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10/26/2008

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Ann Otoole

I would love to discuss this but it is clear that LL has begun creation of sacred cows in their business and any disparaging remarks about these sacred topics will probably result in punitive actions.

Ciaran Laval

I'm sure the issue of people bidding and not paying was raised after the Bay City auctions. I thought they were going to do something about that.

Sniping isn't illegal, well not on ebay anyway, it is frowned upon.

On the auctions can't you set a maximum bid? That way the system automatically raises your bid when someone outbids you. That's what it sounds like was happening when the pricing kept going up.

However the other charge you make, that people are shill bidding, is pretty much illegal. That's what a lack of transparency in the bidding process does. I have no idea why they don't put a bidders name in, they're using ebay technology, it must be perfectly feasible.

Prokofy Neva

Ciaran, I'm fully aware that the auctions take a high bid, and then automatically raise the bid by increments of 10 each time it is met by another bidder. I've been on the auctions for four years, and I realize all that.

What I see happening now, and I believe happened with Bay City, is something different. It is not bidding high and having an automatic bid.

It's going through and bidding on many, many parcels all at once, putting in very high bids, say $50,000 or $60,000. So that anyone then attempting to bid will try putting in what *they* think is a reasonably high bid, like 20,000 or even 30,000, and give up when they see it keep getting met by the automatic system.

Then after a few of these -- for me it only took about 7 -- they give up, because they realize that they will not get anything for a lower price, that there are high bids on many of them. That discourages people, they give up, and that enables the person who put in the high bids to go back and snip to get a few where competitors remain, and then sweep up the others left without further bids, as people gave up after seeing them all constantly matched.

Now, sure, this *might* be random, but I don't think so. It may even be very well planned by a cartel of people, and there'd be no way of knowing. Or several cartels who agree to go around and bid high on everything to keep its value very high-priced, and enable the prices inworld then to be higher.

Ebay in fact shows the name of the winner, and if I'm not mistaken, the bidders, too. Of course it's feasible to do so. The previous Linden technology did this without any problem. There is no reason not to do it -- except that it would prevent collusion in driving up prices, and that isn't in the Lindens' interest. They have no motivation to have auction transparency, they're happy with it the way it is.

You can't even accuse these players of "shill bidding" because in fact they are prepared to pay for those they win. They may refuse to claim some of them, but I think the Lindens do try to discourage that behaviour. I don't know exactly what they do about it, however. I know that they've put in this elaborate system that automatically tiers you up and automatically debits a payment precisely to try to stop misuse and non-claim of auction wins, which would happen in the old days because people had up to 7 days to claim their auction wins, and would just avoid starting the tier meter that way until they sold out their trading tier.

If you had auction transparency, if someone, or a group of someones, methodically went and bid on every single auction, or many of the auctions, to drive up the prices, it would become evident and public pressure might get the Lindens to stop that pressure, or perhaps an inworld boycott.

But we have no such thing.

Land barons in the old days had their margins, and while a few dominated the auctions, their rational margins prevented them from forcibly setting the bar too high. So people could get a desired parcel away from a land baron by simply bidding over their margins, most of the time, unless it was some really scarce and valued item like the telehub mall land.

Then when the auctions were so glutted with $1000 starting prices for sims, and then $750 starting prices, auctions actually went unbidded.

And perhaps at some point the Lindens decided they would no longer require that you had to have enough Lindens in your account to make a bid. They even used to say that on the auctions. Now that is removed -- I've proved it myself on a win. That makes it possible for someone to bid on numerous auctions and jack them up.

Ciaran Laval

Apologies I misread your comment on sniping.

You can find the closed auction prices, I never can find the link from the main page, but if you search and find no results there's a link to an advanced search:

http://ld.auctions.secondlife.com/Scripts/AdvSearch.asp

Just tick the box that says "Include closed listings" and put in your date range.

L$250,010 is the highest I see and that's just staggering.

Khamon Fate

Scott Maroon's definition of "free market" is one that supplies a steady stream of uninformed new accounts that will pay profitable margins for these lots only to find them useless and worthless in a month's time.

That LL intentionally retains this information from the orientation process and promotes such blatant thievery in their better world is staggering.

Ann Otoole

And the moles have become corporate graphics people except they work for walmart wages instead of getting a real job that would pay 5 times that.

Rivers Run Red and LL together will get to the RRR goal of no resident created content. Perhaps people will begin to realize the mole LPDW was a smokescreen and instead of working on roads on the mainland the moles are a corporate content creation department in full scale competition with residents. Were there no "moles" then LL would have to hire these people at real world rates.

SL is becoming walmart. Except nobody is getting any good deals and the slave labor is bearing huge juicy fruits for LL. Except for one problem. If everyone left SL tomorrow then the L$ that LL has been collecting from these auctions is worth zero.

It is very fascinating indeed.

Prokofy Neva

I don't see the box for "include closed".

Well, Khamon, what can you do, it's a free market, you can hardly overwhelm newbies by saying, hey, some land will really be priced out of your range.

Clubside Granville

The code has to be tied into the avatar information to know who is bidding and that you are logged in through secondlife.com in the first place. The system is written in ASP, a commercial scripting language, so the Lindens are probably afraid of that. However as I proved with the Feature Voting Tool port ASP is an easy and very powerful development environment. If they don't want to fix things that's one issue, if they can't tell Jack to give me a call, I'll fix it for them for free.

Elanthius Flagstaff

Couple of things. The cheapest parcel yesterday was L$45,000. There were no secret cheap parcels intermingled in the expensive ones that no-one found because they gave up. For a start who gives up if they're outbid? You can just bid on the next one with no cost to yourself and since almost all the parcels are equal to each other you don't even need to visit them before you bid.

Secondly, there can only be a cartel when there are very few buyers. With these parcels there are probably hundreds of interested parties if all the big buyers got together and agreed to keep prices low they'd just be outbid by end users. Your idea of a second cartel to outbid the first one is also kinda silly. If you outbid Scott Maroon and his gang (if he actually had one) then there would be no loss to him and he'd just keep bidding 50k until he got parcels or they all ran out. You can't punish someone into submission by outbidding them on auctions.

fact is, the theoretical optimal move on an auction is just to bid the highest amount that you are prepared to pay. I'm pretty sure Scott was just prepared to outpay you and me too since I bid on literally every parcel and didn't win any.

Ann Otoole

yea well i guess we all know who bought 4 million L$ the week before this auction started. Yea there were people asking questions about a buy order for L$4,000,000 on xstreet last week. So yea the same person is buying all of nautilus and getting 20 sims at mainland tier levels all pre constructed in a complete theme for less than 20 islands and a lot less per year tier.

Think about it rofl.

Prokofy Neva

It's not that they are "secret" Elanthius, don't be stupid. They are right out there for all to see. What I am reporting here is a *vulnerability in the system that enables gross exploitation* and indeed DOES discourage the end-user attempting to get one parcel.

Precisely because we do NOT have transparency, we cannot see what is going on. Someone COULD do that and no doubt DOES do that on many of the parcels -- and in THIS auction, $45,000 *is* cheap.

If you bid on 7 parcels, and see some of them outbid, and come back and bid high again, no, unless you happen to have $350,000 in hand to play with, you will not KEEP bidding and going on even MORE parcels because there is the risk that you might win and have to pay for them all.

The parcels are not equal to each other -- some have better views, some are blocked by walls, etc. Only somebody who casually flipped land as you do with a formula to start high and come down over time, regardless of view/location/etc. would say that. That's not how the rest of us look at and BUY land.

You no, you can't just go through and keep up with all the bids if there are people doing this -- you yourself could get stuck having to buy 6 or 12 parcels when you only wanted one or two -- it's bad behaviour that then engenders other bad behaviour and ensures that only a relatively small number of people own the auctions.

I do not claim that Scott is in some "cartel" -- the conversation, however, speaks for itself. He is belligerent and defensive about being asked a simple question -- and can't answer it. Later, he brags about it, in fact. You don't win 10 auctions by having bid on only 10 auctions, duh.

I've been bidding on the auction since long before you were born, Elanthius, and used to trade in land years ago. Duh -- I know that if I want a parcel, I have to bid it high -- as I have done -- or be willing to keep coming back several days. That is how I obtained Ravenglass the sim, for example, by bidding high, perservering even when the pages would not refresh and there were mechanical problems, and sniping at the last minute to make sure I got it.

Precisely because there is no loss to your or Scott Maroon when you bid on every single parcel and someone goes higher, you can jack up the market.

But it isn't the case that he has just put in a bid and let it go. Obviously, if half an hour before the close, his or somebody else's automatic high bid is met and met again, and he still comes in to claim it, he is prepared to drive some people out. He isn't putting in his maximum bid and leaving it, he is watching it to pay whatever he has to pay -- and once somebody sees that happening on several parcels, they indeed are discouraged from continuing to go around bidding and he indeed can come back and get the cheaper parcels. That should be obvious.

Thanks for confirming that this practice of putting in bids on ALL auctions is EXACTLY what you land barons are doing, however. That's the admission I was looking for by reporting this story. So cartel or no, we now know that land barons operate in this fashion, putting in bids on *every single open parcel*, every single day, which both has the effect of driving up the price and of ensuring them a lot of parcels as people give up. You are able to do this because the Lindens have removed the requirement that you have to have money in your account to make those bids.

Ebay doesn't let you make a bid if your credit card bounces, duh.

The price on the auction doesn't matter to a land baron, as he can resell it for higher and still meet his margins.

I've always wondered how it is that land prices don't come down very much despite all this Linden glutting. And the answer is: a small number of land barons bid on every single parcel against each other and keep the price up.

Well, Ann, as they say: it's a free market. If someone wants to buy a zillion Lindens and buy up a lot of Nautilus, nothing in the system stops them. And it isn't just one or even two people getting it, because there are casual and hobbyist and wealthy buyers willing to bid way up who will get some of them, and that will enable barons like Elanthius to claim there is no cartel.

SO then, is this packing of the auctions with bids a practice that the Honourable Land Barons group encourages?

Prokofy Neva

And again, it's not about agreeing to keep prices low, it's about agreeing to keep prices high -- and not even necessarily by having a 'cartel,' but by the fact that a few land barons ALL engage in the practice of bidding on ALL parcels so that they automatically jack up to far beyond their opening bid (in this case, $2000, which the Lindens put in to merely encourage this kind of high bidding and make sure there is multiple bids).

This practice is obviously in the Lindens' interest and whatever risk they face in defaults or non-payment is offset by higher auction prices.

Khamon

"Well, Khamon, what can you do, it's a free market, you can hardly overwhelm newbies by saying, hey, some land will really be priced out of your range." - Prokofy

True, and LL wouldn't want to grant them any concise picture of the land market because "This practice is obviously in the Lindens' interest." I should not have used the term thievery though; extortion is even a bit strong. It's simply dishonest to bid up and claim these parcels, then resell them at profitable levels to unsuspecting new residents that believe they're buying land in a real world context. It's simply dishonest and shameful.

"So yea the same person is buying all of nautilus and getting 20 sims at mainland tier levels all pre constructed in a complete theme for less than 20 islands and a lot less per year tier." - Ann

This is true. What a brilliant scheme. LL makes money. Scott Maroon makes money. Their customers are left holding the bag when they abandon the area for the next continent, rinse, repeat.

brilliant

And my business provides lindens for sale to both Scott and the victims. This gives me pause.

Prokofy Neva

Well, Scott hasn't "bought up all of Nautilus". We have only documented that he bought 10 parcels in one day -- hard to know how many more he will get, but you can watch the for-sale land.

Hard-core land barons will simply shrug at any of these concerns, and say, "you didn't sufficiently value the land to bid for it; someone else did; deal with it".

My point, however, is that there is something awfully like the whole subprime mortgage mess in enabling people to bid *without money in their wallets*.

That practice just seems to me an accident going somewhere to happen as it can only increase, and only increase the number of cases of fraud for LL. I should think that whatever temporary gains the get by in a sense putting short-term loans like this out to land barons, they could be bitten more and more eventually.

Khamon, you also look a bit hypocritical, recently selling your sim for $5500 or $30/meter, and then castigating both Lindens and land barons for selling sims for that same price or for $6000.

I'm all for free markets. But I think it's a good thing to regulate them with the rule of law. I think no caps should ever be set on land. That's why I wasn't for making up solutions for ad farms involving a cap on prices. It's important to keep the market free for any kind of valuation.

But we are in an artificial situation where the government prints money, prints land, and gives these whopping short-term interest-free, tier-free loans to big land barons! That seems like trouble.

I don't think realistically, you can limit the number of bids people can put on an auction. It will only depress prices as artificially as they are raised by allowing barons to bid on every parcel.

Insisting that you have the money in your wallet seems to me reasonable, however, to help diversification of land ownership. It is worth trying and observing anyway. Of course, perhaps the Lindens tried it and observed it and decided it discouraged bidding. I would think it might encourage bidding. Although many people are afraid of the auction. They are afraid they will find themselves in a bidding war and get stuck. It's a psychological and irrational fear but I've encountered it many times.

Khamon

Yes I would appear hypocritical to an outside observer who might assume I would've been willing to dupe a newbie into paying that much for Slate. But you know Jopsy's reasons for valuing the land so highly; he stated them on this blog.

My true hypocrisy is chiding the Lindens and land brokers for greedily misleading the uninitiated when I facilitate the process by providing lindens for sale on the Lindex. That's what's giving me pause.

I do agree that it's silly to let people bid on parcels when they don't have the lindens available in their account. Can they transfer the land into their name without said lindens? Pre-1.2 a few people held thousands of meters of land with no money in their accounts because the tax system simply didn't calculate deficiencies or charge them any arrears.

Prokofy Neva

Khamon, I think your land is indeed worth $30/m for all the reasons Jopsy said and more. And the Lindens' zoned Nautilus sim is worth it, too. The question is how to create fair conditions for the bidding on these resources. In your case, you preferred to reach an agreement privately with a neighbour, and it's great the system still allows that. You could have also put it on the open market and likely would have sold it in time, too. Why is a newbie any less duped flying around inworld on old sims versus new sims?

Even the most clueless newbie will likely at least look at the land-for-sale list and realize there are various options, from $1/m to $50/m, and buy accordingly.

I'm quite willing to criticize this system, but not over the duping of newbies. Newbies are other adults with DSL lines, disposable income, and computers with high-res graphic cards just like yourself, they aren't infants.

I fail to see what "facilitation" you engage in by selling Lindens for others to buy, to buy the Lindens overpriced offerings, jacked up by land barons. I think without that, they'd sell $30 and not $50 a meter, high, but not ridiculous.

Yes indeed, they can transfer the name because...there's no more consent and transfer process! Instead, bidding on the auction is an agreement you make (without fully realizing it unless you really, really study the instructions, and even after that you can mess up, as I did *twice*) that you account will be AUTOMATICALLY debited, you will be AUTOMATICALLY tiered up, or your inworld tier will be automatically used, and you will AUTOMATICALLY have that land, within an hour after the auction. If you tier is tied up in a group, you have to remember to take it out and keep it on yourself in order to bid.

So yes, you can bid, win, and possess land without paying a Linden, and maintain a negative Linden balance for days while you seek to sell said parcel. I'm not kidding.

Yumi Murakami

If this is true it seems it's a risky strategy. If I bid L$30,000 on a land parcel, and it's automatically outbid, I know I will not be paying that L$30,000. So I can just go pay it on other parcels. Even if I think I'm not getting anything for L$30,000, I can still put up the price that the eventual winner would have to pay, and if I know that a land baron is gaming the auction by bidding L$50,000 on everything, then surely that's my best strategy?

Prokofy Neva

Of course it's true. You just heard Elanthius tell us that he bid on every single auction, and lost every single one. But he also ensured that nobody paid less than $20,000 or $45,000 or whatever his bid was. That's how landbarons constantly jack up the price of mainland to maintain its value.

Ann Otoole

I think not only should you be allowed to bid without the L$ in your account but the very moment you win without the L$ in your account the auction is voided and returned to auction and your account is permanently deleted forever with no appeal opportunity. I.e.; set the traps and allow the bad to be purged for a few days till they figure it out and people stop behaving in manners that result in them being removed forcibly.

While we are at it I think people should be limited to one winning auction bid per week on new themed continents. But in addition all estate owners need to be allowed to place themed sims into the auction and the login page ads reflect them all on a rotator.

Blaccard Burks

I have to disagree with this. Obviously Scott wants the lots more than others. Lots of people are bidding and the price is the price. You bid, I bid, Elanthius bid to name a few. We should all continue to bid, so people like Scott will have to pay more and not give up.

What seems to have failed here that if you actually want a city with people you won't allow a themed sim to be monopolized by a few people. It will be vacant. LL should just put a cap 2 lots per bidder per sim. Most of the themed sims only have about 2 lots that rest side by side anyway. So since you can't join them but you can still build across on them.

Prokofy Neva

Scott/Robin Ivory have now put their parcel up to a whopping $249,000 lol. I just ran into an OpenSim booster bragging about 45,000 prims who still bought one of these Nautilus parcels for $80,000.

I managed to snag a cheaper Nautilus for $49,000, probably the cheapest one today, in Shahar. Come and rent it for $1500/wk/468 prims if you like : )

I see Kalyrra and the other cutters here buying parcels and gloating. "You can't cut here, girls," I said. They sneered and one said "We are so wealthy now we can buy 1024 m2". Guess so.

Flipping is going on pretty briskly. Here's what you can do (and I've seen how it works by doing it myself):

1. Undertier your group to put tier on yourself to receive auction wins.

2. Bid as many auctions as you dare.

3. Have your account debited, put in the red, but still be able to pick up your win.

4. Flip the land inworld out out of your undertiered group, and thus, on a short-term, interest-free Linden loan, flip land, make a profit, put your account back into the black, and never pay tier.

Great system!

Prokofy Neva

Scott wants the lots as much as any land baron. But why does he get to have no-interest short-term loans from the Lindens to buy as many as he can flip?

Khamon

Well I'm not going to play any more if you're gonna point out the blatant flaws in my arguments such as newbies being intelligent adults so there.

I think it's okay to let an account bid beyond their existing balance; however they *should* be required to have the money when they purchase the lot, even if they purchase it for a group. That facilitates people bidding on auctions without having to pay fees to purchase lindens they may not need.

Our accounts absolutely should never be allowed to carry negative linden balances. That's insane.

No, I'll tell you what's insane; there are no covenants on these sims. There are no covenants to enforce people building to theme, honouring views, leaving existing structures intact, not lagging the sims with overly zealous scripts, nothing. No covenants at all, idiots, stupid stupid idiots.

I've already seen several lots on tiered walls marred by a flashing airport, others by a Stargate build, some by a huge flashing spinning box. There are no covenants to protect the theme and spirit of the builds. For all it's current glory, Nautilus is just Mainland that will be marred and ugly and lagged and hated beyond hope. idiots

Desmond Shang

Fascinating, the part about the negative $L balance and bidding.

But then again, if they are bid in $L - the Company isn't getting paid. Instead, it shrinks M1 a little bit... another $L sink... but isn't paid.

This is more complex and far-reaching than it seems.

Prokofy Neva

Desmond, when the Lindens take that big a sink, they of course offset the currency market, and of course they force people to buy lots more currency -- and then of course get them hooked on tier. By not being able to join the parcels, they can ensure more $14.95 a month parcels on these sims.

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