Proposing Features to LL FAQ
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Before we begin...
- This is not an official article from Linden Lab.
- This article is intended to be very helpful, useful, insightful and generally good, however it is offered 'as is' and I do not guarantee that it is any of these.
- The original version of this FAQ was written by Angel Fluffy, but has probably been edited/changed since then.
What is this topic?
This topic is a unofficial FAQ about the process of making feature suggestions for Second Life. It was written by a resident, and is not necessarily endorsed by Linden Lab. It was based on my 2nd FAQ on proposing features for SL, but has been updated since then.
A note about Bug Reports
If you encounter something in Second Life which does not work as it was designed to work, then this is a 'bug'. THIS IS NOT A FEATURE PROPOSAL. They are *different* things! To report a bug :
- Check that it is not already a known issue on the known issues page. Also check the SL Blog and the SL Forums to be sure that the Lindens don't already know about it.
- If you think that it's a bug the Lindens are not aware of already, go to the LL Issue Tracker, checking the popular issues page first to make sure that this issue is not one the Lindens are already aware of and working on.
- If it does not appear on the popular issues page, then try doing a search for the key terms related to the issue. For example, if avatar attachments are not working, put "avatar attachments" in the search box. Click on the votes/date headers to sort the results. If one of the issues reported neatly sums up the bug you have been experiencing, then VOTE for this issue to be fixed, instead of creating a new issue. If you notice two bug reports are really reporting the same bug, then put a comment on each stating so.
- If you've searched and searched, and you can't find any issue already created to track this bug, then use the "create a new issue" link to create a new issue to track the bug.
- When writing the bug's description, give ALL RELEVANT INFORMATION. This means if the bug is graphics-related, write in the make of your graphics card, your computer specs, etc. If the bug is related to SL permissions, state what permissions you normally have on the land. If at all possible, include a step-by-step howto which neatly explains how to reproduce the bug.
- If it would help, feel free to attach screenshots or text logs which illustrate the bug.
- If the bug refers to what you might call a "hack" or "exploit", then read the important information on security issues before creating a new issue describing the bug.
A note about policy change requests
There are times when residents disagree with the Lindens about how Second Life should be run. One example is the Linden policy of "open registration", which was challenged by many residents. Challenging policy isn't covered in this FAQ. If any Linden reads this and does know the right way for residents to suggest policy changes, please edit it into this article, or start a new article on it.
FAQ on proposing new features to LL
Step 1 : Having an idea!
Often, ideas for feature suggestions come as a result of simply doing what you enjoy. Most people are busy doing what they love (or trying to!) and they have an idea for some tool they wish they could use : "I wish there was a tool to _____". This "tool to _____" is a feature idea.
Once you have that idea, write it down, so you don't loose it! Once it's written down, think about it. Develop it. Ask yourself 'how would this work?', ask 'how would it fit with the other tools in SL?'. Ask questions, and try to get a more fleshed out idea of it in your mind. If you feel like it, go from "I want a tool to _____", to "how would I design a tool to _____?". You don't have to design the tool in detail, but it helps to have some thoughts about how your idea could be put into practice.
Step 2 : Checking... is it original?
Most ideas that are suggested have already been suggested before by someone else. You need to know if your idea has been suggested before, and what the response to it was. There are many reasons for this :
- There might have been a killer objection which showed that following through on the idea was impossible or very unwise. If you don't check if your idea has been proposed before, you risk the same killer objection taking you by surprise and wiping out your idea.
- Many of the people that are familiar with the feature proposals process have seen a LOT of ideas come and go. If you propose the same thing again, without taking the previously killer objection into account, then your proposal may be ignored or closed, and you told to go back and do the required searching/research before submitting a proposal.
- Your idea may be a popular one that many others have thought of before. If this is the case, then you posting links to the previous places this has been suggested can quickly gather traction behind the idea. It can turn the idea from your own pet project into a long-standing request from the resident community, making it much more likely Linden Lab will consider the idea.
- Your idea may be one that was brought up before and faced some criticism, but had no killer objections made to it. If this is the case, then awareness of these criticisms will allow you to bear them in mind when drafting your version of the idea, so you can make it tougher and immune to those criticisms.
So, search the Issue Tracker for similar proposals. Check the SL Forums, especially the feature suggestions forum.
If someone else has exactly the same idea as you already up as a proposal on the Issue Tracker, then you should probably vote for it, comment in favor of it, and otherwise support it, rather than proposing it again. Remember, one proposal with 2 people in support of it is much more powerful than 2 proposals each with one person in support of them.
If you have found that the idea has been proposed before, then make sure you make a note of where. You will need information about the idea's history to make a compelling case for it. Make a special note of any criticisms the idea has faced in the past, and try to make a compelling case for why the idea is a good one anyway.
Step 3 : Posting to the Feature Suggestions forum, feedback sessions
Posting your proposal to the feature suggestions forum is very important. Not only will this help get your ideas noticed, but it is also the main place where yourself and other residents can debate and discuss your idea. Bear in mind that these residents want the same thing as you: they want to improve Second Life for everyone. Thus, you're on the same side. Don't let a debate over your proposals turn into a personal argument. That is bad form and reflects badly both on you and on your idea. Instead, work together with other residents, identifying potential problems and adapting your idea as needed to try to counter these problems. If there is a big flaw in your idea, and you can see it, then FIX the flaw, and post a modified version that fixes the flaw. Don't expect to be able to create a flawless proposal. Almost every proposal has some flaw or drawback, even if this flaw is only that it takes up Linden time that could be better spent on more urgent or more important things.
Once you have posted your feature idea up, you should send the link privately to people you know are interested in this topic or problem. This is a very good way to get helpful suggestions for improving the proposal. You can also send it to your friends - they might know someone who is interested.
Bear in mind that the more constructive criticism you have early on, the faster you can adapt your proposal, toughening it up so it has a better chance of being implemented later.
When posting your proposal, explain why your proposals are wanted/needed. Give some examples of practical uses they could be put to. Give some examples of resident wants/needs they would address. Summarise what you'd change. Don't waste time describing what already exists, unless it is unfamiliar to most residents and needs to be explained for the proposal to make sense. Be clear. Link your forum topic to other places in which people express support for similar ideas. Make sure you tie your proposal directly to other topics that demonstrate why it is wanted/needed. If Lindens have posted about this idea before, then quote the ones who support you (and provide links so people can verify the quotes). Also quote the ones who don't support you but give reasons, and show how your version of the proposal avoids the objections the Lindens have posted against previous versions. If your proposal is long, it may be helpful to include a short summary at the top and/or bottom of it, for the people who want to skim-read.
Bear in mind that the SL forums are much less active than they used to be. So, if you want a ton of comments, or a ton of support for your idea, then you should advertise it!
Once it is advertised more, people may join in the discussion on it. If you keep trying to get people interested and nobody seems interested, it may be worth making sure that you can find other people who share your problem, or who think the idea is cool. For example, if your idea is about a new kind of prim, then contact other builders. Ask for a group notice to be posted to the 1000+ members of the "Builders of Second Life" group. Be creative in finding ways to reach the people you know would support your proposal.
They may be more interested in it than the general population of SL. If you've tried this and you still can't find anyone else interested, then it may be time to abandon the proposal, or at least consider ways to make it relevant to more people.
Don't be disheartened if this happens. There are many features we all wish Second Life had, and Linden Lab can only work on so much at once. If your idea isn't quickly supported, it might just be that everyone is focused on other things.
Here are some ways to advertise your proposal:
- Put a link in your forum signature for all SL-related forums you use. Use a short, punchy title for the link text.
- Put a link in your in-world profile.
- Post about it on the SL forum, especially the feature suggestions forum.
- Hold in-world meetings to discuss it and organise a group of people to lobby for it.
- Use email to send the proposal link to people who you think would be interested in it.
- Forming an in-world group to advertise the proposal and show who supports it.
- ... many more, use your imagination!
Step 4: Final Version / Posting on the Issue Tracker
Once you are happy that your idea is as clear, useful, and free of problems as it can be, you should consider tabling it as a new feature proposal in the SL JIRA Issue Tracker. Don't rush to put your proposal up on the issue tracker before it is ready, though, as this will ultimately not work out as well as if you had waited, processed the feedback, and took more time over the drafting of your proposal. Once you have decided your proposal is ready, post it up there.
The basic tips about writing a good proposal are :
- Make sure you consider all the feedback you have got thus far. Ask for clarification on anything you don't understand. Work with your critics to develop the best proposal possible. Try to address any problems that are thrown up in debate. Note that you don't have to bend over backwards to please everyone. There will always be some people who are impossible to please and who will whine and complain no matter what you do. Ignore these people, and instead focus on making sure that the final version of your proposal expresses the important ideas clearly.
- Make sure your proposal title is clear and punchy. Best results, I find, are gained with short but memorable proposal names with some specific detail, such as "Stop Alt-Abuse, give landowners the ability to ban all alts used by a specific person!" and "Give us more prims! Increase the prim limits on land by 20%". These are better than "a proposal on SL security" and "increase per-sqm prim count for SL simulators", because they are clearer and more memorable. Vague is bad, as is forgettable. Specific is good, as is memorable.
- Make SURE you put the link to the proposal's forum topic in its description, so people can find the forum topic. Make sure you put a link to the Issue Tracker proposal in the forum topic, so people who support you can formally register their support.
- Clearly and succinctly explain your proposal in the "description" box. Remember, this is what Lindens are most likely to read, so outline the ways your proposal would be helpful to ordinary Second Life residents. Suggest ways of implementing it with as little hassle to the Lindens as possible. If previous ideas like it were rejected, then clearly state why it is different to those and does not suffer from the same problems they did. Remember : you have very few words to use in your description of a proposal on the FVT. Outline the main points, and then post your forum discussion URL to explain it in detail. You can use tinyurl.com to shrink your forum URL down to size, too. If you have a very long proposal, ask a writer to proofread it before you post - just in case there are unclear bits or mistakes you didn't spot.
Step 5 : Getting the Lindens to look at your idea
The Lindens (it seems) are most likely to consider proposals on the Issue Tracker which have :
- Many votes
- Many comments
- Other Lindens commenting on them
The first two (votes and comments) you can get by getting other people who support your proposal to vote for it and place supportive comments on it. This really comes down to your ability to advertise the proposal and get people to sign on as supporting it.
The last, Linden comments/views, tends only to happen when you already have many votes/comments.
IMHO, you should use *all* the ways to advertise it that you used back in step 3. By now, thanks to debating and discussing your proposal with other Second Life residents, you should have a few people (or, hopefully, more) who support your proposal. Once the proposal is up on the Issue Tracker, contact all of these people and encourage them to vote! At this point, your aim is to maximise the number of votes placed for your proposal, so that it stands the best chance of rising to the top and getting looked at.
Another way to increase the exposure your ideas get is to link them to the right "meta-issue". A list of meta-issues can be found here. Find the right meta-issue beneath this which relates to your proposal (e.g. proposals about increasing the number of attachment points per avatar should go under the 'Meta-Issue : Avatar Improvements') and go there. Once there, you should use the "Link" button to "relate" this meta issue to your proposal. This will cause your proposal to be linked to from a high-traffic place on the Issue Tracker, resulting in more people seeing it and hopefully voting for it.
You generally need at least a few dozen votes, plus a few comments, in order to get a proposal looked at.
Bear in mind that the Lindens usually take *months* to comment on proposals, even after they have lots of votes. Actually implementing proposals may take *years*. Therefore, once you have built a critical mass of support around your proposal and the Lindens have acknowledged it, then it may be in your best interest not to hold your breath waiting for it to happen. By all means feel free to occasionally remind them that it remains to be done, but don't wait for them to do it.