Monday, November 03, 2008

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Mark Kingdon And The Openspaces Rebellion: A Chat On What Happened And Why, And What Happens Now

Winterfell_aislinn_by_wildstar_beauImage of Openspace region Winterfell Aislinn by Wildstar Beaumont found on the Openspace Flickr stream

Earlier today I had a long phone conversation with Mark Kingdon, new CEO of Linden Lab, in which we mostly spoke about the first grassroots uprising to test his leadership: the ongoing rebellion over the fate of Openspaces, which are currently set for a steep price increase in January.  In the next few days, however, Kingdon says the company will post an update to this policy which will incorporate feedback from Openspace owners.

Markkingdonandmlinden While Kingdon won't say what exact percent of the world is now comprised of Openspaces ("That's not a number we publish"), he acknowledges it's been a significant portion of SL's geographic growth. However, in response to Resident speculation that the price increase has a hidden agenda, such as preparing for an IPO or seeking further venture capital, Kingdon said this:

"We've been straightforward about our rationale," he told me.  "The reason we're doing this is because when we did a review of the land, we saw that there were many, many, too many cases [of misuse]... That's the sole motivation for this.  There's no conspiracy theory or underlying motivation... this isn't about making a short term bump in revenues or cash.  No hidden agenda." 

Somewhat related to that, he spoke to a point mentioned in my GigaOM article about the protest, which described the steady decline of Premium subscribers as a subject of great concern for the company. According to him, my inference there isn't accurate:  "That's one of the only figures that's going negative," he said.  "You can't use that as an indicator of the overall health of the land market...  Premium subscriptions are immaterial in our overall business."

We returned several times to the theme of Linden-to-Resident communication.  "One of the things we don't have is a mechanism for more formal or regularly proactive dialog," he told me,  "and I think that's the thing we've been thinking about before." This latest controversy, he suggested, will motivate them to do so even more.

After the break, Kingdon on more Openspace questions I put to him, including: the mixed message of prim allotments, Resident feedback (positive and negative)... and his plea to estate owners considering an exodus to OpenSim.

What advance land use research/surveying did company land manager Jack Linden do before announcement this price hike?

"We know how they're being used, because the teams survey.... there's a wide variety of usage of the land... the majority of the Openspace properties are owned by larger multi-island landowners, and it's in those cases that the land has been loaded up with more content and activity than we anticipated... it's specifically designed for light usage."

Isn't "light use" a vague definition?

"I think we need to put more definition around it and be clearer about what we mean by it... I think we articulated what the intention was [when they were first put on sale]."

Didn't giving Openspace owners a several thousand prim allotment tacitly or even explicitly suggest they could build on them?

"That's a far lower prim count than our [standard] island product... some of the larger landholdings you see, the content is far more extensive than we expected."

What percent of Openspace owners were abusing their land?

"In some cases they have beautiful builds so I'd hardly call that abusing the land...  I don't have a percentage of that for you, but it was substantial enough that it led to us repricing the product."

What do you think of the Resident response to the announcement?


"We've gotten a lot of feedback from Residents.  Some of it's been painful obviously to read, and fairly inflammatory, and at least in one case, literally inflammatory... [Many Residents have] put forward some very constructive thoughts about how we can handle this and meet their needs.... there's been some really constructive dialog with landowners... we'll have a clear point of view about how we're going to proceed in the middle of the week. 

"This is one of those things that's incredibly challenging, and we have an incredibly passionate group of Residents out there who are very good about sharing their points of view.

"... We got a lot of constructive feedback, it came in all forms... [such as] incredibly thoughtful notes I received and e-mail from residents that I've met before who put a lot of thought [into them]... I was really impressed."

Why didn't you have any advance communication about a possible price increase with Openspace owners?


"I guess what I'd say is... it's clear the product needs repricing, a lot of folks have built extensive businesses [on them], so it's not like they're going to turn the prim count [down]... There wasn't a lot of dialog about the price change beforehand, but there is advance notice around the price increase."

Were you expecting this degree of protest and anger?

"We're always concerned about [it]... I've been here for six months but I've remembered a long time before that the community has been incredibly passionate... We expected Residents to feel strong because the Resident community is so passionate.  I wouldn't say anyone thought it would be a non-issue. I don't think anyone here is that naive." 

Many educational institutions "misuse" Openspaces based on the ambiguous definition of "light use".  With education a core component of your strategy for growing Linden Lab, won't this harm their trust in the company?


"I don't think so.  Read Jack's original announcement, I think he said that educators who were having challenges should reach out to him. Educators have long been a vibrant part of Second Life and are doing some really innovative stuff."

In retrospect, would you have done anything different with this Openspaces policy?

"One of the things I want to be thinking about is how we get a more continuous dialog going with Residents, because one of the challenges is that we have such a large and diverse population... we're too large to have conversations Resident by Resident... when you get to a certain size (and we're still a small company) how do you put in place some approaches and processes that enable us to have a thoughtful dialog with our user base?"

What would you tell angry estate owners who are now considering moving their land to OpenSim?

"[Second Life] is a large and vibrant platform with a very robust economy, we're making really significant investments to make sure it's the best platform... I think that's worth their focus.  Think about how much land mass has grown... so even with the added burden placed on the substantial [land] increase we've improved our stability... our customer ratings have been extraordinarily high.  I'd hope that all of the Residents look at the commitment we're making and the size and health of the in-world economy.  And we're focused very much on improving the experienced for new Residents.  So I think we're focused on the right things."

Note: My questions have been slightly edited for clarity, but Kingdon's quotes are direct citations.  Many thanks to Residents who offered question suggestions for this interview, especially on my Plurk stream, including Crap Mariner, Alidar Moxie, Night Flower, and CodeBastard Redgrave.

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Vivienne Graves

NB: Jack Linden in his most recent in-world office hours meeting said that the total number of sims on the grid is +/- 32,000, of which 5,000 are Linden mainland and 13,000 are openspace.

Ann Otoole

So with the new price will the concept of "abuse" be ended? Will the new price mean these new sim types can be used for whatever the owner wants/allows?

This is a serious clarification that LL needs to cough up. Otherwise we are stuck with higher prices and subject to punishment for using them for more than a Robinson Crusoe island with a palm tree on it.

Klingdon needs to state this without ambiguity.

It is either Yes do as you please paying the higher price or No pay us more but they are still not supposed to be actually used.

Crap Mariner

They really need to clearly define "light use" and provide the tools to determine if a sim is in compliance or not, then have Torley demonstrate it in a simple video.

Christophe Hugo

Isn't there any other photograph of RL Mark Kingdon available out there? Kinda of getting tired of always seeing the same official corporate pic, with the perfect lighting, the softened resolution, the rosacea spots removed, etc.

M. Kingdon looks as rigid on this picture as he is on the pricing issue.

Erasmus Hartunian

Quote: "You can't use that as an indicator of the overall health of the land market... Premium subscriptions are immaterial in our overall business."

Premium subscriptions are linked to mainland land. Hardly immaterial ... rather quite relevant in the context of the pricing change.

Ann Otoole

Actually Klingdon said a mouthful about Premium accounts Erasmus. It is now the official position of Linden lab that Linden Lab could not care less about Premium Accounts. If 100% were canceled then it would not matter at all. If all mainland was abandoned then it would be "immaterial in our overall business."

So to go along with this statement by the Linden Lab CEO
1. The technical Support staff of Linden Lab should be looking for new jobs because technical support is "immaterial in our overall business."

2. If you own mainland then dump it now because mainland is "immaterial in our overall business."

Personally I now must question this Klingdon guy's experience for having made such a total gaff that can be endlessly spun in negative circles. I know that is not what he meant. But he needs to not say anything unless it is a prepared statement that has been fully thought out in advance. And for a total nobody like me to be able to pick up on that makes it all the worse rofl.

Mr. Klingdon,

Would you care to rephrase that statement in a manner that ensures it is relative only to month over month metrics?

Sincerely and with all the humor befitting a late night entertainment talk show,

Ann Otoole

Argos Hawks

He really has no clue about what a community killer this is.

Georgette Barbosa

As someone who recently bought three quarters of an open sim.......I had no idea that there was a restriction on the amount of prims that should be used. Hiking up the prices because of over use of prims is obviously an excuse to make more money.... If not, then a system could have been put in place to prevent this. As in..... a set percentage of prims allowed to be used in the open sim. If a land owner goes over that percentage then charge a penalty fee......But leave the rest of us alone. Also... it should be very clear that it is an open sim....when you buy it. The light usage means nothing! I actually took it to mean not using it for commercial, or placing mega prims.

Rusalka Writer

I'm not sure I've ever seen a company in more desperate need of a Public Relations division than LL.

If I rented a house in RL, and moved vast quantities of furniture into it, or started running a business out of it, my landlord could not raise my rent. He or she could only begin eviction proceedings if I were in clear violation of the stated terms of my lease.

What was clear here? LL offered lower-prim sims. Note to LL: if you do not define "light use," we will figure the low prim count is what you mean. So everyone in OS-world figured they were fine. Until the unexpected bomb dropped.

Communicate. The sense is that if LL wanted to preserve the billing rate on the OS, they could have easily laid out the violations. They managed to police the ad farm situation when the decision was finally made, so the protestations that this was the only course of action open to LL rings just a bit hollow.

I don't have a dog in this fight. I have never owned an OS, nor do I rent on one. I've just had yet another business downturn as SL goes through yet another entirely avoidable upheaval. When this one settles, I'm sure I can look forward to another crushing series of rolling restarts.

Ever onward...

annemarieperenti

I am completely against the use of the word "abuse" in connection with the "use" of the OS's. I don't care if they stated was for "light" use, without defining it. They gave us 3750 prim and this is what people is using. I myself called customer support in chat asking for advise on usage of OS before building on them, and they told me OS could sustain up to 100 avatars but the optimum was no more than 30. Where is the abuse? The abuse is on the part of LL that first has promoted the product and now can see $$$$ and wants to increase the fees. It's time to stop the abuse story on the part of the users and start talking about the abuse story from LL.

Hypatia Callisto

Never ascribe to conspiracy what you can ascribe to mere stupidity.

LL shifted a goodly portion of land renting residents (there's more of them than land owners on the mainland these days) to the Openspace product through low pricing and easy availability.

It robbed these people from living on full prim sims both mainland and private - and we're going to lose a large number of these people as many now are shy from investing in any more land *anywhere* in SL. In fact I think we are *already* losing people from this, and content creators I know, who are dependent on land sales (prefabs, furniture) are reporting lower sales after the announcement.

As a content creator who is looking at a sizable attrition for my furniture products, you bet I'm pissed.

Zain Slade

Linden Labs has is revenue stream mixed into too many aspects of SL to be considered either a hosting company, a virtual land seller, or a virtual 3d modeling creation software developer, or the manager of a 3d virtual club membership list. They're all those in fact.

These business model adjustments I think are the core problem in the relationship between LL and its 'active' customers - sometimes you just want a solid 'this is what you do and what I pay for' relationship with your service provider.

This is really the equivalent of any other service where the provider tells the customers 'some of the other customers are abusing services so we have to raise the fees, rather than adjust say, usage limitations, or other things that would not result in expanded fees'. Would any other service expect that they would still have a large base of customers after this? There's been plenty of constructive suggestions. The best one I can think of is: LL, stick with a plan. These upheavals that are thrown in every so often drain the energies of everyone involved.

To a degree I'm kind of tired of really suggesting anything at all. LL will do as LL does, and everyone decides whether or not they want to continue to play in LL's private universe.

I'd love to keep my openspace sims to keep developing projects, but now need to change up everything once again.

In some ways, I'd prefer LL not listen to anyone's feedback (see how easy that was step one accomplished) and develop a solid multi year plan and relaunch a SL 2.

Cocoanut Koala

If premium subscriptions are "immaterial" in your overall business, then how about cutting me a break and STOP CHARGING ME FOR IT, just to live on your benighted mainland?

It may be meaningless to you, but it's not an insignificant sum to me. I'm sure you spend that much and more on a single lunch.

And yes. Give up on the "abuse" thing. If you didn't want people putting anything on the OS land, you shouldn't have given them the prims to do so, not to mention then saying, "Hey, these open spaces are better than we thought - here, have twice as many prims!"

Just say you want more money. Or say that for some crazy reason, you thought people wouldn't actually use the prims you gave them, and then doubled for them.

But at least take responsibility for your own mistake.

coco

Pavig Lok

If there's one constant it's that whenever the lindens give us a new tool we use it to create..... lag. It's what we're best at. Opensim has shown that you can have as many prims on a sim as you want - the prim limits are an arbitrary number.

Unless you're an expert builder however the prim limits are a sensible precaution as it is difficult to design a well tuned lag free build.

The lindens know we're happy making lag - they have watched it throughout the history of SL. I can believe that the lab as a whole may have underestimated how much "abuse" we would create on the new voids.... but i can't help imagining that _someone_ at the lab all the while was waving their arms about shouting "Noooo!" when the new void policy was unveiled.

Let's face it, they screwed up.

Cristalle Karami

It's been more than obvious that LL doesn't actually play this game and manages by spreadsheet when it comes to the land market. The obvious unfamiliarity with the market and what moves is patently clear.

I am willing to open my mind to the possibility that the extra space is worth a premium above and beyond the 1/4 sim prim limit, but not 67% more since what you can do with it ultimately boils down to prims.

The intellectual dishonesty here is appalling. It's a money grab, plain and simple. Getting more money doesn't address the stress of usage in a smart manner, it obliterates the demand for this product, since it is more efficacious prim for prim to buy a full prim island at that rate, and makes it so that it this product is mainly viable for use as a rental to a number of different people - the kind of "abuse" it is supposed to prevent.

We'll see what happens.

Pavig Lok

... oh a technical explanation to justify my flippant remarks above.

Back in the old days of void sims one bought them as a group - in fact you needed to buy a full sim first and ask it to be split into 4 void sims. All four of those sims ran on the same server in the slot usually reserved to run a single normal sim. So each void in a group got 1/4 of the resources... well not quite... it's more acurate to say that all four divided up the resources of a normal sim between them.

Four void sims sharing the prims/bandwidth/processing of a single sim was quite a nice thing. They shared the positives and negatives alike. So they also shared lag for example on the bad side... but shared population limits on the good side - you could fit a whole sims worth of people into a single void without causing problems as long as the other voids in the group were mostly empty.

Because a single client owned all four voids in a group they could be managed - if one lagged all lagged so you knew the mismanagement was your own and you could tweak the troublesome sim.

One bonus of voids in a group all running on the same server was that sim crossings (in sailing ships or vehicles especially) between voids in the same group were always absolutely seamless - better than normal sims even... so voids were perfect for sailing about in.

Several months before the "new open spaces" changes, and unanounced by the lab, void groups ceased to be locked to the same server slot. When a sim resets it can go migrate to another server somewhere - geography isn't important, and sims right next to each other might actually be housed hundreds (soon thousands) of miles apart in different LL colabs.

This is why sim crossing sucks - walking one foot in SL might mean jumping hundreds of miles down optical fiber to a different server farm irl... why we usta end up with a boot up our behinds when we tried at times, like Jeff Goldblum in the fly, only not so cool or drippy.

Anyways suddenly void groups weren't groups anymore so lost the benefits of all running in the same server slot. This is before they announced the new void product, so let's see what they lost in the process... and probably should have noticed:

* When a single client owns a group of void sims they can manage them as a group - their lag is their lag, it can be debugged and no witch hunt is required to find out who's abusing it - lag is the fault of the owner every time. When voids were sold individually - in fact before that when voids were "deregulated" and a group could run on any old bunch of servers rather than all on the same slot, that link broke. Your lag was not your own anymore.

* When a void group (which is one sims worth of resources) is owned by a single owner, it only needs single owner support, like a normal sim. If a sim slot is used by four single void owners then it's 4 times the customer service for the same resource as a single normal sim.

* Void neighbors are an issue; Let's look at it this way - a single sim has 8 neighbors, and some of the resources to run a sim handle that bit, border crossings, etc. A united void group has 32 neighbors (4x8) which means 4 times as much neighbor traffic to handle.... but if those voids run as a group in the same sim slot on a server, a lot of those neighbors are the server talking to itself rather than the whole sl grid. If however like now, those voids all run on different servers, one sim slot produces 4 times the network traffic of a normal sim talking to all it's neighbors.

* Void sims were originally tuned conservatively, but they pushed the limits when they started selling the new product. In the olden days when you split your sim into 4 void sims you didn't get a whole sims worth of prims - you got 4x the land area, but less than 1/4 of a sims worth of prims on each. This was probably sensible as, with extra sim neighbors, the possibility of more avatars overall, and much larger borders, void sims probably needed to run a bit conservatively. The new void product increased these limits much closer to a full sim worth of prims etc, but obviously disregarded the extra things a void group needs to do to survive.

So long before the new void product was announced the lindens had already put in place many of the changes which should have rung alarm bells around the lab that all was not well with open spaces.

Personally I know at least some of the lindies knew as I was at their office hours months before the new openspaces product was announced winging about the way grouping changes had effected performance issues in void groups rezzable had bought specifically to take advantage of the nice border crossing qualities they previously had. At that time they had started showing problems already - months before any announcement from the lab!

The infamous "privateer space" was to be another void group at that time, and Aley Arai and I had extensively tested the qualities of void groups for a low lag vehicular space sim based on the oldschool space traders - but the changes broke the Privateer design and it had to be reworked vertically rather than horizontally over a 4 sim void group. Unfortunately Aley has since left SL due to other issues with the lab.

It's not all wine and roses when a new product is rolled out in a system as integrated as the SL Grid, but they have staff who know and can see the train wreck long before it derails. Technically, whatever their public excuse may be, we and some folk at the lab saw the current crisis coming long before the new product was even announced.

Just my two cents as always .. :) Pav.

Richard Trigaux

What strikes me in this interview is Mr Kingdon constantly evading the questions and replying with his "communication" stuff. Reading the Linden labs forum, I on the countrary see constructive and balanced proposals from the residents, which could solve the issue while keeping with the interests of the ones and the others. This autism is also very common at many levels of Linden labs, and can be seen especiallly on the JIRA where a vast majority of bug reports are simply ignored. Ignored also are the much more serious issues of gratuitous crashes and chat misfunctions.

This makes me very pessimistic on the future of Second Life. They say that they are financially healthy, but even this is not a protection about such an irrationnal management.

Second Life is a marvellous tool, and I just don't want to see my dreamworld messed with such futile disputes, or threatened of disappearance. Where I live there are about 30 opensims, and most of them will simply disappear, their owners being unable to affort the increased cost.

Tateru Nino

Assuming that Vivienne's quote above is right, that's an extra US$625,000 per month that the Lab is asking for void sims.

A server full of regular non-mainland sims runs takes in US$1,180 per month. A server full of void sims takes in US$1,200 per month, and under the new policy will rise to US$2,000.

Now, given Pavig's technical information (which I believe is correct as far as I can see) Linden Lab is asking for an extra half a million US dollars per month (well, a bit more) without any announced plan to address any of these problems with void sims -- as far as we know at present, nothing about the situation with void simulators changes when the new pricing comes into effect.

Don Duke

There is absolutely NO REASON why Open Space sims should be more than 2.5 times the price per prim compared to regular sims =_=

Even if Linden would allow 15000 prims on open spaces and upped the servers to class 5 ... I see NO REASON why Open Space should be more expensive than any other land.

End of story!

rightasrain

Feels like spin and hype, looks like spin and hype...er must be true?

From Jacks's 2nd post (http://blog.secondlife.com/2008/10/29/update-regarding-the-openspaces-announcement/) on void crisis "And we’re not saying that everyone is abusing resources." But they are saying everyone should pay for it.

I still am amazed that Linden is admitting that they control control usage on their products. Is this really some pathetic attempt at getting sympathy? oooo we just a little tech company and really we are trying to figure out the right way to have a dialogue with all the caring residents--this is nonsense.

Linden Lab at least in my direct experience--does not reply to emails about customer issues. Linden Lab is not willing to have a discussion about the our future on their grid.

Face it--this is all crap from Linden Lab. They are repositioning to the enterprise, education, government markets and all they want to do is milk the "consumer" market for more cash to fund their operations. Expect this Big Spaceship to be about a complete rebranding of Second Life and a new set of offerings that will be highly competitive with content creators and landbarons.

rightasrain

oops typo--3rd paragraph in my comments--should be=
"Linden Labs is admitting that they CANNOT control usage on their products."

sorry typing faster than editing!

Firelight Simca

About this quote from M
"there's been some really constructive dialog with landowners..."

Ummm, what dialog with landowners? There's been no dialog from Linden on the forum that they told us to use. Is he talking about the few inworld sessions?

And exactly what's been constructive? Lots of residents have made suggestions, but Linden just says maybe, we'll get back to you.

Is that what he means by constructive?

rightasrain

and wtf is this about Hamlet? "our customer ratings have been extraordinarily high"?

Does that mean they actually did a survey? Or is this some nonsense from the concierge desk in the processing of openspace orders over the last 5 months?

Cathereine Night

I am proud of the residents who voted on the Jira issue. At this point there are 3895 votes. I posted that as an attempt to form a protest without being rude or angry although I am upset.

M says he does not think this will bother educators and non profits.. I wonder if he could have made this announcement at SLCC in full view of the community who attended, the majority of which were professional educators.

Will all respect, because I love Second Life and I do not want to see it wounded, I hope the rethink this decision.

The SL communities he spoke of with open space sims probably work harder than the lindens who "survey" to keep their content within the stated terms.

If there is a problem it will not be fixed by price gouging residents during hard times. CEO's need to realise some people dont have extra cash to blow.

Rants aside I have sent my respectful thoughts and suggestions via notes to M, and Jack, I know this is a business not a charity, but I still think poor decisions were made.

Chaos Mohr

M says:"I think we articulated what the intention was [when they were first put on sale]."

Yes, they (concierge Linden representatives) articulated this by telling many estate owners it was ok to build residences etc on these islands.
and then there is their own documentation https://support.secondlife.com/ics/support/KBAnswer.asp?questionID=5198- an FAQ "Frequently Asked Questions from Beginning Landowners", which while 'recommending' the usage for OS regions, states specifically "While they can and have been used in other ways...." Sure they don't 'recommend' other types of usage, but they specifically say you can use them for other things - geeze M Linden, get your facts straight on what exactly your company has done before opening your mouth and spouting the company line.

Connie Sec

More Money per prim is what its about..pure and simple. Me, I have an Openspace, but will not make any rash decisions to move or, like some child, smash up my build for a photo op. I will wait until LL come up with a response to the issues raised. Then i will decide which Sim solution gives me both the best price per prim and addresses my desire for privacy. I have also started an account with Openlife, and while it is probably at the stage that SL was at 2.5 years ago, as regards functionality, I see my support of it allowing it to grow and eventually giving LL much needed competition. After all, only a monopoly can act in the way LL has done with the Opensim debacle.

Corcosman Voom

Tateru makes the bottom line clear:

"A server full of regular non-mainland sims... takes in US$1,180 per month. A server full of void sims takes in US$1,200 per month, and under the new policy will rise to US$2,000."

And Pavig points out technical reasons that lead the customers to say, "Of course they knew".

Yes, customers. Not Residents. Not landowners. Customers that foot the bill and put bread (or sushi) on the table.

-- Just An Immaterial Guy

Extra Fred

with no actual data released, how are we supposed to trust the apparent money-grab? you didnt even bother to look up how much of the grid is opensim and STILL HAVENT DEFINED ABUSE. can we get some facts with our 'continuous dialog with Residents'.

Iggy O

"Listen; there's a hell of a good universe next door: let's go."

e e cummings

I'm certain I'm the 1000th avatar to say that.

The folks at OpenLife promise a Mac client soon that is 100% compatible (unlike LL's). I may even find an XP box around here to log in NOW so I can created that Conjure-Man-Swamp-Doctor alt I've been dreaming of :)

You know, the balkanizing of virtual worlds may not be a bad thing...and Rosedale's dream of one big metaverse, Snowcrash-style, might be an un-scaleable dream.

Iggy O

"create that," dammit. I have had no coffee yet and the lines at the polls are long today in Virginia.

I'll add that VWs tailored to particular RP communities, historical epochs, or educational/business functions may be just the ticket for certain groups of users. I dislike Gor intensely, but the Goreans are numerous enough in SL to build and support their own walled-off Counter Earth VW. I'll even bury the hatchet with any Goreans who read NWN to ask them how this controversy influences pricing on their forest, jungle, and desert sims.

While I'm convinced of the future of VWs, I'm not so sure that SL will be the standard, or even around at all long-term if the Lindens continue to alienate their user base.

Misty Harley

You pay premium and you get that back to some degree with your weekly stipend. I understand that, but many...many! who pay premium also pay tier directly to LL either for themselves or through donations to groups that they feel are a worthy cause. You can also purchase lindens for shopping of any kind.

You don't pay premium, but your "payment on file" means that you have the ability purchase lindens which could go to both shopping or supporting a parcel on a private estate if your business is not booming enough to make the L's required to cover said fee's or shopping spree's.

You don't pay either and you could still be supporting LL by having a business that allows you to pay a private parcel.

All roads lead back to LL and to state any of them are immaterial is very poor business practice.

Dana Bergson

What is most interesting in the interview is Mr. Kingdons tendency to avoid giving precise answers to precise questions.

What I found especially weak were his answers (or non answers) about that hard data behind the accusation of Residents "abusing" Openspace land. I still consider the phrase "abuse" insulting and I am surprised that it is still used, btw.

When asked about what kind of surveying the land team did, the answer is basically: "They did a survey." Interesting :=)

It would be very interesting to see comparative data about usage of standard regions and Openspaces. Judging from our own experience (some 100 Openspaces, some 60 Standard regions), I would say that there are more problems with (load, lag) with some of our standard regions than with the Openspaces. I am not saying this is representative. But nobody from LL's side has published any hard data.

What I find especially hard to believe (which does not mean it is untrue) is:

"We did not expect this"

This is astonishing because, Openspaces are in use on the Grid since the spring of 2006. We sell this kind of land since the summer of 2006. And the usage pattern has not changed in a significant way - except that people are using more prims now since they were given double the amount :)

What I am stating is:
(1) This is not a “surprise”
(2) When LL changed the specs for Opensims earlier this year and lowered the prices the big surge in demand for them was not a “surprise”
(3) Residents using them for residential purposes was not a “surprise” - but established standard in 2007 already
(4) Offering 3750 prims on such a region does not actually emphasize a use as open water or desert - or does it? ;-)
(5) Removing the requirement, that an Openspace has to be connected to at least one other sim, does not actually emphasize a use as as open water or desert - or does it? ;-)

I leave it as an exercise to the reader, what might be the reason for the Lab to initiate a price raise of 66% - 150% for a product which obviously is in great demand. Let’s be reasonable: if it was Linden Lab’s intention to “protect Second Life/The Grid” from the ebil Openspace abusers - which REALLY IS a nice spin - there would be many technical ways to limit their load on the system. I find it "telling", that such technical measures are not even discussed or described as "impossible" - which they are certainly not.

Let me ask you a rhetorical question: Do you really believe, that the OPEC is trying to protect the environment, when they raise prices on crude oil? ;-)


Dana Bergson

@tateru: I would not expect LL's revenues to be much higher after the price hike in January. Actually it might be lower for a while. Many, many Openspaces will be abandoned at first, judging from reactions I have received. An Openspace can not compared to food, gas or similar products, where a monopolistic supplier can simply raise prices and all customers have to eat that because they NEED the stuff. Land in SL is a luxury ...

In the long run, customers might adjust and accept the new prices, of course. They might win this bet. I still think it would be possible to "adjust" prices and not kill all those little beautiful projects based on Openspaces, which Residents have created in the past months ...

Doreen Garrigus

Please---I agree that this is a badly thought out policy change from LL, but all of the rants about corporate evil are starting to really tick me off.

Does anyone realize that Linden Lab is a small company, with around 250 employees world wide? They are adding about 1500 islands a month to SL and rolling out new features fairly constantly. The employee to resident ratio is miniscule.

I've worked for a young, high-growth company like that before, here in Tech-Mecca Seattle. Because everything is changing so quickly, it is difficult to gauge what a policy change will do to the end result, and when something turns out to be massively labor intensive and nobody has budgeted to account for it, employees get burned out from working all that overtime and start leaving.

Perhaps a price increase was just an attempt to hire enough people to cover the extra usage of the open space sims, so someone could go home at night to his family.

Iggy O

rightasrain notes, "Face it--this is all crap from Linden Lab. They are repositioning to the enterprise, education, government markets and all they want to do is milk the "consumer" market for more cash to fund their operations."

Not so sure. As an educator who does not own land but squats on our university's island, I don't know what sorts of rates LL charges for edu-specific land. But IF we are subject to the new fees for, say, a sim for a "Virtual Serengeti" for an environmental science project, then we too are being given a big slap.

I can foresee schools with the means to run our own OpenSim servers doing so in a few years...just as we've run MOOs and MUDs for many years on our own hardware.

Robin Linden

I want to clarify one point about Premium subscriptions. Because of the stipends we pay Premium subscribers, Linden Lab makes very little money from subscription fees. Premium subscribers -- a good number of whom are landowners (but certainly not all) -- are very important to us, and Premium subscriptions remain an excellent value, with L$ stipends greatly offsetting the on-going fee. In addition, we’ve recently banned ad farms and created a new Department of Public Works specifically to improve the Second Life experience on the mainland, where a Premium account is required to own land. But as James mentioned, Premium subscriptions are not required to own private islands, which comprise the great majority of land in Second Life. It would be a serious mistake to conclude anything about the health of Linden Lab by looking at the number of Premium subscribers. The most relevant economic indicators for our business, including concurrency rates and hours spent in-world, are rising steadily, and we continue to invest in infrastructure to accommodate our growing Resident base.

Lost  Ares

Nice Catch Robin .... M dropped the ball with his comment about premium subscribers , Just goes to show he has no clue .

Its a shame he opened his mouth though ... lots of accounts allready getting closed .

Nice that you took the time to try and salvage it though Robin .

Chris Norse

Come off it Robin. Has LL started buying Lindens$ back from those who receive stipends with real money? Stipends cost LL nothing to produce or give out. You punch a button and like magic $L are created. When LL starts buying back $L for real money, then you might be able to make your claim.

Just more smoke being blown by Linden Lab.

Tateru Nino

@Dana You are quite right of course. US$625K represents the maximum, given by simple arithmetic. Of course people will sell or dump their voids.

Satu Moreau

About having a thoughtful dialog with your user base, what ever happened to the Town Hall repeaters and IMing in questions to other Lindens to filter to the CEO?

I remember way back we had a major panic when LL decided to raise the prices on just ratings. I held a question and answer session on my tiny 512m piece of land and invited a couple of Linden friends to come talk with us in a calm manner. Phillip himself wound up showing up and he answered all our questions in turn.

SL was so much smaller back then, obviously, but wouldn't the Town Hall repeaters work to have a talk with SL gridwide? It certainly seemed to have worked in the past.

Richard Trigaux

Yesterday on line I heard tha several of my friends are dropping their sims, without even waiting for the deadline in january.

More serious, land barons also are dropping their business, and then it is whole continents which disappear, and thousands of residents who suddenly lose everything, and have no more reason to come in world.

Land barons are often frowned upon, but they play an indispensible role in SL, with providing covenants in their estates. So many people prefered higher prices in private estates rather than living in the mean and ugly mainland, where Linden Labs was never abe to provide a covenant, or even not a zoning.

That the real businesses in SL are leaving the boat without even waiting for the deadline in January, is a serious alarm ringing, much more frightening that the only anger of the residents. Simply Linden Labs is no longer considered as a reliable business partner, and people leave to limit their losses.

How could Linden Labs dream of attracting companies if they appear worthless of credit to their eyes?

Linden labs should rather focuse on what made their success: to provide a complete set of tools (still unequaled today) allowing for a real virtual life, and left the content to residents.

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