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  ‘National Geographic’ Flubs ‘Second Life’ Coverage  
 
 
Posted 2006-10-17 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I'm disappointed National Geographic News didn't treat Second Life as if the virtual world was an actual place. Seems unfortunate that a brand built on travel-by-proxy to real locales wouldn't take readers on a comparable journey to a digital one (Wired picks up the slack here). Instead, we're left with a rather typical introductory article--typically flawed, that is. Don't mainstream media outlets fact-check any more?

National Geographic says "Second Life is built and owned entirely by its nearly 900,000 residents." User-created content in Second Life is actually licensed to Linden Lab (the world's maker) for the purposes of displaying that content within the world, but also "for marketing and/or promotional purposes," according to the company's current Terms of Service. Furthermore, Linden Lab owns users accounts and related data, "regardless of intellectual property rights [users] may have in content [they] create or otherwise own." So not only do users not "entirely own" the content they create, users don't even own the right to access that content through their avatars.

Continue reading: ‘National Geographic’ Flubs ‘Second Life’ Coverage
 
     
 
   
 
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  danah boyd Says ‘MySpace Isn’t Gray’  
 
 
Posted 2006-10-11 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Social software sensei danah boyd says both the mainstream media and the blogosphere flubbed a recent claim that half of MySpace's users are older than 35. Boyd points out that nobody seems to have read the complete details of the press release the data was pulled from. It's visitors that are aging up, not users, she says (basically more parents know about, and are visiting MySpace). A major distinction there, and it's a pity few people seem to have really read the source material. Boyd puts it best: "This encourages inaccurate data and affects the entire tech industry as well as policy makers, advertisers, and users. I’m horrified that AP, Slashdot, Wall Street Journal, and numerous respectable bloggers are just reporting this as truth and speaking about it as though this is about users instead of visitors. C’mon now. If we’re going to fetishize quantitative data, let’s at least use a properly critical eye."

I wonder if the misreported data will actually affect MySpace's user demographic. If kids have heard that have of MySpace is populated by adults, users, will they stick around? Come to think of it, I don't think it matters if older folks have MySpace pages or are just visiting--an adult presence is toxic to kids.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Airport Security’ Critiques Current Screening Process  
 
 
Posted 2006-09-19 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Ian Bogost's game studio Persuasive Games has developed the newsgame Airport Security, intended to critique today's over-the-top screening process. Readers of Clickable Culture may recall my whimsical proposal "Airport Screening Is A Badly Designed Game," intended to improve modern screening processes through game-play. I've since greatly improved and refined the concept for a presentation earlier this month on the topic of Productive Play. Bogost's Airport Security will probably make a great addition to the topic next time I present it--even though it's unrelated in intent, the game at least rolls play, productivity, and airport screening together. And now, off to play it!
 
     
 
   
 
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  Canadian Killer’s Gaming Connection  
 
 
Posted 2006-09-14 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Canadian Killer’s Gaming Connection
Students at a Montreal college were reportedly shot yesterday by Kimveer Gill, a 25 year-old male armed with a rifle. I saw a brief TV news story on the tragedy this morning, and remarked to my wife that it wouldn't be long before a video game connection was found. It turns out the connection is easy to make. Today's Toronto Sun ran with the headline "Video Game Killer." The Sun reports that Gill claimed Super Columbine Massacre was his favourite game, and that his online tagline read "Life is a video game and you gonna die sometime." No doubt games will be looked at as a possible cause of the terrible attack, despite the appearance that Gill was simply a deeply disturbed individual. Personally I see this more of a copycat attack.

The game Super Columbine Massacre was ostensibly designed to be an examination of the Columbine incident. The creator of the game's statement reads, in part, "This game asks more of its audience than rudimentary button-pushing and map navigation; it implores introspection... people from six continents and all walks of life are discussing the game itself and the incident it is based on... At the end of the day, the understanding of the Columbine school shooting is deepened and redefined. That is the real object of the game."

Richard Castaldo, a survivor of the Columbine incident, has played Super Columbine Massacre. "I appreciate the fact at least to some degree that something like this was made," He told Kotaku.com. "I think that at least it gets people talikng about Columbine in a unique perspective, which is probably a good thing. But that being said there are a lot of things that are hard to play or watch. And it seems to partially glamorize what happened. It shows a stark-contrast between fantasy and real life in an interesting way."
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Second Life’ Security Breached:  User Data at Risk  
 
 
Posted 2006-09-11 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
On September 6, 2006, a database was breached containing customer information of over 600,000 Second Life virtual world users. While the breach was reportedly repaired promptly by Second Life maker Linden Lab, the company did not inform customers of the incident until September 8, 2006. A detailed email was sent to all users by Linden Lab explaining that customer data was potentially exposed, including "unencrypted names and addresses, and the encrypted passwords and encrypted payment information of all Second Life users. Unencrypted credit card information, which is stored on a separate database, was not compromised." The encryption was described as "difficult to defeat" but not unbreakable.

This isn't the first of Second Life's security problems, but it's sure to be the most serious. The virtual world, as with most services relying on the internet, has been subjected to denial of service attacks [1,2,3,4,5], socially-engineered attacks [1,2,3], and exploits of various kinds [1]. Linden Lab has promised repeatedly to turn over offenders to the authorities (such as the FBI) [1,2,3], but I've never heard of anyone charged.

Continue reading: ‘Second Life’ Security Breached:  User Data at Risk
 
     
 
   
 
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  A Call for Greener Electronics  
 
 
Posted 2006-08-28 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Greenpeace has placed Motorola, Acer, and Apple among the top producers of toxic electronics. Nokia and Dell produce the least toxic gear, but still only score a 7/10 on the "Greener Electronics" scale below.

If you must buy new electronics (instead of re-using the old stuff), consider spending your money on products made by cleaner corporations. Or pester the dirty corporations to clean up their acts. I'm surprised Apple is so tarnished, and honestly I'll think twice about my next computer purchase (particularly after the iPod City fiasco). Dell might be hell in the customer service department, but it's allegedly greener than Apple. Sheesh, who knew?
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Disturbing’ Zombie Dancers Arrested  
 
 
Posted 2006-07-25 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Members of a "zombie dance party" were jailed in Minneapolis last Saturday, according to the Associated Press (via kstp.com). While not actually undead, the zombie dancers were reportedly arrested on suspicion of carrying deadly weapons of mass destruction. The cops apparently saw bags with wires sticking out, but a zombie representative moaned that the group's "weapons" were merely stereos carried in backpacks. The Associated Press quotes a police spokesperson as saying those arrested were exhibiting "suspicious and disturbing" behaviour. In my book, any zombie not acting suspicious and disturbing is just not doing a proper job, but American law-enforcement obviously doesn't read it that way. This doesn't bode well for Zombie Walks in the U.S.A. but maybe there's still hope for Canadian flesh-eaters.
 
     
 
   
 
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  YouTube Gets Grabby  
 
 
Posted 2006-07-18 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I don't know how long YouTube's fine-print has sucked, but Wired's Listening Post blog says that "YouTube's 'new' Terms & Conditions allow them to sell whatever you uploaded however they want." So, in case you've been wondering how YouTube's going to monetize its audience, it looks like the video-sharing service is going the route of the online communities of old: Exploiting the content created by its users. Booooo, YouTube.

Other recent grabbiness has included social site MySpace (which repented after some bad press), and video game The Movies.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Bell Sympatico Bends Over  
 
 
Posted 2006-06-29 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
The Canadian Press (via the Globe) reports that Bell Sympatico, one of Canada's largest ISPs, plans to monitor the internet usage of its customers to comply with any governmental request. Canadian law prof Michael Geist "said Bell's new customer service agreement shows that Canadian telecommunications companies are already preparing to comply with new on-line surveillance legislation...Geist fears police will be able to demand customer information from Internet providers without having to make a case before a judge, opening the door wide to an abuse of civil rights."

This concerns me, not only for the simple reason that I am already a reluctant Sympatico customer, but that Bell is a media giant in Canada. As such, it has potential access to an extremely wide range of data. If Sympatico bends over today, which of its services might be next to monitor its customers? Bell Globemedia has ownership interests in private national broadcaster CTV (which in turn has interests in 17 specialty channels), national daily newspaper The Globe and Mail, and investments in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and the Air Canada Centre).
 
     
 
   
 
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  Discrimination Tools Coming to ‘Second Life’?  
 
 
Posted 2006-06-25 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Residents of Second Life may soon be split into "Verified" and "Unverified" classes, thanks to an updated registration system by virtual-world maker Linden Lab. With the old system, a credit-card or other identity-verification system was required to register. These requirements were dropped early in June, 2006, allowing users without any identifying information to enter the virtual world. The changes inspired debate and, in some cases, protest, among Second Life residents, many of whom felt that a flood of unverified entrants into the virtual world would increase the likelihood of bad behaviour. The updated system (apparently implemented over the weekend of June 24-25) allows users to link their avatar with a payment system (such as a credit card) in order to verify their identities.

Linden Lab's VP of Community and Support wrote last week that "We recognize that for you to want to stay in Second Life you need to have confidence in the whole system. I believe that means you need to believe that you can control your experience, and also trust in Linden Lab to provide the means to do that. When faced with anonymous users who don't have the stake in Second Life that [residents] do, that confidence, and trust, is breached." The company's solution is to create two classes of user. According to Linden Lab, "Verified" status indicates a registrant has submitted valid identification and payment to the company "and that [registrants] presumably have some commitment to Second Life."

Continue reading: Discrimination Tools Coming to ‘Second Life’?
 
     
 
   
 
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... http://www.dino.co.uk/labs/2008/45-tips-when-designing-online-content-for-kids/ Hope it helps someone... Dino...
in Dino Burbidge's '10 Things To Remember When Designing For Kids Online'


yes, many of the free little games are crappy. but as an artist who has recently published free content on the itunes app store,…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


I vote for popup radial menus. Highlight a bit of text, the push and hold, Sims-style radial menu pops up with Copy, Paste, etc....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


Hey Tony! A client of mine is looking to hire an internal Flash game dev team to build at a really cool Flash CCG…
in Dipping Into Toronto's Flash Pool


Yeah, there's a lot of weird common sense things I've noticed they've just omitted from the design. No idea why though....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


It also bears noting there's no mechanism right now for a developer to offer a free trial for the iPhone; the App Store isn't…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


@GeorgeR: It's on my shopping list :) I've heard good things about it as well. And Cro Mag Rally. @andrhia: meh, I don't know…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


...you get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


The only one I've heard good things about is Super Monkey Ball. Have you given that a whirl yet?...
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ... But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV…
in Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock


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