A trip to Havana, with a little Voodoo In My Blood

Little Havana; Inara Pey, September 2018, on FlickrLittle Havana – click any image for full size

We came across Little Havana as a result of an e-mail suggestion*. Occupying a Homestead region, it is a joint design between Sofie Janic, Fred Hamilton (frecoi), Alexa Maravilla (Spunknbrains) and Lotus Mastroianni. It’s an easy to visit region, offering a seafront location looking out over a sandy beach to where waves suitable for surfers are rolling in on the tide.

As the name suggests, the region takes its inspiration from Cuba. However, rather than trying to recreate anything specific from Havana – such as one of its more famous buildings of monuments, the team responsible for the design have opted to present a setting mindful of the images often seen in photos and postcards of Havana: wide streets, gaily painted buildings with something of a run-down air about them, little churches and, of course, the giant gas guzzlers, equally brightly painted and obviously lavished with care as befitting behemoths that have a design lifespan reaching back to the 1950s.

Little Havana; Inara Pey, September 2018, on FlickrLittle Havana

The seafront boulevard offers the best vista of the houses, buildings and cars, the street lighting offering opportunities for tourist-like night-time photography for those looking for an alternative to daylight photographs.

With the exception of the church alongside the landing point, which appears to be  a small gallery displaying images by Lotus Mastroianni, none of the buildings are furnished. Some do, however, carry hallmarks of el revolución cubana on their flanks. The heroic visage of Argentinian Marxist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, arguably, and alongside Fidel Castro, a major architect of Fulgencio Basista’s overthrow and the remodelling of Cuba post-revolution, stares stoically outward from the side of one of the taller buildings, for example.

Little Havana; Inara Pey, September 2018, on FlickrLittle Havana

The northern end of the beach front road ends, quirkily enough, in an odd little helicopter landing pad, complete with a D-Labs helicopter that looks like it has been put together using bodywork from a car. When encountered, it is both unexpected and yet strangely suited to the setting.

A short distance across the water, north and west of this, sits a little sandy island given over to swimming, sunbathing and generally relaxing, a bar offering an excuse to swim over and stay a while.

Little Havana; Inara Pey, September 2018, on FlickrLittle Havana

The roads on the region also run along the east side of the buildings, where can be found more paintings typical of Cuba on walls, including one of Fidel Castro himself in all his bearded glory. This faces a recording studio sitting on another little island, this one reached via a wooden bridge. With an indoor pool and outdoor sun deck, it suggests a place of easy-going creation of Cuban music.

Ideally suited to photography, particularly avatar-centric images, Little Havana is connected via bridge at its south-western extreme to Voodoo In My Blood, the neighbouring full region. This features a design largely brought together by Megan Prumier, working with Sofi and Fred.

Little Havana; Inara Pey, September 2018, on FlickrVoodoo In My Blood

This is distinctly more run-down America in terms of tone, but equally as engaging visually. A good portion of the region is given over to commercial activities centred on but not limited to the Voodoo main store itself. However, explore southward beyond this, along the narrow, grungy alleys standing between the shells of ageing buildings, and you come to an open beach front setting. Tired it may well, but it is also packed with detail.

Running east-to-west across the southern side of the region, this beach opens out on its western side to become the sandy location of an ageing seaside fun fair. Whether the rides still work is up to you to find out, but the function here seems to have shifted over time: a music stage has been built, and the tents pitched on the white sand suggest there’s recently been a festival of some kind here.

Little Havana; Inara Pey, September 2018, on FlickrVoodoo In My Blood

A set of trimmed hedges and paved paths sit above these tents, presenting a little formal place to take a stroll. On their north side the look towards a finger of rock pointing out to sea and reached via wooden board walks. Seals have claimed this rocky ribbon as their home, and lie resting on wooden piers – although one seems intent on receiving scooter lessons! The piers are also where boats might put in, as evidenced by the pristine yacht moored close by, the affluence it exudes contrasting with the aged look of the rest of the region.

Both Little Havana and Voodoo Blood are finished with local soundscapes – such as music blaring from a car radio as you wander the streets of the former, or the sounds of the seaside when exploring the southern seafront of the latter. This means that having local sounds enable while exploring is an absolute must.

Little Havana; Inara Pey, September 2018, on FlickrVoodoo In My Blood

Taken individually or together, Little Havana and Voodoo Blood make for interesting destinations for Second Life travel bloggers, explorers and photographers. Both had been designed to exude atmosphere and catch the eye, and both are very much worth taking the time to explore.

Those requiring rezzing rights in either region can obtain them by joining the respective groups, and each region has its own Flickr group for those wishing to share their images – see the About Land information within each region for the links.

Little Havana; Inara Pey, September 2018, on FlickrVoodoo In My Blood

SLurl Details

* I’m not offering a name, as the e-mail appears to have originated from a personal account, rather than one linked to an avatar name. If I have this wrong, the sender can ping me with an OK, and I’ll add their name for due credit. Otherwise thank you for the hat tip.

Second Life: switches to Stella Connect for support feedback

Whirly Fizzle tapped me about a recent change to the support ticket system she recently noticed.

Previously, when a support ticket was closed by the originator or by the Lab, a pop-up feedback box would be displayed. Well, no more, as Whirly Fizzle noted to me via IM:

I just had a ticket closed, and I got an e-mail from something called secondlife-at-stellaconnect.net. I thought it was a scam at first!”

– Whirly Fizzle

However, she checked with Alexa Linden, who confirmed the e-mails to be genuine.

Stella Connect is actually platform geared towards improving support staff motivation, increasing the quality of support services and provides a means to help train and develop support staff skills – and it is now being used by the Lab to help in their Second Life support operations. The most user visible element within the system is a  new approach to obtaining feedback on support cases, as exemplified by the e-mail Whirly received.

With Stella Connect, when a support ticket is closed, the originator of the ticket receives – as noted – an e-mail via secondlife-at-stellaconnect.net. Within this e-mail is a link the user is asked to use. This takes them to a web page that:

  • Displays information on the Second Life support team member who assisted them
  • Allows them to rate the support team member’s performance on a star rating where 1 star is a rating of “poor”, and 5 a rating of “excellent”.
  • Provide text feedback on why they have given their rating.
A sample of the new feedback form users will see when responding to an e-mail from secondlife-at-stellaconnect.net after their support ticket has been closed. Image via Whirly Fizzle.

In addition, and depending on the star rating given, the user will be asked to do one of the following:

  • If they have given a high star rating, they will be asked if they wish to recommend a reward for the support team member providing the assistance (below, left).
  • If they have given a lower star rating, they will be asked to indicate specific areas where they feel the support experience could be improved (below, right).
If a user gives a high star rating to a support team member, they are additionally asked if they would like to have the team member rewarded for their efforts (l). If a low star rating is given, the user will be asked to indicate where the support experience could be improved (r). Images via Whirly Fizzle.

The rewards system is an interesting way of both motivating support staff to provide a positive experience for users, and to help engage users in the entire support process. Alongside of providing information on the support team member who assisted them, the rewards option can help personalise the entire process where the user has had a particularly positive experience.

While discussing this approach, Keira Linden, who supervises the Land Team,  informed me the exact details of the rewards are still being finalised, and, over time, may well depend on how popular they are with both support staff and with users (e.g. which of the available options do users tend to select).

We’re still working out the rewards system, but I kinda like giving my folks that go the extra mile to make someone happy an actual reward. The lunch thing will probably happen, but it’s pretty new still. We’ll get feedback from the support folks as well as take a look at what options are popular from the resident side. We’re able to do a lot of customisation there on the rewards.

– Keira Linden, Second Life Land Team Supervisor

Beyond this, all of the feedback generated  – positive or otherwise – is directed back into managing support operations. This both allows overall customer satisfaction to the be assessed, and also helps in highlighting weaknesses within support activities / responses with may need addressing. Additionally, the data generated by the system could, if required, be made available to other customer experience teams to help further improve interactions with users, and so on.

So, if you do have support tickets filed with Linden Lab, and you find yourself receiving an e-mail from secondlife-at-stellaconnect.net, you can be assured it’s not spam or a scam – it’s a genuine Second Life related e-mail, and one intended to help the Lab’s Second Life support team assess and improve the support service they are giving to users – so do please take the time to respond to it.

With thanks to Whirly Fizzle and Keira Linden