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Wednesday, May 21, 2008


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Nyoko Salome

i vote for 'size of the world', mostly - although i love all my friends, lol i must honestly say that i am only really 'friends' with a couple handfuls of them, off of a sizable list. :\ 'casual friendship' anymore is not something i do much of anymore...

also since it offers (even without map privs by default) a rudementary means of tracking someone's online status, for some of us that are targets of thieves and miscreants, the 'friendliness' of eager new people can be, sadly, often suspect... :\

one may be an honest person making an honest offer, but over time i've discovered that this is just not simply always the case. :\ someone has to have some sort of longevity in 'hanging out' now before i think to offer friendship.

Lem Skall

Hamlet, you are on my friendslist and you're there because you made the offer. Now I find out that the offer had very little value because you're making it so freely.

Maybe the habits in early days were a mistake and it took time for the SL society to learn and to form its social rules. The stronger meme was eventually selected over the weaker one. Or by another analogy, society (just like an individual) needed time to learn the tools given to it.

BTW, we haven't run into each other in awhile, do you remember who I am? ;-)


Hello. I loved your book, by the way!

This is my first time commenting on your blog, although I read regularly.

I am genuinely sorry to admit that I agree with Nyoko Salome on drawing the connection between "friends" and security.

As a relatively "new" participant in SL--I will celebrate one year in June--I am still trying to decide how to handle the "friends" list. Upon arrival, I happily accepted every offer that was made, and people were quick and generous to make them! But a long campaign of stalking, harassing and jihad-themed attacks followed—a dynamic which also found its way into my real life.

In an effort to make myself "invisible," I deleted all friends and groups multiple times--even clearing the list of some I now know are credible and well-established personalities whom I would have undoubtedly enjoyed engaging with (I think I actually deleted you once, Hamlet!)

But clearing the lists proved only partially useful. These are not the only ways to keep tabs on who is about. I have since learned there are also huds one can buy which not only track an avatar online, but also allow one to chat into whatever space another avatar is standing in, even if you are on another continent! And, you can make that chat appear to be coming from any user name. This is a stalk/impersonation tool extraordinaire, it seems .

These "formative" SL experiences almost completely ruined my first six months in SL and definitely have left a legacy that informs all my engagements in-world still today. Until very recently, I spent most of my time trying to figure out how NOT to run into anyone! [laughs]. I am completing my first machinima now which deals with the fact that in a social media space, I have been compelled to actively seek out isolation! [laughs sardonically] I am surprised I stuck it out at all.

Security was and remains the arbitrating factor. With the increased population, the quality of the environment has also changed, and as word gets around of these problems, people become more cautious—and more closed. There is a fine line to balance between an idealistic and optimistic activism which wants SL to serve as a model for a more progressive social future, and a cold rationalist acceptance of the problems that are increasingly present.

As I will say in my film, the tool is only as good as the people using it. I will try, on principle, to maintain as large a friend list as possible, but I am not promising success.

I am so sorry that I missed those first years when the world must have been genuinely magical and camaraderie playfully and safely accessible. And you are so profoundly fortunate to have been in SL in those early days.

Ravishal Bentham

Like Lem I am left wondering too. You befriended me during the taping of the "Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe". Did you look at my profile and decide I'd be somebody you'd be interested for a future article either as a subject or a source? Just curious.

To me at least, everyone on my friends list must have a meaning to me or I mean something to them. Otherwise they become so much clutter.

Peter Stindberg

I rarely offer or accept friendship on the first meeting. With having staff and clients on my friend's list, it's mainly an organisational issue. Would LL finally give us folders for the contact list, then I'd be easier with accepting or offering friendship.

Vidal Tripsa

My personal experience is that easy friendship offers only lead to headaches, I'm afraid. I started off accepting any friendship, as I not only felt honoured by the gesture (still do, most of the time), but knew I would have the time to keep in touch with such people.

Fat chance these days. I have to clear my friends list out every few months or so from people I just haven't spoken to in so long, but whose 'sign in' popups persist on distracting me while I work. There's also a bit of an interpersonal arrogance that I project onto friendship offers. Never mind 'blind adds', as they speak for themselves, but offering what is essentially a telephone number for contacting a person, as well as an intimate flag with which two people can observe each other's lives (via the 'online/offline' notes) when you've only just gotten past "hi"?

Perhaps it's all practicalities that keep me from accepting every friendship offer, but perhaps it's partly in a name. My friends are my friends. I keep those who are most important to me on that friends list, and those who I would care about signing in and out; they're not mere contacts. I have calling cards and the in-world search directory for that!

Nyoko Salome

yah - what they said :) plus offering friendship automatically offers a calling card between parties. while rescending friendship removes one from both party's lists, it does not remove the calling card from both inventories (which offers another route of online tracking).

the lindens should remove calling cards as tracking online status, at least - not only for that security reasons, but also it is a large unwarranted hit on the servers to keep track of that online status. since it's inventory, i presume (and would understand) that they would not want to automate any removal of calling cards upon friend cancellation.

'stalking' devices of course can track online status just as easily if they obtain the user's avatar key (possibly too easily done via 'name2key' services out there), but there's no point in making a thief's life any easier.

:) i agree and so wish that 'online utopia' was achievable, but sadly, it isn't - always the 'rotten apple' ruining the barrel, y'know. i recently read a quote of someone i can't remember who, something along the lines of 'if anarchists were right and life without government was actually achievable, wouldn't have been done by now??'

it's true - and molotov's docu-drama even covered this around ep.8 and 9 - there -is- no such thing as 'positive anarchy/nihilsm'; -every- system is a -system-, even one touting its own 'systemless' lack of rules/behavior. there's always gain/loss of some kind. oh well, besides i guess a 'tepid' state of existence would be awfully boring lol. ;) i'll wait till i die for that... or offloading to 'deadhead' awhile;) (yah i'm just now reading cory's 'down and out in disneyworld' book... :)

Laetizia Coronet

Ah, so it was you this morning in Waterhead, showing up on my Mystitool radar as 'within chat range'. And yet you didn't speak to your friend Laetizia, but tried to hook up with that burning dude.

Oh well, I did not speak to you either, so away goes my chance to chew you out...

The Friends list is an interesting subject. I generally don't like immediate friendship offers. I do like to talk to someone before I befriend them. As a Mentor I sometimes explained that to newbies, or sometimes I would tell them that on the job I get too many of these offers, which is not a lie. But sometimes I would accept, not wanting to be the rude one, especially as a Mentor. And that's where the 'fun' started.
I could hardly build, or calm down a tense situation, or talk to other friends, or help people, because of the friends buzzing me for help with all kinds of subjects. In English, in French, in German, in Dutch. I couldn't keep up, switching conversations and languages so fast. And now that I am apparently no longer a Mentor I decided to clean out the Friends list and to never accept new friendships just like that. Rude? Maybe. But I do have a life (two, even) and it's not just about helping others.

Simondo Nebestanka

I may be a little off in the detail but I reckon this ties in closely with the augmentation/immersion theory.

Many of us (me included) become immersed early on, use all the tools available, part of which means 'friending' pretty much everyone you meet, thinking nothing of it.

At some point, you step back, realise how the system works, perhaps losing some sight of the magic involved, perhaps becoming a little cynical here and there, and take a step into the other, augmentation, side of the universe. You start to wonder if that's a genuine newbie or maybe an alt you've just met, after experiencing an internet histrionics episode or two.

It's not difficult to retain the sense of wonder in what people are able to create together in SL, and forge some truly long-lasting friendships with someone you'll probably never meet in the flesh, but a little hard to not over-analyse or over-critique some new avatar along the lines of 'do I really want this one as a friend?', instead of 'hi u r cool, let's be friends!'

On the other hand, maybe a noticeable sea change took place when we gained the ability to mask our online status? As illogical as this sounds, it actually seems logical to me that being able to hide online status could actually reduce the desire to add a new friend. What's the point adding someone if you're just going to hide from them? etc.

Cheers, good article and comments on this.

Valerie Bethune

I had my third Rez Day recently, and from the beginning, I've chatted for a while with people before asking for their friendship or accepting their offer. I'm indeed one of those people who refuses offers from people who just fire them off immediately, though I've made exceptions for newbs who are getting a feel for the system and need support at that time. (That might have been the prevailing attitude back in tha day.)

In all social media, I think there are two schools of thought on the friend thing: those who just accumulate friends almost for the sake of accumulating them to stay open to any connection, and those who take friend status a bit more literally.

Therefore, I'm not sure if changes on this behaviour can be measured in 2ndL history, except for the fact that resident population has grown tremendously and it's difficult enough to keep track of all one's friends even keeping to my attitude of adding them.

Interesting issue to bring up.

Dedric Mauriac

Accepting friend requests or even business cards contributes to viewer lag as each time someone comes online/offline, the whole of your inventory is searched and the card is updated with their new status.

CyFishy Traveler

And here I thought your friendship offer meant something, Hamlet. ;)

I did a lot of friending when I first incarnated into SL, principally of other Duranies who had rushed in during August 2006, but over time I started to prune my list down to people I actually have interacted with more than once. (I count blog posting as interaction, thus I accepted your offer.)

It's a bit like handing your phone number out. There's nothing stopping people from looking you up in the phone book, but when you give your number to someone you are implicitly giving permission for that person to call you. Friending someone has the same sense of permission, so over time you get choosier about who has that privilege.

Ann Otoole

New residents are not tainted with the psuedo social problems yet and thus offer friendship.

People offer friendship to tp because they don't know about the admin menu option.

I think people attach too much drama to the entire thing. Sure it is annoying when someone starts begging for money, etc. But the solution is simple and requires little effort or time.

I was sitting in my car in Bay City yesterday and a fairly new resi offered friendship. Why decline? there was no rudeness or anything bad.

Let go of drama and life improves.

En Aeon

Protocols for qualifying potential friends are currently unstated. Instant friends might be gratifying for a noob, but oldsters have long-established social cliques. The vetting process for new friends is informal but important. The offer of friendship is abused for this process - manifesting in instant-friending, and subsequent de-friending.

I always thought that calling cards were a vestigial part of SL that should be rehabilitated. Somewhere between strangers and friends we have acquaintances. Offering a calling card would seem to be a good way to stay in touch during the vetting period of becoming acquainted, yet avoid the online status tracking features of friendship.

Aren't there any formal Victorian social protocols for calling cards that can be resurrected by steampunks and piloted for the rest of SL?

Hamlet Au

Lem, Ravishal, CyFishy-- I only Offer Friendship with Residents I'm interested in knowing for a variety of reasons, and writing stories for NWN and other places is only part of that. As I remember, Lem and CyF, it was specifically because I'd blogged a post you two did that I liked, and Rav, because we were working together on Paisley's show.

Gahum Riptide

I tend to treat SL like I do Myspace, or Livejournal. On those two sites, I add only people I know well in real life, or that I've been able to interact with who know friends of mine. In SL that's difficult since I'm the only one who hasn't given up at Orientation Island, but I only made about 4 friends when I first rezzed in 2006, and haven't met anyone yet that I speak with enough to want to friend them (and I pruned the list down to one person).

I admit I'm not entirely social in SL, but even if I were I'd still have a high bar to make the cut for friends, and that means getting to know someone. I've met people who seemed a little too eager for friendship who came across as shady.

People that I've had good conversations with I'd call acquaintances, such as the lovely group I hung out with over at Botgirl's place in Extropia. If I were to get to know them better, then the possibility of inviting them to be friends would open up, but that means more than just passing "hey, how are you" type small talk.

dandellion Kimban

I'll speak from my own experience. I never accept friendships if I haven't talked to a person. Befriending someone over the room just because you liked the avie sounds rude. But even if we talked before... there is so much things that should be considered....
After a couple of months one can get f/list really big. And then there is a blue window popping out every time somebody from that list islogging in or out. That can be annoying. Then, it is hard to manage long list of names. Thanks to lindens, we still don't have folders or any other mean to sort those names. And lot of those are just dead contacts. In that case having a contact card in the inventory is much more useful. While ago we were talking about deleting people from the friend list. Yes, it sounds rude and like a thing one wouldn't do, but so many of us are doing that. Like bimonthly cleaning.

I know times were different back in the old days. But there were not so many people in SL and the feel of SL was different. It is not the same when you have a grop (no matter how big) of early technology enhusiasts and now when world is open for so many different people and games.


I only friend people who I think would donate a major organ to me if needed.


I view the Friend's List as a contact list. It's not rocket science, not a declaration of any kind, just a lot of interesting people.

Opensource Obscure

I agree with Peter Stindberg here - SL relationship management tools are too simple.

See also this article by Tateru Nino for some details about lag induced by huge Friendlists and Calling Cards folders.

I recently cleared my Friendlist - I wrote a notecard explaining why and I sent it to my contacts before doing it - some of them replied that they were going to do the same thing...right now, I keep in my Friendlist only 20-30 contacts that I really need. Friends know how to get in touch with me and I don't really need them in my Friendlist.

Stone Semyorka

I've been in 18 months and I agree that friendship offering was less concerning back then. I still think it's rude to not accept an offer, unless it's from a person griefing me. I don't make the offer first as much anymore. When I do, I ask, "May I offer you friendship?" I think we've all matured in that way. But I do accept most offers. If the person isn't someone I think I ever would have reason to relate to again, I just remove the name from the list shortly after the conversation ends. Ann Otoole's thought was right on target. Have fun. Cut the drama. Peter Stindberg's request for folders in the friends list is a good idea and I can see that would be helpful. But I must say that, even more importantly, the need for a longer group list is becoming a desperate situation. I wish that cause would gain some momentum.

Elysia Snook

While I used to try to be polite and accepted most friendship offers early-on, I'm much more reserved about it now for a few reasons. The biggest one is the multitude of folks out there who offer friendship after a 20-second conversation, and soon after begin an IM blitz of asking for sex/money.

The second (and maybe this is just my own bad luck, not a reflection on the SL population at large) are people who, like the first example, offer friendship after the briefest of exchanges, then become extremely clingy and annoying-- sending IMs as soon as I rez like "hi. can u TP me to you?", and taking offense when I tell them I'm occupied with something else, and subsequently don't completely carry the conversation which invariably comes right back around to "TP me?' every five minutes.

Then there are those who not only friend me while barely knowing me in-world, but then proceed to pester me incessantly for RL information. This is a big no-no with me, as I've had to deal with creeps online trying to track me down offline in the past-- a very unpleasant situation to say the least.

As I said earlier, I don't neccesarily see this as a reflection of the entire SL population. Heck, nothing makes me happier than meeting someone interesting and intelligent with whom I really click and would love to insta-friend without question. But unfortunately, I've run into enough of the above-mentioned types to make me very reluctant to friend someone or accept friendship without knowing them as an acquaintance for a while.

...Though if we happen to run into one another somewhere, please don't hesitate to toss me a calling card, Hamlet. ^_^

Negko deVinna

Wow, this is so great to read so many interesting comments and see how we more or less share the same view on that topic.

I think Peter Stindberg made a good point.
Friendslist, contact cards,.... why having two different ways to manage that?
/me adds a new task for Linden...
Design a new UI to manage contacts. It could be folders, it could be an adress book with priveleges you grant to people?
My friendslist has business contacts, cultural contacts, RP contacts, sailing contacts, TRUE FRIENDS (yes I have some!),.....
Thanks to one single UI, we could manage our contatcs and move them from one step to another, till the ultimate 'friend' (or insatiable horny lover, your choice) status!

Maryna Wind

I do clean my friendship list, at the moment there are only people I need to make business with, the same with groups. If I need someone to reach, there is a search for it. In real life when I buy a new mobile phone, I also do clean my contact list. There is nothing wrong or rude with it. In SL this process speeds up, but principles are the same. We are surrounded by terrabytes of information, you have to choose.

Elysia Snook

Oh, I'd also like to note that for those of you who're annoyed by the blue online-indicator popup boxes, those can be turned off in your Preferences.

Aplonis Ember


I came here from another VR world called the Utherverse (to which I now return only very rarely). The drama in that other world was stupendous (SL residents complain of it too, but I see none by comparison). And in that other world it was friends and ex-friends who made up almost all of the drama.

There I had two avatars. One started out completely unlike my RL self because that is what I was wanting to escape at the time. It was not the escape I had imagined. Instead I (or my alt, rather) won a few real and friends of high value...some of whom hardly knew me as I really am. I hated lying to them about who I was and felt the need to be genuine. Also, in a very few weeks that alt character grew to be more and more like me because I am a very poor actor. The truer friends saw though my guise quickly and accepted me as I am despite all. Those were few. Yet the friends-list itself had by then grown to near the 200 level. It made for no small awkwardness. It was a lesson I am keen to remember.

Came the point when I felt it very important to make a new avatar, one where my on-line self could be more like the RL me. Using two PCs I had the alt me introduce the real me around. The real-me friends list never got more than a couple dozen. But those two dozen, not all of whom were on the first list, meant so much more.

So here in SL my avatar may not look so much like me (if only because my artistry does not yet suffice), the character within, however, is not acting out any kind of role at all. I am only being myself. Thus I have not offered friendship to everyone I meet. When I've chatted with them a few times, or for a goodly period on the first time, if they feel like a friend, then I offer. Just like real life. It just feels more genuine that way.

Your offer I accepted on the first few lines of chat. I'd already read your book and felt I knew something of the person you are...even if that was partly illusory. I was keen to know you some better and maybe exchange ideas. So I accepted on that instant. Had I not any such clue, I likely would have been a bit more hesitant.

On the practical side, I don't want those blue bubbles popping up for people I met months ago in a sim I don't any longer remember. On the more personal side, what do you do on the street in RL when a total stranger comes up to you, barely even says "Hello." before they have asked "Be my friend?".

If you are investing a lot of your RL self into your avatar, a social situation like that can be a bit awkward. I think that is the effect you might be seeing. A lot of people are flooding into SL from other VR's where the easy-friendship thing has not worked out. They are being understandably careful.

Ravishal Bentham

Well for whatever reason It is kind of neat having THE Hamlet Au on my friends list. I liken SL to a large town or small city where it is still relatively easy to meet a lot of people and network. From the FIC to the celebrities to the oddballs and the common, unassuming folk I have them all on my list. If you get off your duff and participate you'll make a lot of interesting and diverse friends.
Diversity in friends is also a good survival tactic. If you community becomes immersed in drama you can escape somewhat and find peace with your friends who are not involved. (Just do them a favor and don't drag them in).

Domchi Underwood

I was friends with total of 7 people, three of which are on my friends list right now. I tend to take friendships seriously, both in SL and RL.

I don't think I'm capable of having more than five friends in total in all worlds - friendship is something that takes both time and intimacy.

That said, I consider my SL friends list something between my RL friends (very very few) and my IM contact list (those very few RL friends and a lot of work contacts).

I tend to refuse all friendship offers without prior contact - I consider talking to someone an essential part of being friends.

Also, I value my privacy and my concentration is a highly valued and limited asset. Nobody has my non-work means of contact - RL or SL - if I don't like them enough to want to be available to them at any time, and trust them they won't abuse it.

So for me, friends list is definitely not equal to "contact list" - calling cards are.

KittyChile Destiny

I must say, I'm a little bewildered by the number of friendship offers I get from people i've only met once, or sometimes not at all ... most of which I accept until further notice (being the kind person I am, I take the 'friend until you abuse me' stance).

Maybe it's a female thing, though? Just throwing that in for what it's worth, I really have no idea if that suggestion carries any weight ;)

Incidentally, I think the human inferno should be grateful you didn't duck and cover when he passed you by LOL

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