Let's think a bit about how organizations grow and advance, and what that might mean for NCI.
Of course an early question is always: do we need to grow and/or advance? Generally speaking, any enterprise that answers "no" has set itself on a possibly long, possibly short, path to irrelevance. But that is a valid choice. Any organization has the right to say "We are what we are, and if the world doesn't need what we have, so be it."
Why might NCI want to grow and advance?
Second Life is growing and changing around us. There is new technology, such as sculpts, which we have now, and meshes coming soon. There are new people, and new types of people, such as the recent influx from the teen grid. These things require adaptation: when someone asks a question at Q&A or at one of our sites, we would do well to be equipped to answer it.
We might wish to review the changes that have come and are coming, and adjust our information boards, our notecards, our classes, ourselves, to deal better with those changes. And, of course, we might not want to do any of that, determining that we are "good enough".
In what ways might NCI want to improve?
There are, of course, many dimensions across which we might improve. Some will certainly pay off better than others. Some possibilities include:
- We might continually upgrade our course content and add new courses on new topics.
- We might upgrade our locations to be more attractive.
- We might upgrade our signs to be more current and more complete.
- We might create new social events, or modify old ones, to attract more, or different, people.
How might we know how we are doing?
We might wish to measure things, looking at how things are statically, and how they vary over time. For example, we might think about land:
- How does our land usage vary, by location, by area within location, by time of day, over longer periods?
- What does that tell us about land usage and our general need for land (and tier)?
- Are we getting value, in terms of people served, for the land we have?
- What changes to land or landscaping would give our clients a better experience?
- How do people find us?
- Do they come back? How often?
- Do they get answers to their questions, or do they just wander around?
- Do they get value from wandering around?
- How many new arrivals join NCI? How many take a landmark? How many become active?
- What percentage of new citizens use our freebies?
- Can they figure out how to use the vendors?
- Do they find what they want?
- Would some other arrangement of freebies better serve their needs?
How might we improve?
This is, of course, wide open. If we knew more about how things are going, some needs would become clear, and in other areas we might see no need to improve at this time. I would expect that the need to improve is always around: there's always something that it's worth doing better. We might do any number of things. These are not suggestions, just examples:
- We might reallocate our land to more explicit different purposes.
- We might dispose of some land, acquire other land, more valuable to our purposes.
- We might upgrade signs, or landscape so as to guide people to good places to be.
- We might create new events, new courses, new experiences.
- ... and on and on. The most important items on this list may be the ones we haven't even thought of yet.
To begin with, we would have to become open to the possibility that things could be and should be better. Today, this is largely not the case. The standard position of some of us is that everything is OK and that all change is bad. Others are probably open to things happening but choose not to contribute to the ideas. Others -- I include myself in this list -- would like to see change but do not have the time and energy in world to do the work.
Others -- and this is where everything happens -- grab the ball and do something.
But we are not really organized for this to happen: it just happens. When it does happen, the most common response is to decry it and to get in the way. This one doesn't like a pastoral look in South. That one thinks our dress code is on the road to hell. This other one has these other objections.
An all too common result is that people work hard on something and get nothing but criticism. (I am mindful that K&B, who worked on rules, may feel that just happened to them.) It happens, not because people are evil, but because we are not organized for change.
We are organized for individual action, not for joint projects. Anyone who owns an area can do anything in it. No one who does not own the area can do anything in it, unless they get permission, and often not even then.
We are organized for top-down projects, not for volunteer projects. We make up ideas like "update the landmark givers", then look for someone to do it. We don't give them clear guidelines, and we do make them submit to the objections of everyone in Second Life.
We could be organized differently. We could work like this:
- Have a list of needs readily available, managed near the "top" of NCI, listing what the "top" want, but also listing things that residents think would be nice to improve. Ideally, we would prioritize this list, at least into high, medium, low, no.
- For high priority items at least, we would agree on the overall goals, and on any guidelines for the effort. We would publish these along with the list. If someone wanted to take on an effort for which we had not set forth goals and guidelines, we would quickly convene to create them.
- When someone wanted to take on an effort, we would assign one (1) senior person (not necessarily an SLO) to guide them and to serve as liaison. This person's sole purpose would be to help the volunteer get the job done successfully. They would not manage the volunteer so much as serve as coach, and as shield. Shield? Yes. When some random oldbie starts complaining about how the volunteer is doing their job, the volunteer can say "See my coach. My coach is satisfied. That's my job."
We are presently trying a sort of non-approach. We neither provide a vision, nor do we provide a place for people with parts of the vision to elaborate them. The result of our approach is what we have, which I think could fairly be characterized as frustration all around, plenty for everyone. My guess is that that's not good.
There might be other approaches. I favor self-organization around shared goals, supported by information. I would like to see NCI work that way.
Failing that approach, I would like to see NCI work in some way. Presently, in my opinion, it's not working at all. It's just drifting. I think NCI deserves better; I think its senior members deserve better; I think new citizens deserve better.