No one following the news – online or off – is surprised by how often a story mutates beyond recognition. We have jokes specifically addressing the inability of most people to accurately relay information. However, beyond simple mistakes, I’ve noticed an increasing number of virtual worlds-based business blogs providing their own convenient versions of events in what seems to me to be the single-minded pursuit of selling themselves (or their client projects).
Here’s one apparent example, which I promised the site owner I’d blog.
Founded by Nic Mitham in 2006, Kzero Ltd – with associated blog – popped up on my screen fairly quickly. Kzero is supposedly “a world-leading authority of virtual world marketing strategies”. As I don’t see any justification for that claim, this boast appears entirely self-proclaimed. From what I can tell, Kzero is just another virtual world marketing and advertising effort hoping to capitalize on their so-called “insight”.
And that’s all fine and well if Kzero bothered to consistently do some research before using assumptions to back assertions. Case in point: this blog entry on Kzero: “Virtual Laguna Beach. The cross-world cross-over” (Link).
The problem I have with this entry is two-fold and starts with this particular piece of commentary:
This leads nicely onto Virtual Laguna Beach in Second Life and the title of this post. Very similar to the setting using the There platform, MTV also created an island in Second Life mirroring the initial strategy.
What Kzero is effectively saying here is that MTV made a deliberate and conscious effort to deploy their Virtual Laguna Beach project into multiple virtual worlds; first There and then Second Life.
However, anyone who followed the blogosphere regarding the opening of the Second Life island or made even the most basic effort to research the project would be aware that MTV did not “also” create an island in Second Life “mirroring the initial strategy”.
From the Business Communicators of Second Life blog entry “Virtual Laguna Beach Prototype Available in Second Life” (Link):
The Electric Sheep Company has posted today that the prototype for VLB was built in Second Life – and is now open to the public there.
From the Second Life Insider post “Virtual Laguna Beach in SL too” (Link):
What you may not have known is that the Electric Sheep Company worked with MTV and others to bring Virtual Laguna Beach to the computer screen. Also, the Sheep prototyped their There like popular culture mash up of technology and teen angst in Second Life. If you want to see this prototype it is now open to the public.
This prototype rendition of the virtual world is more of an opportunity to see the development process in action than a fully functional product.
And from the horse’s mouth, Giff Constable wrote on his Sheep blog entry, “Laguna Beach in SL” (Link):
Many of you know that ESC has been proud to work with MTV and the full range of partners who came together to create Virtual Laguna Beach. What many might not know is that before the major project got underway, MTV asked us to build a prototype inside of Second Life. In the spring of 2006, ESC took two builders (I was one) and two weeks to create some components of Laguna Beach. That prototype is now open to the public.
Thus, it should be apparent that with very little effort Kzero could have determined that what they claim was a “cross-world cross-over” effort was actually the public release of a prototype.
When asked (something Kzero should have done), I learned that the Electric Sheep lobbied MTV to open up the island prototype to the Second Life community. So, contrary to Kzero’s characterization of what transpired, it was not created with the intent of following a “cross-world cross-over” strategy, even if MTV might very well take that approach now.
Consequently, Kzero is using an incorrect assumption of how the project was developed as factual evidence to support a personal hypothesis. And while the position might have merit (I happen to be working on a “cross-world cross-over” project myself, so I think it does), the so-called validation of it is problematic.
I earlier stated that the issue is two-fold, and it’s the second part that’s more troubling to me: I believe Kzero is being intentionally misleading. Why? Because I alerted Kzero to the issue I’m pointing out. After reading the entry, I recommended in a comment that Kzero contact ESC and verify what actually happened on the VLB project; to ensure that the particulars being relayed to readers were accurate.
My comment, however, wasn’t approved and does not appear on the site. For a while it sat in the “Awaiting moderation…” cue, as if someone was debating what to do with it. Then, it was finally moderated quietly away; after which I left the comment that now appears: “Interesting. Guess I’ll have to write a blog entry on this one.”
That second comment, unlike the first, was approved without hesitation. Since it can be read as an endorsement by those who aren’t aware that what was “interesting” to me is the curious moderation of comments which potentially challenge “a world-leading authority”, I can’t say I’m surprised.
To be fair, Kzero isn’t the only virtual world-based business blog playing this game. It’s just the one I’m using as an example. After all, I said I’d write a blog entry about it. I wonder if the trackback will be approved.