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Here’s something that’s advertised on SL Exchange from a seller named Round Ball that sounds pretty nifty. If you’re an experienced builder, you’ll probably start shaking your head in dismay right off. The rest of us might be forgiven for getting interested:

“Huge Prims – Set of 13 … These prims are 100% legit and authorized for use in Second Life … ”

The seller goes on to describe the (unchangeable) prim sizes: .1x10x50, 20x20x0.5, 150x150x150, and so on, up to sizes that are just ridiculously enormous, large enough to literally cover the sky. If you’re experienced enough to know that the maximum size of normal prims (basic building blocks out of which you make anything) in Second Life is ten meters on a side but not experienced enough to know that this seller is lying, you might want to get excited. But he is lying, and he’s a really good example of my least favorite kind of griefer: the griefepreneur. Griefepreneurs don’t make trouble themselves, but they make it as easy as possible for other people to do those things. How great is this: all the mischief, none of the responsibility, and you get paid to boot?

This guy is even worse than most, though, because he makes it sound as though using these things is perfectly safe and allowable. He can turn you into a griefer without you knowing it! He suckered me in, although fortunately I found out about the problems before I caused any trouble.

Oh, hang on, I’m going too fast: first let me explain why something like this might be desirable. If what he was selling was exactly as he described it, a person with a tiny little 512 square meter plot of land could build towers high up to the sky; people with large builds could floor a huge castle with one or very few prims, and so on. The prim limit, the builder’s equivalent of a very tight corset, could be made not so nasty this way, right?

OK, back to the lying. Are these prims 100% legit and authorized? No. Not 100%, not 80% … in fact, they’re 0% legit and 0% authorized, unless you count “the Lindens are not going to seek out and delete every instance of these on the grid, but don’t let us catch you using them” as, say 3% authorized. I could grant him that. If he said 3% legit and authorized, I would consider that honest advertising.

And on to the griefing! These suckers crash sims. (Did I use the word sucker? I was thinking of myself for buying them. Memo to self: in future, read comments before purchasing snake oil on SLExchange!) I won’t get into the technical side unless someone asks, but yes, these prims start acting flakey in a lot of circumstances, and yes, they cause sim crashes. Have you been in a sim crash lately? You may have Round Ball to thank for it!

Except Round Ball is nobody. Maybe he chose the name because it’s reminiscent of the number zero, which is how much of Round Ball I can find apart from his griefprims. The account is a new one, only started last month, but he claims to be the creator of the prims, which were created exploiting a loophole that was closed before last month. There is nothing in this account’s profile. Round Ball doesn’t answer IMs wondering where I can find the official authorization from the Lindens for these prims. I’m thinking Round Ball is either alt created when the original account that griefed these things up was thrown out, or an alt created just to steal these from somebody else. Take your pick!

So the real person we need to be thinking about is not Round Ball, but whoever in the Real World is behind Round Ball. I’ve decided to call him Dudley Ballzinksy (Hi Dudley!). Dudley is interested in making money regardless of or especially through trouble that might cause other people. He might live in his mother’s basement and spend his days trying to hack SL and muttering about not having a girlfriend. She might be a disaffected business major slowly flunking out of a third-rate school as she tries to get over her energy drink addiction. He might be a low-level functionary at an insurance company in Omaha, Nebraska who spends seven out of eight of his working hours each day surfing the Internet for porn and pirated software and checking for personal e-mails that never come.

Some things Dudley is not are happy, satisfied, and fulfilled. When I first realized I’d been taken in by Dud’s false advertising, I was angry. I used the phrase “roast over a slow fire” more than once, which is kind of sad because it’s not only an empty threat, it’s also unkind. Dudley has demonstrated that he can trick me out of two US dollars just by lying to me. What he can’t really do is affect my life in any real way as long as I realize I don’t have to be angry at him. And I don’t feel anger any more; I’m just sad. How pitiful must his life be if he’s filling it with these kinds of things? Dudley, move out of your mom’s basement and get involved in sports or a church or something, please! Do it now, before it’s too late!

I still retain a little bit of my anger at SL Exchange, though. SL Exchange, for those who don’t know it, is a useful site for buying Second Life products from a wide variety of SL businesses without actually going in-world. It’s slightly searchable, and you can generally find what you’re looking for (if they have it, which they often do) if you don’t mind paging through the paid ads before you get to the regular search results.

But apparently SL Exchange doesn’t do anything about sellers who lie, because Round Ball’s game is obvious to anyone who takes the time to read the comments, and they haven’t done anything with his products. So here’s what I would suggest to SL Exchange, and I’ll send them a message saying the same thing:

If anyone lies in their ads on SL Exchange, permanently ban them and all of their products from SL Exchange. To help discourage using alts to get around this, have a 14 day waiting period for new Residents before they’re allowed to list anything. Since very few really new Residents would have anything to list on SL Exchange in their first two weeks in-world, this should primarily affect alts, right? (If that’s misguided, oh well: at least it was an ideal.)

I know SL Exchange is a business, and that making judgements on whether or not a seller is being ethical is a real pain in the neck, but you’re either the kind of business that looks out for its customers or you’re the kind of business that people don’t like and will leave for a kinder competitor.

All of this is kind of grim, I know. Sorry, today you’re getting a rant with hardly any pictures. I’ll make a concerted effort to be more cheerful and visually appealing next time. That’s what I like to do better anyway!

And since no Second Life rant would be complete without telling the Lindens to do something, let’s jump over to the SL police blotter. This is a page on secondlife.com that I try to avoid, because I find it depressing. Here, I’ll show you what I mean with some excerpts from the current blotter:

Date: Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Violation: Terms of Service: Interception of Payments
Region: Ayakashi Island
Description: Use of scripts to intercept $L.
Action taken: Warning issued.

Date: Sunday, November 5, 2006
Violation: Terms of Service: Misrepresentation
Region: Ahern
Description: Claiming to have access to Linden authority.
Action taken: Warning issued.

Date: Sunday, November 5, 2006
Violation: Forum Formal Warning: Disclosure: Second Life
Region: —
Description: Disclosure of unconsented private correspondence violates the Second Life Community Standards.
Action taken: Warning issued.

Date: Monday, October 23, 2006
Violation: Community Standards: Assault, Safe Area
Region: Bear
Description: Repeatedly caging Residents at a Welcome Area.
Action taken: Warning issued.

Whenever I read things like this, I ask myself … what????. Giving out transcripts of private conversation, trying to impersonate a Linden, caging new Residents, stealing Lindens … these merit warnings? Throw them out! Ban them immediately and delete their inventories! Yes, throw them out.

This may sound like a different Kate from the usual Kate, the Kate who cares about people’s needs, the kinder, gentler Kate. This sounds as though I’m calling for these people to be punished.

But I don’t think much of punishment. For one thing, it’s not very effective. Sometimes a punishment scares someone enough to stop doing whatever they’re doing, but they get angry and resentful and sooner or later that comes out in some other way. Or they may become defiant, keep doing whatever it is, and become angry and resentful so that sooner or later that comes out in some other way. It seems to me that most punishment brings up more trouble down the road.

But banning people from Second Life isn’t about punishment, but about deciding what kind of community Second Life is. Some people may be upset to be thrown out, but the point of throwing them out isn’t to make them upset, but to make it clear what Second Life is and isn’t. Issuing a warning for stealing Lindens isn’t saying “We don’t do that here!”. It’s saying “Well, OK, you can do that here, but it’s really not very nice!”

And I know (really!) that it’s very likely a griefer will sign right back in with a new alt. But creating a new avatar is kind of a pain in the neck, and the griefer may lose some griefing tools and perhaps an avatar they liked in the process. I do know that I’m not proposing anything that would stop griefers. But can we at least try to slow them down a little?

You may be wondering whether this isn’t making me reconsider all that ranting I did about keeping registration open for new members who don’t verify themselves with payment information. Nope! That would still be hurting a lot of people who have nothing to do with the griefing. Just because most griefers are probably unverified doesn’t mean that most unverified people are griefers. That would be like saying that because most weightlifters are men, that most men are weightlifters, which isn’t good because it leads to that extremely bulgy muscle look that I don’t really find very attractive (no offense to iron-pumping readers out there; the look works for some women, I’m sure!).

Dudley, don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re really not where you belong. Get a Real Life hobby, clean yourself up and find a girlfriend (or boyfriend) who doesn’t mind an emotional rescue project, and for heaven’s sake stop trying to sell hacked prims. After all, Dudley, it’s not the size of your prims; it’s what you do with them.