Life after Google

There’s certainly lots of turmoil within Google right now, between the clever and non-evil people who made it successful, and the “Google Plus At Any Cost, we will own the world!” people; and there’s no telling how it’ll come out.

But at the moment the g+ fanatics seem to be winning. (Even this Official Google Announcement was apparently posted only on Google+, so I can’t give a real link to it; but hopefully the URL there will continue working and pointing to the right thing.)

Over the next week, we’ll be adding support for alternate names – be they nicknames, maiden names, or names in another script – alongside your common name.

If we flag the name you intend to use, you can provide us with information to help confirm your established identity. This might include:
– References to an established identity offline in print media, news articles, etc
– Scanned official documentation, such as a driver’s license
– Proof of an established identity online with a meaningful following

We’ll review the information and typically get back to you within a few days.

(Gotta love that “typically”.)

And for anyone that’s nervous about sending their driver’s license to strangers, we are assured on mashable that

Google will destroy all documentation you send them once the account verification process is complete.

Everyone who feels they need more quasi-governmental agencies in their lives, demanding proof of identity and scans of your driver’s license, and assuring you that their random employees can be trusted with your information, raise your hand…

Didn’t think so.

There are at the same time reports that in order to sign up for any Google service these days, you have to also sign up for Google+ (including, presumably, telling Google your real name, and being prepared to offer official documentation for any nicknames you might want to use); and Google’s search results are starting to return Google Plus pages even when they are by no measure the best hits, which is incredibly stupid and the techs are already telling us how to get around it.

So there are clearly two things going on:

  • The Google Plus people at Google either don’t understand Internet culture, or think that they can change it (with themselves as the central storehouse and universally trusted driving engine of that change), and
  • Someone with power at Google thinks that (unlike Wave and Buzz, which were allowed to die when it turned out no one really wanted to use them) Google Plus is so important that all of Google’s other services can be taxed to supported it, by forcing anyone wanting to sign up for those other services to also sign up for Google Plus (and, if they don’t want to sign up for Google Plus, to go off to Yahoo or someone instead), and even corrupting search, which is Google’s base offering and frankly the only thing (well, maybe webmail) that we really want from them.

Of course Google may still save itself from these people; it’s far too early to give up.

But what if they don’t? Where will our bellweathers go to escape the stupidity, leading most of us along with them? Facebook for social stuff presumably, because that’s where everyone is anyway. But who will we use for search, and for webmail? And whatever else Google does that I’ve forgotten to mention?

Maybe the best thing would be for us to fragment again, and have there be more than one Big Obvious Search Provider, and more than one Big Obvious Webmail Provider, and even more than one Big Obvious Facebook-thing, and so on. If nothing else, Google’s failure would be a lesson on the dangers of bigness and obviousness, and the arrogance that tends to come with that.

On the other hand, Google’s implosion would open a very big opportunity for someone else to come in and take its place, by doing the good stuff without the dumb mistakes. Not sure who that would be; opinions welcome. What’s Yahoo doing these days? I tend to think of them as an old company that fell into the “web portal” rathole and never really returned, but maybe there’s potential there.

I really ought to make some bold prediction here, so that if Google does implode and my prediction turns out to be right, I can prove how clever and prescient I am. :) But for the moment I will just cross my fingers and hope that someone smart and powerful over there decides that shilling Google Plus isn’t worth corrupting all of the company’s other offerings, and that Google goes back to being the good guys. ’cause I am always an optimist!

(I will get back to the Combat System Scripting eventually, I promise! Or at least I have a good-faith intention to. But you know… shiny things!)

So is Google evil after all?

Or, more specifically, are they evil because they are (or may be) deleting (or forbidding, or something) “google plus” accounts that are opened using SL avatar names, or usenet or forum pseudonyms, or basically anything else that fails some kind of naive “real name” sniff-test?

I dunno. Maybe. Or probably. Or maybe not. Probably not, really. But is this guy a jerk?

If you see a person with an obviously fake name, go to their profile and find the “Report Profile” link in the bottom of the left column. Report it as a “Fake Profile”. We want Google+ to be place for real people to connect with other real people.

There has certainly been something of a flurry of concern about it. I sent him a little note after reading some of the furor:

I think you really meant something like “if you see a ‘person’ that is obviously a company or a spammer, go to their…”. Real people use all sorts of names, “Fake” and otherwise. It’s the fake people you want to keep out, not the real people with “fake” names…

No reply yet, but he has now come back with one of those “wait, wait, what I meant was…” posts (which I can’t figure out how to link directly to; scroll down on the one above):

Holy cow. I was offline most of yesterday and it looks like I started a firestorm by accident.

Kevin McCurley’s comment sums up the spirit of my post better than I did: “In the meantime please interpret this post in the loosest possible sense – only flag things that are clearly not representations of a real person. We’re not out to ostracize people or enforce unreasonable conditions. Businesses and organizations will have their own profiles in the future”

The policy page (http://www.google.com/support/profiles/bin/answer.py?answer=1228271) leaves some room for interpretation and says: “For this reason, Google Profiles requires you to use the name that you commonly go by in daily life”

It doesn’t say anything about your legal name.

I’d better not say anything more about this since: a) I’m an engineer and b) there are plenty of edge cases that I’m sure are legitimate and not explicitly covered in the ToS.

… and (c) he’d like to remain employed if that is still possible at this point.

Which does more or less correspond to what I said. But still, “commonly go by in daily life” certainly does leave some (“some”) room for interpretation.

And really this whole thing gives me a creepy feeling. Why is Google policing the appropriateness of names and the “realness” of accounts, anyway? (As opposed to, say, the spamminess or otherwise of behavior.) The full quote from that policy page is:

Google services support three different types of use when it comes to your identity: unidentified, pseudonymous, identified. Google Profiles is a product that works best in the identified state. This way you can be certain you’re connecting with the right person, and others will have confidence knowing that there is someone real behind the profile they’re checking out. For this reason, Google Profiles requires you to use the name that you commonly go by in daily life.

This is actually pretty stupid. (Botgirl’s autotuned version is at least amusing!) How do they, in the 21st century Internet, know how their just-launched product “works best”? And why do they feel it necessary to forbid other ways of using it? The fact that someone is using the name “Fred Muggs” rather than “Teh Fredster!!” doesn’t mean anyone “can be certain you’re connecting with the right person”, or that anyone “will have confidence knowing that there is someone real behind the profile they’re checking out”; names are not magic.

And really, “checking out”? That phrase plus the fact that initially google plus required not only a “real” first and last name, but also a (publicly viewable) gender, makes me wonder…

Is Google Plus really intended as a dating service?

It would explain alot, anyway. Maybe they will notice that they didn’t really plan to take over the world with a dating service, allow pseudonyms as long as they aren’t being used to spam or defraud, and this will all blow over. I continue to think, at least in my crotchety moments, that maybe all of the boring people will vanish into Facebook and Google Plus, and the rest of us can go back to using the rest of the Internet. The end of the Endless September? If Google could give us that, I think I’d forgive them for a certain amount of arguable low-grade evil… :)

(Thanks to the NY Daily News for the nice little evil-Google graphic, heh heh.)

Boy Dale Digits

Boy Dale, Digits

Finally got around to the boy digits. :)

Height – 72 (6′ 5″ by some measure)
Head size – 70
Arm length – 45
Hand size – 42 (too huge?)
Torso length – 55
Leg length – 65
Foot size – 30

T and A: :)

Body fat – 0 (lol vain again)
Pectorals – 24 (where small numbers are *bigger*)
Hip width – 55
Butt size – 50

Note how many are the same as the girl digits! If we did the face too, and more numbers in general, I expect there’d be even more similarities…

(Rather awfully-lit picture, eh? Lovely script tattoo from Sharkie’s Tattoos in Viva La Glam; most of the clothing is bits of an outfit from LNL; ancient Diversity hair, ND skin, and mysterious random sunglasses are as usual.)

My Digits! (I am late to the meme.)

My Digits!

So here are Girl Dale’s vital stats, per the meme:

Height – 55 (5’9″ by some measure)
Head size – 45
Arm length – 45
Hand size – 42 (too huge?)
Torso length – 55
Leg length – 65
Foot size – 0 (as required by all shoes in the world)

T and A: :)

Body fat – 0 (lol vain)
Breast size – 51
Hip width – 55
Butt size – 50

Skin and eyes and fingernails and tube-socks and cami from Celestial Studios (slightly tanner version of my usual skin, now that I bought a whole bunch at the big clearance sale), camo thong apparently from Vasha’s Secret.

I don’t have anything particularly profound to say about my particular numbers, or the numbers meme in general. By and large, we are pretty healthy-looking. :)

(I should do Boy Dale, too, but right now I am a girl.)

RedZone is silly

Irrelevant picture of Red Zone deodorant.  Or something.So I generally avoid SL Controversies o’ the Day, because there are so many of them, and as fun as they might be to wade into, who has time?

But a couple of different friends have now asked me about the “Red Zone” controversy, and whether they should be worried about it, or protecting themselves from it, or using it, or whatever, so I thought I’d contribute my answer here.

The very short answer is: “No”.

The slightly longer answer is “No, it’s silly; ignore it entirely unless you’re in the mood for megabytes of drama”. (Not to suggest that there’s anything wrong with megabytes of drama, if you are in the mood!)

The rest of this posting is the even longer answer. :)

Red Zone, for anyone fortunate enough not to have heard of it, is a product (or these days apparently a line of products) in Second Life, that purport to protect you against griefers and “copybotters” (i.e. people using content-stealing clients), by (for instance) automatically ejecting them from your land. And (the special sauce!) also automatically ejecting their alts.

Which means that it purports to know when one AV is the alt of another.

It uses various heuristics to identify AVs who grief or use evil clients. The heuristics are necessarily approximate; even humans can’t agree on just what constitutes griefing or evil in a client, and even if we did have strong definitions it’s still hard and unreliable to detect just who’s crossed the line.

And then it uses even shakier heuristics to guess who is an alt of whom. High on the list is trying to get the SL client programs used by nearby people (i.e. by you) to connect to an external website (via tricks with media URLs) in a way that will allow correlating the AV’s name to an IP address (that is, the address that a server sends data back to when you ask for it).

This is relatively easy in most cases, because streaming media in SL doesn’t go through the Second Life servers at all; when you’re in a club listening to a live singer, say, the club sends just the URL of the audio stream to your SL viewer, and the viewer then directly connects to that URL (which is under the control of the singer, not Linden Labs) to get the sound.

Now the fact that two AVs are associated with the same IP address is no proof that they are alts, of course. They could be two different people using the same computer, or two different computers that are behind the same firewall (some kinds of firewalls cause everyone behind them to appear to be at the same IP address, others don’t). Similarly, if two AVs are associated with different IP addresses, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t alts; someone really dedicated to keeping eir alts secret will just use them from different computers (or while causing the same computer to have different IP addresses, which is also possible).

Red Zone may or may not do clever stuff to try to minimize errors from this sort of thing; doesn’t matter, though, as the alt-detection will still be approximate at best.

So if I walk onto RedZone protected land, and someone who once used a computer in the same Internet cafe that my housemate once used once got on a blacklist for using an evil client due to a false-positive in some evil-client-detecting heuristic, I might find myself ejected.

Similarly if someone buys some expensive Red Zone product and uses it to get a list of Dale Innis’ perhaps-alts, they might get a list that includes some of my alts, my housemate’s alts (if I had any housemates who used SL :) ), anyone that ever used a computer in the same Internet cafe as my housemate, etc, etc. Could be a long list!

Since Red Zone uses streaming media URLs to try to identify alts, one way to avoid it is to turn off streaming media in your SL viewer, something that people do all the time for other reasons anyway. Some Red Zone fans and/or sellers have apparently suggested that Red Zone should, or does, detect people with streaming media turned off, and declare them griefers and/or copybotters also, since after all they are trying to evade Red Zone.

Given all that, why is my answer to “should I worry about Red Zone?” a nice short “No”?

Because it’s silly.

It’s all just silly.

If you find yourself ejected from some place because Red Zone has falsely classified you as the alt of a griefer, or because you had streaming media turned off, that’s not a place you want to be anyway. After all, it’s owned by someone fool enough to be ejecting people via Red Zone!

If it seems to be a really nice place otherwise, you can bother to contact the owner, explain to them that Red Zone is silly and you aren’t a griefer, or you have media turned off because it crashes your machine, and see if they’ll override it and let you in. If they do, you’re in. If they don’t, they’re silly and you don’t want to be on their land anyway.

If your SL SO rips into you because they bought a list of people Red Zone says are your alts, and that list included your SO’s bitter enemy, or an artichoke-fetishist, or whatever, patiently explain to them that Red Zone is silly, and those people aren’t actually your alts. If your SL SO trusts some random piece of drama-soaked software more than they trust you, the relationship was doomed anyway, and the sooner ended the better.

Is Red Zone a violation of the ToS, or if it isn’t, should the ToS be changed so that it is? Is it a violation of any particular country’s laws, or of common decency, or the Will of God? Is the author a clever programmer, a scammer, neither, or both? Should Red Zone have been banned from the SL Marketplace? Should it have been allowed back in?

If those questions interest you, feel free to dive in! There is for instance a humongous SLU thread (which I haven’t read) on the subject, a JIRA on banning RedZone, a more general JIRA about having more control over where one’s viewer loads media from (I kinda like that one), and on and on and on.

(There’s also a thing called “GreenZone” that is in some way or another designed to detect and/or do something about RedZone, for you meta-fans.)

And again, if all of that interests you, feel free to dive in! Lots of fun to be had, people to meet, flamewars to heat up or cool down, and so on.

But if all of that bores you, and you’re just wondering if RedZone is something you need to worry about?

Nah.

It’s silly.

Alpha Tribe, Green Chaos

A couple of different friends had mentioned Alpha Tribe to me lately, so I just had to go.

They have the most amazing stuff!
Alpha Tribe, Green Chaos
(Yeah, that’s me! Click for larger lightboxed version.)

A fantastic (hehe see what I did there?) reminder of what SL can be, after too many long days of tall tan 90210-style humans…

(Also not cheap. :) Now I gotta buy Lindens again!)

Weblog: alphatribe.wordpress.com/
Main store: slurl.com/secondlife/Klein/55/116/63

Wahaha

So yeah yeah yeah there is Avatars United, a social networking site which the Lab bought, shortly after a “blog” post in which a brand-new Linden said that he wanted to talk about social networking stuff in theory, not because the Lab was going to do anything in particular no no of course not.

Then a week later the Lab said hey we’re told that some of you funny Residents have noticed that anyone in the world can create an Avatars United page in your name, and that this bothers you. It never occurred to us that this would bother anyone, but since apparently it does we might eventually do something about it. Or not.

But that’s not what I want to be snarky about right now. :)

(So far I’ve registered myself, and Spennix, and two other WoW characters; I mostly have no idea why since it seems awfully pointless, but since it’s an Official LL Property I thought it worth having at least played with.)

What I wanted to be snarky about tonight was this email that I got from the Lab, about whatever this Valentine’s Day contest or hunt or something that they’re having is.

(I don’t much like overproduced marketing email from the Lab, and for that matter I don’t much like the media and commercial outfits pummeling me with hearts and pink things and so on; I am not, for the record, in love with any commercial enterprise, nor do I need their assistance in expression my emotions. Grumble, grumble, snark, whinge.)

So anyway this commercial email from the Lab about their hunt or whatever ended by saying that we should keep up with developments on Facebook or Twitter.

When they just a few days before bought their own social networking site. Which is not, note, Facebook or Twitter.

/me shakes head.

(The comments thread on “blog” posting about the Hunt or whatever itself has quite a bit of related reaction to the fact that to qualify for the Grand Prize you have to actually post something to Facebook, which is problematic because Facebook, well, sort of doesn’t allow virtual identities, and one would have thought that… Well.)