Neufreistadt, Confederation of Democratic Simulators, Second Life
I'm just a virtual girl in a virtual world...
@kschroeder Good point... and the benchmark would actually only reveal performance data for that single application, and not others. So I guess you're right, you did your benchmark well.
4 months, 1 week ago on Performance of Apache 2.4 with the event MPM compared to Nginx
I guess it's time for you to run a benchmark with a "true" PHP application behind it :)
And let us know what version of nginx you're using... I'm using mostly 1.4.3 and 1.4.7 (I have no idea if there are substantial performance issues between them, the changelogs show mainly bug fixes and security patches)
11 months, 4 weeks ago on Performance of Apache 2.4 with the event MPM compared to Nginx
Hahaha :) I loved reading this old article of yours; maybe one day I'll start sending links to it to those people who pester me about PHP...
I'm sure that some of your readers here are professional developers with a decade of experience and who learned Java (and perhaps C++) at university. Well, I'm an old girl, and while in my days the Internet already existed, there was no Web, and obviously no PHP. C++ was the most complex language we were expected to learn, and pretty much everything that academia had developed in terms of conceptual frameworks on how people ought to programme was then "ported" to Java.
When the Web gained CGI, the languages of choice were Perl, and, obviously, plain old C. CGI was rather hard to configure at the very beginning when it was a novelty. Soon afterwards, PHP made its debut, and, as you so well put it, it was ridiculously easy to use. Variables being used without being declared? No strong types? Oh yes! We could immediately throw in some code and get things done easily, instead of having to write behemoths with thousands of lines of code (like in Java and C++) just to get something that actually compiles...
Obviously I'm quite aware of the limitations of PHP, and why strong typing and all the other nifty features from other programming languages are so important, specially in a multi-developer environment. But the point is that PHP is _cool_ to programme in, and you can start from scratch with a handful of lines of the most horrible code, which already does something useful, and then improve it to make it look better.
Fortunately, I'm not a professional developer, and mostly "programme to get things done" — which often includes getting different technologies to talk to each other and offering REST-based APIs to encapsulate all the mess beneath. The easiest way to do that is to have PHP at the top. I'm not saying it's the "best" way. It's just the "easiest" way. My current work is exactly to hide the complexities of a net-based (but not web-based) C# application, by throwing a PHP-wrapper on top of everything. Then I can develop my remaining application logic on PHP, embed it as a WordPress plugin, run it from the command line as a simple PHP CLI script... whatever. It's so much easier. Ugly? Perhaps.
One nice thing about PHP applications is that how they're so neatly isolated from each other in a common environment, because, ultimately, from the webserver's perspective, they're just files on disk which communicate to the outside world through the webserver. Recently I had a wonderful Python application running on a subdomain — lightweight, very fast, compact, with all the bells and whistles. Then people liked it so much that they wanted several instances of that application working on the same server, under different domains, so that they could isolate user groups neatly. Uh... right. That started to become impossible — the application was designed to run as a single instance. You could run it on different ports, then throw in a port redirector in front of everything, and... well, you can imagine the mess. I had gone through that tons of times before with Java applications — if they haven't been designed from scratch to run as multiple instances, it will be a nightmare to do that. Obviously there are tricks: you can create virtual machines, each running an instance, for example. Messy!
With a PHP application, all you do is to copy the files from one directory to another and have your webserver point a virtual host to it — and, there you go, you get a second instance. No fuss. No overhead. No incompatibilities. Couldn't be easier!
Obviously PHP's most visible limitation is that it doesn't work nicely outside a Web environment. A company I used to work with tended to ship their PHP application with a whole server around it (a Mac mini!) — it was far easier to develop, maintain and support customers that way, and have whole companies just use any browser to access their PHP application, instead of developing a Java/.NET/whatever traditional client-server application. In fact, I still have nightmares from working as a consultant for companies that had those kinds of client-server juggernauts running the business logic of their companies, with huge maintenance issues, as each desktop computer needed to be _exactly_ the same to make sure the application would work fine — but of course there would be always someone from the Board who would be issued a non-standard laptop, and the time to maintain that would quickly become a nightmare. While native applications on the desktop can certainly leverage performance (specially as web browsers get more and more bloated...) far better, and developing a front-end (on the desktop) and back-end (on the server) using exactly the same language (say, Java, C# or Python) is far easier for programmers, in the "real world", I really prefer maintaining and supporting PHP on the backend — and just have anyone in the workplace point the browser on their Internet-connected device (whatever it might be — from Blackberry to a gamer's PC) to an URL.
Still, it's quite true that PHP programmers are not exactly seen as "real programmers" (because PHP is not a "real language" — hey, it just has _arrays_! Where are the double linked lists, the B* trees, the hash/sparse tables...?) In fact, almost two decades ago (PHP was still very young back then!), I got fired when trying to add a PHP wrapper on top of a proprietary Oracle database running a public library. The issue back then was that they just barely managed to get 7 terminals connected to the mainframe back then. I proposed to use one of the 7 to run Apache + PHP, interface with Oracle, and export the results through the Web to anyone who could install a web browser on their networked device (and yes, some people even used text-based web browsers back then, on ancient VT100 terminals!). It was seen as "too revolutionary" back then, of course. But even today — even though PHP programmers can get jobs easily enough! — as soon as an organisation starts to "get serious" about what they're IT infrastructure is supposed to look like, PHP gets dumped in favour of one of the other "serious" programming languages. I see that happening all the time.
Because I'm _very_ biased, all I can see is that ugly-but-doing-the-job PHP applications with a few hundreds of lines get replaced by behemoths in Java which take years to develop, and, while they have flawless coding and expert developers behind them, they require oogles of more computing power to achieve pretty much what the poor, old, ugly PHP application did. Well, I guess that this makes the hardware business grow, which is not bad. On the other hand, I see way too much sloppy programming on the so-called "serious programming languages" that I always wonder if it's worth making the change... PHP is sloppy by nature, but designed to handle sloppyness well and efficiently. I can't say the same about the other programming languages...
I would say that PHP _does_, indeed, appeal to sloppy and lazy programmers, who just want to get things done quickly and efficiently. That is one of the reasons why I believe it gets so little credibility from "real" programmers. Specially real programmers who work at Google or Microsoft — no wonder, thus, that they take so long to embrace PHP...
Even though I have seen Microsoft reps firmly stating that PHP is, indeed, a Microsoft-supported language. Or they wouldn't be able to support their WordPress-enabled blogs on MS Live...
11 months, 4 weeks ago on Google finally acknowledges that PHP exists
@DIREKTSPEED I did exactly those tests on a low-end VPS with constrained memory (merely 512 MB) for a few websites who have moderate traffic — and Apache would drag the VPS to its knees, while Nginx runs smoothly and has a tiny footprint both in memory and CPU consumption.
So, to take your analogy further, if you drive your Ferrari on a narrow, short street, the Ford can still beat it… specially if you're driving on a cobbled street (try it, if you have a Ferrari!).
Ferraris work great on motorways, though, and will eventually beat Fords. A fellow sysadmin also evaluated your setup, this time using a physical server with 8 cores and 32 GB, which, although it has considerable load, is generally running at 20-25% of maximum load. He reports that Apache beats Nginx under that configuration, so he sticks to Apache with Varnish on top of it (and plenty of RAM for Varnish!)
My guess is that you have a balanced mix of PHP and static content, Nginx will very likely be better, if you have a small footprint — at least, that's what I've experienced so far, and that's why I use Nginx on all my small servers, where every CPU cycle counts. On the other hand, if you have a vast amount of free CPU cycles, lots of RAM, superfast connections, unlimited bandwidth, and so forth, then Varnish + Apache should have a slight advantage over Nginx. But that's just my experience.
1 year, 4 months ago on Why is FastCGI /w Nginx so much faster than Apache /w mod_php?
@belllindsay My point was mostly that if your only goal is to get food, get some clothes, and a roof above your sleeping place, then you cannot afford to do any kind of unpaid work: all the efforts have to be focused on getting paid for what you do.
This might sound radical and not at all related to the tech industry, but it's not true. In my line of business, we tend to hire people all over the world. Before the financial crisis, in 2007 and 2008, we hired a substantial amount of American programmers who had no fixed place of residence. They had their laptops, worked part-time at fast food restaurants, and had an agreement with the owner that they would sleep in a closet and be allowed to use the (free) Wi-fi provided by the restaurant. If this were a single example, I'd say it was extraordinary, but it wasn't — it was commonplace, with some variants (living inside broken-down cars to keep the cold away, and using wi-fi from the parking lot, etc.).
These people were highly educated tech professionals with extraordinary skills — not exactly mediocre programmers or lazy workers, rather the contrary. They were just going through an unlucky phase in their lives, jobless and homeless. So all their efforts were focused on getting odd jobs requiring their skills, gladly accepting hourly rates for as low as $10, just to have enough in their PayPal account to buy a sack of hot buns which would last them a whole week — at least they would have a meal for $1 including some meat every day.
I can say I was quite shocked at all that, because it was so widespread. Some of these people got jobs later on, of course, and, once they got a regular income and a room of their own, they returned to doing unpaid work as before — mostly contributing towards open source projects.
I'm no communist, but I could understand the argument of a welfare state that provides a minimum 'survival' wage for all these talented people who are struggling to survive, thus enabling them to allocate a substantial amount of hours to unpaid work, which would not only benefit a community of users (who would be able to share and improve upon their work) but also allow them to show off their skills, build a porfolio, and generally improve their future chance at getting hired.
Think of it as 'paid community work'. It might not sound so strange when you consider that many universities pay their professors to update Wikipedia with accurate information. Or, extending the concept further, many universities just fund research, which is publicly available — they provide researchers with enough money for them to be well off, so that they can 'give away' their research work for free.
While in essence — and philosophically — I'm a strong believer (it's a question of faith!) that a better society is a society where people are paid adequately for their work according to their skills, this does not exclude models where unpaid work is widespread and benefits a whole community, because access to that unpaid work is free. I see a lot of advantages in having that. The only social question to be answered is: how can we, as a society, reap the benefits of freely available assets created with unpaid work, while still ensuring that those people who are willing to work for free can actually survive?
It's an open question and different countries and societies will answer it differently.
Note also that this is closely tied to work in areas which until recently were covered by copyright laws; as the continued effort to sustain the copyright model erodes more and more, and will soon collapse, artists and content creators will have to look for alternative models that are accessible to everybody. The current model is very similar to what I've described: successful music performers, who have a whole year of booked concerts, can give away their digitally recorded music for free — they earn money from concerts. Certain thinkers and philosophers, giving conferences all over the world, and getting well paid for them, can afford to give away copies of their books for free.
And, according to recent articles I've just finished reading, companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Google are able to give away their operating systems for free — because they have other sources of revenue to sustain the 'unpaid work' put into giving away their OSes.
So yes, both models — paid work, unpaid work; paid assets, free assets — can co-exist so long as there is a way to make sure the people doing the unpaid work have a means of surviving and have access to basic necessities.
1 year, 5 months ago on Why Work for Free? Because it Works
This is the kind of article where one cannot say, "I disagree!". While philosophically I'm against hiring unpaid work, for instance — all our interns in the past were paid, even if they might not be handsomely paid — I also am aware that we're constantly doing unpaid work just like you described. I think there has to be a compromise somewhere. On well-paid jobs, where you don't need to worry about paying your bills and surviving, you can afford to do a lot of unpaid work which might bring some kind of benefit later.
But if you're struggling to survive, unpaid work is out of the question — specially because you'll need the spare time to get a 2nd or 3rd job! It really depends a lot.
I've seen lots of crowdfunders, open source enthusiasts, Creative Common supporters, etc. who do hours and hours of unpaid work, constantly, all the time, earning a reputation. Almost all of them, with no noticeable exceptions, have a well-paid day job. It's easy to 'offer' unpaid work if you're being well paid otherwise :)
I see it like amateur painters. They need hours to practice, and eventually, they might even sell a few pictures as well. But they won't be able to earn enough money from that. Since they have a real job besides painting, that means they have no problem in spending the remaining free time painting, going to art galleries, promoting their work, etc. — even if they don't sell a single picture, they will still have bread and water on their tables and a roof over their beds. So they can afford to spend countless hours painting for free.
In this techy world of ours, we're just amateur bloggers, amateur programmers, amateur designers, amateur photographers — putting our spare time to good use. Sometimes, we might even earn something. But while that doesn't happen, we live from our well-paid jobs.
Thank you for doing some benchmarking on this! Recently I've being toying with a VPS with a very small memory footprint and limited resources, and the goal was to get everything in memory and avoid swap. This seemed to be impossible to manage with Apache; doing some benchmarks, Nginx + PHP-FPM outperformed Apache (both with mod_php and FastCGI) by about 10:1 — accepting at least 10 times as more simultaneous connections — while leaving the VPS running smoothly; Apache would bring it down under serious load.
But now I know why that was the case. As you so well explained, not everything is PHP — at least half of that content is static (JS, CSS, images, and so forth), since in my case I was using WordPress as the sole application on the backend. Now I understand why Nginx performed so well: it was dealing mostly with static content, and would outperform Apache easily — and handle much higher loads — even though Apache might be winning the race every time there was a PHP request. But in the middle of so many requests for static content, Nginx clearly was ahead of the race.
The lesson learned is that Apache isn't "that bad". On a completely different environment, the solution was to put Varnish in front of Apache. Varnish is merely a proxy-cache server, it doesn't serve static content at all (unlike Nginx, which can do all of that), but it does its job admirably well, and it's programmed/configured in a very similar way than Nginx. The results are impressive — if you can afford a lot of memory for Varnish.At the end of the day, the lesson I learned was simple. If you are operating in a very limited and constrained environment, and still need to extract good performance of your underpowered setup, then the solution is to deploy Nginx + PHP-FPM, because it's easier to fit everything inside memory and avoid nasty surprises with swap. If, on the other hand, you have a couple of GBytes to spare, a better solution might be Varnish + Apache + mod_php — Varnish will handle static content even quicker than Nginx, and you'll benefit from Apache's slight edge in running PHP. In either case, make sure that your application handles dynamic content cleverly — the better it's able to generate static content out of that, the better the performance, and that applies to both kinds of solution.
For the sake of the argument, on my tiny VPS I avoided TCP sockets completely. Nginx talks to PHP-FPM via Unix sockets, and PHP talks to MySQL via TCP sockets as well (MySQL doesn't reply to TCP ports in my configuration). According to what I've read, the difference in performance shouldn't be noticeable, although benchmarks (and some academic papers) report a performance increase from as little as 5-10% to 200% when using Unix sockets. Why there is such a huge difference in the reports baffles me, although many of those reports are old. Maybe recent TCP/IP stacks are far better these days and, as such, the differences in performance between both communication techniques have been reduced...
1 year, 11 months ago on Why is FastCGI /w Nginx so much faster than Apache /w mod_php?
@GyliaMoonites @SkylarSmytheNowadays, Philip is doing High Fidelity (http://highfidelity.io/) :-) "Coffee & Power" is old news...
1 year, 11 months ago on Philip Rosedale: The Media Is Wrong, SecondLife Didn’t Fail
@MeganMcClure just for the sake of the argument, why should 1 million of users eventually join because they have the ability to fly over miles and miles of empty ocean? I don't understand your argument...
Note that I'm all for a visually contiguous environment; it makes all the difference being able to "see everything until the horizon" (like it happens on the Mainland). What I fail to grasp is the appeal of spending, say, an hour, flying around over empty water.
I'm not saying that you might be wrong; I'm just not understanding the appeal.
@JustOnemoreLoon see, here I completely agree with you :)
One single opinion is not "the majority". But 10,000 people expressing the same opinion are not "the majority" either. That's what's been missing from these discussions: how much worth have these 10,000 opinions? Really, not much, and I cannot blame LL for ignoring 1% of their resident population, specially if those 1% have little bearing to either LL's income or the mainstream opinion about SL.
I agree that the HUD idea is not a big deal; and I agree that SL doesn't "need" to do it at all. It can be done with the existing tools, which are getting a major upgrade with the new fancy functions for temporary attachments and the like. So whoever wants achievements in SL can do them — it's a free world :) But LL is not "imposing" it upon *everyone*. Which is good. I can totally agree with that view. Let those who love achievement systems implement them, and leave LL's developers focus on different things more useful for the majority of us.
I also agree that having games without community is a bit pointless in a *social* virtual world. I agree with you that community ought to be built up first, and THEN games MIGHT succeed. However, I think that by giving this opinion I'm rather following my own emotions, and not looking at the facts: Facebook-based social gaming is dying out. Zynga's shares are falling and falling and falling, to about 1/6th of the price at the highest point, which was not so long ago. Developers are moving to mobile games — which are NOT social. In the mean time, single-player game developers continue to launch daily games at Big Fish Games and similar "small brands" and are not affected by the economic crisis. Should we be surprised? Not really, "gamers", specially "hard-core gamers", are not known to be the most socially engaged personalities. The exceptions tend to gravitate to MMOGs; not to Facebook games. I believe that soon it will become clear that "social games", based on communities, are merely a fad: people played them because their friends played them too, not because they thoroughly enjoyed it.
But I'm on very shaky ground here. I still tend to agree with you that launching games in a social platform — and SL is most definitely a social platform — requires building up a community. However, I'm seeing more and more evidence against it. If Zynga fails completely, and Facebook removes support of games, and Google doesn't even implement them in Google+, then it's a clear sign that "gaming" and "social" are not mainstream products, but, again, a niche market, which is currently well exploited by MMOGs and probably also hit stagnation — just like SL. But I think it's still a bit early to claim that. We both might still be right :)
2 years, 7 months ago on Philip Rosedale: The Media Is Wrong, SecondLife Didn’t Fail
@JustOnemoreLoon "Let me know when you find a post with someone saying "Remove benefits for non-profits". it's your claim- you find the evidence to back it up. That's not my job. Perhaps you can't find it because those conversations don't exist.. and if they do it's a suggestion made by a single person and a thread full of "bad idea"."
Sure it's a suggestion made by "single persons", and sure you will consider that the threads where they post are full of "bad ideas", because these simply happen not to be aligned with your ideas.
Here is a typical example of Prokofy Neva vs. educators wanting cheap land to rent: http://blog.subquark.com/education-in-second-life/ (scroll to Prok's comment below)
He obviously expands on his idea more fully on his own blog: http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2010/10/ive-been-meaning-to-write-this-post-since-slcc-there-were-many-positive-things-i-had-to-say-about-this-years-very-well-manag.html
You can claim that Prokofy Neva's opinions are worthless. Well, I disagree with him too on this issue, and so does the majority of the readers of the SL blogosphere, but that's not really the point. The decision about kicking educators out didn't come because LL hates them, but merely because too many abused the system. I know of at least two communities — which I believe that have left — who had just created non-profits to be able to sell cheap land and undercut land barons. This became widespread, and even universities started to do the same. Not all. But many. Enough to get land barons angry. Most land barons are silent and only talk to LL, not to the public in general, but small-scale land baronets like Prokofy are not afraid to face the masses with dissenting opinions which are universally hated.
So, yes, there was resident demand for eliminating tier discounts. It didn't come from the residents that you and I have in mind, though.
But nowadays, as SL became a niche product, the mainstream media has no more interest in SL. As @JamesOReilly so well put it, Google Trends is not finding much relevant information about SL any more — discussions are around obscure blogs and websites read by a handful of "SL die-hard fanatics", and, as such, have little relevance overall.
LL still reads them. I know that because very, very occasionally we see some Lindens answering: it's rare, but they tend to pop up on the most unpredictable places. They read, digest... and measure the impact. Here is a typical example: one blog article of mine is read, at most, by 300 people, on a good day; in the past year, the maximum number of people who read one of my articles was 1200. Only 1200! Many of those — less than 1% — even felt the urge to vocally disagree with me on the comment section. I'm sure some Lindens read the article, too. What should they think about it? That, at best, 1200 people might have agreed with me. Most of them residents with Basic (free) accounts. A dozen have discussed it; the remaining ones don't even consider the issue sufficiently interesting to participate in the discussion. So should LL *really* take one opinion (influencing, perhaps, 1200 people, but more likely just a dozen residents) into account?
Obviously the answer is "no". They can safely ignore it. If they lose 1200 basic accounts because of that, big deal. They have plenty to spare.
That's what I believe what goes on behind LL's office doors.
It's not so bad as it looks, mind you. When introducing new features, LL is eager to discuss them with a FEW residents, in-world at the Office Hours or at the "preview sandboxes", either on Agni or Aditi. These residents, LL knows, are the ones actually going to use the features. Many more might be use them after they're launched, but these are the ones who volunteer their time to test them out and discuss them with LL. Their experience in dealing with LL is quite different from yours or mine — they feel their opinion actually matters. But they're just a handful of residents. Often not vocal at all; they're much too busy testing things out and giving LL some feedback instead of complaining publicly. Some, of course, will disagree publicly with LL — we can see that on some of the Office Hour transcripts, or at the discussions for the mesh group, for example. In general, however, the amount of residents closely participating with LL in shaping "our" virtual world is more than happy to volunteer their time helping out LL and providing positive feedback and the occasional complaint ("this doesn't work", "this is buggy!", "why don't you implement X as Y before a public launch?").
Similarly, LL routinely polls the opinion of the land barons who contribute to 80% of LL's direct income. Those are the people that matter — they submit to the golden rule: whoever has the gold, makes the rule. Sure, we both are part of the 20% who contribute little or next-to-nothing to LL's income, and, as such, both our opinions matter little. Whereas the 500 or so land barons who ensure 80% of LL's income are routinely heard, because losing even one of those 500 means a real, measurable drop in income. They're weary of announcing decisions against them, and it has been like that for many, many years.
So it's not that LL is ignoring the complaints of its residents. It's just that the vast majority of the 10 or 20 thousand very vocal residents who complain all the time, and profusely so, are not part of the interest groups that LL listens regularly and who affect their decision. We jokingly call that group the "Feted Inner Core" because they act as a "Star Chamber" for LL — but the truth is that LL is not a democratic institution, and so they listen to those that matter to them: the ones paying vast amounts of tier, and the ones willing to actively contribute their time to test and co-develop new features or major bug fixes.
But even if Second Life were a "democratic institution", our opinion would still matter very little. After all, we're less than 1% than the overall population. The majority might not even speak English well enough to be aware of what the issues are. Even if there were a general voting mechanism, few would vote. We see that on the JIRA: it's very hard to see an issue rising above a thousand votes, and even the few that have that many... what should LL do about them? Should they listen to 1000 angry customers or 999,000 silent, happy ones?
You see my point. SL will always be seen as "being close to impeding doom" for the 10,000 very vocal antagonists of LL. LL will always be seen as "being deaf" to the loud claims of those 10,000, and of ignoring "residents" in general. In fact, they just take their opinions at face value, of what they're worth. And the truth is, they aren't worth much.
It doesn't even matter if those 10,000 are right all the time and LL is wrong all the time. They're a drop in the ocean. An important drop, perhaps, as their opinions at least make LL think a bit about what they're doing, but not a very significant drop, in the sense that they actually can influence the remaining 990,000 to do something (like pack and go!) — because the simple truth is that these 10,000 don't influence anyone except themselves.
@JustOnemoreLoon I obviously cannot disagree when you say that "they are making decision after decision that goes against the community and users" because obviously that's how some (many!) people perceive Linden Lab's decisions. If those people happen to be very vocal, they sound like being "the majority". There's where the problem actually is: how does a company "know" what the majority — the real majority, not the vocal majority — wants, if only "a group" of very vocal people are doing the complaining?
That's the whole problem that LL has been facing for a decade. Here is another challenge for you: find articles that are 100% supportive and encouraging of Linden Lab, and are clearly NOT paid by them (they don't resort to those tactics, but who knows...).
There are, actually, a few of those. This very article is a good example. Linden Lab used to collect positive reviews and post them on the SL Wiki — occasionally, there would pop one or two every month. My own blog has lots of positive articles, but they're not even close to the "majority" — I'd say 90% or more have something negative to say about LL, and no, I'm not avoiding my previous claim that I *am* a LL fangirl, even during the terrible days of Mark Kingdon. Generally speaking, I'm usually on LL's side, even though there were issues — Display Names are possibly one of the more recent ones — where I very strongly opposed LL's decision, and was very vocal about it, both in-world and off-world... and it was by no means the only issue.
So this is where things start to become complicated for LL. You claim that they never listen to residents, because you never see them implementing what you — and people who support your ideas — have suggested. In fact, thousands, if not tens of thousands, can make similar claims. The result? There seem always to be a "vast majority" of residents unhappy with LL's decisions.
Nevertheless, there are a million happy, active users logging in every month.
They aren't vocal. They enjoy SL and have no reason to loudly complain about it. They take what LL as granted, or are actually supportive of LL, and feel no urge to go to the media and ramble and grumble. They return every day, pay their tier — fully enjoying SL.
So what should LL do?
One one hand, there are, say, 10,000 residents complaining every day, and often their complains are widespread, as Google so well shows. It's hard to miss the complaints, while the occasional praise is so difficult to find that it takes hours and hours, even with the power of Google's search engine at our fingertips. As you so well put it, you challenged me to find "opposing views" to what those 10,000 are saying. It's terribly hard: because it's truly like finding a needle in a haystack! When I actually find *something* it's because I remember clearly who said what, and where, and when — then it's easy to find. But my weak memory is no alternative to the power of Google's searching. If I just have a vague idea of reading "something, somewhere" which was positive and supportive of LL — it's almost impossible to find. The argument there is that one or two exceptions, among 10,000 people constantly pouring out insatisfaction and complaints, is not worth much.
But LL *knows* that the remaining 99% of their users are happy and silent.
When LL implements a policy that goes "against" the 10,000 very vocal complainers, who flood the 'net with angry comments, and predict SL's imminent doom, LL is not "ignoring" them. They just know that they cannot please 1% of the residents. They're happy that the remaining 99% continue to be pleased, though. Balancing between making 1% happy, and keeping 99% happy, the choice should be obvious.
Of course this is a skewed analysis. It's like in RL democracy: governments might read someone's opinion, but they know that one particular opinion just represents one vote, no matter how strong that opinion might be, and no matter how many followers agree with the opinion-maker. At the end, it's the results at the elections that matter, and not everybody will vote anyway. The difference to LL is that we have no "elected government", and, as such, the only way LL can measure the real impact of their decisions — and not the relative impact as shown on the blogosphere! — is by looking at a shrinking landmass or reduced income from other sources (LindeX, Marketplace). If 10,000 voices claim that LL is doing "all wrong", LL can just look at the income at the end of the month: if it remains pretty much the same, those 10,000 voices have not made any damage.
In the olden days, things were slightly different, because LL would run the risk that some very loudly voiced opinion would come to the *mainstream* media, and, as such, influence a far wider audience. I have claimed that the SL blogosphere has about 100,000 overall readers — I could admit up to 200,000 — most of them English speakers. The remaining 800 or 900 thousand don't read blogs, forums, JIRAs, or whatever online sites there are about SL. As such, they aren't affected by 10,000 dissenting opinions. So LL feels safe. In 2006/7, things were a bit different, because an article might "escape" to the mainstream media, and be read by hundred million people, and, as such, influence the decision to stay or to go to a vast audience. This certainly happened with the scattered sex scandals. Sex scandals brought Habbo Hotel to their knees.
@JamesOReilly if you wish to be more accurate, you should have noticed that the sentences actually quoted in that article are NOT in the past tense :-) I'm not a native English speaker, but I still remember enough to remember English grammar to recognize a past tense when I find one :)
It is the *journalist* writing the article that writes in the past tense and lets us to believe that Philip Rosedale did so. Talk about media manipulation! It worked — you've quoted Quentin Hardy and you're repeating what he says, which is at odds with what he quotes from Philip.
Jokes beside, I don't see any "claim" by *Philip* about "thinking that SL is dead". Philip is just stating a few facts about SL: it's hard to learn, not everybody gets engaged in it, and he names a few examples of the kind of people (who clearly are not mainstream users) that are interested in immersive 3D experiences. While we can discuss if Philip's right or wrong about his assessment (I'd say he's 90% right overall), the point is that the "leap of logic" between what Philip is quoted as saying and "thinking that SL is dead" is only made in your mind. It's a simple fallacy, not consistent with the facts you quote!
@JustOnemoreLoon that's just one possible interpretation, but by no means totally fundamented by factual evidence. I think that it's based on a deluded perception that only mainstream products are able to survive in the corporate business, while exactly the opposite is much easier to achieve: companies specialised in niche markets are long-lived. IBM "survived" in the tiny niche market of "computers" for almost half a century; they just launched a "mainstream product" in 1981 (very reluctantly so) but had been a successful company before that.
If you wish to claim that "Second Life is not a mainstream product and will never be", well, then this kind of statement seems to be based on factual evidence, and I wouldn't disagree with it. Claiming that "Second Life is not a mainstream product AND SO LINDEN LAB MUST FAIL" is a logical fallacy — such as the famous "reduction of pirate activity causes global warming" correlation wittingly promoted by the Flying Spaghetti Monster crowd, as an illustration on the differences between correlation and causation.
The popular media is so fond of mainstream products and numbers, numbers, numbers that they forget that the dot-com era utterly collapsed because of that: a misunderstanding that "having millions of [mainstream] users dictates the success of a company". When rather *having a solid business model is what matters*. There are exceptions to the rule, of course: you can fool and trick the media to believe that "huge amounts of numbers of (free) users means profit" and launch a successful IPO based on that, and reap the profits of a successful media manipulation. But this sad side effect of the dot-com era still lives on in the minds of journalists, and, as such, continues to be propagated among the public-at-large.
Instead, successful companies are companies with successful business models, and there is no "shame" in selling to a niche market. Apple's iPhone may be a mainstream product, but all manufacturers of the iPhone's components (with the exception of Samsung, which does many of the chips) are niche market manufacturers — they just sell components for smartphone manufacturers. The public doesn't know their names. But does that mean they're non-entities and "doomed to fail" because the mainstream user doesn't routinely buy gyroscopes or LiquidMetal chassis? No. These are just a niche market which companies are filling, and making a lot of profit out of successfully exploring it.
I actually like "the future of Second Life will soon be almost completely in the hands of it's [sic] users." — it's in the right hands, then ;) I would add that it's in the hand of its CURRENT users to put a stronger emphasis on the niche market which SL addresses and explores, i.e., there will be no "expansion to mainstream users" which will draw the "future" of Second Life, but rather it's the current user base that will contribute towards whatever "future" Second Life will have.
@JamesOReilly well, that just "proves" that Second Life is not mentioned in the mainstream media any more, since it's not a mainstream product. You can search for "3DS" and get similar Google Trends results to "Second Life". Does that mean that Autodesk is a "failing company" because one of their products is not getting enough attention by the mainstream media? No. It just means that they have one successful product which is targeted to a niche market. I'm pretty sure that Autodesk makes a profit from 3DS :)
@JustOnemoreLoon The fundamentals of economic theory are neutral; they don't apply merely to "business models in the real world", like the authors of Freakonomics have shown the whole world a few years ago. The same methods and techniques can be employed in situations that people would usually not expect to see an "economist" around. So I'm quite sure one can use models of economic theory and apply them to Second Life; Ed Castronova certainly paved the way to allow academic research about virtual business models to be seen as perfectly acceptable.
There are many, many reasons why people are dropping their islands. I'm quite sure that a contracting economy is one big reason. It might be a reason why islands are just being marginally dropped — not more than 10% annually or so — which would be consistent with the overall contraction of the economy. Maybe LL is counting on that and just stoically waiting until the economy picks up again — the US are known to recover quickly after a crisis and grow up to 8% annually — to get back to an ever-growing landmass. They only need to weather the current storm — and that they're doing by reducing bandwidth and server costs, thanks to project Shining and similar performance-gaining features (which may be able to avoid excessive running costs).
@tmlight @PDMacGuire Why are they in the viewer business? Stubbornness? Well, perhaps. The point is that they invested literally hundreds of millions of dollars in labour costs over more than a decade. Throwing that all into the garbage bin and starting from scratch (with a third-party product which might not be fine-tuned to deal with a VW with user-generated content where content building happens in real time for all participants in the same area, and content needs to be streamed; most engines cannot handle that, although allegedly Unity3D has worked on a solution) is a move that is hard to explain by a CEO to a Board of Directors and stakeholders. It would really require very compelling arguments, and saying "we are incompetent developers and as such need to do everything from scratch in CryEngine or Unity3D" would not make stakeholders very happy.
@JustOnemoreLoon wrote: "IN NO WAY did any resident ever encourage LL to remove educator, teacher and non-profit discounts or support. If you are right, and the change away from education was because of resident demands to ending commercialization- then once again, LL failed to understand the requirements."
You should have written that, "IN NO WAY did any resident I PERSONALLY KNOW ever encourage LL to remove [...]" because I have certainly read many, many posts, comments, articles, and in-world comments about precisely that kind of encouragement. Rumours say that even the land barons addressed that issue with LL, complaining that educators and non-profits, thanks to their discounts, were undercutting their margins — which made LL change first the way non-profits could get discounted land, and, later, abolished discounts altogether. A community I'm part of has discussed this for a whole YEAR, both on forums and regular on public meetings (you can search for the discussions on http://forums.slcds.info — they're quite old and hard to search for).
While I cannot claim that all these discussions and "demands" to get corporations and educators out of SL did, indeed, influence LL — I would rather think LL had completely different motives for that, although the land baron case was a strong one — I can only agree with you that "LL failed to understand the requirements".
And with that I should just finish by stating a few things:
1) I am, and always will be, against the way Display Names were implemented, loss of last names, or "unified logins" which somehow are pushed into the virtual world. I can accept a "special account login" of some sort — say, the email address, which is unique and guaranteed to work, and easy to remember. This should make no difference to what gets shown in-world, which *should* be a First Name/Last Name combination, although I understand that some users really just want to show a single name (a problem to be solved, but possibly in a different way than the one that was implemented by LL).
2) I'm against gamification and achievements system in general, because I don't believe any more that Second Life is a product with appeal to a "mass market", specially not to a "hard core gamer" market where such strategies might have some appeal. But not for Second Life residents. However, I have nothing against putting tools in place that make an achievements system easier to be built by residents for residents! This is what apparently Linden Lab is developing right now.
3) Having worked a lot with some educators and academic researchers, as well as being currently doing some academic research of my own, I think that Linden Lab was a bit premature in "kicking educators out". Well, they haven't really expelled them from SL, just make their work much, much harder, because funding for getting a whole region or two just to do some work is insanely expensive compared to the amount of funding that most projects get. Also, teachers, educators, and researchers have shown to become very enthusiastic SL residents; most, even if they had to leave SL and use OpenSim to continue their work, are still active residents, somewhere on the grid. My own country is seriously underrepresented in SL, but I always find it amusing that the few communities built by and for Portuguese are almost exclusively inhabited by teachers, educators, post-grad students, academic researchers, and so forth. Of course they're in SL mostly during their leisure time. They all seem to have profiles with 3+ years (4 and 5 being by no means uncommon). That just shows that educators and academics, when they come to SL, they are here to remain for a long, long time — even if they have no choice but to do their research elsewhere. This is something that LL should ponder about.
4) At the end of the day, I have to agree that in <em>most</em> cases (I'm reluctant to over-generalise and say "all"), Linden Lab might listen to the residents, but tends to perversely implement the opposite of what they want — in this, I agree with you! Nevertheless it's fair to say that residents hardly ever agree upon what is "best" for them and support opposing views very strongly. The difference is that often one side tends to be far more vocal than the other; neither listens to the arguments of the opposing view; and they don't even care to read what the proponents of the opposing view have written; and, of course, no matter how vocal a group might be, they are not representative of the overall resident population — they just <em>think</em> they are. Taken that into consideration, it's no wonder LL hardly ever implements what a vocal group is "demanding" — they know that just because a minority yells and complains louder than all others, the majority is silent.
Just like in real life.
"There was no one clamoring for single user names for their in-world identity"
Oh yes there were! Hundreds, if not thousands. The argumentation was in every way as detailed and convoluted as the one defending the opposing view: that on all social platforms, without exception (at that time, at least) users were expected to have <em>one login name</em> (which they might later hide and display a "Nickname" instead). But as soon as Linden Lab implemented precisely this suggestion (with their own twist...), the opinion swung 180º to the other side. Almost everyone vocal enough to regularly talk and post about the subject resented the change.
My time is limited to search for conversations from the distant past, but here is a typical examples of what I meant.
Announcement of Display Names: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Featured-News/Viewer-2-3-Launches-with-Display-Names/ba-p/670579 (typical quote: "I love to see just Zak over my head as it fits my character a lot more than having a surname.")
However, that same thread is post-changes. "Zak" seems to be an exception to the rule. Most of the people piping in after the change were against it. In fact, the movement to revert the change — once it became irrevocable — has increased so much that Google fails to find a lot of pre-change discussions. I was part of the group opposing the change (and still am).
"If they were taking requirements from the users, they failed to collect them correctly."
That I agree completely with.
"The idea *MIGHT* have worked if Linden Labs did not permit users to put stupid unicode garbage in their presentation names and they were actually type-able on a keyboard.. or readable with eyes. What might have worked, despite it being unneeded and nothing like what people wanted, was ruined by lack of forward thinking."
This is arguable. Chinese and Japanese users — there are plenty of regular, active Japanese residents — did like the possibility of finally being able to type their names as they write them. Some love the ability to be able to use accented characters in the Romance languages, and there are plenty of those as well (just think about the huge Brazillian community, not to mention the French-speaking one). Of course, give people a tool — in this case, Unicode fonts — and the room is open for abuse, which is exactly what happened.
I don't know how LL could both give non-English speakers the ability to type their names in their own language and not open the Display Names to abuse with Unicode characters. The two seem to be to be irreconciliable.
"I never saw anyone asking for a "game" or "achievements" .. not once."
You might not be familiar with Wagner James Au's New World Notes, then. NWN is, according to ranking systems, still one of the most read websites about SL — at least perhaps outside the fashion business, a few of which might rank higher. Still, it's not a website worth missing, even if one doesn't agree with Au's views. He started collecting impressions about achievement systems as early as July 2009 (http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2009/07/second-life-needs-acheivements-and-other-highlights-from-my-metaplace-appearance.html), both on his site and on public appearances, and often confronted the Linden execs of that time about the need for achievements and gamification. He was by far not the only one, and he regularly talks about it. In October 2009, since so many people were excited about the idea of SL "gamification", SignpostMarv created a simple web-based prototype of what this could look like: http://signpostmarv.name/2009/10/14/quick-sl-achievements-web-client-demo/ Marv's blog is probably easily missed and the video he posted didn't have many views, but that's not the point: SL gamification and an achievements system has been thoroughly discussed — and opposed by many (I wrote an article against gamification a few years ago, too)! — both off-world and in-world (this is a transcript of the kind of in-world meeting that discussed gamification marginally, when Rod Humble became the new CEO: http://extropiadasilva.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/thinkers-jan-04-2011-hail-to-the-chief/).
Even simple things like "names" are the basis for opposing views. We have had two names — a fixed last name and a first name that could be freely chosen, assuming it was free — since the beginning. Then, around 2009, people yelled that "Second Life was the only environment where such a stupid idea was in place!". All other social environments allow people to create whatever login they want, and change the name they present to users at will (yes, even Facebook at that time allowed that — a policy which they have changed in the mean time). After months of conflict, Linden Lab started to allow any type of login to be registered, but users could change their avatar names to whatever they wished — just the login would not change. Obviously this meant that all "good" logins were quickly used up in the next few months, and users are now named "kjhkjhg65765" because there are hardly any choices left. Nevertheless, they can login as "kjhkjhg65765" and show their avatar name as "John Smith" — and a million users can have their avatars named "John Smith", there is no problem. But <em>now</em> people are yelling at Linden Lab that they don't have a clue about community and identity (which is an ironic claim made against the last organisation in the planet which allows people full privacy regarding their real life data...) and wish to return to the two-name approach. That's exasperating!
There are thousands of similar examples. The most interesting aspect of polling the community of users is that they will demand simultaneously two opposite and contradictory things — and no matter which one they choose, they will complain a few months after it's implemented, and demand that Linden Lab reverts the process.
It definitely requires infinite patience to deal with the rowdy community of Second Life users :-)
There is a lesson to be learned with Apple — Steve Jobs was proud of saying that Apple's users had no clue about what they really wanted. So Jobs pretty much ignored what they said, and developed what <em>he</em> thought to be right for <em>them</em>. He was successful in over 90% of the cases (yes, there were notorious failures at Apple, too, like the Apple Newton, released a decade too early). But that required the development of the Reality Distortion Field™ which allowed Steve Jobs to act as if he was always right and the whole world was wrong — and he was unanimously hated by everybody who was not an Apple fan. He couldn't care more — he continued to sell more and more, turned Apple into the most valuable company in the world, and scorned the competition.
Well, Linden Lab is not Apple, and Philip is not Steve Jobs. Unlike Apple, they try to listen to what their customers want. And sometimes they follow their wishes. Unfortunately, since there are — and always will be! — conflicting opinions about what Linden Lab should be doing, there will always be someone in Second Life who will complain about Linden Lab's "lack of vision". There is no way that everybody will be happy with LL's policies.
I know, I'm one of them, too :) But at least I grant them the merit of having brought Philip's original vision to this very day. No matter how many conflicting opinions there are, were, and will be, Linden Lab proved that they know how to manage their product and make it long-lasting — the proof is that it's still around. Aye, the next years will be challenging. But I can almost predict with 100% accuracy that whatever Linden Lab will do to overcome the challenges in the next few months, it will be universally unpopular :-)
2 years, 8 months ago on Philip Rosedale: The Media Is Wrong, SecondLife Didn’t Fail
If anything, it shows that everybody who is active in Second Life has a different idea of what Linden Lab should be doing :-) This actually hasn't changed much: as long as I remember, opposing views regarding what Linden Lab should and should not do have been popular. An amusing article from a few years ago sort of claimed that if Linden Lab actually listened to <em>all</em> the suggestions, as they are often contradictory and opposing, they would never manage anything done :)
A typical example. Around 2005 and early 2006, Philip's goal was to introduce and release more and more features, so that the virtual world could catch up technologically with the rest of the 3D environments (like games and professional 3D modelling tools) out there. This obviously meant a lot of "hiccups" on the infrastructure, as new features required shutting down the grid for a while, test it "live", and see how it worked out. Often features were hastily implemented, or were quickly prone to abuse, and the code changes had to be reverted. Users quickly got very angry about the constant change, and cried so loudly — "NO MORE FEATURES!" — that Linden Lab listened to them, and Philip announced that they would focus on infrastructure changes and bug corrections from now on. But as soon as late 2007 many content creators found out that the virtual world was quickly becoming obsolete-looking and that they had difficulties in releasing content that was compelling. Also, the pace of bug fixing — because Linden Lab was afraid they would make people angry again with constant releases — slackened down. So the grumbling went on, but this time the demand was for more features and more frequent releases — precisely the opposite of what happened a few years before. But the angry cries were about as loud. Since then, Linden Lab sort of swung between both extremes. Right now, we're at a period of time where development is fast-paced, new features are introduced quickly, and bugs get constantly crushed — but several thousands of bugs still remain unfixed, many of which with more than 5 years. A slight contraction in the number of paying customers also forced Linden Lab to change the infrastructure — making it run cheaper, but, at the same time, starting to improve some of the old, long-standing issues. And now people are starting to yell back at Linden Lab <em>again</em>.
When Linden Lab in 2009 pushed their vision of Second Life for the enterprise, a large fraction of their residential users cried foul and demanded that Linden Lab abandoned support for corporations and focused on their residential users instead. So they did it — making educators and teachers angry that Linden Lab was interested any longer in supporting organisations, namely by offering discounts and holding frequent discussions and meetings with them — a heavy blow from which many have not recovered yet. Then, to support growing communities, they began developing "social tools". When these slowly became finished, users complained that Linden Lab was wasting too much time with "developing useless social tools, when they should be improving the virtual world instead, and fix bugs". But the biggest and loudest group complained that people were leaving SL too quickly, and not coming in quickly enough to replace lost users, and the fault was Linden Lab because the current generation of users have short attention spans and require everything to look like a "game" and have "achievements" — even highly technical web-based groups have "badges" or "ranks" to encourage participation. Well, Rod Humble was brought in for his experience in gaming and started to develop exactly that, as well as more tools for developers to be able to create their own games in Second Life. As soon as the few tools were completed — i.e. now! — users yell again at Linden Lab for them to stop turning Second Life into a "game" and work on "community features" again — and, while they are at it, what about improving the infrastructure and fixing bugs? Of course — you've guessed it! — the first reaction to a major infrastructure change (moving to HTTP downloads) met already with the loudest complains ever.
@tmlight @iggyono I'm also often keen to compare "Apple apples with Linden oranges" (I love that expression!!). There are similarities in some cases — namely, the irrationality of the fanbase, who is loyal to Second Life without apparent reason; and the irrationality of the board of directors of Linden Lab who believe "they know best" — but also violent contrasts. Jobs did, indeed, know what was best for their customers. That's the main difference IMHO. And the fanbase of Second Life is tricky: the more they love Second Life, the more they criticise it, and they're not exactly gentle about the critics :) When, however, Linden Lab ignores the critics for too long, they start losing even the most loyal customers. That's a big difference.
I think that both companies suffer from what David Owen calls the <a href="http://www.lorddavidowen.co.uk/hubris-syndrome/">Hubris Syndrome</a> — working under the delusion that they know what's best, that they're irreplaceable, and that all their decisions, made with insufficient data, are correct. In Linden Lab's case this is much more noticeable, since Apple actually <em>gets</em> things done in spite of the criticism and, at the end, tend to be right...
While this sadly is not the case with Linden Lab.
@tmlight discussing why Linden Lab seems so often to be out of touch with reality as we know it is one of our favourite pastimes :-) The main difficulty is to understand all the internal struggles that Linden Lab has to go through and which cloud their judgement and makes them seem detached from the reality of the virtual world they have put into motion, but not really "created". There is a certain arrogance in believing that they know what is best for us, without really listening to what we say.
Nevertheless, I think it's fair to admit that Linden Lab goes through different phases in their communication with its customer base. Sometimes they are more open, sometimes they're more closed. Sometimes they listen but don't act; sometimes they act first and discuss later. Sometimes they discuss a lot but do something completely different. Perhaps it's the lack of a consistent attitude towards their customers that is so infuriating for us. Even the current phase they're in, where they even present roadmaps of what they're going to do in the next 6 months, with constant in-world discussion, and the promise to beta-test every new feature for at least two months with whoever wants to help with the testing — even all that might be seen with skepticism: how long will this current phase last?
If it lasts "long enough", Linden Lab is going ahead in the right direction.
@wizardgynoid Quite so. They allegedly laid off a third of their labour force. If those were their only costs — and they weren't — this could mean that they could pass along a third of the savings to their customers, which they didn't — they gave us open spaces instead :)
Nevertheless, as I argue elsewhere (sadly most of the argumentation was on my own blog, which is undergoing a painful process of restoring a failed RAID controller card by my hosting provider, and is currently too slow to be worth passing a link to it), I don't think that just slashing the costs by one third would be enough these days, when there are solutions costing as little as a TENTH of what Linden Lab charges. That should be their price target: offering FULL sims for a TENTH of the monthly price.
This is possible to do and STILL make a profit, but it requires a massive change of architecture. Is LL willing to do that? We can only wait and see.
You wrote: "In the market, other alternatives are out there at a lower cost and customers will move to those alternatives."
Wellllll perhaps. The "free market" is not so "free" as we like to admit. All Apple products are far more costly than what the competition charges, and while 15 years ago these products were actually better (in purely industrial terms) than the competing products, that's clearly not the case today. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that Apple, in spite of having cheaper and "better" competition lose customers: in fact, as we all know, they have increased their number of faithful customers more and more and are still the most valuable company in the world, beating everybody else. To the question "yes, but can they sustain that leadership with constantly higher prices (and not necessarily better products) than the competition?" the answer from Apple is "Yes, we can!"
Linden Lab's Second Life might just be the equivalent of Apple in the virtual world business and digital content business. Not the cheapest thing around, not the best thing around, but still the one with most users.
So while from a rational, logical point of view you're of course right with your assessment, from an irrational and emotional point of view I have my doubts...
Aye, it's a good argument if the main usage of the Internet is dating.
Which I'm slowly believe that it might actually be the case. Facebook, after all, was nothing else but a dating site when it launched...
2 years, 8 months ago on Preempting Big Brother, Baihe Demands Real Names and Sees Numbers Climb
@catfitz I was trying to answer you but hit Livefyre's comment size limit :)
So I decided to turn the answer into a full article instead: http://gwynethllewelyn.net/2012/07/12/second-life-towards-consolidation-and-cloud-computing/
Briefly put, I think that the reason for seeing a shrinking landmass but a growing internal economy (more transactions) is simply due to more consolidation — smaller businesses get absorbed by larger ones, who in turn become more cost-effective, spend more in advertising and brand awareness, and turn out more sales. Since they can compete fiercer and at lower costs (less islands to pay tier for, less individual brands to support, etc.) they can even cut their prices a bit and drive even more customers to their shops, thus, overall, increasing transactions.
But the problem here is that the shrinking landmass has a psychological effect that can make consolidation simply not enough for SL businesses to survive — because there is a tipping point when people start to panic.
The question is how LL will handle this, and how much they will have to slash tier costs to revert the process. I argue that merely cutting down 10%, 30%, or 50% is simply not enough. They will need to go to full regions at perhaps $30-50/month to start seeing an increase again. But the current infrastructure is too costly to allow for such prices — there IS a lower limit on how much LL can drop prices. This, in turn, means dramatically change either the infrastructure, or the whole business model.
More on that article :) The space here is simply too limited...
@catfitz @wizardgynoid I agree with everything except "Facebook is better" :) Innocent people get kicked out of Facebook, too — it was certainly my case, and I never harassed, threatened, or did anything illegal in my entire life :) My only "crime" was having Facebook changing its Terms of Services under my feet and allowing anyone to click on my profile to delete it. It was just a question of time until that happened — until, indeed, it happened. And of course, unlike the real world, companies don't allow people to defend themselves, unless they're willing to sue Facebook, and Zuckerberg definitely has the best lawyers that the Russian Mafia's money and his own IPO are able to buy :)
Second Life's disciplinary system is terrible, yes, but at least innocent people are allowed to discuss their case with the Lindens before being summarily executed. You can compare Facebook to Cambodia during the Pol Pot regime, where all you needed was to sneeze at the wrong time to be summarily executed, while Second Life merely has an inefficient system which however allows innocent people to have their saying.
@PDMacGuire It's important to understand that Second Life's not "overpriced" but "costs too much to run". What this means is that Linden Lab, using the <em>current</em> infrastructure, has a problem in lowering costs and still turn out a profit: it's a question related to the overall infrastructure costs. By doing radical changes — and after a decade we're starting to get some hints that this might actually become a reality — they finally might be able to slash their running costs so much as to be able to pass a reduced price to their customers. We'll see if this really happens.
Remember, it's easy to set up a start-up with VC funding for 2-3 years and let someone else pay for the costs, setting unrealistically low prices to easily attract customers :) But as the VC funds run out and the grid infrastructure grows (not necessarily with paying customers, since logins are free in SL), someone has to pay for that. The alternative, of course, is to redesign the whole infrastructure to get an order of magnitude of lower costs — then, yes, prices can be dramatically reduced.
Even in a free market with competition, prices are bounded by the actual costs of providing a service :) They don't fall to arbitrarily low values...
We can see this happening on the OpenSim grid operators: the larger they grow and the more islands they have, the higher their costs, and their prices start to come closer to Linden Lab's own. It's easy to set up a 4 or 10-island grid with just a mid-level server for, say, US$200-400/month, do all technical maintenance and support on your own (and thus for free), and thus charge US$20-50/month per island. But when you have 10,000 islands (or close to 30,000, like LL does), you need a huge staff to deal with all that, and you need high-end servers just for running the assets... then the costs start to skyrocket. At least with the current infrastructure model. Change the underlying architecture and you can start looking for alternative technology to provide a similar — or even better! — service for much lower costs.
Granted, a more reasonable company would not take too long to address the infrastructure costs. I'm assuming that while the Second Life Grid grew — even at a slower pace — LL was very reluctant to develop alternative technologies, since the transition would always be painful, and less profit is better than no profit at all. It's only now that the landmass is shrinking that they are pushed to do dramatic changes at the infrastructure level. For our common benefit, I wish them all the best of luck.
@JoeEssid I would say that while it's probably true that "Second Life has less educators" in the sense of less large-scale educative projects visible in Second Life — so a few of those large-scale projects migrated to OpenSimulator instead (same viewer technology, open-source backend servers, less stability but far, far cheaper to operate). But academic research on Second Life has not only not stopped, but increased tenfold in the past years, to the point where whole journals basically only publish SL-related research, and there are still some conferences around which are almost exclusively about research in SL. No, educators and researchers haven't abandoned Second Life. They just use far less resources than before, because funding is so very hard to get, and Linden Lab's pricing is anything but reasonable...
@SolarSailor @Gwyneth @mostlytigerproof I agree, but I should also point out that Linden Lab is, in fact, constantly transitioning users from one foundation to the next — we just never see what happens beneath the surface! But the infrastructure that currently runs SL has absolutely nothing to do with what it looked like in 2002-2004. Not even with what it was in 2007. It's even completely different from what they had in place in 2010! We just don't notice these differences since there was a smooth transition path.
I would, however, also agree that this is not enough and much more needs to be done. The current trend at the 'Lab is that they seem less reluctant these days to tweak the infrastructure and make radical changes. Let's hope they continue to be bold and daring, and have the resources — financial and human — to do so.
And yes, I'd work there in a heartbeat as well hehe
@mostlytigerproof @SolarSailor And lose the value of collaborative real-time building? Hmm I don't know. The ability to have groups of people doing that is one of the strange reasons why Second Life is the success it is.
As for the decisions in terms of infrastructure, you're right — even though it's been a few years since Linden Lab switched to virtual machines and abandoned the 1-server-per-grid-region approach, and nowadays use aggressive asset caching through Amazon's cloud services, it's still far from the "best" approach. They're improving the caching mechanisms and simplifying things on the server side, but there is still a lot of room for improvement — which, in turn, means not only better performance, but less running costs, too. We'll see how that "transition" will happen and if Linden Lab will pass the cost savings to their customers...
@SolarSailor @mostlytigerproof I agree, it's a dilemma, but perhaps the dilemma only exists in the minds of those who think that Second Life "needs" to grow indefinitely. To create a very complex virtual world it takes very complex creation tools; it's hard to see how it could be otherwise. That means that there is a steep learning curve and not that much reward, except for top-of-the-line expert 3D modellers and designers.
But then again, this would be like saying that companies designing animation software for Pixar and Dreamworks ought to make their software simpler, so that anyone could create animation movies as good as the ones from Pixar and Dreamworks.
I have to say, great article, it's been some years since anyone wrote something so interesting — at least outside the "SLogoshpere", a huge community of journalists and media people writing and producing content (and that includes mailing lists, forums, videos, podcasts, and a lot — really a lot! — of academic papers) just for Second Life. You hit on the spot with the point that the media are completely failing to grasp what it means to be "a successful company": which means creating a business model that is long-lasting and profitable, even if it fails to attract the attention from the media! (or in spite of its lack of attention, which is even harder!)
For years after the dot-com bubble burst, the media seems to have ignored the lessons we were supposed to have learned in 2001-2003: that you cannot build a successful company on "number of free users", without a valid business model, no matter how much hype you use. There are notable exceptions: Facebook, which had no business model whatsoever (and all attempts to create one failed, since FB users are unwilling to pay for access or usage) but got lucky enough to be able to sell a few ads — first through their partnership with Microsoft, which managed to get them into positive cashflow, and then dumping Microsoft in order to take all the profits without sharing them. Still, they're an exception. Google cleverly bought all ad companies during the bubble burst and showed that it was possible to live on ads, and have the numbers to prove it — by effectively becoming a monopoly on web ads.
Then we have to take a look at companies like Twitter, Pinterest, Bo.lt, and whatever becomes fashionable next week. What are their business models? How will they survive after they have exhausted the venture capital of their funders? The media don't care. They want to see "millions of users" registering every day, even though "non-paying users" just mean higher and higher costs in infrastructure to maintain them — and who or what is going to pay for all that?
It's fine if you build a successful model based on free accounts. But someone or something has to pay for all those free users. It's not easy to sustain eternal, quasi-exponential growth and living only on media hype. Media hype only brings *more* users, but what a company needs is *clients* — "users" are just an ever-increasing cost that needs to be handled.
Now techies applying for VC funding don't care about it. "Build it and they will come" — this used to be actually Linden Lab's motto for Second Life. Actually, this just attracts a handful of curious (but highly talented) people who do, indeed, build. But it was the dozens of thousands of content creators that started to *sell* their digital content inside the virtual world that turned Second Life into a profitable business. Linden Lab very cleverly turned themselves into 3D digital content hosting providers and stepped back, allowing people to create their own economy. That vision came most possibly from the founders of Amazon.com and eBay.com, both of which were part of Linden Lab's board at some point in its past — both have understood the power of a marketplace, where people are able to freely exchange digital content and make money out of it, and all the company has is to provide the service and charge a fee for it.
Apple has done pretty much the same with iTunes/App store. They're enablers of an economy of digital content — very successful ones, even if they see it as a "marginal" business: worth US$8 billion annually, with 400 million paying customers, but representing merely 6% of Apple's annual revenues. Linden Lab has far less paying customers — perhaps as little as a 100,000 — which nevertheless transact US$700 million annually. Sure, it's not 8 billions. But it compares well with Facebook's or Microsoft's ad sales — a bit over a billion each. Creating a market worth "close to a billion dollars" with digital content, from scratch, is not that easy.
All that with a handful of dollars from very forward-thinking funders, most of which have years ago left Linden Lab after recovering their investment several times.
After a decade of Second Life, it's interesting to see that they have survived the dot-com bubble, grew exponentially *after* the bubble had burst, and carved a niche market, which however is saturated — not really a surprise. Companies like Adobe, with their flagship product Photoshop, or Autodesk, with AutoCAD/Maya/3DS (the latter two merely bought, not developed) also address niche markets, and they continue to survive and prosper as profitable companies. They don't address the mainstream market, and, as such, are not looking for "millions" or even "billions" of users: all they need is to serve the needs and expectations of a very specific and relatively small market, where they lead, and are profitable enough to keep around for several decades.
Second Life is not different. Yes, there is a market for social virtual worlds with user-generated content, visual contiguity, and a digital content economy, but that market hasn't got "billions" of users. It might not even have 100 or 200 million users, but just a few hundreds of thousands at most. Second Life addresses the needs of them, carved its niche, and despite new virtual worlds being launched all the time, many of which hoping to replace Second Life at some point, they fail when they're unable to create a compelling business model to keep them afloat. Why do they fail? Because, at some point, when the VC funding is burned, the amount of paying users is so little that it will never pay for the overall costs of running the infrastructure. And since the market is so small, it means beating Linden Lab at their own game, pushing users out of Second Life — but starting with the handicap of having little content to offer. Over a decade, Second Life has been offering over 6 billion different items for sale — no other platform has so much digital content for sale. iTunes doesn't come even close. Last year, Amazon has close to a million eBooks for sale and 2 million paper-based books (http://www.quora.com/How-many-books-does-Amazon-have-for-sale) but we know both these numbers have grown substantially since then.
So, yes, it's a niche market. With over 6 billion items for sale. With 100 or 200 thousand regular customers, and possibly up to a million irregular ones, which are worth US$700 millions in sales annually. These are completely different numbers than what the usual Silicon Valley start-ups mention in the media — which, even after the dot-com bubble burst, are more worried about "registered users" and abstract things like "number of messages sent". These numbers are important for system administrators to tweak the infrastructure, but they say little about how much profit the company makes. They nevertheless impress the media.
If every Facebook user would buy as much as the average active Second Life user, Facebook would be worth US$700 billion annually — and that's not stock market valuation, it would be real income. Companies like Apple or Microsoft make a bit over 100 billions annually, and they're at the top of the pyramid. Think about that. It helps to put things into perspective.
@vfsdfgdfhdfgfh it had no economy ;)
@BernardVanIsacker more like 3-5000. As mentioned in the comments, one thing are casual users, which might be about a million. The other thing is "hard core" users, more than 100,000 but perhaps less than 200,000, who are active participants, both socially but also in the economy. On average, they contribute with 3000 to 5000 US$ per annum to the digital content economy.
As said, it's hard to miss that. I wonder why the media totally ignores such a market.
@SolarSailor I *am* a SL fangirl *and* an Apple fangirl, so I love the following argument from Apple's CEO: "Facebook has about a billion users and makes a bit over a billion in ad sales. That's not bad. At our iTunes/Apple Store, we make 8 billions annually with 400 million *paying* users. How much does Facebook get from their billion users? They're not telling. We at Apple are happy to say that all our users pay us :) Oh, and btw, the income we make from selling digital content on iTunes/App Store is about 6% of what we make globally — peanuts".
That's what matters.
Now Second Life might not have the amount of users that Facebook has, but a US$ 700 million economy in digital content is not to be shrugged away, specially not after being a decade in business. Remember that Facebook did their IPO this year, made a billion last year, was profitable in 2010, but until 2009, they were always operating at a huge loss — Second Life, in fact, was *more* profitable in 2010 than Facebook, even though Facebook already had 300 million users or so back then.
Users, users, who cares about the users? What matters is how many of them are willing to pay :) On Facebook, it's "next to none". On iTunes/App Store, it's "each and every one". On SL it's "enough to create an economy worth US$700 millions per year". That's not bad for a business operation that the media has completely forgotten about!!
Note that sometimes Ubuntu (specially Ubuntu Server) will only add the required imagick.ini file for PHP CLI but *not* for Apache2. You might need a last manual step like this:
cp /etc/php5/cli/conf.d/imagick.ini /etc/php5/apache2/conf.d
Just check if phpinfo() *on a Web page* will return the information that ImageMagick is compiled into PHP. If not, try the above command.
2 years, 9 months ago on [HowTo] Install ImageMagick/Imagick For PHP On Ubuntu
Hmm looks nice enough :)
3 years, 9 months ago on What, Why, and How-To's of Livefyre for WordPress