Tuesday, June 2, 2009

somehow I just don't wanna stay and wait for a wonder


Good Afternoon Everyone! While this issue has received a tremendous amount of attention from the community we feel that that this is not the best place to be voicing your concerns. This issue tracker is used by developers and engineers and this has turned into an issue of policy. A blog has been posted with a discussion thread and you can sign a resident created letter of protest. Also, feel free to attend Blondin's weekly Office Hours on Weds at 330pm PST.

That's how the JIRA issue MISC-2727 begins now.

It ends with a comment from DanielRavenNest Noe, in which he states:

Halt the implementation of Adult content changes due to the following reasons:

1) The given reason for this change is the request of a small number of users. Making everyone who did not want this change adapt is unfair, disruptive, and will hurt many existing businesses and social groups. It generates bad feelings with your customers, and hurts your long term business.

a) The Second Life main grid has always been intended as an over-18 environment, and we have self-selected to be here because of the freedoms, like minded people, and technical possibilities to engage in adult activities.

b) In a poll of 307 forum readers, 67% said they engaged in adult activities. 84% of estate regions (where they can control the maturity settings) are rated mature. So we are the majority.

c) Some of us think the real motivations are simply to make more money for Linden Labs:

c1) Under-sizing of new Adult mainland continent plus the new rules can be seen as forcing people to move to adult estate land. Tier is 50% higher on estates, so more income for Linden Labs.

c2) Forcing more people to provide payment info may lead to more spending, directly

c3) Verified accounts may be more attractive to new outside businesses as a better demographic.

d) Despite claims of lower level staff that this is not about merging the teen grid, Philip Linden, the founder of Second Life, has stated that is a long term goal. These adult changes are viewed by some as a step in that direction. The same mechanism that prevents people from accessing the Adult regions can be used to lock teens out of any but PG regions.

e) Second life is already a sufficiently predictable experience, since almost all travel is by teleport, which requires an intentional use of search or landmarks.

2) The discussion so far has missed the vast majority of the SL population. Blog and forums is only read by 5-10% of the population, and all discussion to date has been English only. Meetings have reached only a few hundred people out of an active population of 500K - 1 million.

3) New Adult mainland continent relocation has problems:

a) Segregation of Mainland into Adult continent while not requiring Estates to do so, or separating Mature and PG on the remaining mainland is unfair to one group,

b) Allowing adjacent mixed rating regions on some parts of the grid does not achieve the intended goal of "a predictable experience where you see what you want to".

c) Moving only businesses and clubs will lead to lag, as those are typically more populated than residential areas.

d) If Linden Labs guesses wrong on how large to make that area, it can lead to land speculation or drops in land prices elsewhere.

e) First come, first served move plan will result in inefficient layout. Small parcel moved first will block later larger ones. First mover can claim desirable waterfront or other features, or claim center of region default landing point, making it impossible for later movers to receive equivalent land to their previous mainland. Anyone who accidentally misses the start of the land grab will get the worst parcels.

f) Move assistance underestimates the damage caused by moving in time, landmark changes, and loss of customers.

g) Offering move assistance to only some people is discriminatory.

4) These changes will have the opposite of the intended effect in several ways:

a) If there are customers to be found on non adult regions, businesses will seek ways to reach them. Making search less useful will result in more active means of advertising (spam).

b) Unadvertised adult content will be located in high traffic areas, when people are not actively looking for it.

5) Verification system fails technically in many ways, and is unacceptable to many people

a) Many children have credit cards in their own name, and can thus verify via payment info

b) Others can borrow adult ID (with or without consent) and verify with it

c) The Aristotle database is known to be corrupt and accept dead people's ID, or fail with correct ID.

d) Data entry fields are incorrect for some countries.

e) Even after verification, some people cannot access adult features once online

f) Many people suspect Aristotle of selling information, or simply do not want the risk of placing ID information online

g) Some people participating in adult activities wish to remain anonymous

6) Second Life does not properly explain adult features

a) Registration fails to advise people that the service contains adult content, and has a separate teen area.

b) 1.23 client messages when attempting to search for adult content are vague and do not explain how to activate adult settings.

c) Current and draft Terms of Service, Community Standards, and Knowledge base articles are out of date, confusing, and out of line with community standards elsewhere (movies and television ratings for example), and are US-centric.

7) Search changes fail in a number of ways:

a) Mixed-use parcels cannot be properly advertised since the system uses a combination of region rating and word filters to determine what shows in the results. This forces stores to have multiple locations, or lose some customers.

b) Adult word filter works badly, and hiding what the actual list is ensures people will use it badly. There are many ways to get around the specific word list.

c) Only the input is filtered, the results still include adult items.

d) Filter list unfairly concentrates on sexual terms, but not violence, drugs, or other adult themes.

e) Unannounced changes to the filter list is unfair to people who already have items in search, especially paid classifieds, and subjects people to AR's with no warning.

f) Only English words are filtered.

8) Definitions of maturity levels and how they are to be applied is unclear.

a) Private vs Public is poorly defined as of yet, but public adult content is being asked to adapt or move.

b) Words in search, words used in other SL communication methods, the objects referred to by those words, and the actual activities are all different. Statements have been made that the objects would be allowed while advertising words for them would not.

c) Answers provided so far by Linden staff contradict each other and published and draft documents. KB 6010 and 6345 are inconsistent in how they define things.

d) Use of MPAA (PG) and ESRB (Mature) rating terms is confusing since the Second Life definitions are not the same.

9) Land was sold with certain product features, and to change them after sale is an unfair business practice.

a) Previously, Mature land could be visited by anyone, and used for any legal purpose.

b) In the future, Adult land cannot be visited by everyone, and Mature land cannot be used for all purposes, thus both types are more restricted.

c) To the extent the PG definitions are a change from before, they are also more restricted.

d) In the fine print of the Terms of Service it states Linden Labs may change things at any time. On the main website pages and within the game itself it states 'Own', 'Buy', etc with respect to land. This gives the expectation that an actual purchase is being made. In a normal sale, the seller cannot change the terms of sale or product arbitrarily after it happens.

10) Existing rules are poorly and variably enforced. We don't have any expectation that the new rules will be handled any better.

a) Current search entries violate the existing Community Standards, and list prohibited activities such as gambling

b) Adult activities are extensively advertised from PG land.

11) Second Life is both a social and a user-created space. Our feelings and personal interactions are as important as the technical features of the software. We have a great feeling of ownership in the world we have created.

a) Your customer relations manager position has been vacant since January. That demonstrates a lack of understanding how important social interaction is to us.

b) There is a great investment of time and money in building something in SL, whether it be a business, a creative new object, or a personal home.

c) Forcing people to move or change their stuff, their friendships, etc against their will is bound to cause bad feelings.

Consider the following alternative actions:

12) Make sure the software changes for adult content actually work:

a) Single word filtering is too inaccurate to be useful, use a weighted filter instead which has a score per adult word, and filters when a listing exceeds a certain total score.

13) Linden Labs now offers private grids. Let those who want certain restrictions or special features move to a private or alternate grid with those features, and leave the existing majority who are happy with the way things are alone.

a) The current plan does nothing new to prevent educational or corporate users from encountering naked avatars or adult material. Private estates already have access controls if they wish to keep the general population out.

b) There are many alternate ways to conduct online business meetings, with more security than SL provides. The strength of Second Life is inexpensive simulation.

14) Provide more and wider channels of communication with your customers.

a) Actually survey the player population and find out what people want, transparently report the results, then show clear action to respond.

b) Provide more representative feedback than the 0.1% who manage to get to office hours.

b1) Use in-world groups specifically set up as lobbying groups, with attention given based on group size, and a resident council group inviting larger backed representatives.

b2) Use the JIRA to propose and discuss more general issues, using dual items to record FOR and AGAINST votes. The single vote option right now does not work to register opposition to an item.

c) Provide a new issue voting system which allows voting by land ownership. Most of the money Linden Labs makes is from land tier, and it makes sense from a business standpoint to listen to your largest customers the most. This also prevents vote stuffing with alts.

c1) Provide a minimum threshold to place a vote into the system to prevent overflow with minor issues

c2) Provide a "public vote" category for major issues, and a "private vote" category for local ones such as region rating change. This is akin to US Congress vs city zoning board, not all issues are relevant to everyone.

15) Make mainland vs estate changes more comparable by:

a) Creating a new PG rated continent, and/or

b) sorting and rezoning existing mainland to create similar rated blocks, and/or

c) Allow re-rating of mainland regions to adult

16) Allow parcel flagging as adult rather than region level, so that people don't have to move. Hide objects and avatars on such parcels from players who are not set to adult level in the client.

17) Allow a longer transition time with voluntary moves to new regions at first, before making moves and new behavior mandatory.

18) Allow anyone affected by new maturity definitions to move on the same basis as some people are being offered now. This is more fair than offering it to some people and not others.

19) If the intent is to restrict underage access to adult material, provide better features for this such as:

a) Clear notification on registration and initial log-in that the service contains adult content

b) Notification and acceptance check box on each log-in if adult settings are active

c) Parental lock feature that can prevent using adult settings per account or per computer.

d) Provide adult activation by other than online means, since identity is almost impossible to verify purely online. An example of an added layer of security would be physical paper mail to the account holder's address for confirmation.

e) Provide a minimum charge of $1 to place payment info on file, so that the cardholder will be on notice that the card has been used that way.

20) Provide a content filter. Currently nothing stops an avatar wearing a prim body part, or going naked, or activating an adult animation anywhere, and these changes will not make it any different.

a) A content filter which hides adult items in the client when the setting is below adult level would allow people not to see such things if they don't want to.

b) Controlling entry and object rezzing/attachment by rating would give more ways to control what happens on your land, or at infohubs.

c) Create a "PG Safe" rating for items which requires a human review and a small fee.

21) Ensure sufficient Adult mainland is created to keep land prices reasonable. Too little encourages speculation and cost burden to people who are not selected to move initially. Too much would lower land prices across the entire grid excessively.

22) Implement true privacy features for less than full region landowners. This can be an "Invisible to outsiders" land setting where avatars outside a parcel are simply not sent avatar and object data from inside an invisible parcel.

23) Because of the huge investment of time and money by the customers in creating Second Life content, which makes it more than fields of grass and bad looking avies, establish some method of actual corporate ownership and representation on the board. You used to say it was "Our world", and "Our imagination". That will be true, even if we have to move to some ''other'' world to make it so.


The 4418 people who voted and commented on this issue

For the record, I agree with him. The Labs won't listen to him or to me--which is also why I've been talking myself out of attending office hours, considering the last go-round with Torley--but these are all sound, practical, logical points. Which would result in less feelings among the resident population of anger, hurt, rage, confusion, pessimism, and depression; lead more new players to Second Life; reinforce their standing as "the" place to come play (for non-fantasy-wargamers)...it could do so much good, and so little bad.

But lest we forget, that's not how the Lindens roll. Ah, well.

By the way--since I don't want to end this on such a down note--the Cove Islands management team is hiring currently. They seek people who are mostly available for IM consultations, people who can respond when someone pushes the "Support" buttons on parcels for sale, people who can help those who post questions to the residents' group. Intelligence and creative thinking a plus. They ask that you be on call whenever you are in Second Life, but they do not ask you to be available for specific answers--just whenever you're in world is good enough most of the time. (They do ask if you take RL vacations, or cannot be on for several days at a time, that you let them know.) In exchange for these services, you will be given a free 4096 parcel in the island chain, and be paid L$6000 per month above and beyond the parcel.

If you think you can be part of this team, contact Josue Habana. He's the general manager of Cove Islands, and is responsible for all hiring decisions.

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