July 30, 2012

Bring back last names in Second Life!

It's been a long time since I've seen an issue in Second Life inspire this much "resident" outcry but https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/SVC-7125 takes the virtual cake. With 2750+ votes in favor and almost 800 watchers, SL folks clearly think Linden Lab's policy of ditching last names is a bad idea.

For those who've been in a cave or have never known anything else, Second Life used to offer new account signups their choice of predefined "last names" which were combined with "just about anything you like" first names. The predefined last names ranged from the whimsical (like Stargazer, Wrigglesworth, Bubble, Steamweaver, Poutine & Voyager) to the more mundane (such as Snook, Kline, Jefferson and Berry). "Real names" as they've become known, were locked-in as your ID and there was no getting away from them.

Then, in late 2010, for part of its effort to make Second Life "more accessible" (hah), Linden Lab introduced "Display Names" which meant that instead of being known as "Snickers Snook", you could change how your name appeared to others (assuming they had a Display Name supporting viewer). So instead of me being seen as "Snickers Snook", I could change my "Display Name" to just "Snickers" or "Samantha Jones" or whatever.

THEN, in order to "simplify the login process" (and most likely to avoid the extra work of coming up with new last names), Linden Lab did away with its predefined universe of last names altogether and put all the load on the First Name field.

The birth of "Resident"

As usually happens with Linden Lab projects, it was kludged by giving all new accounts the arbitrary Last Name of "Resident" just to be backward compatible with old viewers and scripted objects that depend on knowing the both the first and last name. (Inartfully trying to hide it behind a single login field.)

This quickly lead to AOL-style account login names of Jimmyl33t84 or Amy1234Cleveland (since "cool" single field name space ran out pretty quickly) which of course people immediately changed to things like RotoRooter69 and Amy Likes Girls (lord I hope those aren't actual display names). The problem, of course, was that everyone immediately found out that Display Names weren't their names!

"Resident" was still their last name and AOL-style login names were their real "first names" -- at least as far as most of the tools, viewers and things were concerned. And searching on a display name? Well good luck with that. It generally doesn't work or often returns wayyy too many results to be useful.

Have you ever played Tiny Empires? Then you know it only displays "real names" such as Amy1234Cleveland Resident. (As a side note, I had to update my Evil Tummy Talker and Evil Male Talker so they pick up Display Name (if used) or "real name" if Display Name is not set.)

A license to impersonate people

EDIT (ADDED): As someone just pointed out in the JIRA, Display Names are also being used to impersonate other accounts (people, Residents, whatevah). I verified this myself by doing the suggested search on "Truth Hawks" who is the well-known designer of "Truth" hair (which I LOVE btw). Sure enough, doing a search in the Linden Lab SL Viewer brings up three "Truth Hawks" with the "real" Truth Hawks listed #3. #1 is really "truthhanwk Resident" and #2 is "Lucifer Czarny". #2 actually has "TRUTH HAIR Send notecard or IM for contact me" so he obviously knows he is deliberately impersonating the real owner/designer of Truth Hair. This is because the stupid "People" search in the official viewer defaults to searching Display Names AND Real Names. I wonder how much business Truth Hawks has lost to Mr. Czarny? And clearly Linden Lab does not have the mechanisms in place to prevent this type of spoofing and I'm not sure they really care. FWIW, viewers with old-style "reliable" search ONLY search on actual resident names -- not Display Names. Searching "Truth Hawks" in Cool VL Viewer only returns "the" Truth Hawks.

The social side of Real Names and Display Names

So we have two classes of residents. Those with original "real last names" (like me) and those without. Which is annoying to both. It's inorganic and the complete antithesis of  Philip Rosedale's (Linden) original vision for Second Life.

It's a depersonalized, arbitrary and clumsy subdivision of Second Life participants (God I hate that term "Resident" - it sounds so temporary and fleeting). And the clamor for a return to offering meaningful last names has only increased over the last few months.

Will anything happen? Probably not. When it comes to things that affect SL'ers on an emotional level, Linden Lab has been increasinly detached, ignorant and uninvolved. (Has anyone SEEN a Linden in-world lately?? I sure haven't.) While their programmers and program managers actively get wrapped into things like graphics, databases, servers, etc., etc., they are utterly clueless as to what goes into creating a sense of community. (Except Torley who seems to be relegated to the wayyy back burners these days.)

Trust me, it's not the next level of mesh deformation that's going to get more new accounts to sign-up. It's whether or not people feel like they belong to a community once they join and if they are willing to talk their friends into following them.

Second Life and Linden Lab have been missing their social targets by a mile. Last names are just one piece in evidence of this. There are so many other examples (no need to rehash history). So feel free to vote on the JIRA (although "watching" generates more Linden Lab attention so do both) but don't hold your breath.

Comments? Thoughts?


  1. Excellent summary of the situation. I wish I believed it would help.

  2. What an excellent and perceptive post. Sadly I think you're preaching to the converted. As you say, when did you last see a Linden in-world? Torley is probably the only one left who understands and cares about our once lovely world.

    Thanks to the JIRA, in January 2012 I found a gateway that still offered old-style names and created a couple of alts who have both first and second names. Shortly after each gateway was mentioned in comments, it was shut down by the Lab: Reg Api is now no more. At least this shows they read the JIRA, but, I suspect, just to see what the revolting peasants are plotting. I stay in SL because it holds so many happy memories for me, but I lament the good old days.

    The Lab should listen to its older Residents, but with the departure of Philip Rosedale, is there anyone left in charge who gives a damn? Why don't they look at the vast tracts of abandoned land, and instead of thinking up ways to make Premium Accounts "irresistible" (ooh an exclusive mesh railcar. Ooh! Shiny!) listen to what we're saying? nobody really knows or cares about SL like the people who live there, that's why in the early days they recruited Lindens from in-world.

    Francesca Alva (NOT francesca.alva, LL)

  3. Hi Snickers... I believe Rodvik gave up completely on trying to get a concensus within Linden Lab about this issue. Apparently there are strong forces who feel the "Resident" thing is worth fighting for. You said it so well, "When it comes to things that affect SL'ers on an emotional level, Linden Lab has been detached, ignorant and uninvolved."

    During his first year, I felt like Rodvik cared about those of us who make Second Life have life. But following his refusal to act on the last name issue, he seems to have dissolved into the Lab. When SLCC 2012 was cancelled I began to loose confidence.

    There have been noticible improvements in Second Life performance though. I am very impressed with sim crossings on the Blake Sea.

  4. Rodvick doesn't care. Rodvick doesn't want a community. Rodvick wants Sims online. Rodvick should go back to EA.

  5. Yordie is right, I'm afraid. Not only has the horse bolted on this one, the barn has long-since been knocked down and turned into a parking lot.

    See: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Your-Avatar/Update-Last-Names-Roundtable/td-p/1409403

  6. I've said this before, I'll say it again: The next person they bring in as a new CEO needs to be selected from one of the active in-world SL members who've been here a long time, not select someone who's run some games company or some non-Virtual-World-related tech company.

  7. Excellent article, Snick. But we're not going to get any more feedback on Rodvik on this one. While performance and code has improved for SL in the last year alone, and that's awesome, social and identity issues like this one are completely lost on him. We're ALL "Residents", and we all deserve real names - and a real CEO who understands our grid beyond a technological or video-game level of platform.

  8. @Ghosty & Nomad -- I agree. I think Rodvik sees "Residents" as automatonic SIMS avatars. Wind 'em up and off they go -- never really seeing the real people behind the keyboards. What they need is a VP or Director level position focused on social interaction and whose JOB DESCRIPTION requires them to be IN-WORLD at least 4 hours per day. I personally could care less where the CEO comes from as long as he/she truly recognizes and "groks" the organic nature of this artificial world called Second Life.


All thoughts are welcome.