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.


Rhianon Jameson said...

Working group chat would be a big help indeed.

It's funny, though, how chat is almost entirely OOC (or what would pass for OOC if Caledon were a hard RP area. There's the cognitive dissonance of being dressed in Steampunk garb in a neo-Victorian sim discussing 21st century issues.

I used to think that Caledon had too many social events for its own good, but I've come to miss the variety of events that we once had. The Openspace Sim debacle might ha e been the prime culprit, but I can't help but think the world may have moved on, as Stepehen King's Roland the Gunslinger might say.

Cathy and Audrey said...

Well done! I agree with every word!
I hope Miss Jameson isn't right and that the world has moved on. I'm hoping that the world pops in every now and then, waiting for the LL to get their act together

Fogwoman Gray said...

Having all the Duchys converted to Homestead sims with avatar limits has definitely been a limiting factor on Caledon events. All those who plan events that expect larger turnouts have had to come up with other ways of making that happen. And getting a large enough parcel for big groups in a regular sim is not cheap. Hence a lot of the land shuffling that has gone on. I think a lot of that has shaken out and people are starting to do more events in Rothesay, Oxbridge Village, Cala Mondrago and of course Steam SkyCity!

Trilo Byte said...

Well said... but don't think that people aren't working on viable solutions and alternatives. Broken group chat has been driving me crazy. When I first joined SL nearly three years ago, it was a problem, but Viewer crashes and grid instability were much bigger nuisances. Both the viewer and the grid have improved greatly, but chat has lamented in a laggy, soupy hell of delayed and failed messages. But don't think that it's because nobody's trying to do anything about it.

We got really close a month or so ago - the challenge isn't just finding an alternate system, but in doing so without either breaking groups (which would have huge collateral damage in the land market as well, since group tags are used to control access and priveleges), and also account security. Especially in the wake of what happened to Sony over the last few weeks, it's very important that Linden Lab take steps to insure that ne'erdowells don't get an in, whether it's for the 'smash and grab' method of cleaning out an individual's account's Linden balance or for the far more sinister cracking of the account database.

Gez Linden and others on FJ's team continue to work on a solution, and as we (residents who participate in Viewer/Server/Grid development) get news we'll certainly pass it along.

Fogwoman Gray said...

Thanks for that information Mr Trilo. I had posted this after Des had let us know that the Lab was working hard on a solution. Then word filtered out via the blogs that the solution they had been working on was the previously abandoned XMPP, which was being abandoned again. No other plan or solution was mentioned.
This is the biggest frustration with Linden Labs (R, TM, etc) of course. While they routinely assure everyone that they are listening, they do an extremely poor job of communicating with their customers about things that actually matter to their customers.
I have not updated this post to reflect the decision to shelve XMPP again, simply because I do not want folks to feel even more frustrated. Some information on what solutions are being actively pursued would go a long way in slowing the departures of their customers.
I VERY much appreciate your input here, as it does shine a beacon of hope that SOMETHING is in the works.

Trilo Byte said...

Backing off XMPP was a necessity, due to security concerns.

As for LL communications, the information is there and the staffers are there for those who care to participate and ask. Believe it or not, Linden Lab generally operates far more in the open than most companies (be they public or private, and whether they're a single-player entity or something massive along the lines of World Of Warcraft). The old adage "you can't please everybody" rings true for companies as well as for people. I don't believe there's any amount of communicating that LL could do to make people happy. When the day eventually comes that we *do* get an improved chat system, you can be sure there will be someone (or several someones) complaining about something else.

Information is there, if you're interested. Blogs are a part of the SL Community site (I haven't spent a lot of time with it myself, but looks pretty solid), and the user group meeting list on the wiki has a list of all the public weekly/monthly meetings. Some great content, as well as good opportunities to ask questions.