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  Outside Businesses Revising ‘Second Life’ History  
 
 
Posted 2006-10-23 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Have we learned nothing from real-world history? Ages ago, imperialists planted their flags on "New World" soil, claiming to have discovered virgin territory, oblivious to the natives peering out cautiously from the treeline. Indigenous people, wildlife, and territories were viewed as obstacles to be conquered on the road to profit.

The virtual world is similarly in danger of becoming co-opted. Business interest in Second Life has boomed in the last half of 2006, fueled by a barrage of positive mainstream press about the commercial opportunities for outside companies. Although Second Life is now a few years old, and has amassed hundreds of thousands of "residents" during its short lifespan, some businesses imagine themselves as the first to innovate, planting a flag on digital soil and declaring "We were here first."

This is essentially what newly-announced marketing company "Crayon" has done. "[W]hen we launch on Thursday, we will be the first company to be launched in Second Life," asserts Crayon's Neville Hobson. Not only is this assertation incorrect, it's offensive to the early adopters--the "natives"--of Second Life, who have already been there and done that. Native innovators already broken ground on such productions as global banner-ad network MetaAdverse (2005), photo-sharing service Snapzilla (2005), real/virtual fashion crossovers (2004), real/virtual video game Tringo (2005), or real/virtual blogging system BlogHUD (2006).

Giff Constable of The Electric Sheep Company was among the first to take Crayon to task for its incredible claim, and points out in a blog post earlier this month that "It’s not about being first, it’s not about what you say you are going to do, it’s what you actually do. It’s about execution! It’s about substance!"

Last August, Eric Rice complained about the damage "first-isms" can do: "Companies know that the big names get the press, and often times, that tends to cloud the view of history. Conversely, with communities being so big and so sprawling, hasn’t everything been done before? How do you really know what’s first?"

In my view, either Crayon is lying through its teeth (unlikely), or its assertation is based on ignorance (likely). Neither possibility is particularly flattering, but each is easily remedied.
1) Don't make absolute claims: "we will be the first" should be "we may be the first" But, like Constable and Rice suggest, first-isms aren't very productive.
2) Do your homework. There are numerous resources available for research in the Second Life blogosphere alone (you're reading one now). If you're not looking before you leap, what kind of business decisions are you making as a company?
I'll add a third point to this list as well: Don't dance around the truth. Just look at the jig Hobson and Holtz do around the issues here. If we have to split hairs in order for you to be correct in the strictest possible sense, your credibility is taking a beating.
 
     
 
   
 
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  13 Comments  
 
   
 
Comment posted by csven
October 23, 2006 @ 11:14 am
     
 
I became aware of Crayon over the weekend through a Techmeme mistake, but couldn't give them any more thought than a minor update to an incorrectly flagged post; that's all they're currently worth afaic.

Like you, I'll be glad when all this "firstest" crap is over.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by jaffejuice
October 23, 2006 @ 12:04 pm
     
 
Itís not about being first, itís not about what you say you are going to do, itís what you actually do. Itís about execution! Itís about substance!"

We totally agree...being first is probably the lowest on our priority list. If you'd like we'll take it away completely.

The only first we care about is helping our clients get to the future...first (or at least before their competitors)

We're definitely not liars and in terms of ignorance, I'd say what we feel excited about is that we're actually announcing ourselves formally from within SL...it's a statement to reflect how passionately and strongly we feel about Second Life itself.

We could have thrown a big party in New York City, but instead we're putting the equity into SL.

Also, SL will be our primary residence, although we're not virtual per se.

Also, our Island name is the same name as our dot com site. We recognize both as being interlinked and interchangeable.

So yes, I'm sure there's some way we could defend our firstness, but ultimately this comes down to WALKING OUR TALK and to that point, we are in violent agreement.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
October 23, 2006 @ 12:33 pm
     
 
jaffejuice, thanks for the insider viewpoint. With respect, I think there's still plenty of hand-waving going on here.

How is Crayon going to bring its clients to the future first if there's only "some way [you] could defend [your] firstness?" If you're not clear about what it means to be first, or confident in your position, how can you offer firstness to your clients?

A productive response to ignorance probably isn't passion and excitement--my guess is that the excitement is what got Crayon in a position of ignorance in the first place. I think it's great to be passionate and excited. I was when I first started covering SL a couple years ago--but I've learned a lot since then and have a more realistic viewpoint based on experience.

You certainly could have thrown a party in NYC, but it would have cost you a lot more and probably received less attention. Someone farts in Second Life these days and the media reports on it--it's the tech du jour, as you know.

If you really wanted an effective collaborative working environment, you might have gone for any of the free group audio-visual conferencing services available. That technology is more robust, personal, and productive, in my opinion--unless you are doing business primarily in Second Life, like The Electric Sheep Company or Million of Us, there's no advantage to using SL as a teleconferencing tool with a small group.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by csven
October 23, 2006 @ 1:10 pm
     
 
Also, our Island name is the same name as our dot com site. We recognize both as being interlinked and interchangeable.

Hey. Since my land is called "reBang" and I've had my website registered for six years now, I bet I can use this! I never would have thought to bridge the two... well... um... like this. Hey wait, even my business name (which I chose in the late 90's) is all about this "interlinked and interchangeable" stuff. And I forgot about the rocket launcher thing I did to help move it all forward! And, oh yeah, I laid out an entire marketing and product development process that was all about interchangeability. I've even gone so far as to come up with a Thing which, afaik, is entirely new (right after I came up with a blogject concept before there was a word for it). And y'know, there are people who've been doing much more than me using virtual world technology.

Forgive us, jaffejuice, if this announcement sounds very much like it's coming from a group that is still playing catch up.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by MattMihaly
October 23, 2006 @ 1:19 pm
     
 
This is kind of ironic considering how many of the "firsts" that people talk about in Second Life are only firsts for that particular virtual world, and every virtual world, ipso facto, has lots and lots of things that are first within it, but not within the space of virtual worlds generally.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
October 23, 2006 @ 6:37 pm
     
 
Yes, I dealt with this "first" stuff when it first began being claimed here:
http://www.dmwmedia.com/news/2006/08/23/a-gallery-of-virtual-firsts-from-second-life

Crayon is the first crayon company. You can't take THAT away from them!

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around how I'm going to draw in SL with crayons. I do really want to do this.

I know Jim Lumiere made a really cute typing animation object that fits in your avatar hands when he is "typing" i.e. talking and makes him look like he's using a giant orange crayon on a kid's tablet. Maybe Crayon can GOM Jim?

What I want is a Crayon object that will alow me to touch all those hover texts that I can never figure out how to turn from orange to white and make them the right colour. You know, an automatic RGB thing.

Basically, I feel that this familiar brand of Crayon which I've know literally for 50 years of my life, is in the right place at the right time, and I'm glad for them. I don't know what it will do for us, it remains to be seen, but I think it might be a good thing if companies completely unrelated to the Internet and new media which represent the oldest paper-and-pencil type of old-fashioned media figure out a way to make the leap.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Limitless Worlds
October 23, 2006 @ 6:38 pm
     
 
There is going to be so much of this kind of puffery going on that it doesn't really bear mentioning at all. We went through this when the web started gaining traction in the early nineties.
If I thought it would gain this much publicity, I would have staked a claim to being 'first' back in August when we launched Limitless Worlds...
Oddly enough, last night at the Metaverse Sustainability session sponsored by 3Pointd we were talking about these types of issues stemming from the SL land rush. Funny to see this example the very next day!
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Ace Albion
October 24, 2006 @ 5:35 am
     
 
"Also, our Island name is the same name as our dot com site. We recognize both as being interlinked and interchangeable."

Wandering Yaffle's _blacklibrary in SL has been a metaversal mirror of alwaysblack.com for well over a year, right down to all articles on the site being accessible via virtual "books" with URL redirects. I don't know if that had been done before, to such an extent. We had even begun reversing the mirror somewhat with SL hosted and organised writing groups feeding website content.

As coathangers go (hi Prok!) it's still a cool place to check out. Just sayin!
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
October 24, 2006 @ 4:29 pm
     
 
Oh geez am I ever stupid and I can't believe nobody has mocked me yet!

Crayon is some kind of marketing and media company. It's completely separate from Crayola, the makers of crayons.

I'll likely not be the first to make this mistake.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
October 24, 2006 @ 4:34 pm
     
 
Prok, I thought you were just being ironic :)
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by MattMihaly
October 24, 2006 @ 4:35 pm
     
 
Haha, me too, Tony. I had no idea you were serious, Prokofy.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
October 24, 2006 @ 4:40 pm
     
 
Yeah, I'm that stupid, uncool, and like so-not-plugged in to neo-geo media thingies that um...what do they do? Podcast. I never fear revealing ignorance, however; I learn a lot that way : )
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by csven
October 24, 2006 @ 7:00 pm
     
 
(and here I thought it was one of Prok's better posts)
 
     
 
     
   
 
 
     
 
     
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