Construction Time Again

Nothing specific to report, but a whole has been going on. For starters, I’ve updated the software and most of the plugins that are used in the creation of this site. Additionally, Adobe has finally released the long-awaited update to their Creative Suite family (BlakOpal and I both use Adobe apps extensively for RL and SL projects). Aside from simply updating what we use, I’ve been looking to expand my horizons on programs I use for RL projects, and I’ve been making use of some of the excellent courseware at Lynda.com to help.

I’ve also had my hands full with testing other assorted pieces of software, the details of which I’m not liberty to get into. SL-wise, I’ve had great results using both Snowglobe 2.x and Kirsten’s S20 viewers, in addition to the official viewer. I’d also like to point out that, contrary to the spreaders of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (or FUDdites as I prefer to call them), the 2.x viewers are not completely unusable for builders and content creators. Once you take a little time to get acclimated, they’re fine. I’m actually at the point where I prefer them to 1.x viewers.

I’ve also gotten lots of shopkeeper stuff done lately, as well. Servers and vendors have all been recently updated, and have better SL region communications than ever. I’ve also had some fun with a number of construction projects, ranging from designing a bunch of row shops, a complete re-work of our space in New Babbage, re-doing the landscaping on Reachra, setting up a new shoppe building, and playing around with a few other primmy projects that haven’t yet made it down to ground level. We’ve also just opened up locations in Sapphire City, at The Carrington in Seraph City, and Triborough NY, and there are some exciting new outfits on the horizon too. On top of that, we’re gearing up for the International Fashion Fair and a major upgrade of the XStreet shopping experience (seriously, it is about to get much more awesome).

One thing we don’t have coming up in the weeks ahead is the SL7B celebration. Yes, we’ll both probably be there during the event, but we’ve decided not to apply for a build site. The parcel sizes and prim limits are much smaller than last year, and realistically we don’t have the time and resources to start the process from scratch and come up with something that we’re both excited about. We think sitting this one out is the right thing to do, and we look forward to future large scale community events that we will have the opportunity to participate in.

As I work, I find myself occasionally taking lots of snapshots and screen grabs (either for my own purposes or to share with BlakOpal). This post seems like as good a place as any to share some of my favorites from the last few weeks.


































Acceptable Violations?

By most accounts, people are very concerned about their privacy these days. Specifically, they don’t want people violating it. I can’t say that I blame them. While I don’t lead any kind of ‘secret internet double life’ (I’m known by Trilo in RL), I do like to keep my personal account details to myself. I don’t want to have others automatically creating accounts in my name on other web sites, putting me on mailing lists without my permission, sending me promotional offers, or getting at personal data that could help them steal my identity.

There have been two major breaches of privacy within the metaverse in the last few weeks, and I’m a little surprised that more people aren’t up in arms about it. Almost hilariously, more people are expressing militant outrage about changes to the LL viewer’s UI than they are about very serious and real violations of thousands of users’ privacy by organizations that really should know better.

The first one was with the SL Bloggers Ning site (no link, it’s not a public group and you don’t want to risk signing up). The backstory is that Ning.com recently announced the failure of their ad-supported business model. Ad clicks weren’t paying the bills, and they’ve been losing money on the free Ning sites hand over fist. To change course and save their company, they recently announced that they’ll be shutting down the myriad of free Ning sites (inciting civil unrest amongst those who feel entitled to something for nothing). They of course do offer a few reasonably priced premium Ning site upgrade options, enabling those who believe in the communities they’ve built to stay the course (or even improve service & remove unwanted ads). The leader/founder of the SL Bloggers Ning chose the option of moving to another free social networking site and starting over. The problem, apparently, is that she didn’t want to start over. And Group.ly, the new service provider, was so eager to build up its user base that they went to the length of providing tools to help violate members’ privacy. What they did was create and use a tool to scoop all the SL Blogger ning account info (at the very least user names and email addresses, though more data could have been mined) to populate a new SL Bloggers social network on Group.ly’s site. That’s right, without having given permission of any kind, SL Bloggers Ning site members now suddenly found themselves with accounts on some completely different social networking site. Even worse, it all went horribly wrong, and literally overnight the members found themselves being sent between dozens and hundreds of unsolicited emails. I’ll link you to a blog post about the aftermath, but not to either Ning’s or Group.ly’s sites, seeing as right now one of the last things you want is to have an account on either one of those sites. Ning’s user account info needs to be more secure, and Group.ly shouldn’t even be attempting such an underhanded way to grow its user base. And shame on the SL Bloggers’ founder who made the decision to use those tools. While she may have had honorable intentions (keeping her community together during a transition), she completely failed to think about the privacy implications or consider the best interests of the members of that community. The strangest part of it all (at least to me) is that more people aren’t outraged about it. Some folks have expressed anger and frustration about Group.ly’s handling of it all, but hardly anybody seems to care that they made such a tool in the first place, or that Ning’s user account info is so easily scooped by third parties, or that the person they trusted to lead their community would act so thoughtlessly.

The second one, which seems far more sinister, concerns Modular Systems, the makers of the Emerald Viewer. It has recently come out that Modular Systems has been involved in data mining. In a nutshell, they’ve been compiling a list of avatar names, IP addresses, and other information about users without their permission, for whatever reason. This information only became known because their site was hacked and someone got that list. It has now been posted on file sharing sites, there is no way to get that data off the internet now. Regardless of how evil or wrong the hacker(s) were who broke into their site and accessed/copied that private info... Modular Systems should never have been compiling it!!! It is important to point out that:
  • The data that’s been leaked & published appears to have not been a list of users of the Emerald Viewer.
  • You have no way of knowing that Modular Systems is not similarly tracking & logging data for all Emerald Users without their permission, for whatever purposes they choose. Modular Systems has already clearly demonstrated both a lack of respect for user privacy and a lack of website security.
I’m completely baffled as to why people (particularly Emerald users) would not be paranoid and outraged over this. There’s a good chance Modular Systems is compiling that data (even if under the guise of helping to craft a better performing viewer, it’s still wrong), and it’s also entirely possible that they could fall victim to another hack in the future. My advice to anyone who’s ever used that Viewer: Go change your account password on the official Second Life site now (for all your accounts if you have/use alts), and never use the Emerald Viewer (or any viewer from Modular Systems) again. No amount of extra attachment points, temporary uploads, sim-lagging radar functions, or boob jiggling is worth the risk of having personal details of your accounts published online. In my opinion, Linden Lab should not only seriously reconsider allowing Modular Systems to sign up new Second Life accounts on its site, they should think long and hard about allowing them to be on the Third Party Viewer directory.

Ultimately, of course, people are free to make whatever personal decisions they like about privacy and security. It just seems surprising that at a time when sites like Google and Facebook are being taken to task for what they do with user/customer data that these fixtures of the metaverse are getting away with the things they do.