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  Play-Money Pay for ‘Second Life’ Blog Stringers  
Posted 2005-10-14 by Tony Walsh
Wagner James Au, the official blogger of virtual world Second Life, is looking for stringers to help out while he's authoring a book based on New World Notes, Second Life's official weblog. Au has revealed to that he will be offering Linden Dollars--virtual currency used in Second Life--as payment. Au told that "Depending on length, I'm going to first try out $6,250-12,500 [Linden dollars] as a pay range—$25-50, at current market rates. It's not much, I know, but this is really just an experiment at this point. If it's successful, I'll certainly ask Linden Lab to boost my editorial budget."

Linden Lab (Second Life's developer) pays Au real-world dollars. The company's usual editorial budget, in other words, isn't comprised of virtual currency. Whoever ends up doing Au's job might be sitting pretty if they're of comparable quality--the "steal your job" kind of pretty. Why pay a writer real money when you can pay one in your endless supply of play-money? Why pay for anything in real money if you don't have to?
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Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
October 16, 2005 @ 8:41 pm
Another issue is how NWN's lavish editorial budget (compared to inworld standards) will displace the journalists' corps of SL. The SL Herald only pays $1000 per article to freelancers; other publications pay far less or get only voluntary contributions. Will good Herald reporters gravitate over to Hammie's blog now where the pay is better?

And the editor of the Metaverse Messenger, a weekly RL-style formatted paper about inworld happenings available on the Internet as a PDF file, raised the issue in the SL forums of whether NWN's new stringer system will displace inworld journalism and publishing. "First GOM, now this?" asked editor Kate Kongo this week, hinting that just as the Lindens felt they had to take over the major currency exchange's function, so they may try to hegemonize media. I tend to agree --the Lindens are always about coopting, not letting the users really run and create the world. Hamlet responded in the forums that he sees the inworld journalism and his blog as complementary, and NWN as encouraging inworld writing about SL. Yet it's another tidal wave of displacement in the fragile virtual economy and society.

I'll remain loyal to inworld papers like SL Times and M2, however, because they take ads for Ravenglass Rentals but more importantly, they cover stories that Hammie never touches, i.e. the emergence of lobbying groups, the dismissal of the bill of rights voting proposal, etc. There's always room for a house organ but if they start hiring away the best talent they will have coopted and depleted the world. It's like when the World Bank comes in with a big international project to a country, and hires the most talented locals with good English, so that they aren't working for or in their own national economies but are feeding the international bureaucratic class.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
October 17, 2005 @ 10:44 pm
I appreciate that it's possible Hamlet's move could disrupt in-world journalism, but I'd be surprised if it did. If anything it will drive audiences to better-quality SL news sources.

New World Notes is Linden Lab's prize PR arm, and they aren't going to hand it over to just anybody--also I doubt they're going to take more than two writers, so the SL blogging/journalism community isn't likely to be ruined. I've read the Metaverse Messenger, and frankly I don't think the writing is all that great. There are some good SL bloggers out there, but not enough good SL journalists. Besides, anyone who considers themselves a free-thinking journalist shouldn't be taking a job paid for by the company that owns the world. Independent is the only way to be truly credible. Who could keep their voice and blog for New World Notes? Not me. Not the writers from the Herald.

The route I'd go, if I ran Linden Lab (hah!), would be to hire a professional freelance journalist with public relations skills to do the job Hamlet normally does. Linden Lab clearly isn't planning on doing this, because no pro journo is going to work for Linden Dollars over real money.

The route I think LL is going to go is to hire a fresh-faced writer from the SL community who can write peppy, feel-good stories and is willing to work for play-money. Hamlet will make sure there are periodic disclaimers or something on New World Notes so that regular readers aren't expecting much in the way of quality. The challenge for LL will be to keep readership and linkage going. They'll probably turn this whole stringer thing into a novelty and squeeze press out of that (as they already have)... after all the hype dies down, we'll see how groundbreaking and captivating the blog's pinch-hitting writers can be. My guess is that NWN will turn into the journalistic equivalent of a high-school talent show.
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
October 18, 2005 @ 12:07 am
You're right that they'd never have stringers that aren't pre-cleared, vetted, sanitized, and strained. And you won't find me or anyone who is independent applying to work there. Except...they have a seductive draw and they may get good writers, just like they co-opt good builders and architects into their Linden contests...just like they coopt people to work for them as Lindens after they are high-producing residents...just like they coopt many things in business and society.

I agree that the M2 writing is uneven, but what I like about them is that they *attempt* to behave like a RL newspaper. They go to the talking heads and get the quotes. The Herald doesn't do that. Take a story about the Lindens knocking the bill of rights request down off the voting features page. SL Herald runs it as "Kremlinden Labs" etc. -- which is satirical and funny, but we don't get any real insight. M2 at least goes to the trouble to get an interview and some quotes from Robin Linden.

I don't mind the existence of house organs. Every company needs house organs. Every government needs its Voice of America type of organ. What I mind is when they pretend that because it's a game/metaverse/socializing monetarized platform/thingie that it is so uber cool that it breaks all boundaries and then isn't just a company paper. Baloney.
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