Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I don't know what to tell you, there's just this thing about you

Main lesson learned? There.com followed the "rules" and it killed them...IMVU did the opposite and it's flying above the carcasses of other dying worlds.

It's silly to think this continues to need to be reiterated: but we'll make it simple: Be original.

Just that. Be original. Don't do what everyone else is doing, and you'll get and keep users. Be original. People who don't want a cookie-cutter experience will stay with you.

Simple truth in two words. But companies rise and fall based on them.

In music news, OKgo has left EMI. Why do I mention this here? Well, apart from being a dilettante music blogger, I've also been doing my best to follow the changing face of music distribution, in terms of copyright issues, copyright violation claims, and independent musicians striking out on their own.

OKgo's departure from the corporate structure is notable for one big reason: they aren't a small independent band. Yes, they typify what's become known as 'geek rock', but they're geek rockers that went to the arena. And they're leaving because what Capitol/EMI is willing to do for them isn't enough anymore. They're leaving because of issues of music accessibility.

Remember, OKgo's biggest contribution to their own success was something they came up with--their label produced a video that was okay, all things considered, but not stellar; not satisfied with EMI's production, OKgo took it upon themselves to film and put out this one.

Twenty-two million hits later (many of those, to be fair, repeat watchings), here we are. And it is a big, big thing they're doing. There will be a ripple effect from this one.

In passing, I should also note, to Edward Pearse--for Kirsten Dunst dancing in a candy-Loli outfit in Japan, and for something in the personal life exploding with stunning, and unfortunately injuring, force...I'm not mad at you any more. There are bigger issues than whether you snipe more than you need to when you're angry.

But I was, until today. Just so you know.(Added peace offering from my side: stills from the Tokyo shoot. Just click forward from there, there's a whole set.)

As someone commented on this video, words cannot describe how disturbing this thing is. I will take prim babies that scream to be changed in open chat over this thing. Gah.

And the headline that caught my eye said Facebook wants to be your One True Login. With gems like this lurking within:

According to Mercury News, about 70% of AOL users also use Facebook and the move is a sign of where AOL is heading, but we wonder if it isn't more a sign of where Facebook is heading and has been all along.

My brain stopped dead at the percentage, there. There are still AOL users? Really?

[0:56] Fawkes Allen: Well, yes and no.
[0:56] Fawkes Allen: AIM and AOL Webmail
[0:56] Fawkes Allen: No longer really 'AOL'

[0:56] Emilly Orr: I didn't think so
[0:57] Fawkes Allen: But even then, still a few stragglers.
[0:57] Emilly Orr: This is what I get for being so anti-social networking.


No lie. But they go on:

If you think back to 2002, the big news was Friendster. For many of us, it was the first time we'd joined a social network and we went wild adding friends. Then, in 2003, Myspace came along and we slowly started adding these same friends on Myspace until one day the virtual cobwebs became too much and we left Friendster altogether. And then came Facebook and we did it again.

Not all of us, and this is part of where I begin to stand out from the rest of the herd animals on the net. I will follow herd behavior, I do, I am a geek, I have a geek life. I am fine and happy with this.

But Facebook? It took me three hours to become completely, blindly, homicidally enraged with Facebook. I stayed on there six days to get that stupid piece of armor for Runes. I killed the account the moment--and I do mean that, the moment I had confirmed receipt of the code.

I've never known what it is, exactly. I'm extremely format-specific. I'm okay with Gchat; I tolerate IRC; I loathe MSN, Yahoo and AIM with a fiery vengeance that burns with the heat of white stars. MySpace? I still have an account because at one time, you had to have one to see the band pages. I never use it. Never. Couldn't remember the login to save my life.

But I begin to see the glimmer of light on why Mark Kingdon is pushing so hard for Facebook integration.

Let's face it - if we can avoid it, we'd rather not do this again and that's precisely what Facebook wants. Facebook has already become the dominant platform for social networking, but as it expands its business in other directions, we will begin to see it pull users away from other businesses too. This partnership is not only about preventing that, but further solidifying Facebook's place as our one, true login.

And Second Life wants to be that One True Login for virtual worlds.

If Kingdon swings enough of the code behind the push for real names--a requirement for Facebook, because they're EVIL--and Facebook accessibility, then in his mind, he gets:

* all of Second Life's user population
* all of Facebook's user population

And if he integrates Twitter, MySpace, and anything else that comes along--along with Avatars United, already tucked snugly under the belt--then he gets thousands of other potential users, because of Facebook's pulling power.

That's a LOT of eyes on SL.

All of that, though--that entire article, and all the comments, priceless as they are--came from the top link in this blog, which is taking on the concept of RWW Facebook (RWW standing for ReadWriteWeb, something I can only conceive of as "Internet for Dummies", frankly.)

But apparently Internet for Dummies worked, because many, many Facebook users really thought RWW was Facebook, under a scary new redesign. (The obvious analogy of SL's viewer 2.0 screaming occurs, but hey, the Labs designed that on on their own. It was an in-company redesign, start to finish.)

Where all this starts to get relevant to SL again:

If you are an interface designer, a brand manager or a security expert, your reaction to this incident should be one of deep humility. Your interface, your brand and your security scheme is much more fragile than you'd ever dared to fear. All of your work has come to naught.

Pretty much. There are users who adore 2.0. There are others who are waiting for the most obvious bugs to be hammered out before giving it a try. There are the people in my camp, waiting until 2.0 moments of functionality (like alpha mesh blocking, and tattoo layers) can be incorporated into 1.0 substructures, so we can have the features we want while never having to use the bastard stepchild of IE they've come up with.

If you are an interface designer, understand that the current state of URLs and bookmarking is so confusing and obscure to many people that they'd rather just type in the name of the thing they want into a search engine and go.

This is true even for Second Life. At times, I have so much in my inventory, I just delete every landmark I have, practically, and then I'm left with memory and SL Search. Which, when it works, is fine, but when it doesn't, cripples in a major way game functionality.

*coughs* Second Life Search, not my memory. MOVING on...

If you are a security expert who thinks that dozens of unique non-memorizable A-Za-z-0-9-#$ ascii passwords is a pathway to any kind of meaningful security, it's time to turn in your badge. Literally hundreds of people put their Facebook login details into the RWW comment system because there was a little "F" in a blue box next to the username and password fields. There was no elaborate phishing scheme here, just a misunderstood Google search result.

And that's daunting as hell, that is. RWW wasn't trying to be evil. They'd worked out what they wanted to do, and then...things exploded. This passage is especially meaningful:

If you want a second lesson in humility, spend some time with someone who you know to be reasonably intelligent who is not a heavy PC user. Turn off your smug sense of superiority and watch them use a computer without saying a word. If you're a user who spent their youth like I did messing around with the things, you'll watch helplessly as they fail to use any number of shortcuts, best practices, and useful techniques to speed up their workflow. Their knowledge is fragile as hell. Through painful trial and error, they've figured out how to get the computer to do more or less what they want and once they know a technique that's good enough, that's often where it stops.

I will be honest here. I consider myself a mid-range geek. I like gadgets, and I know my way around Linux and Apple, but my brain was programmed on PCs. So for me, frustrating as they are, it's PC or I don't use it for long.

Paired with that, is when IE revealed itself to be the giant security flaw packaged in memory hogskin, I switched to Firefox and it became THE browser. To the point that when I downloaded Chrome and Opera for the first time, I was frustrated because the buttons weren't in expected places.

It's taken me three months, until today, to figure out how Chrome makes a bookmark. I am not kidding.

So I bumble along in SL. I couldn't use some third-party browsers because they moved things around too much. The Nicholaz viewer (which to this day I miss fervently), kept everything in the same place. Body memory becomes important in games, doing things by rote because that's how you've done them before and that's how your body knows to do them now.

Then...2.0. I was honest about my initial user experience--I usually keep all sound in the game at 50%. I am prone to headaches which occasionally become migraines; anything louder and that's it, I could be off laying down in a dark room. So not being able to find the media controls to turn off the media--which starts out ON AT FULL--and the music--which starts out ON AT FULL--and the YouTube-vid-on-a-prim that Fawkes threw up--ALSO ON AT FRIGGIN' FULL--and I seriously wanted to bash things. Like my computer. And other people. And everyone at Linden Labs.

After that? I was just looking for things to kill. I couldn't find anything; I hated trying to build, the very screen design made it impossible; getting an accurate inventory count was futile; and the chat system seemed designed to make me crazy.

But I'm thinking now. I hate chat programs. I am not a Facebook user. I am messing with a lot of body memory to try to figure the new viewer out. And, as has been pointed out by many people, it is not for me.

A lot of new users are finding it easier to use. Why? It's not because they're stupid. Though mostly, I'd say they still don't build, and that is a large part of it. Over that, though, it gives them an interface that's somewhat similar to programs they already use, whether that's Firefox or Chrome. (Or whatever else.) Concepts that do the same thing when they're on Google, in Yahoo, in Facebook. (Mostly.)

It's not a viewer designed to use SL easier, at all; it's a viewer that is designed to be usable by people used to other things, first. The Facebook throngs. Social media darlings, to follow along the dotted lines and sign up for the home, and the square estate-managed parcel, and the sanitized mainland spaces.

Because it kinda looks like what they recognize. Everything's square. Menus pop out or drop down. Movement controls are all in one, and the easiest thing in the world to do is chat, because chat rises up in its own little square.

Most of the computer's and the browser's interface is invisible to most people. It's just so much noise that they don't understand, so they ignore. When they get confused, they flail, desperately casting around for something familiar. Those of us with a high degree of knowledge are like rangers, able to see the path of our prey easily in the disturbed twigs and mud. Most people are simply lost in the woods.

New users get 2.0. They may not understand everything from go, but they get the concept. It makes sense to them. They never had the years of figuring out which side of the window we want our main HUDs on, where we want chat, the hardcore body programming for using the game day in and day out. These are social players. They'll get on, shop, talk to people, leave.

These are generally not the type of folks who will stick around, learning how to spin six nanoprims in separate directions around a fantasy skirt, for instance. It doesn't concern them.

Maybe that SL isn't for them, either.

But I like to think it's bigger than "us" versus "them", than even "we" versus "they", if it comes down to it. Maybe it is all about the culture, and the new users will join the rest of us, or not. Addiction to Second Life? I don't know, there are things I can do in SL that I doubt FarmVille could ever give me. But then, I'm not a Facebook user, either.

I'm just hoping it's not the start of the great rift on the grid--between those who want to create new things, new visions, new concepts, and new content, and those who come to the grid equipped with viewer 2.0 and the house they can't modify, and never even think the other dreams are possible.

From Miss Kamenev comes Lost Things, a perfectly charming stop-motion film. Loss, ephemera, whimsy and return--those are good themes, right now.

And on that, I am off to sleep. G'night, internet.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love the fact that you have an Adam Ant link on your site. I saw him in concert three times. Well two that I remember. Those were the times! {:o) Amazing performer. Any fan of AA is alright by me!

Holt Roussel

Lalo Telling said...

Thank you, Miss Emilly, for the link to the RWW blog. By the way, they are definitely not "Internet for Dummies" -- if anything, their name indicates literacy advocacy -- and they have been one of my main sources for the problems with 'socnets' in general and Facebook in particular.

Most of the comments to that blog (more than 1000) seem to be from people who have never learned anything more than Googling "Facebook login" to find their FB page, clicked the top-ranking link and found themselves at RWW without knowing where they were, and proceeded to complain that FB had changed. (The remainder are from people laughing at the stupidity).

It's hilarious. It's also frighteningly indicative of the kind of 'new users' the Lab is desperately trying to attract to Second Life. When I posted Resistance is Not Futile, I was confident that we 'old users' can stand firm against the coming invasion. This morning, I begin to wonder if I more resemble King Canut on the beach.

Emilly Orr said...

Holt,

Thanks! At one point, the groups in the sidebar represented an ongoing search into potential sources for "steampunk" music--and while Adam Ant was never that, he was inherently committed to the music that people make, over the music that machines make.

His concept of "Antmusic" was just that--singer, drummer, guitarist, together pounding out the life beat in percussive rhythm.

And, while there are a lot of bands and musicians that cannot be described as doing other than making music on machines--Thomas Dolby comes to mind, and he's on the list too--there has to be something there that embraces the human, over the mechanical.

Adam Ant always had a great concept of exactly where that point was.

Emilly Orr said...

Mr. Telling,

Watching the waves come in, yes.

I have to believe that you're more right than wrong; Second Life as a culture, as a mobile population, has suffered much, and survived more. My biggest fear is that, in the rush to embrace everyone who could potentially be a resident of Second Life, the Lindens are forgetting that they're opening themselves to becoming the land of instant log-ins--that, when people log in, and walk around, and find the first hour experience that the Lindens so desperately want to improve doesn't grab them, they won't stay.

What good is fifty thousand, one hundred thousand, one million new eyes on SL if they don't stick around? (And thus, become premium account holders, and buy Lindens to spend in world?) And if they don't stick around, and the world has been rewritten so that their needs are more solidly taken into account, what happens to the rest of us?

brinda Allen said...

@ Emilly Orr.

"What good is fifty thousand, one hundred thousand, one million new eyes on SL if they don't stick around? (And thus, become premium account holders, and buy Lindens to spend in world?) And if they don't stick around, and the world has been rewritten so that their needs are more solidly taken into account, what happens to the rest of us?"

Yes...What will become of those that "create" Secondlife?

Whenever I meet people in Secondlife that have been here for a number of years I stop and ask them, *The Question*.
"Why are you still here?
I hear the same answer spoken in different ways. Immersion. They became a member of the Secondlife world.

If I choose to just chat with someone... there's Skype, the telephone, IRC, any number of ways to chat.

There are so many possible answers for the direction "The Benovolent Monarchy" is heading, perhaps the one I fear most is the business model of and old employer of mine many years ago. When I questioned some rather unsavory business pratices, he paraphrased P.T. Barnums old saw... "There are ten million people in the Los Angeles basin, I won't have time to screw all of them."

I hope I'm so wrong.

Emilly Orr said...

I hope so, too. I know that it feels that user-created content is being squeezed out, that support for creators, not shoppers, is lessening. Which frustrates me to no end.

But, if Tateru Nino is right, that these are all corporate throes of a startup company, becoming a corporation, some of these issues and perceptions *may* fade.

It's hard to tell from here.