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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

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Troy McLuhan

I've said it before (at the weekly Non-profit commons meeting), and I'll say it again: this is Anshe Chung buying silence (by giving them free land) from the very people who would normally be asking pointed questions about her and her company. Questions like: What are the working standards of her employees in China?

I don't know the answer, but you can be sure that I'm curious. China isn't exactly known for its strong labor protection laws.

Here's an idea. Tell Anshe that you're glad to be offered free land, but you really can't accept it until her workplace gets reviewed by some independent third-party, like the ones that inspect the Nike factories.

The saddest part is how cheap this bought silence has been. Nonprofits can get sims for 150 USD per month (and 950 USD up front). Divide that by 30 nonprofits and it's pocket change.

Ananda

The whole thing does have the same flavor as Dow Chemical sponsoring Public Service Announcements about recycyling. But then this is a lost battle until some newer better version of the Metaverse comes along.

Markus Breuer (Pham Neutra)

Troy, while I agree with you, that donating one sim to such a cause might not cause such a big dent in ACS's budget, I still think that creating such a venue was a generous gesture. It is good PR, too, but show me a company which donates anything to whatever cause and does not use this for positive PR. Interpreting this as "buying silence" sounds like a slight exaggeration to me. Anyone can still protest against her activities and demand whatever he or she wants to demand.

And assuming that the working conditions at ACS are like those found in the infamous south china sweat shops until Anshe proves otherwise - just because ACS is a chinese company - seems like a rather unfair treatment to me. Sweatshops like those which you are obviously referring to, have been found in other countries, too. They have been found in South California, for example. Would you demand similar inspections from every californian supplier, too?

Troy McLuhan

Pham - You wrote, "...assuming that the working conditions at ACS are like those found in the infamous south china sweat shops until Anshe proves otherwise - just because ACS is a chinese company - seems like a rather unfair treatment to me."

What I actually wrote was, "What are the working standards of her employees in China? I don't know the answer, but you can be sure that I'm curious."

Do you see the difference? Let me spell it out: Being curious isn't the same as making an allegation.

As for California - they do have good labor protection laws (or at least better than those in China). The people that break them face consequences.

Markus Breuer (Pham Neutra)

I am sorry, Troy. Looks like I misunderstood you. :( But, you know, unfortunately, there ARE people out there, who would package an allegation into a question.

What lead me to this misunderstanding was probably the suggestion
"Tell Anshe that you're glad to be offered free land, but you really can't accept it until her workplace gets reviewed by some independent third-party"

This sounded a bit like "guilty unless proven otherwise". I am glad, you did not mean it this way.

Troy McLuhan

To "assume guilty unless proven otherwise" is unjust, so of course I'm not suggesting that.

Let me put this another way: if you are going to enter into a relationship with someone, you should ask a few questions first. Investors call it due diligence. It's simply a matter of assessing risk. "Look before you leap."

The nonprofit organizations in Anshe's Non-Profit Commons face the risk of damaged reputations (or not) --- which is a big deal, because in the nonprofit world, reputation is key.

Guni Greenstein

Thanks for the article and all the valid questions raised by the commentators. Fortunately, I think some of the concerns raised don't apply to our company. At ACS we are very ambitious, and this ambition includes social responsibility for everyone in our team as well as the communities (virtual and real) that we are involved with.

In fact, our working conditions in Wuhan are better than in many American IT companies, including: 1) regulated working hours 2) full insurance and benefits package 3) clearly above industry average compensation 4) German standard workplace conditions in a new spacey office in a new class A office tower 5) exciting, varied, creative and challenging tasks with regular and ongoing training and an excellent long term career perspective.

We already had several TV teams from Europe as well as correspondents from major business publications visit and film at our offices. Representatives of the Second Life media are also more than welcome to visit us in Wuhan and report about our exemplary working conditions. ACS is not a sweatshop, but one of the most modern and innovative companies of central China and a fun place to work and to be creative at.

Tom Maroney / Frank Foley

As co-director of the Nonprofit Commons and someone who has been involved since its first inception, I'd like to make clear that we considered many concerns and issues in accepting this offer. This is not a decision we made lightly, and we had many open group discussions about concerns around taking the donation.

We were nothing but pleased with what we found in looking at our donor's history, philosophy and employment practices. Anshe Chung Studios also happily signed an agreement with us that states, among other things, that they would not censor any of the content at the Nonprofit Commons,

While Anshe Chung Studios does benefit from positive publicity from the Commons -- as any donor does -- Anshe Chung's interest in supporting the nonprofit effort in Second Life appears to go far beyond that. Those who heard her heartfelt speech at the NPC launch party will no doubt agree.

While a few people have continued to circulate rumors like the ones found above, none have offered any evidence to backup their allegations. What we have seen is evidence of ACS' generosity and commitment to the nonprofit community in Second Life.

Please come visit us and see for yourself.

Tom Maroney / Frank Foley
Co-director, Nonprofit Commons

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