3 Tips for a Compelling Second Life Simulation

I’ve been playing with Linden Lab’s Second Life for a couple of years now. My roommate in college was into it from the beginning. At first, I thought he was crazy but I slowly started to understand. Before too long, I could tell that Second Life was going to become something that we’d all want to pay attention too.

Recently, it seems like every major media company has launched their own presence in Second Life. Every couple of days you’ll read about it in some major news publication. This is great but when you go to the company’s Second Life simulation it’s typically empty.

There are three things that you can do which will help save you from this same fate of Second Life simulation mediocrity.

1. Create an amazing environment
When I walk on to your Second Life island, I don’t want to feel like i’m standing infront of just any old building. Create something exciting. Create a place I’d love to travel to but can’t do it right this second, like the other side of the world. Create some place that is only a fantasy, like something out of a book. If the experience of the environment is good enough, I will want to come back there again and again.

2. Create great community
Second Life allows for me to interact with other people that are across the country or on the other side of the world as if they are standing right next to me. This is very powerful. This allows for some pretty amazing cross cultural exchanges. If you can bring an interesting diverse community of people together that I can’t get easily in real life, I’d come back to the simulation.

3. Create great activities
In Second Life, you are not bound by the same physical or social boundaries that you are in everyday life. This allows a more wide range of activites to take place that you wouldn’t normally be able to do at the drop of a hat. You should create activites in your Second Life simulation that are fun and that I wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. For example, I recently went skiing down the side of a big mountain with a variety of friends from across the world.

You can mix and match or even do all three and you will have a great Second Life simulation. It will spare your fate from becoming just another island in Second Life that no one comes to.

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Text Messages Take Priority Over E-mail

I have learned that for me, e-mail is broken. I may get an email that I need to respond to. Then right away I may get 60 or 70 other emails that will shove the important email below the scroll. It goes off my radar.

All of a sudden, I find that one important email falls between the cracks and I don’t end up getting back to a person. This is bad. I get too many emails where people expect me to read it right away and act right away.

The device which has really come through for me is my mobile phone and the ability to text message. Not too many people text message me; compared to my over abundance of email. Text messages come to me right away. (My Samsung Blackjack doesn’t have push email.) Text messages, by their nature, are quick and easy to respond to.

I’m able to give text messages a higher response priority then my email. I’ll respond right away.

It was interesting when Chris Wetherell on a recent episode of the Merlin Show and Justine Ezarik on a recent episode of MacBreak Weekly confirmed this communications phenomenon.

With Twitter, people can have the updates of their friends and family go right to their mobile phones via text messages. If people can constrain themselves to only follow their close friends (and not 1000 people) with Twitter, text messaging may help Twitter take off because it takes advantage of the high priority that people put on text messages.

The Online Social Interactions Stack

In our day to day lives, we have many different types of social interactions. There is the quick innocent flirting, the short broadcast messages, the free flowing conversation, the ramble, and the structured prepared thought. Just like real life, there are different types of online social interactions.

In the beginning, there was blogging. People used blogging for everything. People blogged short quick thoughts, the blogged long drawn out diaries of their day, they blogged Bob Dylan lyrics, they blogged structured opinions, and they blogged photos of their cats.

Recently, we have seen different types of online services that allow for different types of online social interaction. Every Web early adopter crowd can’t stop talking about Twitter. Merlin Mann is in love with Tumblr. Who doesn’t use either WordPress, Typepad, or Moveable Type?

In a recent episode of This Week in Tech, Leo Laporte talked about how blogging, Tumblr, and Twitter were all important to him because they served a different need that he had. Leo is absolutely right.

I propose the Online Social Interactions Stack:

Level 0: Quick Personality & Life Updates
These are quick updates of what is going on in your life or the life of your organization, either aimed at the whole world or a specific group of people. These communications should be under 140 characters. Twitter is the best example of a tool for this type of communication.

Level 1: Free form expression
These are your unstructured thoughts. This is for when you have something you want to express to the world but you don’t know exactly how to do it. You’re not exactly sure what you’re message is. You just want to get it out there. Tumblr is the best example of a tool for this type of communication.

Level 2: Prepared and well formed thoughts.
These are the types of thoughts that you have taken the time to structure and plan. There is a beginning and an end. You know what you’re trying to say. There is message you’re trying to get across to your readers. WordPress or Typepad are the best examples of a tool for this type of communication.

What do you think of the Online Social Interactions Stack? Am I missing anything?

AOL Launches Ficlets – a platform for collaborative story writing

Today, AOL launched Ficlets. The Web application is a platform for users to write short stories. The stories have to be greater than 64 characters but less than 1024 characters. You don’t use Ficlets to write your book. You use ficlets to because you get to collaborate with the world.

Users are encouraged to read other people’s short stories and then build on top of them by either writing a prequel or a sequel. If you find another short story that you like, you can take it in your own direction. Its kind of like the campfire stories that you told to each other growing up and everyone got to tell one part of the story. When you were finished, there was this amazing creative work before you.

It gives you the ability to log into the system using OpenID. I had never used OpenID before. It was surprisingly convenient. I used this blog’s URL as my identifier.

Within Ficlets, you can identify other writers who you want to follow, to be your editor, or to inspire you as a muse.

You can browse through Flickr photos and use them for inspiration.

The best is that all content that is created in Ficlets is under a Creative Commons license.

Feel free to check out my profile and some of the short stories that I have put together.

Ficlets is something that Jason and Cindy have been hinting at (usually calling it ProjectX) for the last couple of months. I’m glad to finally see it launched. I really love the site and I can’t wait to use it more.

What are Digg.com’s Real Numbers?

Digg.com Founder Kevin Rose announced on the company blog that they had just reached their one millionth registered user.

While the one millionth registered user is something to celebrate, it shouldn’t be made to look like Digg.com has one million active users. Registered users doesn’t mean active users. It is irresponsible for Kevin Rose and Digg.com to kinda sorta blur the lines between the two. Digg should release the number of active unique users they have.

I have had a Digg account for a while but I don’t use it that often. The convenience and novelty of Digg.com wore off a long time ago because it was an inefficient way to find the day’s top stories. I would guess that Digg suffers from the ‘try me virus.’ People use it for a few months then leave.

Didn’t all of the Silicon Valley companies learn from all the flack that Linden Labs’ Second Life got for not clarifying that in-world residents doesn’t mean active or unique accounts.

Where is the Clary Shirky investigative journalism when we need it?

Why Ning Will Be Bigger Than Facebook

The blogosphere is buzzing today with the relaunch of Ning. It is a platform for creating social networks. Anyone (and I mean ANYONE) can within minutes have their own social network, just like Facebook, up on the Web.

I created a social network about Fun Things in Washington DC (still need to add more content.) I had it up in minutes. This is way too easy.

I think that Ning will end up being bigger than Facebook. With Facebook recently announcing that it has 18 million accounts, this may be hard to believe. Mark my words, if Ning plays their cards right, it will happen.

If you look at what has been successful in Web 2.0, it has been the services which act as platforms for customization, user self-expression, and user-generated content. Sites like YouTube and MySpace have allowed users to express themselves in new and interesting ways that were never before possible. Ning brings this power of customization and self-expression to your social networks.

MySpace is a mass chaos of users and with Facebook you are tied down to a finite group of larger networks with the ability to create groups which you can’t do as much with. The thing is my social network isn’t the entire world like in MySpace or an entire corporation or university like in Facebook. It is a series of smaller networks that look like a bunch of overlapping circles in a HUGE venn diagram.

With Ning, my real life with many networks of friends and associates can be mirrored in my online life. That is the power of Ning. It is an open platform and can take any shape that you desire.

I could see churches using Ning. How about political campaigns? How about schools? How about small organizations? This would be great for small community groups. The limits are endless.

I need to read more of the documentation. I’d love to map a Ning social network to a domain and use it as the CMS for a Web site. What would be even cooler is if they released it as open-source software like WordPress. *wishfully thinks*