Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Top Five (Non)Complaints About Second Life

Complaining about Second Life seems to be a pervasive virtual past time, but are any of these complaints valid, or are they just distractions or complete nonsense?

A quick disclaimer about what follows: none of this is scientific or particularly precise. I've been reading blog posts and comments for a while now, and I've noticed some patterns of complaints about SL that are reflected below. These are just my thoughts on the subject, and I welcome other's opinions.


Lag, or the slow response of the system to user inputs, has been a chief complaint of SL residents for a long time now. It's a valid complaint, but also one that can be partially addressed by users. There are lots of resources out there that describe how to reduce lag by limiting the number of scripts running on an avatar, reducing graphics and other settings in the preferences menu, and by upgrading video or memory cards.

So, while this is a valid complaint, enough already. Client-side rendering is slow, and it will probably always be so. Adjust your settings, upgrade your PC, and let's all move on.


Griefers, avatars that exist primarily to irritate or antagonize other residents in SL, are another valid complaint. Griefers are a nuisance and a problem, but they are also easily dealt with. Instead of trying to reason with jerks like this, which is something I see people doing all too frequently, just mute them, report them, and most importantly, ignore them.

These are often just troubled people trying to express their pain or dysfunction through inappropriate behavior. Trying to correct them just feeds their need for negative attention. Consider muting them as simply a way to customize your Second Life experience. They're no longer your problem, so no more complaining about them.


Viewers, the software applications that allow users to visit Second Life, are yet another source of irritation for many users. Every time a blog post goes up on the Second Life blog on this topic, the whole issue of viewers gets rehashed, ad nauseum.

There's nothing wrong with expressing a constructive opinion about viewer shortcomings, but many of the comments are just over the top. If you hate the viewer you're using, try another. There are lots of them out there. I use a variety of them myself, depending on what I'm working on.

Insisting that Linden Labs is stupid/irresponsible/obtuse/or out to get you just because of viewer problems smacks of conspiracy-theory thinking, and is irritating in its own right.

Sexual Behavior

For a number of reasons, sexual behavior is a popular past time in Second Life. Sex is a part of life, of course, so it's not too surprising that it shows up in an environment where people can hide their identities and engage in anonymous activities. Acting out sexually in ways that have only limited, if any, consequences for others is generally not problematic. But, many people complain about sexuality in Second Life as if it was occurring in their living rooms in front of grandma and the kids.

If women want to role play as slaves, I can't imagine why that's anyone else's concern. If people want to go to an adult sim and engage in anonymous sex, so what? Mute anyone whose behavior offends you, sexual or otherwise. If it appears to be illegal behavior (age play, for example), report it. Otherwise, let it go.

TOS Violations

This is probably the most complicated of the complaints I've seen. Forum posters and commenters often report abuses by Linden Labs regarding violations that result in a suspension or a ban. It's hard for me to know the truth about any of these, and I'm probably generalizing here, but I have yet to read an account by a person who was suspended or banned that doesn't have a ring of falsehood to it.

Too often, the complainer writes of not having done anything to warrant a ban, or having made extraordinary efforts to correct the situation, only to have Linden Labs, in its imminent awfulness, take action against them anyway.

It's hard to know if any of these complaints are true or not, but I've been involved with Second Life for a little over 3 years now and have never experienced one negative interaction with LL. In fact, when I've contacted the support line for help, I've always received excellent service.

I guess my feeling is that LL doesn't have the resources to pursue a campaign of intimidation or harassment against any particular person. So, if you follow the TOS, I can't imagine you'll have too many problems.


I'm no apologist for Second Life or Linden Labs, but I also don't think that the most common complaints I've seen have much merit. Most of them have more to do with skewed perceptions and overblown expectations than they do with the reality of participating in a virtual world.

Multi-user Virtual Environments in general are in their infancy, and problems are to be expected. Constructive, solution-oriented feedback is warranted, but most of the griping and complaining I've seen has simply been counterproductive.

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Virtual Worlds as Media Marketing Vehicles

Christina Warren over at Mashable recently put together a nice article describing how social media has become an important aspect of marketing strategies in the film industry. Viral campaigns, mobile apps, and staggered film releases all play a role in generating buzz about a film and driving viewers into theaters.  

It also seems that virtual worlds are becoming part of this marketing cycle as well. 

KZero Worldswide, a marketing and consulting company, has developed a strategy for the upcoming film, Dorothy of Oz, that begins with some fairly standard social media connections to Facebook and Twitter to build interest in the film. But, they're also integrating a virtual world based on the movie into their marketing plan as well.

An article in the KZero blog describes this as a "closed loop for marketing and user engagement," with each element of the marketing strategy potentially feeding fans into the next. This makes a great deal of sense. 

Initially engage users in spaces with no costs and low barriers to access (social media) to generate word-of-mouth advertising, collect revenue from film distribution, and then extend that into an ongoing revenue stream through the sale of virtual goods in the dedicated virtual world.  

The Dorothy of Oz Facebook fan page has 2,895 Likes, and on the Discussion page, fans are already volunteering to participate in street teams to promote the film. The Twitter page has 973 followers and is also doing some cross promotion to the Facebook page. Not huge numbers, but the film is still almost 2 years away. 

All of this makes me wonder if the reverse strategy would work. Will we eventually see films based on virtual world storylines, such as "Second Life - The Movie" (that actually makes me cringe a bit for some reason)? 

Or, will "films," as we know them now, someday become integrated social experiences in which people simultaneously view, participate in creating, and socially interact about a storyline in real time virtual environments?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Meeting the Virtual Santa Claus

This time of year always reminds me of stress-filled childhood meetings with Santa: the nervous stomach, the sweaty palms, the self-doubt as I stood in line waiting my turn.

Would I leave my senses and forget to tell him what I wanted for Christmas? How would I respond when asked if I'd been good this year (lie and say I had, or be honest and risk the consequences)? And, would I make a fool of myself if asked a question I wasn't prepared to answer?

Thanks to the virtual world, all of that would seem to be a problem of the past. The web-based game,, developed by Fantastec, is in beta testing currently and allows the little ones to meet Santa in relative emotional safety. There's also a bit about some missing magic crystals (the secret of Christmas is in danger, of course), and caring for animals somehow becomes part of the Christmas story line.

But, hey, if polar heroes can save just one child the trauma of a face-to-face with Saint Nick, isn't it worth it?