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Tuesday, August 24, 2010


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Why do people continue to compare Facebook numbers with SL? It doesn't make any sense. They are two completely different animals.

What do people mainly do on Facebook? Post pictures of themselves and people comment how wonderful they look or send you notices about parties or spread rumours on people. Does Facebook check how much their 500 million accounts are used or how much time is spent?

SL is a world unto itself and it is really only useful when you own land which costs quite a lot. 1 million people using it is quite an achievement to me considering the cost and challenges.

brinda allen

@ Posted by: Mark | Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 11:25 AM
Mark has said all that needs to be said right there.

Hamlet Au

"Post pictures of themselves and people comment how wonderful they look or send you notices about parties or spread rumours on people."

And that's different from Second Life how?

Nahasa Singh

Hamlet, I've heard that the Jules Verne tribute page in Facebook is a tad less awesome than the SL place.

So there's more than just parties and rumors.

Or was yours a rethorical question ?

Hamlet Au

There's more than just parties and rumors on Facebook, too. At the moment, for example, a good friend of mine is going through chemotherapy, which she's documenting on Facebook for her large social network spread out around the world, who are giving her support and love 24/7. Stuff like this happens on Facebook all the time, but since it's so much larger than Second Life, the impact is far wider.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Augmentation and immersion: apples/oranges, anyone?

I like 'em both, but for me FB has no useful professional purpose. I can use Twitter to see what distant acquaintances are doing.

I'm too much of a hermit socially to keep up with a FB account. I must check my LinkedIn about once a year. I see my madmen Beatnik friends in person when we want to drink or rant. Some live right across the street.

SL and other VWs let us build and explore simulations. That's pretty much the only reason to be there if you don't want to socialize.


You've made my point!

Someone going through chemotherapy treatment can get the RL support they need through Facebook, as Facebook is optimised for RL interaction.

In SL I could BUILD a dynamic interactive 3D artistic expression of the impact the treatment had on me and highlight the experiences of people who have recevied this treatment in a variety of ways, which would serve to educate and create awareness.

Personally, I would just like support from my close friends and family.

On another note, this is an interesting article on how Facebook has been used.

Hamlet Au

"In SL I could BUILD a dynamic interactive 3D artistic expression of the impact the treatment had on me and highlight the experiences of people who have recevied this treatment in a variety of ways, which would serve to educate and create awareness."

But because of Second Life's high barriers to entry, sadly very few people will see that artistic expression, or benefit from it. In terms of numbers, Second Life is currently one of the least impactful ways to educate and create the kind of awareness you're talking about. That's why I keep going on about mass market adoption.


OK, you have a point.

But then why does SL continue to exist? Why are there over 30,000 sims? Why am I paying US$100 per month for Land?


I'll repeat, SL cannot be mass market in the way you envision because of the architecture of SL.

If another 1 million people joined SL next month, you would more than likely have another 30,000 sims added, resulting in 60,000 sims which can only hold a 30 to 70 people each.

SL is like the expanding universe.

I have never visited most of the sims in SL, and this would be true of most residents. There are just too many.

For SL to be mass market in the way most people think of mass market, it would need to be more static and centrally managed. People would need to be herded into central locations which could accommodate hundreds of people. Would this continue to be SL? No it would not.

Kimberly Rufer-Bach

Though it's great you were interviewed (congrats!) and cool that you want to share it with us on your blog, I'd rather read about more positive and interesting current SL news reports like http://blogs.computerworld.com/16821/second_life?source=rss_blogs and http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/aug/22/discover-virtual-worlds-revolution

The Lindens Shook Things Up And We Are Doomed and Let's Turn Into Facebook stuff just doesn't light my fire. I'm tired of it . . . it's no fun to read, it's depressing, it's redundant, and it doesn't even have the drama of Emeraldgate. I guess it's just that you come across as tired of the whole SL thing in your posts lately, to the point that I'm starting to wonder why you don't just straight-up blog about Facebook instead. It's making me avoid reading your blog, because I can get a more visceral downer by accidentally deleting part of my build or talking to my unemployed next door neighbor.

I prescribe more martinis and an avatar makeover! ;)

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Kimberly, you missed it, but Hamlet's done his avatar makeover.

But this is his gig, the house is on fire, and what is he gonna report?

Maybe I'm an old grumpy professor (well, not that old) but I like the more balanced tone at NWN. It certainly gets us past the accusations of "fanboy" that some level at Mr. Au.

SL is not doomed. It's just not 2007 any longer, and the sooner we recognize that (as Philip Rosedale has done) the better.

Admitting it won't bias the mainstream media in the US, where the tired meme is "SL is sex and gambling and divorce-bait, blah blah blah" even as the "journalists" move on to the next tidbit for the cheese-doodle-stuffed masses.

So skip the junk food and pour me a Martini, Mr. Au! Now that's a column for us. I take mine very dry, shaken hard with good ice, Tanqueray or Hendrick's only, and four olives.

Kimberly Rufer-Bach

Yeah, he had a makeover, but my avatar's had three of em since then. ;)

Even 2007 wasn't what the press said it was during that very year, and I have written about that extensively . . . I wrote a book about it. I understand that there has to be a balance . . . but heck, Hamlet still has a @secondlife.com email address on his contact page, which implies a connection to Linden Lab that adds extra weight to his posts. Being called "fanboy" is a weak flamewar weapon and nothing to be bothered about, especially for someone still wearing a secondlife.com email address.

I'm not posting here about mainstream media, as a Solution Provider, or anything else but as a reader who is disappointed in what's happening to one of her favorite blogs. It's not as fun to read anymore. I'm sad, and I'm worried that Hamlet is sad too. That's all.

Hamlet Au

Kimberly, my [email protected] address has no relationship to Linden Lab, it simply bounces email to me. But yes, I'm sad that so many opportunities have been squandered, not just by Linden Lab, but by metaverse developers, educators, enterprise folks, and hardcore Residents (I include myself in that number.) However, all is not lost, not by a long stretch; SL and 3D virtual worlds in general can still regain their stature. But that's going to require less cheerleading and more hard questions from all of us.

Kimberly Rufer-Bach

I never continued to use a former employer's email domain after leaving, so it still looks like a connection, regardless of why you still use it.  So you can understand how confusing that can be!

Some of us have been asking hard questions all along, just not on a blog, because we are bound by contract or because it conflicts with responsibility to clients or students, etc.

I think things would be very different now for SL and its competitors if not for the economic downturn, for a variety of reasons, and that there isn't as much blame to pass around as there might appear to be.  The round of Solution Providers and others crying mea culpa recently isn't doing any good, even if it is cathartic.  Those still here are generally not at fault for anything.

Things are tough all over, and even worse outside of SL than in it, even if the Lindens made flaming doo rain from the virtual sky.  The biggest success of SL is not marketing, not education, not meetings, not networking with real life friends.  It is escapism, a service it delivers better than any other medium around, thanks to its immersiveness.  And with RL as it is now for many, including those with careers that might require adjustment due to LL's necessary refocus, everyone could use an escape.

I believe if LL can successfully portray SL as that, we'll see an increase in retention.  But who wants to come to and stay in a virtual world, or its surrounding blogosphere, when the news is just as real and constantly lousy as the evening news?

While LL hammers on things and sorts out their viewer and all the rest, all we can do is wait and speculate.  Blog posts about cool things to see and do in the world can help to tide us over in the meantime.  Because I want to enjoy my SL for as long as I can, and that is what I enjoy about SL almost as much as building things.  Glass isn't empty and it is more than half full.

When I feel sad about SL it is usually because of what I read about it, not because of my inworld experience.  So I suggested an avatar makeover, which always makes me feel better because it gets me inworld and thinking not like a news consumer, someone in the midst of economic downturn, or a Solution Provider, but as a Second Life Resident.

Meet me at my cocktail bar inworld sometime.  The drinks are free and no one gets a hangover. :)

Addison Greymyst

Amen, Kimberly! Very well said.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Hamlet what opportunity did educators "squander"? I know some of us merely brought first-life pedagogy (death by lecture and/or Powerpoint) to SL. Others, in particular in the sciences and health professions, did great work and are still doing so.

You've asked for metrics for success. As I've said in comments here, you will eventually see quantitative metrics for successful projects and ones that failed, too. The lag for academic publication is, however, measured in years, not weeks.

Work completed in 2008, say, won't see the light of day until at least the end of this year. Wait for it :)

Okay. I'm sad, too. I'm sad because the barriers for student mass-adoption and faculty ease-of-use are so high. That is LL's doing, and it kept a lot of us outside this metaverse.

Keep in mind that many faculty, more than a decade on, do not and cannot design Web pages. They rely on Blackboard's course-management system or template-driven open sites on their campuses. Google's apps are taking off because they are intuitive and work on most any machine.

I'm only speaking of higher ed, but they are the SL users, except for those on the soon-to-poof TSL grid.

If educators squandered anything, it was the chance to push harder at our schools for an incentive-and-reward system to valorize risk with new technologies, including virtual worlds.

Hamlet Au

"Hamlet what opportunity did educators 'squander'?"

In my opinion, an opportunity to leverage Second Life as a teaching tool which is far more essential to the pedagogy, as opposed to pushing it on the flawed argument that a 3D game-like experience is what students wanted. It still astounds me that there's very few architecture or filmmaking classes in SL, but lots of classes where the Second Life implementation is much harder to explain or justify.

"I think things would be very different now for SL and its competitors if not for the economic downturn"

Kimberly, I disagree that the economic downturn hurt SL or other 3D worlds. What hurt them is that the market shifted to web-based social gaming/social network-driven virtual worlds, and 3D client-based worlds were caught almost totally unprepared. This shift even hurt World of Warcraft, which has plateaued. Social gaming is not feeling the pinch of the downturn, it's a booming business. Habbo, which is also fundamentally a user-generated virtual world, has 1 million active users on Facebook alone, and 15 million overall.

Kimberly Rufer-Bach

Social gaming runs on less expensive hardware and doesn't involve renting virtual land and often incurs little or no expense at all. Habbo runs on anything, and last I checked didn't even require Broadband. They, too, faced a hard time of scaling -- I feel they handled it worse initially than Linden is now -- and many of the users had the same complaints as some SL Residents and left for other worlds. Habbo's just further along now than SL, and dealing with kids (who put up with more) gives them more slack. This isn't to say that LL hasn't done things with which I disagree, but so has every other online community I've been involved in or worked at since 1985. The economic situation, though, makes it harder right now.

Anyway, I know of many SL projects that had their funding cut in the edu and enterprise sector, not because they didn't show results, but because of the recession, as well as many Residents who just can't afford their land anymore.


I left Second Life for Open Life in 2008. Big mistake. Building without the 10m prim limit was fun, but having sets "explode" when moved was maddening. Thing was buggy as hell and had a leader / developer that would spend 36 hours without sleep to keep things running. Which obviously couldn't cope when SL changed pricing on void sims and he got over 500 new land owners overnight.

Still, I think open source sim hosting is the future, Truth is SL is just way too big for Linden Labs. They keep trying to control it and put the genie back in the bottle but they can't. It isn't their world anymore. Like the World Wide Web, it has turned into something much bigger. They should start paving the way for a cloud of open SL clusters, hosted by them and others.

Facebook is not the same, nor is twitter or even WoW. Youtube might be a better comparison. People spend hours, days, months creating their SL place. A facebook page can be created in 15 minutes, updated in 2.

But you can't spend 6 hours on facebook alone. and you can on Second Life. It needs to be open up to other grid hosts. This way the market will provide incentives for innovation and for listening to your customers. The Lindens can make lots of money licensing their technology, they should stop trying to control every piece of the equation: hosting, developing, policing, etc.. SL is too big, too complex. They just can't do it and they are the ones killing it because they can't let go.


that has been the 15 year history of all web3d.... no one who makes the tools believe anyone should run a business or profit from the tools with their being "in charge"...

Kimberly Rufer-Bach

Sure, Cube, because they are usually afraid of being sued or losing control of their company's image.  They have good reason to be concerned, and anyone's lawyer and marketing head, if they are worth their salt and doing business in the standard way like corporations in other sectors, would be scared out of their wits by user created content.  Not to mention the need to figure out how to pay back investors or maybe to attract others.

There is a balance point somewhere between a VW company and its content creators.  Is it more like a book contract, or more like the license under which we use a word processor?  Different companies approach it in different ways.  I recall the news spreading like wildfire through other VWs when LL announced Residents would own their own IP.  Many thought LL was crazy then.  These things take time.  How long were there automobiles before there were seat belts?

You and I aren't just early adopters ... We are ancients, in VW years.  We talk about fifteen years ago and others view us as senile old farts with ear horns comparing MP3 to 78s and screaming at them to get offa the lawn.  Since when have kids ever listened to their elders?

So while you drop funny comments that are cryptic to many, and I'm off arguing behind the scenes, I don't figure either of us are gonna do much good.  Not when we're talking to people who think social networking is unique or new.    


"I disagree that the economic downturn hurt SL or other 3D worlds. What hurt them is that the market shifted to web-based social gaming/social network-driven virtual worlds."

With rising unemployment and reduced consumer spending, how could the economic downturn not affect SL?

SL is one of the most expensive online applications. A "homestead sim" consisting of 3,750 prims costs US$104 per month. You can get a website hosted for the same amount or less for the entire year. That is the economic force behind the shift.

SL is a very expensive application. Sure you can join for free but most people who remain in SL own land, which is the main basis of the revenue for LL.

"Like the World Wide Web, it has turned into something much bigger."

Exactly! This is what I keep telling Hamlet. SL is like a 3D version of the web. They have provided a technological platform that is used in a wide variety of ways. SL means different things to different people, depending on where you land in the world. There is no one model and there should not be. LL needs to continue to develop the technology and let the users use it as they see fit for their own purposes.

The one area on which I agree with Hamlet is that for this new form of 3D web to surpass the current web, is that ease of access must be improved. Thousands of people must be able to easily visit your sim if its popular. That should be the objective for the future. I want SL to be mass market in that way.

Wizard Gynoid

i find it interesting that no one seems to pick up on the "News" communicated in the SF Business Journal article -- that is, that Linden Lab's perceived value has lost over 100 million USD since march. to me, this says loads about the motivations behind all of the crazy decisions and pronouncements that the Lab have been doing lately. do we have our heads in the sand people?


I remember Qualcom trying to own 3G wireless technology. their value dipped and they just couldn't do it. They were finally strong armed to license it and let others develop for it as well.


I see LL like Apple trying to keep their "Lisa" and personal computer concept captive or nowadays trying to keep iphone all to themselves. Way past time to get a Bill Gates or Google to give us a smoother more open alternative :p

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