I'm AFK for a couple weeks and I miss a crazy series of threads on SL. Well, as a sociologist/statistician, I'm going to avoid the politics here and simply state what I would like to see for universal metrics of virtual world use--something to get us in the ballpark of apples to apples. The intent, after all, is to have agreed-upon baseline numbers which you then argue about being indicative of something.
Here are my potshots on what those would look like:
The first three are cummulative for all accounts/avatars owned/used.
Duration (could also be called "stickyness"): The amount of time the person has been a user of the world, expressed as a population mean with a standard deviation. This would be retroactive time from today, telescoping backwards. The user need not be on every day. Gaps between logins are allowable, with the maximum allowable time gap between logins being 90 days. Use example: "The average user of MegaWorld has a duration of 83 days." The standard deviation of the mean would help explain whether the typical person logged in once and quit or actually hugs the mean.
Intensity: Average hours per day per user. Sure, subject to all kinds of distortions for people who leave accounts logged on for various purposes (selling goods in Lineage 2, e.g.). Nevertheless, pretty useful as an indicator of bandwidth and interest levels and roughly comparable across worlds.
Economic activity A: A binary variable reporting whether the user does or does not pay for access to the virtual world.
Economic activity B: The average amount paid per user per week across the world population.
Multiplicity: Another population mean, an indicator of the number of accounts or avatars maintained by the user. This number would then be used for the previous three to obtain per-character averages. Note that the number could be either more than 1 or a fraction of 1 if the account is shared.
Lastly, I would like to see the term "active users" simply be anyone who has logged in to the world within the past 30 days. Not perfect, but simple and pretty good for an apples-to-apples measure across VWs.
With these numbers, you could calculate a range of use statistics for different users' needs. And, of course, having the raw numbers themselves (rather than means & SDs) to plot distributions would be even better.
I understand the incentives to supply, distort or hide these figures and I just don't care. I want the raw numbers based on these criteria (even if it makes Thomas think less of me ;) ). And sure, we're all subject to using what companies actually decide to disclose, but that's no reason to not spell out a better standard.
No doubt the excellent collection of minds perusing this site can improve on my starter list. The goal is to come up with some series of metrics that make sense across virtual worlds.