Here we go again with Hamlet nee Linden Au flogging his anti-land policies, and now elaborating by inviting a guest post from a prominent land baron in SL who has a communitarian (if not socialist) notion of land that Shamlet and other outright socialists like Iggy Idon'twantospellyourname, the "edu-punk" and "critical" educationalist in SL. These figures are all advocating that their loss-leaders in rentals to compete with the Atlas big barons with the bulk discounts should somehow be rewarded or alleviated in "incentives" because they "give back to the community".
Iggy fled the evil capitalist platform for Open Sim, whining the whole way that he couldn't seem to legally copy the brown turd of his Siggy Romulus beach house and other newbie wonders in order to transfer them.
Ayesha Lytton runs the popular Solace Beach rentals. They're big -- but not mega big, like Anshe or others with hundreds if not thousands of sims. She's complaining about several things -- and not even the Atlas program, which apparently is a program whereby the very largest land barons get a break on tier, and therefore can offer cheaper rentals, undercutting people like me.
This has never bothered me, because I think it's a perfectly normal practice in business to give your best customers who buy a lot a bulk discount. Other people who are smaller then have to innovate and do other things like provide more flexibility (refunds, which people like Anshe don't offer) or as Ayshe says, offer activities like live music. So she wants some sort of...compensation...or something...to offset this.
Except...her theory about these sort of land-baron supplied events is one I can't endorse, as it's basically about a form of socialism and restricted economy that winds up rewarding oligarchs (like Russia or China).
She packages this idea of giving live music to her customers not as a loss leader, and not as an innovation or attraction that helps her compete and even have a business, but as something that "gives back to the community".
I find this entire idea of "giving back to the community" completely loathsome. And that's not because I like Ayn Rand (I don't at all) or because I don't think it's worth giving to the community (which I do by helping to sustain 100,000 meters of open SL Public Land Preserve).
It's because a business hasn't taken anything from the community such as to have to be tasked now to "give back". "Giving back to the community" is something that people who have drawn heavily on the community already -- high school students, say -- should be doing
But a business is providing a service in a free market, it's attractive enough to get tenants, and accepting their money isn't a crime or a harm to them -- the very idea that you then have to "give back" something to these people who paid you money is odd -- you don't. Taking money from them doesn't diminish them -- they were happy to pay it. If they aren't, they can leave and move elsewhere in the vast and variegated rentals marked of Second Life. HUGE market!
So the idea that you "have" to "give something to the community" is wrong -- and belongs to that Obama socialist "You didn't build that" philosophy -- or, I suspect, something more simple, not steeped in Marxism, which is "I'm not really doing business, I'm being a social maven."
A lot of people in the rentals game got into it not because it's a good business -- and I'm one of them. It's not. It's a loss-producing business with huge risks and little or no reward. People do it because they like socializing (many of the women in the rentals game in SL), or they like experimenting with different things to see how they work (me). Remember, I've noted many times that online life is basically about Playing War, Playing Store, or Playing House. Playing Store is huge fun and very satisfying -- it satisfies the ancient human desire to make or bring something to a marketplace and compete with others to sell it. This ancient human tradition is so embedded in the psyche that no amount of communism or socialism or Baathism or anything of the sort can eradicate it. Even the hippie technolibertarians at Linden Lab haven't killed it off, and God knows they've tried!
A lot of the things that people put out in rentals that they think are "for the community" in fact are never used. How many times have you flown around inworld and found elaborate pools, Tiki huts, romantic nooks, waterfalls with poseballs that *never, ever get used*. People get very, very attached to the vision of themselves as a lovely provider of social experiences in SL, and it is very, very hard to let go.
I can speak to this because I've gone through many, many permutations myself. I used to think that a Grecian bath with camping tents nearby on a mountain was just lovely. I liked it, it was made by Julia Hathor, it seemed pretty, why wouldn't anyone come and sit in it? Well, they just didn't. People sit in other things that I don't especially like as much, and it amazes me. The Tethys Wolf Grotto, which also has one of those old Julia Hathor pool builds with wolves on it is one of the most popular small lots in the Land Preserve with big tippers. People love sitting with wolf stuff on a mountain side. They didn't love sitting with Grecian urn stuff on a mountain side. Why should I get in their way and keep putting the Grecian pool out? I finally -- and sadly it took years of not getting tips before I let it go -- I ditched it, and through some fortuituous circumstances, put up the St. Thaddeus Monastery which is done with a Halloween and magic theme and is way more popular, probably the second most after the Moth Temple and Botany Grove. This theme creates some ambivalence for me. The monastery is, after all, a blessed place. And I don't believe in Satan and some of the nastier forms of Halloween stuff like axes in the head and blood on the floor. So it's more of a white magic and Halloween lite place as a result, even if though I might get more traffic if I had the axe in the head. I did put a sea monster that emerges out of the water and coils around you on the deck, though, I love that! (I got the idea from the Dumb n Dumber Sim).
People have a hard time facing the fact that a lot of the public builds they put out that are filler for aesthetics aren't really used, yet removing them changes the ambience and can reduce rentals. I used to have a picnic area that was never used, but I think just having it there created a feeling for the sim that helped rentals.
And at the end of the day, people who say they need to "give back to the community" because they feel there is something tainted or wrong or tawdry about taking dollars from people to pay for tier and service -- well, maybe they shouldn't be in business. I'd encourage them not to take the losses and work the hours they are working precisely for that reason -- and that would be a lot more help to the economy than what Ayshe suggests.
First, she notes that the move of inworld stores to the Marketplace, a stampede that Linden helped along enormously by taking over the Marketplace and making the wallet there hook up directly to avatar accounts, has hurt the land market (which ultimately hurts the whole market). The Lindens don't seem to buy Shamlet's take on this completely, that they should ditch the land model, but they do seem to move toward making more of their revenue from digital sales and currency exchange rather than servers. The theory is with the pressure of open sims (now at something like 10,000 just on Adam's grid) with their dirt-cheap costs will force down LL's costs. That has not happened in years and I suspect will never happen, and I don't see any indication that the Lab will lower tier or that it should do so. Um, they already lowered tier, you know? For the customers that buy the most from them, not those who demand the most customer service from them -- and then even have theories that its the Lab itself that must "give back to the community".
Ayshe and others want to tax merchants, that they seem to resent because they "make something out of nothing" and have "no costs" and aren't "part of the community". This is absurd to me -- and also socialist, collectivist, and anti-free-market. The beauty of SL is precisely that you can get a free account, make something "out of nothing" using your brains, skills, the inworld tools, or programs like PhotoShop, and then make money. Good! That's a *good* thing and one of the great affordances and attractions of virtuality. No one should get in the way of this frictionless creativity. Creators shouldn't be required to forcibly buy a premium account to "have land" that they might not even use just to list on the market place. They already pay to get listings *noticed*, they already pay a commission on sales, so why should they also have the heavy tax burden of having to pay for accounts that "only give them 20 listings" or something. There is even the atrocious idea, straight out of the corporativist and oligarchic model, that the larger someone's land holdings, the more they should get in space on the Marketplace.
All of these are bad ideas that I don't fear the Lindens will listen to, but it's typical of the ambient and inchoate socialism always floating around SL that often comes from girls who want to socialize and hug in bunches. You *did* build that, and no, you don't have to give back. You already gave at the office -- your business in SL. That *is* community, you know? Business *is* community. The free recreational areas actually should be kept to a minimum, because they are loss leaders, not "giving to the community," looked at hard. There's a zillion mediocre music acts in SL -- is that all you're adding to?
Ayshe thinks because the continents are shrinking due to the virtual form of "climate change" that comes from the Lindens' technocommunist practices (Linden Homes, Governor Linden $1 abandoned land for sale, etc.), that the Lindens now have to "do something". Er, what? Here she tells us:
Second Life has always in the past been friendly to small business. It's a place where anyone can get started creating or selling at low cost and succeed based on talent. As in real life, monopolies can destroy competition and hurt small business owners. Diversity and healthy competition is good for the economy. Linden Lab should not be in the business of creating content or themed communities beyond what they've already done. Instead they should support small businesses, and offer incentives for selling in-world, running quality events and creating themed communities. It is our world and our imagination, and no single company should have too much power, whether that be Linden Lab or an in-world business grown out of control.
If Ayshe doesn't recall the history of the Lindens paying events stipends, she should Google some of my past blogs and the general forums on this controversial topic. The Lindens used to pay venue owners right out to hold events -- a stiped merely for holding a contest or puzzle or something on your land. You also got "dwell" -- points for traffic. Both of these features of the Linden-subsidized economy weren't only gamed; they were fucked up the ass. The events subsidies were supposed to encourage art, music, creativity. Instead, they encouraged school-girl plaid and wet t-shirt contests.The dwell -- payments in Lindens and for the very best, even in real dollars! -- was exploited by bots and camping and as a result was removed and camping outlawed -- and search has never recovered.
I honestly can't think of a single thing that the Lindens could do to "offer incentives for small business" that wouldn't in fact be unfair, FIC'd, gamed, or destructive. Truly, what can they do? I don't like Linden Homes and it undercuts my business, but for them, it makes sense to have a seamless experience online where you make your avatar and pick a home to start. There was the idea at one time that they should put out the equivalent of brochure stands in a hotel in the infohubs and public areas there that would help people find other things in SL, especially the next step up in rentals. But they couldn't find a way to do this fairly, I guess, and saw it as too time-consuming. They decided merely to let search and the viewer do that work of getting people to the next step. That's unfortunate, because they should just sell the advertising space as they used to in the telehubs.
The Lindens still subsidize some art sims and there's the Linden Endowment for the Arts, they have various content related things like Picture of the Day, which I've always liked (although I don't like what they pick, but that's a secondary matter) or various contests related to holidays. Truly, that's enough.
I'd be really content if the Lindens would just keep themselves busy with their new games Patterns and -- what was that other one called? The Etch-a-Sketch or felt shapes sort of one? -- and just stay out of creating more havoc in SL itself. It's been 8 years of change as a constant for me, with most new features subtracting from the quality of life. Could it be left to gel a bit without being ragged for not being innovative? It will never capture that percentage of young male gamerz who bitch about the graphics, so leave it alone, ok?
They've done enough to monkey up the viewer and other than making search work better and getting its interface to be less spacious and stupid, they should avoid inflicting more harm. Right now, I think they should work on removing all those little annoyances in viewer 3 that are so exasperating for the land worker -- like "edit terrain" and "build" being so near each other that you inevitably end up rezzing a prim every time you try to work land; like the HUGELY ANNOYING inability to immediate edit a prim without two things getting in your way repeatedly as you click and click -- a) first, the name label with the "i for information" symbol that inevitably comes up on every click (instead of just being available for hover as it was before) and b) the edit menu itself blocking your editing operation inworld -- it should pop up to the left. Other things like the "sit" being too close to other land menu choices -- if these Linden latifundistas would just come in and do a day's honest land work inworld, these interface annoyances hobbling land workflow would be removed in a heartbeat.
I'm grateful simply that when the Lindens do bad -- as they did the other day with returning builds and prims of customers for me on six sims -- ouch, ouch, havoc, mayehm -- they fixed it within half a day, rolling back mainland sims that they always say can't be rolled back. This was the LeTigre chanel spitting up. Thank God we got through that without hardly any tears, although I lost one customer -- it was awful to fly up to Grace and find the entire plaza build missing and all the customers' stores returned to their inventory.
Lionhearts, another popular rentals, big, but not mega, has this "you didn't build that' nonsense to say:
Basically, every merchant can make money out of nothing now, without investing some of their profit back into the community, without BEING PART of the SL Community. It's the perfect tool for them to suck out money out of SL without any financial risk like every business should have in my opinion. Only businesses who are able to survive with that normal economic risk are really supporting themselves. Everything else, is simply over-flooding the market with items nobody wants. How many items sleep in the marketplace since years unsold, or sold only once every here and then? Why should even Linden Lab be interested in hosting items for years on their marketplace which never sell?
Er, what is this coercive notion of "having to be part of the community"? You're already part of it if you are selling something people buy. Leave it alone!
Now, should people flooding the marketplace with crappy junk (and I fit in that category) that doesn't sell year after year be forced to delete items that don't sell within a deadline -- or else pay to list them? Hmm. I wonder about this. I'd like to debate it some more. It seems like an artificial contrivance, and yet, it's an artificial contrivance that Linden's servers seem to have an endless appetite for my dollarbie junk. Remember the hell that broke lose when poor Pink Linden made the perfectly rational suggestion that people putting up freebies and dollarbies that took up server space but didn't earn the Lindens commissions should pay something? There was all this wailing and gnashing of teeth that not allowing zillions of crappy freebies was "hurting the community" and "killing newbies". Like I said -- nobody lets go of anything harder than the vaunted notion of themselves as Lady Bountiful. I thought it was perfectly reasonable for Lindens to get a fee for me to list a freebie. After all, server space isn't boundless, and the operations to deliver are taxing at some level.
Then Iggy Pop, the edu-punk, says this fatuous socialist nonsense, as if it's "first they came for the socialists" -- when in fact, they didn't come for them:
Virtually every line here is one of those "you didn't build that" socialist-type lies. Second Life isn't a monoculture, just because one company runs it -- it has a surprising -- shocking -- amount of cultures on it and styles of business -- and opportunity. I marvel that I get new customers every day. The Lindens didn't "bleed" the small shop owners -- they themselves realized that it was stupid to pay for laggy land when their customers could busy from them even more easily off the web. Most merchants want to be creators and spend their time creating, not being mall keepers and police for their sims. It's not just the Marketplace that makes people not want to go to secondary stores inworld, it's other things -- continued sim-seam problems make ground travel as exploring and serendipity in shopping a rugged hobby, and even teleporting isn't so great -- I feel it has gotten worse lately, with many efforts to teleport being rejected as the sim won't handshake or whatever. There's also the annoyance of your flying avatar overshooting his mark as he crosses the sim seam -- I don't know the technical term for that but that avatar-overshoot-hang is near-chronic now and almost always needs a re-log.
Educators are not "bled". Lots of them are still in SL. Those that wanted open sims for less left and some dramatically, like Fleep. Are they happier and more innovative and barnstorming the educational vistas? It doesn't seem so. Iggy seems to spend most of his life complaining about SL, which he left, on Shamlet's blarg.
Atlas isn't going to shrug, although either Anshe or some of those other biggies may retire, sick of the endless labors and troubles of virtuality. If that happened, the Lindens have a trick up their sleeve -- they can offer homesteads without the requirement of first having to own a full private island.
My wish for the Lindens re: small business isn't anything about incentives that I just don't think work or won't be damaging. Rather, they should return their full statistics disclosure so we can understand the markets better. They should return voting and viewing of the JIRA. They should put advertising capacities into the welcome hubs and have a network along the highways that is tastefully done.