As you may have noticed, I haven’t blogged for about a month. I was also quiet on Twitter. The primary reason for this was a nasty bug that knocked me off my feet for a few weeks, and while I recovered I took the time to pretty much unplug from the online world.
Occasionally decoupling from the endless flow of online information gives me a chance to focus on new things without interruption. I spent my offline time reading books on various subjects and deeply immersing myself in the narrative of a couple video games.
While my illness bug is happily gone, my writing bug has happily returned. My next few blog posts will be about some insights I had into the nature of engagement in virtual worlds, games, and immersive stories. But for now, I’ll share some thoughts about the current situation with educators and non-profits in Second Life.
Linden Lab recently announced an end to discounts for educators and non-profits in Second Life. Effective January 1st 2011, educators and non-profits will no longer get a 50% reduction in monthly rental fees for private regions.
When I worked at Linden Lab, I did my best to internally wave the flag for educators and non-profits. I felt the discount was a key way to cultivate growth in those markets. Perhaps even more important, I felt it sent a crystal clear message that those communities were really valued. Actions speak louder than words, especially actions that positively affect one’s wallet.
I’m happy the discount lasted as long as it did. As for the reasoning behind this new decision by Linden Lab, I have no idea and I’m not interested in speculating. What I’m interested in is the future of educators and non-profits in virtual worlds in general.
Education and non-profit markets affect many things. They are deeply interconnected with academic collaboration, consumer innovation, healthcare support, organized activism, and the arts. So any change in the plans of large groups of educators and non-profits will have far-reaching community implications.
This change in pricing is naturally causing many educators and non-profits to reevaluate their plans in Second Life. And if you read the comments on Linden Lab’s blog post, it is clear that many of them are now seriously considering exploring other virtual world platforms.
Will there be a massive exodus of educators and non-profits from Second Life? Time will tell. But I think the more important thing to focus on will be the growth of educators and non-profits in other virtual worlds.
Personally, I think OpenSim offers interesting opportunities right now. It’s still a nascent platform, but nothing drives rapid platform development like a big influx of eager users.
Just like the webservers, folks can install and run OpenSim on their own hardware or choose to pay a hosting provider to handle things. Some of these OpenSim hosting providers are also specifically courting educators and non-profits. And evolving hypergrid functionality offers the ability for users to teleport between different OpenSim grids, no matter where they exist.
People are reaching out to each other, too. You can already see the creation of focused guides for educators and non-profits seeking to explore OpenSim for the first time, like this excellent one by Maria Korolov. There’s even a new and very active #OSMigrate Twitter hashtag with more useful information.
For a variety of reasons, pioneers move from one place to another. And when they do, they have two options.
They can keep thinking about their reasons for leaving a place, both the positive and negative. They can wax nostalgic about what they’ve done in the past. They can ruminate on how they wished things had turned out differently, often focusing on things over which they had no control.
Or they can put all those things into a “lessons learned” folder, file it away, and focus carefully about the things they can control. They can embrace a new destination and carefully hone their plans to explore it. They can pull together to create and leverage collective knowledge about this new destination, developing new communities of practice that will grow into the future.
Successful pioneers always choose the second option. And educators and non-profits are some of the most innovative and successful pioneering communities I’ve ever met.
So to all the educators and non-profits who are making tough decisions right now, my heart goes out to you. But I have the utmost confidence in your ability to succeed in whatever new virtual worlds your communities choose to explore. You’re pioneers. Don’t ever forget that.
I’ll be closely following all of this in the months ahead. If you know of new resources for educators and non-profits exploring OpenSim, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the body of this post to help get the word out. I’d also love to visit and learn about any new projects in new virtual worlds, so please feel free to ping me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-John “Pathfinder” Lester
ADDENDUM: I spoke on a MetaverseTV/MBC News panel about Linden Lab’s revoking of discounts for educators in Second Life. You can watch the video here.