Avatar of the Year, Third Place: Mark Barrett – SLStats

by Pixeleen Mistral on 28/12/06 at 2:14 pm

by Pixeleen Mistral, National Affairs desk

As we approach year end, a joyous tradition is observed in the Herald offices – the selection of the coveted SL Herald Avatar of the Year Awards. As part of this solemn ceremony we present the most sought after and prestigious awards of the metaverse to the three avatars who most changed the news and the world for better – or for worse.

Mark_barrettLast year, third place went to über griefer Plastic Duck in recognition of outstanding “achievement” in the stupendous ironic bad ass race. This year, 3rd place goes to Mr. Mark Barrett for his dystopian surreptitious citizen surveillance system – the SLStats watch. Developing a covert citizen monitoring system would not be enough to merit this award – it takes more to impress the judges. Mr. Barrett rose above the crowd by turning small scale snooping into wholesale spying on the citizenry at large – then publishing the results to the world.

To expand his SLStats system, Mr. Barrett distributed free wrist watches with secret citizen scanners because – as he told the Herald – he was concerned that not enough people would voluntarily participate in his avatar database avatar to be “interesting”. In time, word got out that some residents’ watches were secretly feeding a web database listing what could be chance associations between avatars as “friendships”.

Strangely – at least from the point of view of the tekkie-wiki-istas – a firestorm of criticism ignited in response to revelations about the capabilities of the SLStats watch. Mr. Barrett and his fans were apparently surprised that there were complaints about collating and storing social information in a public searchable database on teh Intraweb. Stalking? Claiming friendships between cyber ho’s and citizen’s because they happened to stand within 100 meters of each other? Is this a problem? Besides, nobody really has privacy anyway so get over it and go along for the ride – this was the rhetoric of Mr. Barrett’s fans. However, the public at large was not persuaded and a classic tekkie vs. resident flame war ensued in the Linden forums.

Over the course of the controversy we saw
- Torley Linden dismissing resident concerns as “noise” while posting Mark Barrett’s responses to criticism in the Linden Answers forum as a favor to Mr. Barrett
- A general desire to opt-out of secret monitoring
- Grassroots pressure to limit the system to those that opted in
- Mr. Barrett’s eventual addition of a skull and crossbones decorated opt-out feature requiring residents to opt in to the service to opt out of it – a fine Catch 22 – and asking three times if you really want out – with switched the yes and no buttons – part of a series of smarmy PR moves that cost him many allies
- Hermina Linden breaking ranks with Torley in the forums followed by a Torley apology
- Absolutely no clarification by Linden Lab about the what is/is not allowed for 3rd party social data mining services – despite of repeated questions from the Herald and others

Hermina Linden was not a fan of Catch-22 opt out from covert monitoring

Ultimately Mr. Barrett decided to limit at the scope of his activities to only those who opted into the avatar monitoring system – and resident threats to shoot on sight anyone wearing a wrist watch subsided. Mr. Barrett and the Linden’s attitude toward privacy, social monitoring, and data mining and tone-deaf responses to resident privacy concerns led to a deepening cynicism about the nature of the metaverse – but this was a case where public protest was heeded eventually. Was it only a coincidence that the Lindens announced the closure of the Linden forums a few days later ? The forum closure certainly raised the bar for citizen activism by nerfing a citizen-centric communication channel.

Mr. Barrett’s third place award is a personalized wrist watch with certain scripts that have special functions we are not at liberty to disclose – we hope Mr. Barrett won’t mind the uncertainty about what his personal award watch is doing with his private information.

Now that Mr. Barret has his own personal watch, our thoughts turn to those who surpassed him. Next up, we look at the second place finisher in the avatar of the year awards.

19 Responses to “Avatar of the Year, Third Place: Mark Barrett – SLStats”

  1. Artemis Fate

    Dec 28th, 2006

    ahahahaha are people still paranoid that the watches are somehow spying on people and gathering “valuable” information to sell to some shadowy vague advertisement agency that can somehow make use of this universal trash data?

    That was some seriously funny shit seeing everyone all paranoid over that obviously harmless watch system.


  2. Urizenus

    Dec 28th, 2006

    Awesome summary, Pix. I like the idea of watches that are watchers. In the abstract, that is. cuz you know, like the words… ‘watches’, ‘watchers’….ok then… Back to work.

  3. Prokofy Neva

    Dec 28th, 2006

    Yes, I have SL Stats to thank for my bestest bosom buddies, Aimee Weber, Cristiano Midnight, and Schwartz Guillaume and other assorted goons, all of whom became my friendz through 96 m2 proximity while harassing me for two hours at the Sutherland Dam.

    Damn, I love social software.

  4. Back Forward

    Dec 28th, 2006


  5. Cleon Goff

    Dec 28th, 2006

    Kudos to a DIRTY Brother!

  6. Jeremy Vaught

    Dec 29th, 2006

    hehe DIRTY w00t! & SLStats.com++

  7. Lewis Nerd

    Dec 29th, 2006

    Do you always only pick griefers for these awards?

  8. Artemis Fate

    Dec 29th, 2006

    “Do you always only pick griefers for these awards?”

    Since when is Mark Barrett a griefer?

    He’s a guy who made one system for getting useless statistics he thought would be cool, but greatly underestimated how far the stick up people’s asses go (where’s the statistics on that?) and got problems for it.

    But even if you SOMEHOW cross the valley between PR Mistake and Griefing in calling the SL Stats program the latter, you’re still left with that it only happened one time, and not everyone hated it.

  9. Artemis Fate

    Dec 29th, 2006

    “In time, word got out that some residents’ watches were secretly feeding a web database listing what could be chance associations between avatars as “friendships”.”

    Yeah, Mark Barrett was very secretative about this, it wasn’t, you know… on the front page of the webpage of which the watch “slstats.com watch” gets it’s name or anything, or right in the description of the watch. No, no no, it was VERY secretative.

  10. eric

    Dec 29th, 2006

    Why dont you guys quit giveing fucktards publicity. If it isnt some spying moron its some guy claiming to be a super whore.Lets see you do a story and make it about something good. Or is that too much to ask? Quit giveinng assholes reasons to be assholes. Remember ANY publicity is good publicity.I will bet this morons website got 100 hits or more just cause of this story

  11. marilyn murphy

    Dec 29th, 2006

    how is this different from what rl mainstream press practices? lists are a popular entertainment. also, the criteria for this list is how much you affected sl.
    i dont think this guy can be classified a griefer. some do, i am aware, i dont.
    he did something he thought was a goof and fun and others registered panic.
    copybots and spying watches, oh my!!
    it is newsworthy, simply by dent of the reaction to it.

  12. Lewis Nerd

    Dec 29th, 2006

    It was a ToS breaking, invasion of privacy, that people only knew about because a few concerned residnets bought it to the attention of the wider population. If that hadn’t happened, who knows what else he might have been gathering without your consent?

    Thinking of how much fuss people make about their real life rights being “taken away” by things like the Patriot act… this is no different.

  13. PoP

    Dec 29th, 2006


  14. Artemis Fate

    Dec 29th, 2006

    “Thinking of how much fuss people make about their real life rights being “taken away” by things like the Patriot act… this is no different.”

    Don’t even compare something like this, which simply registers and posts who you’ve been within 100m of in a virtual world most often (as well as your easily accessible profile statistics) on some website to the Patriot act and the government’s ability to wiretap, it’s not at ALL the same.

    The one thing that could be considered a violation of anything on slstats was that, and even that offered no solid information. Campers would have people on their friends list they’ve never heard of, clubbers would have entire event populations as “close friends”, it’s trash data.

    Wiretapping however has a purpose and a target, if you really want to get paranoid about spying then Americans here should look to their own government not some cheesey fun-but-pointless statistics system.

  15. urizenus

    Dec 29th, 2006

    I do believe that the patriot act included traffic patterns analysis as part of the package.

    When TSO junked their reputational system of giving baloons, they replaced it with a system that did essentially this what MB’s system did. It automatically created a publicly visible friendship web based on how much time you spent near someone and/or interacting with them. Worse, there was and still is no opt out mechanism so far as I know. Mark’s system at least made things optional.

    SL Stats is a good story, I think, because it highlights the division between the techie citizens and the social citizens, a rift that is going to keep creating earthquakes in SL.

  16. Eddy Stryker

    Dec 29th, 2006

    “division between the techie citizens and the social citizens”

    Because people who have technical skills are not social, and people who are social lack technical skills. I think the herald should do a better job of emphasizing this point.

  17. Prokofy Neva

    Dec 29th, 2006

    It’s not just just that people who have technical skills lack social skills, it’s that they are utterly socially irresponsible — as in being sandboxing script-kiddy fucktards with no moral compass.

    Just because data is there to be scraped off your land or profile, doesn’t mean you’ve consented to have it all scraped, aggregated, and matched with other things you did NOT consent to — like stalking records of 96m2 proximity to other avatars.

    To keep speciously yammering about how the “data is all on your profile” or “the data is all in the world and visitor counters already count it” is to completely miss the point about *aggregation and manipulation* and the power that little pathetic dweebs like to wield over other people because they can’t get it any other way.

    Obviously, the greatest value of this device was its *commercial* value. And Mark Barrett kept denying it had any commercial value and feigning lack of interest. By showing which non-camp-chair sims had real high traffic by people actually remaining proximate, you could get more useful data than from the gamed traffic statistics. You could also successfully compile dossiers on people about their relationships and use them to blackmail or control them. There’s lots of aggressive, manipulative, and malevolent uses to which this technology can be put.

    The whining snicker of the script kiddies is to say, “But I can make it and use it therefore it’s ok”. They are devoid of any context whatsoever, and have no concept of how technology has to be integrated into society, not used to bludgeon people over the head. When it is used that way, people fight back hard — and they are right to.

    Like Eddy Striker/John Hurliman, Mark Barrett has irresponsibly created and/or deployed AND justified something not just as a “whoopsie” but as a deliberately malevolent act — that people be damned, that people feeling harm by it are in “FUD”.

    I hope these acts are indelibly inscribed in the Internet that they always run anonymously to and cite as justification for their acts (“everything’s public all the time”) and are reviewed by future employers and others hoping to understand their character.

  18. Jane

    Dec 30th, 2006

    Well sadly I missed this great and glorious time in SL, but I am a proud wearer of the slstats watch!! WTG Mark!!

  19. Jane

    Dec 30th, 2006

    Oh and remember…..it is http://www.slstats.com or slbuzz.com!!!


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