Bots Bots Everywhere

31 March 2023
A gaggle of roaming bots waiting around for orders

Some folks know I'm basically a stalker of "roaming" bots in Second Life: roaming bots being software-driven avatars that teleport around the grid collecting or verifying data of one sort of another. (I operate one of those, Loubottin Resident—it powers the avatar survey.) While I don't publish lists of roaming bot avatar names, I do my best to group the bots by "cohort" so anyone interested can get an idea how many bots there are and what they might be doing.

Following some public controversy over one group of roaming bots (the BonnieBelles), at the end of March 2023 Linden Lab updated its bot policy and introduced a feature that lets private region owners block all registered scripted agents, if they like. The Lindens also banned scripted agents from the Bellisaria Linden Homes, Second Life's growing series of restrictive HOA-style communities exclusively for paid subscribers.

My statistics for roaming bots in March 2023 show a significant uptick in roaming bots—biggest I've ever tracked! While it is true there appear to be two new active "cohorts" of bots, it's important to note that chart shows the number of bots in that cohort that were sighted in a particular calendar month. Yes, these cohorts have used a lot of avatars! However, not all those avatars have been active at the same time. For instance, they might use ten for a few days, retire them, and bring on ten more for a few days. The result is that ten are running at once, but I'd "see" several groups of ten during a month and tally those up to a large number.

I've been asked if these sorts of "disposable" bot cohorts are going to be a new normal in the wake of Linden Lab's changes to scripted agent policy—an effort to overwhelm the new tools and other "security" measures by sheer numbers and brute force. I'd say it's too early to tell. For one thing, these cohorts' behaviour began before the new policies and tools were announced: they may have been an anticipation, but they're not a response. For another, remember that these new cohorts are being operated by just one or two people. It's not like the world of roaming bot operators has expanded much, and I'd be wary of describing the actions of a couple individuals as a "new normal" for a reasonably active virtual world like Second Life.

10 September 2022