I've been tryin' to be a good virtual citizen and actually read the Linden blogs...still can't force myself to look at other things there like the bleedin' forums, but hey, I tend to work up to things slowly. I've even taken to commenting now and then...including a comment on this thread in which the new Conversations Manager Wallace Linden brought up the issue of linking our identities..particularly that of the SL avatar and the real identity of the "typist." he said:
"I want to open a conversation about some of the issues surrounding identity and how it gets handled online. (That's my job, after all, to start some conversations.) We show up in the digital realm under so many different guises now, it has become difficult -- perhaps impossible -- to separate the real from the imagined, and the actual from the virtual....as Web and mobile services continue to work their way into all corners of our lives, these aspects will continue to proliferate -- and as they do, we'll start facing important questions about how we handle these collections of selves....And the choices we make as individuals in these contexts can have a surprising impact on who we are -- in "real life" -- and who we can become.
The thing not to miss here -- and it bears stating despite how obvious it sounds -- is what all these online "identities" have in common. At the center of them all, the hub that ties all these personae together, is the very real, non-virtual, analog and offline "you." Whether the connections are public or not, your Second Life avatar, your World of Warcraft toon, your Facebook profile, your LinkedIn employment history -- all of these and more are just different aspects of a single entity: the person reading these words. They are all already connected to each other, via you.
The question we now face, both as people and as organizations, is how we handle these connections, how we handle these collections of selves. "
A lot of people responded and joined in this conversation...and rather took it from the theoretical into the very practical question that is on many people's minds: would it be desirable to have Linden Lab facilitate a direct connection between your real life identity and your SL persona, and enhance connections to social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, which is something they seem very interested in. So, not wanting to be a bad citizen, I figured I would go ahead and add my opinion to the overall Philip Glass-like symphony of verbiage.
Being as the comments on the thread have really stretched out and one's opinion can kind of get lost--and because I am feeling lazy today and didn't feel up to writing something else for this pile of turkey turds, here's the comment I contributed:
"Ok Wally, I'll bite. I will go ahead and assume for the moment that the Labsters actually want to know what we think about things and offer you my perspective, although the general pattern of your responses does sadly suggest there is a predetermined outcome. If I am incorrect about that, I'll ask you to forgive my doubting nature, but alas, I feel what I feel, and I see what I see.
Regardless, if you do actually care for input from some longtime users of the platform, allow me to add my voice to the cacophony...which in general--other than the occasional straw man--has been, I think quite thoughtful and eloquently expressed (gee, the things people can say when not limited to 140 characters, eh?).
Frankly, I believe that the concept of openly connecting my rl identity to the "Dio Kuhr" persona would prove not only superfluous but counterproductive.
Yes, there are situations in which I willingly share rl information with certain people in-world, but it is on a case-by-case basis. It is something that I find it advantageous to have control over, to implement as I get to know people by talking and working with them, and finding common ground and shared interests. I have done some worthwhile networking within SL, but it is something that I don't need or want the Lab to be helping me with.
I can do it very handily myself, thank you very much. And in fact, if a significant number of people were contacting me out of the blue because of some public presentation of my rl information, I would find the usefulness of being on SL greatly diminished. Yes, there may be the occasional serendipitous making of a productive connection, but on the whole the signal to noise ratio in those uncontrolled conversations is not good--you can just get bogged down wading through all the shallow slop.
That, in fact, is why on Facebook and Twitter, I keep a very tight control over friends and followers, and strictly limit who I follow in turn.
Facebook in particular is--as far as I am concerned--an egregious waste of bandwidth. I do have a FB account that is based upon my physical space information. At this point, it has displayed some utility as a means for keeping in touch with dispersed family and reconnecting with some old friends. But generally, like many people, I have the account but simply don't do much with it.
With Twitter on the other hand, where I have an account for Dio Kuhr, I do find it to be a practical and often enjoyable means of sharing information with a very focused group that is primarily made up of a few educators and other sl people. It is a handy way for those of us who are writers to notify each other when we have new posts up on our blogs, and some people I follow are really great about providing links to articles on numerous topics that I would not know about if they weren't passing on the scuttlebutt. And thanks to Second Lie's tweets I no longer feel quite so disconnected from the more Kafka-esque aspects of life on the grid. Simply put, I am not convinced that having this function more integrated with SL would do anything other than serve as a distraction. And having "real life" information associated with it--even just a name--would not be an improvement. If anything, it would simply open up another avenue for potential harassment to migrate from virtual to physical spaces.
As for your contention that "The more people you're connected to, and the more people they're connected to, the more useful the network becomes," I agree with those who have already suggested that in arguing thus, you have made an assumption that may be based more upon wishful thinking and anecdotal evidence than any actual quantifiable reality. Another possibility is that your contention may hold true for some people in certain circumstance, but not for others. For example, in your line of work, it may in fact be useful. In mine, however, mass connection just increases the garbage ratio. So maybe we're both right.
However, it is important to not impose your own focused context in trying to determine what is useful or deleterious to the rest of us.
And yes...I know this is supposedly going to be purely optional. You say that no one is going to force me to put up my real life identity in connection with this pseudonymous identity, correct? Ok, cool. But that does bring up the question that so many people have already explored, the idea that SL will develop a class system. When I use my account that is not labeled with my real-life identity, will I become a second class citizen and be ostracized from various locations, shunned by the elite "real people?"
All I have to say to that is..."No...I am Spartacus."
I--and probably others--will cheerfully embrace that status as a member of a class that cherishes privacy and the maintenance of careful control over our connections and our relationships and our identity. If you don't want me to come into your club because I'm not parading the true and real name of my typist over my head, then fine. I probably didn't want to come to your bloody club anyway. A form of reverse-classism will undoubtedly kick in. So I'll be fine, jack--no worries.
But people with in-world businesses...yeah they will be boned, big time. Especially if having the real name made public becomes any part of an "approval" system for vendors and content creators. And yes, there are jolly good reasons why someone doing business in SL would want to keep their real life identity to themselves. Have you ever dealt with an SL customer base? Most people are great, most people are cool, but there is that certain number of stalky-freaky-psycho idiots who think just because they saw your name on something they bought, they are now your best friend--or worst enemy. Things are bad enough when they are continually badgering an anonymous avatar, but if they have your real name too? Belay that. Life is already hard enough for our in-world business folks. But what will you say to content creators who might someday find themselves boycotted by the elite "real people" because they won't display their real names?
Does the Lab really want to take another dump in the content creators' collective chapeau?"
Oh, and one other thought from Wallace's post that struck me:
"For many, using the word "virtual" in regard to online worlds and other digital contexts has become nearly meaningless. To me, there's nothing virtual at all about my presence in various online contexts. Like many people, I have a handful of email addresses, a Flickr username, an XboxLive gamertag, and more than one Second Life account. Each of these represents an aspect of my identity, one of the various ways I express myself online."
Is it just me or is that another variation of my on-going argument that we shouldn't be so black and white in distinguishing between the virtual and the physical: that it's not about having a "first and a second life," but is just about living your life?
And of course, as soon as I posted my feeble expression of opinion, I have found that there are other people writing like mad about this subject at length--and certainly doing a much better job of it than I. Among the damned good pieces out there are one by Prokofy Neva, another by Dusan Writer and finally, a real corker by Emilly Orr, written as commentary on Dusan's piece.
It's all worth reading, but as usual, I found Emilly's thoughts to be particularly meaningful to me, with an eloquence built on a foundation of emotion and experience, as well as intellect.