Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Griefing Process

So, the griefing didn't end with a cube-burying incident at my favorite sandbox. For the last several days, about half the time I set foot in a public sandbox or infohub, a griefer (or, in one case, griefers, plural) set on me within a few minutes. Sometimes it's a repeat of the flying obscene graphics and cubes-of-bumping; other times it's lower-key things like verbal harassment and constantly been pushed by other avatars. Sometimes avatars just walk up to me, remove all their clothes, and attach giant genitalia. It's truly charming. But, plainly, they have some way of detecting my presence at some of my usual haunts.

I haven't been able to figure out whether this is just one person or an organized group that are specifically targeting me and/or possibly other people. All the accounts coming after me are throwaways, new "residents" in SL born that very day, obviously created for the purpose of harassing people or disrupting Second Life until the Lindens get around to closing them down. But the users obviously have some degree of SL experience: even an experienced programmer new to Second Life would need a little more time to come up with scripts for bombs and obscenity-spewing objects. So these folk(s) obviously have master accounts (or at least friends) that set them up with tools…then they go wreak as much havoc as they can. For "lulz."

I'd suspect it's just one person who's decided to pick on me if it weren't for the varying nature of the attacks—some are relatively sophisticated, while others are just juvenile amateur antics. Some chat type in English, others are in Spanish, Italian or (in one case) possibly Russian. Yes, it could all be one person trying to cover their tracks by varying their harassment…but there was that one occasion when two avatars harassed me simultaneously. It's certainly possible for one person to do that…but, given the level of simultaneous activity from both avatars, seems unlikely.

And, yes, I filed Abuse Reports (ARs) for every incident. And what a lovely experience that has been. I'm pretty much convinced that the performance and design of Second Life's abuse reporting tool is designed to discourage people from actually reporting problems, because it is abysmally slow, and an interface attrocity—it actually defaults to reporting people on your friends list as abusers, rather than people in the area. And don't get me started on the cluttered and completely inscrutable menu of abuse "categories." Please, do I really need to be able to make a distinction between "Harassment>Sexual Harassment" and "Indecency> Broadly offensive content or conduct"? What if it's both? And other categories besides?

So, for the last few days, I've been staying away from infohubs and public sandboxes…except for brief appearances during off hours to see if my presence brings on attacks. By sticking to non-script areas and private builds, I hope I'll drop off the griefers' radar. Nothing has happened for a day now…so maybe they're getting tired. Or bored. Or found another way to get their "lulz."

The most distressing part of this hasn't been the griefers coming after me—I've been in SL long enough to know how to avoid them and get away from harassment if I want. What irks me is when they target me but then start attacking other people in the area—particularly new residents, like they did with the original cube-spewing incident. Then I feel obligated to stick around and try to tell other victims how to deal with it. I was attacked within minutes of starting Second Life—someone caged me—and somehow stuck with SL. But I imagine most people, confronted with griefing immediately on entering the virtual world, would quit right then and there.

The Lindens have been talking lately about improving the "first hour" experience of new residents. I have one major suggestion for them that doesn't involve re-writing notecards or trying to get people to hook up PayPal accounts and credit cards: keep griefers away from newbies. Heck, keep them away from all of us.


  1. I think they are going to try harder to funnel new users into places better than the current welcome areas. I wish they would ditch the current start areas and just tell people to get out there and be careful, and report abuse.

    On the categories - you're almost short enough to claim sexual behaviour around a child , that one tends to get handled much much faster ;)

    (Seriously, I've seen someone TP in in a few minutes to handle that kind of case)

  2. Well, I don't want to get plinked by the Lindens for filing a false report. I don't claim to be a child, I don't look like a child, I don't act like a child, and I'm not a child.

    Plus, I'll have you know that at like 160 cm, I'm substantially *taller* in SL than I am in RL…just like almost everybody else. :)


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