They’re back!

It’s taken so much longer that expected, and many thought it would never happen, but ‘proper’ last names are finally back, and those who’ve always despised being known as ‘Resident’, or in the alternative, have pitied those newbies stuck with it, can finally feel vindicated in having browbeaten Linden Lab into reinstating real last names.

Quite how long the process has taken may surprise you. Although long-established Second Lifers tend to think of Residents as being noobs, last names were actually done away with in 2010, so that noob you’ve always felt sorry for could well be getting on for being a decade old! That could come as a bit of a shock to many.

However, as for so many things related to SL, even though they’ve reinstated last names, Linden Lab has in some ways completely missed the point, and have shot themselves in the foot by doing so. Consequently, take up of the new batch of names is likely to be pretty limited and slow and certainly isn’t going to merit or justify the 10 years of anger, frustration, nagging and behind the scenes development that has gone into making it happen. It’s a shame but – much as I do try to defend the Lab when I think they’re being treated unfairly – it does paint a graphic picture of how sometimes LL really fails at understanding its own user base.

I’m not talking about the price point that’s been set by the Lab for the privilege of changing one’s name. There will, of course, be those who disagree with being charged at all and that it’s an option only available to Premium members, (especially since this ‘feature’ used to be the default for every account on sign-up). The cost, at $39.99 US, is also likely to cause sharp intakes of breath and raised eyebrows, especially for those who’ll find themselves in the position of having to upgrade to Premium and then shell out another 40 bucks on top of that for the name change. It’s even worse for those, like myself, not based in the US who are at the mercy of the strong dollar – I’ve seen the cost of maintaining my land inworld shoot up by nearly 25% over the past few months, and I’m starting to have to persuade myself that I can actually justify the expense. If I wanted to change my name, then, in practical terms I’m afraid that £32 is way over the odds, for what is essentially a vanity purchase.

So, if it’s not the cost, and it’s not the need to be a Premium account holder that’s bugging me, where exactly do I think that LL have missed the point?

Let me take you back to 2010, and the huge outcry that accompanied the announcement that last names were to be consigned to the scrapheap. The strength of the opinion against the change was a clear indication that last names were something considered special by the SL community, and the fact that the Lindens were prepared to ignore the clear message the community was giving was equally as galling as the loss of the names. The resentment has never really faded.

With the reinstatement of last names, the Lab has scored a collossal own goal by completely missing the opportunity to face that resentment head on, and make amends for their arrogance 10 years ago. What they should have done is just restored the old process: New sign-ups get a choice of last name, but what they’ve actually done by making it a premium, paid for feature, is stoked the fires of resentment.

With a little more thought, Linden Lab could have built bridges with a community that they seem dead set, so often, on alienating. There are some really good aspects to the way the new names have been implemented… The ability to change both first and last name, for example, as well as the chance to recover a previously used name, plus it’s nice that if you manage to bork up your name with a tpyo or speling miskate – as everyone assumes is the case with my name, (it isn’t!) –  if you ask the Lindens nicely, they’ll fix it for free. So, why not keep those bits as Premium, even paid-for, but still let new sign-ups get a new name, rather than the hated ‘Resident’? Better still, why not offer those who have been landed with ‘Resident’, a one-off freebie chance to change to something better?

Just tweaking the offering in that way would make a world of difference and would go a long way towards putting right the situation that the Lab created for themselves. I’d even invite them to go further and allow free accounts the option to change their second name, even if it still attracts a fee, it would be a much-needed positive step.

The Lab, of course, won’t understand any of this. Even in their little bit of trite PR that they’ve trotted out around the importance of the last name identity, it’s clear that they haven’t grasped it, the need to recycle other people’s critiques, rather than speak from their own experience is evidence enough. Indeed, if they had a clear understanding of how the original system of naming was perceived, they wouldn’t have changed it in the first place! Instead, for those of us too tight, too poor or too mercenary to accede to stumping up the cash for a new name, they’ll simply remind us that display names are free, can have stupid characters in them, and are available to all as a viable alternative. Whilst all of that is true, they’re a nonsense to rebellious gits like me, who out of principle, have never even turned them on. Yes, it means that I’ve no idea what half the people around me are called any more, and I constantly upset people by calling them Burpbum1123a, rather than Harold, but that’s me sticking it to the Man and it ain’t gonna change. There’s a perfectly good naming system embedded into SL, for heaven’s sake, why do we need another?

So, as for the new names… 6/10 – Good attempt, but ill-advised, badly implemented and still somewhat wide of the mark. Sorry Lindens – could do better!

s. x

And now we’re grown up orphans
That never knew their names
We don’t belong to no one
That’s a shame
Goo Goo Dolls – Name

This entry was posted in Linden Love, Rants, SL, SLarcheology. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to They’re back!

  1. R. says:

    After all this time, I am finally…

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