back to article Second Life figures cast doubt on Ofcom report

Disputed figures put out by broadcasting industry regulator Ofcom last week, in respect of Second Life usage, raise questions as to how seriously we should take Ofcom reports. However, the debate goes beyond questions of mere accuracy, raising issues around how we can generate meaningful measures of social networking sites. …

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Trust data from Ofcom or Nielsen

Who on earther would believe anything either comes out with. Of course they're inaccurate - these are highly paid consultants who are draining the public purse. Average salary at Ofcom is STG£ 71,000 - and for what? To ask Nielsen for data, put some Ofcom graphics in the Word doc, PDF it and release.

Most of the research consultancy groups out there provide data that can't be trusted. These people are fee-earners - no genuine interest in anything they're involved in.

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mate is a major seller on SL

he saiz that number are about the same but ppl are spending less

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Not just SL

I've been seeing similar patterns for almost as long as I've been on the Internet. It doesn't need fancy SL graphics: it happens in text-based multi-player games, though I suspect ADSL and the like, by taking away time-related charges, have made it more common.

You don't need to be clicking or typing to be watching events, but how do you distinguish the guy in the audience from the performer on stage? And how do you distinguish audience, actively engaged with events but passive in game terms, from some game character with the player not even having an open window?

In the end, it's not so different from a roadside advert. People, mostly, ignore them. A lot of advertising is useless. And a lot of the advertising on the internet is hardly any different from the ones you see in magazines or on TV.

The multimedia bling is a tool, and I'm not sure anyone yet knows how to use it.

And, while there's an internet dependence in the story, Aleksandr the Meercat could have been on TV, advertising something, a half-centur ago. What we remember are the adverts from people who know how to use the medium.

And, compared to other media, the internet is incredibly fragmented. It's not hard to see why Phorm can seem like a good idea.

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Badgers

Believing SL?

Whilst I have no idea who is more 'accurate', Ofcom or SL, it does seem strange to me that we would take SL's repost at face value. After all the fifth para gives a strong motive for SL to deny it: 'If true, this would represent a devastating blow to Second Life, bringing aggregate usage in the UK down to just over 10 per cent of what it was a year ago.'

The truth no doubt is somewhere in the middle but I would have expected the author of the article to have at least expressed some scepticism about figures from a commercial company who's interests lie strongly in the direction of using the most optimistic measures. Anecdotally, some sectors who seemed to be so in love with SL a year or two ago, such as the arts and education, seem to have cooled or perhaps become more realistic in the meantime.

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FAIL

not our fault

.. sorry Ofcom, but you put your name to it, therefore you must defend it.

It is up to YOU to go back to Nielson, otherwise why should i listen to you in first place.

This is typical of our institutions in the UK, they buy a lump of stats that suit their purpose then completely fail to stand behind them when questioned.. taking the good without the bad.

Sadly Ofcon proved themselves useless a long time ago, not least over the 'unlimited' bandwidth issue.

Perhaps rather than teaching people how to get on a bus, the UK education system would do well to teach people how mostly useless statistics are!

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And the answer is...

42.

To labour the point, the problem isn't "What's the right answer", but "What's the right question?"

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Boffin

SL numbers

seem to be holding steady, from an in game perspective. Where they are coming from , I don't know. Mayby everyone in the UK quit and a equal number from Brazil started, in any case I haven't seen much change, and I am on a lot, since I have no first life (I mean I read the reg, work in IT, who has time for a life...).

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Badgers

Second What?

Maybe you guys didn't get the message - Second Life is no longer the big thing, all stories must now be about Twitter.

A while back, we had enough Second Life stories to last us at least a decade. Facebook has had a similar treatment. Now we're working on storing up enough Twitter stories to take us comfortably into the next century. Hopefully the Next Big Thing will be along soon, and we can all start ignoring Twitter too.

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Anonymous Coward

May just be the technology....

I'm not a Second Life devotee - in fact I fail to see the point. Though to be fair I fail to see the point of Twitter, Facebook, etc...

But I've helped other users to set up, and a common problem is graphics. The kind of bottom-end graphics found on most economy off-the-shelf PCs and laptops simply isn't up to a good SL experience. A few people may upgrade to better graphics boards. Most won't and after a spell struggling with a limited SL experience will give it up. As I understand it, their subscription remains unless they positively cancel. Even with basic graphics performance, the difference between the average PC game and the curious SL visual experience is likely to be marked.

SL is an interesting idea - but it hasn't developed far enough or fast enough, and I know several large firms/corporations (like Sunbelt) who were enthusiastic in the beginning but are now starting to lose interest.

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Coat

have that not heard of el reg's standardised measuring scale?

who are these people, why are they not measuring in the universally recognised units of "size's of wales", "libraries of congress", "kelly brooks' cups" etc etc.

mine is the one with a library of congress stored on a device the size of 1/10 kelly brooks cup.

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Grenade

Lies, damned lies and statistics

SL usage is cyclical.

Anyone who has been there for a while knows that the summer months when students are away from their dorms and everyone else is making the most of the "summer sunshine", looking after the kids etc is the quietest time for SL.

Normal service will resume in the autumn when it's dark by teatime.

Neilson, Gartner and the others... suck on this. Why anyone pays you for this garbage is beyond belief.

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…and that's just half the story

Another reason why the Second Life figures are odd is that Nielsen changed their methodology in October 2008 (see p 290 of the Ofcom report). The graph takes a plunge at that very point—from 22 hours to four hours. The numbers come in at the left so high that the drop is particularly eye-catching.

Indeed, under the graph is the note: "Due to a change in methodology, use caution for comparisons pre October 2008". Caution? It means, essentially, that you can't do much with the data prior to October, and certainly not make comparisons across the boundary.

Second Life's figures are definitely going up. These days I see the number of concurrent users pushing up towards the 100,000 level and they have risen dramatically during "UK-friendly" times of day over the last year or so. I meet more UK residents than ever before.

This adds yet another level of untrustworthiness to the Nielsen's figures as discussed in the article. Second Life is a so-called "Web 2.0" application involving many different types of activity. In the course of a discussion in chat, one might switch to voice (technically another sub-application) or open a browser window to follow a link (another sub-application), all during the course of a conversation. Nielsen suggest that if you do any of those things, they stop counting your time in-world. Well, sorry, but I often have several apps running at once, in different windows, listening to music, following a link, getting some info for someone, or whatever. This is not 70s television watching that we are covering here, it's an immersive, linked series of activities that make up a whole multi-window, multi-screen, multi-person online experience.

Another example, it would seem, of people trying to quantify and analyse something they simply don't understand.

Thanks for a very useful article.

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Megaphone

well,

I work for a company directly in competition with AC Neilson and they are constantly trying to take our business.

The reason our customers stay with us? We give true readings of the markets we are in and can give near instant and bespoke special analyses - our clients trust us and our numbers. Neilson are famed for giving results and then running away, they don't understand what client service means so it comes as no surprise to me that when their numbers are queried they just don't want to listen.

If you want market research done properly, come to the professionals (that's us btw :P)

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Chance would be fine

I used to go on second life a bit. It was laggy and halting, because I can't get conventional broadband and have to use satellite. But now I can't get on at all. SL always specified that satellite BB was not usable, but it appears that they are now enforcing that against those who were willing to put up with the poor performance.

Nothing to do with masses of city-dwellers with their 20 Mbit links turning away (or not) out of choice, of course, but possibly the bandwidth issue has been getting worse for other players. The issue with satellite is a latency rather than bandwidth, I believe.

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RE: May just be the technology....

This is something I've noticed -- I'm running a pretty good card (overclocked 9800GTX if anyone cares) and when I've got the detail turned up my frame rates fall through the floor -- I recently sent a friend a screen shot and they were amazed at how much better it looked with all the settings on high. This something that Linden need to sort out if they expect more people to take SL seriously.

I may have misunderstood your comments on membership - but you don't have to pay to use SL or even give real details -- in fact I know a lot of people who don't. Personally, I do, but if it came to it and I wanted to quit I'd take my card details out just in case -- works with other online payment schemes too.

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Boffin

Apples & Oranges?

Online billing of monthly charges might be up even if usage is down. All of these systems like 2nd Life, Netflix, etc work on the principle of Credit Card hijacking.

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Broadband Code of Practice

Ask 'em for a report or any info on how many ISP's curently abide by their code and see how far you get.

Trust and Ofcom are not happy bedfellows.

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Alert

Age Verification Scheme

Actually given SL's recent enforcement of their age verification scheme, and the reputation of SL as a place people go to get 'some thrills' it would not surprise me at all if SL's figures have dropped.

To age verify you must hand over some pretty personal data and to be quite frank I sure as hell wouldn't. I used to work for a Private Investigation company on the odd occasion by gaining evidence someone was cheating on a wife/partner inside SL. Believe it or not the yanks actually do hire PI's to do this! My point is that prior to age verification many simply started deactivating their accounts and ceasing to trade. Post-Scheme I know people who did age verify and therefore still do what I once did, who say that numbers have dropped like a stone.

In short. SL, or rather Linden Labs are trying to save face.

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WTF?

Nielsen's full of it.

[Quote] Nielsen, who produced the figures for Ofcom, countered that it is a common misperception that third party research must be more inaccurate than in-house data. They suggested that their take on SL usage might be a better representation of reality than the raw SL figures. [/Quote]

You're trying to tell me that your sample of the raw data is more accurate than the raw data itself?

Sorry, but You Fail Statistics 101.

If your sampling of a given data set shows one thing, but the entire data set shows something different, it is not the data set that's wrong, but the sampling you've taken from it.

This is akin to asking 10K people for their favorite flavour of ice cream, taking a "random sample" of those results, and claiming people prefer Bollocks flavoured ice cream.

If we go back through the entire data set & find that only 100 people claimed to enjoy that flavour, then your conclusion based on your obviously-flawed sample is to blame, NOT the raw data.

In this case, SL's raw data proves Nielsen's lying out it's arse.

Nielson *FAIL*.

Case Closed.

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Harsh

Point taken, Shadow Systems.

That is actually where I started from. After all, it ought to be a fairly simple thing to do to estimate user numbers at any given point in time.

But after talking to Nielsen for a while, I think the guy had a point - but it was badly made, and he wasn't really answering the questions as asked.

Any and every medium requires some form of meaningful audit. This is as true of online as it is of magazines and TV.

The problem I allude to on TV is that early systems for measuring TV viewing habits grounded on the fact that just measuring hours that the TV was locked on to a particular channel failed to take account of when people went out and left the TV on.

Ditto SL. The SL stats are telling us how many users are on at a given moment in time. I have to confess, as a devotee of French music, that I sometimes just log on using my journalist av - Desiderio Blitz, if anyone wishes to say hi - and continue to write in Word, whilst listening to the music playing background at "la rose rouge".

If I am "online" for ten hours...and actually interacting with other sl users for 30 minutes, how should I be counted?

What I think Nielsen are trying to do - and they're not yet there - is to come up with some sort of meaningful figure for presence in virtual worlds.

Marketing press that I write for are currently quite obsessed with this issue. What is a meaningful measure of online usage in a web 2.0 world? Whose model of usage is closest to reality? Whose model makes most sense when trying to evaluate the impact of a medium?

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Happy

Juat A First Hand View

Hi,

I thought some comments from an individual like myself who is actively working with second life might be valuable to some.

I spend time working with a small core team (3) in Second Life. We are using it as a platform for bringing together an art community via 3D internet. I am not unbiased, however I am interested 3D internet technologies as a whole and don't feel overly biased towards Second Life specifically.

Having watched, experienced, and interacted in this media since 2006, this is what I see.

1. Bots are now a ToS violation in SL, leading to improved performance and reduced "fake" traffic. Yay!

2. Even with that change in policy, the average number of users is significantly larger these days. I often see 65,000+ or more people logged in at one time.

3. From my point of view there is ample activity in Second Life including live music, live opera, live theater, clubs, "chat room events" of various sorts, tours, museums, art galleries, building events, discussions, movie nights, etc...

4. Every single day 125 to 200 people come to and visit my Art Gallery... that is several thousand people a month! Personally, things seem to be buzzing!

I do not think that Second Life is primed and ready to replace the 2D internet or Facebook; not yet... But someday, not too far from today, a technology like Second Life will in my opinion make this leap. Linden Labs just happens to be the front runner today with their Second Life platform.

Hope it helps!

Omni Market

Website: http://omni.fm

Second Life SIM: http://slurl.omni.fm

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