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Reader Comments (20)

Posted: Jun 19th 2010 6:26PM (Unverified) said

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As you say, Tateru, faith in the operator is crucial.

Some platforms earn that faith. Look at Ultima Online ~ it's been what, 11 years? Even Activeworlds, a virtual world, is 15 years old. Survival is no small feat. I have a lot of respect for these places... they predate the age of widespread broadband adoption.

I'm willing to do my part to help a new world find its feet, as you know from both the early days of Second Life and now Blue Mars also. In fact, there's hardly a reader of these pages who hasn't helped with numerous beta programs, suffered setbacks, bizarre policies, disappointments and yet continued to soldier on for the good of whatever platform it was.

As for Linden Research... if you buy that first guide to Second Life, you'll find me in it. There are few users with as much vested interest in their survival as I am. I wish them all success possible.

But the real question is this. How much faith in a world is warranted, and how much is blind faith?

That is what we as users have to figure out.

Posted: Jun 19th 2010 6:52PM (Unverified) said

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Linden Lab seems to continually do things that squander the faith of their user base- if the many SL-related forums out there are to be believed :) Somehow, they manage to survive, though.

I give Linden Lab huge credit; for quite a while it really was 'your world, your imagination'. People complain about the eyesore that is mainland, but I've always felt a bit of awe when traveling around, even looking at the crappy builds and prim garbage... because it was all created by ordinary, everyday users. Some very talented, others very much not, but everyone has an equal chance to make something.

Then it seemed that some people decided that others were enjoying their freedom a bit too much, and the inevitable rules followed. That's when I lost faith, though I can't really blame the Lindens for that either- it's a business, and they are liable, so they had to do something.


Posted: Jun 19th 2010 7:26PM (Unverified) said

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I certainly did have faith in the past and, like many of the lapsed, would love to have that faith restored. However I increasingly have the feeling that this is all scripted by Graham Greene rather than John Bunyan.

Posted: Jun 19th 2010 7:54PM (Unverified) said

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A curious difference between the real world and any virtual world: faith in a Developer/Operator of reality (though many in it have such) isn't necessary to maintain a desire to stay.

On the other hand, it's fair to say that you can only log out of reality once (though some have faith that one can log back in on a new account), which is a powerful incentive for remaining logged in.

It's been said, in works of fiction anyway, that deities cease to exist when no one believes in them. So, too, with grid-gods. In the long run, no matter how omnipotent they feel, nor how benevolently or capriciously they wield their powers, faith (trust, loyalty, belief) must be earned, not taken for granted, and certainly never demanded. Otherwise, as you said, the gods and their grids evaporate.

Posted: Jun 19th 2010 9:36PM (Unverified) said

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Among the topics to be discussed at the First Church of Rosedale tomorrow (noon SLT!) is the feasibility of building outposts on other grids. The End Times are upon us, and the Spirit of Phil lies elsewhere now.

Posted: Jun 19th 2010 10:48PM (Unverified) said

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Could you name some of the virtual environments which died? You gave the impression that there were many.

Posted: Jun 22nd 2010 10:34PM (Unverified) said

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I wrote a long comment about the unique nature of SL's community ... but I deleted it. Because I know what Mark Kingdon and Bob Komin
do for a living, I've been in the venture community, and the
glitterati on LL's Board are ready to depart. So. The script must
play out, no matter how special we all are.

The overwhelming majority of SL's userbase does not read LL's own
blog, let alone any forums or VW blogs. I bet that if LL can keep
the day-to-day user experience pretty stable, and if most major
estates and many stores stick around even if stagnating, the
population and economy will persist for the year or less necessary to
sell the company. So, sadly, Kingdon need not let blogbuzz deter him from his course.

We will see what caliber of human Kingdon and Komin are by their
choice of who to sell to, and the terms they demand. SL has many,
many residents who spend lots of time and money inworld because it is
better than their RL. I'd wager that quite a few of these people
never entered another VW, and won't if SL disappears. The man
who ruins SL for them would gather much bad karma, so to speak.

Technology executives seldom encounter such a massive opportunity to
ruin people's lives.

Posted: Jun 20th 2010 10:23AM (Unverified) said

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We told them. We told Linden again, and again, and again, "Stabilize the grid. Give us real development tools. Enable the content providers. Let us leverage the Web from SL, and SL from the Web."

They didn't listen. They punted important technological components like a solid scripting platform. The client got flakier. Nothing got much better, but it got more complicated-in-a-bad-way (e.g. sculpties) and far more expensive-for-value-returned.

I didn't want to leave, but I saw no choice. The Library will remain until the bitter end, if there is one, but my personal estates are gone, moved to another planet...uh...platform.

As ye sow...

-CoyoteAngel Dimsum/Lynne Wu

Posted: Jun 20th 2010 12:42AM (Unverified) said

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Tateru you're making a very good point here, although I can't help feel that where Linden Lab is concerned the loss of faith is an ongoing process. It hasn't been all or nothing. I mean, if I tried to pinpoint when I lost faith, it was back in 2004 when I realized that was paying for land and creating things for sale which could go up in a puff of electrons at any time. And yet I've continued on for another 6 years.

Still, given this notion I hope the Lab does realize they went wrong when they abandoned efforts to make avatars and all the associated identity stuff portable among the worlds. I hope we see that day before it all falls apart. It would certainly solve the single deity problem.

"Let my people go!" (religious snark? you bet.)

Posted: Jun 20th 2010 5:25AM Joystiq Login Bugs SUCK said

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Faith is believing what you know ain't so.
-- Mark Twain

Posted: Jun 20th 2010 9:58AM (Unverified) said

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I've not had faith in LL for years and vie been labeled a pessimist by some when I rant about Limping Lab. But I'm still in SL, and I'm still fighting to keep my community strong, full of vitality and charisma. I find faith in the ones that hold things together in the face of LL's misplaced focus. People like mayor tenk of new Babbage hold communities together, along with his loyal friends who relay on each other to keep the projects going. I'm inspired by these people and aim to be like them. I believe that SL will keep on living as long as we keep paying those tiers, but I'm not staying because of any faiths in the operator LL, it's because of the operators of the communities here. If I loose faith in them, then I'd probably leave.

Posted: Jun 20th 2010 9:45AM (Unverified) said

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The biggest issue with a single developer acting also as the single operator is that it divides the attention of the firm away from doing one thing well, thus both aspects of the operation suffer (software isn't up to snuff, and the operator customer service(s) stink). Secondlife is a great example of what not to do. It's best to focus on either operating or developing, but not both, imho.

Posted: Jun 20th 2010 3:56PM (Unverified) said

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Incredibly well written prose. I've got nothing to add, but I find myself wondering what other virtual environments I may have encountered you before.

LL, I hope you're listening.

Posted: Jun 21st 2010 12:06AM (Unverified) said

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How does a RL Deist, who thinks the Maker went on coffee break after the Big Bang, respond to a post about faith?

I have faith in fellow humans...including my fellow SLers who do read blogs and keep up with the out-of-world news that affects us all. I have not had faith in the virtual world's analogue to a "higher power" for at least a year. Gradually, the educators and content creators of my acquaintance have reached a similar conclusion.

I also have a crisis of faith when I consider the sort of SLer I think Nika describes in an earlier comment to this post:

"The overwhelming majority of SL's userbase does not read LL's own blog, let alone any forums or VW blogs."

I don't want to fall into simplistic distinctions based on social class and education, but who are the "majority" of users you mean?

Posted: Jun 23rd 2010 5:08AM (Unverified) said

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Faith? Mmmh yes, and a short attention span with entertainment. In my view, the latter is far more important than the former.

At least since the 1980s, the notion that entertainment competes for your free time is well-established. Every time something new kind of entertainment comes out, from yoga classes to skateboarding, their marketing department has to figure out how to position that product so that it draws people away from more mainstream forms of entertainment. These days, it mostly means TV, going out shopping, with body-related activities next (e.g. going to the gym, jogging, and so forth), and possibly religious practice. Obviously not all people do all these activities, and it depends on country, age, gender, and a lot of factors, but this is pretty much what most people do to entertain themselves.

Computers and later the Internet became a massive new source of entertainment, one that is very cheaply delivered (a US$40 game can provide many more hours of entertainment than, say, hip-hop dancing classes for the same amount of money...), and which requires different skills which are appealing to some specific types. TV is the great leveller — it entertains anyone, no special skills are required — but body-related activity is limited to specific talents/skills you might need to have or be willing to develop (and religious practice, of course, requires faith). Computers/Internet can appeal to a much wider range of talents and skills, and, although it's not as universal as TV, it can certainly appeal to a massive audience as well.

Even worse than TV... which has just one way of delivering information: passive broadcast of selected content. Computers and Internet-enabled applications can both be passive or interactive; creating your own content is appealing and entertaining, and easy to do on a computer than with a canvas and a set of oil paint, or a hammer and a piece of marble, or even a sewing machine and yards of clothing. Not all people have a creative spark, but most have, and computers are a far easier to handle tool to enable creativity (even if it's just to blog!) – and far cheaper too (if you ruin a marble block when doing a sculpture, you'll waste a lot of money!).

So the issue is, how do all these forms of entertainment compete with each other? Which ones will survive? I think it's far less about "faith" but in the ability to sustain people's interest for a long time, and this means providing them exactly what they consider appealing in entertainment, and repeating that experience for a long period of time. When you jog you don't need "faith" in jogging. Either it's appealing enough for you to consider taking up jogging — and then you'll do it for years and years — or you leave it forever after trying it out for a short time (days, weeks or months, depending on your expectations and how jogging fulfils them).

Now we get to the crux of the issue. The amount of entertainment options we have these days is massive, compared to what we could do, say, 50, 100, or 500 years ago. It's several orders of magnitude above what we could even dream about in the 1950s (and "dreaming about the future" — and writing/discussing it — could be seen as a form of entertainment, too!), and every day, as a new Facebook or iPhone application is launched, new venues for entertainment are created. They all compete for our limited leisure time. As more and more entertainment sources are released, a curious thing happens: we tend to become more and more demanding. Entertainment has to become more tailored, more personalised, more appealing to our particular combination of skills, talents, wishes, and expectations. This is specially true on Internet-based entertainment, because it's easy to find people with the same demands and the same expectations which will gravitate towards the same kind of entertainment — allowing entertainment companies to deliver a much wider variety of entertainment, since the audience is much larger.

But while we become more demanding... we also shorten our attention spans. There is so much entertainment around that we can't possibly enjoy it all — nevertheless, we try, hopping from one to another, hoping to get higher value for our limited time. And so the competition becomes fierce: it's not enough to attract people to something new, it requires engaging them fully, for long periods of time, spicing up that adrenaline rush from the entertainment source, keeping it going for days, months, years and years. Designing that for a large audience with a wide range of skills, talents, and expectations becomes harder and harder — and, inversely, it means that the attention we give to entertainment becomes shorter and shorter.

It also makes us jump to anything "new and shiny" in the hope that "this will be it", the thing that engages our fulfilment in entertainment for a long while. But... with decreasing attention spans, we set too high expectations, and we get bored too soon. That's why, with a few exceptions, very few games (online or offline) engage users for more than 6 months. We all know the exceptions and why they are exceptions — they become legends of things "done right". But the ratio of things with long-term entertainment value versus all the rest is incredibly tiny. 1:1000? Or perhaps even one-in-a-million? I have no idea.

So, I don't think that staying in Second Life really requires "faith", either in the virtual world itself, in the technology, in the SL residents, or in Linden Lab. What it requires is a long attention span. It requires the ability to generate your own entertainment as opposed to having someone else (either LL other residents) to provide it to you. It requires the ability to align your expectations in what you can achieve within the virtual world, as opposed to what you wish it to provide to you. But that special skill — the ability to self-entertain, the ability to adjust expectations, the ability to be stubborn — is seriously lacking in our times of excessive opportunities of entertainment. From about 20 million registered users to SL, only a bit over a million have enough "stubbornness" to be around for more than a month. After 2-3 months, interest fades exponentially. It is very rare to see anyone around for more than 2-3 years regularly.

On the other hand, if you have that special skill, the ability to get entertainment from SL is completely detached from the direction SL is taking, the existence of others to provide entertainment, or LL's policies. It exists beyond all that.

And it's not really "faith". I still regularly read as many books as I did when I was a teenager; it's not because I have "faith" in authors or the publishing companies in the world, it's because I've got the skill to get entertained by books, any books whatsoever, no matter who the author is or what they write about. And the same applies to SL.

Posted: Jun 23rd 2010 8:48AM (Unverified) said

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... and my comment was that faith is not required :P

Posted: Jun 23rd 2010 10:05AM (Unverified) said

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... or perhaps more importantly, there is no need to have faith in the company to provide us with entertainment :) After all, we care little about the partners or organisation of ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and so forth. So long as what they do is aligned with our interests, we continue to consume their content.
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Posted: Jun 24th 2010 5:50AM (Unverified) said

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Maybe faith is more relevant to content creators (shareholders in a sense). As a simple consumer, I do not look for a return on investment, I just want to know that the product will work as I expect it to (whether I paid for it or not) and that it meets my entertainment needs.

Posted: Jun 25th 2010 12:51AM (Unverified) said

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Well, if we're talking about Second Life (for example), the content-creators are the ones who are providing much of the entertainment, unless you're choosing to amuse yourself.
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Posted: Jun 25th 2010 2:40AM (Unverified) said

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Faith... hope... I tend to sum it up under the heading of "potential".

When a world seems tapped out and replay no longer satisfies, its time to seek out greener pastures.

Compared to most MMO's, Second Life overflowing with potential...

I'm still in SL now because I haven't tapped out my own potential within SL yet, and what I'm still capable of and haven't yet done keeps me hooked. =)

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