Mar 6, 2009

More on the Second Life "Deathwatch"

Yet another blogger has thrown his hat in the ring and jumped on the bandwagon of predicting the end of the Second Life virtual experience. Thanks to Goggle Alerts - a very useful way for tracking news on virtual life - I found an article entitled So Long Second Life on a blog called HighTalk; Conversations on Media, PR & the Social Web.

Now, I admit I don't know George Snell, the principal of Highland Communications and owner of the blog, and I have no reason to suspect he has any axe to grind in relation to Second Life. But my issue is, as before, that certain singular events in Second Life have become almost iconically symbolic of impending disaster, when in truth, these are just isolated events amongst many other comings-and-goings in the virtual world.

George does make an interesting point about the nature of social networks. He says that in relation to the "failure" of Second Life that "...what really happened is Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Turns out people - mainstream people - don’t want the commitment and the oddity of a Second Life to partake in the Internet."

I propose there is a fundamental underlying issue at work here that is simply old-fashioned capitalism at its best: All these social networks are competing for a finite resource - time. They are competing for my spare time, your spare time, everyone's spare time. All of us have limits on how much time we can spend doing things. It's measurable: 24 hours per day, excluding sleep.

And even if you don't sleep, you still only have those 24 hours to chop into pieces. The more social networks you take part in, the less time you can spend in each. This is not rocket science nor some "profound insight" - it's just basic math.

As the number of ways to spend virtual time increases, the more competitive these activities become. I took stock of my own "social network" outlets and here they are in their glory:

Second Life
SL on SL blog
SL on VL blog
SL on RL blog
Second Life bloggers blog
Life On Line TV show and blog
MyMetaverse blog
OpenWork Wiki

Add to this that I also write for SLentrepreneur Magazine, FreeLife Magazine, The Alphaville Herald, and other magazines on a freelance basis, and you can see how the "free time competition" works.

What's more frightening is that I believe I have fewer of these time-stealers than many other people. I know folks who also plurk, flickr, yelp, ning, and habbo. Add to this a MySpace page linked to your YouTube posts and I'm beginning to suspect the tragic state of the world economy is because no-one is actually getting the time to do any real work!

Lack of time, not necessarily lack of interest, is an important factor in why folks stop using any social network.


George Snell said...

Hi Sigmund:
I do, indeed, have no ax to grind with Second Life. In fact, I've only visited twice. I'm not so much interested in Second Life - the web destination - as I am in Second Life the social media/communications platform.

I agree with your assessment - time is finite and other "social media" platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have captured the mainstream because they are fast, easy, and uncomplicated (and, in a way, less creepy than Second Life).

As you noted in your comments on my blog - Second Life seems to be making lots of changes for an IPO or other exit. It will be interesting to see where they end up.

Siggy said...

Thanks for the comment George. I'm always a little wary when I post things regarding other folk's comments because it's so easy to misrepresent them and/or misinterpret! And although I do spend fun time in SL, I also, like yourself, try to keep a perspective on it as a social platform - hence my time writing as a commentator for SL magazines, blogs, etc.

Although LL have not explicitly talked about an IPO - and unless they were ready to go public they, of course, wouldn't - they have received significant funding from three venture capital companies over the past two/three years (sorry, having to wrack my brain rather than go back through a pile of past scribblings and notes) who will, at some point, want to see a significant ROI - and VCs tend not want less than 20%.

So, it will indeed be interesting to see how things go this year. This is probably not a good time economically for an IPO but that doesn't stop LL from looking for new acquisitions and expansion - however they may decide to do it.

One off the wall thought is that they may want to offer "banking services" to up-and-coming virtual worlds who want to run an economy but don't want to spend lots of time developing the infrastructure to do it. Imagine contracting Linden Lab to do it for you. Now THAT would be interesting!

Thank for the insights, George!