Last week I read that Linden Lab, the creator of Second Life, laid off 30 per cent of its staff and replaced its CEO. Now I’m not sure how many of you have an account or have even experienced Second Life but I’ve personally never been able to establish much meaningful one-on-one contact there (unless you really think being assailed by half- or fully-naked people sporting studded dog collars meaningful) let alone community.
I used to hang around in the Autodesk virtual AU pavilion for many hours without as much as a teleported blip appearing in the space. Not surprisingly, Autodesk stopped supporting this virtual infrastructure a while back. Judging by the Linden Lab announcement, other companies are also voting themselves off the island.
It’s an interesting concept and it has quite a lot of advantages: you can become younger and thinner and infinitely cooler depending on your avatar.
And depending on how many Linden virtual guilders you want to expend real dollars on, you can also become much hipper. As you can see from my avatar’s unkempt appearance, I settled for some cheap stone-washed baggies and effected a pre-war Berlin, modish, intelligentsia black t-shirt. (As an early adopter many moons ago, I had to accept a system-chosen last name.)
At first blush, this environment would seem a shoe-in success for a community environment: it definitely has the cool factor; avatars afford some indication of character and interest while not having to reveal all; it continues the metaphor of a physical meeting place; it allows voice as well as IM communication; as well as all the content sharing features of any online community site; it is an immersive and engaging 3D environment; everything we were asking for.
So why has it not been a runaway success? Why is not the defacto environment social interaction?
My own feeling is that the environment was and still is not ready for prime time. For one thing, it’s still too clunky to move around in: I still find myself sailing over territories and have to slowly treck back to where I was trying to get to, or I find myself on the wrong side of a wall, and so on. Document/video/PPT sharing was not that easy. Threaded conversations and multiple threaded conversations were not that easy to have. It was not possible to post and have people comment and then return to comment on the comments. No wonder that Facebook is the de factor environment for online social interaction.
What has been your experience in this or similar environment? Did you or do you enjoy your time in Second Life?