Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Roots of the Rift Between the Second Life Community and Linden Lab

(This post continues yesterday's rebuttal to Second Life's Survival Seriously Threatened by Second Life Users' Hate and Fear of Change.)
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Proverb.
If the Second Life Community has a chip on its shoulder when it comes to change, there are good reasons. Over the past three years, Linden Lab has instituted a string of decisions that changed its relationship with the community from a feeling of trusted family to an atmosphere of cold-blooded commerce.

The shift started in 2008 when Linden Lab decided it was time to grow up and act like a "real" company. In March, 2008, it issued a new Trademark Policy negatively impacting hundreds of the most active and committed community members who had commercial sites or blogs using "Second Life" or "SL" in the title or url. As Gwyneth Llewelyn recounted at the time, the decision reversed a four year history of Linden Lab actively encouraging the community to use the trademark. The unilateral decision galvanized the Second Life community to hold a three day bloggers strike. (It also inspired the creation of @SecondLie, the fourth ranked Second Life Twitter personality who posts multiple times per day with humorous commentary Linden Lab and Second Life.)

Although I didn't understand it at the time, the community's heated response to the Trademark Policy was much more about a perceived breach of trust than the actual issue of Trademarks. After years of Linden Lab encouraging the belief that community members were equal partners in the creation of Second Life, they pulled off the gloves, brought out the lawyers and reminded everyone that it was their world, not ours.

I'm busy with final preparations for today's VWBPE Keynote, so I'll stop here. Stay tuned for Part Two.

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