Code of Second-Life Conduct?

Posted by Keith McMillan

February 24, 2009 | 2 Comments

I’ve been aware that one of the teams at my current client has been experimenting with using SecondLife for their collaborative space.  The project is coached by one of the other agile coaches, and I admit I’ve been curious to see what it looked like.  I’ve been aware of SecondLife for a while now, but never seemed to get around to creating an account or doing anything more than saying “Huh.  That’s interesting.”

Today I got a chance to see SecondLife in action.  The coach, who sits by me when we’re not off coaching teams, was logged in and showing some of the other agile coaches what it was like.  It was really interesting. They’ve built themselves a custom story wall widget, they’ve got a secured building on what seems like a private island, and they were, by chance, having a meeting with some of their stakeholders when we were there.

SecondLife seems like a very compelling idea.  More live than an IM link, somehow more tactile than a conference call.  We watched for a while, and then the next time I looked, one of the other avatars was dancing.  On the conference table.  Well, it’s just a virtual conference table.

I’m not big fan of political correctness myself, but I was a product of corporate America in the 1990s, so I got trained in what some people consider “hostile work environment.”  It really doesn’t take much.

At first I was just bemused by the dancing, but a little later in the day I started to think to myself that it certainly wouldn’t be acceptable conduct to dance on a table in a conference room in “first life,” if you will, but it seemed just fine in SecondLife.  I mentioned it to the coach who was using SecondLife, and he told me that they had been obliged to sign a document attesting to their understanding that the code of business conduct extended to SecondLife as well.

“But hey! It’s just virtual, right?”  I suspect that we’re in for some interesting times, my friends.  As we live more and more in the virtual world, I suspect that courts will view them in much the same was as the original: harassment and other misdeeds, even if virtual, will be something the courts will have an interest in.  Will codes of conduct be viewed as applying to the virtual world? I suspect so, but I think things will be interesting to watch while this get sorted out.


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Comment by Peter Coffin
2009-02-25 07:31:51

I bet the business code of conduct doesn’t say anything about dancing on conference tables. It probably does say a few things about sexual harassment. And it’s tough to expect people to behave only as they would in the The Real World when one of the first things the environment teaches new users is how to fly.

Comment by Keith McMillan
2009-02-26 10:40:33

Hi Peter,

That was my thinking as well. I suspect that people will behave in a way that’s in keeping with playing a game, at least initially, because that’s what it seems like. That kind of conduct isn’t acceptable in a business, so it will be interesting to see what happens when someone sues for harassment in SecondLife.

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