Attack of the Not-Bots - Cautionary Tale About Trying to Spot Automated Avatars in SL
The comment thread to my Monday post on most popular SL sims contains a fairly entertaining case study in the problem with trying to identify Traffic Bots, automated avatars some landowners use to fool people into thinking their sim is inhabited. Reader "Little Lost Linden", pseudonym of an SLer on a one man (or one woman? or a bot himself?) campaign to report traffic bots, there asserts that Ambrosia Dance Club (number 23 most popular sim last month) is full of bots. The next day, the comment thread gets swarmed by dozens of readers claiming to be members of Ambrosia Dance Club, insisting that they are in fact real users:
"If you teleport into Ambrosia Dance club any time of the day and follow that cluster of green dots on your map," one of them, Mercy Mangala, wrote indignantly, "you will find real people with real lives having real conversations."
Now, a subversive voice in my head makes me wonder if all these readers claiming to be Ambrosia Dance Club users are not Traffic Bots, but actually Blog Comment Bots, because I have enough trouble trying to weed out those. But like Occam says loudly at parties when he's trying to pick up chicks, the simplest explanation is usually the best. So, Ambrosia Dance Club: Probably not full of bots. Which leads to a larger lesson:
It's damn difficult to identify Traffic Bots in SL, even when they exhibit all the behavior patterns of bots. I got a bit bot obsessive a few years ago, asking unmoving avatars at a crowded nightclub, "Are you a bot?" At one nightclub, I didn't get a single immediate reply, but that's not a reliable method. Because I eventually did get replies from Residents who were just away from keyboard-- even though they sometimes took a few hours to get back to me. Or in some cases, the next day. Assuming, of course, those replies didn't come from Reply Bots.Tweet