream Monday Night Raw for the next 10 years shows just how thoroughly Netflix has rewritten its own rulebook.

Today, Netflix announced it will be the new home of Raw beginning in 2025. The deal will reportedly cost Netflix $5 billion over its lifetime. Coupled with a recent increase in the number of shows its licensing from sometimes-competitors, and its recent introduction of ad-supported tiers, the move demonstrates that Netflix’s new recipe looks more like: original content, old episodes of Suits, and even sports—or at least, the “sports entertainment” that WWE specializes in.

Netflix’s play here is very on trend. For months now streaming services have been vying to stock up on live sports offerings. Amazon bet big—like $1 billion per year for 11 years big—on the NFL’s Thursday Night Football games. Apple TV+ is all in on Major League Soccer. Hulu, because it shares a parent with ESPN, has been offering sports via Hulu + Live TV. Last fall, Max announced a partnership with Bleacher Report to offer a sports add-on that allows users to watch the games Warner Bros. Discovery offers through its TBS and TNT network (read: NBA and NHL games). This year’s Super Bowl will be streamed on Paramount+. The list is long.

Sports, however, are just part of the about-face Netflix is pulling—and it’s not the only one. In the early years of streaming, Netflix grew its subscriber numbers with help from content it licensed from other studios: The Office, Friends. In response to those studios forming their own streaming services—and to get around global licensing issues—Netflix went full-throttle on originals.

Last year, that tide turned back. Warner Bros. Discovery licensed HBO shows like Insecure and Six Feet Under to Netflix. Disney licensed some shows to the streamer too. And Netflix needed them. Netflix spends roughly $17 billion on content, both original and licensed, per year, but a great deal of the hours spent watching are still spent on licensed properties. Netflix originals have gained ground in recent years, comprising 53 percent of total series viewing time on the platform in 2022, up from 22 percent in 2017. But original content is more of a gamble than a known quantity like Suits, and Netflix-produced movies in particular have had a mixed record of success.

Going into 2024, it looks as though licensing is “in vogue again,” as Warner Bros. Discovery content sales head David Decker told The New York Times. Studios got money for their shows, Netflix got those shows in front of viewers. John Mass, president of investment fund Content Partners, told The Los Angeles Times in December that the streaming wars were over, “and Netflix has come out on top.”