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This Reason Is Not Reasonable

I do mostly try to keep argument in my Journal more on a Rational basis rather than involving untoward speculation as to Motives and Such, simply because I am considerably more confident with the former (not, I might add, that I have all that much confidence that my Rational Abilities are particularly keen, but they are certainly better than my abilities regarding evaluating Rumour and Motivation). On that basis, I would like to comment again on a specific part of the current Kerfuffle concerning OpenSpace Areas - namely, the relationship between increasing Price, and the Stated Reasons for doing so.

The stated reasons, in case it had been forgotten, are that those operating OpenSpace areas are overusing them and causing significant issues for others who happen to also be operating areas under the auspices of the same CPU. (Which is entirely believable and has in fact been commented on regularly in the Forums and elsewhere.)

Now, if such a problem is noted, the careful world-owner (the Lab, here) will reasonably wish to attempt to ameliorate the problem. Solutions might include:

(a) Increasing the efficiency of the simulators in question, by means of improvements to hardware or sofware or both, so that this overuse is no longer overuse;

(b) Discouraging owners of OpenSpace areas from said overuse.

Let us quickly look at (a). Increasing the price will not affect the rate of software development - this is one of those immutable laws of the universe, that throwing money at a project is of very little use when existing development is at full speed anyway, and in any case the amount of increased revenue is not that great. Extra revenue could, theoretically, help to add faster hardware, but I have not seen that even mentioned, and the effort required to change said hardware as well as the cost of it would go far beyond the revenue gained here. Thus I do not consider that a price increase could result in any of the solutions in (a) taking place, at least in the short term and almost certainly in the long term as well, given the limited amount of extra resources to be gained by the Laboratory.

So, on to (b) - discouraging folk from their current levels of use. Now, economic disincentives can work, of course. If it is clearly in someone's financial interest to restrict their usage to only what they need and no more, they may well do so. A tiered system of, er, tier would do this to an extent, though it would involve some sort of resource measurement and management - more on this later.

However, a flat increase is not an economic disincentive, as it has no relation to the level of use. In fact, if anything, it is an incentive to high usage - if one is paying more, one might as well use as many resources as one can, renting out extra parcels, adding in more temp rezzers and all that sort of thing. The only reduced level of use that would result from a flat increase is that some people might entirely abandon their OpenSpace areas, and so, certain folk might find that they were the only ones left sharing a CPU - at which point I suspect that they would be moved onto another more populated CPU and the old one used for some other purpose. A flat price increase will only ever reduce the overall number of areas.

The problem I am thus left with is that I cannot see any possible connection between raising prices and managing sim usage. The stated reasons cannot be the real ones. I am sure somebody will inform me if I have made some sort of gross and embarrassing logical error here, but I do not believe that to be the case. The relevance of sim usage to price increases is about the same as the relevance of, say, the number of cat ears to be found on OpenSpace sims to price increases. (In other words, an amount approaching zero.) Either there has been a sudden - and unusually virulent - outbreak of Irrational Business Decision Syndrome, or another reason must be to blame.


I mentioned the measurement of sim resources used above, and I have heard many folk say things along the lines of "well why don't they just crack down on the people overusing the areas then?" I am afraid that I cannot answer that, but I can certainly observe that the Blessed Laboratory have shown an intense unwillingness to go anywhere near this throughout all of the history that I have been privileged to observe.

Measuring prim usage is about as far as it goes, and even then, blatant abuses of the prim allowance via temp rezzers has been and continues to be ignored. Estate owners can view a few greater statistics but not in any huge detail, and on the Mainland one does not even have that option, and there are no limits in place as to who can use what resources fairly, unless those resources be prims. There have been complaints of overuse on the Mainland forever and apart from occasional personal attention by occasional Lindens, nothing has been done in terms of real regulation or real tools. Therefore I do not consider it likely that, in this instance, resource reporting and limit enforcement will emerge as solutions in practice - even if they would be a good idea, not just for OpenSpace areas, but everyone else sharing without an overall sim owner as well.

Cinco Pizzicato's picture
04 Nov200807:18
Cinco Pizzicato (not verified)

It is, in the vernacular, 'BS.'

Today we see a new announcement from Our Fair Laboratory that they have hired Outside Help to ensure a brandable.... ahem, make that SMOOTH transition from the Real World to the Aetheric one.

So, essentially, the Laboratory has decided that not only should the stability of pricing be unimportant to its fair customers, but also that its customers should have little to do with the creation of new residents' sacrosanct First Hour. This after spending years promoting Second Life as a platform for in-world business development.

Mentor program? New Citizen's Incorporated? Content creators in general? All receive the disrespect.

I miss Philip.

Scott M.'s picture
04 Nov200807:19
Scott M. (not verified)

Well stated and well reasoned, as usual. And always a pleasure to read, I might add.

Aki Shichiroji's picture
04 Nov200807:20
Aki Shichiroji (not verified)

I totally agree - neither "'improvement' of services to these regions" OR "discouraging overuse of Openspace sims" are sufficient reasons for this abuse of customers. I would like to put forward that they are backpedalling significantly from their complete ignorance of the Mainland and think that killing the OSS market will suddenly enrich the ghostland that the mainland has become.

Unfortunately, way too little, way too late. Way wrong direction to take as well. This will not cause people to move to the mainland significantly, when there has ultimately been *no* improvement of the mainland as a whole. As it stands, the mainland will always be a step down from the option that allows for space, privacy, terrain texture options, and access to sim debug info.

We've already lost several hundred sims to this - either through sale or abandonment. How many more does the grid have to lose before LL gets the message? And how late is too late?

LL has already irreparably damaged its relationship with arguable the entire resident population who use OSS... on top of the estate owners who had to break up full sims to make OSS available to their clients.

I would argue this could very well be a mortal wound LL has dealt itself. And if not? it will leave scarring, permanent and major consequences.

Ordinal Malaprop's picture
04 Nov200807:21
Ordinal Malaprop (not verified)

Oh dear, I had not seen the latest announcement. I am not entirely sure who "Big Spaceship" are but they have an appalling Flash-Only Aethernet Site, which does not bode well.

Ordinal Malaprop's picture
04 Nov200807:22
Ordinal Malaprop (not verified)

...and thank you Mr M, too kind.

Eris's picture
04 Nov200807:52
Eris (not verified)

Perhaps Linden are, to use the common vernacular, taking out the trash?

Judged by their actions and not (for obvious reasons) their word Linden seem to be attempting to reduce the population of Second Life by extracting all the fun from it. A sort of pleasure attrition seems to be in process. Their thinking presumably is that the 'early adopter freaks' will abandon Second Life leaving acres of vacant land and mountains of ready-made content which Linden will lay claim to.

They don't love us anymore.
It's mutual.
Divorce is never a happy transition.

Sidebar: If we delete our content do Linden have the legal right to resurrect it?

Ordinal Malaprop's picture
04 Nov200808:00
Ordinal Malaprop (not verified)

We have rights over our content; if we say we do not want it distributed any more, they do not have the right to do so.

CoyoteAngel Dimsum's picture
04 Nov200808:13
CoyoteAngel Dimsum (not verified)

Hear, hear! Thank you for the rational words.

G2 Proto/Kyle G's picture
04 Nov200808:24
G2 Proto/Kyle G (not verified)

Well written and sums up my concerns as well. With so many elegant options in technology to remedy the "abuse" issue why is the price sledgehammer being brought out?

Rhianon Jameson's picture
04 Nov200809:03
Rhianon Jameson (not verified)

I applaud your Reasoning, Miss Malaprop! To your exhaustive analysis, I would add only that choice (a) is unlikely for an additional reason. You note that "Increasing the price will not affect the rate of software development" because any additional revenue is unlikely to have a significant effect on coding efforts. I would also note that the effect on Profit of increasing the price depends on what the practitioners of the Dismal Science call the elasticity of demand. Under reasonable assumptions about how price-sensitive are Open Space sim consumers, and about their next-best options (i.e., buy on the Mainland, become part of an Estate of full sims, go homeless, quit Second Life altogether), one might think Profit would decline.

Economic Mip's picture
04 Nov200814:03
Economic Mip (not verified)

Sadly, the economics of Linden Labs typically makes me want to bash my head against a wall. My (more than reasonable) suggestion would be to tax high users, or at the very least create a "double void" region which costs the new fees, and is a forced upgrade for these high use individuals. Now this would of course require more effort on the part of the Lindens, to be sure that voids were grouped properly, but this whole idea that simply raising prices will have no backlash is absurd. In fact, this move will probably LOWER profits, and not help the situation much if at all. Furthermore, this move will seriously hurt both big land owners, as well as popular public spaces as land owners decide they can no longer trust Linden labs. Even people who are relatively small (like myself) are having to seriously reconsider if it is worth sticking around and continuing to pay the labs hard earned cash.

Linden Lab has it’s business model ass backwards | VintFalke's picture
04 Nov200819:02
Linden Lab has it’s business model ass backwards | VintFalke (not verified)

[...] Ordinal Malaprop is Shouting into the Void. Definitely worth a read! From her pen also: This reason is not reasonable, wherein she questions if the stated reasons - by LL - can be the real ones for this price [...]

Maggie Darwin's picture
05 Nov200800:44
Maggie Darwin (not verified)

Ms. Malaprop...a price increase is the original, purest economic disincentive to any form of use, be it over-, ab- or otherwise.

The assumption that the purpose of the price increase is to increase revenues is flawed, because the other possible purpose is to cut losses on a product that has been determined to not be profitable.

Profits being the difference between revenue and costs; even if we credit the beliefs of those who think the minions of the Laboratory to be venial (at least those of the most pointy of tonsoria), the reason for the increase could well be to decrease the sales of a product that has proven to lose money, when the cost of providing the all services that it consumes (including support) are counted.

Gabrielle Riel's picture
05 Nov200802:35
Gabrielle Riel (not verified)

You have pointed out, very well as usual Miss Ordinal, the issue that adds insult to injury in this situation.

This huge price increase, with the lovely accompanying Draconian measures, was injurious indeed...but to insult everyone's intelligence with the "reasoning" they have put forward on these changes?

I think it's time to pack the leaders at LL up for a month or two at the Sanitorium.

Jahar Aabye's picture
06 Nov200800:08
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.”

Ordinal Malaprop's picture
06 Nov200805:09
Ordinal Malaprop (not verified)

Reasonably stated - however, I must say that this is not an issue that I ignored but one which did not really fall under the purview of this entry.

It was perhaps an exaggeration for me to suggest that the stated reasons were _solely_ "that those operating OpenSpace areas are overusing them and causing significant issues for others who happen to also be operating areas under the auspices of the same CPU". There was also some mention of effect on the infrastructure of the Grid, and also that the Laboratory simply thought that the price was too low.

The latter reason is not one subject to proof or disproof, really, and I would simply have to disagree and leave it at that. I mostly chose not to address the former much on the grounds that it has really only been tangentially mentioned, I would say, and not at all pushed as being a major justification. However, since you mention it, I also do not consider it to counteract my main theme in any case.

People using OpenSpace land would certainly affect overall infrastructure in the same way as people using any other land for their assorted shenanigans, but I see no reason why they should then affect it _more_ if they are in OpenSpaces than more normal sims (and I might be wrong on that point certainly but I have also seen no suggestion from the Lab that this is the case).

In fact, I could say that the tangibly poorer script performance on OpenSpaces could actively _discourage_ people from attempting to stress the infrastructure, even if the combined effect stresses the poor local CPU. If folk spend most of their time in OpenSpaces rather than regular sims, and find that their Magical Cigar Rezzing Machine cannot produce more than one cigar per minute due to the failure of link messages, they may decide to use it less. And spend more time complaining to the manufacturer as alternate entertainment, but I digress. This is merely a theory but I believe illustrates that one could argue either way.

In short it is people rather than space which cause stress in the main, and trivially, one can reduce stress on the Backbones of the Grid by removing opportunities to actually cause that stress, though the only way that I see that raising prices could bring that about would be by _making Second Life less attractive_ and thus discouraging _people_. In fact, the raising of prices might actually bring this about, by having popular places close down and people storm off in a huff.

I would not say, though, that this would count as a reason to raise the prices specifically on OpenSpaces. If the Grid is stressed and there is a desire to stop so many people stressing it, one might raise prices on all sims. Or refuse one login in ten for no good reason. Or cull inventories, or legalise sniping, or perhaps even something sensible.

There is a potential connection between OpenSpaces and excessive stress of the ass*t s*rver that I would accept, and that is that OpenSpace areas might actually be _too good_ and encourage too many people to do things. In other words their existence has resulted in excessive numbers of real non-homunculi avatars. If the Laboratory made a statement saying that I would reconsider my position. I believe, though, that they are unlikely so to do, even if it is the case, as that would rather give the impression that they are having Scaling Problems, an illness which has terrible social connotations for an Aethernet Company.