The Importance of Community (and Ownership)…

As a lot of you know, I spend a pretty reasonable amount of time on Second Life. As I’m fond of saying… “because I don’t have a first one.”

As of late, there’s been a bit of an Exodus from Second Life by many of the extremely creative people that made Second Life unique. This post is only marginally related to their direct complaints, so I won’t address them individually. But there is a common thrend amongst the complaints.

That common thread can be best called “ownership issues.”

Communities are funny things. People feel like they need to belong to a community, but they also feel entitled to “ownership” of that same community. Doubly so if they’ve had to invest any kind of personal effort into joining and maintaining “community resources”.

People have complained profusely about Facebook’s constant moving target called their “privacy policies”, but you really don’t see much in the way of people leaving Facebook. There might be a few cranky people who leave (and those are mostly techie types anyway), but the average member of Facebook doesn’t have that much invested into the site. It’s an interesting tradeoff: the less you have invested in a particular place, the less likely you are to leave when things start to piss you off.

A few of you have noticed over the years that I don’t tend to use a lot of the “social media” sites. I almost without exception prefer to host my own versions of the tools: I use my own URL shortener, my own picture gallery site, and even LiveJournal has largely been replaced by a WordPress installation on a webhosting service. I use Twitter and Facebook, but largely for “throwaway” things: if Twitter died tomorrow, yeah my Tweets would be gone, big deal.

People become attached to places that they’ve helped to build. Many of the wonderful areas that have disappeared have had a serious impact upon the “playability” of Second Life. Two of the areas I specifically frequented (and are now gone) were beautifully and lovingly crafted, and I got a great amount of enjoyment from these areas.

In both of these cases, the places aren’t gone. They are both trying to migrate to the Open Simulator Grid (OSGrid), a variation of Second Life that is built from the open source components of the SL codebase that one can run on independent servers. OSGrid is not for the feint of heart: even getting the code working requires fairly advanced system administration skills, and a fairly powerful and well-connected host if you’re going to run a site with any popularity. I myself have experimented with the software, and the best way to describe the difficulty for me was “interesting.”

Even with all the faults of OSGrid, the reason people left Second Life is this lack of “ownership.” In both cases, people spent hundreds of hours trying to create and develop something special, and in both cases they were screwed over by some recent Linden Labs policy change that made them feel marginalized. They felt that it was better for them to go their own way, tread into unsupported territory rather than have to deal with everything they’ve built and designed get hosed because somebody changed some middling policy without asking for input.

And who can blame them? People spend a lot in resources to try to make something cool in Second Life, only to have their work devalued because of some change in policy.

The lesson here? You can’t trust anybody, the best you can do is to be as self-reliant as possible.

Maybe we’ll see you on OpenSimGrid.

3 thoughts on “The Importance of Community (and Ownership)…

  1. “if Twitter died tomorrow, yeah my Tweets would be gone, big deal.”

    Actually… Your tweets won’t be gone. The Library of Congress has a digital archive of all tweets since it’s birth March of 2006.

  2. You have a good point about blogging sites. I use Facebook to keep in touch with Family and Friends.I do not have any other options to connect with them otherwise. You may be right to start another group. Hopefully it isn’t above my head.


    • It’s also a good time to point out that I’m working on universal login features working again, so everybody will be able to log in with Google (or Facebook, or maybe even other) credentials and stay in touch with me directly. The post you are directly commenting on is very old, and represents a time when I was spending an awful lot of my time on SecondLife. I don’t nearly get on SL as much as I used to, and the “OpenSim” sites I was running have faded into obscurity now that I don’t have a lot of server bandwidth to host them.

      I do try to keep most of my personal stuff accessible to everyone, and love to get “ease of use” feedback from people as I experiment with various technologies. This is an open invitation to everyone: please tell me what works, what doesn’t, and what you like and dislike as I bring things online.

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