Monday, April 29, 2013

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I Largely Left Second Life to Avoid the People of Second Life (Comment of the Week)

Savoree LeDesir Second Life user

Discussing her reasons for minimizing her use of Second Life, reader Savoree LeDesir offered one I often hear from others: Exhaustion with the negative social experience in Second Life. Here's how she describes it:

"Part of the appeal of Second Life was that it promised to fulfill that lifelong dream of many - the ability to 'reinvent oneself,' and, at least for a moment, to escape reality and experience the fulfillment of one's ideal self. After several years of dealing with trying to deal with constant technical difficulties, in-world politics, relentless cyber-bullies (as it turns out, a lot of people reinvented themselves into the kids they hated in high school), and a 'community' of people who are all trying to be something other than who they really are, many have become disillusioned with the whole premise of this type of virtual experience...or perhaps they've simply outgrown it.

"After much trial and error, I think I've found a level of participation that works for me...I rent a small parcel of privately-owned land so that I'll have a 'home' in-world in which to do the things I love to do: explore and create. But I avoid interacting personally with anyone in-world, because I've learned the hard way that it's a huge waste of time and energy.

"I don't imagine I'll ever directly pay Linden Labs for tier again, because they do absolutely nothing for the average user besides provide server space. They do not provide technical help (even for premium users), and they do nothing to monitor or police the activity of the cyber bullies and spammers in a way that makes any sense at all."

Again, a common complaint, though eloquently stated by Ms. LeDesir. Speaking for myself, I'd say there's no scalable way for Linden Lab to monitor and police the activity of 600,000 active users and still remain profitable (and without becoming part of the problem) -- which to me speaks yet again for implementing a carefully architected user-to-user karma system.

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Kim Anubis

I have been arguing against "karma" systems like this longer than SL has existed, which means I am so sick of rehashing the debate by this point that my immediate reaction is to say, "Fine, do that, and I hope you choke on it." Not a mature response, or even metaphorically solid, but it's an honest response indicating frustration.

There are plenty of us around who've lived SL both with and without a "karma" system. Over the years I have seen LL itself and some users decide the old rating system we had should be removed. However, I can't recall seeing others who didn't like the system back then decide, based on experiences during the intervening years, that we really should add back something of the sort.

Anyway, just an observation, since I am sick of debating this over and over.

Another observation, a bit off topic, is that I find it offensive when a term and concept of religious significance like "karma" is coopted for use to describe an automated system of human judgmentalness that will be gamed to abuse people. Humans voting others up and down. That isn't karma. It is the opposite. It's social politics. And while "avatar" is also drawn from religion, the context is different and it isn't as ridiculously misused and offensive as this misuse of "karma."

Cube Republic

All this will be a thing of the past when we get normal maps, occulus rift and cyber suits

Jo Yardley

I don't get it.
I've been in SL for over 4 years and have the opposite experience.
I have many good friends, I'm a member of a great community and have had very little trouble with griefers or rude people.
Maybe it is not just about how other people behave, but also about how you behave or at least about where you spend your time in SL.
Some places are trouble magnets, others are peaceful paradises.
I'm always surprised when I hear such negative stories about SL and wonder where all these people go to meet trouble.

Adeon Writer

"I don't get it.
I've been in SL for over 4 years and have the opposite experience."

It's all about the location in the world you choose to be in.

SL is very enjoyable, and is filled with very wonderful people.

It's also filled with very awful people.

Unfortunately, if you have an overwhelmingly good SL experience, you're not seeing what most people see.

Spend an hour in the Korea1 region (with voice on) if you want to see the side of SL that most of the internet sees and comments on.

Kim Anubis

One more observation.

Hamlet, you compare downvoting someone in this "karma" system to downvoting a post on a message board. They aren't the same at all. If you downvote a message, maybe it gets moved down the page, or even hidden with a "view this post anyway" link. But the message is still available for those who care to read it, and the poster is still free to post other messages without restriction or stigma.

What you advocate is not downvoting a message, but is instead an unpopularity contest, and those who are unpopular enough don't simply have a post pushed down a page. Instead, you want them banned from the Welcome Area and whenever someone flags their parcel or island to keep out assumed undesirables. The person is not free of stigma or restrictions. Pushing a single post down the page is not the same as disallowing someone from participating at all, and gaming the former is rarely worth the hassle while gaming the latter is akin to assassinating or exiling someone. It isn't the same thing at all. Especially since you rarely invest cash money in a message board. I expect better moderation when I pay to use a service or for assets it hosts, and it is a much more legally fraught situation to ban someone from public areas when their money and other, less transportable assets are involved.

Furthermore, while you can vote a post up or down on a message board, the moderator (even on Reddit -- I looked it up) still needs to step in and delete the post or ban the poster if someone does flag the post for moderation. Moderation is a separate system from voting a post up or down, and it isn't automated. You are conflating two separate systems, and this does not support your argument that this (nonexistent) automated moderation system would be great for SL.

If there is a scalable way to moderate and police real-world communities, why shouldn't it be possible in a virtual world? Because companies have gotten into the habit of thinking of online community management as something you should be able to do by hiring one to three underpaid managers to ride herd on a bunch of volunteers, until the volunteers finally quit or have to be let go for legal reasons. Then, instead of thinking about hiring adequate community management staff, it's time to think maybe you can still avoid that by coding up some kinda crowdsourced garbage to automatically ban people. Just great.

You can write code to manage widgets or move text around a page, but it takes a person to manage people. And paying customers shouldn't be inconvenienced by an unwanted, doomed social voting system because someone is too squeamish to staff adequately.

webspelunker Ghostraven

I'm sorry you've had this experience and while I agree that bullying and other anti-social behaviors exist inworld, I've found many wondeful residents and tight communities in my travels. While each must find their own way inworld, I do hope you come back down form your mountain and find some of these people and their groups. Open roads!

The Tier Is Too Damn High Party

I've had mixed experiences on Sl, it's basically what I've made of it, but overall positive. The Karma point idea, though - yeeesh. No. Too much incentive to down vote by competitors, stalkery exes, and so on. Hell, if you can buy twitter followers or FB likes, why not karma points. On the other hand, you also incentiveize bland conformity and skewing behavior to "good" votes. That nonsense is not what I came to SL for. Again, no.

Thaumata Strangelove

It's hard to ignore the complainers when people like NWN are reposting them in lieu of actual, constructive content.

Tracy Redangel

I've had a mixed experience with friends in SL but I have to largely agree with Jo and others have said. Each person needs to take responsibility for their own SL experience. If the friends you hang out with make you miserable, then they need to go, and you need to change where you hang out. Some people have a more difficult time figure that out. But they'll either move on and end up with more positive friends and relationship, or their environment will become so toxic for them they'll up and quit SL. But most of the time, these issues with friends are more personal, and really has NOTHING to do with a user-based Karma rating system. For one thing, do you thing LL will implement it as thoroughly as you've dreamt it up Hamlet? Uh..NO. Those nasty elements will ALWAYS try to find a way they can abuse a system like that. Besides, I'd rather the Lindens focus on making Second Life run better.
I've run into 'bullies' in SL. A lot of them are pretty laughable when they make threats about sending a virus to your computer that will destroy your hard drive but they have the spelling of a five-year old. You know what takes care of those people? Mute. Eject. Ban. Trust me, the fun they get is your reaction. Take away the reaction...you take away their fun.

Amanda Dallin

When I started SL at the end of 2006 there was a rating system that was so completely gamed and useless no one paid it any attention anymore. It thankfully went away shortly there after. There have been groups who hold AR parties now. Do we really want to have Rating parties, both positive and negative. There are lots of jerks in SL but then there are lots of jerks in RL too. I try to stay away from them in both lives.

If you find the people at where ever you go in RL to socialize are making you unhappy then you stop going there. The same is true in SL.

I've met great people in SL who have given me lots of good times and memories. I've also lost some of those friends over the years. Some left SL some died in RL. This makes me unhappy but it's part of Life. I've lost RL friends too. I still have the memories.

Hamlet Au

"Over the years I have seen LL itself and some users decide the old rating system we had should be removed."

Kim, the reason Cory removed it was because he thought Second Life had achieved enough organic growth and activity, and it was no longer necessary. But now growth and activity are flat (and have been for the last 5 years), and the social experience is often extremely negative, so clearly some kind of solution is needed.

Many of your other complaints around karma systems are valid, but please read the post I linked to --I took care to explain how to do it in a way that avoids gaming/griefing/etc as much as possible. In any case, it's not enough to say a karma system will lead to negative consequences -- to be sure there will be some -- but you must also convincingly suggest an alternative that's *better* than a karma system for regaining user growth and activity *and* improving the social experience. Until then, I still say a karma system, while imperfect, is the least worst solution.

Wolf Baginski

There are some rather obvious sorts of exploration which will bring you in context with the jerks, starting with Zindra continent. It's not that sexual content guarantees jerks, but in Second Life there is a strong bias that way.

(And yes, I know about the other meaning of "jerk" in the American vernacular.)

But, rather than the risks of a rating system, I feel it would be worth Linden Labs taking steps to convince us that they are enforcing the TOS. There have been some big griefer hassles since late March--the last five or six weeks--and I've taken the trouble to send in Abuse Reports, but I don't see much sign of any response. There's some attention been paid to griefer prims, but the perpetrators still seem to have active accounts.

Evidence? I had to Block several people to minimise the effects of the attacks, so I have their names in my Block List, making it easy to check on them. And from all I can see they are still active accounts.

This is from people who have been crashing regions with ever increasing heaps of particle-spewing prims, that are textured with obscene images and incidentally promote a group which pushes out copy-bot modifications of current viewers.

I can imagine ways in which that could be hyped up by a DA seeking re-election, but I don't think it would be effective: SL is too obscure. On the other hand, it could be presented as a communication channel for all sorts of sinister groups, with that as an example of how incontrolled SL is.

The so-called Governance team has to get its act together, and be seen to be taking effective action, before any fancy user-controlled rating systems get introduced. I send in Abuse Reports, I see no sign of action being taken, and I have no idea whether my impression of what reportable abuse is has any useful relationship to how Linden Labs defines it.

In the past, I've seen actionable events happen with a Linden avatar present. I've heard people talking on voice about how they arranged an account for their under-age offspring. They might have been total idiots--that Linden avatar could have been connected to a sound recorder--but would you even do that if you didn't think that the Governance system was ineffective?

GoSpeed Racer

Orca, your response is exactly what she is talking about. What a terribly negative thing for you to say.

Wagner James Au

Yes, GoSpeed. Yes it was. And now it's gone.

Paypabak Writer

I am all over SL exploring and interacting with people for more than six years. I cannot report the same experience.

I have a lot of friends and they're not all in the same clique, so it's not a matter of keeping to an isolated part of SL. I'm not denying that negative experiences may be occurring but to report it like NWN has here as the general truth is disappointing.

My overall experience is that our SL friends are the main reason most of us stay.

I believe a karma system would only reinforce the bad ones to work on lowering their ratings for bragging rights.

Arcadia Codesmith

Sims Online had a reputation system. Whatever happened to that?

Oh yes, I remember. We had a quite remarkable social experiment that saw the rise of extortion rings that shook down players for cash in exchange for not trashing them.

And then the world died a horrible, painful, flaming death, for any number of reasons but most especially because the company did not take the self-styled "mafias" seriously until it was far too late.

A virtual world that tolerates griefing is a dead world. Griefing is a cancer that will destroy your community unless you eradicate it and excercise constant, proactive, ruthless vigilance to prevent it from coming back.

Not only do you need a large police force to deal with it, you need oversight of the police to make sure that they're not corrupted by the very slime that they're tasked to deal with.

If Linden Lab can't or won't enforce their own rules, then I have to agree with Savoree: we have no incentive to pay them a tier "tax". The social contract exists only to the extent that it is beneficial to the individual more than a state of anarchy.

An automated system can't deal with the problem. It might deter a few brain-dead tweens, but the variety of cyber-sadist that gets his kicks from stalking and harassment loves nothing more than turning such systems into a weapon against his victim.

You need cops. You need plenty of them. And you need them to be badass.

Metacam Oh

That is exactly part of the problem with Second Life. Aside from the obvious gap in real value and the Lab's price for virtual "land", the name Second Life insinuates exactly what Savoree experienced. It insinuates you need a second life because you don't have a first, not an expansion of real life. A lot of SL users ARE disillusioned because they are precisely the people that SL markets to by its name and by its ads. They make SL out to be one giant community, and everything is under one entity, and that everyone inside is pretending to be someone they are not. It's fine for people to do that don't get me wrong, that is a great usage of virtual worlds, but that is not the only usage. You take anyone serous out of the equation by calling it Second Life and insinuating its where you go when you are unfulfilled in real life.

Even if most people are unfulfilled they will never want to admit it.

I always look at Virtual Worlds, the way I look at the Internet. Yes, virtual worlds can be the future, but not every virtual location can be hosted by one company, and every person in the virtual world is not going to be part of one large community, they are going to fraction off into groups as normal human behavior.

If you are just a person going into SL and not understanding the whole role play, be someone you're not, it's shock culture, it's weird. So the SL name, and game plan does not cater to the average person. It caters to people who are desperate to escape reality. Sadly.

Kim Anubis

Hamlet, I don't believe the removal of that awful rating system was the reason things flattened out. The removal of staff and programs, and some specific gaffes in how the Lab related to its customers, is what did it. And I mentioned the solution ... Staff. Community managment staff.

Seeing as LL no longer budgets for or holds events like SLCC, concierge customer appreciation parties, Winterfest, Solution Provider programs, the enterprise program, the resources and staff for educators and nonprofits, the SL birthday party, Burning Life, town hall meetings, widespread office hours, live staff to greet newbies, managing a volunteer support program, Magellan Linden and other myth-makers (who give a diverse community something to share), or much communication with members at all, maybe they have a few spare bucks to, I dunno, hire more community management staff. Do some of those things that actually did work for them in the past.

What kind of concurrency bump do you get with an event like Winterfesf or a Town Hall? How much added time do users put in to volunteer for an event like that, to shop for or make an outfit for their avatar to wear, or for a related build? How much official forum activity does it drive (hey, do they still have volunteer labor moderating the forum?)? How much buzz does it get in the blogosphere? How many extra hours do folks spend inworld visiting and talking about the event? What "resi" wouldn't like the chance to face off with Lindens in a showball fight? Instead of, you know, focusing on their neighbor's ugly build or who griefed who or what LL did that pissed them off this week? We don't need another way to complain and judge. We need more positive outlets and opportunities for socialization.

You are overly optimistic about rating systems, and I read your other post -- I posted a comment when it was new. Anyway, I thought you meant this would keep down griefing, not that it was going to make SL more engaging. I disagree with that even more. In fact ... Savoree was complaining of being griefed and bullied, and you turned around and suggested an institutionalized griefing and bullying system. I dunno, man ... How can our viewpoints be so very far apart?

The only rating system I ever saw in a community similar to SL that I actually thought much of was There.com's system of rewarding users who did certain community-building tasks. But even that blew up, when it got to the point where newbies on first login were mobbed and overwhelmed by people trying to give them sunglasses and lend them cars. Not too cool for a shy person! I do think they were onto something, though.

In community management, I would always favor a carrot over a stick. Yeah, systems are always gamed, but the damage of griefing a carroty system is much less likely to drive off users than would a stick. Better, though, is to give people something constructive to do, somewhere to go, something to see. Outweigh the bad with the good, and have a solid community management team guiding the direction of the conversation and activity. There are countless ways to do it. You just need to hire people who know how.

I miss Robin.

Pathfinder

Where there are humans
you’ll find flies,
and Buddhas.

Lani Global

Vote with your feet!
You are not a prisoner of Second Life.

There are plenty of wonderful grids to go to.

DrFran Babcock

I think that the point of this resident's comment is NOT about the mean people in SL, but about the idea of reinventing one's self. I believe firmly that: No matter where you go; there you are.

Folks try to be "other" in SL, and can indeed try on new ways of "being," but in the final analysis they are who they are.

In First Life I am someone with a few friends, who enjoys being a creative loner, and guess what? That's what I am in Second Life.

I have had some great experiences, and some awful ones here. Sounds about like First Life, no?

Arcadia Codesmith

"Where there are humans
you’ll find flies,
and Buddhas."

Where there are humans
there are flyswatters
to eradicate vermin.

Sylea Sygall

Interesting article. I joined SL strictly out of curiosity in May 2008, very quickly met an excellent group of people who showed me how to navigate around the world, and in June of 2008, unexpectedly met the man who became my fiancee and after 5 years of long distance romance, facilitated by our 'life' in SL, I am marrying (in RL) this September. Several of the people we met became good friends, and a couple are actually attending our RL wedding.( we are bucking the trend to marry in SL first!) We always ended up with like minded and similarly aged friends, with common interests. We avoided the drama that some people seek, (and likely seek in RL as well as SL) and for the most part, the people we met were themselves. We have had many wonderful experiences exploring SL, and marvelling at the creativity and amazing places we have found. I know the type of people the writer is talking about, and have experienced some of their unpleasant behaviour 1st hand. That never dissuaded me from continuing to explore and enjoy SL. I just changed where I was going and muted people who were annoying. (wish we had that option in RL, frankly). I know my story is perhaps unusual, given that my SL romance has a happy ending, but I wanted to share what a positive experience SL has been for me, and will continue to be. I cherish the friendships I have made.

Eurominuteman

Join Immersive World Angry Noob on Facebook
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Eurominuteman

It's No Wonder You Feel Like Balking Virtual Worlds
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Jo Yardley

"Spend an hour in the Korea1 region (with voice on)"

No way!
I'd never go to such a place and stay there longer then a few moments, when I hear people using voice I usually run the other way.

Quan Lavender

At the end it is in all worlds our own little self that interacts with others and gets just the own mind mirrored. My experience in SL is that I more or less attract and meet the same "type" of people as I do in RL and some experiences with others felt very familiar.

I think as long as we do not expect others to be better, stronger, smarter as they just are, SL is a great opportunity to make friends with people from all over the world, which is very enriching. I feel blessed to have my second life.

JTW

"Unfortunately, if you have an overwhelmingly good SL experience, you're not seeing what most people see."

or more likely the polar opposite, if you have an overwhelmingly bad experience you're not seeing what most people see.
I'm all over the grid, the vast majority of people I meet are nice, friendly, helpful, people.
Maybe I've developed a nose for avoiding nastiness in the >15 years I've spent in online communities, I don't know, but the number of nice things in SL is far larger than you make it out to be.
Maybe you're one of those nasty people yourself, and as a result get kicked out of all the nice places because the nice people there don't want to have nasty people come in and poison things for them. But more likely you've just had a few bad days and decided for whatever reason that those are for some reason the norm now despite all the good experiences you had in the past.

" Instead, you want them banned from the Welcome Area and whenever someone flags their parcel or island to keep out assumed undesirables. The person is not free of stigma or restrictions."

seen it, experienced it. A lot of people downvote others in whatever environment simply as a popularity contest, thinking that if they downvote others they will appear more popular themselves.
And that's the same on forums as it is everywhere, so even if the results are different, the process and reasoning behind it are the same.
I've even seen forums where people would get autobanned after a set number of downvotes, on the mistaken assumption that downvotes would all be genuine. Suffice to say only the persistent downvoters were left after a short while, creating new accounts every time they got banned because of the downvotes of their peers.

" There have been groups who hold AR parties now. "

and as a result LL have stopped acting on ARs unless certain high limits are reached or the AR is sent by a landowner on their own land (I suspect the actual system also acts on certain keywords related to griefer groups, but no evidence for that).
IOW the AR parties have gamed the AR system into uselessness, as it swamps LL with far more work than they can handle, there the work is just silently sent straight to dev/null.

"There are some rather obvious sorts of exploration which will bring you in context with the jerks, starting with Zindra continent"

Overall, I (and most of my friends) have had far more negative experiences in G rated sims than on Zindra. Mostly those are related to the extreme narrowmindedness of some people.
When I did meet some nastiness on Zindra it was usually those same narrowminded people coming to Zindra for the sole purpose of causing trouble (bringing child avatars into nudist clubs and then threatening to file ARs against everyone for being naked in the presence of a minor, things like that. Not that those ARs would go anywhere, but that's the typical threat).

"And from all I can see they are still active accounts.
This is from people who have been crashing regions with ever increasing heaps of particle-spewing prims, that are textured with obscene images and incidentally promote a group which pushes out copy-bot modifications of current viewers.
"
No, you can't tell. You can only tell the accounts still exist, not that they have not been blocked from logging in.
btw I've some circumstantial evidence that this group might be acting in the pay of certain land corporations, testimony from some land owners that griefing started shortly after they refused "offers" to sell out to those land owners for far below the market value of their property.

"I believe a karma system would only reinforce the bad ones to work on lowering their ratings for bragging rights. "

or lowering everyone elses' ratings in order to come out on top, as I've noted before I've experienced nearly whereever such systems have ever been implemented.

"Folks try to be "other" in SL, and can indeed try on new ways of "being," but in the final analysis they are who they are."

Majority of people I know are in SL what they would like to be RL but are prevented through social pressure.
Might be because I know quite a few transgenders and homosexuals in SL, and others who find serious social stigmas around what they would like to be.


Overall, my experience in SL has seen me come into contact with far fewer nasty people than any other online community I've ever experienced.
Not to say they don't exist, but they seem to be a smaller percentage of the total userbase than is the average on the internet.

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