A typical Valleywag hit piece on Second Life back in the day
"Been enjoying your pieces on Second Life," Nick Denton e-mailed me back in 2007. "Very balanced. Not that one can say the same of us." That's for damn sure. I was going through old e-mails today while reading about Denton's very public feud with VC Peter Thiel, the powerful Ayn Rand admirer and Donald Trump delegate who secretly hired a legal team to sue Denton's Gawker publication out of existence, partly for personal reasons, and also, apparently, for Valleywag, Gawker's now-defunct tech industry arm, which Thiel described as a terrible scourge of Silicon Valley:
Mr. Thiel [has called] Valleywag “the Silicon Valley equivalent of Al Qaeda.”
“It scares everybody,” he said in a 2009 interview with Pe Hub, a private equity publication. “It’s terrible for the Valley, which is supposed to be about people who are willing to think out loud and be different. I think they should be described as terrorists, not as writers or reporters.”
I had to smile at that description, because back when Denton himself edited Valleywag (2006-2008 or so), one of his prime targets in tech was Second Life:
As it reached the peak of its media hype, Denton decided Second Life was a top target for Valleywag's ire, and published a deluge of snarky anti-Second Life posts, seemingly every day. Most of them were somewhat to extremely inaccurate, probably because the Valleywag writers had little or no first-hand experience with SL. So much so, it was difficult to get too upset. More than anything, I remember being amused by the snark -- see title above -- and when Linden Lab staff and third party metaverse developers hung out with each other over drinks, we enjoyed laughing over the latest headline.
On the other hand, Valleywag did get a couple things about Second Life right: It was a terrible platform for real world marketing (something I also wrote about back then), and more key, its user numbers weren't growing. These were both necessary correctives to the over-eager enthusiasm and boosterism so rife in the tech media. At its best Valleywag excelled at poking those self-inflated balloons, and I learned a lot in the process. So perhaps ironically, I'm sad to see Gawker struggling to survive, especially due to such dubious circumstances.
As for Second Life, it's still lumbering alone, steadily losing users and revenue but still profitable -- profitable enough, in fact, to fund its own sequel. But when Project Sansar launches, Gawker may not even be around to snark at it.
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