Apr 042016

The Terms of Service (TOS) that accompany the Oculus Rift have raised concerns from users and potential users. UploadVR report; Oculus ‘Always On’ Services and Privacy Policy May Be a Cause for Concern. Gizmodo report; There Are Some Super Shady Things in Oculus Rift’s Terms of Service. techdirt report; Oculus Users Freak Out Over VR Headset’s TOS, Though Most Of It Is Boilerplate.

The concerns raised will sound rather familiar in parts for Second Life content creators. This is especially the case for parts of the TOS such as this :

Unless otherwise agreed to, we do not claim any ownership rights in or to your User Content. By submitting User Content through the Services, you grant Oculus a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual (i.e. lasting forever), non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free and fully sublicensable (i.e. we can grant this right to others) right to use, copy, display, store, adapt, publicly perform and distribute such User Content in connection with the Services.

Sections of a TOS such as this can sound worse than they actually are. A lot of those rights are required for companies to carry your content and transmit it to other users. The article over at Gizmodo suggest that the result of the above is :

If you create something using Oculus’ services, the Terms of Service say that you surrender all rights to that work and that Oculus can use it whenever it wants, for whatever purposes

I’m not convinced that’s quite true but it’s not hard to see why people come to that conclusion. techdirt point out :

The problem with getting hysterical over the TOS is that this language is essentially boilerplate, and attached to the terms of service for pretty much every service in existence so they can make a sharing technology work without being sued over copyright. While certainly worded poorly there’s no real nefarious intent; it’s CYA lawyer language.

The UploadVR article takes a closer look at the privacy angle and the privacy policy that is incorporated into the TOS.

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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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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 :


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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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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