You may have seen this post↑. If you were confused about the underlying message allow me to clarify – there is no central SL9B event scheduled this year. There will be no 20 sims hosting hundreds of resident builds and multiple stages/venues with 9 days of performances and panels. The hope is that individuals and groups will create their own celebrations and the Lab will help promote them.
This is very disappointing to many. Actually that’s an understatement for a large number of us. Oh I know there are a lot of people who only travel in style and never go to “lag fests” and individuals who restrict their energies to more exclusive activities, but for those who have volunteered/participated/enjoyed this celebration there is a huge sense of loss.
I’m not angry and I’m not going to start frothing at the mouth or venting. I am, however, going to try to articulate my opinion. For what it’s worth.
Anybody who knows me is aware that I am in love with the concept of “community”. The word comes from the latin root communis meaning “common”. Another word which derives from that root is “communication”.
I was very interested last year when the Lab advertised the position of “Community Manager”. I looked at the job description in part because maybe I would qualify but what I saw convinced me that I wouldn’t be interested. The majority of the job responsibilities seemed to involve social media.
I have no issue with social media per se. I use Plurk and Twitter (although rarely have the time I’d like on either) and as mediums for “communication” they are invaluable. However if you try to foster a Second Life Community on Facebook what you will achieve is a Second Life Facebook Community. On Twitter you will wind up with a Second Life Twitter Community. Neither of those, in my mind, is the same thing as a Second Life Community.
If you are working for a large retail organization and want to generate loyalty then using social media is one of your only options. This holds true for many individuals (e.g., performers and authors) as well. Your “market” is geographically dispersed and having them interact online is a great way of helping them feel like they belong to a group with your organization or endeavour as a shared interest.
Second Life on the other hand has the advantage of a location. In fact that’s the point of the virtual world – being in it. Social media is essential to communicating with as many residents as possible – although it will still miss those who don’t use those applications. I don’t know what a perfect method would be to reach everybody all the time – but for marketing purposes and information sharing this is an essential channel.
This brings me back to the SL Birthday event. One of the building blocks of Community is shared experiences. Our smaller inworld communities develop like silo’s – they operate and grow in isolation from each other. The few things we all share seem to involve teleport issues or other glitches. That can develop the lifeboat mentality but it’s not exactly positive. Events like SLB don’t reach everybody on the grid – but after 9 days they reach a huge number.
I know there are people who use the Birthday as marketing opportunities, for themselves or their businesses, and others who like to show up and take stands just to get attention. However, the majority are people who like to feel involved and that they belong. The fact that it is free to participate or visit, that it’s not a fund raising event or one designed to get you to shop for something, means the focus is on the larger Community itself no matter what smaller part of it you represent. I fell in love with it every time I met a 2 month old resident thrilled that they could build something that was part of this huge production; every time I saw volunteers meet each other and start to form connections based on a shared passion; every time people came up and thanked the volunteers for giving them an opportunity to remember why they stuck around in Second Life.
The hundreds of hours on the part of each of hundreds of volunteers that go into making that type of event are a source of joy to all involved. I believe strongly in the need for “shared experiences” and the benefit they provide in community building.
Linden Lab doesn’t want to “be” the community. They might not want to even feel “part of” the community. However, the Lab is the only entity that can facilitate this type of experience and it is in their interests to do so. Twitter and Facebook don’t accomplish the same thing.
I’m grieving today not only for the loss of something I’ve been looking forward to since the end of SL8B. I’m very sad at the recognition that the Lab leaves community building in the marketing sphere and thinks of a virtual world the way McDonalds thinks of hamburgers.