Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Honeymoon is Over. Now What?

Second Life user concurrence is at a two year low. Although the news probably isn't surprising to anyone who's been around for that length of time, the metrics lend credence to a pervasive gut-level sense of a declining community.

As Crap Mariner proposed, there's a whole laundry list of positive actions Linden Lab could take to fix problems and turn things around. One of them was:
"Know your customers better than they know themselves so you can give them what they want AND need"
I think that's also a good suggestion for community members. Know thyself is an ancient imperative that most of us don't address very well. We chase after experiences that don't create lasting happiness. We deny, avoid and let fester the underlying issues that cause pain and discord. We then project blame for the unhappiness caused by our own lack of self-awareness onto other people and the external environment.

So while I agree that solving the kind of problems outlined in Crap's list would have a positive impact on Second Life growth, I wonder whether the ennui many of us experience is more rooted in the "natural" cycle of life. In RL, friends, jobs, hobbies, favorite restaurants, etc, come and go over time. Many aspects of virtual life seem accelerated, and I suspect that our attention span for particular pursuits may also burn hotter and flame out faster.

So even if lag, copybotting and other such problems were resolved, we'd still have to keep coming up with good answers to the "so what" and now what" questions: Why should we (still) bother coming here, and when we’re here, what we should we do? Although some us have left Second Life for other grids, quite a few people I know have left virtual life altogether because they couldn't figure out how to rekindle the sense of joy that had somehow faded over time.

Our honeymoon with Second Life is clearly over. Maybe it ended faster because of the thousand small cuts of technical problems and repeated Linden Lab missteps, but it was destined to end eventually. So I think part of what we're seeing now is the Second Life community going through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Part of our consternation with each other comes from being at different stages of the process. I'm in denial and you're angry. I'm trying to bargain with the Lindens and you're too sad to think about it. With that in mind, I'm thinking we should bite our tongues a bit more and give each other the space to do the work of each stage as we move collectively towards acceptance. That's when we'll be in the best position to figure out what we truly want and need.


sororNishi said...

That is a very good thought.

Unknown said...

I too feel like this now. After 4 years it is becoming very obvious for me being on Second Life that the ending is in the air!

Mera Kranfel said...

Well i dont know about that. I think it depends a lot of the competition. A lot of other grids has emerged lately and the market is leveling itself. Second life is very expensive. You feel a pressure to *use* your land a lot if it is high cost. It the price level is lower you can keep your land and take a break without bad conscience. There are other alternatives out there now...