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So, this is a very instructive video in terms of the sociology of SL, what features are currently tantalizingly waved before certain user audiences, and more.

New House Theme Coming.

I personally don't care if the Lindens have a Jetsons' theme or a Flintstones' theme. What I'm trying to understand is whether they view the creation of Linden houses as an "eternal" or "ongoing" project or "a five-year-plan" that has a beginning, middle, and end. We were told something is coming that will "knock our socks off". I don't wear socks generally in SL.

Is There a Five-Year Plan?

It seems in the last five years, I literally pay attention to the Lindens like once a year, and usually only when things I care about "stop working" or "aren't offered anymore". I try to understand "what is their thinking is" and "why these things aren't fixed" etc. And I'm happy to be corrected on any superficial impressions.

So...It sounds to me as if there is a kind of five-year-plan, where they the Moles lay out better houses, they figure out what to do with the older, less used houses, they finish out the sims neatly and prettily -- and then they stop. That is sure, they'll do maintenance, but they don't endlessly keep building because they don't have enough customers to justify that investment. That they will arrive at some equilibrium formula they have devised -- and stop. At least for awhile. A year? Two? Depends. Depends on vaccine distribution, for one!

My question then is whether they will lay off the Moles they have now, which seems like a big loss, not just personally for those people, but for the world in general. I personally wish they would double back to the old Mainland, and fix some of the terrible roads and builds and put in better trees, etc. But that's just me. I think the majority of users want them to build fun homes, and then remain as interesting Party People, who will also occasionally build out special events, as they do the Shop 'n Hop occasions and such.

Gentils Organisatuers

This part of the Moles' job description is a little hard for me to get a handle on. That is, they are tasked to be something like Club Med's Gentils Organisateurs, the GMs who plan your bunny hop at 6 pm and stand around cheerfully with a clipboard, and the Keebler company elves. I had a friend who worked the Elf beat during the holidays -- it's really hard work.  The Moles are paid like those hardcore RV campers working temporarily at Amazon, i.e. minimum wage or less, or so I gather, maybe it's better now. They are expected not only to do their jobs, which are hard, picky work as those of us know who work the land in SL. And expected to also be available for various media interviews where they have to sound informative and cheerful, but not give away any company secrets, and also turn out for various events the residents make.

AND they are expected to turn out on a dime and plunk out a Soviet-style stadium for those giant RL entities that like those styles, or turn out and provide this or that special thing like "Adult Swim" -- which I don't know anything about as I don't have a TV. Whatever. Work!  It's not like they can keep a set of prefabs and just plunk them out -- there's always someone in SL who thinks that is possible and does that; but really, each new special customer or one-time event needs its own special thing, to some extent.

Old Lindens

I remember when I saw my first Linden in 2004, Ben Linden. He was at Waterhead, laying out a little shooting game. My experience of that person and that role was something like being at the circus, or Disneyland, and seeing someone in a clown outfit or a green uniform who was doing a job in this place that for me was "fun".  I didn't expect to socialize with him or invite him to my parties -- I figured he wanted to be left alone to finish his job. I didn't belong to any software cults or worship programmers as an aspirant to work on their team, so when I first met Philip Linden, I felt it was more than fine to ask him what he felt his qualifications were for his job. I felt anyone putting US $100 or US $1000 into the "game" in those days had a right to ask that question. If the answer was "computer science, engineering, and I worked at RealNetworks," I had to wonder if he took any economics courses or had an economist on staff, or if he understood anything about governance or civil society.

Those early Lindens didn't -- they blew up stuff and laughed. Watch the first Lindenworld film. They main dominos that fell over. You can go find that paid-for company culture sociologist study they had done some years ago, which was a kind of puff piece, but even if you followed the true story, you could conclude that the Linden company culture changed -- not completely, and unevenly, but did change.

That is, that Linden of yore laboring in the bushes may have enjoyed himself and found it creative, but I can't imagine he could go on putting out little green tree diamonds (which they used to do on their new sims) and planting little clumps of sea grass (I still have some Ben Linden sea grass near my rentals), and so on. So he's not here anymore, understood. Most of those early Lindens are gone, which is natural in these types of companies. While a certain "inner core" felt these hard-working Lindens had to "be their friends" on certain very specialized ventures like "open source viewers" and "Simulator Users' Group", most never heard, or saw, or thought of the Lindens ('I'm a simulator user extraordinaire, but I do grasp that I'm not welcome at SUG, and not pertinent to SUG, which is mainly a very technical conversation.) The world is just there, thank you. The other day I had to laugh as a bunch of people in a merchants' group puzzled over Lindens; said they had never seen them and didn't know what they did, and some bragged how much they were "in" with the Lindens because...the Lindens sold them abandoned land now and then. But at another event I attended recently, a friend says "I stay close to Patch and the Moles" -- because he has to. He needs his sims/events/groups to work, they don't, so hence -- close proximity. 

Old Lindens vs. New Moles

Gradually, over the years, what I found about these public-facing Lindens, or Lindens you would spot doing their jobs, was that they had a certain culture, certain values, certain things they liked to do which I thought were not "the norm" or "were extreme" or were "part of the open source software cults" etc. because like most Americans, I'm not a participant in Silicon Valley culture -- which has now permeated every aspect of our lives, but which 15-20 years ago, still seemed something you could stop or change. Which is why I bothered. Yes, I realize, there's hearty disagreement on this premise but most readers get what I'm saying.

Today, the young men -- they are all men in this show, although surely there are women moles -- seem like a different crew. They come from all different countries, you can detect accents from, I dunno, England, Australia, Ukraine, Portugal or whatever, and their workplace is virtuality -- in that sense, they eat the dog food. They live and work in that space they are creating for others to live and work in -- in ways some Lindens do not, historically and currently. They don't drop the jargonistic words of various software cults as they talk although they probably all think Snowden is a hero and didn't vote for Trump or his equivalent in other countries. They seem like a nicer bunch, all told, than those Lindens who used to grief me on their alts, for example.

Our Friends, the Moles

So today's Moles seem to be under a certain pressure to Be Our Friends, which I find incalculably cruel and incomprehensible, but then, I'm not the demographic. They rise to the occasion manfully, which I marvel at -- both for its potential abuses as a system and also for its sheer wear and tear on people.

So they drop into parties and community anniversaries. They are expected to! They ride around on horses, either as their Mole selves or on alts which they don't tell you about -- but which insiders probably know -- they enjoy what people are doing with the houses etc. They don't drop any cruel remarks at least publicly, laughing at amateur content or low culture of middle America --the way the old Lindens did, causing sometimes extreme anger and sorrow. How could they? Middle American low-brow and middle-brow culture is the product here, and that's fine -- it's not the enemy anymore as it was in 2004. It's funny for those of us who complained that the extreme technocommunists and technolibertarians of yesteryear were too harsh on our "normal" culture to now look at the exoticism of a product that delivers a sort of hybrid of that California ideology and the Stepford Wives, but that's ok. Really, it is.

Equality and Equity

I fastened on what one Mole said about "egalitarianism" -- a value of Philip's certainly, with his wish for "land that cost $5/m uniformly" and his old hippie group tools that enabled you to vote someone off land they tiered. So the form this takes is in the process for obtaining the home. So as you know, you have to keep refreshing browsers, using a script or not, and just wait to hit a lucky one in Belli, then abandon, abandon I believe 5 times until you are stopped or get one. I can see better now why they don't want to have you merely make a ticket and get in a long line. Because that means the people already inworld as SL customers today would have an advantage over someone just joining from having seen SL on TV or something. And they don't want that. The Lindens went from not admitting the Feted Inner Core (FIC) or coddled insiders and special customers existed, to laughing at it and even putting it on job descriptions they flashed on the splash screen, to trying secretly to eliminate some of its worst features, to incorporating actually more practices to prevent them, to still -- it's inevitable -- maintaining a FIC that they nourish and protect. They have to. Because they have to grow the world.

RL Tie-Ins

Patch Linden is honest that these various exercises like NFL Football tie-ins produce just a trickle of newcomers, and that this or that special thing they are doing is hard work (copying by hand 200 sims, he mentioned) and there's a limit. Remember, over the years, the Lindens have tried to tie in things like "Podcast Pickle" and "Suicide Girls" and "Cory Doctorow" and God knows what, with very mixed results. The Sears, Roebuck people were even here for a time. And CIS. They may be getting better at picking things that are more widely popular and less niche Silicon valley software cult -- they have Hello Kitty, for example. They didn't indulge that gamer girl YouTuber who has a zillion views and does SL tours and happenings now -- but they quietly encouraged her. Mercifully, there's no Tik-Tok tie-in and the Facebook page isn't updated. 

I get the sense that the goal here is to be limber, and be available for these management-induced 'tie-ins," but that they don't have a lot of enthusiasm from the staff because they don't work to grow membership.

Hiring Moles

So on the one hand, you hear these completely casual statements from Moles who say they just made a nice build and then sent their resume to somebody named "Derrick" (apparently there is a "Derrick Linden" or "Derrick Mole" in the hierarchy) and then got hired. I often hear tenants who describe how they are mystified by the Mole hiring process or wish they could become Moles and get ignored. But then, I grasp that this is a very special and insular process. It has to be. Many people think they are great builders and are not. Or they can't take direction in a tight collective, which is what this enterprise is. Or they don't have the personality for collaborative work. Patch said that some people he encounters or who submit resumes he grabs and takes, even without quite having a task for them because he knows they are a perfect match. And I totally get it. I'm glad I personally am not coming anywhere near this process as it sounds extremely insular and whimsical. But that's how life is these days. My daughter recently went for an interview in a huge, impersonal health corporation which has internalized the kind of Google questioning for interviews that Google itself doesn't use any more. So she was asked obscure trick questions and asked to describe "a decision you made that poorly impacted other people" as if she had agency in her low-level health care jobs lol. The job market is cruel and merciless and Linden Lab is a dream job, so I get it. In, oh, 10 years? the job I do as a translator may be fully automated out of existence and "good enough" or even the specialized "human intelligence" portion of it may have so many accompanying "helpful software programs" to it that even I, who generally manage such things, will be too tired to learn one more. Software has eaten everything.

Suburban Society

So this hyper egalitarianism means you can't get the "better" homes -- but a Mole made a point of saying that a house "couldn't be like Oprah's". That is, we all know that some very lucky people have the house that is at the very corner of a sim with nice bodies or water, or has the perfect park set-up around it, or what-have-you, but the Moles have actually worked hard to make it so that every home feels like a lucky find. And it's true. That most homes do have a something that gives them a feeling of "special". If it isn't a waterfront, it's a traffic circle, or if it isn't a pond, it's being next to the big lodge, or the railroad, or what have you. That is eventually, you will be happy after not that many tries and feel like you "found a good thing". I think mainly they've succeeded in that feeling which is very hard to do, as I know from my little level trying to lay out mixtures of landscapes and priced options. A Mole stressed that these homes are outward-facing. That is, they actually go against the ethos of the RL suburban tracts of yore, and of course, most SL culture which is to look inward, and hold partners and fiercely loyal friends very close, and keep everyone else out with a variety of security orbs and strategies like forums cruelty.

State Socialism

The Lindens' current form of egalitarianism is state socialism, a step-up from state communism and forced collectivism -- as they never want these houses to be for sale or have commercialization in it. So in that way, they aren't like the grand suburban projects of yesterday, where I lived, where all the Dads worked at Xerox or Kodak, all the Moms planned their bridge clubs or worked service jobs, and they were inner-facing, to patios and courtyards, usually with hedges, and people gave up sitting on front porches, and could be sold for 10 times their worth -- until they couldn't be. Those projects of RL are a wasteland in some respects now because those big companies failed due to the Internet; they were kind of company towns, oligarchic socialism, if you will, that didn't have the infrastructure for people to develop their own modifications and small businesses. You had to drive many miles just to get a loaf of bread or a gallon of gas. The giant malls they built have grass growing through them now, although some city planners turned some of them into mass vaccination centers.

I suppose somewhere there are people using the hawala system in Belli to get payments for things happening in Linden Homes but I've actually never seen that. For the simple reason that you can't put the land in search, and thereby get traction. Like I can put my own home in an open group, and put an LM to it for people to visit in the Land Preserve, but it will never get that much use, it's too narrow a niche of attention.  I could work and work and work making some group that does X or Y -- but they exist already in Belli for trains or parties or history, and as with Nautilus, there isn't room or desire for others. At least for now.

The commercial instincts of real people always overcome egalitarianism and socialism wherever it appears, and I suppose soon the Lindens will have to face things like "but what if a Bellissarian group charges a $250 or $2500 membership" or "what if this fantastic breedables auction which puts its show animals in Linden homes is really part of a cash cow elsewhere" etc. They can't police all that. But in 2 years they might have to.

What do you think?

 

 

Edited by Prokofy Neva
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I too wish the Moles would be sent to revisit parts of mainland.

Frostar in Gaeta V is I think a full region or homestead with a road going through it, a terraformed beach and rezz area, 3 empty shacks, and the rest of the land filled with those palm trees that don't render right unless you cam in close to them. The palm trees were of their time, and okay when mixed in with other plants to distract from the constantly distorting trunks... but on mass and with nothing else to distract from them it really highlights that it was built in a rush.. probably in less than an hour and probably with the intention of returning to it to finish it off one day... 12 years later and it is still waiting. 

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Posted (edited)

Funny you should mention those hugely ugly palm trees -- the whole set is atrocious, with one particularly sick looking one the very worse. The Lindens have it in their power in their Linden-god hands to completely nuke their own Linden palm trees, which in the library and in the world, instantly. Forever. I wish they'd use that power.

They could start by just taking them out of the Library. So that people would stop getting the idea that they need to put them inworld. They would still remain in the "Build" tool, which most new people never come near, so that oldbies who hankered for them could put them out. I realize that taking anything out of the precious "Library Suite" is like anaethema, but sooner or later, some Linden will conclude this needs to be done.

They made progress in removing all those full-permed objects that were frequently used for griefing objects, deceptively, with their owner's name seemingly the griefer agent (viz Simon Linden), but sadly they now make it impossible to transfer those Linden things -- oh well, you can't have everything.

Remember when Boardman and Brown were "the cool kids' place"? That time Maxx outbid me for a single 1024 lot on there paying a whopping US $100? and this is PG, mind you. It was as coveted as "Blake Sea" is now.

That's no longer true, with the departure of some of those Cool Kids, but at one point, they hollered loud enough that Jack Linden repaired the ugly stalls in the middle of the sims. These were supposed to be mixed "private residential with commercial in the middle" at least in the form of stalls. This concept never really took off, but sort of still persists. Along the way, Jack took out some but not all of the ugly palm trees. He agreed they were ugly. I don't understand why he left so many. He could have put all "eucalyptus" and nobody would have noticed as they weren't in any deep illusion that they were in "West Palm Beach" or anything like that. He removed those annoying mailboxes with the "Hi, I'm XXX!" with their SL hand logo seeming to zoom out to meet you. He kept Ryan Linden's strange early newbie house as a shrine. He never smoothed out the lumps at the back ends which were (witlessly) fashioned to "match" the next sim with all hills. I had to jump up and down to get huge lumps removed from my parcels there on this unterraformable land (they turned it off there as a kind of "community-builder") which was supposedly "flat". As Michael Linden and others used to say, "Never assume malice when it could be a server hiccup." I'm not sure how that works, that a server so malfunctions that it leaves all the land on a sim flat except on my parcels, but ok.

So yeah, the Moles could re-do Brown. And Boardman. And then even Shermerville or whatever it was called, the next big thing of its day that Jack moved on to.

 

Edited by Prokofy Neva
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1 hour ago, Prokofy Neva said:

Well, it might seem a "contradiction in terms" especially to those who grow up in such systems, in the more benign versions of them in the West, but it is indeed what we have.

No, it really is. Socialism as a political ideology was defined and named by Henri de Saint-Simon, especially in his L'Industrie (1817), a very deliverate and clear manifesto against government intervention in the economy. His ideas was mostly based on John Smith's "Wealth of the Nations" and also inspired by the American constitution (Saint-Simon ahd been a volunteer fighting against the Brits during the American revolution). A generation later Karl Marx came along, denounced socialism (dismissing it as "utopian") only to reuse the word for a completely different ideology. That's where the confusion comes from.

 

2 hours ago, Prokofy Neva said:

If only Linden Homes or anything about SL were only a product, and we were only customers, we might all actually be better off.

Oh yes, absolutely. One of the most important lessons that was drilled into us when I studied to get my teaching credentials is that the teacher does not own the teaching. You don't teach your students what you want to talk about or what you feel strongly about, you teach them what you need to learn. It's the same when I play gigs. I'm just a medium between the music and the audience and I get paid for it (unlike what I do in SL) so I act like a professional and deliver the goods people pay for. Or as a famous classical guitarist ocne put it: If you don't have an ego that is bigger than the world, forget about it and let the music speak. I'm sure you know my ego is rather big but not that big so whetehr I teach or perform, I try my best to read and respond to the tells from the audience/students, follow the masterplan and not force myself onto them. That doesn't mean I don't put my personal stamp on everything I do or that I don't try to lead the audience in a particular direction, it's just that those factors are never ever the main thing.

I don't always see that kind of professionalism from Lindens. They always mean well, that's very clear, and all the Lindens and Moles and Scouts I've ever met have been absolutely wonderful people. But they don't read the tells very well so they have problems understanding what the audience really is responsive too, too often they are blinded by their own perception, not realizing it's not necessarily shared by everybody else and they're struggling to distinguish between Second Life as their hobby and Second Life as their job. Now, despite what the old saying claims, the customer isn't always right and I'm all for people enojoying what they get paid for and getting paid for what they enjoy, but you have to be careful not to take it too far.

I could go on with the related problems with mixing open source and commercal ethics and overestimating your own width of knowledge but I won't. This is in danger of turning into a full fledged rant and really only marginally on topic for this thread too. The owner of a well known game themed YouTube channel summed it up better than I can do anyway and he only needed eight words for it: Second Life is made by developers for developers.

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At this point do we know what's to become of the old Linden Home continents? Those old builds got some things remarkably right for their time (which was sorta the heyday of sculpty-augmented prim building, same era as Nautilus City), and nearly completely contributed as full-perm assets* to use for customizing. Of course they're hopelessly dated now.

In some recent thread somebody wanted a Belli-like continent where the Mole-built structures could be turned off and optionally replaced by resident-supplied builds on the same terrain, the way Horizons works. The rezzer-stocked Horizons builds are pretty uniformly disappointing, so it's lucky they're optional, even though their Land Impact doesn't count against the resident parcel. There's something to be said for the resulting diversity, but at the cost of a less coherent theme (at best).

__________________
*Belli content packs retain some of that spirit, but crippled by the way SL mesh conflates model with object—an intentional logic error of muddling class and instance.

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