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  ‘Second Life TV’ Turned Off  
Posted 2005-10-26 by Tony Walsh
In the summer of 2005, Linden Lab, the makers of virtual world Second Life solicited bids from its entrepreneurial customer/residents to create daily, streaming video content under the umbrella of "Second Life Television." The plan was overambitious and shortsighted. As I wrote soon after the SLTV announcement, "While the network seems technically feasible, the scope of the core feature set is vast. In my estimation, hundreds of thousands of dollars vast (frankly, this has 'nightmare project' written all over it)... Logistics aside, it remains to be seen if Second Life's residents can generate 4 hours of compelling live video content daily..."

The project was killed far sooner than I'd cynically-predicted--before it even got off the ground. Late last week, Linden Lab wrote on its official discussion forums that "After a couple months of experiments with SLTV, we've decided to suspend the service for now. Like many early experiments, SLTV taught us a lot, mainly about how challenging it is to produce high-quality live SL-video streams on a daily basis." Gosh, it's like there's an echo in here. But that's not what bugs me. What bugs me is that Linden Lab's experiment probably didn't cost them in a real sense--payment, if any was given to the winning resident group, would most likely have been in play-money (Linden Dollars). On the other hand, a few resident groups put a lot of real time and real effort into coming up with bids for an experiment that never should have been undertaken in the first place. Linden Lab's advantage over most companies is that they can attempt any goofy experiment they want--as long as the payment for outside contractors is in Linden Dollars, they've got nothing substantial to lose. Linden Lab's play-money literally grows on trees.
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Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
October 27, 2005 @ 10:58 am
Well, Zero, while I share your concern about slave labour for play money as you know and creating A and B content-creator classes, before we weep too hard for those poor souls who won the first SLTV bid, keep in mind that the Port is a Swedish-government-funded art collective that no doubt has a funded life outside of SL already -- this would likely have been an add-on.

It's sad that this project died but it's partly because of all the top-heavy expertise piled on it to make it like RL TV. I recall a lot of snarky commentary in the forums from the FIC regs (who all revealed that they were in radio and TV themselves in RL, an interesting component of the whole SL forums group-think dynamic). They all said it was too ambitious because they thought in terms of making 4 *good* TV hours per day of slick, highly over produced TV-TV a la American commercialized network TV.

But they could have gone in a different direction even toward European or Canadian style TV (government-funded with more public programming) which has more tolerance for long takes of talking heads and documentary news footage that you can't get on U.S. TV with its production and advertising exigencies. IOW, stop trying to make it look like SL is always people jumping on jet skis and sync dancing (like the winner of the film festival) and film it as it is, which is just going to necessarily have some long boring bits that you'll have to cut out later.

Or even go below that, to something like scrappy regional Russian TV, done with Hi-8s, with a lot of bumpy man-in-the-street kind of interviewing and "our reporter goes to check out corruption in the meat market and see the price of eggs". If they stopped thinking of it as "TV" and thought of it more as "let's have a wild rolling real-time documentary of Second Life" (more raw then "Real TV") they might have done better.

The real problem I see with doing this is that SL is *already your own TV*. That's it's charm and revolutionary force -- it takes all the powers of staging, filming, propping, acting, etc. that tv and film have, which used to belong to elites, and puts them in the hands of ordinary people. Now you are the star of your own reality TV, you fly in, put on a costume, go shoot something, go to a club, go make love, buy something, have a drama fight, whatever -- it's all yours and it already streams out in front of you and you watch that, not what's on the website somewhere out there. It's hard to make *that* experience you are scripting and scrolling on the fly yourself already into something compelling for others.

If the idea was to "sell" that experience then they needed to get Video Linden off the Welcome Area or other static cam sites and have him move around to events or have SLTV have roving reporters. For that they'd have to overcome the barrier of requiring only PG for the front page -- little of live interest happens in PG.

They could have also given some thought about how to make "TV receivers" for free for every SL household, so that people could put out the TVs on their lots somewhere, and always have it in the background, and then sometimes catch a glimpse of something cool happening and say "oh, let's go there, see what they're up to."

Another HUGE problem for this TV is the social and commercial mission it got forcibly prescribed upon it by the Lindens, which like even well-meaning governments in transition couldn't help prescribing such roles for the press even as they make a freer version of it. They declared it "independent" but put Lindens into the group running it. Their mission was not to cover the news or even make entertainment, but primarily to sell the game -- and for that, geez, insteading of porting in Swedish art collectives, the Lindens should have just had their own marketing department come in and film machinima shorts and call it a day.

If they could have let go of those imperatives and let it develop more indigenously, and essentially said, hey everybody, here's this roving camera crew, go wild, let it show what it shows, it might have had some sense of social ownership and demand. It strikes me that the failure of the first SLTV is another story about the first life of Linden Lab as it clashes with the dream of its second life, the country Second Life.
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