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21 January 2010

Sociological Problems/Technological Solutions

A redesigned viewer* is on its way, arriving perhaps as early as next month. By streamlining the interface LL hope to make things easier and more intuitive, and hang onto some of the customers who fail to log in more than one time.

A redesign has been needed for a while - and not just a reshuffling but a rethinking. I hope this has some of the highlights of the long-ago Viewer 2009 preview: namely Friend categories and tabs. Teleport history is not high on my list, but I can see that a new resident would make very good use of that feature.

Because I love the UI (the substance not the format), and spend time exploring it, and have always directed kindly and grateful thoughts at LL for allowing us that rich territory to explore, I wonder which things have been removed. I wonder, for instance, about Hovertips, without which I feel I've lost a sense equal in importance to sight. Calling cards could go, unless there's a need for them in the new Friend categories. Some of the innovations the third party viewers have come up with - a "Worn" tab, texture preview in inventory and temporary upload would be nice to have.

If third party viewers can still present the same menu choices we have now that will be fine - as long as there is one to use. I still miss the removed camera controls, and the window sizer function is not useful to me since it moved because it gives the entire window size not the video size, but for the most part what we have now is all right. Although Howard says, "We can't at the same time work towards expanding our user base to a broader, consumer market and address all of the needs of our high-end Residents. We need help from our robust, passionate developer community to develop "power user" and more niche market viewers," I'm not sure why. LL is a for-profit business and you'd think they could have a leading edge viewer team to fully develop and completely integrate things like shadows, projected textures, and so on. We have a number of viewers now, but that isn't always the case, but in any event some customers don't like trusting unknown coders.

There's going to be a divide as far as seasoned users attempting to help new people, as we won't know what they are looking at. The HUDs and OI experience of a few years ago were a bit that way (User: "Help me - I'm STUCK HERE and I can't get this thing off." "Open your map and teleport." "It won't let me1!!" - I heard that many times). I'll try the new viewer out, though, and will try to keep an open mind. I might like it.

Someone pointed out that part of the "logs in once but never again" statistical group is griefers. They are common and throwaway accounts are their disguises. I'm not sure how many, though, and it would seem the majority of single log-ins are ordinary people.

Out of those, I would assume a great many just don't have the hardware. They log in to an unrezzed world (typically at a crowded and laggy OI I reckon) and log out. Another group logs in, is faced with the unruly and immature mob at an OI (noobie-baiting is a common pastime for some types) and log off thinking they've experienced SL. In this case good-hearted people - employees and volunteer or employed mentors, as well as ordinary "in the same boat" potential friends could make the difference between staying and going.

I know LL want a technological solution. They've been trying a million different methods to solve the problem, and there must be failures to the various social aspects that I have no clue about. Maybe they'll find one, too - I hope so, but there may be no real substitute for boots on the ground.** My (ages back) suggestion of a downloadable offline mini-SL - that would let people practise walking, changing their avatar, and getting their bearings in private before hitting the crowded public square - always seemed to me a good way to let people have a taste without feeling overwhelmed. Possibly the very ability to log in without cost works against SL, too, in a way, as there's nothing pushing the new person to persevere. However - maybe there's a tech solution - and maybe it's this very one.***

I met a new person this evening, at the Moth Temple. She is a student at a college, studying uses of technology in education, I think she said. I told her everything is in SL and to tp away if she runs into something she doesn't like**** - and gave her my Resources for New Residents notecard I compiled of useful (Public Help Island, Caledon Oxbridge), interesting (Innsmouth, Bentham Forest), and commercial places with offers for newbies (free hair, cheap skin, etc.). We chatted a bit about coping with lag and things like that. I gave her the ed wiki page url, and she said she was getting overloaded and would go exploring. I think she'll be fine.

* I'm positive it will have
** Judging by the emptiness of Ryu et al there may be no substitute for boots on the ground. Update: my bad, I forgot that was in beta.
** /me tries hard to be optimistic (why, though? I'm not even a part of it, so why do I feel that way? Rightfully I shouldn't care... but I do. I love SL - it doesn't love me back, though).
*** like Thomas Kinkade paintings

posted by - 6:49 PM

I'll certainly download the new viewer and I'm sure it'll be grand, but unless it allows for all the advanced and oobscure options at some point, I'll go back to 3rd party full-fat version. But then I'm not the target market for the new viewer and I thinkthe noobs who get it will really benefit :)
I've never understood the LL obsession with noobs. Every time there's an initiative to "improve" the experience for noobs, it translates to "Let's screw up things for people who pay us dozens/hundreds/thousands of bucks a month to keep this world running in an attempt to somehow please new people who a) don't pay a dime b) don't care c) don't know any better even anyway"

Fuck the noobs!
Fuck the noobs? What? All of them? Jesus... that's some undertaking...

/me goes to buy shares in Xcite and get's a chair ready to watch the Candide Show.
I don't see why it needs to be either/or. I made a jira issue years ago (my jiras are stupid, I know) saying it would be useful to have several viewers - "why can there not be several viewers, from high-end puter specs to ordinary puter specs, so that there is a better experience for people? Thinking about it, the idea might be beyond brand-new users (maybe not, though). Currently I feel brand new people with low-to-medium specs log in to crowded and laggy areas, say, "OMFG!1!1" and log out. I think there could be a page on the sign-up sheet saying, "Assess your specs - choose a viewer. If you can handle more, get the enhanced viewer, if you are getting low framerates tweak or go to the basic viewer." A "Builder's Viewer" was another type included, which would have a layout convenient for getting work done (everything atm has to hide away, but if we look at real life we don't wear one suit of clothes for everything, or have one room set up for everything from kitchen to potting shed to aircraft hangar).

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