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Archive for February, 2009

There’s nothing wrong with Second Life (they tell me), it’s just another place to play, or a place to make money, and what’s wrong about that? On the surface of it, nothing. The problem exists because people who were playing or making money in almost any other venture would far quicker realise that it was harming them (if and when it was doing so), and get out.

Second Life is not the right environment for everyone to play and work, in fact for a rather large proportion of people it seems to be a very negative place that they stay in due to what appears to be an addiction rather than because they carefully weighed the pros and cons and realised it was a good thing after all. In a recent conversation with an old Second Life friend, a couple of things occurred to me on this topic, that I feel a need to share.

The first is in regards to seeing Second Life as just another type of play. Play is important for humans, we use it to relax and unwind, we find ways to play that make us laugh and maybe challenge us, but the point of play is that it is enjoyable. If you chose to partake in a form of play which ended up with you effectively cheating on your partner, or sitting in tears every time you did it, or making you feel suicidal, then any sane person would tell you to stop the activity and find some other way to play. I have known people in Second Life who do those things and end up in those positions and even hate themselves for it, and yet they log in again and again. Just stop logging in damnit – find some way to play that doesn’t harm you – if you can’t play Second Life without ending up worse than where you started, then get another hobby. If a friend loved playing hopscotch but every time they played it they scrapped their knees and ended up screaming at their fellow players, wouldn’t you tell them to stop playing the game?

It’s a natural response to say “they should just play it differently then!”. But why, when there are thousands of different forms of play, would you persist doggedly at one that has rather consistently turned up negative results? Far healthier to find a way to play that lifts you and makes you smile, no?

The second and I think more intriguing point I want to discuss here is using Second Life as a work environment. I have met plenty of people who say Second Life is special and worthy because they make some money there, it is their work environment. What a crappy work environment! You’re working in a world where there are almost never proper contracts in place outlining your rights or obligations. There are very rarely any sort of consequences for a breach of work relationships, except maybe social sanctions that will only reach the ears of the tiny percentage of players who read blogs. What’s even worse if you don’t even know who owns what you create – is it owned by you or Linden Labs, how can you figure out what constitutes stealing it, or even the real identity of the thief?

If these were the work conditions in any other area, would you persist? If I asked you to come work for me, but I’m going to pay you in a fictional currency, with no contract signed off, without using my real name, and not making it clear whether you own what you make (or in fact if you’re constantly breaching someone else’s rights by doing what you do such as taking pictures in world is often claimed to do), would you happily accept? I hope not!

I know the likely reply would be that it’s a bit of extra money you can make from home. But you know you can make money in other ways online that aren’t so incredibly dodgy and un-protected, and don’t end up in daily drama of people defaming each other at the drop of a hat.

For some people it’s an acceptable work environment and they avoid almost daily dramas. But that is a small percentage at best. Same for the people who find it an enjoyable place to play – it suits some people but it’s a much smaller group than the large number of people who seem to find Second Life a miserable addiction and complain every week about not having the willpower to leave. I might write a post on will-power at some stage, I personally revel in my ability to walk away from and quit or take up whatever my reason dictates I should do, I get a huge and powerful rush and sense of accomplishment when I can master those things that harm me. Second Life was one of the hardest addictions for me to break, but I got there in the end. Just remember there are other ways to work and play – if it’s making you happy and wealthy then stay, if it’s causing you to cut yourself and have heart-attacks from stress, then get out and find some other way to fulfill your life.

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Even after doing a fancy-pants law degree I still don’t read the fine-print on most on-line contracts – I scroll down to the “I agree” box just like most of you do. A single page contract is usually my limit for online stuff, beyond that I get impatient and my eyes go fuzzy so I just cross my fingers and hope for the best. I know, I’m setting a great example. In my defence I’m not an actual lawyer per se, just someone with a law degree who teaches law to future lawyers. OK, so I still suck, but this story is going somewhere.

I did a Google search for my Second Life name today in the same way I occasionally search my real life name – just to see if I need to be suing anyone for defamation or thanking anyone for calling me awesome. I was up to the fourth page of search results when I found an odd reference to myself on someone else’s blog. It went a little like this: “…Second Life and the inSL™ logo are trademarks of Linden Research®, Inc. Landsend Korobase is not affiliated with or sponsored by Linden Research®. This site is not owned or operated by Second Life® or Linden Lab®.” Spot the problem? It wasn’t my blog, it’s not someone I know or have ever heard of either, and yet their blog requires a notice that I am not affiliated with Linden Labs..?

They’d simply taken the legal warning from my blog and posted it in their own side-bar. I don’t know why they chose to take it from mine and not someone else’s (they weren’t enamoured enough with me to have me on their blog list), but there it was. So I very politely and with a smile pointed out in a comment on their latest blog entry that they might want to fix the name reference. I’m familiar with the typical wordpress settings so I expected (and was right) that the comment wouldn’t go public – so they can simply read and delete my comment without anyone else having to see it. Problem solved.

Have a look at my side bar and you’ll see the legal warning, it’s full of annoying trade mark symbols and such like but frankly it’s very short and doesn’t take a minute to read. I have no issues with people taking the legalise and using it on their own blog, cause I took it off someone else’s and just changed my name in it anyway – it’s not protected content in itself. But why would someone post on the front page of their blog – for every visitor to see – something they hadn’t read first? I don’t know how long it’s been up on their site but it makes them look a bit silly and careless.

Which brings me to a related point that has to be said: What’s the bet no one else has even read or noticed the mistake, since no one but the occasional geek like me even reads those things?

*sighs*

Here’s the thing: If the legal stuff is only a page long, just read the damn thing. Saying you didn’t read it later in a court of law isn’t a defence. If the contract you’re agreeing to is about money you should read the whole thing – you might not understand everything you read but at least you’ll know what to ask questions about and if anything is too confusing or smells dodgy, you’ll know to leave it alone or at least be cautious. But our lesson for the day: If you’re going to pin some legal junk to the front page of your own blog, spare a second to make sure it says what you need it to say and that you’re not making a fool of yourself.

It’s tempting to change my legal warning to say something that will make anyone who copies it without reading it look particularly silly…

But I’m a good girl… except when it comes to reading all the fine print in every online contract. I know I know, my rebellion is the stuff of legends 🙂

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Facing RespectA couple of weeks back I did a picture for The Gallery of Light, under the theme of “respect”. It was a subversive picture, and one that requires a bit of explaining, so here’s the explanation if you were wondering what the hell the picture’s about (and even if you weren’t).

It’s called “facing respect” because it is a face (duh) and because it’s about facing the truth of what it means to demand respect from people for beliefs that are actually dangerous and based on false-hoods. It is a comment on the modern use of the term “respect” to tell you to leave people’s beliefs alone and unquestioned – which to me is a perversion of the term and does a lot of harm.

The right side of the face is the “public face” of these requests for “respect”: The white doves in the eye is the vision of peace, the tears are for others’ suffering – everything about that side of the face is meant to suggest purity, innocence and good intentions.

The left side is the truth behind what it means when people demand respect for things that shouldn’t get it (as so often happens): The eye sees the truth of fire – the destruction caused by granting “respect” to ideas that should be exposed and revealed for their false-hoods. The lips are shut by barbed fire to symbolise the way people use the term “respect” to tell you to keep your mouth shut instead of exposing the truth. The hair line is fractured since the brain is ordered not to evaluate, not to criticize, but to quietly – “respectfully” keep it’s thoughts to itself. Where the right side had rose-petals the left side is scarred by thorns – just because something is pretty to the eyes (“respecting every one and everyone’s beliefs equally”), doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous.

The light radiating from the body is representing the fact that the beliefs we carry are not just “internal” – that what we believe does matter and impacts others and ultimately reality; the way we treat other people, the politics we vote for, the laws we create. We should care what other people think and be ready to discuss and if necessary criticize it, instead of letting people tell us to not do so, in the name of “respect”.

I’m pretty sure it’s the last picture I’m ever doing for the Gallery of Light – even though I intended to keep up my art in Second Life, I have a feeling my personal exodus from there is going to be a bit more all-encompassing than I originally planned. Maybe I’ll get back into Second Life art with a passion at some point but I don’t know when, and it won’t be soon. It’s a shame that my last picture for the place was a tad dark but that’s the point of the picture itself isn’t it: The truth isn’t always pretty roses, sometimes it’s thorns, but the deeper beauty of knowing the truth is worth more than superficial aesthetics.

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blacked-outThis post is directly related to the one below it, but going a step further to try to raise awareness of the wider implications of this badly constructed law which effects New Zealander’s at this point in time, but could easily become a wider adopted policy that could hurt you directly too. Please help us. Join us in the Black-Out, save the Internet. Click the links below. Thanks.

The Black-Out Campaign

The Lights are going out all over Twitter

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Edit: Most recent news item about the protest and the offending Bill: “Copyright Protesters say Law ‘Stripping Rights'”

Cartoon: Pirating the Justice Sytem

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I’ve only recently come across a blog entry about a law that is meant to come into force here very soon – one that makes ISPs cut off Internet access once a customer has infringed copyright more than once, via their Internet service. It’s seen as a highly controversial move, mostly turning on the issue of proof of the infringement. The infringements (as the Bill currently stands) do not have to be proven in a court of law.

This is just one more effort to counter the intellectual property issues plaguing the Internet – the sort of issues that Second Life residents face every day. In my personal opinion this is a misguided approach to the issue that causes more problems than it will solve. A previous blog post of mine talked about the bad laws that often get implemented to try to cover new technology, and I think here we have a prime example of that typically haphazard and unprincipled approach. Part of the extended debate on this particular issue is whether other countries will follow our “bold lead”… one can only hope not.

This is an issue I intend to return to in more depth soon since the law is due to come into force at the end of this month, I will keep an eye on it’s progress and reception. I will also take a more in-depth look at the rest of the Act since it is entirely about “New Technologies” and copyright. If you’d like to have a look at the original Government press release about the Act, you’ll find it here.

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Yesterday I happened upon a story on a local news site promoting a new book that warns people about meeting up with dates met online. Typical story, fine, you hear it all the time and we’re used to these warnings, it’s not really news. But today I found this: “Armed Police Raid Ends Internet Romance“. Now that was news. But they left the best bits out – like what was so dangerous about him and why were the police involved so quickly? We’re not just talking police here either, we’re talking our “armed offender’s squad” (which is New Zealand code for “men with guns and the right to use them”). Even without all the details (which I really want to know), the story is quite scary.

After reading that story I would recommend anyone planning to meet someone they found on the internet, to have a friend or family member with them, and of course meet somewhere public (though meeting somewhere public didn’t protect this woman) – such a simple but vital precaution to take. It’s not always a cheap or easy option – taking someone along with you – but what price can you put on your personal safety? Never forget that the internet makes it very easy for people to hide their true identity, and that there are some sickos out there. I’m suitably disturbed that that particular sicko was from my home country, but hey, even paradise has a few flaws. And if somewhere as safe and open as New Zealand harbours that sort of scum, god know every other country does too.

Just be careful, OK? Thank you ^^

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Edit: Here is a follow-up news item with a lot more detail about what happened *shudders*

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I’ve had at least one very negative reaction to me leaving Second Life (quite a scathing one), and a few people worried about me – wondering if they can fix “what’s wrong”. Nothing’s wrong. And I guess I better explain my departure a bit more for those of you still angry or concerned about me.

I want to try for another baby. I am going to. It’s a decision very long in the coming, and my husband is as ready as I am. In the time between now and then I have so much to do to make my life easier, and to function better as a parent. I have to learn to drive. I have to learn to cook. I have to stop spending so much time at this computer when I could be and should be improving my future. The one activity I do more than any other each day, is “playing” Second Life. How do I make more space in my life for new skills – easy – cut back Second Life. What’s not so easy is choosing  just to not go in as much – I find Second Life highly addictive and the only way I could be sure to get time away like I need to is to do what I did: Empty out my friends list and say my goodbyes to the people in-world. Which brings me to the second piece of explanation people want..

Why did I take everybody off my friends list. Now this one’s easy. I know from past experience when I’d tried to leave Second Life that if I ever did log in, it was seeing people’s names and wondering where they were in world that made it so damn hard to pull away. But now I know that their names aren’t even there, that logging in would be completely pointless (other than for art now and then as I keep saying). And it worked. I have lost my desire to log in, because without the people what’s the point? Don’t get angry at me for taking you off, try instead to be happy for me moving on to new wonderful adventures, which gets me to my next discussion point..

Those new things are not just wanting a baby and upgrading my skills for that end-point. I also have two jobs lined up that start soon, and I am wanting to return to masters level studies next semester. I am going to be extraordinarily busy and that always requires a re-juggling of priorities. What one of my friends would really want me to stay in Second Life when that time would otherwise be spent learning new skills, making more money for my family, and furthering my education?

And it’s not like I’ve flipped my friends the finger either, I have retained them on msn and Skype so they’re still part of my life. It’s just much easier to get up and walk away from msn and Skype when I have to get things done, and I can choose to only talk to people I know and care about – ie not being forced to deal with strangers and stalkers and greifers and cope with rez issues (not going to miss those). There are all sorts of other motivating factors at play for me leaving, but all they do is add to the reasons I’ve already given above, which are strong enough in themselves.

I know most people seem to leave Second Life because they’re trying to escape something – they’re mad or sad or whatever. I’m not. I am hopeful and happy and have my eyes wide open. Please try to be happy with me, and know I still care. My true friends will stay with me despite me not being in Second Life to talk to them – they will join me in msn or Skype or email me. Those who can’t be bothered doing that are people I can probably do without anyway. If you are a  friend reading this and want to stay in touch, but don’t have my out-world contact details you can leave me a message on Flickr mail or Facebook or ask someone like Rrish or Bailey or Clare to get my details.

I hope that answers your questions and maybe some of you will hate me for leaving a little less now ^^

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