by Pixeleen Mistral on 25/09/06 at 9:01 am
Linden leaves memento at goon gravesite
Banned avatars use IRC Link to chat in-world
by Pixeleen Mistral, Herald National Affairs Desk
I arrive in Baku sim and meander over to a small goon graveyard, when — right on cue — Mephiston Loschmidt shouts, “I HAVE NO SON!” and flies down the hill toward me. We are immediately joined by Shaomao Faulkland, Dano Plisskin, and over the next hour an ever growing group of “grieving” (not griefing) Something Awful goons, who wish to share a tale of shocking harm and woe — and never mind those jarring inconsistencies. Not surprisingly, with a reporter arriving on site, it is showtime in Baku — we are only lacking a virtual curtain-raising to complete the scene. The goon community’s impromptu theatrical troupe is reacting to the Linden crackdown early in the week in which 60 avatars were banned. Their graveyard stage set includes homey touches such as a case of Budweiser on a grave, which gives the graveyard a fine college dorm room feel. Is Bud the official beer of the W-hats? The assembled crowd unconsciously arrange themselves into a sort of Greek chorus configuration, and are grieving, swearing to “never forget”, and bemoaning lost inventory now that the Satyr sim has been reclaimed by the Lindens, with all prims of Satyr either deleted or returned. Sophocles was never so eloquent.
I had been to Satyr earlier and found it closed to all, so either extensive delousing is required, or the Lindens are addressing the current server shortage Repo Man-style. The Satyr repo job may advance the Linden goals, but they unfortunately had to delay the drive for 1,000,000 accounts by deleting 60 citizens deemed to be a menace to society — at least according to CEO Philip Linden at this week’s town hall. Perhaps the Lindens have become less than amused with a series of grid-wide crashes.
Still, I was troubled during a followup visit to the graveyard, when I noticed an unusual offering along with the other expressions of sympathy: Sabin Linden had left a simple plywood cube at the grave site. The Baku residents were pleased by this, and when I contacted Sabin, he said, “It’s me playing around, think nothing of it. ”. For all the compaining about struggling under the boot heel of Linden oppression, the Baku goons seem honored by a humble plywood cube left by a grave. You have to take your support where you can get it, I suppose.
Signs and Portents
There were signs that something awful might happen, when the Herald obtained a picture on September 17th of a number of Voted 5/W-Hat/Something Awful/pick-your-favorite-goon-group-name avatars wearing group tags that might be considered provocative by some: “Master Gridcrasher”, “God of all Gridcrash”, “Gridcrasher”, and so on. These accounts and others were suddenly removed from the metaverse by Linden Lab on September 19, in an event the Baku residents refer to as the goon holocaust.
While LL code jocks like Andrew Linden are working at fixing grey goo fences, the residents of Baku commemorated the occasion with their own user-created content such as graves, limited edition collectable t-shirts, and a monument to mark the event. I suggested that like other groups in SL they might raise funds by selling the “I survived the goon holocaust” t-shirts, but the Baku group told me that their honor and principles are more important than micropayments in L$. In an impulsive gesture of kindeness — or a blatant attempt to influence the media — my hosts in Baku gave me a couple commemorative goon t-shirts. Unfortunately they are set as no-transfer, so I can’t sell them at my marathon yardsale to augment my income from the Herald. SL and digital rights management systems can be so unfair, at times.
Starved for attention
After Friday September 15th’s apparent grey goo attack passed without official Linden acknowledgment for the grid crash, one might suspect a certain level of frustration set in for those taking the grid down. What’s the point anyway, without at least some credit? A tactical escalation was inevitable, and Monday the 19th, two self-replicating object-induced grid crashes complemented other sorts of user activities in Second Life — mostly by curtailing them and encouraging residents to seek other forms of entertainment outside the metaverse. No word at press time on whether Philip Linden includes grey goo prims in his impressive statistics on the number of objects created by residents. In any case, this was finally enough to get visible Linden acknowledgment, and start the perma-ban stick swinging. To help advance their political case, some of the banned griefers, including Feem Lomax, wrote confessional postings to raise sympathy for their plight, which they have circulated at the Second Citizen forums. The theory advanced by the Baku crowd is that the Lindens banned too many, and got the good with the bad. But the bad will be back.
Dano Plisskin told me, “The ones that should be gotten rid of, (and this is a so called fellow griefer saying that), a ban won’t work”. We discussed the ease of getting alt accounts, and the likelihood of evasion of the mysterious “hardware hash” that is meant to uniquely identify computers. Then I realized: now it’s the goons who are complaining, too. As I cover the SL Herald National Affairs beat, I have noticed a near universal concern with the ease of unverified entry into SL these days, for some reason. What will happen when Linden Lab resorts to the old AOL marketing tactic of mass mailing everyone on earth three free accounts every two weeks? I suspect we’ll know by sometime around Christmas.
In any case, with threats of FBI investigations seemingly having lost any deterrent effect on grid crashers, and the supposedly “good” goons telling us that bans only egg on the worst offenders, what should the Linden Gods of metaverse do? Mephiston Loschmidt suggested, “They should have a good long look at what the griefers are actually doing, and maybe try and get rid of things that are getting exploited.” This made me think about creating 10 more alts to vote yes on a “fix the security” proposal in the feature voting tool, but I suppose that approach has already been tried. Maybe if we all are postive and only vote yes, good things will happen? Unfortunately, I was in Baku, and these residents are not completely positive. Torley might not like it here. The Baku crowd’s grievances were neatly summarized by Dano Plisskin who said, “LL ban people for political reasons for things that happened in the past and had been let slide until now- what’s the point of making things if LL can just make it all vanish with no explanation”.
Speaking to the otherworld — via IRC
While Feem Lomax was meant to be banned from SL, his chat seems to be arriving in-world even while his avatar is M.I.A. in the find people tab. Just a short walk from the goon graveyard, there is a large prim through which chat moves between an IRC channel and the normal SL chat tool. So while going without an avatar is a drawback because Feem is restricted to talking near the Baku IRC link, he does OK for himself — when someone will pay attention, that is. The [IRC] tag in the chat log below is for people who are not in-world but are hanging out in the IRC channel instead. And so, I found that Baku is periodically haunted by the ghosts of the
[20:18] [IRC] feem: listen to me
[20:18] [IRC] feem: stop ignoring me
[20:18] [IRC] feem: hi
[20:18] [IRC] feem: can you guys in sl hear mer
[20:18] Dano Plisskin: pix:
[20:18] Kotaru Orman: Yes
[20:18] [IRC] feem: i mean me
[20:19] Mikko Kralomoc: More like “Lindens ban 60 innocent people, completely miss the real grid crasher”
[20:19] [IRC] nex: i dont think etna-2 has ignoring
[20:19] Sera Ersetu: YES FEEM
At first, I was a little disconcerted by the disembodied Feem and others chatting in Baku, but later I found it useful, particularly when I needed to summon Dano for a followup interview for this article. This tight link between the IRC channel and Baku seems to be part of how the goons coordinate their efforts in-world. Of course, being tied to an IRC link prim is limiting, so when IRC to in-world chat became inconvenient, Feem logged in with one of his alts.
Having someone who is banned log in with an alt might make a some readers feel that the goons just undercut the argument that grevious harm was done in the September 19th account closures. Certainly it is inconvenient to lose land, prims, and avatar in Second Life, but some might think of this as more a fine or tax on certain activities rather than a death sentence.
A certain amount a skepticism comes in handy in our metaversal world, so I politely asked the goons if they could possibly name the names of the 60 or so accounts which had been closed. This would certainly help bolster their argument that innocent bystanders were taken down by the Linden’s blind justice. After the first few names were offered, it became more and more difficult, but within a day they had constructed a monument to the fallen. It is left to the reader to reconcile the 22 closed accounts the goons could recall with the Linden’s claim of 60. Were other innocent bystanders caught up in the Lindens’ sweep?
In any normal sort of justice system, this inquiry would not have been necessary, but the LL police blotter does not publish avatar-identifying information about disciplinary actions, and excludes any mention of perma-bans, so we are left to our own devices in the search for truth. This impacts goons, since they are never quite sure what is barely acceptable behavior (their goal) and what is out of bounds. In an astute or perhaps cynical attempt to broaden their rhetorical appeal, Dano Plisskin said, “If they’re trying for a real economy, a real bill of rights is kinda a good accompaniment to that”. Indeed.
With my hosts in Baku keeping a relatively low profile for the time being, their speculation turned to what might be in our future. There was a suggestion that the 4chan /b/ griefers might get bored with Habbo Hotel, and pay Second Life a visit. Apparently this group specializes in pool closings, which, given the number of pools and water features in SecondLife is a truely chilling prospect. As Dano Plisskin said, “never underestimate the power of retard in large numbers”.
Given Linden Lab’s preoccupation with expanding Second Life as quickly as possible, dealing with retard in large numbers is going to occupy more time and energy, and it is difficult to see how the current kindergarten justice system can possibly cope. But look on the bright side! Perhaps we will learn if the 4chan crowd has any affinity for Budweiser and can sell that information to some trend spotters. Until then, “This goon’s for you!”