Poking at the new Welcome Islands

The new Welcome Islands

Update: Keira Linden indicated as well as A/B testing against the Learning / Social Islands, the Welcome Islands are also being compared with throughput via the Firestorm Community Gateway. you can find more on Keira’s comments on the Welcome Islands and the Guidebook in my July 7th Web User Group meeting summary). 

Following my recent look through the new Guidebook that now forms a part of the official Second Life viewer (and is filtering its way into TPVs), and which is aimed at helping those get started on the platform, I’ve had the opportunity to take a poke at the new Welcome Islands that are designed as an arrival point for incoming new users, and which leverage the viewer’s Guidebook.

Before getting down to some of the details, it’s worth pointing out a couple of things:

  • The new Welcome Islands and Guidebook appear to be in A/B testing alongside the existing Learning Islands / Social Islands that are in use.
  • This means that should you opt to create a new account to try-out the new Welcome Islands, you may not actually be directed to them, but are instead directed to one of the existing Learning Islands / Social Island (reviewed here).
Arrival: the Guidebook opens at the first page, and a path directs you around the island

Given this, I opted to use the Guidebook within the viewer to get me to the new Welcome Islands rather than creating a new account and relying on pot luck to get me delivered to them via the on-boarding process (when I might easily be routed to a Learning Island).On arrival, I found the Guidebook had opened itself at the first page – much as I would expect it to do for a new user on their arrival at the Welcome Islands. As with other new user experiences, Welcome Island presents a path for  arrivals are to follow, one that meanders through a park-like setting built around a water feature. The latter offers an interesting view of the Second Life grid – as a planetary globe, canted on its axis and spinning gently, its watery surface dotted by the Mainland continents, mini-continents and private estates / islands.

The Avatar picker area displays a selection of start avatars, all of which are animated in their display area

Along this path can be found the three main stations referenced within the Guidebook for interacting with objects,, changing / customising an avatar and gaining familiarity with avatar attachments, all of which sit relatively close to the landing point. Beyond them are two more large stations – a bar and a café, each with interactive food / drink givers – and a number of open-air seating areas offering the chance for social interactions – if there are sufficient new users on an island who wish to mingle.

Also to be found on the islands is a sign directing all those who wish to move on elsewhere in Second Life to use the Destinations tool bar button. However, what the sign fails to indicate is that if it is clicked, it will (via a dialogue box) offer to open the web search at the Destination Guide, which can then also be used to locate places to visit.

Two new arrivals work on avatar looks – or try to(?)

These islands are a simple in design, easy-to-explore settings with some nice touches (e.g. seats that actually offer poses, drinks and refreshments trays that attach objects to an avatar in order to help new users gain familiarity with interacting with scripted object) and sits well with the Guidebook.  However, part of me does wonder if it is a little too minimalistic in approach in order to satisfy all incoming new users.

The grid as a globe within the new Welcome Islands

Certainly, there is a strong contrast between this somewhat contextual approach and the more tutorial-oriented Learning Island / Social Island approach. There are strengths and weaknesses to both, so continuing with them on a side-by-side basis even beyond A/B testing is likely not a bad idea, so it will be interesting to see what happens down the road.

What I will say is that, whilst loitering in the Welcome Islands I was delivered to, several people dropped in as well. Those who responded to me indicated they had just signed-up (although looked like they were coming back to the “Welcome Back” Island where I was hiding, rather than being “brand new” users”), and further indicated they were finding the Guidebook useful – although this obviously didn’t stop questions! – although one who had managed to find their way into inventory did admit to getting somewhat confused and wanting more information on have to change looks without having to pick an entire new avatar, and what was the difference between WEAR and ADD.

I’m not sure we’ll be given any clear insights into how well the new Welcome Islands perform when compared to the other routes into Second Life, but hopefully it will contribute not only to getting people into SL, but also giving them the level of information they need to keep on visiting – and exploring.

The Project UI viewer: a look at the new user Guidebook

via Linden Lab

In  May, the Lab issued the Project UI RC viewer, part of the work to overhaul the new user experience and provide greater context and support for incoming users when getting to grips with Second Life and – in this case – the viewer.

At  the time it was issued, I  provided an overview of the viewer based on my own walk-through of the viewer as it was at that time, and notes supplied by Alexa Linden (see: Lab issues Project UI viewer aimed at new users).

Since then, the Project UI viewer has progressed through the RC process, and was promoted to de facto release status in week #25. Along the way, it saw some revisions and additions, including a Guidebook to help new users find their way around the viewer. And it is that Guidebook I’m taking a look at here.

Before getting to it, however, a quick recap on the changes within the viewer previously covered:

  • A new menu option called Avatar, and streamlined / revised right-click avatar context menus.
  • Improvements to the Inventory panel.
  • An updated Places floater.

All of these are looked at in the blog post linked to above.

New User Guidebook

The Guidebook appears to be a case of taking an idea first seen in the Basic version of Viewer 2.0 a decade ago, and greatly enhancing it.

In 2011, the was to provide new users with a simple guide to tackle basic actions such as walking and chatting through a pop-up How To guide accessed via a toolbar button. The problem was that the idea was never really followed through: the How To guide was brief to the point of being ignored, and never fully leveraged.

The new Guidebook takes the same initial approach as the old How To, using a button within the toolbar to open a dedicated panel, samples of which are shown below.

The pages of the new Guidebook relayed to avatar / camera movement –  click for full size

However, it is at this point that all similarities with the How To approach ends, as the Guidebook dives a lot deeper into basic needs – walking, communicating, interacting with objects, an overview of avatar customisation and using avatar attachments, finding where to go in SL and where to meet people. It also offers pointers to various viewer menu options and how things like right-click context menus work.

On first being opened, the Guidebook will display the first of the pages dealing with avatar movement, with each page including “next” and/or “back” buttons. Pages display information clearly and concisely, and good use is made of illustrations.

The Guidebook menu

All of the topics covered by the Guidebook can be accessed directly at any time via the three-bar Menu icon in the top-right of panel, then clicking on the desired topic. This index also includes an option to teleport to a Welcome Back Island – a duplicate of the new Welcome Islands incoming users may arrive at, giving those already in SL the opportunity to hop back to an environment where they can gain a refresher. In addition, some sections within the Guidebook also reference locations within the Welcome Islands that also help new users gain familiarity with Second Life and the viewer controls.

Obviously, not everything can be covered in a single guide like this, and people will doubtless have their own views on what “should” be included. However, what is provided should provide incoming users with a reasonable grounding in finding their way around the viewer. It’s also worth remembering that these updates may not be all that’s coming by way of viewer UI updates and/or simplification.

A further aspect of the new user experience is that the Welcome Islands will use an Experience, which in turn uses web page links, it is possible there are yet-to-be revealed elements accessed as new users explore / travel through the new Welcome Islands that may actually give further context to the viewer. As such, any final judgement on what is available in the viewer as released might be premature. Given this, I’ll likely / hopefully be returning to these updates to the viewer as an when the new user experience comes on-stream.

In the meantime, the Project UI is available as the default official viewer download, and the updates it contains will, as usual, be a core part of all future viewer updates and releases from the Lab.

Lab further updates SL splash screen with mixed media video

A still from the video now featured on the further revised secondlife.com splash screen

Watching the secondlife.com splash screen is becoming something of a past-time of late.  Last week I noted that the screen had been tweaked after an update in April, with an enlarged still from the broadcast advert by Levitate Media and a revised menu  (Secondlife.com splash screen gets a further tweak).

It  now appears the April update and the tweak last week might be part of a rotating set of splash screens being tried out – as I noted on May 17th in an update to that article, the version of the page I  referenced in that article had reverted to it’s April format.

This week, the page has been further revised – as those logging out and back in may have noticed. The latest change retains the old format of menu up in the top right corner of the screen, but the still image has been replaced by a video loop that mixes footage from the Levitate Media video with video footage shot within Second Life.

Running to 1 minute and 12 seconds, the video may well be the full Leverage Media advert, just sans music or other accompaniment – previously, we’ve only been teased with behind-the-scenes clips of the ad.

Certainly, the inter-cutting of live and Second Life footage comes together very well, although some might critique it for being somewhat vague on specifics about Second Life or that it misses some of the core aspects of the platform – such as the creative elements. However, I’d suggest that as far as enticing interest goes, such critiques are misplaced: the video offers a series of images designed to capture attention, pique curiosity, and entice people to sign-up, rather than reveal all there is to Second Life.

That said, as one scrolls down the page, it would perhaps be nice to see something a little more dynamic when it comes to expanding on what Second Life is – frankly the three selections are vague; and while things like remote meetings in the age of the pandemic have been important to the Lab and SL’s use, it would nevertheless be good to see a broad cassavas of the kind of interests that have tended to attract and retain the wider Second Life user base.

Anyway, click the Play button below and check the video for yourself. Again, note that as it is a hero screen version, it is without sound.

Secondlife.com splash screen gets a further tweak

The small but noticeable update to the secondlife.com splash screen menu that appears to have been recently rolled out

Update May 17th: It  appears LL may either have released a change to the splash screen and have rolled it back, or are experimenting with ideas. On Monday, May 17th, the splash screen had reverted back to the April update.

Back in April Linden Lab slipped out a revamp to the secondlife.com home page.

At the time, it came in for a very mixed response, featuring as it does an actress in elven-like make-up rather than the more usual avatar.

The  image used was actually a still from the broadcast quality advert Levitate Media produced on behalf of Linden Lab in August 2020, and which was previewed in December 2020, a point that seemed lost on at least some of  those who responded negatively to splash screen re-vamp.

The re-vamp also brought the secondlife.com property more into line with other Second Life properties such as the enterprise micro-site, in that scrolling down the page reveals further information on Second Life under a trio of headings.

The secondlife.com splash screen image as seen with the April re-vamp, inset, the scene of the Second Life advert from which the image was taken, being filmed by Levitate Media in August 2020. 

The latest update – seen at the top of this article – was quietly rolled-out during the week. It now features an enlarged version of the still from the Levitate Media video and a re-worked menu. Gone are the options found in the top right corner of the screen, to be replaced by the more “modern” three-bar menu icon favoured by website designers and which offers a mobile device friendly solution to accessing menus. The rest of the page remains unchanged from the April 2021 update.

To be honest, I liked the April update, and the upset over the use of a live model seemed a little overblown to me; as I’ve said elsewhere, Second Life is supposedly “your world, your imagination”, so why not someone dreaming about being Galadriel or somesuch? That said, the image in this latest version is – to me – a little too large and in-you-face and as a result looses a lot of the mystery  / enticement it presented in the April version of the page; better, perhaps to have left it untouched and simply re-work the menu access.

As it is, the latest update is a small tweak, and presumably part of the Lab’s preparations for the deployment of revamped new user on-boarding process and new user experience. It  also makes the secondlife.com splash screen  a little more mobile device friendly (although the rest of the web pages have a long way to in that respect).

Note: you need need to be logged-out of secondlife.com in order to see these changes.

Lab issues Project UI viewer aimed at new users

via Linden Lab

As has been indicated in various discussions and statements from the Lab – such as the Above the Book sessions with Grumpity, Brett and Patch linden at this year’s VWBPE event, one element of Second Life that the Lab is focused on is the new user experience.

This work involves various projects, including the on-boarding process and changes to the viewer to help new users get to grip with things, and on Monday, May 3rd, Alexa Linden announced the release of the Project UI viewer which includes a range up updates specifically aimed at new users.

According the Alexa’s forum post, the new viewer includes three core areas of update:

  • A new menu option called Avatar, and streamlined / revised right-click avatar context menus.
  • Improvements to the Inventory panel.
  • An updated Places floater.

However, there’s actually more to this viewer than the forum post reveals, so here’s a run-down of some of the documented changes and some of those that are missed out from the forum post – but which could actually be of greater interest to established users.

The Avatar Menu and Right-Click Avatar Context Menus

This is perhaps the most significant update to in the viewer. To quote from Alexa’s post:

Making SL easier for newcomers to learn can improve the chances that they will become long-term Residents. Growing the Resident community benefits everyone — more people to meet, more participation in events, and more commerce. The changes described below are the first batch of what we hope will be an ongoing series of usability improvements.
Avatar menus
With this release we introduce the Avatar top-level menu which brings together all avatar tools in one place. One of SL’s most important features is now more visible to newcomers. You’ll notice the avatar right-click menu has been streamlined as well.
Have you ever struggled to select an avatar attachment?  It’s inside your avatar, it’s transparent, or it’s a mesh attachment that you just can’t grab. You can now touch, edit or remove an attachment using right-click from all Avatar windows and Inventory.

The Avatar menu and the revised right-click context menus are show below:

The new Avatar menu sits between the Me and Communicate menus brings together all of the frequently used avatar tools (l). Centre: the revised avatar right-click context menus seen when touching your avatar (top) or an attachment (bottom), and how they compare to the current versions of the menus (r)

Inventory and Places Updates

I’ve not a lot to say on the Inventory floater updates, so will leave that to Alexa’s forum post. The changes to Places and how landmarks are handled, again as specified in the blog post, are also straightforward, although there are a few additional points to note:

  • The new panel also sees the gear button moved to the top of the panel, and provides a new set of fairly self-explanatory options:
    • Teleport.
    • View.
    • Show on Map.
    • Copy SLurl.
  • The original Expand and Collapse options from the gear button have been moved to a separate drop-down menu button, with the delete option moved to a its own Trash button.
The Project UI viewer’s updated Places panel (l) and the release version

Other Menu Updates

The new Avatar Menus means there have been revisions to the Me and communicate menus as well, with avatar-related options (such as the Choose and Avatar option moving from Me to Avatar (and renamed Complete Avatars).

The revised Me and Communicate menus (with the blue bands) compared to the current release viewer – click for full size, if required

As well as these, there are other small tweaks  – World Menu now has a My Linden Home … option. Clicking this will open up the in-viewer browser and take the user to the Linden Homes page:

  • Premium members with a Linden Home will see the page relating to their home.
  • Premium members who do not have a Linden Home and Basic Members will see the Linden Home selection page (and Basic members will go forward to the Premium sign-up page).

Note also, that using this menu option (as with others in the viewer that use the built-in browser to access Second Life web pages) may trigger single sign-on, and require you log-in to the SL web properties.

EEP Updates

One of the biggest complaints with the Environment Enhancement Project (EEP) has been use use of trackball options to position the Sun and Moon, with many voicing their preference for “a slider like Windlight”. To address this, the UI Project viewer implements two sliders for positioning the Sun and two for the Moon across all of the EEP settings floaters. These are:

  • Azimuth  – which might be thought of as the east / west position of the Sun or Moon (technically, azimuth is more than this, but it’ll do for these notes).
  • Elevation – the position of the Sun or Moon over or under) the horizon, relative to azimuth.

These sliders are tied to the Sun / Moon movement using the trackball systems, allowing both to be used as preferred.

The Sun & Moon tabs on Fixed Sky and the Day Cycle floaters now include Azimuth and and Elevation sliders for positioning the Sun / Moon, and similar sliders can be found on Personal Lighting

Rapid-Fire Feedback

Overall, this is a reasonable set of changes; they do enough to streamline things in places without being a potential source of confusion for established users; the changes are for the most part logical – although I do have a couple of reservations.

On the plus side, bringing together the majority of avatar tools into a single menu makes a lot of sense. But I do wonder if having menus called “Me” and “Avatar” side-by-side might not be a little confusing for new users (e.g. “Huh? Wassa difference? Why two menus for my avatar?”). The use of the “avatar” menu name is liable to cause a small amount of consternation with Firestorm, as that viewer already use it in place of “me”, but c’est la vie.

I was also surprised to see that the Linden homes page has yet to be updated for Basic members – it still features photos and a video of the old 512 sq m Linden Homes. Given the newer Homes are more attractive (and have now been with us for a while), and the aim of this viewer is to help make engagement with SL more attractive to new users, linking to information that is pretty much out-of-date and doesn’t actually reflect the more common Premium offering seems a little disjointed.

Elsewhere, I like the ability to touch / select attachments – particularly worn mesh – made more accessible. Catznip introduced such a capability a few years ago, and I can’t help but wonder if seeing it now in the official viewer might be the result of a code contribution from that viewer.

It’s also good to see the Lab respond to requests with EEP, and hopefully the new sliders will help those who find the trackballs a little confusing – although I don’t doubt the labelling might cause a little confusion (“why not east and north?”).

I understand the updates to the learning / social islands will be coming along in summer – although I’ve no idea if these will see further tweaks to the viewer as well. as well. In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see how this Project UI viewer develops over the coming months.

Related Links

* Note this link will become inlaid as the viewer is updated.

More Classic starter avatars for Second Life

The eight January 2019 start avatars (l to r): Gretchen, Monique, Trixie, Bitsy, Ashton, Leonard, Greg, Monty. Credit: Linden lab

As noted in an official blog post, Linden Lab has issued another set of new Starter avatars.

The eight new avatars are all of the “classic” type, using the basic Second Life system mesh, rather than dedicated mesh body parts (although they have mesh clothing items). Between them, they offer a mix of more “everyday” types – as the official blog post again notes, previous starter avatars heavy leaned more towards the fantasy side of things.

The eight characters are (in the order they appear in the Avatar Picker):

  • Bitsy (complexity 15,813) and Ashton (17,268): two twenty-somethings(?) with an up-and-coming urban air and style, complete with pet dogs.
  • Gretchen (complexity 29,332) and Leonard (10,656): two older characters in more formal wear.
  • Monty (complexity 19,016) and Trixie (14,732): two younger avatars with the look of teens or early twenties, Monty coming with an electric guitar.
  • Greg (complexity 10,733) and Monique (9,226): two possible ’70s throwbacks.

(Complexity figures include all attachments.)

All are, as per the Lab’s usual procedure, supplied with No Mod elements (although the shapes are Modify). Surprisingly, given recent additions to the starter avatars, no discernible AO are provided (although some have poses that are activated on wearing them), with Gretchen being the notable exception to this approach. This lack of AO leaves the avatars with the horrendous Duck Walk.

I also admit to being a little confused by the promo picture used for the avatars: it shows Ashton with his dog on a leash, but so far as I could tell, the only option supplied with the avatar is a “carry” version of the dog.

The January 2019 new starter avatars are the default choice on the Second Life sign-up page

As starter avatars, these new looks are directly available to new users accessing the Second Life sign-up page on the web. Those already in-world can take them for a spin from the Me (/ Avatar) menu, and then selecting Choose Avatar. This will bring up the avatar picker (shown expanded, below), which will automatically default to the eight new avatar styles, then simply pick on the one you want to try.

The eight January 2019 “classic” starter avatars in the viewer’s Avatar Picker

Selecting an avatar will see it replace your current look (so if it’s a new look you’ve put together and haven’t saved – be sure to do so first!), and add the avatar to your Clothing folder. Or, if you prefer, you can open Inventory and navigate to Library > Clothing > Initial Outfits > then right-click on the relevant folder name and select Replace Current Outfit. This will also cause the look to be worn and copied to your own Clothing folder.

Having a broad choice of starter avatars is a good thing; I’m just a little surprised these come largely sans an AO; in this respect they seem a little at odds to previous classic and mesh starter avatar updates.