121007 Journalists On Entrepreneurs Metanomics Transcript
JOURNALISTS ON ENTREPRENEURS
DECEMBER 10, 2007
ONDER SKALL: Hello, everyone and welcome to another session of Metanomics, part of
the Metaversed Series of Events that we hold in conjunction with Cornell University’s
Johnson School. The main sponsor of Metaversed Island is The Other Land Group, “Making
sense of virtual business.” And I’d also like to take a brief moment to thank the sponsors of
the Metanomic Series and all of the Metaversed events. They are Generali Group, SAP,
Kelly Services, Cisco Systems, Saxo Bank, and Sun Microsystems. And of course, none of
this would be possible without SLCN, who are the best ones to talk to when it comes to
working with video in virtual worlds. Avatars across the grid at all event partner locations can
join the conversation by joining the Metanomics Group and also remember to join the
Metaversed Group for all future Metaversed business events. If you have any questions for
our guests today, you can send them directly to me. I am Onder Skall in Second Life. Our
main guests are actually Second Life journalists and introducing them today will be our host,
Robert Bloomfield of Cornell.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, thank you so much, Onder, and welcome everyone to
another edition of Metanomics. We have three guests today so it’s sort of a special show.
First we’ve got Daniel Terdiman who’s an award-winning CNET news.com reporter who’s
been covering Second Life for several years and he spearheaded the efforts that made
CNET the first mainstream news organization that had a permanent in-world Second Life
presence. He also is the author of a book coming out, actually that is out, The
Entrepreneur’s Guide to Second Life. Also with us today we have Urizenus Sklar who, in his
day job, is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto, Peter Ludlow. And he
actually overlapped with me briefly at Cornell University but it turns out accounting
professors don’t hang too much with philosophy professors who study transformational
syntax and topics like that, so anyway, I’m glad to have a chance to talk with him. And then
finally, Hamlet Au, Wagner James Au, who has written a number of books on Second Life,
one simply called Second Life, another which is the Official Guide and then The Making of
Second Life: Notes from the New World which will be coming out in the v-New Year
sometime in February. Now the topic of the day may sound a little odd. We actually are
mixing two themes. One is virtual world journalism and the other is entrepreneurship. This
may seem like an odd mix, but there are a few reasons to combine virtual world journalism
and entrepreneurship. First of all, all of our panelists here today are acting as both
journalists and entrepreneurs, so they have a first-hand knowledge of both topics. Second,
there’s a part of Second Life culture that is intensely entrepreneurial and who’s better than
embedded journalists to tell us about that culture? And finally entrepreneurship is the topic
of Daniel Terdiman’s most recent book The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Second Life: Making
Money in the Metaverse. You can see the card behind us that gives the cover of that book.
So I’d like to start with Daniel. Welcome to the show Daniel.
DANIEL TERDIMAN: Thank you very much for having me.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We’re delighted you could join us. My first question for you is of
all of the aspects of Second Life that you might have written about, why did you chose to
write a guide for the entrepreneur?
DANIEL TERDIMAN: Well, um, it seemed that that was something that a lot of people were
talking about in news stories and in-world and in just conversations that people were having
but nobody had written a book about it yet or nobody had a book in the works about it yet
and so I really felt like I needed to write a Second Life book. It was in me, I could feel it and
to be perfectly frank, the sort of book that I had originally wanted to write was the one that
James had just sold so that was sort of out.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And so much of your book, I had a chance to read it this
weekend, and a lot of it is sort of the basics both of how to run really any business, making
sure that people can understand that marketing is important and all of that. And then much
of it is is a how-to finding your way around the mechanics of Second Life. And so I’d like to
ask what--let’s say someone knows a lot about starting a small business and only the most
basic mechanics of Second Life. What do you see as being the biggest surprise for them as
they think about a Second Life business?
DANIEL TERDIMAN: Well, as I’ve been reading media reports about business in Second
Life, I think they may show up and feel like they can just launch a business overnight and
make a mint and I would say that that is actually as far from true as could be. What they
would need to do is get to know Second Life. They would have to spend several months,
probably even talking to people and figuring out what genre of Second Life business they
wanted to go into. And so I think it would surprise them that it would take awhile before
they’d be ready to go.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And so now you have throughout your--throughout the book
you’re talking about just many people--that it’s just name after name of people who have, in
fact, started up Second Life businesses and I’m wondering if you have a sense from your
interviews, from your travels through the world--what proportion of people would you say in
Second Life are really thinking entrepreneurially as opposed to thinking more like
DANIEL TERDIMAN: Well, I think that it’s probably, you know, I couldn’t give you any exact
numbers, but it’s probably--boils down to about the same as in real life. There are a small
number of people relative to a larger community who are the business owners and they’re
really serving the larger population. I mean, it’s certainly true that the Second Life
community has a higher percentage of content creators than probably in the real world and
that is certainly a thread that you see throughout Second Life. But I don’t think that the
number of people who are wanting to run businesses is some massive, massive percentage
of the population. But it is significant.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: One of the reasons that I ask is that Second Life--well, I should
say Linden Lab in promoting Second Life, has really emphasized pretty heavily the ability to
make real money. You know, your world, your imagination, and the various tag lines that
they’ve used that they really appear to be selling Second Life pretty strongly as a place for
entrepreneurs. Now actually, James--so we have Hamlet Au here, Wagner James Au.
Welcome to Metanomics.
HAMLET AU: Thank you.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now, in the book that you have that’s going to be coming out
shortly, The Making of Second Life: Notes from the New World, you have a chapter, “Avatar
as Entrepreneur.” And one of the things that you talk about there is actually Linden Labs’
calculation and decision that they were going to sell Second Life this way, to allow the
residents to own and profit from their creations. Can you just tell us a little bit about that
story and tell us to what extent do you think they’ve been successful?
HAMLET AU: Well, a lot of things led up to them creating a policy where you could become
a natural entrepreneur in the sense that you’re making U.S. dollars by converting the Linden
dollars that you earn to U.S. dollars and also that you own the IP rights. A lot of it was
almost an act of desperation in the sense that in 2003, shortly after Second Life went
commercial in the summer, the growth rate was just kind of plateaued, it wasn’t growing
very much and then they had a tax revolt because people used to get taxed based on the
amount of objects they created in the world. And a group was creating a big project and
were getting taxed up the wazoo and because they were trying to build icons to American
history, American pop culture, they had a big tax revolt with giant pea crates and--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’ve heard of that.
HAMLET AU: Yeah. So that was kind of the--I mean it was a tax revolt and there was also
kind of a social revolution because it was sort of the society telling the owners of Second
Life, the company, that “Look, this revenue model that you have is not working.” Which was
at the time, it was still a monthly subscription very much like a traditional, old school MMO.
And so that happened and the growth rate was not working and Linden Lab brought in a
bunch of really top experts to kind of help them think through this process. One was Julian
Dibbell. Kind of one of the first guys to start writing about virtual worlds as a true space, as a
like a socially important reality and also Edward Castronova who kind of pioneered the
whole analysis of virtual worlds as an economy. And then Lawrence Lessig, who of course
is the big Stanford professor, Founder of the Creative Comments movement. And so during
that conversation, Lessig said, “Well, you know you’re trying to create a world where people
can create content but you’re not letting them own it. Why don’t you let them own it?” And
they just went, “Oh, you know, we never really thought of that.” And so they had a long
conversation with their lawyers, of course, because the lawyers freaked out and that was
the basis of them instantiating the policy where it was going to be that residents would retain
the underline(?) IP rights to anything they created in Second Life and also at the same time
change the policy that you could buy and sell Linden dollars for U.S. dollars and also
coupled with that or tripled with that as were--instead of having a monthly subscription, you
would buy land and pay a monthly land fee. And so that really did lead to the explosion, the
kind of entrepreneurial explosion that began right pretty much in the beginning of 2004 and
it’s been expanding crazily ever since. It started in 2004 really the companies only started
getting interested in 2006, like the real world companies, I mean, but by that time there was
already a really robust in-world economy going on. So what’s interesting I think is Linden
Lab’s policies have definitely worked on the in-world basis in terms of having a really strong
internal economy. The Second Life to real world economic applications are coming along
slowly, but as we’ve seen in late 2006 there’s been a lot of failures and frustrations with the
real world company side. A lot of because I think they misperceive what Second Life is and
they sort of come in and treat it like sort of a non-interactive sort of top-down traditional
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So before we get too much into the real world companies, I would
like to focus more on the entrepreneurs who--really the residents, residents creating
businesses to serve other residents. Actually first I can’t help but point out that the three
people you mentioned: Larry Lessig, Ted Castronova, and Julian Dibbell, we had the latter
two on Metanomics already so two down and one to go. I hope to get Lessig on this show
sometime in the coming year. And those of you who are interested in these topics, you can
go back to the earlier Metanomics shows and look at the interviews that we had with
Castronova and Dibbell. Let me actually, James, just ask the same questions of you that I
asked of Daniel, which are what do you think would be the biggest surprises that a real
world entrepreneur would find or the biggest challenges trying to run a business in Second
HAMLET AU: I’d say the biggest challenges would be becoming part of the culture and the
community, because really it seems like that’s like a large part of becoming successful is not
just setting up shop but kind of being part of the fabric of the world and events and knowing
the people that help make the community thrive and that’s also part of it. I mean, when you
look at it, Second Life is still kind of a large--well, I’ll say medium-sized city, it’s about a half
million active users, so that’s about the size of San Francisco and anyone who lives in San
Francisco will know that like if you think of the businesses that run here, most people tend to
know each other and there’s a lot of interwoven connections. There’s a larger international
economy that’s going in Second Life, but if you look at the local business and stuff, they all
kind of are a close-knit group. So I think that’s sort of the important thing for a real world
entrepreneur who comes in.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Um-hmm. Okay, now one of the challenges--as I’ve talked with
entrepreneurs, one of the challenges that I’ve found is on the marketing side, is actually
finding the audience that would like what you have to sell and actually getting them to know
who you are, what you have to offer, and getting that sort of expansive message out, name
recognition and so on. And that’s one reason I’m delighted to have three people who have
been dealing with journalism and media. And in particular we have Urizenus Sklar here.
URIZENUS SKLAR: Thank you, thank you.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So now you are one of the--you’ve done lots of fascinating things
but--and in fact, what--I understand you’ve been called by MTV one of the ten most
influential video game players of all time, which I think is very interesting for a philosopher.
So let me give you kudos for that. Now, you are one of the founders of the Second Life
Herald and so we’ll talk about the journalism side of this in a little bit, I definitely want to get
to that, but this is one of the most well-known, one of the most popular blogs, or Second Life
newspapers and it’s filled with advertisements. So I wonder if you could talk a little bit about
your experience as, one, as an entrepreneur starting up a--what is a effectively a media
business and then, two, where you see advertising fitting into the in-world entrepreneurial
URIZENUS SKLAR: Ah, yeah, that’s a good question because--but let me respond with a
question. What do we mean by an entrepreneur here? I mean, do we just mean a small
business person or do we mean someone who’s doing something for money? I’ve been
sitting here wondering what it is that we mean when we’re talking about entrepreneurs
because I’m not really sure.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: That’s actually a very good question and I mean, I can give my
take; maybe the other panelists would like to weigh in. I actually have two responses to this.
One is I think very simply entrepreneurs are in the business of creating institutions that are
going to be profitable by coming up with some new idea and usually we look for that
institution to last beyond themselves, so you know, they’re creating a business that they can
sell perhaps. Now I think it’s true that there are so many people in Second Life who are
doing things--you know, maybe we need to call it self-actualization because they’re not
actually looking for profit and I guess I would--let me just use myself as an example because
I’m not making a penny off of hosting this show, but it’s fascinating. It’s kind of an extension
of my research. I get to talk with people I would otherwise never meet and learn a lot. I get
to ask the questions so I get to direct the show so that I can learn things that I want to know.
But I think I would say we’re looking primarily at least, speaking as a business professor,
primarily at the first group of people who are looking for profit but to the extent you want to
talk about the self-actualizers that’s a pretty fascinating group as well.
URIZENUS SKLAR: Yeah, it’s very interesting to me because I don’t recall, and maybe
James or Dan remember this number better than I do, but isn’t the percentage of content
creators in Second Life something like a third of the population? And by that I mean possibly
even content creators that even sell what they make? Is that correct, James?
HAMLET AU: I think it’s a third that create content. As far as sell, it’s a smaller percentage,
but not that much smaller.
URIZENUS SKLAR: Do we know? Is it more than 10% maybe?
HAMLET AU: Well, you could look at it in terms of--well, you have the number of people
who are making a profit in Second Life, which--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Which is a much smaller number and actually we can talk about
that a little or people can go look at the statistics on the Second Life data page. And you’re
really only talking about in the hundreds of people that are making any significant Linden
inflow. On the other hand--
HAMLET AU: There’s people who are making more money than they’re putting in, in terms
of once they convert the cash and that’s almost 50,000, so that’s actually roughly 10% of the
active user base.
URIZENUS SKLAR: Was that Dan? 50,000 people are making more money than they’re
HAMLET AU: Yes. Positive [INAUDIBLE] inflow [CROSSTALK] 45,000.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: If I can just weigh in here for a moment. I know we have an
audience of people who probably have their hands free again and know where to find this
data and then can type it to us in the Metanomics backchat channel and so if we gave about
45 seconds, I’m guessing we’ll get that.
URIZENUS SKLAR: Right. I mean, the other thing is on those numbers, when we talk about
people making money, I mean, I don’t know if we’re calculating the value of their time into all
of this, too. So if you calculated that people that are getting out more than they’re putting in
and then you sort of figure out the sort of what they could be making if they were babysitting
instead, I’m wondering what the number comes to at that point?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And as JenzZa Misfit just pointed out, people who are being paid
directly in U.S. dollars are not showing up here at all. It is, in fact, I’m looking at the page
now, it’s just under 50,000 people that have positive monthly Linden flow, but I know that a
lot of the people who are making the big money actually are indeed--they are getting paid
directly in cash or PayPal or something like that so Linden doesn’t know about it. If I could
direct the conversation back, Uri, to the Second Life _____. Could you tell us a little bit
about--well, I guess I have a bunch of questions. One is do you guys make--did you make
money? Was that really a for-profit endeavor and how effective was it for resident
entrepreneurs as a way to get advertising on the site and tell people about their
URIZENUS SKLAR: Well, we’re not very aggressive about soliciting advertising at this
point. It will be a point of interest to you that my father was an entrepreneur and I decided I
was never going to be one because I saw how much time and effort and work goes into that.
I mean, if you’re an entrepreneur--I mean a real one; it means you’re working 18-hour days
and so forth. I think that there is a profit model for what all of us do, but I think that it’s not
coming through the advertising, that just pays for the reporters and so forth. I think that
probably where the income for all of us is going to come is through publications of books;
you’ll notice that all three of us just had books come out and also speaking engagements
and things like that. So I think that the business model for a virtual journalist is probably,
probably not going to come through the banner ads and so forth, but it’s going to come
through the kinds of contacts that you make, the kinds of publications you do and the kind of
consulting you get called in to do. So the business model is probably a non-standard one
and actually, I’d be curious if James and Dan agreed with me on this.
DANIEL TERDIMAN: I would say that there aren’t going to be very many people who are
going to make money as in-world journalists, although I talked in my book, I had a little
feature on Cat Congo and the Metaverse Messenger and she claims, and of course there’s
no way for me to verify it, but she claims that she’s making a full-time living with the
Metaverse Messenger and that’s strictly from ads.
HAMLET AU: For me, I could make a full-time living from my blog with the advertising if I
did not live in San Francisco.
URIZENUS SKLAR: I want to know, you know, I don’t know what people consider to be a
full-time living, but I don’t--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Remember we are talking about journalism here.
URIZENUS SKLAR: Yeah, right. I don’t know what does that mean, 100,000 a year, 20,000
a year? I don’t know what full-time living means. 10,000 a year?
HAMLET AU: I’d say 30,000 a year if you--
URIZENUS SKLAR: 30,000 a year? All right.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, 30,000 a year is definitely an RL journalist, credible
HAMLET AU: I’m not making close to that for New World Notes but that’s also because I’m
doing other--well, it’s actually the book and I also write for GigaOM which is--it’s a blog and
mine is a blog so it’s really it’s a matter of if you can get your page views up to a certain
point where your adverting dollars really start coming in a lot.
URIZENUS SKLAR: I’d say for all three of us there’s no urgency to make money now and I
think it’s more important to sort of build the audience and then play the long tale(?). I mean
that’s my attitude about this. So if money is ever going to come from this, it’s not going to
come this year or next year but it may be a few years down the line.
HAMLET AU: I’m not sure I agree, Peter. I was talking with some folks at the Second Life
Insider before they kind of moved it to massively(?), but that was a matter of them launching
under a large blog network and being able to bring page views from a Joystick and the other
sites that are on web blogs--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, more game-oriented.
HAMLET AU: --they were doing quite well. I mean, I don’t want to quote the figures I was
hearing but, yeah, you could make a living from doing that.
URIZENUS SKLAR: I don’t know _____ quite well, does that mean $30,000 a year or does
it mean more than that?
HAMLET AU: That’s reasonable, or more. Again, I don’t want to quote the figures they gave
me because it was off the record, but--
DANIEL TERDIMAN: Remember, Uri, also that, you know, $30,000 for somebody who’s
living in, say, some small town in Texas or Louisiana is, you know, it’s not a great living, but
it’s certainly enough to live on. It’s not going to get you very far--
URIZENUS SKLAR: Yeah, it’s definitely a living, yeah, no doubt.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So this brings up another question, and again, I’m glad to have
the three of you here to ask because you’ve interviewed so many of the people who are
running various businesses. Is there a typical profile of the type of person who chooses to
run a Second Life business, you know, be an entrepreneur in Second Life rather than in the
real world? I have in my own head, I have the idea of people who maybe live in small towns
and so there just isn’t a market for them where they live. Maybe they have some type of
constraint that keeps them from working full time; they have young kids at home or perhaps
a disability. Is my impression way off?
DANIEL TERDIMAN: This is Daniel; let me weigh in on that. Just to say I think that the
thing that’s going to set the Second Life entrepreneurs apart from others is that they’re
people who actually really love Second Life. I mean, that’s something I heard over and over
and over again from the people that I spoke with is like, “Don’t try to do this just to make
money, do it because you love it. Do it because you love Second Life and that you would
probably do it for free anyway.” Not that they don’t want to make money, obviously, but that
they’re doing it because they have a real passion for it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay, would either of the other two like to weigh in?
URIZENUS SKLAR: Well, I actually have a question for Dan and I have to ask it and I might
as well ask it now. Because it’s a little bit relevant. So you have this book in which you
interview lots of Second Life entrepreneurs, right, but there’s no interview of Anshe Chung in
there so I was just sort of curious as to why that was the case. The most famous of all
Second Life entrepreneurs. I just have to know.
DANIEL TERDIMAN: Uri, are you being prompted here by Proc(?)
URIZENUS SKLAR: No. I want to know. The whole world wants to know why.
DANIEL TERDIMAN: Okay, all right. In fact, it does have to do with the penis thing.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay, now I have to tell you guys two things. One is as far as the
penis thing goes; we have a lot of listeners who aren’t well steeped in Second Life lore, so
you have to elaborate on that story. The second thing is I want to remind you this--it’s a
family show, it’s a PT sim.
DANIEL TERDIMAN: No problem. So the truth is I did an interview for CNET in the Second
Life--in CNET Second Life Theatre last December, I believe it was, almost a year ago. And
the interview was griefed pretty badly and my relationship with Anshe, which I didn’t have
much of a relationship with her before that, kind of deteriorated from there and the truth is
that I did attempt to get Anshe to give me an interview for the book and my requests for the
interview were not returned. I’ve been told since then that they didn’t see my requests for
the interview, but there were multiple requests and they were not returned so you can do the
math. However, I did recognize that Anshe was perhaps the most important Second Life
entrepreneur and I did include in the book parts of the original interview that I did with her for
URIZENUS SKLAR: Okay.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. I see we have about 20-25 minutes left so I do want to
remind our audience in Second Life and watching the live stream on the web that you can
get questions to us through Second Life through the Metanomics Group Channel or you can
send an instant message to Onder Skall and he will be forwarding these to me. We have a
bunch of questions but before we get there, I’d like to shift a little bit to talk about journalism
and, Daniel, let me start with you because you were working for CNet, and as I mentioned at
the top of the hour, you brought them in to have a real world presence. And I’m wondering if
you can just talk about the difficulty of conducting reputable journalism in virtual worlds like
DANIEL TERDIMAN: Well, I haven’t really had difficulties with that at all. To be sure, my
coverage of Second Life has been very different than the coverage that Uri and James have
done because I’m writing for CNET News.com which is not a Second Life publication and
our readers are probably less interested in the sort of day-to-day goings on in-world. So a lot
of my coverage of Second Life for CNET and, previous to that for Wired, has been more of a
sort of high level--stories about the economy, the fact that there are virtual world economies
or the legal issues or the social issues. As I’ve said kind of from a more high-level view and
less from a, as I say, boots on the ground type of view.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Um-hmm. Well, let me ask, though, when you interview someone
in Second Life, they’re giving you a name which may simply be their avatar’s name.
DANIEL TERDIMAN: That’s right.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: It makes it difficult for you to do the same sorts of verification we
would normally expect and--you know, in finding that second source and so on can become
DANIEL TERDIMAN: Yeah. And so we’ve made a decision in our newsroom and it’s not
just for Second Life, but for other games and so forth that we’re okay with using somebody’s
avatar name to identify them. We accept that. An avatar name is still a representation of a
real person and what we’re interested in is what the real person has to say whether we
know their real name or their avatar name.
ROBERT BLOOMINGFIELD: Okay. Uri, do you want to weigh in on this at all?
URIZENUS SKLAR: Ah, sure. _____ is a kind of _____ or the ecology _____ [INAUDIBLE.
AUDIO SKIPS] and a little bit about how feeders, because they churn, [AUDIO SKIPS] what
you get is _____ media. You have the low-level people like churn up stuff and then the next
layer can sort of vet that and decide if it’s total bullcrap and it keeps like, I don’t want to use
the word floating up, but that’s what’s coming to mind. And then--I mean I think it’s important
to have different levels of credibility, different levels of accuracy. So not just that you’re
covering different areas or different topics, but that you have a broad range of different kinds
of media outlets that are covering things from--well, to be frank, with sort of different levels
of care and attention to detail and so forth.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And so am I to infer from this that you think most of the outlets
covering Second Life are not particularly reputable and should be taken with more than one
grain of salt?
URIZENUS SKLAR: No, I think that most of them are reputable. I think that mine is the one
that should be taken with a grain of salt. So I’m making a case for--I mean, I’m like very
interested lately in epistemology and the theory of knowledge and what it takes to have an
institution or a community that actually has knowledge. And for sure it needs people that
absolutely, positively vet everything and are totally anal retentive about getting everything
right, but I think it’s also important to have people that are able to dig stuff up and put it into
the infosphere right away. And I think not just media outlets, but blogs and chat rooms and
all kinds of venues do this, but one of the things I’ve learned in doing all this is I’m starting to
get a picture of how having multiple media sources work here and it’s an extremely
fascinating picture to me.
HAMLET AU: Related to that area, I noticed you guys had to change an article or do a
strikeover because it was about the Electric Sheep and there’s some theory that they were
using Copybot and such.
URIZENUS SKLAR: Ah, that was a year ago. Sorry?
HAMLET AU: Because now that there are entrepreneurs real-world based and Second-Life
based that are making a living off this anytime an article is dubious and they could argue it
hurts their business. I mean, they could take a blogger to court.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I do think that’s a very real issue.
HAMLET AU: There’s been two cases that have settled and in favor of the plaintiff already.
But not over libel or whatever but over a copyright dispute, but I think kind of the next
inevitability will be entrepreneurs who feel that their reputation or business has been
besmirched by a blogger and the lawsuits will start flying if they’re not accurate.
URIZENUS SKLAR: Yeah, I know, I agree that that’s a possibility. I wouldn’t do anything to
avoid a lawsuit like that because I think it would be utterly fascinating to be in the middle of a
lawsuit like that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Have you discussed that interest with your lawyer?
URIZENUS SKLAR: Well, the lawyer doesn’t care; it’ll just put his kids through college.
What does the lawyer care? But I mean, I think that would be a great place to be, to be in
the middle of a lawsuit like that. Yeah. I mean, if it was wrong, I’d say it was wrong, but I
wouldn’t back down just from a threat of a lawsuit or something, I mean, never.
HAMLET AU: Well, I mean, if you--no. I’m talking about just public _____ stuff that is bogus
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: If I could ask you, Uri, one of the issues that you have with the
Second Life Herald is that there’s a large staff of people who are writing there. It’s not--my
impression both Daniel and James, you guys are writing your own stories on your own,
you’re doing the research yourself. Oh, okay. Well, actually let me ask you specifically with
the Second Life Herald, Uri, how actively do you control the people who are writing and
recommend standards? Do you have best practices trying to verify stories and so on?
URIZENUS SKLAR: No, no. Absolutely not. I mean the only thing we’ve done recently is
we’ve had everyone report to a central editor, Pixeleen Mistral, and not everyone was happy
with that change in policy, but there is no set policy in terms of standards or whatever the
case might be. I forget what the term is that you used.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Corroborating sources and so on.
URIZENUS SKLAR: Aw, no, no, no, there’s none of that get two sources thing. I mean, no,
no, no, no. In a way, if you started to institute something like that then people would start to
expect you to be a reliable source and in a way it makes you--that’s the sort of thing that
actually makes you vulnerable in a way. See, when I walk through the grocery store and I
read the headlines, you know, like “Elvis Shows Up in a Flying Saucer and Greets Big Foot”
and all that stuff, I’m like totally fascinated with those types of stories. You know, they’re in
there and nobody believes them but maybe if you think about it in terms of Bazzey and
epistemology it’s sort of like, well, you figured there was a 0.001% chance of that being true
and then you see it and you think well, maybe it’s a 0.003% chance. And maybe some of
this kicks things up into the realm of probability where people can actually want to
investigate these questions further. And I think it’s important that there be a venue where
people can actually broadcast what people are actually saying and thinking and give us the
opportunity to investigate these questions with more care. I don’t want to institute standards
because there are--90% of the people out there are already doing something like that and
we don’t need people to vet things. We don’t need people to make sure there’s no
falsehood. What we really need is the opportunity to float hypotheses that are under
discussion and then give people a chance to discuss them and vet them in an open space
instead of having the media vet them for us.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Either of you other guys want to weigh in on that topic? Dan, you
went to Columbia School of Journalism, the Mecca of--probably the best-known journalism
program. I’m sure they inculcated some sense of journalistic standards and--how does Uri’s
proposal sound to you?
DANIEL TERDIMAN: I’m sorry; I was having trouble hearing him. Could you just sum it up
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’m trying to figure out a short way to say this that won’t impugn
the standards of the Second Life Herald. I guess the question is--
DANIEL TERDIMAN: B.S. _____ is good for society. Is that a good summary?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, do you want to see an outlet like the Second Life Herald
insisting on fairly strict standards before they publish something or should it be--it’s like
where do they fall between all the news that’s fit to print and all the news that fits, which of
course on a blog is just about anything anyone wants to write.
DANIEL TERDIMAN: Right. So here’s my take on that. I think that what we have here is a
free market of journalism in Second Life and it would be great if the Second Life Herald or
any of the blogs or publications are covering the news on a serious level and telling people
the things that they really want to know, but at the same time I think that any publication, be
it the Herald or any other should be free to say whatever they want as long as they’re not
libeling people. So I think it’s really up to the individual organization to do what they want to
do and let the market respond.
URIZENUS SKLAR: I was just going to say, I would never sort of say, “Columbia School of
Journalism shouldn’t be doing what’s it’s doing” because doing what Dan and James do is
very difficult and it’s very hard and you need to be trained to do that. All I’m saying is that
what you need is a kind of robust media ecology that includes not only what they train you to
do at the Columbia School of Journalism, but it also includes things that you get in like
tabloidey newspapers and so forth.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. And James, did you want to weigh in on that?
HAMLET AU: Yeah. I mean, for me--I sort of understand I think where Peter’s coming from,
from a theoretical perspective. I’d just say that I really--I sent you that link--I started, pretty
much the first interview I did in Second Life was with a woman named Catherine Omega
and she told me that this mansion that she was building in Second Life she had done--
created most of it while being homeless in real life because she was squatting in an
abandoned apartment building and she was able to hack her way into getting wireless
internet with some--cobbling together some parts from back of a computer store and so I,
right from the beginning, had this kind of, it is an epistemological dilemma of okay, is this
true and what’s it mean if it’s true? If it’s not true, that also is significant. And I mention all of
that when I wrote the article. I said well, either way it’s really interesting. But to me it is
important to acknowledge that there is a reality behind this and in that case it turned out to
be true. It was like I actually know people that know her and I actually got to meet Catherine
later on. So that story held up. But to me it was very important that it is a true story. Or at
least if I’m going to acknowledge that it might not be, just say that’s part of the reality that’s
being created in Second Life. But to me it’s just that I meet so many people that so much of
their real world is being embodied and represented in what they’re doing, especially
entrepreneurs, like you’re saying, that they are people who are handicapped in real life or
they have opportunities that have been withheld from them because they have disabilities or
they’re in the middle of nowhere. And that’s really important to reflect and that’s the reality.
And so to me I don’t want to ever depict what’s going on as just fantastic and weird and sort
of silly because it is having a real impact on people’s lives. And it’s people’s lives you’re
writing about so that has to be taken deeply seriously. I mean, unless they come in and
present it as role playing and that’s a different level and there are a fair amount of people
who do that in Second Life, but I’d say the majority are representing aspects of themselves
that are very important to them--aspects of their real life self that they’re representing in
Second Life and that has to be respected. So it’s not only a matter of a theoretical thing,
you’re dealing with people’s lives and they deserve respect.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. We’re getting toward the end of our hour and as I look at
the questions, many of them we’ve actually answered indirectly and then there’s a set of
questions that we haven’t yet addressed that are all along the lines of what do you see
coming up in the future? This is the classic 2007 is ending and we’re going to have our big
end-of-the-year show where we all talk about the future. The three of you guys have a pretty
broad grasp of Second Life and I’m wondering if you’ll make some predictions for what’s
going to happen in the year to come?
DANIEL TERDIMAN: I’ll start off. Well, I’ve been doing a lot of interviews recently, a lot of
them tied to my book, and the question that I seem to get more often than anything else is,
“Is another virtual world going to come along that’s going to, let’s say, knock Second Life off
the top of the heap?” And so I’ll address that question. I think what we will see is sometime
in the next year or so we are going to see somebody either launch or at least announce a
virtual world that looks like it could be technologically superior to Second Life. I mean, we all
know that Second Life, as wonderful as it is, has no ends to technological problems. But
what I always say to that is that even if somebody can come along and create a better
[version], 3-D, social, open-ended virtual world, they’re still going to take several years to
catch up to what Second Life has done because they won’t have the several years of
content that the users have created. So this is something that it’s just going to keep coming
up in conversation after conversation after conversation: people trying to do a better Second
Life. But until they can get that critical mass of users and the users’ content, Second Life is
going to still be the one that gets the most of mindshare so long as Linden Lab doesn’t go
out of business.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Um-hmm. Okay. Who--James, you want to weigh in on your
HAMLET AU: Yeah. I’ll spin off on that a little bit. I mostly agree with Daniel. I think that
Linden Lab is not as safe as that suggests, though. I think 2008 is going to be the make-or-
break for Second Life as a business platform. I think it will never go away. There’s always
going to be a robust community. But there are at least, I’ve counted for GigaOM, because I
cover online worlds in general for GigaOM.com, there’s upwards of a dozen online worlds
that are either been announced or in development or already are on the market that have
Second Life as a reference. There’s HiPiHi in China which is already out in Beta. Metaplace
from Raph Koster who--really, really smart guy and he’s creating a system that already has
way more robust interoperability(?) because it’s all run on the Web. I just heard one from
MTV and they’re citing Second Life and there are several more other ones. And what Daniel
says is definitely true, that there’s already a robust ecology so it would be hard for people to
catch up. But at the same time that’s kind of the magic of 2.0 is you get a critical mass of
people who want to start from the ground up. They’re going to start creating a lot of really
good content really quickly and right now Linden Lab is really having a make-or-break with
the scalability problems that have just kind of reached a crux and you can see that from the
active user base is sort of been flickering between half million to six hundred thousand and
it’s been growing consistently over the last few years but the last few months it sort of kind
of, I don’t want to say stagnating, but it’s definitely flickering and it’s definitely related, in
large part, to these scalability issues. In other words, well, just the experience we had now.
We’re trying to have this meeting and we keep crashing and trying to get connections. We
can’t even run the Vivox, I guess, so that’s why we’re using Skype. So these are the issues
they’re having and I will say we could be very surprised how quickly things could shift in the
next year. I think 2008 we’ll know whether Second Life is going to be the NetScape of the
virtual world space or if it’s going to be the Firefox.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay, and Uri.
URIZENUS SKLAR: Yeah. No, I agree totally with James here. I think that things could
move very rapidly and people could move off of Second Life or it could become less
relevant. I think these virtual worlds never die. The MUDs and MOOs are still percolating
away and so is The Sims Online, but I think that things could all move onto some Ogoglio-
style platform where everything is being developed on PCs all around the world and so
forth. But the thing is that it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter to us because what we’re
interested in here is the community of people that showed up in Second Life and a lot of the
people here I first met in The Sims Online and they moved into Second Life with all of their
social groups intact and even some of the activities they were involved in, intact. Like a lot of
the sex(?) club people in Second Life came over from The Sims Online for example. And I
think that all three of us here are really not tracking a platform so much as the people and
the businesses on that platform. And they are kind of like nomadic tribes in a way. I’ve
already followed these people from The Sims Online on to Second Life and I’m thinking
about what happens when they start to migrate again. And already the content creators, the
Metaversed development companies like Anshe Chung and The Electric Sheep; they’re all
positioning themselves for providing content for the next thing. And in many cases they’re
doing more work for platforms other than Second Life than they are for Second Life right
now. So I think James is absolutely right. We don’t know; it kind of looks like Second Life
might have hit a wall and maybe it has and maybe it hasn’t, but to us it doesn’t matter
because we’re going to follow the people and the businesses and those are going to
continue. Those are the things that are really permanent here.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay, Uri, I’m going to let you have the last word given that we
are out of time. So I would very much like to thank our panelists today. Greeterdan Goodell
is Daniel Terdiman from CNet News, author of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Second Life.
Urizenus Sklar is Peter Ludlow, Professor of Philosophy and one of the founders of the
Second Life Herald. And Hamlet Au is Wagner James Au, who has written a number of
books including the forthcoming The Making of Second Life: Notes from the New World. All
of the books we’ve mentioned are available on Amazon and I again want to thank you all for
joining us. Thank you audience for tuning in and we will have a--Metanomics is going to be
continuing. We have one more this year, next Monday, and we are at this point scheduled to
go throughout the end of the academic year through ‘til May of 2008 and perhaps beyond.
So my big projection is that people are going to keep coming back to Metanomics to see a
very interesting group of speakers that I hope to be announcing later in this month. So thank
you all for coming. Bye-bye.
[END OF AUDIO]
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com
Second Life Avatar: Transcriptionist Writer