Last night I uttered a “BRB mosquito”. The conversation we were having in-world had me so plugged to the keyboard that I thought that the insect trying to land on my knee had to be only one, so I allowed it briefly.
I had sandals and shorts even as it was a cold night and it had been raining, my door had been open earlier because Max the dog is so indecisive.
Couldn’t resist and scratched, but instead of scaring the flying annoyance it got smashed as it was drinking me. I saw ball like remains in my hand and turned to look around, but there wasn’t one mosquito, there was a band of sister’s mosquitoes, maybe eight at quick count.
“BRB mosquitoes” would have sounded strange and “BRB mosquito attack” exaggerated.
For some minutes I went off, using the technique my Mom taught me many years ago, you see she is a total sweet, but one scary woman hitting you with a rolled cloth, I don’t want to go into how I earned that lesson, but I will tell you the basics, you roll a cloth -a towel works fine- and use it in a way that ricochets to your target. With a tight rolled cloth and a swooshing sound I turned mosquito serial.
By then my BRB polite allowance had for sure ran over, there must be a maximum time for BRB’s don’t you agree? So I went back into the conversation, it was a call, a call to action, one of those calls that life throws at you and if you answer you turn into a hero, and since nothing like had happened to me and it was Second Life… sounded like an adventure, but...
Actually I did not answer many it many times before, since this situation has been happening for months. But why would I do anything? It is not my problem, it is not my pub, and I just left there, now visiting rarely. But more than that, I was worried because there can be consequences, will be plenty of bad blood, with people hurt and angry and frankly SL is for fun, no?
I didn’t answer that before –But it’s getting worse and worse- a friend said.
The Dying Green Giant.
Maybe the questions should be about something big, maybe about how power is shifting in our world, from top to bottom, to everywhere from anywhere and especially about how virtual communities will evolve? But if you ever felt abused at a chat place, don’t you want to do something? That someone should tell the owners, the managers and to those pesky door bouncers, that some things are just not okay and that you will not be bullied anywhere.
Imagine if one of the most famous SL places, was in reality and behind curtains an abusive bully pool, which has actually become an unwelcoming place? This is the story of how The Blarney Stone Irish Pub, one of the Second Life’s darling icons has been taken hostage by a few bully staffers, with lots of people abused, and no one caring to do anything. Managers allowing it, or turning their eyes away, meanwhile scores of long standing regulars have left either voluntarily or ejected.
Yes Ham Rambler as many real life successful sim owners, is very busy and he must have too much trouble already. Most of us can only imagine the frequent drama that rains over owners. Like another club owner named Coco, told me –I was constantly being contacted for stuff that I had no clue about, now I keep my club for the staff only.
But what when bullets come from the staff against the public? An overzealous staff that thinks their duty besides house rules includes, proper grammar, not doing wise-comments, of course no religion or politics. With poor manners and in a bossy way. Staff that thinks they have a sacred duty to protect a TOS which frankly they don’t understand to start with.
One person said “This police attitude we could fix quick and easy… Residents are not LL employees, there is a system in place to send reports, so they should better stop pretending to give themselves that importance… And this is actually in TOS, not pretending to act like a LL employee”.
The Blarney Stone Irish Pub at (SL) Dublin, has been running steady over nine years. “We were here before you were born” a sign reads inside. While an ex-regular says: “Now I get angry every time I go there, they seem to have more staff members than clients”- She also told me that- “The Blarney Stone self implodes every now and then and it’s due by now.
Drama can kills sims and empties even the most patient owners. And everyone hopes that SL Dublin is sturdier than say Mill Pond, yes the same Mill Pond that was owned by Micala Lumiere. You see, Micala was a professor interested in virtual communities and she formed one of the most vibrant, fun and fascinating communities in world, The Open Latte at Mill Pond. But with SL success, drama arrives.
Like other owners, Micala resembled the Giant of that old story, the one when the giant had a precious garden. Close to that garden lived many children, who wanted to come to play. Of course those kids would ruin the grass and they would spoil the fountains, steal the flowers and do the mess that kids do. So the Giant built a wall around his garden. Eventually the kids found a way to sneak in, when the Giant slept.
Micala had envisioned a utopic place open for thoughts and a free community but one April Fool’s morning, she decided to raise rules over the bratty “pondies”, because she was fed up sick with complaints and stuff.
In the storybook the Giant becomes the Gentle Giant as he takes down the walls, he learns to live and play with kids, with their laughter and energy. But Second Life is strange, it’s all twisted. There the Micala’s start with open gardens and they invite all to come. And many happy people arrive, but also the not so funny elements arrive, the trolls walk in and the griefers grief, and by the time when the drama queens cry, a wall of rules looks very appealing to desperate owners who gladly pass the pub keys to those “volunteers that devote their personal time to run the place”. Convenient answer by Ham Rambler, SL Dublin’s sim owner, and smarter than Micala’s wall or rules, me thinks.
But Micala had no tip jars, no music shows or staff, so she understandably and rightfully, took down her Mill Pond and the Open Latte coffee place down. The avatars acted like the place belonged to them, an angry mob rejected the rules and that was that. By that April fool’s afternoon Micala was one angry giant, she groaned and with a single slap of her bony fingers she pressed the buttons! Sending avatars flying, ejected and banned, the land was closed.
Today you can find 12 different groups of “ex-pondies” with names that can only tell you how hurt folks were. But SL should be fun, right? Are these communities open public places? While that’s should be easy to answer, the matter if the visitors have rights, should also be easy to answer, another easy mosquito to kill.
-If you really want to nail it, you also have to address the fact that most patrons are freeloaders and if they really want some respect they should cooperate with the costs or just go along- a pub manager told me. She, a redheaded avatar added- the freeloaders are the worst complainers.
-At least the Staffers give their time and commitment to the places, you know. – A not so good looking owner said, and I thought he had said it all, when he added – The real deep thing is that land is too expensive in Second Life -he continued- I have no clue how well is LL doing, but keeping a sim alive in Second Life just for pleasure it’s extremely expensive, we are forced into a tip-jar economy to support it.
-If the staff keeps the tips to buy hairs and clothes, I don’t care –he seemed to shrug when he said - I just wanted to have a sim that reflects my city and country. They are happy, they keep shows running and for tips really.
Another person replied that –Rightfully it has to be said that Premium Account holders, pay their share to keep SL running, and shopping indirectly chips in as well, so if the Staff thinks they need to be tipped for their bully hosting, they have to think again.
So the situation includes that these places lack sustainable revenues or funding. Owners are often happy to let the staff keep most of tips, since good Staff brings life to the place. Owners, being busy people, trust their place in their hands. Sadly this situation allows power hungry and control freaks to creep into authority positions.
I have been told that the former Dublin Manager reined over a book of rules the size of yellow pages. But apparently at today’s Dublin, staff is in, and patrons are tolerated.
Just look what happened to landmarks like the Junkyard Blues, where in order to enter the club, you have to go to an improvised looking area and there you need to request a staff member to invite you into the group. “Our response to rampant venue griefing” a sign explains.
Around the metaverse owners are under siege.
But in contrast, at Frank’s surely the most popular elegant venue, they answer with flowers. A properly trained staff treats visitors extremely formally, with salute formats for things from welcoming to addressing situations. At Franks when it is needed, they first say hello and then they go to the matter. At Dublin, bossy staffers are extremely rude and pretend to force behavior over you.
Many of us who have worked at the services industry, know that for example in restaurants the waiter needs to perform a number of actions, from the moment a patron walks-in to the first coffee offering.
So, how far do we go in trying to control virtual communities? How do we create real value trade-offs between patrons and clubs, so clubs become sustainable? Where are we heading into the future? How do we grow into these questions? Do we need to be treated like children? A client I had in real life, a renowned maker of one Internet success story, once told me, “Virtual communities tend to balance their own” –he said. To what my little voice replied, “Yes, but we need to provide them with the means to do so”.
In Second Life this happens in places where there are no forms to balance the power between staff and patrons, which creates pressure and anger. Especially when the staff is not service staff, but the VIPs of the place. One answer may be to provide a simple Comments and Suggestion page or object, and to hire people who understand the meaning of “Service” in “Service Industry”. Understanding that true leaders are servants more than police, would be nice too.
At the moment in Blarney Stone it’s normal to see people being advised, “Do this”, “don’t do that”, “we don’t do this here”, “we have rules”, “respect them.” Of course in SL there is no physical violence. There are only ejections. So I saw many people getting them, most under house-rules, but some not really, they were borderline, subject to unprepared intolerant staffers using the house rules at their own bending interest. It is incredible that you have to defend your self from Staff by explaining them the rules or if TOS is not their place to enforce.
But one things that honestly baffles me is how normally smart people allows these wannabees to hold any power over them, questioning this is not disrespect, it is resistance.
This goes further at Blarney Stone, they do bully-like tactics like this: a manager will instruct regulars and their more moldable staffers not to talk to a trouble-maker, not to encourage him to stay, to ignore her. They can also ask a friend of theirs to run you over and push you, “sorry if I am pushing, I haven’t rezzed” and they also allow their friends to break the rules in front of you, only to show-off their muscle. Blarney Stone is not an enjoyable place to go right now, no wonder it is struggling financially.
This is the same Staff that does not allow a Mafia Night Event, or decides what a proper event is and what is not. It goes on and on, the stories of people banned and ejected are incredible, it’s like the current top dog -a particularly bitter person- is bully attacking regulars systematically, allowing only those that bend into her ways. Educated, polite, professional teachers, educators, house moms, lots of people has been ejected and banned out of pure abuse and reaching to simple mood. Why I am not saying any names, well actually I am its, Harm Rambler and Jane1 Bookmite who are responsible for allowing this situation to creep. The sim owner and a long standing manager they are smart, they know this and still allow it to continue.
At Dublin in SL, you may witness how the bouncer game plays out, just as an example and not to be biased, let’s call this person… say: “UglyWitch”, this once security staffer or bouncer, actually has bullied herself into becoming a “manager”, UglyWitch loves good behavior and safe keeping of peace by rules.
When she is around, this could happen to you at the Blarney Stone Irish Pub.
Another avatar lets call her Super Girl, using a Glamshack joke pastes a chat that resembles a real IM conversation:
[19:45] SuperGirl: [27:78] Cap Carver: “so this morning I woke wearing pink undies...”
This is followed by a club warning by UglyWitch.
[19:45] UglyWitch: “That is not allowed, you are breaching TOS”
[19:45] SuperGirl: “No UglyWitch... because there is not such a time as [27:78] it is also called parody, and it is okay…”
[19:46] UglyWitch: “Ah.”
What is painful to see, is that during the following weeks, that joke becomes UglyWitch’s favorite and she wears it down until it’s a dead horse, and not even using fake time stamps to be proper. So blatant, but who will tell them anything? They make the rules. They bend them as they wish.
So one night, yours truly, earned an ejection. See? I said it -I earned it- I was self-centered and not careful of others feelings while pretty slammed with some Mezcal (…it was tequila, but mezcal was just a literally license for appearing more dangerous…) I discovered you cannot mention “Oh Sherry” during a Ramstein dark-metal-trash DJ event, because apparently Steve Perry hurts the DJ’s feelings at the pub... Okay, I did more than that... but I spare you of the details of that incident, because this should not be about a single incident happening to a given person, but we could use it to think about other bigger issues of course.
One person puts it like this -“Imagine it’s a sport, say boxing, and the referee interrupts the fight after each blow, how fun would that be? Or like it was USA Football or NFL thing and they throw yellows flags after each play, or Soccer and the referee becomes the center of the action“. That breaks the experience of anyone –he said- But if you complaint, you are a trouble maker and you are out.
This past week-end, I was appalled to discover that things got worse. I learned that there had been repercussions after some –otherwise- tiny incidents, and I cannot even mention the avatar names because they fear actions against them, how sick is that? I will just say that my IMs got capped with nonsense that may make you vomit a little. So sick that I really had to write this and find a brave publisher that is not afraid of becoming permanent banned from that place, like most likely I will.
For some of the commenters on this article, wiser people, it’s better just to leave. One person simply said
–Kill the dog, the rabies is gone – Get rid of trouble staff, problem solved, is not that hard.
Doing my research, I was desperately looking for help, and I luckily found it. I found an answer and a guide that even made me lower the tone of this report. I went to TED.com, that many of you know, and right there on the front page I learned from, Scilla Elworthy, how to confront a bully without becoming a thug yourself. A must see if you like social changes, Mrs. Scilla helps advice countries in conflict, on topics such as nuclear weapons policy. I think we can import some of her knowledge into our Second Life petite dramas.
You have to see the video. I find amazing the way she approaches the subject of peace, basically she says that in order to confront conflicts, first you have to start by thinking deeply on self-knowledge, your strengths, your weaknesses, in order to raise your inner power. She sounds like a sage, more than a peace advisor.
Mrs. Scilla tells that true change has to come from inside, from your heart, and you have to be open to listen to the others. Second you have to recognize what scares you, because fears –on both sides of a conflict or argument- feed off the attention that we give them, then she says its okay to be angry –she adds- “Use your anger to fuel your progress” - very Yoda like indeed.
After that, she advises to cooperate with the other side of the conflict and and most important is to make a commitment with non-violence. In Second Life we would say a commitment not to drama.
A few years back I asked Ham Rambler, why people could not dance on top of the table bar? His answer was remarkable, he just said -“I just want it to be as close to a real pub as possible”. Something in his answer was heartfelt, a little sad, after that I shut up for years, and even played for the home team many times, especially when Jane –Dublin’s manager- asked me to. I know she tries hard and she is honest, even as she has gone overboard and she does not know it. Her “Hi kids” can only be relied with “Hi mom” and I know she just don’t roll clothes like mine does.
I can’t answer those questions I think my calling to kill mosquitoes is only to let people know, how far this has gone and how many “regulars” have left the Blarney Stone after these thugs have become VIPS. In recent Dubln’s management has cleared their “banned” list, maybe in a desperate effort to recover some of it’s lost revenue.
Ham Rambler, lose the UglyWitch-like staffers and get real service culture into the place and it will be great again, not that hard!
If now, I don’t acknowledge the good persons that devote their personal time to the Blarney Stone, this article would be incomplete. I know for a fact that the three sims that make up Dublin, also employ hard working devoted people and they are trying their best.
It is not causality that it was one of the top places. It´s a great place when Colly is rocking her folk Irish tunes, when K LongLegs is hosting (Sadly “LongLegs” is one person that seems to obey the “don’t talk to her” tactics). Blarney is okay when Gwen mentions the detailed action in SL Radio or Sunday nights at Clarissa’s famous themed events and even when Lucy explains in her sweet and well educated manner that you are doing something wrong, during those moments you know, you are in a special place, those old and ugly textures almost make you feel you are in a casual Franks or say a real Irish pub.
If you are a visitor, a club owner, manager or staff. In order to know what people has to say. Maybe, like many of us and especially the Micalas of the world, you also believe that virtual communities can evolve and we do it by facing the challenges, not by shying away from them or pretending they are not here.
Remember, “Questioning the rules is not disrespect, its resistance”.