My Five Things

Monday, February 28, 2011 Monday, February 28, 2011

No, I'm not dead. Just been busy elsewhere, that's all.
What brings me back? I read a great piece by my friend Mitch Wagner, who listed five hypothetical actions he'd take to revive Second Life if he were in charge. Well, Mitch isn't in charge, so they might not get done. I'm not in charge either, but that won't stop me from listing my five actions.
Choosing five actions should be done carefully, as Linden Lab's Second Life grid is at a turning point. Will it grow? Will it implode? Or shut down? I think it's possible to recover at least some level of growth, if the right combination of actions are undertaken and successful. Here's my thoughts:
Increased sim capacity. One of the biggest issues, I believe, is the extremely low capacity of each sim. For all practical purposes, a sim really can't hold much more than 40 avatars before things go south. Sure, the sim itself can run well at that level (usually), but rendering by avatar's PCs begins to break down and pretty soon you're looking at a lot of sloth-like grey shapes.
This problem is insidious because I think it's at the root of many other problems. For example, if more people could exist in a sim, there could be fewer (and denser) sims. The per-avatar support cost could go down. This could (ideally) mean lower rates for tier and rent and more businesses could survive. If capacities were high enough, it might become possible for true large-scale virtual events to take place. Today it's just not possible to stage such events as your live audience tops out at 60 (or 200 if you use multiple sims). What could you do if you could bring in 1,000 - or 10,000? Marketing SL would be quite different.

Solving the capacity issue will be very difficult, since there are fundamental issues, not the least of which is that all scenes and information must be downloaded from LL's servers. I think there may be different ways to think about the problem that could address the situation. For example, as capacity increased, perhaps rendering accuracy could decrease - instead of trying to render a scene to an impossible accuracy, just render what you can without resorting to grey shapes. Some of this is done already, but we should be much more aggressive.

Search that works. Let's face it: it's pretty much impossible to reliably find anything in SL these days. My own business has been crippled by this, as have many others. I suspect that the "act of finding" things now has basically degenerated into various forms of word of mouth. That's why you see certain shops growing and others dying - no one can easily find anything other than a small set of familiar stores. Capacity gets at the amount of time required to use SL effectively. Activities take MUCH longer to do if you can't find things. I would fix search, classifieds, landmarks, and perhaps introduce new mechanisms for finding things since all of the above aren't very good anyway.
Console version. You want more residents? Why not produce a version of the SL viewer for XBox, Wii and PS/3? There are tons of such machines with many tens of millions of people using them. If you were to combine a small set of great ready-to-go in-world experiences with a simplified consume-only viewer & set of instant avatars for consoles, you might dramatically raise the resident population. Of course, a sim capacity increase would help this a lot, too. Some of those consume-only console users might even graduate to become full-fledged creators in the future.

Communication That Works. I used to like viewer 2, mainly because it attempted to simplify things. However, the more I use it, the less I like it. In particular, the messaging system is almost unusable and highly confusing - notifications pop up all over and seem to make little sense. Between voice, IM, text chat, emails, group chat, notifications, broadcast messages, etc., it's far too confusing to easily communicate. I think the entire communication system needs a serious rethink and simplification.
Rebranding. I really hate to say this, but it's probably time to reboot SL - the brand. For some time now, "Second Life" has gained a poor reputation among the general public. It's undeserved, of course, but I can't tell you the number of times I mention "Second Life" and immediately hear the words "Naked Avatars" right back. That perception just kills off many possibilities even before they are properly considered. Current residents may think otherwise, but I think at least a few people are scared off and never even consider SL because of this. What to do? A new brand is required, with a new and improved reputation. And it wouldn't hurt to fix up the points above at the same time.

So that's what I would consider if I were in charge.

But alas, I am not in charge. I'm also not dead yet. Peace to all.


Anonymous said...

First.. good you are not dead! *winks*

I basically think this are cool ideas, not sure about the rebranding, but the rest are cool. Anyway, i think the harder to do is the first one since it exist almost no limitation of how an avatar can move, can rezz (well, that's limited to 15000 prims per sim) or can wear. The only way would be limiting the avatar appearance to some options, like WOW for example, this way the Avatar Rendering Cost would be really lower, but that would limit one of the magic parts of SL. Also rethinking the avatar mesh is another idea, but also shape makers and skin makers would have a heart attack if that happens.

Thanks for sharing this ideas.

Unknown said...

I think you nailed it on Viewer 2. I liked it at first -- di a positive review of it -- but the more I use it, the less I like it. And I think messaging is the major part of the problem for me.

There are a couple of things I love about it, chiefly the outfit folders and the browser-like Favorites bar. But those are not enough for me to use it as my primary viewer.

Jana said...

have you heard about so called SL "evolution"?

accord to computer newspaper in Germany it will be follower of Second life Based on WebGL and is going to hit the market in the 2015.

sorry this is in German only:

here preview video (not sure if its true)

jana said...

sorry forgot the link

radar said...


Enjoyed reading this, great thoughts as always. I have to admit, this is the first SL related blog I've looked at in over a year. And I haven't missed it, which says a lot about SL, IMO.

That's why I'm not sure all of these solutions, good and necessary that they are, would really help interest me in SL again. The only time I actually enjoy logging in to SL is if one of the old Corona Cay types is on, or you, or a couple others.

I literally don't find exploring interesting anymore. I find myself getting bored. I find a lot of pretty empty places, and if anyone else is around, no one seems to really want to talk.

I don't know. I just don't really enjoy SL anymore. I think it had its chance. I'm amazed that people like Crap Mariner are still as active as they are. Good for him... I'm impressed... but I don't get it, honestly. I think SL jumped the shark.

Still enjoy seeing friends from time to time, but that's really all. Other than that, I don't really remember what the appeal of exploring badly rendered, laggy 3d builds was about when I could be playing any number of decent performing games on the iPad or on the computer with my daughter.

I know of one old friend of mine who has most of his family in SL (except the younger kids) and that's great, but for most, SL is a "turn your back on people to connect with other people" thing and combined with all its other massive problems, it makes SL kind of a bad fit.

Rambled. Sorry. I know I'm just one guy, but I don't really think SL is ever going to appeal to the mainstream. A certain subset of people who like total anonymous roleplay freedom will always like it, and will always get in an uproar if anyone talks about tying their RL identity to their avatar, but for the mainstream, I don't think they understand it or want it.

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