Self-entertainment and the end of newbies

A short, informal query made to some of my friends reported the same thing: their success in bringing their own friends into SL is limited at best. Let’s assume, for the sake of the argument, that most of you have around 100 friends and relatively close acquaintances, and have talked to all of them about SL. At most, 1-2 of them might have joined to SL and became regular, active residents. In many cases, the number is zero. Most have tried it out, been around for a while, but quickly lost interest. Now, we would assume that all those people share some of your interests (that’s why they’re your friends), have similar backgrounds, similar education, similar computer-savvyness, and, of course, would not hesitate to add you as a friend on Facebook and log in to that every day. Nevertheless, the experience of a virtual world like SL says little to them. They just register to please you, might exchange calling cards with your avatar, and then quickly lose interest. Why?

If you have had the experience of addressing audiences and talk about SL, you’ll see that the number of people in the audience that will actually register to SL is significant — let’s say 10-30% if you’re not a bad speaker. But none — or at most 1 or 2 — will befriend you, meaning that most did not, indeed, survive the first hour experience. On the other hand, they did come to your presentation — so one would expect they would be interested in SL. So why don’t they remain active residents?

Or you might have helped people out to log in to SL and go through the first steps. Either as a mentor (a formal or informal one), or doing it in RL (among friends, colleagues, students, etc.), you might have patiently gone through the whole process of registering an avatar, going through the first steps, teaching them how to move, how to tweak their avatars, and so forth. How many come later — say, after a few days — and thank you for all your work in getting them through their first-hour experience? My own estimate is that I have helped out perhaps 1000-5000 people (of course, some just to a very small degree) in the past 6 years. Only a handful faithfully remain as active friends on my list and exchange sporadic IMs with me — and in those few cases, it’s not because they dropped out of SL, but because they are so excited having fun with SL all the time that they quickly forget about me (and I forget them). All the rest never return. Although I’m always happy to see a very few who log in to SL every couple of years or so just to see what has changed. Their veredict? “Nothing much”, which is astonishing, when you consider how SL looked in 2004 and how it does today. How can they possibly fail to notice the huge differences?

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