Tateru started a discussion on her blog of people bitching about (or in the case of the ubiquitous whining Wayfarer, half-justifying) the Lindens' new third-party viewer policy.
When I saw this policy "as is," I thought to myself, "Yay! That's exactly what the doctor ordered."
Here it is:
2.a.iii : You must not provide any feature that circumvents any privacy protection option made available through a Linden Lab viewer or any Second Life service.
2.i : You must not display any information regarding the computer system, software, or network connection of any other Second Life user.
2.j : You must not include any information regarding the computer system, software, or network connection of the user in any messages sent to other viewers, except when explicitly elected by the user of your viewer.
2.k : You must not provide any feature that alters the shared experience of the virtual world in any way not provided by or accessible to users of the latest released Linden Lab viewer.
Can't see a thing wrong with that at all.
2.a.iii is obviously directed at the Emerald-like problems where the viewers were phoning home or scraping up data from the c:/ drive name or whatever.
I''m trying to understand the 2.j use case is -- what are they talking about? Phoenix tells people with other viewers what your operating system is? Network connection? This all seems extraneous but also innocuous. Who cares what OS you have? All in all, I can't help thinking it sounds good to block that even "innocent" information, because it means privacy about details that might lead somebody to triangulate with other information to harass you or invade your privacy.
2.k seems very important to me, since the "one-worldism" of the Lab that Philip so ardently believed in is actually a good perspective to have in an alternative online space where people tend to be lawless.
I can immediately think of something that is uber-annoying that Phoenix enables people to do -- and that is to return group-set prims when they don't have that power in the group. This bug "feature" is a problem for *deeded* objects on the regular Linden viewer -- a problem which I waged warfare against for a long time before I was banned from the JIRA over it because Soft Linden couldn't get over his creepy combination of John Galtism and Leninism which led him to become infatuated with group builds and the right of one more bossy member of the collective to return other people's prims in the group.
Phoenix takes this bug-feature one better and enables the returning of any group-set prim when you don't have that power in the group, so people return rental boxes, accidently or on purpose.
This is the sort of "bug feature" that is not part of our shared experience with the Linden Lab regulation viewer, so they should demand that Phoenix get rid of it. If I had world enough and time, I'd campaign on this, but I don't.
Another curious feature of Phoenix and some of the other viewers which is "not yet" a feature of any Linden viewer to my knowledge is the ability not only to mute people but mute the very view of their objects. So if somebody builds an ugly tower in the water right smack in front of you, or puts up a King Kong or a kitschy sculpture of a fisherman being picked up by a vulture bird, why, you just click and remove that person's stuff from your view.
I find this a very troubling concept for the notion of a shared world -- if everybody can wipe out the view and presence and builds of everyone they don't like, you can't have a shared world. But it's a feature that the insular whiny neighbour-adverse crowd of SL just loves -- I'm always amazed to see how on the mainland, people put up big ugly boards with photo-realist pictures to block the view of other people who in fact have nice natural-looking gardens or homes. Of course, some do it just because they like that "hey, I'm living in a box on line!" feeling as we all know. It makes them feel comfy to see the four sides of their...black box. Or the four sides of their...Alpine meadow where any moment, Julia Andrews is going to come out and sing "The Hills Are Alive..." and you're going to say "Eeek!"
But, thinking about this "shared experience" stuff, I wonder if there is something too coercive and collectivized in it. At the SLCC in Boston two years ago, when Oz rolled out this idea of removing viewer 1.23 (which he is now making good on, by removing it from the options on the downloads page), I wondered -- and asked about -- what would happen to alternative viewers?
I have absolutely no use for BDSM or "Restrained Life" but the principle at stake was interesting to me. If the Lindens claimed that anybody could roll their own viewer with features that not "everybody" had, why were they now reneging on it? And it wasn't just the creepy BDSM set and their chains, it was the disabled who were making customized viewers for the blind, or just any sort of separate viewer for whatever purpose. Wasn't that the idea? I hear that an exception is being made for "Restrained Life" -- ain't that always the way?
Of course, Khamon would always sneer at one-worldism -- "All Hail the One Grid the Holy Grid" he would snort. But I couldn't see a problem with having some kind of shared world because without it there would be no universality and no rule of law.
So ultimately, I could possibly endorse the critique of the new Linden policy *if* I could hear a theory of how *else* you are going to have *the rule of law and universality* in virtual worlds, i.e. a world in which it is not possible to impose the BDSM lifestyle on everybody or impose the caliphate on everybody or for that matter Catholic morality. A world in which there is a tabula resa of "separation of church and state" which separates "lifestyle from the public square".
I'd just like to hear more of a tractate from the Lindens on what they mean nowadays by "the shared experience."
Because you wonder if it isn't just that they're jealous if somebody comes up with a better feature -- although, I think they get to decide who controls the feature set at the end of the day. Let's say Emerald/Phoenix develops jiggling boobs. And Linden doesn't get around to it yet (now they have). Would LL just be mad at letting one of the third-party viewers have a desirable feature they didn't have and then "get ahead"? It's not like the TPVs make money from this open-source delight, but they get power and communities to rule -- and of course, that's what makes them a threat to the world. and that's what happened with Emerald.
So you could see that the new policy could be something that is meant to damp down features-competition with other viewers.
This is where people always mention the ubiquitous upstart Qarl Linden and his mesh fix or whatever. I find it an insufferable bore. The Lindens rejected him because...they get to do that as a proprietary company. Why are we weeping? The reasons they cited for not taking his patch had to do with licensing and copyright issues, correct? That's what it sounded like to me. So why is the "commuuuuunity" gliding over that fact? There's only a claque of fanboyz clamouring for Qarl -- most people never heard of him, don't care, and don't have viewers looking at mesh yet (unless there's some massive influx of mesh viewers now I haven't heard of, but I can't help thinking that most people don't have blazing fast new computers, like me, and therefore don't put in the latest viewers).
Qarl, true to form, comes and makes a silly intervention on Tateru's blog -- proving once again what an impudent immature ass he is and why the Lindens had to fire him:
the ONLY thing that can come from this, i think, is the acceleration of people switching to opensim.
i mean seriously – what can possibly happen? some cool feature that people love in a TPV gets banned. people can understand banning for abuse – but banning because you’ve got a better product than linden lab?
someone at the lab is really, really not smart.
The old tantrum -- waaaaah you're not doing what I like and I'm running to open sim! Except...open sim isn't getting any gold rush. It just never happens. They are getting of a lot of sims, no?
And while I think a critique of the lab for damping down other viewers if they have better features might be legitimate, it really depends on the feature. And Qarl's mesh thingie isn't the world-burner that would qualify. It's of interest to a minority elite.
So now what's REAAALLLY bothering the open source cultists? Well, it's Oz. They don't like the fact that this TPV policy is really only as good as the open-sourcerer in charge of the whole thing.
And since that person is the obnoxious and odious Oz, who threatens to delete people if they disagree with his "features" that others see as bugs on the JIRA, and who seems to rule the OS program with an iron hand, people are whining that it's the personality that is issue.
That's Tateru's point; she thinks that open source programs are fine in and of themselves but they only work when they have nice people, and Oz isn't nice so it isn't good.
Well, that's baloney. The open-source personality *is* the awful, controlling persona of Oz. Oz is in that job because he is one of those people with an "iron won't". His job is to bat away all the excessives that inevitably occur in some free-for-all like this and establish the iron will that the project itself doesn't have because it's loosey-goosey open source and not in an institution with rules and goals.
The problem is that Linden Lab, over the years that it has departed from its earlier hippier days, has become more institutionalized and now it is run by another iron will, that of Ron Humble. He is more secretive and more meshed in the arcane world of the gamer, so the whole open source "I get to do what I want" doesn't quite fit with him.
Oz is the Benevolent Dictator for Life that every OS project has and that's why open source is so awful -- the culture is dreadful. And it doesn't matter if you need this software even to read this blog or even to play Second Life, it's still awful and needs to be repudiated, as I explain here.
Open source is a cult where each and every programmer working for free feels as if he is God's gift to humankind and doing the world a favour by his free and selfless work, so the ego size is huge and even bigger egos emerge to rein them in. As I said, it's awful.
Anthing the dreadful Latifa Khalifa is bitching about is probably the opposite of what is a good thing -- in this case he claims that this policy about not conveying the information of users now "breaks' various online status devices. But...the obsession with online status is way over-rated and over-killed. People put out far too many of these things and they just lag sims. You can just IM them and if they are there, they answer of it leaves a message. Contrary to popular myth, messages don't cap *if you attach them to an email and have them go into email*. Duh! In fact the system even says "messages capped" when you log on, but in fact they all have gone into email. Duh! I wish more people would get this.
If a club owner or prostitutes in a brothel need to show online status and now this policy breaks the ability to show online status to the public unless they are your friends, will this really harm business? Can't people -- again -- just IM the ladies?
I'm also seeing that garden perennial of all efforts to rein in unruly coders, "It stifles innovation." That usually means, "It prevents us from scraping all the data of our customers to use in marketing in some way if not know, then in the future." And they wrap up that bullshit in a claim that they "need" the information about a person's computer, system, network except to do "customer service". Um, the person, again, can IM them that information if it is so goddamn vital. Like you do in real life with a geek squad forum, you know?
These are fake edge cases.
Tateru likely has put her finger on it with what she says in the comments, "The smart assumption is that there is a specific feature that the Lab wants to get rid of in one or more third-party viewers right now, and that this is what triggered the change. What that might be, however, I have no idea."
Parcel windlight? That's supposedly getting "grand-fathered". Hmm. That blot-out-the-view feature? I've never heard anyone say that. Osprey likely figured it out, "My first thought was that it has to do with the self-attaching HUDs and features that some viewers might add that misuse that feature for griefing" -- these come from the Linden Realms crystal game.
Wayfinder clubs around with the kids in the comments and concedes all their whining (including Qarl's, which is stupid) but then says something sensible I couldn't agree with more (way down in the comments on the numerous comments piled-up on Tateru's site):
This makes sense from a corporate standpoint. The viewer has always been the achilles heel of VR. From a business standpoint, LL made a serious mistake in open-sourcing the viewer. Now they’re trying to get all the animals back in the pen when someone left the gate open years ago.
I have to be honest, if I’d have been LL I would have prevented any external viewer (including Copybot) from running on SL from the very beginning (claims they couldn’t do anything about Copybot are total BS. That’s admitting they don’t have the skillz to handle corporate security and protect themselves against hackers).
I’d have never opensourced anything. That was a self-destructive move that did nothing more than empower their competition. It was a really dumb decision (one of many).
TPVs… as much as I apprecite them, have been a security nightmare from day one (which we warned LL about from day one)… and have made it far more difficult to maintain SL from a technical standpoint.
Bingo. And they should get rid of them. They would lose nothing but a few dozen whiners.
BUT why don't they do that? Because Phoenix has a lot of users. They've worked at creating features that give them a lot of users, they have all the data from those users, and they could in theory rally those users to rebel and quit SL. I don't *think* they really have that power. But they might try. And Linden Lab is afraid of that. I think LL overestimates their power (as they did with Emerald, which is why they first tried to make a deal with Emerald before booting them -- but Phoenix is merely Emerald under partly new management.)
Instead of discussing this in closed meetings with insider geeks and posting the notice on the community forums where it will get missed, LL should do a blog explaining this issue in layman's terms and *describe the features in TPVs that are bothering them*. It's odd that they aren't doing that.
On Tateru's blog, Masami Kuramoto says:
If this new rule means that “show LookAt” revealing avatar names and similar privacy-invading stuff has to disappear from TPVs, I’m all for it. I more than once received angry IMs from strangers just because I dared to look at them at a public place.
Oh, I totally agree. I once had a really creepy whiney tenant who started freaking out at me because I zoomed in to look at her -- the reason was that I wanted to make sure that it was a tenant who was on the sim, not a stranger wandering around in the tenant's yards. Unless you have a TPV that gives the avatar name next to the green dot (that's a privacy buster), you would have to zoom -- except Phoenix has this feature to tell you who is zooming in on you. It's annoying and stupid. If you don't want to be looked at, don't log on to Second Life and strut around on the boulevard.
However, just the sort of privacy-buster you *would* like the lab to address, and they won't be doing that -- Says Latif Khalifa on Tateru's blog -- "Masami, I asked that specific question during the meeting, and was told no, that feature is fine."
Someone named Ezra proposes a solution -- oh, bring back voting! Oh, get rid of open-source authoritarianism:
You know what’d alleviate a lot of worry about this? If Oz didn’t have 100% control over every feature that goes into Second Life on the open source end of things. There’s 0 democracy in how Oz is proposing handling this thus far. No one has time to figure out how to pet his personality well enough to get him to understand the importance of a feature he’s looming over at the chopping block constantly.
Something has to be reinstated, like JIRA voting and every feature request that crosses a certain threshold should be fair game for a contributor to start working on regardless of Oz’s tastes in what’s a good feature and what isn’t vs. the thousands of users that will undoubtedly know better. Plus, if its too outrageous and undoable a feature no contributor will pick it up anyway.
But this *is* open source. This *is* what it is. It isn't that goofy free thing that lets you do what you want, it *is* a dictatorship!
What these freaks don't understand, however, is that "you can't have democracy" not because democracy isn't a good thing -- I'm all for having more of it with game companies and don't buy the mantra that private companies don't have to have democracy as a feature. The problem is that "direct democracy" isn't democracy -- those few elites who care about features and certain features in particular show up and "directly vote" for what they want and "get their way" but the rest of us are uninvolved and clueless. Their answer to that problem of all democracies is "become a computer programmer" or "spends hours in office meetings with Lindens". And that's where you realize that parliamentary democracy is a good thing -- and we used to have more of that on the old Features Voting System than we have today on the JIRA.
Captain Bacon has this to say, which tracks my point that the Lindens can't be held hostage by TPVs "owning" parts of the population"
a while back, a certain third party viewer that got popular due to its features that were not in the main viewer (and easy task, LL barely puts in any features the users want) they started using the fact that a huge percentage of users used their client, to blackmail Linden Lab into doing whatever they wished. If they wanted a group of people banned, fine. if they wanted to not have to obey the ToS, ad even steal from people, fine. Because if anything happened to them, they would make sure those people would stop playing SL.
Then of course those assholes got their shit wrecked once it became public that they steal info from users and use it against users they dont like, they also were notorious for hacking people. So that killed their client.
None of that's likely to happen, sadly, largely because the user base itself never organized efficiently to demand these sorts of things coherently.
Now probably the best we can do is to try to get a list of the features out of the Lab that bother them as "not shared," i.e. is it online status? Was revealing the type of viewer in fact causing some people to be harassed (as some have claimed)? I find that hard to believe. But I can also see a situation where if people felt TPVs were violating privacy, either with features like the online status, or the ability to go up to skyboxes, or the "show me who is camming on me," some rental agents might decide they don't want people with those viewers on their land in their rentals or in their clubs. I certainly refused to rent to anyone in the Emerald dev group because the devs themselves personally griefed me and killed my chickens.