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Social Expectations: Linden Lab Launches Social Profiles

korman-avril
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This week, the internet has been abuzz with anticipation on the social media front.

The limited beta release of Google+, a social networking service designed to compete directly with Facebook (it's like Clash of the Titans, folks - place your bets) has proved so popular that Google was forced to shut down the invite process due to overwhelming demand. Though I haven't heard yet whether or not the TOS over at Google+ will allow avatar accounts (admittedly, I got an invite and declined it), it seems like Linden Lab is taking matters into its own hands anyway, perhaps finally realizing that the only way to handle their public relations is to do it themselves - putting their eggs in their own basket.

In comments last week, Soror Nishi made an apt note about how jumping on a bandwagon is always a losing prospect. To win, one must think in advance, to figure out where the puck will be before it gets there. I agree, and it may be that someone on Battery Street agrees also. The problem with deciding where the puck will be, of course, is tricky business and mostly simple speculation based on whatever facts one has at hand.

In that spirit, I present the bits and pieces of the puzzle. Maybe together we can figure out the direction of the puck.

Job Opening

Job opening for Linden Lab

Earlier in the week it was noted on twitter (I got it about four retweets in, so I have no idea where it originated) that the Lab had posted a job opening for a Global Communications Director. Considering how poorly communication and public relations have been handled in the past(also see last week for that, too), I'm not sure whether to be grateful or surprised. Possibly both. Either way, it's interesting, since it shows in the job description a focus on some key things worth noting. Some of the stand-out phrases used in the posting are these:

Build relationships with key media, drive recognition of Linden Lab
Of course there's the question of what and who "key media" actually consists of, but it seems that there's a focus in actually talking up the Lab to whomever that is. Note, however that it's not specific to Second Life, which is not altogether a surprise. Also earlier in the week this tweet was let loose into the world, with the interesting note: To work on new products beyond #SecondLife Contact #Rodvik directly. So it may be that the focus on the Lab itself, and not Second Life is quite deliberate.

increasing awareness and further establishing Second Life as the leading virtual world among consumers/potential and current users.
Sadly, no surprise there. As always "current users" rates at the bottom of the barrel. Same as it ever was(same as it ever was.) But what it does seem to tacitly acknowledge is that other virtual worlds and grids even exist; that competition is out there and now they need to be seen as the leader of a pack rather than the only one in the room.

develop compelling narratives that articulate Second Lifeís proposition for consumers globally.
I admit, I laughed when I read this- really, out loud. "Compelling narratives" translates in my head to something I won't write (because my editor will only have to pull it out anyway), but the curious part of that sentence is in "proposition for consumers", and whether "consumers" refers to SL users in general or "consumers of content" which might show good signs for the merchant/economic base within Second Life.

Manage corporate blogging and Twitter social media outreach.
Here is where I get concerned. Social media is really a different specialty from public relations. Twitter has its own culture, which relies entirely on real give and take between people. Though many businesses have a presence on Twitter, as do many celebrities, the ones who are most successful at it by far are the ones who actually interact with the people following them- not as a megaphone, but as an ongoing conversation. To expect one person to handle general PR AND manage Twitter social media outreach is asking them to do the work of two different people. Oh and note, no one is mentioning Facebook.

Social Profiles

At the same time, it was noted by Opensource Obscure that the Lab was beta testing something called "social profiles", which finally makes a use out of the otherwise problematic web profiles that exist within the official viewer 2 release. But I'm getting ahead of things. Let's back up.

Prior to the release of Viewer 2, your user profile was something self contained inworld and accessed solely through the viewer. It was completely self contained. Considering the fact that again, most people don't want their Second Life and (anything else) to combine, this made a lot of sense. Here's an example of a V1 profile:

Second Life version 1 profile

That changed when Viewer 2 was released in February of 2010. Profiles began being ported to the web. This change was generally not received well, and at least one Third Party Viewer(firestorm) has opted not to adopt the inclusion of web profiles into their v2 based viewer at all. The web profiles didn't have a lot going for them, but they did have a whole lot of downsides:
-accessing a profile became much slower, and required a browser(either the internal one or your usual external browser) to get them open. It was just one more thing that could cause a crash. particularly on a slower or less powerful computer.

The editing mechanism changed slightly, so it was something else you needed to learn.

But most importantly, it required that you go in and set your profile settings very carefully, because if you didn't, your profile could be accessible and public for the entire internet to see, making it searchable via search engines and cached and recorded. This sent people scrambling to check, double check, and triple check profile settings, many of them simply choosing to set them to inworld friends only. This caused a problem if anyone else (like say a merchant) was trying to contact them, requiring a multi step workaround to be able to find them at all. Some merchants finally threw up their hands and declared a new policy- if you are not listed in inworld search, there will be no support coming to you (I didn't personally do this, but I know an awful lot of people who did, and frankly, I don't blame them).

Second Life version 2 profile

To go along with the privacy scare are, as you can see, those ubiquitous tweet and like buttons, which would broadcast any visible profile all over the internet. This was not embraced warmly by the Second Life resident community (to say the least), and for some reason, the Lab simply refused to accept that SL residents would never warm to the notion of mixing SL/RL in large numbers.

Linden Lab Puts The Eggs In Their Own Basket.

But now, after the collapse of the Facebook maketing strategy, it seems that the Lab has taken matters into their own hands. They've created a social network using web based Second Life profiles. You can see this if you have an account here. Just change the YOURNAME at the end of the URL to your account name with the dot in the middle (ischade.stratten, my banking alt, in this example).

Social profiles in Second Life

The functionality isn't quite in place yet, but as you can see in the photo above, there's a way to post status messages, and early buzz says that more facebook or twitter like features could be added. It would be neat to be able to send someone a message inworld if you're not logged in yourself. It looks like the Lab is creating a miniature version of FB right in their very own backyard (maybe someone's finally learned something). The information it's currently using is not generally accurate, as it seems to be coming from a test environmnent (possibly the beta grid, Aditi) and so if yours isn't current, don't sweat it- they're still putting it together.

So it would seem that there is about to be a new and larger social media push, both within the Second Life platform itself through the use of this new social profile mechanism, as well as to the online world at large, since they're looking for a global media director. That being the case, I expect to be hearing a lot from the Lab pretty soon. That's where it looks like the puck is going, anyway.

At least they've figured out they have to do it themselves.


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