The Strike is Ovah

Saturday, April 19, 2008 Saturday, April 19, 2008

Readers may be wondering about the sudden lack of posts in the past few days from not only this blog, but many other Second Life blogs as well. They and I have been on strike between the 15th and the 18th of this month in an attempt to provoke Linden Lab to provide more appropriate and useful guidance regarding their recent branding guidelines.

It all started days ago when new branding guidelines were introduced. These are really of no great consequence to most residents, and of some interest to business owners. However, while the intentions are good and logical, a read through the regs stunned the blogging community. I can’t repeat all the details, as they span multiple long web pages, but many bloggers feared effects such as:

  • Having to change the name of their in-world business if it contained some reference to the trademarked names
  • Having to change their website domain name (and risk losing their audience), again if it contained some reference to trademarked names
  • Having to change product names
  • Having to change website templates to include appropriate ™ and ® symbols
  • Having to edit hundreds or thousands of earlier blog posts that might violate use of trademarked names
  • Having to refrain from “disparaging comments” regarding the trademarked entities, for fear of being banned in-world (the new terms of service hold you responsible not only for your actions in-world, but now also out-of-world!)

Bloggers aren’t lawyers and the regulations mystified and confused many. It was felt that a much better form of communication should have been used, as well as practical guidelines specifically for bloggers (of which there are hundreds). No clarity emerged, and thus a strike was proposed by Gwyneth Llelewyn that was carried out by many bloggers.

Toward the end of the strike period, some clarifications emerged and some of the major issues were clarified. But many concerns remain, some of which are quite serious.

Why is all this happening? How can a company that has been quite friendly and supportive suddenly turn to the dark side? It’s those lawyers again, in my opinion.

They want to make sure that there is a clear distinction from their operations and those run by residents. In other words, if a resident is doing bad things, providing poor service or otherwise causing distress, Linden Lab wants to make sure you know it is the resident, not them causing the problem.

Another major issue is the terminology. We’ve been used to using the term “Second Life” in a casual way - but that is precisely the problem. If vast numbers of people use the term as if it is just another common word or phrase, then Linden Lab effectively loses control of the term.

This is going to be much more important in the future when alternative virtual worlds emerge and Linden Lab will want to differentiate their world from other worlds. They can’t do that if everyone uses the trademarked names to casually refer to any old virtual world. So, they have to position for the future today.

But they’re just not being very gentle or helpful. Throwing pages of quasi-legal web page regulations at the blogging community literally overnight feels a lot like getting a legal document in the mail. NOT FUN.

As for me, I am going to have to evaluate what changes I have to make to my blog, business and marketing approach. Of course, I’m going to determine the simplest approach and just do that. Stay tuned for changes!


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