Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Explain the Pain and You'll Have Much to Gain!

I'm exhilarated, exhuberant, and enthused to post on this most excellent SLog. As a natural extension, my own blog will be for personal introspectives, but community-addressing views have a better home here. It's meta, reaching out and touching like this. One thing I keep in mind is, from my standpoint at least, never try to cover everything in a single post—otherwise, one runs the risk of Picard's professor syndrome. As in,

"There was no opportunity. There was no pause. He just kept talking in one long incredibly unbroken sentence moving from topic to topic so that no one had a chance to interrupt. It was really quite hypnotic." -Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise NCC-1701-D and -E

When I made my last post, "Master and Apprentice", I was conscious of how I was struggling to say some things I couldn't quite put into words. I, Torley Torgeson, can be like a ravaging wildebeest at a Presidential inauguration ceremony. Being dumb this way, I'm glad I thrust my fists against the post and let Forseti deliver the coup de grace in a really nice comment. He found the words I could not say, and shared more light about his artistic experiences. That's a wonder of why we're here, together, these perspectives as a group—and hopefully more to come.

Given that we may be like pieces in the puzzle of Second Life, it comes with no surprise that the jigsaw is being shaken. There is mass frustration being expressed on the SL Forums today (and yesterday) since 1.7 was released. Maybe that's an understatement, but by now, it doesn't pack the surprise for me of what happened after 1.6—what a blessed joy the ability to search the archivesis—and what's more, I remember my very first few days on SL, shortly after 1.5 came out. Infact, on September 15, 2004, there'd been unexpected downtime. I heard many Resis around me talking about how buggy it was compared to 1.4. I hadn't been through the release of that version increment, however, so I couldn't speak with experience then.

Now I can. Come with me for unomomento, a sideroad, as I see Second Life, and the forums as a subset of it, like a psychological test. It is what it is. Yes. And what you say about Second Life may ultimately say more about you, revealing layers of your personal onions that have yet to be ringed and baked in crispy batter. Today, in the midst of making some posts, a lightbulb, ticktocking and metronomey, lit up in my head. It rhymed!

Explain the pain

is what "it" said to me, and like Stephen King's Thad Beaumont starting to scratch wildly about the sparrows flying, this was another phrase I knew I had to pound out like my (Second) life depended on it. I made the post, and here's the original context of the thread. I only echo the emotional greats that came before me like Norman Vincent Peale and John Gray, but this was a unique situation. Here's why: a queer thing is that offline, with people, face-to-face, I don't feel the same level of intensity in interaction that I do online. Maybe that's because some internal poles are flipped within me, and it certainly is part of the reason why I indulge in SL so much, but the point is... since I know most other people don't perceive things the real way, they may seem more angry and shouty on Internet than they would in person.

A lucid, blunt example I can give of the preceding is when a furious Resi says,


on Hotline To Linden. That's an exclamation, not a question. Hop back a-ways with me to my "Master and Apprentice" post, and I notice I made it a very obtuse thing to ask a question (in a big fontsize nonetheless) in the midst of it all. Because, I am fascinated in learning more.

Some may simply see the rage (incidentally also the title of a Stephen King book published under the nom de plume of Richard Bachman) and say, "Eh, human nature", but it's not a part of me, and I'm human (and I use "human" in a broad sense, encapsulating furries and mechas too). Keep coming closer and you'll soon notice that it says in a sticky, for anyone with wide-open eyes,

Rants and redundant complaints will be moved to an archive. This forum is meant to provide a place for people to find answers to a wide variety of questions. Rants and complaints about technical issues tend to make it much harder to find the answers.

That's my favoritest unfavorite word, REDUNDANT! (RRL = Really Redundant Loop.)

Why don't more people ask? I won't answer that.

And I won't rebuke anyone for not reading more carefully.

What I will say, however, is how much Second Life has this overlay (much as how editing land has a colorful overlay currently due to an odd bug) of a psychological test. How people react to problems within it. SL itself as an online world has an incredible change of pace. The Tofflerian terminology for it is "accelerative thrust". You may also be familiar with the J-curve as seen in the SL Future Salon.

As irrational as fear may be, it is very real. I don't need to be Dr. Jonathan Crane to tell you that. Yes, there is a lot of psychology involved. For a "game" to some, SL can be incredibly stressful, to the point where support groups are mused about on the forums. And as a "metaverse" to others, personal investment is obvious. To someone such as myself with a stacked hybrid approach, I can foresee that if SL disappeared one day with nothing to fill that hole, not unlike a world without watermelons, I would be the most depressed ever.

It says something when people lash out on the SL Forums. It doesn't compare to a Mommy having her baby cut out of her uterus and destroyed with a meat tenderizer while being forced to watch, but sometimes it comes out that way. It shows Resis care about being in SL, and in the cases where it's more about money than the actual experience, that makes itself apparent too.

This is also applicable to related situations, for example, when I ask a creator whose works I'm not yet that familiar with some questions on a thread in the soon-to-be-changed Classifieds. I like to touch around, get a feel. See if I get good vibes. Janie Marlowe is one I'll specifically name, and true to form, some weeks after buying some of her clothes and liking her sense of humor, she starts up this positive thread in the midst of it all. I've had a few bad incidents. I like to keep things progressive and lavish praise instead of dole out drama, but there was a recent incident in which I asked someone a number of questions about several of his products, and found him to be condescending and unhelpful. Not working together with me to find flaws in one's own product is a BAD sign. So, Torley gives that the thumbs down, and I will not be supporting his products, nor his personality. For the inverse, see Compulsion Overdrive, who was quick to offer me a refund upon my finding of defects. I declined, emphasizing I want to help make what is an insanely great thing even better! Janie and Compulsion are a couple examples of the excellence I've found in SL, and I remain insatiable!

I like nice people.

The thing is, when things aren't too peachy, when I can tell someone else why I feel the way I do, it helps out. At least I know I've done the best from my perspective. With SL growing so quickly, say you were suddenly asked by two new Resis in the Welcome Area for help. Avatar A is repeatedly asking for L$ handouts and demanding you script up some magic from him whilst complaining about rezzing times, and Avatar B sounds clueless but curious and calm. Given the choice of assisting, who would you help first? I'd go for B without hesitation.

This isn't theoretical. Volunteers and Lindens alike are getting swamped, Live Help is on fire, the myopic IM interface needs some immense improvements. Only X many can be helped at Y amount of time. Things are busier than they've ever been before, and it definitely feels more crowded come 1.7 than 1.6. A lot of it's just a noisy wash—a lot of the rants do become redundant, just a staticky drone against the positivity and truely constructive criticism which is meant to help the community, not hurt the Lindens.

Asking for help is good. I love helping, and you may see me firing out posts all scattershot. I don't back away from bad spelling, poor grammar, or even lack of technical knowledge. I realize I have a long way to go in those departments too; I can relate. What I do come down harshly on is a negative attitude of nonlearning that reeks like pissing in your own face and calling it "Morning, sunshine!", using the acidic stench to wash down a bowl of feces (also yours). (Germans call it "kaviar".)

I'm uncomfortable writing this, as it's especially pungent for me. And I am self-aware this will be taken more controversially than how I intended. But shortterm suffering can lead to longterm healing, and it really goes to show how vividly I want to illustrate what I'm feeling through words. Because on the SL Forums, that's what we have—words, and lots of 'em.

Continue on and we will survive...

The great gray gridstorm of 2005!



  1. There is a lot we have to adapt to when we participate in SL; from the lag to the gradual rezzing of our environment to the quirks of our inventory management, we (as a population) seem to be able to put up with quite a bit in order to take advantage of the benefits SL has to offer. Clearly the pros outweigh the cons.

    So why are these periodic, essential, system upgrades so painful to so many people? Is it impatience bred from living life at "Internet speed," where gratification is more-or-less instant?

    Part of the problem may well lie at the feet Linden Lab. In various ways, whether it be the daily events schedule, the burgeoning economy (taken very seriously by many players), or the assertion that SL is a platform, LL has set expectations that the grid can be depended upon. Then, when the grid becomes unavailable for whatever reason, people feel betrayed.

  2. I think those who have experience with software development or early stage products understand the nature of SL's software and roll with the hiccups, even if we don't like it at the time. But SL is a consumer app, and a lot of consumers are simply not used to dealing with a product that is still, essentially, in beta mode for up to a month after every major patch.

    Of course an additional issue is that SL is quite addictive, and people get upset when something gets in the way of their fix. :)

    I also think LL needs to get better at setting expectations. If they had a regular downtime, people would just accept it. Thankfully we do not, but these haphazd downtimes might make it more of a difficult issue to manage from a consumer relations perspective.

    1. LL relies too much on the forums for these announcements... when a lot of their customers do not check the forums
    2. LL never properly sets expectations... they always propose a downtime that is too short... invariably the grid is down longer than they expect. They also never properly condition their new customers in how bumpy the ride will probably be in the days following the release.

    We are going to hit bugs in the production release of SL... it is too difficult to catch them all in Preview. However, LL might be able to alleviate some pain, especially among new residents, with some improved communication.