Thursday, April 2, 2009

hope is always fear for the pain it may cost

Look! Steam octopus!

The bot debate rages, and I don't know enough about the clear pros or cons to take a stand, other than I'm likely on the side Prokofy Neva is not on, just on general principle.

Also, Lindens in this blog post wanted their readers to think culling calling cards affects nothing; yet that's the exact issue that Desmond Shang faced that's killed his account. (Twice, even!) And both times he was able to log in and fix things once he'd deleted the cards. And he's not the only one.

So, I think I'm winding down again on the whole explicit sex/violence commentary, but I did want to mention a few more things. First, Lotte Twilight's entire post needs to be read, but the really relevant portions I'm including below:

Also, Linden Lab needs to treat its customers a lot better. I first heard of this new, jarring change last night and when I tried to come post on the forums, all threads were locked. I need to know how this change will affect my land holdings (they just expect us to keep paying each month not knowing if our build is just going to be unceremoniously evicted to some random parcel? or will we have to SELL our land at the horrid current market rates and buy new land in the porn ghetto??). So I called customer service and the hapless guy told me to... file on JIRA. So I did post my question there. And guess what response I got? None. Except that Alexa Linden "resolved" my issue by labeling it "misfiled." Maybe they should inform their phone support staff not to tell customers to post there then.

This is of course assuming you have concierge service to call Linden Labs and get any form of answer at all; many, many SL residents don't even have that much.

I had hoped the "child av sex" thing a couple years ago would have shed light on the real issue in SL: lack of real privacy (everything is PUBLIC) and lack of content tagging/filtering so people can effectively seek or avoid content as needed. Instead what did SL do then? They implemented some vague, unenforceable, puritanical, and completely knee-jerk policy mumbo jumbo that did NOTHING to protect anyone from taboo adult content on the grid while at the same time creating an ignorant fervor in the community that made both sexual and nonsexual age players into second class citizens.

And that same vague, unenforceable, puritanical, and completely knee-jerk policy, for all I'm getting from it, seems to be forming the basis of the new definitions, for everything I can tell. It's going to be vague; it's going to be badly written; it's going to be archaic and extraordinarily difficult to implement; and it's all going to come down to "Don't do bad things, kthxbai."

You can keep dividing people, Linden Lab, or you can design privacy and content control systems that let people enjoy SL united, even on the mainland. Consult with some creative people with virtual world experience and maybe you will get different answers. Web sites and text based communities/contents are NOT comparable to real-time virtual worlds. Information architecture and taxonomy to divvy up flat web content will not work in SL because you're selling experiences to complex multi-dimensional people. You're not selling static porn pics or adult products that can be neatly categorized in the "back room" so please take a more holistic look at your customers.

And she's absolutely right in this edited reprint of her comments; she's absolutely right in the full version, too.

Amaterasu Cinquetti has a more disturbing problem:

I have 2 premium accounts that have been in SL and owned land on the mainland since early 2005. Pretty much the same people have also always owned land in my sim. Now I am not sure what is being considered Adult content, but I am darn sure I don't have it. My land consists of a series of platforms all with grottoes, waterfall, gazebos, and plants. And there is 3 danceballs out on one of those platforms. Anyone that wishes is welcome to come look for themselves to see if it is Adult content.

But yesterday I received emails on both my premium accounts giving me 7 days to Age verify using "a legible copy of a government-issued identification document (state ID, driver's license, passport, military ID, birth certificate) that clearly includes both your name and date of birth. This is the only type of identification acceptable for establishing age eligibility."
And that both my accounts have been frozen until I do. If not received within 7 days my accounts will be discontinued.

Can anyone explain why I am being coerced in such a way to provide information that 1. I don't have, and 2. is illegal for me to send outside my country, and 3. is for something ie. "adult material" that I don't use?

That's a damned good question, there.

Argent Stonecutter comments back:

I have only ever heard of this happening because someone was accused of being a minor. According to previous threads in the forums: if you're accused of being a minor you have to age-verify regardless of your current status, even if you've already age-verified with Aristotle or through a previous incident of this type.

And to me, that's sort of spooky. She's been paying full land tier every month, month in and month out, which means carrying a premium account, which means at some point verification of credit card information at the least, full legal address and phone number at the most extreme, and in those five years she's never had a need to call for concierge service and verify she's who she says she is, with someone living on the other end of the phone listening to her voice?

And she still somehow got labeled as a child??

Cinda Noel is going to be nearly our last comment dealt with this time around:

I think all this discussion is pointless. It seems like LL always does this. They decide on a policy, then put up a forum to "listen to our concerns" and "share our feedback and ideas", and then just go ahead and implement their crap policy anyway with very few if any changes, ideas, or concerns addressed. It's just an exercise to let us all blow off steam. M Linden was making allusions to "cleaning up" SL in his address at SLCC last year, so this has been coming for awhile.

She's not wrong. Say all you will about Teen Grid not unifying, about Philip and M just saying things that they're thinking about, not that they're planning to implement...but this is another thing directly in the downline from that address at SLCC M gave.

This account is an alt I created after an unfortunate experience with someone who turned out to be an RL client of the company where I work. My anonymity is important to me and as it turns out, to my rl safety. While I still use my original account from time to time, I mostly log into SL with this one.

A lot of people value SL's anonymity. Even with such anonymity, there are stalkers, aberrant folks who go insane for no apparent reason, a great deal of harm that is dealt for no other reason than idiots wished to deal harm in such ways....everything from death threats to massively emotional break-ups can and do happen, to some people, every single day that SL is up and active. Bringing in a (likely hackable) database of real life info to add into the psychotic existing people some run into and deal with? Not the best thing ever, and that may well be understating.

As soon as I have to provide ANY personal information in order to use this account, I am gone.

And, I really do mean that, not just an empty threat where I say I'm going to quit but stay on anyway.

I still can't say if I'm staying or going. I know I'm getting closer to returning, but it still feels like an environment that is trying to deny my existence. As long as I feel like that, I'm not going to be as regular a resident in SL as I once was.

I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Nicolette Lefavre said in her comment on the issue:

And to LL: You already destroyed A LOT of your user's trust in you with the openspace/homestead debacle. If you chose to make people move (and that simply can NOT be done without cost and/or work on behalf of the ones who have to move, no matter how much you try to assist), then you will surely lose yet more trust in you. And you will lose that trust from people who account for a *major* part of the inworld economy. People who have innovated and continue to innovate. People who created content that the majority of users actually use. People who have invested time and money because they trusted you. Lose that trust and you will lose a lot of attractive content that won't be created anymore.

I have nothing more to add to that: she's not wrong. She's not at all wrong.

Moon Metty's entire post is worth reading, but here again are the highlights:

The dialog (more like reciting the Hong Kong phonebook to an answering machine) lessened in a way a train at full speed crashes into a concrete wall. The threads were closed ...

Here are some highlights of the dialog so far:

Q: Won't it be hard to define a clear standard?
A: Please read the link we had to remove because it didn't reflect our current thinking.

Q: How will the geographical relocation of adult content work?
A: No idea.

Q: How did you arrive at the 2-4% ?
A: Research.
Q: Isn't that number a little low?
A: 2-4%

Q: Will I have to pay to relocate?
A: No.
Q: Are you aware this could ruin my business?
A: But you won't have to pay for it.

*sighs* I suppose there's always an up side? Or something...

Catherine Linden finally weighs in on page thirteen of the new post (which, ironically, is now also closed to comment). You can read her full post, or read over the transcript I brought out:

-- How much of SL is adult oriented content?
Based on our research, we estimate that around 2-4% of content on the mainland would be considered Adult according to our current thinking on defining that. For all of Second Life, our content research shows it is around 5%. In other words, 95% of Second Life either mature or PG.. Again, we estimate that only around 2-4% of the mainland parcels would need to either relocate or reconfigure to meet the requirements in our current thinking, but of course we are looking for your feedback to help define that.

I still say it's much higher, but then, I haven't been looking, for more than a year, for the really dark-themed places. I know they're there; but as to exactly how many? I, as many residents, truly have no clue.

-- What about adult activity in private on the mainland? e.g. Is Linden Lab making rules about what I can do in my own house on the Mainland?
Nope. We are talking about public behavior and events, businesses and listings that are meant to drive explicit sexual and violent activity.

And it's that definition of "explicit", we're all hinging on. How explicit is "explicit"? Who defines that (besides the Lindens)? What if my "explicit" is different from yours? Who wins?

-- What about objects/avatars/groups that some consider inherently related to specific sexual activities or preferences - e.g. furries, sexy clothing, etc. - will that be considered 'Adult content'?
We're still working on tight definitions (which we'd like your help with) on what is considered Adult, but in general sexy clothing, skins, and furries aren't inherently explicitly sexual, and stay in the Mature areas (i.e. won’t need to move to the Adult continent).

I want a ruling on names, frankly. Whilst on the Loco Pocos egg hunt (yes, there's a Loco Pocos egg hunt) today, I saw a woman dressed in clingy white sheepskin (like, something akin to a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader skimpy) and big boots walk by with a group title (WEAR ON YOUR FACE). Her name?

Pussie Gummiebaum.

Likely there are more now, but at one point, having met a woman named Vagina (whose SL bio blurb just said VAGINA, and her FL bio echoed that--in all caps), I looked it up, and there were more than thirty-six people who'd thought that was an ideal first name.

-- Why not make all PG content move to a new continent?
Both PG and Adult are the exception, rather than the rule, in Second Life. We would prefer to keep the majority of the content and interaction where it is currently – the Mature regions.

So...why bother with all of this in the first place, is the first question that comes to mind...

-- Why not a G-rated continent?
This is not about teenagers in Second Life or the Teen Grid. This is about providing a choice about the kind of experience people want to have in Second Life, which is fundamentally an 18+ service.

And again, the first question that comes to mind--if SL is already an 18+ level game...why all this controversy?? I just don't get it.

-- What happens to my personal data? Will it get shared with a 3rd party when I verify my account?
Our 3rd party age verification provider uses several types of data to verify your account, but they do not store the data or use it in any other way.

And this was the first place my mental hand raised and I thought, clearly and loudly, I do not believe you. And I don't--their database has been hacked twice in my memory--and successfully hacked twice--and yet, they still managed to go out and find an age verification firm known for selling information!

I do not believe them. I purely, honestly, do not believe they're speaking the truth. And I say that putting a certain value on true things; and on slander and accusations without basis. Even so, I cannot believe them.

-- What decisions are Residents going to be able to impact?
We are open to talking about many aspects of the change – timeline, more granular definitions of mature vs Adult, how those who need to move want to make that work. We know some of you are asking for a more definitive timeframe – that is part of the ongoing conversation, what is reasonable in your view?

Right...that's why the Lindens keep closing comment threads.

I'm going to split this into two posts, because there's obviously more to go through. I will end with a comment from Screwtape Foulsbane that is nearly enough for me to ban him from every property I own, and every sim I can argue the sim owners into banning him from as well. The problem with that, though? Is that his attitude is overwhelmingly common, to the point of resigned nodding on my part, and resigned sighing, after the flash of hissing rage:

Age verification = Gender verification?

If so, this could be one of the few good things to come out of the new changes. No more men pretending to be women and vice-versa.

I've dealt with this before, but I'll say it again now:

1. Why the hell does it matter if you're never going to meet the person RL?

2. Even with that codicil, why the hell does it matter?

It's not YOUR life and it's not YOUR body, virtual or not. Maybe someone's just interested in the opposite gender. Maybe they really are conflicted about their gender, but due to societal, familial, or professional pressures, they can't make the change without extreme stress and suicidal ideation--fine, they can try it out in SL, and be the man or woman they want to be in RL.

Who does this harm? Really, honestly, whom would this cause such trauma to that it must be prevented at all costs?

And if you raise your hand to say you, let me know now, because I don't understand and I won't understand and believe me, my position will not change.

We are a large diverse planet of souls, and on that large diverse planet, we have a large and diverse grid of personalities. The broken and the botched, the angelic and the kind, the compassionate and the sadistic, and everyone in between. Everyone has the capacity to shine. Few exercise it.

Obviously, the Lindens aren't. I'm hoping the rest of us figure it out in time.


Sphynx Soleil said...

Age verification = Gender verification?

wtf does it matter what gender someone is in RL? There are more important things to worry about when it's just a name (or avatar) on a screen! It's enough to make me look into getting some form of official ID with (first initial) (Middle initial) (last name) just out of spite...

Emilly Orr said...

I know, I'm the same way. This is apparently a huge issue in MMOs; someone on my neophyte friendslist in Runes of Magic actually goes so far as to judge, based on interactions, character attire, and typed inflection, whether someone is "likely" male or female, but then waits for official confirmation by voice! Not only that, but he has this fetish for real names that is--coming as I do from years of online privacy protection, and from three years of SL's "never give out RL information" status--terrifying to me.

(Why do I keep him on the friends list? Because he likes Tolkien; because he's a damned good fighter in a pinch; and because he's funny. But the gender politics angle, I could happily ditch.)

To find that the same attitude exists in SL is not surprising, and, while disheartening, not even unexpected--it's just sad.