by Pixeleen Mistral on 27/12/10 at 6:42 pm
A furry-led cargo cult on Twitter hopes to entice silent Second Life CEO into community dialog
A new Twitter-based Second Life metagame raises interesting questions about online identity, social media, and just how unprepared Linden Lab leadership was for the curiously-timed December 23rd announcement of Rod Humble as new CEO.
Given the level of investment of time and money by committed players – and tensions between Second Life customers and game gods – it was not surprising that some players attempted to research the new CEO’s background. Unfortunately, after some study it became clear that Mr. Humble does not have a Twitter account, and is not taking interviews at this time.
How will the new CEO engage in a dialog with the customers?
The nature of the Internet is to abhor an information vacuum, so an enterprising fur named Bunjie_ stepped in and created RodLinden and RodHumble Twitter accounts in hopes that some roleplay tweets might entice the silent CEO to engage – a sort of online identity cargo cult that hopes to vote Humble onto the island of player dialog.
This sort of confused online identity roleplay is possible when the only limit to account names are self-restraint and imagination, as is the case on Twitter, Facebook, Google’s Gmail, and a host of other online services committed to growth at any cost. Does this point to a business opportunity for those that would secure online identities for corporate chiefs – or a lack of planning by the Lab?
Bunjie_ controls Rod Linden and Rod Humble’s Twitter feeds – for now
While Bunjie_ has promised to freely hand the accounts over to Mr. Humble should the CEO decide to engage the residents via Twitter, delightful irony has already ensued with Soft Linden blocking the RodLinden Twitter account. We can only guess at the level of paranoia inside the Lab – will other Lab staff follow Soft Linden’s lead – or set up alt Twitter accounts for the guilty pleasure of reading residents comments?
More importantly, will Humble play along with the metagamers? On one hand this might buy him some goodwill, but comes at the risk of encouraging vigorous debate outside of Second Life’s controlled corporate forums where the threat of player bans can help keep the dialog under control. But the risk of real discourse might worthwhile if there is any interest in engaging and retaining an increasingly cynical customer base.
The Lab’s press release announcing the January debut of Humble as CEO/game god suggests Humble is interested in social and economic change brought on by online mediated human contact, and quotes the incoming CEO as saying:
"I have a long standing interest in the how the boundaries of society and economics change as communications evolve in new ways. Second Life is unique: it sits at the intersection of virtual worlds, avatars, and human contact. The Residents and developers of Second Life have built something very special, I am honored to join the talented team at Linden Lab to help expand this new frontier"
But some Second Life players wondered if the pre Christmas timing of Humble’s CEO announcement was a rush job intended to draw attention away from other developments – notably revelations that Joe Miller (Joe Linden) had departed the Lab. The idea that the announcement came a bit sooner than the Lab had planned seems possible based on the lack of communications about the Lab’s direction from Humble – and the fact that obvious Twitter accounts were left available to the first taker.
Those with deep investments in the Second Life platform worry about how well the new CEO will engage with the existing customers – what is his vision? how will his avatar look? what is to be the fate of Philip Linden’s infamous LoveMachine? can Second Life succeed by marketing Gorean and LatexGirl roleplay to the Facebook crowd, or is a virtual farming and pet-raising experience a better play? and most important, when will Rod Humble give his real tweet?