Blog Post

Coverage Of Second Life Still Over The Top

Meanwhile, back in the world of bubble media, USA Today has discovered the virtual world Second Life complete with a fawning profile of Linden Lab founder and CEO Philip Rosedale. It’s an acceptable history lesson for those new to the topic, but it barely mentions any of the bad news (hackers, population questions, business model questions) and goes heavy on pointless detail (the Linden Lab cafeteria, we learn, is “funky” and “ragged” — and “half-eaten Costco-size bags of chips and bowls of fruit lie on bare tables”), frequent cliched appellations (“king of the alter egos,” the tech celebrity du jour,” “builder of the Metaverse”), and enough overstatements to fill a press release, which it resembles.
How important is Second Life? Well, according to USA Today, “It is becoming so vital that politicians are campaigning there, bands such as Duran Duran are giving concerts…” Wow. Duran Duran. Perhaps Stryper was unavailable. The piece ends with the usual cliched question: “Can Rosedale take this early lead and run with it?” You guessed it: Only time will tell.
If I seem cranky here, it’s not to put down Rosedale (who’s worthy of respect and admiration) or Second Life (which can be fun). But, fellow journalists, please. Clay Shirky and others have been skeptical about this service’s possibilities, but it’s far from the norm. The tone of this and so many other pieces is, frankly, starstruck.
Sometimes when I visit Second Life, it’s so empty that it’s easy to wonder whether the only avatars there are those maintained by marketers. The latest virtual world marketing story is from virtual world marketers Electric Sheep, which put together a Machinima ad for a CBS sitcom that showed up during one of the 10,000 Super Bowl pregame shows on the network. The press release says the spot, created inside Second Life, is “the first machinima advertising promo for a major TV series,” which is such a minor achievement that at press time no major news outlet, not even USA Today, had picked up the press release. At a time when it seems as if every tiny activity inside Second Life is grounds for a news story, this may be a sign that some real journalist standards are being applied to coverage of this virtual world.
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3 Responses to “Coverage Of Second Life Still Over The Top”

  1. I'm no SL fanboy (I've used it but don't log in regularly) but I'm surprised how quickly you and other blogs jump on happenings in this service and call them insignificant. How is a machinima commericial in the super bowl less significant than the rise of weblogs like paidcontent? journalists have long hyped the impact of amateur web publishing to ridiculous degrees. The bottom line is that both blogs and virtual worlds empower outsiders of the publishing and media mainstream to create content in new and inexpensive ways – one with virtual paper and one the other with virtual actors. Frankly, you're either out of line, or you just haven't thought about it enough.

  2. The concept of 3D virtual worlds as a computing platform has the opportunity to revolutionize a number of industries and applications.

    Second Life is but one of many who are vying for the opportunity to be the long term dominate platform. Only time will tell whether Second Life maintains its virtual worlds leadership position. Unfortunately many leaders – think compuserve in online services and Netscape in browsers – have fallen to stronger competition and/or better products.

    I feel so strongly about the opportunity that I'm producing the first ever Virtual Worlds Conference, taking place March 28-29, 2007 in NYC. VW 2007 – http://www.vw2007.com – is an event for Fortune 500 companies seeking to understand and maximize marketing, entertainment and business strategies within virtual worlds.

    I look forward to watching the market evolve.

    Chris

  3. I agree – I don't get the 2ndLife hype – whenever I go there, I see maybe a few francophone avatars and then a wasteland of nothingness – buildings which render themselves "while you wait" (emphasis on wait) and objects which have no apparent use. There's no-one even looking at the posters of naked women which are, sad to say, festooning the walls of virtual shopping malls.