Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Earth Primbee's reaction to Linden Lab's revamped policy on Openspaces

Earth Primbee is, among many other things, a NPIRLer, a talented machinimator, and a co-creator of the much loved and spacy Inspire Space Park (teleport directly from here). After reading Mark Kingdon's (Linden Lab's CEO) latest missive on the Second Life blog regarding revised policies for Openspaces, Earth wrote this guest blogpost, which reflects his opinions of the situation.

by Earth Primbee

I'll be the first to admit sometimes you don't know you have a problem until it blows up in your face. In the case of "openspace" regions in Second Life®, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had no real concept of the amount of these regions that were in use by residents. I did know that my obligations to keep Inspire Space Park alive prohibited me from having any private land of substantial size to build my "home" on. I rented around the grid and lived in some great communities. Ultimately however, I found myself wanting more space and less stuff.

When a good friend of mine bought two of these style regions and offered half of one to me I jumped at the chance! I gladly accepted the prim limits and ended up building a nice natural area with a submarine to live in under the water. It worked out perfect for me and my share of the tier was comfortable enough to endure for some time. We had maybe 4 people max in this space at once for the months I lived there. I was very happy!! It seemed like a perfect product. I suppose it is true that some things are too good to be true.

When the first proposed changes came out and seemed so set in stone I was pissed!!! I know I wasn't alone, but the main problem I believe was the perceived lack of concern for how this would affect my fellow residents and I but mostly I. Coupled with the "abuse" connotation as justification for the changes this was quite enough to motivate a red alert. There was no way I could afford the tier increase let alone the estate owner.

I and many others expressed through various ways other changes that could accomplish the same goal as the proposal. Judging by today's announcement, it looks like our voices have been heard. I do understand the technical challenges faced by a virtual world of this size and complexity. Nothing is ever easy and everything takes a lot more work than anyone who hasn't seen under the hood can imagine.

It is good to see this new direction. To see feedback heard, considered, and acted upon. I don't know if I will be able to afford the July 2009 price increase but I do suspect that many who haven't already dropped their openspace regions may now hold on to them. I can say I'd be much more likely to purchase a homestead than a private island unless my $ituation substantially changes.

This situation reminded me so much of my last virtual life in another virtual world before Second Life. I'd placed all my virtual eggs in one basket and that meant that any changes to this world became very personal. It is VERY important to remember that these worlds contain people who just like in Real Life become emotionally entrenched and attached to places and things they love and create. When you mess with that, you are messing with people's emotions. This is why such fiery backlashes such as we have seen flare up. It is not just a bunch of pixels that have no meaning. It is part of people's lives and in a lot of cases their business!

Following this line, I do wonder if I branched out to other virtual worlds would I be less apt to cry foul if major changes happened in one or the other. An international corporation has many advantages over a company that solely exists in one country. Even a stock portfolio spread out in multiple markets and companies has some advantages. So the real point I want Linden Labs to remember is actions like this openspace situation, feel a lot like a "taxation without representation" kind of thing. It shakes people and sometimes wakes them up to a reality they didn't see before for better or worse. This is why you see people rushing off to other worlds and looking for alternatives to the unacceptable situation they are faced with cause when will this happen again? How long till another unacceptable situation comes up that they have no input on?

I applaud them for taking a moment to step back and listen to what people are saying but more so for taking real action to attempt to bridge the gap. Despite what has occurred that is a good sign that the customer is important. If Linden Labs stays true to the goal of bringing the community input into decisions and problems like this one, it will go a long way to reestablish trust. People put so much into this world they deserve to have input. Our creations are only as fantastic as people believe they are. Without people believing in your world, you will find it empty very fast.

When I came to Second Life, I told myself "never again" will I become so caught up in a single virtual world that it will hurt me if it suddenly changes. Well I did! The community of Second Life and the power of thousands of full time developers working alongside thousands of part time developers is intoxicating and a wonder to behold. The concept to creation ratio is higher than I have ever experienced. I rarely find myself saying I wish the "devs" would make this or that because I can do it myself. This Openspace region issue was one of those rare times when I wished the Second Life "devs" would do something different. It looks like they are. I appreciate that and no matter what other worlds I take part in, as long as they keep that up, I will maintain a presence in Second Life.