Ch- ch- ch- ch-

Changes!

Turn and face the strain…

The new home of Telling: Like it Is.

Friends and subscribers, and especially you who honor me by inclusion on your blogrolls, please change your links. It’s a paid service, and I’ve signed up for a year, so that’s where I’ll be… none of that “bounce back and forth” jazz whenever Google appears to change its mind.

See you over there!

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The Pitfall of Early Adoption

Anyone who reads this blog has probably figured out that I have a great deal of respect and admiration (as well as a bit of envy) for the Oldbies of Second Life. It’s a prime reason why I jumped into InWorldz with both pixel feet, too: to be a pioneer in a new world, and leave my mark on it… and yes, to sit back in my rocker a few years from now, boring the young’ns with stories of byegone days and basking in the senescent glow of Oldbiedom.

The history I’ve uncovered, however, isn’t all about pioneers in a new land… it’s also about first users/customers of a service that’s — often painfully — in beta. Second Life made a lot of blunders down blind alleys in its earliest days, mostly while trying to “monetize”… and each time they said “Oops, that didn’t work, let’s try this instead,” someone was trying to hang them for being social engineers as well as money-grubbers.

So, while I envy the Oldbies for blazing the social trails and building the first “layer” of cultural artifacts on the Grid, at the same time I’m content to have not lived through the upheaval of Linden Lab’s early experiments in overseeing the world. You might also recall that I tried out another closed-beta virtual world scheme with the unfortunate handle of “Project X”… compared to that bunch, the first crop of Lindens were social and marketing geniuses.

What I’m getting to is this: if a service of any kind (not just a virtual world) tells you it’s in beta, take them at their word. Expect stumbles and false starts; expect one hand not necessarily to know what the other is doing; expect policy development to lag behind features; expect more bugs in the administration than the code.

Google+ Beta has been live for… what, a week now? And already, there’s a problem. With apologies to Opensource Obscure, the problem is superficially about his account being suspended because Google says it violates their community standards, without clearly saying how (perhaps it’s the use of “Opensource”?). Peel back a layer, and the problem seems to stem from a certain (intentional?) ambiguity in those standards, as they apply to account names. In my opinion, the problem’s true taproot is in unrealistic expectations in the minds of the early adopters.

“Here, finally,” it was widely said a mere few days ago, “is the Facebook killer! Surely they will respect our chosen identities, which hundreds of us have used within, and integrated through, other Google services (Gmail, Blogger, Picasa, Reader, etc.) for years!” And, without paying much heed to the failures of both Wave and Buzz, they — including me — jumped into Google+ with both pixel feet.

Who promised us that Google would be any more indulgent of avatarian identity than Facebook has been? Or, did we delude ourselves with our own early adopter enthusiasm? Who expected a beta product to work — and be administered — right out of the box like a final rollout? Or, did we only see the good half of Google’s reputation for product development, and rely on what has been reported as a full year of in-house alpha testing — while forgetting that the in-house environment had no conception whatsoever of the kind of alternate identity we avatars live by?

No one should need to be reminded of this, but, for the record: Google is a business. It makes money selling advertising space crammed into the “free” services we sign up for. Advertisers want the biggest bang for their buck, which they get with narrowly-targeted placement matched to the aggregated online behaviors of individual users: what they search for, and where from (using Google); which blogs and webpages they read regularly (using Google Analytics, Reader, and Friend Connect); what geolocation and names are tagged in photographs (uploaded to Picasa)…

Get the picture? We all railed loud and long about Facebook’s data-mining, and how since avatarian identities foil their plans to aggregate users with purchasing information, they want nothing to do with us. Google is the 800-kiloton gorilla, the originator of the practice, the main reason it’s what everyone does now… why did we early adopters of Google+ expect anything different from them?

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Meanwhile… from inside Google+, it’s beginning to look a little like the spamathon when SL bought Avatars United. I’m being added to circles by genuine friends and acquaintances, of course, but also by complete strangers, and at least one who I deliberately ignore… and there are 500 people in the “suggested” category!  Some of them I know by name and reputation alone, most I’ve never heard of, and many aren’t even avatars!

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While I’ve been slogging through the draft of this post, Honour McMillan has already trumped me, in her usual brilliant tongue-in-cheek style. Go read this, right now: Don’t Panic! Avatars do not carry the Plague, Cooties or even the Swine Flu.

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Identity "Crisis"

(a review of the literature)
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Readers of this blog (thank you!) should also be reading most, if not all, of the blogs listed down the right margin out of habit, just like I do.  Regardless… Once in a while I feel compelled to single out their words about an important issue.

The issue of the moment (get ready to be unsurprised) is yet another battle in The Fake War: the argument precipitated by the statements of Facebook’s CEO, followed by the actions of FB, regarding the identity of their account holders and the disposition of information.  It has particular impact on the Residents of Second Life for a number of reasons; chief among them being the occasional vague references from the likes of M Linden (CEO of SL) and Hamlet Au about some form of “integration” between SL and FB… as if a mere population increase will solve SL’s problems, rather than exacerbate them.  (That began before Facebook dropped the nuke on privacy — see the list of articles at the end of “Vaporworld” for background).

Along comes Wallace Linden, fresh out of the test-tube, with his inaugural piece on the the official Second Life blog: “Will the Real You Please Stand Up”.

A lot of us have — here are some of the best minds in the SLogosphere, doing just that:

Dusan Writer: “Linking Second Life to Real Life Names”

Snickers Snook: “Real Life, Second Life. Blurring the Lines.”

Honour McMillan: “Connecting Real Life and Second Life – a Personal Opinion”

Dale Innes: “The real me is having a nap, tyvm”

Dio Kuhr: “I am Spartacus — linking real life identities to SL personas”

Emily Orr: “oh, I’m scared of the middle place, between light and nowhere”

and Botgirl Questi, with appropriate humor: “The REAL STORY Behind the Wallace Linden Controversy”

Department of Redundancy Department:  In my “Vaporworld” post below, and in comments scattered around the Web, I have used the phrase the identity in your wallet.  It’s a deliberate reference, not just to your driver’s license but to the other contents of your wallet: cash and credit cards.  The drive to link “real” identity to pseudonyms is what the latest jargon calls “monetization”.  It’s quite simple: data-mining hits a brick firewall if the account name can’t be matched to purchase activity.  Therefore, the data being mined has less resale value, and neither the miners (EquiFax and their ilk) nor their clients (Facebook, ad nauseum) like that very much.  You need look no farther for the motive of the anti-“fake” side of The Fake War.

Speaking of monetization…  Remember this?  Second Life Affiliate Program, which you can use to place an ad for SL on your blog or other website, and receive a whopping U$D 5 kick-back for any Premium memberships initiated by a click-through from your site.  I love the irony that not one of the blogs about SL that I’ve read since that program began displays one of those ads.

Heh heh

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