Wednesday, April 22, 2009

you're tearing off the wings of all my unprotected dreams for nothing

So there's a new blog post on the Linden multi-blog site. I suppose it's good they're so upbeat and perky about the change...

The first thing that struck me was their attempt to make things look really, really good, in a sort of future-sex kind of way--with the feminine curves of yet another Sydney Opera House knock-off, paired with a Flash Gordon-styled phallic symbol. Now, Fawkes tells me it strikes him more as a futuristic Big Ben, and I hope he's right.

But that wasn't the worst of it. The worst of it was the chipper, and completely impenetrable, language they've decided to use now. In the third post from a new--and open--adult content thread, Blondin Linden says this:

6. I've also read, from Blondin Linden, that something like a strip club would be adult. Then there's people quoting Jack Linden saying that it's the really extreme stuff like dismemberment and such. These are two very, very different things and you've left us all wondering where the line actually is.

This public discussion phase is critical in gathering opinions / feedback which will need to be factored into any decisions regarding adult definitions. This is to ensure a minimally disruptive and ultimately successful implementation and responses from the forums and direct feedback have already provided valuable insights in this regard. Once this is complete, we hope that we will have considered all possible scenarios before publicizing any official definitions.

Gosh, it's good to know Blondin's mastered the art of saying nothing at all, and using ever so many words to do so.

The point just above that one? Changes the budding understanding of age verification:

5. How will having payment info on file will work as age verification. When we did the age-verification stuff a couple years ago, LL make it very clear that credit cards could not be used for age verification and some card companies ( still say this on their websites.

We are not merely collecting credit card numbers as a means of verifying age. We are requiring that accounts be in some way "verified" as a proxy for us to feel comfortable that Residents are appropriate for Adult access. This might be, for instance, an actual payment record (not merely presentation of a credit card), or it might be, alternatively, "age verified" status by our age verification vendor.

Which is...just...great.

Shockwave Yareach commented:

Second, the Lindens are not bothering to keep the greeting and Newbies area to their PG rating. They haven't in the past. They are not today. And we are talking about a couple of sims, max. Tell me, how exactly are the people who said that they couldn't maintain the rating in their own parcels going to maintain a rating across the entire mainland?

It's a point. Even throughout all of this, and the many, many voices complaining in all forum threads and by personally AR'ing folks, about the welcome areas being havens for griefing, violence, and sexual harassment...nothing has changed. If the Labs want this so badly, and yet they do nothing to stop Welcome Areas for new residents being devalued like this, how can we trust them to get an entire adult continent right?

Shockwave again:

I stand by my opinion that the only way SL will improve its image is by having all unverified being limited to a new, G rated continent, and that all new characters form there. When someone then chooses to verify, they may go to the rest of the continents. Simple, easy to enforce, and fair. Unlike the current plan which is hopeless and has absolutely no hope of success, even if everyone cooperates and follows the rules to the letter.

Absolutely. And why is this the discarded plan, I ask yet again? Make a "safe" entry zone--no one there who has adult-continent access--and yes, I'd extend that to the mentors working there, or encourage the development of "clean" registered alts for mentors who want to help out--and, if users want something past the playspaces available on the "family-friendly" continent, then they can petition to...well, get off the island, for lack of a better phrase. Why wouldn't this work?

Shockwave yet again:

It is time for you to FIRE Mr. Kingdon. He doesn't comprehend SL, doesn't think highly of his customers, has caused the loss of several key people in the organization, and isn't smart enough to be able to expand SL without destroying everything that you've worked so hard to build. When you want to increase traffic over a river, you build a second bridge. But you don't dynamite the first bridge before you start building the second - M has a history of doing that. His attitude seems to be that he and he alone is right and nobody may question his guidance, even if far superior solutions are available.

I formally claim NO CONFIDENCE in M, and I ask for his termination.

I'd second that, save I already know this won't happen, and it's useless asking for it. But I would also tend to agree--based on his actions since he took over, he's done nothing but set the plane on fire and aim it for the ground. Is this the leadership Linden Labs needs to keep Second Life vital and growing? I don't think so.

On the same topic, Lindal Kidd comments in:

And if you really want to improve the New User Experience, do something about the Welcome Areas!!! As a model, I suggest you go look at what Desmond Shang and Carl Metropolitan have done at the University of Caledon Oxbridge.

...and I have to laugh sarcastically for a moment, because here's someone I've never met before in Caledon, that I can recall, recommended heartily the work of the man the Labs banned for...something I still can't figure out!

*makes a mental note to ask Des*

On that note, though, I'm not saying anyone in the Labs has the strength or the blind confidence to do things Shang-style, and I'm the first to admit he has made mistakes--but one thing he made sure happened was that every Caledonian, mentor or not, understood how important this was for all of us, and the grid. And Caledon Oxbridge is a success precisely because we follow the rules--our mentors kick out unruly sorts, gently encourage new users towards the value of clothing, are primed with packs of useful freebies--and are unfailingly polite, friendly, and generally capable.

Maybe that's the problem with other welcome areas--there's no sense of welcome to them anymore. They've been taken over by wannabe thugs with twisted agendas, and no one has stepped forward to stop them, because no one who's not a mentor with bouncing/banning rights can.

Corona Gausman brings up M again:

Yes, get rid of Mark Kingdon. How much damage can one man do? In M's case, lots - look at what we have today compared to a year ago. Cory is gone. Zee is gone. The CFO just quit. Wow, and we thought he was incompetent in VR!

Please, Phillip, please. Fire this "businessman" who can't run the lab without crashing it into stuff.

I really don't know if Phillip Linden/Rosedale has any corporate powers anymore. Or maybe he really is uninvested, and moving on to other things. What is clear is that Kingdon is not the man for this job, unless the ultimate goal of SL is to make it into a corporate Neopets--with (clothed) dancing girls replacing virtual pets, and conference rooms replacing the childrens' games.

Blue Linden chimed in on the potential grid merge:

Originally Posted by Rayne Keynes
It has been stated by enough Lindens enough times, in enough different places. They are merging the grids.

[ ... ] It's not "they are" or "they will"'s "They would like to, maybe someday".

Okay, forgive me if this has been asked before, but...seriously, now: why do we want the Teen Grid merged with the adult grid? I'm honestly curious, here. Why? Just that simple question, why?

I grant, one cannot (supposedly) play on the Teen Grid until age thirteen, so we wouldn't have five-year-olds at the keys (one would HOPE); but even with that, and a population that behaves itself as if filmed 24/7 (which won't happen) why does anyone want their thirteen-to-eighteen-year-old daughters and sons wandering around a grid festooned with people who will proposition them for all sorts of things just for fun?

Virtual drugs, weapons, propositions for sex...that's not even the worst of it--what about the people who will try to extort money from them, in many and various ways? It's not the potential of sex with the underage that worries me--though that does worry me--as much as the potential for non-adults on the grid at all.

Let me be clear on this. I am not a parent. I am at best, an aunt for various friends and family--this means I always have the right to give the spawn back to them what spawned 'em. So I'm sure I have fewer concerns about "child safety" than do people who are parents.

But for me personally, as an adult, who wants to spend time around adults, the concept alone of merging the grids is a baffling one. I do not want to interact with:

* People who can't spell
* LOLpeople
* Idiots who can't figure out how to take off their pants
* Did I mention CHILDREN?
* Spampires
* Overly rigid moralists who don't seem to realize that the world is not just black and white (and again, for Otenth and others--not talking about you, people who have strong moral guidelines are fine; it's the ones who "know everything" and refuse to adapt to changes; moreover, it's the ones who "know" that "we'd all be better off" if we lived in the ways they do, because those are the "right ways" to live)
* Teenagers I don't personally know
* Parents who want to scream at me for corrupting their children ("I can't dance in a club with naked strippers; my kids are in the room!" "Then, lady, DON'T DANCE at our club; this is NOT my problem")

Does that make things clear? I have no problem dealing with teenagers who have working brains. I have no problems speaking with the underage, and doing my best to keep my language and comments "clean", but the minute I have someone whose total output is

lol u w/c?

is when I walk the HELL AWAY.

Oh, and for the record? The word is spelled "what", not "wut". Anyone who can't tell the difference? Is on my list of those I don't want to deal with.

Bambi Newall's entire post is worth reading; I'll try to keep the quoting from it to a minimum, but this may run long.

Newbies should have a mentor to walk them through the basics of SL 101:

* SL is a role playing game
* You can be what you want to be, but [respectful] of others
* Show them the griefers, so they are prepared for it and learn how to avoid them and defend for yourself

I will say the statements that follow are very, very odd:

* (I don't believe in banning anyone, not even griefers. Violence simply breeds violence.)
* Banning is for the control freak society. A free society is tolerant of others even if they annoy you.

because here's the thing: even in a so-called "free society", you lock the door against folks who are disruptive. Or, put a more direct way, punch me in the face once, you won't be invited back to my home. You're free to wander anywhere else, but if you come by, I'm going to remember that you punched me and say no when you knock. I don't think that's being a "control freak", I think that's standing up for myself.

She goes on, though (and I'm trimming here and there just for clarity of message and length):

* Tell them that this is a consenting adult game.
* No one will make you do anything if you don't agree to it.
* Show them how to build.
* Tell them you can be as real as you want to be, or as fake as you want to pretend.
* Tell them you don't have to trust anyone, or take any candy from strangers, [especially] objects from strangers.
* Tell them if you don't like your body, you can change your skin or shape, it's only an avatar
* Tell them if you don't like your body, you can change your skin or shape, it's only an avatar
* Tell them if you ever got killed, re-log, and you will get a new life
* Tell them if they give birth to a baby, it is only their own alt, that is simply a clone of themselves on a free account

Okay, I'm snickering at that one, but we'll move on:

* Tell them that you may see avatars on a leash or collar, but it is a role-playing game by consenting adults
* Tell them you don't have to believe anything you see in SL is real, it's no different from what you see in a movie, there is a script behind the scene
* Tell them you don't have to engage in those activities if you choose not to.
* Tell them if it bothers you too much, or you cannot deal with them, seek professional advice.
* Tell them you can be civil to each other even if you don't agree with them or what they do.
* Tell them SL is a place where you can experiment with different ideas and different scenarios, unlike RL where you cannot change the course of time.
* Tell them SL is like an interactive movie, if you don't like the scene, you can fast forward to something else; you are an active player in this movie.
* Tell them people come to SL for many different reasons, so don't expect they will always want the same thing as you think or as you like them to be
* Tell them people are different, you cannot expect them to be the same as you.
* Tell them some people think they can get away with rude behavior because they hide anonymously behind that computer, so don't get too upset at their isolation
* Tell them how to use your imagination to create in SL
* Tell them you can shake hands, hug each other, and say goodbye. It won't hurt anybody doing so.
* Tell them LL will do whatever they please, so don't be surprised when they change the rules on you.

Sounds like Parenting 101, doesn't it?

But that is what is needed for the newbies.

Precisely, to the point I'm somewhat tempted to make a list on my own and carry it around. Just in case.

DigitalJoe SaintLouis proposes a free account trial period again:

Banning non-verified accounts from "Mature" rated sims whatsoever would eliminate any possible minors from accessing mature content. My club isn't adult content, my club is MATURE! I don't have topless dancers begging for lindens. I have willing consensual MATURE roleplayers who enjoy a more deviant side of

Milla Janick disagrees:

It would also eliminate most of the active SL user base, and the money they spend in SL. Want to put as many SL businesses out of business as fast as possible? End free accounts.

While I believe Miss Janick is right, I also want to point out the staggering flaw in DigitalJoe's proposal: that "payment info on file" does not equate "eighteen or over". It's just a legal construct that many clubs operate by. Why? Because ensuring that payment information is on file does two things:

1. It ensures that a credit card--someone's card--is attached to the account; and

2. It ensures that, with payment information on file, that account has likely bought Lindens using said payment info, and is likely to do so again.

Payment information not on file, and an account younger than thirty days (two weeks at some clubs) are guaranteed rejections for many managers, in many, many places: there's just too much risk involved in no-payment, two-week-old accounts.

Professor Milos chimes in on the new thread as well:

I was going to write something about the need to enforce the existing ToS and about sorting problems in search. But, you know what, on second thoughts, I can't be bothered anymore. Your continued insistence to skirt around any sensible challenge to your plans is, well, more than anything... disappointing. And enough, much more articulate people have asked you the questions I would want answered and apart from a few, most of them have been ignored and you've cherry picked the ones you feel comfortable replying to.

Finally then, take a look at your own Second Life Residents' Choice Awards. Great idea - but (if anybody was wondering anymore) seriously, what sort of age group or level of maturity are you targeting when you use language like, 'My favorite cuddly LINDEN BEAR MUSEUM', 'My favorite depressing place to BE EMO', or 'My favorite nom-nom-y PRIM FOOD ARTIST'.

I can cope with some light hearted indulgences in the list - but, that said, you're really unable to be grown-up enough to have a category listed as 'My favourite hotspot to HAVE SEX'? Seriously?

I think this is a clear sign to many of us.

Yeah. Gaia-with-bigger-avatars, here we come.

I'll go back to the old thread, and try to tie that up if my brain doesn't fall apart in pink sections, but these are not bad points. The problem is, the Lindens don't seem at all invested--or interested--in hearing them.

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