Genocide. This is what the Russian nationalists call the policies of Russian Federation. They maintain that these policies cause the eventual extinction of the native Russian population, and are entirely deliberate.
They’re wrong, naturally. Not in saying the policies are actually harmful to Russians — that much is perfectly true. But in saying the policies are deliberate. They are nothing but the result of ignorance and greed on large scale, it’s not necessary to create a universal conspiracy for unrelated actors to pull in one direction — the direction looking tempting is enough.
Then again, it doesn’t really have to be deliberate to be genocide, does it? Deliberate intent is only provable in court. Being systematic is usually enough.
Genocide. This is what Linden Research Inc. is doing to the core culture of Second Life, the culture of hardcore users, consisting of content creators and their educated consumers. The culture that made Second Life great and makes it profitable when it exists on a scale never before seen in the history of virtual worlds.
Deliberate or not, genocide it is, even if no people actually die, because a culture is extinguished.
But here are some numbers. First, let’s establish the size of active population.
While Second Life has over 16 million accounts registered, the great majority of them are dropped. The officially cited retention rate is 10%. It is well known that deleted accounts are still counted towards this number, they only stop showing up in search. It is therefore safe to assume that no more than 10% of these accounts are actually used, which gives us a figure of no more than 1.6 million accounts that still log in.
The number of accounts that logged in in the past 60 days, which are termed ‘active accounts’, is given in the same sources as 1444530, which corresponds well with the above estimate. These, however, are not individuals, but accounts. It is impossible to determine how many alts an average resident has, but it is possible to estimate the number of active bots on the grid.
Linden Research gives an official estimate of the number of bots at 10% of all user hours. This is demonstrably bogus, however. The more solid estimates result in at least 40% of all logins being bots — see also other posts in the same source.
The number was more or less confirmed by observation of the recent database meltdown. At the lowest point of the meltdown, the number of active logins went below 30000. While a lot of them were actual people, as evidenced by conversations in group chat — I was lucky to be there myself — it makes sense that at least 25000 of them were bots. The bots I knew to have been in world at the moment the meltdown started, remained connected, for the simple reason that bots normally do not move much, do not request profile information, do not request or render textures, and in general do very little to strain the central database — little enough that no failure of a central database request would cause them to be logged off.
That leaves us with the figure of about 42000 actual people being online at peak logins time.
Not too much already, is it?
Well-founded estimates put the size of the core of Second Life culture at about 100000 people. This is small, but perfectly sufficient for a culture to prosper, real cultures prospered with much less luminaries, and there was a time when the entire population of Europe was in the millions. Exceeding the Dunbar’s Number is often enough for a lasting culture to form. This set is fairly fragmented — split into numerous languages and national backgrounds. But they share core values despite all that — creativity and freedom of expression, which allow us to consider them a cultural group for the purposes of further discussion.
Assuming the people are keeping sane sleeping schedules of 8 hours in SL, 8 hours at work, and 8 hours of sleep, which isn’t exactly true but for the purposes of this discussion is sufficient, of these 100000, no more than a third are online at any given time, which corresponds well with the above number of 42000 actual people being online at peak time – 33000 hardcore residents, 9000 transients.
All this results in the 100000 people core population figure being well supported by evidence.
Now, more numbers, directly relating to the recent innovations by Linden Research Inc.
In the recent openspace scandal, almost 4000 islands out of a known figure of over 26000 islands were decomissioned, which accounts for a loss of about 15% total land mass. Assuming that the core population was distributed evently across the entire land mass – which is known not to be true, as mainland is not very popular among the core residents — about 15% of them were screwed directly by the price hike.
That’s 15000 people. 15% of the core population screwed, at least.
The next worrisome development, the purchase of OnRez and XStreetSL by Linden Research Inc., and the announced closure of OnRez, result in even more interesting numbers. As Peter Stindberg wrote recently, using the data I collected, XStreetSL is about two times larger than OnRez, 16683 merchants, with 8718 merchants on OnRez. What I did not compute by then, though, is that 3635 of the merchants registered on OnRez are unique to OnRez, and do not use XStreetSL.
That’s 3635 people who will now have to transfer shop. On average, that was 39 titles per merchant, which results in 140000 titles that will need to be transferred, and a loss of 23000 man/hours of work. 3.5% of the core population screwed.
The next development is so far only a rumour. And yet, it’s a rumour so worrisome that I will count it too.
In a recent interview in Metanomics, Philip Linden let slip of the upcoming merge between the Teen Grid and the Main Grid of Second Life. Later, Blue Linden has given evidence to believe that Philip Linden does not say that out of the blue, pardon the pun. As the Teen Grid in truth is nothing but a hidden estate within the Main Grid, such a merge is technologically trivial to accomplish.
The reasons for such a merge are fairly obvious. As you can plainly see — and mind you, it did not show on the slurl.com previously — it is falling below the critical mass of sustainability, and the only options are to shut it down or merge it. Around Russia that would be nothing special whatsoever, but the current US law gives a teenager the equivalent of a rocket launcher to use against anyone who might displease them, by accusing them of sexual advances.
The threat of such accusation, which is likely to screw the person’s life all the way to hell and back even if demonstrably false, and against which they have no recourse, is widely discussed in the related thread on the official forum with residents overwhelmingly voicing their disagreement with the measure for various reasons. But still that’s not numbers.
Philip Linden: “We need to stop creating isolated areas that are age specific and, instead, look at how we can make the overall experience appropriately safe and controlled for everybody.”
Note the conspicuous absence of any word implying ‘freedom of expression’ in that sentence. It is obviously possible to find a solution in which the freedom of expression is not inhibited. The conspicuous absence of any reference to it, though, suggests — just like the sentence itself only suggests — that it was not taken into consideration at all, and offers a scenario where all mature content is eradicated from the grid to make an environment that is “safe and controlled”.
That’s still not numbers though. It is fairly tricky to determine just how much of the content inside Second Life is certifiably ‘mature’. The best gauge would be XStreetSL product listings, but they don’t offer any statistics on the matter and I’m not up to the required amount of web scraping just yet. But I expect that if ‘mature’ is not defined sufficiently narrowly, well over 40% of all content in Second Life will need to be eradicated or made very hard to access. Now that’s numbers.
That’s screwing 40% of the core population at least. They’re the ones who make it, after all. They’re the ones who use it.
The word ‘to decimate’ means, actually, ‘to kill off one tenth of a set’. Recent innovations by Linden Research have definitely achieved this in regards to the core population, or will soon do so. I dare say I have shown above that this may qualify as genocide. In EVE Online, whenever the game creators radically change the game balance, the population, accustomed to such things, tends to say, “Adapt, or die.”
Usually, ‘adapt’ there means that someone else will be doing the dying part.
P.S.: Sorry, was a bit off on the number of merchants exclusive to OnRez, it is now corrected. Everything else checks out though.