Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

It is frightening to me how fast and careless Linden Lab can strike. It is not hyperbole to say things can move and shake within the course of minutes.

They may tell you they spend months, years even, in advance planning their moves and policies, but to be dreadfully honest one can't really tell that from the outside looking in. To most, myself included, it's not unlike riding a roller coaster in the dead of night. You can only pray that the tiny sensations of gravity and centripedal forces and the sound of the wind can alert you to the loops and dips that are surely coming. The problem is that you can't always be certain you're interpreting it correctly. You could be falling prey to delusion or miss sleights of hand. The tea leaves ain't going to tell you nothing concerning the Lindens.

Normally, if the Lindens were any other resident or friend, it would be at most worrisome. If they were even the slightest bit transparent or restarted town halls, this would be a non-issue. But they are not residents, they're our Overlords. And they are not transparent, they erect lots of smoke and mirrors on any given controversial issue imaginable. I understand that such issues will never be discussed openly by the company or its employees for obvious reasons. That shouldn't dissuade them from at least alerting us to what they are potentially investigating. At least grant us the tiniest of tiny head's up on these things.

I'm not talking about new features. I'm talking about their social policies, the ones stating "no more gambling" and "no more ageplay". Both were practically introduced overnight, with little if any discussion upon the topic at all. Sure, there were grumblings of potential investigations by the US or Germany, but we really didn't hear from the Lab that anything was being considered, in fact I am dead certain the Gambling ban was instituted overnight and the explanation (Heavy US online gambling regulations) was almost an afterthought, added when the casinos were in an uproar.

And really, that is the crux of this matter. They don't seem to realize that their every word and non-word can quite rapidly change the world within hours. Because they are never entirely forthright concerning future policies, people have their own "Linden" antenna of sorts, finely tuned to the slightest changes in the signal from Linden Lab. Thus, even when they don't comment on a subject, people interpret that as possibly having some bearing. "Why aren't they commenting on this subject? They must be reviewing it!"

Now, here comes the major problem: what if people drastically alter the world in response to a perceived indication of action from the Lindens? Let's say someone asks Philip if they're considering sponsoring an official Linden band. Philip laughs it off, but does not definitively state anything on the matter. Inworld bands and musicians could take up arms, especially if they believe the Linden band would host concerts for free. Others would leave, cashing out since there is no way they could compete with a non profit, Linden sponsored concert. Many would reason that in such a world, only the very best of the best musicians could survive against such a thing. A few days later, I could reasonably see a dip in the economy as the bands pull out their dollars.

Another scenario: Some nutball suggests that the Lindens institute ghettos for the non-paying residents, who would not be allowed to leave their designated areas. The Lindens chose to ignore it. Residents, having seen that they neither commented nor disapproved of this idea, would come to the conclusion that either this particular idea is in the works, is being seriously considered, or that it will be a non-issue because of other immediate changes in the pipes. And people would act on these instincts. People would either register or quit. The population of recurring Unverified would most likely plummet. One can't rule out the hypothesis that the number could also sky rocket as people create Unverified alts in protest.

I believe this illustrates the Lindens' greatest fault, and causes needless hassle and induced ulcers. People take hedonistic outlooks in SL because you can't be sure if tomorrow will break the world, your inworld business, or drive off your inworld friends; better to live it up today while we can than to regret it later when it could be wiped off the face of the earth by a careless Linden remark.

They need to realize that they aren't just residents (I suspect at least some do, and create alts so residents won't run with their every word), they're our Overlords. If they're going to act as they are, then they can't react with surprise when residents overreact or revolt (as they did way way back with the silly prim taxes, or with the telehubs and their malls, or copybot, or with ageplay/gambling recently, and what will likely happen with age verification).

The Ls need to realize they can't be our friends. They can't be casual about themselves.

They're our overlords. They should start acting the part.

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