Not in the foreground, but in the background of everything Linden Lab does, from Mitch Kapor's statements to its technical agenda to its craptastic customer service, lies one consistent notion: the enterprise and the citizen are cultural enemies, and Linden Lab desperately, pathetically, embarrassingly, wants to be thought of as being in the enterprise camp.
Now, if you asked the Resident-citizen-creators of SL's world, and its most active enterprise users, they'd overwhelmingly say there's little tension, let alone a cultural war. But the Lindens act as if the bullets are flying.
Why? Because Linden Lab is staffed (not exclusively, but throughout key positions) by oreos, bananas, Uncle Toms, אוטואנטישמיות, self-hating geeks. The Lindens want to be Serious Business People. They do not want to go to cocktail parties in San Francisco and be laughed at as flying-penis furry genderbending kiddie-porn-viewing freaks, losers and perverts.
That right there? That explains every major corporate action and choice out of Linden Lab in the past year and a half or so (my lifetime in SL - I understand from Hamlet Au things were different once).
Now, nothing's more natural for a minority group to set up a hierarchy of internal discrimination, usually based on ability to pass for a member of the majority. Geeks are no exception:
So, Lindens are geeks. True facts, sorry guys, that's just how it is. They're geeks. Mundanes, muggles, straights - they don't build and (sorta) maintain virtual worlds. We citizen-Residents are geeks. Enterprise users are geeks. Maybe a good chunk of the user base, the group whose employers aren't in SL and who aren't among Gwyneth Llewellyn's Hundred Thousand citizen-creators, really are straights. But Lindens? Sorry, not a chance.
And geeks? We're still a pretty disliked minority:
So people are rejecting the scifi label not because of science, but because of the fiction. Science has become a part of everybody's pop culture, but science fiction hasn't. And by extension, the people who like science fiction haven't. The nerds at Comic-Con, the dorks at the comic book store, and the dweebs who wish Borders carried more scifi are not the kinds of people that marketers want associated with their cultural products.
There you have it, the cultural imperative that leads Lindens to hate themselves. Now, hating yourself is pretty rough - it's hard to escape yourself, and all that.
(this is really Botgirl's territory, and *our* two cultures have a cease-fire: I don't do psychology, and she doesn't do sociology. This here is just a minor cross-border hot pursuit incident :P )
So what can you do if you think you're kind of disgusting and shameful? Project.
Project all that contempt and loathing onto others. That's where the Geek Hierarchy comes in: "me? I'm really straight - I just have this one little, well, I'd hardly even call it a *kink,* more a gentle curve, really. Them over there, those dirty perverts? Now *they're* kinky..."
The Lindens are geeks. They've internalized the mainstream view that geeks are shameful, so they're ashamed at being associated with a geeky product. In response - they dissociate themselves. They distance themselves from the social deviants and ally themselves with the most legitimate group around: Serious Big Business.
They look for any opportunity to show they're not on our side but the other side, and those opportunities manifest as the worst sort of extreme bigotry against their own kind: Philip suggests we have too much time on our hands, Robin says we're not worthy of trust, and on. The Lindens behave like caricatures of the other culture in a pathetic attempt to "pass" - it's surprising their avatars don't all wear top hats and smoke cigars.
The thing is? The Lindens' public psychodrama is destroying their business. Grace McDunnough compares them to John Sutter, who went bust at ground zero of a gold rush because he rejected new business opportunities in favor of old ways that had passed. Dale Innis generously (and accurately) ascribes Linden policy flailing to a failure to manage internal communications. Zoe Connolly, in one of a series of incisive posts, describes LL's attitude:
I think the new people in charge of LL care little or nothing about hobbyists and social networkers on the grid. I wonder if they would rather see a grid community full of corporate reps and tech journalists chatting endlessly about server capacities and new ways to increase usage of virtual worlds. Well duh! LL seeks to destroy the very things that bring a wide range of people into virtual worlds in the first place! If that's what you really want, use a video-phone and chat with each other all frakking day. Roleplayers of any type/degree are in the way of their vision. I believe they may be thinking "If you care so much about your little RP/hobby, then put-up or shut-up"
Finally, Nightflower, in a spectacularly brilliant post, explains why they can get away with both incompetence and bigotry.
They're all right, and what it adds up to is Linden Lab systematically tearing down their own business.
There's a culture war indeed. But that war isn't between enterprise users and the Hundred Thousand. It's within the blackened little corporate soul of Linden Lab. It's a war on their own inner geek, and if they win, they lose. And so do we all.