October 1st, 2010

kitty

Grid News

I spent some time reading some of the posts on the Second Life General Discussion blog today, and I must say it was a very depressing read.

Content creators who can't make money anymore, partially due to Linden Lab's direct competition (think Linden Homes, for instance). Tiers breaking people's backs while their tickets go unanswered or they get shoved off of chat/phone with a "file a ticket". I'm sure glad I haven't had to use concierge service, because the latest is that they tell you to file a ticket.

I had a ticket I filed in roughly mid-July that wasn't answered till two months later. Two months. I'm a premium member and a landowner. There is no excuse for such shoddy service. I am one of likely thousands of premium members experiencing the same thing.

I still maintain a store in SL but I haven't sold anything out of it for a very long time. Again, I am one of thousands experiencing the same thing.

I co-own Celtic Markets, and getting a couple of renters over the past two-three months has been our highlight. It used to be we'd run out of space and/or prims; now I could build a whole damned village and have prims left over. My dear markets manager rents ad boards every month and it doesn't seem to do a lot of good. Since LL borked Search, both the Markets and the Chocolate Factory's traffic has dropped, as we appear, then disappear, then reappear...Again, something that thousands of us are experiencing.

Listen Linden Lab, I understand that you had to cut costs. However, cutting costs in the customer service department was the worst move you could've made, and people are voting with their feet over it.

My partner noted that I spend a lot more time on Inworldz nowadays than Second Life. I log into SL and immediately begin experiencing problems. My inventory load is hit-and-miss, even late at night when the relative population is low. I have rez problems that have nothing whatsoever to do with what viewer I use. There's nothing quite like seeing half the population of a busy club appear as Ruth hair, and nothing else, and the only reason I see THAT much is because I turned RenderUnloadedAvatar to true, so I could see something rather than a bunch of clouds.

I refuse to build anything very complicated over there, because the restrictions really suck. I haven't bought many building materials, especially textures, because the providers think they have rights over my finished builds that they do not have. I will occasionally purchase a new outfit, but most of the time it's from someone who has a presence in IWZ and I want to look more or less the same on both grids.

WHY any serious content creator ISN'T on IWZ is a mystery. Our economy is booming. We're completely independent from any other grid, now that we have a cashout system in place. Everyone is having fun despite the bugs presented by a grid still in beta. Most of the fun is because we don't have to sweat high tier fees, we can build with prims any size we want, we can link huge builds into one linkset, uploads are free, and you don't have to be a "premium" member to do ANY of it - and especially because our customer service is the best you could ever ask for. Tickets are answered promptly. A free and open dialogue exists between the Founders and the users. We feel like we matter, and like we are wanted. Quite a few have said it "feels like SL in the beginning" and what they mean is we have successfully recaptured the sense of purpose and community early SL had, and has since lost. ALL of that is worth putting up with a few pesky bugs, especially when you realize that things are being slowly but consistently fixed, and in the meantime, there are adequate workarounds.

NO traffic isn't turned on. NO classifieds don't cost a dime. All of the so-called "tools" that made it easy for an elite class of moneyed users to rise above the rest and dominate the market, based on available money alone, are disabled. Some can't comprehend why. All one has to do is stop and think about it, however. You can't "game the system" on Inworldz. You will gain or lose depending on your customer service, your dedication, the excellence of your products and builds, and how you price them. THAT is how SL's economy started and how Inworldz' economy will stay.

The thing that is demonstrably lacking from Second Life is a sense that the owners care about us beyond the money we spend. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that's ALL they care about - the money we spend. Then they do something boneheaded that really makes you wonder who is running the shop over there. How about pissing off the owner of Victoriana and managing to lose many Premium customers, as well as a monthly income of roughly $6000 USD? Victoriana's problems were very simple to fix too, which makes you wonder what LL has been doing with backups - IF they are keeping any at all. All they had to do was roll back the sims using backups, and they refused to do that, to reverse the permissions problems they caused. Now I don't know about you, but if I had such a major customer bringing me a hefty income I'd be bending over backwards to make them happy - wouldn't you? Especially when you know others are watching how you handle the situation, and some of them are big customers, too? Now I'm not saying that anyone should receive preferential treatment (even though we know that Linden Labs has it's "favorites") but if they can't be bothered to serve a fairly significant customer, what makes you think they'll help you, even though you own land and are a Premium member?

Many are saying the economic depression has "finally" hit SL. I got news for you - it's Linden Labs' mismanagement that has hit SL, coupled with their arrogance and egotistical attitudes. They don't want your feedback. They don't care that you don't like Viewer 2 or are wasting time on other things you don't necessarily need nor want. If you haven't left for Inworldz or many of the other grids out there, then what makes you think they'll start listening? The sagest statement I found in my reading is one where a user said 'the only way LL is going to listen is if you vote with your feet, and leave.' And they were right. The only way anything will change is if they keep bleeding customers and their pocketbook suffers.

I don't think I'm going to bother reading the SL blogs anymore...but then again, it's like a train wreck. It's godawful but you can't help but look.
kitty

US Virtual Goods Market To Pass $2B In 2011

The US market for virtual goods will reach $2.1 billion in 2011, according to a new research report issued by Inside Network. This number is up from an estimated $1.6 billion in 2010 and $1.1 billion in 2009. This means that the market for virtual goods in the US has effectively doubled over the course of the last two years.

It is obvious that virtual goods are important to people, especially now that RL luxuries are often out of reach. You can have your dream home without a mortgage (well, technically tier is a mortgage, but it's not as henious as RL). You can look and be anyway you want without expensive plastic surgery. You can have virtual pets that don't need 24/7 care, or exotic animals. There is a LOT that you can have in a virtual world that's available IRL only to a rich elite.

This begs the question, then, if our inventories are worth RL dollars. In many cases, we bought currency to buy those goods - and likewise, if the merchant makes good sales, they've cashed out that currency for real-life money.

Companies like Linden Labs say no, it isn't worth RL dollars. Ah, but LL, we spent RL dollars to acquire all that virtual "stuff". Shouldn't we be entitled to a refund if you decide, for one of your many reasons, not to let us use your service any longer?

Considering that virtual stuff is becoming an integral part of people's lives and well-being, I would say the idea of it being worth more than funny money needs to be readdressed.
kitty

Just a Few Things

There's been a lot of talk all over the Intrawebs about Microsloth possibly making a bid on SL. What this has spawned, on a side fork, is yet another discussion on SL economy and why it's going down the drain.

Here's some points from my perspective.

(1) Linden Lab doesn't do things to benefit their users - they do things to benefit Linden Lab. There are a lot of creators who believe the TPV policy was a response to their fear of copybotting and their content being shipped to other grids without their knowledge or approval. I beg to differ, and a bit of common-sense thought will tell otherwise. Linden Lab did this to attempt to "garden gate" content and stem the flow of content creators going to other grids. It had nothing whatsoever to do with protecting the content you create. If you create a finished product, in most cases it's no-transfer and it couldn't be ported, anyway, without being illegally copied. If you create building materials, there are still ways to export that content whether you like it or not, approve of it or not. There is also some legal and ethical question over whether you really have any say over what happens to a finished product which may contain elements you provided as building materials (matter for another discussion). The point is Linden Lab was trying to discourage people from leaving. Communist countries found out the Iron Curtain didn't work, so what made Linden Lab think a similar policy would do the same? If anything, it caused MORE people to get out while the getting was good.

If Linden Lab gave a flying shit about protecting your intellectual property rights, they would've worked on expanding and fine-tuning permissions.

(2) One thing that came to light in these discussions is that Linden Lab isn't done laying people off. They closed their UK office yesterday (Thursday). I wouldn't be surprised at all to find out there's been a steady trickle of the unemployed coming out of ALL their operations. If response to customer service tickets is any indicator, it's continuing but not making major news.

(3) I don't know about you, but I've seen grid and sim performance degrade over the last few months. I actually have more trouble navigating and using Second Life, a grid that is supposedly mainstream, than I do Inworldz, which is still in beta. This tells me that they are downgrading hardware as well as trying to squeeze a few more sims into already overloaded hardware. When I see Ruth Hair after setting RenderUnloadedAvatar to TRUE and it's on a sim that's supposedly running solo on a Class 5 server, I know there is something radically wrong.

Linden Lab's insensitivity to this obvious downgrade tells me they're running out of money, and fast - and it isn't that they're deliberately ignoring us, it's that they refuse to tell us the REAL reasons why things are going to hell in a handbasket.

(4) Did it ever occur to you that we're being treated like garbage on purpose? I know a lot of us have been thinking that, for a very long time, based solely and purely upon how the Lab treats us as customers. They are trying to thin the herd so their platform runs better and cleaner on hardware that is both less numerous and less in quality. This is also an indicator that they are quite possibly considering a divestiture of Second Life. Chase off the deadwood, keep the "favored ones", and present a cleaner, meaner, shiny product to whomever wants to purchase it.

(5) Mark Kingdon was a Wall Street hack with a past rooted in Price Waterhouse Cooper, who has been intensely investigated for fradulent dealings on Wall Street. What better way to squeeze the last few dimes out of a failing product than to bring in a Wall Streeter who counts beans, rather than how many truly satisfied customers he has? With Kingdon, all that mattered was the bottom line, and everything else could go to hell - but as we know from what we've seen happen in the RL corporate world, this business philosophy costs customers, which costs revenue. Wall Streeters haven't figured that out, and Kingdon was no exception. Inside of two years, his corporate tactics sent SL into a tailspin that I am doubting it could ever recover from. Inside of two years, the Second Life world went heavily corporate and consumer-driven and ceased, for the most part, to be a place of education, community, and fulfilled dreams. You cannot blame the merchants for that. What were they supposed to do? They had no choice BUT to enter the rat race, so they could afford to pay exhorbitant tier for the few prims they could scrounge. Talk about the virtual world emulating real life.

(6) Freebies have nothing whatsoever to do with the downfall of the SL economy. Linden Lab mismanagement and refusal to address serious grid bugs coupled with a real-life Depression is what has brought down the economy. Things were going downhill well before the real-life economy had any effect, however, and again, it had nothing whatsoever to do with freebies. Anyone who blames freebies for a decline in sales better wake up and look to home, first. If people think freebies are better than your product, then it's time to reevaluate your product and how it's priced, marketed, and sold.

Playing with viewers doesn't encourage extended shopping trips, either, and having difficulty teleporting unless you're practically naked doesn't help, either.

Search being permanently FUBARd is also bringing down the economy as people cannot find their way to the places they want to go the most. This is going to hurt the not-for-profit enterprises way more than it will the for-profit. What happened to all this support for The Arts that we heard about at the SL birthday party? Well people aren't going to FIND and APPRECIATE those art installations if Search isn't working properly.

For-profit enterprises still have ways to get the word out; for instance, paid Classifieds. If you have the moolah you have the ad toward the top. SL Marketplace may suck donkey balls but it also is yet another way that for-profit enterprises can get their name and products out there.

Who and what is going to help the charitable and not-for-profit? I guess Linden Lab's true face is showing. They don't care about that, either, regardless of the fact that there are well-known artists who have created content there - and are just as likely to spread the word that SL is no longer "friendly" to artists of renown.

~~~

Corporate kissbutts will never comprehend what Second Life started as, or how important it has been to literally millions of people. You're more likely to find a housewife, or a programmer, or a disabled person, or a socially shy person in SL than you are someone whose world revolves around Wall Street or corporate living. They HAVE no basis of understanding, because you really CANNOT understand virtual worlds till you've spent some time in one (and we're not talking a few days, or even weeks). Philip Rosedale dreamt up the concept and his programmers made it a reality, but that's where their major contribution ended. It was the USERS who made Second Life what it is, and it is the USERS who make ANY virtual world what it is.

Without happy, productive USERS, all you have is a bunch of code that can generate pea green land and faux water.