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07/16/2006

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Paul Hemp/Hempman Richard

"Imprimatur" is not spelled "imprimature."

Paul Hemp/Hempman Richard

...though I did like the subtle connection you made between the august Ivy League university and fully evolved shapes ("mature prims") in SL!

:-)

Okay, let me (like you, in the case of my article; thanks for the alert that your blog item was posted, BTW) take some time to mull your interesting though dense screed before getting back to you with some thoughts.

Prokofy Neva

Yes, "imprimature" is what we have in SL. "Imprimatur" is what the Pope has in SL.

Prokofy Neva

Most people could understand and enjoy my writing more if they read it out loud to a love one, like the instructions in "All and Everything" by G.I. Gurdjieff, or if they heard it on the radio. It's a thought transcript, not a blog, or an op-ed piece.

So let me summarize for you:

1. Marketing gurus who figured out that the avatar is an extended, discretionary, spending entity only loosely tethered to human beings with other purchasing habits are way ahead of the game.

2. They need to care about compelling worlds that keep the avatars happy and logged on -- just plunking down billboards or stores with RL-like stuff is static and boring.

3. To reach these finicky and skitish creations of the soul, marketing gurus need to go to where they live, whether through events or groups. (This is why FlipperPA fights for control and sanitizing of the Events Calendar so bitterly). Groups aren't working well enough yet, but they will, and if LL can make them work outside of SL while you're at work or unable to log on, so much the better.

4. There are terrible consequences for our freedom of all this data scraping and mining, and people and avatars will react by becoming more complicated, more finicky, and hide more and rebel more, even though a certain amount of harvesting will be possible against their will.

5. The next century will be about the war between Harvitar and Groupitar with some Emancipated Avatars affecting the environment significantly, sort of like North Vietnam, South Vietnam, France, the US, and the Buddhist Monks.

forseti svarog

you've always had a good perspective on groups and the importance of social dynamics in SL, so I need to actually read this at some point this week.

I always do like to remind you that you were not banned for what you said or to whom you said it, but rather for how *nasty* you went about saying it. And no, you weren't attacked first. I was there from th beginning, I had no agenda towards you, I never "shunned you", but I very clearly remember being *stunned* at how you spoke to people. Of course, you've heard me say this before, but every time the 'I got banned' victim line comes up, I think the counter perspective needs to be raised.

Prokofy Neva

I think you tuned in very late, Forseti, plus you like to defend your friends and circle the wagons for your caste in SL.

If you think I'm nasty, you haven't read the forums. You are like someone suffering from Daltonist colour-blindness, unable to see the red dots of an Ulrika or a Mulch or a Weedy or a Cristiano. You just don't see them. Siggy Romulus can call Anshe a douche-bag -- no notice from you. Cristiano can hound and hector some girl and capture her IP and drag out a drama with her for months trying to expose alts and chill criticism of his clique, and you have nothing to say. Weedy can write "if a tree falls in the forest on blaze and kills him and no one notices, does it matter?" and you don't flinch.

That's just to give you a tiny tip of the iceberg that is the forums. Every student of the forums knows that I was not "nasty" compared to all the other people on there. I was critical of a group that got hysterical and pressured the Lindens to ban me, that's all.

forseti svarog

I didn't speak about other people, prok, I spoke about you. The fact is that you are a good writer -- a wordy one here maybe, but a good one. You understand how to wield words to facilitate, to educate and to hurt. You always know exactly what you are doing.

Prokofy Neva

Forseti, that's your conviction, but I honestly just write to express myself. I don't make up some conscious, deliberate plan to somehow "hurt". I just say what I see. It's not what you like.

forseti svarog

well I'm glad to hear it's not of malicious intent. I agree with you that the SL forums are a phenomenally unpleasant place on the whole, and offer no excuses for anyone's obnoxious behavior on there.

Prokofy Neva

I've often found there is a kind of "urban legend" about my posts, as if they were some grave evil that was just beyond the pale.

It's instructive to go read them and you'll find that there's nothing of the kind.

In fact, the idea that you were "stunned" at anything I wrote is more about your group-think, I guess, than anything else. I'd like to challenge you to come up with any actual "stunning" post.

Example, my last post, nothing at all compared to the savage, malicious, tendentious bullshit you see on there routinely, and not a bannable offense:

http://forums.secondlife.com/showthread.php?t=50002&highlight=Four%27s+Crowd

Prokofy Neva

Here's another few, among my last. I think they readily illustrate my point. Interesting threads to read in general, too, about my early conceptualizing of the Groupitar stuff:

http://forums.secondlife.com/showthread.php?t=49912&highlight=Betsy+Book

http://forums.secondlife.com/showthread.php?t=50233&highlight=Betsy+Book

Kyrah Abattoir

>>

I think you tuned in very late, Forseti, plus you like to defend your friends and circle the wagons for your caste in SL.

If you think I'm nasty, you haven't read the forums. You are like someone suffering from Daltonist colour-blindness, unable to see the red dots of an Ulrika or a Mulch or a Weedy or a Cristiano. You just don't see them. Siggy Romulus can call Anshe a douche-bag -- no notice from you. Cristiano can hound and hector some girl and capture her IP and drag out a drama with her for months trying to expose alts and chill criticism of his clique, and you have nothing to say. Weedy can write "if a tree falls in the forest on blaze and kills him and no one notices, does it matter?" and you don't flinch.

That's just to give you a tiny tip of the iceberg that is the forums. Every student of the forums knows that I was not "nasty" compared to all the other people on there. I was critical of a group that got hysterical and pressured the Lindens to ban me, that's all.
<<

and still today you deserve your ban to be completed ^_^

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Trying to stick to the blog entry's point (and not side-tracking much), I read it with much interest, and almost felt compelled to buy that article from Paul Hemp :) (so yay for cross-marketing!)

Still, as I haven't read it, I cannot comment on the thoroughness of Paul's investigation of "avatar marketing". Your own opinions, however, are something different — at least I know how you research them, and your presented conclusions on that research are quite solidly defined for some time, in the sense that you always were very open on explaining how you reached those conclusions.

Data-mining for customers' trends to be able to foresee them better is a technology at least as old as the early 1990s — or perhaps I should be more precise and say: the *buzzword* "data-mining" was coined in the late 1980s/early 1990s and became a field of research inside computer science, although certainly most companies have been using it for the past century and half, just without any fancy buzzwords (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_mining).

In the Internet age, however, we have gone a step further — automatic data tracking and so-called dynamic content based on tracking your preferences and displaying the appropriate content and ads. This has been experimented at least since the beginning of Amazon, and at the very least by the very early Web ad agencies who targetted international users by displaying banners in their language. It's hardly a new thing, and has been around for a decade.

All modern web servers track user data *constantly*, and reporting tools are available for free universally. Some systems present complex analysis of the way users browse your site, and develop profiles for your users, regular and otherwise. Companies owning the content for those sites can thus redesign the web site in order to provide better access to certain areas that are specifically targetted to a profile; and, obviously, sell better ad space that way.

This is not new, a vast majority of sites do it that way. Even some blogging software gives you feedback on what types of articles people are reading on your site, so that you can (eventually) present your readers with similar articles. Or, again — sell ads on those "most visited" pages, which you'll be able to show to your ad customers on a validated report as being the ones most likely to bring them more views.

The "ultimate" data mining tool is, naturally, Google. Although strictly speaking they're nothing "new" in terms of concept, what makes the difference is how good and efficient they are — and the whole purpose of Google is to provide the company a steady revenue trickle from billions of ads. On an age where selling ads on web pages is frowned upon (it smells of the old New Economy days, where people thought they could sponsor free content just by selling ads), Google is the best-known exception — a company famous for stealthily building up *very precise* profiles of their users, and being able to sell "ad space" on millions of sites world-wide, with a very narrow targetting focus.

And you can't even turn them off (unlike TV). The ads will fill every page you turn your head to (except eventually some corporate institutional pages). What am I saying — *I* use Google Adsense too on my blog, and I'm pleased to say that I earn nearly US$50 per year just selling ad space there :) Ok, so it won't make *me* rich — but the point is that ads based on data mining technology sell. And selling space for ads also works.

Now, what you're mentioning in this blog entry is "SL Google". Not in the sense that things become more "searchable" (I second all your comments on the way the few search tools work in SL; and I ashamedly confess to be one of those who prefers to search for a friend's profile by pressing the Search button, instead of going through the cumbersome interface to look up the card). But in the sense that customers' expectations will be much better fulfilled by tracking their buying trends and interactions across the Metaverse.

I don't know how Paul Hemp's article deals with the issue. For me, it's not important to distinguish between the RL persona and the SL persona when tracking the customer's preferences. In RL, one might be too tall and large of frame for a skimpy size 8 dress, so that information on the RL persona would be worthless when shopping for a tiny anorexic avatar in SL, but really, except for drawing very interesting social behaviour models between RL and SL, what is the point? SL merchants don't really care if you can't afford a 4096 m2 plot iRL; they need to know if your SL persona IS able to afford the virtual equivalent, and how they can make sure that their offerings are known to *you*.

So, while I could imagine that Google AdSense/AdWords would work on different profiles, depending on whether you'd be logged in to the metaverse or not, this would not be the crucial point for me. Instead of storing one profile for both, they would simply store two profiles, and treat them separately. Not a big deal, when disk space is what Google has more to waste... :)

Thus, while I agree with all that is "happening" in SL — the ways that merchants and merchant groups are using all possible tools to track user preferences and enable them to target their customers much more efficiently (I always have in mind the "personalised ads" from the movie "Minority Report"), I hardly find that surprising. Even in the off-Internet world, I'm used to see supermarkets rearranging their shelves based on customer experiences (they were the early adopters of data mining technologies, but definitely not the only ones — think Blockbusters!). So this is something I *expect* to happen in RL — offline and online — and it hardly surprises me to see happening in-world as well.

Tracking data leads to more and better sales, and to a higher degree of customer satisfaction — or else, companies wouldn't invest in it. It also means more recurring customers — if you know that a specific shop is *always* providing more and better items that are targetted to *you* specifically, you'll return often, even if the shop owner is not one of the Content Barons — but just someone who knows your profile, knows what you like, and is able to offer you exactly what you wish. Often uncannily predicting what your next buy is going to be — before you make that decision consciously.

Yes, data mining software is that good these days. And so easy to interface with SL!

So, knowing about your personal stance on more and better commerce in SL, I don't understand your comment on "There are terrible consequences for our freedom of all this data scraping and mining, and people and avatars will react by becoming more complicated, more finicky, and hide more and rebel more, even though a certain amount of harvesting will be possible against their will."

Perhaps first you should explain what the "terrible consequences" were in RL, where the same has been going on for at least two decades. I imagine that the first-generation data mining software tended to please more the "average" customer (just look at broadcast TV to see how they simply gave up on the specialised customer, and simply appeal mostly to the [uneducated] masses, who, by sheer numbers, are the best consumers). But the current-generation data mining tools are more tricky: by "storing information on you against your will", you suddenly find out that the layout of shops, supermarkets, and video rentals tend to order their goods in a way that even the specialised consumer will find something that interests them — even if it's away from the "main shelves".

So what is so "terribly wrong" with merchants trying their best tricks of the trade to get your profile and provide you a better service, by presenting a personalised view of their offerings to each and every customer?

And yes, iRL, those data mining databases are sold and exchanged across companies, too. They're worth millions. So I'm not shocked that people do the same in SL as well. The scale might be tiny, but the purpose of data mining also applies, and certainly gives the wealthier merchants a huge benefit over the ones that have smaller operations and cannot afford those tools.

I think you're assuming that the customers will "rebel" against their being "tracked" for their profile (on ethical or moral grounds), and will somehow refuse to shop any more (or will shop much less, since they're afraid of getting "profiled"). Hmm, that might happen in SL, but hardly so in RL, where every major supermarket store knows *exactly* who you are and what kind of groceries you buy on average — making sure that when your weekly visit to the next grocery market is due, they'll have all the vegetables you prefer on display.

Is that so horrible, from a customer's point of view? Sure, I don't "like" to be tracked, as a question of principle. But iRL I have no choice; I have to buy my groceries, and my books or CDs, either online or off-line, and each time I do that, another line of data on my profile will enter a database. While iRL I can't do much about it (unless I want to go to the local equivalent of a bazaar where there are no computers to track me down :) ), in SL I might still have an option right now, but I expect that in the future, *all* major merchants will have some sort of data mining technology. They might not have any choice — they will need to compete with the ones who have that technology enabled.

So what is so horrible about it? It's just an ethical/moral issue, or is there more to it that I'm not aware of?

----------------------------------

As a final comment, and allowing some side-tracking again, like Forseti, I also believe that the issue of having you permabanned from the forums is one of *form* and not *content*, although I'm certainly siding with you on the issue of the "urban myth". For every "angry" post of yours there have been at least 10 [or perhaps more] very good ones raising interesting issues for discussion, that became "itchy" on some people/groups/SL companies, and ultimately, all these groups pushed for you to get banned. But nobody cared to comment on the other 10 valuable posts. Ah well. Life is unfair, and so is Second Life!

Prokofy Neva

No, Gwyn, in First Life, just as in Second Life, tiny cliques of people don't get to rule -- not for long anyway : )

Who are "all these companies"? 10? And...they are...what? People who post on the forums...and that is...what? 2 percent of the population? If only 7-10 read it; then a very tiny portion bother to produce copy and react to it by writing more copy.

Spare me.

Stan Pomeray

People spend far too much time worrying about "how something is said" (the tone) and not enough time worrying about "what is said" (the content).

The reason is that the former is easier for the bulk of people to get to grips with, and the latter would require some input of time, consideration and thought. All of which are things that the majority of people do not seem to be willing or capable of utilising. In RL and in SL.

Prokofy Neva

Now, as to the rest of your post, I don't know why you are assuming the lectern once again to pontificate about data-mining. Der, we know it's been around even longer than the 1990s, geez. Gosh, didn't those people in the Bible data-mine when they went and told all the people who had first-born sons in their household to put paint marks on the door post so the Angel of Death would pass them over?

But there are regulations; there are privacy laws; there are many countervailing forces that operate against companies trying to misuse such data or exploit people. And we have none of those corrective forces at play in the static virtual world of SL.

And your citing of amazon.com is definitely an apples and oranges, thing. Sure, amazon.com greets me with telling me a book it thinks I should buy; it tells me that other people who bought this book also bought this other book blah blah.
It limits its silly interventions, which I brush away like flies, to books and reading. I still use the site and let it mine away with its silly ideas of pushing books on me that have no relevance to my actual interests because the ease of ordering books and reading reviews outweight their silly mining and maneuvering.

But...amazon.com doesn't also decide whether I can have a yard sale; whether I can criticize it on a public forum; whether I can have this transportation system or that; whether I can swear in PG; whether I have to endure sign extortionists or whether they can be removed in the name of ensuring freedom from all from exploitation -- and a million other complex, interactive things I could say about a world, as distinct from a flat web page offering one kind of system.

That's why this referencing of Internet pages only takes you so far.

In your zeal to stampede ahead of the Lindens five minutes to the Internet, you all are forgetting that the earth is flat -- the Internet is flat. It doesn't reach in and intrude to my thoughts, feelings, and emotions in the way that a 3-d virtual world does. It really is different. It's not immersive. And the 2 dimensions it reaches generally only penetrate to reading and thought, not to heart and emotions, because it is not immersive and it's not trying to control or affect all aspects of my life.

>Tracking data leads to more and better sales, and to a higher degree of customer satisfaction — or else, companies wouldn't invest in it

This is one of those pecular statements that promotes capitalism with one hand and claims socialism with the other hand. Companies track data so they can sell stuff; they tend to have a one-track mind on that sort of thing. That isn't the same thing as customer satisfaction.

Especially nowadays, when tekkies are always lecturing us that the customer isn't right anymore.

Customer satisfaction doesn't come from strip-mining and forcing more volume of sales; there is such a thing as depleting your sources that way. There has to be more feedback and sometimes sales aren't the only indicator of actual customer satisfaction. Many people buy stuff they aren't happy with and the world is a worse place. Many companies oversell their product, saturate their market, and go belly-up and people drop the like yesterday's newspaper.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Prokofy, I think I don't understand your question. "Who are all these companies"? You mean companies working with data mining tools to profile their customers?

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Ah! I see now your point: your issue is not with data mining by itself; only with companies doing data mining and then influence things outside the economy? (ie. on a political level or something)

Well, I'm sorry, but your text wasn't very clear on that issue. When you wrote: "There are terrible consequences for our freedom of all this data scraping and mining, and people and avatars will react by becoming more complicated, more finicky, and hide more and rebel more, even though a certain amount of harvesting will be possible against their will.", it seemed that the data mining *by itself* was wrong.

Now I understad that you're associating two different things: those companies (RL or SL or otherwise) that DO customer profiling AND also influence your *life* somehow (again, first or second life).

Well, you might be right in some extreme examples: say, linking voters with buyers of hamburgers, and then approving a law that in order to vote, you need to eat hamburgers. Put into other words, when the profiling is done for other purposes besides selling hamburgers, well, I have to agree that there is a limit to what you couldn't and shouldn't do with that data. I cannot disagree on *that*. In my experience, however, this happens far less than "plain and simple" data mining — for increasing sales. Notice that I'm NOT denying that it MIGHT exist — it's just a possibility that is rather rare and unusual. If that's what you mean by "only 7 or 10 companies are doing it", well, then, I have to agree with you again. They certainly are a minority iRL.

To clarify the issue about "customer satisfaction", when you say "There has to be more feedback and sometimes sales aren't the only indicator of actual customer satisfaction.", that was precisely my point: data mining is ONE tool (by far not the only one!) that CAN give indicators on customer satisfaction. Data mining is NOT only about sales. The typical example is that a returning customer is a happy customer — and data mining CAN point that out to a manager tracking down sales and recurring customers. But yes, there are more possible indicators for tracking customer satisfaction, and many of those — but not all — can be explored and analysed by profiling customers and by using analysis on data mining reports on various indicators. Sales just happen to be one of many.

A silly example: from Google Analytics, I can see that my own blog attracts a large number of new readers, but only about 26% come back to read more; so I happened to learn that my audience is really not interested in what I write, although my strategies of drawing the attention of new (potential) readers are working :) Data mining at work! Using those stats, for instance, you could claim that my blog has a rather low customer satisfaction (low retention rates) and that I have to work much harder to keep the readers happy. Without Google Analytics, I would remain mostly clueless about what people are thinking — I would only see "more hits" but have no idea where they would come from (ie. new readers that happened upon the articles by chance, or returning, faithful readers).

So, while I agree with you that "more sales" is definitely NOT an indicator of "happy customers", I never claimed that in the first place! I just claimed (and honestly I cannot even "claim" that, I'm just quoting the book on DM) that data mining CAN help to increase sales, generate better sales (ie. personalised offerings to individual customers), and track down customer satisfaction in order to improve the customer's experience. It's no magic tool, though. A manager that cannot read the reports will not get automatic customer satisfaction "magically" just by having nice technology and colourful reports. But I never claimed otherwise ;)

BTW, I totally fail to understand where the "socialist claim" fits into that scheme.

Prokofy Neva

Gwyn, we're talking about companies in and around SL and how they data-scrape and affect our *second* lives. Of course, you're living in some vaunted stratosphere where you imagine that not only are you already on the seamless SecondLifified (TM) 3-D Metaversal Internet where all is One and all companies are Part of the Big Wonderfulness.

But let's try to just limit ourselves to the facts at hand, shall we? I'm talking about the world of Second Life -- still a pretty small frog pond if you ask me!

And you're constantly justifying the data-harvesting and misuse by unaccountable third-party sites around SL -- companies whose CEOS names we often don't know in RL; who have nothing more than an email; who take our money from scripted objects and we may never see it again -- and comparing it to established, RL companies like a GM or Xerox or Microsoft where there is a "there there" -- even if the "there" is only a help desk in Bangalore.

And when Verizon or Yahoo scrapes my data to flash me some stupid popup or amazaon pushes me a book, I'm sorry, but they are limited in what they can do to me. They aren't pushing lifestyles, governances and wikis run by people named Gwyn, eh? They don't have that same HOLISITIC GRAB that Second Life and its works aspires to. It really is apples and oranges!

Data mining by a company is not something that can substitute for representative government in a country. And yet that's what you'd have it do -- that is really what you'd have it do. You, like other social engineers who veer towards socialism whatever their indignant claims of being "democratic" would like to centrally plan and manage through enlightened committee members. You figure if you can just scrape and aggregate and analyze all the data coming in, you can make happy customers. I find that awful stuff. It's the stuff all utopians of the totalitarian bent come up with, and have always come up with -- how to have little groups of people who believe they are enlightened and have "science" on their side take over "the masses".

trannies

It's wonderful that you are getting ideas from this paragraph as well as from our dialogue made at this place.

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