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Dec 15

Dale Dougherty

Dale Dougherty

Clay Shirky on Second Life

If Shirky is now writing for ValleyWag, I'll take it as a sign that the gossip-blog might be trying to do something other than sniping. In his "A Story Too Good To Check," Shirky takes the press to task for the uncritical acceptance of the estimated number of users in Second Life.

Someone who tries a social service once and bails isn't really a user any more than someone who gets a sample spoon of ice cream and walks out is a customer.
These numbers continue to be quoted in stories that tell us that yet another company is setting up shop in Second Life. PR is the whole point of these stories, which begin as press releases and end up with a single coat of varnish in major newspapers. The value to the company isn't what's going to happen in Second Life but what in fact does happen in the real-life press. How long will the press will keep taking the bait on these kind of Second Life story ideas?

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Julian Bond   [12.16.06 01:11 AM]

This problem doesn't apply just to Second Life but to all systems that brag about numbers of accounts. In real time systems we should be looking at peak members online. On Web sites, it's more like members who've used the system in the last 7 days.

So how many real, active, members do the following have?
- MySpace
- LinkedIn
- MSN Messenger
And back to Second Life, what's the real peak number for connected members? Is there any way to find out?

Jim Stogdill   [12.16.06 07:18 AM]

Sure, it's easy. Log in now and then during peak times and look at the "currenly online" stat on the login page.

Recently I've seen it inching up toward 18K but each time it gets over 16K they start having database issues so I'm reasonably confident it hasn't yet exceeded 20k. As I look right now it is 11K (it's usually slower in the morning as there are more American than European users).

Not sure how they are going to resolve this yet... their architecture has independent physical servers running each SIM but IP ownership, avatar and land characteristics, etc. are all managed (apparantly) out a of a single database which they are having difficulty scaling thus forcing them to periodically turn off search features.

I have spent (too much) time in SL since late August and give my best guess of real usage in an earlier comment on this blog here and elsewhere here.

My initial interest in SL was generated by the PR machine decried in this post. After a few notices, it was probably the BusinessWeek article that I picked up in some airport somewhere that tipped me in.

I found a compelling (but initially difficult-to-figure-out) environment and immersion into a strange newly developing culture. A trans-American culture in evenings and trans-European and Asian early to mid mornings - in both cases weirder than the real world cultures from which they originated.

But... as I comment elsewhere, the novelty soon wears thin and some of the sugary taste turns to saccharine. SL's real test will be to develop reasons to keep users coming back even if they don't have a business.

Today all of the businesses that are touted as making money are those that cater to the churn of new users. Get them outfitted with skins and clothes or sell them houses. All discretionary stuff.

Since the population of long-term users seems to be growing much slower (orders of magnitude slower) than the quick pass-through of newbie population, and because avatars don't consume food, need haircuts, or have any other non-discretionary needs to form the fundamental basis of an economy (except for real world electricity), and because the experience itself still makes it very difficult to establish and build a brand, I'm really not sure that there is the basis yet for a more sustainable economy and the businesses that would profit from it.

rektide   [12.16.06 09:41 PM]

i was pretty infuriated Clay would start posting to a blog that is invite-only comments. that seems uncharacteristic.

i do have some gripe with the criticism. as a virtual world, second life is one of the first to support player crafting. Clay's definately on target throughout the article, but he doesnt discuss the strenght of SL at all; his second and third points (virtual world / content is king) combine in SL in a way we have never seen for virtual worlds (player crafting) or content is king (in a participatory shared virtual environment).

i find it pretty hard to imagine second life not being taken over by genuine distributed platforms in the future. also, as a environment for code & programs, second life is pretty weak.

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