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 onyx.modularsystems.sl now yields a 404 error page). Oh, and the personal blogs of the gang on the site are gone as well.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Linden Prize Countdown: The Prokofy Factor

In about 24 hours from now(give or take), the winner of the Linden Prize will be announced. I await the announcement with not a sense of excitement, but actually with a sense of fear because there is a very real possibility that the Lindens will choose a finalist that frankly shouldn't have even made it past the gate.

Another reason why I'm dreading the announcement is that as of this point, the biggest chicken booster of them all, Prokofy Neva, has been pretty silent on the matter since the Linden blog post on the sionChickens where she vowed to "fight with every fiber of my being against those worldviews that seek to obliterate the normal, the ordinary, the simple, even the tacky, the mass-taste, the quick buck". Ugh.  I took this to mean that she'd come out swinging hard on her blog, doing everything she can to fight the good chicken fight and badmouth the actual deserving finalists more than she already has.


Her lack of commentary since the Linden blog post is unusual. It's just not like her to leave it alone when there's so much legitimate criticism of her beloved virtual fowl going even stronger now than before(over on SLUniverse, the Linden blog post on sionChickens got the most discussion of all the finalists).


So why the silence? Did she decide she's said all she needed to, and let things come as they may? Or has she somehow gotten the inside track on who will win the Prize? More likely the latter, but I suspect we won't find out until after the winner is announced tomorrow and Prok will inevitably make her own blog post either decrying or gushing over it.

Update: The winner has been announced, and it's not the chickens, thankfully. However as of yet there has been no reaction from Prok. Still, congrats to the Tech Virtual Museum Workshop. You guys deserved it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

More on why Sion Chickens should not win the Linden Prize

As I had stated in my previous post on the fowlness surrounding the Linden Prize(pun intended), sion Chickens do not deserve to win the Linden Prize, much less be on the finalist shortlist simply because they do not meet the stated criteria.

But there's two more reasons why the inclusion of virtual fowl isn't kosher.

First, there's the humanitarian/charitable nature of the Prize itself. Over on Massively, Tateru Nino hits all the regular beats on the subject. In the comments, Maggie Darwin postulates that the Lab may claim the Prize as a charitable donation in their tax filings, and awarding the Prize to such an overtly successful for-profit, commercial operation may endanger that claim. However nobody beyond the Lab itself, its' partners and investors are privy to that sort of information and the Lab is under no obligation as a private company to divulge it to the public.

Then there's the very vicious actions of Sion himself. When one chicken farmer threatened legal action after Sion released a botched update that harmed many farmers' businesses, Sion actually made the thuggish threat of cutting off the food supply to all chicken farmers unless the criticising farmer backed off. Under pressure from fellow farmers, the critic sheepishly did so. Then to make sure no farmer would ever dare again speak out against the Fowl Empire, Sion crafted a new EULA which allowed him to cut off a farmer's chicken-use rights "for any reason or no reason at all" and even blacklist those who were seen as against Sion "for any reason or no reason at all".

Doesn't sound much like a humanitarian, charitable, or at least benevolent person, does it? Sounds more like the actions of a dictator, really.

So let me ask the folks at Linden Lab, if they happen to read this before June 1st: Why are you considering an entry that not only does not meet the criteria, but also whose proprietor has engaged in behaviour that is completely against the spirit of the Prize? Or do you simply not care about the legitimacy of what you publicly outline as a humanitarian prize?