Friday, July 25, 2014

Acceptable Friend Conduct

Loosely inspired by authentic juicy gossip I got straight from the lips of a second-hand witness. (Created with Plotagon on an iPad.)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

High School Zen

Plotagon for the iPad came out today. The basic app is free, with downloadable content available for a dollar or two each. Here's my first video using the new mobile platform. All of the raw video came from the iPad app. I did a little editing and post production on a Mac before uploading to Vimeo. You can see the unedited version here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Crap Mariner on the Second Life ToS Controversy

Hi there. It's me. I'm back again.

The subject of ToS 2.3 has come up privately, so I thought I'd bring it up in here in order to stick all of my GoS feet and shoes in my mouth.

What's happened so far? Well, here's my biased and paranoia-fueled summary:
  • Back in August 2013, Linden Lab made some changes to the Terms of Service that looked to many like an over-reach and a content-grab.
  • Several third-party content sites such as CGTextures prohibited SL users from uploading their textures to SL because of the ToS.
  • Rod Humble and Peter Gray insisted that it was not a content-grab, some wiser heads realized that it's the ToS and not the smoke and mirrors around it that matter, groups were formed, and... um... not much else happened.
  • When Rod left and Ebbe arrived, he said that he was looking into the problem.
(If you're looking for a full unbiased history of the ToS 2.3 issue, read Thinkerer Melville/Selby Evans... or Inara Pey... or Mona Eberhardt... or Ciaran Laval. All have conducted themselves in a rational and level-headed manner with dignity and journalistic integrity.)
Flash forward to this week, and lo and behold, Linden Lab made a big noise on their blog about making a long-demanded change to Terms of Service 2.3:

Here are the Terms of Service:
(48,000 words, according to Tateru Nino. Sorry, Linden Lab, but you're 2,000 words short of a NANOWRIMO novel, and twice as boring.)

The difference between the two can be summarized as follows: That blog post is full of crap.

There are a lot of blog posts on the subject. One in particular is Mona, who points out the actual changes made:

Others followed suit:
(feel free to google for more.. Thinkerer has had a few updates over the past few months)

Interestingly, an attorney in SL looked over the changes and came to a disturbing conclusion:

And most telling is CGTextures calling bullshit on Linden Lab:

But I think the strongest indicator that the Linden Lab blog post is full of crap is that James Wagner (Hamlet) Au swallows it - hook, line, and sinker:

He actually believes the blog post's claims despite all evidence to the contrary.

Really, dude. Stick to writing books, hawking the Oculus Rift, and having beers with the Labbies, okay? You're embarrassing yourself, and you're embarrassing us worse than the 80% with the misdirected anger.

Now where was I...

Look, the odds of Linden Lab selling a content-creator's pixel-panties in RL are zero, and I laugh when I see the mesh-makers cringe on various forums and sites. Yes, they rake in some bucks over their stuff, but outside of SL, not even the Japanese would buy nonexistent pixel-panties from a bullet train vending machine

If there's anything that has actual value in RL that could come out of SL, it's writing. And I'm a writer.

My take on it, scattershot-style as usual:
  • This has been and continues to be a thorn in the side of collaborative writing, whether it's content creation or peer-review and sharing of material that might one day be published professionally.
  • The Terms of Service is a typical Silicon Valley over-reach and quite a few have said that it is not defensible in court. They are claiming rights that they don't have and cannot demand.
  • If you have content that is original and copyright-protected, you do have the right to accept the ToS and then copy it back out to Word or Notepad or Google Docs if you don't have it backed up already. It shows intent that you do want to continue using the service, but want the opportunity to remove the material you do not grant the right to.
  • If Linden Lab can't effectively grow their subscriber base or retain interest in their flagship product, they're unlikely to have the skill, competence, or prowess to exploit user-made original content in the ways your paranoid fevered brain worry about at night.
  • If you have content in textures, notecards, or objects, you already agreed to the August 2013 ToS. Doing anything rash about it now is a bit too late. (But now is a good time as any, I suppose.)
  • Music streams do not travel over any part of Linden Lab's service. It's from source to Shoutcast/Icecast server to your client. Musicians and Deejays can get their pixel-panties out of a wad, now.
  • Unless Linden Lab has an infinite number of monkeys listening to Voice and transcribing everything you say at open-mikes, I think that's relatively safe for original spoken-word content.
This is why I do not notecard, texture, or text chat my stories within SL. I do not offer up my stories in notecard form for line-readers. When I perform them over voice, I'm confident that the imaginary rooms full of transcription monkeys are too busy flinging shit at each other to bother listening and typing down what I say. And I make it clear that the Weekly Challenge and my daily stories are not covered by the ToS and they are Creative Commons 4.0 Non-Commercial share-and-share-alike. (Or is that up to 5.0 now?)

So, in the end, I'm disappointed in the fact that the Lab is doing this, lying on the blog about the nature of the actual changes, and expecting people to swallow their bullshit and call it Starbucks. (Bullshit Mocha Latte, anyone?)

But I plan on staying in SL, enjoying my pretty park, my pretty bridge, my pretty friends, and my pretty me (with those pixel panties, no less) until somehow Linden Lab tries to fuck that up too.

PS: At least SecondLie is having a blast with all this, right?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Winning the Nymwars: Today Google+. Tomorrow Facebook?

Google+ launched it's initial Beta in June 2011 with a strict policy against pseudonymous identity. The initial justification was that it benefited users:
Google Profiles is a product that works best in the identified state. This way you can be certain you’re connecting with the right person, and others will have confidence knowing that there is someone real behind the profile they’re checking out. For this reason, Google Profiles requires you to use the name that you commonly go by in daily life.
Here's how it was explained to me in an imagined interview with a Google representative:

An interview with Google Executive Chairman Eric Scmhidt in August 2011 at the Edinburgh International TV Festival revealed that it's purpose was primarily to establish Google+ as an identity service that depend upon people using their wallet names to to build future products that leverage that information. He said:
It's obvious for people at risk if they use their real names, they shouldn't use G+ . . . The internet would be better if we knew you were a real person rather than a dog or a fake person. Some people are just evil and we should be able to ID them and rank them downward.
Based on the Google's official statements, along with those who supported them in comments on Google+, there was an assumption that those using pseudonyms were likely hiding more than their name and that it was dangerous to allow them into the community. Here's was my take at the time, on the underlying attitude:

Of course, the Nymish responded with a wave of protest which eventually came to be known as the Nymwars. Since Google was planning to extend their policy across their platforms. my main concern was they chilling impact a real name policy would have on free and open public discourse. As I wrote in August 2011:
When each post we make is permanently tattooed on our public record, self-censorship is self-preservation. The Brave New World that Google, the Zuckerbergs and the U.S. Congress are pushing us towards would deliver our complete virtual history to anyone typing our name into a search engine:
    • Employers, Insurance agencies, load examiners and private investigators
    • Children, parents, neighbors and ex-spouses
    • Stalkers, griefers and others who may seek to do harm
    • And god forbid if you're ever going to run for public office
A real name policy ironically works against people "being real" in public forums by making it too risky to bare our hearts and souls. A real name environment puts a damper on communication that is counter to the dominant culture or far enough outside of the mainstream to have potentially negative ramifications on employment or acceptance in one's physical world community.+
They softened the stance in January 2012, limiting pseudonyms to previously established identities that could be proven through references in a news articles or a link to a blog with a "meaningful following." I even tried using a letter of reference from my mom:

Then yesterday, seemingly out of the blue, Google reversed its policy in a post on Google+:
When we launched Google+ over three years ago, we had a lot of restrictions on what name you could use on your profile. This helped create a community made up of real people, but it also excluded a number of people who wanted to be part of it without using their real names.

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.

We know you've been calling for this change for a while. We know that our names policy has been unclear, and this has led to some unnecessarily difficult experiences for some of our users. For this we apologize, and we hope that today's change is a step toward making Google+ the welcoming and inclusive place that we want it to be. Thank you for expressing your opinions so passionately, and thanks for continuing to make Google+ the thoughtful community that it is.
The policy change probably reflects the recent reshuffling of Google management. Or maybe it's simply that they realized the misguided policy contributed to Google+'s failure to meet their initial expectations for social network dominance. In any case, I'm very happy that the policy is now reversed.

That said, I'm not very optimistic about Facebook making a similar change. They still outlaw pseudonyms and will go on witch hunts from time to time, suspending the accounts of suspected Nyms. Ironically, Facebook's stringent policy on identity ends up causing the type of abuse people were worried about on Google+. The inability to establish openly pseudonymous identities has helped create the "catfish"phenomenon where users hijack other people's images to establish online identities to hook up with unsuspecting people looking for internet relationships. When pseudonyms are outlawed, only outlaws have pseudonyms.

You can find all of my articles, videos and comics related to the nymwars here.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Plotagon Characters Reflect on Their Upcoming Demise

I've had a lot of fun creating short videos on Plotagon over the past year. They've recently announced that they are replacing their current platform for another that will also run mobile devices. They are moving away from photorealism and moving to a more stylized cartoony look. They're also changing their speech synthesis vendor and will eventually allow you to record your own voice performances. This video imagines what their existing characters might think of the upcoming changes.