Turn off griefing in the code, Philip!

Anshe Chung

Anshe Chung

Last week I read the silliest comment about griefing through Second Life educator’s list. Someone posted on the list the griefing incident that occurred during the public appearance of Second Life-tycoon Anshe Chung. For those who are not familiar with Anshe, she is famous for having made her fortune (millions) by owning a lot of virtual land and renting them out. Consequently, she has a lot of enemies. Well griefers made a point in flooding the sim with penises which eventually led to the crashing of the sim where the event took place. And made a point in capturing the incident and posting it in Something Awful. You can read more about it here.

When this news hit the list, first, couple of people tried to marginalize it by claiming that we need to post things that are relevant to the *entire* list. Now I’ve been in this list for about a year and am a bit fed up with reading people bragging about their personal projects (which they invest thousands of dollars for) or talking about K12 which bears absolutely no interest for me. I get 30 some e-mails about these topics. So when couple of threads that come out that interests me, I’d like to read them and post my comments on them. And me being me, I called it as it is. By now, I think I earned enough enemies in the list that would last me a lifetime. Some interesting comments came after that, about griefing being a part of the SL culture and such. And someone quite abruptly and with a matter-of-fact attitude said and I quote:

“It comes back to the platform vs games decision. If LL (Linden Lab) wants it to be a platform then griefing has to be turned off in the code. If LL wants it to be a game, then yes, these guys provide great entertainment. I still don’t think that LL can have it both ways.”

Hmmm, wow. Turning griefing off in the code… What an idea! Ingenious! I wonder why Philip (CEO) didn’t think of that yet. I think we should definitely e-mail him and let him know about this…Anyway, I thought the comment was silly, but I was feeling kind at the moment and asked him to clarify. He was basically complaining about the loopholes in the program and when I said they are overworked at the time, mentioned open source, and said that griefers change IP addresses like T-shirts, I was accused of using an “alt” gmail account and my association with griefers was a bit suspicious at best.

As I went through this thread, I realized (as I mentioned in one of my previous blog entries) how much this “educator” crowd is alien to the real nature of Second Life. They get funding from their schools or get grants from private sector and invest thousands of dollars to buy islands and use SL for “teaching purposes” and they have no idea what it really is. As a matter of fact, the hype about SL is fairly recent. Only this year companies like IBM, Adidas, Sunsystems came to SL. Only recently teaching institutions are willing to invest in SL. The presence of hardcore educators in SL has been a year and a half or two years at most.

Now on the other hand, I am in the IRC channel #secondlife, where people who have been in Second Life for years, most have been in SL since its inception. You see their names on the blog entries, on the comments, on anything SL. Some are or have been griefers, some are hackers, some are members of libsecondlife (a group of programmers who are pushing for open sourcing SL), some are machinima artists… And they all complain, remember the time when SL wasn’t as lame as it is right now, when creativity was a highly valued thing…

Now for griefing… Can it really be turned off the code? Not really, if you ask me, because most griefing that is being done is done with the tools that are within the parameters of the world. Very small number of griefers, as far as I can tell, are legitimate hackers or have scripting skills. Anyone can create an object, especially a penis, swastika, or the Twin Towers… Even non-scripted objects crash sims. True Linden Lab needs to work on the loopholes, but as we can see, they don’t have the capacity to deal with the overload. So what’s the problem in open sourcing it? Of course this guy was totally against it, arguing that this is the implicit agenda of programmers, and if we open source it then anyone can hack/grief blah blah blah. I disagree. Because most griefers don’t have that kind of knowledge and LL will probably won’t be allowing just anyone to fiddle with the code and surely there will be some parameters. Not sure what they are, but there are other open source projects out there and we don’t see them crashing down. Also there is the argument that we should restrict some SL capabilities to paying accounts. My argument is: Why? So someone who has been in SL longer than you and invested more time and energy in SL and is truly creative can be excluded for your sake because s/he doesn’t have enough money?

Come to think of it, griefing is an integral part of society in general
whether it be online or in real life. Look at children or how they like
to pick on each other, pulling pony tails, lifting skirts, and such. Harassment of ppl, stalking ppl,
calling ppl names, exposing their private parts… these are all griefing and are a very integral
part of civilization as we know it. Anyone who watched South Park knows
this and laughs at these fart jokes. As a society, we are not able to
eradicate this, so I can’t believe that a random company from San
Fransisco is going to be able to “turn off griefing in the code” and
make everything OK.

Furthermore, the problem is that we are expecting LL to fix all of our griefing problems. But I don’t think they have the power or the capacity to enforce that kind of
a policing in SL. Philip, for those who went to SLCC this year, made it
crystal clear. The main target of the company now is to provide tools
for the users so that they can fend for themselves. The difference is
between a “top to bottom approach” to “bottom to top approach.” Getting angry at LL’s incapability to “turn off griefing” is like leaving your home unlocked trusting that LAPD put all the
thieves in jail and getting pissed off at the government when your
things get stolen. Some people believe in the power of LL and I (and some others) believe in the
power of the user. I am posting the same snippet from 3pointD that I posted on the list:

“The truth is that Linden Lab’s insistence on seeing Second Life as a
“world” is probably hampering its evolution. At some point soon, the
company will have to step back from its interest in what kind of world
SL will become, and truly let its users decide. That, after all, is the
proposition made in the “Your world, your imagination” slogan of which
LL is so proud. The fact is, though, that Second Life remains very much
the company’s world. Unfortunately for LL, that’s not how things work
online these days. As we move from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 to Web 3pointD,
control is passing more and more into the hands of the users, who are
only too happy to take on the responsibility of providing tools and
content for their online lives — and even for policing themselves, when
given the freedoms and tools to do it. Gatekeepers in various forms
remain a necessary part of the environment, especially where problems
such as griefing and server attacks are concerned, needless to say. But
even so, there’s a level of transparency that’s necessary — not because
we have some abstract right to it, but only because it helps achieve
the goals Linden Lab claims to have, of inculcating acceptable modes of
behavior in the population.”

You can access the original article here.

At
some point, SL residents will have to take control of most of their
security and take the necessary precautions instead of waiting Philip
to “turn off griefing in the code.” We do it everyday when ordering online or browsing
the net. That is the idea behind Web 2.0 or whatever SL is or heading
towards to be. Of course, then, LL will have to reveal the names of those suckers. That is another debate, for another time.

Then I was kindly told to shut up and I did. I felt like I have griefed the list with my unnecessary thoughts and rebellious attitude towards the “educators.” God forbid that someone might express a different opinion.

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