Friday, October 29, 2010

Redemption at Violet

I've written before about the invasion of Violet by the Ahern trolls.

There were troll scouts for months now, but the full-scale invasion only started a few weeks ago.  Most of the Violet regulars beat a hasty retreat, tearfully leaving their shops and farms behind for the barbarians to use as they will.

The trolls were ensconced.  You could see them swinging from the rafters and pissing in the corners.

Then a strange thing happened.  A transformation, if you will...out of Ahern, half these assholes weren't half bad.

The vitriol, the racism, the anger and sociopathy all abated.  Minor scirmishes remained, but even they started taking on the tone of friendly rivalry rather than genuine hate.

Trolls who were making new accounts two or three times a day just to access the grid now have accounts that are three and four weeks old, committed copybotters now join grid fashion scavenger hunts and there has been virtually no griefing.

There's been rumors for years that trolls begin life as human beings.  Could taking them out of Ahern somehow re-humanize them?

Part of the change might be because they left the self-appointed Queen of Trolls behind, along with her salivating lieutenants, adopting a far more logical stance of "Who cares who's in charge?  It's the Internets asshole."

Most of these trolls never bought into the idea they had a queen in the first place, but having somebody struggle for control can have a trickle-down effect that makes everybody cranky.

So, this year for Halloween, we had a little miracle in SecondLife.  The trolls of Ahern became human again...some of them...maybe.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Production Triangle

I was thinking about Phillip's goal to make SecondLife Fast, Easy and Fun.

One of the first things I learned in my theatre education was the concept of the production triangle.  With the production triangle, there are three choices, Good, Fast and Cheap, with the trick being you can only have two of these at the same time.

In all my years in theatre and the arts, I've never seen this rule violated.  You might have a project that's good and fast, but it won't be cheap.  Likewise, you might have a project that's fast and cheap, but it won't be good and so on.

I wonder if Fast, Easy and Fun aren't really the same thing.

We all know what "fast" is, but what if "easy" is just another way of saying "cheap" and what if "fun" is just another way of saying "good"?

If that's true, then we may be kind of screwed going for Fast Easy and Fun, because you can only have two of the three.

If I had to choose, I'd go for Fast and Fun.  Both speak to a satisfying user experience.  Easy though, sometimes we don't much appreciate things that come easy. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Me Me Me Me Generation

People used to call the generation of people born to veterans of World War II the "ME" generation, in criticism of their selfish and hedonistic ways, but these critics had no way of knowing how selfish and hedonistic the grandchildren of the WWII generation would become.

I've had my differences with the boomers though the years, but a lot of the stuff they fought for was pretty legitimate: the right not to be drafted into military service, social and racial integration and the fight for the health and welfare of the poor and elderly. 

The boomers fought for the right of artists to express themselves freely, without the heavy hand of censorship in their work.  While the boomers fought for free content in art, they were certainly willing to pay for the works once they were produced.  Boomers all over the world saved their allowance and lined up at record stores to pay for the latest works of Lead Zeppelin or the Beatles or whoever, because they wanted it.

Their children feel just as strongly about the censorship of artists, but they go an extra step and now demand the music itself for free, over the internet, along with movies and video games, and if you don't give it to them they'll take it from sites like Piratebay.

Somewhere along here, I gotta call bullshit.  With the possible exception of food and medicine, demanding stuff for free or you'll just take it isn't freedom fighting, it's looting.

For many of these assholes, I know their parents taught them better because I know their parents, or people just like them.  The problem is, parents don't usually know what a kid is up to alone in his room with a computer unless or until a subpoena shows up at the door.

Legitimately purchased popular music is cheaper now than ever before.  I'm sorry that's not good enough for you.  I suppose there is no business model as attractive to these kids as getting their shit for free.

I would suggest you're killing the goose that laid the golden eggs though.  The music and movie business are on tougher times than they've ever been before and they day may soon come that there just isn't that much to steal anymore.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Moose and Violet War : Cubes of Rage

I reported earlier how Booger-Nose Stark likes to throw out cubes to crash Moose when he and his friend Annoying Johnny get butt-hurt.

Saturday he did it at just the right moment for the map making cameras to catch it.

I'd like to point out, that despite all these, the sim didn't crash.  Oh well.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Moose and Violet : War is Heck

and the faggotry continues:

Although I wasn't around for it, I understand the trolls who took over Violet spent the day giving out RL phone numbers for Annoying Johnny and Harrison the Insane and ordering pizzas for people who don't want them.

I'm not sure how the telephone thing works:

"Hello, may I speak to Johnny please?"
"Hi, this is Johnny."
"Hi, Johnny, we're from the internet and you're annoying."
"You BASTARDS!!!!"

Beyond that, the trolls are pretty well dug in at Violet, and most of the regulars have moved on to saner places. I'm not convinced the other shoe has dropped there so let's watch and see what develops.

A Confederacy of Dunces:
Back at Moose Beach Annoying Johnny is building his allies.  He's been taking a spanking, both from the locals and the visiting trolls.  He's convinced bringing in more stupid and annoying people for backup will solve his problem.  It probably won't.

Besides a tentative strategic alliance with Harrison the Insane, Annoying Johnny brought in some guy named Anthony (Not THAT Anthony).  Anthony is a vampire who's adopted half a dozen Second Life kids (all female) whom he regularly gives money.  He's working on a malicious SecondLife viewer on the side, but it's not ready to use yet.

Besides those guys, Annoying Johnny aligns himself with Stark Booger-nose.  Booger-nose claims to have once been a member of the Patriotic Nigras, even though he can't name any of them and none of them seem to know who he is.  He is using their viewer though, which he claims to have written by himself.  Booger-Nose also  has a bunch of scripted griefer toys from like 1950, that he brings out occasionally.

There's also R2, who's actually kinna cool.  The trolls called him "beaner" like fifty times because he has a slight foreign accent.  The accent is a combination of Arabic and french though, so calling him "beaner" is kind of a fail.


Crashing Moose Beach
I didn't get on SecondLife until late last night, so by the time I TP into Moose Beach, Annoying Johnny is already pretty annoyed.  The trolls passed out his phone number all day and his E Girlfriend is mad at him for some reason.

"SHUT UP BOYD!"  Johnny shouts as I enter.  I guess he thought I was gonna troll him.  I probably would have eventually.

It was kind of hard to hear him though, since Cane/Oz was there, and, well, you know what that's like.

Pretty soon a zero-day-old account shows up with a stupid name.  That'll be booger-nose I recon.   Annoying Johnny has called in the retard greifer to take revenge on Moose Beach by crashing it.

Retard griefer Stark the Booger-nose starts throwing out replicating cubes with pictures of Hitler dancing on them.  In the old days, this would have crashed the sim pretty quickly, but the Lindens have toughened them up a bit since then so Booger-nose has to keep throwing them out.

About ten minuts into the process he gets popped.  A few minutes later, he shows up again with a new account to continue the effort.

By now, everyone has noticed the sim filling up with dancing Hitler cubes.  Having seen this a thousand times before, they respond by saying "look, it's cubes with dancing Hitler on them."

No sooner had I speculated that he just wasn't going to be able to crash the sim and it winks out of existence.

I TP to the adjoining sim to wait for it to come back.

Booger-nose IM's me to call me faggot and then proceeds to try and spam crash me.  Thanks to Phoenix, I don't even notice his attempts at first as they were dispatched pretty much immediately.

While the server software churns away, setting things to right, I decide to taunt Annoying Johnny through group chat.

"Our permacubes of doom will keep the sim crashed all night!"  he IM's me.

No sooner had I hit enter on my reply "uhh, what's a permacube, dickless?" and Moose Beach blinks back into existence.  80% of the dancing Hitler cubes are gone, and the rest start to pop out like cheap Christmas lights.

Let's Throw Johnny Under the Bus
Moose Beach is back in business!  Who's the first person to rejoin?  Insane Harrison.  Fuck me running.

Harrison picks fights with each new person as the join.  The result, logically, is a room full of people all fighting with Harrison.

Somewhere deep in his neanderthal brain, Harrison does the math and realizes he doesn't stand a chance here.  So, what does he do?

"What about the Johnny guy?  He Sure is annoying!"

Harrison throws Johnny under the bus.  So much for their fragile strategic alliance.

And the fight continues.  Who will win?  Probably the sane people and the regulars.  They almost always do in the end.  It might take a while to get there but that's my prediction.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The War for Moose Beach and Violet

Six months ago Moose Beach and Violet were among the calmest places on the grid.

Today there's a full-on war for their control.

The battle lines are drawn between two groups.  Let's call one side "The Trolls" and the other side "The Retards", with the people who used to populate their places on neither side and rather scratching their head wondering what the hell just happened.

Normally a war between retards and trolls would end pretty quickly, with the retards left somewhere cold and naked and confused, but in this case, they somehow keep calling in reinforcements (from god knows where) and the battle continues.

It began with the mysterious emigration out of Waterhead and Ahern.  Nobody really knows what started it.  Some have suggested it's fall out from the ban hammer falling on Woodbury and W-Hat, but I'm not convinced.

My theory is that these people always hated each other, and with the addition of Tinychat, they eventually just got to the point where they couldn't stand each other's presence any longer and went in search of new territory.

The first noticeable sign of the conflict was a few weeks ago when somebody rendered Violet inaccessible for over a day.  Since then, many regulars chose to abandon the info hub rather than deal with the cacophony of the new residents. 

Ironically, being a privately owned area, Violet will probably be the first to return to its former character since all it really takes is for the owners to decide they've had enough and spend a little time managing it again and it'll settle pretty quickly pushing the trolls back to Ahern.

Moose Beach may be another matter though.  It's a Linden area and the retards have dug in pretty deeply.  The Lindens have a "do not take sides" policy in these matters, which is just as well since I doubt they could tell the difference between the trolls and the retards.  Sometimes I do too.

Some of the more savvy locals from Moose have been able to parry the retards fairly well, but when there's a full-on battle between them and the trolls, even they TP out to greener pastures.

Interestingly, in terms of how SecondLife has developed, five years ago this would have been a war of scripts and tortured prims and a year ago, it would have been a war of hacked viewers, but today it's mostly a war of psychology with game and pack theory leading the charge.

One should note and congratulate the Lindens for making the grid robust enough that struggles like these are now fought with far less sim crashing and lag.

It's unlikely that there will be a clear winner in this conflict.  Most likely, both sides will just eventually run out of things to say.  Except Johnny of course, that fucker never shuts up.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cubes of Butt-Hurtedness

Troll rules clearly state:  "He who demonstrates the most butt-hurt fails."

There are no set rules for demonstrating butt-hurt though, so you kind of have to look for the subtleties.

In a recent article at the Alphaville Herald, Pixeleen Mistral gives photo evidence that somewhere on the grid, he has mini hate shrines for Phillip Linden and Kalel Vinkman, complete with scripted objects showing how much time his hated enemies have spent in world over the past week or so.

Building a hate shrine for somebody is a pretty good sign you're the most butt-hurt.  There's one for me out there in the form of a blog, but it's kind of lame.


A lot of times, butt-hurt people don't realize their actions only make them seem more butt-hurt.  Pixeleen probably thought people would think his hate shrines for King Phillip and Superman were really cool, and that's why he posted pictures of them.

To be fair, Vinkman probably would have scripted objects to let him know when his enemies were online since that's how they'd do it in the comic books, but since his enemies have no stable accounts, there's really no way to make it work.

So, once again, everybody in unison repeat after me: "We're sorry the Lindens killed Woodbury Pixeteen, and we're sorry the Super Friends were on your ass.  Please try to get over it and be happy again."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New CEO Search Begins

Phillip Linden announced today that the search for a new CEO has officially begun.

When replacing M Linden as CEO, Phillip said his job would only be as interim CEO.

March of the Trolls

So there's a guy at Moose.  Let's say his name is Johnny. 

Johnny isn't malicious, he's just annoying.  Like a lot of annoying people, Johnny is vaguely aware of how annoying he is, but he's also fairly powerless to do anything about it.  He tries to be cool, but trying to be cool just makes it worse.

Enter the trolls to save the day.  From far off Waterhead and Ahern they come.  Dragging their troll clubs behind, marching to Moose Beach, because there, it's said, is a lol cow, and trolls must drink the blood of lol cows to live.

The regulars at Moose Beach are fairly used to saying "shut up Johnny" or just muting him, but suddenly their population triples.  There are so many trolls at Moose Beach, nobody else can enter.

These aren't regular trolls.  They're the "A" team, and they have (they think) Johnny's real life phone number, and they're going to gather at Moose Beach and wait for him to come on so they can call him and tell him, on the phone, just how annoying he is.  Redundant much?

One of the trolls figures it's fine to pass out  Johnny's phone number, but if somebody posts her real life picture (fully clothed) juxtaposed with a picture of gollum, that's disclosure and she's going to report him and get him baaaaaaaaned!

At this point I call bullshit.  They don't really need lol cow blood to survive and if it's ok for her to hand out one person's real life data, certainly it's ok for somebody else to pass around hers.

This game of looking for people to troll is getting pretty damn boring.  Johnny might be annoying, but he's not half as annoying as this bullshit.

Cutting Back on the Ban Hammer

I really don't envy the Linden Governance Team.  Everyone wants them to take real trouble makers off the grid at lightning speed, but on all other issues we want them to have the judement of Solomon.  (The real Solomon, not the guy from Ireland).

In the real world we invest vast fortunes trying to figure out who's guilty and who's innocent and what we should do about it, and I'd be surprised if they were accurate as much as ninety-per-cent of the time.

Of course, the issues in the real world are far more complex and have far greater consequences than the stuff that happens in SecondLife, and the Lindens have the benefit of stuff like event logs that their real world counterparts don't.  But, still I don't envy them the task of trying to figure out what to do with all us nutcases in world.

I would suggest though, that it's a mistake to rely on the account ban as much as they do to settle issues.

Justified or not, whenever they disable the account of a regular user it has a ripple effect in the communities they are part of.  Other users start to worry "could this happen to me?  What becomes of my stuff?" and their faith in the stability of our little virtual world falters.

In a virtual world without a physical counterpart, that feeling of security is both especially important and difficult to create and maintain.

There are other ways to manage things in world while keeping the account ban as a method of last resort.

For instance: if a person is guilty of trolling, you could disconnect them from the voice channel, either temporarily or permanently.   That renders them both unable to troll and punishes them for their activity in the past.

Likewise, if a person is guilty of object littering or copybotting, then they could take away their ability to rez objects.  There's no sense in copybotting an item if you can't re-upload it and rez it in world.

All of these things are server-side so there's no way an offender could get around them.  It might be a bit of a pain to program the option into the server software, but the pay out could be huge.

The pay-out is two fold.  First, you create a more stable social climate in world because people aren't dissapearing from the grid.   If, by chance, a person is wrongly accused or judged, (as I have seen several times) then they can remain in world while they try to get the situation worked out.

The other issue is that once a person gets banned, then they become much harder to keep tabs on and if they decide to get some sort of hacked viewer to get back on, then their behavior is going to be much worse when they return.  Parcel or estate bans too are only effective if the banned person isn't creating a new account every day just to get back on the grid.

If a person uses alts to misbehave, then it won't be that difficult to use the technology Linden labs has now to track down and ban all of a person's alts, to make sure all their alts stay on the grid but with the same limitations.  If one account loses its rezzing privileges, then all of the alts should too.

There will still be cases where the ban is appropriate.  Things like fraud or harassment could remain bannable offenses, and people who insist on causing trouble even after losing their privileges could ultimately be banned as well.

Users will be much happier and feel more secure if the Lindens employ these less destructive, but still effective methods to maintain order on the grid.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The JLU Leak: What Really Happened: Sorta

This isn't the real origin story of the JLU, but it's not too far off.

With a platform like SecondLife, it'd be surprising if nobody decided to role play comic book characters.

It's kind of perfect for it. Everybody can fly and outrageous dress is the norm.

So a group of guys get together to play super heroes and the last guy to join has to play Aquaman. What happens next?

In SecondLife, what happened next was kind of strange.

There were guys who wanted to play super heroes, but then other people unwittingly started playing the other characters in the comic books.

Prokofy Neva played the bombastic but lovable journalist, J Jonah Jameson, always critical of the heroes.

The Lindens played the government, sometimes working with, sometimes hunting the masked vigilantes and thousands of regular SecondLife users played the public, needing protection.

Still, super hero role play is no fun without super villains, and unless somebody is willing to dress up like Lex Luthor once a week, you got no game.

Enter the griefers. From their nefarious deeds to their meme laden avatars, they are the perfect foils for our would be super heroes.

Like their comic book counterparts, the griefers come into this world with a disdain for the culture built up in it, and since they see no place for themselves in our cyber world, they decide to take revenge and destroy it, for the lulz of course.

It's not recorded, but can you imagine the look on the face of the first griefer throwing out lemon party cubes only to realize Superman was on his ass?

They played it off for laughs, but you could tell the griefers kind of dug their new role as super villains. Any actor would tell you, it's much more fun to play a bad guy.

They even put together their own Legion of Doom. Several of them, in fact, but the most notable was Woodbury University.

Founded by a real world college in california, the Woodbury sim became the favorite hang out point for like minded people from around the grid, whether they were actually ever students at Woodbury or not.

So, on one hand, you have a group of people wanting to disrupt life on SecondLife, and, on the other, you have a group wanting to disrupt the disruptors.

With a set-up like this, the comic book role play is pretty good. The good guys become the JLU and the bad guys become Woodbury, W-Hat etc. and both have a jolly good time pissing each other off.

Enter the Lindens. Woodbury's Animal House antics makes it hard to sell SecondLife to an unwitting public so they shut down the Woodbury sim and ban a bunch of the people who hung out there.

The griefers are mad. They're real mad. Butthurt beyond belief, they swear revenge on the Lindens and their old nemesis the JLU.

Their revenge takes the form of infiltrating the ranks of the JLU. Once inside they discover that the JLU keeps a database of encounters and intelligence on known and suspected griefers. (Surprise!) Not really though. I would have been more surprised if they weren't keeping this data somehow.

So they leaked the database which had all sorts of shocking stuff in it, like "So and So was griefing at Sandbox island at 11:30. We sent in an AR on him, then watched Comedy Central." or "So and So is a real poopy head. I bet he lives with his mom."

That wasn't the only shocking revelation to come from the leak though. It turns out, actual Linden Labs employees were talking with members of the JLU and approved of their work. I gotta tell ya, I nearly choked on my cheerios when I read that.

With full disclosure by the Alphaville Herald, the Legion of Doom fully expected SecondLife to rise up and crucify the JLU and Linden Labs for their sins.  What they got from SecondLife, was a quite audible "meh" and life went on.

The moral of the story kids is: if you don't want to get burned by the super hero role play, then don't play the game. If you don't act like a super villain, then nobody will confuse you with one.

It's really that simple. I know it's hard to keep up with what's real and what's not in a world like SecondLife, but come on!, it aint that hard!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Only Conspiracy

Some of you may know of my particular distaste for Conspiracy Theories.

From the Illuminati to the "fake" landing on the moon, these modern myths just drive me crazy.

Except one.  There is a conspiracy theory that I believe in so much that it doesn't really even matter if it's true or not.

That is....Andy Kaufman is Alive.

Is this a recent interview with a still living Andy?


Snopes.com denies it, as does Wikipedia, and the smoking gun, but they're part of the conspiracy. Andy is alive.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Israel and Arabia

There's something I hear a lot that I'd like to clear up.

The Jews and Arabs haven't been at war for thousands and thousands of years.

When the Roman empire forced the Jews out of the Jordan Valley two-thousand years ago, they had experienced problems with the Persians and Babylonians to the East, and they had problems with Egypt to the west, and extensive problems with the Philistines (who were gone before the first century C.E.) also to the west.

The Arabs, though, were a pretty quiet neighbor for the Jews for most of their history.  The Arab peninsula is a massive territory with some of the world's greatest deserts.  In the centuries before the Roman Empire, most Arab people were nomadic and tribal.  They traded with Israel, but never went to war with them.

Likewise, there is no evidence that the Arab people considered themselves descendants of Abraham until the prophecy of Muhammad in the sixth century.  They were very likely aware of the Jewish God "I Am" before this, but didn't consider it had anything to do with them.

When the Muslims conquered Jerusalem in the seventh century, it had been ruled by the Christian Byzantine empire (and briefly by the Persians) since the expulsion of the Jews by the Romans.

The Muslim belief in Jerusalem's part in Muhammad's night journey began in the century after his death.  There is no record of his mentioning it in his lifetime.  Many historians doubt that Muhammad wanted a focus by Muslims on any city other than Mecca, and the focus on Jerusalem began only after his death.

Regardless of Muhammad's intentions, most Jews found themselves with more liberty in Palestine under Muslim rule than under Christian Byzantine rule, so it kind of worked out for them.

The conflict between Jews and Arab Muslims began with the 19th century idea that Jews should return to the Jordan Valley, without the prophesied messiah, and make it their home again.

You've heard it said "you can never go home again" and that axiom applies seems to apply in a much greater degree when trying to return to one's homeland.  The Jews met almost immediate resistance and alienation from the Arabs both in and around the Jordan Valley.

What happened next will be debated for hundreds, if not thousands of years.  Rebuffed by the local Arabs, the Jews hunkered down, and redoubled their resolve to stay in Palestine rather than returning to Europe or North America.

They had pretty good reasons for not returning to Europe.  As the Nazi party grew, more and more Jews sought refuge in Israel.  Americans, for their part, supported this action.  I've never been quite convinced American support for Israel in those days wasn't to prevent their coming here instead.

The rest of the conflict is in your history books.

I can't promise not to write about history here from time to time.  It's a special interest of mine.

I included it in this blog about SecondLife because the Arab/Israel conflict occasionally lights up the SecondLife blogosphere and there's almost always a comment about how this conflict has gone on for thousands of years and it's just not true.

This conflict is about a hundred years old and hopefully won't get a whole lot older.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Forced to Viewer 2

I've seen this a couple of times already so I thought I'd address it.

The new collada mesh function of SecondLife isn't some insidious plot to force people to use viewer 2.

The code base for all this is available to the makers of alternate viewers so they can incorporate it (and other new features) into their viewer. 

So, Phoenix, Imprudence et al will show the new meshes just as soon as they are able to process it.

Viewer 2 will have these new features first.  I'm so sorry if that offends you.  It was their idea, and it involves some server side effort as well so they get it first.  If it makes you feel any better, Emerald had bouncing boobies first.

There will, understandably, be some lag between the time mesh imports first appear on the grid and when TPV viewers start to incorporate them.  Hopefully it won't take too long.  Please remember, these people are writing their viewers on their own time and not getting paid.

Mesh imports won't immediately replace the current prim objects.  It will take some time for people to learn how to do this and incorporate them into their builds.  With any luck, by the time there are lots of mesh objects on the grid, most viewers will be able to render t hem.

For God's sake, even in SecondLife, not everything is a conspiracy theory.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Frontier Life

The Internet is a new frontier for humanity.  That much was clear from the start.

To figure out what might happen from here, the most obvious thing would be to look at other times there were significant human frontiers and see what happened then.

Fortunately, in the 19th century, there were three major frontiers developing at the same time.  The Western part of North America (Canada and the USA) and Australia.

I say fortunate because in the 19th century, technology  had developed to the point where it was fairly easy to record data, and there were enough people who could read and wanted to know what was happening in the frontiers, that we have a pretty good record of what happened.

So, What does Happen on a Frontier?

Lawlessness: Frontiers lack the social structures to enforce legal codes so an initial period of lawlessness ensues.  Robbers and Pirates and Gunfighters rule the day.  People who read about these people, but don't encounter them, have a tendency to romanticize their antics.  On SecondLife, this was the age of the griefer and it's coming to an end just like the age of the Gunfighter in the old west.

Vigilantism:  As the lawlessness rises, vigilantism rises to counter it.  It's fairly difficult to tel the difference between the two sometimes and the vigilantes sometimes are worse than the people they fight.  People forget that the KKK began (and still see themselves) as a vigilante group.  I fear this is what will become of the internet vigilante group Anonymous.  There are already many chilling similaries between them and the early KKK.

Prostitution and Gambling:  The first people to actually turn a profit in a Frontier are often the gamblers and prostitutes.  During the Dot Com boom, we saw this pattern repeat itself as pornographers and gambling sites became profitable long before Amazon.com and Yahoo.  The same held true for SecondLife.  The first four years of SL, casinos and prostitutes were the only ones besides Linden Labs making much money.

Rest for the Weary:  People who find themselves marginalized in the larger culture often find solace and refuge in the frontiers.  The same lack of social structure that allows the outlaws to operate with impunity also provide safe harbor for sub cultures excluded from the civilized world.

End of the Era:  Just as the frontier gets big enough for people to start thinking that's how it'll be forever and the frontier will always be free, a tipping point is reached because there's now enough people and social structures in the frontier to start civilizing it.

Robbers become dentists, Prostitutes become soccer moms.  People buy meat at the grocery rather than rustling cattle, and the frontier is no more.

We're getting close to that point with the internet.  Social and Legal structures are catching up to what we've created and people are starting to realize they really would rather live that way.

Even as we speak there's a showdown between Anonymous and groups like the MPAA that looks remarkably similar to the gunfight at the OK corral.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Vampire Apocalypse

The vampires of SecondLife are in a crisis, and the crisis is simple math.

The game was designed so that the best (and only) way to really advance in the game was by recruiting new players.

People called it a pyramid scheme, which it is very similar too, but what's so wrong with a pyramid scheme?

Let's look at the math:

10 vampires seek 3 recruits each that equals 30 recruits.  No problem.  SecondLife was growing by leaps and bounds, they got 30 recruits blind folded.

So, now there's 33 new vampires each looking for 3 recruits.  (the first three are still trying to advance)
That's 99 new players.  Still not a problem.  SecondLife is growing and growing.

Now there's 132 vampires seeking 3 new recruits, that's 396

Now there's 528 vampires seeking 3 new recruits that's 1,584

2,112 vampires seek 3 recruits that's 6,336 new players

8,448 vampires seek 3 recruits that's  25,344 new players

Clearly, you can see the problem.  Even if SecondLife continued to grow like it once did, mathematics would soon catch up with the vampires.

You can see they're getting desperate.  They hang out in welcome areas and info hubs hoping to get the first shot at new players, even though there's signs all over the place in those areas saying "no biting or recruiting"

Bloodlines was designed to make the maximum amount of money in a short period of time and designed to fail. The vampires of SecondLife face extinction by starvation in just a few months.

Ain't math a bitch?

So how do you fix it?

Here's a patch.  It won't fix the problem forever, but it'll extend the viable life of the game considerably.  Most people who play bloodlines, play for a few weeks then drop it, never to participate again.

The problem is, they stay in the database forever and forever removed from the pool of potential victims.

Simply change the game so that if you don't wear your Bloodlines HUD in say six weeks, the system drops that player out of the database.  Then they're available to be bitten again.  This simple move would dramatically increase the number of potential victims.

Some people won't like it because they've built up this huge downline of inactive players, but really it should be that way because if their downline is inactive then then they're not really playing the game at all, they're just collecting noobs.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mean Girls of the Mall

They glide from mall store to mall store in packs.

Their echo location clicks give them early warning of cool guys, troll bait, rival girl gangs and bargains.

"That was so cool how you slapped down that bitch at  Hot Topic."
"She so deserved it."
"How long are we banned from there anyway?"
"Like I care about shopping at Hot Topic anyway?"

They meet up in the food courts (info hubs, welcome centers) to do battle.

"You bitches just wish you could be as cool as me."
"White Trash!"
"Valley Girl!"
"Hey there's Tristina, let's troll her."
 

There's a theory that these are the girls who weren't cool enough to behave like this when they really were in High School, so now they're getting their revenge.

I have another theory : It's the same damn people.  They never grew out of it.  On SecondLife, their glory days last forever.

Millions of dollars in equipment and bandwidth, thousands of hours of programming and development, and Linden Labs successfully offers an incredibly realistic, virtual, three dimensional,  recreation of the High School Mall going experience.

Fucking hell.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thank God for Anonymous

The Internet group Anonymous was irrelevant and useless upon creation. 

Like the vast majority of cults, it's very unlikely Scientology will survive into its third generation.  Their new member rate is already a fraction of what it was twenty years ago and dropping all the time.

Their leader is long gone.  Whatever memes they appealed to are no longer relevant.  Inner fights will develop over the remaining assets and Scientology will crack into pieces, dry up and go away on its own.

Like sand crabs doing battle with an already beached and dying whale, Anonymous will be there when Scientology draws its final breath to claim victory.

The larger culture already did enough damage to Scientology to make Anonymous redundant and irrelevant.  None of their efforts did a fraction of the damage from one episode of Sixty Minutes or Southpark.  It's unlikely they would even have heard of Scientology were it not for Sixty Minutes or Southpark.

There's a slight chance Anonymous will survive the death of Scientology and go after other religions, but I think if they went after the Roman Catholic Church or the Mormons, they would probably end up singing in the choir after parishioners brought cookies and punch to their protests.

There's always Islam for them to go after, but all the dirty tricks of Scientology combined are a joke compared to one fatwa.  Those masks won't protect them from real radical religious nuts.

What I see in Anonymous is the peter pan generation internet culture trying to evolve into something relevant by doing what they consider good deeds, but all they're really doing is trolling the remaining nuts in the dying church of Scientology.

Good going Anonymous!  You show them!

Crappy Old Chicken Farms

I've written before how this early history of SecondLife parallels the early history of cinema.

As unlikely as it may seem, let's assume I'm right about this and take a look at what might be the future of SecondLife, if it really does follow the same path as cinema.

For the first ten years of cinema, there wasn't really anybody but the Edison company in it.  This was an extremely important time when cinema artists took elements from theatre, magic lantern shows, literature, music and painting and incorporated them into a functional language of cinema that set the stage for the next big step.

At about the ten year mark, Edison's miss-management and short-sightedness forced many cinema artists to leave their New Jersey nests to find places where they could practice their new art without Edison's dampening.

There were other elements at work here (like Edison's distaste for Jews in "his" business), but these early cinema artists found a new home as far away from new Jersey as they could get and remain in the United States.

They bought an old chicken farm in sparsely populated, dusty southern California and began what we now call "Hollywood".

Without Hollywood, people would have soon forgotten about Edison's Cinemascope.  How often can you watch a 20 second movie about a sneeze anyway? 

I think we're at that point with SecondLife.  There are guys now setting up crappy little studios in the chicken farms of OpenSim. Don't count them out.  They are probably the future.

Prokofy Neva's Sane Moments

My biggest problem with Prokofy Neva, is that: even when I kind of agree with her (like today's post about the edu sector in SL), it takes her ten or twenty thousand words to get to her damn point.

I get that she's in the face of all the forces shortening the attention span of the modern human, but, come on!  Whatever happened to brevity being the soul of wit?

Anyway.  Thanks for the article Prokofy.  I take  your meaning (and some of the heat) although I'm sure most won't.  The Academy likes talking about evolution, but they sure hate evolving.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Philosophy Professors Who Gained More Notoriety Than They Deserved Through Secondlife

Peter Ludlow (avatar name: Urizenus Sklar) Publishes the Alphaville Herald, the voice of the griefer community in SecondLife. Ludlow has made a career out of studying trolls, snerts and griefers on the interwebs but somehow missed how their behavior is exactly like the troubled adolescents in any high school.

John Frederick Lange (No avatar name. Pen Name: John Norman) Lange teaches philosophy at SUNY but is better known for a series of incredibly crappy science fiction novels he published in the 70's about a planet called GOR. If not for SecondLife and the Interwebs, most reasonable people would have never heard of them or him. Lange not only writes about the philosophy of GOR, he believes it. He also picks his boogers and eats them.

Too Cool for School

An actual conversation in Korea 1:

New Person: How do I play this game?

Joe Cool Troll: Leave now.  This game is the gayest thing ever...

Reasonable Person: But Joe Cool Troll, you're on SecondLife six or seven hours a day every day.

Joe Cool Troll: I only log in to tell new people how lame SecondLife is.

I don't get this.  It's common, but I don't get it.

I've  heard that some people are only happy when they have something to complain about.

The Alphaville Herald, I'm convinced, only continues publication so they will be in operation the day Linden Labs announces they're closing their doors forever. 

Urizenus Sklar is Ahab, forever chasing the white whale that is Linden Labs, with the passion and fury (and lack of reason) that only a true academic can have. --

To the last, I grapple with thee;
From Hell's heart, I stab at thee;
For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Growth Out of the Nest

A lot of people are bewildered by the actions of Linden Labs over the last six months.  Where are they going? What are they dong?  It's all pretty clear to me though.
 
One of the biggest factors restraining the growth of the metaverse may be that it never grew much beyond the boundaries of Linden Labs. OpenSim has been available for a couple of years, but it's still pretty anemic.

I can remember when nearly all on-line content was hosted and managed by a few companies like Compuserve and AOL.  There was an Internet at that time, but the content on Archie and Gopher was pretty slim.

Mosaic (now Firefox) changed all that.  Compuserve doesn't even exist anymore.  Web users often don't know or care who hosts and manages the content they're viewing.  Who hosts Wikipedia?  Do you care?

Perhaps this is the model we should be going for with the Metaverse.  Right now OpenSim is pretty anemic and Linden Labs hosts everything.  Imagine a Metaverse where you don't really need to know who hosts the sim you're in, a sim where you don't even have to use your log in data unless you intend to build or buy something.

In a system like that, Linden Labs would have a host of opportunities to perform valuable and profitable functions, like search, hosting, banking, and currency trading.  They're in the perfect position to become the Amazon, Google and PayPal of the 3D metaverse, but only if the metaverse grows beyond the bounds of their own servers.

Imagine shopping on Secondlife Marketplace (nee Xstreet) and have the content delivered to whatever server you're on, be it Linden Labs or Open Sim.  Imagine the Linden becoming the common currency on all grids, not just those operated by Linden labs.

Like Compuserve, Linden Labs has probably grown as much as it can under the current paradigm.  The next stage of growth will only come by pushing the SecondLife experience out of the nest that is Linden Labs.

I think Phillip knows this and has given us several clues that's the direction he's heading in.  Making the viewer Open Source was a big clue that he intended people to use the technology on data hosted on systems other than Linden Labs'.  Moving shopping to a web based experience was another and pushing the Educational Sector to Open Sim was another.

Moving the Educational Sector out into the OpenSim environment may prove the most important step in growing the metaverse beyond the bounds of Linden Labs.

Recently, Phillip said in a speech how he saw a time when many of the different aspects of SecondLife would be performed by different companies.  He always said, his model for SecondLife was the novel SnowCrash, and this distributed hosting model is how the metaverse worked in SnowCrash..

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Educational Migration

I was watching a program on MBC where they had a panel discussing the recent price structure changes for academic users of SecondLife.

Generally, the was a lot of hand-wringing and telling of personal anecdotes, but toward the end of the show they hit on something that probably is the right answer and something that could benefit us all.

Many, (if not most) of these educational users have their own equipment and IT departments in-house, who can very easily run Open Sim on their own servers.

This would immediately solve the problem of providing these educational users metaverse space to do whatever they were doing before on SecondLife, while also lowering their costs and giving them a great deal more control.

Having large educational groups (like the university of Texas who now has some 50 sims on SecondLife) running OpenSim on their own servers would have the effect of drastically speeding and empowering the development of the OpenSim platform.

This could make the 3-D web more like the 2-D web where many providers with many servers populate the network, rather than one provider (like Linden Labs) running the whole show.

There is no question that something like OpenSim is the future of the metaverse, moving companies like Linden Labs into the role of provider rather than overlords.

With SecondLife up and running though, there hasn't been much motivation to really develop OpenSim to any great degree, but the moving of educational users off the SecondLife platform to Open Sim could very well be the key to making OpenSim a functional model for the Metaverse.

A large and functioning Academic use of OpenSim would force resolutions to issues like connectivity and portability of content that stymie the development of the platform now.  It even provides a framework for finding solutions since academics are used to solving problems collectively already.

Linden Labs may be trying to set themselves up as key providers in a larger metaverse rather than its sole owner.  That's probably a wise move too, as a larger metaverse is coming whether they like it or not. 

With that thinking, pushing people out of SecondLife into OpenSim starts making a lot of sense because it hastens the development of OpenSim so that LindenLabs might abdicate the throne, but still step down to a profitable position, rather than seeing the whole concept go down the drain.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It Aint About The Lulz

If trolling is all about the lulz, how come people rarely laugh when they do it?

Sometimes they do.  I know a pumpkin who just laughs his ass off when he trolls and usually so do the people he trolls.  It's not always that way though.

Today at Moose I heard a guy called "beaner" probably twenty times.  I hadn't encountered this particular troll before.  I was told his name was "Hades" and he was from Waterhead.  His account was about an hour old.

To be fair, the guy he was trolling was annoying and stupid and I've told him that myself once or twice.  I'm an asshole and I don't suffer fools lightly, but for the most part, confrontations with me last less than a minute and when it's done I usually TP out in hopes of finding something more interesting somewhere else.

Things weren't going well for Hades.  The "Beaner" parried his attack pretty well, so Hades called in Waterballz (or however you spell it) for reinforcement after I called him adolescent and stupid.  I don't know why he felt compelled to call in Yoda-troll for backup.  I guess this particular troll was important to him.  Important enough to come to Moose looking for him.

Nobody was particularly having fun though.  That's because, for some people, trolling isn't about the lulz.  It's about conformity and control.  It's about tribe and whatever sadistic pleasure they derive out of making another human being squirm.  You don't call a person you don't know "beaner" unless your purpose is to harm and belittle.

So don't give me this bullcrap that it's about the lulz.  It aint and you aint.

Were They Traitors?

For several years, Linden Labs subsidized the educational use of SecondLife by offering substantial discounts to schools buying sims.

It wasn't all altruism either.  The idea was that students would come to enjoy SecondLife and continue to use it beyond their classroom experience.  Apple and other companies had the same idea and offered hardware and software at tremendous discounts to students.

For Linden Labs, it didn't really work out that way.  Once class was over, students immediately left SecondLife for more adrenalin based platforms like World of Warcraft and Team Fortress.  Far more teachers stuck around to explore the rest of SecondLife than their students.

Some students did stick around though, and they repaid Linden Labs investment in education by becoming some of the most notorious griefers in the history of the platform.  While some academics argued the value of hacker culture, the rest of us wondered why we had to put up with their crap.

Some people forget that Linden Lab's top priority is to make a profit, and see any moves by them to increase or insure profitability as a terrible betrayal. 

Investing in the academic use of SecondLife wasn't very profitable to Linden Labs.  If anything, it became a drain on resources, which is why, in the middle of this recession, they decided to drastically cut educational subsidies and close the teen grid.  I doubt if they were ever even able to deduct the educational discounts from their taxes.

I'll be sorry to see the educational users of Second Life go.  I like academics and am most comfortable around them, but it not really too hard to see why Linden Labs made this change.

Instead of showing gratitude for the years when Linden Labs did give educational users tens of thousands of dollars worth of sim purchase and tier discounts, most I've seen so far are outraged to see the practice ended.  This sense of entitlement is common among academics, who often don't understand just how difficult it is to raise support and money for education.

Commercial support for education and other non-profits has been slashed across the board during this economic downturn.  That Linden Labs waited this long to make the cuts is a sign of just how dedicated they are to the academy.  I am sure they'd love to continue the practice, but with current business conditions it just wasn't possible.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Parktown Zoo on CNN Website

I was shocked!  Thanks so much JaneyBracken

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-495953?ref=feeds%2Flatest

Linden Labs Ends Subsidies for Educational Sims

Linden Labs announced yesterday that their new sim pricing structure will end the policy of offering educational and non-profit organizations discounts on sim purchases and tiers.

Educational and non profit sims will now pay the regular price for full sims, but Linden Labs still offers discount pricing on homestead and open sims.

The move comes as a real blow to many groups who forged a presence in SecondLife during the years when discounts were offered.

In the days when growth was through the roof, along with cash flow, Linden Labs offered considerable discounts to subsidize educational and non-profit use of SecondLife, but those days are over and the company is having to carefully scrutinize all of their programs.  This change seems congruent with the Labs' earlier decision to close the teen grid.

Many educational users were already investigating moves to open sim grids to take advantage of the considerably lower costs there.  That may be a very good fit for them since most criticism of the open-sim grids centers around their lack of voice and a stable in-world currency, which educational users wouldn't use anyway.

Fur and Hate

I don't know when or how this business of furry hate started.  A lot of it probably came from the simple fact that most people wouldn't have any interest in adopting it as a lifestyle, either in the physical world or a virtual one.

Besides being just kind of odd, there's an unusually large percentage of furries who are homosexual and  homosexuals have been the target of everything from simple jokes to execution for thousands of years.

If you ask most people who express furry hate, they would tell you it was a joke; you (and the furries) shouldn't take the internet so serious.

My question though, is where does it stop being a joke and start being real hate and bigotry or does it always remain a joke, even after the ten millionth iteration?

One thing that's fairly obvious about the furries is that they seem to enjoy it.  They also seem to be fairly normal citizens otherwise and they don't proselytize or try to force the behavior onto people unwilling to participate.

Under those conditions, you might expect most people to simply say "it's kinna weird, but they don't seem to do any harm, so let them do it."  We don't get that though.  We get "yiff in hell fur fag!"

A lot of it sounds like force, control and conformity to me :  you must look and act "normal" or we'll ridicule you until you do.  That doesn't sound like very much of a joke to me.

Certain groups like 4-chan, Woodbury and W-Hat seem all about conformity and control to me.  It's probably a natural result of the way they constantly harass each other and everyone else.  Not surprisingly, these are also hot-spots for furry hate.  Conform or die motha' fukka!

This drive for conformity is probably the seed for nearly all real hate in the world and I wonder if what we see with furry hate now isn't the start of something much larger and more dangerous.

Beyond the occasional gorilla suit, you probably won't see me with much fur, but, ya' know, if that's what you want to do with your time then I really don't much care.  To be fair, they would probably find what I do with my time pretty dull as well.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rights of Avatars

Somebody suggested that I write something about giving rights to SecondLife avatars to defend themselves against the broken Abuse Report system.

A number of people have written and talked about this for years.  Most notable (or at least most vocal) is probably the Second Life Liberation Army.

Phillip himself has commented in the past that he'd like to find an alternative to the system in place.  I don't blame him.  Trying to manage disputes between users must be a huge pain in the collective Linden behind.

The system is clearly broken.  People are pulled off the grid for being under age when they're already age verified and it takes weeks and months to straighten it out.  I know of one woman who was hardware banned for copy bot when she didn't even know what it was.

Some sort of system where users could review these charges and have some sort of "trial" (for lack of a better term) to determine whether the person should lose their account or not seems like a better alternative.

It would mean users would have to occasionally perform jury duty, but that's probably doable.

Where the system might break down is all the "evidence" for such "trials" would have to come from Linden Labs.  Message logs, inventories, event logs etc. are all in their possession and there would be not only some cost involved in providing them to user tribunals, but probably also some liability too.

I know Universities sometimes face this problem with their Honor Codes, where people, unwilling to accept the verdict of the Honor Code committee, end up suing the University anyway. 

The same would probably happen with Linden Labs, because whatever the User Tribunal came up with, the company is still responsible for what happens in SecondLife.  Linden Labs would probably require some way to indemnify themselves from the actions of the tribunal, and that would be complicated, and probably not fool-proof.

Most of these obstacles can be overcome by a careful re-wording of the terms of service, basically contractually binding us to the actions of the users tribunal.

Then comes in the problem of how to select and manage judges and jurors.  How can you hold a fair election when some people have twenty or thirty alt accounts?  Some of the more organized griefer groups like W-Hat or Woodbury would certainly find ways to rig elections and get their candidates elected.

To have any sort of fair election process, we'd have to figure out a way to ensure a one person/one vote system which would be pretty complicated given the current structure of the internet.  It would almost certainly involve getting rid of free accounts, or at least making them ineligible to vote or serve on juries.  The Lindens could appoint judges and juries, but that kind of puts us back at square one.

I would love to see some sort of user reviewed system of justice in Second Life, but the road from here to there will be a long one and it would involve changing the very nature of how avatars are created and maintained on the grid.  For one thing, it would probably involve the end of people having alternate accounts, or at least giving alternate accounts no rights or ability to participate in the system, while still holding people accountable for what they do on alternate accounts.

Some communities in SecondLife are already experimenting with these sorts of things to settle disputes within their communities.  While these are worthy efforts, the system breaks down when somebody decides not to accept the verdict of the community and files abuse reports against the judge, jury and the other parties.

As the metaverse grows and evolves, something like this probably will develop, but it's a long way off and who knows Linden Labs will still exist by the time we figure out how to accomplish it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Buy Out Rumors False

Yesterday I reported an internet rumor that Microsoft might buy Linden Labs.  Today it's revealed to be just a rumor.

Tizzers Foxdale from the Alphaville Herald admits to the fake.   And the internet yawned in disbelief.
"Is Tizzers Foxchase the ultimate industry insider – or the author of one of the most successful Second Life trolls ever?"
No, and no.  Tizzers is very impressed with Tizzers, but the rest of  us are not that interested.

Tizzers claims credit for exposing links between the JLU and the Lindens, but from what I can see both have carried on as if nothing ever happened.  All Tizzers and The Wrong Hands accomplished was publishing the JLU wiki so everyone can read it.

I'm not even sure what Tizzer's complaint was here.  The JUL collects information about SL avatars and makes it available to their members.  The Alphaville Herald also collects information about SL avatars and makes it available to everyone.  The only difference I can see is the format and the size of the audience.

The Lindens had two groups, one working against them (Woodbury, PN etc) and one wanting to work with them (JLU).  While I probably would have chosen not to work with the JLU, it's not surprising that the Lindens did, and if they did, it's kind of their right to do so.  They own the company.

I allow both sides of the conflict in Parktown, so long as they understand they're not to further the conflict while they're there.  The one time a JLU member came to Parktown, I asked him to remove his badge as it caused a scripts spike and he complied immediately.

I'm not even sure Tizzers knew the rumor was false either.  Profky speculates the rumor started with the departing Spike Linden as the time of the tweet was just before his farewell party.  Normally I wouldn't give that much credit to SL's most notorious complainer, but she might be right this time.

Movie Meme of the Day -- Zulu

This one's for Shazzy.

From the 1964 film ZULU, A small company (149) of Welsh soldiers, horribly miss-managed by their English superiors and nearly out of ammo, sing Men Of Harlech in the face of an overwhelming (over 3,000) force of Zulu Warriors.



Filmed in 1963 and Directed by American blacklisted director Cy Endfield, ZULU tells the story of the Anglo-Zulu war fought in the 19th century and marked the end of the Zulu empire in Africa.

The sequence is notable for its use of music, juxtaposing the Zulu war chants with the Welsh singing.  The action is fairly accurate to 19th century British warfare and accounts of the battle of Rorke's Drift.

Also accurate are the construction and use of the Zulu Iklwa.  Invented by Shaka Zulu himself, the Iklwa was a short spear with a long metal head used like sword or bayonet rather than thrown and the heavy shield.  Known as the Spartans of Africa, these methods and weapons built one of the world's great empires.

Africans used call and response singing in warfare for perhaps thousands of years to intimidate the opposition, but Shaka Zulu was particularly noted for his effective use of the method and his songs are remembered by his people to this day.

News reached the company at Rorke's Drift that a much larger Brittish force was slaughtered by the advancing Zulus.  More British forces were days away from offering any relief so the Welsh company at Rorke's Drift knew they had to defend themselves.

With only two stone and thatch buildings to protect them, the Welsh company of less than 150 and a handful of African guides made a perimeter around their camp using wagons and sacks of flour and provisions when a cloud of over 3,000 Zulu warriors appeared on the horizon.

The Zulus attacked in waves and the Welsh repelled them with volley fire of single-fire rifles and a few pistols.  Through the night the Zulus set fire to the roofs of both camp buildings and continued their attack.

The Welsh suffered fourteen dead to over six hundred Zulu.  At dawn the Zulus abandoned the field, not knowing the Welsh were moments away from being entirely out of ammo and defenseless save their bayonets and valor. 

Men of Harlech is a traditional Welsh song dating to the fifteenth century and used as the official march of Welsh forces even today. 

Men of Harlech, march to glory,
Victory is hov'ring o'er ye,
Bright-eyed freedom stands before ye,
Hear ye not her call?

At your sloth she seems to wonder;
Rend the sluggish bonds asunder,
Let the war-cry's deaf'ning thunder
Every foe appall.

Echoes loudly waking,
Hill and valley shaking;
'Till the sound spreads wide around,
The Saxon's courage breaking;

Your foes on every side assailing,
Forward press with heart unfailing,
'Till invaders learn with quailing,
Cambria ne'er can yield!

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