As the Hype Cycle Turns

by Alphaville Herald on 20/12/07 at 11:35 pm

Does “The Slope of Enlightenment” mean “I Went to Webkinz?”

by Urizenus Sklar, at the Hypewatch Desk


Google trends shows that the SL Hype bubble continues to deflate while Webkinz pwns.

Theoretically, the Gartner hype cycle is supposed to go like this:

1. “Technology Trigger” — The first phase of a hype cycle is the “technology trigger” or breakthrough, product launch or other event that generates significant press and interest.
2. “Peak of Inflated Expectations” — In the next phase, a frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. There may be some successful applications of a technology, but there are typically more failures.
3. “Trough of Disillusionment” — Technologies enter the “trough of disillusionment” because they fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and the technology.
4. “Slope of Enlightenment” — Although the press may have stopped covering the technology, some businesses continue through the “slope of enlightenment” and experiment to understand the benefits and practical application of the technology.
5. “Plateau of Productivity” — A technology reaches the “plateau of productivity” as the benefits of it become widely demonstrated and accepted. The technology becomes increasingly stable and evolves in second and third generations. The final height of the plateau varies according to whether the technology is broadly applicable or benefits only a niche market.

Of course there is no guarantee in this that Second Life will rebound on the slope of enlightenment and enjoy the fruited plane of productivity. The curve is for technologies writ large, not for corporations. So is it possible that Second Life kicked in the door and other virtual worlds will reap the post-disillionment rewards? Obviously yes. The question is: Is this already happening? Could it be, as the above graph shows, that the real future of virtual worlds (the path on the slope of enlightment) is being blazed by flash-based kid games? I say yes!

But wait! Webkinz?? Surely you jest Uri! Well gentle reader, I’m glad you asked…

Just last week Virtual Worlds Management released their 2008 industry forecast and what caught my attention was the following snippet from former Linden Chief Evangelist and current CEO of metaverse development company Millions of Us, Reuben Steiger (click the link for an interview of Reuben conducted in a stairwell). Asked what he predicted for the future of virtual worlds, the first thing out of his keyboard was:

An explosion of Flash/Web-based worlds for kids, many of which will have (physical) retail tie-ins.

For those of you who don’t know, this is the Webkinz model. Buy a toy, and get a virtual counterpart. Is this really the future of virtual worlds? A virtual sanctuary for toys? If the Velveteen Rabbit is cast into the fire it can still survive as a virtual pet it seems.

Oh, and Herald readers may rest assured that as the nomadic denizens of Second Life continue their great migration through the farthest reaches of cyberspace the Herald will be there to watch it all happen (just as we watched the great diaspora from TSO to Second Life). I personally have been in webkinz for over a year setting up the Herald Webkinz bureau!

Uri pimpin’ in Webkinz.

24 Responses to “As the Hype Cycle Turns”

  1. The Grid Live

    Dec 21st, 2007

    Second Life News for December 21, 2007

    From: Ambling in Second Life Brush up on Colgate Smile Power Quote from the site – Hi. Just wanted to give you a heads up that Colgate-Palmolive will be officially entering SL tomorrow (Friday, December 21, 2007). They’re going to offer residents sev…

  2. Vonn Neumann

    Dec 21st, 2007

    Hmmmm, it’s very quiet around here…almost…too quiet.

  3. Ann Otoole

    Dec 21st, 2007

    SL is in the trough. It’s pretty obvious thats where they are. Haven’t even made it to phase 4.

    Whats sort of ironic is a media reporter is disdaining the technology (phase 3) while assuming the technology is past a future phase.

  4. Marc Woebegone

    Dec 21st, 2007

    [Poor to nonexistent] “customer service” + an oligarchy form of governance = SL

  5. James Kazan

    Dec 21st, 2007

    What a surprise!

    Now compare the trends between SL and WoW, you’ll see a striking similarity on 2007.

  6. DaveOner

    Dec 21st, 2007

    Would you consider it a failure if LL went out of business but SL through open source was to become the standard for virtual worlds? I don’t think so considering I’ve read a bunch of interviews of P. Rosey where he essentially states that is the overall goal.

    You guys seem to forget (or never found out) that he was pretty much rich before he started SL so it hasn’t been about making him money as much as it has been getting this stuff put out.

  7. marilyn murphy

    Dec 21st, 2007

    so, dave, he was rich already. then he could have chosen to fix stuff, instead of doing useless bling. he could have actually had a functioning metaverse without the pretty water effects maybe. he could have shut it all down 3 years ago, fixed the underpinnings and cranked it back up. of course that would have meant serving customers needs.
    instead, since he had the choice, mr. rosedale chose to rule in hell, rather than serve in paradise?

  8. Anonymous

    Dec 21st, 2007

    If Philip Weren’t in it for the money, he wouldn’t have made SL so money grubbing, dave.
    Anyways, looks like the bubble’s finally bursting, SL’s dying.

  9. corona

    Dec 21st, 2007

    If you read the Google article it is clear that the graph is based upon ‘number of searches for the keyword’
    so all it shows is that there have been more people enquiring about the ‘webkinz’ in the google website
    about as meaningful as gauging popularity of music by CD sales
    once those who have brought the CD – they will continue to listen to the music – but that wont show up in the sales figures
    the same ios probably true of equiries to google compared to those still playing SL- who no longer need equire about it

    plus as the Herald has shown the interest in SL by businesses has also waned – the graph will also reflect this lessening interest

  10. DaveOner

    Dec 21st, 2007

    Yeah, more outsiders looking in.

    It’s true one of their biggest fuck ups is going for more features as opposed to fixing existing ones to the critics’ standards but you’d also have to understand how they do things there. It’s incredibly freeform from what I’ve heard…probably a little TOO freeform…and a lot of the guys working on whatever they get ideas for with little active management (because if you manage people and tell them what to do then you’re a “square” there I guess).

    I attribute their unwillingness to stop making new features and fix the existing ones more on bad management than trying to hype things up…although no one can deny the hype factor has been there for a while.

    And as far as money making…it would be a much wiser business decision to sell LL to Google or someone like that and just rake in the dough right when SL was at it’s peak in popularity. That’s a common corporate practice if you pay attention (see MySpace and YouTube for more info)…and yet here we are!

    If you understood what it took for such an awkward, lumbering beast as SL and it’s trainers (LL) to survive you’d realize that they need a lot of capital. There’s no doubt that plenty of it has been wasted in a “late 90′s dot com” fashion but a lot of it also has to go into building the business to at least tread water (which seems to be the mode they’re in now).

    Then there’s the fact that open sourcing your technology is a bad business decision for anyone out to make money. Refer to Apple for a prime example of profitting on technological monopoly.

    Either way I think “articles” and comments like the above are more of a “criticize people that have taken a chance and been successful to make yourself feel better without actually accomplishing anything” approach than anything relevant.

    If it was really such a failure you’d be on to something else already. I stand behind my assertion that if SL’s platform becomes the standard that future virtual worlds are based on through open sourcing (which is already happening) then LL would be considered a success if you pay attention to what their leadership has actually been saying.

    I’m not a fanboy but I’m not a hater! It’s possible to be a rational thinker on the internet these days. Try it!

  11. Gaius Goodliffe

    Dec 21st, 2007

    “then he could have chosen to fix stuff, instead of doing useless bling.”

    False dilemma. Why not do both? And there’s precisely zero “useless bling” in SL — let me know if there’s anything you understand the use of, and I’ll explain it, but since you’re not being specific it’s kinda hard to argue, other than note that there is no such thing. I’ll take a stab at that you might be referring to things like Windlight, in which case, I’ll point out that the appearance of SL is one of the big problems it has, and there are a number of virtual worlds who thrive on it. Attention to visual appearance is vital for the long-term goal of increasing participation in this VR world.

    “he could have shut it all down 3 years ago, fixed the underpinnings and cranked it back up. of course that would have meant serving customers needs.”

    Shutting down SL serves customer’s needs? Good thing LL listens to its actual customers. Trust me, we don’t want it shut down. Secondly, that would be counterproductive. The single greatest tool LL has for designing and implementing a functional world is an existing, heavily used world that they can use as a testbed. You could not possibly ask for a better thing for testing ideas, seeing what works and what doesn’t. The experience is the biggest asset LL has of any other competitors. Developing new software with better underpinnings is an excellent idea, and they’re doing that (are you again suffering from the false dilemma, thinking they can’t do both at once?), but shutting down the existing one while they do it would not only not be helpful, but would rob them of one of their best tools for doing the job.

  12. Misty McConachie

    Dec 21st, 2007

    I’ve always thought SL was just a technological stepping stone, albeit a critical one, on the road to a more generalized virtual worlds network.

    I think in the short to medium term we are going to see more and more companies and educational institutions setting up their own virtual spaces attached to their websites. Why not just stick with SL? (1) Control (2) Technically SL is so riddled with deep-rooted bugs it’s doomed to become anachronistic unless a total overhaul is undertaken, which we all know is not going to happen.

    In the longer term those specific communities of interest established by the business and education sectors will (hopefully) become interconnected in some way.

  13. corona

    Dec 21st, 2007

    SL vs Webkinz ??

    seen the Webkinz website

    no thanks

    think i will be sticking with SL for a long time yet- if webkinz is the best alternative available to SL

    As i am neither a child nor a paedophile ‘webkinz’ holds absolutely no attraction for me

  14. marilyn murphy

    Dec 21st, 2007

    i guarantee you, 3 years ago if LL had put it to a vote, to shut down for two weeks and re do the basics correctly then start again, it would have met with an overwhelming popular vote. thats just one idea that was floated back then. of course if 500 people were on line at once in those days it was a huge day.
    im just under the impression that its gotten to unwieldy and gangly in the underpinnings to make it function correctly. if they can fix it, then…why havent they in the last four years? you talk as tho they can do both at once and thats fine, but….they havent. to the point where they are not believed when they talk any more. im not a computer whiz by any means. i dont understand most of how all this works, but i do understand from people who do know how this works that the attention appears to be riveted on new bling and not on why my shoe is up my ass and why i can’t tp, or why i crash when i try to tp and why…sorry. u know what im talking about.

  15. Nacon

    Dec 22nd, 2007

    SL Herald’s belief in Webkinz is better than SL is truly pedophile as Micheal Jackson.

  16. NinaA

    Dec 22nd, 2007

    Hehehe stupid statistics. I’m away to finish building an extension, redecorate and then have a party with some friends in the failed and dying SL. Hard selling corporations have nothing to offer me in SL and I didn’t notice them arrive and never noticed them leave!

  17. Irigary

    Dec 22nd, 2007

    Hey Marc Woebegone posted.

    Defraud any other corporations lately, Marc?

  18. Marc Woebegone

    Dec 23rd, 2007

    Hey Noobie naive Irigary….

    Never have….

    Happy Holidays.


  19. Eva

    Dec 23rd, 2007

    Uri you totally never play webkinz anymore and have been known to make fun of me for it. =p

  20. Dire Lobo

    Dec 24th, 2007

    >if LL had put it to a vote, to shut down for two weeks
    >and re do the basics correctly then start again

    WOT! Two weeks? Do you have even a clue what would be involved in the type of “…re do the basics…” or “…fix the underpinnings.” – the perscription you are advising – assuming that is what’s needed – would take months not two weeks! Obviously this is a key point of misunderstanding and of course, who would be against taking two weeks SL being down if it meant having it come back up all shiny and working properly. Two weeks – SURE, let’s go. But it won’t be two weeks.

  21. Archie Lukas

    Dec 24th, 2007

    Just a thought

    anything to do with the appalling session failure rates experienced by residents and the lack of interest by advertsing commericial orgs in the world getting fed up with the unreliability and inconsistancy?


    I must have it all wrong then

  22. Archie Lukas

    Dec 24th, 2007

    WE Brits have never heard of these “webkinz” thingys
    nor the term plush toys

    So what we are talking about here is the American perception of life, which
    as we all know is the only life on the planet

  23. Anonymous

    Dec 27th, 2007

    this is basically a dupe of the previous “SL IS DOOMED!!!11″ article with a different twist.

    I bet you could compare SL to neopets or zwinky or whatever the site of the day is for TEENYBOPPERS who basically flood the internet until around 18-20 when they start getting bogged down with real life. SL is filled with anti-social people who are older than 18 (and some 16-18 year olds)who lack a real life to begin with.

    so naturally SL is going to have lower ratings.

    Also, you dont need two articles to state the obvious.

    SL has been dying since the dust from all the hype settled sometime around last may. When the old media stopped churning positive reports.

    say the worlds “Owning Virtual Land and Virtual Products” in your head and contemplate the meaning behind that.

    that’s why the hype is dying. everyone realizes that’s bullshit. especially when it’s all run under one entity.

  24. CW

    Jan 2nd, 2008

    I await the renaming of this website to WebkinzHerald and featuring tales of ribald sex and naked pictures of Webkinz furry avs.

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