by prokofy on 29/10/06 at 1:04 pm

Will the future of SL favour RacerX Gullwing’s magical snail-race chariot or Nissan Scion?

By Prokofy Neva

The story of the betrayal by Linden Lab of some of their early adapters and later-wave land barons is now clear to me from a variety of credible sources telling the same story in different ways this weekend.

Indeed, in the next week or so it will become clear that new island prices are going up to $1595 and new monthly tier to $295. Many speculate that they will grandfather the sims previously tiered at $195 as a kind of “pensioning off” of the island developers (and the would-be mainland developers waiting in the wings). Yet their growth will be capped and they’ll be unable to compete with deeper pockets.

Yes, sadly, the message is clear: amateurs, individuals, mom-and-pop operations, scrappy little start-ups, even big inworld businesses with lots of inworld experience in the last 3 years are no longer to be encouraged to develop Second Life. The Lindens’ erstwhile social Darwinism is now producing its results: the FIC metaversal developers they were able to train up from the rigours of the platform will go on ushering in Big Business — Sony, Sun Microsystems, Warner Brothers, General Motors, Reuters — the old-media dinosaurs of the meat-world — and allow them to take care of community-development by creating themed or entertainment sims. Your World/Your Imagination is over.

Of course there will be many to shoot the messenger here and claim all kinds of spins — perhaps the Lindens aren’t really doing this? (They are.) Perhaps they new sims on class 5 hardware will be much better and worth it? (They merely represent better energy efficiency.) Perhaps they will grandfather the old rates and that enables people to have collectors’ items that are worth more? (Maybe, and it will depend on the outcry they hear.) Perhaps this is absolutely essential for the Lindens to survive, or none of us will have a world so we must suck it up? (Umm…Did they really run out of the VC cash already?).

We’re now going to hear all kinds of lectures from the big kids telling us to suck it up, Linden Lab is a company that has to look at its bottom line, server costs were essentially subsidized, if you were in business in SL you have to expect constant risk and change, blah blah blah. Yes, we’re heard it all first on the forums, from the Feted Inner Core who always benefited from each twist and turn of Linden policy, because they were either making it happen or getting early word of it.

Many think I’m a conspiracy theorist, and even if I got it partly right, the story of Second Life is now no longer about the FIC. Oh, but it is. The FIC programmers, designers, builders, and managers have all graduated to RL consulting companies which have been feted, steered, given media coverage, and enabled to be the ones to usher Big Business into Second Life. All those people who used to torment you with their specialness and impunity against TOS enforcement on the forums are now the ones with lucrative contracts dressed in corporate outfits and even changing their last names to those of companies. Yes, it’s like high-school; yes, it’s like real-life. Deal.

Of course, this was supposed to be a Better World. Philip’s dream was supposed to be about amateurs leveraging this monetarized socializing platform into a supplemental income as at least inworld professions. It was supposed to be about that kid in a third-world country who would somehow log on to Second Life with an unverified account, make some amazing gadget or vehicle or line of clothing and feed his family for a month.

That dream will likely still be possible for some, but it will be made possible through their apprenticeship to deep-pocketed dying American and European corporations who will be compelled to redistribute their wealth through Philip Rosedale’s Amazing Invention, the Streaming 3-D World, the first real alchemy in history, making gold out of thin air.

In the Game of Second Life, the losers will be all those homemakers in New Jersey or part-time Wal-Mart workers in Wisconsin or security guards in North Carolina who were making up a storm of content, making a near-living or a substantial amount of money with either content creation, club management, or rentals. There will be less need for them now — they played their roles as early adapters, bug-testers, and server-load-tests, and now they need to retire. This is RL globalization; this is how it works; steelworkers in Pennsylvania are laid off to lift Chinese farmers out of poverty. It’s not a force that can be denied or stopped, but merely adapted to — and the gales of this world force blow through Second Life even faster and more furiously.

Second Life has breathed a second wind into what many see as dying, rust-belt auto industrial giants; into old-media on its last legs before the huge, social user-created-content software revolution takes place. And it makes sense, as Aldo Stern always said: Second Life is not a product in transition; it is a transitional product.

Basically, what appears to have happened is that Philip and other Lindens with refined aesthetic sensibilities looked at the map, and saw that the mainland was blighted except where communities had formed to take over whole sims and keep rules, and that even the island realm is blighted by redlines and pancaked white-sand rentals and ugly shopping sims replicating like kudzu. To show off the value of SL, there has to be more planning, more direction by competent professionals, and frankly, more money spent. And that’s why the price is going up, making only the hardiest or well-financed be able to swim upstream.

I predict within a year, the Lindens will have to outsource the governance of the world, which they may do with some community company outside of SL, or through nominating various “resmod” type avatars that they will elevate with powers inworld — powers that they may get not through old-fashioned democracy, or even tribal acclaim, but through money and the code powers of land tools.

They are also likely going to be forced to close the mainland as unviable and unable to be policed sufficiently against griefers which they cannot stop without losing the numbers momentum that galvanizes the press coverage.

I also predict that some will be angry enough about all this that they’ll try to mount lawsuits about “bait and switch” or tier down and leave — and that it will have little or no impact. You can’t sue the Internet.

The Lindens have used this method on us time and again, of suddenly inflicting a massive change without announcement (like free, unverified accounts 6/06/06), thrown it up against the wall, and then seen how much criticism of it sticks. If there is enough howling, they listen to what kinds of howling there is, and they come up with shock-induced and shock-workers’ solutions — as they did with quickly coding land-bans for the unverified accounts.

In the same way, they are likely to handle the future of community development. If they see that the screaming is loud enough, they might grandfather the $195 tier for not one year, but a lifetime. If they see there are no sales of anything because of this poorly-managed sudden price hike, they may back-track and offer discounts. Did you know that any academic institution can now get a free 4096 m2 parcel for 90 days? Maybe the $990 sims and $150 tier “educational sims” didn’t sell sufficiently so they went to that freebie model — and they may be forced to try something like that with community building.

So the moral of the story now is this: Protest and Survive!

20 Responses to “Betrayal!”

  1. the dark shadow

    Oct 29th, 2006

    it is true,i got confirmation from someone high in ll
    this is yet ANOTHER BACKSTABING on us,thanks linden lab for destroying everything we dreamed on in 3 years,GAH

  2. Qarl Fizz

    Oct 29th, 2006

    what’s an early adapter?


  3. Prokofy Neva

    Oct 29th, 2006

    “Early adapter” is a term I learned in Second Life. It means the people that got here first to help them do bug-testing, experimentation, scripting, etc. — programmers, scripters, computer wonks that like messing with software and its applications. In the case of SL, it also meant designers, PSP jockeys, anybody who could do the graphic arts skills to make clothing, and it also means those expert in 3-D programs like CAD to make the buildings.

    Most of the people who came after the initial beta/charter era of 2003-2004 are then called “casual users,” even if they are logged on more hours than the long-gone beta-testers. There is an ongoing, revolving refreshment of the early-adapter cadre as new developers join their ranks, but the point is, most of these are now associated with larger businesses and educational institutions who have a different culture than the first pioneers on the platform.

  4. Taran Rampersad

    Oct 29th, 2006

    It’s ‘early adopter’, not ‘early adapter’. And as far as fees going up – boohoo, they would have gone up anyway and blaming the new entries for it is myopic.

    It’s just that people who think that they are important have come to realize that they are not as important as they think. That’s a natural part of maturity.

  5. blaze

    Oct 29th, 2006


    It would be like ebay giving up the mom and pop stores, craigs list only allowing corporations to list, wikipedia requiring only PHDs, the list goes on and on.

    The general economic trend is towards crowd sourcing and web 2.0, not away from it. And it’s nothing to do with loyalty or betrayal and everything to do with economic darwinism.

    The long tail, simply, is where all the money is.

  6. Prokofy Neva

    Oct 29th, 2006

    1. I’ve seen it referred to as early adapters — they themselves adapt to the software, that doesn’t have all the kinks out of it — or early adopters, they adopt it for their own use and help change it. Aren’t they both?

    2. blaze, you thought Second Life was like Craig’s List, e-bay, Wikipedia. But it isn’t. It’s not. It’s different. The model has always been both about having amateur content makers and also grooming RL or SL-profesionnalized professions to make more kick-ass content and develop living communities that people will actually log into. They’ve clearly concluded that having the amateurs isn’t selling the product *fast enough* blaze. Maybe the long tail will come along, but first there has to be a big dog to wave it!

    Economic Darwinism, SL-style, involves taking some of these people who in fact were amateurs but who leveled up really fast in SL to become professionalized, mixed with actual professionals, and then having them usher in these big companies. Surely you can see the recipe at work? And they’ll make the content and buy the more expensive islands and develop them. The long-tail people are being priced out now, blaze, surely that’s obvious to you? The tier schedule itself for individuals didn’t change; but the tier for islands did; so that means no longer can island developers leverage the difference between what an individual had to pay on the mainland for 4096 ($25/mo plus $9.95) and offer an island rental for the same price but more value (zoning) or for less price. Can’t you understand that?

    You’re hobbled in your understanding of this by thinking “crowdsourcing” on this ephemeral “Web 2.0″ of yours means all kinds of things like warehouse clerks in New Jersey and stay-at-home moms in Wisconsin as I said. But it doesn’t. Crowsourcing means finding enthusiastic programmers in India, Washington state, and New York City who may be young, or perhaps unknown, or perhaps unable to clear a racial or ethnic barrier, let’s say. But they still have to be *skilled*. It’s not the case that the simplified tools of the Second Life metaverse enable people *without* PSP skills or graphic art or programming skills to succeed.

  7. Taran Rampersad

    Oct 29th, 2006

    Good attempt at a save for your typo. Even a spellchecker would not have caught that. The pedantic discussion that follows has really nothing to do with the people you are speaking of; the market for other products hasn’t changed.

    This ‘sky is falling’ alarmist approach coupled with pedantism, does not mask the truth: People will still buy prim babies and fancy clothes. The products and services there are… DIFFERENT.

    Instead of griping, one would think that businesspeople would try to find opportunity instead of finding scapegoats. Nissan coming to SecondLife isn’t about selling cars in SL, it’s about selling cars in REAL life. Hello? McFly? It’s about brand name recognition. And it’s gimped, but it’s another dot com bubble that is cheap enough for large companies to experiment with in good conscience – and MAYBE they’ll do something.

    Reuters coming to SecondLife hasn’t diminished the SecondLife Herald (though this ire generates bad press which is better than no press, good going there).

    The only people who are griping are those who haven’t figured out how to adopt to a marketplace which is changing. That’s right up there with the RIAA and MPAA.

    Darwinism is commonly thought of as being effect explained by cause. It’s actually cause with effect.

  8. Prokofy Neva

    Oct 29th, 2006

    It’s not a save from a typo, when I use the phrase “early adapters” in all my writings because that’s how I understand it. And how I’ve seen it. So maybe I’m stupid but that’s how neologisms often take root : )

    I don’t buy cars in RL so I’m not interested in Nissan. I’d only be interested in cars in SL if they worked across sim seams.

    I don’t feel any burning need to interact with any brand to be honest in SL, as I get a lot of it in RL already.

    Reuters hasn’t really reported on the world yet. When they do that, we’ll see what they’re made of. So far, they are on a safari, like all the other gentlemen explorers.

    Like I said, there’d be all kinds of big kids and kewl kids to come along and tell us to adapt or die or ADOPT or die (it’s really correct usage to say ADAPT to what you have to do in SL). And so you have : )

    I dunno the sneers coming from you aren’t matched by visible inworld activity.


    Oct 29th, 2006

    I think you’re confusing professionals with corporations.. Obviously professional game designers will rule SL, if you had a choice between amateurish crap and professionally textured / programmed content, which would you chose? (maybe you better not answer that question..)

    But, if you had a choice between souless corporate organ grinding and entrepeneurial, creatively designed content, which would you chose?

    It goes the same way with blogs. I don’t bother reading newspapers and magazines anymore, but I certainly don’t read blogs written by random joe six pack either, but rather credible blogs written by doctorates and credible journalists.

    Web 2.0 and crowd sourcing is about meritocracy, and that’s what will occur here. Group think and corporate institutions will have little merit in this arena.

  10. Prokofy Neva

    Oct 29th, 2006

    I’m not confusing anything, no. The professionals are merely amateurs in some case, who got feted and apprenticed to some who were actual professionals, and then they became hired by big corporations. For now, these dinosaurs use the more nimble sherpas. In time, they’ll develop their own inhouse talent or even hire these little metaversal start-ups as their inhouse production teams. or maybe not. It’s not an industry I know, so I don’t know their past well enough to tell their future. I just observe how they do it now.

    Actually blaze, I’d chose the freedom for amateurs over the feting of professionals anyday. It’s the discussion I’ve often had about Sparta vs. Athens. Pre-selection and loyalist apprenticeship under harsh Darwinistic conditions to train the feted few versus freedom for the whole class of people in order to produce the few geniuses. History has shown that the latter, the open society with its range of merit and expertise functions better than the brittle closed society with its harsh pyramid of expertise.

    And no, it’s not a meritocracy. Tell me what’s meritorious about merely showing up and befriending Jeska and getting on the right list for the media or the website lol. That’s just my complaint — that it is not demonstrably meritorious. And the synthetic situation of SL has fewer checks and balances than RL would on such fake meritoriousness.

    For one, it has a free press where people aren’t expelled from the country for telling the truth about the situation — like people are permabanned off the forums.

    Give me a newspaper with an editorial board that at least represents a set of polices and collective wisdom and discipline regarding readership and the bottom line of advertising revenue any day over Dr. Joe blogger. I don’t care if he’s a jogger. He doesn’t answer to the checks and balances required on his overweening preciousness.

    Group think is what occurs in your meritocracy, blaze. Have you forgotten about the SL forums???


    Oct 29th, 2006

    The lindens have zero impact these days on what content flies and what doesn’t. Apotheus, actually, is the guy to befriend and he’s set SLexchange up in such a way that his friendship can’t help.

    Right now, what makes you successful in SL are marketing, 3d design, and LSL programming, and good customer support skills. Being feted or friendly or even written up somewhere won’t help you a lick.

  12. Crissa

    Oct 30th, 2006

    Well, Prokofy, ‘adapt’ means to change, and ‘adopt’ means to take to change. It’s ‘early adopter’; those who use new technology when it first becomes available.

    Anyhow, haven’t you ever heard of inflation? Costs of hosting are bound to rise. When Linden Labs allows outsourcing of hosting sims, you can beat their price if you want.

  13. Prokofy Neva

    Oct 30th, 2006

    No, Criss, “to adapt to something” means to take to, to adjust to change, i.e. “we adapted to the cold weather by putting on sweathers”; to “adopt” means to take on, i.e. “he adopted the child”. See?

    In the SL context, I find it more than appropriate to take this cliche of “early adopter,” which is a tekkie jargonistic term, and change it to “early adapter” — people who got used to the steep learning curve of this tough sometimes brutal software.

    Um, inflation isn’t running 30 percent or more, with price hikes of $400 plus. No, there’s always a hardy crew that spins every single thing that Kremlindenlab does to justify what they are doing.

    This is one time you really can’t.

    And P.S., read the other story I have below. They aren’t giving any timeline on outsourcing, despite all the hype.

  14. Profky look alike

    Oct 30th, 2006

    Profky findly got her’s! LMAO!

  15. Nacon

    Oct 30th, 2006

    You fool… that’s not a Nissan car. (points at the picture)

    Wake up and smell the coffee, they are working on something big. Big enough to shut you all up about lag and boredom. Linden only just forgot to put their Busy Mode on. (yeah, yeah.. the busy mode has a bug, stfu)

  16. Osprey Therian

    Oct 30th, 2006

    “Obviously professional game designers will rule SL, if you had a choice between amateurish crap and professionally textured / programmed content, which would you chose?”

    For me, as an artist, the choice is between creations made through passion, love, and artistic experimentation or corporate builds intended to sell things or ideas to me. I like seeing what people make – what they imagine and hold dear. I find individuals very interesting.

  17. Prokofy Neva

    Oct 30th, 2006

    Um, I’m pretty sure that’s a Scion that the Nissan people gave out for free the other day, but I could be wrong, I have 0 retention level for car brand names.

    blaze, your remarks are…touching.

    “The lindens have zero impact these days on what content flies and what doesn’t. Apotheus, actually, is the guy to befriend and he’s set SLexchange up in such a way that his friendship can’t help.”

    Well, SLB just put SLEX out of business simply by dropping commissions. Not sure if your sentence above is missing a “not” but I disagree. If Philip gets up on CNET and says, “companies are working with ESC and MOU,” he’s giving them free advertising and helping the old FIC-Linden nexus to succeed.

    And Lindens constantly nod at things they like and don’t show up for things they don’t like. They subtly but very importantly push this or that by joining certain groups but not others, patting certain people on the head and not others in public meetings, etc. It’s all there, blaze – but I never see you logged in and present inworld anymore, are you still there?

    >Right now, what makes you successful in SL are marketing, 3d design, and LSL programming, and good customer support skills. Being feted or friendly or even written up somewhere won’t help you a lick.

    I tend to agree that only customer service matters. I think perhaps 2-3 of my tenants mentioned that they saw me in the Times; one as she was moving out lol. It might help in the long run to make a clipping book or something but most people just want value and service. As for marketing, however, don’t tell me that the WINDFALL of press coverage that ESC and MOU and people like Aimee or Anshe or Moopf have gotten specifically about their *content* didn’t help their sales. Of course it did, and then some.

    I don’t even know anymore if LSL programming and 3D design help. That’s like saying, yes, a finely-hewn wheel-spoke, a tame horse, and a talented cobbler still matter when the superhighway with the Nissan on it already went up next door.

  18. Prokofy Neva

    Oct 31st, 2006

    Oh, wait, see there are just too many brands confusing me now. I think they are all oversaturating me so I can’t interactive with them as effectively as I could 3 weeks ago.

    Scion is the type of car made by Toyota. Right.

    Nissan is another car company. OK, sorted.

  19. Sciamachy Moran

    Oct 31st, 2006

    Small point here – your Pennsylvanian steel workers aren’t laid off to lift Chinese farmers out of poverty. They’re laid off so that the steel multinational they work for can use Chinese steelworkers who have less rights & therefore cost less, and who they can pay near-starvation wages without any comeback. The Chinese farmers remain in poverty, but with steel mill smog choking their lungs too.

  20. Kittyhawk Zeta

    Oct 31st, 2006

    It’s “early adopters”, from the 1962 book called Diffusion of Innovations.

    As for the rest, yes, they did run out of VC cash allready.

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