Thursday, February 24, 2011

The forums beat me to the punch!

Before I had even finished my blog post for yesterday, some activity about AWGate stirred on the forums and eventually moved to a full-blown discussion.  I tend to go where the action is, so I opted to post my thoughts there yesterday instead of here.  I'll repost them below and then post an addendum based on the current poll results.
Yesterday's Rant: Linked here
...I'm also of the persuasion that the GKs aren't an effective organization, but that doesn't mean that I have to join the organization and effect change from the inside to justify my opinion. The way new users are exposed to the technology needs to be radically examined, and I think that includes the dissolution of the gatekeepers -- or at least restructuring the constituent members into a more effective team. For example, a lot of people complain about the current gate world and it's gotten a really bad rap that I think is entirely undeserved. It's more difficult to navigate; its color scheme is bland; don't like the theme. From a design standpoint, the circular plaza with informative kiosks flanking the entry point is probably the most economic placing of information you'll get in a 3D environment. The outdoor themed gate is easier to navigate, certainly, but all of the information and teleports were scattered all over the place; which is bad for new users.
The reason I bring up this design is because I don't think that the institution that is suppose to be our face to new users has really *gotten* the point of the new design, hasn't cared to *get* the point of the new design, and has ultimately made it harder for new users to know what to do because of it. There are a number of inconsistencies between what the form of the current gate intends to do, and what the stubborn people at the gate do in practice.
The easiest example to illustrate: The current gate has two 'help desk' areas that are readily visible and accessible for new users. We're in a 3D environment, and ideally a new user should be picking up on visual cues sooner than cues that they would see in chat. Now when I'm in the gate, it's pretty hit or miss if there's anyone actually at these desks. At the very least, if there is a gatekeeper on duty (even if this is not a written rule) it would be in the best interest of new users for them to be at least standing around the desk that is out in the plaza, that is labeled for the gatekeeper. Why is that? Because if I go to AWGate, don't know anything about Gatekeepers, AND I see an empty help desk where somebody should be standing... my logical assumption is that nobody is around to help. Also, if I am a new user... I don't know the significance of bold text. I could probably infer it, but what if the GK is off getting a drink or something and there hasn't been any bold text since I arrived in the world? An idle avatar at the help desk at least implies that there is suppose to be someone around to help me, and I could perhaps wait a moment instead of getting frustrated and X'ing out of the program.
This is an example of a small, nuanced change in the Gate world since it's last design, but for an organization that makes it's home in that world I think they should have adapted to the very helpful visual cue being provided to new users. If they don't, it is a very hurtful visual cue to that new user's experience, because it portrays the image that nobody is available to help them.
I don't know the internal workings of the gatekeepers so I don't know if there is any sort of policy concerning specifically how to interact beyond the chat box, but I've been lurking in the gate quite a bit lately for a video project and my observations are concerning. Most of the time, the people there just aren't engaging the world. I mean really, what's the point if you aren't engaging the world!? What the heck are you doing??? Can we have an option to close out the 3D window? That should be an option, because some people are only looking at chat!!!
This is something that can easily be taught and corrected, but a there are a lot of ideas floating around now for what could be done for AWGate and I think the gate concept and the new users that are trying to get into AW deserve a better collaborative effort that joins the designed effort of the build world with the social effort of community volunteers. The world's got *great* visual hints right now, and I think our creative community could expand on them and really see something good through if we would stop relying on old institutions to do it for us.
I think it's time we give something else a try.

As far as the poll goes; I'm more partial to the options that are rooted in reality. :P I voted for the alternative to AWGate that seems the most readily available -- moving the entry point to AWSchool.  I'm actually partial to either the AWSchool or AWNewbie option, but AWSchool has a much larger active staff these days and if the desire was there, the staff of AWSchool could take on AWNewbie in a new effort for the new users.  I'm glad to see both of the 'tutorial-themed' options doing so well in the polls. :)

Of the alternatives discussed, I'm also very fond of JonBee's suggestion for a quest-based tutorial experience.  This wasn't a poll option, but it essentially offers a stand-alone tutorial to new users before letting them loose in our world.  This idea has been around for a while, and I think its really great because it gets your feet wet a bit before jumping in.  No more getting frustrated and quitting because you don't know how to walk!

My rant from yesterday really only addressed AWGate, but since then the issue seems to have grown to a larger question: Is AWGate enough, and if it isn't, where else could we move new users to?  Reading through my discussion from yesterday, I think you would be able to infer that I have no problems with the built environment of AWGate.  I actually have nothing but praise for it; it was very well laid out, and there are some features that are incomplete but on-the-whole it does a very good job of being a gate; it gets people in and through the door. My biggest complaint is, in fact, that we aren't using it right... but that's not any fault of the design. :)

Anyway I'll be following this discussion thread and may offer up some more insight later on.  I'd like to wrap my head around all of the opinions before I continue commentary.  Very good discussions going on right now, feel free to join in!

In the meantime, I'm going to be posting up some older material and parsing through some things I'd like to host on here as I continue getting ready to develop this into a resource blog.  I'll probably not promote these posts, and may even bury them as pages -- just want them around.  Doing a bit of housekeeping.


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