Taking the Pain Out of Complex Toys: Online Help

When designing toys for Second Life, I like to make things that are a bit more sophisticated, with main features not found elsewhere (why “reproduce” perfectly good toys elsewhere?). I prefer to bring something new and exciting to the table, so to speak. To innovate something not seen before, to load my toys chockful of features. Problem with this is that complex toys aren’t for everyone.

With this in mind, another design philosophy of mine is to make things as simple as I possibly can. For example, I eschew changing options by editing notecards – this is cumbersome for many (though easy to implement); instead, it is more work to build in buttons and listeners for the various command options.

And believe me, I spent a lot (and by that I mean a lot, a lot) of time, to work out those setup procedures for the Signature toys, to anticipate various mistakes people make during the process, and to keep things as simple as possible. So now, many functions are powered by automated wizards – setup procedures, the transfer of toys or stats from old HUDs to new ones, the smart reset button, and so on. Much of the work is done by automated scripts instead of by the avie’s hand.

Despite all this simplification, Lulu toys are still among the most complex out there. Complex can mean a lot more fun, and a lot more pain too. Especially when you’re trying to push the boundaries of what is possible in Second Life, and Second Life’s asset servers and communications hardware don’t like their boundaries being pushed. Just like a Merc or BMW with tons of electronic toys for the driver – definitely more fun, but also more chances of something breaking. Urgh.

Which comes down to this: Complex toys need a good help system.

That’s why I’m ever grateful to my Fashionistas, my team of volunteer helpers who help others on group channel. And to the many others who are not officially my helpers, but are happy to answer questions too. Whilst the group remains an important live and interactive help, there are times when not enough right people are online to help, or the questions are simply too difficult. Yet, people with problems need answers now, not tomorrow. IM’ing me should always be the last resort, as the deluge of IMs I get daily on various things really bog me down and make it very hard for me to actually get things done – like debugging old toys or making new ones. And no, sending me notecards is even worse, as I have to look for your name before I respond. (Catch a hint?)

So what are we to do?

Enter: a new online 24/7 help system!

See the new “Support” option on the menu up there? If you’re coming from inworld, you can point your browser to help.lululudovico.com, or read my profile and navigate there from my Web link. (And you thought this website is only a blog, huh?) This does not replace the current “live FAQ” system – which is meant to preserve the immersive nature of Second Life. It’s an additional help tool.

There are already almost 60 issues addressed there (mainly for the Signature toys), but as the months go by, there’ll be more. The one big advantage of this is that you can search by keywords, or simply ask your question. You are also not dependent on the right people being online. And you’ll save me one IM. You can avoid reading a few nested notecards to hunt down that one elusive question. And I can cover more problems, and in far greater detail, than inworld notecards. You can even add your own comments to the solution, to make it more complete!

Plus, if you don’t find the answer, you can “Ask a new question” too. So, next time you have a problem, point your browser to the online help. And point someone on group channel to the same too.

Going forward, I will integrate the online help into the HUD and Signature toys, so one press of the button will bring you to the online page.

And if you see something that is mis-categorized, or outdated, or just not right, please IM me, or leave a comment. At the very least, rate the answer so I’ll know whether it’s helpful or not.
See you online!

Luv,
Lulu Ludovico

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