As the new month arrives, Linden Lab appears to be kicking-off a number of outward initiatives.
Splash Screen Images Updated
First comes the latest set of secondlife.com splash screen images, which match the current masquerade banner theme on the SL Marketplace. This time there are three images in the set, which have been supplied by Strawberry Singh and Winter Jefferson, Whimsy Winx, and Sissy Scarborough and Mel Vanbeek respectively.
Remember that in order to see the new images, you’ll need to log out of secondlife.com.
WhatIs Page Re-vamped
In keeping with the use of user-generated content, the What Is Second Life webpage has been given a revamp. For those unfamiliar with the WhatIs page, it has been the page that tries to explain Second Life (no easy task in and of itself), and is accessible from the link on the secondlife.com splash screen, or at http://secondlife.com/whatis/.
Previously, this page played host to the Linden Lab created video promoting Second Life:
In the new layout, WhatIs replaces the LL video with a selection of user-created videos intended to help showcase Second Life to the novice / potential user, complete with an additional JOIN NOW button that takes people to the sign-up page.
Also included is the What’s Hot section of the Destination Guide, while in the What Is section, there is a link that displays the most recent posts to the my.sl social feed (or if you are an existing user and already logged-in to secondlife.com, to your own my.sl feed page).
LL look to be trying to improve their outward communications, with the launch of an e-mail campaign designed to encourage people to follow the Second.Life account on my.secondlife.com (my.sl for short). This account promises to be a provider of up-to-the minute news, etc., with the strapline: Be the first to know. Breaking SL News and More. Get the latest community updates, beta invites and more, without leaving Second Life!
This is interesting as it more-or-less amounts to the first “official” statement from Linden Lab on the subject of how to keep abreast of news from the company since Amanda Linden infamously announced the launch of the Lithium “Community Communications Platform” (which runs the current blogs and forums) – and then told users that to keep up with LL’s news on SL, they should go visit Facebook…
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.