Chip Griffin (Chip Graysmark in Second Life) is giving up on Second Life after only 6 months. He thinks that SL has disappointing numbers and states that no company has reaped major rewards from being there.
How long is long enough when it comes to giving Second Life a try? I'm over 4 months into my Second Life "experiment" and have come away with an entirely different perception than Griffin.
Griffin says he spent most of his time on Crayonville Island and attending the coffee with crayon weekly events.
"While I enjoyed the weekly "Coffee with Crayon" event for the chance to chat with fellow communicators, it felt a bit too much like web chats circa 1997," says Griffin.
I have to admit that there is something a bit '97 Web Chat-esque about text chat in SL - but for me, having avatars to look at and having my own avatar to move around and gesture as I chat adds an entirely new - and enjoyable - dimension to the text chatting. And now with voice, it will undoubtedly add a whole new aspect to communication and community in SL.
Unlike Griffin, I haven't stayed in one place. I've sought out events - most often by asking my "friends" who are online at the same time I am. "What are you doing?" If they are at a club, concert or party, I'll ask if it is open to the public and request a TP if it is.
I've been discovering new musical artists who are talented and whose music I genuinely like. I am considering checking out iTunes or their Web sites to see if they have music for sale. Ka-Ching!! Could be money in the bank for these real world performers who market themselves through their musician avatars on SL.
I also read SLNN.com (disclosure: I'm a business reporter for them as well) to learn about events and interesting places inworld. In fact, when I first was on SL with nowhere to go and while I was still unclear how to get anywhere, I read an article on SLNN.com about Elysian Isle - Random House UK's new island - and took a SLURL straight to it. Not only did I discover one of the most charming locations inworld - wooden boardwalks, quaint shops, beautiful forests, a rose garden, theater, music hall and so much more - I immediately contacted the land owner & proposed that I work for him.
Now I meet people and have a purpose - inviting them to join the Elysian Isle group and to visit the isle when I work at the Cafe des Amis on Tuesdays 1-3pm SLT. I'm like the Isle's hostess and it adds a purpose to many of the interactions I have on SL.
I've also been to numerous dances and private parties - much preferable to night clubs - and really love watching my avatar dance. Picking out the right outfit for the parties is also fun for me - very reminiscent of playing paper dolls as a girl but much more creative now (and costly!).
Griffin says no company is reaping any big rewards from participating on SL. This is the same thing people were saying in 1995 about the Internet. Big companies were spending big bucks because they felt they had to be there first but had zero plan on what to do there or how anything would work (Pathfinder.com anyone?). Their money and experimentation did pave the way for the rest of us even though so many of them went bust.
My advice to companies trying out a new platform or medium is: Do it in phases. Some early experimentation will be a loss leader, but there is value to gain from a presence on Second Life. Where there are people, there are potential customers.
But can a big company reap big rewards right now? Of course not! And those who say they can are foolish. This is a long term investment - a step by step proposition. It combines grassroots marketing, brand building, establishing customer relationships and then converting it all eventually into hard sales. Of course, if you have something to sell that SL residents want, you will make money. How much money is relative.
Will a presence in SL translate into real world sales of real world products and services? That probably will take some time and it has to be done the right way by the right companies. American Apparel recently closed down their hybrid inworld/offline shopping experience because it wasn't translating into real world sales on their Web site.
Well, I have a very good reason why that failed despite them having a classy store and clever integration of clothing for avatars with a link to the same item for people. The kind of person who really gets into Second Life most likely is NOT the type to buy American Apparel's preppy/sporty clothing.
Personally, I was tempted to buy something because it was executed so well, but it just wasn't my style although I did buy a track jacket for my avatar. I do believe, however, the right clothing brands could do well inworld and on the Web.
I know some people are making money off me right now because I love to shop inworld. In fact, I work my two jobs - business reporter for SLNN.com and writer-in-residence on Elysian Isle - to support my SL shopping habit. I'm guessing I've spent over $150US so far - $50 of which was my initial dollar investment into my SL experiment and the rest money I've earned inworld. (I made a promise to myself I would quit SL if I couldn't make enough money to shop - and so far, I'm doing quite well).
My favorite places to shop are Shiny Things for shoes and Mischief for outfits although I have items from over a dozen other stores in my Inventory. When I have a themed party to attend, I search high and low for the right outfit. I've purchased a 50s sock hop ensemble including saddle shoes, a 1920s flapper dress, a tie-dyed shirt for the Summer of Love concert, and now I'm on the hunt for a futuristic outfit ala the Jetsons.
I also recently furnished my apartment on Elysian Isle with low prim furniture. I found a fantastic shop with an entire Asian-inspired living room set including a Japanese wall print and bonsai plant. Lacking any interior decorating skills myself, I just bought up almost the entire set and over an hour trying to figure out how to arrange everything in my living room.
Then I shopped around until I found the perfect low prim bed that fit the decor. I messaged the designer of the bed to see if I could purchase a different color than what was on display. AnneMarie McCellan responded immediately and not only changed the color of the bed to match perfectly with the carpet I had already purchased, but also custom designed some Japanese screens to separate my bedroom from my living area. She also sold me the perfect Asian print for my bedroom wall then helped me rearrange the furniture and taught me how to do it myself. It was all well worth every Linden spent.
Living a Second Life
As I write this blog post, I realize how I'm speaking about my activities in Second Life as if they were actually happening in real life. Well, the more I think about it, the more I realize that they are. Sure it is my avatar doing these things - shopping, going to parties, meeting people, dancing, working in a cafe, furnishing an apartment - but it is me doing these things as well - just in a different space.
"I always try to avoid living within the tech bubble and put myself in the shoes of 'average' users. That doesn't mean I won't live out on the cutting edge or even the bleeding edge, but it is important that we all never lose sight of the fact that we are an abnormal minority and not necessarily the harbinger of trends to come."
I agree somewhat but mostly, I disagree with Griffin's premise. Yes, we are early adopters and yes, just because we like it doesn't mean everyone will like it...now. I loved going onto BBSs in 1987, but they didn't really go mainstream until AOL, Prodigy and CompuServe improved their systems. I loved the Web in 1994, but it didn't really go mainstream until 1998 or later. I've blogged since the late 90s in various forms, but even those didn't take off until 2000.
I remember when I showed my Dad email and America Online back in 1992. "I can't see any use for it. I can't see any value in it," he told me. Today, he emails me many times a week and is thrilled to receive photos and videos of his granddaughter. And he teaches Algebra online for the University of Phoenix. He is not a computer geek, techy or industry insider, but the Internet plays an important role in his life today.
love Second Life. I don't expect it to go mainstream yet, but in some form - most likely a much improved form - it will hit the mainstream in ways we aren't even expecting. Right now, we might be experimenting, but other people are living their Second Lives as adjuncts to their first lives. And sure, some are even living their Second Lives at the expense of their first lives - but there will always be addicts and abusers of anything you put out there so media hype aside, Second Life isn't ruining hundred or thousands of lives - addiction is.
My husband doesn't know what to think of my use of Second Life. I am careful not to use it when he's home or if I'd like to, I make sure he is busy doing something else and doesn't mind. I mostly log in during the day as part of my work. Not just the work where I get paid in Linden, but my work as an Internet strategist who consults with companies and nonprofit organizations about the best ways to extend their brands and messages online. My exploration of Second Life helps me advise my clients.
Connection and Community
But let's be honest, I'm not enjoying Second Life because it is making me a better Internet consultant. I'm enjoying it because I'm making contacts and connections online in a way that I haven't been able to do offline where I live.
I moved to Alaska in 2005 - newly married, in my 40s, working from home - and employed every trick in the book to network and meet people. I thought that once I had a baby, I'd find the whole community of mommies welcoming me with open arms. But people here in Alaska seem to come to Alaska either for the outdoors or to get away from other people. After 2 years, I only have one girlfriend and most of the time, she's busy with her own life.
So I truly appreciate the contacts I've made within Second Life - many of whom are contacts I've made on Twitter. The crossover makes sense. We're all comfortable communicating online, with chat, with blogging - of course we'd feel comfortable in a virtual world that we could actually see and move within. Clumsily at first, mind you, but once you learn to move around - and get places - it just feels right.
Yes, I'm making friends in Second Life. Does it replace real life? No way, no how. But as an adjunct to my first life, I have to say that I welcome it. Not only am I less lonely, I've got great hair, and I am much better dressed!