Tuesday, March 23, 2010

*Sigh* A Nation Owner's Sad Farewell

It is with a heavy Heart Breezy shares Sir Lindsay's Manifesto with all as
This is the Note card that All Residence Received From
Sir LittleBlackDuck Lindsay
Mayor/Creator/Owner of Victoriana and Tinytoriana

*Sigh* A Nation Owner's Sad Farewell
Hi everyone,
This is to announce that The Nation of Victoriana is closing.

I've been a SecondLife citizen since July 2006 and have seen many wonderful things come (and go) on this grid. Over the past twelve months I can't help but notice the "cons" of living and working on a Linden grid far outweigh the benefits. DAILY grid issues with logins, transactions, inventory and lag, continually spoil everyone's experience. I personally have lost a considerable amount of inventory over the past twelve months alone, something nobody enjoys. Reports from friends and residents of Victoriana tell me I'm not alone here either.
As most of you are aware Linden recently "screwed the pooch" with my permissions in Victoriana during a recent "maintenance update"; effectively disabling my ability to manage, repair and improve the estate by setting almost everything to 'no modify' (yes stuff I built and owned, which makes up the majority of everything in the estate). After numerous attempts via Concierge Chat and support ticket application, Linden failed to correct the issue after fourteen days... they didn't even have the decency to contact me about the problem, or even move the ticket beyond "New" status (ie they didn't bother to look at it). As you also know I sent out notices keeping everyone up-to-date about the status and eventually explained I would have to rebuild much of the estate from scratch and 'fix the problem myself'. This lacklustre response from Linden has brought to light a great deal of uncertainty in our little community about the future of Victoriana and the Linden grid itself. I've seen a number of people in the past few weeks re-evaluate their own personal investment in SecondLife, and sadly a number of them have chosen to leave the grid for fear of losing everything they've invested money in. It's a very very sad thing to see good people go (especially long-termers who've been around for a while) for fear of "what will happen to them" come the next maintenance rollout/asset server failure/grid issue.
Since then it's been more daily issues with logins, lag, asset server/inventory problems, you get the picture. It's not enough that IMs are capped (making it really tough for an estate owner to communicate with people) but it seems now Notecards are not working correctly either. I've sent a number of notecards to residents the past two weeks and am told most never received them, and have not received a number of communications that people have sent me. How anyone is expected to run a business, community or even take this grid seriously is beyond me.
Linden is working hard to improve the experience for new users on the grid, something I feel very passionately about, however in the process of changing their mind on how to achieve this every five minutes, they are effectively hurting everyone involved and destabilising the economy. Recently we saw Linden introduce "free homes to Premium members" which, while basic and really aimed at the newbies joining the grid, has effectively devalued any land or sims people have spent their hard earned money on. Why buy a plot of land for a home when you can get it for free? If you're a landholder, congrats, your plot is now worth much less than it was in January. If you're a homebuilder, congrats, why would someone buy your houses when they can get one for free? For someone that owns a sim or an estate of sims, right down to someone who runs a business selling houses, your hard work and effort is now worth a lot less. Anyone trying to run a rental business is pretty screwed now, too.
Linden also 'dumped' the mentor programme and mentors (a team of residents, like you, who offered their time for FREE to assist people with questions and generally help as needed). Linden is now in the process of dumping the gateway program completely too (so people in the know tell me), effectively saying "screw you" to residents and estate owners who invested their own time and money to set up. I fortunately don't own a gateway, however I do know three people who do, and know how much of their own personal time and money they invested setting it up so that newcomers to the grid could have a fantastic 'first five minute experience" (effectively doing Linden's work for them). This expensive effort is all now null and void; a waste of time and investment because Linden have changed their mind again.
I'm pretty disgusted about the current state of affairs regarding DMCA on the grid too. I don't blame Linden for copybots being created/used (by a very small number of bad eggs on a very large populous of accounts), Linden should be applauded for opening up the viewer code to public licence allowing others to tinker and improve the viewer with new features and speed. The fact a very small handful of people chose to tinker with the code to exploit permissions and allow a small handful of people to copybot the hard work of others is hardly Linden's fault. I am terribly concerned about the lack of support content creators seem to receive when they report to Linden that their work is stolen. Anyone fancy a grey-market turtle? How about a whole sim of builds? I read day after day about content creators complaining X or Y is being copied by someone and they are not getting any support from Linden. Who will be next? I've personally had some of my builds copied and ended up chasing the offender myself to resolve the issue, now things are getting even easier to copy and even harder to get effective action taken, I see creating content on this grid a total game of cat-and-mouse if you expect your items to remain your items. "Word on the street" tells me Linden will be locking out all viewers other than their own some time mid-year in an effort to stamp out copybots. This means no more fantastic features in Emerald, no more model bots in your fashion store and no more innovation or improvement to the viewer beyond what Linden chose to give us. Why stifle the creativity of many when you only need to chase after a handful of offenders? Why is it taking so long for something to be done about this issue when all that needs to be done is investigation/deletion/accounts locked? DMCA and copying goes far beyond a simple copybot/hacked client, too. I've seen cases where 'people' have copied by hand, builds by "Four Winds" (for example) that are prim-by-prim identical down to the nearest 0.01m and have simply thrown on a slightly different texture and called it an original. The shape, size, layout and overall design has been stolen (and badly textured) for resale. Again where's the DMCA love for the person who spent so much time creating the original?
I have now come to realise that running an estate or investing any kind of time or money on a Linden-run grid in it's current form is for chumps, so I'm leaving whilst I still can.
Let me be totally clear on what I am saying and sum up why Victoriana is closing:
* I currently have a LOT of REAL WORLD dollars invested on this grid
* I have no problem covering the tier for all 13 sims if need be, as this is (was) a labour of love project for me (I like to build). I have never had an agenda for a "full estate" and would rather have a half full sim of friendly, fun, community-minded residents than "just any avatar" here to fill in the gaps.
* A recent maintenance update broke my permissions in Victoriana, and Linden Labs did nothing to fix it after repeated requests, indicating this is not only an unfixable problem (or one they don't care about) but one that if it happens again I'm S.O.L
* Since the permissions "issue" a number of Victoriana residents have contacted me; unsure about the stability or continuity of the estate/the Linden grid, given Linden's lacklustre efforts to resolve things
* Over my time in SecondLife I've also lost a large quantity of inventory during grid-related issues or maintenance updates, effectively like 'throwing money into the furnace" as I've never been able to get any of it back.
* According to reports from others, I'm not alone with the inventory loss issue, and apparently not alone in the perms scenario either
* It is becoming impossible to conduct any form of business, or assist anyone here; ongoing communication problems, lag, L$ issues, grid issues
* Linden Labs is trying it's best to improve the grid experience for people, however in the process is devaluing any money or time anyone has put into the place already; making it a poor investment opportunity and an unstable future business prospect
* Ongoing grid issues, and an uncertain future about what rules of the game Linden are going to change 'next', make this grid an unstable environment for anyone to conduct a large-scale project such as Victoriana, expecting it to survive intact more than a few weeks
* Linden's apparent lack of interest in DMCA issues via copybot use means I can't trust that if I log in tomorrow my hard work won't be sold by someone else, and if it is, anything will be done to rectify the situation by Linden
* I have not made this decision lightly
* Nobody else (Other than Davey McDowwll) was aware I was making this decision until receiving this notice. Many people are aware I am unhappy with Linden Labs' lack of support and care for residents on the grid but this decision was mine and mine alone to make.
* This is not a 'poor me' issue. This is a "I have a concern that every time I log in I won't have inventory/an estate/a business/the ability to do anything as promised" issue
* This is also a "I have fears that my residents and storekeeps will be greatly affected by the above issues which are all out of my control and how the hell do I help them if so" issue

What does this mean for you?

* Everyone's rentbox has been locked
* Anyone with overdue rent will have their items returned asap and will be banned from the estate, this includes landholders. Just because you're overdue in rent doesn't mean Linden won't charge me tier for the sim, grow up and take responsibility for your decision to rent/live/work here (or anywhere on the grid)
* Everyone is asked to "collect their stuff" asap or else it will be returned to your lost+found folder
* SHOPKEEPS: As you empty your store, any remaining rent will be refunded
* RESIDENTIAL RENTERS: As you empty your home, any remaining rent will be refunded
* LAND OWNERS: Anyone who owns land "not" for sale, your rent will be refunded and your land "bought back" for half it's original value, this seems to be the current going rate these days in this shitty economy++
* There are over 400 individual rentboxes across the estate, I will endeavour to tend to everyone as soon as I can re:the above
++If the above sounds unfair, that's life. In the past when people have been ejected due to antisocial activities they were always refunded any remaining rent owing and paid full amount for their land value (contrary to what they told everyone) before being banned from the estate. Due to Linden's devaluing land through "Free Homes" and overall poor economy performance, the value of a plot of land is worth much less today, so "half it's original value" is more than fair. Welcome to the Linden grid.

Given Linden have closed all but the most basic of forum topics now (hiding something are we LL?) there's no decent place to list "sims for sale" any more. Victoriana was always planned as a COMMUNITY estate; when full sims in Victoriana _break even_ (ie I kept the prices low so more people could enjoy the place and I don't make a profit, like other estates) as this project was a labour of love for me. The tier I have collected over two years has helped ease the cost of this project but was never planned to fully cover it (let alone make a profit from it). Linden killed that dream. I've spent over US$30,000 on this project over the past two years. That's my own money; any tier I collected from people (when they did pay their rent) went towards the additional costs on top of that, so if you feel you're wasting your money put things in perspective. Buying out everyone and refunding any rent is going to cost even more, as I suspect the chance of any resale value of the 13 sims that make up Victoriana will be non-existent now Linden don't provide estate owners anywhere to advertise sims for sale.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the (sadly) small number of genuine people I've met over my time running Victoriana, that have contributed towards the estate in a positive way. Some residents have held events, submitted freebies or Victoriana-branded items for others to enjoy, acted as greeters tirelessly helping newcomers to the estate, or even just attended events and made them a fun and fond memory. A big thanks to all the residents who often sent me a quick IM or Notecard out of the blue saying "Hiya" for no reason other than to be friendly, it always made my day that someone would say hello and not expect something in return other than a cheery greeting. Thank you for your time, efforts and for generally helping to make Victoriana a fun place for me and everyone to visit.

Off to OpenSim I go...

Best wishes (Unless you work for Linden Labs),
LittleBlackDuck Lindsay
Mayor of Victoriana and Tinytoriana

1 comment:

Minethere Always said...

I was following some other links and found this page. The Nation has also left inworldz due, apparently, to some drama there. Their website says "they are moving" so I do hope they at least find a place where they can control their destinies better.

Just fyi, in passing.