Phil Linden: I can’t run Linden Lab well and have to protect my investment

That’s surely what it looks like from the initial announcement through Reuters and then in his own personal comments.

Perhaps the new CEO will straighten out the mess with bots, griefers, anonymous accounts and content theft. Phil had plenty of opportunities and passed every time.

Rut roh, Raggy – There’s a new Copybot…

Second Life Herald shows us how it’s done. This is a scary, but important article that demands everyone’s attention.

The timing of this article coincides with the launch of the 2008 Skin Fair – and the juxtaposition between this blatant tool of content theft and a demonstration of industry strength and creativity from the most vocal opponents of content theft (additional related link) in Second Life is too rich to ignore. It just feels like the stakes are rising on both sides.

In the months ahead, will the Skin Fair the last stand off SL’s creative class? Or are they willing to keep pressing on with better and better content in the face of less and less security for their intellectual property?

Think about it. Are we in the midst of an SL arms race? Will creators keep spending time and effort on making beautiful things while Will Linden Lab finally recognize that anonymous accounts (especially non-verified anonymous accounts) are having a chilling effect on content creation?

As a new member of SL’s leisure class (not generating revenue but rather feeding the financial beast that is the Second Life economy via direct cash input), I’ll be sitting in the front row with strong interest in what probably is the defining story of 2008 for Second Life. Because if the content creators throw up their arms and bail on Second Life for any of the emerging virtual world platforms that provide greater security, Second Life will become a really boring place…and one I probably won’t continue to support.

[UPDATE: CNN’s SL I-Reports picked up the public awareness campaign part of the story.  Not sure if it was from this blog, but who really cares?]

Griefers, revisited

Gee, this didn’t even come from something that happened inworld…

I received this comment yesterday, and I’ve been torn as to whether to post it. As you can see, I did…and that’s because I think it’s important to illustrate the culture that Linden Lab has allowed to flourish by allowing anonymous, free accounts on the Second Life grid.

If you recall, I suggested in my November post on griefing that:

Griefing continues to plague Second Life, and it’s clear that petitions for improved grid conditions are falling upon largely deaf ears at Linden Lab. So it’s up to us – the people who pay Linden Lab – to state our case clearly and succinctly.

…and I did, at least to the best of my ability, closing with the answer to the question of, “Considering Linden Lab’s mission statement, can you explain how permitting a culture of rampant, uncontrolled griefing connects us all to an online world that advances the human condition?”

The answer is simple. It doesn’t. Linden Lab has to own up to this fact and stop the griefers now. If they do not, they will likely face a class action lawsuit or an exodus of paying customers.

To which, yesterday, this comment arrives:

What part about “Game” Do you not understand?
You like to have fun this way, they like to have fun that way.
Don’t be so hash [sic].

I am very against you, Its a free internet and they should do what they want. And if you don’t like it, ask them to stop. Don’t just be all Insta-ban. That’s mean. And video-games are meant to ESCAPE from reality, not to be educational, not to be infromal [sic], but to be FUN. Which is a word that is obviously forgotten here. But hey, if banning people on first sight and filing forms is fun to you…weird.
That is all.

My thoughts and this response illustrates the cultural divide between those of us who have made a meaningful investment of time and/or money in Second Life and those who haven’t. If you haven’t made the investment, there’s no need to look at Second Life as anything more than a place to get one’s thrills. Like kids everywhere who “tp” houses and plant a “For Sale” sign in someone’s front yard in the dead of night, or who spray graffiti on the walls of buildings or trains — or hackers who attack websites for kicks, griefers don’t look at the system they are damaging as anything more than a toy to be broken. They see no intrinsic value in the grid. THEY LOOK AT IT AS A GAME.

And that’s the root cause of this divide. We, who have invested ourselves in Second Life, look at Second Life as a means to a productive end. Whether it’s a place to exchange ideas, promote creativity or even make a couple bucks, we place value in Second Life. Griefers don’t. (Granted, we may look at SL as a platform upon which we can play games…but we don’t look at the grid as a game in and of itself. BIG difference.)

Now, let’s take this back to Linden Lab. How can Linden Lab, who supposedly wants to encourage the growth of an online world that advances the human condition, permit such a fatal flaw in their online world? I’m not saying that non-paying, anonymous accounts should be banned altogether, but the notion of limited access for such accounts should be a no-brainer. Let visitors come into Second Life and explore, but limit their ability to do harm…that’s all I ask.

But Linden stubbornly sticks to their policy of allowing unlimited privileges for non-paying, anonymous accounts. I’ll presume that they value the raw number of user accounts (many of which are alts, but account inflation numbers is an altogether different story) over user experience.

Deltango Vale offers a remarkably strong Op/Ed, “SL- What Went Wrong & How Do We Fix It?,” at Second Life Herald. It begins with:

The establishment of anonymous accounts in June 2006 opened the doors to underage players.

It then lists a host of OTHER problems, never once mentioning griefers. So it’s fair to say that the issue of anonymous accounts is a reasonably broad-based one.

We who genuinely care about the quality of the Second Life experience simply want to see the balance of power on the grid reflect the investment that we have made in the Metaverse. Those who look at the grid as a nerf ball to be smacked around just don’t deserve the same.

When will Linden Lab agree with this basic assertion? Don’t they care about their product?

Tateru on content theft

Tateru Nino offers her analysis of the issues surrounding in-world creative content theft (probably inspired by the recent firestorm related to the blatant theft/reselling of skin textures). After an extended overview of the world of content theft, she suggests two points of action:

“Any freebie or full-perm item should only be distributed with the full permission and wishes of the creator, and when it’s reported it needs to be stopped as soon as humanly possible.” — Ziggy Quirk

That action has to take place in a Court of Law, or at the hands of Linden Lab. Linden Lab is faster when they do take action, but they also make mistakes like anyone else. The more so, because they seem to be eternally rushed.

Courts are surer and slower ways to proceed. For those brands and publishers being knocked-off or replicated in the physical world, however, those don’t seem nearly fast enough, and nobody ever seems to make their money back closing down the copiers or distributors.

Quirk is right. Like the paying customer base cares that Linden feels rushed. If I was a victim of theft, I’d feel out of well-deserved money. And I would want fast action.

Sure, courts make sense…if Linden facilitated a relationship base with their customers where those submitting subpoenas for user/IP information were responded to quickly and efficiently. That probably is not the case; as a precedent, note that PayPal handed over their subpoenaed user/IP information to Stroker Serpentine three weeks faster than Linden. Linden Lab’s perpetual “late to the party” approach to inworld legal issues (casinos and inworld banking as examples) makes me think that they’ll have to be dragged into a lawsuit in order to make a policy change. And that is sad.

Much like with griefers, Linden Lab has the golden opportunity to get right with its paying customer base. It can either aggressively respond to issues of content theft much like they do to “region down” reports, or it can put the destructive genie back in the bottle and force anonymous account holders to register themselves. Maybe there’s another option. The point remains – Linden has to perform better on these basic issues.

[UPDATE: New World Notes is kind enough to link to this blog as a source of information re: the skin theft/content theft issue and offers a link to the following YouTube video of the Real Life person behind Ziggy Quirk. Take the time and watch this 8+ minute video. Especially if you’re a Linden Lab employee.]

Not Ready For Prime Time

The “oldsters” reading this will recall Belushi, Ackroyd, Radner and the rest of the original Saturday Night Live crew. I wish that I was talking about such a fun topic but instead think it’s time for yet another sobering analysis of the ever-evolving culture that is Second Life.

In fairness, this post has little to do with SL art and Oyster Bay directly – but the global implications of these issues DO have an impact on the entire Metaverse. That being said, let’s take a look after the fold at some of the major headlines (with followup commentary/analysis where appropriate) of the past couple weeks…

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