Tuesday, January 31, 2012

we could sell it out together, seems tomorrow's overdue

Oh yes. Thank you, yes.

Again with this nonsense. Or, put another way, once more into the breach...

And we start with Yonatan's response to Sai, of which I'm only pulling point five:
5. Name-shaped pseudonyms should Just Work. Pseudonyms which don't look like a name in any culture are going to be the hard case. These do seem to be genuinely rare -- most people who use handles use them in addition to names, and most people who use pseudonyms use ones which look like names. That doesn't mean that they aren't important, just that from a prioritization perspective we wanted to help the most people first. What we need to develop is some way for people to emerge non-name-shaped pseudonyms on the service, but that's a harder problem.
Um. Several problems here.

First, yes, he's right--"name-shaped" pseudonyms should Just Work. Does that mean CaptainSparklez is going to get a pass? Is that sufficiently "name-shaped"? What about Fidel Castro? Or J Pizzle? (Though I suppose the latter qualifies under that "celebrity" ruling...)

Or this:
Meanwhile, what is the official policy on names at Google+? It's surprisingly hard to find. Here's one answer: 'Google Profiles requires you to use the name that you commonly go by in daily life.' This is the 'common names' policy referenced by Bradley Horowitz in his attempt to 'clarify' the policy, which actually didn't clarify much of anything at all. Documentation elsewhere says 'your full name is the only required information that will be displayed on your profile.' Numerous public statements on the policy from Google officials have done absolutely nothing to clear up the confusion.
The above passage comes via the Tiger Beatdown blog, and the full thing is well worth the read.

(Incidentally--there's a bit in there with an embedded Facebook search section, saying if what Google really wants is people to tie their full, legal identities permanently to their internet presence, maybe they should take a look at what people who have full legal names on Facebook are posting:
Google claims that the name policy, whatever it actually is, is about safety. It says that forcing people to use 'real names' (I use quotes here because the site means 'legal names,' not real names; not everyone uses their legal name as their active, daily name) will enhance safety and reduce incidence of abuse. This argument is often brought up in attempts to crush pseudonymity, and it's very, very wrong. People are in fact quite happy to be extremely abusive in public under their legal names, as Openbook demonstrates (type in any slur you feel like and prepare to be appalled).
(I picked a generic random word--top of the brain, sadly--and tried it out. Dear gods, it's not just appalling, it's dangerous--there's at least one lass on there who's now got her cellphone numbers archived for all time.)

Kee back to Yonatan:
If I'm not sure if my account is "name shaped" and thus might require additional verification…how do I request verification prior to investing time and energy in the account?
An absolutely valid query.

Yonatan's response back:
We don't have a way to do that yet, and it bugs me a bit. I mean, there is the fallback that even if you get suspended you can change your name to a different name, and you don't lose any of your data, but that won't solve every single case.
A bit?!? It bugs him a bit?!? He's really starting to irk me beyond all reason.

Kee's response in return:
Then someone should speak to the team that actually handles the suspensions because that problem has existed since the policy took effect.
Pretty much, and that seems to be one of the points that Yonatan--and everyone else at Google--keep perpetually missing.

Sai to Yonatan:
Please give examples of the low end for what is adequately "well known". What kinds of online references count?

Also, please note that while the policy before has claimed that e.g. Facebook, one's own website, etc., were acceptable proofs of identity, in practice, this was a complete lie. Consider e.g. the treatment of Skud (among many others).

Will this de facto rejection be changed? Will it be changed retroactively, to fix the problem for people who've already been suspended?
I'd tend to say no; as much as Yonatan seems to be trying for "reasonable, decent human being" I mistrust him from the start because of how he--and Google as a whole--have completely, cack-handedly brutalized what should have been a simple procedure that would have stolen the thunder from Facebook, and maybe--even if only in the light of outrageous hyperbole--changed the world.

Instead? We're given this flawed muddle of a service which isn't social, isn't friendly, isn't easy, and in which people can be suspended for good reasons, bad reasons, or no reasons. Some of us are treating it like it's radioactive. I don't think that's a wrong behavior right now.

I have friends who use the service. I'm thinking of one in particular who uses his real name on the service, and yet most of his friends do not refer to him by that name, ever--in fact, one of his exes only started to call him by his real name after she broke up with him, because she was still angry. Up until that point? He'd been his online pseudonym, to nearly everyone he knew. I have to seriously break down and concentrate to remember he has a so-called "real name"--his handle is more "real" to me, and to most people he knows.

People at his work call him this name. People online call him this name. People on camp-outs call him this name. His ex-wife calls him this, as well as his daughter. When he introduces himself, he himself doesn't use his real name, he uses his handle.

But he raves about the service. Why? Because he got an internal heads-up and knew at that point to sign up for his "normal", two-name, given name, and not his far more well known, single-name, online handle. He has no privacy issues to speak of; no one's hunting after his head, he's fairly secure in his employment, mostly secure in his relationships, owns his own house--plus, sad to say, he's male, which traditionally is the gender less taxed with issues of online privacy, it must be said.

For some of the rest of us? These aren't options, these are threats.

Yonatan in response:
In fact, +Sai ., I'll just tell you some of our top open issues right now:

* Still no support for titles (Doctor, Reverend, etc) in names. This is really important in some communities. Fix known, we just have to do it.

* Show the nickname in a wider variety of places. The priority of this depends a lot on how people start actually using nicks.

* Mononyms. :) Right now these all trigger the "handle" check, and that isn't going to scale well in, oh, say, Indonesia. Real fix needed.

But before we do any of this, we want to get this launch right, adjust the thresholds and so on so that legitimate users aren't being kicked, and so that the overall PITA factor for those people who are affected by this goes down. Expect some trial and error, and a lot more of me going around and asking people questions in the near future.
Let me see if I properly understand this, based on the previous few posts.

1. Even given titles like Doctor, Professor, or Reverend are not supported; it'll cause the system to kick. So even if you are Professor Ethan Sprout, and you're verified as being Professor Ethan Sprout, the system will kick you.

Bad system.

2. Google is assuming that people are going to want to use the "nickname" option. They're saying they don't know how it will best be employed because they don't know how people are going to choose to use it.

My guess? For the most part, they won't. They'll continue to want the names they want. Again, bad system.

3. Single names, as suspected, are not allowed. And yes, this is very much an international issue. So again, Western privilege is showing--because why would people want single names, everyone has double names, right?

Wrong. Very wrong. Some people have one, some people have two, some people have six. And it's not Google's place to judge which versions of given names are "right". They're not Google's names.

So again? Bad system. And while I'm likely going to continue going through the side commentary, I'm pretty much resolved from here:
  • the new policy changed nothing;
  • the new provisions do not increase safety and privacy concerns;
  • and Google continues to lose major and multiple points across the board in reliability, trust, and security.
Way to go, Yonatan. Are you ever going to get Google+ right?

Monday, January 30, 2012

I'm letting go of everything that I know, I'm losing it

Back again for more Google+ punishment.

Kee to Yonatan:
1. How do I get my name approved in advance? You don't want to invest in a social network only to discover that your credentials aren't good enough. I have another name that has a (in my mind at least) substantial following elsewhere. It has a Google+ account, but obviously I haven't been posting publicly. I don't want to invest time and effort building relationships and making posts only to have it flagged and not pass your criteria.

2. I'm confused by your statement that Google+ can be your first network. How can it be my first network if I'm just starting out using a not-on-my-license name? It seems to me that if I am, for instance, a closeted LGBT and I want to start networking with similar people, I'm going to have to start on Twitter or some other place and only come to Google+ after several years if I've built a following. Am I missing something?
These are very good questions. And really, considering that Google only introduced Google+ relatively recently, many folks had Facebook pages, journal pages, Twitter and Tumblr and Plurk and Flickr before Google+ ever lumbered onto the scene. So how can it be anyone's "first network"? That's specious on the face of it.

And for the first point, that one I'm also finding a valid point--because why would I (or anyone who wants to use a non-"traditional" name, or a pseudonym) want to invest anything in Google+ if we're only going to have our access killed later on? Who wants to waste the time?

Gary to Yonatan:
You mention that one of the things Google discovered in running the site has been that real names are better or needed in some way. Can you elaborate on this? Is there any actual data to back up that statement?
I'd love to know that too. Oh, and hey, since it occurred to me--would "Yonatan Zunger" pass the newly revised "names must be name-shaped" ruling? Or did he automatically get a pass because he's a Google staffer (in fact, the staffer who predominantly runs Google+, but that's actually beside the point)?

Sai to Yonatan:
That reminds me: when are you going to be sending out emails to everyone previously suspended in #nymwars, telling them that it's okay to come back now?
I really, really doubt this will ever happen; there's just been too much loss of faith and increasing of paranoia and doubt. (Oh, and I should point out, in the original comment, Sai linked this; I changed it to a link that serves as a clearinghouse for longer relevant essays.)

Scott to Sai about the above comment:
Why would they come back after they way they were treated? Especially since Google is not defining the exact specific criteria that they would have to meet in order not have the door slammed in their face again.
Pretty much. Why would any of us who fled, afraid of Google-y retaliation, come back, for any reason? Especially those of us who were actually bounced under the "old" policies (which aren't that changed from the new ones, frankly)?

Especially since Google is still sounding like stuffy judgmental troglodytes in this?

And then Argent Stonecutter showed up:
This is the most common current version of the name I've been using online since 1983. I'd really rather go by just the first name in Google Plus: this last name was picked up as a result of another social platform that required me to have two names, and didn't allow me to pick my own last name, so it's kind of accidental but it's the one people are likely to recognize me as now, for the community I use it in... and I don't want to confuse things by changing my Google Mail account name.

I was using this name on Buzz, but when Google Plus launched I didn't want to risk losing access even temporarily to my Google Mail account, so I deleted this Google Profile and all my posts. I hope I'm not making a mistake now, reversing my decision.
Personally, I'd say yes, it was a mistake, but I'm a pessimist. Still, that's an excellent point--that is a pseudonym developed as a major source of personal identification for nearly thirty years now...if that's not enough to cement it as a "real" name, what the hell will be?

Adina to Yonatan:
The aspect of the new policy that is still concerning is the need to have a "following" in order to justify the use of a pseudonym. This disallows nonfamous people who are using pseudonyms for personal reasons, for example an LGBT teen in a prejudiced small town or an abuse victim. These folk may not have an established online identity with the pseudonym and a legitimate need to use the pseudonym.
I hate to get involved in the privilege wars, because from where I usually sit (being accused of one form of privilege or another), I tend to profoundly disagree with the concept. How'ver, this is a very good point, and a very good point about privilege, namely:
  • Google staffers who have never been in long-term abusive relationships plainly do not understand the need for online pseudonyms
  • Google staffers who have never been stalked also do not understand the need for pseudonyms
  • Google staffers who've never been pagan or gay in the Bible Belt, or gay or transgendered in a fundamentalist Christian (or Muslim) household, or basically, anything markedly different in their communities from what's assumed to be the local societal "norm"--just don't understand
And all of these, and more, are examples of privilege; namely, that Google staffers have it, and thus don't understand the basic reasonings behind why those without such privilege would want pseudonyms. When there's a very real risk between revealing your name online, and death, you tend to be protective of that name. People who don't run the same risks just do not understand, and possibly, cannot understand. Which may be the real tragedy at the heart of this--Google's impossible clinging to a policy which is highly likely to cause pain, suffering, and/or actual hate crimes--simply because they think loftily that it's "better" to use your "real name" for everything.

This thinking then extends to their subsequent policies, because obviously if you're using a real name, you're never going to be mean on the internet. Thus, Google's demonstrating not only delusionally flawed logic, as well as (rightful) accusations of privilege, but they are also demonstrating as a group body a terrifying amount of naïveté--because if they think that no one on the internet ever does anything out of line under their "real names", then they obviously haven't thought this through properly. We can leave the standard rank and file out of this completely--let's just talk Senators and Representatives. Even worse? Let's take it offline, where routinely Congressional members, supposedly proud, noble creatures who represent our best interests always--lie to their constituents not only via personal letters, but in person when they meet those constituents.

Or how about this:
And in all of my years of public life I have never obstructed justice.
Richard Nixon said that, rather famously. If the President of the United States cannot manage to hold himself to the law that lying is a bad thing...why in the hell is Google expecting the same to hold true for everyone else?

The flip side of that, of course, is that they're not. They're expecting the "normal" denizens of the internet to be anything but--they're putting all these blocks in place to prevent the 4channers and the kiddie-coders from coming in and "tainting" the pure waters of Google+ discourse. Except, of course, that it hasn't worked. Because remember what Yonatan Zungler said in this conversation:
So, interesting thing: when we first launched G+, we thought that people would be total bastards if they weren't tied to their own, very durable, identity. (Which was one of the drivers behind the original names policy) As we got more miles on the system, this was replaced with the concern that people are total bastards, period.
He's not wrong. There are just as many people out there who, when tied to their "own, very durable, identity" will make themselves just as unwelcome to the party as people calling themselves "SeXyByTcH", "KI11mALL", and "sexyMILF4U". There are also just as many people out there who, when tied to a pseudonym, do everything they can to at least let that name represent themselves--in or out of public.

Behavior is not automatically aligned with name. Google needs to grow up and actually realize that.

your heart is now washed up in bleach

Interested in the music of trees? We can help with that. Though I'm not sure they didn't use a slice of tree-growth from Mirkwood...

Sometimes fundraising gets seriously quirky. That being said, this year's random giveaway may net you that signed copy of the book. Take a chance! It'll support a great cause!

Also, Indonesia takes ghosts very seriously.

And dandelions are now precursors of ecological doom. Makes sense, really.

More from the Google+ thread of doom.

From Gary to Yonatan, January 23rd:
So, Yonatan, it looks to me from reading the new policy text like there is still an expectation that I have to fill in my "real" name as the primary name and any pseudonym by which I am known in the "other names" field. If this is not the case, the text needs significant clarification. If it is the case, then this is really still inadequate.
I really don't think Google's ever going to budge on this point, which is really, really sad. Because in my eyes, and in the eyes of many other people, this has severely diminished our embrace of, and use of, Google. We just don't trust them anymore like they used to. They're still ubiquitous, but that makes us paranoid, not happy.

Scott to Yonatan, the same day:
Yonatan Zunger said, "In fact, we do not give a damn whether the name posted is 'your'name or not: we will not challenge you on this basis, nor is there any mechanism for other users to cause you to be challenged for this."

Then why did my friend Thomas Paine get suspended? His name certainly does not look like a handle. And it is a very common name, look in a phone book. He submitted links to other websites that he uses that name on, but was told that only a Driver's License will get him unsuspended. Not cool.

Also, anyone can report anyone else and use the reason of "Fake Profile". So yeah, there is a mechanism for that.
Exactly. Which, again, puts me right back to that precarious position in the first place: while many people use Emilly to address me, online and off, and while I've had this blog active since 2007 (and had other websites establishing use of the "Emilly" part of the name, prior to that), it's still not the name on my birth certificate.

And the thing is--I really cannot stress this enough--it's never going to be. Not only do I not want to "solve" the problem by changing my name legally, that would only compound the difficulty. I am fine with having an online personality, and an offline identity, being separate.

Moreover, I do not believe that this means my online presence is then "disposable"--while I'm sure I'm not in the majority, if I say something online, I do my best to back it up. If it's my opinion, quite likely it's my opinion offline as well. I endeavor always to stand behind my words, right or wrong--while I have blindly attacked in the past (and may yet in future), I try to always recognize that it's a blind attack, at least, and apologize if I feel I'm in the wrong. This, to me, does not say "disposable troll identity". This should also say to Google that I'm trying to live online and offline as a person of integrity, even if it's scattershot integrity.

Chris to Scott:
"Google has set up a situation where the user must gamble their pseudonym on whether or not they will be deemed as legitimate" You phrase it as a gamble. What are they losing if their pseudonym is rejected? simply the opportunity to call themselves 'potato salad' when no one know them by that name anyways?? a gamble implies a significant loss.
Not exactly. While I'm sure there are people, many people, trying to do just this, where I see the main problem for me (and people like me), is that we are trying to state the case that our pseudonyms are legitimate. Because we have chosen them (and stood behind them) for several years now, that should be proof of our good intent.

Unfortunately, Google is pigheaded on this point.

Scott in comment to Chris:
The risk is in the exposure. Once Google is has the connection between the real name and the pseudonym, the trust by the user has been established. If Google rejects the pseudonym, the user cannot undo that connection. Google already has is in their database.

Think of it like this. If I came to you and told you I was Batman, even if you do not believe me I cannot untell you. It's too late.
I'd put it this way. If Bruce Wayne came and told Google he was Batman, that link is forged. If I came to Google and revealed my real name as XY, and my online name as Emilly Orr, that link is forged. It doesn't matter on the belief; the point is, the database now has that information, and the database can (and likely will) update personal pages with that information. Which is precisely what we don't want.

It doesn't get more clear and simple than that, but dealings with Google are rarely simple.

Again on the 23rd, Sai finally responds to Yonatan (his first response was linked in yesterday's post. I'm choosing to repost the entire thing because I think it's important):
1. I understand and actually agree with wanting names over handles. Handles are often (but not always) reasonable to handle (ha) as 'nicknames'. I think they should be included in + mentions also, but there we're talking less a matter of principle and more one of implementation.

However, the two aren't strictly separable. For instance: +aestetix aestetix. It's his handle, yes, but it's also the name he goes by all the time IRL. It's how I met him. I happen to know his wallet name, which is different, but even so I and most of his friends call him "aestetix" most of the time.

Is it his "handle" or his "name"? I would argue it's both, and he has more than one legal name under the centuries-old common law understanding of the term.

Indeed I would argue that the only worthwhile point of such a policy is to have people identified here as they would be if you met them at a party IRL. But that's not something you can prove or verify other than by asking the person themselves.

2. Why can't non-celebrities have pseudonyms too? I'm no celebrity and would probably have been rejected under this doctrine. I see no substantive justification of this policy.

3. Drivers' licenses do not capture false positives against common law names. Consider (just for instance) the many trans people whose drivers' licenses reflect a different name than the one they go by IRL.

Also, I consider it objectionable a priori that I should have to show my ID — something you don't even verify in any sensible manner — merely because I have a weird name. What do you think the reaction would be if Google+ applied this policy consistently, requiring ID from everyone who wants to sign up? (Forget about the workload of doing so, consider simply the evilness quotient.)

Evil policy + discriminatory application ≠ less evil.

4. That's not really a substantive response. How do you intend to minimize the problem for people with unusual names?

5. Dismissing the number of people who need to use pseudonyms, and saying "well it works for the privileged majority", isn't really a good response here. Again: how do you propose fixing this bug?
Let's break this down in order.

Point one has been my point all along. If I, on a daily basis, have both my partners getting my attention by saying "Em"...first, what makes Google think I'd want to be known by another name, and second, what makes Google think my so-called "wallet name" is more important to my life than my chosen name?

Let's talk chosen names for a minute. I have three. Two are legally established--let's say, for convenience's sake, they're my maiden and my married names. Because of common-law practices, in many states, I can legally use either. Even in those states which don't allow common-law provisions, all I have to do to establish my married name legally is change it in a court of law. (Which I've been meaning to do for years now, anyway--because the state in which I married did not automatically change my name. That does not, however, make it any less my name.)

So which name does Google really want? My ID name? The (three, now) names the post office delivers mail to? Which is it? And if I change my name, do I have to re-verify all of this information just to use a name which isn't my legal one? And why does Google care in the first place? It seems inordinately invasive.

Point two I also agree with, vehemently. Why can't non-celebrities have established pseudonyms? Because if celebrities get a pass over not having to go through all this needlessly cumbersome verification, that establishes a class system I'm fairly sure Google does not want.

Point three is interesting from an international angle: for one, many transsexual people do change their names (and their gender) on their ID, so which one is valid at that point--their "birth" name, or their updated ID name? Further, in England (at least, and possibly in other countries as well), crossdressers are issued two legal IDs--one with their birth name (and gender), and one with their "presentation" name. That doesn't even take into account transgendered folk, just people who want to present as the other gender.

So which name does Google want? Do they want them all? Wouldn't that be a nightmare for the verification folks?

And this is well worth repeating, and bolding:
Evil policy + discriminatory application ≠ less evil.
Which is so very, very true in this arena. When did Google stop behaving by the precept "don't be evil"? Because this is innately discriminatory, judgemental, I believe I already said pigheaded, and hey, I'll make that leap into "evil" behavior. Any time a major corporation is deciding by fiat who gets to play with the other kids, and who doesn't, based solely on the name sounding normal, what kind of lesson is that sending to the net at large? To society at large? That we can only be "good" people if we have "normal" names? And Google gets to define what's "normal" and what's not?

Yeah. That's just wrong. And it's not getting less wrong.

Point four and point five are really good questions, but Google doesn't have any good answers, yet, because they just implemented this (massively flawed) policy revision, over the previous (also massively flawed) policy on Google+. I fully support Sai's desire to have these questions answered, but frankly, Google just doesn't know yet.

But let's look those questions over again before we tie this entry up: for those of us with unusual names, or established pseudonyms, or who chose specific alternate names over their "wallet names": what Google seems to be telling us is either:
  • change our names so they sound more "normal" (thereby removing almost all interesting names, all ethnic names, and a substantial chunk of international names);
  • be able to prove, conclusively, to a corporation we no longer trust to be given such information, that our names are our names;
  • or be able to prove that we have sufficient "celebrity" or "internet following" that our names are our names (without telling us how that following is going to factor out)
Which standards are we going by, too? Forget the "celebrity" issue or the issue of proof--look carefully at the top line. Names that aren't "traditionally" name-shaped are getting thrown out. Who's deciding what's a "name shape" in the first place? How many letters are allowed? Are only two names allowed, not three? Is having four names right out? Do we have to register with our full legal names and be referred to as our full legal names in perpetuity, or can we simplify--"Joe Smith", for instance, over "Joseph Ablemarle Vinicunus Smith". Or would that full legal name be thrown out anyway because it's not "name-shaped" enough?

And more--are the criteria for deciding what is and is not "name-shaped" purely limited to Latin character sets (it seems to be) and, in fact, Western naming practices? So how would that work out with "Joseph Running Bear", for instance? It's his name, right? Would that be "name-shaped" enough to get through without a fight, or would the "Running Bear" last name scotch the entire thing? What about Asian naming practices, where the given personal name is usually the last name?

Let's be more specific. "Ming Yen" in Japan and China would refer to "Yen Ming" in Western parlance. Okay, that's still name-shaped. What about "Hang Bok-nam", which usually gets Westernized as "Bok-nam HANG" for Korea? Would the fact that the last name is completely upper-case toss out the name entirely? Who knows?

And, let's not forget, I'm posting these commentaries off Google+ because I'm afraid that posting them on Google+ (and thus reactivating my account) will get me banned from Gmail! Why should that even be a consideration for what's essentially a social network--make a comment, lose your access? What forum on the planet does that?!?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

how many rules breaking how many games?

I have no place in my brain for this, so I'm spreading the suffering. Enjoy your Nicolas-Cage-based brain seizure.

Several scattered things today, because I'm too tired to rant about Google+ right now, as much as I want to continue. So, in no particular order:

An archived post from 2008 on the former Virtually Blind blog showed up on a separate search; what it says about copyright and DMCA violations is, unfortunately, still valid for Second Life several years later.

Over on Kotaku, there's a cosplayer who decided Deus Ex's protagonist, Adam, wasn't sexy enough, so gendershifted him. The pictures may be NSFW; they don't show nipples, but they do show breasts. (You'll see what I mean if you click the link.)

Meanwhile, Lifehacker has an article on simple things we can do if we have jobs where we sit a great deal of the time (*coughs*). None of them are exceptionally hard. Consider this the reminder for all of us to move more when we can, because yeah, sitting all day does take a toll on our physical health.

Steve Napierski came up with a beautifully ironic take on video game branding on Dorkly; Twitter wants to hire more people; and Iza Privezenceva is today's definition of awesome. (Also, she looks like the Grangers have a Russian branch of the family, but that misses the point that she's an astounding speed archer.)

In some positive Google+ news, a friend of mine sent me a link to Snorri Gunnarsson's Icelandic volcano photographs, which are breathtaking. (Though really, that could have been on any other service, including Facebook, and still have been breathtaking.)

Meanwhile, there's a 30/70 split on something (for at least me, opinion-wise) regarding MegaUpload. There's a group of people who have decided to band together to declare suit against the FBI because they lost their personal files and did not have backups for them. (Which, okay, look, I've used big file services too to save items I didn't have disc space for, but you have to back up your work, people. Seriously.)

That's the 30% for me; I think it's a good thing for them to band together and declare class-action suits. It improves their power position, and with enough voices (and enough donations, financially), they might be able to power that to a Supreme Court decision.

The 70%? Well, they're calling these groups Pirate Parties. Are you people insane? So, to establish clearly that they have valid concerns and have lost original work that was in no way violating anyone's held copyrights...they're going to identify with pirates?!?

Obviously, you did not think this through, people. Try again if you want people to take you seriously.

Friday, January 27, 2012

silver bullets in the jukebox, spin another round

This week's awesome bio award goes to Wrath and Ruin, a level 50 science brute seen in the Rikti War Zone:
Wrath: They KILLED us!
Ruin: No, not us. Her. They killed her...
Wrath: I'll feast on their eyes! The pain! They'll feel my pain!
Ruin: It is not all of them. They are not all bad. We can help them maybe!... Is it not what she wanted?
Wrath: They killed her! But yes, that IS what she wanted. And THAT's why she's 'dead'.
Ruin: But...
Wrath: She's dead, because WE were too weak to help her back then.
Ruin: We are stronger now... We could do...
Wrath: Something, yes. We can fix their perceptions!
Ruin: Umm, that is nice of us... I guess...
Wrath: 'Very'. We'll help them see. And then, ease their pain. They're in so much pain.
Ruin: Or will be...
Wrath and Ruin: Hah, hahaha, AhhhAHHAHAAHAha...
Ruin: Seriously though. I think there may be something...
Wrath: wrong with us, yes. But I don't care. I like it.
Ruin: Yeah... me too...

In other news, artist Matt Rhodes has knocked out a concept for Galactus that I really want to see become the official concept. I'm definitely more highly in favor of his version than the traditional short, stubby, yet somehow still gargantuan pink guy that Lee and Kirby invented. (AND it even explains why that invention exists, without diminishing the power of the new one.)

Friend of mine (who has an established online pseudonym that is not her real name, in her case of over a decade's standing) has been following the main Google+ commentary thread on the "new and improved" pseudonymity policy. After the initial announcement, I hadn't bothered to read any of the comments, for two reasons:

1. I left Google+ because they don't allow me to be Emilly Orr, a name I've established for almost seven years now--which is also the name that nearly everyone in my life, online and off, uses either exclusively to talk with me, or uses interchangeably with my "real name" (and yes, this includes spouses and some family members); and

2. I didn't want to reach that point whereby I either couldn't provide Google with enough substantive "proof" for why I wanted to use that name, and they killed all access to my Google accounts across the board, or somehow tracked down my "real name" and replaced it without my consent, thus giving anyone with (or without) a Google+ account access to my RL information.

So I'm now reading the comments, and...wau. So damn many comments. Here's a cursory few that caught my eye:

First, part of Bradley Horowitz's original announcement:
Since launch we've listened closely to community feedback on our names policy, as well as reviewed our own data regarding signup completion. The vast majority of users sail through our signup process--in fact, only about 0.1% submit name appeals.

When we analyze the set of all name appeals on Google+, we find that they generally fall into three major categories:
- The majority (60%) of these users want to simply add nicknames.
- About 20% of appeals are actually businesses (who are inadvertently trying to set up their business as a Profile, rather than using Google+ Pages which were intended for this purpose.)
- And the remaining 20% would either prefer to use a pseudonym or another unconventional name.

Today we're pleased to be launching features that will address and remedy the majority of these issues. To be clear--our work here isn't done, but I'm really pleased to be shipping a milestone on our journey.

Nicknames and Names in Another Script

Over the next week, we'll be adding support for alternate names--be they nicknames, maiden names, or names in another script--alongside your common name. This name will show up on your Google+ profile and in the hovercards which appear over your name. In the next few weeks, we'll be displaying it more broadly as part of your name in other areas of Google+ as well. So if you're Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Jane Doe (Smith), or Saurabh Sharma (सौरभ शर्मा), you can now communicate your identity the way you want to.

To add an alternate name, go to your Google+ profile, click Edit Profile, select your name and click on "More options." (See attached photos)

It's important to remember that when you change your name in Google+, you’re changing it across all services that require a Google Profile.

Other Established Identities

On Google+, we try to flag names which don't represent individuals, such as businesses or abstract ideas which should be +Pages. Sometimes we get this wrong, so starting today we're updating our policies and processes to broaden support for established pseudonyms, from +trench coat to +Madonna.

If we flag the name you intend to use, you can provide us with information to help confirm your established identity. This might include:

- References to an established identity offline in print media, news articles, etc
- Scanned official documentation, such as a driver's license
- Proof of an established identity online with a meaningful following
One wonders how exactly they're interpreting "meaningful following", but that's the least of my complaints with this announcement.

Sai summed up many of my objections in a comment very succinctly stated, near the top:
1. "Another script"? That would be Latin charset, for people whose primary language is in another charset. Why should English get privileged as the universal default for their "primary" form of name?

2. "with a meaningful following" is extremely objectionable to me.
a) it's complete weasel wording
b) it cements having pseudonyms as a privilege of celebrity

Both are unacceptable. Normal people need to have pseudonyms too, as I think has been extremely well established. (cf. http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Who_is_harmed_by_a_%22Real_Names%22_policy%3F)

3. If it's on your driver's license, it's not a pseudonym. And if it's not on your driver's license, that doesn't mean it's not your legal name either, in common law countries.

4. It discriminates against people (like me) with unusual names. Why do we have to show identification or fame, but the real pseudonyms ("John Smith" et al) don't?

5. Google+ still can't be your first identity online if you have a nonWASP name...but Facebook can. "Google+: your second social network." Seriously?

I'm sorry, but the only difference I see here is that you're now listing the nickname field on the hovercard and profile. I see no substantive policy change. Fame was already an obvious and hypocritical exception to the policy; now you're just open about it.

And this took half a year?
Exactly. I highly recommend reading through the Geekfeminism link; I only wish the folks at Google pushing this insane policy so aggressively would do the same, and, better still, actually comprehend the logic in it.

Yonatan in response to Sai:
You're asking all of the right questions, so let me give you systematic answers. I'll start with the easy one, and write a separate comment for the big one:"Another script:" No, the Latin charset isn't privileged. Your name has to be in any single script (as per UTR-39); your nickname has to be in a single script; but they do not have to be the same script.
Sai's response back:
I understood they don't have to be in the same script. But the example given ("Saurabh Sharma (सौरभ शर्मा)") pretty explicitly says that the native script is the "other one". That's rather rude IMO.
While I've never had a name in a non-Latin character set, I do understand the point--it presumes that English, and by default Latin characters, are the obvious global default, and that anyone who doesn't use English (and Latin characters) are by this definition...well, you could take that several ways, depending on how you're reading it. At the least Google is trying to tell the rest of the world that their languages are by default "alternate" ones; at worst, the communication says they're less, they're not as important, they don't mean as much. These aren't good things to say.

Gary to Yonatan:
firstly, this is a step in mostly the right direction and I'm glad to see it. I would be interested in a response to Sai's other comment, though. Surely celebrity should not be a prerequisite for choice. In that regard, this policy change seems to continue to willfully miss the point: it is not our responsibility to explain our choice of name to you, but rather your responsibility to explain to us why that choice is something we should not have. So far Google has abjectly failed to do this.
Good comment. Is celebrity the only reason a pseudonym would be allowed? What qualifies as a "meaningful following"? And he's absolutely right, why is Google putting themselves into judging what names are "allowed" (hence, "good") and what names are banned, blocked, or denied (hence, "bad")? They're our names, not theirs. Why do we have to justify our own names?

Yonatan back to Sai:
Saurabh is actually one of the PM's on the team, and he uses Latin script as his default script. :)
Sai's comment in return:
Then that's not a good representative case to use for internationalization, eh?
No. It's really not. In that case, Horowitz is taking a name he's seen around the office and pretending that it shows some amazing international sensitivity, when in fact Saurabh likely only uses non-Latin script when communicating specifically with people who use that script by default. And possibly not even then. So that's really a specious example start to finish; thanks, Google, for continuing to denigrate our intelligence.

And what I'm going to end with (at least for now) is Yonatan's comment back to Sai:
OK, +Sai .: Here's the big answer.

First of all, you might ask why we have a names policy at all. (i.e., why we don't simply go with the JWZ proposal) One thing which we have discovered, while putting some miles on the system, is that it is indeed important to have a name-based service rather than a handle-based service. This isn't a matter of functionality so much as of community: You get a different kind of community when people are known as Mary Smith than when they are known as captaincrunch42, and for a social product in particular we decided that the first kind of community is the one we want to build. In order to do that, we want to establish a general norm that the names you put in to the system should be names, not handles.

So one thing that our name checking flow tries to catch is handles, which should normally be nicknames, shown in addition to a name. The other important thing it's trying to catch is people who are creating individual accounts, rather than +Pages, for non-human entities such as businesses or organizations. The behavior of +Pages is deliberately restricted in the system, and we don't want people to be creating fake human accounts to circumvent that. The name check turns out to be a very powerful tool to catch these.

Our name check is therefore looking, not for things that don't look like "your" name, but for things which don't look like names, period. In fact, we do not give a damn whether the name posted is "your" name or not: we will not challenge you on this basis, nor is there any mechanism for other users to cause you to be challenged for this.

There are two main cases where the name check screws up. One is false positives: people (such as you) who have unusual names which get flagged because they looked like handles. Being able to appeal via things such as drivers' licenses is useful for this case, since it's a simple "oh, we got this wrong." The other case is people such as +trench coat, who are so well-known under this handle that it would be bizarre not to let them onto the system under this name. For this case, we allow appeals based on being well-known under the name: thus the ability to prove the "established pseudonym." We've deliberately set the threshold for that latter case fairly high for now, but we intend to continue to tune it; the objective is that the frequency of such names should basically be the same as their frequency in meatspace.

So to answer your questions one-by-one:

(2) "Meaningful following" only applies to cases of established pseudonyms which do not look like names. The definition of "meaningful" is deliberately vague so that we can tune it, so that it behaves in a natural fashion.

(3) That's correct; drivers' licenses are for false positives, not pseudonyms.

(4) Unusual names will indeed hit friction, because of false positives. We're trying to minimize that, but it's going to take some trial and error.

(5) Google+ can absolutely be your first identity online. No matter what your language, no matter where you come from. The "established pseudonym" logic should apply to a very small subset of people. If some groups are seeing a higher false positive rate than others, that's a bug, not a feature, and we have the data available to spot this situation and remedy it.

Does this answer your questions better?
Not really. Let's take this point by point:

1. So Google's only interested in surface community--they don't want people with goofy-sounding names to apply, because that would not make a strong social network of honest people, but a bunch of kids who would do bad things simply because they don't have "real names" like adults do. The hell.

2. Even if we somehow manage to convince them that our psuedonyms are real enough for their data checks to pass over, we'll still have to use "real names", it sounds like, because nick-names are only pairing with "real names", because that's the way adults in the real world operate.

3. In fact, we do not give a damn whether the name posted is "your" name or not: we will not challenge you on this basis...Except that's not what Google said earlier. Google said earlier that if we were operating under a pseudonym, then Google would kill all Google functionality across the platform. If we lost Google+, we lost Gmail, we lost Picasa for pictures, and people were wondering if this would also block use of Chrome.

In fact, I'm still not entirely sure that's not going to happen in March; that even though I'm not on Google+, they'll "discover" I've been running under a pseudonym all these years and tell me that (even though, to their new and revised definition, "Emilly Orr" looks like a real name) it's not good enough, and kill my Gmail access.

4. If I have a strange-sounding pseudonym (which I don't), and I have sufficient celebrity and name recognition (which I don't), then I get the name by default because it would be "bizarre" not to operate like that. Which is, I suppose, fine for people like "trench coat", Cher and Madonna, but where's the dividing line for those of us not deemed strange enough? Is this the Google version of "go big or go home"?

5. Google doesn't want to tell us how they define "meaningful" because they don't want people to "game the system". Gosh, that sounds familiar...Anyone else flashing to the Lindens' policy on Adult terms in the Marketplace? You know, obviously bad words like "pe", "5" and "*"? (Though rumors are "5" got fixed.)

6. Finally, this bit: [T]he objective is that the frequency of such names should basically be the same as their frequency in meatspace. Right. So in my case, the fact that most of the people I know call me "Em", including the ones that know me by the name on my ID, means I can establish "Emilly Orr" as my official name. Right? Save that Google did everything they could, several months back, to terrify me out of my tiny mind that if I held onto that designation on Google+, I would lose all ability to use my email address--which at this point is tied to several major institutions and would be a pain and a half to replace. I'm not talking Second Life and City of Heroes registry; I'm talking banks, hospitals, and politicians.

You can't have it both ways, Google. Either it's okay for us to have pseudonyms, or it's not. And restricting us to pseudonyms that sound like real names just makes you look like consummate dicks, frankly. To be blunt.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I want to scream for everything to stop, 'cos I'm not in charge of anything

Came across a bright blue fellow in Wentworth's Consignments, in City of Heroes. He had a very steampunk-esque backpack on, spitting blue steam, and was a level 35 technology controller. I pulled up his profile:
It is not uncommon for Spirit Masters to go on earthly adventures for wisdom and courage. This particular Stormbearer went into an unknown cave filled with sapphire, one of the rarest gems in the world because it is created using just oxygen which gives the blue. Storm bearer was amazed at the amount of gem the cave had. A stream of sapphire also took place and so he followed it deeper in to the blue cave. He came upon this clanking machine creating the crystal cave, and the sapphire water and took it. He has lived to this day with the machine on his back still producing stormy weather but also bringing greed seekers to their demise.
And I could not let that go. So, I dropped a note his way:

[Tell] -->Sapphire Stormbearer: Just as an aside, sapphire gets its blue color from titanium and iron, not oxygen. Otherwise very cool hero.
[Tell] Sapphire Stormbearer: i am not a scientist im a weather controller otherwise ppl love me for my backpack

At which point I smiled, complimented his backpack--because it was a nifty thing of gears and dials and aged blue steel--and backed away. Because really, there's just no further talking possible.

"The Zombie-X rifle was created by DoubleStar as a more effective tool for dealing with the imaginary apocalypse of the undead that's never going to happen." Okay then.

Also, almost a year ago there was speculation about a UFO on the ocean floor. Did they ever find out what that was?

From the Department of WTF Happened, a Hollywood-based lobbying group announced it needed SOPA to shut down Megaupload...five days after Megaupload was shut down, and a couple days after SOPA was stalled in the shallows (maybe permanently; Senator Lamar Smith has withdrawn the bill on the list of bills he's now sponsoring).

And you thought SOPA, PIPA, and now ACTA were bad? And your head is still reeling from PCIPA? Well, meet TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. What's involved in that one? And I quote from the relevant section regarding intellectual property provisions:
"TPP countries have agreed to reinforce and develop existing World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) rights and obligations to ensure an effective and balanced approach to intellectual property rights among the TPP countries. Proposals are under discussion on many forms of intellectual property, including trademarks, geographical indications, copyright and related rights, patents, trade secrets, data required for the approval of certain regulated products, as well as intellectual property enforcement and genetic resources and traditional knowledge. TPP countries have agreed to reflect in the text a shared commitment to the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health."
To break that down, the United States, along with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, and Vietnam (and possibly Japan and Canada, should they wish to join in, but intriguingly enough, not Mexico) will all be agreeing to support intellectual property rights on trademarks, geographical locations, copyright issues, patents, preservation of trade secrets, internal testing and regulation, including scientific study, empirical findings, and genetically-modified seed crops (and/or clones)--at least within those seven (to possibly nine) countries, and will be fighting back against non-member countries who try to dilute those copyrights, studies, findings, genetic modifications, and chosen locales.

Even worse?
"The Obama Administration has developed a policy on transparency for the TPP negotiations which apparently does not involve any commitments to sharing the text with the general public, even after it has been given to all member countries in the negotiation and to hundreds of corporate insiders on the USTR advisory board system."
Well, wonderful. And yes, that means what you think it does--information on the TPP is very sketchy, and it's highly likely that the (leaked) documents we have of the phrasing may be several drafts back from the final form to be passed.

Meanwhile, the folks now running Minecraft have decided that, in addition to the utterly useless addition of wolves, we're now going to be able to tame so-called "ocelots", which, when tamed (with fish, not pork), turn into...housecats. Not kidding. All ocelots start off spotted, and when they are tamed, they turn into striped orange tabbies, Siamese, or black and white cats.

Let me repeat that, because it sounds vaguely important. The new ocelot "mob" type looks like a blocky, spotted ocelot-like thing when untamed, and when tamed--with a fish--they spontaneously transform into three different potential varieties of squared-off, blocky housecats completely randomly. Because that's what feral animals do when domesticated, you see.

I realize it's Cubeworld, and I'm getting hung up on the transformation of a pixel thing into another pixel thing, when I don't bat an eye that you can dye two sheep, breed them, and have the baby sheep show up with that color of dyed wool. I can't explain it, but my brain is going nononono, the hell, that's not even POSSIBLE.

(from the Minecrafting album. Seriously. Not possible.)

(And yes, there are cat toys in Minecraft 1.2. The gods help us all.)

In news from a different direction, H&M apparently thinks that being inspired to copy someone else's design is radically different from actually copying it, which amuses me greatly. People, it's the same design, just give in already.

I'm a backer for Mother Henriot's Elixir, an actual, herbal-derived, absinthe tea. They need to raise slightly under ten thousand dollars in just slightly over a month. I have faith in them. Consider a donation if you have folding green; their benefits are generous and most come with at least a sample of the tea, if not enough for a full pot!

Paula Deen's developed diabetes (no surprise there); a circuit court says it's okay for cops to discriminate based on intelligence (that explains a lot); Tor Books offers up a lovely little run-down of speculative fiction takes on works of art; Echo Bazaar develops the Radical Okapi; and Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan seem to have done it again, debuting an 'autobiography' of famed steampunk explorer Frank Reade...who, like Boilerplate before him, never existed.

Goodness, I think that's everything, and I still have too many windows open! No wonder Chrome keeps crashing on me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

make the same mistake, I'll be here all night

Was Megaupload targeted simply for the actual criminal acts key members performed, or was it also to stop them from launching music and movie sharing services later this year? I don't know if we'll ever know for sure, but it's intriguing that they'd started to make announcements on what was coming--and soon after, were indicted and shut down.

Keep in mind that in the wake of Megaupload shutdown, both FileSonic and Uploaded.to have closed down access from American accounts. FileSonic has gone one step further and declared that users now can only download items they have personally uploaded--so no sharing large videos with family or sending big-packet extraps to fellow law partners, for instance.

And I really don't think they'll be the only closures or changes in services. I think this entire thing is going to end up having a very isolating effect on American media and media sharing--legal or not.

Meanwhile, somewhere far away from that legal battle, ocean waters are turning into froth. Cappuccino-colored froth. Ecological changes in our oceans, you say? Surely you jest.

And have I mentioned scientists are currently trying to prove if multiple universes exist? That's just wild. (And what will such proof, if we get it, do once it percolates fully into the culture?)

From the so-not-safe-for-work department, the newest edition of sexy fairytale pinups. There's a lot of Ariel, a rather curvaceous Elphaba, a Cinderella straining at the seams, and a rather more adult than anticipated Wendy, from Peter Pan. (Among many, many others.)

And, though I rarely touch on religion in this blog, here's a disquieting link on why Biblical literalism can be a very bad thing, using as example the new American version (though with references to the original version, and the book) of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Finally, though this goes out only to one or two readers, Tom Banwell's now made a plague doctor mask. It's available both in brown, and in a "doctoral" white version with red lenses. (The white is less expensive because the design choice turned to rivets, not hand stitching, but either one will set you back a fair chunk of change.)

all of this dust, all of this past

All right, I want to talk to folks that make sculpts. Maybe folks that make mesh, too. I have an avatar concept and I want to see it realized.

(from the fashion album; wedding dress from 1976)

This is a wedding dress, circa 1976, supposedly modeled (in some inspirational fashion) from Anne of the Thousand Days, and displayed at the Victoria & Albert Museum. There are more details on the archive listing of the gown.

(from the fashion album; wedding dress from 1976)

This is a closer shot; for purposes of display, specifically of the embroidery on the dress, and the detail work on the veiling.

So, okay. That avatar. First, in the above two shots, throw the dress away. Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely wedding dress concept, but I'm not overwhelmingly interested in that. What I am interested in, however? The monochromatic tone-on-tone: arms, face, outfit. Any outfit would work with that, if everything was that same even off-cream tone.

Or, hells, pick a color--though I'd prefer not vibrant, or a dead black. But still, what I'm seeing in my head could work with just about any outfit that matched the tone of the avatar skin.

Because what caught my imagination so in this is the utter facelessness, while still being definitely feminine. More than that, even, I don't want to put any specific binds on this--while I want a smoothly faceless avatar, I'm thinking even an actual head replacement paired with a toned skin would work. But what I keep seeing on the grid? Beautifully made immersion fetish hoods; blocky robotic avatars; or actual headless entirely avatars, where a neck stump--sealed, or bloodily fresh--is all that's seen.

And all of those have their place; I've even pondered if there's a way to tint parts of Mm. Allen's holographic avatar to be more monochromatic, and demi-opaque. But what I think I'm most intrigued by is not a single-tone face, but the absence of face--those perfectly smoothed angles that still say, to our seeking eyes, "face", over "hood" or "mask" or "helmet". Part of it is because of the slight central vertical elevation--not enough to suggest 'nose' or 'lips' but simply something pushed forward, just slightly enough, for the merest suggestion of face to occur.

What I found most intriguing with this particular mannequin--which even a Google search didn't discover a similar design for--is it seems as if it's covered in cloth, instead of paint. I'm fairly sure that it's simply a very matte finish, though I would adore to know the exact composition.

But I'm fairly sure it's possible, to some talented modeler out there. Anyone interested in taking it on? I also may drop a word into Mm. Allen's ear, see what happens there. This needs to be a Thing, though. It really, really does.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

have we lost the magic that we once had?

I profoundly disagree with Joe Wilcox; I think he's wrong on nearly every conceivable count of that article. But then, I think Google's taking a fairly wrong-headed policy on this whole real names policy, anyway. Let's cite some personal examples:
  • I have a stalker. Things seem to have calmed down over the past year; mayhap he's found another hobby. But the thought that he might see my real name on something has made me not only chary about sharing it, but about sharing any personal details. Discovering--several years back--that he not only has friends in my area, but has friends that I've met has made me exceptionally paranoid. I refuse to share my real name on the net if I don't absolutely have to, for this reason among others, and if Google can't get that through their thick corporate heads, not my problem.
  • It's not just me; my cousin no longer has any online identity tracked through her real name. She used to; in fact, she used to have a Comcast email in her name, and a blog in her name, and other online services, all under the name she was born with. She doesn't now. Why? Because a former roommate hacked her computer and downloaded her personal information, passwords and the like from across town and set up a blog wherein this person trashed the reputation and standing of my cousin's husband. (Which, by the way, this roommate had attempted to murder earlier.)
And that's just family, just me and my cousin personally--but ask around. Who do you know who is wary of netizens? How many women, in fact, have felt threatened by someone on the net? Someone in RL who found out where they were on the net? Abuse victims, rape victims, survivors of war and other crimes, and hey, let's talk about the men, too: they can can be battered nearly as easily, and it's also far easier to trash a male's reputation these days--one woman who thinks she's been wronged cries rape and that's pretty much it, the man's entire life is toast.

Or how about military personnel who cannot, for many reasons, go under their full legal names? What about children? Do we want to force our children to give out their full legal names where anyone might be able to add up full name + gender + gullibility due to age?

What about people in witness protection programs?

Google's getting a lot wrong on this issue, and Mr. Wilcox is just as wrong. And no amount of "go whine elsewhere, trolls" commentary is going to change my mind. Not everyone anonymous on the web is anonymous so we can say mean things to people on the web. (Hells, I say mean things in person. I tend to stand behind the mean things I say, too, just as strongly as I stand behind the nice things I say. Neither means I want my real name attached to anything on the internet.)

In other topics, check out the winners of the latest Taiwan Design Awards competition--favorites of mine (that I'd wish they'd put into production!) are the banana-shaped "Caution" sign and the photochromic, UV-blocking 'leaf shadow' stickers.

For anyone who may remember--and who may have loved--Christopher Livingston's Livin' in Oblivion series, well, he's at it again for Skyrim. Only this time, PC Gamer's paying him to do this, so it's something he'll have valid financial interest in pursuing. Yay! Once more, he's starting out by crafting an NPC--this time around named Nordrick, not Nondrick (because, well, Nondrick was a distant relative, or grandfather, one of those); and gifted with the now-traditional protruberant family schnozz. And once more, he's starting out with little more than the clothes on his back to make his way as a non-adventurer.

More power to him; and hey, it's funnier that way.

[11:51] [cxxxxxx Axxxxxxxx]: since the Lindens are promoting vampirism is Caledon going to accomodate such groups of people in turn --- not that I am into such activites (biting and being bitten) but it seems that this mythology does fit into a Victorian/Steampunk venue.
[11:54] [Axxxx Mxxxxx]: In the latest viewer, the first avatars suggested are vamps

Here's the thing: while there have always been darker-minded Caledonians (and Winterfallen) who are drawn towards the imbibing of liquid protein, I can say with nearly solid surety that they have never felt the need to have a HUD for it designed to spam gentles with bite requests.

[11:54] [Gxxxx Bxxxxx]: Well, they've been using vampires in the adverts for a while....
[11:54] [Axxxx Mxxxxx]: Honestly, sinking to the level of "using Twilight hype" is really really bad

And, just as a side note, Lindens? It does tarnish your reputation a great deal with those contrary to Miss Meyers' narrow and antithetical world view that vampirism equals vegetarianism and celibacy; more to the point, trying to convince those Twilight-minded that Second Life is where the Cullens live in perpetuity, and then having them find out upon logging in to the new "vampire" SL experience, and finding out that vampires are a small portion of a greater diversity of residents will also get you complaints.

You lose both ways. Not good.

[11:57] [Bxxxx Bxxxxxx]: Yes there were Ads on you-tube promoting RP a few years ago "Be a vampire" - that sort of thing -indirectly tied to the twilight /vampire diaries phenom etc
[11:58] [cxxxxxx Axxxxxxxx]: Well anyway I thought maybe Caledon could introduce those interested in"biting" to RP Steampunk style and be a part of this what ever is a foot thing.

I remain unconvinced that she's talking about actual SL vampires, and not simply spampires who play Bloodlines, here.

[11:59] [Axxxx Mxxxxx]: There should be an add-on for period illnesses
[11:59] [Axxxx Mxxxxx]: "You just contracted small-pox by biting xxxxx."

And I remain convinced that he is talking about spampires, not actual SL vampires. Just to make the point clear: spampires aren't vampires. They're people mostly paying to feel like vampires, gather in clans that then emphasize a top-down multi-level-marketing scheme to drag in more victims so they advance higher in rank, and most of them can neither dress appropriately, nor spell well enough to come to Caledon and interact.

[12:00] Pxxxxxx Pxxxxxxxx: Haha. Be a Victorian! Contract TB today!
[12:00] [cxxxxxx Axxxxxxxx]: or [cholera]!
[12:00] Sxxxxx Sxxxxx: that would make observing them all that much more fun - the vampire drinking game!

Now, that would be fun. Take a sip from your blood doll if:
  • you see a spampire in silks
  • you see a vampire in a mini-skirt or hot pants. Take another sip if you see them wearing both together.
  • you see a spampire with fetish heels wearing a locked collar
  • you see a spampire head to toe in black leather. Take an additional sip if it's black leather with buckles, and a third sip if it's black leather with buckles and spikes.
  • you see a spampire with some variant name like "LrdVladDrac Resident" or "MasterGodVampire Resident" or "SeXiIFaNgEdOnE Resident".
  • you see a spampire wandering around asking people if they can be bitten because they need the blood for their Queen
  • you see a spampire wandering around asking people if they can be bitten because they ARE a Queen
  • you see a spampire asking in chat, "What's a garlic necklace?"
  • you see a spampire with a tan. Take an additional sip if they're blonde. Break out the blood champagne if they're wearing pink and they refer to themselves as Princess, Empress, or Duchess, or if any part of their name contains the words "girly", "cute", or "little one".
This could be fun to develop. Any other ideas?

Monday, January 23, 2012

you never needed any help, you sold me out to save yourself

We now reach the third missive, the one not sent from Miss Edwards:

And--unless I hear from them again--this should tie up the series (and part two is here).

Donna Cullen (dcdonnacullen679@gmail.com)
To: Emilly Orr:
1:03 AM (9 hours ago)

Hi Emilly,

Is it just me? I think I'm going to have this knee-jerk reaction to anyone named Cullen because of those ridiculous books.

I recently discovered your blog, and I have become a frequent reader.

I highly doubt that.

Coincidentally, we recently published an article entitled (10 Ways to Find Out If Your Love Wants Kids) that I believe would draw considerable interest from your readers. If you are interested in sharing with them, then feel free to do so.

Here's the link for your convenience: ([[trimmed this one because it was from "topdatingsites", not "bestdatingsites", and yes, I do believe that is spam I smell]]).


Donna Cullen

I'm not so much interested in this topic (not that I was that interested in the other two), but I still traipsed off to see what they'd come up with this time:

1. Invite Them To Family Dinner – Dinners or other gatherings where the extended family will be together are a great way to expose your mate to the little ones in your family. If they ignore the kids altogether, they might not be interested in any of their own.

Flashing back to the first article, it's also a great way to scare a new partner off. But let's assume this one was written from the perspective of people who've been together a while, and one of them is thinking they want kids, so this is a list of...what, how to maneuver them into asking about children? Who knows?

2. Take a Trip to The Park – A romantic day at the park can also serve as a barometer for parental instincts. If your lover avoids the kids or seems irritated by them, they might not be parent material.

....What, you can't just go strolling in the park anyway, first, and second, a romantic day out is a great "barometer" for judging parental instincts? Hells, take them to a G-rated movie on a Saturday afternoon. Why the romantic stroll? I don't get it.

3. Point Out Cute Kids – The next time you're enjoying a shopping trip or dining out with your honey and you spot a particularly adorable tyke, point them out. If they seem disinterested or change the subject, starting a family might not be on their to-do list.

"Oh, honey, look, isn't she just the sweetest thing?" You're going to get three reactions to this from most people:
  • 1. "Hon, are you feeling okay? Maybe we need to go home."
  • 2. "If you say so..."
  • 3. "You're creeping me out, here."

4. Talk About General Plans For the Future – Asking your sweetie where they see themselves in ten years or what their long-term goals are might turn up the answers you're looking for. If they want children in the future, they'll probably say so in their response.

And they may not. So you could just, oh, I don't know, mention kids? Why can't you just say you want kids? (Or don't want kids, for that matter?) Isn't it better to be honest and just ask?

5. Mention Friends' Children – Talking about your friends' kids can elicit a response from your significant other in a general sense; if you relay a particularly cute anecdote, they may mention how they're looking forward to children of their own one day. Conversely, they may firmly state that they never want kids.

And either is okay, but it's better to be sure either way. Still, this seems awfully premeditated. Again, why can't you just sit down with the one you love and ask if they want children?

6. Start a Discussion About Birth Control – The issue of birth control is one that every couple has to address; it's a great opportunity to say things like, "I want children one day, but definitely not yet." Statements like this can get the conversation off the ground without feeling like you're pushing too hard.

If they aren't already creeped out by your romantic strolls pointing out cute kids after meeting your family, sure.

7. Visit Friends or Family in the Hospital After a Birth – Few things stir up the parental instincts like a newborn. If a friend or family member has a new baby, bring your mate along for the visit. Simply seeing new parents in action might cause the conversation to develop naturally.

So, spend the day strolling in the park while your partner points out cute kids after meeting the family and talking about birth control, and that evening--go to the maternity ward!

Honestly, at this point your partner is waving signs and lighting flares. If you're still clueless about the way the conversation is going, you may be too dim to date.

8. Pay Attention To Their Language – The words that a person uses and their inflection can often clue you in to their thought processes. When the subject of children comes up, watch their facial expressions and listen to the way they speak. If their tone is derisive or disgusted, it's a good sign that they're not interested in parenting.

Yes, or calling children "hellspawn", say, or always carting around a ball of yarn and knitting baby socks with, there's another huge clue. Who are these people? These are their best tips to start that conversation about children?!?

9. Observe How They Interact With Their Nieces and Nephews – While introducing your mate to the little ones in your family can give you some clues, their behavior can be colored by the desire to make a good impression or anxiety from meeting the whole clan. Watching how your lover interacts with the children in their own family can be more telling, as they're likely to be more comfortable and genuine.

Guess you're out of luck if they're an only child.

10. Just Ask – Taking the plunge and asking this question can be nerve-wracking, but so can analyzing their every move and trying to decode their statements. If becoming a parent (or not) is a deal-breaker for you, you should take the bull by the horns, so to speak.

Why didn't you just say that in the first place?!? Good gods, these people are irritating.

Yeah, I think this ends here. I hear from them again, I'm just marking it as spam. Lunatics.

no more rain, no more rain, I just smile and bleed into the wind

Some people are slow on the uptake. For choice example, scroll down to the comments from Miss "poo", wherein she suddenly has to defend her honor from those despicable whatevers...two years after the original events happened.

The hell.

Anyway, back to the 'love advice' oddity I mentioned yesterday.

From: Mary Edwards (maryedwards26@gmail.com)
To: Emilly Orr
Date: Jan 18

Hi Emilly,

Hi again...

We just posted an article, "10 Fights Every Young Couple Has" ([[trimming it out again because I swear, these people strike me as slightly more articulate spammers]]). I thought I'd drop a quick line and let you know in case you thought it was something you're audience would be interested in reading.

That's "your", actually, and I doubt it, but I took a look anyway.

Check out 10 fights every young couple has.

1. Toilet seat: Do you leave the toilet seat up or down?

Oh, you have to be kidding me. Maybe I use "argument" more seriously than most, but I have never had an argument over this with any partner. I get that people can be that petty and small-minded, and I'm not without my flaws, but still, this is ridiculous.

2. Toilet paper: Now this is a funny argument, but one that people feel very strongly about even into their 60's. Do you put the roll on so that the toilet paper comes over the top of the roll or from under the roll? If you ask the makers of toilet paper they will tell you that toilet paper was designed to go on the roll with the paper coming over the top of the roll, but frankly you can do whatever you feel comfortable doing. Just know that this is a little battle so someone should be the bigger person and bend to the other's wishes.

Well, again, that really should be "into their sixties", I think, or if stuck on a numerical fixation, "into their 60s", at the least, but...I think what you're trying to get across is "these are all little arguments, don't get hung up on them". Which I guess would be good advice, as far as it goes...but from here, they get weird.

3. Which side of the bed: If you grew up sleeping in a twin bed it probably won’t make any difference to you which side of the bed you sleep on, but it may if only one side has a lamp for reading or a nightstand to put a book or a glass of water on. If both sides are equal in terms of furniture and lighting then it's just a matter of taste. Your body will have gotten used to sleeping on one side of the bed and it can actually cause insomnia in some people to sleep on the other side of the bed. Good luck with this one.

*blinks* Maybe I grew up in a strange place, but people, I stopped sleeping in a twin bed when I was twelve. I moved from there to an 1800s French canopy full; from there to a queen-size futon; and, now I'm "settled down" with two other people, we have a platform king. (And there are still occasional tickle fights where I swear there's not enough room.)

But...okay, if your problem is that you stuck to a twin bed until you got involved with another person, and you're just really used to having a water bottle or a book on the side of the bed, and now only the other side of the bed has one? Well, isn't it a better idea to talk that out, than get fixated that the left-is-always-your-side-of-the-bed, damn-it?

More importantly, it's not only that side of the bed you may be used to, but that orientation. If you've always slept on the right side of a north-south oriented room, and you move to the left side of an east-west oriented room, you actually might be more comfortable there, depending. I know I've switched sides of the bed depending on where we've moved. It has more to do with where your head and feet are pointing, over what half of the bed you get.

4. Dishes: Who's going to do the dishes? You would think in this day and age of dishwashers that this would be a moot point, but it isn't.

Yeah, this one has gotten me from time to time with people, but oddly, not with loves, but with other roommates. Like the idiot who said neither he nor the other (male) roommate should have to do the dishes, because they're guys. Also, it's likely just me, but I'm irked on the assumption in the rest of the paragraph that insists that every house has a dishwasher. Mine doesn't.

5. Paying the bills: Who is going to pay the bills? Some couples will think that they will pay them together. For some this may actually work, but for others paying the bills will be a point of stress and cause an argument between the couple. It may work to have one person organize the bills onto a spreadsheet or list and have the other person actually pay them.

This is the first thing in two articles I've profoundly agreed with. In fact, the single largest factor that causes individuals to break up is financial stress--who's making money, how much money, how are the bills divided, how much is going for food, rent, utilities, fun...It can be a huge issue. So this one, I get--because yeah, there's no faster way to end up single again than to argue about money.

6. Toothpaste: This is a funny one on the surface, but after a while it really gets irritating. You know how lovey dovey young couples are at the beginning? They want to be together all the time and want to share everything, even toothpaste. Do you squeeze the toothpaste tube from the middle or from the end? What about the cap? Do you put it back on when you are done or just leave it on the counter? This is such an issue that toothpaste makers have made toothpaste in bottles and toothpaste tubes with caps that stay attached after you open them, like flip tops.

Personally, this whole idea baffles me, because I've only met one person who didn't put the toothpaste cap back on, and hey, I broke up with him. (For better reasons that had to do with his inherent racism and not liking all the bruises he gave me, but hey. Still a point.) Me, I'd say, this issue really bothers you? Don't date people who leave the toothpaste cap off (or on, whichever it is).

7. Buying something without discussing it: When a couple is newly married it’s hard to break the habit of buying whatever you want when you want it. Just make sure that you work together and set a limit above which the item has to be discussed before purchasing it. The national average is $249.

You people are insane. Our in-home average of buying without discussion is zero. Because we always discuss purchases, who ARE you people?!?


8. Wet towels: Leaving wet towels on the floor is a huge area of contention. Why is it one person’s job to pick them up and hang them somewhere to dry? A question for those people who leave the wet towel on the floor or bed. Who do you think is going to pick them up, the maid? Why is it anyone else’s job to pick up after you?

While I agree with the last comment, I don't get the rest of this. Oh, I get that people argue about this, but maybe it's again my personal situation--we leave anything on the floor, the girl in the wheelchair can't move around the apartment. End of issue.

9. Hair in the sink: Now this goes both ways, women hate when men leave hair in the sink after they have shaved and men hate it when women leave hair in the drain from washing their hair. Bottom line is that you both need to make sure the sink is pretty clean and presentable when you get ready to leave the bathroom.

Ew. Yeah, there's a word for this type of person: slovenly. I've always liked that word, in that it sounds both shabby, run-down and dim-witted at the same time. But seriously--doesn't this go back to people who can't pick up after themselves as adults? Yes, I have long hair, and yes, sometimes when I comb it out I leave hair on the counter, because I shed--I have few irritating cat habits, but that's one of them. Still, I have learned to check out the counter afterwards, and throw things away. Shock and horror.

Other people don't do this?

10. Remote control: Who controls the remote in your family? How do you decide who gets to hold the remote? Do you have one of those partners that like to keep flipping through the stations without even waiting long enough to see what's on?

Okay, I grant you, I hate the people who just randomly flip channels too, but seriously, people break up with each other over who's holding the remote? Isn't that time to reevaluate your priorities in life? Because trust me, when you move from dating to marriage, compromising becomes a truly refined art. If you can't find the points of compromise when dating...well, you're going to make a lousy spouse, then, too.

and there's a kind of hate that tastes like birthday cake

From: Mary Edwards (maryedwards26@gmail.com)
To: Emilly Orr
Date: Jan 17

Hi Emilly,

Um. Hi...

We would love to share with you an article that we just posted on our own blog! (10 Tips for Being Patient with a New Relationship) is linked below and could be a fun way to share this announcement with your readers.

([[link redacted because it's off a 'bestdatingsites' site]])

Err. Have you read the title of the blog? Relationship success seems not to be my thing.

It has been a sincere pleasure to read your great content.



Mary Edwards

Huh. How weird. So, I perused the link:

1. Step Away From the Cell Phone – In our constantly-connected society, it's easy to flood a new partner with Facebook wall posts, texts and emails from a cell phone. While keeping a line of communication open is vital, it's equally important to allow a new relationship some breathing room.

I don't own a cell phone. Problem solved.

2. Spend Time With Friends – Don't be a cliché by ignoring your friends in favor of a new honey. If you have a long-standing tradition of poker with the boys or girl's night margaritas, keep it. Your friends will be more likely to accept a mate that doesn’t take up all of your time, and these outings will give the two of you something to talk about the next time you get together.

I suppose that's fair. New relationship, you want to spend all your time with the new love; I get that. Still, people abandon their friends for the new lad or lass entirely? I'd think that means you're not really fond of your friends.

(And yes, I separate ignoring people because I'm trying to figure out my own life from swooning over the new exciting love--sure, I'm still ignoring my friends, but really, some days I'm not good company anyway.)

3. Focus On Your Hobbies and Favorite Pastimes – Losing yourself completely in a new relationship can easily be the kiss of death; your interests and pastimes are likely a big part of what attracted your new mate. Letting them fall to the wayside to spend every moment together leaves very little material for conversation and can cause your lover to feel stifled.

Yeah...don't think that's really an issue. Considering if I'm not typing I have a needle in my hand--and I'm not kidding, I bring embroidery projects and patchwork bits to sew on the bus, while waiting for the bus, in restaurants, at theatres, shopping--I mean, some cloth-based project is pretty much constantly with me.

4. Avoid "The Talk" – It's natural to wonder where a new relationship is headed, but it’s a good idea to hold off on having "The Talk" for a while. Letting things develop naturally can be a bit nerve-wracking, but it's necessary.

Riiiiight. Okay, 1. For whom is letting things develop naturally, "nerve-wracking"? And 2. Many people wonder where relationships are heading right off the bat? Seriously?

5. Keep It Light – In the early days of a relationship, it's best to avoid the heavy plans for your future and talk of marriage and children. Don't introduce your long-term plans when a coupling is new, or it may not last very long.

Doesn't tip 5 pretty much just repeat tip 4?

6. Be Careful With the Booze – There's a reason why alcohol is also called "Truth Serum." One phone call after a night of drinking can undo all of your cautious work when you've just started dating someone.

Well, sure, but that really goes for anyone--be careful drinking with new loves, be careful drinking with new friends, be careful drinking with coworkers.

7. Don't Change Your Plans – Before you met your new love interest, you probably had some long-term goals and plans for your future. Avoid the temptation to change those plans to suit a brand-new relationship; despite how you feel in the honeymoon phase, there is always a chance that things won't work out.

To be blunt, duh. And not only duh, but again, aren't they repeating themselves? I mean, unless your long-term goals are eat the next person I meet and pour lye on the bones, in which case, hey, don't do that.

8. Keep Your Priorities Straight – Though it's difficult in the first blush, try to keep your priorities in line. Don't let your new relationship take a toll on your work or other obligations, as it can very easily cause resentment when things inevitably begin to cool down and you’re forced to play catch-up.

Uh...okay, first, they're assuming you're going to a) neglect everyone you know in favor of b) this person you just met for c) long-term relationshipping which d) you're not supposed to talk to them about because e) they might freak out and leave you, so f) keep your mind on the target which you're not thinking about, because all of this is going to fail and you'll be left alone again to wither and die.

This is love advice?!?

9. Don't Play Mind Games – When things aren't moving as quickly as you'd like, don't resort to passive-aggressive mind games. Slyly referencing others that are interested in you or the ex that still has feelings will almost always blow up in your face.

And well I know this, however--seriously, most people do this? I mean, I play mind games as a matter of course, it was how I was raised. Hells, I honestly had no concept that people could just ask for something without angling it to sound like you were doing the other person a personal favor to give you whatever it was until high school, I'm not even kidding about that. And I've been working very hard in my adult years to tone down that instinctive response. (Just in case I've been unclear--playing with people who don't know you're manipulating them is BAD. No ifs, no ands, no buts. From lowly peasants like me all the way up to Newt Gingrich, it's just plain wrong. Period.)

But do most people in the dating realm do this? And if they do, why? Unless you're very, very good--and if you're very good, you generally don't care about anyone else in the first place--what does it get you? Someone who doesn't know who you are, reacting to words chosen more carefully than your everyday speech, and responding to manipulation, not honest emotion.

Even if you win, you lose. So why?

And finally:

10. Hold Off On Introducing the Family – Even if you have the most welcoming and interesting family on the planet, your new love interest shouldn't be meeting them for a while. Family members will ask questions that you may not be ready to answer, which will put undue pressure on you both.

Not only that, but again, seriously, if you just met whomever it was and the next weekend, you're dragging them to brunch with your mom and dad--only the hardiest soul will not see this as a Big Warning Sign. So seriously, this is dating advice? What the hell kind of people do they think are going to honestly, whole-heartedly, need these tips?

And why the hell did they decide to send this thing to me of all people?!?

More to come.