One of the worst examples I've seen of the Big Lie -- propaganda with some small notion of truth to make it credible for masses but wrapped in falsehood -- is the story of libsecondlife and its works like CopyBot. The entire story is shrouded in the instrumentality of the "end justifies the means." CopyBot is the device that supposedly duplicates your avatar's every attachment, clothing, and skin and by duplicating him, thereby rendering the intellectual property rights of the created items you were wearing null and void (it overrides SL's permission system normally specifying "no copy" or "copy" -- unless, of course their creator had the foresight to take care of all that in RL). Except -- maybe it doesn't do that, or doesn't do it well, or only used to do it, or there is a harmless, good-science use of it -- or who knows -- that's what's part of the Big Lie, to tell all kinds of contradictory "truths" about it.
CopyBot even has its own tendentiously written Wikipedia entry now, where all the usual suspects from Hamlet to SignPostMarvin are quoted to tilt the truth by focusing narrowly on technical issues that are generally beside the point.
Yeah, yeah, we all realize CopyBot was never a threat; oh wait, yes it was, it was the inevitable sluice gates of the Internet opening up and swallowing us alive; no, that's not it -- actually the CopyBot was broken -- like so many SL thingies! -- by the latest patch; oh, hold on...ctually, it never worked the way people thought it did, and it didn't really copy stuff so hot, yanno? So all those things could be true or not true, but the interest now for whoever shapes our perceptions is that we think it is NOT true...at any given moment. CopyBot was a big danger signifying the end of the walled garden of SL when it first debuted, and we were smugly and arrogantly told to "change our business models"; it was a minimal danger when the Lindens thought to make it a TOS offense; it is now considered laughable to consider that it was ever even able to copy. Interesting range of "facts" to have received from that ever-scrupulous factoid tekkie bunch, eh?
CopyBot lurched from being the Inevitable Edible Internet (Big Lie No. 1) to being "no threat at all and broken by this latest patch" (Big Lie No. 2) to being merely a speck on the flawless resumes of the sterling bunch moving from glory to glory in libsecondlife (Big Lie No. 3) to an unfortunate understanding that only led to the "reorganization" of libsecondlife (so Hamlet claimed) (Big Lie No. 4) -- to many other Big Lies I'm sure I'll get to as I write at least a three-part series : ) The fact is, all the bad actors of the libsecondlife story -- from Baba Yamamoto, who defiantly went around copying people (and only very late in the game started offering disclaiming cards) to Yiffee PawPaw, a v-5 griefer who remains in teh groups -- are all in place, with merely some new titles in some cases, but not expelled from the group or removed from the project.
I'm getting the distinct impression that few have really followed all the linear developments of this story and since the principles involved a group very busy now covering their tracks and scurrying around justifying their bad behaviour, it's hard to even put the story together coherently.
Right now, you get back-spins from Hamlet and side-spins from Nobody Fugazi, who is busy harrumphing at mainstream media covering CopyBot (bet he wishes he could censor that!) -- but hey, mainstream media is just belatedly tuning in, and rightly and seriously grasping the profound destructiveness of what occurred. Let me recount the mystery.
Eddy Stryker, in RL, John Hurliman, is a college kid -- like that Napster dude -- is a young, aggressive, cynical male with little or no inner moral compass, judging from his actions in Second Life and his comments right here on this blog. He's a 20-something on the West Coast who says on his own profile, "Economics/Finance major at Washington State University" yet he purports to be an expert in computer science and coding. In one day, he and his buddies were able to completely overthrow an intricated and delicate world created by people who used their imagination to make and sell virtual goods others were willing to buy.
Oh, you say, if it weren't him, it would be somebody else? Well, yes and no. I do believe in the role of the individual in history : ) Here's what is known -- and hey, I'm happy to take legitimate corrections.
I think an entire book could be written about this subject, a la The Soul of the New Machine, that is about the larger project of Second Life itself and how they chose certain people to let into the secret coders' club, and certain people not -- and how they hid the whole thing under the rubric of "open source" -- or the exigency to open-source someday. I'm not able to write such a book, I can sketch out some chapters.
Before you tell this story, of course you must genuflect and bow in every direction of the compass and first swear your allegiance to the open-source movement "upon which the Internet is founded" and you also have to briskly affirm your loyalty to the all-necessary notion of "reverse engineering". If you *don't" fall into lock-step on every single sectarian point on these two articles of faith in the Creed of Coders, you will be bullied to death as reactionary, filled with FUD, and crinkling with tinfoil. You will -- woe be it unto you -- told you are against "learning--oh noes!1111".
So...Who is Eddy Stryker and what do we know about his actions around libsecondlife and CopyBot?
I'll tell the story the way I know it, which is only what I know -- others can add or subtract. Libsecondlife seems to have gotten started or become actively engaged about six months ago. Remember when John Hurliman, unknown, posted on this very website back in August? I challenged the project back then, because I thought that the Lindens should not undo their own TOS; I felt it was part of the dangerous legal nihilism of SL. It seemed hugely suspect to me. Cocoanut shared my perception -- I know others did. The TOS of this game/world says you cannot reverse engineer. People like Nimrod had been playfully sent to the cornfield for reverse engineering. But now it was ok -- for some. That was wrong. It bends the rules, and enables those who keep the rules to snicker at those who bend them in a strange collusion -- why make them that way, then? If only to be arbitrary, and box out people you don't like.
John Hurliman even posted on my blog, and put a link to his project, but when you clicked on it, it gave you wierd messages about the site not having a certificate, etc. -- and I challenged that. Seemed like a pretty wacky, hacksterish sort of place. John said they didn't have enough money for a proper domain name. So, we're getting the picture -- it's supposed to be the computer programming equivalent of a garage band.
No doubt this garage band does all kinds of neat and interesting things. But there's another dynamic going on right within the group, that no one can claim they didn't notice. And that is that dozens of W-Hat/somethingawful.com/v-5 members were joining the group. And, both W-Hats and v-5s, and other libsecondlifes whose status with the griefing groups was unclear (and perhaps deliberately so) were not only griefing with the products of libsecondlife, but also selling them for others to grief with -- and also regularly crashing the grid to boot. Big time, serious, DNS-type FBI-investigation type crashing.
Every time I or some other Herald writer would write about this, we would be treated to a barrage of "but it's only one bad egg". After getting dozens and dozens of bad eggs, you begin to say that the omelette is rotten.
Take the list of the 25 described in the Herald article about the "funeral" in Satyr, and you have a list of many of libsecondlife's members. That's a lot of eggs! In fact, each time one of these types would be banned, they'd hurry back to SL and join libsecondlife like a badge of honour. The owners of libsecondlife, the key people in it, could not have been ignorant of this. Today, the group has 165 members because of a surge of interest and various rubber-neckers -- back then, it was half or less. It has always been a group on open, and libsecondlife -- and Lindens -- used that excuse to say that because it was open, it could not be vetted as to griefers. Since I run an open group myself, I find that to be total bullshit -- and more on their open group and its various titles later.
In fact, even before Cory Linden gave an official blessing to this group in August at the SLCC, Lindens had joined their group and chatted on their forums. The worst griefing members of libsecondlife would grab any scrap of Linden convo and paste it on their profiles. They *way* some of the libsecondlife types chat is almost touching and quaint. It's a kind of aggressive/defensive posturing, trying terribly hard to impress these Lindens who have the *real* jobs, and at the same time, swaggering around and acting superior that they know better than the Lindens. Makes for a humorous conversation!
If you don't know by now what W-Hat is, you can read the back issues of this blog, the Herald, and somethingawful.com including the SL section where plans for griefing abound. The v-5 -- the name refers to the expression voted-5 like five stars on a forums rating -- were supposedly a "reform effort" that was going to keep the lads of w-hat, famous for all kinds of hijinx, constructively enaged. I think it emerged probably nine months ago or something -- I remember some of them existed in June 2005 when Metaverse Justice Watch was founded because they all clambered into it and griefed it extensively. V-5 had nasty, obnoxious oldbies like Schwartz Guillaume in or "around" it, is one of the banned ones (they all went around in a gang, most of them belonging to several overlapping groups, i.e. Gay 4 Philip); it also had newer people and the ubiquitous Plastic Duck, or Griefer Overlord, or Gene Replacement, which was evidently his last name on an alt in SL (now banned).
This was what Verbena Pennyfeather, their leader, a wounded Iraq vet, told me endlessly: they were reforming, and becoming constructive. We were once chat pals in various groups; he would come to my meetings on Friday; he seemed perfectly intelligent and reasonable, but it was actually all a very devious game (I've written about that elsewhere). Verbena (who had a female furry but also called himself he as a RL male) bought a sim (Satyr) to do building; they entered a kind of Renaissance period where the theories of Philip Linden seemed to find fruition -- that people only grief because they haven't had a creative outlet, so with all the creative outlet of SL -- so this hydraulic theory of human behaviour runs -- then they'd never grief.
Wrong. They grief. And this was not unknown to Libsecondlife. I've listed their types of griefing copiously -- I will come back to this point.
But to fast-forward to the present, since the actual author of CopyBot -- the destructive "object stealer" isn't known (supposedly), we can only make an informed guess that likely, it's Eddy himself. After all, he's the one who explained very matter-of-factly to Hamlet, in an interview that is updated and double-speaked more than a patchwork quilt, that he was motivated to make the CopyBot by a job for a client:
"“I am working on a project for a client right now that needs these mannequins [that replicate],” he said, “which is going to have an early preview in the first week of December. But at the same time, the libsecondlife library is open for anyone to use, and we have a channel of developers that are all working on their own projects.”
The first week of December has come and just about gone -- still no debut. But read the interview with Hamlet carefully -- many didn't bother at the time at the height of the scandal. While we at the Herald were struggling to keep up with the largest protest movement in SL's history among residents (no, fanboyz, the Prim Tax Revolt doesn't hold a candle to this protest), and posting story after story about resident shock, horror, anger, and grim determination to fight back, Hamlet, Eddy, Gwyn (why are we not surprised) and Talila Liu were callously and casually noting that "yeah, content creators might bitch," and whooping it up starring in a home movie, which you can see here. Their notion of CopyBot as "inevitable" and themselves as the pundits who benefit on the talk shows of the Metaverse smugly delivering this bad news, is abundantly nauseating -- I'll return to that Big Lie later -- but focus on Eddy Stryker.
Had I understood it at the time, I could see that the mannequins that Eddy were talking about was the same caper that Nimrod and another source kept mumbling about and not getting quite straight. This is how the incorrect version of the story crept in about the ESC -- a source told me that Flipper and the Sheep and libsecondlife were demo'-ing the CopyBot on Nov. 7 -- a story I set aside as a hoax, thinking it was merely someone trying to set me up, knowing of my long-standing criticism of Flipper. Instead of writing about it back then, I wrote to 2 Lindens, sending them the IMs and pictures of the bots and urging them to investigate, thinking it was a serious exploit. My skepticism about being set up, and the entire bona fides of the story itself are all amply documented in the Herald. In fact, my source persisted and persisted over time, explaining to me over and over again the nuances of both the Sheep's involvement -- tangentially, but still involved -- and the nature of the mannequin-maker and its relationship to CopyBot.
Sable Sunset erroneously thinks that CopyBot is merely the mannequin-maker with a card inserted asking for permission to copy, but that's not *at all* how Baba Yamamoto and others represented it in the early days and how it appears in fact to function.
o As we attempted to follow the story in the second week of November, several days went by while Baba Yamamoto ran around SL showing off the CopyBot to people, claiming it was open-source, yet not giving the necessary transfer to people (a notecard with a website with a download, not an actual object). He belatedly began showing a version with a consent notecard -- that was tacked on later. And of course Prim Revolution and Geforce, Eddy's alt and ostensibly Nimrod Yaffle's alt, were busy setting up a sales and distribution of the CopyBot before they were shut down (and here's more of the Big Lie -- where all kinds of people who aren't really the victims of CopyBot are made out to be victims of anti-CopyBot hysteria (like Moopf Murray, who had a generic vendor that one of the distributorsh appened to use to put the copybot). He was a victim largely in the minds of Gwyn and Tateru, as most real victims were concentrating on the grim realities of actually being a victim -- losing their sales and their business.
o So the founder of Libsecondlife, John Hurliman in RL, AKA MC Seattle, also had another alt named Prim Revolution. He sold CopyBot blatanly through that Alt, then brought him in from the cold. At one point he was banned; he is no longer. He made a partial public apology on the group's website, but then withdrew it -- thereby assuring that he spun everybody's awareness in the 24-hour news circle, then doubled back to hold his street cred with his fellow criminally-minded libbers. Why criminally-minded? Because they were willing to cynically feign reform and apologies and vows to change -- then go back to being exactly what they were. We read the seemingly sincere and detailed explanation from the new management of libsecondlife named Jonathan Freedman, yet note that far from having "stepped away from the project," as the brief notice on the website describes the controversial members as having done, they are all in the group. Nobody left. Nobody got expelled. Nothing changed. These open-sourcerers are as secretive and as unaccountable as ever, and there are no new posts for weeks on their website.
o As we know from the chat histories on sluniverse.com, the founder of Libsl, John/Hurliman/Eddy Stryker, paid Nimrod Yaffle $100 US to feed false information to journalists and bloggers like me, and deliberately connived in the most cynical and underhanded fashion to spin the story and plan for how to force people's reactions and understandings into a certain mold. In fact, by telling Nimrod to try to spread the story of shifting the plan to v-5, a faction of somethingawful.com's griefing group W-hat, many of whose members are banned permanently from SL, he no doubt thought he'd distract attention from the very real connection that v-5 has had to libsecondlife. Or maybe it was a Freudian slip.
o Eddy Stryker, who styled himself as an altruistic reverse engineer dedicated to the good of the cause, in fact had a commercial interest in working on something else similar to CopyBot -- he had a client who was interested in having him create mannequins. The story of "the apparels company with an interest in CopyBot" which I was told (falsely) and unwittingly gave legs to, is still a mystery. Eddy's own interest in all this is still a mystery -- yet he himself discussed it in New World Notes.
o First, Nimrod said that Eddy told him a Sheep employee in the libsl group had an apparels client who commissioned the Bot; later it developed this was false and may have been said to distract the gaze from Eddy's own client with a commision. Nimrod is vague on this point; so is Eddy. Nimrod said that "CW," which are the real initials of Christan Prior, was "an ESC employee" who was (and is) in libsecondlife and that *he* had a client that was interested in the experiments on the CopyBot.
ESC vehemently denied the charges and I retracted that part of my original reporting, which I had made in good faith as part of an overall op-ed piece about the devastating indifference big business and their sherpas like ESC have had to the real problem of destruction of our world -- devastating, because they rip apart the world of micropayments and the relationships that go into them, and make only payments in RL terms have meaning.
Perhaps such developments are inevitable; the way they are going about it is most definitely not. Tearing apart a walled garden because RL is intruding, or the Internet where everything is a copy, is inevitable. Destroying the world of micropayments and IP in a day, and allowing a handful to make a windfall profit from it, is not.
(To be continued)