Behind The Operation – Unight8 Interview With Ruth Shepherd

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What was Unight8?

For the entire Ingress world November 16th started with this headline: Over 1 billion Mind Units!

We have seen many #sitreps and heard battlefield stories from far and wide detailing and celebrating every MU earned in this massive operation.

Decode Ingress wanted to go behind the operation so we spent time talking with one of the key agents for North American operations and got her story. We sat down with Ruth Shepherd after Unight8 was over. We found out a bit more about the project, it’s creation, development and ultimate success. Ruth’s detailed sitrep for North America can be found at https://plus.google.com/105905599631707723020/posts/cN1ZNekxEHx

2013-11-03

 

 

 

 

 

 

DI: Tell us how this operation came to be.

Ruth: This was actually a creation of Jens Spaniel, who is a German Agent, and he hatched it back in June after they had done a big nation wide event. And he decided, I guess, linking around the world was the next big step in Ingress. He started putting a team together and I don’t know much from that point because I wasn’t involved early on.  I was brought in in August after the previous US coordinator had to drop out for personal reasons. Caroline and Jens both approached me asking me very strange questions about my Ingressing and so I found out, actually just today asking Caroline, why they approached me; She said it was just from my G+ posts which is really strange way to pick someone. But it worked.

DI: It sounded like they wanted somebody that was involved and knowledgeable of the game and also had a lot of contacts.

Ruth: Yea, that was the big thing is they kept asking me about my network and how many people I knew.

DI: Now you know a ton more!

Ruth: Yea they just kept questioning me; very strange questions and I was like “What is this about?” …take over US operations for something that we’ve had in mind for a long time and we need someone quickly as the US is a month behind. Great! No pressure! I had just started shifting some of my local responsibilities on to other people in Ingress and trying to kinda open myself up for other possibilities when this came along so it was perfect timing for me to take on another commitment.

DI: You had two events happening practically at the same time. Operation Unight8 and then the shards came from nowhere and you had to stay at one for 24 hours if I’m not mistaken?

Ruth: Ah no, it was just 15 (laughs)

DI:  Okay, not consuming time at all. Then you had the shards come up. Did this affect your plans? Were you worried you might not be able to complete Unight8? Were you worried that these two operations might interfere with each other?

Ruth: Oh yea, all the globe leaders were in a panic when this happened; We were trying to figure out what to do- if this would completely change the game, as far as the Ingress that we knew; all of the sudden we were hearing about  “Ada and Jarvis cool downs” and the possibility of very rare link amps and how that might affect our operation… if all of the sudden we have links that are 6,000 kilometers long that need to get taken down, what would that do to our operation? So, yeah, there was a lot of panic when it first came out, but we just had to kind of sit back for a few days, see how it would go. Another plus is we already had the keys in place for Unight; We started to think about how we could make this work for the Resistance. Since we had extra  sets of keys, we could move the shard and do our operation and still succeed. It was definitely harrowing finding out that I had a Shard coming the weekend before Unight. That was a new kind of crazy-chaos, and more sleep deprivation.

DI: Can you speak a little more about the adjustments that had to take place because of the flip card cool down period?

Ruth: Sure. We had a lot of remote portals that we were scared about because we didn’t have enough agents in those areas; like Russia for example, or far Eastern Canada. We didn’t have enough Agents to fully deploy a level 8 portal instantly. Our guys in Eastern Canada, Adam and Zak, were two level 8’s that were planning on making that portal all by themselves after a 10 hour drive just to reach the portal. When we found out about the changes, I messaged them in a slight panic. “To make this happen, you guys are going to have to build this portal overnight. Like, over a span of several hours; is this going to be okay? And he’s like, “You know what, we’re going to make it work.” We scrambled for a while trying to see if we could find Very Rare Link Amps for him or any way possible that we could lighten his burden. It changed things and it changed our strategy but it didn’t change the attitudes of the people who were willing to make it happen.

DI: How do you feel now? We know that there were many many agents involved. I know for sure that 1000’s of people were involved in this. How do you feel being such a big part of this? We see you’re getting a lot of attention because practically the entire operation for the United States has your name at the top of it.

Ruth: Right. Um… Uncomfortable?..and exhilarating at the same time because the very fact that we pulled it off and did what we did, you know, what we were trying to accomplish is amazing. Like, I still don’t believe it. We’re still just all smiles, 2 days later, a day later, whenever! The days all run together! I mean, it’s just incredible; everyone who was involved even just a little bit is so proud of this event. I think the side effects of this will be felt in the Resistance for months. I’m just proud to have been where I was for this op. I mean, it was an awesome accomplishment, but now I start seeing everything that happened and I still don’t have all the stories of the adventures that happened along the way. I’m very honored to have been a part of it.

DI: Are you planning on an operation like this in the future? Or will you actually be having a Christmas vacation?

Ruth: I’m going to step back for a little while. My next big thing will be playing as a foot soldier. That will be fun, but we are all thinking of Very Rare Link Amps and how many fields it would take to fill the entire world!

DI: 6 links.

/laughter

DI: So, what kind of reactions have you been seeing since the operation’s completion?

Ruth: I mean everyone is just all smiles. Considering it was such a big operation and there were so many things that could have been questioned, both factions have actually really received it very well and for that I’m just really proud of the entire Ingress community. It was definitely a shock and awe event. I mean, I really don’t think the Enlightened were expecting it and so to have pulled  it off it’s just…. We’re all smirking a little bit, but all the feedback has been positive, very positive.

DI: What, if anything, did you guys do to try to keep things on the up and up?

Ruth: I mean, we talked about it in the beginning that we wanted everything to be 100% legitimate. We actually signed a compliance agreement saying that we wouldn’t do any sort of cheating to get this project done. For me that was very important, because I am very vocal about how I feel about cheating.

DI: So you spoke a bit about communication and chatter on the radios. What was the primary form of communication that you guys used?

Ruth: We used the Zello walkie talkie app.

DI: Yea, that was very popular for use at the Seattle Anomaly.

Ruth: Yea, we used it in Atlanta Anomaly,  the first time for me, and it was an amazing way to communicate so I tried to bring that to this project.

DI: Yea, that helped our communication tenfold. It was quite amazing to have that instant communication; You don’t have to type anything out. What approaches have you used to deal with cheaters and have they been successful?

Ruth: Right, it’s very disheartening to see cheating.  People put so many hours and so much effort into this game and have it just kind of ruined by the spoofers — I try not to look at it that way, I try to treat spoofers as trolls and to ignore them as much as possible. In Florida, we’ve created a way for us to deal with potential cheaters in our state that has worked very well for us, using cross-faction relations. I think that’s very important for communities to adapt some kind of cross-faction communication  where you can exchange notes and report spoofers together to Niantic. Niantic really honors it when it’s a cross faction effort.

DI: What method was used to figure out linking?

Ruth: Because of the slowdown of recent intel maps we knew that was going to be an issue; especially with so many Agents collaborating all over the world. We made sure we mapped our route very carefully beforehand and zoomed in and took very careful screenshots of where we wanted to go. By the time maps were taking 5 minutes to load, we already had all that information as well as kill lists of which portals had to come down for our intel operators to relay to the cleaning teams.

DI: Did you have any cross faction help with your operation?

Ruth: No, we didn’t have any of that. There was no cross faction help for this operation. Although I did read in this one area that the link was going to go right straight through their farms so they ended up taunting the green players in the area until they finally took it down for them so they wouldn’t have any more issues. That’s sort of what we’ve done in the past in our area too.

DI: Tell us some of the crazy events that occurred during the operation. Weather? Animal crossings?

Ruth: We were doing a tally at the end of the night. We believe there were 10 deer involved in this operation. It was crazy! I personally clipped a buck on our way back from upgrading our portal. I was in a mad dash for home, in the middle of town; out of no where, a buck hit my car. It was amazing.

DI: Shapers!

Ruth: There were other people that hit animals. I believe Steve Schwaller out of Texas hit an armadillo. We have one player, Kevin, out of Panama City area who went to clear an area on the Coast, drove a couple of hours and ended up seeing a bear. We had a lot of comical stories come out of it. It was truly an adventure for everyone. The Connecticut Agents, we were a little worried about too because they had to climb a jetty to upgrade their portal, the Saybrook Lighthouse, and it was raining. Very slippery rocks, so I’m really glad they were safe.

DI: Do you consider yourself a leader?

Ruth: (with some modest reservation) I consider myself very involved. Let’s just say I love Ingress!

DI: Do you remember when you first became an Agent?

Ruth: January 2nd.

DI: Did you ever imagine that you would be a part of something this large?

Ruth: This was not anticipated by me at all. I had no idea even when signing on that Unight would be THIS incredible and THIS huge and such a game shaking event.

DI: Did you have any second thoughts at all during the operation? Did you ever feel you weren’t the right person for the job? Did you ever considered having someone take your place?

Ruth: Oh, all the time! I am nothing but a self doubter. It was hard for me to justify my position but at the same time I couldn’t find anyone else willing to take on such a big project. I never really wanted to quit but I definitely wanted to take a vacation!

DI: So you talk about these crazy key exchanges that occurred, what were the craziest key exchanges or craziest things that had to happen to keep portals alive to make this work?

Ruth: It would definitely be the Russia to Alaska key exchange, it was truly the most epic key exchange we’ve ever completed.  We literally went around the world with those keys from the eastern most point of Russia to the western part of Alaska. We had no idea how it was going to work, it was halfway through October and the keys still hadn’t been harvested. I seriously doubted we were going to pull this off. Sergey who was my Russian contact, i believe he was the Russian country coordinator  – he told me we had a plan and not to worry, which if i’m not involved and i don’t know what’s going on, I’m going to worry.

Two sitreps for key exchanges can be read here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1I4JYFqvl4sVUV0KVztCvepiHXFwYlmlOFyKKfml374M/

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1pPrwztnbDxUmwxDMn3a1pGr2Ns9nWNy6HgSfZCGHrgk/

DI:  But knowing also makes you worry?

Ruth: He told me that he had an agent that was traveling to Anadyr, Russia (and you should see his latitude chart because it was ridiculous), he took a helicopter, he flew part of the way in a helicopter to the village of Anadyr to capture these portals and harvest these keys.  At the end of the world, I mean it was crazy. They had another agent who had to fly back to western Russia just to recharge the portals. A flight just to recharge those portals? It was crazy.  Anything we did on Unight doesn’t compare to that.  She was supposed to make an exchange with another agent there to hold the keys, but that exchange didn’t work so when she came back to Western Russia, no one was in reach to recharge these portals. All of a sudden it came down to the line where we had 5 days to recharge these portals before they’d die and we had to get them to the states, it was a crazy, crazy trip. We got the keys to Alaska with just hours to spare before they decayed completely. From there, they could be recharged.

DI: So we saw these huge distances, how does the new long link process in the scanner app itself affect this? I guess to make this more clear, in the scanner app now when you link the distances we were linking 1500 kilometers nearly 1600 kilometers some cases, you get the long distance message on your scanner, so how does that affect the operation?

Ruth: I actually did a test throw to Bermuda when the new key system was put into place, because we didn’t know how it would affect it. We learned a lot from it.  It’s scary because you can’t do key checks anymore, you can’t just pull up the key and see if it would work, you just have to try the link.  So it definitely makes things a little bit more interesting.

DI: That was your fishing pole link which everyone questioned right?

Ruth: Right. We tried to play it off as a failed field to South Carolina and Bermuda from Jacksonville; I think we pulled it off.

DI: How did you feel when this ended? When all of the links and all of the fields got accomplished? What was your first thought? When I woke up and first opened my g+ app and saw 1 Billion MU in fields, how did you feel about it when it actually was finished?

Ruth: It was unreal; it was kind of unbelievable. It really didn’t sink in for a while. We had just been fighting for twelve hours straight just to get the whole operation complete, and we were a little stunned. It didn’t really sink in until we had our hangout with the globals afterwards. We were all sharing a celebratory beer and you could just see the matted greasy hair, the bags under everyone’s eyes and big smiles on our faces that we had completed it, it was amazing. We didn’t really know either what we had really done, because the intel map just wouldn’t show us our accomplishment which was a little frustrating.

 DI: Sounds like a great reason for a 6am beer to me. When you woke up in the morning where did you go for breakfast?

Ruth: Actually I went 8 farming,*laugh* actually, after I had a little nap me and one of my fellow 8 agents went out for steak dinner though, it was tame.

DI: Well deserved.  Were there any huge highlights that hit you after the operation was over? To really let you know, “Hey we did this, we did it right, it was awesome, you know anything special at the end that really stuck out?”

Ruth: I would say the sitreps that have been coming in – they’ve been just mind blowing because you are reading through all these personal adventures of things that happened because of the operation that you helped run and for me that is way more rewarding than anything else; more than a record or anything else that we accomplished that night. It’s especially rewarding because I was stuck behind a computer the whole night, but now I get to experience it second hand through the other agents.  Watching how it’s brought the community together as a whole, and the huge moral boost it brought to the entire game has been extremely rewarding. Even though there is this spoofing going on with the shards and general unpleasantness, it was really cool to see it bring the whole community together.

DI: With the next update of the app as you know, there is the addition of very rare link amps, which will make a lot of things possible. How do you see the recent and upcoming changes affecting things? Any new operations you might like to attempt?

 Ruth: I think it will be very interesting because the game is doubling in size, we’re getting all these new players come out which is going to make it very hard to use those very rare link amps. I really see Unight being a prototype for bigger ops in the future. I would really like to see about doing a huge triangle over north america, just a huge triangle, Cover everything in one shot.

DI: If this was your Oscar winning acceptance speech, what would you say to your family and friends and fellow Agents? Is there anyone special you would like to say a thank you to?

Ruth: Yea, number one would be Daniel Lawrence. He was my number one, right hand man during this whole operation. He became my field coordinator; not really sure how that happened; he started talking and then all of a sudden he was running with it. I’m like, yes! Let’s do it! He was completely instrumental because he already had a rough idea of how we would field the United States. We collaborated our info and pooled our resources and made it happen. Timothy Johnston, our Western coordinator, he did an amazing job for us. Miguel G from Wisconsin, he was the original creator of project blue light that we integrated for Unight;  He ended up planning half of our fields in the United States. Amanda Saunders flew incredible lengths to pick up keys for us without even questioning what we were going to do with them. She is a super star. The North East Florida community, and the Resistance community at large for being my support through this whole thing. They didn’t really know what I was working on, just that it was big and they listened to me when I had to freak out and really supported me and had my back the entire time.

A series of photos for Operation Unight8: https://plus.google.com/events/gallery/cciim2jcr0fg6ur9hab37kqih6o?pid=5947575161349391138&oid=101867202320986624254

Many thanks to Ruth for spending the time with us and letting us share her story. Congratulations to every agent out there who participated in this record setting operation, it was quite an amazing feat!

Special thanks to those who helped make this article happen: Evil Witch, Fev and Nikolas Moore.

About Author

I've been an active ingress agent since Dec 2012 and have been L8+ on each team. I co-manage DeCode Ingress and our local xfaction community here in Victoria, BC. I'm an IT and Google enthusiast with a focus on security. If you have any feedback or are interested in contributing to DI, please reach out to us, we'd love to hear your ideas.

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Behind The Operation – Unight8 Interview With Ruth Shepherd

by Dustin Downs time to read: 14 min
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