Humble Governance

Early this year, my good friend Hiro Pendragon pointed out that I’m no good at predictions any longer, because I happen to be so disconnected from Second Life® these days that I “lost touch” with it. At the time he wrote that, I was actually shocked. I have one job which is about development content and applications for Second Life exclusively, and, unlike many Metaverse Development Companies (who have dropped that moniker), ours is still 99% focused on Second Life — well, and OpenSim too, since it’s pretty much the same kind of development (although we have far more projects for SL than OpenSim). We don’t do Facebook apps, Flash applets, websites, iPhone/Android apps, or other types of development. We just do Second Life. Sure, the odd webserver has to be developed too — because these days most projects have a web-based backend of some sort, so we naturally know about web-based programming  (that’s the remaining 1%). We have plenty of projects to keep us going; no, we’re not millionaires, but we certainly haven’t stopped developing for SL! The market changed? Sure — nowadays, we get little requests for “media splash”, and it’s all about education, training, and simulation, but most of our customers are corporations, not necessarily just academics.

Besides SL, well… mostly due to taxes, which are terminally high these days in my country, I had to get two extra jobs to be able to afford to pay taxes. It’s silly, but that’s how it works — I get my earnings mostly from work done in SL, but what I earn is not enough to pay the taxes on top of that — and still provide me with enough income to pay my bills and eat! — so I have to work extra just to be able to afford to pay taxes. This is absurd, of course — the keyword describing early-21st-century economy is absurdity — but I’ll keep my own political views on the subject for another day 🙂

So that’s how I spend most of my time. The rest of it… I’m studying. I’ve decided to pick up on my academic studies where I left them in, uh, 1992, when I gave up on a Master’s thesis because I didn’t have time for it. I still don’t have time — and even less these days! — but universities are a bit more flexible than in the past century. And all my studies are about Second Life. That pretty much means that when I’m not actually developing anything for SL, I’m researching about what academics are doing in SL, and experimenting with rather esoteric things which only interest the academic mind 🙂 In the mean time, I’m still attending — and giving — conferences about SL, some in RL, some in SL. If anything, after some slower years in 2009/2010, 2011 has definitely gone back to the “golden era” days where everybody would be talking and doing things in SL. Well, almost. The biggest difference these days is that one cannot ignore the academic work, which is, by far, where Second Life shines, as an established platform. Corporations and non-academics cannot ignore Second Life as well, but are still struggling to find a good use for it. And they keep being baffled about what to do — websites are not “in” any more, so should they look into Facebook apps, mobile applications, or make the bold step to go into virtual worlds? (For me, of course, those are not “options”, they have completely different uses; but a marketeer spending money on application development sees them as “either/or” options)

So, more ever than before, I spend more time doing and thinking things related to Second Life. But, surprisingly, this means far less time spent in-world; which, in turn, means less time in touch with other residents and what they’re doing. I guess that was what Hiro meant: I’m simply not a “regular user” any more. Or, well, definitely regular in the sense that I log in plenty of times over the week; but just not the “usual” 4-6 hours per day that I used to log in.

And of course that means that I will never catch up with the novelties that are happening all over the place; I rely more and more on second-hand reports read on blogs than on first-hand experience. This means that every opinion I make (or, well, almost all) will be subtly tainted by the bias of the people I interact with; my own perceptions of Second Life are an amalgamation of perceptions of what others think and say; but frequently they might not even be my own perceptions at all. This, I think, is what Hiro meant by “losing touch” with SL: it’s when, due to circumstances, the view I have of Second Life is not even my own, much less the vision shared by residents, with whom I interact less.

When reflecting about this, I suddenly realised that I’m as bad as Linden Lab — because they happen to be in exactly the same position.

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