July 1, 2009

People with passion fuel social media

Chris AbrahamWhen I wrote Twitter Is What Second Life Wasn’t: Light, Cheap and Open I was addressing something simple, “the hype surrounding Twitter may well be hype but isn’t the same sort of hype that Second Life enjoyed 2-3 years ago, and here’s why.” Well, I forgot how passionate Second Lifers are and so it goes.  So it was delicious to discover the 20-or-so comments in response to my recent AdAge DigitalNext article.

Here’s the comments through to today:

By jason_miletsky | totowa, NJ June 26, 2009 05:32:15 pm:

I’m not a fan of Second life by any means – I’ve written plenty of scathing blog posts on its demise myself (http://bit.ly/Qat0k), and I am absolutely a fan of Twitter. But I don’t think Second Life vs. Twitter is a fair comparison. Far from the cliched apples and oranges, this is more like apples and marshmallows.Twitter exists as a source of information, news, gossip, updates, conversation – it’s a platform for communication between friends, families or even brands and their consumers. But all it takes is a little effort to follow people who share your interest, and all of sudden every column of TweetDeck is filled with life – the empty room we’re all tweeting in at the start can get pretty crowded pretty quickly. Same with Facebook – maybe it’s a walled in environment, but anybody who makes the slightest effort to connect with people can log in and see some activity.None of that is true with Second Life, which would have benefited from a few more boundaries (vitutally geographically speaking). Second Life offers so much space there simply aren’t enough people to occupy it, so it becomes very lonely very quickly. Really, there’s nothing more depressing than wandering around an enormous Second Life mall and being the only one there. It’s right about them when you look up and realize, huh…maybe my first life isn’t so bad after all. So once the joy of flying is over (usually after the first 5 minutes), there’s just not a lot more to do there.

However, I think both Facebook and Twitter face some of the same dangers that Second Life ultimately succumbed to, and that the increasingly visible presence of spammers, get-rich-quick schemes and sex pushers. More and more often I find myself unfollowing someone on Twitter who wants to show me how they made $5,000 posting Tweets, or how I can get thousands of new followers. Facebook is no different – I’m sure by now everyone on there has gotten a few suspicious e-mails from crooks trying to steal their name and password. If it happens enough, people will eventually stay away from these networks and look elsewhere for their networking. They’ll still be around, but they’ll be a shadow of their former selves – Second Life still exists, but it’s little more than a virtual Red Light District in some seedy part of town.

I’m sorry – did I say that there was nothing more depressing than wandering around an empty Second Life mall? That was wrong – watching a Second Life stripper grind against a virtual pole goes well beyond depressing, and border on simply pathetic.

Jason Miletsky
CEO, PFS Marketwyse
Author, ‘Perspectives on Marketing’ and ‘Perspectives on Branding’



I agree with you. I don’t think you can compare them either, which is why I wrote this. People keep on saying, “Twitter hype is just like what happened with Second Life. Nope.

By jason_miletsky | totowa, NJ June 26, 2009 07:24:17 pm:
Ah – Sorry, Chris, if I misunderstood your point there. Thanks for clarifying, and for bringing the topic to attention. Good piece.Jason

By chrisabraham | Berlin June 26, 2009 08:39:58 pm:
Well, I am glad we’re on the same page. Actually, I am glad that you commented here — thanks!

I will recommend using Email Charger for all bulk email marketing needs. Its the best bulk email marketing software I have used so far.

There’s really no comparison between Second Life and Twitter. Second Life is a vehicle for people to escape reality and create new ones. Twitter is a vehicle for people to share reality quickly and succinctly. I do strategic consulting work for a Philadelphia based full-service marketing communications agency (http://www.domusinc.com). I also have some musings on the Domus blog site (http://domusinc.blogspot.com). In those two capacities, I see and work with customers who immediately understand and want to be part of the Twitter community – a much faster adoption rate than so many previous technologies.

By ASantiago23 | Lakeland, FL June 27, 2009 12:44:45 pm:
Thank you for this great article. I find it so interesting how Ad Age writing are so pro or against “social media.” Twitter is phenomenal. It has given me and my projects more real readers and followers than MySpace, Facebook, Live Journal, and Pure Volume together.I am really intrigued with what will come next from them. And yes, the Iran explosion via Twitter, I think, is the separating factor between Twitter and the rest.But ultimately, I think that Google Wave will CRUSH everyone!

By chrisabraham | Berlin June 27, 2009 12:54:58 pm:
“But ultimately, I think that Google Wave will CRUSH everyone!”I will believe it when I see it — and I sort of believe it already — however, Twitter has an amazing lead and might very well benefit from making itself more of a need than a want.Seeing the State Department preempt a scheduled Twitter maintenance because of what was going on in Iran was huge. I don’t think any of us have realized how much of a change agent Twitter must really be if State is doing interventions.

I wonder if there may very well be Government and Homeland Security interest in the wellness and prosperity and success.

However, don’t even quote me as saying that Twitter is too big to fail, but I have never seen anything with this level of ubiquity.

Sure, Twitter could very well — surely — fly high and then crash. Who knows. I don’t think so. Thousands of companies have invested big bucks, big resources, and a lot of “face” into Twitter — and I have invested over 18,000 tweets into Twitter.

I personally have a lot invested in Twitter. How about you?

By Spartanic | london, NY June 27, 2009 01:24:49 pm:
This is a short sighted and ill informed article. So you are saying twitter is a sucess? How on – what basis, that lots of people use it?Whats the usual measure of success? – the bottom line… How much money does twitter make? $0 – Second life is a monetised and profitable product.

By chrisabraham | Berlin June 27, 2009 06:36:03 pm:
@Spartanic I would say that obsessing about “bottom line” is the kind of short-sightedness that got us (all — even the Brits) into this financial mess. Twitter is dominating a space that is actually a mad land-grab rush (you might not aware of it because Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are so far about everyone else) and it is essential not to spook anyone off… especially the earlier adopters who are looking to diss anything that “sells out” — and, when it hearty competition with Facebook, it is essential to make certain that this “new” — 2007? — tool wins the race.

By Spartanic | london, NY June 28, 2009 01:46:25 pm:
I’m a big fan of Twitter don’t get me wrong. I just think its a bit wrong to take pop shots at ‘unfashionable’ platforms such as SL because they are not the flavour of the month.The end of the day these services are a business model – and so far twitter only exists because someone is paying its bills (i’d hate to think about their hosting costs). If its trying to “win the race” as you say – when is the payout day for the investor? Twitter seems very reluctant to find a way to monetise – Either because they think it might put people off – or they cant think of an effective way to get people to pay.“This financial mess” as you put it, I fear comes from the whole attitude of throwing money at something in the hope that some bigger fish will buy them off – rather than building a strategy that will profit enough to pay the running costs (at minimum). The bottom line isn’t short sightedness – its a reality.

If Twitter does have a strategy and is holding back – all well and good. But I wouldn’t start throwing around claims its a success over an already profitable company just yet.

By chrisabraham | Berlin June 28, 2009 02:45:28 pm:
I don’t think I come across as anti-SL, I just wanted to explain why I believe Second Life failed (did it fail? I don’t hear much about it at all) — my only reason for writing this article is to say that Twitter will continue expanding because it is permanent and not ephemeral, it is free and not cost-dependent (you stop paying in SL, you lose your dream house), it is open system and not a proprietary walled village (Google is not allowed into Second Life and even if it were, there is really no there there to index), and finally, Twitter has gone a lot further down the road towards making Twitter into a household name — even if it doesn’t actually have as much registration penetration as does Facebook.Twitter knows — and their investors know — that the Twitterati will bail to FriendFeed, to Plurk, and to Laconi.ca the moment that Twitter start heavily monetization. Good timing is essential here and I think Twitter will focus, at first, on making money through B2B licensing, through Twitter PRO services (which might charge users money for extra API calls since we are only allotted 100 calls per/hour, which is a serious impairment when you follow tens of thousands of people — hell I would pay for more API calls — Twitter, hello?).Anyway, I am coming from the assumption that Second Life is a wasteland, the only people who are really participating are academics who are researching and sharing and educating using Second Life’s virtual world and a small cadre of faithfuls. I am assuming that most brands have abandoned SecondLife, though I may be mistaken.

I may be wrong, please enlighten me.

By Spartanic | london, NY June 28, 2009 07:19:16 pm:
Well this is where you contradict yourself. In your opening statement you are saying “ascent and crash of Second Life”An then in your previous comment you say “did it fail? & “I am coming from the assumption that Second Life is a wasteland” & I don’t hear much about it at all” – I suggest when making sweeping and provocative statements you do some research, otherwise someone might come along and challenge it ;)You article talks of “Outlive[ing] the Hype Cycle” – Well second Life seems to be surviving without the hype cycle doesn’t it? Believe me I don’t think its perfect by any means. But its standing on its own two feet which a lot of web companies cannot claim.

You say that Twitter is open, free and you cant lose your content on it? really? Is this so? – Again – someone else is bankrolling your content here – if Twitter would fold over night – so would all of its content (unless you’ve read it into an external db of course, have you done that?).

In regard to Google, yes Google does index Second Life – Google is used for its search engine and also its mapping system. that content is just not shown on web search.

I think you are right to say that people will jump ship if Twitter were to start to heavily charge for its services. That’s why I think they may just be waiting for someone like Google to buy them out. Their competitors have much more functionality, all they don’t have is the brand recognition. That’s hardly a recipe for outlasting the Hype Cycle either is it? Twitter has trouble meeting the load as it is, let alone with more functionality.

I agree that the nature of Twitter would make it easier to survive in theory. Text messages are a lot simpler to deal with than a complex persistent 3d environment. But, like I was saying – if it can’t sustain itself then it its not really going to live much past the free lunch.

By ProkofyNeva | Second Life, NY June 28, 2009 08:16:20 pm:
Chris, your over-exaggeration of Twitter and banging on Second Life is typical of what I would call a technocommunist world view that abhors free enterprise — except for yourself and your ideologically approved cronies of the left. You betray your hand by praising IRC. Twitter is proprietary software just as much as Second Life is — Twitter is a “walled garden” too. The presence of APIs have made it useful for power usages and automatic following and searching, but SL is a freemium service with very low barriers to entrepreneurism — and that’s a good thing (not just for you). Your strange belief that SL is marred by “greedyness and avarice” (I guess that’s what you call “capitalism” and “commerce” practiced by people other than the heads of new digital social media ad firms lol) while Twitter is sanctified by its APIness is just plain ridiculous.Most Twitter APIs are used by SEO and new media gurus in all kinds of money-making schemes of what many see as the most shoddy and greedy kind (just look on Twitter and who uses it for God’s sake), and the really major power usage of Twitter is by firms that want to scrape the data to sell ads or sell commercial information about users for commercial purposes. *And that’s ok*. Isn’t that what YOU do?Why would somebody putting up a commercial island for a campaign or a long-time customer relations presence in SL be “greedy” and someone scraping all the data of tracking trends for commercial purposes be blessed as “cool”? Makes no sense. Different tools for different purposes and outcomes.

Trying to compare Twitter with its massive numbers of users and Second Life with its small number of users is like complaining that CNN has a lot of users and the New Yorker only has a small number of subscribers. They are different forms of media, used differently and one need not cancel out the other.

Your take on SL seems to have evolved mainly through its hyping by a few of the very ad agencies that prop up this very site here storming on the scene in 2007 and deciding, at a time when they were hugely nervous and scared over huge amounts of loss of ad revenue from dying newspapers, that perhaps virtual worlds and games were the “next big thing”. They were too early and too clueless with this, but that’s a function of their expectations. These same ad companies have gotten no more ROI from Twitter than they’ve gotten out of SL (Skittles, anyone?)SL is good for a deeper, more intensive purpose, for meetings and raising of awareness and support — really building communities; and also for small business inworld.

SL offers you that more intensive interaction that is essentially a replacement for f2f meetings because you are in an immersive environment and able to reach people at an intellectual and emotional level, with real-time interactive 3-D communication, that you just can’t reach with a 140 tweet. Serendipity rules in SL

By ProkofyNeva | Second Life, NY June 28, 2009 08:24:29 pm:
The lease persuasive of your arguments is that there is something “ephemeral” about Second Life and not about Twitter. What, you save somewhere *inside* the service of Twitter which is, er, “eternal” all the thousands of updates you’ve made. I have 15,000 updates in two years of tweeting and some 1300 followers whose updates I follow — like…I access this somewhere? lol Please. I use search for *real-time* needs, not research as I would Google. In the same way, in five years of SL, I have 25,000 pieces of inventory, many of them notecards from meetings, tutorials, discussions, etc. all of which save within that system (unlike anything twitter offers). Even if SL were to go down tomorrow, I could still cut and paste out of that application — I’d be lucky to successfully page through all the Twitter updates past a few months given its lag and error messages.But the point of social media is not to keep communications in some big file — both SL and Twitter are on Google, and there are applications such as those your digital PR new media firm uses for clients.Twitter is not a place where you can build relationships and collaborat — it’s a signal pusher with a lot of noise pushing against it, for life-casting or mind-casting, but little means of taking it beyond the cursory clipped expression except by going into Friendfeed or on Skype or into Second Life or Metaplace or some other venue for voice or text chat without Twitter restrictions.

You don’t need to defend Twitter by bashing on Second Life. Your assessment of SL’s hype cycle is based on superficial media reports and not research of the sort you wouldn’t accept as true if they were about Twitter. Twitter is overhyped and will undergo a crash in old media coverage, too, just like Second Life. You’re oblivious to the role that dying old media played in touting both Twitter and SL, and tone deaf to the possibilities for both Twitter and SL *after* the old media hype is over. In fact the two services are complementary and not contradictory.

By ProkofyNeva | Second Life, NY June 28, 2009 08:43:29 pm:
Jason, how is it that you came to view SL through this cynical keyhole? Did you type “sex” or “mall” or “stripper” or “shopping” into a search engine? Is that how you use the Internet at large?Or are you saying you didn’t even bother to search that one time you came to Second Life, and just made a lazy click on the old “Popular Places”? By popular outcry, that list was removed because it was all gamed by bots and camping (SEO tricks) — there is a more curated and meaningful list of suggestions now under Showcase and at many resident-made infohubs like mine in Ross.While SL can have a steep learning curve, the very basics — search on topics to go to events and places — are just like Google and just as easy to use. Talking to other people is as easy as it is on Twitter.

If you typed in words like Obama, Iran, non-profit, government, science, history, literature, etc. you might have a very different experience than visiting clubs with AFK dancers on sex poles — something that in fact really does make up a small portion of Second Life even if it gets inflated traffic from bots like the SEO gurus on Twitter now get seemingly enormous numbers of followers using automatic scripts).

You *do* put filters on your email to get rid of the Viagra ads, right? You can do the same in SL.

In the last few weeks, here are some of the things I’ve done in Second Life:

o hosted an event to talk to people around the world who came through serendipity — educators, journalists, human rights activists, etc. to talk about Iran and the “Twitter Revolution” and talk about ways to be supportive to democracy in Iran.

o followed a lecture by a U.S. government official about Obama’s technology programs and social media strategies

o visited the MacArthur Foundation’s island to learn about their programs funding all kinds of interesting projects around the world

o visited three amazing art installations and discussed with fellow visitors

o attended 3 live music concerts by artists with original music

o wrote a 3-D interactive science fiction story and interacted with other people in the story to discuss what new technology will bring to us — and take away from us in the future

o made US $200 from my rentals and content business above costs to use on real-life bills

What did I do on Twitter? I *talked* about the Iranian revolution but didn’t *do* anything about it. I spent an hour trying to weed out all the SEO goofs following me to get follow-backs using scripts. I learned about a few interesting articles — but often the same articles I get pasted to me in numerous groups and chats in SL on all different subjects.

I’m an early adapter of Twitter and it’s all good, but a time suck.

By jason_miletsky | totowa, NJ June 29, 2009 12:02:15 am:
ProkofyNeva You asked me the following question: “How is it that you came to view SL through this cynical keyhole?…Are you saying you didn’t even bother to search that one time you came to Second Life, and just made a lazy click on the old “Popular Places”?Actually, I came to my conclusions based on pretty extensive research I did for the college textbook I’ve recently had published, “Principles of Internet Marketing” (http://bit.ly/63dB5). In the book, I dedicate a good part of one chapter to virtual worlds, with a specific focus on SL, including an interview with an organization that runs a fairly significant island there. While I didn’t editorialize in the book, I was able to come to some pretty sound conclusions. If I had any preconceived notions at all before I first went on SL, they were positive – I wanted to like it.But neither my comment nor Chris’ original post were about whether or not we like SL. Like has nothing to do with it. It’s about SL’s place in the online universe as a widely used tool for social networking and/or marketing.

I always find it amusing, however, how people who are so crazed and passionate about Second Life are so incapable of seeing the reality behind the business of the Internet. I’m sure you generated $200 last week, and have had plenty of conversations with other people there. But the fact of the matter is that if it ever reached critical mass in terms of a being a viable marketing or social networking vehicle, it did so awhile ago and shows little chance of recapturing any former glory. If you’d like, I’d be more than happy to spend a few minutes finding links to charts showing the significant loss of media attention and brand usage over the past year or more.

Fanatics, whether their obsessions be for Star Wars, Star Trek, Second Life or something else, are welcomed to have their passion. But don’t let your love of something cloud your ability to see the reality behind it.

Jason Miletsky
CEO, PFS Marketwyse
Author, ‘Perspectives on Marketing’ and ‘Perspectives on Branding’



By chrisabraham | Berlin June 30, 2009 08:45:38 am:
Wow, this is an awesome comment string! This is 100% why I blog. @ProkofyNeva — this article is 100% about the Hype surrounding Second Life back in 2006/2007 and the Hype surrounding Twitter in 2009 — and why *I* believe Twitter is more sustainable in its Hype than Second Life. That said, thank you Second Life denizens for making this true social media — I might download Second Life again if you’re willing, maybe, to give me a proper tour of Second Life.

By GwynethLlewelyn | Lisbon June 30, 2009 06:20:17 pm:
Chris, I hardly understand why you bother to mention Second Life on your description of Twitter then — unless, of course, the whole point is to gather the attention of Second Life users, who are quite keen in following *all* news, bad or good, that mention it ;) (A very interesting effect known by so-called SEO experts who have noticed that anything Second Life-related will gather WAY more attention than… almost anything else).I totally agree with your description of Twitter vs. Facebook/Plurk/others, about the openness of Twitter and its myriad applications, about how it resembles IRC, about how people use it as an “intelligent RSS feed” (I’m certainly one of them!). There is nothing to disagree with :)However, I completely fail to understand the relationship with Second Life. Twitter is owned by a company of geeks that just raised venture capital and burn it like crazy keeping the servers up, without a business plan, without a revenue model, and thriving on — numbers and hype. That, in itself, is nothing wrong — after all, all the others are *exactly like that* (when Facebook burned out all their money in 2007, they invented a fake number for their value and sold a share to Microsoft, which should be enough to keep them going on for a few years more — until they sell another share, and so on). Twitter is a cool idea which is simply impossible to monetise; like, unfortunately, almost all Web 2.0 applications out there. One day we’ll look back to them all, after the Web 2.0 bubble bursts, and think how we could have done the same mistake *twice*. But we did :)

Second Life has nothing to do with that. It’s probably one of the rarest cases where not only it turns a healthy profit but has already paid its return on investment. Since the “hype years” of 2006/7, Second Life has grown in all areas — number of users; stickiness (number of hours users spend in-world); and other metrics which are only relevant to Second Life users (landmass; internal economy; etc.) — up to three to four times *after* the “hype days”, it never grew so fast *after* the media lost interest in it. And it still grows — 12-15,000 new users every day. It’s not only a “playground for universities and research labs” — like the Internet overall, and the World-Wide Web, isn’t seen as a “playground for academics” any more. That doesn’t mean that universities aren’t doing incredible things with Second Life — but that’s just a very small chunk of what’s being done. Prokofy Neva above gave a lot of good examples. There are more. Far more. And most interestingly, more and more projects in Second Life are starting *now* with a development time of 2-3 years…

Too closed? Weird that you mention that. The Second Life client is *open source* and there is an open source server solution (think Apache vs. MS IIS). Second Life can fully communicate with the outside world using HTTP/XML-RPC and SMTP…

By chrisabraham | Berlin June 30, 2009 09:05:51 pm:
@GwynethLlewelyn Unless you have not been following the news — or have not read my article at all — I am comparing hypes: the world was going nuts over Second Life 2-3-years ago and there are many people who have been comparing the fickle hype surrounding Second Life with what they’re anticipating is the writing on the wall for Twitter, too: how the mighty will have fallen. So, I wasn’t doing a “compare and contrast: Second Life and Twitter: a study,” I was just saying why Twitter’s ascension will not be as transient as Second Life’s. Does that make sense? Either way, I appreciate these comments something awful!

How awesome is that? What a beautiful thing. I love blogging! I heart social media!

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Chris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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