A for Apologies?

Ok, I admit it, this year’s April Fools’ “joke” was probably in bad taste and definitely went out of control… and I guess that multiple apologies are in order. However, the end result was curiously quite positive, so bear with me for a moment…

My problem is that I’m not famous for my sense of humour, so it’s often not easy to find a theme to blog about on April 1. I usually tend to pick on some real fact, present it in a distorted/speculative/just plain wrong way, but let people think a bit about the implications. After all, even if reality gets distorted in some subtle way, it doesn’t mean we are not allowed to do some reflection on the consequences…

April 1 actually started with me being on a rather bad mood. A client of mine (local government) was having a lot of trouble to fight both its internal bureaucracy at the same time as Linden Lab’s bureaucracy to get an island transferred to them. Things were at a stand-still while documents, tickets, emails, and Live Chat support flogged links and comments and interpretations on policy all the time, and time was passing, without a solution being apparent. On our side of things, we could just sigh and say, “this is sooo typical”, since we’re so used to the way things are handled by LL’s support: depending on how lucky you are, you can get a support rep that is just going to be a pain on the bottom, or someone who handles things in no time in a miraculous way. You never know. Murphy’s Law dictates that you’ll get the worst possible person when you’re short of time, have a lot of bureaucracy to deal with, and a very precisely orchestrated plan that relies on meeting deadlines with excruciating care, or everything will go wrong. Most times it will go wrong just because you got the wrong person on the job. You have all experienced it. One day, you get the “right” person on a task that the ‘Lab claims that “it takes 3-5 days to fix”, and that person gets the job done in 5 minutes. The next day, happy about the quality of the support, you request the same thing again. After 3-5 days you get the answer that it’s “impossible”. Or that “the rules don’t allow it”. Or “that the policy has changed, so what was easy a week ago is now very hard this week” (claiming that you not only were “lucky” the last time, but that the colleague has somehow bended the rules and they shouldn’t have done so). Or “we’re closed this week, try the next one”. And so forth. We all know how it is. On average, things do get done — the amount of patience and time it takes until a Lab rep understands what you want to do can just take more or less time, and it’s up to you to accept that and be content, or to find it unacceptable and get angry and furious about it…

So, a few days before April 1, I was finding LL’s stance towards a lot of things quite unacceptable. On one hand, yes, they were handling some tickets filed on support quite badly (not technical issues; just to ease Xan Linden’s mind, who wanted to know what was wrong — thanks for the contact, Xan! But no, they were administrative/policy/bureaucracy issues), and that didn’t improve my spirits. On the other hand, the new ToS, and the incredible mess of documents we have now to agree with if we wish to enjoy SL was grating on my nerves. Most important for me was that all of these require lawyers to interpret. Can we still make machinimas, yes or no? Can we use third-party viewers, yes or no? Do we still retain our copyrights on uploaded content, yes or no? Are crowdsourced developers responsible for LL’s bugs in the permission system, yes or no? Does the new ToS apply liability retrospectively (e.g. can someone be made liable for improper use of their content developed years ago, for instance), yes or no? Depending on whom you ask, the answer is different. And now it requires hiring expensive legal advice to be sure you can continue to do what you wish to do in SL.

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