Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Working as a Volunteer for Firestorm: I. How It Happened

The Seven Firestorm Regions

The Firestorm viewer is insanely popular in Second Life. It offers rock stable performance and a host of handy features missing from Linden Lab's official Second Life viewer. I and most of my friends use Firestorm.

The Firestorm team operates a block of island regions. The team holds its meetings there, but the purpose of the grids is to provide welcoming space for new residents. Volunteers greet new folks by name, answer questions, provide suggestions, and direct them to locations on and off the Firestorm islands. The intent is to encourage retention-- to provide a service that results in a larger percentage of new folks remaining in Second Life.

I found the old welcome areas like Olive, Plum, Hanja, Murray, and Governor Linden's mansion anything but welcoming. Older residents hung out there to socialize, and many came just to rag on or misdirect new folks. Some older residence, including myself, would visit to assist the new people, but we were distinctly in the minority.

A while back---I'm not sure just when, but certainly earlier than 2016, Linden Lab began cooperative ventures with Second Life organizations to shunt new accounts to them. Areas like New London and the Firestorm appeared, with content designed for new folks-- and the Lindens send new accounts to them upon their exit from Orientation Island.

I'm not sure if the Lindens provided regions for free or at reduced cost to these new ventures, but I suspect so and certainly hope so. Firestorm's seven regions at today's tier would cost about $2500 USD just for tier. That's a considerable expense! Bravo to Linden Lab if they're giving the welcome areas a financial break!

The Original Firestorm Social Island From the Air

When, several months ago, I began spending more time in world, I took myself to some of the old welcome areas, and then to New London, and, finally, to Firestorm Social Island. After my absence many of my friends were gone. I had lost touch with many of those who remained. Even before my furlough from Second Life I had been spending almost all my time at Whimsy, building, scripting, tweaking. It was time to get out.

Purchase of my Maitreya Lara body provided some impetus for getting away from Whimsy. One reason for my low level of activity had to do with the Lindens breaking all my old school shoes. I was ambivalent about mesh bodies until Bakes on Mesh was announced. That proved a deal maker for me. Suddenly I was back in world and focused, for the first time in a long while, on something other than Whimsy.

It helped that Whimsy had been rolling along for some years with hardly a hiccup. It still looked and ran great, and every script I wrote back in 2009 was still running merrily along, doing whatever silly or absurd things I had designed it to do. So Whimsy would be fine while I looked into some avatar modification.

I liked Firestorm Social Island from the get-go. It was attractive, and there was a good mix of new and old folks. Best of all, no one hassled the newbies. When volunteers were absent, and sometimes when they were present, non-helpers, including myself, would chip in to assist.

Two important things happened from my visits. Well, make that three. First, I was having a good time. Second, I was making friends with some of the regulars. And three, Dorrie Bellman suggested I file an application to become an assistant. Dorrie is HR Manager for the Firestorm Gateway.

I thought about Dorrie's suggestion for a few days, and then filled out the form. After filling out a second form. two meetings with Dorrie in voice, and a two-hour group meeting to learn about procedures and tools, I became an assistant. A few weeks later I became a full-fledged assistant.

Helping others comes natural for me. That's what I did in real life, after all. I'm quite good at not letting others get me riled, which is handy when dealing with griefers or people who are just unpleasant, I'm good at banter, and I type 100 words per minute. Best of all, I know, from my long tenure in Second Life, the answer to many questions that routinely pop up, and when I don't know something, I generally know what to do to figure it out.

My time commitment is a very reasonable two hours a week. I wear the Firestorm Helper tag when going to the regions, check in via group chat when I arrive, and check out when I leave. I don't yet have the ability to rez objects or the HUD that will give me the ability to relocate people who refuse to follow Firestorm's fairly liberal rules. but that will happen in time.

Even a two hour weekly commitment is significant in Second Life, but I doubt it will be a problem for me. I can come and go as I please, just so long as I exceed two hours. That suits me just fine. I'm enjoying myself.

Next: II. Redesign of the Gateway

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