Beyond BusinessWeek: MSM Journalism Not Fit for a Blog {*Update*}

Has anybody bothered to read the BusinessWeek piece “Beyond Second Life” (Link)? I suspect a few have as I’ve recently seen mention of a new BW article while scanning over some SL-centric blogs. This is probably it.

Well, having just stopped by Nussbaum’s blog and finding (what else) heavy promotion for all things tied to what appear to be his pet “innovation” projects, I just read his gush about it (Link):

Reena Jana and Aili McConon did a wonderful job

Are you kidding me? Is that what qualifies as journalism today? Unbelievable.

I’ve left comments on the article but I don’t expect them to be pass the censorship police, so I’ll include them here; a list of mistakes:

In September, 2005, Wells Fargo (WFC ) was ahead of the corporate stampede into Second Life when it launched a 3D virtual environment, “Stagecoach Island,” in Second Life to attract youthful, tech-savvy customers and teach them about banking.

Incorrect. Wells Fargo *tested* Second Life. WF didn’t *launch* and then pull “its Stagecoach Island out”. That implies they were one time a *part* of Second Life’s community. They weren’t.

Starwood discovered avatars don’t need to sleep, and so a virtual hotel didn’t make much sense in the long run.

Obviously the authors of that piece didn’t keep track of this story. The source was amended and the agency responsible, ElectricArtists, clarified some things. (For reference and a different perspective see {my post on this story: reLink} ).

Even newcomer Coke isn’t banking solely on that particular patch of cyberspace as its main online platform. In May the company closed its “Virtual Thirst” contest, which asked the public to design a vending machine for Second Life. The winner gets 500,000 “Linden Dollars,” the virtual world’s currency. But Coke is also reaching out to potential vending-machine designers via a social-networking page, keyword tagging, a Flickr photo page, and a YouTube video clip. Coke’s multichannel Web 2.0 onslaught shows the beverage giant is going anywhere on the Internet where the young can be found.

My god. How completely screwed up is the paragraph on Coca-Cola? They didn’t “close” the contest. The deadline arrived! And the wider Web 2.0 was a part of the original announcement.

MTV Networks started in Second Life but decided to use Makena Technologies to create stand-alone online environments to accompany its Laguna Beach TV series, and more recently, The Hills and Pimp My Ride. The cybersites weave the shows’ story lines into interactive digital environments without any competing brands.

As I actually worked with MTV on this project, I can definitely say this is completely false.

This piece of journalism isn’t fit for a blog.

(p.s. – let’s see if Bruce censors my trackback and/or my comment on his blog entry)

{Update 1: Well, both Bruce and the authors are taking their lumps; comments and trackbacks got through. I give them credit for that. However, someone named Micheru Mathys pointed out another mistake:

The note “Last fall hackers obtained the credit-card details of many Second Lifers.” is inacurate. What’s been said is that their asset server that contained personal information was breached. They did not say at what level or if files were accessed.

I recall that there was confusion, but don’t recall the details. I suspect Micheru is correct, but I’d have to go back and refresh my memory on that one.}

{Update 2: The BW authors reply in the comments of their article:

Wells Fargo did debut Stagecoach Island within Second Life before moving it to Active Worlds. Developers who were Second Life residents and part of the community created much of the content. The point, however, is that the bank chose Second Life as a venue before moving the project to another platform as a completely stand-alone world outside of Second Life. Starwood’s reasons for leaving Second Life are based on interviews with the company’s vice president who oversees the aloft brand. And the statement that Coke “closed” the Virtual Thirst contest is simply a reference to the deadline. The information about MTV in Second Life comes from interviews with developers on the project and MTV discussions on the topic of virtual worlds at the Virtual Worlds 2007 conference in New York.

Did Wells Fargo “debut”? No. The content was provided by residents, but it was effectively moved over to the otherwise isolated Stagecoach sim. Wells Fargo did have a very brief test and some people (myself included) read about a back door to the island (reLink) and had a peek, but that was shut down within a day or so. And the reason I recall that Stagecoach Island was closed down was because Linden Lab couldn’t effectively isolate it from the rest of SL; from the community. The very link that allowed pre-existing content to be easily moved over appeared to prevent complete and controllable isolation, which is what Wells Fargo wanted. Thus the “point” fails, because Wells Fargo didn’t go from an uncontrolled Second Life effort to a controlled one in Active Worlds; it was from the start intended to be controlled and separate.

As for the Starwood case, it’s more complex than what the authors are saying. Just follow the link and use some common sense. It really doesn’t seem reasonable to believe the people running this show didn’t realize “avatars don’t need to sleep”. C’mon.

With regard to Coca-Cola, if by “closed” they meant the deadline had passed, then they should have said that. But that word combined with the inference that Coca-Cola was moving out to other Web 2.0 channels communicates something very different than the reality of what’s going on. After all, there won’t be “virtual vending machines” on YouTube. If anything, it’s all the *other* channels that are now closed and Second Life which provides the viral opportunity.

As for sticking by their story on MTV going first into Second Life, don’t listen to me, someone who spent most of last year working 80+ hour weeks on the project… listen to the company that built the Second Life sim (Link).

BW writes “MTV Networks (VIA ) started in Second Life but decided to use Makena Technologies”. Actually, MTV looked at numerous platforms and weighed the pros and cons of each for their particular needs. This is what everyone should do. Yes, we helped MTV create a prototype in Second Life, but Makena was the right platform for Virtual Laguna Beach, and we continue to work with both MTV and Makena on that successful project.

Back then I was one of the few who got to see the prototype (which was, as I understood it, part of the selection process). It was not until after VLB was launched on the There platform that ESC was given permission to open up the Second Life sim.

So much for that.}

{Update 3: I guess Bruce doesn’t want to post my second comment to his entry telling him about Update 2.

Having to deal with people like me who can question their reporting is probably something he and other old-time journalists will perhaps never accept. Oh well.}

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