How Second life Harness Collective Intelligence


I was attending a virtual lecture offered by Stanford University, then the next second I teleported myself to a spectacular 3D medieval castle created by users like me; wondering if I should purchase the dress I just saw in a virtual shop and have my hair done for the upcoming party tonight. And all these activities are taken place in the 3D virtual platform, Second Life.

As described clearly in Tim O’Reilly‘s book, Web2.0 Principles and Best Practices,
customer contribution is one of the six key market drivers of Web 2.0. And the core pattern related to customer contribution is successfully harnessing collective intelligence.

Being designed to be non-linear and to immensely depend on collective intelligence, Second Life has effectively attracted and built a huge global user base with a focus on providing user-generated, community-driven experience.

Basically, almost all the objects in Second Life including buildings, plants, landscape and even clothes and avatars, are created or modified by users like you and me. All the contents are generated, maintained and enjoyed by every user with high degree of control. The platform developer, Linden Lab, assures that users retain the copyright for any content they create, and the contents can even be traded using virtual currency in Second Life.

Being launched since 2003, Second Life has sufficiently illustrated how to harness and magnify collective intelligence by applying the following practices:

  1. Reward the user first

    First of all, Second Life has minimized the hassle of adoption to new beginners. Registration only takes two steps by selecting desired avatar and inputting basic personal details. Though users still need to download and install the 3D software to launch Second Life, the process is far more easier comparing to other games or websites.

  2. Set network effects by default

    All the contents generated in Second life are byproducts of users pursuing their self-interests: fashion designers seeking a space to showcasing their works, and even gaining rewards; architects can easily build up their dream buildings beyond the limitation of reality; amateur musicians host their own concerts and release virtual albums, etc. Through event highlights and community, individual user’s impact has further been maximized and enhanced.

  3. Involve users explicitly and implicitly

    Second Life has created a virtual platform for users to contribute both explicitly and implicitly. Either you can be an active participant by constantly produce meaningful contents, such as running a virtual shop selling your creations or hosting interesting events. Or you can simply be a user, by participating or even just browsing the virtual activities, you still contribute to this virtual community implicitly.

  4. Provide a meaningful context for creation

    The main motivation for users to actively generate something in Second Life is the desire of self-expression. Users can achieve their dreams or try out the possibility with lower cost and risk than in their real lives. Second Life has successfully created the space for imagination and inspiration.

  5. Trust your users: share control

    Second Life users enjoy high degree of control over every aspect, from virtual property design to the movement of avatar. Linden Scripting Language allows users to add interactivity to the objects while most of the contents can even been made by external softwares and imported into Second Life.

  6. Facilitate emergence

    As a result of investors meeting, the collaborative and creative potential has shifted the initial Second Life from object-driven, game-focus, to a more user-generated and community-driven platform.


1. What Is Web 2.0-Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software, by Tim O’Reilly, 30/09/2005

2. “Collective Intelligence”, by Pierre Levy, Michael Nielsen, May 23, 2010

3. Collaboration and Collective Intelligence, summary of international conference, MIT5, April 27, 2007

4. How Facebook Graph Search might affect Second Life Residents, by Strawberry Singh, February 7, 2013

5. Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage, by Axel Bruns




3 thoughts on “How Second life Harness Collective Intelligence

  1. Great post! I have heard about this but not used it. I think your post really unpacks how this lines up with Harnessing Collective Intelligence.

    I am lazy though. Any chance you could include the references as ‘hyperlinks’ within the text? (in wordpress editor, just use the icon on the edit tools)

    It would really help to “reward the user first” – me and my time! Thanks!

    • Hey Brownwyn 🙂
      Thanks for your comment and great suggestion!
      But I couldn’t get your idea of “include the references as hyperlink within the text”.
      Do you mean by inserting the references in the parts that I mentioned in my article or?
      If so, it’s a great idea! I will try to do so in the following posts 🙂

  2. Pingback: From Citizen Journalism to Collective Intelligence | Jyotsna Singh

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