What Am I?

One of the hardest tasks undertaken by anyone writing about Second Life™ is trying to explain exactly what it is. Some call it a game, some call it a creative platform, some swear it’s a whole other virtual life in every way. But underlying the complexity of SL itself is the way in which each of us using it relates to the host company, Linden Lab.

The Ways We Relate

There are a number of different ways each of us may interact with and relate to Linden Lab. I’ve broken them down into four separate categories as follows:

  1. Customer
  2. Consultant
  3. Co-Worker
  4. Employee

Each of these “Roles” has its own manner of communicating with LL as well as limitations and expectations in the relationship dynamic. It’s my opinion that whenever we interact with the company itself (by talking to one of their figureheads) or one of their explicit employees, if we are unclear on our Role then we are not going to wind up with a satisfactory exchange … for either party.

Eau de Customer

I put this Role first because I believe it to be the most prevalent and most comfortable for the majority of SL’ers. The real essence of a Customer relationship with any business entity is “I pay you money, you give me product/service.” This type of relationship is pretty much the basis of modern society. Yeah, so sometimes we’re called “Consumers” or “Patrons”, but it all boils down to our money goes into their pockets, and in return they give us something back.

I’m happy to say that for a massive majority of interactions, Linden Lab does a right good job at providing their products and services. There are glitches and bumps to be sure, but mostly they are relatively minor and frequently short-lived. Even so, there is also a growing pile of old stinky laundry that has yet to be either acknowledged or addressed in any meaningful manner. Each time there’s a management change, we get a new round of promises and even some initial activity toward washing out the old grime. In the end though, we wind up once again with a big pile and no one seems to notice the smell.

When we find it necessary to contact someone at Linden Lab about a specific “Customer Experience”, it is important to remember that we are required to be putting money in their pockets in order to obtain their service or product. This is why Premium Members get preferential treatment in the form of special access paths to support as well as other perks. But Linden Lab has also agreed to provide a subset of their full product for free. It can be tough to justify demands for support on something you get for free, but since LL has agreed to provide it for that price, they are also (morally? ethically?) supposed to provide enough support to make it work for most people. Just keep in mind how much you are paying them and scale your expectations accordingly.

Consulting to the Lab

For many people, the Role of Consultant is less intuitive. The traditional Consultant agrees up front to perform a specific task in exchange for a specific remuneration. Granted there is no overt program in effect at Linden Lab to retain anyone from the customer base as a Consultant, but many of us do act as Proxy Consultants all the same. This is most often seen in the Lab’s tradition of rolling out test versions of one thing or another then asking via public post for people to try it out. A bit non-traditional, but nevertheless it is a solicitation to perform a task, and the remuneration is always assumed to be the personal satisfaction of helping to improve the product.

This Role also imposes some of the most restrictive constraints on us SL’ers. Any decent professional Consultant will automatically adopt the attitude that what they learn is private to LL, any feedback or communication is kept within the confines of the stated task, and in the end the only “ownership” gained is over the feeling of having done a good job at a fair price. Sometimes it can be tough to hold one’s tongue when acting in this role, and sometimes it can be tempting to start running roughshod over others, but the bottom line is that accepting the Role of Consultant means you also understand and accept the limits from the very first moment.

Being A Happy Co-Worker

Some of us, over the years, have had the distinct privilege of being a Co-Worker with one or more explicit LL Employees. I make no bones of the fact that during the SEO heyday of SL just a few years back, I was able to work with and interact with some of the people in the In-World Search development group at the Lab. From my personal perspective, and I feel safe in saying from the perspective of the LL personnel involved, it was a fruitful and beneficial relationship. I know for a fact that I’m not the only one either. There have been many people over the years that have been lucky enough to fold into a working group and witness direct benefits in the delivered product. For all intents and purposes (except one) we were Co-Workers on a project.

That one exception is, of course, paycheck. Never once did I expect to be paid for my work. I daresay that no one else in this situation has expected a paycheck either. I suspect that every one of us felt that the honor of being involved, and the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful and positive way was enough pay to adequately compensate us. I also strongly believe that the majority of these Co-Worker situations (if not all) have resulted in measurable benefits to Linden Lab and Second Life as well. Sadly though it seems that the company has moved further away from accepting such situations, to the point that it appears they have flat outlawed them.

I’m An Employee?

I’ve saved this Role for last for a very specific reason: It’s the one Role that people on both sides of the relationship have the most trouble seeing and accepting. I will admit right now that in order to explain this Role, I’m going to have to stretch the definition of “Employee” just a bit further than some might find comfy, but please allow me the poetic license to drive this point home.

A good many SL’ers are also in a class called “Merchant”. This means they make and sell products to other SL users. The products are broad in variety, application and interest. There are so many varieties of so many things that can be used, acquired and exchanged in so many ways … the mind literally boggles. But it is exactly this unimaginably immense variety that gives Second Life its stranglehold on the Virtual World Market. No other VW out there can even raise a whisper to the roar that is the SL Marketplace and all the In-World sales.

We Merchants work to produce more products, to entice, attract and retain our own Customers, and to create our own “rewards”. For some of us that may mean making our entire real-world income, for others it may mean the simple joy of having someone say “I really like your stuff.” But no matter in what form our remuneration arrives, it is always and without exception one of the main sources of financial income to Linden Lab.

Bucks To Linden Lab

I do not mean that Linden Lab earns income from the paltry commission fees charged by the SLM, nor do I mean the Land Rental fees earned by providing Sims. Instead I mean the continuing flow of people and their money into and through Second Life. The allure of a Virtual World is unquestioned. For those that have been bitten, it is an addiction akin to some of the harder drugs. When it comes to SL, the overwhelming piles of stuff to do, to buy, to see and to explore are unequaled by any other VW. And those piles come mostly from the Merchants among SL users.

This fact, the reality that Second Life is a viable and enjoyable platform is in no small part due to the ongoing efforts of the Creator and Merchant communities. It is not the sole reason, just as the excellent technical work and support provided by LL does not solely support the platform either. But in a direct manner, the Merchants and Creators are functioning as Employees of Linden Lab all the same.

A more functional description might be “Employee Group” or “Department” as each one of us determines our own tasks, schedules, products and support rules. But nevertheless it can be argued that we perform a vital function for Second Life and thus also for Linden Lab. Once again at the bottom line, it is our “Job” to provide a product or service, get paid for that, and at the same time put extra bucks into our “Employer’s” pocket.

The Role of Employee is also the most difficult for Linden Lab to accept. It’s well known that they have a tendency to be a bit too harsh on their direct explicit employees, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’d start off treating User Employees the same. But they also have a very delicate legal line they must toe so as to prevent exposing themselves to a whole rash of nasty tangles that no self-respecting CEO wants to take on. For this reason we have to be understanding in many cases when they respond to User Employees in a way that seems less than productive.

Getting The Right Role

The whole point of this post is to help explain and maybe illuminate the ways in which we can and should interact with Linden Lab. When you find yourself facing the need to reach out to them, it can be very helpful to adopt the right Role first and then to address yourself to them in the proper manner. You can also save yourself a ton of grief by understanding the limits of your Role and the limits of your expectations. By starting out on the right foot, with the correct approach and manner, you give yourself the absolute best chance of meeting success.

And you give Linden Lab the best opportunity to do their job and fulfill their Role just as well.

Visit the DGP4SL Store on SL Marketplace


Comments are closed.