Today’s random programming incantation…

To upgrade all of your installed Perl modules:

echo -e "l\nq" | instmodsh | grep -v '^[cA]\|-' | cpanm

Bubble-chat and temporal versus spacial organization of chat

What I mean is, normally in second life, chat flows up as a linear scroll with the most recent thing said at the bottom, and the oldest at the top. In 1.x viewers this was on the left, in 2.x viewer this is on the right. In both of those, you could alternately view via the chat log, but it gave the same basic view… in order by time.

Bubble chat moves chat messages into bubbles over people’s heads. Often times the last couple of things they’ve said will be there, in the same chronological order. But the difference is that instead of seeing everyone’s chat organized by who said what first, you see it organized by where they said it. In the sense that it floats above them.

Now, I’ve not historically found bubble chat to be that useful. The order of things always seemed more important. And I was used to the chat history type view. I eventually turned it on so I could tell when someone was typing– which yes, the old typing animation was supposed to do, but these days most people disable it. Bubble chat shows it as an animated ellipsis.

That’s nice and all, but I recently discovered it’s true use. When you have a crowd full of people it’s amazingly useful. I was at a concert, and people were playing their “applause” gestures, which just spam the chat log… but in bubble chat it actually acts as a wave of applause across the audience… its really effective for crowd type situations… times when where chat is coming from is often more important then anything.

And indeed, it would allow everyone to talk at once, but you to only pay attention to the folks next to you. A much better simulation of crowd dynamics then a chat log can evoke.

<3 Google (was: WTF Google)

Edit: It seems that Google is restoring everyone (including me) from the great avatar purge last Friday! I’m gonna write this off as a beta bug. I knew you wouldn’t forsake me Google. <3

Your profile was flagged for violating our Community Standards and is currently under review. During this time, you will not be able to fully use Google services that require an active profile and your profile will not be visible to others. Check back soon for the review results.

Really? Community standards? That’s how you’re spinning the “name” thing? I assume that’s what it was, because nothing else on your list of community standards is remotely similar.  Is this also why you made me verify my Gmail login with a text message? Really? And now the feed coming out of Google Reader is blocked? Seriously not cool.

Designing Anarchist Institutions– Security oriented thinking

So my post yesterday on the grand fall of the term libertarian in the US and my own political views got me thinking… in my work, I’ve been designing and writing billing software that handles and stores credit card information.  As such, everything I write, every rewrite, always has to be done with an eye toward security in the back of my mind.  “How could an attacker use this function I’ve written to exploit some other part of the system?” That kind of thing.

Now for lack of a better term, I’m going to use the term anarchist to describe my goals.  What I mean by this is simply the distrust of concentrations of power wherever they may form, in government, in business, in social structures.  The idea that abuse of power comes hand in hand with power itself and as such it’s in our best interests to limit the amount of power we give.

What I got thinking on was how do you design a strong anarchist institution.  And I realized that it requires the same kind of thinking that goes into trying to write secure software.  In both cases you have people within and without who may try to subvert your system.  And so the system has to be designed to be difficult to subvert. In the case of an anarchist institutions, you need to look at how social dynamics work and information flows and see where power tends to pool up and concentrate, and then change the structure of the organization in order to diffuse that.  When you find power pooling up, it’s important to step back and see if there’s a more general problem you can be looking for everywhere in your organization.  It’s like when you find a new class of security vulnerability, it’s useful to go back and audit everything you’ve done so far with an eye to that class– often, perhaps even usually, you will find other cases that had not yet been discovered.

Ultimately, unanticipated concentration of power has been at the root of the collapse of many anarchist organizations*.  Overall I think that these institutional design issues should be approached with a security mindset.  Of course, the problems are the same as with security– humans aren’t very good at thinking that way.  Like rational thinking, it’s something you have to learn– gut checks don’t work as what seems intuitive to our simian brains is often wrong.

* And yes totally uncited there, and anecdotally I can think of a few cases off the top of my head… some actual research would be interesting, and surely called for first.

“Real” Libertarians

Over at Pandagon, Amanda Marcotte has a post complaining about playing the “no true Scotsman” game with the word Libertarian:

I’m somewhat sick of the “genuine libertarians” thing, by the way.  It’s about as meaningful as saying, “There are genuine communists out there.”  Technically true, pragmatically meaningless.  “Genuine libertarians” are, in my experience, like “whole cloth pro-lifers”, the ones who supposedly are in it because they really are pro-life and also oppose war, the death penalty, eating meat, etc., and that it’s not about sex and gender for them.  You hear about them—occasionally someone says they’ve met one—but they are so few on the ground that you can reasonably say that people who consider their number one issue to be the government concealing space aliens from us constitute a more substantial voting bloc.  Most people who identify as libertarian are golf pants–wearing Republican weenies who want you to think they’re cooler than the average golf pants-wearing Republican weenie because they like Pearl Jam.

And she’s right, Libertarian in US politics is basically just an isolationist right winger, imperial ambitions being the only thing to separate them from other’s in the right wing of american politics.  They’ve co-opted the language of anarcho-capitalism, but betray it every time they stomp on personal liberty, while still holding to the “corporations can do no wrong” mantra they’ve long had.

Personally, I’ve long called myself a socialist libertarian, from even before learning that it was another word for anarchist. Anarchist is forever tainted by both the term “anarchy” which is absolutely not the goal of an anarchist and the actual anarchist terrorists of the turn of the century a hundred years ago.  Socialist libertarian, especially in the US, at least gives people pause to ask, “wait, what?” But now… libertarians in the US are so far away from anything I value… that I would hesitate to use the term.

And so I’m not sure what I would call myself now… Simply put, I think we need to distrust both public and private concentrations of power, be that government or business.  And the powerful tend to become powerful by hoarding power and seeking more– we must recognize this in order to diffuse it.  The powerful will always try to subvert any institution that seeks to counterbalance them.  I do not believe that our government is a lost cause– I am not so nihilistic as others who share my world view.  I do believe that political change is slow and painful, and so the modern non-violent direct action is equally important.  In particular, I think that shadow institutions/organizations/movements that are built on our ideals is an excellent use of our time.  (For instance, free schooling, unschooling, cooperatives of various kinds, employee owned and managed businesses, etc.) But that said, I see nothing wrong with engaging politically, as it is also useful and that we’re a big enough country to do both.  What’s more, engaging at the local level is extremely important.  If anything the right wing should have taught us, it is that.

Real Names and the Emerald Meltdown

So at this point you’ve probably heard about the Emerald Meltdown, where what was really the straw that broke the camels back came down and destroyed what trust folks had built up in the project. I’m not here to talk about that. Actually, I think their final decision was really the only way the project could survive and I’m now cautiously hopeful. If they truly maintain transparency then I’ll have no complaints.  Till then I’d been ready to start a fork myself, or help with whatever one looked most promising.  (I’d been eyeing Satomi Ahn’s fork, but she seems to have closed it, probably because it seems that Emerald will be able to recover.)

What I am here to talk about is some of the extreme crazy issue flogging that I’ve seen come out of it. A number of people, led primarily by, I think, the Second Life Herald and W. James Au over at New World Notes are obsessed with the idea that some how legal names would magically fix– well, any and all problems with Second Life.  They disdain the idea of psuedo-anonymity, and want to dismiss the work of anyone done under a name other then the one on their passport.  (Do I exagerate? Perhaps a little, though hardly as much as they do.)    For instance, from a recent post about the Emerald issues:

But then, who is Arabella Steadham? If the viewer is going to exist in any form going forward, it seems an absolute necessity now that its development be led by someone who is known in real life, and can be held accountable for the actions of her or his team.

But why would it be even a marginal necessity let alone an absolute one? And how would being “known in real life” increase accountability? This seems like a unbelievably naive view of the real world.  Of the thousands (hundreds of thousands? millions?) of open source projects out there, hardly any involve anyone who knows each other, or has any way of verifying anything that anyone says about themselves.  Clearly verifiability is NOT important.  And it’s not like having someone’s “real name” attached to something means anything at all, as well, how would you presume to validate that?  Ask for a photocopy of their ID? They’d not be well advised to share that with a stranger. LL’s own verification is so weak as to be meaningless and is clearly just a sop to people who refused to believe it wasn’t technically possible. (It still isn’t, and what they do measures nothing.)

What it would be reasonable to ask for is identity and authority, and neither is actually related to “real names,” whatever those might be.  Identity just means that when you see something signed with a name, that it’s being signed by the same person that used that name yesterday. Or if it’s a group identity, that there’s an understanding of what that means.  In contrast, authority comes from actions associated with an identity.  You can’t have any authority if you don’t know who’s speaking.  (For an example of that, see 2chan and 4chan.)  So who is Arabella Steadham? Well, to me she’s the sum of the google results for her name.  She’s a blog and various social network entries.  She’s very clearly not an AV that was just rolled by some previous do-badder to hide under a new name.  For Emerald developers and people who participate in that community, she’s surely much more, as she’s been very active in the project for quite a while.  Asking “who” isn’t a bad question, but expecting that a “real name” would do anything to illuminate the question is foolish.

So why all the hate on pseudoanonymity? I’m not sure, but it’s clear that it makes some people very very uncomfortable.  I’d be very interested to hear what it is -exactly- that they fear.  But I suspect I’d hear things that are just as true for so called real names.  Sadly, wishing reality were some way it isn’t, doesn’t make it so.

What’s wrong with SecondLife Viewer 2.0?

Kitty Barnett, over at the Catznip blog, posted a question a little while back, asking for, in concrete terms, what people don’t like in 2.0.

As an aside: every now and then I’ll poke someone I know to ask what little things they didn’t/don’t like about 2.0 or what feature(s) they’re missing from 1.23 but surprisingly very few ever seem to really have usuable feedback so since I can’t release I’ll open the door for suggestions on what to do while I/we wait for a stable 2.1 to release

So I sat down and thought about this some…

The biggest thing that I really find distressing about 2.0 is the sidebar. I hated them when web browsers did them, and I hate them in 2.0. It’s just not enough space for many of the panels they try to cram into it. And it only lets you look at one thing at a time, which for much of that information is just completely unacceptable. I’m not opposed to having it in the viewer, I just want it optional, like say, Firefox and it’s sidebar.

And by optional, I mean, everything in the sidebar can also be viewed as separate windows… not a floating window that contains what’s in the sidebar, but actual separate windows for each type of thing it encapsulates. I want multiple profile windows open at once, for instance.

I’m also not too fond of not being able to dock local chat in with my IMs. And the local chat text entry box is way too small (though that wouldn’t matter if I could dock chat with my IM window).

Still, as irritating as I find the sidebar, I’d use 2.0 for Shared Media in spite of it, if it weren’t for the the features from third party viewers that I’ve come to rely on, the biggest being “always rez in land group,” followed up by lesser things like double-click-to-top and client side radar (that can feed in world objects). And less so, ground-sit anywhere, no tp-progress screens (though really I’d like to have this only be for in-sim tps) and shadows.

Without “always rez in the land group” as an option, I’m not gonna be using a viewer for real work. That one is non-negotiable. The other stuff is mostly about helping the viewer get out of your way and fade into the background.

PS Summer correctly points out that temporary textures are pretty critical to building. And bulk temporary textures would be a huge win for sculpty makers like her.

Kitty followed up in SecondLife on Fri Jun 25 2010:

[6:22:26] Kitty Barnett waves.. just wanted to say thankies for your comment :) the sidebar is kind of a huge thing to get rid off though so nothing I can take on and maintain in addition to everything else :| I’ve tried some things like specifying which tabs should auto-hide when the mouse isn’t over it, etc but that doesn’t involve doing a complete UI rewrite :|
[6:22:27] Kitty Barnett: double-click tp and “ground sit anywhere” are Snowglobe features now so any viewer based off of snowglobe will always have it btw :)

And I replied:

[9:24:09] Winter Seale: Hi hi =) Yeah, the sidebar is a huge huge task, and I’m sure will be the focus of many a third party viewer mod (Kirstin’s is already going down that road), so I don’t blame you at all for not tackling that. If you added rez-as-land-group though, I’d love you forever. =)
[9:32:33] Winter Seale: oh lol, and Summer reminds me, Temp Textures are critical too, and if you were to add Temp Texture support to batch upload then she would love you forver too, lol.

Pics from inworld

One of my biggest wishlist items would be the ability for scripts to have some control over the screenshot controls.  Obviously this has lots of security implications, but it’d still be a nice thing to have scriptable.  I developed something that for me, is the next best thing.  Like all those SL blogging services, I setup a little email gateway that takes pics from in world and puts it on a webserver.  It’s still sitting at around the proof of concept stage, but I do intend to add a gallery view to it at some point.  For now, you can see the most recent picture from my feed below:

Winter’s Labnotes– What I’m doing in Second Life

TwitterWall on my devel platform

So I’ve started tweeting in detail what I’m doing in SL, as far as scripting and product development go.  (I’m not much of a life blogger, so don’t expect to hear too much about my personal life.  Complicated as it is, I’m just not the type to share it with the world.)

You can see it here: Twitter- winterseale #labnotes

Anyway, it’s part of my larger goal of trying to make scripting in the virtual world more transparent, like non-sculpty building has always been.  And maybe so I look a bit less like I’m just sitting around quietly for hours on end. =p  I went and picked up Twitter Wall, which was a bit pricey but did exactly what I wanted.  So now I have my latest labnotes on on a prim in my devel platform.

The plan for the future is to build out a clockpunk/steampunk type laboratory to keep all the stuff I’m working on there.  So that’s kinda where the labnotes name comes from.  It’ll all be semi-public and part of the sim that people visiting our store can explore.  I’ll post a slurl once something’s ready.

Editing Animations on OSX

I use QAvimator to make animations (well really, I make poses, animations, thus far, are beyond me).  I also use OSX as my primary platform.  If you visit the QAvimator site you’ll see that you can only download a PPC only version (from 2007).  I compiled up a Universal version at the end of 2008 and put it online.  I posted it to their forums, offering it as a replacement for the out of date, PPC only version they’re currently linking too (and I haven’t been the only one).  Anyway, I thought I should mention it here, it case anyone else needs it.

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