I’m gobsmacked

Amanda Linden (with whom I’ve had some interesting exchanges in the past) finally gets the word out about the new means of communications, um, “within” Second Life.

Now, a part of this is something I’ve been looking forward to – the new User Groups, together with new Participation GuidelinesProviding balance  – on both the Lab’s and the users’ side – can be brought to the User Groups, then these might work out a lot better than the old Office Hours, and I’m in broad agreement with all Suella Ember has to say on this. My only worry is that, while Office Hours could be hideous slanging matches in which more is vented than listened to, User Groups could become sycophantic FICs, either deliberately or accidentally – or become perceived as such.

That LL are dropping voting from the JIRA system seems to have surprised some. Me, not so much; it’s been evident for a long, long time that LL take about as much notice of voting on JIRA issues as one regards gum on a shoe soul: to be ignored as far as possible and then scraped off when no longer convenient to ignore. Removal simply takes away a source of embarrassment to the Lab. Quite how monitoring the number of Watchers on an issue will help progress it is unclear, but ho-hum; in some respects it smacks of the same emptiness witnessed in LL encouraging people to vote on JIRA issues (up until now, at least) while knowing full well they (quote) do not use voting to triage or to make product decisions.

It’s interesting to read that next month we will be rolling out a new community platform–an integrated system that will include SL Blogs, SL Forums, SL Answers, and the Knowledge Base. Is this a tacit admission the current system does not work? I’m curious on this simply because the much-vaunted “blogrum” system currently in place is in so many respects an abysmal failure.

  • The software is irritating and unpredictable. Posts and edits frequently get “eaten”; threads don’t always fully appear when in “page” mode (I’ve frequently come across replies to posts that make no sense. Originally, I thought the posts had simply been deleted…then I discovered that I could *sometimes* find them by switching over to the mind numbingly slow threaded view and then working my way through a thread)
  • The system, whether admitted to or nor is either being unevenly moderated by LL-related staff or it is being openly abused by one or more cadres, shall we say, of forum users (regulars?), with threads seemingly pulled simply because one or more didn’t like what they were reading
  • Whether they admit to it or not, there are a number of individuals who seem to view the General Discussion forum are their personal playground. While one always expects a degree of heated “debate” (aka insult-hurling and abusive disagreement) to enter into anything that people feel passionate about and willing to discuss, it has to be said that the levels of vitriol, dislike and sheer melodrama evidenced in the SL General Discussions forum far outstrips what is tolerated elsewhere – up to and including individuals carrying over personal vendettas against one another into threads that have absolutely no bearing on their original cause of angst with one another.

As such, the forums do need a major overhaul, both in terms of the technology and in the way they are moderated and managed – however thorny the latter issue.

However, it’s after the news on forums (potentially beneficial and good), Users Groups (potentially very beneficial and very good) and the JIRA changes (no surprises) that I find myself a little more gobsmacked in the negative sense.

In both “places to connect to one another” and “Get the latest Second Life and Linden Lab news” – and with the exception of mentioning the SL forums – never once does Amanda Linden suggest or encourage people to actually log in to Second Life.

Now, I may be accused of nit-picking here, but the fact is, we’re all involved in Second Life to participate in the marvellous world(s) of Second Life. As such, I don’t want to have to traipse over to Facebook to find out what the hell is going on in “my” world. Not because I’m worried about FB’s privacy rules (I am, but they have no bearing here) – but because I’m being told to “go away” and fart around with software I’ve no interest in using, rather than being encouraged to get involved “here”. The same goes for Twitter.

Telling me to go elsewhere is, frankly, bordering on telling me to take my business elsewhere as well – and that’s not a healthy perception any company should be promoting. Period.

Where’s the encouragement to log in, meet friends, joins in-world Groups – gosh, even create a Group or two? I’m not being facetious here. Groups – despite issues with the Group chat – are a phenomenal way of keeping in touch with the pulses of Second Life we enjoy. We know LL are working to improve some of these tools – so why no mention, why no encouragement to just log in? It doesn’t matter if the new tools are a little way down the road: the new integrated forum tools appear to be down the road as well, yet they get a mention.

Frankly, as far as informing people as to what is going on, Amanda should at least be pointing to the events calendar (web and in-world), and making it clear the tools to do so are there, waiting to be used, and are going to be subject to enhancement to further encourage direct interaction between users.

And why the heck are we being steered to FB to get the latest news from LL themselves? I mean – and this may well sound a bit radical – surely the best way for LL to promote themselves to their users is through their own bloody website!

One also has to wonder why Linden-lead meetings aren’t a part of this announcement? Were they considered and dismissed?  Not even on the agenda? One of the healthiest ways for Linden Lab to promote goodwill among users and get important messages across would be to come out of their sanctums and engage with us in-world. I appreciate that management tend to be busy – but would it really be that inconvenient to give up, say, 90 minutes once a quarter or so and come in-world to address a pre-planned, pre-advertised meeting that includes a Q&A session featuring questions from the audience and received in advance by those unable to attend due to factors such as timezones?

It could even be called the Linden Village Roadshow. Lord knows, there are plenty of venues that could be established for said meetings (after all, its done for the likes of SLCC).

I have no idea if the User Groups will work – I really, sincerely hope they do, and that both sides will approach them openly and sensibly. I do look forward to seeing the new “integrated community platform”  and very much hope that this time, LL hit the nail on the head rather than mashing their own thumb. But as to the rest? Well, it’s disappointing.