Friday, 6 April 2007

Groups in Second Life - My Dilemma

After a curious incident in the night time of Second Life, I have decided to seek your input on a matter of concern to me.

When asked to explain Second Life (as I frequently am) my explanation usually involves rambling references to social interaction, ad hoc networks and collaboration. In support of this, I cite the existence of groups in SL as a mechanism for building "communities of interest". However, now I come to think about it, most of the groups I know are somewhat moribund, with little communication taking place between the members, and thus little in the way of shared community.

This was brought home to me last night. I belong to a number of groups in SL, as most residents do, and being a helpful soul, I responded when someone in one of these groups raised a RFI. As a general rule, such responses lead to a brief flurry of exchanges before people leave the session - me included. However, last night the exchanges built up into a debate (of sorts). Personally, bearing in mind my statements above, I think this is a healthy use of groups. I was therefore disappointed when the owner of the group cordially invited those debating to take the conversation elsewhere.

This has left me thinking. If the sole purpose of a group is to provide a "push channel" for the owners then I feel it is an opportunity lost. Some will argue that group conversation constitutes "noise" that prevents the owner disseminating information on the channel. But this is nonsense. I receive plenty of group announcements that keep me informed of group news - and these do not require the use of the IM channel.

Groups, in my view, should be proactive and participatory - not reactive and passive. If you don't wish to participate (as is often the case with me) then it is easy to leave the session. I accept that large numbers of unfettered debates might prove troublesome to follow - but this leads to a natural limiter: if you can't follow the debate you can abandon it or take it elsewhere, into a new group.

It looks, for now, like my hoped-for "communities of interest" may not fit the SL model after all. So should I simply abandon all my groups (aside from those that grant special access), as being just marketing push channels? Or go the other way, and create a new "Talking Nonsense" group, where anyone can join and interact with anyone and everyone else?

All reasonable views gratefully received...

UPDATE: I agree with A.Nonymous that it'd be good to have more than 25 groups. Also, the option to suppress "noise" would be most welcome.

+++
As part of the discussion in question was about identity in virtual environments, I thought I would share this piece of brilliance with you, a presentation on "Identity2.0": http://www.identity20.com/media/OSCON2005/

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wish we had an option to not receive group chats, just announcements from the group officials. There are some groups where it is fun to chat. Others I just want announcements from and some get so many spam messages, they are no fun and I get tired of always having to "leave" the session. If we just had an option to turn off the general chats, it would be perfect (plus, I would like to have more than 25 groups).

Team Mascot said...

I'm with anonymous in the request to be able to turn off group chat.... I'm a member of a number of groups... but these are more to control access to particular areas. Another group I am a member of has constant chatter... which I find irritating. So perhaps the question should be "what is the purpose of groups in SL?" Is it to provide access controls; to provide a "push" mechanism for group notices; to provide a "chat" forum; to simply indicate interests?

Wrath said...

I have yet to join a group with constant chatter, and with the one group I actually have had an IM window pop up for on the odd ocassion might chatter for a minute with several people involved, but then ends just as quickly, so it's not a bother.

Otherwise - I hear nothing from the groups I've joined, making me wonder why I haven't removed myself from them yet.

And then you have those people just join groups to have the cool title, so obviously groups aren't always the best way of networking...

dandellion Kimban said...

Yes, some groups are capable of making meaningfull discussion on group channel. But, then we need a way to kill all that noise. I don't know how many groups I've left just because they were busy in the moments I wanted an easy talk with somebody nearby. Owners of the groups have group notices, they are the last to complain. But, group chat is something like call to other members by members. If you want to talk go tp to some nice place and do it in presence of your avatars. Otherwise, you can use ICQ or IRC just the same.