August 2nd, 2014 by Marianne McCann
There’s been a lot of discussion about a recent Business Insider article on Second Life®. I also echo some of the views that the author of the piece got a few things wrong, including her graphics settings. There’s a lot I would pick at in this article, a lot I think is wrong. I don’t think the author really bridged from the premise of their headline into their walk through. I feel like they may have — whether they feel they did or not — set out with an agenda. The article itself reads like so many SL hit pieces, after all.
All that said, this article points to a lot of the troubles with the new user experience.
She complains about the “beginner world,” then about ending up in a Game of Thrones region where she was ignored. She then “glitched” and walked through a hill. I suspect this wasn’t a glitch, but just the typical bounding issue or some such — stuff that experienced SLers shrug off, but would be viewed as an error by a new user.
She also talks about her experience with a friend she met at Caledon Oxbridge. There was some discussion of nightclubs and dances, a trip to Abbotts Airfield for some skydiving in an old, prim skydive plane, some time in a sandbox, some clubbing, some pole dancing, and even discussion about a skinny-dipping event later that evening. The whole experience — if I were seeing Second Life for the first time — would seem dreadful. Why would I want to even bother with such a place?
Still, this is what it’s like for most first time SL users.
Should Business Insider had a top of the line gaming rig with all the bells and whistles? Certainly it would have helped the otherwise mediocre photos. Would that have been a true new user experience? No, I doubt it. Instead, we see a typical new user, shown from the standard camera position, with the graphics settings I’d not be surprised were the suggested settings for the system they downloaded Second Life on.
Their experience is probably not atypical of a first-time user. Indeed, I suspect they had a better than average first user experience, being guided directly by another avatar rather than signing off sometime between that first island and “glitching” through a wall at the Game of Thrones-ish space they discovered.
Nevertheless, I don’t think their guide showed them the best of Second Life, either. Abbotts, while a lovely legacy airport and a personal favorite, is not well traveled nowadays. If they wanted to check out an airfield, there are more populated ones out there, even ones that have built-in skydiving pads. But a flight may have been more exciting: look at that osprey taking off in the background!
They could have gone to some of the LEA art exhibitions. They could have gone to some of the Linden Department of Public Works created games. They could have gone to any number of Resident-created spaces that would have impressed them. Something far beyond a beachside bar that looks like it was built and textured in 2007, a dance store, or a pool adorned with a dance pole.
Yet I must ask: how different is this from the usual new user experience? More so, how can that experience be better? We can say that the reporter could have done a better job, could have had a better rig, and could have spent more time — but is their Second Life experience any better than what most see when they join?
Let me also put this video in the mix. Some of it — okay, a lot of it — might be not safe for work.
This too is a common new user experience. Yes, this fellow obviously is going to show you the most outrageous parts of his experience for the video — but can you not look at his time in the welcome areas and not nod, knowing that his experience is not that much different from what you might discover on your first login to Second Life today?
I guess what I want to say is this: let’s not shoot the messenger. Let’s look at this as a symptom of a troubled new user experience. This is a wake up call: we all can do a bit better. What should their experience have been?
UPDATE: I edited the above after it was pointed out that the mentor was not a member of the Caledon Oxbridge staff.