Communities and What To Do With Them

Information on communitiesBeing currently fascinated with the book written by Mario Gerosa/Frank Koolhaas, Second Life (which describes almost all aspects of SL, and will certainly deserve a much larger comment once I finish to read the last chapters), and after some recent personal experiences with some of Second Life’s mini-communities as well as some real life companies and organisations, this all made me think a bit about Second Life’s “community-building” potential — its pitfalls and glorious moments.The older a user in Second Life, the harder it is to disconnect oneself from the way new users look and feel about the platform they’re immersed in (even if they are simply augmentationists!). This means that one’s viewpoint is necessarily biased depending on the way (and the date!) you joined Second Life. The vast variety of communities is simply an extension of the sheer amount of users — with 8 million accounts, it’s definitely impossible to label them under the very same profile. They’ll be too different and all classifications will necessarily be incomplete, over-generalisations, or plain and simply wrong.

We’re thus limited to our own point of view, and to the extent of what we can observe directly and rely mostly upon what we’re told — unless we’re actively engaged in sociological research and gather a large number of sample data from dozens of thousands of users. Most of our experience, however, will be always “second hand”. We’ll have to trust what people tell us and rely on their own comments to create a large picture of what’s going on in the corners of the Metaverse beyond our own little one.

Gathering Data From The Communities

What a task, say, for Linden Lab’s Community Team!… Let’s take a simple example. Linden Lab employees are now regularly in-world again, as they used to be when this world was young. They attend events and they organise “office hours”, where residents can come and talk to them and share their views. They participate in forums and blogs and other “Web 2.0” sites as well. But what is their picture of the universe? Sadly, a quite distorted and limited one — since the office hours are not that well-attended (it is all the fault of the residents — they cry and complain that “Linden Lab does not listen”, but they also don’t come to any of those many meetings where the Lindens are there only to listen). Residents swamp the 100-comment limit on the official Linden blog with complains, complains, and more complains. But if you take a close look, it’s always the same people complaining. And 99% of them have never cleared their caches between SL viewer releases or updated to the latest graphic drivers — yet, they still complain, as if by magic their collective experience of SL will suddenly change. They hardly are representative of what goes on in SL, but that’s the kind of feedback that LL gets.

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