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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

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