Revolution

I have devoted many days in the past to thinking about social upheaval in general, because this is a topic traditionally hot in Russia, and over time, I have observed more and more of public protests happen — not outside my windows, thankfully, but in the media and on the police airwaves. And if they taught me something, it is that the current elite have learned to quietly ignore them. Elites aren’t really concerned about public opinion unless they hold themselves to a certain moral standard of behaviour, which is only possible if they recognise themselves as a united class, with a defined role in society and answerable to the people at least in a certain way. Elites which aren’t united can ignore any displays of opinion wholesale, because they can think these don’t apply personally to them. Public protests do not amount to anything — everyone who could do something that could hurt the elite, already did so, everyone who could remove themselves from the situation, already did so. Everybody else doesn’t matter.

Strangely, the situation in Second Life is remarkably similar. Everybody who is actually ready to remove themselves from Second Life, already did. Second Life’s attraction is not in it’s nature, it’s in other people who create content and provide interaction — nothing Linden Labs create as such is keeping you inworld, and if everything that the residents created were suddenly to vanish, — and hey, that includes the current default avatars! — Second Life would not be able to compete with any other pursuit. As long as the entire mass of residents remains in place, moving to a different virtual world system is not a rational course of action for any resident as long as they consume content, produce content, or interact. And if they don’t, chances are they moved already.

Your opinion therefore doesn’t really matter — you can’t leave, unless you all agree to leave en masse, which, for such a large mass of users, is largely impossible. It will only be accepted by Linden Labs as an incentive if they were to consider themselves a united elite which is in some way accountable before the rest of the users, which is clearly not the case.

Some very different form of protest is in order if you want any kind of change.

What does matter to Linden Labs as a whole is anyone’s guess, because, as I’ve said above, there is no observable whole. (See the two openspaces built up by moles as an example.) There are some things that matter to people who give orders, though. Remembering the ageplay debacle, bad press — traditional media, not the innumerable blogs of ours — is valued very highly in their eyes, and can cause immediate action. Legal disputes, as well, could be leverage.

There has to be something I’m not thinking of, though, admittedly, I’m not thinking very hard about the issue.

But I’m fairly definite that walking around in T-Shirts saying “Fuck you LL” won’t amount to much.

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It just occured to me…

So before I runcrawl away for work, I’ll make a short post.

Linden Labs invented a way to create a mortgage crisis without in-world credit — by pulling in what I shall call ‘self-credit’. When people invest money into a Second Life business, they borrow it from their offworld money through turning it into L$, and expect to make them back. Linden Labs made Openspace sims economically attractive, so many people stocked up on them with the express intention to rent or even sell them off, investing heavy setup fees which they now cannot hope to make up any time soon due to a 66% price increase.

Not only these people will be disinclined to invest more money into SL, as many of them report — the interesting bit is that those for whom the financial risk was substantial will now need to liquidate their other assets to make up the money.

I can’t even begin to calculate the shockwaves that will result.

My favourite bugs

Second Life has a lot of bugs, that much everyone knows. But some of these I would consider highly embarrassing if I was involved in making it, yet, they’re here, some are here to stay, and many have been around for years, known and apparently, ignored.

VWR-7957: The “boots to your waist” bug. Many video card manufacturers have stopped supporting palettized textures, because nobody was using them. Second Life was, even though it isn’t depending on them. In particular, it was using them for whatever unknown reason to cover baking clothing textures onto the avatar mesh, which results in texture parts that shouldn’t be visible covering the parts of your avatar they otherwise cannot. Since the baked texture is then on uploaded to the server, everyone else sees you this way. For three months the issue was blamed on the asset server eating clothes, on NVidia drivers being buggy, until they eventually caved in and said that it will be fixed in 1.22.

Update: It turned out that the reason for this happening was a single character typo in card feature detection code. Oh, the humanity…

VWR-1286: Whenever you try to alt-cam on an inner surface of a hollow or cut prim, the camera goes to great pains to stay outside the cut parts as if they’re still there. Makes it a very annoying to live in a house built with hollows, in particular, any cylindrical or spherical building. Been around for a year at least.

VWR-8920: Introduced in the latest release cycle, this causes prim attachments to vanish in certain camera positions. Instead of kicking at it until it was fixed, they labeled it as a known issue and released the new version anyway as a “stable” one.

SVC-472: Sim crossing. We now have warning lines to tell people about sim crossing. The issue has been around forever.

VWR-1298: Group chat delays. Never worked right, as far as I remember. There’s a whole bouquet of bugs related to group chat.

VWR-7331: Another arbitrary limit, which, incidentally, prevents me from putting up a Hands of Omega TARDIS in my skybox which is way above 1000m….

Update: How could I miss this one…

SVC-412: E-mail messages sent from inside SL do not contain correct header information, which results in all non-English letters horribly mangled. Been reported for a year. Estimated requirements to fix — one line of code, but obviously, nobody cares about people who don’t speak ISO-8859-1.

What are your favourite bugs?

Worry

Linden Labs just floated another continent.

And the notable features of this land mass are:

  1. 1024sq prepartitioned parcels.
  2. Which have double the normal prim allocation for, presumably, the same tier.
  3. Which cannot be joined or subdivided.
  4. And cannot be resold.

Which, naturally, makes it worthless for land barons, but highly desirable for long-term invested residents who were living on the mainland and thinking of moving to estates, because they’re better than most things estates can offer.

Nice way to gather all these people together and then sink the whole bunch in one shot. 🙂

But regardless, while I think it is a good move, my expectation is that this will cause at least the same quantity of normal mainland — about 20 sims worth — to almost immediately end up on the open land market, which probably implies a rather large singular mainland price drop.

The consequences could be very interesting, since the number of paid accounts is not likely to grow at the same rate, now, with the global financial crisis on our doorstep, and a paid account is required to own mainland. Which means that mainland prices are likely to continue dropping, precipitating Second Life’s own real estate crisis — very different in nature, obviously, since there’s no credit, thank God.

While the financial crisis itself is going to mostly pass SL by, the sense of foreboding and growing panic will not. People start spending less, they feel on the edge, and the quantity of drama in the air rises above tolerances, as they try to run away from what worries them in their first life.

And yes, I worry too, because the future I see is muddled beyond recognition…

Update: There we go… I expect the geography will change quite a bit in the coming months.

Reflections

I was walking around and saw a reflection...

I was walking around and saw a reflection...

This gave me pause for a moment. Because I have water reflections turned off, and because the water level in this sim is far, far below the ground. So I started moving my camera around, trying to figure out how this was done…

And this is what I found...

And this is what I found...

The entire scene was mirrored and duplicated on the other side of the floor prim. 🙂 Horribly inefficient, but striking all the same.

Take a look.

Social mathematics

LARP experience shows that about one general practice doctor — not just a trauma doctor, since people will come to a LARP with chronic disorders, and who’s to blame them? — is required per every 500 players to make sure that one is available whenever someone has an accident. No matter how they tried to avoid accidents of the medical kind, Russian LARPers learned this the hard way.

For the same number of players, at least five gamemasters are required. Mind you, LARPs usually don’t continue for that long, so long-term enmities rarely get a chance to escalate into abuse — otherwise, much more would be needed to handle the abuse reports.

Second Life, at least in terms of governance, is very much like an unending LARP. With half a million active residents according to latest misheard statistics, and at least 30000 people online at any given time.

How many people are needed to handle abuse reports? I would expect at least one per 1000 of average concurrency. That is, from 300 to 500. That would be a full time job, most of which would be in talking to people.

I wonder, how many they actually do have?