My posting (and others) about Second Life reaching the "quarter million residents" figure has generated quite a lot of discussion and debate about the meaning, if any, of this statistic. On the Second Life forums [viewable by registered SL residents only], most of this debate is centered on the proliferation of "alt" accounts by residents (some as high as five alts per user), which is made a lot easier by the relaxing of the credit card verification.
Meanwhile, Clickable Culture has a discussion on this topic also going on. Tony Walsh makes the point that this kind of hyper-optimistic statistic is akin to the way people talked about the web in the Dot-com bubble era:
Lauding 250,000 registrants reminds of the early days of the World Wide Web, when 250,000 "hits" on a web site was a big deal. Some companies would do anything to inflate their hits, such as breaking a single page into many component parts, or spreading content over multiple pages. Once we discovered that "hits" was a lousy metric, we looked at more telling stats such as unique visitors and pages viewed. The fact that few virtual world and MMOG makers provide these more accurate statistics makes me wonder what they’re trying to hide–or who they’re trying to impress.
- 165,000 total active residents,
- of which 65,000 are paying in some form,
- and “over 3000? are making real world money,
- averaging $20,000 a year each (skewed by the really high earners, of course).
OK, not a quarter million, but still impressive stats.