When I heard that we will be using Second Life in class, I thought it would be really cool to interact with the class in the online world. This changed drastically after I installed it. To start, the interface is clunky at best, and the game lagged a lot. This could be due to the slow Internet connection that I have in my dorm room or the fact that my computer is going on three years old. But even when I turned the graphics
quality way down, the game was slow. For example,
I would be walking and then take my hands off of my arrow keys but my avatar would just keep walking
and walking and walking. Fly was even worse
and I felt like I had little to no control over the flight and couldn’t get back down. Between this two errors I got lost on the island, although I somehow eventually found my way back, after that, I stopped moving around. Then there’s the avatar designer, which was so difficult that I couldn’t even figure out how to pick a different outfit for my avatar let
alone, change the skin color.
This was really a disappointment to me, because I saw on the PBS Program we watched in class that many companies, including computing giant IBM, use it for actual business meetings instead of employees coming into the office every day. This allows employees to work from anywhere and interact with the co-workers anywhere they have an internet connection. This seems like a cool idea, but the software makes it too difficult to be feasible for the less technically inclined. I consider myself to be a more advanced computer user, but I was pulling my hair out tying to use Second Life.
I definitely think that more and more meetings will shift online instead of face-to-face meetings. If for no other reason, than for the reduction of transportation costs for the attendees which, depending on the distance, can be massive. But, I don’t think Second Life will be the method of choice for most organizations, I think most organizations will choose to use VOIP clients such as Skype or telepresence systems for their web meetings. Another service that is a sort-of hybrid between Skype’s ease of use and the quality of telepresence, is a service called Go to Meeting which not only allows participants to send video of themselves, but also allows them to share their computer screens too. Go To Meeting isn’t as cheap as Skype but is far less expensive than a telepresence system. Although none of these systems work flawlessly every time, but I think any of these solutions are much easier to setup than Second Life and don’t require users to use a clunky interface to customize an avatar that take a long time. It also makes sure the people who you are communicating with are the people who you are supposed to be talking to. I’m sure that there are ways to verify the users in a meeting but, in my experience with the Second Life settings, I’m sure that will take some doing.
The idea of Second Life sounds like it could be a great way to meet people from all over the world and even try some multiphrenia by adopting a new identity. But for a program that has been out and has been a profitable company for several years, I am unimpressed. I have used Beta software, software that is not fully developed, that was easier to operate and less buggy. I do have an almost three year old computer, but with the graphics quality turned down as low as it goes, the game is still extremely buggy and slow. It has a lot of potential for meeting and interacting with people, but for me, I can’t get over the technical bugs that make it unusable for me.