Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mark Kingdon - Come down, come down from your Ivory Tower and listen to your Residents: A dose of perspective

The first 100 days as the commander of a company should be a time for absorbing information, discovering the strengths and weaknesses of the team, and putting all those puzzle pieces together. You became Linden Lab's CEO and adult supervisor in mid-March of this year, which would put you at about the 225 days mark, or 8 1/2 months.

225 days later, Mark Kingdon (aka M Linden), I'm disappointed in you. I was so optimistic about your arrival, too.

To make matters worse, the way I see it, Linden Lab owes me $950US + a reimbursement for my time.

Shall I just email the bill over to you? Oh, you don't know what I'm talking about? Well, come on down from your Ivory Tower, dear man, and let me catch you up on things.

Just one week before your arrival, Linden Lab introduced a new product called Openspaces. The official description of the product reads as follows, and there was no mention of special rules:

What is an Openspace?

An Openspace is a type of private island intended for light use countryside or ocean. Unlike normal regions that effectively get a CPU to themselves on the server, there can be up to four Openspaces on a single CPU, sharing the resource (hence them being ‘light use’).

Back in those days, I was the care-free owner of a bit more than a quarter sim upon which Chakryn Forest (V2) sat. I had purchased that island land about 8 months before, and paid a creator several hundreds of dollars to make me the virtual forest of my dreams.

A few days after the Openspace announcement, my friend thomtrance Otoole offered me an Openspace to create a new, sim-wide forest. My only financial commitment was to pay tier... $75US a month. This was rather enticing, because at the time, I was paying $125 for about the same number of prims but not nearly as much land. I gratefully took him up on his very generous offer, and put Chakryn Forest up for auction.

Now then... by this time, the fever for Openspaces was gripping the Grid, and many people lost interest in buying regular island land or mainland. I don't mind telling you that it got so you couldn't give away regular island land, cause Openspace tier was just so much cheaper.

The forest and I got lucky. A dreamer and forest lover like me purchased my land and the forest for less than what I had paid for the land, but he promised to keep the forest intact and that, in my mind, made it a good deal.

By then, Openspace Chakryn was mine, and for two months I rolled up my sleeves and worked with Andrek Lowell and Eshi Otawara - two of the best creators in Second Life - to develop a rich and enchanting forest brimming with secrets and its own special lore. Because I value these creators and their time, I paid them for it and as generously as I could afford. Several hundreds of dollars later, and on July 15th, I proudly opened the new Chakryn Forest to the public for everyone's use and enjoyment.

Oh, I should mention that Andrek Lowell worked tirelessly for many extra hours to create the entire sim-wide forest with only 1,400 prims. Why? Because it was my plan to showcase great virtual art throughout the sim and I needed every last prim. He delivered, and just last month the art shows began with a great installation by Glyph Graves:

Music: Narayanam, performed by Suchita Parte
Video: Bettina Tizzy

It made me proud to see the daily traffic numbers, which average 5,000. Now, was this hurting anyone? I don't think so, because Chakryn shares the server with at least three other Openspaces that I know of that hardly get any traffic at all.

Did I act with evil intent? Certainly not. In fact, all along I thought I was being an upright and conscientious citizen and providing Second Life®'s Residents with a park.

Then, out of the blue... an announcement from our government, regarding a certain "policy change:"

"Beginning 1st January 2009

We will increase the monthly maintenance fee from USD$75 to USD$125 per month. This price increase will apply to all owners of Openspaces on January 1st as well as new purchases after that date. There will be no grandfathering of Openspace maintenance pricing."

That's $600US you want to bill ME extra, every year?! Why, not even George W. Bush is ... enough to pull a stunt like that: increasing our taxes by 67% for an 8 month old product!

Now over at GigaOM, Wagner James Au (aka Hamlet Au of New World Notes) has just published your statement in response to the outrage you are hearing after the stinging blow you have dealt us. Part of it reads...

“To be clear,” Kingdon continued, “this price adjustment affects only a portion of land in Second Life; it does not apply to private islands or regular mainland property. We made this change to ensure an optimal Second Life experience for all Residents.”


I can give you the actual breakdown for my bill in person, and at your convenience, but here is an overview:
- Cost of developing Chakryn Forest (V2), which I never got back
- Cost of tier for two months while Openspace Chakryn was in development
- Cost of developing Openspace Chakryn (many hundreds of dollars)
- My time (like Mastercard says... it is priceless)

Come down, come down from your Ivory Tower, dear man, and take stock of the situation.


Botgirl Questi said...

Wow! Great and persuasive post. I hope it inspires others to share their own stories with similar concrete detail and personal disclosure.

Solo Mornington said...

This newest development basically proves that LL doesn't know their customers.

qpop said...

"It made me proud to see the daily traffic numbers, which average 5,000. Now, was this hurting anyone? I don't think so, because Chakryn shares the server with at least three other Openspaces that I know of that hardly get any traffic at all."

I'm sorry Bettina but you cannot know whose or which other opens spaces share your Openspace's CPU. Just because there are open spaces nearby on the map owned by the same owner and even bought at the same time - does not mean they are being run on exactly the same physical machine (and thus CPU) in the LL server farm. (Just as with full sims, the sim next door to you may not be in the same server rack or even in the same server farm.)

5000 people per day is definitely not light use. I was surprised on visiting your new Chakryn forest (which is indeed a marvel of SL building)to disciver that it was housed on an openspace sim.

I feel for you in having your costs blown out by yet another LL "knee jerk reaction" and having been caught in the land slump caused by the easing of availability of Open Space sims (which were available for some time before you were offered this one), but also the only slightly earlier concurrent release of new mainland and a lowering of the private sim price.

Once again LL have shown that they do not understand how we residents will run with whatever they give us - nor how far we will push things.

Earth Primbee said...

Good post and thought provoking. I'll share some of my thoughts.

I always thought the recalculated prim to land ration was enough of a barrier itself to overloading the servers. I was wrong it appears.

I bought a 1/2 of an open sim to build my "house" on so I would have a lot of land and water surrounding it. I made it nice and pretty to view from a distance. In fact, you couldn't tell someone was living there without really searching.

I live in a sub division in first life where I can see my neighbor's windows from mine.I thought this new sim idea was perfect to combat this problem without an unaffordable additional tier (at least in my case.)

I traded the ability to build a castle (prim wise) for the beauty of open space and a small house.

Yesterday I removed all of my items from that parcel and gave the land back to the estate owner.

I hope she can get some kind of return for this land. She has 3 of these type islands (that are mostly just nature) and will not be carrying any of them after this change goes into effect.

I feel like I've been given a piece of candy that I found amazingly delicious and then had it ripped from my hand and told I was naughty for enjoying it!!!

Well shame on LL in this case for offering the islands in the first place at a price people could afford without appropriate limits on prim/script usage to combat this problem without using price as a barrier again.

I'm not sure I understand the difference in putting 100 trees up to make the sim look good and building a house and having 50 trees.

If the number of avatars is the problem, reduce the number of agents that can enter one of these.

sell them at "prim" usage rate plan instead of one price for all.

So many other solutions besides changing the price!

I just feel like more people who are amazingly creative will be hampered once again by the lack of $$$.

Ari Blackthorne™ said...


Finally, a very good, convincing voice of reason without a truckload of shrill, dramatic rhetoric.

Thank you for actually reenforcing your argument rather that raising your voce. Good call.

It's easy to beat-down and ignore the screamers and griefers. However, your article here, this 'open letter' is well thought, concise and to the point and you make your case well.

You speak for a lot of people.

now, with such clear, calm communication, we will see if "M" or anyone else at Linden Lab is really paying attention at all.

Unfortunately, I fear the screamers have already caused a lot of the Lindens to run and hide under their desks, and thus - may not ever get wind of your well-thought, well-written rebuttal.

xlent1 said...

mastercard? ask for a refund?

samlowry said...

I am pretty agree with you. Being an estate manager by mside of "Lost Gardens of Apollo" and having a french (as you could see with my bad english) blog by my side, i was surprised last day to see angerness of peopel against LL. Now i understand why: This commercial policy of LL go against the spirit of this place. To put in front money and kill the spirit . I am not sure it is a good calculation... I am in Sl since 3 years and i am not here to run in shops, even i bought many things.Well all that to say that i so understand your point of vue and i am here to defend you in hard times. Congratulations for your blog lady
yours Sam ;))

Dale Innis said...

To K: are you sure it's not possible to tell whether two Open Space sims share the same machine? I wonder what llGetSimulatorHostname returns on two different Open Space sims that are on the same machine? It would be an interesting experiment...

Bettina Tizzy said...

To all of you who responded and to the dozens of you who have contacted me both in-world and via email, thank you.

I am sad.