For the duration of the four-plus years I’ve been involved with Second Life, I’ve known Wolfie Rankin. He’s been one of the driving forces behind the ABC Island community since its launch back in 2007, and has also been outspoken on a range of issues, including his perspective on furries. For me, he’s been an enduring Australian presence in Second Life, so I was more than a little surprised when I discovered this week that he’s decided to cease his involvement. I commissioned Wolfie to write a piece about his decision, which is shown below. Obviously it’s his opinion only and each person’s reasons for departing or entering Second Life are different, but I still thought it was well worth sharing.
For the past five years I’ve used Second Life. Being fairly shy it helped me to come out of my shell, to find new friends, and discover that I could do more than I thought I could.
And during the time that I was recovering from cancer treatments it was a real boon, it lifted my spirits and made me feel wanted and needed.
Others who had a serious illness or were stuck in rural locations found they too could meet like-minded people, and found sanctuary within this virtual world.
Despite all the slagging off about Second Life which came from both the public and the media, those who used Second Life, and made the necessary connections to make it worthwhile, found it to be a wonderful experience.
One of the things worth trying is what they call Machinima. If you have wished that you could be an animator, but had no drawing skills to speak of, then this is brilliant. Just build a set in world, bring in some characters, direct them, film them, then edit the results with something like Sony Vegas, add music and effects, then upload to Youtube. The quality of what you can create here is astounding. and I would highly recommend trying it, even just for a bit of fun.
Five years ago, I was asked by several people to give Second Life a go, which I was reluctant to do as I never considered myself to be a gamer, and from what I knew of Second Life at the time, it was some sort of game -therefore I wasn’t interested.
Then I saw a report on Channel Seven about Second Life and thought that perhaps it had some merit after all, so being the curious type, I logged in.
The first time you log in, it can be a pain. It’s possible to end up lagging away on an island full of grey people, which is incredibly frustrating, and I feel we lost of lot of potential users who got caught in that situation and logged out thinking that was what Second Life was.
I checked into Second Life with a couple of friends who wanted to create an island just for us, this would cost serious money, I tried to stop my friend from going this far, but the next thing we knew, we had an island of our own. It’s a cheap proposal for a corporation, but a bit rich for individuals.
This gave us a private place of our own where we could meet and chat about our day with others. We could log in from anywhere in the world and somehow get the feeling that we weren’t all that far away at all. Those who put down Second Life by saying that we should only meet friends in the real world are so lucky to have their entire ensemble of friends, family and co-workers within walking distance of each other, and yet they still cling solidly to their mobiles. Most people have friends and family who are very far away, and if not for the phone or computer, we’d be back to pens, paper and envelopes. My friends were a mixture of American, English, Canadian and Australian – there was no way that we could meet for coffee at the local café on a daily or weekly basis.
I had a pub in Second Life, which I thought was lovely and airy, something like a Queenslander. I made it as comfy as possible, and we used it for events and get-togethers, but mostly it was just my home. Ahh yes, the disputes. I would log into Second Life and appear at my pub, on this island, to find that objects I had placed, had been moved to odd places, as though a three year old had got into crayons and tossed them everywhere. That, or that an item was returned because it was taking up too many prims (the constant talk of prim usage is annoying). The land itself could be altered too, which led to other irritations such as finding the nice flat land that I once had, was now the slope of a hill, and everything I had placed, including my home, was now buried… or the land was now a sunken valley, and all my trees and flowers were floating in the air.
This tended to be the result of selfish actions on the part of another island manager.
If I write a blog post, it remains there, it’s fixed, I own it and nobody can move it or alter the wording, I prefer things this way.
I left the private island and spent most of my time on ABC Island, Abi and the island staff were very reasonable, and there were few arguments, and certainly most of them were easy enough to resolve. ABC felt like a better home for me than Eragon. The problem here was that I really tried to get things going, but it was always difficult.
I would spend a week writing Rockit, my virtual quiz show, only to get about eight people showing up. We tried getting Pool into ABC Island… Lilli did an awesome job with the architecture, Abi gave us a hand, and we were all set to go. but when the ball was out of our court – as in Pool doing their bit, or the ABC doing theirs, everything stalled, whether it was legal issues or disinterest, I have no idea. This was fairly standard.
The idea for ABC to get into Second Life was a bold one, and one that we supported as a group, but the problem often seemed that ABC had forgotten us, there was a lot that we could have done with that island, but the volunteers could only do so much.
ABC has TV and Radio and web-based material. Having Second Life is a logical step if you’re going to experiment with as much of the digital world as possible, but I don’t think that it was handled as it should have been.
ABC had CSIRO people coming in for a few weeks, when ABC Island was new, to talk about science, something that went down exceedingly well. I was asked many times by a lot of people, if we’d ever have the science discussions again, it seemed to have been most peoples favourite ABC Island event – it was mine too. I tried to lure various science people into Second Life to do this, but none were interested.
There were things that we would have liked to have done, but we were blocked because we were not ABC staff – I suppose that’s understandable. The volunteers all felt like there needed to be someone from ABC who was there a fair bit, someone who not only worked with ABC but also someone who really enjoyed and understood Second Life, that would have helped so much.
If ABC is serious about getting experts from segments of New Media, they should send talent scouts into places like Second Life and say “You look like you know what you’re doing, would you like to work for us?”
Second Life has a vast potential, but often sadly that’s all it has. Perhaps it’s too new, perhaps something like this should have turned up twenty years into the future, when most people would look at you like a moron if you thought the internet was full of axe murderers.
I tried very hard getting people to come into Second Life. I mentioned it on mailing lists, forums and Twitter but nobody cared. “That sounds like crap”, they’d say, “Why would we want to do that, when we can just email each other?”. “I use Skype to talk to my friends”, “I use Facebook” and the oh so original, “Get a real life” which I’d heard nearly a million times. Sure there were technical reasons too – some had old machines that couldn’t handle Second Life, others had poor internet access. Fair enough.
Second Life has great potential, but people will never see that potential if they don’t at least try it. Green Eggs and Ham, anyone?
It’s funny how users of one social media will happily use one or two things and mock another. People don’t bother to research the software themselves, just rely on sketchy rumours, and if those rumours are bad, well tough.
I signed up and researched them myself to see how viable they were, and to be honest, there’s only a few that seemed not up to scratch, as far as I’m concerned, Myspace being a great example, Here’s something which is trendy to mock, but to put it bluntly, it’s a cow of a thing to use.
I loved Second Life, I really did, but not enough of you dared to try it yourself. I was there, I would have been delighted to have helped, and did help people on numerous occasions. I wanted others to see a potential and see how far they could take it… some did very well indeed…
Anyway, after five years of trying to bring people in for a look and waiting in vain, of dealing with arguments about prims and lag, of being whined at, and banging my head against a brick wall as projects simply stall because nobody seems to care – I know there are those who continue use Second Life and love it, and to be honest, I’ve had a lot of good times in there myself – but it just got to a point where I didn’t feel like I was happy there anymore, so I just walked away.