I was at soror Nishi’s “No tier, no tears” party a couple of nights ago (she gave up her land in SL; see above), when Botgirl asked me, “Lalo, when are you going to give up blogging about virtual archeology and get back to crisis-of-the-day stuff?”
Well… First of all, I’m not even halfway through the task I set out for myself. 20 sims down, with 27 more to go. But this is how I answered: “Maybe when one of the crises means something to me :P”
What’s the latest?
Apparently, that POS Viewer 2 has been given someone’s imprimatur and is now The Official Linden Lab Viewer 2.1 — as if anyone who created an account after 2.0 beta was unveiled has been given a choice. I won’t touch it with a 10-meter prim, even if they’ve fixed everything I objected to about it. So… no crisis there, not for me.
Snickers Snook hit the bullseye about SL Marketplace (beta) in her blog. She makes two basic points, with a great deal of impact and clarity: (1) Marketplace sucks; (2) It sucks because of the attitudes of the Lindens who were in charge of it: arrogant dismissal of genuine user concerns.
Why, that’s the same reason Viewer 2 still sucks! Anyone surprised?
And yes, it’s true that a month ago most of the arrogant dismissives were themselves dismissed. I didn’t keep score, and since I didn’t know any of them, I didn’t visit that quasi-maudlin graveyard Codie Redgrave set up. Couldn’t tell you if Pink and Coloss
al failureus, who Snickers blames for the Marketplace, are still clocking in on Battery Street.. I was too busy dancing with glee at the demise of M and T, the two most arrogant and dismissive of the whole bunch.
Oh, yeah, and something about “Burning Life” was announced this week — basically, the event everyone used to make a big deal out of as symbolic of the artistic freedom and party-on nihilism of SL has been cut loose. It’s now entirely up to the Residents whether they want to hold it, and if so, on whose land. ~ yawn ~ Good luck with that, folks. Just another lag-fest like “SL_B” I’ll be not going to, if it goes ahead at all.
Speaking of Botgirl… There’s been an excellent exchange of views in the Comments to her blog post “Why Cost Isn’t the Reason for Second Life Land and Population Woes” which is a reply to Darius Gothly’s “Changes in the Virtual Land Market in Second Life”. Darius postulates that land cost is a significant factor in retention of Residents — i.e., convincing them to stick around — and proposes a two-tier (pun intended) pricing system based on a reworking of the so-called Homestead region. That is: create a class of residence-only sim where commercial transactions (payments) are disabled server-side, and charge less for them than for sims where payments are enabled… like residential and commercial zoning in the physical world. Botgirl points out that mere economics are not the only consideration, and speaks of value of a more intangible sort.
We’ll get back to that…
Meanwhile, back at the ranch — Word’s out today that presumptive messiah Philip and some complete unknown “BK” (cue the burger jokes) are gonna have a meetin’ this Friday! (Yeah, I’m channeling MPoster Linden, bless his pointed li’l font). Attendees to be chosen randomly from among those who apply, it says here… how much drahma you want to bet ensues over who doesn’t get chosen, “randomly” or not.
I’m going to wait until Saturday, read all my favorite bloggers’ opinions, and then read the transcript… but I’m going to predict now: platitudes, buzzwords, lip service, hand-waving, promises which will be unkept… Im Westen, nichts neues.
You see… Linden Lab has well and truly painted themselves into a corner — as Ruina Kessel said in one of her comments to Botgirl’s post — or, to quote Crap Mariner, they’ve violated The First Rule of Holes: When you dig yourself into a hole, stop digging.
I can almost be sympathetic for Philip: the poor bastard has inherited a huge pile of kludges, bad business decisions and intense animosity generated by the guy he helped choose to replace him, and the people that guy hired. Philip is stuck with Viewer 2, and the Marketplace, and Avatars United, and gods-only-know-what-else… and he’s also stuck with a Board of Directors who are not likely to enjoy (to say nothing of permit) what ought to happen: a complete, full-stop abandonment — you know, kinda like what happened to Second Life Enterprise, which boldly went nowhere. No, the Board of Directors of Linden Research, Inc. — which is to say, with emphasis, its investors — are probably damn sick and tired of seeing their money pissed away, and Philip had by-god better make it work.
Philip said, on July 16:
[One] key short term goal is to very rapidly make Viewer 2.x the best and most widely-used Second Life viewer. We are unifying efforts across the lab to make this viewer both the best-performing and the most functionally capable for all different users…
Translation: “We’re going to keep throwing good money after bad.” He also said:
Making content and experience creators more successful is what ultimately drives the growth of Second Life. Optimizing from end-to-end the process of searching for, trying, buying, and using virtual goods will be our first focus here.
And yet Marketplace Beta was released anyway, in spite of it — along with a nearly-useless Search — being the antithesis of that goal.
Philip is also widely reported to have written about how the Lab would work with 30% fewer employees, something along the line of “doing less, better”. (I can’t find a primary source — maybe one of you has a link?) I’ve heard that before, in non-virtual business; too often, I’m sorry to say. It is the unmistakable sign of corporate management in financial trouble. It always immediately follows a staff reduction, and it heralds a period where the remaining staff is overworked to the burnout point, followed by another big layoff while the accountants pick over the bones, sell what they can and close up for good and all.
Am I predicting that will happen to Linden Lab and their sole product, Second Life? No doomsayer, I… Will I be surprised if it does happen, maybe even before the end of this year? Sadly, no. There’s a cumulative effect to “doing less, better”: eventually you learn to do nothing, perfectly.
Now let’s talk about Retention… which, unsurprisingly, brings us around to the beginning of this post, and soror’s tier-burning party. Most of the time, when people talk abut retention they also use phrases like “first hour experience” and “learning curve”. They’re talking about getting noobs to log in more than once; real noobs, not alts, not bots, not throwaway griefer avs out to get banned for the lulz.
Just today, as it happens, Tyche Shepherd noted that SL will sign up its 20 millionth account some time within the next three days (based on recent average rates). That’s 20 million total accounts created over the life of SL, beginning with Steller Sunshine on March 13, 2002. It doesn’t subtract any of the ones that have been canceled by their owners or banned by the Lab; neither does it subtract alts, bots, or people who just stopped logging in after a while (among whom are Charter Members whose builds still stand on land they never have to pay tier on).
20 million… of whom, about 1.4 million (~ 7%) have logged in at least once in the last 60 days — which means, to me at least, SL has lost 93% of everyone who ever signed up.
Long-term retention is usually not addressed at all. Granted, people leave SL for lots of reasons, most having to do with changes in their organic situation. Economics is definitely among those, especially in the last two years or so, but not the only one. Arminasx Saiman mused on the topic last November and December, and even proposed:
Without a defined requirement to stay, people tend to maintain interest in volunteer or hobby activities for a length of time between 18 to 30 months.
There seems to be some evidence of general loss of interest over time, even if nothing else changes. However, the level of frustration should be considered as seriously for the long-time Residents as it is for the new ones. The difference is: for the noob, it’s frustration with how things work; with the midbies and oldbies, it’s frustration with why some things still don’t work, and why other things (Search and Events, for example) no longer work when they once did. In short, the noobs are frustrated with the world; the long-timers, with the Lab. The cost of land is just another straw on the camel’s back; witness the removal of Victoriana’s 13 sims in March, or Ener Hax’s dissolution of her holdings last winter. After a while, it just stops making sense to keep paying for the privilege of being shat upon.
The irony in all of this: The most comprehensive thing Linden Lab can do to retain active members at both ends of the age scale is to stop acting like Linden Lab.
Ain’t gonna happen.
So, what about soror — is she now also among “the Unretained”? No more so than I will be come December, when my annually-paid Premium membership comes due for renewal and I don’t renew it, and abandon that home in Tehama I blogged about last time. She has a new home in another grid now, as do I… which doesn’t mean either one of us is going to stop visiting, staying connected, or blogging about Second Life.
Crisis? What crisis? Not in InWorldz….