Saturday, August 9, 2014

Controversy in Second Life


Within any important issue, there are always aspects no one wishes to discuss.

George Orwell


          One thing about Second Life (SL), you can always count on it for a bit of controversy. 

          Most times, I just ignore it or create my own for the sheer Hell of it.  However, recently, there has been one controversy that I just felt I had to wade into and give my two cents on.  (Significant Other wants to know what took me so long.)

          A week ago, a Real Life (RL) writer, Karyne Levy, the Senior West Coast Tech Editor at Business Insider, wrote a story entitled Second Life has devolved into a postapocalyptic virtual world. The weirdest thing is how many people still use it.  (Yes, I know it’s a mouthful.  Just be glad I go for succinct titles for my stories!) 

          As you can surmise from the title, it’s not exactly a gushing review of a wonderful alternative reality where we can all feel good about ourselves.  On the other hand, I can’t say that Karyne really got too much wrong.  (Truthfully, I think I’ve been harsher in some of my stories than Karyne was.  But then she probably has more than the two followers that I have which may explain the dust up.)

           I join the fray not for the love of the fight.  (Significant Other’s eyebrows arch.)  I join because I think we should keep things in perspective and not be too thin skinned.

          Bloggers whom I follow and have considerable respect for really went to town on Karyne.  (Whom I wouldn’t know if I tripped over her but I feel I owe her some benefit of the doubt as a professional courtesy if nothing else.) 

          Wagner Au on New World Notes blogged, “Business Insider just published a fairly clueless post about Second Life.”  While Wagner blames the lackluster technical components for this clueless piece of reporting, I think he misses the point.  If this is what SL has to offer after eleven years of operation then who’s to blame?  The journalist?

          Mona Eberhardt, in her blog, ascribes the poor reporting to a lack of research on the part of Karyne.  It’s hard to think of a worse comment to be made about a journalist.  However, Mona doesn’t challenge Karyne’s facts just her conclusions. Hmm…

          Finally, there are more but I don’t to be writing this story all night, Nalates Urriah, writes in her blog, Nalates’ Things & Stuff, “While Karyne distorts what SL is and misses much of what is going on, the article is not that bad. It is just the typical ignorant writer writing without bothering to do more than a minimal amount of research on their article. A basic noobie thinking they know what SL is.”  Ouch!  OK, but didn’t we all start as noobies?

          After reading these blogs and a few other comments, I feel that we’re shooting the messenger here.

          Do we really think every journalist should research and prepare their technology before they go in to write a story as if they’re going into Deep Space?  Are we saying that the only way anyone can appreciate SL is by an effort comparable to the Normandy landings?  Whatever happened to the spur of the moment?  Having fun for the sake of having fun?  (Significant Other notes that the world’s in trouble if I’m the one asking this.)

          If this is what we mean then Linden Lab (LL) had better change their marketing strategy because that’s not how they lure people in.

          Do we really feel that the only way SL can be presented fairly is by controlling the message in some Orwellian fashion?  (Like how I name dropped there?)

          Journalistic integrity is under attack in SL. 

          The bloggers whom I quoted above I respect, follow, and will continue to follow.  I share and retweet their content.  I will continue to do so.  They publish quality,relevant blogs and I know what’s involved in trying to run a blog.  (I’m not saying I’m as good as they are, I just know what it takes.)  I encourage anyone reading this story to check them out.  I just feel they missed Karyne’s point. 

          How many of them, contacted her as I did and offered to show her the better side of SL? 

          I’m disappointed that Karyne had such a poor experience in her visit.  SL is much better than that.  Notwithstanding, my periodic jabs at LL, SL is a wonderful place with great people in communities that are truly tight. 

          Blaming Karyne for her experience and reporting on it is would be like blaming the survivors from the Titanic for not doing their due diligence before boarding when they complained. 

          If we want to criticize let’s look more closely at LL and its culpability.  Near as I can tell, Ebbe Altberg’s only response to all this was to refer Karyne to the Drax Files.    Nothing wrong with that but a stronger response is in order.  (If I’ve missed something here then please set me straight.  Don’t just criticize me for not doing my research!)  I feel this is just another example of that typical LL customer service that we all know and love so much. 

          Some who are jumping all over Karyne are also swallowing LL’s line about SL 2.0 hook, line, and sinker.  Let’s see what happens there first before we go clapping anyone on the back.

           I make a standing offer to Karyne and anyone else who wants to see the good side of SL to meet me and I’ll show you around.  I think after over three years of blogging about SL I have something to say.

          If writers, whether noobie or otherwise, walk into a buzz saw whenever they’re perceived to be critical of SL then we’ll all suffer. 

           I’ve included pictures of some of SL’s highlights but I encourage everyone to go and see these wonderful places for yourselves.  I’m about as good inworld with a camera as I am in RL so checking for yourself is highly recommended.  (Significant Other nods violently in agreement.)

          As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.   

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.



Photo No. 4 Baroque Neighborhood

Photo No. 10 Asian Victorian Gardens


Anonymous said...

Interesting post, as usual. I'm kinda with Karyne, though what the bloggers say is also correct in that she could have (perhaps should have) done a lot more investigation before writing what she did. However, my main bitch is with her title. What 'apocalypse' is SL 'post'. Does she even understand the meaning of apocalypse or is she just using the word for effect. But having said that, I felt she was quite mild in her comments. I think there's a lot wrong with SL's current newbie experience. Back in my day (nearly seven years ago) you went to Help Island where you had to pass a number of basic competencies, boring perhaps, but worthwhile, then you were turned loose in the Island which was a sanitised version of SL. SL had a mentoring program and these glorious creatures not only showed what was possible on SL proper, but had endless patience with stupid questions. Consequently when I made the leap, I had a fair idea of what to expect, what was possible and how to use the functionality. It seems that doesn't happen nowadays, perhaps we've become more focussed on instant gratification, but I suspect that is why they only retain 20% of new people. Incidentally, looking at your photos pointed up something - apart from a single person in one photo, there don't seem to be many, or indeed any, people about....... is that not one of the problems.

Mona Eberhardt said...

Honestly, it's not my job to offer Mrs Levy a better view of SL. I'm not doing PR work for Linden Lab; were I employed by it, or were I a mentor in any of the groups, I'd have reasons to do so. Furthermore, to form an opinion and express it, I don't need to contact the author of a piece.

As to Mrs Levy's article: What she seemingly set out to do was see what a new avatar experiences in SL. In this, her article should be seen as a rude awakening, and she should be credited for not giving up when she was summarily ignored (as Inara Pey correctly described it) in that GoT-themed RP region. It's somewhere at that point where most newbies give up, actually.

The article had no malice in it, and Mrs Levy was unfairly attacked; the SL user base needs to ditch its persecution syndrome, and it needs to do it yesterday. Those who see a... conspiracy against SL need to be treated for (as per ICD10) F20.0, F22.0 and F22.8, and I've stopped caring whom this may upset.

However, the article's title was misleading, irrelevant to the content, and it stuck out like a sore thumb, as there was precisely zero correlation between it and the text. If Mrs Levy wanted to write about the current state of SL, I'd have expected her to go out and research the topic more, and use SL in a more targeted manner. And, of course, when you do research, you don't expect your research's subject(s) to come out to you; you're supposed to find them and look for information.

If her aim was to show what a beginner experiences in SL, the title should have been chosen appropriately. As it is, there's a disconnect that isn't helpful. There are also some factual errors in her article (for instance, you don't see adult-oriented results in search unless you set your maturity preferences accordingly).

But still, for what it shows us (id east that the new user experience is wide of the mark, but still she managed to enjoy the ride somewhat), it's a valuable article and both the Lab and the so-called community had better take heed.

Mona Eberhardt said...

Correction: id est; Android's autocomplete/autocorrect function makes pretty poor decisions very often.

Mona Eberhardt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
webspelunker said...


Thanks as always for reading and commenting!

Karyne's title does seem to be what has set folks off!

But, as your comment infers, Linden lab has set itself up for a sucker punch with the noobie experience. (Which I understand has only gotten worse with recent attempts to improve things!)

You're very observant with my photos. I deliberately selected those with builds vs. crowds of people to highlight the creativity and diversity inworld. But, you're right about not too many folks being about.

I've noticed that the more elaborate and creative the build the fewer folks who seem to be around.

Thanks again!



webspelunker said...


I agree with you on your comments. And, as I replied to another reader earlier, Karyne's choice of title certainly didn't help her cause any!

Further, yes, you don't need to contact an author of a piece to have an opinion of it.

But, here's where I'm coming from. A Real Life publication, admittedly not Wired but larger circulation than either of us, came and did a story.

Yes, for a whole variety of reasons, they had a bad experience. Maybe they could have approached it better.

We both know, please excuse me if I'm assuming too much here, that Second Life is much more than Karyne experienced.

This is a chance to reach out and show someone what the communities inworld are all about. Linden Lab won't do it that's for sure.

I hope we can get Karyne, and maybe some others to return, and show them what Second Life is really all about!

Thanks for reading and commenting!



SLAviationNetwork Flywalker said...

This just goes to prove that any idiot with a computer can write a blog and make it sound like they are knowledgeable about a subject. They get by with this as long as readers don't take the time to investigate. I have spent a lot of my Second Life time over the last 3 years recording videos on the activities of the SL Aviation community. Aviation in Second Life is huge and a lot of people participate in it. I would like to invite Ms. Levy to come into Second Live and let me take her on a 3 hour hot air balloon flight over the Blake Sea and surrounding regions. If she doesn't want to do that the least she can do is watch some of my videos.

webspelunker said...


Let's hope she does take you up on your offer!

But, if she doesn't I'd be happy to meet you inworld sometime to go on a flight for my blog!

Thanks for reading and commenting!



SLAviationNetwork Flywalker said...

Whether she takes me up on my offer or not I will be happy to take you on a flight webspelunker. It will give you some very interesting material to write about. If you're not busy join us for Sunday Flyer's Club. You can ride with me or another pilot or fly your own. It's a leisurely airship flight around the Blake Sea and surrounding regions.

webspelunker said...


I'll take you up on your offer!

Not sure if I can make this Sunday but I'll try!

Safe skies!



SLAviationNetwork Flywalker said...

Good deal web! If you can't make it Sunday we'll just setup a time when we both can meet. Just let me know.

Blue Skies,