Tuesday, February 22, 2011

reality's just black and white

Overheard in the FallnAngel group:
[19:55] Tomoyuki Batra-Demain (tomoyuki.batra): I'm riding Riel and it let me see her stats
[19:56] Eden Pyrithea grins.....
[19:56] Tomoyuki Batra-Demain (tomoyuki.batra): Az keeps saying, "ride Riel! I wanna make babies with her!" He's baby making machine I tell you!
*coughs* We move on.

So, big, big controversy this week, and it's all tied up around something called RedZone.

RedZone, near as I can figure, is like CDS, only with worse abilities, and it violates more international data laws than CDS ever attempted to try. For more on that, read Axi Kurmin's excellent take on it (and for the full interview with the quotes she mentions, go read Dusan Writer's sit-down with Rob Humble), or Ciaran Laval's view of it, or you could read through SLUniverse's now four threads (at least) on the topic: the currently 94-page one dealing with why RedZone sucks, the short but amusing list of things worse than RedZone, the short but useful thread on how to stop RedZone (with the now EIGHT domains zFire Xue has registered...that we know about so far); a thread on security issues vis-a-vis RedZone (and viewers in general)...and if you want the how-to-block-Redstone in one link, try this one. It explains things pretty well.

(While you're wandering around SLUniverse, wander over here--it's a great little exercise in how to hear the very first sound ever played in SL--in SL. Kind of neat.)

So, why all the fuss? Well, let's go back to that illegal-in-many-countries thing. See, what RedZone does, individually, at each step that it does it, is not in violation of data laws nor Linden Labs' Terms of Service. But, taken as a whole--and used in ways zFire Xue had to have seen coming--it does broadly stomp on ToS restrictions and international data laws for everyone it successfully data-mines--which is anyone who came across it or any previous unannounced iterations of it, on the grid, over the past eight months at least.

Hypothetical, just to make sure we're all on the same page. Say...you live in a dorm. Everyone in the college has internet access--your dorm's on one server, the Magnolia dorm's on another, the Cornflower dorm's on another, et cetera. There are sixteen people in your dorm (hey, it's my story, I can have small dorms). You don't know all of them really well, but you get along okay.

Several of you play Second Life, in fact. Some of you have met on the grid, some of you just don't gibe with each other in a virtual space, but it's okay. No one has to like everything you do or they do; it doesn't matter.

Enter RedZone. You land on a sim RedZone-enabled, and you get scanned. Silently. You are never told you're being scanned, you may never know, you're never given a choice to opt in...it just happens. And it detects your IP address. (This isn't overly hard, especially if you have media enabled...in fact, those notices most of you have been ignoring since the 2.0 viewer launched were all about how if you don't trust the media-on-a-prim you're viewing, then disabling streaming media may be the way to go for you.)

Normally, this is no big deal, but it will track that IP address to its internal file, which, at this point, by creator admission, has over eight million individual avatar names. It will quickly match up that IP address with the IP addresses on file. If any of them match...and if any of those matches were viewed at any point along the chain of data-gathering as potentially suspicious...your name goes on the list as a potential copybotter or griefer, along with whomever it matched in your dorm who ran across the system first. In fact, according to the system, you--and any alts you may have--are the same person as that other avatar (and any alts they may have). And if any one avatar is viewed to be suspicious, according to RedZone, you all are...and you're all bounced as griefers or copybotters, even if all you did was walk in to a store having a sale.

But it doesn't stop there. At that point, you will generally be bounced from the sim, but, because the bouncing isn't that effective, you will likely crash. And since the biggest pastime this week in Second Life is ghosting, you may not be able to get back in. For hours. Whereupon, since you were bounced from that shop, you may log right back in there--and be bounced again.

But wait, there's more. If you read through the links, that's not all that's happening. And what is happening is bringing everyone out in droves to declare for or against...and in some cases, declaring neither is still getting avatars placed in one camp or another.

Case in point, GreenZone. GreenZone is being offered for free on the Marketplace, and what it purports to do is tell you, flat out, which sims/stores use RedZone. There's a ton of stores and sims that do. But at this point, the GreenZone people think they're fighting the good fight (or began that way), and the RedZone camp thinks the GreenZone people are attacking them with no case and no cause, and it's all descending into mass drama suitable for primetime.

Still reading? That's not all. Right now, because information is circulating on how to stop RedZone from scanning your avatar in the first place, the people with these systems installed are starting to equate people whose IPs are hidden to the system as griefers or copybotters as well--simply because they are not choosing to be scanned by a system whose origin they don't trust, whose stated purpose is a complete failure, run by a potential con artist who's quite possibly just in it for the money, that stores their data without their permission or consent.

So now, without a word to me, I can be banned from all new sims because I walked in without streaming media on by default. Whether or not I'm wearing the GreenZone HUD; whether or not I care to get involved past that. Because I protect myself, I'm then on someone's enemy list. And again, without a single word to me directly.

Now, there's a couple JIRAs surrounding all the controversy. The main one (with 1346 votes, gathered in just two weeks) is found here. A secondary one is found here, on adding options in the client to selectively limit media sources. I'm not entirely sure that second one will work, but I'll check in on it from time to time and see how it's doing. (This, in addition to the furor that's still raging over the handling of web profiles.)

And this is all happening the week that ghosting through sims becomes the national grid pastime, followed by all IMs (for me at least) going directly to email, over getting delivered to me...you know...on the grid...followed by the greatest grid instability I've felt for a solid two years, and the utter failure of both group chat and in-world search most of the time. Yeah. This is all happening in one week.

The earthquake happened in New Zealand, and by no means am I trying to minimize the utter terror and distress of that event...but I think we're feeling the digital effects in SL.

To end on a better note, for the artists out there--a wonderfully written--and drawn!--guide to facial expressions in art. A nifty, nifty read, from a web comic that really deserves more attention than I give it. And just for the giggle factor, how about a living Betty Boop?

And finally, one man proposes to his lady...who then suffers an ignominously giggle-worthy fate. (It's a short video, but very charming, and nigh-on hysterical if you know anything about Minecraft.)


Candy said...

I tried to let this go, but...

Who is Riel, and what "it" let this person see her "stats"? I don't understand the exchange.

Now I am having to go around with my media off and learning how to set up blocked web pages in this Hosts file thingy! Thanks a lot RedZone! ;-)


Emilly Orr said...

The explanation will likely be longer than what I found funny. :)

Azriel Demain runs the FallnAngel Designs store, and sims. But one of the sims is not store-based--Tol Narwe is an RP sim, but more than that, it's also a gorgeously landscaped terrain, with four fairly distinct zones, touches of Celtic and Norse design, and an abundance of places to wander, take photographs, explore...

To this end, they've acquired rideable horses. And they're apparently rideable by anyone who clicks on them, to better encourage them to go around the sim by riding, not flying (one can fly on the sim, but remember, rp sim, it encourages the theme).

As the quote shows, one of them is named Riel, and, since Riel is also a Second Life last name, I was perhaps more amused than I should have been. :)

Though I do highly encourage anyone who's interested in seeing the sim, to go see it. There is no group needed to set foot on the land, and the roleplayers there understand that there are wanderers drawn by the beauty of their sim, and are very friendly and polite to wanderers, scavenger hunters, and picture-takers.

Fogwoman Gray said...

I looked up to see what the shouting was about on the RedZone thing, and it seems another way for people to shoot themselves (and their neighbors) in the foot. If you are trying to drive traffic to your business in a very bad economy on a very glitchy grid...ejecting your customers randomly may not be your best business decision.
This smells a lot like one of those scams that crops up occasionally that winds up making nobody but the creator of the scam happy. The list of banned folk will get progressively longer as more and more glitches and false positives feed into the network. And lo and behold this fellows customers will find that their traffic and sales are dropping like a rock.
People will still steal their stuff because this system really does not prevent that - but their honest customers will be elsewhere.
I can wait. And if a shop owner is so ill mannered as to use such a system I would prefer not to do business with them in any case.