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15 November 2006

Second Life has been full of upset people the last couple of days. The CopyBot program has many up in arms at the thought that any prims can be copied almost instantly by a program user. This won't mean anything to non-SLers; everything in SL is made of prims, however, and an artful builder, spending time and energy, is able to create unique and beautiful things.

I deliberately didn't go and check out the program when I first heard about it. I've heard differing accounts of what it can do, and have heard there were updates that enabled the user to circumvent CopyBot defense mechanisms and copy more types of content. I don't have any first-hand knowledge of that, though.

My first thought is that the development of this program wasn't a bad thing by itself. Development of it, then posting the code publicly, however - allowing it to slip into the wild to be sold and distributed freely is rather... uh.... stupid.

I don't understand why LL seemed not to understand the implications of the appearance of this program* and the accompanying chatter. People have said LL was caught with their pants down - yet I just don't understand how that could be possible since Lindens were part of the Dev team. The only thing I can think of is that they just don't understand Second Life "on the ground." I have lamented their awful timing and the tone of announcements they make (which seems to enrage a lot of the populace). The fact that they are coming from a position of knowledge might explain why they weren't upset, but it doesn't explain why they didn't know ordinary people would get upset.

The problem is similar to the island cost announcement - I think it made sense for them to raise their prices, however to tell a few people ahead of time, then blithely say with the general announcement that a few people had advance knowledge - seemingly unaware that residents selling islands in that intervening period had been at a serious disadvantage - was rather unfortunate.

I feel like they operate on a completely different plane, now, anyway. That's fine - except they really should have a bit of understanding of how things are on this side of the equation. Leave out any right/wrong simplistic views: there needs to be an understanding that perception is as important as truth when you are dealing with large groups of people. It doesn't help that there's no way to exchange ideas and information anymore. The blog is a company organ of information diffusion, and not an exchange. Various problems have caused people to lose trust to a greater or lesser degree, which is unfortunate. The Lindens are spread thinly and I know I don't see the big picture, but to me this situation seems really unfortunate, unnecessary, and damaging.

*Note: NOT the program itself - the sudden appearance of it as it raises worries and fears of people who have nothing to go on but hearsay, ad copy, the libSL website, video and screenshots. Yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theatre is a way to create panic. Announcing the development of a program that copies attachments and saying that it won't be sold on slexchange any time soon - woops, yes, actually it's being sold on slexchange, sorry 'bout that - is another way to create panic.

posted by - 10:33 AM

You might like Raph Koster's very insightful piece on his blog
Thanks, Kim - an interesting link. I do understand theoretically how CopyBot works, but my concern is not with a specific program but with the way LL seems not to be able to predict how the residents will react. The threat may be real, imagined, or unavoidable - yet, it would be nice if LL could understand how the populace would respond and be able to mitigate the damage rather than inadvertently fan the flames.
Perhaps they are not so concerned with predicting and avoiding as much as they are with experimenting and observing.
Salazar, I was going to say that sounds like an antfarm, then remembered I'd seen two people name Antfarm today - heh.

I think with a large population that wants a bit of stability it's only fair for them to expect LL to do what they can to provide that stability since no one else can. I'm not affected much myself, but for some who are trying to run businesses (and that was in all the SL p.r. as being possible) it hardly seems fair to allow things to be roughly shaken about. Those people have to pay their tier even when business has slowed to a trickle. It's one thing when the trouble is unavoidable, another when a lot of the disruption seems to stem from the way the official news was expressed.
The other thing is, when the populace is upset they swamp LL under their blog comments, emails, IMs, phone calls, forum posts, etc. I think that LL could save themselves and everyone else a lot of grief if they understood how the general public would feel and make their statements with that in mind.
Another point is that people are willing to buy linden because they want to buy things inworld: hair, airships, tents, clothes, animations. The value of the linden is dependent upon content creators making things that will instill desire in people. LL has been selling huge amounts* of linden lately - so if anything jiggles the linden value equation they are at a loss since they are piggy-backing on the content creators.

*$164,000 USD in October

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