The New User Walk
The new user walk itself is easy to follow, and provides practical advice and lessons. It has been logically ordered so that lessons largely build upon one another, providing the new user with a relatively solid foundation upon which to build their Second Life experience.
As mentioned earlier, the lessons take the form of “learn by doing”; the user is told how to do something and then invited to try it out. In the “Freebie” area, this has been taken a stage further: here new users can not only collect a range of practical items which have been carefully selected from across the grid, they can put previous lessons such as “buying” goods, unpacking boxes and changing outfits to work in a practical way.
Care has also been taken to ensure things are kept relatively light and that lessons are spaced out around the region to try to avoid undue lag as much as possible, as well as potentially serving to ease any congestion which might occur.
At the end of the walk there is a pavilion where users can opt to teleport to a number of destinations. These have been careful selected and are known to the “newbie friendly”. The number and range of destinations may be expanded in the future, but if so, it will be done with care, as the team are keen to avoid having newcomers shunted off somewhere they may end up feeling lost in, or where they receive a less-than-friendly greeting.
It is clear both from a tour of the region and from talking to Jessica, that a huge amount of work has gone into its development. So how did it come about in the first place?
Giving Back to the Community
“Ah, yes!” came Jessica’s response to my question, “Well, the fact that we are a not-for-profit corporation aside; I don’t want to bank money. I feel very strongly that money corrupts and I’ll have none of that with this project. We had more money coming in from Google Adsense than we needed, so it was either donate to charity every month or put it towards a region.
“Once we’d decided to acquire a region, it was paramount that it didn’t become just some club hang out. Every penny we’ve ever spent has gone back to the community in one way or another, and this would be no different. It would be used purely for providing support, helping residents and become a new location for our classes.” There is a note of rightful satisfaction in her words as she concludes, “Now with the monthly region expense, KDU, Digisign, server and our other outlay, we are just breaking even with our income/expense ratio. Perfect!”
Even though the region will be opening on the 25th August, the work is far from finished. As Jessica mentioned in her reply, the team will be moving their own Firestorm classes to the region, making it an in-world hub for dedicated Firestorm support. Lessons will take place on a platform well above ground level so as not to interfere with the more general help and support going on. Additionally, the team plan to provide further platforms providing tutorial areas similar to the one on the ground in each of Firestorm’s nine supported languages.
Given the amount of work that has gone into the region, I asked who was involved in the project. “Miro Collas did the terraforming and general landscaping,” Jessica informed me, “Gabba Loon and Gfresh Botha started off the builds, with the work taken over by Angel Slocombe who did most of the building and texturing you see now. Lette Ponnier organised Whirly Fizzle, Tansie Ballyhoo and Kaycee Romano with the texturing as well, and Freespirit Simmering collected top-notch freebies from some generous content creators.”
Developing a means to help new users is a subject fraught with problems. Trying to define something that can be of use to both new and existing users (two very different audiences) multiples the problems two- or three-fold. However, given the care already put into this region, and the careful consideration given to handling the demands of both audiences as well as in looking to the needs of non-English speaking users, it’s fair to say that the Firestorm team have come up with something that appears more than up to the various tasks demanded of it.
Kudos to all!
The region will be officially opened on Saturday August 25th, with an event starting at noon SLT which will feature a short speech from Jessica herself followed by a DJ-lead party. The island can be reached via the Phoenix Firestom Support island SLurl.