Aug 08

Letter to Linden Lab Re: Mainland Policies

Ad Farm Alley in Mangyeong
An ad farm along the Linden Road in Mangyeong sim seems much unchanged, despite changes in Linden Lab policies about ad farms announced seven months ago.

The Second Life community is all abuzz over a recent post from Linden Lab about upcoming changes in mainland policies. Several vocal SL bloggers have chimed in, including Gwen and Prokofy, comments on this blog, the Missing Image, and SLUniverse, in Italian, Russian, and in Germany, and reported on by New World Notes, Massively, Silicon Alley Insider, and Reuters.

Because of my professional work in Second Life, it is very rare that I publicly discuss my frustrations. I still believe that the Second Life platform is on the leading edge of the hundreds of virtual worlds (or more accurately, virtual environments) out there. I am still committed to Second Life, I pay my tier every month even though it gets harder and harder in this economy.

Griefer fireball in Chilbo
A griefer fireball in Chilbo (slightly camouflaged by our bushes) that has been sitting undisturbed for over 14 months, despite abuse reports to Linden Lab, on a parcel of land that was claimed in October 2006 by a resident who has not logged in (as far as we can tell) once in nearly two years.

I am still a committed community leader, I founded a mainland community, manage Second Life projects at work, and have taken a lead role in organizing a portion of this year’s Second Life Community Convention through the Second Life Education Community Conference.

But in light of Linden Lab’s recent blog posts, I feel compelled to speak my mind as both a citizen of this virtual world. These are my personal views and do not represent any of the professional, community, or other organizations I work with or represent.

My post to the closed forum is cited in full below:

Dear Jack,

I have invested thousands of dollars in building the Chilbo community on the mainland over the past couple years, as have others in my group, and spent countless hours of time working with mainland residents, dealing with abandoned parcels, griefers, and ad farm jerks. This is a very serious investment for me. Further, I’ve extolled the virtues of Second Life and virtual worlds to literally thousands of educators and administrators at workshops and conferences all over the US. I can’t even calculate how many residents, universities, and colleges have come into Second Life directly due to my hard (uncompensated by Linden Lab) work. I feel I have paid my dues as a Second Life resident and then some with a cherry on top.

Regarding the mainland, in the past 6 months, representatives of Linden Lab have kicked me in the teeth in several ways: they have placed abandoned parcels for public auction despite the fact that our community owns the land on three or even all four sides, at least once resulting in me paying over $20,000L for a 512m parcel because it was literally right next to our Town Hall in the heart of our community; they have worked out private deals with other residents who are NOT members of or invested in the area around Chilbo, giving them abandoned land for $1L that they then turned around and sold for extortionist prices; they have sold huge tracts of abandoned land near Chilbo through private deals rather than putting them up on auction, which were then cut up into small parcels and sold for extortionist prices; they have left griefer objects on abandoned land for literally years; and they have failed to address nearly every single ad abuse report we’ve filed despite a supposed change in policy all those months ago.

I, too, am quite skeptical that a change in mainland zoning policy will do anything but hurt honest community building groups like Chilbo, and will indeed like so many other changes, only help those who want to make a quick buck. In all my years in Second Life, I’ve always been working towards creating open, diverse, pleasant mainland communities, and no one at Linden Lab has ever bothered to take the time to look and see that our community owns land in 6 neighboring mainland sims, that our community actually uses the group tier donation model, that we ALREADY HAVE community standards but no way to enforce them, that we meet regularly to resolve our own disputes and issues, and that we are very serious and dedicated in our investment into Second Life and the mainland. They just pop in when they finally address an abandoned parcel, sometimes dole it out to someone who has a connection with them and sometimes just throw it up on public auction, and it as if our community, our hard work, and our investment of time and money doesn’t even exist. We’re left to fend for ourselves and pay through the nose if we want to try to continue to grow and keep a cohesive feel to our little tiny spot of goodwill in the anarchy of the mainland.

My suggestions:

1. Remove blanket banlines and pay-to-enter barriers from the mainland PERIOD. If you want absolute privacy, buy land on an island or eject jerks and implement individual bans. Blanket bans and pay to enter zones are the bane of mainland existence, worse than ad farms in my opinion.

2. Make the process for reclaiming land absolutely transparent so mainland communities can plan ahead and not feel subject to Linden Lab’s whims. If you don’t pay your tier after X months, your land is cleared and reclaimed automatically the very day after that period expires. 3 to 4 months is more than reasonable.

3. When a parcel is abandoned or reclaimed for lack of payment, all landowning group owners and private landowners in the sim should be notified FIRST and get FIRST SHOT at a private, closed auction. This should be relatively easy to automate. This would allow existing residents to work it out amongst themselves who wants to compete for the land. This would encourage cooperation and self governance by people who already have an investment in that region. Only after a set period of time if no existing landowner in the sim bids should that parcel then be put up for public auction. STOP ALLOWING EXTORTIONIST PROFITEERS TO BENEFIT MORE FROM LINDEN LAB POLICIES THAN GOOD HONEST COMMUNITY BUILDERS DO. IT IS THE COMMUNITIES THAT RETAIN RESIDENTS, PROMOTE PREMIUM MEMBERSHIPS, AND INCREASE USER HOURS, NOT LAND FLIPPERS.

4. Linden Lab has for years claimed that they eventually wanted to put more governance in the hands of residents since they do not have the staff or the time to resolve all disputes. So do it. Where organized communities exist, empower long-term residents with established records of good payment, good stewardship, and good relations to manage the sims instead of Linden Lab. Enforce our community-generated standards or allow us to enforce them. Whether through appointment or elections or petitions or through some other means, give community managers the ability to remove offensive ads, griefer objects, and banlines. Put your money where your mouth has been for the last 5 years.

5. Do what you say you will do. Consistently. Across the board. In a timely manner. Quit making special deals with residents who are friends of Lindens at the expense of those of us who don’t cultivate insider relationships.

A short forum or blog post can barely do justice to the injustice I feel Linden Lab has done to its best customers. I rarely ever speak of it, I keep a good public PR face, I do my best to soothe the irritation of the residents of Chilbo, newbies, teachers, and students. I am a good citizen of Second Life, but I am angry, frustrated, and distrustful of the company who repeatedly says they want to do better but somehow ends up implementing policies that make my work harder. Maybe this time will be different, but I won’t hold my breath.


Fleep Tuque
Founder, Chilbo Community Building Project
Web: http://fleeptuque.com
Email: fleep.tuque@gmail.com

Chilbo Community in the Mainland of Second Life
Web: http://chilbo.org
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Chilbo/112/222/121

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