Friday, 9 May 2008

Rabbits In Da Zoo. Not Monkeys.

One of the things which is always sad to watch, is a hidebound organisation trying to prevent the sun rising and setting without a signed release from the Secretary of The Manager For Sun Movements countersigned by the Officer For Resisting Changes. And it's even more sad that in this case I'm watching rigor mortis (or catatonia, it's always hard to tell those two apart in extreme cases) engulf two of my favourite things.

One is an little simulator (a "sim" in SL terminology) on a computing Grid called Second Life running a little island called ABC Island, the other is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation or "Aunty" as the national broadcaster is known to us.

At the moment there is a lot happening on those fronts, unfortunately it's not the ABC doing the running but a bunch of unconnected people (including, now, me...) who are all trying to achieve the same thing but with wildly different approaches. Here goes my approach...

ABC Island was one of the first places I landed in SL, due partly to my searching for sandboxes to build on. See, you don't automatically get your own land in SL, and letting anyone build just anywhere would be chaos and anarchy. So you need tokens in world to "buy" land and "pay" the monthly rates, and of course you generally get those tokens either by buying them or earning them.

Since everything in SL is made by someone, one way to get Lindens is to build something and trade it for Lindens. But in order to have something to build, you have to build it, and that would need you to own land - you see the problem here?

So sandboxes are a place almost every resident of SL visits at least once in their time inworld. I found a few dozen, and saw that one was Australian. The rest is history. (But see at the end of the article...)

Once I got to ABC Island's sandbox, I was struck by the multifaceted community of people there who socialised, exchanged tips, and generally made the place feel like home. And crikey! - there were a lot of Aussies on the island. Strange that...

But over time, things changed, and things stagnated. Displays that had been meant to be temporary and replaced by newer ones, were still there. Directions from on high (somewhere in the folds of Aunty's voluminous Skirt Of Authority) failed to materialise to change the exhibits and displays. And worse, it seems that someone almost brought the island to a halt by placing so many scripts and CPU chewing things that over night, the place turned from somewhere where one could move with relative ease, to a hell that any players of Quake or UT online would recognise, the dreaded vomit-inducing shuddering nauseating phenomenon known as lag.

I registered a complaint with the Friend Admins (for a huge "corporation" there seemed to be an extreme paucity of real ABC staff around) and they did their best to try and attract the attention of someone in Aunty's organisational chart with enough clout to get this investigated and fixed. It's now almost six months later and that person still hasn't been found.

With the irritation of the lag problems, and the hands-off approach taken by ABC staff who were supposed to be managing this asset, cracks began to appear and if you've read the two articles I've linked and followed the comments then you know exactly where this all stands as of about a few hours ago.

Most of the cohesive force that the Friend Admins represented has been lost to resignations of many of the people who (against the odds and against all the apathy and lack of support by the ABC) never the less managed to create a community and hold it together in the year that ABC Island has been running.

To see what has otherwise been a very progressive organisation wallowing and floundering in slo-mo has been enlightening and distressing. Rather than forge ahead and make changes, the people in charge have been sitting like rabbits caught in the headlights, hoping that by doing nothing, maybe they could avoid that most evil of evils, Change. I'd suggest to the upper management of the ABC that they need to put these rabbits back into safe hutches and find themselves a few new killer bunnies to take the job on.

Honestly - I have rarely seen any of the ABC administrative team who are supposedly managing the island in SL. In fact, I have to say that in eight months of being a daily visitor to SL, I have seen one of them, once. How is someone like that able to make a decision on anything related to SL? That would be like asking a deaf person to create radio commercials, a shipping clerk to manage a salvage dive.

So my thought and approach is that the ABC needs to find suitable people or train the existing ones appropriately. Either find people who take an active interest in inworld presence, or recruit your people from those who already are inworld, because what's there now is not optimal...

The sandbox isn't a zoo, and the monkeys aren't running it they are just over-running it. And I am now a regular at another sandbox, where there's less community but also a lot better management.

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