Sunday, 9 January 2011

Second Life and Tools.

The start of the New Year, along with a new CEO, Mr. Humble, has seen an increase in the blog discussion about the future of SL.

Phaylen instigated a very interesting discussion along with Chantal and Toxic on exactly these lines. If you have the time it is an interesting and amusing discussion and the sort of thing many of us would like to hear more of. Full podcast

I have to say that I am 100% behind the idea that Machinima is one of the (many) missed opportunities which the Boys could have used to promote and instruct non-users on the joys of SL. It is both the easiest way to see what is going on in SL and, due to the difficulties in learning to find your noob way around, probably superior to the real thing, at least in the initial stages.

I am not unaware of the fact that it is like a video of a stage play or football game in that it lacks atmosphere, but, in spite of this, it is a formidable art form, and one that is gaining world-wide credibility (ArtPulse By Cristina García-Lasuén). No mean feat.

However, I have to agree entirely with Dusan Writer’s analysis concerning the manic attempts to cram more users onto this platform we call Second Life.....

“....the wishful thinking goes like this:

- Second Life would succeed if it had more users. More users are good because they can benefit the virtual economy, they can increase the use of ‘land’, and lead to all kinds of other activity.

- The problem with increasing the number of users isn’t finding new users, it’s in keeping them once they arrive. The data shows it – run a banner ad, and you’ll have people show up on the home page. It’s not an issue of attracting people, it’s an issue of retaining them through the funnel of sign-up, first hour, first week, first purchase.

- Therefore, the primary issue is retention.

- If this is the primary issue, then we need to look at the reasons for a lack of retention. These issues are multi-factorial, but they typically come down to a few things: it’s too hard to sign-up, it’s too hard to learn and use the interface, and it’s too hard to find people/things to do.

- The solution, therefore, is to overhaul sign-up, change the interface, and come up with new ways to search and find content.

There is absolutely NO evidence that a new take on this old strategy will work now when it has never worked in the past.”

His whole article is, as usual, well thought out and insightful.

It is said, wisely, that we can learn from history. This is seemingly a banal statement, but unfortunately one which is given a nominal nod before being totally ignored (e.g. Afghanistan).

SL got built on content.

While I agree with Dusan ..

“From Mitch Kapor through Philip Rosedale and on to Mark Kingdon, everyone who has ever had a word to say about Second Life has looked at the issue of how to grow the world in the same way and failed.
And the reason they’ve failed is that, first, it’s the wrong problem. And second, you can’t design the future solely by extrapolating from past data…and yet time and again, we’ve seen from Linden Lab a reliance on past data as the main metric for planning the future.” is important to realise the unique selling point of your product and understanding why your customers have got you to where you are today. What have they been buying? Why have they been buying?

When I joined SL it was not for the stability, not for the ease of use, not even for permanence (my friends thought it wouldn’t survive 12 months) it was for the possibilities. I stayed because of the tools.

This is why I wrote recently...

“There is another business model which they could have used. If you come to a prominent position in the market but decide that you are a little ahead of the mainstream, you do not have to dumb down to attract more people. LL could have used their lead to consolidate their position and driven full steam ahead to create an untouchable platform where tools, facilities, customer care, etc etc were just so far ahead of the competition that they were ready for when the mainstream caught up (for I fully believe they will one day). Educating the mainstream is a constructive use of an advertising budget.”

Now, the current thinking at the Lab is along the lines that.. because only 5 -10% of users are Builders, the Lab needs to cater more for the Consumers.
User-built content is considered less than it used to be, new tools are almost non-existent. [Mesh could help if it doesn’t get the same treatment as Windlight, i.e. introduced to the grid but never finished off to a top-class tool]

Now, as the content is the primary advertising tool, neglect in this area has a terrible effect on the future of SL.... and we have had 3 years of neglect.

Nearly all the new grids I have visited have realised the vital importance of content creators, they are valued residents. Some of these grids already have superior building tools to SL (e.g. InWorldz), making themselves, thereby, more attractive, and with a brighter future than SL in my opinion.

While I share with Phaylen her love of SL and her desire to see the platform bloom and flourish, I believe this wonderful culture and community is transworld, mobile and will refuse to be held back by inadequate tools; tools which should be available to us all.

So, Rod, let’s have an upgrade..

...and a price reduction..

.. and better servers.

That would be a good start.


  1. Yes! Only I'm not sure they can at this stage. There's too much invested (and not by us) and they'll want returns on it. So onward we travel in the paradox that is business. (investments-->$$ returns-->higher cost for users-->some users leave-->marketing and development-->more user retention-->higher cost for users) I wouldn't be looking to SL to start reversing that trend any time soon, though it would be nice.

  2. Yes, I have to agree with that, Johnny. It is easy to let a positive or optimistic delusion cloud your decision making.(selling stock is a good example)...