Sunday, November 16, 2008

Second Life® shrugged

Years from now we'll look upon this period in the history of virtual worlds as a time of splintering. Like the English settlers who fled the corruption of the Anglican church and struck out to establish colonies, several thousands of Second Lifers, disappointed and disillusioned with Linden Lab's mismanagement and lack of support, are seeking new territories and a fresh start.

Statistically, and against the half million+ residents that actually use Second Life, a few thousand people wouldn't normally be missed. But these aren't just any Second Lifers. They are Second Life's backbone.

Most of the people I'm meeting on other grids have been loyal to Second Life for years. I recognize their names from the forums, prosperous stores, and the JIRA. They are the people who know Second Life backwards and forwards and they are also the people who contributed heavily to whatever success it may claim. Second Life was built on their shoulders and now they are collectively shrugging it off and vowing to diversify and support alternative worlds.

They tell me they don't want to contribute their business leadership, their innovations, their art and their ideas to a world that exploits them and won't protect their creations or their investments. Many of these explorers pay their mortgages and car payments from their virtual incomes, too. While most have no choice but to remain in Second Life for the time being, they are also now busily working on building their own grids and planting their flags in fledgling new worlds and rolling up their sleeves to help those new grids gain their footing.

They do so with a heavy heart, but with hopes for a brighter future.

Here in the United States, we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving - our annual harvest festival - on November 27th. On this day we commemorate the pilgrims' early progress and colonization, and give thanks. Perhaps there will be a similar holiday in pixelated form in the future... If this happens, it will be because early settlers made it possible.


Unknown said...

Hi Bettina

I recognise the truth of what you are saying here.

With much saddness, our sims 'Gravitys Rainbow' and 'Fnordian Slip' disappeared from the Second Life grid this weekend.

Elfod Nemeth, Adec Alexandria & I are migrating to the Open Life (OL)grid and have four sims there.

Other individual CARP (Cybernetic Art Research Project) artists are expected to come over by the end of this year, as well as other (non-CARP) Content Creators that
we know.

Unfortantely, OL is not yet ready to stage such performances as 'The Wall V-2' or 'The Rings', and we have temporarily shelved our production of Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis'.

We are hopeful that in the next 12 months or so that OL stability would have reached a point where such large productions will be possible, but in the meantime there is plenty of other things we can be getting on with :)

Unknown said...

"Second Life's backbone" is a series of servers owned and operated by Linden Lab.

All else is what you make of it. No more and no less.

Creativity is not a finite resource. It seems a touch arrogant to assume that because some creators choose to flee to other pastures that those who stay behind will be incapable of doing equally great things.

Aliasi Stonebender said...

On the other hand, the Pilgrims were Puritans who were mostly persecuted because the English wouldn't let them persecute everybody else, so this is perhaps a poor example.

I mean, while there's a fair number of prima-donna style creators, lots are reasonable and I've been looking forward to OpenLife myself - we need an Apache server to the LL proprietary solution if the concept of a 'metaverse' is ever to expand. I think it's way, way, WAY not ready for prime-time yet, though.

Bettina Tizzy said...

@debbie I wish you all well. A year is a long time to wait. Looking forward to whatever you do next.

@cyfishy: Meh, I say to you. Meh! According to the American Heritage Dictionary, one of the definitions of the word backbone reads as follows: "A main support or major sustaining factor." Words can have more than one meaning, ya know??

Also, I did not say or even suggest "that because some creators choose to flee to other pastures that those who stay behind will be incapable of doing equally great things."


@LOL Aliasi... my point is that they were persecuted and left.

And yes, I agree. None of the worlds I have encountered are anywhere near ready for prime time.

Anonymous said...

I have been in the position that Linden Labs now finds itself: Having dedicated years to the support of an artistic community but now having to make the unpleasant decisions of financial necessity.

I can sympathize with both sides but I am inclined to give Linden Labs the benefit of the doubt, especially give the good faith gesture they made by agreeing to nearly all demands made in relation to the recent pricing debacle.

I do not plan to leave Second Life until it closes.

I am also highly skeptical about the stability and security of these new grids.

I cannot afford to spread my limited time between multiple grids so I must choose the one which has treated me well and has a proven track record of stability and integrity: Linden Labs' Second Life.

Pandora Wrigglesworth said...

OpenID mangled my username for some reason. I am Pandora Wrigglesworth and I approved the previous message.

Bettina Tizzy said...

Pandora... I can appreciate your loyalty, but may I call you AU.U490Shv3.vdLZkl9js6snMmSKiGWy4PgNRhO4a from now on?

J said...

@Pandora as au.somethinggibberish

I personally do not agree with the "agreeing to nearly all demands made in relation to the recent pricing debacle" at all. I feel that was somewhat calculated and a very clever business move to divide and conquer. As a business minded person yes I understand the move but I can also see that the pricing was done due to demand and usage branding. They saw an opportunity to make more and they took it. As a less 'quantity' product it had to be priced higher compared to a 1/4 region so that the regions carry their value. The same rules to overloading a region (full sim) applies in the same manner of the newly introduced naming of Homesteads since no hardware carries one region. This can be oh so very easily understood by looking at the almost no change to the product. I explain this because at the end of the day land is prims and prims are creation and we all need them to work/display/share and the less we have to pay the better. Openspaces were the perfect canvas for most and now the same product costs more. There were no facts as in the claimed 'abuse' of these Openspace sims whatsoever. Nobody put down the numbers and said "see the average data per sim is ... GB per whatever period and we have to charge more because our cost of providing this service is $...". I believe every large business owes an explanation to why they are doing such a big change as opposed to "the service is abused by some therefor everyone must pay".

Anyway I did not wish to go back to the same old discussion since now the damage is done and everyone's gone home but once I started typing it all came out. I believe with the introduction of new technologies like Second Inventory and sronger grids (yes not as stable as Agni but getting there) people have started investing more time and $ in other grids without completely dumping SL, that's a start and will give more strength to other grids to see the userbase grow and be able to invest more into their stability to provide a better value. It's only the beginning.

Enigma said...


You got to be kidding me.
That made me smile !

LL did not agree nor consider
any suggestions to the change in pricing. They made it a 2 step hike
$95 / $125 and added further restrictions. Some not even defined yet. You pay more and getting less ! So where is their good will ??? ;)

Pandora Wrigglesworth said...

On the contrary, Linden Labs is not forcing everyone to a higher price. M Linden's exact words were, "Those of you who chose to use the Openspaces as intended may stay at the US$75 rate, but will need to contact the concierge team to do so."

So if you stick to the light usage that they originally intended, you can keep the exact same low price you were paying before.

I admit that Linden Labs made some mistakes in getting the new OpenSpace Sims set up. Their eagerness to get it up and running quickly coupled with a desire to keep an optimistic attitude about what they should expect blinded them to realistic expectations.

They should have explicitly stated and quantified exactly what constitutes light usage and provided some metric tool for determining usage in relation to that limit from the beginning. Second Life users are notoriously bad at the concept of "light usage". That's why Second Life is one of the most GPU-intensive programs around. (For example, I once ran into an avatar whose fancy watch pushed his avatar rendering cost up to 30,000 which means that, all by himself, he was as difficult to render as 500 Tinies. And he was a mentor on Help Island.)

When they realized that most users were going beyond what Linden Labs considers light usage and that many were even going beyond what most Second Lifers would consider light usage, they overreacted. I suspect that their unusually large bills may have caused them to panic.

So I think the mistakes they made were a matter of lack of communication and being too quick to panic. However, they are now trying to correct both things.

I don't expect Linden Labs to never make mistakes but I think that they have made a very sincere attempt to compromise.

As to "paying more and getting less", if someone is getting less, it's because they were one of the people who failed to restrict your OpenSpace to light usage which is why the original plan didn't work in the first place. If someone got greedy and used heavy usage on an OpenSpace, they are hardly in a position to accuse Linden Labs of being greedy by charging in proportion to that heavy usage.

Enigma said...

Pandora ,

the $75 product is not what people purchased. You get less than the old void sim and even more restrictions on top of it. They did not buy 750 prims 10 avatars.
But all this is talked about over and over. They do not even have a plan how to improve it except reducing online users I assume.
Then they are ignoring the texture cache bug in the Windlight viewer which obviously added a lot of network traffic and was forced on to players in the same time frame.
Thats history now and people have to come to their own conclusions.

But here is an example what they are going to face in the coming year.
I recommend to watch this video. The funny thing is if I'm not mistaken
that Blue Mars is coming out around the same time as the next price hike
of the “Homestead” product. I hope they get enough “Solution Providers”
to compensate for all the alienated average users which see it more as
an entertainment platform.

Pandora Wrigglesworth said...

Speaking as someone whose day-job is a programmer in the video game industry, I don't think it's fair to say that they are ignoring that bug. Knowing a bug exists doesn't mean that it can be instantly fixed. Depending on the complexity of the engine, and Second Life is a VERY complex engine, finding the cause and solution of a bug can be a very long process. And even after you think you have fixed the bug, you have to test it and experiment to make sure that you haven't just replaced it with a worse bug.

Enigma said...

Pandora ,
I'm very knowledgeable in that field myself. For the most part it seems they do or try to ignore it. In case they are really aware of it, it sure seems not to have any high priority. Hey more bells and whistles we need but not fixing the features we have sounds more like them. But check for yourself.

Unknown said...

By describing a certain circle of creators as the 'backbone' of Second Life, you imply that Second Life will somehow collapse without them and that they are irreplaceable. Perhaps that was not your intent, but that's how it came across to me.

And what makes them the 'backbone' exactly? Second Life is constantly evolving and while these people may have had an influence in initially shaping it, these shapes are not permanent. Second Life will continue to be as long as the Lab is still running. Ah, but it won't be the same. To that I ask--when is it ever the same? The Second Life I entered two years ago isn't the same Second Life I'm in now, and I'm sure it won't be the same Second Life as time progresses.

If the big fish are finding the pond's gotten too large (or perhaps too polluted) for them and they want to move to smaller and fresher ponds to be bigger fish again, that's fine. But don't kid yourself that the larger world will even notice their departures.

Pandora Wrigglesworth said...


Wow! That is a hilarious JIRA post. This wayfinder person is the most ignorant, unhelpful, useless type of bug reporter. When programmers get a response like that, we shake our heads, shrug our shoulders and say, "Oh, well. We asked for specific information that would help us fix the bug and this person was so intent on having a defensive fit and boohoo pity party that they flatly refused to answer the questions. What do they expect us to do? Sneak into their home to look at their computer personally? Wave the magic Bug-Fixing wand over the server? What a jerk. I guess we'll wait for someone to post a report on this bug who actually wants the bug fixed instead of just looking for an ego stroke."

Pandora Wrigglesworth said...

PS: Anyone who starts every single post with the phrase "with all due respect" so that they can be disrespectful shouldn't expect to get any respect themselves.

J said...

@ Pandora

With all due respect...

Only kidding =)

The problem here is that LL has not been straightforward with this at all. They knew the opensapces were sold as residential from day one, hey their own forums were filled with ads, actually they were sold/rented as residential even before they were called openspace (the old high space/low prim sims) and people had shops on them, homes on them so this is nothing new to them. They just made a huge error and called in a card they had put in there to save their back sides should the time come and they did. In my honest opinion that is 'bad business practice' whichever way you look at it.
It's like me selling a shampoo and stating "This product may be harmful to hair if used too much".

Well, what is too much?

Why did they not make it well known to the public before poop hit the fan and try to fix it? All there was one entry somewhere hidden in the lockers of the web site if you were keen enough to find it. They could have put that information in the covenant on each and every single one of the openspace sims and make it well known, but noo. See that is the problem here. They blamed us and made it look like it is our fault when in fact it is theirs and we are paying for it.

Since they are getting away with it , guess what, it will happen again.

Bettina Tizzy said...


Second Life will continue with or without a few thousand experienced content creators, whether those creators leave for good or simply spend less time there.

It will change and evolve, or devolve... only time will tell. I imagine that both of us will still be active in virtual worlds two years from now and we'll then be able to look back and know - beyond a shadow of a doubt - the effect that these past few months have had. And we don't know the half of it. I'm sure there are many more surprises around the bend, both external and internal.

What I am certain of is that many of the people I know and people I've met on my adventures feel wounded, both financially (this little Openspace thing was quite a blow to many), and emotionally.

Speaking for myself, it is not unlike the feeling of having lost a good and trusted friend.

You might say that Linden Lab is a business. They have a right to change their management, their business model, their pricing, their five year plan... I'll not dispute that.

In the past, I laughed when Gazira Babeli said to me "Second Life is better than Microsoft Office."

For me, Second Life has been... a Second Life. But it turns out that the people behind it are really just offering me... another Operating System.

It seems that I - and a few thousand others - are willing to put up with all of the inconveniences that are part and parcel of dealing with near-Alpha worlds if we can have a side of heart and soul with our experience.

Pandora Wrigglesworth said...

Here's another way to think about it:

Linden Labs definitely made a mistake.

It would have been nice if they had not made that mistake but, once they had, what could they have done about it?

If they had simply decided to leave things as they are, they would have been hemorghaging money and eventually gone bankrupt and then there would have been no more Second Life. This would have made the current OpenSpace users happy in the very short-term but would have made everyone unhappy in the long-term.

Instead, they first decided to change the OpenSpace policy so that everyone had to pay more. But then people complained so they changed it so that only some people had to pay more based on whether their activity actually cost LL more.

Now, I understand that many people wish things had gone differently. But what exactly could LL have done differently? And remember: Your answer ideally should not end with "...until Linden Labs goes bankrupt and Second Life goes away."

Enigma said...

Pandora ,

If this all true and you are going to believe all what they say then you would have expected to stop selling the product when they noticed the problem and reevaluated the situation. They did NOT and are selling the same product currently. Maybe they have a real genius plan we all don't know about it.
We just now for certain that they are real great communicators and have the hand right on the pulse of the community and value so much the well being of their customers ;))

The consumer price index fell for one month 1% the most since the recording started in 1947 I believe.
LL on the other hand are raising the price for their hosting service.

Pandora Wrigglesworth said...


That's exactly what they did do.

Keep in mind: It was not the product or the price that was a mistake. It was unrealistic expectations of what the customers would do with the product that was a mistake.

Once they noticed the problem, they decided not to sell the same product at the same price but to change it to match what they observed. When people complained, they compromised. They still have the same price for a more clearly labelled version of the same product but a higher price for those customers who want to use the product at a higher usage.

I think that you may be unfairly projecting your frustration with the economic realities onto Linden Labs. They didn't invent capitalism and they don't own the Internet. They are subject to the same costs and obstacles as any company. And, quite frankly, from what I know from inside sources at Linden Labs, they are one of the most liberal and generous companies out there. In fact, if anything, I would label them as naive and overly idealistic.

By the way, I found out a little more about the way Linden Labs handles bugs. From what I understand, there's just this great big JIRA database full of bugs and nobody is actually assigned a bug. Instead, the programmers pick through the database and work on whichever bug they would like to work on. There are bonuses and rewards they may get for working on higher priority/higher voted bugs, but if they don't want to work on a specific bug, they don't have to. This is what made wayfinder's behavior on that JIRA thread you linked so counter-productive. If you have a bug you want fixed and a Linden Lab programmer is actively looking for it and asking you questions about your experience with that bug, the worst possible thing you can do it to become confrontational, snide, and accusatory toward that programmer since there is nothing stopping them from dropping that bug to go work on some other bug. I'm not saying we should smooch programmers' heinies; just that we need to avoid deliberately alienating by taking out our displaced frustrations on them.