Friday, April 20, 2018

Emails from AJHQ + Earth Week Day 2

Hey Jammers! Before I begin Day 2 of Earth Week, I have some new info from AJHQ themselves that will probably tie up the "Nat Geo Leaving" saga for good. (Hopefully, if no more noticeably unfortunate changes occur as a result)

I emailed AJHQ a few days ago– and got a very clear, non-automated response! 

For context, here is what I wrote:


"Dear AJHQ,

I have played your game for a long time and I love it a lot. Recently, me
and some other Jammers have noticed the erasure of National Geographic
content and logos throughout Animal Jam. On the official WildWorks
website, it says that the partnership between you and Nat Geo is still
projected to continue for another six years, so we are a little confused.

Is National Geographic still under an agreement with Animal Jam, or has
that been broken off?

I hope you are able to answer that question, but if not, I understand.

Regardless, thank you for maintaining such an awesome game."


Here is the reply I received:

"Hello,

We're so glad you think our game is awesome - we try!

National Geographic and Wildworks have mutually agreed to end the 
license agreement for use of the National Geographic name and trademarks inassociation with the Animal Jam virtual world.

We hope this helps.

All the Best,
Nicole
AJHQ"


So, there you have it! Confirmation that National Geographic is no longer going to provide content to Animal Jam. 

But this doesn't necessarily mean the end of Animal Jam's educational content, or that AJ is in danger of shutting down. Let me remind you of an email (from this same person from AJHQ) that was made public a few months ago:

"- National Geographic has never been involved with funding, building, or
publishing Animal Jam. Animal Jam is wholly owned and operated by
WildWorks. 
WildWorks has partnered with a number of outside institutions to advance wildlife conservation projects, contribute to our educational materials, and endorse the game itself. We will continue to explore synergistic partnerships in the future. 
- Animal Jam continues to grow and flourish as an online community, and WildWorks will continue expanding it with new features, content, and surprises. 
Animal Jam is in no danger of shutting down or changing. As we’re demonstrating with the Packs feature, we are always looking for ways to give players MORE for their membership dollar, and there are no plans to raise prices. 
We hope you continue to enjoy our products and games. 
All the Best, 
Nicole AJHQ"

You may not realize at first, but a lot of AJ's educational content already comes from places other than Nat Geo. For instance...


The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is associated with the Birds of Paradise Journey Book...


This image from a current museum exhibit seems to be sourced from the National Institute of Standards and Technology... maybe that means a partnership? Or at least an interaction?

But most of all:


I know for a fact that Tierney Thys and Gabby Wild are not directly associated with Nat Geo. They're staying!

Brady Barr works for National Geographic... and wears a Nat Geo hat in most of his videos... but I am really hoping that the new videos in his theater are proof that he's staying. 

It would be more a loss than a gain if the break in the Nat Geo agreement meant that any of the three scientists had to leave. :\

Now, we come to the big question: Why are AJHQ and Nat Geo calling it off?

I didn't ask AJHQ that directly, because they probably wouldn't answer it. My idea is that Wildworks' success has something to do with it. Now that AJ is the most popular browser game, they no longer need Nat Geo's support.

There's probably other stuff involved, too, but we don't know yet. :P


I also came up with a theory about why Brady's Expeditions were removed.

You can still watch playthroughs of it on YouTube, and you'll find that some footage around the intro looks like it might be from his National Geographic show Dangerous Encounters

If that's the reason why it was removed, then because no directly Nat Geo sponsored footage is used in Barr's normal videos, then he'll most likely stay! 

I'm gonna finish up talking about this now so I can finally get into Day 2 of Earth Week. 

Just know that everything is fine in the realm of AJ!!! 

If AJHQ broke ties, it's most likely for a good reason!

---

Welcome to Day 2 of Earth Week! If you didn't see my Day 1 post, here it is for context. I'm too lazy to explain everything again. :P

Information courtesy of April's issue of Nat Geo Kids magazine. Here are some things you can do to help Mother Earth!

Prevent Pollution


"Form a club in your classroom to reduce your waste at school. Monitor what's thrown away each week, and think about ways to cut down on those items."

(NOTE: You can also do this at home with your family!)


"People in the United States recycle only about 35 percent of their waste, so recycle what you can. Ask your teacher to help create a paper and plastic recycling program in your classroom."

(NOTE: Reduce comes before Recycle, so if there is not a recycling program near you, just try to Reduce the stuff you throw out.)

Combat Climate Instability


"Hand up and reuse your towels instead of washing them after each use. This saves water and energy."


"Livestock such as cows account for most of Earth's heat-trapping gas emissions. Eating more plants cuts down on the need for so much livestock."

(NOTE: Studies show that if all Americans stopped eating beef, all of the United States air pollution/climate change goals would be met!)

Prohibit Habitat Destruction


"Work a lemonade stand, host a bake sale, or sell homemade jewelry to raise funds to protect wildlife and their habitats."

(NOTE: Find out if there are any wildlife sanctuaries in your region and donate to them to make a direct impact!)


"Ask your parents to help you plant a garden full of local trees, flowers, and shrubs to provide habitats for native bees, birds, and other animals."

(NOTE: It doesn't need to be a big native garden to make a difference! I have a small-ish rectangle of Native Plants in my apartment's backyard and I see lots of cool animals. Every little bit helps. 

If you want to learn what plants are native to your region, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has a great and easy-to-understand database.)

Bring Back Biodiversity!


"Feeding animals makes them less fearful of and more dependent on humans, which negatively affects the critters' ability to survive. Human food can also make animals sick."

(NOTE: You can plant native plants on your property to help animals feed themselves!)


"Avoid souvenirs or other items made from animal parts like scales, teeth, feathers, tortoise shells, seashells, coral, and especially ivory. Animals were most likely harmed or disturbed to make them."

Thanks for reading, guys!!! 

As I said before, Earth Week is not about demanding you do everything on the list. Just doing what you can is what matters. :)

See you in Jamaa~

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Welcome to Earth Week!

Hey Jammers! Earth Day is coming up soon– on the 22nd, to be exact. But... one day is not enough time to fully celebrate the entire world, right?

So I decided, as my school is on April Break right now, why not make a post every day for five days dedicated to protecting the Earth? :D

It can be hard to know how you can do your part to help the planet, especially if you don't think what you do matters. Well I'll tell you straight up: everything you do matters! 

Most people give up trying because they think that individual actions don't help. Because millions of people think this way, a lot of damage happens! And we can all agree that that matters.

So with the help of an article from the April edition of National Geographic Kids, I'll show you how to do your part, in a time when the world needs it the most.


Prevent Pollution


"Experts estimate that Americans use about 500 million plastic straws a day, and they're one of the top 10 trash items found during ocean cleanups. 

If you must use a straw, find a reusable metal straw or a paper version."

(NOTE: My family uses bamboo straws– they're compostable!)


"Scientists estimate that about half the world's sea turtles accidentally eat plastic and other trash. Keep the ocean clean by never leaving toys or trash at the beach."


"Balloons eventually fall back down to Earth... and can end up in the ocean, entangling animals or being mistaken for food.

Skip the balloons at your next party, and ask your friends to do the same."


Combat Climate Instability


"Wear a warm sweater instead of turning up the heat, and open your windows and turn on a fan instead of blasting the air conditioner."

(NOTE: This is important because heating and cooling use up the most electricity in your house. If you wanna make a huge difference in your carbon footprint, try this!)


"Walk or bike as much as you can. Biking or walking just one mile a day for one year could save 330 pounds of carbon dioxide– that's the same as planting four trees and letting them grow for ten years!"


"Try to eat mostly in-season and locally grown fruits and vegetables. This cuts down on the energy used to grow and transport food, which reduces the release of pollution and heat-trapping gases."

Prohibit Habitat Destruction


"Palm oil is often used in products like chocolate, soap, ice cream, bread, cookies, and shampoo. But most rainforests are being destroyed in order to grow the trees that produce palm oil. Try to avoid buying products that use it."

(NOTE: Check the ingredients on the food you buy! If palm oil is included, choose another product if you can. For example, some peanut butter has palm oil, but some doesn't and is the same price.)


"Using too much water from lakes and rivers affect animals' habitats.

Conserve this resource by taking shorter showers, turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth, and bugging your parents to fix leaky pipes."

Bring Back Biodiversity*!

*Biodiversity refers to the different kinds of animals living in a region. 

If a region has only a few kinds of plants and animals, like a city, there is low biodiversity and the ecosystem is weak. Sickness spreads faster, for animals and humans.

If a region has many, many different kinds of plants and animals, like a forest, there is high biodiversity and the ecosystem is strong and healthy.

Human activities can hurt and kill animals, thereby reducing biodiversity. 


"Some people are scared of animals like wolves, sharks, and bats– and try to harm them out of fear. 

But these animals are super important because they keep their habitats healthy. So tell everyone how amazing they are!"

(NOTE: Do you know Yellowstone National Park? Grey wolves lived there for hundreds of years, but were made extinct in the region by humans many years ago. Because of a domino effect caused by their temporary extinction, the entire landscape changed for the worse. 

In 1995, when grey wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone, biodiversity increased and the entire landscape improved! 

Wolves, sharks, and other "scary" predators are called keystone species, meaning that if they become extinct, their entire ecosystems can become extinct.)


"Bluefin tuna and Atlantic halibut are large fish that reproduce and grow very slowly– so try to avoid eating them."

(NOTE: Tuna are actually straight-up endangered. But for some reason, you can still buy them at the store! A tuna sandwich is a normal thing you can find in your cafeteria!

Even if they are not endangered, any fish you buy from the store was most likely caught alongside sea turtles, sharks, and dolphins that accidentally got caught in the net.  When you eat any fish, you might as well be eating those, too. 

In general, try to avoid buying any fish at all.)

Thank you for reading! Remember, this list isn't a demand. Just do what you can. Helping the environment isn't about being a perfect person, it's about doing the best you can. :)

Everything in quotes comes from this April's issue of Nat Geo Kids magazine. For the next four/five days, I'll continue to transcribe their list of things that help the Earth in a more easy-to-understand way.

And if you have any questions, feel free to comment! :D

See you in Jamaa~

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Good News?

Hey Jammers! Because you probably know all about the update already, I won't repeat what you already know. 



But did you already know how cool the Sabertooth Heartstone looks? :D

Beyond the Jamaa Journal, I've found some good news, some weird news, and some not-so-good-but-if-you-read-my-previous-post-its-no-big-surprise news.

Which do ya wanna hear first!?!?


(silence)


Alright, I guess you can have the bad news first!



The bad news? More stuff has left AJ without notice. The first thing that I noticed was the Nat Geo "Cool Banner" item, gone without a trace. I really don't think it even went on clearance before being taken off. Ah well. I liked that item a lot, but because I'm nonmember I wouldn't have been able to use it anyway. :\

Over on the fantastic Animal Jam Whip blog, Nafaria AJ discovered that Brady's Expeditions, a semi-interactive video about snakes, has been taken down and replaced with the Jamaa map that was there originally. 

Additionally, the video about Brady Barr wearing a crocodile costume in order to observe crocs up close was also removed– you can assume that a couple other videos at the other two scientist areas (Tierney Thys' Aquarium and Gabby Wild's Animal Hospital) may also have been taken down.

About Brady's Expeditions: I'm disappointed it's gone, but it kind of makes sense considering that it was kinda forgotten by most everyone. I guess I'm biased because I remember when it came out– I think it's a great concept, but it didn't shape my AJ experience as much. Still, I don't like when things leave simply because they're not popular. 

After that bad news, wanna hear some good news?




New videos from Tierney Thys and Brady Barr!

I got kinda scared while I was writing my previous post because there were only a couple of videos in each theater, but since then, a lot have come out! Let's hope for a steady flow of cool new videos. :)

I think it's cool that Tierney Thys and Brady Barr answer actual questions from actual Jammers. At least the "Ask --- a Question" button implies that; I don't know anyone who actually knows their question was answered. Still, it's a great concept!!! I'd ask a question, but I can't think of one right now... hmm...

Can you think of a question? Maybe AJHQ will know how much we appreciate the educational videos if a lot of us send in questions!!

Sarepia Theater, unfortunately, remains the same. However, I just can't believe it will be like that forever. Either Sarepia Theater or the Conservation Museum Theater close so all the animations are in one spot, or the animations are just a placeholder until new content is found. Hopefully, the latter is the truth.

Here is some more good news, if this did not previously exist already:


Some recent-looking clickable facts have surfaced in Brady Barr's lab. If these have been there a while, please let me know in the comments. But if these are new, then yay! AJHQ still cares about nature facts. :)

Are y'all ready for some weird news? O_o

On my previous post, Talloose of the lovely Animal Jam Budgie blog commented, saying that there is a contract between WildWorks and National Geographic still in effect. 

I did some research today and found that this is, indeed, a fact.



On WildWorks' official website, under their Company Profile page, is the following statement:

"In 2010, we entered into an agreement with the National Geographic Society to incorporate their venerable brand and content in our fledgling online playground for kids, Animal Jam. 

In 2014, we extended that agreement for an additional 10 years, ensuring that the Animal Jam community will continue to benefit from National Geographic's unique educational resources."

So... this contract is still going, and it will continue to go for another six years.

So, why the erasure of the Nat Geo logo?

Why are so many videos getting taken down, as if Animal Jam is no longer allowed to associate with National Geographic? 

Will we ever find out?

Stay tuned... 

I'm going to try and write AJHQ an email...


Saturday, April 7, 2018

(UPDATED) Is National Geographic Leaving Animal Jam?

(STATEMENT FROM AJHQ AT END OF POST)

Hey guys, I kinda wish I could post about something more lighthearted today but I am kinda getting scared about something I haven't noticed until today.

It all started with this Jam a Gram:



(If you don't want your username up on my blog, tell me and I'll take it down)

For those who don't know, the TV item displays a bunch of images when clicked, one being the National Geographic logo. Curious about this, I went to Jam Mart Furniture. 



Yup. 

Oddly, the Nat Geo "Cool Banner" item is still here:



So... things are really unclear. The erasure of logos really seems to imply a shift away from a partnership with AJ.

Things are especially dramatic in Sarepia Theater:



ALL of the educational videos (minus Modern Major Kangaroo) are just gone! "Geckos" is gone, too! They've all been replaced by the CGI animations that already are being stored in the Conservation Museum theater. :(

The Conservation Museum, thankfully, has not removed any of its exhibits, and I really hope that the museum never goes away. It's the center of educational nature stuff on AJ. 

Tierney Thys and Brady Barr's theater used to have new videos regularly. Now each just has four.




What's going on!?!

The National Geographic copyright and logo is completely removed from all Animal Jam pages... except AJ Academy:




The image to the side of the page has the logo. Which is strange.

It may be important to note that the copyright is for 2016... two years ago. 

I have no clue when the science/art experiments on AJ Academy come out because they are not dated. 

I can't know whether or not Nat Geo is just providing educational content to some areas of Animal Jam, or just that the page has not been updated.

On the Nat Geo Kids website, the Animal Jam page is still up– but no longer accessible from the homepage:




All in terms of relating news, I can find is an article from early March:


"Animal Jam is a safe online playground for kids to meet new friends, but also to learn about science and the natural world," Stacey said. 

"The core fantasy behind it is you become your favorite animal and see the world through its eyes."

(Source)


Hopefully, Stacey means what he said. 

Looking up information about this, you will find a bunch of clickbait-y fear mongering YouTube videos with titles like "IZ ANIMAL JAM OVER!!!1!??"

And I'll answer that question for you...

it's not.

Animal Jam is the most successful virtual world, period. Last month it surpassed 90 million players. That's insane. I remember that little 10 Million celebration like it was yesterday...



That was 2013. And in terms of virtual worlds, that might as well have been just yesterday. It took AJ three years to get 10 million players, and only five more to multiply that by 9!

Animal Jam is incredibly successful. 

The breaking off of the partnership with Nat Geo might just be a sign of how successful they are. They no longer need the validation of a giant. 

I still sincerely hope that AJHQ will continue seeing educational content as a key component of Animal Jam. Hopefully, they may emphasize it just a little bit more.


Because without nature, Animal Jam is just Spiked Collar Simulator 2k18.

And that would get boring pretty quick.

~DoomyPanda


UPDATE

Someone in the comments section of a YouTube video emailed AJHQ about this.

Here is their response:

"- National Geographic has never been involved with funding, building, or
publishing Animal Jam. Animal Jam is wholly owned and operated by
WildWorks. 

WildWorks has partnered with a number of outside institutions to advance wildlife conservation projects, contribute to our educational materials, and endorse the game itself. We will continue to explore synergistic partnerships in the future. 

- Animal Jam continues to grow and flourish as an online community, and WildWorks will continue expanding it with new features, content, and surprises. 

Animal Jam is in no danger of shutting down or changing. As we’re demonstrating with the Packs feature, we are always looking for ways to give players MORE for their membership dollar, and there are no plans to raise prices. 

We hope you continue to enjoy our products and games. 

All the Best, 

Nicole AJHQ"

For context, this email was received about three months ago. Because I have been pretty busy these past three months, I haven't checked up on Sarepia Theater as much, but I'm assuming the deletion of the educational videos was fairly recent. I have some images on AJ Stream from early January that show a plethora of new videos. 

I guess Sarepia Theater is what I'm most upset about. It's my favorite underrated room. XD

Hopefully, the deletion of its videos is just a temporary thing. Hopefully, they come back.

Hopefully. o_o

Sunday, April 1, 2018

New Animals

Hey Jammers! I was planning to post about sabertooth tigers on Friday, seeing as I had a day off from school, but my brother took over my computer for the whole day. Then I started this post up yesterday, but due to being busier than expected, I never finished it. :/

But what matters is that I'm here now. Let's get to the update now, shall we? :D


As I thought before, that ambiguous lump of rock was not in its final form. 

Here's a comparison:


Hehe X)

You can definitely see some distinctive features on this lump that signify a sabertooth tiger.

I was initially confused why the Heartstone of a sabertooth tiger would surface in a swamp. Sabertooth tigers originally lived in grasslands and tundra, right?

But then I remembered something...


For fossils to form, conditions have to be perfect. Most plants and animals completely go back into the earth, but a few become preserved. Usually, swamps and bogs are good places to find fossils!

So that little mystery is solved. But there's another one about this update that may be a little trickier to solve.


Right in the middle of Animal Jam's April homepage is, you guessed it, a sabertooth tiger. But it probably took you a second to notice anything different because this feline looks exactly like every other recently released big cat on AJ. 

You can get the same basic design if you put Monster Teeth on a cougar:


Basically.

So if this animal is so similar to others that have been released in the past, why does AJHQ even bother?


The (most likely) reason why the Ostrich will never be released, even though it was promised a year or two ago, is because its basic design was repurposed for the flamingo. 

So if AJHQ has that amount of restraint when it comes to bird avatars, why do they put out so many all-too-similar canine and feline avatars?

I believe it's because AJHQ is trying to recreate the popularity of wolves, which I can kinda understand. But I don't think this is the whole story. 

This may seem like it's going off the rails, but hear me out. Let's look at a handful of recently released animals, in order of date: 

- Cougar (released March 16, 2017)
- Coyote (released May 25th, 2017)
- Flamingo (released August 3rd, 2017)
- Red Panda (released November 3rd, 2017)
- Clydesdale Horse (released January 18, 2018)

On average, there is a two month gap between the release of each new animal.

It seems like AJHQ has given themselves a requirement for implementing new animals into Animal Jam. Maybe these deadlines don't leave a lot of room for creativity. :\

A lot of the fan-made animal ideas are very unique and cool. Maybe AJHQ could take inspiration from them:

Source: sapstar on DeviantArt
This is not to say that animals released in the past are not creative. A lot of work probably went into them. I just personally think that new animals shouldn't be released so close together to give the people working on them some more time.

Thanks for reading. See you all in Jamaa! :)

~DoomyPanda
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