Friday, October 27, 2006

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FINDING FUR

Meeting_michi_lumin_2004
Michi from February 2004

So how many furries in Second Life are there, anyway?  While working on a book project last month, I stumbled into an educated guess at that number, and it surprised even me.  I once tried to make my own estimate by tallying up the total membership of every group with "Fur" and its many variations in the listings, but that was a doomed task, since it didn't account for overlap.  I missed an obvious and much more accurate metric, but fortunately, Michi Lumin of Luskwood didn't.  So when I happened to ask, she had a number right in her pocket.  (Or in a fold of her dragon wings, as the case may be.)

Because the thing is, a furry avatar is not created through the default appearance interface; rather, it's a rather complex, multi-faceted costume attached on top the avatar form, as a suit not unlike the kind you'd see at a theme park-- or for that matter, at a real world furry convention.  Several groups sell these full-body suits, and sales mean vendors-- and vendors mean numbers. 

Luskwood is the largest vendor of furry suits, and also the oldest.  And as of early this week, Michi told me, "Luskwood is at 13,019 unique customers alone... I'd put the number probably at about 14,000 now.

"We're the biggest furry vendor," she goes on, "but some others (NWS, Lost Furest) are rather large themselves; from what I've seen there's about 40% overlap (i.e. when comparing customer lists, in a cursory manner, 40% of people who are 'primarily NWS customers' also own a Luskwood avatar, and vice versa.) 

"Which means, let's say we have 13,000 unique customers, and NWS has 8,000 unique customers (which I believe is right)-- maybe 3000 of NWS's customers are also part of our 13,000.  So that would lead me to say that there are about 16,000 unique customers between the two of us.  I believe the overlap gets higher when you put more in the mix, though."

All those calculations factored in, Michi tells me, "I'd guess the 'unique' furry population is above 15,000, below 20,000." 

She chuckles.  "That's certainly what we'd call an 'educated guess' though."

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Etain Peregrine

But does owning a furry avatar make you 'a furry' ? I own several myself, mostly because they look neat and I collect neat looking avatars. I would not call myself 'a furry' however, but more a friend of the furry community. Technically there should be something like the Kinsey scale for furries. 0 is never furry, 6 is always furry, 3 is half and half. I'd put myself at a 2.

Aster

Eh, Identity is a complex thing. It's one of those things that differs bottom-up and top down. The human mind likes to put things into simple groups for easier processing, but reality is often quite different.

If you were to take a count of furries in SL it would be different than the number of residents in SL that associate themselves with the furry identity. If you count how many people self-identify as furs, meaning they can place themselves in the category of what they think a fur is, it's going to be a different number than people that have a furry identity (and an avatar).

It's kind of a rule of thumb for life: treat people as if they were merely containers of identities/group traits instead of an example of the stereotype itself.

Of course, you probably mean self-identified furs when you talk about furies in general. ^_^;

SL to the furry community as a whole IMHO is just a graphical version of the text-based multi-user environments that a lot of them are already accustomed to. While there is resistance within the furry community to accept SL, most are already comfortable with the idea of a virtual world and inter-connected chat spaces so it is natural for them to have a large presence in SL.

As for an accurate count of unique, self-identified furs, I would look at the major Fur sims and see how many users simultaneously long in.

However, Since Furry avs cost about $3 US on average, I think asking the fury av makers is a pretty good way of seeing how many furs there are. However, there are a lot more furry avatar makers out there. You might want to check out the avatarium (sp?) in Taco for a better idea. Furries tend pride themselves on uniqueness despite belonging to common species, and tend to mix and match avatars for a custom look.

Personally, I think 15,000-20,000 furries is rather conservative.

Torley

I consider parts of myself furry — including Torlop the Rabbit and Tollie the Puppy! Torlavian the Bird isn't quite so anthropomorphic, but very furry — or at least feathery — at the least.

I'd really delight in an amoeba avatar in the future, however.

Aliasi Stonebender

This also doesn't take into account people who roll their own, or who are using any of the numerous freebie avs out there (and that could be quite a few; the most common complaint among furry artists seems to be how many out there in the community are freeloaders. Add to that the inherent resistance some have for spending money on 'a game'...)

Crissa

Generally, at any non-furry public gathering, the number of noobie avatars vs actual constructed furry avatars is 1:1 to 1:2.

So there must be some attaction to the cartoony outfits, either way.

I've never bought from Luskwood, and their avatars don't normally outnumber other brands in representation except in Lusk... So I'd guess their own numbers are inflated, compared to others.

They also don't promote or allow any connection or existance of other 'brands' in Lusk.

Lomgren

Just posting this to clarify. At the time of the interview, the numbers used were true. Since then, a lot of furry av makers have come into SL, and the market has changed. You can't comment on something like Crissa did, 7 months after the fact, and expect the numbers to have stayed the same.

And since Lusk is controlled by Luskwood, and is a community, not just an avatar vendor or mall, it makes perfect sense for them to only sell their avatars in Lusk. Though everyone is welcome, as long as they are well behaved and their avatar is PG.

Culture and Tourism

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