30 May 2011

Answering the ProKook, 2 of 2: BDSM is loving and consensual, not a cult

My last post dealt with Prokofy Neva's complaints about open source software. I'll turn now to his complaints about BDSM.

He and I have crossed swords about this before, on the old SL forums (before the current "community" website, a community where you're welcome only if you toe the LL line). From what I can decipher of his argument, it comes down to a refusal to believe that BDSM can be anything but violent and exploitative.

I guess he's never heard of the bedrock principle of BDSM. It's called SSC: safe, sane, and consensual. Any activity must meet all three requirements to be considered acceptable in the BDSM world. In practice, what is safe and sane is left up to the people involved, but the point is that they're both considered necessary and those involved must agree that what they're about to do is both. Consensual is the third part of that, and it underlies everything. Without it, it's just abuse. Some folks adhere to a slightly different principle, RACK: risk-aware consensual kink. It works out the same in practice, though, and both are recognized as valid.

Those who adhere to either philosophy have a shared commitment to only doing what is agreed on in advance, and strictly respecting limits set by anyone involved on what's permissible, and making sure to take care of their partner before, during, and after. Failing to follow any or all of this will get you ostracized from the BDSM community in very short order.

Fundamentally, it comes down to a basic principle: If two adults in possession of their faculties consent, then it's none of my $DEITY->damned business - and none of Prokofy's, either - what they do.

Now, he may have a complaint when he says "um, *you* get the fuck out of the public space with your fucking *cult*." It goes back to being about consent: if you're subjecting someone else to watching you whip your slave and they didn't consent to that, then you're violating their right to consent or not.

This isn't as cut and dried as it appears. What's "public"? If I were to rez one of my pieces of bondage furniture in the middle of Help Island, lock a slave into it, strip all her clothes off, and whip her until she made a big puddle of sexual juices on the ground, it would obviously be over the line. But there are many public spaces that are explicitly BDSM-friendly. I have a public playroom full of my furniture, and the public is invited to use it all. Obviously, if you walk in there, you should expect to see the kind of activity I just described, and if you're shocked by it, it's your own fault - and you have no right to demand any recourse other than the right to turn around and teleport the hell right back out.

It doesn't have to go to that extreme, either. There are many clubs in SL, for example, that are explicitly BDSM-friendly. If you go to an event at the Rubber Room, you shouldn't be surprised to see that kind of thing going on, and you have no complaint coming when it does.

I can't tell from Prokofy's ravings whether he merely objects to BDSM outside of that kind of space, or whether he objects to it in SL, period. If the former, then he's got a legitimate complaint. If the latter, then he can kindly fuck off, for this is no different from demanding that gay men and lesbians crawl back into their closet - a demand society is rejecting more and more as the years pass.

From his comments, I suspect it's the latter. Strange that someone bellowing about freedom wants to deny others the freedom to be who they are.

Answering the ProKook, 1 of 2: No, open source isn't communist

Prokofy Neva is a deranged kook. As long as I've known of him, he's had very little to say that has made any sense whatsoever to anyone in even minimal possession of the facts, let alone advancing an informed dialogue. I know of almost nobody who gives him any credence.

He tweeted, a month or so ago,
 please point me to a prominent SL furry who is in business, making a profit, and stumping for capitalist policies in SL
My good RL friend Avril Korman, known inworld as Axi Kurmin (and no, I'm not revealing anything she doesn't publicize herself), replied:
 I can, but you wont like it. If you want to discuss Real World Politics with , go ahead. You'll be very surprised.
I rose to the bait. This led to being called a techcommunist who undermines livelihoods and promoting a dangerous cult, that of BDSM. The latest blast was no less than eight tweets, one right after the other.

I refuse to argue this topic 140 characters at a time. As anyone who's read this blog knows, I argue exhaustively, using lots of words and examples and facts, and Twitter doesn't fit my discussion style at all. Hence this post and the next: this one will deal with Prokofy's irrational hatred of open source, and the next will deal with his irrational hatred of BDSM.

I've argued before that open sourcing the viewer is nothing but good for Second Life and Linden Lab. That argument hasn't changed in the seven months since I made it; if anything, it's gotten stronger, because without it, the users of Second Life would be condemned to use a viewer they demonstrably hate. Instead, they're getting a choice, and in Firestorm, hopefully a viewer they love while still allowing Linden Lab to move the platform forward.

Prokofy's argument, insofar as I can make any sense out of it at all, is that "OS undermines business & livlihood everywhere". That argument gets made by people like Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer and Larry Ellison, because open source does undermine their business and livelihood. In the wider world, however, it's demonstrably false.

The simple fact is that, were it not for open source software, I wouldn't be writing this and you wouldn't be reading it. The Internet is powered by open source software. Every last bit of the software infrastructure that makes the Internet work, from the Domain Name System to the Apache web server to the Firefox web browser to the various email servers and clients, either is only used in open source form or else was pioneered and is dominated by open source choices.

I don't know of anyone who thinks the Internet does anything other than create livelihoods and markets on an unprecedented scale.

As I've mentioned before, I'm honored to be able to count Open Source guru Eric S. Raymond as a personal friend. Not only is he an open source developer, he's also a thinker about open source itself and an evangelist for the whole idea. He was one of the founders of the Open Source Initiative and its first president.

Eric is also a libertarian who has said that communism is the greatest evil ever perpetrated. I would strongly recommend that, should you ever have the opportunity - say, at an SF con, which he and his wife Cathy frequent - you not call him a communist, software or otherwise, to his face.

There's a fundamental reason that open source isn't communist: it's entirely voluntary. Don't want to join the revolution? Don't open source your software. It really is that simple. And if you do, nobody but the rabid Stallmanites will argue with you. You see, it's about choice, something that is antithetical to communism. (The Stallmanites want to deny you the choice to buy closed source software, but I've been arguing against them for two decades.)

I chose to open source my furniture script engine for two simple reasons. First, I have long direct experience with the open source development model, and know first hand how well it works. Second, I want to improve the BDSM ecosystem in Second Life.

I know very well that open source development has many benefits, starting with Raymond's Law: "Given a sufficient number of eyes, all bugs are shallow". I've seen this in action more times than I can count. It works for countless open source projects, often attracting developers and assistance from companies that use the software in their products. I'm the manager for an open source project with about 40 developers and tens of thousands of users, and it wouldn't be where it is today if it weren't for being open source.

The second reason is no less important. I take my cue here from the OpenCollar project. They provide a free, open source collar scripting system that has been incorporated into a wide range of devices, not just collars but many other things. My furniture scripting efforts started out from an OpenCollar-provided free script. I've since totally rewritten it, but the basic idea is still valid: having the scripts be open source lets people who understand BDSM furniture design but not scripting make their ideas real - and sell them to others, if they wish. That makes the pie bigger for us all.

If open source undermined businesses, then it certainly wouldn't be used by them, let alone be the basis for corporations large and small. Just ask Red Hat or Mozilla. It's certainly not undermining mine. I choose to compete in the marketplace based on my ideas and my designs, not my script engine.

"Compete". "Marketplace". "Choose". Those are not words a communist would use, let alone embrace.

Am I undermining the market for BDSM furniture in SL? Hardly. Not only do I not sell very much to begin with - I'm not ThinkKink, by any stretch of the imagination - I've enabled others to enter it and sell things. That's an improvement, not a detriment. Even though there are plenty of free OpenCollar-based collars, there are also people selling others. Amethyst and Mars and MoDesign and Dominatech still sell plenty of control devices, and they're not complaining about OpenCollar.

How do they do it? They compete with OpenCollar. They provide better products to their customers, at least as far as their customers see things, at a price that's justifiable for that improvement. They don't try to drive OpenCollar out of existence by complaining about it. They roll up their sleeves and do it better.

So no, open source isn't communist, and it doesn't undermine business. It improves business by freeing it to compete on what really matters to customers: features and price. That's not anti-business. It's pro-business. Yes, some businesses will have to adapt - but that's true of any business anywhere, any time. A business that does not adapt to changing conditions dies. The real reason that Microsoft is so anti-open-source is simply that they cannot conceive of a way to adapt.

Prokofy is arguing the Microsoft side of history. Events are showing that that's the losing side. I wonder if his phone is Android or Windows 7?

04 May 2011

Tried fixing VWR-25479, but had a little problem...

After discussing with Arrehn Oberlander last night, I came up with a workaround for VWR-25479. Unfortunately, it didn't work as expected, because the server tries to be helpful.

I've opened SVC-6943 to address the server side of the workaround. I don't know how far it'll get, but I felt I needed to at least raise the issue and get LL's promise not to break 1.23 without an announcement on the record.

01 May 2011

LL breaks 1.23 and 1.x TPVs. Film at 11.

Linden Lab has, for the past several months, promised faithfully that they would not break Viewer 1.23, and version 1-based TPVs, until they had made a formal decision to do so.

Last week, they broke that promise.

Viewer 2 version 2.6.3 adds a neat new feature: avatar physics. The feature that gave Emerald, way back when, its biggest boost in users and vaulted it to the top of the heap is breast physics: the ability to make a female avatar's breasts bounce. There are lots of problems with the Emerald implementation, which was carried forward to Phoenix unchanged, but it's there and used. Don't believe me? Just wait till it breaks in one way or another, and see how many complaints surface in Phoenix Viewer Support.

LL implemented the feature themselves, and got it right. This is still a source of endless amusement to me. They put it in the control of the user whose avatar is being shown, and made it work right, and also made more than breasts bounce. All in all, it'a good thing. Even if I still get a giggle out of it.

The problem is that they changed the way that the avatar's description is sent to the viewer. The network message they use to do that hasn't been changed in ages. They needed to extend it to add the new physics descriptions, so the viewer can show it properly. Unfortunately, both 1.23 and Snowglobe are too picky about the contents of that message, and reject it entirely rather than simply ignore the parts they don't recognize. This is also true of every popular TPV out there, all of which are based on Snowglobe 1.5.

Honest mistake, right? Wrong.

Dan Linden's comment on the LL JIRA describing the problem, VWR-25479, is telling:

Dan Linden added a comment - 27/Apr/11 12:49 PM
This is a known incompatibility with 3rd party viewers. We are not going to commit to fixing this.
A known incompatibility? Really? Then why was it rolled out without using the communications channel specifically set up for LL to let TPV developers know of this exact kind of problem?

But it's worse than that. It affects 1.23, too - and it won't be fixed.

How does this affect 1.23 users, and those of V1-based viewers? Basically, if a user of a 2.6.3 or later viewer, or one that has had avatar physics retrofitted (such as Firestorm Preview 3, due out soon, I hope), changes their shape at all, that change won't be shown, and all other users on 1.x viewers looking at that avatar will see the system default hair base as well as any prim hair they're wearing.

Needless to say, this breaks content for the majority of users of Second Life, at least until they move to a viewer with the fix for the issue in it. We're hoping to get out a version of Phoenix that has the fix sometime this week. All current versions of Phoenix, up to and including, are affected by the change.

If you read down to Oz's reply to my comment, you'll see that LL thinks this is a bug that was fixed long ago, and that we should track LL's changes to the codebase. In general, he's right - but how do we find out about other fixes that have been in v2 from before the code was opened up, but aren't in v1? Do we read through all 800K lines of code in both versions, comparing how they both work? That's a superhuman task.

The practical effect of this is that LL has broken 1.23. TPV developers have the fix - literally, deleting 7 lines of code - and will be putting out updates very soon to account for it. 1.23 users have no such update to go to. They've got four choices:

  1. Put up with the problem.
  2. Change to Viewer 2.
  3. Change to a TPV with the fix.
  4. Get off of SL.

Which choice they'll make depends on why they're still on 1.23. If they're there because they saw no need to update, they now have one, and will move. If they're still there because they can't stand Viewer 2, then they'll either pick a TPV or else get off of SL. If they're still there because they're a casual SL user, they might update - or might simply say "screw this!" and get off of SL.

In any case, LL, for better or worse, has now decided, unofficially or otherwise, to break 1.23. They're gong to have to live with the consequences of that, and not get the benefit of having done it in a deliberate manner with plenty of warning for folks. I hope it works out for the best, but I'm not as hopeful as LL appears to be.