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Friday, May 07, 2010

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Jura Shepherd

Just wanted to comment that you can use social media with an avatar identity. Not only that, but I think people should. I not certain how it would help grow SL, but I empirically _know_ that it helps off-worlders understand what's actually happening in SL.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Saying "I told you so" or "I'm not surprised" or even "I hate to be right" sounds terribly presumptuous and arrogant, so I won't say it :)

But you definitely cover a possible scenario and reason for the apparent changes of popularity.

Then again, SL does include social networking, quite a lot of it in fact: it just happens in-world with a quite different interface... but we definitely have "friends", "groups", and sharing items with groups (via group notices). And, of course, we have real-time interaction in the virtual space. Sure, I know it's limited (or at least seems to), but it is social interaction.

The question that begs asking is how much out-of-SL "social networking" is really fundamental, i.e. how many SL residents engage in Facebook, Plurk, Twitter, Avatars United [very few on that one!], LinkedIn etc. to talk and discuss SL-related issues.

Another interesting statistic would be to take a look at Kaneva, which (deliberately) forced users to engage on web-based social networking before they were allowed to join the beta (when the beta was opened to the public), compared to, say, Twinity, Blue Mars, vSide, and others.

Ann Otoole

I would not make any assumptions based on numbers related to Facebook at this point in time. Part of Facebook's issues are related to it's owner's attitude about the rights of people other than himself and a lot of people now walking away from there. The accounts probably won't be canceled because I doubt FB would respect the wishes of anyone wanting data removed given FB does not respect their own privacy policies anyway. As such the issue of FB is moving into the realm of the FTC (formal complaints now filed) and government regulation (New laws being introduced to Congress) that will cause over reaching data privacy rules finally coming to the USA that, among a lot more, would outlaw tracking IP addresses for anything other than web log analysis.

These problems with FB only have recently begun to be communicated to the mainstream. Suddenly FB has lost it's golden luster and has become the Stazi of the internet. People don't much care for that. Zuckerberg blew it.

As for identities and virtual worlds? There is no real place for it on the entertainment side. People want entertainment to escape real life And that is where the money is. Want to argue about how much money is in the entertainment business? Look at The Walt Disney Company, television, movies, and alcohol (bars, etc.) and then try to say entertainment is not the true driver of the economy.

However on the work side there are use cases for real identity for an avatar. But that is a good solid decade away before that gets any real traction. Remember the concept of virtual worlds took a very long time to get to the point they are at now that focuses on entertainment value.

I find it interesting that LL could have remained focused on entertainment and Rosedale not have grown it or left and LL would have remained in a very nice position and all those lindens retained wonderful cushy fulfilling lucrative enviable jobs making a solid 20 year career out of Second Life based solely upon us existing residents that liked it just fine for what we built it up to provide.

Well can't go back in time can we.

Valiant Westland

Comparing Apples, Oranges and "Pairs"

The various "Social" platform you describe in your post are used by people for fundamentally different degrees and desired outcomes of social engagement. Neither YoVille nor Habbo are used for serious business purposes. They are social 2D game platforms. So much for Apples and Oranges.

I think you are correct that social gaming platforms do NOT need to be "Paired" with RW identity-driven social networking sites like Facebook to be successful. That being said, I think your guess that the large decline in YouVille's Facebook user population IS directly attributable to YouVille's stand-alone site.

As much as I love Gwyneth Llewelyn, I remain convinced that RW/VW persona / "brand" integration and unified marketing is essential for anyone who wants long term success in Virtual Worlds. I believe the coming year(s) will show those that are most successful, have not only integrated their VW identity into their RW social networks, but also aggressively cross "paired" their RW and VW identities or even merged them into a single personal "brand."

Toxic Menges

A fair amount of Habbos huge number is down to the large number of alt account that are made by users.

It will be interesting to see how Habbo fares now that their English speaking operations are now merged. One of the interesting quirks of Habbo was it's different hotels, and country centric communities. How Australia will fare when teh beach parties are out in force during their winter will be interesting to watch, especially seeing how the company likes to use large campaigns to keep users engaged.

Arwyn Quandry

I used to love Habbo. It was one of my favorite websites for several years. It has a lot to offer to teens in that it's not complicated and it allows freedom to meet with people and create their own groups. I found it a bit too restrictive at times, and the drama could be unbearable, but it seems to have hit upon the right formula to work.

Lili

Why is it so hard for some people to believe, that a large portion of the Second Life community is there for escapism and not to interact with real identities? This escape was what made Second Life desirable for many people. Not everyone is beautiful, popular, confident or whatever in the real world. There are many difficulties interacting with real people, that were negated in Second Life. It didn't matter what you looked like or where you were from. That made Second Life great for us.

But now, just like in real life, the beautiful, confident, fully-abled, popular people are calling the shots. So are the people who came here to have a second life going to have to build a basement in their basement to move into?

In Second Life, the people who HAVE TO KNOW what you look like and who you are the minority in my experience. Usually the ones most concerned with it are the pervs who want to make sure their sex-ball buddy is really a girl. I show my real identity to long time friends, but mostly I don't. I have friends who are uncomfortable with this though. One of my friends is a burn victim and typical to the myth, lives in his parents basement. He's a great guy that I care a lot about, but he doesn't fit into society when people see him. I know him in real life, so I know what Second Life means to him. I have another friend with a cleft palat. She's a pretty and smart young lady, who has a hard time speaking clearly, so she won't use voice in Second Life. After voice came out, she received more and more harassment. People were so concerned that she was a man because she wouldn't use voice, that she finally made a male avatar.

The point of all this? The point is, that when you take away the "Second Life escapism", you destroy a place that means a lot to very many people. The social media people will come and go. Second Life doesn't mean anything to them. When they make a machine to have all your friends stand around in your home as holograms, they can just stand there and admire each other. So however much some people want it, real identities are not always the best thing. As a matter of fact, I don't think real identities do anything except destroy virtual worlds.

Doreen Garrigus

YoVille users have not migrated to the stand-alone site. YoVille is a game. You get your Yo to level 50 and the game is essentially over. You are done playing. Certainly, there are little pointless sub-games in there that you can keep on playing, but all your friends are done and it is time to move on.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Hamlet, while I respect your and Raph's experience, I would qualify the claim you two make, "That integration with Facebook and linking real identities with avatars are crucial to the future of virtual worlds."

It's crucial for many educators, journalists, researchers, and businesspeople. Yet such linkage is already possible without LL making the connection even more transparent. We only need the "first life" tab in the 1.2x viewer.

Do you see the disconnect between RL identity and SL appearance as hurting the growth of virtual worlds? Your avatar looks like you. Mine looks like me if I glued a dreadlock wig on my RL bald dome.

I'd love to hear Rapf sound off in comments here.

For many other users, as Ann, Gwyneth, and Lili have noted, SL is a place not only to look like someone else but be someone (or something) else. And for many of these users I've met, it's the end-all of the experience and they don't embed the avatar into Plurk or Profiles Live or other types of networking. SL is escapist fun, as Lili notes, and these immersed users are still paying customers.

These residents, even if not fat naked men in basements posing as supermodels, desire to keep RL and SL identities well separated.

Consider Bryn Oh, whose work you just saluted.

In any case, if LL wants more transparency, they need to rethink their current drive for new residents, that "dream home" campaign and "fall in love" message.

Or am I too cynical in reading this that LL is targeting newcomers to set up a prefab love shack?

Remington Soup

The interesting question that's slowly emerging, I think, is whether a 'fantasy' identity in a VW is actually a distinction.

Theorists have been writing for a long time now about the fragmented nature of our identities. Even in RL our identities are multiple, and highly determined by context.

What I'm saying is - perhaps Sven Godslayer (in SL) and Mitch Funkle (in RL) may be just as divorced from each other as Mitch at work, and Mitch with his lover. Self-awareness and cognitive patterns are not constant in our lives; the way we see ourself and act depends on our current situation.

Perhaps the SL situation is only one more fragment of an identity that is already multi-faceted. What is fascinating is that this condition makes a difficult psychological concept concrete and conceivable.

Yeah, this is becoming my thesis - a VW doesn't actually alter our engagement with reality in fundamental ways (yet), it merely exposes many of the underlying complexities that have been invisible but consequent.

Flashing Merlin

I tried YoVille to see why it was so popular, and found it lame. You don't really interact with other avatars, rather while they are offline the game animates their avatars for them in mechanistic ways. Habbo is much better, in that it's designed so you interact with "real" avatars in real time.

In YoVille you can't create anything, all you can do is decorate your apartment, or house, with virtual objects you buy in their limited game controlled stores.

The game pays you "coins" for doing meaningless "work," but once you've bought enough furniture to decorate your apartment, there's little incentive to continue. Although the game promises to add more rooms if you reach higher levels, there's no incentive for doing so except to reach even higher levels and get even more rooms you have no use for.

The majority of mechanically animated avatars I "met" had lost interest at low levels, and stopped playing. Their game animate avatars persisted there like cyber zombies. Only one had bothered to reach the highest level.

I stopped playing, and I'm not surprised my other friends did too, and thus it's no surprise YoVille numbers plummeted once the novelty wore off.

I only hope an experience like YoVille will not discourage people from trying SL.

Shug

I am encouraged by the SL=RL2 vs. SL=Fantasy discussion here.Lili, your post is one of the best on the subject I have seen. I am more and more convinced that these 2 camps can not easily coexist in the same VW. It seems that LL is leaning toward the RL2 crowd which will have those of us who do not use voice; have several avatars; and who's avatars do not resemble our RL selves in various ways moving to another VW when we become too uncomfortable here. :(

LittleLostLinden


I look at these statistics and become completely baffled by them.

The reason is because if they truly suggest that people are starting to actually understand privacy risks, and are reversing their previous trends....Well, I'm shocked, because, I thought mainstream was less intelligent than that, especially considering how they have just given away all of their privacy rights in the past without thinking twice about it.

Does it mean people are finally starting to wake up about privacy, and finally understand that they do not need to give it up just because MySpace\FaceBook say they have to?

Only time will tell.
http://gizmodo.com/5530178/top-ten-reasons-you-should-quit-facebook

Fogwoman Gray

I find all these conversations really fascinating. My SL community is quite varied in our approach to SL. I have friends who have been very open about their "real" identities from the start, some like myself who have become very open about it over time, and some who are in SL to RP and experiment with identities and are very protective of RL identities. And we all manage to interact socially, and be respectful of how each person wants to "be" in SL. I have friends whose primary business is in SL or Virtual Worlds, friends and myself who have met and married/partnered offline with our online partners, and friends who pop in on occasion but are not deeply invested in SL.
I see no issues or problems with this, our community thrives with all these ways of "being" in SL and is generally respectful of how each person chooses to interact with the virtual world and other persons there.
The one thing I do feel is important is giving each individual the right to determine what level of self disclosure they desire, and to maintain the level of privacy they require.
I closed my FB account (which was in my real name, with most of my friends there being the RL identities of SL friends) for the simple reason that they continued to open my private information WITHOUT MY AUTHORIZATION or CONSENT. They did not ask first. And closing that account was harder than leaving organized crime. It is still not officially "closed" - there is a 14day waiting period in which it is "deactivated" before they will close it permanently. And that option is nearly impossible to find. I took the precaution of changing my information to nonsense before doing this just because I suspected that it might remain indefinitely.

LittleLostLinden


Fogwoman. It sounds like you have proved some of the items in the 10 Reasons to Leave Facebook article that I posted:

http://gizmodo.com/5530178/top-ten-reasons-you-should-quit-facebook

Just in case people missed the article. I think it makes very good reading.

Extropia DaSilva

>SL is a place not only to look like someone else but be someone (or something) else<

Roleplay, for the majority of people, involves fairly substantial change to their physical appearance. They will happily use (sometimes multiple) avatars that bare little resemblence to their RL self. However, in most cases there is very little difference in terms of personality.

So, yes, people do opt to look like someone else, but (a few exceptions to the rule not withstanding) they do not act like someone else.

Koinup Burt

The Facebook integration is obviously important and probably it could make the difference as a marketing tool. As in the previous years, it was for SEO and search engine advertising. Said that, what really make the difference is the "product" or "service" you're promoting.

You can't win if you have a great/innovative/easy-to-use product, even if you have huge and valuable marketing plans.

Second Life is already quite integrated in FB, probably much more could be done. But, I think that the key for SL to go mainstream would be about the inworld experience (not about the external sources that bring more or less traffic to secondlife.com )

We all here think that SL is an amazing product. Just I don't know (really I don't know) if the masses outside (the crowd of facebook, the crowd of iphone) think the same

Arcadia Codesmith

I always thought of YoVille as a sort of introduction to VWs -- a simplified, primitive way to ease Facebook users into the concept.

As such, it never had much potential to stabilize. People who were intrigued by the concept would ultimately find YoVille too limiting and move on to more fully-realized worlds. People who weren't would just give up.

There's also considerable backlash against Zynga for their incessant and unsubtle focus on monetization. There's nothing inherently wrong with exploring microtransaction-based revenue streams, but a sense of finesse, fairness and balance is required to pull it off without sparking a user revolt.

Mecha

Again I'll remind.

SL cannot be like Facebook because the technology cannot support it. In other words it cannot be mainstream because SL cannot scale to millions of people. All that will result is lots of lag.

SL only makes sense if you own land to create. Otherwise, it will get boring and there are better internet options to interact with real friends, like Facebook.

SL is a niche product for middle-aged people who can afford it, and should be marketed as such.

All that matters in running any business, and SL is a business, is the return on your investment. You can go mass market, lower quality, and lower price, or niche marker, higher quality and higher price. I recommend the later to SL.

I hope that SL does not listen Wagner. He will ruin their business.

Stone Semyorka

This discussion has become very involved while, to me, the concept is simple. I agree with Gwyneth Llewelyn that SL is social networking carried to the Nth degree. The static websites like Facebook seem to be riding high this year, but they actually are fighting for their future existence in the face of the obvious magnetic attraction of the sense of presence experienced in a virtual world like Second Life.

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