On the recent unpleasantness

So I don’t usually post here on the Pressing Issues of the Day in Second Life, because there are so many of them, and they are often not really much fun, and other people have always posted more and better than I would anyway.

But in this case a v good friend suggested that something I sent her in email would make a good weblog posting, and how can I resist the opportunity to get a new weblog post with minimal work?

The Pressing Issue of the Day in this case is Linden Lab’s sudden announcement of a huge increase in the monthly cost of “Open Space” regions in Second Life, without any grandfathering for existing ones. The increase will make the cost unaffordable for lots of folks (fortunately for me even the previous low price was beyond my SL budget), and there is lots of understandable upsetness all over the place, as people try to decide what to do with areas that they’ve put lots of work into, and come to love and all.  See this Vint Falken posting (which I link to despite the apostrophe error [shudder] in the title) for a good set of pointers to the slogosphere (“slogosphere” haha) coverage of the issue and the reaction and the Ongoing Controversy.

As well as the understandable upsetness about the price rise and the ham-handed way it was announced, there’s also lots of speculation that the Lab folks must be lying about the real reason for the price rise, and that it’s a secret plot to get rid of customers, or make undeserved money, or other things that I’m bad at summarizing because I find them so unconvincing, and that (among other things) the fact that the Lab’s own new “Nautilus” build uses Open Spaces regions in ways that the Lab now says they weren’t originally intended to be used proves it.  This is also perfectly understandable, but I think it’s also probably incorrect.  Here’s a lightly-edited version of what I wrote in reply to a friend who emailed me asking what possible explanation there could be for all this.

Ya hafta remember that LL is lots of people.  I’m guessing that what happened was:

  1. Someone proposes the original Open Space idea, for people to put empty spaces for sailing and wandering and stuff around their islands.
  2. LL does that, it’s pretty popular.  The original theory is that each one will require only 1/4 the resources of a normal sim, and they plan things that way, and they deploy them that way, and it mostly seems to be working or at least it’s not causing any of their top ten problems (which is all that they ever have time to look at).
  3. Since there seems like no reason not to, they start to let people put down Open Space sims not directly attached to an island, and to let people sell / sublet Open Space sims to others.  Sales and revenue goes up, yay!  In a burst of enthusiasm someone suggests raising the prim limit on them.  Why not?  Sales go up more!  Yay!   Someone somewhere else in the company is struggling to keep the asset servers up, as usual.  Someone somewhere else is dealing with complaints about lag.  As usual.  Someone frowns and worries that maybe it’s all these new “Open Space” sims that have been growing exponentially in number, but then his beeper goes off and he has to go put out a fire and he forgets the thought.
  4. They (for some reason) decide to build Nautilus.  Whoever’s assigned to build it decides to use some Open Space sims, ’cause why not?  Probably they get to use more sims for the project that way, even.
  5. Someone knocks on someone’s door one day and says, um, you know the awful spike in asset server load we’ve been seeing?  I think it’s the, um, Open Space sims.  It looks like — and just then he’s interrupted by someone coming in behind him who says I finally had a chance to correlate all of this flood of lag reports, and it looks like it’s the Open Space sims!  In unison, they say that it looks like we wildly underestimated the actual resource needs of these things.
  6. People get together and say damn what do we do about this?  If Open Space sims continue to grow as they’re growing, we’ll either have to buy so many new servers (now that we know how much resources they actually need) that we’ll be losing money, or the grid’s going to implode from the load.  Someone says well I guess we’ll just have to raise the price to reflect how much they actually cost us. Someone else says, the users will be pissed, can we grandfather in the existing ones?  Someone else does the math, and says, not if we want to stay in business.
  7. Someone suggests actually thinking for five minutes about how to break this to the users, but everyone’s hungry so they go to lunch instead and just announce it baldly in a blog posting, because everyone in the company who understands anything about customer relations is either out on sick leave to recover from the last crisis, or has been assigned to the “boring corporate people in suits” desk and isn’t allowed to talk to retail customers.

Never attribute to malice what can be explained by (umm..) other factors, I say.   :)

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