There’s an affliction that many Second Lifers suffer from that I find hard to understand. It tends to be most obvious in the comments sections of the more widely read SL blogs and the forums that focus on our particular virtual world; and what’s more, even outside the confines of our little community, it’s become very much adopted by the wider world too. The affliction in question is the jaded and completely inaccurate insistence that SL is pretty awful on almost any level.
What irritates me most is that this is a completely aberrant assertion that is more about personal opinion than facts, and which clearly demonstrates a mindset that chooses to favour a perception of SL which lacks any firm foundation and is inherently biased towards negativity, for no apparent logical reason. It’s a case of imperfect perception – or to coin my own term: Imperception.
This imperception is evident at different levels and in respect of widely differing viewpoints in relation to SL and can suck pretty much anyone in, regardless of how savvy they may otherwise be.
The first imperception is that SL is broken: an outdated, failing platform, beset with problems, failures and faults that will never be fixed. It would be foolish to pretend that that there isn’t an element of truth to this particular argument, but the widely-held perception is quite definitely at odds with the facts. Let’s start with a simple truth – SL is incredibly complex, in every way: Technically, socially, financially and commercially: Every single iteration, change, transaction and activity in or around the platform increases that complexity, sometimes in ways that are totally out of proportion to the initial cause. A sim that is normally completely stable and lag free can easily be brought to its knees by a well-known DJ making an appearance, bringing fans flocking to the region, for example. With increasing complexity comes greater instability, and greater potential for failure – that’s a general rule that applies to anything in life – TV’s, smartphones, tractors, cities, businesses and finance – SL certainly isn’t immune to that law, and so inevitably, things will break down and fail with a fair degree of certainty. Worse, SL is a system (well, a whole bunch of interconnected systems really, a supersystem) – it is inherently unpredictable, fluid and fragile and, like any system, subject to falling down.
So, yes, SL breaks down but no more than is reasonable; and no more so than cars, washing machines, governments and ecosystems. To criticise SL for following the natural order of things is a little disingenuous. There is a fix, however: If SL was hosted on a single server, comprising a single region, with a single avatar who never logged in, it would be incredibly stable, lag would be non-existent and ‘unscheduled maintenance’ would be practically unnecessary. It would also be pretty pointless. You want diversity, fun, excitement, realism and sparkly shoes… you get the not so good things too, or as Newton said, when considering the fundamental laws of physics: ‘Actioni contrariam semper et æqualem esse reactionem: sive corporum duorum actiones in se mutuo semper esse æquales et in partes contrarias dirigi’, and not even Linden Lab is above the Third Law! On balance, it’s fine, but because we’re human we focus on the down side without appreciating the up side.
There’s a straightforward correlation between the demands we make on SL and the robustness of the system – the harder we push it, the more likely it will struggle; not because it’s not up to the job, but because that’s how these things are. In many ways, we are to blame for how well SL performs.
Which brings me nicely to the other aspect of this particular imperception: For some reason, a huge proportion of SL residents are under the impression that SL hasn’t progressed in technical terms since about 2007. What on earth is all that about? C’mon people, do you not keep up to speed with what’s going on in the virtual world you spend so much time in? Do you seriously not think that viewers, features, stability and capabilities are better now than they’ve ever been?
The amount of development that has gone into SL, particularly in recent years, is phenomenal. Even the official SL viewer has risen from ‘also ran’ to the most stable and cutting edge of those available, with updated versions being rolled out every few weeks. Yet still, a huge number of people perceive SL to be a technological dinosaur, although in my experience, if you scratch beneath the surface there’s a very different story to relate. If we were to take a representative sample of those who maintain that SL is old hat and probe just a little, we’d find – I’m pretty sure – that an inordinate number of those complaining will be running SL on sub-optimal, under-powered and badly maintained machines, with outdated drivers and poor digital housekeeping. I’ve always found it rather odd that so many residents will freely admit to poor quality internet connections, yet when they routinely get summarily dumped out of SL, it’s somehow always Linden Lab who are to blame!
Once again, when SL goes pear-shaped, very often the problem is directly attributable to ourselves. The perception is wrong; imperfect… an imperception!
Well, that’s probably enough for today – I shall continue the theme tomorrow.
This is a modern world,
This is the modern world
What kind of a fool do you think I am?
You think I know nothing of the modern world
The Jam – The Modern World