I keep coming back to the experience of new Second Life.
Beginning is not easy, the learning curve is steep and it can take quite a while before you actually ‘get’ what SL is all about and realise its huge potential.
I think that LL still has not figured out a good way to introduce “Le Noob” to their virtual online world, Rod Humble says something like that himself now and then;
…about 20 percent are going to be around a month afterward. That’s a massive drop-off, but it’s still not too bad compared to other services.
However I do see 20% retention as a big problem, because I know some of the people who come to Second Life to try it (often because of what I tell them) and they then get stuck and give up.
Most of the people who give up on Second Life after a few hours or days of trying it first, probably don’t get what it is about, find the learning curve too steep or don’t see SL’s huge potential.
And I think that we can solve these problems.
I have written about this before and my suggestions and ideas haven’t changed much but recently I found a video on youtube that shows some people trying Second Life for the very first time.
A very educational video that shows us a lot of what is wrong with that very important first phase of Second Life.
After all, for those of us who have spend countless hours in SL over the last couple of years it is difficult to imagine what it is like for those who’ve only just joined.
So, let’s watch this video and then I’ll try and explain how I think we can solve some of the problems these kids are having.
They start out good, they are excited, love The Sims and are keen.
But the second they arrive, they don’t know what to do.
It is clear that their settings are not good for their computer, they should be able to handle SL pretty well but either there is a lot of lag or something is not quite right.
To me that means that perhaps the basic settings for new people entering SL should be set as low as possible at first, so that at least everything loads fast.
Our user realises this and tries to change his graphical options, but these are not easy to find if you don’t know where to look.
Still they experience a lot of lag and everything is grey.
They both have this and they are not on the same computer.
But to be fair, I’ve not experienced lag this bad in a long time.
But for some reason Linden Lab choose to have cartoonish trees at the landing spot, new users may think that this is what SL looks like and won’t be very impressed.
They discover destinations, it is good that they find that so quickly but only because the girl already knows about that.
Besides, I think that finding ‘Search’ is better, because then you can try and find something you are really interested in.
They also seem to think that Destinations is the only way to find a new place to go to.
How many new users will get bored with SL because they think only the few destination guide suggestions are the only places they can visit?
Either way, in this case (and I think in MANY cases), the starting place does not work.
They don’t get the portals, don’t even look at those, all they do is notice the silly looking trees.
It is very interesting that voice chat on SL actually works better then skype!
Eventhough they soon give up on using it because it causes even more lag.
It is really painful to see these new users wander around and generally just seeing things that won’t rez, things they don’t understand and basically a world that looks rather bad.
Within 15 minutes they start to think that SL is extremely uninteresting and wonder why they are even playing it.
The first thing they actually like is getting a free drink from an object and listening to some modern music.
But then these items end up in their inventory and they have no idea how to ‘drink’ these.
After a while they accidentally discover how to change their avatar and their outfit.
Then they meet someone and don’t realise that chatting with them only works via adding them as a friend.
Their viewer does not show the very handy chat bar!
At one time lag is so bad the young man says; “It is at times like these that I love Minecraft.”
He has a point.
By accident he then manages to sit down, he is surprised, excited and impressed.
Isn’t it sad that one of the easiest and most important actions is one they need to learn by accident.
And of course then he gets stuck, doesn’t know how to get up.
Then their teleports take for ever, some teleports fail and finally they end the video after less than half an hour with “I’m never playing Second Life again.”
That makes me sad, because I feel they have not experienced SL enough to make a judgement but I fear that their experience might be very similar to that of the many who only try SL for a little bit and then never return.
So, how can we fix this?
I think that it is important that we make new users their first experience as easy and enjoyable as possible.
For starters the basic settings on viewers for noobs should be very low, set to such a level that lag will be minimal.
If they have good computers they can always turn the settings up later.
I also feel that it is important that we send them to a nice easy place to begin with.
I know I have written about this before but I feel strongly about it and I would really like some feedback to see if any of the ideas make any sense.
When people join SL first they should get an avatar creation screen on the SL website, one that is similar to that of the Sims so that they can personalise and change their avatar as much as they want before even starting up the viewer.
This will be a fun thing to do and it makes them bond with the avatar right away, making it harder for them to give up on their Second Life, being more attached to the pile of pixels that they created.
Then, still before they even enter Second Life, they should go trough a tutorial, even the most basic action games usually have this option that allows you to run around, try out a few things, before actually starting.
Having such a steep learning curve as SL has, I think it is important that we teach the new people at least the very basics.
As we can see in the video, not understanding how some things work is very frustrating.
My idea would be to let them play a little basic game on the SL website with the avatar they just created.
No lag, no grey stuff, just a place where they can learn the important basics of SL: how to walk, look around, touch stuff, wear or use stuff, etc.
Perhaps they can earn things by doing things, for instance, a free hat if you manage to open a box, a bicycle if you open a door, etc.
But most importantly, new people have to learn how to use the destination guide AND search before the even fire up the viewer.
Because we can see the new users in this video get lost and give up after visiting just a couple of places in the destination guide, not very impressive ones either.
I myself nearly gave up on Second Life when I assumed that there just were no nice places for someone like me.
And learning how to use ‘Search’ is the only reason I didn’t leave SL.
So, by the time our new user starts up the viewer and actually teleports into SL, they have an avatar they build and dressed themselves, they know the basics and they have handpicked their first destination!
Another option might be a very basic help guide to finding a place you like.
For instance, by answering a few questions, SL could suggest a place for you to go to.
With my ideas you start your Second Life with an avatar you care about, knowing the important basics and in a sim you are interested in.
I think all that will make life easier for newbies and increate the change of them sticking around.
It will also make things easier for Linden Lab because they no longer have to build and host the regions now used to welcome noobs.