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About one week ago there has been a report that aired on German television about the depiction of child pornography in Second Life. It sent out massive waves through the whole community, the Lindens even wrote an article about the whole case on their own blog.

The whole case broke down into this parts:

  1. the depiction of child pornography in Second Life, meaning: an avatar in child form having sex in world with an adult avatar and
  2. the exchange of real life pictures of teens and preteens in questionable poses (nude and more heavy stuff, it seems) as textures in world between some avatars.

The first case is not illegal in all countries; for example in the USA some could just say "heck, those are virtual things and just adults playing behind the whole scene, no real child has been harmed at all while doing this, and it is not illegal, either, so what's the ruckus?" The final decision on it has to be made by a judge.

But Second Life has people coming from all over the world, and in many countries the depiction of such acts - virtual childs or not - at all is already against the law, so already the first case is against German law. But of course this doesn't mean this act has been conducted by Germans, that's something for the Lindens to find out.

Even more serious is the second part - the real life pictures. Law is here more or less the same in all developed countries, posession of such things is against the law and therefore a case for the prosecutor.

The names of the avatars were shown in the report, by the way. If they haven't been banned already, they would be so dead by now, since million of people watched it and the word spread out, you cannot have an idea about that!

Anyway, the investigations have been showed to Robin Linden and she looked really shocked in the report. Ok, she looked not too good at all in the interview, but we all know who medias can make you look bad if they just want you to, by using the wrong light etc.

At last the Lindens have reacted at lightning speed to this issue. Why? Because this is a real, real big threat to their business. At the moment many companies are rushing into the still hip Second Life. If Lindenlabs would have not reacted at all, it would have a big image problem by now, not only being considered as "virtual sex world", but as "home of virtual pedophiles" or something like that.

And it is hard to convince your CEO to invest into such a thing, this would drive many potential customers away, so they had to react and with force, being open about it and telling all and that's exactly what they did.

Even if some consider the first part just "role play", I personally find that kind of "role play" disgusting, but like always, it is not going away, it is now moving more in the underground since the first case of such a thing has been made public to a big audience.

The next big thing in the community hasn't been the upcoming voice features or the introduction of sculpted prims (which are going to have only somewhat limited use), but the introduction of age verification to the platform. I've also written an entry about it, too.

Now we know the company which is going to do it. Well, they had to choose one, anyway, and there are not so much companies in that field.

Many people have disgruntled by the fact they need to verify their age if they want to enjoy mature content. The whole verification is a paradigm shift of Lindenlabs, meaning they are using the community to keep the platform cleaner. Now that the battle has calmed down, we all can take a somewhat clearer and better look at it.

Most of the people, who already have got credit card infos on their file, don't see the usage of it, since other sites take you as verified just by entering your credit card number. But this is not even sufficient and enough in the USA, so you need to provide other data.

What's the reasoning behind it? To clean the platform, make it better for companies and to avoid possible lawsuits. At the moment something like this could happen: a mother finds out, that her 13 year old daughter is playing in RL, having sex, perhaps has even been raped virtually. So she can still say at the moment: hey, Lindenlabs, I am going to sue you now over that, you haven't done enough to keep my daughter from the main grid!

With the introduction of lawful age verification, though, Lindenlabs just could say: well, we did all the lawgiver told us to verify the age of your daughter, it's all your fault.

What is the impact going to be of this verification? I don't think it is going to be such a big thing, most things don't fall into that category, what you're doing at home is what you do at home, but of course some places and services need to be tagged. If you just walk around most normal places you should'nt need it at all.

But age verification is only one step; since LL says always the main grid is for adults only it could either happen, that one day the verification becomes mandatory for all or all questionable content has been tagged. If all questionable content has been tagged, well, there could be the possibility of a merger of the teen with the main grid.

At the end, you can never be sure if someone is of legal age or not; LL just can do all the lawful things to prevent people underage to come to the main grid and that's it. And, by the way, there are enough places on the web where it is documented how to construct certain ID-numbers yourself and so on.

All in all this is a very necessary and, don't forget it, long overdue step, to get the platform a cleaner place and reduce the access to questionable content.

Ok, here are now two useful tips to use the client a little bit better:

  • Tired of sorting out your inventory? Wish, there would be more windows open than only one at the same time? This is possible, but well hidden in the client. Just open the first Inventory window, go in the File menu there and select "New Window". That's it. You can have as many windows open as you like.
  • Offering teleports is broken again, you cannot give it to friends (yes, still happens sometimes to me)? Just press Ctrl+Alt+V, then you can offer it to anybody, don't worry about the other options, they are not going to work at all.

The Second Life Herald has a very interesting, but also opiniated, piece about the last town hall meetingearlier this week with Cory Linden. To put it simple: the writer was not impressed at all and thinks that the Lindens are working on the wrong priorities right now.

One thing I agree is, that we still need to see how this often referred next generation architecture is going to work. One of the main problems of SL is load, big, heavy user load. This is something you cannot get on the beta grid, where perhaps maximum 100 avatars are online at the same time. This is something you get either with automated test clients - lots of them on the beta grid, or on the main grid. Since automated test clients don't behave like humas do, the real beta grid is the main grid. The beta grid is just there to iron out the real big problems you can already see there, but the rest is only going to be visible on the main grid under heavy user load. It's that simple.

Back in the good old days of the home computers we had a term covering such software: banana software. This term was used for still green software, that came green to the customers and matured there. SL is a unique approach and therefore some things are just like that, when a new version comes out, the real test is the usage of the client on the main grid. You've got to live with it or leave it. Your choice.

According to the Lindens there is coming an age verification to us in about one week. If I read the FAQ correct, it is done by a third party company and you've got to provide them some info, e.g. social security number, drivers license number, passport number, to verify that you are over 18 years old. If you provide the info successfully, then you've got the "age verified" flag and are allowed to enter parcels with "adult content" flag. If you don't have an age verification, you still can play in Second Life, but don't enter such regions anymore.

The question I asked myself can be split up in two parts: how is this going to influence the game and is this verification process going to be really secure?

Well, the first part is: I expect, who until now enjoyed adult content, are going to leave the game, since they are not willingly going to provide the necessary infos. I can understand them. If you take a closer look at the search and don't check "mature content" in it and search for some things, like escort, you're still going to find such content. Now the Lindens want that the people rate themself or they are going to take measures against them. If you take the big size of SL into account, it is not hard to predict that many people are not going to rate themself properly and that, if any, actions are going to be taken against them, this would take quite some time and they would still try after that, again.

Second: is the process going to be really secure, meaning, can I be really sure that the avatar if flagged "age verified" is played by an adult? After reading the FAQ: plain and simple no! It is no problem at all for most teenagers to lookup such infos, like a social security number, in the documents of their parents and pretending to be their father or mother. To be really sure that you are who you pretend to be you need a personal review of a trusted 3rd party in real life.

And even, if you would be checked up that way, there would be no security in it, since the son of the father just could have looked up his password with e.g. a keylogger.

So in short: while the idea of it seems nice, you are not going to have real security at all with such a kind of a system. In reality it is not going to be introduced to make SL a safer place for all, but to protect Lindenlabs better against possible lawsuits, which in result still benefits the community, though, since all of SL well being depends on LL. Period.

...at Monday this week I'd like to see regional datacenters, like in Europe or Asia, today is technical town hall and what can I hear there?

[12:50] Cay Trudeau: Do you think arranging physichal server on other continents, like Europe for instance, would ease up on the server load, ease the connections and allow better performance for European residents? Would that also lift the load from sending texture data across the wire?
[12:40] Cory Linden shouts: We absolutely want to deploy servers overseas. We have an architectural quirk in how we talk to the dbs -- a layer of single threaded dataservers --

Neat! And, another quote, by the way:

[12:44] Cory Linden shouts: As I previously mentioned -- and was in the blog post -- 69% of development is currently on bugs and scaling. That number will increase this month as we continue to hire.

Main priorities are now scaling and bugfixing. Hopefully. By the way, the group message system was broken so much again, it was not funny. And the Lindens held the town hall at Pooley Stage, all regions full already hours before the Town Hall. Perhaps it's next time better when they're going to hold it on four class 5 sims.

The number of undersigners of the Open Letter grows at great speed. Yesterday there were perhaps around 1500 undersigners on it - now there are already 2541 underwriters on it. Well, it had some kind of effect already, the Lindens replied in their blog to it.

Their response at the moment is like this: we're working on a detailed response, in the meantime please look there and there for more information, and oh, by the way, we're going to hold a new town hall meeting soon

The responses vary, I think, it is too early to judge since they are still working on their real reply.