Archive for November, 2008

First Snow

While good little avatars slept all snug in their beds, it seems to have snowed in Harbour.

I thought about covering the whole island in a uniform layer of snow, but I decided against it when I realized how many green trees are in the region. That’s a lot of trees to winterize! So only the higher elevations got snow.

So far, the area around the garden home has been relandscaped. I need to work on the mountain a bit, but my attention span wasn’t long enough for that today. So far, the results are promising.


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Changing Seasons

I think of Second Life as having just a couple seasons… green and snowy. Most places are green and then turn snowy for some portion of the winter, maybe just for the month of December.

Looking across the water from the garden at Harbour, I can see that Edloe is snowy. Looks like it’s nearly time for the seasons to change on Harbour, too.


Harbour Moai say Moai Christmas 11-29-2008

On second thought, I think maybe we need some snow.

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I hear that if you have a blog, it’s obligatory that you include a Thanksgiving post on it.That post is supposed to list the things I’m thankful for, or so I’m told. So some fo the things I’m thankful for are:

  • I’m thankful for the friends I have here, and delighted that I got to meet some of their actual pixels this year.
  • I’m thankful for the musicians who share their craft with us inworld and put songs in my head that I find myself humming all the next day.
  • I’m thankful for the artists who take time to create art within this environment, who let us walk through and often interact with the results of their vision.
  • I’m thankful for Harbour, my beautiful home.
  • I’m thankful for the noobs who wander into Harbour and remind me what it was like to see SL for the first time.
  • And (last but far from least), I’m thankful for my partner, who is always warm and supportive, and believes in me more than I do myself.

This year has brought a lot of changes. When I look back at where I was a year ago, I was still mostly holed up in my skybox, lost in unspectacular attempts to script. I was still undecided about whether it was worth staying in Second Life. I’m glad I stayed, and I’m glad that the people who I ran into along the way reinforced that sticking around was a good idea. I have had such wonderful laughs and made wonderful voyages of exploration and discovery along the way. Who could not be thankful for that?

So the pumpkin pie is all eaten, the leftover turkey is packed away. But I have a suspicion that we can make this Thanksgiving thing last by pausing in the midst of our busy comings and goings to realize that though we may gripe about asset servers and openspace fees, there’s still a lot of other things to be grateful for. And those are the things that make it all worthwhile.

You know what? If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of those people I’m thankful for. So consider yourself thanked. Now if you celebrated Thanksgiving, too, the blog entry is over. You can get back to that leftover pie. I know you were saving a slice for later!

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I have a bias against companies who try to “take out the trash” by dropping press releases or other sensitive information on a Friday to reduce their impact. Linden Labs does this more often than some people realize. It doesn’t look all that effective on the surface, since residents are most active on the weekends, but it often lets the initial uproar over a topic die down before start of business on Monday. It’s a personal gripe of mine, and they pushed that button yesterday with a blog post asking “What could make a premium subscription truly premium? What would make the experience a delight for you?”

I’m equally bemused at the idea that at 3 pm EST, there’s a blog post that specifically asks for resident input, followed by Katt Linden posting in the forums “T Linden will be reading this thread Friday afternoon (Nov. 21) and will post replies then, thanks!” It’s already 8 pm in the UK. It’s 5 am in Tokyo. Do they really think that a meaningful number of Japanese SL residents will be at their computers to write a thoughtful reply before 11 am on a Saturday? To be fair, T Linden stepped into the firing line,and he seems to have actually listened and responded during the designated hours for conversation, and I hope that continues. But a 6 hour period, when you are a company with customers around the globe, is not a proper dialog.

Engaging in a dialog with your users is a good idea before making a policy change. I think that even with their hands over their ears, the Lab could not help but hear that in the din over the openspace (excuse me, homestead) regions recently. Pretending to engage in a dialog with your users, especially with an active, communicative, and already stirred-up group like the Second Life user base is something that will become transparent very quickly, so I hope that this is a real dialog and not just a case of decisions already having been made and their looking for an example of a resident who suggests something so that when the rest of the user base storms the castle with pitchforks, they can point the finger at the forum post that suggested it and send the irate villagers after the unsuspecting resident.

Now that that’s all off my chest, let me try to think constructively.

At the root of things, I think there are two problems brewing that the Lab wants to solve with whatever move they make. They want to end stipends, because if they can entice more premium users, they will be flooding the market with additional Linden Dollars that will make it more difficult to manage the inworld economy. And they want to get people back onto the mainland. One of the things that became abundantly clear through the openspace outcry was how the mainland is perceived, and that people don’t want to be there.

I’m an example of that. I held large portions of mainland for 14 months before leaving it for Harbour. I do still hold a 512 where I keep my shop, but I’ve been toying with dropping my premium account and renting a small estate parcel for it instead. And it seems from the forum discussion on the latest blog post, I’m not alone.

That discussion — 28 pages and growing — has been an interesting one to follow. I’ve seen some ideas I would like to see implemented but aren’t realistic like “give premium users 100 groups!” And I’ve seen some good ideas of how First Land could be returned to the market in the form of a 30-day issuance of non-transferable, non-modifiable parcels to bona fide new premium members to give them a temporary home base while they begin their journeys inworld.

Honestly, though, my suggestion would be “make it all less confusing.” Land ownership on the mainland, on the whole, is terribly confusing. Figuring out how much land you can hold for without having to tier up, especially if you put your land in a group, is something that even after a year I had to look up every time I wanted to expand my holdings. And the fact that you have to double the amount of tier every time you do go over that invisible threshold is silly. If I have a 4096 and want to buy 512 more, why should I now have to pay for 8192 meters? I suppose LL sees this as an incentive to holding additional land, but it certainly held me back from many land purchases when I wanted just a few more prims to do something or another in my garden. And in today’s economy, making a jump from, say, $40 in tier to $75 in tier, is a lot. A more incremental graduated tier structure would likely help get some of the incredible amount of for-sale land on the mainland

There are two incentives to being a premium member now. Holding mainland, and the stipend. It’s pretty clear to me that the stipend will end at some point, so if the Lab wants to have premium membership tied primarily to owning mainland, they need to make the mainland desirable. All of it, not just Nautilus and Bay City. The cost of entry to Nautilus and Bay City is, sadly, beyond the means of a lot of residents, driven up by speculators and land barons. Until that happens, I think residents will be content to rent on the private estates, and that gives little incentive to anyone to join as premium. If I knew as a one-month-old resident what I know now, I would have rented on a private estate and never gone premium in the first place. And that, ultimately, is what they need to fix. People need to not be second-guessing the fact that they are premium members.

Finally, I noticed something this morning as I sat and surfed with my morning coffee. Although there’s a huge amount of discussion on this topic in the forums, none of the SL bloggers I normally read (except Tateru Nino at Massively) has said a word about it. If those bloggers, some of the loudest and best-reasoned voices during the openspace uproar, say nothing, does that mean they don’t see Premium membership as relevant? Maybe I’m an anachronism in even caring about my legacy premium membership. That wilence makes me wonder if the train hasn’t already left the station and the time for premium memberships is in the past. That’s one I still need to ponder.

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Vint Falken helpfully summarizes some of Babbage Linden’s Office Hour transcript where he discusses how openspace script limits may be handled.

I’m pleased to see that they’re thinking this through rather than just announcing something first and thinking later. And maybe there’s some good and bad in the plans he discusses.

On one hand, a region won’t be able to overuse resources to the point of memory swapping. I think maybe that will solve problems a lot of places. Mainland included.

On the other hand, I can see this making life a lot more complicated for new residents. It’s hard enough for some of them to grasp the concept of prims being limited on their parcel. But now the amount of scripts available will impact whether they can rezz an item, as well. The howls of “I just paid L$1,000 for this cute dog and I can’t have it follow me around my house!” will be many, I suspect. Especially when yesterday their heavily scripted cute dog was able to be rezzed on their 512m parcel just fine.

It’s going to come down to education and making this visible to the user. Maybe some sort of a “rezz meter” to show how much scripting capacity is left on a parcel… something easy to read and not too technical for new residents to grasp. But you simply can’t say “Too bad, you have used your share of resources” without making residents able to see what the pool of resources is they have to play with. Make it measurable, though, however it’s done.

One interesting bit I did notice was that he discussed establishing a per-avatar scripting limit for attached items. That’s smart, really, when you think that one avatar’s attached scripts can occasionally wreak havoc on a region. Considering the wide range of attachments available, I’ll be curious about this, too. Someone with fifteen face lights and body lights, a MystiTool, fully-loaded Huddles, scripted ears and tail, online tracker to replace their friends list, scripted hair, random hearts poofer, click-clack shoes, scripted sit-down skirt, and who knows what else could conceivably hit this new limit, so again, it would need to be made measurable so that they can figure out what needs to be detached to keep them under the limit. I personally vote for starting with the clicky-clacky shoes and the poofer.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this with great interest as it develops.

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To say that I’m suffering from openspace-discussion fatigue is probably an understatement. It’s rapidly overtaking election-commercial fatigue, and that’s saying something.

But an announcement from the Rezzable folks got my attention. Two of their full-prim regions are being deleted, effective today, with one day’s notice to the blog-reading public. Residents oblivious to the SLogosphere will simply try to TP there tomorrow to discover the regions gone.

Now before I say anything else, I will post a disclaimer: I have long been wary of the Rezzable people. I may be the only person on the grid who doesn’t think the Greenies are charming. And the a lot of the rest of their sims have that grimy, gritty feel to them that makes me feel like my avatar needs to find a shower after visiting. In other words, their stuff really isn’t for me. Their attempts to charge an admission fee to see these regions I didn’t care much for didn’t exactly endear them to me, either. So why do I even care about this move?

If prosperous companies who operate some of the regions that the Lindens have long held up as examples of great builds and interesting places to visit are suddenly cutting back in anticipation of grid-wide trouble in the wake of the openspace announcement, what does that say about the smaller content creators? Rezzable can cut a couple full-sized regions from its portfolio and see a significant savings. Small content creators don’t have that kind of leeway to give up. How many quality content creators are going to be squeezed off the grid as a result? That troubles me.

Content creators are what has made Second Life a unique, vibrant place. If they go, the grid is much poorer for it. Trust me, no in in their right mind wants to count on content created by the likes of me. We need artists and dreamers. And as I watch the ripples of last week’s decisions by the Lab slowly spread, I hope it isn’t the beginning of a homogenization of the grid. Because I don’t like having to spellcheck “homogenization”. All the words like “vibrant” and “fun” and “enthusiastic” are much easier to spell. So let’s aim for those instead, LL, ok?

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