Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Again, on population density

Recent Valleyvag post on Second Life made me revisit my thoughts on Second Life Population Density. If you wander around Second Life you could not help to notice that most of the land looks abandoned compared to real life urban areas. My previous calculations of population density did not take into account urban vs. rural land sizes in real life. Since most of Second Life land is striving to be "urban", it is more accurate to compare it in size with only urban areas in real life. That would make Second Life look really sparsely populated compared to the least populated countries.

Linden Lab business model involves mostly selling and running land regions, plus acting as central bank for L$. So, naturally their goal is to sell more land. This model makes them victim of their own success. With affordable land, population density stays low, which precludes social interaction, which is the main attraction of the game for most of users. They end up with ghost towns with few avatars lonely wandering around.

Teleportation is another contributing factor to the problem of poor social interaction. People are not really need to walk around. You can own a land and never walk to see your neighborhood 30 seconds walk. In real live, historically, people tend to cluster around some areas, forming cities, villages, etc. That helps to form densely populated centers where culture, commerce (as well as crime and diseases) strives. In second life, it is not likely to happen. Even if you buy a land within 2-minute walk from very popular space, does not mean people will just wander around to your parcel. That makes Second Life population density rather evenly distributed over all landmass (I wish I have some statistical data to prove this hypothesis).

How the situation could be fixed? The obvious way is just making land less affordable to control population density. That may or may not work, depending how big part of the game appeal to users in land ownership.

Another approach would be to encourage clustering. That could be done by either disabling teleportaiton in some regions or charging a fee for a transportation depending on distance. That would naturally make people prefer to cluster, since access to nearby destinations is cheaper. Island owners may subside cost on transportation to their islands, providing free visits to draw more people. If people are to use transportation less they will have to walk or drive more. That would require extension of federal roads and maybe passing some "free passage" laws to make all land accessible by foot.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

GridMarker vs. Sloog

Being Sloog user for some time recently I decided to try another, analogous service: GridMarker. An overall model is pretty similar to Sloog: HUD attachment which allows you to tag second life locations and to view/manage bookmarks on web page.

There are several key differences between GridMarker and Sloog:

GridMarker is more precise: it tags specific coordinates, while sloog tags a current parcel. For bigger parcels it is certainly an advantage, since it allows you to tag different parts of the parcel with different tags. You can read more about this feature in GridMarker blog. On the other hand, you can end up with several distinct bookmarks for the same SIM which are basically tagging a same place, for example, different parts of the same island. GridMarker has a neat feature which allows you to set up tagging precision "threshold" in meters, but I think it is mostly for expert users.

The gridmarker web site has a notion of "Resolution" which allows you to see other gridmarks in the vicinity of the one you are currently looking at. In my opinion, this feature overestimates the importance of spatial proximity in the Second Life. Most people are moving around the wold via teleports, and the fact that two bookmarks are located not far from each other in SecondLife coordinate system usually does not mean much.

My favorite feature of GridMarker is support for geotagging in RSS feeds. That alone is enough to make me switch to it from Sloog.

Another extremely useful feature of GridMarker is ability to accept drag-and-drop of landmarks objects. Select all your landmarks, drag and drop them to GridMarker HUD and they would be automatically imported into your GridMarker account!

The biggest shortcoming of GridMarker (compared to Sloog) is that you could not search your bookmarks from within the world. In Sloog you can use "search:" command, while GridMarker required you to launch your browser.

Sloog certainly looks better. Both Sloog HUD and web site show more love from good designers. GridMarker looks like best effort of graphics design done by programmers. You can't blame them for that - they did their best, but my advice is to seek help of professional designer to give it more polished look and feel.

I found GridMarker HUD buttons confusing at first. However the are OK, once you figure out how they work.

GridMarker is using by default same channel (#7) as Sloog. I wanted to test both HUDs simultaneously. Luckily GridMarker allows to change channel number, which is very useful feature.

Compared to Sloog, GridMarker certainly has more features, but I doubt that majority of the users would appreciate them. For example, I doubt that many users would really use "Title" command to give custom titles to their bookmarks. Comments feature could be useful, but it would not necessary find widespread use from within the game.

I think GridMarker shows great potential and certainly could evolve into very nice service. If they keep their architectures open (which they are trying to do with open APIs and open source HUD code) and put some work into design and usability it could become very popular. I am not familiar with their motivation or business model, but I would love to see this project going open source (say on SourceForge or Google Code). I am sure many users would be glad to contribute to the code and the web site design to make better service.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Another beautiful build I have visited recently is Morocco. At the arrival area they give you an "info-fez", nice red fez which gives you all kind of information as you move around. The King Hassan II Mosque is dominating the area. It is beautifully built. While wondering around I smoke some hookah, tried myself in belly dancing and even did little shopping at the real bazaar.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Beautiful church

Today I have discovered a beautiful Orthodox church:

Icons are of amazing quality. Woth checking, even if you are an atheist.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


My hat off to Sloog guys. Simple and elegant taging solution in Web 2.o style for Second Life. The only thing I am missing is RSS/ATOM feeds for user pages.

(P.S. My sloog page is here)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Second Life Population Density

Official Linden Blog reports that current Second Life land area is approximately 229,376,000 square meters (about 88 square miles or 229 square kilometers). Their front page currently reports 1,950,245 registered residents.

That gives us population density of 8,502 persons per square km. Which puts Second life in top five most populated countries in the world (just above Singapore) and more densely populated when any US state (but still much less dense when city of New York or Manhattan island).

However these figures are misleading. The main difference with Earth population, is that humans stay on earth until we die. On the contrary, the Second Life population stays off grid most of the time. At average, 14,000 to 20,000 residents are usually logged on simultaneously. Taking 20,000 residents as "real" population size, gives us population density of 87 persons per square kilometer. This number is comparable to population density of state of Illinois, and is losing to ten other states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. On the world map, Spain has similar population density.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Coworking in Second Life

Coworking is an excellent idea. If you are an independent developer, designer, or writer, and need space to work and meet like-minded people, may look at some of existing coworking facilities in your city. What if there are none nearby? Second Life should be a perfect place to build such kind of place, where you can log in from anywhere in the word and hang out while working.

To try it out I've built first (to my knowledge) completely virtual coworking facility in Second Life:

Please drop by and try it out. Click on image to teleport there.

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