January 29, 2010

Linking Second Life to Real Life - Feeling Poll-ish?

I've been thinking about this issue a bit more and have some random thoughts. First, in the official Second Life blogs, there's been some recent discussion about two external polls showing wildly different results on whether people want linkage between their real life name and SL avatar. I looked at both and they both suffer from false premises.

Polling and Trolling in Second Life

One, in the Second Life forums, asks: "Are you Willing to Reveal Your True Identity if you Had to?". The false assumption is "if you had to" since it's not known if Linden Lab will ever force such revelations. The other, in Wagner James Au's New World Notes blog asks: "Do you publicly associate your Second Life activity with your real world name and identity now, or do you plan to in the future?" That's a mouthful (and a compound question) that doesn't directly address the issue of interest to most. What do those who DON'T already connect RL & SL plan or want to do? 

My guess is that those who already connect RL & SL or plan to have business, educational or other non-social reasons to do so. Also, the RL/SL connection is a continuum, not black & white. Some people will tell close friends who they are in RL while never exposing it to the world. Others make it an absolute to not share anything. I know quite a few people, including me, who would delete their accounts if there was a hint of public exposure of their RL identities.

Also, New World Notes is going to be self-selecting towards folks who are more inclined to reveal their RL identities since it's focused on technology, education, business and other issues that more social users of SL might care less about. (James Wagner Au also has very active ties to Linden Lab including being a former employee and, apparently, still having an active LL email address.)

So how should we approach this? First, polls need to separate responses by those already connecting RL & SL from those that do not. Those already making a connection aren't really affected. Second, the real issue for Linden Lab is what will those who do not already make the RL/SL connection do if they are either, 1. OFFERED increased linkage, or, 2. FORCED into linkage. 

Opt-in? Are You Sure? Are You Really Really Sure?

This is one of those issues that really requires extensive testing and surveying since a wrong step by Linden Lab could have disastrous consequences for the viability of Second Life. If there ever is a push for greater linkage, I would hope that LL is smart enough to make it very obvious that you are going to open yourself up to some strange new stuff.  If it is handled in a very strong opt-in/warning fashion, then I see no good argument for not doing it.

My vision of an opt-in sequence for this would be:
  1. Linden Lab is offering a new privacy setting which will publically expose and link your real life name to your Second Life avatar. This may have positive and negative consequences. Do you wish to change your privacy settings to expose your real life name? YES / NO
  2. (If yes) Are you sure? Answering YES will permanently connect and show your real life name to anyone within Second Life avatar and based on other choices you may make, will expose it to anyone outside of SL. Answering NO will keep your real life name hidden. YES / NO
  3. You have elected to link your real life identity with your second life avatar. CONFIRM / CANCEL
Now that may seem like overkill to some but given the potential awful consequences for many if they opt-in by accident, safety is the best course.

However, if it's done like Facebook did it, where the default was lower privacy and the choices weren't really clear, then the Lab will open itself up for lawsuits and a PR nightmare that would probably kill Second Life off. The first person who is accidentally outed, gets stalked and then injured would no doubt find attorneys lined up around the block to take her case.

That said, I've posted my own little bogus poll at the top of this page. Feel free to take it or not. :)

1 comment:

  1. I think the term Expose is a little strong. Link is more correct. I have nothing to hide, so would not have any issues with linking to my real name. I honestly don't see why this is such a big fear for people.


All thoughts are welcome.