Saturday, 27 October 2007

Helping Newcomers - and Listening

Last night, after posting the IIR piece, I joined my friend and fellow blogger ugotrade (Tara5 Oh in Second Life). She was just back from a conference in London, and was wanting to see what she'd missed in Second Life over the last week. I suggested she might want to form her own opinions on the CSI:NY islands, and found her the busiest orientation site I could - with around 12 peoeple on it. As is her way, she was soon deeply enmeshed, interviewing and assisting newcomers. It was around this point that I joined her - and found the next hour or 2 oddly illuminating.

In broad terms, here are my observations:

  • The number of active CSI:NY sims has been slashed to around 100. The remainder are showing as offline, though I assume they can be brought back if demand indicates a need.
  • Across the 100 sims, numbers of avatars fluctuated from 1 or 2, up to 10 or 12. If I was to take a wild stab in the dark and assume 5 to 7 on average per sim, this would yield the number using CSI:NY at any one time to be around 500-700.
  • The flow through the orientation sim seemed fairly constant. Over the time I was there I would reckon we saw a new face once every couple of minutes. Call it 30 an hour. Assuming all 50 open orientations were running at this pace would suggest around 1500 new registrations per hour, or around 35-40,000 a day. Mercifully short of the 3000/minute that Linden Lab were looking at.
  • When I arrived there was a helper present. However, at some point she had to go elsewhere, leaving newcomers with no official welcome personal help. I don't know how many sims have helpers, but maybe it's not enough.
  • Newcomers were confused about the interface - and it took several goes to get them using "chat." I have visions of people sat in front of their computer screens, screaming: "Help! What am I supposed to do?"
  • People seemed to be unaware that they were on an orientation island - and not in The Game proper. I spent a long time near the outbound teleport, explaining how to use it and why. This, despite there being a huge billboard telling you exactly what to do. I don't know why this was going wrong, but it was. My guess is the description may be too perfunctory.
  • People were usually totally unaware that there was a whole virtual world out there. For example, one guy thought he had seen it all on a previous trip. When told there were thousands of places to visit, and he had seen just 3, it was like a revelation. Where in this whole build is the existence of the rest of Second Life acknowledged? Or rudimentary assistance provided in reaching it?
  • People did tend to blunder about - perfecting walking in SL takes some practice - but more importantly were often confused. To repeat the question posed above, I heard this several times: "Help! What am I supposed to do?"
  • For a while I was using the Classic viewer, but the lag got so awful I thought I would switch to OnRez. A good decision, since OnRez performed far better, without the 10 or 20 second timeouts I sometimes get with the LL viewer.
The upshot of this is: I think the orientation experience leaves a lot to be desired. There is not enough help and there is not enough information. So nothing new there, then. It was interesting hearing all this "raw input" - it certainly taught me a thing or two.


UPDATE: The 3000/min figure comes from 2 sources. One, a friend who acts as an orientation mentor, and received this figure during a mentors' meeting with Glenn Linden. The other is from here, which purports to be the notecard issued by Linden Lab.

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