Sunday, January 20, 2013

"Elementary, my Dear Watson"

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Great Detective, Sherlock Holmes, is famous for his deductive powers.  By simply examining a person, or some clue left at a crime scene, he can reel off an astonishing amount of information to his friend Doctor Watson, or Inspector LeStrade.

We could learn something from Holmes.  In Second Life, there are Clues to be watched for and noted.  Such clues can give you an important "heads up", warning you of avatars with Evil Intentions, or alerting you to a possible scam or an emotional trap.

My partner Cindi describes it as her "radar".  Something about an avatar just throws up warning flags for her, even if she can't put her finger on it.  If that feeling happens to you, pay attention to it.  Even if we are not the Great Detective, sometimes things we don't consciously notice can add up to a warning to steer clear.

One thing I always do when meeting someone new, or even before approaching them,  is read their Profile.  Profiles give you an amazing amount of information about someone...even some things they did not intend.  Things like...

  • Avatar username and Display Name.  A guy with the name "Stud94527"  tells me that this person is new to Second Life, and cruising for casual sex.  A girl with the name "FkUrFeelinqs" is probably not very good Friend material.  See "What's in a Name?"
  • Avatar age.  Avatars less than three months old are usually noobs.  But not always.  If the avatar age doesn't match up with the avatar's appearance and the way they handle things like chat emoting, they may be an alt -- a new avatar account created by an experienced Second Life user.  Alts can have benign purposes, but they may also be created to hide one's activities from one's friends, to grief other residents, to stalk people (maybe you!)  They may also have been created to get away from an ex-lover, and while you may be sympathetic to this, remember that any relationship has two sides.  What did this person do to contribute to the breakup, and are they likely to do it to you?
  • Groups.  A profile with groups that are ALL slanted to one thing is probably obsessed with that thing, whether it be sailing or BDSM.  A profile with NO groups, combined with an avatar age of several months or more, indicates a person is deliberately hiding their groups.  Which makes you wonder what in the world they are hiding about themselves.
  • Picks.  Similar to Group listings.  What does this person find enjoyable?  Are her Picks all stores?  Or all clubs?  Or have they used Picks to showcase the people that are important to them in Second Life?  If the latter, what kind of people do they hang out with?  Have a look at THEIR Profiles, too.
  • First Life tab.  Most people I meet leave this blank, or put in some smartass comment about "SL is SL and RL is RL.  Off limits."  Some put in actual Real Life details, like "Female 22, UK, single."  And some of these include what is alleged to be a Real Life photograph.  Please note I say "alleged", because it's very easy to simply grab a picture off the Internet and claim that it is "you."  Someone who puts a lot of information in their First Life tab is probably an "augmentationist," or as I like to call them, a Facebooker.  This is not necessarily a Bad Thing, but it says to me that this person and I don't have much in common in our approach to Second Life.
  • Description.  I like finding something charming and witty here.  Quotes from song lyrics or poetry are a distant second to original material, for me.  But snarky comments like "Don't call me Babe or Hun," or "I am always brutally honest," or "NOTICE:  All chat and IMs are logged and I reserve the right to do whatever I want with them," tell me that this is a person to be avoided.
Avatar appearance.  I look for things like...
  • An account age of several years combined with a noob avatar could mean someone that is simply trying SL again after a long hiatus.  But it could be that they either STILL have no clue as to what SL is about, after years of trying, or their interests lie in completely different directions to mine.
  • A bizarre or ugly shape.  People who deliberately make themselves ugly on the outside generally have a lot of ugliness inside.  
  • Exaggerated male or female characteristics.  This person is probably highly interested in casual cyber-sex.  At the extremes, such as size JJJ boobs, they are most likely a fetishist of some kind.
  • Poor quality clothing, or poorly edited attachments.  Depending on avatar age, they may simply not give a damn, or they could be a slow learner.  Or they might be a sloppy and careless sort.
Communication skills.  How does this person communicate?  Look for things like...
  • Internet and gamer slang.  The occasional "BRB" or "LOL" is OK.  But people who type things like "RU bzy" or "u r so pwned" are probably very young.  Maybe TOO young to be in SL.  Plus they are likely to treat SL as a "game," which again puts them on the "not good Lindal friend material" list.
  • Poor spelling and grammar.  This could just be a bad typist, but people who don't care about precision of language and I will probably never be close friends.
  •  Voice.  I hate to say it, but those who voice and those who type really don't have much in common.  It's too bad, because I'm sure I'd like a lot of the voicers if I once got to know them.  But it's sort of like trying to communicate with someone who doesn't speak English.  You CAN talk to them (using a translator), but there is always the sense of that language barrier being there.
  • Do they respond to you?  I have met "beggar bots" who seem at first meeting to be real people.  However, no matter what you say, they seem to ignore it, and the next thing they type doesn't have anything to do with what YOU said.  There are two clues to detecting a beggar bot:  They don't respond to insults or non-sequitur remarks...and they always, in the end, ask you for money.  
Finally, have a look at behavior.
  • If a person is standing perfectly still for a long time and not responding to your chat or IMs, it is possible (though far from a sure thing) that they are a copybot stealing your stuff.  
  • If they are running around and colliding with people, they are probably new and either don't know how to control their movement, or thinking it is a great sport.  
  • If someone appears on your land and suddenly things start going nuts, they are a griefer.  
  • If someone is wearing visible genitals, they might simply be having technical difficulties, or they may be trying to shock others.
  • If they are wearing invisible genitals, they are probably cruising for casual sex.
  • If they are carrying weapons they may be simply a forgetful roleplayer, or they may be a griefer looking for trouble.  Decorative weapons, like a holstered gun or a sheathed sword, are one thing.  Invisible weapons attached to the hands are something else again.  CTRL+ALT+T to see invisible objects.
  • If they IM you out of the blue instead of introducing themselves in local chat first, they may be out for sex, or simply ignorant of etiquette.
  • If someone you don't know sends you a URL in IM, local chat, or group chat, be very careful.  It could be a phishing scam trying to trick you out of your password.
  • If their Profile says they have a partner, but they are coming on to you, this is probably someone who doesn't care much about others.  They will do the same to you.
Keep your eyes open and look for Clues, and listen to your feelings, too.  You will have a more serene Second Life.

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