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Ban Them From Second Life

Open Letter to Ebbe Altberg and Linden Lab:

I've had enough. And I know I'm far from being the only one. What am I talking about here today?

This:

Griefing, Griefers and Linden Lab's No-Policy on Stopping Them

I'd been back on the grid at the tail end of my first 6 months when we the Help Education Quorum group met with Ebbe and assorted Lindens for the second time. During this recorded meeting (CLICK HERE FOR RECORDING LINK) I asked about getting more support for the endless battle against griefers and griefing.

The answer I got was to submit an Abuse Report (AR) on each incident. I then asked in all seriousness if we could have the number of ARs it takes to get an action done on a griefer. Because at that point I had not only had already been doing ARs in my months-long return interim, but had YEARS of doing so under my belt. And seen little to no changes in the level(s) of assualts. Wait, let me not tell a lie. The level and scope had actually INCREASED as the years went by.

I was told there was no exact number, but that the "way to go on this" was to submit those reports. So we continued to do so, and I got the word out to my staffers at the NCI that they should do that. Now mind you, things had gotten so bad that we had implemented our own security system years ago, as land controls for griefing were vastly insufficient. So now staffers had to do double duty - enter their eject/ban into our system and then when done, fill out an AR on griefer(s) in question.

Here's what I gathered from Ebbe's response to my questions:

Linden Lab is reluctant to ixnay someone from the Grid because

1. If they do an IP ban or anything along those lines, they might end up banning someone else who shares that IP addy or computer or Second Life account or whatever.

2. It would be so horrendously terribly and oh so gosh darn AWFUL if that should happen that LL won't even consider trying anything along those lines. Or anything at all, really.

3. It's just so HARD to actually even start to think about dealing with the griefer situation. Boohoo us.

Let me tell you what this says to me. This response tells me that Linden Lab values people who harass, grief, disrupt, intimidate, break TOS etc. the exact same as those residents, paying customers, visitors, new folks, content creators etc who do NOT engage in those things.

It let's me know loud and clear that they view us all the same way because we're not even worth the effort of trying out ways to put and end to or even put a severe dent into the shenanigans of those grief.

I don't know about you, but I feel pretty horrible right now thinking about that.

Let me flesh out their worst case scenarion and show to you how so not terrifying that imagined scenario actually is:

Say LL perma-bans JoeBlowGriefer from the Grid. He can no longer log into Second Life on his main account or any of this by now hundreds of alts. Let's also say that JoeBlowGriefer happens to share an IP address/computer or whatever with a law abiding resident of Second Life - let's call her JaneDoeAvatar - who gets swept up in this ban, and she finds out the next time she goes to log into SL that she suddenly cannot.

She contacts Linden Lab and is told about her IP addy ban and whatsnot and she comes to the realization that her roommate (or live-in boyfriend, or teenaged son or WHOever it is) is responsible for her getting locked out of Second Life. What happens next is what Ebbe is so scared of possibly maybe happening. (I guess, dunno)

a) JaneDoeAvatar can choose to go ballistic and sue Linden Lab and take them to court or commit and act of terrorism on Linden Lab HQ in San Francisco or---what? Am I sounding crazy? I think I am. I dunno WHAT in the heck LL thinks someone can do that is so goddam horrific that they won't even try to stop griefing.

b) JaneDoeAvatar is embarassed but thankful that she now knows what her teenaged son has been doing all this time and takes matters into her own hands and JoeBlowGriefer is gone for good from Second Life, and her IP ban and all that gets sorted out and she can continue her SLife as usual.

c) JoeBlowGriefer is upset by this sudden turn of events and exercises some totally awesome hacker skillz and gets around whatever bans SL has in place and starts up his griefing activities anew. This to me is like maybe less than 1% of SL griefers because really - if I had mad awesome hacking skillz and abilities I wouldn't waste them on some virtural world platform that nobody has ever heard of. And if I did, once stymied like that, I'd prolly take myself elsewhere to easier pickings.

See here is what I know about people, and the types of people who would spend their time griefing in Second Life. They tend to go for the easy target like all predator types. Second Life is wide open. it's not hard at all to run around disrupting people's SLives and wreaking havoc in SL. It's so easy to just make alt after alt after alt and continue targeting people and places. When one alt gets banned from the land or region you just log into or create another and keep it stepping.

Nothing happens when people submit ARs on you. I mean Second Life is a griefer's paradise. It really is. When you are treated the exact same way as law abiding residents. When you never ever incur any significant loss or punishment when you grief. And in fact it might become actually LUCRATIVE for you when copybotting is still rampant with no punishment, scamming and thievery brings you nothing but profit. Why wouldn't you grief around all day every day in Second Life?
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You know what makes me tired? I mean really, really, EXHAUSTED? I'm tired of getting called a nigger every time I turn around. I'm tired of seeing giant penises shoved into my face left and right. I'm tired of logging in to help Newbies and getting the NCI campus targeted and LOD bombed and scripted-prim spammed. I'm tired of seeing Newbies targeted and griefed and left scared, upset and confused on what just happened. I'm tired of being harassed. I'm upset that my staffer's build just got copybotted. I'm tired of putting up the (basically false) front of saying that we provide a safe environment for Newbies to learn and get help. I'm tired of the spamming hate speech - misongynistic, anti-semitic, homophobic, racist - you name it being hurled at me and those who visit NCI Campuses and attend classes and events there.

I'm tired of the Nazi avatars. I'm tired of the Ku Klux Klan avatars. I'm tired of the picaninny and racist stereotyped avatars. I'm tired of the wobbling giant hairy testicle avatars. There is an endless parade of these targeted at myself and those residents and Newbies who visit the NCI. Tired of the hate speech. I'm tired of trying to contribute to SL society and have events disrupted, and classes griefed, and NCI volunteer staff and visitors being subject to all sorts of awfulness week after week after week. I'm tired tired tired of being tired. When will it end?

Why do you value these people the same? Why do they get to rampage their way around Second Life with impunity? What are you so scared of?

What you should be terrified of is the damage these people are doing to your bottom line. Instead you are frozen in place because of some mythical scenario that might could maybe happen if you start to crack down. if you did even the most basic of actions, you'd cut down griefing by 50% easy. DO SOMETHING.
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Before I go I want to comment on something that happened in that last meeting we had with you Ebbe. You were told by one of the people who has done nothing but be awesome in Second Life that she and her Help/Edu org had been targeted and griefed by this one indivudual for OVER SIX YEARS.

I was appalled by hearing that, but not that surprised having had similar experiences with the NCI.

What I would have done, if was me in your shoes, was tell that person to get with you after the meeting. That you were going to get the name of that griefer and perma-ban them from the grid for once and for all. Seeing that the bulk of their career griefing that space was not done on your watch - it would be the LEAST you could do. But I'm guessing from your response that you did none of those things, and that griefer is still at large and will be left to harass and grief for yet another 6-year span.

That's why I asked how may reports does it take. Because I'll sit down and fill out that number on the list of people that I call Repeat Offenders. Those griefers who take advantage of your open-door policy that welcome-mats griefers and rule breakers and punishes No One. Over and over and over.

Because upon hearing about a six-year barrage of targeted harassment I would have stopped in my tracks, and taken steps to DEAL WITH THE PROBLEM instead of making horribly thin (and cowardly IMO) excuses on why you simply cannot; why it's SO HARD; why your hands are tied etc blah blah blah.

Who's running this joint anyways? YOU or the griefers? Right now I'm gonna say it's THEM, because you refuse to do Thing One and lift not a finger to put an end to this madness.
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Ebbe, you sound like a good guy. I've only met you a couple of times. I've only "met" you avatar to avatar, voice to voice. But I've read your interviews, listened to your speeches, communicated with some of your staff. I get the feeling that you actually do care, and want to do right by Second Life and it's residents.

Dealing with the griefer situation in SL would be a great place to start. I would love not to keep getting reports on new users coming to my staff in tears because they'd been targeted racially or sexually harassed. I'd love to be able to say with full honesty that places like the NCI do actually provide a safe learning environment. I'd love to feel like I'm respected and not lumped in with and treated the exact same way as griefers. I'd love to have a week go by - that's 7 days btw - without having a griefing incident. I'd love to see the avatars on my repeat offender list never show up in Second Life ever again.

Ban Them From Second Life. Permanently.

Let the chips fall where they may and use your PR personnel or hire some to deal with the very very very few innocent people that might get swept up in your crack downs. Thinking, reasonable people will understand. The fallout will be minimal, and can be handled quite easily with a little forethought and contingency planning. Don't act like it can't be done, because all of us have used similar applications and services that DO crack down on griefers, rule breakers and disrupters. Why is Second Life so different? Why not do what every other self-respecting money-making company does to secure their bottom line? DO SOMETHING.

Why do I keep mentioning your bottom line? Because I know for a fact that people like these are responsible for you losing money. A LOT of it. Every new person they drive from Second Life is a loss for you. Every time a content creator, paying customer throws their hands up and exits from Second Life due to unbridled copybotting and harassment - you lose big time. Every time a help/edu org shuts it's doors for good due to lack of support on this issue, the loss for Linden Lab is exponential.

And let's be real here: If you want SL to grow and the brand to become more popular and mainstream you are going to have to deal with this problem. Working on SL 2.0? Do you have anything in place to avoid ending up like how things are right now in Original SL? You cannot move forward profit-wise in either version of SL if you don't figure out how to deal with this issue.

Cow girl up! Get your ish together, come up with a plan and implement it. DO SOMETHING.

Thanks for listening,
-Brace Coral, Founder, NCI/New Citizens Inc, long-time law abiding resident.

PS sorry for typos and whatnot - for some reason there's no spellcheck up in here :\
We've had some time now to experience the new mesh avatars in conjunction with the new user experience. Those of us with boots on the ground - those who Help Newbies - have had to make a lot of adjustments to what has become a pretty smooth running process over the years.

The number one request we get aside from New Folks asking how they can get or make money, is help with their appearance. As illustrated in the many posts (including my own) about the new mesh avatars, Carl Metropolitan lists the pros and the cons in his post on the subject quite nicely, if you need to get up to speed right quick.
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One of the first things we ran across was the difficulty of keeping in alignment with the guidelines Linden Lab has for many of us Help and Education campuses that operate in "G Rated" mode. Due to the merger of the Teen Grid, things had to be tightened up a bit. However, there comes a problem when the new mesh avatars that feature a dress or a skirt as clothing, do not additionally come with underwear.

That clashes with the basic "Your Private Bits Must Be Covered" ground rule and led to us having to give a pass or exemption to any new user who showed up wearing a new mesh avatar that did not technically have their nether region bits covered. It got sorted, but one day I'd like to know how that lack of underwear happened, so that new users on the grid would by default be breaking an area of TOS simply by logging in and their choice of avatar.

If I had to guess, I'd say it was the choice Linden Lab made to outsource for the creation of those avatars compounded with an oopsie from the spot checking crew or whoever looked them over before green-lighting them for the Grid. And they could have used the Ole Brace Coral Panny Check ;)~~
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Then the next hurdle. As indicated by Carl's post, the mesh avatars are pretty much stuck with whatever outfits they come with. There is no ability to switch outfits or mix and match.between them. This may not seem a huge big deal on the surface to some, but it is HUGE when it comes to the new user experience and those who work to help them get a good start in Second Life.

There are many kinds of Newbies. They can be broken down roughly into three categories with of course, some overlap between them. The first is the person who is pretty enterprising, and isn't afraid to click on things, explore the UI, find out how and then go on ahead to tinker with their avatar.

They might do the obvious thing and try on a different outfit, or wish to change into a different shirt, or pair of trousers or what have you. Of course when they do these things, the changes don't show up, or are unable to be made due to each mesh avatar being one solid block so to speak.

So then by the time they luckily end up at a place like the NCI (New Citizens Inc), they are hopelessly frustrated, and the Helpers have to not only educate on the basics of avatar appearance, but must explain why their efforts to self-explore did not give the expected results.

The second kind of new user is the one that is pretty much either flummoxed by the UI, Second Life, does not have the enterprising personality of the first type of Newbie, and when they arrive at the NCI ask right away for help in changing their appearance as the first thing they want to tackle.

Many new users overall are well aware that the avatar choices given them at sign in, will be one of the main ways they can be singled out as being "a noob", and are anxious to make their look become as individual and unique as soon as they possibly can.

I would say about 1 out of 20 people I help and interact with is happy with having the new mesh avatar they chose being the one they want to stick with for the time being while they learn about Second Life.

The third kind of Newbie is one who had for whatever reasons *cough* ditched out of Second Life well before they were able to learn much of anything, but have returned after varying lengths of time to give it a go again. They invariably know what they want to do, and are happy to be at last in a place that will help and support them with their goals. They may or may not have picked up a few tips and tricks, but for the most part are eager to avail themselves of any help they can get - help that was not made available to them the first time around.
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But what most of new users have in common is having to "deal with" in various ways the new mesh avatars. So most of us have added a crash course in Options For Newbies And Their New Mesh Avatars to our Help and Education repertoire. I've been extremely proud of how many of the NCI Helpers have stepped up and contributed to the cause. From notecards, to graphics placed on the walls of our changing rooms and input on how to streamline the process and so on.

This is one of the things that I hope in the future we in the in-World Help and Education Community will be a part of during the decision making process. It's one thing to get a heads up along with everyone else that new users are going to be defaulted with a new set of avatars; but it would have been much more useful for us to have had a voice in letting Linden Lab know exactly what Newbies want and need in the area of avatars to help make their new user experience as good a one as possible.
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Aside from not utilizing the extremely talented content creator pool in the creation of the avatars - that discussion is for another day, but has been brought up several times in the coverage of these new avatars - We already know what types of things to include that would make both changing appearance and learning about the depth of options available to Newbies when it comes to same, a much easier thing for them - and a more pleasant experience overall.

The faux pas of having the avatars unable to do even the basics that avatars that came before them have accomplished, would not have happened. It is vital for the new user to be able to alter their appearance, either on their own by way of self-exploration, or with help from others.

What happens in this case, is that we help the new user to change out of the new mesh avatar and switch into any of the older "classic" avatars and go from there. We do educate them when we can, on the differences between mesh body shapes/avatars and the classic ones. We also educate them on the different kinds of clothing available to them from system, to prims/flexi and mesh.

But the honest truth is that these new avatars, and how they were executed, have added a layer of confusion to the new user experience that was unnecessary, and I hope can be avoided in the future.

It has also added a burden of additional work to those who Help New Folks - we are happy enough to do it, and have risen to the occasion admirably - but we are and have been under a lot of stress having to operate for years without the much needed help and support from Linden Lab with our efforts.

And in addition It is a little galling to have LL be the one to heap on the additional layers of work that is needed to offset, countermand, and work around decisions made that affect Newbies so acutely.

However, I'm with Carl when on his post about the Help Education Quorum and our meeting with Ebbe he says "...the HEQ meeting was probably the most positive interaction I've ever had with the senior representative of Linden Lab."
So there is hope for things to be better.
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I end this post with a picture of me interacting with a wonderful SL11B build from one of our NCI Members/Support Helpers. Note that I look every inch the Caliente Chica without a stitch of mesh on me. And I'm wearing pannys too lol sorry couldn't help it ;) This is a shout-out to those Divas of Design who continue to make that awesome flexi and those of us who support their efforts.

Not a bash on mesh, but I've been hearing flexi getting bandied about as something passe. Why can't both exist equally on the Grid at the same time? The savvy consumer buys mesh designs for certain occasions and flexi for certain others, namely dancing - there's nothing like a twirly-swirly-floaty-flexi skirt for dancing!

*
BraceAtSLB

It's A Wonderful SLife

Very rarely do we get to stand at history's threshold.

Experience the crux of events to come; To have Been There When.

Those of us working, living and experiencing in virtual worlds and cyber spaces at this moment in time will get to look back three years from now and five years from now and say:
Yep that is when it happened.

This is where we fasten our seat belts and hang on for the ride to the future, or hop off and watch everything go whizzing past us. This is a time to shake out the cobwebs, fix the flat tires, tune up those engines, gather your core team and make sure you have plans in place for moving forward, if you haven't already.

This is when we do our utmost to not repeat mistakes of the past, to see the value of people and organizations and opportunities when presented to us, to build lines of communication, bridges of support, teams of people that have the knowledge, skills and talents that you need for not only your projects, but to insure that you will be a part of those who will be making it to the future.

So many have already fallen along the wayside, so many are in danger of doing so now. Why not take advantage of the depths of talent being offered when all is needed is the simple extension of the hand to meet the one already outstretched to you?

The allocation of resources is minimal, yet the gain is potentially limitless.
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The beauty of Second Life is that I get to log in every day and meet people who are experiencing it for the first time. I get to see that light bulb go on over their heads when they learn something or begin to understand how everything functions. I get to see my core group of Helpers and Educators Rock Mighty as they do what they do best and the cycle of SLife spins ever onwards.

I'm glad I was able to come back at this point in time. I'm glad that I have people ready to roll up their sleeves and make sure the New Citizens Inc is in tip top shape and Bristol Fashion and be ready to not only keep Rocking and Rolling but be able to be of service for What The Future May Bring.

Second Life is wonderful. The concept of virtual worlds, cyberspace, digital communities and the like is a wonderful one. I've always been attracted to these kinds of spaces since as far back as I can remember. What bothers is me is when I see the potential of these worlds, communities and spaces squandered or mishandled.

I've always tried to fight the good fight, to be a voice advocating for Clarity of Vision, for the dreams to become a virtual reality. While Brace 2.0 might be a bit different from the OG model, there are still sparks of the original fire and the flame that burns in my heart holds the same intensity of purpose.
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Maaaan listen, this is the first prose post I've done since I've been back - I used to do a lot of these, some quite unintelligible - but I hope that despite the poetic turns of phrase, the meaning of all of this can be discovered.

It is a privilege to be able to access these digital spaces. Many take it for granted that people have desktops, laptops, phones that access the internet, internet service to begin with, access to tech and the knowledge to use that tech. I try not to forget where I am, how far I've come and what I want to see happen today and what I'd like to see happen in all the tomorrows I have left for me.

I hang on tightly to what I've created and to what I've built and to My Legacy. I will not let it be squandered or risk it sliding into irrelevancy or discord. It is my SLife and the focus of my energies, skills and talents.

Woo and the skill set is amazing and I have no qualms about wielding them in service of my Goals, Dreams and towards being around to be a part of the future of Virtual Worlds.

Big Ups and Props to Carl and his SL11B talk, Phelan Corrimal's recent personal words of encouragement and advice to me, and My Core NCI Team and their support as the inspiration behind this post.
Oh and Mozart, always Mozart.

Happy Helping!
See you at the NCI
-BC

Let Me Be Clear


In regards to my previous post:

1. It was twofold. The first part spoke about the meeting with Ebbe and the Help/Edu Orgs.

2. The second part was in response to the audio of THAT developers meeting where Ebbe confirmed Second Life 2.

The section I was responding to was when they were discussing mentors, helpers and voice testing in the Linden Lab new user spaces.

I heard him say that due to testing results - which he said showed not a significant enough difference between in user experience with voice on or off - they would be keeping voice on in those areas.

Around the 1:05:00 (you can listen to it for yourself) mark is where I thought I heard him say they were keeping voice on. I've since listened to it over and over again since being alerted that I heard wrong, and it now sounds like he said they are trying it now with it off. I was able to finally identify the place where I got tripped up.

So I'll go ahead and say: My bad. Looks like you are making the correct choice after all.

Sometimes text is best. If Ebbe had for example typed into local chat the following sentence: Even though testing found no real significant difference between having voice on vs when it was off, we're going to go ahead and turn off voice at our welcome, help and new user areas .....

No confusion there!
-BC
P.S, Shoutout to those in that dev meeting giving Ebbe more living breathing examples of how Newbie Help and Education provides for Second Life residents who stick and become part of the community. He'd gotten an earful from us on the subject the day before; it was nice to see confirmation from a different source on what we were trying to get across to him and Linden Lab as a whole. Thank you!

Meeting With Ebbe Linden

A week ago on Thursday June 19th, a whole bunch of us in the Help and Education community met with Ebbe Altberg, called Ebbe Linden inworld, the new CEO of Linden Lab. And by new I really mean new. He came on board at the beginning of February, 2014.

We met with him because I took him up on his offer to learn more about in-world Help and Education Orgs from comments he made in his keynote address at the VWBPE Conference in April.

I had sent him a direct IM introducing myself, the NCI and other Help and Education organizations and groups. I expressed who we are, what we do and our value to Linden Lab and to Second Life overall, and let him know that we'd all like to meet with him. I hadn't expected him to reply to me at all, much less get back to me in less than 24 hours. I was give a Linden to liaise with and help get an initial meeting set up.

Most of the representatives of the orgs listed below were able to attend the meeting. Another is being set up for next month to follow up and continue what was worked out in last week's meeting. All have been invited to participate in this on-going process.

Builder's Brewery
Caledon Oxbridge
Dreams/Shockproof
Happy Hippo Building School
Helping Haven
Hobo Helpers
Ivory Tower and Library of Primitives
NCI/New Citizens Incorporated
New Resident Services/White Tiger Mentors
Little Blue/Fermi Sandbox
Mental Mentors
Raglan University
Rockcliffe University
The Shelter
Virtual Ability

I am well aware that these are only the English speaking orgs, and we did express that we would like to and needed help with including the non-English speaking helper orgs in this endeavor as we go along/create a firmer foundation.
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So many things were brought up in the meeting, and it was on voice, which many of you know is a chore for me lol and I got thrown in as the moderator last minute to boot. So I was sort of a wreck by the end of it.

But we did make much of what we want and need known, which is to say in a nutshell: Acknowledgement, help and support from Linden Lab.

We were to make a To Do List of sorts - still working on compiling that - and we indicated that there were a few things that LL could start working on right now, as well as other things that might take a bit longer to implement. Some things (not all are listed) on that list:
1. Give us Lindens. We want a liaison Linden or Lindens who will be assigned to work with us, support us, help us.
2. List the Help & Education orgs prominently on the Destination Guide targeted at new users, those just signing up.
3. Help and support with security issues; back us up in dealing with griefers, harrassers and trolls.
4. Give us the perks, tier breaks, fee discounts etc that RL education orgs receive. A separate application/qualifying process may need to be created, we asked to be a part of helping to set that up.
5. Be mindful of the impact changes can have on Newbies and those who help them. I advocated to have everyone see group tags turned back on as default, and for LL to alert us to other changes in the UI ahead of time, and hopefully we'd have a say in letting them know how those might impact us, both negatively or positively.
6. Bring back payment for Instructors ($L500/class) I believe it was.
7. Know that we are an asset. That we have value. That we bring money to Linden Lab by way of simply doing what we do. Our output is happy, educated residents who the bulk of go on to not only stay in Second Life, but become paying customers. We've been doing this for years, emptying our back accounts, donating our tier, asking for donations, running fundraisers etc and many of us will be unable to continue unless we get backing, support and help from Linden Lab.

#7 I believe is at the crux of all of this. During the meeting Ebbe expressed that we wasn't sure "who to trust" with Newbies. I flipped the heck out, as you can imagine - we all did. That's where I "yelled" at or shall we say, "forcibly got my point across" to Ebbe. Which was:

The people and the organizations on the above list need no vetting. We are the ones to be trusted. Many of us have already been vetted by Linden Lab themselves anyhow, when we applied for and got into the Resident Help Network. But the the simple fact that we have been successfully helping and educating Newbies for years is our certification of trustworthiness and eligibility. We even educate all the high-falutin RL educators from all those universities and education spaces that come into SL.

They don't know how to build, how to use the interface, what the social pitfalls and perks are, how to use that land and those sims granted to them by Linden Lab and all of that. Ebbe himself didn't know what the word "rez" meant or was. He sounded so horrified by it. Maybe it means something totally awful in Swedish lmao I dunno.

But we got him sorted on it. See, those are the things we DO. We educate people. If I had a dollah for every time I taught someone how to "rez a prim" I'd be sitting pretty on my own private island somewhere near Tahiti. We teach Newbies, and really, anyone who comes to us for help, young or old.

We educate, we help, we protect, we respect, we support, we befriend New Folks,
We don't take advantage of them.
We don't fleece them.
We provide safe and supportive environments for them to learn, make friends, be a part of our communities and the Second Life community as a whole.

We've been doing all of that successfully for years.
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What I'm adding to the top of the To Do List is for Linden Lab to acknowledge that we are an asset to them.
That we have been putting money into LL's coffers for years by way of churning out happy, educated residents who stick, and go on to become paying customers.

Ebbe kept talking about wanting to direct noobies to specific places, themed sims or whatever. I'm all for that. But what he doesn't get is that someone logging in for the first time isn't going to stick around even at the vampire roleplay sim of their dreams, if they have no idea how to walk, run, sit, work the UI, chat, voice chat, IM, group up, use group tools, make money, buy lindens, manipulate prims and the world around them in general, change their appearance etc etc the list goes on and on.

It's like dumping a grade schooler into a college advanced course and expecting them to get something out of it, much less enjoy themselves and find something that would make them stick around or even come back.

New People always tell me what they want to do. Even when they say "Hey thanks for helping figure out my avatar, but I'm not sure what to do next". I always ask them what sorts of things they are into, what they like etc. And I'll take them to where they want to go and/or provide landmarks. THEN they can whoop it up at the vampire roleplay sim of their dreams, now armed with the help and education they received from us.

How many times have I received IMs, notecards and the like from people who have gone through the NCI? Tons and tons. They all say about the same things:
Thank you for helping me. Thank your for teaching me about X, Y and Z. I now run my own business. I've bought a sim and I rent out homes for people. Thank you, thank you. I could not have created the Second Life of my dreams if it wasn't for the NCI. I would have left and never looked back if it wasn't for people like you.

Every single Helper in every single organization that helps and educated New Folks has experienced that same thing. LL can save their money on A/B testing and whatall they are ALWAYS doing about the supposed head scratcher: User Retention, What makes people stick. How to facilitate new users.

News Flash:
We know all that. We been there done that bought the t-shirt.

So this process is to be an information exchange. We can help Linden Lab with their efforts with new users. All we ask in return is more support, more help, more acknowledgement of our value and what we have contributed to the overall success of Second Life over the years. Despite being hampered by LL at every turn.

My hope is to create an environment where we all can thrive and prosper. To keep policies and changes that hamper what we do to the minimum.
The NCI and all of the organizations on that list are non-profit. We operate solely on the donations of others. From lindens, to tier, to volunteering of time and knowledge. So many have gone by the wayside unable to continue, due for the most part because of financial issues.

If we can get tier and fee breaks, if we can get payment for instructors, if we can get backing and support from Linden employees and the Lab in general: We could kick ass on a level never seen before. The user retention rates would skyrocket. What height they already have has been largely due to US. Ebbe did ask us if we could take on say twice the traffic we have going on now. Most said yes. I would say yes for the NCI, but to not implement driving new users to our spaces until AFTER we have our Linden liaisons in place and assurances of help and support.
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And one more thing before I go. I heard tell that Ebbe is going to keep voice on at their LL new user hubs and spaces. Because their testing showed no significant impact one way or the other. That's a shame. I don't know the criteria used for their testing, and I also don't know what the huge big deal is to have voice on smack dab when a new user enters Second Life.

SL didn't even have voice for years, and we all did fine without it. Those who wanted or needed to have voice communication used Skype and other applications and still do in lieu of SL voice. It was actually brought on board because philly said he hates to type, because he never learned how. The NCI and other helper orgs don't use voice at their main areas and have been successfully helping everyone for years. You should go visit one of two of those Linden Lab new user entry places. I won't call them help places, because there aren't any vestiges of anything helpful there. Turn your voice on, and just listen. It's really gross.

I really think Ebbe is making a big mistake. But what do we know? Carl who's had years of experience, mentioned that its difficult to AR or make a report on something someone said in voice. But in text chat, you can log it and it's part of the AR process as well to log current chat. I really don't know why Ebbe is fine with the vile cesspits that are the LL new user spaces, just because testing told him so.

But if we are successful and set up a version of the Gateways ie new users being spread out amongst our Help and Education orgs, then I guess the issue will become moot. I just feel sorry for all the people that will have to go through that gauntlet in the meantime.

I think Ebbe is falling for that thing that trips up LL every time. They have this desire to show Second Life off at its finest. So they believe having all the UI settings cranked up to their maximum by default is one way to do it. The reality of it is, most people don't have the rig and/or the isp to be able to run SL cranked up. So they aren't seeing anything. No fancy water ripples, no crisp clear landscapes. They are standing there frozen with nothing rezzing around them wondering WTF and trying to hit the Big Red X to get the hell on outta there.

Woo yay SL has VOICE!! They want the new user to know that too. But when your first experience with Second Life voice is to be cussed out by someone, have racial or gendered epithets thrown at you, or have your appearance (which you have no control over because hey you are NEW) laughed at or ridiculed, or be exposed to truly awful abusive language etc the list really goes on and on - well then Linden Lab, I ask you: Is this really the way to go about this? You are not showcasing Second Life at its best - more like the opposite - and you are in fact allowing griefers and trolls to control your bottom line.

How many people just log out and never return based on that sort of experience? I know all about your dwindling user retention rates and the plummeting of your new sign ups averages, so I know it is a LOT. But somethingsomething testing, everything is fine on voice at the new user spaces.

Good Luck With That!

See you at the NCI!
Happy Helping :)
-BC
P.S. I won't be doing a post on the "New Mo Betta SL" that is coming down the pipeline in the coming year or so. But I'll give you some links so you can get up to speed. My focus is on the SL we have already going on right now. If LL can't or won't help us on this one, then heaven help us anywhere else.

Ebbe's Twitter Q&A about SL's Successor. from Carl Metropolitan
Ebbe Confirms: Working on a New Platform. from Modem World
Linden Lab: Not giving up on Second Life. from Modem World
Round Up of News about "Second Life 2". from Carl Metropolitan
Ebbe Speaks again on the SL Forums. from Carl Metropolitan

Why do we want SL Last Names Back?

I use the term "we" very loosely in the title for this post. Mostly because I really have no clue who really is dying to have last names back, and who doesn't and who is like "meh" on the whole thing.

I have much more monumental news to report, but since I'm hurting a bit RL, And what needs to be done before I can report I can't tackle very well atm, I'm going to have to back burner that for my next post while I slowly compile everything. So I thought I'd write about something else while I'm doing that. Here's MY take on the whole thing:

Last Names Were an Integral Part of Second Life (Social) Culture

No two ways about it. Back in the day, when you signed up, you had to pick a last name from a drop down list of available names chosen by LL. You could of course decide what your first name was going to be all on your own. There was no display names, or anything like that. You saw everyone as Something Monde or BlahDeBloop Coral or Wooty Mars and so on.

Now the list of last names did not stay the same. I can't tell you if there was an exact time frame or not, but every so often (perhaps every 6 months to a year?) the list of last names would change, and some would no longer be available. That made you pretty damn SPECIAL if say when "Coral" ran out (it did!) and you and anyone else who had chosen the last name Coral were now the only ones on the Grid to have that last name: EVAR. You became a finite entity.

It was also a cool thing to meet someone who had your last name. They were your long lost cousins, or your auntie, or your sister or brother. Point is: They Were FAMILY. People created groups around last names, and roleplayed (mildly) the family connection into just a place where say Corals could have a cool group tag to wear around, or parlayed it into a more deeper RP like a "familia" family - you would Ride or Die for your fellow last namers etc. All in good fun.

It was a social THING, It was a Second Life cultural THING. As the years went by you could actually tell by glancing at someone's last name, roughly what year "batch" they came in, and nine times out of 10 you'd be right. I have display names turned on now, when I help New Folks, because I guess I want to interact with someone using their name of choice. A lot of times I have to switch back and forth, because when you have to warn or ban an avatar, you will need the actual name they signed up with, and depending on what toggles you have on or off you can see that at the same time too.

But it does lend for confusion, as many people choose to only show - what are they called now? - Legacy Names? I dunno. Basically the name a person signed into SL with. So while I might be saying "Hello Hank Diamond, welcome to the NCI" another helper will be referring to the same person as pookyspanky001 (Resident). Usually, time permitted, I'll just ask someone what they prefer to be called and try to remember/keep a running list no matter what my screen shows me.

A Little Bit Of History On Why Last Names Went ByeBye

My memory is shot to hell for reasons I won't go into, so bear with me. I do believe there was a THING among Rp/Roleplay communities that advocated for the ability to change their visible name. Instead of Brace Coral when I'm roleplaying in a medieval sim I'd like to show up as Princess Charming or whatever. I think that's cool, and a very interesting FEATURE to have come available. I also believe around that time, LL was expanding it's marketing & advertising and the ability to roleplay in Second Life was being looked at as one of the things to emphasize. So the RP community got what they asked for.

But what I have a problem with is LL's history of throwing out the baby with the bathwater and fixing ish that ain't broke. They could have added in the display names feature easily toggled on/off etc and RPers could do their thang; all without ixnaying the last names feature along with it. Or maybe it was TECHNICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to do, I have no idea. Feel free to tell me, because that's what it came across as being.

A statistically small user base wanted a new shiny to help them enjoy their SL. Fine and good, go for it. But don't chop out something that has been the Fabric of Second Life Culture while you make that happen. And then to choose a universal last name like Resident. It's really horrible and uninspiring.

Gone is the sense of family and community around last names. Gone is an integral part of the fabric of Second Life.

So THAT is why I believe so many have been bringing this subject up every time they happen to meet with a Linden from Ebbe on downwards. It was certainly mentioned during the recent meeting we had with Ebbe and the Help & Education Orgs. He sounded exasperated to be hearing that request yet again, and I also caught a whiff of confusion. He has no idea of the history of so much of Second Life.

So someone tweet or FB or email or forward this post to Ebbe. If you don't know, now ya know.

I will also repeat the confusion this causes for those who Help New Folks, as everyone has names toggled differently. It's not just Roleplay folks who change their names: it's pretty much everyone/every other person you meet new or otherwise now. Methinks it's people doing what they can to disappear "resident" from their handle as soon as they learn that they can.
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Linden Lab asks and does a lot of studies and A/B whatsis thingies about how to make residents stick.

How about not ripping out elements of social interaction, community building and embedded culture all the gosh darn time? How about that? You could start right now by making group tags as visually ON by default again.

For me personally, bringing back last names is like waaaaaaaaaaaaaay far down on my list of things that I would love to see Linden Lab either bring back or make changes on. But as they tackle my list, and finally get down to deciding about whether to bring back last names (if they can - I really do think they CAN - someone tell me different!): Now they have some information about them, and can understand why the subject keeps popping up.

There is a history here, and it's not a very pretty one for Linden Lab. You can come in without the depth of knowledge - I believe that most of the lindens except for a couple of ones that survived The Firings, their oldest are around 3 years old I believe  - but when you are offered knowledge from those who were there, and they have clear and cogent evidence as to what the effect policies had on the user base - especially New Folks: It behooves you to listen.

Look for my Totally Awesome Update on our meeting with Ebbe coming soon.
-BC
P.S. any grammar oopsies and spellings on this post might or might not be corrected. iCan't right now.
Ran outta cans