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Monday, March 14, 2011


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Ann Otoole InSL

What keeps SL a niche is the hardware requirements and the amount of effort required to do well with it. How many 3D game modelers is SL about to create with mesh? Thousands. Takes effort to learn that. Typical Facebook users are not in that demographic.

I'm curious. The First Person Shooter community is massive. And almost every player is anonymous. However, for some reason, those communities are always overlooked by these analysis projects even though they are loaded with what are called "clans" and are extremely active in their social circles and competitive ladders. And loads of them go play around in these other worlds and it is normal to have a character (avatar). In WoW and EQII everyone plays a character too. In fact it is normal to be "anonymous". Not the other way around.

I do hope LL gets that anonymous web browser thing going so FB users can pop into SL anonymously for a concert or art event. No pressure. Not much capabilities. But they can participate anonymously. Which is the norm for everywhere except data mining identity harvesting operations like facebook that Congress is going to have to begin regulating forcibly to protect the citizens from exploitative corporations.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Nearly every student I have taught in recent years confirms what you say in slide #1: VWs are for kids, social networks for the college years.

Unanswered Q: when US Millennials get jobs and more tethered, less avatarian lives than found on our campuses, will the want more anonymity and identity-play?

We'll see.

Miso Susanowa

I agree strongly with Ann, from a perspective of 20 years and more of community on the net. There are monstrous and ancient communities on the net who know each other well, have gone to respective RL homes and the like, and yet are known by their screennames only?

Do you go to a bar and start handing out your business card, telephone number, home address and the like? No. That would be stupid.

I find these little meme pushes to be nothing but concealed business interests who wish to farm me like an animal or a plantation slave; attempting to wrestle and control something by jamming it into the Procrustan bed of their own little paranoid, money-grubbing hands; attempting to turn the network into "tv with a buy button" because their minds are too small to understand the network.

Go back to AOL.

Rawst Berry

Don't people participate in both anonymous and RL-identifying social platforms at the same time? Like Anne pointed out, people playing mmos or fps- or even SL users- may also have a Facebook or whatever with their rl identity.

Also, it's unfair to say that just because most VW users are teens, that must mean they value anonymity before adults... what about the fact that young people tend to embrace new technologies more than the old? Or have more free time to indulge in games?

Maybe I missed something but I see a hypothesis but no conclusion. So this is a purely speculative article? Why don't you do an actual survey asking VW users if they prefer anonymity or linking their av to a RL identity?

Hamlet Au

"Why don't you do an actual survey asking VW users if they prefer anonymity or linking their av to a RL identity?"

A survey is even less reliable than a look at the hard numbers: Overwhelmingly, there are far far far more users of real life social networks than anonymous avatar-based communities.

"attempting to wrestle and control something by jamming it into the Procrustan bed of their own little paranoid, money-grubbing hands"

That's interesting statement, Miso. Linden Lab is a for-profit private corporation with revenue of $80-100 million a year and a market valuation of up to $500 million. As a private corporation, it's able to be much less transparent about its financial behavior and business activity than publicly traded corporations. Why do you put so much trust in them, versus a public company like AOL?

Ann Otoole InSL

Hamlet you will need to begin provide citations for your numbers.

Rin Tae

I might be wrong, but back when LL still released valid statistics about SL, the avarage age of residents has been actually in the 30s. This might have changed of course, but from my own experience so far it does not seem to be a thing for teens and children. Of course, I have only seen a small part of SL and maybe it is the RP communities I am engaged with that shift my perception here.

It is of course also true, that people usually have accounts on different social media sites and games and virtual worlds. I don't think I have ever met someone who would exclusively be in just one virtual enviroment on and not in others as well.
So the thing, that defintevly keeps SL a niche is the miserabely low user retention as way too many people log in and leave being unable to make the first steps and the shortcomings of the system itself, that makes embracing the world even more difficult then it should be.

It is not the anonymity or age level, that is holding SL back, but the high frustration levels with the system and often limited trust into LL. Those who are already in SL love it and the level of complains only shows this. After all, if people would not care about it, they would shurg it off and move away. But new residents never get the chance to reach the point where they see and understand the potential a user created virtual world has. They drop off too soon and so the overall population level stays the same while the sign up numbers would seem to be indicating, that it should growth (now of course I would need to find some numbers about this but from my own observations, lots and lots of people seem to be still coming in).

And in addition to this, older residents .. those who have understood what they can do in virtual worlds .. are moving away into new places so should LL want to get out of the niche they are in, they have to lower the present barriers of entry, increase the possibility for the creation of content and make sure, that every resident has a positive experience form day one.

Adeon Writer

How do you define anonymous? Most in SL don't care if you know their age, gender, race, nationality, city, and profession. They just don't want you to know their name, address, or phone number.

Foneco Zuzu

To remain anonimous is a right that assists any user!
To forget that is forget what internet is all about, Freedom!

Arcadia Codesmith

Anonymity is different than pseudonymity. You know much about Arcadia even if you know little about the typist behind Arcadia.

Back at the dawn of the online world, when the Internet was still the domain of academics and the Pentagon, we had pseudonyms.

Why? In part because many of us came in from tabletop RPGs where you were playing a character that was usually quite different than yourself.

And in part because some of us were doing things we ought not be doing in order to get precious computer resources, but I won't talk about that until I'm sure that the statute of limitations has run out ;)

I attribute the lack of pseudonymity on Facebook to Zuckerberg's peculiar, obsessive, and profitable crusade against privacy. I submit it would have been just as popular if pseudonyms were allowed and encouraged.

Another factor is that we're currently suffering from a creativity deficit (especially but not exclusively in America). Many arts are in decline, sequels and spinoffs are the order of the day, and people are afraid to imagine anything truly unique.

On a related note, many young people these days have little patience or long-term vision. They live in a world of instant gratification. They want to push a button and have something happen NOW (though they may wait for up to three minutes if it's something important, like ramen noodles).

So if all these factors doom SL to be a niche, let's focus on being the best possible niche we can be. It's better to be an artist's commune than a WalMart, unless you're trying to sell big screen TVs.

And if we are a good artist's commune, with a welcoming introduction and tour for visitors and new residents, and a well-stocked studio of tools and art supplies, and portable formats that let us sell our works outside the commune, we won't have to look for the people who will be a good fit for our little world. They'll find us.

Rawst Berry

"A survey is even less reliable than a look at the hard numbers: Overwhelmingly, there are far far far more users of real life social networks than anonymous avatar-based communities."

Derp. That little tidbit of information still doesn't tell us whether the users value anonymity or not, nor does it factor in other reasons- like that running a virtual world requires a nicer computer while the "social networks" are all websites you can access on a phone.

How is that even comparable with SL anyways? Are there any virtual worlds where you're expected to use your rl identity? Otherwise we're pretty much talking about websites like Facebook here. In that case congrats on discovering that more people access websites than graphic-intensive games.

Hamlet Au

"running a virtual world requires a nicer computer while the 'social networks' are all websites you can access on a phone."

Sorry, that's not right. Gaia, Habbo, and Club Penguin are all web-based, so they're as easy to access as Facebook. Indeed, Habbo has a Facebook integration. Despite that, they're simply not growing any more. There's been a number of web-deployed, anonymous avatar virtual worlds aimed at adults, and they haven't fared well at all.

Arcadia Codesmith

That doesn't establish causality.

Hamlet Au

No, which is why I call it a "hypothesis". But I haven't seen a more likely explanation for the fact that anonymous virtual worlds are generally plateauing, while real world networks grow. That fact simply isn't going away.

Jack Abraham

Hamlet, I don't think you're comparing like networks. RL social networks are primarily communication tools. SL is more like a roll-your-own MMO, with a large focus on playing house and dress-up rather than kill-and-loot.


According to KZero, virtual world accounts totaled 1.185 billion this quarter, an increase of 36% the past year:


Perhaps they are running out of people online to sign up?


4-chan founder to Facebook CEO: you're doing it wrong:


Wizard Gynoid

i'm onto you hamlet so i'm not going to engage. just one word of warning. don't poke miso. she's feisty when she gets worked up.

Miso Susanowa

Hamlet, I think you missed the point of my comment: I don't trust LL. "Trust, but verify."

I have seen too many instances of careless data handling to believe promises of "security" from any company, for-profit or not. Just for SL, I refer you to Red Zone and the Forums debacle recently.

I was comparing this push towards "transparency everywhere" with Eternal September.

To kindly spare your blog comments an essay, I refer you to my post Transparency - Grist for the Mill

Extropia DaSilva

As someone asked, 'how do you define anonymous'?

To me, an avatar is 'anonymous' when I do not know that person from Adam. 'Hamlet Au' does not instantly leap from anonymity to 'someone I know and can trust' just because he tells me his RL name is Wagner and he lives in Hawaii. ONTH if 'Hamlet Au' puts in the effort to build up a personae that is consistent throughout various social networks from Twitter to SL to Blue Mars to Facebook, this enables me to determine beyond reasonable doubt that Hamlet Au is, indeed, a respectable journalist reporting on online worlds/ social networks.

Another example: I would sooner give my Linden dollars to a psuedonymous architect who is well-known in SL as being someone who can reliably deliver top-quality builds, than some stranger who tells me her real name, location, occupation blah blah blah but has not established themselves inworld.

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