The Second Life hype cycle

Second Life
It seems that you can’t pick up a magazine or newspaper these days without seeing lengthy articles that focus on the negative side of Second Life.

The latest comes from Time magazine in a feature last week.

Reality is catching up with Second Life, says the magazine in its article entitled Second Life’s Real-World Problems.

Like others before it, this article talks about companies who have departed the virtual world for one reason or another, usually referencing disappointment with objectives not realized, ROI not met, etc.

What caught my attention in particular in Time’s article is a perceptive quote from IT industry analysts Gartner Group:

[…] Says Gartner research chief Steve Prentice: “Second Life is moving into a phase of disillusionment.”

I think he’s absolutely right. I’m actually feeling that a bit myself – like some magic is disappearing from my own experiences in Second Life.

But none of this is the doom and gloom scenario you might think, and which quite a few mainstream media folk (and some others) do think.

Look at it in the context of Gartner’s own hype cycle, their annual analysis/projection of the realities of where certain technologies are in relation to their adoption.

If we consider Second Life in that context, I think we’d see it on the slippery downward slope towards that phase (the trough) that Prentice speaks of.

About where the orange arrow is pointing, in fact:

Second Life hype cycle

What’s important for Second Life and everyone using it is how quickly it emerges from that trough of disillusionment and out into the slope of enlightenment.

What will help the acceleration are the kinds of activities being conducted by many of the companies Time mentions, before they threw in their towels.

If everyone did that, then Second Life will skid to a halt in that trough.

Linden Lab is the other important element in this picture. As the developer of the Second Life environment, their role is absolutely crucial for the future well-being of that environment and all in it.

But overall, I think it’s down to the companies and individuals who are active in Second Life. They hold the key to what happens to it.

Leaders like IBM, Dell and General Motors (to name but a few) are the ones who persist, listen, learn and look for a long-term return.

Still, it’s understandable that the media in particular are talking about perceived negatives. And when you read a story like this one in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, on the toll one man’s virtual marriage is taking on his real one, you do begin to wonder a bit.

But let’s hang in there. I think it’s worth it in the long term.

Now go and read Newsweek’s take on Second Life.

(Thanks to Tom Murphy for the clean hype cycle graph from which I made the simple one you see here.)