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Shouting into the Void

Well, if there is one thing that is undeniable about the latest Move by the Laboratory to Solve Everything By Obtaining More Money, it is that, almost without exception, everyone is very cross.

openspace_protests_0

The issue of reduced performance due to OpenSpace Use - or Abuse - does, I am told by reliable sources, have some relevance to reality. However, I would say that there are a number of very good Reasons why this recent action is considered simply Beyond The Pale.

  1. "What did you think was going to happen?" Bear in mind that it was in fact Linden Laboratory which increased the allowed number of prims in OpenSpace sims, months ago. Clearly that is tacit encouragement to use those prims. There was complaint that this would distort the land market, but in the main the new OpenSpace sims were greeted well, as they were clearly superior products for many uses.

  2. "You knew it was happening and you did nothing." Everyone knew that OpenSpace sims were being used for all sorts of things apart from Sailing and Occasional Walks In The Park. The Forums were full of advertisements for them as residential, and in fact, complaints were regularly raised that OpenSpace areas were being passed off as full-fat Sims in sales - because on first glance they appear fine, and even on subsequent glances, and in fact they are fine in a lot of cases where certain types of scripting or high occupancy are not involved. Please - the idea that this is an issue that has suddenly appeared out of nowhere is not credible.

On that basis, were attempts made to stop this use? No. Which leads to:

  1. "You're not even trying to stop it, you're just trying to cash in." This may not be an entirely fair characterisation but I have to say that, when the response to what is claimed to be a problem is not to try to fix the problem but to raise prices, it appears both cynical and mercenary, even if it can be passed of as some sort of Economic Disincentive, much as simply raising the Tax upon a harmful item such as Tobacco appears cynical and mercenary even when passed off as a Health Disincentive. As a connected point:

  2. "I don't abuse my sim, why am I being charged extra?" Everyone is being penalised without discrimination, and there is a good deal of variation in the use of OpenSpace areas, from rarely-visited gardens to overpacked clubs full of temp rezzers. Oh and yes:

  3. "These are the same issues that the mainland and other areas face, and you've ignored those too." The widespread use of temp rezzers for instance is a menace, has always been a menace and has been effectively ignored as an issue. Similarly abuse of sim resources has been something that people have complained about on the mainland before I was born with little or no effect. Poor sim performance due to overuse and abuse is not exactly exclusive to OpenSpaces, and trying to pretend a sudden concern for these matters falls flat, particularly when that concern manifests itself through a two-thirds increase in tier as opposed to any relevant corrective action at all.

And let us not forget another more contemporary factor:

  1. "Oh that is very convenient timing." Enter the Grid nowadays and one is greeted by an advertisement for the latest Laboratory exercise, Nautilus. A series of residential sims. At the same time, a product noted for its popularity for residential use, and generally quite fine for that, suddenly experiences an enormous price increase. Oh, how coincidental.

~*~

I do not, myself, believe in conspiracy theories that this was all some sort of cunning plan by the Laboratory, a "bait and switch" as the phrase has it, to encourage the purchase of OpenSpace areas and then suddenly charge more for them. The main reason that I do not believe these theories is that it would imply a level of long-term planning, and successful long-term planning as well, that I consider utterly unrealistic for the Laboratory.

Closer to the truth I suspect is that there have been issues relating to the grid for a while, a Technical Sort Of Linden has put forward the idea that OpenSpace sims are not helping, the matter has churned around for a few months without any action, and then someone or other has leapt upon the matter as something meaning that (a) an Extra Charge could be Levied and (b) lowered Mainland and Full Sim takeup, as well as takeup for this new Laboratory island group, could be corrected.

And so the fatal word was passed down, until somebody, somewhere, actually had to write a Post, which was composed in the usual brash and insensitive manner (the Lord may know who is employed in the Laboratory's Public Relations department, but I doubt even He knows why) and sent out without warning, let alone Grandfathering.

openspace_protests_2

And here we all are. Rarely have I heard the word "opensim" said so many times in discussions.

~*~

Footnotes

Thank you, Miss Malaprop — Tenth Life's picture
29 Oct200805:08
Thank you, Miss Malaprop — Tenth Life (not verified)

[...] brilliant Miss Malaprop, on the recent open space sim brouhaha: Shouting into the Void I do not, myself, believe in conspiracy theories that this was all some sort of cunning plan by the [...]

Fogwoman Gray's picture
29 Oct200805:54
Fogwoman Gray (not verified)

My thanks for your (as always) succinct clarification of the issues.

Vint Falken's picture
29 Oct200807:31
Vint Falken (not verified)

Great analysis, I'm still convinced Iron Plate would have handled this better!

thaumata's picture
29 Oct200807:41
thaumata (not verified)

Right on.

For years now, I have owned 1/4 mainland sim, which is thankfully relatively quiet, as I only have three neighbors who are all lovely. I pay $75 a month for it, plus my account fees, and I have 3750 prims, as is standard.

It has always seemed a bit crap to me, then, that for the same monthly fee, a person could have 3750 prims on an opensim region, where they'd also be able to terraform and have estate level control over their land, as well as have four times the space. When LL initally announced those improvements to OS plots, I couldn't help but feel a bit overlooked. But as I'm on the mainland, I'm quite used to that.

So, it doesn't seem unfair to me to raise the prices on them a bit, or perhaps instead, to lower tier for mainlanders, or some sort of compromise like that. I can understand it, even if I think that in general, they ask too much money for their questionably reliable service.

But the manner in which these directives were handed down is completely unacceptable. I'm not sure why they didn't just remind people that opensims are for light use, which does not include ABCD, or perhaps just stated that it's become obvious that people want to use them for something else entirely and that's we're going to have some discussions to figure out the best ways to roll into that.

To say that you must pay so much more AND still can't use them however you'd like is ludicrous, and I'm not at all shocked to see that pretty much everyone is angry about this latest sideshow. I've been around long enough to just roll my eyes and go look at open sims elsewhere, but less geeky people will simply go play Spore or something. Sad.

JP's picture
29 Oct200810:30
JP (not verified)

I admire your forbearance in assuming that a technical unsophisticate is at the bottom of this. I fear otherwise. Spend much time with investment bankers?

Simple math for an oversimplified case. You have 10000 void sims out at USD75/ mo. So USD750,000/ mo in tier revenue. That's 10000 people who aren't buying full sims at USD125/mo. The cheap blighters! Are we leaving USD500,000 on the table?

That's a first order look. Takes the 24-year-old junior analyst at their
venture capital equity holder about 30 seconds to get there.

Hm. But we might lose some, if there's price sensitivity! No worries. If we scare off 1/3rd we lose USD250,000/mo. (750,000/3). But we gain USD 333,333 (50 x 66666) from the other two thirds :)

Second order. Took Junior MBA another 15 minutes. Mostly to adjust the
percentage so it comes out positive.

But he's thinking about individual owners. Not rental estates. Many, many void sims are owned by an estate owner who rents it out to a smaller player. So we're not asking if Desmond Shang or Anshe Chung are price elastic .. we're asking if Sally the Neko RPing Housewife is price elastic. Oops. maybe more than 33%.

Third order. The junior analyst missed it .. but maybe the VC's managing director who sits on Linden's board caught it.

Oh and it's land. Sort of. So if you have a bigger die-off, or sudden radical
oversupply, it makes the land around it chaotic, more abandoned-looking and less attractive. So OTHER prices in the re-rental market for full sims get depressed too.

Fourth order. The Board relies on Linden experts for this sort of thing. They say they have economists on board.

On the other hand, they also have said, in concierge meetings &c., approximately this: "We don't really know, there's no RL equivalent to openspace sims, we have no idea how to predict what this market will do."

Probably, at some point, some economists came to the Board meeting and gave a slide show: "Oo, ee, oo-ah-ah, ting, tang, walla-walla bing-bang, stickiness, substitutable goods, elasticity. We ought to be able to create three more continents, without putting amenities or roads or anything in 'em. In the short run, Des and Anshe will keep buying sims because, well, they're rich. And every Fortune 500 company will be here by next year, with a big bunch of islands like IBM ... and Heaven forfend THEY should buy voids at a discount ... so no problem with island sales." And then, um, they kill a chicken. Or is that Santeria?

Tsk. I hope I'm wrong.

Cinco Pizzicato's picture
29 Oct200812:38
Cinco Pizzicato (not verified)

Basically this whole scenario underlines one simple fact:

Linden Labs doesn't know who it's customer is.

For instance, it's been more than a year and people still think megaprims are evil. It's been at least 8 months since I've been paying attention, and there are still extortion parcels in the great estate of mainland. LL starts up volunteer services like SL Mentor, and then it's understaffed. LL tries to woo educators and health and disability related uses, and then releases a new viewer with hardware upgrade requirements greater than most edu computer labs and low-income disabled people can afford.

Everything that is worthwhile in SL is crowded out because the company thinks it has to impress newcomers. In fact, however, what needs to happen is that they invest in the communities that already have a big investment of time and money and soul. Building Nautilus doesn't add to that, and demonstrating that your pricing policies are totally and completely bat guano nuts is clearly motion in the wrong direction. Maybe LL is consciously telling its established communities to leap off a pier. Maybe someone somewhere has the power to make this kind of policy without knowing anything about how SL runs.

I can't say. Wish I could. SL is important to me. LL should get to know me, and then they'd know at least one of their customers. Clearly, they have no clue who any of us really are and why we're spending money for their services.

Linden Lab has it’s business model ass backwards | VintFalke's picture
29 Oct200818:07
Linden Lab has it’s business model ass backwards | VintFalke (not verified)

[...] at ‘An Engine Fit For My Proceeding’, Ordinal Malaprop is Shouting into the Void. Definitely worth a [...]

Jaymin Carthage's picture
29 Oct200821:51
Jaymin Carthage (not verified)

My Esteemed Malaprop,
I'm a little disappointed to see you jumping on the Linden Lab bashing bandwagon. You are quite right to disdain conspiracy theories and I encourage you heartily to remember that! Most of the actions that Linden Labs has done have made sense when you look at things as a business. No more, no less. Great maleficent deamons and diabolical possession is not required to explain what they have done.
It seems that no matter what Linden Labs does, the residents get all up in arms. The current reaction is not unusual. And, irrespective of whether it is unwarranted or not, the residents do themselves a disservice by reacting in such a way at the least thing. It makes it hard to take them seriously.
The world did not end when voice was introduced. Nor any of the other changes that have happened. Might things have been better? Possibly. Did an overreaction from the residents make a difference? Other than reducing their own credibility, it's hard to say.

As far as OpenSim, that's a shadow argument. As someone who, through the corporate equivalent of "bait & switch" now spends 20% of my work time on OpenSim, my opinion is that it is a tinker toy. Not a bad start for a 3D SDK, but it is not ready for MMO, is not hardened for enterprise use, is focused on server modifications not in-world content creation, and is a griefer's paradise.
Anyone talking about OpenSim as an alternative to Second Life need to spend some time there and realize that it's not a serious threat. It's just more tempestuousness in the teapot.

Kind regards,
JC

Samantha Poindexter's picture
29 Oct200823:59
Samantha Poindexter (not verified)

"It seems that no matter what Linden Labs does, the residents get all up in arms."

Ah, yes, I had forgotten the rioting in the streets when Mono compilation was finally added to a release candidate, and the grid-wide shutdown when sculpties were introduced...

It is true that the Lab has a long track record of being dismissive toward its residents, of making unfortunate decisions, and of presenting them in the most antagonizing way possible; I do not think that provides a reason to take it in stride.

I will agree that OpenSim is not, as yet, a viable alternative. What the Lab's actions have been doing is ensure that as soon as a viable alternative does arrive, a sizable percentage of us will jump ship en masse. I confess that I feel that day cannot come too soon. And that is both a pity, and entirely of their own making.

Ordinal Malaprop's picture
30 Oct200802:54
Ordinal Malaprop (not verified)

Many changes do attract vociferous comment, which may or may not be entirely rational in nature, and frequently is not - and even in this case, actually, quite a bit of what I see being shouted does not seem to be quite to the point. This is not, though, I would say, relevant when it comes to deciding whether complaints are justified, or whether a particular action is a good or fair idea.

I mention that an unusual number of people are Not Happy as it is unusual to see quite so many people being publicly Not Happy within SL - inworld protests last night were surprisingly extensive, on short notice as well. The fact that a large number of people were concerned is something to record but does not in itself make the matter a Bad Thing. I would, however, quite independently say that I consider the matter a Bad Thing, for many of the reasons given by the Not Happy.

It was also interesting to see that discontent was very much consistent across all groups of folk that I encountered, from tourists through tenants to titleholders, and reasons were usually very similar. The move was perceived as cynical, mercenary, indiscriminate and preventable.

OpenSim at this stage really is a mythical alternative, the Land Across The Sea, where there are cigarette trees and the asset server lays soft-boiled eggs. The common mention of it is more of an indication of the desire to move than anything else.

Marx Dudek's picture
30 Oct200803:09
Marx Dudek (not verified)

There are *so* many mainland regions out there that are being choked to death by the very same abuses that Openspace owners are being accused of. All of that mainland is owned by real people as well, and the estate manager of all mainland is Linden Lab. Why is there no effort on the part of Linden Lab to improve the inworld experience of mainland residents? What makes mainland residents any less worthy? I ask this as a mainland resident, the estate manager of a full residential sim, and of three Openspace sims.

Marx Dudek's picture
30 Oct200803:22
Marx Dudek (not verified)

As a side comment, I recently encountered a new resident who was given a 512m2 parcel of free mainland by a friend. As it was ugly rock terrain, surrounded on all sides by banlines, I dropped a platform on the ground, raised it to 2000m, rezzed a skybox, and gave them a few pieces of scripted furniture. After noticing the first item taking nearly 2 minutes to setup (where it should take 15 seconds), I put on my Conover meter. For anyone who knows the numbers Conover's meter returns, I was getting a steady *BAD! - 280*. (An average sim responds 3200 to 4000, an empty sim is about 6400.) I felt really bad for this person, who was about to begin their SL on a sim lagged as much as a sim could possibly be, so I flew around and finally found a green 512 for L$2400. I advised them to abandon the original parcel and handed them the money (which I luckily had) to purchase the new one. Now that's fine and all for my friend - but what about the other people on that sim who have to suffer with debilitating lag and can't afford to move? Why must they suffer, especially when they have no concierge to whom they can complain?

Oh yes ... they're only paying a few dollars a month in tier fees.

Can we haz Open Space? «'s picture
30 Oct200807:54
Can we haz Open Space? « (not verified)

[...] is already a huge uproar about this issue, and several people have summed up their feelings quite eloquently. There is a flickr group and even a jira (a quite [...]

Allan's picture
31 Oct200809:39
Allan (not verified)

I love your writing. I can't quite describe it other than just "curiously intelligent." I'm going to have to join SL to see what all this fuss is about and marvel at the passion you people have for this thing.

Mikyo's picture
31 Oct200811:35
Mikyo (not verified)

Incompetent. Unethical. Why should I continue to do business with such?

Caliandris's picture
02 Nov200819:26
Caliandris (not verified)

I hate the way that this subject has people at each other's throats in the groups and on the forums. There are a lot of arguments about what is and is not allowed, and both the Linden blog and the smug people who look out over the odd rock and tree on their OpenSpace Sim point to the original documentation about OpenSpace Sims, as though the Linden website and documentation is always up to date. Anyone who has searched for specific information on the website knows that the documentation often lags worse than a club-laden OSS - sometimes the information is years out of date.

Garth Fairchang is someone I respect in SL, and he says that he asked Jack Linden directly about the use of OSS for residential use, and was told it was fine. I think that all the indications are that they were encouraging the "abuse" of OSS either because they didn't realise the problems or because they needed the income, and only recently this policy or strategy rather, has changed, for reasons that are not explicit in the blog post or the subsequent discussions.

What I hate is the dishonesty of the announcement, makin it look as though it came as a shock to find that the residents had started using OSS for a lot of other things. The fact is, they were slow to change the documentation about OSS, that's all. They have been slow to add the new information to the website warning people of the increase in tier, too.

I reverted to a basic account some months ago, but I am affeted by the change because my landlord and SL partner (who is the same person) has
decided to let go two of his full sims as well as his OSS which means that my shop is on the move once again. I can't disagree with the move, despite the fact that it will have an impact on me and my income from the shop: Linden Lab are demonstrating very clearly that they don't care, and wil cynically manipulate the market to their own ends.

I wouldn't mind so much if I thought that what they had done was god business, and would result in a stronger virtal world for us all to inhabit, but my feeling is that this is a disaster for the community AND for the Laboratory too.

Maggie Darwin's picture
03 Nov200821:58
Maggie Darwin (not verified)

Mr. Fairchang may have asked Mr. Jack Linden something about residential use of OpenSpaces and been told "it" was "fine". But what is considered "residential use" varies quite as much as the Residents do, not to mention their Residences.

Measurement of ordinary computer performance is A Black Art even to those of us whose profession it is. The same Black Art applied to a situation of the size and complexity of The World is far, far Blacker and nigh imponderable to the Unschooled. One need only look to the recent "Avatar Rendering Cost" silliness to see this.

With technical, economic *and* political aspects to this situation, we have a perfect storm.

Jahar Aabye's picture
05 Nov200823:56
Jahar Aabye (not verified)

With all due respect, dear Ordinal, there are a few minor flaws in your logic:

More money can indeed purchase greater efficiency depending on the method used. However, in order to figure this out, you need to look at where the problems caused by the OpenSpace sims (OSS) are occurring. While abuse of OSS does cause problems for the other 15 OSS on the same server, and you rightly point out that better servers will come along eventually whether LL raises prices or not, there are other problems.

Abuse of OSS also ties up database servers and asset clusters as well. In fact, four abusive OSS regions can actually have a greater database impact than one full region. The database servers aren't concerns with prim counts or what percentage of a core the region is using, they have to coordinate what objects and agents are in what regions. Now, if OSS regions are being used for "light use" such as landscaping or sailing and such, this is not such a big problem. As long as there is not much being continuously rezzed, and as long as there are not a lot of scripts running with functions that require database calls (llTriggerSound(), llRezObject(), llStartAnimation(), etc) then there probably will not be serious problems.

However, once people start using OpenSpace sims as if they were regular sims, then we have a problem. The database has to scramble to keep up with all the request coming in. Now, Linden Labs *could* have anticipated this and invested in massive database upgrades in the past...actually, they have been making efforts to improve their database setup, the OSS issues just kept creating a Red Queen situation for them. Now, if we would like Linden Labs to upgrade their database servers to be able to handle the increase in activity, and by "upgrade" I mean "purchase a shitload more servers and pay through the nose to hire more people to maintain them," then that money has to come from somewhere.

Linden Labs is not a charity. They are a business and they have to look at their business costs as related to revenues. Servers are not cheap, and neither is server upkeep. In this situation, the spreading use of OSS regions for purposes not originally intended appears to be the cause of the increased database load. As a result, it makes some sense to increase the cost of OSS regions to reflect the increased load that they are placing on the system.

Now, there may be other alternative options, but my point is to show that raising prices actually does bear a relationship with fixing the problem. Your logical flaw was "I cannot understand how this will fix the problem, therefore it must not be possible for this to be a solution to the problem, and there must be some other reason."

Jahar Aabye's picture
06 Nov200800:08
Jahar Aabye (not verified)

Sorry, accidentally posted that response on the wrong blog post.

My apologies. Was meant to be a comment on "The Reason is Not Reasonable"

A pointed aside to Linden Labs « Clockwork heart … Pixellate's picture
24 Nov200807:09
A pointed aside to Linden Labs « Clockwork heart … Pixellate (not verified)

[...] a copy of academic anthology “The State of Play,” with nice print-outs of posts by Ordinal Malaprop, Hypatia Callisto and others, would be an appropriate holiday gift for Mark [...]