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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Aug 282014

I’ve recently suggested that Second Life Should Cut The Facebook Cord due to the fact that Facebook is not Second Life avatar friendly. Back in July I suggested that Linden Lab Should Embrace Google+. This was based on the fact that Google + had changed their naming policy to one where people can now use any name they like. Prior to that Google + required you to use a name you were known as, which did allow Second Life avatars to have a presence of sorts, but was still a grey area. There’s no real grey area with Facebook, they want people to use their real name only for accounts.

A good way for Linden Lab to encourage people to embrace the better fit of Google + would be for them to include their Google + page in their connect with us or follow us sections on their website. The Google + page isn’t as popular as the official Facebook page but has had over 4 million views, which is none too shabby.

However like Second Life in virtual world terms, Facebook is where it’s at in terms of social networking. Personally I’m not a fan, I mean I’m really really not a fan. However I do have a Facebook Page. Why do I have a Facebook page? Well because it’s not a breach of Facebook’s terms of service to do so, whereas using my Second Life name as a Facebook account is a breach of the Facebook TOS.

Many Second Life users have tried to use Facebook under their Second Life name and many have found themselves having their accounts deleted, due to that TOS breach. So if you absolutely must use Facebook with your Second Life name, then create a Facebook page for your avatar.

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Aug 172014

Facebook has never been a good fit for Second Life users, whereas other social networks such as Twitter and now Google + have no objection to people having accounts with their Second Life names, Facebook has stuck rigidly to it’s real name policy. Obviously this policy is somewhat flawed in as much as there’s no real authentication of those real names, but it remains a poor fit.

Yes there are plenty of people who are happy to use their real name Facebook accounts and link them to their Second Life accounts, but it remains a Second Life unfriendly domain. Now comes news that Facebook have donated $10,000 to a politician who is fighting gay marriage.

Facebook made the donation in May to Utah attorney general Sean Reyes and have defended their decision, in a statement to the Huffington Post they said :

Facebook has a strong record on LGBT issues and that will not change, but we make decisions about which candidates to support based on the entire portfolio of issues important to our business, not just one. A contribution to a candidate does not mean that we agree with every policy or position that candidate takes. We made this donation for the same reason we’ve donated to Attorneys General on the opposite side of this issue — because they are committed to fostering innovation and an open Internet.

There is some merit in that statement, many of us will vote for political parties with whom we disagree with on certain issues. However gay marriage is quite a big ticket item to be overlooking in favour of a so called open internet. Facebook’s defence of their support is extremely mealy mouthed and does them very little credit.

However the wider point is that Linden Lab should be promoting Second Life on networks that are more Second Life friendly than Facebook. Indeed Linden Lab have their own outlets such as the blog and Second Life profiles in which they should be communicating with Second Life users.

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Jul 162014

The big news of course is the change of the Second Life Terms of Service, particularly the section regarding user generated content in section 2.3 : Updates to Section 2.3 of the Terms of Service. However I already have plans for blog posts today so that’s going to have to wait!

Instead I’m going to take a look at a positive change Google+ have announced that users will now be able to use any name they like on the service .. as long as it’s a first name last name combination, isn’t full of profanity and isn’t an obvious attempt to impersonate someone else. The post states :

Over the years, as Google+ grew and its community became established, we steadily opened up this policy, from allowing +Page owners to use any name of their choosing to letting YouTube users bring their usernames into Google+. Today, we are taking the last step: there are no more restrictions on what name you can use.

This is a very sensible move, albeit a few years late but it also provides the creators of virtual worlds, such as Linden Lab, a platform on which they can advertise their wares and their users can engage with them, without fear of having their accounts deleted for running foul of a real name policy, such as Facebook have.

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Jun 182014

In my previous blog post I bemoaned the fact that Linden Lab’s SL11B competition was exclusive to Facebook. Pete Linden (AKA Gray Of The Lab from San Francisco) has very kindly explained some of the reasoning behind the decision, and he didn’t even use the telegram system to send the message :

We realize that a number of Second Life users have reservations about using Facebook and other platforms. In this case, we chose to run the contest through our Facebook page simply because we have a tool on our page that facilitates running a contest with all of the legal stuff (technical term) we need in place to run something like this, and we thought it would be of interest to the more than 366,000 followers of the official Second Life page. Our aim certainly isn’t to discourage participation, and we’ll certainly explore alternative ways to run similar contests in the future.

I’ve commented elsewhere that I don’t actually object to Linden Lab running competitions exclusively on Facebook, I just don’t think that a birthday competition should be exclusive to Facebook. However I went through all that in my previous post, so it’s probably best not to go over that ground again.

Now to be fair to The Lab here, there are legal issues surrounding competitions and submissions. This is why there are a few Second Life group pools on Flickr. An official one was setup because the other main one, didn’t quite give Linden Lab the terms and conditions that they wanted for their promotional aims. This was the right thing to do for all parties involved in the Flickr pools.

Facebook offers the facilities for LL to run a competition easily, we can agree or disagree with their decision to use Facebook but there is some logic in this decision.

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Jun 172014

Linden Lab have been doing a lot right lately in terms of community engagement and they deserve much credit for that. However it is inevitable that at some point they’re going to miss the mark at some point and so it turns out with Second Life’s 11th Birthday: Celebrating Your Second Life L$10,000 Contest.

A 10,000 Linden Dollar prize is not bad for a snapshot contest, but there’s a hitch and the hitch comes with the method of entry :

Participation is easy – submit your celebratory snapshots from inworld to the contest page on our Official Second Life Facebook Page. Click the contest tab, review the contest information and rules and start sharing. This year you will be able to submit up to one snapshot a day for the duration of the contest. Full rules, submission and voting dates, and details are all on the Facebook page.

Facebook, really? I’ve made no secret in the past that I’m not a big fan of Facebook. This is largely due to their absurd policies regarding pseudonyms and that really gets emphasised here because people who know others by their Second Life username may not know them by their real name, and why should they? They are different circles.

Facebook has a history of deleting accounts that use their Second Life user name, as Hamlet Au over at New World Notes reported back in May 2011. This is Facebook’s call as using your Second Life account name as a Facebook account (rather than Facebook page) is a breach of the Facebook TOS. No real argument from me about that, Facebook’s rules. Personally I think it’s a silly rule that dilutes social networking opportunities, but it’s Facebook’s call to do this.

Facebook can play a part in promoting a platform and I don’t blame Linden Lab for embracing Facebook, promoting Second Life on non Second Life properties is a very sensible idea but it’s really not the place to be running a community wide 11th birthday competition.

Linden Lab could allow entries on my Second Life or their Flickr page (you have to be signed in to Flickr to view that for some reason), or their own forums, Tumblr,  Google + too. Hey they may even want to allow entries on Facebook, but it should not be the only place to enter the contest.

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Mar 292014

Bopete Yossarian has started a thread over at SLUniverse to discuss an article that appeared this week on Gamasutra : Why Facebook should buy Linden Lab. The article is posted by a community member called Nick Harris, rather than a regular member of the Gamasutra staff, the opinions in the article are therefore not the opinions of Gamasutra or its parent company.

The article doesn’t really delve into the reasons why Nick Harris thinks this is a good idea, which sort of undermines the article. However the idea is an interesting one, so is the idea that Microsoft or Yahoo! should buy Linden Lab. The ideas are interesting in terms of discussion but generally lack any real meat on the bones.

The article also falls into the trap of saying :

Facebook have tried to retain its dominance through simple critical mass, if that is where everyone is, if you have to join Facebook to not miss out on invites to your friend’s impromptu parties then their hope is that you will and you won’t mind the data mining they do on you for market research and the targeted advertising. You aren’t in a position to complain, really, as it is a service they are providing to you for free.

This is a pet peeve of mine. Facebook is not free, it’s an exchange of resources. They provide the service, users provide the content, Facebook then realise value from said content. Although there’s no money exchanging hands in terms of basic usage of Facebook, there is a trade of content for service. However that aside, the author really doesn’t make much of a case for Facebook to buy Second Life :

Not only is this primarily a social nexus like Facebook (a place where you can project whatever version of yourself you choose others to see, either using a younger image of yourself, or making an effort to dress up for the photo when you are actually a slob in real life, or use someone else’s image entirely out of low esteem, or some catfish scam), but you are encouraged to create an escapist alter ego through which to indulge your fantasies, to travel without time, cost, or hassle to “see the sights”, to meet new people who share your interests unrestricted by enormous geographical separation.

Whereas I can see to a degree what he’s trying to get at, he seems to be missing a gaping point about the differences between Second Life and Facebook.

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Mar 272014

Markus “Notch” Persson is the owner of Mojang, the company behind Minecraft and he has also announced he has decided to part ways with Oculus after they were purchased by Facebook. Notch explains his reasons in a blog post entitled : Virtual Reality is going to change the world.

A few things are clear from the blog post, Notch is very excited about virtual reality and he was very excited about Oculus Rift too. How excited you may ask, well on the Kickstarter page for Oculus Rift, those who pledged over $5,000 got all the goodies backers at other levels got plus:

VISIT OCULUS FOR THE DAY : We’ll fly you out to the Oculus lab where you’ll spend a day hanging out with the team and checking out all of our latest work (and maybe playing a few games too). You’ll also receive a developer kit, a copy of Doom 3 BFG, Developer Center access, the t-shirt, and the poster, all signed by the entire Oculus team, in person. 

Notch qualified for that offer, although he’s not a US resident as far as I know, so I’m not sure how he sneaked in, but hey, he pledged funds for this kickstarter, but, as he explains in his blog post, the Facebook purchase changed the game :

Facebook is not a company of grass-roots tech enthusiasts. Facebook is not a game tech company. Facebook has a history of caring about building user numbers, and nothing but building user numbers. People have made games for Facebook platforms before, and while it worked great for a while, they were stuck in a very unfortunate position when Facebook eventually changed the platform to better fit the social experience they were trying to build.

Don’t get me wrong, VR is not bad for social. In fact, I think social could become one of the biggest applications of VR. Being able to sit in a virtual living room and see your friend’s avatar? Business meetings? Virtual cinemas where you feel like you’re actually watching the movie with your friend who is seven time zones away?

But I don’t want to work with social, I want to work with games.

In some ways it may have been better had Notch waited to see what transpired, but as someone who put his money where his mouth is on this product, I certainly respect his view and as I’ve said on these pages before, I’m not Facebook’s greatest fan.

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Mar 262014

At times it is best to take a deep breath and not blog, which is what I did last night when I read the news that Oculus Joins Facebook. The news that Facebook, the company who kick the virtual out of reality when it comes to their main platform were buying a piece of hardware based on putting the virtual into reality was beyond irksome for me. Judging by the comments around I’m not alone in that view, although I’ve calmed down somewhat now.

Over on Reddit Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey has been trying to reassure people, and hasn’t been succeeding that well, although this isn’t helped by Palmer himself seeming to be very naive about Facebook :

Q. What does this mean in terms of data collection on FB’s end? Will us early Oculus users have to mitigate the NSA everytime we decide to jack in?

A. Nothing changes. Keep in mind that Mark Zuckerberg has publicly spoken against NSA surveillance.

I’m not a big fan of Facebook, I don’t like a lot of their policies, I don’t like the way they treat people’s privacy and I don’t like their attitude to pseudonyms. However a lot of people do get pleasure out of Facebook, it’s a product with plenty of reach and plenty of users, even if it is apparently on the wane. They are at their heart a data mining company, it’s a trade off between users creating free content and being rewarded for that free content by being able to stay in touch with family and friends, it’s a model that works but it most definitely has a dark side. The comments on the Oculus blog should also firmly put to bed claims that Facebook comments mean people behave better, some of those comments are horrendous.

There’s a lot of anger, there’s a lot of disappointment and there’s a lot of debate. Some of the anger is misplaced, some of the disappointment is misplaced too. However the people with whom I have the most sympathy are the Kickstarter backers, some of whom are also expressing unhappiness over this move. Now if there’s one group of people whom Facebook and Oculus should be scrambling to appease it’s the Kickstarter backers because without them, this whole debate wouldn’t be raging as there would be no Oculus Rift for Facebook to buy.

The other issue is that this is a major kick in the teeth for crowd funding and Kickstarter itself.

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