Thursday, August 19, 2010


Display Names, the "next big thing" from The Lab, was announced on the 17th and will enable Residents to have a name other than their self-given names floating above their heads. In the process, our self-given names will be reduced to old-school machine language truncations. I will thus become uccello.poultry upon implementation sometime later this month with SheWhoMustBeObeyed floating over my head. At first blush, this is a cool idea. I know so many Residents, some long-timers, that regret their self-given names for one reason or another. Me, at times, for example.

When I moved from the Teen Grid to the main grid I did not retain my name ... sort of a "gifted-amnesty" program so folks wouldn't point and say "It's her!" in hushed tones as they think of my infamy there. So when I was picking a surname I saw Poultry and thought hard about what an attractive but funny first name would go with it. I looked up bird in many languages and found the Italian word uccello. Then I went to the library and looked in an actual Italian dictionary since I knew that online translators were often poor. Yep, it was bird, alright. Apparently not to Italians that I've met in-world. 99.999% of the ones I have met go to great lengths to point out, in great detail, how uccello is slang for ... well, something a fine lesbian like myself would not want to have for a name. So whenever I can, I tell folks to call me Uccie. In fact, on the InWorldz grid I'm Uccie Poultry. And I've even asked The Lab to let me change the name (not our problem was the response). So with Display Names, I can be Uccie Poultry. Or Uccie Seale so I can share a last name with my SLwife.

The trouble is, so can anyone. You can be Uccie Poultry. Or Uccello Poultry. Or Uccello Eats Poultry. Any Resident can take any other Resident's name (but not a short version of their name -- no uccello.poultry or uccellopoultry for you! says the Wiki). That happens in real life, actually. My brother has a name twin in the small New England town in which we live. And someone with his name was on the TV show Divorce Court just yesterday. But this is a coincidence of given names, not an action of chosen names. What I haven't seen addressed is how The Lab will deal with griefers using other Resident's names or Display Name harassment. Will there be a special item in the Abuse Report form? What sort of punishment will there be? As a form of Identity Theft, how severe will the punishments be and can a Resident get restitution for monetary losses?

Probably "no" on the latter. The Lab is famous for never making good on monetary losses even if they are to blame. But according to the Display Name Wiki (here) there are ways that one Resident can verify the identity of another. We will all have to be more careful when looking at names and do more verifying, I guess. Another reason that it would be nice to view more than one Profile at a time.

Since Unicode and non-English character sets can be used for names (I'm 鳥家禽!) then I suggest that as soon as the feature hits, everyone access preferences and check Usernames in the General tab. This will mean that you can still address people with some form of their name. Even if it is Spartacus (Web).

Both the announcement blog post and the Wiki mentioned a few reasons why The Lab is making this change and the reasons sound very good. But like most changes I wonder about the quality of execution. As it stands I see a fiasco in the making. Aside from the Residents who don't like change, aside from the various levels of identity theft, I see Noobies and the Search engine alike being confused and upset. I don't see how this will help the Golden First Hour of a Resident's life. Best that this feature be initially hidden. Let it be an "unlockable" item like the Advanced menu. And if the Search database needs up to 72 hours for changes to propagate through then more Lindens need to be fired and faster ones hired. 24 hours maximum should be the limit. If this feature is supposed to be a benefit, execute it in such a fashion that it truly is a benefit. Consider that the Wiki states "All Residents can see your Display Name by default. However, to emphasize your username, don't set your Display Name."

/me holds her head in confusion. Wait ... does /me change now, too?

P.S., I still can't try the feature on the Beta grid, as the Wiki states is possible, with any viewer I've tried (12:48pm).

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