Elf Clan Social Network

IMPROVING INWORLDZ

Note:  See also  Let's Make a Fantastic Welcome Center

    Recently I had a nice conversation with Elenia via email (she really is very pleasant to email-chat with) and we discussed how to make Inworldz grow- an item of interest to most of us.  In consideration of privacy I won't discuss the conversation itself or Ele's thoughts on these matters.  But I wanted to share my thoughts and concepts with our members and invite feedback on any of this. 

     Please note that the following very lengthy blog is indeed my opinion-- but it's based on some heavy realities.  This contains not only my personal observations but the observations of others.  As the Founder of Elf Clan and owner of a certain curious dwagon... I read these things quite regularly via conversations, IMs and emails.  These observations also come from more than twelve years of my own intense involvement with virtual reality.  They result from my own decision to "semi-retire" from VR... because of many of the things discussed in this article-- and discussions with others as to why they made the same decision. I've also spoken with many, many people who love Inworldz and asked them what they love most about it, as well as what they'd like to see to make it better.

    In short, there is a lot of real information  behind this opinionated blog.  ; )

 

    The existence of this article and its length should be proof that I've not lost interest and that I still care about Inworldz.  This article has the sole intent of suggesting ways to help Inworldz improve and grow.  I'm still involved in VR-- just not as much as formerly.  If you manage to make it to the end of this article it will leave no doubt you care as much about Inworldz as I do.

    Many of these things apply not only to Inworldz, but virtual reality in general-- including Second Life, OpenSim grids, and OSgrid-- all of which are close to the hearts of many people.  But Inworldz is our home, so that's where I focus my attention. During this entire blog I will do my very best to keep things politically correct and not step on any toes.    (Okay, maybe I'll just be honest. You know my writing style.  I lay it out there.) 

    THE REALITY.  Inworldz is stagnant and has been for quite some time.  It's not growing.  People have left in disappointment (especially merchants).   Our own group, Elf Clan, has dropped in size by 15 full regions.  Why is this? 

    Several reasons.  One primary reason is that Inworldz failed to meet its promise of a mass-marketing campaign and expected growth by the end of 2014.   That was the "deadline" for many people and resulted in a slow-but-visible exodus both in support and region ownership, especially by merchants who were counting on and needed that market boost.   Fortunately Inworldz membership picked up a little in people that were new to Inworldz and expected nothing more.   But currently the general shape of Inworldz is that of a child that grew, lost motivation, and then stopped growing.   That is cause for concern, and the purpose of this article.

    Note that Inworldz is not alone in this.  Second Life, OpenSim, OSgrid and others are having the same struggles.  It's all a similar platform with similar problems.  The difference is that Inworldz has both the opportunity and simple power (via a central authority nexus) to change their grid for the better.  "The most beneficial rule is a benevolent monarchy".   That's basically what Inworldz is-- the Founders having the power to make changes, and the user-based background to understand our needs.  Second Life doesn't have that.  OSGrid and others do... but lack the resources of Inworldz to make the major improvements we've seen on this grid.   This makes Inworldz unique in its opportunity to improve its environment and user experience.

     All of this will be discussed in this blog, and more.  It's long.  I hope you have the will to hang in here, as I've had the will to write it.

    IDI ISN'T WORKING.   But I want to qualify:  IDI is a fine build.  I don't know who built it (rumor is it was someone whom I consider to be an old friend and master builder), but it's a nice, well-built, pretty, well-textured... yawwwwwwn... city square. 

    And that's the problem.  As a display piece it's okay.  But IDI is supposed to serve as a Welcome Center.  It's not enough for it to be pretty.   A Welcome Center has to accomplish several things:

    * It has to have a "WOW!"  factor.   The moment a person rezzes they need to think, "Wow, this is incredible!"  Nothing less than that will suffice.   IDI is our first impression region.  It can be no less than inspiring.   Why?  Because the idea is to inspire people to want their own land so they can do this too!

    * It has to rez quickly, because nothing turns away new visitors like lag and slow-rezzing items. (IDI currently does pretty well on this factor.  It's easy to tell it was built with this in mind.)

   * It needs to be intuitively informative.  New visitors need to be able to instinctively understand what's going on, where to go next, what to do next.  Even if no one else is there, someone totally new to Inworldz should be able to figure it out for themselves, no hassle.  Which means that IDI has to be:

    * Highly Interactive.  Right now IDI has pretty much zero interactivity.   Nothing to interest new visitors, save for a jazz band that sometimes kinda works.

    * Elicit Response.   A Welcome Center needs to make new visitors become quickly and deeply involved in the grid.

    * LAND PURCHASE.  Make Land Purchase a main concept and easy to do.   It needs to make new visitors want to buy land.  (See later on the "Golden Goal".)

    * YOU BELONG.  Make the visitor feel they can become part of something.   Rather than just walking around looking at the pretty plants, they need to quickly come to feel they can accomplish something here-- something they want to accomplish.  CREATE YOUR OWN WORLD!  ENJOY LIVE MUSIC!  ORGANIZE SPECIAL-INTEREST GROUPS!  RIDE HORSES!... whatever... it must make users realize that things are possible here that they never imagined to be possible.

    Let's be honest:  right now Inworldz Desert Island accomplishes none of that.  Which is why Inworldz isn't growing and hasn't grown in... how long?   At least two years by my count, possibly longer, maybe double that.

SO HOW DO WE FIX THIS?

   The first step is wanting to fix it.   Leaving it as it is and expecting Inworldz to grow would be the very definition of wishful thinking.   It's not working.  It hasn't worked. It won't work in the future.  It's been tried-- and failed to impress.  So what next?  

    Change.    Yes, again.  No matter how many times change is required, we change IDI until it works.  When it works, then we can stop changing it.   This current layout has been there long enough to prove it's not accomplishing what Inworldz needs.  

    But what kind of changes might be employed?   I've mentioned most of this before, so I'll try to re-word it in the hopes the ideas get across.  Lots of stuff to consider.   

    First there is one nasty elephant in the room to get out of the way-- and I'm pulling no punches on this one.

IGNORE, DELETE, REMOVE, REDACT THE CRY OF "FAVORITISM"

    This drama / paranoia - induced phrase has been bandied about enough to make all of us sick of it.  Face it, Inworldz is a business and as a business has to make certain decisions.   There is no way in creation all of those decisions can be pleasing / favorable to all the people all the time.  (This is a well-known fact of life, yes?)  The opposite is true as well:   some decisions are going to be more favorable to some people than to others.  That is just how life is and how business runs.  People need to show some maturity and deal with that fact of life and stop the whining cries of "That would be favoritism!".  In short, get over it.  This is the reality of things.

    If Inworldz makes a decision and an individual or group of individuals or genre benefits from that decision a little more than others-- good for them!  They came out on top this time.  Maybe the next essential decision will benefit someone else.  It all tends to even out in the long haul.

    Most importantly decisions must be made, and (forgive me for being blunt) they must be made without worrying about stepping on eggshell egos or wondering which drama queen Inworldz is going to tick off next.     

    Let's be friends and talk seriously:  we cannot afford to be jealous / envious / angry at fellow Inworlders and the Founders.  That's just bad for everyone.   It's bad for business.  It holds back progress.  If Ele and Tranq and whomever have to worry about seeming to favor one person or group over another every time they make a business decision, then we are going to wind up right where we are now.  Zero growth.  Stagnation.  Declining reputation.  Dashed hopes.  Extreme loss of potential profits.  People giving up on the grid and going elsewhere, doing other things, and costing Inworldz even more profits. 

    Is that what people want-- stagnation due to resident-forced indecision?

    So before we get into recommendations regarding helping Inworldz grow, all of us need to realize that some decisions the Founders make are going to be more favorable to some people than others... and that's just how life is.  No where else on the planet is it any different.  It's not the Founders "showing favoritism";  it's just a matter of something working out well for someone this time.   If something works out for one person or group of people... it eventually tends to filter down and work out for others as well.  

    It doesn't matter who builds what, who accomplishes what, or who is in the limelight for the next 15 minutes.  If it's good for the grid it's good for all of us.  

    So we need to put the egos and jealousies and covetousness and all that away, and start moving forward.   I cannot emphasize this strongly enough.  This attitude has done serious damage to Inworldz and its members for far too long.  Inworldz members who have made this claim need to stop worrying about who has the bigger half of the cookie and start thinking more about the good of Inworldz as a whole.  Inworldz cannot grow if people keep slapping the Founders with fanatic cries of "Favoritism!"  Get over it.

    This said, let's get to the good stuff.

    * RENAME IDI.  "Inworlds Desert Island" is not the most appealing name for a welcome area.  Sad to say it's kind of accurate-- because it's pretty deserted most of the time.  Let's not re-enforce that with a name.

    What name would I give it?   If nothing else strikes the imagination, "Inworldz Welcome Area" would be appropriate. "InZone"?  "Inworldz Central" perhaps.   If I took five minutes I could come up with a dozen more potential names.   So surely we can come up with something better than Inworldz Desert Island.  It's not a desert island.  No one wants to live on a desert island.   Desert islands aren't a positive concept in our vernacular.  So let's change it to something more positive, more welcoming, more first-impression acceptable. 

    I actually kinda like InZone.  Has a nice ring, y'know?  Plus it has that that "INZ" thing going on.

REBUILD THE WELCOME CENTER  

    I hope I don't sound too negative here, because this is the 100% truth:  I cannot relay how many times I have heard this, from numerous people, in exactly these words:   "IDI is pretty, but it's booooring."  That's not the fault of the builder; it's the concept.   A standard town square, non-interactive, with no place to go and nothing to do.   How is that supposed to sell regions and help Inworldz grow?

    The Welcome Center needs to be amazingly hot.   It has to have a "wow" and "pizzazz" factor that goes through the roof.  When people log in stuff needs to rez quickly-- no snail-slow-loading sculpties or poorly-designed mesh.  It needs limited textures with no texture exceeding 512x512 in size.  If mesh is used at all-- it needs to be prime stuff, guaranteed to load first time every time.   But in reality, a good Welcome Center can be created using raw prims and look just fine.  

    A welcome center doesn't have to be the latest and greatest technology to be impressive.  It does need to cater to the lowest common factor in new visitors (after all, if they can't see it on their screens, it's not going to impress them).  Not everyone logs in with octa-core dual-graphics-card gamer machines.

    The welcome center doesn't have to present thousands of textures on all 45,000 prims to be beautiful.  It just has to be wonderfully functional and attractive.  It needs to be devoid of non-functional things.  Everything there needs to have a precise purpose-- that of impressing, informing and motivating new visitors.

    I've examined several Welcome Centers across the grids and found the best ones to have similar properties.  I'll outline some of them here.  

 

    CREATE A CENTER OF ACTIVITY.  When someone logs into IDI currently, there is (and I quote many), "No where to go."   There's no directive, nothing that catches focus.  What we need is a log-in area that is a center of activity.   If anyone has visited LBSA PLAZA on OSgrid, you will see a pretty decent version of this concept.   There are attractive chairs surrounding a large center opening.  People can sit and chat, or there's room to stand, move around or dance if they want.  If members have a question they know they can come to this central area and someone will likely have an answer.  This is where the Mentors will be.  This is where friendly residents can hang out to help welcome newcomers.  

    Important:  there must be nothing in the center to break up movement.  No central fountain, no statue, no TP gazebo.   The central area must be open, easily accessible, visitor-friendly, with no obstructions.

    MORNING COFFEE.   Remember Morning Coffee?  Not the one on IDI, but the one sitting in the open in the middle of a bunch of buildings, with open walls and funny signs and tinies running rampant, sitting on the counters?  The Morning Coffee where you could always find a friend or two and enjoy your RL coffee while you enjoyed the conversation of friends around you? 

    That place needs to be part of the Welcome center again.   We need that fun little shop where critters sat in the cleaning sinks and took baths in the water pot on the stove, where people had fun and let their hair down.  Hang cries of "favoritism"... Morning Coffee needs to take back its rightful place at the Inworldz Welcome Center.   It harmed no one and would give new visitors a chuckle.  Morning Coffee was a permanent, 24/7 "event" right at grand central station.  I've seen three versions of Morning Coffee:  the one at IDI, the one in the shop district, and the one we have now.   I like the new one, but really loved the shop district one; it had incredible personality.   We can make it live again.   It can be done.  We have the technology.  It belongs at the Welcome Center.

    MULTIPLE IMPORT POINTS.  Rather than one import point in the center of the area, there would be six to twelve such points surrounding the central meeting area.   A script would alter between these points as people port in.  This will help prevent congestion and will port newcomers in where they will feel less conspicuous and can look around at what's going on from the edge.  Then they can sit and chat, walk around, join others there, or visit the...

    INTRO KIOSKS.  Surrounding this area would be attraction kiosks.   These would be automated, highly-interactive displays introducing people to Inworldz.    These displays would be very interesting and intriguing, compelling visitors to interact with them.   They would have large, bold titles and fully-functional scripting.    The main headings could include such things as:

     * YOU CAN OWN AN ISLAND!  This is / should be / must be the primary focus of Inworldz.  When people purchase islands, Inworldz is profitable.   A profitable Inworldz is a productive / progressive Inworldz (they get to hire more devs!).  People who purchase islands tend to purchase wares to go on those islands-- which is good for merchants.  They often join islands to willing groups-- which is good for groups.   There is no downside to people buying islands.   So the Welcome Area MUST have a kiosk that makes purchasing an island understandable, attractive, easy, and affordable.    It needs to make such purchase appealing, even compelling.  Highlight all the benefits of owning an island.  And this is essential:  offer multiple products within their pocketbook range.  (See more on this later.)

     * PLACES TO VISIT.   Highlight points of Inworldz, places that are well-known and active.   Again-- forget the cries of "favoritism".  There are areas on Inworldz that have been here almost as long as Inworldz has been here, and deserve recognition for sticking with the grid this long.   Or if that idea is too much for some folks to handle... the "places to visit" could offer centralized landmark areas in specific genres, such as the well-known Role-Playing Hub.   We could also have a Nightclub Hub, Shopping Hub, Arts and Museums Hub, etc etc.  That way everyone gets a chance within their field of specialty.   Most importantly, the visitor gets to choose what interests them the most and go from there.

    * GRAB AN AVATAR!  If there is one thing people like it's avatars.   All kinds of avatars.   So Inworldz can have merchants donate free avatars (along with advertising for the merchant-- that's only fair) and newcomers can pick from a kiosk of avatars to better suit their moods.  A specialized vendor could offer different genres as well as avatars within that genre.   The advantage?   New visitors get to pick an avatar they love, merchants get to show off their skills, and Inworldz gets happy-camper visitors and merchants both.   This is one of those "everybody wins" things.

    * EVENTS KIOSK.  Inworldz already has this.  Make it prominent, as part of a set of kiosks, easy to find and easy to use.   In short, make even better and more prominent use of what we already have.  (Test:  can anyone reading this recollect where the events board is on IDI?   I can't.  That may be a hint that it needs to be more prominent.)

    * HOW TO.  This informative kiosk would contain several specialized notecards containing info such as:

         -- How to visit new areas

         -- How to shop, buy items, open boxes and "rez" items

         -- How to move and fly

         -- How to chat and instant message

         ... etc.  I can't think of every "How To" that might be handy, but one can understand the value of such a kiosk.  Individual notecards, short, concise, to the point.  

 

    There are more "Intro Kiosk" concepts that can be considered.  We want enough to catch attention-- but not so many as to confuse.   There are other things they will see on this new welcome center.

SAMPLE CREATIONS.  Little impresses a new visitor more than to see sample creations of what can be done on Inworldz.  So buildings and rooms along the side of the region highlighting different concepts (perhaps in miniature) should be very appealing-- somewhat a "micro museum of Inworldz". 

PORTALS.  Once the visitor has been greeted, picked up avatars, looked around the Welcome Center, learned about Inworldz and become enthusiastic... it's time to take them to areas that appeal to their personal interests.   This is where PORTALS come in.

    People are diverse.  Some enjoy fantasy, science fiction or steampunk, while others enjoy more common genres such as dance clubs, music venues, museums, parks, re-creations, or other things.  So surrounding the Welcome area would be twelve (or more) major portals to take the visitors to other regions specializing in their personal areas of interest.

    These portals are similar in concept to the "Places to Visit" Kiosk... only they transfer visitors instantly to centralized "Hubs"-- answering the pervasive issue of "Where do i go from here".   The answer:   "Let me show you the Portals..."  

    The Portals are Inworldz' instant-access to exploration and adventure.   "Ohhh!   Automobiles and airplanes!  Right down my alley!"  "Ohhh!... FANTASY LANDS!"   "Ohhh!  Music clubs!"... and off the visitor goes to a centralized hub... an entire region of the best Inworldz has to show in these areas.   In this area, show favoritism.  Absolutely.  Take the most established, the best, the brightest, the most talented and have them display their wares along with information / portals of where to see more.  Visitors will go where they will.  No one is forcing them to choose.  One visitor will choose one thing, another will choose something else.   The point is to make a fantastic first impression.  We don't do that by displaying less than our best.  

    No one will be left out.   The Hubs can have signs with landmark givers to places of interest, and anyone can put up a sign (within reason.  PG content, no offensive material, etc etc.  We all know the line after all these years.)  But larger sample displays would be by invitation only and subject to approval based on their skill, content, non-lag, and usefulness to new visitors.  These are new visitor HUBs... and they should contain the best we have to offer.  Nothing less will represent Inworldz.

    Let me be a little direct here:  anyone who chooses to get their nose out of joint because "someone got to display and I didn't" needs to go out and improve their skills.   The master builders and scripters didn't get where they are overnight.  They've put in years of effort to develop their skills.  They've hung in with Inworldz through thick and thin.   They deserve the recognition and will repay that recognition by bringing sales to Inworldz.   That is the purpose of the hubs... not to promote any one store or group or person, but to get new visitors enthused about Inworldz so they purchase their own island.  That's it in a nutshell.    

    Anyone who can't get on board with that frankly needs to re-think their attitude.  When Inworldz benefits-- everyone benefits.  That means putting our very best out front, no politics, no egos, no whining.

 

A BRAND NEW PRODUCT TO REACH A MAJOR, UN-TAPPED MARKET

    Right now Inworldz is sitting on a potential gold mine... and failing to dig.   I've discussed this with Ele.  I've discussed it with many people.   After all this time I cannot believe this hasn't yet been implemented.   So for whatever it's worth:

    THE GOLDEN GOAL.    Do meat sellers refuse to sell hamburger because of the chance people won't buy as many steaks?  Of course not.  They offer whatever will sell to the market, both hamburger and steaks. People have different tastes, needs, and pocketbooks.  Please keep this illustration in mind as we discuss the following.

    Gold is the issue... namely, money.  Do you have lots and lots of it?  Just pouring out your pockets?   Do you have to move it out of the way as you walk down your marble-lined hallways?

    If this doesn't describe you... welcome to 99.99% of the community. 

    A region on Inworldz costs $75 a month, which is cheap compared to the $295+ of Second Life.   But the reality is that even $75 is too much for the average person.  It's simply out of the pocket range of "hobby money".  And because of that, Inworldz is missing the vast majority of its potential market.

    There have been surveys.  The average U.S. citizen will spend $20 on something they want without worrying about it.   More than that, they think twice.  $75 they think a whole lot.  $20 is the "Golden Goal".  Sell a sim for $20 a month... and you'll sell sims.   Lots and lots of them.  $20 is "fun money".  $20 is "movie money".   $20 is an amount affordable even by people on Social Security or limited retirement funds.   The reality is, most people can spend $20 on something they want.

    So if Inworldz can offer a full, private sim for $20 a month... and they can... a whole new market opens up. 

    How can they do this?  By offering 15k prim sims with a 20 concurrent visitor cap (increase full sims to 60k prims.  It's a no-cost bonus).  These limitations minimize server and Net costs, dropping them down low enough that Inwordz can offer $20 sims and still make a decent profit.   It can be done.   It's been proved by other grids.

    In fact, it's been proved by Inworldz themselves.  Currently Inworldz offers a "quad" offering, in which they provide four full sims for $85, which can be divided among and inhabited by four owners.   Great idea, and a nice launch pad toward the Golden Goal.   The downside is that one person has to take responsibility for that $85, they have to find three other investors, and if anyone backs out the primary owner is stuck with their part of the bill.   So it still doesn't reach the market that $20 sims would reach.

    Inworldz needs to take the part of that "central owner" themselves, and just rent 15K sims for $20 a month.   They need to offer a new product that is within the pocketbook of the average person.  OpenSim grids are already doing this.   If Inworldz expects to hold its own against such competitors (and face it, OpenSim is a competitor)... it needs to offer a product people can afford. 

    "But... but... people will give up their full-size $75 regions and buy Golden Regions instead!"   Some might, yes.  Chances are though they're already past the prim limit of a Golden Region.  In addition, the history of Second Life already proved that adding a lower-cost product actually increased their revenue rather than decrease it.   People kept their full-size sims and bought the low-cost sims as well.   Why is this?  Because those who currently own $75 sims usually can afford $75 sims... and all the prims and parties and events they bring.   Their sim needs aren't suddenly going to dive just because Inworldz now offers a less-expensive product.  If anything, they will be more likely to expand their properties, bringing Inworldz additional revenue.

    Again remember the initial question:  Do meat sellers refuse to sell hamburger because they're afraid they'll sell fewer steaks?   No.  They still sell hamburger.   Then why should Inworldz stick with just one product, or an alternative product that people still can't afford.   Offer regions that people can afford... and people will buy regions.  Four such regions = $80, which is $5 more than Inworldz currently makes on a full-bore region.  Sounds like a win.

    Or... keep doing what we're doing and stagnate.  The choice is always up to the business:  change and adapt or stagnate and fall.   Grow or fail to grow.  Stick with what you're doing, or do better.   It's always a choice.  Sometimes to win big one has to jump in with both feet and take a chance.  Risk is the core of business prosperity.  No risk, no gain.

    My belief is this:  offer this product and within 6 months Inworldz revenues will increase significantly enough to benefit the entire grid.   If it doesn't work you can blame me for the goofy concept.  

    Remember:  the ones most likely to win are those who tried to win in the first place.  You can't win a race by walking, afraid you'll sprain an ankle if you run.

GREETERS

Ideally, new visitors might be accompanied by someone to show them around.  In the old days we called these people "Greeters"... folks who weren't tied to staying at the Welcome Center and could act as tour guides / friends to newcomers.  Believe me in this:  as the founder of one of the oldest and most well-known groups in the history of VR, as the creator of the Greeter concept and the guy who literally wrote the book on Greeting... I can positively state there is nothing that makes a new visitor happier than personal attention and assistance.  Most group leaders know this.  Most Mentors know this. 

    The primary objection I've heard regarding Greeters are: 

    Objection #1: "We already have Mentors."   Mentors have a specific purpose and are "on duty" at IDI.   Greeters would be assistants to the Mentor group.   They take over when the Mentor's work is done.  They can leave IDI and accompany visitors and help people learn first hand about Inworldz.  They offer friendship to a person who perhaps has none at the time has none.  The function of a Mentor and Greeter is complimentary... but different.  A Mentor is not a tour guide.  That is one of the primary jobs of a Greeter.

    Objection #2:  "Greeters will take people where they want to take them so their group can grow larger."  No, Greeters help people acclimate to Inworldz by showing them areas of the visitor's interest.  Inworldz is different from Second Life.  Groups have no need to "grow large" in order to pay for sims like on SL.  Whether a group is 12 people or 1200 people-- it makes no difference here.  Elf Clan has absolutely no need to enlarge our group.   So let's put that argument where it belongs:  in the "outdated SL thoughts" file... and realize that Inworldz is different.

    When we were on SL, Elf Clan Greeters were specifically instructed to "not mention Elf Clan unless the visitor inquires".   People have diverse interests.   If the Greeter is not personally acquainted with a specific area, his/her goal is to introduce the Visitor to a Greeter who is.  

    Objection #3:  Specific groups will "target" visitors.  No, Mentors will not allow that.   Founders will not allow that.   Other Greeters will not allow that if they see it happening (they'll report it to the Mentor or Founders).   Sniping members is not a Greeter's purpose.  There's no reason to do so.  There's nothing to be gained in making a group larger.   Trust me in this:  it just gets larger.  That's it.  More headaches, no benefit.

    If someone asks about a Greeter's group tag, sure, we can show them what we know.   Our enthusiasm will rub off on them.   If someone wants to make sure their group is represented at the Welcome Center-- let them serve as Greeters.  if they don't have the time or don't want to... that's their decision.  They have the same opportunity to be Greeters as anyone else-- and like other Greeters their agenda should be to serve Inwordz and new visitors, not to promote their own interests.  Basically, Greeters should enjoy meeting new people.

    Whoever is Greeting at the time has the purpose of helping newcomers.   That's all.  No hidden agendas, no ulterior motives.  Any group, no group, enthusiastic or just friendly... a Greeter's purpose is to help new visitors learn how Inworldz works, to answer questions no notecard can properly address.  

    Greeters: They work. They make new visitors feel welcome and appreciated.  And I just happen to have an already-written "Greeters Guidelines" with a history of fantastic success.

 

    Alternately, not using Greeters will continue in the results Inworldz has had all these years  without Greeters.   Has it worked so far?  Is Inworldz growing?  Are the Founders wallowing in cash so they can hire additional employees?  Is Tranq any less inundated with work?

    Why be afraid to try something that might actually work-- that has proved to work in the past?   Greeters work.  They helped put SL on the map.

 

    A little history:  For those who aren't aware... the Greeter program helped launch SL.  I wrote the "Greeter Guidelines Manual" myself, many years ago, when Elf Clan was just getting started on SL.  In addition we created the sim business model which for the first time made private sim ownership a no-loss prospect-- even at the high prices of Second Life (and lo, sim sales zoomed, and cometh new  groups using business models just like Elf Clan's, and SL did groweth tremendously).   So we do have a bit of history and experience in these things.

    No, we weren't alone in such endeavors.   These weren't the only things that influenced SL membership.  But they were a large part of it-- something even Linden Lab itself recognized at the time. 

    So I can say this in confidence:  Greeters work.  They help a grid grow by making people feel welcome.  They provide the personal attention Inworldz can't afford to hire, no matter how big they get.  And isn't that what we all want, just a little personal friendship and attention... and the chance to pass that on to someone else?  That's what Greeting is all about.

FIX THE VIEWER... please

    I'm not going to dwell excessively on this or go into great detail because this should be very obvious. 

    The Official Viewer needs to be simplified, it needs to work without confusion (chicklets all over the screen, separate windows all over the screen, confusion confusion).  It needs to operate in the way that people think.  It needs a BASIC mode and an ADVANCED mode, instantly changeable.  Get rid of the myriad  buttons on the bottom of the screen and have only the essential ones present.   Get chat off the primary movement screen and in a separate window that pops up at user command.  Make that window scrollable, without having to press CTRL-H (and other multitudinous, outdated keycodes) just to get basic items to work.  The user can pop up the chat screen manually when they see that new chat is available.  Get rid of the annoying flashing orange chat button and instead have it turn solid orange when new chat is available.  Make things sensible and non-invasive.

    Make the Viewer work like people think.  That's the key to good software.  Some considerable progress has been made.  But a lot of confusion has entered in the process.  The Viewer is far more confusing than it needs to be-- even to experienced users.  In short, SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY!!!  Make the Viewer intuitive.  Make it so that people don't have to constantly hunt for this or that.  Make it delightfully functional.   

    Want to impress new visitors?   Make the viewer easy and fun to use.  After all, that's 50% of the experience.

SEPARATE EVENT REGION

    We need to bring back regular Inworldz Events.  Ignore the groundless complaints of "competing" with groups (what are we competing for?).   Events keep groups alive, they keep the grid alive.  No official events means no official presence.   Official events planned well ahead of time gives everyone a chance to plan around them... and gives Inworldz a focus of activity.  It doesn't have to be every day.  It doesn't have to take up the entire calendar.  It just needs to exist.

    Regular events attract newcomers, and they won't conflict with local events.  How do we know this?   Simple:  How many restaurants are in your town?  How many burger joints?  How many movie theaters, live plays, public shows, etc etc. 

    Believing that Inworldz shouldn't host events because it (somehow) competes with groups is like believing that a City should not have a sports arena because people won't go to movies any more.   It's paranoia, nothing more.   That's simply not how life works.

   Events should be held on a region next to the Welcome Center... where people can see something is going on.  It will attract attention.  It will lessen drag on the main welcome region by being on a separate region.  It will let new visitors know that Inworldz is alive.   (Morning Coffee would do that too hint hint.)

SANDBOX TO THE OTHER SIDE

    Events area on one side of Welcome Region, and a huge Sandbox on the other side of the Welcome Region.  Make the sandbox attractive... not just flat land, but terraformed and interesting. The sandbox should contain a tutorial area. 

Nothing sparks interest in building than watching other people build.   Building is a big attraction on VR.   It's like Legos on steroids.  So encourage building by giving people an area they can see off the main welcome area, walk to easily, and get involved in building right away.  

SUMMARY

    That's all I'm going to cover right now; this article is long enough as it is.   If you've gotten this far I congratulate you:  agree or not agree-- reading it all shows you really care about Inworldz.   We'll probably discuss more in the comments.   Please feel free to join this Ning group if you wish to take part in the conversation.  You can comment and then cancel membership if you wish; your comments will still remain for others to enjoy.

-- Your friend and fellow avatar, Wayfinder

P.S. ITEMS

    These are things that don't warrant being part of the main article, but can make the new user experience much better.

    * PRE-LOADED TEXTURES.   What if the Inworldz official Viewer had a set of pre-loaded textures that are in their own permanent cache and instantly accessible when someone logs into Inworldz.   (I dunno, maybe it already does.)  What if that cache of textures contained everything needed at the Welcome Area so that when a new visitor logs in, everything rezzes quickly and textures load fully.  Would that be impressive?  I think it would be impressive.  Some people might consider that "cheating"... but it's not.  It's how Inworldz works normally on our home sims.  Our computers cache the textures and then after that our home sim rezzes pretty quickly.  We'd just be giving new visitors a preview of this when they first log in.

    * TEXTURE COMMON SENSE.   This is a technical issue, but when building, there is no need to have a 256x256 solid white texture.  What is the smallest texture available?  32 x 32?  1x1?  For a blank color texture, that's all that's required.  So when building, avoid large-size simple textures.   Textures = time loading and overhead.  The smaller the textures, the faster they load, the less computer memory they require.  If we can repeat a 32x32 texture on a prim instead of bringing in a 1024x1024 of a repeated pattern... that's the way to go.  I mention this because it is possible to build a very impressive, highly-interactive welcome area that rezzes like greased lightning.  It's not only possible-- it's essential.

--o--

Views: 2006

Comment by Kasha Selona on April 26, 2016 at 3:48am

I agree whole heartedly about the IDI. The old one, for what ever reason was taken away but I am not sure why. I recall I practically lived in the freebies place for a good month before i committed myself to spending Real money, and i suspect I was not alone in that. We used to sit and chat and dance too, some one would get a stream going and it had a feel of a safe spot to hang out and meet folks. That place is in my memory of my first contact in Inworldz. There were mentors there but also the older residents would help too, if you were a bit at a loose end you would take a tp to the IDI. Now it is just a barren area with fake buildings and a few notice boards scattered about. 

Comment by Tadhg Muirin on April 26, 2016 at 8:58am

This excellent and thorough article is a CALL TO ARMS for the developers and members of InWorldz.

I am 100% in agreement with all that Wayfinder/Snoots has poignantly pointed out and don't need to repeat all that is in dire need of repair and renewal if InWorldz is to survive.

As a pioneer of InWorldz, what I can add is that over the years I know that countless members (including myself) have done our best in advertising InWorldz by honestly singing its praises of being 'The Friendliest Grid with Fantastic Talent', and inviting scores of other grid members and awesome creators to come, explore and live.

Lots came and some stayed long whiles investing all they could, awaiting promised improvements and growth, but found a snails pace over 5-7 years unacceptable, and so moved back from whence they came or went on to other grids-- some offering even less than what InWorldz has to offer!

I firmly believe cost VS return is the biggest factor. Even though InWorldz sim prices are less than 1/3 of its greatest competition, without solid advancements in the physics engine and viable scripts that remain functional-- without breaking on every single server update and requiring in-world scriptors to spend hours rewriting what worked just dandy prior-- quite frankly, it's like selling a Rolex knock-off that will be useless in a month.

Was that harsh? Well, considering the 1000's of dollars that many of us have invested in our 'lives' on InWorldz grid for several years, all the while staunchly believing and promoting all it could be, but to this point not seeing a greater return on our investments, or initial promises delivered either, is rather disheartening and frustrating.

Bottom line is COST and therein lies the double-edged sword. Without doubt our difficult economic times have affected the development of InWorldz for the corporation and its members, YET! even the biggest competition has taken serious note of this and is being proactive to compensate possible further loses by lowering their prices.

Perhaps InWorldz could take a cue and follow suit?

Then, finding serious investors to start making necessary improvements on the grid-- that have been promised since the initial mission statement for InWorldz was written-- would be the greatest advantage.

In the meanwhile, by giving members rates that are equivalent to the current quality of the the grid-- also enticing others to come back or join anew-- while successfully upgrading the experiences over a decent amount of time, I'm certain fewer would leave AND not many would argue paying more for what they get in the future.

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on April 26, 2016 at 9:48am

Excellent post Tadhg.  Right on the button.   What you say is not an insult to Inworldz:  it's a wake-up call to the reality of customer reaction to (as you aptly put it) snail-pace growth.

To add a bit to the concept of GENRE HUBS I presented above...

    So that folks can get a better idea of this, let me give a specific example: 

    A Fantasy Hub would display the very best we have to offer in the Fantasy genre.  No sales... just displays and landmarks of where to see more.  That region could host sixty four 1024 sqm displays.  Anyone who thinks Julia Hathor wouldn't be a featured part of that display is daydreaming.  Any competitor of hers that would complain she's there and they aren't, isn't taking into consideration she's supported Second Life and Inworldz as long as there has been a Second Life and Inworldz.   Maybe they need to step up their game and warrant being a hub display.  Julia has put in the years of investment-- have they?

    The reality is that we can't put everyone's display on a hub. These regions will be sponsored by Inworldz, they have limited space, and again... we'd be putting our best foot forward.  That doesn't mean featuring every texture merchant on Inworldz (just as an example).  The Hubs are not a personal advertising area-- they're advertising for Inworldz itself.  This means using displays that really catch attention, that will entice new visitors to visit... and then purchase their own regions so they can use such items as Julia's to populate those regions.  

    The visitor is happy, Julia is happy (along with some 63 other display owners... that's quite a few really), Inworldz is happy-- which means everyone should be happy, whether they happen to be personally featured at the New Visitor Hub or not.  

    It's a fact of life:  the Apprentice doesn't get the recognition of the Master.  The new merchant can't expect the same perks as the region owner who has purchased land and supported Inworldz for years.  That is life, pure and simple.   With investment and tenure come recognition and reward.

Julia might even get two spaces.  I'd challenge anyone to claim she doesn't deserve it.

I'm just using Julia Hathor as a very visible and widely-known example.  There are many such merchants / groups / individuals / shopping centers / museums / etc that would warrant similar recognition.   Such recognition would be based on quality of work (foremost), time in Inworldz, investment in Inworldz (those who don't own a region can't expect to be prominently featured), quality of display, etc.   These are all simple, common-sense things.  

I stress this because this is a foreseeable area of contention, has been an area of contention in the past, and frankly, some folks need to get a better understanding of how life works.  If someone wants to run with the big dogs... step up your skills and become a big dog.

The Visitor Hubs would be the finest Inworldz has to offer.  That will mean showing "favoritism"-- deservedly so-- not for a person, pal or friend, but for continued support of Inworldz and incredible skill in the art of virtual reality creation.  The idea is to impress the visitor and make them say "wow".  

There should be an application form (including history and reason to warrant Hub inclusion), and necessity of existing well-known display (ie, a region) to qualify for Hub consideration.  Is this anything less than simple common sense?   It's how any business is run.

That's just discussing the HUBs.  They're secondary to the extreme need to completely re-make IDI as quickly as humanly possible.

Comment by Yichard Muni on April 26, 2016 at 10:46am

Vedui all the Elfies :-)

and thanks Wishbringer for this post. What I think interesting is that the ideas were also shared with Elenia. Let me add some comments:

-On small prices sims: it is hard to say without a market study if it will attract new users, or if just people will abandon their full sims for them. But what I can say is: $75 I cannot afford (low retirement, with the austerity policies crookery) but $20 I can. If I have one, I can rebuild my ICE sim with the elven temple and the train. 

Actually there already are scenics. I remember well that Balpien discussed the limitations on them, to avoid people abandonning their main sims. Is this still relevant today?

Also if you compare with the "cheaper" other places, you find that the price per prim is in fact similar to Wishbringer's proposal. But without the advantages of Inworldz: recently the owner of a very popular one decided to limit the number of sims.

On IDI, I agree too. IDI today is a grey world, unwelcoming and with few hints on what is going on in Inworldz, even not ongoing events. I went several times here lately, and half of the time there is no mentor, and sometimes even nobody.

So the idea of IDI being a showcase for Inworldz has a simple solution: move IDI to the south of the events sims. Normally there is no permanent installations in these, but I see that some things has become de facto permanent. And these things are precisely what we need: shopping district, airport, harbour, events venue, the Inworldzium (which should be available for events, if we want it to be useful) inShape, and others.

So a lot to do, and maybe soon :-)

 

Comment by Judy Muircastle on April 26, 2016 at 11:22am

What an excellent comment Wayfinder!! I so agree with what you say!  I came to inworldz in 2010 as Patti Mallory with my Boyfriend from SL Lander.  I had Mallory amusement park and Lander mallory Had his trains. We had such a blast here in the early days.  Even though the grid was not stable and the physics were terrible we didn't care it was just so much fun!  One of the things that really stuck in my memories was IDI when lander and I first came here.  What impressed me was the amount of freebies that were put out for new people by iwz creators and the quality was amazing.  You could go  to many different stores and get lots of different things, and of course walking by Ele sitting on the wall by the walkway and talking to folks that really impressed me...the grid owner talking with people.  Lander and i had just came here from second life and that was a big shock to us both!!  OMG and morning coffee!! Lander and I went to the first one and wow what a great social gathering it was lander and I actually had friends on iwz now!!!  Lander was so impressed with Rowland Larkham that Rowland became the best man at our wedding.  Our sim crashed with only 8 people on it at the wedding and the bride was ruthed!! lol but we did not care we were just having fun.

I say all that to say this... All of us that were around in the beginning can see how far inworldz has come and its a very very long way, but I do believe that it has lost its small community feeling to a certain point.  One of the ways to fix that would be to put IDI back to the way it used to be so that people that come to iwz would be impressed like so many of us were back then and stay like we did.  Make it like a hangout for people like it was back then. I used to just go there to see who was there lol.  Now the only time i go there is when the hobo park sim is down and I rez there..and the is NOT to say anything against the mentors they are great group of people and really help new people..But it's just not the same now ...put it back the way it was!!

I am a grid hopper to a certain extent or was... not now though ...but the things i used to hear from people on other grids that had left iwz that the reason they left was because of the iwz clique which I have no idea who that is ....maybe im a part of it lol.. but its just another form of miss understanding  and lack of communication.  I do believe that  things like the market place that wolf is working on and maybe a destination guide would help all people feel like they belong here on iwz and even make it feel like a small community again.  A destination guide would NOT do away with Judy Dresslers iwz hud from IDI that is a fantastic tool that mostly new people use and she does a great job of keeping it up to date that has to be an almost full time job with sims closing down and people not telling her.  A destination guide would be like the one on SL were the website is connected to the viewer showing great builds, clubs, shops, malls, etc.  This way everyone would feel like they belonged to the community.  People say well that would be another expense to iwz ...well... iwz did not get to be the awesome grid it is now without spending money. 

Bring the old IDI back ... more social community gatherings like the old morning coffee.  Make people feel like the belong to a community and not just stay on there sim and say ..."what am I doing here?"

Comment by Bellini Cazalet on April 26, 2016 at 11:33am

*Wavin' Claw*  Yup yup, I be agreein with ya Wayfinder, Tadders, Kasha, n' Yichard.  I be wantin to throw me 2 sense worth in too (Ya knows Dwagons gots lotsa sense, but I only gives ya 2).  I thinks ya all makes very valid points dat needs discussin wif da powers dat be.  To my way o' thinkin da most important ones dat needs addressin real quick like is dat unwelcomin welcome center.  Havin a shiny modern city/town center is all well n' good if dat's what da new arrivals is WANTIN to be a part of, but if they be lookin for something different .... pastural, fantasy, Tiny, Furry, Petites, etc ... den dey is SOL -ya knows Sure Outta Luck!    Da Welcome Center is da place where we needs ta put our bestest foots forward .... cause if they dun like what they sees, and doesn't get any help learnin how to do da very simplest stuffs like walkin, talkin, flyin, openin a box wifout wearin it, n' how to put onna avatar, take it off n' changin it, an most important of all, what da heck da inventory is n'  how to put stuffs innit, n' take stuffs out of dere!  GAHHHH!  Oh n' givin em NCs dat dey dun know how ta retrieve dun do a whole lotta good, now does it?   Let's face it, da place needs ta be staffed wif all kinds a critters to help true newbies and even da refugees from other worlds.  Cause if we don't then we gonna loose em. I would loves ta be a greeter. I's purty good at greetin n' ya knows how much I loves ta yammer.  Might as well yammer n' pass around cookies where it'll do da most good!

My 2nd bit o' sense is da $20 sim is a GREAT idea.  I has seen it in other grids n' ya knows what, it is workin for dem!  I believes dat one o' da bestest ways to helps peoples feel dat they wanna stay n' commiit to a place is to help 'em feel like dis is dey Home.  Give em da land atta good less expensive price, wif good primage dat they can change any way dey want, any time dey want n' dey gonna be much happier campers what'll stay much longer.

We talkin yer basic win-win .... positive cash flow n' retention.  HOOOT!   Ok, I'll stop yammerin now.  HUGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGs 

Oh n' if anybody needs a translation o' dis, sees me IW, cause spellchecks goin NUTZ wif me Dwagon Speak.  Da whole dang things gone red!   May ya all be safe n' warm, n' ya all haza GREAT day inna mornin!  *wave claw*

Comment by Yichard Muni on April 26, 2016 at 12:55pm

Another interesting idea, after moving IDI south of the events sims, move the roleplay hub sounth of IDI! this way IDI is connected to all the interesting public places.

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on April 26, 2016 at 2:36pm

"Oh n' if anybody needs a translation o' dis, sees me IW, cause spellchecks goin NUTZ wif me Dwagon Speak.  Da whole dang things gone red!"  

LOL... now see... for me that's what it's all about... people being true to their nature.  That's what Inworldz allows:  things we couldn't do in real life.  Like Bellini being a dwagon (which we all know is what she really is in RL, despite the fact she looks like a human.)

Regarding the "Golden Goal" of $20 sims:   is this possible?   Yes it is.   If it wasn't possible no grid could do it-- and other grids are doing it.   Long-term VR folks have discussed this with me.  We did our homework.   Let me give an example.

Replicant City.   Most of us are aware of this huge scifi build by my alter-ego, Snoots Dwagon, found in the high sky of ElvenSong region.   We know how large it is, detailed it is, how intensely scripted and textured it is (museums full of hundreds of photos), how extremely interactive it is.   So... how much hard drive space does Replicant City require?   About 1/3 of a gig (around 350 megabytes).  By today's storage standards that's a spit in a bucket.   Our cell phones carry 32, 64, 128 gig cards.  1/3 of a gig for Replicant City?  Just how much in server resources does that require?  You could put hundreds of Replicant Cities on one single thumb drive.

    We do have to be aware that one of the heaviest costs in a grid are the asset servers.  The more people, the more we need in asset servers.   So there are costs above just the region server itself, and that fact is recognized.   But still... 1/3 of a gig to run one of the most intense, detailed, complexly scripted and interactive exhibits on the grid?  

    Yes, $20 for a limited-prim region is quite possible.  It can be done, and it can be done profitably.

    Now for the big question:  will people choose those instead of full sims?   My thoughts in this based on years of experience in VR:  some will, most won't.  

    Why?  I mentioned this above, but to put it another way:  if people need a full grid, they'll invest in a full grid.   If they can't afford a full grid, the refusal to offer $20 regions isn't going to magically change their finances.  It will just keep Inworldz from earning $240 a year from that person (yes, that $20 a month adds up).  Because like Yichard they still can't spend $75 a month for a region. 

    What really needs to be realized is that the vast majority of potential VR customers are just like Yichard.  How many of us have $$$ to just throw around? 

    So no, rather than depriving Inworldz of $75 sim owners, it should instead add a whole bunch of $20 sim owners-- a vast market that Inworldz is currently losing out on. 

    Now yes, there will without doubt be some people who will analyze their needs and say, "Hey, I don't really need a $75 region", people who aren't using the resources of their existing region, who never host parties or events and never have more than 20 people visit... and those individuals may decide to drop to $20 regions instead.  That will happen in limited instances.  But to expect that to be the "norm" or to seriously impact Inworldz profit margin would in my opinion be unreasonable and based on no existing evidence of such in the history of VR. 

    Homestead regions didn't deprive Linden Lab of income... it increased their revenue considerably (until of course they decided to kill the golden goose and lost 20% of their total region count as a result.  Stupid, stupid).  

    No one can absolutely foretell the future of a specific thing, myself included.  But we can make educated predictions based on existing data and feedback.   No official market studies have been done in this, but I've asked around enough to get a good idea of what we'd see happen.   I have to believe that $20 regions would be highly beneficial for Inworldz growth.   I would even predict that it would draw in more people who need $75 regions (clubs, shopping centers, event centers, groups), and the purchase of those would rise as Inworldz reputation and popularity increased.  

    Most auto companies don't just sell one kind of car at one price range, afraid that if they sell cheaper cars people won't buy their more expensive cars.  They know the market is diverse.   We can't force people to buy a product when they don't have the funds.  We can make a product available to them within their pocketbook range-- and then market both products with a new, exciting welcome center.

    Take a hint from the grocery stores.   They will sell a can of soup for $3.  Right next to that, in a can suspiciously the exact same size and shape, that is probably made by the same company and evidently contains exactly the same contents, is a "store brand" can of soup for $1.50.    Why?  Because grocery store owners are smart and they know the market is diverse.  Some people will buy the $3 soup because that's what they want.   Others can only afford the $1.50 can of soup.   If the $1.50 can of soup isn't there... they will go to another store that caters to their needs.

    As the few preceding comments verify, what I'm saying here should be evident.  We're getting very fine ideas in addition to the initial article.  Keep 'em coming folks.   Your ideas are just as valuable as mine or Ele's or anyone else's.

    Disclaimer:  My suggestions here are not necessarily those of Ele's or Tranq's or Inworldz and should not be construed as such.  However given a little Founder attention-- they could become so.  : )

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on April 26, 2016 at 2:52pm

Regarding connecting the welcome center to the role playing hub:

It is known that connecting one region to another slows down both regions.  A central region surrounded by other regions has to be in constant update-contact with every region touching its borders. 

Because of this, it is sensible to connect only one region directly to the Welcome Area-- the Event Region.   Even that would only be so that new visitors could tell something is going on.   Other than that the Welcome Area should be an island (or with the Event sim, a 2-region island).   Portals would be used to access all other areas of interest, including the RP Hub.  

I know the RP Hub is very important to many people, but no more important to Inworldz than other Hubs.   In fairness all hubs would be given an even share.   The portals surrounding the edge of the Welcome Center would be evenly distributed in space, roughly the same size or even identical, and be differentiated only by their portal texture (a representative photo) and the name above the portal archway.  That way the visitor gets to choose where they want to go next with no undue influence by anyone.   If RP is their thing, that's where they'll go.   If cars, airplanes, equines, furrys, scifi, fantasy, gardens, museums, shopping or other concepts are their thing, that's what they'll choose. 

This is what is good about the Portal concept:  it gives visitors a place to go, catered to their specific interests, automatically, without any guidance required.  So if "nobody is home" at the Welcome Center, a new visitor will still be able to find their way around.

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on April 26, 2016 at 2:57pm

BTW folks, as of today this blog has 110 visits:  not bad for just a few hours.  It needs to have thousands.  So please pass this link on to your Inworldz friends.  Distribute it among your groups (where you have that privilege).   Mention it in the forums.   Spread the word.   This blog is by no means gospel... but it needs to at least get people thinking about things.

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