Life Online


26
Apr 16

Super Name: Fleep

An Oldie but a Goodie – Jane McGonigal

I had occasion this evening to revisit Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk from 2010, and it reminded me of one of my favorite quotes:

Okay, so these are four superpowers that add up to one thing: Gamers are super-empowered hopeful individuals. These are people who believe that they are individually capable of changing the world. And the only problem is, they believe that they are capable of changing virtual worlds and not the real world.That’s the problem that I’m trying to solve.
– Jane McGonigal

 

I wrote about my experience playing the Superstruct game back then (and posted a fun video dispatch), and reading that post led me to dig up the profile I created on the Superstruct site, where I imagined my (avatar) self in 2019:

Super Name: Fleep

Profile Cohabitation
I and the gatos live in a small farm house on the outskirts of town. We don’t need much space, but have a large garden and work to contribute our share to the local food economy.

Profile Communities
I founded the Chilbo Community in 2006 and remain a life-long member, in addition to my local community in terra. I’m also a member of the Screaming 3D Bootstrappers Superstruct, the SLED Community, the Velks, and many other professional associations related to higher education and the grid.

Profile Skills
Human network resource management, education and community building in the metaverse, connectivism, and I grow a mean tomato.

Profile Profession
I am the founder of Chilbo and work most days either in the Chilbo Town Hall or elsewhere in the Metaverse. I have offices and projects scattered all over the grid and pop in to wherever I’m needed when I’m needed. I also serve on the Board of Trustees for GlobalGrid University, one of the original virtual-land-grant research universities created by the United Nations in 2012. GGU serves an international learning network of over 200 million learners through GGU Nodes of Excellence on the grid.

Profile Location
The Chilbo Community is a global village in the Metaverse, made up of artists, musicians, writers, teachers, students, creative thinkers, entrepreneurs, and those who are interested in contributing to the public good.

Profile Experience
As the Chilbo Community reached its second anniversary in 2008, and I spent more time traveling and learning in terra and on the grid, I began to better understand the rapid speed with which the Metaverse was developing. I was fortunate to stumble into an emergent network of highly motivated and brilliant nodes all over the globe and it quite literally transformed my life. In the ensuing decade, our network has grown tremendously, as has our capacity to collaborate and locate the resources we need as we need them. We continue to work to teach others these important skills even as we make our own contributions to projects and endeavors that inspire us.

Profiles Ideals
Increasing access to education, research, knowledge, and learning throughout the grid and finding ecologically sound and sustainable ways to live.

Super Name
Fleep

Super Id
6428

History

Member for
5 years 20 weeks


19
Mar 16

Morning Coffee Reading – 3/19/16

Blogging became too time-consuming.  Formatting, linking, embedding, bad copy pasta that has to be fixed.  But I’ll try again, because my network continues to inspire me so much, I feel I should make the effort as they do.  Bless their hearts, what would I read in the morning if they got lazy like me?

And, I remain forever amazed at how wonderful tripping, linking, chasing, stumbling through others’ thoughts on the internets can be, and how sharing our thoughts can further other people’s trips in (hopefully) meaningful ways.

Here’s my latest trip to go with your morning coffee.

Badges and evidence, the “reputation economy”, and data used to make decisions

Sparked by insomniac reading of Stephen Downing (@oldaily) at 4AM earlier this week, I saw that he gave a keynote address on the AvaCon grid at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education 2016 conference, wherein he speculates, “about the future of virtual worlds in learning when they are mixed with mobile devices and performance support systems.”

Scanning past Stephen’s blurb about the VWBPE keynote, somehow I came across Alan Levine’s (@cogdog) recent post “Seeking Evidence of Badge Evidence“, wherein he explores the usefulness of gamified badging systems if they don’t link to actual evidence that the badge was earned.  Metadata about the evidence isn’t the same as linking to the evidence itself, right?  Right.

This sparked a memory of an older post of mine, Twitter and the Reputation Economy in 2014, wherein I mused about how to measure “reputation” and suggested that Twitter Lists provide a non-obvious measure of something.  Alan subsequently pointed out that a Twitter list wordcloud may be an indicator,  but it is not a measure.  Good point.

My tweet about Alan’s post sparked D’Arcy Norman (@dlnorman) to point to Cory Doctorow’s (@doctorow) recent post about what a terrible currency reputation would be.

I agree that Whuffie would be a terrible currency, so be sure to read that @doctorow post, as well as “Wealth Inequality Is Even Worse in Reputation Economies“.

My tweet also sparked Alan to go down a deep, technically complicated but fascinating rabbit-hole of what my Twitter list wordcloud means, whether it’s useful, and how to generate one using docker, which I still don’t really understand.

But go read his post “Measurement or [indirect] Indicators of Reputation? A Twitter List / Docker / iPython Notebook Journey“.  It’s good stuff.

At the end of all that chain, I summed up my current take-aways about data used for decision-making on a comment to his post:

1) measurements and indicators are not the same thing, important point.

2) reliability is key, whether of a measure or indicator.

3) the use-case (type of decision you’re making) should drive the type of data used to make your measurement or indicator.

4) a measurement or indicator created for one use case may not transfer to a different use case.

Metaverse Vocabulary Words – Metaxis, Liminality, Stygmergy

Somewhere in checking out that tweet stream, I also came across Mark Childs’ (@markchilds) recent post exploring words that describe transitions, edges, limits, and perceptions of spaces, or places, or feelings of being present in a space or multiple spaces even.  

Just go read the post, “Metaxis and Liminality“.  

These concepts seem important for not just educators to understand, but also those of us working to create the Metaverse and places in virtual worlds.

My tweet about Mark’s post then sparked Leon Cych (@eyebeams) to share that they had local drama students acting out roles in Minecraft:

 

..the video of which relates to Midas’ golden touch played out in Minecraft, and that perfectly captures and visualizes the idea of stygmergya word I came to know and love through Sarah Robbins (@intellagirl) years ago when she was exploing using virtual worlds for teaching.  See her “Using a Faceted Classification Scheme to Predict the Future of Virtual Worlds”.  (I should link to her dissertation, but I can’t find a good link.)


Machine Learning, AI, and Science Fiction

After clicking through all that, I went back to Leon’s Twitter page to make sure I was following him (I am), and saw that he referenced the above tweet and forwarded Mark Child’s post on to Martin Robinson (@surrealanarchy), who apparently has changed his main Twitter account to @trivium21c (I followed that account, too).

 

I then ended up reading Martin Robinson’s tweet about machine learning and “When AI rules the world: what SF novels tell us about our future overlords.”

 

There are several books mentioned in there that I surely must read, now.  I might come back and list them, but I might not, so read the article and see for yourself which books you also need to read.

David Foster Wallace, which never gets old.

And in that AI & SF article, there was a link to a David Foster Wallace quote, which takes you to his “This is Water” commencement speech, posted, of all places, in the Wall Street Journal.

The perfect, beautiful hilarity of reading that speech on the WSJ website was so awesome, I thought, this is where I end my trip today.

Enjoy your morning coffee.


19
Jan 14

Part 2: Snowden – Whistleblowing & Its Consequences

Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning

A couple of weeks ago, I posted some thoughts about clemency for Edward Snowden and whether I thought he was a hero.  My main point was that I was grateful to know the information he gave the world, but I felt that fleeing the US was an immoral choice, that whistleblowers who make the decision to “go public” have a responsibility to stand by their decision whatever the consequences.  I said that even if I could understand the choice to run, that that didn’t meet my standard of “hero”.

The post generated a lot of comments, and I’ve been thinking about some of those responses.

First, I have to acknowledge the insensitivity of referring to Chelsea Manning as “he” and by a prior name.  I fully 100% support everyone’s right to define their own identity, and it was thoughtless of me to do otherwise.  I suppose that the name “Bradley Manning” had become somewhat iconic in my own mind and though I was aware of her choice to become known as Chelsea, it was almost as if the whistleblowing icon and the actual person had become separate entities in my brain.

But of course they aren’t separate at all, Chelsea Manning is an actual person, and its exactly these kinds of careless and unthinking errors that expose cisgender privilege and, however unintentionally, perpetuate prejudice and discrimination.  Many thanks to those who pointed this out and I will be more conscious and thoughtful in the future.

Regarding the discussion about whether or not Snowden is a hero, everyone who commented here or on G+ or other places universally disagreed with my position. I have a lot of respect for the people in my network and when my perspective is completely out of step with the majority view, it definitely gives me pause.  Even more so when virtually everyone thinks I’m wrong.  😉

I think it speaks very highly of the folks who read my blog that though they disagreed with me, passionately even, no one was disrespectful or rude, and I appreciate that. For me, blogging is a form of processing, of trying to think through issues and problems, and I’m always ready to acknowledge that I may be wrong.  The whole point of posting publicly is to get feedback and to have good dialogue with people who are also passionate about the issues I care about, and I’m happiest when we’re really digging into an issue but doing it kindly and civilly with each other.  So thanks to everyone for keeping it cool.

I can’t say that I’ve been completely swayed from my position by the arguments everyone made, but it has made me think more about the complexity of Snowden’s particular situation.  My mother and many others asked if I thought Snowden should have paid with his life for his actions, and the answer is no, I don’t think he deserves to die or spend life in prison for trying to expose the wrongdoing of the NSA.  I also agree that both of those scenarios were plausible outcomes if he had chosen to stay instead of leaving the US, and by that logic, then he would be justified in trying to protect himself from that fate.

Despite that, I still feel resistance to the idea that it is a moral choice to blow the whistle and run.

I may be persuaded that Edward Snowden’s, or to some extent, even Chelsea Manning’s, specific circumstances were extraordinary.  That they were not exposing your run-of-the-mill malfeasance or wrong-doing, but rather they were exposing wrongdoing of such a horrific scale and magnitude, and perpetrated not by some low level official or small corporate concern, but by our own government across many branches and departments, and therefore that deserves some leeway.  I think that’s a fair argument and it’s forced me to reconsider my position.

I would still argue, though, that universalizing Snowden’s decision to flee is ultimately NOT the best outcome – for whistleblowers OR for the society a whistleblower is trying to protect.  In the best of worlds, what should happen is that the whistleblower should be safe, should be protected, should be given safe harbor until the disclosures can be digested and the situation investigated.  Edward Snowden shouldn’t have to flee his own country, rather our government and our society should have better measures in place and better systems to protect those who make the brave choice to expose wrongdoing.  We should be demanding better protections for the Mannings and Snowdens (and Swartzs) of the world.

And I guess that’s where it shakes out for me.  If we universalize Snowden’s decision to blow the whistle and flee, and say that’s ok, then we run a two-fold risk:

1) We open the door for anyone claiming whistleblower status to get a pass whether it’s deserved or not.  I maintain that making a public accusation of wrongdoing carries with it a responsibility to stand behind the claim. We all must have the right to face our accusers, and whistleblowers are not and cannot be exempt from that.  Due process matters, it protects us from unfounded accusations and (in an ideal world) acts as a safeguard against vigilante justice, by the state OR other people.

2) We let ourselves off the hook for failing to provide the protections that legitimate whistleblowers deserve.  While I’ll admit that Snowden likely had little rational choice but to leave, don’t we all agree that he shouldn’t have had to?  I think in some way, blessing Snowden’s decision to flee is a form of ignoring our own complicity in a system that we know is terribly unjust.  Instead of arguing about whether or not he was justified in running, we really should be expending that energy on making it so he doesn’t have to – not just for Snowden, but for all the legitimate whistleblowers out there who don’t have international visibility and media scrutiny to protect them.


That’s where my reasoning is at the moment, but I’m sure I’ll keep thinking on this for some time to come.  Thanks again to everyone who commented, and as always, feel free to disagree!  🙂


11
Jan 14

Twitter and the Reputation Economy in 2014

Back in 2009 when Twitter Lists first came out, I had a little epiphany about the reputation economy.  It isn’t just what you say about yourself online, but what others say and post about you in the aggregate, and all the associated metadata of your online life, that can define “who you are” in the Metaverse.  That only seems to be more true as time has gone on, and despite the over-hype of the “reputation economy” buzzword, I still find it interesting and potentially meaningful, but only if the measures of reputation are accurate.  We’re definitely not there yet, and I’m not sure we’re really any further than we were in 2009, either.

It’s hard to do an analysis of accuracy for anyone but myself, but if I had to say which system seems to currently have the best measure of “who I am” based on what others say about me, I’d have to say it’s not Klout, or LinkedIn Endorsements or any of those obvious attempts to measure reputation.  The best measure as far as I can tell is actually Twitter.  What Twitter Lists people have placed me in, which isn’t obvious at all, and isn’t even something Twitter seems to explicitly leverage as a measure of reputation, is actually a pretty good measure!

[A brief aside, I’m sad that Twitter seems to have buried Lists and made them almost non-obvious, since as far as I’m concerned, Lists are a crucial component of making Twitter useful at all.  Many folks who joined Twitter after Lists came out don’t even seem to know they exist!  If you happen to be one of those unfortunate souls, get thee to your Twitter page > Me > Lists > Create List and start categorizing people.  Or click “Member of” to see what lists others have added to you to.  I bet you’ll find some of them very surprising, hopefully in a good way.  And after you’ve made some lists, tools like TweetDeck will suddenly make a LOT more sense to you, and your Twitter stream will become much more meaningful, relevant and less.. ephemeral.]

But back to the topic.  So what does my Twitter network say about me?  Some pretty good stuff, actually:

Twitter Lists Word Cloud for Fleep

When I boiled the List Names down, I got 191 unique terms and, though I modified the frequency to make the word cloud readable (if I hadn’t, all you would see is: Second Life, Virtual Worlds, Education, Immersive, Cincinnati, which were the top 5 list names), I’d say that’s a really accurate representation of my online life.  It accurately reflects my professional and geeky interests, and if you dig in there a bit, it tells you my gender, where I live, what I do for a living, some of the books I’ve read, games I’ve played, conferences I’ve attended, that I’m old enough to be on someone’s BBS list, and if I can say it humbly, that overall people have a pretty positive opinion of me.   

I am of course quite biased, but I think I have a pretty awesome network of super intelligent people who love digging into the future of technology and education, and who like to think about what all this emerging tech will mean for the future of society, so it’s all the more interesting to see what kinds of categories they create for themselves and where they place me within that context.  (I confess to having some warm fuzzies after seeing how the word cloud came out, so thanks Twitter peeps!)

LinkedIn’s Endorsements are another interesting measure, though of a slightly different sort.  I’d say it’s also fairly accurate, but it pretty much captures only my professional interests and misses all the personal, quirky, or other interests I have.

LinkedIn Endorsements for Fleep 2014

Some folks I know have also complained that they get endorsements for skills from people who aren’t even in a position to know whether or not they have any expertise in that topic, and that happens to me, too.  But in general, I’d say LinkedIn Endorsements are less a measure of what you are actually skilled at doing and more a measure of what people think you are skilled at doing.  They aren’t the same thing, but both are interesting and useful measures.

By comparison, I would say Klout is the least representative of the various “reputation economy” or influence measures about me.  I don’t know how they weight stuff, but it looks like the Klout list was probably fairly accurate about 5 years ago, but as my focus, interests, and activities have changed, Klout hasn’t seemed to have kept up.  It captures the same top 5 categories as Twitter Lists, but that’s about it.  None of the nuance, history, and none of the topics I’ve become interested in since.. what, their initial calculations?  I’m not sure.

I should also admit some bias here, I became very aggravated with Klout when they sent me what seemed like an email every few days to tell me my Klout score was going down, when at the time I was helping take care of my grandpa who was dying of cancer.  The insensitivity of it really struck a nerve, like I should really give a hoot about my Klout score at a time like that?  And how meaningful a measure could it possibly be if I’m less influential because I’m offline doing something important?

No matter what Klout says, I know my network values human life and knows what is and isn’t truly important.  In fact, my guess is that my network would probably rank my reputation higher for having been a dedicated caregiver, not lower.

And of course that’s the big problem with all of these reputation or influence measures – the algorithms can’t yet measure what’s REALLY important: trustworthiness, competence, honesty, reliability, compassion, dedication, clarity, ability to synthesize and make meaning from complexity.  These are the measures I really want to know about someone, and as far as I can tell, there’s nothing out there like that yet.

The Twitter List names that people create for themselves, some of which touch on values not just buzzwords, are the closest I’ve seen to anything like those kinds of measures, which for me makes Twitter a potentially overlooked but pretty important tool in the reputation and influence measure toolkit in 2014.


10
Dec 11

Why This Gmail User Switched to 2-Step Authentication And You Should Too

A few weeks ago, I took the plunge to change to Google’s 2-Factor authentication for increased security and after reading a horrifying article in The Atlantic about a user’s Gmail getting hacked and all of their email deleted, I’m glad that I did.  From the article in The Atlantic:

At Google I asked Byrant Gehring, of Gmail’s consumer-operations team, how often attacks occur. “Probably in the low thousands,” he said. “Per month?,” I asked. “No, per day,” followed by the reassurance that most were short-lived “hijackings,” used to send spam and phishing messages, and caused little or no damage, unlike our full-out attack. My wife and I, having heard from half a dozen friends who’d recently had similar problems, had innocently imagined that we all were part of some general upsurge in Gmail attacks. In our grandiosity, we thought it was perhaps even aimed at journalists. But according to the experts, while there are more e‑mail attacks worldwide than a year ago, it was mere coincidence that people we knew had been hit around the same time. On average, half a dozen accounts are taken over every two or three minutes, round the clock, including now.

I often say that Google owns my online soul because it’s true.  I switched to using Gmail years ago and since that time I’ve eventually adopted a huge number of Google services to manage my online life – Google Docs, Google Checkout, Google has my calendar, Google Analytics for checking my website traffic..  My Google account contains tons of crucial data.  And while I’ve gotten much better about performing automatic backups of my local data, I’ve not been nearly as good about keeping track of my data in the cloud, and despite knowing better, I’ve been somewhat lazy about my passwords, too.

I haven’t had any catastrophic hacks or data loss events recently, but in general, 2011 has been a year of re-thinking my use of the cloud and third party services, and as part of that I’m also trying to improve my overall “data hygeine” by making backups of cloud based services and improving my password security around the web.  It’s a tedious job and I can’t say it’s been easy.  Some friends have suggested password manager sites like KeePass but I’m still wary and haven’t made that jump yet.  Instead I’ve just tried to do some simple but smarter things like not re-using the same password everywhere and making the passwords I do use longer and more complex – with special characters and not just numbers, spaces if a site allows it.

All of these things are helping me feel a little less vulnerable over-all, and I definitely feel that the switch to Google 2-Factor authentication was a good move even if it’s been slightly inconvenient a time or two.  When I think about how much data is tied to my Google account and how reliant I am on that access to do my day-to-day work, a little inconvenience is a small price to pay for the additional security.

If you don’t know what 2-Factor authentication is, check out Google’s explanation and overview, but basically, I can’t log into my Google account from a new computer unless I can enter the verification code they send to my cell phone.  I have some backup phone numbers available in case I’m somewhere without cell phone service, and a list of backup codes written old skool style on paper in case I don’t even have that.  But generally speaking, this means some random dude from Nigeria cannot log into my account unless he’s also got my cell phone.

If you use Gmail or other Google services, you should switch to the 2-Step Authentication asap.

Again from the Hacked article in The Atlantic:

WHAT ABOUT THE rest of us, who are not security professionals? I asked that of every person I interviewed. Many of their recommendations boiled down to the hope that people would think more about their life online. “We’d like people to view their information life the way they view other parts of their life,” Andrew Kovacs of Google said. “It’s a good practice to review your financial situation every so often, and it’s a good practice to review your passwords and online-account information too.” Another official compared “cloud hygiene” to personal hygiene: you feel bad if you don’t brush your teeth or take a shower, and you should learn to feel bad if you’re taking risks online.

I’ve been feeling bad about the risks I’ve taken online and every step I take to get a little more security helps.  Hope you take those steps too because none of us wants to be the woman in that story.


16
Sep 11

What’s Missing from Governance in Second Life

In the past week or so, two of my favorite thinkers about Second Life have written about governance – Gwyneth Llewelyn’s post Humble Governance is typically lengthy but worth reading, and Prokofy Neva responded on How to Improve Governance in Second Life.

This has long been a topic of interest, I was a polisci undergrad after all, and I’ve been trying my own hand at governance with varying degrees of engagement, success, and failure with the Chilbo Community on the mainland.  In fact, I presented about Chilbo’s model at the Governance in Virtual Worlds conference  back in March 2010, and I’ll never forget the upbraiding I received from a fellow panelist who simply could not believe that governance could exist without constant disagreement and strife, or that any system that didn’t include a parliament or direct democracy could be feasible or representative.  I begged to differ then and now.

Governance in Virtual Worlds 2010: Virtual Self Governance – Fleep Tuque

View more presentations from Fleep Tuque

I’ve never claimed that the Chilbo model of participatory consensus was scalable or feasible for all communities in Second Life – I think our system developed to suit our specific community, our specific geography on mainland rather than private sims, and to suit the personalities of our specific members – but I certainly think it has been a viable model that others might learn from as one example of a long lasting, self-governing community.  We’re coming up on our 5th anniversary, which in Second Life terms is a pretty long time!  But I remain a big believer in the old adage “those who show up make the decisions, those who are willing and actually do the work get to decide how its done” and so long as that is tempered by a fair, open, and transparent input process where those who don’t have the time to show up or do the work get to put their two cents in, we’ve found in Chilbo that it mostly works pretty well.

And even though in the past year or so I’ve been much less active myself, and some of the more administratively heavy processes we had in place have been eliminated or downsized to accommodate people’s changing schedules and time availability, the fact that we continue to iterate, flex, and experiment without carving immutable laws into virtual stone is one of the very reasons I think Chilbo has lasted as long as it has.  From my perspective, the biggest issue with our “real life” political institutions right now is their inability to cope with the rapid pace of change in today’s crazily quickly changing world.  Being flexible and nimble is crucial to ensuring that governance is responsive to actual reality and actual problems rather than continuing to run on auto-pilot addressing problems from previous decades or, at this point, a previous century.  I have come to hate the buzzword “agile” because it’s so overused in the IT industry, but governments need to have the capacity for agility when necessary and neither the real world nor most Second Life government systems I’ve seen in practice have demonstrated that capacity.

In any case, there were several points in Prokofy’s post that absolutely resonated with my experience as a Second Life Resident and community organizer.  My favorite quote was the following:

Governance in SL will do better when it’s a verb, not a noun.

I couldn’t agree more!  Further, Prokofy goes on to say:

What is needed isn’t a parliament, a resident body that the Lindens fete somehow, or self-appointed busy-bodies who want to run *your* land. What’s needed is functionality — the ability to minimize grief in groups and get better traction on mainland complaints revolving around neighbours’ and Governor Linden land.

This is something I’ve been saying for years.  Back in August 2008, I wrote an open letter to Jack Linden when they first proposed changes to the Mainland to deal with litter, griefer objects, ad farms, and the all-too-common abandoned first land plots.  In that letter, I wrote:

Linden Lab has for years claimed that they eventually wanted to put more governance in the hands of residents since they do not have the staff or the time to resolve all disputes. So do it. Where organized communities exist, empower long-term residents with established records of good payment, good stewardship, and good relations to manage the sims instead of Linden Lab. Enforce our community-generated standards or allow us to enforce them. Whether through appointment or elections or petitions or through some other means, give community managers the ability to remove offensive ads, griefer objects, and banlines. Put your money where your mouth has been for the last 5 years.

I absolutely agree with Prokofy that the biggest issue is the need for group and land management tools to better allow us to govern our OWN communities.  I don’t need that argumentative fellow from the Confederation of Democratic Simulators to come and inject his contentious brand of politics into our easy going consensus-based community, what we’ve long needed in Chilbo is better mechanisms to enforce our own community standards – better data, better management tools, better and more flexible group permissions and management – those are the things that would genuinely help our community.

Having said that, I’m not sure I agree with Prokofy that there’s no need for larger governance structures.  While I very much like the concept that participation should be tied to some kind of stake in the grid – if not direct land ownership, then some kind of representation on behalf of those who rent or play on group owned land or systems like Chilbo’s – the fact that we are all at the mercy of a privately held company and have done little to effectively organize ourselves in ways that can leverage our power as customers of Linden Lab has been to our detriment.  As Gwyn rightly pointed out, the forums become a cacophany and the JIRA was never intended to be a voting mechanism, and so we’ve been left to individually or in small groups try to fight for the changes we hope to see with the platform, the interface, or the policies that Linden Lab adopts.

Gwyn wrote:

I think that there was always a need for mechanisms to represent residents’ opinions in a systematic and inclusive way, and that the “fear of corruption and drama” has been just a convenient excuse to avoid a democratic forum. The consequence of this way of thinking is that it’s far easier to blame the Lindens for making the wrong decisions instead of organising a grid-wide method of aiding their decision process.

I think that’s pretty spot-on.  And applicable to more than just Linden Lab and Second Life, in fact, since increasingly more and more of our interactions and civic life is conducted online in virtual spaces that are owned by, “governed” by, and controlled by third party private or publicly owned corporations who are not accountable in a democratic sense to their constituents, er customers, er.. whatever label you call us.  For another example, see the Nymwars with Google.

This is a 21st century problem that we must solve, and it will require 21st century solutions and institutions to do it.  Many of us have long said that Second Life is merely a precursor of the things to come, that in many ways it portends the future of our physical world and other online spaces, and I find myself agreeing with Gwyn that it is time we tackle these issues and stop passing the buck.  If we can find workable solutions for dealing with governance in Second Life, perhaps we’ll find structures and systems that will be useful in dealing with other service providers who forget who they’re serving, too.

So.. where do we start?


5
Sep 11

How an Online Conference 5 Years Ago Led Me to Share #CookieLove with my Grandma

The opening keynote at SLBPE 2007 – Look at all that bad system hair!!  
Image courtesy: Rosefirerising

Back in 2007 when Second Life was still at the peak of its hype cycle, I and a few others who had been working to explore how virtual worlds could be used for education decided to hold a conference in Second Life to discuss it with other educators.  I know, it doesn’t sound very novel now, but it was the first time it had been done and the Second Life Best Practices in Education Conference was born, with over 1400 unique avatars in one 24 hour period talking about the cutting edge of education.

One of the people I met through that conference had the cutest dog avatar I’d ever seen and on a day when I was so stressed out I hadn’t slept literally in three days and was panic stricken that horrible things would go wrong and the whole conference would be a disaster, this cute canine avatar named CDB Barkley was cheering us up a storm and helping us go with the flow.  At the end of the conference when it was all over and I felt like passing out from fatigue, there was this magical moment where all of the organizers and the real trooper attendees who had stuck it out to the very last session all congregated, and I very clearly remember CDB telling us what a great job we had done and I cried right there on the spot in gratitude.

Five years later, it’s still going strong (though now called Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education to account for other platforms), and many of the connections I made at that first virtual conference have become the kind of net friends every gal should hope to have – great professional colleagues, many of whom I’ve since met in person, and great life friends, sharing stories about their experiences not just with technology but also life in general.

Fleep hanging out with Alan and Joanna at NMC Summer Conference 2007.
Image courtesy: J0 anna 

CDB Barkley, otherwise known as CogDog (or Alan Levine if you’re Google+ and demand to know his real name), was one of those people.  He worked at the New Media Consortium and was one of the early and tireless supporters for those of us trying to start our own campus projects in virtual worlds, and over the years became one of the bright stars in my online universe – tons of great links, resources, thoughtful blog posts – but also plenty of humorous tidbits, loveable crankiness about this or that, and just plain good stories about living life in this crazy digital age.

When I heard last week that his mother had passed away unexpectedly, it brought back all-too-fresh memories of Dad’s passing, and reminded me again how tenuous life can be – and how very real our relationships developed online can be, too.  I remember how painful Dad’s death was and how comforted I felt that my online friends were thinking of him by thinking of me during that rough time, that his life was being honored by so many people from all over the world really meant a lot to me then and now.

CogDog’s mom, Alyce.  Image courtesy: cogdogblog

I never met CogDog’s mom, but through the ether of the net, my sympathy for his loss is no less real for having met him online, and his beautiful tributes to her on his blog are moving to anyone who has experienced the deep grief of losing a loved one.  More than that, when I think of all of the thousands of people’s lives who have been enriched by knowing Alan, I think all of us in his network, through him, have a deep appreciation for the lady who raised him to be such a generous, caring, good person, too.

Clearly I’m not the only one who felt that way, as some other folks came up with an idea to share his mom’s awesome generosity with #cookielove:

In tribute to Alan Levine’s mom, who passed away unexpectedly last weekend, we’d like to invite you to participate in Cookies for Cogdog. One of the wonderful things that Alan’s mom did was bake chocolate chip cookies every Sunday and then give them away to strangers. This Sunday, September 4th, we’re hoping to get people to follow in her footsteps. Bake some cookies and then brighten a stranger’s day by giving them away.

So I’m heading out to visit my grandmother today to share the #cookielove in honor of CogDog’s mom, in honor of my grandmother who I’m lucky to still be able to visit, and in honor of the power of online friendships and support networks that endure through all of life’s challenges, whether it’s a stressful conference, joyful celebrations, or helping each other through the most painful of times.

Three generations, my mom, my grandma, and me.

Cheers to CogDog and Alyce and to all those sharing the #cookielove today.

Update:  Just got home a bit ago, here are some pix from the day spent with my grandma (we call her Momo) enjoying cookies..


4
Sep 11

Re-Thinking Blogging Part 2: It’s MY Website, After All

Picking up from my last post when the Google+ pseudonymity debacle hit me with an account suspension and made me re-think the value of my personal blog, I’ve been wondering about this weird place I’ve found myself in, where I ended up posting the sanitized, socially approved kind of posts about my professional interests on my personal website, and posting sometimes controversial and personal posts on third-party websites like Twitter and Google+.

How did that happen exactly?  Shouldn’t it really be the other way around?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it happened slowly and not entirely unconsciously, and it has an awful lot to do with all this online identity business.  I was able to trace it back to at least 2006, when I wrote about the confusion I was feeling as a result of my personal online handle getting tied up with my professional work life:

For many years, the “Fleep” name has been a personal identity. It was only when my involvement in the virtual world of Second Life changed from personal to professional that I realized how separately I had kept my work and personal “net life”. Not that I made any particular effort to keep my real identity secret, I’ve always assumed that anonymity is mostly impossible in this day and age, but that the people who knew me as Fleep and the people who knew me as Chris often weren’t the same people. And after 13+ years of involvement with net communities, goodness knows what I might have written in my early 20s under the Fleep moniker that I’d perhaps not want my boss to see.

And from that point forward, as my various follower/friend counts went up on Twitter and Facebook and Second Life and the zillions of other social networks, as I noticed people like my boss or my boss’ boss “following” me or using the same social networks that I used, the internet felt suddenly very much smaller than it did in the days of BBSs when my online circles in no way shape or form overlapped with my offline circles.  The kind of freedom I used to feel when writing online, for instance to randomly say the “f-word” whenever I felt like it, suddenly didn’t feel quite as appropriate when I knew my mother or people from the university might be reading.

I also got caught up in reading the advice of all kinds of people that I started connecting to on Twitter and elsewhere, the Chris Brogans of the world, who opine frequently and loudly about what I “should” be writing for “my audience” to create my “personal brand”.  (Not to knock Chris, he’s a great guy and a lot of his advice IS good if you’re trying to achieve what he’s achieved..) And following that advice, when I looked at my Twitter followers and subscribers to my blog etc., in terms of sheer numbers, “my audience” seemed to revolve largely around virtual worlds.  So when I had the impulse to write something about, say, local politics or a great recipe I’d found, increasingly the thought would pop up that the people who read this site won’t care about Cincinnati politics or a good recipe and I didn’t want to “dilute my brand”, so I posted less and less about anything other than virtual worlds and education and started taking the other stuff to other sites.

Couple that with the confusion about what’s appropriate to post when “my audience” includes my mother, friends from college, people I’ve met at professional conferences, the guy who used to sit in the cube next to me at work, nevermind my boss and my boss’ boss, and somewhere in there, the fear of what any one of those people might think turned into a self-censor that did a better job of censoring me than Google could ever do.

I bet I’m not the only one who’s found herself in this spot.  I think it’s one of the unfortunate downsides of social media and all of the connectivity that has happened in the last decade, all this overlapping of social circles in ways that defy previous kinds of social organization.  I don’t think we’ve figured out the norms and rules of a society in which our personal lives are so thoroughly ad-mixed and visible to our professional lives and vice versa.  The prudent person realizes that the internet has a long memory and that it’s dangerous to post certain kinds of content where your boss might see it, right? But what happens when the fear of future repercussions that you can’t anticipate becomes so strong that you find yourself unable to write about anything but “safe” topics?

I think that’s what happened.  And I’m kind of tired of feeling afraid to say what I think even on my own website, the only place on the interwebs that’s actually mine.  More than that, I think collectively those of us who’ve helped pioneer these technologies and evangelize about their potential positive effects also have a responsibility to grapple with the negative effects, even if it’s scary sometimes.

So to heck with it.  (I still can’t quite bring myself to type out the “f word”!)  This is notice that I plan to write about all kinds of things and you’re always free to stop reading if you don’t like it.  I’ve also updated the obligatory disclaimer and will say again these are my personal opinions and don’t reflect the views of my employers and etc.

This is MY web site, after all.

Leaders are not what many people think–people with huge crowds following them. Leaders are people who go their own way without caring, or even looking to see whether anyone is following them. “Leadership qualities” are not the qualities that enable people to attract followers, but those that enable them to do without them. The include, at the very least, courage, endurance, patience, humor, flexibility, resourcefulness, determination, a keen sense of reality, and the ability to keep a cool and clear head even when things are going badly. This is the opposite of the “charisma” that we hear so much about.

Hat tip to Eric Rice for the quote, from Caterina Fake’s recent post Make Things.


21
Aug 11

Rethinking Blogging in Light of G+

Initially, I was excited about G+ as an alternative to Facebook, which I mostly boycott because of their horrid ToS and Privacy Policy.  I was an early Twitter user (March 2007) and it’s still useful for broadcasting brief bulletins and updates, for asking questions of your network, etc., but there are times you want to write a little more than 140 characters or share a picture or video and you want it to be convenient for the reader to see your content.

fleep: Thinking twitter is a little creepy and perhaps addictive.. who are all these people and why do I care what they are doing? 09:54 PM March 11, 2007 from web 

When G+ rolled out, I thought YAY finally a useful alternative to Facebook!  I happily circled all my friends and started meeting new people to circle and all was happy in G+ land – until I got suspended for not using my real name.  Nevermind that I’ve been using Gmail for as long as it’s been around and have always had the same name on my account and the plethora of other Google services I use, and the most ironic of all – that I use Fleep Tuque on the net primarily because it’s unique and ranks higher on Google search!

Google search for “Fleep Tuque” are all hits about me, whereas
searching for “Chris Collins” brings up a zillion people who aren’t me.

I’ve written quite a bit on G+ about why pseudonymity should be allowed since my account was reinstated, but I’ve found myself hesitant to post on high profile threads or controversial threads in the worry that my account may be suspended or banned again, and that experience has made me re-think participation on networks where the value I create is primarily hosted on someone else’s site.  Just like with Second Life, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of creating and sharing and chatting without thinking of the long term consequences of all your stuff being hosted on someone else’s service.  When they decide to shut down the product or that they suddenly don’t like your name, then what?

My blog, on the other hand, has been around since 2005 – I discovered my first post when re-doing my theme this weekend – and I have backups of all its content.  If Dreamhost goes out of business tomorrow, I’ve got all my content backed up in the cloud and on physical media.  I’m not at the mercy of Google or anyone else to decide that after 6 years of using a service, my name is no longer valid, or the content I post doesn’t meet their standards.

So, for the next while, I think I’ll be creating all my content here and sharing links to it on other services instead of creating content elsewhere and hoping my name or content passes muster based on someone else’s criteria.

Maybe you should re-think your dusty blog too?  😉


18
Aug 11

4chan and /b/: An Analysis of Anonymity and Ephemerality in a Large Online Community – videolectures.net

4chan and /b/: An Analysis of Anonymity and Ephemerality in a Large Online Communityauthor:Michael S. Bernstein, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT published: Aug. 18, 2011,   recorded: July 2011,   views: 132

via 4chan and /b/: An Analysis of Anonymity and Ephemerality in a Large Online Community – videolectures.net.