Thursday, April 14, 2011

How can LL atract new users?

by Cummere Mayo

Today Amanda Linden stated she would like resident help in coming up for ideas for how to bring in new users and help incorporate them into SL faster. Amanda is usually a pretty decent person, for another, she has shown she is willing to work with and negotiate with the community to a degree on some things. I even want her to succeed. I'd love to see more fresh blood in SL. God knows we need it. So, I hope she will listen when I tell her, whatever she does will simply be a waste of time.

Let me explain.

LL is willing to take some pretty drastic steps, nothing Amanda does will ultimately matter. Amanda's specialty is marketing, and overall she's done a decent job trying to get Second Life's name out there. Second Life is on Second Life, Twitter, various other things. So it isn't a matter of her failing at her job.

What it is a matter of is that no amount of marketing can overcome the fundamental issues that cause potential users as well as existing users to look at other worlds.

Lets look at a handful of these issues.

Lets begin with pricing.

First off is LL's premium member ship price. $120 a year if you go the monthly price. $72ish if you go the annual rate. Either way those aren't bad. But then Linden Lab charges a tier on top of that. Most people ultimately want to own their own sim. However, the price is absolutely out of the average user's price range. $1200 (or more) to set up a sim, and $300 a month to own a full sim and a full sim is required before you can purchase any of the cheaper sims. LL's most serious competitors charge between $35 and $100 a month for a sim and the setup is usually under $250. This puts the price into a much more affordable price for the average user.

Then there is support. Even with the backlog of tickets being almost eliminated, support is still a joke. Issues that could have been easily fixed when first filed are now no longer able to be fixed resulting in millions of dollars of lost content. Support still sometimes requires you to be on viewer 2 or to answer personal questions just to get a sim restart. Furthermore, increasingly often they ask for a phone number before they will proceed. This makes things very intrusive and frightens away many users.

Finally, support is just plain incompetent. Sorry, but there is no other way to put it when you have to teach support how to do basic things like work through how to reset an avatar, check for ghosted accounts, or reset the inventory. Support has given passwords of accounts to people that didn't own the account but could guess three friends EVEN WHEN THEY COULD NOT GET ANY IDENTIFYING INFORMATION RIGHT! Several of these accounts then got terminated and blacklisted beyond recovery. Others still lost huge portions of inventory and L$ when they were able to recover their accounts. These kinds of things are simply inexcusable.

Next up is Snowstorm. Due to my RL work schedule changing and to the fact that my JIRA access has been revoked I haven't been able to be as active in Snowstorm lately, but I am still able to be active enough to state that the fact Snowstorm is drastically undermanned is destroying LL's image.

Don't get me wrong, Oz is amazing trying to do all the stuff that was originally handled by Esbee, Q, Aimee, and Qarl in addition to his own original duties. and Merov the other Linden assigned fully to snowstorm is amazing too. But even with the help of Bao and Wolf, the two Lindens split between Snowstorm and other departments, and the Product Engine group, Oz and Merov simply cannot deliver a quality viewer. It is not their fault. Its simply there's not enough manpower to fix everything that needs fixed and implement everything that needs implemented. For example critical accessibility, translation and content design issues have been put off for months because there simply is no one that has the time or expertise to work on them and much of it cannot be done solely by an opensource developer.

These things aren't Oz's fault and its stupid he is likely going to wind up being blamed for it. in my opinion, deliberately or not, Oz is set up for failure by Linden Lab because at this point Snowstorm can no longer provide the needed viewer fixes at the needed speed to keep viewer 2 viable which in turn only makes Linden Lab's image worse.

Then there are entire groups like the web profiles team, the marketplace team, and the search team. These teams have so rejected user's needs and at times literally insulted the users to the point where until these teams are reassigned and new lindens put in charge of these projects nothing will improve. The arrogance of these particular groups is such that for example, the profile user group wont even show up to their own user group hours and won't even give the courtesy of even a sign to say they were canceled, and marketplace will only invite and let in people to focus groups that will say yes to everything Brooke Linden says.

These kinds of things get out in the most effective ways possible. Word of mouth from friends, forums such as SLUniverse and Gamersworld, blogs such as this one, and even the very Facebook and Twitter Amanda tries to market SL through.

So back to the original question Amanda posed: how to attract new users and bring them into the community faster?

Well one of my friends, the owner of LindenWatch has offered to work for LL for 24k a year plus the ability to make whatever sweeping changes he sees fit. He's a pretty bright guy and I think they should consider that.

Failing that, here are ten of the many things I would do if I were a linden executive officer presented from the most critical to least critical.

1) Bring support back in house. Rehiring as many former support lindens as possible would be best. Failing that, hire new ones from the community.
2) Get Snowstorm properly staffed. At minimum eight full time Lindens assigned only to Snowstorm. As well as Bao, Wolf, and possibly two more assigned there half time.
3) Drastically cut the prices of sims to $100-150 a month for a full sim and setup $250, $50 for a homestead with a $125 setup fee, and $10 a month with a $25 set up fee for voids.
4) Make it possible to get homesteads without first owning a full sim, possibly at a slightly higher price then those that own a full sim.
5) Make a full public apology to SL users, past and present.
6) Make a new sim available that my friend Vasha suggested. This sim would cost between a homestead and a full and have half the prims as a full sim and have a 30 avatar limit.
7) Drastically cut and reassign the staffs from profiles, Marketplace and search, give the remaining staffs 60 days to either get their products working or replaced. If they can't do it in 60 days, fire or reassign them and start over with a fresh team.
8) Wipe the disciplinary records of all currant users.
9) Offer a limited amnesty to all but the most egregious of former users. Restore their avis. if thats not possible, restore the names and issue a $100,000L credit and attempt to restore what still exists in the database.
10) Stop trying to marginalize and hide adult content and start treating adults like adults.

I would think most of these are pretty self explanatory as to why I would do these things. The two that might not be are the purging of disciplinary records and the amnesty.

Allot of people have bad records simply because they faced off against the wrong lindens or because they are hot tempered. Allot more people were banned arbitrarily by linens before there was a governance team, or by people high enough at LL to order governance around. Many more had accounts that were hacked and could never get them back, and even more lost them because for a while LL's system banned people that had billing issues instead of making them free accounts again.
Proper use of old backups could restore allot of these users accounts. Doing so would bring back many users to SL and be visible to potential new users. Furthermore, it would restore faith in a company that has in the past allowed its employees to outrageously abuse their powers.

Doing these things, and the other ideas I have (which are only a fraction of the number of ideas that the owner of LindenWatch has), would then be talked about in forums, in blogs, in Twitter and FaceBook, and everywhere else. Which would then make Amanda's job easy because then she would simply have to worry about how to sell the extra products and features I would bring out as add-ons.

1 comment:

Hitomi Tiponi said...

It is retention that is the issue - SL still gets 10,000 new account signups per day. The Viewer 2 'Basic' version when refined should be a big help with that, but for me the two big problems will be the painful performance on everyday machines (unlikely to be fixable as people play more on tablets and phones) and getting new users hooked (hard but possible). Issues like price and support are generally non-issues in getting new users hooked - it is the 'fun factor' that is key.