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.
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.
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
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.