It’s no secret that navigating around SL can be pretty hit and miss. Landmarks have an infuriating habit of becoming out of date almost before you’ve saved them, places move and change with perplexing rapidity, and there’s very little rhyme or reason to the way in which SL is laid out and organised.
It can be difficult for noobs and more established residents alike to navigate the virtual world and locate places that we know we’ll enjoy, with any measure of success, and most of us resort to relying on word of mouth recommendations, tip-offs gleaned from the profiles of other residents, and the occasional random stroke of luck as we stumble upon an inworld gem.
I’ve always felt it to be a great pity that there are so many potential inworld attractions that we miss, simply because there’s no easy way to discover them.
I can hear you protest: “What about the Destination Guide?” Well, what about it? Because here we have a fantastic tool at our disposal that, unfortunately misses the mark completely. Yes, it can be useful up to a point, but that usefulness is severely compromised by the rather hapless way the Guide is administered.
In many ways, the Destination Guide reminds me of The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy – often apocryphal, seldom useful, wildly inaccurate, and could lead to you being eaten or imprisoned under dubious circumstances. Whilst this can be a lot of fun, it’s about as much practical use as a Lonely Planet Guide to Columbia, written by someone who’s never moved out from the confines of San Francisco!
Why is it that the Guide so badly tends to miss the mark? Firstly, it’s partly down to a limited pool of information – if you’re a regular visitor to the Guide, you’ll know that the content isn’t exactly dynamic. Much of it doesn’t change from one year to the next, (you can even find places in there that are long gone!), and a significant part of what remains tends to be made up of the ‘usual suspects’ – those destinations that crop up time and time again, under slightly different guises. Even the ‘Editor’s Picks’ that appear on the viewer start up page tend to feature the same places with monotonous regularity.
The second, more significant reason that the Guide is far less helpful than it could potentially be is simply that the content is determined by the person submitting it and therefore whatever they want to say about their destination – whether accurate, objective, truthful or otherwise – is what will be published. To return to the analogy of our SF based Lonely Planet reviewer, they could cheerfully give a glowing account of Medellín’s barrios… their vibrant nightlife, exciting culture, colourful locals and interesting architecture, only for the trusting traveller to find out – far too late – that surviving to tell the tale is somewhat more challenging than they might have been led to believe!
So, if I was the Linden in charge of tourism, how world I improve the Destination Guide?
To begin with, I’d change the process for submitting destinations for inclusion. Applications would have to be reviewed, and if necessary, descriptions rewritten before publication by a third party who would have personally paid a visit beforehand. That way, we’d have a far more objective, unbiased review, and we’d probably see A Guide less dominated by locations and venues using it as a marketing tool, and featuring more interesting and varied destinations, with far more in the way of constructive information to aid us in our travels.
The Lindens, of course, wouldn’t be doing the leg work, nor should they. We have a resident-created world, and the residents who want to explore it should be the ones providing their opinions on what is being offered, but I see no reason why this shouldn’t work – there are more than enough people who spend their time reviewing inworld fashion, (some would say far too many), and I’m sure there are plenty who would happily undertake the same task for inworld locations.
Inevitably, there’s always the potential for abuse, whether by those wishing to act maliciously, or by self-promotion using alts. Personally, I don’t think that’s a huge issue, and the gains that could be realised from a more informative, vibrant and representative Guide would far outweigh those concerns.
SL is a big and complex world, with a huge number of undiscovered places that can enrich and surprise us in our virtual lives, yet it seems – although we could make it more accessible, and have the means at our disposal to do so, we haven’t seized that opportunity and made the best of it.
Perhaps one day?
I’m gettin’ bugged driving up and down this same old strip
I gotta find a new place where the kids are hip
The Beach Boys – I Get Around