Call to Users
While not directly connected to the above, but still in the same broad category, LL earlier this month put out a call to users which appears to be an attempt to replicate the call made to photographers to provide splash screen images, and get people involved in the production of tutorial videos. How many the forum post actually reached is questionable; many I’ve spoken to seem unaware of its existence – as I was, until directly pointed to it by a Linden Lab members of staff.
The call provides core guidelines for prospective videos (such as length to be in the 2-3 minute region, no use of copyrighted music, videos must be “G”-rated. etc.), together with ideas for potential subject matter (“how to shop inworld”, “how to customise your avatar”, etc) – and how to submit your video for potential inclusion in the page.
Analysis and Feedback
As I originally commented on the move with the splash screen, I feel this is still a good move and certainly presents Second Life in a far better light than the original “official” photos. Photographers also appear to enjoy the opportunity to be involved in the process – and this is good. Hopefully, LL is casting their net wider and involving more SL photographers in the process.
Similarly, the inclusion of user-generated videos on the WhatIs page is potentially a good move: Linden Lab have yet to produce a video that captures the essence of Second Life, leaving alone the myriad of ways in which it is used: as such, more of a showcase idea is potentially more beneficial.
However, care does need to be taken to ensure that the videos selected actually help to showcase Second Life to prospective users, rather than simply confusing them. This is something LL appear to be aware of, as I’ve been informed that the video selection process is to be curated in the future. As it is, the current selection (I admit I haven’t watched them all) is an eclectic mix, not all of which may actually hit the mark in terms of drawing people in. Of those I did watch, however (the first fifteen), Sam Lowry’s “Avatars” largely seemed to hit the mark:
The e-mail announcement strikes me as a curate’s egg: on the one hand, and as mentioned, it is a positive movement inasmuch as we’re finally being told that LL will be bringing news and updates via their own website rather than directing people elsewhere – something that is long overdue. There is also the fact that my.sl is immediately available to all SL users, and many actually do find it a handy means of maintaining contact with one another when not in-world, and it does provide a means for more in the way of interaction.
However, the use of Second.Life does bring with it concerns. One of these is that it will become yet another surrogate for informative blog posts, much as LL seem to be using the forums at the moment. With the latter, and all too often, news and information gets shoved out to a forum post rather than appearing on the blogs. This means that much of what is being said is actually passing unheard because people don’t have the time to be constantly digging through forum categories, stickies and threads in the hope of finding some nugget of interest. While the use of Second.Life may ease this inasmuch as it is a single point of reference for information, it does carry with it a considerable amount “noise” – comments and feedback from users. While such interaction is undoubtedly healthy and should itself be discouraged, it also means that actually finding information can still become a matter of scrolling backwards and forwards on the Second.Life page in the hope of finding something.
One way of avoiding this would be for LL to start using all the tools at their disposal, rather than seeming to treat everything as either / or. This means overcoming their aversion to using their own blog. When all is said and done, this should be the primary medium for imparting news and information, with the likes of Second.Life on my.sl, their Twitter accounts, etc., being used in support of the blog, broadcasting the fact that there is news to be read to users, rather than being used to carry the news. Hopefully, this is what LL now have in mind or will realise (God knows enough people have been poking them on this point for long enough…).
So finally to the call for video tutorials. This is again a curate’s egg. The fact is, frankly, that in terms of actually using the platform and tools, users are potentially better placed to impart practical knowledge to one another than LL is to hand down advice. As such, this initiative opens a channel for doing so – which is good.
On the more cynical hand, however, there is also the feeling that this might be a means of masking LL’s further withdrawal from providing direct help and support to users. Certainly, it cannot be denied that once upon a time LL did provide highly focused, highly practical tutorial videos that were very popularly received by users: Torley Linden’s famous tuTORials. Many still lament the passing of his videos, and it is somewhat hard to understand why LL opted to discontinue them or are not actually harnessing Torley’s popularity and skills to bring them back – although Tateru did point out to me in discussing this initiative that video has something of a mixed impact, and the amount of effort required to produce them can, from a corporate perspective, outweigh their reach and value.
It’ll be interesting to see how this develops – I’m going to stick with a more optimistic outlook on the idea and hope that it does encourage user participation in a project that can directly benefit other users.