Monday, September 1, 2008


Recently, Linden Lab added some new categories into abuse reporting. Most of these were simple clarification or classification such as breaking down 'age' into ageplay and teens/adults crossing into each other's grids. There were a few, however, that made me blink twice, and I'll put them here. I'll go through them each:

Assault > Combat sandbox / unsafe area
Assault > Weapons testing sandbox

This one confuses me. If one is in an unsafe area or a sandbox dedicated to combat, what exactly defines assault? "Assault Weapons Testing Sandbox" is equally silly. Putting out a sandbox for weapons testing and then not monitoring it is inviting trouble. The Lindens should not add an AR category for that, they should put out an overseer or get rid of those sandboxes entirely.

In real life, at any weapons testing area, there's a range master whose tasks include preventing the people from blowing each other's heads off. He may give a quick quip about the importance of gun safety and the rules involved in it. He makes sure (or at least, he's supposed to make sure) that no one brings in an M82 for a small BB gun range and vice versa. In short, he monitors the place. Imagine if he just opened the doors and left, letting the range to itself. Do you honestly think everything would run smoothly?

So it goes for Second Life ranges and weapons sandboxes. While the danger of actually killing someone is removed, the point remains the same. Order in such an environment requires vigilance and oversight, not a distant abuse report.

Not everyone is gun happy and probably many in such places work towards keeping order, such as it is, in these places without Linden help. But it's not their jobs. They shouldn't have to work to enjoy and test their weapons.

Copyright or intellectual property violation
Trademark violation

This one is unusual. Before these came into existance, any discussion of any TM or IP violations was deflected to legal and you were told to file a DMCA. You were told that Linden Lab wasn't going to process such things in world unless there was a clear legal case such as Stroker what's-his-last-name's Sex Beds.

I believe this is actually directed not towards resident's complaints but to the actual big wig violations of such. You know what I'm talking about. The other day I was flying by and encountered a store selling Star Trek mechandise. I'm sure Paramount (or whoever owns the Star Trek brand) wouldn't be pleased to see someone ripping their franchise to earn a quick buck in Second Life.

That's just one example off the top of my head. There's many others. I hope to impress the idea upon you that these series of categories are likely for big companies and such coming into Second Life and getting offended that someone has already made their product or what-not. I'm sure there's probably all sorts of things wrong with what I'm presenting here, but I would not put it past Linden Lab to implement such a feature to placate their bigger customers.

Commerce > Failure to deliver product or service

This one has had much made out of it, and it's already being ridiculed in a variety of places and blogs. It's become something of a joke and it'd be hilarious if it wasn't true and it wasn't an actual policy.

The spirit of the law is that Linden Lab will kill con men. Get rid of those who would fleece innocents. And that's good. That's grand. Those who would engage in unfair practices should be brought to face the law and Terms of Service.

The problem arises from the letter of the law. "Failure to deliver product or service" could mean a lot of things and be interpreted in a variety of ways. There's the angle to avoid scammers, but I could also potentially report someone whose product was destroyed by Second Life on its way to me. I paid but never got it, report! Or what if I hire someone for a given service, and they fail to perform to my standards. They're failing to provide me with my expectation of their level of service. Good bye.

And that's just a few innocent misinterpretations of it. Imagine if I held a grudge against someone. Stores are common in Second Life, and enemies more so. If I really wanted to nail someone I hated, I could always hang around their store during a high concurrency or a period of Linden Lab spilling coffee on the servers and report the owner when the transaction is botched. And technically, I'd be right. Yesterday, I couldn't log in due to such failures in the servers and those who were already logged into SL were told to expect failures in inventory and such.

Be aware this isn't exactly an astronomically small probablility. Any time you enact new provisions into law or a terms of service (for RL and SL respectively), people will inevitably try to twist it to their own ends and a good portion will twist it maliciously. There's no room to establish any kind of precedent in Second Life because the Lindens aren't very public with any kind of AR enforcement. The police blotter is pathetic, giving only the AR category and the action taken. There's no way to know the exact way Linden Lab will carry out a type of AR unless it happens to you or precedent on their actions is carried by word of mouth as happened with their ad farm policy, where word quickly got out that they were only banning farms being sold for extortion which resulted in ad farmers closing off their sells and evading it .

And word of mouth is finicky. Sure, the ad farm deal was pretty public but mostly because the policy was openly announced on a hot topic that many were interested in seeing. The same thing will probably happen with this category too. It raises a thought on what goes on with other less explicit AR categories, however. One can only guessitimate the punishment based on the severity of the action.

Disclosure > Second Life information/chat/IMs

I can understand IMs. But chat? As in public chat? So I can't talk to Henry and learn he likes to paint, and then TP and tell Sally who is crushing on him to buy him a canvas and paints? That would be disclosure and be able to be reported?

This is another example of a policy that could be twisted and abused in the wrong hands far too easily. I yell and have a fight with Jane in public chat, and when I tell John about it and he goes and picks a fight with Jane, she can report me for disclosing our fight to John and John for implicitly disclosing to her my conversation with John. Confused? I sure am.

Does 'chat' mean 'IMs' , just in case someone doesn't understand what IMs are? And what exactly is Second Life 'information'? Real life info is understandable but doesn't apply here because that's a separate category. It'd be interesting to find out.

Fraud > Pyramid scheme or chain letter

Haha, so I guess I should report Linden Lab as being a pyramid scheme! That's if some people are to be believed. Nothing particularly wrong with this one, just wanted to make that crack.

Harassment > Defaming individuals or groups

Ah, so slander (or is it libel?) is now against the Terms of Service. Another policy that Linden Lab had better clarify before they get flooded with idiots getting offended with anyone criticizing them or holding a grudge against someone else.

Land > Encroachment > Particles
Land > Encroachment > Trees/plants

This is something that might be a tad hard to enforce. The stupid Linden trees and plants, and indeed all good resident-make trees and plants, can encroach just a tiny teeny tad into someone else's parcel no matter how hard or how far you place them in your land. You might make a nice little garden in a corner of your land away from your main house as a kind of 'secret garden'. But if one tree is waving (as Linden trees are wont to do) and your neighbor gets pissy, it's toast.

And particles? Oh boy. Everyone abuses particles, and lots of people hate them, but it was always something we lived with. I think the worst abuse of particles outside of outright griefing was the particle explosions in some AOs whenever its owner TPs in, TPs out, logs in, or logs out. It's worse in a club setting or a general meeting, where it blinds everyone. And I could have reported it. And now, I can get really specific in reporting it.

In general, the theme and idea I'm trying to push to the Lindens are to publicly explain the ideas behind each new category. Don't assume people understand that already and will dutifully follow it. Outline a clear set of case examples for each, and a clear set of punishments. Then you'll avoid masses of irrelevant and petty abuse reports.

No comments: