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11/22/2007

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Untameable Wildcat

I must say it doesn't surprise me that LL might start thinking like this, and this was a very interesting article you've written.

But in the end, you only have to look at near history to discover how, ultimately, what you've said about their size and vision is spot on.

Shortly after Windows 95 came out, we were treated to Microsoft's vision of the internet, called, unsurprisingly, The Microsoft Net. MS told us how we'd all connect using Internet Explorer, pay our subscriptions every month to Microsoft and they'd pretty much be the hub of virtuality.

Of course, it never happened. People don't want to be constrained in that way, which ultimately will be at the heart of this issue for Second Life. You only have to have one of the big boys, such as the people who made first napster, then skype, then joost decide they want to make a virtual world that works on peer to peer technology and Second Life's entire existence may be threatened in a matter of months.

It's sheer arrogance to assume because you've come up with a good idea, you can rule the world with it (Pinky and The Brain, anyone?) - Linden Labs mission statement is brave, and possibly commendable... but I don't see it as being viable.

Prokofy Neva

If a company is hegemonic, but demonstrably better, it need not be resisted merely for the sake of asserting anarchy and script-kiddy oppositional defiance disorder.

Microsoft doesn't bother me nearly as much as it does little nerdy Linux lovers. Firefox has its annoyances just as much as IE, it's not a paradise.

I'm all for resisting Pinky and the Brain stuff, but not with narrow sectarian bullshit that is worse than Pinky and the Brain at the end of the day.

If I have to chose between the busybodies on the JIRA or the FIC, for example, or Linden Lab, even with all its problems, I would have no problem chosing LL. Unfortunately, we can't be thinking about this abstractly. It's not like there are endless permutations. It might really be a question of "Linden Lab" versus "Former Linden" or "Linden Pet" or "Capture Roleplay" or "Ancapistan" .

Prokofy Neva

A reminder of the link for last November's "mission message" from Philip Linden, to contrast and compare...

http://blog.secondlife.com/2006/11/06/the-mission-of-linden-lab/

Ciaran Laval

I enjoyed Philip's blog, he should blog more often and he says he will.

I'm not sure where LL envisage themselves as sitting, Myspace, facebook etc. have attracted interest from bigger corps who merely buy them out when the ground work is done.

Google on the other hand are standing strong but aren't taking over the world.

What the open sim fans fail to realise is that the core backbone of LL's financial model is based on people paying tier. If they really think they're going to be able to run a sim from their basement and be able to interact for a few dollars a month they're living in cloud cuckoo land. The geeks will not inherit the earth.

Open sim fans need to look at the island model already in existence. It costs more to run a new island than it does a mainland sim, LL are going to want to continue to host sims and provide a service at a cost that makes them competitive.

However LL really need to look to the past to see that their vision of the future might not be what they believe. IBM once believed that nobody would be able to sell PC's cheaper than them.

Even Philip however doesn't believe that everyone will connect via LL. The future of 3D virtual worlds will not be monoplised by LL, it's simply not feasible.

Prokofy Neva

I wish it were true the geeks weren't going to inherit the earth, but geeks that buy up 600 servers could very well inherit Second Life, because several things might be done with this, we can't know yet as they aren't telling us:

o sale of sims could continue exactly the same, i.e. pre-made simulated islands or mainland parcels on the auction -- purchase of those pieces of "land" will in fact be the cost of hook-up

o after that, you won't pay $195 a month to LL for maintenance, as you would for access to their servers, but since you host your own, nothing for maintenance as such -- but you will pay a hook-up fee. If islands are sold, then that hook-up could be marginal, $59 or $19.95 even, who knows.

o If someone can make their own islands by knowing graphics and programming very well, using the server code (if it will include that aspect of it in open source), then their hook-up might be more expensive than those who bought the prefabbed islands.

o Hook-ups might be more expensive for individuals than for those buying in bulk like land-barons.

o Hook-ups in fact may not even be offered to individuals, but several large third-party hosting services will be designated/feted/licensed, and you'll have to go through them

o You will be able to get an individual hook-up for a steep but not impossible price, but then you won't get to do certain things, like author scripts, let's say. It's here that the Lindens might finally become more like there.com in the name of "security".

o Or you can hook-up and do your script-kiddy thing as much as you like, but you then have limited access to transferring those items to other parts of SL. Like upload fees, they may charge you to be able to copy.

I'm just trying to brainstorm on the possible scenarios.

Philip says that not just one company can be doing Second Life. But he doesn't say that there will be multiple companies managing the CONNECTION to SL. That means he may well envision a role for SL that will always be the troll at the bridge. He may imagine the role as shaping heavily even what may nominally be open.

Nicholaz Beresford

Being from the geek class, I was still most interested in that betterment of mankind piece.

In fact it's a bit like you posted on my blog, when you wrote that the soviet were always focusing on the future.

Suffer now in name name of the later/greater good. Hold on friends, your reward will come.

I am certainly not in SL as long as you are (just 9 months now) but it has always been that way: There is this next big thing which will make things better. We were told in spring that the majority of developers are focusing on bug fixing and now it's again this project over the next six months. Nothing much has changed.

I firmly believe that what they do there with this vision is putting the cart before the horse. Even if LL is a company and interested in growth, nothing helps a company (or this world or platform or whatever it is) grow faster than satisfied customers/residents. Saying "sorry, you need to suffer a bit longer because we want to grow further" is just so backwards.

It's been said that the greatest evils have been done in the name of the greater good and while SL certainly is not a "great evil" in the tradition of how this is usually expressed (referring to the atrocities of inquisition or communism or similar movements) I still find it troublesome that Philip seems to be focusing LL even further away from the needs of the current population.

The approach, while having the idea of shaping Web 3.0 is still very Web 1.0 (technology centered) and largely ignoring what is currently called Web 2.0 or the social web.

I am certainly a tech guy, but I too have no interest in html on a prim, and I think most residents don't. They want to meet with friends, live their dreams, have a good time or make a bit of money in a fun way (with probably is equivalent of their dream).

The impact of Voice on the residents, as far as I can tell, was close to zero and so will HTML on a prim. Windlight would be nice, if it was an addition to a solid and well performing platform, but for now, people still can't see their friends reliably, can only participate in 25 groups and over large periods of time during the last week couldn't log on at all.

A different vision may have a different focus, but the way it seems now, it will be "please wait for this next amazing thing" for a good time longer.

Prokofy Neva

Nicholas, I've been in SL 3 years exactly now, and the chimera of the HTML on a Prim and the Havoc Engine 2, or was it Havoc on a Prime and HTML Engine 4? -- that has never come. It recedes away like Xeno's Paradox. I don't care about it. It doesn't matter to me, as notecards are good enough. If I want the web, I go out on the web and don't lag down my game. The Havoc thing is uninteresting to me as a non-gamer, non-geek, and again -- SL is *good enough*.

Meanwhile, things that no one ever heard of, promised, envisioned, asked for, did happen, inexplicably:

o occlusion -- only a tiny handful of geeks raised this and it was never a huge drive even among the geek set--if I'm not mistaken, some even thought of delaying it or opposed it

o Voice -- never any votes for it, never any user base desire for it -- if there was, they'd be in There, was Voice was part of the culture. Everybody used Skype if they absolutely had to hear somebody's voice or talk with their hands free or type. It was mainly Philip not liking to type and LL not liking written town hall transcripts they'd be held to that drove them to Voice -- that and a putative play to education -- but I never saw the educators really really ask for this

o Flexiprims -- I think Ben Linden wanted a tail or something, and hence it became a priority. Nobody wanted it or cared about it.

o Sculpties -- this is a total boondoggle IMHO

o Windlight -- actually detrimental to your SL

o The LindEx -- GOM was perfectly fine and added more value, the Lindens could have sold currency packets for newbies at fixed prices even if they'd combined it with other moves like enabling this feature for only one account with a credit card attached, for only 30 days, and gotten rid of stipends as a correlary -- or some other variation of newbie help. Nobody asked for the LindEx. The Lindens conceived of it a) as a revenue generating device b) to save their own legal asses if need by by showing control over the "licensing" and c) as ostensibly for newbies who found GOM's rule that you had to be at least 30 days and provide a credit card too confining to start SL.

Back in the days of stipends at $500, delta ratings pay, event grants, etc. there was lots of cash around so that geeky or student types or foreigners with no desire or no ability to give credit cards could get along. That stopped in January 2005 when Lindens began their Gaidar-like shock therapy measures.

So what are the things we've asked for that we have gotten?

o Group tools -- this they did very consciously and pretty well. They should have developed and debugged and enhanced this business tool, however, instead of all the other glittery stuff for content developers like sculpties or Windlight -- LL constantly devaults to trying to wow and keep the 10 percent of creators

o Abuse Report improvements -- say what you will, but the AR system is 100 percent improved in efficiency and processing from what it was in the days where 30 days to get an answer was not unusual and Live Help was very hit or miss

o Concierge System -- creation and functioning of this system to handle mainly islands has pretty much been a boon; the problem is that it does not serve those on the Mainland with improved policies or practices for the most part

o p2p -- I could do without the havoc this brought by having telehbus be removed from mainland (but not private islands!) and I still think the price we paid for p2p was more lag, constantly failed teleports, and missing textures -- and that wasn't worth it.

So on balance, I think the Lindens did enough of the bare essentials to at least make business, especially land business, more bearable and workable, and threw some unnecessary glittery things at content creators who weren't happy anyway because they'd rather have some robust DMCA department (one that will never, ever come into being) but quite a few things seemed unnecessary, unfinished, poorly timed.

The Lindens are essentially engineering Bolsheviks, Stakhanovites, Deutscherites, whatever you want to call the notion that revolutionary expediency -- the need to develop the overall project very quickly -- trumps any individual and his problems. From the long view of history, you can ask why it would have ever been worth urbanizing and industrializing Russia at such a cost, given that you only get environmental destruction and decreased life expectancy anyway out of the bad bargain.

I see the Lindens replicating all the sins of the Soviets:

o uravnilovka -- dumbing everything down to one level, constant exhortation to egalitarianism, i.e. land barons can't get ahead, land must be glutted, etc

o uskoreniye -- acceleration, speed-up, everything has to be done at a crash-and-burn rate

o pripiska -- false reporting of statistics to make the company look good

o blat -- connections, it's not what you know, but who you know, your status and who you connect to

And many other things like "democratic centralism" -- debate within a small core of rulers that might be a back and forth of 'openness' in that narrow circle, but which brooks no dissent from anyone outside the circle.

The Lindens don't really like Web 2.0, like many Web 1.0 gurus who swear that you can't possibly repeat the "mistake" of making a walled garden like AOL.

And so they miss the point that people want walled gardens, as long as they can make *their own* walled gardens with somewhat permeable walls.

So groups, socializing, community -- this is so much film over a platform that engineers want to make, and not be interfered with.

They want to stretch the technical capacity of the platform out as far as it will go, so that these Sony Homes or Metaplaces or HiPhiHi's or whatever comes out there can't compete with them on sheer prettiness.

I guess I'm sort of bracing myself for the next big shock to LL to see what they will do. I predict that Red Light Center, Twinity, Sony Home, some of these more controlled worlds with less or no user content, will attract a whole bunch of the socializers and role-players of Second Life. And suddenly the Lindens, who are by and large geeky, with quite a few of them being condescending and insolent to boot, won't really have a good idea what to do next.

They didn't care enough about land and groups to make them work really well and build it more slowly but enthusiastically with long-term customers -- they hate land, essentially, they view it much as Lenin viewed the NEP -- a temporary expediency.

Their fanboyz impatiently wait for the day when they can dispense with the silly land model and charge for domain names/hook-ups to their own hosted servers which they will make as awful and geeky as possible, just like Second Life itself. We will see a million little second lifes in their most awful form, most of which will shrivel and die as the masses stampede to places where the geeks are held behind 7 walls and where a customer service team is just plain more present and nicer to the people.

The Lindens actually have a good CS team now with Concierge, but they are held behind a curtain of the interface itself, you can't really deal with them inworld normally, or call them on the phone. If your problem doesn't "fit" the routine, it will never be dealt with.

Imagine, 5800 frozen accounts due to their unwillingess to say, "We were mistaken in outsourcing this thing let's re-do it".

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