gosh, I’m a griefer

There are two things you need to know first, about my partner Madison. First, that she was raised a Mormon. Second, that she just LOVES musicals.  Inevitably she has wanted to go and see “The Book of Mormon” since it first came out. Yesterday she IM’d me all excited because she had just heard that she’s won two tickets to go and see it in Chicago on Independence Day.

So she decided to dress up as a Mormon missionary, just for fun, and I did the same.  We even made group tags for ourselves; Elder Luminos and Elder Talon.  Then she found that there was a Mormon church in SL, so we went to look, and took some snapshots.

bom sl 2

bom sl

At this point, someone who belongs to the SL church came in, took offense at our costumes and group tags, and promptly ejected us as griefers.

This was funny, but it took a new turn today when I discovered that our “griefing” escapade has made the hallowed pages of SLU’s PRS forum.   Note in particular, the comments by a user named Karen.  In particular, this one.

I mean ..(hahahaha) were you going to convince people that your crossing dressing weirdness was correct by pretending you were LDS missionaries?
Sorry that your confusion of your X Y chromosomes makes you think your are a female. X Y means you are a dude. X X means you are a female. If you feel any other way…well you have few wires crossed and need to see a head shrink so that you get it right next time around.

Yes, I am transsexual. Yes, I have XX chromosomes and (only partly, now) female anatomy.  Those things have nothing to do with whether I’m a man or a woman and modern psychiatry understands that well now.   How my status as a transman is related in any way, shape or form to my visit to the SL Mormon Tabernacle, I have no effing clue.  Perhaps it makes some sort of sense in Karen’s distorted thought-processes.

I feel sorry for Madison, knowing that the church in which she was raised is populated by people like this.  Homophobic, transphobic.  It’s no wonder people call them the “Moron church”.  Some of them bring it on themselves every time they speak.

I have never been a griefer before. I wonder if I get a certificate?

The Second Coming

I don’t usually post much on major events within Second Life, mainly because I usually find out about them too late, by which time everyone else under the sun has already blogged it, and you’re sick of reading about it.

But I do want to say something about yesterday’s announcement that Mark Kingdon has stepped down as CEO of Linden Lab, and Philip Rosedale is back in the hot seat (at least for the interim). I understand that he’s going to be working closely with Bob Komin (whoever that is).

My first thought is that I am initially very happy about this. Morale amongst residents is at what is probably an all-time low, and people are quitting left, right and centre.  Many of the projects that M Linden has wasted money on have been either an utter failure (Avaline, Avatars United), or have been strongly resisted by residents (Zindra, XStreet purchase, Viewer 2) and to many people all he’s done is just waste money with no return – with the possibly inevitable consequence of having to sack 30% of their staff in order to make up for it. It’s been clear from the beginning that Kingdon had no real interest in the product other than as a way of making money.

Philip is different. Second Life is his baby, he gave birth to it, and nurtured it. Residents are going to see in him a person who, they believe, will not let Second Life die, and in the immediate future I think we’re going to see an upswing of morale amongst residents. There was even, so I gather, an impromptu parade in Bay City in his honour yesterday afternoon.

Me, I’m not quite dancing in the streets but I am cautiously hopeful.  I’m glad to see the back of M Linden, and I don’t think that SL would have survived another 12 months with him in charge. With Philip at the helm I think survival hopes are higher because I believe he’ll fight tooth and nail to keep the grid going no matter what.

But, the reason he stepped down last time was because he’s basically a hippy with absolutely no business sense whatsoever. SL might be his baby, but by the time it grew into a stroppy adolescent, he couldn’t handle it and unless someone’s given him a brain transplant in the last 2 years, that’s not changed. What SHOULD have happened 2 years ago, was that Philip remained the frontman but appointed a business manager to deal with all the nasty numbers and stuff that Philip doesn’t want to handle.

Hopfully this is where the mysterious Bob Komin comes in, as he’s been promoted to Chief Operations Officer. In any case, Philip says he’s returning only as an interim CEO, so presumably they’ll look for someone else (although I would be honestly surprised if anyone else is crazy enough to take it on as things are at the moment – so I think it may be a long interim).

Time will tell, and I would like to know more about this Bob Komin fellow and his history.

Holy email spam, batman!

My email inbox today got flooded with spam from a mailing list called slbloggers, which, it transpires, is the replacement for the same thing over on Ning, which I had signed up for over a year ago and hardly ever used.

Most of the posts were from people desperate to unsubscribe.

Unsubscribe link didn’t work (or else it’s horribly delayed – maybe it unsubscribes you tomorrow, or a week next Thursday?)

I couldn’t log in to Grouply (the new service) because, as I’ve never even heard of it before I have never created a username or password for it. I tried putting in my email address and asking for a password reset but it says the address is not registered. It suggested my Yahoo ID which I tried, but which is apparently not signed up to any groups at all. Not surprising since as I said, I never heard of it before.

I have written to Grouply support in the hope that they can explain how I can stop receiving all this crap. I recently got rid of an email address due to spam, now it looks like I will have to delete another.

Edit: The owner apologised, and turned all messages off. Thank god.

X Street Fail

I think by now everyone’s seen the changes that are upcoming for X Street.  Minimum L$99 fee for listing a freebie, listing fee of L$10 per item per month for everything. Minimum L$3 commission on everything (this affects all items under L$50 sale price).

People are de-listing their stuff in droves.

It seems to me, based on their stated intentions, that this is exactly what they want to happen. LL are not interested in allowing small businesses, newcomers or hobby merchants to trade, because they (potentially) won’t bring in as much commission. This, coupled with their new proposal for a FIC mall of major designers paying 30% commission is paving the way for a SL Grid where the only merchants that are able to trade at all are major ones with a massive annual turnover that can swallow LL’s fees without blinking.

Someone suggested piling all your freebies/cheapies into one box and selling them at a decent enough price to swallow the fees, but really this is what BIAB resellers are doing anyway, and that’s one of the stated things that LL want to get rid of.

There are a few alternative merchant sites where SL content can be found. I went off to look at one of them and the first thing I saw on the main page was a box of eyes for L$400; the same box of “fantasy eyes” that’s available in all the freebie stores for nothing. In any case as soon as any competitor gets anywhere near being popular or successful, LL will carry out a hostile takeover, and shut it down, as they did with OnRez.

Now that LL’s main “product” is the Standalone behind-the-firewall grid, and the only customers they really want are corporations, the rest of us; the consumers who only buy, and the small merchants who run a business with only enough profit to maybe cover their tier, are seen as pests to be gotten rid of ASAP because we spoil the professional image with our nightclubs and sex clubs and roleplaying games.

I am left wondering now, how long it will be before LL apply commission charges and “listing fees” to all inworld merchants too, not just those on XStreet. Playing Nostradamus here, I’ll take a guess at 12 months, and then the death of the grid as we know it very shortly after, because then the only people who will be able to afford to stay in this supposedly “free” grid are those major corporations that LL are so keen to suck up to. Small merchants will be gone because they can’t afford the fees. Major merchants will raise their prices because (a) they have to recover the value of the fees and (b) they have no competitors any more so they can charge what they like. Consumers will leave because there’s nothing interesting to buy any more, and what there is left is pretty, but too expensive. That leaves the IBM executives. And none of them are going to buy stuff either, have you ever noticed that people who are inworld for actual work are still wearing system hair and skin, and wearing the same freebie suit their avatar started with.

For the rest of us, I think it’s time to look for another grid. And don’t think that’s not what LL really want. They don’t want your hundred bucks a year. They want residents who are going to spend thousands.

Stroker & Munch vs LL

You probably know this already, but Stroker Serpentine and Munchflower Zaius have initiated a class action lawsuit against Linden Lab for failing to protect content creators against copyright theft.

I have a very bad feeling about this.

While they declare that their intention is “not to bring down Linden Lab” I am concerned that if they win the case* then this may well happen anyway. Even assuming that the fines and damages costs are affordable – which I’m sure they are – it seems likely to me that the courts will require Linden Lab to set systems in place to make content theft and selling of counterfiet goods totally impossible.

Now already there is rumbling in the Lab about a certified content-creator program, whereby only avatars with RL info and payment info registered with LL, and who are in good standing (ie never been banned or suspended – oh look that rules me out) would be able to sell content.

Personally I don’t see how this can work, at this level.  First of all there are millions of avatars, some already involved in content theft, who have never been banned or suspended, because LL is so incompetent at acting on ARs. They are quick enough to ban the innocent while the guilty get away with everything.

Secondly, it still permits the content theft to happen, and relies on a system of reporting to root it out and remove it, after the fact. Often that’s too late – by the time they find the stolen content it’s already in full perm circulation.

Finally, how do they police “selling?” They might prevent an unlicensed creator from listing on X Street, or listing in Search, but it doesn’t stop them actually transferring the stolen goods and making money from it. Even if LL bans them from letting an object for sale, they can still use a vendor, or pass things on by direct inventory transfer and taking a direct L$ payment for it. Bottom line here, is nothign will change and the grid will still be overwhelmed with stolen content.

The extreme that I fear, is that LL will ban unlicensed creators from creating anything at all. That the “Build” button and the “Upload texture/file” facility will be greyed out and unavailable for anyone who is unlicensed. This will give Linden Lab absolute control, and they won’t have to follow ARs. Second Life will become like IMVU or Blue Mars, where only a limited few are able to create anything at all, and the rest of us are limited to purchasing only from licensed stores who are free to raise prices as high as they like.

Now, a world where creation is impossible for me, is of no interest to me, and becomes nothing more than a proprietary chatroom like IMVU. I am sure that a vast number of residents feel the same. This, I think would lead to a mass exodus of people like myself, who cannot be licensed, and yet who still want to make things, even if it’s only for fun. Whether or not Linden Lab’s profit margin can handle the loss of all the players like myself – I don’t know. But I doubt it.

So I have been trying to think of some alternative solutions, whereby the content theft is eradicated, and yet still allow content creation.

The first thing, which I regret but fear is necessary, is to forget the Open Source client project, and restrict LL access to official (or officially approved) viewers only. This is the only way to prevent copybot-clients from being able to connect to the grid. By all means allow people to make their own viewers, but those people should be “certified” too, and their code should be inspected by Linden Lab before the client is able to connect to the grid.

Secondly I think the solution to the sale of stolen content lies in an overhaul of the permission system.  Suppose the default state of any prim, even for the creator, is no-transfer. And that only these “certified content creators” have the ability to toggle the Transfer permissions box and enable the item to be passed on. That way, everyone is still free to create content for their own use, but they can neither sell it nor give it away unless they are licensed to do so. It also means that if stolen content is found, there can be no doubt that the person who owns it is the person who made it, since it won’t ever have been transferrable.

A system like this would not depend on reporting of content because the stolen content could not be sold anyway, it defaults to “failsafe”, which is, I think, what a court would demand.

Yes, it would be a shame that I would not be able to share my creations with my friends, but if my friends are sad about that then the blame for it would lie squarely on the shoulders of the thieves and copybotters who made this all necessary in the first place.

*All of that said, I really don’t think this case will pass anyway, because the implications of a win are just so vast. It’s a bit like suing the inventor of the VCR because there are pirated movies being sold.

Another thing I haven’t seen pointed out yet, is that Stroker has set up a rival company “Eros 3D” which will be an adult virtual world. So he is effectively suing his main competitor. I don’t think the courts will look to favourably on that, and neither do I.

Then it will be an even bigger shame, that the case fails and nothing changes, except Sexgen and Nomine disappear from the grid, and the copybotters and thieves continue to profit.

Teen Grid Merger

Yes, I know, it’s just a rumour and everyone at Linden Lab denies any possibility of a merger, but since the changes regarding Zindra were announced, the rumours have been flying thick and fast. I read today an interesting article by Teen Grid veteran Ralph Schnook, who talks about his reasons for hoping the grids will be merged.

Now, while I can’t find fault in his arguments, and I do think a merger will be generally a good thing for the teens, I also think it will be totally a bad and potentially dangerous thing for people over 18.

See, everyone says “What about the pervs and pedophiles”, and it’s true that there will be a minority of people like this who will prey on kids just as they do now on Myspace and similar communities. But what bothers me also is the risk adults face from kids. In particular, any involvement in any sort of sexual context, which could potentially get the adult involved in a pedophilia charge (even if it’s a made-up AR by some kid with a grudge) if one of the participants turns out to be underage.

As things stand, any kid on the adult grid has broken terms and conditions, and has knowingly lied, by being there. The adult who embarks on a relationship inside SL, has no responsibility for ensuring that their partner is adult because they’ve already declared so when they signed up. If they’re not, they lied – the kid is in the wrong, and the adult is in the clear.

In a merged grid, the kid is there by right, and suddenly the responsibility for ensuring you’re not in a relationship with a kid is yours. The kid can lie, just as before and tell you that they’re over 18, but this time you are the one that will have to prove innocence if accused.

Isolating adult content in Zindra, to a place that’s supposedly accessible to adults only, will help a little, so those people who sell adult content or adult services are to some extent spared part of the risk. But how certain are you that your IM chat, that took place in your own home, isn’t being copied and forwarded on and ending up as part of an AR in the category of “corrupting a minor” or some similar such thing?

I guess all it would take is that you make an enemy over some trivial thing and playground-politics takes over. It would be as easy to AR someone for that just as easily as it’s currently possible to wrongly accuse someone of being underage.

Yuk. No thanks.

Update

So I totally failed to get on the definitive list of SL bloggers, probably because I don’t post often enough. It seems to be the same trouble I have when blogging about RL – if I’ve got enough time to blog then I haven’t done anything worth blogging about. When I DO have things to blog about I’m too busy doing them instead of blogging.

So I’ve decided that I ought to make time to post a bit more often.

Things are still going well with Alice, though we haven’t really done anything exciting. We just tend to go dancing, or cuddle up on the couch in front of the telly. Funny how SL can be so much like RL sometimes.

There are some controversial changes coming up in SL, most notably the whole business about labelling adult content and moving it off to a new continent. I can’t say I’m surprised, or terribly disappointed, by this. I think it will improve the mainland that remains, at least in that it vastly reduces the chance of my nice residential parcel getting a sex-club for a next door neighbour.

My only disappointment is that I probably won’t be able to get age-verified. None of my ID works with the system they have in place, which is a problem for a lot of Europeans it seems. Linden Lab have stated that payment info on file will count, but frankly with the ease with which a child can get hold of a credit card number, I doubt that will actually happen when the time comes. On the other hand there isn’t anything of an adult nature that I actually need and haven’t already got (except maybe the Lovescene animation from Bits and Bobs). So I won’t be missing much.

What worries me more is the potential limits on script memory per sim that’s being talked about. I have no frickin clue how to find out how much memory is being used by any of the scripts I’ve got, and no way of telling whether it’s “too many” or safe, or what. And if I’m selling stuff with scripts in (which I do) the customers are going to need to know.

necklace_001Last but not least, I made a new thing, a simple stone bead necklace. Its mainly for men but I guess women could wear it too. I’m tempted to make something like this for myself in RL too. It’s available in my store in Ashmorn.