Thursday, September 8, 2011

trees here might be green, but their hearts are black as black can ever be

Extra Credits has now officially moved to Penny Arcade, with episodes debuting each Wednesday. Today's episode was on pacing, and if you've ever wanted to write anything--whether that's a video game, a roleplay scenario, a movie script, or a novel--you need to watch this video. I'm completely serious. In just a few short minutes, the EC team analyzes pacing, why it works, when it doesn't, how you can break it down, and how you can make it work.

Some notes from this year's Burn: the Dalek Art Car, and the Steampunk Octopus. Enjoy.

I want to start today's rambling journey (which would be continued from part V) with something taken from the official response from the JLU on the Krypton Radio site:
Is the public outrage posted on SL Universe real?

We think some people are genuinely indignant or upset, but we also think they’ve been given a lot of false information in order to enrage them.

In the SL Universe thread as of August 25, we note that an astonishing whopping 1036 posts were made by members of the banned Second Life group, "The Wrong Hands" or the person posting supposedly un-doctored pages from our wiki (and in one case, someone whom we discovered to be impersonating a police officer and who has been trying to phish private information from people within Second Life).
So, note: they're saying that first, all the postings we've been reading are false constructs intended solely to defame the JLU. It's a good stance to take: "It wasn't us! They're smearing our good name!"

But then this:
Was the information actually leaked by a disgruntled JLU member as they claim?

We had originally thought that the information was stolen from our systems by a hacker, who managed to compromise the account of a (now former) JLU member, which was then used to steal the connection credentials necessary to breach our database. Linden Lab notified us that a member account was breached, and that they had detected spyware placed by that account in our in-world headquarters. The chat spy devices (there were two) were active between August 3, 2011, when they was placed, and August 18, when they were removed (about fifteen days).

We now know that an alt of Cheergirl Allen, a Wrong Hands sympathizer, had managed to sneak a mole account into the League and had ready access to the BrainiacWiki over the span of about three month's time. Our records indicate that this account was shared with others who had no legitimate right of access – once again, the content was not "liberated", or "reported", but simply stolen.
So...that seems to pretty well confirm that it was them. Which is it? Either it is their information, or it isn't, and they've claimed both. Also, if you read on in the original link, they're claiming that (once again) it is their information, but that it's been substantially revised and in some cases, outright fabricated. So they're claiming once more that it's not their work.

Guys, chill. Either claim it or deny it; doing both makes you look like fools.

Moving on to the accusation that, at least at one point, Rodney Linden was considered a griefer by the JLU? What? I'm up-front about my frustration and upset with the Lindens, a great deal of the time, but actually calling one a griefer? Guys, even I've never done that. Tone it down.

I had to take a screen capture of this one, I just couldn't believe it actually took place. Starting from a mention about halfway down in the summary thread section I'm now in, came this line:
Zen tries to tell everyone that because PZ is free, and not sold, it shows good faith and a lack of bad intentions. Everyone calls him on this because that statement is STUPID.
I clicked the link, I couldn't not, and I'm also providing visual proof:

(from the media album)

Wau. Just wau. This is completely and utterly insane. So, just to test Zen's hypothesis, here:
  1. When a copyright infringer lifts texture UUIDs, re-uploads them into SL, and gives them away at welcome centers and newbie stores, that's okay, because there's no profit being made?
  2. When a copyright infringer lifts clothing templates, re-uploads them into SL, and gives them away for free, that's okay, because there's no profit involved?
  3. When someone makes an exact duplicate of Britney Spears' face, or Wonder Woman's costume, or a Nike shoe, or a Gucci bag, in SL, that's fine as long as they don't charge for it?
Seriously, that's what he's saying? That it's okay that these info nodes are proliferated across the grid, because they're the good guys, and they're not charging for the system?

Way to massively, massively fail, there.

So let's talk about their 'personal and private' wiki branch. First, it seems to be neither of those things if Miss Mouse's information is accurate. So I checked.

(from the media album)

Is this the JLU official wiki? I don't know enough, nor am I a member of the JLU, to tell if it's the current, 'live' version; but digging into the source code revealed this:

(from the media album)

Is this the actual feed from the JLU's source?

But, in wandering through those pages, I discovered a few things. The only thing I want to mention specifically, though, is this:
Alt Links
(currently being implemented)

The Alt Links Brainiac feature allows us to connect all the alt accounts used by a particular griefer (or other account). A link may be established by any JLU member between any two Second Life identities currently in the database. Each link shall have one of the following possible status values:
Not Present
The link is not present in the database.
The link was once present, but was broken by someone
That the two identities are one user's alts has not yet been proven, but is highly suspected.
It has been proven that the two identities are alts of one Second Life user.
That phrasing does make me wince, a tad--"used by a particular griefer (or other account)". In essence, that tells me that the Alt-Link feature of the Brainiac server can collate between any two known accounts, anywhere, and decide by some as-yet-unmentioned method (*cough* like IP addresses *cough*) which accounts match up and which don't? Or am I misreading this passage?

Note: I'm not saying positively that I believe the JLU are lifting IP addresses. But the whole thing, including their recent behavior concerning the first and second Bwiki leak situations, has been fishy to an extreme.

(Oh, and this is just too damned funny for words.)

Now, from Aether--who at least sounds rational, if not completely trustworthy--comes this bit:
"Now, on the topic of IP address logging and alt detection I can certainly say we have considered the possibility of doing this in the past, and even made experimental evaluations of other groups' such mechanisms before the Second Life Terms of Service and Community Standards were changed to forbid the sharing of such information in-world. But the truth is that there's very little point to it. I fully believe that if we could do it reliably there would be ways to utilize such information while still remaining in compliance with the disclosure clauses of the Second Life TOS/CS and without undue threat to residents' privacy, despite RedZone's obvious failure in this area. However, there are still some very dissuading practical considerations, which is why we have never, in fact, utilized IP collection from SL in our own systems.

"First, IP collection for alt detection is far too unreliable. NAT, proxies, and the prevelent use of dynamic IP addresses lead to far too many false positives and false negatives alike. The fact is that human interaction and observation is still the surest way of learning about alt accounts, and griefers are usually all too happy to reveal such associations behaviorally; their sheer need for attention almost demands it. Failing that, it's simple enough to catch the next act of griefing, whether or not the griefer is an alt account of a previously banned resident."
I can, weirdly, get behind that. If one of the coders of the PhantomZone project can be trusted at all (which is still up for debate), the fact that he's willing to go on the record as saying "Yeah, we thought about it, it's not a good way to do things, so we don't code it like that" means something, even if it's something small and insignificant. It may not be much--it likely isn't--but it definitely feels more honest to me than anything out of Kalel's mouth or Zen's keyboard.

The problem with that feeling? It only feels like it's more honest; that doesn't say it is. As Anguissette says in a later comment:
"The thing that stands out most to me as the biggest problem with that PR whitewash is that its writer is essentially saying (forgive the paraphrasing but the original wording is so long and inelegant) that they are here to answer questions, but only to particular people in a particular way on a particular subject...that totally makes it sound like they've got lots of things to hide, things that really wouldn't stand up to even mildly intense scrutiny and questioning.

"Also, it strikes me as a little contradictory that one could be demanding that people be civil with their questioning, when one's own statement includes all sorts of insults, including what seem to me to be rather rude and damaging allegations and accusations."
Yeah. She's not wrong.

And one from Miss Dufaux again:
"I'm super confused now, pun sort of intended -- I just read the front page of the Krypton Radio site and there's an article there about Linden Lab removing Power Rangers merchandise from the grid after receiving a notice from Saban Entertainment (copyright holder).
Linden Lab is in something of a no-win position, being obliged to respect the legal rights of intellectual property owners and yet also acknowledging the large role media-inspired sales play in the virtual economy. Savvy media creators often avoid scrutiny-and Linden Lab’s restrictions-by rebranding their wares so as to avoid overt use of copyrighted names or sales images.
The article's tone is pretty soft in regards to the issue of blatant copyright infringement by content creators -- I was surprised, frankly, as I also read in the JLU's mission statement that it 'follows absolutely strict adherence to the Terms of Service and Community Guidelines for our own behavior, as well as a strict moral and ethical code.'

"So I guess I'm finally 'getting' the purpose of JLU: That they are more concerned with griefing, and not so much about copyright infringement? Which would seem to makes sense, based on their use/adaptation of copyrighted DC Comics material.

"This seems really odd to me... and to be honest, makes me question the integrity and intention of the group all the more."
Again, I have to agree, but that, at least, I've said before on this blog, it's not a new concern where the JLU are...well, concerned.

From the next bit of the summary thread:
GLE comes back to reply. He seems to miss the point of what he was told, and overall starts sounding *amazingly* like zFire.(it should be noted for the record that GLE "sounding like" zFire is in the types of things he said-we've heard this stuff before, and not an indication that he has any connection at all with zF.)
So what's the linguistic connection to zFire Xue here? Things like this:
"Alt detection is useful to protect people whose sims are under constant attack from the same two or three people. The sim owners eject and ban the griefers, who instantly create new avatars and come roaring back. Same computer, same IP address, same evil intention, different avatar name. It would be nice if a sim owner could ban a griefer no matter what name he used while attacking."
Very zFire.
"The system never became reliable enough to be able to consistently ban a griefer from a sim no matter what name he used. It was still under evaluation when LL added alts to the disclosure rule."
Also very zFire, though I will grant, GLE knows how to spell words, which zFire never bothered to learn, EVER.
"One of the most interesting aspects of the alt detection discussion was watching how some people reacted so violently to the concept."
Oh, and this one nearly coils brain cells. I want to break that one down. What I think he's saying:
  • He was interested in the alt detection discussion, not because he thinks it's a bad thing, but because it was fascinating to watch people get so upset over something he thinks is no big deal.
  • It amused him that some people--emphasis mine, but one would assume from the phrasing, people obviously not "rational about these things"--reacted so 'violently' to the concept.
Bet me, he's one of those people who thinks that no one should have undiscovered alts; that the mere fact that someone wants an alt to be hidden is evidence that they're going to do untrustworthy things with it. Presumption of guilt before innocence, in other words.

Back to the main comment, though:
"To them, the concept was wrong for the simple reason that it was wrong, and if you asked for an explanation of why it was wrong, then there was something wrong with you, because obviously you didn't think it was wrong."
Which is very odd coming from him, because by and large, though there were hysterical moments, and lots of them, throughout the entire RedZone debacle, there were also strong cogent points made for why, precisely, alt detection is a bad idea. It was never--at least, in those articles I read, and posted in the blog, plus my own comments--wrong "simply because". Everyone I read, and everything I wrote, pointed to specific reasons why.
"A lady in one of my groups who was pretty much a basic Second Life user was absolutely terrified of alt detection. She had no concept of how it worked, and she didn't oppose it on the grounds that it was an invasion of privacy. She was unable to articulate why she thought it was wrong, but she absolutely did not want to be anywhere near anything that might identify any of her alts. It always intrigued me to wonder what she had going on that she was so afraid to have brought out into the open."
And sadly, I called this one. This is the other side of the alt detection argument that is just as specious as the 'it's wrong because it's wrong' argument. Namely: You wouldn't be upset if you didn't have something to hide. Which, though it was stated by a different person entirely, flashes me back to that "doing perversion" line. That presumption that only the guilty want to hide their actions.

All right, I'll grant you, especially with certain politicians (in the US at least), that presumption can--on occasion--be valid. But as a widespread belief, it just doesn't pan out. I'll even give you a good example. Desmond Shang, a man who seems almost incapable of hiding any SL avatar link where his tenants are concerned, still has at least three accounts--all of them known by the Lindens, two of them at least who work closely with the Lindens, or who have in the past--that are alts. He's hiding nothing "untoward", or perverse, or criminal, in the least, by concealing these alt names. Mostly it's a simple issue of contact--there are times he needs to get on the grid--for private consulting purposes, or when directly working with Lindens on a sim/estate issue--where it's just not viable for him to get ten new IMs every three seconds. For that, he has designated alts.

Put plainly, Desmond Shang himself is an alt, of his former main account. The presumption that anyone with an alt wants nothing more than to hide griefing, malfeasance and nefarious, illicit sex acts is inaccurate. It's a wrong belief.
"You have a partial page from the Brainiac wiki showing a conceptual discussion of how Phantom Zone might work some day, and omitting the rest of the discussion where the IP addresses were planned not to be visible, and you call that 'proof.'"
Uh...does GLE know he just admitted that the PhantomZone banlink device was, at least at one point in time, then, collecting IP addresses?
"What you are calling 'proof' does not stand up to close examination."
Neither does yours, GLE.

This seems like a good place to stop for tonight. One more associated entry, and then there will be Deep Thinking involved on whether I want to stay mucking through all this, because it's not going to get any easier.

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