Second Life – on the wane for aussies?

Asher Moses from the Sydney Morning Herald has run a story titled ‘Few lives left for Second Life’. It’s based on research undertaken by the Queensland University of Technology’s Kim MacKenzie, who’s completing her honours thesis on Second Life and business.

The research findings aren’t surprising in a lot of respects – there are significant areas of Second Life that are ghost towns and yes the numbers of people on one sim are usually very low at any given time (something I’m quoted on in the article).

A point I did make that didn’t make the final cut was that businesses like Telstra and the ABC had been successful in Second Life because they were aware of the experimental nature of Second Life, particularly where business is involved. The notable failures occur when the business jumps in boots and all expecting true return on investment in the short to medium term. Telstra’s sucess in particular has been its ability to leverage its large presence to provide a breadth of activities including residential options.

The story overall is quite pessimistic but does accurately cite the challenges Linden Lab face. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now – 2008 is meant to be the year of bedding down stability for Second Life. Some gains have been made, but time and patience is running out for a lot of people.

What are your views – does Second Life have a few more lives left?

Comments

  1. Damn lies and statistics! I think any perception of virtual worlds taken from the experience of large corporations at this time will be horribly skewed towards disappointment. Ask any metaverse developer… (some of us have been around this developing industry for 15 years)… and they'll tell you it's because the corporate mindset and the media just doesn't get it. In the case of the internet, which they thought would be a lot like AOL, it's taken them ten years so far and they still struggle with the paradigm.

    The result unfortunately of this continued abject failure to come to terms with a new medium is public distrust. We've been sold foolish reasons for entering virtual worlds, and been disapointed when they don't deliver. Public perception of virtual worlds is particularly low at the moment. Yet they provide the same unrealized benefits they always did.

    The success of virtual worlds will be further delayed now as the business reorients towards providing a narrower more branded experience (just look at the new vw's in development) when it seems obvious to corporate entrants who've already tried it that brand focus was a large part of their initial failure. Oh well… winters not over yet.

    Thankfuly some companies “get it”. Accenture for example, which has concentrated on the collaborative strenghts of SL has seen positive returns. It's paid for itself both ways, by helping them with hires (they're a personnel company) which earns them bucks and paid for itself again in savings from using telepresence to conference. Yay for Accenture :)))

    At this time a popular line is that SL is a failure, and perhaps the next big thing might be better… but let's look at what the product actually is. Virtual worlds are a reality replacement – so they act as a proxy for the real world in all it's complexity. To be compelling and useful, rather than an interesting toy, they have a huge task to undertake. SL I believe has done an amazing job in coming this far, considering the complexity of the task. The idea that another startup would come along and instantly do it better is simply absurd – the job of creating a manageable and compelling reality which can house hundreds of thousands if not millions of people comfortably is just too complex.

    Demographically Australia isn't a good indicator for SL use either. Significantly Aus is one of the highest per capit users of IMVU – a cut down virtual world avchat client which is easier on your internets. This makes sense as the internet in Australia is laughable compared to many of the places in the world where SL uptake is higher. Unusual lag in SL in Australia predominantly happens within our own country. Remember we're a place where one of the policy points our last national election was won on was the crapness of our broadband. SL growth is more focused on Europe.

    Anyways, just my two cents… I lived through the hype cycle of the web trying to make a buck as well, and it's frustrating to see it happening all over again. I realize that I'm passionately pro virtual world technology but for me it's a godsend. I need to telework for health reasons. But I can see a day not far off when the general application in networking, travel reduction, and collaboration through VWs will produce tangible benefits for all. Provided, that is, we stop listening to the failures and start to pay attention to the successes. 🙂

  2. Lowell Cremorne says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply Pavig. You won't get me arguing against any point you've raised. The conundrum is that business is likely to remain the driver of developments (or steps back) in VW development and indeed it will be heavily influenced by mainstream media coverage. On the geography issue, our broadband is indeed substandard but the lag issues aren't helped by the SL servers sitting in SF – it's now coming up to 18 months since LL said Aussie servers would be implemented 'real soon now'….

  3. Kim MacKenzie says:

    What is it with the Australian media? Why are they focused on slandering Second Life as a failure? I have recently discussed my research findings of commercial activity within Second Life with several journalists, where only minimal quotes have been used out of their original context; in order it seems, to support an obvious negative bias. This is extremely disappointing as it is not an accurate reflection of the important invaluable opportunity that Second Life has provided pioneering commercial exploration of VR capabilities. Just because some commercial enterprises have pulled out of Second Life does not equate to ‘failure’. Vital 3D avatar immersion lessons have been learnt, modeling and building skills developed, use of digital agents, telepresence, interactive, navigational and communication applications explored, and platform and cultural limitations realised. This is all invaluable experience for commercial frontrunners preparing to invest in a virtual future. Fundamental lessons have been learnt, and these firms will reap the rewards by being well positioned to take informed advantage of future VR developments. And fundamental developments are essential that encompass service delivery stability, ‘in world’ governance and behaviour policing, legal and copyright protection, a shift away from ‘virtual reality is just a game’ consciousness, and mainstream user adoption.

    However, even though a pioneering learning curve has been successfully realised by many commercial organisations, my personal views gained from the research study is that organisations are still very limited with their exploration of VR capabilities. Most of the activity was trying to mirror real world offerings. Whilst there is merit in replicating reality using virtual building tools, I believe that the potential of VR technology offers so much more. VR is essentially an extremely powerful visualisation tool. It provides the ability to build visions that users can immerse in and experience, which offers a tremendous opportunity. An inherent human capability is to use visualisation techniques to achieve goals and outcomes. Ask any high achiever, or acclaimed athlete, of how they build success, and I am sure the concept of 'visualisation' will be associated. A success vision is created, and the work is done step by step to realize that vision. My point is this. The visualisation power of VR could be instrumental in shaping visionary goals/outcomes/solutions to all sorts of situations, including humanity's greatest problems. For example, what would human equality 'look like', what would a sustainable earth 'look like', what would 'world peace' look like? Collectively trying to build a vision of these scenarios using VR capabilities could provide the roadmaps for eventual real world solutions. It also means working together and pooling ideas and resources, not competing as separate entities for individual profit or gain, but rather, collectively gaining some powerful potential to move humanity forward. It's a big idea I know, and we need 'vision makers' to lead the way. It would be great to start a virtual global campaign, called something like 'Vision Quest’ that unites individuals, communities, educational bodies, United Nations, and corporations, to build visionary solutions for the future. Now that's a success formula!

    Kim MacKenzie
    PhD Candidate
    QUT Faculty of Business
    Brisbane
    K3.mackenzie@qut.edu.au

  4. My response to this on my own blog at Personalizemedia – I doubt though Lowell will let this through, or if he does it will be to prove he does let them through 🙂 The only way I can actually get to speak on this blog!
    The title of the post btw is
    “A Few Lives Left” for Poor Research into Virtual Worlds

  5. Lowell Cremorne says:

    The URL for Gary's critique is:

    http://www.personalizemedia.com/a-few-lives-lef

    As far as your assertions on censorship of your comments, I'll once again repeat that in this site's near two year history, one comment (from someone in Europe) was not published due to it being defamatory. No other comments have ever been prevented from appearing beyond the usual spam filter false positives which I scan for regularly (we use Akismet on this site).

  6. Kim you ask What is it with the Australian media? … Laziness they just copy one another and don't research themselves, they do not investigate and they take the easy way out. Just my two cents worth

  7. Wolfie Rankin says:

    I would be very dissapointed in ABC if they pulled out.

    I look at it this way… Secondlife is a type of media, and media is what ABC have been doing for 75 years.
    You get a jeans company, car company or someone else in and suddenly, they have to deal with something they don't personally handle… sure they have the bucks to put something together, but it doesn't mean the people they pay to do it “get it” anymore than the company paying for it.

    ABC have people who understand the concept, the problems, limitations and social issues.
    and they have the benefit of having friends in secondlife who still are, very keen to help where required.

    Wolfie!

  8. Wolfie Rankin says:

    I would be very dissapointed in ABC if they pulled out.

    I look at it this way… Secondlife is a type of media, and media is what ABC have been doing for 75 years.
    You get a jeans company, car company or someone else in and suddenly, they have to deal with something they don't personally handle… sure they have the bucks to put something together, but it doesn't mean the people they pay to do it “get it” anymore than the company paying for it.

    ABC have people who understand the concept, the problems, limitations and social issues.
    and they have the benefit of having friends in secondlife who still are, very keen to help where required.

    Wolfie!

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