Images by Judith Lefevre
All Fashion for Life 2012 regions donated by DreamSeeker Estates Corporation
It’s an archetypal Second Life drama – and Shopping Cart Disco points the way to the train wreck.
One person, understandably exhausted at the end of a huge event that raised over L$5,300,000 for a charity, makes a bad mistake. No real surprise there – people make mistakes all the time. I do myself. I may not have made this mistake, but I’m fully capable of making mistakes just as bad.
Someone else, fully understanding this is controversial, uses it without checking the facts to cause a blog storm (and garner a huge number of hits for the site he is writing for). No surprise there at all – we all love watching those reader figures rise through the roof.
People who were targeted by both the mistake and the subsequent article are understandably upset and/or angry. In some cases they were targeted egregiously – they had blogged or they had incredibly good reasons for not blogging (but no-one checked).
People who were not targeted are upset and angry, and have said so – sometimes vociferously. At which point a feeding frenzy ensued with trolls happily chucking chum into the troubled waters, with people whipping each other up to newer and higher levels of outrage and the few voices of calm and reason (Hi Callie! Hello Breezy! And the others!) being drowned out.
Amidst all this I was struck by a woman with ovarian cancer posting to say that all this fuss had spilled over into a world that knew nothing of Second Life, and that it had led her, mystified, to start to explore what this Relay for Life of Second Life actually was. And she discovered a wonderful thing. She discovered that there were pixel people who were working hard to raise money to fight the horrible disease she was suffering from. She learned of amazing events, of hundreds, thousands of people involved, of creations of weird and wonderful beauty – all working to fight cancer, all to help her.
And, of course, she learned all about the row that’s going on – but she saw it in its true perspective, and reminded us all that barely an event is held in real life without someone’s feelings being hurt, without someone feeling upset or being wronged because, sadly, life’s like that and doubly, trebly so when people’s passions are engaged.
So apologies by FFL have been made, but people are still making over the top claims and declarations:
1) That the American Cancer Society should withdraw from Second Life forthwith
Really? The ACS should withdraw from an event that raises well over a quarter of a million US dollars every year because one tired person makes one bad mistake – and one blog site runs with it?
2) That no-one should have anything to do with FFL ever again, and certainly shouldn’t blog it
Yes, that will really prove a salutary lesson for people, won’t it? Look how much less money they raise next year, because bloggers refuse to participate! And that will be so good for… er… er… people with cancer? People who love blogging? Help me out here, please!
3) That all the organisers of FFL should be removed forthwith
Because, of course, there are a line of people queuing around the block just begging for the opportunity to run FFL and organise the sims, the fashion houses, the small fashion places, the bloggers, the musicians, the DJs, the publicity, the spreadsheets, the finances… all for the warm praise that everyone will rush to give them.
You do surprise me.
Let’s be absolutely clear about this. What happened was wrong, and merits an apology from FFL (which it got). It also needs to be addressed so that it doesn’t happen again (and it won’t – but we’ll all make new and appalling mistakes of our own in time).
There are also issues here that have been overlooked in the storm.
Firstly, one thing that struck me was that those named and shamed in the list were a very small proportion of the whole blogging list. This led me to two thoughts – firstly that this was an awesome result – an awful lot of Second Life bloggers were posting about FFL.
Secondly, on a more practical note, this episode was rather unnecessary. A thank you to the bloggers who had posted (with space for later “Ooops – how could we have missed your lovely post?”) would have done the job, and a list of names of people who hadn’t showed up could have been filed for next year – or even passed quietly on to the next big event, so they could have decided whether to welcome them or to have a quiet word.
But a third issue is a rather broader one, and has to do with the commercialisation of charity events. There are many in Second Life, some to raise money, some to raise awareness. Some are fraudulent but the overwhelming majority are perfectly genuine, from the smallest local charity to the massive RFL with its seriously major fairs. Many people are asked to donate to these events, generally giving of their skills. Musicians and DJs could probably play a full roster of benefit gigs night in and night out – I am awed by how generously these people give their time and tips for charitable events again and again.
So too creators. So many events ask for items for their event that creators have to ration themselves or work on elements such as a special colour of an existing dress or necklace, a special make-up on a skin. And woe betide them if bloggers feel that the creator’s standard is below that of their usual products!
Of course you can argue that creators may see such events as loss leaders. They will have a stall (which they pay for) where they can display their latest ranges – as well as the two or four items that will be sold for charity. And good for them. I know from being involved with the Home and Garden Expo and – to a lesser extent, the Fantasy Fair – that these events actually have huge benefits for creators over and above the sales generated. They are an opportunity to meet a wide customer base and they’re also a great opportunity to meet other creators – last year we ran a series of talks at the Prim Perfect Pavilion at the Home and Garden Expo, and afterwards on many evenings a bunch of designers ended up hanging out in the rooftop cafe, discussing anything and everything. It was lovely.
So then we come to the bloggers.
Publicity is a hellish thing in Second Life (and all virtual worlds). Getting out the word about your product or your event is not at all easy. Blogs tend to have small and loyal followings; magazines and TV programmes rather larger ones, but still only reaching a subset of Second Life (leaving out other virtual worlds for the moment). And it really is very hard to move beyond that – it involves intensive publicity using social media of various kinds.
To me there seems to have been a “creep” factor around events like FFL (in the sense of message creep). A few years ago, if you were a blogger, that meant you gained early entry to the sites. You could walk around and look at everything while there were relatively few people there and everything was non-laggy, so you could take photos. You could also make early purchases, and, if you wanted, blog them at the start of the fair.
That expanded into having a welcome pack for bloggers with landmarks, notecards and then a few freebies. And then more – until the welcome pack became a fully fledged blogging pack with items that were being sold at the Fair. The blogger didn’t even need to go to the Fair – they could try on the outfits or rezz the goods in the comfort of their own homes.
This meant that some people have suggested that people might not have blogged because the items in the bloggers’ pack were substandard or that there were too many female items for male bloggers. I must say, I have rather more respect for bloggers than to believe they’d throw a hissy fit and ignore a ten-sim Fair for charity because the blogger pack didn’t contain items they utterly adored.
But I do think that this “creep” can lead to a misguided sense of entitlement all round. For the organisation and for the creators who donate goods, they may expect to see a return for their generosity. For the bloggers, they may come to expect the highest possible quality of gifts – and enough variety that not everyone is blogging about the same thing. And, conversely, for some people this might go hand in hand with a sense of obligation – on the part of the creators to supply items; on the part of the blogs, to write about each and every thing. This is not a happy state of affairs for anyone.
Should we perhaps step back from the blogging pack? Should we return to the more basic welcome pack (landmarks and notecards – along with the early access), and accept that this might attract a lower number of bloggers? Or should the blogging pack be a banquet of goodies that lands with a resounding THUD! in the inventory of any blogger who signs up?
I’m very open to hearing discussion on this issue – although I will be moderating this and comments I consider abusive will be removed. My blog, you see, so my rules.