The Pause that Refreshes

I think a few of my readers are old enough to remember that phrase as an advertising slogan for a cinnamon-enhanced, carbonated cola drink distributed by an obscure company in Atlanta, Georgia… they may even remember it paired with a drawing or two of Santa Claus enjoying said beverage. Of course, the point of the ad was “refresh yourself with our product,” but the other available (thus, probably unintentional) lesson was the word pause.

“Seconderth (a deep map)”, my ongoing project to record what remains of the Elder Days of Second Life, reached a natural break-point with the post about Tehama. The next phase of grid expansion to be considered coincides with the change from Closed to Open Beta. In the chronology used (inconsistently) in the Second Life Wikia, that corresponds to the release of Version 0.5.0 of Second Life, The Software. In the calendrical system used by the rest of Planet Earth, that was March 31, 2003, and Steller Sunshine had passed her First Rezday.

Come to think of it… reading those old Release Notes may be at least as edifying a glimpse into Second Life’s history as the visual record. Between the appearance of Tehama on the Grid (December 12 2002) and the Opening of Beta, two versions of what we now think of as the Viewer were released. Here are some quotes from their respective Release Notes, beginning with Version 0.3.0 (January 20 2003):

OBJECT TAXES

Previous to this release, the taxation scheme for objects was that each shape received a fixed charge of L$3/week.

With this release, the per shape charge will be variable, based on the size of the shape and its height above ground. Small objects or those near ground level will generally enjoy reduced taxes, while large objects or those high in the air will be taxed more. For example, under the old scheme, a default shape created near the ground would be assessed L$3/week, whereas under the new plan, it would be assessed L$1/week. Similarly, a maximally scaled (10 meters) box raised to 20 meters above ground would be assessed L$3/week under the old scheme, but charged over L$30/week under the new plan.

The exact tuning of these numbers will likely change during the beta period. Most users will see a drop in their object taxes as a result of this change. Those with enormous towers or very large/high objects may see an increase.

You will now also be able to see the exact weekly tax an object will cost, by selecting/editing and looking in the general properties panel. Selecting multiple objects will display the total tax for all those objects. So it should be easy to check what your taxes are going to be on a given project.

The charges for lights will remain the same as before.

LAND TAXES

Land taxes now have a discount awarded for land located close to other land owners. The discount is based on the percentage of resident-owned land near the center of the chosen parcel, and can reach as high as 50% (this number will be subject to tuning during the beta). In other words, if you buy a plot which is completely surrounded by neighbors, it could be as much as 50% cheaper to buy and maintain than a plot sitting alone in the countryside. Additionally, the rate applies to your own plot as well, making it somewhat cheaper to buy one large plot versus several small ones scattered around.

The discount rate (for all property owners) will change dynamically as new residents move in, so you drop the taxes of your neighbors by moving in next to them, and vice-versa. This should make choosing neighbors fun–you make their taxes lower by living near them! Choose wisely!

Version 0.4.0 (the Wikia fails to record the date of release):

Find and recycle trash, make money!

“Object decay to public” is a major new feature in this release. Many residents have noted that there appear to be a lot of abandoned objects in the system. Perhaps someone lost an object, or a resident has stopped playing Second Life. Until now, there has been no way to clean up these objects.

As of this release, any object on public land will have a timer. When a resident interacts with the object (edits it, plays with it, pays it money, takes a copy, etc), this timer resets. However, once the timer hits 72 hours (three days where no one has interacted with the object), the object is “released” and ownership is set to public.

Objects on owned land do not have timers. So if you want to keep your objects from going public, you can either claim the land underneath them, or persuade a friend to keep your objects on his land.

If you want to see if your object is “decaying to public”, hover your mouse over it. If it is going public, there will be a line at the bottom saying “Decay to public: %”. When the number reaches 100%, the object becomes public.

Note that the public objects retain their permissions. By default, no one can modify them or copy them. They can only be deleted.

So how do you make money? As you know, all objects have a creation cost. Refunding of creation cost has been separated into two amounts – one for releasing and one for deleting.

Previous to this release, you would get the L$10/object creation cost refunded when you release to public or delete an object. Going forward objects, whether public or private, retain some value until they are deleted.

Here’s how it works using some sample scenarios:

1. You create a cube and then delete it. Creation cost was $10, deleting refunds you $10.
2. You create a cube, release it public, then delete it. Creation cost was $10, releasing refunds you $6, deleting refunds you $4.
3. You create a cube, release it public, leave it somewhere and then it’s deleted by someone else who cleans up after you. Creation cost was $10, releasing refunded you $6, and the person who deleted it receives $4.
4. You create a cube, leave it on public land, after 72 hrs of non-interaction it becomes public. Then you or someone else deletes it. Creation cost was $10, once it decayed to public you receive $4 while $2 leaks back to the economic pool. Then whoever deletes the public cube receives $4.

Finally, scripts don’t run on public objects. The script window will have the running checkbox disabled and some text explaining that it can’t run on a public object.

Say what???

You see: Midbies like me, and all of the folks who’ve joined since ’07, have the tendency to think that the SL we know has always been that way. It hasn’t. And I think we’re damn lucky that is still isn’t the way it was Back Then — in fact, barely-comprehensible accounting tricks like those from Version 0.3 and 0.4 were bound to have killed SL if they had remained. And while I’m at it… In answer to Hamlet Au’s “If You Think an Achievement System is Incompatible With Second Life, You Don’t Remember How Second Life Started”, here’s this, also from 0.4.0:

# Leader Boards – “High Score” has been added to the leader boards. This is a composite of other factors on the leader boards.
* Leader Boards – “Net Worth” has been added to the leader boards. It is based on your cash balance, owned land, and owned objects.
* Leader Boards – “Reputation” has been broken into three categories, “Behavior”, “Appearance”, and “Building”.

# Ratings – When you rate someone, you can independently rate their behavior (like chat, messages, and general helpfulness), appearance (skill with avatar appearance and attachments), and building (skill with construction of objects and scripts).

# Ratings – It costs $1 to rate someone, or to change your rating of them.

I don’t need to have been there to know how Second Life started: haltingly, with a lot of experimentation with how the economy and the social structure worked. And all of it by fiat, handed down by the Lab to the Residents without consultation, whose first news of it was probably in those very Release Notes. When, last time, I said that the one thing the Lab could do to improve things was to “stop acting like Linden Lab”, it was not without the knowledge that their habits have been deeply ingrained.

It’s been five weeks since Mark Kingdon was assisted to “step down” — a collective pause throughout the Grid where many took a chance to catch their breath, and a few seemed to have held theirs in anticipation of what was to come. Finally, Philip had his public talk. I waited until afterward to read the transcript. And yeah, even while it was still being delivered, the meme (and the jokes about it) hit the Twitterwaves: Fast, Easy, Fun. A lot of promises were implied, details to follow… and as we all should know by know: Acta, non verba.

If 70% of the Lab’s recent staff levels can “do less, better” by focusing on the “less” Phil outlined yesterday, then perhaps they can make the in-world experience what it should already have been by now, if they don’t burn out first (see Snickers Snook’s follow-up on the Marketplace mess for a glimpse of what at least one Linden is going through). But — the User Experience is only half of what Second Life is made of.

The other half is Policy. “Fast, Easy, Fun” doesn’t cut it when it comes to things like intellectual property rights, bots, scams, griefing, harassment, and plain old every day Customer Service. So I have a second three-word mantra to suggest to Phil:

Coherent

Consistent

Cooperative

Show me some of that, and we’ll see whether or not the pause was truly refreshing.

.

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4 responses to “The Pause that Refreshes

  1. Yes, he scores high marks for saying things people wanted to hear, and, seeing what a complete mess it all was in the early days (I wonder if this strange size tariff has affected their ability to give us megas)…. well, I guess it has all come a long way, but, with staff now doing 18 hour days, how much will actually get done.

    Not Fast, Easy, Fun for the poor buggers left in the office crunching code….

    Still, anything is possible,….. except megas and a L$ tier reduction….

  2. Lalo, I love that LL remark from the 0.4.0 version of the release notes about “playing Second Life.”

    Seems that “play” became a bad word along the way somewhere. Pity, really.

    We chuckled about the “fun” bit in Rosedale's trinity of goals, but it should be front and center. If new residents can have fun quickly, they'll put up with other problems well all know too well.

  3. When you own the only baseball, the only catchers mitt, the only bat, as well as the sandlot… it's likely difficult to give up total control.

    You know, just maybe it will be easier to do that once you see that the grid next door has a bat and ball now…and that grid is nice and green.

  4. @soror: Yes, Ordinal has it right — it'll be slow, difficult and boring for the Labbies who actually have to fulfill Philip's promises (would you call that fulPhilment?) :P

    The so-called 'mega' issue has me baffled — unless it's just LL inertia from hardware constraints of 8 years ago. They can't be oblivious to the fact that 128 (or even 256!) meter prims are standard fare in OS grids… can they?

    @Iggy: Yeah, I chuckled over that one, too… and I often wonder if the fun of SL is in inverse proportion to how much one knows (in the old muckraking journalism phrase) about “how the sausage is made”.

    Still in all, Phil's speech was a clear admission (as his SL7B speech was a thinly veiled one) that keeping the tier-paying customer base happy is most important — and they're the ones who know most about the sausage.

    @Brinda: Yes, I think that's finally beginning to sink in, too: there's more than one playground out there now.

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