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  ‘Second Life’ Social System Stratified  
Posted 2006-10-10 by Tony Walsh
Once upon a time, all residents of Second Life were ostensibly equal, but 3 years after the virtual world was launched, the population was split based into "Verified" and "Unverified" social classes. Classification is based on one's willingness or ability to submit identification and billing information to Linden Lab, maker of Second Life. Faced with a huge spike in service-outages caused by malicious users over the last 2 months, some residents say that the Unverified are becoming vilified.

In a move that further complicates matters, Linden Lab announced yesterday that it is considering adding another social class: The "Trusted" resident. The company aims to make denial of service attacks more difficult by affording global programming powers only to Trusted residents. According to Linden Lab, "It is planned that 'Trusted' Residents will be clearly defined, and there will be processes in place (not all payment oriented) to become 'trusted' if your account currently falls outside of that designation." It remains to be seen how terms such as Trusted, Untrusted, Verified and Unverified will be applied, combined, or modified to form new classifications of virtual-world citizen. Finally, Second Life might become the futuristic dystopia I've been waiting for. Now, do I sign up with the underclasses and fight for the rights of the Untrusted and Unverified on the gritty streets of virtual reality, or do I snuggle up to the powerful Trusted and Verified in their glossy skyboxes and sneer at the unwashed below?
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Comment posted by csven
October 10, 2006 @ 10:51 am
And we continue to move to a more obviously non-anonymous internet. These developments are fun to watch.

Trust me.
Comment posted by Gary Hayes
October 10, 2006 @ 12:42 pm
Without going into the endless discussion on the forums and mailists over the past few days that probably led to LL taking this 'trusted' resident step, I get really annoyed when people jump on a move towards accountability as being elitist, big brother'esque or some kind of apartheid.

If a virtual space mirrors the 'real world', and second life is the closest we have, then there will need to be a 'real life' mirror of rules and regulations. The griefers in SL are not just causing a minor irritations (like spammers or virus distributors), they are blocking ALL paying and non-paying participants access to a service, and regular downtime is particularly serious for education and those doing more professional application - sure those after a bit of fun won't mind if SL is down every second day. But LLabs have to do something quickly to be taken seriously - especially after the payment info 'encrypted' hack. I think 'trusted' is the right and, to be honest, only direction. As in real life we don't allow those without a 'trusted' license to drive the school bus, doctors to operate on us without 'trusted' training or lend money to someone we don't 'trust'. Why should a virtual space, a piece of software, that has up to 10 000 people using it allow un-trusted, un-verified citizens the power to bring the whole thing crashing down. How we get to who is trusted is not really fun, it is the future of effectively scaling popular virtual worlds.

I am sure competitors are starting to lick their lips because like any government LLabs have to negotiate 'virtual' and 'real world' lobbies on many sides of the argument and as we know in the real world of politics parties come and go on this basis.
Comment posted by Ordinal Malaprop
October 10, 2006 @ 2:23 pm
I'm getting into all sorts of discussions about this on various boards, but it feels like the wrong thing to do because the details are so vague. This is another premature LL announcement on the basis of an idea somebody had, with no firm details.

I hate two-tier systems, demonisation of subclasses and social divisiveness, but I think that I'm going to wait until more details emerge rather than going down Second Life Policy Speculation Alley again, which is one of those alleys that goes around in circles a lot and ends up a long way from Reality Street.

It is quite comic the way that so many people are assuming that unverified accounts brought this on, though. It's quite obvious that this is leading on from the Voted Five bannings, and there were plenty of grid attacks before unverified accounts were allowed, indicating that they're not necessary for the process. Still, you know, those unverifieds, they come in here, they take our jobs, they take our land, they take our women/men/hermaphrodites, and the government does nothing....
Comment posted by Eric Rice
October 10, 2006 @ 6:04 pm
Funny how you could change the language and it could boil down to a) free accounts, b) pro accounts, c) developer programs.

Like uh, a whole lotta other software companies and game makers in the world.

Not a game. My ass. We just leveled up. Proceed to the bunkers and defeat the helicoptermech boss. ;-)
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
October 10, 2006 @ 7:53 pm
Eric, that's a great way of looking at it. I think LL's choice of descriptors has been terrible. The existence of a "Trusted" group means that everyone else is "Untrusted." There's a bizarro judgemental tone with those descriptors (as Ordinal alludes to) that is thankfully lacking in your alternatives. I don't mind not being a Developer, but I mind being Untrusted.

Gary, I'm not sure a software environment should be giving its users the tools to easily destroy it at all. That'd be like giving every web user the ability to launch a malicious web page and take down the entire WWW. It's not necessary for a web user to have that much power, I don't know why it's necessary to afford SL users the same degree. Besides which, I think any social solution to a software problem isn't an optimal solution.

Software problems should be fixed by designing better software. The problem, as I see it, is not that malicious users are launching grid-crippling attacks against SL, but that SL's architecture wasn't designed to prevent such attacks from taking place.
Comment posted by Gary Hayes
October 10, 2006 @ 8:25 pm
But Tony something has to be done quickly because to be quite frank LLabs are way behind the curve on this one. These sorts of attacks are not heavyweight hackers who force MSoft to run Xp patches every few weeks, no this is beginners hackers who are running self-replication, day two at script school loops. If LLabs cant stop that technically (and this is the case) at the moment, then a social 'stop-gap' has to be put in place, while the overworked LL staff put in place something more robust than LSL.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
October 10, 2006 @ 11:30 pm
Gary, I agree improved security is needed urgently, and if LL feels that separating residents into bins based on how trustworthy it thinks they are, then so be it ;) But I didn't get the impression this was a band-aid fix. I get the feeling LL thinks this is a Good Idea In General.

Next up: Separating avatars into Uglies and Pretties!
Comment posted by Gary Hayes
October 11, 2006 @ 12:16 am
Another take - "rewarding the Israelites and depriving the Canaanites"

From an interview yesterday in Australias Age, with Phil Rosedale of LLabs - suggests both that they listen to their clients but also perhaps are too reactive at the same time...

AP: Are you "Second Life's" god, or its king, or its Dr. Frankenstein?

Rosedale: God is in the code. ... We are not, I am not, a malevolent or an active deity in the world. But it's fascinating to note that I and we at Linden Lab, especially in these early times, we change the code. ... When somebody says, "Hey, it should be this way or that way," and we say, "Ah I see, you're right and it would be so easy," and we change the code. ... There's all these biblical or mythical analogies.

AP: You're rewarding the Israelites and depriving the Canaanites?

Rosedale: I hope we're not smiting anybody.
Comment posted by Brace
October 13, 2006 @ 11:17 pm
"Now, do I sign up with the underclasses and fight for the rights of the Untrusted and Unverified on the gritty streets of virtual reality, or do I snuggle up to the powerful Trusted and Verified in their glossy skyboxes and sneer at the unwashed below?"

Blah forget both and come snuggle up with me: I'm a tiered down, basic account, no-land-havin, drain on SL society!

(plus I give good huggs) :D
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
October 14, 2006 @ 2:10 pm
I've been virtually homeless for about a year now and loving it. Why buy land when I can leech off someone else's?
Comment posted by Ordinal Malaprop
October 14, 2006 @ 2:50 pm
Comment posted by Gary Hayes
October 14, 2006 @ 8:43 pm
Yea you just wait till your luck runs out - you'll be joining the criminal set in no time. I've a good mind to report you to the SL authorities ;-)

BTW yet another Linden "can't handle hacker" SL is down again - that's three updates since Wednesday! Beyond an irritation or joke we are now into 'hold it a minute I am paying for this' territory - think I might join the rest of you on the streets, switch to a free account, be the drain on SL society. Oh and if we all do that - SL ceases to exist, great plan.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
October 15, 2006 @ 11:23 am
You'll never catch me, I'm Verified! But am I Trusted... ?

Gary, I think the recent outage is due to a permissions bug introduced during the last client software update. It's bad enough SL is deliberately attacked, but this is obviously compounded when LL breaks its own system.
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