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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

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Adric Antfarm

We are a bit like locals in a town that depends on tourists I guess.

We would rather not have them, but we would like the town to survive.

I guess we can be snooty and overcharge them all.

Eris

Tourism is not a dirty word, we need to get past that idea, it's the solution. It should be easy for casual visitors to jump in and out of SL, to attend an event, explore a location or hangout with friends - it should be two-click-simple.

Those of us that want to create and do business within SL will climb the learning curve, we've already found a reason to do that. But the casual visitor should not turn up and find they have to pass exam's to even get in, this is crazy. The first hour experience should be IN Second Life and not exiled to the periphery and we need to realise that most users will never want or need more than basic skills. More people read books than write them, virtual worlds will be no different.

We've built it and now they will come - if we make it easy enough and get over the idea that they're coming to build.

CyFishy Traveler

How can you even attempt 'mass adoption' when a relatively high-end machine is required just to log in to begin with? Not everybody has--and in this economy, not as many people can afford--the kind of graphics and computing power needed for a decent SL experience.

I can log into Facebook with my iPhone. I can't really do that with SL, not in a way that allows me to interact on the same level. This is why Facebook has the mass adoption that I can't see SL having any time soon.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Tourists need an intuitive UI. And like RL tourists, many of them shy away from places with sketchy reputations. I know...the cool kids go to Amsterdam, but I bet that a lot more folks go to Orlando.

SL has both problems I note. We can educate others about SL's rep, but the first requires work by LL.

In fact, as Tateru Nino recently noted the need for "a more appropriate and mass-market friendly brand-name":

http://www.massively.com/2009/12/07/is-linden-lab-wasting-its-time-on-the-existing-second-life-popul/

That's something I've noted in my blog and my work with educators. The very name "Second Life" sends the wrong message. It suggests a furtive life lived behind the backs of others.

At least the original "Linden World" sounds like a theme park for many, many tourists to enjoy. I don't like these places IRL, and I prefer SL's artsy and edgy culture, but if want mass adoption, SL's image will have to change.

No offense meant to Floridians, because I'm sure Orlando has a bohemian quarter, somewhere.

Jovin

Changing the company or product name is what board members do when they've run out of other ideas. Usually costs millions and results in nothing more than a crappy new logo and the feeling that you're trying to run away from a former incarnation for some reason.

Who really believes SL's biggest barrier to mainstream interest is its name?

Metacam Oh

Second Life IS a ghost town when you look at the amount of land there is in second life compared to the amount of people signed in, I don't know how many actual sims are online in Second Life but its probably a horrendous ratio compared to those logged in so, yes it appears to be a ghost town.

LittleLostLinden


Actually, I somewhat agree with Erick. Unfortunately, if everyone else would have looked at that map that was posted, and realized that half of the map is bots and campers, then the map, does not seem very impressive at all.

Anyone who has done any research at all into bots\campers, knows that there are just as many of them now as there has ever been, and they continue to grow.

And, you can not report them. And the Lindens only selectively stop a few of the worse offenders from time to time, but that is it. The problem is still massive.

Anytime you logon and you see 75,000 online, you can be assured it really only means 40,000 real people online with the rest being bots and campers. This is a fact but most people seem to ignore it.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

@Jovin, who wrote:

"Who really believes SL's biggest barrier to mainstream interest is its name?"

Not the biggest barrier. I'd say that the UI and the first-hour experience are larger barriers. Yet I hear again and again, from students and colleagues in the edu sector how the SL name sends the wrong message. Moreover, several of my current students claim that LL's marketing attempts on CSI: New York and The Office backfired by showing SL to be a place used by the Dwights or serial-killers of RL.

Maybe those millions of SL new residents Hamlet hopes we'll get won't care what SL is called when they get a better UI. I don't eat at the place, but lots of people love the burgers at Fuddruckers, after all.

As you correctly note, changing a name and logo are not minor steps to take.

Arcadia Codesmith

I'm not altogether certain that the elements of the media that are actively slamming Second Life will stop slamming Second Life, no matter what happens.

We've entered an age of what I would characterize as "grudge journalism", where certain mass outlets carry on an unceasing vendetta against a particular person, organization or concept with no regard to an objective consideration of the facts.

Were Second Life as ubiquitous as the cell phone, they might change their assessment from "ghost town" to "ghost town, now with more ghosts". That's about the extent of the flexibility they're capable of.

I believe that we can and should make Second Life more accessible (without sacrificing any 'advanced' features for those who want them), integrate better with social media, and have the slickest tutorial experience of any VW/game in production.

But even with all that in place, there will be writers spinning hate, distortion and outright lies our direction. The best we can hope for is to undermine their credibility by simple virtue of being the best Second Life we can be... because if you try to appease minds twisted by spite, all you end up with is a spite pretzel.

DustyArtaud

I agree with Ignatius that the UI and the first-hour experience are the larger barriers. And whatever LL does (or not) to enhance this experience, perhaps the gateways could facilitate this better as a consortium, by developing some best practices for that first hour and some retention follow-up strategies with new residents. While inworld communication tools are still fairly primitive, all gateways should be looking for ways to more effectively deploy mentors/monitors, notecards on specialized places of interest and group-join suggestions - as well as effectively integrate their outworld websites, wikis, and social media.

LittleLostLinden


To give an example of what I am talking about when I refer to bots and campers...

I'd like to play a little game.

The following SLURL usually contains 20 campers.

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Itsumo%20Nandodemo/99/183/23

I would like to see this sim no longer contain any campers or bots. It's a business called FUSSY and this is the main store location.

Let the game begin.

If you are able to successfully get this location to no longer have any campers, please let us know exactly how you did it. thank you

LittleLostLinden


Just wanted to add a comment. The above SURL has contained 20 campers for the past year, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

It will be interesting to see if anyone can successfully have the campers removed permanently.

Mark Young

Mainstream media seems to be contracting more and more of the haters from the blogosphere because they are adept at delivering sensational negative pieces - I guess negativity sells well for now. But mass market adoption? How much time does SL require to appreciate? How many mass market mediums are competing for people's time? I don't think many people have the time for SL, given the distributions of interests, proclivities, comfort zones and alternatives.

Pyewacket

Random thoughts -

I don't care what the "media" has to say about SL. I'm too busy trying to figure out when the damn textures are going to load.

And that's the problem. We're not ready for prime time - and lipstick isn't going to do the job. A wildly enthusiastic group of current users is the only way to "mass market". This is no longer the 20th Century where you can pay Madison Avenue to blow smoke up people's arses.

A product is expected to get better and cheaper after the early adopters have knocked out the bugs. That ain't happening.

The biggest obstacle to "mass market" is the 40 avatar limit for an event. Bands would have this place booked solid - and you can bet your last Linden that the learning curve would be a lot less daunting to people hell bent on being the new Virtual American Idol.

Sex and bad press. LOL! Sex IS mass market press.

The Second Life name is what we make it. A rose is a rose and all that tripe.

Stop reading the "media" and start reading the JIRA. It's a lot more informative.

Troy McConaghy

Here's an analogy: SL is like Final Cut Studio.

Both are open-ended. There's no "game" although you could create a game inside them. There are many use cases. It takes a long time to appreciate them fully. There are menus inside menus inside menus.

But Final Cut Studio will never be a mass-market product. Do Final Cut bloggers worry about that? I doubt it. (It would generate more ad revenue for the bloggers, but I suspect they're realistic in their expectations.)

Linden Lab is profitable. There are many profitable businesses built on top of SL. It's already impossible to keep up with all the new stuff in SL. Why hope SL will become "mass market"? How would that be better?

(I'm not against SL becoming mass market. I'm just saying that it's not necessary.)

Adric Antfarm

Yes LLL, there are campers there bringing down less than a quarter an hour.

The rules are being bent (broken) but I would not want to send out squads to crack down on this when their efforts are better spent rethinking Xstreet's soon to come ghost town phase, busting content theft, or giving us bases so we don't panic when asked for them.

http://i.imgur.com/39IAL.jpg

Vax Sirnah

Mass Market adoption won't come until there are fundamental changes to SL. Mass market just isn't into 3D immersive in and of itself (and I don't think that 3D immersiveness in and of itself isn't a big win for the enterprise either - sorry SL Enterprise).

What SL needs to do is become an effective player in the online world. SL needs to not solely be a 'separate life' but rather capable of being that AND 'augmented first life' (like Facebook and Twitter and email all augment first life). In order to do that, SL needs to play better with the rest of the world. It needs better ways of getting data in and out of world. It needs to pass off some of the integration to the client (say if I could log onto all my IMs while in SL through the client, I'm more likely to be in world). Not everything HAS to go through the servers.

Ultimately, there needs to be a change in SL vision that the Lindens have to take on.

cube inada

one should feel no pain for the nest of bad bloggers and pundits all pretending to be journalists that hover around bad facts, lazy reporting and generally stupid press releases.

One should also feel no pain for corporations that feed into this cycle with false usage numbers and every changing client/customer relations all under the ever litagatable and common TOS as a buisness ethic.

c3

Hamlet Au

"LittleLostLinden", you've harped on bots in countless posts, and I agree that's a problem-- for established users. But why would it matter to the 95% of registrants who never even get past the first few hours? Same thing with Pyewacket's "40 avatar limit for an event" -- again, a valid concern for the 5% who get past the initial user experience, but not sure how it relates to mass adoption.

LittleLostLinden

"Hamlet Au", indeed the bots and campers do present more of a problem for established users, however, to answer your question about how they affect beginning users, it's fairly simple.

Say you are a new user just getting the hang of things in SL. You do some searches using the nice search button at the bottom of the SL viewer to see where everyone is hanging out in this new world. You've heard that SL is somewhat popular and you wish to find those people to chat with them, and ask for help, etc.

You pick a place from the search.

You then teleport to the location that is high in search (say 10,000 or so). You get there.

You see a bunch of avatars standing around with little signs above their heads that say "Pays 2 L \ 10 mins". You try to spark up a conversation with these avatars.

However, most do not speak back to you. Why? Because they are all away from their keyboard parking their avatars to make lindens and hog up server resources.

You then think to yourself, as a new user, "What is the point of all this?".

This of course is only one example.

Also, the title story here was inferring that SL is a ghost town.

Well, even though Erick didn't word it this way exactly, what else do you call avatars that are away from keyboard for hours and hours, even days on end?

I would call them ghosts.

Bots are even worse than campers in the fact that they never even acknolege a newcomer to SL, at least, occasionally, a camper might say something, but bots, never.

So this is just one little way in which new users to SL are affected by bots and campers. it is what happened to me when I was new, and I'm here to say that it is still a big problem. Just as it left me dissapointed with SL, I'm sure it has left other newcomers the same way.

That is why I am proposing a Bot\Camper Awareness initiative. To help rid SL of Bots and Campers once and for all.

But even more than that. I don't like being lied to with false concurrent user listings.

When I see that 70K, I know it is a lie, and I only want the truth. I think, it is a fraud, for LindenLab to be able to tout those false statistics. Many of the concurrent users are still bots or campers, and they allow me no way whatsoever to report them. When I do, I am told I should not be reporting them, and that they will take care of them, and they never do.

The FUSSY location is a perfect example. It's been there for well over a year, 20 campers, every day, constantly, skweing the numbers. And while it is only 1 sim, I can easily show hundreds more. I choose to focus on 1, to proove my point, that it will be there forever, and so will all the rest, because, we can not report them, we are not allowed to do so. I think that is wrong, and it does affect new SL users, as well as old.

In fact, I'm thinking of starting up a hunting service, wherby I offer a certain ammount of Linden dollars to those who have the ability to remove sims with bots and campers, just to see if it can be done.

That is why I use my example.

The following SLURL usually contains 20 campers.

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Itsumo%20Nandodemo/99/183/23

There is nothing we can do about it. They never go away.

If you happen to know something I don't about how to make them go away (and thus improve the first hour\day experience), please let us know.

Doreen Garrigus

Ok, so "Second Life" is a dumb name. So is "YoVille", and don't even get me started about "FishVille". I don't think it makes much difference. Besides, when and if it becomes mainstream, it will be as an interoperable system of OpenSim Grids and we'll call it just "The Grid" won't we?

I'm not terribly concerned that people log in to SL once and then let their accounts languish, either. I've met too many two-year-old newbies, lately. These are folks who made an avatar during the 2006-2007 hype, got frustrated, and didn't log in again until they read about some cool event happening in world. It's why I see some method to LL's madness in leaving old, unused accounts active.

The obstacle I see to the mass adoption of SL as a platform is the outright scariness of it all. It's all too big. You can do too much. People feel lost and overwhelmed. When they ask us what there is to do, most of us barely know where to start. We ask that horrible question, "Well, what do you want to do?" They don't know what they want to do. The want to know what they are supposed to do, and the truth is that they aren't *supposed to* do anything. And we can't change that fact without destroying this world as we know it. We must narrow the experience for them.

To that end, what we really need is an OpenSim equivalent of AOL circa 1995---Tuck away all those messy building tools and screen out the porn. It's got to have dancing and chat and lots of secure shopping experiences, and each of the merchants must be vetted, licensed, and linked to a real-world identity.

Please don't be too horrified about the building tools being hidden or unavailable. There were several years after the start of WWW and before the WYSIWYG web page creators. AOL customers didn't build websites: they exchanged recipes; they played games; they chatted. After a while, they shopped. A lot.

Just for everyone's amusement, I dug this up:

Newsweek
February 27, 1995
The Internet? Bah!
Hype Alert: Why Cyberspace Isn't, and Never Will Be, Nirvana

Patience, everyone. It will be ok.

LittleLostLinden


Just wanted to add an edit to my above post. I meant to say that I would offer Linden prizes for those who are able to have Bots and Campers removed from the Sims that have them, and not a prize to have the Sims removed. Just wanted to clarify.

CyFishy Traveler

Doreen--thanks for that link, it was indeed amusing and made a good point in an odd, inverted sort of way.

Hamlet Au

"Say you are a new user just getting the hang of things in SL. You do some searches using the nice search button at the bottom of the SL viewer to see where everyone is hanging out in this new world"

LLL, most new users don't even get off orientation island, and those who do end up in a welcome area, which has problems of its own, but is definitely crowded and doesn't have bots. The percentage of new users who even get to the point where they start searching and teleporting to locations is about 10%. How about figure out what's happening to the 90% who don't even get to that point?

Metacam Oh

You're going to need Guest or Anonymous logins, and a light weight client / or web integration for SL to ever take off to the masses.

If this were possible people would easily be able to get into SL from Resident, business, fan club, hobby pages without the daunting task of installing SL, and signing up. If they can go directly through the web from their interested page into SL, perhaps they will sign up for the long haul later on.

The 40 avatar problem in an area is definitely an issue to prevent growth as well... if I'm a newb going into an area where there is 20 people and it takes me 30 minutes to walk 10 feet, you bet your ass im going to click the X button and never come back.

Doreen Garrigus

Thanks, CyFishy. I almost choked when I read that thing recently. Do you remember when people thought the web was a passing fad?

Everyone keeps comparing SL and its OpenSim offshoots to Twitter or YouTube or social networking sites, but that's not what we've got here. Those things are all specific-purpose. They are not general-purpose open-ended fully-editable monstrosities like SL. The only other thing that SL/OpenSim can be compared to is the World Wide Web itself.

Fogwoman Gray

I find the timing of this post amusing as I was having some not-so-pleasant flashbacks last night inworld. Groups gone, could not change a media stream for our weekly event due to no parcel info, crashed 8 times, asset server issues the past couple of days causing a need to reschedule events - just like the bad old days.
As someone involved with a community Gateway, we are working hard on the "first hour" and helping people get up and running. The best thing that could be done initially is removing the hud that new residents get when they initially rez now. They are instructed in such important skills as "friending" everyone they meet, and using the no longer very useful sliders. We have to wait for new residents to finish getting completely frustrated in "edit appearance" mode, and fend off a dozen friend requests before we can even start orienting them. And when initial orientation includes instructions not to spend any money or attempt to teleport anywhere.....well we have a ways to go before SL has the infrastructure and technical capability for mass market adoption.

Rodion Resistance

In my country (Philippines), before Facebook became popular, most people (esp. young adults) were into Friendster. Then, all of a sudden, beginning mid-2008, there appeared to be a massive "migration" of these users from Friendster to Facebook. I initially thought that the migration would happen from Friendster to MySpace, but it seems the migrations were directly into Facebook.

After some research and casual interviews from friends and users of Facebook, I have come to the conclusion that the migration happened mainly because of one thing that Friendster lacked--Facebook GAMES. You enter an average Philippine internet cafe, and roughly half of the people are logged into MMORPGs, and the other half are logged in to Facebook, tending their FARMS in Farmville or some other farm game.

So my guess is, if SL wants mass-adoption (I'm with Troy though, I don't think it's important), then SL games have to be more engaging, entertaining, and above all, STABLE. And oh, above all yet again, there has to be more of them (inworld games).

-RODION

LittleLostLinden


Only 10% making it off of orientation island seems rather low to me. For users not to be able to see and use a standard Search button which is in plain site in the viewer. I mean, people go to regular websites and can usually work the Search feature. Even the Best Buy website has such a feature.

I guess, just like the people who disbelieve the number of bots and campers inworld, I guess I might be inclined to disbelieve the figure of only 10% making it off orientation island unless it is documented somewhere of course.

But for those 10% that do make it off orientation, if that is a solid and real statistic (unlike the concurrent user statistic that we all know is inflated with bots\campers, and yes you could argue they are users if you wanted to), but if that is a solid statistic backed up with real data, the last thing you would then want to have happen with that 10% of incredibly intelligent users, would be to expose them to yet another SL problem of bots\campers, and false green dots, when they already are going to be wondering why everything is loading at a snails pace, etc.

There are alot of issues with SL, there is no question, everyone has their own issues that they feel are important.

I know the first hour needs improvement as well because without some sort of assistance from other users, some of the tasks seem daunting.

Also, part of this article that is tied to the ghosttown article is mass adoption. When people see all the campers and bots, that is another factor to impede against mass adoption as well.

It may not be important as the first hour, but it is important to new and old users alike, so it is relevant to the topic at hand, but I would agree that first hour trumps the bot\camper issue for new users. Both are issues that need to be worked out still (first hour \ bots camping) before mass adoption can occur.


Arcadia Codesmith

Let me throw out a crazy idea (just to get all the slumlords screaming for my blood):

Give away apartments.

Apartments would be a modest amount of space (say 1024x1024). They would be instanced -- off the grid, existing only when the owner is there, possibly with the base architecture client-side -- and as such, secure and private. Everybody gets one, basic or premium account alike (maybe premium accounts get a space upgrade).

Apartments come with a set of simple, functional furniture, stuff from the Library perhaps, but residents could replace the default decorations with their own purchases at any time. Optionally, they could provide a storage inventory ("the closet") seperate from character inventory.

Your apartment is yours in perpetuity. It is non-sellable, non-rentable, non-transferable. It also makes a crappy retail space with a low avatar limit and no persistance. If you move on to "real" land, your apartment will still be there.

What would this accomplish? It brings SL up to date with standard practice in other "freemium" virtual worlds. It provides psychological investment for new residents by saying "this is your world, you own this piece of it" right out of the gate. It sidesteps the headaches and frustrations of owning a small mainland plot (or renting one that doesn't have an enforced covenant). It's an introduction to owning land for those who eventually want more than a small fixed space. It's an economic boon for furniture and decoration makers. It's real privacy in a world where privacy is sorely lacking.

I think the new continent is aiming at something like this for premium members, and the approach is a bit more refined than First Land, but I think they'd really spike retention by giving a space to everybody.

The question remaining is whether that increased retention would be sufficient to offset the impact on tier revenue of reducing demand for little plots below little skyboxes. They'd have to figure out some way to roll it out in limited fashion and study the market effects before committing.

Jack Abraham

Hamlet, bear in mind that not everyone who disagrees with your strategies for mass market adoption believes mass market adoption would be a bad thing. The point and click movement interface is, IMO, a clunky and annoying on that would be more of a barrier to mass market adoption than a boon. The UI does need a clean-up, and a re-orientation toward interacting with the world rather than building it. But I think LL would do far better to build on existing MMORPG metaphors than try to create new ones or borrow from the Sims.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

@Jack--you got it with the need of a UI with "a re-orientation toward interacting with the world rather than building it."

Good example of bad UI design: Today I'm helping a student doing a final project on the fashion industry in SL. She was working on a photo-shoot of different professonal outfits and switching hair and skin to show different approaches to establishing a fashionable, but professional, appearance. From my office in SL, I was sending her LMs, Linden Dollars, and advice as she bopped around the grid.

She's a good writer, excellent with technology, and has a decent working command of the SL interface. And she's fearless, something a new user needs to be in SL.

Yet the inventory system made it hard from her to find a skin she'd picked up earlier in the term, and though she's past the wear-a-box phase, this happened because the icons in the inventory are so similar.

She'd be a typical mass-markeet user with the interest and dedication to keep at it. And if SHE has problems others will.

So to Linden Lab I say fix the UI first. And, sorry to disagree with others here, change your signature product's name when version 2.0 launches. Then give the mass market something besides what we saw on CSI and The Office. Then you'll get more typical users.

mh

SL is like State Line Nevada.

The vocal residents, like those who spammed the article author, will tell you that the place is crowded and growing.

The facts are that not many who show up in any snapshot of activity are likely to remain in town for more than a few hours.

It would be interesting to see breakdowns of number of logins/av vs time spent in world per login over time. This gives some indication of 'stickiness'. (not that the lab can be expected to release running snapshots of such statistic unless the numbers were awesomely positive.)

If this falls significantly for the vast majority in a short timeframe then remaining a ghost town is likely enevitable.

Somewhat off topic:

Personally, I think that linden should put some effort into making SL a better environment for gaming ala wow and eve. Let police forces, armies, factions and systems of justice form and organize naturally in world.

LL can keep arms escalation and economy under control and provide equalization among parties. Persons can't nuke a city for example. But cities operating under the guidelines established for being recognized as a city might be able to throw nukes at another city. None of this would apply to private businesses or establishments who did not want to play.

Arcadia Codesmith

Perhaps instead of rebranding the platform, they could market individual themed continents under the SL umbrella -- something along the lines of Disney's Fantasyland, Adventureland, Futureland, etc. These could be marketed to demographic niches as individual but interconnected products; SL: AfterDark, SL: SteamPark, SL: Creature Island, SL: GiantUglyNeonCubeLand... whatever.

LittleLostLinden

Can they be stopped?

Fussy Campers:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Itsumo%20Nandodemo/99/183/23

Currently 14.

False traffic being generated by the Fussy Campers: 20,679.

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