Who *are* these people???

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Yeah, OK… Two days after I posted that list of other folks’ reactions to Wallace Linden’s fumble and major loss of yardage on his first play of the game, Linden Lab changed the game again. To put the best light on it (which means I may be blowing smoke): Maybe they got the message that Facebook was not the social network to get in bed with after all. They found a pre-existing socnet called Avatars United (AU), which looks, on its facebook, as a solution to the “problem” that only existed in the collective mind of the Lab in the first place. But — the Lab didn’t just say, “Hey, all you folks who want to connect out-of-world as your SL avatars, here’s something you might try.” No, they bought the sucker!

What with? Who knows? They’re a private corporation, and not obliged by law to publicly report earnings or profits. The likes of us will never know whether this acquisition came out of the petty cash drawer, or the pockets of the venture capital backers… or what it will do to the Lab’s bottom line in subsequent quarters. From the looks of it, though, they can’t have stretched the budget too much. They can’t have stretched their foresight very much, either (Linden Lab? Foresight?), because what they bought included hardware that couldn’t handle the rush of new applicants — including me — who pounced on the site as soon as the announcement hit the screens. Three days later, I’m still getting the occasional “503” error when their server constipates.

There’s a second, but very important, reason for the influx of new signups. Early entries discovered that avatar names are not verified with the various MMO’s and virtual worlds one can assign affinities to at AU. Consequently, there was a lot of “Oh, shit — I’d better get my name in there before someone else pretending to be me does!” A couple of reactions to this stand out, the first being Grace McDunnough’s post at her blog Phasing Grace: “Virtual Identity and Real Value”. The second — one might call it the nuclear option — came from Ordinal Malaprop, who summarily pulled the plug on her SL existence. (You may also want to read Dio Kuhr and Emily Orr about Ordinal’s self-immolation.)

I’ve been fairly vociferous in my objection to the “mass marketing” of SL as advocated by the likes of Hamlet Au, and have used phrases like “Facebook mentality” to excoriate the dumbing-down of Second Life. I confess: never having used a social network like FB, I was speaking from my gut. Three days after joining AU, I’m learning — not only was my gut feeling accurate, but Facebook mentality is already alive and well among some SL Residents.

Case in point: While I was typing the above paragraph, yet another request to “unite” arrived from someone I’ve never heard of. I clicked on his profile, and discovered he’s a land-owner promoting his business. In plain English: a spammer.

[Edited 2/2/10 to add:]

Tweeting with Skate Foss earlier today reminded me that I’d only included half of the problem with “Facebook mentality”. The other half is:

People who rank quantity of “friends” over quality of friendships.

It’s not a freaking game, folks! You don’t get a prize for having the longest list.

So, here’s the deal: Just like in SL, I will not automatically accept “random friendings”. If you’re a stranger, you need to suggest why you shouldn’t remain one. That’s what the gorram message field in the “Unite us” popup is for. Use it!

Or be ignored, your choice.

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11 responses to “Who *are* these people???

  1. I find the feeding frenzy going on there at the moment fascinating. I am getting friend requests from people I don't know, and surprisingly from people who I know have an issue with me!

    The value of a friendship on a social media website seems to be less valued than that of a friendship in SL, and the etiquette seems to be markedly different.

    Or… has twitter made us into information freaks who want to see what people say, and friending in the AU sense is more akin to following.

    I suppose I should edit that to say “Uniting” which is a strange turn of phrase (understandable for the website name), but has an even more intimate meaning in some contexts.

    Either way it's interesting. I certainly won't be connecting fully to the SL Blip, as I don't see fully why I want to share that level of info with people who are not necessarily people that I consider friends in SL.

  2. Interesting point. I joined AU a few weeks before the tidal wave hit it. There were only a very small handful of SL avatars on there and we shared a couple of short messages. And then suddenly the giant influx and the place is filling with people! Still, at least now there'll be lots of conversation! Right? Wrong. Countless unite requests from countless people and then silence. And the only functionality so far is a way to post your avatar's home location for everyone to know – the thin end of the disclosure wedge, mark my words. I've already publicly said I won't be using Blip or whatever it's called.

    The truth is, after weeks of constant announcements of Facebook avataricides, LL telling us (and then denying it) that RL and SL details would be linked for all to see and sundry other BS, I'm now finding myself increasingly disinterested in Second Life. It just brings too much drama in exchange for increasingly little benefit to my life. I'm not taking the nuclear option of Ordinal Malaprop in the post linked above but my SL time has been drastically reduced already will probably be reduced further so that I only visit for specific occasional events rather than to explore for its own sake. The entire experience, both in-world and out-world on the various associated sites like AU just leaves an increasingly foul taste in my mouth. It's no longer my Second Life; it's a shadow of SL, tainted with everything bad that the web2.0 world can bring.

  3. @Toxic: I think maybe “etiquette” may be stretching the point; I associate that word with “politeness”, and this in some ways feels to be the antithesis.

    I do use Twitter for finding out what people have to say — interesting people, who often pack a lot into 140 characters. And by the way, thanks for the “follow”. ;)

    @Lauren: You're not alone. To that end, I've established a beachhead in OSGrid. Imagine: a full, 15 kiloprim sim of your own — for free! All you need is enough computer to host it yourself (i.e., act as your own server).

    Look me up; my sim is, unsurprisingly, called “LaloLand”.

  4. funny how we feel our name should be unique. it is not the case in the real world

    i have loads of SEO with my name, but anyone else could be named it as well. i can't control that, nor should anyone, imo

  5. It's not your name that necessarily should be unique but your online personna that should be. Regardless, I too find the endless “united” friending going on to be about as shallow as it gets. I need a reason to pay attention to people — not just because we share the same planet (SL).

  6. Wow, all this talk about Facebook suicides and murders makes me want to take a peek…nah, not really. A friend had invited me over to FB, as an avatar, but I declined the offer as it makes little sense to me to keep up with folks I don't know. As one who lurks about profiles, blogs, twitters, etc, I find that for the most part I am at the receiving end of something I care not to accept. I recognize the purpose of social networking sites as popularity contests more so than places where real friends meet, and chose to exempt myself (well, my avatar at least, for I do have a RL profile) from that discourse. Nevertheless, your discussions I do find interesting when I am trying to avoid RL work. Keep up the good posts, Lalo, y suerte!

  7. I have two distinct and sometimes oppositional views on social networking:

    The first is from the perspective of a content creator (blogs, machinima, etc.) who wants to have as large a network as possible.

    The second is from the viewpoint of a consumer of content who has a limited amount of time and attention.

    My Facebook strategy is based on the first POV and my Twitter approach is somewhere in the middle.

  8. In the 10 days since I first wrote this, the AU “friendzy” (Crap Mariner's phrase) has died down, at least for me — no new ones have come in for 24 hours.

    Since I am self-limited to Twitter, I use it in much the same way you do, Botgirl — as a source of interesting content by other people, and to announce my own. I chose whom to follow based on their work elsewhere on the Web. I'm a little less picky about who follows me, but I do look at every profile before deciding to allow, block (in the case of spammers) or “follow back”. Thus, I enjoy, and harbor “fellow-feeling” — if not friendship itself — for everyone whose Tweets I receive.

    Call it “collegial” :)

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