Will the Real You Please Stand Up: precedence in communications

The precedent that has been set by most of the employees permitted to post on the Linden Lab main blog is this: that the issues addressed in the post are close to final or finalised already. The posts are presented as though those commenting on the posts could still have some input, however it’s usually in vain – decisions have already been made. Indeed, often the item in question is ready for launch within hours or days of the post being made.

I do rather hope that Wallace Linden’s first substantive post is a departure from that state of affairs. It seems to me that what Wallace has presented here is a timely topic. Perhaps it has been discussed internally at Linden Lab, perhaps not; nonetheless, what the post contains is Wallace’s own ideas about aspects of identity and identification management, followed by an elicitation for comments from Second Life users about how they would like to be able to manage their identifications, on and offline.

“And as Web and mobile services continue to work their way into all corners of our lives, these aspects will continue to proliferate — and as they do, we’ll start facing important questions about how we handle these collections of selves.” ~ Wallace Linden

“The question we now face, both as people and as organizations, is how we handle these connections, how we handle these collections of selves.” ~ Wallace Linden

Unfortunately, Wallace has not satisfactorily expressed the intentions of the post. The evidence? The many, many comments from Second Life users who have failed to understand what Wallace was driving at.

“One question that’s interesting to contemplate is whether your avatars will share that digital identity card.” ~ Wallace Linden

“The interesting conversations here will be about what kind of value we’re looking for, and what kind of tools we need. The answers won’t be the same for everyone, of course, but they will be important to everyone as the various digital contexts we inhabit continue to converge.” ~ Wallace Linden

I believe that the above statements, combined with years of precedence of blog posts made too late, got people jumping to the wrong conclusions. They are seeing some sort of linkage between Second Life account names and other identifications, and have gotten the impression that such a thing has already come to pass, launch date to be announced within days.

I see that Wallace, however badly he has performed expectation management, however poorly he has expressed his intention, is genuinely looking to elicit responses about what Second Life users want with regards to what identifications they do and do not want to share. I see him looking at tools that will assist us in both creating links, and in suppressing such links, between our different aspects of identity.

“I get a lot of benefit, both personal and professional, out of being the same person in many different online contexts.” ~ Wallace Linden

“But you shouldn’t necessarily be forced to make the same associations I do. If you ask most people, making those connections should be opt-in. Not everyone sees the same value in such links.” ~ Wallace Linden

Wallace, when many people get the wrong impression about something, you have not successfully communicated your ideas. Communication has failed.

As a counterpoint to this blog post, I’ll point you to Diary of a Paranoid Mysql Upgrade by Charity Linden, and anything written by FJ Linden. Clear and concise, with good expectation management and intent stated clearly and upfront, their posts are a joy and a relief to read. Hey, Charity, could they pay you enough for you to take the post as communications Linden?

Photo: Von Cellar School


  1. great, great observation, i went off tonite about Wallace and LL – thanks for articulating better than i am able to


    omg, i wish i did not love sl so much and could just say screw it, ugh

  2. Hey Hon,

    Very thoughtful piece and nicely to the point.

    I would also argue though that a great many of the people who responded did in fact realize that Wallace was asking a very general philosophical question (and a pretty darn good one at that). We chose however, to discuss the particular issue of linking SL identity and rl identity and how we handle it–and how we would prefer for it to be handled–because after all, the post was on a Linden blog on the SL site. Logically, most of those reading the peice were going to be people for whom their direct experience with the issue dervies from their experience with SL. Likewise, their concerns about the issue of mixing identities are going to manifest themselves referencing SL and our relationship as partner/customers with the Lab.

    In short, I think you can argue that it was a pretty darn good question, posted in what was absolutely the wrong place.

    Wallace could have put this on a general Virtual Worlds blog or a personal blog, and it would have made for a really interesting discussion. In the conext of the Lidnen blogs, however, it was inevitable that it would turn in to what it did. Of course, he could have at any time said, “hey guys, I was just asking a general 'big picture' question here.” But he didn't. And to exacerbate the mess, he seemed to respond primarily to comments by people he knows, or those who exhibited the least outright hostility. And even those responses, at best, ranged from shallow and superficial to glib.

    So he took a good question, posted it on the wrong venue, and then initiated what was neither a conversation nor managed.

    I think you are smack dead-on right that when a Linden posts on the official blogs their posts should be clear as to their intent, as well as clean and concise in form. But they also should be focussed on addressing issues that are directly related to the platform and practical matters of how we can all maximize its potential.

    Wallace is a bright, intelligent guy…he's just not being very smart about his approach to this particular job so far.

    But then, as I think you are also pointing out, what the Lindens really need to work on isn't developing a series of haphazard “conversations” but instead, ongoing “communications.”


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