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Jim Tarber

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About Jim Tarber

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  1. >> "I thought I'd give it a shot so I applied, and received a "sorry, you weren't selected" email a few days ago. LL said there were thousands of applicants and they only had six slots for this test run." There are so many problems with this plan that it's difficult to know where to begin. A so-called open program that has no transparency at all, it isn't even literally open (it closed March 28th before the promotions even started), so they are not accepting submissions, and if we just ball-park the entries at 2000 and you tried a submission before the first email, your chances for being denied were about 97%. (1994 of 2000) It would take years to work through submissions fairly, and that assumes that during that period no new submissions were added. This simply cannot succeed. Regardless of the submission numbers, this is a program to highlight a very small number of specific vendors at the discretion of unnamed people within LL with no transparency on the criteria for selection, not that it mattered since the submissions were bound to be sufficient and deals filled before most vendors interested would get word of it anyway. So there are these submission problems, the limited places should be enough to raise red flags and file this one under "unworkable", but to me this is all just the sideshow avoiding the real issue, below. Second Life has a huge commerce component, and Linden Lab needs to be doing everything they can to provide a level playing field, consistent rules for commerce, and even opportunities for those with sound or unsound business plans to succeed or fail on their own merits. SL is a environment of capitalism, and for the overlords of that system to muck around with that in such a careless and haphazard way would be like a central bank saying "Product X from Corp Y is a good deal right now". It's... just... so wrong. They don't seem to understand that they are the overlords, not the s%#@ disturbers, and that this brings with it a responsibility. They should be enabling commerce across the whole virtual goods industry, not selecting a few enterprises to highlight. That brings me to the third point, their manner of highlighting. It is a complete abuse of my email address to send me a notice of 50% off price for a dress, especially one that is not being sold by Linden Lab. They are using their direct communications channel to me for third-party marketing, in a manner that is so unfair that I was immediately shocked when reading the email. And as far as I know, there is no opt-out for this. I understand that LL might want to email me a marketing blurb, and like their inappropriate direct promotion of Ozimals, this is direct interference by Linden Lab in the business plans of their residents. Was Amaretto given a similar promotion? No. Will the competitors of this dress get an equal opportunity for direct promotion? No, but I hope not anyway. This program will end, long before the thousands of applicants are given a fair opportunity. So end it now. I would not even proceed with the remaining 5 "chosen ones". It is a program destined to fail and designed to fail and what I find most appalling is that this should be obvious to anyone working there, otherwise, as I said earlier, they are in way over their head. Singling out specific products from specific content creators is an abuse of LL's email channel. Selecting a very small number of vendors to reward unfairly is a failure of free enterprise. Let the SL markets -- the buyers -- decide fairly. Linden Lab should let the market of SL live; it's fine when they don't muck with it. If the reliability of in-world operations was fixed, and they stopped directly competing with their own residents (e.g. Linden Homes competing directly with landlords), fixed search so that it didn't use traffic as a ranking mechanism (i.e. wasn't polluted by gaming the system) and didn't use payments as a ranking mechanism (polluting results in exchange for L$), Second Life would actually provide an excellent virtual business environment. I haven't given up hope that one day they will wake up and let the SL market operate freely. But realistically, they muck with SL businesses in significant ways at least yearly.
  2. I received the email this afternoon, after seeing the occasional reference to "dash deal" in twitter messages. I looked, blinked twice, looked again. I can't believe it. Linden Lab is singling out specific single products from specific single vendors... like one at a time? This will do nothing for Second Life, except to alienate a few competitors of the products getting this preferential treatment, and to annoy large groups of residents with irrelevant spam. No, I'm not interested in wearing a dress. And I'm highly annoyed that Linden Lab would abuse that email channel they have to me in this way. Like the inappropriate marketing of a specific brand of bunnies to me by the grid owner, this is one of the biggest mistakes I have seen in recent SL history. This was a horrible, horrible idea and the decision to proceed should be reviewed by those in charge. Someone in the decision hierachy there is in over their head. Please terminate this program without repeating it.
  3. In September, I posted a blog Second Life Growth, Land and Economy - Meh, Yawn. In it, I lament the decline of some serious indicators of the Second Life economy and Linden Lab. One factor being the 35% drop in the estimated company value in only 6 months. That number is now 42.5% drop. Here are a couple of exerpts from that article. I feel they are even more true now, perhaps just more obvious months later: This blogger feels that there is one major thing leading to the decline of support, or interest, in Second Life: the perceived attitudes and business philosophies of Linden Lab. Residents need to perceive that there is a future there, and a future that still recalls the past, when Second Life was a land where a resident could make many of their dreams come true. An environment where they could do anything, be anything, build anything. Whatever they desired. A time of partying in packed clubs, a virtual career in modeling, fame and/or fortune in retail business, night after night of cybersex and debauchery, or success (or failure) in the virtual real estate market. But whatever the dream, the dream was that of the resident's, and theirs to succeed in, or fail. I no longer believe that to be the case for Second Life. Now too much depends on the policies of Linden Lab. The was a time when there was a place in Second Life for a entrepreneurial startup, say, a struggling new Anshe Chung, to succeed beyond her wildest dreams in the area of virtual real estate investment. That possibility seems to be all but dead now, with the policy changes that pretty much insist that all significant profit from virtual land sales belongs to Linden Lab. The Lab has directly entered the market for rentals, using their position as platform supplier to compete against independent resident land owners, and has held the price of "mainland" land (which they are the sole estate owner) to be constant, even though much of the mainland has been abandoned by land owners. There is a huge surplus of land on the mainland, and yet Linden Lab cannot even bother to set the parcels for sale once again when someone returns land. Perhaps that is a failed attempt to try to hold the price of land artificially high, but clearly it is not working. It's difficult to sell land even for L$1 per sqm. That figure used to be fairly stable at 6-7 L$/sqm, so the value of land has dropped about 80% in the last 2-3 years. In the meantime, Linden Lab has increased the cost of private estate homesteads, a key staple of independent landlords, by 66%. For anyone wishing to point out that private estate full regions have not increased in price, it should be noted that those regions were already 50% higher than mainland regions, which cannot be a privately owned estate. Linden Lab seems intent on forcing residents out of Second Life in order to increase revenues. This is a short-term view that will end badly for Linden Lab, Second Life, and its residents: In a world where traffic and payments do have an effect on search, it renders the operation virtually meaningless. It forces retailers to look for an alternative to having an in-world store. Oh look... XStreetSL sales are up 224% in the last year. What a surprise! That must be good news! For someone, but not for Second Life businesses and residents. Not for in-world activity. But it's not because of a viable online market. Some people blame XStreetSL for the barren wasteland of abandoned parcels that once was called Second Life. I blame the totally dysfunctional search. Now to find a product, you... well you effectively leave Second Life and use a browser. That's a victory for the web. And instead of working your way through the search results in-world, visiting relevant stores, camera-shopping and exploring all the new places within draw distance of that search result, residents now don't even need to log in to Second Life! How convenient! (For robots. How antisocial for us humans.) Linden Lab needs to remember what it was like... how pleasurable it was for the residents to be in-world... shopping... dancing... sending naughty IMs. It's difficult to IM that person shopping on XStreetSL. Oh you still can, but not in Second Life. Once again, that's something you would do... outside Second Life. Once again, Linden Lab decisions are discouraging residents from spending time in-world. The lure of Google-like search revenues may be to great for them to resist; may make it too difficult for them to see the big picture: that with fewer people left in-world, there will be fewer people in-world adding to all the things that make made Second Life great, and fun. If they want to turn Second Life into a web-based virtual shopping experience, and try to compete with IM and social networking programs without actually getting the residents in-world, all that will happen is they will pick up some short-term residents that don't really invest or contribute or add to the world, and lose the long-term ones who do. It's sad that the same issues are still plaging us 10 months later, and in fact getting worse: Linden Labs cut all the statistics that show declines from the economic stats reports. Well they left one in: user hours. There, Linden Labs themselves report a 13.5% drop in user hours from 126 million to 109 million. Nelson Linden, who posted the results, blamed that on their new improved policies on bots. Frankly that isn't believable; a policy change would show a more sudden drop, not a gradual decline over a full year. And I don't really believe the hours anyway as real, human, user hours. It conflicts with the Nielsen report above that shows a 40% drop in minutes per week. And if I have to choose who to believe, Nelson or Nielsen, well Nielsen aren't the ones changing their stats reporting each time, preventing any half-decent trend analysis. They call the economy "stable" -- that's a great euphemism for "flat", which in the online gaming and social networking worlds means "dying". You are either growing, and quickly, or you are dying and soon to be replaced by The Next Big Thing. Sorry Lindens, but "stable" means "pull up soon before you slam into the ground". Great news: user hours are "stable" from the previous quarter.
  4. I'm also asking again whether "economic participation" means "spent $1 or more" or what it means. It used to be reflected in those terms, i.e. whether or not a person had spent more than $1. Thus buying Lindens but not spending them, or getting a stipend on the premium account and not spending it would not count as "economic participation". Nelson did say these were defined on the wiki page linked in his posting, and that page makes it pretty clear economic participants includes those getting a stipend, or anything else that will cause a non-zero transaction on your Transaction History. That said, this just means the numbers are so clouded in unrelated counters being merged together that this stat is not useful to anyone. And as you pointed out, with the other former stats that are now missing, I agree with Torben that it feels like a waste of time to read this one.
  5. Last time it was "stable". This time, "steady". Or in some cases, continuing to decline slightly. As I said on my blog, that's a great euphemism for "flat", which in the online gaming and social networking worlds really means "dying". Yes, something needs to be done. "The most significant quarter-to-quarter loss of user hours was from the heaviest usage segment (accounts logging over 300 hours per month)." So the oldbies are starting to lose faith. It doesn't have to be this way. You can promote SL through new incentives for the social networking folk, while keeping the existing long-time residents happy just by throwing them a bone once in a while and really listening. You can introduce catchy new viral mini-games within that include recurring revenues, and you don't have to narrow that to one brand of bunnies, but rather grow the whole industry, the whole category of mini-games within, become THE platform for a richer experience of social and building mini-games. You don't have to replace the existing user base, or abandon the dream of providing that rich content experience for all, a place where dreams can become reality. You can let the third-party developers do all the work providing these mini-worlds within, while taking a cut on all sales, as well as an increasing number of regions for supporting this, growing the economy overall as well. It's a feedback loop and the more you provide, or indirectly provide through enabling others, the more new residents will enter, the more existing residents will be retained. And while letting the others do the work for this, you can fix the underlying base technology, and turn Second Life into the platform of choice. Making teleports reliable, fixing fundamental issues with rezzing and assets, retaking control of the script engine from MONO so that performance is not impacted, fixing the bottlenecks so that regions properly scale to hundreds of users. You can stop pushing user activities outside of the in-world environments. Promote in-world shopping, building, and editing by removing the need to do so much outside SL. First and foremost, fix the in-world search so that the results are not skewed to completely useless by bots (traffic) and bribes (paid ads). Dedicate development teams to implement in-world editors for animations, mesh editing, and maybe even clothing design (painting). You did an amazing job on providing prim-based builders the masses can access. Replicate that success with the rest of the core functionality... If you build it, they will come. Entering the social world requires good support from word-of-mouth; if you pepper them with ads and browser plugins, pushing content creators outside your world, and alienate the millions of existing users who have invested heavily in this world, it will fade away and die. Treat the residents with respect and given them reason to participate and to believe and they will grow as in previous years. I am saddened by the deep feeling that, now that Second Life has become a huge success, the huge potential there is being needlessly thrown away. The difficult part -- attracting millions of residents -- has been huge success. Just cultivate that and water it and watch it grow. Stop trampling on the flowers.
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