Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A noob comes to town

Hi, there ;)

Contrary to most of my famous co-authors on this weblog nobody knows me in SL. So I thought, it might be ok, to say a few words about my perspective on Second Life, without looking too vain. It helps to understand what I will be posting in the time to come ;)

I came to Second Life in January 2005 after a friend and colleague of mine discovered it and invited me. It took him and another colleague a whole afternoon (connected to me over a normal phone line), to lead me through my first steps. Otherwise I would have given up after 5 minutes. That's because I have to admit (full of shame!), that after a few first steps with computer games in the 80s on a Macintosh 512 I never, ever have "played" any game on a PC since then. Yes, yes, yes, I know that I will get some angry frowns when I call Second Life a game. Rest assured. It isn't - to me; but I understand when others see it like that. But at least I can say with some certainty, that without prior knowledge of PC games, especially 3D games, Second Life if very, very, very hard to grasp in the first day. I still see this as one of the great weaknesses of the platform and believe this is a main cause for a relatively high churn rate of new users in the first days.

But I am meandering;) I just wanted to say that I came into SL with a rough start and soon learned to love it. The weaknesses of the system as a "game" does not annoy me much because I came to Second Life with a few friends and colleagues in our search for a platform on which we could build business applications in a 3D virtual environment. Yep, *blush* we thought we could do business here. How embarrassing. Even more embarrassing: I still believe that this is possible - and I mean "business" not only as a content creator, club owner or land baron(esse).

I - among many others - see Second Life as a first small step towards a future version of "The Net" which will not replace but complement the World Wide Web. You might call it "Metaverse" if you like;) But there are many other stories out there about a future virtual world, in which we will communicate, collaborate, work, play ... live. I like some better then Snowcrash. But thats personal taste. I am sure that this "virtual world 3D" web will come. And it will be fun - SL surely is - but it will be big business too.

I am rather sure, that - like it or not - platforms like SL will be used by companies of all sizes for entertainment, training, marketing, collaboration and more and more for sales, too. Projects like the one Well Fargo did are just the first steps. There are many more to come. But now at the end of 2005 this platform is still in its infancy. The update to 1.7 and its aftermath clearly shows that. Second Life is severely limited in many aspects - in its architecture as a rapidly growing MMOG and as a development platform. But besides being a fascinating world to spend time in, meet people, create, dance, drive, explore etc. etc. it is still by far the most flexible solution on the market for building applications. I am rather sure of that because our group checked quite a lot of competing systems before we settled on SL.

Still not much in the way of "real projects" has come out of the discussions in our group; which is frustrating, of course. Maybe it is too early for a medium scale RL operation based on SL, maybe we are too naive, maybe we are not focused enough. I am not sure yet. But I am sure that SL or a similar platform will play an important role in my professional life at some point in the not to distant future. Lets see what will happen over the next months or years.

In the meantime SL is the most interesting society to observe (and take part in) that I have encountered so far in my travels in the real and virtual world. It is one great playground where you can watch a society and an economy evolve that is not based on (at least some of) the limitations of the real world. But people don't change so easily. Even if you take away some physical limitations. Human nature has a great inertia. We can fly in SL but we still build most of our houses as if we could not. And the need to define ourselves in a larger, but closely knit group with strong emotional ties is so strong that many have begun to use their profile to define a family of their choice: sisters, brothers, parents, children ...

And maybe this is the most fascinating aspect of Second Life at all: how residents use the limited tools provided to build not only a new world but a new society, too - with many similarities to the Real World but many interesting differences.

Lest I forget: Of course I have a 1st Life, too. (I prefer not to call it "real life", SL is very "real" to me!) In my 1st Life I am a German, in my forties, married and happy father to a little son. My professional life always was dominated by "new technologies". In the 90s I founded one of the first German internet agencies, which through a series of new economy mergers now is one of the largest firms in this field in the country. I was CTO for this group for a while before I left it some two years ago looking for new adventures in technology ;)

No comments:

Post a Comment