Thursday, August 26, 2010

give me space so you can drown in this with me

Paradise lost...and regained. It's really easy to get lost in SL; I know, I've done it. But generally speaking, she's right; you can't lose yourself in something unless you're already lost to begin with.

Have a fetish for eighties music? Try it with a side of eighties cartoons.

TF2 the MMO? Gad, I hope not, but the pics are fun.

Back to SL matters. There's something else a bit unnerving about Sin-Labs.

Because I hadn't found the hunt prize yet, when I rezzed into world, I was back in Sin-Labs. This? Was 'overheard' on the main chat:

[08:44 PM] S-L Doll Stand: Hello Emilly Orr, welcome to Sin-Labs
Our dolls are here to assist (when not restrained)


Great....I wandered for a bit, not finding anything in the warren of internal stores, so returned to the main warp hub and stood in thought.

[08:47 PM] IM: you think: The encaser looks interesting, maybe you should try it
[08:48 PM] IM: you think: The bikegirls look great, maybe you should try them out
[08:49 PM] IM: you think: An hour on a stand, just isn't enough
[08:50 PM] IM: you think: Statues are not people, they're just decoration
[08:51 PM] IM: you think: An hour on a stand, just isn't enough
[08:52 PM] IM: you think: That can't have been a muffled sound from that statue, can it?
[08:53 PM] IM: you think: Maybe you should have a drink, a special drink
[08:54 PM] IM: you think: Tight is good, shiny is good
[08:55 PM] IM: you think: This is a good place to stay


At 8:55 pm, I found the box, and got the hell out. Sin-Labs is seriously unnerving on a lot of levels.

TigroSpottyStripes Katsu wonders "why do you guys insist on not accepting input from users before deciding to make important changes permanent?"

A damned good question, that.

I want to do a bit more Emerald dissection.

I started off here, and I tried to follow the logic out.

2006: The first rumors of Copybot hit an already embattled grid. Stunned by several recent economic downturns, the big hysteria became--ANYONE could copy ANYTHING on SL and NO ONE CAN STOP THEM! Whether this was true or not, it caused a grid-wide spasm of doubt and hysteria that in some cases, persists to this day.

2007: Linden Labs releases the source code so people can finally play openly (as opposed to hacking the code out) with the source coding. This does not assuage fears that an army of Copybot clients are going to march over the grid and lift everything in sight. It does, however, lead to some innovative browsers, including Nicholaz, CoolSL (developed in cooperation with CSI:SL), Kirsten's, and the then-named Greenlife. Generally, residents are more confused by the process, than supportive or deriding.

2009: Restrained Life hits the grid. Many people are creeped out by it. Many more immediately adopt it. The age of point-and-click domination arrives.

(July 2009: It's totally non-relevant, but I admit to being amused as hell at the whole Sion chicken drama--it's just insane, the lengths to which people went to justify chicken addiction. But it's not germane to much, save Neva had this freakish theory about the Woodbury group developing Emerald on the one hand and mass-slaying her chickens on the other. We move on.)

October 2009: Greenlife, having renamed itself Emerald some time back--so as not to conflict with the new 'no touchy!' policy of Second Life branding--comes out with breast physics. Now, breast physics are nothing new--they're old hat in Japanese anime games, there's breast physics in Runes of Magic (wait until the close-up, about 0:52, you'll see what I mean), even Silent Hill 5 threw some physics on their nurses (fast forward to 0:49, or 0:52 if you're curious)...but all of a sudden, Second Life had jiggle. People nearly mass-converted to Emerald just to check it out. Certain womens' groups lost their minds over the concept. Most of the rest of us were thinking, what's the big deal? So someone else sees breast movement, how is this a tragedy? But the controversy raged for months.

2009-present: Prokovy Neva rants about the Emerald developers (Actually, Neva rants more than that, because it's been, like, every other post for over a year, now.) Honestly, I can't even address this, because she's completely monochromatic--you're either a loyal friend or you're a lying Communist spying on her, there's no in-between. (Trust me; I know monochromatic thinking, I do a fair bit of it myself, I won't lie--but I have shades, damn it. Neva? It's all or nothing, always, and once she fastens on a concept she does not let go, even in the face of further evidence. Once you're evil--you're evil, according to her.)

February 2010: Linden Labs releases two things at once: Viewer 2, and a new 'targeted' ad campaign for new users. Both cause an inordinate amount of frustration, stress and outrage on the part of SL's resident population.

The Viewer 2 headache is easy to figure out: the Labs talked to focus groups, merchants, citizens specifically invited to 'brown-bag' in-person events, pored over the JIRA and held development workshops at the Labs...and then did nothing on those lists. Instead, they turned out a bloated, feature-laden mess that overly inflated inventory, shuffled everything around to new places with no inherent logic, substantially changed the basic structure of chat, inventory, and in-world notifications, and--as if that weren't enough--made it impossible in the new viewer to build, change profiles, or easily change music/media streams out of the box. (All that came later.)

The marketing headache was something else entirely--the new promos, pulled snappily together by Ill Clan, featured a brightly-colored world just packed with young, urban, nearly exclusively human professionals, moving streamlessly through shopping (in which clothes changing becomes something as magical as a Sailor Moon transformation), greeting a new project head at the office (implying that walking up to another avatar, setting down a briefcase, and shaking the other avatar's hand are all seamlessly integrated animations in SL), and enjoying romantic vacations (nearly entirely featuring two oppositely-gendered humans on beachfronts alone). And a great deal of it was presented as being voice chat, not text chat.

This was a world without non-humans; without furs; without constructs, robots, Tinies, mermaids; without darker subcultures, vampires, Goreans or roleplayers of any stripe; without non-beach territories; without those who choose not to, or cannot voice; and almost entirely populated by straight white people. People--from non-white to non-human people--were understandably upset.

The world that Ill Clan presented--which, many of us understood viscerally was the world the Labs wanted to own--was a world where people used Second Life to work; where all disposable income was then spent back in the world; where it was just as much fun if not more fun to spend spare time in, after, of course, working in Second Life in the first place. Talk about giving a large segment of your userbase the cold shoulder; this went right over that edge into active snarling insult, in a pretty video package.

Between the new ad campaign and the new viewer, people again nearly mass-converted to using Emerald. For most of us, no matter which browser we were using, if we were in a browser that identified other browsers, for several months we've seen three out of every five people in world at all using Emerald. It's been a nearly unbroken sea of green out there, in most areas of the grid.

Here's where things get odd for me, though. From 2006 to Aprille 2010 is pretty much a straight line; my experiences match more or less the blog entry's, I can line things up in my head. Then...this:

April 2010: Apparently the Wrong Hands group engineer a takedown of the Justice League Unlimited griefer-prevention group, a group largely staffed and supported by the Wulfenbach Consulate. (**This has proven not to be true; see note at bottom.) They do this even though the Wrong Hands group is largely a sub-grouping of Woodbury University. So...the bad guys...infiltrated the good guys...proving they were the bad guys...but because the Lindens were helping the JLU, the Woodburys--along with their sims--got banned en masse?

That seems overly simplistic. Plus, it's just weird--since when were griefers ever interested in doing the right thing? That's kind of the definition of griefer--some overly bored idiot who does stupid things because he or she--though generally he--thinks it's funny.

I don't share their sense of humor. I find myself in the midst of griefers, I generally choose not to interact, bounce if I have the power, or leave if I don't have other options. Arguing with them generally serves no purpose but to upset me, and there's no point in that.

Plus, the whole thing just gets weirder from here. Like this video, which supposedly is "proof" somehow of the Wrong Hands group "interrogating" Fractured Crystal, the main programmer behind Emerald, or at least Modular Systems--save for, first, unless I'm wrong on who's speaking to whom (the video is terrifyingly fuzzy), that's Fractured saying he doesn't know a single thing about coding or programming, he 'leaves that to other people'. Huh?

And that brings us to the second point, which is LordGregGreg Beck being on the ground at that meeting, so--was/is Beck a member of the Wrong Hands group? Which means he's in the bad guy section too, right? Save he left Emerald because of Emerald's shady data mining practices, so again we have a hacker who's having an ethics crisis.

That just makes my head hurt. I'm not saying hackers don't have ethics; I am saying generally, if they have ethics, they don't stay involved with questionable groups.

But maybe I'm wrong; maybe where SL is concerned, they do.

April 15, 2010: The news on Emerald's data mining finally surfaces for most of the grid. Those of us paying attention--id est, watching the forums, staying involved, reading blog and news posts--had been putting two and two together and getting five for some time. But suddenly, the Alphaville Herald broke the story and it was the Most Terrifying Thing EVER for a lot of people. At least half of all SL groups, practically, had at least one person who would go off on the topic nigh-hourly, trying to "warn everyone". Yeah. We're warned, already. Enough.

April 16, 2010: Hazim Gazov, apparently part and parcel of the Woodbury Group, contacted Joe Linden about possible violations on the part of Emerald. The ball starts rolling downhill.

August 22, 2010: Bloggers--some of them well known, and not a few actual news services--start to ask pointed questions about the implosion of Emerald from Aprille to August, wondering what on earth's going on. It's a good question. It's not one that's been adequately answered.

August 24, 2010: Nelson Jenkins releases this to the Alphaville Herald. I have several questions on this, and likely zero answers forthcoming, ever, but here goes:

1. Collection of IP addresses. I'm fairly sure this happened, but do we actually have any real information that actual SL avatars-to-RL-names correlation has been done? All I've heard are that "some" main accounts, leading to identification of "some" alts, have been released to the public; but does anyone know any more than that?

2. The 'third party' uncovering the data mining. Was this Hazim Gazov? And again, if he's with the Woodbury twinks, why is he upset over Emerald data-mining? It's just as unethical to scam personal data out of people as it is to crash their sim repeatedly, in my book. Sure, the second example is "just a sim", but think about it--someone spends several days out of a month deliberately crashing the sim you pay tier on, those are days of rent you're still expected to pay, when you've been deprived of actual performance hours. I know this game; I lived it in Rivula in 2007 and 2008. Gods know what any of us did to piss people off, but Rivula was constantly being attacked, griefed, crashed out, lagged to death...Some of it was honest server overstress, but in most cases, it was self-replicating griefing objects or grey goo.

3. The accusations against Fractured Crystal and Phox ModularSystems--how valid are they?

4. Can the Quicktime exploit that Gemini/CDS systems use to operate through be closed?

5. Did Arabella Steadham actually leave the Emerald development team? Did she come back? Or was it all just fluff and thunder distraction from the real problems at the time?

6. Whether it was a 'practical joke' gone wrong (as Arabella says) or an actual DDoS attack on another site, the facts are it happened, and thousands of Emerald users are now passive participants in a criminal activity. It's one thing playing the bad guy on their own; it's an entirely separate issue to con thousands of residents of Second Life into helping them pull off the bad act. A simple 'gosh, oops' isn't the apology these people are looking for. What are the developers of Emerald willing to do now to gain back the trust of everyone whose ethics were violated during that 'joke' session?

7. Is it really only 20% of users who've chosen Emerald to access the grid? I think that number's much higher.

8. Doesn't Arabella realize that deleting 'negative' comments on the blog entries proposing transparency in future Emerald actions are just playing right into the lack of trust the public has for Emerald right now? If we can't even trust her to post what she gets, and answer it honestly, how are we supposed to trust her, and the entire Emerald team, with our passwords, our IP addresses, and our browsing histories again?

9. Is Arabella really that clueless, or that smug, to think that this should be something swept under the carpet because it's not a "life and death" situation?

10. Can someone confirm for me--because I heard the same thing--on Emerald's removal from the TPV directory Linden Labs maintains before the change from Fractured to Arabella took place? If that's true, then the entire story Arabella's been pimping on the removal being solely an issue of the company changing CEOs is false, and misleading.

Now, to tie all this wandering speculation up: I'm not trying to extend drama. And I've had my fifteen minutes of fame, back in 2007; I don't need more. I just want to know how it all ties together, is the thing.

Emerald; Modular Systems; Woodbury University; Justice League Unlimited; Linden Labs; the Wulfenbach Consulate. And yes, I know some of the principals involved, and likely I will be asking, but it's just so strange to me, you know? It's like an interlocking set of rotating rings, and some of the rings are toxic, and others have my friends on them, and they're all interwoven.

We need a magician to take them apart. Better yet, we need someone to sit down and actually explain things, as simply as possible. What is really going on here?

(**That note. While there are Wulfenbach Consulate members in JLU, the JLU existed long before the Europan arrival on the grid. [This I did not know previously.] Also, the Wrong Hands group didn't take down the JLU; they sent in a covert operative who was granted access to a group-only database, who then snapped pics and threw it up somewhere else--one suspects one of the Woodbury sites. The JLU then closed ranks, reinforced their security, and went on with their lives. So much for that.)

18 comments:

HeadBurro Antfarm said...

I thought the Consulate were a RP group based on the Girl Genius comics? Have I get the wrong of someone's stick?

HeadBurro Antfarm said...

And if I have, was it a clean stick?

Lalo Telling said...

"Wulfenbach Consulate"? That's a new one on me. Sounds somehow reminiscent of the Trilateral Commission, or maybe the Knights Templar... but then again, some of the most extreme conspiracists (and ephemerally popular hack novelists) would insist they're all the same secretly-feted inner core...

(oops, did I say that out loud?)

Fascinated as I am with the social history of SL: Can you please help me, Miss Emilly, with references to Wulfenbach?

Emilly Orr said...

HBA: no, you're not wrong. They are primarily an RP group based on the Girl Genius comics. How'ver, many members of the Consulate are also involved in the JLU organization, hence the oddity. One side (the JLU) is heavily costumed with almost zero roleplay; the other side (the Consulate) is slightly less costumed, with 24/7 roleplay.

It's odd, to be sure.

Emilly Orr said...

Mr. Telling,

If you haven't run across them, they're a group devoted to Girl Genius. They generally live in Steelhead, though they maintain a bar (I used to manage it) called der Hut des Jaeger (The Jager's Hat) in Winterfell Absinthe. (Lovely little place; Thursday nights are devoted to poetry readings, the rest of the time it's a quiet, lovely pub in a dark Victorian sim.)

Baron Klaus Wulfenbach is in world (as KlausWulfenbach Outlander), and leads a ragtag bunch of Girl Genius confederates, as well as wandering residents of SL, in a staggering series of Ambassadorial offices in various sims (in fact, I used to be the Winterfell liaison, because der Hut also doubles as a Consulate office).

This is what confuses me so much: all of the members of the Wulfenbach Consulate are strong personalities, and I won't say I haven't clashed with them in my time, but overall, they're good people. And their tie-in to the JLU , in my opinion, seemed to reflect that--earnest avatars trying to make the grid a safer place however they know how.

So the JLU tie-in is just mystifying. And the Wulfenbachian contingent are fairly recent, all things considered--the Baron arrived in October of 2007, and Frau Lowey, his Vice Consul, arrived only slightly before that (in August of 2007). So there's no way that either of them (nor, really, anyone in the Consulate structure) are FIC, real or imagined.

Darien Mason said...

Some of the Wulfenbachs have alts in the JLU, I'm sure, but frankly I'm a bit confused as to why the Wulfenbachs are being dragged en masse into this. You said yourself the two groups are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of purpose.

Frau A. S. Lowey said...

This mention of the Consulate here confuses me greatly. We do have members of the Consulate group that are also part of the JLU, but they are not "largely staffed" by Consulate members. I can think of three or four members that overlap in the groups.
It would be helpful for my piece of mind to know where you believe the Consulate has erred. If that is not the tone intended, I apologize, but it was a jarring note.

Emilly Orr said...

Mr. Mason,

I'm not trying to drag anyone into anything; I'm just trying to figure out the pieces in play, so to speak.

Most assuredly, I am not--nor would I--lambaste anyone without cause, even if that cause is only in my own head.

Emilly Orr said...

Frau Lowey,

I'm sorry for the sense of jar, and for my concept that the Wulfenbachians and the JLU were largely interchangeable (dependent on the level of spandex at any given time). I don't believe anyone in the Consulate has erred, actually; I'm just trying to untangle things.

Baron K. Wulfenbach said...

Fraulein Emilly,

It is not like you to get your facts this muddled. We support the JLU in that their leadership are friends of ours (or in one case, a relative), but other than believing in the same general principles, we do not 'staff' nor 'support' them. We also have had nothing to do with The Wrong Hands or Woodbury, other than one report on an attempted attack in Antiquity.

Keeping the peace is not merely my interest, after all. It should not be surprising that some of my staff should have the same focus, and take action where they can.

I must also take exception to being referred to as 'roleplaying' once again. You of all people should know that. I still do not understand why you hold back from discussing matters with me.

Yrs.,

KW

Kalel Venkman said...

For my part, I'm happy to be able to say that The Wrong Hands made the JLU blink, but that's it. We're in better shape now than we ever were, thanks in large part to the publicity. Instead of weakening, we were empowered.

What makes all this so hard to understand in terms of the group dynamics is that the boundaries of the various griefer groups involved are very permiable. They're not organizations the way you and I think of them. They're just social cliques with proper names.

All these groups seem to swirl with negative, destructive activity, but it's the same people moving fluidly from one to the next, sometimes having membership in more than one competing group at a time.

At their foundation, all of this is little more than adolescent tribal howling and chest thumping. It's unfortunate that they don't seem to have any compunction about what uninvolved third parties they hurt just because they happen to be in the way, or how dangerous they are to one another.

Emilly Orr said...

Baron,

I think in this case, the muddying of the waters--and the facts--occurs readily because the entire situation is so confused, as well as confusing. And I did not mean to imply--nor, I think, did I imply--that anyone in the Consulate is a griefer, nor holds membership in any griefing-oriented group.

That wasn't the point of anything, at all. Believe me.

As far as the roleplaying tag...consider it the custom of the place? After all, people label it roleplaying, what we do in Caledon, while I call it "life in Caledon". And those same people called it roleplaying when I would describe happenings in Rivula--and that also, I simply termed life in Rivula.

Emilly Orr said...

Kalel,

Hello!

I think you and I need to talk, then, and I'm fully willing to state, on and off the record: I don't care if I take pictures, report back actual chat; I don't want access to anything, I just want to untangle the story; if it takes place entirely on notecards passed back and forth, I'm FINE with that.

But it's also good to hear. Admittedly, my 'face' of the JLU is Kara Timtam, but for all of me, she's a wonderful, trustworthy, caring face. So.

Edward Pearse said...

Dear Baron,

What else do you call the portrayal of a fictional comic-book character in a virtual world?

Emilly Orr said...

*steps far far away from any ensuing conflict for that question*

I'll, uh, just be over here making tea. Chamomile tea.

Possibly with just a smidgeon of laudanum. Or vodka.

Kalel Venkman said...

Roleplay, as I've come to understand it, is the collaborative creation of a fictional story, with the participants taking the roles of the characters. To clarify, this isn't quite what the League does. While it's true that we use the appearances and trappings of archetypal comic book characters, the group's function is not to enact fiction.

Instead, the symbolism of these characters makes us more accessible and familiar, and it makes it easier for us to integrate with the rest of the virtual society, and in turn, easier for us to lend a hand. People distrust uniforms in Second Life, because all to often they're worn by folks who just want to march around in them and not actually help anybody.

Emilly Orr said...

Which, to be fair, is why there's never really been an SL police force (and by that I don't mean the JLU, or similar 'neighborhood watch' organizations, but actual, badges-and-nightsticks, uniform police). There are people playing cops; but in most sims, estate managers wield more power than anyone who flashes a badge.

This did serve to remind me I never got around to talking to you, on or off the mythical 'record'. (Got rather sidelined with the leg injury, to be honest.)

Kalel Venkman said...

Nearly true, Emily - there is a group called "**Police Department**", which wears badges (but no nightsticks or weapons) which has been heavily involved in public service since its inception, and adheres rigidly to the Terms of Service. There's a link to their site on the Krypton Radio web site.

We should arrange to speak in-world. There is a great portion of this story which, to date, has never been told. I would welcome the opportunity.