Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Few Thoughts on the Impending Changes to SL

Well, as we all know, LL is gonna shake our world up once again. I've been following the forums and talking to several folks, and I promised I'd get on here and have my say. When SL was conceived, it was the ultimate libertarian utopia: anything was fair game, as long as it didn't infringe upon the rights of others. Land owners were allowed to determine what sort of activities they would allow. LL assured us that everyone on the grid was 18 or over, and we were all adults. Now they want to banish all "Adult" activity to a separate continent and restrict access to paid residents or those who have verified their age through a 3rd party service. I've been inworld over two years, and have run into very little PG content. It seems it would be easier to make a prude continent and restrict those who don't know how to TP away from things that frighten them to Disneytopia. Really, how may people have you run into inworld who complain about the grown-up nature of the grid? Just like TV, those who dislike the content are free to search out only PG sims or simply not come into SL. I came up with two major theories behind the changes being forced upon us, the paying customers:

1. From the beginning, SL has tried to attract RL businesses to use SL as a conferencing platform. Just like any other venture, corporate sponsorship is welcome, as it helps defray the costs. Ever look at a race car? I have been to several business meetings in SL, and it's great for collaborative modeling. I have even used SL to inexpensively render 3-D drawings for RL construction projects. OK, Kaedy did that, but you get the point. SL does have RL uses. There are some glaring flaws with this plan, however. First of all, most business computers are incapable of even running SL. Look around you at work. Unless you're in the graphics business, not one of those machines even has a discrete graphics card. Second, there's the bandwidth issue. SL takes a huge amount of bandwidth to operate efficiently. Your business would have to be directly connected to the backbone for this to work. And there would be major upgrades needed in your IT closet to handle it all. In these lean economic times, spending millions to facilitate the occasional meeting is not going to fly past the CFO. It's way cheaper to fly folks in. Third, you have the perception of SL as a "game". I can imagine the grumblings of my coworkers that some of us were "gaming" on company time. The meetings I attend in SL I do from home on my own computer and my own bandwidth.

In my business meetings in SL, there were many people new to SL and the concept of virtual worlds. Many of these people have barely mastered email. Yes, they were shocked at some of the things they saw while randomly bopping around SL. No different than if they wandered around any major European city. These businesspeople are not going to become paid, frequent users of SL. They pop in every month or two for a 2-hour meeting. They do very little shopping, clubbing, etc. Bending over backward to cater to these occasional SLers is a bad idea. Maybe a separate "square business only" continent? Look, they are still adults, and responsible to use Search and read the freakin' descriptions before they go TPing somewhere. Just what do they think "escort" means? Something different than in RL? And where do they get off telling those of us who spend $1000USD a month what we can and cannot do? I remember "Your World, Your Imagination"..........Hey, LL, the diehard addicts are your bottom line, not the stuffed suits.

2. LL is intentionally trying to drive off residents. As SL grows, the need for more infrastructure grows as well. In order to keep costs in check and assure a healthy profit margin, LL, from time to time, does something so asinine it drives folks away for good. The "OpenSpace" debacle comes to mind. There were other solutions than what LL decided upon. They chose the one that resulted in the greatest loss of residents. How many people do you know that either left SL for good, or rarely come in now that they can't afford a place to live? Pay no attention to the numbers on the login splash screen. At least 30,000 are bots. Next time SL is down for any significant period of time, look at the number when you log in. 10 seconds after logins are reactivated, there are 30,000 concurrent users. That's either Lindens or bots.

The actual number of users does continue to grow, so to avoid having to buy even more servers, bandwidth, staff, etc. LL has hatched another plan to run folks off. There are numerous reasons why folks do not want to give their CC info, and even more to not trust a 3rd party verification service. Neither one will keep a determined underage person from getting inworld. Use a parent's info. Hell, use a grandparent's. Not like they'll have any clue. Tell them "Linden Labs" is a school expense. So that isn't it.....must be that LL needs to keep resident numbers down to maximize profits.....hmmm.....something to think about anyway.

LL keeps repeating that "Adult" activities account for only 3% of the grid. My ass. The grid is empty as ever, 24 hours a day, except for Mature and Adult activities. They can't even decide what is Mature and what is Adult. Sure, there is a list, but as usual it's subject to change on a whim. I have a better idea. Post a warning on the splash screen: This Is An Adult Virtual Experience. Under 18 Prohibited. If You're Uptight, Prudish, Intolerant, or Incapable of Logging Out, DO NOT ENTER!!!

OK, if you've read this far, I'll sum it up very simply: Fuck Censorship.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I'm Baaaaaaack!

Oi. I just noticed that I forgot to update the event listing this week. Amazing what RL does to ya. I'll get it updated tonite for next week. Anyways, the semester is over, and I actually have time for a second life again! That means I'll be more visible (and hopefully audible) inworld, and will be blogging more regularly. I have quite a few things to get off my chest, so stay tuned......