Arlington County (VA) Government Joins Second Life… Cool But…

I was kind of surprised when I woke up this morning, drinking coffee, and flipping through the paper to find a feature story on Second Life on the front of the Washington Post Metro section.

The story talks about how the Arlington County (VA) government has just recently opened up a virtual office in Second Life.   This was done by one of the Arlington County staffer completely on his own personal time.

While I think this is cool and I really dig Second Life and what they’re trying to do with it, I think Second Life has a long long long long long way to go before it will achieve mainstream.  It’s a potential picture into the future.

What worries me is that after reading this article companies who are now just starting to approach using the Web as a medium for building communities are going to turn to things like Second Life as the answer, when they should be looking else where.

If you’re looking for tools, go to things like Facebook, blogging, or Twitter.  Heck… first on my list is probably e-mail because it’s still the biggest way that people share and pass around information online.

Let’s look at some of the numbers, Second Life to date has only had 16 million accounts created.  Only half a million of those accounts have signed on within the last 7 days.  In comparison, Facebook has around 130 million active users.

Let me say again, Second Life is awesome and I think they’re doing some incredibly innovative things.  But unless you have your entire community there or your company has a lot of disposable R&D money,  Second Life isn’t where I’d be investing my time and energy.

Have you used Second Life?  What do you think?

Setting Web priorities… Save Second Life for later and Start Blogging Now

I have been playing with Second Life since 2004. It’s really cool. There is this whole other level of interaction with it that you don’t get with any other aspect of the normal two dimensional World Wide Web.

I will often see geeks get very excited by it and they’re starting to lobby their companies and organizations to have large presences within the virtual world. While I think we need someone people to take the first big steps into the environment, I wouldn’t advise you going to your boss and asking for a six figure line item in your budget to build in Second Life.

Second Life just isn’t well used enough. While people may throw around the 7 million plus accounts created, its not accurate. One person could have multiple accounts. (I do.) This includes accounts that are no longer activated. Wagner James Au points out that it’d be better to look at the latest peak concurrent usage, which is around 45,000, or the active users within the last month which is around 500,000.

While these numbers are great, it’s not enough of a critical mass for it to be worth a big investment. It’d be better to start experimenting so that when virtual worlds do reach critical mass that you’re prepared and not taken off guard.

Right now, people should be getting excited about blogging. If you don’t have your own blog, open up a new tab in Firefox and go to http://www.wordpress.com and start one right now.

Tons of people blog and tons of people read blogs. I think its a more immediate and effective way of reaching and forming community with a vast audience.  You’re going to get more bang for your buck.

I know as geeks its hard but we have to resist the urge to go with the newest greatest thing and do what’s going to best serve our users.   Although, we do have to be ready so that when the timing is right we can jump on the opportunity of using the new technology.

Sweden Launches a Virtual Embassy In Second Life

I know I’m a few days late on talking about this. For those of you who haven’t heard,  Sweden has launched a virtual embassy in the virtual worlds metaverse Second Life.    I walked around their island the other day.  It’s very well done.

While it at the time was largely uninhabited, it sounds like they plan on holding a host of events there.  This is smart.  Second Life is a very event and community-driven culture

If you wanna follow the development of Sweden’s Second Life presence, check out the blog “(building the) Second House of Sweden.”

Little Mention of Second Life at WWW2007

Well my stay in Banff has come to a close. I really enjoyed WWW2007 and I dearly hope that I can go to WWW2008 in Beijing.

One thing that surprised me a bit was that there was very little mention of Second Life or Virtual Worlds. Is Second Life to be seen as too much of a game or just software?

Second Life is a genuine way for people to experience information and knowledge in a connected collaborative environment. It is the Web. Second Life is just the Web in a 3 dimensional form not the Web of documents that we all deal with in our browsers.

I expect in the future you’ll see more crossover between the Web that we experience in the browser and the Web that we experience in Second Life. You can already get audio, video, and rss content.

I guess we’ll see what shows up in Beijing in 2008. Maybe, I’ll have to submit a paper.

“Giving Libraries a Second Life”

Note: The following our my rough speaking notes from a talk I gave at the DC chapter of the Special Libraries Association. The event was entitled “Giving Libraries a Second Life.” My talk was followed by three others who hit on other aspects of being in Second Life. These notes are rough. If there is something I said that I missed in my notes, please drop me a comment and I’ll update my notes.

*************************

It’s kind of ironic that my first job out of college is to work at a library. For most of my life, libraries were never a placed that I really enjoyed spending time, well until college. I realized that its where all the smart girls hung out at.

I always felt like I was getting forced to read something I wasn’t interested in or that the library never had the book which really peaked my interest. I was forced to see the world through this very limited scope of what was available to me on a specific set of shelves.

Then in the early 1990s everything changed.

History

A guy named Tim Berners-Lee had this vision for a World Wide Web which allowed documents and data to be easily created and shared between a user and computers and users and other users.

I can remember my dad and I getting on the Web back in the early days and we’d play a game of seeing how many different country Web sites we could access in the course of an evening. We’d start off in England, maybe find a university Web site in Eastern Europe and then all of a sudden find ourselves looking at a Web site from Russia or Asia.

I was 10 to 12 years old and the world was my play ground.

This unprecedented access to the world and ability to be connected to each other led to the World Wide Web EXPLODING in popularity.

The Web has truly changed the world. Our world no longer has to exist around the distance that we can travel in our cars or on the subway. Just by sitting at home and surfing around the Web, I could and still can truly see and understand a world beyond my own.

It didn’t stop there, with sites like MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube, I can truly join into community with anyone who is hooked up to a computer at any time and any place.

From the beginning of the Web, everything was stuck in the paradigm of the document. There was a page with a title, author, sub-titles, and text. It was just like a book.

Dawning of Second Life

Around 2002, Second Life in its earliest incarnations was born from Philip Rosedale.

It is not a video game. There is no strict narrative. There is no end to Second Life. You can’t “beat it.” Second Life is a three dimensional virtual world. It is a platform for creating, collaborating, and experiencing knowledge in a three dimensional space. It even has its own economy.

Avatars

One of the first things you’re going to notice once you get into Second Life is that you have an avatar which represents you.

Its your very own little person on the screen which you can control and get to do whatever you want.

You can also customize your avatar however you want. As you walk through Second Life, you’ll see avatars in every shape, size, color, and species.

You are truly in a world where you can be whatever you want to be. You could be a fantasy creature, human, not human, animal, or completely make believe.

Real Estate

You’re not stuck to the life of being a nomad wondering the vast land of Second LIfe.

Just like in real life, you need some where you can make a home for yourself.

Like in real life, you have the option of renting or buying. You can rent or buy land from a larger land owner. You could also buy your own island. Each option brings its own unique challenges which Michelle is going to hit on in a bit.

It really is exciting.

You have a platform where you can build up any environment that you can dream up. Maybe its a place from fiction… Maybe a its a place that’s not possible to go to in real life, like the moon? Maybe its a place that doesn’t even exist?

Building Items

Not only can you build any environment or place to live. You can build any item. What’s one item that you’d love to have but just can’t?

Events

One of the first things that you’ll see when you get into Second Life, passed the intro island, is a lot of empty islands.

Second Life is truly an event and community driven culture.

SL is driven by the people who are participate and that at they interact and form communities with one another.

Conclusion

Within Second Life, you can be whatever you want to be, you can do whatever you want to do, have any item you want, and go where ever you want. Your imagination and time are truly your only limit.

You have the ability to experience knowledge within this immersive environment.

It makes learning come alive in a way never before possible.

When Will Second Life Go Mainstream?

One question that I get asked quite a lot is, “Should I be paying attention to Second Life? Is it just a fad?”

Well I absolutely do not think that virtual immersive environments are a fad. It is possible to make compelling three dimensional simulations which you are going to want to come back to again and again. Virtual worlds are here to stay in some shape or another. I have no idea if Second Life will be the one to make it big.

According to Gartner, they think everyone is going to be hopping on the Second Life bandwagon. They reported that “80 percent of active Internet users will be in non-gaming virtual worlds like Second Life by the end of 2011 .” Wow… thats a lot of people.

But it signals something important. You do have a little bit of time before Second Life or virtual immersive worlds make it big.

I don’t think that every company under the sun needs to run out and purchase a presence in Second Life. I would recommend Second Life as a fertile ground for experimentation and research because as I said before, it will be the future.

“Giving Libraries a Second Life in a Virtual World”

On Wednesday, April 25th, I am going to be speaking on a panel at the DC Chapter of the Special Libraries Association. The panel is entitled “Giving Libraries a Second Life in a Virtual World.” If you’re interested in learning more about Second Life, I’d highly recommend that you come on out. It should be a good event. For non-DC/SLA members, it costs $15.