The Real Value of Second Life

Cross posted at Future Majority

I've been skeptical of the value of Second Life - as both a type of social network and more particularly as a campaign resource - for quite a while.  It's never struck me as a place that is highly populated by a desirable audience that isn't reachable as part of another, larger (or niche) audience.  And I've never seen the real value in it as anything other than a novelty.

Social Web guru Clay Shirky is putting stats to that claim.  Any campaign interested in pursuing a Second Life strategy should read his recent article dissecting the hype that surrounds Second Life.

If we think of a user as someone who has returned to a site after trying it once, I doubt that the number of simultaneous Second Life users breaks 10,000 regularly. If we raise the bar to people who come back for a second month, I wonder if the site breaks 10,000 simultaneous return visitors outside highly promoted events.

Second Life may be wrought by its more active users into something good, but right now the deck is stacked against it, because the perceptions of great user growth and great value from scarcity are mutually reinforcing but built on sand. Were the press to shift to reporting Recently Logged In as their best approximation of the population, the number of reported users would shrink by an order of magnitude; were they to adopt industry-standard unique users reporting (assuming they could get those numbers), the reported population would probably drop by two orders. If the growth isn't as currently advertised (and it isn't), then the value from scarcity is overstated, and if the value of scarcity is overstated, at least one of the engines of growth will cool down.

If campaigns really want to get into this game, I'd suggest they figure out a way to into the other MMORPGs like World of Warcraft.  The number of real users is astronomically higher, the bonds between users are knit into tighter communities, and there's probably a lot more fertile ground to be tilled.

Tags: campaigns, outreach, Second Life (all tags)

Comments

2 Comments

I agree, but...

I was at the SF session of RootsCamp, where someone I consider serious presented Second Life as something campaigns should be looking at.  My first impression's about the same as yours.

At the time, former Virginia Gov. Warner had done a "campaign event" in Second Life.  My impression was that the event was not significant so much for the people who participated -- surely a small group -- but for how people hearing about the event second hand would think of it.

Still, I'm curious why otherwise sane people are looking into using Second Life this way.  I don't get it.  Could someone help clue me in?

by Rob Thorne 2006-12-20 07:44PM | 0 recs
Re: I agree, but...

Yeah, I missed  that session at Roots Camp because of an overlap with another one I wanted to sit in on.

I guess for me, the idea that its worth doing because it will create a favorable impression among another group of people that hear about it is pretty worthless.  

It's just media hype.  There's no "there" there, which is hugely disappointing because I  think people are really looking to Second Life - especially in the context of campaigns - to create a new kind of public forum, and that's just not gonna happen this election cycle.

The conversation on this is pretty dead here (somewhat surprisingly since Second Life has been promoted as a tool on this website).  I cross-posted this at Daily Kos, and a decent discussion did spring up.  Check it out if you still want to talk about this.

by Mike Connery 2006-12-21 03:59AM | 0 recs

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