Firestorm, the third party viewer that's by far the most popular software for using Second Life -- more popular, in fact, than the official viewer put out by Linden Lab itself-- is created and maintained by a large team of dedicated volunteers. The team recently asked the Firestorm user community to donate Linden Dollars they could convert into cash to help pay some important maintenance bills, and here's what they got:
At the time of writing this [January 31st] 12:46PM SLT, the balance is L$2,087,455. Our target goal—which I didn’t think we had much hope of hitting—was L$1.6 million. This would give us enough for our Kakadu license, some money for marketing and some money for an accountant, a lawyer and the taxes which we’ll certainly have to pay because of this fund drive. We are over 2 million Linden Dollars right now, and actually it is too much! Really it is!
Team lead Jessica Lyon says she's happy, and I'm happy she's happy, but I'm not: L$2,087,455 is roughly just $8417 in US dollars -- a paltry amount to maintain software used by roughly 400,000 people. About 65-75% of the 600,000 active SLers use Firestorm, by my estimate based on past Linden Lab stats. So $8417 comes down to pennies per each user.
This is disappointing (if unsurprising), especially when Ms. Lyon talks about what her team has to contend with in her very same Thank You note:
The unfortunate reality in what we do is that most of the time we only hear from the disgruntled, upset, screaming, frustrated, angry users while only occasionally hearing from the folks who genuinely appreciate what we do and offer us a thank you.
So not only are they mostly not getting thanked or financially supported for their volunteer efforts, they're also getting abused.
Understand, I'm not criticizing the Firestorm community as a whole:
No doubt there's a minority of dedicated 'Stormers who generously contributed that L$2,087,455 amount (while the rest ride for free, squabbling as they go). And I bet the Firestorm community could have raised much more Linden Dollars if they'd organized the drive a bit more ambitiously. (They gave out a virtual leather jacket to donors.) I guess the real mystery is why Linden Lab didn't anonymously donate a whole buttload of Linden Dollars to this team of volunteers who are effectively acting as the for-profit company's first line of community management, technical support, and its engineering and ops team.
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