Intolerance and Social Media

Today I had to ban the first troll from the official Discord server, for posting racist and homophobic statements and then denying she had said anything wrong (i.e. gaslighting). I am getting truly fed up with the amount of hate and prejudice I am beginning to see on most social media, and I will not hesitate to pull out the banhammer if I see it erupt on my Discord. This person was banned and all her posts deleted.

My rules for the Discord include the following statement which I essentially lifted verbatim from Linden Lab:

Intolerance: This server encourages social interactions between users across multiple countries. The use of derogatory or demeaning language or images based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual orientation is prohibited. Actions that marginalize, belittle, or defame users or groups are similarly prohibited. Hate speech of any kind is prohibited.

I have frankly had enough of the toxic stew that many social media platforms have become. I have left Facebook, and Google+ will soon shut down. I have, for own sanity, blocked Donald Trump on Twitter, and I am spending a lot less time there (although I do still cross-post my blogposts there, and I will continue to do so). I feel like taking a good, long vacation from all social media, except my blog and my Discord. I may just do that.

I think we all need to stop and think hard about this monster we have all had a part in creating and sustaining, and what kind of negative impact it is having on society. Some people feel they now have a platform to spread misinformation, lies, and hatred with impunity, and we must all do our part to stand up, call them on their bullshit, and put a stop to it.

NEW: I Have Joined Patreon!

Have you joined the Discord yet? More details here

Ryan Schultz Patreon 21 Nov 2018.png

Well, as you can see, it’s been a week of expansion here on! In addition to launching my new Discord server, I have joined Patreon! Here’s my new Patreon page.

I myself am a proud $5-a-month Patreon supporter of the creator of the wonderful Piggu Second Life mesh avatars, Jonathan and June (here’s a link to her Patreon page). And I’ve finally decided it’s time for me to take the fund-raising plunge myself!

In case you’re wondering, Patreon is a simple way for you to contribute to support my blogging (as well as the upcoming Metaverse Newscast show), and get great rewards in return:

Bronze Patron

(if you donate $1 or more per month)

Every single dollar helps support! Your rewards:

  • Read patron-only content on my Patreon page: special messages, news, and views only for my patrons!
  • Participate in special patron-only text Discord channels on my Discord server! Think of it as your own members-only salon 😉

Silver Patron

(if you donate $5 or more per month)

This is where you really start to see benefits! Your rewards:

  • Read patron-only content on my Patreon page
  • Participate in patron-only text Discord channels
  • Participate in regularly-scheduled live Discord voice discussions, with Ryan hosting! PARTY LINE! 🙂

Gold Patron

(if you donate $10 or more per month)

The complete package! Your rewards:

  • Read patron-only content here on my Patreon page
  • Participate in patron-only text Discord channels
  • Participate in regularly-scheduled live Discord voice discussions with Ryan hosting
  • Your name will be included in the Gold and Platinum Patrons page prominently displayed on the blog (along with a photograph/picture of your choice and a personal message)!

Platinum Patron

(if you donate $25 or more per month)

The ULTIMATE package! Your rewards:

  • Read patron-only content here on my Patreon page
  • Participate in patron-only text Discord channels
  • Participate in regularly-scheduled live Discord voice discussions with Ryan hosting
  • Your name will be included in the Gold and Platinum Patrons page prominently displayed on the blog (along with a photograph/picture of your choice and a personal message)
  • An exclusive monthly one-hour consult with Ryan (via voice on Discord or Skype) on any topic relating to social VR platforms and virtual worlds. Pick my brains, ask me questions, find out my opinions about various products. Let me be your personal tour guide to the metaverse, with customized advice and recommendations on where to go, what to do, and what to see!

So, as you can see, membership has its benefits 😉

I hope that you will consider supporting me as I continue to write what some people are calling the best blog on the internet about social VR:

Hey Ryan, I’m an avid reader of your blog… As a fellow VR enthusiast, I share your mix of excitement and trepidation – I’ve spent so much time and money trying to find my own place in this emerging medium, and sometimes it’s great and other times it feels like an uphill battle. I’d just remind you that your blog is, as far as I’ve seen, the number one blog on social VR out there. You have something valuable here, even if it’s not always that clear to you. You have many readers and we all look up to you and look forward to your pieces. You’ve done a great job of sharing much-needed information about all these different worlds and the people in them. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say you are one of the leading experts on social VR.

Jason Moore (in a comment to a recent blogpost)

And whether or not you choose to support me financially, I do want to say, from the bottom of my heart: Thank you for reading this blog! I really do appreciate it!

Image by geralt on Pixabay

(And a special thank-you to my friend Galen, who provided me with expert advice on how to set up my Patreon page with links to my new Discord server!)

NEW! A Discord Server for Readers

I’ve decided to emulate a couple of bloggers whom I know (Strawberry Singh and Wagner James Au), and I have set up my own Discord server, an online community especially for readers!

The focus will be the same as the tagline of this blog states: news and views on social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse, as well as a more general discussion of virtual reality and augmented reality topics. And you’re invited to join us!

Here’s the invite link, or you can simply scroll down and look for the new Discord widget on the left-hand-side panel of my blog, located right under the search box and above my fancy new social media buttons: Discord Server.png

If you are connecting via a smartphone or tablet instead of your computer desktop, just click the three-bars menu button in the upper-right hand corner, then scroll down until you see the Discord widget displayed.

I’m looking forward to seeing you online! We’ll have some very interesting discussions, I’m sure! As Adam Frisby told me tonight, my Discord promises to be the first cross-worlds server, a true melting-pot of citizens from the various metaverse platforms!

Please be sure to read the rules posted in the #rules channel, and feel free to ask me if you have any questions, or if you want to suggest a custom channel. Thanks!

IMPORTANT NOTE: I will now be staying logged in to Discord on my home computer 24/7/365 (unless my PC has crashed, there’s a power failure, etc.). During the day, while it may look like I am online, I’m not around (especially when I am at work, although I may pop in from time to time just to make sure you haven’t broken any furniture or burned the whole damn place down 😉 ). Remember: behave yourselves! You guys can certainly have wonderful discussions without me hanging around all the time, anyway, and I will usually be available in the evenings and on weekends.

Intellectual Property and Copyright Issues in Social VR/Virtual Worlds: A Follow-Up Editorial

Apparently, Ghoster (whom I interviewed previously) is quite peeved at me for, and I quote, “bashing [his] server and VRChat”.

I didn’t even realize he was upset with me until I started chatting with him today on his new Discord server, Hi-Fi Traders, which is set up much the same as his previous server, VRChat Traders: a forum where people seeking a custom avatar can connect with avatar designers, creators, and riggers. The services are quite popular, and some people likely make a good side or full-time income from custom avatar creation for paying customers.

Ghoster probably has a right to be angry with me, after what I wrote about intellectual property and copyright issues in virtual worlds. He might feel, and not without some reason, that it was a personal attack. (It certainly wasn’t, but I can understand where he’s coming from.)

And it would appear that I have now been banned from Hi-Fi Traders, and probably VRChat Traders, too. I was still on the Hi-Fi Traders Discord channel when I found myself suddenly kicked out.

Before I was unceremoniously booted off his server, I told Ghoster (twice) that I would gladly give him a guest blogger spot to post a detailed rebuttal of my original blogpost, but it would seem that throwing me out was the preferred approach. I still stand by my original blogpost, and the argument I am making today. Also, I am not singling out VRChat, either; I have also blogged about IP infringement on OpenSim-based virtual worlds, and what I have to say here applies to all metaverse platforms, not just VRChat.

All I have done is point out that people charging money for the creation of custom avatars, where they do not own the intellectual property, are operating on sketchy legal grounds. Ghoster told me today that the high number of concurrent users on VRChat makes it difficult to police this sort of thing. That’s true. But frankly, that’s not an excuse for clear-cut cases of copyright infringement.

Custom avatar creation is a sort of cottage industry, much like those peasants who did piecework on their weaving looms before the Industrial Revolution came along. That’s fine, and I fully and completely support that work. (Many people still make a living creating and selling content on Second Life after 15 years of operation, for example.)

And creating a custom avatar inspired by someone else’s intellectual property is okay. For example, Roger Rabbit in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit is based on a mash-up of Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, and Goofy:

Roger is a slender, white rabbit with large blue eyes, pink nose, a tuft of red hair who wears red overalls, yellow gloves, and a blue yellow polka dot bow tie. He is an amalgamation of various classic cartoon characters; taking Bugs Bunny’s cartoon rabbit form, Mickey’s gloves, and Goofy’s baggy pants. Animator Richard Williams described the process of creating him like an “American flag” with the red overalls, white fur and blue bow tie and American audiences would enjoy him subliminally.

But, if you make an exact copy of Mickey Mouse as a custom avatar for somebody and charge them money for it, don’t be surprised to find the Disney lawyers breathing down your neck (or, more likely, going after VRChat, High Fidelity, or whatever virtual world is hosting that avatar). Even worse, if you create a Mickey Mouse avatar modified in some X-rated way, you’re really skating on thin ice if someone reports you to Disney Inc. They don’t look kindly on that sort of thing.

And I do know that Linden Lab (for example) is monitoring items placed in the Sansar Store, to ensure that no copyright-infringing items are placed up for sale. (They do have Star Trek items up, but it is with the explicit permission of the Roddenberry estate.) In fact, very recently, a lovingly-detailed, fan-made recreation of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation was pulled offline following a cease and desist from CBS.

As far as I am aware, VRChat is still not doing that sort of checking. (And giving it away for free isn’t an excuse.) They are opening themselves up to a possible lawsuit. So is any other social VR platform or virtual world that is allowing people to recklessly copy somebody else’s intellectual property without permission. And if the company owning the IP comes after a virtual world platform, they have no choice but to comply.

And kicking me off your Discord server, because you don’t want to hear that, isn’t going to change that reality one bit.

You might not agree with it, you can protest it, but it’s the law.

Sorry, Ghoster. I hope you can forgive me over time. But it doesn’t change the facts. Your beef isn’t with me; it’s with the system. If you disagree, then put your efforts into copyright reform, not into a personal feud with me. Don’t shoot the messenger.