Thursday, July 12, 2007

When the boss wants to be your online friend - in SL

Yesterday, I read an article on the WSJ Online: "My Boss wants to 'Friend' Me On My Online Profile".

The article discusses the negative side effects of social networking sites in relation to your professional life. For instance, if you're an active Hyves user, your profile may contain pictures or remarks from your friends, that you don't want your boss to see - you know, those pictures of that party last month? So what do you do when your boss requests to "friend" you? Flat out denying him or her may be a career limiting move. But accepting the friendship offer may have other, unwanted consequences, as the boss gets a new level of insight in your personal, private matters. Apparently, this is now enough of a problem to register in the media, and even warrant an article in the WSJ.

What the article doesn't talk about, is Second Life. But, I think that this problem also extends there, and maybe even more so. As more and more companies move to an active Second Life presence, employees with a private Second Life may also experience that friction between the personal and the professional spheres of life.

When my employer went in world with a company presence, I arranged much of the practical stuff in the first phase. I bought some land, and created a group where all empoyees could become a member of. Most of these colleagues were not very experienced in Second Life; as a matter of fact, only two or three had some level of experience. So, what do newbies do in SL? Looking for excitement, maybe a little adult content, maybe some gambling.. All the time with our companies' name as their active group, hovering over their heads? No thanks! That's not the kind of publicity we were looking for, so we requested that anyone who wanted to explore the darker sides of Second Life, make sure that our company group name is not immediately visible to other avatars.

Another example. A guy from IBM was on my friends list, and we had granted each other the right to see where the other one was. One day I noticed he was online, and as I wanted to talk to him, I teleported to his approximate location. Upon arriving, I noticed that this location had nothing to do with IBM - not at all. It turned out to be some kind of club or casino, with quite a few visitors and a lot of activity. Nothing too extreme, but still, he was clearly there on private matters. He hadn't noticed my presence by then, as I was standing outside while he was in, so I departed without disturbing him.

So, spare yourself and maybe your employer the embarassment: be aware of who you are, at what time and at what location. If you have a Second Life-style that's not entirely compatible with your employers' public imago, you may want to refrain from using your private, personal avatar for business purposes. Just have your boss pay for another premium account, with a completely separate identity, if you can pull that off :-)

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