The things the Lab is building are the things we have asked for. Since Rod has been here the number of unresolved JIRA bugs and feature requests has been dwindling as they are fixed and added. While the things may not look exactly like what we asked for or expected, they often are the next step along that road or are more comprehensive features that combine numerous ideas for features to solve a number of problems.
However, there is no JIRA feature request for better community. We have lots of requests for tools with which to build better community. The actual community building is up to us.
So… if we are in charge of what Second Life is to become, and it is up to us to build a better Second Life how will we do that?
Some users/residents are putting their ideas and visions into practice. This is the case with The Inspiring Orientation. (LEA26 region) If you have not visited it, give it a try. The builds are impressive and the artists making them talented. I don’t know that these are the best ever, but in my time in SL I have not seen anything better in the way of an orientation area.
I am one that believes a strong visual impression makes a good first impression. I think this orientation area is visually a good first impression. It uses and displays SL Tech very well and some of it is just fun, even if your avatar is covering up her gray. Some of it is beautiful.
However, different appearances to orientation areas have been tried. So, I am not overly hopeful the region’s visuals will provide any new paradigm change leading to more players being retained in Second Life. But, it is a fun experience and the visuals may help in some manner with player retention.
My hope is the overall effort and team work exemplified by the creative people involved in the project will provide a paradigm shift and example for the community. If it breaks the idea for a significant part of the community that the Lab is going to do it for them, it will have provided a paradigm shift I think is needed.
The group organizing the region is The -io- Team. It is in a region supplied by the LEA (Linden Endowment for the Arts). So, I have no idea how long it will be there. But, Arrehn Oberlander tells me another version with improvements based on learning with this build and from feedback is being built in another region, eventually to replace this exhibit.
The group provides this note card to new arrivals in the region/exhibit:
Welcome to the opening of “The Inspiring Orientation”!
Once upon a time six months ago, in a region not so far away, a group of viewer developers, artists, and other SL enthusiasts asked a question:
“What would it be like if a person’s first experience here shows them how interesting and diverse Second Life can be, how much creative expression Second Life enables, at the same time as they learn basic navigation?”
The Inspiring Orientation answers this question by offering small, interactive tutorials using resident created art. The tutorials are linked together to create a combination gallery /orientation course. When the visitor emerges, they have not only gained basic navigation skills, but a basic visual vocabulary of what can be expressed by residents just like themselves.
We believe this combination of artwork from former and current SL residents offers some advantages over traditional approaches to orientation, and hope that these ideas take seed.
– The -io- Team
Special Note to LEA visitors:
We were honored and extremely grateful to LEA for providing a land grant. You might notice that some of the artwork within -IO- has been exhibited before, in other places. What is new is the conception and arrangement of these works in the form of a viewer orientation. We hope you will enjoy it and ponder the possibilities.
If you choose to visit, know that many of the flaws you are likely to find are already being addressed. This is version 1.0. I provided Arrehn Oberlander my thoughts as constructive critique and got a nice email back. Multiple languages, a HUD, rearrangement of the order of lessons, revision of the camera lesson, and much more are being improved.
The group is working with the Lab to improve some of the SL features to support the build. At the end is a jumping off point for TP’ing to places shown in What’s Hot and the Destination Guide. The images displayed are dynamically pulled from the real time data used for the web site versions of Hot and the Guide. You’ll likely find the display devices are a bit fussy about displaying images. Hopefully the Lab can fix the image delivery problem. I might be tempted to build a web site that scraped the images from the Lab’s pages and then delivered them to the devices.
An amazing idea I am rather unsure of is their idea to provide viewer specific art. Do new users actually ever start out in any viewer other than the Linden main release viewer? Also, do icons change from language to language? Whatever, they are looking at including that level of support in some measure in the next build. Arrehn puts it this way:
I see this as untapped opportunity. As SL becomes more mainstream there’s more music communities, art communities, fashion communities, writers, digital artists, etc.. that cross borders between SL’s grid and other social media. Currently it’s a little unfriendly to “follow” someone you may like and respect, but not know too personally from a non-SL environment into SL. Custom viewers can make this easier, can be enable groups or individuals with unusual draw to directly reach out to their non-SL audience and draw them in.
Arrehn explains their groups goal:
Our strategy is to inform in a light, entertaining, interactive way. Most of the -io- staff are veterans of other new user facing projects in SL, and the initial set of questions from people who have just registered with SL is often the same. “What do I do here?” “Where do I go?” and underlying this, “Why should I stay?”. Many people arrive in SL but are unable to immediately understand its value.
There’s a “Goldilocks” issue to be solved here. A dry, practical, skills-oriented orientation may be great at explaining how to use a viewer client, but poor at demonstrating why one should do this in the first place. An orientation that thrusts a visitor directly into a single destinations guide location might be initially intriguing, but then leave the new visitor overwhelmed by lack of basic proficiencies and an unclear method of acquiring them. I think of this as the “I’m feeling lucky!” approach to orientation, in honor of the related Google button. The simplicity is beautiful, but perhaps it would be better if the visitor could see more context.
We’re trying to tread a middle path – safely introduce a diversity of styles, content, and types of typical interactions SL offers, then quickly bring the visitor to a category-sorted destinations guide area where they can choose their next step – armed with some concept of SL’s major communities and perhaps a few ideas of what they’d like to see more of. The theory is that greater awareness of what’s in SL and how to interact with it will lead to more opportunities for a visitor to make a connection that has personal value.
My personal thinking along these lines is influenced in part by work I’ve done with the US National Park Service. The park service has a goal of insuring valuable treasures are accessible, and also to convey to visitors why they are important and unique. Words, audio, visuals, tactile experiences, other media, and positive social experiences help a visitor make a lasting, resilient bond far more than any one method would achieve alone. We’re getting there in -io-, Right now we have a rich visual, audio, and interactive (virtual-tactile?) experience, and we’re adding more ways to connect the with material, such as videos and supplementary reference material. One also has be highly aware of the context and perspective each visitor personally brings with them, and be willing to adapt and adjust continually over time.