Free Hobbit Holes!

Hobbit Holes!I mean, Linden Homes! :)

In a recent posting to the official Second Life “blog”, the Lab has announced that they will soon be beta-testing a program in which Premium members can get a free plot of land, with a pre-installed Hobbit hole house on it, to live on. For free.

These Linden Homes will be limited in various ways:

Therefore these parcels will be unlike normal land in that they will be restricted in various ways; the house cannot be removed and the parcels cannot be sold, joined, terraformed or divided. Events and classifieds cannot be created for these parcels; only Premium Members can own them, and only one per account.

If you can’t remove the house, I imagine you also won’t be able to modify it so that it consists of a single invisible phantom prim buried a meter underground. :)

My initial visceral reaction to this was sheesh here we go again with the Lindens sort of dipping down and futzing around with the world and the economy.

Sort of like having Athena Herself open a free pizza-place on the corner. Okay, maybe she only offers three toppings, and no Sicilian crusts, but I’m not sure how happy I’d be about it if I had a pizza joint in the same town. Or, alternately, if I was a big fan of Sicilian pizza!

I’ve read Jacek Antonelli on the subject, and she is hopeful that this will turn out to be a good thing even for the people that might look on it as wildly uneven competition.

I’ve read most of Second Thoughts on the subject (I admit I didn’t read the entire long chat transcript); Prokofy Neva thinks this is all part of the Lindens’ systematically destroying the mainland.

Whether or not the Hobbit Holes program succeeds in its stated aims, my larger impression is that, as I’ve noted before, the Lindens still think of Second Life as a thing of theirs, that they can of course do whatever they want with. They are not Deistic creators, setting the world spinning and then keeping their hands off; they are hands-on deities, reaching down and twiddling in ways both small and very large, not worrying all that much about what mortals might be swept asides in the process.

I have the feeling that the internal economy is in some sense not real to them; they probably know it exists, but it doesn’t figure at all largely in their calculations. They like being able to show big numbers in monthly press releases, but on the other hand they regularly do things that have large and disparate impacts on various sectors of the economy (freebie policies on xstreet, the Zindra exile, now the Hobbit Holes), and the only sign that they’re aware of this is typically some vague reassuring noises in the forums and the weblog.

And as I’ve probably also said before, this is entirely within their rights. It’s just a continuing sign that the way the Lab as a whole views the world, as a thing that they are doing, and that we are allowed to play in, and that they will periodically fiddle with in ways they think we will overall like, is quite different from the way that I would like to view the world, as a place where the Lab creates only the basic ‘physics’, and the Resis then create an actual functioning world on top of it. To me it is much less fun and interesting to see what a few dozen people in a California company would do with a world than it would be to see what thousands of random people from all around the world would do.

I’d like to be able to say that the world is gradually moving from the former model to the latter, but I don’t see it. It’s all too easy to tell a story in which things move the other way: in order to attract some possibly-imaginary set of neophobic corporate and mass-market users, the Lab wants more control, not less, over the way the world develops. And so over time the doings and the imaginations of the Residents become less and less important.

I hope that’s not the story we end up telling, ’cause I like Second Life, and I would hate to see it all cleaned up and sterile and dull and controlled. I hope that either the Lab decides that reducing Resident influence on the world is in fact not the best way to grow the business (and I think that it isn’t, myself), or we get some sort of compromise, where (sigh) parts of the Grid are all sterile and clean, and parts are allowed to remain as wild and wooly and unpredictable as (well) our imaginations…

Update: oh, and here is Ordinal, who I intended to quote from but forgot:

It is not First Land though. Those days are behind us. Now, residents are Content Creators or Content Consumers, and the assumption is that they are Content Consumers from Day One and will not move from that position.

Exactly. And exactly what I fear for the future of SL.

12 Responses

  1. Great post! I put together a little video that underscores your “sterile, dulled and controlled” idea:

  2. Nice post. But no mention of alternatives. I see that the open-source grids are beginning to get decent numbers, maybe LL hasn’t got the message that they are pi**ing off the customer but the customers have and they are starting to move.

    • Yeah, in earlier drafts of this entry the last sentence ended with something like “if only because I don’t want to have to re-buy my extensive collection of comfy tank-tops on some OpenSim grid”; but I decided that sounded both trivializing and threatening at the same time, so I left it out. Also I think I’ve used it somewhere before. :)

  3. It will certainly be an interesting pilot program (a.k.a. “beta”) to watch.

    In the discussion at SL Universe, I inferred that the initial offer to existing Premies will likely be restricted to those who don’t already own the no-extra-tier 512 that comes with the membership. I wonder about the size of that pool — and I look forward to learning what percentage of those will take the Lab up on what another commenter in that thread likened to “hotel rooms”.

    Looking back at my own situation 2 years ago, as a new Premie not yet willing to plunk down a purchase price, I’d have jumped at the offer to live rent-free, with most of the Owner controls at my disposal, while I was waiting to decide where to put down more permanent virtual roots.

    • Yeah, good points. If they were to offer me one (as long as it didn’t count as owned land and push me over to the next tier up) I’d certainly take one just for fun.

      I’m less interested, myself, in the specific issue of whether this program will work or not, than I am in the general feeling that the Lab doesn’t really take Resi ownership of the world at all seriously, and will introduce stuff like this that obviously will shake up the prefab-house and starter-land-rental businesses pretty thoroughly, without a second thought. I’m glad I’m not a real business person in SL; it would not be a comfortable feeling…

  4. […] the water was turned on for this one, we find he (and some Ordinal dude I've never heard of) think free Smurf homes are just a sneaky way to turn us into non-content creations.    And to show you how […]

  5. I’ve been waiting for their big Premium idea since M took over – I’ve never been Prem and would, because I love the world, like to be. But this is not the idea that will grab me, not one bit First Land mk 2 would have done it, give me 512 or 1024 of free land to play on and I’ll pay $10 a month – offer me a hobbit hole I can’t use for anything and I’m staying free and paying rent to others.

    I’ll be honest, other than land I’m not sure what would make me go Prem – Free does everything Prem can for, well, free.

    I guess this is more about getting people to stay past the first hour and then keep spending. Sigh.

    • Yeah, I’m not sure exactly what they’re aiming at here; I assume they have models and focus group results and stuff that suggest that this will address some current significant need.

      I’ve been premium forever, because I got a year of membership for xmas in 2006. :) If that hadn’t happened I don’t know whether or when I would have decided to sign up…

  6. […] on the existing Second Life population? Then John Carter pointed me to some of @DaleInnis ’s posts related to Linden Labs “futzing around with the world”  that also got me thinking […]

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