A talkative bunch

55_largeWe’re all pretty good at having a go at Linden Lab – pretty much anything at all that we can even remotely pin the blame on them for, we will… lag, viewer issues, griefers, the rising price of oil – you name it, we’ll blame it! We’re not always so quick to see the Lab’s merits, and it’s only fair that we should apportion credit where it’s due, even if we still think there’s a whole heap of problems that need sorting, about which the Lab should get a grip.

The thing is, the Lindens haven’t really done themselves any favours in that department because of their reticence to be communicative over the last several months. It’s something that many of us – myself included – have commented on at length.

And, all of a sudden, LL have started talking to us – in fact, it seems we can’t shut them up! In the past few weeks, we’ve seen a plethora of official blog posts and announcements, not only to showcase the Lab’s latest acquisitions and ventures, but also seeming to demonstrate a determined effort to tackle the thorny issue of noob-retension. Even more remarkably, the communications emanating from Battery Street are showing a definite air of excitement about what’s going on in the world of our favourite shared creative spaces provider! In fact, the Lab seems more excited about goings-on than most of us appear to be – this, surely, must be a good thing?

It seems churlish, in this atmosphere of almost-euphoria, not to jump on the bandwagon and start swapping high-fives and *hugs*, but try as i might, there are some things – in particular, the Lab’s latest expansions of the Lindenverse – about which i just can’t whip up any real enthusiasm. Take the launch of Dio… Try as i might, i don’t feel any stirrings of delight at the new product, (even the name bugs me: why Dio?). i can’t quite figure out what it’s supposed to do – sure, it’s a ‘shared creative space’, but then so is a sheet of flipchart paper and, unlike Dio, a sheet of paper is a lot simpler to understand and you know exactly what it’s supposed to achieve. The closest my brain has got to understanding Dio is to think that it’s the evil spawn of a union between Facebook, Flickr and those old adventure games where you used to map out your route on a bit of graph paper… but i’m afraid, in the end, it just confuses me. Give it a go, maybe you’ll think differently, but don’t make the mistake of watching the promo video first and expecting anything like the stick figures, funky graphics and flow that you’ll see there – the video bears no relation to the platform!

Another innovation that the Labbies seem extremely excited about is Leap Motion control of sl. Far from waving our hands around and seeing our avatars fly seamlessly wherever we want them to, i think it’s far more likely that we’ll end up knocking cups of tea over our keyboards, slapping anyone unfortunate enough to be sat next to us in the face and seeing a whole genre of Youtube videos along the same lines as ‘kid accidentally destroying expensive TV by chucking Wii controller at it’. It’s not for me, but i’ll grant you it’s an interesting, although probably rather niche development, for sl.

What i am a little more impressed with are the efforts the Lab appears to be putting in towards recruiting and – more importantly – retaining, new sign-ups. We seem to be moving away from the days of vampires and zombies towards a new, more practical and hands-on approach. Something that established residents have been saying is needed since, it seems, time immemorial. Giving out a wad of lindens and hoverboards with starter packs may not be a huge leap forward, but it’s definitely small steps in the right direction towards making those first few hours inworld a more productive and satisfying experience.

In the same manner, it can only be a good thing that the Lab have re-launched tutorial videos – (does Torley seem ever-so-slightly less exuberant than we’re used to?) – something else that long-term residents have emphasised as ‘must-haves’.

decay5_001

“Can i speak to Linden Lab, please?”

These new ventures and changing emphasis aside though, for me the most heartening and promising aspect of this sudden talkativeness has to be the efforts that are being made by the Lab to communicate. This is what we’ve all complained about for so long and it makes a refreshing change to see a different approach.

It almost feels as if the Lab has been listening to sl users all this time – whether they have, or not, is immaterial – that’s how it feels, and it makes a huge difference. Similarly, being told what’s going on, and with that bit of enthusiasm too, goes a long way towards turning Linden Lab from an uncaring, corporate monster, to a company that is, at least a little, concerned about its users.

It’s a good start to the new year – let’s hope it’s a positive sign of things still to come, because, if it is, that can only be good for both us, and the Lab.

s. x

Those were such happy times
And not so long ago
How I wondered where they’d gone
But they’re back again
Just like a long lost friend
The Carpenters – Yesterday Once More

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