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« Definition of a Community Technology Steward | Main | Remote Attendance at a conference and birthday party! »


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Sean FitzGerald (aka Sean McDunnough)

Hi Beth,

Whilst I don't agree with the more optimistic user figures coming from Linden Lab - it's 2 million accounts, not 2 million residents - I don't agree either with the naysayers who are quick to condemn Second Life because of the poor return rate after first entering the world. Or in other words - the high rate of 'looky-loos'.

I think that poor return rate is in part, as you say, due to the steep learning curve, and because the current newcomer experience is abysmal. Have you been to Ahern Welcome area lately?!

Fortunately, like you, I had a guide. As someone who had no gamer background I think I would have been pretty overwhelmed if I didn't get the hand holding.

I hope Linden Lab come to the party and create a much better newcomer experience. It shouldn't be too hard. I believe Pathfinder is working on that now.

It's also our responsibility to do whatever we can do make the newcomers experience a more positive one.

On the more optimistic side I suspect many people who are overwhelmed on their first Orientation Island may return later for another look as media exposure increases and more friends join up (hopefully by then the new user experience will be improved).

So the long term return rates may not be that bad after all.

And don't despair about the uses of Second Life for non-profits - I think we are only seeing the beginning of what is possible with 3D virtual worlds.


One thing I have learned recently (from Kurt Squire) and really grabbed onto is the tremendous value -- for both learning game design and gameplay:
Moving back and forth between real world and virtual world.


to correct the link to me


Beth, I think the marriage of roleplaying and training could have real utility for certain nonprofits. I work for the National Safety Council, where we do training for safety managers, who do a lot of sitting around like most white collar types, but we also train trainers who train workers who engage in physical tasks. What better place than Second Life to SHOW people what it's like to be trapped in a confined space and work through what the victim should do, what co-workers should do and what supervisors should do.

I think if we look beyond the desktop crowd there are tons of training applications for the profit and nonprofit sectors. How about retail and food service customer service training?


It seems healthy to have these debates, yet this continued focus on validity of 'numbers' (like the validity of judging web sites by web server log 'hits) seems misplaced when we should be looking at the validity of experiences.

My unscientific sense is that the naysayers entered SL with some pre-disposed leanings, and continued down that track. Some may naysay knowing it will generate this sort of notoriety.

Those who have meaningful experiences in SL realize this does not happen on a one time visit, or a random encounter with some sleazy corner of the world, just the same as we would not judge the entire web if you had randomly seen only porn sites or cheesy ad sites.

Time will tell, and tell more than counting how many feet go or leave the front door.

Stacy Surla

Shirky seems to be analyzing the value of 3D worlds like Second Life through the lens of media attention. This is an entertaining exercise, but it’s also an example of a journalist aiming to scoop other journalists and make noise by posing “oh-no-it-isn’t” as an argument. Also, I suspect his audience is largely made up of early adopters/early criticizers of new technologies. Am I wrong?

But his article is stimulating discussion among the early ones, which is a good thing. And it does bring up some relevant points in an accidental way. Yes, browsing books by looking at 6-foot tall images of books is not a very good way to find what you’re looking for. This sort of literal representation of the world in web 3-D reminds me of the literal way we represented the world in HTML 1.0. In Second Life there are lots of these first-try, literal artifacts for browsing and wayfinding. This is one reason I think it will be great to have information architecture skillsets applied to SL. (Though the rate at which people learn what makes sense and what’s silly is rather fast in SL, so we have to be ready to tackle more sophisticated problems than this.)

Rather than focus on the media’s take on SL, it might be more valuable to look at what people and organizations are actually DOING in SL. Whether we’re talking about millions or simply tens of thousands of people at this point, Second Life is very clearly a powerful, broadly appealing, accessible, and feasible means for social networking. That’s why folks are drawn to it, and why widely different organizations are using it to build and strengthen real networks of all kinds. Social networking IS the revolution, and it is already happening. Hey, apparently that’s why we’re all Person of the Year.


I had similar feelings, from a different angle.
I'm very intrigued by SL, but I find myself more entertained thinking and talking about it than actually using it, of late.
I may have been spoiled by MUSH life back in the day... or rather, I have some paradigm shifting to do in order to fully appreciate what SL has to offer that's different from its ancestors. I posted my ramblings here . Cheers! (The illustrious ms surla pointed me to your post, btw)


We are at the beginning of a long road with many twists and turns, that's the joy of working collaboratively in organic spaces. Beth, thanks for the insightful weaving and commentary.

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