Victory is… still down the road a bit. But we’re walking forward again…

If you love something, you don’t flee – you work to get it fixed. And you put feet to the fire over it.

We all know that last year the Second Life Terms of Service got put through the wringer of a rather nasty change that no one liked. Its possible even some inside of Linden Lab were none too pleased – though that is speculation.

Back when this occurred some SL Pundits called for people to ‘leave SL if this bothered them’. Some see the only metric of protest for an online service being ‘abandonment or disengagement.’

You have to wonder… if this is reflective of people’s upbringing…

I didn’t leave SL. I didn’t stop buying stuff for my avatars. I even near doubled my land holdings.

I was not one of the big bloggers on this at the time. I just said my piece in the comments of other people’s blogs.

I didn’t leave Second Life… because I care about Second Life. And not just the ability to have a sandbox to play pixel-pusher in. I care about the communities. Even and especially the ones I’m not personally in. I care that they are possible, that they exist.

I care that a dying friend (who I did not know was dying at the time), was able to give and receive so much love at the final stages of her life. Because of Second Life.

There is a magic to Second Life that goes WAY BEYOND prim acounts, tier, Marketplace, and the Terms of Service.

Its the magic of the people in Second Life. Even and sometimes especially the Linden employees we love to deride but sometimes secretly admire (if you’ve ever squealed at the sight of meeting a Linden inworld, you cannot fully pretend to hate all the Lindens… I’ll give you a pass, but I’m also holding onto a knowing grin)…

Heck… we lambaste those Lindens so much BECAUSE we care…

Some would say nobody cared about that TOS change last year because:

“Since this controversy began, there not been a noticeable drop in the amount of Second Life content created, bought, and sold, let alone any dip in actual usage of Second Life.”
– Linden’s Revised ToS for SL Still Troubled, Says RL Lawyer

And that we had no reason to be up in arms because:

“there is no evidence it was ever intended maliciously, nor that the clause caused any noticeable drop in the amount of Second Life content created, bought, and sold, let alone any dip in actual usage of Second Life.”
– Linden Lab Amends Draconian Clause in SL’s Terms of Service (Months After Anyone Was Really Angry About It)

But it changed… for some reason Linden Lab decided to amend things.

So…

Apparently Linden Lab pays attention to more metrics than just people giving up. Apparently they also pay attention to community goodwill, and community commentary.

So if the dollars didn’t move, if the users didn’t flee… then what and why?

People spoke up, blogged about it, got third parties to pull support (places like Renderosity), they called Linden Lab out on it all over the internet.

I would hazard to guess that the Second Life userbase even managed to get the former CEO of Linden Lab tossed out (speculation again – deservedly or not, it was under his watch and flipped the dial for many in regards to him).

Some Pundits think nothing happened and no one cared…

They would push the notion that the ONLY valid way to protest an online community is to rage quit it…

Well, I’m pretty freaking pissed at Congress these days…

But it doesn’t mean I decided to “quit” the USA and move myself to Jupiter… (or even further to Canada or Utah or something).

Only the really crazy sorts actually try and fly off the planet when these things happen. Especially when there’s no other planet to go to, let alone spaceships to get there with.

“the fact remains that there’s been no noticeable drop in SL usage or Marketplace activity since this controversy cropped up.”

That’s just looking at it all wrong…

SL is a community first, and in communities you pay attention to attitudes and general conduct. Not just numbers. Perception is a whole lot more important in the longer picture.

Even if its just the content uploaders / re-propagators that are ticked off… that can spread in a viral manner – and they alone are still a significant community.

But to just pretend like they don’t even exist?

That’s just irresponsible.

Because people didn’t and don’t burn down THEIR OWN communities in protest (absent ghetto riots – and maybe because of them folks are more aware of how poorly that tactic fairs).

The thing is… its BECAUSE WE CARE that the one thing people did NOT do is leave and destroy their communities…

If no one cared… then yeah – that is when all the users would vanish and Marketplace would drop off.

But we do care. Maybe too much.

So instead we rant and rave to the point that the Second Life brand gets toxic… which itself may not be wise… but it is the sort of protest people WILL do because it can seem to be done without hurting the existing communities… (even though it does, it is too indirect for most people to perceive)

Linden Lab is however, wise enough to see that keeping the users happy helps the brand – and that the ‘bottom line’ is not just the dollars.

Sure they fumble in meeting the community’s needs, and get it wrong more often than right… but they at least understand it actually does matter.

So a tossed out CEO, and now a new Terms of Service. I’d say – rightly or wrongly – Linden Lab is at least trying. They’re aware of the problem.

GI-Joe may have said “Knowing is half the battle.” Linden Lab just has to learn how to handle the other half… (pipedream maybe, but I care, so I keep hoping) O.o

I think the whole point of bringing in Ebbe Altberg was to get a CEO who had the skills to be able to understand and relate to the users.

(I am never going to get over that this guy’s last name basically sounds like ‘Alt Neighborhood’ to me) 🙂

He’s not made changes as fast as we might like – but I think its clear that he has better intentions than in past, and is obviously putting in the effort.

To me, that speaks volumes of how Linden Lab got hyper aware after the Terms of Service changed last year, that they were doing something wrong, and needed to figure out what. So they got themselves a guy who could deal with that…

Ebbe Linden’s somewhat exposed that among a number of lindens… they too had been getting frustrated with the prior direction, and wanted to reach out again (or, I am reading too much into some statements. But when I listened to the Drax File Interviews, I got the impression they wanted to get to know us more than they had been allowed to in recent past).

So… I think the way the community acted after that last Terms of Service change last year was exactly right.

Rather than abandon Second Life and our communities in it – we called them out on the change, and got very vocal. But we stayed engaged to show we cared.

And now, though its not everything we wanted… we’ve got a much better CEO, and an improving Terms of Service.

There is even mention now on Daz3D (a major source of 3D models) as a result (Daz3D models are still barred from use in Second Life – which if you understand what their models are, makes sense regardless of the Second Life Terms of Service).

So…

I’m calling this one a partial victory, and a road we’re now walking down.

We got their attention, they’ve begun addressing it, and not just that – they are now trying to become a more responsive company as a result.

Because… abandoning the thing you love is the LAST way to fix it. Engaging with it is just so much better.

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