Sunday, 20 January 2008

Spammed by Prok

When Prokofy Neva adds his two cents to someone’s blog, the result can resemble a spam attack. Out of the ten posts existing yesterday on Danton’s blog, six have been hit with long comments by Prokofy, signing in as Dyerbrookme. On three of the posts, he made two comments rather than one. And several of Prok’s comments are longer than the original posts.

Danton Sideways is flattered to have received this attention from Second Life’s foremost pundit. As I indicated in my post about Second Life Loudmouths, I find Prokofy to be consistently interesting and informative. Moreover, his incisive critical analyses help me to understand this scene I recently joined in creating my avatar on Second Life. As is his general wont, however, Prokofy has gone into exhaustive detail in responding to my posts. It may therefore be helpful if I provide a brief summary of Prokofy’s comments, for those who lack the time to read through them all.

It could be noted in passing that Prokofy suggests that there is room for a Second Life newspaper giving "news, satire, cartoons, classifieds that was not tied to the land baron business, or banks, or to a TV station," and that he offers additional explanations for the phenomenon that I have called Second Life Blues. But the main gist of his comments concern Second Life economics and politics, so let us turn to those subjects without further ado.

Prokofy reacts strongly to my question about whether he is a member of the Second Life oligarchy, up at the top of the economic pyramid, alongside the likes of Anshe Chung. Harrison Randolfe had already mentioned in a note added to his famous pyramid scheme article: "I thank Prokofy for enlightening me to some of the bitter realities experienced by those on top of Second Life's economic order." In his comment on the present blog, however, Prokofy denies being "on top" of the pyramid, stating: "the land barons, while famous for having Anshe Chung supposedly making a real-life million, are collectively, much lower wage-earners than the content creators" such as animation wizards Craig Altman, Owen Khan or Cristiano Midnight, or dress designer Simone Stern. Prokofy observes that land barons have far greater costs (tier, prefabs) and spend more hours doing customer service, and claims that he personally is quite low on the pyramid because he deals in mainland rentals: "any island dealer with 20-30 islands probably makes double what I do, because islands simply sell better and are more fully occupied." He concludes that if most of the Second Life business people, including himself, billed for their hours, they would break even or lose. (Note that this was the main thesis of my post anyway - one which Prokofy seems to confirm.)

Prokofy then gets more positive and corroborates Gwyneth Llewelyn's encouragements, suggesting that there still exist many possibilities for opening up new businesses in Second Life. He points to the many newcomers from outside the Anglo-Saxon countries (Brazilians, Dutch, Russians) who have lowered the prices in rentals, services, and widget businesses, and added better service, notably by avoiding the tendency to over-script everything. The most successful are those who log on and stand behind their store counter day and night. Prokofy also notes that there are many content creators making money from prefabs, furniture, animations, clothing and inventions to do various things.

Prokofy’s reaction to Madame Irma’s pronouncements is of a different sort. Here what he objects to is Madame Irma’s insistence that "nobody shops in malls anymore," seeing in it an echo of the snobbish disdain that the Feted Inner Core had expressed for Anshe's "tacky" malls, before economic logic obliged many of them to join the mall scene. Prokofy claims on the contrary that people do still shop in malls: currently popular shopping sims such as Tableau are essentially higher-end malls on private islands. He does however agree with Madame that the overwhelming majority of sales in Second Life are currently made through search ads, despite the tiny minority that still make their fortunes through word of mouth (which is undeniably important), and that loudly insist on the forums that "nobody" uses search and that it is "broken". Prokofy concludes that people with little boutiques and a special clientele refuse to believe in malls, but in studying Second Life economy one must set aside blinders of class taste and go to see what is happening in the field. (Danton did try to do that, but his first excursion took him no further than Madame Irma’s world-view.)

Prokofy’s reactions to Danton’s political musings are mostly concentrated in his comments on my Troubled Sleep post. He says the leftists in CDS don’t need to create a separate leftist city, because CDS is already leftist, in that the land is not for sale on the open market. What does he mean by that? I bought a total of three plots in Colonia Nova, and last week I sold one of them by putting it up for sale "to anyone." It was purchased during my absence by a complete stranger who simply clicked on "pay." Prokofy must be referring to something else, because he tells about how he opened Ravenglass to the general public for sale, and everyone said he would be flash-mobbed by land barons, but he wasn’t. He holds this up as a model for CDS to follow, claiming that the fear of right-wing plotters buying it all up is what prevents the Frieswiththat (his play on the name Neufreistadt) gang from letting the sim become a truly open democracy. According to Prokofy, decent prices and a covenant would be sufficient to prevent that from happening.

And Prokofy repeatedly points to Danton’s unfamiliarity with all of these issues. In one comment he states directly: "Danton, you have to study SL history and economics way more than you have." I’m painfully aware of this. I break out in a cold sweat wondering how I am going to keep up with all the new posts of the main Second Life bloggers - let alone read the past ones! I claim to have clinically identified a condition of in-world avatar anguish, for which I modestly propose the name Danton’s Syndrome. What then will we call this out-of-world obsession with trying to keep up with the Second Life blogs and forums? Since the name "Danton" has already been used, perhaps this separate but related disease, which I again claim to be the first to have clinically identified, could be called the "Sideways Syndrome."


Taran Rampersad said...

Do not believe all that is written. A lot of it is a deck of cards, especially when describing people - such as myself (Nobody Fugazi).

As far as one of the 'foremost pundits', well - perhaps one of the most outspoken. I think of her as the Howard Stern of Second Life.

Of course, I expect that she will respond to this somewhere - perhaps here, perhaps on her blog - and from the shadow cast you will know what the light doesn't reveal.

Danton Sideways said...

Prokofy, who never shirks a confrontation, has many enemies. Some of them profit, wittingly or unwittingly, from their clashes with him. For example, I was recently led to the blog of SL legal expert Robert Duranske, who has become bitterly anti-Prokofy, by reading a Prokofy post about Duranske. I was seriously considering provoking a fight with Prokofy merely to draw some attention to my own blog. But Prokofy found me by himself – and his enemies followed.

Danton Sideways said...

Oops, his name is Benjamin Duranske, not Robert.

Blogger apparently doesn't allow making corrections to previously posted comments.

This reminds me of an observation made by Sunir Shah, the creator of MeatballWiki: "Everything that you write on the Internet can - and will - be used against you forever."

Taran Rampersad said...

Danton, you mean Benjamin Duranske.

The trouble with her jibes and people giving her credence is that they unwittingly give her jibes credence. This can cause problems, and may even be considered something worthy of legal recourse. When you get Googled on the web, do you really want to see what Prokofy Neva has written about you in the first page of search results? Or what a future employer would see? Or maybe your children, your wife? Probably not.

Danton Sideways said...

Sunir Shah, whom I’ve quoted above, also called the Internet "Jain," after the non-violent religion of that name. He was implying that the relative permanence of web records argues for the avoidance of flame wars simply for reasons of long-term self-protection. I have a certain respect for Prokofy’s fearless combativeness, but my personal approach is more pacifistic.

Now that you’ve come into my ken, Taran, I’ve Googled you. You would be Taran Rampersad, computer consultant, software developer, educator for the University of the West Indies School of Continuing Studies, who runs the website On Second Life you are Nobody Fugazi, scripter, builder and businessperson with a knowledge of in-world finance. You run the SL website, and are the author of "Making Your Mark in Second Life: Business, Land and Money," edited by O'Reilly Publishing.

Your conflict with Prokofy goes a long ways back. I found for example on Prokofy’s blog a post called "Nobody vs. Somebody" (dated December 09, 2006) which testifies to the virulence of the dispute between you two. And in a recent post called "Aspirations for World Domination" (dated January 15, 2008) Prokofy suggests that both Nobody Fugazi and Benjamin Duranske seek to dominate the world. In your case this accusation seems to be prompted by your advocacy of something like the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to develop laws to govern Second Life, because of the banking crisis.

If I were an experienced forum mediator like Sunir, I might try to calm things down between you two. But being only a Second Life newbie writing the umpteenth SL blog, which will probably be forgotten by everyone within a week, it would probably be more prudent if I just tried to stay out of the whole thing.

dyerbrookME said...

I think the only thing you have to understand about Nobody Fugazi is that he not only bans people from his site if he doesn't like their criticism, he prevents them from even *reading* his site by using Drupal to block even reading. It's absolutely hilarious. Google Reader gets around some of that, of course, but it's indicative.

And the only thing you have to know about Benjamin Duranske is that he is not a practicing attorney and is between jobs, and that he banned me from his site not for anything I wrote on his site, but for what I wrote on my own.

I really don't care if the Internet preserves words forever. I can always rebut the sort of crazy narrow-minded hysterical Soviet-style denunciations that Nobody and Benjamin have put up against me, that only draw more people to read my blog.


Taran Rampersad said...


I ban trolls from my blog who spew hatred and venom and try to claw other people down so that they can make themselves look good (case in point).

And so, if you were banned you fit those criteria. And your post here certainly makes my point for me. Thank you. Have a good time, Prok, but reacquaint yourself with Newton's Third Law.

Taran Rampersad said...

@Danton -

Since you have googled, then you will notice that I have not attacked. I have been attacked. And googling me is not knowing me, as much as reading Prok does not tell you of anyone else.

You seem to have a discerning mind. Ask yourself what you would do if posts of venom and hatred that misrepresented you started appearing from a single person who you have had no contact with and who you don't want contact with.

Now dig into the roots of the 13 pages of hatred she posted about me, misrepresenting me as a socialist and many other things. Why? What sort of person does that? If you want to play psychiatrist, I'd ask you to endeavor placing the person who attacks the most on the couch. :-)

I am done here. But I imagine your friend is not. Later. :-)

dyerbrookME said...

Well, Danton, you're intelligent, draw your own conclusions. Both Nobody and Duranske are fussy little males of a certain age that fly into hysteria when their arrogant and controlling manner toward the world is discerned and challenged. It drives them batty, they get into rages. I just steadily keep attacking it, because I don't think people like that should take over.

Nobody/Taran *is* socialist on something -- some of this warmed over third-worldism he espouses, like the love of WSIS -- and on other things, he's technolibertarian/Randian/whatever you want to call it, it's the SL variant of the geek religion.

Often when I'm persistent about rebutting the ideological claims of people like Busybody and Sycophanske, their rage is displaced, somehow, and they come to see me as "venomous".