Hip, Smart, Empty


Second Life seems to be everywhere in the media today. In fact, Second Life was featured as a major article in three very different publications this last week…Newsweek, Technology Review and Wired.

What did they have to say? Well for me it boils down to their basic interpretations of what SL is…Hip, Smart or Empty.

Second Life is Hip…Newsweek

The Gist: Second Life is filled with hot looking hipsters doing really cool, crazy yet socially progressive stuff that they can’t do in the real world. Second Life is unlimited and growing fast. Join quick, before it assimilates you. Also, in SL you look REALLY fabulous.

The Good:

  • A very slick, positive article about Second Life, which we can always use.
  • The article stresses some good examples of the positive uses and aspects of Second Life.
  • Lots of pretty pictures.
  • Lots of groovy, easy to read sidebar articles.

The Bad:

  • This piece is just as shallow as most Time/Newsweek Newsmercial articles are these days.
  • It does little more then replay the old Linden Labs marketing mantras (Second Life is a place to make money, Second Life has no restrictions, Second Life Loves You) that usually just result in disappointed Newbies leaving after a month.
  • It all continues the “In SL, Life is a Beach…lightweight and youth obsessed” over-generalization.
  • For some reason, this was the cover story in all markets EXCEPT the US. As European/Asian population dominance is growing in SL and US Tech/Gaming circles continue to trash SL mercilessly, have the Linden’s surrendered in North America?

Second Life is Smart…The Technology Review
(free registration required)

The Gist: Blending Second Life with technologies such as Google Earth and weather forecasting/simulation software will create a new interface for accessing real world data. For example, instead of looking at a 2-D map of the concert seats you want to buy you can actually walk to them, sit in them and see what the view will be like, as well as hear the acoustics…all without leaving your computer chair.

The Good:

  • A very positive look at the many possibilities offered by virtual world technology in general and SL in particular.
  • A good overview into SL based design companies and the projects we will be seeing from them in the near future.
  • Some really fascinating techno mumbo-jumbo is discussed.

The Bad:

  • The article focuses on how to use SL for interfacing with practical, RL information without looking at non-meatspace focused possibilities. It doesn’t address the concept of SL as a stand-alone world without excessive ties back to the real world. I feel that the viewpoint offered here, that SL is going to develop into a next generation web browser, is short-sighted and limited. I feel that will be ONE use for the technology, but not the only one. For example, I agree that you could use SL for exploring a completely accurate replica of London…but I feel you could also select WHEN you wish it to be. For example you could stand in a virtual Trafalger Square as it is today, then phase it back 50 years to see what has changed, or go back further to see the square before the statue, and then watch how it was constructed.
  • There is no mention of the single biggest drag on SL’s potential as this sort of platform, server and network performance, and how/if it could be overcome.

Second Life is Empty…Wired Magazine

The Gist: Second Life is a wasteland that naive corporations have sunk a lot of money into and gotten nothing back. These corporations were tricked by Linden hucksters and seduced by the “next big thing” mirage, and now have empty islands they are closing ASAP. SL is basically populated by sex offenders and tourists, none of whom stay long anyway.

The Good:

  • This article does deal with some of the key issues (server performance, public perceptions, inflated corporate expectations) that are limiting SL growth right now.

The Bad:

  • The entire article drips with the arrogant contempt that much of the tech press has for Second Life, and at times any useful criticism it has is overwhelmed by the bile.
  • It doesn’t even begin to consider WHY many companies have failed after coming to SL. Instead the article pretends it is all due to a lack of users in SL. In my opinion, for a RL corporation to make proper use of SL, they must go one of two directions: Content or Presence.
    • If they go for Content, then they need to bring something new to the table. American Apparel, for example, failed because the content they brought (T-shirts, t-shirts and more t-shirts) can be passably created by any newbie with 10 minutes on the sliders. If they say their goods are better quality, I can name a dozen SL designers off the top of my head who made better t-shirts, cheaper. If a corporation can’t being original content, then they need to bring a totally unique, involving experience into SL that makes use of the possibilities inherant in the Metaverse (The Greenies, for example).
    • If a corporation can’t deal in content, then they need go for Presence and accept that SL is just another way of getting their name and logo in front of the public. The same business-model shakedown took place 5 years ago on the web. Companies assumed that the web would be like a massive mall for selling products, instead, it is more like an interactive billboard for building brand awareness. Corporations need to stop bringing their own preconceptions to SL and create a new paradigm.
  • The article trots out the old “SL is just SEX SEX SEX” stereotype yet again.


  1. The whole, “SL is a wasteland” argument confounds me. Yes, there are abandoned stretches of the grid, there are sims that, for some reason or another, just aren’t populated now. But the club I dance at’s in one of them, and the club itself is frequently so highly populated, I can’t get in for work shifts. And that’s just one sim–there are plenty of times that I can’t move for crowding people aside in various places, much as I never like doing so.

    Where are these reporter types going, that they’re finding vast empty sims with no residents? One does wonder.

  2. Miss Orr…

    The author of the article kept stressing that Coca-Cola’s Sim was empty. Why wouldn’t it be? Do you know a lot of use for soft drinks in SL? Other corporate Sims are reporting the same. Perhaps it is just me, but it smells a bit like a backlash against RL brands carpetbagging their way into the Metaverse.

    I think people here simply do not wish to wear or use RL brands, when we have so many excellent ones created by our fellow residents.

    Buy Second Life!

  3. I hadn’t heard about the t-shirts thing with American Apparel. To me t-shirts are a freebie, and even then 99% of the time I’m not interested. But to expect my to PAY for a t-shirt? Pfft!

    And while we’re on the subject of reporting sex in SL, it appears the Jesuits are thinking about sending in the missionaries to save us all from the evils of sex and naughty things.


  4. *rolls her eyes*

    Oh, I’d say you’re kidding, but that’s just…so unreasonable.

    Now, contrast this with corporate islands like Silverscreen. What are they ‘selling’? Movies. You can go to their island, tour the latest build for whatever–think it’s Transformers and Die Hard currently, it started with 300–see sketches and stills from the film, tour recreated sets, find freebies–all of which tie you into the movie experience, make you want to see the film, and it’s all promotional, the only *sales* they’re making are L$0 buy freebies.

  5. I just read the Wired article, but was unaware of the other two. And I have to say, I agree with you 100% on the Wired piece. I actually *laughed* while reading it, it was so over-the-top anti SL.

    I currently give a class about in SL at the RL company for which I work. It happens to be a PR, Marketing and Event firm. They do “social” events…and the initiatives that are clearly the most successful in SL? The social ones! I have a whole portion of my presentation devoted to the pitfalls that these Corporate entities run into…the same stuff mentioned in the Wired article, albeit without the nasty, judgmental tone.

    Look at RFL – a non profit “success story” because they knew how to hook into the COMMUNITY. I play the “Pirates of the Caledonian” movie that Oolon made in my class, and the students are always shocked by the amount of avatars dancing in unison on that pirate ship. I explain how it was relatively easy to pull that all together in a short period of time, and that it was a piece of cake getting 50 avatars there.

    What was the key here? A few specific people (Lapin, Darkle, Me, Fuschia, Alfonso) that put our full focus on it for about 8 hours. THAT is what these silly places like American Apparel are missing! Who the heck is going to go to an empty build with cheap content? You need people and events to breathe life into these corporate spaces…otherwise they become ghost sims.

    But what corporation is going to pay someone a salary for full time event planning in SL? That is what is needed though! A person or team constantly working on event-driven projects. *We* get that in Caledon. And we are very lucky to have people that are willing to volunteer their time and efforts to make these things happen.

  6. Miss Orr and Duchess Riel:
    You both make my point far better then I did.

    Metaverse success for any community, be it a community of friends or of corporate servitor lackeys, relies on EVENTS. Such things as movie press conference or openings work well due to the ability to “meet” the avatars of the stars or play and explore in a tailored environment, such as Sparta.

    In addition a killer party or interesting event hosted by American Apparel (and of course, with the brand name EVERYWHERE) is far more likely to be successful in both SL and RL advertising terms then American Apparel merchandise in world. As for how they spend their start up money, in addition to paying designers to make unique, interesting spaces in world for them, corporations would be well served to hire street teams. I know lots of people who would be happy to talk up a brand for a few Linden a week and some prestige. They would hang out on the brand’s Sim, attend the brand’s party and make it look really cool to be associated with the brand…just like street teams in RL.

    The companies that “get it” first will be the ones that reap the benefits of a virtual presence. Those who don’t get it are doomed to whine in the middle pages of tech magazines.

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