Before I ever created an account on SL, I had done some reading on virtual worlds in general, and SL in particular. In part, this was because I was coming at it cold: I had never participated in any on-line games, role-playing or otherwise. I never had any interest. Once I joined, I read anything I could lay my hands on about places to visit, how to customize your avatar, how to "own" land, what animations, gestures, scripts, and prims were, and so on.
I did this because I didn't want to seem like such a noob, and I knew absolutely no one in-world. And I never went through the noob tutorial because I accidentally teleported away from Noobie Island (or whatever it's actually called) almost immediately. To have questions answered, I'm sure I could have asked mentors, gone to classes, or even asked random people, but I preferred not to do that.
Over time, people learn by doing, of course, but they also learn things through friends, through group announcements, discussions on group channels, and so on. The problem is that these are not efficient channels of distribution of knowledge, so it takes time for people to learn.
I bring up all this because two recent episodes got me thinking about how it is we learn anything, and whether it is acceptable to make fun of or get mad at people who don't behave as expected. (Griefing is just bad manners, and is thereby excluded from this discussion.) The first is the recent spate of "noob droppings," for want of a better term, throughout Caledon but concentrated in and near Oxbridge and Oxbridge Village. These are often individual prims, usually still in the plywood texture, created by a fairly new resident who is experimenting with various settings and happens to be in an area where build permissions are on. Sometimes the person has a free vehicle and rezzes a copy (or four) and leaves one or more behind. Sometimes the person is building something a little more ambitious than a single plywood prim, and again chooses another resident's land and leaves the dropping behind. These folks are using "private" land as a public sandbox, which is wrong, of course. But how is anyone to know that? The tutorial discusses building - but never discusses land ownership, as far as I know. A little experimentation will show that some land does not allow building; should one then infer that building is acceptable wherever it is allowed? If I did not know better, that would seem like a reasonable inference.
Let me contrast that with "poaching," of which there have been a few episodes of late, in which someone places an entire build high above another person's property, effectively stealing the use of those prims (and contributing to lag to everyone). In one memorable example, the poacher had an entire store located at 700 meters or so, and was giving out landmarks to the store! These poachers are veteran enough to understand that what they are doing is wrong, and they choose to do it anyway. Does the noob know what he is doing is wrong, or impolite? I don't know, and I'm inclined to think well of people unless confronted with evidence otherwise. (I don't know why I do so, given the daily atrocities in the newspaper; maybe I'm just an optimist at heart.) Still, the recent house in Caer Firnas seemed a bit overboard. Didn't the person who put up the house think that a floating modern house was more than a little out of character with the rest of the sim, not to mention the rest of Caledon?
The train leaves Caer Firnas
A house, out of place and time, floats over Caer Firnas
All of that brings me, in a roundabout way, to my second episode, involving the use of facelights. Several people have said in public forums (ISC chat, blogs) that Windlight has eliminated the need for individual facelights and, in fact, such facelights now make an avatar look harsh and overdone, implying that the look is the avatar equivalent of Tammy Faye Baker's makeup. These comments generally take the tone of "everyone knows that, so only a blind idiot would use a facelight." Well, exactly how would anyone learn that? Saying it in a snide way certainly discouraged anyone asking questions, and had the effect that the speakers could feel superior while anyone still using a facelight felt badly. Was that the intent? Probably not, although the tone of the conversation provided some insight into character.