Linden Lab is in a tough spot. They often get lambasted by their users for not doing things right. They’re a relatively small company with limited staff resources, trying to set priorities and facing an overwhelming number of requests from an admittedly demanding audience. (And let’s face it, users of virtual worlds are a very, very demanding bunch and they’re not shy about criticizing Linden Lab and its products. You only have to read some of the unending negative commentary about Sansar on SLUniverse and the official Second Life user forums to see that.)
When it comes to the software development roadmap for Sansar, Ebbe Altberg has been quoted as saying that he wants to focus on those new features which will positively enhance user attraction, engagement and retention. Linden Lab is fielding so many different requests from so many different corners: Mac users really want a Mac client, Windows MR headset users desire a Windows MR client, Paypal users are demanding the ability to use Paypal, etc.
That’s why I wanted to highlight something that Ebbe said on the official Sansar Discord channel, in response to a long and wandering conversation about credit cards vs. Paypal:
PayPal will happen some day. It’s on the list of things. Please be patient while we focus more on retention and engagement of those who can participate before we expand to enable more people to participate. Whether that is additional platforms like Mac or Windows MR devices or other payment options etc.
In other words, Ebbe wants to go deeper before he goes wider. Obviously, Paypal is still considered critically important by Linden Lab, but as Sansar’s Lead Community Manager, Jenn, has said on the official Sansar Discord forums:
I can only make my personal guess at this, since I have not touched base with product specifically on this in the last month or so. My thinking is that since we are talking about money every integration ( Paypal, [credit card], debit, other methods), [that] is going to have a timeline that requires a series of vettings, paperwork, contracts, and all kinds of red tape and processes. It is not as simple as saying “we want to work with this, so voilà now that works!” These things have got to take a lot of time and energy to set up in a way that is compliant and secure. [It’s] one of those situations where you have to be patient.
Note a key word from both Ebbe and Jenn’s statements: “patient”. We, the impatient users, seem to forget that Sansar has only been open to the public since July 31st, 2017. That’s less than five months total! Compare that to the over fourteen years that Second Life has been in existence. It’s common, but not really fair, to compare the two Linden Lab products.
One thing you can do to help influence Linden Lab in their future Sansar software development is to create (and vote up) items in the Feature Requests section of the Sansar Community forums. For example, I very much want to have the static display of Web pages on media surfaces in Sansar (a.k.a. “Web on a prim” like what Second Life already has), so I created a Feature Request for that. (By the way, it only has 5 votes, and it could use some more up-votes, please. Thanks!)
Here’s an example of a free product on the SL Marketplace that allows a university to put a webpage, plus some other images/posters, all together into an attractive and useful display for visitors:
Having this one particular feature in Sansar would allow for the easier integration of Web-based information into Sansar experiences, which makes Sansar more useful for creators, and therefore, end users.
For example, as a research project in 2018, I plan to create a user-navigable, three-dimensional version of the Mathematical Atlas website (a guide to the mathematics literature for undergraduate and graduate students) using Sansar as a platform. (I’ve already hired Maxwell Graf to help me build this experience.)
Why do this? In order to answer the following research questions:
- What hurdles do academic libraries face in providing access to a pre-existing reference/research tool in a virtual reality environment to students?
- Are the software tools currently available (for example, those in Sansar) sufficient to build effective, efficient VR experiences for reference? If not, then what else is needed? This research project would be among the very first library and educational uses of the Sansar platform. We could well be pushing against the upper limits of what Sansar can handle (e.g. how many interlinked scenes can you have in one Sansar experience?).
- How will patrons use reference and research tools in VR? In the specific case of the Mathematical Atlas, will the use of a three-dimensional landscape model help users better grasp the various areas of modern mathematical research and how they relate to each other, as opposed to a traditional flat, two-dimensional webpage? Or will the 3-D model simply get in the way of imparting useful information?
Obviously, the ability to link directly to a static webpage from the Mathematical Atlas website, rather than having to cut-and-paste text from a webpage onto a flat plane in Sansar, would enable me to build my 3D experience much more easily.
But this feature could be applied to many other uses, too. For example, how about a showroom with mannequins wearing avatar fashion, each next to a panel showing the static webpage listing in the Sansar Store, providing all of the vendor’s information about that article of clothing? It’s much easier to update a webpage and link to it, than it is to re-edit text on a flat plane. Also, having multiple versions of the same information means that they will eventually get out of sync.
To get back to my original point, Ebbe’s goals are very clear:
- Increase the number of people visiting Sansar (user attraction);
- Keep those people coming back into Sansar again and again (user retention); and
- Increase the length of time they spend in Sansar overall (user engagement).
So don’t just sit on your asses and complain about how Linden Lab isn’t listening to you! Put your thinking caps on, and let’s see some activity in the Feature Requests section! Let’s see some cool ideas!!