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Friday, February 01, 2008

Fair and Balanced


So the other day after a presentation, I was asked "you are so positive about this stuff, there has to be some negatives. Can you explain the negatives of Second Life."

Aah, I LOVE half empty people! (oops, I mean people who view the world from the perspective of looking at a glass with water in it up to about half way and calling it half-empty instead of half full...which it is.)

Anyway, in the spirit of being fair and balanced, here is a little bit about the negatives of Second Life...enjoy, I guess.

There are definite “non-business friendly” areas which should be avoided. Not to mention a handful of resident who, from time-to-time, conduct activities that contribute to a negative in-world experiences. Because Second Life started more or less as form of social networking and chat-based software, it allows many activities that would not be appropriate in a professional business environment.

For one, each avatar has the ability to completely disrobe. This could potentially result in an avatar walking into your office, conference room or other space completely undressed. It also means that Second Life is populated with many virtual “red light” districts and the associated illicit activities that occur within those virtual brothels and massage parlors. The world is also filled with night clubs and cheap hotels. (See Sex in Second Life.NSFW)

If you are careful in your selection of locations you can stay away from those areas but it is difficult to limit an employee from venturing wherever he or she wants once they are in world. Traveling to a red light district is as easy as clicking a few menu selections (so I've heard).

The red light districts are not the only dangers within Second Life. There have been incidents where one resident has illegally copied items created by another resident and then sold those items for profit. While it’s a virtual world incident, it is real stealing. (See The Dark Side of Second Life.)

More common than stealing are incidents of graffiti or property destruction. One resident virtually defaces the virtual property of another resident. In fact, people that cause mischief within Second Life have earned their own name. They are called Griefers. A griefer is a Second Life resident who decides to cause problems or grief for other residents. They carry on in a manner that interrupts others activities, destroys virtual property or somehow cause problems for other residents. (See Second Life griefers assault real estate millionaire Anshe Chung)

More sophisticated griefers have created attacks where the screen fills up with virtual images appearing over and over again like a yellow smiley face or even inappropriate pieces of the human anatomy. These types of attacks are known as “griefspawn” and can chew up system resources and slow down performance of the software.

Security is available for avoiding griefers and red light activities on your own land through the ability limit which avatars are allowed on your land and which are not. You can establish security settings that allow onto your land only those who you have invited onto your land. This works well for private spaces but does not work so well for public spaces. Also, once a person is in-world there is no way for a corporation to restrict where that person goes and what they view.

Of more concern to businesses is probably the learning curve involved with using the software and the newness of the concept. Since virtual worlds are a relatively new technology, the growing pains of any new technology are encountered within Second Life. These include unexplained bugs, some performance lagging issues and the initial difficulty of understanding how to navigate and make sense of Second Life.(See Breaking the Second Life High Learning Curve)

Ok, so on that "half empty note" have a nice weekend:)

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1 comment:

BARTON said...

I can sometimes be a "glass is 1/2 empty" kind of person, but in this scenario, I think that is a critical part of the picture when discussing Second Life (or any platform we discuss as it pertains to learning).

Many of the IIT alum at this year's CAC thanked me specifically for my balanced view of Second Life.

"All the talks I've heard at conferences tout SL as being the next great thing. Thank you for balancing your presentation and providing a great 10,000 foot view including the negatives along with the positives"

I know of several educators who tampered in SL based on the hype machine, only to be completely shocked and dismayed at the reality of the world itself and what goes on there, and in some instances the underlying technology infrastructure.

Would these folks have a different reaction if someone provided a balanced preview of SL before they embarked upon exploring the world? I'm not sure, but I'd like to think so.