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Why do we want SL Last Names Back?

I use the term "we" very loosely in the title for this post. Mostly because I really have no clue who really is dying to have last names back, and who doesn't and who is like "meh" on the whole thing.

I have much more monumental news to report, but since I'm hurting a bit RL, And what needs to be done before I can report I can't tackle very well atm, I'm going to have to back burner that for my next post while I slowly compile everything. So I thought I'd write about something else while I'm doing that. Here's MY take on the whole thing:

Last Names Were an Integral Part of Second Life (Social) Culture

No two ways about it. Back in the day, when you signed up, you had to pick a last name from a drop down list of available names chosen by LL. You could of course decide what your first name was going to be all on your own. There was no display names, or anything like that. You saw everyone as Something Monde or BlahDeBloop Coral or Wooty Mars and so on.

Now the list of last names did not stay the same. I can't tell you if there was an exact time frame or not, but every so often (perhaps every 6 months to a year?) the list of last names would change, and some would no longer be available. That made you pretty damn SPECIAL if say when "Coral" ran out (it did!) and you and anyone else who had chosen the last name Coral were now the only ones on the Grid to have that last name: EVAR. You became a finite entity.

It was also a cool thing to meet someone who had your last name. They were your long lost cousins, or your auntie, or your sister or brother. Point is: They Were FAMILY. People created groups around last names, and roleplayed (mildly) the family connection into just a place where say Corals could have a cool group tag to wear around, or parlayed it into a more deeper RP like a "familia" family - you would Ride or Die for your fellow last namers etc. All in good fun.

It was a social THING, It was a Second Life cultural THING. As the years went by you could actually tell by glancing at someone's last name, roughly what year "batch" they came in, and nine times out of 10 you'd be right. I have display names turned on now, when I help New Folks, because I guess I want to interact with someone using their name of choice. A lot of times I have to switch back and forth, because when you have to warn or ban an avatar, you will need the actual name they signed up with, and depending on what toggles you have on or off you can see that at the same time too.

But it does lend for confusion, as many people choose to only show - what are they called now? - Legacy Names? I dunno. Basically the name a person signed into SL with. So while I might be saying "Hello Hank Diamond, welcome to the NCI" another helper will be referring to the same person as pookyspanky001 (Resident). Usually, time permitted, I'll just ask someone what they prefer to be called and try to remember/keep a running list no matter what my screen shows me.

A Little Bit Of History On Why Last Names Went ByeBye

My memory is shot to hell for reasons I won't go into, so bear with me. I do believe there was a THING among Rp/Roleplay communities that advocated for the ability to change their visible name. Instead of Brace Coral when I'm roleplaying in a medieval sim I'd like to show up as Princess Charming or whatever. I think that's cool, and a very interesting FEATURE to have come available. I also believe around that time, LL was expanding it's marketing & advertising and the ability to roleplay in Second Life was being looked at as one of the things to emphasize. So the RP community got what they asked for.

But what I have a problem with is LL's history of throwing out the baby with the bathwater and fixing ish that ain't broke. They could have added in the display names feature easily toggled on/off etc and RPers could do their thang; all without ixnaying the last names feature along with it. Or maybe it was TECHNICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to do, I have no idea. Feel free to tell me, because that's what it came across as being.

A statistically small user base wanted a new shiny to help them enjoy their SL. Fine and good, go for it. But don't chop out something that has been the Fabric of Second Life Culture while you make that happen. And then to choose a universal last name like Resident. It's really horrible and uninspiring.

Gone is the sense of family and community around last names. Gone is an integral part of the fabric of Second Life.

So THAT is why I believe so many have been bringing this subject up every time they happen to meet with a Linden from Ebbe on downwards. It was certainly mentioned during the recent meeting we had with Ebbe and the Help & Education Orgs. He sounded exasperated to be hearing that request yet again, and I also caught a whiff of confusion. He has no idea of the history of so much of Second Life.

So someone tweet or FB or email or forward this post to Ebbe. If you don't know, now ya know.

I will also repeat the confusion this causes for those who Help New Folks, as everyone has names toggled differently. It's not just Roleplay folks who change their names: it's pretty much everyone/every other person you meet new or otherwise now. Methinks it's people doing what they can to disappear "resident" from their handle as soon as they learn that they can.
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Linden Lab asks and does a lot of studies and A/B whatsis thingies about how to make residents stick.

How about not ripping out elements of social interaction, community building and embedded culture all the gosh darn time? How about that? You could start right now by making group tags as visually ON by default again.

For me personally, bringing back last names is like waaaaaaaaaaaaaay far down on my list of things that I would love to see Linden Lab either bring back or make changes on. But as they tackle my list, and finally get down to deciding about whether to bring back last names (if they can - I really do think they CAN - someone tell me different!): Now they have some information about them, and can understand why the subject keeps popping up.

There is a history here, and it's not a very pretty one for Linden Lab. You can come in without the depth of knowledge - I believe that most of the lindens except for a couple of ones that survived The Firings, their oldest are around 3 years old I believe  - but when you are offered knowledge from those who were there, and they have clear and cogent evidence as to what the effect policies had on the user base - especially New Folks: It behooves you to listen.

Look for my Totally Awesome Update on our meeting with Ebbe coming soon.
-BC
P.S. any grammar oopsies and spellings on this post might or might not be corrected. iCan't right now.
Ran outta cans