Monday, February 14, 2011

RANT ALERT: New User Group and JIRA Changes For Second Life

pseudo revolution

I'm not one of those who believes that what goes on in Second Life isn't really (eye roll) real. That said, I've got to admit that some of my fellow SLers respond to the cognitive dissonance between avatar and human identities by acting like virtual ostriches with heads buried in the sand and bottoms up in the air.

But the biggest fantasy that just about everyone buys into is that Second Life is (or should be) a democratic community. It's like the Bizzaro version of the Emperor's New Clothes with virtual peasants walking around naked while everyone pretends to be progressively attired. Time and time again we protest when the Lab makes another dictatorial decision about pricing, zoning, client use, etc. And the story always ends in the same way:  They do what they want and we learn to live with it until the next time.

So it's not surprising that many people have expressed displeasure about the recent announcement that Linden Lab is turning off the voting functionality of the bug reporting system (JIRA) and eliminating the Office Hours program. Those impotently egalitarian communication channels are going to be replaced by User Groups limited to people hand-picked by Lindens. To top it off, there are new policies in the TOS that restrict "negative communication", which some people see as unfair censorship of the community voice.

I'm personally thrilled by the changes. I think they will likely improve the platform over time. Instead of pretending to listen to the ranting masses, Lindens can do substantive work with small groups of SLers who will be actively involved in creating constructive change. Another reason I'm glad to see these changes is that they reinforce the fact that Second Life has never been and will never be a democracy. We are customers of a business, not citizens of a virtual country. And it's about time we wake up and smell the Capitalism.

Viva La RevoluciĆ³n!


R. said...

BAM! Well said.


Star1079 said...

I'm fine with nixing the negative comments. It can be a real downer when you are surrounded by nay sayers.

While I'm a little sad at the option of voting on jira is going away and the removal of Office Hours, I was surprised that they even had such things, so no big loss there.

Hopefully this will allow them to focus on the job at hand. I look forward to seeing how the User Groups are going to work. Hopefully chat lag will be resolved so it can be well used, and used well. :)

Anonymous said...

Amen to that!

Although it should be clarified that all User Groups are completely open access. Anyone can go along and attend one of the User Groups, much like Office Hours. It's just that they have more structure around them and participation guidelines that will, hopefully be enforced.

I feel partially to blame for the misunderstanding about them being only for selected people, because I blogged about that prior to the official announcement. However, it's not the case. What is the case is that *in addition to* these fully public User Groups some group leads may choose to run some extra focus groups (I'm calling them focus groups because I think that's essentially what they are). As far as I'm aware only Brookle Linden of the marketplace team is doing this at the moment, and she's made it very clear that participants will be rotated. These 'focus groups' are also in addition to the regular, monthly Marketplace User Group that is fully open to the public.

I find it bizarre (but unsurprising) that people are freaking out so much. It all makes perfect sense and is a great way to get more structured, constructive and focussed feedback. Focus groups are the type of thing companies around the world run all the time to get useful feedback and what LL are doing is simply good business practice. What's more, the fact they they also have completely public meetings is way above what most other companies do. Despite what people say, the level of involvement we are given from LL is hugely superior to what we would get from almost any other company which, ironically, is probably why people feel they have some sort of entitlement from LL!

Net Antwerp said...

Capitalism thrives on *Democracy*, not dictatorships.

Cisop Sixpence said...

Sounds good to me. I don't see a need to be freaking out.

Net Antwerp said...

@Suella and Cisop: No-one is freaking out. Yet another round of CEO-embracing Linden Clappers (some switched sides around Humble's arrival) vs Everyone else.

sororNishi said...

Yes, but.....

This is a business, but it's also a colony.

A colony with no voting rights is gonna, naturally, get vocal from time to time.

Rant is all we have.

Wizzy Gynoid said...

Don't agree at all. This is not just about a little company called Second Life. This is about something called the Metaverse, which is something larger. A community. A new world. A new vision. A new opportunity. You are a citizen of it once you step in. You have a voice. It's an unalienable right of a citizen of the Metaverse.

Anonymous said...

I don't frequent the SL community weblog, discussion areas -- primarily because when I did peek in I was turned off by the vortex of road rage that seemed to eventually be created. It's virtually impossible to find common ground or explore issues/possibilities when people scream at each other, or worse when somehow the point of the conversation morphs away from understanding and bolts headline into the nasty business of seeing who can be the most disagreeable. I am glad to see LL outline a framework for healthy constructive communication.

Botgirl Questi said...

Net Antwerp and Wizzy: The democracy is the United States (where Linden Lab makes it home). Second Life is a business owned by LL. We are LL's customers. Our only rights in relationship to Second Life are the same as our rights as any other customer of a business.

Second Life is not the Metaverse. Second Life is one grid, albiet a significant one, in the Metaverse. If we don't like what Linden Lab chooses to do with the grid they own, there are many others to choose from. We can host one or more of our own.

Widget Whiteberry said...

Total agreement, Botgirl. And I'd ad that LL metaphors are the source of the cognitive dissonance. Consider 'land,' 'Governor,' 'homestead,' 'voting,' 'lindens,' etc. As metaphors, all are consistent with 'citizenship' and 'rights. 'Seems to me we are looking at massive unintended consequences of those early, foundational decision.

Net Antwerp said...

Personally I don't think of Second Life users as 'residents', or even 'citizens'. Rather, customers renting out virtual spaces, virtual land to collaborate and communicate. With a built-in marketplace - trading posts for Virtual trinkets.

Abruptly nerfing JIRA and restructuring (restricting?) communications channels isn't going to help customers in their hour of need. Were there public trials and studies of the possible outcomes regarding the changes? As far as I'm aware, there haven't been any!

Linden Lab is a service provider, not a retailer. They need to act like one and stop rolling out these abrupt, destructive, largely unwanted changes and policies.

DeNovo Broome said...

heh. All civilization is an unintended consequence...

But democracy is a damn poor way to run a rail-road, or a theatrical company. SL is some of each.

Still, a railroad that's too picky about the cargo or a theatre company that's unaware of what it's audience will wish to see goes broke.

Dividni Shostakovich said...

Although JIRA voting is gone, watching isn't, and LL says it will use the number of people watching an issue as the gauge of interest (to whatever extent they have in the past). I never understood why someone would vote but not watch, so this seems fine to me.

As Net says, "Linden Lab is a service provider, not a retailer." This is also the source of tension between us (the service users) and LL. We want the service to do X, Y & Z; LL wants to provide X, A & E. I think LL has made some serious missteps in not considering its customers' (particularly creators') concerns more carefully. But I'm hoping that Humble will be willing to provide X, Y & E.

Anonymous said...

LL never relied on voting. I've had jiras resolved fixed with not a single vote or watcher. It is a matter of triage, potential level of people affected, and priorities. And quick fix ones get done anyway because it is minimal effort.

That said a better feature voting system might be in order. Feature requests are not defects, should allow yes/no/don't care voting, and never should have been in the jira anyway.

As for the office hours the only difference is instead of being focused on one Linden the time is focused on subject areas. This way staff can turn over and the schedule not be affected. The elimination of "royalty/nobility" and "courtier status" to be heard when a royal/duke linden "holds court" is a good thing.

However you can have all the speeches, blogger interviews, press releases, blog announcements, and office hours you want. If no progress is made then no hearts and minds will be won. Like the privacy invasion epidemic that is currently making SL a not-so-fun place to be resulting in attrition. Rod Humble talks a good talk about privacy. Meanwhile LL does nothing about the abusers running rampant.

Nothing has changed at all.


LL has to demonstrate proof they are listening by way of action before anyone assumes any changes have taken place.