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[liberationtech] the virtual revolution in Second Life -- virtual model or just more RL?

Andrea Shepard andrea at
Wed Oct 23 04:24:22 PDT 2013

On Sat, Oct 05, 2013 at 05:53:01PM -0400, Shava Nerad wrote:
> When it came to light recently that Linden Lab, operator of Second Life,
> had made some incredibly draconic changes to their TOS, the community
> freaked.  And LL went to New World Notes (the primary metagame media) and
> smoothed things out with PR, for the most part.

Geez, sounds like things have taken a turn for the worse at LL since I worked
there. :/

> I've even entertained for a fleeting moment that they have some sort of
> weird NSL thing going on...NAH...  C'mon Shava...  Not every
> uncommunicative stonewall from an internet company you like has an NSL
> behind it...  These are just odd times.

I think there's a significant probability LL has been subject to some sort
of TLA interference of that type, although I can't comment on this matter
in particular.

In about Nov. 2011, while I worked there, there was a very odd incident
in which word came down from on high that management wanted OTR banned from
private user-to-user chat.  The official viewer didn't support it, but some
third-party viewers did, and the stated justification was to avoid
"fragmenting the user experience" and "creating an exclusionary environment"
 - as if private chat weren't exclusionary by its very nature!

At this point, I will note that, as of the last time I had source access
to it, the SL server logged the full text of all chat even in its production

All this seemed really not-very-okay to me and suspicious in light of the
flimsy justifications given and the lack of apparent association with any
of the product-type people one would expect such concerns to originate from.
It all seemed to be Rod Humble and the corporate counsel.

This came up in one of the server-side engineering staff meetings, and
seemed to incite a good deal of opposition - which eventuated in Rod showing
up himself to argue the point.  He actually backed down, or at least gave
the appearance of doing so - I'm not sure whether to count myself proud or
embarrassed at having lost my temper a bit and accused him of being a fascist.
I didn't hear anything more about it during the time I worked there, but I
didn't stay that long after, having gotten a distinct sense that these were
not the sort of people I wanted to be working for.

I don't definitively know what degree of outside pressure was involved,
although at one point Rod Humble seemed to let slip implied confirmation of
my suspicion with the phrasing "why would I want to stand up to the FBI?" or
phrasing to that effect.  I think it's clear that the current management
of LL are very decidedly *not* on the side of freedom, although I think the
*engineers* there mostly are.

Andrea Shepard
<andrea at>
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