Fast, Free, and Easy
Friday, November 20, 2009

"Fast, free, easy"—they're all positive characteristics of merchandise, commerce, and service—they're also the shill on Second Life's homepage and signup page—emphasis on "FREE" and all of the happy and risk-free connotations of the term, of course.

When there's a downturn in the economy, however, Second Life's true colors reveal themselves—and they're hardly anything but fast, free, or easy—in fact, they seem to slither more along the lines of slow, expensive, and painful.

And regardless of the initial lure into Second Life of being "free", the prime scapegoat for Second Life economic woes is, ironically, the freebie.

The Lab hates the idea of free because, well, it's a corporation and it needs to make money, but it also continues to perpetuate its false initial promises of "fast, free, and easy" that's used to lure new users into Second Life. And there's the rub. The Lab would love nothing more than to have a continuous stream of new-but-paying users, and so far, they've only shown that they don't even know how to incentivize their existing paying-users—individuals and corporations alike—to stay and continue paying for Second Life.

The Lab's latest misstep along their bumbling journey of "monetization" is their feigned alignment with and blatant brainwashing of Second Life merchants in "Commerce" "office hours," duping merchants to believe that the "flood" of freebies is the true source of their economic woes. It's biblical: Colossus Linden keeps saying "flood" as if he's building an ark. Notice the progression in the transcripts, where a reasonable merchant question, "it's a LL problem, not a merchant or consumer problem?" (line 139) becomes inverted and perverted by Colossus into a shrill battle cry that "ANY MERCHANT PROBLEM IS AN LL PROBLEM" (line 152)—and that somehow their two economic destinies are one and the same: a crusade against the unholy and parasitic freebie.

Blaming the economy would be too externalized, and blaming one's own short-comings in product quality or business acumen would be too internalized. Can't blame the Lab—because, well, they're on "our side" now, right? And so by exploiting this flawed logic, the Lab is able to co-opt and incite unwitting merchants into alliance with and participation in the Lab's misadventures in "monetization" and its war against free.

The miscarriage of policy that ensued—the Xstreet Freebie Roadmap—is an almost farcical maneuver, where the Lab resorts to tactics tantamount to bleeding-dry its entire existing paying demographic—freebie sellers and paying merchants alike—under the guise of improved services for-all in an effort to conceal its mismanagement of a souring integration and acquisition of Xstreet (lines 62, 124)and attempting to recover their consistent loss of revenue from their continued promotion of a false "fast, free, and easy" Second Life culture of freeloading. The Lab decided somebody needed to pay for all that freeloading—and those somebodies are the people who are already paying, who are creating items, who make the marketplace what it is.

In this ongoing charade of "non-listening," Xstreet is deceitfully glorified as a premium venue reserved for premium content: it's posed as "specialized" and differentiated from in-world shopping with new non-promises of non-guaranteed deliveries, non-improved non-usability, and non-removal of IP-infringing copybotted non-content. And in this new "non-listening" Tao of Linden, the culling of choice and options for both consumers and merchants are represented as beneficial and advantageous. Penalties and fees are magically packaged and sold as features and improvements. Office Hours are a thinly veiled platform for re-education disguised as free discourse and discussion.

So, what is the sound of a Linden non-listening? Well, right now it sure sounds like a lot of people leaving Xstreet en masse.

And irony of ironies. It's actually pretty difficult to delete your items from Xstreet.
Mimika Oh ( November 22, 2009 at 3:15 PM )

Please vote for “Mass item delete for XStreetSL” https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/XSL-73

antonia-tiger ( December 17, 2009 at 1:57 AM )

There's other answers to some of the problem--I'm convinced that they have found they've bought a lousy search engine and don't have anyone who understands what it's doing--and this whole mess could be seen as an effort to buy time.

There are other stores, where I've seen similar search problems. They're small enough to be managable problems for the customer, and the site isn't sluggish. XStreet has to shrink, or it needs an expensive rebuild from the ground up.

One can hope that they're buying time to fix things, rather than sweeping the problems under the carpet. But the goods that will be lost to sight will be missed.

Prof Outlandish ( February 7, 2010 at 6:17 PM )

"Dear Linden Labs, as a merchant, I have found a problem with your system that is effecting my revenue. Anyone can build whatever they want, basically for free, and make as many copies to distribute as they like. People can even hand out works that OTHERS can modify and REDISTRIBUTE. How am I supposed to get a fair price for my hard work when people can just do their own work for free? I think we need to institute a higher cost to build things for non-merchants. I think a per-prim cost on newly rezzed items would be fair, as long as it doesn't apply to my promotional prims."