At first, it seemed to be another publicity disaster in the making. SpotON3D, a grid known for shooting itself in the foot when it comes to public relations, was spotted distributing content by Linda Kellie without crediting her for her work.
SpotON3D is a closed, commercial grid that stands out for two big reasons. First, they have a really, really cool browser plugin that allows an OpenSim viewer to run inside a webpage — including in Facebook. I’ve tried it out, and it’s great. I wish more grids and hosting companies offered something similar. That brings us to the second reasons. They’ve filed a patent on this technology, and on several other OpenSim-related innovations, without providing details of exactly what the patent will cover. As a result, other grids have expressed concern that they’ll be sued if they offer a similar product.
Linda Kellie is the most famous content creator working in OpenSim, because she has made an amazing wealth of content available under an unlimited use license — anyone is free to take it, adapt it, and use it in any way on any grid, including commercially. She also has more than a dozen OAR files — complete regions — available on her website, including a fully-stocking shopping mall, a Western town, a mountain retreat, business districts, a fantasy sim, and more. By offering free, legal, high-quality content she has probably single-handedly done more to combat piracy than anyone else out there. And she has been a life saver for schools and small companies moving into OpenSim for the first time and needing to set up and equip their regions or grids.
The encounter between SpotON3D and Linda Kellie could have gone really badly. Instead, it went exceptionally well.
It started with an apology.
“I’m the one responsible for the blog entries,” wrote SpotON3D’s Felonious Nitely in a comment on Vanish Seriath’s article spotlighting the issue (comment number three at the bottom). “I must apologize for the lack of attribution on some of the earlier blog entries… I should point out that all the items in-world have had attribution to lindakellie.com from the outset in the item description field as there was never any intention to hide the the source. Again, I apologize for any breaches of protocol here – it’s not been a deliberate action by SpotON3D, merely an error and a poor understanding of instructions on my part.”
This is a textbook apology. It admits the mistakes, explains how they’re being corrected, and asks if there’s anything else they can do to make things right.
There were no excuses or attempts to cover things over. There was a mistake. They’re sorry, and they’re fixing it.
“I’m sorry, I apologize, I was wrong” — these are the most difficult words in the English language.
It continued with a dialogue between Linda Kellie and SpotON3D management — including co-founder and COO Tessa Kinney-Johnson and SpotON3D’s in-house animator Michael Somerset, who happened to be an old friend of Linda Kellie’s.
The dialog quickly went beyond comments on the blog, to a Skype conversation, to an in-world tour of SpotON3D that left Kellie extremely impressed.
But it didn’t stop there.
SpotON3D was able to build on this new relationship and bring Linda Kellie on board as the creator of the Linda Kellie Exclusive line of content for the SpotON3D marketplace. The grid also gave her free store space in which to sell her content.
Kellie also rented a parcel of land on the grid, and said she may also rent a full region in the future.
“There is still part of me that wants to do the freebie stuff but I miss the feel of a closed grid and having to work for money and then going shopping,” Kellie wrote in a blog post. A closed grid is one that does not allow hypergrid travel to other grids, and restricts the degree to which users can export content that they haven’t created themselves. Other examples of closed grids are Avination, InWorldz, and Second Life itself. Some creators prefer closed grids to hypergrid-enabled grids because they tend to have more vibrant in-world economies and more protections for content creators.
That doesn’t mean that she’s leaving the hypergrid altogether, Kellie said.
“I am still also on OSGrid,” she said in a GridCache post. OSGrid is the largest OpenSim grid, and is hypergrid-enabled. “I just am really enjoying being on a grid [SpotON3d] where the tools I need to create work for me better… Plus I am just having so much fun there.”
This is a great case study in positive PR for a commercial grid, with several lessons for other grid owners dealing with negative publicity:
First, don’t hold on to the past. Treat every interaction with a member of the public as a new opportunity to demonstrate what your business is about.
Second, it’s true that there’s no such thing as negative publicity — but only if you respond right. A negative article could be just the opportunity your company needs to fix a mistake, address a misconception, or connect with new customers and partners.
Third, if the article is overly negative, there’s a silver lining in there, as readers will be more willing to consider your point of view. For example, I have been very critical of SpotON3D’s position on patent issues, and their public relations mistakes. But I was the first to comment in defense of SpotON3D, pointing out that they did not actually violate Linda Kellie’s license terms because she specifically said that she did not require attribution. Okay, I did say they were “rude and inconsiderate” in not including the attribution, but after reading their responses, I have to take that back. They weren’t being rude an inconsiderate — they just made an honest mistake.
Now, if only they’d offer a free version of their plugin for non-profits and individuals…