• 01Jun

    I don’t envy Linden Lab’s situation. Try to dodge the self-serving politicians and reporters nipping at your heels, and the Residents bring out the pitchforks and torches. It’s an impossible job, so it’s no wonder they’re doing so poorly at it. I’d have plenty of sympathy for Linden Lab. I really would.

    Except that they put themselves in this situation.

    Second Life is under external pressure because of a number of misconceptions (some more misconceived than others) that exist among the general public — the misconceptions perpetuated by the commercial media because they sell well: Sex. Weird sex! Lots of weird, kinky sex online! And kids?! What’s going on in this sick, perverted online haven of creeps and pedophiles?! Read all about it! Throw in a few politicians eager to prove that they’re “thinking of the children” on an election year, and you’ve got a lot of (self-)important people with a professional interest in painting an exaggerated, sordid picture of Second Life.

    The natural alliance here would be between Linden Lab and the Residents, based on the common interest in making sure Second Life survives, against the external forces that threaten it. Linden and the Resident, hand in hand, making a better, freer world, in the face of opposition. A beautiful image, no?

    Would that it were so. But Linden Lab, it seems, doesn’t want its Residents anymore. It doesn’t want a free, open, creative world. It wants a sanitized, media-friendly world, that universities and big corps won’t think twice about making major investments in. LL’s message for Residents now is: Thanks for making us so popular, but go away now. You’re embarrassing us in front of the cool kids.

    Linden Lab has continually neglected and offended its user base, and thus turned a natural ally into a second enemy. If they make a move to please the media, they raise ire with their users. If they make a move to assuage or pay respect to their users, they leave themselves open to attack from the media. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. It’s a tight spot for LL.

    Or so they imagine.

    It is only Linden Lab’s continual poor choices that have created this scenario. Faced with external pressure, Linden Lab repeatedly chooses the course of action that alienates its users and destroys goodwill.

    Let’s imagine a hypothetical scenario.

    Suppose that a self-styled “news reporter” with a kiddie porn obsession is waiting for any opporunity to regurgitate another story about pedophiles and bizarre sexual practices in Second Life.

    Further suppose that a United States politician, smelling an opportunity to make a name for himself in an election year, is drooling in anticipation of any sign of controversy involving Second Life, so that he can push forward a nonsensical bill in the interest of “protecting the children”.

    Now suppose that there’s an upcoming annual celebration, which will be watched with an eagle eye by those vultures. It’s clear that even the slightest appearance of endorsing either “children” or sexual kinks in SL will be ripe for media spin. You might as well slit your own throat and lay down in the savannah; your eyes would be pecked out just as thoroughly.

    There’s the scenario. Now, you have a choice of how you’ll handle it. Do you:

    a) Head off the threat, dispelling the myths, rumours, and exaggerations about activities within Second Life, and revealing the vultures as the self-serving fear-mongers that they are.

    b) Work with the potentially controversial communities to reach an arrangement that mitigates the risk without excluding them or dismissing their contribution to Second Life as unwanted or illegitimate.

    c) Carefully explain that, while you regret the necessity forced by the current political climate, it would be a grave risk to Second Life as a whole for those communities to actively participate in the celebration.

    d) Reject the communities, but don’t explain your reasoning or make any concessions. Set yourself up as the oppressor. Let imagination and speculation run wild.

    If you chose (a), you would regain the respect of your users and re-establish Second Life as a platform for social progress, but at moderate risk of reaction from conservative elements of the public. If you chose (b), you would still establish goodwill with the communities and with your user base as a whole, with only a small risk. Even if you chose (c), Residents would just sigh about the times we live in, and thank you for being so forthcoming and responsible about it.

    Of course, I don’t need to tell you what would happen if you chose (d). You can look around and see for yourself.

    Posted by Jacek Antonelli @ 12:17 am

11 Responses

  • Erbo Evans Says:

    If you ask me, LL seems to be ruled by fear at the moment. Perhaps it’s fear that an upcoming “liquidity event” (IPO, acquisition) will be spoiled by negative publicity, or fear that misguided government regulations will quash them, or the fear that other organizations will use their own software and their own protocols to drink their milkshake. Whatever the cause, the fear exists.

    Now, on the other hand, can a company really thrive by repeatedly pissing off its customers? The only company I know of that can get away with that is Microsoft, and even they aren’t finding it so easy anymore.

    Somehow, LL needs to get beyond the fear. I don’t know how; I’m not the Wizard of Oz, and I can’t just bestow courage on them.

  • dandellion Kimban Says:

    Recently, when I asked what happened to the age verification, I wasn’t so interested in the bloody thing as I was wondering if there is any possibility that, once that SL is attacked again, we (residents and LL) can colaborate and defend it together. As a resident, I feel like defending the clean name of SL. I guess that is also the interest of LL. We both need this world to function and to be a part of the larger community called “the world”. So, where is the problem? Maybe LL doesn’t feel we have the common interest? Or that residents will not do the job well?

    In the case of any other company, things would be much different. But SL is made by both LL and its residents. Even more, that is the essence of Second Life, that is what makes it stand out, that is what makes it so cutting edge. It is not the technology as much as a model of active and fruitful collaboration of service provider and service users. What went wrong when it came to public image of the world?

  • IYan Writer Says:

    I agree – I’ve spoken of LL’s ham-fisted community decisions before, since January.

    The part I don’t get is – why. This is not rocket science, but common sense. Add to that the fact that Linden Lab is among the companies with the tightest connection to their user base – it’s trivial to gauge user opinions and reactions, because all the users *care* so much about Second Life – and it really makes no sense.

    In my linked post, I blamed the incompetent middle layer of LL (and predicted the fall of Phillip, more’s the pity) – but, with M Linden an unknown quantity at the moment, it’s hard to say where it stops.

    I fear the day we see Torley’s videos replaced by sanitized marketing videos..

  • The Linden Department of Self-Immolation « Second Arts Says:

    [...] Jacek Lives puts the question into a larger context, one that I urge interested readers to check out.† In a nutshell, he offers this observation: …Linden Lab, it seems, doesnít want its Residents anymore. It doesnít want a free, open, creative world. It wants a sanitized, media-friendly world, that universities and big corps wonít think twice about making major investments in. LLís message for Residents now is: Thanks for making us so popular, but go away now. Youíre embarrassing us in front of the cool kids. [...]

  • Marx Dudek Says:

    I half-joked in another comment what IBM’s space is going to look like at SL5B.

    I am really surprised and shocked at the way this was handled. As you said, even (c) would have been an understandable response.

    Anyone up for an alternative SL5B event?

  • Shin Says:

    What is the downside of option A? It seems to me that telling the truth can easily be defended..and is what the PR people should be focusing on. As far as right wing retaliation goes…are you telling me that SL’s lawyers are incapable of defending the truth? If so, might I suggest a new set. Never try and appease the wingnuts..just pound them with the truth over and over. Even their own adherents will eventually stop paying attention when the truth finally works it’s way through the noise they create. They will not only not back off if you give in to them, they will attack harder.

    Much of this stuff gets by because the majority of non-residents (and, I am afraid, a number of residents) just don’t understand what virtual even means. They “virtually” do this and “virtually” do that all the time, mostly using the word as a synonym for “really” or “actually”. Start pounding it into peoples heads that virtual means..not real…imaginary, a simulation of reality at best. Nothing that happens in SL can harm anyone in RL. Period. Don’t bring up the argument that you can be robbed of RL money by SL crooks. The money in SL is not virtual, it is tied to RL banks and credit cards. It is real, and needs real protections and is and should be subject to RL laws. It is no more “virtual” than your ATM card or online banking site (which many people call virtual, but it’s not. If you are doing any virtual banking at your banks web page, you are going to be in trouble sooner or later).

    No behaviors in SL (or any “virtual” world) are real. Period. You cannot be killed, raped, assaulted, molested, or otherwise injured by anyone or anything inside the virtual world of Second Life…anymore than you can in a story written by someone in text. Anything of a “physical” nature that happens to you in SL stays in SL. Killed? Back at your home in milliseconds….caged? tp away..same with any other actions. You can always just leave. Always. Some of these things may..at worst..annoy you or even upset you..but only in your head. No real harm has accrued. You can have real friendships..same as you can with a chat room or a snailmail penpal…but you cannot..under any circumstances..be assaulted in such a way as to cause permanent, physical, real harm to either you or your inworld avatar. This includes any underage residents who might sneak into the system. They cannot be molested or harmed in any real way….and I suspect that most of them would be much better served if the attention paid to their virtual sex lives was instead turned on what they have to go through every day at their local schools. That pervert the uninformed keep thinking is on the net or in SL is still far more likely to be found in the kids home than anyplace else in the world…including the net and SL.

    So tell the politicians, or your neighbors, or friends, or clergy (and it seems..maybe more importantly LL staff)…..the danger to people is in the real world…not in their imaginations or in any virtual world. If it’s not real..it’s not happening….and if it’s happening in SL…it’s not real. Focus people. There are horrible real things happening to real people all the time. Let’s fix that and let the virtual worlds of the imagination take care of themselves. And let’s let the “children in their imagination” back into the mainstream of virtual life.

  • ‘Children’ not welcome at SL5B | VintFalken.com Says:

    [...] Jacek (2) – Public Relations vs Resident Relations [...]

  • SL5B minus The Children | VintFalken.com Says:

    [...] Jacek maybe expressed this best: ‘Would that it were so. But Linden Lab, it seems, doesnít want its Residents anymore. It doesnít want a free, open, creative world. It wants a sanitized, media-friendly world, that universities and big corps wonít think twice about making major investments in. LLís message for Residents now is: Thanks for making us so popular, but go away now. Youíre embarrassing us in front of the cool kids.’ [...]

  • dandellion Kimban Says:

    Marx, I am veryu much for alternative, free for creativity and diversity SL5B event! Will catch you inworld.

  • Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign « Evans Avenue Exit Says:

    [...] why can’t they communicate the rationale for these changes in a reasonable fashion?† Jacek points out that the Lindens had several options as to how to deal with the Second Life Children this year, and [...]

  • You are not invited to the party « A Crimson world Says:

    [...] sure any thing they may say will be some like a “politically correct” version of what Jacek said so right in Jacek Lives†blog: “But Linden Lab, it seems, doesnít want its Residents anymore. It doesnít want a free, [...]