Tuesday, October 28, 2008

you're running after something that you'll never kill

First off, let me mention the JIRA issue that's arisen on this. Go read it if you haven't; acquaint yourself with the issues, and come back.

I'll wait.

Okay, everyone back? Wonderful. Let me pour a round of tea and become extremely unpopular.

While I believe, to the heart and soul of me, that Caledon is a community, that other groups of private estate sims are communities, that the groups residents make on SL can foster interests, interaction, and deepen that sense of belonging...at the heart of it, Linden Labs is not running a group of commmunities here. They are a business. Second Life is their product. They are interested in keeping their numbers up, they are interested in turning profit, and maximizing successful gaming experience and fostering the brand name over every other concern.

I have been here before, passionately committed on a topic, and frustrated, angry and hurt that they didn't seem to listen. It took me a long time to admit to myself that the only thing that will change anything at Linden Labs at large, is a blow to their financial gain. Because they are a corporation. They have corporate and technological concerns, they will not react one whit to any emotional outcry.


Am I being in any way unclear on this? NOTHING WILL CHANGE if no harm comes to their bottom line. That bottom line being profit, financial receipts, technological upgrade of needed systems...for the game that is Second Life.

Let me be absolutely clear on my position, as well: am I supporting the raising of rates on OpenSpace sims? Not entirely; I think they could have reduced the price and still brought in effective numbers. Do I support that Linden Labs had to make a change, or suffer in providing services?


Do I believe this is a conspiracy, or a "bait-and-switch" something-for-nothing maneuver on the part of Linden Labs?


Here's something you may not know, all of you who are screaming that this is so massively unfair: yes, Linden Labs told us that four OpenSpace sims would be allocated per server. In certain cases, this is true, but per processor; so in certain cases, there are up to sixteen OpenSpace sims per processor, on a quad-core server.

Think about that a moment. Imagine that. Because of the cut cost of OpenSpace sims, because of the request--over and over, in all paperwork and blog mentions leading up to any individual purchase of an OpenSpace sim--that these be "light use" sims, low scripting, low objects, low texture use--some of these sim groupings were stacked four to one server machine; eight to one server machine; a full sixteen to some servers. What would that be like? What would that feel like, if your sim was one of the ones adjoining, if your sim was one in that same stacked group when one--or more--abuse such "light use" guidelines?

I can tell you. I can tell you easily. Because before Rivula was upgraded to a Class 4 server, Rivula, Lunalis, Lunula and one other sim in the chain were stacked on one server. Rivula for half of its simlife--until the Enigma club closed--was stacked as one of four, with three other sims containing residences, businesses, and dance clubs. Rivula itself had two clubs and one full amusement park, complete with flume ride and bumper cars.

Rivula was a full sim, with full prim allotments; yet, because it was so stacked in chain, there were times I could not go back to my home. I could not go home, period, because home wasn't there. Rivula had gone down, again, Rivula was subject to script overdraw, again, Rivula was lagged, again, because of script usage in our sim, or in one of the sims stacked with us.

This is frustrating in the extreme. Had someone come by and said, to the sim owners--listen, we hear you, we know this is frustrating--what if we move you to your own server, upgrade the server platform, and tighten everything up? Just cost you $300, instead of $100 per month.

I think the sim owners would have leapt at the chance. More stability? Not having to restart the region twice a week? Not having to watch scripted objects die and not being able to reach a Linden for help because stacked sims, in all honesty, didn't receive the same consideration and solid support that sims on single servers did?

They would have blessed the Lindens. We would have rejoiced utterly to get away from the three other full sims we shared that server with.

So breathe. Calm down. Stop bitching. Realize the only alternative you have is to raise the funds, release the sims, or work with people who can effect change in a rational and reasoned way--using logic, tactics, and what the Lindens understand--fiscal accountability.

Nothing else is going to work. And you're just whining without excuse if you think it will.

*sits back and waits for the death threats to pour in, sipping Earl Grey*


Updates, the day after:

Aminom Marvin has it exactly right, I think:

This leads me and many others to believe that the current policy's rationalization is an out right lie. The most obvious reason is that Openspaces are "too successful" as a product; people have flocked to them and away from mainland because they wonderfully suit user's needs in price vs. land size and prim use, and avoids the problems with ugly builds on mainland and renderlag from having adjacent sims all around a sim. The result is a devaluation of mainland; many parcels can be found for less than L$3 per meter--the equivalent of $600 for a full sim.

Gregg Barrymore--the owner of Antiquity--has stated he is abandoning all twenty-six sims as protest. If his opinion hasn't been changed--then Antiquity is gone. Which means--just from what I know--that Antiquity Texas's amazing reconstruction build of the Texas capital building--gone. Wulfenbach's Consulate building in Antiquity Township--which Mr. Allen and I constructed to specifications for the parcel space--gone. The Marzipan Teahouse Ballroom in Antiquity Haven--which has contracted every two weeks for a host and presenter through Radio Riel--gone.

So just from my small involvement in Antiquity, that impacts nine people directly--and without a doubt, affects many, many more. In addition to the loss of Antiquity as a concept.

Sascha Swindhurst puts it very simply indeed:

It is not simply about the future of open spaces and it's 'legitimate use' (which i think is not supported by this issue)
It is not about paying more cash for a product (as we can always decide SL is another luxury good we can abandon payments for)
It is not about me being angry to our 'evil landlords' who raised our rents by 66% (which would be completely legit as protest in RL)

It is because this measure is one that does no good to the reputation of Linden Labs and their product. There are those who may argue similar things had happened in the past and the grid survived. Those people will also have to consider many customers have left because of these events. In the long run business and product reputation are necessary to keep Second Life up as a product name. You will simply have to be doing better than this.

Will they realize it in time? Who really knows? They didn't all the other times they made unfortunate decisions in the past...


Edward Pearse, Duke of Argylle said...

As one of the renters of an OpenSpace you know I'm biased, so we'll go from there.

I agree that I don't think it's a conspiracy. I also agree that the kindergarten temper tantrums that usually accompany Jira complaints and forums posts will not solve anything.

However I'm not so convinced that it's not a bait 'n' switch. I admit my experience with void sims has been limited to places like Caledon, Winterfell and Antiquity. I don't believe that any of them are particularly "high use". Yes we've pushed up a void sim to get 100 people into it and it didn't crash. But that's hardly standard for any of the sims I know of. Personally I believe the guidelines for the openspace sim use and the increase to the primmage LL made late last year are contradictory. If you're not to build anything on it why on earth do you need to go from 1500 to 3750 prims?

If it turns out that someone is running a night club on an openspace then LL should boot them. They were quite happy to take a hands on approach in other matters. I'm at a loss to understand their lack of enforcement of their own system stability (assuming I actually believe for a second that performance issues is the true cause behind the price hike).

Personally I'm hoping Des's suggestion that this is an opening volley and they'll be able to claim they've listened to the punters when they drop it back to a price they were intending all along, thus giving us the false impression that we've achieved something.

Only time will tell

Emilly Orr said...

Maybe, then, OpenSpace sims were pushed wrongly by the Labs, in order to foster a dependent class of residents who would, one then assumes, do anything to keep their newly-acquired mini-islands.

This was always my assumption, reading over the background notes on OpenSpace sims (back during the brief period we toyed with the possibility of getting one): OpenSpace sims were, by their nature, lower-resourced. They were for educational centers (unstaffed); art galleries (without vendor scripting); garden spaces, waterfrontage without vehicular activity. In other words, no stores, no homes, not a ton of avatars.

Now, I will grant this: with that as the official description, LL wouldn't have sold a single one. Remarketing them as 'low-use', saying four OS sims per server (instead of up to sixteen on a quad-core machine, sharing memory and bandwidth between them), sounded a great deal better, and made them sound like tidy little vacation spots--a handy way to extend your beach, build your dream home, build a meditation temple tucked away amidst high pines.

Needless to say, while I wouldn't rate it as "abuse", nearly every OS sim I know of has homes, stores, and in a few cases, high-script, high-avatar clubs on them (though I'm still not sure that's not abusing the system). And to that end, I'm thinking you're right--why would they increase the prim count if nothing was supposed to be built on OS sims? That remains puzzling to me, and puzzled me at the time.

For no real reason I'm reminded of the bit of interchange between Chris Tucker and Jean-Paul Gaultier leading up to the movie The Fifth Element. He had sketched out design concepts rife with floral details and mad colors, and the director and producers looked at him and said, sir, really, trust us on this--Chris is not going to go for this. He smiled and said, leave it to me.

The next move was to set up a meeting with Chris Tucker, upon which he turned out sketch after sketch of ornate ballgowns, orange silk and pink taffeta, and hairstyles that would flatter the love children of Erykah Badu and Marie Antoinette. And when--as expected--Chris Tucker turned them down flat, utterly horrified...Gaultier sighed, sketched a few things briefly, then brought out the real proposals--to which Tucker, in sheer relief, agreed to without reservation.

If what they really want is, say, a reduction of prims to 3000 per sim and a raise in price per sim of $25...starting everyone out with the absurd over-floraled orange and pink confections would stir everyone to frenzy. Then, they simply have to pull out what will now sound as reasoned compromise, to which everyone will joyously agree.

So to that end, Edward--I think you may well be right, that they want the froth and controversy to rage before they bring out what they really want everyone to agree on.

(But still--even with that--the rules for OpenSpace sims were clear. At least in the beginning. And while the abuse of that stated purpose may not have taken place in Caledon, Winterfell or most of Antiquity, it has been frighteningly abused in other places. One bad apple, after all, is all it takes at times...)

Rhianon Jameson said...

If you're awaiting death threats, I would recommend switching to something considerably stronger than Earl Grey. But that's just me.

I don't have a dog in this fight, or at least not a really big dog. I feel for people in Caledon and elsewhere who bought an Openspace sim and now feel as though LL has done a bait and switch - whether or not that perception is accurate. I feel for people like Guv who will have to deal with the fallout in their estates. And I think that having fewer OS sims in a place such as Caledon, or Winterfell, or New Babbage, or Fatima Ur's estate, or...will make the experience less wonderful.

Having said that, I agree that LL is a corporation, corporations are motivated by profit, and that it does no good to sound aggreived about the whole thing. I can imagine scenarios under which the price increase will ultimately increase LL's profits, though it is easy enough to imagine the opposite outcome as well.

All of which leads me to two comments: first, I fail to see the connection between the performance problems you described and the pricing of the OS sims. Unless I missed something, LL did not say "The price is going up by $50/month, but let me tell you what that's going to buy you." Instead, they made an untenable claim. I find that annoying. Others might find that more than annoying, perhaps thinking it illustrates indifference on the part of LL to its customers.

That leads to my second comment, which is that, in the long run, profit depends on how well customers receive your product. And, rightly or wrongly, "product" includes how customers perceive the company. Companies often forget that piece of business advice: don't screw over your customers. It may increase profits in the short run, but tends to make formerly loyal customers look for alternatives, and discourage potential customers. This hullaballoo is unlikely to affect my SL experience much - no large dog in the fight, remember? - but it makes me less inclined to invest heavily in the process. Others, far more influential than I, will think twice about the next "opportunity" LL offers, and will take a harder look at alternative virtual worlds, or, heck, alternative forms of entertainment. (Hotspur O'Toole notes that he still has his collection of board games ready to roll. There are many ways to spend time that do not involve LL.)

I don't have any insight into what's "fair" - I tend to think of it as a meaningless word, used mainly when someone wants something from me - but I do think it's good business sense to make your customers think that you are fair.

Now I'll sit back and...well, I have no whisky with me, so the cuppa will have to do for now.

Emilly Orr said...

I think I do have a stake in this, in that many of my friends, and many of the places I like to go in Second Life, happen to center around OpenSpace sims. If everyone who currently owns an OS sim in Caledon--just in Caledon--gives back that sim to Linden Labs because of frustration with the Lindens and their baffling new demands--Caledon will lose much of what makes it distinctive and interesting, and, even more important, frustrate and upset many people who, by staunchly supporting Caledon, support Linden Labs and Second Life as a whole.

rade Bailey put it very well in this early response to the JIRA issue:

Lets break this down a bit...

"Educator discount is no longer available for Openspaces."
Way to go to attract nonprofits to SL. I wonder how many schools ect are gonna dump their meticulously-crafted sims now that the price has almost doubled.

"No Owner switching for Openspaces unless it's a full transfer of Payor."
Well, so much for renting. Byebye, potential content.

"Class 4 Openspaces will be upgraded to class 5 in January."
This is whats known as a 'carrot'. "Well yes, we did drastically raise your rates" says LL, "But look, we also upgraded you to a class 5!" Thats like your RL landlord telling you he's doubling your rent, but hey, the toilet flushes now!

I think rade's right. I understand the frustration everyone is feeling. I know that many, having had OS sims, will view this as a personal attack, and even more, will, once they make the decision not to keep their OS sims, will be judging every financial decision in SL--should they buy a new house/boat/outfit (thus reducing income for creators of content)? Should they continue to pay tier on existing properties (thus lowering income for the Labs)? Should they, in fact, pay to play the game (thus gutting subscription fees)? These are all understandable responses.

My point in all this, though, is--LL doesn't care. The Lindens, for whatever bizarre actual reason, don't understand the world from our side, and don't seem to care to learn. Even worse, they have no idea of how this feels on the ground.

But with that utter lack of empathy, comes the very real actuality of our situation--we can't say things like, the world is so vital, you're destroying that vitality, because they don't get it. They get tier payments going away. They get less users. They get--and they get in a staggeringly large way--bad press from their decisions.

People really want to effect change? Fine. Tell tech journals, tell G4, tell Wall Street Journal and the Sun. Get word out there, in the real world, about exactly how many users this will cost the Labs. Overload the Lindens with article after published article on how bad Second Life is becoming.

They'll scramble for an acceptable workaround, then. Watch.

Rhianon Jameson said...

Um. I hope "I don't have a dog in this fight" did not come across as "I don't care." To clarify: people I care about are hurt, people I don't know but would likely care about if I did know are hurt, and, least of all, my own experience is diminished. All I meant was that I had no OS sim of my own, so any comment objecting to the price increase was not because I personally would bear the cost. I agree with you (and others) that the underlying problem is a company that appears indifferent to its customers.

Edward Pearse, Duke of Argylle said...

As Des said to me in reply to an email I sent him "The forums are burning, and they are administratively logging out protesters last I saw. I think this is bigger than even they imagined."

With the forum thread on this now at 160 pages and this is only the second day I think it's blown up well beyond what they may have thought.

Emilly Orr said...

Miss Jameson, never did I mean to imply that you didn't care. You do care. I care. But neither of us own OpenSpace sims, so I did understand what you meant.

Edward: I would be fascinated to learn if that's just Desmond's observation, or if he actually was told that's what they were doing. Because if that's a true statement....this thing is much bigger than they thought it would be.

And they're yet again doing the exact wrong thing to solve the problem.