Second Life to get country based filtering system?

25 06 2007

According to an interview with Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale in german magazine “Focus” Second Life is getting a filtering system based on countries.

When they talk about criminality in Second Life Philip claims that the community does govern itself in most cases without any money or other incentives involved. He then explains that Linden Lab is planning a fitering system which allows the government of individual countries to define which laws apply to their residents. As an example he mentions that e.g. Germany could define that only residents older than 18 can get in. He couldn’t tell though when it will be introduced.

Now for me there are some open questions. “which laws” to apply is certainly beyong just limiting access to minors as it also involves limiting what you can see and do in world. Limiting access to Second Life by age and country also would involve a verification mechanism which goes beyond the discussed age verification. It would mean that Linden Lab also needs to verify nationality (which is probably possible with Integrity). Moreover this verification would be mandatory and happen during registration for a Second Life account.

So a lot of questions come up here which “Focus” apparently missed to ask (instead they put again a photo of an ageplay scene next to the article with the caption “Child pornography in Second Life created a world-wide scandal”. Was it that world-wide actually?).

Reading this and having never heard of such plans before and reading the context I wonder if they haven’t mabe misunderstood something. Before that statement he talks about private island and how they can govern their estate themselves and the next sentence begins with “Therefore we want to include a filtering system into our software”. So maybe the english of the reporters wasn’t that good and they have mistaken the plans for a new abuse report system and age verification for a tool for real governments. Then again they have the example of germany and they stress the words “real governments” so maybe it is planned indeed.

In any case, I hope that somebody can clarify because these plans seem to be a bit more than just age verification.

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Book Review: Virtual Worlds – Rewiring Your Emotional Future

25 06 2007

It’s time for a book review! Actually this one got sent to me for review and as it’s IMHO a good book here’s a review for you 🙂

I am speaking about the book Virtual Worlds – Rewiring Your Emotional Future by Jack Myers and Jerry Weinstein in which they take a different look towards virtual worlds.

‘Different’ here means that it’s not so much about how technology will evolve (it will of course) but what impact virtual worlds will have in the future (like 25 years from now) and more importantly how they will change us emotionally.

What I found quite refreshing was that it does not start to explain virtual worlds first (of course to some part it explains certain aspects later on) but simply states their existance and jumps directly into the topic. And of course it’s full of Second Life as this is one of the leading virtual worlds right now in many aspects. But also and others are mentioned.

Jack Myers also seems to have understood what virtual worlds are all about (which I am still waiting to happen for the average journalist) and he also qoutes the right people with insightful comments. So they write that virtual worlds are indeed real for residents (and no game) and quotes our well-known James Wagner Au on that and let him also explain that e.g. Sony had a good start but only gives a 30-minute diversion while in the future they have to be more interactive. He also gives some good advice to marketers out there so in order to make use of virtual worlds for them it should be a good read for them, too.

But it’s not a marketing book, it’s sort of about the cultural basis of virtual worlds and how they might affect us.
The main topic of the book is actually emotions. The authors investigate in how we handle our emotions nowadays and how this might change with virtual worlds in the future. They speak of rewiring our emotional DNA. Of course this is a somewhat provoking theory and maybe raises some discussions.

Discussions though is wanted and brings me to another interesting point about this book. The book “Rewiring Your Emotional Future” is a book with audience participation. So comments and insights are welcome and will be published in the quaterly update along with interviews with key figures of virtual worlds.

Moreover the last 2 chapters are the start of a novel and readers are invited to write an additional chapter form which Jack Myers will select one and publish it again. Then the next readers are asked to write chapter 4 and so on. Authors of these chapters will even receive revenue from future movie and game rights (sounds as if this will happen for sure ;-).

Speaking about the story I have a little complaint though. The story introduces Jenny and her avatar Ynnej*# which she built herself. The problem I have with that avatar is that it seems to be a person in itself and this is not really what I see what an avatar is. An avatar for me is more of an extension of myself in the virtual world and when a client someday asked “And you control that figure?” then I wondered what they mean because actually _I am_ that figure. Thus I found it a little strange when Jenny had a little discussion with her avatar. I would think of that more as an intelligent bot. Of course that’s just a detail but maybe an important one.

So all in all a good book in which the authors maybe see it right when they claim that someday virtual worlds have an impact in that they can radically alter politics and society. It might be so or not but to discuss it is certainly interesting.

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Philantrophy in Virtual Worlds – Discussion with Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale and Jonathan Franton, President of the MacArthur Foundation.

21 06 2007

Jonathan Franton

So if you are interested about philantrophy in virtual worlds you should not miss tomorrows (Friday) event starting at 8am SLT on the Annenberg Public Diplomacy Island (main event starting at 9am SLT).

Philip Rosedale (aka Philip Linden), CEO of Linden Lab and Jonathan Franton, president of the MacArthur Foundation will meet for a discussion.

To quote from the press release:

“One of the key tenets of our mission is to explore how technology can be used to build bridges and understanding between cultures, be they between or within virtual worlds or between countries,” says Joshua Fouts, Director of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. “We’re delighted to host Jonathan Fanton and Philip Rosedale as the MacArthur Foundation launches a yearlong series of conversations with the Second Life community.”

“What’s key about this conversation is that it will be two-way — not a monologue, but a dialogue,” Fouts adds. “It won’t be a conversation to sell people on a brand, market a new product, or to make money on ideas, but a conversation to ask the residents of virtual worlds a fundamental question: What matters here?”

(Read the full version here).

So here is the schedule for the event:

Pre-Event Mixer 8:00 AM SLT – 9:00 AM SLT
Live DJ Cher Harrington spins original SL music

  • with Etherian Kamaboko, Hep Shepherd, Komuso Tokugawa, Rich Desoto, Ronnie Carr, Sarah Mac Band, Smily Raymaker, Virtual Live Band
  • Free t-shirts and badges
  • Information on MacArthur Foundation program areas and grantmaking
  • Original SL music information displays

Event 9:00 AM SLT – 9:45 AM SLT

  • Join Philip Rosedale and Jonathan Fanton for a conversation about philanthropy in virtual worlds
  • Short recorded video presentation
  • Welcome and introductions
  • Live voice stream
  • Questions from the SL audience

Post-Event Reception 9:45 AM SLT – 10:30 AM SLT

  • Live musician Hep Shepherd
  • Free t-shirts and badges
  • Information on MacArthur Foundation program areas and grantmaking
  • Original SL music information displays

Additionally I will stream this event live to my BlogTV show.

You can find more information on the MacArthur webpage.

Disclaimer: The event location was built by my company COM.lounge in cooperation with Sitearm Madonna and IBM

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Interview with Eggy Lippmann aka Jorge Lima

16 06 2007

This interview with long-term residen Eggy Lippmann was made a while back, after the SLDEVU in London in December 2006. We talked about the past and future of Second Life and also mentioned the opportunities and problems of an open source client (which wasn’t released back then but was talked about at the SLDEVU event).

Eggy Lippmann interview

[Click here to download the Quicktime version]

(produced by COM.lounge TV)

censorship at flickr (again)

14 06 2007

(Logo by Cem Basman)

Somehow one should seem to get used to censorship on flickr. Has it been NIPSAd accounts regarding Second Life snapshots, so it’s now a safe search which you cannot disable as german resident.

The safe search functionality has been introduced while getting rid of NIPSA as part of the new filtering mechanism. You now have to flag photos which might offend (such as nudity) with appropriate flags. As viewer you can then decide which photos you want to see as result of a search (e.g. if you want photos marked as moderate or restricted, too).

With the advent of the internationalization of flickr, users from Germany, Singapure, Hong Kong and Korea now have a localized version but in turn they are not able to disable the safe search functionality because of the terms of service.

To me it’s still not really clear why they did that but in fact they did (it might have to do with some decision at Yahoo though, maybe somebody can elaborate).

After many protests on some flickr groups (as e.g. here).

After a while Stewart Butterfield of flickr responded with this statement:

We really apologize for the delay in responding to these threads. The whole Flickr team has been in ongoing discussions, trying to hammer out a solution.

We have absolutely no intention of censoring the content on the community’s behalf. It is always been our intention that Flickr members participate to whatever extent they want and are as free as possible create their own experience. Currently, switching the SafeSearch function off is not available for German members. It is a really complex situation — we have been in deliberation on this for a while, and we had to make the decision whether or not to leave Germany and the German language out of the international launch.

The decision came down to the wire, but we decided to include Germany. We’re still hoping that that was the right decision. It definitely was not a decision that was made lightly and there is no intention to annoy, frustrate or inconvenience Flickr members in Germany. Rest assured, we do hear you loud and clearly (painfully loud, even) and are doing our best. We hope to have more to say soon.

So he doesn’t really say something.

Now I wonder

  • why is Germany (and the other countries) so special, why aren’t we allowed to see e.g. photos containing nudity if we choose to do so?
  • why is this bound to the internationalization? If we wouldn’t have e.g. a german version we would still be allowed to see all content?
  • why isn’t this communicated earlier. “german version” sounded cool but a german version with only safe search doesn’t. And we didn’t had a problem before with an english version. It’s definitely worse now than before.

And unfortunately everybody is on flickr which created that great community. I was searching for alternatives back then in the NIPSA-case but there weren’t really that many. Also getting the community to move completely to another service is probably not possible.

Too bad, flickr always makes trouble.. I just bought my pro account for my Tao Takashi account but now I think it was a mistake. Maybe I shouldn’t trust flickr in doing the right thing. So far I got disappointed twice.

(german version here)

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