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  Secret ‘Second Life’ Government Surfaces  
 
 
Posted 2005-06-30 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Every utopia has its dystopian underbelly, and Peter Ludlow's The Second Life Herald leads the way in the raking of virtual-world muck. The Herald has discovered what some might consider "smoking gun" evidence of a below-board relationship betweeen Linden Lab--the company that owns Second Life--and the so-called "Feted Inner Core," a group of allegedly-favoured customers. The discovery seems to back up several key claims of Profoky Neva, a resident recently banned from the Second Life online discussion forum. Many have accused Prokofy of paranoia, but given the Herald's discovery, these claims seem to indicate a groupthink effort to discredit an unpopular agitator.

As revealed by the Herald, Pathfinder Linden, a Linden employee and forum moderator, texted in an IRC chat with alleged Feted Inner Core members that "Prok never 'technically' violates the Community Standards... Prok skirts them...and ultimately ends up inciting other Residents to 'break' the [Community Standards]...so, until we work out an official policy, the general rule is…don't let Prok's posts incite you to do something stupid...but...you didn't hear that from me (say no more)"

Prokofy commented here at Clickable Culture prior to the IRC log's Herald debut that "[My] sharp critique of the [Feted Inner Core] and their supporters among the Lindens and the lack of a level playing field are what led to my banning."

Based on the IRC chat logs, it seems that Linden Lab considers Prokofy guilty of incitement to anger, an activity recently designated (evidently after the IRC discussion took place) as a violation of Second Life's usage policy. It wasn't Prokofy, apparently, who was violating the rules. It was residents who couldn't control themselves. As a result, it appears that Linden Lab instituted the "incitement" policy to protect members from self-immolation by exiling vocal dissidents.
 
     
 
   
 
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  8 Comments  
 
   
 
Comment posted by csven
June 30, 2005 @ 1:42 pm
     
 
More than "several days" afaik. The IRC chat logs have been openly posted for over a month now:

http://www.sluniverse.com/forums/Topic5145-18-1.aspx

Also, "allegedly texted" may be inaccurate given the apology posted by the "alleged" individual on the official forum.

Just so you're aware.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
June 30, 2005 @ 1:58 pm
     
 
Hey csven, I'm trying to understand what inaccuracies might exist in my report. Judging by the forum post you referenced, the IRC log goes back at least as far as 5/16/2005. That's new info to me, thanks.

WRT "allgedly texting," are you suggesting that I use stronger language in light of Pathfinder's apology? I am usually pretty cautious when making assertions that might get me in trouble.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
June 30, 2005 @ 2:02 pm
     
 
I made a couple of minor corrections that make the post more accurate, thanks for the tip csven.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Cienna
July 1, 2005 @ 11:31 am
     
 
I love how "Don't let the troll rile you up" is a conspiracy versus common sense.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
July 1, 2005 @ 3:26 pm
     
 
One man's troll is another man's treasure... or something like that...
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
July 3, 2005 @ 11:29 am
     
 
One man's troll is another man's legitimate polemicist, indeed. The LL forum jackals are so steeped in this MMORPG culture that they use magical thinking with designated terms like "troll" to make people "go away". Self-immolation indeed! We're dealing with a particularly oversensitive, prima-donna content-baron sort of clique over at the SL forums and they brook no dissent, circling the wagons at the slightest challenge. One Linden summed it up perfectly for me when he said that my posts were not in violation of the TOS, but that he had a "near riot" on his hands when I posted my commentary due to all the punching of the Abuse-Report buttons by the FIC -- lighting up his console, I imagine, like a game of Hollywood Squares.

What do "trolls" or legitimate polemicists do? They're contrarian and persistent, and indeed they need to be in the face of really nasty "debating" techniques common on the LL forums like impugning of mental health, outing one's RL or libeling with the *wrong* RL.

My own feeling is that the Herald might have done better running the Pathfinder IRC story with some fresh quotes from PF and me on the incident simply because it did happen back around May 15 -- I suppose it's a sad commentary all it's own that this wasn't immediately given huge news coverage. I received this transcript from 4 separate sources, and when I attempted to publish it on the LL forums it was instantly removed.

I don't understand why Pathfinder's apology for this text makes it any less relevant or "inaccurate" at all -- the text stands as exemplary proof of the nature of my critique --that a small, vocal, very feted group of content-creators/programmers/board hos enjoy such a close, symbiotic, and protective relationship with the Lindens (who come from their own ranks, of course) that they don't even see what they do as wrong. They're already "on the same page". They don't see it as a conspiracy or even mischievious "group think" but just "the status quo" and "how it is supposed to be" -- and all outsiders beware. Hell of a way to run a Metaverse, that's why I started calling it the Feta-verse.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
July 3, 2005 @ 11:41 am
     
 
Prokofy, I think Csven was suggesting that my prior description of Pathfinder's "alleged texting" wasn't a strong enough statement given that Pathfinder had publicly apologized. It's no longer "alleged" if admitted to by the accused. I made the change to the entry to reflect this.

I don't think Path's apology invalidates any sentiments or statements expressed here. If LL was a real-world government, Pathfinder would probably be forced to resign, regardless of any regrets.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
July 3, 2005 @ 12:41 pm
     
 
Yes, Tony, I quite understood Csven meant to reference the "alleged" issue (it was immediately acknowledged at the time by Path, BTW and he took full responsibility for it, unlike legions of FIC who tried once again to impugn chat texts as eminently forgable). My point is simply to reinforce that this story wasn't OBE'd due to his apology, as some think, but is still relevant as a public document and event with ramifications for both LL policy and for resident response.

I'm truly sad that it's Pathfinder involved in this incident because for my money, he's the best Linden there is. He is incredibly thoughtful and intelligent and has sought mightily to lift the tone of the boards and has indeed done so with cultural references, interesting discussings, clippings of relevant articles, etc. In-world, PF is also very reachable and very active in promoting resident feedback, cultural events, discussions on topics like dispute resolution, etc. In fact, the whole reason that such an IRC chat log could even appear for public discussion was that Pathfinder was out there talking to the community in a public, accessible chat in ways that other Lindens either never do, or do in secret in ways we might imagine are for more sectarian and biased.

I'm well aware that Pathfinder, as the "best" Linden for many, especially for having absolved himself through apology, is going to come out looking only good in this situation, and I'm going to look like crap, especially being banned. But that's because the fledgling Metaverse is a complicated place where morals and ethics and good and evil don't seem to be so clear for some. I think PF's remarks in the chat -- remarks he would never have made on the forums or in the world -- reflect the unconscious bias of even very decent and good people that they need to look at very closely if they wish to grow this world. I'm not convinced they *do* wish to grow it really, but just hope to have enough consumers of the creative elite's content while they incubate this complicated baby in the lab some more.

I don't wish to see Pathfinder fired *at all* and I can't think of anybody who does. He's far too precious a resource and this incident can be put behind us surely. I'm far more troubled by his wrist-slap on the forums to a resident who outed by RL, and other moderators failure to take effective action about that issue and the libeling of me with the *wrong* RL (taking a RL person on the Internet with a name similar to mine who was accused of plagiarism). Those issues are what caused me to be as persistent a "troll" on the LL forums as I was, and caused me to return on alts to try to keep defending myself. That aspect of the story has simply never been adequately covered or acknowledged.

LL doesn't equally enforce the TOS on their forums because they are driven by irate readers who push the AR buttons, not by their own perusals -- they don't have the time or resources. Indeed, they ought not to be spending their staff time on something only 5 percent of the players use, even if highly visible, and should build up the world more.

A major reason for acrimony on the forums is the lack of both dispute resolute mechanisms and lack of conflict resolution culture within LL. Like RW settlers in a hostile environment in RL, SL settlers jealously guard the right to do WTF they want on their property and have no incentives for harmony with neighbours. When there are both more protections for individual and group land owners and better incentives for community living, some of the hatred on the forums will evaporate.
 
     
 
     
   
 
 
     
 
     
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