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In recent weeks, Clay Shirky has been on a mission to find out how many people are really using Linden Labs’ virtual world Second Life. Valleywag has turned Shirky’s inquiry into a Digg-baiting crusade, but Shirky has asked some hard, smart questions about journalists’ credulity nowadays. Some journalists, including Fortune‘s David Kirkpatrick, have defended themselves and, as Shirky notes on the Many 2 Many blog, Kirkpatrick actually asked the company for the real numbers and got them. (You can read Kirkpatrick’s report in the comments section of this posting. The bottom line: growth is very good (even Shirky calls it “healthy”), but not as hyperbolic as some have claimed.
— Roughly 1.5 million “unique people” have logged into Second Life at least once (differentiated from the 2.3 million “residents” claimed in the game)
— Roughly 252,000 people have logged in more than 30 days after their account creation date.
— Monthly growth in that figure appears to be greater than 20 percent.
Outsiders may see this as an inside-baseball dustup, and it is, but it’s more too. As more evidence accumulates to suggest that we’re in Bubble 2.0, it’s more and more important for journalists to be more and more skeptical and ask tougher and tougher question of the flavor of the week. We all remember what happened during Bubble 1.0. Don’t we?
— Second Life Is Big