SLCC 2011 Drama!!! Avatar Identity: Privacy and Transparency in Social Media

by Pixeleen Mistral on 20/09/11 at 3:31 am

Mysterious threats leads to last minute SLCC program revision - a pattern of harassment?

The first indication I would be playing another round of Second Life as a real life alternative reality game came a few hours before the SLCC 2011 panel discussion on Avatar Identity: Privacy and Transparency in Social Media.


I was eating lunch, sitting next to Brent Baum and comparing notes on the SLCC experience. I'll have much more to say about Brent's surprising adventures soon - his impressive background in the entertainment business and abruptly terminated one year tenure in SL provide a fascinating perspective on Second Life. Our conversation was interrupted by news that there was a change in plans for the Avatar Identity panel discussion. Apparently the conference organizers had yielded to pressure by a party who they would not name. The panel discussion would not be streamed into Second Life as originally planned and there were issues with my biography, although it had been published at the SLCC site weeks ago.

Oh noes! More bad luck for the long-suffering SL players!!! Maybe Second Life isn't very good for attending meetings after all. Is this why Rod Humble can't seem to significantly improve player concurrency?

The bearer of bad tidings consoled me with the promise that the session would be taped and posted sometime after the conference. Last week, the discussion deemed potentially too controversial to air live in SL was made available here

Before I go on, I'd like to thank the conference organizers for running an interesting event overall. I'd like to think that despite the slightly surreal drama, the panel discussion is an example of how to make the SLCC a bit more than a fanboy convention. At the same time, I sincerely hope the SLCC leadership will take steps to insulate themselves from the pressure to produce a hopelessly gimped pablum program unable to discuss the real issues and concerns of the SL community for fear of controversy or offending the game gods. For starters, perhaps a blanket disclaimer stating any opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the organizers is in order. 

Last minute revisions to the SLCC program

While the panel discussion spanned everything from google-bombing internet kooks, the notorious Evangeline from TSO, avatar identities, pseudonyms, brands, and business opportunities for enhanced online privacy, I didn't think to mention the need for secrecy for those filing complaints about speaker biographies during the discussion. I'll know better next time.

Despite publishing verbatim the biography I sent on the SLCC web site weeks earlier, by the day of the conference panel, a badly nerfed version was on display at the site. It also seemed that pages 25 and 26 had been cut out of the printed conference programs by hand, and an unbound page with a revised version of the nerfed pages inserted. How much did that cost?

What sort of horrific typo - or threat - could have led to the bowdlerization re-working of the conference program at the last minute? Here is my bio as originally posted:

Pixeleen Mistral is the managing editor of the Alphaville Herald (, where she covers online culture and governance, griefing, vigilantes, and hactivism. Ms. Mistral began writing for the Herald sports desk in 2006 and became managing editor late that year.

Pixeleen's real life typist has been involved in developing Internet technologies for over 20 years, including early e-mail clients, Internet Gopher - one of the first popular Internet information systems, the IETF standard for URLs, and Croquet - an open-source peer-to-peer virtual world. In February of 2010, Mark McCahill sacrificed his Pixeleen Mistral pseudonym to fight an outrageous takedown notice filed by 'Justice League Unlimited' vigilante Kalel Venkman - a move that thwarted Venkman's abuse of the DMCA process to remove Herald coverage of his gang's massive Second Life player surveillance database.

and here is the last-minute revision to my bio:

Pixeleen Mistral is the managing editor of the Alphaville Herald (, where she covers online culture and governance, griefing, vigilantes, and hactivism. Ms. Mistral began writing for the Herald sports desk in 2006 and became managing editor late that year.

Pixeleen's real life typist has been involved in developing Internet technologies for over 20 years, including early e-mail clients, Internet Gopher - one of the first popular Internet information systems, the IETF standard for URLs, and Croquet - an open-source peer-to-peer virtual world.

Untitled 1
snip snip snip - someone had to cut page 25/26 out of each copy of the printed program
replacement page
an unbound replacement page was inserted into the program for the missing pages 25 and 26

Has the JLU's game leveled up to more RL harassment?

Normally, I'd let this sort Internet ankle-biter harassment slide, but after the latest series of leaks from Kalel Venkman's JLU wiki, I'm starting to think the role-play super hero group is having an increasingly difficult time restraining their child-like excitement and are unable to keep the gameplay - or is it harassment? - inside Second Life. 

If we can believe the leaks the have emerged from the Justice League Unlimited's wiki over the last few weeks, it seems Kalel and the gang have been trolling Linden Lab's PR honcho Pete Linden with off-the-record chats, hoping to build a case that the Herald is a menace to Second Life society. To date, my attempts to solicit comment from Pete Linden on the matter have been met with silence - even after I sweetened the pot and offered Pete the opportunity to pose for the Herald's Post-6 feature. I assume Pete is still skin shopping and will let me know when he is ready.

PeteLinden JLU
Is JLU grooming Linden Lab public relations lead Pete Linden?

Second Life - where self-described "psychotic superhero bullies" ponder stalking your real life

Even stranger is news that Venkman's online militia was discussing contacting my workplace back in April with claims that I violated copyright laws in the Herald coverage of the JLU activities. As far as I know, the role play superheros never followed up on that discussion, or if they did the claims were greeted with a swift and well-deserved trip to the trash bin. 

This is just as well. The cognitive dissonance in the JLU players faux-copyright complaints are overwhelming. Last year - apparently ignorant of the copyright law fair use doctrine - JLU leader Kalel Venkman launched a Digital Millenium Copyright Act takedown against the Herald, but then failed to followup and file an actual copyright infringement complaint after he was given my real life contact information. In light of this I'm a bit surprised that Kalel's group wants to even discuss playing the copyright card again. Kalel Venkman has refused to respond to repeated attempts to contact him for an on-the-record conversation about these matters. The un-censored copy of the alleged leak I was provided with is a real eye-opener.

[17:35] Samantha Lowell: I can have a draft of a polite, oh so sweet letter of
concern to Duke as soon as possible
[17:36] GreenLantern Excelsior: Duke?
[17:36] Melanippe Karas: I thought we'd settled the idea of writing to Duke weeks
[17:36] Samantha Lowell: I thought we could write the adjunct in question,
explain that Alphavillle Hertald is using his name and asking if this is true
[17:36] Samantha Lowell: "Thank you so much for your time," etc etc
[17:36] Samantha Lowell: Very poite, brief and genteel
[17:37] Jeremiah Pintens: TD here is lower than I am used to
[17:37] Kalel Venkman: It would settle the issue - or give us ammunition, one of
the two.
[17:37] Samantha Lowell: Amen
[17:37] Kara Timtam: Or he could lie through his teeth
[17:37] Samantha Lowell: And , if it's NOT true, it would set him against Ludlow
[17:37] Kalel Venkman: If he lies, then we can take that letter and post it.
[17:37] BilliAnn Bravin: Either way sounds useful, though there is that.
[17:37] Samantha Lowell: Believe me, nobody does childish cat fighting like
[17:37] Jeremiah Pintens: *laughs*
[17:37] Kalel Venkman: If it's the truth, then we can escalate to his employers.
[17:37] BilliAnn Bravin: Hee hee
[17:37] BilliAnn Bravin: They are terrible.
[17:38] Samantha Lowell: Amen, billi
[17:38] Kara Timtam: But busting a whopper like that could be important,
certainly if that guy has indeed been spoofed
[17:38] Kalel Venkman: One way or the other, it's ammunition.
[17:38] Melanippe Karas: Yes.
[17:38] Kalel Venkman: And we can use it.
[17:38] Kalel Venkman: No matter what he says.
[17:38] Samantha Lowell: I finished the textures for the poster vendor. I'd like
to set up my mini photo studio on the top floor of the adventurer's club, if it's
[17:38] Kalel Venkman: And telling us nothing is nearly as useful, especially if
we send it registered mail.
[17:39] Samantha Lowell: Return receipt :D
[17:39] Kalel Venkman: Exactly.
[17:39] Melanippe Karas: Good idea.
[17:39] Kalel Venkman: We could actually get some mileage out of this.
[17:39] BilliAnn Bravin: Yes.
[17:39] Samantha Lowell: I need you to email me the full name, I believe I have
the correct address
[17:39] Jeremiah Pintens: I've a question actually - not related to the
discussion at hand
[17:39] Samantha Lowell: Send a copy to his dean , mayhap?
[17:40] Kalel Venkman: Michael P. McCahill. It should be send to the IT
department at Duke, which is where he works as a contracting consultant.
[17:40] Kalel Venkman: Sorry - that's Mark P. McCahill.
[17:40] Kalel Venkman: Sending a copy to the head of Duke University IT would
probably be a good idea too.
[17:40] Samantha Lowell: Yes indeed
[17:41] BilliAnn Bravin: Oh yes.
[17:41] Kara Timtam: Include full documentation of the URL's where the claim of
identity is made.
[17:41] Kalel Venkman: He's left a thread dangling in easy reach. Let's pull on
it and see what unravels.
[17:41] Kara Timtam: Herald and Wikipeda
[17:41] Samantha Lowell: "I thought you should be apprised of this, given the
fact that the staff and contributors of the Herald have violated the DMCA and
copyright laws of the US on several occasions, etc etc..."
[17:41] Melanippe Karas: Psychotic superhero bullies for the win!
[17:41] Melanippe KarasMelanippe Karas grins ironically

Who could have imagined that Second Life would morph into a long-running real life augmented reality game so easily? How large is the market for cartoon stalkers playing dirty tricks on those they dislike in the name of justice unlimited? Linden Lab might want to carefully consider what sort of picture this paints to the general public if they hope to grow their online community.

53 Responses to “SLCC 2011 Drama!!! Avatar Identity: Privacy and Transparency in Social Media”

  1. IntLibber

    Sep 24th, 2011

    Hiro, you know that I know that you know that I know that LL is completely full of crap on this and a number of other issues.

  2. hobo kelly

    Sep 24th, 2011

    hmm, so Hiro is a little miffed at Pixeleen for the ripped out pages and the loss of the live streaming feed and the surrounding SLCC drama. Well well. This was another LL hit operation carefully and finely engineered by Pixeleen to force LL back into a corner where LL would either have to tolerate the JLU wiki story going mainstream within the pages of the SLCC handouts, or expose their connections to the JLU by having those pages ripped out at the last minute. BRILLIANT. Pix and Uri, i would go surfing with you guys any old time.

  3. Senban Babii

    Sep 24th, 2011

    @Hiro Pendragon
    “Explaining it in the bio was indeed relevant, however, it needn’t’ve been done in a manner that specifically mentions someone. It could have just as easily been written in a manner that described the background without mentioning anyone specifically.”

    Okay I can understand this but then I have a question. If this was genuinely an issue, how did the offending text make it into print in the first place? There’s only two real options.

    One, the text slipped past unnoticed, in which case the fault is entirely the fault of the organisers for not checking and discussing what was being published.

    Two, the text was originally considered acceptable and went to print but it was only subsequently that someone was pressured into removing it.

    Personally my money is still on LL trying to cover up the fact in official literature that all is not sweetness and light in eUtopia. Pix’s wording was slightly inflammatory but factual. A simple edit pre-publication would have cleared up any inflammatory tone while still allowing the facts to stand. Even a post-publication rewrite to remove any inflammatory tone could have left the facts intact. Which means it was the facts themselves that people didn’t want published (and they were skated over in the panel too of course). And as those facts *were* initially published, we’re forced to return to the two options above. Either the organisation’s editors/proof readers need a poke with a stick or the organisation came under pressure (internal or external or potentially both) to remove the facts.

    Now, let’s go further. The video itself which should have been broadcast live was recorded and broadcast later. Why? Well given the above discussion I’d actually say it’s pretty obvious. If something goes out live, there is no chance for edit or review. It’s pretty clear that the video was handled the way it was so as to make sure that no comments went out that weren’t “on message”.

    All that aside though, the panel was very enjoyable and thought-provoking, good job. I found Pix’s comment about if you want privacy on the internet the only way forward is to lie your ass off to be particularly relevant because as I was saying last night on Skype, any information I reveal online is a managed misinformation screen. That way, it’s impossible to judge me on my identity and only possible to judge me on the merits of my arguments and I think that’s the real value of anonymity/pseudonymity. In fact to quote a certain popular film:

    “It’s not who you are underneath. It’s what you do that defines you”
    Rachel Dawes

    Isn’t it strange how as a culture we can accept this concept through mythology and literature and yet we struggle with it in application?

    And to forestall your next question, I cheerfully accept your invitation to appear on next year’s panel :P

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