April 12, 2011
What do you do in Second Life?
In the 4 1/2 years I have been visiting Second Life (tm), this is the most frequent question I get, from both outsiders who are unfamiliar with the platform and from insiders (including LL (tm) aka The Lab Which Cannot Be Named).
And there are many answers to the question, because as a virtual world rather than a Game, there is no specific way to utilize the platform.
Since Rod Humble took over as CEO, he has expressed what we all hope is a genuine interest in what it is we are doing on the grid when we log in. Lots of time and money has been spent to encourage more and more people to log in for the first time, often to the dismay of those who are already logging in and would like attention paid to encourage them to log in MORE OFTEN.
Bird in the Hand, etc. Books, blog posts and seminars abound on the importance of keeping your current customers rather than chasing after all the theoretical customers "out there". Written by learned folk with many impressive credentials, so I will refer you to them. Suffice it to say, they tend to agree that taking care of folks who already are your customers is a Good Thing.
So what does that have to do with that adorable couple at the top of the page? I am getting there.
People utilize the grid in many ways, and lots of folks are blogging now about how they use the grid and what they see as the areas that need improvement or repair.
So I would like to talk a bit about how some of my community utilize the grid, in the hopes that our voices will be heard as well. The couple in the photo above are myself and my husband.
When I discovered SL (tm) I discovered a very strange place, with unfamiliar customs and terminology and full of people who I found somewhat frightening. Over time I discovered Caledon, and found a community of very welcoming people. This community has become my online community, and as real a community full of people just as real as the people who live in houses on my street and the people at my work. I resist using the RL/SL dichotomy for that reason - people in SL are not NPCs, they are living human beings.
Our community in Caledon has grown a lot since I joined in 2007. People have come and gone, we have celebrated achievements, marriages (including mine), births, graduations. We have mourned deaths, supported friends in crisis, given advice, sympathized and scolded. We are a community.
There are members of our community for whom Caledon (and/or other communities on the grid) is their sole social support. For some it is their primary community outside of family. Some have long distance romantic relationships that are facilitated by being together on the grid where they met.
So how does a community maintain this sort of cohesiveness in SL? We log in and go to our build platforms, or a concert, or an event. We shop and play all over the grid.
But as residents of a community we use group chat to stay in touch, group chat is the glue that holds us together as a community. Newcomers to our group nearly always ask after logging in and seeing the robust chat "Where are you all now, TP please!" We explain that chat IS where we all are, as our avatars are scattered all over. Chat is where we pass along our culture, discuss news, get literary or geeky or silly, tell about events, our lives, and generally share. Chat is where drama happens, conflicts are resolved, feelings are hurt and hurts are soothed.
And group chat has been broken a very long time. It has gotten even more broken lately. And what I see is people stating "I can't post anything tonight. Or I can't get the group to open. I give up" and logging off.
That was your customer, right there.
Many in our community also RP, attend events, build, sell, shop. Our community participates in many inworld fundraisers for various charities - the largest being Relay for Life. We utilize the grid in many varied ways. And we do it both individually and as a community.
So my request to our new CEO is this - recognize and support your communities. Because WE are the ones who welcome your newest customers and give them a reason to keep logging in.