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I’ve read through the “Improving our lines of communication with the community” posting a number of times, and quite frankly, I don’t like the voice or the tone of it. I felt a bit like I was being jollied along with a rattle while my diaper was being changed.

Here’s a remake of it. How I personally think it should have sounded:

As customers, your satisfaction and input is critical to the success of Second Life. However, we know that it has sometimes been confusing and difficult to communicate with us and we can always do a better job of  listening. Toward that end, we’ve taken a hard look at all of our Resident-Linden communication paths and designed, or revamped, a series of new programs and tools to help us all have a more productive dialogue, because it’s just not been working out. We and you all spend a lot of time talking, but not a whole lot of time actually communicating.

Before we get on with that, just a heads-up that we’re going to try to replace the current blogs/forums, SL Answers and the Knowledge Base with something we think will work better than the current system is working now. More on that later.

NEW COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION GUIDELINES SET THE STAGE FOR CONSTRUCTIVE DIALOGUE

Okay, so we’re laying out some new rules for you to read. I know, we’ve already got over 30,000 words worth of rules for you to follow, and we all wish that wasn’t necessary, but there you have it. Yes, some of you actually only participate on the blogs and forums to make trouble. You’re long-gone from Second Life, but you can’t help but stick your nose in to try to demoralise both us and our customers. Obviously, we need to do something about that. Plus, some of you are such cranky-pants that we can’t figure out how what it is that you want or need, let alone figure out how to try to make things better for you.

So, school-rules, try to participate with the rest of the class or go stand outside. We’d love it if that were not necessary, but apparently it is, so that’s how we’re going to play this.

PARTICIPATE IN USER GROUPS AND JIRA

Office hours were… well, they were okay early on. Then we’d get folks turning up to every office hour and banging on about some particular thing, whether or not the office-hour session or the Linden running it had anything to do with that thing. Plus, there was little continuity, so every week, the Lindens hosting the office hours would end up answering the same questions over and over and over and over again. “Why does the viewer crash sometimes when I take a screenshot?” and “What’s lag?” and “Why can’t you just fix lag forever?” and that sort of thing. We had to turn up to all of them, but you each probably only turned up to a few.

Half an hour wasted on something that was off-topic for the session, and half an hour repeating the answers to last-week’s questions? Puh-lease! That’s just a waste of everyone’s time, and we should be using our time more profitably to actually get your input, right? Otherwise we’re just letting you down.

So, to cut to the chase, we’re organising a Linden to manage each of several topic-based fora we call “User-groups” – using a mix of in-world and out-world communications; basically whatever seems to be best and most effective at the time, because we’re sort of working this out as we go. To try and avoid a lot of repetition, we’ll post logs, recordings or notes or whatever seems right so that you can keep track of what each group is covering, if you want to. We kind of hope that you will want to, but we know that a lot of our users may not be interested in getting involved at this level. For those of you that are: great!

Submit Bug Reports in JIRA: JIRA’s a fairly standard off-the-shelf “issue-tracker”, not noticeably any worse or better – or any simpler or more complicated – than any other. By “issue” think “bug” and you’re on the right track for the most part.

Now issue-trackers aren’t normally very appealing for public consumption. They seem very complex to the average Jane or Joe, because our intrepid bug-hunters need precision and detail. Clear, concise, specific information about versions, circumstances, and steps. Otherwise they could waste half-a-day barking up the wrong tree rather than getting your bug fixed. The more clear and specific a bug report is (and the information on how to make the bug bite) the more likely we are to spend time working on it. If it’s really vague, we’ll probably move on to something that’s clearer and work on that instead because that’s a more productive use of time and gets more bugs fixed for customers.

Now, over on the side of JIRA issues there’s a vote button. It came with the software, and our old feature-request list had vote buttons too, so it made sense to keep that and see what happened. The general idea was that people who were very interested in seeing a specific issue fixed could vote for that issue, and we’d know that it was more important. If only it had worked out that way!

It didn’t. People flash-mobbed the voting buttons. Some would get all their friends and friends-of-friends to vote on issues that their friends might not even care about. Some would create counter-issues and enlist people to vote for those so that the issues they disagreed with would be eclipsed, and not get attention. It was a mess, and we learned almost right away to ignore the number of votes on any issue when it came to making prioritised lists of things to work on. Clearly a lot of you thought we were paying attention to the vote numbers, and that’s a mistaken impression that needs to be corrected.

So, we’re removing the vote button entirely. We haven’t looked at the votes part in – well, just about the whole lifetime of our public JIRA system – so it makes no sense to leave that part visible. What really makes a difference is comments on an issue, where you specify how a particular issue affects you, how you think it should be fixed, and how certain proposed fixes might positively or negatively impact you. Feedback like that is like gold. We can gather it up, have meetings about what you’ve said, and propose fixes or even actually get things fixed the way you want!

PLACES TO CONNECT WITH ONE ANOTHER

Find Solutions SL Answers: SL Answers is highly variable in quality, but it’s not a bad bet if you want answers faster than customer-service can provide. It suffers from all of the usual problems of blogs, forums and office-hours, yes, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a way to significantly improve on the system that is there. Variable quality aside, it can certainly be a useful resource, and you should not ignore useful resources when you need help.

Participate in SL Forums: SL Forums are a great place to connect with other Residents on specific topics. Some of these topics are not actually complaints and grumbles. Obviously, being in-world and communicating with people in particular interest groups in real-time is far better, but that option isn’t always available, and sometimes it may not be clear quite who to turn to. Thus: forums. They’re as good as you want them to be.

Join the SL Email Lists: Speaking of interest groups, there’s also mailing lists. Sure, mailing lists seem a bit old-hat 20th Century, but they’re usually pretty focused on their topic. Except for the times someone spams a bunch of lists at once asking for survey participants. You can report those folks to us, you know. We’ll deal with them.

GET THE LATEST SECOND LIFE AND LINDEN LAB NEWS

Check out the SL Blogs to Get Second Life and Linden Lab News: The SL Blogs actually aren’t always the best place to go for news and information about Second Life, but unless you’re going to look around for other sources of information, they’re your best stop. It’d be nice if more of you were reading, really. Only a comparatively small segment of the community stops in here routinely, but this is where we talk. If you’re listening, this is the place to do it.

Remember: Reworking all the blogs in a month or two! Stay tuned!

Follow Us on Twitter: Twitter is a great way to get the latest and greatest information about Linden Lab and Second Life if you can’t be online. Sure, we’re really not going to be particularly edgy or challenging, and if you’re following individual Linden accounts you’ll most likely see retweets of the blog-post or puff-piece du-jour. That’s pretty much how things work in the world, and we don’t see a need to change that at the moment. Though if you can show us a company that’s doing better in that regard, let us know and we’ll see if we can’t emulate that success.

We also actively follow these hashtags: #sl, #secondlife, #slviewer2, #slmarketplace and suggest that you do, too. That’s going to lead you to a torrent of gambling advertisements among other things, but we’re kind of a little busy with other things and can’t necessarily chase down every gambling-den that advertises on the #secondlife hash-tag. Not today, anyway. Maybe tomorrow. Eventually, we’re going to get them all!

Like Us on Facebook: Facebook has no real information on what’s going on with Linden Lab or Second Life. We’re not really using it in that way yet. Maybe when we do the revamp later, perhaps! Anyway, why the heck should you want to like Second Life on Facebook? Do it because you do like it! Show your support, and maybe some of your Facebook friends will be interested enough to ask about Second Life too. Be honest with them. It’s a fact of life that huge-numbers of Facebook “Likes” grab attention. That attention can translate into new signups and more business and more opportunities for you and for us and for the new folks too. Isn’t that basically what we all want?

Don’t get out there and proselytize annoyingly, but be honest about what’s good and bad, and what your own experience is like. That’s good for you, and good for us and gives us the incentive to keep what’s good and fix what’s broken.

Something to remember, throughout, though is that there isn’t any One Right Way to handle communications like this. Some of this is going to work, and some of it isn’t, and some of it is going to work out way differently (maybe worse or better) than we expected. We don’t know until we try, but it takes both Linden Lab and the customers together to make it work at all. There will be mistakes, and we’ll fix them together. Assuming you’re willing to help us get it right.

And that’s what it should have sounded like in my opinion – okay, maybe I might have spent five minutes polishing it a little, but that’s the essence of it.

Your opinion may be different.

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