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Thursday, December 18, 2008

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Ciaran Laval

This article reads as if there was once a time when bots weren't counted in the statistics, has that ever been the case?

Anya Ristow has been running a controversial project about the impact of bots and their impact on the social side of Second life at:

http://greendots.typepad.com/green_dots/

Bots are uniquely created avatars, they each have their own name. I recently found a sim with seventy six avatars on it including me when I arrived and a traffic count of 110,033. That's what bots can do for a business and that figure gets you way up the search rankings.

Store models, hidden in a skybox or camping bots, which are possibly the worst of the lot, are commonplace across the grid.

Personally I'd prefer to know how many people have signed up than how many bots are around and I'm all for bots being marked as such. Jack did mention that a policy regarding traffic bots may be forthcoming, I'm not sure that will ever happen because that calls into questions Linden Lab's own oft cited user statistics.

Patou Dumont

I was going to cite Anya greendots site, but I see Ciaran already did that. I believe there's much more than 10% bots in the grid. Actually I'm close to believing Anya's percentage, as in my own experience travelling around SL I have encoutered far more bots than people. I just wonder what the real number would do to LL statistics...

Crap Mariner

Until proven otherwise, I will assume that 99% of all activity on the grid is bot-related.

As for the other 1%, they're griefers.

Tateru Nino

Fact is, there simply isn't a way to tell the bots from the non-bots, unless the bots choose to self-report.

Considering most of the calls for bots to self-report involves some measure like "... so the bots can pay extra!" there doesn't seem to be a lot of incentive for bot owners to actually do so.

At the moment it's like saying, "Well, 30,000 people attended the Expo." -- how many of them were press? Unless they asked for a press-pass or identified themselves in some other way... how do you know except by following each one around and observing? And even then, you might be wrong.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Mmmh. What is missing from this article is explaining how it's technically impossible to "count bots" accurately, since for all purposes (ie. from the grid's point of view) they're just normal avatars that have logged in to Second Life... there is nothing "magic" that will tell the system that there is a human behind the computer typing at a keyboard, or just an application doing exactly the same.

On one of my recent articles I tried (clumsily) to explain a technical process where bots could effectively be tagged as such and even banned from parcels, but the *current* state-of-the-art technology by LL will not allow that to happen, and very likely, from the reactions I got, it's pretty clear that such an action — certifying the applications that log in to LL's SL grid — runs contrary to the spirit of developers who are eager to explore alternative viewers.

I mean, just take a look at the Web. How many hits on a webpage come from humans, and how many from 'bots? And is a RSS reader a "human visitor" or just another "virtual agent" grabbing information that might never happen to be seen by a human at all?

Robin's answer is the only possible one under the circumstances. Website system administrators couldn't care less who are human visitors, and who are automated applications hitting webpages: both have *exactly* the same impact on a webserver in terms of resource consumption, and when planning on the kind of hardware needed to support your website, you'll have to take into account that a substantial amount of the traffic you'll get will come from automated devices, not human readers (on my own blog, it's from 30-60% of all traffic). Here is a very funny article from a major hosting service making a joke about that: http://blog.dreamhost.com/2007/08/10/the-internet-is-not-for-people/

Similarly, from LL's point of view, 'bots consume *exactly the same amount of resources* as human avatars. They have to plan their infrastructure to deal both with 'bots and humans, since it's technically impossible to separate both. There is a widespread urban legend that for some reason LL "could" ban 'bots (so many JIRA feature requests ask for that) if they wished. The truth is, the *current* technology cannot differentiate between both types. So LL has to plan for an infrastructure dealing with both. Some bots are harmless; some are very useful; some are used for greedy purposes.

Just like automated emailing on the Internet. A lot of it is spam. Some is, however, quite useful: keeping track of forum threads or profiles that change, getting newsfeeds, reading newsletters... Second Life is not different from all that. You can't "ban" spammers, either, not with the current world-wide email service based on SMTP.

You can, however, based on pattern recognition of behaviours, figure out what is spam and what is a legitimate email, with a reasonable amount of confidence. The same could be used for SL 'bots, of course, although at this stage it would be very hard to do.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Ah, Tats, sorry, you were typing your comment at the same time as me :) I apologise for the apparent duplication — we just happened to be reading Hammie at the same time :)

What an amazing coincidence, unless we are both 'bots spamming New World Notes ;)

Tateru Nino

*beep*

Adz Childs

!quit

Eponymous Trenchmouth

One gets the impression that Robin would be quite happy to see an even higher percentage of bots on the grid ("bots can both contribute to the in-world experience". More bots = better experience.) Plus they're so predictable and they never, ever, complain.

Tabliopa Underwood

Is an article over at Dusans Writers blog (dont know if Im allowed to say this here so I apologise if Im not) that points to the study

"Is There Life in Second Life?" by Matteo Varvello, Fabio Picconi, Christophe Diot, Ernst Biersack.

http://www.eurecom.fr/~varvello/pdf/964829156.pdf

Is fascinating stuff for people into metrics.

The paper also shares their experience with running bots in SecondLife and the difficulties they had bypassing the Linden Lab bot monitoring systems.

The paper estimates 5% bots at the time of the study (April 2008). I think this is because the paper they have submitted, is subject to peer review so they just reporting what they observed.

On another matter, I think that while Linden Lab continue to include bots in the reported totals then it would be better to change the labelling from Residents Online to Agents Online. Is more accurate I think as bots arent Residents as has been pointed out by you Hamlet.

Hiri

This traffic == search ranking equation always sees like something of a myth to me as traffic has virtually no effect on search ranking when the default 'All' search is used. I've asked a few people and my very unscientific straw poll indicates that very few people use the old place search anymore - and I'd have hypothesised that this is even more true of newbies which would be the primary target for this kind of manipulation.

I own a pretty large store and I have used bots on occassion - I've run a couple a models which does seem a legitimate use to me. Conversly I rent mall space, and I never rent anywhere that uses bots or campers - when I'm evaluating a possible shop traffic and bots are two of the first things checked for. The absolute no-no is a platform at 700+ metres with 30 bots on.

It seems to me were all flailing around in the dark here. I seriouly doubt anyone using bots really does see an increase in real traffic, but people who are concerned over the 'old' search continue to use them because they dare not experiment no running them for fear of loosing an apparent advantage.

The Lindons could close this whole issue down tomorrow simply be removing the old search - no need to detect bots, just remove the motivation to run them.

Stress Blister

Legitimate business practice?

After reading this, I thought I'd have a go at 'bot spotting'. I chose a region close to where I was. It listed 70+ agents. I get there, and not a living soul apart from me, but my mini map and radar were telling me there were more than sixteen people around me within scanning range. I had a better look around, and this establishment was using bot models to display their skins and shapes. There is a an actual stand that is part of the vendor with a model standing there displaying the skin or shape! But there was another corner of the region that had even more green dots. It was outside the structure I was in. It turns out the structure is "airtight" and there was no way to get out of it, like flying out or walking out. I really wanted to see this for myself, and with the help of a tool/gizmo/gadget, managed to "break free" of this building. and flew up a few hundred meters, so I could cam up to the platform that was sitting at about 750 meters. (I had to max out draw distance)

After camming up there, yes, there could easily have been over 50 avatars standing along the walls of this small skybox, tucked away in the corner of the region. I was only there for a few minutes, and looks like the owners do not appreciate me snooping around and was promplty ejected with only a fifteen second warning.

All the avatars had tags with the word MODEL. Traffic for the region is over 107,000 (hundred and seven thousand plus).

This establishment was on a lone region, and obviously not willing to tolerate sticky beaks like me, I'm now banned there :-)

I have to say, while I was there still inside the building, one customer did drop in and was shopping there that I saw.

The sooner LL gets rid of the Traffic metric the better.

bah whatever

Why should bots ever be a bad thing?
Bots should be a feature!
We need MORE and EASIER ways of doing bots!
We want to make NPCs, a cyberpunk adventure game, an RPG game, or whatever.

In general, object animation/interactivity is very poor in Second Life, and it is an area that seems like a fairly obvious target for improvement.

There is no hierarchical linking, and no other easy way to animate objects in a realistic fashion, like commercial games do with meshes.
This alone ENORMOUSLY detracts from the set of possible SL experiences and their aggregate value, and is a key barrier that needs to be taken down to make SL more of a platform than a chat room.

An easy way of improving object animation is to officially support bots and have directly scriptable "avatar" types of objects.

Whereas SL now assumes that an avatar is a human being with "rights", serious content developers expect to be able to easily use humanoid objects and force them to do their bidding.

Fostering advanced content development and making SL into a proper platform should be Linden Lab's top and only priority. There is no point in fiddling with the interface and promoting SL and bringing people into it if they _have_nothing_to_do_!

It's like giving a tiny blood transfusion to someone with a ruptured aorta! If you have someone who is leaking their guts out, you should, perhaps, contain the bleeding?

Or does anyone seriously think that the vast majority of people will ever pay for a glorified chatroom? Is that something that obviously captures most people's attention? Has chatting with other people ever been a significant pastime, since the dawn of radio and television?

Second Life should be the easiest and most powerful content development platform on Earth. If you do that, then you will capture serious investment from the big media people who have always been able to entertain the masses.

Once you can do anything with SL that's actually useful and entertaining to the normal, non avant-garde, non-chatty, uncreative, "WoW" or "TV" type of people, then there will be three hundred games better than WoW in SL and it will take over the internet as the default place to be for high quality commercial entertainment experiences... the METAVERSE! :)

Beyers Sellers

While the total number of resource-sucking avatars (bot or human) is relevant to Linden Lab,I don't see why users would care. (I don't disagree with Stress: bots can be a form of interactive content. But so can a scripted object. And how many of you have met a bot like that was fun to interact with?)

I understand that Linden Lab, when reporting their 'positive monthly linden flow' numbers, actually computes the number of unique human users, not those with bots. That's a concurrency number I'd like to see.

Richard Meiklejohn

Now is a good time to remind folk of the great work being done by Garth Goode of SLWTF in exposing and ridiculing the bot farmers.

Great stuff :-)

Uccello Poultry

How many bots are owned and operated by Linden Labs themselves. The avatar Performance Tester (and it's siblings) is a Linden bot. I've counted five of those. If a large population is a measure of success ... :::trails off thoughtfully:::

Many bots i've dealt with were created by people researching artificial intelligence. This sounds useful and productive for the creator regardless of it's value to the in-world community. In any society there are those that take advantage of community resources for themselves or for another while contributing little to the whole.

Much of the hue and cry about bots assumes that there is no value in these creations. Clearly some have more utility than others, say the product demonstration bot versus the camping bot, but at some point a definition of value must be created and applied before complaints can continue.

Nuschi Martynov

LL cannot say who is a bot and who's not.

I can!

And I tell you: Forget about the 10%! It's 20 - 25%!

MAKE BOTSPOTTING YOUR HOBBY, do a cruise, following a straight line through the grid and you can see for yourselves.

(German Speakers can see more on my blog)

Greetings from the bus, Nuschi

Ann Otoole

All Linden Lab has to do to remove this well known unethical portion of their reputation is to disconnect traffic from search ranking. Most company CEOs would not want the reputation of their company stained by such blatant misrepresentations negatively affecting a major service offering. It is very unethical business practice to condone and promote deceptive metrics in an economy.

As for useful bots.. Yes there is a need for legitimate NPC units in SL. I am hopeful the platform will support such devices in a couple of years. At the moment I don't see it being possible because of the latency with interacting outside of SL to monitor, control, and update NPC unit health and activities.

Anonymus-Not

i usually dont agree with anyone, but this:

"There is no point in fiddling with the interface and promoting SL and bringing people into it if they _have_nothing_to_do_! "

should be printed with XXXXL fonts on every so-called content creators' and esp. every Linden Lab employee's desk or their forehead so they can see the most important thing of all.

* how can you EVER create an atmosphere when you can't force the fancy windlight settings on your region's visitors?

* how can you play _any kind_ of rp when you can see everyone on the radar?

* the same goes for being able to actually GRAB the physical objects of anyone. its utter nonsense. like some guys are racing and you have NO WAY of telling who grabbed someone's car.

+ there are multitude ways of improving the whole thing sometimes i feel i should start my own blog, but i get more readers here. gaa.

Hamlet Au

Start your blog, Mr. Not, give me the RSS feed, and I'll link to it when I can.

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