Saturday, 23 June 2007

Not so happy-go-lucky

I should not be writing this. I should not have the time to write this. I should be on my way to France for a weekend with friends and family. I'm not. I'm home, hungover and angry with myself for way too much whiskey last night. As you may have guessed this one is not about Loki. It's about the man behind Loki. Most of the time we are a lot alike apart from the looks and even there, some similarities exist. But, there are difference as well.

Last week was a rather turbulent one. I think I've managed over time to make Loki a nice, easy going, creative, somewhat flirty guy who lives his second life to the fullest. Last week however the differences between us blurred. Loki became the angry and melancholic drunk I sometimes am. I have always tried to keep that side of me away from him since it's a part of me I don't like and I don't particularly want to bother others with. Last week it shone through, bright and clear.

In a way I guess it was inevitable. We can pretend, we can disguise, we can make believe but in the end we are who we are. Loki is part of me, the better part I hoped but as it turned out he wasn't immune to my own bad spells. It's rather ironic it was actually SL spilling over into RL that brought all of this on. I always thought I could keep both lives nicely separated, but as many before me I have to admit now I couldn't.

For those of you who met with Loki's darker side I want to say I'm sorry. To all the rest who probably don't have a clue what I'm talking about I'll promise to clean up my act and make Loki the happy-go-lucky guy he always was again so hopefully you will never have to deal with me.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Making a difference

Last Sunday I was auctioned off at a date auction. It was organised to collect linden dollars for Relay For Life by Friends Fighting Cancer, a group associated with the slprofiles website. This same group has organized several other activities in the past raising money for cancer research. So far they collected a whopping 722,000 L$ (about 2500 US$).

Now I'm not a big fan of this kind of incidental fundraising. I prefer to make donations to selected organisations on a regular basis. It gives me more certainty the money will be used for what I want it to be used. However, this group has managed to sell their cause with so much enthusiasm I couldn't say no and I don't regret it for a moment.

In a way it is incredible and heartwarming to see this aspect of SL. The contrast with the often painted picture of a meta verse full of perverts of every possible persuasion couldn't be greater. Here is a group of people who spent considerable time and effort to raise money for a worthy cause while others like me spend their time writing silly blogs about nonexistent SLelections and all they entail.

I'm actually not all that happy with my previous post and thinking about the whole RFL auction added to the uneasy feeling. Even though I tried to make a few valid points about democracy I guess most of it was nothing but more SLelections bs. Guess I was trying a bit too hard to contribute to something I should have ignored. Maybe it's time to change my tune and do something a bit more valuable as I originally intended to do? What I mean to say is; it's too easy to be just a bystander, commenting on what is going on and not put your money where your mouth is.

So I would like to call upon all the blogging would-be-Governors and whoever else for that matter to come up with ideas and suggestions to help the people of Friends Fighting Cancer carry their total to that magical number of 1.000.000 L$. Let's do something that actually makes a difference for a change. Surely it can't be that difficult?!

In world donations are always welcome of course! (all info can be found here)

Friday, 8 June 2007

SLelections vs. true Democracy

SLelection fever seems to have the blog sphere and by extension SL in its grasp. Blogs are buzzing with swollen rhetoric and candidates are crawling from under every rock. Idle promises are made and it even looks like the first smear campaigns are on their way. Contrary to popular belief and even after some heartfelt pleas I for one will NOT be running for office. Not only am I far too lazy, I will not do so because I think the whole idea is flawed. I hear candidates ranting and raving about democracy while they actually want you, the voter, to install a dictatorship. What else can you call a system where one person, being the governor, holds all the power? In addition, the way this story unfolds, this proposed SLelection is not about ideas; it's about personalities, inflated egos and exaggerated media attention, not unlike a lot of RL elections in fact. Why would we accept the same flawed system in SL that is forced upon us in RL? At least this time around we have a choice.

I considered campaigning against SLelections if they were to be held or even start a guerilla group to overthrow the governor once elected, but since that would be a rather negative attitude I will propose a positive alternative.
Thinking about it and brushing up on my political history I concluded that in all western countries politics are governed by a conflict model, majority against minority. I fail to see how this can be considered truly democratic. The only true democratic model is a consensus model. Keeping this in mind I would like to see a "Counsel of the Wise" put in place. Now this is true democracy! This counsel could debate the issues at hand and organise referendums to hear the people's voice on the matter. If by any chance an actual decision would come out of this at least it will be well thought through and supported by most.

Of course the question of how to put together the counsel is a tricky matter. Since we all respect our elders my proposition would be to invite the 100 oldest active avatars to take a seat in this esteemed new institute. Since we can't really force them to take up their mandate they would have to be at liberty to appoint someone they feel worthy of taking their place. I'm sure the collective wisdom and experience of these 100 will bring a wind of change and prosperity to our beloved SL and could be a major force in forging the future of SL and its community. Let SL show RL the way to a better world.

I'm sure that you, my dear reader, will be convinced by now this really is the only way to go, so now we can put aside all the hype, end the propaganda, bury the personal crusades, stop the soapbox politics, turn off the printing presses and start looking for the 100 Chosen Ones.

Someone will have to lead and moderate this esteemed counsel. I'll humbly volunteer to preside it.*

* I'm convinced this is a conditio sine qua non. ;-)

Monday, 4 June 2007

Who's afraid of Linden Wolf ?

An awful lot has already been said and written about Daniel Linden's by now almost mythical blog post "Keeping Second Life Safe, Together". It came in reaction to a German TV report about child porn and sexual age play on the grid that raised more than a few eyebrows. I don't intend to rehash all the points made and questions raised already, but I do wonder what Linden Labs hoped to achieve with this blog post. Clearly they must have anticipated a lot of residents would be outraged and opposition would be fierce. The announcement was also deliberately vague. Who is going to define "broadly offensive and potentially illegal" in a metaverse that spans continents, countries, cultures, age groups and so on?

So I wondered "why did they do it and why this way?" Legally the statement by Daniel has no meaning and even then, according to what law? US law because they are US based? What about the rest of the world? Of course, by posting this blog they can say they tried to do something but still it doesn't hold water. At first I thought they were just trying to buy time while an army of lawyers was examining their options, but to me it's more and more clear they just can't regulate everything. Out with the lawyers... Did they do it to escape a bad rap in the press? I don't think so, there are far better ways to do that. Then why?

I think a perverse and frankly broadly offensive game is being played. It's called "scare tactics". It goes like this: first you make a vague statement people can and will be punished for certain actions you don't define properly. Next, watch how people who don't want to lose land, money, friends, whatever start to steer clear from what they think might be interpreted as "broadly offensive". Now ain't that grand! You don't have to tell people what they shouldn't do anymore. They will do it for you. So what's next? Close a few sims, ban a few people and make sure you properly reinforce the whole idea? I call that scare tactics and an easy way out to say the least.

Apart from this being intellectually very unfair, it is also a very dangerous game as it will not affect those die hards that will continue to peddle truly illegal content. They will just be a little more careful but in the mean time Joe Blow's innocent kinky fun is ruined.

Thank you Linden Labs.

My advice? Don't give in ... enjoy SL as you always have.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Legal Issues

This morning someone pointed out an article in a blog post that got me thinking. It's about a guy who apparently found a way to get his hands on land in SL well below the market price. Not sure how he did it but anyway, Linden Labs found out and his account was terminated for violating the TOS. Nothing special if the guy hadn't been a lawyer and didn't take LL to court over this and won his case. This could have far stretching implications and proves once again Linden Labs have but a loose grip on what they started. You would think that by now they would have had an army of lawyers going over their business and the potential pitfalls they face.

In view of the recent hoopla about age play and child porn in SL, what is the consequence of the TOS being declared not legally binding and LL faced with potential claims of those who find their accounts suspended or terminated because of violations against the TOS. I can't see someone caught with child porn taking LL to court, but age players, consenting adults?

Seems to me like it's time for Linden Labs to get their ducks in a row and take a clear stand on a few grey areas if they don't want to end up swamped with court cases. Apart from that LL is already taking flack in the RL press, at least here in Europe. Stories about virtual rape, child porn and more give SL and by extension people in world a bad reputation. I for one am not happy about the fact all questions I get from people who were never in SL are about the aberrations and excesses. Don't get me wrong, SL is a great playground and as far as I'm concerned anything goes as long as we're talking consenting adults but SL is so much more and it's a shame that never gets highlighted.

Related links:

www.second life.reuters
Bragg's website
The verdict (.pdf)

UPDATE: Posted 6/29/2007

--- Posted by Robin Linden on Linden Lab Blog ---

On June 28, 2007, Linden Lab and its Chief Executive Officer, Philip Rosedale, filed their response to the complaint of Marc Bragg in the federal district court in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, denying Mr. Bragg’s allegations, and asserting counterclaims on behalf of Linden Lab against Mr. Bragg for computer fraud, breach of contract, and other claims, arising from certain activity that led to his being suspended from participating in Second Life.