Communications: It isn’t always the Lab

I’ve been somewhat critical towards Linden Lab were their overall approach to communications is concerned – although I’ve tried to temper my critiques with practical suggestions as to how things might be improved. I also hope that I’m not backward in coming forward to acknowledge those times when they do go out of their way to make the effort – such as with Oz standing front-and-centre regarding the recent TPV Policy changes.

However, when it comes to communications and impressions, the Lab is only one side of the coin. Whether we like it or not, we, as users can be as much to blame for the poor state of communications; we are quick and loud to anger when the Lab errs – or more particularly – is perceived to have erred, and we are equally slow to forgive.

I give emphasis to the concept of perception deliberately here. While there are times when taking the Lab to task may be justified, equally there are times when it is automatically assumed that whatever has happened, the Lab has acted with malice aforethought in a deliberate attempt to nefariously ruin the Second Life experience. Often in these circumstances, even the presentation of the most reasoned argument to the contrary will not prevent such views being publicly repeated to the point where the act of repetition itself establishes them as “fact”.

This was recently brought home to me once again by three inter-related incidents relating to a single code change that impacted a very specific use-case for RLV.  In all three, which included a wider exchange I had with someone in Tateru’s blog wherein the claim was again made that LL is a malicious entity, people were insistent that the code change was nothing less that “obvious” proof that LL were attempting to deliberately “break” RLV – and any evidence to the contrary was summarily dismissed.

It mattered not that the code change in question was a) limited in impact (one specific use of RLV restricted to two RC channels on the main grid); b) rolled back by Linden Lab at the earliest opportunity following a JIRA being raised; and that c) even if the underpinning issue itself couldn’t be fixed by LL, Marine Kelley (RLV’s creator) reported that it could be circumvented from within RLV. So the issue as a whole was hardly going to “break” RLV; nevertheless, people had made up their minds, and no discussion to the contrary would be heard  – even after the code change itself had been rolled back.

It’s a similar story with the mesh parametric deformer, where rumours are circulating that LL is trying to “kill” the project simply because they do not appear to be working on it; rumours that recently prompted Oz to comment on matters. Here the assumption is that  because Qarl released an alpha version of the code in January but it has yet to appear in the official SL Viewer, then LL must be trying to stop the project. That in the intervening months Qarl himself has been soliciting feedback from the community and refining the code, and has made further releases – any of which could have been adversely impacted by LL taking the code and developing it themselves – makes little difference to those who see LL’s lack of activity on the project as being somehow malicious.

I’ve dealt with the whole “LL is malicious” nonsense in both the recent and not-so-recent past, and I’m not going to re-harsh what I’ve said on those occasions now.  While it is right and proper to be critical of LL when the company does demonstrate poor judgement, it is also fair to say that there is also an onus on many within the community to stop treating every action or comment from Linden Lab as being adversarial in nature and / or intent.

Communications run both ways. While the onus is, as I’ve commented before, very much on LL needing to take the initial steps and start focusing as a company on more open and pro-active communications directly with the user community as a whole; it is equally important that we be prepared to lay aside subjective prejudices and preconceptions and make the effort to meet them half-way. Because if we don’t, then frankly, communications in either direction are liable to remain as dysfunctional as they’ve ever been.