Sunday, December 30, 2012

The SL Profile Feed - Linden Lab's unexplored "Shared Creative Space"

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.


  1. It is interesting, it has a potential but... it lacks a policy. It needs to be promoted. Appealing for residents to use it may fail if it is not regularly and structurally promoted by the company itself. It's not just a case of "build and they will come": let's say a certain resident starts using the SL profile feed, but most of the people he connecets with do not use it. He eventually convinces some of his friends to use it, but not so many. He then feels it's not the best way to reach his friends, they are on, let's say, Twitter and there is much more activity there. Another friend of his finally decides to try using the SL profile feed, but he is not there anymore... His friend will follow the same steps and eventually reach him on Twitter. The SL profile feed is something that needs a certain critical mass of users at the same time. Otherwise, it´s gonna be hard to captivate people intto continuing to use it. So, it needs some strategy. It'snot just the case of building the tool and making it available, it has to be actively promoted, I think.

  2. I use my feed at times as a means of creating stories about some of the places I visit to encourage others to go see them.

    The idea actually started in a blog post I wrote about the Open Machinima Studio Project, wherein I created a little story to go with some of the images to show the potential of the project (part of the LEA Full Sim Art Series). I now use the same basic themes when posting images of suitable in-world destinations to my feed. It seems to work and generate interest in people visiting the places.

  3. It was never used by most residents because it was taken over by egomaniacs who spam bomb it to get in the trending to be seen, not lest the cliques who force anyone with a differing opinion out and can't help themselves inflating massive amounts of drama because of said above opinions. Not least because it became a show off thing that forces competition in how you look vs how much they spend to look better than you. Shared creative spaces need respect and the people using it the most were overusing it to the point it was causing drama, they had no respect for anyone not on their friends list and who didn't "love" when they promoted their fictitious in-world existence, used alts to harass others and fabricate fallacies that opinions were not valid. However I have not used it for a while but I have looked in and it's just the same group of people doing the same fake in-world existence skits as if they have some actual worthy in-world existence. I would have preferred to see all sides of someones in-world existence and not just those cherry picked like a facebook clone to make them look cool or pompous. I like most have a limit on how much falseness we accept, when it becomes a joke like they purported to be taking part in every moment of the day I tune out, they're not kardashians and I don't exist in-world to be bombarded by wannabe ones. I'm all for living what you want in a virtual world but cherry picking pictures and posts to promote the best of just makes me sick as theres more to in-world than pretty pictures and grass skirts and surf boards.

  4. I use the photo tab in the SL profile to track the RPs of one of my RPing ALTs ... ... if the photo posts could be turned into RSS feeds, more people would use it the way the author describes. The Lab choosing to not support RSS makes incorporating these into personal blogs or other web-centric stuff much less likely.

  5. Thanks for all your input. I will use it for a second post on the feed that I am planning in January. Thanks to Inara and Asil for pointing me to your feeds.

    @ Fustachio. You can decide who you want to follow and see in your profile feed aggregation. If you don't like what some people are posting, then don't follow them!

    Also there is an interesting discussion on SL universe, but as usual the LL haters took it over and and so they ride on the weaknesses saying how bad the Lab did, bla bla...:


  6. Just to make it clear, I'm not just a Lab hater saying how bad the Lab did, hehe... it's just that in this case I think that, to make SL profile feeds effective, some planned and "structured" action is necessary, and LL is in a better position for doing so than any single user.

  7. I do use it as a easy way to have landmarks of the places i enjoyed and wish to visit again, or of some activities i did enjoy watching or participating.
    Still don't use it more as i don't know the maturity level of the pics allowed so i only post pg pics there and we all know that Sl is not a pg world (nor do i wish it to be, its its adult orientation that makes it more appealing then any other grid, for me and i do believe for many)!