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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

ALL WORK AND NO FAIRPLAY

When I interviewed Edge club owner Jenna Fairplay last week, it was part of an ongoing series of random resident profiles. As it happened, however, the interview was arranged just as Linden Lab announced some pricing and policy changes which would directly impact social/casual player venues like nightclubs. (Negatively impact, many argue.) In brief, these changes include ending a L$750 sponsorship stipend for non-educational social events, while increasing the cost of positively rating other residents from L$1 to L$25. (Linden Lab awards a weekly allowance of Linden Dollars to each resident, in proportion to the number of positive ratings they've earned.) Since the Edge is one of the most popular social spots in Second Life, much of our discussion dealt with those policies. Her thoughts on these, below.

Jenna Fairplay on the policy changes.
Too sudden, too harsh, and way too wrong. Yes, there needs to be a better drain [to Linden Dollars in-world], but by cutting off the flow of water, it will only make what’s inside stagnate... [N]ew players coming in have no means to make Linden [Dollars] but weekly stipends, and even that is cut down [now]. I used to be able to give any new player the chance I never got. And now for the first time I have to turn them away. And that takes away from the whole reason why the Edge is here. Not every player is going to want to run off to skills classes and learn to build.

The first thing I did when I stepped off [from the welcome area] was find the location with the mass of green dots, 'cause that meant people, and people meant communication and socializing. [On the interface's dynamic map, green dots are residents currently in-world. - HL]

Even if they do decide to finally build, seeing as they are homeless and without a job... why does everyone have to be skilled? Some just want to play for the social aspect.

Jenna Fairplay on whether these policies will hurt clubs.
Yes, very much. Doozers build and Fraggles eat what they build. If we are all Doozers, we will run out of room and run out of things to build. Fraggles like the social players are needed to keep things flowing in my Great Big Circle of Stuff.

Do you know of the movie The Time Machine? [The hero] goes into the future billions of years, and even there, there is social structure, a separation of classes. Granted, the scripters aren’t gonna eat us, but I hear it over and over-- builders build, scripters script, and social players, well, play for fun. Some do more of a blend. But there is still a need for social players to keep the inspiration of creation.

On whether the policy changes will cause clubs to go out of business; on the thought of losing competition.
Yes. I dont mind competition. If anything, I'll probably help some clubs if needed. Without a doubt, I see clubs not even opening now. Small clubs shutting down, and massive Tringo invasion. [Tringo is an SL spinoff of Bingo currently in vogue. - HL]

On whether losing some clubs will be good for the diversity of the Second Life world.
Nope. Problem is to the new player. They want to make Linden [Dollars] and bottom line is, sex sells. And there is a demand. Always will be. And as clubs fail, up rise the sexual venues. But more extreme. More grief reports. The [Lindens] will only bring up what they look to take down. The explicit content. Look at who beat me for the first time in months. Won’t name the club, but the name, the picture, their posts, say it all. [And indeed, on examination, all of these are highly explicit. - HL] Sex sells and is for most new players the path they take [to make Linden Dollars], ‘cause it’s the easiest.

[The Edge is s]exy... it's eye candy, but not explicit. I don’t think I will go that route... again, I never made this place to have escorts. I was approached by escorts who saw how I treated my dancers, and wanted a nice venue to work. I rather them here and happy, then not and quitting the game.

Jenna Fairplay on why removing the L$750 stipend is such a drastic hit on club owners, even though the sum is only about US$3 not even 25 cents in real money, at current exchange rates for Linden Dollars sold on third party sites like Gaming Open Market.
GOM. If you look at the game from GOM, then you’re not looking at it for the right reasons… I see people spend hours creating a unique avatar, clothes, dresses, hair, you name it, to win [a cash prize from] an event. It's an event among others, competition, that’s their skill. How they express themselves. And with that, they will grow to learn more.

My events are run by people who want the chance to host an event, and yes, prizes are given and they keep the rest... [without the L$750 sponsorship stipend] I am now losing money, 'cause this effects my managers, the backbone of the club. If they don't get paid, why should they host? If they don’t host, there are no events.

I restructured; unlike other places, I can do that. I brainstormed and revamped in the short, short amount of time given. And it's still being done. As you saw the big unfinished building when we first met. [See second screenshot. - HL] The Edge was to fund the new skill center, but now it's the skill center that will fund the Edge. [Jenna plans to host educational events there which will receive the L$750 sponsorship. - HL]

I am restructuring, and given I care for the hundred-plus people I employee, I haven’t slept much. Yes, thirty-plus managers who host build, script, design, etc. Dancers-- oh my god, so many dancers. And escorts. And the people who I help with ideas. This club is also a... moral cause. They know we don't do this for the Linden Dollars, we do it 'cause it's fun. If we fail it will reflect on the social players.

On Philip Linden's defense of the policy changes.
Well, he needs to stop going by GOM, 'cause it takes just one player to change the Linden Dollar value... A player of real life wealth can buy up to L$300,000 in a day [on GOM] and dump it on the economy... and those looking to make real life money will cash out. And then the Linden Dollar value drops. They will do it over and over 'cause it’s the fast way to have status. So GOM is not reliable [as an indicator]... the new player will be broke, apart from their weekly stipends. Not get rated 'cause it's too much. And eventually get bored and leave. If I joined the game in this state I dont think I would have stayed.

Jenna Fairplay, on Philip Linden's following statement: "I think SL clubs are very compelling, and that club owners will adapt to these changes. I doubt that these clubs will cease to exist because of this change... I suspect that people will still go to them, and where appropriate, pay to do it. There are amazing experiences - live DJ'ing and dancing, for example, that you cannot do anywhere but Second Life... I think paying a small amount to go clubbing is a very fair deal."
Well, consider the new player can’t get a job, and doesn't get much stipend. They will be outside, unable to pay that entrance fee. People who buy Linden Dollars from GOM will have the advantage. Explicit clubs that will give them more bang for their buck will benefit. As your average social clubs fail, the explicit clubs will get the DJs. They will get the social crowd. They will get the vendors.

I can adapt. Gosh, it's what I'm good at, and I'm having a hard time. A very hard time, due to the drastic changes and short notice. You're taking a fish from the ocean and throwing it in your freshwater tank. Many social players still don’t understand what’s happening...

Change is good and needed but gradually. Don’t release a volcano and pray as each village is taken down. Dig the channels for the lava to flow.

An update to come, next week...

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Comments

"Jenna Fairplay on why removing the L$750 stipend is such a drastic hit on club owners, even though the sum is not even 25 cents in real money"

Just a note on accuracy: L$750 currently retails for US $3, not 25 cents as the article states. Note that the current rate is US $4 per L$1000. 75% of that is, well, a dollar less.

Posted by: Durkheim at Feb 2, 2005 8:48:22 PM

Looks like you're right, I got things bass ackwards. Thanks, will correct.

Posted by: Hamlet Linden at Feb 2, 2005 10:11:02 PM

I totally agree 100% with Jenna

Posted by: Mirage at Feb 3, 2005 5:17:07 AM

Jenna is totally right! I am a failing Doozer. My business is going badly, and i've been thrown out of my apartment because i can no longer afford it- my stipend is low and i don't get enough money from rating now (and the big change in L$ prices). My business is having trouble taking off. The economy is unstable, and a danger to all those newcomers. I've lost a lot of money through it, and i don't intend to lose any more.I'm now living in VERY small hut (200M) and i can no longer buy anything. With such low stipends and high rating costs, Fraggles will be dying like flies in a room full of toads. The change in stipends and rating costs was far too drastic, it should have been a gradual change. Then perhaps the economy would have slowly adjusted. I can't even buy a t-shirt with my week's stipend!

Posted by: Stephen Grayson at Feb 3, 2005 9:32:06 AM

Luckily in secondlife, there is no hunger, no real homlessness in the sense that you need to be protected from the elements. So the people that are complaining about not getting money from jobs....you're kidding, right? You say your only way to get L$ in SL is to sell av-sex in some form?

Hold on, I have to laugh for a bit about that, it just seems so ridiculous.

I think the real issue is that all of a sudden, you have to do something in SL to get some L$, instead of farting around typing 'lol' and touching a dance machine.

I don't mind well made clubs, mind you, but SL is saturated with every type and kind to the point of uselessness. Let the chaff fall, it certainly needs to. The real clubs will stay, and hopefully they'll mean something, unlike now.

Posted by: Maxx Monde at Feb 3, 2005 3:51:56 PM

If you see SL from a GOM point then your not the social player your a money player and wont agree with many of my views, ideas, and opinions. Im not in the game to view Linden as real currency. I play because its a social game that provides people with a world to live out their dreams and ideas.

Posted by: Jenna Fairplay at Feb 3, 2005 5:07:22 PM

I'm just adressing what you talked about. Especially how you have to 'turn new people away', and your quote about 'Problem is to the new player. They want to make Linden [Dollars]' and further where you say (about hosts)'If they don't get paid, why should they host?'.

These are all L$-centric arguements, and the ones I was responding to. So perhaps you are confused about what I'm trying to say.

Posted by: Maxx Monde at Feb 3, 2005 5:39:30 PM

I urge everyone who is currently offering a service to lower the cost of goods (except guns, noone likes a n00b with a gun)

Posted by: Stephen Grayson at Feb 4, 2005 4:42:45 AM

The current "business model" for SL is flawed, me thinks.

OK, you can look at GOM and look down on everyone who is using GOM as someone who is cheating. But the fact remains, that its there and the Lindens accept this service. This results in some interesting "effects":

If you're on a yearly plan
- you pay about six bucks monthly
- and got at least 2.000 L$ monthly with only the base stipends
- which you could sell for EIGHT bucks per month on GOM

I did not take any transaction costs into account but ... sorry - this just aint working if you see SL as an economy in the macroeconomical sense! Therefore the Lindens HAD to change some of these parameters!

I expect a lot more changes in the coming months and years. And even though this will enrage a lot of the old time "pure" gamers - GOM and similar services will play a big role in these changes. You can look at it as if SL is one of the interconnected national economies of the real world. GOM is comparable in a way to trade betweeen these economies.

In the long run SL will have to create MORE value through the creativity and energies of it's residents than is consumed by this same residents. It would be a services-oriented "national" economy. This is how the most developed national economies are working in the real world ...

In the real world a nation has the alternative option of exporting raw or refined natural resources. This option obviously doesn't exist for SL.


I am only a bloody noob though and don't have much experience with SL - so maybe i'm missing something ...

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