One of my favourite classy magazines, for which I've done a great deal of uncompensated consulting lately lol has an article up about Princeton pulling out of Second Life.
Ouch. Do the Lindens -- does Pathfinder or whoever is responsible for keeping educators happy on the grid -- get that this is *the* most prestigious university on the East Coast? More important than Harvard? Maybe the most prestigious in America? Like losing the most wealthy and influential wire service, Reuters, somebody isn't paying attention -- or doesn't care.
Of course, part of the problem is this philosophy that the Lindens used to purvey endlessly from 2003-2007, before M Linden arrived, that Linden Lab was just the caretakers of a platform, a blank space in which other people were to write, where they wouldn't help them write. They have a lot of trouble undoing that now -- it's like jumping over their own knees. "Blowback," you might call it.
M seems to have modified or junked that old technocommie Darwinism, and realized that people need help writing on their space -- which is of course, a delicate balance of not promoting learned helplessness and dependency versus not intruding on creativity and autonomy. For example, I don't need M to help me write on my space; I need him to get off my e-lawn and do one thing: keep griefers from crashing my sim. That's all. But others need a lot of prepping and hand-holding for the long term project of building a Better World (as Real Life becomes a worse and worse place to be, with collapsing economies and wars, it shouldn't be THAT hard to make a Better World online. Any would do.)
I'm not getting the Princeton exit, and likely there's a story behind the story -- I just don't know the people. I went there and took a screenshot of myself in collegiate wear (as it happens, by Simone! lol) earlier this fall, when I was in Connectivist College (from which I flunked out midterm due to taking another real job lol). That won't stop me from engaging in some useful public guesstimation, however : )
First, let's do the math. Apparently there are four openspace sims there, amidst others (I can't believe they built entire huge monster Scope Cleaver builds on openspace sims, but stranger things have happened). I didn't realize their empire consisted of any OS sims, but apparently a lot do. I can't get a good connection now to get inworld and see what the mix is, but let's say that having to retire 4 sims because the prices went up was the reason.
Um...but wait. That's a mere...$200 in total more a month after graduation next June. With the fee going from $75 to $95 to $125 next year (on the homestead sims they'd need with that heavy content), that's mere pocket change for college boys. Why, have one less latte a week...don't take that drunken cab ride all the way from the night of slots at Atlantic City, get on the bus...and you have the price of your sims. So the rise from $80 to $200 a month in the next six months *more* in a year-long budget originally $3600 and now $6000 simply cannot be the reason that the richest college in America, producing the wealthiest and most influential people on the planet, just about, have to pull out of SL. Please, let's not cry poor here.
Traffic: 965. Well, you know, there's something to be said for the libertarian approach to economic matters in this regard: "They didn't value it." Of course, that overlooks the role of government and business in a civil society, which ought to sustain the arts and letters.
But wait. Are there more costs? Well, that's the part I can't figure out. They sure have some very high-end content there from Scope Cleaver and AM Radio, among others. Scope is among the best architects of SL, featured in the New York Times magazine. AM is terribly feted by the Lindens and the SLebrity FIC. They get enormous amounts of publicity for their hosts with their content -- you couldn't pay them enough.
Builders in SL don't make boatloads of money, however, even sought-after talented ones like these. We see the moles get only $10/hour from the Lab. I know of many other inworld builders earning only $25/hour -- tops -- not enough to live on in an American city unless your parents help. The really high-end projects like Reuters Island might pay a Barnesworth or Cory Edo type $50/hour. Aimee Weber might get that or more for something like NASA or the US Navy. But put in perspective, that really isn't very much money. Because they're expected to work even that handsome $50/hour job within a matter of days, and often expected to keep coming back for touch-ups, repairs, fixes, extras like scripts and signage that tend to go unpaid. The people at the heart of the Second Life experience who give it is best look and feel aren't really compensated even as much as a RL programmer at IBM like Dale Innis or Zha Ewry. And we take that for granted.
Still, the budgets of constantly changing high-end content might still mean thousands of dollars in consulting fees a month or a semester. Again, for a budget of an Ivy League school, good Lord, the football team's away game bus and drycleaning bill probably dwarfs what they spent on SL. But if they are in a department where somebody is freaking over recession costs and trying to cut corners, they might seize on this weird virtual thing they never understood anyway.
But...what is it really about?
One is the cool kids' factor. Princeton is nothing if not a hotbed of cool kids. If other cool kids like Reuters are seen to be bailing, they may bail too. They may have only come to copy Harvard. They may have only come because they had some enthusiastic college kid whose labour they could exploit for free, but now he has midterms or maybe he graduated. Who the hell knows.
Another, I suspect, is the feeling that the openspace debacle is a symbol of Attitude. To fail to keep the educators' discount seems enormously short-sighted. I can't imagine what the Lindens are thinking here -- if they are thinking at all. They tout education as a sought-after class or users at every turn, they constantly brag about it in their PR literature, and surely they understand that educators' discount are a staple of intellectual and cultural life in America -- especially in these times!
The brazenness with which the Lindens are toughing out their hugely nasty 60 percent price-hike remains puzzling to me: they must have some better gig down the road, and don't need to worry about dissing Reuters, Princeton, or AM Radio, their darling. That they would accommodate MarkTwain White on the USS thing and not cut educators' like Princeton and AM Radio a break is just plain mysterious. And given the way in which they've shamelessly hustled the screens from AM Radio's The Quiet as part of their WinterFaire promotion to get more sign-ups and inworld hours at Christmas time -- well, surely, given the importance to their business, they could figure something out...
On the other hand, why can't the well-fed universities of America pony up a little more to the table here to help develop virtual worlds? I imagine there might be conversations like that at the Lab. Here they are, not a *real* lab, not a *real* accredited research institute, and yet they are supposed to absorb the entire cost of the exploration of virtuality. Can't some of this big institutions of the East cough up some funding for this important venture, as they do for the Internet and social media?
And on yet another hand, why should Princeton, or Linden Lab, exist merely to keep afloat a tiny, select group of Not Possible In RL Members? These fancy sims serve mainly as backdrop for things like romantic explorations for IBM avatars, or a postcard to attach to a Times article on their fancy flash site about architecture. That's all well and good, but it doesn't sell sims. Constantly accommodating this artistic elite of SL (which is what you are essentially doing when you encourage big business or big education to hire from the FIC stable) isn't producing ROI as it once did. Perhaps there's that sort of pragmatism involved.
Here's what AM Radio posts on his avatar profile inworld -- very telling!
"This is our island. It’s a good island. Until the grown-ups come to fetch us we’ll have fun."
-Lord of the Flies