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12/24/2007

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Robert Bloomfield

Prokofy,

Thanks for providing your thoughts on each of the topics I am considering for my Metanomics interview with Robin Harper. Whether I am writing about accounting standards or preparing for a newfangled SLTV show, I find it helpful to seek advice from people who have thought about the issues in question. While I rarely get such publicly critical responses, I still chalk this up as a ‘win.’ After all, I get some helpful input in winnowing topics and crafting questions, along with a little promotion for the show (which, your readers might want to know, will take place on January 7th, 11am SLT… join the Metanomics group inworld for notices of all upcoming events).

As far as your ‘main criticism’ of me, you are right that I am looking into a variety of opportunities in virtual worlds, including conducting academic research in SL, creating new worlds in which to study financial regulation, and helping executives and enterprises navigate the metaverse. I will need to be careful that my more active and visible endeavors don’t jeopardize my academic research, but at this point I don’t see many problems.

I share your concerns about the SLBB/VWBB and SLEC....they have a lot of work to do to establish that they can be effective and evenhanded. But industry-sponsored self-regulatory groups arise and succeed frequently in the real world, so I am not ready to concede that the idea is fundamentally flawed or non-democratic. Mostly, I am surprised that no competitors have arisen to challenge their positions.

Prokofy Neva

Rob,

Are you saying that you are a paid consultant to executives and enterprises? I'm not sure what you mean by "help".

So the businesses that advertise on Metaversed.com and Metanomics pay for advertising on the site and the shows, then they themselves are the subjects of the interviews (that's often how it has been working), then they also pay you as a consultant?

You say, "will need to be careful that my more active and visible endeavors don’t jeopardize my academic research." I imagine like all vain creatures, your department heads or college board members or whoever is in the decision-making capacity is more likely flattered and impressed at getting all the news coverage for their institution rather than thinking if there *is* a conflict.

But I *do* ask if it is a conflict of interest to be studying the entities that pay you -- that's one of my chief critiques of Metaversed as it developed, that the people on the shows were the advertisers. I realize it's one happy little party, and I am merely viewed as a "troll" for raising this, but it has to be raised as a public matter.

What kind of research does the public get when the subjects of research are so close to those who study? Given the profound impact of games and worlds on people, especially young people who play them a lot, is this a good thing?

I raised these questions with Aaron Delwiche. He pondered these matters himself. Eventually, he went on leave from his academic post and started a metaversal development company, and then even went to another one. He also does events in world.

Perhaps this is an inevitable stage of this field.

You don't share my concerns about the SLBB etc because at every turn, you promote them, and merely wipe away any confrontation about the essential problem they pose by saying they are "at an early stage" or "you hope they grow" blah blah.

But the entire premise is wrong. They are not counterparts to the RL institutions as I've noted repeatedly -- the SLBB is nothing like the real Better Business Bureau.

Industry doesn't sponsor the SLBB, it is an independent non-profit monitoring business. Industry doesn't sponsor the SEC, either, my God. These are just basic, obvious truths. Industry groups are good for self-regulation, but that's not what these things claim to be -- they behave as if they have the credibility of a non-profit not associated directly with business, and they behave as if they have the credibility of an agency created by an elected and accountable government -- which they don't.

Competition shouldn't arise against them based on these models, because it merely perpetuates the same flawed concept, that groups of businesses inworld can whitelist themselves and blacklist others, or play government with other people's money when they are anonymous and unaccountable.

Prokofy Neva

Oh, BTW it's helpful to remember that I'm banned from Metaversed Island and group and by extention Metanomics (and you've been fuzzy about whether or not you are going to uphold this oppressive ban).

Why? Well, here's the whole story for those just tuning in,
http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2007/10/canned-from-the.html

but it has to do with moderators not moderating, in fact, and allowing stalkers and harassers, like Sean Percival (who now runs the Mahalo page) to have their head. Then if I fight back, I'm banned for saying "fuck you" in a group and also telling another creep off who told me I was a "middle aged loser" blah blah blah. I told *him* I'd punch him out. I'm proud to be a "middle-aged loser" if that's what I am, doing what I do : ). Actually, what a lot of it was about was criticizing the Sheep's viewer.

I suppose *this* is an inevitable stage for "new technology" too, especially of the 3-D communication variety, where young arrogant males get to be rude assholes with no consequences, and where the people selling advertising to companies that pay them to cover them decide what the discourse is.

So, new media, if this is what it is, definitely cries out to be disrupted, just like old media.

Prokofy Neva

Oh! I forgot to mention, while we're discussing the guy who owns the Mahalo page on Second Life now, Sean Percival (sean Voss in Second Life), this is what he had to say about presiding over getting me banned from the Metanomics group in SL:

"As far as I'm concerned you are too counterproductive to be a part of what we are now trying to build here."

Desmond Shang

>>"I share your concerns about the SLBB/VWBB and SLEC....they have a lot of work to do to establish that they can be effective and evenhanded. But industry-sponsored self-regulatory groups arise and succeed frequently in the real world, so I am not ready to concede that the idea is fundamentally flawed or non-democratic. Mostly, I am surprised that no competitors have arisen to challenge their positions."

I suspect that the fundamental flaw comes down to identity verification.

Without that, any determined scammer can leverage a trust-measuring group and then simply disappear.

Also, there are big problems with definitions and terms.

"Bank"
"Stock Exchange"
"Business Bureau"
"Hard Evidence"
"Verifiable Claim"

I think it is a foregone conclusion that character assassination can *and will* be done via disposable identities and so forth. Most decent folk simply refuse to believe anyone would stoop so low, but therein lies the problem.

Even ebay's remarkable trust mechanisms have the same difficulties re: identity. Scammers quickly build sterling reputations, sometimes over a couple years in collectibles or other high dollar areas - then simply 'vanish with the loot'.

I look to ebay - once they solve that problem, perhaps the metaverse can adopt the solution. But they haven't. Sure, ebay may largely be safe for selling yardsale garden gnomes, but... so what. Our grid is already 'good enough' for comparable small transactions - anything that really isn't worth going to court over.

Best I can tell, there won't be a good substitute for real world justice and regulation. Industries often self-regulate under threat of sanction by governments - regulate, or else! In fact, governmental roles are typically in direct conflict with industry; that is what government is all about. Looking out for its citizens (even if only as a mechanism for maintaining control itself).

* * * * *

I have one silly, stupid way of evaluating effectiveness, and SL 'regulatory' bodies don't seem to pass the test very well.

Say for instance you gave $L 1000 to the average grid resident, with an agreement he will give it right back. Your odds of getting it back from Joe Average aren't perfect. But are they better than your odds with some of these 'regulated' groups? Heh. For anyone with any experience on the grid, Joe Average wins the day, hands down.

Here's another. Ask Joe Average what he thinks about various businesses on the grid. Usually you'll get a straight, honest answer. There won't be people who have paid him money to 'list' with him; generally he'll honestly say so when he doesn't have a clue. He won't quietly de-list the biggest 'bank' from 'membership' and also forget to mention it during its collapse.

So I see these so-called regulatory agencies *even worse* than the average guy on the street - an indication that something is deeply broken. It doesn't surprise me at all that few others would wade in these same waters.

Prokofy Neva

Desmond, that comment is SO astute -- that these grid businesses with names like "bank" and these "regulatory agencies" are *worse than Joe Average*. That is, they give the lie to the wisdom of the crowd -- or prove it -- or something....

I don't think it's at all about verifying identity, however. Quite the opposite. It's about trying to enhance reputation. Enhancing reputation is the entire name of the game in the Metaverse. People start banks to feel and look like big men on campus; they start regulatory agencies to look good. Vanity is the driving force of the Metaverse, not surprisingly, and it's very easy to be vain there.

That's why I think the solution isn't so much about verifying identity. I can think of 10 people whose names I don't know in real life -- and I don't need to know -- who I would trust to give $1000 to, and would expect to get it back at the end of the year as $1100 or whatever...And you're one of them, as chintzy as you were about Alice. I don't need to know your real name, even if you give it. And half the time, I can get even the real name and address of even an evil actor like Plastic Duck, but what could does that do?

No, what's more important is deed, not profile, and even word, on forums. Behaviour, predictability.

And I'd rather see a group form like the Honourable Land Dealers, that just says "We're going to bind ourselves by these few rules" and make rules like "if our landbot buys land from someone who didn't mean to set it to "anyone" we will return it" or "we won't carve up land into ad-farms" or "we won't switch prices on a client hovering over a land deciding whether to buy it and making an offer" -- or whatever their set is.

And that's how to do it. Make a group in which people say "We will bind ourselves by these rules" rather "We will judge others as to whether they fit our bill or not."

The first thing to do is to work out a position on ad farms and sign extortion. It's a travesty that this SL Virtual Business Bureau allows in as its member Chrischun Fassbinder, who puts up those awful signs still, some of them still left out at extortionist prices ($30,000 in Brown, for example), and now with even uglier and taller signs on them, but not for sale, even if you ARE willing to be extorted to buy back your view.

Jane2

My question would be about localization and its effect on retention rates...and what if anything LL plans to do about its competing and countereffective efforts in partnering with foreign companies (often not beloved in their home companies I am told) yet not allowing any orientation cross-communication between the English (American) grid and the rest, translating wiki pages ("all things wiki" isn't helpful when you're trying to convey information and build enthusiasm for SL simultaneously in 4 languages).

So much of the grid is non-English-speaking now but you'd never know it. I understand their reason for not releasing retention rates, but I'd be interested in their stats re countries of origin. Percentage would be fine.

sean percival

Hey Prok!

Yes I sent you what I thought was a rather nice email, instead of a reply I only find this.

I'm not going to try to defend your supposed griefing actualizations. Your mind is set, and obviously you are not easily swayed. For someone how loves to razz others you certainly don't take it well yourself.

You contributed to the SL page, you are an authority on the subject so your links were added. Like I said in the email, Mahalo is open and not as closed/biased as you naturally think it is. Go add your links to Wikipedia and see how long they remain. In any case thanks for your recommendations.

Shamless self promoter? You betcha, you do the same. Post about your rentals much here? ;) PS Click my name to buy my book, Prok I would be glad to send you a free copy. Its no trouble really, as you have pointed out already I'm one of those Audi driving, iPhone using, web2 geek gatekeepers.

Keeping fighting your fight, and for now... POOLS CLOSED

Prokofy Neva

Sean, you are a total tool. I'll never forget what you wrote, "You are counterproductive to what we are building here." What a fucking lunatic elitist thing to say, as if there is a "we" that gets to "build the metaverse" and other people who "get in the way" are "counterproductive". Who gets to decide that?

From my very first encounter with Mahalo, and the inane twitterings of Jason (my favourite was his repeated gushing about "the Louve" while he was in "Paris France Europe" ROFL -- I could see it was biased. Anybody can. Jason got 50 friends or whatever, out of the Valley, to write up a totally leftwing silicon tekkie wiki thing -- not surprisingly. That's his idea of "correcting" and "fixing" the Google issues.

Griefing is *EXACTLY* what you do in SL when you come to a discussion not to honestly take part in it, but to be annoying, to poke around, to heckle. And why come to my office? Just to snoop around and be an annoyance. In fact, the griefing attack that occcured right at the same time you were at my office -- coincidence much?

And while use a famous slogan from a racist, anti-semitic group, the Patriotic Nigras (Pool's Closed) if you aren't one yourself? Cheering them on, are you? Why join their groups in SL? Are you just commonly naturally to this state of assholery?

There's nothing "open" about a system that has people clear and vet links -- and putting in someone like you, they've signally just how awful it is, precisely because you are a smug, elitist -- and griefing -- geek.

I don't need to "add links" anywhere. How stupid! Google finds the links, or...I go on link readers or link sites that collect them by people or sites who seem worth bothering with (like Scoble or Technorati).

As for sending me your book, I hardly need to give my home address to someone who consorts with the PNs. Ugh.

Cocoanut Koala

Sean, you are a total tool. I'll never forget what you wrote, "You are counterproductive to what we are building here." What a fucking lunatic elitist thing to say, as if there is a "we" that gets to "build the metaverse" and other people who "get in the way" are "counterproductive". Who gets to decide that?

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