Business in Virtual Worlds, Second Life

Second Life Users Have Too Much Time On Their Hands: Philip Rosedale

Philip Rosedale tells Der Spiegel online that “The early users of Second Life are simply people who have a lot of time” and outlines priorities and his thoughts on coming competition, including the fact that he’s worried that the competition has learned from Second Life’s mistakes.

The interview reiterates Rosedale’s current speaking points:

- Second Life needs to crash less
- Improvements will make it do more and look better
- Usability needs to be improved, for example the client
- Doing these things will create a utility that will attract business and education, plus a bunch of other people

I’ve spoken to this before, but I’ll reiterate: this is hardly a strategic vision for Second Life. Strategy consists of a vision that people can relate to and rally around, against the backdrop of core competencies (something that SL is paying a lot of attention to, which is why talk is always about code improvements, technical features, lag, and crashes), and target user groups.

It addresses the competitive landscape with the flippant insight that “geez, I sure hope they don’t learn what we did wrong and get it right”, and it continues to count on the concept of being an appliance:

“There might have been more enthusiasm and stronger growth in the first two quarters of 2007, but I think that the core growth in utility and in applications is still very strong,” said Rosedale.

In response to the question about target groups, Rosedale is elusive, bringing up eBay as a parallel.

I’ve been impressed with Philip and I’m going to let him slightly off the hook - maybe something was either lost in translation, he was having a bad day, or….well, I don’t like to think of the alternative which is that he really believes he’s creating the equivalent of an ISP and 3D Web hosting company.

What I would have hoped to hear is something more like the following:

- Early users made a choice to invest their time and attention in Second Life, building a creative storehouse of talent, objects, scripts, and best practices

- As we improve the platform, we need to realize that we can enhance the orientation experience, make the client more ‘newbie’ friendly, but at the end of the day this is like attracting new immigrants to a new country…we can’t simply count on people developing “apps” on our “utility” but we need to market, sell, attract and evangelize for the deeper potential of the medium

- More users can be persuaded to invest time in Second Life if we do this, but we’ll also need to create specific outreach strategies to different target groups. We’ll attract 3D designers, for example, by providing orientation packages on integrating 3DS and Maya work flows into SL. We’ll attract “game developers” by selling Havok4 and now Mono and we’ll be out there at conferences strutting the stuff of our highly active user community.

- We’ve already seen from our competition that they do a brilliant job marketing - Metaplace, for example, is highly active in blogs, has an effective PR effort, is accessible, and Raph Koster actually jumps into forums and responds personally. We’ll learn from them just as they’ve learned from us, and recognize that we’re in a war for people’s attention, and the idea of “build it and they will come” won’t fly in the face of competing worlds.

- We’ll attract new partnerships and stop acting like a walled garden. We’ll realize that any talk about being a utility and opening up the architecture is just tech talk. It’s no longer just about technology, it’s about competing for attention. We’ll talk to Facebook, and media companies, and cell phone carriers, and we’ll strategize new ways not just of extending the utility by shipping servers out, but by extending the brand into unexpected places, with unexpected partners, and in unexpected ways.

- All of which means these are exciting times, and these are exciting things that we’ll promote, discuss, and actively engage our current users in. Our current users are our best potential advocates, and it’s time to give them the proper tools so that they TOO can get out there and evangelize the cause.

Until now, we’ve played favorites and we’ve given them more reasons to moan and complain than to celebrate and its my personal obligation to stop calling myself an evangelist and start to call myself an enabler of an entire community of evangelists, individuals and organizations. My job is not to defend SL and spin the latest crash statistics but rather to empower others with a vision, enable them with tools, and make them feel engaged in a powerful and creative community that is not building just a utility, but is creating a new world.


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