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what the voices in my head tell me to write

Monday, December 04, 2006

Why SL needs to concentrate on the newbies 

I am going to talk about the usability and accessibility of secondlife here but its best to slightly redefine the terms here. Usability is the ease at which people in the game can react with it and others, accessibility here is how easy it is for a newcomer to access resources in the game (SL is of course very inaccessible in the more accepted use of the word but thats for another day)

I have stated several times that I think one of the key strengths of HTML is that its easy to learn as a complete novice. You can at least get a basic page up and running easily with a few p h and strong tags or use an editor like dreamweaver until you are confident to branch out on your own. I guess a lot of people would say that a lot of content on free web hosting servers should never see the light of day as its so bad as a direct result of HTML being easy. The point is that its there at all. hundreds of thousands or more likely millions of people made the effort to learn the basic skills to create those pages. HTML is easy and therefore not elitist.

SecondLife is elitist. It requires far more resources than creating traditional content in terms of the client program for a start. Not all pcs can run it etc. And to be honest its not easy at all to create really good looking content in SL. You might say its not easy to create good valid, semantic XHTML, CSS and Javascript plus efficient middleware code and a database either but this is the advanced level of of content creation for the web. SecondLife's problem is that for a newcomer to the world creating content is hard. And 90%+ of its users are newcomers.

The current modelling and scripting tools are basic to say the least. I don't know much about 3D modeling but I know its got to be easier somehow. The scripting language is not exactly a piece of cake either. Also there is a lack of really good coherent documentation both in the world and outside it. If LindenLabs put more effort into their tools more people would want to use them.

But you cant blame them for not doing that. There are enough highly motivated people who will learn through trial and error, others have transferable skills that they can adapt. They will generate the content that the Lindens need to draw in more consumers.

This just creates an elitist society where the privileged few control the resources and supply and demand. I guess this is idea for the Linden Labs as they sit at the top of the pile. The web is far more democratic in that with very little outlay in terms of time, skills and cash you can create content to express yourself and eventually people will come. Thats what blogging is all about after all.

This is why the web exploded in about 1995. It was accessible and usable in the terms outlined above. It was not scary or hard for newcomers when 95+ of users were newcomers.

SecondLife is much more than the web. It has enormous potential. But until it stops being built for an elite by and elite its going to have problems in the long run. Viva La Revolution!

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