In a post on his My Second Life (MySL) microblog feed today, Loki Eliot opined that “one of the main reasons not many use SLfeed is because they don’t come across many instances that lead to it.” I agree to a point. Mostly folks don’t know about the service despite it being tightly integrated into our in-world profiles and easily accessible on the Web. Instead, I contend that not many folks use MySL is that it is a faulty, poorly formed service. Don’t get me wrong here. Readers of this blog know that I use MySL on a daily basis and often extoll its virtues, but take a look at the post that I just mentioned to see just two of the issues that impact usability:
With a Snapshot, text is appended after the creator’s name stating that s/he is sharing a snapshot. You can then click an embedded hyperlink to expand that post to see the image in larger form (you can also just click the image to embiggen it) and to see all the comments in a new window/tab. Notice the yellow arrow above? No such feature is available for text-only posts. Opening one in a separate window for citation purposes or to simply let it stand alone is problematic at best. That’s where the pink arrow comes in. It is pointing to a hyperlink opens the post in the same window/tab so that no other posts are visible rather than simply showing all the comments (because that would be far too useful thus does not qualify as a feature). The upshot here is that message handling is mismanaged. Look at Twitter for an example of how this could work:
|I think it looks better on the iPad but it’s my brother’s account (I don’t Tweet) so he provided the screen shot.|
Very functional, but then again the fine folks at Twitter have been evolving the design for their millions of users. The Lab has stopped support for MySL for its tens-of-thousands of users so it works pretty much the same way it did when it was introduced.
But that’s not the half of it. The system is also buggy and hard to use.
The pink arrow here shows the Notifications counter. Mine often has a negative count or a flashing zero count. I think that this is because I keep a clean Notifications tab, deleting items I don’t need, but the system often repeats notices or delays them up to 12 hours so the counter is naturally confused. This is only exacerbated by a design that makes the user work for the content. Clicking Inbox takes you to a Messages tab that is seldom used. If someone “DMs” you via your profile or via MySL, those messages show up here. Working with them is a whole ‘nother issue that I won’t get into here.
Look at the orange arrow instead. Four of the five messages concern the exact same Snapshot post, but the only way to learn that is to open each and every one of them. If you click on the Snapshot hyperlink it opens the whole post but doesn’t change the focus to the point on which the notice is about. Instead, it simply closes your Inbox and displays the post from the beginning. MySL Workflow, thy name is Lucifer. This is but one of the tasks that is torturous when it comes to using MySL to its fullest.
Yah, yah. Such a First World problem and if wishes were horses we’d all be eating steak (Thanks, Jayne!). But putting the user aside for a moment, think what a power social media tool this could become for The Lab. There is a reason that Residents flocked to Plurk and Twitter. There’s a reason Residents used Avatars United (and The Lab bought it*). Me thinks, however, that The Lab has forgotten this reason.
* see Avatars United article at Massively here.