Prim Perfect did a show on Player Retention issues in Second Life. The video is now up on their site. The video runs 57 minutes. Saffia Widdershins and Elrik Merlin host the show. The Guests are; Brooke and DaveR Linden, Carl Metropolitan – academic, and Jo Yardley – historian and creator of 1920’s Berlin in Second Life.
I’ll paraphrase what I have heard. Listen to the video before complaining to any of the participants.
02:20 – End of introductions. Elrik starts a clip of a video that sets the context of the discussion. You may have seen this video. It is entitled the New Avi Experience in Second Life. It portrays a disastrous first encounter with Second Life. The full video runs 10 minutes. It can be found by clicking my link just above.
I cannot impart the extent of the tragedy the video reveals. You have to see it to believe it. I think you’ll find it way too boring. I doubt you’ll make it through the entire video. If you can’t watch the whole thing, imagine what the new user is thinking.
05:40 – Video clip ends and discussion starts.
06:15 – Brooke states the goals of the Lab regarding player retention: more users. Their first goal is to engage the use by providing interesting avatars, places to explore, and social opportunities. Second is to educate new users in how to use SL and a place to practice.
Brooke explains they measure the success of their efforts with AV (A-B? – explained at 07:40) testing.
DaveR says they constantly monitor sign up activity and discuss and fine tune their funnels into SL.
The question really missing is do they follow new people and see how long they stay? And how do they relate that to the new sign up experience?
I wrote some time ago that I think their stats have mislead them on the idea of Last Names. The longest JIRA I have seen is SVC-7125 – Bring Back Last Name Options! I wrote about Display Names in 2011: Second Life Display Names Revisited and linked to problems being caused. The article has a link to a site where one can create a last name for their SL avatar. You have to create your avatar there. You can’t just ADD a last name, even if I do think it would not be that technically difficult to do. The security implication are probably daunting when it comes to changing names.
This ability to still create last names well after the Lab removed them shows it wouldn’t be that hard to bring them back. I suspect there would be some Facebook signup issues, but are we really getting that many new people from Facebook, Twitter, and G+? May be. The Lab isn’t saying.
07:40 – The testing presents new users with two different Intro Islands. One user will see one island while another user will see a different island. The Lab then looks at their responses to find which are more likely to stay around. Brooke doesn’t mention follow up data, which I find curious but I’ll assume that is just part of looking at the new user’s behavior part. When they determine that something works better than its alternative, they keep that and add something new or change something. The idea being ever improving.
We know that pulling traffic to the SL site and completing signups is working pretty well. We have lots of signups and people coming into SL. Keeping them is the problem.
We can assume from what Philip said at SVVR that Linden Lab management sees the complexity of the user interface as a significant problem. I suspect that is why Philip sees the mouse as a roadblock to people using SL. That over simplifies his objection to the 2D screen and mouse, but it is a convenient label I think conveys the idea.
I suspect thinking is somewhat restrained with that belief the-mouse-is-the-problem in place. After all how does one change the viewer to use some other interface when that is what all of have and know how to use? Does a company count on the Oculus taking over the world? If they do, they probably are not willing to think about much else or invest time in other options. They certainly are not going to ignore the belief. So, massive changes to an old interface is unlikely to be looked at as a productive line of thought.
08:20 – Elrik asks from some of the history of how the Lab has changed the new user experience.
DaveR explains the new user experience starts with arriving at the Second Life web site. The Lab tries to capture their interest and help them through the registration and download process. Then the next stage is their first in-world experience.
The current JOIN process on the web site now allows Facebook integration signup. Plus it offers SL Share to be enabled. Adding Twitter and Flickr are possible at this point. Now those Check-In postings carry SLURL’s to enable others to come to SL. If they have never been in SL then that are taken to JOIN.
DaveR doesn’t ever give us any of the history. His explanation is just one example of what they have recently added. He is mostly on about how they channel people into SL now. Later in the show Carl discusses some of the history of Help Islands and Community Gateways.
10:20 – Saffia asks about diversity in SL. As DaveR says, when a white guy in Texas notices SL has a diversity problem, it’s a problem. So, the new Starter Avatars are a partial answer. Here they are talking about them before their release.
13:00 – They bring up the problem of no facial animation in the new Starter Avatars. DaveR’s response is pretty much absent. His voice sounds really down in the couple of words he says. I inferred that he recognized the problem and was unhappy that it could not be otherwise. So, can we surmise from this that the Lab will do something with this problem? I think so, but I have no clue how much of a priority they may assign to it. It will require significant changes to the SL system. But, there is lots of pressure for changes. Both from users and the competition… or coming competition.
14:30 – DaveR speaks about the goals for and purpose of the avatars presented in the sign up pages. For signup only the popular avatars are being kept. We, the more experienced users, will still be able to find all the avatars in the inventory Library.
He is parsing words carefully as he says the new Starter Avatars are also a demonstration of what can be done with Fitted Mesh. This is something I was thinking when I wrote about the Starter Avatars. (New ‘Starter Avatars’…)
15:00 – DaveR says the avatars were developed in house. The Lab used outside contractors that the Lab uses from time to time. These are people in the gaming and animation industry. My assumption is they are on retainer or are contracted with for specific tasks/projects.
So, I’ll say that explains the poor quality of skins used in the avatars. The Lab wrote a spec and the contractors filled it as cheaply as possible. A basic phenomenon of the free market. Remember the first Viewer 2.0?
15:40 – Brooke talks about changes in the SL web site. Brooke wouldn’t talk about any specific changes. She only mentions things like text on buttons, images, and user flow through the pages. These sound like minute changes to me. They can have significant impact on user acceptance. Still, they do not sound impressive.
16:18 – A-B testing IS done on the web site.
I think the Lab has some problems understanding the stats they see. It is NOT a lack of intelligence or ability. The problem in understanding the stats is probably more from not being a user. As I wrote about last names the statistical tie between increased signups and lower player retention is hard to make. Too many factors to analyze. Without being a user things look different and that is a problem.
Ebbe allowing employees more time in SL may help with this problem long seen by users.
16:40 – Jo Starts to talk about SL advertising.
She sees the problem with SL is the sleaze… well, she doesn’t put it that way. Her real opinion is more complex. The bikini advertisement presents a face of SL that she doesn’t like as it gives a misrepresentation of SL… or maybe it is more accurate to say it is a way incomplete representation of SL. It is less about there being bikinis and more about what is not there. She would like to see more of what can be done in SL portrayed in the ads.
Her main idea for a theme in SL advertising is in showing SL is built by ordinary people and what can be done by people in SL.
20:30 – Discussion about the Lab promoting the Drax Files and Radio Show.
It is pointed out that the pre-bikini campaign was showing real people and their avatar. The campaign worked reasonably well. No one in the group knew why or was willing to say why the Lab moved away from the campaign.
Jo points out that pre-bikini campaign did show real people behind the avatar, but did not show what they can do or were doing in SL. The creative aspect is being omitted.
23:14 – Advertising Break