Thursday, April 7, 2011

Newcomers in Second Life- Dazed and Confused

Back in the day, on my first avatar, I was a Second Life Mentor.  I would often spend time on what was then a private island where newcomers where would land.  These islands could only be accessed by newbies, Second Life Mentors, and Lindens.  It made the entrance into Second Life a non-threatening experience for newcomers, free from griefers, spammers, and general idiots that might harass them.  As a mentor, I also had the ability to ask for help in the Second Life Mentor channel when I was too outnumbered by newbies, and others would come to help.

Then, a couple years ago, that all changed.  Linden Lab disbanded the Second Life Mentors group, and newbies began to rez into Second Life on publicly accessible land.  What's worse, they are even dumped into locations like Waterhead and Ahern when the Help Island Public sims are full.

What's Ahern?  What's Waterhead?  Welcome Areas.  What's wrong with them?  They're in inhabited largely by people with zero interest in helping newcomers- and would rather spend their time making fun of them.  This, of course, is when they're not busy acting like foul mouthed 12 year olds in local chat or screaming at each other in voice.  

When I was on a Help Island Public last night, I had Tweeted what sad shape it was in.  Within minutes, Wizard Gynoid landed after seeing my Tweet.  Her response?

[00:49]  Wizard Gynoid: this is a lot like the ahern sim.
[00:50]  Theia Magic: I know :(
[00:50]  Wizard Gynoid: people hassling noobs

The truth is, Help Island Public isn't any better than Welcome Areas these days.  These are PG regions, where it's not at all uncommon to land in the middle of scantily dressed chics and a lot of foul language in local chat.  I've seen wannabe content creators standing near the landing zones, spamming their group tags to every newbie that rezzes in.  I've seen particle griefing, and last night was I even griefed by a blue drop down box spewing obscenities.  I've seen newcomer after newcomer laughed at and berated when asking for help, and I'm quite certain more than a few decided that Second Life wasn't for them because of it and never logged in again.

Did I mention this also where Linden Lab finds it acceptable for the Teens to log into Second Life?

Something desperately needs to be done about the way newcomers are introduced to the Second Life experience.  Had I landed in Help Island Hell as it is today five years ago when I joined Second Life, I can honestly say I'd have said "screw this" and never logged in again.  The Second Life Mentors may not have been perfect, but at least they tried to help newcomers in safe areas that the general public couldn't access.

I'm going to make the same challenge others have in recent weeks- go to Help Island Public and help a newbie.  While you're there, take note of the chaos newcomers are being dumped into and then make it known.  If Linden Lab wants to draw more people into Second Life, let alone make it a safe place for teenagers, then they have A LOT of work to do.


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  3. That's all true, but I was a Mentor myself and remember well all the drama in the ranks. Yes, it was better than just dumping Newbies into a cesspool of morons, but hopefully nobody is romanticizing it.

    The single biggest factor in the demise of the Mentor program was not LL, but the Mentors themselves. There was a "clique" group, a "I'm a better Mentor than you will ever be" crowd, that dominated the meetings and interactions with Lindens. The same few would always make mountains out of molehills at the volunteer meetings, belittling the efforts of many to prove their (self-proclaimed) superior helping skills. At first this amused me then started making me angry so I spoke up about it at a couple of meetings. Not long after I was griefed on one of the Help Islands by a member of this clique. Yes, I reported it, but that was irrelevant as the point had been made -- "You're either for us or against us." Totally pathetic behavior by a petty bunch of Linden Wannabes.

    I resigned shortly afterward (because this is supposed to be FUN, right?), but later things got worse when LL introduced the satellite orientation programs. This put people into competition with each other for gaining approved status as a landing zone for newcomers. Once they threw the competition for Newbie dollars into the equation the back-stabbing really started in earnest.

    Frankly, in LL's place, I would have done the same thing and just ditched the whole program. It took far too much time, effort, and money to mediate the drama. I'm sure it was very tiresome and frustrating to the Lindens who tried to make it work.

    That said, you are totally correct. The current situation is appalling. The low-class doofuses that just hang out, spewing obscenities, hate speech, and mockery, at the so-called "Welcome Areas" would dissuade anyone just casually logging in to check this whole Second Life® thing out.

    Personally I don't think a Mentor program is the answer (for all the above reasons). What I think is needed is heavy-handed policing of the landing zones by paid staff with megaton ban hammers. Only Lindens, and those directly supervised by them, should be in control of those areas that new accounts are sent to.

    I still go to them all and hang out quietly, listening to hear any pleas for help (which I answer in IM) amid the ugly noise, but it's hard to spend one's valuable time sitting stubbornly in a cesspool for the "public good."

  4. I agree there were major problems within the Second Life Mentor group.

    "What I think is needed is heavy-handed policing of the landing zones by paid staff with megaton ban hammers. Only Lindens, and those directly supervised by them, should be in control of those areas that new accounts are sent to."


    And that, in my opinion, should've been how the Mentors group was handled as well. More people with actual authority not only to weed the bad mentors but actually ban griefers when necessary.

    It is very hard to sit in the Help areas and deal with all the bullshit to assist maybe one or two newbie. Last night, I was lucky to help two, one more extensively than the other. She said to me in IM's "is it always this childish?" I replied "just like real life there's a vast array of characters here, unfortunately the idiots seem to converge here to pick on newcomers. Don't let it taint your image of Second Life, go explore and meet more people" Thankfully, she happily TP'd off to do just that.

    My concern is... how many log never hearing a kind word or helpful advice from anyone, and never log back in again because of it.

  5. i hope @rodvik and the Lindens are reading this.

  6. Until the Lindens do show up with those hammers, it's in our best interests, I think, to try to intervene directly. Obviously we're not going to get far trying to reason with dedicated trolls, and confronting them with inworld weapons would give them a case against us. Our best bet is to shepherd newbies - any that we can, really - off to friendlier spaces. Caledon Oxbridge has a nice newbie-friendly environment, complete with control orientation and everything a newcomer would need to get started. Is the Shelter still kicking?

  7. @Abel, can you pass me a LM to Caledon Oxbridge in-world? Or post a slurl to it here?

    Perhaps that is the best way to go, ignore the trolls and try to wisk the newbies off to safe, newcomer friendly places.

    .... that gives me an idea. I am going to try to compile a list of slurls to newcomer friendly areas, then post it here as it's own permanent page.

    More to come!

  8. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that part. The Vigilante Squads of Mentors who would get a posse together in group chat to go out and "kick a griefer's ass." It was totally absurd behavior; way out of control. (still rolling my eyes over it after all this time)

    Anyway, I'll shut up now, but I applaud your good intentions. However, I don't think it's possible to make any headway on this subject until there is Linden policing to clear out the refuse first. It's good to try and counteract the bad element but, well there's WAY more of them than us, and none of us are Batman. (Okay maybe YOU are, but I'm not.) ;-P

  9. I was a Mentor, I worked alone, wasn't part of any cliques, as mentioned above. When I needed help, I asked in the Mentor channel, and was proud when 10 mentors would Rez out of thin air. The closed islands were a great thing for brand new residents. I would be able to give one on one training, in a nice learning environment.
    Totally agree, that dumping new residents into Public areas is dumb and dangerous. But the Lab knows best. As a former Mentor, it saddens me.

  10. I very much agree with this post. The Mentors weren't a perfect group... but that itself was a problem with Linden Lab failing to properly organize and educate the people involved. The Mentors themselves tried to do a good job.

    The current welcome areas are a pitiful mire of griefers, brainless trolls, childishness and people-with-nothing-better-to-do-than-harass-others. At least when the Mentors were around, that stuff was kept under control. When the mentors vanished, the void was taken over by lowlifes... as Linden Lab should have expected.

    Here's another bit of history to add to this: When Ahern was THE welcome area and the Mentors were still in operation but focused on teaching at classes, I created a role within my group called the GREETERS. I myself wrote the "Greeter Guidelines" to help new Greeters do the job properly.

    For quite some time, Elf Clan Greeters stood around Ahern for the specific purpose of helping and assisting newbies. We didn't push our group on them; it was written into the Greeters Guidelines to only tell them about our group if they specifically asked. Otherwise, SL came first. We helped hundreds acclimate to Second Life.

    Was it successful? Yeah, so much so that Linden Lab themselves came out with a new group called "Greeters". They also released a "Greeter Guideline" that was almost a paragraph-by-paragraph paraphrase of our Greeter Guidelines (can you say plagiarism?). No acknowledgement, no thanks. Then to add insult to injury, they set policy preventing private groups from serving as Greeters at Ahern. Talk about a direct slap in the face. So our group stopped assisting Linden Lab in such things.

    Did Linden Lab Greeters work? No. They didn't have the same heart and purpose and basic honor-in-management behind them that was the core of our group policy. Just a short time later, Ahern was majorly hacked and destroyed-- and lo and behold Linden Lab didn't even have an archival backup of the sim. LOL. Ahern was gone forever.

    That's a shame; before it was rebuilt, Ahern was a pleasant central party zone. People first saw Daryth's dragons at Ahern. They saw the first Giant Snail and the appearance of Elf Clan at Ahern. They saw the first TINIES at Ahern. But that bit of history is gone.

    Like you say Theia... there was a time when the Ahern Welcome Area actually WELCOMED people. Unfortunately, Second Life's "welcome" experience now is mainly one huge griefer zone.

    And they wonder why their grid has stagnated for more than two years.

  11. follow-up...

    Caliburn: "What I think is needed is heavy-handed policing of the landing zones by paid staff with megaton ban hammers."

    Absolutely. We've been screaming that at Linden Lab for years: the key to controlling griefers is CONTROLLING griefers. That's not done by "Now now Johnny, behave or mommy will have to tell you to behave again!" LOL

    Sure the griefers can come back in with alts. News: a Linden can permaban a griefer faster than that person can create an alt. Sooner or later, the goofball is gonna get tired of the hassle. You'd think LL would figure that out.

    Abel: "Until the Lindens do show up with those hammers, it's in our best interests, I think, to try to intervene directly."

    With all respect... why is that in our best interest? It's not our company. We're not in charge of security. Unless a person is a mega-merchant or land baron, we're not earning profit from this. So why should we spend our time and effort, why should we take time out of our day and out of our enjoyment of SL to do Linden Lab's job for them?

    That's why they're paid ridiculous amounts of money. Why does it fall to us to improve the newbie experience? To be blunt: it's not our problem. Linden Lab is a for-profit company. It falls to THEM to deal with griefer and security issues. If they CAN'T or WON'T do that... then they can bear the consequences of such failure.

    Myself, I have far more important things to do... and the seconds of our lives are limited. I'm sure not going to waste my time helping Linden Lab shore up their security.

  12. Wayfinder:With all respect... why is that in our best interest? It's not our company. We're not in charge of security.

    It's a fair question. I'll do my best to answer it.

    I help run a business in SL that runs events. We don't make land mogul-level money, but we do all right. Our policy is to make the place as welcoming and respectful of newcomers as possible, while recognizing that genuine troublemakers would have to be weeded out. To do otherwise would sour newcomers' experience with us and oblige them to seek friendlier environs.

    SL is facing a similar problem here. If LL has plans to deal with it, they're being awfully quiet about it. But as people eventually transition out of SL (as many will for various reasons), we need a thriving population of newcomers adding their experiences and vitality to the grid.

    Without them, directly or indirectly, everything I've been helping to build on the Grid is in jeopardy. In a tweet I compared these griefers to the snake at the roots of Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Norse myth. Day by day, as the snake gnaws at the roots, the damage seems minimal. But with time the damage will be too great, and the tree will wither and die.

    Secondly, these griefers are becoming the face of Second Life to those they discourage from looking any deeper. My blood boils at the thought of these pricks being what comes to mind if I tell someone that I'm an SL resident.

    Finally, I believe it to be the right thing to do, to render aid where possible to those who need it.

    I'm not talking about acting in lieu of security. That's an uphill battle and we're not even allowed to bring wiffle bats to the fight. I'm advocating a concerted effort to get newcomers to friendlier areas combined with sunshine shone on the situation to get the Lab to finally act, as they did with RedZone.

  13. I think you've all raised very valid points and definitely provide food for thought. I agree with Abel that it is in our best interest to make the newcomer experience a good one. This goes way beyond watching numbers grow or seeing new faces in old locations- the Second Life economy depends on it.

    I'll give you an example. I am a total Second Life shopping addict. Currently, I have almost every pair of boots BAX has ever created. I can say the same about numerous stores that I frequent. Now, I have days I'm itching to go shopping but honestly can't find anything to buy that I don't already like and own. I guarantee there are many, many others like me out there. So what happens when all the current boot fiends own every pair of BAX boots? Sure the creator can make more but the profit will be marginal then stagnant entirely. The answer is bringing in new residents to see me in my BAX boots, go "Oh I really want to have those!" and then BAX has a new customer to buy up their boots. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    This is how stores in Second Life thrive- constantly gaining new customers. When the Second Life stores thrive, the economy thrives, and our Second Lives as a whole improve.

    How are we supposed to be bringing new consumers into the Second Life economy when they're being griefed off the grid within the first 10 minutes they log in? Or, on the other side of the coin, what if that newbie that was just told to go f*ck themselves by a troll was going to be the next great content creator to wow us, but now we'll never know?

    I agree that it is 100% Linden Lab's responsibility to not only police welcome areas but to provide a safe learning environment for newcomers. However, it IS in everyone's best interest to at least reach out and fill in the gaps to make a newbie's entry into Second Life a welcoming one.

  14. "Just a short time later, Ahern was majorly hacked and destroyed-- and lo and behold Linden Lab didn't even have an archival backup of the sim." I don't recall hearing that story before. There's was and still is an area that strongly resembles the old Ahern-Morris Welcome Area, in the Lime/Plum sims, which used to serve as the backup welcome area in the old days. I believe the transition from the old style Ahern-Morris welcome are to the "new" one (not so new by now) was announced in advance.

  15. Sounds like a social quagmire. I guess it explains why the friend that brought me to the second life experience did more than just suggest it. Taking me away from the welcome areas and walking through the system step by step lol. Having a friend from the start makes a world of difference.

    That’s what the mentors essentially were supposed to be right? A first and temporary friend when getting into the bigger world?

  16. Confirmed this morning that The Shelter is still a going thing as well.

  17. Hobo Island is another generally newbie-friendly place. The Calleta infohub hoboes moved there for more space and a sandbox, and are generally a helpful bunch.

  18. Just a note about greeting. On the OpenSim grid I choose to frequent you know what the #1 most common comment is from literally everyone who visits there or goes there to perform? -- "It is so nice here! Whenever I log in or my friends log in there is always somebody helpful and friendly to say hello and ask us if we need any help. It's so cool!" -- Seriously ... those first few minutes MATTER TREMENDOUSLY.

  19. @Caliburn- I agree totally. In fact, I too have played around in another virtual world, and that is what struck me as well. When I first logged in, there were people there to greet me and immediately offer assistance. I remember thinking to myself "wow this is really nice" because I was made to feel welcome.

  20. After how I was treated (as a Mentor) by LL, I'm sure I will not be using my time to help their customers. They, after all, are paid to do a job, not to let volunteers do it for them.

  21. Abel: "Without them, directly or indirectly, everything I've been helping to build on the Grid is in jeopardy. In a tweet I compared these griefers to the snake at the roots of Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Norse myth. Day by day, as the snake gnaws at the roots, the damage seems minimal. But with time the damage will be too great, and the tree will wither and die."

    I agree with you. But I'm going to play the Devil's Advocate here and posit that if LL / SL can't survive without us stepping in do their job for them, perhaps the industry as a whole will be better off.

    I know, that is a rotten thing to say. But I'm a realist. Like you and countless thousands others Abel, I have invested heavily in SL... in money, time and creative effort. And how about emotional investment? We form friendships and partnerships and business relationships. These things we all hold dear and would hate to lose.

    But... we've already lost them. My group was forced to shut down six sims during the OpenSpace profiteering fiasco. We were forced to shut down another sim when severe bugs in SL and on their website made it impossible to continue funding that sim (simple bugs Linden Lab has been long aware of and has just refused to fix).

    The fact is, Linden Lab themselves have done FAR more damage to the grid, have destroyed far more builds and creative projects, and have alienated far more customers than griefers and enemies could ever dream of doing.

    So I guess my viewpoint there is: considering the amount of damage Linden Lab has done, maybe it's time for us, the users, rather than further ENABLING a company that has been customer-abusive for as long as I can remember-- to just step back and let it take its natural course, and reap the consequences of a severely harmful and self-involved management team.

    This is how competition works. I DO NOT WISH TO SEE SECOND LIFE FAIL. But I'm afraid that is where it is heading. So myself, I'm investing my time, money and effort in other ventures. Imo if Second Life died tomorrow it would be just like THERE; it would quickly fade into the past and leave hardly a blip on the screen. In its place would come other grids far more powerful, stronger, more stable and MUCH more user-friendly than Linden Lab. SL is no longer the only game in town.

    So again I ask: why should we spend our limited time literally enabling a company who obviously doesn't care one whit for our interests? All Linden Lab cares about is profit. So myself... I'm going to invest my time and money elsewhere. I consider Second Life a very poor investment.

    That said, I very much respect your opinion and... for those vested and intrenched in Second Life... I agree. I just feel it's in people's best interest overall to become UN-vested in SL, as soon as possible. There's no way to predict the future, but SL has all the earmarks of a slowly sinking ship. It may sink, it may barely stay afloat as it is now, or some amazing thing may happen and they pull out of it. But after watching the last 7 years, I seriously doubt Second Life is ever going to grow beyond its current floundering level of basic managerial incompetence and mediocre performance. That's a prediction I hate to make, but the writing is on the wall. If Second Life survives at all at this point, it's going to be by the skin of their teeth.

  22. Siobhantaylor: "They, after all, are paid to do a job, not to let volunteers do it for them."

    Precisely. Personally, I am all for volunteers helping a project that they love and believe in.
    At one time my group bent over backwards to help Second Life. But as time has passed I've found myself less inclined to do so, and more inclined toward your statement Siob: I am here to run a group and a business, not to help Linden Lab run their company. I would have no problem assisting them if they showed any inclination of caring about our group, or even their customers. Since all such indication is to the contrary (in fact, in my experience LL is willing to stab their customers in the back if it means making a buck)... I have no desire at all to volunteer my time or my group's time to help this company.

    I don't mean to seem so negative, but that's what happens when a company is continually customer-abusive. Our group now has ONE sim on Second Life, and SIXTEEN sims on Inworldz. There's a good reason for that.

  23. Dear Theia:

    After reading from your topic i have come to the following conclusions about Second-Life i would like to point out as a new comer.

    You have mentioned the behaviors in the welcome-hub could potentially drive-off new-comers. This is a factor that is possible. As a newbie you are promised a good experience from what Second-Life website advertises, a place where you could "A Place to Connect, Shop, Explore, Be Different". However after soon exiting the first island and landing into the nearest hub, Second-Life displays itself in a total different aspect than what is advertised on the website.

    Instead of the fun, exciting factor the hubs are filled with silent, in-mobile avatars. If the hubs are not silent then there are those vocal enough that do troll as far as i have observed in groups or individual conduct. Some of these trolls have ranged from merely a week old to those well over a year of different ages.

    The amount of discrimination that a newbie also faces being a new player is another factor. They are immediately judged due to how long they have been on Second-Life by their Second-Life Age as well as their immediate appearance, this is often a problem when a newbie visits a private-owned(Not by LL) but publically opened areas. Some of these places do not even allow entry of new-players at all until a given length of time. I have also heard that there is trauma which happens in sandboxes and I had had the most unfortunate experience of being discriminated and hassled by a staff on that land due to my profile's age and even asked if I had alts! The way I was treated was more than enough to make the average user log-off and never use Second-Life again. Sadly some owners have taken the approach to treat new-players as a pest and nuisance rather than a newbie who has joined Second-Life recently, a number who's only function is traffic and lindens or cockroach.

    Another issue is how new-users are thrown into the vast. There are no road-maps, no clues,no-direction simply "Go and Explore". The advance interface of Second-Life is vast and deep. There are tabs for everything, and folders within folders, groups within groups which can prove as a task for a new-player trying to figure out what goes where. The places that did offer any direction were off-set where one would have to dig to find them in the first-place, hidden in the corners of the destination guide.

    Lastly the amount of abuse that has been germinating in Second-Life. Those with advance script knowledge who have taken advantage of this open-source viewer and have used SL for malicious means, not limited but including the collection of information regarding an avatar which could directly affect their experience in SL as well as general chaos that ensues upon the server. I have researched that Second-Life is either slow to respond to these activities or simply does nothing about them at all. When a new-user logs into Second-Life they expect that the company LL offers a reasonable amount of security to ensure that user's information does not end up in stranger's hands. However that seems to be the opposite.

    I have heard and seen chat-loggers listed on the marketplace as well as groups who are keeping information of those who they come across in a product active in Second-Life, which is re-directed to their host website. These are not limited but including listeners, spy-items, and trackers, even in companies HUD games! Also those who have used Second-Life as a place for Linden Scams, ranging from 'petty' crimes to activities that had well deserve real-life penalties.

    Second-Life is often listed as a game under popular sources such as GameSpot, PCMag, ComputerWorld and others. Howver, newbies are faced with more than just trolls in Second-Life, it's unfortunate that they are also faced with the darker aspects of this server and the ugliness of those taking advantage of it's resources on different levels.