BoingBoing BOOM

March 9, 2007


Holy crap.

So here’s what happened: I got a little obsessed with Areae Inc because Raph Koster really seems to “get it” and the advisory board he assembled is top-notch. They’re building something incredible, I know it. I so very much want in. (Raph – call me!)

Anyway… enough sycophantic nonsense from me… getting back to the narrative:

This follows various discussions about SL being down again, breaking yet another function again, making modifications nobody wants again, etc etc etc – but we all put up with it because, well, what else is there?

What else is there indeed!

I’m working on a few other things when this occurs to me, so I give the idea a quick once-over in the blog entry entitled “Alternatives to Second Life“. In order to make the idea work I come up with three criteria, and in full recognition of the fact that I’m making these criteria up based purely on my own experience, I call them “Onder’s Big Three”. The whole thing takes me maybe… I don’t know… an hour in total (in ten-minute spurts) and I pop the entry up on the blog without proof-reading or anything. This was just me wondering about stuff, and not at all my best work, but I wasn’t too worried about it. It held the info required, and besides, it’s just on the blog.

Along the way I mention it to Pixeleen, who likes it and pops it up on the Herald. The same day New World Notes pops up some reviews I wrote for them (with kind of an awful intro … hmm, I’ll have to try harder next week …). So, when I notice a bump in traffic, I assume it’s from NWN.

Of course, what I didn’t realize is that Alice from Wonderland had put a link to the article up in del.icio.us. Then Cory over at BoingBoing picked it up. Then all hell broke loose.

2,300 visitors yesterday. That’s visitors, not hits. Another thousand so far today. Whoa. *Onder waves*

Things get complicated from there.

Of course everybody starts nit-picking at the list, and that’s good because they should. I just dashed this sucker off, and if I could take a second or third pass at it I would. Apparently I missed one or two other providers (PlayStation Home, duh!), and probably could have trimmed a few out too. Oh, and my grammar… gawd…

But you know, glad to have you, hope y’all come back real soon..

AND THEN the academics over at Terra Nova weigh in. I go there once a week or so. They rule. Usually. Maybe… maybe not so much this time though.

You know that scene in “Finding Neverland” where Barrie (Depp) is watching a play of his flop miserably because everybody was trying to make it “important”? This is like that. They were pissed! Here’s a quote:

Since I’ve been in a bad mood for about the last 4 weeks, I hope that Onder will forgive me for suggesting that these three criteria are actually pulled from his arse and not his brain.

Wow. What a dick.

Oddly enough they didn’t care about my poor grammar (which they should), or the amount of content in the entry (an easy target), or my needlessly flippant remarks about Kaneva (sorry, that was impolite of me). They didn’t even care about the fact that I don’t bother to draw a conclusion, which, you know, might be considered important among… literate people…

No, the issue at hand was that I dared to decide, all by myself, what I thought was important about Second Life.

Now, granted, it seemed like a bunch of people completely missed the fact that I was looking for SL replacements, not for the “be-all end-all of all games and social experiences”. That’s a mistake people make when they get excited, and that’s ok. I’ve done worse.

Still, these people who expect me to prove that the criteria are valid, or to debate with them about whether commerce is important, or to debate the “real-ness” of virtual cash (stfu!), or to somehow prove that people like to make things and then barter them (wtf?), or even somehow trying to drag me into the “despite never once taking an actual SURVEY of REAL PEOPLE, we’ve decided nobody can make a living in SL” debate… and various other soul-sucking pieces of self-satisfied nonsense.

OH! And then Prokofy Neva defends me! Look, I love Prokofy. She’s powerful and bright, and has even managed to persuade me slightly on one or two things. I just generally don’t agree with her, but hey, we’re all different and it’s all good. So there she is backing me and I’m simultaneously grateful and confused because I’m so used to disagreeing with her…

Alright, so I’ve had a bit of time to think about it, and I’m going to formulate a theory on why this was such a big deal for them. Prokofy says jealousy, but I don’t know… seems facile. I think the real issue is that they spend forever analyzing other people’s data, and I don’t even look. I just go with what I know from the people I meet and the experiences I have. That’s a pretty big gap in paradigms, so yeah, I can see how a moody academic could object to such a foreign perspective.

I went with my gut here. It serves me well most of the time, and I wouldn’t change one element of “Onder’s Big Three” except, perhaps, for the terrible grammar. In a few months, after totally making life hell over at Areae and Outback Online with my constant harassment for more info, I’m going to re-write this sucker using the same criteria. I feel no regrets, and feel no need to justify it logically. I’ll probably launch into a rant about why they make sense someday, but that will just be academia that few will care about anyhow.

1. Real money must move in and out of the “virtual” economy freely.
2. Users must be able to create unique content and retain ownership over it.
3. The world must be affected by the users. The changes I make stay put after I log off.

Those are “Onder’s Big Three”, and they will be for some time. There are around 30,000 of us logged into SL at any given moment. Buggy as it is, low-res and low-bandwidth and low-framerate as it is, we keep coming back. These three reasons are my best guess as to how artists and builders make a living there, and why they bother to stick around long enough to build a user-created world the rest of us talentless bums can enjoy.

Criteria like that aren’t meant to build a WoW. They’re meant to build a Second Life.

Ok. I feel better. I’m going to go play some games now. I’ll be sure to tell you about them.


  1. Okay – well, why do you think those are the big three? It’s all very well saying that it’s from your gut, but come on….

    I’d say that persistence of effect (3) was a given. Worlds need you to be able to affect them then come back and have the previous effect acknowledged. I wouldn’t say that any of the others were, though. Tell me why they are.

  2. I would add a fourth (or a caveat to #2): Users must be able to script interactive objects. Otherwise you’re just in a static chat system, looking at pictures and sculptures. With scripting, you can make activities and games.

    ActiveWorlds had really fantastic scripting, but only the world owner could use it, and you had to be a pretty serious C programmer. The world-owner limitation meant especially that you couldn’t take your cool blinged-out avatar to another world. You’d just be a shadow of yourself elsewhere.

    There.com has some scripting, though it’s not nearly as useful as SL’s, horrific as that may seem to other LSL scripters. The Flash interfaces are far superior to SL HUDs, though.

    I can only guess what Onder’s motives for #1 and #2 are, but for me, those accurately capture the incentive to make things. I need to be able to get compensated for my work if I’m going to put professional-quality work into it, and want to live in a world with professional-quality work by others. I need the ability to make stuff, otherwise I’m just pushing the company-approved generic objects around. I also need the rule of law to protect my work, so it can’t be stolen by communists, griefers, or other kinds of thieves.

    Not too coincidentally, those are also basically the requirements real-world countries have to have to drag themselves out of 3rd-world squalor: Stable currency easily convertible to other currencies (allowing foreign investment, sales to other places, and purchase of foreign products); and rule of law protecting private property.

  3. […] this came dangerously close to explaining Onder’s Big Three. They’re listed towards the bottom of the “BoingBoing BOOM” post if you’re […]

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