Sep 30, 2013

Your World? Your Imagination.

A hypothetical outcome for the #SecondLife TOS situation


Recently, I posted a write-up about the Modus Operandi for the TOS changes for Second Life, and it was a bit of a rant with a heavy dose of satirical elements. What I didn’t post, which I will here today, is a hypothetical reasoning from a business perspective concerning why Linden Lab sees a reason to assign themselves unrestricted rights to everything in Second Life.


Usually, I’m known for my nebulous rants and tongue-in-cheek monologues. Most of the time I’m just posting a stream of consciousness and it may or may not have a bearing to actual reality but more often is just a raw perception of a situation. In this post, you’re going to see a more sober version of me – the side that corporations usually see behind closed doors when I’m trend-forecasting or re-organizing structure in a serious manner, or the side that addresses a room full of NASA project leaders. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not as random as most would think (though more often than not I portray otherwise publically with a hidden grain of truth to what I’m saying).


Today, I’m going to be serious because this is a very serious matter and it needs to be addressed without the frivolity or sarcasm.




copybot7 The irony of this poster 5 years later...



On the surface, one could argue that just because they have seen fit to assign themselves unrestricted access and ownership to your creations, and shown absolutely no concern or remorse for the collateral damages this would cause, that they have some nefarious plot underway. Of course, you can also take their word at face value when they say that they would never betray the community like that and you have nothing to worry about.


Being forever the pragmatist, I take neither revelation as true, but instead somewhere in the middle. But in order to figure out the purpose for such a TOS change, one must take a step out of Second Life and really look at the bigger picture.


Let’s begin by stating what is actually the problem block of text in all of this, which is to say Section 2.3, so that we may better wrap our heads around what this would imply:



2.3 You grant Linden Lab certain licenses to your User Content.


[..]you agree to grant to Linden Lab, the non-exclusive,unrestricted, unconditional, unlimited, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, and cost-free right and license to use, copy, record, distribute, reproduce, disclose, sell, re-sell, sublicense (through multiple levels), modify, display, publicly perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, translate, make derivative works of, and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula, or medium now known or hereafter developed, and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed, and to advertise, market, and promote the same. You agree that the license includes the right to copy, analyze and use any of your Content as Linden Lab may deem necessary or desirable for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service.[..]



Ok, now that we have this on the page, let’s take a look...


Essentially, what is happening here is that they aren’t necessarily stealing your IP, because that would imply that they are depriving you of your own content. As Inara Pey succinctly put it in a recent TOS “Emergency” Meeting [transcript here], there is a world of difference.


Exotix (inara.pey) shouts: Armany, the Lab isn't "stealing" IP. They are assigning themselves equal rights,. There's a world of difference there.”


I have to agree that there is a world of difference, but with that being said we’re talking about Occam’s Razor. Sure, they aren’t “stealing” IP in the traditional sense, which would exclude your right to that IP access entirely. In a more nefarious manner they are still stealing IP in that they are arbitrarily assigning themselves unrestricted rights to that IP when they have no legal manner to support it. In this notion, Linden Lab is essentially saying (in an analogy):


“Because we own the warehouse in which Harper Collins publisher stores their books for distribution, we have equal rights to all of the materials contained within our warehouse and entering the warehouse is your agreement to these terms.”


This, of course, after a prior agreement with Harper Collins that said the warehouse only retains limited rights required for the operation of the warehouse (which Harper Collins did agree to). Now, if you’re Harper Collins and you disagree with this policy (because it’s a bait and switch), and would like to remove your books from the warehouse, you have to agree to the terms you disagree with and relinquish your rights. By retroactively assigning unrestricted rights to all of the content uploaded for the past ten years, they’ve put the community in a catch-22 situation that benefits only themselves.


Prior to this, the premise of Second Life was squarely in the realm of “Your World. Your Imagination.” where the number one benefit was the social contract between community and Linden Lab whereby what you created in the virtual world was yours and whomever owned it with limited license transfer to Linden Lab for the operation of Second Life. This is no longer the case, and so the motto “Your World. Your Imagination.” is no longer a truthful statement.



Your World? Your Imagination.


Now that we’ve outlined the premise, let’s delve a bit into the reasoning with some hypothetical outcomes. More to the point, just a single hypothetical since I already write far too much in this blog in each post. So I’ll try to keep it as succinct as possible, but there is no guarantee, so bare with me because this is a complex matter...


One thing I’d like to bring up to frame this situation is that there is a likelihood that Rodvik Humble was brought into Linden Lab as the CEO for a single purpose. This is something that I brought up when he took the position originally, and also gave an interesting explanation for the odd behavior from Philip Rosedale as “Interim CEO”.


In order to start this thought experiment, we begin by stating that in most technology companies there is a very high expectation of Exit Strategy from investors and your subsequent board of directors. They want to see your 3-5 year plan and what your end-game is going to be. Usually this is something like:


1. IPO – Public Offering and Stock (Facebook did this)

2. Acquisition – A bigger company buys you out (Tumblr did this)


These are two of the best case scenarios for investors and the most common. However, this doesn’t always pan out, because once in awhile you end up with a product that isn’t big enough to make into an IPO offering and not lucrative enough to court acquisition, but is still profitable and widely supported by the customers and community.


In this case, Second Life as the flagship and only product of Linden Lab met both of those criteria in that the IPO phase wouldn’t have held up in valuation, and most companies wouldn’t see an acquisition as viable since the majority of what would raise the valuation (most of the value of the product) was based on things they couldn’t buy or own, lock stock and barrel (your stuff).


Of course, we’re talking about the collective hundreds of millions of man-hours in content creation and what would arguably be tens of billions of dollars worth of assets in the user-generated virtual world.


From an investor and board of directors perspective, the exit strategy then becomes a matter of diversification and liquidation. You begin by diversifying the company into other products and services in order to create something of value that can be leveraged as an acquisition in an exit strategy. In this manner, we look at it from the perspective of not a user generated content virtual world, but from purely a closed and controlled games company.


You can’t really leverage valuation with user-generated content but once you add into the mix closed ecosystems that are games, you have something to sell. Linden Lab can offer up the content in something like Creatorverse and BlocksWorld because they are games, even if you are “creating” things within them. This is the difference between say, Second Life and Minecraft.


Mojang wouldn’t need anyone’s permission to sell Minecraft to another company despite all of the user-generated content. Everything in Minecraft is built arguably using only the pre-existing components of those blocks. But with Second Life, there is that pesky intellectual property rights issue with the user generated content... so they need to get around it somehow. This wouldn’t have been the same if they had stuck to Prims (or at least it would have been vastly alleviated).


We could therefore say that the TOS is their attempt to begin that path, but I wouldn’t leave it as cut and dry like that. There is something likely bigger going on and that’s what this hypothetical is about.



End Game


Let’s take a moment to outline a bigger picture hypothetical situation here. In order to get an idea what Linden Lab is up to, we must look at it as a whole and not just within the confines of Second Life. We took a look at Modus Operandi in the other post, which is really just an outline of sociopathic mentality (if you were to do the actual checklist from the DSM, Rodvik would score highly) – if you’re curious, then take a look here: Sociopath/Psychopath Checklist


It’s the same sort of behavioral traits you see from a lot of high level executives at or stemming from Electronic Arts, so this isn’t much of a surprise. But even if we were to apply that DSM checklist to Linden Lab as a company (because in the US corporations are people) then that means Linden Lab as a person also qualifies as a sociopath.


It is a well known assumption that bringing in an executive from Electronic Arts to steward and foster a company like Linden Lab is a lot like entrusting a village to Genghis Khan. It’s not a pretty picture, and likely requires a CEO to do something that any founder would cringe at – liquidating Second Life, or at least repurposing the assets for other uses in order to bolster newer endeavors while bleeding the other dry.


I can imagine then, this is a good explanation for the behavioral attributions of Philip Rosedale in stepping down, and subsequently working on at a later time. You wouldn’t start figuring out an exit strategy for Second Life if you weren’t already working on the replacement, however piss-poor the premise of requiring a super-computer supported by every user to pull it off. The person best suited to work on the replacement was currently running Linden Lab at the time and needed a replacement to enact that diversification and liquidation while he concentrated on the replacement.


What then is our assumption for a possibility in the bigger picture?


If we look at the actual behavioral patterns and actions from Linden Lab, their priority is to foster that diversification of the company into something different (and ultimately valuable for acquisition or IPO at a later date). We already see this ongoing with siphoning off the profits from Second Life to fund unrelated products such as rebranding the company as not a virtual environment company but a games company, complete with its own distribution platform (Desura). This is something that is expected and taken straight from the playbook of Electronic Arts.


From the playbook is not a games publisher that likes to play nice with pre-existing content distribution methods (like Steam) or even their own community, but instead just making their own everything or transferring IP to themselves and cutting out the creators (When they bought out the company responsible for Plants vs Zombies, they immediately fired the whole team and kept the IP). For Electronic Arts, the distribution platform is called Origin.





Origin (formerly EA Download Manager (EADM)) is a digital distribution, digital rights management system from Electronic Arts that allows users to purchase games on the internet for PCand mobile platforms, and download them with the Origin client (formerly EA Download Manager, EA Downloader and EA Link). Origin for Mac has been available since February 8, 2013.


Origin features social features like profile management, networking with friends with chat and direct game joining along with an in-game overlay, streaming via TwitchTV and sharing of game library and community integration with networking sites like Facebook, Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and Nintendo Network. Electronic Arts has stated that it wanted Origin to match Valve's Steam service, Origin's leading competitor, by the end of March 2012, by adding cloud game saves, auto-patching, achievements and rewards, and cross-platform releases.


Since Origin's launch, the service has received criticism over EA's practice of suspending or deleting accounts for disputed infractions, suspected monitoring of users' computer activity. Origin users are identified by their unified Origin account, which supersedes an EA account and may be canceled if left unused after 24 months if there are not any premium games on it.



From this point, we begin to understand why a former executive from EA is following the playbook of acquiring their own content distribution platform for a walled garden (among other things).


Understanding the premise of Origin and EA gives us quite a lot of insight for Desura and the plans for Linden Lab. It’s a reasonable idea of what to expect going forward.


However, this still leaves the question of how the content in Second Life translates to Desura in the bigger picture and how it plays a part in the overall strategy. With the TOS changes, one should wonder why they would need to retroactively claim equal and unrestricted rights to content – and more importantly why the TOS needed to be all inclusive and unified for everything Linden Lab is doing, including Desura.


While the assets in Second Life aren’t appropriate for AAA titles and developers, they are absolutely brilliant for indie game developers who need access to quality content for their games. After all, those indie developers are often strapped for cash and low budget. But then you ask yourself why this matters in terms of Desura.


If you are competing with the likes of Steam and other content distribution platforms, you need something that differentiates you from the pack, something that will entice a boat-load of indie developers to choose your platform over the competition, and this is where the puzzle pieces begin to fall into place.


What if a company like Linden Lab, with it’s own content distribution network ecosystem (Desura) suddenly said:


“Indie developers, you are probably wondering why you should choose Desura as your platform for distribution. After all, there is Steam and others out there which you can just as easily use. Desura offers a service that no other ecosystem offers, and it comes from the innate understanding that we ‘get you’ and understand what it’s like to be an indie developer...”


Up until this point, that whole line about “we get you” or that they “get” it sounds disgustingly familiar. It’s one of those disingenuous statements that fosters trust and appeals to an emotional level of manipulation. After such a statement, they point to their own little indie games like Blocksworld, Patterns, and Creatorverse as proof they ‘get’ the indie developer scene and can sympathize with them.


“See? We’re just like you!”


Now, for the second part...


“We know what it’s like to develop indie games. How can you possibly make a game that shines when you’re competing against AAA developers and publishers? We know you don’t have hundreds of millions of dollars for your development costs, and we’d like to help you...”


Are you paying attention? Good...


“If you join the Desura family, we offer a content service that is geared specifically for your needs to help you in expediting your content pipeline. Instead of worrying about creating every little detail in assets, you can worry about what matters most – creating a wonderful game experience! For a monthly fee, and distribution rights on Desura, you can have access to our wealth of content for your indie game. We’re here for you, and we want to help you make the best games that you can!”





Up until this point, the question has been how to expand monetization of Second Life in order to foster diversification of the company. It’s not like they didn’t try other avenues up until now. If you are reading this and wondering whether Linden Lab (and more importantly Rod Humble) would authorize requisitioning services and content that you have created for their own monetary gain, then the obvious answer is yes. They already have before, which sets a precedent for future actions.


One need only look at the Premium Accounts to understand this premise. Nearly every added value offering in a premium account is a Linden Lab copy of community services and offerings, locked behind a pay-wall and repurposed as “Premium”.


To say that they wouldn’t poach or compete with the existing community is absurd.


Premium Sandboxes

Premium Gifts

Premium Homes

Premium Sims


It doesn’t take a genius to figure out their operating procedure.



Linden Realms


But Premium Accounts didn’t really materialize like they hoped. For all of the influx of new users, they still have a retention problem. Which would mean that the premium accounts aren’t compelling enough to support better monetization efforts. In actuality, those numbers have been steadily declining over the past few years despite these new additions, as have the number of total regions. While this isn’t a cause for alarm just yet in the short term, the writing is on the wall and any CEO worth their salt would start working out a long-tail plan to get those lifeboats ready for a transition of the inevitable.


If we were to look at Premium Accounts and the value added model they failed at, one would realize that the premium versions of things were no better (and often times worse) than what was available via the community user-generated content ecosystem. In short, you’re all way too damned good at what you do and you effectively beat Linden Lab in this department.


Even worse was the fact that their math didn’t add up for the “L$ Bonus” incentive. What you were paying for in a Premium Account added up to exactly what you would get had you spent the same amount as a Free User each month. The houses in Linden Homes weren’t anything close to the quality of what you could buy from Marketplace from third parties, and the land and prims usage was essentially a throw-away compared to what you could already rent at a fair price through real estate in the community. Premium “Gifts” were often shoddy by comparison to what you could find on marketplace as well, with a few exceptions that (even then) weren’t anything you couldn’t find a thousand high quality variations of in lateral offering from Marketplace.


Aside from all of this is the understanding that prior to making Patterns, et al, Linden Lab attempted to make games using their own platform and failed. This was a telling sign in and of itself. If you can’t use your own platform to make good games, and have to make games separately, it’s an admission that you no longer have any faith in the abilities of your own platform, and neither should anyone else. Instead of making Second Life a platform capable of supporting more serious games development alongside the open-ended sandbox regions, they chose to build games separately.


In itself this would have been a brilliant maneuver – creating a type of region simulator that supports “publish” model gaming environments and then charging for Professional Accounts (or a premium) to run those types of advanced regions. But no... they washed their hands and made games separately. They believe the future of Linden Lab is not Second Life.


This is what happens when a community responsible for user-generated content has a ten year head start over the company that runs the platform. You’re simply better at Second Life than Linden Lab is. To put it mildly, you’re even better at making a viewer than they are, which explains the reigning in of the viewer TPV policies to center around Linden Lab and exclude OpenSim. This should be no revelation, at least to a CEO who comprehends the ecosystem they inherited... but unfortunately Rodvik does not comprehend Second Life, as much as he insists he does.


If he did, none of the above would have happened, nor would Desura.


Desura is the content distribution platform for games because Linden Lab doesn’t think that Second Life is that platform. Therefore, Desura is your replacement.


Rodvik, for all his pedigree, is thinking like an EA Games executive. This works brilliantly (if not unscrupulously) in the games industry, but while a sandbox virtual environment has a lot of overlap with a video game (MMO), they are two very different creatures.


This is something I’ve always said, despite so many waving the banner that Second Life was always a game and all this nonsense about being a “Metaverse” was unjustified. Unlike those who would wave that banner, I actually know otherwise.


It isn’t a matter of opinion, but a stone-cold fact written in concrete that no manner of opinion can sway.


What works for a video game, however open ended and social, will have the opposite effect on a virtual world environment “metaverse” system. This is why I am often left twitching whenever well meaning and otherwise highly intelligent people fail to understand that overlap and differentiation.


An excellent example was the VEJ (Virtual Education Journal) giving out awards to World of Warcraft and Blizzard entertainment within an award ceremony held in Second Life (The irony). Another is looking at any of the reports for virtual worlds – most on that radar are just games, which I believe are there to inflate the numbers and make their research reports justified.


Now that we’ve outlined that poaching and controlling your stuff is not a fluke but business as usual, and that the understanding of a virtual world environment dynamic is highly lacking on their part, we shift our focus to how they will monetize Second Life.





As outlined with the Desura hypothetical, your content isn’t of use to a AAA developer but it’s a goldmine to indie game developers. If Linden Lab refuses to “work within the system” (see the following citation below), they are going outside of it to a place you have no control over and can’t compete with them at. Linden Lab cannot compete with the community in Second Life on their own terms, even when arbitrarily poaching everything you are already offering and have been for ten years. So if they can’t win in Second Life, they’ll just change the game to something they have the complete control over and you have no manner to compete with.


If you believe that the assets in Second Life aren’t worth anything to Linden Lab, then guess again. Figures in the industry would say that an estimated $1.5 billion dollars each year is spent on virtual goods, and while you may believe that only applies to in-world transactions, this can just as easily be applied to those same assets outside of the Second Life ecosystem. People will pay good money for all the stuff you’ve created, and if they wouldn’t than most of you would never be setting up shop in Second Life to begin with.



Lessons Learned from Lucasfilms Habitat


Work Within The System


“Wherever possible, things that can be done within the framework of the percipient level should be. The result will be smoother operation and greater harmony among the user community. This admonition applies to both the technical and the sociological aspects of the system.”’


Source: Lessons Learned From Lucasfilms Habitat – Chip Morningstar, F. Randal Farmer




By going outside of the system, they are committing a cardinal sin in virtual worlds, and if you read Lessons Learned from Lucasfilms Habitat you will realize that they have been committing these cardinal sins the entire time. This is really no surprise when you realize what is at stake here:



Virtual goods


There is, of course, that nagging detail that people bring up quite a lot about either the content not being of any worth to outsiders (which we just covered) and then there is this gem from Honour:


“Parsing millions of things called “object” to sell one item is beyond their abilities.”


This is a quote from Honour in a recent blog post on the subject, and I’m inclined to say that it is a statement of desperation at best. Trying to justify why they are unable from a technical standpoint is the last refuge of denial. While I respect Honour’s thoughts on the matter, I have to differ on opinions here.


The only way that sentence could possibly be true is if you omit the elephant in the room and arguably the largest component of Second Life itself: Marketplace.


This is exactly what Marketplace was built and designed for. To parse millions of things and allow people to sell one item of interest. The most important content deemed “worth” selling is already parsed and categorized thanks to you, the community. Making a copy of Marketplace as a system and repurposing it as an Indie Developer content service for Desura would entail flipping a couple of content permission switches and readjusting the percentages in favor of Linden Lab.


As seen with recent viewers, it’s perfectly feasible to export content as a Collada model and even with the textures – so long as you have full permissions on the item. But then, who controls the master switch for content permissions, eh?


This puts Linden Lab squarely in the realm of the biggest Copy-Botter outfit in Second Life.





There is a lot of discussion ongoing about what can or should be done about all of this, and to be honest I can only think of a single thing.


Many are, or are contemplating, leaving Second Life and pulling all of their stuff from their inventory. Moving on to places like InWorldz or Avination. This in itself is ineffectual and if anything only exasperates the situation. If there is a mass-exodus from Second Life, then the obvious response from Linden Lab is going to be to find other sources of revenue to keep itself afloat in the meantime – which is exactly what it’s doing right now and likely to do with the change in the TOS. A mass exodus of content creators would simply speed that up on their end and not solve the problem.


There is, of course, the other issue that even if you delete your inventory in Second Life, you are only deleting your own copy of the inventory and not the items altogether. So in effect you are not removing your content from the servers but simply removing your own access to it.


We could, of course, band together and hold meetings about what to do. Filing support tickets or the like – but as Crap Mariner illustrates succinctly, that will just overload customer support and detract from them actually giving customer support to those who need it.


Then there is the letter writing campaign to Rodvik’s email, which doesn’t seem like a bad idea. I’m not entirely certain how effectual that would be, assuming he answers those emails or reads them, let alone Twitter. We all know how much the Lindens tend to converse with the community these days unless under very controlled timeslots and circumstances. So we can relegate that to a craps shoot at best. It’s not like you can really get anywhere with filing a JIRA either... for the same reasons Crap Mariner has brought up (if I’m not mistaken).


It was brought to my attention that maybe the World Intellectual Property organization would see a merit with this, or even maybe Electronic Frontier Foundation (though I have no idea how they would have an interest). I would say this course is a shot in the dark, but it couldn’t hurt.


I suppose you could file DMCA takedown notices for your content en-mass if you really wanted it out of the Linden Lab servers, and this could be a compelling option if enough people did so. At the end of the day, the question is whether legality is trumped by morality? However this is all a prelude to what would likely jerk them back into reality -


A Class-Action Lawsuit


Ironic that a TOS that was likely written to avoid such legal issues would instead raise a veritable legal-storm of apocalyptic proportions. But it wouldn’t be just a lawsuit on behalf of the content creators alone in Second Life, but one that encompassed all of the third party content services like CGSociety and Renderosity. It would include the bigger names as well, vouching that their content which entered into the system under limited license has been misappropriated and revoked without their consent or authorization. Under no uncertain terms can the licensing for content have the terms changed or stripped retroactively by Linden Lab for personal or commercial gains, immediate or potential, as defined by the new TOS clauses.


I’m not a lawyer, but I think it’s a safe bet to assume that pre-existing licenses for content supersede changes to the TOS retroactively without the consent or authorization of the content creators and license holders in the court of law. No more than a web host has the authority to claim unrestricted transfer of content licenses and content to themselves simply for hosting that information, in the court of law I would think such would also apply in the case against Linden Lab and the recent TOS changes.


In this train of thought, it would also mean that being forced to agree to a faulty TOS that strips you and content creators of their licenses and rights in order to access your content that was entered into the system prior to those terms of service does not negate your rights as content creators so long as people are willing to take further action to assert this to be the case in a manner that they cannot ignore.


Will anything that I’ve written here as a hypothetical situation actually come to pass? Only time will tell, to be honest. In the meantime, I’m just offering up a thought experiment and my own view concerning this TOS debacle.






Sep 28, 2013

Anti-Social Media

Fixing your Social Media Faux Pas


There’s much ado about the death of SEO, or at least the shift from trying to convince a computer that your content is relevant and into the realm of social graph optimization.



faux pas



SEO, or search engine optimization is a term used to describe all those little tricks marketers pull in order to make the content on a site seem more important than it actually is. For instance, you’ve probably seen these tactics already in an article that has been split up among multiple pages instead of a single read, or those picture galleries with a paragraph of text each page.


There also keywords in the meta-data, and having spam blogs where an army of writers are churning out link-bait content just to raise traffic arbitrarily.


I have a personal hatred of SEO, because it’s become synonymous with me to sleazy tactics to make noise on the Internet look like a signal. Let’s face it, most of that crap really is just noise and somewhere a website is benefitting from the fact that you clicked.


As luck would have it, the major search engines no longer give a damn about SEO because they’re switching over to what can be termed Social Graph Search. What that means is, the content on a site is deemed more relevant not because some search algorithm thinks it is but weights the decision heavily on social engagement and the organic opinions of the actual people the content is meant for.


This means that you are at the mercy of the community you were originally supposed to be creating content for, and if you act like a jerk or try to cheat them then they aren’t nearly as forgiving as an automated algorithm. In fact, social media is a harsh mistress at best but can definitely work in your favor if you know what you’re doing. There is definitely a very large margin for error here and even the best and biggest companies manage to royally screw it up – so don’t feel bad for reading this post.


In order to excel at SGO, (Social Graph Optimization), the trick is simply to be sincere and engage. This seems like common sense, but you’d be amazed at how often people and companies sabotage themselves by treating social media like traditional marketing outlets, or just plain being stupid.


In social media, it’s not just a matter of being ineffectual with your engagement, but it’s a long lasting and far reaching amount of damage that you can do to yourself, a personal brand identity, and ultimately an entire company if you go in acting like a jerk.


Here are the 5 things I’ve learned from being in marketing as a professional:



1. Lateral Cross-Promotion is lazy.


Understanding the context of each social media outlet goes a long way to helping you understand what is and isn’t alright for cross promotion. For instance, Twitter is a good lateral cross promotion in different social media outlets (Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, etc) because there isn’t a lateral competitor. This is seen as an agnostic social media and likely wouldn’t cause detriment for cross promoting. However, Facebook and Google+ are lateral networks and so it would be a public sign of SEO ignorance to ask people on one network to leave it in order to check out a post on another.


This is most common among so-called SEO folks, and it’s insulting at best.


The point of social media is to engage a conversation in the medium you are addressing. If you have a Facebook brand page, it’s fine to ask people in Facebook to come check it out but completely arrogant and ignorant to wander into Google+ and ask people to check out and like your Facebook page.


The analogy is akin to wandering into the Apple Store and telling them to go check out the new version of Windows. Needless to say, this does nothing for your public perception and likely is detrimental. When you post something on a social network, you are soliciting conversation and engagement – but when your conversation topic is asking your followers to go to another network altogether to “like” you, the message you are saying is this:


“I have no intention of starting a conversation here, nor engaging. This post is wasting your time, and so am I. However, go check out my brand page elsewhere and do me a favor now that I’ve insulted your intelligence.”




2. You have little control over the conversation.


You can shut down comments and treat your posts like a one-way street, but at the end of the day people are still talking with or without you in their own threads. When you refuse to engage in conversation, or attempt to dictate the message, you’re treating social media like a spam channel and telling your audience:


“The only thing that matters is what I have to say. I have no interest in your thoughts or opinions.”


Unfortunately, when you send that message what you end up with is bad word of mouth spreading like wildfire. Just as media can go “viral” there is such thing as “viral negativity” and it’s equally as damaging. Setting off this domino effect can bury a company image overnight, with months and maybe years invested to recover.


Instead of trying to get people to stop talking negatively about you or your brand, why not just give them something good to talk about instead? If you screwed up legitimately, then you need to own up to it and make amends. It’s that simple.



3. The Social Media Universe does not revolve around you.


We’d all like social media to revolve around us, but it’s a community. Posting non-stop self-promotion posts, links to your blog articles, and asking stupid questions about your own products is disingenuous and (surprise) obnoxious.


Applebees posting about their new dish and then asking “What do you like best about our new dish?” is sleazy and disingenuous marketing. It’s nothing less than being an attention whore on social media, always trying to steer a conversation back to themselves. Nobody likes that asshole at the party who always tries to make everything about themselves, so why the hell would anyone tolerate that in social media?


Welcome to the community!

Now actually participate in it and show a genuine interest in your followers.



4. Quality over Quantity


Pop quiz:


Which would you rather have? 1,000 followers who engage with you or 1,000,000 followers who are barely paying attention?


There is a mistaken assumption that social media is a numbers game and you have to treat your followers like Pokemon (Gotta Catch’em All!). A lot of places even go so far as to inflate their numbers by purchasing followers. The truth of the matter is, the true worth of social media is measured in quality of followers and not quantity.


If you’re a business, it’s about building a lifelong connection to your followers and thus turning them into devoted customers. If you’re a brand, then it’s about the same thing – or at least building a positive connection with those people which will last and pay off far more than had you just treated them as a disposable number to make a quick buck off of.


I’d always choose to have 1,000 highly engaged followers than 1,000,000 disengaged zombies. I enjoy the in-depth conversation that I have with many of them, and make it a point to tell each of them that I’m open for a chat if they feel so inclined.


If you’re a company, this is known as building brand loyalty. In my case, the “brand” is myself because we’re in the age of Brand Human. The only metric that truly matters is LOE (as I said in 2010) which is “Level of Engagement”.



5. Your grandparents know more about social media than you do.


What you call social media today, your grandparents called common sense. The same rules they lived by in a community and in business, are the same rules that apply to social media. Back in the day when the butcher knew your name and the bartender knew your “usual”. Joe Rigby delivered you milk on Wednesdays, and you’ve been helping him out a bit since he and his wife have been having issues.


Fostering a long-term relationship with people, and a meaningful one, is what social media is about. Sincerity, honesty, and humility... pretty much the actual virtues that your grandparents were brought up with as “normal” we have seemed to have forgotten.


You don’t know Jack. In both the figurative and literal sense. But let me introduce you to Gary Vaynerchuk instead. You can learn a hell of a lot about social media from this guy, and I highly encourage you to take notes.







Sep 11, 2013

Modus Operandi

The greatest heist in virtual history.



Modus operandi (plural modi operandi) is a Latin phrase, approximately translated as "method of operation". The term is used to describe someone's habits of working, particularly in the context of business or criminal investigations. In English, it is often shortened to M.O.


The expression is often used in police work when discussing a crime and addressing the methods employed by the perpetrators. It is also used in criminal profiling, where it can help in finding clues to the offender's psychology. It largely consists of examining the actions used by the individual(s) to execute the crime, prevent its detection and/or facilitate escape. A suspect's modus operandi can assist in his identification, apprehension, or repression, and can also be used to determine links between crimes.



Sherlock Holmes



Some days I don’t even know where to begin…


In a recent TOS update, Linden Lab decided to go all Mufasa on your asses and declare that everything their server touches is theirs entirely. There’s a few analogies here that could be employed, such as the one where the parchment maker owns the rights to everything Shakespeare wrote, or maybe in modern times a web host claiming every website on their server is actually theirs.

I’d like to see a silver lining here and find a way to spin this, but my name isn’t Wagner James Au. I simply cannot (and will not) try to be an apologist for this appalling behavior. It’s not like this is some sort of mistake, because it isn’t. Ever since Gaming Jesus took the wheel at Linden Lab, it’s been insult after mockery to everything that Second Life actually is and the community that literally helped create it. Every step of the way proclaiming he “gets it” when in reality he doesn’t have the single foggiest idea what the hell it is that Second Life represents or how to work within that ecosystem.

Oh, he get’s it alright… what he sees is a mountain of content, services and millions of years of man-hours put into the creation of a virtual environment that would have taken arguably billions of dollars had an in-house design team been charged to create it all.


The only question that remained was how he was going to swipe it all from you and sell it to the highest bidder. Like a dim-witted Moriarty, our derp-hero set into motion a chain of events that was both a brilliant thievery and a daring caper in broad daylight.

The best part was, he even got most of you to help him load the trucks up before he drove off, while getting others to smile while they told the world how innovative and great he was.

The odd thing is that even when I originally spelled it out in no uncertain terms, people repeatedly lambasted me for being a Debbie Downer saying I shouldn’t be so negative about things…

So there you have it. They finally decided to take every last thing from you while you were trying to kiss up to them and be in their exclusive favor. Is that not how things have gone down?

What exactly should we call it?

Seeing as we’re drowning in denial here, what is it we’re supposed to make of the situation which continues unabated?

The first order of business was redefining Premium Accounts by copying (poorly) every pre-existing service and offering what the community already had. Locking it behind some elitist gated community. Next was deciding that Linden Lab was a gaming company, and then pouring time, effort, and money into making new games.

When they attempted to put Second Life and other new games on Steam, the number one digital games distribution platform on Earth, they didn’t like the terms and decided to (surprise) buy out Desura and make their own. Somehow they expect major developers and indie games to just jump ship from Steam and join Desura.


Instead of integrating actual social media platforms into Second Life, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and more, they again just went ahead and built their own and expected everyone to just use it instead of the countless and far more popular existing social media out there.


Of course, that wasn’t enough.

No, instead of utilizing what is arguably the single most powerful new media marketing platform at their disposal (Marketplace and Second Life), they again thought it was a great idea to litter Marketplace and their site with Banner Advertising.

The 90s called, they want their marketing strategy back.

Saved by the Bell This is simple modus operandi for them. It’s ingrained into their very fiber and being to do these sorts of things no matter how detrimental or how unrepentantly ridiculous the notion. It doesn’t matter if literally every single part of this flies in the face of everything the product, community, and at this point the entire Internet works on.

He’s a game executive from Electronic Arts.

That’s all you really ever needed to know about the situation right there. Ask literally every serious gamer on Earth and you will find that there is a loathing of EA as a company for repeatedly screwing over their customers at every conceivable junction. For pulling similar dick-moves non-stop and generally acting like unrepentant assholes to their very customers and community.


EA earned hatred with poor games, lack of vision, and contempt for the audience.


And lucky for you, one of their shining pupils is the CEO of Linden Lab! Go ahead and click the above link and read the pedigree of Gaming Jesus.


It’s alright... I’ll wait right here, listening to some elevator music.





Ok, and you’re back!


That’s some seriously damning stuff right there. He was a high level executive at Electronic Arts before he came over to Linden Lab. That’s like picking Genghis Khan to not pillage and burn a village to the ground.


Remember, his experience comes from “Poor games, lack of vision and a contempt for the audience”. Now look at what he is doing at Linden Lab... every decision, game, and even the attitude toward the community, and tell me he’s not showing his true colors.


These are the people who bought out Popcap Games, and Plants vs Zombies, then fired the freaking studio responsible for it – who I might add went on to start a new studio that was acquired by none other than Valve.

This is the level of contempt and arrogance we’re talking about here.

Somebody thought it would be a wonderful idea to give this man the helm of a company that deals with the largest sandbox virtual environment on Earth, a system that lives and thrives on a user-generated content ecosystem as well as the very creativity of those users to showcase all that the virtual environment (their flagship product) can offer… and who immediately set out to slam square pegs into round holes so he felt comfortable.

Yes, I’m sure he feels at home now. He’s essentially running his own little Electronic Arts with a Napoleonic complex. Taking not just pages out of the playbook from the most hated game company in the world, but taking the whole damned book (since this one time, he touched it and now he owns it).

At every single turn, all anyone has heard is -


YOINK! This is now mine.

Except with the latest power play they claim the rights to everything ever made if it so much as looks at their server in passing whether they actually own it or not. Never mind that this violates 99% of pre-existing content licenses in the world. Never mind that the original premise of Second Life (and one of the reasons you got into it) was that they explicitly told you that you own your creations.

Maybe the more appropriate analogy for a former VP at Electronic Arts, arguably playing second fiddle to the big-wigs and then suddenly taking the CEO position at Linden Lab is less like Mufasa and more like Scar?


At least Mufasa had some right to what he claimed, and knew there were limits.

Now that I think about it, he does have an uncanny resemblance to Scar when you look at it. But then, I suppose that makes most of you reading this the Hyenas… settling for the scraps in the aftermath, and how some of you perpetually waste no time at all trying to be apologists for Scar’s actions and play it off as ultimately a good thing.

There’s always a spin to it, and there’s always an angle to make it look good.







The understanding and mentality required to be the CEO of a virtual environment sandbox system is fundamentally different than the mentality that Electronic Arts taught Mr Scar. Not only are they different mentalities, but they are fundamentally opposed with polar opposite results.


In the gaming world, to some degree, it’s about controlling things. Electronic Arts takes this to the delusional level and insists absolutely everything is under their control. But unleash second fiddle Scar with his inferiority complex on Second Life as the CEO and even Electronic Arts would be proud of the wonton and unapologetic power grab that can only be described adequately as:





How else would you describe him since walking into Second Life and seeing the vast sea of services, content and mountains of opportunity?


Which of course, he now owns because he decided to just say so. Is the video above too far fetched?