Today I read Mitch Wagner’s blog post entitled “Why I hardly ever go on Second Life anymore.” In it he says:
“Short answer: It’s inconvenient.
Long answer: I love Twitter and Facebook in part because they’re very convenient. I can use them from my MacBook Pro or my iPad or iPhone. I usually check them only for a minute or two at a time, as a little break between whatever else I’m doing, like taking a sip of water.”
He concludes with:
“I think Second Life, and virtual worlds, may have gone as far as they can go, that maybe the whole avatar-in-an-imaginary landscape metaphor is the wrong metaphor to best achieve the benefits that Second Life provides, just as Usenet was the wrong metaphor for mass adoption of online discussions, and blogs turned out to be the right one.”
I get that Mitch is frustrated. Today we live in a “NOW” society. We want things to be quick and easy. Social media gives us the ability to check in and check out in a few seconds. The problem with social media is that the connections we make there can often on there own be superficial.
Social media is in many ways inadequate. In fact, the real value of social media is not in talking or engaging at all. The real value of social media is in listening.
In order for social media to have power, we have to extend the conversation. We are already do this using more traditional media.
Why do we still write books or blogs? Because people read them. So why use virtual worlds? Because more than any other space, people are engaging/collaborating/creating/etc in virtual worlds in a uncommonly immersive way that is highly emotionally and significant. A place where you can not only be part of the story, you can also create it. It’s hands on. I don’t want to just read about something, I want to do it! I want to experience it myself.
Is it a necessity right now? No. Not yet. However, virtual worlds present the biggest opportunity we have ever had.
The value of virtual worlds like Second Life is incomprehensible. It is worth more than the numbers.
What’s the ROI of my dogs? I put countless amounts of time and money in taking care of them, feeding them, walking them, etc. Some go on to become Seeing Eye dogs and literally change people’s lives. Others like my Patty (who had a heart condition that prevented her from becoming a guide dog) give me immeasurable amounts of love and support that are as responsible for my success almost as much as my mother(who’s ROI is also inconceivable).
It’s a silly question to ask, really. If you can’t understand the value of relationships, storytelling, real-time creation and collaboration, community, etc then I can’t help you. And it’s clear that so many people don’t understand or they just don’t care (they just want to sell stuff or whatever) because if you understood the value, you would justify the time, energy, etc because EFFORT = VALUE. You get out what you put in. You get so much more out of virtual worlds then the hurdle you have to jump to get in.
We spend time complaining about viewers, UIs, announcements, but at the end of the day it’s not that important because Linden Lab doesn’t make Second Life what it is.. WE DO.
And honestly, it won’t always be like this. The technology is coming. I haven’t figured out all the answers yet, but I know they are coming because we already see improvements in the virtual world everyday (just look at the enhancements of mesh support or Kinect hacks).
The internet itself is only 15 years old. It wasn’t that long ago that AOL was spamming us with CDs in the mail and we had to hear the distinctive sound of our dial-up connecting. The internet is so young and is growing so fast we are grossly underestimating the power that virtual worlds will have and already do now.
The technology will come. The numbers/stats will come. More people will then be able to justify their use then, but the value is here now.