Thoughts from a former Second Life advocate

(In response to Matt’s previous post re: the Second Life educational discount…) Actually, the educational discount was pretty good if you consider the amount of space you get on an island and all you can fit there – education, advertisements, meeting spaces, etc.

Where the expense really comes in and caused many institutions to balk is development — people quickly realized that building/programming in SL was not easy by any means for most people without a computer science degree. You’d end up either farming out the development to emerging technologies groups on your campus or paying big bucks to put something up. (Or you’ll find some geeky instructional designer who quickly falls in love with it and dumps hundreds of hours into developing in SL.) If you don’t have either of these and you’re using SL for education, you have to invest time in researching areas and finding places that will help achieve your objective.

Yes, I admit — I was a big-time SL advocate in the beginning. I’ve since been able to step back and realize just how much work and exactly how realistic it is (isn’t) to invest time/money in this project. SL had tons of potential, especially in education … it just isn’t practical.

I’m wondering what this SL alternative is that was mentioned in the article. (I’ve been away from SL and virtual worlds for so long; I apologize if there’s an obvious answer.) I think even with this alternative, the excitement over virtual worlds will decrease dramatically. My reasoning is this — sure, you have an open source alternative. But chances are (and Matt, please correct me if I’m wrong) you’ll have to self-host, meaning you’ll have to find hardware to put it on and people to maintain it. I know this is almost sounding cliché but with budgets being slashed as drastically as they are this year and projected for next, most places are just not going to be able to justify the expense. I suspect many schools were already seriously looking at their SL property to be included in the cutbacks we’re all facing, and LL’s announcement just made their decision a lot easier.


One thought on “Thoughts from a former Second Life advocate

  1. OpenSim is about the only open-source option I can think of, but haven’t had a chance to look in to many of them. But this is kind of the same problem that people run in to when considering Moodle or WordPress or any open source alternative: they don’t know how to properly calculate the cost benefit ratio. Sure, it takes people and time to set-up and run an open-source set-up of any kind. But the amount of control you get is staggering. That level of control is very, very expensive to buy in systems like Blackboard or Second Life. But people rarely compare the costs with control factored in. Or they don’t value control as much as they should. As Douglas Rushkoff says, program or be programmed.

    The only hope I see here is that this could lead to more self-hosted virtual worlds. Schools and companies either self-host their websites or rent out space on a server – so why not your virtual world? Web hosting was really expensive at first, but once it became popular the prices plummeted. Same with web site building and design. Then blogs and Facebook came along and got everyone online, making some companies big money. Probably the biggest problem with virtual worlds was that they went through the process backwards – they started off with their version of Facebook (Second Life), trying to make big money from the get-go.

    Or, at least, that is my crazy Friday morning conspiracy theory….

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