I want to start by thanking all of the Altspace Community Helpers whether they are current or former helpers of the community. Since the announcement, there has been talking about the removal and there have been mixed reactions. Something I have heard repeatedly, particularly at yesterday’s Community Helper Farewell Celebration is a sense of understanding of the importance of continuing to do the things and a determination to encourage others to support the community more.
One side of the argument is there should have just been a purge of Community Helpers / mandatory re-applying or tighter control over who is eligible for the badge.
Another argument I have heard from both sides is the timing, delivery and execution of this announcement while community morale appears to be lower as of late was a poor judgement, therefore regardless of opinion, this change is negative as it further divides and depletes morale within the community at a time where much-needed bug fixes and improvements are needed. This
The other extreme end of the spectrum are the people who think this is a positive change for the better and there is an understanding of the ‘power corrupts all’ mentality more or less even though we may particularly feel certain people shouldn’t lose theirs.
What being an Altspace Community Helper means to me
When I joined Altspace in December 2020 I joined the former Commons Campfire and I would see a few Community Helpers crowded around the admins on duty making small talk. I noticed that Admins were very polite, less direct and more open to having a joke in the presence of Community Helpers. I did feel a sense of FOMO because I wasn’t part of the club and something that stood out with Community Helpers at the time I joined was that they were the only users whom seemed to be working with Unity to upload worlds.
Don’t get me wrong I am sure there were non-Community Helpers doing Unity but I struggled to find anyone who could just teach me the ropes and the official Altspace documentation at the time was outdated and limited compared to the various sources of guides. Thankfully there other users besides myself creating basic tutorials to explain to people in their own way and the more the merrier!
This frustration was what drove me to learn Unity from the very start and to document my learning process and share it online. This became my ‘Why’ on why I wanted to help and contribute to the community. But I also understood regardless if I had the badge or not I would want to continue to learn and share my knowledge.
Honestly, my badge was applied out of FOMO and sense this was coming eventually
Towards the end of last year, as my website was growing every month, I noticed there were more world builders and creators around on the platform from all walks of life. There was a moment where all of a sudden I realised everyone was a builder and my website was having some success in helping others. But from innovation grew a sense of rivalry between content creators. As particularly during the pandemic e-commerce grew during 2021 on the platform and because of the smaller platform size of Altspace created more supply than demand in terms of content. This has fueled competitiveness, pettiness and jealousy and it has given Community Helpers an unfair ‘status’ of authority over other users.
Community helpers usually flock together on the platform, this can be genuine friendship groups but regardless, it appears to some users as ‘gangs’ and then you have a situation where it becomes gang vs gang or group vs group depending on your perspective. This is where Community Helpers begin to look bad because there is paranoia, competition, and resentment towards certain others that go against the nature of those involved. I’ve seen wonderful people who make great Community Helpers get involved with ‘drama’ on a scale unseen before. Let’s talk about it.
What changed to make AltspaceVR “pause” the Community Helper program.
From a company perspective and from a liability standpoint there would be concerns being raised that most likely weren’t concerns before. Earlier this year there was worldwide coverage of a story of an allegedly being inappropriately touched. Using the term allegedly since I don’t know the specifics of that particular story but it is safe to say I have unfortunately seen that inappropriate behaviour from time to time on Altspace which does get dealt with quicker. Credit where credit is due, AltspaceVR do take their moderating and users’ safety seriously.
This story breaking had a simple effect and earlier this year AltspaceVR made some changes including the removal of the commons campfire and requiring personal bubbles to be toggled off individually for each event and world a user enters. This change caused a mass out-pour of protests which were overlooked in a follow-up AltspaceVR event that left the impression that the user-submitted questions were at the very least, cherry-picked.
This left a sour taste behind in the community and to be frank, some people I haven’t personally seen and event numbers and friends online have been lower lately. It would be fair to say the majority of users are frustrated at the lack of recent updates and improvements as well as feeling like we are being kept in the dark about the future of the platform.
Since the removal of the campfire, there have been several reports of users being banned from community-run campfires which have further divided friendship groups. This means there are more hub/hangout worlds where users hang out with their friendship groups and avoid certain places. This trend has been rising due to recent drama between users on the platform that has been escalating in some cases since the removal of the campfire.
There have also been some creative uses of the Community Helper logo being used to try and reunite the community. Unfortunately, these campfires have not been moderated as fairly as the Altspace-managed campfire. New users who don’t understand this blurs the impression of Community Helpers.
Update: Altspace announced follow-up changes
On the 23rd of May Altspace announced further changes including mandatory MSA login requirements and announced further changes on 31st of May.
This announcement also addressed in short that Altspace paused the Community Helper program to re-think the moderation and user levels and status. This could mean specific-event only tags to help highlight event staff. I think this might be a valid pathway for the platform as the “status” depends on the event itself and that status does not follow them around to mislead people about their representation on the platform.
Do I think AltspaceVR has made the right tough call?
Yes, despite it being tough the platform dynamics have changed over the last few years and as more moderation tools have been added for event hosts the ‘need’ the need for guidance and assistance from the Community Helpers is required less and less. As the status can also confuse new users for official staff.