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August 2007

Next Steps: Second Life

Houses First we had the hype, then we had the anti-hype, then reality set in somewhere in the middle.  Second Life is growing at a snails pace compared to the hype.  The reality is, there are few if any true overnight revolutions in digital media.  Everything, even the glorious iPod took a while to reach mass market adoption.  Cell phones, computers, mp3 players, all of these game changers took time to take off.  The press loves sensationalism as it drives traffic and viewership of their content.  They live in a world of hype, not reality.  With this in mind, what steps do you believe are essential to building a more compelling Second Life experience creating a stronger adoption and retention/usage rate?  What measures would fuel stronger growth over the next 6-12 months?

Five Steps for Improving Second Life

  1. Featured destinations - In World Portals
    • I would be willing to bet that most newbies go in world, enjoy flying around and playing dress up with their Avatars - but rarely return because there is nothing to do (other than adult content).  This situation is very similar to the early days of the web.  This gave rise to the world of the portal.  We need TV guide for SL, we need free tours, we need visitor's centers and access points to everything there is to do in world.  We need Second Life delivered on a silver platter.
  2. Improved Initial Setup (Interface)
    • Anyone who has ever played console sports video games over the past few years knows how easy and simple it is to set up an Avatar.  While WiiMii setup is simple to a fault, there is a happy medium.  Newbie clothes mark you as a newbie, why not allow users to customize from the get go with a simple 3 minute avatar builder tool? 
    • Also, can't we give users a fun and engaging tutorial rather than the walk around self guided tour?  Nobody likes to read instruction manuals, why can't we come up with anything better than walking around to browse through a tutorial?  It's the equivalent of a video game  that makes you go through a 20 minute tutorial before you play.  Nobody likes to read a manual.
  3. Social Connectivity
    • Second Life is a 3D chatroom/social network.  Why not include LinkedIn type social mapping and cross pollination with other social networks - like Facebook and AIM via a widget or even and import/export buddy list option?  As arguably the most engaging digital social property, shouldn't it live beyond the prohibitive walls of Second Life?
  4. Tear Down Those Walls!
    • Second Life is not yet for everyone, why not extend the Second Life experience to the masses?  All Second Life events should be simulcast onto a LindenTube site as well as property owner sites. 
    • Additionally, there should be a number of "in the can" Avatars available for one off Second Life experiences.  These Avatars should have a limited functionality while allowing newbies to experience specified in world experiences - think NBC Concerts or IBM Meetings - without having to go through the arduous enrollment and setup process.
    • Second Life is all about communication and ultimately the communicative community.  As I said before, Second Life shouldn't live in a vacuum, but as an integrated piece of our digital social networks.  Think SL widgets, SIM links on MySpace pages and an interactive 2D/3D component much like Super Paper Mario.
  5. Interface Improvement
    • 3D navigation is never easy, and the SL interface makes it that much more challenging.  Avatar clothes and physical attributes are often stored under multiple files.  Navigation frequently requires two hands and multiple clicks.  It's time we see both some software/interface streamlining and some 3D capable hardware.  Think - a mouse with a tri-directional scroll wheel.  By scrolling up-down, right-left and mousing in those directions, we should be able to adequately control a 3D environment with only one hand.  I don't know that I would buy a specialized piece of hardware for SL, but I do know that a better, stronger, more intuitive interface is needed for mainstream adoption of the 3D web.  I don't know if hardware will drive awareness/adoption of the 3D web, or if the 3D web will drive hardware adoption (probably more likely), but at the end of the day we will have both the chicken and the egg.

note: I didn't address the obvious issue - the grey goo.  Load times and other technical issues will be resolved with the proliferation of user side ultra-high end broadband and technical server side improvements.  To me, this is more of a technical issue, and not as much a marketer issue.

Any thoughts?  Where would you like to see Second Life go over the next 6-12 months and what improvements do you believe will fuel this movement?

just as good just isn't

Dixieimitationjelly Do you remember that line - it's the same thing as ... but better (or cheaper)!

All to often, copycats just don't deliver the same offering as the original.  The Zune was not a Microsoft iPod, it was a Microsoft belly flop that played music.  Toasty O's just aren't as good as brand name Cheerios. 

VideoEgg ads are better, more robust and stronger that YouTube's current offering.'s smart targeting ad platform on Metacafe is more intellegent than Google's solution, while VideoEgg offers a better interface, but at the end of the day, YouTube is where we're going, so what difference does it really make to advertisers?  If we want to reach the millions of YouTube users we will advertise on their platform and ask Google to fix it, and rest assured they will.  So does it really make a difference if VideoEgg or YouTube played the role of Chicken and the other played the role of Egg? 

On that happy note, here's a side by side comparison of a song/video (YMCA) we probably all wished we hadn't seen and it's even worse Swedish "just as good" rip off (NMKY).

when silence spoke volumes

ShhThe end of an era

We are all familiar with Apple's secrecy.  But what happens when they speak up, when they request that "leaked photos" be taken down?  They "inadvertently" confirm the rumors, generating ever more buzz.  Can Apple PR do no wrong?  Yes, and as a matter of fact - they just messed up big time.

If you're not sure what I'm referring to, check out these posts on Gizmondo here, here and hereCrunchGear and Techeblog both covered the story as well.  Update: Engadget is now reporting this as well (more here and here).

One Line Summary: It seems there are legit pics of a new potentially OSX powered iPhone nano floating around the web and Apple requested that they be taken down.

Spyshots_1_2 With  AppleInsider and UBS reporting the upcoming launch of a new line of iPods with stonger OSX integration, it looks like the rumors are coming together to create a compelling story.

But if we look at the long term picture, did Apple just shoot themselves in the foot?  The sheer black wall of silence that was Apple PR lent secrecy, sex appeal and allure to their product launches.  Techies and Mac Fans became the heros of popular media with their semi-educated speculation around the next iPod launch.  As a society, we held our breath, waiting for the next big thing to come out of Steve Jobs' crew cut head.

Newipodnanomock_2But today Apple made a big mistake.  By requesting that specific photos of the new nano be taken down while ignoring the dozens of fake photos circulating the net, they seem to be killing the rumor mills.  We now know - if a photo is real Apple will comment, if they aren't commenting then there is no reason to pay it any attention!  Are they destroying their own hype? 

Was today the beginning of the end of the tremendously influential hype powered PR circus that was an Apple product launch?

footsteps in time

Futuresteps We are producing content at a furious rate.

Millions of users are actively publishing blogs, comments, personal pages, podcasts, photos, videos, mashups and more.

What will we do with all this content in the future?  How will we manage these vast stores of content and to what extent will date sensitivity play a role in scoring, ranking, tagging and sifting through this data? 

As more information is recorded in the timeless digital realm, we must ask ourselves: (a) how do we categorize and access these warehouses of data and (b) how should this impact my current publishing behavior?  Should we avoid issuing sweeping statements or should we write for all time?

And to that point - 20 years from now, are my comments today still fair game?

Next Gen Tagging

Tag Just got tagged by Ardath Albee over at Marketing Interactions for 8 Random Things About Me.  Before I answer this tag, lets take brief a look a the tag phenomena.  Adrath was tagged by a friend who was tagged by a friend who was in turn tagged by a friend.  I tracked this meme all the way back to a blog in German, then back to another set of blogs in English, all the time weaving in and out of technology and media themed blogs.  The conversation has traveled quite some distance, yet the only way I could track this back is by clicking on blog after blog.

Here's a freebie for all those companies looking to build a useful widget/blogger tool - enable tracking and sharing of these tags!  This is a digital community, why can't we track our conversations/tags across multiple blogs as they travel within a single embedded tool?

Anyway, here are 8 Random Things About Me:

  1. I play (in order of proficiency) piano, guitar, saxophone, clarinet, the Irish Whistle and the kazoo.
  2. I did two years of college in Israel studying Talmudic Ethics and Law - in the original Aramaic.  I later returned for a semester as a student adviser.
  3. My wife and I recently had our first, a beautiful boy named Ari.
  4. Winnie the Pooh has always been my favorite children's character.
  5. In High School I ran a social activism project committed to bringing perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice.  Working together with the US Office of Special Investigations we successfully generated awareness of and support for our cause both with the mainstream press and within Congress.  Our efforts resulted in the trial and subsequent deportation of a handful of Nazi War Criminals across the world.  Our efforts were covered by local, national and international press including a special segment on ABC's 20/20.
  6. My middle name doesn't beging with the letter A.
  7. My favorite superhero has always been Superman, but the tights and red codpiece prevented me from reaching my full superhero potential.
  8. I proposed by sending my wife on a scavenger hunt across multiple locations in Times Square. 

She thought I went to the restroom before dessert, but in reality I slipped out of the restaurant and left a note with a waiter and instruction for him to give to me soon to be fiance.  The note sent her to the Toys R Us in Times Square (down the block from the restaurant) where she had to solve some simple clues to find the next note.  The last note sent her to a hotel across the street where I was playing the piano in a white tux w/ tails complete with a top hat.  We got the whole thing on video, which I remixed to a musical score and sent to her a week before our wedding.  Hey, if you go through all that, you deserve the video!

YouTube Started the Fire

All to often, politicians try to bury their own past, forgetting their blunders.  YouTube doesn't forget.  Check out the video's below.

Rove & Nixon

Cheney on Iraq - in 1994

Bush Vs. Bush

President Bush Vs. Governor Bush

Top 10 Favorite George W. Bush Moments

Great Bush Moments

How does the era of digital video change our expectations for consistency and professionalism?