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Yankee Group’s good work hidden under cloud of crap stats

It’s not often that you find a company deciding to publicly berate an analyst firm. Yet that’s just what Linden Lab has effectively done in a post on its official blog.

The spat is over a release by the Yankee Group which claims that average time spent per user for Second Life was a mere 12 minutes per month. Compared to TV, the web, or virtually anything else, that’s tiny: I probably spend more time per month staring at the ads on the sides of coffee cups.

Linden Lab couldn’t let this one go without a fight:

“We respect Yankee Group as an analyst firm in good standing in its field. But their press release this week cited a figure that we just can’t figure out: they claim that the average time spent per user of Second Life is just 12 minutes per month.

Just this past August, users of Second Life spent over 23 million hours in Second Life. During that month, there were just over 974,000 user logins to Second Life – that’s an average of 23.6 hours per user!

But hey, maybe Yankee Group was looking at a different user number. Were they counting the unique user registrations? That would be 6.2 million users – but that’s an average of 3.7 hours per user. Maybe they werecounting cumulative total registered accounts through August, 9.3 million users. Uh, but even that is still an average of 2.5 hours.”

Ouch. So much vitriol was poured on this obviously-fallacious reasoning that Yankee Group ended up withdrawing the report, which will be revised and re-released in the near future.

Ironically, although the numbers are decidedly dodgy, the core point of the report is quite valid:

“However, for virtual worlds and metaverses to achieve greater potential in the marketplace and grow beyond early adopters, the experience must be untethered to meet the needs of the Anywhere Consumer™. Companies that provide remote access—through mobile devices or other means—to their web experience will have a greater impact than pc-centric companies.”

Ignoring the trademarked blather, what this means is that virtual worlds need to extend themselves beyond the desktop (or laptop) computer. This doesn’t mean sticking some kind of horrible jerky version of Second Life hacked together in Java on a mobile, but providing links and bridges between SL and mobile applications. Just as Facebook Mobile doesn’t deliver all the functionality you get on a full PC browser, so mobile SL doesn’t have to have everything you get in the desktop client.

And, of course, this is already happening. Both Vodafone and BT have announced plans to integrate voice and text chat from phones into Second Life. It’s easy to see how Second Life could form a multi-leveled virtual presence engine, with your avatar representing who and where you are in the virtual or physical world.

Unfortunately, this point got more than a little lost in the bad statistics of the Yankee report. Hopefully the next version will be a little bit more engaging.

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