Second Life residents share their – mostly accurate – views on intellectual property law

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Last month I conducted a survey on NWN asking what users knew about intellectual property. I published an excerpt of results last week on the same site. This is the full version of that post.

Generally, I found that most Second Life residents responding to this survey have an accurate view of intellectual property laws. The question that yielded one of the most surprising results revealed that nearly 1/3rd of respondents do not fully agree with the Linden Lab Terms of Service.

First things first: I am not a lawyer. Second, nothing in this post is a substitute for, nor does it serve as legal advice. Only a lawyer that is licensed to practice in your jurisdiction, and that is familiar with the details of your specific case can advise you on legal matters. Do not act on this information alone.

Further, the information I share here applies to people living in the US. The laws of our respective countries govern us when interacting with each other online, and as such the sources I cite may or may not apply to you. Different factual situations and different legal jurisdictions may lead to different results.

The information I share, however, may be relevant to the majority of survey respondents (US residents) and to Second Life residents in general that use internet service providers to create and share content (e.g. Linden Lab, WordPress, Flickr, Facebook, Google, etc.), which operate under US law.

The sample

Question 2 Responses

252 respondents (96%) completed the online survey of which 99% reported being Second Life Residents. 4% did not complete the survey. 53% of respondents resided in the United States, 12% were in the UK, 5% were from Canada, and 5% were from The Netherlands. In total, survey respondents completed the survey while in 25 countries.

Copyright is a legal right created by the law of a country that grants creators of original works exclusive rights to its use and distribution, over a limited time. Copyright is also territorial, which means that these rights do not extend beyond the specific state in which you live, unless that state is part of an international copyright agreement (e.g. The Berne Convention).

Most respondents (31%) indicated they published screenshots / photos taken in Second Life, followed by creators selling their digital goods (23%). Second life bloggers (19%) and creators that give away their digital goods (21%) had lower representation. The options were not exclusive, with many choosing more than one. Only 6% of respondents indicated they did none of the above.

Second Life residents’ perspective on the DMCA

Question 3 Responses

Surprisingly, 8.7% of respondents reported filing a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice on Second Life content. Even more surprisingly, 2.8% reported they didn’t know if they had filed one. Only 2.4% of respondents indicated they had received a DMCA notice on Second Life content.

55.6% were correct in reporting that a DMCA notice costs nothing to file. This lack of up front cost is one reason critics cite for some of the unintended consequences arising from its use. Claimants must fulfill several requirements when filing. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the copyright owner (or his or her agent – like a user that hires an attorney to file DMCA notices to avoid revealing name and contact details) must supply the service provider (e.g. Linden Lab, WordPress, Flickr, etc) with their name and contact details (yes, their real life details – unless you use a lawyer to do this for you), the location of the infringing materials, enough information to identify the copyrighted works, a statement of good faith, and a statement of the accuracy of the notice under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorised to act on the behalf of the copyright holder.

Importantly, filing a DMCA notice opens you up to statutory damages (including costs and attorney’s fees) if you misrepresent that the material or activity is infringing, and 52.8% reported being aware of this.

Only 41.7% knew that A DMCA notice does not require that you prove ownership of the Intellectual Property. Ms Vaki Zenovka, a Second Life resident and lawyer that speaks regularly on topics related to the law and Second Life, said on my blog: “A DMCA application requires that you give a statement, under penalty of perjury, that you are the owner of the of the content or are authorized to act on the owner’s behalf. There is no proof required. A DMCA takedown notice goes to an online service provider. An online service provider is not a court of law, and doesn’t care about proof.”

Only 40.9% of respondents knew that when filing a DMCA counter-notice, you do not have to prove that the content is not the claimant’s own creation and that the original claim is false and invalid. On this, Ms Zenovka said: “Again, a DMCA counter-notice goes to an online service provider, not to a court of law. There is no proof required. A DMCA counter-notice simply requires that the person filing the counter-notice give a statement, under penalty of perjury, that he or she has a good faith belief that the material was wrongly taken down.”

22.6% were incorrect in saying that a DMCA notice should be used to counter trademark infringement. On this matter, Ms Zenovka said: “DMCA is exclusively a copyright remedy. It has absolutely no relevance to trademark infringement. A brand owner who is unhappy with the display of his or her brand or concerned about the potential for consumer confusion /cannot/ use a copyright claim to take down an image in which the brand owner has absolutely no copyright interest (side note: a trademark owner does not have a copyright interest in his or her brand name).”

60.2% were correct in saying that a DMCA notice should be used to counter copyright infringement. This is not to suggest one should immediately reach for a DMCA notice when addressing with a copyright infringement issue (which maybe be why some of the 31.8% indicated they didn’t know). The first resort should be to ask the other party to stop using the item in question. If this doesn’t work, the claimant can use a DMCA notice to require the ISP get involved. Despite the DMCA’s drawbacks, Ms Zenovka says:

“The DMCA gives individual users a clear, simple process and a remedy that isn’t spending $100,000 on a copyright infringement lawsuit every time a work is potentially infringed. It allows individual creators to file a simple notice and request that service providers intercede and remove potentially infringing works, and if a work is removed that isn’t infringing, it allows the work to be restored with relatively little delay (14 days as compared to months or years). In addition, it allows service providers to exist without constantly defending copyright infringement lawsuits — and believe me, without the safe harbor provision of the DMCA, every online provider that offers user generated content would be enmeshed in crushing vicarious and contributory infringement lawsuits, because it’s much more profitable to sue WordPress than it is to sue Random Blogger #12.”

Most Second Life residents are aware that laws apply to them in-world

Question 4 Responses

73.4% agreed that Second Life residents are expected to obey the laws of their own local countries with regard to their actions in the virtual world. While true, the colliding of laws between jurisdictions might raise some complicated issues:

“a problem can arise in countries which have tough laws regarding material downloaded from the Internet, such as pornography. It is possible, for example, for a US user – even in a non-adult area – to approach German users and create an object displaying an obscene uploaded image which is illegal under German law but legal under US law. Although the US user has broken the Second Life terms of services as a result, and faces suspension or banning from Second Life, the German user has broken a real-life sex offense law by downloading the image and faces a far worse penalty. Even if the user is eventually deemed to not be responsible for this download because it was unsolicited, they will still have been investigated for a sex offense. However, no actual prosecutions have resulted from actions of this type so far.” (Source)

84.9% felt that Second Life residents are expected to pay income taxes on income they make from Second Life activities, which is correct.

Some items in Question 4 were more open to interpretation in that certain situations depend on circumstances that are not always black and white. For example, 75.4% of respondents agreed with the statement that printing, copying, and distributing material that someone else made in Second Life is a violation of the copyright law. Exceptions apply, like when material is specifically licensed more generously than “All Rights Reserved”. For example, Creative Commons licenses bridge the gap between All Rights Reserved and licensed copyrights that respect how the creator wants their content to be copied, distributed, edited, remixed or built upon, and under what circumstances. Further, Zenovka says “printing, copying, and distributing material may not be a violation of copyright law, because the copying or distribution may be a fair use, or may be licensed by Linden Lab’s terms of service.

On a less ambiguous point, 83.3% agreed that if an item they purchase inworld or on the Second Life Marketplace doesn’t have the copyright symbol, it is still considered copyrighted material.

Respondents found the next two items somewhat more ambiguous – and might have preferred to answer with “it depends” or “I’d need more details to make a determination”:

1. While 45.6% agreed that the copyright law protects the content in blogs related to Second Life on the Internet, 37.3% said they did not know. One can interpret answering “I don’t know” in a number of ways, including ignorance of the law, or requiring more information before making a true or false judgement. For example, a blogger can license their work to be copied and shared legally (although this is usually explicitly stated either publicly or privately, as opposed to assumed by the copier). Further, one is free to use anything from short quotations to entire articles, images, songs, under Fair Use – depending on the circumstances. The Copyright Act says that “fair use…for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

There are no black and white rules for what constitutes fair use, but the Copyright Act does set up four factors for courts to look at which include the purpose and character of the use (whether it’s been transformed sufficiently), the nature of the copyrighted work (fiction vs nonfiction, published vs unpublished), the portion of the work that is used, and the effect on the market or potential market such copying might have.

2. 35.3% said that Instant messages that are posted online aren’t considered copyrighted material. 30.2% explicitly said they were not. The Second Life Community Standards (to which we agree to in Article 6 of the LL ToS), however, explicitly states: “posting conversation logs, or sharing conversation logs without the participants’ consent are all prohibited.” This issue is more complex than at first may appear. Firstly, instant messages are copyrightable. Regardless, copying and pasting someone’s private conversations with you in Second Life – regardless of where you paste the content – isn’t a copyright issue per se, but more a matter relating to privacy laws, and it might be enough to get you disciplined by Linden Lab.

On a less ambiguous issue, the majority (38.9%) agreed that blank forms, short phrases, names, titles, facts, and ideas found online aren’t considered original work. 34.5% said they didn’t know.

Four remaining issues in this question were subject to more interpretation:

  1. 57.1% agreed that it is legal to use a small portion of copyrighted material for education purposes. Further, it is legal to use more than a small portion of copyrighted material for educational purposes.
  2. The majority (45.2%) agreed that individuals, who are affiliated with an education institution aren’t allowed to use copyrighted text material or motion media from the Internet without obtaining permission from the owner, but they are wrong. In both cases, there are nuances to consider, and interested users should consult Library Copyright (US) and Copyright User.org (UK) for more information on exemptions on educational use.
  3. 55.2% agreed that it is illegal to download someone else’s images and upload them to one’s web site. Images are subject to the same copyright and fair use laws as written material, so Creative Commons licenses, individual permissions, and Fair Use might also apply.
  4. 67% did not agree with the statement: “When obtaining permission to use copyrighted material, it is not necessary to contact the owner of the copyrighted works.” Again, unless the creator publicly states their material is copyable (e.g. under Creative Commons License), or falls under Fair Use, then it’s safest to get permission from the creator, before copying and distributing the work.

Nearly ⅓ of Second Life users do not agree with the Linden Lab ToS, yet use it anyway

The last question of the survey yielded the most surprising results.

Question 5 Responses

First, 37.7% said they had read the Linden Lab Terms of Service in full. The Linden Lab Terms of Service is a document that contains over 16,000 words written at a college graduate level (and that’s just the main body). At the average reading speed of 300 words per minute, that would take more than 53 minutes assuming it wasn’t written in legalese. I am surprised that such a large proportion of users took the time to read it in its entirely. Research shows that just 7% of Britons read the online terms of service and conditions when signing up for products and services.

While 99% of survey respondents reported they were users of Second Life, only 26.6% said they fully agreed with the Linden Lab ToS, despite it being mandatory to agree with these terms when registering to use Second Life. I found this surprising, since by clicking the “I Agree” button, the user is effectively agreeing to be bound by these terms (whether they read them or not).

The second paragraph of the Linden Lab ToS clearly states:

“By using the Service, you agree to and accept these Terms of Service, including all policies and terms linked to or otherwise referenced herein. If you do not so agree, you should decline this Agreement, in which case you are prohibited from accessing or using the Service.”

This suggests that over a quarter of the survey respondents use Second Life despite not agreeing with its terms of use, or they have ceased to use it in protest. 41.67% saying they don’t know about the ToS is more understandable (one would assume they didn’t read it and clicked that they agreed anyway). Whether users read or implicitly agree with terms of service or not, by clicking “I Agree”, they are be binding yourself to a legally enforceable contract with Linden Lab.

This is something I’ll be looking into further in the future, to better understand the contradiction: Why do so many residents that do not agree with the Terms of Service, indicate that they agree with it and use the service anyway? The reasons may appear obvious on first glance; still, I’d like to look into this further.

51.6% of respondents indicated that they read the Second Life Community Standards in full. What struck me as the most surprising result of this survey, was that 22.62% of respondents did not agree with the contents of the Community Standards. Assuming that these respondents had read the document (in order to disagree), that would suggest that 57/130 (44%) did not agree with what they read. The Community Standards include policies protecting residents against intolerance, harassment, assault, disclosure, adult content outside of adult regions, and disturbing the peace. It also explains how Linden Lab goes about policing against the violations of these standards, and how to report abuse.

Most respondents (53.2%) reported they were familiar with the Digital Rights Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). A surprising proportion (12.7%) stated that they were not sure if they were familiar with it or not. One of the most commonest answers was that 88.1% said they supported copyright as a legal right. Somewhat perplexingly, more respondents (90%) felt it applied on the internet, and even more (91.7%) felt it applied to Second Life.

Only 5.2% had registered a copyright for content related to Second Life. Less (2.8%) had registered a trademark for content related to their brand in Second Life.

Should we worry that outsiders associate Second Life with adult content? Google says: No, because they don’t

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Understandably, long-term residents that invest time, energy, money & hopes into the Second Life platform don’t like it when the media associate Second Life with negativity or fringe interests that might misrepresent how they see the virtual world. Our umbrage escalates to outrage, when this negativity – and the misconceptions that breed it – are seemingly perpetuated (and some might say “regurgitated”) by Second Life residents themselves – who ‘should know better’.

If you’re concerned about Second Life’s reputation, my aim in writing this post is to assuage your anxieties. I’ll do this by showing that the world at large does not share the view that many Second Life residents assume is held by outsiders. Furthermore, I’ll offer some reasons why we think it does have this perception.

Perceived negative associations dampen word of mouth

Why does this matter? Because I believe that one of the things that dampens the growth of Second Life (and there are several – mainly to do with user acquisition and new user engagement), is the lack of word of mouth.

According to Forbes Magazine, Word of mouth is the most powerful form of social media: “According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.” No other form of marketing comes close.

At the end of the day, Second Life is a social networking service. An avatar-represented, three-dimensional, pseudonymous, user-created, incredibly unique social networking service, but a social network service nonetheless. The primary driver of growth for social networking services is word of mouth, not advertising. Ask yourself, did you join Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Google+ or Reddit because you saw an advertisement? Unlikely. You joined it because someone told you about it. I remember the early days when I gave Facebook access to my email address book to help them market to my friends. Would you ever do that with Second Life? Again, unlikely. Why not? Because many of us worry about what others might think.

Let’s talk about sex

Lightning-rod issues of misrepresentation typically revolve around a misconception that Second Life is either closely associated with adult content,  populated by perverted losers, or is a failure. In fact, there is scant evidence to suggest that most outsiders closely associate Second Life with any of these things.

For the purposes of this post, I’ll focus on the whether outsiders associate Second Life with adult content, or not.

Over the past couple of months we’ve seen a debate arise (in the blogs at least) with regards to the media represents Second Life. On one side, some argued that a journalist that didn’t cover the totality of Second Life when reporting on it was misrepresenting it. On the other side argued some that we should not help perpetuate the negative stereotype that Second Life is all about the sexual activities of some of its members.

This debate then took a tangent into either proving or disproving the degree to which sex is practiced in Second Life or not, the consequences of which are predictable: One camp says sex is everywhere, the other will argue that it’s nowhere. More moderate commentators accept that adult content is available in Second Life, while sharing evidence to suggest that it is a sideline activity, despite it being practiced by many. When that line of argument fails, these people then admit sex happens, but recommend that we should not talk about it.

When the opposing sides of this debate are unable to convince the other of the error in their positions with logic or fact, some turn to ad hominem attacks in an attempt to discredit the opposing side’s position. Others wag their fingers saying “I told you so” when further news arises that puts Second Life in a negative light. Others fret that Second Life has a bad reputation because the media associate it with adult content, and some even blame that association for why Second Life might not be as successful it could be. The recent Twitch ban has been used as an example for this.

Those of us with concerns about the bigger picture fret that Second Life is miscategorised as a den of perversion and weird sex. We might even cite this as a possible reason for being “in the SL closet”, and not sharing our experiences with regards to Second Life with our friends.

I can appreciate both sides of the story. Very few people want to be boxed in categories that do not align with their values, attitudes and lifestyles, and will vocally call foul when they are associated with what they do not believe or practice. The last thing many people want to do is look creepy and weird in front of their friends. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s fair to censor ourselves when talking about what is essentially a human universal – having sex – simply because it engaged in on a virtual platform. This drives the issue underground, as if it were to be kept a dirty secret. Needless to say, I don’t at all agree with this position.

These lines of argument miss the point on several counts

First, it doesn’t matter whether people practice sex in Second Life or not (although there is a wealth of evidence to suggest that people do). While we’re debating whether Adult regions are synonymous with sexual activity, we’re debating technicalities. What really matters when it comes to the media and how Second Life is publicly perceived is not how Second Life residents perceive Second Life, but rather how non-Second Life residents (outsiders, which include the media) perceive Second Life.

Second, I have reasonable doubt that Second Life outsiders closely associate Second Life with adult content as much as many of us fear they do. The truth is, there is no evidence to suggest that the public at large associates Second Life with adult content beyond hearsay and isolated personal experience. At least, I can’t find it, and I would welcome anyone to show me a brand perception, consumer awareness study or any piece of research that shows that it is. If I see it, then I might believe it. In the meantime, I will doubt it.

What do we think the media think of Second Life?

Yet, many journalists, bloggers and commentators assume that this link between Second Life and adult content exists. On a whim, I asked Plurkers what words they associated with Second Life. This hardly scientific approach to free association resulted in the following responses:

  • emotional
  • peace
  • relax
  • fantasy
  • schizophrenia
  • creativity (x2)
  • sink (as in timesink)
  • family
  • freedom
  • exploration
  • Barbie
  • chat
  • fun
  • friends
  • interesting
  • delusional
  • work
  • quirky

Notice that not one of the words Second Life residents gave associated Second Life with adult content. Then, I asked them what words they thought the media associated with Second Life, and they said:

  • failure
  • sex (x7)
  • sadness
  • perverted (x2)
  • dying (x2)
  • weird
  • catfishing
  • kinky

  • joke
  • depraved
  • flying-penises

  • freakiness

I might be interpreting liberally, but to my eyes, 70% of the free-associated words residents gave relate to adult content – and all the words given might be considered as ‘negative’ – a stark contrast to how residents themselves said they perceive Second Life.

But, where is the evidence?

Jo Yardley, for example, whose opinions are based on her “personal interaction with friends, family and strangers on the internet and on what I read in articles and stories written by journalists” asserts that people think Second Life is “a strange place where perverts hang out and do weird things” among other things.

Even the author of the much celebrated Atlas Obscura article that was the impetus for the most recent kerfuffle said: “Thanks in part to a growing reputation as a haven for trolls looking to assault open regions with Dadaist perversity like flying penises, or as a playground for cybersexual weirdness…SL fell from the cultural consciousness, with the height of its popularity peaking around the mid-2000s.”

Again, I ask: Where is the evidence? 

In an undedited recorded conversation between Draxtor Despres, Jo Yardley and Hamlet Au, Mr Despres questioned whether the media is responsible for creating the perception that Second Life is about sex [0:08:40].

Mr Au argued that social media has spread that perception citing virtual birthing and trolling videos on YouTube.

Mr Au claims [0:09:30]: “The perception (that Second Life is associated with sex) exists, and is being created outside the traditional media channels through a certain extent, really because nobody really covers Second Life that much anymore in the mainstream media.”

[0:14:20] Mr Despres again asks: “Is it useful, is it helpful, to consistently point out the prevalence of sex and devious things in Second Life in every other article or is it titivation that the mainstream media does to get clicks?”

Later in the interview [0:18:08], Mr Despres worries that Second Life residents that might have been offended by Mr Au’s argument: “I think of these people as extremely shy, and some of them are ashamed that they are in Second Life… because of the negative press.”

Mr Depres says that do so is “perpetuating a meme that is counterproductive… if we have a media platform, if we have an audience, we have a responsibility… to change the narrative but they choose not to do that”.

Mr Au: Sex is a large part of the experience for a large part of the user base”

Mr Depres: “I know you’re citing graphs and stuff but to me this is very anecdotal, I worked on a documentary about Stroker Serpentine, and I was at all these sims but beyond that I never went back there because it doesn’t follow my interests. I don’t have those types of experiences, and nobody that I talked to has.” (my emphasis)

At this point, I have to ask – is any of this really an issue?

I’d answer no, and that it is only as much of an issue as we choose to make it.

I asked Peter Gray, Linden Lab’s Global Communications Director, whether he thought the media associates Second Life with adult content. He said:

As some background, a significant part of my full-time job since 2006 has been speaking to the media about Second Life and monitoring press coverage related to it. I can’t think of any other individual who has spoken to more journalists about SL, nor closely evaluated as many pieces of press coverage about it.

Today, when we speak to journalists about Second Life (and when they write about it), the topic of adult content and activity inworld comes up rarely. When it does, it’s generally in the context of the enormous variety of things people are creating and doing inworld – alongside music, art, education, fashion, entrepreneurship, gaming, and of course much more – and a discussion around the creative freedom Second Life supports, rather than as some singularly defining aspect of the platform.

There are of course those who do have some impression that connects SL with adult content (for example, the Atlas Obscura writer mentioned what he “half-expected” to find inworld), usually informed by some old stories. Similarly, some remember graphics and performance from circa 2007. However, far more commonly we encounter people who are either entirely unfamiliar with SL or assume it went away years ago. Those people tend to be very impressed by the sustained success of the platform and the range of interesting things people are creating and doing inworld, like the stories highlighted in The Drax Files video series.

Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab, echoed Pete’s statement in his SL12B interview when asked if he is annoyed by all the bad press Second Life gets:

[0:08:15] Well, it’s not that much that annoys me … I’ve only had the opportunity to hear negativity for about a year … but I hear very little of it. whomever I talk to, it’s mostly … surprise that it’s still around, or more neutral. It’s very rarely that I’ll run into people that start off with the negative. So that’s a very small percentage of the population. Usually the negative people tend to be quite loud, but it’s not something I stress about.

I guess my biggest annoyance is people intolerance for various types of content. and when you look at the content in the real world, and people’s tolerance for that content in the real world. Then suddenly, when it’s in a virtual space, then it’s, “Oh my God!” Then there’s like a different level of acceptance for all kinds of content for some reason.

And that annoys me. So whatever the subject matter is, I can always draw a parallel to how it’s always “so much worse”, or it has just as much interesting stuff going on in the real world as in Second Life, whether it’s art, whether it’s sex, whether it’s whatever it is, all of this stuff is all around us in the real world, so why would it not be completely reasonable and acceptable to also have it in a virtual world. That’s maybe the most annoying part; when people don’t get that.

Their experience makes sense to me. But you might say: Well, of course they’d say that, and I’d not blame you for being cynical.

Being in the internet marketing business, I’m often charged with reviewing a brand’s reputation online, before putting together a search strategy that leverages positive brand associations, while leaving negative ones aside. If a client tells me their brand is associated with something (whether it is positive or negative), I don’t take their word for it, I check it out.

There are many ways to search a brand’s online reputation, and some companies have made specific products that help brands evaluate and manage their reputations online. The first port of call, however, to even get a hint if there is a reputation problem, is the abundance of free tools available to everyone – most of them provided by Google.

Google, the world’s largest internet search engine is on “a mission to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” With data on over a trillion search queries per year, have confidence that if Google thinks your brand relates to certain keywords, they’ll reflect that in your search results.

On June 9th, I searched 9 Google properties to see if the words “Second Life” was associated with “sex” (who is going to search for “adult content”, right?) I found very little association. So little, in fact, that if Linden Lab was my client and showed anywhere near the same concern many Second Life bloggers and journalists do, I’d tell them not to worry about this particular association at all.

For the unfamiliar, this video explains how Google works – you don’t need to see it to understand my post, but it might help you see how Google works to serve up the most relevant documents on the web to match your search query.

1. Google Web Search

Google Web Search Second Life

Google Web Search Second Life

Using an incognito browser, I pulled up the first 10 Google search engine results for the exact keyword phrase “Second Life”. A lot of screenshots follow, so please click them if you want to inspect them further.

It’s important to note, that when doing a search query, on average 71.33% of searches result in a page one Google organic click. Page two and three get 5.59% of the clicks, and it only gets smaller from there. Being on page 2 and beyond is all but irrelevant. This is what I found I searched for “Second Life”:

If Google associated Second Life with “sex”, one of the top 10 Google search engine results might relate to sex. None do.

This holds true for other brand associations. For example, FedEx is associated with “shipping”, and the word shipping appears 7 times in the first page of results for FedEx. Apple is associated with the “phone”, and you get 7 instances of that word in Apple’s first Search Engine Result Page on Google (SERP).

2. Google Videos

Google Videos Search Second Life

Google Videos Search Second Life

1/10 of the videos (“Second Life: PERVERTS PARADISE (Trolling)” on Google’s Videos SERP might be considered related to sex (but does not show any sexual acts).

3. Youtube

YouTube search results are very similar:

Youtube Search Second Life

Youtube Search Second Life

4. Google News

Google News Search Second Life

Google News Search Second Life

I had to narrow the search a bit here by including the term “virtual world’ in my search query, because the phrase “second life” is used in many contexts that are not related to the brand. Many bloggers, journalists, and commentators that talk about Second Life consider the media rife with stories about sex in Second Life. Google’s fastest changing SERP (at least on Jun 9th, 2015) displayed none.

5. Google Images

Google Images Search Second Life

Google Images Search Second Life

The first page of Google Images shows a lot of outdated representations of Second Life. However, only 1 of the 26 images in my screenshot show anything approximating a sex act. 2 images do show male genitalia, which isn’t exactly limited to adults.

6. Google Books

Google Books Search Second Life

Google Books Search Second Life

The Google Books SERP is the last place I’d expect to find sexual themes or images, and as expected, the 1st SERP shows no listings related to sex.

7. Google Keyword Tool

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Monthly keyword volume for “second life” and “second life sex”

Among other things, Google’s Keyword Tool helps advertisers see search volumes for terms associated with their branded products. Google shows that the average monthly searches (globally) for “second life” is 550,000. The average monthly searches for “second life sex” is 6,600 – just over 1%.

What keywords does Google think are relevant to the keyword phrase “second life”?

Top 10 keywords searched related to Second Life

Top 10 keywords searched related to Second Life

Again, sex, nor any adult oriented term appears in the top 10.

8. Google Autocomplete

You’ve all seen it. Autocomplete predictions are automatically generated by an algorithm without any human involvement. The algorithm is based on a number of objective factors, including how often others have searched for a word.

Example of Google autocomplete

Example of Google autocomplete

The algorithm is designed to reflect the range of info on the web. So just like the web, the search terms you see might seem strange or surprising.

It’s hard to show this on a blog post, but a site called Ubersuggest shows the same data, only for every letter following the search term. If you try entering “second life” like I did, and have a look at the suggestions, you won’t find the word “sex” anywhere. I didn’t do an exhaustive search for synonyms or words that might relate to sex, but a quick scan reveals a tiny minority (e.g. I did see the words “escort”, “open collar”, “rlv”, “yiff”, among the 379 suggestions).

9. Google Trends

Google Trends is a public web facility of Google Inc., based on GoogleSearch, that shows how often a particular search-term is entered relative to the total search-volume across various regions of the world, and in various languages.

Here is the trend line for “second life”

Google Trends SL Interest over time

Google Trends SL Interest over time

One of the interesting things the Google Trends does is overlay the news stories that were saw a lot of traffic at various inflection points along the trend line. In Google Trends, you can hover over them and you can see what they are. Of the nine biggest stories related to Second Life, 2/9 related to adult activities: one Forbes story about adult content filtering (and that page comes up 404 – no longer available) and an earlier story that appears in CNN about a British couple that  divorced over one man’s affair in Second Life. While seen widely, they were not the most popular stories, and hardly recent (2009).

The trend line for “second life sex” follows a familiar pattern.

Google Trends SL Sex interest over time

Google Trends SL Sex interest over time

They look similar, but one is much bigger than the other. Below are the two trend lines overlayed. See that red line under the blue line? The red line is “second life sex”. It’s miniscule.

Google Trends SL v SL Sex interest over time

Google Trends SL v SL Sex interest over time

Now, let’s put this into context of the greater world. Here, in yellow, is the trend line for “sex”. The blue is “second life” and the red is “second life sex”. Yes, even while interest in sex in general increases on the internet, it does not do so when related to Second Life.

Google Trends Interest in Sex over time v SL and SL sex

Google Trends Interest in Sex over time v SL and SL sex

It’s clear, Google does not associate Second Life with sex. But what about the other way around. Does Google serve up results related to Second Life when people are searching for virtual sex (searched 74,000 times a month)?

No, it doesn’t. I could show you the screenshots, but I think I’ve sufficiently made the point. You’re of course free to look up these terms yourself (e.g. virtual sex, online sex, sex chat, , and you’ll see that Second Life isn’t anywhere the top of the lists or saturating the image results. If you check, make sure you use an incognito browser (private mode) that does not allow your past search history to affect your results.

But what about all the bad news in the press about Second Life?

Just because the Google results don’t reflect that negative associations, surely we can find negative stories everywhere? Well, I looked, and again, found no real evidence for the wide-sweeping prejudice towards Second Life that Second Life residents associate with the media.

This table below shows every news story that Google News serves as a result for “Second Life’ “virtual world” (up to June 9th when I compiled it). I’ve read them, identified the context that Second Life was mentioned, and found only two (coloured in red) that associate Second Life with adult content.

Some say “seek and you shall find”, so in my attempt to disprove my doubts, I did a search for “Second Life” and “sex” together. I looked and looked, and found three citations from 2015 in the second tab labelled – Second Life Sex Stories 2015.

In the 3 articles I found that mentioned sex; one of them discussing an upcoming movie called ‘Second Life’ that involves online sex – which some could argue might not help.  The other article is all about sex and Second Life. But that’s it. I’m sure I missed one or two (even after looking for them), but in light of the underwhelming evidence, this list isn’t very persuasive.

So why do we worry that outsiders have a negative opinion about Second Life?

I’m sorry to say it, but psychological research would suggest that it’s all in our heads. Psychologists might give three main reasons for why this illusory correlation exists:

  1. The confirmation bias
  2. We remember bad news more than we remember good news
  3. We have a tendency to worry about bad news more, and make it bigger than it is

We more easily notice and interpret information that agrees with our preconceptions

Confirmation bias, also called myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, or recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses. People show this bias when they gather or remember information selectively (e.g. instances when they noticed Second Life as associated with adult content), and interpret it in a biased way (i.e. people think Second Life and adult content are related).

The more emotionally charged the issue, the stronger the effect. The confirmation bias is closely linked with illusory correlation ((when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations). The idea that Second Life is closely associated with adult content is an illusory correlation.

We remember what we think is bad, and forget what we think is good

We tend to remember negative events better than positive events. Research shows that whether an event is pleasurable or aversive seems to be a critical determinant of the accuracy with which the event is remembered, with negative events being remembered in greater detail than positive ones.

For example, you might strongly remember the strange look somebody gave you when you let it slip that you used a virtual world like Second Life. I remember one such instance, when I was on a Skype conversation with my brother and my parents. The subject of my involvement in Second Life came up, and my brother said “isn’t that were people go and have illicit sexual encounters with others online?” As you can imagine, I was, naturally, a little uncomfortable. One must immediately question however, why did my brother have that unaided association? One can never know, but one thing is for sure, I remembered his reaction vividly.

We have a tendency to worry about bad news more than good

In 1997, researchers conducted a study looking at the psychological effects of viewing negative news items. They constructed three different 14 minute news bulletins. One was made up entirely of negative news items, the second was made up of entirely positive news items, and the third was emotionally neutral. They showed these news bulletins to three different groups of people and then rated their anxiety afterwards.

What do you think happened?

You might have guessed it: Those who watched the negative news bulletin all reported being significantly more anxious and sadder after watching the news bulletin than those people who watched either the positive or neutral news bulletin. Moreover, they found that those who had watched the negative news bulletin spent more time thinking and talking about their worry and were more likely to catastrophise their worry than people in the other two groups.

Catastrophising, by the way, is when you think about a worry so persistently that you begin to make it seem much worse than it was at the outset and much worse that it is in reality – in other words – this is what we do when we make mountains out of molehills.

In conclusion

With this post, I’ve attempted to challenge the prevailing notion that Second Life is associated with adult content – with the limitations of the tools I have. I’ve also tried to assert some reasons as to why people might consider these associations to be more prevalent than they are.

The missing link for me, however, is a proper study of what outsiders that have never used Second Life associate with the platform. Similar to the experience of those who talk about Second Life with outsiders more than I do (i.e. Peter Gray), I would suggest that most people either do not know it exists, are surprised that it’s still around, and those that are aware of it, are unlikely to freely associate sexual or adult themes with the platform.

Personally, I’d love the opportunity to test this more broadly, so we can finally put this illusory correlation to bed, where it rightly belongs. Then, perhaps, we might as a whole consider speaking more openly with our friends and family about Second Life. Just imagine what this platform would become with the aid of our word of mouth, as opposed its users’ reticence to speak about it.

3 trends from a year of polls of the Second Life mesh body race

Many me - by Yany Oh
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There’s a mesh body race going on in Second Life, and we’re interested in knowing how that race is progressing. In the absence of verifiable sales figures, bloggers and designers are conducting polls to measure mesh body adoption and mesh body preferences.

These polls are revealing in their own right, and taken together, they reveal three trends: (1) mesh body adoption is increasing and showing no signs of slowing down, (2) four brands are dominating the mesh body marketplace, and (3) we’re slowly seeing a blurry picture becoming clear as to who the winner in that group of 4 brands might be.

One year ago…

The earliest large sample poll I found about mesh bodies in Second Life was conducted by Gogo, a year ago on her site Juicy Bomb in July 2014, which asked if visitors to the site wore a mesh body. 1,274 people answered the poll with the majority reporting they did not own a mesh body (43.33%). 30.53% said they always wore their mesh body, and 26.14% of respondents said they owned a mesh body but switched between their default Second Life body and a third-party mesh body.

Juicy Bomb mesh body poll

Juicy Bomb mesh body poll

In February 2015, Second Life designer Iki Akiri put out a survey asking more questions about mesh bodies – with an even larger sample size. The sample is made of 3284 responses, and the results are (at the time of this post’s publication) still available online. One might question the relevance of this poll’s results today, but it’s difficult to deny the very large sample of answers the poll results summarise

Iki Akiri - Which mesh body?

Iki Akiri – Which mesh body?

The poll asks some questions that are indicative of the popularity of mesh bodies. According to this poll, 23% of respondents were exclusively wearing the Second Life avatar (whether it was mesh or not, is impossible to know), considerably less percentage than the JuicyBomb poll.

The Akiri poll was the first I saw that asked about mesh body preferences, in which The Mesh Project body came out the clear winner (41.5%). This was closely followed by the Maitreya Lara (27.7%) and Belleza Venus (18.2%), and finally the SLink Physique (12.6%).

Iki Akiri - Which mesh body is best?

Iki Akiri – Which mesh body is best?

The picture today has changed

In June 2015, Bax put out a poll to its group (which was reportedly shared in various mesh body groups) that was answered 1,268 times (not necessarily by different people), asking mainly: “Which Mesh Bodies/ Feet would you most like BAX Boots to be compatible with?

The winner in this poll – by a wide margin – was the Maitreya Lara Mesh Body, with 39% of the votes, followed far behind by SLink Physique (10%), the Belleza Venus (8.2%) and finally the Mesh Project at 6.7%. Interestingly, the poll revealed that 16% of respondents chose the Slink Feet with a Default Avatar option. 

Also in June, Lil Daria’s MeshBodyAddict blog put out a poll which again asked for mesh body preference. The poll had a sample size of 336. The results show Maitreya Lara came out at 72.6%, followed by the The Mesh Project (9.5%), then the SLink Physique (6.5%) and the Belleza at 4.8%, followed by all the less popular mesh body makers. Importantly, I should point out that the option of not using a mesh body was not included in this poll. That, and the smaller sample size relative to the other polls might be two reasons the preference numbers for the winner are higher than they appear in previous polls that did include that option.

Detail: MeshBodyAddicts Poll

Detail: MeshBodyAddicts Poll

With that said, it’s revealing that the other 3 big mesh body brands were represented even less than in previous surveys. Could it be that the smaller niche brands that have come on the market more recently are eating into the relatively less-represented big mesh body brands – and not Maitreya? It’s hard to know for sure, but this poll offered many more brands to choose from than before.

Most recently in June 2015, Strawberry Singh published three polls about mesh bodies (still open at the time of this post, so my summary might be slightly incomplete, but I doubt the results will change significantly if she closes the poll soon).

An interesting finding from the Strawberry Singh poll (n=1534) is that 3.6% said they did not care about mesh bodies. This is the lowest number of people saying they do not wear mesh bodies than ever before.

Another one of Strawberry Singh’s polls (n=1925) asked for brand preferences, resulting in the Maitreya Lara again coming out on top (55.3%), followed by the SLink Physique (11.8%), The Mesh Project at 10%, and the Belleza Venus (8.9%). In this poll, only 5.4% of respondents said they did not own or wear a mesh body.

Strawberry Singh - has there been a mesh body revolution?

Strawberry Singh – has there been a mesh body revolution?

A few limitations with these polls

Representative polling is based on well-established and rigorously-applied scientific methods. What might seem to be small subtleties in language, question design and polling mechanics can cause massive artefacts that can lead to some highly misleading reports.

For example, compound questions, incomplete options, and inter-dependent questions can cause people to answer things in ways that may not reflect the facts, and reveal numbers that are false representations. Likewise, allowing people to answer a poll more than once can also lead to problems with bias that are probably obvious.

A common design error I’m seeing is using compound questions, such as the one that asks if someone owns / prefers one body over another. Many people own more than one body, yet tend to prefer one over the other. So to this question, I’d answer that I own 5 mesh bodies, even though I prefer and mainly use one. My answer, however, cannot reflect that, because I’d have to choose 5 options to be truthful. If I only chose the preference option, then I’d be lying about the 4 other mesh bodies in my inventory.

Sample sizes make a difference, and a poll with 300 respondents will be less representative than a poll with 1500 respondents. Skewed sample sources might also affect the results that polls might show. For example, a poll that is distributed in not all of the mesh bodies’ support/fan groups will likely result in answers favouring the brand of mesh body where the poll was predominantly shared. The wider the sample source, the more representative the poll.

We also have to consider self-selection respondent bias. Meaning: These polls might better represent the actions and views of people that are interested in mesh bodies in general (e.g. meaning, the respondents might have a higher degree of interest in mesh bodies in general which would leave non-mesh body users under-represented).

With all that said; however, polls and surveys can still more representative that just one person’s subjective opinion based on their personal observations / preferences (even if it is supported by one’s closest friends), so there is merit in conducting and interpreting these polls, and I hope they continue. What would be really great, is if the same poll – with similar questions – was distributed across all of the mesh body groups, and summarised every 3 months.

A couple of trends revealed by these polls that most of us will (maybe) agree on

Given the limitations mentioned above, it’s fair to conclude from these polls that:

  1. Mesh bodies are progressively becoming more popular among Second Life residents as more and more residents adopt them, reducing the number of people that do not own/use them. Do those who mesh bodies outnumber those do not yet? I would suspect that this is likely not the case, but my view is again limited by personal observation. For what that’s worth, I think it’s highly unlikely.
  2. There are 4 big brands that dominate the mesh body market, and they are showing up highly preferred in every poll to date.
  3. Taking more than one poll into account, the order of prominence among these brands appears to be (A) Maitreya Lara, (B) The Mesh Project (although it is also important to remember that many respondents will have ‘purchased’ the free option), and then the Slink Physique and the Belleza Venus bodies that seem to be in a neck and neck battle for third place.

The first trend may seem obvious to those who watch these types of things, but when they can be substantiated with data, it helps those who are not so familiar with such things to see what is going on. The second trend is also difficult to argue against, given the poll results above. The third trend is the least reliable and difficult to validate because it’s very challening to really know how the mesh body race is playing out for various reasons:

  • people own more than one mesh body
  • people might have predominantly worn one mesh body at one time and then changed to wearing another mesh body later when they answered the poll
  • some popular bodies are not available on the SL marketplace (where SLink Physique appears as the bestselling body), so it’s hard to use it to see bestsellers
  • none of the polls specifically include options for SL default mesh bodies, which Linden Lab has given to every single new resident upon registration since May 2014 (although I wonder how many use them even a month after registration).
  • one of the mesh bodies (The Mesh Project) was offered as a beta product – for free – so it’s likely that many people have that body as a trial product in their inventory, but might not use it.

Despite the results of these polls, one’s view of mesh bodies will always be subject to personal preference. Arguing that one body is objectively “better” or “best” with others who see another body is “better” or best” is pointless. At the very least, what these polls definitely show, is that there are a wide variety of preferences out there, and that the mesh body race isn’t quite yet ‘in the bag’.

Pete Linden shares Linden Lab’s sophisticated approach to marketing Second Life at SL12B ‘Meet the Lindens’

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SL12B - Pete LindenThe discussion arising from Wednesday’s ‘Meet the Lindens’ interview between Saffia Widdershins, Elrik Merlin (PrimPerfect), Xiola Linden (Lead Community Manager, Linden Lab) and Pete Linden (Peter Gray, Senior Director, Global Communications, Linden Lab) delved into meaningful specifics about new user acquisition. As it turns out, this might arguably be one of the most important interviews of the set of five, because Ebbe Altberg said during his interview today that improving the Second Life new user acquisition process is where the Lab will “probably spend more of our energy on than anything else.”

In this post, I’ll aim to not only share Pete Linden’s approach to how Linden Lab is marketing Second Life and Project Sansar, but to also attempt to challenge the notion that the Lab does not market its products, doesn’t take marketing seriously, or does not do it in a sophisticated way. In reality, the opposite is the case.

After Ms Widdershins set the context of this talk among the other talks happening that day, Mr Merlin joked that “Meet the Non-Profit” (another scheduled interview) sounded a bit like they were going to interview someone who was not a prophet. I couldn’t help but smile at Ms Widdershins’ quick-witted response, when she said “Well, that’s true yes, they have no predictions about the future whatsoever, it’s the Linden’s we ask about the future”, to which Mr Merlin responded: “Absolutely, and we will!”

From this, I felt that this talk might be kicking off in the right direction, and I am happy to report that I was not disappointed. I won’t be sharing a blow-by-blow account of this interview – here it is in video:

It might have been because the guests were more verbal, or maybe it was that the scope was more focused on the present and the future, or maybe it was just because this is a subject area that most interests me – but I found this interview to be both illuminating and entertaining, and considerably more revealing than either of the Monday or Tuesday interviews earlier this week.

How Linden Lab divides marketing responsibilities among its team

After 6 minutes of dispensing with the guest’s necessary introductions, backgrounds and personal experiences with Second Life – including some of Ms Widdershins’ wistful remembrances of past shared acquaintances between Pete and herself – Mr Merlin brought things back to the present moment by asking both Xiola and Pete about what their jobs entailed.

Xiola shared that she is mainly responsible for the curation of user-generated content, driving inworld initiatives like meetups and running across folks inworld to help them get where they need to be.

Pete shared that he initially focussed on public relations for the Lab and now leads the marketing team, which entails managing overall brand and messaging, focusing on acquisition, retention, and engagement, and working with Xiola on the community side of things.

Pete further added that the he works with Danger and Patch Linden on the inworld part of the welcome experience, but that his team mainly focuses on user acquisition – like online advertising and website landing pages.

In later correspondence between us, Pete clarified this with me: “The inworld welcome experience currently is Product’s domain, but Marketing and Product are of course both concerned with the new user flow from how they get to the product to their first experience inworld, and it’s something we’re all interested in optimizing.”

At this stage, I was glad to hear that Pete decided to ‘dive into some detail’ which is where I found the most interesting aspects of the interview.

The Challenges of marketing a product to a highly-diverse consumer base

In regards to the challenges of marketing such a multi-faceted product, Pete said: “One of the challenges with Second Life, because it’s so broad, is that it’s very hard to push everyone through a singular front door of Second Life.com – this can be difficult because some images around specific uses might put off others, or may not appeal to them.”

Pete added that using specific language is also very important to attract specific user segments, for example: “Describing entrepreneurial opportunity or scripting capability may be totally uninteresting to someone just interested in meeting people from around the world. Similarly, someone looking to form new relationships might be interested in seeing attractive avatars, while someone looking to solve a professional problem or educate a class may be put off by avatars in bathing suits.”

What this level of thinking tells me is that Pete (and the marketing team at Linden Lab) have spent time analysing and considering the specific use cases and user needs of the target market for Second Life (as I would expect). This is in contrast with what I’ve heard residents complain about in conversations with them inworld, for example: That Linden Lab did not understand how residents use Second Life, or that they are out of touch with the needs of those who might not be in the spotlight (e.g. the average resident).

Pete mentioned that one of the things he’s been excited about over the past number of months is that they improved and revamped a lot of “theme-specific landing pages”.

Using landing pages to target different user groups

In web marketing, a ‘landing page’ is a specially designed page on a website to which an advertiser can direct a visitor from a paid search advertisement (e.g. in Google Adwords)

For example, a Google paid search ad for Second Life looks like this (I’ve outlined the pay-per-click ad in a red box):

Linden Lab pay per click advertising - unfortunately, I could not a find a specifically themed one for this example

Linden Lab pay per click advertising – unfortunately, I could not a find a specifically themed one for this example

Advertisers (like Linden Lab, in this case) place these advertisements in Google (and other search engines) so that they appear when searchers type specific keyword phrases (e.g. “second life”). If a searcher clicks that ad, then Linden Lab pays Google a pay-per-click fee. Google then directs you to a page on the Second Life website. Similarly, if you had typed “virtual fashion”, you might have been served an ad by Linden Lab that if clicked directed you to a page about Second Life fashion. That page, is a landing page.

Pete gave some examples of this during the interview: “So a page around education, a page around music, fashion, and other broad topics like socialising / chatting, creating and we have more to do here. But what those landing pages help us do is that we’re able to serve content that really speaks to people that are interested in that particular facet and then run ads against that particular aspect of SL.”

This is an example of a landing page used by Linden Lab, targeted at searchers interested in fashion (note the focused imagery and messaging, yet minimalist design that focuses almost exclusively on the specific searcher’s interest, with the prominent call to action: “Play for free”):

Second Life Fashion Landing Page

Second Life Fashion Landing Page

Pete sent me the above page and said: “I love this page because of the imagery. Creating high-quality imagery really shows off SL to the outside world for our marketing materials is a lot harder than it sounds, and to be able to incorporate the work of talented SL users is an enormous help. We also use in-house talent and some Moles to help too, and I’m really proud of the new standard of quality we’re hitting.”

I agree that the quality is much better than we’ve seen before. Notwithstanding, there are some recommendations I will give to Pete to help optimise this page, but that’s a conversation for another time, and another venue.

My off-the-cuff observations aside, Pete also said that they are conducting A/B split testing on these pages. I recall Ebbe Linden mentioning this in his very first public address to Second Lifers at 2014 VWBPE Conference, and I was very happy to hear it.

What is A/B Split Testing and how does it help Linden Lab marketers?

A/B testing is comparing two versions of a webpage to see which one performs better. Using Google Content Experiments – as an example, advertisers can serve a visitor one version of a page (A) at 3:15 and 02 seconds, and the next visitor another version (B) of the page at 3:15 and 03 seconds, to see which one of the variants works better in getting sign-ups. In practice, an advertiser can continue improving the page options by running continuous tests, pitting the last winner against other options, to push the conversion rate higher and higher. It’s clear to me, at least, that the Lab intends to pursue this approach to optimisation, and evolve and improve their online marketing as much as possible

A/B testing is one of my jobs in my professional life, so I am very happy to see the Lab approaching their marketing so scientifically. (I’ve even used a similar approach on my region, when trying to increase the number of visitors that join my group using a split test between my two bots).

Using A/B testing, I’ve been able to dramatically raise conversion rates on web pages, so I expect this use of A/B testing is why Pete is so encouraged by his team’s wins in this area, and why Ebbe Linden said they are seeing a “big lifts” in conversion rates.

It’s important to note that the example above is only one user persona that the Lab might target with these ads, landing pages and A/B tests. Pete gave a further example about people who might be interested in vampire role play. They might search for that term in Google and then be presented with a specific ad that relates to vampire role play. When they click on this they then land on a specific page highlighting that activity in Second Life (as opposed to simply landing on a very general home page that wouldn’t highlight their specific interest).

Pete said that this was “a big effort recently. More landing pages, More themes to explore, more ways to improve that,” and that early results are ‘very promising’ because it allows them to show off parts of Second Life in a very compelling way that also doesn’t risk putting people off who aren’t interested in specific niche areas of SL.

Pete said that this campaign was “really effective” and that the Lab was “looking forward to expanding that.”

My recommendations for Linden Lab to target unique user groups

I was particularly heartened to see the Lab carrying out these types of campaigns, especially since it was something I recommended back in February, when I was interviewed by Draxtor Despres for the DraxFiles Radio Hour.

In that interview, I argued that Linden Lab should be target marketing, using fashion as an example. Mr Despres asked me: “When you focus on fashion. Or Linden Lab says we’re going to spend X amount of money on getting people who are interested in fashion, isn’t there a problem that the message then gets lost that SL can be so many different things for other people?… How do you solve that problem?”

I replied: “That’s a question I get asked everyday at my job… if you give people too many options they slow down, they don’t make the purchase decision and they leave. And so you really have to make things very simple because people aren’t willing to invest time.

“At the beginning, they don’t care. They’re looking for their immediate emotional need to be met, which is like “I want to amuse myself”. There are probably different triggers that would get them to encounter Second Life, but let’s just say that it’s: “I want something fun to do.” So then they look up some search term around an interest or a hobby, and a Second Life ad comes up. Ok, great, well that ad better be about the thing that they’re interested in (e.g. gardening) and they might say, ‘Oh! I can garden in Second Life.’

“And then, when they get to the Second Life website it needs to be damn easy. It really needs to be like one click or a couple of clicks and then they get what they want. And at the beginning, that’s all they want. They want to get in, and as they do something and as they invest and as they commit slowly over time with every extra 10 minutes of commitment, and then an hour of commitment, and then more hours of commitment, then you ask more of them. Then you can expose them to more to what Second Life can do, but you have to work with how much they’re willing to give because they’ll abandon at any moment – I think of them like shy animals: one little scare and they’re out of there.”

Mr Despres pressed me for more specifics, and used the example of educators: “Wouldn’t you have to speak to them directly and they go to the website and just see fashion, won’t they be turned off?”

I answered: All of this can be done quite quietly, so the homepage is never going to be about fashion. The homepage is not necessarily the gateway – I think that’s the important thing for people to realise – is that what you see on the homepage is meant to be a little more generic. But what I’m talking about here, is getting people to a landing page, or some sort of entry point that’s customised for them, which will therefore have a higher rate of conversion. So that’s something you could do, like for educators; if you truly thought – and remember, you gotta tie it back to the revenues – so basically what you’re saying here by asking that question is that you think: educators are going to drive revenue for Linden Lab – let’s be clear. Because if they’re not (directly or indirectly), and I don’t mean to be crass, but I can’t care.”

Then, Mr Despres said that perhaps the solution is customised viewers, and that Ebbe Linden had hinted at that in the past. So that, for example, an educator could customise the viewer experience so that only their stuff is being show and nothing regarding fashion or bikinis comes up – so they can completely market to their target group.

I answered: That’s exactly it! So you have a different acquisition stream for every different type of major user group that you think is going to drive revenues for you. You identify personas, so you say: Ok, we have an educator persona, and they’re going to come in on this page, and this is what they’re going to see – and you’re going to control it… And you’d focus all of your copy around that and that’s how you can make the benefits of the product (Second Life) communicate only the bits that that person wants to know. Because they don’t want to really care about the technical side, or they might not care about windlight, or whatever. They can have their own user experience basically just for them.”

Now, I am not claiming that I gave Linden Lab the idea to use user personas and theme-specific landing pages. First, this web marketing tactic is hardly groundbreaking and is the typical advice I would expect from any professional web marketing consultant. Second, Pete told me that – while he did listen to my interview with Mr Despres – Linden Lab have been using this tactic for some time preceding it.

What I’m trying to establish by sharing this story, is that I can assure you that Linden Lab is using well-established web marketing tactics to drive user acquisition. In other words, the commonly-held notion that Linden Lab either does not market, or does not take marketing seriously, is far from the truth.

Atlas Obscura - Second Life article which was the subject of debate a couple of months back

Atlas Obscura – Second Life article which was the subject of debate a couple of months back

Is the media misrepresenting Second Life?

Later in the interview, Mr Merlin asked a question that has been a bit of a thorn in the side of more than one Second Life blogger and commentator, which is: “Why doesn’t the media stop using screenshots from 2007?”

Pete said that it’s “Far less of an issue right now than it has been in the past, I think when Ebbe and I speak to press over the past year or two years, there are far fewer preconceived notions about what Second Life is or isn’t, or looks like, or what people are doing on this platform, than a few people had maybe in 2008. So that’s good.”

I’ve long argued that – far from having negative perceptions – the average person on the street feels either neutral or is unaware about Second Life. While there has been a lot of talk about how outsiders feel and judge SLers, most people are not even aware of its existence. This to me, is a huge opportunity for virtual worlds. We’re not starting from a negative place or have a great deal of unlearning to facilitate. We just need to educate and build awareness.

Pete continued by saying: “The problem is that there are a lot of folks in Second Life whose assumptions aren’t even based on 2007, they just figure it went away or they haven’t heard about it. And so that’s the bigger challenge, but those folks – when we speak to them – it’s actually a lot easier to get them up to speed because it’s easy to show them what things look like today and share some great stories about what folks are doing as examples.

“That’s quite easy, but as myself or I’m sure anybody here can appreciate, it’s enormously frustrating when an article is published and uses super outdated imagery or draws on some very outdated assumptions about what’s going on in Second Life.

“To be very fair to the folks writing those, I think it’s important to bear in mind that the media landscape has changed dramatically from even just a few years ago there are fewer and fewer people with less and less time to write, and less and less time to put in the research, even contact us (the company behind this platform), search for current images (we maintain a gallery that’s got some great looking shots in it) but I think for some folks it’s easier to pull something that was used on an article from their same publication many years ago.

“So, there’s some ongoing challenges, but I would say that I think there’s a lot of reason to be optimistic. On the PR side of things, the renewed interest in everything virtual is tremendous for us. I spent quite a lot of time with journalists bringing them up to speed on what’s going on with Second Life, how far things have come, what people are doing. And besides from just the interest, the assets that we’re able to offer these days are just incredible compared to 2 years ago, whether that’s great quality images that are coming both from the team in house, from some of the moles, and from some community contributors to wonderful videos like the “What Second Life means to me” series which Xiola mentioned, or the DraxFiles series, there’s a lot more material out there that is up to date and is of appropriate quality to really accurately represent our world. So that all makes it much easier to share with journalists and correct them when they have some really outdated stuff.”

Does mainstream media care about inworld activity?

Mr Merlin went on to ask if the mainstream journalists take much notice of inworld publicity efforts – and specifically blogs?

Personally, I don’t expect mainstream journalists to take any notice of inworld blogs or publicity efforts whatsoever, except of course the very, very popular ones that turn up in Google search results, or if journalists are directed to them by Linden Lab.

Pete said:

“I think it depends, the other variable to bear in mind is that not every journalist who is doing a piece related to Second Life is approaching it with the aim of capturing the totality of the virtual world, or really profiling everything. Oftentimes it’s a particular aspect that’s of interest, that’s the particular aspect that they’ll go after and if they find the material that they need for that – to present that angle – then they’re good. They may not need to go after more – it really depends on the angle, how much time they’re able to devote to it, whether or they make the effort to get in touch with us or with others, so a lot of variables there.

“The one thing I will say for a lot of us that are very close to it: It’s easy for me to get really frustrated when I see something ‘just a little bit off’, it’s a good thing to periodically put yourself in the shoes of their audience: ‘Ok, if I knew nothing about Second Life, would this give me an ok impression? It might not be 100% spot on, but is it close enough or is there something really factually inaccurate?’ And a lot of the time they do actually quite a nice job. And some of them do a phenomenal job, like folks who really take the time to actually even go inworld themselves, to speak with us, to speak with actual Second Life users who are really involved. Those tend to be by far the best pieces. So, we love seeing those.”

With this, Pete isn’t necessary saying that we should set a low bar, or accept misrepresentations or inaccurate coverage. What he is saying is: If someone writes a piece about music in Second Life and doesn’t mention the wealth of educational activity, they may not have captured 100%, but that’s doesn’t mean they’ve gotten it wrong. This is particularly relevant to the debate that raged a couple of months ago, with regards to the Atlas Obscura article about some very interesting and beautiful places in Second Life, while mentioning (but not delving into) some of the adult activities that many users occupy themselves inworld. It’s the Lab’s perspective that if an article is about one or two things, simply leaving out in-depth coverage of other things does not necessarily mean the article is poor or misleading.

Gearing up to market Project Sansar

In regards to Project Sansar, and how the Lab intends to communicate its launch to the outside world, Pete said: “With Project Sansar, and our outward communications about it, we’re trying to be smart about it. We want to be clear with all of you (the Second Life community) about what we’re doing and what everyone can expect, so that folks don’t get unnecessarily alarmed or misinformation doesn’t spread based on assumptions – that sort of thing.

“And we want to tell the outside world: Hey, we’re working on this, in part because we’re looking to hire a lot of people to help us. It’s a very exciting thing that we want to shout it from the rooftops. But at the same time we’re trying to be smart about it and restrain ourselves. We’re not quite yet showing demos to press. We’re not quite yet giving a big push in terms of PR or marketing, because we’re not yet ready to take advantage of that interest. We don’t want to drum up a tonne of excitement and an even longer list of people that want to get onto that platform even before we’re ready to take advantage of that. So that will come, but some of the stuff we’re working on now: the plans for revealing Project Sansar to the outside world, and how that roll out will go.”

Project Sansar promotional shot

Project Sansar promotional shot

Such great detail (without revealing secrets), and it was only 32 minutes into the interview. Ms Widdershins then diverted the conversation towards asking if Pete and Xiola engaged in any hobbies or did things to relax in while in Second Life. Later, both discussed what bringing people into Sansar might look like, and how community building might happen there. After a short discussion asking if Pete and Xiola had had a chance to enjoy SL12B, Ms Widdershins took questions from the audience.

How marketing Project Sansar will be very different from current SL marketing

At this stage I asked a question in local chat, directed at Pete Linden about who he considered Second Life’s target market to be, and how it might differ from Project Sansar’s target market. This was unseen or ignored by the hosts, but fortunately Pete saw my question, and IMed me to say that the “Second Life audience is super broad in demographic and use cases, but Second Life is also limited by a number of factors (quality, scale, ease of use, etc.). We’re thinking very differently with Project Sansar, so that it can reach a larger audience of creators and so they can better reach their audiences.”

Ebbe Altberg at SVVR

Ebbe Altberg at SVVR

This is consistent with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg’s remarks at the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality (SVVR) Conference this May, where he clearly laid out the six things that Linden Lab would think about differently, with regards to Project Sansar – which I’m about to coin: The Sansar Six:

  1. Discovery – helping users more easily find content
  2. Accessibility – making it easier for users to access the next generation world across devices and platforms
  3. Scalability – building with not just a few hundred in mind, but tens of thousands – in terms of size of creations, but also in terms of audience and market reach
  4. Quality – rethinking physics, lighting, scripting, visual quality, and audio fidelity
  5. Usability – making it easier to create and consume content in world
  6. Monetisation – changing the business model so that it it can scale by introducing revenue models that are more broad based (see my article on inworld ‘taxation’)

I’ll be talking a lot about The Sansar Six in future blog posts – and what I think can be done to do it best – stay tuned.

How Linden Lab marketers could use our help

An excellent question from the audience that was relayed by Ms Widdershins was: “What is the biggest challenge that Pete and Xiola need our help to overcome?” to which Pete answered:

“The more people that we’re in touch with, the more stories we know, the more people that are willing to share their stories, talk to folks outside of Second Life about what they do inworld, and why it matters to them. That’s a huge help to me. Anyone who reaches out willing to talk, I would love to hear what you’re up to, what Second Life means to you, and all that because often what happens is that we get in touch with a journalist – whether we proactively secure the opportunity, or they come to us, and a particular angle becomes of interest to them, e.g. “yeah, I’m really interested in, say… this one thing, or I’m writing from this particular angle.” The more examples that we’re able to put them in touch with, the more people that we’re able to point them to, by far, the better – so that’s a big help.”

In conclusion

I wrote this post to not only share Pete Linden’s approach to how Linden Lab is marketing Second Life and Project Sansar, but to also attempt to challenge the notion that the Lab does not market its products, doesn’t take marketing seriously, or does not do it in a sophisticated manner. In fairness, it’s rare for (A) the Lab to share their marketing approaches to such an extent and (B) for someone with a qualified perspective to analyse them with any sense of objectivity.

In reality, the opposite to the conventional wisdom is true: Linden Lab does market its products, they take marketing seriously, and they approach it using sophisticated and modern methods that seem to be working. This is great news for anyone as interested in the healthy future of this company, and its products, as I am.

Pete Linden and I have discussed the possibility of sitting down on a one-to-one basis to explore Linden Lab’s marketing approaches and results further, watch this space.

Basilique featured in at least four “What Second Life Means to Me” Videos to date

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Am ready for the Basilique Salon - 10 June - I
I’m having a blast watching the “What Second Life Means to Me” videos – a campaign kicked off by Linden Lab to help Second Life residents celebrate SL12B by sharing their stories with the community, while making them accessible to the outside world.

I’m not only learning about the wonderful variety of personal stories and the creative ways that residents choose to portray them in their videos, but I’m also thrilled and proudly grateful whenever I see a glimpse of my region, Basilique, featured in them as well.

For example, I loved Wendz Tempest’s super-cute and very attractive video featuring all the great things she’s seen and all the cool places she’s visited inworld, including Basilique (0:46):

I was touched and moved by Huckleberry Hax’s melancholy and poetic tribute to Second Life, that features Basilique’s Mercuzio Pier (0:20), Bar Moderna (0:45), and Silky’s Cafe (1:18):

I was so happy to see one of Caitlin Tobias’s first machinima efforts, a grateful and heartfelt video about what Second Life means to her, that featured her Pose store (Pose O’Clock) at Basilique’s Piazza (0:37) and the Chapel Clubhouse (at the end).

Lastly, I was also pleased to see Priscilla Avro’s energetic trip down memory lane, where she included a long shot of one of the Basilique Chat Salons, held in the Chapel Clubhouse (1:11).

Great work everyone! And thank you so much, to all of these contributive Second Life residents for not only taking the time and efforts to share your stories, voices, and videos with the Second Life community, but for also featuring Basilique in What Second Life Means to you!! I’m truly honoured :)

Every user to get free land in Project Sansar, says Danger Linden

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SL12B, Drax and Saffia talk to Danger and Troy Linden

In today’s ‘Meet the Lindens’ interview with Danger Linden (Sr. Director, Product, Virtual Worlds) and Troy Linden, (Senior Producer), Danger Linden revealed several important features of Linden Lab’s next generation virtual world in development, Project Sansar, including that every user with a basic account will have access to free virtual land.

Free starter land will be available to anyone who wishes to register a basic account with Project Sansar. Details were unclear as to how much virtual land Linden Lab would make freely available to every user, or what its use or restrictions would entail.

Second, Danger Linden also revealed that Linden Lab will offer a master account model for new registrations, where users can sign in to the new platform with their email address (as their username), and manage multiple accounts through one central account. He also confirmed that Linden Lab hoped to allow for the sharing of a wallet (i.e. currency account) and inventory between alternate accounts registered under the primary email address.

Third, Danger Linden said that users’ identity in Project Sansar will remain anonymous, but that privileges and rights in Project Sansar would positively correlate with the degree to which users supply Linden Lab with real-life identification data – on a secure and confidential basis.

Update June 26: A video recording of the interview is available here:

Meet the Lindens at SL12B suffers from softball interviewing and too much focus on the past

Oz Linden
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Tuesday’s ‘Meet the Lindens’ interview between Saffia Widdershins of Prim Perfect and Patch Linden and Dee Linden happened last night at the SL12B Dreamitarium. Despite listening to the hour of conversation (and re-listening to my full recording after that) I failed to find one item of compelling interest that’s worth writing about, except perhaps that Dee Linden doesn’t like the system avatar’s “ugly virtual toes”. Yes, these are the depths to which I sunk while seeking a scant glimmer of interest in what was a conversation I can only describe as lacklustre.

The real story here, however, is Miss Widdershins softball interviewing approach, with too much focus on what we already know about the past at the cost of trying to learn new things about the future. If Ms Widdershins can be just a little more direct, persistent and future-oriented with her questions (and follow-up questions), it might actually result in considerably more interesting interviews over the next three days.

No, I’m not suggesting this be an episode of “Hardball”, but at the same time, getting an interview with Linden Lab leadership isn’t something that happens on a daily basis (except this week), so it behooves the journalist with such a golden opportunity to make the very best of the time she/he has.

Monday’s conversation with Oz Linden wasn’t exactly a rollercoaster of thrills by comparison, but perhaps the format of Oz acting as piggy-in-the-middle between Ms Widdershins and Jessica Lyons (Firestorm Project Manager) served to narrow the discussion into more specifics, which led to more interesting discussions. Fellow blogger Ciaran Laval has a summary of the talk with Oz Linden, and you can see the full video of the interview here:

One very important way that the interview with Oz Linden differed from the one with Patch and Dee was the use of prompting and follow-up questions. Here are 5 examples from both interviews – 4 show where follow-up questions might have helped, and 1 that shows where a follow-up question helped a lot.

Example 1: Not asking for specifics

In yesterday’s interview with Patch Linden, he said that Linden Lab is using Second Life as a ‘test bed’ for its decision-making for Project Sansar – Linden Lab’s next generation virtual world. He mentioned that Linden Lab has lots of plans for Second Life over the “next 2, 3, 5 years.” He added, if that also helps us grow Sansar and help make Sansar be the very best it can be, then that is just an accolade and a checkmark in both columns, for both products.

To which Ms Widdershins responded: “Hmm…”

Ok, hindsight is always 20/20, but I even at that very moment, I was asking Patch (in my head):

  • “Can you sketch out what these plans for Second Life might be?”
  • “What has Linden Lab learned from Second Life’s past that it will be bringing to Project Sansar’s future?”
  • “What do you expect will happen as a result of these different approaches with Project Sansar?”
  • What have you learned from SL’s past that you might leave out of Project Sansar?”
  • “If these learnings are good for Sansar, are you going to apply them to Second Life as well?”
  • “Why, and why not?”

Whether Patch Linden answered these questions or not would have been up to him, but that’s what interviewing someone is about: Asking questions with the aim of revealing genuine answers that might be of interest to the audience; answers that might not otherwise be already available. If it wasn’t, what is the point of the interview?

From left to right: Saffia Widdershins, Patch Linden and Dee Linden

From left to right: Saffia Widdershins, Patch Linden and Dee Linden

Instead, Ms Widdershins left Patch’s answer unchallenged, and turned to Dee Linden, and asked her what she thought might be happening in the next 5 years in Second Life. This is at least a future-oriented question. Unfortunately, Dee dodged it and joked about something she read in local chat – about an audience member’s question about an easier way to remove all clothing from your avatar, to which Ms Widdershins then proceeded to give tips about making a base avatar outfit!

Dead air followed, followed by Ms Widdershins further expanding how making a nude avatar outfit might be accomplished in different viewers.

More dead air.

Needless to say, Ms Widdershins did not go back to her question about Dee Linden’s vision of Second Life’s future again – and it was – as expected – left unanswered.

By this time, I started to wonder if the interview was over. I realised it wasn’t, when Ms Widdershins finally steered the conversation into what I hoped would be more relevant waters, by asking whether Patch Linden made his own clothes or not. Disappointingly, this question is hardly relevant to his job at the Lab as Senior Manager, Product Operations, is it?

Now, in fairness to Miss Widdershins, Linden Lab might have laid out certain rules about what they would talk about and what they would not talk about – which is fairly standard in interviews like these (I would think). However, Project Sansar and the future of Second Life were clearly on the table as Patch Linden himself was discussing it. To leave such juicy threads so loosely untied frustrated me to no end.

Example 2: Not focusing on the future

I became even more frustrated when the conversation devolved into what might be easily found on a website’s FAQs (e.g. “How old do you have to use Second Life?”), which eventually prompted Ms Widdershins to ask if Linden Lab might bring the teen grid back (again, more about the past).

Because this question wasn’t directed to anyone in particular, a few moments of silence uncomfortably hovered, until Dee Linden mercifully diverted the question to Patch – who seemed to have stopped listening because he had to ask Ms Widdershins to ask again. When she did, Patch answered saying that this was a complicated area involving maturity ratings and age-access (the answer one might expect), but then he said:

“With where Second Life is currently positioned as a product, the legalities around trying to introduce anything under the age of 16 into Second Life could be extremely challenging for us.” He then dangled: “Thinking forward to other products, there could be something, and we’re considering all of those options but I don’t think any hard decisions have been made just yet.”

Now there is something! But yet again, Ms Widdershins redirected the line of questioning away from the issue of the future, retreating back to the shelter of the past, mentioning that some teen grid regions are still out there in Second Life. She then spent a few moments trying to remember the specific names of these regions from long ago.

Backing up, when Patch said what he did, I’d have asked:

  • “You said ‘With where Second Life is now positioned as a product’ – where indeed do you feel that Linden Lab positions Second Life as a product relating to age of adoption?”
  • “Does Linden Lab position Second Life as a product only for adults?”
  • “With regard to other products, do you mean Project Sansar?”
  • “Does Linden Lab aim to position Project Sansar as something other than a product for adults?”
  • “If so, why would you want to introduce users under 16 to Sansar?”
  • “Why is having users under the age of 16 so challenging for Linden Lab? Can you explain the challenges?”
  • “Do you think Linden Lab might be able to overcome these challenges with Sansar?”

I’m not saying that Patch Linden or Dee Linden would, or would have been able to, answer these questions. I do, however, think they’re worth asking – if at least to see what bounces back. Don’t you?

Example 3: Where a follow-up question helped, but how it came from the audience

An example of an effective prompt might have led to Oz revealing that Second Life would get 24-days, and it’s a good example showing why they’re important:

When Ms Widdershins asked Oz about his favourite project he’d worked on (again, from the past), he said it was working on developing region windlight settings (circa 2007). He then went into the possibility of setting them at parcel levels as well as the region level, in the official viewer. Right, this is a more interesting area, especially given the fact that we’ve been able to do this in Firestorm for a relatively long time now. To her credit, Ms Lyon prompted him by saying she had assumed this was an ongoing project for the Lab, to which he agreed, and qualified it on the basis of minimum parcel size (which is something I would assume that the Firestorm team has figured out, since we don’t often see the kaleidoscopic changes that Oz warned about should someone set a 1m square parcel a different windlight than the surrounding parcels).

Oz then said Linden Lab would not likely enable windlights according to altitude ranges in the official viewer. Why? Again, this is something that we can do in Firestorm now. I’d have pressed Oz to share why it wasn’t easily doable in the official viewer, when a volunteer “herd of cats” (to use Ms Lyon’s term when describing her team at Firestorm) was able to manage it. In fairness, Oz said that one of the fundamental assumptions baked into the official viewer design is that settings (including windlight, I presume) take effect according to X and Y coordinates, and not on Z (height). This confused me, because I then wondered how the Firestorm team had been able to do it by adapting the open-sourced viewer code? Might this be something Linden Lab could just copy and use? At this point, Oz must have seen a question in local chat from Jo Yardley in the audience, and then revealed that  Second Life will be getting 24-days. See? The squeaky wheels get the grease! Way to go, Jo: Good follow-up question!

This is fairly typical of good interview questioning technique. While it’s important to arrive at an interview ready with a list of questions, you must be equally ready to throw away that list, and respond to the interviewees’ answers by asking deeper questions about their responses. People are like onions – you can peel them one layer at a time, and for this follow-up questions – and especially future-oriented questions that compel them to think on their feet – are critical. Further, if they don’t answer your first question, you need to ask the question again (at least once) or find out why they are not answering your question.

It’s not about being a rude, it’s about being persistent.

Example 4: Not pursuing a promising line of questioning

A good example of the effective use of a follow-up question was when Ms Widdershins asked Oz if the day length would be a choice for residents. Good! A specific, future-oriented follow-up question! Oz answered that it would be and said it wouldn’t be hard to change, to which Ms Widdershins said it would be “awesome”.

Again, while it’s fine to show your appreciation for an answer, I can think of a few good follow-up questions on this subject alone that would have followed this path to perhaps more interesting areas of discussion:

  • “Will region owners be able to set the clock to start when they wish – so that we can have local time zones?”
  • “Will we be able to use custom or preset windlights with the 24 hour day cycle?”
  • “Will we be able to set custom or preset sunrises and sunset times to better mirror the effects of different seasons?”
  • “What prompted this change, apart from Jo Yardley’s nagging, that you felt it was worth implementing?”
  • “What do you see as the benefits of this change to users?”
  • “Is this part of a trend towards higher fidelity to the real world in Second Life?”
Oz Linden in 2015

Oz Linden in 2015

Example 5: Not mentioning an elephant in the room

A little later in the conversation, Oz revealed that he was not a very artistic person and that he delegated customising his avatar’s appearance to his young son (with instructions to simulate his [Oz’s] appearance in RL). I’d have jumped on that to ask Oz the question that many residents might have wondered for years:

“Do you feel that your avatar’s appearance – which let’s be honest, hasn’t changed much at all since 2010 – might not benefit from an update (apart from the Ho Chi Minh beard)?”

Oz Linden in 2010

Oz Linden in 2010 – Photo by Marianne McCann

You might say: “Oh, that’s a bit rude, Becky! Who cares what his avatar looks like?”

Well, I’d counter that as the person in charge of Second Life’s development – shouldn’t he look a bit more… err… developed? I know, he’s not a male fashion model, and neither should he aspire to be, but avatar appearances are important – especially for those who represent Linden Lab. I don’t even really care if they’re attractive – they should at least be availing themselves of the best that today’s Second Life creators have to offer, no?

The elephant in the room is not that Oz Linden’s avatar is just out of date and that wouldn’t it be nice if he got some new mesh feet – the real issue is that he is a visual representative of what Second Life has to offer, and it’s under-representative.

Further, avatar appearances are especially important as first impressions to outsiders (e.g. news media). The mainstream news media might not be as forgiving as many oldbie Second Lifers are about avatar appearances that look half a decade out of date (yes, 2010-2015 is half a decade!).

Many of us complain that the media chooses to use screenshots that make Second Life look like it’s still 2007, how about helping things along by upgrading the first impressions of its leadership? Patch Linden seems to have an up to date avatar. Ebbe Linden dresses in Zaara mesh suits for goodness sakes. Xiola Linden is one of the more fashionable Linden’s on the grid. Couldn’t the rest of the Lindens get with the program too?

With that said, Oz, if you’re reading, I hereby volunteer to give you a personal makeover. I know you’re really busy, and if our schedules don’t easily link up then perhaps my Zero to Hero: 2-Hour Men’s Second Life Makeover Style Guide might help?

In conclusion

I do hope that the next 3 interviews – today with Xiola Linden, Lead Community Manager, and Pete Linden, Senior Director, Global Communications at Linden Lab – will be more illuminating than yesterday’s interview. I recommend Ms Widdershins to use this opportunity to respectfully prompt and question the Lindens to share as much as they can about the future of where the company is going, and likewise its products.

As a last note to all of you who might think I’m being too hard on MsWiddershins, let me be clear that I respect her as someone who has greatly contributed to the Second Life Community for many years. She also seems to be a very pleasant lady. Further, I suspect these interviews might not even be happening if her magazine Prim Perfect was not sponsoring them, so kudos to her for taking the initiative to make them happen in the first place.

Now, let’s just make use of them.

I appreciate that it’s easy for me to sit here and say what could have, should have, would have been done better. But at the very least, if this serves as constructive criticism for how the next 3 interviews could be handled, then I’ve succeeded in my aim.

To finish off with a little visual eye candy, here’s a video from yesterday’s interview with Dee Linden and Patch Linden, filmed by Caitlin Tobias: