Second Life's hype is dead (again)

For now, anyway. Linden Lab's virtual environment Second Life attracts a heck of a lot of hype, which comes and goes in cycles. Hype -- you may recall -- is exaggeration whether positive or negative (not to be mistaken for buzz). Whether it's exaggeration to express unwarranted praise or exaggeration to express unwarranted criticism, it doesn't matter. If it's true, then it cannot (by definition) be hype.

At the moment we seem to be entering an off-cycle, and that can only be a good thing for Second Life. Hype can be used in poetic or artistic ways to reveal underlying truths but that really isn't much done anymore.

Hype causes a lot of the false impressions in the media, especially when it comes to newer or less familiar forms of science and technology where exaggerations are often mistaken for facts and entire stories race off down otherwise irrelevant pathways.

Worse though, is that hype deters customers. Some of them can smell it, and avoid anything that's overhyped, while others obtain false impressions and are turned off when the reality doesn't meet live up to their expectations.

It's a bit like watching a trailer for what looks like the hottest action movie of the year, and then discovering that the trailer contained all 37 seconds of action in what is otherwise a two-hour political drama. It might be an excellent movie, but it isn't what you bought tickets for.

On the whole, Second Life tends to do best when hype is at its lowest ebb. All other things being equal, user retention rates tend to climb, and people who do things for reasons other than early-adoption or fashionable trendiness start to get a look in. It might not draw in as many new users as a story about sex or divorce or infidelity, but the users stay a whole lot longer.

On the whole, we're looking forward to a nice, long, low-hype period for Linden Lab's virtual environment -- but practically speaking it isn't likely to last much longer than six months before Second Life starts to be both praised and demonized once again.

Whether or not we're in a hype-cycle, the most important parts of Second Life never stop. Life goes on for a whole lot of people whether or not it is making the headlines, and that important stuff just isn't going to warrant column inches any more than a whole lot of important stuff that people do every day regardless of the medium in which it takes place.

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This article was originally published on Massively.