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What’s the Hub-bub?

August 25th, 2009 by Marianne McCann

Jes up the street from my store and around the corner is the Bay City Municipal Airport in Hau Koda. It’s a mole build I followed from ground breaking to completion with some enthusiasm. So much so that I made a video out of all I saw as it was built.

Today, that place is an Info Hub — and thanks to a glitch in the way people are allocated to hubs (location over load), it’s the busiest on the grid. As I write this, it’s late evening for the West Coast of the united states, and about as close as one gets to a “quiet time” on the Second Life Grid. There are 39 people in Hau Koda, with 31 in the neighboring sim, Bay City – Docklands. By comparison, there are 17 people in the Moose Beach info Hub in Bay City, two in the Helfell info Hub, seven in Hyannisport, five in Degrand, and eight in Violet. Even the big four corner hubs of Ahern and Hanja are at 25 and 15 Residents, respectively.

This is a problem.

Established residents are unable to get into Hau Koda throughout much of the day to provide assistance, and Bay City – Docklands remains heavily lagged due to the avatar load in the sim. The Residents — a mix of new residents in Hau Koda and Info Hub “regulars” populating a corner near the Info Hub in Bay City – Docklands — are largely staying put and not circulating. The stores in Bay City – Docklands remain un-shopped, and landowning Residents who had hoped for a boon from the Info Hub feel they’ve been left holding the bag.

To Linden Lab’s end, they have promised both a short term and long term fix. They plan to ad a couple of “spinoff hubs” to the north and west of Hau Koda, to help alleviate some of the pressure, while exploring a new system of allocating new and bounced Residents to hubs based on load versus location.

Many of the Residents of Bay City, especially Bay City – Docklands, have approached the folks at the hub as being a problem to be fixed. I think thats only half right. The load is an issue, but I also don’t feel the residents of the area are doing all they can to capitalize on the issue at hand. I think what it comes down to is not thinking like an established Resident, but as a new Second Life Resident.

To my fellow Bay City Residents, I offer this:

The stores in Bay City – Docklands include, amongst others, two high end vehicle stores based on affiliate sales, two stores that sell houses, one texture vendor, and one build that apparently features sales of art. There’s all fine stores, but are selling almost exactly the wrong things.

The majority of new users are not coming in with bulging pocketbooks. Most have exactly L$0 in their account. Some might be willing to part with a linden or two if the item seems right. Very few are going to come by for a vehicle that is going to cost them more than L$1,000 to own, let alone a house. Texture sales are meaningless to a new Resident who hasn’t yet decided they want to learn to build, especially in a sim that has very little land that allows building.

This is not to say the products in Bay City – Docklands are bad. Far from it. It’s simply the wrong audience for those products.

A wise land-owner might consider instead placing a store focusing on clothing, avatar shapes and skins, or wearable avatar accessories for this area. New residents are most involved with trying to customize the one thing they come into the world with — their body.

Provide basic instructions for using your products, and consider having “loss leader” products to introduce people to your brand. Sell your goods there, but make sure to include additional landmark givers so they’ll eventually make it to your main store as they grow into their Second Life.

Bay City is also a loosely-themed area, based on the 1930-1960s American urban experience. With that in mind, build a store (or find a good prefab) that reflects the look, that is easy on the eye, and draws new people in. You’re trying to make money today and tomorrow, so avoid the garish “mainland ad farm” aesthetic in favor of something that will draw them into the experience. People *do* go back to regions that catch their eye, such as Straylight, Tableau, Lloyd, and other that have a unique theme and style to the overall area.

Finally, spend some time at your store and in the hub area. Help teach these new Residents. Suggest places for them to explore and things for them to do. Think about answering “the big three questions” (what can I do here, how can I get money, where can I “have relations”), because you will be asked ’em. Try to avoid thinking only in terms of “policing” the new Residents, but in educating them about our world.

Again, these folks are the future of the Second Life Grid, and if you help them now, they may reward you later. They may eventually become your best customer, a top designer that will enhance your own Second Life experience, or even your future neighbor.

We can make the place work for us, but it really comes from looking at these new residents as something other than a hassle, and considering that appealing to their wants and needs will — in the long run — help them to help you.