Category Archives: Community

The quality that Second Life is most about.

Another Good One Departs

sumar-morgan(Image courtesy of Velveeta Biedermann)

Three years ago, a newbie to Second Life managed to buck up his courage enough to venture forth into The Shelter in Isabel sim, then, as now, one of the premier newbie-friendly locations in Second Life.  One of the people who welcomed him and helped him feel right at home was one of the Shelter’s longtime volunteers, and one of the unofficial “moms” of the Shelter: Sumar Morgan.

Now, that newbie-that-once-was has learned, via Tateru Nino, that Sumar Morgan lost her battle with cancer a couple of weeks ago.  And I am saddened.

I doubt I could say anything about Sumar that hasn’t been said already, by those far more eloquent than Yours Truly.  From my perspective, when she and I found each other in the same room, she’d always greet me warmly, helping me feel included in the sometimes large and intimidating crowd of The Shelter.  I’ve spoken before of the role of certain people’s writings (Tateru’s among them) in getting me into Second Life; Sumar’s role, among others, was no less critical in keeping me there through my awkward “noob” phase, until I found my place in the greater Grid.

In any event, I intend to stop by The Shelter soon and drop a nice chunk of Lindens in their donation box; I think Sumar would appreciate that.  As long as The Shelter remains, fulfilling its role in helping newbies, Sumar will never truly be gone from Second Life.  And I trust that, even now, she’s doing her best to assist newbies entering their Third Life.

“Nobody dies…they just leave here.” – Roland Kirk

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The Liberals And The Linden Prize

Back in my oft-cited “Disneyfication” post, one of the things I expressed concern about was a potential bias towards advancement of “liberal” social causes in the criteria for the Linden Prize.  Well, now that Linden Lab has actually released the Linden Prize finalist list, it behooves me to go back and dig deeper into the actual nominees, and see just how much liberal bias there actually is.  After all, theorization should be no match for diving in and finding out, right?  So let’s have a look…

Alliance Virtual Library – The Info Island project is run by the Alliance Library System, which is mainly based in Illinois.  The facts that, first, it comes from a well-known liberal hotbed (the home state of President Obama, among other things), and, second, that it deals closely with local governmental agencies that are often liberal, are about the only things I can find here.  Certainly they support a wide range of environments, only some of which could be said to be “liberal.”  Assessment: Some liberal bias, but it’s not great.

American Cancer Society – This is the well-known Relay For Life that has been happening in SL for a few years now.  My gut instinct is to say, “Cancer affects everybody, so how can this be a liberal cause?”  It’s also a cause I have supported and continue to support in SL.  BUT!  This op-ed in the Wall Street Journal reports:

Last week the American Cancer Society announced it will no longer run ads about the dangers of smoking and other cancer-causing behaviors and the benefits of regular screenings. Instead, the Society will devote this year’s entire advertising budget to a campaign for universal health coverage. John Seffrin, the Society’s chief executive, said, “[I]f we don’t fix the health-care system . . . lack of access will be a bigger cancer killer than tobacco.”

Sadly, these ads will waste money that should be used to continue the Society’s educational campaign about prevention and detection. The evidence shows that universal health coverage does not improve survival rates for cancer patients.

“Universal health care,” a.k.a. “socialized medicine.”  Ask my ex-wife, currently struggling with the Finnish health care system, exactly how much that helps.  I hope ACS gets off that high horse and gets back to their core message soon.  Assessment: No real liberal bias, but watch that whole “socialized medicine” thing carefully.

Invisible Threads – The folks at “Double Happiness Jeans” describe it as a “virtual sweatshop.” Uh-oh, is that a liberal codeword I hear?  False alarm, though, as they describe their process, which allows SL-based employees to “manufacture” jeans from the comfort of their own homes, is kind of the antithesis of a “sweatshop” environment, and described by them as “the future of capitalist production.”  True, they did have an attack from a group calling itself “Virtual Anarchy,” attempting to “unionize” the virtual workforce, but I’m hard-pressed to say, from the record, whether that was an actual griefer attack or just a publicity stunt.  Assessment: No real liberal bias.

Let There Be Night – This project is also linked with something called “Dark Skies Awareness.”  The concerns raised here seem to be partly based on environmental factors, and partly on the needs of scientists, specifically astronomers.  I know something about the latter; my father, prior to his retirement, was a city manager in San Diego County, California, and as such was approached by astronomers at the Palomar Mountain Observatory with regard to changing street lighting to keep from spoiling their observations.  The city did start employing low-pressure sodium lighting, which is more easily filtered than other types of street lighting.  (As a side bonus, I got some nifty memorabilia out of it, like a copy of the earliest photo of Halley’s Comet as it approached the Sun in 1986.)  The site does make some troubling references, however, to things such as the widely-publicized envirowacko “Earth Hour” event.  Assessment: Some liberal bias, but doesn’t detract from the astronomical message…at least until we are able to move all astronomy to Earth orbit, or to the Moon.

Nonprofit Commons – This project is a host for many non-profit agencies’ SL presences, and, of course, some of those nonprofits are going to be lefty in nature.  A few examples: WMNF, a radio station that “advocates for peace, social and environmental justice” (liberal codewords!); the Drug Policy Alliance Network, which is pro-legalization; and the Sierra Club, which is well-known as being highly liberal.  However, there are some pretty good counter-examples listed among their membership as well, such as the Center for Civic Education, which promotes American political knowledge (and, let me tell you, some libbies are in desperate need of same!), and the Faith Foundation, a faith-based charity for children.  Assessment: A mixed bag, which is pretty much what you’d expect.

Skoolaborate – This particular project is sponsored by existing schools, and liberal bias in primary and secondary education has been well-established at this point.  See, for instance, this article from the Christian Science Monitor.  The site is heavily larded with liberal codewords such as “diversity,” “international citizenship,” “issues of global significance,” “underprivileged groups,” and “inter-cultural understanding.”  Furthermore, the actual “units of work” which are taught by Skoolaborate members are not open for inspection by the general public, including the parents of the children undergoing such instruction; to me, this strongly suggests a “hidden agenda.”  Assessment: Clear liberal bias.

Studio Wikitecture: Open Architecture Challenge – Sponsored by the Open Architecture Network, and “dedicated to improving living conditions through innovative and sustainable design.”  While the liberal codewords in that statement and the references to the UN Millennium Development Goals are troublesome, they also have a fair number of business sponsors…and, as I was telling Selenalore last night, I see no reason to condemn so-called “green building initiatives” out of hand, as long as there’s no harm in it.  Assessment: Some possible liberal bias, not a lot, but caution is indicated.

The Space Between These Trees – Benefits the Kintera project.  I’ll admit, my gut reaction was to dismiss them as “envirowackos” out of hand.  However, I took their “Awareness Quiz,” gave what I thought were “common sense” answers to the questions, and got 6 out of 6 correct.  (For instance: Hunger is not always caused by a lack of food in the world.  It’s generally caused by the food being in the wrong place…and sometimes the reason why the food can’t be moved to the right place has more to do with politics than anything else.)  They focus not only on giving out livestock, but on teaching the recipients to care for it properly, and encouraging them to pass the offspring of that livestock on to others in need.  This is in line with the whole “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime” proverb, and makes plenty of sense.  Assessment: Perhaps still some liberal bias, but certainly nowhere near as much as I first thought.

The Tech Virtual – This project relates to museum presences in SL, and the main museums involved seem to be focused on science, technology, and innovation.  None of this is prticularly “liberal” in outlook, though their upcoming projects on “energy” and “health” would bear watching, to ensure there’s not too great a focus on “liberal” aspects of those issues, like global “climate change” or socialized medicine.  Assessment: No real liberal bias, but watch those two projects I indicated.

Virtual Ability – I’m trying not to be biased by the fact that the people behind this project are fellow Coloradans. 🙂  They’re all about helping people with RL disabilities get ahead and thrive in SL…and some of what they say resonates a great deal with experiences friends of mine have had, and perhaps a couple of my own experiences as well.  I can’t find any liberal bias in this one.  Assessment: No liberal bias.

Clinical Scenarios for Increasing Patient Safety – This is tied to the British National Health Service, and, if you want a liberal can o’worms, it’s hard to find a bigger one.  See, for example, this post on the MedRants blog.  However, this is about improving patient safety…and anything that does that in the execrable NHS can’t be all bad, I say.  Assessment: Liberal bias only insofar as it’s tied to British socialized medicine.

LanguageLab.com – It’s a language school.  Really, how biased can it be? Primarily, too, it’s focused on teaching English to non-English speakers…which is a laudatory goal, as English is pretty much the de facto lingua franca (how’s that for some “borrowed” language terms?) of the planet; still, I can think of a few libbies who would be shitting bricks and sputtering “cultural hegemony!” at the thought.  Assessment: No liberal bias.

The NMC Campus Project – This is all about the use of virtual worlds in higher education.  The involvement of academia in this kind of project is pretty much a red flag for liberal bias; see for instance, Daniel Pipes’ essay on “conservative professors as an endangered species,” as well as, for a local angle, the case of Ward Churchill and the University of Colorado.  In fact, when I clicked over to their site, the first thing on their calendar was a series of lectures entitled “Global Agenda 2009: Tinderbox – Understanding the Middle East.” (Uh-oh!)  The lecture in question was fifth in a seven-lecture series, this one featuring a columnist for Israel’s leading newspaper…but this after the lecturers in lectures #1 through #4 have already drummed the liberal party line into anyone attending the whole series.  Another event on their calendar relates to responses to climate change among native peoples in Alaska. (Liberal codewords!) However, you could probably get much the same content on 80% of college campuses in the land…including the one I graduated from, more’s the pity.  Assessment: Liberal bias, but this is due to endemic bias among the underlying organizations, and not SL-specific.

So, tallying everything up, we have three clear instances of liberal bias and five “partial” instances, out of 13 projects total, so the situation may not be anywhere near as dire as I first thought.  And, in all cases, none of the bias was specific to being in SL, but was all a function of the underlying organizations.  Now, on the other hand, there was no instance of any finalist project having a conservative bias of any nature…whether this was due to bias on the part of the Linden Prize selection committee, or simply due to the fact that there just weren’t any “conservative” projects for them to choose from, I don’t have enough information to say.  Overall, though, I’m willing to concede that my initial assessment of the Linden Prize was off-base to at least some extent, possibly completely so.

“When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.” – Jake Houseman (to Johnny), Dirty Dancing

UPDATE: Well, according to Massively.com, the winners are Virtual Ability and Studio Wikitecture.  That’s one “no bias” entry, and one “some bias” entry…and LL doesn’t live down to either my expectations or Prok’s (he thought Skoolaborate would take it).  Consider me corrected…at least for now.  However, keep your eye on the prize (as it were), as there’ll be plenty of opportunity for LL to show liberal bias in the future.

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Birthday Bust

Apparently, Resident reaction to Linden Lab™’s ham-fisted banning of the SL Kids from the Second Life® Fifth Birthday Celebration (previously, previously) had at least some positive effect: LL apparently called off the dogs, allowed the Kids to submit applications again, and expanded the celebration to two weeks (from the previous one week). For a time, all seemed to be well on the Grid (well, aside from the various technical glitches…but, at this point, SL without technical glitches is like ExxonMobil without a corporate acquisition policy).

Unfortunately, LL hasn’t finished butting into what was supposedly a Resident-run celebration. Jacek Antonelli reports that Trinity Coulter, who had taken over as primary organizer of SL5B from SignpostMarv Martin after the latter resigned in protest over LL’s initial meddlings, has been forced out of that position by Dusty Linden. Several other organizers are out as well, according to both Jacek and Shoshana Epsilon. Meanwhile, Dusty is also vetting all the images for the art exhibition, rejecting any that have a “child” avatar in the same frame with either an “adult” avatar, or with a bed of any sort. Never mind that absolutely nothing sexual may be going on in the pictures, or that all avatars therein may be dressed in outfits that wouldn’t so much as raise an eyebrow in church.

I’m willing to assume that Dusty is not the originator of these decisions, and is just passing on policy as dictated from a higher level. Ditto with people like Everett. So the question becomes: Who’s calling the shots on this policy, and why? Linden Lab’s own policy (“The Tao of Linden“) states:

There are many ways to emphasize responsibility, accountability, communication and trust. We believe that the one key principle that best supports all of these values is transparency. As much as possible, tell everyone what you are doing, all the time. This transparency makes us responsible to our peers, makes us accountable to our own statements, and replaces the need for management with individual responsibility. Over time, it creates and reinforces trust. Be willing to share ideas before you feel they are ‘baked’. Report on your own progress frequently and to everyone.

Yet LL can be notoriously UN-transparent about a great many things when it suits them. We have had these policies dictated to us, in a manner which has never happened before in the history of Second Life Birthday Celebrations. Yet, in terms of rationale for these policies, we have heard precisely bupkis.

Last time, I challenged M Linden, new CEO of LL, to come out and give us a statement as to the policies being laid down for this celebration. So, have we heard anything?

(sound of crickets chirping)

Look, M, Philip, all the rest of you Lindens, we’re all adults here, even those of us in avatars that look like children; your own age-verification systems encourage that. We know about that fundy bluenose shitbag Mark Kirk (Stupid Party-Peoples’ Republic of Illinois) and his moralizing crusade, and we also know he doesn’t really give a shit about child avatars in Second Life, because all politicians really care about is getting elected, then getting RE-elected. We know about Sky News and their little “gotcha!” exposes, and we know why they do it: because it translates into viewers, which translates into ratings, which translates into money. Is it these kind of dipshits that have you so scared, you feel the need to impose new, draconian restrictions on content at what’s supposed to be a celebration “by the Residents, for the Residents”? If so, why not simply TELL US? Sure, it would piss off a lot of people, but at least you’d be being honest with the people that, ultimately, are responsible for paying for your world…and, at least, we’d know WHO to hate.

With two weeks to go before SL5B starts, the whole affair looks to be coming apart at the seams. At this point, I’m glad I didn’t try to involve myself with this fiasco, and I predict the whole thing will turn into a shambles and a public-relations disaster for Linden Lab. The irony is, by making such a fuss over child avatars this time around, LL is playing right into the hands of the Mark Kirks, the Sky News people, and others who automatically equate any “child” avatar with kiddie porn, and start saying, “Icky! Icky! BAN! BAN!” Nice way to invoke the Law of Unintended Consequences, LL.

Meanwhile, I sit over on Lexxotica and continue to wonder…how soon before LL works their way down to me?

UPDATE: Prokofy Neva continues to take the Lindens’ side…a stance which I find somewhat puzzling, as he himself has been the recipient of arbitrary Linden Lab shaftings in the past. But this isn’t mere schadenfreude on his part.

UPDATE: Vint Falken has reopened her JIRA issue dealing with this, “MISC-1231: Missing Cultures and Communities from SL5B.”  Go vote for it if you haven’t already.

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Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign

The blog firestorm over Linden Lab’s new policies for the Second Life® Birthday Celebration continues apace, and Vint Falken’s JIRA issue on the topic is up to 166 votes as of this writing.  So far, the only comment from the Lindens on this issue has been one comment by Everett Linden on Massively.com…which has done nothing to clear up the issue, and has, in fact, raised additional questions.  His statement that “the SL birthday on Linden land is PG” directly contradicts the draft policy for SL5B, which states “All sims will be Mature.”  Of course, he may have meant that people were to adhere to PG content and behavior despite the sims’ Mature rating (the kind of rules enforced at The Shelter), but who can say for sure?

And it’s clear that Everett doesn’t make policy, he’s just passing on “the word from higher up.”  Okay, then, let’s get this settled once and for all:  I call on M Linden to make an immediate statement to the community regarding Linden Labs’ policies for the Second Life Fifth Birthday Celebration.  In detail, and with footnotes. At least, if he tells us something’s no longer kosher, we won’t have to waste time going higher.  You took the job, M; now it’s time to show you can deliver.

Strangely enough, Prokofy Neva seems to be taking the Lindens’ side in this matter, saying that this just involves Linden Labs’ right to promote whatever it likes.  Well, Prok, you’re absolutely right; LL can promote whatever it likes at an event which it gives its imprimatur to.  However, there are two important issues which follow from that principle:

  1. What’s with them changing the rules this time around, from the policies previously established for past birthday celebrations, and indeed from the draft policies they’d already established for SL5B?  And why can’t they communicate the rationale for these changes in a reasonable fashion?  Jacek points out that the Lindens had several options as to how to deal with the Second Life Children this year, and they took the option that was guaranteed to cause a firestorm.  Something is rotten in the state of Denmark…and it sure as hell ain’t Danish blue cheese.
  2. Yes, the Lindens have the right to change the rules for birthday celebrations at any time, as they see fit.  We, however, as Residents, also have the right, in turn, to decide whether or not we choose to devote our time and effort to making such a celebration successful, under those revised rules.  Two principal organizers of SL5B, as well as any number of potential exhibitors and participants, have already made their choice known; how many more will walk away?  And will there even be a Fifth Birthday Celebration, under these circumstances?  It may turn into a sanitized, corporate affair, as Prok no doubt thinks it will, which may suit the Lindens just fine.  They will, however, have sent a powerful message, one that Jacek has picked up on:

But Linden Lab, it seems, doesn’t want its Residents anymore. It doesn’t want a free, open, creative world. It wants a sanitized, media-friendly world, that universities and big corps won’t think twice about making major investments in. LL’s message for Residents now is: Thanks for making us so popular, but go away now. You’re embarrassing us in front of the cool kids. Linden Lab has continually neglected and offended its user base, and thus turned a natural ally into a second enemy.

We are Linden Labs’ customers. We pay premium account fees (and I know of at least one Resident who has downgraded to Basic over this very issue); we pay tier for land; we buy sims and pay tier for them.  Yet LL seems to want to piss us off at every turn.  I’ve said it before: The only company I know of that has shown it can thrive while pissing off its customers over and over again is Microsoft…and even they aren’t having such an easy time of it anymore.

I don’t have a good Last Graf here; either LL will find their principles again, or they won’t.  Either SL5B will go on as it would have, or it won’t.  One thing’s for sure: the ball is now in LL’s court.

“…and so I close, realizing that perhaps the ending has not yet been written.” – Atrus, Myst

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And The Sign Said, “______ Need Not Apply”

I’ve been saying for some time now that one of the things I’d like to do is DJ one or more sets at the Second Life® Fifth Birthday Celebration (known as “SL5B” to the sort of people that appreciate abbreviations). Unfortunately, events have transpired that are causing me to rethink this.

For previous birthday celebrations (including the Third Birthday celebration that Tateru, Mera, Torley, and a cast of dozens put together so well, and which impressed me so much when I was still a n00b), Linden Lab maintained a relatively light hand on the content of the celebrations. That has now changed; the “Second Life Children” community has been told that, not only may they not exhibit at the event, they might not even be able to attend the event.

The Second Life Children are a group of people, all adults in RL, who use child avatars in SL for the purpose of engaging in activities appropriate to children (playing on playgrounds and the like). I’ve come down hard against the idea of sexual ageplay with child avatars in the past, but clearly, this isn’t it. There’s absolutely no pedophilia–real or simulated–involved, the claims of certain Congressional bluenoses and some Scheisse-für-Gehirne German prosecutors to the contrary. I’m hard-pressed to figure out just what they’re doing that’s in violation of the TOS or Community Standards.

Oh, and, according to an update at the Massively.com article I linked above, the Goreans and BDSM’ers have been given the official ixnay for SL5B from LL as well. Is this what they call “celebrating the cultural diversity of Second Life”? As usual, there has been absolutely no clarification of this new policy offered whatsoever from the Lindens, who may be dedicated to spreading the love amongst themselves, but clearly practice “mushroom management” with Residents. (“Put ’em in the dark, feed ’em shit, and watch ’em grow.”)

Now, some of you are no doubt saying, “But, Erbo, you’re not a child avatar, or a Gorean or BDSM’er either. What are you so honked off for?” I’ll tell you: Every time I hear about some new restriction LL is applying to certain people or things on the Grid, I wonder how long it’ll be before they work their way down to me. Let’s say I do land a gig DJ’ing for part of SL5B; would LL suddenly find it necessary to tell me which songs I could or could not play? I can imagine that someone might take offense to, say, “Bilingual” or “Crazy Bitch,” or most songs by Children of Bodom. Would they have to pre-vet my playlist, and maybe forbid me from taking requests because someone might ask to hear an “unacceptable” song? Don’t laugh; yesterday, you might have thought it was inconceivable that the highly-popular SL Kids builds would be banned from the celebration. As far as I’m concerned, LL has now thrown everything up in the air as regards SL5B, and I question whether I’d want to be involved at all under those circumstances. (In this, I am joined by SignpostMarv Martin and Ariel Otafuku, two of the main organizers of the event. Hey, M, Philip, are you getting a message yet?)

We can only speculate on LL’s motives in this case. Maybe they’ve been threatened with a major lawsuit, and are circling the wagons to either quell the suit before it starts or to make their potential defense airtight. Maybe LL really is planning an IPO, or shopping itself to some large Internet company, and wants to keep the folks on Wall Street from getting any whiff of controversy. (Remember, Controversy = No Money = Bad.) In any event, the Lindens seem to suddenly be living out their (Second) lives in fear…and for that, I have just one piece of advice, which I will be using as the epigraph to this post.

More on the story from the esteemed Ms. Malaprop.

“A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.” – From the movie Strictly Ballroom

UPDATE: Vint Falken is doing the best job tracking blog comments on this issue, and she has also filed a “bug report” with LL’s JIRA on this issue.  I have voted that particular issue up, and I recommend you do likewise.

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Thoughts On “Thoughts On Ageplay” And The Controversy

You see them sometimes in Second Life: avatars that look like children. Which, in and of itself, is not particularly noteworthy; in a world where everyone can choose to look any way they wish, from supermodel-esque bombshell to bare-chested tough guy to anthropomorphic animal, kid-size avatars probably don’t even cause the Weird-O-Meter to twitch. Often, these avatars are actually role-playing as children…and sometimes, not all that play is “innocent.” For some, this represents a needed safety valve in society; for others, it represents a clear and present danger.

All these practices are sometimes grouped under the rubric of “ageplay,” i.e., role-playing your avatar as an “age” markedly different from your true age. Many people, however, see the term used as solely referring to sexual forms of this play. In a recent post for Second Life Insider, Tateru Nino (the Tireless 🙂 ) attempts to reclaim that term from the sexual ghetto into which it has fallen, pointing out many of the positive, even theraputic, aspects of role-playing as a child. I’ve no doubt her intentions are good here, and, in fact, I agree with much of what she has to say, having seen a few of these ageplayers myself, including one girl who, in another (fully adult!) “guise,” worked as a dancer at the Gin Rummy. (That is, until her inventory was eaten by the asset server and LL seemed powerless to do anything about it. But that’s another story.) But I have my doubts that one of these posts, or even ten or a hundred, can permanently change the perception of “ageplay” in the minds of the reading public.

She did, however, appear to lightly gloss over the notion of sexual ageplay at the end of this piece, which prompted a scathing rebuttal from (as one might have guessed) Prokofy Neva. Unfortunately, Prokofy marred this rebuttal by attributing Tateru’s seeming dismissal of the issue of sexual ageplay to her (publically-documented) Asperger’s syndrome. This was not only, in my view, “hitting below the belt,” it was also unnecessary, as he had an excellent point even without using that argument.

So what, then, is the Reasonable Avatar supposed to think? I posted my own comment to Tateru’s piece; this post represents an elaboration of my own thinking in this matter.

First of all, I would hope that everyone reading this piece would agree: The sexual abuse of children in real life is absolutely evil and wrong, beyond any possible hope of redemption. The people who engage in this behavior prey on the weakest among us, taking advantage of their trust and violating their minds as much as they violate their bodies. Predators such as this are incapable of being completely cured, and civilized society has gradually come to recognize this, with the adoption of various notification laws such as “Megan’s Law.” In my perfect society, the sentence for such actions would be death, preferably a very painful one.

In Second Life, of course, no actual children are harmed, as everyone on the Grid is supposed to be of legal age. (Except that LL has muddied the waters considerably in this respect by doing away with account verification–which makes this issue all the more pressing.) But the question is: Does engaging in sexual ageplay in SL make it less likely that a person will engage in pedophilia in RL, or more? I’ve no doubt you could find the issue argued both ways, and I myself am uncertain. But when I reframe the question as, “Is the potential benefit worth the potential risk?” I am less uncertain; my answer is, “No, it is not.”

Is such behavior in SL legal? Certain people in the Netherlands (as Prokofy points out) don’t think so, while some interpretations of certain U.S. Supreme Court decisions could lead one to conclude that there’s no law against it in the U.S. (or rather, that any that were passed were struck down as unconstitutional). But does it have to be illegal to be wrong? Consider this thought by noted conservative blogger Mrs. du Toit:

The rules of civility, ethics, and morality exist regardless if they are written into law or not. But people will demand they be written into law if people refuse to comply willingly, allowing some discretion, latitude, and forgiveness in the personal sphere, where none will exist in the sphere of laws.

A society that condones, excuses, or lauds irresponsibility, immorality, and unethical behavior is doomed to the Jack Booted Thug.

If you demand that all indiscretions must rise to the level of illegal to be punished or challenged, you will get your wish.

Very well, then. If sexual ageplay in SL is to be considered wrong, then what shall we, as a community, do about it? One answer might be for people to make a declaration: “I will not engage in child sex play in Second Life, nor will I associate or do business with those that do.” (This is indirectly derived from the honor code at the U.S. military academies: “I will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those among us who do.”) I would certainly not advocate direct action against sexual ageplayers; we’ve seen all too often how even righteous defense of one’s own property can turn into allegations of griefing sworn against the victim by the griefer–and then upheld by LL. Rather, those that stand against this practice should simply employ their own freedom of association and choose not to associate with those that practice it. After all, LL has told us that we are free to ban others from our property, for any reason or none, and given us the tools to do so. If enough known sexual ageplayers start running into ban-lines, perhaps the message will be clear.

There are those who would call this “intolerance.” To them I say: If the word “intolerance” can be stretched to cover your own free choices as to who you will and will not associate with, then it has been watered down to the point where it no longer has any meaning and can be used to mean anything those in power say it means–and that way lies tyranny. Besides, the one thing that the soi-disant philosophy of “tolerance” is absolutely intolerant of is the notion that there are absolute moral standards, things forever beyond the pale for civilized human beings. Give that up, and you lose any notion of a “moral compass” by which to judge your own actions and those of others–and that way lies anarchy.

Whatever we, as a community, decide to do about the issue of sexual ageplay, whether it be adopting the solution I have outlined or another, we had best do it soon, as forces in RL politics are already gathering to take the decision out of our hands by enshrining it in law. And if that happens, as Mrs. du Toit suggests, we won’t like the results.

UPDATE: A fresh post by Tateru on Second Life Insider this morning brings two items of note to the discussion. First, she “find[s] the whole notion of the depiction of any sexual activity with minors to be personally upsetting,” which I was 99.999% sure of in any event, but it’s nice to have confirmation. Since, as she says, “Most of you already know that,” she didn’t feel a need to mention it in the original post. It might have been nice to include that bit of context in there, though, as lots of people may read SLI who don’t know Tat well enough to have heard her opinion personally (and may not yet be in SL at all, for that matter).

Second and more important, LL is cracking down on depictions of sexual activity involving minors. The text of a notecard being circulated to certain residents is as follows:

Dear Second Life Resident:

Linden Lab would like to inform you that your land or business is possibly not in compliance with Second Life’s Community Standards. The depiction of sexual activity involving minors may violate real-world laws in some areas, and the Second Life community as a whole has made it clear that it views such behavior to be broadly offensive. Linden Lab chooses not to allow the advertising or promotion of age play or related activities in any public forum — including in-world textures, classified ads, the Second Life forums, or parcel descriptions.

Advertisements, promotions, or descriptions of such activities must be removed to avoid account sanctions. Any account asserting an age that does not meet Second Life’s minimum age of eligibility will be closed.

Linden Lab

Naturally, I applaud LL’s efforts in this regard, but I would encourage Residents to keep an eye out for this kind of behavior as well, perhaps adopting the approach I outlined above. If the community, including LL, can be seen to be effectively policing itself for this kind of behavior, that might put the kibosh on the RL lawmakers’ attempts to impose control from outside.

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Welcome to Growth Corporation of America

And the numbers, as they say, just keep on climbing…

Total signups, having just cracked the two-million mark in December, are now within the ace of breaking three million. The 60-day return visits counter stands at over one million, and user concurrency routinely breaks 25,000 most days now. The infrastructure is decidedly showing strain; reports of database-related issues are now almost an everyday occurrence, and even the secondlife.com Web site itself seems to be slowing down. (Given that the Web site is crucial to so many parts of SL, including the LindeX and the land auction system, that’s not good.)

Boom times are definitely here, though. LL has added over 600 new sims to the Grid this month–more than they added in all of December, and we still have a week to go. A message I got recently from Sirux Mahoney of the Fantasyland group (home of the Evans Family Compound) ends with this message: “As from February, we plan to bring up 4 new sims each month.” And I recall seeing, not long ago, that LL was adding fifty new sims to the southwest edge of the southern Mainland continent. Despite this, land demand remains high, pushing average land prices up to L$12.32/sq.m, up 25% from December. The LindeX exchange rate continues to hover at around L$265/US$1, probably because Supply Linden has been pumping L$ into the economy like it was going out of style; nearly L$200 million last month, and over L$120 million month-to-date. This keeps injecting liquidity into the system to match the expansion of the economy.

Riding the MakerSo, despite the words of the “Negative Nancies” out there, people are still pouring in, apparently from all over the place. Griefer attacks continue, but apparently they’re getting more creative, not resorting to the tired old “prim boy parts” (to use Allie’s phrase) as self-replicating objects. And innovation continues to appear on the Grid, not only from large corporate presence (Pontiac’s six-sim Motorati island is fun to drive around), but from other sources as well, such as The Dune Project, highlighted recently by Reverend Watermelonmother Torley. That’s a sim you’ve got to see to believe, and this is the sort of thing I envisioned SL being used for in the first place. (At left: Danielle and I become sandriders, wearing our new stillsuits and standing atop Shai-Hulud.)

Even today, I can still look at SL with a sense of it being a great adventure, a great experiment that no one knows the outcome of. The star is still ascending, and it shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. I imagine Philip sitting in his office, looking at it all–the current Grid map, the statistics pages, the “heartbeat” of the world he’s created–and getting the biggest damned grin on his face at what he sees.

“The human adventure is just beginning,”Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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Filed under Community, Current Events, Philosophy, Roadside Attractions