Ahhhh, go fly a…

I suppose you’ve heard of Kitely by now? If not, to learn everything you could want to (short of creating an account), go to this blog by Ener Hax, and this one by Maria Korolov. Both are chock full of replies by the founder of Kitely, Ilan Tochner.

So is this: a follow-up blog by Ener, wherein she meant to gather questions for an email interview, but Ilan jumped in and answered them in the comments (don’t know if the interview itself will go forward). The question I posted was very simple; since first learning of it, and what it can and can’t do, I’ve been wondering “What’s it for?”:

Given that Ilan has promised Facebook will eventually not be the only login path, my biggest question for him is “Who are the target customers?”

Ilan’s answer, though no doubt well-meaning, irked me, loaded as it is with buzz phrases and corp-speak:

Hi Lalo,

Our initial target customers are the people who have made virtual worlds their life and work tirelessly to sell others on that vision. We hope that what we bring to market can help people such as yourself sell your VW-based solutions and services to your existing and potential clients.

Going forward we see virtual world and augmented reality based services being more widely accepted by the general public. At which point we believe we will transition to become a mostly transparent utility on top of which people build their value added services. A type of Amazon Web Services for virtual worlds if you will.

Of course, Ilan’s completely unaware that I’m not a “solutions and services” kind of guy. Perhaps he should have been, before dropping a pile of boilerplate on me — “know your customer” and all that. Ilan does know his customer — the ones he’d like to have, anyway. He can’t be expected to know I’m not one of them. In any case, the answer he gave is the one I was expecting. Pardon me for a moment while I invoke the “Immersionist or Augmentationist” dichotomy I had such fun declaring obsolete a while back. Kitely is Virtuality-as-a-tool, not as a place to be in and experience — most importantly, to share experiences with the other people you find there.

Mind you, on its own merit this is not a bad thing, and I don’t have much trouble understanding that there’s a niche market within the larger niche market of Virtuality generally — one which Maria outlined very well in her follow-up blog. Somewhere on the economic spectrum between the people with enough disposable income to pay the likes of Linden Lab or Inworldz for land, and the people with enough savvy and desktop power to self-host their own for free (either as a standalone or hooked to a grid like OSG), there’s a group of people who might be attracted to Kitely’s pay-as-you-go plan in exchange for the convenience.

[Believe me: I’ve done the self-hosting thing. I was barely knowledgeable enough to parse the tutorials available a year ago to get the config files right and set up an instance of MySQL to handle assets. ‘Twas not for the faint of heart, and I don’t expect it’s any easier this year than last.]

The other thing that has me irked: Kitely’s websites calls the OpenSim regions one creates through their service “worlds”. They’re absolutely not worlds — they’re tiny walled gardens, an archipelago of private island sims so isolated by the setup that in order to travel between them, you have to quit out of the viewer and log into the next one. Beyond that, they’re being touted for their potential as sandboxes and conference centers.

In the immortal words of MPoster Linden: “You can have a meetin’ in it!”

Or in Ilan’s words, “solutions and services”. Srs Bznz.

I’m not being facetious when I wish Ilan good luck with Kitely; neither am I being dismissively cynical in advising “don’t quit your day job”. The product has limited appeal; don’t be surprised if interest plateaus quickly after the current first rush of early adopters. Just do us all a favor, please, and stop calling them “worlds”. That’s as big a mistake as the one some people still make when talking about “playing Second Life”.



11 responses to “Ahhhh, go fly a…

  1. Kitely might be perfect for educators like me who only wish to run an occasional simulation based on an OAR file. But I have Jokaydia Grid for that; in my case, too, using names of actor-avatars from works of fiction is necessary. For other sorts of educational simulation, however, RL transparency may be preferred. In course-management systems no one uses a screenname, and CMSes like Blackboard are the biggest walled gardens of all.

    That said, for most other sorts of users you are correct–if you need a persistent world for immersion, Kitely is not the ticket.

    BTW, Lalo, for educators the augmentationist vs. immersionist debate continues: and our students, in the US at least, have moved past it. They are augmentationists, pure and simple. The Smart Phone, not the Cyberpunk dream, is their Internet.

    I doubt that the US Millennial population will ever take to virtual worlds. They already live avatarian lives of constant connection, social-climbing, career-enhancement, and more. They enhance their RL identities, not create new ones.

    Maybe that will change when they settle down and have families and want a bit of escape.

    Time will tell.

  2. @Mr. Crap: Don't worry — he lives on in our memories (and our inventories, as a shoulder pet) without you needing to resurrect the voice.

    @Miso: I immediately thought of you when reading that reply to my question ;)

    @Iggy: Riven Homewood tweeted last night (after I went to bed), wondering what percentage of SL'ers are Boomers. I suspect, as she does, that among the “older” avvies (say, 3 years an upward in-world) a large number of them are “older” in organic terms.

    And, yes! Persistence is the #1 factor in making a virtual space a world.

    @Brinda: Technically, Kitely is not to blame for that incident. Some anonymous copybotter at some indeterminate time in the past turned Heart's SL content into an unauthorized freebie in an OS grid somewhere, and Maria added it to her inventory without knowing it was ripped. Original provenance vanishes when work is copied from one grid and rezzed in another from the XML file.

    Ironically — but indicative of the situation in general — if that landscape piece had not been in that photograph, Lilith and Dolly might never have learned that it had been copied.

  3. Good post, I am somewhat sceptical too, though I am sure it will have its followers. I won't be one … I crave more complicated, more demanding worlds, rather than 'easy' ones…. if I wanted 'easy' I'd watch TV.

  4. I've reviewed your post several times and 100% of your complaints (the things that have you “irked”) are about semantics.

    Given that SL's base has proven to be a niche of a niche of a niche (people who wish to assume an alternate identity, people who crave complex interfaces like sororNishi does), I think you've made an excellent case here for why Kitely IS for the billions who live in the real world.

  5. Thanks for commenting, Gabe.

    I never claimed that my “complaints” were anything other than semantic, and I have always maintained that not only is Second Life (and OpenSim,et alii) a niche market, but that they should embrace being one and stop grasping at mainstream straws… for instance, as a certain other blogger insists that Facebook integration will solve all of SL's problems by sheer numbers alone.

    But think for a minute: The current incarnation of Kitely is directly marketed to people who are already [a] familiar with the concept of virtual space; [b] conversant with either a Linden-authored viewer or an open-source fork of it; [c] willing to operate in what is technically still an alpha-version of the server software (i.e., OpenSim). Does that sound like the “billions who live in the real world” to you?

    Come to think of it, out of the fraction of those billions who have a computer of their own that's capable of running a SL-style viewer, how many do you suppose aren't already in a virtual world of their choice? Those who are not are either unaware that such things exist, are aware but uninterested, or spending their time and money in MMO game worlds. Most of them don't speak English.

    I'm neither trying to condemn Kitely or “damn it with faint praise”; I'm trying to be realistic. When it comes out of beta testing, if it completely changes its marketing strategy to go after the first-time user of virtuality, it may do very well. It will not, however, attract the Farmville crowd… and it should consider itself lucky in that.

  6. Lalo,

    I think any new company would be VERY lucky to attract the Farmville crowd, and that belief is the difference between the SL niche market (which rejects Facebook) and the rest of the online world (which embraces Facebook).

    Notwithstanding the fact that I'm interested in what companies DO, not what they say, I do think you've brought up a lot of good points and this is a worthy discussion. Whether Kitely takes off or not (I think it will), I think you can agree that things are changing fast.

  7. @Gabe: Notwithstanding that the Facebook vs Avatarian argument over privacy through pseudonymity is a question best left for another day… yes, indeed: things are changing fast, as well they should.

    @eurominuteman: Your spam has been deleted.

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