voice chat in SL

Soon, voice chat will be available to users on the main grid. This has been heralded as a wonderful change to the Second Life experience and indeed even said to be making history.

I know you’ve probably read blog posts and speculation about how this is going to affect the users in Second Life. I’m going give you one more.

Several times over the last couple of months I’ve been invited into Skype chats. My initial reaction to joining a group chat with Daphne, Tamara, BucketJen, and Crap was “I’m going to suck at this so bad they’ll never want to talk to me again”. It’s not about my voice, what? I’m going worry about a sweet honey-dripping Southern accent coming across the line? Um, no.

(Though I’m not that thrilled with Chel Pixie sounding that way…hmmm…another point there to explore.)

No, this cuts into communication in SL and the cut could run pretty deep. Making a choice to voice chat or text chat will cut some people that you’re communicating out of the loop when they make a decision which to use. Let’s face it, no one is going through the trouble of typing what they are speaking.

Another thing working against voice is that it does not take into consideration those who wouldn’t be able to hear the voice chat. I’m sure there are several people in SL who are deaf and hard of hearing. Voice chat at events won’t help them feel comfortable because they’ll be left in the text only conversation.

What is the solution to this? How do we make up for the inevitable disconnect that some will feel? Make events non-voice? Specify which they’ll be….? I’m curious to find out the damage that it’ll do to communications and how people who choose (or can’t) make out in text chat while voice in going on around them. Some are going to feel left out and discouraged.

On the plus side, conveying emotions and thoughts are so much easier being spoken and there is no worry about the context because your voice can be heard. I learned from Howard Rheingold’s Brainstorms community, as a host and a member, that it is very important in text based communication to be specific about what it is that you need to say and how you convey it. That burden will be eased by voice.

Looks for now, like LL has decided to make us wait a little longer to find out what the consequences will be.


7 responses to “voice chat in SL

  1. I agree that voice within SL may divide those that can hear and those that can’t.

    But it *will* help with blending voice and text chat for live meetings. In the past, trying to pipe a skype conference into a parcel was a royal bear and the lag was horrific.

    SL voice appears to reduce or eliminate that lag. Might make it possible for the 100 word story/short fiction recitals I’ve been pondering for months.

  2. In Nowhereville, it will never be a problem I’m afraid. Since we are paying the old rates for our island, it would cost us extra to run voice there. And since making regular tier is enough of a task at this point, I don’t see it happening.

    That’s another point of divide to consider though. Will people choose not to come to Nowhereville because they cannot use voice there?

  3. Hey Chel,

    I orginally thought that voice chat would be the best enhancement to SL. Haveing read your post and thought more about, I think I will pass on it. Sure it will have some use. It will be cool to do streaming from within SL and have more voices available in podcasts but aside from that I reckon (sorry for the southern reference, but it was the best word) it will be akin to party lines. Too many voices to make a conversation followable.

    The number of times that I’ve been involved in a Skype chat within SL, I’ve found that I resort to text to express myself clearer. I know several podcasters that would benefit from voice conversations vs text since they suck at typing, but I think they are the exception to the rule.

    I for one will continue to visit Nowhereville if there is voice there or not. It’s all about the people that go there…not so much what’s going on.

    Dude Rust (aka AndyCast Andy..we are inseparable)

  4. Madi,

    I hadn’t realized that islands don’t have a choice about being enabled….but as I don’t totally support voice chat, I’ve avoided trying it out on the beta grid.

    I cannot see BucketHeads abandoning events on Nowheresville and I know that I will continue my support of you and Corey.

  5. Andy, thanks for reading and considering what voice chat means. While I enjoy Skype chats as much as the next person I definitely do not want to see them become the norm so much that others are left out of the equation.

    I’m sure I’ll give voice a try, but the freedom of text allows me to multi-task with greater efficiency.

    I just worry about the affects on the community when voice interferes with communication.

  6. Oh we have a choice alright…. do we want voice and an increase in our tier, or do we want the same tier and no voice? Heh. Good to see the current BUCKETHEads will probably remain. Scary to think about losing new ones though.

    We have more time to consider as LL delays on this release. And while I understand the power and the fun of voice, I also am concerned about the difficulties coming down the line.

  7. I look at voice as a “must” for wide spread adoption of 3D platforms / virtual worlds.

    Then again, I believe that SL is a platform – a tool to be used – not a game. And if you want a platform / tool to be adopted, the easier it is to use, the more that people will adopt it.

    Let’s face it, trying to navigate and type and all of the other key strokes that are required to “live” in SL has a step learning curve. For many people, this learning curve is never mastered.

    Adding voice reduces one of the barriers.

    Now as Chel points out – and nicely done! – this voice implentation in SL does present issues that from a community stand point will be interesting to watch.

    As for how the Lindens are going to be charging for voice – Madie’s concern – while nothing has been stated as fact, it is discouraging to see that they want to push the $195 sims (class 3 and class 4) up to $295 without upgrading the sim to a class 5. If I am forced to pay $295, then I will just ask for the Class 5 upgrade.

    I do believe that voice will enhance the SL experience. And I know from the RL business that this feature is key for widespread adoption.

    I am also interested to see how voice is managed during music events and during meetings. Then again, I do love creative chaos.

    well that is my 2 cents – Hope to hear you all soon… 🙂

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