Posterity in SL

I have seen a few art contests where the organizers take a Copy/Transfer texture of an artist's work and do with it as they please. Some artists don't think twice about it. Most of the time, artists assume that the texture would only be used for the competition and nothing else.

But contest organizers usually have sales in mind. They want to sell the pictures and make a commission out of it. And that's fine. In fact, the artist might even be happy about it.

Now, even in that situation, the problem comes in attribution of the work if the contest organizer applies that texture on a prim. What happens is that the prim would show the contest organizer as the creator of the object and, if the object is simply something that displays a texture, the entire work becomes attributed to the creator of the prim, which, in this case, is the contest organizer.

Certainly, the artist initially gets recognition because a placard with their name is displayed alongside the work during the exhibition. But after the work is sold, there is usually no record of the artist's name with the work. Long after the piece has been sold, would the purchaser even remember the artist's name? And inside SL, most people know to look at the creator of the object. So, people would normally assume that the creator of the object is also the artist. And, again in this case, that's wrong. So, nobody would know that the texture creator (the artist) is in fact *not* the object creator (the contest organizer). The contest organizer gets a reputation for being a great artist because of work that other people did.

Not all artists in SL are equal. Some have been in SL for a long time. Some are new to SL and were pulled in by the promise of exposure and sales inside SL. There may even be a few who don't even come into SL; they sell their work through agents, usually museum owners.

It's not even a matter of trust because a creator is required to give Copy/Transfer permissions to someone who would sell their product for them. It's not even fraud, because the artist willingly gives those permissions. It's a matter of preserving the integrity of the information about the art, specifically the attribution to the right person.

Every newbie knows how to slap a texture on a prim. There is no reason why contest organizers have to do this for artists. Every newbie knows how to set permissions on a prim. Since the artists are trusting the contest organizer with Copy/Transfer permissions, they can give modify permissions on the object too, so the object can be resized.

A warning, however: Even if you apply your textures on your own prims, don't let that give you a sense of security.

There are three ways to apply textures on a surface:
(1) By using the Edit tools to select the texture from your inventory and applying it to the prim.
(2) By dragging the texture(s) from your inventory to the prim's inventory (i.e.: the Contents tab of the Edit tool) and using a script to apply it to the surface(s).
(3) By using a script with the asset ID of the texture.

#1 is the most common way of applying textures. #2 is commonly used in objects that switch textures, like slideshow devices, but makes it easy to grab the textures from a modifiable object and apply them elsewhere depending on the texture permissions. #3 *can* be used a) legitimately, to protect your own textures by not putting them inside the object, or b) illegitimately, to apply "stolen" textures on the surfaces. For database performance, SL is designed so that the same texture with the same asset ID is saved only once in the database. And obtaining the asset ID of a texture is too easy inside SL.

Artist beware.

Large corporations building trust

I spoke about trust in virtual worlds, but I spoke primarily about trust between individuals. When a large corporation like Microsoft comes into Second Life, the same approach is necessary.

I remember a time when the name Microsoft brought up such passionately negative emotion in people, that employees were advised for their own safety to refrain from wearing Microsoft-branded merchandise in public. It was also during that time that employees were asked to participate in forums because customers tend to like individual employees, even though they hated the company as a whole.

In technology conferences and expositions, people meet Microsoft employees and feel better about the company based on one-on-one conversations with those individuals. Customers can ask questions directly and get a live response. Customers and company representatives have a real conversation, an exchange of information. As a result, the customers feel cared for and listened to, the employees get an unfiltered view of what the customers want, and the company builds goodwill.

There are ways for customers to reach employees online -- blogs and forums, for instance. But blogs tend to be one-sided broadcasts. Comments to blogs and tagging rarely develop into conversations. When they do, they tend to be short strings of exchanges, where each side simply takes their turn on the podium. Responses are edited and polished. Forums are more interactive, but, again, responses are edited and polished. And the asynchronicity makes the "conversation" disjointed.

Virtual worlds offer something closer to a spontaneous face-to-face meeting but with the cost-effectiveness and the convenience of online conversations. In a virtual world, it becomes warmer, more personal, more intimate.

And warmer, more personal, and more intimate are the right conditions for trust to develop in any interaction.

Trust in virtual worlds

It is amazing how we trust people online with so little to base that trust on. Trust is built even though we've never met each other in real life, even though we don't know much about the other person's background, even though we don't know what the other person looks like or sounds like, and, in most cases, even though we don't know the other person's real identity.

Trust is based on our interactions with the other person. It is based on our intuitions. It is based on our assumptions about the other person.

There is nothing more unfounded than the trust we give a stranger. Yet, somehow, we offer that trust. It's a trust in humanity itself. It is a trust that they are as trustworthy as we are. And most people prove themselves worthy of that trust.

Naturally, unbounded trust opens the door to deception. There will be a small minority who would take advantage of that trust and use it to benefit themselves to the detriment of the other person. That is true in real life as well, but virtual worlds - and the internet, in general, - make it easier for scammers.

However, developing trust is crucial in business relationships in real life and is just as critical in virtual worlds, if not more so. But how does one develop trusting relationships with other people in a virtual world? Networking. Interacting. Conversing. Sharing experiences. Creating experiences. It's how we develop our intuition about people. It's how we get a feel for their trustworthiness.

Just like in real life. But more cautiously.

Do you speak English?

One of the great things about Second Life is the opportunity to chat with people around the world from different backgrounds. Since Linden Lab is based in the US, the default language in SL has been English, although there is a large number of sims that are primarily Italian or French or German or another language.

Most people, however, tend to speak English when conversing with people who don't speak their own language. Or they use the Babbler, which is a popular (but primitive) inworld translator using web-based dictionaries.

However, it is all too easy to assume that you're getting your point across just because you're both speaking English. Idioms, metaphors, and cultural references make our language more descriptive and help us communicate better. But when the other party does not understand the idioms, metaphors, and cultural references, the message becomes blurred instead.

Before the holidays, Poid Mahovlich was telling me about her Christmas jumper and how it was making her feel itchy. In the US, a "jumper" is an overall, typically a loose denim pair of pants with a bib-like top in front and two straps to go around the back. Apparently, a jumper is a thick knitted top with sleeves that you pull over your head, what US people call a "sweater."

When I advertised my 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, Absolut Paine (also from the UK) asked me if tic-tac-toe was the same as the game Noughts-And-Crosses. And after doing some research, I found out that it was.

The techniques we learn in communication classes -- clarifying what the other person meant, avoiding assumptions, giving the other person the benefit of a doubt -- are even more important in online communications. It takes longer, yes, but a misunderstanding that's corrected early saves time and effort in the long run.