second life

Second Life vs My Real One

March 23rd, 2007

Get a First Life

I’m still getting over a bit of a head cold (read “man flu”), but this cheered me up.

Deborah Weil flagged this single-page parody of Second Life, Get A First Life.

Second Life – compare this page – is the virtual world that a handful of not-for-profits have dabbled in over recent months, which I have been following on this blog.

I meant to mention that journalist Peter Davy interviewed me for his alternative realities article [not sure how long this will be available online], which appeared in the Jan/Feb issue of Charity Times. The jury is still out on Second Life, of course.

And did you read that apparently avatars consume as much electricity as your average Brazilian (is there such a thing?).

I’ve got as far as creating my avatar (“Joe Boa”), but I’m with Amy Gahran: Second Life: I’ve enough going on in my First Life, thanks.

By Steve Bridger filed under second life

Technorati avatars, get a first life, second life

Children’s charity checks into virtual hotel

March 3rd, 2007

I’ve written previously about how the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has embraced innovation to raise awareness of its cause.

Now Childline, which merged with the NSPCC last year, has created the Childline Zen Garden room in Habbo Hotel – a virtual community for teenagers. The child protection charity hopes that its three-month stay in Habbo (until May) will allow it to reach out to the young audience in their natural browsing environment.

The room was unoccupied when this screengrab was taken as all ‘Habbos’ (the user-created avatars) were in school at the time.

Childline Zen Garden in Habbo Hotel

The charity will host events and activities on Habbo aimed at getting young people involved in its anti-bullying campaign, Don’t Hide It.

Rebecca Newton, Safety & Moderation Manager for Habbo’s creators, Sulake Corporation, told me that there’s a promo on the Habbo UK website about the Zen Garden room. This is the primary way of pushing traffic to partnered areas – along with word-of-mouth.

Habbo UK now attracts 750,000 players aged 11-18 each month, according to this BBC article.

Habbo Hotel UKEmily Knee, NSPCC’s digital project manager is quoted as saying…

It is imperative that we talk to teenagers in their own environment, much of which is online

She hopes the partnership with Habbo will drive traffic to the NSPCC website, as well as encouraging members of the community to take part in polls and design an anti-bullying themed room.

The NSPCC previously ran some interactive ads on Habbo (as well as Mykindaplace and Bebo).

Habbo started in Finland in 2000, so pre-dates Second Life by three years or so. It’s probably the first successful virtual world this side of the pond.

I like the look of the two-dimensional Habbo. It’s more colourful than Second Life’s 3D environment – and hence, more appealing to teens.

As Rebecca put it:

There’s no peer pressure to look “older” or “cool” since we’re all 2-inch pixelated characters.

Technorati anti-bullying, childline, habbo hotel, net2, nptechuk, nspcc, sulake

What does Second Life success look like for non-profits?

December 21st, 2006

Continuing my Second Life thread, Kathryn Parsons at Ogilvy has tipped me off that “LittleToe Bartlett’s” Two-Headed Yak (pictured) has been selected as the winner from last Saturday’s “Yak Show” (see my earlier post).

LittleToe Bartlett's Two Headed YakDavid Thompson of World Vision also got in touch with me this week. The relief and development charity has now joined SCF in Second Life.

Second Life ‘inhabitants’ can see and interact with some of the gifts in World Vision’s Alternative Catalogue, which this year supports 53 of the charity’s community projects around the world.

These include a school building with classroom desk, chair, books and pens, and a tractor (for hire) pledged to a bridge construction project over the River Thondwe in Malawi. You can milk a cow destined for Kenya, pat a sheep needed by a community in Senegal, and even sit in a toilet latrine, required to improve hygiene facilities in a school in real-world Armenia.

Clicking on these items, or the sign boards next to the gifts in the ‘village’, will display more information and take you to the charity’s catalogue online.

Hire a Construction Tractor - World Vision in Second LifeJason Suttie of London-based Copper Industries is working with World Vision on this one. He hinted to me that while there is definitely an interest in Second Life among charities, the “uncertainty and newness” is a barrier to many actually making a commitment.

I guess we’re at the “proof of concept” stage. Second Life may take your charity to infinity and beyond. Then again, it may not.

Last week Allan Benamer wrote a curmudgeonly post (not my words, but one of the commenters) giving some reasons why Second Life “is a waste of time for not-for-profits”.

Well, that may be so. It’s simply too early to tell.

I recall a recent post by Mark Chillingworth; he describes Geoffrey Bilder as saying Web 2.0 is “the edge is the new centre… with content being generated around the edges.”

And there’s much to be said for this assessment:

Bilder describes the deployment of tech as having to pass through processes that includes a hype, failure and then re-emergence phase. The trouble with this, he says, is that we focus on one instance of a technology during the hype time.

I’m still not sure what to make of cause-related avatars myself. For instance, I have particular concerns about their sustainability. I (just about) remember the hype surrounding VRML2.0 after attending a couple of meetings of the London VR Group ten years ago.   At the moment (and I may change my view) I identify with Susan Wu’s comments about Second Life:

Second Life is interesting to me – I truly respect the service, but I don’t love it. That is, I have a lot of intellectual respect for the way they’ve run their business – they’ve been bold, innovative, and relentlessly experimental. But the service doesn’t grab me emotionally. I also think that their high technical barriers to participation and the fact that SL is a closed standards system ultimately deters them from reaching mass market adoption. Yes, they get a lot of publicity and their logins are growing at a fast clip – but I suspect there is a significant amount of churn. I spend a lot of time in the area of virtual worlds – because I think we’re just at the tip of the iceberg here.

So, the first wave of trailblazing charities have taken the plunge. The majority watch and wait. But what are we waiting for exactly? What will ‘success’ look like? How will we measure it? The number of clickthroughs to the charity website? Number of gifts purchased?

Hmm… we’re back again to the conundrum of how to measure ‘engagement’, something I’ll return to in a future post.

Technorati cause-related avatars, net2, nptech, second life, world vision, yak shack

A billboard of protest

December 6th, 2006

As I was posting yesterday about Save the Children’s ‘Yak Shack’ venture into the virtual world, Beth Kanter was writing about awareness raising in Second Life.

Beth quotes Rik Riel and his criticism of the ‘billboard’ put up by the World Development Movement (WDM) in Second Life.

What is ironic is that WDM has not learned to apply what they presumably have learned from their other campaigns into virtual space. Namely that it isn’t enough just to shame people. “Don’t forget the real world” contains such a superior, pejorative tone.

WDM's billboard in Second Life

Rik offers some sensible advice:

  • Get to know the community first
  • Educate about your cause
  • Mobilise: give people something to do
  • …and not just fundraise
  • Provide hope

You can read WDM’s rationale for their campaign here. But I agree with Rik. I’m not sure this call to action will be well received “in-world”. Shouting rarely gets the message across, however just the cause.

Technorati community, second life, world development movement

Save the Children offers yak a Second Life

December 5th, 2006

Owen Gibson writes in The Guardian that Save the Children today becomes the first UK charity to participate in Second Life, a virtual world accessible over the web via software installed on your computer.

Having ‘sold out’ of yaks for a programme designed to provide the animals for Tibetan families, Save the Children has turned to Second Life in an attempt to raise more money and awareness.

From today, participants in Second Life will be able to travel to its “Yak Shack” and pay 1,000 Linden dollars (the game currency, named after the company that conceived it) for their own pixillated yak.

The money is then transferred into a Save the Children account at the current exchange rate of US$3.50 to 1,000 Linden dollars.

Save the Children's Yak Shack in Second LifeIf you think this reads like a shaggy-dog hairy-yak-story, then think again; a recent survey conducted by the US-based Center for the Digital Future suggested that for many people, online or virtual communities are as important as their real-world counterparts. The results of the survey were released last week and reported by the BBC.

Another study identified that the way we behave physically in real life is mirrored in a virtual environment. So, your virtual self can feel just as strongly about causes as the real you. But would you ‘connect’ with a cause, or organisation in the same way? The jury’s still out for me.

The Yak Shack concept was created by Ogilvy Advertising and works well as an extension of the charity’s “Wish List” virtual gift catalogue.

Ogilvy’s Kathryn Parsons traces her interest in Second Life back to the Picnic06 conference where she heard Philip Rosedale (the Founder of Linden Labs) make a specific reference to Second Life’s potential as a fundraising community. (A report of Philip’s talk is worth a read in itself.)

The agency was already working with SCF and Kathryn told me the connection with ‘virtual gifting’ seemed to good a creative opportunity to miss. Of course, using Second Life as a platform to fundraise will also enable SCF to connect with an audience usually considered difficult to reach.

Kathryn added that “it was important for us to create something which both respected the charity and also the ‘residents’ of Second Life”.

So, during the build, Kathryn worked closely with the Second Life community (seeking advice from Linden Labs, “in-world” avatars, and from Aimee Weber).

“We wanted to make sure we created an experience which is valued by the community and which will eventually become a fundraising success,” she said.

SCF is following the lead of US charities that have recently begun to take advantage of Second Life’s popularity and booming virtual economy. Aimee Weber also contributed to a sponsored virtual ‘walk’, which raised $40,000 for the American Cancer Society (ACS).

If your interest has been piqued, Beth Kanter writes frequently and passionately about this stuff, which has coined terms such as ‘avatar marketing’. Beth has also posted links to Second Life resources and discussions aimed at not-for-profits.

Aimee kindly offered to give me “a teleport and a tour” of the Yak Shack, but I had to decline (I don’t yet have an account!). However, I’m still keen to monitor how successful the Yak Shack proves to be for SCF.

Apparently, yaks and their new owners can return to the ‘Shack’ on 16 December to show off their individually customised yaks (woolly jumpers, etc.) for the chance to win an interview in a Second Life magazine.

If you’re a Second Lifer, dig deep into your virtual pockets.

Technorati aimee weber, avatars, net2, save the children, second life, yak shack