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Will the real topic please stand up? Anatomy of a community communications breakdown

Tateru Nino

Traditionally, Linden Lab's blog communications have seemed to be reserved for things that had been finalized, were being finalized but already set in stone, or may not have been set in stone but gave that appearance by being nearly identical both before and after user-feedback. All this punctuated by a smattering of video tutorials, infomercials and statistics.

Wallace Linden's recent attempt at (what we think might possibly be) a productive conversation on Second Life identification linking looks like a bit of a failure, mostly because it seems to have failed to distinguish itself from these traditional developer/operator communication patterns.

The comment stream on it all is ... well, let's charitably call it both lengthy and vigorous. We touched on that very briefly in The Virtual Whirl over the weekend. Hardly anyone seems to be talking about what Wallace is talking about, though. When a few people get the wrong idea from a communication you might reasonably consider it to be a misunderstanding on their part.

When so many Second Life users seem to have developed such divergent notions (including many that we'd normally reckon to be careful and thoughtful readers), we'd be more inclined to consider that a breakdown of communications. There's just nothing much to distinguish this communiqué as being significantly different from the fait accompli that usually heralds the approach of the end of a multi-year development effort, and that's a failure of expectation management.

Additionally terms with subtle, but significant differences that are not freely interchangeable go unclarified, such as the difference between an avatar (what everyone sees) and an account (what only the user and Linden Lab see).

Certainly linking the various other service accounts to the former may cause concern for many, but linking them to the latter would cause considerably less concern, and might even be an avenue for benefits and conveniences not otherwise available.

Heck, identity (that which is identified) and identification (that which partially excludes things other than that which is being identified) are tough and intractable problems that have yet to be adequately solved offline (for differing values of 'adequate'), and with many just randomly substituting or understanding one term for the other ... well, thing get even more confused.

So, we think what's going on is that Wallace is asking – on behalf of the lab – what connections people already make, which they don't and why and what value that they're deriving from such connections. All with a view towards Linden Lab finding itself a place in the process at some nebulous time in the future.

Or maybe it is the first stage in a campaign to market planned features to Second Life users. With all the signs that it isn't being largely absent, how would one really know?

Are you a part of the most widely-known collaborative virtual environment or keeping a close eye on it? Massively's Second Life coverage keeps you in the loop.

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