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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 face
book, 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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