Posted in community, day-to-day, Lionheart, list

Cleanin’ Up This Here Town

John Wayne in Rio Bravo.
All right, so I promised I’d write a blog on my ideas and opinions about repairing/rebirthing/re-instituting a healthy community. To preface, I’m no kind of expert. I have no degree or credentials; just my own experiences from which I hope I’ve learned something.

If your community is languishing, growing slowly, or just plain nonexistent, these ideas may help you. I’m hopeful that they’ll at least provide some ammo for thought.

Listen to your critics.

You learn more from your harshest critic than you ever will from a room full of yes-men. It’s because of the room full of yes-men approach that we’ve had such monstrosities as the last season of Roseanne thrust upon us. If one person early on had said, “You know, that’s a fucking stupid idea,” and the higher-ups had actually listened, who knows what kind of a note the show could have ended on.

Now, the trick is figuring out what is actual criticism, and what is just trolling. If one troll just says “THIS SIM SUX LOL” then don’t put much stock into it. But when a group of once-active people disappear all at once, and one of them complains loudly? Pay attention to that. Amid all the profanity and name-calling, you will often find the words of someone who actually does (or did) want the community to succeed and has some real insight as to what’s broken.

Make it easy to talk to one another.

I don’t just mean your staff; I mean all your residents. Provide for them an easy and well-known way to have a free and unfettered exchange of ideas. It’s well and good to have a “natterers” group, but do people know it exists? Do they know how to join it easily, or do they have to go through a ridiculous process of applying and invitation to make it happen?

Pick your battles.

Click here to get this awesome ruler.
I belonged to a community in which someone sent an announcement out for a movie showing at his own theater. He was quickly shot down, yelled at and embarrassed in public chat for “advertising”, when what he really wanted was to create something social for the town. Guess what? He left. Here the town had been blessed the rare resident who wanted to actively (and for free!) help build the community, and instead he got run out by overregulation and rudeness.

It’s understandable to not want “BEST IN SILKS CONTEST AT MY CLUB $$$ PRIZES COME DOWN NOW!” every half hour in your community group. Too much of that will surely cause people to leave, or at best disable group announcements. But when someone makes an announcement for something that is clearly in your town, clearly meant to bring the community together, and clearly can be enjoyed, think twice before whipping out the bullhorn and the banhammer. Maybe even say, “You know, normally I wouldn’t allow advertising in this group, but because it’s a free event for everyone and it’s arts/entertainment related, maybe I’ll make an exception THIS ONCE.” Maybe even make a group for people to spam the hell out of if they want.

Some rules were meant to be bent, from time to time.

Do away with obvious conflicts of interest.

I’m bringing up the CoC group again, because it’s extremely important. If a position is an elected position of a resident (not staff) run group, staff should not be eligible. Period. And if the term is for six months, it should end at six months. To do otherwise is demoralizing to the whole community.

This is doubly important when there are romantic or familial entanglements involved. It screams “you don’t have a shot here unless you’re already related to or sleeping with the boss”. It also screams that if there’s ever a conflict, guess whose side will automatically be taken? (I’ll give you a hint: not yours.)

Publicize Resident-Initiated Ideas/Creations.

Residents will, on occasion, come up with awesome ideas for building the community. Don’t just say “Hey, that’s a great idea!” and be done with it. Really listen, and then do everything you can to show that resident that you want their idea to succeed. Make them public on your website, at your Twitter, on your rent terminals if you have that kind of technology… when you do these things, you really tell that resident that their awesome idea is a part of things, not just an incidental idea to be forgotten about (or not followed up) a month later.

And when that resident, who came up with that idea, is lauded and supported so visibly, other people will feel inspired to bring forth their ideas too.

Naturally in the sea of ideas, bad ideas will come up as well. But rather than dismiss them out of hand, run them by everyone else anyway. Explain why it would be problematic (for example, “we just can’t afford it”) and who knows, the community just might come up with a solution all on their own.

Be transparent.

This one’s tricky, but crucial. What may look to you like “not wanting to bother the other folks with trifling details” can come across looking like “keeping the rest of us in the dark”. When you make plans, unless it’s for something specifically meant to be a surprise, make them known. People trust a staff who has nothing to hide.

Besides that, it’s a well-known fact that you could post something six times, and there’d still be someone who knew nothing about it. All the more reason to speak up, and speak often.

So there you have it, my thousand or so words on what can help to revive a failing community. What are some other ideas you may have?




One thought on “Cleanin’ Up This Here Town

  1. You probably don’t want me of all people commenting, but I hope you will read my comment if nothing else.

    I hope you understand that when I ran for CoC, I was in fact not staff. I was asked twice to take on the role and I declined both times because I felt it was a conflict of interest. I wanted to run for CoC Chairman. That’s what I wanted to be doing with my time.

    When I lost, I felt the best way to remain involved was to go ahead and accept the job. Lord knows I needed the extra income it could provide, so I took the job and became a Sales Representative that same week. A month later, you stepped down and an election was held which resulted in me being your replacement – rather than starting all over and holding a whole new campaign and election. I wasn’t chosen because I was staff – I was in fact chosen by the community.

    You’re completely correct that being staff and CoC is a conflict of interest and it’s exactly why I’m not running for another term. The same holds true in the Lionheart mentor program. It’s hard to want to do work for free, when you could be concentrating on doing work you’ll get paid for. I’m human (well, in real life anyways lol) and I’m not ashamed to say that I struggled with that. My personal life dictates my online actions often – as it does for many people, I’m sure.

    As a Community Manager, Xavion is even paid for that job. It’s a job he created for himself and one Dirk agreed to pay for. So for him, there’s a much greater incentive to do things for the Community. For a staff member who isn’t getting paid to hold CoC meetings or make things happen, but IS getting paid to handle support calls… well, which of the two would you be most likely to do if you had little time and needed the money badly enough?

    It wasn’t until the last few weeks or so that I finally started seeing your point of view. I don’t entirely agree with it because I do have the unique position of being staff, CoC Chairwoman and a fellow resident – all at the same time. I take on so many roles within the community that usually they all blend together. I realize now that that’s all you see as a member of the community and that it’s hard to understand where one role ends and another begins – and sometimes it is for us as well.

    In your case, I see why you felt that you weren’t given the tools you believe you were owed to work with. It made you feel like you weren’t apart of the group and I am truly sorry that you ever felt that way. I’m not sure how much this will mean to you, but I hope you will accept my words.

    There are things that I have access to as a staff member that I wouldn’t have access to if I were just CoC Chairman. Likewise, there are things as CoC Chairman that I have access to that I wouldn’t have if I were just staff. This same concept is true for our levels of staff. Estate Managers have powers that CSRs do not, who have powers that Sales Reps do not. There are checks and balances in place – it’s just that the Community doesn’t see them and most of them don’t really care to be honest.

    You asked for things that Dirk just won’t allow for – things he doesn’t even allow staff to do. You may not like that, but it’s just fact. It was nothing against you. The CoC is resident organized, but it is in fact governed by Dirk. He has the final call because anything that goes on with the CoC can directly affect his business.

    I’d also like to point out that never at any time were you babysat. I’m sorry if staff being at the meetings made you feel that way. I guess I can see why, but also try to remember that every member of Lionheart Staff is also a merchant resident. Seriously, every one of us owns our own business. So of course we’d all attend CoC meetings. They honestly weren’t there to make you uncomfortable.

    Far as Community chatter is concerned. Please try to see this from a business point of view. We make a very serious promise at Lionheart – to respond to all support inquiries within 24 hours. We can’t keep that promise when people aren’t using the designated ways of contacting us. Believe it or not, people using group chat to try to get our attention is really hard to work with. Groups on Second Life are well known for their lag, unsent messages and the like. Staff relies on pages coming through in the appropriate manner so we can do our job and respond in a timely fashion.

    The Lionheart Community Group was created specifically for the community. It’s open enrollment and free to join. We’ve announced it so many times… and hardly anyone takes up the offer. Dirk really needs to add that group to LEMS (other groups are able to be joined using LEMS, so that one should be included too). The problem with this group is that we can’t allow for advertisement. Believe me, we tried. This group is open to non-residents and Dirk doesn’t want people spamming for clubs and stuff like that. These types of events are not community specific whereas an event at Under The Bridge would be.

    Most of the yelling about ads is done by residents who immediately jump in to tell people that advertisement isn’t allowed. At one point, we allowed for it in the Community Group and a resident got really mad at us because they felt they were mistreated and singled out because prior, it hadn’t been allowed. There was a lot of drama associated with it, and now we just don’t allow for it at all – no exceptions. It’s a Lionheart sanctioned group and thus, directly reflects the company.

    Anyways, I just wanted to clear these things up with you and let you know that while we don’t entirely understand everything you’re feeling, we do see some of what you see. I think it’s fair to say that that’s at least a step in the right direction.

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