My real-life commute to work every morning lasts about half an hour. I have a five minute walk to the subway, a train ride of around fifteen minutes (plus however long I have to wait on the platform), and another five minute walk to my destination, a downtown office building buzzing with security guards, building maintenance personnel, and nine-to-fivers.
Although the basics of my commute remain essentially the same, there are aspects that change daily. A couple of times I've had to speed up to get out from behind a smoker walking in front of me. Sometimes I'm able to get a seat on the train; other times I have to stand, and curse the idiot college student standing behind me who keeps whacking me with his backpack because he's forgotten that he's attached a huge nylon hump to his back. Occasionally there are conversations to eavesdrop on. Once in a great while someone remarks on the book I'm reading.
In the evenings I log into Second Life. I have a private sim, and my ongoing (Sisyphean?) project these days is to fill it with stuff. I can't possibly build everything myself, so I go on shopping trips, rambling explorations, looking for cool stuff to buy and bring home.
No argument, the creators of SL are inventive, and I've laid out more than a few Lindens to acquire the pretty, the kinetic, the interactive. The stores I've visited range in style from simple prim platforms to elaborate architecture, tiny rented stalls to private islands. The one thing all of the stores share in common is that they're usually deserted.
Of course the stores are unattended. What proprietor can spend 24 hours a day tending their Second Life store? What employee would man a store for the spare change a $L-based income represents? Who could stand the boredom of sitting around a virtual store, waiting for customers that could appear at any moment, but probably won't?
Your mileage may vary, but I find SL to be, generally, a solitary experience. It's "Ghost Town" by The Specials. Obviously, to get your social fix you can attend any number of events at nearly all hours of the day, or chase clusters of little green dots around the grid. And there are ways that you can bring people to you. But people do not flow around us. There is little sense of living, breathing, daily occupation in SL. Like the Marie Celeste, there are traces of our passing: cigarettes left smoking in ashtrays, half-filled cups of coffee steaming on kitchen counters, torches guttering in gothic basements, stage lights strobing on colorful but empty dance floors, porch swings rocking quietly to themselves...
Meanwhile, here I am with an entire sim to fill. When finished, it will undoubtedly stand empty of people for long stretches of time. What can I do to make up for the lack of human interaction when a visitor teleports to my island? Is it possible to make the sim itself a host, greeting, guiding, and actively entertaining the solitary visitor? I think it might be, but we won't know until I get around to writing part two of this sprawling epic, will we?