November 27, 2012

The newbie experience in Second Life sucks!

I haven't made a new avatar in like forever but my recent post about retention and tier sparked a few comments that made me want to test the "new user" experience. Honestly Linden Lab, it's horrible. It's big time awful. As in really bad. Sucky.

You start by picking an avatar. I chose one that looked sort of like a biker chick. Then you download and install the viewer. That didn't go too well. First try gave me a download error. Had to retry 2x to get the damn thing to finally install. (Yes I had cleaned off remnants of previous SL viewers including doing a registry purge.)

OK finally a successful install. First thing that happens? I can't log in. It didn't accept my password (very carefully typed) or user name or something. Tried again. No luck. Waited a few minutes, tried again and success!! I guess the login to the world wasn't exactly synced to the website account creation.

Now what? I get dumped into the middle of a big circle with glowing things all around me (Destination Island 8 to be specific). Huh? No explanation as to what to do next. No tutorial. No nothing. I remember the old login where you had to accomplish a few simple things like find a sword, attach it, walk here, fly there, interact with x and y and z. There's absolutely NONE of that!

Oh and did I mention? I showed up as Girl Next Door, not biker chick. Not good.

How to

So what do I see after looking carefully at my viewer window? A little button called "How To". Ohhhhhkkkkayyyyy. I'll try that. The walk explanation is fine. Chat I think I can get that.  Private chat (IM) slightly murky but still ok. Change your Profile? WTF? Doesn't even tell you what a profile is! Change your view. Click and drag on the world? Huh? "For more control, click on the View button at the bottom of the screen." WHUT? There is NO "View" button at the bottom of the screen. There's a Camera Controls and a Walk/run/fly but there's no "View" button. Oy.

Next up is "Find places to go". This is all before I even know why I would want to go anywhere. And STILL nothing to tell me what those swirly gateway looking things are that surround my little circular Romanesque Stonehenge starting point.

I won't go through all the rest of the silly tips they give you under How to other than to say they are woefully inadequate and afterthoughts rather than actual things that might help you figure out what you can do in Second Life.

Where to go

Another case of WTF. Again, what do those portals do? (Yes, they take you places even more obtuse and totally incomprehensible for a newbie.)  And clicking Destinations brings up a whole bunch of random stuff that typical newbies would have no idea about what they can or can't do for you. Let's see, "Newcomer Friendly". What does that mean about the rest of SL? Anyway clicking it leads to some really bad, generic descriptions about this or that destination being a fun (safe) place to learn and hangout.

With all this nonsense, it's a wonder anyone stays past their first 30 minutes. Oh and even though there were about 5 others standing around, no one tried to start a chat with me and no one responded to me trying to start a chat with them (public). IM was no better.

For giggles, I decided to click on the "Art" portal looking thing. Woosh. Now I'm in a big huge dome with LEA on the floor, a few signs around the glass dome and absolutely NO clue what to do and no clue how to get back where I was.

So let's see maybe I can try Teleporting Home. Wouldn't that take me back to where I started? Nuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu! Now I'm at Pooley Stage. For grins, I thought I'd ask in chat how to get back to where I started. No answer from any of the 5 avatars standing around Pooley Stage. (And yes, I know you can click the back button next to the browser address type window but how many newbies will realize that?)

Epic failure

I really feel sorry for anyone involved in the new user experience. I feel totally sorry for the newbie who will be clueless about what to do, how to do it or where to go. I feel sorry for the support groups like NCI, Caledon Oxbridge, White Tiger, The Shelter, etc. who will only be getting people because they happened to randomly click on a destination (not by design or intent). And most of all, I feel sorry for the rest of us in Second Life who understand that without more support for first time users, our world will continue on it's slow death spiral. (By the way, those links are all SLURLs that will take you to each of their main locations in Second Life.)

All this experience did was make me sad.


Well I don't know why SL decided to dump my newly made avatar into Destination Island but I finally found the Welcome Island Tutorial by trying to get back to Destination Island via the Back button. I got the cryptic message "To repeat the tutorial, go to Welcome Island Public". Now that's useful. Not.  But being an experienced SL'er, I did find it via search (even though there are lots of them.)

And arrrrgggggghhhh! The tutorial is not even a tutorial. It's like walk, sit, fly, chat, now where do you want to go? Nothing about attachments. Changing looks. Driving a vehicle. Wearing a different top. Searching. It's so utterly lame compared to the old find the sword tutorial as to be insulting.

November 25, 2012

Ideas for improving Second Life land sales and retention

A 4-month old article on Tateru Nino's blog about land pricing and tier got me to thinking. If you read her commentary, she concludes that changing tier prices (ie. lowering them) would have little or no effect on the Second Life economy and in fact would likely result in significant reductions in revenue for Linden Lab. While I agree in principle with her conclusions based on the rather simple premise, I think there are some things that could be done -- call it tinkering in the margins -- that might have a very positive effect.

Customer retention & new players

I'm no expert on this but I can tell you that for most people, the new user experience sucks. The official SL viewer is bloated and over-weight. New users get no help on arrival save some guided quest type stuff. And suggestions on what you should actually do in SL are pretty thin at best. So here are some ideas:
  • Release two viewers. One a grandly simplified, lightweight, FAST practice viewer. No inventory, no building, no anything except picking an avatar and moving and interacting. Concentrate on making SL as fast as possible. This viewer would expire after 14 days by which time, you'd have to move to anything BUT the practice one.
  • NCI does about the best job of encouraging new users as anyone. I'd forge a stronger with them for new users.
  • Want more premium accounts Linden Lab? Increase the free tier allowance to 1024. I'll bet you'd have a lot of alts suddenly become premium in addition to reducing the frustration that comes from only having 117 prims available in a 512.

A moh bettah tier

While Tateru argues that simply lowering tier won't increase land usage, one of the biggest complaints I hear about (myself included as a complainer) is that any small land purchase that kicks you into the next tier level forces you to pay the entire amount for that level.

For example, if I hold 4096 sq-m of land and want to buy another 512, it will cost me an extra $15/mo since the tier for up to 4096 is $25/mo while the tier for 4097 – 8192m is $40/mo. I think Linden Lab AND its customers might be better served charging $25/mo for the 4096 plus a percentage of that level for anything over. For example, buying another 512 sq-m would only cost an extra $2/mo (about 1/8 the price of the current tier) and not $15/mo. A good example of this is a small 300 sq-m parcel next door to me. I'd probably buy it today except it would kick me into the next tier level since I'm right at 1024.

In fact, I had to carve up my original land purchase to get myself DOWN to 1024 by selling a microparcel on the backside of mine to a land baron. I know a number of people who have simply carved off micro-parcels and abandoned them (hoping of course that no one puts anything silly on them). If one could hold land that was in-between the tier breaks without getting charged the full amount, I'd imagine less land breakups and more contiguous parcels across most of mainland.

Anyway, those a few of my random thoughts. Any others? I know, I know. Second Life may be a lost cause but I keep hoping it isn't. :P

November 16, 2012

Total cuteness from Inga Wind

Mable in Sand
This is a new mesh release from Inga Wind called "Mabel in Sand" and honestly, I can't say enough about it. The details and shading are incredible to the point that, if it wasn't on an avatar, you'd swear it was a photo of real life outfit. I especially love the hanging string ties and the really deep pleats in the skirt and top.

The only thing I'd argue about is the color description. "Sand" it is not. More like dark pewter or titanium gray. But, who cares. It simply looks wonderful in-world.

Price is $400L but members of Inga's group can snag it for $200L. Includes everything shown -- boots, stockings, skirt, top and camisole.