The Two Year Effect

Saturday, November 21, 2009 Saturday, November 21, 2009

I’ve been contemplating reasons for the flattening of the online user stats in Second Life lately. You’ll recall that as recently as early 2009, there seemed to be a surge in growth. Every week new records for simultaneous users were being set. I believe it topped out at around 88,000 or so on an exceptionally busy Sunday afternoon.

But then no new records were set. Even after many months.

Why might this be? There’s a few reasons, most notably being Linden Lab’s new policy on bots. No longer do we have hundreds (maybe thousands) of bots cuddling in claustrophobic farms. That clearly put a boffo dent into the population stats.

But is there another reason?

I realized a social phenomenon might be in effect here. In my travels I’ve observed that many people tend to have a two-year attention span on projects. Whether it be a hobby, volunteer work or other activities, when people have no ties holding them back, their interest tends to fade after 18-30 months or so. I’ve seen this in real life many times.

I might be mistaken, but I think I’m seeing the same thing happen with my virtual pals in Second Life. Some, like Eshi Otawara, declare a vacation and disappear temporarily, or perhaps forever in some cases. Others like Bettina Tizzy change their approach. But I suspect there are many more who simply fade away quietly as their two-year period of attention draws to a close.

This isn’t particularly remarkable, as people change what they do every day of the year. But then I remembered what happened two years ago.

Two years ago it was a different virtual world. Second Life was constantly on the news and magazine covers, mysterious virtual entrepreneurs were evidently making millions and anyone could do anything. People from all corners learned of the amazing promises of virtual reality and they signed up in droves. During that period, Second Life grew at its fastest rate.

And that was just about two years ago.

Now, just as one would expect we see some residents of 2+ years vintage fading away. The huge blob of 2006/7 signups have been expiring over the past months. Combined with gains from ongoing signup rates and losses from the bot massacres, we just might expect to see flat growth for a little while.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering why I’m still going strong after almost three years?


Timbo said...

Interesting. I have to say, my own interest started to wane considerably after about 2 years - and though I still drop in from time to time, I've kinda lost any motivation for doing so. In part, this is due to SL never quite becoming what I thought it might - and as a result I got bored and disenchanted. I know it is still big with Edu... but with the rise of OpenSim, Open Cobalt, Wonderland and the rest, I think even this core group will slowly ebb away.

As a business proposition, it would appear to be stagnating. I note, for example, that Telstra's BigPond islands are to close next month (putting a number of residents onto the virtual streets), and Linden's attempt to break into the potentially huge and lucrative Korean marketplace is also being terminated. Certainly there's plenty of life still left in Second Life, but it is destined to become a place only of interest to relatively "niche" groups of people - it is not the Future (and on reflection, I realise it was never going to be).

for Paisley Beebe said...

It doesn't help having awful press like this. I hope the new L.L PR company can do a better job of it. I think there is almost no Mainstream press news about the really positive things happening in SL for the users which was why it was such a nice change to see something positive in the NYT last month....Its swell to have Pip and M all the time in the media but really who cares about them sept for us already in here?..New potential users want to hear stories about the amazing things happening in here...The larger than life housewife/musician/painter ect.. makes good type stories..
That BBC journalist said there "used" to be music in here...L.L needs to promote its residents and our stories, clearly cause no-one outside of SL knows what we all do in here!.

Right now it sells newspapers or draws traffic to talk of the downfall of L.L regardless of it being true or not. I think L.L should stop "selling" SL and sell the creators and residents in SL, the platform is not so easy to sell, its expensive to buy land, hard to navigate, draining on your download and computer, and seems from the outside not a great place to do business...So what is there that is great about it? US of course. If only a few Journalists had a look at Tonight Live and other they would see a minefield of great success stories but they don't even know even exists...sadly. But we are trying to reach mainstream and SL!

You cannot whine about bad press if you walk into a trap like the BBC set for M. The L.L PR dept are going to have to counter with good news and exiting news and sensational news for every bad news story there is. The BBC Journalist just wanted M's stamp on the story to try legitimise it, but really they just wanted to point out another big type failure.

I also notice the BBC edit and approve comments...and they have chosen about 80% negative comments. Maybe L.L need to stop sending Pip and M out to evangelise, put their heads down and get more people to SL lower prices and get some residents to "sell" it for them. I wonder if its just the can you tell?

HALEY said...

Why you are still going strong after 2 years?I am smileing and brushing out my long green hair.

Lalo Telling said...

By coincidence, I'm within a fortnight of my second rezday. Am I ripe for a "two year effect" of creeping disillusion? I don't think so. In fact, since joining the ranks of SL-themed bloggers and forum readers, and learning (often to my chagrin) "how the sausage is made," I've become more committed to remaining -- as long as there's a Second Life to remain in.

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