Google+ Adventures of a Southern Gentleman: March 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

How Linden Labs ought to handle the Adult Content Policy Change...

In my previous blog post I've given my take on what the Adult Content policy change is going to entail and I've read a number of articles and comments giving opinions and suggestions on what Linden Labs ought to do. All of this has given me a few thoughts on how I think Linden Labs could/should approach this policy change to minimize the impact of it.

My contention has been that this is no difference than the current sim types of PG and Mature, it's just adding another type into the mix. My thought is that a new Adult type sim will work the same way as a Mature sim does now, you have some PG stuff, some Mature stuff and some Adult stuff all mixed on the sim, the difference will be that the Mature sim won't have the Adult stuff on it any longer just as a PG sim isn't supposed to have Mature stuff on it now. Part of the Adult Content policy change also entails something called "Age Verification" which quite simply that you have to follow a process to "prove" that you're an adult, at least to the point where Linden Labs is legally protected. Many have pointed out that this isn't foolproof, and indeed it isn't, but that's not an argument for not doing it. So in the near future, age verification will likely be part of the sign up process and it'll be old hat, if you're an adult in Second Life you'll have access to all 3 types of sim and the content therein, with options for warnings if you're concerned about wandering into an area that you aren't interested in seeing. If, like many suspect, this is a prelude to merging the teen grid in then a teen account would likely be the only type that has an actual physical restriction to access.

If I'm right, then ultimately there's no real issue as far as the private estates are concerned, if you have Adult content somewhere on the island or just don't care about teens having access, then you just set it to Adult and be done with it. There will be some pains involved since I'm sure the vast majority of active Second Life users are not age verified, but I suspect it's not going to take long for them to do so, it's just a matter of education which Linden Labs could handle by putting up a blurb on the login screen explaining the why and hows of doing age verification.

So, how can Linden Labs deal with removing Adult Content from the existing Mature mainland sims? Well, for one there's an option to just switch certain mainland sims from Mature to Adult if there is a predominance of adult content on the sim. The existing residents that don't have any adult content on their land are only affected by this in that they would have to be age verified. So far I know of no rule that says every meter of land on an Adult sim has to be XXX content. This might be the only thing Linden Linden labs really has to do if they aren't concerned about mixing PG, Mature and Adult sims on the same continent.

But there might be some mainland sims that have adult content on them but it's not desirable to change the sim's rating to Adult, perhaps a sim with Linden owned land such as Wengen or one of the other infohubs. So the adult content has to move, how do we do that without too much disruption? As pointed out in a comment to my last post, the issue with moving an establishment is twofold, it takes quite some time to set up and tweak a place so it's just right. It can be involved and complicated to take a store or club and move it lock, stock and barrel. Then there is the issue of existing landmarks and the customer base expecting the establishment to be where it's always been. Now certainly, dead landmarks is a normal issue with Second Life, we all have clicked a landmark and ended up at an empty lot or some place totally different from what we expected. But in this case, the move is forced, we have to deal with informing the customers of the change.

Both of these issues can be solved by time. So here's what I think that Linden Labs should do. Apparently there's already a new landmass with Adult sims on it. Work with the individuals that you need to move, give them a plot of land on a new Adult sim that is equal to the area of the plot they currently own and with the same dimensions if so desired. Give them 2-3 months where they own both the old and new plots of land while they establish their new build, then leave a sign and landmark giver on the old site to redirect traffic to the new place. After the time is up, the old piece of land automatically reverts to Linden Labs and is auctioned off as any abandoned piece of land would be. Perhaps even a stipend of a several thousand L$ could be given to offset costs incurred by moving, or at least for the bother.

Is any solution perfect? No, but there are certainly ways to lessen the impact that wouldn't entail much effort from Linden Labs.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Linden Labs Releases New Policy on Adult Content, Rioting Ensues

In previous posts I mentioned the curious phenomena I like to call the Kerfuffle Syndrome, where every 3-6 months Linden Labs makes an announcement that causes the vocal portion of the Second Life Community to go crazy, and not surprisingly it’s been 3 months since the last such announcement.  

Today Linden Labs announced that changes would be coming in regards to “Adult” content (Upcoming Changes for Adult Content) and as one might expect based on past experience there was a huge negative reaction with the usual threats of leaving SL, predictions of the collapse of  Second Life, etc.   This is both amusing in it’s predictability and sad because it demonstrates an overwhelmingly negative attitude by the vocal members of a community that usually claims an above normal concern for Second Life and its future.    But the mentality of the SL community is fodder for a future blog post, perhaps, but for the present I want to offer my take on this announcement.   I’m not a Linden Lab’s employee so this is pure speculation, but I think it’s pretty reasonable.

The current world has two types of Sim rating, PG and Mature.    As one might expect, a PG Sim should only have content that would be safe for your kid to see watching over your shoulder and a Mature Sim would have stuff that’s more R rated.    Up until now, the Mature Sims were also the homes of what would be considered XXX rated material as well, the much reported upon adult entertainment aspect of Second Life that consists of strip clubs, sex clubs, BDSM, Gorean roleplay and the like.   Based on the announcement from Linden Labs, I see a 3rd land rating type coming into play, the Adult Sim, which will offer a further distinction of mature vs explicit content.   Along with this will come some method of age verification so that this new Adult Sim rating can be restricted to only known real life adults, at least from a legal standpoint.   I see this as necessary for legal protection as opposed to a realistic expectation of being able to 100% restrict this content to adults, there’s always a way for an enterprising young person to work around restrictions.   This is about due diligence.  

This also will afford those adults who aren’t interested in the Adult aspects of Second Life the ability to keep out of areas so marked.   This will be especially important to those in Second Life from the educational community or the business community where their Second lives are more job related and they need to be circumspect about where they are seen in SL.   Some people see this as a prelude to merging the Teen Second Life Grid with the Main Grid, and that’s possible, but I think that’s only a small part of the reasons behind this, bottom line is that Linden Labs has to protect itself legally, they have to keep Second Life an inviting and safe environment to the educators, businesses and other entities who aren’t in SL running around asking every likely candidate “I can haz sex?”.

What does this mean to those people who engage in activities or run establishments that will be rated adult?   If you’re on a private island, probably nothing other than being required to change a setting on your island showing that it is an Adult rated sim.    If you’re on the mainland, then likely you’ll have to move to a sim with an Adult rating.   How Linden Labs handles this move will be critical, one would hope that they’d do a clean swap of land giving the person moving a comparable amount of land on new Adult rated sims and putting the swapped land on the Mature sim up for auction as they would abandoned land.

I think the only real critical issue here, and one that needs the most clarification, is what the criteria is that rates something as Adult vs Mature.    Some stuff is obvious, sex clubs, strip clubs, BDSM clubs aren’t difficult to classify, but there are some that sit on the edge.   For example, would an art gallery that displayed tasteful nudes be considered Mature or Adult?   My vote would be for a Mature rating and I suspect that Linden Labs will agree with that assessment.   Does everyone need to worry about having to take down their private skyboxes and throw away their fancy beds?  I don’t believe so, not if they are for private use.   Certainly, having a dungeon with any number of kinky items sitting at ground level might be over the edge and be an issue, but what if it’s at 3000m on Mature sim?   That will probably just be open to interpretation, handled on a case by case basis by Linden Labs.

So is this going to be a big deal?   Ultimately, I don’t think so.   The small time operators of sexually explicit establishments on the mainland will be the ones impacted, certainly, but I think the numbers of those affected will be low in comparison to the majority of Second Life residents.

And honestly, I won’t miss the BDSM club that’s near my land, though so far there’s been no issue with their games occurring while I’m around.   Certainly, I don’t want them screwed by Linden Labs, I hope they get an equitable land swap to a decent area on a new Adult sim.   In fact, I hope Linden Labs takes the time to set their Moles to work landscaping and making the new Adult mainland sims into pleasant looking places so that any hard feelings about having to relocate are offset by being moved to a nice looking location.

So, what do you think?   I’d love to see comments pro or con on the subject.