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One of the tricky things about reporting on Second Life is the issue of what stuff to cover. Hey, how tricky can it be? You just write about what people are interested in, right?

Yeah, you’d think so.

What people are interested in, though, isn’t necessarily what you might think people are interested in.

If a user or organization is doing something super-awesome in-world, the odds are that the Second Life readers will mostly pass it over. Human interest stories and similar all get minimal attention. Okay, except for the occasional ‘Why the hell are you even covering this stuff anyway?’

Hirings/departures at Linden Lab? Now that generates some interest. Other Linden Lab doings and policy changes even more so, and speculations about which way the Lab is going to jump next are right up there.

Top of the heap – the really grabby stuff? New release candidates.

I know, right?

My essential hypothesis sort of works like this… Viewers and stuff about Linden Lab and their staff-lineup and policies affects everyone in Second Life, directly or indirectly. Stuff that people are doing in-world though will axiomatically only have appeal to a subset of people.

Live music, and audio/voice events for example – that only appeals to a portion of the people I know. Likewise not everyone I know is a gamer, or necessarily interested in recreational activities. Not everyone is keen on shopping or networking.

Different interests, different foci, and that subdivides the community right there.

But if you stand anywhere in Second Life long enough, a discussion will start up about the Lab, or some particular Linden, or about some new policy or some enforcement action in-world (gone right or wrong). Talking about Linden Lab seems to be the favourite pastime of the majority of Second Life users, and there’s an astonishing amount of misinformation going around.

Just yesterday I walked into an argument where a bunch of people believed that all non-G-rated content was being banished from the grid next week. Earlier that morning, someone was telling me how Linden Lab was merging Teen Second Life with adult Second Life today. Simple misunderstandings and misinterpretations run through communities like wildfire and feed on themselves. Sometimes people just spread tales to laugh at how far they will go.

Still, the Lab and its doings remain among the most popular talking points with users in-world, and that’s something that’s hard to ignore.

I’m wondering what it says about a lot of writers that they can’t seem to venture near a social or non-game virtual environment without spending paragraphs talking about genitalia and sex, and trying to figure out how avatars have sex, even in virtual environments that are, essentially, G-rated and technically have none.

Oh, sure. A lot of folks are interested in that sort of thing, but the propensity with which I’ve seen it crop up in newspaper columns and in particular in some games-writers columns, it seems to be bordering on the obsessive.

A whole host of games-writers, particularly, don’t seem to be able to look at a non-human (alien, robot or anthropomorphic) avatar without immediately focusing on sex. A few writers seem to suffer some severe cognitive disconnect, where non-human avatars and a non-sexual environment are somehow completely inconceivable and nonsensical – a combination that they can neither grasp nor comprehend.

Some newspaper columns outline the writer’s visit to strip clubs in Second Life, within minutes of registration, and give no sign that the writer went anywhere other than locations focusing on sex.

Sadly, at the end, they generally conclude about the virtual environment, “I don’t get it.”

Maybe what they really meant was “I didn’t get any”,  because based on their descriptions and reported conversations, that outcome seems a whole lot more likely.

So, Edge Online’s staff appear to have all quit? Why? Because editorially, it appears that Future Publishing basically wanted the online arm to work editorially just like the print arm.

“Edge-Online’s editorial control has been brought in line with the magazine in an effort to create a “strong, consistent voice” for the brand, according to Future Publishing.”

Now, Future Publishing… I like you folks. We’ve got history. You and I go way back, and I’m fond of you. So I’ll be gentle.

Dumbass move.

I think that’s about as gentle and diplomatic as it gets in this particular case.

What you’ve basically suggested is the equivalent of saying that there’s no effective difference between TV and the cinema screen. Your print arm and your online arm have as much in common as television and cinema — which is to say a whole lot. The things that they have in common make them strong. The things that they don’t have in common make them useful and appropriate and relevant. Each to their own.

Gloss over those differences and you lose usefulness, appropriateness and relevance — and you’d be economically better off shutting one of those arms down. In fact, that’s pretty much what you just did, effectively. Staff gone, and most of the readers will go with them.

Future, you should know better. I always thought you did, in fact. You can have a strength and consistency, but you need different voices for different media. That’s an old, old lesson now, from before many of us were born. I believe it’s written down somewhere.