I have been meaning to talk about this interesting security system built into the Sistine Chapel build at the Vassar College sim (teleport SLURL). Vassar has instituted a mandatory "Code of Conduct" that they require all virtual visitors to agree to before you can enter the build. This was the first time I had encountered a system like this in Second Life, so I took a short video of the process in action.
After the jump is a fuller description of how it works, which is kind of hard to follow in the video. Then I discuss some of the larger issues around Codes of Conduct for SL sites and the trickiness of wording and enforcing them on your visitors.
(By the way, that’s my girlfriend’s avatar Szyndi Szymborska, in case you were curious.)
As you approach the Sistine Chapel, you are presented with a billboard. Clicking it produces this notecard that warns you that you are going to get stopped at the entrance to the Chapel and asked to agree to their Code of Conduct.
At the threshold of the chapel, you get assaulted with text in chat, blue dialog boxes opening up above you, notecards being tossed at you. I’ve been in SL for awhile, and even I found the process rather overwhelming. Here’s what you see in chat:
[18:18] NDE Agree Box: Sistine Chapel Re-Creation requires that you agree to a terms & conditions policy. This NDE Agree Box will now ask for permission to take your controls and freeze you in place while you read the terms & conditions. If you deny permission or ignore the request, you will be removed from the parcel.
[18:18] NDE Agree Box: You now have up to 10 minutes to read over the terms & conditions you have just received via notecard. If you agree to them before time is up, you will be permitted into the rest of the area. If you disagree or time expires, you will be released and removed from the parcel.
[18:18] NDE Agree Box owned by Bret Rydell gave you ‘Sistine Chapel Code of Conduct’ ( http://slurl.com/secondlife/Vassar/203/78/25 ).
And here’s the text of the Code of Conduct card that you get:
Welcome to the Vassar College Re-Creation of the Sistine Chapel.
We have re-created the Sistine Chapel as a proof-of-concept for how the technology of virtual worlds can augment or enhance a tradtional liberal arts education.
TO VISIT THE SISTINE CHAPEL ON VASSAR ISLAND, YOU MUST AGREE TO THE FOLLOWING "CODE OF CONDUCT." You will only be asked to do this once.
CODE OF CONDUCT
Visiting the Sistine Chapel creates a deeply moving experience for many people for a variety of reasons, including religious, artistic and educational.
To preserve this same experience for those visiting the Sistine Chapel in Second Life, we expect all visitors to conduct themselves here as they would in real life: with respect for the environment as well as for those visiting the environment. Further, the Sistine Chapel was created for non-profit, educational use. You may not use it, or images of it, for any commercial purpose.
Any misconduct will result in banishment from Vassar Island as well as in a report to Linden Labs. Please contact Bret Rydell or Stan Frangible to report any such misconduct.
YOU MUST AGREE TO CONDUCT YOURSELF BY THIS CODE OF CONDUCT IN ORDER TO CONTINUE.
If you elect to disagree, you will be removed from the Sistine Chapel area of our island. However, you will still be free to visit other parts of our island. Note: the system that is used to remove you from the Sistine Chapel is one built-in to Second Life ("eject from parcel"). It is not the most graceful system, and we apologize in advance for the way that it may "drop" you on another part of the island.
Please use the blue menu on the upper right side of the screen to indicate your agreement with our Code of Conduct.
Images are used with permission.
The "Code of Conduct" agreement system was developed by Kenn Nilsson of NDE Enterprises.
I like the apology about how the ejection system is not very
"graceful." Getting catapulted from one end of a sim to another is
definately the opposite of graceful, although it’s often quite fun. The whole tone of the note sounds like someone who has grudgingly instituted this system at the insistence of Vassar’s legal counsel. "I hate to do this, sir, but I’m going to have to do a full cavity search."
I have no problem whatsoever with an in-world Code of Conduct system that ejects you if you don’t agree to it. That’s how the web works, that’s how it works at the Museum of Modern Art too.
I do have to say that the language is not very helpful as to what it is that is asked of you: "we expect all visitors to conduct themselves here as they would in real
life: with respect for the environment as well as for those visiting
the environment." What that means is highly open to interpretation. Does it mean don’t talk to people? Don’t brandish your sidearm? Refrain from smoking? Do the female avatars have to wear skirts and the men long pants like when you visit the real Vatican? It’s all so unclear.
This is Vassar’s house, and they can ultimately decide what a "respectful environment" is and isn’t. And it’s a small enough site that policing it doesn’t seem like too big of a chore.
Now for a Code of Conduct for a larger build, or an entire sim, or a series of sims, you are getting into trickier territory. SL residents years older than me have been wrestling with this question of how to properly draft, disseminate and enforce a Code of Conduct or set of Bylaws of a given community.
As Second Life grows and expands and internationalizes, questions about how to institute Codes of Conduct, click-through agreements, and enforcement are going to get harder to answer. Will you have to have versions of your Code available in all the official UN languages, as well as Klingon? Clearly the Linden gods would like to push that responsibility away from themselves and onto the sim owners. I certainly don’t blame them, but it does make building and maintaining a healthy in-world community that much more challenging.
If you’ve encountered any interesting in-world Code of Conduct or security systems, drop me a note here or on my avatar Rik Riel. I’d love to check some more out.