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« Why Does Linden Lab Fetishize Facebook? (And Not Care About Avatar Privacy) | Main | Half An Interview with Rodvik Linden »

February 15, 2011


Dartagan Shepherd

After the first half dozen paragraphs, this is one of the most insightful posts I've ever read about what people see, how they view their world and some gems on what makes SL and its residents tick.

It manages to do that in a way that some of the "experts" will never accomplish in their attempts to define bits of SL with neat little intellectual packages, labels and buzzwords who reach at, but never engage enough with Second Life.

You eluded elsewhere that I consider you a crackpot I believe. In truth, it's the gems like this that make it worth disagreeing with you on many other issues, rather than dismiss them.

The take-away for me here is that if you don't "get" people across the spectrum that you'll never be an expert on Second Life. Stop looking at the stars and start looking at your neighbors to learn the magic and dynamics of Second Life.

Dartagan Shepherd

Have to qualify my above statement to it boiling down to having to live here, as one of us, on a personal level before you try to analyze us, if you're not basing it on metrics.

Otherwise you still don't get it on a conceptual level.


There are so many variables on why people stay in SL. And they aren't anything that can be tracked with reliability.

I think it depends a lot on time, place and frame of mind. If I started SL now, I don't believe I would stay. But a few years back, SL just appealed to me. I'm not in world as much, but I still have homes and I still tour. Its kind of like a mini-vacation place. A lot like Disney World.

I enjoyed attending Mitch Wagner's Copper Robot program. I think you are right, if he became disenchanted it was because he had ideas of what he wanted SL to be. Instead of just watching what it is and what people use it for. Maybe it would be a lot better if SL was cuter. Than people could place it in a better category. I mean, no one ever thinks Club Penguin it going to be the future of tech. SL keeps getting mixed up in that future shock delusion when it really is just a theme park.

Horus Vale

Hey Prok -
Reading your article, it seems clear to me that the long and the short of it, is that Secondlife has and continues to be most useful and interesting to those who possess a sufficient level of imagination to "Immerse" themselves in the shared dreamstate that is SL's virtual reality and accept it as a separate place in its own right, with its own people and nature. I agree with one of Gwyneth Llewelyn views on her blog as to who finds SL useful and interesting. Specificly, that SL works best for those who can self entertain. Those who lack sufficient imagination, self motivation and acceptance will never be able to properly avatarize, interact and immerse to a level that will allow them to truly make Secondlife "their world". Those who simply come to augment their real life selves in SL almost unavoidably become disappointed with its limitations and leave SL for other networked simulation and communications applications which they deem superior for their specific needs. If you can not leave your body behind and pass through the looking glass of the monitor screen as a spirit, then wonderland is just not for you. At least this has been my experience. - Horus Vale

Millennium Sands

Wow... this was a long read, but it's simply the best I've ever read about SL. LL should buy the copyrights! :)

Many passages reminded me of what I've been telling for years to friends who felt bored and thought about leaving SL.

And one passage reminded me of a terrible time my 1st Life avatar had last summer, when a terrible heatwave turned life into a hell, and I went to a tropical island, where I bathed naked in the cool comforting sea while my 1st Live avatar watched me, feeling what I felt, until the heat in it's own room subceeded...

It's quite hard not to fall in love with someone who can be so brilliant. Prok wrote like he/she had sneaked up on me, listened to my heart, and poured it out here.

I'd like to post what I've written in my profile, at the 1st Life page:

"I'm an original and authentic rezident, not a simple avatar.
Someone in 1st Life inspires and guides me, but I'm nobodys representation. :)
If you're too attached to 1st Life to let go, live a dream and play a game, you shouldn't bother with me."

Rezident is spelled like this for a reason, by the way.
A resident resides in 1st Life, while a rezident is rezzed in SL.

Siana Gearz

Your writing is sometimes, like this time, great in spirit, but to totally botch a quote i can't quite remember by someone smarter than me "became too long for lack of effort to put it more tersely". I know, it can be painful, "backspace" sounds regressive and "delete" sounds... repressive? I'd be even more grateful if you could tell me whose quote it was originally and what the wording was. :)

Thinking back, i was at a real-life party once where i met a person who made a Second Life machinima, this one: A few days later, i joined SL. Attempts at sightseeing were a bit of a catastrophe, not much in SL ever looks right before getting accustomed to the chunky, low-quality look of everything, and work around the emptiness - too few people around in most places. And then omg! they sell skins! and it didn't say "100% synthetic material, no Avatars harmed". I felt more ashamed looking at them at first than when i for the first time... no, that's too private.

More than 100 hours of exploration had to pass to realize that it was possible to create things in SL without owning land, which isn't trivial, there is nothing at the entrance explaining the concept of "sandbox" and trying to drop anything on common ground is futile. From then on, i was set to stay, found communities i like to hang out with, and finally discovered Emerald, then that the client is in fact Open Source and can be another field for creativity.

In short, ability to create was the hook that i needed to be drawn in. Ability to role-play grew on me as i discovered that hidden desire.

And oh, official Viewer 2. It was a great discovery that i don't actually have to use it.

Before i joined, i was aware that SL existed. On an some occasion, some men way older than me discussed games, going from WoW to SL, with the words "in SL, it's just so realistic!"... having seen the pictures, my reaction was "yuck". And besides, "ehr, it's not like i don't have a life?" So perhaps Lindens fighting with an image of it being technically stale isn't quite wrong to remove one of that initial hurdles, but that certainly doesn't do anything to keep people in who log in once, nor does it explain why one would want that in the first place - for something which isn't comparable to real life. More publicity through facebook etc? Perhaps futile, as everyone has heard of SL, but maybe not. The image that non-Residents have is negative, the press makes it look like SL is the thing of the past, and perhaps they hope to replace it by images of happy, friendly avatars. The key being, it's a different kind of publicity.

А, кстати, есть адаптированные русские раскладки... За неимением русской клавиатуры и навыков, я такие использую.

Prokofy Neva

The nightengale does not sing on command. I do not write the way people think I should. I write as I please by the light of my conscience. I'm not here to play Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy. Do your own writing instead of picking apart mine. If it's too long, hey, don't read it or skim. I like to think out loud; writing for me is thinking out loud and is a transcript of that process.

The notion you suggest of how it's both "too real" and yet (thereby) begging the question of "not having a life" is spot on. Geeks hate that open-ended feature of SL. They can secretly indulge in games because everyone knows they are games, and it is laid out as a game, and has a fence all around it saying "game game game" whereas "my real life" is supposedly "elsewhere".

SL is more real (like the Sims, in their way) and more simulated, and so it starts up a feeling of guilty panic in the geek (and other types who can't or won't avatarize well).

And like I said, duh, I know there are Russian viewers and Russian add-ons, but they are clunky and I don't want to fuss with them. I don't have to deal with Russians so often as to warrant the trouble. I just use angrusski and call it a day. The Russians in SL have been singularly nasty. As you would expect people reproducing Red Square with the dead Lenin in it -- as if we were not in a world of all possibilities!

The problem with SL showing happy friendly avatars is that for people who don't avatarize well, that's no good.

Siana Gearz

Actually i did read it fully, else i wouldn't be commenting. I hoped you'd find me poking at your writing style to be more humorous than serious, but perhaps you had too much of that already.

I can't quite share the notion of Russians being nasty - perhaps because i have never been to any Russian community, i somehow instinctively avoid them, but do run into a random Russian Neko, Elf, whatever :) You know, you'll probably find people from any culture which have a bit of a fundamentalist attachment to something, and those will be the most visible and repelling ones.

I wouldn't suggest that SL "too real", this isn't my point of view, it was of those random people (who were at an electronics exhibition i was to for professional reason). My point of view, is that it's super abstract per se and the only thing filling it with any kind of life is activity of others. Technically, it can be nudged a bit, but the very nature of it being abstract is set in stone. About "not having a life", well the name of service kind of begs for that association. :D

Prokofy Neva


I went into the various Russian communities with the greatest of good will -- and speaking fluent Russian. I went offering help and not merely cheap rentals.

The early adapters came from that smug and nasty tech class in Moscow and a few other big cities which is conservative, pro-Kremlin, and privileged. That's to be understood because only they had the broadband and the money and the luxury of time. Russia has only 30 percent Internet penetration, and such that there is can be very expensive for some people.

Friendliness, help, this was met with the usual nasty rebuff and hatred of Americans and especially Americans who are specialists whom they feel can "never understand enough" about their country.

I'm very used to this and ignored them and persisted. I had Russian customers, almost universally who turned out to be griefers and scammers. Russian criminality is a HUGE problem due to Russian legal nihilism, a cultural inheritance from the USSR. It's classic that 114 people rounded up in the Medicare scam now are mainly Russian.

The Russian customers I had used the same ingenuity as some of the Brazilians in their scams. Building huge things in the sky over 4 people's parcels so you might not notice their squatting. Putting clear prims over rental prims to siphon off your money; hiding the rental box with terraforming -- etc.

I spent an enormous amount of time helping and adapting Russians -- only to have them treat me like absolutely shit and scream at me for weeks merely because I forbid them from having pets on one crowded sim where I don't allow pets (I allow them elsewhere).

But look, I'm VERY used to that, having dealt with this country professionally and lived there at times for the last 30 years. My children are half-Russian, and I do not hate Russians or have some kind of prejudice against Russians, many of whom are colleagues, friends and now relatives. But there are cultures of criminality and nihilism that are outrageous and they are what tends to show up first in Second Life.

Some great little Russian experiments have come -- little cafes, furniture stores, clubs -- that have been wonderful with the kind of creative Russians I really appreciate -- but they didn't last long -- too expensive, too hard to get logged on, and they were the first extorted and harassed by their fellow Russians.

I didn't feel this sense of despair about Russians in SL for probably some years; I kept seeing it as mixed and growing and having potential. I didn't go around disparaging them -- other Russians I knew would come to me and say "They're awful, can't you see?!" and I would simply say "well, they show a certain lack of imagination in a virtual world when they feel they have to duplicate Red Square with Lenin. Why not Red Square without Lenin?!"

Anyway, like all communities, there are good and bad, and the good are harassed by the bad even before the rest of us, so I don't fear saying what's the case.

If you find that the name of the service sets you up to fear that it means "no life," then you are one of those geeks that has an avatarization problem because of fear -- that is, I don't say it so literally for YOU as you eventually adapted, but you come from the class of people who do -- geeks at an electronic show, reluctance to part with first life as if it will be seen as an indictment to have a second life; etc.

And while I sympathize and get it, I'm just tired of everybody placating you. I'm tired of people like Mitch and Rodvik ringing all your chimes again every time and making it seem as if you are what we need to cater to. You're not.

music keyboard

I enjoyed reading this article. It was a long read but it simply the best I've ever read about SL. It's quite hard not to fall in love with someone who can be so brilliant. Prok wrote like he/she had sneaked up on me, listened to my heart, and poured it out here.

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