Thursday, April 23, 2009

Depth of Information: II. Taking Advantage of Second Life's Fabulousness

Written 23 April, 2009

Depth of Information

II. Taking Advantage of Second Life’s Fabulousness

 The businesses and universities that flourish in Second Life generally aren’t the ones that bring their real-life sensibilities and business models to the grid. Rather, they’re the ones that adapt to and take advantage of the uniqueness of Second Life.

American Apparel’s clothing didn’t sell because it wasn’t competently made. It failed to sell because it wasn’t SL fabulous. I mean, they were selling sweat pants and pullover tops and their store was empty. Nonna Hedges was selling fabulous gowns, and her store was never empty. It should have told them something. They disregarded Second Life culture. Had they just looked around, they might have realized that because high heels and cruel boots don’t hurt your feet in Second Life, because big hair doesn’t take an hour to do up every morning, because we don’t have to make up our faces every morning, most female avis dress to the nines. And half of the male avis are shirtless to show off their tats. There’s just not a huge market for the casual clothes American Apparel was selling.

There’s a long list of entities that established a corporate presence here and then departed. Pontiac’s attempt to create a car culture in Second Life failed.. Their six-sim Motorati Island was up for perhaps a year, and then gone. Reuter’s lasted several years, then left. Playboy came and went. AOL. CSI. And many more.

Blogger Dusan Writer has attributed CSI’s demise to Second Life’s glitches and limitations:

Second Life is NOT ready for prime time. CSI New York proved that, and not just because it was a poor build. For the investment of time, energy and resources they might have done a far better job creating a cool Flash application. It might have been hard to create a CSI episode out of Flash, but hey... .the episode itself was no great hell either.

.... and, Dusan notes, many of the other corporate failures to the jump-on-the-bandwagon syndrome:

[Reasons for departures] include a broader weakening of the economy, corporate attention spans (I wonder, for example, whether AOL and Pontiac are currently running off to create the Facebook APIs or create better Google keyword strategies - some companies want to get in on the next thing out of quiet desperation but don’t have the long view needed to get the payoffs from platforms that require far deeper thinking than whether they’ve generated leads or sufficient traffic to justify returns on investment).

... but I think there’s more. We must consider the fabulousness factor.

But that I mean Second Life’s many limitations—the lag, the crashes, the erratic behavior, the sim restarts, the weirdness at border crossings, the griefing, limited and erratic ability to interface with the world wide web, the inability to have large groups of people in one place, even the bling and clackety shoes—are more than offset by its uniqueness. Here we can fly and teleport. Here we can build structures impossible in real life. Here we can give objects the ability to move in the world and interact with people in ways not possible in real life. Here we can walk the world in bodies we could not possibly have in real life. And here we can meet and interact face-to-face with people from all over the planet without spending a penny for travel.

International Business Machines has taken fall advantage of that last. Various workgroups have conferences here and collaborate on assorted projects. It’s been so successful that IBM has 39 sims (just type IBM on the map to see them all).

Dozens and perhaps hundreds of colleges and universities have flourished in Second Life. They hold classes, give students virtual space to display their projects and theses, and undertake collaborative projects with other universities—all at a cost of $295 USD a month!

We all—individuals, schools, and corporations alike, continue to learn and push the boundaries of what is possible here—of what is possible at all! The commitment and long-term presence of hundreds of universities, corporations, and private businesses tells us Second Life is indeed ready for prime time. To be successful here, we just have to be ready for Second Life.

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