If you're one of the only few billion people out of the 6 billion plus on the planet that hasn't yet tried the Les Paul doodle (as they are called) on Google, you can still try it because it now has a permanent home.
(In fact, I shouldn't say "now," because all Google doodles are archived in one long list when their "day" passes, so I don't know why the tech press was panicking everyone telling them they "only" had 14 more hours, etc. To be sure, Google itself left the doodle up for several days running on the home page making people think it "wouldn't last".)
If you type "Les Paul doodle" into Google search, you will see the zillions of articles on this hugely viral meme.
If you're like me, the first time you saw the guitar, you realized it might be interactive from past experience with Google doodles (like the World's Fair one that had a magnifying glass that enlarged elements of the picture as you dragged over it), and you might have plucked the strings and seen them vibrate. Then, you might, as a synethesiac (like me) noticed that they had the strings turn colours as they played. Then, perhaps on day two, if you are a slow learner, because you saw the "record" button that didn't make sense at first, you'd realize, hey, maybe there's sound on this thing! And then you might finally put on your headphones and pluck the strings and play a tune -- if you could manage. Then there was still the record button to figure out. Why?
Then you'd realize that oh, it records whatever you play -- so you could try typing words in and they'd become tunes. In fact, I thought that *was* the purpose, to make notes out of words like synesthesia, but instead, it was merely to enable you to play notes and keep the string of keyboard strokes/letters in a "record," that you could get a unique URL to, and then play back later to your friends. So naturally, lots of people appeared with "Stairway to Heaven" and "Mary had a little lamb," etc. And the tech press wrote the jillions of articles about it, with some metrics company even finding out that 5.3 million human hours have already been consumed on this thing.
Now what does this remind you of, eh?
The first time I figured it out (by day two, I'm slow) I said in a tweet, 'Oh, Google made a virtual world!"
Well it doesn't quite fit *my* definition of a virtual world, in that it must have two elements 1) a sense of place 2) drama. The Les Paul doodle has neither. It could acquire it, however -- pop it on shared media into Second Life on a sim, gather around it, and soon you could have arguments, people could fall in love, there could be a war over the tier or the admission price if the traffic pours in -- it's not hard to manufacture drama in SL, you just have to show up.
How is it that millions of people will spend all day at their jobs wasting time plucking a guitar string and playing "Mary had a little lamb" back to themselves, yet they scorn and turn up their noses at Second Life?
That's what we have to figure out.
In Second Life, you can not only pluck on a guitar, you can do it with other people playing other instruments and make a band. To be sure the "record" part is not as automatic (you used to be able to press "record" for a sort of fraps like movie in SL that at least recorded the brute machinima, but no more), and I find trying to record SL actually to be a hellish enterprise. (Machinimists always make this seem easy. It isn't. There isn't anything that you can easily install and just click a button to record everything as you can with World of Warcraft. Various programs that do this don't seem to get the screen size right for SL or have other problems I've found. If you know if a dirt-simple, truly not complicated free program that does this, or even one for $21.95, let me know.)
But after all, once you gather with real people in a real place where you can all sound your note, shouldn't it be utterly compelling? So why isn't it?
I have a room of musical instruments like this in the Moth Temple orientation sim. They each have 6 pre-recorded riffs on them, sort of salsa type music. You can then sit at the guitar or the drums and all play the same numbered riffs, or mix and match. Strangers landing in SL will come in this room and sit and play these for long periods. People like musical instruments that are easy for them to play -- that's why those group elf drum sets are such a hit. I also have another room at the Moth Temple location that has oil drums set up with tunes as well. Both these rooms get a fair amount of use, and yet I sometimes find it empty because I think the fear of performing with other people in public is HUGE, even if you are an anonymous avatar and the instruments can essentially play themselves by just a click.
Those that overcome those ancient ingrained fears have a good time when they realize that playing all those drums and the guitar is cool and makes you feel like a rock star.
Of course, we have something even better in SL, which is live music with real people playing real music, even original music on real instruments. You even get two different people in two different places playing online together (Beth Odets the fiddle player has tried this -- I do realize that it's kind of difficult because the time syncing can't always work, the server and the packets and whatnot mean that people can't play together in time and in tune, but they can try.) Jaycatt and Frogg are in the same house in RL, playing over the same server, so their avatars can sound together in SL.
I will never forget the first time I went to hear Frogg & Jaycatt -- it was in Iris, too, by the Moth Temple. There was a club on the open water where they used to play there. Frogg played "If Wishes Were Horses" which is my absolute favourite song of his ("Time doesn't pass even tho time goes by"). And it was absolutely thrilling to hear Frogg's real voice, greeting my avatar and saying "Hi, Prokofy" as I landed -- I think half the fun of live music for people isn't even so much listening to the music, which is of course great, or even typing to your friends in the same club, which you can do without interrupting the music, which is better than real life, but the way in which the musicians greet you and talk to you and thank you for tipping, all things they don't do in real life in the same way. Those latter two things make the RL experience "better" in RL, even with the crashes and glitches or griefing that sometimes occur.
But again, why isn't my band room in Iris, or anybody else's, much less the real life folks playing music as compelling as the Les Paul Google doodle? They are, to a lot of us. Why aren't they to millions? Why isn't the amazing interactivity, and the ability to *change your environment* (which is what Philip Linden always highlighted as the heart and soul of Second Life) more compelling to more millions? They should be!
Well, some people would say that it's because it's "in the browser". I completely reject that idea. The dirty little secret of browser-based VWs is that they constantly have to be loading each time you go to a room or place, so seriously, you just pick up the load time -- worse than the time of teleporting or rezzing in many cases -- at another place in the equation, even if you delete it off the front end of the original user experience. I'm not fooled by that.
Others would say it is "easy". Clicking on the Les Paul device is obviously easier than loading up and going into SL and finding that place with a guitar to click on. (Those three steps -- load, go, find -- are all points in the equation where you lose people).
But let's pretend that you could click and land in SL in front of a playing guitar just as fast and easy as you can land on the Google doodle page (shouldn't they call these "goodles" or something? -- try saying those two words really fast.)
Even if you could land and click on the Les Paul guitar in SL, you might not do it for hours, and that won't be due to the issue of recording and playing the song -- that's the icing on the cake.
And I think the answer really is the "hell is other people -- real hell is other people online" problem. You feel stage fright in front of the other goofs watching, and they may not be kind.
In fact, I think what a lot of the attraction of social media is for people is that it is not in real time and they are not exposed. They can go on Facebook and interact in friends *but not in real time* unless they get on the IM. They can post a comment or put up a picture asynchronously, with that pause that refreshses, from the strain of real-time interaction. Twitter isn't real-time either, of course. I think people want that lag in socializing, and Second Life doesn't give it to them. It's real-time squared. In fact, I think the reason a lot of people "play SL alone" and spend hours on end exploring or doodling by themselves on their sims making stuff is because they just have more fun playing it that way without the strain of other people. Remember the people on T.S. Eliot's train: "The faces relax from grief into relief.")
One of the things I have at the Ross Memory Bazaar site is several rooms with doors or curtains that people can go into in order to "change" because I find some people find standing out in the open struggling to change an avatar that may become naked or have something ugly on it to be an unbearable experience.
And some people just like to go into enclosed spaces to think or feel alone, even though of course, they aren't really, online, where anyone can come and cam in or whatever.
Even so, the fiction of privacy in SL holds pretty well -- people request locked doors by the tens of thousands because even if anyone can sit through them who has learned the hack, they're at least a small layer. And people make houses that could easily be cammed into because most people don't and it still gives them that feeling.
I think the worlds that have your avatar first on a web page where you can dress it and even go through animations in peace, before having to appear "on stage" might work better. Eve on Line, Small Worlds, some of the other ones do that for you.
I remember once a girl only a few minutes old hissed at me when I found her turning around in Ross. "Get out of my house!" she snarled. "Get out!". She thought she had been put in a lavish mideastern bazaar with baths and dining rooms and palaces just for her own personal benefit LOL. She kept persisting in this illusion and sense of entitlement until I could finally persuade her that she had landed in a public place and couldn't expect the rest of us to leave.
I just wonder if you would have more retention if more people could land in a private space immediately (Kaneva has you do that) and fix up your avatar and get your act together and test chat and anims, before you go out in public). The fear of the marketplace (agorophobia) and other people (whatever that Greek word is) sure sticks hard in SL.
Of course, landing in those awful infohubs and welcome areas are known horrors and I can only repeat what I've said before, wouldn't it be great if people could land immediately in your own house or building you supplied the URL to in an invitation. So on Twitter, I type "Join me for a discussion on the Middle East," and people click on the SLURL and join SL and land *right in my living room or conference room* instead of all the other crap.
But the idea of private rooms as you land is even more compelling. I'm absolutely convinced that the reason people can spend millions of hours on the Les Paul doodle is that first they get to practice and food around *alone, by themselves*. (Facebook lets you do that too essentially). THEN you get to tape and share your opus. Later. After you've overcome that ancient fear of performance, so to speak.
So the "in the browser" and the "fast and easy" stuff are all important, but I continue to think that the real retention-buster is the fear of the public place and other people, especially regarding the first outfit (even when already chosen) or the first actions (like an animation or speech). Somehow, the comfort level must be raised on these things.
BTW, I began researching this Les Paul doodle today by trying to find the technology involved. I assume it's just flash or java or something. But is it more? Is this HTML5? Or what? And is Google making a virtual world in pieces?