If Sims Were States

In the bad, old sooty days before methane or carbon monoxide detectors, miners would carry down caged canaries into the dark tunnels with them. If dangerous gases leaked into the mine-shaft, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners.

I’m beginning to believe that Hosoi Ichiba might just be our canary in a coalmine.

Neither Harvey or I can personally take any credit for Ami Hosoi’s courageous decision to move from total abandonment to the preservation of 50% of her Sim area. Nevertheless, I can only hope that the hours we spent in repeated talks with her and her people since the crisis began helped to influence the course of events in some small degree.

I feel for Ami, I really do. Having invested a mere fraction of the time, money and energy she has into my own little corner of Second Life, I can only marginally appreciate how devastating it would be for the digital expression of one’s heart and soul’s creation to instantly evaporate with the careless flick of a server switch.

But this, I fear, is much bigger than Hosoi.

As Yordie wrote in her post announcing Hosoi’s decision, yes, this is a very good example of what a few persuasive voices of encouragement and support, not to mention a little creative thinking, can do.

Despite the good news that there will be life that still breathes in Hosoi in at least the short-term, I can’t help but see this entire situation, and what it represents, as the shape of things to come.

This time, the canary survived, albeit half the bird it used to be. But have the miners taken heed?

On August 22nd, Gridology reported the loss of “849 private Secondlife sims in the last 8 weeks“. When I read that, I did a double-take.

Now, just think of that number for a moment. Let it really sink in… 849 of the current 22,015 private sims have been lost in just two months. That represents 3.85% of the private sim area in Second Life (not including Linden Sims).

Now, to some, that number may not seem so big. Should we be concerned? Well, I don’t want to be an alarmist, but…

Sometimes, it takes something a little more close-to-home to really get these kinds of points across. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a nifty visualisation just lying around. So, in the interests of clarification, I made my own.

If Sims Were States – The blue area above represents under 3.85% of the Earth’s Land Mass. And it’s that proportion of the Second Life Grid that we have lost over the last 8 weeks. (Private Sims)

Yes. That’s what 3.85%, or 5,775,000 square kilometres, of the Earth’s land mass (150,000,000 square kilometers) actually looks like. Or, pretty much the continent of Europe, if you don’t include the Russian bits. Please note, I’m not comparing like virtual land area for like physical land area here, only the proportion of private areas lost when compared to all the private areas in Second Life. This may not be a perfect visualisation, but it’s pretty close.

3.85%. Not so little anymore, is it? At this rate, every Second Life private sim will be nothing but a memory in just over 4 years. And that, frankly, just stinks.

Let’s also not forget that Linden Lab is a for-profit business first and foremost. They’re not, like the Captain of a sinking vessel, going down with the ship. No, they’ll hop overboard, pulling the plug well before you see that smokestack immersed. Once the company dips below the tipping point of profitability that makes it solvent – which will happen well before all of the private sims are lost – at that point, it’s hasta la vista baby.

Meanwhile, in other news, the non-profit OSGrid saw a similar shift, but in the other direction, with an increase of 864 new regions.

Is it just me, or is there something rotten in the state of Second Life?

Author: Canary Beck
Second Life avatar, entrepreneur, club owner, and social media socialiser. I photograph, film and write about the virtual experience: relationships, virtual community, music, art and Second Life.

13 thoughts on “If Sims Were States

  1. Gosh Becky! I wanna bury my head in the sand on this one. I don’t want to be one of be pessimistic either but I see these things happening.

    There are so many things I love about Second Life and it seems so few people on Earth can make it into our world, or want to, or even know about it.

    I’ve come to believe LL is investing its money in some future that doesn’t resemble the SL we know. The boards assessment of what SL is doesn’t appear to resemble the SL many of us love. There’s so much silence and so many things that make no sense.

    1. Whilst it’s tempting to do a camel on this one, beware of the dangers in doing so. Whenever I hear this, it reminds me of the Stockdale Paradox.

      Admiral Jim Stockdale was the highest-ranking naval officer held as a POW during Vietnam. He was held captive for more than seven years and tortured more than 20 times. One of the few survivors of his ordeal ,he became an expert on dealing with hope.

      Interviewed years later for Jim Collin’s book Good to Great, she said something very important facing facts: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

      1. One thing I forgot to ask about is, do you know how many Linden sims there are? My guess is its in the range of 7,000. All in all, that still leave nearly 29,000 sims. Some would argue there are too many sims, but when you look at it qualtitatively, the sims lost are more often than not among the treasures.

        1. Great guess! As of today, there are 21,878 private sims (137 fewer than August 22nd’s report). In addition to these, there are 7,126 Linden Owned sims resulting in a total of 29,004. See http://gridsurvey.com/ for daily statistics.

          It is possible that there are too many sims relative to our needs as a population as a whole, but you’re right – in the end it’s about quality. When times are good, somehow sims with weaker business models get by. When times are lean, however, these sims with little commercial viability can no longer compete.

          As Vanessa said in her comment to your post “At SL prices there’s always another crisis looming since the costs, IMHO, are just too high for what most peeps use them for. Not too high for designer shoes or sex beds, but too high for hobbyists, creative tinkering, art & architecture installations, etc”

          While my business that sits on 1/2 the sim I pay for has a commercially viable business model, I am still certainly feeling the pinch of what statistics say is SL’s worst summer downturn on record.

          I hate to think of the future of the sims that don’t (and shouldn’t) put the commercial market first. Despite being involved in the commerically viable end of this spectrum, the last thing I want to see is an SL with nothing but sim after sim of malls filled “designer shoes and sex beds”.

  2. This has been happening for awhile. It is happening at a faster, more noticeable rate now.

    In desperate moves to bring new residents to SL, LL is gamifying SL. The upcoming addition of SL to the Steam network may well bring a temporay influx of new people in, but it won’t last. Steam users are gamers. SL is not a game. Gamers despise lag. SL oozes lag. Gamers like uber graphics. SL graphics are mediocre at the very best. Gamers pay $15 a month for all you can eat access. SL nickel and dimes you.

    Rod Humble wants to turn SL into an MMO. I’ve been playing MMOs for 14 years. SL will never be an MMO. It can’t be. It wasn’t built that way.

    SL will be much worse in 6 months.

    It’s no surprise that growth is exploding on OpenSim-based grids.

    Why pay $300 a month for something, when you can get something better for $0-$75 a month?

    Fortunately, there are very solid grids picking up where SL has repeatedly dropped the ball. Disenchanted residents are beginning to explore these grids and finding that the grass is indeed greener on the other side, even if said grass isn’t fully grown just yet.

    Personally, I enjoy InWorldz. I also like the pure freedom of OsGrid. There are many to explore and many are worth more than a 10 minute once over.

    I’m sure I sound like an SL and LL hater. I’m not. Quite the opposite. I met my RL wife in SL. It’s a special place for us.

    I’m just disgusted by its free fall into the pixel abyss.

    1. There seems to be a camp out there that is hopeful that partnering with Steam will invite millions of new users.

      As you’ve pointed out, it’s the wrong market, the new arrivals won’t stick. Anyone that has spent 5 minutes playing any of the more popular video games today would instantly realise why.

      Not only will gamers bounce off SL with the first inklings of lag, the long-term residents will likely not bother with any gamified areas, segregated or not. If we wanted to be playing video games, wouldn’t we be on their PS3s already instead of putting up with everything we do in SL?

  3. Hey Becky, I know we have a bad situation going on but I keep believing in the community in SL and especially the community we have built over time. I could never abandom them because they have invested so much time and effort in trying to make it work. I downsized from 4 to 2 sims but the sims that are left are redesigned and merged into 1 big scenery. China Sichuan and the Hosoi Ichiba market were great but didnt fit in very well. So, it feels thie 2 sim setup is much more natural and logical. This scenery however needs a community as much as the community needs the scenery. I just hope people will appreciate what we are trying here and start using the resources as long as its still here.

    Thare is also maybe a light at the end of the tunnel. SL is moving to Steam. Steam is a gaming platform with 40.000.000 users. If LL takes care of better graphics, starter avatars and start locations we might be saved by the bell.

    Moving to OS is not an option. SL is way more stable and it is a hell to export all my items to OS. And what about selling my items, my islands are funded completely by the sales I make. I am also not going to rebuild my regions. Next to that, people just won’t be able to find us in OS so the region would be empty…

    What I can use OS for is designing new buildings for my RL business. I have OS running now for a week or so and it is nice to be able to work without ppl trying to chat with you;-)

    Anyway, there is still light and the canary is not dead yet;-)


    1. I’ve shared my views on where I think the Steam diversion will lead – I can’t really imagine what gamers will do in a place like Hosoi to be honest? Can you?

      In my limited research for this post, I came across several articles with enormously long and detailed comment threads debating what Linden Lab should do or should not do…

      For as many people shouting “Reducing Tier will save the day!!”, there seems to be a chorus of reasoning that suggests reducing tier will lead to price wars and a rush to the bargain basement that will simultaneously reduce revenues while chainsawing what keeps Linden Lab alive.

      For everyone who claims the “Marketplace is the root of all evil”, there are just as many defenders that suggest its one of the most efficient ways to shop in SL. What’s wrong with the Marketplace is that it cannibalises inworld shopping which necessitates land, which funds SL. You don’t even need to own land to have a shop there – how boneheaded is that??

      Then there are those suggesting that “the Metaverse is the answer!” Opposing them are those that say: “Don’t bother, the chances of LL opening up inventories and allowing inter-world teleporting is as good as a snowball’s chance in hell.”

      I’ve even pondered the idea of a sales tax on transactions. Considering that the number of people making transactions in Second Life far exceed the number of people paying teir, wouldn’t you think that driving down teir costs while supplementing revenues with a sales tax might be a workable idea?

      Who’s right? Who knows? It’s all enough to make your head spin. Does it even matter?

      The brutal facts are this: All of this talk… it’s all academic. Debating what Linden Lab should do is as good as Waiting for Godot.

      He we are diverting ourselves while waiting expectantly, vainly for a deus ex machina to swoop in and save the day before the meteor hits. We claim we are familiar with Linden Lab’s motives, but in fact hardly know them at all. I wouldn’t know Rod Humble if he was staring me in the face, let alone pretend to know what business they’re really in (do they even know???).

      But on we go, occupying our time with all sorts of diversions – anything “to hold the terrible silence at bay”.

      It’s time to face the facts that the only solutions that are in our best interests, are the grass-roots citizen-led solutions that we put in the effort to create ourselves. What those solution are, I don’t know yet, but that’s what we really should be talking about.

  4. Isn’t that a rather wildly misleading picture? You’ve colored blue 3.85% of the Earth’s surface, but then you show only the USA, which is, what, about 5% of the Earth’s surface? So it looks like it’s a huge amount, but (compared to the entire Earth / the entire Grid) it’s actually quite small. Could you at least also show a full globe (in an equal-areas sort of projection), with just the 3.85% filled in? That would give a better sense of the actual proportion…

    1. daleinnis – “Isn’t that a wildly misleading picture?” It really depends if you were mislead by it or not, I suppose. If you were momentarily led astray, let me assure you: the rest of the world is still there, despite the fact I did not include it in my picture.

      If your question is “did you intend to mislead anyone by making that picture”, then the answer is “no”.

      I could have made my argument misleading by omitting the actual proportion (which is 3.85%), omitting the numbers I used to arrive at my equation “3.85%, or 5,775,000 square kilometres, of the Earth’s land mass (150,000,000 square kilometers)”, omitting the fact that I’m talking about only private sims, or neglecting to mention that this is not a direct land area comparison, but only a proportion. If you read above, I included all of these qualifiers in the original post.

      Yes, it looks like a huge amount… because 3.85% is a huge amount of land! I’ve driven up and down that particular amount of land pictured and it took me weeks, so yes, I can assure you, it is definitely huge.

      Why did I choose to picture the US? Because a similarly huge proportion of SL active users live there, so I wanted to illustrate something “close to home”. A very large proportion of active users come from Western Europe, which is why I also mentioned it in the post.

      When communicating anything, one has to assume that your audience will take certain things as given. For example, the overwhelming majority of I Rez readers would most likely “fill in the blanks” and recognise that the world does not equal the US, and the US does not equal the world – regardless of what the picture includes. To suppose anything less wouldn’t be giving my audience very much credit would it?

      1. Eloquently answered. 🙂 What I really meant was “isn’t that a picture that is very likely to leave the typical viewer with an incorrect impression?”. Certainly your readers know that the US is not the world, but it is not at all obvious that what you have done is colored in 3.85% of the world, and then showed a picture of only 5% of the world. The fact that 3.85% of the US is a big land area isn’t all that relevant; if only 0.001% of sims had been lost, someone wanting to make that look important could point out that 0.001% of the entire universe is a huge area; but that wouldn’t actually mean anything. If you get my drift?

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