Location: Linden Lab's Public Face
Before we ever create that first avatar, we visit a Web page. Think for a moment about how Linden Lab presents its product.
This post rehashes a complaint that AJ Kelton made, who gave me permission to use his name. The issue shows why LL is chasing a certain type of customer at the expense of others. That is certainly a reasonable business proposition, but as Lindy McKeown replied at the SLED list discussion begun by Hiro Pendragon, Linden Lab has an excellent alternative to beginning the SL experience as they do.
My post to SLED:
A damning moment came up in our weekly VWER meeting. AJ Brooks had a few colleagues wanting to try SL. They did not get further than the SL Web site. One look at the Valentine's Day video on display, however, ended their interest.Lindy's reply is brilliant:
Sorry, Mr. Humble; tattooed love-boys with their Celtic ladies-fair might work for grown ups who want The Sims Plus, but whatever actually goes on in-world, you'll lose your remaining educators with marketing like that.
So perhaps LL can have a less romance-and-escape-oriented front page with a page that manages to promote the service with prominent links to "What sort of second life do YOU want? Gaming? Education? Roleplay?"
Show a video with some shopping, but then show visitors getting into the Titan II / Gemini Stack at the Spaceflight Museum. Show visitors in the virtual Sistine Chapel, then show them racing cars.
I have to say the messages on the front page of http://secondlife.com seem pitched at a single (and maybe extremely profitable?) market. People who want to make social connections that may lead to "relationships" (of one kind or another).I like Lindy's idea, and that community page a lot. Without too much difficulty, LL should pitch SL's amazing content at a broader audience. The "kiss on the fake Eiffel Tower" began before the new CEO arrived, and it's up to him to change it. There's nothing wrong with a kiss or a Valentine in a virtual world. As for adult content, Linden Lab has done a fine job of zoning and moving it to age-verified regions or behind closed doors on private land. Too many SLED respondents took my complaint to mean "oh, that sex is wrecking education in SL." Nonsense.
Sadly business decisions by non education-specific vendors of products and services impacts education use of those services. Comparing it to Blackboard is like comparing not just apples to oranges, more like candy bars to oranges. Blackboard is designed as a learning management tool. Second Life is designed as a social tool that has been adapted for use in education and after that happened, Linden Labs made some mileage off that.
I am left wondering how the education community might influence the "front door" policy to be more inclusive *nudges the business educators in the ribs for ideas* so that it isn't a turn off for newcomers from other potential markets like education? What a shame this page isn't the front page! http://secondlife.com/community/?lang=en
That video includes education.
Sex is elsewhere on the Internet, and these Web pages about SL are not about sex. They are, however, about a narrow perception of a virtual world--an "escape" to use the Lindens' own words--that could be marketed far better to a broad audience.
So Linden Lab, change that front page to something more inclusive than "escape": perhaps learn, explore, play, connect, invent, love, build, and (most importantly) return?
Update 3/7/11: Hat-tip to Sheila for noticing the Freudian Slip in my original "location." Corrected after many guffaws.