Nov 032015

First of all I’ll cover some old ground and take us back just under four years to November 21st 2011. Author Salman Rushdie had been embroiled in a row with Facebook because they wouldn’t allow him to use the name “Salman Rushdie”. This was due to the fact that Salman Rushdie’s first name is actually Ahmed and initially Facebook changed his account to use that first name.

Eventually, Facebook saw sense and Salman Rushdie was allowed to use the name Salman Rushdie. A name he’s widely known as. Fast forward almost four years and numerous articles about the pro’s and cons of Facebook’s real name policy, Facebook are still at it when it comes to being stubborn over names, despite claims that they are relaxing their real name policy.

Alex Hern, in the linked Guardian article writes :

The new rules still officially require the use of “authentic names” on the site, something which has previously resulted in criticism from varied groups including the drag community, Native Americans, and trans people. While Facebook does not require the use of “legal names” on the site, it does demand that users identify with the name that other people know them by.

That doesn’t sound like much of a watering down of their policy to me. However further in the article Alex Hern writes :

Firstly, the site will now allow users to “provide more information about their circumstances” in order to “give additional details or context on their unique situation”.

According to the company’s VP of Growth, Alex Schultz, this should allow Facebook to accurately assess whether the name supplied fits with the rules. Additionally, he says: “It will help us better understand the reasons why people can’t currently confirm their name, informing potential changes we make in the future.”

Initially, that sounded a bit more positive, although it still requires users to jump through hoops and be authorised to use a name they are already widely known as. To highlight why this is still very much a problem we need to turn to Hamlet Au over at New World Notes who has been covering the Facebook problems faced by R.U. Sirius, AKA Ken Goffman.

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Nov 032015

Twitter, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to change Favourites, which had a star icon, to Likes, which have a heart icon.  By Akarshan Kumar, Product Manager, announced the change on the Twitter blog; Hearts on Twitter. The blog explained Twitter’s reasoning for the change :

We hope you like what you see on Twitter and Vine today: hearts!

We are changing our star icon for favorites to a heart and we’ll be calling them likes. We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.

The heart, in contrast, is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people. And in our tests, we found that people loved it.

The reaction on Twitter, hasn’t exactly been sharing that love. I’m more than a tad bemused as to how anybody could find a star confusing, a star is a pretty universal symbol too whilst being less irksome and patronising than a heart.

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Aug 242015

A couple of Avatars have ran foul of Facebook’s real name policy, which at first glance might not sound unusual, but in a bizarre twist on the naming policy, the couple concerned actually have a last name of Avatar.

Madison Malone Kircher published an article on Tech Insider; This guy claims Facebook has banned him from using the site until he proves his unique last name :

A couple in Arizona claims that Facebook has banned them from using the site until they verify their unique last name: Avatar.

Earlier this week, Balizar Orion Avatar claims he tried to log into Facebook and discovered that his account had been deleted, KTVK reported.

Avatar is recently married. His wife, Audry, says she has not been able to change her last name on Facebook, though her account remains active.

The reasons why Avatar is ringing alarm bells are almost certainly due to the film of the same name, but according to Tech Insider, there may be another source of concern for the name being flagged :

The Cameron movie isn’t the only reason Facebook tends to flag “Avatar” as a fake name. Digital communities like “Second Life” refer to people’s characters as avatars. For this reason, it’s one of several names that the site flags as potentially fake, a Facebook representative told KTVK.

I should say at this point that I can’t see any quotes in either of the linked articles that actually seem to quote a Facebook representative suggesting Avatar is flagged due to Second Life. Indeed if Second Life names were being flagged then “Resident” would be a more likely cause for concern.

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Aug 122015

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The Drax Files: World Makers Episode 31 (sponsored by Linden Lab) features an interview with Professor Tom Boellstorff (pronounced “bell-storf”; the first “o” is silent). Tom is an anthropologist based at the University of California, Irvine. The episode is introduced by Tom saying :

If you’re trying to learn about a culture, the challenge is time and that’s something that applied to the work I’ve done with gay and lesbian Indonesians and it applies just as much when you’re studying something like virtual worlds, you have to live inside the community that you’re studying.

Already I’m interested in what is going to transpire in this interview, time is something I’m always battling with myself and the fact that Tom appreciates that you have to be among a community to study one suggests he’s not forming an opinion based on a few screenshots and a far away view. We also learn that Tom is not new to Second Life, when he first entered Second Life there were only around 2,500 users, this guy is an oldbie.

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As an example of how much Second Life has grown since the early days, Tom explains how he decided to fly over all of Second Life in the early days, it took him about a week, at two hours a day. How long would it take these days? I have no idea but the grid is much larger than it would have been when Tom initially joined.

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Tom says that in Second Life he is a digital ethnographer. Tom explains that an ethnographer studies how people live and think and that this involves hanging out with people. To this end he used to host weekly chats with anyone who wanted to teleport in. This sounds like the old Linden Office Hours but was quite probably more civil. I wonder if Tom did go to any Linden Office Hours, I’m sure that would tell a digital ethnographer a thing or two about digital communities too, even when they got heated.

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Jul 112015

I recently blogged about the problems at Reddit : Reddit – The Front Page Of The Internet, Bottom Of The Class For Community Relations. In that post I talked of the failures of Reddit management to engage with the community.

The furore over the direction Reddit was heading had already seen a petition created that called for the head of Ellen Pao. In the wake of the communication debacle the number of signatures on that petition ballooned from around 10,000 to over 200,000.

However, it was quite clear that Ellen Pao, who only took over as Reddit CEO on a temporary basis eight months ago, was not solely to blame for Reddit’s communication issues. The anger fired in Ellen Pao’s direction was misdirected. A communication breakdown such as the one Reddit faced was not due to events in the last eight months.

Ellen’s resignation letter, posted on Reddit, contains a human touch that far too many people on social media and even in virtual worlds, seem to forget about :

I just want to remind everyone that I am just another human; I have a family, and I have feelings. Everyone attacked on reddit is just another person like you and me. When people make something up to attack me or someone else, it spreads, and we eventually will see it. And we will feel bad, not just about what was said. Also because it undercuts the authenticity of reddit and shakes our faith in humanity.

This doesn’t just apply to Reddit. I’ve seen similar sentiments made when people are attacking Linden Lab, or attacking people on Twitter, or in below the line comments sections. I’m not sure why people are so quick to spread bile when we communicate by text. I do hope that one of the side effects of a more immersive virtual reality future is that we will get more clues from facial expressions and that we will then see less venom when people communicate at distance.

Ellen also pointed out how support can be inspiring :

What has far outshone the hate has been the positive on reddit. Thank you, kind strangers, for expressing your support. You gilded me 100 times. (For those of you who apologized for generating a wave of accusations that I gilded myself, please don’t feel bad. You did a good thing.) And thank you for sending cute animal pics and encouraging me to “Stay safe!” when the site overheated with expressions of hate in various forms. There were some days when your PMs inspired me more than you can imagine.

The reason Ellen is stepping down though is not because of a petition and fortunately, it’s also not because of trolling and abuse either.

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Jul 092015

Canary Beck and Me

A couple of weeks ago Canary Beck invited me over to her top secret hideout to discuss top secret virtual world blogger plans for world domination. I can’t reveal the minutes of our meeting but I can reveal one piece of advice Canary gave me with regards to those who self host WordPress instead of having their blog hosted by WordPress.

Canary told me to get Jetpack. Having got over my initial disappointment that this wasn’t an update to the 80’s classic computer game, Jet Pac, I decided to take a closer look at this wordpress plugin :

Jetpack adds powerful features previously only available to users including customization, traffic, mobile, content, and performance tools.

In short this plugin allows people to enjoy a lot of the features that users enjoy, in particular social sharing, publicising, likes and more.

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Jul 032015

r/SecondLife looks the same as it ever was over on Reddit, but a lot of other subreddits have gone dark in a protest over the management of the site. Reddit, which turned ten in June, have upset many of their numerous users after allegedly firing the very popular Victoria Taylor. According to The Guardian article I just linked to, Reddit users are revolting over this development :

The protest is focused on the dismissal of Victoria Taylor, a former Reddit communications director who was abruptly let go on Thursday. Her role had been to co-ordinate the site’s popular Ask Me Anything series, also known as AMAs, where celebrities answer questions submitted by the Reddit community. The main AMA subforum, “IAmA”, was the first to close in protest.

Over the years, AMAs had brought in some of the site’s biggest successes, including the AMA with President Obama in 2012, and one with a man with two penises in 2014, and many had been specifically arranged and co-ordinated by Taylor. The contrast between those two events is also a nice way to sum up Reddit to someone who has not heard of the site.

Many mods are now annoyed that Reddit don’t seem to have grasped how important a role Victoria Taylor played in communications between mods and guests. They feel let down and it seems on the face of it, that the management of Reddit don’t quite grasp how much mods on subreddits appreciated Victoria Taylor, in short the mods feel they’ve been left high and dry with no forward thinking plans in place to replace Victoria Taylor.

Now there are some golden rules when your users are upset, somewhere very close to the top of the list is “Thou Shalt Not Piss Them Off Further,“, however this golden rule seems to have flown right over the head of some of the senior people at Reddit.

Alexis Ohanian, co-founder and executive chair at Reddit, responded to angry users by saying “Popcorn tastes good.” This tongue in cheek reference to internet drama backfired badly, indeed it pretty much became explosive Popcorn. He has since amended his post, it now reads :

Popcorn tastes good.
Edit: Honestly, I didn’t understand the depth of the frustration, and I really regret this comment. I’m leaving it here as a reminder not to do it again.

He deserves some credit for acknowledging that he misjudged the mood, but it’s really more of a refelction of how out of touch Reddit are with their community.

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Jul 022015

Journalist Laurie Penny recently found herself on the wrong side of Facebook’s real name policy and she wasn’t very pleased about it. Laurie, who is a contributing editor at The New Statesman and sometimes writes for The Guardian had been using a pseudonym and as many of us in virtual world circles know, this is pretty much a no no when it comes to Facebook.

Pseudonyms are an angle of the real name policy that don’t get raised very often. Whereas OpenSim and Second Life users like to use pseudonyms and would like to have Facebook accounts in their avatar name, the issue has largely been ignored by the wider media.

I’m a fan of pseudonyms, especially when it’s a pseudonym by which someone is widely known. Facebook should not need people’s real names to make their data attractive, they should want interests and probably locations, but names should not be so valuable.

Last September Jo Yardley reported Facebook is deleting avatar profiles… again, this is a story that has been told time and again over the years. However when it comes to Laurie Penny, she wasn’t using a pseudonym just for the hell of it, she was using a pseudonym because she felt it would help to keep her safe. Facebook have long argued that real names help to encourage civil behaviour. There is another side to this though, real names can also make people a far larger target than is comfortable.

Laurie Penny explained her concerns in a number of Tweets.

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Jun 012015

Facebook users are today set to protest outside the company’s Headquarters according to an article by Amanda Holpuch over at The Guardian. The article states that a coalition of drag queens, transgender people, Native Americans, domestic violence survivors and others who do not use the names on their birth certificates are protesting under the banner #MyNameIs.

The crux of the issue seems to be that #MyNameIs feel that the fake name reporting option on Facebook is being abused and they would like to see it removed. They also want to see an end to demands from Facebook for people to provide Government approved Id when there are questions about identity.

Facebook have made some changes to their policy since the initial protests from Drag Queens, users can now use what are considered authentic names, rather than the name on their birth certificate but the protesters feel the policy change doesn’t go far enough and Facebook are moving too slowly regarding making the site more friendly to those who don’t want to use their real names.

Facebook on the other hand are quoted in the article as saying :

Having people use their authentic names makes them more accountable, and also helps us root out accounts created for malicious purposes, like harassment, fraud, impersonation and hate speech

This however is a double edged sword and Facebook’s real name policies can and do lead to people being bullied.

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May 062015

Linden Lab have blogged regarding an issue with Facebook and SL Share : An Update on SLShare Service Issues. The post explains that Facebook have recently announced that they are depreciating an old Open Graph API. The implication with this change is that all apps running version 1.0, need to update to version 2.0.

Linden Lab are on the ball with this and have updated their SL Share app to version 2.0, but things aren’t complete on Facebook’s end, which may mean there are problems for a couple of week. The blog post states :

This means that when using SLShare (updating status, photo uploads, and check-ins from the Viewer) you may experience some temporary problems. Please be assured that we are aware of this and any issues you encounter should be resolved once the migration period is complete.

Thank you for your patience!

So the message is clear, there may be a bit of quirkiness for a couple of weeks when using SL Share with Facebook. Now I’ll be honest, I’ve never used SLShare, but for those who are wondering what it is, SLShare is a way of sharing your Second Life experiences on social media, such as Facebook, Flickr and Twitter and it looks rather straight forward.

The first thing to do is to ensure the toolbar buttons for SLShare are available, to do this go to me or avatar (depending upon with viewer you’re using) and then toolbar buttons :


Then the toolbar buttons show up and you can drag and drop these onto your toolbars in the viewer. Hopefully, if you squint you can see there are buttons for Facebook, Flickr and Twitter.


Note that my buttons for Facebook, Flickr and Twitter are dull, that’s because they are already on my toolbar.

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