Friday, April 15, 2011

A Reply From The Recalcitrant & NWN, go away

Well, I need to get political again. James Wagner, aka 'Hamlet Au,' has reposted a link to an original interview I did with Chestnut Rau on his New World Notes blog. People are commenting (positively) there, and I'd like them to be aware of something:

I am not best pleased with this linkjacking. I have been vocal on NWN about Wagner's slamming and disparaging of residents with his assertion that said residents and their widely-held opinion that Viewer 2.0 is a technically-challenged cobbleup are responsible for the decline of Second Life.

I enjoyed very much talking to Chestnut, who was interested, charming and very nice. I was quite pleased with her original interview. I view this repost/hijack of the link as an attempt either to curry favor with me or to make me out to be some kind of ungrateful wretch, as Bettina Tizzy implied in a tweet to soror Nishi, who was chided for objecting strongly to Wagner's position because "he was nice to you once upon a time."

I do not like Wagner using me to drive traffic to his blog while castigating me as a resident. If you wish to read/comment on this interview, please do so at Chestnut's blog. She deserves the traffic, not NWN.

Here is the comment I have posted at NWN:

"I suspect this link-referral to an interview I did with the charming and nice Chestnut Rau is some kind of clever offering or trap for my posting rebuttals and comments on NWN for Hamlet's unexcuseable and troll-like inflamatory position that I, and the very people who pay Linden Labs to rent their land and our membership fees as premium members are somehow responsible for the decline of Second Life because we object on technical grounds to the abortion that is Viewer 2.0.

If you'd like to comment, please do so on Chestnut Rau's article page and not on this page, as all it does is offer Mr. Wagner incentive to continue trolling for blog hits.



All in all, another example of why I do not read NWN anymore. I do not think Mr Wagner has anything of interest to say. I find his position untenable and disingenuous and this reposting of a link to drive traffic to his monetized blog rather than Chestnut's (non-monetized) blog rather sly and underhanded.

So... I had prepared this post last week (before the link posting at NWN) on the continuing carping of Wagner about why I, as a paying premium member and landholder putting money in LL's pockets, am the reason Second Life membership and landholding is declining. I held the post because I wanted to promote a stellar art show/event for a cause and organization I support.

That event is over now, and I give you the original post. Note the time frame: this post was written and completed in response to another one of Wagner's inflammatory posts at NWN, my comment thereon and before Wagner posted this linkjack that has really got me irritated.

I do appreciate all the nice comments people have left, but I do not appreciate being used by Wagner to steal traffic away from someone deserving just to increase his monetized bloggery.

And to Mr James Wagner aka Hamlet Au: don't do me any more 'favors'. You were never interested in my work before I started commenting on your ridiculous assertions and I don't think you are interested now. Address me over these issue if you like, but don't use me or attempt to curry favor or derail my arguments with your soft-soaping.

Original post follows.


So I made a comment on a blog which was kind of prickly; you get that way when someone keeps calling you names. But since Wizard says I get "articulate" when I am "frenzied," I thought I'd try to live up to that and articulate a bit more in response to this continual trumpeting from James Wagner about the failures of Second Life/Linden Labs being laid at the feet of the people who, according to Mr Wagner's own figures, actually pay the bills - the residents like me.

In the grand tradition of tech troubleshooting, I thought I'd make it easy to understand by using the tried-and-true car analogy. But then I wondered if, although the comparison of Second Life and Linden Labs to the Wikipedia entry for the Ford Edsel is pretty applicable and illuminating as to both product and marketing (i'm not joking; read the article), this might be too complex for a simple blog post (or at least one that anyone might care to read). So I settled on a much simpler hardware-store analogy.

If I Had A Hammer...

Suppose you were selling a widget you called a hammer. You sold this widget to a number of people, whose continuing income stream paid your bills and put money in your pocket. You start to get feedback on your 'hammers' from the renters (who originally were told, "Your world, your hammer") of these hammers. Many of those now-renters are knowledgeable Carpenters (some are Master Carpenters) and they begin to tell you of certain problems or flaws in the hammer.

The head flies off; they explain it would be simple to use a better wood or a better staple in the head of the hammer to prevent this. They also note that there seems to be variable quality; some of the hammer heads appear to be too soft and will not effectively pound a nail into hardwood, only soft wood. The angle of the claw end is not very good for removing nails. Yet they continue to rent your hammers in good faith, listening to your marketing department and trusting that you are an honest and forthright company and that you are all working with a new product and that bugs take time to work out.

This goes on for quite some time, becoming a bit sharper and more critical after several years of promises. The Carpenter community begins to talk amongst themselves, comparing stories of the failure of the hammer to work as advertised and intended; to do its basic function as a hammer. Concern is raised that, despite a company forum supposedly devoted to constructive feedback and problem area suggestions, the main failures of the functioning of the hammer are not being addressed. In fact, certain threads of the forum are shut down and closed after several years of mounting complaints, even though no solution has been offered.

The number of hammer renters, some of them really big hammer renters, begins to fall to attrition. Not only are no new Carpenters flocking to the hardware store, but some of the oldest and most-supportive Carpenters, who have paid your hardware store thousands and thousands of dollars for years, are declining their annual orders. Panic ensues in the hardware store's boardroom. The old Carpenters, some of them still talking and not walking (and paying) attempt to explain that a hammer which cannot serve its main purpose is not promoted by Carpenters and does not attract new Carpenters. This view is rejected by Management, who have seen new sparkly things in other hardware stores and take the position that their hammers need to be more sparkly.

New features are added: a big marketing blitz for SparkleHammer 2.0 goes out, explaining that the head is now covered with twinkly bits, the handle has been wrapped in racy stripes and the claw is shorter and more user-friendly in order to to capture the fancy of the New Market of young Carpenters-to-be. Marketing develops a campaign to lure new hammer-users in by explaining how much fun it is to use their hammer as a doorstop, how a user can glue fur onto the handle for a sensual experience, how to pretend to be a vampire using the claw part of the hammer and how you can spend a lot of money accessorizing your hammer (girls, if you had Barbie, you know what I mean!).

The immediate feedback from the Carpenters, who are still paying the bills, is almost unanimous: not only does the new hammer (or 'Ham 2.0') still fail badly in the necessary function of a hammer, but some of the new features actually degrade the hammer-experience, frustrating both new and old Carpenters alike.

Numbers continue to drop. There is an anger, based not only on this iteration of the Ham 2.0 but on the track record of the hardware store, which has baited-and-switched with their Mini-Ham (homesteads), refused or been unable to fix fundamental flaws (Group Chat, asset server crashes and loss of inventory, general sim crashes and crossings) and shut down feedback and communication with the Carpenters. More Carpenters leave, taking with them those thousands of dollars. They leave not because they don't like furry-handled hammers but because a hammer that doesn't pound nails or remove them is not a tool of interest to a Carpenter.

I'd Hammer On A Hamster

James Wagner, who once wrote of the possibilities of Second Life and who once declaimed, "it won't go away," has taken to calling the residents of Second Life "recalcitrant" and "averse to change" for their continued and now fairly-widespread criticism of Linden Labs conduct. Dazzling us with facts and figures, he attempts to address us as wayward and stubborn children.

By Wagner's own figures, we continue to fork over to LL some several million dollars for the priviledge of using a tool which has not been fixed and which underperforms and degrades with regularity. Unlike Mr Wagner, we did not flee to bluer pastures, trumpeting our with-it-ness and siren-calling to take carpenters away from their old store to a new one.

Note that last point: Wagner jumped ships and was disappointed when many residents of SL refused to go, citing the technical and content problems of Blue Mars. We all know what happened there; Blue Mars as a virtual world collapsed, morphing into a tiny phone-app which has yet to prove itself in the marketplace.

So he begins this schtick about "recalcitrant" users and sticks with it, despite mounting criticism and mockery; despite his absence from Second Life due to his year-long jaunt in Blue Mars (where his prediction of "the new happening thing" was demonstrably misplaced); despite his denial of even his own old columns where he himself wrote of several of the fundamental problems with SL architecture.

When, in thoughtful mode, people reply with facts and figures of their own, Wagner refuses to acknowledge the problems and makes one up of his own: it is we, the people still putting money in Linden Labs' hands; the people who have continued to do this out of love for the platform; the people some of whom have a vast array of technical knowledge; the people who spend, I am confident in estimating, more time inworld than 80% of the Linden Labs staff, who are the problem. We do not want to change! We are the ones killing our world!

This is patently ridiculous. The problems with Second Life can be easily simplified to one line: it is a communications program, and the communications suck. The communication between resident and Landlord (LL) and between client and server (asset server, chat, sim crossing, 'dancing' prims, missing inventory) are abyssmal. The client is unstable. The client has built-in artificial limitations (prim size, lack of shader support) which other viewers have handled quite adequately. In seeking to emulate some other program, ala Facebook or Twitter, LL appears to be attempting to mimick surface features without acknowledging this base truth: they are all communications programs. Their success is based on stable and reliable communication.

No amount of tarting up the interface or additional copied widget ideas will do anything to retain users or attract new ones if core functionalities are unstable and unreliable.

Mr Wagner, with his this-day "SL is dying" and that-day "We could really build something here if you all weren't such grumbly little children" is quite the font of negativism he accuses others of being. His fickleness has been demonstrated publicy by his own actions. His obtuseness to the fundamental underlying problems in SL is disingenuous. His continual harping on the "recalcitrance" of the consumers of the product to buy into a new, tarted up interface at the expense of the underlying flaws in the architecture begins to sound like nothing more than corporate shilling and trolling or the attempt of a once-relevant voice to regain its prominence.

If Mr Wagner and Linden Labs insist on an adversarial position with their customer base, that base will leave; it's that simple. Browbeating will not help. Refusal to engage the pertinent issues will be disasterous. No one who does due diligence on the company with an eye towards purchase will be fooled.

I hope that wasn't too snarky, but I am irritated. And I don't like being called names repeatedly.


Iggy O said...

I will never let you approach me with a hammer.

Anyhow, don't take Hamlet's finger-pointing personally. It's all my fault. I ruined SL singlehandedly as a recalcitrant, change-averse educator.

I feel better saying that.

You artists, on the other hand, give us reasons to keep coming back to SL to see what is possible there that's not in other spaces.

Skylar Smythe said...

Applauds :)


sororNishi said...

Well, that just about sums it all up, I can stop blogging about the Boys now, it's all been said...." it is a communications program, and the communications suck."... end of.

Miso Susanowa said...

@Iggy: I didn't take finger-pointing seriously until this last linkjack. That I DID take personally, as Chestnut did the work and is entitled to the traffic.

@soror: noooooo! Your insights and knowledge as a longtime resident and user of SL are invaluable. Maybe you can help with Part II of this post, which will attempt to address these problems in a positive manner, if only to show LL that some smart people actually seem to know enough about marketing to maybe give LL some ideas. It worked for Apple; it can work for LL if they get their heads out of the sand.

Abel Undercity said...

I'm going to push the hammer metaphor just a teensy bit more, to say that you nailed it.

Botgirl Questi said...

Before I comment on a couple of the issues you addressed, I want to let you know I'm awed by the way you channeled your anger into such a lucid post. That's a rare skill.

Okay. On to the sore subjects . . .

I read Hamlet's initial "resistance to change" post and had absolutely no emotional response. Okay. Maybe a little smirk crossed my face, because I suspected he'd get some push-back. But I was astounded by both the vehemence of the response, and how uniformly hostile the reaction seemed to be across the community. Clearly, there's something I'm missing on this. I still don't understand why there's so much anger directed at the man versus his ideas. It's probably rooted in the part of the story that happened before I was here (<2008).

On the linkjacking issue, I'm thrilled when NWN covers something on my blog. But I'm also happy when Prokofy links to me. What's good for my search engine rankings is good for me.

On the "resistance to change" thread, I loved your hammer story. I agree that Linden Lab is 100% responsible for the sorry state of the hammer. What we don't know is what it would take technically to fix it. I can't believe that if there was a straightforward way to solve endemic problems like lag, search, etc. they wouldn't have done so a long time ago. For all we know, their technical architecture and legacy code is so totally scrambled and fried that all King Philip's men weren't able to put it together again. Beats me. We're all speculating on this kind of thing.

That said, I think that the impact of the Second Life community hasn't had much of a positive impact. As the saying goes, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." The only way we can vote is with our wallets and our feet. So I challenge all who keep complaining about Linden Lab to get together and significantly reduce tier for a month. June would be plenty of time to get things together. What do you think?

Eli Schlegal said...

Fantastic post. You would have hit the nail on the head, if the hammer actually functioned properly.

Salome_Strangelove said...

I think the hostility of the reaction is rooted in the fact that so many people already loathed Hamlet and so much of what he represents, but never had a valid reason to unleash before now. Like the Herald, NWN thrives on negative response just as much as positive, so I doubt Hamlet loses much sleep over it.

Good post, Miso. I'm considering placing this statement at the top of all my SL posts from now on:

No amount of tarting up the interface or additional copied widget ideas will do anything to retain users or attract new ones if core functionalities are unstable and unreliable.

Rhianon Jameson said...

Nicely said!

I'd like to amplify a point made above by Miss Questi: I suspect Hamlet is right that the current flat-to-declining base of Second Life users isn't sufficient for Linden Lab to keep going indefinitely. Maybe he's wrong, and the current user community is enough to keep the Lab profitable and in business, if not rich, for years to come. If I had to bet, though, I'd place money that the Lab doesn't just want to increase its user base, the Lab needs to do so.

So the answer to why there's been such an angry reaction to Hamlet's posts is not that his concern is misguided, but that his solutions are...well, I'll go with "misguided" again. He focuses on the complaints from the core users, saying we're wrong to dislike Viewer 2.0, etc. That rightly gets everyone upset who has invested time and money in Second Life. He then says the solution is for the Lab to try to gain Facebook-like popularity by - drum roll - becoming more like Facebook! And that gets the crowd roaring for blood, because we already have a Facebook, and we'd be spending time there if we liked it. Furthermore, from a business perspective, why imitate the market leader (especially in a market characterized by substantial network effects) at the cost of downplaying your existing competitive advantage: a 3D, immersive world?

Lalo Telling said...

/me takes his mustard-colored balloon pants out of mothballs, puts them on, strikes a pose and declares...

Hammer Time!

[brilliant post, Miso]

Miso Susanowa said...

I want to thank you all for your comments. I replied privately to Botgirl because Blogger doesn't like my post-long comments *laughing*

"I think that the impact of the Second Life community hasn't had much of a positive impact" - I think the response here and on Twitter helps me affirm that it is a community I care for; a long-term-committed, smart and cohesive bunch of people who are the reason LL makes money at all. Perhaps we haven't had an impact on Linden Labs, but we have had a tremendous impact on each other, and that is what LL is blind to and would do well to access before, like MySpace and AltaVista before them, someone else understands that without customers, you have no bottom line at all.

As far as voting with our wallets... I am on a sim in Inworldz and registered across 7 grids now. SL is, after all, only one hammer now in the store. If they don't address the problems with the hammer, they aren't the only hardware store in town now.

Iggy O said...

Don't forget: nail guns rock.

And educators are resistant to change. But the best way to reward LL for their contempt for the user base is to change venues. I'll see you over in Jokaydia Grid, or at least Iggy Strangeland will pop by your InWorldz Sim when I next cover that grid for Prim Perfect.

Wizard Gynoid said...

well done. ;-)

Pixels Sideways said...

Waglet has become redundant with the SL resident bashing.

Besides, I thought he announced a while back he was working for Blue Mars and would, only on occassion, report on SL stuff if and when time permitted or some such nonsense?

Gotta love the inane cult of personality/celebrity in SL and VR worlds. Even sillier than the RL shit. :-)

Pixels Sideways said...

"SL is, after all, only one hammer now in the store. If they don't address the problems with the hammer, they aren't the only hardware store in town now."

But if you're gonna address a hammer with a hammer, you gotta wear the hammer pants..

"Can't touch this.." :-)

Brinda said...

Miso, I for one am proud of you.
I deleted The Hamster for stuff I read after the recalictrant remarks...
I must say though, that the very first thought to cross what lil mind I have came early on in this post and was mentioned by @Salome_Strangelove. The Hamsters negative attention is still attention and he likely can chuckle all the way to the bank.... he just won't chuckle with any of my sheckles.

Miso Susanowa said...

I will indulge in one more comment... I am very glad that my remarks re: Hamlet's posts were not just seen as a personal attack; I worked hard on that. It's great to feel integrated with my chosen community again after so many years away and feel like I do understand the values we share.

As for the MC Hammer references... I did enjoy The Hammer, and I'd love to see Iggy in the Pants. I wasn't trying to be a hammer, really... just honoring the spirits of Dorothy Parker and Hunter S Thompson, my writing Muses, two people who cared a lot.

ok, ok... "can't touch dis!" *complicated knee-weave*

Dividni Shostakovich said...

Belated "Go, Miso!" (I was out of town, sowwy.)

Vaneeesa said...

Hi Miso, it was so nice visiting with you today!

I don't read Hamlet's blog any more either. I actually try to avoid even using his name, but I guess I have to here.

I kind of think that he was really important back in the early days before I was around... but that as of late he's not working for a world that I want to live in.

To be fair, it may be the case that he's working toward a sustainable world, and the world I "want to live in" isn't viable... IDK... but given what for me is the crassness of his vision, I feel as though even if he "wins," we lose.

He seems inexorably focused on big "facebook-like" user numbers to the exclusion of all else. He may in fact be "on point" in this - why would Linden Lab or any other for-profit corporation care about anything else? It might be useful for us to bear this perspective in mind.

Still, I am a Citizen, not a Share Holder.

When Hamlet makes comments like "why bother fixing lag" since it would only make a better experience for existing users but not bring in new ones... again... from a "all we care about is money" point-of-view, he may be right (of course from the point-of-view of Halliburton or Black Water, George W. Bush was the greatest leader in World History)

Anyway, my comment isn't how much Hamlet sucks - and, to be fair, while his perspective and agenda are not mine, it's clear that he is really wired and really works his butt off, it's just too bad his definition of "successful virtual world" and mine have so little in common.

But... I really just wanted to offer my Personal - not what yours "should" be... just what mine is... personal perspective on the alleged "link-jacking"

Well... everything I have created in virtual worlds - all the images, objects, words, blog posts... all of it... everything is licensed Creative Commons Attribution - so I guess I can stop there (but won't - hahaha) -- my perspective should be clear from that - I believe that information and access to knowledge want to be free and personally, I'm happy for anyone to remix, reuse, republish anything of mine any time any where any way they like.

So, similarly, on the "linkjacking"... I (personally) do not favor a closed or restricted information stream... let the river run...

We're all just leaves fluttering to the ground in a big cosmic park... if we get our egos out of the way enough, we'll make beautiful patterns on the ground... and if kids want to come along and do "autumn leaf angels (kinda like snow angels) or anything else with us... I'm happy to have been of interest in some small way...