Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The importance of making Lindens

A newbie is born * IYan buys his first Lindens * the entrepreneurial quandary * "It's the media!" * remaining questions * closing scare

Newbies. We were all there once - wearing default avatars with sliders painstakingly adjusted so that we were happy with the way we looked (ignorance of prim hair is bliss), bumping into people, wearing optional torches and having absolutely no clue. After the first difficult hours of UI navigation, the endless Second Life vistas spread open before us and we were free to do practically anything we liked. With such endless choice, it is an eternal mystery to me that the most common question I hear from newbies is "Where can I earn money?"

I can has Lindens?

The financial side of Second Life (or, indeed, all life) is, of course, important. Upon registration, I connected my SL and PayPal accounts and received a 100 L$ bonus for doing so. I treasured my first money in Second Life and was extremely careful when purchasing stuff. However, all good things must end and the era of free money soon came to a close. With my PayPal account already linked, I did a quick calculation and discovered that I could get a kingly sum in Lindens for the price of two cups of coffee in the real world. I made my first Linden dollar purchase and never looked back.
Small coffee equals big bucks (source)

But back to the entrepreneurial newbies. I admit to having little patience with such questions and refer them to Manpower island or Search. iAlja usually goes a bit deeper - she asks them what would they do and what do they need the money for. The most often answer to both these questions is "I don't know".

What is going on here? Do they love work so much that a real job is not enough for them and they need a virtual one? Is it a regional bias? Perhaps newbies from other countries are less enterprising and more laid back. Do they think that nothing in Second Life is free? Even after pointing them to Search for "freebie", most are undeterred in their Linden quest.

The most obvious possible cause for this behavior is the media coverage of Second Life. Local media, late to the party as usual, still has to descend the hype curve into "virtual worlds are awful" stage. Their portrayal of Second Life is not exactly as a land of milk and honey, but they do stress the money earning potential of virtual worlds.

But even if we attribute this attitude to the media misrepresentation, two mysteries remain. The most bent-on-making-money newbie shudders with revulsion at the suggestion of paying real money for Linden dollars. How do they think the SL economy works - one way? With nothing coming in and everything going out? The other mystery is the question of skills. Second Life is still life, and as in life, zero skills gets you zero money. You don't walk into a hospital an exclaim "OK, I want to earn money, let me operate!" - why do they think this approach will work in Second Life?

Remember.. (source)

I've almost given up on understanding it and lately just accept it as a given. As it is a newbie-only issue, I'm inclined to think that this question is posed by the members of the 90% brigade - the ones to try Second Life for a while and never come back. But does that mean that 90% of population is unable to think outside of the money-making box? Now that is a scary thought..