More from Rod Humble: Privacy

Privacy is extremely important for anyone putting themselves out there, expressing themselves, or expressing a side of themselves through an avatar. People don’t want other people to connect the dots from their avatar to their real life person – or even, for that matter, to an alt. One of the ethical obligations we have is to protect people’s privacy

“People come to Second Life because they want a story, they want to be in a story….and we have an ethical obligation to protect that.

I’m not so sure that the conventional wisdom makes any sense. Yes, it might be technically easy to track people and all that. But in the long-term I’m optimistic that we’ll see the pendulum swing back in the other direction towards more privacy.

Thus speaks Rod Humble in what is quite possibly the best interview held with him since he took office at Linden Lab, and Kudos to Dusan Writer for bringing it to us.

It’s an uplifting piece on many levels. The comments about privacy, for example, are particularly relevant given both the degree to which Linden Lab seems determined to shovel users of Second Life towards Facebook and the manner in which data is being scraped and potentially used by the likes of RedZone.

For me, the interview is encouraging, as I’ve been advocating the need for Linden Lab to take what I term a more holistic view of Second Life, and to stop looking at it in terms of how it can be “compartmentalised”: focusing on individual technical issues, trying to tap into audiences, etc., and start looking at it as a complete, unified entity. In fact, I’ve already had concerns that Rod Humble is sliding into this very trap.

But no, he does seem to get it: he recognises the fact that the magic of Second Life is about the ability to create – physically and metaphorically (he talks about us being able to create “personas” in SL and imbue them with specific identities) – and he really does demonstrate he’s thought about these ideas, and is not simply peddling words.

Similarly, he recognises that Second Life can increase its relevancy in terms of real world interactions by providing n-world and supportive tools that work with the platform to empower people to interact with one another through Second Life (rather than telling them to bugger off elsewhere).

This is marvellously encouraging. Of course, there is a degree of hyperbole that strays dangerously close to Rosedale Country; after making very valid points about the relevancy in having multiple personas in life (which we all do), and these personas / identities being an integral part of our being (a marked difference from Zuckerberg over at FB, who views  multiple identities as demonstrating a “lack of integrity”), Rod does unfortunately slip into Pipspeak:

“I don’t want to get all geeky about it, but I sort of see this day coming when there’s a formalization of identity that happens. We haven’t had the tools before to formalize our broken up bits of identity…We can increasingly go deep on each element of identity and they become more valuable and I can’t help thinking that if we formalize the structures around those identities and have the tools to do that it might actually change us – it might change the person.”

Shades of Transhumanism lurking there – but not enough to shake one’s feeling that here, finally, Linden lab have struck gold. Rod Humble not only gets Second Life technically, he gets it visually, socially, personally, and metaphorically. In short, he appears to understand it holistically.

Lets hope that understanding translates itself into policies and action that allow us all to look back in 12 months or so, and we”ll all be “talking about all the new kinds of content and creations and categories of creation…and say ‘Wow, it’s amazing, look how far we’ve come in having ways to make stuff‘.” And that we’re all secure and confident in the levels of privacy and security Second Life affords us.

8 thoughts on “More from Rod Humble: Privacy

  1. I admit to having not the faintest clue what “Pipspeak” is (it’s not even on Urban Dictionary) but I don’t think the point Rod Humble is trying to make has anything to do with transhumanism, but is quite simply that at some level our experiences in Second Life have some bearing on our First Lives as well – which is something I for one can heartily agree with, and surely a holistic approach like the one you’ve been advocating should integrate this kind of feedback as well.

    The interview is a very interesting read, and like you it is leaving me hopeful that here’s a CEO who is willing to immerse himself in Second Life and in consequence actually gets what it’s about for its residents.


    1. “Pipspeak” is a term I made up to reflect the fact that Philip Rosedale used to talk the same way…and then wander deeper into the realms of transhumanism and transforming society. I don’t for a minute think Rod is anywhere near the same level as Philip (“Pip”), but just that I found the
      echo interesting, given the “philosophical track record” within the company.

      Outside of this, of course I support the notion that there can be a personal dynamic between our first lives and second lives. There already is; how much it affects us comes down to precisely what we’re prepared to give / take from it. For many, it is enough to simply immerse oneself in one (or more) character personas (renegade, space pilot, kidnapper, courtesan, sword fighter, assassin, lady of the night, kidnapped, robot….the list goes on, and thus limit our interactions to within the framework – structure of these characters, and thus act as a limiting control on the feedback. Others approach Second Life with the controlling framework of running a business and being seen purely in their “business” persona. Others are more relaxed, their framework more flexible, allowing a broader range of input and feedback to work between them and Second Life.

      As such, I do do believe such feedback *should* integrate with a more holistic approach to developing Second Life; there needs to be these kinds of dynamics in order to help keep us engaged, to encourage us to participate; something beyond “just” the physical (creativity) that keeps us coming back for more. There just needs to be some care in just what “structures” are “formalised” – and indeed, how such terms are interpreted – within LL itself.


  2. Wow, this seems almost too good to be true… you know, in my country, we have a saying: “if the tip is too big, the poor will become suspicious”, meaning mostly that a thing that is too good to be true very often is not true 🙂

    But nevertheless I have to admit that it’s very refreshing to see that Rod Humble seems to be “thinking like us” (meaning: “us, the residents”) and have come to those conclusions on his own; certainly he didn’t get much help at the Lab…


    1. Yes, yes…since the dawn of time; “life here began out there….”; “is this all I am?” – take your pick; we’ve done it, we’re still doing and our nature is such that we’ll keep doing it. You miss my point. 🙂

      As I said above, the resonance between what Rod Humble said – albeit that his view is painted in broader brushstrokes – and Philip Rosedale’s (and other associated with SL) is interesting, given, again as stated above, the “philosophical” (quotes deliberate) leanings of the company.


  3. Rod Humble’s opening statement appears to be a total contradiction with what Linden Labs has done with Viewer 2.5 Web Profiles, links to Facebook and other social networking sites, the requirement to activate copies and javascript to view profiles and search in-world. See the SL 2.5 Technology Blog comments on this topic. Please invite himback to explain the gulf beween words and actiosn.


      1. I think Rod’s words are potentially as much a wake-up call to some in LL as they are a refreshing breeze to us. Don’t forget, things like Viewer 2.x, the blogs surrounding it – even Amanda’s recent blog on communications (pushing people at FB, etc.), were have been drafted and revised prior to Rod Humble coming into LL and during the time he was getting his “legs under the desk” as we say where I come from. As such, we should give him time the demonstrate the meaning of his words, rather than jumping on him before he’s had time to reverse those elements of policy within LL are are fracturing their reputation with users.


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