Second Lifer Astrophysicist McCallister, whose real name is Skyler McKinley, was kind enough to comment again one my blog. He described the report that a Gravel aide had been involved in vandalizing the John Edward HQ in Second Life as "misinformation." So I looked into it a little further.
Let me say a couple of things first...
Number One: I understand that Second Life (along with the Internet in general) is growing and evolving. Maybe Second Life will morph so completely that it will cease to be a game one day; but that day isn't here yet, I don't think. And so my attitude is one of tongue-in-cheek humor as I think about trying to convince someone whose appearance is a cross between a cartoon character and a mythical beast from Homer's Odyssey that they should vote for my candidate for President.
Number Two: On a scale of geekiness, I probably only get a four or five out of ten. But I am computer literate, involved in the Internet, and thrilled about the coming of the Information Age. I use a SmartBoard in my classroom almost daily. I send and/or receive 50 to 100 emails a day. I read my news mostly online. I have a Facebook page. I made part of my living by blogging and creating Internet content for the New York Times Company for about eight years and I still make money blogging. I can use PowerPoint, Excel, Access, and Word. I own a digital camera and I listen to MP3s. So I'm not throwing off on Second Life per se (it's probably a great game) or on Internet communication in general. It's the way I communicate, too.
That said, I found myself laughing a lot a I explored what information (and misinformation) I could find about the cyber-attack on the Edward’s HQ in Second Life.
Unless there were two attacks, Skyler seems to be correct in saying that the idea that a Gravel aide was involved is just misinformation. Did an attack happen? The Edwards campaign has a blog post about it at their official campaign website where a "witness" describes seeing it and says that the perpetrators were (gasp) Republicans. The attack included cyber-feces (which I’m guessing doesn't smell as bad as the real stuff). It's not clear to me how the witness could tell that the vandals were Republicans. S/he took notes, saved chat logs, and filed a report with Second Life's owner, Linden Labs. That strikes me a something akin to calling Mattel because I think someone molested my Barbie doll, but what do I know.
The source of the misinformation was Wonkette, published in July of 2007. The Edwards blog post is dated February 28, 2007 - almost five months earlier. So if there was a Gravel aide involved in an attack on the Edwards HQ in Second Life, it was a second attack I'd say. But Wonkette is the only source I found.
On the other hand, there are a number of stories about the February cyber-attack on Edwards. Vox said in March that "anarchist hippies" did it. Vox called them "virtual terrorists" and said the group calls itself "Patriotic Nigras: e-terrorists at large." Wired Blog Network has a short piece dated March 1st with a good picture of the damage. And 10 Zen Monkeys has a longer article on the attack, published on March 5th.
Besides the one from Skyler, I got two comments on the first story. The one by Second Lifer Kiwini Oe (whose real name appears to be Steven Nelson) was interesting. Follow his logic:
20 years ago there were chat rooms and message boards. Some people used them to play games, others to lead fantasy lives, and others to discuss politics with people located around the world. Graphics hardware, network speeds, processing power, software have all evolved over time, and a multiuser interface like Second Life is the result. Some people use it to play games, others to lead fantasy lives, and others to discuss politics with people located around the world.And the problem is one of unraveling those incompatible uses if the goal of political discussion is to accomplish something in the real world. They're not going to have a Second Life Primary anytime soon that leads to real delegates at the real nominating conventions (I don't think).
The last comment was from an anonymous person claiming to be Second Lifer Pollywog Gardenvale (Claire Condra in the real world) who did the interview with Skyler's Second Life alter ego on the Gravel campaign in the virtual world. I have no reason to doubt that she is who she says she is; but she evidently doesn't have an ID for Blogspot, so I don't know how I'd verify it.
She says two things that stuck out to me:
- "My interview with Skyler McKinley (Astrophysicist McCallister) is no less valid because it was conducted inside a virtual world rather than by phone or e-mail." Well, I suppose that's a matter of opinion. I've taught fact verse opinion to fourth and fifth graders regularly for a couple of years now as part of their reading curriculum. I'm not sure how you define "valid" in this context. But in a setting where your subject might be playing a fantasy game, what do his answers mean to me as a reader?
You seem to have had a marvelous career in publishing, dating back to at least the 1990's when you (I think) were publishing stuff on time management in the San Diego Business Journal. If one of the purposes of writing is to entertain, your piece does that. I wasn't throwing off on your work. I was throwing off on the idea of political activity inside Second Life.
- "I've attended a number of conferences and business meetings inside Second Life and have met interesting people from all over the world." Hmmm. I doubt that. Not that I'm calling you a liar. But as I understand it, there are no "people" in Second Life; just avatars. Perhaps our perception of what is real differs significantly.
So let's sum up.
- Second Life is a great game (probably); but I have too much to do in real life to care. (That sounds snotty and I didn't really mean it to sound snotty.) It seems time consuming.
- Political activity inside a virtual world seems pointless. Maybe it's a good place to do fund raising. I understand that Second Life money converts into real cash. But political persuasion seems pointless when you're talking to a space alien or a mythical creature.
- Whatever I think about it, Gravel and Edwards both have their own campaign sites inside the virtual world of Second Life. Edwards’ site got vandalized. There's not much evidence that Gravel's people were involved - none, really, that seem credible.
- I don't really care what happens in Second Life, except perhaps as a source of humor...