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  ‘National Geographic’ Flubs ‘Second Life’ Coverage  
Posted 2006-10-17 by Tony Walsh
I'm disappointed National Geographic News didn't treat Second Life as if the virtual world was an actual place. Seems unfortunate that a brand built on travel-by-proxy to real locales wouldn't take readers on a comparable journey to a digital one (Wired picks up the slack here). Instead, we're left with a rather typical introductory article--typically flawed, that is. Don't mainstream media outlets fact-check any more?

National Geographic says "Second Life is built and owned entirely by its nearly 900,000 residents." User-created content in Second Life is actually licensed to Linden Lab (the world's maker) for the purposes of displaying that content within the world, but also "for marketing and/or promotional purposes," according to the company's current Terms of Service. Furthermore, Linden Lab owns users accounts and related data, "regardless of intellectual property rights [users] may have in content [they] create or otherwise own." So not only do users not "entirely own" the content they create, users don't even own the right to access that content through their avatars.

An outlet like National Geographic should know better than to call over 900,000 registrants "residents." Visiting a country once or twice makes someone a tourist, not a resident. Over 900,000 people have signed up for Second Life, but under 200,000 have logged in during the last 14 days. I make this distinction because it's not made enough in the mainstream media, and it seems Linden Lab isn't making an effort to correct anyone. This is not unlike the swell of hype that surrounded certain web sites during the dot com boom of the 1990s. Bad decisions were made in part due to taking inflated numbers for granted. We all know what happened after that. When I see real-world companies piling into Second Life for no good reason other than to feel "bleeding edge," I have an awful sense of deja vu.
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Comment posted by Gary Hayes
October 18, 2006 @ 7:41 am
I have made that same point several times about brands jumping on the metaverse bandwagon - that space cadet glow - brands picking up on a media golden egg. You cant blame them when us ' cross-media' consultant types are telling them to "be on all platforms", "reach the fragmented audience in every nook and cranny".

Re: second life, 5 000 deeply immersed, 30 000 land owners (residents), 40 000 regularly having virtual sex, 50 000 have made stuff (only a couple of hundred making anything decent), 200 000 regular visitors, 700 000 popped in once or twice - tourists aka varying degrees of greifers. (Nat Geo often mention how many locals in distant lands really feel about tourists). Flame free.

I also agree that this is all starting to look like the mid 90s (over in the Terra Nova blog) who just did a post on "the metaverse tipping point". Is the intraweb about to transform itself into 3D. I suppose those who said, like me in the late 90s, that the internet would provide true democratisation of media distribution was hoping for a YouTube and a MySpace far earlier than this - it was the dot com bust, due to over hype that in the end knocked us all back 3 or 4 years. Lets learn from those lessons.

Comment posted by Tony Walsh
October 18, 2006 @ 8:14 am
Thanks for the thoughts, Gary. Where'd you get those juicy stats on immersion etc? I like your definition of residents being land owners, although I think it's a little strict. I agree a resident has to "reside" somewhere, but I think renters and squatters need love, too :)
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