I'm still trying to understand what the Lindens are up to with this JIRA thing, and you can't really learn much. The forums discussion seems to indicate that there was a lot of bullying and flame warms on the JIRA, and maybe that unsightlyness and lack of "gamesmanship" got to Rodvik? But long diatribes on the JIRA only became necessary, I found, because of the sectarian weirdness of the Linden furries who have a hammerlock on the thing and their BDSM furry friends. If it were more normal, even like the forums are more normal with some more serious bans for cause (and not me, because I didn't do anything wrong), maybe it would be more functional. I continue to feel that this JIRA closure has to do with the "we created a monster" problem of having open sourceness.
As for the JIRA, it's indicative of how my own personal virtual world dreams die hard that I haven't pulled the plug on my JIRA Mirror Lodge in Duck, long in disuse. I keep thinking some lovely group of intellectuals concerned about democracy and technology will come along and keep hope alive. Maybe I will organize a meeting to discuss this. I don't mean a website where wonks will post bug stuff, which will likely happen. I mean for the rest of us, normal stuff -- notecard givers and voter machines. Somehow, I would like to keep this little artifact of SL democracy alive, but in a way, I don't feel like if if I can't even find 7 other people to do it with... So think about it.
Meanwhile, word came today that a US military representative was at a closed, locked-down meeting about Third Party Viewers on Hippotropolis, a Linden meeting sim.
Everybody is NDA'd around this out the wazoo so I have only very fragmented reports and no time to research this now.
That military rep was apparently Doug Maxell (Maccus McCullough in Second Life), about whom I've written here and here in the past, critically. He is running MOSES, the Military Open Simulator Enterprise System.
I worry about the US military in virtual worlds, as I've written in the past. I worry about what this does both to virtual worlds AND to the military, making the former party to war and the latter party to sabotage by the enemy -- not to mention the copyright issue.
Now, if you read my Central Asian blog, you'll see that I have a healthy respect for our military, an ardent dislike of those who whitewash terrorism, and a great skepticism about those claiming the US is up to no good somewhere in an area where in fact the Taliban and militants are the real problem. I subject the "hate America first" stuff to withering scorn. Even so, I also worry about the US military committing a lot of stupid havoc, and becoming embedded in these tyrannical regimes of Central Asia, about which I know a lot, as I've studied them and written about them for many years. And the virtual world of Second Life is kind of like that a miniature emulation of that sort of situation.
Do I mind that the army uses Second Life or its reverse-engineered clones to simulate Afghan terrain and do training? No, that's probably a good thing. But I hate it that they aren't just using these platforms, they have now invaded the standards-creation body trying to impose their notions, and that they are part of the open source cult that both encourage unethical hackers and also actually leads to closed societies -- like this secret meeting. As I'm going to say on my blog Wired State soon, our government got WikiLeaked because it was wikified first...
SHamlet posted something about the MOSES project that grew out of Linden Lab's fire-sale of Nebraska. I never understood whether they sold off Enterprise SL lock, stock & barrel, or just seat licenses. You tell me.
This project can be viewed here, and the names involved here including Andrew Hughes who won a renewed Air Force contract again recently, but note that this an insecure site -- or a site that makes extra efforts to monitor YOU.
There's something unseemly about the military using "open source" and "open sims" that aren't really open -- it's part of a nasty culture that I think is antithetical to democracy and freedom, at the end of the day.
So LL and the MOSES folks had a behind closed doors meeting with the OS developers -- on the Linden's island in SL, on their turf. So what was this meeting about? Are the Lindens going to sell off THE REST of Second Life to the military like they did Nebraska? Or were they just talking about the new JIRA closure? anything changing in TPV policy? Why in SL, if it was about open sims? Would the Lindens not take a meeting unless it was on their server? Or is this just the regular weekly meeting of TPVs? Then why isn't that open to the public?!
Would the mil people be for or against JIRA closure? I can't help thinking they'd be *for*, because for all their "open" propaganda, they are for credentialed people only, as you can see from MOSES itself, and they probably don't like criticism of elites.
Remember that collection of Extropians and furries who ran that IETF group on interoperability? I was on the mailing list and used to challenge their outrageous destruction of copyright and lack of democratic governance constantly. Well, that group failed to get Linden Lab's blessing (the people who made There.com and its related Fortera military contracted worlds also dropped out) and eventually it was abandoned and picked up by these military people, led by Doug Maxwell. Basically, Doug is an entrepreneurial Metaverse scavenger and saw the opportunity to pick up old scraps and skim some talent from those open source hangers on out there and get their content as well. Any world needs population and stuff! Doug should let me into his world with my sionChickens for load testing purposes if he is authentically "open".
So like a lot of things in our virtual and Metaversal lives, the military is picking up what LL dropped -- so one theory goes from one of my sources. Are they going to drop more? Could the military pick up the JIRA lol?
Sitearm Madonna, who is a virtual world developer who makes lovely tableclothes although I've constantly debated her about her own opensource culty stuff, has written a blog on MOSES.
This talks about how MOSES is "contributing the military contribution to the public good". I'm having a bit of difficulty wrapping my mind around this, but I think this is like how NASA gave us Tang, or something... Open source coding is supposed to be a "public good," but we see where it leads. It leads to JIRA tears...
This world is "open," but not really, i.e. I can't log in and set up a chicken farm. It's open just to "peers" in the specialized NDA'd network. Says Maxwell:
“What you put on MOSES, you own free and clear,” says Maxwell. MOSES is also secure. “Even though on open Internet, these servers have security measures in place approximating (75%) what we achieved on SL Enterprise. MOSES is on the public Internet for good reason: to allow us all to expand, more efficiently, best practices in using Open Simulator and 3D Web virtual environments.”
Well, that's nice. But a system that has cleared, specialized creators who get to own their stuff isn't the same as a real open world with everyone's copyright protected. Why is something like this called "open," really? Open *standards* isn't open when nobody can participate in the discussing of what should be those standards
By stating that creators own their creations in MOSES, Maxwell still neatly skirts the problem of how they keep ownership through grid hook-ups, hypergrids, teleporting to other grids -- through interoperability. The engineered means of doing this isn't at all clear to me.
"MOSES already contains 36 Afghan-terrain sims inherited from the earlier project," says Sitearm. Can ordinary bloggers be allowed to see this or do you have to be embedded and a developer like Sitearm?
MOSES allows "full back up" of sims -- and I guess the problem of copyright is skirted because the assumption will be that the sim owner hooking up to it will own the copyright of the content on that server already, um, right? Right down to that last coffee pot, guys?
Does Sitearm have a contract related to all this? She blogs about a MOSES office hour:
MOSES (Military Open Simulator Enterprise Strategy) is a privately-hosted OpenSim environment with stringent security from hackers.
One of today’s key topics was security, as in, how can you ensure your chat communications cannot be monitored?
Well, put them up on the Internet? Everyone will be sure to ignore them!
One vital element to this whole discussion is that Phoenix/Firestorm (Emerald, remember?) are all part of this. Says Doug in this transcript, "Ms. Jessica Trinity/Lyon, the project lead for Phoenix/Firestorm will be here" -- and I understand she or some Phoenix rep was in the meeting today on Hippotropolis.
Doug said that they will begin "collaborating and learning about each others' practices." So the mil has invaded TPV-land? And the meeting in SL was apparently the weekly developers' meeting.
There's a lot to chew over here, especially for the initiated (that wouldn't be me). Doug's fear of overloading Jessica with feature requests is telling about the fear of public democracy -- you know, the same place that was the place from which the Lindens operated just now in shutting down the multilateral JIRA.
Other more knowledgeable folks should read this over and think about what it means:
o for a popular TPV developer group to cooperate with the US military -- do their users feel comfortable with that? Especially overseas? (and that works both ways -- military lawyers were nervous about having those foreigners at their MOSES meetings and Doug had to clear that).
o whether this claim from Sitearm that this is all a public good is true -- "@All – MOSES is about the future of 3-D Web being fully publicly available (licensing) If Firestorm is into that we may have a common cause."
Um, when do the rest of us get to comment on this? Oh, it's on a public Internet web site so we can? And you were going to find it...when?
Well, take a closer look, kids, and see what you can find out from this screenshot. Aimee Weber is in on the meeting? Does she have a military contract, too?
Does the FIC get bought out by the military, too?! Is this where all our virtuality will go to die?
A "high priority" for Doug/the military is encryption. You know, like Tor, that works so wonderful on that front *cough*. But every time somebody boosts encryption in chat, I ask about governance. How will platform owners be able to govern and police copyright theft, child pornography, drug sales and other crimes? How will abuse reporting for TOS violations work?
Why is it that the military, consumed with their own need for encryption, had to create Tor, that drags in the ability of WikiLeaks, antithetical to the United States government, and all sorts of pedophiles and drug lords to also make use of this software? Why is it they think that's morally acceptable under some technological exigency? what, you guys don't have enough 18-year-old GED recruits to populate your servers?
Listen to Doug Maxwell's security ambitions, that seem as if they contain the hope for that engineering of copyright that Alec Ross held out to me as a Silicon Valley shill:
[12:35] Douglas Maxwell: all of the traffic between the SL clients and the SL server or the Open Sim server is unencrypted
[12:35] Douglas Maxwell: it is easily intercepted
[12:35] Douglas Maxwell: you can safely assume that all of your chat can be read
[12:36] Douglas Maxwell: I want to encrypt all traffic, including prim transactions
[12:36] Douglas Maxwell: I want to attach a certificate to each prim, so that even if somebody uses a copy bot, they can’t do anything with it.
[12:36] Lisa Laxton: very nice idea
[12:36] Hanno Tietgens: cool.
[12:36] Douglas Maxwell: in the military, this is not a problem.
[12:36] Xhyra Graf: good idea
[12:37] Douglas Maxwell: we already have a centralized authority for authentication
[12:37] James McDermott: Air tight security to prim level
I'll bet. Like with Wikileaks? You guys are the weakest link in your security chain with your arrogance. A centralized authority for authentication?! Really? That sounds wonderbar, guys, like it could never, ever be overthrown, ever.
I think this needs debate at a number of levels.