Also, I'd say that comparisons to Dot Hack (Sign, especially, but R:1 and R:2 games and anime as well) are rather accurate. They both have similar themes (such as the character archetypes that make up both Kirito and Tsukasa) and the progress in similar fashions, though Sign puts less emphasis on fighting. There are other similarities, but they'd be spoilers to both series. This isn't a bad thing; in fact, I'd say that the similarities between the two make for great anime. Granted, I think that a younger person could watch SAO than one that could watch Sign, seeing the difference in pacing and the amount of talking that varies between the two.
That's quite true. The Online polling on Episode Discussions are quite consistent on this.
But anyways you're quite correct on the whole .Hack comparison. It's just that the two series came out at the same time, so it kinda grates LN readers when people say that it was just copied off.
Episode 11 thoughts:
PAPA! MAMA! Damn that hits hard. Don't try carry the burden of everyone's heart Yui-chan...