Good Riddance: SL Says Goodbye to Dwelloper Awards

by Alphaville Herald on 24/12/05 at 10:46 am

Uri and Prok do Some Last Minute Christmas Camping

by Dow Jonas

With the advent of camp chairs in the last month, Robin Linden’s announcement of the end of the Developer Incentive Awards (DIA), or the “Dwelloper Awards,” as they were dubbed, came as no surprise to most of the hundred-odd recipients of the cash prizes, who make up the two percent of landowners in Second Life with the most dwell, reflecting the numbers of people who came and remained on their properties for a minimum of five minutes.

The awards are to be ended in March 2006, and with this three-month lead time, camp chairs, money trees, money balls, and every other magnetizing object for sticky avatars have been deployed in an even greater frenzy to soak Linden Lab of its last “dwellopment” dollars.

Some forums debaters blamed the camp chairs, which pay out anywhere from $1-$50, depending on whether the sitter also plays (and often loses) various casino games during the session. Others said the elimination of the program, which last month cost LL some US $120,000 to pay SL dwellopers, was a belt-tightening measure.

A glance at the list of winners in recent months shows that many of SL’s top land barons, club owners, and casino hosts are on the list, along with a handful of special themed-sim project leaders.

In a year that has brought removal of events grants, ratings stipends, telehubs, and GOM, SL forums criticism about the latest stripping away of subsidies appeared muted. A number of major businesses appeared to greet the action as consistent with a “capitalist” model for the virtual world, and a rational move in view of widespread gaming of the system that drained dollars through the use of AFK-devices like camp chairs, rather than creation of compelling content. Said Cyberland CEO Shaun Altman, “Good riddance, developer incentive! Let’s replace [this] with something that actually incentivizes developers, rather than those who bribe people for their dwell.”

Aimee Weber, a prominent SL clothing designer, told the Herald that she had never been on the Developers’ Award list because she did not own land (she said she had just purchased a new island named Midnight City for her stores). The presence in SL of various artists and designers with interesting builds and events seems evidence for some that the DIA was not achieving its purpose. Asked about any possible replacement for the DIA, Weber said, “I think an automated system will always be vulnerable to being gamed, and some kind of Linden-decided award program may be forever haunted by claims of favoritism. So I don’t know that I can think of a good one off the top of my head.”

In the past, the Lindens have held a few contests, with one or few participants, for themed sims or games, and suffered criticism for appearing to show bias.

“The camping chairs exposed the weakness of the system enough where it was embarrassing,” said Weber. Asked if she thought the Lindens lost a lot of money paying out awards based merely on camping, she said, “If anything, they raised the priority of fixing the system.”

Some forums contributors suggested substituting the DIA system with a voting mechanism to collect votes for good lots; old hands at SL recall a time when such a system was used and then abandoned as it, too, was gamed by people setting up flash mobs of their friends.

Weber suggested that the SL world map could have a mode “where areas of high traffic were painted certain colors. Like some kind of thermal chart LOL. That would be pretty cool! You can see the ‘hot spots,’” she commented.

While such a system could arguably be networked and flash-mobbed as well, it would likely serve as a more accurate picture of avatar flows than dwell created by friends and alts logging in and staying AFK on land to drive up the traffic numbers.

At times, the Lindens have discussed forming some kind of Council of the Arts to administer a grants system through applications. “It will be painfully political, but if they could make it work, it would be a great idea,” said Weber. Of course, with so many people joining SL and having trouble gaining visibility for their work, scouting talent could be difficult for short-staffed and busy Lindens. “It means some people will be left out, and that means there will be accusations, conspiracy theories, etc,” said Weber. “It would get messy.”

Top SL club manager Jenna Fairplay, owner of the Edge, told the Herald about the end of DIA, “I prepared for this as I do with all SL changes good or bad. I know there are those who were greatly affected negatively from the change and do feel for them as well.” Fairplay has put her club in DaBoom up for sale for a requested $20,000 US – and confirmed that the offer for the 100-meter terraformable original sim would not include the building. (Coming Soon: an in-depth interview with Jenna on club management in SL.)

Others reeled from the first impact of the announcement. “It is possible that my club will go to the wall without the DIA, which paid for my tier & membership fees as well as part payment for my radio stream. The way I feel right now is 6 months work down the toilet because I can’t fund that from my monthly RL income,” said Stacey Sugar, owner of the Barbie Club in Refugio.

Rallying later, Sugar subsequently told the Herald, “I have called a meeting of all my friends who own some of the high dwell projects in SL…to discuss the scrapping of the DIA and what we can do to minimize the impact and maybe come up with some alternative suggestions we can suggest to LL.”

Travis Lambert, owner of the Shelter, a club for newbies, commented, “The larger enterprises that receive Developer Incentive will likely only be marginally affected by this change. This is because the DI only made up a small percentage of their monthly budget.

Winners of the awards ranged from Prokofy Neva, who said he began at about $35 US and worked his way up eventually to $125 in recent months, to land baroness Anshe Chung who has earned thousands of US dollars.

“For a long time, the program appeared to discriminate against those with group land because it rewards only those with the most tier on one account; if your tier is spread out in a group then you may not come up on the radar,” said Neva. The Lindens recently adjusted the formulas to better include group owners.

”It is the small-to-medium sized venues that will be hit hardest by this change – not those you see on the Popular Places list every day,” said Lambert. “The DI made up 90-100% of the budget of the smaller venues, and those are the ones we are in jeopardy of losing.”

One effort the Lindens have promoted as a substitution of the “Dwelloper Awards”is the Developers’ Directory, a project that has drawn mixed reviews as some residents have praised the Lindens for making more transparent the process of bidding and being awarded content contracts in SL, and others have complained that the list is incomplete.

The Lindens have asked residents with ideas for how to provide incentives for content to replace the DIA to write to

4 Responses to “Good Riddance: SL Says Goodbye to Dwelloper Awards”

  1. Prlokofy Neva

    Dec 24th, 2005

    I don’t think the Lindens will go for the thermal map idea because it will instantly show that all the hot spots are sex clubs and that will get out in the media. They don’t like emphasizing that aspect of their game. Whereas if there are just stacks of green dots and an event, they can always they are there studying 18th century poetry.

    It’s not about the landowners who bribed their visitors for dwell — or at least not only about that. It’s about the Lindens bribing club managers and land dealers to offset the incredibly high costs of tier they experience as non-inventoried-content creators. The Lindens have to have *just enough* of these classes of *the other* business people to keep waiting on the content-creators’ customers in between their shopping sprees.

    At this point, by killing GOM and infusing more easy Linden dollars into consumers’ hands, by killing off the telehub malls ostensibly to avoid their travel confusion (telehub malls served as the main competition to top creators’ boutique stores in the boonies), and by putting in p2p, which makes it more easy to travel to those boutiques (especially after getting landmarks from Mentors in the WA), the Lindens have done enough to pump up languishing FIC creator traffic and sales. They ought to be back up now, giving this $150,000 USD we see on the daily transaction figures.

    Now, the Lindens can afford to trim back those customer-server classes like club owners and land owners again.

    So the question is: can the Lindens keep enough club owners and landowners in the world to keep serving the socializing and homeowning needs of the masses, so they can stay happy and keep buying the content of the content-creators (which is their main goal)?

    And the answer is: yes, even if they get rid of 25 percent of those people; “there’s always another guy to buy the island.”

    Of course, they could try another strategy, which is, instead of banging on the club manager and land-owner classes, they could be banging on their creator pets to provide more compelling non-inventoried content and events.

    But it’s hard to get them moving, because the content kings scorn the masses, except for when they can serve as a substrate to launch a Really Big Idea like Tringo that will fetch them RL contracts.

    I think we’re about overdue now for one of these content kings to come up with another riveting game or attraction for the masses again, eh?

    *hurries to go camp some more to pay tier bill*

  2. Bino Arbuckle

    Dec 25th, 2005

    One of the older iterations of the in-client map did in fact have a dwell measuring map overlay. It was white blotches, much like the new objects overlay… higher concentration = more white.

    I actually believe this was put in when dwell came about, and lasted for quite some time.

  3. Guni Greenstein

    Dec 25th, 2005

    The DIV awards wasn’t 120K US$ per month, but more like 12K US$.

  4. Dow Jonas

    Dec 25th, 2005

    Thanks for that correction, Guni. You’re absolutely right, the total payout from the Development Incentive Award in November, for example, was $11,722.36 to 118 persons. and the Lindens apparently never have paid out more than $12,000 — sorry for the extra 0. I believe it’s still accurate to note that some major businesses have collected “thousands” of US dollars rather than “hundreds”.

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