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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.

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 ;)~~

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.

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.

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.

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!