I have dithered and procrastinated for weeks with this latest column because I am certain a few people will be offended. I have rewritten this several times over and think I have come to the point where I am ready to let the chips fall where they may.
Like many other residents of Second Life, I was thrilled when Second Life® began highlighting resident pictures on their front page and in Marketplace last year. I was pleased they selected photographers who shot high quality, sharp and clear photos that looked a hundred times better than their old photos. However, since then, the staff assigned to procuring the photos have demonstrated a disappointing lack of initiative and imagination. It is so disappointing to go to an updated front page and see they have just asked the same people again and again and again.
Don’t get me wrong, the pictures are still well-done and it is not the fault of those photographers that the people in charge are mismanaging this so badly. The burden is not on them to reject the honor or turn away an opportunity. It is not their job to tell the Lindens that the front page needs more diversity. They have every right to enjoy this honor without guilt, angst or criticism. Frankly, every one of them routinely produces far better pictures than the ones used on the front page. Unfortunately, they are asked to provide green screens and the Lab sticks those flat, lifeless backgrounds on the pictures. Criticism has to be reserved for the Lindens who think it is acceptable to present a one-dimensional, bland Second Life.
Second Life is full of all kinds of people. There are people from the future, from the past and even from other planets. There are communities of elves, fairies and furries. There are drug dealers, firefighters, surfers, chicken farmers and happy families. I am sure people who come to the front page who might be interested in some of those communities, but how will they know they exist when they are SL’s staff makes them invisible.
People who come to SL’s front page are shown a scrubbed and polished version of SL with no diversity at all. In essence, it feels like this job was assigned to someone who is embarrassed by most of the people in Second Life. Perhaps the job was given to someone who does not want it, who puts in the least possible effort and really does not care how well it is done. I know this sounds harsh, but I find it hard not to feel angry that SL negligently or deliberately erases the majority of their residents.
In my What I Like columns, I have highlighted over 500 good photographers. Some fashionistas, some artists, some role-players, some landscape photographers and there are so many good ones with so many styles. Second Life has an official photo pool overflowing with more than 1000 people eager to share their work. The resources are there, there is no excuse for the continued lack of diversity on the front page. None.
So, for this column I am going to make some suggestions. I hope if you have suggestions, too, you add them. Perhaps if we do some of the work for the staff assigned this task, they might just try to be a little more creative and inclusive in the future.
With role play such an important part of Second Life, it would we wonderful to feature some photos representing the futuristic role-playing communities. Here’s a photo from Laverne Unit that is dynamic, engaging and presents a side of SL that is currently invisible to people who come to the SL web site. How many people interested in futuristic role-playing turn away because there is no content suggesting they could find anything interesting to them in SL?
Here is another role play community that puts a lot of dollars into Linden Lab’s bank account from the tier for hundreds of sims for Gor and Gor-related role play. While it is not for me, it is still a huge segment of Second Life. This photo from Elle Couerblanc shows that Second Life has room for people who want to role play.
Second Life is rich with fantasy, but the front page is empty except around Halloween when fantasy is presented as merely party costumes. But there are beautiful fantasy avatars like this one from Jenny Duffy 365 days a year. (Updated because the previous photo was not taken in SL.)
Okay, so this is scary, but some people love to be scared. I love that there is a minotaur in SL and I think other people would, too. Why not ask Carthalis Rossini to shoot this framed for the front page? Perhaps set in a scene that can spark the imagination.
Of course, I would not suggest that they do not include fashion photos, but I would prefer they allow the photographers choose the setting and shoot in-world. I would also love to see them ask more people who come to their camera with a different lens. I would love to see more photos like this fabulous group shot from Lara Ubert that sets the scene so well and says something about SL as a place to hang out, to chill with friends. It tells us a truth about Second Life that is missing. Second Life is all about friendship.
Then there is this. How can visitors to the SL website know that our world has horses, cows, chickens and all sorts of other animals if we don’t show them? This picture from Belen Ackland for her blog is a great example of telling a story, creating a world full of movement and energy. It suggests that people in SL don’t stand around all the time posing.
This photo from Skip Staheli is another shot that captures people in the middle of doing something. Again, it gives us a peek at another part of Second Life and the great variety of life, people and activities in our world.
Second Life is full of sport enthusiasts of all kinds. This shot by Chou Skinstad of a surfer gives us a peek into that community. There are frequent competitions and the community is very active and social. Why not show shots from time to time of people participating in sports such as racing, surfing or soccer?
There there is the whimsy of Second Life, the rampant silliness and lighthearted magic of our world. Sugar Heartsdale captures that so well in this picture for her blog. I want to see some of this sort of happy, whimsical magic on the front page.
This picture from Apple Fall captures that whimsy as well as the fellowship of Second Life. The guests have not arrived, but the table is waiting. Here we get to see some of the rich home environment of SL, the ability to make our environment our own.
Another community that is invisible on the front page is that of the Second Life families. I understand how SL might fear that some people would perceive this as troublesome, but the carefree, delightful innocence of children’s events like Camp Hardknock in this photo of a night of ghost stories with campers and counselor by Darla Elena Caroline Mill deserve their chance to show their community how it really is.
Then there are those like Quika Basevi who capture a slice of life in their SL shots. There is such unstudied naturalness to his photos that they suggest a free and easy existence.
And of course there are the artists who bring a completely new lens to SL. People such as Karro Lean whose photo here suggests the limitless possibilities of our world.
Or Maloe van Sant who makes us look at our avatars again and see them fresh and new.
Or there is Jessica Belmer who dares to shoot a Second Life with old people in it. The Devereaux Sisters is an intriguing photo that draws us in and makes us wonder what the story is.
Then we have the wonderful fantasy produced by Wise Sandalwood for her blog, Ensconced in Velvet. I can imagine people being intrigued by the idea of living out their favorite books in -world, whether in Wonderland or Hogwarts or on the moors.
White Rabbit Lies from Miss K Placebo has us wondering exactly what rabbit hole Alice fell down this time.
The thing is, I could continue for hours with alternatives that show us different elements of Second Life. Of course, it is impossible for them to show everything on the front page every month. They only use five pictures not fifty. The problem is, though, they don’t even try.