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Posts Tagged ‘advice’

A friend recently asked me to have a look into what legal protections are available to someone who is being stalked online. Their query was complicated by the victim being in a different country than the stalker. I approached the issue by researching the relevant law in both countries, and then shifted my focus to any international law that might apply. Researching law covering the Internet is always both interesting and complicated since the relevant technology is always evolving, and the law is always necessarily a few steps behind as it tries to grapple with new ways that people come up with to abuse that technology. After a while the same themes became apparent through-out the literature, I’m going to talk about them in this post.

In the past I have written on the prevalence and personalities of Second Life stalkers, and on the relationship between law and technology. Feel free to have a hunt through the rest of my blog if you want further background on my views on such matters. This post though will primarily focus on what appear to be the current legal attitudes towards cyberstalking.

One of the biggest problems for law that should be able to cover cyberstalking, is that it’s working from the fundamentals of real life stalkers. So the focus is on people who have physical access to you and therefore pose a “real” threat – these people are of course in your own country and thereby covered by the same laws as you live under. This real world focus also means your stalker is easily identified – you know their name or the way they look. As soon as you move into the virtual world you lose two of those key elements required under stalker laws – even laws that have been modified or created to reflect the use of new technology: Those two elements being the idea that the stalker is in the same jurisdiction as you, and that they are not anonymous.

There appears to be a trend away from requiring the potential for physical harm from your cyberstalker; recognition that harassment short of fear for your safety (or your job loss in employment legislation), is an event the law should still be interested in. There are also steps you can take to help identify your stalker – through the assistance of the ISP of the offender, and the help of the organisation responsible for the service through which you are being harassed (such as Second Life).

The two main methods for getting help to stop the cyberstalker – whether in your own country or abroad – appear to be as follows:

1 Reporting them to the Police

Because the law has this nasty habit of frequently changing, and varies so much country to country, your best bet is to talk directly to your local police about the situation and ask what you can do about it. There may not be law to directly cover your situation, but you might as well find out, and at the very least they will be able to point you in the right direction for alternative options. If the police show no interest in your complaint or are excessively unhelpful, I have read some suggestions that you just go above their heads to the next policing level (whatever that may be in your specific country), and keep working your way up the policing system until you get some attention to your personal plight and the issue more generally. It will be very important that you have kept records of the stalker’s communications with you. It will also be important that you have on record that you clearly asked them to stop all future communications (only do this once though – I’ll talk about that further below).

2. Reporting them to the Service Providers

You should advise any organisation who’s service is being used to stalk you, that this is happening. Companies don’t want to be seen to allowing stalking or being party to such activities, and will generally be happy to help you out. In regards to Second Life, please use this link to view their requirements for reporting stalkers, and suggestions for dealing with them in-world. Their own suggestions mirror the self-help advice I’ll now go through.

I find it useful to separate the advice for how to cope with cyberstalking through self-help, into two categories: The before and the after.

1. The Before

There are certain steps you can take to protect yourself from attracting or assisting cyberstalkers. These include not making available personal information through any public forums or profiles, using names that don’t provide any personal information (gender neutral names are often suggested), and protecting and frequently changing passwords.

2.The After

Once you’ve got yourself a cyberstalker, it’s important that you tell them to stop communicating with you, and only tell them once. After you’ve done this, stop all future communication with them – mute them for example. Also tell your friends not to communicate with them and to mute them. Do not begin communicating with them again, no matter what they say to you and your friends – if they try to threaten you into action you have even more grounds to go to the police and get them to take legal action – keep it all on file including your own responses (which should be non-existent after you tell them to leave you alone).

Many sites I went to suggested you do everything in your power to make sure they cannot contact you, including leaving your old accounts, changing your name, your email address, etc. This will especially be the suggestion where the service is set up in such a way that the offender can simply create new accounts to stalk you from, after their old ones get shut down. You’re going to be asking yourself why you should be the one to leave your old accounts and change everything when you’ve done nothing wrong – it’s just further punishment for yourself. Whether you take those extra steps to get away from the stalker will depend on how badly the stalking is upsetting you and how persistent it is – if you’ve got to do that to make it stop, then do that you must. It’s a shame if it gets to that point of course, but considering just how bad stalking can get, you might want to cut it off by taking those steps before it gets any worse and ruins other aspects of your life.

I’ve also come across the argument line that if you do things that allow, encourage or make it easy for people to stalk you, then you lose grounds to complain about the predictable behaviour that ensues. For example, if you put up sexually suggestive pictures of you on a public site and then get a bunch of sexual advances from strangers, you should have expected that reaction and can’t legitimately complain about it. That sounds a lot like the old rape law reasoning that women sent out sexually available messages by wearing short skirts, so men couldn’t be blamed for following through on them. Obviously there’s an enormous difference between being raped because you wore a short skirt, and being stalked online because you put a picture of you in skimpy lingerie on your profile, but the idea that you bring harassment on yourself and therefore lose a remedy against it, seems a tad off, no?

The issue of cyberstalking is further complicated by issues of what is considered harassment by one party, might be fine behaviour to someone else: Many jurisdictions appear to require an objective aspect, such as whether a reasonable person would feel harassed or fearful of the behaviour. It is exceptionally easy to accuse someone of cyberstalking you too. Every area of law has problems of evidence, policy and enforcement, and cyberstalking is utterly fraught with these.

After all my research – both through opinion pieces and legal materials – I come to this overall summary: If the stalker is in your jurisdiction and you have their identity, you have a good chance that your local laws will provide you some protection. If they are cyberstalking you from another jurisdiction, you can still make inquiries of your local police but are less likely to get a remedy. You still have available to you the options outlined above of taking the matter to the service providers involved, and self-help. It appears that the lack of a consistent international approach to the issue, in what is an ever developing area of the law, will often leave the victim with a confusing and distressing situation, but I hope this post helps some of you a little.

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A few days back a Second Life friend asked me a question about his real life: Should he risk turning a friendship into a love affair? It’s a question I’ve been asked by a lot of both Second Life and real life friends. The risks involved are many – maybe the person doesn’t feel the same way and you loose their friendship, maybe the love affair turns sour and you loose their friendship – but it comes down to the same thing: Is the chance of love and realised lust worth losing someone who may otherwise be a life-long friend?

Of course, some risks are worth taking, and love is always a risky and amazing thing. It takes a lot of bravery and confidence to tell someone you love them, and many people go through their lives never saying the words to the people who mean the most to them.

One of the problems with trying to advise someone on whether they should risk an incredible and potentially life-long friendship with someone, “just” to turn it into love and a romp in the sack, is that you don’t know if you will still be friends in a few months time regardless – friendships evolve and change, because people’s lives and people themselves evolve and change.

With so many unknowns the first step to take is to try to eliminate some of them. First off, trying to figure out if the feelings are reciprocated in the way the love-struck person hopes. If they are not and the love-struck friend still wants advice on whether to push the matter, then the answer becomes easy: No. Unrequited love is immensely painful, but adding to that hurt the complete loss of a friend because of the pressure and awkwardness placed upon them by trying to “make them love you”, is ill-advised. I can see a good argument for trying to get the loved-person out of their life altogether if their attraction to them is too strong and the person in love is pained by seeing their friend be with other lovers, but you are best doing this on your own terms, and not because the friend had to push you away themself.

Another unknown you can try to eliminate is whether the friend is going to be around much anyway – are they planning to leave the country forever perhaps whereby what the hell I’d put my foot in that fire and see what happens. Yes it might be hard to let them go if everything goes really well, but you would have had a damn good time in the meantime and can be all philosophical saying stuff like “guess it was never meant to be”. There’s also a stronger possibility they’ll come back for you or take you with them if there’s mutual love involved, compared to friendships which rarely survive long-distance separations as the two lives head off in different directions in more ways than one.

Of course, a key consideration is the person themself. If the love-object is a good hearted kind soul who wouldn’t push someone away out of the awkwardness of declared love, the sort of person who understands that a very large number of close friendships do actually have a sort of attraction at their basis and beginning, then there can be the constant fun flirting underneath it all which can give you a sort of mix of both worlds. Definitely not the “best” of both worlds, but a close second-best. These sorts of people are perfect for trying the love thing out in substance too, because chances are you’ll retain a friendship with them after the love affair ends as well. Unfortunately these sorts of people are all too rare and I wouldn’t count on the person being one of them.

I think within that last paragraph is the key to the matter – remembering that very often friendships do have that underlying attraction at first (and perhaps through-out as well), and to realise that every time you feel that way doesn’t mean it’s a great lover you’ve found, but rather just a sign that it’s someone much like yourself that you want to be around, and just enjoy that for what it is.

Just to confuse matters further, my last major point is that some of my best relationships, no, all of my best relationships, were with people who started off as friends. For all the great loves of my life I had to wrestle with this question: What do I do, risk the friendship for the love affair..? I’d love to end it there and say that every time I tried to turn a friendship into love that it worked out right, but I had to learn the harsh lessons along the way that these situations can also lead to great hurt and damage to a friendship, even killing it. One of the reasons for this all-too-frequent outcome is that men have trouble saying no when sex is involved. Not all men, true, but a rather significant majority seem to suffer from the temporary insanity of giving in when offered sex, even by a friend. And as awesome as sex is, it also typically complicates things as hormones kick ideas like jealousy, uncertainty, self-doubt, wilful blindness, into overdrive, and if you’re not both really into the potential love-gig, someone’s very likely to get rather badly hurt pretty quickly.

So where does that leave the friends who ask my advice? Probably as confused as they started out (aren’t I helpful). At the end of the day it comes down to two key considerations: The actual natures of the people involved, and the understanding that love always involves risk of some sort. Sometimes, you just gotta jump into the abyss. And to my friends who have asked me this question and are now reading this, please know as well that I am one friend who will be there for you to hug you and be all philosophical with you if it doesn’t quite turn out the way you’d hoped ❤

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Skin ChoicesI keep getting people telling me what skin they prefer to see me in and I just don’t know, so you tell me: Left or Right? Left is D-Skin, right is Redgrave. Both were my favourite choices I could see within the stores at the time, and are similar base colours. You’ll see a lot of difference in the quality of the skins, but I don’t want to draw your attention to any particular features, I want you to honestly tell me which one you prefer, and why (if you don’t mind, I would appreciate it).

The picture is taken at the exact same everything else – same shape (despite the rather noticeable difference in the lips o.O), same lighting, etc. Only difference is the skin. There is absolutely no post processing of the picture quality either.

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A picture that won me 2nd place in a recent SL contest

I am a big fan of entering SL Photography Contests. I’ve got placings in a few too which I’m quite proud of. And in all this entering I have learnt a lot about what appeals in contests, and what turns people off, or perhaps I should be more specific: what makes me want to take part and what makes me think the people who constructed it put little if any thought into it. So I thought I’d share my wisdom, just cause I can 😀

Prizes: Prizes vary from pure prestige to store credit to lindens, and everything in between. The most attractive prize packages always include an amount of lindens, even if only a token amount in addition to whatever other prizes are on offer. What prizes are offered will of course reflect the purpose of the contest: If it is to raise profile of a new business which might otherwise be struggling, then of course sole store credit makes sense. The thing is, if you’re smart, you’ve made your own sim a location requirement for the pictures thereby upping your traffic and consequently usually sales – from photo takers and from the attractiveness of high traffic. I’ll talk more of this “requirements” aspect later. Bottom line: Taking pictures takes time, making poses for pictures takes time and money, and people like to be compensated for both, plus lindens are the most versatile and widely valued option. Include lindens in your prize pool.

Placings: Do not have one first place on offer. This is a huge deterrent – there is always some uber talented person out there that as soon as they enter the contest will put off a lot of other people even bothering since they know the possibility of beating that person is insurmountable, or it at least feels that way. Even if it means splitting a small prize pool up to create a second and third place, do it. It will make a huge difference. Also, it’s a good idea to give honourable mention to people who didn’t get a placing or prize – they will very much appreciate it and it will encourage them to take part in the future. It will create good will between you / your brand name, and the person getting the recognition. Such a simple thing to do, and so effective. So do it.

Requirements: Keep these simple and to a minimum, a few I want to comment on specifically are location, post-processing and technical aspects:

Provide a location is always a good start – it creates a level playing field and raises traffic to whatever place you had in mind – you’ll always be able to find someone who wants more traffic to their sim so try to set up a deal with someone if you have no place of your own.

It is a good idea to expressly state if post-processing is allowed or not, for the sake of clarity, and to make sure that those who have those skills know whether they can use them or must abstain. If you have provided a location required for the shots you won’t have to make clumsy claims about entrants not post-processing the picture to death since that will already provide the unmistakably clear message that the picture must hang on to some origin content. I strongly suggest allowing for post-processing as a general rule, unless the content is specifically geared at making the most of SL settings, or similar. This is because (1) you’ll end up with people trying to sneak past processing and claiming others have done so anyway, and (2) you’ll get better quality pictures and higher quality of entrants.

Technical aspects. Keep these to a very strict minimum, in fact I’d totally leave them out if I was you. What I mean here is restrictions on size, dimensions, file type, etc. The easiest way to avoid this being a problem is to run your contest through Flickr. If you later need the photo to be of quality enough to include it in a book in-world or whatever, worry about it at that point. When you place these restrictions from the start all you do is dissuade people from entering at all who can’t be bothered figuring out either how to meet the requirements or mucking around with doing so. There are all sorts of variables involved in whether technical aspects will be specified for not – especially if the pictures will be displayed in world – but really, if at all possible, find a way to not place these restrictions on people.

Themes. If you want to use a theme (ie besides the location itself providing one), keep it open and simple – allow the artist to interpret it cause that’s what creative types like to do after all. It needs to be very clearly worded, it has to be the sort of thing that you don’t have to read three times to try to understand. Best way to test if your theme has gone way off base is ask a few of your friends what it means to them. If they can’t come back with a quick and clear explanation, you need to re-word or re-think it.

Time-frame: A month is a good amount of time to run a contest, as a general rule. You need to provide enough time for thought, time to visit in-world, take the picture, process and choose which one they want to submit. You will need to provide a reminder about a week out from closing, artistic types are forgetful and easily distracted, they like reminders ^^

Communication. The method in which you communicate its existence, reminders, and announcements of winners, is absolutely essential. Of course. Use every method you can think of to announce it: Flickr groups, in-world group notices (with notecards attached ideally), pictures advertising it on your own photostream, and if you’re clever you’ll insist all entrants include in their picture description that it was taken for that specific contest, thereby advertising it further. Make a point of advertising who won too, it will make the winners feel great, and will make everyone feel like it was worth entering because at least someone very clearly won something from it. Do not just post the winners in a discussion thread and leave them to contact you, this is unfair. People get very busy and forget they enter contests sometimes, or lose the relevant links. If you run the contest part of your job is to make sure the winners get their booty: Message them through Flickr and in-world if possible. Do not just try once, if you get no response try again in a week. You do not want angry disgruntled contestants on your hands, else there goes all the good will you’d built up, especially if they talk to others about it. You’re not required to endlessly try to give people their winnings, but make the effort! I would strongly suggest announcing on the winning pictures in Flickr (if you’ve used that medium, which is a good idea), that they won and which prize. This immediately communciates to the person who will be following their own stream, and shows everyone else that you care enough to do more than one discussion post on the issue. If you take it seriously, show the contest mattered, then other people will think it did too. This is great for future contests of course.

Attributions: It’s a good idea to remind your participants to give credit where credit is due: State where the picture was taken, perhaps who’s clothes they are wearing, what brushes they used etc. You don’t want to get too picky – like making them declare who made the earrings you can half see, you just want to say something general to remind them that you are aware of and concerned about proper attribution of any work and sources which are not their own. Last thing you need is a intellectual property issue tainting your contest or your own name and brand.

Judges: Clearly state how many judges are involved and what their relevance to the contest is: Are they store owners, or experts in photography, etc. You need transperancy in order to be taken seriously and to avoid grumpsters later. The judges should obviously refrain from commenting on the submitted pictures until after judging is finished, the last thing you need is looking like there’s a foregone conclusion on who will win, or the appearance of bias.

Basis of judgement: Beyond just stating a theme and location, you may want to state what you are looking for in the pictures, such as humour or “adherance to the rules of photography such as thirds” or originality or whatever. Personally, I’d avoid doing this, because it limits the creativity of the entrants and is so open to interpretation that it’s probably not going to help or guide the contestants much. Furthermore, it puts some onus on you to explain your decision in those terms later, which you may or may not want to do. I do suggest commenting on what you liked in the winning pictures though, it shows you put in thought and fair consideration in the decision you made. The higher the prize pool amount, the more willing you should be to do this.

It’s been a long post and I feel like I’ve barely scraped the surface of this issue; how to successfully run an SL photo contest. If you have any further thoughts or opinions I’d love to hear them, this won’t be my last post on this topic 🙂

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One of my favourite ways to let off a little stress is through my SL art. My usual practice is to add a new picture a day, but lately I’ve not had the will or time to carry this off. The reason for the loss of will and time isn’t because RL has got much more hectic, it’s because of what I now expect from my myself for my pictures. In the last week and a bit I’ve taken to smoothing every single pixelated line – every line which is jagged, even if only slightly. The end product is so much nicer when I do this, but of course no one notices the difference per se – they only notice when you don’t do it.

So now the vast majority of the time I spend working on a picture is spent at 400% magnification, smoothing away, being careful not to drag colour where it doesn’t belong, having a steady hand, and generally driving myself nuts. I used to spend most of my time on a picture playing with colours, light, brushes etc, and that was also time consuming but fun and creative – I still do it of course but only after I’m tired from endless smoothing.

This mostly mindless and time consuming process sucks the joy out of my pictures, and yet I feel I can’t post pictures that haven’t been smoothed now that I know the visual difference. The pixels happen even though I set my graphics to their highest and take high res snap shots, as best I can tell they are inevitable.

It’s more than just annoying, it’s physically painful! It hurts my wrist and my finger, and it hurts my eyes >.<

Perhaps you could help me find the joy again, by letting me know how to manage this without the tiny magnified and painful task. How do I get rid of pixelated edges..? I don’t want to use a overall blur or softening effect to achieve it – that’s overkill and can ruin the feel of the picture. Any advice appreciated!

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