Wednesday, August 11, 2010
"I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad..." ~ monologue from "Network"
I have had two very uncomfortable encounters yesterday with users in SL. One was with a "land owner" who owns 100s of sims apparently, unhappy about how LL has restructured their customer service.
Second was with a friend who had left a comment on the Second Life blogs, showing clear irritation about receiving a report from the moles, saying that LL was not putting its money to the right resources when Qarl has been let go.
People are mad about SL and it's running over into conversations, relationships, group chat, everywhere. All this anger and frustation is not what I log into SL for. Bleah.
People are pissed about search, the changes in XStreet, the 2.0 and 2.1 viewers (including Chris Pirillo, and honestly, what a fail that was because he got saddled with 2.1), the Lindex, and God knows what else. They are even pissed Philip won't be showing up at SLCC to address the angry mobs (though if he did, tons others would be pissed he spent the money to go). A lot of it is hyperbole, half-informed garbage, and general crankiness.
However, it's reached a fever pitch. Linden Lab needs to do something--it's clear. Linden Lab, your user base is mad and soon they won't take it anymore.
That being said, I want to point out that the user base is not the Board of Linden Lab. As I have *always* argued, Linden Lab is a private enterprise. They have a right to make the decisions they make, to review their financial reports and personnel, to allocate their resources as they choose. They don't have to answer to us as anything but the consumers we are.
Nevertheless, this is the thing, LL. We are the consumers.
And when WoW becomes more interesting to me than fighting with the myriad interface weirdnesses of 2.0, and watching movies on YouTube becomes more compelling to me than spending my Linden on prim toes, and Twitter becomes more effective for me to spread my message, and Facebook becomes more fun for me to diddle away my time on, and Skype gives me better voice, and my iPad has better graphics, chances are I will put my money and time towards those things. It's happening already ;)
Because all this anger is a real buzzkill.
When new users log into SL and hear current users complaining about SL or read the blogs or try to get help and get the excuse, "Well, it's SL," you really have to wonder how long they will stay.
There's a better way to wrap your heads around all this impatience and anger, Linden Lab. The people above, the people complaining, the big whiners (and God, they *are* whiners sometimes--I agree)--a lot of them are as good as shareholders. They have plowed a lot of time and personal skills and resources into this platform to aid in its development and to sell it others. This isn't like WoW where we pay a subscription and get what we pay for and no more and no less. Or like Twitter where we get what we pay (nothing) and get 140 characters. Or YouTube where we can no longer fulfill our need for pirated works. No, this is the world we make ourselves.
So, Philip, when you address those mobs at SLCC using SL (and man, better make sure that connection is rock solid before you start talking), you had better start addressing some questions like, what happened to customer service? And what are you going to do about meshes? And when will search be usable? And why do you persist in pursuing 2.0 when it's clearly a fail? And why is so damn hard to purchase Linden? And why did you let go of so many personnel so quickly when clearly so many loose ends have to be tied up? And when are we going to stop being the laughing stock of the rest of the web (or even worse, completely missing)?
I realize it's not easy to address a shareholder meeting where the shareholders are angry. But many before you have done it. Give us honest answers, explain what is going on with the Lab so people can make reasonable choices about their businesses, their investments, and their time. Tell us where you think you made the wrong turn and where we're going from here. Face it--it's not going to be Fast, Easy, or Fun. But it is what it is.
I don't have a solution for you, Philip, for the above problems. That's your job.
All I know is, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
Sunday, May 23, 2010
We agreed what was most alarming was the tacit approval Linden Lab gave to promoting free things to new players. As I had written in a blog last October, I think Linden Lab needs to do away with suggesting to new players that life in SL is free. It's a cultural cue (and yes, T Linden, there IS a culture in SL, just as corporations have cultures and groups have cultures) that imprints on players the moment they enter, and they chase after the "free" experience on everyone else's dime and time (including Linden Lab's).
Here is the ad in question, marked up as sent to Blue.
Thanks for letting us come to your office hours this afternoon and bring up our concerns about an ad we had seen that had been sent out to new users.
I am attaching the ad with mark ups so you can discuss the points made with whomever has to see it.
We are concerned with the ad as it discourages users in SL from believing that they have to pay for content in SL. We understand the reasoning behind it, but we believe it ultimately encourages a culture in which content is devalued rather than valued. We would rather see you teach new users how to register to purchase Linden right off the bat. We would rather see, if anything at all, a suggestion that “gifts,” rather than “freebies,” are available to new users.
Underlying all this is a general concern among most content creators about “freebies” in SL. We believe neither Linden Lab nor content creators in SL benefit from the “freebie culture” that has become so predominant. By talking about “freebies,” by making them a main focus on the first pages new users see, you are devaluing the work of content creators and ultimately, the value of Second Life.
Freebies are just that. They are content that is provided without exchange of the Linden currency to be put into people's inventories. We understand the prevailing argument about freebies—that for new users they allow them choice in defining their look and help teach them the mechanisms of customizing their avatar. For those first few days, it's a boon to Linden Lab to have freebies exist—they entice users into one of the experiences of Second Life that is so fun—the customization of one's visual and aural experience in world. They teach users that their Second Life is their own and push them to continue in world.
The problem we have is that some users never get past this point, and an ad like yours doesn't help. Content creators have seen a glut of “freebies” in-world and that has had direct economic impact on them. This causes downward pressure on content pricing and also forces creators to devote time to making items to give out for free just to entice customers to see their other content, hampering their ability to spend their time profitably. This kind of time expenditure for content creators can't last. Eventually, designers who were providing high-end content will flee to other opportunities and other worlds as downward pressure on the pricing of their content continues going on. Ultimately, you'll have a large portion of the creators that provide income and quality content for SL gone.
What that will mean for Linden Lab is a hit on your bottom line. Content creators who currently keep sims for selling their goods (and additional sims on which to do their building and work in-world) will stop being able to pay tiers. Free content creators will not buy sims because they have no income to purchase them and they will not exchange Linden because they have no income to exchange out. And no one will be exchanging money in because, well, everything is free! (Except for uploads, of course.)
We can't imagine the glut of free content is great for Linden Lab anyway. As individual inventories fill up with “free stuff”—a lot of it less than ideal—landmarks, useless textures, 20 colors of the same multi-prim piece, scripts, etc., your asset servers will fill up. While you want users to have choice, we are sure you don't want them to have their inventories up to 100,000 items of junk. Additionally, every click for a freebie is a click—and another tax on your system. Each transaction seems microscopic, but it has to add up. We also can't imagine you want the XStreetSL databases full of such things.
We, as content producers, all have experience with freebies. We tried using them to build interest and traffic for our businesses. Our metrics show us that they do not generate sales for us or for our associates. When we have given out freebies on our sim or at other sims, we have never seen an appreciable increase in sales during the giveaway or after. We see a spike in traffic but not in sales. However, we feel pressured to offer them in order to simply break through the noise of all the other items being offered. They take as much time to make as content on which we put a price but they give us little in return.
What we concluded is that the audience that typically looks for freebies is not the demographic that brings money into Second Life. If we are looking for a promotion for getting money-spending customers to see our products, this is not it.
Most importantly, our philosophy is that time spent producing content of the level that most residents enjoy is worth some compensation. We are real people spending substantial real time on content. Second Life has given us the opportunity to be compensated for our time and skills, and Linden Lab in turn receives a portion of that compensation every time we pay tier, move money in or out of the system, or upload textures. Offering “freebies” devalues those skills and time for us. It sets into the customer culture a belief that this work should be free. And it furthers the notion that replicating content and redistributing it (called “intellectual property theft” by some) is condonable. In the end, it will set into the minds of consumers the idea that what Linden Lab offers should also be free.
We realize that Linden Lab is a private enterprise; our success is yours and yours is ours. We also realize that the push for a “free” Internet is part of a greater culture that pervades the entire grid. Certainly Amazon.com, for example, offers free content. However, they don't offer it on their splash page nor do they offer it without a certain amount of diligent user awareness. We know that virtual goods is a multi-billion dollar industry with much more potential. Linden Lab has told us this. How would you deny us all this little piece of the pie? How would you cut yourselves off at the legs by letting your new users think life in Second Life is a no-cost proposition?
We want Linden Lab to succeed. We want you to retain new users. However, we want these to be spending users. Rethink your ads and your marketing approach. Consider what you're really selling and sell it well. Cut us all in on the deal so we can help make Linden Lab grow.
from Designers in Seclusion
P.S. A few days after this letter was sent, my account received another email with this graphic:
This is what we like to see!
Quick note: I do not think LL issued this ad because of my letter. However, Blue did email me that day to something more along the lines of, "Is this what you meant?" I do not attribute this ad to this letter. But I DO feel they heard.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
However, I would like to feature a little blog here about being a content designer in SL. Raven, my wonderful boss at RFyre, receives countless notices, IMs, demands, etc., daily. She is incredibly patient with them and beyond generous with her time and resources. Most of them are polite and well meaning. Some are rude. And some are just plain old stupid.
Titled: EVENT SPONSORSHIP FROM SOMEONE'S NAME
Greetings, I own a multi-purpose adult entertainment venue & would very much like to have you sponsor one or more of our events. We would like to have you either send models or provide some of our employees with your fashions, that you are interested in showcasing. It would be fabulous if you could provide us with a prize of some sort, as we are HOUSE of RFYRE fans & are interested in promoting you in a very specific way. We already own & wear your clothing etc. & send others to you. Thank you for your time & consideration.
We had a good laugh about this. So we wrote back (but didn't send):
We own a top of the line fashion line in SL. We would like to have you sponsor our continued existence and help Raven pay her tier and RL mortgage because to give you the kind of content you want, she does it full time. Please send models or send your friends over to shop at our store. We would love to showcase you. It would be fabulous too if you could provide us with a prize--something like buying more of our outfits. In fact, we think everyone in your club should purchase something. Then you could sponsor US by having a Best of RFyre contest.
We love your music and love to dance on your poseballs.
House of RFyre
Then later I wrote this letter to Raven, just to push her over the edge:
Titled: *interesting* and *amazing* opportunityI passed the last letter to several friends. They all said, "Hmm.. who sent this and what is their service?" They DIDN'T laugh. I asked one why he didn't laugh, and he said, "I am so used to getting this stuff I thought it was another letter you received in your business...." He paused. "You mean it's not REAL?"
(Insert Name Here) Raven Pennyfeather
I am writing because you are a very close personal friend of mine and I think you owe it to me and yourself to hear what I have to tell you and sell you because it's the best thing in Second Life. Not only will it *improve* your business but it will also create opportunities for you. Once you discover the synergies that are created, you will be amazed and wonder why you've never spoken to me before.
I will IM you at my earliest convenience because I am a busy man, selling this to so many successful people in SL like yourself. When I do, you will be *surprised* and *amazed* and will kick yourself for having never spoken to me before. It's very economical. For 10000L, leave it all to us. You will be astounded!
Here is a lm. Use it. I have no idea where it goes but it looks official.
(no parcel), Missing Sim (128, 128, 0)
CEO of Synapse Enterprises, LLC
I am no longer surprised. There is a deep undercurrent in SL culture that denies the hard work of content creators. This weird sort of engagement comes from a number of different sources:
1. "SL is just a game." People still consider SL a game and therefore, try to play the game by exploiting everyone else to get their means achieved.
Some are doing this very well. A media conglomerate owner who can barely rez a prim has managed to purchase 4 sims, run a magazine, have a modeling agency, create a website, and, he recently said on his new SL TV show, make a RL living out of SL. He spends a lot of time making other people do things for him to create content. And he pays them nothing or next to nothing. Which leads to my next point....
2. "Content creation does not have value. However, my brilliant idea of how to assemble it does." Content creation--creating graphic art, building with prims, scripting, writing--none of them have value. However, deciding to make a club, assemble a bunch of people to create a magazine, renting land--those somehow all have value. Both have a sort of value. Graphic art would just sit around on prims if there weren't people pitching it. However, the business of making that art is still work. And at this point, it's more skilled and more difficult work.
3. "I can't afford to pay for this stuff." There is some weird mentality that says, "The computer I use that is good enough to handle Second Life, the broadband internet connection, the ISP, the electricity--none of that is free. However, I can't afford to pay for the entertainment that I find on the Internet nor for the content I expect you to provide to promote my fun and the fun of my patrons. Therefore, the time and skills you put into content creation SHOULD be free. And you should consider it a privilege I shone down on you."
Explain that one to me.
4. "I have no idea how it's really made. Therefore, it should be free." Marx once pointed out that we were separated from the means of production--we didn't understand how things were made--and this allowed us to buy into capitalism. (OMG, YES, I just said MARX.)
He had a point that still echoes today. Many in SL are disconnected from the means by which all this rich content comes to them. They don't understand that Adobe Photoshop CS4 costs $699, that Maya costs something I can't even find online because you have to go through a dealer, that Studio 3D Max, needed to be in Blue Mars, costs even MORE. This stuff takes skill, folks, and time. And for that, I have to pay someone a measly 2 bucks so I can feel gorgeous and beautiful and have fun with my friends? It's a BARGAIN!
It doesn't help that LL puts a "Freebie" area on each Orientation Island. Yeah, it teaches people how to dress themselves and teaches them how to "buy," but it doesn't really teach them about paying.
This is my proposal, and I hope Tom Hale (T Linden) sees this, because it was at Metanomics that he said retention in SL was based on first, making a friend, and second, investing money in your avatar. When newbies enter SL, give them 500L that shows in their account that they can use to BUY things but only in Orientation. Get rid of the "Freebie" area and call it the "Store." Allow them to shop at the Orientation Store. They can meet other new friends and mentors there and shop together. Once they leave Orientation Store, they lose whatever amount of Linden they had. And make sure the content they purchase is GOOD.
Explain to them in Orientation that SL can certainly be used for free; you can negotiate the whole world without spending a penny. However, if you want to dress up your avatar, have your own land, have a house, etc.--barring making it all yourself--you need to pay for it. And this is how you do it... and send them over immediately to sign up their credit card or PayPal.
This will somehow connect content to value, to cost, to real life money. Content creators built this world for you, residents--every darn beautiful pose ball you dance with, every stinkin' prim hair you put on your mesh head (over that skin someone drew). They should be able to make money from that. They SHOULD be able to "make bank."
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
DBC, which is an online television/radio station out of Switzerland, hosts a live jazz session at JazzBaragge, a club in downtown Zurich, nearly every Wednesday night. The musicians who play are top notch (heard members of Earth, Wind and Fire once). We dance to videos projected from the club of the band in the club and likewise, video of US is projected into the club. DBC mixes this in an interesting way to be shown on their website (that is Bergie and Pippi on the front page). You feel like you are AT the club at an intimate club concert.
Today we listened to Marc Sway.. on his RL birthday! He was incredible. I mean.. REALLY incredible (and cute!).
And JfR did us the kind favor of bringing us to Cannes when he went to the Film Festival. Yes, Harper can say she attended the RL Cannes Film Festival, even if only in pixels.
I could go on and on. I am always so happy and have so much fun at DBC. Search for DBC in world and join the club. They are doing amazing work.
This is what I hope for with my Second Life. A bridge between RL and SL, the ability to travel around the world and feel you are in an intimate space with friends, to be in a place you never thought you would ever have the chance to see.
Monday, June 22, 2009
However, this birthday is quite important to me, at least. My own RL son was born in March, the same year SL was born. (He's almost a charter member!) One of the most significant marks of his birth is that he managed to squeak out two days before President Bush declared war in Iraq. As I have watched him grow, I have marked the endurance of that war by seeing his progress. Through learning to walk, potty training, his first day of kindergarten, and his completion of Legos Star Wars (*sigh*), I have seen the growth of this beautiful child while my fellow citizens faced dangers unknown to me (and unnecessary to anyone it turns out) on the other side of the world.
This has relevance as we think about the birthday of Second Life. Philip Linden chose to launch Second Life during a time of great upheaval in our world. We had experienced 9-11 just two years before. We were and are witnessing our own world grappling with the agonies of a new war (and it involved more than just the US and Iraq--we have to acknowledge that), the fear of conflict, and the sinking of the world economy. And yet he, the Lindens, and the residents persist.
Probably it is a lot of hubris. We have to scoff at a group of people thinking they can make a new world. What did we think we are doing? Nation building? (Want to know what the folks at Linden Labs thought they were doing? Shameless plug here for a friend's book--read Thomas Malaby's Making Virtual Worlds--just released!)
I had a friend who asked me the other day, when you reach a goal, do you look ahead towards the next goal or do you look back and see where you have been? I said, look ahead, of course, because if I look back, I will just see all the things I could have done better. Second Life is choosing to look ahead, to see what the future of virtual worlds will hold (and, I will cynically say, picking the brains of residents for more visionary ideas of where to go).
Let me end this story about the conversation with my friend. He laughed and said, you need to look back and savor what you have accomplished. You deserve to acknowledge that. On this sixth birthday, let's acknowledge that our nation building worked out a lot better than Iraq. Second Life includes residents from all four corners of the globe, people with varying abilities (Virtual Ability), and people who love straight, gay, furry, and all sorts of ways. Despite all the drama, despite the lag, despite the lack of decent hair for men, it's pretty near utopia.
While we are walking through the 20 sims of exhibits at SL, let's take a moment to remember life without prim hair, without 25 groups, without 7 Seas and chickens, without 30,000+ sims, without sculpties and wings, without freedom from Ruth. Let's also a remember our world without Second Life. It would be pretty empty.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Fashion bloggers are also content creators themselves. LL has made it blessedly easy for us to examine our avatars and dress them and also *mostly* easy for us to take screen captures of our avatars (that latest camera "fix" in the RC stunk--good thing they fixed it). The screen captures they take and then edit, the text they write, the links they make--they are all content creation. Some fashion bloggers do exquisite montages of the creative content that they have purchased or have received with elaborate web formatting and links, many of them only with the compensation of future free content or the appreciation of their readers. In other words, these folks don't get paid for this and as anyone who knows me, I argue that people's skills and time have value.
I appreciate their efforts because I do the blog for House of RFyre, and it can be a considerable time expenditure and cost to style the avatar, find poses and locales, create the image in world and in other software, gather the links, and write a blog. I am fortunate because usually I have the content readily available and Raven makes the final images.
Callie Cline recently asked me to be officer of her fashion bloggers group, one she created to send appreciation to bloggers. I accepted because, frankly, I like Callie a lot. She has shown to me nothing but pure integrity in her dealings with me and others and an amazing savvy about marketing in Second Life. Several people I highly respect have spoken with great admiration of her as well.
So it's to her credit that I agreed to help her because, at the time, I was pretty neutral about bloggers and honestly, I was damn sick of SL. I was tired of being IM'd in the middle of my play time or build time with sometimes selfish requests from random people, I was tired of the drama between friends and others, and I was tired of the stinkin' rolling restarts. I was plain old sick of arguing with everyone. Callie coddled and encouraged me and turned me around.
I wrote a response to an entry by HawksRock Gunawan in a blog he shares with several others, one of whom had her own word to say about his post (heehee). The gist of it is, I am glad I participated and I will continue to participate. I have a new appreciation and thought process about what fashion bloggers are up to. Doesn't mean I love them all. Doesn't mean I think they all do a great job and that none of them need improvement (and will post in the future the notecard I was allowed to send to them with fashion blogging tips). Doesn't mean I am all sweet and am gonna cheerfully accept random IMs in the middle of the night. Just means I now "appreciate" better.
Below is my response to HawksRock, reprinted here because I don't think anyone read it there (not that anyone will read it here either). HawksRock was gracious enough to IM me and compliment me on my response.
I was one of the first Callie approached to help be an officer of the fashion bloggers group when she opened it. She had a simple idea–she would have a Bloggers Appreciation Week. She would hold a party for the bloggers at the end of the week on one of her sims (not the one with her store, thanks). She would send out some nice little things she made and ask others to do so as well. She really only had half an idea of the mechanisms going into it. However, her mandate was pretty simple–she just wanted to show the bloggers appreciation.
I was cynical about the whole enterprise but tempered my cynicism because, frankly, Callie is a nice lady who always comes at things with the best intentions, and after a pretty crappy week, I needed some cheerfulness. SL was really getting to me–I was sick of freebie hunters, lag, rolling restarts, drama, and all of it. To Callie’s credit, I argued with her about some fine points but she talked me out of them in the interest of being NICE to the BLOGGERS. Her message never waivered. Her intent was pure throughout.
After she started the ball rolling, she IM’d me the first day with reports about the participants. (Along the lines of “OMG, we have 50 in the group! Yay!” I am not kidding–she said this. Two hours later, “We have 87! OMG! I didn’t think anyone would join!” She did it in with her characteristic 20 page breaks–two to three words per line.) This thing really did snowball on her.
And yeah, she has some secret underlying ability to turn things into a good campaign. This is not deliberate–she just has it in her! Maybe it’s karmic. Send out to the world what you want back. Send out bile, you get it back. Callie sent out positivity. She got it back.
And yes, the officers put a LOT of time into this as did many other people, including the designers who offered items to the bloggers and Charlotte, who built the party space on Callie’s sim. Callie didn’t do this alone–she never claimed she did.
However, Callie herself sacrificed a lot of time to this–time that would have been otherwise spent on her business. If you have ever run a business in SL, you know time spent in world suddenly has great value. Cost it out–the many hours she dedicated to this group in the many ways she did (including defending it in comments in this blog) will never be recouped financially. She ain’t ever gonna get enough sales to cover that time.
Frankly, Hawks, if anyone should be holding Callie’s feet to the fire for claiming success “alone,” it should be people like me (or Shelly above). You don’t have to do it for me.
The thing is, though, I got what I needed–I saw a lot of bloggers having fun, I received lots of personal thanks, I saw lots of people being excited and creative in their blogs, I met a lot of cool people and learned some new things, and I had a pretty crappy week get turned around by Callie’s enthusiasm spreading through the group.
And Callie personally and publicly thanked me many times. Whether you or any other blogger heard it, I am not sure, but I am satisfied.
So I drank the kool-aid. I came out better for it.
Friday, May 22, 2009
The fabulous thing about KK is she's the real deal. She knows architecture and architects. She also knows art and has many friends in the art world, including painter David Hockney. (Side note: one of the first sets of images I imported into SL for my own personal use were Hockney's paintings. I decorated my first house in SL with them. So of course, I almost died when I found out she knew him.) KK has always been generous with her knowledge, her stories, and her time and friendship. It's why I asked Raven to name a dress after her :)
A few weeks ago, KK passed me a photo of a "painting" that Hockney did on his iPhone and had sent to his close friends. It was amazing and we were both excited. KK rezzed a prim and put the painting on it and hung it in her home in Avant Garde and all the residents got the opportunity to view it and enjoy it. We didn't say much--it was a personal communication between her friend David and herself, and she was sharing the beauty with just a few close friends.
KK called last night with another of Hockney's iPhone paintings and sent me this photo.
We since found some articles about the Hockney iPhone paintings so we felt it was ok to make this public. (Read about them on the Sundance channel or below.)
British painter David Hockney revealed Thursday how he uses his iPhone to paint pictures, as a new exhibition of works he produced on his computer opened in London.I am sure KK would be glad to share the beauty with others in SL. Knock on her door at our sim, Avant Garde or peek through the windows. She has a regular rotation of original wonderful art there. As do other residents on my other two sims. Will write more when I can.
"I like to draw flowers by hand on the iPhone and send them out to friends so they get fresh flowers. And my flowers last! They never die!" he told the Evening Standard newspaper.