Applications and Tools, Second Life

Second Life Growth: New Groups versus New Users

It sometimes feels to me like there are two types of users in Second Life: the single dots, and the multi-dots.

I remember the early days of Second Life – the map was a friend and a mystery. As I wandered the Grid, I’d use the map not because the geography that it showed seemed particularly relevant – I mean, most sims on the map look like a random collection of squares and squiggles and don’t tell you much about what’s there before you arrive. But the presence of green dots became a sort of pulse-taker of activity on the Grid.

The presence of single dots confused me – why would someone just sit there in SL and not move? What were they doing? In retrospect, it seems like an odd question, but I honestly didn’t realize at first how many people sit in their favorite spot and just chat with each other across virtual distance. And I didn’t understand how powerful the experience of building was until I first rezzed a prim.

So you have your single dots – people who are established in their own communities and use private and group chat to talk to others. And the users who come into SL to create, and like to do it on their own, and find some quiet corner to rez prims.

But Second Life is primarily a social platform – a multi-dot world, not unlike Facebook, say, with its myriad groups (Facebook groups are, in my opinion, even more borked than SL – there’s something about how they’re constructed that seems to make group conversations and sharing tiresome, but then I hate FB in general).

Recently, we’ve been working on client projects and have been starting to use the RegAPI a bit more – setting up pages through which new users can register, and then directing them to a build in-world. Chris Collins, formerly on the Enterprise team, and now on his own with a company called Tipodean, has been a great help with this and has some spiffy code that was really helpful.

But I can’t help thinking that in the focus on bringing in new users, Linden Lab could derive significant value if they would work on providing some tools and code focused on bringing in new groups of users, rather than worrying about those single users who knock on the front door out of sheer curiosity (and of whom 95% or whatever give up).

I mean, here’s what I’d like: the ability to invite a group of friends to join me in Second Life. The ability for this invitation to include a time and location, enrollment in a group, and auto-add to my friends list. And some sort of option for creating a connection between the avatar names they choose and their actual names.

We’ve used the RegAPI to basically do just that – but this kind of code shouldn’t require users to have their own Web sites or whatever.

Now, some of this is possible by simply sending out an e-mail with a SLURL. The SLURL directs them to a sign-up page and once they’ve registered and chosen an avatar, they’ll be logged in at the SLURL location.

But I’d like to see this as a service of some kind on the Second Life Web site – log into my profile and invite a bunch of friends, choose a SLURL, choose a group to enroll them in, and maybe even set up times with reminders or something.

This service could then extend somehow to social media – a BuddyPress widget, say, plug-ins for Joomla or Drupal or whatever.

Much of the focus on retaining new users is to help them find events and people – but I can’t help thinking that the focus should be on finding events and people external to Second Life and give them a virtual home. If I could easily say to a group of people who I interact with elsewhere – an e-mail listserv, say, or a little group sign-up link under a youTube video….I’m not asking people to find new groups and interests in SL, I’m asking people who already have a shared interest together to spend time in a “place” together.

I’m not interested in linking out to social media – but I am interested in having easier ways to bring small groups of people into SL in a way that effectively translates strong social connections that already exist.

Or maybe I’m missing something? Maybe there’s some sort of concern about “SL spam” or something? What do you think? How do you facilitate bringing in external groups (of friends or colleagues, say) into SL? And beyond SL users bringing in groups, what would it look like to offer a “group sign up” feature in addition to one for individual users?


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