I, along with many of my junior PR blogging peers, am an unabashed Second Life sceptic. But I try to keep an open mind and am prepared to give most things a “second” chance.
Greg Verdino of Digitas gave the presentation, and led us through the murky underbelly of SL. I’m not sure when it was, but fairly early on I had the epiphany that SL’s hype and potential far outweigh it’s execution.
Barriers to adoption.
Here are my top seven reasons why SL will never be as mainstream as many commentators think.
1. Basic hardware needs are too high. I’ve logged in at work using a pretty sweet iStudio laptop with a 100 mbps connection and found the whole experience just awful. I can’t imagine logging in from home on a 56mbps connection on a laptop with 700 megs of RAM
2. Lack of understanding from the colonials (businesses). Seems that businesses in SL know enough to be dangerous to their shareholders. Yes it’s cool, sure we can throw a few million dollars at this but once they’ve done it, what next? All the investment and these huge landtraps are empty. The Starwood Hotel was empty, the American Apparel store was empty, the Reebok store was empty (I’m sure one of those brands is in conflict with an FH client). Surely an intern with a laptop dedicated to SL would be a good idea and (relatively) cheap investment? Or is it just another place where the customer service experience completely fails?
3. The indiginous population. Who have no interest for brands, marketing or real world businesses. Where is everyone? When they’re there, they’re either gambling or looking at/for porn. But there’s so much business potential “they” say. I say nay, nay and trice nay
4. Interoperability between 3D virtual worlds. Blogger has this awful setting that means only people with blogger accounts can comment on the blog. MSM and Yahoo! (an FH client) only just became interoperable. Social media is about inclusivity over all barriers – why not systems. It’d be awesome if there were portal doors (think Narnia style wardrobes) going from one world to another…that would be cool!
5. Metrics. If good marketers measure, how can you measure anything in SL? Impressions? Time spent with your brand? Anything?
6. The SLers are deviants. During the presentation we were stalked by a furry. Ewww.
7. Ethical dilemmas. One of the reasons indiginous businesses succeed in SL is that they have learnt to optimize their search. They do this by paying avatars, in Lindens, to dance in their businesses, something that never happens in the colonial (brand) locations. If a brand did it, would this be ethical? If not, why not? If so, why should real life ethics and morals not exist in SL – and would this damage the credibility of the platform?
Does anything live up to the potential?
Greg also took a few minutes to talk about competitors including Kaneva and Gaia. Kaneva is a combination of 2D surfing, with 3D chat. Essentially you surf through the profile pages and when you find someone to chat to, you go into a Matrix style chat room. As he said that, I’m thinking “so it’s like a very convoluted version of Y! messenger?” Y!’s IM client allows you do…exactly that…with people you already know. Plus it tells you when they’re online – genius!
Following a very thorough and very well presented erm presentation, I was incredibly disappointed at the quality of the questions. I was, truth be told, expecting some hard questions on metrics, maybe a deeper look at the veracity of the numbers publicised by Linden Lab, possibly a few questions on the reaction marketers can expect from the indiginous SLers or a request for an analysis of the crayon launch.
Instead the questions were “how can I move around?”, “how can I create stuff?”, “how do I search for stuff?” and “where did we visit?”.
One break through idea
At the least I was hoping for an ‘if everyone has to go to orientation island, and most people drop off of using SL after 30 days, can we at least sponsor the island?’.
If those questions were asked, then Marketing Profs should’ve made sure they were answered, not the fluff questions that made it through the filter.
Greg, many thanks for a great presentation but for now I’m leaving SL where it belongs, in Neil’s computer and in the file marked “if only”.
Additional Links –
Valleywag – Unless you’re a sexual deviant…
Valleywag – too good to check?
Second Life Herald – gallery of lies
Ed Lee’s del.icio.us tags – second_life_backlash
Update (Jan 16, 2007)
I just found this graph on Kevin Dugan’s blog, Strategic Public Relations. He’s plotted SL onto Gartner (the technology analyst firm that isn’t Forrester)’s hype cycle curve. Interesting to see that the model puts the productivity of the platform somewhere below the bullish potential that Neville, C.C. et al have been building it up to be, but a little above where sceptics such as Chris, Owen and I have been predicting.