Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Obligatory IMPEACH BUSH Post

Despite it now being rather yawnsome for anyone involved in any of the SL communities, it may be the point at which I say something about the IMPEACH BUSH guy, Lazarus Divine. (Not, I understand, the one who represents Rugged Regiment, the Soul Mechanical Crew and the 6th ward.) If you're a SLer who has somehow remained unaware of IMPEACH BUSH... the executive summary is that guy buys tiny plots of land (16m2) and puts signs up all around SL that look like the following:

impeach bush signs

(picture taken outside a Socialist Party building) These are very annoying if you have them in your view. Simultaneously, the price of the land is set extremely but not insanely high, so that people who find them annoying can buy the plots to remove the signs, providing a very nice profit on the original land purchase.

When I first came to SL I saw a lot of these signs and thought that it must be some sort of craze - I'm not at all in favour of the war in Iraq or Bush so I was fairly heartened to see what I thought was evidence of general agreement. It didn't take long before finding out the real purpose of them though. There's no political element, despite what the guy says - if you argue or cause trouble, you find yourself surrounded with as many of the signs as possible, and, some people say, sometimes on the end of a lot of verbal harassment, though I have no experience of this myself.

The content of the signs has been chosen, as far as I'm concerned, as a deliberate attempt to pretend that this is some sort of political speech that's being attacked. It's a nonsense idea that somebody would put up these signs as an honest political campaign, in garish clashing colours and annoying locations, and then sell the plots of land at inflated prices. The guy is gaming the system, stopping himself from being banned or told to take the signs down under cover of "free speech".

I have to say, though, that I can't see a lot of difference in practice between the above signs and, say, something like this:

spinning flashing urgh

which can be found at Theretra [211,173], and is just one example of land spam that I picked up this afternoon. It sits there in the air, spinning and the light at the top flashing. This stuff is everywhere in First Land areas, where people start with small plots and then move out fairly quickly, selling to land barons.

What is the point of this? Garish and intrusive advertising in the real world is there to increase brand consciousness, but there's no brand here. If people want to buy a particular piece of land, they'll look there to see who owns it, in which case a subdued block at ground level is quite enough (as Anshe Chung uses). Nobody is going to look at a spinny block and think "oh, actually, yeah, I wasn't going to buy that land but I think I will now".

There's basically no reason to make the most annoying ad possible on a land package unless either you just don't understand simple advertising principles, or you want to annoy people enough that they're likely to just buy the bloody land to get rid of your bloody sign. Lazarus Divine has this latter motivation, I'm fairly sure, but the only difference is of degree. He's not interested in being a long-term landowner, so he can raise prices to ridiculous levels and make a short-term profit without worrying about people hating him, but he's not invented the idea, he's just taken it to its logical conclusion.

I can't stand the Impeach Bush signs, particularly because I think that this man is taking the piss out of my own political beliefs for profit, but I have to say that complaining about those and not the general land spam that goes on is ridiculous. My Second Life has been made far worse by other ads. What to do about it, apart from whinge? Well, I'm planning a more organised response, but the obvious thing is do not buy land from anyone advertising like that and, just in case the former ignorant defence is the case, tell them why. A message saying "I was thinking about buying the land at [X,Y] but I think that your advertising policy is much too annoying to support" could well have an impact, if it comes from enough people, and, you know, there aren't actually that many people in SL. Pointing out that advertising is being counterproductive is the best way to get it changed.

Incidentally, I'm compiling a gallery of particularly bad examples, so if you are reading this and have a good one, please get in touch.


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