At the Second Life Community Convention in Chicago this weekend, panelists and guests gathered to discuss the progress of and prospects for the growing virtual world. The real-world meeting featured live music, a masquerade ball and proclamations of how Second Life will be bigger than the Internet. Some panels focused on social networking issues – building trust, for example, and the sex life of avatars. The latter panel, hosted in part by someone named Stroker Serpentine, proved to be one of the biggest draws. But some of the more interesting discussions centered around the economic prospects of Second Life members. One entrepreneur noted that it’s difficult to get people to show up for work in her virtual shop – her “employees” don’t treat it like a real job.

Sibley Verbek, who runs a company called Electric Sheep that helps businesses set up shop in the virtual world, stressed that Second Life needs to be easier to use before it can truly take off. Only 1 out of 10 newcomers to Second Life remain active members, and Verbek thinks this is probably a usability issue. He said that Second Life needs to ‘AOL-ify’ itself. The comment earned some laughs, but CNET writer Caroline McCarthy convincingly argues that the assessment is dead-on.—Gregory Mone