Once again the press criticizes SL – this time around it’s the Australian IT with an article entitled Second Life a virtual failure.
I don’t know if it still is silly season down under, but I hope so .. . Otherwise I’m troubled by the journalistic level. Not so much because of the content, but because of the presentation of the apparent facts.
The journalist refers to a qualitative study made by a postgraduate student at Queensland University, Kim MacKenzie. Her study focused on 20 international corporations, such as Intel, AOL and Coca Cola, that were conducting business in SL – most of which (doesn’t say how many) have closed their “sites” now.
MacKenzie is quoted for saying:
The actual Second Life setting is going to require either an adaptation or a new commercial virtual marketplace controlled by commercial parameters that you need for safe and secure business activity to happen on the internet (…) Once the right setting is there, it will explode.
And she concludes by saying, that the right commercial setting must be backed by an awareness campaign to get users on board.
At this point nothing in the article justifies the sensational headline, and even more surprising the article ends by referring to one of the first Australian companies entering SL, Telstra that has BigPond in-world. According to spokesman, Peter Habib BigPond’s Second Life site had hosted its own registration process and continues to experience growth, since it was set up in March 2007. And that’s it …
I wouldn’t term SL as neither a site nor as a virtual reality program, but that’s just a minor detail. What’s far more worrying is the press’ constant need to create headlines on false claims. This and other critical articles usually confirm, what many regular residents already know, namely that there has been a lack of imagination on the part of many SLusers, who simply haven’t had the strategy, the creativity, the skills and perhaps the patience to explore and utilize SL’s potential.
As many virtual world fans know, the esteemed technology research and advisory company, Gartner Inc. last year predicted that 80% of internet users would have a “second life” by 2011 (Not necessarily in Second Life). In May 2008 Gartner, Inc. did however renounce a bit on this by saying that 90 % of corporate virtual world projects will fail within 18 months – here is some food for thought from that article, which as well could apply for the educational sector;
Focusing on the technology rather than understanding user requirements is one of the key reasons for failure.
They need to realise that virtual worlds mark the transition from web pages to web places and a successful virtual presence starts with people, not physics.
A benefit of virtual worlds is the rich collaboration experience they offer by adding a real-time visual dimension via avatars, so interactions can include emotional information in the “conversations” between individuals, setting them apart from simpler networking applications. They also differentiate themselves from web-based interactions (which can be asynchronous) by requiring both parties to be present at the same time.
Companies need to start thinking what their virtual world strategy is, incorporate it into their internet strategy and merge their two-dimensional web pages to support a “3D web place”. Virtual world presence is not to replace the “2D world” but to supplement it.