Thursday, November 23, 2006

Criticism of Second Life

I've written about Second Life several times before on this blog and elsewhere. I have praised the educational potential of Second Life, but have also criticized the interface and other aspects of the technology.

Recently on my Computerworld blog, I wrote a post entitled "IT gets dragged kicking and screaming into Second Life." In it, I took Sun to task for holding an important Java Q&A for developers in Second Life, without any obvious way for newbies or non-SLers to take part without investing a few extra hours getting up to speed on the technology. My summary paragraph was as follows:
But right now, the rush to Second Life in the IT industry is taking place for the wrong reasons. Virtual technology and IT workers are just not ready. People, not PR, should indicate that they want virtual meetings -- and they should never be forced to jump through a series of technological hoops in order to get the information that they need.
The responses generated by this post were interesting. No one really countered the criticisms I had raised. Rather, there were a series of responses from SLers who apparently take Second Life very seriously, and feel a possessive, even protective attachment to the technology. Having an emotional attachment to computing technologies is nothing new, as evidenced by the vocal legions of Linux, Mac, and Nintendo Wii fans. In response to my Computerworld blog post, a few SLers wrote comments that took issue with my characterization of SL as being like the Sims, and questioned my apparent lack of knowledge of software UIs. One person, Peter Dunkley, was positively ecstatic over the possibilies to conduct business in Second Life.

These protective and supportive reactions triggered by mild criticism of SL are interesting. But the visceral reactions to new technology in Second Life are something else. They tell me that anything that threatens the status quo in this virtual world will not be accepted by serious Second Life fans. Not only will Linden Labs have to tread very carefully with how they develop this world, and how new features are introduced, but also if SL/Linden sells out to some big media or Internet company, there might be outright revolution in Second Life.

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