Thursday, November 10, 2011

Up By Your Bootstraps

How is it possible that Linden Lab, through three changes in leadership and countless hirings and firings of employers, have still not managed to create a good orientation program?

I've been observing this for some time, and it is shocking that the orientation process has seemingly became worse than when I took my first steps five years ago. It was thought that by allowing residents to create their own orientation stations the process would improve but if anything I believe it destroyed it. Too many half ass it, or create infohubs which fail to provide information people want to know, or omit things they believe others just know. Often, their islands and stations aren't even staffed. It's a crapshoot: if you're lucky, you get shuffled to an OI who cares and commits the time necessary to bring day old residents up to speed. If you're unlucky (and more than likely you will), you'll find yourself stranded, isolated save for your fellow newbies, feeling around an otherwise deserted island, wondering what the deal is with all the gray squares and squashed objects.

If it seems I'm being unduly harsh on the Orientation islands, it's because the in-grid infohubs are complete garbage. Today, I sat in on Bear Infohub. For about an hour, a group of midbies (from around 07-08) dominated the infohub, lamenting that hardly anyone was talking on Voice and who was AFK and so on. The newbies were completely ignored save when they greeted everyone. When that group left, the entire batch of newbies were left to their own devices. There were no mentors to answer any questions. There was a billboard in a corner which linked to Torley's tutorial videos, some of which are outdated and often discuss topics that newbies don't care about. They don't care about sculpties or script efficiency. They want to know where to go to buy things, to meet people, and how to fucking move.

Read that last sentence again. It is true. I was asked how to move about by at least five different newbies. That is a damning indictment of the Linden's failure to bring people into Second Life. How can they enjoy the platform and its community when they can't figure out how to get their avatar to go where they want it?

Here is a list of the questions asked:

  • "Why do I look like a ghost?"

  • "I can't get Edit Appearance to work right"

  • "I'm not sure how to use Second Life?"

  • "How do move about?"

  • "You can fly? How can you fly?"

  • "Do you have to pay for different clothes?"

  • "Where do I go for new clothes/vehicles/housing?"
All those and some variations thereof were asked in about a twenty minute span. It should not be left up to the tender mercies of older residents to inform the new generation how to fly, or how to use Search, or even confirm that you can change your avatar look. This is not my job. This is the job of the Lindens and they're failing horribly.

The question is, what can be done?

First, get either Lindens or Residents or both to patrol these places and be on hand to answer any and all questions. There should be at least two at each location around the clock. These people, by the way, should be screened and it should be made sure they aren't arrogant shits who'll sneer if someone asks how to fly or attach hair. There should be no worry that the person in this role isn't very software inclined, because it's rare that a newbie asks a question which would baffle the average SL resident. It doesn't take an engineer to tell someone that to attach something, you go into inventory, right click, and select 'wear'. It doesn't take a programmer to tell someone how to search for a night club.

Second, they need to hold a meeting and standardize the newbie experience. Here's a suggestion: after about a month, send a notecard to the newbies and ask them their thoughts on how well the OI prepared them for SL. Don't give any multiple choice bullshit, just ask: "What are your thoughts on orientation? Did we neglect any information? etc etc etc" Multiple choice tends to not tell you anything. 7 out of 10? Why? And these should be collected, and read at the end of the month, and OI should be adjusted accordingly. Don't hand me bullshit that it would take too long. I've worked projects where I've been evaluated by at least 90 or so people, and I was able to handle it and get everything together in about a day. I'm sure a company can do better.

Third, make notecards containing information easily accessible in the infohubs. Isabell and I think Ross do an ok job at that, but most of the others are dismal. It turns the infohubs into glorified town squares where people congregate and chat. There is nothing wrong with that, but the primary purpose of the infohub is to inform. Information should be distributed if asked. And I'd do it in notecards, and not in links to outside websites. Tell people how to do it NOW, not later on someone's website.

Fourth, please police the infohubs a little. Clean up the loiterers. Infohubs, as I said above, have become similar to town squares, where people mill about and chat. Again, nothing wrong with that, but emphasis should be placed on informing new residents of what's what. When you have a newbie asking how to fly, and the crowd is mocking them, you need to call in the police and break it up.

Please, Linden Lab. Fix this shit. You have no idea how many people come into Second Life and abandon it after two or three days because they get no help and have no idea what to do. You cannot tell me you enjoy losing potential paying customers. Why do you let this continue? And the same is said to third party OI. Clean it up, please.

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