In case you don't believe me, here is David Pogue (NY Times Circuits Columnist) on his experience in SecondLife, including a video from his appearance on CBS News Sunday Morning.
Pogue doesn't focus on the community/nonprofit/philanthropic side of 2L. At least, not intentionally. But his interview with Philip Rosedale, founder of LindenLab which makes 2L, is revealing in lots of ways regarding the development of an independent sector in the virtual world.
Here's what Pogue and Rosedale said:
Here's my interpretation of this. In other words, when you enter 2L as a 'newbie' people will voluntarily help you. They'll show you around, answer your questions, help clothe and shelter you, give you money. Now, remember what's going on here - behind every avatar is a human being. Spending his/her time hanging out in 2L. So people are allocating their discretionary time to this virtual world, and when they get there what do they do? They help people they don't know - they VOLUNTEER.
DP: The first time I tried Second Life, I must admit I was a little bewildered. I was a little bored, because I couldn’t find anyplace to go to find people. Do you have any advice for newcomers?
PR: Second Life is a little bit like being dropped from a helicopter into New York City, and all you have is sort of a tattered bus map. You have to ask other people.
The biggest piece of advice is to find friends. Go and say hi and ask someone for help. And what you’ll find is that because the environment is a little tricky to get around in, people are eager to help teach newcomers those skills.
Here's more from DP and PR:
Here's my interpretation. There isn't much of a government in 2L. Some community rules and community enforcement, but no overarching governing structure.
DP: Have you ever had to punish a member?
PR: We have banned people for repeatedly violating the sort of high-level rules of just basic tolerance and non-harassment, yes.
DP: And you banished them to The Cornfield?
PR: (LAUGHS) We’re always doing experiments. And there was a period of time where we would give people suspensions rather than kicking them out of Second Life altogether. And one of the funny things that somebody here at the office came up with was the idea that you’d be incarcerated. You could log in, so you could use Second Life, but you’d always be placed in this strange cornfield that had this old tractor. There was nothing in it– it was a corn field, and then this old tractor. And then a television that sat there incessantly and played these 1950s “Be a Good Citizen” kind of movies. Great stuff.
And finally, from Pogue and Rosedale:
"PR: When you watch people in Second Life, there’s initially a desire to just have everything that you’ve ever wanted: to be very beautiful, to be very sociable, and to be very engaged in a kind of fast-forward version of consumption as we know it in the real world.
But that’s the first couple of months. And then after that you’ve almost reached a Zen-like state where you can say, “Well, I’ve done everything, but what more is there? Then you start to ask questions like, “Well, maybe I just want to build a temple on a hill and meditate. Or I want to contribute to a community in a way that’s not something that was obvious when I came in.”
My interpretation - given free reign over what to do, people serve themselves first and then others. They make things. Some they give away (time, help, objects) and some they sell (hence the growing market economy in 2L which has received so much attention).So what does it mean? Well, it makes it interesting to think about what philanthropy/social good/community action is and how it acts in an environment with an economy, no government, and community-enforced codes of conduct. If you really wanted to redefine philanthropy, a virtual world seems like a good place to do it (or, to watch it happen).
If you do want to see some of the cooler nonprofit stuff going on in 2l check out these links, kindly sent to me by Susan Tenby of TechSoup and TechSoup SecondLife. In world, she is known as Glitteractica Cookie, if you're already in 2L and want to find out more.
# We have ongoing weekly Friday meetings where we discuss our various projects in the TechSoup space in Second Life. These meetings occur at 8:30-10am PST.
# We had an exciting mixed-reality event, and you can read all about it here http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2006/07/reflections_on_.html
You can see some video (unedited) of it here:
(When we get it edited, I will give you the link to that more easy-to-watch formatted piece)
# We are working on an FAQ for Nonprofits in Second Life with tricks, tips and freebies for new residents. This will be for the Nonprofit Commons residents, and it will be an office in a box for NPOs in SL.
# We have a Nonprofit Directory that will teleport you around to visit other nonprofit organizations in Second Life
# We have a google discussion group for our ideas here:
# We have our bookmarks and inages saved under the Del.icio.us/technorati/flickr tag NPSL:
# To see the images of what this all looks like, check out the flickr tag NPSL, secondlife or techsoup.
Please see the FAQ on what nonprofits can do in SL here:
Please see my interview of a few orgs that are doing good work in-world:http://www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/internet/page5902.cfm