Crime and Punishment, Online Style
November 21, 2006 5:05 AM   Subscribe

Crime and Punishment, Online Style Long a bastion of metaverse fantasies, avatars competing for style, and commercial dreams, Second Life has become a phenomenon. Lately, though, things are going a bit awry. Hacking attempts have been common, with the latest shutting things down only a few days ago. To address this crime, the SL crew is looking into creating a virtual FBI. Dibs on the Scully avatar.
posted by PreacherTom (8 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Reading about that copybot program and all the discomfort it caused for folks I'm left kinda saddened thinking that even in creating alternate realities folks can't help but reinscribe capitalism and all the same social forms we have out here in the real world back into them. Though i guess with the economic element of SL, we're not looking at an alternate reality so much as a sub-reality or some such thing.
posted by jrb223 at 7:39 AM on November 21, 2006

Your link to the Scully avatar points directly to a tripod-hosted image, which doesn't work unless it's linked from the original tripod page.
posted by talldean at 7:46 AM on November 21, 2006

Eek...sorry, bro. It had worked when I tested it. :(
posted by PreacherTom at 8:05 AM on November 21, 2006

jrb, to be fair, there are many people in SL who make things either for free or for $1L (about a half-cent). Yes, most of the people who stay in SL for any length of time and create much content tend to sell it. Many of them, in fact, do quite well at it. Whether or not it's a shame... I dunno. Folks enjoy it, so what the hell, right? The game is a giant sandbox. Many people play for money, but many don't, and you get to choose how your particular bit of the sandbox works.

I'm not sure that the Copybot problem can ever be completely fixed. The SL model is not fundamentally very secure. All items in SL are made of polygons, which are basic shapes with a couple of dozen attributes (size, rotation, attachment point in a larger object, twist, cut [for partial polygons], and so on.) Most polygons then have an associated texture, with a few more attributes.

So, if you're running a fake client and you want to copy something, it's pretty easy. If it's sophisticated enough to actually display things, just click the object and choose copy. Your local client would then 'build' an exact identical object, as though you were clicking and dragging and building it yourself. It's basically an automated method of doing what you can already do.

The kind-of-ick part is where they can steal the texture too. Textures can be either a part of an object inherently, or they can be pulled straight out of the database with a key reference. Copybot automatically gets the key reference, so even though you don't have the texture in your own inventory, you can still use it in 'your' created object. If SL disabled the 'texture by reference' function, this would slow Copybot down, forcing it to re-upload the textures from local cache. I'm not sure whether it would be worth the pain involved.

As far as I know, custom protected scripting cannot be copied with Copybot, because locked scripts are never actually sent to the client. This is good for the scripters, but of course doesn't do a damn bit of good for the modelers and texture people.

As far as the social policing goes.... LL is absolutely high if they think that will work. This is the INTERNET. There is no real social pressure. All you can really do is yell at someone, and they can just put you on ignore.

If half of the entire SL population hated my avatar's guts and wanted me dead and gone, I would still have no problem at all using and enjoying the system. It would probably take upwards of a 90% hatred rate before I'd be seriously impaired, and maybe not even then.

Unless LL is willing to give real power to its residents, there's no way they can police themselves. Words don't do a damn thing.
posted by Malor at 8:43 AM on November 21, 2006

even in creating alternate realities folks can't help but reinscribe capitalism and all the same social forms we have out here in the real world back into them.

True enough, but in this case, I gather Rosedale purposefully designed a capitalist space from the get-go rather than starting from some open-ended, utopian "here's a reality; make of it what you will and we'll see what happens" impulse. The latter would have ended up inscribed with all sorts of tired forms and ills as well, but it'd sure be more interesting to goof around with. I can't really see the attraction of a Second Life that just mimics the most trivial and sordid elements of First Life. Whoopee, Monopoly without the thimble.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:52 AM on November 21, 2006

Cool. Our first successful attempt at The Matrix, and after just a few short years they already need to make Agent Smith.

This has been seen before in other online gaming communities.

Next up, Second Life version of Motion Picture Association of America and Second Life Department of Homeland Security.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 11:30 AM on November 21, 2006

Also, Philip K Dick seems less fiction and more prophetic as time moves forward.

The great book "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" really foretells MPOG's and the refuge they create for people.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 11:41 AM on November 21, 2006

Star Trek - TOS
Stardate 5832.3 The Way to Eden
Chasing the stolen vessel Aurora, the Enterprise rescues the thieves just before the Aurora is destroyed. The group is led by Dr. Sevrin in a search for a mythological planet named Eden, a planet reputed to be a paradise. (original air date: February 21, 1969)
posted by Twang at 4:35 PM on November 21, 2006

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