Thoughts on Second Life

I want to get Second Life, I want to understand, but no one seems to be able to explain it to me.

I downloaded Second Life to my computer for the first time about a year ago.  I spent time trying to figure out what was going on, and teleporting to some areas set up by friends.  There weren’t a lot of other people around, and “rooms” that did have a lot of people were so busy, I could not get in.

I found the interface non-intuitive.  I found the learning curve steep.  I didn’t see what the big deal was, so to speak.  Why would I want to sit in a conference in SL when I could do a conference call or ichat?  What makes this form of communication and interaction different or better than other things out there?

I get that Second Life is a platform, like wordpress or twitter, and what you do there is up to you- the blank canvas, so to speak.  But for newbies, the tools for the social canvas, what you can and cannot do, the whole gestalt and social rules are hard to understand.  So I gave up.  And other than a few times where I hear about a great concert and dancing in Second Life that makes me feel, well, a bit left out, I don’t feel I’m missing that much.

This past summer, at Blog Philadelphia, a guy from Electric Sheep was talking about all the virtual islands and shops they were building for corporate clients like Ben & Jerry’s.  I asked him to explain it to me- why this was a better experience that Ben & Jerry’s normal website, etc. and what would compel me to come back to Second Life and bring friends?  His answer was at best equivocal, something to the effect of “well, maybe it’s not valuable for you.”

If you want a technology or marketing space to become popular, it seems to me you have to be able to convince people ready, willing and able to use your site that it’s worth checking out.

My feeling about Second Life is it’s not quite ready for prime time, so to speak.  I think we need much more ubiquitous wi-fi, more powerful computers able to handle the graphics load, and a user interface that is easier to navigate- one that doesn’t have a learning curve that is so high.   Ideally, you’d want to be able to have anyone with a computer come in and take advantage of a special event, not just the few people who have already mastered the technology, unless that’s the only narrow group you wish to target.

I would have a hard time convincing clients to adopt a Second Life strategy, because it requires so much pre-requisite knowledge to use.  There are tons of barriers to people accessing easier to adopt technologies like podcasts already.  Podcasts and video on the net requires high speed internet service, which everyone does not have, as much as that may shock our tech-heavy community.  While this continues to change, the point I’m making is many people who could be potential participants can’t, because the barriers to learning and adoption are simply too high.  Which in turns limits the potential outreach for the platform.  Catch 22.

I think the barrier to entry in second life, the ease of use issue,  is a big turn-off.  I think it’s keeping Second Life from becoming more widely adopted, and I think that may even be by design.  You can only participate if you pass the initiation of being able to use the tech easily enough.  It’s geek snobbery, in a way.

Now, I could spend more time trying to figure this whole SL thing out.   But I have a ton of things on my plate as is, and the idea of spending anywhere from a few days to a week on this is not very exciting, unless someone can make the case for me that an experience is available here that I can’t get from someplace else, like twitter.

Maybe this is a topic for Lee LeFever and the Common Craft Show, or someone else who can break this down into english for me.  I am begging you all to teach me about this.   I want to know, but I need someone to give me a good reason, to build a case, why this is important.

Perhaps it’s the lawyer in me, but if you can’t defend the technology or the case to participate to the common person, or a social media/new media geek like me, I think it shows that there’s problems with the platform, and the critical mass required to make it successful will be hard to acquire and sustain long term.

Please educate me.  Teach me.  I beg you.

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