"Every human being is interested in two kinds of worlds: the Primary, everyday world which he knows through his senses, and a Secondary world or worlds which he not only can create in his imagination, but which he cannot stop himself creating." W.H. Auden
I missed this little paragraph on my first reading of Rodvik's end-of-the-year message -- and then I saw it on my second or third reading and thought, hmmm, but it didn't really creep up on me until a few friends inworld started saying, "You know, it's not the certification thing that has me worried, it's this business policy stuff."
Exactly. Certification is bad, and widens the gulf between the classes of SL and shrinks the economy and makes it tilt way more toward that 1/99 percent stuff that Occupy Wall Street rants on about.
But what the hell is this other stuff?
"In addition, our service and quality focus in 2012 also means that we will be delivering features and policies that we believe will significantly assist merchants and landowners in running a business more profitably."
Now, that could be just some anodyne, innocuous thing about having accounts go back more than 30 days, the way the used to, in the early days of Second Life. Or some little thing like that.
But in the hands of the Lindens, you can't assume that.
That's because virtually every new policy they've put out has been devastating, debilitating and scarring to the business community -- and when it is a correction for past crimes (like the ad farms policy), it comes so far after the fact of massive damage that it only reinforces the sense of evil cynicism. My own take on their method is something I called PainPoint (TM) years ago -- and I think we can expect the same.
People make predictions that seem wildly off like mine (although they contain essential truths) precisely because there is so little articulation of the mission and plans from the Lab.
I mean, why put a vague and disconcerting statement like that out there?
It's not like there is some *other* virtual world with a realistic economy (!) that is peering over your shoulder breathlessly awaiting your every development to *themselves* come up with, an, um, boost to "significantly assist merchants and landowners in running a business more profitably" -- such that you have to keep *your* plan a big secret due to competition *snort*.
Deltango Vale is pulling his hair out on the forums. Although he's a prime-A forums asshole who has lorded over people and driven many people batty with his arrogant bullshit, he has a certain point when it comes to complaining about the lack of information and roadmapping, given the hard work that he has done for years, building pet schemes that soak gullible goofs like me into shedding their Lindens endlessly to keep fairies fed in their fairy glades, content with only the very occasional rare that might sell now for something like $250 in the farmers' markets (down from their glory days of $3000).
It's hard to believe that he might actually have *lost* money soaking his fellow avatars of their pet funds, but perhaps he lost *some*. Everyone has.
What would be fair, when you have people making and selling stuff like this online in a world is to consult with them, even debate with them these policies (and the Lindens used to do a lot more of that than now, certainly).
This new profit-making (yeah, right) policy will likely involve certification of merchants, too. The lure will be things like a faster cashout (it can take 5-10 days or longer to cash out from Linden Lab and many people have gone over to VirWox as a result -- they are efficient and instant), perhaps special advertising boosts as they already do for some special friends, perhaps special other somethings.
But you'll forgive me if I don't see anything coming down the pipeline that is *something that will actually make us a profit*. That is, make us lose less money or have to work less hard for it. Of course, there are some in the very thin layer of "Positive Monthly Linden Flow" businesses that make $2000 US or even $5000 or more, but that's not the vast majority of SL businesses which are more likely in the $10-50-500-1000 range, max, and usually at the lower ends.
I'm trying to think of what other awful thing might be coming such as to try to prepare for it. See, that's how you get with this dysfunctional and abusive relationship. Naturally, if you don't like it, you should leave, and some have.We get that. But some people do continue to work at the definition of insanity, banging their head against the wall, because they believe firmly that there *is* sanity somewhere in this set-up.
What would REALLY help people have higher profits? Only lower tier.The Lindens have absolutely no reason to lower tier. Their costs have not gone down. The price of server rentals is not about the price of steel objects that may have reduced in price in recent years. It's the price of their labour and expertise. It's the price of their building of the contiguous world with its real-time interactive, search, customer service, content. That is indeed what it costs. It costs that much. They have enough people who have shown up for that price. They have absolutely no reason to lower it. They announced that they're keeping it the same, merely to give people another year of stability, given the instability that their developmental spasms like mesh or the viewer tinkering cause. That's all.
Deltango whines again about VAT -- but that's ridiculous. Nobody should have to pay for his European socialism. He has to pay for that, not us. If he can't compete against Americans who have then lower costs for SL (in theory), he has to factor that if he is in this full-time, he doesn't have health or education costs that Americans have. Furthermore, serious, professional SL businesses can write off their expenses and therefore not have the expense of VAT that others who don't register and go through the documentation needed.
But is there anything else that would help people make better profits?
As we've seen the creator-fascists are willing to call for users being *locked out of SL* unless they switch to a viewer that can see mesh so that they can buy the meshies mesh stuff. Ugh!
But what else would work?
Here are little doable things -- they may involve programming, but it can't be that serious, and some of them only involve political will:
1. Better record keeping and history -- any business will stop losses, even if they don't increase profits, when they can manage the books better. It's a fucking chore to have to download the Excel file and then remember to rename it something that won't get overwritten by the next download. Banks give you three months or a year. Why can't LL? It doesn't really take up that much server space. They could even offer it, the way banks do, not as pages to turn but PDF files. But it would help to be able to see trends over time.
2. Tagging ability for accounts -- currently, in order to get your accounts to have some tag, you have to have the object you are selling or the rentomatic or whatever named a certain way. Then you have to manually watch for it. But it would be great if you could tag the accounts as you went through them, or could use scripts to tag items in basic ways, like "business expense" (when you buy something for your business) or "Christmas discount special" or whatever.
3. Fix search --still little and big problems.
4. Make it easier to find and make classifieds on viewer 3.
5. PUT ADVERTISING BOARDS IN THE INFOHUBS AND WELCOME AREAS. I've said this for 7 years. Put them along Linden roads, too. This could make a huge difference in both giving newbies "something to do" and giving merchants willing to serve newbies especially better access to customers. Idiots like Pussy Catnip or whatever the fuck her name is, is calling for the *closure* of infohubs (I remember when I had to remove her when she bustled all over ours and put prims teleporting people to her little newbie center and store parcel LOL -- that's what it's all about.)
But most people get it about the need for advertising hoardings, and they can be done tastefully. They used to be there! Even in their much hippier days, the Lindens had them in all the infohubs.
6. Make the cashout faster -- instant would be best. IF there is certification -- and I'm not for it -- then it shouldn't be accepted by merchants unless they get *at least* that. In fact, I'm for having this for those with X volume of sales anyway.
7. Make direct landing to your sim on a SLURL without having to go through orientation or infohubs. This is basic. Infohubs are good and should be kept. But customization should also be allowed. The Lindens wouldn't grant this before, and should. They wouldn't because they wanted control over the population. They wanted to groom and track them. The Communitiy Gateway thing that required a reg-api and approval by the Lindens with certain conditions, i.e. staff available 24/7, is not what I'm talking about. That might be good to bring back, too, but I'm talking about simply the ability to get past the bullshit at orientation that impedes so many people (and may be responsible for as many as 99 out of 100 not staying in SL, according to Tateru's sketchy sources). People with projects and programs and offerings should be able to land newbies right in their lap, without all the crap in betwee.
I'll have to go back and award myself at least a partial point for getting another 2011 prediction right -- I said merchants would be certified in 2011 -- and it turns out in the waning days of the year it will be creators that will be certified.
Rod Humble, CEO of Linden Lab, announced today on the forums that the "powerful" new tools being developed for making games that are visible in Linden Realms will only be available to certified creators.
It's not clear what the certification will involve, but the sense is that it will involve more than the silly questionnaire that was put in front of us automatically to be able to upload mesh.
The justification for this elitism is the griefing that was sure to occur otherwise. There has been a lot of concern expressed about what would happen when the world acquired the capacity to force HUDs on avatars. Every prim diva with a mall would force a HUD upon you on landing, the way she now pushes a notecard, landmark and group invite into your face. It could also be used for griefing, spamming people with nasty HUDs forcing things into their view. Possible other things like the ability of stuff inworld to be tripped up and then put into your inventory -- that could be griefable.
So, obviously that influenced the Lindens, plus, they may have wanted to keep an eye on how the tools were used -- and for what, and by whom.
One of the key goals of Linden Realms was to learn more about what tools Residents could use to develop richer experiences in Second Life — and boy, did we learn a lot! In Q1 2012 , we will be releasing new tools used to develop Linden Realms, which will allow Residents to create even richer original experiences in Second Life. To prevent abuse of these tools, we will introduce a "creators" program in which verified members will be given access to these very powerful capabilities.
It's not clear whether this "creators' program" will only involve these MMORPG tools, or creation in general -- I hope just the latter.
But at the bottom of the post, Rod talks about new pathfinder abilities:
Because worlds feel most vibrant when they are full of life, one of our next focuses for Second Life is the ability to make high-quality “life” within it. So in 2012, we will be rolling out more advanced features that will allow the creation of artificial life and artificial people to be much smoother. For starters, in Q1, we'll unveil a new, robust pathfinding system that will allow objects to intelligently navigate around the world while avoiding obstacles. Combined with the tools from Linden Realms this will make the polished creation of full MMORPG’s or people/animal simulators within Second Life easier and of high quality.
So it sounds to me like this: while the Lindens are bringing back that old slogan "Your World, Your Imagination," they really mean this for a select group of Feted Inner Core (FIC) -- devs who will be sub-creators of the world that we will all perforce consume.
Just as we can't edit or resize or modify mesh objects and have to learn the difficult skill of making mesh to be able to have any control over mesh (sculpty was like this, only a bit editable), so now we will be even further removed from a creator-class that will get certification and access to special tools -- and therefore, a privileged position in the economy.
Of course, the knowier-than-thous and arrogant assholes of the forums and blogs will say, "well, learn the skill if you want certification, it's not that hard." There will be any number of horrid little smarmy fanboyz who will eat up this new stratification of SL, because it will give little nerdlets without lives power over other human beings.But learning these skills is not something everyone has time and inclination for -- and by contrast with the inworld building tools, they are several orders of magnitude harder.
The certification might involve giving ID -- and therefore some even skilled people may resist signing up because they just don't want to give their RL name to a platform like this.
Somehow the prospect of going to slow-loading sims where smug little devs and fanboyz of the Lindens have made little wordlets with animals that you can buy for a young fortune -- well, it seems awful! It's already awful, having the pet-making class of people so privileged and lording it over the forums.
What do you think? Will this, too, be something that the essential openness and democracy of SL will absorb without too great a difference in the "feel" of SL?
The feel of SL is of course very different these days, it doesn't feel like a world, much less a free one, for many reasons. For one, the Lindens don't talk to us, there are no more community Lindens, and now there is some...entity...called "Linden Lab" with -- I swear to God! -- *the Kremlin* as the picture in its avatar. I don't know *what* they were thinking. This "Linden Lab" creature comes on the forum like a bot and plays "friends". It asks you ridiculously vacuous questions like, "What is the best compliment you ever got in SL?"
Someone tries to talk to this intelligent artifice and ask it what *its* favourite compliments were, to...no answer.
I can't believe Ciaran Laval is greeting this as better communication from the Lindens. It's not a Linden like...we know Lindens to be. Humans. With personalities. Individuals. It's an account called "Linden Lab" that could be operated by interns or anybody. Why can't it at least have a name?!The word "Linden" has always had an aura around it of specialness. Lindens were always special people -- individuals who had specific assignments and office hours and who had bears and such. I suppose the experience of both Pink Linden and Blue Linden serving as forums' lightning rods made the Linden collective decide that they didn't want real individuals to draw fire -- better to have a corporate anonymous exterior.
I mentioned "Flowers for Algernon" today -- I have that feeling again. A feeling that I was once smart and could manipulate the world and create things, and now I am getting dumber...
Rodvik also talks about "other products unrelated to SL". So it looks like my prediction for a Facebook game tied to SL was off. It might still be a Facebook game of another sort. But when he says "unrelated," that sounds, well, completely unrelated.
"Some of them will be very experimental, but all will fit within our company’s proud history of enabling creativity, which I hope may interest some of you." Some?
Rod is only fueling creator-fascism, the bane of SL, especially in the earlier days when the forums were controlled by a handful of FIC creators.
The TPV program has long since made TPVs the IE of Second Life. Things like Shared Media flopped day 1 because TPVs wouldn't move to Viewer 2 to support it. Mesh is pretty much dead right now because there's still Phoenix viewers connected to the grid. Smaller features like llTextBox() for input rather than scripts having users type things on hidden chat channels are dead in the water because older viewers still connect. It's silly.
Linden Lab should necessitate viewers connecting to the Second Life servers support a strict set or features. Could 1-2 people accomplish it? Seems so, just a policy change and user-agent blocking. That's better than continuing to have large and small new features alike go unused because there's no guarantee everyone can see them.
Imagine. *Blocking people from logging on to SL* and forcing them to use a viewer to see mesh just so this asshole can sell his mesh. Horrible.
I do have ESP, I swear! But here's the problem. I also have astigmatism. So I see certain things as really nearby but blurry -- when in fact they are very far off. And I can only see certain things very close up, i.e. about 15 minutes before they happen (so I so often don't get credit for my ESP, it's a shame).
So, for my last year's predictions, I only got half of my predictions correct. Terrible! I almost felt like Algernon with the flowers, reading my predictions last year.
First, what I got all wrong:
1) Augumented Reality Will Become the Next Big Thing and 2) The Lindens somehow get into Augmented Reality
Huh? Augmented Reality -- well, it's just not ready for prime time. Not only isn't ready for the goggles -- people don't like having distracting things in front of their view. It's not ready even just in the window-for-perceiving-the-world that is the tiny screen of your i-phone or bigger screen of your i-pad. There are *some* augmented things here and there, but by and large, it's just not taking over. Even Google Street View doesn't seem to have that much uptake. Let alone aps built on top of that, like the one where you assume a first-person-shooter stance and go shoot in Google Street View.
Perhaps we have to redefine or dumb down what Augmented Reality is. But in the version of it we heard from Vernor Vinges or in the many long breathless reports from Tish Shute, it's just not happening. Maybe, like virtual worlds, it is in its winter.
But it's not going to happen next year, either. It's too wonky, buggy, hard to use.
3. I was wrong that Web GPL will be the Next Big Thing, too. Too wonky. Just not there yet.
4. Philip will come back to SL and do something with AI. Wrong. He went on to real life to make Coffee and Power and his other influence-peddling game.
7. Sion Zaius will return to Second Life and make version 1.4 of the famous chickens. Sadly, never happened.
8. Dave Winer, Doug Rushkoff etc will make a new Darknet.
Strangely, they never did this. Maybe that's because they hope if they do things like defeat SOPA, they can just takeover the existing Internet and run it in the continued ethics-free manner they wish.
12. Merchants will be certified and offered faster cashouts or a chit-earning scheme or free advertising. I won't count this as a fulfilled prediction, even though "free advertising" is *exactly* what a number of high-end merchants got this year, starting with the pet mafia who got into the email boxes of all us premium account holders and ending with things like "Wolf Point" or whatever it is that got on the splash page. BTW, your humble correspondent got on the splash page for a few times this year too as part of the Halloween promotion -- St. Thaddeus got in the Destination list, and those were rotated on the splash.
Now, for where my ESP worked:
5. SL will not be public, merged, or bought out. Well, it wasn't. But hold that thought...
6. Search will not be fixed. No need for ESP on that one!
8. Dusan Writer will sell or pass on Metanomics. Does Metanomics still exist? I think he *did* pass it on, but it faltered. He also hasn't blogged for the entire year. He has other things he's doing.
10. The edu sims on open sim and hypergrid will fail or not grow by much. Too true. And indeed, educators remaining in SL did better. That isn't hard to show. It comes from a different perspective to start with, i.e. whether you are hard-left like that ubiquitous goof with the name like Omniscient Painintheass on SHamlet's blog, or whether you are mainstream, and find some prototyping or training use for SL, as we can see from some media stories this year. No big boom over at the commie sims.
11. Mesh will be implemented too soon, badly, and will be buggy and laggy. Yep.