Friday, June 4, 2010

Emerald vs Other 3rd-Party Viewers: Who Can You Trust?

Most of us know that the Emerald viewer is the most popular third-party viewer in Second Life today. Many of it's users will quickly tell you of its' dozens of features that put the official viewer to shame. But ask them this question and you will get some surprising answers: "Do you trust the Emerald developers?"

Those who quickly answer "Yes!" either haven't gotten enough information about them or are willfully ignorant of their shady histories. Those who answer "No" do know about the gang's griefing power plays, but think that there aren't any decent alternatives or "I can't live without Emerald feature X".

Whenever a person decides to switch away from the official viewer, trust in the developer(s) is a crucial factor. In this blog post, let's take a look at the Emerald developers and the Imprudence developers(the viewer that I use) and see how we can compare them in the context of trust.

Let's start off with the Imprudence developers(Jacek Antonelli, McCabe Maxsted and Armin Weatherwax). Okay, so they have a blog, a wiki, a forum, a source code repository, an issue tracker and a mailing list, for starters. So on the surface it's fairly professional. But wait, what do we see in the "Imprudence Links"? Ah, a privacy policy! Very nice. And also in the wiki we find out that the developers hold weekly public meetings(called ImpDev meetups) and publish full transcripts of the meetings. Bonus points on transparency. Another crucial factor is that all of the developers appear to have clean records in SL.

So it seems the Imprudence folks are on the up-and-up.

Now let's see how Emerald stacks up. Well, they seem to have the same basics as Imprudence(blog, wiki, source code repository, etc) and a privacy policy also, but let's dig deeper. Well, looks like the blog has completely disabled comments on all posts. They hold "office hours" but it appears the last thing even remotely resembling an office hour was posted Feb. 6th, 2010. Also, their latest "project" to be outed, Onyx, has gone from a public list of known malicious viewers to a page requiring a username and password to view. So that means they have chosen not to be transparent in the face of public scrutiny.

Then there's the illicit pasts of Fractured Crystal, and Phox/Lonely Bluebird. Fractured's history is that of a typical serial copybotter/griefer. Phox has been caught bragging about stealing stuff, loves to smoke weed, and claims to be able to have the ability to estate manage the entire SL grid. While the other Emerald members' pasts aren't entirely clear one way or the other, it's apparent they are complicit with Fractured and Phox's grid shenanigans.

So now I ask you folks: are all those blingy Emerald features really worth trusting a known copybotter, a kleptomaniac stoner, and a group who has the entire SL grid by the shorthairs(via Onyx)? Who can you really trust? how will you "weigh the scales"?

Update 6/20/2010: The Emerald gang has radically overhauled their ModularSystems site, restoring the comments feature. But all the old comments(and blog posts from April and earlier) are long since nuked, and now there is absolutely no mention of Onyx on the site(navigating to now yields a 404 error page). Oh, and the personal blogs of the gang on the site are gone as well.


Anonymous said...

Excellent story!

We need to continue to put the screws to emerald/modular.

Getting rid of them will definitely ensure more fairness and fairplay on the grid.

Insilico is mostly all stolen as well. Klepto noskills wack.

AntoniusMisfit said...

The thing is, nobody is "putting the screws" to the Emerald/ModularSystems gang but themselves, really. They are willingly choosing to block themselves off under growing public scrutiny.