This fascinating New York Magazine profile of eBay founder, investor, and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar has a paragraph that will amuse many NWN readers:
Though he continued to be eBay’s board chairman and largest shareholder, Omidyar receded from view in Silicon Valley. “Pierre has been such a reclusive guy for the past few years,” says Philip Rosedale, who founded the technology firm Linden Lab, developer of the animated interactive world Second Life. During the mid-2000s, Omidyar immersed himself in the Second Life community, adopting a secret identity: a tattooed black man named Kitto Mandala. Even after Omidyar became a Linden Lab investor, Rosedale primarily interacted with his animated avatar. Mandala rode a Segway and wore a T-shirt that said KISS ME I’M LAWFUL EVIL. He could fly, and hardly anyone knew he was really a billionaire.
Gawker, being Gawker, hunted up the old Flickr page of "Kitto Mandala" for some light-hearted snark. (That's Kitto above, with unidentified butterfly girl.) As it happens, I knew Omidyar was a hardcore Second Life user over a decade ago, but because I found that out while still working for Linden Lab, kept that inside info to myself. (Especially because Omidyar to my knowledge never "outed" his avatar). However -- and this is something New York and Gawker missed -- Omidyar wasn't just geeking around in Second Life, he actually considered it an important platform for activism, and sponsored an SL island promoting awareness of genocide in Sudan -- which as I wrote in 2006, become a flashpoint for online griefing and heroism:
Activists recently built a virtual world information site on a private island called Better World, to raise awareness of the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Sudan. Called “Camp Darfur”, it features the recreation of a refugee tent city with a tiny campfire, and large display photos of the real thing, where the tents seem to go on for miles. Shortly after it was unveiled, however, the place was hit by griefers. The first marauder found an exploit in the Camp’s building method, and used that to raze the place to the ground, strewing tents and images of refugees everywhere. According to Zeke Poutine, officer in the "Not on our watch" Darfur activist group, he shouted racial slurs while he trashed it. The Camp was rebuilt, but copycat attacks by others followed. But if Camp Darfur has its janjaweed, it has its guardians, too. For shortly after the raids began, a Better World visitor who’d learned a lot about Sudan’s genocide from the Camp called a group of his to the island, to offer their protection. And that’s why Camp Darfur is now under the vigilant eye of the Green Lantern Core, a band of superheroes who patrol Second Life with masks, tights, and magic lamps. I met Zeke and some members of the Core at Camp Darfur last Saturday, when most members of "Not on our watch" and the Omidyar Network (the island’s sponsor) were already in Washington D.C. for the nation’s largest march against genocide, the next day. When I arrived, she was talking with KallfuNahuel Matador, a bald, broad-shouldered Core member who guards the camp...
Read the rest here. It's a story, I think, which better explains why Omidyar was so passionate about Second Life, as an investor, philanthropist... and user.
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