Jan 302014
 

Well the surprises have arrived quickly, Inara Pey (via a shout out to Mona Eberhardt) reports that Land Bots are no longer allowed to be used to purchase mainland parcels. This would have been pretty hot news four or five years ago, I’m not sure what good this policy is in an age when land in Second Life is going for peanuts.

The official policy can be found here : http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Linden_Lab_Official:Inworld_policy_on_bots

The relevant sections of this quiet update state:

Mainland parcel sales and bots

Some bots are used to automate the purchase of Mainland parcels priced below fair market values.

Policy

Using bots to purchase Mainland parcels is not allowed

The use of bots, autonomous software, scripting (manual or automated), scripted agents, or any systems or software internal or external to the Second Life service that circumvent, automate and/or remove the human interaction required to purchase a Land parcel within Second Life on the Linden Lab owned Mainland is prohibited.

When I was a lad in Second Life I used to regularly go to the Jack Linden office hour, where land bots were often a hot topic. Land at the time would regularly be sold for L$10 – L$15 per square meter, if you’re new to Second Life those figures are probably eye popping, land has dropped way below L$1 per square meter in many parts of the mainland. Land prices are so low that land bots at this stage are probably more of a help than a hindrance as people can find the price to make some small income from selling, rather than abandoning their land.

I’m really puzzled as to what the motivation behind this policy is today. The part about purchasing parcels below fair market value has my spidey senses tingling, and not in a good way. I hope they are not going to try and set a minimum price for selling land or hoping for a new land bubble from people manually flipping parcels.

However maybe there’s a surprise policy change in the works, maybe tier prices are going to drop and the lab expect a free for all with people trying to buy more parcels. The policy would actually make sense were tier prices to drop, or people were allowed more tier free land as part of their premium membership.

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Jun 282013
 

Protest Gnomes

The first thing to note when it comes to issues surrounding tier payments is that Linden Lab have to pay their bills, they have to pay their staff and in order to pay their staff and maximise their income they need tier payments as they remain the largest slice of the income pudding. Therefore there are no easy answers to the tier issue. However tier remains an issue that stifles devel0pment.

Content creators have the Marketplace whereby they can sell their wares in a low risk environment. This is great, it means people can create content without having to worry if they’re going to meet tier and they only get dinged for fees if they sell an item and even then, the fee is low at 5%. However there are other costs for content creators that should not be ignored. Software, training, hardware and time, let’s not forget that time is money, but content creators do have a place where they can offer their wares without the worry of upfront fees for using Second Life.

I’ve posted before how the rise of The Marketplace has came at the cost of hurting something to do sims, because merchants used to rent space to merchants to help subsidise those something to do ventures. There has been a trade off, The Marketplace has pro’s and cons for Second Life as a whole but in the main, I support it, it’s also easier for customers to find items on the Marketplace, so it’s not just of benefit to merchants, but there is a cost associated with this. However I can recall in days gone by, people discussing in the Second Life forums how they were discouraged from creating content because of tier or rental costs, so The Marketplace certainly helps with a wide range of diverse content being available, it should also be noted that one of the complaints in the past was that Second Life had too many malls and stores and not enough something to do places.

Many Marketplace merchants, it should be noted, have an inworld presence and do have tier worries, but The Marketplace is a place they can engage without tier worries. When it comes to the arts, there’s no Marketplace option, but there is the Linden Endownment for the Arts. Inara Pey recently covered the fact that applications are now open to apply for land there, the applications are still open. The LEA have around thirty regions, twenty of which are available via these applications for inworld artists to display their wares for five or six months, Linden Lab donate these regions.

The number of LEA regions is nowhere near enough to satisfy the huge range of diverse art installations that Second Life could attract, but it’s better than nothing. However many in the artistic community are in the position merchants were before the rise of The Marketplace, tier and rental costs stifle engagement.

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May 052013
 

Protest Gnomes

You will hear it being whispered in darkened corners of Second Life. Shadowy figures are abroad, they may even be coming to a mainland sim near you and with them they carry no tier contributions, but they will be in the possession of mainland parcels.

There’s something amiss and according to the whispered reports, there has long been something amiss. These shadowy figures are allegedly taking advantage of a rumoured exploit and getting for free, something that others pay through the nose for. I should be outraged, for some reason, and I’m not quite sure why, I’m not.

One reason perhaps is that some people will inadverently be taking advantage of this loophole. I’ll give an example, I’m frustrated that Linden Lab have made no moves to address the tier issue, tier remains too damn high. I have taken steps to downgrade my land holdings. During the course of this I started to unload some mainland parcels, then I decided to check my group contributions in case I had tier donations above and beyond what was needed. I found that I didn’t have enough tier donations in one particular land group, I found myself 2 metres under. Now 2 metres is neither here nor there and it may have only happened as I unloaded parcels owned by that land group due to losing land in tier bonus, or I may have long been 2 metres under and not realised it. I had more than 2 metres of tier available, so it was easy to put that right.

Another reason I’m not outraged is that even if Linden Lab send round the tax collectors and plug this hole, they won’t shift a damn inch on their tier pricing. The shadowy figures aren’t likely to pay for their tier, they are more likely to abandon, so the net result would be nil.

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Apr 122013
 

I haven’t sold land in Second Life for quite a while. I purchased land many moons ago, when you could pay 15,000 Linden Dollars for a bog standard 1024m parcel. Those days are long gone and I knew that the land market had crashed.

So this week I looked at my bills, looked at the return I’m getting from Second Life and decided it mght be time to tier down. I’m exasperated that Linden Lab seem to have made no obvious attempts to address the tier issue, which remains too damn high. I know I know, cutting tier would be economic suicide right now, it’s better to slowly lose income than cut income too quickly and risk everything, yadda yadda yadda, but Linden Lab need to realise that their pricing model is outdated, that their options, are outdated. There aren’t enough payment options.

By the same token, my inworld business models are outdated, I haven’t moved enough with the times, the fact that my business models are no longer working is my fault, not Linden Lab’s. I mean sure, it’s easy to say they should lower tier, but they haven’t, so it’s up to me to do something about that in terms of moving on to a new business or pulling out. I’m currently in the middle mode of deciding it’s time to cut back. My decision to cut back is long overdue, especially as Linden Lab won’t budge on the tier issue, but ultimately, it’s my fault that my Second Life business isn’t doing as well as it once was.

So anyway, I decided to cut some parcels and test the water with selling some, rather than flat out abandoning, as I have tier capacity to hold parcels, it seems silly to abandon without trying t0 sell. However, I didn’t realise how flat the land market currently is. One parcel I cut, is admittedly rubbish, so I decided to sell this 512m parcel for L$120, it isn’t selling! Goodness knows what price the land bots kick in, although I will have time to test this.

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Jan 152013
 

Although we currently do not accept L$ in lieu of land sale and maintenance fee payments, we could. Acceptance by Linden Lab of just one month of land sale and maintenance fees in L$ denominated payments could cut the in-world money supply by more than 50%.”  – Zee Linden, 14th August 2007 – Second Life Economy Blog Post.

I’ve quoted Zee there, who was the chief financial officer of Linden Lab a while back, because The Marketplace arguments are tied tightly to the tier being too damn high arguments. I’ve argued in the past and continue to argue, that Linden Lab can’t cut tier until they find alternative revenue sources.

Inara Pey has an excellent blog post explaining why slashing tier would be problematic: Tier Cuts : Looking From The Lab’s Perspective. There are some eye watering figures on how much income Linden Lab would potentially lose from slashing tier by a third: “However, were the Lab to cut tier by one-third, they immediately slash monthly private region revenue by $1,400,520. That’s equivalent to 4,747 full private regions vanishing from the grid – 1.6 times more that the total number of private regions (full, Homestead and OpenSpace) lost in 2012.

This is the stark issue facing Linden Lab and one which explains why tier is unlikely to be slashed anytime soon. However this doesn’t mean nothing can be done, Linden Lab need to get their thinking caps on but a couple of areas which could be investigated are with regards to timed usage and greater use of Linden Dollar sinks.

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Dec 312012
 

Usually at this time of year, someone will post some predictions for the forthcoming year, although that seems to be light on the ground this year, it’s always a bit of fun to see those predictions and see what transpires. However predictions aren’t for me, instead I’ll post some hopes and wishes and look at what may happen.

On The Horizon

On the horizon we have some useful looking improvements coming to us from Linden Lab. Project shining leads the way and is already well under production. This includes server side baking via project sunshine, which will be a pain point for some as older viewers such as Phoenix aren’t coming along for the ride but it should mean improvements to how textures load and improved performance. This is also alongside the new http-Library project which is already being used in the beta viewer.

This comes on the back of Linden Lab improving hardware during 2012, as stated on the blog post about 2012: “in 2012 we made the single largest capital investment in new server hardware upgrades in the history of Linden Lab

So we should see the results of these hardware and software improvements during the coming months. We should also see the emergence of the open source efforts to improve graphics rendering performance such as the use of normal and specular maps during 2013.

Then we should see more work done on the good building practices wiki pages, which is turning into a bloody good resource.

Second Life expanding to Steam is still on the horizon. Changes have been made to the beta viewer, including a create account option, so it seems to be getting closer.

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Dec 272012
 

The results of Prim Perfect’s recent poll are in and unsurprisingly, there’s large feedback on the tier being too damn high in Second Life. The poll received 246 responses, which in some ways makes it a representative poll, on the other hand the poll was self selecting, which means it might not be representative. That’s the way polls work but they are usually weighted in some ways to select certain groups of people to try and balance results, 246 out of Second Life’s user base would satisfy most professional polling organisations in their results, the self selection wouldn’t.

I’m not trying to invalidate the results, largely because I agree with them mostly, but I think it’s only fair to put some perspective on the poll. Prim Perfect do the same, they’re not trying to hide anything, which is good to see.

I’m not going to cover all of the poll, you can go to the Prim Perfect blog for that, but I’ll look at a couple of results. I’ve covered the decline in private estate ownership on this blog, most recently with news that private estate ownership is down 12% this year, a result found because of the wonderful work of Tyche Shepherd. Prim Perfect’s poll also pays homage to Tyche, although at that time the losses were 11%.

What do you think are the major factors causing the decline of private landholding in Second Life?

  • The high cost of tier in Second Life – 84%
  • The economic situation in the real world –  66%
  • The dominance of the Marketplace making holding land less viable – 41%
  • A sense that Second Life is outdated –  27%
  • A move to other forms of social gaming – e.g. Facebook, phone apps –  16%
  • Other – 21%

Wait wait wait! That’s more than 100%! Yes that’s because it was a multiple answers question.

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Dec 242012
 

Tyche “Statto” Shepherd reports a net loss of 106 sims this week in her awesome survey post over at SLUniverse. Linden owned regions increased by 16 this week, but private estates were down 122. This makes the year to date loss of private regions from the grid 2,863, which is 12% down for the year.

The increase in Linden Regions comes from the arrival of 18 Linden Realms staging regions, so it looks like we may get some new fun sims to explore. However amongst the losses are sims owned by Dell, IBM, The US Army and The British Council. However the vast majority of the 122 losses are not corporate sims.

The good news for Linden Lab is that the size of the main grid still stands at 28,097, of these regions 20,994 are private regions with the other 7,103 being Linden owned. This means there’s still a very healthy amount of usage, but the trend remains downwards.

By my estimates private region ownership is somehwere around the level it was at in June 2008, although in June 2008 we had seen some large growth during the year.

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Nov 292012
 

Another interesting coment came up from Inara Pey’s blog post (see previous post for link as I don’t want to spam pingbacks). Adomaw Lupindo raises a really interesting point about tier and scale:

Do you think that LL’s Mesh discounting was an indirect way to offer tier reductions without changing their product pricing scheme by passing on the work to the content creators? I’ve asked the opinion of an estate manager and what that might mean and it was pointed out that even though people could in theory cut their prim needs by a max of half—it doesn’t give them more or the same amount of landmass to play with that on.

Linden Lab have, over the last year or so given us opportunity to reduce our land impact (prim count in old money) numbers. We can now create 64 x 64 metre prims natively in the client, whereas the old maximum was 10 x 10, unless you were using workarounds, such as megaprims, which as far as I’m aware were never officially supported. We can use tricks and techniques using the convex hull shape to reduce the land impact score and we can buy or upload Mesh. This means that your 117 land impact allowance on a 512m parcel goes a lot further, so can everyone tier down? I mean tier is the bugbear (and is too damn high). The answer of course, is no, not everyone, not even the majority I’d guess and that’s an issue of scale.

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Nov 142012
 

The expected premium offer has arrived, A discount on a quarterly membership of 50%, meaning it will only cost USD$11.25 … I think! Now, if you’re cute with the Lindex, you can get someone else to pay for this in three months time, if the L$1000 bonus is included, you can get someone else to pay for this and have enough left over for a coffee from a company who may well divert the profits to avoid paying tax, but that’s a whole different ball game.

There’s also a new premium gift, as announced on the blog. A new airplane, with which you can fly in a premium only airfield. Personally I’m not that keen on the concept of premium only areas beyond sandboxes. I think it’s a good idea to give premium members exclusive early access to places, I’m not so keen on exclusive perks like airfields or even the wilderness. However if it works in keeping people premium, then fair play to Linden Lab.

Premium membership isn’t that bad a deal, you get 512m tier or a Linden Home, with mainland parcels so cheap these days a parcel may be a better option, Linden homes have restrictions on events and those parcels can’t be group owned, which means you may miss out on some features. On top of that you get a stipend of three hundred Linden Dollars, unless you’re a returning oldbie whereby it may be four hundred Linden Dollars, although if you’re a really old returning oldbe, it may be five hundred Linden Dollars. I don’t know if they still put you back at your original stipend level, they certainly used to.

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