Monday, September 13, 2010

Perseverance Matters… a gentle counterpoint to “Fast, Fun & Easy”

Much has happened this last month. The Metaverse continues to expand and we continue to see Linden Labs struggle to find its footing in the evolving landscape; such as possible additional layoffs and the ongoing debacle of Viewer 2. Some hope the return of Philip Rosedale will keep Second Life from becoming a stagnant backwater. While, vision is not something Philip lacks, it remains to be seen if “Fast, Fun, Easy” will increase growth and retention. If Second Life becomes Fast and (more) Fun few will complain; yet it is the possible meaning of "Easy” that gives me pause.

Yet I remain optimistic, and believe we are witnessing an inevitable cultural stratification across the Metaverse. Many (not all) who were most disturbed by Viewer 2 tend to be veterans; users who need and want deep level control over the tools for the creation of their content. Viewer 2 fails on this count, yet what is most disappointing to me is that this deep level control was never its point. I count myself among the builders and those whom see ourselves as “Transworlders” (to use BotGirl’s term) but I also want my tools and experience to be Fast and Fun. AND I want the damn tools to work and to allow freedom of creation. Clearly this is not “Easy”.

What is meant by “Easy” seems not to be about the viewer or the tools. I think it is about the initial new user experience. I’ll admit my memory is poor, but I recall having a fairly embarrassing and confusing 1st hour. Many who 1st enter second life are overwhelmed by the complexity and most everyone is surprised at the emotion of those first few moments. But like many things of value in this world perseverance matters. Those of us, who stuck it out, allowed the embarrassment, chose to dig in and learned what a virtual world offers. We found rich and valuable experiences. We learned new skills, created beauty and met wonderful and amazing people ALONG with putting up with lag, asset allocation errors and asshole griefers.

I think it is fair to say that your 1st hour of Facebook was confusing and unclear, but hardly embarrassing. Reducing the angst of that first hour in Second Life is what I hope Philip means by “Easy”. But I would also suggest Linden Lab be careful NOT kill off the challenge completely of learning how to navigate within a virtual world. From the facing of these challenges come our growth, power and beauty. I call on Philip and his team NOT to lose sight of the thrill of discovery felt when you rez your first prim or finally figure out how to put on hair that doesn’t look painted. Do not dumb down second life. Design tools that both ends of spectrum can use. How Linden Labs or any virtual world accomplishes this is up to them. Developing an entry level tool that clearly links to a separate more complex and creative tool is perhaps the way to go. Either way, as long as there are multiple worlds and third party viewers (and we avoid more idiot episodes such as the recent EmeraldGate) there is hope.

 Enough ranting… What do you get if you persevere?

Stunning creativity

A clear example is the work of sororNishi and her “The Tree of Trees” installation in one of the IBM sims. While I doubt its creation was fast and certainly was not easy; I am sure much of the time it was fun. Her deeply color-saturated magical world is a joy to explore. Soror’s work often has reminded me of the brilliant glass work of Dale Chihuly. Judge for yourself. Let go for a moment of the drama and frustration of “Fast, Fun and Easy” and enjoy a relaxing drift thru Soror’s world. This is why Virtual Worlds will survive and flourish; whether Second Life will flourish is for Philip’s vision and the creative souls toiling away deep within “The Lab” to figure out. My suggestion? Get cracking because we are moving on without you.

Tree of Trees

Dale Chihuly's glass ware