Saturday, 18 August 2007

Went Down to the (Orientation) Station

Linden Lab are worried about the low retention rate in Second Life. Yes, there's nearly 9 million registered accounts, but after taking away the number of "alt accounts" and the number of non-returners, the figure is somewhat less impressive. Anyone who has been through it, knows that the orientation process - learning how to use SL - can be tricky and frustrating, and there is a strong belief that this is one of the prime causes for people bailing out. Other reasons that are oft quoted, like the clunkiness of the graphics, may take some time to solve - but Linden Lab have recognised a quick solution to the orientation problem: outsourcing.

Since the introduction of the "Registration API", which allows other websites to act as an initial portal into Second Life, there have been a number of experimental non-Linden orientation zones. Perhaps the best know is The L Word, which has been providing such facilities for over 6 months (the link is to one of my first blog posts... so forgive the ropey style!). But there are many more.

It seems that the outsourcing of orientation is now proceeding at speed. I have just been to visit one of the new sims: Orientation Station. This is not yet ready for launch, but it is probably not far off. The "station" is actually one of 5 linked sims, all of which combined will provide the new orientation experience. 4 of these sims appear to be entry points. They are rather spartan at the moment, but from peering into the (closed) sim called Scholar, I am surmising that new residents will arrive at one or other of these sims, and be taken through a comprehensive orientation process. As you can see from the middle picture below, there are at least 18 lessons.

Orientation Station itself in the middle on the 4 entry point sims. Once our newcomer has mastered the basics of the interface, I assume s/he can come here to meet others, get some freebies and move on out. It has a large open-air meeting area, and a couple of riding stables, where you can take a horse (pony?) around a small track. I suppose this teaches newcomers about wearing objects, but I have to say, the accompanying notecard could scare the living bejesus out of someone still wrestling to master the most basic basics. Many of the objects dotted around the sim are from Liam Kanno, of the V3 Group.

I am impressed with the number of lessons available here. I know it could be taxing - and I am not clear if there are options for newcomers to short circuit some of the more abstruse stuff - but it is far better, I think, than the "5 lessons and out" approach that I have seen in a number of other places. I heard that the island group was due to open next week. For more information you shoud contact Dirk Talamasca or Savannah Glimmer, who head up the Metaverse Mentors group that owns the zone. I have not had confirmation, but it seems reasonable to surmise that one of the unique propositions on offer here is one-to-one personal mentoring from volunteers within the group.

I intened to write more on new orientation zones, as there does appear to be great variety between them. If you know of one, then please let me kn0w - as I would like to take a look.

My thanks to TerryAnn Antonelli, a member of the Metaverse Mentors group, for tipping me off about the site's existence.


VeeJay Burns said...

Nice orientation island, totally different style is Ben & Jerry's (see SL Yummy Garden

Anonymous said...

Nice article, Aliester. I have to credit Deeeep Witte for encouraging me to do this.