Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why most of Second Life is a beautiful ghost town

Walking through much of Second Life feels like being in a scene from I Am Legend. So many beautiful empty builds...parks, nightclubs, malls, torture chambers. It got me thinking.

If avatars were evenly distributed across Second Life there would be about three of us on each sim at any time. As the image above illustrates, most sims are completely devoid of virtual life at any time. The SL map reveals a billion square meters of mostly unpopulated real estate surrounding isolated clusters of densely packed green dots.

What in the virtual world could draw so many avatars from the vast riches of SL into such a few tightly packed places? I figured that there must be some hot shit going on at those hot spots, so I started teleporting. Guess what I mostly found? Camping. For those of you not familiar with the use of that term here, it means being paid to loiter on someone's property so that it will look popular in search results.

I wondered, why in the world would someone choose to sit on their digital ass for a measly few pence per hour? Well, my guess is that many or most of them are zombiebots.

A single human, on a single computer, can run dozens of remote-controlled avatars. So although 100L$ is trivial, put 20 bots to work 24 hours a day, 365 days per year and you end up with some serious money. (If someone wants to do the math, please feel free to enlighten us in the comment section.)

So that begs the question of how many of the 50,000 avatars online are bots? Hundreds? Thousands? Second Life grew by 8,000,000 registered residents in 2007, or about 500%. Paid membership only increased by 43,000 or around 200%. I wonder how many of those non-paid registrations are alts and how many of those alts are used as zombiebots for camping?

So who cares? Who loses? We do, because our ability to make informed decisions about where to visit is diminished. The only purpose of paying avatars to camp is to mislead searchers into thinking that a particular spot is more popular than it really is. So we don't only waste time by teleporting into dubious spots, but also miss the opportunity to benefit from the wisdom of the mob.

This would be easy to fix by either eliminating non-paying residents from the numbers or at least separating them in the results. On the map, they could show up as a red dots instead of a green. On the other hand, if the camping incentive is eliminated, Second Life's growth numbers will likely take a hit. That would diminish Linden Lab's value, decrease its ability to raise money and possibly slow down the rate of infrastructure improvement and competitiveness against other virtual worlds.

As usual, the answer is not clear cut, although there are likely very strong opinions on both sides of the issue.

The only good zombiebot is a zombiebot sex slave
From the upcoming Fortune Cookie Wisdom of Botgirl. Q.


Géd said...

Difficult to make a living with alts camping while your main avatar is having fun...

I experimented it, just to figure out what the outcome could be, and I had to give up sooner than expected due to the repetitive crashes of the sims...

It is far better to use the credit card to enjoy SL:)

BTW very good post you made!

AKA Robbie Dingo said...


AKA Robbie Dingo said...

So, in the image, the camping rate is 2L$ each 10mins.


= 12L$ per hour.
= 288L$ per day.
= 105,120L$ per year.
= 2102,400L$ per year with 20 bots.

= c. 7627 USD (c. 3862 GBP) annual.