TL;DR

godAnd there, in my opinion, is summed up in just four letters, one of the fundamental reasons that new sign-ups tend not to hang around in sl long enough to make a lasting impression, and possibly also why there seems to be an ever-growing exodus of seasoned residents heading towards the exit signs.

It’s a thought that’s been bumping around the cavities in my head for a week or so, looking for an appropriate moment to splurge forth. The time seemed right, following the rather predictable shockwave that has emanated from a recent post by Ener Hax on her blog in which she identifies a decline in annual private sim revenue (tier) of around $13,000,000 (that’s USD, not the linden variety!), over the last three years – equating to around a $1,000 drop in revenue for Linden Lab every day.

That’s a lot of bucks for the Lab to lose from its mainstream breadwinner and – of course – the usual suspects have come up with the usual tirade of abuse at the Lab, citing all the usual reasons why sl is dying a horrible and inevitable death, (yawn). The top three complaints, (well, just a wild guess actually, but i’m almost certainly correct), are as follows:

  • Tier is too damn high
    A flawed argument, in which nobody ever seems to realise that few people have the cash to throw around on luxuries they had available a couple of years ago – belts have to be tightened and the gas bill has to be paid. That’s also a prime reason that concurrency is dropping. As for the argument that reducing tier would encourage greater land ownership from the masses… are you serious? Many of the rank and file are just like me: they’re not going to pay for Premium, just to own land and have the headache of calculating monthly tier when they can pay a land baron rent to do it for them, without any penalties!
  • SL is borked/no-one will ever consider sl unless you bring back V1
    Complete nonsense! SL is far less borked than it ever was in the past and has progressed in leaps and bounds in the last couple of years – can you honestly recall the last time you really suffered lag? And yet, that word comes up every time when sl’s health is in question. As for the V1 troglodytes… grow up, or shut up!
  • Linden Lab don’t care about/listen to their users
    And when exactly was the last time that Micro$oft, Virgin, Apple, Sony, Tesco, or any other large company in the business of making money demonstrated they care about or listen to their users? Be realistic, folks.

At the risk of being publicly lambasted, humiliated and being told i don’t have a clue about anything, i shall nail my colours to the mast here and now and make it clear – if it isn’t already – the above reasons, and most of the other’s frequently touted as barriers to new sign-ups and user retention, are a load of donkey poo and, whilst they might be the root cause of maybe one in a hundred people throwing in the sl towel, the real fist holding the hammer, driving the nail into the coffin is not in any way attached to sl, Linden Lab or money, but is wielded by the people themselves who frequent sl.

Leaving aside the fact that we are, without doubt, the most wretched, obnoxious, back-biting bunch of moaning, whining, holier-than-thou scumbags of a user-base that has ever graced the internet – which certainly doesn’t lend itself to peace, tranquillity and happy wanderings in the metaverse – we, and our real world, are fundamentally different from what we were in the glory days when sl was very much ‘The Main Event’.

trees1_001Take a wander with me down Memory Lane, back to the early days of sl, maybe seven or eight years ago. What were the people like who engaged with sl way back then, and what was our world like?

The large majority of sl residents would have been of the generation that grew up in the Golden Age of computing – people who were more familiar with ‘BBS’, ‘DOS’ and ‘CP/M’ than with ‘LOL’ and ‘WTF’. These were individuals who, as youngsters, had struggled to write their own code, limited to 16K, for games on the ZX Spectrum and would willingly wait through several cups of tea to load a program from cassette tape. They were people whose first taste of the internet had been on 28K dial-up modems, using Netscape Navigator, (remember watching pictures download… line… by… line?), or a freebie CD from AOL, stuck to the front of a computer magazine. Facebook was practically unknown and only the uber-trendies had MySpace accounts.

In short, these were the sort of people whose expectation, formed by experience, was that sl was a challenge to be relished. If something didn’t work, someone would come up with a hack, workaround or fix; if something was supposed to do one thing, someone would come up with another half-dozen novel implementations; people expected slow and clunky, had no problem dealing with it, and had a hundred-and-one ways of filling their time creatively when the world ground to a halt around them. If you didn’t know what a button did, you pressed it to find out… if you didn’t know how to do something, you’d find out, or invent a new way to do it.

Fast-forward, (now there’s an archaic term), to today. Our world – and in many cases, even those people i’ve just been talking about – have changed immensely. Today, we expect things to work immediately, first time, every time, preferably with a glossy UI that means we never have to look behind the scenes at what’s really going on. We want intuitive, we want straightforward, we want point-and-click and, when we don’t get it, we don’t have the staying power or the appetite to get to grips with the nuts and bolts, so – all too often – we just quit.

Which brings me back to ‘TL;DR’ – which i’m seeing ever more frequently popping up all over the internet. This is the generation, (which also includes us), of the soundbite; the acronym; the instant hit and the result on demand – we don’t want to learn new ways of doing things, we don’t want to wade through the instructions, we don’t want to go through a lengthy setup process, we want to know instinctively how to get the result we want: that’s why Micro$oft resurrected the Start Button in Windows 8 – no-one was prepared to learn how to live without it. No longer do we have a hunger for the learning and developmental process, instead we want instant wins, without all the hard work involved in achieving them. We, and our world, have fundamentally changed.

No doubt you will tell me that since we have changed so much, then so should sl.

No, no, no; ten thousand times, no! SL fits into that niche of applications that demand we work towards excellence, and to dumb it down into some bland, super-intuitive, slick sort of Powerpoint presentation will simply rip the guts from our virtual world, (remember the web-browser project?), and bring it down to a level of insipidness that will see residents leave faster than any hike in tier. Think of sl in the same terms as applications like Blender, Maya, Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Melodyne… certainly anyone can use them, but the only way that you’ll ever produce anything that even remotely resembles a half-decent mesh, image, website or soundtrack is to knuckle-down and do things the old-fashioned, time-consuming, labour intensive way… there are no shortcuts for getting from zero to hero: it takes hard work, tenacity, studied application and a personal investment – but the end result can be brilliant!

SL is old school – it is a platform that provides us with the potential to produce outstanding results, but to do so, we have to learn its nuances and foibles, we have to be prepared to get our hands dirty and fiddle around under the bonnet, and – above all – we have to realise that in order to get to grips with the viewer, the physics and the virtual world itself, we’re going to have to move along that learning curve, and it can be a slow process.

That’s why people don’t hang around so much after joining up, and that’s why even seasoned pro’s are starting to head off to new pastures. We want everything handed to us on a plate. Personally, that’s not the sl i want – i prefer to be challenged and i want to continue learning – sl is the perfect vehicle for me, and long may it continue as it is.

Yes, i know this has been too long, but i hope you read it all!

s. x

I wonder what you’re dreaming
While we’re halfway cross this bridge
We’ve come too far to turn back
We’re just too close to quit
Gin Blossoms – Learning The Hard Way

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4 Responses to TL;DR

  1. My take on my early days in SL (late ’05 – early ’06) is a little different from yours. We were mostly what Philip once unkindly referred to cripples; that is socially isolated in RL by physical, emotional or geographical limitations. Many were very creative. Almost all were very enthusiastic about having found a social and creative outlet that worked for them. LL likes to put us down as a niche market, but we are their core and if they focused more on the attributes of SL that attracted and hold us, they would do better.
    As to your 3rd bullet point; LL is doing better at communication thanks largely to the user groups and the communication skills of the Lindens who run them. They get into trouble when they do not consider our point of view (TOS). SL is not “Micro$oft, Virgin, Apple, Sony, Tesco”, it’s entire existence is dependent on our willingness to be here – and at a level where we pay them for the privileged. After all we are a bunch of cripples, and can sometimes take offense. 🙂

    • i take your point – the ‘cripples’ quote is one i’ve written about previously, and upon which you commented at the time (https://serenhaven.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/quote-unquote/) – and although i wouldn’t disagree that early sl pioneers were possibly a niche group that had found themselves a welcoming environment in which they could aspire to be more than their real world would permit, i still stand by what i’ve said about the sort of people who were pushing the boundaries of the internet at the time. i’m sure that a good proportion of those early residents also formed part of that particular grouping. Indeed, the general perception of those who spent a large proportion of their time on BBS and Usenet groups was that of social ineptitude and solitariness.

      i wouldn’t want to dismiss Philip’s remark out of hand though as wholly disparaging – he does recognise that the same group of people had to be highly motivated in order to get on and learn to use sl, which is precisely the point i wanted to make. Nerds and cripples we might be, but highly motivated, creative ones at that!

      Yes, there are some differences between the business model of sl and other, strictly in it for the money, corporations. The sl i wrote about almost 2 years ago (https://serenhaven.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/the-future-is-a-foreign-country/) has vastly improved, particularly with regard to communication and innovation, and is a very different beast today. However, the business model is changing and LL are diversifying – no longer are all the financial eggs in the sl basket and the Lab is no longer a one-trick pony. It’s not difficult to anticipate that with the sort of enhanced experience that could result from partnerships with Occulus Rift and – who knows – maybe even High Fidelity, will eventually come into play in justifying what we pay. At the moment, it does seem that we’re paying well over the odds for the priviledge of the Lab hosting our content, but throw in super hi-res, immersive 3D – which in itself would provide evidence that the Lab has been listening to its users – and the investment becomes more bearable. At the moment our willingness to stay may be more to do with goodwill and stubbornness, but if sl continues to improve on the technical side, that may well change.

      That said, the Lab still need to work on their customer relations – it’s probably their weakest point, but a vital one, as the TOS punch-up has ably demonstrated. Once the Lab learn not to clam up at the slightest hint of unrest, they stand a chance of moving forward!

      s. x

  2. i wish that Linden Lab did pay attention

    i once had tremendous passion for SL and my blog used to only evangelise about SL and i have over 10,000 flickr pics of SL

    i used to be an official SL Mentor and used to pay $2,920 USD a month to LL

    i don’t wish SL anything bad but i also don’t preach how awesome they couild be

    your post is very passionate and honest. LL would do very well to read your words and understand that people like you are who they should care about

    • SL’s loss is Opensim’s gain, and it’s the valued and passionate supporters, such as yourself that Linden Lab really needs to understand are the bedrock of sl. They have a bizarre habit of picking and choosing individuals to support and back, whilst leaving the majority who give ceaselessly to the platform unsupported and unheard. It’s inevitable that some will go elsewhere when they can see no tangible returns on their investments. Maybe the Lab needs to wise up and realise that the financial cushion they’ve made themselves over the years cannot compensate for loss of talent and active supporters to other Grids.

      It further underlines the point that profits aren’t everything – a virtual environment like sl depends on the good will and talent of its users; when those same users feel they have been let down and treated badly, they won’t hang around, and sl will slowly grind to a halt.

      Perhaps it’s not just the world around us and the nature of the internet that has changed which has contributed to the decline of sl – if we still had the support, some level of encouragement and the dialogue with the Lab, (yes, even the disagreements), that was very much a feature of the earlier years of sl, maybe the will to get stuck in would be that much stronger – as it is, even sighting a Linden inworld seems to be a thing of the past, and the rift between ‘them’ and ‘us’ has become increasingly wider. i guess, even the most stalwart supporter, with the best will in the world to learn and manipulate the virtual environment, is going to wonder why bother, if they’re getting nothing in return.

      Many thanks for your insight.

      s. x

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