Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Shutters Open

The Lindens decide to rip an idea I started on this blog but haven't really ever utilized. That is, they're taking down stories of residents. Okay, maybe not my original idea, as the Second Life Insider was doing blurbs long before I even registered an account. But nonetheless, the Lindens realize today that they'd like to hear from the residents themselves what kind of Second Life they've lived.


They don't, really. They want to hear about people who have done great things. The movers and shakers. They want the big names. Oh, I know they say that they'll keep an eye out for the little guy, but in the casting call in the first paragraph, they list off professions of what they're looking to publish. Builders. Architects. Fashionistas. Guess what they are going to focus upon. Yeah, those who have made an impact. They don't want to hear about John Doe who made a bandanna or Janet Smith who streams her own concerts every so often. They are looking for Masterful Escapes or Bill&Pams.

And there is nothing wrong with that. But it's just a little lop-sided. Because the overwhelming majority in Second Life is the humble consumer. They are the people who shape what we make and produce in SL. If they don't like it, it ain't moving. The average consumer themselves might build or do whatever on the side to earn a few L$ without dumping some dollars into SL to buy their prim penis or fancy new dress. It's not weird and wacky, but it's not supposed to be. This is what Second Life is made out of, and to feed the press these stories of the few who made a giant rideable praying mantis as if it were the norm is a tad dishonest.

They also require you to write the entire piece on your own. And give your real life name. How many people would do so? At least a quarter of those in SL are rather shy and protective of their RL info and are reluctant to give a RL name at all. For them, SL is a separate entity that isn't supposed to infringe on real life. They don't want to go do their nine-to-five real life job and have someone come down and say, "Hey, you're RainyDay Boxby! I love that de-Ruther you made!" For them, it's an escape and their stories are one of that escape from real life and into this medium such as it is. I should clarify: they also want real life contact info. So not only would your real life name get out there but your address, email, and phone numbers would all be out there at the mercy of the Lindens just for some recognition of the fact that you made a unique new way to build a canoe.

Their questions are rather generic and blah too. "How did you find out about Second Life?" Okay, why does this matter? They came here, didn't they? This is something more for research into where to place more advertising budgets for better investments, not for taking down the stories of a resident. " What were your original goals when you became a part of Second Life?" It's almost always 'I wanted to check it out'. No one comes into Second Life with a determined goal unless they had a friend drag them into it. No one knows what to expect of it and they just pop in to see exactly what is going down in it. " How many Residents frequent your island/business? Daily? Monthly?" The first part of this question is reasonable enough, just look at the traffic rating on your land. But daily and monthly statistics? Who keeps track of that? It's possible but pointless unless you plan on running a hard business. Just like it's possible to calculate the acceleration of a speeding car, but to a cop that's pointless when all he has to know is that you were over the speed limit.

"How do you measure your success in-world? Is it by money or another means?" " What do you hope to achieve in-world?" These are the same thing. They could have eliminated one or the other. They both ask what kind of goals you set for yourself. Hey, let's put this set of questions into it: "What do you think makes Second Life interesting?" "What keeps you coming back into Second Life?" Same thing. Asking for what people see as success will yield very generic answers, by the way. It will invariably fall into "Yes, I make lots of money and/or support myself entirely from inworld", "I have lots of friends and have learned a lot from them", or "I made lots of kool stuff". You're not going to get very in depth answers here. It's like the questions and answers in a Miss America pageant.

Speaking of which, why did they need to include a giant list of questions, anyway? They say you don't have to answer everything, but in reality, people will feel they have to and so fill it with quick sentences or anything that sounds good on paper. It says the more info you give the more likely you'll 'win' and get mentioned as the story of the week, so people will fill out the questionnaire instead of using it as the general guideline it was probably intended to be.

In the end, this will turn out something like the Herald's Post Sixx articles. The person featured will get pilloried by the audience for being too bland or too obnoxious or being a jerk or out of jealously and half a million other reasons. I sincerely hope it doesn't turn out this way, I hope I am dead wrong. But only time will tell.

Personally, I think (and this is only my opinion) that if they wanted to really get some stories down, they should get a few of the PR Lindens alts and have them walk around night clubs and through the landscape with a notepad. You can't take a person's picture by handing them some film. You have to have it in the camera, have the shutters open. That's how you get a portrait. News in SL travels primarily through word of mouth. If you hang out in a club for even three days you will hear some of the lesser known but trusted individuals, the guys who make good and cheap prim furniture or renowned for DJing birthday parties for tips only. Then, you take a snapshot (embedded in the client itself!) and you interview them and get them to loosen their lips. Chat them up. If you have to, follow them around for a day or two and get a real feel for what they are instead of having them answer some silly questions in two lines each.

Why do businesses interview people instead of just having them fill out a questionnaire? So they can get a feel for the person behind the resume and find out if they really are enthused about this position, if they will be an annoying jerk to work with, and much more. That's how it gets down in real life. If I do a biography on Clinton, I'm going to interview the man in person rather than email him a list of generic questions. Their method is going to flood them with an extremely large load of mail, which may or may not be useful as a jumping board to find more interesting subjects. They could avoided this problem by just being with the residents, numerous though they may be.

And then, with your shutters open and pen in hand, then you'll get some stories.

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