For us mainlanders, how about raising tier limits?

So the other weekend the Lab had a big sale on estates; waiving the renormous setup fees that they usually charge, for all normal or Homestead estates sold on the weekend.

Which is nice, if a bit gimmicky, if you’re someone who wants to own an estate. (Or if you’re a speculator who wants to buy a bunch and them flip them next week for people who missed the sale, for a reduced setup fee, or something Wall Street like that.)

Less gimmicky, and for the benefit of Mainlanders like me who love living in the thick of things, I would recommend that the lab raise the amounts of (main)land that people can own at each level of tier. In the current schedule, for instance, someone paying US$40/month in tier can own up to 8,192 square meters of mainland (plus 512 square meters of tier-free Premium land). At US$125/month, it’s 32,768 (half a sim); at US$8/month, it’s 1024 (one sixty-fourth).

Mainland is quite cheap now, 1L per square meter or under in many places without direct water access. And even at that price, lots of it sits around unsold, I suspect because tier is inflexible, and hasn’t gone down with the falling economy like land prices have.

One approach would be to just lower the prices at each tier, of course; make it US$30 and US$100 instead of US$40 and US$125, or whatever.

I think it might be more interesting to raise the allowed amount of land at each tier, though, and leave the amounts the same. It more or less amounts to the same thing, but psychologically it’s simpler. Someone currently paying US$40 per month and with their tier maxed could immediately go out and buy more land, without having to think about it; whereas if the tier for their current holdings just went down to US$30 instead, they might take that extra ten bucks and buy a fancy new yacht, or even (horrors!) a couple of RL coffees.

What would the benefit be to the Lab? In the short run it’s revenue-neutral, in that they are still getting the same tier payments, and all they have to part with is lots of unowned mainland that isn’t doing them any good right now anyway.

In the medium term there’s some opportunity cost, as some people who would have decided they really did want more land and tiered up won’t do that, since they can have more land now without paying. But on the other hand there are also more sales of Lindens as all those people who now have more land go out and buy stuff to put on it.

In the long term, I like to think that having that land occupied by people who will be doing interesting things with it, rather than lying fallow and empty, will draw more people to the mainland, and to SL in general. Retention is likely to be higher if people see interesting things than if they see empty abandoned or For Sale land. And that’s certainly a benefit.

So how about it, Labbies? Can I have, say, 12,288 square meters for my US$40/month? Be your best friend! :)

Learning to love DRM

$10LIt occurs to me that Linden Labs have done two very interesting and perhaps world-changing things with the SL infrastructure:

Making micropayments work: at the current exchange rates, one Linden Dollar is a bit less than 0.4 US cents (that’s four tenths of a cent, four one-thousandths of a dollar). And people are doing transactions of one or a small number of Lindens all the time, 24/7/52, for a huge variety of goods an’ services, and those Lindens are easily convertible into Real World currency. They’ve been able to do this, and succeed where for instance poor Bitpass failed, because they own the infrastructure on which it happens, and they control the systems that keep track of who has now many Lindens. Which limits the range of things that you can buy directly with Lindens, of course, but still within the (large) field where they work, this is micropayments in the yummiest sense. When I buy (or sell) a T-shirt for $10L, I’m spending all of US$0.04, and yet the amortized overhead of the system that I’m using to do it is so small that a non-zero amount of that actually gets to the creator of the shirt.

Bringing DRM to the people: Until SL, DRM, Digital Rights Management, was this annoying thing that kept certain CDs from playing in certain players, or kept you from playing a European DVD in an American player, or installed Sony Trojan Horses in your computer, or outlawed the general purpose computer, or allowed media companies to extract money from consumers by clinging to an outdated business model that should have withered away. Or it was something that you’d never heard of at all.

Now, though, DRM is what makes it possible for me to make a bit of tip-money by selling my “Light Sweet Crude” T-shirts in a little kiosk in an SL mall somewhere (if I wanted to), for other people to make lunch money by selling virtual paintings that they made by uploading nice images they found on the web and sticking them onto SL prims, for yet other people to make actually noticeable amounts of money by selling hair, or skins, or clothes, or lovely and amazing devices, or gorgeous original photography, or NPIRL artworks, in all of those thousands of stores lovely and ugly that pepper the landscape of SL.

So in addition to Sony, and to those RL artists and performers who got good enough contracts that they actually made some money from sales, there are now some hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, of people who make digital content, and who (thanks to the aforementioned micropayments) make some amount of money selling it. And who, typically, would not want every person who buys one to be able to make unlimited copies of it to give away, or sell to their friends, or drop onto SL from airplanes. And who, therefore, are (whether they know the term or not) are now fans of DRM, and to some extent invested in questions like how DRM gets enforced when residents start to be able to move off of the Second Life Grid to other grids, perhaps carrying objects with them (as is the subject of today’s Zero Linden office hours).

Pretty odd!

Quote o’ the Day

Much of atomic-world culture is based on the notion that suffering is good and necessary, that life properly consists of doing something pointless and/or wretched for most of one’s life in order to have a few hours of pleasure every week. This is a stupid and evil notion.

That’s the very wise Soph.

It may in some circumstances be sadly necessary to do something pointless and/or wretched for most of one’s life in order to have a few hours of pleasure every week, but we shouldn’t overestimate how often that’s necessary, or consider it The Way Things Ought To Be rather than, as it ought to be considered, as a problem to be fixed.

Here’s to the end of the Scarcity Economy! :)