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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Leaping Before You Look

Today I encountered a very angry and frustrated newcomer.

This poor girl had experience with IMVU, had heard about Second Life, and was eager to try it.  She went Premium from the very start, and even bought $L.  Then, when she installed the viewer software, she discovered that her inexpensive laptop and shaky wireless internet connection would not let her use the virtual world she'd paid for.

Although I worked with her for some time, trying different graphics settings, installing a different viewer, and so on, she still saw the world as gray, formless shapes and her avatar as a cloud of vapor.

In the end, she logged out, declaring that Linden Lab WOULD refund her money for this scam.

On the one hand, I sympathize with her.  It's enormously irritating to pay for something and find that what you bought does not work as advertised.

One the other hand, it's easy to see that, in her eagerness and blithe confidence that everything would be like IMVU, or the pictures in the ads, she made some serious mistakes.  I see similar errors in thinking all the time, for example by people who ask "Can I run SL on my smartphone?"  There are an awful lot of people out there who think that anything with a screen and some kind of connection to the internet can run any application.  They have absolutely no idea of any of the technology behind the shiny new toys.  Their eyes glaze over when you mention things like bandwidth, pixels, frames per second, gigabytes and megabits per second.  Like my hapless newbie said, "I don't understand any of that.  I just use my computer."

Second Life (and computers and the internet in general) is new technology.  Companies market shiny new toys to ignorant consumers, who don't have, and don't even want to have, a clue about how they actually work, and it's a recipe for disaster.

Please, people -- if you want to live in the Internet Age, go back to school, take some courses, or at least sit down and talk with your teenagers, who probably know a lot more than you do about this brave new world.  And if you are thinking about trying Second Life, DON'T spend a penny on it until you try it out for free first!

And for heaven's sake, be at least a little methodical about it.  Go to http://www.secondlife.com/ and READ the website first.  Read some of the forums and the blogs.  Be sure to have a look at the minimum system requirements, https://secondlife.com/my/support/system-requirements/?lang=en-US .  Have a look at the "What's Next" section of the website.  Then and only then, create an account and download and install the viewer software on your computer.

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