Monthly Archives: June 2008

Birthday Bust

Apparently, Resident reaction to Linden Lab™’s ham-fisted banning of the SL Kids from the Second Life® Fifth Birthday Celebration (previously, previously) had at least some positive effect: LL apparently called off the dogs, allowed the Kids to submit applications again, and expanded the celebration to two weeks (from the previous one week). For a time, all seemed to be well on the Grid (well, aside from the various technical glitches…but, at this point, SL without technical glitches is like ExxonMobil without a corporate acquisition policy).

Unfortunately, LL hasn’t finished butting into what was supposedly a Resident-run celebration. Jacek Antonelli reports that Trinity Coulter, who had taken over as primary organizer of SL5B from SignpostMarv Martin after the latter resigned in protest over LL’s initial meddlings, has been forced out of that position by Dusty Linden. Several other organizers are out as well, according to both Jacek and Shoshana Epsilon. Meanwhile, Dusty is also vetting all the images for the art exhibition, rejecting any that have a “child” avatar in the same frame with either an “adult” avatar, or with a bed of any sort. Never mind that absolutely nothing sexual may be going on in the pictures, or that all avatars therein may be dressed in outfits that wouldn’t so much as raise an eyebrow in church.

I’m willing to assume that Dusty is not the originator of these decisions, and is just passing on policy as dictated from a higher level. Ditto with people like Everett. So the question becomes: Who’s calling the shots on this policy, and why? Linden Lab’s own policy (“The Tao of Linden“) states:

There are many ways to emphasize responsibility, accountability, communication and trust. We believe that the one key principle that best supports all of these values is transparency. As much as possible, tell everyone what you are doing, all the time. This transparency makes us responsible to our peers, makes us accountable to our own statements, and replaces the need for management with individual responsibility. Over time, it creates and reinforces trust. Be willing to share ideas before you feel they are ‘baked’. Report on your own progress frequently and to everyone.

Yet LL can be notoriously UN-transparent about a great many things when it suits them. We have had these policies dictated to us, in a manner which has never happened before in the history of Second Life Birthday Celebrations. Yet, in terms of rationale for these policies, we have heard precisely bupkis.

Last time, I challenged M Linden, new CEO of LL, to come out and give us a statement as to the policies being laid down for this celebration. So, have we heard anything?

(sound of crickets chirping)

Look, M, Philip, all the rest of you Lindens, we’re all adults here, even those of us in avatars that look like children; your own age-verification systems encourage that. We know about that fundy bluenose shitbag Mark Kirk (Stupid Party-Peoples’ Republic of Illinois) and his moralizing crusade, and we also know he doesn’t really give a shit about child avatars in Second Life, because all politicians really care about is getting elected, then getting RE-elected. We know about Sky News and their little “gotcha!” exposes, and we know why they do it: because it translates into viewers, which translates into ratings, which translates into money. Is it these kind of dipshits that have you so scared, you feel the need to impose new, draconian restrictions on content at what’s supposed to be a celebration “by the Residents, for the Residents”? If so, why not simply TELL US? Sure, it would piss off a lot of people, but at least you’d be being honest with the people that, ultimately, are responsible for paying for your world…and, at least, we’d know WHO to hate.

With two weeks to go before SL5B starts, the whole affair looks to be coming apart at the seams. At this point, I’m glad I didn’t try to involve myself with this fiasco, and I predict the whole thing will turn into a shambles and a public-relations disaster for Linden Lab. The irony is, by making such a fuss over child avatars this time around, LL is playing right into the hands of the Mark Kirks, the Sky News people, and others who automatically equate any “child” avatar with kiddie porn, and start saying, “Icky! Icky! BAN! BAN!” Nice way to invoke the Law of Unintended Consequences, LL.

Meanwhile, I sit over on Lexxotica and continue to wonder…how soon before LL works their way down to me?

UPDATE: Prokofy Neva continues to take the Lindens’ side…a stance which I find somewhat puzzling, as he himself has been the recipient of arbitrary Linden Lab shaftings in the past. But this isn’t mere schadenfreude on his part.

UPDATE: Vint Falken has reopened her JIRA issue dealing with this, “MISC-1231: Missing Cultures and Communities from SL5B.”  Go vote for it if you haven’t already.

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Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign

The blog firestorm over Linden Lab’s new policies for the Second Life® Birthday Celebration continues apace, and Vint Falken’s JIRA issue on the topic is up to 166 votes as of this writing.  So far, the only comment from the Lindens on this issue has been one comment by Everett Linden on Massively.com…which has done nothing to clear up the issue, and has, in fact, raised additional questions.  His statement that “the SL birthday on Linden land is PG” directly contradicts the draft policy for SL5B, which states “All sims will be Mature.”  Of course, he may have meant that people were to adhere to PG content and behavior despite the sims’ Mature rating (the kind of rules enforced at The Shelter), but who can say for sure?

And it’s clear that Everett doesn’t make policy, he’s just passing on “the word from higher up.”  Okay, then, let’s get this settled once and for all:  I call on M Linden to make an immediate statement to the community regarding Linden Labs’ policies for the Second Life Fifth Birthday Celebration.  In detail, and with footnotes. At least, if he tells us something’s no longer kosher, we won’t have to waste time going higher.  You took the job, M; now it’s time to show you can deliver.

Strangely enough, Prokofy Neva seems to be taking the Lindens’ side in this matter, saying that this just involves Linden Labs’ right to promote whatever it likes.  Well, Prok, you’re absolutely right; LL can promote whatever it likes at an event which it gives its imprimatur to.  However, there are two important issues which follow from that principle:

  1. What’s with them changing the rules this time around, from the policies previously established for past birthday celebrations, and indeed from the draft policies they’d already established for SL5B?  And 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 they took the option that was guaranteed to cause a firestorm.  Something is rotten in the state of Denmark…and it sure as hell ain’t Danish blue cheese.
  2. Yes, the Lindens have the right to change the rules for birthday celebrations at any time, as they see fit.  We, however, as Residents, also have the right, in turn, to decide whether or not we choose to devote our time and effort to making such a celebration successful, under those revised rules.  Two principal organizers of SL5B, as well as any number of potential exhibitors and participants, have already made their choice known; how many more will walk away?  And will there even be a Fifth Birthday Celebration, under these circumstances?  It may turn into a sanitized, corporate affair, as Prok no doubt thinks it will, which may suit the Lindens just fine.  They will, however, have sent a powerful message, one that Jacek has picked up on:

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.

We are Linden Labs’ customers. We pay premium account fees (and I know of at least one Resident who has downgraded to Basic over this very issue); we pay tier for land; we buy sims and pay tier for them.  Yet LL seems to want to piss us off at every turn.  I’ve said it before: The only company I know of that has shown it can thrive while pissing off its customers over and over again is Microsoft…and even they aren’t having such an easy time of it anymore.

I don’t have a good Last Graf here; either LL will find their principles again, or they won’t.  Either SL5B will go on as it would have, or it won’t.  One thing’s for sure: the ball is now in LL’s court.

“…and so I close, realizing that perhaps the ending has not yet been written.” – Atrus, Myst

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