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Monday, January 18, 2010


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brinda allen

Sadly the first time or so that someone is murdered because some psycho in Secondlife was able to real life locate and identify them...nothing will change...unless it's a relatively *famous* person.

I love Secondlife...I plan to stay 'till they turn out the lights...or they force real life connections.

Talwyn Mills

Interesting take, though if you wern't trying to push an ajenda, a more logical title would have been:

"In New World Notes Survey, Almost Two Thirds Do Not Want Their First Life Identity Publicly Linked to Their Second Life Activity"

Ciaran Laval

Two thirds are opposed to the idea then, that's not a good figure. I wouldn't mind having my RL identity linked to an avatar for certain circumstances, for example if the Open University asked me to attend a class inworld I'd much rather it were an avatar with my RL name as that makes sense, but for general SL usage, no, not something I support.

1% of Facebook users are free to join Second Life now, it sure as hell isn't anonymity that's putting them off.

Linden Lab should be ditching their links to Facebook rather than trying to extend this anti privacy campaign being spouted by the likes of Facebook and I'd wager plenty of Facebook users would be happy if Facebook allowed them to go by an avatar name for all their dealings rather than their RL name.

Peter Stindberg

Talwyn and my friend Ciaran beat me to the comment. Two Thirds don't want this. That is a pretty strong vote.

Metacam Oh

People don't want this yet because SL isn't main stream and is almost taboo at this point. It was the same way for Myspace, even though I had my RL identity on there, when Myspace started I didn't go around telling people I was on myspace, it was almost a dating site back then, friends would be like I'm never going to join myspace or facebook because at first it was taboo also. fast forward a year or two later, every real world friend and family has a myspace or a facebook account. If SL becomes mainstream then you'll find people will come out of the virtual closet or have a second RL avatar identity to socialize with friends and family..

Nexus Burbclave

So is this post a presentation of data, or an attempt to chide the nearly two thirds that disagreed into towing the party line?

I normally tend to give you the benefit of the doubt, but your analysis is incredibly heavy-handed considering the statistical outcome.

Lalo Telling

"People don't want this yet..."?

2/3 don't want it, period. Ever.

This is also a spin that doesn't reach credulity: "...over 50% of Residents al[r]eady use the internal VOIP system in SL, which reveals a lot about real world gender, age, national origin, etc."

That "etc" doesn't include name, address, telephone number, email address, what you bought online from Amazon, or a host of other things the "social network" fronts for the data miners want in order to -- at best -- sell you more stuff. At worst... well, ask the citizens of Airstrip 1 (also known as the UK) how they feel about surveillance.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Well, we educators always have to face angry e-mails from dumb-heads on the right, usually. I don't see how "outting" my avatar as me puts me more at risk. From my blog it's a click or two to my university home page.

I hope this remains an OPTION, however, not a requirement. Let folks choose!

Seriously...where in the LL information does it say anyone would be required to post first-life info on the avatar's profile?

Hamlet Au

Nexus, the only "party line" I represent is my own. It's not news that most established Second Life users prefer to keep their identities more or less separate, that's how SL has always been presented. What *is* news, it seems to me, is that a significant minority already do want some linkage. And the broader picture is that 150 million+ people are already accustomed to linking their virtual world avatar and game character with their RL identity. So for good and/or ill, that's where the market is heading.

I doubt the Lindens will ever make this linkage mandatory, that would indeed the destroy an essential attribute of Second Life. But we are heading toward a point where the majority will opt for this linkage, at least in the short term. It is possible that as the mass market becomes comfortable with the concept of avatars, they'll slowly embrace a separation. It's not an either-or situation in any case, a lot of SL users own an avatar that's linked to their RL self, and also have an alt that isn't. (And vice versa.)

Kean Kelly

It is funny how this is presented as an all black or white issue: either you will be completely anonymous or you will be completely public. Why? Not having your RL name hovering over your avatar, does not mean you will never make any part of you RL available. It just means that you will make available to the people you trust what they need to know to contact you etc. For me my RL name would reveal everything about my real life (except my social security number hopefully) as less than five people in the world has this name. As identity-theft gets more and more common, the need to secure your personal info, even as a professional, gets higher. This is not an augmentation vs. immersion thing at all. It has nothing to do with hiding your real life gender, age etc. It is just a healthy thing not to go public with you real life name and other info on the web.


Nothing is stopping anyone right now from posting as much of their personal info as they like, including photos, on the First Life tab of their profile. Go inworld and do a random sampling of how many already do it. I'll wager it's even less than a third. SL attracted people primarily for its promise of creative anonymity, i.e., remaking yourself for fun and profit, or more personal reasons. The forced march to the collective farm of mediocrity known as Facebook will result in nothing less than, well, turning SL into Facebook with avatars, not the other way around.
But then, Hamlet, as your headline shows, you are looking through the wrong end of the telescope to see what you want to see.

Botgirl Questi

I agree with Kean that this is not a black and white issue. I posted an article and a few sketches in October that explored that idea in "Pseudonymity, Disclosure and Activity":


Ann Otoole

There is no need to get the propaganda machine going since Kingdon made the decision to proceed and would have even if 100% of the customers were against it.

And yes Hamlet the headline should have been Two Thirds oppose. Care to explain why your headline is slanted that way?

Botgirl Questi

Ann...we agree on something! Good point on the headline.

Trinity Dechou

More to the point than any slant on this headline I feel I need to question the headline itself. When your survey asks " Do you publicly associate your Second Life activity with your real world name and identity now, or do you plan to in the future?" and your headline says "Over a Third Want Their First Life Identity Publicly Linked to Their Second Life Activity" that's one large leap in assumption and a terribly ambiguous one as well.

Hamlet Au

I already explained my reasons for writing the headline the way I did -- it's not news a lot of people want to keep their identities separate in Second Life, it *is* news a lot do want them linked. But a lot of this response thread has become another interesting case study in how a system's hard core user base can be resistant to user growth.

Here's another way of thinking about this. When you're telling a real life acquaintance about Second Life and you want them to try it out, do you tell them what your SL name is, so they can get in touch with you in-world? Or do you say, "I won't tell you what it is." I bet most of the 2/3rds who stay they want no linkage still do make that linkage, at least in limited cases like that.

Fleep Tuque

For those who commented that 2/3 "oppose" - I'd point out that the question was NOT phrased "do you support or oppose" but rather "DO YOU" associate your RL name with your avatar.

1/3 already do. 2/3 do not currently.

Saying I don't put my RL name in my profile isn't the same as me saying I OPPOSE it.

I agree that the headline inaccurately reflects the question text, but the issue is not which number was headlined, but that the headline was phrased to suggest that the survey question asked something that it did not in fact ask.

Ciaran Laval

"But a lot of this response thread has become another interesting case study in how a system's hard core user base can be resistant to user growth."

Hamlet I'm not sure how you come to this conclusion. Nobody has said they don't want to see growth, some of us just don't agree that making your RL details public will encourage growth.

Some have said they don't mind this being optional, optional is something Facebook doesn't agree with, as seen from the SL avatar accounts recently deleted. Those are Facebook's rules but would they have more users were it optional?

soror nishi

I totally agree.....the best title for this post is....65% say NO.

Get a grip, man.!!!

Botgirl Questi

Hamlet: I think the quibbling about the headline and the general negative tone of the response thread points to longer standing issues with spin doctoring (not necessarily on NWN) around major changes that have been thrust upon users by Linden Lab over the last couple of years. Like touchy subjects within personal relationships, emotionally charged present-time arguments are mostly about the unresolved past.

That said, I think there is a reasonable concern that creating some sort of software-supported connection between RL and SL identities, even on an optional basis, might end up eroding the widespread acceptance of pseudonymity. Social engineering almost always creates unintended consequences. So it's not surprising that "hard core" users who have the most invested in pseudonymous identities, and who gain the most satisfaction from their existing virtual lives, would be resistant to anything that might seriously impact the status quo. I don't think many people are against user growth in itself.

Ann Otoole

Hamlet you need to present the hard data to back this statement up:

"But a lot of this response thread has become another interesting case study in how a system's hard core user base can be resistant to user growth."

Hamlet Au

That's well said, Botgirl. But the fact remains that the status quo *is* lack of significant growth and 133K hardcore users taking up 90% the user hours, while the lack of an RL-SL link option has definitely been a hamper for real world organizations adopting it, among others.

Far as unintended consequences, I understand that concern, but that hasn't really played out. Residents worried that having real world organizations and advertising in SL would kill SL pseudonymity, and it didn't. Many worried that voice would kill SL pseudonymity, and it didn't. At the same time, it was the hardcore users who put together a real world user convention (i.e. SLCC). The Lindens were actually surprised so many users wanted one.

Ordinal Malaprop

"The lack of an RL-FL link option" (presumably SL, latter there) seems a bit much - SL has as much capability for RL linking as, say, YouTube does, or any other environment where pseudonyms are available but user data can be edited. Even given the surname situation I could have called myself, say, SusanGreenfield Malaprop instead, added links to my papers on my profile, and noted on my personal site that this was my SL avatar. (As a note, I am not in fact Susan Greenfield, and in fact I dare say she would not be at all keen on Second Life.)

Jura Shepherd

"That said, I think there is a reasonable concern that creating some sort of software-supported connection between RL and SL identities, even on an optional basis, might end up eroding the widespread acceptance of pseudonymity."

^This is where my head is^

I don't care so much that people would want to and I don't think it would ever be mandatory. My concern would be that a cultural wedge may develop where immersionist are relegated to the back of the bus so to speak.

As it is now, at least culturally, if someone wants to say they are a clothing designer, artist, real estate agent, (or whatever really), as long as they can produce, it's generally accepted that they are what they say they are. As more rl identities get tied to avatars, people will lazily fall back on rl control insticts. SL people will inevitably be more constrained,either because of their rl credentials, situation, or even that they don't wish to share them.

I've seen a lot of arguments for that very thing and I feel like things will eventually evolve that way. I can't stop it but I'll be sad to see people throw away a shot at transcending a lot of unnecessary rl baggage.

Ann Otoole

This blog said it could not accept my "data" so I made another comment here:

Hamlet Au

Jura, some the largest Second Life communities now are steampunks, vampires, and Goreans, all of which tend to reveal little or nothing about real life identities. They've existed for years alongside sims owned by RL universities, corporations, governments, etc. etc. where real life identities are emphasized. If that hasn't changed by now, what makes you think that'll change in the future?

That's one side of it. On the other side, consider the post up top: it's been difficult to raise funds in SL for Haiti in part because people don't automatically trust random avatars saying they'll take donations and give them to the Red Cross. If there was a systemic way for real world organizations and people in SL to confirm their RL identity, much the way Twitter does with companies and celebrities, this would be way less of a problem.


Not a great idea to use your real information, FaceBook will even tell you not to use it:



OK, let's see if I understand this argument:
RL outing is necessary for Facebook integration which is necessary for bringing in more residents to hit the target goal of six figure (300,000+) concurrent users. And the only thing standing in the way of this utopia is the 2/3 majority of anonymous right-wing old school immersionist morons who don't want to reveal their RL IDs.
Well, I was off work today, like many another USofA citizen, so I decided to see what SL looked like on a weekday and lo and behold, there were 72,000 or so residents on according to the grid status page. To make a long story short: I crashed several times, once within minutes of rezzing on my home sim; I failed repeatedly to TP to several different sims (or I should say, SL failed repeatedly to deliver my avatar to those sims); a sim I TPed to crashed after it took me four tries to finally get there; several sims never completely rezzed, with huge grey patches evident; and after everything finally seemed to be working right (this is several hours later), I was logged out without warning by SL and couldn't log back in.
Now, if LL can't guarantee a smooth inworld experience to 72,000 concurrent users, how can it ever satisfy 300,000 concurrent users? How many of them are going to come back after their first experience like that?


"After all, some 150 million+ Facebook users are active users of games and virtual worlds, and by definition, they've already linked their own avatars to their real world identities."

Just because 150 million people are doing something, doesn't mean they are right.

A huge number of people also smoke and take drugs daily. Doesn't mean they are right.

It amazes me there are so many people that are not savvy when it comes to protecting their identities.

Like the other posters have said though, it will take several RL killings\life threatening harrassments, etc., before SL or any other MMPO type game makers admit that giving personal info away in a game is not always such a great idea.

I hope we don't get those 150 million FaceBook users inworld. If so, there will go the neighborhood and it will be time for the hardcore users to move on to something better.


"Well, we educators always have to face angry e-mails from dumb-heads on the right, usually. I don't see how "outting" my avatar as me puts me more at risk. From my blog it's a click or two to my university home page."

As a professional security advisor, it amazes me how lax educators are with their personal information.

"But a lot of this response thread has become another interesting case study in how a system's hard core user base can be resistant to user growth."

Not at all resistant to user growth here, just don't think it is a wise idea to link personal information, in fact, I think it is down right stupid.


When surveyed, the majority of SL users (67%) prefer privacy. This seems to be the consensus. I think the title of this article needs to be reworked somehow.

This backwards spin on the data really makes me consider going elsewhere for my SL news.

The 33% who choose to give away their privacy do so at their own risk. I would say giving away your privacy in SL is a huge mistake.

Facebook is even ADMITTING that giving private information is not always a good idea and they are telling their userbase to break FaceBook's own rules!


That has to tell you something about privacy. You need to keep your data private, and your data begins with your real name.

Ann Otoole

Hamlet the problem with donations for relief go farther than just needing an rl identity. I think charity drives in SL need to be banned unless a 501c organization has been certified by LL and has been granted a special avatar name for the donation kiosks and LL ensures the funds are transferred without LL taking a cut.

This goes way beyond just having an rl identity. This requires a background investigation. I.e.; If the Red Cross wants donations from SL then LL can set them up an account named Red Cross.

BTW It disgusts me that anyone would attempt to use such a tragedy as the suffering and deaths in Haiti to justify their desire to force their political ideology on others.

Martien Pontecorvo

The technology has always existed to explicitly merge one's First and Second Life identities.

It is called "the First Life tab of your profile."

Opensource Obscure

FWIW, I'm still perplexed by the headline.

Does anyone have any similar earlier data for a comparison?


I agree. The title of this article is very poor and it has absolutely nothing to do with the crisis in Haiti as far as donations are concerned.

We have had the first life tab in SL for some time now and it seems the majority do not use it for RL data. Some do, but that is a very small percentage from what I have witnessed.

More often than not, you'll see the 1st life tab left blank or with comments suggesting not to ask about 1st life, which is why many people are in SL, as a nice retreat from the real world, a place to go without real world baggage.

Arcadia Codesmith

Hamlet, the survey just doesn't support the headline. The survey asks who links their real world identity to their avatar, and you're presupposing that the respondants do this because they WANT to.

In almost all cases I'm aware of, RL identification is a requirement for a particular function (usually education or business), not a "want".

And in almost all cases, people with a publicly-linked avatar have one or more alts in the wings with no such linkage.

Facebook is not a good example; in the majority of games on Facebook, your identity is disclosed only to your Facebook friends, not the general public.

YoVille may be an exception, but YoVille is not a model for the future of virtual reality. YoVille is a vast untapped market of people who crave a virtual world experience but who are willing to settle for an ugly, crippled Flatland out of convenience or because they don't know anything else is out here.

The option to use your real name is potentially useful; but I'm not seeing the trend you're predicting ever really get any traction. But I guess we'll see.

What would be more useful would be a place on the profile for official endorsements from real-world organizations, something controlled not by the user but by the organization. That way you could be certified to collect for charities, attend conferences, or whatever without sacrificing your privacy.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Thanks, Hamlet and various respondents, for clarifying that this would be an option for SL residents. That was, of course, clear from the start of the post.

In terms of rationale, if LL wants to hit that 300K concurrency sweet-spot, they'll have to make us all flat 2.5d avies, with big old Bratz heads.

I'm not convinced, after 3 years in SL, that it will ever "scale" with its current db and client. We manage up to 80 avatars for an edu roundtable, but that is under optimal conditions.

Jura Shepherd

"... If that hasn't changed by now, what makes you think that'll change in the future?"

Hamlet, you're right. Everyone has been fine but the emphasis on rl/sl integration has changed lately, even from LL. I understand why it's important to some. All I'm getting at is that something will be lost if it becomes deliberate marginalization of people who choose to be pseudonymous.

The Red Cross has had 150 years to develop the nearly automatic trust that people put in them. I don't check their tax records before donating. I just donate because over time, they have proven themselves through their actions. The only difference I see between them and a VW charitable is that the VW one hasn't had the benefit of existing for so long. I'm just not ready to throw my hands up and concede that virtual entities can't be taken seriously unless they glom onto rl validation.

I run businesses in both worlds and I've taken lumps in both from people who didn't deserve the trust I put in them. Other than there being a status quo to fall back on in rl, there just isn't that much difference. Ironically, I think SL has actually improved how I evaluate people's abilities and trustworthiness.

Hamlet Au

Hey all, I've rewritten the headline to better reflect the survey question. I still think the emphasis on 1/3 who want an RL-SL linkage is the better news hook, but as Arcadia notes, it's not accurate to say all the people who make that link "want" it. (I mainly used that phrasing for space purposes, but better a more accurate longer headline than a shorter one with too much potential for confusion.)

Sidney Smalls

"Sadly the first time or so that someone is murdered because some psycho in Secondlife was able to real life locate and identify them...nothing will change."

Funny, I would agree to almost this entire statement, except the first word, which I would change to "happily."

There are nutty people out there. But you are no more or less likely to run into them in SL, or the Internet more generally, than in your home town. They are no more likely to hunt you down via the web than they are to follow you home in your car.

People killing people they met on the Internet ranks right up there with shark attacks, both for rarity and marquee value. The media salivate over this stuff because people like to hear about it. But you're more likely to be struck by lightening or stung to death by bees.

At any rate, nobody has said anything about forcing such RL/SL connections, so get a grip already.


Sidney Smalls

"And yes Hamlet the headline should have been Two Thirds oppose. Care to explain why your headline is slanted that way?"

Because that would be flat-out wrong. Factually inaccurate. Obviously if you want to associate your RL and SL identities then you SUPPORT the option. The converse does not follow. It's perfectly possible not to have such plans, yet to support others' right to do so. Me, for example.

Sidney Smalls

"Hamlet, the survey just doesn't support the headline. The survey asks who links their real world identity to their avatar, and you're presupposing that the respondants do this because they WANT to. In almost all cases I'm aware of, RL identification is a requirement for a particular function (usually education or business), not a "want"."

From the standpoint of the desireability of the feature, it doesn't make any difference. Do you want to keep your job? That the ultimate source of the "want" or "need" is a person's employer doesn't make it go away.

Ananda Sandgrain

Well, I see the headline works fine now. However, it remains the only conclusion you can actually reach, because it's such a vague question. For instance, what does "publicly associate" mean? Or "identity" for that matter. I mean, I tend to be very private about anything that could lead someone to my actual house, but plenty of people know lots of RL details about me and some of it is available by websearch.

But to me that's not enough to say "publicly associated". To me that would imply people can get my RL contact info via my avatar name, either through my profile or websearch. Try asking that *specific* question and see how many people really do that?

And for the record, I don't believe turning SL into "3-D Facebook" would lead to any broader adoption. Giving users lots more ways to connect with each other through 2-D and mobile products might.

Arcadia Codesmith

Don't get me wrong; I see the value of being able to link an avatar to your real life identity for some specific purposes.

But to an extent, it undermines one of the great values of Second Life. If my real life is unverified (and further, CAN'T be verified for certain), then nobody knows whether I'm logging in from an MIT faculty lounge or snagging a wireless connection from my cardboard home in the alley behind the local coffee shop.

In the absence of that information, the only basis that exists to judge me is my behavior in the SL context, the strength of my ideas and my ability to communicate them.

It's not a perfectly level playing field, of course. Real wealth gets you more access to resources like land and prims, and there are still linguistic and cultural barriers tied largely to RL educational opportunites (which in turn are strongly correlated with wealth).

But... the barriers are smaller, the differences less pronounced. The RL tycoon can be a SL stripper; the RL stripper can be a SL tycoon.

There is an inherent challenge to that democratizing effect if RL identification becomes the norm and pseudonymity is percieved as deviant.

Extropia DaSilva

Folks, we should remember that both augmentationism and immersionism have, at their roots, drives fundamental to making us human.

The roots of augmentationism lie in the need to communicate and be part of social groups.

The roots of immersionism lie in the need to create fictional narratives. Indeed, some anthropologists are now suggesting the human species can be defined as 'the storytelling animal' because all cultures throughout all history have their stories, myths, and legends.

It is therefore not at all surprising to find that, whenever a technology is invented to enable new forms of communication, it also gets used to enable new forms of fictional narrative. The opposite is just as true: If you invent a technology that enables new ways of telling stories, people will use it to communicate their RL hopes, and fears, and to enhance their social networks.

So please please please can we stop this 'augmentationism versus immersionism', and can we stop seeing every change as favouring one at the expense of the other? It is hardly ever like that! If you introduce more augmentationist tech, somebody else will figure out a way to use it for immersionist purposes. If you increase immersionist capabilities, somebody else will use that technology to make mixed-reality even better. One is NOT going to destroy the other, because both have such deeply rooted, fundamentally human drives, that the whole idea that either roleplaying, or communication/socializing being driven to extinction is absurd.

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