Is Second Life Improving?

“Do you think that Second Life Getting better?” This was the survey question that I was asked last night through the Second Life with a simple “Yes/No” and a place for me to write my own comments. It is a question I’ve been asking myself of late, is Second Life improving? I feel in order to properly answer this question you have to take a look at three components that make up Second Life separately to come to a final conclusion. These components are: the platform, the service, the community.

The Platform

The platform, in my opinion, is the technical underpinnings that make up Second Life. These are the servers, the features; the things that Second Life is built upon, the Second Life Grid. The platform IS crazy wonderful. Yes there are limitations to it, but the platform itself has grown exponentially. Just taking a look at Windlight you get a glimpse at where Second Life is headed, true immersion and the closest that anyone will get to virtual reality. The platform has also grown where communication between the web servers and Second Life servers are easier (although NOT perfect), where companies and organizations are able to grow, collaborate and develop, and where opportunities to interact in a way never before occurs on a daily basis. The platform has grown tremendously, sculpties is a wonderful addition to the building tools (although NOT a replacement for the current ones), Second Life voice replaces the need for having a skype account, oh and FINALLY, Havok 4 is coming to Second Life, while Mono, the replacement to the archaic LSL programming language is somewhere in the shadows looming. To say the platform, the grid, is failing or not improving is completely false. The platform at one time could not handle 30,000 people without needing to crash, not it seems to hold 50,000 fairly well. It is growing and with the collaboration of outside companies, the platform is going to be an amazing thing.

The Service

Here is where things become suspect. While the Second Life Grid (or the platform) is developing in leaps and bounds, the service has its mood swings. Servers crash, lag happens, viewers have issues, there’s a question to Linden Labs responsiveness to certain bugs, so on and so forth. Yes, the service of Second Life IS suspect, there are issues, but things seem to be on the rise. Looking at the recent quality metrics, the program (i.e. the viewer) seems to be improving (FPS are on the upswing, crashes on the downswing but it is not known if that is due to individuals upgrading their computers) and the region seems to be improving.

One true measurement of improved service would deal with bug reporting and fixing. How many bugs are being reported, when, when they are being fixed and when are they implemented onto the grid (note, this can be done through JIRA, but it is a pain in the butt!) This is the area where I’m sure there needs to be improvement. I’m sure I can list several topics where that calls into question the quality of service Second Life has but the service HAS improved. Downtimes aren’t as epic (they actually get the service up and running on time), Linden Lab is admitting their mistakes and addressing issues that residents have and in my experience they have been fairly responsive. There are still too many areas where improvement can happen that leads me to believe that the service of Second Life is headed in a positive or negative direction. It is suspect; there are some (not many) communication problems that are being resolved (in some cases still need improvement upon). Is Linden Lab working on it? Yes. Is the perception of their service worse than reality, I’m quite sure that’s the case. Has there been an improvement, definitely. It is still quite suspect.

The Community

The community of Second Life is like a box of chocolate, not only don’t you know what you’re going to get, sometimes it surprises the hell out of you! Regardless of any drama, issues, personalities that garner a lot of negative attention in Second Life, the community is vibrant. If you did not know about Second Life and attended the 2007 Second Life Community Convention, you would agree. There is a wealth of opportunity, growth, and excitement in the Second Life community that makes it the shining star. Yes, you can point out any number of drama, issues, problems that occur, albeit item theft, greed, or people being clearly out of line, there is a lot more that happens on the individual level that promotes a strong Second Life Community. Have some things changed in the five months since I posted this, yes and no. Have the Second Life media outlets improved their reporting on Second Life? Yes and no. Has big business put everyone out of business? No (actually it has really increased current Second Life business.)

What has happened with Second Life is that the community has grown, products and items in Second Life have improved, there are wonderful new services and tools, and the community experience is improving. Are there issues, concerns, some problems, yes! Do they out-weigh the positive, no. Regardless of anyone’s skepticism, the community aspect of Second Life has changed but still remains, at its core, dedicated to the platform and service. Yes, if you talk to some Second Life old-timers (myself included), how residents think then and now are completely different, but if anything, the community is stronger than it was before.

So is Second Live Improving?

Yes. There are problems, like with anything else. Yes, there are things that do scare me (regardless of the wonderful comfort that I have received, especially with some more recent news). Yes, I do feel there are aspects to the community that can improve. I would be lying if I were to say that there has been no improvement to the Second Life community. We all have to remember that as things grow, there will be bumps in the road.

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