The decline of the “passionate and committed”

When Linden Lab use the term “passionate and committed residents” it always seems to come across as a mild insult.  In a way I don’t blame them, there’s a lot of hysteria whenever LL makes a change but a lot of it is of their own making, poorly thought out policies and limited communication that isn’t tailored to those they’re trying to reach is a recipe for triggering the internet dramas we see. LL communication skills have always been poor, they never seem to learn from their past mistakes and then some compound those mistakes by displaying a patronising rudeness to those users of their platform

I could be wrong, as appearances can be deceiving but I doubt it.

What I have noticed down the last couple of years is how those “passionate and committed” residents have scaled back their second lives and their participation on the various LL and non LL foras. The triggers seem to have been either the removal of the particular forum with the introduction of the blog or a particular action taken by LL.  Both inworld and on the web the diversity of approach and opinion is decreasing and the vibrancy is vanishing.

It must make LL relieved that they no longer have a wall of screaming people to deal with. I hope they understand the implications of that silence.

During the last week or so I’ve also seen posts from various content creators saying they are no longer making a living wage from SL and are scaling down their inworld presence as they have to go out into the world and get a “real life” job to put money in the bank account to pay the bills.  On top of that I’ve heard of some long-term inworld creators who have closed down completely.  Dollyrock, Greenies, Rustica come immediately to mind and each has a different trigger.  Greenies was a pure business decision as they no longer need what the SL platform offers, Dollyrock because of the lack of income (as I understand it, someone correct me if I’m wrong) and Rustica because of the rampant content theft. It amply demonstrates there are many different “final straws” and each of them reflects issues that the user base have been asking LL to deal with for years.

It’s tiring surviving Linden Lab and Second Life. Between the anti social behaviour of some of our fellow users, the strangling of inworld businesses by LL through their policy of monetising everything and cutting off most avenues of free advertising on LL web property, through to the poor quality of the platform and their releases and the lack of support from LL at all levels to allow us to flourish, it’s just one thing after another.  Just once I’d like a rolling restart to not give me grief for the next few days as I have to deal with customer issues or have the release be such poor quality that I have to spend more time than on I should having to work out just what is wrong and how I can work around it. The most glaring example of that is the search tool that was released on May 3 and is still adversely impacting businesses because it’s not fit for purpose.  Region owners are downsizing yet LL doesn’t seem to give remediating search any kind of priority.

Even the deceit that LL expects us to indulge in with them is soul sapping.  They blogged the arrival of the new marketplace despite it obviously not being fit for purpose and their excuse was that it was the only way to reach all content creators who have been migrated.  Pity that each merchant on Xstreet is linked to their SL account with an email address – obviously LL still haven’t heard of using technology effectively, as getting the list of creators who were migrated and then extracting their email address and sending them a missive was just too high tech for them or was it they truly did think the site was fit for purpose – despite it being supposedly beta and felt comfortable with drawing shoppers attention to it? I suspect the latter with the excuse they gave just drivel to appease those who don’t pay too much attention and assume that everything LL says must be true.

The replacement Xstreet site brought it all home to me just how many people just don’t care anymore and how many people have gone – the number of usual suspects in the forums reviewing the new site and commenting on it is a lot less than I would have expected.  There’s a lot of faces missing.  

Before the XSL migration started I made a decision not to put too much time into preparing for it, as past performance has indicated that it would be poorly thought out and badly implemented.  I wasn’t wrong.  I’ve had a look and seen what they seem to be moving towards and it will look good eventually but I’m not putting any time into it until the final main functional releases go in and that’s despite it looking like that will be well after Xstreet has been retired and the new market place is fully active.  After spending weeks taking out all my word links to related items from the listings and replacing them with images to help the search tool as they requested at the end of last year, they then removed image functionality in May without any replacement offered and I didn’t bother going in and fixing the mess it left.  My listings have ported over to the new site and are in desperate need of fixing but because of the way they’ve set up the feed from the old site to the new I can’t fix them so they look good on both sites and have them stay looking good for both.  I make 20-30% of my income from Xstreet and normally it would have commanded a lot more attention from me as I try to optimise my listings for visual appeal.  Now I don’t care.  

May generated the worst turnover for me since around February 2009 – it wiped out inworld sales from 2 brands and a 3rd brands satellite shop because of the search issues. June didn’t see a recovery of either of those brands but then how can they when the parcels don’t make it into the search returns and/or the classifieds vanish from the classifieds search? I’m hoping July won’t be a repeat of May but with real life financial constraints on people and search still so poor it’s hard to be optimistic and without a hope of return it’s hard to invest the time needed to manage a Second Life retail presence.

I know I’ve stopped buying in services for the content I create (scripting, sculpts, textures) as all I’m doing is reusing existing components to finish off my backlog of unfinished content and I know a lot of businesses that have closed down in the last 3 months who obviously aren’t buying in services or components any more and I’m seeing a marked drop in sales of my higher priced items (we won’t talk about the couple of brands that are almost dead now – grr) and I can’t believe I’m the only one who is seeing this.

LL have never considered our time and effort valuable when they’ve put in new policies or features.  The lack of respect is astounding until you realise that they seem to be working in the mindset that we’ll take whatever rubbish they dish out.  Back in 2006/7 and possibly 2008 that was probably true, certainly there were enough new users to hide the old leaving.  Now I think that assumption is somewhat problematical.  Each sub optimal policy or release seems to loosen the ties that bind us to this platform. Put the declining income into the mix that is a deliberate result of Linden Lab policies, standards and behaviours and it doesn’t look good.

At the moment I still go through the motions in here but when the day comes that my income no longer covers tier I won’t be doing anything more than shutting up shop.  I’m beyond trying to come up with ways to maintain my turnover or at least trying to manage the decline and I gave up the idea of ever increasing it again months ago.  In short, despite still being extremely profitable on turnover per prim it’s not longer worth any real effort as LL, their policies and platform make it a waste of substantial time and effort.

I am really looking forward to the Q2 2010 figures.  They should be out soon.

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