Prokofy Neva Posted June 25, 2019 Share Posted June 25, 2019 In his interview with Saffia Widdershins, Patch Linden spoke about Mentors "camping out" in new housing areas -- and...it wasn't clear what was to come next. I hope they are NOT coming back, but if he mentions them in a Linden-sponsored activity, it looks like they are. The Mentors were disbanded some years ago -- and that was a good thing. Yes, they re-formed but as a strictly resident-based group. Could we have a statement on their exact status from a Linden, please? There has long been some confusion about this. I recently saw a resident bragging on her profile that she was a Mentor, and that this group was ENDORSED by Linden Lab -- which of course then enabled her to imply that everything she does -- from her stores to the promotion of her ideology -- is ENDORSED by Linden Lab. THAT is what is wrong with the Mentor system -- in a nutshell. Honestly, if you are the type of person who needs to write on your profile that you are in a group ENDORSED by Linden Lab, we can already tell a lot about you! And it's not good. So now it seems that they are being brought back -- which I think is a TERRIBLE idea. Here's why. When I studied the Mentors back in the day in the first decade of the 2000s, when tenants complained to me about them, here's what I found: o Staked out at the high-traffic welcome areas and infohubs, they would sling folders of landmarks and notecards particularly at newbies. These landmarks would steer people to their friends' stores, if not their own stores, and their own clubs, etc. and socializing networks which ultimately helped their own businesses. So technically, they might be described as not engaging in commercial activity, but in fact they were. o Taking advantage of their title, Mentors would lord it over other residents, even claiming they could tell them what to do and discipline them, and back this up with the force of various informal "posses". They would swoop down on a resident's land and boss them around. o Mentors were ultimately outright given stores at the help islands, again, under the guise of "helping" -- but regardless of whether these were low-cost or even free items that newbies "needed," the bottom line was that again, they were a means of commercial advertising. o Inevitably, the Lindens would listen to the Mentors' views on their own products and services, and like the Tsar listening only to the boyars, or worse, the Oprichina, they would get out of touch and even quite at odds with the regular user base. o Mentors formed cliques or even gangs, and harassed people who questioned their bad actions. They were also notorious for taking over the forums and abuse-reporting people they didn't like. While no doubt there were some selfless Mentors who helped people, my own experience when I made new accounts and walked through the process, or when I asked new tenants to describe to me what happened to them, confirmed my complaints above. Remember, the Lindens disbanded the Mentors. There are reasons for this! It's inevitable that when you form a group of people who stand apart, who are the first contact new people have, that some will exploit this perch for their own gain, whether reputational or commercial (and the two are interlinked). So why do it? For one, there is a felt need that newbies need individualized help. To be sure, there is a tendency to infantalize people who as a rule are savvy Internet users and often techs themselves or they wouldn't be bothering. But more than that, there is a fundamental philosophical flaw with on-boarding that Mentors and similar FIC programs only perpetuate: the belief that people need immediately to learn hard skills like how to rez a prim or drive a vehicle or slay a rat as if in a war game -- instead of to learn to dance or buy Lindens or shop. I have always found with very new people, quite a few who come my way, that the way to teach -- and learn -- skills is first finding what you like and what to do, THEN learning the skill to go with it. Most people are consumed with anxiety about how they look, so that's important, but somehow with all this "help," so many people aren't told to put a picture into their profile so they don't look like random goofs. They aren't told that that first photo is free if it goes in their profile. And so on. The help people need is not to learn to build or drive; what they need are ways to find a friend; ways to stick; they need people. There's another thing about newbie help -- it is endless. It will absorb and overwhelm every resource you throw at it, and much of the time, provide no pay-back in terms of retention, much less thanks. So don't through those kind of resources. Move people along to self-help. And spread out the burden to the entire user population by enabling people to find interests and friends. There is no better way to do this than teleport boards from the landing areas. I've always advocated having residents with businesses being able to BUY ADS in welcome areas, which would have to be PG and follow rules and be useful in terms of routing people to their interests, whether shopping, live music, houses, lectures, art works, whatever . This would simply take a natural human tendency to use this space for sales and REGULATE IT. But inevitably, forums regulars of a certain type scream that this would involve ugly ads and selling hustles -- as if the second-rate stores and sleazy clubs in the landmarks slung by mentors were somehow first-rate. If Lindens cannot overcome this long-time allergy to commerce that would actually help their business, in part because of the screaming of their most vocal user base on the forums, then let them make their own teleport boards. Over the years, Lindens have tried all different things. Random landmarks to infohubs (the "randomness" in this small set of users and landmarks never in fact worked to its mathematical potential). Rotating teleport boards. Featured destinations from their own list. Etc. Yes, newbies need help -- but trained and responsible and integrated STAFF should help them -- and help them through creating systems that people can simply access and use themselves. If that is too expensive, this belief needs to be re-visited. Retention is SL's greatest challenge, after server performance. It's a governance issue, at the end of the day. To make people stick, you need good experiences, not just smooth experiences. Staff once were the ones who handled incomers -- Jack Linden himself stood for hours at the welcome areas, remember? Welcome areas of course have a host of problems (griefing, wall-sitters, general idiocy) but it's not clear Mentors would fix that -- they might worsen it. Turn off voice chat in the welcome areas unless they are in Zindra. That will speedily end a lot of the worst experiences. Honestly, with all the problems involved in this system -- the tendency for not only corruption but ineffectiveness inherent in such systems -- having a system like jury duty -- where randomly every resident might get an invitation to serve two weeks as a greeter and helper -- might do a lot more good. How about having just the existing staff of Lindens and Moles and SalesForce desktop helpers rotate through on Welcome Area duty? That might help them understand SL way better. Since Lindens seem determined to bring back this dubious program, from all accounts, then I'd like to hear how they are going to exert quality control. Will they have standards and requirements and a grid of check-offs that people must meet before being Mentors? Will there be any "secret shoppers" who observe them at work? Will LL take abuse reports on them in good faith and investigate them? Will they measure their effectiveness? And so on. How about making it a firm requirement that no Mentor may place on their profile, picks, or any other public media in SL the fact of their Mentor membership. That would cut down abuses in a jiffy. "There is no limit to the good you can do if you are willing not to accept the credit." 3 2 Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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