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Bot-avatar Pesters Second Life Users (For Science!) 124

holy_calamity writes "A bot-controlled avatar that tracks down lone avatars in Second Life and purposely invades their personal space has been created by UK researchers. The idea was to see if users value their virtual personal space. Bots avatars are not encouraged by Linden Labs — although this one is being deployed by academics, presumably spam-avatars (spavatars?) won't be far behind."
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Bot-avatar Pesters Second Life Users (For Science!)

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  • Bots (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ash-Fox ( 726320 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @11:23AM (#21241447) Journal
    Daily I end up banning a bunch of "naked ruth" bots (as others do) that don't seem todo much other than idle in various places.

    I don't know what they're doing, but if it's for research purposes, it's really getting to be really annoying. The banlist I have has exceeded over a hundred of these being banned and they keep coming back (under different names). This isn't the main grid which is considered public, it's a grid of private simulators (known as the valley sims) and there has not been any permission granted at all for research purposes in the simulators I help out in.

    It is at the end of the day wasting a lot of my time and I consider these bots without prior consent, harassment.
  • Nope (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2007 @11:56AM (#21241797)
    It does not "beg the question." "Begging the question" is a logical fallacy which is not being committed here.

    It raises the question.

  • by ckolar ( 43016 ) <chris&kolar,org> on Monday November 05, 2007 @11:59AM (#21241841) Homepage Journal
    Nice catch on that. By US federal regulations, a research project can only be "exempt" after an IRB reviews the proposal and declares it exempt. Sounds like a contradiction I know, but you are NEVER exempt from being reviewed, just judged to be exempt from additional monitoring/oversight (for low risk situations). A researcher may NEVER decide on their own that the IRB would declare a project exempt.

    Here are links to relevant sites:

    Appendix A: Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects []

    Appendix B: The Belmont Report

    [] []

    A copy of our screening form and a link to the AERA grid for risk and ameliorative measures can be found at: []
  • Re:IRB issue (Score:3, Informative)

    by ckolar ( 43016 ) <chris&kolar,org> on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:14PM (#21242027) Homepage Journal
    Well first off, my gut reaction is to reject everything. :) Just kidding. The problems (and I have not seen more than the article, so I am just making a lot of suppositions here) are like this.

    • 1. As other people posted in this thread, the terms of use for SL indicate that you may not use a bot to collect personal information, and so the users DO have an expectation that they are not being approached by bots for the expressed purpose of collecting personal information.
    • 2. As you mention at the end, the design is significantly flawed WRT yielding useful results.
    • 3. Without IRB review, there is no guarantee of risk abatement for subjects. Back to your street corner example, lets say that one of the people approached was one of the 25% of college women who have been sexually assaulted and the proposition causes her to have an unexplained (to the researcher) anxiety attack, or depressive episode. The researchers here (presumably knowing that they were being annoying) would need to have demonstrated that they could intervene if they created a potentially harmful situation for the subject.
    • 4. The very fact that you are in a public place implies that you are not being part of a research project unless otherwise informed to the contrary -- that is the informed consent part. The burden falls on the researcher. An IRB may approve situations where there is considered minimal risk (do people stand to the left or right on an escalator), but again, the researcher must first demonstrate that there is no risk involved the participants.

    I could come up with more, but this is starting to seem like work. :)

  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @02:36PM (#21244211) Journal
    Well, if there's one thing I've learned in my days on MUDs is that there's always a minority who gets their kicks out of being assholes and annoying to everyone else. And they're always ready and willing to twist logic in the most incredible ways to argue why it's a good thing, and you should allow... nay, be thankful that they're doing it in your game. Among other things:

    - that it's great fun for everyone, and their victims who complain about it somehow don't know what they really want in a game. Why, they'd probably leave in droves if someone didn't harrass them.

    - that it's a pre-requisite for role-playing. (Apparently being killed again and again by someone 30 levels higher than you, and with battlecries of, "LOL! N00B! U SUCK! I FUCKED UR MOM!" is proper role-playing. In fact, the only kind of role playing.)

    - that it was testing, if they were using a bug against everyone else, and they were surely going to report it. They "tested" it 100 times a day for a whole month just to be really sure how it works, and submit a really really good bug-report, you know.

    - that the first amendment gives them a sacred right to say and do whatever they want, anywhere they want, and to anyone they want. And if you try to stop them, that's the road to tyranny and slavery. (Never mind that the actual text refers to the Congress, not to a privately owned server.)

    Etc, etc, etc.

    That it's for scientific research... well, now that's a new excuse. Just when I thought I had heard heard everything.

    But I hope that everyone will excuse me if I still see it through the eyes of a jaded old MUD coder. The primary aspect is that it's (mild) harassment, no matter in the name of what mis-guided idea or excuse it's done. It's inconveniencing someone else, so don't do it.

    Even if it seems like a mild annoyance at best, already there is no shortage of people annoying everyone else. And then there are people who come from a very stressful RL situation to unwind online. Even a mild annoyance just adds to the existing stress, when one is stressed enough. If someone came home after the boss riding his butt for 2 hours, dealing with clueless people for the other 6, and maybe add something like a visit to the dentist and/or an argument with his wife, the last thing he needs is an annoying newbie getting in his face all the time.

    And I might even shrug and move on if it were a genuine newbie who barely has enough WASD motor skills to get in that room at all, but not enough to maneuver himself in a socially acceptable position. But it being a (mild) harassment bot and justified as "research"... dunno... just feels... wrong.
  • by Fulcrum of Evil ( 560260 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @09:25PM (#21249429)
    10 feet is a lot closer with a knife if you're in a cramped hallway.

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.