Zoned out

We’ve not had much in the way of Second Life content recently; for one reason or another I’ve not had time to log on to the grid in ages, and I’ve just been glancing at the SL blogosphere in passing.

So what’s been happening? Let’s see… The main action seems to have been the Redzone imbroglio (actually an old story, which came to a head this month for some reason). Playing on the characteristic paranoia and narcissism of SL residents, virtual entrepreneur zFire Xue scared people with stories of how their “security” was under threat from some shadowy villains. In the real world Xue would be a political demagogue, but, this being the free-market utopia of Second Life he instead cashed in by selling an expensive technological “solution” to the “problem”. There was a backlash of course, ironically driven by the same paranoia Xue had exploited in the first place, and the Lindens belatedly lumbered into action to ban Xue and his system from the grid, though apparently without closing the loophole he was using to violate residents’ privacy.

Paranoia, narcissism, management incompetence… good to see that not much has changed in Second Life in my absence.

I’m not sure that this episode tells us anything about the psychology of SL residents that we didn’t know already after the events of “Emeraldgate“, but it does add weight the general impression that Linden Lab are not a serious company. Do they have a corporate risk-management department? Do they employ lawyers? Do they read the newspapers? If so, how did they miss that Xue’s system clearly breached EU data protection law, and that the Lab, as platform hosts, were placing themselves at risk of prosecution for failing to safeguard their customers’ information? They may have calculated that the risk was minimal, but, with practically no upside in letting Xue continue to operate, why take a chance? The situation called for decisive action, not months of dithering followed by a half-baked intervention. If I was a potential investor I wouldn’t be particularly impressed.

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