Elf Clan Social Network

In another blog entitled SL2-- Prediction Time I discussed the likelihood of social VR's impact on our existing virtual environment... namely creative-based systems (appealing to builders).  In that article I stated that Inworldz probably need not worry about SL2 as it will be a different social structure than the current VR concept.

In this article we'll discuss "What if that premise is wrong?"... effectively debating my own statement.


At this time virtual reality is based on the following concepts:

* Creators love building and displaying their creations.  To do so, they need land.

* Land costs money.

* In order to afford land (even at Inworldz' relatively low prices) many creators become merchants.

* Merchants require customers who buy their wares.

* Thus we have an economic system which drives land sales.

* Other land sales are fueled by real-life businesses and organizations who want exposure in a 3D virtual environment.

* To get such exposure, they need a lot of visitors.

* Those visitors come from the same source in which merchants make their sales.

* Those visitors can become residents, purchasing their own lands not for creative but rather for social gathering purposes, ie "permanent visitors".

* Another source of land sales is groups, which rely on regular visitors to form their populations.

* Grid primary profit source is land sales, which sales depend merchants, businesses, organizations and groups-- which all depend on visitors and residents.

The bottom line is that the primary source of income for virtual worlds as we know it isn't creators... but rather visitors and residents who fuel the economy and drive creative / business / organizational force.  This brings about land sales which are the core profit of virtual reality worlds.  Thus, the primary profit driver of VR is socially-based users.


That is where the problem comes in.  What if the majority of socially-based users are attracted not to a high-learning-curve creative VR platform, but instead an easy-to-use, zero-learning-curve VR social environment in which any and all creations are available at a price... but requiring almost no work or effort on their part.   The only "creativity" required would be shopping and rezzing goods bought, which pretty much everyone loves to do.

That is most likely the environment SL2 will be offering-- a social environment focusing on groups and individual profiles (aka Facebook)-- one in which the users/customers will not need to create or build anything (in fact, such likely won't be possible).  Their entire focus will be on exploring a ready-made world, enjoying social groups, chatting, "dancing", attending parties, listening to live music, and basically doing all the things that are already the most popular activities on virtual worlds.  The difference is it will all be easy. As a bonus, griefers (now removed of their toys on which they so heavily depend) will largely be a thing of the past.*


If such a social world draws the vast majority of potential visitors and residents to their grid, what will be left for current high-learning-curve VR such as Inworldz, Second Life and OpenSim?  It is predictable that while older grids may continue on at a minimal level, catering to those who love creativity for its own sake... the economy of such worlds could well collapse, forcing creators to switch from a market-based to reputation-based format (ie, instead of focusing on sales, they would focus on reputation gained from their creations... and goods would largely be just given away for the fun of it). Why?  Because there wouldn't be enough general population interested in buying wares on an "old fashioned, difficult-to-use grid" to fuel the economy and drive a sales-based merchant force.

That's just a possibility.   Whether that would actually happen or not is anyone's guess.

If such did happen however, those who own lands paid for by sales would have to abandon those lands, reducing significantly the profit margins of the grid.   If the grid survives it would be by catering to those with a creative bend.  But even those could be sucked in by "SL2" because... what if the SL2 grid allows limited building using provided advanced shapes (such as polygonal prims) with limited authorized scripts (available in the marketplace, of course) in an attempt to draw in everyone?
So it is quite possible that a well-managed, well-presented SL2 could threaten not only Inworldz and OpenSim... but current Second Life itself.  Because the reality is the vast majority prefer simple and easy-to-use over complex diversity.   And that is where the danger-level competition would come in.  Because if there is one thing current VR is not... is simple and easy-to-use.


So how can a company like Inworldz overcome this situation?   How can they prevent a small steamroller like Linden Lab from taking (and possibly ruining) what remains of the VR market?  It's actually not all that difficult in concept or execution:

* Become a social VR system itself.  There's nothing wrong with the idea.  It makes sense.  Just don't cut the creators, merchants and landlords out of the deal.

* Totally re-design the viewer user-interface.  It needs two modes:  Beginner and Advanced.  Common concept.  Change the entire menu system so that it's divided into two systems-- items essential to navigating and using the grid-- and items necessary to create.  With an easy-to-use viewer, more people will be attracted to the grid.

* Completely re-create the IDI new user intake area. 

   1) First, change the name to something else.  "Inworldz Desert Island" is not the most welcoming name for a first-impression intake area... and the name isn't intuitive in purpose. 

   2) Make the intake area more automated so the Mentors don't get swamped during busy times, make it easy for people to find areas pertaining to their interests, make use of notecards, portals, information signs, volunteer "tour guides" and tutorial systems.  

   3) Put your best foot forward and make a good first impression.  Every business knows that.  The claim that "Everything has to be neutral!  No favoritism!" is unrealistic and self-defeating

    Consider:  When a city puts out a tourist guide, it doesn't include every strip mall, bar and pawn shop in town as attractions.  Inworldz needs to feature its best regions and attractions.   If someone wants to be so featured, they need to work to make their area top notch.  One can't build a strip mall and expect the same level of company-sponsored promotion as an incredibly-designed wondersim.  Shouting "favoritism" or "we must remain neutral!" will simply make Inworldz unimpressive and boring to newcomers, and thus restrict profitable growth. 

    How do we know this?  Look at the last three years.  "Neutrality" hasn't worked thus far and it won't work in the future.  It's not how business operates.  The best products in a store are featured.  The nuts and bolts hang on pegboards on the side-aisles.  That's just how business works.

If the grid grows, the merchant systems will prosper.  People can cry neutrality! all they want... but if the grid doesn't grow such becomes a moot point from the outset.  Newbies can only take in so much in their first visit.  It makes sense to present to them our very best on that first visit, so they are encouraged to make Inworldz their home.  Then they can see the rest on additional visits.

If anyone disagrees with these concepts, it may be good to realize that IDI as it exists now has not been effective in promoting Inworldz land growth for going on three years.  Continue to do what you are doing, and you can expect to remain where you've been.

There is more that can be done to beat Linden Lab at their own game.  All this post is intended for is to sound the warning of potential heavy competition and point to the reality there are things that can be done about such.  Beyond that, the future of Inworldz is fully in the hands of the Founders. 


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Comment by Ferrator Montoya on July 10, 2014 at 8:32am

Transmogrification. I strongly recommend transmogrification.

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on July 10, 2014 at 11:34am

Transmogrify (transitive verb):  to change or alter greatly,  often with grotesque or humorous effect.

But... SL already qualifies there... ;D

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on July 10, 2014 at 11:52am

Added a new section in the "How to Overcome" area in the blog.  Putting your best foot forward is essential in attracting new customers.

Comment by Ferrator Montoya on July 10, 2014 at 2:49pm

I suppose I could submit some pics from the one sim I have done. But while it is just my own personal experiences and not at all indicative of IW and the Founders in general, I have been screwed several times and find it hard to be supportive. It is just a place for me to make the creations I know I never can or will in RL.

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on July 10, 2014 at 7:03pm

   One thing I will say in defense of Inworldz:  they may at times upset a user or three, and they may not always make the same decision I'd make... but at least I can say they always have good intentions. 

  Now I know what they say about a road paved with them, but still it's good intentions and a whole lot better than SL in general.   I wish I could have said the same about Linden Lab, but their intentions were very obviously "let's make a buck".   I have no problem with that so long as a company does so with the good of its customers in mind.  LL simply didn't.

  Good business questions:  Is the decision we're making for the good of the customer as well as ours?  With SL the decisions were quite often bad for customer welfare... which wound up being bad for the company (which fact Linden Lab was warned about repeatedly).  It cost them both in regions and reputation.

  I may not always agree with what Inworldz does, and yes Ferrator, I feel like sometimes there is the occasional kick in the jaw.  But I will say the kick is usually not from the Founders themselves, and it's never been with bad intent.   It was always someone making a decision they thought was a good one, but sometimes without thinking it through to the end.  Or sometimes it comes from not planning ahead and then hitting someone with a policy blow at the last minute.  That's a pretty common flaw among humans.  That I can tolerate as simple imperfection.  It was the LL complete disregard for customer welfare that I couldn't stand.

  But I just finished building my fourth real-life guitar and it's been pretty fulfilling to see a musical instrument come to life with wonderful sound.  At least with my RL craft I have some say over how things are conducted rather than relying totally on the decisions of another company (which is part of what bothers me about VR as a genre: being completely subject to the whims of another company with absolutely no say or influence in matters.  Nature of the beast).  I have to admit getting away from that as a center of activity does relieve a bit of stress.  ; )

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on July 29, 2014 at 5:00am

Siwan... Siwan.   Don't judge the entire grid by a single experience.  There are new user groups aplenty, plus the Mentors to assist.  There's also a small group known as Elf Clan that is known for being pretty friendly.  ; )

Comment by Ferrator Montoya on July 29, 2014 at 7:23am

Yeah Siwan, hang in there. I can assure you that that is NOT a usual response. I mean, for example, ask for a "giver" script and you are likely to end up with 20. OK, most may be the same script, but still, the people are VERY helpful. Quite often the scripts [or 'whatever'] will come from people not even active in the chat.

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on July 29, 2014 at 9:58am

One thing I've learned over the years is that no matter where ya go, there's rude and immature people.  This is especially true when they're hidden behind the anonymity of the Internet and don't have to be worried about getting punched in the nose.  That's just how folks are.  But there are as Ferrator says, a lot of helpful folks too.  The trick is to avoid the personality-deficient, hang around the friendlies.  We prosper or not by the company we keep.  : )

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on July 30, 2014 at 11:53am

Siwan, the thing to remember about VR and everything else in this world (VR or RL)... there are always drama queens.  One person saying something, or even several people saying something, does not make it so (as we recently saw on the Inworldz forums).  There are individuals with severe emotional, maturity and personality problems... and there is on the other end "mob mentality".  Neither one is the "norm" and neither one identifies Inworldz or any other grid. 

To paraphrase Buckaroo Banzai:  "No matter where you go, there they are."  Trick is to ignore them, stay away from them, and report them if they cross the TOS seriously enough to endanger the grid...  "ignore them" being the easiest route. ; )


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