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 042015
 

Linden Village

For a virtual world that many people comment with surprise about it still being around, Second Life seems to still cast a mighty shadow over the virtual world scene. Over at Re/code, Eric Johnson has published an excellent article about how the land lies : Welcome To The Metaverse. I heartily recommend that people read this article in full.

The article opens with commentary from Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg regarding humans creating spaces :

Some spaces are mobile, like a bus. San Francisco is a space that was created by its users. Whether you go into a pub, a bar, a classroom, a bowling alley, an office, a library … We create spaces and we have people come together in those spaces, and then we communicate and socialize within those spaces.

These spaces are of course what people have been creating in Second Life too, in many and varied forms and guises.

Remnants Of Earth Hangar

Early on in the article Eric seems to be talking of Second Life in the past tense. This needs to be taken in context, Eric is really talking about how Second Life did not become the 3D internet that some hoped it would and how in the future, VR ventures will be hoping to go mainstream, become the next big thing and really get embraced by society :

A perfect metaverse, then, is more than just a video game or an application. Like a Web browser, or an operating system, it would offer users a means to do many things, and likely pay for them in many ways. That’s the Big Idea — that VR would be as transformative to the Internet as the World Wide Web — and it’s why so many companies are testing the waters. If one or more of them can crack it, they would unlock a great deal of virtual reality’s long-term potential.

Those of us who have already embraced virtual worlds know that the potential is there, but we also know that a large number of hurdles exist too.

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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 :

SLShare4

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.

SLShare5

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

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Mar 172015
 

James Poulos of The Daily Beast has published an article : How Block Bot Could Save the Internet. The article pains me, deeply, on many levels. First of all it pains me to see a journalist advocating such a system :

Meet The Block Bot, an invention of the social-justice left that allows people to automatically screen out disliked content and disliked people from Twitter. The Block Bot comes complete with a helpful hierarchy of disapproval, ranging from mere irritation to bigotry in the first degree. Some people who have been added to The Block Bot’s rolls have been offended, of course. But in addition to muting offense, The Block Bot dissipates rancor.

When I was a lad and I used to buy newspapers I’d regularly buy The Daily Mirror and Daily Mail. The Mirror is a left wing newspaper, The Mail is a right wing newspaper. Some days if I felt in the mood for a really good read, I’d buy The Guardian and The Times. The Guardian generally leans left, The Times generally leans right. Politically I’m on the left, however sometimes the right will say something I agree with. The idea that I should shut out any and all other ideology is completely against my beliefs and I simply don’t see it as healthy.

My big objection to blockbots are, for want of a better word, McCartyhist style guilt by association and allowing others to think for me. I say for want of a better word because McCarthyism was a far more serious issue than this and I don’t like appearing to belittle it by comparing it to some silly nonsense on the internet. However guilt by association is not something I can buy into on any level.

How silly people can get with their dogma was exemplified in horrendous style recently by Ben Kuchera of Polygon. Ben objected to EA head of communications Chris Mancil linking to a post of Ben’s on Chris’ personal blog. Ben’s objection was due to Chris’ post being critical of blockbots, even though in his post he agreed with Ben :

I had heard about these Twitter Auto-Blockers before, and thought the use of these tools to be extremely sad.

  • One – because there are no proper harassment protection tools on Twitter, which Polygon’s Ben Kuchera has ingeniously identified the solutions for in this great piece. Which makes these tactics thinkable.

  • Two – because these auto-blocker tactics leave no hope for change or progress. It’s the cement walls of the West Bank and Gaza, forever dividing the two groups which probably have more in common than not.

Ben Kuchera took to Twitter, tagging Chris Mancil’s employer, to demand the links were removed. Let’s just rewind here, a journalist took to Twitter to demand someone removed links to his work because he didn’t like someone agreeing with him in a post. I lost a lot of respect for Ben Kuchera over this.

There were parts of Chris’ post that were objectionable, a glaring example being comparing these blockbots to the issues in the West Bank, which is quite frankly a ridiculous comparison, but for Ben Kuchera to object to the degree he did was also absurd. The end result is that Chris Mancil’s blog is now set to private. As a journalist Ben Kuchera should be embarrassed about this.

However, let’s not kid ourselves here, the reason people turn to these blockbots is more often than not because they are fed up with being dogpiled and abused for having the temerity to have an opinion.

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Dec 202014
 

Frijolita Avalira has created a petition on Change.org : Allow Second life avatars to have a Facebook page. ow first things first, pedantry. Facebook do allow Second Life avatars to have a Facebook page. However the petition is really about allowing Second Life avatars to have full Facebook accounts, as the petition explains :

So we ask this of you to keep our Second Life names, as our names and STOP deleting our accounts. It’s a real life business, complete with real life tax payments. Yes. It may seem to some like a game, but as far as our government is concerned–be it the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, the Canada Revenue Agency or any other–money you make as an entrepreneur in Second Life or any other virtual world or online game is fully taxable. If the US Government can recognize this as a legitimate business, then you can recognize our avatars and let us advertise using Facebook. With our Avatar names. It’s a huge community, of many walks of life. It isnt by any means a “game.”

We are clothing designers & we ask for rights to conduct our advertising in Facebook.

I advise reading the petition in full. This is of course an old complaint and one that I’ve discussed many times before. Facebook’s arguments are that real names lead to more civility. The flip side of this is that real names also lead to bullying and people being reluctant to share their opinion because of the sheer amount of information linked to a Facebook account.

Then there’s the issue of advertising. I’ve never quite understood Facebook’s reluctance to allow people to use pseudonyms from an advertising perspective because people’s locations, ages and interests are what advertisers really want.

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Dec 152014
 

I’ve mentioned this before but here we go again. Second Life could do with more ways for people to share information about events, places and sims by allowing people to easily embed that information into blog posts.

Flickr allows you to embed or copy the code of a picture easily so that you can included it in a blog post :

Cracked Mirror

YouTube makes it easy for you to share or embed videos :

These quick and easy ways of sharing content from social media sites help to not only promote your own content, they help to promote the brand of the platform you publish on. Second Life is a little lacking in this area when it comes to sharing content from Second Life on blogs. Let’s look at some more social media examples.

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Oct 022014
 

Hamlet Au over at New World Notes has an interesting blog post about Facebook’s real name policy : Facebook Apologizes & Tweaks Real Name Policy to Better Support LGBT Community — But Avatar Community Should Stick With Fan Pages.The issue revolves around drag queens who had been using names they had long been known as, such as Lady Roma or Lil Miss Hot Mess. The story will be familiar for many Second Life users because it has been played out many times before with regards to the Second Life community.

Hamlet’s post links to an official apology from Facebook by Facebook’s Chris Cox and the apology is quite a mixed mess of strange claims but it does explain what happened :

The way this happened took us off guard. An individual on Facebook decided to report several hundred of these accounts as fake. These reports were among the several hundred thousand fake name reports we process every single week, 99 percent of which are bad actors doing bad things: impersonation, bullying, trolling, domestic violence, scams, hate speech, and more — so we didn’t notice the pattern. The process we follow has been to ask the flagged accounts to verify they are using real names by submitting some form of ID — gym membership, library card, or piece of mail. We’ve had this policy for over 10 years, and until recently it’s done a good job of creating a safe community without inadvertently harming groups like what happened here.

I don’t really know where to start with this. How something that happens regularly took them off guard remains a mystery. This happens on a pretty regular basis to Second Life users who use Facebook against their terms of service. That’s important to remember by the way because whereas I have a certain amount of sympathy for people who want to use a pseudonym, it is against Facebook’s TOS. The part about bullying, trolling, domestic violence, scams hate speech and more has actually been used by people on the other side of the Nym Wars argument as a position to argue against the enforced use of real names in social networking. There are risks associated with using a real name in social networking and those risks are very real.

However what’s odd here is that Facebook are almost implying that the person reporting the accounts was a bad actor, whereas they may have been spiteful in whom they reported, they were actually following Facebook’s rules of engagement when reporting them. Names such as Sister Roma do not comply with Facebook’s official policy … or do they? Chris Cox went on to make what I see as a very odd claim :

Our policy has never been to require everyone on Facebook to use their legal name. The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life. For Sister Roma, that’s Sister Roma. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that’s Lil Miss Hot Mess. Part of what’s been so difficult about this conversation is that we support both of these individuals, and so many others affected by this, completely and utterly in how they use Facebook.

This is an odd claim to say the least. Facebook’s policy has at times even went as far as asking someone to send in their ID when they suspected he wasn’t who he claimed to be. Upon seeing his ID Facebook changed his name to his official ID name, not the name he is commonly known as. The person in question was Salman Rushdie. However Salman is his middle name and as explained in a report in The Guardian back in 2011, Facebook changed his name initially :

Rushdie became embroiled in a battle with the social networking website after his account was deactivated for breaching its strict real name policy. Facebook claimed that Rushdie, who refers to himself by his middle name, Salman, was an imposter.

The author had to send a photograph of his passport to the security team to prove his identity, but when his account was reinstated he found his name had been changed to Ahmed – the first name on his passport.

Salman Rushdie won his battle with Facebook, largely thanks to using Twitter to ridicule the company but that experience does not tie in with the claims of Chris Cox regarding the nature of Facebook’s policy and nor does it tie in with Facebook’s terms which state :

Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way.

Facebook appear to be making it up as they go along but let’s bear with them for a little bit longer. Chris Cox then defends the real name policy and claims it helps to avoid bullying etc. this remains open to debate but there does seem to be an inkling of progress being made on Facebook’s part.

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Sep 192014
 

Episode 37 Of The Drax Files Radio Hour has a main feature this week regarding virtual therapy with an interview with Dr Tammy Fletcher. There’s also discussion of some hot topics such as Innsmouth,

However the episode opens with an excellent interview with Jeska Dzwigalski (AKA Jeska Linden), regarding the late Joe Miller with whom Jeska was a work colleague. Jeska talks of the introduction of voice in Second Life as well as talking about how passionate Joe was about Second Life. This is an excellent perspective of the contribution Joe made to Second Life and is well worth listening to. Jeska left Linden Lab quite a while ago now but she’s still a well known and liked name. She also runs a pretty cool site : Geeks With Drinks. Jeska earns extra kudos for knowing the difference between Whisky and Whiskey.

The episode also touch upon a subject close to my heart, Facebook’s absurd real names policy. This time they are mainly talking about drag Queens petitioning Facebook to change their real name policy and allow people to use stage names. Facebook’s real name policy is simply absurd, a name people known as is a far better policy. I’m tired of trying to encourage Linden Lab to embrace Google + now that they allow people to use any name they want to. Facebook has reach, Google + currently has far better ethics in this area.

They talk about many more issues including the High Fidelity Alpha users and a revelation that Draxtor Despres may well be entering High Fidelity for a special broadcast, with a special Draxtor Despres avatar. I hope they realise the perils Of Draxtor’s long hair! This may be more challenging than Rock, Paper, Scissors which they have been having fun with over at High Fidelity.

However the main feature is a fascinating interview with Dr Tammy Fletcher. Dr Fletcher talks about therapy within Second Life. This is a fascinating interview because a lot of people will think that any sort of therapy within Second Life will be artificial, ran by charlatans and not worthwhile.

Yet Dr Fletcher explains not only how therapy in Second Life can be useful and valid, she also explains why Second Life can highlight issues that are specific to spending too much time in Second Life, or using alts, or associated drama and how these are real and not virtual issues.

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