One Hundred and Forty Days of Silence (virtually)

Second Names for Second Lives!
Second Names for Second Lives!

On the 18th July, 2011, Harlow Heslop created a Jira asking for the return of second names for avatars.

This has proved an incredibly popular Jira.  In 100 days, it has risen to the top of the Jira list with over 2100 votes and counting, beating out every other unresolved Jira, some of which date back to 2007 (and are still unresolved).

What is it all about? Well, I think a comment on the Jira by TravellingSong Soulstar sums it up beautifully:

Username – permanent, unique username – used to be a first name that the user chose + a last name from a short list that LL had available. Example: I chose TravellingSong as my first name, and Soulstar from what was available at that time. No one else is or can be TravellingSong Soulstar.Users asked for the opportunity to change their last name on a one-time basis. Example: my partner is TarotCrow Inkpen. She may wish to change her last name to Soulstar, and thus have TarotCrow Soulstar as her permanent username, as long as it is still a unique username (i.e. no one else chose “TarotCrow” as a first name when “Soulstar” was available).The Linden powers-that-be at that time instead gave us Display Names, that are changeable whenever the user wants to change it. This =/= one-time last name change to permanent, unique username. Example: TarotCrow could have the Display Name of TarotCrow Soulstar, however, her permanent, unique username would still be TarotCrow Inkpen.

The Linden powers-that-be at that time also gave new users the chance to choose a permanent, unique username that was one name only. Example: if I signed up now as TravellingSong, that would be the whole of the username.

“Resident” was appended as the “last name”. Example, building on the last one: my username would appear inworld as “TravellingSong Resident”.

This would mean that no other new user could use the permanent, unique username “TravellingSong”. Building on the previous two examples: it’s already been used.

By not allowing users to choose a permanent, unique username of a first name + last name, you have greatly reduced the number of reasonable permanent, unique usernames by a great percentage. Examples of permanent, unique usernames: First name only: TravellingSong. First + last name: TravellingSong Soulstar, TravellingSong Inkpen, TravellingSong Smith, TravellingSong Jones, TravellingSong Campbell, TravellingSong… well, think about it – how many last names can you come up with?

Examples of not reasonable permanent, unique usernames: TravellingSong12345, TravellingSong67890, TravellingSong#%@^&, TravellingSongMusician, TravellingSongHotToTrot… . All too long for ease of use and/or cluttered with alphanumerics and other strange symbols.

In real first life, we have first and last names (for the most part – there are a few with only one name, but it’s definitely not the norm), granted not always unique. Example: two “David Thomas” in the same grade attending the same school and having the same classes at times in a total grade unit (i.e. 12th grade) size of about 400 (yes, that really happened).

This is their permanent “username”, however, and can only be changed by court order and the expenditure of money. Example: late British actor Jon Pertwee was born Jon d’Perthuis du Vaillouvos (or something like that). Silly English kept trying to pronounce it as “Pert-wis”, when in French it was actually “Pert-wee”, so he changed it.

The real first life equivalent of a Display Name is a nickname or a pen name. Example: late British author James Herriot was actually named James Alfred Wight. He did not legally change it when he started writing books, he simply used “Herriot” as the pen name. Another example: Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman.

This is what this JIRA is asking for:

1) Second Life having a permanent, unique username comprised of first name that we choose + last name from a short list that gets changed every so often.

2) Once in a great while, a user may wish to change the permanent, unique last name due to partnering or for business (generally, these seem to be the two big ones), and is willing to pay a fee for it, if it is available and would still be unique.

3) Everyone saddled with a last name of “Resident” to be allowed a one-time free change to a new permanent, unique username comprised of a first name the user chooses + last name from a short list of available names.

(Quoted with permission from TravellingSong Soulstar)

And this is not an impossible issue to fix.  As many people, including me, have discovered, the system for creating avatars with first and second names is still in place and still works.  But as people find these sites, they are closed or locked to the ordinary resident – a touch of treating your customers like second class citizens that does not go down well.

Second Names for Second Lives! Image designed by Toady Nakamura
Second Names for Second Lives! Image designed by Toady Nakamura

At one point, Linden Lab told us that it was no longer enough to vote for a Jira, you had to watch it too.  So, 685 people are dutifully watching this Jira – which means that every time a message is posted on the Jira, they get a message in their inbox too.  I wish I could assume that at least SOMEONE at the Lab was actually getting these emails too.  Their continued silence suggests otherwise.

In these hundred and forty days, there has been one comment from the Lab – from ProductTeam Linden.  It started with an explanation of how to use display names – rather ignoring the fact that many people who had commented earlier had explained why Display Names were not satisfactory.  It continued:

Know that we hear you and value your passion and that we are currently reviewing some of the decisions that were made with the username/Display Names implementation.

Since then, silence.

This is (as I have said before) all the more frustrating for residents as the Jira is meant to be the way that we can talk to the Lab – and they can talk back to us. But it increasingly seems we are shouting into a void.


  1. To see how Names matter to people, look at the way Google seem to have killed off their Google+ social network rival to Facebook by banning names that didn’t look ‘real’ to them. The resulting ‘nymwars’ showed Google to be incapable of responding to or managing a crisis, as their employees blundered from one mistake to another. Suddenly from being the Search Engine good guys they had lined up with the Powers That Be to deprive us of our Internet personas.

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