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Linden Lab Restores 50% Land Discounts for Educations & Non-Profits in SL -- But Will They Come Back?

AM Radio Second Life

As I reported back in March, Linden Lab has been quietly offering to renew 50% discounts to educational and non-profit groups who've abandoned their Second Life sims over the last few years. And now, the company is officially offering that deal to every institution that qualifies:

Effective immediately, any accredited educational institution or any organization with a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit tax status (or equivalent) is eligible for a 50% discount on private region set-up costs and a 50% discount on private region maintenance costs.

This move entirely reverses the company's 2010 decision to end the 50% discount on educational/non-profit sims, which is generally credited for the loss of hundreds (if not thousands) of sims whose organizations couldn't afford to pay standard tier. This seems like a move to shore up Linden Lab's waning land tier revenue, and the question is, will it help? Spoiler: Probably not, unless Linden Lab can put serious follow-through behind this discount.

Here's why:

In the years since Second Life was in vogue with many educators and non-profits, they've embraced other 3D-based platforms that are far cheaper. Namely Minecraft. (No, not OpenSim, which has usage so small it constitutes a rounding error.) To really be valuable as a tool for educators, Second Life needs to be much more consumer-friendly, and emphasize its value as a high 3D platform that would appeal to educational groups which need that very thing: Film and architecture educators, first and foremost. But Second Life needs a lot more fixes to be appealing to them. Alternately, full Oculus Rift integration could appeal to educators... but we'll need to see that soon for these discounts to really gain traction.

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Ciaran Laval

I can't see this doing much for the decline in tier, especially as they'd need to attract double the number of educators to break even.

As you point out, things have changed a lot since 2010.

However as a proof of concept for 3D Modelling, SL could be useful, if they had a scripting language such as C#, SL could be even more useful for educators.

I think this is a welcome move by the Lab, and it coincides with the start of Virtual Worlds Best Practices In Education, so timing wise, it's a good move.

pepys

I hope AM Radio comes back, as well as the rest.

Vaki

It's going to be very nice for those who are still here, though, and who have been barely able to survive for the last three years.

Iggy

After LL confirmed the discount to me in an e-mail in March, I asked those here who paid tier until our island closed in 2011.

Our IT folks, like many who once supported experiments in SL, have moved on. They have their hands full supporting other educational software and frankly, don't trust the Lindens enough to be cheerleaders for SL as they were in 2006-7, when they all had avatars themselves.

Some educators from other schools will return, but it's too late for many of us. LL blew it.

Pussycat Catnap

Only way to get them back would be to offer annual contracts that could be signed months in advance, and not billed until a desired point.

In other words - make it match the budget cycle in academia.

Lots of people got burned by this changing on them mid-school year, and in the idea of coming back, or trying it out if new - the past issue is a real and legitimate concern.

Burned once, not again. So make a binding contract system.

As for reasons to come back - as a product SL is still a lot more developed out than any competing model. If you want students in a virtual world, this is the place to be. But I don't think LLs knows how to market that.

If they even try, they are likely to show rows of avatars in a virtual class, with somebody on voice next to a prim with a graphic on it... or models of classrooms.
- and for that kind of experience there are better options (like Adobe conference classrooms).

Where a virtual world would be nice... is as a virtual world - and people who need that for an education experience will need a different style of marketing.

Pussycat Catnap

Only way to get them back would be to offer annual contracts that could be signed months in advance, and not billed until a desired point.

In other words - make it match the budget cycle in academia.

Lots of people got burned by this changing on them mid-school year, and in the idea of coming back, or trying it out if new - the past issue is a real and legitimate concern.

Burned once, not again. So make a binding contract system.

As for reasons to come back - as a product SL is still a lot more developed out than any competing model. If you want students in a virtual world, this is the place to be. But I don't think LLs knows how to market that.

If they even try, they are likely to show rows of avatars in a virtual class, with somebody on voice next to a prim with a graphic on it... or models of classrooms.
- and for that kind of experience there are better options (like Adobe conference classrooms).

Where a virtual world would be nice... is as a virtual world - and people who need that for an education experience will need a different style of marketing.

Shug Maitland

I agree, this is probably too little too late, But is it a sign that someone high up at the Lab is reviewing past bad decisions with an eye to fixes? Will last names make a comeback? :)

Ajax Manatiso

This is similar to Charlie Brown trusting Lucy not to yank away the football this time. If they are not stupid, they will pass on this.

Soen Eber

Hi, I'm just going to quote (with her permission) in entirety Aimee Weber's post in the blog-feed section at SLUniverse:

"t's better than nothing, but the edu/gov institutions I know of express the following concerns:

1. LL's platform policy is unstable, meaning you don't know when they will yank a major program (like Enterprise) without notice, or when they'll make serious price changes.

2. (And this is a biggie) Porting your investment (in assets and region builds) from SL to another platform is extremely cumbersome and expensive (I've been through this process with LL and it was a nightmare).

If you put them both together, you have a situation where nobody in an edu or gov is willing to put their careers on the line with their own management to endorse LL. The risk is too great for support/pricing/policy to whip violently in a new direction as LL tries new revenue models (which is fine) and leave the customer with no easy way to port their time/money/energy that they've invested so far to an alternative (not fine).

The folks I've worked with have moved to OpenSim (want your build? save oar. done.) and in some cases Unity. I've heard discussion about LL's discount for select edus and there was no interest. It's not just about price. It's about trust and stability."

In her reply to my request to quote, she adds the following: "For SL devs it's pretty ugly out there. While I'm still working OpenSim stuff, I haven't had a single SL inquiry in AGES (which makes me sad because SL is my first true love). I think maybe clients think LL is too risky."

Her post can be viewed at http://www.sluniverse.com/php/vb/private.php?do=showpm&pmid=185903

Geo Meek

Can Linden Lab unring that bell?

Jo Yardley

Yes it is too late and many won't return, but I agree with Shug, someone at LL is at least/last doing some thinking and trying to undo some of the big mistakes.

Madelyn

I very rarely comment but this needed it as the only information one ever sees is very negative. I work as an SL dev exclusively for education clients. I have never been asked to work on the opensim platform (I would if asked) and I have also never been busier nor had more future work already contracted or in negotiation than I do now. I think it all depends where you look. I also think a lot of the education projects using SL prefer to be cautious and keep a low profile outside of their own student users these days. Not least because the real world media was so sensationalist in the past and they don't want anything to frighten off the purse string holders or their colleagues. Those newspaper stories are still the only thing most people know about SL, so we talk about virtual worlds, virtual education, and avoid mentioning the platform by name.

garvie garzo

even if no one who has left comes back, the future looks better and more supportive to education IN SL - institutional and otherwise as well as to non -profits organization, these are good things. it might mean that they are attempting to undo a whopper of a bone headed and short sighted and misguided mistake of the past, and it might just mean they are thinking about what kind of world they are hoping emerges. making sure that education is funded and someone is trying to offset inevitable market failure (not everything can, will or should be a for sale service or good)are steps in the right direction. if the museums and schools and micro-financing projects that left don't come back maybe new ones will wander by and stick.

A.J.

The Lab makes a bold move concerning tier.

Like fortifying fast food with aspirin to prevent a heart attack.

Alberik

First hopeful sign in a very, very long time. Perhaps the Lindens are doing more than staring into space.

rikomatic

That's a not-dumb move on LL's part. Not sure it will make much of a difference though for nonprofits or educators.

I'm convinced of the potential of virtual worlds for education. But no longer feel that SL is the platform to make that a reality.

Pussycat Catnap

The best reply I've seen was on the official forums last night:

http://community.secondlife.com/t5/General-Discussion-Forum/LL-Has-Seen-the-Light/m-p/2099485#M117086

The combination of two posts from different people.

The first notes that edus have moved to open sim and sim on a stick, and won't be coming back as SL is not meeting their needs for;

" SL in comparison offers only a larger population, which is of no significance to educators as they are primarily only interested in their own class cohort"

The second gets it best in his first sentence:

"Seems to me that everyone is better off if institutions with such insular interests stay away from SL. "

And then follows with noting that the SL of today is not the SL of yesterday. The grid has also moved on.

The kinds of things people use SL for now are different, and the edus might not be the best fit anyway.

I agree with him on that - though I don't know if we'd agree on what SL is for today, because it is still many things.

But it is a different set of many things than the many things it used to be.

Metacam Oh

Now when they offer 75% land discount for everyone else we can talk. Better yet, just start charging per bandwidth and server usage so I don't feel ripped off if I have a sim and dont use it for a month and no one goes on it but still I have to pay 300 bucks like its real land. Paying a shit ton of money for the illusion of land despite actual usage and costs is not going to work for most people.

2103

@ Meta... still beating that dead horse?

Iggy

"This is similar to Charlie Brown trusting Lucy not to yank away the football this time. If they are not stupid, they will pass on this."

Ajax, brilliant. That would describe the reaction from accounting's point of view. In my 22 years as a higher-ed professional, no other software vendor I've dealt with hiked prices in the midst of an academic fiscal year.

I'm glad the Rod Humble reversed a short-sighted policy. But as Pussycat notes, today's SL is not the SL of 2010. There are other reasons not to return.

Hamlet simply does not fathom why schools use OpenSim. Pussycat quotes someone was writing that our population of users is "insular." That really is a good metaphor, too, though it lacks the visceral fun of Charlie's big round head hitting the dirt when Lucy tricks him yet again.

"Insular" fits our model for other software. We could give a hoot about the larger world, since we must serve our customers: students. Most student avatars NEVER return after a class, and OpenSim's technology works great for building home-made simulations IF a school finds the support to self-host the software on their own hardware. That, too, is the rule in higher ed, since colleges have dedicated servers for Blackboard, registration, calendars, and Google applications.

As for numbers in OpenSim? I don't think Maria Korolov's data captures the many schools who run their own servers. This is a large and invisible population, as is the MOSES project for the US military.

Only a few faculty I know need a world the size of SL's for studying online communities. Others run a VW simulation once and are done, so OpenSim works just fine. Even if you budget in the support for the server, it's still a bargain when compared to SL once you have a few dedicated faculty and student builders.

Kim Anubis

This is very welcome news.

While many educators and nonprofits (and those of us who serve them) have learned to work with other platforms in recent years, the reinstated discount will be a great help to those with ongoing projects in SL. My business had already seen an increase in inquiries and projects in SL in the last few months. The reinstated discount will help my clients and others like them, and could certainly stretch some budgets to allow new projects to get off the ground.

Arcadia Codesmith

I think non-profits, at least educational ones, ought to be comped space in perpetuity for free. I frankly don't give a gnat's rasp whether they participate to any great extent in the economy; we need anchors in Second Life whose entire existence is not predicated on budget whims. We need institutions not subject to evaporation.

If we want a virtual world that grows and evolves over decades rather than shutting its doors after a few years, it's got to have more non-ephemeral landmarks -- like college campuses.

Pussycat Catnap

The "Insular" edus are best served by isolating themselves, and the Grid is best served by not having them.

- That's not an insult, but about differing needs.

An edu of such a nature will want to know who all the users are, and be able to control their access as well as control and tailor the experience to needs of the educational / research activities.

That said I read on the official forums that there are some 70+ edus still on the Grid. So not all of them desire closed access.

But the Grid's needs can be strikingly different. The Grid demands anonymity, a wide open community, and a somewhat uncontrolled social experience (somewhat, not an anarchy, but often close).

The Grid is about expression and exploration. Of self, group, and the larger community.

The edus I can imagine that would want what the Grid is, are examples I suspect people with more experience in education than me could quickly shoot down:

- Psychology and philosophy
- digital arts
- animation
- creative writing
- human sexuality (hey at my undergrad this was a whole section within one department, as the most popular of the lower-tier electives were all within it, resulting in half of the campus being enrolled there in some way).
- political science

- What I see in those is the advantage of an open debate and discuss area that is almost guaranteed to put students into exposure with strongly conflicting views of the subject matter; forcing their hand at critical thinking.

For digital arts and animation: the grid just offers demo space.

I left off music, but if digital arts demo space is legit, one could make the same argument for music.

I suspect none of these are the sorts of "majors" that LLs expected when they went down the edu-path originally. My instinct tells me they were thinking in tech and physical sciences - two areas that I feel gain very little from the Grid. But some of the things they (and their supporters) have pushed in the past make me think they have still not understood that SL is not a tool of "Silicon Valley culture" even though that culture makes the code for it.

(A side rant is that Silicon Valley is anti-culture... Despite startups all having scooters and ping pong tables in the office, or perhaps because of this, they have no culture: and startups have been moving out and into San Francisco to try and gain culture, only to bring their lack of culture / anti-culture meme into my city in a big way...)

I am very curious now to know just what kinds of edus make up that '70+' that are still around, and how they differ from those who left.

Jane

This is not hopeful news, this is desperation, and it won't make a difference. I don't think SL's fate could be changed even if they finally lowered the crazy tiers for everybody, it's simply too late. I love love love SL and will shed more than a tear when it's gone, but denial won't prevent its demise.

elizabeth (16)

i agree with arcadia. should make it free. but set a min use rate. like if nobody comes to your free sim then see you later

+

other thing. sl is bleeding edge usage. is hard to know how to use it in a way that engages people outside of the smallish edgy group (smallish by interweb numbers) who come to sl anyways no matter what big or little effort sim owners put into their own sims

+

if i was a charity like org and i had a free sim then i let designery buildery people associate their name with mine by give them free space exhibition style. and encourage them (make them lol) snap blog tube pin it on their own interwebs channels outside of SL. it about getting my name brand more exposed to other people. people not like them (the designers) and not like the typical SL edge user. who like i said are here already for reasons that i never gave them

sl the expressive platform. it dont have to be the media always also as well. not from my pov as a charity

+

people not like them are snackers. they just surf the interwebs and random snack on stuff they find. is zillions of snack food now in the big ocean. so cant really own it. can only just get in the stream like plankton. and fishes will nibble on you. and sometimes a whale will come along

like you not trying to catch them anymore. you just providing something for them to eat. if you tasty then they will come back for another feed

even if they never came to SL proper. it enough for LL i think. just to know that a big rl charity is associate direct with SL. like the value not in the pimping anymore. it about the link. the weak connections

like greenpeace for example. not everybody going to climb and chain themselves

+

last thing. about the use it or lose it. when get a new sim then lots excitement attention. building and stuff. then when complete - nothing. it gets stale. nobody comes anymore. have to refresh. so exhibition style the way to go. for a charity that is

Craig L

Linden labs has nothing for efucators.I don't care if they are giving it awsy for free.They have nothing

Archangel Mortenwold

You're probably underestimating OpenSim use, but to be fair, the OpenSims don't have the resources Linden Lab does.

As for restoring the non-profit discount, that's a step in the right direction. LL needs to market this move properly so it can draw the educators and nonprofits back to Second Life.

Lani Global

Wow! LL has offered a lower sim price to someone! Other than a land baron.

But, "Burning the Non-Profit Community" is a really difficult PR event for SL to live down. Even with glad-handing and discounts. The internet has a long memory.

"There's an old saying in Tennessee. I know it's in Texas? Probably in Tennessee, yeah.
Fool me once, shame on, shame on you.
Ya fooled me, - uh -- ya can't get fooled again." -W

After LL shafted them, all the non-profits moved in droves to OpenSim. Most of them had fixed budgets, and not deep pockets.

If you take a look around OSGrid, you will see hundreds of sims run by educational and non-profit organizations. Too numerous to count. Some wonderful student designs, and lots of architectural projects with huge blueprints laid out on the terrain.

They usually have their IT person running the sim on their school server, and they take advantage of the large OSGrid infrastructure or free content via HyperGrid.

There are tons of classrooms using Sim-On-A-Stick, the wonderful OpenSim software that gives each student their own sim on their laptop.

I see visitors from ".edu" domains & educational domain IPs pop in from all over the world to my store in OSGrid. They pick up goods for their projects and TP back to their OpenSim campuses.

LL has a really tough road ahead, to win back all those educators and students from the comfort of their free open source, freedom, ownership, and security.

Gordon Twine

I think for all the educational and non-profit groups that have stayed in SL all the time, this is a good news. There must be good reasons why they remained in SL. And now they have to pay less than before.

I don't believe that groups who have settled to OpenSim, will return. But groups that will begin with new educational activities in virtual environments, SL will now be an option again.

Ina Centaur

This offer would be a lot more enticing if there is a way to recover lost content due to sim de-activation.

RIP SL Shakespeare Company and the 4-sim SL Globe Theatre aka mShakespeare sims Shakespeare sLiterary Primtings Skin City

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