Editorial: Sansar’s Overly Attached (Ex-)Girlfriend, Responsible Journalism, and My Obligations to My Readers

Hi, this is Ryan. Remember me? I’m Sansar’s overly attached (ex-)girlfriend:

Overly Attached Girlfriend Meme (Wikipedia)

Yes, I can laugh about it, today. But only because I’ve also had a really good cry about it this week. By all reports, the Sansar project is struggling, and I’m still feeling devastated and upset at the news.

I’ve written before about my soft spot/blind spot when it came to Sansar, after I responded so strongly to the first big layoff of staff in October 2019, flip-flopping back and forth like a fish out of water about whether or not to continue writing about the social VR platform, which of course was my whole reason to start this blog in the first place. (And yes, I’m still flip-flopping, obviously. But I will not be writing about anything currently going on at Linden Lab with respect to Sansar, beyond what I have already reported. Expect nothing but radio silence on that matter.)

The backlash to my blogpost about the second round of layoffs (including a fair share of hate messages), triggered a downward spiral where I landed up spending a good chunk of this week lying in bed, in a black pit of depression out of which I am only now starting to crawl.*

Chic Aeon (whose level-headed, no-nonsense perspective I value highly) wrote about what happened this week on her popular blog:

Ryan took a lot of heat for that blog post — some from Sansar Discord account holders. He followed with an apology and last night he stated that he was closing his blog.

I can’t say that I applaud his blogging methodology; it certainly wasn’t responsible journalism. Ryan has stated (via Discord) that he is not a journalist, only a blogger. But that isn’t cutting it with me. We are ALL responsible for what we say and what we do — as well as the manner in which we do it.  That being said, the “facts” put forth in his article have not been officially refuted as of this writing and I have publicly defended him on that count.  That same public — and especially the people in Sansar — do have a right to know what is going on. I hope that Ryan rethinks his position on closing.

Yes, I have indeed rethought my position on shutting down this blog. I have been heartened by the small outpouring of support and encouragement I have received this week from numerous people, including one very well-timed pep talk from Lorelle VanFossen, blogging evangelist and organizer of the Educators in VR group, when I was ready to pull out of speaking at their upcoming conference. (Thanks, Lorelle.) The overwhelming message I got back was that people did not want to see me stop blogging. So I won’t.

And, of course, Chic is absolutely correct. Whether or not I call myself a journalist is beside the point; what matters is how I do my job as a blogger, and I made several grievous errors in judgement this week. I rushed to publish a story without taking into consideration its potential impact to Sansar users, Sansar content creators, and Linden Lab employees. I should have reached out to Linden Lab for a comment before publishing the story, particularly to double-check that Sansar was indeed shutting down (as I had originally, and erroneously, reported).

I fucked up royally, and I’m sorry.

I realize now that I have an obligation to you, my blog readers, to get the facts of the story correct, and to provide as many different perspectives as possible in covering that story. I know that many of you come to this blog to get your news about social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse—I now get between 600 and 6,000 views per day—and I have a duty to use that growing power and influence responsibly. This is not just a hobby blog, not any longer. I am a journalist, whether I like it or not.

And my talk next Saturday at the Educators in VR conference will be slightly different from what I originally planned. The moderators have given me permission to talk about whatever I like, so in addition to speaking about social VR and libraries, I will also share some lessons learned the hard way in my two-and-a-half years of writing this blog. Think of it as two talks for the price of one!

And I will slowly be easing back into blogging over the next two weeks. I still think that I need to take a break, but of course the world does not stop. February 20th, 2020 will see both the official public launch of Decentraland and the relaunch of version 2.0 of Somnium Space, for example. I will try to report on various news and events as they happen.

And thank you to all the people who did reach out to me, to express their concern, constructive criticism, encouragement, wisdom, unbiased third-party perspective, and support. Sometimes it takes a crisis to find out who your friends and supporters are, and it would appear I have many that I did not realize I had gained over the past 2-1/2 years. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

I’ll be all right. The blog will continue.

*It didn’t help matters that, over the past three weeks, I had taken on the extra burden of blogging daily updates about the Wuhan coronavirus (also known as 2019-nCov and then COVID-19), in an effort to get people to begin to prepare for a potential global pandemic. I worked and worried myself into an anxious, doom-porn-addicted, stressed-out mess, and as a result I took this blog into a very weird tangent that confused a lot of my regular readers. Lesson learned. I’m sorry.

I will leave the pandemic advice and counsel to the many experts out there. I don’t need to become the world’s self-appointed saviour from this coronavirus. (As some of my sassy gay friends would tell me: “Get off the cross, honey. People need the wood.” 😉 )

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