Saturday, March 3, 2012

tell the bed not to lay like the open mouth of a grave

I'm still getting emailed responses from the last names JIRA; most of the time, I've been ignoring them, but this one caught my eye. From Renee Caxton:
What Rodvik just said was basically: We don't care what you want, we won't change back, but we are going to make a trivial cosmetic change and pretend we addressed your concerns and you had better like it.

It is sad how out of touch the Labs is with their customer base. This is the arrogance that makes [companies] fail.
So, of course, I had to read back and track down which comment she meant, here.

Cassandra Kestel, as I read back:
LL had a chance for a HUGE PR coup here. All they had to do was flick a switch and the 2000+ people voting for this JIRA would have walked away thinking Linden Labs was awesome. Instead, we get a mealy mouthed wishy washy comment saying essentially that since they can't please absolutely everyone, they're not going to please anyone. Instead of awesome, we have FAIL.
Wau. It's sounding worse and worse.

Finally, I tracked down (I think) what all the current outrage is over, and it doesn't appear to be a comment on the JIRA at all. It's this one from the Second Life blogs. There's a ton of hefty info there, and more on the comments stream of Rodvik's "mysecondlife" profile, but this was the relevant bit for me:
As I promised if we couldn’t figure out a way that was a win/win for folks who want complete freedom vs. a list of last names, we wouldn’t do it. We couldn’t, so we wont.

However what we will be doing is adding in at least one and maybe more special characters like a dash when you signup so you can make a more normal looking name. So you can have “horatio-nelson” for example, which is impossible now. Work will begin on this as it slots into the task list.

Secondly we will be taking steps to remove more places where the dreaded "resident" last name appears inworld. If you have any places where you see it often that we might have missed it would be good to hear.
So the breakdown from this (as I see it):
  • We're not giving you back fixed last names. Deal with it.
  • We're looking into adding a dash, or a dot, because we think you'll be distracted by the possibility and not remain all up in our faces over this meaningless crap.
  • We're also removing all the places we can find in the code where the placeholder "resident" last name is shown, because if you don't see it, you don't bitch about it, even if things haven't changed, right?
  • Oh, and there's no fixed timeline on when we're going to do anything with the special characters, because yo, we all have jobs and lives here. Deal with it.
Is that a good gist of the situation?

Couple days back, there was a depressing conversation in Caledon chat about motivations behind Linden actions (among other things). Des hit me with a term I'd never heard before: "consolidation phase". Investopedia defines it thusly:
A stage in the life of a company or an industry in which components in the company or industry start to merge to form fewer components. These components can include product lines at the company level or companies themselves at the industry level. The consolidation of companies differs from mergers in that consolidations create new entities while mergers do not.
Now, the mergers thing makes sense to me. Bell merged with AT&T, and everyone went under AT&T. (Save for Bell Labs, who started working with Lucent Technologies, among others; but that's the research branch. They've always been a little odd.)

Whereas what we've got here does seem to fit consolidation behavior--there's Linden Labs, then there was SLBoutique (separate product, different company) and SL Exchange (separate product, different company). The Lab acquired both of them, then launched a new product from their company called SL Marketplace (which is far inferior in nearly every way to the two products purchased from their respective companies).

There's another article on Investopedia I think is worthwhile linking, because it mentions the phases of investing on a personal level:
  • the accumulation phase, in which younger investors take higher risks than they would otherwise, trying to start building on a far future retirement portfolio. (This is also the phase where short-burst investments are found to be of value--anything that takes a reasonable-to-high investment to start, then results in constant, but slower-paced returns)
  • the consolidation phase, where investors look at their portfolio with an eye towards making it less risky, more stable. They've done the house equity bit, provided for families and vacations, and now are looking towards bigger goals--college, perhaps a new house (or new corporate headquarters), and deeper, stronger investments with better dividend and reimbursement structures.
  • the retirement phase--if the investor's been successful (or lucky), then all their hard work will have paid off during the retirement years. (This is also when charitable trusts on a private or business level are set up, to provide for just about anything--everything from grandchildren to increasing potable water and farmland overseas.
Okay. So basically, what I'm taking from this is that the venture capital period is over. While the Lindens might still be soliciting external investors, this seems now to be the time where they reinforce the weak spots, eradicate as much risk as they can, and then sit back and gather dividends.

So here's what I don't get--how does that work if they're losing money? Because that's my perception: businesses close, people leave, sims get sold (or abandoned); how can they not be losing money at this point? And here's the real stunning thing: Des says they're not.

If the Lab isn't losing money, then frankly, we might need a way to see the numbers. Is there a baseline below which they'd be losing? Or is it literally that they're getting enough new premium accounts purchased and retained to make up for anyone who chooses to leave Second Life?

If it's the latter--that essentially, for all the turbulence residents see on the ground, the numbers themselves are strong and viable on earnings and dividends--then it's just going to continue being awkward, jagged and chaotic, and a whole lot of un-fun. A company making money has no reason to change how they're doing things. If they're still making money, they're not doing anything wrong to their minds. Only if they started losing money--and significantly--would they start to scramble to make changes.

Hmm. Yeah, still a depressing thought, but at least it makes all the Linden stupidity of late line up, I guess. As annoying as it is, they think they're a success. And how do any of us change that? The only way to change it would be if they stopped being successful.

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