Update Aug 25th: The region is now open. See the link at the end of this article to visit.
This weekend, the Firestorm team will be launching a new in-world venture: the Phoenix Firestom Support island.
The region is designed to serve two purposes. One is to provide help and support for users of any calibre, via the use of in-world tutorials supported by real life help in the case of users new to SL, and via the provisioning of an area more focused on providing real life help for users more familiar with SL and the viewer. The second is to provide an in-world base of operations to support Firestorm users in particular.
The region is somewhat mindful of the old SL Orientation Islands where new users to SL learned about the basics of the viewer and how to do things – so much so, in fact, that I was half-expecting to find a beach ball and table during my preview explorations . While neither turned up, I did smile on coming across a large and talkative phoenix, itself a reminder of the OI parrot…
However, this is not to say that the region has been deliberately modelled on the old Orientation Islands. As Jessica Lyon, the Phoenix / Firestorm project lead pointed out to me as we discussed the island and the ideas behind it, it’s a matter of form following function. A relaxed and visually pleasing tutorial path with few distractions naturally lends itself to this kind of open-air approach.
The main element of the region is a path which leads people around the island from the arrival point, taking them past various lessons in gaining familiarity with Second Life and the viewer. These are very much focused on “learn by doing” – such as jumping over a fence to understand walk / jump – and are very clearly and cleanly presented, and obviously intended for the more novice user.
The signs are clear and concise, and while based on Firestorm running in a default mode (i.e. with the pie menu active), they easily translate to other viewers, whether they are using pie or context menus.
Within this sits a central area where questions about Second Life and viewer use that go beyond those that tend to be asked by “new” users can be addressed. This can be reached via a bridge from the outer area of the island or via a teleporter located at the arrivals point.
A key aspect of the region is that is designed to be staffed. Although it had originally been hoped that in-situ help relatively small, things haven’t quite work out as originally envisioned. ”Our original plan,” Jessica told me, “Was to have a first entry to SL region for zero – 30 day accounts only, and would staff it with our own support staff and a careful selection of mentors/helpers. We have a RegAPI from LL [which would allow Firestorm to run a sign-up page and deliver new users directly to the region]. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with “Resident” last names, so we had to switch to plan B. Plan B is to open the region to the public, and heavily staff it with mentors and helpers to ensure new and old residents alike get real help from real humans.”
As a result of the switch to “Plan B”, and to ensure the island is properly staffed, invitations to participate have been sent to the RHN, White Tiger Mentors, Mental Mentors and other groups. One potential benefit of this is it will help ensure there’s a much more diverse wealth of experience on-hand to deal with viewer-centric questions than might otherwise be the case were the island solely staffed by Firestorm-focused volunteers.
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