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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Playing Secret Santa

At last it chaunced this proud Sarazin
To meete me wandring, who perforce me led
With him away, but yet could neuer win
The Fort, that Ladies hold in soueraigne dread.
There lies he now with foule dishonour dead,
Who whiles he liu'de, was called proud Sans foy,
The eldest of three brethren, all three bred
Of one bad sire, whose youngest is Sans ioy,
And twixt them both was borne the bloudy bold Sans loy.

It's not hard to have fun in SL, day after day. Get to know some people, maybe connect with a peer group. Get comfy with the basics. Find out what's where. And keep a relatively moderate attitude. I've yet to be hit on the head with a piece of sky, after all.

Getting to that point – aye, there's the rub.

Assume you don't have a lot of time to spend inworld. You want to bounce in, have a bit of fun, and see a couple really cool things. What do you do, Philip? That's right. You ask someone :)

Until we form our own monkeyspheres, our time in SL is a series of encounters – a bit like Spenser's The Faerie Queene. (Even after, but our monkeyspheres help cushion us from the effects of the poorer ones)

Retention in SL is like Secret Santa (we call it Kris Kringle, where I come from) – you know the office thing where people draw names out of a hat and get them gifts? Well, it's like that.

In the short-term, retention predicates on a series of random encounters, and their cost, benefit and the perceived risk of the next encounter. An encounter may be good (benefit) or bad (cost) or both. The human mind will look for patterns to predict the next encounter to determine risk. When the predicted risk/reward ratio falls off, the resident leaves SL – perhaps for a time. Perhaps forever.

There's the person-to-person interaction. There's also person-to-environment. The environment is all that stuff that you don't know or have a chance of getting wrong or have a chance of misunderstanding. Costs involve getting a box stuck on your head. Making a fool of yourself. Feeling like you made a fool of yourself, even if that isn't so. Smacking into the side of a building. Jumping instead of talking. Benefits are...well, benefits are results that please you :)

We can reasonably assume that a resident's early person-to-environment interaction will be poor. There's a lot to learn, and every block of unit-time that they spend trying to learn, or relearn without corresponding benefits is a downside.

This works to magnify the bad-experiences risk when we go to person-to-person.

If you're frustrated with an unfamiliar interface, perhaps artificially high expectations and suffering poor machine performance due – perhaps – to overoptimistic default settings, it's only going to take one or two poor experiences to make you think that Second Life is not for you.

One bad experience with a volunteer. Another with an SL resident, and risk vs reward would be pretty low. Add any technical difficulties, and you've jumped the shark for your new resident.

In my last community gig, someone at the table would now be saying something like “So, how can we maximise the subjectively-assessed customer-valued monkeysphere opportunities?”

A bit of unnecessarily dense piece of corporate newspeak, but the point is there.

Philip? You go the Secret Santa route when you're looking to kick back in your limited time on the grid. You ask someone. And you've got enough experience to assess whether you've been steered well, or been handed a dud.

At the outset our new residents are likely too proud or too shy or both to necessarily do that asking, and too lacking in any basis for comparison to tell what is a fine example of what SL has to offer, and what isn't.

Secret Santa works better for the experienced – and we can always fall back on our monkeyspheres.

How does the new resident find what is (necessarily) subjectively enjoyable and cool?

How does the new resident expand their monkeysphere before the risk/reward ratio bottoms out? How to increase the odds of a positive experience?

How do we use the strengths of SL to help us with the answers?

Some of the solutions are technical, others are social - and none of it gets improved overnight.


  1. Roenik Newell6:15 AM

    I do my best on Help Island to make newcomers feel welcome, and will usually adapt to each individual.

    Some want only a bit of advice, and are on their way to explore the Island.

    Others I sense would rather have a guided tour, while some feel good being given free things.

    But about subjective positive experiences, two questions never fail to be asked by new citizens:

    What do we do here?

    How do I make money?

    I answer those on average 10 to 12 times an hour :)

    The first one is easy to answer and makes people feel ok with it.

    The second, I sense, often lowers the "positive experience meter", perhaps because they are realizing they might have to actually work to get something?

    At that stage on HI, many feel inadequate about their skills, as they have yet to try building and/or writting a small script.

    Perhaps it's the mere concept that money exists here?

  2. Of course there is no easy money in SL. At least no more so than in RL (where you may find easy the particular things that most other people find difficult).

    In most other MMO/NGOs, money is largely a function of time. The grind that so much is spoken of.

    A predictable reward curve for effort spent (modified by risk - you can play double-or-nothing, as it were by risking your time on more dangerous or uncertain activities).

    SL, of course, has no more of that than the world of flesh.


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