Some thoughts on Gwyneth’ post

17 05 2006

Gwyneth Llewelyn recently has posted an interesting article about the corporate and/or gamer culture in Second Life. In short her main point is that Linden Lab needs to drop gamer culture in favor of corporate culture.
For a gamer culture according to her the symptoms are the fear of Favoritism (or FIC in SL terms, see here and here) and thus missing partner programs. A corporate culture on the other hand features these programs and user groups etc. So basically it is about building a FIC (if you want to put it a bit more drastically😉
So it’s about creating a network of experts and companies around Linden Lab to help them to fulfill their tasks and delegate client inquiries to them.

So let’s look at some of her points and my thoughts about them.

Terms

This is not a really important topic but let me mention it nevertheless. Basically I don’t know if the problem is really a “gamer” culture. From what I see the problems do not arise from gamers being in here. Most of the folks in here do not really feel like they are hard-core gamers. Actually it seems to me that in SL there are actually many people who are not really hard-core gamers but more search the social or creative aspect of Second Life. And people involved in FIC discussions also do not seem to me being gamers. Looking at online games (well, never played one actually😉 like WoW I wonder if in there really is a fear of favoritism. I also wonder if this terms makes sense there as gaming companies do usually build their games on their own (maybe even with contractors) and residents (well, players) are not involved in that at all. Maybe even they have a better corporate culture than SL has😉
But Gwyneth’ point is still valid of course, the idea of a FIC (or the fear of it) is a problem. Most discussion about it seems to me like some people being jealous anyway.

You cannot differentiate between experts and the uninformed

One point in her post is that you cannot tell from an avatar in world if he/she is an expert in any field or just talking nonsense. You might though
know from what that person said in the past and how fundamented it was. But for me this is basically what the world is, a second life which means you start from scratch. OTOH you are of course free to put whatever you want in your 1st life pane. Just not many people are doing that. And still stuff written there can be untrue but so it is in RL. And while looking at RL it is also apparent that there are lots of pseudo experts around and for some uninformed customer it is also hard in RL to differ between real experts and the not so real ones (expertism is very relative anyway). So having these problems in RL it should not wonder that these are the same in SL.
With having some sort of partner network this lack of information might change though and when looking at the developers in SL you also notice that not few of them do not separate between their RL and SL that much (also esp. true for media people). And if you want to do real business you of course have to reveal yourself at some point.
Another point is that Linden Lab actually is an expert in the area of SL and thus should be able to judge whether somebody has knowledge or not.
Of course (as Gwyneth states) they are a bit shy of asking residents to help because either of the fear of favoritism or maybe for some other reason (but there are facts like Skyped townhall meetings where they use residential services like the secondcast crew).

The mass of problems and solutions

Regarding Linden Lab one also needs to see that not only one person is proposing something but a lot many of them. And even if all would be experts it would be hard to find a solution based on this. Even more so, many things in SL are just new like the emerging society and the economy. There’s hardly any research done on e.g. how a virtual world economy behaves compared to other (more technical) fields. And right now we do see a big discussion on the economic topic where many “experts” seem to be around (in RL it is not different regarding economics as it does not seem to be a science with predictable results anyway).

So when seeing that mass of proposals and complaints (I’ve hardly seen any community with that much proposals/complaints actually) it is clear that it’s not easy for Linden Lab to find the right thing to do. So while I do think they listen I doubt that solutions to many problems are easy to find. So the feeling might arise that they do not listen at all.

But saying that I also wonder how many people in SL actually have a problem with it. Apparently the forums are only used by a minority of residents and most people just live their second lives having fun and taking a break from the RL problems anyway (afaik).

Conclusion

I second Gwyneth in that we need to get rid of any fear of favoritism (for whatever reason we have that). Whole RL works with having some people being closer to some company than others. Making this a formal thing like a partner network might also clarify under which terms and conditions people work together with Linden Lab. This might also remove any fear of what influences some people have and why. There’s so much to be done in Second Life that much help is needed to make all of this happen. So let’s start!🙂

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3 responses

20 05 2006
Troy McLuhan

Gwyn was saying that *Linden Lab* is behaving like a company with gamer culture, not the residents.

That is, LL are afraid of openly appearing to favor one particular group for fear of being accused of picking favorites. Of course, we can all name cases where LL *did* pick favorites, but I guess LL hopes we didn’t notice. Game companies don’t pick favorites. Software development companies pick partners and have an official, formal, standard way of doing so.

As for experts: they exist and you can tell them apart from non-experts. If someone has a degree in nutrition and has worked in that field for 30 years, they are clearly more of an expert than someone who’s spent their entire life playing volleyball.

There are no rules against coming into SL and telling everyone exactly who you are in RL. People do that all the time.

This idea that everyone in SL is on a level playing field is a bunch of pie-in-the-sky baloney. The sooner LL abandons that myth, the better.

20 05 2006
Gwyneth Llewelyn

Tao, excellent post🙂 You’re quite right on SL being a community of communities that seems to have an extraordinary amount of both solutions/proposals and complaints. I guess that it’s due to a very high addiction level: we all want SL to succeed, and we all fear that everything that is being done is, well, simply not enough🙂

At least the blogosphere and the third-party sites, with people discussing all over the place, are increasing at a dramatic rate. All in all, I think that this means that we’re spending a lot of time thinking and discussing about SL — both in-world and off-world. All this “thinking and discussing” will surely lead us to better solutions — I’m not a friend of a “quantity vs. quality” approach, but I also think that you need “critical mass” to have something actually happening.

The time for that seems to be right now — growing steadily towards a million users. LL is pausing for rethinking their strategy overall; they’re both listening and discussing things among themselves. And I truly believe that this year, or as late of 2007, we’ll experience dramatic changes. Many of these changes will come from residents, not LL.

One of my friends prophesised that this year of 2006, LL will *not* be the company profiting more from the platform — but third parties actually using it. If this is true, it’s definitely something special. It means a radical departure of the “usual” model of a “game company” — where only the “game creators” win any real amount of money, regardless on the money made through account/item sales on eBay, or things like IGE. Second Life is going to rewrite history, as being the first virtual world “metaverse” that will allow their residents to outgrow the company setting up the technology.

What this actually *means* is something for us to think about🙂

20 05 2006
Gwyneth Llewelyn

BTW, forgot to add — yes, Troy is right, it’s *Linden Lab* that behaves as if they’re infected by the gamer mentality to make their decisions. I find this not surprising; almost all employees are gamers (formerly, or effectively).

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