Op/Ed: The Perils And Promises Of Multi-User Shared Environments

by Alphaville Herald on 01/10/11 at 3:42 am

by Senban Babii - apologist for criminals and a notorious one

In recent days, the SL profile of Rodvik Linden has been under attack by a well known griefer (according to the leaked JLU wiki) who has been conducting a low tech denial of service attack by filling Rodvik Linden's wall with spam about British Lefties, fellow travellers and explaining how robots all tend towards criminality and so disrupting any valid informed debate.

However, even in these dark hours we can find interesting points to discuss.

notorious griefer - with chicken issues

One of the points raised was about the ability to create a sim where livestock could be raised in peace and where friends could come visit. I'm sure the readers will agree this sounds idyllic. But is such a thing possible?

robots exhibiting criminal tendencies at a sandbox yesterday

Let's take chickens, the actual living variety.

They need feeding, they need protecting from problems such as foxes. It's fairly obvious that if we allow our chickens to roam freely in a field, sooner or later foxes will begin attacking them. It's not that the fox is evil, it's just being a fox. So what can we do about protecting the chickens? Because ultimately if we keep chickens we have to protect them from the foxes and that means creating some kind of enclosure or similar. This is the reality faced by chicken farmers every day, so why would it be different in a virtual reality?

To expect virtual reality to work differently to meat reality is a flawed expectation.

Both realities are, in effect, multi-user shared environments and that means that many aspects are outside of our control, just like those foxes. We might find it frustrating that all other users don't conform to our expectations but that's the peril of working in those shared environments. It's also what keeps them interesting from both etic and emic perspectives.

We might find it frustrating that the system we need to jump into in EVE is being gatecamped by a Loki or we might find it frustrating that someone's air support Harrier is making it impossible for us to move from cover in a game of Modern Warfare 2, but these perils are what force us to adopt new strategies and new ways of negotiating with the world around us.

If we want to create an environment where we have absolute control, the only real option is to sign up for Facebook and start using Farmville, in effect a single player environment. Then you can raise chickens in complete peace, only inviting exactly who you want to see your farm.

In such an application, we're no longer in a shared environment and all we can do is show it to other people, they can't interact with it in any meaningful way. In effect you have created a one-person state where you dictate all politics, morals, religion, ethics and freedoms of expression.

But if you decide to create your chicken farm in a multi-user shared environment then you have to accept that - just like in the meat world - other people have their own politics, morals, religion, ethics and ideas on what freedom entails and their choices may ot always coincide with your own. However, isn't that part of what makes shared environments so interesting?

If we choose - and it is a choice - to spend time in shared environments then we have to accept both the benefits and the perils that come with that choice. We can't try and enforce our own ideologies, although we can try to persuade others that our ideologies are good through informed and educated debate. And we have to accept that there will always be foxes. If we're going to go round shooting the foxes in an attempt to protect our chickens, maybe we should reassess whether we're actually best served by working in a multi-user shared environment or whether we'd be better off working in Farmville.

25 Responses to “Op/Ed: The Perils And Promises Of Multi-User Shared Environments”

  1. paul

    Oct 1st, 2011

    Thank you for the thoughtful piece, Senban.

    I think this is right on: “Other users don’t conform to our expectations but that’s the peril of working in those shared environments”.

    Yep. I think that is a constant tension. More so than in RL, each residents’ experience in SL is different, and the biggest mistake is assuming that THEIR experience should be EVERYONE’s experience. You come closer to pulling this off the more time and money you spend in SL, ’cause then you can basically BUY an imperium of your own, and then treat your estate as your personal little ant farm… but the ants are people! ..Plus what is the true personal cost of all that money and time invested in SL that would be required to get to that point?

  2. LOL

    Oct 1st, 2011


    I agree with you on so many levels, too many people waste too much money on Sexond Life, Linden Lab, and thier own little virtual world.

  3. Dagooch

    Oct 1st, 2011

    griefers have the brains of a 10 lb., non-sentient carnivores? is that what i am supposed to take from this analogy? makes perfect sense!

    i personally believe that profacky neversaydie is a raging douchenozzle, who enjoys attention of any sort (although her preference seems to be for negative attention), but somehow i don’t turn into a vulpine upon spotting a virtual chicken.

    both sides need to grow up, stop making excuses cloaked as lame analogies, own their parts in this tango and move on.

  4. Dontspill McGinnis

    Oct 1st, 2011

    A very well executed commentary Senban, and a fair assessment of use of all virtual worlds.
    There will always be people who think their way is the one and only way on both sides of the screen, just as there will always be people who entirely miss the point of very well written commentaries.

  5. AM Oderngrl

    Oct 1st, 2011

    You rock girlie!

  6. Tux

    Oct 1st, 2011

    I have it on good authority this is Prok’s work station: http://i.imgur.com/PXekP.png

  7. Senban Babii

    Oct 1st, 2011

    Oh god Tux, coffee literally did just dribble out of my mouth from laughing XD

    The weird thing is though…..I’m not drinking coffee? O.o

  8. Trinity Dejavu

    Oct 1st, 2011

    Something has gone horribly horribly wrong. Well thought out editorial has no place on the pages of the AH ! What did you do with pappy and where are my prim babies?!

  9. c3

    Oct 1st, 2011

    people are not foxes…. free will. stop posting dribble. i can CHOOSE TO fuck over another today..or NOT. thats why “smart” humans create laws to govern… not code.

  10. hobo kelly

    Oct 1st, 2011

    or just Ban Prok, be done with it and then go to Burning Life which started at noon today… see you all there :)

  11. IntLibber

    Oct 2nd, 2011

    A voice of reason and sanity.

  12. Lum Lumley

    Oct 2nd, 2011

    I feel like I’m reading a diatribe from 2000 on how PKers are angry that game developers are keeping them from killing miners in Ultima Online. It was just as specious and self-serving them.

  13. GG3

    Oct 2nd, 2011

    Chicken Noodle soup anyone?

    Prok enjoys reading her own comments. It makes her feel special gazing at that wall of text, proud to exort!

  14. GG3

    Oct 2nd, 2011

    My inbox is literally filled with chicken-scratch comments from the crazy cat lady

  15. Senban Babii

    Oct 2nd, 2011

    Actually I worked out what was going on with that whole wall-of-text thing that Comrade Proksi-Server does.

    They’re actually ASCII stereograms and if you stare at them long enough you’ll see the sailboat :D


  16. Senban Babii

    Oct 2nd, 2011

    Okay, I wanted to post a comment from one of my colleagues but had to make sure I had permission to quote before I did. I’ve edited it very slightly to keep to the key points.

    “This strikes a chord with my belief that a lot of the virtual world reinforces a simplistic world view. In the easily influenced (and kids) that adversity is something to be removed by a checkbox rather than a problem to be solved. Getting your world (real or otherwise) fecked over is how learning and growth happens. Remember trial and error, that common sense recursive favourite towards a sensible solution? Without the error, the problem, we are in lala land far removed from a remotely plausible set of possibilities. Part of the charm of EVE or life for that matter is that there are consequences, dangers, incidences where skill will win out and inexperience will fail, that’s life and that’s learning. If MMOG’s or similar environments are going to be engaging and challenging they must avoid the sanitisation of threat and consequences otherwise it’s a lobotomising environment that becomes a wholly passive existence.


    My point being that MMOG’s should not be simplifying the world as their size and scale increases, they should be doing a better job of their original remit, making a more accurate and engaging representation of the reality we all share in what you would call meatspace.”

  17. T-Bone

    Oct 2nd, 2011

    God, that was one, long boring article. Slender pickings must be afoot these days with the ever stalwart Herald scrabbling at the bottom of the barrel.

    Hey ho.

  18. hobo kelly

    Oct 2nd, 2011

    Ok mischief makers, I don’t have a lot of time to hang out this afternoon because I gotta get back to Burnng Life in second life to check things out. I’m wearing camo. All herald readers should pile on in to Burning Life wearing desert camo. Oh yeah there are secret rez points in there this year too. Here comes our afternoon cartoon Mischief makers, I almost saw one of these in Burning Life… almost…


  19. Imnotgoing Sideways

    Oct 3rd, 2011

    Nice boat! (^_^)

  20. JustMe

    Oct 6th, 2011

    I stared and saw the Titanic going down, and Jack holding onto a scrap of lumber in the water.

  21. e (16)

    Oct 6th, 2011

    Farmers make chicken enclosures to keep the chickens in, and out of the veggie garden and grain field. Is no chicken-wire that will keep out a determined fox.

    The farmers accept this and also accept that foxes do what foxes do, like what you said. So they shoot the foxes whenever they come onto the farm.

    Online providers a bit like farmers as well. Can ask people like Fred Rookstown about how discouraging it is for a virtual fox to get shot every time he comes onto the LL virtual farm.

  22. Senban Babii

    Oct 6th, 2011

    “I stared and saw the Titanic going down, and Jack holding onto a scrap of lumber in the water.”

    Spoiler Alert!

    Jack dies.

  23. me

    Oct 8th, 2011

    “Farmers make chicken enclosures to keep the chickens in, and out of the veggie garden and grain field.”

    The solution is to recognize that humans have learning capacities. Learning curves vary due to physical conditions and factors, all measurable but not all well understood or reasonable to measure.

    I think the most important thing to realize is that people are eager to inform residents how to build and create content, but they do not really do much to inform noobs about copyright. I think free expression is good, and part of the geniusness is to use fair use to “transform” a concept. However, there is risk involved with even transformations, parodies, student work, etc.

    I don’t understand why people cannot be direct, unless they seek free advertising, in which case the lack of direct action. It’s better to be direct, respectful and quick with feedback – without practicing this best practice it becomes real clear real fast that something underhanded is happening. :(

  24. Persephone Bolero

    Oct 9th, 2011

    I saw who the author was and just knew there’d be an Eve Online reference in there somewhere.

  25. Senban Babii

    Oct 9th, 2011

    “I saw who the author was and just knew there’d be an Eve Online reference in there somewhere.”

    Oh Persephone, you wouldn’t have me any other way and you know it ;)

    Actually I was originally planning to use examples from a number of games but ended up keeping to just two (deciding on one persistent and one non-persistent environment). For my next article I’ll avoid any reference to EVE at all, just for you <3

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