January 25, 2010

Real Life, Second Life. Blurring the Lines.

Linden Lab seems oh so desperate these days to get the Facebook, Twitter & (oldskool) MySpace crowd into Second Life and/or vice versa. So much so that increasingly, the Lab has been floating feelers in its blogs and elsewhere about ways to link your Second Life account to those services more directly. I guess all those millions of extra potential eyeballs, data mining and cross-promotion opportunities are too hard to resist -- even if it means the potential destruction of the social platform and contract on which Second Life was founded.

Separation of real life and Second Life has always been, for most residents, a sacred trust. Some of the things people do in SL and the people they do it with may not be the sorts of things they want their real life friends, colleagues, bosses, subordinates, peers and/or family members knowing about.

Yet the Lab persists. A few months back, a non-authorized (by Facebook anyway) attempt to more directly link Facebook with SL died an early death when the logistics of getting around Facebook's TOS (real names only, avatars not welcome) proved a bit much.

Even so, the Commerce Team recently launched an (apparently aborted) initiative to use Facebook as an external wishlist for XStreet SL. Perhaps the left hand hadn't told the right that Facebook's TOS would limit its use to only those real life people who wanted to link back to their avatars in SL. Currently, that's a very small universe. To make things worse, Facebook has been actively and systematically finding and deleting avatar accounts, including the well-known and popular Ener Hax (@iliveisl on Twitter).

So into this swirling cauldron of confusion, Linden Lab recently hired Walker Spaight aka Wallace Linden aka Mark Wallace (RL) as its new "Conversation Manager." No one is really sure what Wallace is supposed to do but its clear he's very capable of stirring up controversy without having done anything for the Lab yet.

In case you don't know, Spaight is one of the founders and former editorial director of the Alphaville Herald -- an online self-styled muckraking publication about Second Life. I can only describe it as a cross between the National Enquirer, Teen Magazine and a hacker's manual on how to do bad stuff. Could things get any juicier?? Oh yes they can!!

For his inaugural post in the Second Life blogrums, Wallace unleashed a mini-tsunami when he blithely discussed, once again, how great things would be with real life names tied to avatars. His insensitivity to the issue was evidenced by his post title "Will the real you please stand up?" AKA "How to freak out 90% of SL residents, especially those in Zindra or Gor Central, without having a backup plan."

A number of folks replied with comments ranging from "hell no" and "I'll delete my account" to "no really, hell no again" and "your momma too." Wallace backtracked a bit and reassured everyone (trust us) it would only be opt-in. But there was still quite a bit of the usual Linden Lab patented conversation management technique of selective responses to favorable replies and skipping over unfavorable ones.

There are some good cases to be made for real life linking of avatar and outside stuff. But it's really geared for people who do business within Second Life. The social aspects and reasons people come to Second Life in the first place don't, it seems to me, lend themselves to a strong desire for linkage. If the process is made very, very transparent and very, very tightly controlled to strict opt-in requirements, then I could see it. However, SL already has a "First Life" tab and a Web tab where you can pretty much do all the external linking you want. So I don't quite get where they are headed with this.

Regardless, the real reason for this long post, is that Dusan Writer made one of the more eloquent and thoughtful replies to anything ever blogged by a Linden that I've read. So I thought I'd use the above as a week excuse to link to it in closing! Dusan has some excellent ideas about what Second Life is all about -- even if I don't quite understand some of the more tekkie things. :)

Dusan Writer - Linking Second Life to Real Life Names


  1. hey thanks for the mention, only somewhat known cuz i am uber OCD and love blabbing on the interwebz - yeah, major facebook blooper, i had 3852 friends when they shut me down. no notice was the worst part, i hate to have people think i just bailed on them

    lol, and not like i was trying to trick anyone - my profile had "shh, i am not real . . . ." as the last line! =D

    i think natural forces will dictate if you need to associate your rl name with your avatar name. i have two sl accounts, one for work on projects for universities and companies and that has my rl name associated with it and then i have Ener. that one has no rl attached to it and that works too

    if someone does not want to hire the Ener wiener cuz of no real name, well my loss i suppose - but that is my choice, not anyone else's

    i prob should associate my religion and gender while i am at it. it seemed to work sooo well for my grandparents in WWII (that is a for real thing and something that makes me very sensitive to being labeled)

    as to Wallace Linden - what a tool (imho)

  2. I couldn't agree more that the whole thread of comments has one jewel standing out from the crowd: Dusan's comment :)

  3. The whole thing became a Chinese fire drill after the Avatars United acquisition was announced by M.

  4. Totally so, Snickers. It sort of created a huge anti-climax...


All thoughts are welcome.