SL making headlines again

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.


2 thoughts on “SL making headlines again

  1. Rightasrain Rimbaud August 7, 2008 / 9:38 am

    Would be nice if she posted her research? But in general it is clear that most/all corporates have departed from SL due to lack of traffic, results. So even without seeing the data it is probably correct.

    It is a tough message, but while SL has acheived a lot (and we continue to be amazed by the platform) is has also really failed to deliver the global community, marketplace that the 15 million registrations promised. We see fewer than 400,000 avatars spending any money monthly and less than 500,000 humans active each month. It just isn’t big enough and LL is not giving any one any confidence that it will grow (other than in sq meters or opensims).

    Some recent posts about future of SL here

  2. milmariis August 7, 2008 / 1:01 pm

    Thanks for the comment and link, RightAsRain.

    I’ve now published a short description of my research project …

    It’s not that I disagree with you – I often wonder where the many millions registered residents went…

    What I mainly oppose against in the press coverage, which I often find uninformed and misleading. Whenever I do talks about SL, I always have to defend my project and most people focus on the failures and the sex, which I really don’t find representative.

    I acknowledge that from a business point of view things look challenging, but bad publicity certainly won’t help.

    From my point of view SL is a great exploratory and it’s still a platform in its infancy. If people chose to do business or educational experiments under these circumstances, then they shouldn’t put all the blame on SL exclusively if it doesn’t work right away… it takes two to tango :-)

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