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Bot-avatar Pesters Second Life Users (For Science!)

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the yeah-sure-it-is dept.

124

holy_calamity writes "A bot-controlled avatar that tracks down lone avatars in Second Life and purposely invades their personal space has been created by UK researchers. The idea was to see if users value their virtual personal space. Bots avatars are not encouraged by Linden Labs — although this one is being deployed by academics, presumably spam-avatars (spavatars?) won't be far behind."

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Personal Space (5, Funny)

dintech (998802) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241119)

Sounds more like 'Second Wife' than Second Life...

Re:Personal Space (3, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241359)

The first thing I thought of was a response:

"Virtual Shotgun". For those who really want their privacy.

While I don't normally understand why you'd play an online game to just be alone - from what I understand of second life you could have the equivalent of 'prepping', IE you're creating something to be shown later. Whether this is a house or an adult accessory, it doesn't really matter.

Re:Personal Space (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241519)

Not to be alone. But I tend to choose my company and spend my (spare) time with whoever I want to spend it with. Bots and stupidheads are usually not in that group.

I mean, imagine you have a party and someone keeps trying to sell his Amway crap, going on everyone's nerves. Wouldn't you throw him out?

Re:Personal Space (2, Interesting)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 6 years ago | (#21242147)

I think the issue really applies mostly to random situations in public. For example, the other day I was at the bank. It was not busy at all. There were two tellers and each was serving a customer. I was next to be served and there was no one else. Then a man comes in and gets behind me in line. He came up RIGHT behind me to the point where I could hear him breathe, almost feel his breath on the back of my neck and he reeked of bad after shave.

I couldn't help but think to myself what the fuck is this guy's problem?! There is absolutely no one else in the bank. Mind your own personal fucking space asshole. It's not like it's busy as hell and the line was cramped and he had no choice. He chose to get so close to me as to make me feel very uncomfortable when there was more than plenty of space for us to both keep our distance.

Had I been in New York I imagine I might have had the nerve to turn around and punch the guy in the nose. But I'm a regular customer at that bank and I knew I was going to be served any second so it wasn't worth making a scene.

My guess is that's the type of situation that this "study" is examining. Whether people in virtual worlds would be as uncomfortable with random assholes getting too close as people in real life.

At least... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21242545)

... he didn't try to sell you viagra.

Re:Personal Space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21243327)

Here's what I do when people do that:

I get on my best best Rich Texan voice (i.e. the crazy Texan from the Simpsons), loudly mutter something like "*sigh* That's what I miss about Texas. The wide open spaces, whiskey that flows like water...*sounding very frustrated* and very generous concealed carry laws!".

Of course, I almost always wear a relatively loose fitting finger length black leather jacket, making the situation even more believable... If it were a little longer, I could almost hide a shotgun or carbine in the thing. Never failed.

Personal Space or not? (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#21242827)

"I mean, imagine you have a party and someone keeps trying to sell his Amway crap, going on everyone's nerves. Wouldn't you throw him out?"

No, I'd beat the crap out of him. Then, I'd throw him/her out.

MLM people are just plain annoying.

Re:Personal Space (3, Interesting)

dintech (998802) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241635)

Hold on, I post a comment about wifes and the first thing you think of is shotguns? :)
You should be posting in this thread. [slashdot.org]

Re:Personal Space (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21243381)

Actually, that part was my first reaction to reading the article, and your 'first reaction' post seemed appropriate to hand it off of.

It was more of a 'get off my yard' response.

Re:Personal Space (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 6 years ago | (#21243417)

While I don't normally understand why you'd play an online game to just be alone

It really depends on the context and how my day has been...

Sometimes I will log in to WoW with the intent of playing alone. I'll go run through a dungeon, or do some quests, or kill some critters by myself. It's a game, it's fun, it's a nice way to unwind after a long day. And if the day has been annoying enough I may not want to deal with other people at all.

Sometimes my wife and I will go off adventuring together... Explore the countryside, do quests, whatever. It's a family outing, we don't want random people showing up and harassing us.

Other times it's a guild event... Again, a selected group of people that we know doing something socially. You don't want random strangers showing up and harassing you.

Even if it's a group of random people in a crowded city it can still be irritating to have someone invade your personal space. In WoW, like most MMOGs, you need a certain amount of room simply to interact with the world around you. You need to be able to click on items, characters, and NPCs in order to interact with them. You need to be able to see what you're doing. If you've got someone crowding you it can get very annoying, very quickly.

Re:Personal Space (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21243735)

I thought the same thing although a personal shield and an energy weapon equivalent of a shotgun would be a lot better :P watch things hit the shield making a blue splash of light and the resulting shot from the energy weapon instantly logging the spamatars off. You could use it in your "house" but no where else so it doesn't lead to... what am I saying? that would be an amusing and efficient way to dispose of known spamatars wherever they are. Give a bounty or something and let the players have fun with it. Only let them pick off the spamatars [no random killings]

Re:Personal Space (0)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241581)

Don't you need a First Life before you can have a Second Life?

Get a first life (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21241137)

Hee hee, I don't care about second life, but I got the first post... maybe...

Get a life (1)

seededfury (699094) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241845)

Ha ha. NO.

Hi! (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241139)

"Did you know that more Second Life avatars prefer the taste of Diet Pepsi Max to Diet Coke Plus with Vitamins?"

"H3RB4L V1AGR4!!! Only $19.95/30 day supply!!!"

"HI! I AM WEALTHY FOREIGN DIGNATARY AND I NEED TO MOVE A LARGE SUM OF MONEY..."

*Arrrggggghhhh!!!* Thank the gods for my BFG10K Second Life hack!

Re:Hi! (1)

monkeyboythom (796957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241465)

Hmmm...I think I need help here (with the programming), but actually couldn't we use an algorithm to detect spamatars(c)?

if..=|physical_manifestation=="ron jeremy"|
..then =mode, run!

Another headline... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21241147)

...researchers stalk people online to see if they mind.

In related news... (4, Funny)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241993)

...researchers stalk people online to see if they mind.


"Online research" patent claimed by FBI and RIAA.

At least it's a new excuse ;) (3, Informative)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244211)

Well, if there's one thing I've learned in my days on MUDs is that there's always a minority who gets their kicks out of being assholes and annoying to everyone else. And they're always ready and willing to twist logic in the most incredible ways to argue why it's a good thing, and you should allow... nay, be thankful that they're doing it in your game. Among other things:

- that it's great fun for everyone, and their victims who complain about it somehow don't know what they really want in a game. Why, they'd probably leave in droves if someone didn't harrass them.

- that it's a pre-requisite for role-playing. (Apparently being killed again and again by someone 30 levels higher than you, and with battlecries of, "LOL! N00B! U SUCK! I FUCKED UR MOM!" is proper role-playing. In fact, the only kind of role playing.)

- that it was testing, if they were using a bug against everyone else, and they were surely going to report it. They "tested" it 100 times a day for a whole month just to be really sure how it works, and submit a really really good bug-report, you know.

- that the first amendment gives them a sacred right to say and do whatever they want, anywhere they want, and to anyone they want. And if you try to stop them, that's the road to tyranny and slavery. (Never mind that the actual text refers to the Congress, not to a privately owned server.)

Etc, etc, etc.

That it's for scientific research... well, now that's a new excuse. Just when I thought I had heard heard everything.

But I hope that everyone will excuse me if I still see it through the eyes of a jaded old MUD coder. The primary aspect is that it's (mild) harassment, no matter in the name of what mis-guided idea or excuse it's done. It's inconveniencing someone else, so don't do it.

Even if it seems like a mild annoyance at best, already there is no shortage of people annoying everyone else. And then there are people who come from a very stressful RL situation to unwind online. Even a mild annoyance just adds to the existing stress, when one is stressed enough. If someone came home after the boss riding his butt for 2 hours, dealing with clueless people for the other 6, and maybe add something like a visit to the dentist and/or an argument with his wife, the last thing he needs is an annoying newbie getting in his face all the time.

And I might even shrug and move on if it were a genuine newbie who barely has enough WASD motor skills to get in that room at all, but not enough to maneuver himself in a socially acceptable position. But it being a (mild) harassment bot and justified as "research"... dunno... just feels... wrong.

Statistics! (4, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241149)

"Out of 28 avatars approached this way, 12 simply moved away and 20 also responded via text chat."

So they 'simply moved away' and some also responded by text? Then they didn't 'simply move away'.

And 28 is a pretty small sample. Why bother having a bot for so small a sample? Wouldn't it have been a lot easier to just do it by hand? Or just let it run a few days before publishing the results? And those who stayed put... How many were idling (not even at their computer) and how many simply ignored the childish idiot that was harrassing them? (You don't have to play online games for long until you've met enough idiots and learn that ignoring them is the best possible course of action, especially the ones that want to get right up on you and do stupid things.)

Re:Statistics! (3, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241249)

Why bother having a bot for so small a sample?
Well, it may be that for research purposes they want the behavior of the approaching avatar to be as consistent as possible. Therefore they use a bot to automate the approach so as to avoid the experimenter biasing the results somehow.

That having been said, I totally agree with your post: 28 events is a ridiculously small sample size to try and measure the behavior of people in virtual worlds. Considering they went to the bother of writing a bot, one would hope they will leave it running for awhile longer to accumulate more data.

Re:Statistics! (2, Funny)

foobsr (693224) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241637)

28 events is a ridiculously small sample size

But imagine how many nearly identical conference/research papers they can conjure up by slowly increasing the sample size they report on!

CC.

Re:Statistics! (1)

Main Gauche (881147) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244521)

"But imagine how many nearly identical conference/research papers they can conjure up by slowly increasing the sample size they report on! "

And here I was going to say: "Yes, but a larger sample size makes it less likely they can get some anomalous result that makes headlines."

I like yours better. Which reminds me, let's get back to debating this whole "42" thing...

re: better to do it manually? (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241371)

I, too, was thinking this sort of study would best be done by hand, but for a different reason.

In real life, I know I'd be far more annoyed by a robot of some sort entering my "personal space", pretending to be a real human, and striking up a somewhat stilted conversation with me than a REAL human talking to me.

I've never seen the A.I. in these "bots" advance to a point where you can't tell they're not really another human. They typically ask a good "introductory" question or two, but can't keep up the illusion once it advances to a full conversation.

Re:Statistics! (0, Troll)

speaker of the truth (1112181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241411)

They were paid by spammers to produce a bot for Second Life and wanted to do it on university time so they put in this bullshit research.

Re:Statistics! (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241551)

Quite small sample. But what do you want to do after you've asked everyone who's active, in public and not currently engaged in virtual humping?

Re:Statistics! (1)

skeeto (1138903) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241649)

Using a bot also had to do with escaping the normal ethical constraints when experimenting with humans. From TFA, they previously had undergrad students do this work. By using a bot, they felt that they did not need to get permission to run the experiment.

Re:Statistics! (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21242133)

There were still humans involved, and even being experimented ON. If that was truly their reasoning, it's idiotic.

Re:Statistics! (2, Funny)

mattOzan (165392) | more than 6 years ago | (#21243619)

"Out of 28 avatars approached this way, 12 simply moved away and 20 also responded via text chat."
So it looks like there's only 28 people left in Second Life? More than I would have imagined. They were probably just startled to see someone new.

Re:Statistics! (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244811)

> So it looks like there's only 28 people left in Second Life?

No, there were only 28 connected who weren't engaging in furry/bdsm cybering.

Re:Statistics! (1)

dtml-try MyNick (453562) | more than 6 years ago | (#21243977)

And 28 is a pretty small sample. Why bother having a bot for so small a sample?

Those were all users online you insensitive clod.

I for one welcome ... (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241153)

... our "Spare-some-change-lad?" automatic beggars overlords!

Now, that would be a cool idea for a bot net experiment =oP

Re:I for one welcome ... (2, Funny)

cromar (1103585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241265)

Now, that would be a cool idea for a bot net experiment =oP

I'm down.
  1. Steal top secret gov't research.
  2. ???
  3. Build mesh networked pan-handling robot emissaries.
  4. Profit!

One flaw (5, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241175)

They observed that female avatars were less guarding about their personal space then males, a behaviour apparently the same as in real life.

The flaw? Female avatars do NOT have to be controlled by a female user.

Would a male playing a female mimick this behaviour? IF that is the case, that would make a far more intresting study. If it isn't then their measurements are flawed since they cannot tell what sex a user really is.

Re:One flaw (5, Funny)

sw155kn1f3 (600118) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241323)

>> Female avatars do NOT have to be controlled by a female user.

Huh? You mean that cute elf girl I've been dating... Oh shit..

Re:One flaw (1)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241629)

So let's see, you're worried you might be dating the same sex, but didn't care that you weren't even dating the same species! ;-)

(Especially as the second one is illegal in more countries than the first ;-)

Re:One flaw (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241777)

Why do you assume that the poster isn't an elf? What's with your sick anti-elf agenda?

Re:One flaw (1)

Atreide (16473) | more than 6 years ago | (#21242519)

some time it is even worse to date the same ex instead of same sex

Re:One flaw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21241401)

This revealed that female avatars protect their personal space less than male ones, a sex difference that reflects behaviour in the real world.
so realistic, just like /.

Re:One flaw (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241697)

Would a male playing a female mimick this behaviour?

Careful, this can happen in real life also [wikipedia.org] .

Re:One flaw (1)

KillerBob (217953) | more than 6 years ago | (#21242193)

There are those, myself included, who would argue that your example isn't a case of male mimicking female, but rather a case of somebody who actually is female, and that there's a distinction between physical and mental gender.

*shrugs* You do find a lot more transgenders in SL than you do in real life. But most of them are honest about it.

Re:One flaw (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21244029)

And there are those, most people in fact, who wouldn't waste their time arguing with someone who holds such a rediculously stupid posistion.

What's next, "there's a difference between physical and mental SPECIES. Yiff Yiff Yiff Yiff".

You fucking faggots make me SICK!

Why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21241223)

Spamatars exist in wow... so why not SL?

interesting test for science' sake (2, Interesting)

freg (859413) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241233)

This begs the question... do Westerners stand further apart than Asians when chatting in a virtual world? I would guess so. For some reason I occasionally find myself backing up my avatar a step or two and facing it towards the avatar I'm talking to, without even thinking about it really.

Nope (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21241797)

It does not "beg the question." "Begging the question" is a logical fallacy which is not being committed here.

It raises the question.

Re:interesting test for science' sake (3, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241819)

do Westerners stand further apart than Asians when chatting in a virtual world? I

No, they stand the same distance apart; it would violate the laws of physics if one of them was "further apart" than the other. What a peculiar question.

Re:interesting test for science' sake (1)

bentcd (690786) | more than 6 years ago | (#21242019)

No, they stand the same distance apart; it would violate the laws of physics if one of them was "further apart" than the other. What a peculiar question.
GURPS (a role playing game) has a rule that says something along the lines of "if your weapon has 1 more reach that your enemy's, then this brings him 3 feet closer to you, but it does not bring you any closer to him".

Does Second Life use GURPS under the hood? :-)

Re:interesting test for science' sake (1)

Miseph (979059) | more than 6 years ago | (#21243847)

With the important caveat that this is only for the purposes of melee combat and the calculations of attack range, adjacency, and related numbers that represent perceptual, rather than actual, distances.

Perceived distance is quite relative: a mile is a lot farther if you're walking than if you're driving; a child may view the top of a refrigerator as unreachable while an adult can reach it with ease; being 10 ft. from your opponent is a lot farther away when you're holding a knife than when you're holding a pike.

Re:interesting test for science' sake (1)

AlamedaStone (114462) | more than 6 years ago | (#21242135)

do Westerners stand further apart than Asians when chatting in a virtual world?
No, they stand the same distance apart; it would violate the laws of physics if one of them was "further apart" than the other. What a peculiar question.
Ridiculous. It is perfectly possible in a virtual world that the distance from person A to person B is less than the distance from person B to person A.

If you're going to be a pedantic, grammar-nazi jackass, bring a little technical common sense with you.

Re:interesting test for science' sake (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21242057)

I haven't touched Second Life in around a year and change (and was never really into it except as it was a curiosity) but, in that and other games, I found it preferable to stand back from other avatars to get a better overall view. In fact, if anything, I stood further back, to compensate for the laggy control scheme. (My video card was too weak to really be running that thing.)

Re:interesting test for science' sake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21242721)

Is it even possible in the old classical asian market games to stand apart from one another in a crowded town/townsquare like meeting spot? :p

Those games are so filled up with people, it's no wonder they care less.
As a seasoned mudder/gamer, though, yep - in graphical mmorpgs (if I *can*) I'll typically stand back from people, too.

In full pvp games, unless you trust someone, it becomes an instinct anyway - for game mechanical reasons.

Re:interesting test for science' sake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21243497)

Oh snap, you didn't just use "begs the question" incorrectly, did you? You'll get crucified for that on /.

Re:interesting test for science' sake (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 6 years ago | (#21243613)

do Westerners stand further apart than Asians when chatting in a virtual world? I would guess so. For some reason I occasionally find myself backing up my avatar a step or two and facing it towards the avatar I'm talking to, without even thinking about it really.

It's interesting to see how many real-world behaviors show up on-line, even though there's no real physical reason for it.

In the real world, I don't like people much. I can't stand crowds. I avoid Wal-Mart and shopping malls as much as possible. In social situations I usually stay towards the edge of the crowd.

On-line you don't have the same pressures... People aren't rubbing up against you, the air doesn't actually get hot and stale with other people's breath... But I still find myself avoiding the big cities, and staying on the edges of crowds.

I would assume, from my own limited anecdotal evidence, that folks would replicate their real-world behaviors on-line - all the way down to how far apart Westerners and Asians stand.

IRB issue (5, Insightful)

ckolar (43016) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241259)

The article mentions fleetingly at the end that the ethical issue is still up for grabs. I wonder if they actually got IRB approval for use of human subjects. Even though it is a bot that interacts with the other avatars, it is still an investigator-designed intervention into this space, they are collecting data in a deliberate and systematic way, and looking to generalize the results. The fact that they are collecting data without consent and using it in this manner strikes me as a violation of user privacy. Yes, I serve on an institutional IRB, and no, this would never pass in my institution. It is frightening that these researches imply that there is somehow a lower standard for virtual environments (it is not the avatar that is being studied, but the human on the other end) for the conduct of psychological experimentation.

They did not get approval... (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241655)

I wonder if they actually got IRB approval for use of human subjects.

Not according to the article:

The UCL team did not seek to clear the SL-bot project with its review panel, because the user interaction was so simple. Only if users had been asked for personal information would ethical approval have been needed, says Friedman.

And I entirely agree with you... the idea that it's OK to treat people differently through the intermediary of a computer network is disturbing.

Re:They did not get approval... (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241793)

the idea that it's OK to treat people differently through the intermediary of a computer network is disturbing.

I agree; that's when I catch my son spending too much time gibbing [wikipedia.org] and teabagging [wikipedia.org] in Halo I tell him to get out and do it in real life instead. Kids these days.

Funny, but... (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21242837)

Your kid ever play paintball, laser-tag, or anything like that?

Re:They did not get approval... (3, Informative)

ckolar (43016) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241841)

Nice catch on that. By US federal regulations, a research project can only be "exempt" after an IRB reviews the proposal and declares it exempt. Sounds like a contradiction I know, but you are NEVER exempt from being reviewed, just judged to be exempt from additional monitoring/oversight (for low risk situations). A researcher may NEVER decide on their own that the IRB would declare a project exempt.

Here are links to relevant sites:

Appendix A: Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects

http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/humansubjects/guidance/45cfr46.htm [hhs.gov]

Appendix B: The Belmont Report

[hhs.gov] http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/humansubjects/guidance/belmont.htm [hhs.gov]

A copy of our screening form and a link to the AERA grid for risk and ameliorative measures can be found at: http://www.imsa.edu/learning/research/hasrc/ [imsa.edu]

Re:IRB issue (1)

skeeto (1138903) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241709)

Yes, I serve on an institutional IRB, and no, this would never pass in my institution.
What dreadfully boring institution do you come from?

Re:IRB issue (2, Interesting)

kebes (861706) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241741)

Yes, I serve on an institutional IRB, and no, this would never pass in my institution.
Out of curiosity, why wouldn't it pass?

It doesn't seem too different from psych experiments where a researcher stands in a public place and does something or asks a certain question. (E.g. a famous one was to have an attractive female and male person ask passerbys on a college campus if they wanted to go have casual sex right now.) I was under the impression that experiments in public places didn't require the explicit consent of each unwitting participant (provided, of course, that the experiment involves only normal everyday interaction, like asking questions, and does not induce undue stress on participants, etc.).

I fully agree that any experiment involving humans (even over the Internet) should require internal review and approval. But why would this experiment not pass? It doesn't seem like the burden imposed on the unwitting participants is very large, considering that they are voluntarily participating in an interactive "public space" online and have no expectation of privacy or even peace (the bot wasn't doing anything that a human player couldn't or wouldn't).

Of course another aspect of passing review is that the data recovered should be sufficiently robust, meaningful, and significant that it warrants intruding on the lives of subjects. Perhaps it is this criteria that you feel it fails?

Re:IRB issue (2, Informative)

ckolar (43016) | more than 6 years ago | (#21242027)

Well first off, my gut reaction is to reject everything. :) Just kidding. The problems (and I have not seen more than the article, so I am just making a lot of suppositions here) are like this.

  • 1. As other people posted in this thread, the terms of use for SL indicate that you may not use a bot to collect personal information, and so the users DO have an expectation that they are not being approached by bots for the expressed purpose of collecting personal information.
  • 2. As you mention at the end, the design is significantly flawed WRT yielding useful results.
  • 3. Without IRB review, there is no guarantee of risk abatement for subjects. Back to your street corner example, lets say that one of the people approached was one of the 25% of college women who have been sexually assaulted and the proposition causes her to have an unexplained (to the researcher) anxiety attack, or depressive episode. The researchers here (presumably knowing that they were being annoying) would need to have demonstrated that they could intervene if they created a potentially harmful situation for the subject.
  • 4. The very fact that you are in a public place implies that you are not being part of a research project unless otherwise informed to the contrary -- that is the informed consent part. The burden falls on the researcher. An IRB may approve situations where there is considered minimal risk (do people stand to the left or right on an escalator), but again, the researcher must first demonstrate that there is no risk involved the participants.

I could come up with more, but this is starting to seem like work. :)

Re:IRB issue (2, Interesting)

Atreide (16473) | more than 6 years ago | (#21242743)

I was under the impression that experiments in public places didn't require the explicit consent of each unwitting participant


this raises the question : "when connected online with other people, are you in public space or private space ?"

* when online, i (presumably) am at home, in private space
* only a part of my self & conscious is in relation with other people (the same if i am telephoning)
therefore it can be seen as a huge private phone conversation ?

after all there are regulations & debates worldwide regarding online privacy and what can be and cannot be done

also the answer has repercusions on marketing (can you advertise), on law enforcement (can you be "watched" upon), on free speech (can a journalist report your statements without your consent because said in "public")...

finally, it can be a private or public space but it can also be defined as a new type of "environment". This can lead to give such virtual world its autonomy and own regulations.
"no sir, only my avatar commited the robbery of linden dollars, my 'self' is in a totally different world and cannot be prosecuted for robbery. it can only be prosecuted for benefiting the stolen money".

Re:IRB issue (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244849)

> this raises the question

I thought it begged the question. I swear, the world is loosing its ability to speak good.

Bots avatars are not encouraged? (4, Interesting)

jhRisk (1055806) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241279)

A few choice selections from Section 4.1 of their TOS http://secondlife.com/corporate/tos.php [secondlife.com]

(v) take any actions or upload, post, e-mail or otherwise transmit Content that contains any viruses, Trojan horses, worms, spyware, time bombs, cancelbots or other computer programming routines that are intended to damage, detrimentally interfere with, surreptitiously intercept or expropriate any system, data or personal information;
I'd consider that detrimental interference. Also, there's this one

(vii) upload, post, email or otherwise transmit any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, or promotional materials, that are in the nature of "junk mail," "spam," "chain letters," "pyramid schemes," or any other form of solicitation that Linden Lab considers in its sole discretion to be of such nature;


There are others that I believe apply to the utilization of a bot, potential exploits through bots (ex. spamming) or both. Also, what they're extrapulating from the empirical evidence is off IMHO as well.

SL-bot observed pairs of normal avatars as they interacted. It found that users are, on average, six times more likely to shift position when someone comes to within 1.2 m. That backs up the idea that people also value their virtual personal space, say the researchers.


I'm sure it had nothing to do with being courteous, putting the new character into view to inspect or anything else. Yeah, they wanted their "personal virtual space"... sure. Sounds like another misread on cause and effect at the expense of opening a pandora's box.

Re:Bots avatars are not encouraged? (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241407)

SL-bot observed pairs of normal avatars as they interacted. It found that users are, on average, six times more likely to shift position when someone comes to within 1.2 m. That backs up the idea that people also value their virtual personal space, say the researchers.

I'm sure it had nothing to do with being courteous, putting the new character into view to inspect or anything else. Yeah, they wanted their "personal virtual space"... sure. Sounds like another misread on cause and effect at the expense of opening a pandora's box.

Since practically nobody is watching through the eyes of the avatar (since that GUI is much less convenient) and 1.2m pretty much obscures the other avatar from pretty much any reasonable angle, I'd opt for the simplest explaination that people take some distance in order to actually SEE who they're chatting with.

If you wanted to know the value of "personal virtual space" you might as well look at how people interact when not communicating; they regularly bump into eachother whilst walking and even push complete strangers along for quite some distance. I know that's pretty much entirely due to lack of responsiveness of controls, but one could draw the same quality of conclussions as the bot-builders did.

More Second Life spam? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21241289)

Why does Slashdot give so much coverage to Linden Labs? Are they being paid or what?

I mean I don't know a single person that plays Second Life.

Re:More Second Life spam? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21243907)

Uh, parent is right on topic. Why does Slashdot give so much coverage and mod everyone who questions it down?

One Ring to rule them all... (2, Interesting)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241373)

Ring of power
The ring connects the avatar to software that not only controls its actions, but can record everything going on around it. This is an extreme example of the way objects can control characters in Second Life


Once again proving that Second Life is becoming more and more like Tolkien's world of Lord of the Rings

Bots (2, Informative)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241447)

Daily I end up banning a bunch of "naked ruth" bots (as others do) that don't seem todo much other than idle in various places.

I don't know what they're doing, but if it's for research purposes, it's really getting to be really annoying. The banlist I have has exceeded over a hundred of these being banned and they keep coming back (under different names). This isn't the main grid which is considered public, it's a grid of private simulators (known as the valley sims) and there has not been any permission granted at all for research purposes in the simulators I help out in.

It is at the end of the day wasting a lot of my time and I consider these bots without prior consent, harassment.

Naked Ruth Bots? (2, Funny)

MLease (652529) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241579)

Are they hot?

-Mike

Re:Naked Ruth Bots? (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241701)

Are they hot?
Quite ugly in my opinion.

Re:Naked Ruth Bots? (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241913)

Explanation:

"Ruth" is the name for the default female avatar.

The default appearance in SL is female, so unless the bot changes its appearance, it's going to look female.

Bots, when created appear naked due to the bot's user not bothering to write the code needed to make it wear some clothes, or logging in under the account to put something on. This makes them very recognizable though, so I expect at some point the bot runners will start dressing them.

I got to agree with Ash on that they're pretty ugly. Not enough fur.

Bots or Valley Girls? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241643)

it's a grid of private simulators (known as the valley sims)

Like, maybe those weren't bots, but, like, Valley Girls, you know.

Re:Bots or Valley Girls? (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241737)

Like, maybe those weren't bots, but, like, Valley Girls, you know.
The reason why they're known as the valley sims is because the simulators all end in "valley".. Like "Kitsune Valley", "Rabbit Valley", "Fox Valley" etc.

And to save someone from doing the sound effect, I'll do it myself.. WHOOOOOOSH

you need a CAPTCHA (1)

m2943 (1140797) | more than 6 years ago | (#21242875)

It's just like a web site: if you have an open access policy, you can't complain if people come in.

If you want only real people to enter, use a CAPTCHA: put a texture on some surface and/or a sound in the environment that says: "Please say the magic word 'apple star' or be kicked out."

Re:you need a CAPTCHA (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244215)

It's just like a web site: if you have an open access policy, you can't complain if people come in.
It isn't a open access policy, it's not the mainland.

If you want only real people to enter, use a CAPTCHA: put a texture on some surface and/or a sound in the environment that says: "Please say the magic word 'apple star' or be kicked out."
Not that it helps since we often get people from many different nations (who can't speak English)... Germans, Korean, Japanese, Russians and languages I don't recognize (never had to kick one out since they used common sense). Sure, I could go about getting it translated into other languages. But knowing Second life, doesn't mean the texture will load within the next five minutes or the sound will either (provided the person even has sound enabled).

Nevermind the fact there isn't a way to dictate where a avatar arrives in a sim unless he used a map teleport (he/she can just fly from a adjacent sim or get teleported there or if they can just change several lines of code in the second life client to teleport anywhere (and since bots aren't even using the SL client...).

Re:you need a CAPTCHA (1)

m2943 (1140797) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245191)

It isn't a open access policy, it's not the mainland.

By "open access" I mean that people can just wander in. If they can just wander in, bots will wander in; that's just a fact.

Not that it helps since we often get people from many different nations (who can't speak English)... Germans, Korean, Japanese, Russians and languages I don't recognize (never had to kick one out since they used common sense).

Well, tough. Either bots wander in, or you have people register, or you use a CAPTCHA.

Nevermind the fact there isn't a way to dictate where a avatar arrives in a sim unless he used a map teleport

Of course, you can control where people are allowed in your sim and where they can teleport. RTFM...

I'm not sure what you want, but SL is trying to position itself as an open 3D platform analgous to the web. Just like there are web bots and they are tolerated, there will be more and more SL bots. Unless and until there is some kind of robot exclusion standard for the SL platform, you will have to do one of the things I suggested above.

Re:you need a CAPTCHA (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245389)

Well, tough. Either bots wander in, or you have people register, or you use a CAPTCHA.
That will kill the simulator traffic, no. This was already tried with denying lack of payment info and the end result was unacceptable.

Of course, you can control where people are allowed in your sim and where they can teleport. RTFM...
1) There is no manual you dipshit.

2) You can only control teleports on normal second life clients (that haven't been modified) that actually obey the coordinate destination given by Second life's servers. Thus, when coming against a bot that is not based on the Second life client code and does not obey the teleport destination, it's useless.

In other words: You're inconveniencing the users and still haven't handled the bots.

I'm not sure what you want, but SL is trying to position itself as an open 3D platform analgous to the web.
on the web I can create a robots.txt that says:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /
And that is a obvious way of telling bots that they are unwanted. No consent issues.

Unless and until there is some kind of robot exclusion standard for the SL platform, you will have to do one of the things I suggested above.
Or I can continue to keep banning them as everyone else is, adding them to banlink to prevent them from moving elsewhere until something that works better without inconveniencing users the way you want to, comes along.

Path of least resistance (1)

athloi (1075845) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241505)

Second Life players are used to harassment from morons. When you are harassed by morons in real life, you have to move away, as that's the path of least resistance. When you are harassed online, you completely ignore them, as that's the path of least resistance.

They should have given their spamatar a virtual trenchcoat and bare feet, had it holding out lollipops and rasping about the joy of intergenerational love, and then they would have fit right in.

Waste (1)

ilovegeorgebush (923173) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241517)

You don't need to spend hours writing a bloody bot for this. I tried Second Life out last week, and this was one of the first things I came across. Because I found the movement a little different, I was accidentally walking into people/on their toes, which in most cases resulted in them complaining about their 'personal space' and/or privacy.

Why was a bot used for this anyway?

Re:Waste (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245053)

> Why was a bot used for this anyway?

Perhaps because its behavior is consistent.

Seriously though, I remember this sort of bullshit "research" 10 years ago on MOOs. Sure there's room for legitimate research into social dynamics of virtual environments, but I always wondered what kind of state academia was in when this sort of methodology was considered acceptable. It reminds me of the sort of high school science fair exhibits like "comparing the effects of classical vs rock music on insects".

Two words: (1)

Stavr0 (35032) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241563)

Cage Gun

Sounds really crude and pretty abusive. (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241605)

This is a really crude technique, given that they could automate either the OpenSL client or the open source version of the SL client rather than using a scripted attachment.

But more than that, if they were doing this in RL... walking up to people and deliberately annoying them as part of an experiment, without getting consent... would they have been allowed to do it? Should it be any different in VR?

Re:Sounds really crude and pretty abusive. (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241881)

walking up to people and deliberately annoying them as part of an experiment, without getting consent... would they have been allowed to do it? Should it be any different in VR?

argent.

Hey, argent.

argent.

Hi, argent.

argent.

ZOMG, I HAVE BORKEN TEH INTARWEBS HARASSMINT LAWZ!!

Just wait till this is RL (1)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241607)

little robot helicopters flying around with advertisements yay

Hiro (4, Funny)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241617)

So how many users chopped off the intruder's appendages with a katana and then had their homemade daemons clean up their handiwork?

Re:Hiro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21242065)

This was way funnier than you're going to get credit for here apparently. Maybe SLers don't read Neil Stephenson?

Re:Hiro (1)

CronoCloud (590650) | more than 6 years ago | (#21242633)

Oh they do, though I haven't. Bunches of SL folk keep telling me I need to read Snow Crash.

Ring of Power: Cute.... (2, Insightful)

nweaver (113078) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241627)

An interesting part of the article was the discussion of the technique involved.

Apparently, Lindon doesn't want bots, so you can't script avatars. But items can be scripted, and items can instruct avatars to do things. So you just script an item to instruct the avatar what to do...

Trez cool. (Now if only you could make the item replicating and infectious.... :) )

Re:Ring of Power: Cute.... (1)

kallisti (20737) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244995)

You have to give the item permission to animate and/or attach to your avatar. And even once that is done, you can remove the object at any time and regain control. There are some ways you could use this to grief, such as leaving objects in an odd state, but it won't last past a reboot.

And as for replication, check out the YouTube video on a "gray goo" [youtube.com] attack using self replicating rings. Despite it's many flaws, I find Second Life interesting simply for the way that it has to deal with such things. The banking runs, taxation questions, DRM, and stuff like that make it a sandbox for learning about issues in building virtual spaces.

Oh, when THEY do it in SL, it's called research (3, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241747)

When I do it to teenage girls on the subway, it's called 6 to 12 months.

Many years ago... (1)

Trillan (597339) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241857)

One of the very few things I never saw shouted at Britain's bank in UO was "GRIEFING FOR SCIENCE!"

Field of view (1)

Calydor (739835) | more than 6 years ago | (#21241875)

As someone said in the comments to TFA, many people back away not to keep their personal space, but to be able to see the avatar in front of them.

Personally, when I was on SL, my avatar was rather tall. If someone about 80% of my height came up to me, I couldn't see them, not without moving the camera around. It was easier to just hit the down arrow and back away a step. I've seen many people do this, over and over. Even people in a relationship, posing their smooches and kisses while standing far enough apart that they could see each other properly.

So let's not be hasty about the results here. It may not be about personal space at all.

avatar space invaders (2, Insightful)

xPsi (851544) | more than 6 years ago | (#21242047)

Back several years ago when Star Wars Galaxies just came out, my brother did a similar avatar experiment on me. SWG only allowed one character per server per game copy so my brother went out and bought a second copy of the game and another computer to run a full time mining character on the same server as our adventuring characters (ah, the glory days when we still thought that kind of thing was important). He failed to mention this detail to me. One day we were out questing (using headsets) and this very random character came up to me in Mos Eisley and started following me around typing a stream of non sequiturs like "what's the frequency Kenneth? Reveal the blue bug rathouse conspiracy!" over and over. My brother and I had this extended conversation in the headsets about how random and rude this was until I finally caught on when the freaky character mentioned some inside joke (which took me aback initially). Invasion of "online space" is rarely Evil, but it can be really, really annoying and distracting. I doubt this is a surprise to anyone.

Cruel Science Experiment ? (1)

Atreide (16473) | more than 6 years ago | (#21242449)

Seems to me that following statement is still faulse :

"Nowadays, most institutions have a review board for research on human subjects which would flag most proposals that could lead to harm for the subjects, but not so in the past"

./ "Ten Strangely Cruel Science Experiments", http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/11/03/1730257 [slashdot.org]

What's in a name... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21243015)

"presumably spam-avatars (spavatars?) won't be far behind."

Hmm I would thing Spam-Avatar's should be called "Spartan's" That way the inevitable protection would be a trusty pack of Trojan's... :-)

Pretty silly research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21243217)

This is silly. Personal space in real life is not the same as in "virtual life". For one, you have a very limited scope of perception via a monitor. A person blocking your view of this small window will of course be annoying. But I bet an avatar could stand directly behind another one, and one could care less. You don't have "senses" other than limited sight and sound.

In real life, personal space is... well, personal, because there's TOUCH (or unwanted touching), bad breath, body heat, smells, risk of mugging, etc, that all raise a person's anxiety up. The reactions in RL are all very emotionally and psychologically related.

In Virtual life, the choice to move away is simply TECHNICAL. You have a limited view of the world, so you'll likely choose to move away from anything obstructing that view. And I don't know if Second Life has avatar-to-avatar collision detection; If it does then obviously anything obstructed activities or movement will also be annoying. These are all technical matters.

The Spambot Horde (1)

Badmovies (182275) | more than 6 years ago | (#21243219)

If other online spamvertising models are to be trusted, any actual "human" in Second Life will be set upon by a mob of dirty spambot bums immediately after they log in. Want to find the humans on Second Life? Look in the middle of any spambot herd. That is, if you are able to look before a shuffling mob of spambots surrounds your avatar.

Maybe Second Life could start allowing a chainsaw item. That or they could hire bounty hunters who would ride around on platforms atop big black vans and harpoon the spambots, then hang the gutted spambot carcasses over the side of the van.

Or is this starting to sound too much like "Resident Evil: Second Life Edition?"

Hm (0, Flamebait)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 6 years ago | (#21243591)

Spamming by any other name? You're still being an annoyance, no matter your motivations.
Since it's 'legitimized' apparently by the academics' good intentions, would it also be legitimate for an enthusiastic and devoted Christian to issue a spambot that chases you around with the message of Christ's Forgiveness until your avatar accepts electronic baptism?

Frankly, I think someone should mailbomb the researchers....as part of a legitimate academic survey, of course.
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