Sunday, February 11, 2007

Veronique Lalonde has left this session

What would a blog be without some bitching from time to time? We can't let Prokofy Neva have all the fun!

Bitching, in this case, about a phenomenon that has become known as IM spam. This starts with group announcements in IM and gets worse when announcements turn into chat and when people use group IM to ask for various kinds of help.

I realize that running a business in Second Life is no picnic. Clubs, especially, compete head to head, sometimes for the same audience. I can sort of understand when club owners think that the announcement they sent via the normal group notice channel isn't enough, and they feel they have to follow up with a group IM announcement as well. I'm not crazy about it, but I want clubs to succeed, at least ones that I like. I have to say, though, that yes, I did see the notice, and I even know how to go back and find the announcement and its landmark.

Unfortunately, it seems to be impossible to prevent use of group IM by anyone who happens to be a member of the group. By convention, group IMs are used only by group owners and their designees. Some groups are fairly good about this. I belong to the Coconut Ice Fan Club (love the special offers), and if someone tries to use the group IM for chatting, the person is quickly informed, either by the owner or even by another group member, that group IM is for announcements only. In my experience, people have been cooperative. Some groups even have a policy that use of group IM in this way will result in expulsion from the group. I'm seeing that less and less.

If you're too quick to close the IM channel after an announcement, you might end up having to do it at least once more. That's because of the chat that often follows announcements. People seem not to understand that with some groups, hundreds or even thousands of people have received the IM. Do we care about your chatty follow-up? Probably not, especially when it's interrupting a conversation we're having with someone who is actually in the room. And then, sometimes hours later, the channel might pop up again. Why? "So-and-so has left this session." Someone finally got around to closing that particular unwanted IM channel, and all of us get to know about it (not the IM-closer's fault).

Then there's the "Hey, can someone send me a TP" IM spam. Gotta love that. You mean you don't have a landmark to a place whose group you belong to? Don't know how to search? Give me a break!

There's one particular group I belong to, one I need to stay a member of, that seems to have a high tolerance for "can anyone help me" IM spam. It happens quite often, and it's probably one of the larger groups in SL. Thousands of people receive IM notices because someone who might show a little self-reliance is looking for a texture or a script. I quit a product support group because of so many of those kinds of IM interruptions.

It would be ever so nice if a group could have a setting whereby only the owner or owners and possibly certain designees would be able to use group IM. Then you could have announcements that don't turn into chat and that couldn't be used by unauthorized members. Is that unreasonable? Or, as one IM chatter advised me, do I need to take a chill pill?


Mischief said...

Group IM is a tricky beast.

I've been annoyed to no end by it as well "Can I get a tp?" "tp for me too" "send me a tp!!!" "j0 d00dz - tp me!" Chat logs alone would lead one to believe there's a severe toilet paper shortage in second life.

But at the same time, I have to say a chat in Group IM has been the catalyst to more than a couple of amazing discussions and a few wild and fabulous nights in Second Life.

Group IM puts me in mind of the days of the party line telephone, where inevitably there would someone always monopolizing the line, or constant interruptions of heavy breathing and clicks as people hop on and off the line, or the phone ringing at 2 am because of a call to a neighbour.

Until the folks at Linden Labs do what they ought to have long ago... give us the ability to mute or temporarily put on hold a group IM is beholdent on us all to use group IM in a respectful manner.

I've been guilty myself of grabbing the bullhorn and shouting into it. This is a good reminder that I need to think before broadcasting.

VĂ©ronique Lalonde said...

LOL on the SL TP shortage!

I understand what you're saying about the upside of group IM. I would venture to guess, however, that those amazing discussions and wild and fabulous nights happened in the past, when SL was smaller and its groups probably also smaller and more close-knit. If they're still happening now, I will take that chill pill. And let me know where they are. :-)