A SLap in the face

Dear Linden Labs,

It is often a struggle to convince administrators, policy makers and educators that virtual worlds in general and Second Life in particular are valuable resources for education.

Educators I know have worked in their own time, fought the battles with IT to unblock ports and find a reasonable space and afterward, even if they get results, they STILL have to keep on struggling to gain recognition for their work. In short, making a case for the educational benefits can be lonely work.

People like Joanna McKay or Jokay Wollongong in world who aggregate information and provide much needed advice, conferences and playspaces are a God-send to educators eager to learn. Her SLeducation Wiki has been a source of information and inspiration for years.

So your notice to her that she has to re-name her site because of her use of SL which you’ve apparently trademarked is not only counter-productive to educators wanting to use your site, is not only a killer of a site that markets your services for you by its very nature – it is a slap in the face to your community.

I’m assuming you’ll be gunning for SLoodle next?

Oh, and  please tell Phillip to stop with the tale-spinning that Second Life, founded on the concept of the Burning Man festival, is an environment about sharing creativity built by and for its “residents”. It’s clearly hypocritical. It’s an environment by and for Linden Lab.

But I do thank you for the wake-up call.

I hope that others – educators, businesses, entrepreneurs – hear that wake-up call too: you must diversify your explorations of new technologies so that you are not reliant on a particular platform or provider.  Because SLack marketers who are too SLow to consider the community of passionate users that grow up around today’s platforms and brands will SLash their own wrists in an effort to control what they feel is theirs.



aka Pandora Kurrajong
Second Life user since 2007
ReactionGrid / Open Sim user since 2009

10 Replies to “A SLap in the face”

  • Wow…who knew? I am still a newbie in SL though my Ms. Snoodle has flown there for over a year. What a shame it would be to have to reconfigure and rename and rework all of the great resources Jokay Wollongong has tried to give us.

  • I have to say that as someone looking to research and develop education projects in Second Life, this makes me very anxious. What is SL going to try to control next? Maybe it’s time for me to start looking at OpenSim?

  • Watch out there Ms Kurrajong! I count at least 8 unauthorised uses of the letters ‘sl’ in your post. The one in your post title must be worth at least double demerit points! Linden labs will be after you too soon!

    But seriously, thanks for your support. It’s upsetting to get a slap in the face (as jokay says, it feels more like a kick in the guts) after putting so much effort into supporting and promoting the platform.

    The big lesson here of course is we need to always be wary when working with corporate entities. As a fan of open source and open systems I always knew it was a risk working with SL, but since it was really the only game (excuse the pun!) in town when we started, and there was a fairly anarchic, creative spirit about the place I thought it was worth it. Oh how things have changed.

    What’s particularly galling is that the wiki has been establsihed for 3 years, 2 years before LL started their aggressive trademark rampage, but we get no acknowledgement or consideration for that.

    As you say, this is no way to treat passionate users. They really do keep shooting themselves in the foot, don’t they?

    Bring on OpenSim, I say!

  • Allow me a reality check, albeit with a heavy heart.
    An incorporated company has one duty – to make money for its shareholders. It is written in commercial law in many countries. So a visionary startup will, if successful to any degree, will inevitably steer towards the purely lucrative. Do they espouse ethical means? It is because they would lose reputation and profit if they didn’t. Do they act for green issues, education, not-for-profit organisations? The same applies. Can they make more out of big business than from long serving volunteers? Expect the support for volunteers to be reduced, unless there is a huge outcry that reduces their potential profitability.

    LL want to grow like most corporations. They will do whatever is necessary, and dress it up as best they can. Expect nothing else. Recent developments like SLim, and Avaline the Skype wannabe service, say to me that they want to become a player in global telecoms and networking on the back of the success of the SL grid. If they succeed, and if it is financially better to drop the grid and specialise on the voice services, don’t believe for a moment that they would hesitate to sell off the SL we know, or pull the plug. This is not a criticism, this is how business works.

    The alternative is the anarchic world of open source. It is hard to invest heavily there until there is a framework that will remain stable for the foreseeable future. Early adopters could be caught with unexpected changes, could support a grid that dies, or find poor development of the alpha software, which is missing that commercial drive that makes good software happen quickly. And if opensim allows a public web of VWs – are you ready for the unintended consequences? Global VW spam? Metaverse malware? 3D Botnets? I’m guessing – no doubt new abuses will occur we can only dream of today.

    Cynical? Not really – I just don’t expect corporations not to behave like – well – corporations. Or open source developers to behave like corporate code monkeys. We have to understand the situation to make good decisions.

  • It may not be a good idea for LL to get the early adopters thinking of diversifying or researching other environments: are there so many flocking to SL that they do not need to look after the keen and talented educators facilitating communities?

    These are exactly the people who will start to feel the thrill of the chase and the urge to create in a new space, taking their communities and friends with them, which would be such a big loss of value adding for all the other educators, reducing the quality of their experiences too.

    Why not practice the behaviours that are considered the norm in the community, and recognise and celebrate those like Jokay Wollongong who add such value.

  • Stupid move to diss people who are such advocates for your product. What kind of business strategy is it to piss in the Cheerios of one of your biggest advocates?

    SLtupid SLitheads

  • Linden Labs does not understand it’s role. LL acts as if it is owner of the collective creative content. It perceives it’s residents, and content creators, is a resource pool for them to draw on to develop a marketing strategy geared to it’s corporate business model.
    They are an enabling technologically, period. LL should be treated no different than your ISP. They no more own community content than your ISP owns the web pages you view and create. They should offer the underlying structure and support period. Their forays into the higher levels of management and control have been heavy handed, misleading, and at times a contradiction of stated purpose. If this was a brick and mortar business, several of it’s recent actions would have made it vulnerable to class action.
    To open your eyes a bit, I would suggest looking outside the Second life box, even if for a bit. SL is the largest VW community, but by no means is the only. Other grids, such as OpenSim and OpenLife, offer a truer form of what a grid community is supposed to be. Become a virtual tourist and explore beyond the SL bounds.

  • Kerry, an important post – and a view I have been arguing for a long time about the issues around using a commercial entity for the provision of public education services. LL will act in its own interests, not in those of the community of educators who can see the benefits of immersive learning environments for teaching and learning. The challenge now is to identify and develop and immersive learning environment for education and educators not driven by a commercial imperative but an educative and community of practice one.

  • Thanks for your input everyone.

    It’s so frustrating. Second Life finally works well, freeing educators from much of the worry about the need to identify whether tech problems are bugs or not. It also has a critical mass of users and will remain an important platform for international collaboration and professional development.

    I think an environment apart for educators needs to ensure that its boundaries are permeable. If it is too closed off, it becomes an ivory tower that is distant from the reality and needs of business and society.

    Plus the ability to collaborate internationally with other types of educators and with other types of virtual worlds users – like business, government, social welfare organisations, artists, digital storytellers – keeps ideas and energy fresh. Some of the most innovative educators I’ve come across get their ideas from interactions with people outside the education sector.

    I think Linden Lab’s actions are very akin to a company that publicly espouses clean, green values and then sets up in third world countries and pollutes. I don’t mind if Linden Lab or any company is in this for themselves. I DO mind that they promote an image of openness and community then don’t practice it.

    Making lemonade is the only answer. Let LL suck on its own lemons!

  • The heart agrees with the sentiments of @cogdog and also @sarahstewart. Part of me also agrees with @socrates but I beg to differ with @trex.

    According to the SL TOS Linden Lab DO own the community content because it resides on their servers. If you use SL you agreed to that point when you signed up for the service. Users may retain their own IP rights to the content they create there but LL can do with it what they will.

    The big issue here for the @jokay “Takedown Notice” seems to be LL handling of the affair is blatantly stupid and counter productive for their business and bad for their community profile. At least they have now admitted as much in this interview: http://www.metaversejournal.com/2009/10/03/trademarking-and-educators-linden-lab-responds/

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