Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Few More Thoughts on Social Profiles

 This past Saturday I wrote a brief article detailing what I'd like to see with the new social features added to Second Life's profiles. In just the past few days these new "Social Profiles" have gone "live" and we're seeing reactions around the grid.

  The biggest issue on most peoples' minds seems to be, "How will this affect "Friendship" in SL?"

 Second Life's "Friendship" features have always been painfully limited, lagging well behind the contact features and tools provided by Instant Messaging clients from the 90's. These new social features make this issue even more painfully obvious and we can only wonder if Linden Lab will address the problems arising.

 Let's take a look at the problems themselves.

 Second Life's "Friend list" features never offered much in the way of organization. The name itself shows how limited the system is. We have a "Friend list" where we add "friends". Yet, how many people on your "Friend list" are actually friends? How many are acquaintances, business associates, contacts relating to group projects, et cetera?

Instead of a "Friend list" we should have a "Contact list" in which we can organize our contacts into categories based on our relationship. Simple Instant Messaging clients offered this functionality in the 90's and it's long been clamoured for in SL. 

 We need the ability to manage our privacy levels based on those groupings. I'll certainly want to share more with actual friends than a random stranger I met very briefly and may never speak to again. The new social features make this an even more pressing matter.

 We should have new non-contact list features relating to how people can follow our social "feed" as well. What if I have a favourite builder and I don't know them personally so I'm not on their Contact list, but I want to follow their public feed?  There should be a "Follow" feature linked to the new profiles in this way. Of course, it would be subject to the privacy settings each individual user sets up. Twitter, Plurk, Blogger and many other online social tools offer this sort of feature.

 These are just a few of the more obvious thoughts on the matter. I'm sure we'll see a lot more in the coming days.

 In addition, "Social Profiles" launched with none of the features I'd hoped to see. They're an improvement over the old profiles, yes, but I would hate to see Linden Lab miss out on the amazing potential profile improvements have towards addressing the biggest complaint among new users to Second Life.

 "There's nothing to do!", they say before logging out and never returning.

 The solution to this perception is right in front of Linden Lab, all they need to do is realize it and add a few key features to profiles.

 In addition to what I'd previously written about, I'd also like to see more that brings together a person's activities on the Second Life website. Based on individual user privacy settings, of course.

 When I add a post to an existing thread, or create my own thread on the Second Life forums, that should appear in my feed.

 When I pose a question to, or provide an answer for, the Answers section of the SL website, that should appear in my feed as well!

 Fredrik Linden has stated that development of "Social Profiles" will continue. Here's hoping this means more big new additions, rather than merely fine tuning what they've delivered on so far. CEO Rodvik Linden has voiced his desire to provide social network features to the SL user base rather than having them rely solely on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and the like. He seems to be pushing content creation and bringing users to in-world content more than previous CEOs, so it is difficult not to be hopeful.

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