Overcoming the gap between in-world and logged-out
Linden Lab is now marketing itself as "Makers of Shared Creative Spaces". And they even might have created a "shared creative" space by accident. It could become the intersection between the in-world SL experience and the web. It could also become a multiplayer interactive online narrative. I am talking about the SL profile feed with its snapshot function. Most people haven't realized its potential and they are not even using it. But let's start from the beginning.
Can I seriously be talking about the SL profile feed - this feature that never got adopted by the SL users? The SL feed is what you get to see first when you click on someone's profile in the viewer. It's basically an overview of past status updates made by a resident. When Linden Lab acquired Avatars United in 2010, they integrated pieces of that social network for avatars into the Second Life platform. As a result the profiles of the residents switched to a web-based layout and SL profile feeds were added. However up to now the majority of SL residents doesn't write any status updates and their feed remains empty. Most of the time you'll find automatically generated entries like "Xyx resident changed their display name to Xyx+".
|Nothing shared at this moment...|
So where is the potential? Well at some point Linden Lab added a little but decisive new feature: the ability to directly upload snapshots from Second Life to the feed. SL residents can now publish their in-world experiences to the web directly from the viewer itself. So far the SL experience is mostly limited to what is happening in-world. Either you are there or you miss. At best you can hope that someone is going to tell you about it.
|click to see feed|
|click to see feed|
The SL feed could be a tool for people to stay in contact with each other when they are not in-world at the same time. It is easy to make a snapshot and to add a short descriptive text. With another click the experience becomes visible to all your SL friends or even the whole internet. The feed has thus become an intersection between the virtual world and the web closing the gap between "in-world" and "logged-out".
The SL feed as your RPG multiplayer online storybook
The SL profile feed should be interesting for those SL residents who role-play in Second Life. The snapshot function in the SL profile feed is a great tool to present a series of your in-world adventures in a seamless story. The way of presentation - a picture and describing text - reminds of comic art and is fun to read.
Not only the story of one person can be presented in a feed. If you are in a community of SL residents that have started using the SL feed, then you can access an aggregation of all their posted little stories by pressing the home button on your web-profile. I have posted a short video of my feed aggregation this afternoon in order to give you an impression how it can look if you are part of an active SL feed community.
The SL feed holds great potential for role-play communities who constantly have to overcome the obstacle of communicating the played stories to the RPG members who have been offline. RP managers try to overcome this obstacle by setting-up "social sites" which host forums, the background story of character, events and other news. However this web-based story telling is completely separated from the Second Life experience and depend on the motivation of people to recapitulate the in-world stories a second time in a web format. In my experience very few people make the effort to write down their in-world adventures on such an RP community page.
Another problem that RP communities are facing is that it is hard to involve casual players. They need to be updated about all the action. If someone leaves in the middle of the role-play then they need to be told how the story continued. It boils down to this: "Log-out of SL and you are disconnected. Now imagine that those players just need to check their SL feed aggregation and they will know all the little story lines that took place in the meantime. Interesting sub plots that were improvised can be read, discussed and taken up by all of the community. People could even follow the stories of their RPG community when they are on holiday without the opportunity to log-in for days.
That's why I think that the SL profile feed has the potential to be a multiplayer interactive online narrative and why it could become an important intersection between the virtual world and the web, something that SL as a platform has been missing in the past. It's just up to you players to use the feature and to let others know about it.