Newly minted Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon has recently been talking about somehow incorporating Teen Second Life into the broader Second Life environment, though no details or plans have yet emerged on how that would happen. At a Metanomics session on Monday, Lab chairman and founder Philip Rosedale sparked considerably more speculation, though his comments on the matter didn't actually provide any new information.
The last time we asked Linden Lab about plans to bring adult and teen users together (more than a year ago now), the Lab said that it had no plans or intentions of doing so in the foreseeable future. That appears to be changing, though it isn't clear if the Lab has any ideas of how to bring it about.
Here's what Rosedale said, courtesy of the Metanomics session transcript:
PHILIP ROSEDALE: Generally, I think that the future of Second Life needs to be one where people of all ages can use Second Life together, and that's the direction that we're taking in our planning and our work. I think that the educational opportunities for Second Life are so great for all ages that we need to make it as available as we possibly can to people. If you look at what we've done with the Teen Grid, I think we've done a good job, as a small company, of being inclusive and creating an environment in which teenagers were able to use Second Life, I think, perhaps earlier than, I don't know, we might have been able to. We pushed hard to get that working.
But, if you look at the problems with having a teenaged area, which is itself so isolated from the rest of the World, they're substantial. There's an inability for educators to easily interact with people in there because we've made it an exclusively teen only area. Parents can't join their kids in Second Life so problems like that are ones that we think are pretty fundamental and need to be fixed. We need to stop creating isolated areas that are age specific and, instead, look at how we can make the overall experience appropriately safe and controlled for everybody. So that's the general direction that we're taking there.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Do you expect any official action or public notice on this anytime soon? And is the idea am I hearing you right that it would basically be to allow people of any age to come into at least some parts of Second Life? Is that what I'm hearing?
PHILIP ROSEDALE: Definitely. From my perspective, our long term strategy is that but I won't make any specific "this is what's coming next and that's where you can expect it," in that regard. We're still working on how to do that and what to do next.
Some have interpreted this as meaning that non-teen-friendly content will eventually be deprecated and expunged from Second Life. Others believe it signals that a new 'all ages' grid will be created that allows teens and adults to mingle from their respective grids, in an environment that is comparatively free of adult themes and interests. Regardless of the speculation, Rosedale doesn't actually say anything that would favor either speculation over the other.
While bringing teens and adults together on the grid (or indeed on any grid) represents something of reversal in long-standing Lab policy, it is clear that something must be done. Adults cannot access the Teen grid without lengthy police and background checks, and most of the teen users that we've spoken describe the Teen grid as "a living hell", "dreary" or "abandoned and neglected by Linden Lab".
The Teen grid itself is tiny, and almost deserted (the Teen registration system is balky, and also reputed to refuse anyone from outside North America). Teens in Teen Second Life generally feel neglected and a bit third-class, though there are exceptions. Despite being future Adult grid users (when they turn 18, if not before), teens feel shut out and ignored by the Lab, being as they are unable to participate in many of the discussions, particularly since blog commenting was shunted back to the forums.
The users of the Teen grid are, by definition, adolescents. Most parents will tell you that adolescents require more attention than adults, rather than less. Quite what's going to happen, though is uncertain. One thing that Rosedale makes clear is that the Lab is not ready to talk about it yet.
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