Valleywag shuts down but still publishes another doomsday prediction of Second Life

Hiro Pendragon pointed me to the latest bit of Valleywag nonsense, where you can see that once more the End of Second Life® is predicted, falsely claiming that everybody has lost interest in SL except educators.

I was angry when publishing the comment which I reprint below (because, well, if I were a moderator at Valleywag I would probably refuse to publish it), but thankfully Hiro was quick enough to point out that Valleywag itself is being shut down:

But the reason for Valleywag’s shutdown was Denton’s notoriously doom-and-gloom vision of the future–Internet ad spending will decline a full 40 percent, he predicts–and Valleywag was one of the company’s less lucrative titles.

That article further explains that Valleywag was not “hilarious enough”. In fact, the few times I read it, I never noticed any sense of humour in it. Writing once about Second Life’s impending doom might be fun once, if cleverly done, by a good funny writer — like the ones at the Onion or the Register. But Valleywag was never fun. People took it seriously. There is never even a hint that it’s supposed to be “funny”, although, arguably, some found it funny. Not enough, apparently. In fact, you always get the sense that the people writing the articles are furious because everybody else has success and they haven’t. On the last article cited above, you can almost feel the contempt (Germans call it “Schadenfreude“) he has for Reuters’ Eric Krangel.

Still, it’s ironic that Owen Thomas puts the focus on the educational use of Second Life, and at least admits that SL might have a future as the ultimate tool for academics and for meetings. Ironic indeed — if you are like Thomas and despise academics, like he seems to do: “Only compared to the life of a university professor might Second Life actually seem exciting.”

For the rest of us, of course, that even academics find SL such an extraordinary place to be, along with us millions of “space-alien avatars”, is exciting — because it shows that if a Dean is allowed to be in SL “with mohawks and tight leather pants” and be take seriously, we’re allowed to be taken seriously as well.


In memoriam Valleywag, R. I. P., my last comment there:

Gosh, I’m glad that Valleywag is being shut down.

While it’s positive sometimes to get a few news here and there to make us *think* if what we’re doing is positive and leading in the right direction – reflectio can get us back on track – reading an article such as this one, with completely fabricated manipulations based on half-understood or misunderstood “factoids”, quotes out of context, and deliberate lies which are spread to an unknowing and unsuspecting audience which takes them for granted “just because they come from a allegedly reputedly source” makes me sick with the vileness of the malicious intent to cloud reality and paint a grim picture of doom where none of that actually exists.

As a co-founder of one of the thousands (read: thousands) of Metaverse Development Companies that bring creative content into Second Life for their customers – corporations and non-profit organisations alike – I can soundly report that 2009 has been a year like none before, and even if the year barely started, it has seen an increase in interest by the corporative clients as never before: at least *twice* as many contacts as on the best year we had so far, which was 2007, the days when the media was still drooling about Second Life.

The difference is that corporations now are mature about their expectations and the return on their investment. They’re not in Second Life because they will get “good PR”. They’re here because they now finally understand how they can use the technology, and most importantly, the community of users, to their own advantage – and let me just tell you that each project is different from the one before. Some might just wish to have a novel channel to address their clients, partners or employees. Some use it as a low-cost technology to produce movies for promotional or training purposes. Some think on Second Life as a route towards internationalisation. Some believe they can reduce costs by travelling less and do more teleconferencing. Some even think they can offer services and products at a relatively low cost through Second Life as a channel. And some, of course, still are happy with raising some brand awareness by sponsoring culture, arts, music, and community-building, which they also do in real life, but can reach a much wider audience at a fraction of the cost through SL. It’s impossible to say “what is best” for a particular customer in advance: each has different goals, each manages their expectations differently.

The big difference between 2007 and 2009 is that 2007 was the year of the Fortune 500. No matter how interesting and impressive those names are, and how important they have been in the past, 2009 is the year of the smaller companies and the smaller organisations. And that’s mostly because these are the ones that have less constraints and more flexibility to try to learn and understand best what will work in SL, instead of adhering to the 2007 model of spending millions in this virtual space without a goal. A typical rule of success in business is to know how to manage your expectations and invest to attain your goals: the 2007 examples – thankfully, not all, and not even the majority of them! – were sadly misguided in their expectations, and no wonder some projects failed. Two years later, the *current* batch of corporations and organisations in SL have learned the tough lesson of their predecessors and are not making the same mistakes. I’ll just leave you one area of business where SL’s success is overwhelmingly growing: the music industry. SL will one day outpace MySpace as “the” virtual environment of choice for musicians, groups, and their managers to promote themselves, for two reasons: you cannot do concerts on MySpace, and you cannot cash in any tips by being in MySpace. You can only hope that somebody buys your music elsewhere.

As for the media leaving SL, guess what: you’re out of the loop again, and that’s no wonder, because you’re just looking at, say, Reuters as an example. It’s undeniable that Reuters has a world-wide influence. But then again, Reuters is not the *only* group of journalists in SL; and even though English is spoken as a first language by more than 40% of all Second Life residents, it’s not the *only* language spoken. Major national, non-US news stations are still entering Second Life every month and doing a great job out of it – they just have smaller audiences than Reuters. However, they engage SL differently – for example, a radio station, which is used to *voice* only, can now use SL to produce *images* as well, and distribute them similarly to a TV station (a local example with an interview with Philip Rosedale can be seen here: []). So it’s not “just being in Second Life” that is important any more: it’s how Second Life is starting to enable companies to offer their knowledge, products, and services in *different ways*, that were hitherto impossible (or too expensive) to do.

The ultimate irony, of course, is that Valleywag has spread the seeds of its own destruction. The piling up of negative reviews, spreading of misinformation, attracting the ire and discontent of thousands of readers by “foretelling” a dark, grim future which does not exist – but that they desperately desired to bring into existence – has, justly, brought their own doom upon Valleywag. Predicting the doom of every blooming technology out there, trying at all costs to push people away from it by writing the worse possible about those technologies, has ultimately pushed Valleywag out of business ([]).

Or perhaps it’s not irony. The audience is tired of getting angry about Valleywag, and lost interest. They’re now off to read more interesting information – information that hopefully bears a little more resemblance to reality instead of being just dark fiction which not even entertains, but only brings anger and discontent, division and frustration.

Let me give you a piece of advice: if you’re in the lie-spreading business, at least re-cast Valleywag as a tabloid and make it FUN to read. Neither the Register nor Onion had lost any customers by just being *funny* to read. Jon Steward can still entertain audiences with his hilarious manipulation of the truth and quotes and citations out of context. You, gentle sirs, were never funny. I’m not sorry to see you go. I just find it ironic that after so many articles on the “end of Second Life”, spread over the past three years or so, we’re now watching the end of Valleywag, while Second Life healthily grows as never before.

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About Gwyneth Llewelyn

I’m just a virtual girl in a virtual world…

  • Pam Broviak

    I read the article too and didn’t even bother to comment since I took it as an attempt at being funny, not serious. But as you said, it wasn’t funny at all.

    I did want to add that neither do I find the Onion funny at all after reading one of their articles last year where they made fun of a baby with down syndrome. Disabilities are not the fault of a little baby, and anyone can have a child with down syndrome. I have a son with this condition, and cannot understand why anyone would try to make fun of their disability.

    Perhaps the Valleywag post and the Onion article are just two more examples of how traditional journalists are losing touch with their profession. And as we are seeing with Valleywag, that type of funny does not allow such a publication to persist.

  • Yay! The untimely (?) death is celebrated by all!

  • Oops, thanks again to Hiro who correctly pointed out to me that the decision to shutdown Valleywag was made before they published this rant against Second Life..

    Put it that way, it looks like a twist at “revenge”: “if I go down, you go all down with me too”.

    Pam, I’m a very occasional reader of the Onion, and perhaps I gave a bad example — I wasn’t aware of that article of theirs which, frankly, seems to be in quite bad taste. Anyway, the Onion is quite a bad example, since it doesn’t really publish any real “news” at all with a funny twist. A better example might indeed be the Daily Show, which at least has some relevance to actual news, but they’re always twisted and quoted out of context to make them deliberately more funny 🙂

  • For the rest of us, of course, that even academics find SL such an extraordinary place to be, along with us millions of “space-alien avatars”, is exciting — because it shows that if a Dean is allowed to be in SL “with mohawks and tight leather pants” and be take seriously, we’re allowed to be taken seriously as well.

    You’ve basically said what I was intending to, but it should be reiterated even more definitely, I think: at least some of those academics may be running around in mohawks and leather pants when “off company time,” or in funkier hair and cybersuits, or even as Green Dragons. Heck, some of them may be doing it on “company time.”

  • You’re so right, Harper! In fact, a university professor in my country, where it’s quite unusual to have non-human avatars (it’s a cultural thingy, I believe!), told me once that many teachers like to appear in class looking either like fancy magicians, huge dragons, trolls or ogres. He found out that this subtly passed the message along of “who’s in charge” in the virtual classroom 🙂

    I know, it’s a minor issue, but I’m always fascinated about all these questions about representation of self in a virtual world where you basically use your appearance to project an image. In real life, bankers and lawyers are always primly dressed for effect, to “inspire authority”. In SL, the same “authority” has produced more creative forms.


  • Just an FYI, it’s “Jon Stewart.”

    Otherwise, I enjoyed your article. I truly hope that 2009 shapes up to be a banner year for SL!

  • Thanks, Mark, for finding another typo!

  • Valleywag isn’t closing down, it has already been incorporated with Gawker, check the URL. Originally they were talking of making it a column, which may happen eventually but for now its still there and will be for some time.

    Valleywag isn’t very funny these days however.