“Think of the grown-ups!”

Ciaran Laval (busy sorting out his new blog home) raises questions around the whole Teen merger / “public” profiles and decision-making processes operating within Linden Lab.

In his musings he points to a JIRA raised in August 2009 relating to maturity rating in Profiles. This is relevant not only because of the arrival of minors on the Grid (and I use that term to point out that people as young as 13 are “on” the Grid, albeit cosseted on sponsor sims) – who have unrestricted access to Profiles and such – but also because the way LL have recently “adjusted” things like Classifieds mean that some merchants now face an uphill battle to get decent visibility for some of their products (for example, a merchant based on Adult land now has anything tagged for Search flagged as Adult  – based on the land rating – even if they sell what are actually Mature products).

The JIRA is linked with a couple of others – SVC-4355 and VWR15142 – both of which open up genuine concerns.

Currently, as I’ve commented elsewhere in this blog), the rules state that Profile Content must be PG/G rated. Whether we agree with this system or not, that’s the rules. As such, the onus is on each of us to make sure that our Profiles meet this requirement: no language that might be regarded as offensive, no nudity in pictures and Picks, etc.

These JIRAs point out the inconsistencies of the system and the requirements as they stand – not just in relation to minors being on the Grid, but in general; and certainly, something needs to be done.

However, I still cannot bring myself to vote for VWR-15298 as it stands. Why? Because, as Couldbe Yue states succinctly in the JIRA’s comments:

my only concern is that some of the profile must be available for viewing… I have sold items that are pg or mature and these customers should be able to find me if they need customer service. They shouldn’t have to remember to search adult for a profile – particularly if they’ve had no indication that the shop they bought from was adult in the first place.

In essence, simply placing a blanket maturity rating on Profiles could do as much harm as good. Of course, one could argue that people *could* create “business-oriented” Alts to deal with the problem – but again, how do they then redirect people to their Alt if their Main Profile is filtered as “Adult” (or even “Mature”.

CouldBe suggests that perhaps Picks should be individually rateable, and others have suggested every panel on the Profile should be rateable. But again, is this really possible? And what would it mean, coding-wise at the back-end? Remember, it is not just a case of added a field for a flag: it is how that flag is responded to – how is the information filtered and then displayed at the Viewer end? How complex would it all be? Can the information even be handled at that granular a level?

The issue is a thorny one; as such, even if there is a means by which things could be improved, that chances are that no action will be taken. At the end of the day, the current system places the least onus on LL. And – on the surface at least – is the “easiest” system to adhere to for the reasons I’ve mentioned language-wise and picture-wise. A little self-censorship is not going to hurt us.

Except…except that even the most benign language can cause offence in some quarters – simply because those who are going to be offended will be offended because they will “see past” the “innocent” language to the subject matter. Plus we’re all hampered because even if we *try* to keep Profile due to LL’s misbegotten “sooper sekrit” naughty words blacklist, which can also land you in trouble for having an otherwise “safe” Profile.

Ciaran also makes mention of the idea for a G-rated, or “family” oriented Continent. This idea, again, is not specifically related to the arrival of teens on the Grid, going all the way back to the Adult Policy Changes farrago – but it would almost certainly benefit them hugely if LL were to show a little more common sense on the matter.

This is an issue that also needs discussion. Under the old regime, it was very much the dead horse  / flogger situation. However, there is a new CEO at Battery Street, so perhaps there is an opportunity to get this particular matter revisited – and get other aspects of the current situation sensibly discussed among residents (adult and teen) and Linden Lab together. Certainly, it’s why I made an open plea to Rod Humble in December.

The benefits of having a “family continent” cannot be reasonably denied or dismissed. I’ve listed some in my open letter – and there are more. It’s a fully win / win /win situation: adults benefit, teens benefit, families benefit – even educational and other sponsor organisations stand to benefit. Good grief – even Linden Lab would benefit!

No-one at the Lab has ever stepped forward and explained precisely why such an approach to Second Life would not work. Zindra shows that there can’t be any real technical blocks. Marketing-wise, LL stand to gain a heck of a lot (assuming, snideness aside, they actually grasp the concept of pro-active marketing – at times one has to wonder); perceptions-wise, they stand to gain even more. Yet they resolutely set a collective face against the idea.

So far as I can see, the only thing the idea has going against it is the age-old “not invented here” mentality: as LL didn’t properly consider the idea in the first place, it’s no longer worth considering anyway, no matter what merits it has or the benefits it could bring.

The question is, even with a new CEO in place, how do we make sure the idea is given fair and reasonable air-time? Office Hours are drawing to a close – and those still hosting them will doubtless turn a deaf ear to anyone raising the idea. Similarly, raising a JIRA is pointless: it’s been tried, and despite the phenomenal number of votes it received, it was completely ignored by LL.

But this doesn’t mean we should not try to somehow get the message across, individually and collectively.

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