Why Johnny N00b Can’t Build, And How To Help

The people at Linden Labs who created Second Life… or at least, created the framework for their subscribers to create Second Life content for them, have a lot to learn about how to retain new subscribers. Apparently, they think one way is to disband the Mentor program… ::shakes head in disbelief:: and then wonder why their stats are trending downward.

A number of SL bloggers have commented recently on the well-known but disturbing statistic that although Linden Labs/Second Life claim to sign up 10,000 new subscribers a month, they actually retain only about 10% of those new “Residents.” Some think that making the interface more intuitive would only “dumb down things for the riff raff.” Lots of people attempt to log in to Second Life, after making it through the annoying registration screens, and then quit in frustration, soon after finally getting “inworld.”

Why? It’s a steep learning curve, and once they show you the basics during the Orientation process, (which is NOT easy to navigate!) you’re generally dumped at a public “Welcome Area,” where it’s likely you’ll be hazed or pranked rather than helped and welcomed. They’re kind of free-for-all areas, and can be a major turnoff until you manage to teleport away to someplace else. There ARE “Community Gateways” that you can choose to use as your initial point of entry – and many of these have their own training and education “tracks” in order to build on the basics that have been thrown at “Johnny N00b” during the journey through Orientation Island (which looks really, REALLY basic and unattractive). Most of the Community Gateways are full of Resident-created content and are much more attractive and visually welcoming than the public gateways, which immediately puts the new Resident a bit more at their ease.

Have a look at the suggested path below that SL could implement for getting new Residents “on the right track” to a satisfying and creative Second Life for themselves.

Botgirl’s Second Life Diary: A Simple Plan to Solve The Second Life Retention Problem

“Build it and they will come” seems to be true in relation to Second Life. The problem is that 90% of people who register don’t stay. They leave within the first three months. It seems obvious to me that the one primary reason for the astronomic departure rate is that most people don’t find something worth doing. Right now, finding something interesting enough to make it beyond the initial learning curve is left up to chance. And the odds seem to be about 9-1 against.

So I offer a relatively simple solution. Treat Second Life nubes like conference attendees. When they sign-up, have them register for a specific track. Then provide a series of classes, self-guided courses and resources to lead them from neophyte to journeyman.

Here’s @botgirlq ‘s suggestion for “learning tracks:”

It’s JUST SO COMMON-SENSE! Why hasn’t Linden Labs been doing this from the beginning? Yes, they offer a walk-through with signboards, but it takes a long time for the boards to rezz. I think most people want to get through the registration process (waiting for the confirmation email, installing the software, and then sometimes immediately installing an update) and get to “the Second Life experience.” But then once there, they are given little or no information about where “the good places are” or where to find music, art, or entertainment. A new Resident falls back on either trading landmarks with other new people, or trying to figure out the Search box. And they still don’t know where to “set home to ‘HERE’ ” at first. Perhaps the new “Linden Homes” program (with pre-fab homes available to paid Residents that aren’t using their 512m of free tier) will encourage some people to convert from free to paid, but it seems unlikely to me.

If something like this learning track had existed before, I might have gotten into building a lot quicker, but I certainly would have spent a lot fewer hours wandering around empty malls and looking at ugly commercial builds around the areas of “money trees.”

I was lucky when I first went through the process, because I met up almost immediately with interesting people who are there for the art and music, and my first “job” was as a greeter at Lauk’s Nest. I was given landmarks of “Beautiful Places to Visit” and worked my way down that list. Unfortunately, I did NOT immediately start taking classes, although I took a couple of useful ones at NCI. I took a “free” class from Free Dove, got tired of the constant group IM spams, and stopped taking classes. Which is a shame, as I wasted a lot of time that could have been spent learning how to build, learning how to texture, learning how to script. Now, I have to catch up to where I should have been within my first few months.

A couple of the groups that I’m active in have hosted large inworld events tied to large outworld events, and they’ve found it necessary to post a walkthrough of their own (as in a Community Gateway) just to get their conference attendees headed toward the areas where all the fun is happening. This is a sign that the “education” or learning process offered during Orientation is just too confusing for a brand new AV-driver, as getting used to movement and camera controls takes a while.

Interestingly, they also found that Residents who’d tried Second Life briefly but gave up in frustration said that the refresher was really helpful, as the rezz point for everyone for the event started at the walkthrough. There were AV-givers that only had to be clicked – no boxes to open. Some “second-time around” Residents became more permanent denizens because they came through the event-oriented gateway, had an agenda to follow, and got lots of extra help and encouragement from the welcomers who were always on hand during the events.

There’ve been quite a few people in these groups whose second try at Second Life “clicked” because they were headed to a specific point to meet specific people, and they quickly made friends, found their feet, and went on.

I recently started an alt for possible RP and business purposes, and the registration process was STILL as frustrating as I remember. However, I’ve had a much more enjoyable “first month” experience this time, because I happened to notice that Caledon Oxbridge University was one of the Community Gateway points. I had envisioned my male alt as a Steampunk-oriented gentleman, so I was glad that I’d scrolled down and taken the time to choose the Caledon Community Gateway.

Yes, it’s walking past a lot of signboards, but there’s interactivity as well, and there are classes and people to talk to, and even “dorm rooms” for new Residents to get a taste for rezzing stuff and personalizing a space. It’s an attractive build modeled after the college quadrangles of Oxford and Cambridge, and the Victorian theme encourages people to get started right away with mild RP (old-fashioned courtesy is so rarely found in Second Life unless roleplay is involved).

Since then, my alt has attended classes at the University, and also some classes at NCI, filling in gaps from my own sketchy SL knowledge base, as I never bothered to learn for the first two years inworld.

From A Former N00b’s Progress

He’s also done some mountain-climbing (and no, I don’t mind anyone knowing his identity if you happen to spot him wandering around Steelhead peddling jewelry and photos) but he is still rather reserved in social contexts until he figures a few things out. IM “Dhughan Froobert” inworld, he’ll be happy to make your acquaintance. Sadly, ladies will be disappointed to note that he’s not on the market, owing to a tragic injury suffered in the late conflict in the Cimarron country.

Okay, enough roleplaying around,back to the topic in hand…

The first time through, I was intimidated by the interface, and what seemed like an impossibly steep learning curve. Since my recent “rebirth” as a n00b builder, the thought of building stuffs no longer intimidates me… but now I have a new problem.

How do I stay on my self-created track? How do I stay organized and focused, especially with an alt who’s role will likely be as the “man of business? How to educate myself on the ins and outs, tips and tricks? What forums have the best information, and which ones are best avoided due to excess drama? How do I do this GIMP thing, and take out unwanted alpha channels from jewelry?? Is it worth signing up for XStreetSL, or is it too late now that SL has screwed it up? Is this new Affiliate program worth it? And so on…

Yes, there will be more about that later. For the moment, I have a vague idea that I’d like to make silver jewelry inspired by Native American artisans of both the Southwest and the Northwest, and I’d like to do something creative with the many, many photographs I’ve taken inworld and outworld.

And maybe learn to make funny hats. I’ve recently acquired a taste for male haberdashery… I just wish it hadn’t taken me TWO YEARS to get comfortable with the idea of making my own stuff!

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