Linden Lab makes a further statement on RedZone

Soft Linden has given an official update on the zFire RedZone situation over on JIRA VWR-24746, where he states:

“Hey, all. I got the go-ahead to give an update on zF Red Zone specifically.
Again, thank you for the ARs with specific info about violations. These have
been very helpful for letting Lindens know what’s going on.

“Tuesday morning, we removed zF Red Zone from the Marketplace for a second time.
We removed the in-world vendor distributing the item as well. We determined that
zF Red Zone was still in violation of our Terms of Service and Community
Standards.

“We asked for removal by no later than today of all zF Red Zone functionality
that discloses any alternate account names. That is, even if consent is asked,
the service may not act on the consent. In addition, we asked for removal by no
later than Friday of the interface for and any remaining implementation of the
zF Red Zone consent mechanism because it does not comply with our policies. If
these updates are not made, we will take appropriate steps to remedy the
violations.

“As before, we appreciate your help in keeping an eye on content. If you find
that any merchant’s product is not in compliance with our TOS or our Community
Standards, please file an abuse report about the product. Do this even if you
filed against a previous version. Include a specific explanation of what you
believe is a violation, and ideally select and report the in-world object at
issue in case it behaves differently than what’s in the Marketplace. Before
reporting, make sure you have first-hand knowledge of the issue. Support can
best react if you explain specific steps to reproduce or confirm a violation.”

The wheels may turn slow, but they do indeed turn.

Soft Linden has been working hard on this matter – and keeping abreast of matters over the past weekend – and deserves a lot of thanks and credit for getting things to this stage. The entire matter may not be resolved as yet (the scanners themselves are still in-world and operating & may be unaffected if zFire meets LL’s current requirements and no stand has been made on the use of the device to collect data), but the fact we now have this situation is very, very welcome.

Soft, if you get to read this – thank you for your understanding, your commitment and your effort.

Update

The RedZone device vendor has been removed from zFire Xue’s in-world store by Soft Linden after the creator apparently replaced it following the creator attempting to place it back without meeting LL’s stated requirements. Commenting on the move, Soft said on the JIRA:

Soft Linden added a comment – 02/Mar/11 3:53 PM
Thank you for the additional ARs about the vendor being replaced in-world while the consent request mechanism was still in place. We’ve removed the vendor again and made conditions for recirculation more explicit.

New Community Platform launched

The new Community Platform launched today. The layout is clean and fresh and in keeping with the rest of the revised SL website.  Torley has produced one of his ever-impressive videos to help introduce the platform:

This is needed, as some of the elements of the platform are not entire intuitive. Take adding an avatar picture for example. Once logged in, there is an option at the top of the screen called My Settings. Within this is a tab called Avatars. One would think this is the place to upload and select an avatar picture for go alongside your posts.

Wrong.

While you can indeed select an avatar from My Settings->Avatars, you in fact have to upload any image you wish to use from your profile first. Your Community Platform profile, that is. This requires that you click on your name at the top of the Community pages then click on Upload Images (/View image for, once you’ve uploaded the first time) then upload a picture then go to My Settings -> Avatars to select and use it.

And if you want to get a background for your avatar picture, it is even more confusing, as you need to play around with the Social Connect tab of My Settings.

And if you want to use a custom background (such as the one on the left) – it gets harder, as nowhere is the required size of the background given. This means that you have to fiddle about guessing the relative size of the background – and the “preview” option in Social Connect is as useful as a chocolate tea kettle as it is not representative of the background’s size when used in forum posts…

Friendly, huh? I eventually got the image on the left to work after well over 30 minutes of pissing playing around with images, and the required size appears to be 117(w) x 210(h) pixels.

None of this gets the new platform off to a user-friendly start – and this is reflected in the fact that the first questions lined up in the new Answers section of the Platform are about … setting up forum avatar pictures…

Elsewhere, LL seem to have blundered yet again. Back when the Jive-based blogrum was launched, a glaring omission was that of a General Discussion forum. This lead to people being confused as to where to chat and, well, be a community. It also lead to some pretty heavy-handed moderation on the part of Linden Labs which at times – it has to be said – was very biased in its approach: threads critical of LL were rapidly shut down by LL staff as being “inappropriate” for the forum in which they were posted, while other threads with a more positive attitude towards LL were allowed to run unhindered, despite also technically being in the “wrong” forum topic area.

Well…guess what is missing from the new forums? Yup: there is no General Discussions area. Of course, the JIVE blogrum did get a GD eventually – but you would have thought someone in LL, staff churn or not, would have remembered what happened before and learned a lesson. True, the JIVE-based GD got to be a pretty unpleasant environment  – but discussion is what makes a community, and without a GD area, the new Community Platform has a big hole in it – and it is already causing mass confusion, with GD topics turning up in both the Entertainment and Your Avatar sections.

I’m not altogether sure how I’ll like the new layout – if I use it that much, I’m now far too at home over at SLU. The general approach seems good, allowing for the obscure route you need to take to get a good-looking forum avatar sorted out;  page layouts are going to take a while to get used to. Certainly, the lack of a clear-cut GD environment is going to lead to a lot of confusion as to where people should post, and LL need to sort this out now rather than leave it – or go back to stomping on threads for being “inappropriate” for the sections they show up in.

More guidelines need to be built-into the system as well: Torley’s video is good at giving a broad overview, but really, the system could do with around two or three more.

It’s also going to be interesting to see how long LL staff remain engaged on the Platform once the sense of Shiny has worn off of it for them. In that respect, I’m rather surprised that there isn’t a section entitled “Ask a Linden” or “Ask the Lab”, or some such – together with clear and concise guidelines – that encourages two-way communications between users and LL representatives. After all, this platform is about improving communications and providing channels of communication, is it not?

A sad mentality…

Throughout the entire RedZone farrago, there is a sad mentality demonstrated among some of its most ardent followers.

On the one hand, they are paranoid about “copybotters” and “griefers” to the extent that they are willing to utilise a tool that is both flawed in concept and execution, as one of their own members points out:

Yes… it doesn’t work.

Rather than admit this, they get quite rabid in their postings concerning all of us who have genuine grounds for concern over the use and potential abuse of this tool: we’re vilified as being “copybotters” and “greifers” [sic] ourselves; we’re accused of being duplicitous and misleading.

Then on the other hand, in a stunning display of duplicity which (unsurprisingly) seems to escape them, they themselves remain unwilling to be honest and open about their use of RedZone and what it actually does, preferring to avoid, obfuscate or simply omit.

For example, when discussing the use of RZ at the sim level, Sylla Rhiadra suggests the sim owners should put up notification that they are using RZ so that their visitors may make an informed decision as to whether they in fact wish to enter the sim:

“Welcome to XXXXX! Please note that to remain in this sim you must consent to a scan that will load publicly available information about your avatar, including your avatar name, your IP address, UUID, and status of payment information, on to a third-party web site outside of the jurisdiction of Linden Lab or its ToS, where it will be stored and collated against the IP addresses of other residents in order to determine what other accounts employ the same IP address as yourself. Please note also that inclusion of your information within this database may result in you being banned from RedZone-using sims that have banned any account using the same IP address as you, and that, moreover, the names of your avatar and any others employing the same IP (including any of your alts that have been scanned) may be revealed to individual RedZone users if anyone using the same IP address as you consents to the release of this information. To gain access to these names yourself, you must purchase a copy of RedZone, currently retailing at L$3,999. Failure to consent to this scan witihin 6 seconds will result in the ejection of your avatar from this parcel.”

However, Bunderwahl Guisse replies that all that is needed is a message such as:

“Welcome to Dark Alley! [his roleplay sim, which does use the RZ scanner] We use RedZone for your protection. RedZone is a Tos compliant security tool that helps make sure you will not be harrassed [sic] or stalked during your visit.”

Leaving aside the fact that the term “Tos complaint” is highly questionable – suggestive as it is that Linden Lab themselves have vetted the product and given it the all-clear – the “revised” text from Mr. Guisse once again completely avoids mentioning precisely what RZ does, preventing his visitors from making any form of informed consent as to whether they want to run the risk of having their personal information exposed on an insecure, non-Linden database.

It’s also ironic that he claims RZ will ensure his visitors “will not be harrassed [sic]” when if, anything, it is a tool that can allow the unscrupulous to do precisely that.

However, the most revealing thing about Mr. Guisse’s attitude, and those of his ilk using RedZone and attempt to hide its use is this: the fact that they are willing to go to these lengths indicates they are fully aware that honest transparency about the tool they are using will kill their trade stone dead, because no-one will be willing to accept the realities of RZ if presented to them in terms as suggested by Sylla – and remain on their sim.

You’d think that realisation would be enough to get any rational, clear-thinking business person to consider removing the tool altogether and replacing it with something that, while it may require a little more work on their part, will not run the risk of scaring customers away.

But no. These people would rather keep the tool safely hidden and act in a completely dishonest manner towards their customers, clients – and friends. Worse than that, they’ll continue to regard the rest of the community with a mix of rampant paranoia and misplaced belief in their own “rightness” that will, in the end…destroy their own businesses.

People aren’t fools, as Jeggs in the screen shot above notes. The word will out – indeed the word is spreading. I’m persistently banging on about it here just as others are elsewhere – some in the most humorous of ways will still getting the message across. RedZone is a hot topic on Twitter and elsewhere. More and more Groups are spreading the word on the invasive nature of the tool and (potentially equally importantly), the unethical nature of its creator. May content creators who initially used the tool have now withdrawn it from use – some very publicly, as with RedGrave Skins, who sent out an apology to all 1500+ members of their product Group.

It is not as if there are not already tools available to them that could replace RZ, as I’ve stated elsewhere. They’re not even willing to participate and support JIRAs that could potentially strengthen their arsenal when dealing with griefing and the like.

This being the case, those who persist in hiding their use of RZ and trying to whitewash what the tool is and how it works will become the pariahs of SL. Their sims and stores will be avoided (many are already blacklisted) – and they’ll have no-one but themselves to blame.

Not that they’ll see it that way, of course.

Linden Lab comments on RedZone

Following the recent change to the Community Standards, zFire Xue has been attempting to wriggle out of having to receive the formal consent of those being scanned by his RedZone devices to have their information “background checked”.

Tateru Nino carried the concerns of users about Xue’s unethical approaches to the situation, which included a threat the release his database to all and sundry (for a fee), and his attempts to equate implied consent with formal (or informed) consent; not to mention his willingness to effectively throw his users under the wheels of ToS violations.

The Lab were very clear on matters, as you can see here.

The change to the Community Services itself wasn’t enough. However, this move by Linden Lab – coupled with the fact that once again, the RedZone tool has been delisted from SL Marketplace and comments from Lab representatives thanking users for filing AR’s on the matter of the number false positive reports this tool gives (in matching avatar accounts to one another) is indicative that the wheels are still in motion on this matter.

Interestingly, at around the time the comments were made, RedZone again vanished from the SL Marketplace.