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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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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Jan 232014

I can remember being in The Holte End at Villa Park back in 1998 and watching Stan Collymore score an absolute screamer against Athletico Madrid in a European football match, it wasn’t enough to keep Villa in the competition but the atmosphere at the match was awesome. Years later Stan has became a pundit in print and radio. Today he reopened his Twitter account after closing it down for 12 hours. The reason Stan temporarily closed his account was due to what he reportedly perceives as a lack of action by Twitter to combat racist abuse and death threats. The radio station he works for, Talksport, have banned all references on air and in print to Twitter as they also don’t believe Twitter do enough to combat abuse.

I’m glad to see Stan’s account back on Twitter, not because he used to play for The Villa, but because deleting your account let’s the trolls win, although I fully understand why people who make such a decision feel it is the only option. The thing is, the vast majority of Twitter is a pleasant experience.

One of the criticisms of Twitter is the anonymous nature of the site, which many claim allows people to troll without worry. Although there have been cases whereby Twitter trolls have been arrested and charged for their actions. So people often aren’t as anonymous as they’d like to think they are. However the last thing we need in social networking circles is heavy handed and conversation stifling solutions.

An interesting article appeared on The Guardian last week: Why should I reveal my ‘real identity’ online? Anonymity isn’t so terrible. The article makes some very sensible points regarding identity and why posting with your real name everywhere using one account isn’t such a wonderful concept:

One of the beauties of the internet is the anonymity of your identity. Not the kind of disposable anonymity you get in comment pages that require no sign-in, but the kind that allows you to have separate identities that are independent of each other. Reading some of the more alarmed talk surrounding this subject, you’d get the impression that this is a terrible calamity, and civilisation can only be restored if every interaction you have on the internet comes attached with your name and address, like the tags your mother used to sew on your school clothes.

This is the point oft missed when it comes to debates about online identities, online identities are identities, ok they may not be your actual real name but many an author doesn’t use their actual real name either, indeed it was once fashionable for newspaper and magazine columnists to use, shock horror, a pseudonym or even have different authors use the same pseudonym. Robert X Cringely is one glaring example, that actually got quite complicated regarding who was allowed to use the name. Another, that some may remember was Lloyd Managram who was a columnist for the Sinclair Spectrum magazine Crash. Years later I discovered he never really existed. Does this matter? Absolutely not as it was the content I was interested in.

People often use different identities and engage in different activities, in different circles. I know some people down the pub by their nickname only, their family may not even know they have a nickname. Which brings us to TechCrunch. I pretty much stopped reading TechCrunch back in 2011 when they introduced Facebook comments. I have never commented much on TechCrunch but the Facebook push was just a huge turn off. Facebook comments reduce trolling, they also reduce commenting full stop. This was exemplified in January 2013 when TechCrunch made a plea for commenters to come back and announced their experiment with Facebook comments was over:

It was early 2011 and TechCrunch’s comment section was overrun with trolls. Bullies and asshats were drowning out our smart commenters. We hated our commenters because, well, they hated us. So we Facebook Comments in an attempt to silence the trolls — by removing their anonymity.

But we eventually discovered that our anti-troll tactic worked too well; The bullies and asshats left our comments sections, but so did everyone else. Now, several years later, after dozens of endless meetings and conference calls, we’ve decided we’re going to try out Livefyre instead of Facebook Comments.

Frankly, our trial with Facebook Comments lasted way too long at too steep of a cost. Sure, Facebook Comments drove extra traffic to the site, but the vast majority of our readers clearly do not feel the system is worthy of their interaction.

And we want our commenters back.

One would think that would be that? However no, in December 2013 TechCrunch embraced Facebook comments once more, managing to completely miss the point:

We know that the lack of anonymity is an issue with Facebook Comments, but we’re willing to accept that in return for a commenting system that is relatively stable. We also like the idea of comments sorted by Facebook Likes versus recency, and Facebook offers that as a default. Sometimes it’s that simple.

The issue isn’t anonymity, it’s more pseudonymity for many but what’s more amazing about TechCrunch’s decision is that having driven away commenters the first time around, they seem to be somehow oblivious to it happening again.

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Dec 132013

The recent fuss about The NSA and GCHQ allegedly spying on Second Life users largely made me go “meh”. I mean this is what I expect those agencies to do and I really can’t see any way of stopping them doing it. However there is a level whereby I feel protestations about intrusive behaviour could work, that’s at levels way below the security agencies, it’s with tech companies.

AT&T are, according to Gigaom, rolling out a new gigabit service in Austin in two flavours. Premier, for USD$70 a month and Standard, for USD$99 a month. The terminology sounds odd, with premier being the cheaper option. However here’s the catch, the cheaper option means you need to agree to being part of AT&T preferences, which is targeted advertising, or as AT&T themselves explain:

U-verse with GigaPower Premier offer is available with your agreement to participate in AT&T Internet Preferences. AT&T may use your Web browsing information, like the search terms you enter and the Web pages you visit, to provide you relevant offers and ads tailored to your interests.

So basically for the cheaper option, you sell your browsing habits it seems. This idea isn’t new, websites with advertising will often have the option to turn off the adverts for a fee. However it’s still very creepy.

When the recent hoo-ha broke about the spies it wasn’t the NSA or GCHQ involvement I found creepy, nor was it Linden Lab talking to the NSA about virtual worlds. The NY Times article claims that Cory Ondrejka was the senior Linden exec involved and reports:

In 2007, as the N.S.A. and other intelligence agencies were beginning to explore virtual games, N.S.A. officials met with the chief technology officer for the manufacturer of Second Life, the San Francisco-based Linden Lab. The executive, Cory Ondrejka, was a former Navy officer who had worked at the N.S.A. with a top-secret security clearance.

He visited the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., in May 2007 to speak to staff members over a brown bag lunch, according to an internal agency announcement. “Second Life has proven that virtual worlds of social networking are a reality: come hear Cory tell you why!” said the announcement.

That all sounds very reasonable to me, Cory seems to be using his knowledge of his old industry and showing them the power of virtual worlds, it’s the next part of the article where it all goes a bit tits up:

It added that virtual worlds gave the government the opportunity “to understand the motivation, context and consequent behaviors of non-Americans through observation, without leaving U.S. soil.”

That’s where it all gets a bit creepy.

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Mar 162012

Via Hamlet Au over at New World Notes, there’s a link to a post from Strawberry Singh on using  Facebook pages to promote your Second Life brand. The good thing about Facebook pages is that you aren’t breaking the Facebook Terms of Service by having a Facebook page for your Second Life avatar, or your Second Life brand.

The thing I found even better about Facebook pages is that you don’t need to have a Facebook profile to create a Facebook page, you will still need to provide an email address and you will need this for logging in but you don’t need to have a Facebook profile, so when Facebook has a burp and sets your privacy settings to something you weren’t expecting, it won’t be an issue. That is unless Facebook have changed that now, but I created pages on Facebook without needing a main Facebook profile.

Google + on the other hand requires you to have a Google + profile to create pages, so it’s a bit different but Google + largely seem more relaxed on the names you use than Facebook are.

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Jan 242012

Lastly, I really do regret I that spoiled ‘Ciaran Laval’ s night away from the pub. The way this election is going he may find me there before long.” – Sir Norman Tebbit, April 19th 2010.

The above quote is relevant in the name stakes because it demonstrates I have a persistent online identity outside Second Life circles, although what I was ever doing on The Torygraph blogs whilst sober still remains a mystery, what Sir Norman was referring to is that I’d stated on another blog post of his that I was stone cold sober and agreeing with him, it was a scary evening.

Which brings us to the latest episode of the nym wars and Google +, which rears its head in the shape of form of Google’s Bradley Horowitz suggesting a new and more inclusive naming policy is being r0lled out. Now before you get too excited you need to tread carefully here, Violet Blue, who was very involved in the nym wars because her name was considered to be fake (it isn’t) has posted over at Zdnet suggesting that pseudonyms still aren’t welcome. However Violet seems to be getting a tad confused, Bradley Horowitz is talking of one name nyms, rather than normal looking nyms and this is where it all gets confusing.

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Sep 092011

Twitter CEO Dick Costollo has firmly planted his feet in the nym friendly camp according to a post at Wired’s Epicenter, which you can read here. Mr Costollo is quoted as saying:

Other services may be declaring that you have to use your real name because they think they will be able to monetize that better and think they will be able to get more information about you that will help them monetize better.

We are more interested in serving our users first, and we think by serving that by serving our users first, we will have a better platform for marketers and advertisers.

Hooray for that but not only is Mr Costollo absolutely right in his thinking, he shows Google + how wrong they are with their real name policy because in terms of advertisers, whom people follow and what their interests are, will likely produce better targetted marketing than what their name is and Google should know this because so much of their advertising service is based not on your real name, but what you’re looking for or at.

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