Monday, October 4, 2010

walking that walk, talking that slick talk

The Lindens strike again! This time, it will broadly affect all future educational involvement in Second Life as a whole.

For once? This is not hysterical hyperbole, it's fact; and it's fact with an insanely short lead-in time.

Don't believe me? Read on.

Fleep Tuque: I'm sure it goes without saying, but this is a disasterously bad policy change with far too short notice. For all the grant funded edu and non-profit projects, two months is a very short time to deal with this.Are you trying to hasten the exodus to OpenSim?

Yuukie Onmura: I'd say that about 75% of all educational or non-profit organizations will leave next year.

smart move by LL.

Ceera Murakami: As someone who has several education clients, I guess I will be seeing them leave the SL grid soon. There is no way that a Homestead or OpenSpace sim can possibly meet their requirements. Doubling their overhead costs without sufficient time to get new funding will force a lot of sim shut-downs. You ARE aware that most educational organizations have budgets that are cast in stone for the entire school year? Double their pricing in January, and there won't be sufficient funds to make it through June. And they won't have a new budget until next September.

I am very glad now that my biggest education customer has already had me re-create half their SL grid sims on their own OpenSim servers. I'll get to work right now on the bid to re-create the other half of their SL sims there, so they don't have to lose those facilities when you double their rent in the middle of the school year.

Arwenna Stardust: Ah well Linden you have finally made the decision that tips the balance for us. I have been hanging on in SL as I still truly believe in the value of the educational community that has been built here but over the last few months it has become increasingly difficult to justify not moving to OpenSim. This however will be the final straw as I see no way that my institution will be able to justify paying double the price for our two islands. Fortunately we still have until Aug 2011 but I suspect we will be long gone by then!

AylaNeissa Magic: It was the non profits and educators that wanted the kids on the main grid. The slight increase I take it is to pay for the added security programming that is needed?

Lindens, is any of this sinking in? These are not uninvolved dispassionate people, these are in general the direct clients this decision will be affecting. Still need more convincing?

Ai Austin: Budgets for educators are often set well in advance and in some cases very fixed even looking across a grant period of some years. In our case I have just negotiated funds to renew some of our regions from 12 months from now, so changes on a short time scale that double prices are quite a shock. In one case I have funding fixed for 2years out too. We would like to retain our regions but this can only mean that we pack things up tighter on less regions to keep the costs the same as budgeted.That itself causes work and remodelling which is most unfortunate.

Ron Ghostaltar: As one of your Educational customers I am furious! Fiscal Year Budget planning and approval happens in Aug-Sept for most Universities then you make an announcement like this in Oct!! I just had my budget approved 2 weeks ago and now I gotta go beg my superiors to approve an increase to the budget despite budgets being cut on every level of the University due to the economy. All of our sims exceed the maxium capabilities of Homesteads and OpenSpaces so there's no way we could use them.

You're really pushing Educators out the door to OpenSIM.

Hack Richard: Linden Lab has issued an incredibly stupid pricing change. A lot of the quality of the SL world depends on educational and nonprofit clients. Linden Lab has double their land fees with just three-month notice. Most of the wonderful digital assets of those clients will disappear over the coming year. OpenSim hosting providers will be the big winners, along with service providers who understand the permission chaos and can transfer digital assets out of SL. Sad...

KariaKae Karu: I've spent the last couple of years trying to get colleges in my area interested in the incredible opportunities for education in SL. And wouldn't you just know, about the time I've gotten them talked into budgeting for a couple islands, LL decides to up the price on us.

LL has been making a lot of unpopular, illogical, moves in the last few months. But, I've got to tell you, at a time when educational institutions are putting freezes on salaries, and cutting back on everything not absolutely essential, this is most moronic move that I've seen LL make.

Graham Mills: I'm wondering whether the "suits" running SL are completely ignorant of the fact that universities run on an academic rather than calendar year.

Just to hazard the guess, I'd say that answer is a resounding 'no'. Which is perplexing when we consider that Linden Labs had a team developed solely to work with educational concerns on the grid--oh, wait. The Labs fired them all.

zazen Manbi: Well, now, another smart move by LL.... goodbye to many of us educators, and this is going to fragment and destroy our SciLands group in SL. Very thoughtful. Let's test the boundries of profit in this shrinking virtual world.

Shockwave Yareach: Before, I was just confused. But now I'm beginning to suspect actual psychotic afliction.

You are putting yourselves and all of us in grave legal danger to bring the teens into the main adult grid, principly for the educational access. Then in the midst of a global depression which is drying up education funds and causing school closures and teacher layoffs, you double the price for these sims where these precious snowflakes are supposed to be going?! So you are driving the educators away but leaving us regular customers with the kiddies -- kiddies that we never asked you to bring into the adult grid in the first place?!

Here is a hint guys. You have to pay for all those servers whether you have customers paying for them or not. Correct some of the policies that have made people quit and lower the prices a small bit, and you'll have customers paying for the servers once more. Restore "ownership within SL" to the TOS and people will be more willing to invest again. Right now, since I can't own my land in SL or anything else in it, I have ZERO reason to pay 1$ -- never mind the thousands of dollars annually it takes to own a single island. You have grossly misunderstood that your customer base is predominately here for recreational purposes, and you've done everything imaginable to drive the fun out of SL. You've forgotten what brought YOU into SL to begin with and what fun you used to have. Now that we can't gamble or drink or drive wildly or shoot playguns at each other or dance/speak provocatively on the mainland anymore, just what do you expect us to do here in exchange for our massive amounts of cash?

Lindens! Who do you think your userbase consists of, these days? This is not designed to retain educational efforts; this is not designed to retain customers; so what the hell is up this time? I'd blame this all on misguided leadership enforced from the top down by M, but Philip is back.

So SL's guiding spirit has gone insane? Seriously? Because this is a very clear message to the educational community, and that community is devoted, loyal, and passionate about education. You're painting yourselves as not being devoted to educational needs; loyal to anyone; and passionate about anything--save the bottom line. Which apparently, in this regard, is CASH.

More proof of community dissent? There's more.

Bell Stringer: People say LL is greedy, but I think the more obvious conclusion is that they're just not very bright. No one, no matter how greedy, would treat paying customers with such disdain if they were smart enough to understand basic business principles.

Troy McLuhan: Educators (schools and universities) aren't the only organizations affected by this. Others include:
  • Museums like The Tech Museum of Innovation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Museum in SL
  • Government agencies like NASA and NOAA
  • Libraries
  • Relay for Life (the American Cancer Society)
  • Virtual Ability
  • Advocacy organizations like the National Space Society
He's very, very, very far from wrong. What happens to Mr. Drinkwater's library system, after all? Here is a librarian who has hosted seminars on the application of library science in virtual worlds. Someone who took the time to build up, pixel by pixel, a series of 'lending libraries' on the grid whose focus was public domain books and articles. This takes commitment, drive, strength of will, and a clear devotion to the task.

What happens to the libraries, then? The ones in Caledon, Winterfell and Steelhead are likely safe; they survive on donated land, or on donations to pay tier, most of those donations from the librarians themselves. But what about institution-owned estates? Will this mean the library structure will shrink, or, even more galling, start to disappear entirely?

Professor Lax: Like most academics, I will not be renewing my 3 islands as they come due at the higher price in 2011. I am wondering who Second Life thinks they have lined up eager to take my place? What is most annoying about all of this is the substantial investment in content that will be held hostage in Second Life once I exit. As noted above, collaborative or other developer content can't be exported. So, my plan is to finish up my projects, move on, and not throw good money after bad.

Nuhai Ling: This is the nicest way I have ever seen someone say we are discontinuing discount rates for education and non-profits. Up front it may seem a benefit that these two groups will have access to Homestead and Open Space regions without having to also own a full region. The ugly truth, however, is that the low prim and occupancy counts of Homestead and Open Space areas are simply not enough to support educational platforms. How many classes to you think a university will be able to have on a Homestead region that supports only 3,750 prims and allows no more than 20 people at a time?

Let’s not forget too that a 1/2 region on the mainland costs as much in monthly tier as a full Homestead region but supplies 7,500 prims and the ability to hold all 40 minimum / 100 maximum allowed avatars. The problem is that because of education and non-profit policies regarding content they rarely if ever run the risk of being on the mainland because of potential neighbor problems. Taking that into account, this new policy actually forces these two groups to now pay more for less.

Here is your wake-up call Linden Lab. Most schools and their associations like New Media Consortium were already considering leaving Second Life for either other companies like OpenSim or hosting on their own servers. At a time when grants are fewer and schools are cutting budgets left and right you raise their rates. Congratulations, you have now alienated your last support group! You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Lorelei Junot: This price increase is horrible, ill-planned, and unfair. LL is going to lose tons of educators - maybe that is what they want. If they announced a modest price increase, that would be one thing, but to double the prices in a 3 month period is very unwise and is giving a definite message to the education community that they are unimportant and unwanted in second life.

With educators losing their jobs, cutting budgets, LL is going to lose more than educators. Many of these educators also do many other things in second life in addition to education, and will just leave second life altogether.

This move is definitely just telling educators, "go elsewhere - we don't want you anymore."

kinda Fallen: The pricing in this time, when most have lost their jobs and are hanging on to their homes by the skin of their teeth is not the time to increase fact they need to come down on pricing to reflect if not anything else, the reduced quality on an already horrid customer service department.

Enelya Pevensey: How can we as educators stand up and constantly defend the value of this 'game' to our academic programs with decrees such as this being handed down? I think the answer to this question is written in the blog post above .... LL does not want us here. I am floored at even the thought of it. What will LLs business model look like when there is no one left on the grid to pay them anything?

I realize--I think everyone realizes--that Second Life is a business. There's no getting away from that fact, and really, no strong intention to. But the main thing any business needs to understand is their target market. And pulling pricing in alignment with what that target market will bear.

So far, the Labs have embraced--and subsequently discarded--dance club owners, casino operators, virtual bank operators, the sex industry, educators, business owners, and archivists from museums to library science--so what's left to ask is, what do the Labs think is their target market, right now?

Because whomever that may be, they're not going to enjoy the massive lag, the inability to contact the Labs with problems or concerns, the seeming lack of any Linden-level understanding what people want from the Labs...

Seriously, at this point the Labs aren't shooting themselves in the feet anymore; they've moved on to full-bore Russian roulette. And for the life of me, at this point I honestly don't know which would be better in the long run--that final bullet firing, or for the Labs to keep spinning the chamber.

Either way it goes, every month that goes by, there's less people willing to watch the show.

[Edited to add Dusan Writer's post on the topic.]


Darien Mason said...

LL is increasingly reminding me of a family was too foolish to stock up on firewood, and is now breaking up and burning the furniture in a futile attempt to keep warm through the coming blizzard.

Emilly Orr said...

At the very least, they're not thinking ahead--they're trying to sell off the pieces of the furniture they're breaking up, to people who have other sources of firewood.

None of those sources are ideal; but they do exist now. The Labs haven't caught up to that fact yet.

Fogwoman Gray said...

So the "business" that is LL has run off their early customers (makers and artists) in pursuit of the "enterprise" customers. Those customers left as the product they were sold did not function as advertised. Then they ran off more long time residents in pursuit of the educators....
So who is left?
Just a few old diehards and journalists who are documenting the mayhem.
I do not fear the teens, if SL is not even cool enough for Grandma what are the chances they are going to hang out?
It is sometimes like watching a slow-mo trainwreck...with sequels.

Emilly Orr said...

I likely fit into both categories at this point--I am definitely documenting the mayhem, but with a 2006 decant date, I'm probably counted as an 'old diehard', too. :)

September was the first month where there were five store closures for every store opening, and the store closures may in fact be higher--I'm not in touch with everyone, after all. Groups, stores, entire sims going down--after a few splashes into the virtual sea over the past two years, people are now seeing the value in abandoning and running. The grid has lost so much: not just artists and creators, but people who add content, who shop, who follow trends...and now the educators are being squeezed until they bleed Lindens.

What are the Labs playing at? No one is this stupid, this consistently.