Transcript of my PAX talk

[EDIT:  Full audio is now posted at:]

Today I had the incredible honor of delivering a talk on enforcement on the Xbox LIVE service to a rather large crowd at PAX.  As the hour approached for the talk I got more and more nervous and freaked out, especially when I saw the huge line of people waiting to get in.  Rochto asked me why I was so nervous, I’d given keynotes and speeches before to a variety of audiences.  “Yes,” I replied, “But these people are here because gaming is their hobby, not because maybe they were sent by their company to learn new things.”  Doing a con like PAX is completely different than a technical conference. In addition they had scheduled me in one of the large theaters and there were no big name talks going on at the same time.  So I knew I had to bring the A game. Thankfully, apparently I did from the feedback so far.

I typically write out my speeches completely beforehand and memorize them.  So the below is pretty much word for word what I said, I added in a couple of crowd reactions where they were prompted. In addition, Major Nelson will have the complete audio plus Q&A from the talk on his show tomorrow in easy to play MP3 format.  Todd Bishop of TechFlash caught the opening of the talk on Video, and the transcript continues below. 

It was probably my best day of the year. Pretty sure I’m gonna be grinning until xmas. The Q&A with the team went very well and I hope you enjoy the audio portion.  I will post here as soon as it is available.


Thank you all for coming. Some administrivia first. This content has been rated T for Teen. Second, Microsoft encourages us to release our talks and blogs under a creative commons license, specifically this is being made available under a Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works license.

To begin, a reading from the book of enforcement.

And it came to pass that the user did sign up for Xbox LIVE.  And it was good.  And the service smiled upon the user and did ask, "by what name shalt thou be known?" 

But a shadow passed over the user’s soul, and they were tempted.  And they did indulge this temptation and entered a name unfit for the eyes of others.  And the service spake forth, saying "Thy gamertag is not appropriate"

But the service was kind and forgiving and bade the user, "Please try another"

But the user had hardened their heart. and did carefully shroud their name in trickery. And it came to pass that O’s became zeroes. The letter T became as a plus sign. Falsely clothed in their new finery, the service was fooled by the user and did bid them welcome with the customary ancient incantation "Poonhunter has signed into Xbox LIVE"

And the user did commit unspeakable acts of evil in their profile.  The soul of those who looked upon the gaping maw of the user’s Bio field were rent asunder, left as small and twitchy as a beaten purse dog.

Poonhunter did travel to the battlefields of 1943, where they intended to darken the hearts of their brethren. On the highest point of wake island they preached their dark fellowship aloud to their team mates, and poonhunter’s words became as stones.

Verily poonhunter intoned in great detail the false histories of their team mate’s lineage. They bore false witness to the tendencies of the very wombs that begat them to lie with all manner of creatures, two legged, four legged, 8 legged, and even the very crops of the earth.  And poonhunter did take the last plane on the carrier and then did use that plane to try and knock the team mates from the ship with the plane’s wings. And in their dark blasphemy poonhunter proclaimed his team’s habits of routinely spilling their seed upon the ground.

And the team did cry out in anguish to the sky "why, why is this douchebag on our team" And more than one among them did file a complaint. 

But my children, the service heard.

A light shown in the void, and it blew over the game like a cool breeze and said "time to regulate".

And it came to pass that the service archangels swooped down, and poonhunter’s mouth was suddenly silenced.  Their words fell as inconsequential as a forgotten gas receipt at the pump. And suddenly the archangels did smite the user with such a force that the shockwave reached the other players, a shockwave that explained itself as simply as it was effective: "Poonhunter has left the game"

And on the other end of that judgment there was a wailing and gnashing of teeth.  And the service looked upon the fires of a two week ban and smiled, and it was good.

Can I get an amen.

Ladies and gentlemen my name is Stephen Toulouse and I am the Director of Policy and Enforcement for Xbox LIVE.  Many of you know me by my Gamertag, Stepto.  It’s basically what most people call me. In fact I’m only ever called Stephen when I am at home and have done something wrong. I’m kind of like Sting, with my single name affectation. But I’m not near as good looking, and my idea of tantric sex ends up in me being called Stephen at home at lot of the time.

I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge several people.  The first, would be Gabe and Tycho for creating the John Gabriel Greater Internet Dickwad Theory, a theory which puts food on my table.

Perhaps too much food.

The second, are Xbox LIVE’s E and Major Nelson, for always finishing their shows with the exhortation to file feedback and play fair.

And last, my talented and dedicated team, who you will meet in just a moment.

This is kind of informal, I’m not going to subject you to a PowerPoint deck. I believe in the adage that power corrupts and PowerPoint corrupts absolutely. And besides here at PAX to tell someone you’re going to subject them to your deck means you’re going to kick their ass in Magic.

I would like to ask at the outset, by applause, how many of you have run into Poonhunter on Xbox Live.

(loud applause)

Oh wow, wow, that’s far far less than I thought.  Ok, also by applause how many of you ARE poonhunter on xbox live.

(some applause)

Again, far fewer than I would have expected.

So, what does policy and enforcement mean for Xbox LIVE. Our job is to help provide safe and enjoyable experiences on Xbox LIVE. This mostly involves enforcing the Terms of Use and the Code of Conduct, which are our guiding principles.

My team actually has several different functions.  The first primary job is handling all the complaints that come into the service from you, and by "you" I mean the people that didn’t clap when I asked if you were Poonhunter. Every day, 365 days a year, we look over the complaint data. And we do that looking for accuracy. For instance, for complaints against Gamertags and profiles, every single complaint is reviewed by hand and we make a determination as to whether or not the content actually violates the terms of use.

Sometimes, that’s easy. Like in the case of obvious dirty words. But sometimes the content is “Ham Doctor” and you have to go figure out what that means. By the way I’d like to pause a moment here and thank Gabe and Tycho for introducing the phrase “ham doctor” to the global lexicon. I would also like to thank the Internet for taking that phrase and running with finding the worst possible meaning for it. Stay classy Internet.

So we actually do have a team of people who sit and basically look over your complaints. While of course some of the sorting of that is automated in our enforcement tool, called Vulcan, so put the known bad stuff up at the top, I want to make sure people understand that we really do look at the complaints, and its not an automated process.

A word about Vulcan. I chose the name Vulcan when I was designing the enforcement tool because Wikipedia notes that Vulcan is the God of both “beneficial and hindering fire”. Plus he had a bitchin’ hammer. Not as cool as Thor’s, but still kind of cool. I did not choose it in any relation to Star Trek. When the Star Trek movie was out I saw it with some friends and came out of the theater checking my mail and I said “Hrmm, Vulcan is offline” and my friend Looked at me surprised and said, “Well, that’s one way to put it.” If you haven’t seen the film I won’t explain it.

So we’ve got a lot of hammers at our disposal in Vulcan. When we need to take action we can force people to change their Gamertags, suspend their ability to communicate with other players, suspend them from the service temporarily or permanently and even ban their consoles from connecting to Xbox LIVE ever again. We have a punishment matrix that guides us for what crimes deserve what punishments, but the thing you might be interested to know is the escalating nature of our system. If you’re a miscreant enough in our system your actions can cause ever increasing punishments until we finally invite you to no longer be our customer.

So what are some of the things that get you permanently banned? Repeat egregious behavior. Things like fraud, piracy. Let’s see I’m missing something. There’s something else…oh yeah. Naked Uno. Actually, naked anything. But come on, naked Xbox LIVE Uno was not meant to be. Naked chutes and ladders, maybe. Naked Risk…I can see it. But no naked Uno. So to be clear, and I know no one here is one of these people, but being naked on the camera on Xbox LIVE is a Permaban offense no matter what the activity.

Ah but how do we detect naked people? Well in addition to complaints we have many people across the world actively policing the service. Playing every day across titles looking for bad behavior. And when they see it, they have the ability to do something about it. It’s not uncommon for me to be gaming with my netbook open next to me with Vulcan loaded on it. So it’s a combination of proactive and reactive policing that we do on a constant basis.

My team also handles policies around contravention for our service. For instance we serve as a resource inside the Xbox group for when people want to think about how a feature or a product can be misused as well as used. Just think of the exciting things Natal can do! We also work with game developers and publishers to think about contravention. For instance we worked with Harmonix to come up with good policies around the Rock Band Network, you know just in case someone wants to write “The Ballad of Naked Uno” and gets a little too graphic.

Now, what’s the experience of people who actually get punished? Well depending on the punishment the console itself will report to you your punishment and duration. And for each punishment we issue, an email is sent to the registered Windows LiveID for the Gamertag with more detailed information. We also maintain a forum on where people can interact directly with my team. Should the person being punished feel we made an error, we can look at the evidence again to make sure.

A word of warning however, and I know that no one in this room has to worry about it, but if you’ve been a miscreant, and filled your profile with really obnoxious stuff, we won’t hesitate to tell the world what you really have if you claim you only had puppies and daisies in there.

I think the most important part of this is actually giving you guys the opportunity to talk to my team so I want to move to the Q&A portion quickly but I want to close with a couple of things.

In addition to policing the rules, we also work to help prevent things that can happen to your account like hijacking. The number one cause of account jacking comes from Phishing. That message you got in your Xbox queue or your email that says “Hey free achievements” or “Free Microsoft points!” you know, the one that asks for your password? Yeah that’s a scam. Please folks spread the word to everyone you know, do not give out your Xbox LIVE password. Scammers and phishers want it to use your Windows LiveID for spam, or to charge points on your credit card. We punish those people, and we work with customers through our support teams to get your account back. But I want to make sure I close with “Never give out your password, file complaints where you see bad behavior, and everyone play nice, have fun, and as Wil Wheaton says, don’t be a dick”

Now I’d like to introduce my team for the Q&A.

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