Second Life Residents Vote Their Favorite Choices

source: http://secondlife.com/resident-choice-awards/

Every year a Second Life magazine, website or blog would announce some sort of “Best Of” award. This is usually followed with criticism about the categories, the selection process, and the promotion. A great example was last years Vain Inc. Reader Choice Awards.

This week, Linden Lab takes a stab at the award selection process with their own Resident Choice Awards that has categories for locations, people and things. While some complain about missing categories, I like their selection and the category names! Missing categories (such as a category for both men and women clothing, specific clothing items) are made up by categories like “My favorite depressing place to Be Emo” or “My favorite nom-nom-y Prim Food Artist”. If you consider the amount of promotion Linden Lab is taking with this award (on the blog, website, and through the Message of the Day), the winners are bound to gain just as much recognition from winning the awards. I recommend voting for your favorite Second Life place, person or thing and remember to vote for Nexeus Fatale under “My favorite house-rockin’ DJ” (what, you didn’t think I wasn’t going to try and promote myself!)

Linden Lab purchased XStreet SL and OnRez

Linden Lab has announced their purchase of the two web based merchange systems XStreet SL and OnRez. Their plan is to incorporate these services directly into Second Life. This is a smart move on Linden Lab’s part; by incorporating these service merchants are able to streamline their items, and goods through one platform. When Linden Lab created LindeX, the currency exchange service, it tied the purchasing and selling of currency to user accounts making it more accessible and easier to transfer currency throughout the platform. I feel the XStreet SL and OnRez acquisitions will provide a similar ease of use, a more robust classifieds system and an easier method for searching for virtual goods within Second Life. Continue reading

Homesteads: The resolution to the Openspace Sim Issue

Privately, among friends and during an interview this week I’ve noted that the controversy surrounding Openspace Sim raised the need of a new product; something that was not a full sim, but not an Openspace sim.  Moments ago, M Linden has announced a resolution to the Openspace Sim controversy, Homesteads. This is a really good move for Linden Lab and community. This new product bridges the gap between Openspaces and full fledged sims. A win-win, for those those who wanted to keep cheaper sim land, Linden Lab wanting to maintain their grid stability initatives. This announcement also displays Linden Lab’s continued ability to recognizing, listening and adjusting their policies based on feedback. Continue reading

MEDIC!!!! What have I missed?!

I’ve been a long time gamer; I always feel the need to yell out “MEDIC!!!!” really loudly when I get sick or ill. This happened this past week, quite often and the medic came in small little pills called Zircam, Tylenol Cold and Sinus and different variations of tea (with or without Honey). For the past week I’ve either been laid in bed or handling deadlines for work, or a multitude of other projects, and have seen a flurry of excite activity, announcements, projects and interesting news concerning Second Life. Virtual Worlds 2007 Fall happened, OnRez (i.e. The Electric Sheep Company) is releasing their own version of the Second Life client and partners with CSI to solve a mystery; HiPiHi, SceneCaster and Omnicom get involved with Millions of Us; Burning Life is remembered (by video); and IBM talks standardization with Second Life and Kaneva jumps in (Note: yes most of the links are from the Virtual Worlds News site – seemed appropriate as most of these things were announced at the Virtual Worlds Fall Conference.) It looks as if things are going to get very interesting in the virtual world sector of things. There’s a lot of activity, big and small names involved, oh yeah and much needed platform improvements coming down the pipeline.

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How Far Will It Go? (Virtual Censorship)

Linden Lab recently announced a post about keeping Second Life safe, and solicits help from the community to help prevent broadly offensive and illegal content in Second Life. While some are proud and happy to see this “moral stance” be taken by Linden Lab, it does draw some lines for concern. There are some who feel that BDSM or sexual relations with furries are morally offensive or offensive and may begin to report those and push for such depictions to also be removed. Who knows if it will happen but Linden Lab has opened the door for this sort of conversation.

In my opinion, I feel Linden Lab is reacting to media and governmental pressures brought upon them (I don’t blame them entirely for it). The U.S. Government took a look at gambling in Second Life and a few days later they made an announcement halting all classifieds and events that contained the word “Casino” or was related to gambling. An issue with the media and age play occurs, the Linden’s produce a statement concerning age play and how it is not acceptable to their terms of service. My fear is what happens then the line comes across language, or music, or something that may be deemed offensive (say explicit Hip-Hop music) by one group but not by another. It may not be broadly offensive but would it be offensive enough that it would cause Linden Lab to react?

Imagine if you will the recent Don Imus controversy happens in Second Life, what then? In the case of Don Imus in the real world some people really defended him and his position and did not feel that his comments about the Temple Girls Basketball Team were not offensive at all, another group felt (as I do) that his comments were racist. Imagine that case being played out in Second Life, the consequences of something like that would set the tone for a lot of things in Second Life. Another example that would run along similar lines would be having the Confederate or the Nazi Swastika (as the Swastika is not originally from Germany, but from Asia, see Wikipedia) placed somewhere on their land. Both these items are very racist, divisive symbols to certain groups.

While virtual, Second Life is so real and so tangible; it is almost its own country. One of the issues is that Second Life has the benefits of not experiencing Revolutionary Wars, Civil Wars, World Wars, and it probably will not. The United States has undergone several historic moments that have produced the United States Constitution, a Bill of Rights and definition of a person’s civil rights. Second Life has not. While this announcement is a good thing, it is also a bad thing. Reports of “offense” material from different groups will arise. Someone will take a BDSM club as offensive while another person would take it not to be. Someone may take the Confederate Flag as offensive and someone may not. These things are issues that The Lindens will have to deal with along with the same questions that get asked when discussing the U.S. Patriot Act. I feel that several things have to happen; it would be nice to know the exact procedure that happens when a piece of material is deemed offensive. Is that a conversation? Is there an appeal process? How lenient are the Linden’s going to be? I also feel that rather leaving the issue up to just Linden Lab, guidelines needs to be outlined. A Bill of Virtual Rights to ensure the basic freedom of speech and unalienable rights that most people would feel are needed for such a thing. The problem with this is you would need a government, laws, cops, the list goes on. This also comes into play as the Terms of Service is being tested in the recent ruling of Bragg vs. Linden Lab case).

The doors that these issues are presenting are huge and lead to very real, large questions and consequences. Some people will always attempt to cheat the system or to do something questionable because they could either get away with it, or file a lawsuit. But these things bring into question the limits of the freedom of speech, and the “rights” of Second Life residents or a virtual avatar.

Can you hear me now? GOOD!

Linden Labs announced plans to beta test voice in Second Life, using technology from both Vivox and DiamondWare. This is already generating some talk about how this effects the music community, but I am not sure this has the sort of impact say adapting ACC streaming technology in Second Life would have. There is a more social implication to allowing a person use their voice to discuss to someone else while using Second Life, but I hope it does not take away from the efforts in translation (see #1, Translator HUD), or communicating between different languages. Continue reading