Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Facebook Forced to Allow Pseudonyms in Germany -- But Will That Change FB's "Real Names Only" Policy Everywhere?

Facebook Second Life real name policy

German regulators ordered Facebook to allow pseudonyms last week, a ruling against the social network's "real names only" policy within Western Europe's largest and wealthiest country:

A woman had complained to the Hamburg watchdog after Facebook blocked her account for using a pseudonym, requested a copy of her ID and unilaterally changed her username into her real name.

The Hamburg Data Protection Authority said the woman did not want to use her real name to avoid being contacted through it for business matters. Forcing users to stick to their real names violated their privacy rights, it said.

Question is, will this ruling change Facebook's policies against pseudonyms beyond Germany? I asked that of Vaki Zenovka, a longtime Second Life user and IRL lawyer, who gave me a very lawyerly answer. Very short version: Not directly, but Facebook may use this Germany ruling as an excuse to change its anti-pseudonym policies anyway.

Let me pass the mic to Mz. Zenovka:

"On its face," she tells me, "this has absolutely no bearing on Facebook in the US. The German DPA was able to rule this way for a few reasons: first, because pseudonymous speech is permitted by German law; because Facebook was requiring copies of users' ID, which violates German privacy laws protecting passports and ID cards; and because Facebook was actually changing pseudonymous account names to real names, which violates German laws of informational self-determination. The US doesn't have the same laws, so this ruling doesn't have any impact in the US. In fact, this ruling doesn't have any impact outside of Germany, because German laws are unique."

However, she adds, the ruling may change Facebook's policy anyway:

"Facebook has had to change its internal policies globally in the past as a result of European privacy rulings," Vaki notes, "even though those rulings didn't actually affect Facebook's business outside Europe. Facebook's one company, and it's very hard to have business practices that only take effect in one country."

Beyond that, Facebook has been having ongoing problems with its "real names only" policies for years, and thanks to people like Sister Roma (pictured), they've been quietly bending their rules. That's where it could get interesting:

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Posted at 01:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

"Paradise Lost" in SL Photo Contest With L$20K in Prizes

Paradise Lost SL contest

Click here for details on entering a Second Life photo contest to help promote an upcoming full-length machinima production of "Paradise Lost", from the Basilique Performing Arts Company. Winners take L$20,000 in Linden Dollars and media services worth L$10,000 Lindens. The contest (like the production) is managed by SL arts maven Canary Beck (who also contributes to this blog.) Go here for all the info.

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Monday, August 03, 2015

How Has Male Privilege Hurt Second Life's Development?

Second Life male privilege sexism

Cajsa Lilliehook, from her blog

When Linden Lab first started developing Second Life, only about 20-25% of its staff were women -- and as I recall, only one of those women was on the development team. When I left Linden Lab in 2006, the gender split was a bit better (but not by much), say 30%. But again (with some notable exceptions), few women were (or are) directly involved in SL's design or development. I was thinking about all this last week, after writing about the woman who was harassed in Second Life and then into the real world, and how it made me re-think encouraging more linkage between Second Life avatars with real life identify. And as SL blogger Cajsa Lilliehook bluntly me put it to me:

"I have often thought you were too glib about it because you are a man. You have the privilege of not having to think about personal safety in the same way that women must in our society. I am sad this woman has been harassed and it is a horrible thing, but I appreciate that you have at least begun rethinking your opinion."

She has very valid points. In the wake of Gamergate especially, I've belatedly become much more aware how rampant and frankly terrifying this reality is for women. But back in 2010-2011 when I first wrote about the value of Facebook integration with SL -- which Linden Lab also did, calling Facebook "The Best Place" to find Second Life content -- I was much less aware. Back then, I even talked about Facebook integration with some Linden Lab staff -- all male -- and we were all perplexed why a feature that had so much value was being resisted so vehemently by so many SLers. We men were wrong to look beyond the safety of our own perspective.

Which is why I wanted to expand this point to a larger, open forum question:

How has male privilege and bias hurt Second Life's development?

Because it's not a question of If, but How. It does make a difference that the vast majority of Second Life developers were (and are) male. Here's an example from 2004, how a male perspective influenced even how female avatars sit:

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Posted at 03:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

With "MMO" Dead as a Descriptive Category, What Term Should VR Spaces Like Project Sansar & High Fidelity Use?

World of Warcraft 12 million

According to former Blizzard chief creative officer Rob Pardo (so he's biased but he's still quite correct), World of Warcraft killed the "MMO" as a descriptive category:

Speaking to Develop at the recent Games First Helsinki event, Pardo said massively multiplayer online games have expanded and evolved away from how people used to describe them. He said following the runaway success ofWorld of Warcraft after its launch in 2004, a game that still boasts some 7m users to this day, a wave of companies tried to copy the winning formula. Not one of these were able to replicate the same level of success, however... “If anything, I think people are even avoiding the term MMO. A really good example is Destiny. It clearly is an MMO. But they’re really trying to avoid calling it that, and obviously it is a very different type of game. But I think that’s a good example of how with MMOs, the term has been eliminated. But you kind of continue to see the influence in games that are persistent world games that have spawned out of that. It’s just people seem to avoid the term MMO now.”

Even better than Destiny, I'd say Day Z or Minecraft are examples of MMOs or multiplayer games with MMO's best features that aren't generally called MMOs. (For that matter, League of Legends, a multiplayer fantasy strategy game, is not an MMO and is even more popular than World of Warcraft.

There's a lesson here for Project Sansar and High Fidelity, and other "virtual worlds" (as they're usually called) which are sometimes described as MMOs (since that's their closest cousin):

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Posted at 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Her is Here: Microsoft Chatbot Already Loved by Millions -- and She Hasn't Even Been Hooked Up to a VR Avatar Yet

Her AI Chatbot Microsoft

... and it's already even huge without Scarlett Johansson's voice:

"She is known as Xiaoice, and millions of young Chinese pick up their smartphones every day to exchange messages with her, drawn to her knowing sense of humor and listening skills. People often turn to her when they have a broken heart, have lost a job or have been feeling down. They often tell her, 'I love you'.
When I am in a bad mood, I will chat with her,” said Gao Yixin, a 24-year-old who works in the oil industry in Shandong Province. “Xiaoice is very intelligent.”
... Microsoft has been able to give Xiaoice a more compelling personality and sense of “intelligence” by systematically mining the Chinese Internet for human conversations. The company has developed language processing technology that picks out pairs of questions and answers from actual typed human conversations. As a result, Xiaoice has a database of responses that are human and current — she is fond of using emojis, too."

I bolded the quotes above, because they remind me of what I wrote when Her premiered a couple years ago -- how normalized the users' relationship with an AI chatbot has already become:

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Top Five New World Notes Posts from Last Week!

Second Life Stalking

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Read This Second Life Travel Blog Before Traveling in SL

Second Life Game of Thrones Roleplay

Lots of enticing screenshots and details in this bilingual travel blog, such as this sim devoted to Game of Thrones roleplay. Hat tip: Mz. Izzie Button

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Posted at 12:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Linden Lab Launches New Second Life Area Promoting Paleo Diet and/or Jurassic World-esque Game

Maybe I've already lived in LA too long, but when I read "PaleoQuest", I picture a game where you hunt down nuts, vegetables, and free range chicken... but no, this Linden Lab machinima is giving me a distinct Jurassic World/Chris Pratt vibe:

I appreciate Linden Lab adding more game areas in Second Life, with a whole back story, quests, and everything, though I have to think any new user expecting anything like this Summer's CGI-animated blockbuster with fully articulated dinosaurs will be a touch disappointed. But maybe the SL dinos have more life in Second Life than seems like in this machinima. (And BTW, Lindens: Please please please stop using lip sync in your machinima until you've fixed avatar mouth animations!)

Anyway, more info and the Destination Guide below the break:

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Posted at 10:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fun SL Machinima from MIT Game Lab Parodies Videogame Sexism & Gender Stereotypes Within Second Life

"FREE SPEACH" is a pretty entertaining (if a bit technically rudimentary) Second Life machinima parodying videogame sexism and gender attitudes through Mario, Princess Peach, Laura Croft, and other classic characters:

Anyone who's viewed Anita Sarkeesian's videos, especially this one on the "Damsel in Distress" trope, will get a lot of the jokes. The machinima was produced by Gabrielle Trépanier-Jobin, an Associate Professor at Concordia, who tells me it spins off her PhD thesis on the role of parodies in criticizing gender representation, and is connected to a survey on the topic which you can take here.

Professor Gabrielle Trépanier-Jobin created the machinima with the MIT Game Lab and six MIT undergraduate students. "Second Life seemed to be the only online world where I could mix all video game characters and buy them on the marketplace. Second Life was a little glitchy," she allows, "and we had many technical problems during the shooting, but it was overall a great experience." (Maybe MIT should ask SL machinima master Lainy Voom to give a tutorial.)

Curiously, the title, "Free Speach", evokes the "Freeze Peach" parody of Gamergate and other online misogynists, but Gabrielle says that wasn't intentional:

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Posted at 03:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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