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Monday, December 08, 2008


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Yeah, but does that 50% number mean "50% of the user-base has 'Enable Voice Chat' turned on in the client," or are they actually able to say something like "50% of the user-base has *actually spoken in voice-chat* for one minute or more since inception?"

'cause those are two very different claims, and the first one seems far likelier than the second, to me.

Neither scenario sounds quite as impressive as "50% of the entire user base have adopted it," tho...

Doreen Garrigus

Hamlet, I have voice capability. It is enabled and I have a headset--which I might even be able to locate on short notice. I have no philosophical objection to using voice. My RL gender and my SL gender match, so my voice works for my avatar. There is no intrinsic reason I don't use it.

The thing is that there are people who don't use voice for any number of reasons, social or technological or practical. I won't use voice if someone else in the vicinity isn't. That is, if there are ten avatars in a room and nine of them have voice, I will use text to make sure that tenth person isn't excluded---and I don't think I'm unusual.

It's like being bilingual. You choose the language that everyone in the room speaks. You don't, for instance, speak Spanish if someone in the room doesn't. It is rude.

Teachers, perhaps more than anyone else, need to be consciously inclusive. They can't talk only to the students who have voice, leaving the rest to fend for themselves.

Ann Otoole

Go to a welcome center sometime to see what voice is really used for in SL.

Although there is sometimes useful conversation most of what I hear are mics keyed to proudly express various bodily noises and mics placed next to speakers emitting annoying and offensive music while the avatar basically looks like it is afk. I.e.; it is intentional.

Sadly most don't seem to realize these little mics pick up all the noises in the house such as barking dogs, screeching children, and nagging spouses.

Regardless... by hanging around a welcome center you get a feel for the new residents tending to use voice all the time as though they never knew it didn't exist at one point. They will be surprised when they start finding role play sims that don't even have voice enabled at the sim level. But LL tries to fix that by coming along and enabling voice even if you do not want it on.

To each their own I say.

Riven Homewood

I have seen use of voice grow during the past year, but 50%? Not anyplace where I go on sl. I know of three educational groups that use it extensively and another that uses it for conferences and some meetings.

Some SL role playing groups use voice, but perhaps not SL voice. A couple of months ago I was at a large meeting with reps from 6 different rp groups. Two combat groups reported using voice regularly, but they use another voice system -- forget the name but apparently it's commonly used on MMORPGs. They make sure everyone who joins gets that system and a HUD for it.

Moggs Oceanlane

I'd be intrigued to know more about the sample and the source of the numbers. Many educators I know use voice quite happily. Then again, sometimes it's an equity issue - not everyone can use voice - system constraints, location constraints (ie. not appropriate based on where they are accessing SL from).

Ciaran Laval

The voice stats always seem to me to be a lies, damned lies and statistics scenario. I use it now and again and some people I know use it now and again but the vast majority of people who I meet don't use voice most of the time.

As for who is using voice, it's escorts!

Afon Shepherd

Hi, an interesting piece, though not surprising. I'm not sure if my comments are valid as I am exclusively an SL educator. Neither I nor any of the Instructors at the SL education organisation I teach for (NCI) use voice for teaching. There are a number of reasons for this, inclusivity (everyone has text chat but not voice), the use of notecard readers to help during the class, the ability of students to save the class and review later, the ability for students to scroll back to check on things they missed (due to RL interruptions), easier to understand (no accents to confuse folk). Our students are primarily not full time students and come from all over the world (as do our Instructors). In my view, text has the edge over voice in the SL classroom.

NCI is an exclusively SL education organisation and runs over 60 classes/events each week with around 24 Instructors/Hosts.

Thaumata Strangelove

I like to use voice when I am hanging around and talking to friends while building, because it frees up my hands to continue creating things. Other than that, I rarely use it, because there is always at least one person who will wake up their household by talking out loud or just doesn't use voice for other reasons.

I do know a lot of people who use one-to-one voice, though, and that's becoming more obvious to me as time goes on. Also, I find that the worse someone's typing skills are, the more inclined they are to use voice. My stepdad is a hunt-and-peck type and his success in SL was markedly improved by learning to use voice to ask questions.

I still don't think it's 50% though. No way.

Burgundy Mirajkar

Truthseeker's point is an important one, especially if you return to the post from July 14 that Hamlet links to above. The "50%" figure there says, "- 50% of online Residents use voice on average; over 80% of those are in chat at any time." This would mean that 40% of those online are actually using voice at a given moment. If this means that they have voice turned on and a little white light above their head, then this sounds pretty much on the mark for my experience. If it means that their mic is on as well and they're engaged in conversation, then there really needs to be more support provided for this claim.

I've sat in on a course taught in SL this fall -- a different section of the same course I've taught myself in an RL classroom -- and although voice access was a course requirement, the students mainly communicated in text while the professor lectured in voice. The students found it easier to keep track of what was going on and liked that they could scroll up to see what they'd missed. They also liked that there's no such thing as interruption in group discussions when it's conducted in text.

I myself have used voice more often socially than professionally in-world, almost entirely in private calls. ...that is, if "using voice" means carrying on a conversation with another person and doesn't simply mean that the "Enable Voice Chat" box in Preferences is checked. My favorite use is for keeping hands free while exploring the world with a friend, since it's the only way to walk and talk simultaneously.

Alan Levine

We appreciate NWN writing about our survey; for the commenter asking about the sample, it is clearly spelled out in the summary available from:

which was 358 educators who responded to the call via emails to the Second Life Educators Listserv and the NMC's own community email list, and messages to the NMC's 2 in world groups (5000+).

The question of the low use of voice is interesting, but the answers here are mostly speculation. Two factors that are important, as our community of educators report are:

* Voice chat does not provide an easy way to archive an educational event/activity - yes software exists to record, but the chat transcript is a readily available record of participation.

* Educators make special effort to meet all needs, so aim for a lowest common denominator; activities in voice chat only present challenge to deaf learners.

Another aspect to consider is that text chat enables more parallel / overlapping communication channels to occur; in voice chat more than one speaker makes it nearly impossible to follow either speaker.

That said, the NMC has run at least 4 full fledged conferences in SL (ones where people pay real money to register), and use voice chat exclusively for our presenters. We deal with point 1 by recording both text and audio; and point 2 by providing a transciber when requested.

Iggy O

Alan is the expert here--and for educators, his points nail down every reason I can think of why we are not using voice more widely.

Keeping logs--something vital when we used earlier forms of synchronous conferencing--stands out for me as the most important reason why more educators do not use voice. Using logs, faculty and students can review and use material for future projects or study. Those who miss our weekly SL Roundtable meeting at Montclair State's campus do go back and review the transcripts, we find.

Linden Lab, in promoting SL for educational use, has been attending our meetings and listening. Voice is wonderful for language instruction, but for many of us, it's not vital to how we use SL.

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