Sunday, January 18, 2009

First Life Interfered

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

...with My Second Life

"Uh, I'm sorry, but I've gotta go. There's a big, menacing guy right behind me in Second Life -- a virtual world -- and I've gotta get away from him."

"Um, OK."

"Do you know what an avatar is?"

"Uh, no."

"Well, I'm supposed to meet my friend in Second Life, a virtual world, right now, but she's also got a New Jersey number and I thought it was her, calling, so I hope you'll understand...."

"Uh, sure, I can tell you're unable to talk right now, so I was just calling about [the artists' support group that meets in Montclair on Monday nights]...."

"Yes, let's talk tomorrow 'cause we might not be meeting tomorrow night due to the holiday [Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday] and I'll know by then."


"Thanks. I know I didn't make much sense, but I appreciate your understanding. Bye."

So the picture here proves that I got away from the scary person and did find my friend at one of what she tells me are the many, relaxing, beautiful sims (places) available to visit in the Second Life virtual world. We were starting slowly to try to re-kindle a friendship that had lasted from ages eight-14, and which had ended with hurt feelings. We had found each other through Facebook, met once face-to-face, and then agreed, the next time, we'd meet in Second Life, since she was super-experienced, and I was a newish fan.

Hair Was the Chief Motivation

The mission was for us to fix my hair. Already, I had selected a style from the default female choices; it was mullet-y and wholly unattractive. In fact, a colleague had threatened earlier this year not to present with me about virtual worlds at an industry conference unless I improved my appearance. Perhaps I wrote about it here prior, as it took me aback, coming from someone who, in real-life, wears jeans to work -- she's a 3D Internet expert and they get to wear whatever they want to work, and sometimes seem to have a relatively casual aesthetic sense about how they appear in real-life.

Fortunately, she relented, as I opted, instead, to present about the IBM Metaverse, where I have a super-appealing avatar, if I do say so:

But back in Second Life with my friend, I still looked worse than I do in real-life. We were going to change all that this afternoon...until Second Life crashed.

Old Feelings Triggered by a New Social Medium

"When is a less busy time to go in?" I picked up the phone and called my friend to ask her, "I mean, 30 minutes ago, there were somewhere around 70,000 people online, and now, 67,000."

"In the past month or so, I've seen it be pretty steady at around 70,000 people, so I don't know of a less busy time; usually, I'm in on week-nights between 9 and 11 pm and you can try me then."

I was crestfallen; aside from that time-period, typically being my Pat/TV/dinner/reading time before I pass out for the night, I was feeling anxieties like I had had toward the end of our childhood friendship -- whether irrationally or not did not matter. For example:

"Well, I don't want to interrupt you from whomever you're with at that point, so --"

"I'll let you know if I'm busy."

"OK," I tried to sound brave, and we hung up.

Ugh, this was what happened to us as kids. Ultimately, often, there was a friend even more fun than I that she opted to play with.

I did not want to re-live *that* experience.

Ninety minutes later, I tried coming in again and got lucky, until my friend's camera stopped working and so she left and was going to return, and then meantime, I vaporized my own avatar like so:

I logged out and sent a direct message via Twitter to my 3D Internet expert colleague-friend, asking her to remind me how to restore my avatar, since the same thing had happened some months back, and she had helped me then.

Meanwhile, in real-life, I'm hungry for dinner, but I have to include how I love that in minutes, I got a response: "Open Inventory (btnlower rt),at bottom of inventory list, under Library, Find an avatar outfit, and drag/drop on yourself."

Pre-dinner Reflections

A real turkey burger is waiting for me in the oven; Pat's watching football and so I'm on my own with the rest of the meal construction, and:

Just a few more thoughts -- for now -- about Second Life vs. Real-life: My avatar is me, and my friend elicited the exact same insecurities in my avatar as existed in real-life when we stopped being friends at that's the thing: Second Life is real-life. My avatar has my brain behind it, so no matter what outfit or hair-style I assign my avatar, she'll still be me.

The other thought is a prediction: Just as I spend far too much leisure-time in Facebook today, within a year or two, I'll likely switch to Second Life, and I bet many others will, too, particularly if the servers can handle mashups of Facebook capabilities within SL. So if Facebook could buy Second Life and enrich it with all of the fun things I look for in Facebook -- easy ways to connect with people around the world and to hunt for old friends, along with ample self-expression opportunities, e.g., fascinating and/or funny groups to join and create (and it already has groups), it'll be like what movies are to slideshows; both have their charms, but movies, typically, have become far more popular...and in the movie that is Second Life, we get to be among the movie stars ourselves. We *are* the stars.

Almost a year ago, I was at a conference, where a bunch of social networking execs. vomited on Virtual Worlds, saying, they were all for online gaming, but they felt that today's Virtual Worlds were like "B movies." I think their scorn will continue at their peril.

Second Life, and virtual worlds altogether, are far more intense, with my greater personal investment in the experience than any social networking site I've yet discovered...and I am adventurous with social networking exploration. Certainly, I'm not meaning to be an ingrate about all that Facebook offers -- and I might be trying to earn back fidelity points with my own blog by seeming to denigrate Facebook -- but I really do look forward to a mashed-up version of Facebook and Second Life. I'm sure I'm not the first to say it, and my 3D Internet colleague and friend would likely tell us that convergence is already happening. I can't wait till it's apparent to 3D Internet average citizens like me.


Lisa LeVasseur said...

Fascinating notion to merge FB and second life. i have 0 experience with 2nd life [i don't even really have a 1st life, seems unecessary really, to move into a parallel universe.] Here's the thing that jumps out at me as a difficulty in merging the two from a user experience perspective [which is not my forte, and my biz ptr probably wants to smack me every time i venture into this territory, as if i know something....]: FB is largely metadata, and interaction amongst and around said person-oriented metadata. how would that manifest in second life, I wonder? it's a very interesting thing to ponder. maybe it's really just building/augmenting a database of/about "you" into 2nd life, such that you are more you, automatically, and perhaps less reliant on you as an agent behind the avatar. [which frankly creeps me out a little.]

Anyhoo, thanks for the food for thought! :)

Sarah Siegel said...

Lisa, thanks for your point about being creeped out at the prospect of our avatars becoming *too* self-sufficient.

As for the general creepiness factor, my first few visits to SL and IBM's Metaverse VW were super-creepy, and continued to feel so until I went in for specific purposes, rather than just to wander around. Mere ambling, for me, was alienating, but meeting others from around the world for specific business reasons was energizing -- vividly inspirational even. Let's see what happens over the next year or two....There's gotta be something cool your company's mobile application(s) could do in this space -- video if not voice-wise(?) *Now*, look who's out of her depth!

Lisa LeVasseur said...

That's exactly what I meant about the food for thought. The avatars are acomin' in various capacities [there are some really fun/funny avatar based mobile messaging apps such that you can turn SMS messages into goofy characters/avatars multimedia experiences. I'm curious now: how do you use it for specific business reasons? Since our app is first and foremost about utility, that's where we'd want to start. Hmmm, it would actually be very straightforward to build in "avatar" mode into our product. So during the call you could just shift over into second life [or whatever your preferred avatar universe is]. interesting.... :)

Sarah Siegel said...

Lisa, here's something neat that colleagues of mine are demo'ing at Lotusphere this week: -- let's you go from instant messaging w/VoIP into a virtual world environment.