In his thread discussing the outcome of the request by denizens to restore Second Names, and the decision by Linden Lab not to, Rodvik said: “Hopefully this one is along the lines of “bummer” or “fail” rather than “epic fail”.”
I think, actually, despite some denizens screaming, “Epic Fail!”, Rodvik’s right and they are wrong.
Epic Fail, as in the case of the Homestead debacle, sees people packing their bags and leaving. Epic Fail sees the owners of closed garden Open Grids rubbing their hands with delight and laying on extra greeters.
This one is a Fail, because a lot of people are unhappy. But they’re not – in large numbers – announcing that this is the tipping point, this is what will make them leave and never cast an officially Linden-sanctioned shadow on the grid again.
A Fail may well be a contributing point, along with a range of other factors, such the huge cost of land in Second Life compared with other venues (and ones where the evolution of preferred Second Life features is growing all the time), and the inevitable shininess of newer forms of technology. Half a homestead sim in Second Life or iPhone contract?
Where are all the Residents?
One thing that I wonder is … how deeply engaged are the new Residents? They’ve been here getting on for eighteen months now and yet …
Where are the top content creators who have the surname Resident? I can name twenty top artists whose work I – and may others on the grid – adore, twenty top musicians whose concerts I’ll cheerfully attend because they are great musicians. But none of them are called Resident. I’ll go further. Where are the cutting edge fashion designers, hair creators, skin makers called Resident? Where are the builders of homes, or furniture, the garden designers, the landscape artists with Resident in their surname? Where are the community leaders who have attracted passionate followings?
I’m not talking here about people who have established nice businesses. I’m not talking about existing creators who have taken on new avatars to manage businesses or launch new lines. I’m talking about the brand leaders, the stars, the (urgh) SLeberity creators whose names are well known across the grid. The Residents have had eighteen months to reach that level. Why can’t I think of a single one?
(And I would really love the answer to that to be, “Because you’re an uninformed idiot, Saffia – what about X, Y, and Z Residents?” Please feel free to put that in the comments. Please tell me about lots of brilliant Residents who are leading the grid but who I’ve overlooked).
The Bullying that gets noticed – and the Bullying that is ignored
In one of their pronouncements this week, the Lab announced that as part of their new policy that TPVs were no longer allowed to show denizens which viewers other denizens were using – not because it reveals the comparative popularity of, say, Phoenix or Exodus against the default Lab browser – oh no, perish the thought! – but for the highly laudable reason that it has led to bullying, with people feeling pressured to use other browser when, really, they would prefer to stay with the Lab’s one.
I fully applaud anything that is a protection against bullying and griefing (so let’s hope that removing “Resident” from all possible places doesn’t break security tools). But why are the Lab so conscious of the bullying surrounding the third party viewers and so blind to the fact that many Residents have felt that they are treated as second class citizens – and have said so, repeatedly, on the Jira requesting the return of second names, and in numerous other fora? Blind to the fact that older denizens have confessed that they are guilty of treating denizens with the surname “Resident” (or single names) as newbies, not entirely to be trusted in matters of business?
The Need for Community
In his message, Rod also talked about the importance of community – and he’s spot on, there – it IS community that keeps people in Second Life. What’s the fun of life as an urchin in a grimy steampunk town if you’re the only one there? What’s the the point in roaming the streets of a magnificent futuristic dystopia if you really are the only inhabitant? How can you show off your latest bling or home or mesh dress or exquisite Queen Anne gateleg table if there is no-one to admire it? Why scale the mountain alone?
Unfortunately, though, the ideas that Rod refers to in his post – “something along the lines of a new mainland like region or making mainland better or rethinking the whole way Linden Homes works” all seem to involve asking denizens to spend money. I can certainly think of ways of making Linden Homes better – and creating communities by having themed districts – so you can live in a bustlling Irish coastal town, or on the French Riveria, or in a Tuscan hilltop town or a community of houseboats in Srinagar or Palafitos from Venezula or Chile, stilt houses from Thailand or Papua New Guinea, or in a futuristic city on Mars, a community of sky pods, or a New York brownstone. Think how the builders would support this – the gusto with which creators would design furniture to fit!
However … if there is to be a project that asks people to pay, it has to be something that genuinely excites them and involves different sections of the community. And at the moment, the community is … sore. Repeated blows from the Lab have hit it badly: the second names desire has been denied. Mailing list systems have silently failed thanks to a choke imposed without warning by the Lab. A swathe of content that depended on knowing people’s online status affecting delivery, messaging and a host of other vital tools was threatened by the new Third Party Viewer rules (although there has, fortunately, been some listening there). People are confused as to how the TPVs that they love are going to be affected by the new rules – hell, the developers are confused too! We’ve learned senior people have left the Lab, that quarterly statistics will no longer be available. The new Received Items concept looms closer (Inara Prey explains it beautifully here). Oh, and the two month exclusion of AngusGraham Ceawlin from the grid, finally (in part) resolved only after Phoenix developers became involved.
In short, it’s been a pretty terrible ten days or so for eagerly engaged denizens of Second Life.
Is there a way to turn a Fail into a Win?
There is a way forward though, something suggested as a possibility by Rod himself that could begin to turn this around. In the same post he says: “some of the early ideas (like you get to pick a prefixed last name after you are a resident for say six months) can also be chatted about.”
Wouldn’t that solve a lot of the problems that have made denizens so frantic? Admittedly, Residents would have to wait a period of time, and that might cause a certain disruption in any business they had created (by the time I had been inworld six months, I was already working on Issue 3 of Prim Perfect), but I don’t think it would be impossible to overcome. One would probably need to look into how first names could also be tweaked at such a time – so that you could go from being Joe30056 Resident to Joe Snuffleglum or, indeed, Joe Howarth – but this, to me, does seem to be a way of turning Fail into Win.
It does seem to me that it would offer Residents a reason to stick around. It would give them a point in the future when they join the join the Second Life community as fully fledged members – and become part of a rather special family of namesakes. And the name day party as you take on your fully-fledged and personally chosen identity could be really something special.