July 2007

Second Life is like an empty restaurant

by Andy Polaine on July 31, 2007

I wrote a post a while back about how dull I thought it was that Adaptive Path were researching Second Life (along with many, far too many, media academics). I still don’t ‘get’ Second Life’s appeal, but maybe that’s from experimenting with virtual worlds long ago and not finding much difference 12 years on.

However, Chris Anderson just wrote about why he gave up on Second Life and points to an article by Frank Rose that he commissioned for Wired. It’s called How Madison Avenue Is Wasting Millions on a Deserted Second Life and pretty much confirms the anecdotal evidence that once you have, in the words of the article, “put in several hours flailing around learning how to function in Second Life, there isn’t much to do.”

The hook and hype of Second Life is that it is new, to most people. But once you’ve experienced the tedium of a virtual world that’s mostly empty it’s like an empty restaurant at 9pm on a Friday – you don’t bother going in.

Long ago, my first job as an intern was on the Virtual Nightclub. It was clear even then (1993 I think) that you go to a nightclub to listen to music (which you could do in the VNC), but mainly to meet, try and seduce or merely gaze at other people. The Virtual Nightclub had a smattering of people, but they were static and didn’t do anything or speak to you. Needless to say, it wasn’t a brilliant success especially as the time it took to produce it mean that all the music and styles were out of date when it was released.

Second Life strikes me as a similar phenomenon – I know there are ‘real’ people in there and some people seem to have sex chats with each other, but as the Wired article points out, you never really see a crowd (which is a limitation of the software engine). (Granted the sexual activity in Second Life, er, scores where the Virtual Nightclub didn’t.)

I’ve often talked about this ‘new tech’ problem with interactive artworks and installations too. When the newness of the technology – rather than a smart or creative idea – is the drawcard it dates and becomes boring very quickly. Germany’s ZKM has a whole collection of pieces like this – awful blocky avatar heads reading newsfeeds about politics in a robot voice, for example. I can’t help feeling that Second Life is heading for the same fate.

At the very least, chucking ad dollars into it without really knowing what or why you are doing seems to be the usual approach of advertising folks desperate to be on the bleeding edge. To me it Second Life feels like a feeble ‘dad’ version of a multi-user virtual space for people who don’t ‘get’ MMORPGs.


The 12 Kinds of Ads in the World

by Andy Polaine on July 29, 2007

in General

Lynx Ad.

I don’t really blog about advertising or marketing, though it seems to be one the most popular blogging subjects. I usually read Iain’s Crackunit for witty insights into the digital arena too.

But Seth Stevenson’s There Are 12 Kinds of Ads in the World is a great analysis of TV advertising genres along with some classic spots (mainly courtesy of the world’s video archive, YouTube). You’ll end up playing spot-the-format from now on.

It reminded me a great deal of George Polti’s 36 Dramatic Situations, which still remains a classic foundation of many a plotline, which is as good a place as any to start if you’re thinking of writing fiction, by the way.

Via Social Design Notes


Etched in Time

July 28, 2007

In almost all of the course on interactivity that I have taught, someone comes up with the idea of making a screen-based Etch-A-Sketch toy. They’re almost always rubbish because it lacks the physicality of the Etch-A-Sketch and the charm of that. All of which is a thinly veiled excuse to talk about George Vlosich III’s […]

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The Playmakers

July 25, 2007

I’ve just been introduced to a wonderful book. It’s called Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them, by Tim Walsh and documents the history and development of classic toys. The original, self-published, book was called The Playmakers: Amazing Origins of Timeless Toys and Tim has a website and blog of the same […]

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Facebook and Identity Theft

July 24, 2007

There has been quite a lot in the news about privacy concerns with Facebook as well as it being used for investigations. Living in a country that was home to the Nazis and the Stasi got me thinking… I’m on Facebook as you might imagine and, if you are reading this, probably already know. I […]

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Service Design with Live|Work

July 22, 2007

In another interview I’m re-publishing online, I talk with Ben Reason from service design agency, Live|Work. He explains exactly what service design is, its roots in product and interactive design and the difference between service designers and consultants, as well as the important role it has to play in a sustainable future.

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Interview with Nik Roope from Hulger & Poke

July 20, 2007

My first Core77 Broadcast with Nik Roope about Hulger has just gone online. It should become one of a series of podcasts for Core77 and I’m really pleased because it’s one of my regular reads. Core77 started out (and still bills itself) as the “industrial design supersite”, though their remit has become somewhat wider, which […]

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StumbleUpon is the Antirom of the Web

July 18, 2007

Or – In Praise of Randomness Whilst thinking about writing a post in praise of randomness in interaction design, I realised that StumbleUpon is, in many ways, the Antirom CD-ROM of the Web. In many, many ways StumbleUpon is much better, but here is the parallel with the original Antirom CD-ROM: (Read On for more… […]

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Director Lives Again for Retro Games

July 18, 2007

Like all of us at Antirom, Macromedia’s Director was a revolution because it allowed a bunch of non-coders to make interactive ‘stuff’. The upshot of this was that we came at interactivity with a totally different perspective to that of trained programmers. Sometimes that made for painfully bad code, but it did make for some […]

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Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design Opens

July 18, 2007

A year or so ago I heard about plans to set up the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID) and I’m really happy to see that they are now ready to launch their pilot year for 2008. Many of the people involved are ex-Ivrea and I notice that Live|Work’s Lavrans Løvlie and Frog Design’s Fabio […]

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