Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Is there Trouble at Emerald?

The Alphaville Herald recently made a pretty big deal about the departure of LordGreg from the Emerald team.  You might have noticed in the past that the Herald has pretty consistently criticized the Emerald team and wondered why.

There's a long-standing feud in SecondLife between forces without names, but basically break down into the "Woodbury" camp and the "Furry" camp.  (I'm sure I'll be criticized for over-simplifying the issue here.)  The Herald tends to be sympathetic to the "Woodbury" faction in this conflict and the Emerald team has members who were or are members of the "Furry" faction.

Whenever there's any questionable behavior from the Emerald team, the Woodbury faction makes sure the Alphaville Herald has enough information about it to do a story.  This doesn't mean the Herald is guilty of bad journalism.  When the developers of the most popular viewer in SecondLife behave in a questionable manner, that's legitimate news to the SecondLife community.  That they're not as willing to run stories about questionable behavior by the Woodbury faction is problematic though, if  you expect the Herald to be "fair and balanced"  (which many people really don't expect from any journalist anymore.)

LordGreg's concerns about the work-flow methods at Emerald in general and dubious aspects of the viewer in specific is something users of Emerald have a right to know about.  It might be helpful if a more neutral blog like New World Notes covered the issue though, in addition to the Herald.

You'll notice that a lot of bloggers don't cover the background conflict very much, partially because it's very difficult to get verifiable information about it beyond rumors and they may also consider it just one of many such conflicts and don't want to give their readers the impression that's what SecondLife is all about.

I think that may be short-sighted though.  These two factions and their back and forth griefing has a fairly significant impact on the SecondLife experience.  Not only do negative things come out of this conflict (like griefing tools) but positive things come from their members as well (like mega-prims and the Emerald Viewer).

I'm sure many of you are thinking "Boyd, shut up about this other crap and tell me if Emerald is safe to use or not."  Well, I can't say if it's safe to use or not because everybody has a different description of "safe".  I can tell you, with some level of certainty, that it's as safe or safer to use than Internet Explorer, Firefox or Google Chrome.  Security holes in Emerald may seem more daunting because the SecondLife experience has a much greater sense of presence than regular web browsing, but in terms of doing damage to your computer or gleaning data about you personally, Emerald is much, much safer than regular web browsing.

LordGreg's concerns about the security of Emerald are legitimate though, particularly if he's right that members of the team can now slip in bits of malicious code without the rest of the team knowing.  To remain a Linden Labs approved viewer, Emerald committed to a level of transparency that they'll have to struggle to maintain.  I doubt that Linden Labs has the manpower to quickly monitor whether Emerald is actually in compliance, so blogs like The Herald monitoring it as well is useful for SecondLife members who use the viewer to catch problems like this faster than Linden Labs can.

I am still pretty confident about Emerald.  Some now prefer the Imprudence viewer, but really, they have the same work-flow liabilities that Emerald has.  Recently, Phillip Linden announced Linden Lab's renewed commitment to the open source model for client development, and I think he's right in doing so.  Although the process is not without flaws and liabilities, they are fewer than the alternative and offer users a much richer experience than a proprietary code only model.


  1. Pretty much anything written at the Alphaville Herald is suspect IMO.

    "the Woodbury faction makes sure the Alphaville Herald has enough information about it to do a story."

    OK, how does/did the Woodburies *make sure*?

    I often attend a discussion meeting in SL where the defacto leader of the meeting has been a constant target of Woodbury griefing for years.
    I tend to lean towards Voltaires statement about I may not agree with you...but I will defend your right to speak..(paraphrased)

    I found it "convenient/coincidental" that the editrix of the Herald was present *reporting* the griefing before the griefing started.

    As far as Emerald is concerned...I'm as comfortable with it as pretty much anything on the web. From all I've read about the former Qarl Linden, seeing him as a part of the Emerald team gives me confidence as well.
    I hope Lordgreggreg continues to work in virtual worlds and thank him for his contributions thus far.

  2. The Emerald Team might have made a mistake in shutting down the discussion of LordGreg's resignation letter on their blog, rather than letting people continue to discuss both it and their response to it.

    The security hole he discovered was pretty darn small and I think he was mad that it wasn't fixed the way he wanted it fixed when he wanted it fixed. That's not to say he's a primadonna, just inflexible.

    The moral implications of how and when the Herald gets its information and what they do with it is pretty complex. I think we're better off letting them do it though, so long as everybody keeps in mind they may not be completely innocent or reliable.

    My dad used to read the english version of Pravda for basically the same reason.


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