Volunteers Working Together

Given the accelerated growth recently experienced within Second Life, it’s needless to say that the Linden Lab Community Team has been thinking a lot about scaling. I’ve been especially focused on ways to scale and improve the Resident volunteer programs in particular, many of which started as loosely knit grassroots style groups, created to help other Residents, new and old alike, learn Second Life.

It seems clear the Second Life Mentors and other volunteer groups within Second Life are important to the fabric of the Second Life community; as such I wanted to share some exciting plans currently in progress which should help with some of the current growing pains.

Our plan for the short term is as follows:

1. Additional Linden Support – Liaison Kenny Linden is now assisting with managerial tasks to help scale the volunteer programs.
2. Clarified Direction – Immediate creation of Mentor Principles in collaboration with the Mentor community, proposed principles below to be refined and distributed to all current and incoming Mentors.
3. Improved Orientation – Design and creation of a volunteer orientation program to help introduce the volunteer program to interested Residents when they are accepted to the program.
4. Quality Maintenance – Currently all volunteer members need to keep and maintain a clean Linden Rapsheet, which has previously been maintained in a quarterly review of volunteers. As we grow, we will monitor this more closely and frequently to allow for higher quality volunteer experience.

Longer term thoughts and plans:
1. Education – Implementation of an ongoing educational training program for all volunteers
2.Knowledge Sharing – Creation of a knowledge sharing/ information gathering location in-world for all volunteers to add to and use.
Several members of the Mentor group have already created a fabulousVolunteers HQ in Tenera.
3. Volunteer Community – creation and implementation of further community building within the volunteer community, including but not limited to more social and team-building interactions

When these new plans are combined with useful features and tools currently in progress, the Second Life volunteer experience becomes even better. For example, the new group tools greatly ameliorates large-scale social networking and transitioning Second Life’s support documentation from the clunky current wiki to a future knowledge management system makes it a lot easier to find the answers you’re looking for.

Throughout the history of Second Life, the excellence and success of the volunteer program has endured because the volunteers have always been community-driven. I’m excited about helping the volunteers continue to grow and flourish as Second Life does.

– Jeska Linden

Proposed Mentor Principles

We believe this important first connection can make all the difference in the early SL experience. By hanging out on Help Island, the Welcome Areas and other spaces in-world answering questions and handing out information, you provide a crucial step in weaving the Second Life community together.

When you put your Mentor title on, you are representing the Second Life volunteers as a whole and the Mentor group in particular. Mentors embody all of the best things available in the Second Life community; keeping the following Principles in mind will empower you and your fellow Mentors to continue creating an even better Second Life for all.

Community
Be inclusive, active, and encouraging. Demonstrate and communicate tolerance, respect and civility to all Residents. Promote a sense of community and foster the formation and growth of communities in Second Life, and with your fellow volunteers.

Education
Be helpful, answer questions. Communicate with your fellow Residents. Turn data into useful, relevant information. Provide information, not misinformation. Show other Residents how and when to report abuse. Learn from each other!

Communication
Be informed and informative. Keep up with in-world bulletins and forum announcements. Maintain good communication with your fellow volunteers and don’t be afraid to share information. This includes using the mentor group channel for good, not evil.

Attitude
Be positive, courteous, professional and pleasant. Smile. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Be welcoming, fun, and helpful.

Integrity
Be reliable. Do your best to represent the community in a positive way. Maintain PG standards of appearance and manners when wearing the Mentor tag. Live your Second Life by the Community Standards as a shining example to others.

Tolerance
Be accepting of other nationalities, cultures and subcultures. Inspire curiosity, open-mindedness, and let the diversity of Second Life be your guide as you help fellow Residents.

About Robin Linden

Be the Change. You must be the change you wish to see in the world. ---Mahatma Gandhi
This entry was posted in -Miscellaneous. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Volunteers Working Together

  1. Prokofy Neva says:

    Recently I had 2 high contrasting experiences with Live Help. In one encounter, a newbie who was frustrated with being unable to get FIND GROUPS to produce a list of named parcels using a search term began to insist nothing was working and was urged to contact Live Help. Instead of gently setting her straight on how to type in a search term and note that any parcel with that description in its description box, not necessarily it’s name/title, will turn up in a list, this Live Helper also began to chime in with her, in error, that it was “not working”. Soon, a chorus of newbies, helpers, and even a mentor were chanting that “this isn’t working” when the problem was merely the failure to grasp the basic principle of Google — that it turns up exact cites along with inexact.

    In another experience a busy Linden liaision who could have been working on more serious things and could have merely answered me in an IM or 2 said he’d personally tp out to see me in a “house call”.

    I cite these as how the system can lurch from the sublime to the ridiculous precisely beause when you create a system where people are asked to work for free, you get what you pay for: 0.

    The vast, unwieldy, untransparent, inefficient, and unaccountable mentors/live helpers/greeters/resmods system is already seriously flawed, that to amplify it and scale it and replicate it in this fashion will create many long term problems for SL for years to come.

    The chief tragedy here is that it utterly ruins for now the possiblities of authentic grassroots government by residents, or even any kind of group governance. Instead of governance — which should include among its functions the aid of immigrants/newbies — we have a phalanx of Linden-filtered and caste-filtered mentors/helpers/greeters who take on the functions of world governance illegitimately, without even acclaim, let alone democratic vote. Having a mentor become a cult leader among newbies with their own named group of 77 isn’t a substitute for being *elected by peers* or even *acclaimed by a wider cross section of the diverse community*.

    Unelected, unaccountable, appointed by the strong executive government branch with no checks or balances, ineffective, the resmods are a placebo for an authentic resident government that should have sprung from work on sims or neighbourhoods or interest communities or themed/affinity groups that could have themselves created the necessary representation to larger umbrella groups concerned with newbie orientation.

    First, membership criteria. Posting on the webs that a “relatively clean rapsheet” is required opens the door for wildly different application of criteria. Before, it was simply said that you had to have a clean rapsheet — and that meant no offenses for the last three months. But now, the door is open for somebody with a worse rapsheet, if they are a friend of the Lindens and have credentials as a major content-creator, to come and get a pass.

    Others who could be making a very valuable contribution are kept sequestered away, unable even to physically fly into the hallowed realm of Help Island, merely because, say, a mentor may have once colluded with a Linden to get a person banned for 3 days for swearing in PG or some other fabricated offense.

    Second, principles. These principles don’t read like principles, they read like a pep talk given by a patriotic youth group to its members. A phrase like “promote a sense of community” breaks down immediately in SL because there are many communities, there is no mass media (yet anyway) to really establish any kind of shared sense of the world, and there is no way to first debate what kind of community or communities we should have in the first place — it’s all imposed from on high.

    We don’t need mentors to be “shining examples to humanity”. We need them to lower the frustration level of newbies by organizing massive help to newcomers.

    I personally think this entire system should be recast with professional Lindens as well as consciously bid-out services, contracts tendered to businesses and non-profits to take care of newbies, like a social service in a RL community. The job should be posted, the bids taken, the social contract awarded and monitored, and the contracts diversified across time and various communities.

    Taking care of newbies is hard work. I do a lot of it. Most newbies are ready to learn when they have a goal to accomplish, i.e. finding a rental. Until then, they might tune out the news about how prims return off autoreturn, or never bother to look in FIND GROUPS. They learn skills best when attempting to accomplish their menu of needs and wants and goals. Accordingly, while it’s good to have centralized, basic helpers and professiional Lindens, various interest/theme/service groups might also be supplying this service and work without being enmeshed in this vast and unwieldly and ineffective army of helpers.

    Third, quality control. This oversight can’t come within the Lab or from within the mentors groups themselves only. It simply has to come from the customers service — the newbies — through after-action reports and customer surveys, and it would also be good if independent outside needs assessment and performation evaluation were made.

    The entire mentor project is premised on the notion that what a newbie needs to do when he comes into Second Life is learn to use the build and creation tools.

    Yet only a tiny percentage of players every really want or need to access these features in any kind of serious way. People need more orientation in survival skills and strategies, and they have more basic questions like “where are all the people” or “how do I make money?” or “where can I buy land”. If anything, the system discourages them from accelerating their curiosity and exploration of these types of topics, and doesn’t reward them for seeking an end goal rleated to finding the answers to these questions.

    Fourth, transparency. There’s a well to be created for knowledge-sharing. There’s special new training classes to be held. There is a quarterly review to be had and even more intensive monitoring to be done. All of this speaks of a growing insular, more highly-trained and elitist crack troop of Uber Second Lifers who are in a special class above the rest of us who aren’t ushered into this New Class.

    This specialness, extra training, and extra watching also leads to a problem of “who will watch the watchers”. Why is all the training and quality-control coming from within the system itself?

    This sort of activity, “creation and implementation of further
    community building within the volunteer community, including but not
    limited to more social and team-building interactions” would be good if you had a church youth group being instilled in a religion’s special values.

    But this is a diverse and constantly changing world. It’s not just for one New Class of people to become more secretive, overdeveloped, “scaled-up,” privileged, and then further cohered through various rituals and bonding exercises. Mentors already do far too much exclusive socializing among themselves, including on their special channel, to be encouraged further in this elitist activity.

    Newbies are just people like ourselves, with fast DSL lines, high-end graphic cards, and disposable income. Let’s not get too precious here about them. They need to be given options and services like any new immigrants. But we’re not leading them to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion from the priests.

    The knowledge here is constantly being shared, reposited, and fussed over like it’s the secrets of the ages. It’s just stuff like how to keep a box off your head. Make it more self-service, self-paced, self-discovered by newbies who have lots of RL and SL distractions and can’t always go to formal training by approved helpers.

    All in all, I find this bulging and ineffective class of helpers/resmods/mentors/greeters to be a terribly discouraging phenomena. It doesn’t really help newbies — I see this in spades with the literally hundreds of newbies that drop on me out of the sky whom I try to help. It doesn’t help the world to mature and acquire the features of self-governance needed.

  2. Oz Spade says:

    I’m not in any of these groups, but I think the general ideas laid out are a great progression.

    The only changes/additions I’d make to the principles is for the mentor title to make it more clear that its not just a vanity title but that it should be worn when you’re actualy open to helping people, and also to add that the group IM sessions should only be used for mentor business, I know some of the other help groups still get alot of club spam and such from members of the group.

    Other than that, it’s great. Training and clear definitions of what the program is about is definitly needed, so I’m glad to see that being added. 🙂

  3. There is a question that is nagging my mind. In a sense, people volunteering for help exist all over the place; from TeaZers to Bob in Slade, from Prokofy to Anshe. Some are paid; some do it for fun; some do it to pass their time. They do it on their own, without “supervision” (except the one they set up themselves), and no need of encouragement.

    And then there are the Linden Liaisons, who are a “de jure” technical support team.

    Somewhere in the middle are the “Second Life Volunteers”. They volunteer themselves using a LL-provided tool (currently web-based). They get invited to the group by LL. They get coordination from Linden Lab (in the sense of some documentation, guidelines, meetings). They use an island with private access for their work with new users, without fear of getting griefed by others. They have a Volunteer HQ on Linden land. So, in a sense, even if indirectly, they have at least Linden sanctioning, if not their blessing.

    But the fact is that the proposed guidelines say: “When you put your Mentor title on, you are representing the Second Life
    volunteers as a whole and the Mentor group in particular.” So, they represent a group of individuals, but nothing else. A rather specific group, for all purposes; but just another group, like many others. The guidelines for a “Mentor” are set by Linden Lab, but Mentors do not represent neither Linden Lab nor other Second Life residents.

    There is a bit of confusion in that area. If Mentors only represent “themselves”, why do they need any Linden Lab involvement in the process? It could be just a resident-based group, like any other. On the other hand, if there is effective Linden interest in the SL Volunteers as such, to the point that they are set up by Linden employees, why the lack of trust in them to represent more than the group they’re currently in?

    I’d say this is like volunteering for the Red Cross but not getting anything more than a tap in the back — and being forbidden to tell the world that they do volunteering work for the Red Cross, the institution.

    Beyond that, there is some doubt that the group of volunteers can be functional if the examples Prokofy quotes are not simply anedoctal evidence, but what happened to a large majority of users. To put it bluntly: being ethical has not been a requirement of participating in the group; there is no validation, overseeing, or quality control. Admittedly, it would be hard to provide those without guidelines. We have them now (good or bad, I’d say, let’s try them out, and see if they work out successfully!). Who will actively enforce them?

    I’m all for taking a step at the time, though. These are perhaps the first two steps: one, which I personally view as less critical — although I do love Mera Pixel’s excellent work on the buildings — is Volunteer HQ. A meeting place is important, but not crucial; there are lots of Linden facilities around SL (Oak Grove is the historical place for that since we lost the old Stage 4…). But it’s nice to have something, sure. It’s also nice that this is a volunteer-created building.

    The second, naturally, are the volunteer guidelines. While each bit of it can be discussed, I think they’re a good starting point. We now need the 1600+ volunteers to get used to them — and someone to verify that these guidelines are indeed being enforced. That is, I believe, crucial.

    Prokofy’s suggestion on increasing the number of Liaisons and outsourcing the volunteering duty is a very interesting one (his ideas always are!). I know that incrfeasing the number of Liaisions is impossible; estimates based on the average number of new users requiring help just at the usual spots — the 4-sim Welcome Area, Waterhead, and Help Island, requires a constant group of around 10 people around the clock. Working in 4-hour-shifts, that would be 60 new Liaisons — increasing LL’s payroll by 50%. This does not take into account the 10+ Greeters that are taking the additional duty (24/7) to do one-to-one tours through SL, plus the Live Helpers… so you could probably add another 60 Liaisons for doing that. That’s hardly an option, and I understand the way LL prefers much more to rely upon volunteer duty instead.

    Outsourcing is interesting, but it provides a complex, ethical approach. Without overseeing, supervision, and quality control, getting paid for a work that is critical (even in L$) is dangerous, and, at the limit, irresponsible. Although written and signed contracts would be much easier to oversee, the point would remain: who would do the overseeing? The current Liaison structure is far too overworked for doing that; and since this outsourced team would need to work 24/7, it would mean an overseeing structure that works during that time as well. While certainly cheaper than an all-Liaison team, it would mean incresing LL’s staff anyway, and for a rather boring duty: making sure that the outsourced team worked as contracted…

    Still, I think that these are good ideas to be considered. For now, volunteering duty is cheap, but it has enormous pitfalls if they are not overseen in any way. Hopefully the Guidelines will be a first step towards improving the overall coherence and efficiency of these volunteer group; I eagerly await some more 🙂

  4. Prokofy Neva says:

    Gwyn, I don’t know where you pulled out of my long post a single line that called on the Lindens to increase their staff and budget. I did no such thing. I’m well aware that they aren’t going to do that, although even one half of a telecommuter’s time (they’re cheaper remember) might make a dramatic difference).

    Rather, I’m for reconfiguring and repurposing the entire thing. Currently the titles “Mentor” are status icons that people seek for their enhancement of reputation necessary for social and economic advancement in SL. Therefore I’d dump that title, concept, and group completely as an unjustified hold-over of wizardy MMORPG culture. In RL, I don’t get a mentor assigned to me normally, I find one and go and attend his tutorials in university or seek him out for meetings in organizations in RL. As you rightly say, it could be a resident-based organization in which self-policing is done by the group and maybe even several types of groups emerging in competition.

    There are already plenty of affinity groups in SL, whether furries or elves or vampires or family RPs. These societies have their natural leaders or willing volunteers. Let them develop their own services and let the Lindens deployed on the managing of the unwieldy 1500 be deployed rather on the meta job of coordinaging and keeping quality control on these community leaders. Aside from RP societies, there are affinities like live music, machinima, book clubs or whatever where some of these outposts could develop their own volunteers.

    I also think a physical helpdesk inworld, with efficient looking liaisions in preppie Lacoste shirts with alligators and chinos with clean crewcuts could really project a feeling of “we’re here to help you stop your game from lagging and crashing”. If you physically had to go to this location, you wouldn’t just reach for Live Help every time you had to find out how to make a prim snap into place but maybe read some manuals or forums.

    At this location

    I’m bewildered on what people find to DO with newbies on these help islands, in part, because I deal with very fresh newbies who are basically helped, as I said, when they have a goal and I help them reach their goal. Why make them sit through endless orientation about prims and appearance mode when they’re just here to buy a skin and find a club?

    I think outsourcing newbie services by accepting bids from companies that provide these services, either as loss-leaders, or as a low-cost service, would help siphon off the overload that might happen on a helpdesk island.

    And frankly, people are willing to pay for orientation. I remember as a newbie putting up a post frankly stating I would simply pay someone to teach me how to make yellow pages. I got nothing but lectures about how I was setting myself to be ripped off because all these help cards and free scripts were either in my library or easily available if I would only be willing to sit in this or that prim university.

    But I didn’t want to. I wanted to get ahead, pay $500 *today* and have a private tutorial. It was astounding to me how I couldn’t get that accomplished, finally I got some lackadaisical oldbie who partly explained things then got distracted and logged off, never to be hear from again. My newbie orientation considered of Ingrid taking me shopping and Barnes giving me one or two build lessons and the rest I hacked out myself through blunderings — you do burn it in better that way.

    I wonder if infantilizing newbies, as LL and this entire overfed and overlarge helping New Class does, is really a service to newbies or the world.

    The range of newbies is so different coming to SL that it is impossible to have a standard newbie orientation be relevant to all throughout the spectrum. I have tenants who arrive with $20,000 grand and already know how to script within a day and merely need to know how to keep stuff from returning to lost and found, and I have tenants who spend an hour trying to learn how to right-click and select teleport from a pie menu to get up to their apartments. Why not make the businesses, non-profits, affinity groups, theme groups, RP groups provide that experience for people at their own pace?

    That would reduce the load of people that a more slenderized orientation team could handle.

    The other obvious thing about this system is that there is too many titles. Sure, they do different functions, but it’s all kind of at one level. Make it seem less exciting (and therefore less about enhancement for one’s economic position)

    If you think I’m exaggerating about the awful extent to which these helping-class people help themselves as they help newbies, I can tell you many stories, but some from direct experience. I have had former tenants, recently becoming helpers or mentors, who usher newbies to my rentals. Why? They bring them *right there* from the help island immediately, merely because they think, well, I liked this rental, let me bring this newbie here. I actually find myself giving these newbies a card I’ve developed “General Renting Faqs” or “Differences Between Islands and Mainland” just so they have a bit more consumer awareness — I don’t think it’s fair to be pushed into my arms nor do I think anyone should be getting them into their arms.

    (That’s why this awful idea to let only 5 or so selected island barons to put up “neighbourhoods” for newbies to spawn right into and purchase island rentals or deeds is so unfair.)

    There is such an allergy to advertising in SL, that no normal business activity seems to take place, i.e. normal billboards advertising the various options for newbies landing, whether free housing, islands, mainland, buy your own 512, whatever. And this is just one field of activity — many don’t care about land or householding and want to cut to the chase to buy a vehicle or go hear live music. So I don’t see why we couldn’t be leveraging *self-organized communities* of affinity or merely good will to help out.

    What’s odd to me, Gwyn, is that you throw up as an obstacle the contracting and quality control issues involved in outsourcing contracts to businesses or nonprofits (the Lindens could pay a nonprofit self-organized group of residents probably half what they’d pay a telecommuter, and pay in Lindens).

    Yet you don’t see these *same* quality-control issues cropping up for the oversight of this really fantastically huge army of 1,500 that is growing by the minute. You’re worried about corruption or failure to perform in a private company or a self-organized professional non-profit, but you’re not worried about corrupition or failure in a disorganized, unwieldy mass of volunteers who have nothing in common, about whom little is known, other than that they “have a clean Linden rapsheet” (!).

    Why isn’t it dangerous, or even irresponsible, to expose all these decent and innocent and hopefully well-meaning newbies to this mass of only lightly supervised helpers, some of whom are hardly older than the newbies they are helping? Why is it ok to handle their training in a a very superficial and light way, with a few courses here and there and a few morale building special picnics with the Lindens, and then turn them loose?

    I had a really unpleasant encounter with one of these helpers who was using their Live Help title as an instrument of coercion, a tenant that was reprimanded about a rule they were breaking sicced this mafia-like Live Helper on me who wielded their Live Help status to try to intimidate me, and frankly stated that they were wielding this on behalf of their buddy, as if they were thugs in a mafia type situation. Bad, bad stuff. THIS is what we have going on, Gwyn. And you’re worried about a known group — take your Thinkers or take my Doers or take gallery-walkers or photographers — who are in a public group with a forums presence and accountability, helping newbise? Please. You have *got* to see that this *army* is not manageable, and not possible to properly supervise. 1,500 of *anything* in SL that merely has these very lightly identified titles like “helper” is not by its very nature accountable or supervisable — except in the most fannish, sychophantish, uneven and even corrupt way.

  5. Prokofy Neva says:

    *at this location, these alligator-shirted guys and gals (ok, put the SL hand in the place of the alligator!) could provide live help like it was really meant to be — live! — and many things would go faster in terms of being able to provide visual displays. While waiting, newbies could browse through help stands.

  6. Prokofy, I think that you’re still fixed with this obsession of my being a terrible communist and anti-capitalist, when I’ve actually written this:

    “Beyond that, there is some doubt that the group of volunteers can be functional […] To put it bluntly: being ethical has not been a requirement of participating in the group; there is no validation, overseeing, or quality control. Admittedly, it would be hard to provide those without guidelines. We have them now (good or bad, I’d say, let’s try them out, and see if they work out successfully!). Who will actively enforce them?”

    and

    “Without overseeing, supervision, and quality control, getting paid for a work that is critical (even in L$) is dangerous, and, at the limit, irresponsible. Although written and signed contracts would be much easier to oversee, the point would remain: who would do the overseeing? […] While certainly cheaper than an all-Liaison team, it would mean incresing LL’s staff anyway, and for a rather boring duty: making sure that the outsourced team worked as contracted…”

    Now you opted to consider those two statements of mine as being AGAINST an outsourced group, and that I trust outsourced groups LESS than strict volunteers. If I was ambiguous in my words, let me restate again:

    *In both cases, the issue is about enforcing an agreement*

    On the case of volunteering duty, it means having guidelines, and oversee/supervise/enforce them.

    On the case of outsourcing the job, it means having contracts, and oversee/supervise/enforce them.

    In my mind, both solutions are valid.

    In terms of expenses, both have costs — they are both tied to overseeing/supervising/enforcement. An efficient team (at Linden Lab) doing that work would cost about the same.

    I’m sorry if I didn’t understand your words correctly. You said: “I personally think this entire system should be recast with professional Lindens […]” and I assumed (apparently wrongly) that this was a suggestion to increase the Linden Liasion team to cover the current ground that the volunteers are covering. I apologise for understanding that wrongly. In any case, I don’t disagree with that concept in principle; it might just not be cost-effective.

    You then proceed to suggest a method of tying in the professional Lindens into an outsourced structure. Let me restate my opinion again, this time (hopefully not vaguely): in my opinion, this is a GOOD suggestion. It could be a FEASIBLE one. Provided that it gets mechanisms of enforcement. The same ones that are sadly lacking on the volunteer system.

    I don’t see any difference between both systems except one of *cost*. That’s for LL to evaluate and make a choice on what they prefer. In any case, higher or lower costs are one thing; proper guidelines, management, quality control, and enforcement of guidelines or contracts is needed in *either case*.

    And I’ll finish quoting your last paragraph and totally subscribing it:

    “[…] this *army* is not manageable, and not possible to properly supervise. 1,500 of *anything* in SL that merely has these very lightly identified titles like “helper” is not by its very nature accountable or supervisable — except in the most fannish, sychophantish, uneven and even corrupt way.”

    and perhaps even reinforce: *not even* in the most fannish, sychophantish, uneven and corrupt way!

    So, unlike what you read in my words, I do NOT trust the “community” (as I stated elsewhere… not in this thread) and I do NOT *MIS*trust corporate agreements. Rather the opposite. I trust a community that has guidelines, planning, organisation, a delegation of responsabilities, overview, supervising, quality control, and enforcement of Linden-established rules. I trust to the same degree a binding contract that basically covers the same thing. I agree that the cost of supervising is the same one; the only difference in costs is that volunteers are cheap, while contracts will cost a few L$. The option is LL’s.

  7. Prokofy Neva says:

    Gwyn, you appear determined to catch me in some sort of contradiction or lack of foresight rather than focusing on the topic, which is: the Lindens are appointing a resident government, are we going to sit back and let them do that? Not I.

    When I said I’d prefer more Linden professionals, I don’t mean hiring a truckload of new Lindens. But geez, they *are* hiring more people and existing Lindens are getting taken up with various tasks that maybe aren’t serving the population as a whole in the best way. Example: do the forums *really* need such heavy moderation as to have all thse Lindens and resmods who require supervision? Of course they don’t. Could we all state the obvious — that they now take up MORE Linden time due to all these ridiculous thread-holding pens and hair-splitting solutions sought from Lindens over stuff that should just be left alone to push under the fold when other posts rise to the top. Either shut most of them down or make them free — this is a modern virtual world, not a medieval guild game.

    Do all these educational projects whose product still seems extremely thin on the ground *really* need full-time dedication from Pathfinder? Arguably they don’t, and they get a lot of special attention perhaps not justified given their level of presence and investment by contrast with others. Do the Suicide Girls, who logged on like once, need to get a full-time office Linden working their issues 24/7? Well, maybe not.

    This is known as *repurposing* the Lindens you’ve got, not hiring a lot of new ones. Sometimes, when you have a very slender work force, you can make them appear larger and more engaged just by showing up. When was the last time you saw a Linden sitting in their houses in world taking callers with issues to handle? Couldn’t this be formalized, so that instead of telling everyone on their profiles to “go contact Live Help and go away” they printed “I’m available to solve problems related to lag, as defined by X, Y, and Z, for you from the hours of 9-10 a.m. SLT”?

    Sure, we can argue that whether they supervise volunteers, or supervise contracted employees, they still have labour, but you know, in RL, I’d much rather have a part-time paid employee than a summer intern who constantly needs to be “given stuff to do” or who goes off on a tangent.

    The fact is, the Lindens will do *neither* of these elaborate things you suggest or I suggest. They don’t even seem to have a very rigorous code of ethics for their own employees, with the blurring of distinctions between the role Lindenized residents play on their resident accounts, running often high-profile or even lucrative businesses for example. To put it rather bluntly: if they don’t have an evident quality control system for their own paid staff, how can we expect them to extend this to volunteers?

    I don’t think the Lindens are going to give up their army of helpers and their appointed beloved “leaders” they control (through processes like this “Second Life Views” program) — but what we can try to do is wrest back *some* of this power from them to groups with various stakes in newbies and stakes in building communities and affinity groups. The Lindens once tried a ridiculously short-lived experiment to see if newbies faced with choices of where they could go spawn, i.e. Cubey Terra’s or the Furest or a night club, could teleport there immediately. I was opposed to them having such a chute for newbies because they picked the same old FIC, and didn’t have a plan for rotating it, and it was also demanding on those who signed up for it — they’d have to agree to be available 24/7 (a simple solution to this would simply show on the portal whether a person was live online at that venue or not, then the newbie could judge).

    But what if they made these experiments last longer, what if they made them rotate more, and see if they do help in orientation? The Elves have always pointed out that they “invented the greeting system”. I gather Anshe is merely bypassing all this Linden stuff and organizing her own greeting system. What if they had portals like that to chose from *in addition to going through the official Help Island*? Or what if — gasp! — you could *buy* a portal place on OI or HI like you buy classifieds to advertise to newbies a service which involves orientation for them?

    Why is it ok to land in RL JFK or Grand Central, as Philip is fond of comparing the SL experience to, and be faced with throngs of taxi drivers and guides and concession stands vying for your business, willing to take you to a hotel or take you on a tour of New York or sell you a souvenir or a t-shirt, but in SL, all that sort of thing has to be scrubbed *clean* out of the orientation to be replaced by…the Feted One’s doing the taxi driving and t-shirt selling, that’s all! I’m for normalizing it, and making it like a concession license.

    I frequently get people who tell me they quit the game 90 days ago in frustration, but then they got a new computer, or got a friend to help them, and they come back. Now they are barred from HI and out of the loop and don’t feel like sitting in a class, so I try to just give them newbie boot camp with my own cards I’ve developed. I think one of the big flaws of all the help stuff is that it is not self-paced and self-timed.

    Re: “I trust a community that has guidelines, planning, organisation, a delegation of responsabilities, overview, supervising, quality control, and enforcement of Linden-established rules.”

    Gwyn, this sort of thing is precisely that sort of socialist-style endless planned economy I’m often criticizing in Neualtenberg. You’re going to be waiting a *very long time* for people in “the community” (whatever the hell *that* is) much less the Lindens, to sit around endlessly *planning* this sort of thing instead of *doing it on the fly* as they are *forced to do* because this game they made became a world heading towards one million people. So honestly, some other lighter, more flexible approaches have to be developed than all this planning, delegation, and supervision as if this is grave issue of national security instead of just getting people to learn and participate in a virtual world they log into and log out of at will. I’m suggesting that by getting existing self-organized groups more involved and giving newbies at least that choice it would be more fair and grounded.

    I’m realling hoping that when they get the group tools working better that groups themselves will become involved in SL that will make everything I’m saying self-evident and the Lindens will simply adjust to the fact on the ground of groups taking over responsibility for themselves. I think there are many problems inherent in the coming revolution of groups, ones I warn about all the time like forums group-think, but I still think that they represent a more democratic and effective solution than bureaucratic administration from the top with selected advisors.

  8. Anna Grant says:

    I totally agree with the need to establish a system that offers a friendly, timely and … hmm.. professional assistance to the newcomers to SL. Reading through the posts, thou, my feeling is that there needs to be more more division between the help resources available and what is usually understood as “ask a question to anyone and expect a friendly response”.
    My assumption is tht the later is largely available in-world. From personal experience, I ever hardly had to resort to live ghelp, when I was a newbie, and even now, as usually a network of friends and being at the right place (god bless sandboxes!) is enough to be in the company of people who are more than willing to share their knowledge.
    Any redesign of the help system, which I personally strongly encourage, has to start with a clear division between those 2 types of assistance that a newbie can rely on to learn =)
    Just my 2C (3 Swedish cronor)

  9. I think having a mentor in each ‘station’ of Orientation Island would almost be spot on… But that’s just me…. maybe. 😉

Comments are closed.