During my brief stint as a Second Life business reporter — there to track the growth of the virtual economy in the 2007 heyday — a lot of my stories centered on the fact that Second Life actually didn’t seem to be a very good place to do business at all. IP theft is rampant, bugs are severe, and fraud is both widespread and unpunished.
Now the Better Business Bureau chips in, and gives Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life, an “F”.
The BBB cites:
- Number of complaints filed against business.
- Failure to respond to complaints filed against business.
- Length of time business has taken to resolve complaint(s).
Not too surprising: Linden encourages people to create virtual goods-based businesses with real money, then makes decisions on land, currency, advertising, outlawed content, or a million other things that directly impact people’s livelihoods.
We feel some sympathy for Linden here — Having worked closely with Linden employees, most genuinely try to help and mean well. But the intricacies of governing a real-currency microeconomy are so maddeningly complex it’s impossible to give people anything but superficial customer service.
There’s also the griefer angle — Given the penchant for drama that runs deep in Second Life, it’s not unreasonable to assume at least some avatars are filing baseless BBB claims for sport. (I was referred to this story by the @Tizzers twitter account, a guy so deep on Linden’s sh*tlist the company at one point banned every avatar with the first name of “Tizzers” from Second Life.)
But no matter how you cut it, real money invested in Second Life is subject without limits to the whims and mercies of Linden’s overworked staff. And as the BBB notes, Linden tends to ignore complaints.
Second Life was, and is, a marvellous place for exploring, meeting new people, and letting dormant aspects of one’s personality find expression. And thousands of people do run profitable micro-businesses there. But for anyone looking to make a virtual fortune, we suggest they heed the BBB’s warning, and don’t quit your day job.