I’m back from a short (unfortunately), but much-needed vacation and already there’s a sizeable deal of things that need to be tackled. I had hoped that the first things I’d blog about in August would be potential uses of virtual worlds in the tourism industry (such as showcasing destinations, monuments, archaeological sites etc), in vocational training and education – not least because of a shift in the direction my use of SL (and other virtual worlds in the near future) is more than likely to take.
Unfortunately, right now I have to start considering other things, like self-hosting my blog and perhaps even switching to an entirely different CMS (Content Management System), due to recent “improvements” to WordPress.com’s editor that make composing long posts (longer than 150-250 words) a major chore.
Let me also point out that WordPress.com’s cavalier attitude is entirely unacceptable – mind you, Linden Lab’s developers are actually infinitely better than the ones at WordPress when it comes to listening to the user base. So, I’m going to have to start considering my options. Until then, I’m afraid my blogging here will be slower – not only because of the counter-intuitive and counter-productive WordPress “improvements”, but also because I’ll be busy considering my alternatives. I think that, come September or October, some major changes will have to take place.
Anyway, enough of this. Let’s move on to other news. Or “news” – however you want to call them. On July 26th, some SL user/blogger that goes by the “Holger Gilruth” handle started spreading a rumour that the Firestorm viewer has been removed from Linden Lab’s trusted third-party viewers directory because it “steals user data”. He actually made two posts about it, one in his native language (German) and one in English – and also made posts on his Google+ profile and on his Twitter account, Vienna Freebies:
- BREAKING NEWS: Lindenlab hat dem Firestorm Team wegen Logindaten Diebstahl die Lizenz enzogen (his original article in German)
- Breaking News: Firestorm Viewer removed from trusted Viewer List at Lindenlab (English-language version)
He also claimed that this was announced as a group notice in Pete Linden’s (Peter Gray, LL’s Director of Global Communications) invite-only “Second Life Press Corps” in-world group. This is where things become fishy, and below I’m giving you the reasons why:
- Of all the bloggers in that group, he was the only one to disclose such an important announcement? Why didn’t we see any posts by the likes of Inara Pey or Jo Yardley, for instance?
- If something as big and important as this was true, wouldn’t the Lab itself have made an official announcement as it had done with Emerald in the past and removed Firestorm from its official TPV directory?
- If any of this was true, shouldn’t Mr. Gilruth have quoted the group notice and/or announcement verbatim to back up his claims?
- If any of this was true, shouldn’t Mr. Gilruth have presented evidence to those who, like me, questioned his reliability and motives?
Nothing of that happened. Instead:
- Mr. Gilruth censored the comments submitted to his blog and Google+ profile by ordinary users and Firestorm developers who were:
- Demanding evidence and proof of his claims;
- Pointing out he was spreading false rumours.
- Mr. Gilruth blacklisted blog commenters (like me) who demanded evidence and proof of what he was saying, making it impossible for us to even read his blog from those IPs. And yes, unlike Mr. Gilruth, I actually can back up my claims, as I’ve kept a screenshot from my tablet.
Now, what does all of this tell us about Mr. Gilruth’s credibility and reliability? Simply, that something wasn’t right about his claims. If he had proof, shouldn’t he have provided it to us? The truth is, he had no proof at all. In fact, it was explained right from the start that this was a petulant act of retaliation against the Firestorm team. They called him out for being an obnoxious prick on this issue on the Firestorm JIRA, and he decided to exact revenge. Of course, his little plan to libel Firestorm blew up in his face in a big way.
But that’s not all… The biggest blow to his credibility (if he ever had any) came from Pete Linden himself in SL’s official forums, who said (and I quote verbatim):
To be clear: no such notice was sent to the Press Corps group (in fact, no notices of any kind have been sent to the group recently). And, as others have already pointed out, the Firestorm Viewer remains in our directory of third party viewers: http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Third_Party_Viewer_Directory
So, there you have it. None of the other SL bloggers that are members of the “Second Life Press Corps” group have seen any such notice. Pete Linden has never issued such a notice. Firestorm is always in the Third Party Viewer Directory. And you also have a motive for Mr. Gilruth’s actions: axes to grind with the Firestorm team. And what was Mr. Gilruth’s response to it all? Has there been any retraction? Did he own up to his false accusations? No. He just pretends nothing of this has ever happened – very Goebbels-like: keep lying, it’ll eventually stick.
That said, I want to point out once again the importance of choosing your sources. There are credible, reputable bloggers out there who work very hard at cross-checking what they write, have the decency and honesty to correct their posts if something is proven wrong, and don’t go off spewing sensationalist lies in order to harm others. From all this, it becomes – I hope – very obvious that Holger Gilruth is not a credible source at all, and that everything he claims should be taken with a shipload of salt.
The issue here, however, is not just Mr. Gilruth: It’s the tendency of a large number of SL users to choose to believe sensationalist agitators, conspiracy theorists with dubious motives (hell, the likes of Glenn Beck and Alex Jones are wildly popular outside of SL), and other such sources and propagandists. In various contexts (both in SL and outside of it), I have seen people who, when presented with facts, said “yeah, OK, I know this is how it really is, but I choose to believe it’s not.” And this reduces the level of discourse to…