Second Life groups are a fantastic thing. They allow people with similar interests a forum and a meeting place, they are a great way for organisers and creators alike to keep people up to date with what’s happening, and they provide a collective space for sharing the inworld experience. Most everybody who creates a group will use it in the same way, and many will never even think about exploring some of the advanced functionality groups can offer – deeding of land, setting up user hierarchies, functions and roles etc – but almost everyone who does create a group will use the ‘notices’ functionality at some time or other.

It’s a facility that can be really useful when used well, but I’m afraid that seems to be the exception, rather than the rule, and the inability to employ notices sensibly and effectively is something that irritates me immensely. In particular, there are two approaches to notice sending that really raise my blood pressure.

To illustrate my point, let’s look at two – entirely fictitious – case studies:

Case study #1
Sugar Moves is a popular dance and live music venue with a large and eclectic inworld following. This is reflected in the type of music you can expect to hear on a club night. The trouble is, you never actually know what to expect, at best until the starting time of any event, or even some time after its started, because the host has no idea how to use notes to give advance notice of what’s going on.

Whilst this may not initially seem like a big deal, it can be hugely irritating to turn up at a venue with little or no idea of what to expect, or worse still, arrive to find that you have no interest in the sort of entertainment that’s being laid on. It’s no fun trying to guess what to wear, when you have no idea what to expect – nothing worse than dressing down, only to arrive to find it’s posh frock night, or spending hours getting dressed up and then discovering it’s fancy dress theme night!

It can be embarrassing too – if you hate reggae and have no prior warning that tonight is a celebration of Bob Marley, you’re faced with making your excuses and doing a runner, or sticking around for a polite length of time, putting up with music you can’t stand… And all because the host thinks that event notices need not be sent out until the last possible moment, If not later – who in their right mind could possibly want to know in advance what to expect?

Case Study #2
Monomoronic is a popular fashion and accessory store that encourages its clientele to subscribe to its member’s group to receive product updates, news and details of special offers and deals. As an incentive, group members also have access to exclusive discounts and members-only perks. To manage their customer service, they have a number of delegates within the group whose role is to maintain updates and group notices.

All very good, you might think – it all sounds very organised and well thought out. However there is one fatal flaw: Group members are subjected to a near continuous barrage of updates, offers and previews of new products, and I do mean every single new product, as soon as it hits the shelves, and – just to make absolutely certain – repeated several times over! It’s not unknown to receive a dozen notices in the space of an hour, most of which are just duplication of a previously sent notice. Sometimes, just for fun, you’ll even receive the same notice in English and then in Portuguese!

The customer is at liberty, of course, to switch off notices and just avail themselves of the freebies and instore offers, but that is clearly not what the store intended… They’ve just got their communications and advertising policies badly wrong – so badly wrong, in fact, that the very means by which they try to reach out to their customers merely serves to alienate them.

Neither of the above case studies is factual, but they are based, with a fair degree of accuracy, upon real SL models, and I can’t help thinking that the people and businesses concerned really should pay a little more attention to getting things right for their group members. Group slots can be at a premium, and when it comes to dumping an annoying group or one where the benefits of being a member are hard to discern, I’ll have no qualms about doing so.

A well organised and managed group can be a brilliant tool in the right hands, and a positive boon to its members, whilst those groups that would neatly fit into my fictitious case studies above are quite the opposite… Don’t let yours be one!

s. x

I’m just looking I’m not buying
I’m just looking keeps me smiling
Stereophonics – Just Looking

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