Friday, December 17, 2021

Reader Submission: Moving About the Metaverse

By DrFran Babcock


Greetings, everyone. Since I left Second Life for Philip Rosedale’s VR-inspired High Fidelity, I have not been around Second Life much. Sadly, High Fidelity, as a 3-D virtual world, died a little over two years ago. If you ask Philip Rosedale, co-creator of both Second Life and the subsequent High Fidelity, why this happened, he attributes much of it to the slow adoption of virtual reality hardware and some other reasons that have to do with how people choose to interact.

I love virtual worlds. I have never left virtual worlds since I left full-time Second Life in 2014, moving to the aforementioned High Fidelity. Since then, I have spent most of my time in Vircadia (the open-source world based on High Fidelity’s architecture), Sansar: The virtual world created by Linden Lab as the successor to Second Life; and even Horizon Worlds—Meta’s foray into virtual worlds.

What I plan to do, in writing a sporadic column for the Newser, is to share some news and tidbits from the rest of the Metaverse. It’s important to understand that my view of the Metaverse is colored much by the work of Tony Parisi and Avi-Bar Zeev. Thus, many worlds and One Metaverse.

Last, I want to thank Bixyl Shuftan and Gemma Cleanslate for nudging me back to writing again. I am in Second Life, but only for brief periods of time.


It is sad to report that Sansar is on life support. At the time of this writing, all of the employees have been furloughed, and many have gone on to other jobs. They are still open, and are still filled with the most beautiful worlds bar none. The remaining community of about 50 avatars are fiercely loyal, and continue to function as if things are without problems.

I would recommend that you go in there, and look around, because I fear that it might evaporate. Sansar was sold to Wookey Technologies a while ago, and at that point, all communication with the owners ceased. There were no more Product Update meetings, and each time the Umbra License (a tool that helps the graphics to run better)  was not repurchased it took a while for it to be repurchased. I believe, at this writing, that the license has lapsed.

It would be a tragedy if Sansar was lost, because I still believe it’s the best looking virtual world. It has drawbacks, chief among them that you cannot build collaboratively, but how many people know you can have 20 worlds completely free?


I was lucky (?) to score a closed Beta invite to Meta’s Horizon Worlds. I have no love for Facebook, but I was curious to see what they had to offer. I will discuss the positives and the negatives here:


Building, while rudimentary, is easy, and you can do some creative and different things.

You can build in collaboration. It’s very cool to make your avatar huge, and look down on your build, manipulating objects as if they were a diorama.

The scripting language, proprietary, is visual. This means that hopeless coders like me can manage to script some life into the worlds I build. This is a big plus, in my opinion.

At present, the developers were accessible and willing to answer questions. Since they have opened Horizon Worlds to all USA and Canada adults, it seems to have change.


Well, it’s Facebook/Meta, so they want our data.

The avatars have a lot of variety, but I want legs. Come on, Meta.

Children are running rampant in Horizon Worlds. I attended a scripting question and answer meeting, and children kept disrupting the meeting with profanities and racial slurs. The lone developer was unable to manage the number of trolls, and the session was ruined for me. If Meta wants their world to succeed, they will have to deal with this. I think it’s a problem of children “borrowing” their parents’ Quest 2s.

I will leave it at that, and promise more to come.


This is the world where I spend most of my time. It is most definitely not for everyone, because it is not easy to download, easy to use, nor easy to create.

Vircadia is developed by a small, dedicated, committed, and productive group of content creators and residents. There is one event every night except Tuesday, and the folks in their Discord server are helpful, and not fatigued by answering the same questions over and over.

Currently, we are working on a live-action play based very loosely on A Christmas Carol, but with a dark satirical bent, and a focus on virtual worlds. It will take place on Tuesday, December 28, at 2PM Pacific Time.


I also attend other virtual worlds, and I am glad to talk about what I do, but I would love to hear from you. If this is content you want, let me know and I will continue to share what I see as I move about the Metaverse.
DrFran Babcock

Monday, November 15, 2021

More on Facebook And Meta And Virtual World Plans, Grumpity Linden's Interview

By Bixyl Shuftan

Late last month in late October, Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook the company would be changing it's name to "Meta" to reflect it's plans to build a huge virtual world called the "Metaverse." Since then, there's been more than a few comments and developments.

As the term "Metaverse" was developed by Neal Stephenson in his cyberpunk novel "Snow Crash," he was interviewed about Facebook's move. "It’s flattering when readers take the work seriously enough to put their own time and money into bringing similar ideas to fruition," he remarked, "... science fiction writers have occasionally been given credit for inspiring real-life inventions, so this is not new and it’s not unique. I was aware of that fact thirty years ago when I wrote 'Snow Crash,' but I didn’t necessarily expect it to happen." He had never spoken to Zuckerberg, nor expected any kind of compensation, "In order to get compensation from FB or any other company I would need to sign some kind of deal in which I gave the company rights to some IP in exchange for payment."

As it turns out, Facebook may have a problem as another company filed first for rights for the name. Meta PC, which has been in business for a little more than a year, decided to officially apply for the name in August. The founders Joe Darger and Zack Shutt say they're willing to let Facebook have the name, but only if the larger company pays them 20 million. They also poked fun at Facebook by photoshopping a picture of Mark Zuckerberg holding one of their computers. Since neither company officially owns the name, Facebook may still be able to get it. But this oversight is resulting in a few chuckles. In the meantime, the result has been a great amount of free publicity for the smaller company, which saw it's social media followers increase by fifty times.

And what do the people at Linden Lab think of Facebook's move? Grumpity Linden, or Anya Kanevsky in real life, was interviewed by the French magazine Le Journal du Net (JDN). "It's interesting to see this interest in the metaverse from the Epic Games and Facebook announcements," Grumpity commented, " A metaverse is a collection of connected virtual worlds. In a sense, Second Life is a full-fledged metaverse. A living place in which, in the form of an avatar, you can stroll through shopping malls, go to the beach, visit art galleries, etc. Second Life also has its own economy and its own currency, the Linden Dollars."

She would go on to say that Zuckerburg and his people, "realized that the reputation Facebook has forged over time can be a barrier. This lack of confidence in the company exists and there will have to be a number of levers of confidence to allow those who wish to explore these virtual worlds. At Second Life, we ensure the privacy of our residents. For example, some assume their homosexuality in Second Life, but we know that some may live in areas of the world where their sexual orientation could lead them to prison. We are therefore extremely vigilant on this issue of data security. With the immense wealth of data in the hands of the digital giants, it will be necessary to ensure the protection of the privacy of the users of these virtual worlds."

Grumpity would remind that most content in Second Life, "was created by our residents and not by Linden Lab employees. We just play the role of facilitator. This represents our vision of the metaverse. I don't see how creating different games that would be connected to each other could be akin to the metaverse. In my eyes, this is content created by companies for users. For the metaverse to exist, it must be created and managed by the people who live there."

Sansar and it's option to wear VR helmets came up, "Many were not thrilled with the idea of ​​carrying these VR headsets that are quite heavy and require enough space at home to be able to use them. If virtual reality allows for an immersive and incomparable experience, we observed that few of our residents were ready to wear these helmets for more than thirty minutes. So we plan to keep trying new things around virtual reality, but VR isn't the only possible future for Second Life."

Grumpity would remind Linden Lab's virtual world was still making money, "In 2020, the creators of Second Life collected nearly $ 73 million. Many of them use the platform as a completely or have made it their main source of income." Although the Pandemic was ending, the people who signed on or returned were still logging on to Second Life, "even if they spend less time there."

The interview can still be read on the JDN website. As it's in French, English speakers may need to copy-paste in Google translate or have some other way of traslating it. Inara Pey would also write about it.

As time goes on, no doubt there will be more developments about Meta and it's plans to go into virtual worlds. Stay tuned for further details.

Sources: Axios, TMZ, IGN, JDN,

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, September 24, 2021

Game Review: Harem Hotel

By Nydia Tungsten

First off let me warn you that this is another NSFW game, (Yes it means there is porn in them thar hills and DON'T LOOK ETHELLLL!) Now that the children are out of the room...
I was given the link to download it and have a look. It starts off kinda slow for an adult game, I was streaming it on my NSFW Discord channel and a few people got bored at left, that’s how slow it starts.
There is only a little music in this game for audio, no actors at all, you read the entire game, but personally, I don’t mind because I enjoy reading. I know some people don’t enjoy reading an entire game. So to those, I will wave you off right here. While I don’t mind reading it is hard to see some of the subtle facial changes on the character’s faces.

Unlike a lot of other ‘3-D’ games, there are many small reactions to watch for. 

It starts off with the death of your grandfather that you barely knew and his wanting to pass on his ‘dream’ of the hotel that he has started from there you start meeting the girls. And finding out more and more about slaves,

You are soon plunged into a world of corrupt government as well as a corrupt church working together in a bad way. I won’t give the plot away because unlike a lot of other adult games this one matters.

In the Harem Hotel you will meet:


Your humble Elf maid, who was recently hired before you inherited the hotel. Lin always aims to please her master in any way she can!


A nerdy girl who was left at your hotel by her father, and she's not too happy about it. But you may just be the person to keep her happy. Without a job, she's willing to do almost anything she can for some extra cash.


A college student who was just kicked out of her house by her strict parents. Finally free from them, she's very eager to explore things she never had the opportunity to.


A college student and friend to Ashley, she's quite experienced and loves to flaunt, especially in public. She'll do a lot for some attention.

Your Android

Created by your grandfather, and there before you joined the Hotel, his project now belongs to you! Her name is up to you and she comes with some very useful commands. Buy her parts and upgrades to unlock some very interesting events.

Felicity & Emma

Cheerleaders, clones, and bitchy. Felicity is the boss wherever she goes, and Emma loves to follow the boss, whoever that may be…

This religious girl was born with a body made from sin. However hard she may try to hide it, it's painfully obvious. Her lack of knowledge and embarrassment of everything lewd will just make her corruption even sweeter.
And more coming!

More unique girls will be added in future updates to allow for even more fetishes.

As the story progresses you learn more and more about the slavery of elves and how bad their lives truly are, you also get to learn about the girls themselves and each ones back story, to the point you start to really care about them and you can feel your emotions react to each adventure they stumble into.

The story itself is very captivating, well written and you can easily lose yourself in it. By itself, it could be a stand-alone Manga… if it weren’t for all the graphic sex, there is a LOT of that. There are repeatable events. And a lot of the sex is just, the same thing word for word. But the creator has said that this is a Work in progress and they plan on taking care of that to make it not so much the same.

There are certain levels you need to raise in the girls to move the story along


As those go up you can go on into the adventure.

Overall I have to admit I have enjoyed this game greatly and plan on following it.

How do you get it? Since it is not on steam you have to look for it, I found it and I was surprised, it wasn’t some adult corp. Wanting a huge price tag for it. You can pay what you feel you can afford, even free, download it and enjoy it here is the link:

Good gaming to you!

Nydia Tungsten

Monday, August 2, 2021

Game Review: College Bound

By Nydia Tungsten

“After two years of working your butt off in college, you and your girlfriend Summer finally managed to qualify for an international student exchange program in sweet, sweet Paris. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, maybe if the principal didn’t suddenly exclude you from the program completely. Bitch.”

From almost the start of the game you get into graphic sex, with little more than a thin porno plot the entire way through. They did spend some time on the skin textures, kinda. While the skin doesn’t look like shiny plastic like some of the other 3-D games, the textures they decided to go with are from old women, as in stretch marks everywhere, as well as some cellulite.

This game does let you make choices here and there, which for any graphic novel/dating sim is a good thing, that leads me back around to the plot, which is as deep as maybe a teaspoon. It CAN be a little entertaining. Basically you are playing as a young man still in college about to become an exchange student, Oh yes, you are a virgin, that just starts having sex with almost everyone {Yeah, porn plot}.

But if you are looking for a finished game, pass this one by, it is still in development {maybe they can develop a plot too} but on the plus side it FREE for now on steam you can find it here: (Warning: Not Safe For Work images)

As you might be able to tell, I am not too impressed by this one.

Please let me know what you think of my Reviews and if you would rate them differently.

And as always GOOD GAMING TO YOU!!

Nydia Tungsten

Friday, July 23, 2021

Game Review: Wasteland Survival

By Bixyl Shuftan

When checking Steam for games the other day, one that got my attention was "Wasteland Survival." It's the sole game offered by Joyloft Co. Limited. The type, a survival game in which one fights zombies. The price: Free to purchase. The game had gotten mixed reviews. Deciding to check it out, I downloaded it, which took only a short time, and started playing.

The opening scene was that of an unconscious man having washed up on a beach being woken up by a friendly dog, happy to find human company. With no sign of the owner, what's left is to look around the area. Going about, you find a few tools and weapons. You also come across a few low-level zombies that are easily beaten. You can equip a weapon by dragging  it from your storage to one of the two weapon slots on your inventory page. You can also wear clothes by dragging them onto your legs, torso, and head spaces. Your main screen has an action bar on the bottom with two weapon spaces and a space that can hold an item such as bandages or food.

Your character has only so many hit points, which are reduced from zombie attacks. Your character also gets hungry and thirsty, with your hunger and thirst levels steadily going down. Once either reaches zero, you will start to take damage. To stave off thirst, you need to drink bottled water or eat food with water content such as berries. To take care of your hunger, you need to eat food such as canned beans, berries, and more. Eating also replenishes your hit points, some foods doing so better than others. While you can find monster meat off some zombies, it's not recommended for eating (but does have another purpose).

You can also craft items. At the start, you're limited to just a couple tools, the stone hatchet and pick, a few weapons such as a baseball bat, bandages, and a couple items of clothing, survivors' shirt and pants. You can also build structures such as floors and walls, storage containers, a garden to grow food, a campfire to cook food, a rain barrel to get water, and the kennel for your dog, which you'll need to finish for it to travel with you. And the way you get the materials for this is to gather them. You can gather grass and an occasional log and stone on the ground. You can also chop trees for wood, pick bushes for edible berries, and pick rocks for stone and iron ore. Zombies can carry cloth and occasionally rope or some other material. Crates can carry bottled water, canned food, glue, bars of iron, and others.

To get items, you'll have to search other areas. At first you're limited to just a few, the lush woods, the small mine, and the novice hunting grounds. The woods has more wood, the mine has more rocks that deliver iron ore, and the hunting grounds has critters that drop meat you can cook, leather and hides you can use to craft, and bones you can feed your dog. Sometimes two other areas will pop up. A crashed plane has a number of suitcases you can open that you can find items from dog food to better clothes and more. This is about the only zone that's zombie free, but one place may explode and damage you for a few points. The airdrop is the most dangerous of these early areas as there are zombies that can quickly rush up to you and quickly kill you. So here you'll need to be ready to make a break for it and retreat.

Of the zombies, the first ones you'll encounter are no big deal, slow, lumbering, and taken down with a few wacks of a baseball bat or one or two. But if you've played "Left 4 Dead," you have some idea what's to come. Later on are "Coneheads" whom require more hits to kill, and the "Ironhelms" that take a lot more. The "Batters" can quickly run over and proceed to pound you with their baseball bats, dealing more damage than the Coneheads and Ironhelms. The "Bloaters" can deal heavy damage in close combat, and will spew acid that not only hurts you but can slow you down. But the most deadly of the zombies you'll run into early on are the "Engineers" and "Spitters." They will quickly catch up to you and kill you with just a couple blows. Spitters in particular are to be watched out for as not only can they outrun you, but they sometimes can detect you from long distance and make a beeline to you. And if they catch you while stopping to eat or drink something from your backpack, you'll likely end up dying - and losing your stuff. I eventually got the hint to put food in my action bar instead of bandages.

Eventually, you'll start to start to stink, or "smell of aged cheese" as your character puts it. It will happen faster if you have to take a pee. This means the zombies can smell you and detect you easier, which can be inconvenient if there's a crate with zombies nearby you don't want to tangle with. Build a shower and have bottled water on hand to take care of this.

Early on, you find a body with a diary. Each page will give you a mission, and in carrying them out, you read more of the diary and get a small reward. If you play daily, you'll be given a reward once a day. Sometimes it's a pickaxe or bow. But once in a great while, you'll get something valuable like a shotgun. There is a trader in the game, offering items like ammo, but he demands high prices for his goods.

If the zombies in the zones weren't bad enough, once a day a horde will head to your base. If not stopped, unless your base has defenses, they will damage it and possibly take some things from your containers. At first, they're just a few not too tough ones. But as time goes on, they get more numerous and some more dangerous. Early on, you have an automatic turret that can help as there's some ammo boxes you find. But it's useless when they run out. Building barricades will cause the zombies to attack them first before nearby buildings (if the obstacles are between the buildings and the horde) and damage themselves. The first ones will be killed, but a horde will eventually smash a barricade. More barricades will stop more zombies. But eventually the horde will have a powerful boss zombie at the end that just smashes them with his weapon. If you're around when they make your attack, you have a chance to stop any damage. You also get a small reward if you stop the attack.

Dying in the game means you end up waking up back at your base, without your clothes or any other gear you had when the zombies caught you. You have ten minutes to get your gear before it vanishes. But if it was a Spitter that killed you, it will be waiting for you. You'll need a gun, preferably an automatic rifle, to take it out. Otherwise you'll have to say goodbye to whatever you lost, which can be very, very, aggravating.

As you progress, you'll get points that can be spent for extra abilities, for you and your dog. You'll also be able to craft more. Some builds allow you to make goods, such as the furnace will allow you to smelt iron ore into iron bars, and sewing machines can turn grass into cloth. Some are two-part builds. One automatic crossbow build turned out to be only the base, with the top requiring materials I hadn't found yet.

Early on, I found a pistol. This made progressing not *too* difficult. That is until a Spitter caught me while I was eating and clobbered me. And in trying to get back to get the gun, it clobbered me yet again. So it was goodbye gun, and slow progress as I had to find the stuff to make my clothes and new weapons. And more than once the Spitters and Engineers would get me before I'd gotten a full set of decent gear and weapons.

The game often offers me a shortcut, dangling items like weapons if I pay up some real cash. Considering the aggravating setbacks, I can imagine players fed up with the slow progress going ahead and paying cash so they'll have a working gun or a machete so they have a chance against the Engineers and Spitters. It would seem this is how this "free" game makes money for it's creator. 

On the plus side, it doesn't seem to take too much processing power to play. I'm able to run it and Second Life at the same time. It also pauses if some things, such as the SL viewer, are what you're using at the moment.

Wasteland Survival will likely frustrate you, but it's unlikely to be boring. If you want fast progress though, it's probably best to pass this game and head for another of the survival genre. This game will have you grinding a lot as you keep searching for supplies to rebuild the gear you lose to the zombies.

You can get the game for free on Steam:

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, July 19, 2021

Reader Submitted: Game Review - Subnautica: Below Zero

By Rita Mariner

I will be commenting on Unknown World's latest release, Subnautica: Below Zero. This video game has been in testing for two years.  I started playing it, on STEAM, in the experimental mode, at that time.  Since then the game has gone through several rewrites, primarily due to change in writers.

Below Zero still plays in the four basic  modes of the first game.  Survival, where you have to watch and manage your air, food, water and health. Freedom, where you only worry about air and health.  Hardcore, where you have to manage air, food, water, health and you get no PDA prompts reminding you, so if you die. YOUR DONE and have to start all over from scratch.  Then Creative, where you worry about nothing, you get everything at the beginning and you just poke around and do whatever you like. I would get bored in like two minutes.

In Below Zero, you play Robin Ayou, a female, Xenobiologist, who comes to Planet 4546B, to investigate the death of her sister Sam Ayou.  You aren't buying Alterra's story she died from negligence. While here you discover and get stuck in your head a rather annoying alien. So between investigating your sister's death, you now have to help an alien, so you can kick him out of your head.

Now for the good points of the game I have found.  The alien world is beautiful, lots of great detail, interesting new plants and creatures you get to investigate. The idea you are playing a female character, this time is a nice touch.  When you get a message to listen to, on the PDA, the face of the person talking will appear in your HUD, I like that. There are several references back to the first game, if you find them. Some of the plants and creatures you will encounter are brought over from the first game, but the bulk of the creatures and plants are all new and you will need to check them all out to see if they are useful, or not. One of the more interesting creatures, is the Sea Monkey, or Sea Thief! They look cute, but if you swim around them, with any of your tools out, it becomes THEIRS! You can swim after them and attempt to get it back.  

There are many bases and wrecks to explore and you will need to do that to collect all the blueprints you will need for the game. Make sure to make beacons to mark them, encase you need to return to any of them later.

Now for the parts of the game I wasn't to thrilled with.  One is right at the beginning.  Our character PLANNED to come to Planet 4546B. She knows where she is going is COLD! Yet the only item she brings with her is 3 bottles of water, 3 nutrient bars and a PDA?  She doesn't bring a full set of basic tools and a COLD SUIT! She is suppose to be this experienced xenobiologist, and planned this trip and brings NOTHING with her?  PLEASE!

The next thing they never explain is, why did ALTERRA leave the planet, no one from ALTERRA is there, period.  Also at the KOPPA MINING SITE, there are no habitats for an office, crew break room, power supply and storage.  Plus they have drillable chunks of Titanium, Copper, Ruby, Gold, Diamonds, Quartz, in the game, but no Lead or Lithium and you need a boatload of those two items, in this game. Since they changed most of the blueprint recipes around.

There are several new leviathans in the game, a couple you want to avoid at all costs, especially if your outside your Sea Truck or Prawn Suit, they can KILL You.  The Chelicarate and the Shadow Leviathan. Even then, they will put a serious hurt on your Sea Truck or Prawn Suit. Unless you have the Perimeter Defense Module for the Sea Truck.

Which brings me to the Sea Truck, I hate it! If All I had to do was haul stuff from point A to point B, it does okay.  Unfortunately, that's not all you need it to do.  You have to explore!  The Sea Truck is ill-suited for that job. It gets caught on everything, plants damage it,  hard to control and clumsy.  I have gotten to the point I explore the Sea Monkey Tunnels, near The Pilot's Last Reported Position, in my Prawn Suit.

Is Below Zero a bad game? No, it's playable and can be enjoyable, but it could have been so much better.

Rita Mariner

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Game Review: Love & Sex : Second Base

By Nydia Tungsten

Steam has lifted it’s ban on nudity and sex in the games it allows, and since then there has been an explosion of ‘adult’ rated games available in the steam store. Now most of them are just "teenagers' wet dreams" put into game form, with not even a plot developed before the humming and humping commence. When you hear movie reviewers refer to a movie's plot line to be as thin as a porno’s, they aren’t kidding. Just a lot of “Wham bam, thank ya ma’am.”

It took a while for me to find a few I thought might be decent enough to recommend. I did not think it would take so long to find one, dear goddess the amount of games out there is STAGGERING. But I did find a few. The best one I found is called "Love & Sex : Second Base."


Just when I was about to give up hope on there being any adult game with any plot, along comes this one. It has comedy, drama and suspense in it. Along with some pretty decent artwork, well… most of it, there are a few that look like Disney and Hanna Barbarra had an Anime love child, I think it was supposed to look sexy. ( it didn’t)

You start out as a self proclaimed “Code Monkey” working for a local company. You meet a LOT of young ladies and 99.9% of them you have a chance with, such as Anne. The two main characters  you have a chance with are your two new housemates Bree and Sasha. If you do everything right, you can marry both of them in the end, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Bree, the blond, her father is the lead character from ‘Die hard’ and he will ruin your day if you hurt his little girl. Another Easter egg is being taught martial arts by none other than ‘Master Roshi’ himself, and yeah it is kinda funny. There are a few other Easter eggs but I won’t spoil any surprise. There is a section when they play their version of D&D. It shows a few pictures of them at their table and their characters in game.

There is a lot of love, a lot of sex, a little bit of violence with a touch of spanking involved. When you have a high enough level with one of the women you have the option of putting a collar on them. And each one is different. Ranging from a cowbell (yeah guess her kink) to a leather and steel one. But each one of them has their own personality that you have to figure out.

The game itself gives you ZERO hints. And without those you CAN die in multiple ways with zero warning. I know that first hand. But don’t despair, there is WIKI, yes there is already a page for it. You will find it here: Without those tips and hints, it can get frustrating very quickly.

That said however, there is also a lot of replayability in this game. There are a LOT of story paths you can take as you play, one for each girl. It is just a matter of finding the right one for the ending you want. BUT, once you marry, there is no going back and it is game over and time to pick your next...conquest? Well pick the next girl you would like. There are a few harem endings as well if you like those and want to try for them.

The game itself can be found here: It is normally $20 usd but is on sale for $14.99 (caution, some picture and animations are Not Safe For Work).

So in my opinion it is worth it IF you are looking for this kind of ‘dating sim’. I will leave off here, if you get the game let me know YOUR opinion and see if we agree.

Until then, may the prize be yours and may you save the princess!


Nydia Tungsten

Friday, January 15, 2021

Trump Twitter Ban Raises Questions About Roles and Responsibilities of Social Media

By Bixyl Shuftan

It was about a week ago on Friday January 8 that President Donald Trump was permanently banned by the social medial platform Twitter. The reasons given by Twitter on it's official announcement were "recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter." The ban got attention for a number reasons. One was that no previous President had relied so much on the social media platform, or anything similar. His numerous, and unfiltered, tweets to his followers, sometimes "dozens a day," were a big part of how he communicates with the public. While Trump's separate Presidential account remains, the takedown of his personal account meant the loss of his most frequently used means to communicate.

While Trump's opponents supported the move, many saying the ban should have been done a long time ago, a number have expressed criticism and reservations. Conservatives and populists accused Twitter of taking sides in political debate. Libertarians expressed concerns about free speech issues, especially as like or dislike him that Trump as US President is a major figure in US Government while he is in office.

A number of Trump's statements over Twitter were flagged for misinformation, notably some during the election, which itself touched off controversy. Various civil rights groups have criticized Twitter and other platforms for allowing Trump to air conspiracy theories and false claims. But the American Civil Liberties Union, while critical of his statements as well in the past, also expressed concern about the ban, saying while they understood the reasons for the ban, "the unchecked power" of major social media "should concern everyone."

Katie Fallow, a senior staff attorney at Columbia University's Knight First Amendment Institute, felt the Trump Presidency has brought about new questions about the roles and responsibilites for social media platforms such as Twitter for both people in government and those advocating for free speech. "Some people have called for (applying) antitrust law to the social media platforms on the idea that there's essentially a monopoly on the speech environment, but those are untested legal waters," she spoke.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock felt the Twitter ban, in addition to bans by Facebook and Instagram, raise a "very big question" about how social media is regulated, commenting the bans were "taking editorial decisions." He went on to say while the scenes in Washington DC, "were terrible - and I was very sad to see that because American democracy is such a proud thing," he added, "But there's something else that has changed, which is that social media platforms are making editorial decisions now. That's clear because they're choosing who should and shouldn't have a voice on their platform."

Other officials in Europe expressed concerns. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the ban "problematic." French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire condemned Trump's "lies," but also spoke out against the ban, "What shocks me is that Twitter is the one to close his account. The regulation of the digital world cannot be done by the digital oligarchy."

Currently, social media companies are protected under US Federal law by Section 230, a provision of the 1996 Communications and Decency Act, which shields platforms from being held liable in court for the speech of users, unlike traditional media companies. But critics feel considering how much has changed since then and how big Facebook and Twitter have become, it's past time for a change. Trump and some of his supporters have called for a repeal of the law. But Fallow stated such a repeal would end up hurting him and other populists as the law shields Twitter and other social media of responsibility for allowing them to use the platforms.

Jack Dorsey, the man in charge of Twitter, would issue a series of statements on Wednesday Jan 13, feeling the ban was "right," but also "dangerous," with potential consequences for free speech later on.

I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump from Twitter, or how we got here. After a clear warning we’d take this action, we made a decision with the best information we had based on threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter. Was this correct?

I believe this was the right decision for Twitter. We faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety. Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all.

That said, having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications. While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation. And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us.

Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation. They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning. And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.

The check and accountability on this power has always been the fact that a service like Twitter is one small part of the larger public conversation happening across the internet. If folks do not agree with our rules and enforcement, they can simply go to another internet service.

This concept was challenged last week when a number of foundational internet tool providers also decided not to host what they found dangerous. I do not believe this was coordinated. More likely: companies came to their own conclusions or were emboldened by the actions of others.

This moment in time might call for this dynamic, but over the long term it will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet. A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same.

Yes, we all need to look critically at inconsistencies of our policy and enforcement. Yes, we need to look at how our service might incentivize distraction and harm. Yes, we need more transparency in our moderation operations. All this can’t erode a free and open global internet.

Twitter has also been criticized on the move on the grounds that while Trump's account is gone, some very undemocratic world leaders still have theirs. But Twitter has suspended some of these accounts on occasions in the past for violating it's rules. In another example of social media enforcing it's rules, a few days ago Facebook shut down several accounts liked to the Ugandan government.

President Trump is due to step down on Wednesday January 20. Joe Biden, whom also has a personal Twitter account, was given another one as President-elect, "Folks — This will be the account for my official duties as President. At 12:01 PM on January 20th, it will become @POTUS. Until then, I'll be using @JoeBiden."

Sources: BBC News, ABC News, Twitter, Politico

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Whatever Happened to Linden Lab's Blocksworld?

By Bixyl Shuftan

Longtime residents may remember the days of Rod Humble when Linden Lab's strategy then was to offer more than just Second Life, but either developing or buying other products they hoped would make up for it's then declining income from the virtual world. Among them was Blocksworld, which the Lab acquired in January 2013. Described as "a mix of Lego and Minecraft," it was clearly aimed at younger users than Second Life. It did have one advantage to the virtual world then, it was playable on tablets. 

By the middle of the year, Blocksworld was doing pretty good. The game in August 2013 was doing downloaded at a rate more than Candy Crush. It probably wasn't making nearly as much as the game, which was described to be making $880,000 a day at the time, as it was a top download in just the "Family" category. But it was the most successful of Linden Lab's products other than Second Life, and the only such product of the "Shared Creative Spaces" era that would remain at the end of 2014.

In 2019, Blocksworld was still listed as one of Linden Lab's products and was available in Steam. But a recent look at shows both Second Life and Tilia, but no sign of Blocksworld. And checking the Steam page, there was the following message: Notice: At the request of the publisher, Blocksworld is no longer available for sale on Steam. Checking Wikipedia, "As the game got downplayed by Linden Lab, the game remained without updates since early 2018, then the servers were fully shut down on June 17, 2020."

So what happened to Blocksworld? There was an effort by Linden Lab too make something of it. In March, they announced an update that allowed players to sell content for virtual coin and allowed people to cash the coin in for real-life currency. According to a page in "The Fall of Blocksworld," there was also, "a contest to see who could build the best world based off of a theme, determined beforehand by the Linden Labs Employees," from about once a week to once a month, at least until 2017. The Lab also made a deal with Hasbro and people had access to "My Little Pony" and "Transformers" sets, and build characters from the shows.

Unfortunately, the Lab was being described as lax when it came to enforcing content rules. Rival groups began forming and started engaging in "wars" in which a group would build a world showing another group as getting clobbered. There were also players that were uploading obviously adult content. According the the page, Linden Lab didn't act on them at first, and the result was people leaving due to the drama and the family-environment tainted. Eventually it did start to ban adult content uploaders, but their solution to the "wars" was to limit players to building one world a day and just three models a day. The Lab also stopped the building contests and didn't renew their license to allow MLP and Transformer content. The Lab was also described as laying off the one employee whom was good at keeping the place from getting hacked and loaded with questionable content. Then came a glitch that kept people from logging into the computer version of Blocksworld and caused problems with the tablet app.

Over time the page stated, the game had dropped in popularity to the point the Lab decided it was a lost cause, and that was the reason it was shut down in June 2020 with no announcement.

It should be noted that "The Fall of Blocksworld" was the only page I found with reasons as to why Blocksworld was closed. If there's any players from the place that saw what happened, your comments are welcome

Source: Wikipedia, Linden Lab, Fandom,

Bixyl Shuftan