Observations on change

The virtual world is all about change and growth and experimentation and movement toward a shared future. Think back to when you got your first computer. For me it was 1994 and I spent a ton of money to buy a machine I didn't know anything about. I knew there was information out there and I wanted in on it. I signed up for an AOL account and was thrilled every time I heard "you've got mail!" I messed around on Usenet and fought with my boyfriend about who's turn it was to play Doom. Ahhh....good times.

Fast forward to today. My avatar name gets far more google hits than my RL name. I have accounts on Second Life, Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, Linkedin, Flickr and my blog reader lists close to 150 blogs. I have friends all over the world, most of whom I have never seen in the flesh and don't plan to ever meet physically. Significant changes have already occurred in how we spend our online time and the virtual world is still in its infancy. Who knows where we will be in another 15 years?

One thing that routinely amazes me is how residents of SL freak out about change. We have all heard predictions about the end of Second Life due to the prohibition on gambling, the end of banking, age verification, trademark requirements, windlight, Open Space price hikes, the LL purchase of SLx and OnRez and the possibility of the Teen Grid merging with the Main Grid. There were probably a few other crises of epic proportions that threatened the world as we know it but I likely tuned out the ranting and raving about it all. Perhaps doomsday predictions and emotional hand wringing are just content fodder for bloggers so it seems like everyone freaks out but the average SL resident just doesn't care all that much. Its hard to know.

Linden Labs is a for profit company. Serving the needs of the customer base is clearly an extraordinarily high priority for any company. At the same time companies have needs of their own. Sometimes organizations have to walk a delicate line between doing what is best strategically and addressing the needs of the customer base. We do not (and never will) have complete information about the strategy behind all of LL's decisions. When they make changes that don't appear to make sense it is a good bet there is an organizational need that has trumped customer preferences.

Like it or not LL will do what is in the interest of the company even if we perceive that the change negatively impacts us. Of course we all could buy servers and migrate to OpenSim. I have visited a few other worlds and for now I think Second Life is still the best place to be in terms of reliability, rich content and community. I am very confident that one day, perhaps one day soon, Second Life will not have the position it currently holds and we will have other comparable options. For now, in my opinion, that is just not the case.

LL operates the platform upon which we create our homes, businesses, and our virtual social lives.The reality is that LL exerts significant control over things that are dear to us. When they prioritize our needs behind those of the company itself we are justifiably frustrated and angry. At the same time, we can't control what they do and we can only wish for better communication. What we can control is our own reactions. Flexibility in the face of change is important because one thing is for sure. More is coming.


Siggy said...

There appears to be a minority in Second Life who grasp the notion that residents are not owners and that Linden Lab is a business and not a charitable institution. The psychology and economy of Second Life are two different things; it's just that people get them mixed up!

Detune said...

Thank you! one of the few blogposts I have seen that acknowledge that Linden Lab has to do certain things to survive in the competition with the 350+ virtual worlds out there today.
Right now there are complaints about the purchase of SLx and OnRez.
But what is keeping someone with starting, and offering, a similar service, and compete?
Absolutely nothing.

Regards Speedmaster Bing

Lauren said...

You are so right. I say this all the time. I bought my computer at the same time as you 1994. So often I say, "FirstLife is broken too." and "Stop complaining it's a busines." WELL DONE. And Lauren is way more email popular and way more informed than the firstlife avatar behind her.