It’s now a week since Linden Lab gave, somewhat abruptly, the news that they’ll (for this year at least) not be involved in organising SLB celebrations, and reactions continue to rumble on. I say “this year at least”, because the negative response to the announcement on the official forums was enough to draw official comment from the Lab, which began:
Having seen the feedback in this thread and elsewhere about the plan for SL9B celebrations, we wanted to elaborate a bit about why we’ve decided to focus on promoting numerous events hosted by the community this year, rather than hosting a centralized celebration as we have in the past. [My emphasis.]
While it is likely that LL won’t reverse the decision with the passage of time, that they have qualified it is reason enough for me to extend the same courtesy.
Opinions are fairly split on the approach. Tateru and Hamlet Au appear broadly supportive of the issue – although Tateru does admit to having something of a centralised clearing-house of four sims to provide an anchor for celebrations across the grid when organising SL3B. Others remain convinced that in not having a central point for builds and at least some events rather does take the shine off of things. Crap Mariner has analysed the state of play on the Grid as a whole, and come up with an approach that, while not without one or two issues, has much merit.
For my part, I still remain of the opinion that the lack of some in-world focal-point, supported by Linden Lab in terms of region provisioning, is to be lamented. Again, it doesn’t have to be a bucketful of sims lagged-out from here to kingdom-come (although I didn’t find lag at SL8B to be anywhere near the nightmare of SL7B).
More to the point, there is the way in which the announcement has been handled – something that Gianna Borgnine raised during last week’s Metareality podcast. However the announcement is enthusiastically dressed-up by Linden Lab, it still comes down to it being a further step in their withdrawal from active participation within Second Life more than it is about “giving back” or “returning” anything to the community as a whole.
If I’m completely honest, in this regard, the blog post shouldn’t really have been a surprise at all; over the last twelve months we’ve seen Linden Lab gradually withdrawing from active involvement in Second Life as they seek to shift their operating paradigm away from being the provider of a virtual world to the supplier of a platform and a richly diverse box of tools. Truth be told even further, there’s actually nothing wrong with the approach, providing it is done consistently and openly. There is nothing wrong with the company stepping back in this way, cries of the “gamification” of SL notwithstanding (anyway, since when has the provisioning of tools many in the community have been demanding for years become a matter of “gamification”?).
The problem is, as Gianna laments in the Metareality podcast, in the matter of mixed messages that LL seem to be sending out at every turn. Let’s face it; back at the beginning of March, Rod Humble was blogging:
I will be kicking off another monthly roundtable (probably Monday) to chat about getting that family/frontier feel back with an eye to some area-like project, although some of the early ideas (like you get to pick a prefixed last name after you are a resident for say six months) can also be chatted about. [My emphasis]
OK – so granted there is something of a caveat there (“with an eye to some area-like project”), but the fact remains that a huge part and parcel of the “family/frontier” feel to Second Life was the sense that Lab or user, we were all sharing in the adventure.
Yet here we are, barely a month on, and the Lab is pretty much saying, “OK, guys. You’re on your own.” However you look at it, the two messages simply don’t chime together very well; particularly given the SLB announcement comes at the 11th hour in terms of the community mobilising itself and organising anything of any decently scaled event suitable to mark the event before June hits us (and sorry, I don’t count “birthday parties” held in clubs across the grid as being “decent scaled” events).
Again, I have no problem with LL pulling out of direct involvement in the organisation of SLB – it would just be nice if they a) were open about their aims for managing the platform and the kind of relationship they wish to have with the community, and b) actually took steps to make announcements like this in sufficient time for the community as a whole to respond and fill the void.
Here, as a slight aside, is where Crap’s observations on LEA have merit to a degree. The LEA is arguably here for the benefit of the community as a whole, and it has a large cache of regions; so if any single organisation is in a position to step forward and provide at least the space for some form of in-world focal point for celebrations, they are something of a logical choice. Of course, that they have the land doesn’t automatically mean that it is there for the taking – many LEA activities are planned months in advance and regions are heavily booked. But – had LL given sufficient lead-time as to their decision to say “not this year, folks”, then something most likely could have been done.
And is it yet too late, as Crap asks, for the LEA not to step in and say that for some of their regions (again four or six should do), they will be pushing back the calendar in order to make an emergency provision for SL9B?
But, to come back to the focus: in the Metareality podcast mention is made of the LL / user relationship being somewhat spousal in nature, and while the notion is a little pooh-poohed in the broadcast, the fact is that this is pretty much – rightly or wrongly – how the relationship has been perceived by many in the user community (I’ve made mention of it myself in the past). While it may in some ways seem a conceit on our (the users’) part to consider it so (LL is, and always has been in the business of making money first and foremost, rather than being a “partner”) – the fact of the matter is that the company itself promoted this “partnership” idea for years; so we can actually be hardly blamed for toeing (or is that Tao-ing?) the corporate line. As such, if the honeymoon is over (if you’ll pardon the pun), it would be nice for the Lab to come out and say so cleanly and clearly.
As to SL9B itself, it’s fair to say that as noted, the announcement has stirred up commentary on SL and LL covering both sides of the coin. How things turn out in a little under two months’ time remains to be seen. But given the lateness of the hour at which the renouncement of LL’s involvement in any capacity other than advertising was made, I still can’t help but feel that this year the theme may well turn out to be more one of “if only” than anything else.
My thanks to Tateru for pointing out my little faux-pas in missing a couple of words at the start :).