I was trying to make some sort of pun out of "hubble bubble toil and trouble" for the title, there, but the quotation is inaccurate and anyway it seemed too much like hard work.
Never mind. A recent article at New World News got me to thinking about infohubs again... I used to be a regular infohub surfer, at the start of my SL career, and pretty much saw them all, and even wrote a little guide to them, with landmarks and illustrations and things. And I have to say, the behaviour shown in the NWN article is, well, pretty standard, really. Even mild compared to some of the things I've seen...
Now, the comments trail at the article makes the point that some people actually enjoy these places and get a kick out of that sort of drama... and, I suppose, that's fine; it takes all sorts to make a world, it would be a funny old world if we were all alike, and I am happy to coexist with that sort of person, always provided that the coexistence takes place at a minimum distance of a thousand meters.
The problem is, though, that people end up at infohubs without wanting to take part in the... ahem... infohub culture. Indeed, if you're a new user, you can pretty much depend on being sent to an infohub at some point. You will pick a destination that's not available, or you will click that "home" button before you have a home location set, or you may trigger a crazed security orb or a trigger-happy person on damage-enabled land, and pop! there you are, at a random infohub whose maturity level matches your highest maturity rating preference. (This is "maturity level" on the LL scale, of course; the actual maturity displayed at most hubs is somewhere around the toddler-throwing-tantrums mark.)
And, frankly, if you are a person relatively new to SL, you could be forgiven, after ten minutes at a random infohub, for deciding you would rather take up a more wholesome hobby like German scat porn instead.
There are honourable exceptions - you are unlikely to experience difficulties at NCI Kuula, for example; the Shelter exercises a calming and civilizing influence on the Isabel infohub; there are even volunteers, sometimes, who will hang around hubs answering new people's questions in a calm and helpful manner. (I still remember running into a pair of these at the Ferry Terminal in Barbarossa. After I'd recovered from the initial shock, I dumped as much support material as I could on them, guides and notes and suchlike from my own career at Oxbridge. I hope it helped.) But... well, my initial experiences of hubs mostly involved nasty exclusive little cliques, griefers trying to fob off booby-trapped objects onto me (I took one package to a sandbox, once, and probed its contents carefully, and ye Gods!), a constant roaring wave of gesture spam, and, of course, the obligatory spamming vampires and other predators. And infohubs are a big part of why I usually run with voice turned off, too. The videos in the NWN article demonstrate why, all too ****ing well. (I am not a bluenose, or easily shocked, but English has a rich supply of adjectives, so why use only that one?)
So... my experiences of the hubs were pretty much negative on the whole. But I am pig-headed and obstinate, and I was determined to find something of value in this whole SL thing, and so I carried on regardless. But, it occurs to me, someone less pig-headed than me might well log out and never log back in again, if given the treatment most new people get at the hubs... and, really, I cannot blame them.
It seems to me, really, that this is an issue LL needs to consider, if they're going to do something positive about user retention. If people want to hang out at places like Waterhead or Ahern, fine, let 'em. But if those places are going to retain the character they've got, well, LL would be well advised to stop sending people there at random. Because a lot of folks are not going to like it.