SL10B Looking Forward: Part 3 – Light or dark times

This is my final post at looking forward. First parts i expressed thoughts on Simplification then discoverability as being areas Second life would deal with in future.

This time Im thinking about content. There was that moment three years ago when M Linden left, the Lab cut staff and blogs were predicting all sorts from SL closing down to being bought out by AOL. As it turns out it was not the end, but a new beginning where a new CEO was appointed and Mesh arrived injecting more freedom for creators.

I used to think this was the start of the ‘Second Age’ of Second Life but three years later I’m now starting to think thats not true. Instead I’m looking at the time since Rodvik arrived as the ‘Dark Ages’ of Second Life, a transition period between two eras. It’s been a time where people are learning to use new tools and break old habits. Its also been a time where new grid stability initiatives have been and still are in the pipe line. This isn’t the ‘Second Age’ of Second Life yet, but we are getting closer.

Perhaps ‘dark ages’ is not the right term, perhaps this is Second Lifes ‘Age of Light’ where it’s users become more attuned to what causes the lag and instead of berating Linden Lab for poor performance, they share with each other the tricks and know how to make better shared spaces on the grid. I’m pretty sure lag at SL10B was at much tolerable levels than any previous year thanks in part to improvements to the grid but also because the organisers had the skills and knowledge to keeps things moving from how people arrived at SL10B to messages about what best to wear and script management.

Around the corner will be the results of many Lab projects, wether they bring the stability and usability they and we all hope is what we’ll see during the next year. I feel we are still at the tail end of this transitioning time and that we’ve still yet to see the truly awesome results of users harnessing the new tools of Mesh, Experience tools and Materials combined with knowledge of the platform.

Im looking forward and I’m STILL as enthusiastic as ever for whats to come. ‘Oculus FTW!’

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SL10B Looking Forward: Part 2 – Discoverability

In my first Looking forward post i expressed thoughts on New Users and how the forthcoming experience permissions could give current users tools to make things easier for newbs first arriving. I had some awesome comments by the way šŸ™‚ thanx.

Of course learning how to use Second Life will not fix the user retention issue if you can’t find anything worth staying for. In an interview with Draxtor Despres Rod Humble hit a pretty major nail on the head “discoverability”.

How do you and your friends discover new items of interest in SL? Via group chats? The destination guide or external blog posts? is it easy or can you go weeks without knowing anything new about Second Life? now imagine you are new and are not part of an SL community how do you find anything you might be interested in?

At the start The Lab has many portals named by possible interest through which you venture forth and arrive somewhere that might have no apparent relevance to the subject you choseā€¦ and thats it.

An answer to Gridwide discoverability probably isn’t something that can be meshed up and scripted in world, it might have to be an entirely new system. It’s a topic I’ve ranted about before where i dreamed of a new group and social system that could allow better sharing and discovery. Of mobile apps that might encourage discovery.

About this time last year Rodvik asks on SLuniverse forums “Assuming SL improved performance enormously, from region crossings to lag to render times. (big assumption I know but roll with me here) What would you do to insure new users ‘stuck’?” And the community as you might expect gave their thoughts. Now we are at a point where i think performance HAS improved not just because i got a new computer, so does that mean the lab might turn their minds to making new Users stick?

My own thoughts are that there needs to be a new system that marries users interests with communities. There needs to be an easier way to find and join groups. There needs to be easier ways to share and receive information from those groups. If a new User can find a community and feel they belong to it within an hour then i believe thats how they will stick.

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Discovering places is part of the SL culture, so why is it such a clunky part of SL’s design?

So again looking forward I’m hoping discoverability will finally be addressed and not just by adding a Facebook plugin.

SL10B Looking Forward: Part 1 – Simplification

Im not a fan of themes. I see SLB akin to the WWDC or E3 of Second Life. An expo for the community at large to display their little parts of SL and a chance to see what everyone else is up to. But a theme can help give focus for some to build around.

This years Theme was ‘Looking forward, looking back’ and while it’s easy at 10 years of Second Life to look back at how we all got here, not much has been said about looking forward. Although i will admit i’ve still got three quarters of SLB to get a look at so some may very well have looked forward.

So anyway i decided i would write a few posts on my thoughts looking forward, starting with simplification.

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New Users arrive at a temple, very different from when i was a lad.. i mean newbĀ 

I’ve started ignoring new users. It’s terrible, i shouldn’t but i have. My work, my projects my clothes are all designed and created for the user who knows what they are doing. At my Island town centre there is a steady influx of new users, dressed in new user basic skin tight clothing, just stood there trying to work out what to do. Where they go after that is a mystery to me but i find myself ignoring them as being a nuisance of sorts almost wanting to say “go away and come back when you’ve learnt how to use SL” – terrible, i feel terrible.

With the lab removing the tutorial island from the start New Users are left to fend for themselves in the open wide grid randomly arriving anywhere in the destination guide. At first you may think “THIS ISĀ  MADNESS”, well only Linden Lab can know that as I’m sure they are monitoring the retention difference since going this new route. Letting new users just get out their on the grid may actually be a good idea and perhaps i as a destination owner could be doing more to educate new users. But i’ve tried and its too hard because every time i try to simplify tasks, they end up still to difficult to grasp.

So can the Lab do something to make this task of educating new users easier? well, yes and they are. Many moons ago you may remember the New Gaming Tools promised by Rodvik. It lead many to comment “Bah SL is not a Game, we don’t need Gamification tools“, well yeh , we do actually. You see the Game tools, now renamed to ‘Experience Tools’ could help me to make tasks easier for new users to get to grips with SL.

Imagine your self as a new user arriving randomly at a place and that place automatically attaches a discreet HUD that encourages you to take part in a task in an interesting way thats unique to that place. The Experience Tools will not just be about making games, it’ll hopefully make it easier for us to perform simple tasks in more immersive and intuitive ways. And perhaps the Lab themselves will use the tools to build more education places for new users.

The wait hopefully is nearly over with rumours of a Beta/project viewer just around the corner. So looking forward I’m seeing an easier to interact with Grid. But only if content creators embrace the new tools.

SL10B Thoughts before it all kicks off!

It’s almost opening time. For weeks or even months people from around the globe have beenĀ  preparing to share with the rest of the SL Grid what they love most about their SL Experience.

It’ll be the biggest statement from the Virtual World community on wether Second Life is still relevant and you can make your mind up for yourself by exploring and seeing the many different sides, curves and corners of the biggest virtual world on this planet.Ā I had small look around during the last two Press devoted days which of course was not enough time to see it all so i’ll probably pack my virtual backpack and some virtual jam sandwiches and venture though it all during the next two weeks.

Of course this is an event where you will get to see the latests and brightest talent pushing SL’s tools to the limit. The platform will be strained to breaking point the first few hours as is tradition highlighting any improvements the Lab may have achieved over the last year. But as you walk around , remember that there is a person or people behind every exhibit how ever big or little the display.

This year more than any other year i feel there is a very large spectrum of technical craft. From exhibits that have just a few simple Prim based objects, to large exhibits of extremely detailed complex mesh. It can be easy to perhaps shun the smaller exhibits as amateur or lacking skill, but that would be missing the whole point of SL10B.

 

I’m reminded of one SL Anniversary where i along with my gang of misfit friends went on a bike ride through the exhibits eventually stopping to allow stragglers to catch up. The exhibit/plot we stopped at was a very small, simply constructed garden with a single table and a few flowers dwarfed by its neighbouring exhibits of funky light and abstract wonder.

Just as we were about to move on the creator of this little exhibit appeared and was shocked to find us all there. She was so happy to see people at her exhibit she said we had made her day andĀ  immediately asked to take a snapshot of us all there. That moment changed the way i saw SLB, It’s not just about the awesome exhibits, its also about the people behind them.

So as you walk around SL10B take your time to appreciate all the effort put into this how ever big or small, simple or complex the exhibit is.

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The year i joined SL. Part of the History of Sl walk through, what year did you arrive?

SL10B opens at 12pm SLT Sunday 16th of June. The first few hours are traditionally laggy mayhem, but things get better as the week goes on with live DJ’s and Ā Music artists on the stages, Tutorials and talks at the Auditorium. Plus learn a step by step history of the trials, Tribbles and controversy of the past 10 years of Second Life.

The curious case of when Apple copied Linden Lab

Last year Apple released an update to their OSX that added a notifications system.

Basically notifications would pop up top right for a moment then disappear. These notifications could then be accessed by clicking a button that slid the desktop to the left to reveal a bar of your most recent notifications. I remember thinking, ‘Hang On, this is the same system that Linden Lab uses for notifications in SL, it even has the sliding effect the majority of established SL users cried about and had removed’.

I’ve been quiet about Second Lifes notifications system for a while. I wanted to see wether Linden Lab would do anything to improve the situation when implementing the Communications Hub User Interface (CHUI).

I kinda like the new way the chat UI works although I’m finding that I’m posting messages into the wrong chat window more these days due toā€¦ well I’m not quite sure why. Some sort of behavioural issue that isn’t accounted for by CHUI.

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Anyways, back to the notifications side of things Linden Lab did a slight tweak allowing you to specify how notifications appear and sound. Nice but does not fix the issue i hate about Second Life Notifications. I feel the way it heaps notifications together in a small box is dreadful and trying to read through notifications from multiple transactions, inventory offers, permissions requests and group notices is an awful experience.Ā Sometimes they dont even seem to have any sort of order to how they are listed.

What makes it all the more irritating from a designers point of view is that it looks like just a few tweaks would vastly improve it. Tweaks like having the different types of notifications clearly defined, showing which have been read, which are active requests waiting for a response ā€¦ well like what apple added in OSX Mountain Lion.

 

 

Extra note: With the Lab finally developing a Cocoa version of the SL viewer, the option maybe there for the lab to integrate SL with OSX’s own notifications system which would be pointless since i get all SL notifications via email already in OSX notifications…. what a mess notifications is.