Op/Ed: I Really Don’t Like The Sound Of This

by Pixeleen Mistral on 02/03/07 at 8:41 am

by Inigo Chamerberlin

Inigo_portraitLast night I caught Philip Linden in-world and was able to raise what is to me, personally, the main issue of voice – the cost to me. You see I own a grandfathered class 4 island and it seems likely, from the original blog post, that there will be a charge for voice on such islands.

Phil came out with the usual LL ‘no firm decision either way’ line, then went on to enquire about my feelings.

I pointed out that I don’t run businesses from my island, it’s just a ‘for the hell of it’ residential island, besides being the only way of achieving privacy in SL when I require it and keeping scummy neighbours at bay. Worth what I currently pay, but not worth any more.

He asked if I’d like to have voice, I said yes, but not if it was going to cost me US$100 a month! He argued that voice is going to cost LL a lot of money, there will be a considerable increase in bandwidth requirement and they will need a lot of dedicated servers.

I said that was fine, but why should I pay when mainlanders would get it for free? Besides, if I wanted voice there was always Skype, which is free. Philip responded that SL Voice would be FAR better, with spatial positioning. And besides LL could make it work really well and it was going to be a huge benefit to people.

I replied that it didn’t matter how well LL might make voice work, or how beneficial it might be to people, if NEITHER of us could afford it, then it was a waste of LL’s time.

This was clearly not the sort of response Phil was after and he steered the subject to other things – amongst which was the revelation that there are NO issues with vehicles in SL – but that’s another story, because I gave up even trying with vehicles over a year ago and I’m not really interested any more.

It seems to me, from that conversation, that giving voice ‘for free’ – which is going to cost a LOT in dedicated servers and bandwidth – to mainlanders and class 5 owners is a priority to LL, because the mainland and class 5 islands make up the bulk of the area of SL, and anyway the class 5 owners are paying well over the odds for their sims.

LL can, and I think will, adopt a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude to us thousand or so class 4 owners because, even if we all say ‘piss off and die’, the bulk of SL will still be voice enabled.

The reason LL can’t charge mainlanders is because of the accounting/charging complexities it would raise if it were optional, not to mention the outcry a general raise in tier would cause – far better to have a thousand or so class 4 owners up in arms, that tens of thousands of mainlanders!

The most important issue however would be that LL will certainly make a huge media fuss about the introduction of voice to SL – a mere 3-4 years after There had it – and SL has got to have fairly uniform coverage, or the media announcement will rather lose it’s gloss.

Of course, if LL actually wants to incorporate 100% voice coverage, they will either have to get all us Class 4 island owners to bend over and take it, or give us equality with the mainlanders.

Another issue is allowing land owners, any land owner, anywhere in SL, the ability to disable voice. If LL are going to make voice a big ‘selling point’, then they simply cannot have reporters and other pundits arriving in world to check out this wondrous ‘spatialised speech’ only to find it doesn’t work in some locations – that could give the media a very bad impression – so I suspect the chances of the mooted ‘land owner voice control’ function actually making it to release are quite slim.

One thing I do have to observe is that I’m mystified by Phil’s continued insistence on giving the world FREE access to SL – with the consequent huge bandwidth cost – but NOT being willing to give around a thousand island owners, who are already paying LL at least US$204.95 a month – FREE access to voice on the basis of increased bandwidth costs!

Yet again, Philip is completely happy to give non-paying members that which he will withhold from, or charge paying members for. It seems a very strange stance for a left wing liberal type to adopt. Shouldn’t we all be considered equally deserving of LL’s generosity?

However, the biggest issue I can see looming on the horizon is Phil’s charming and naïve belief that LL can make ‘spatialised voice’ work ‘really well’ in Second Life.

I mean, seriously folks, while I was talking to him concurrency was over 31k and the system was faltering noticeably (indeed I believe the sim crashed eventually, I certainly did and when I relogged found myself in a strange sim and my original sim wasn’t showing on the map), but LL is going to make a system which is going to place the extra burden of a ‘considerable increase in bandwidth’ on the network, work ‘really well’?

When they can’t even get transactions to update swiftly and reliably? Not to mention the literally hundreds of long running bugs SL is afflicted by which they can’t seem to fix?

Phil seems a nice enough guy, but just a teeny bit out of touch with reality I think, sad really.

I foresee interesting times ahead. I’ll let someone else add the obligatory comment about how this is all going to end.

23 Responses to “Op/Ed: I Really Don’t Like The Sound Of This”

  1. Jammin

    Mar 2nd, 2007

    oh please i can just hear it now
    “hold on cant see anything,….. wait a few seconds while… ah.. there you are… yur hair is miising”
    “what?.. oh wait, LAG….”
    “Shit brb need to relog”

    “guess he cant log back in, fuk i cant move…… think i’ll go watch some family guy”

  2. dildo baggins

    Mar 2nd, 2007

    I’m still mystified at people buying into the hype of SL as a business platform in what is patently a highly unstable piece of software. I honestly don’t know how any ethical company with a mission to attract and retain paying customers [ie: the cashflow to sustain said business] could seriously charge people to use SL when it may crash at any moment, undergo the see saw ride of fps, etc etc.

    90% churn may be good for sl, but unsustainable for a business built on using sl.

    Let’s hope the soon to arrive competitors are doing their homework studying the lessons of sl.

  3. rob

    Mar 2nd, 2007

    It’s a huge new feature. If you want to use skype, don’t pay for voice on your island. It’s that simple. It would be nice if they were able to show you that the additional cost could be directly correlated to the extra power and bandwidth used _on your islane_. Otherwise your fees are subsidizing the cost of adding Voice for everyone–that would be horsesheee.

  4. Rock Ramona

    Mar 2nd, 2007

    hehe,get voice to work,ya f**ckin dreamer,he cant get the pile of junk platform to work right,hows he gonna do voice,,although id love to see him do it and charge everyone,that would be hilarious…oh,btw,Lord of The Rings Online starts open beta march 30th,ive been beta and alpha testing since dec,yall need to get yer pre order now so you can spend 9 bucks a month on something that works and is a ball to play,feel free to contact me about starting a fellowship of pissed off seconfd lifers like myself lol!!! http://www.turbine.com for more info

  5. Maren

    Mar 2nd, 2007

    Voice chat will ruin sl.

    Like it or not, the economy is driven by immersion, exploration and sex. Noone will participate in these activities if it is not safe to do so.

    I think Lindens are hoping to reduce these activities in SL to be more attractive to corporate buyers. But it will not work. Noone is going to risk their real life for a game.
    Immersion in role play is not possible, voice changing technology is stilted and unreal, and sometimes fails.

    Right now demographic median age is 32. Voice will drive that number much lower as voice is fine for 20 year olds who dont have enough of a life and identity yet that they fear risking. Anyone over 25 with a job will discontinue.

    Maybe corporate people like the idea of a younger demographic. But people who come to sl just to chat with rl friends and use it as an extension of themselves spend no where near the same amount of money role players do. I do not see how businesses will be worth keeping once role playing has ended.

  6. Prokofy Neva

    Mar 2nd, 2007

    Inigo, the one thing I heard them saying which would mitigate this is that in IMs, two individuals would still be able to opt to have voice for each other, anywhere in SL, whether or not the land was enabled.

    If they do that, then the class-four grandfathered islands can make “quiet, couples-only” islands that won’t have voice, but since voice is requiring bandwidth, they’ll have less lag, too. Not a perfect solution, but I hope they do have that option.

    The one thing I don’t think you realize is that sure, a leftwing liberal can indeed adopt this position, in perfect consistency with his world view. You see, their attitude is always and everywhere: “soak the rich; eat the rich; hang the rich from the lamp-posts”. They only pause in doing this in order to let the rich make more rope, which they then use to hang the rich with. When they have killed off all their golden geese and swiped all their golden eggs, they just find more new golden geese, that’s why the communist countries have to expand, even thought they claim not to be imperialist expansionists.

    The idea that “the masses” and “the unwashed on the mainland” get something for free and the islands who in fact already paid in purchase price and tier have to pay even more is perfectly consistent with the idea that the rich must always be fleeced to serve the poor — as long as the poor are something that the avant-garde who do this can keep at a big distance from themselves, and retain their own privileges.

  7. Lukas

    Mar 2nd, 2007

    This really is all about you, isn’t it? You should have to pay more because originally you didn’t pay the same price as everyone else baby. Are you proposing that my fees should pay for sound on your island? Why? Like you said, it’s not like you run a business there or that I have any reason to ever go there. So just because you paid a tiny fraction of what everyone else is paying for their land, to me doesn’t mean you should get unlimited upgrades for free indefinitely. My two cents.

  8. Second Syn

    Mar 2nd, 2007

    Voice Chat: Too Much RL In SL

    The controversy of the day, the impending implementation of voice chat in Second Life. Talking in world with residents there are a wide range of opinions on voice and how it will impact SL, the majority being against its use outside of classrooms and p…

  9. Economic Mip

    Mar 2nd, 2007

    Killing the golden geese with the rope said geese made. A bit mixed and jumbled, but an outright perfect analogy to what is going on. My 2 Zimbabwean One Cent bills…

  10. Wayfinder Wishbringer

    Mar 2nd, 2007

    I can see it all now. Five or six avatars, standing 2m away from one another, all shouting:



    >I said that was fine, but why should I pay when mainlanders would get it for free? Besides, if I wanted voice there was always Skype, which is free. Philip responded that SL Voice would be FAR better, with spatial positioning. And besides LL could make it work really well and it was going to be a huge benefit to people. <

    To this, I was going to comment that we finally have concrete evidence that Philip lives in a fantasy world.

    Except, alas, that Inigo already said it. XD

  11. HowDidIGetHere

    Mar 2nd, 2007

    All you people do is whine endlessly.

    Voice chat is a great idea and will revitalize SL. I havent played in a while because I gave up on all the time spent fruitlessly typing away. If voice chat works well, I may actually use it to bring on some RL friends every once (who presently dont use SL) in a while if it can replace a phone conversation while at the same time allowing you to have some fun.

  12. Maren

    Mar 2nd, 2007

    Second Life does not need to be “revitalized”.

    You can blabb all over the internet. If people want their real life freinds here, fine. But why do the few who do have to ruin the environment for everyone else?

    I am not intending to insult you personally, I am really tired of hearing from people who want Voice Chat because they dont want to make the effort to learn to type. Why are they online at all if they don’t even have this simple skill?

    I think it is valid complaint for physically disabled only. But then there are also those who are who are deaf, disabled, autistic, have language barriers etc. for whom SL has become a lifeline that will now be taken away.

  13. Wayfinder Wishbringer

    Mar 2nd, 2007

    >All you people do is whine endlessly.
    Voice chat is a great idea and will revitalize SL. I havent played in a while because I gave up on all the time spent fruitlessly typing away. If voice chat works well, I may actually use it to bring on some RL friends every once (who presently dont use SL) in a while if it can replace a phone conversation while at the same time allowing you to have some fun.
    Posted by: HowDidIGetHere< Be careful How… or are you whining endlessly about endless whiners? (ouch, that sword has two edges!)

    Hey, I appreciate and respect your opinion on voice on SL. However, I’ve personally experimented with voice on SL, and it sucked like a Kirby. Others have done the same thing… and their testimony to their experiences cover these threads. So hey, you’re entitled to your opinion, but you might want to realize it’s just your opinion. Doesn’t make it fact– and it doesn’t mean that other people are wrong in voicing their objections. That is after all, what the Herald is all about, isn’t it?

    Or didja miss the general disclaimer? ;)

  14. Yo Brewster

    Mar 3rd, 2007

    I personally am not interested at all in voice chat but I do believe it’s a necessity that is way overdue. Not sure I like the price increase to much though! I plan on buying an island soon but I doubt I’ll make it voice enabled if I have to pay extra for it.

  15. Inigo Chamerberlin

    Mar 3rd, 2007

    Hmmm, from he comments not too many of you read the article did you, or if you did, you saw what you wanted, but wasn’t really there? :-)

    It was about a conversation from which emerged a number of interesting pointers to Linden Lab’s CEO’s rather strange attitudes. It’s one thing to suspect them from his actions, another to have him lay them on the line for you…

    Still, it’s interesting to see how thoroughly the concept of voice in SL is capable of polarising people’s opinions so clearly. I really don’t think I’ve seen anything press people’s buttons quite this way before in SL…

    For what it’s worth, voice is something you can use, or not use, it’s up to you. In most places it’ll be there if you want it – but no one’s forcing you to use it. So, why so much fuss?

  16. Inigo Chamerberlin

    Mar 3rd, 2007

    Yo, as I understand it from my conversation with His Highness and the recent Blog announcement there is no proposal to charge new islands a supplement for voice. The mention of additional charges was in relation to older, class 4 server based, islands with ‘grandfathered’ tier of US$195 per month. A nice shiny class 5 server based island will come with voice included – and a US$$295 monthly tier.

    My concern was that LL will attempt to charge class 4 owners US$295 per month (which they already tried once for lower spec hardware), which would mean paying US$100 a month just for voice per class 4 island (4 islands per server remember…) which isn’t just expensive – it’s sodding extortionate!
    Anyway – as things stand, when you order your island it should come with voice.
    IF you can believe LL can get it to work well enough to even bother using… Which I have my doubts about, though His Highness seems totally confident in his company’s ability to get it working, even in the face of their current track record on getting existing technology to function reliably, never mind new stuff!

  17. HowDidIGetHere

    Mar 3rd, 2007

    “Posted by: Maren”

    “I am really tired of hearing from people who want Voice Chat because they dont want to make the effort to learn to type. Why are they online at all if they don’t even have this simple skill?”

    “Posted by: Wayfinder Wishbringer”

    “So hey, you’re entitled to your opinion, but you might want to realize it’s just your opinion. Doesn’t make it fact– and it doesn’t mean that other people are wrong in voicing their objections. That is after all, what the Herald is all about, isn’t it? ”

    Here is a computation that other people seem to leave out of their “opinions”. SL is a business (yes the user base matters….. but much of the user base seems to think they are the only ones that exist), they raised, at least 19 to 20 million in venture capital in addition to the seed money Phil Linden and Mitch Kapor put up initially. And that part is fact (my numbers may be a little off, but I am not privy to all of Linden Labs finances). Having invested that much money, they at a minimum want it back and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect them to want (and rightfully deserve) a nice return. In order to reach their goal they have reasonably assumed SL needs to be accepted more broadly and voice chat is one way to do that. Most people can type, doesnt mean they want to all the time. Voice chat is much more amenable to casual conversation and allows for much quicker exchanges. Very important also for business if you want more “productivity” and better use of your time. Most people can talk much faster than they type.

    Its not that I dont respect other people’s opinions, its that some people have their money where their mouth is. If it were just Phil Lindens money it would be one thing but he is in hoc to venture capitalists who one day will want their money back. Therefore when things arn’t perfect, I cut the guy some slack, because he took tremendous personal and business risk. I am not a sound engineer (and i dont think most people here are either) so I dont know how well voice can eventually be implemented. However if done properly I can easily see it bring back many of the users who left SL or gave it only a casual try.

    I choose the word whiner’s because that is what I see many times in SL related discussions, whining. This thing isnt perfect or that thing isnt perfect, as if life is ever perfect. Its new territory, a new world, of course things arent going to work well 100% of the time out of the box. Thats the way it is with all innovation. That doesn’t mean critcism is unwarranted, Linden Labs does need feedback, but much of the feedback I see seems to come from people who seem to feel they could be doing a better job right off the bat. If you feel so strongly about certain issues (I am speaking very broadly, not just this discussion) and you are so sure you can do a better job, then go start coding and pony up the 30 or 40 million you are going to need to create a competitor to SL. Then see how long you have to wait for a return, any return. As far as I know, its been 6 years and they are still not profitable.

    So yeah, I called people whiners, and thats because that is what I see ( every little thing wrong with SL treated as if it were some huge indignity or personal affront to them), people who dont seem to have an apprecation for the amount of work or cost something like SL takes, very qucikly shooting of their “opinions” about how if they were running the show things would be so different (and perfect the first time around—-). If thats the case, go for it. Lets see what you can come up with. Build a world and maybe other Second Lifers will follow.

  18. Wayfinder Wishbringer

    Mar 3rd, 2007

    You make several valid points How. But in addition to these:

    It should be realized that Philip, stockhoders and venture capitalists aren’t the only ones who have invested vast sums in Second Life. With private islands going for $5,200+ the first year and $3,600 per year afterard… it has to be understood that the customers have a significant investment as well.

    Now if all Linden Lab was charging was $10 a month for a membership and vast $$$ were not involved, then people might not be so vocal about things that go wrong (or they might. Who knows). But I think what a lot of people gripe about is Linden Lab charging so much to use their system and then making arbitrary, self-focused, Linden Lab-benefitting decisions regardless of the opinions of their customers/investors, and regardless of whether such brings good or harm to those people.

    Linden Lab has a long record of ignoring the good of its customers and flat well doing whatever Linden Lab wants to do. Imho, people are just plain goofy to pay as much as they do for a piece of virtual land. I mean, back when the first year fees were about $2000 less, I questioned the sensibility of investing in a private island– and I had an entire group sharing the costs. The prices LL charges are just absurd– but people are senseless enough to pay anyway. Some folks seem to just have too much money, too little common sense, and too little RL. (and I say too little common sense, or they surely would not put such money into a system as unstable as Second Life).

    Even Ansche Chung amazes me; I mean, the girl is rich and has certainly met her goals beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, but despite having a business head on he shoulders, she has been LUCKY. One single undesirable decision from Linden Lab could have shot her venture down the tubes. It’s amazing such hasn’t already happened. For people to invest such sums in a platform that is almost certain to fail within a reasonably short period of time is just astounding. No matter how much people hide their head in the sand… SL does not have a cheerful outlook. Any decent business analyst would examine the board and shake their head… or burst out laughing and the absurdity of the situation… and that so many people have been taken in by it. Shades of dot.com era.

    Myself, if I were Ansche, I’d be investing every dime I had in putting together my own virtual platform and getting out from under the Linden Lab autocratic thumb.

    All that aside, when people do pony up and pay such outrageous fees– at least they should have a say in such decisions as to whether or not Linden Lab wastes time and money on something like in-world sound– when the platform foundation falls apart on a regular basis. It’s understandable that people might whine and gripe and complain when LL keeps adding things such as (pardon me bringing up past sins) in-game video and local lighting when people’s inventory is vanishing, asset servers are crashing on a regular basis, they can’t log in or teleport, etc etc etc. Yeah, they might balk at their investment going to add yet another drain on system assets– especially a drain as serious as in-game vocal chat.

    That Philip actually thinks this will be implemented without serious problems is almost funny– if it weren’t so self-destructive.

    I think the heavy amount of complaining and “whining” and griping that we see going on is in reality a manifestation of what customers on SL truly feel. They’re addicted to the platform, or are so heavily invested in it they don’t feel comfortable in cutting their losses– but they are frustrated at the consistent mismanagement of the platform. Said it before: SL is a good idea gone bad. They need a sighn (misspelling intentional): “Genius at work… DANGER!” Because SL is surely one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of wondrous vision badly implemented.

    A response How, to the comment that it would take a few million to compete with Linden Lab. No… actually, I believe it could be done on far less than $20,000. What it would take is a half dozen people who really know their stuff and who were willing to donate their time for a share in the outcome. All they’d have to do is start with a small server-to-client world, and expand as it caught attention. It wouldn’t take a tremendous investment in money at all; it would take time and expertise. And if the expertise were good enough– it would take a surprisingly small amount of time.

    I personally have no desire to do so (other major irons in the fire) but if I had that desire, you can bet it would already be done. What amazes me is that no one else has done so. It’s not realy all that hard to create a viable and far more stable Second Life. From a techincal and programming standpoint– the moethodology has been around for years. Despite cries to the contrary– there’s nothing all that “leading edge” about SL technology. The vision (ie format) is somewhat unique, but the tech– nah. Been around for years.

    So yeah, it could be done elsewhere, better, more stable, and cheaper. But it would take people who are dedicated– and more level-headed than what we’ve seen come out of Linden Lab.

  19. Brace

    Mar 4th, 2007


    philly can’t type for shit.

    if he COULD – this whole bringing voice to SL would still be on the back burner.

    it started with the town halls, so he dint hafta hunt and peck at any type of speed, and now this.

    and NO whoever it was that said voice in SL is a necessity. Having a fuckin game that doesn’t fall apart every day is damn necessity.

    Tell my deaf SL friends how much audio is a necessity. Oh wait you’ll hafta TYPE to communicate with them, my bad.

    I’ll take just about anything else for a reason to have voice in SL – but I aint takin THAT.

    gimme a damn break.

  20. shockwave yareach

    Mar 5th, 2007

    There ARE places where voice is better than text. Town meetings and seminars are good examples; anyplace where one person must address several and speed of communication is imperative. For business conferences or telecoms, voice is superior, there is no question.

    However, most of SL is a world where text is better than voice for the simple reason that voice shatters the fantasy and ruins the oh-so-carefully-crafted illusion we try to make with our avatars, our perfectly coifed hair and our 15th century French Country homes. What point is there is spending the money and time to create a faux English town (Calderon anybody?) if people talk to you in a thick Bronx accent? And how jarring will it be when that cute little lady you’ve been shacking up with on weekends suddenly gets a baritone voice, Turrets syndrome and a very uncute (and unlittle) belch every 15 minutes?

    If it’s pay to use voice, I won’t pay and I won’t use it. If it’s optional, I’ll turn it off. If it becomes mandatory and text gets shut down, I’ll probably take my money – several hundred US dollars a year – and play something else instead. The name of the program is “SECOND LIFE”, not “recreate your first life here”. If I want to run around with my real voice and my real face, there’s Yahoo Chat – it’s free and it doesn’t crash 3 times a night.

  21. A very upset girl

    Mar 13th, 2007

    If voice chat really becomes common and available everywhere, you boys will have to face one big change in SL’s communities. That is that you will have to play with yourself without the girls that will leave. Not only those who now are played by males, but also a huge number of real girls. And you do not really expect that you will have a chance on the few that will stay?

    Voice is a proof that the designers did not think about what makes a virtual world virtual. Newbie minds, or marketing related ones, no more no less. Well, ok, SL will become a 3D skype and the communities that were here to virtually live a second life will be gone. But certainly it is a big deal for LL, because now the kids can take it over in huge numbers. The ones that really created the virtual world can leave or keep paying for the vanishing shadow of the original idea of second life.

    It hurts, but I will leave too, among with many other girls I spoke with. We wanted to have some fun, no stress, no fear, no real harassment. And voice will cause lots of stress and hurts to us, absolutely no doubt about that clear point.

  22. Tabatha Dagger

    Apr 19th, 2007

    I will say that I do think the prospect of using voice chat in SL interesting. And I understand Linden Labs reasons for wanting to include it and stay ahead in technology. But, I’ve been doing a lot of research on the subject and I feel that there is one issue that hasn’t been touched on. The voice patterns of an unfiltered voice are as unique as any finger print. I know there are some guys out there who would like to root out the men roll playing as women or the case of someone who is older that is age play but no one has brought up the issue of protecting women’s identitys. In my case yes there is some roll play involved in my character, I’m no where near as wild and adventurous as I am in SL that’s why I’m in sl. That’s part of the reason I wish to protect my rl identy but the main reason is I’m a single female that lives alone. Being a woman in today society is like being a target. I have several girl friends that have been stalked, asulted and even raped. I myself was asulted during Christmas time by a mugger who was trying to steal my purse. Fortunately I stay aware and I have a sharp item on my key ring I used to fend him off, but even after I escaped him he still tried to get in my car. And guess what, there were plenty of people around and no one stopped to help me. Using my real voice unfiltered in SL would be like wearing a fingerprint on my forehead. It would just be another way to identify me in rl. I don’t want that. There are a lot of nice Men in SL but there are also a lot of bad ones. I would suggest to the men to try wearing a female avatar one day and see what kind of rude comments you get and the personal rl questions that are asked. And you never know who or what is behind them. I’m not saying not to allow vocal chat but please understand and be considerate of those who don’t wish to use it or wish to hide their voice. It might not be because a woman avi is a man, it might be because she is trying to protect herself. There is also talk about people who don’t voice chat becoming outcasts. That is so unfair. Just be respectful of those who don’t wish to voice chat or wish to filter their voice. They may have reasons you can’t understand for doing so.

    Tabatha Dagger


    Sep 7th, 2007


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