I thought that I might offer a few thoughts regarding Mr Jack Linden's announcement of the latest fabulous Laboratory Movement - that of "Linden Homes".
Once upon a time we offered affordable parcels of land to Premium members — a program we called 'First Land'. The First Land program made land available to first-time land owners at a reduced price. First Land buyers learned about land ownership and often moved onto larger parcels.
True enough at the time, and owning a Linden Home now will also give experience of land ownership. Nobody, these days, moves onto buying larger mainland parcels, though; they rent from landowners on islands. They are also I propose even less likely to do it from a Linden Home, a matter I will deal with at a later point.
But the program was flawed in several ways. For example, not everyone can build well enough to craft their dream home and when you're new, even placing a pre-made home is tricky at best.
Yes and no (and mostly yes). Many people clearly had no idea what to put on their first land, and would assume that they would have to build something, put up a big plywood box and then leave, never to return. The plot would then sit there with a big plywood box on it indefinitely. However, nobody who wanted to had any trouble placing prefabs; it is not that hard. They might not have been aware of the existence of prefabs, beyond poor-quality free ones, of course.
Those First Land areas quickly became chaotic and the parcels were often bought by land dealers instead of genuine first-time buyers.
The two issues are not I would say related. First land areas quickly became chaotic, certainly, and some were sold to land barons and parcel spammers as people left, but in many cases they were sold to those with neighbouring plots as well (this was how I managed to expand my First Land parcel in Theretra). The mass purchase by land dealers came when the land market reached a level where it was profitable to start a new account, pay the premium fees and then sell one's First Land.
This new addition to the Premium membership will be called a 'Linden Home'. This is not the same as First Land, not least because it is about providing a home rather than just land, but it does share the same goals.
Yes, it is not the same as First Land - dealt with at more length below. It is not, though, to my mind, about providing a home rather than just land - it is about providing a home rather than land. As to whether the goals are the same, well, I cannot speak for other people's goals, but if they are the same this is not a very good way of achieving them.
During beta, a limited number of randomly selected existing Premium subscribers will be offered the chance to apply for a Linden Home...
This is the part that baffles me the most. What is the point of offering Linden Homes to existing Premiums? The number of people who have signed up for Premium but who have no idea where to live is zero to the nearest significant figure. Who would do that? Why on earth would somebody pay money for a premium account now without already knowing, at least vaguely, what they want to do in Second Life?
A far better idea would be to offer it to a randomly selected number of new residents who were not Premium.
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.
Here we reach the major difference between this proposal and the old First Land system, and it is at this point that any old folk who might have been saying "ah, First Land gave me the start that I needed, young people today need that sort of thing" should really be quiet.
First Land as was was basically the same as any other land, only cheaper and connected to having a new account. One could run a shop from First Land, and certainly I did; sell it to a neighbour so that they could expand their holdings (and, yes, to a land spammer also, but the problem there was never the sale, but the spam). One certainly had an entirely free choice as to what ended up on the plot.
A Linden Home cannot be moved. A Linden Home cannot be sold. A Linden Home cannot be advertised. Publicised events cannot be held on a Linden Home. Do not taunt Linden Home.
In fact the word "Home" is somewhat deceptive to my mind - it implies a certain level of permanence and flexibility, but there is no hope of modifying one's Linden Home (beyond filling the prefab with consumer goods), or expanding it, or changing its purpose. A Linden Home is a hotel room: a comfortable and inexpensive place to stay for a bit when visiting a foreign land, but if one plans to remain there and do anything worth doing, one moves on.
And to where would one move on? If one's experience of living upon the Grid was in a heavily managed area such as that in which Linden Homes appear, one will no doubt wish to move on to another heavily managed area, which means renting on an island, in practice. Certainly it does not mean purchasing mainland. Only strange old people purchase mainland these days.
Linden Homes are not First Land, and they are I would say almost the opposite. First Land provided an empty space upon which one could build and do anything that any other landowner could, with many people being confused by this and not building anything at all apart from a ten-metre plywood box, which then sat there until Doomsday. A Linden Home provides an area upon which one cannot build or do anything apart from rez furniture. (Technically I think one could sell items from a Linden Home, but without classifieds that is not likely to be very handy.)
First Land provided a starting point for land ownership and building something for oneself. A Linden Home provides a starting point for renting another prefab.
Now, it must be said that an awful lot of people have no interest in doing anything much with land apart from changing their clothes on it and inviting their assorted friends over to partake of a glass of champagne and some stimulating intellectual conversation. And why should they? Assuming a high quality of Linden Home prefabs and environments, I am sure that they will be quite happy with the situation, at least until they chafe at the limits and move on to a paid rental on an island.
And everyone will be happy, apart of course from anyone selling or renting mainland, but then they are not happy generally, and they are not meant to be. Also, those currently renting plots to new residents either on islands or mainland will I assume be up in arms, or at least they should be, because this directly attacks their business; there is very little that they could do to compete with a free plot and a free house.
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.