Thursday, November 30, 2006

Second Life, Sailing, Golf and Heroin

Two of the bloggers on my first Top Ten Sailing Blogs list -- and still two of the best writers about sailing in Blogistan -- Zephyr and Soulsailor have recently been posting about Second Life, a "3D online virtual world imagined, created and owned by its residents".

Zephyr in Second Life & Sailing tells us that he has been "sitting on the transom of a sloop in a virtual marina sipping a cup of coffee and getting ready for a romping sail". In a reply to comments in a subsequent post we hear that he's "currently looking at Ms. Jacqueline Trueau's 'Defender II' sloop for purchase" and yesterday we learned that he has bought that sloop and that he (or his avatar) is sailing it on the waters of the Nantucket Sim.

Soulsailor in Crapper.. reports that he has "gotten properly addicted to Second Life", and has been racing in some virtual sailboat races. A couple of days later in One Sailing Boot... we learn that he is thinking of buying some land in Second Life and is asking us for advice on which of two properties he should buy: "Seriosuly guys what do you think... if you were hanging out in second life and were gonna come and visit me then where would you wanna go?"

Remember that these cups of coffee, boats, land, marina and houses that are being built, improved, coveted, admired, and bought and sold only exist as bits on servers at Linden Lab the creators of Second Life. I have to confess to being simultaneously intrigued and skeptical about this idea of immersing myself in an imaginary world of such richness and complexity. In response to a couple of comments from myself that must have communicated more skepticism than interest, Zephyr tells us...

At the moment the experience is somewhat limited due to computing power but in my opinion we are seeing the leading edge of a technology that will change the face of everything - the analogy I like to use is think of the gap between the old reel to reel tape player I remember my Dad having in the mid 1970's and the ipod today. We could have never envisioned something like the ipod when we thought the reel to reel was the bees knees but the core concept of portable audio was there and in 20 years or so it was extrapolated out to the ipod...which one could argue is in and of itself just the leading edge of something we can't yet envision. The point being that the excitement around "Second Life" has to do - for me - with what I can imagine being able to to as the technology gets more powerful. As well it's a cool way to interact more broadly with a community of (in my case) sailors.

He may well be right and I'm not sure why I don't immediately share his enthusiasm. It's not that I'm some kind of anti-technology luddite. After all I did spend almost 30 years of my life working in Information Technology, trying to keep up with each wave of change and working out how best to exploit it in our business. And in my personal life, while not being one of those early adopter types who has to own each latest gizmo as soon as it hits the market, I do end up using most popular consumer technologies sooner or later. I have even been known to play a sailing simulator game on my computer.

I think my reluctance to leap with both feet into Second Life is more related to the reason I don't play golf. In my former corporate life I was surrounded by colleagues who were avid golfers. They often encouraged me to join them in the sport. I always resisted the temptation because I suspected that golf would, like sailing, be one of those activities that I would find seriously addictive. My competitive streak would have driven me into wanting to improve my game and I would have spent every leisure hour practicing or playing in desperate efforts to lower my handicap. And that would have cut into the time available for my other addiction, sailing.

I have more time now I'm retired but I am also now addicted to blogging and marathon running as well as sailing. I'd like to be as good as I can be at all three. I'm scared that Second Life might be so engrossing it would cut into the time for my other addictions. Is it the kind of thing that, like heroin, it's so good you shouldn't even try it once?

Has anyone else tried sailing in Second Life? How does it compare to the real thing? What are the rewards of the experience? Will it make me a better Laser sailor? Are Zephyr and Soulsailor thought-leaders we should follow into the Second Life, or simply uber-geeks who need to get out and feel the sun on their backs and the wind on their faces more often?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your final sentance is the problem my real-world friend... its cold, rainy and the winds up and down, no warm sun on my back...

...Are Zephyr and Soulsailor thought-leaders we should follow into the Second Life, or simply uber-geeks...

I think the answer is yes, we are both, there's a trade-off, theres value in Second Life that can't be replicated in Real Life... but there will always be nothing better than being in a boat wood (or FRP) under your arse, the wind tugging at whats left of your hair, the sun on your face and waves cooling your skin.. the excitement of only just being in control when battling the elements is THE feeling of Real Life... the fun, interaction, collaboration, variety and interest is in Second Life..

Wet and wind will never be replaced by ones and zeroes.... but I won't stop playing.

Yzerfontein said...

My knee-jerk reaction is that this "second-life" thing is an utter waste of time - but that's probably because I don't really understand it.

You managed to resist a day away from the office playing golf - you've got more self-control than me.

Tim said...

I wonder if people will have virtual jobs as well? Virtual families? Virtual wives/husbands?
Virtual sex? (the mind boggles!)
Matrix here we come!

Tillerman said...

Tim, I'm sure that everything you suggest is already happening in Second Life. As Zephyr says, "Believe me when I say that there is no 'community' that goes unexplored in SL. Use your imagination on that."

We should be thankful that Soulsailor and Zephyr are following a good clean healthy activity like sailing in their second lives!

Anonymous said...

Great conversation! And, I think, a point scored all around for every form of community interaction fostered by the Internet...whether they be blogs or virtual worlds or something we can't yet imagine. One interesting angle on this is that in Second Life people are sucessfully building "real life" businesses. For example the lady I bought my classic (yet virtual) sloop from (for around $4.00 US) has sold a bundle of them and, I imagine, has generated a nice stream of income for herself. Another perspective is that in the last 24 hours people in the Second Life world have transacted over $600,000 US. This is technology in its infancy and folks are already throwing around over a half a million a day on land, clothes, houses and, yes, sailboats.

What excites me is the potential of this. Extrapolate out to a point where the technology to interact in a virtual world becomes transparent and embedded (trust me it will). Now it involves sitting in your comfy armchair at home and speaking a set of words and making a gesture...the walls around you dissolve into huge hi-def screens and with a few more words you conjure your yacht and begin evaluating the wind conditions and running the line against a start cadence. Or maybe you're positioning a cameras to capture the best shots of the racing fleet in order to build a lucrative portfolio of sailing prints. Or maybe you're in the stands with your sailing class, lecturing the children on racing strategy. Or maybe you're in a chase boat with a potential client convincing him or her to invest in a sponsorship for the boat you're campaigning. Or maybe you're the top sailing journalist in-world and you're riding along with the Dennis Conner of virtual sailing in order to break the big story.

There will never be anything better than - as ANT points out - the real thing. But I can dimly see better ways to make a living & indulge a passion...better than sitting in front of a static computer monitor and navigating an email queue...or reading the Zephyr Sail blog for that matter.

Tillerman said...

It would seem that one factor determining how rewarding any of these online experiences are, is what outlets they allow for the user's creativity. From what little I know of 2L it seems that folk who like designing and building objects on a computer, or starting up small businesses will find a lot of ways in 2L to use their skills and ingenuity.

I guess one reason I like blogging is that I enjoy writing. Any job vacancies for writers in 2L?

OG said...

Life is a game - PLAY IT

Tillerman said...

The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth. ~Chinese Proverb

AdriftAtSea said...

Actually, many of the on-line worlds have functioning economies with analogs in the real-world. In many of them, the currencies are sold at some exchange rate, and there was even one currency exchange market that I know of that allowed you to trade currencies from one realm to another.

Zinnemann said...

Whilst sailing in Second Life does not replace real life sailing many of the skills learned sailing in Second Life help with real life sailing.

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