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  Is ‘Second Life’ Sustainable?  
 
 
Posted 2006-12-01 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I agree with venture capitalist Susan Wu: Linden Lab's Second Life is an incredibly innovative platform, but is probably not sustainable. I have noted, as Wu does, that the closed system has a high barrier to entry and doesn't provide a great user experience. I said in a recent interview for La Stampa that "Second Life is more powerful as an idea than as a functional software platform. If the platform doesn't survive, the idea of Second Life will live on."

Given that Linden Lab is struggling to scale Second Life to accommodate a massive upswing in sign-ups this year, I wouldn't have imagined that the company is already nearly profitable. That's good news for now, but Linden Lab desperately needs to shore up its virtual world infrastructure, from servers to staffers--demand for virtual land has outstripped its capacity to supply servers, for example (over 1,000 island orders are currently on backorder). Certainly Second Life can scale with enough resources, but will its profitability (and therefore longevity) scale accordingly?

Even if Second Life is sustainable in a business sense, it's worth pointing out that the nearly 4,000 servers currently running the virtual world suck up an awful lot of real-world electricity. "We're running at full power all the time, so we consume an enormous amount of electrical power in collocation facilities," Philip Rosedale said during an iinovate podcast. "One thing we need on the server side," he said, "is high sustained CPU speeds but hopefully at lower power dissipation. We're running out of power for the square feet of rack space that we've got machines in. We can't for example use [Blade] servers right now because they would simply require more electricity than you could get for the floor space they occupy." I'd love to get some data about Second Life electrical power consumption. Concurrent usage fluctuates between 10k to 15k avatars. How much power do 15,000 human beings consume daily compared to 15,000 avatars? Is Second Life sustainable ecologically?
 
     
 
   
 
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  25 Comments  
 
   
 
Comment posted by Nicholas Shaftoe
December 1, 2006 @ 1:20 pm
     
 
I read Susan's post and the item about electricity use. Since I believe the political leanings of most Second Life users is to the left, I think they would be horrified (or at least concerned) if through their avatar they are making an additional contribution to carbon output.

I would love to see those power numbers too, not too mention the additional energy consumption of all the home PC's running at 100% CPU for hours on end.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 1, 2006 @ 2:38 pm
     
 
This oft-cited "1000 islands on order" is an artifically-induced situation. (Well, unless we take the position that everything about virtual worlds and their makers is artificially induced lol).

Remember when the Lindens gave an early, inside tip to developers that they only had so many islands left, and that they better get their orders in? Because the price was going up from $1250 to $1695. Then, the favouritism was exposed, and the Lindens had to extend the deadline until Nov. 15 and publish the fact that there were now open orders available. That, and the sticker shock with the suddenly-announced new prices, coupled with new 50 percent higher tier ($195 to $295/mo) made everyone stampede and order islands if they ever had had a notion of expanding -- because henceforth, they'd be way too expensive.

So, there was a land rush, and they had to order 1000, and even sell the new class 5s at the old price. With the price now at $1695, even with massive growth, you might see far less land orders. They grandfathered the tier for a year but the issue of transfers of old islands bought under the previous prices of tier to new people remains open, I believe, so that even if you buy a used island from another person you will have to pay new tier levels.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Scott McMillin
December 1, 2006 @ 3:55 pm
     
 
Just re-read your "SL Inhospitable to Some" post, Tony, and it's spot on. I think next April when you re-evaluate SL in the same fashion, things will be almost exactly the same, with the additional added headaches that seem plague the grid almost daily now. I've made many direct appeals to LL about both the SL initial user experience and user interface over the years to no avail. The engineers still run the show. When some new upstart comes along to challenge SL, you can bet that will be a key point of differentiation.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by AndrewLinden
December 1, 2006 @ 9:17 pm
     
 
Susan Wu's arguments in a nutshell, as far as I can tell, are (1) there are technical barriers to entry and (2) SL is a proprietary system.

I think an equivalent way of putting (1) could be: "SL is not for everybody". There are people who have surpassed those technical barriers but clearly not everyone wants to, or can, defeat them.

So what would an LL employee think about that statement? One way to look at it would be to examine the evolution of the collection of barriers. How have the barriers changed through beta (2002), 1.0 (2003), 1.3 (2004), 1.7 (2005), and 1.10 (2006)? Yes, many barriers remain as tall as ever but I think many have attenuated and there has been a reduction of the overall count. From LL's past progress on that front I would expect the trend to continue. As each barrier falls SL opens up to a new set of people for which it was previously inaccessible, and this is why there are now more Residents than

Whether LL is capable of removing the barriers fast enough before a competitor catches up... that is less certain. It is one of the callenges, if you will, that LL faces. Susan Wu thinks "probably not". I think "probably yes", but then I'm an optimist with an insider's view.

I have to agree with (2). I think SL would be yet another failure in the history of virtual worlds if it did not eventually go open.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 1, 2006 @ 9:35 pm
     
 
I think the technological barriers are exaggerated. Anyone who has ever played even an offline video game -- and there are tens of millions -- can figure out that you use the arrow keys or the w etc keys to move the avatar, that there will be an inventory, that dragging the cursor will do stuff, etc. There is a kind of alphabet and grammar of virtual worlds that people learn -- I'm not technological and even I could learn them.

To be sure, there are certain things that really stump people. "Search" is one (and yes, these people don't seem familiar with Google; not everyone is, amazing as it may seem). Another is why things autoreturn or why you can't click on everything and make it do something, or why it's so elusive at first to figure out how to offer a person a teleport.

So trying to accomplish things is a battle -- building especially. I remember Ingrid Ingersoll told me plainly that it would take me 30 days to get used to it and stop banging into buildings and getting the camera to work -- she wasn't wrong.

I don't think the Lindens, even though they have made this machine, can perceive the barriers. I think only the deepest and widest of listening by some other outside force could collect this data and try to present it to them. They wouldn't have the newbie greeting industry arranged the way it is if they understood the barriers.

Libsecondlife has given us a glimpse of what we can expect if Second Life were to go open -- terror and destruction and windfalls for the few. It's tough living in a walled garden; it probably can't last, and stagnates. But living in the open, cold outer space isn't a comforting thought either.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
December 2, 2006 @ 3:09 pm
     
 
Thanks for the comments, all. Too much to respond to in one go, so I'll have to pick my favourite points.

Nicholas Shaftoe: "I believe the political leanings of most Second Life users is to the left..." With 1.7 million international registrants, I'm not sure I'd agree. I couldn't guess at the political leanings of the population, but it's clear Linden Lab thinks it's OK to take a political stand as a company.

Scott McMillin: "The engineers still run the show." I'd agree from a usability perspective. SL has all the hallmarks of an interface/system of interaction designed by programmers. Certainly improvements are always being added, but this is mostly cosmetic--some of the changes actually make things worse.

AndrewLinden: "I think an equivalent way of putting (1) could be: 'SL is not for everybody'. There are people who have surpassed those technical barriers but clearly not everyone wants to, or can, defeat them." I think it's even more layered than that. SL's technical barriers include signup and client usability, client software stability, backend stability, client hardware suitability, networking suitability. This past week's grid stability rollercoaster must have turned off lots of registrants. In its current state, I'm of the opinion that "SL isn't for most people," and I think that's what Wu is getting at. Most people don't want or need most of SL's features, but they are forced to deal with them.

Prokofy Neva: "I think the technological barriers are exaggerated. Anyone who has ever played even an offline video game [can figure it out]." Totally disagree here. I had my game design class--guys who play videogames all the time--sign up for and explore SL a couple weeks ago. I deliberately left them alone as they tried to figure out how to sign up, how to start, what to do, etc. It was a total mess. I had to step in and help them with stuff that is obscure to outsiders. SL is not a "plug and play" system, but it needs to be. Watching them go through choosing and customizing an avatar was really, really interesting. LL thinks it has helped new users by giving them pre-made avatars, but the problem is that *some* of the starting avatars have attachments and some don't. One guy picked the default Furry and was stumped as to why he couldn't change the head and facial features with the appearance sliders. I had explain to him that the head was "fake" and couldn't be modified through the sliders. There are huge usability issues with the new-user experience, despite the incremental changes LL has been making. I do agree that videogames have a common language, but SL speaks a very strange dialect.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 2, 2006 @ 3:18 pm
     
 
As I said, I think SL has things that make it very simple and intuitive for game players, and things that make it simple for ordinary non-gamers, and then loads of stuff that is just way too hard -- and no way to chart your way or differentiate.

Re: "I had my game design class--guys who play videogames all the time-"

It would never occur to me to try to modify an avatar I pulled out of inventory. Nor did I even realize for the longest time that you can even edit someting on yourself and position it while wearing it. There's nothing that tells you that -- someone has to tell you, and then you have to figure it out.

So I would suggest that your gamer geeks in this class found difficulties precisely because they knew to much, and because they expected more out of SL's simplicity than they got, than that it was somehow not intuitive.

I didn't understand how skins you purchased worked instantly, either.

I think SL is a big elephant, some people perceive different things about it. I think the newbie greeting system is completely broken and has to be fixed by something other than LL, as they have proved too ideologically-bound about it, and are tied to preconceptions emanating from their long-standing need to have builders scripters emerge out of the newbie flow.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Brace
December 3, 2006 @ 1:11 am
     
 
*waves SL Hand Logo Flag*

---and the hoooome of the braaave...

*sobs!*
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Markus Breuer
December 3, 2006 @ 4:15 am
     
 
Two things on Susans (refreshing) post: (1) I think she makes a very common little error in her assessment: "I don't like it - so it can never be a success". This is not a bad attitude for a VC. Warren Buffet got very rich by it.

But it certainly is not very objective as she mentions platforms like MySpace, YouTube and Flickr, but totally ignores that these platforme are great successes even though they miss "structure, cohesion, and a sense of purpose", too.

(2) Where I absolutely agree with her (and you) is, that it is totally irrelevant for the current marketing, business, educational and other experiments in Second Life, if thise platforms survives or not. The ideas of Second Life will live on and finally lead to an open Metaverse. And the lessons learned here and now will give you a valuable head start.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Ace Albion
December 4, 2006 @ 10:39 am
     
 
Tony, your point about attachments vs appearance sliders is a good one.

It's most obviously noticed in shoes.
"Looks like you have to wear your shoe base."
"I'm wearin my shoes lol"
"Yeah, they come in different parts- the objects attached to your feet and the 'shoe icon' clothing piece- you have to wear all of that."
"Oh lol i didnt see."

Etc. After a while you realise there are two hurdles here- the first is the idea of prim attachments versus avatar appearance, and the tricks used to get the feet to work with shoes. The second is, these girls didn't know their feet were through their soles because they didn't know how to change the camera- in the default view you never see your feet. I've known people who have been months into SL without knowing how to move the camera. They're not stupid, I mean why would you expect to be able to detatch your view like that and look around away from your body?

So many things it seems you only find out through word of mouth... Like holding the mouse button on your avatar lets you steer it when moving, or ctrl-R lets you run instead of walk.

You add this sense of helpess aimless frustration to the technical problems and you get people switching off for good. Just last night I got a message through one of my store online notifier things from a Spanish guy who was trying to ask me, in broken English what he can do, he couldn't see the map, couldn't teleport, and I guess there was nobody around because the only thing he could find was a green globe saying I was online and click to send a message!

You imagine putting this software out worldwide? It would take a lot of work I think to get people familiar and engaged enough to stay past two days. Scalability isn't just about burning electricity- who is going to handhold millions of users on a worldwide system?
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Scott McMillin
December 4, 2006 @ 12:29 pm
     
 
Ok, I want to be clear here about the terms we're using. "Technical barriers" for me implies things like processing power, required bandwidth, graphics card capability, etc. And, indeed many of those technical hurdles have been overcome -- both through Moore's Law and the inevitable progress of technology and LL's engineers refining the SL code. (Granted that architecture is certainly being put to the test these days -- barriers of a different sort).

As far as the SL client's UI goes, the changes that have been made have been superficial at best -- sure, it's great that we can select multiple items in our inventory or search our inventory or choose textures using the preview window, but as it stands today the client interface is more akin to a desktop application (be it Word or Photoshop) than an "offline video game."

I don't mean to imply that time and effort hasn't gone into developing SL's interface, Andrew. I know you guys have worked hard at it for years now. But it's my opinion that you've just been dressing up a pig and continue to do so. To make SL really accessible you need to lead with the user experience and have everything flow from that.

The quintessential example of an experience that almost everyone in Second Life has is attaching a box prim to one's head expecting instead to see shoes, jewelry, or whatever. I'm not sure how much of a big, red flag you can get that a user's expectations aren't being met. This very day, hundreds of people will have this same experience. I would also wager that thousands will not, because they just won't get that far.

I suspect LL (and experienced users) have been drinking their own bathwater for years now. This is difficult to avoid. Recently I've sat with non-technical people who've never been in SL and watched their experience. Has anyone at LL done this recently? If you really want to witness the hurdles first-hand I suggest you have someone conduct 4 or 5 usability sessions with total neophytes, record them, and have everyone in LL watch them. You will at least see the problems with the initial SL experience and user interface. They will be glaring, I promise.

I realize I'm bandying about words like User Experience and User Interface, so let me define them: by user experience I'm talking about everything that happens to the user--everything he/she experience's while interacting with the product. User Interface is simply the means by which the user interacts with the product; the best UI is a transparent one that does not inhibit the user's experience.

AndrewLinden said: "As each barrier falls SL opens up to a new set of people for which it was previously inaccessible, and this is why there are now more Residents than"

Only you guys know your conversion rate, but I find this hard to believe. There are more residents because PR is through the roof and word has gotten out. The Connectors outnumber the Mavens. We all know that SL is something special -- that at its core there is an amazing user experience, but to really prove to me that the decrease in barriers in the initial user experience and user interface has contributed to SL's population increase, you've got to show me conversion rates. Even those numbers will be skewed though because the makeup of the potential user has changed from tech-savvy/creative type to something more middle-of-the-road Web user. When's the last time you guys ran a survey to try to get a sense of who your users are now?

And please understand that my criticism comes only because I do want people to experience that wonderful and unique experience that is Second Life. I'm hatching an idea that I may explore on my blog to better explain what I'm on about as I feel slightly hamstringed without visual aids...
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 4, 2006 @ 1:02 pm
     
 
Scott,

The Lindens got rid of that old "newbie-box-on-the-head" experience ages ago. It's gone. Obviously everybody before you identified it as a chronic problem. They worked on it. They fixed it. A long time ago. And no, today, there is 0, not hundreds having that experience, because it no longer exists -- you can now click and have the prim open, etc. Go inworld and check it out.

I think the biggest problem people have is finding something to do after they made their appearance. They don't see search, or work it very well at first -- it's clunky. Today, it's completely broken anyway.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Scott McMillin
December 4, 2006 @ 1:16 pm
     
 
Prok:

I don't know what world your visiting, but I recently watched a new user do this while I was walking them through SL. I can't recall if it was the head, I just went in and tried it and default attach location was my right hand.

I think you've got to back up a bit, though. The issue is much bigger than "newbie-box-on-the-head." This has to do with the experience of buying and object which contains other objects. I know some work has been done to streamline this, but there are still issues with it -- especially when items are no-copy. On top of that, many sellers don't use the new features (deliberately I might add).

I don't want to go into a big exploration of the virtual buying experience, which, by the way, also extends into the how to use attachments and wear things experience.

My point is that the "newbie-box-on-the-head" is indicative of a larger experience problem. If the solution to it is to make the default attach location the right hand -- well that pretty much proves my point -- it's still dressing up a pig.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Taran Rampersad (Nobody Fugazi)
December 5, 2006 @ 2:42 am
     
 
(1) Technical end: Instant Gratification vs. Learning how to do it. Some people are easily frustrated. SL is not for them.

(2) Open is good.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Mambo Milosz
December 5, 2006 @ 4:22 pm
     
 
Prokofy, I have had three students this week with boxes on their heads. One reason for this is that they do not or cannot differentiate in their inventories between boxed items and their opened contents. Primarily because this is (still) a very easy mistake to make.

If you attempt to wear a box you will end up with it on your head or somewhere equally foolish.

So, no, sadly the Lindens did not get rid of that ages ago - you and I just leaned better :)
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 5, 2006 @ 4:53 pm
     
 
Mambo, I have three new students *a day* if not *an hour* when it comes to newbies in rentals. And trust me, the boxes don't go on the heads anymore. That used to be a big problem -- it isn't as much. The tiems now go on the hand. I tried this by dragging an item out of inventory -- it landed on my hand. I tried this 20 times with 20 items -- they all landed on my hand or back. That means at least I can see it, and have a chance that the thing I'm likely to first put on my hand -- a drink or jewelry -- will indeed go on my hand.

While it's quite possible that there are still items set to go on heads, I'm seeing most items go on hands -- I'm also seeing that for those who can click on an item and scroll and read, they have the option to open it there on the spot, if they have crossed the hurdle of not dragging it on themselves.

I find some people for unknown reasons drag things on the ground without being told.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by thatsnice
December 13, 2006 @ 8:39 pm
     
 
Interestingly, I just found this site because I was searching Google for how to get this damn box off my head, lol. So boxes DO still go on heads. I have tried everything and can not find a way to open this box! I did just come across this explanation on secondlife.com, which may explain it. When I tried to follow their instructions, though, I received an error saying "You can not create objects here. The owner does not allow it." Frustrating and not fun.

MORE ABOUT INVENTORY

Most of the contents of your inventory can be used simply by double clicking on them. However, sometimes sellers sell you their product in a box. To get the item you purchased, you will need to open the box and move it's contents into your inventory.

* Drag-and-drop the container that you purchased from your inventory and drop it on the ground.
o Note: You will have to be in an area that allows you to build objects, such as a sandbox (in the regions Cordova or Morris), or your own property, or property of a friend.
* Right-click on the container, and select "Open" from the pie menu. The box will open and you will be given a list of the Object's contents.
* Select the "Copy to Inventory" button to copy over the objects into your inventory.
* Select the "Copy and Wear" button to wear clothing or other wearable objects from inside the box.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 13, 2006 @ 10:49 pm
     
 
I'm sorry you had that experience, but to stay with the discussion here, look at what happened.

You had a notion that when you bought a box, that it would go in your inventory. You opened up your inventory and found it. Now...what?

If you were me, on day one, you clicked on it in vain inside the inventory and nothing happend. That may have been a hangover (for me) from TSO. In vain, because nothing can move it.

You'd have to "just know" that things in inventory need to be dragged out.

So you "just knew" that you had to drag that thing from inventory...somewhere.

But what happened is, you dragged it on yourself.

In many instances now, it no longer goes on your head, but on your hand, enabling you to then select the helpful DROP to get it on the ground.

In some cases, it goes on your HEAD which means you can't see it to click and get the DROP.

FInally you found that the OTHER thing you should have done was not drag on your head, but on the ground, a few meters in front of your avatar.

So my point about the box-head thing is that people often DO know that they have to get it out of inventory. That's why it is even on their heads in the first place.

And many are familiar with inventories and objects from MMORPGS.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Scott McMillin
December 14, 2006 @ 12:21 am
     
 
Prok:
First, everything after your first sentence in the above post is an assumption. The poster didn't describe a single action. Second, as any professional who does usability testing for a living will tell you, a user describing what actions he/she took, while certainly important, is not observed behavior -- users invariably leave out details or decisions (large or small) they feel were unimportant. Or they misremember details.

>>"And many are familiar with inventories and objects from MMORPGS."

Wu is talking about "mass market adoption" -- that's what this discussion is about. Not people who've played an MMO. (And 4 million WoW users do not a mass-market make.)

Seriously, until you sit down and observe (passively, in the real world, in the proper setting) individuals of varying skill levels and experience interact with the Second Life client, you lack the kind of data and record of observed behavior to thoughtfully and meaningfully respond to the issues of interaction and usability that have been raised in this discussion.

Indeed, the fact that you are willing to use assumptions about unobserved behavior as some sort of proof that the SL client is fit for mass-market consumption shows not only your lack of understanding about the field of user experience and interaction design but a lack of rigorous thinking on this issue.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 14, 2006 @ 4:45 am
     
 
I totally disagree, Scott McMillin, and I can't imagine what you are talking about.

I realize you wish to pull rank here and credentialize the discussion, but we ARE after all talking about *observations* here and not just "my own user experience.*

Stand in my infohub, watch the dozens of newbies rezzing every minute, give them stuff, or watch them land with stuff, as I do, all day, every day, and see that some get it, and put a box out on the ground, and click, open it. No box on head.

Or, some, not many, these days, get the box on their head.

And, knowing the mechanics of SL, we know that:

a. they knew to pull from inventory -- there isn't any other way unless you buy an object inworld for a price set that you get the message "you are now the owner of this object" but most things people get come out of vendors in a prims
b. they either pulled on themselves -- their head -- or put it out into the world.

Why on earth would you need to be a "professional" with "property conditions" to "observe" this happening.

There are two things that can happen -- pull out of inventory on head; pull out of inventory on ground. Hello?

There isn't any assumption, but logical thought. The guy bought a box. Now...how did he know to look into inventory and not, say, in the sky above his head? He had something that prompted him. I would wager a MMORPG experience. Many, many people have had that. Or, I'd wager he actually looked at the interface and read, gasp, the words MY INVENTORY and thought, hmm, could my box be in THERE?

COme on Scott, this is not the science you imagine. That is, I realize you may have made it into a science but let's try to understand the point of this thread:

1. The past chronic problem of having every box go on the head until you learned otherwise is now reduced because of more intuitive interfaces and options.

2. The object going on the hand more than the head helps the user drop it and then get at it.

3. The user isn't stupid, and sees MY INVENTORY and drags it -- but just doesn't drag it to the right destination.

4. I'm the first one to say SL learning is hard. But...at the end of the day, I like, others, have infohubs and put out things that say WHY IS THIS BOX ON MY HEAD and people learn.

I could add that I have an interesting stream of people who come to my rentals who either were once there on day one or day 10 then quit in frustration but came back, or who come with say a June birthdate but still ask if they can come in the newbie area where I have a 120 day limit because they really are new.

And I asked: why did you leave Second Life?

And they don't say, "You know, I kept getting this box on my head, and it really chafed my butt."

Instead they say:

"I didn't have money"
"My graphics card was not good enough"
"I didn't meet anybody"
"My computer crashed and I couldn't get it working"
"They didn't have jobs for me"
"There isn't enough to do".
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Scott McMillin
December 14, 2006 @ 2:55 pm
     
 
Prok:

1. You've misquoted me. I didn't say 'you need to be a "professional" with "property conditions" to "observe" this happening."' I said "until you sit down and observe (passively, in the real world, in the proper setting)."

2. "There isn't any assumption, but logical thought." Are you saying that human behavior is logical?

3. "but let's try to understand the point of this thread:" You seem to be hung up on the box-on-head issue, which is my fault. The point of the thread is that some, including Susan Wu, believe that SL "has a high barrier to entry and doesn't provide a great user experience." My mention of one of the many issues with SL's interaction design was unfortunate as I think it's sidetracked us.

I believe that for SL to even approach the ubiquity that something like the Web has attained a lot has to be re-factored. So I suppose we'll just have to disagree about where Second Life's user experience, interface, and interaction design needs to be for "mass-market adoption."
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Taran Rampersad (Nobody Fugazi)
December 14, 2006 @ 3:47 pm
     
 
Scott,

Not getting into the other stuff, I know where you're coming from. Some notes: T

he web isn't 'ubiquitous' in a very real sense. 16.6% global penetration is hardly ubiquitous, and while I disagree that usability is *the* most important issue related to the digital divide- I recognize it as an issue. That said, there are varying levels of internet usage because of varying levels of user knowledge and experience.

Something like SecondLife requires Computer Literacy, to a degree equatable to playing a 3 dimensional game. We don't *call* it computer literacy because out of the reported 1,076,203,987 on the internet, there are *much less than* 2,000,000 people with SecondLife accounts.

Further, some people just aren't interested. If there is no cognitive dissonance, it's simply not going to happen. Maybe someone logs in and doesn't get to slay a Level 1 rat right away and they leave - that would show up the same as someone who kicked up a fuss because of a dislocated prim as a 'resident who tried and left'. This was the original point at WSIS made by many; that internet usage itself suffers in similar ways because of lack of content in some regards. That has changed a bit; an increase in content in languages other than English has been noted, and has been looked into with studies related to senior citizens.

Thus, a SecondLife user who logs in the very first time has already become somewhat proficient at the internet - enough so that they can read and follow instructions to download the client and register. This does not mean, by any stretch, that they will be able to intuitively navigate and interact with their inventory. It also doesn't mean that they will be surrounded by people which they will want to interact with within the first 5 minutes. There are plenty of variables, as you rightly point out, and there would have to be a true usability study to do so. So far everything seems to be working on the pre-Feynman NASA theory of 'if it didn't blow up, it is less likely to in the future'.

When the web itself becomes ubiquitous, we can worry about the ubiquity of SecondLife and other virtual worlds. However, in a very real sense, SecondLife as a *platform* reflects many of the problems of the internet in many different ways. Stating that the internet itself is ubiquitous is troublesome in this regard, as the internet is only ubiquitous for the people on the internet. In that sense, SecondLife is ubiquitous for those who use SecondLife. An odd fact here is that BusinessWeek reported 55% of the users of SecondLife were from outside the United States, but I have no insight into this.

SecondLife as a platform inherits the problems of the internet itself in (1) Content, (2) Language, (3) Connectivity, (4) Policy and Law, (5) Economic ability and (6) Computer Literacy - to mention a few things. On point (6) - SL requires more computer literacy in it's own proprietary manner.

Virtual worlds are for the globally elite right now, as is the internet. Are we surprised that some people who have made the grade on the internet haven't reached a level - and possibly don't see the need to reach a level - of becoming 'Virtual World Literate'?

I'm not. In stepping back a bit and looking a larger problems, the smaller ones gain some context.

Ref: Global Internet Stats
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Scott McMillin
December 14, 2006 @ 4:14 pm
     
 
Thanks for your thoughts, Taran.

I think "ubiquitous" was the wrong word to use. I Probably should have said "as pervasive a communications technology platform as" or even "supersedes the Web as the primary platform for communications and media on the Internet." Really "ubiquitous" doesn't have context, which is what I was implying.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
December 14, 2006 @ 6:20 pm
     
 
Scott,

"Property conditions" is merely a typo for "proper conditions". And that's what you did say. You said -- and are saying again -- that you must be "in the real world" and "in proper conditions" to "observe".

But...that's not making any sense. You might impugn that me, in my first-person key-hole view of the world as an avatar, could be biased, or subjective.

But I can surely stand around and watch 50 other people go through the paces and see what they do.

Are you implying that unless I sit at some kind of master panel that might show all their actions keyed, like "takes out of inventory" I don't have a case?

But I do. Most people don't put the box on their heads anymore. This is an observable, constatable, actual fact in SL.

Your subjective experience of having this once doesn't mean it applies across the board.

But instead of suggesting that you become a scientist, go in the proper place, in real life, to prove this, I used common sense.

I said, please watch others, talk to others under the field conditions of a normal log-in, and see, no, they don't put the box on their head as much as they used to; and far less in fact.

2. I'm making a logical, narrow point merely about observation techniques in a virtual world, not all of human behaviour. That isn't logical. But the 3 or 10 steps needed to set up a tiny grid of questions to observe a field behaviour as narrow as "what do they do with the box" is fairly straightforward. It seems awfully hard for you to admit that not everybody has the box, Scott.

Well, I will plan on applying for a grant to the National Science Foundation in 2007, and I hope to continue my applied box-dragging research in the field, and present to you a thorough peer-review, statistically-analyzed, sociologically region-weighted study on "Boxes on the Head in Second Life: Do They or Don't They!" So watch this space!!!

Or, if you are ready to dump the box, and look at user experience, then we have to look at the following:

o lots of kids -- did I say LOTS OF KIDS? As in teens and younger -- looking for a Sims-like and WoW-like experience -- and it isn't

o lots of low-educated, inexperienced adults, many without even Google or much Internet capacity, looking for something on a platter -- they leave, it has no jobs or coherent framework

o lots of people not able to understand English, and not enough localization for their countries and languages

Most of the people bailing from SL don't bail because of a box on their heads or because they can't build and it's too frustrating, though yes, that's a percentage. They bail because they can't find a job or a support structure.

So the discussion then can be:

o should there be jobs provided in SL?
o by whom, and how?
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Ace Albion
December 15, 2006 @ 9:58 am
     
 
If you watch avatars, especially new ones without posture locking Animation Overriders, you can actually get a feel for what the person at the keyboard is doing, because the head follows the mouse. You can tell when someone is moving the mouse to the inventory, for example. Just a small observation, and I wonder if a combination of scripty know how and research types could use that.
 
     
 
     
   
 
 
     
 
     
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