Weekend Roundup: Ubisoft’s Culture Reset, Tesla’s New Factory

It’s Friday! Before you shut down for the weekend (yes, it’s okay to close your laptop), let’s check out some of the big tech stories from the week, including Tesla’s latest factory announcement and an attempt to fix the toxic culture at Ubisoft.

Ubisoft Ties Employee Pay to Culture Change

Ubisoft (maker of video games such as the Assassin’s Creed franchise and Watch Dogs) is facing a reckoning over its internal culture, and that’s having a direct impact on how much some of its developers and other technologists get paid.

According to a new Bloomberg report, “more than a dozen people” have alleged sexual harassment and abuse at the company, some of it by top executives. Bloomberg isn’t alone in surfacing such allegations; earlier this month, a Kotaku article broke down patterns of bad behavior within Ubisoft. 

Ubisoft’s PR firm responded to those Kotaku allegations with a boilerplate statement about promising to do better (“The recent claims and allegations are deeply troubling, and we take them, and the underlying questions they raise, very seriously.”), but now it seems there’s some actual change afoot: some employees’ compensation is now tethered to the creation of a “positive and inclusive workplace environment.”

What does that actually mean? Apparently, Ubisoft’s team leads’ bonuses will hinge on how effectively they create that kind of trusted environment. In addition, Ubisoft has hired outside consultants who will investigate the company’s culture, as well as a new head of workplace culture. 

These shakeups suggest that Ubisoft is serious about fixing its issues. However, it will take time for the changes to actually take effect. 

Tesla’s New Factory Is In…

After a very public search, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has announced that his company’s next factory will open outside of Austin, Texas. The new facility will produce the Cybertruck as well as Model Ys and Model 3s, and perhaps the (still-in-development) Tesla Semi. A shower of tax incentives likely helped Texas triumph over Oklahoma, which was the other state in the running for the factory site.

Once fully operational, the factory will employ 5,000 workers. It will also feature bike paths and hiking trails, leading Musk to describe it as “an ecological paradise.” Which is definitely not a term usually used to describe a site devoted to heavy industry.  

Facebook’s Latest A.I. Tool 

Facebook is using A.I.-powered bots to simulate real people behaving badly on its network, giving engineers a testbed for ways to curb trolling, scamming, and other unpleasant behavior. 

“We apply ‘speed bumps’ to the actions and observations our bots can perform, and so quickly explore the possible changes that we could make to the products to inhibit harmful behavior without hurting normal behavior,” Facebook engineer Mark Harman told a recent reporter roundtable

While this research is still in its early stages, its findings could enable other tech companies to simulate human behavior on their platforms, which… well, maybe it’ll make things a bit more civil. Then again, maybe not.   

Have a great weekend, everyone! Remember to keep washing those hands!