Linden Lab’s announcement that it was developing a new virtual world platform caused a huge fracas. Now that the dust has settled somewhat and Project Sansar has gone into beta, they would it seems, have reapplied themselves to keeping Second Life alive and well, and gasp, have actively created new programmes to rejuvenate the community and retain new residents.
Originally when new residents joined SL they would go through a community gateway. A Community Gateway (CG) was a starting point for new residents of SL which was not maintained by Linden Lab, but by an established community in SL. These gateways offered their own orientation path to give Residents an easy start, providing them with assistance and hands-on support in getting started in SL.
The programme was discontinued in August 2010, with the Lab citing several reasons for doing so, including issues around scalability and management oversight, together with question marks around the overall effectiveness of the programme.
There were, however, repeated calls from within the community for the Lab to bring the programme back, but they were a little distracted by their other projects to heed these calls.
But now Linden Lab has Second Life back on its radar. At the recently launched Chat Lab*, the Gateway Programme question was raised …
The new programme is therefore designed to allow communities and groups to bring users into Second Life, present them with help and support in getting started, much like the original Gateway Programme. The intention is to offer new residents interests and activities to keep them engaged with the platform. These gateways will include web pages to attract new users to them, this will include a registration API to allow those users to sign-up to SL and create an account without necessarily having to go through the central registration process at secondlife.com. In addition, those running the gateway can provide dedicated links for downloading a viewer (official or TPV).
Enter the Phoenix Firestorm team, who are all about enhancing the user experience. In a previous interview with Jessica Lyon, founder and boss lady of Phoenix Firestorm, I asked her what their rationale was in getting involved with The Gateway Programme -
She said “To improve the user experience… Perhaps not as much lately, but historically I’ve always felt LL never had a good grasp on what this product “Second Life” really is or how to market it. Let’s face it, SL is not an easy thing to pin down or describe to outsiders without writing a book because it really is so many different things to so many different people. When LL approached me a few months ago with the prospect of opening a gateway, I couldn’t help but feel I was being offered the spare keys to the bus that picks up new riders. Finally, I’ve been given the chance to try my hand at drawing in new users to Second Life, which could potentially be what makes the biggest difference, even more than the viewer itself. But what a challenge this would be, and if we’re to do it, we’re going to do it right. What keeps you in Second Life is different for each and every person, so a successful first-time experience is going to have to have a bit of everything, or at least the most common things. So with six regions, we’re trying to incorporate a little taste of as many things we can in hopes that new users will find that unique thing that ties them into SL. But while we’ve got a large gateway with so many different activities, there is nothing to really encourage them to try such things. Humans are goal oriented, and MadPea is renowned for their ability to create addictive, immersive games and activities in SL, so it only make sense to me that they will bring a lot of value to new user retention. We’re really excited to have MadPea on board with this.”
The result is that the Firestorm Gateway comprises six regions in total, including the original Firestorm Support region, which has been re-purposed to fit with the Gateway approach. Jessica said “One of the new regions is a Firestorm Orientation for new sign ups only. It’s similar to our original orientation island.”
The rest of the regions offer an assortment of facilities and activities intended to help new users get better acquainted with Second Life, using the viewer, and participating in some of the activities they can find during their in-world travels. A staffed support area provides practical help and support, for example, while users can also enjoy activities such as jet skis, sailing, boating, and flying within the regions, or try their hand at a scuba diving adventure.There’s also an amphitheatre which will be used for events focused on new users, viewer Q&A sessions and the like. The social areas around the island offer new users the opportunity to relax and meet with established SL users.
As part of Firestorms Gateway initiative they are collaborating with Canary Beck. She is inviting all SL residents to share their photos with Firestorm this weekend to promote Second Life.
“Fancy yourself a good Second Life photographer? Do your pictures make Second Life look as amazing as it can be? A little while ago I asked you if you’d help promote Second Life. Well, this is your first chance to do it this weekend!
I’m looking for a select number of SL photographers to share their photos for me to use on the new user landing pages I’m making for the Firestorm Gateway Project. In return, I’ll showcase the chosen works on the Firestorm blog and its social media properties, with links back to your photo online. That’s a big deal because the Firestorm blog has over 80,000+ subscribers.”
Follow the link for more information on where and how to post your photos -
People yearn for a return to community, seeking a sense of connection with others and that essentially is what Second Life offers. Linden Lab appears to have finally taken cognisance of this fact. Now it’s our turn to participate in the rejuvenation of Second Life, let’s start with our photos, and show the Firestorm team our enthusiastic support of their community gateway endeavour.
*Chat Lab - “an opportunity for you to ask Lindens your questions during a live taping that is recorded and archived for everyone to view.”