Five Rules For Bringing Your Real-Life Business Into Second Life - InformationWeek

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8/13/2007
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Five Rules For Bringing Your Real-Life Business Into Second Life

If you're thinking about establishing yourself in Second Life -- or are wondering whether you should -- we've got five rules that will help your new venture be a success.

4. Be Smart About Keeping Out Trouble-Makers

People who write about Second Life tend to concentrate on the sexual activity and wild behavior that can be found there. We did it ourselves in InformationWeek. Forbes quoted David Churbuck, Web-marketing vice president for computer maker Lenovo, saying the only activity in Second Life is cybersex. "There is nothing to do in Second Life except, pardon my bluntness, try to get laid," he told Forbes. That's a common belief.

Likewise, some of Second Life's users are hostile to real-world businesses, and will do what they can to vandalize commercial interests in SL. Vandals, known as "griefers" in Second Life jargon, attacked Toyota's area in Second Life, as well as Presidential candidate John Edwards's Second Life headquarters. And in a famous incident, griefers sent flying penises to attack a press conference featuring "Anshe Chung," the avatar of Ailin Graef, a Chinese-German developer who works in Second Life and other virtual worlds.

These incidents have given Second Life the reputation of being a wasteland of freaks and perverts. But they are overblown.

Sexually-oriented areas make up less than 18% of the land in Second Life, according to an interview with CEO Philip Rosedale. They're there -- strip clubs and orgy areas are the most popular parts of Second Life. But you have to seek them out. Throughout most of the grid, behavior is PG-rated at its raciest. The people interested in sex mostly keep to themselves.

And, as for griefers, they can be guarded against by easy-to-use access controls on your land. Many incidents of griefing in Second Life are caused by developers getting sloppy about security, and then blaming Second Life for the lapses, rather than themselves.

Moreover, griefing incidents are relatively rare. I've spent a couple of hours a day on Second Life since late January, and only seen a few griefing incidents, the overwhelming majority of which were over in a minute or two. "When our clients ask about that, we tell our clients that Second Life is part of the Web, and anything you can find on the Web you're going to find in Second Life," Infinite Vision Media's June Peoples said. The presence of sex and griefers in Second Life is no reason for real-life companies to distance themselves from the service. "Look at the company you keep in Second Life: IBM is there, Fidelity is there, General Electric is there, big, established companies are there," Peoples said.

Companies can distance themselves from inappropriate behavior in Second Life by taking a leadership position in their own area, and setting a civilized and civil tone. They can keep their distance from areas where inappropriate behavior is rampant.

And they have to be smart, Peoples said. She said one of her agency's clients wanted to post a sign in their area saying clothing had to be worn at all times. "We had to tell them that this was the surest way to get people to take their clothes off," she said. "You have to understand the elements of the community, the contrarian mindset."

InformationWeek has been running discussion groups in Second Life twice a week since February. Every few weeks, we get a disruptive person wandering through. We eject them as soon as their malicious intent is obvious, and move on with the discussion without mussing our hair. Only once did we have a serious incident of griefing -- and even that lasted only a half-hour.

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