Have it your way?

Because I am flippant and irreverent, I must start off this post by admitting my serious, though platonic, girl-crush on Miss Emilly Orr. As it happens, I interact more with her blog than the av herself, but the same qualities shine through: thoughtful, fierce, articulate, funny, bold, curious.  Miss Orr, you are cooler than a thousand My Evil Ponies.

I started with a paean to Miss Orr because this blog post is in response to a post on her blog, to which I was about to clog up with the comment below.  However, I came to my senses and posted it here. But it was a near, near thing.

The first part of the post addresses a comment from a Second Life blog made by Ari Blackthorne.  Miss Orr quoted at length, but I prefer giving a briefer excerpt:

Since my first coming into SL I have owned… (counts fingers and contemplates) … 5 private regions (sims) – not all at once of course. But I have owned them. I have done what you are doing now – the land sales/rentals. I have created a role play sim (still going strong fortunately) and so on and so on.

 

However, I clearly understand my “place” in it. That being that I am paying Linden Lab to give me specific and complete control of part of their system. That’s it. Nothing more. I do not now nor ever expect a “return” on my “investment” because not only is it not promised, Linden Lab doesn’t even so much as imply such a thing is possible. In other words, what I do and how I do it using the tools and services available I do on my own at my own behest and risk, knowing full well anything can change for the better or worse at the drop of a hat.

 

So, again with respect, I take the words of anyone who proclaims they have spent money and are thus “losing” money with a serious grain of salt and tongue-in-cheek. Second Life is not billed as any kind of money-making enterprise or investment venue. If you spend money on a movie ticket at the cinema, do you realistically expect to get any kind of return on that money, save for the screening itself?

This leaves me torn.  I respond to rightness and wrongness in this sentiment.

The rightness:

Life is hard, business is rough.  A guaranteed profit is the lure of hucksters fishing for the desperate and gullible.  Sometimes … heck, oftentimes, smarts and capital and the sweat of the brow is just not enough to succeed. That’s the real world, and fortunately or unfortunately, the same is true of the virtual world. Many people can and do succeed.  Many don’t.  And while a high likelihood of success is a fantastic indicator … it’s only an indicator — not a sure thing, not a guarantee.  

Virtual businesses may operate on different scales and have very different rules from real-world ones, but we’re not talking Bizarro Land.  And if you’re operating within someone else’s servers, under their rules AND they have their own goals for what success of their operation entails, which may not mesh with or acknowledge your goals … you are assuming some measure of risk. 

So, yeah … right on, Mr. Blackthorne.  But … the wrongness:

I don’t have it in front of me, but Benjamin Duranske‘s book details the dissonance between LL hawking the potential for significant economic opportunity in their marketing materials versus their ToS provisions.  But there are also the issue of people are already in the system and previously thriving.  When things go sideways, is it more rational to stay & hope they go right again, or cut bait and flee? Only it’s not so rational a decision and people may stay & hope/fight/wait it out due to emotional attachments, sheer irrational hope, or a lack of information. [The typist took an entire semester of law & behaviorialism, bless her twisted brain, so I could go into extreme gory detail, but you know … let’s not.  For your sake & mine & even hers.]

There’s also the issue of whether everything in the ToS is company policy or CYA to please lawyers and fend off users threatening to sue. Literally changing your rules at the drop of a hat tends to strike most customers as arbitrary, capricious and a no-starter for serious “investment”. Coca-Cola, Harvard and Warner Bros. wouldn’t put up with it, and why should individual users?  Most everyone expects a certain level of consistency and logic, and SL would fail even as an entertainment if it did not attempt to operate with both qualities when providing its services.

The truth of the matter probably lies between the hype of marketing materials and the risk-avoidance language of the ToS … the set of reasonable expectations between the service provider and the users/customers. Reasonable expectations are built upon clear communication – not only notice and disclosure, but feedback, conversation, a willingness to understand and synthesize what each side is communicating, and clear, non-contradictory messaging throughout the corporate chain. And this is what I think LL falls down on the majority of the time.

*sigh* I fear I’m going to end up a one-trick pony but really … effective communication would help, while ineffective communication leads to frustration and anger and impotency and blame-storming.

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