Building Community in Second Life, or Not

Kick (moderate)

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.

Kick (moderate)

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.

Kick (moderate)

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.

Kick (moderate)

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.

Kick (moderate)
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  1. I had not heard the news until I read your post but I agree that it is indeed a loss for all of us. So no birthday, no more Burning Life. I always got a kick out of both of those events and loved enduring the mind-numbing lag just to see what others had created and to feel part of the “community”

  2. Great post Honour. I am also a huge believer in community. In fact the tag line under my signature as an elected official is “Together we can do more” I’ve always enjoyed the SLxB events. Perhaps LL’s hands-off approach is a way to try and combat lag or allow greater freedom of expression or simply cut costs. Whatever the reason for LL’s change of strategy for SL9B, the change will forge perceptions about the value and community aspect of SL for months or even years to come. Stay tuned….

  3. With as many times as I read the official post and discussed in the SLB chat it never occurred to me that The Lab was giving us a slap in the face. At best, I thought the announcement was a teaser and that formal plans were about to begin for The Big Show.

    I shouldn’t be surprised, what with driving forces like Molly Linden no longer with us. Still, an heavy sadness has fallen upon me now that you’ve clarified the post’s meaning. This is just one more change that makes me wonder why I have a Premium account (two in our household, down from five over the past few years) and wonder why limit my criticisms of The Lab.

    Thanks to them, I have one more reason to care less.

    • I don’t want to make this a “hate the Lab” thing – thinking positively (albeit rose coloured glasses silly) – this doesn’t preclude future events. I’m saddened but not completely demoralized. :)

      • I demoralize pretty easily right now. Hugs. Thanks for looking at the glass as half full.

      • *hugs* you know that old joke? the glass is neither half full nor half empty – it’s the wrong size *grin*

  4. I keep trying to shore up the move with SL9B with this recent quote from Rodvik:

    “Conversations with many old Lindens and Residents have led me to conclude that we have lost something of the old frontier feel. Like we were exploring the world together, you knew people, you would bump into them more.”

    I just can’t make one lead to the other.

    • they don’t and again I think it’s a lack of understand of community. If somehow the Lab acquires people who do understand and they’re not in the marketing department ….:p

      • Having worked with Zed Linden, I feel he understands Community, but having lost Molly and Mia and several other key Community supporters, I feel The Lab has lost a bit of focus. Remember that SL8B was Molly’s last and she knew during the event that her time was limited.

    • I see a disconnect between the Lab’s words (at least Rodvik’s) and the Lab’s actions. As they say, “actions speak louder than words”. SL8B was the first one I managed to do “in style” and I’m glad I got to at least go to that.

      Still, though, I would done things differently if I had known there wasn’t going to be a SL9B or SL10B.

  5. isfullofcrap

     /  April 17, 2012

    Yeah, there’s a lot of potential negatives, but I’m going to do something completely out of character and look at the positive side of this. (Yes, I have a fever. Got a moist towel, Honour-sweetie?)

    Even though the Destination Islands using the Destination Guide as a method of finding random places for newbies to give up on SL, it’s an interesting experiment to see if it does serve SL9B as a hyperlinking of various events, builds, giveaways, and other celebrations.

    Call it “meta” if you want to, but instead of the usual crowd of volunteers/trustys handpicking the builds and a select few prim-subsidized venues, now it’s back on the communities with their resources.

    Plus, it encourages exploration instead of the concentration of hodge-podge walk-by-it SL#B builds… maybe there will be a “random SL9B” gateway like the newbie-tossing Destination island’s got to get rid of new users quicker?

    Outrage over nipples? Watered-down Gor? Anti-furry/kid sentiments? Avoided and resolved!

    No need for policing the venues and pissing-matches, or signup sheets for music or dj performers… they won’t be competing with the few remaining established venues this time.

    It’s also a good test of seeing if there’s value in bringing back the gateway communities if that’s back on the table.


    • This would be status quo – albeit with a common theme much like Halloween. :) The difference in an event like the central birthday is that the size makes it possible for many more to share the same thing at the same time. Having it sponsored means a lot of people can participate who can’t afford to do so in other venues. Nobody says it’s perfect – but it is unique and it works on many levels.

      I’ll get you a hot towel and wrap it around that metal construct you call a head. then I’ll have to oil you down of course to prevent more rust. :P

      • isfullofcrap

         /  April 17, 2012

        “Having it sponsored means a lot of people can participate who can’t afford to do so in other venues.”

        I’m one of those wack-jobs who think that instead of the Labbies passing around free sims and parcels for various purposes, they should lower the overall tier costs, so… um… those freeloaders can sim-on-a-stick it where the pixel sun don’t shine.


      • lol which is a separate topic from community building my sweet :P

      • isfullofcrap

         /  April 17, 2012

        Not really. Because the community can pool resources and do their builds, too. And if they scrape their sofas and don’t have enough pennies to buy or rent, oh well. THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH!


  6. Oh, by the way, i’m exploring Kick as I write this … OMFGTPIATYFFI!!!*

    The lag with Ultra graphics is kiling me, but it is a sweet death I will gladly suffer.

    *Oh My Goodness This Place Is Amazing, Thank You For Finding It!!!

    • Those are two of my favourite artists – and you should check their other sites, there are tp boards I think. I’ll go back do a proper post on them at a later date. :)

  7. When I worked at LL, I was the employee who organized the 2nd Birthday event.

    Organizing a central event like that was messy and crazy and wonderful. In other words, it was a very human endeavor. And it was a fabulous (and free) showcase for everyone’s work. I think something very special happens when people’s dreams get to rub elbows with other people’s dreams.

    • I agree with you and would add that it is full of joy even as it gets messy. Helping organize last year’s event has been the highlight of my Second Life todate. :)

  8. Hera

     /  April 17, 2012

    Honour, I can also see the positive side, or the possibility in this: think about the Burn2! When LL decided to drop the usual LL-hosted Burning Life, a community has risen to organize Burn2, and – in my opinion – it was better than the official LL one before.

    • that’s true – however, in order to have plot in Burn2 requires money. There is also an underlying philosophy which is being highlighted – the 10 principles. At the birthday it’s a matter of mostly first come first served to get space to build, it’s open to the entire community including under 18’s and the only purpose is celebration. LL is in a position to facilitate and sponsor that – unless some really rich person out there wants to provide 20 sims for a big party. :)

      • Lots of empty Mainland. If The Lab would donate a reasonably-sized parcel in one for a month or slightly less, I’d be more than happy to whip up something.

      • I’ve been thinking that :) we’re all set and ready to work

  9. Ok here is my take on this,
    As one of the last resident volunteer corridnators for sl7b I have to say yes it was months of planning and meetings with the lab and their team for birthdays and then weeks of answering questions from hundreds of people looking to be involved in some way or another and then weeks of patrolling to make sure everyone is following the preset expectations and guidelines that were written. And interpreting how builds and plots fit into the box. It was a ton of work for free from my self and a few other key volunteers. That being said it was also a lot of fun for all of us I met so many people at slxb who had passion and drive for their “key item” and community sprit for not only their group or work but for second life. I will never forget sitting there at Phillips keynote address last year with hundreds of residents hanging on his every word and statement or the flash mob when he was wandering the venues and interactions people had not only with him but with each other and the lindens. It’s a shame community is a centralized thing but to make it grid wide isn’t central per say it’s global an that is what second life really is its global in size and membership. So while it’s sad to not have 20 regions for free for us to party on it will be ok. But now the dilution of the community comes in where new friendships might not happen now and so communities in the global community won’t have a exposure they did at events like sl7b. At sl6b I lost some great linden friends who were out with the people and not in their “we are the gods of second life ” role. Molly linden, teagan linden, blue linden, Courtney Linden made it to (sl8b then left mid event), Bernard linden. All people who didn’t hide in their ivory tower locked away. Thank goodness we still have a few lindens who care about communities and visit and interact with them, not because they are paid to but because they want to.
    So in closing I say this with the lack of the snowball fight, kiss a linden event, and a few others it’s a sign of where we are heading as a global community all I can hope is the gods remember to be a god you need followers and followers like to be appreciated in some way at time or at least feel like they matter.
    Kev Sweetwater

  10. chestnutrau

     /  April 17, 2012

    The the Lindens are not gods, we are not followers and community does not have to be defined by physical location.

  11. I will miss SL9 as well, I loved SL8.
    We recreated a tiny bit of our 1920s Berlin sim there, a cinema, gallery and the bar.
    We showed our community spirit by moving our daily happy hour to this bar and welcomed everyone.
    We met a lot of new people who would never visit 1920s Berlin otherwise for all sorts of reasons.
    It was great!

    Now what?
    We don’t have the space or prims in our sim to set up something special for SL9 visitors, so we can’t do something fun and unusual.
    Also people won’t accidently wander onto our plot, like they did at SL8.
    We will only get visitors who may see our sim mentioned on the SL9 page and who are already interested, intrigued or made curious by the theme or our sim.
    No more accidental tourists.

    And how can we show our community to someone visiting a full region sim?
    It can take first time visitors hours to even find our bar, meet the people of the neighbourhood, get chatting.
    At least for SL8 we could build a small extreme version of our sim that promised them what they would find at our big sim.
    But throwing people into our sim just like it is is something we do without birthday celebrations anyway.
    And if we open up our sim for special celebrations during the SL9 week, will it give people an idea of what our sim is really like or just a fun place to run around a bit?

  12. Waves to Ms Honour. I was rather unplugged from the “wired world” last week so that my carbon based component could enjoy the wilds of the Salish Sea in real life. I was working on reconnecting with the good earth again, which was most enjoyable and definitely good for my psyche too. In any event, I just read your posting about Linden Labs not hosting the SL9B this year; which is very sad in my view. My first SLB party was SL5B as a patron, however SL6B was my first experience with being a participate and a volunteer, which was a wonderful time in expanding my sense of the richness of the community that does exist within Second Life. I meet a number of really interesting people at SL6B who are still friends and people I interact with. Many of these people I originally meet at SL6B have helped me in my journeys within the meta-verse of Second Life and to see beyond just the “surface level” qualities of a 3D pixel environment. Sure the SLB parties aren’t for everyone, but at least they were a focal point for the community of Second Life, both young and old to share and interact with each other via a non-commercial event.

    Thank goodness Burn2 is still in existence ( due to the hard work and dedication of a lot of volunteers who understand the importance of having a non-commercial based community event in Second Life that is open to all!

  13. Despite my SL age, SL8B was my first to visit. I was amazed. Even stumbled over you Honour (SL Celeb!).
    I won’t miss it, but what I think I have noticed is a slow withdrawal of LL involvements in-world and seeing them replaced with web like things. Not so strange, Web is broader and get’s a bigger audience.
    But it also feels as if LL cares less of the SL community.

    If there is an event where LL should be ever present it’s the SLxB and it should be in-world.
    Perhaps not with a gazillion sims, but at least something centralized, something LL specific.

    Like, a life SL music event, played web onna prim on all LL hubs. With performances 24/7 and with well known international performers, SL and RL performers. Just a thought.

    LL should do more as some web promotion and an index of Flickr images.

  14. I worked in many capacities at many SL Birthday Celebrations. I enjoyed every event and I enjoyed helping residents be a part of a thing that was bigger than any one of us, our community. It saddens me to see that this yearly community event shelved. It was something I saw coming as all community events after last year’s birthday just never happened. I wore a lot of hats for LL events and over the years we formed a tribe of volunteers who dropped everything and donated something that is precious in SL and RL, our time. I do not profess to know why this has become the way of things in SL. But I will admit that I am disappointed and am hopeful that perhaps someone at the Lab will know what has been taken from us was something we valued. We formed friendships, bonds and connections at those events. We found people, places and things. We saw and displayed our talents. I will miss the cake stage, the greeters and my tram car.

  1. Building Community in Second Life, or Not « Honour's Post ... | Second Life and Virtual Worlds |
  2. So who does Second Life’s birthday belong to? « Prim Perfect
  3. Disillusioned or Comprehending? « Ahuva’s Blog
  4. SL9B Another blog post, a great idea :) | Vick Forcella
  5. Prim Perfect Jigsaw: Kick (and the Community) « Prim Perfect

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