Friday, March 29, 2013

Wherein I Question The Lab's Efficiency

Flying around today I came upon the Former Site of Campus SL (SLurl), a prime-location region simply sitting about with no particular use at this time. It is attractively landscaped with rolling hills and the old school yet still miraculous Linden plants (just one prim? really?). Near by are two Help Island Public regions and an Orientation Island Public plus plenty of other Linden land.

With many Second Life-themed blogs decrying the decrease in Resident landholders, the economic down-spiral this means for The Lab, and other virtually apocalyptic news, a more-or-less empty region like Campus makes me wonder how efficiently The Lab manages its own lands. Yes, yes, yes, I've written about this before (notably here and here) so the concern is not new. But with Second Life 10th Birthday (SL10B) celebrations cranking up, I wonder how much money The Lab is spending on regions that lay fallow such as this one. Surely, moving this one to lend it out for a month to the SL10B organizers isn't practical (there'd be a void where it was, for one), but if the cost of simply leaving it there is neglibile, why can't The Lab donate regions for the celebration's use or for charitable events such as Relay For Life?

Sorry, but going there wasn't really my intent. If you are a writer, you know how thoughts get away from you. The first thought that occurred to me as I explored this region was more like "How could The Lab let Residents use this rather than leave it empty?" I guess it is nearly the same thought, but less specific.

Certainly, there are many, many regions that have been set aside by The Lab for recreational purposes. The Coastal Waterway (read several of my posts about it here) and the Blake Sea among them, plus a host of special places created by the Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW) almost litter The Grid. Just walk around Bay City sometime and you'll stub your toe one one in just minutes.

And I'm not going to get into the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) regions. I don't know enough and there is just too much behind the scenes for mere mortals like me to understand. I refer you to Honour McMillan (and her blog) for that.

Campus and similar regions strike me as special cases, however. They were once important to The Lab but for one reason or another no longer serve as originally intended. Simply abandoning them is rather inefficient, I imagine. So what can The Lab do, particularly to enhance revenue?

As I mentioned, many of these lands are in prime locations. Sell them. There are still land barons in-world that covet well-travelled land near population centers. Set up guidelines such as successful "governed" communities such as Bay City, Nova Albion, and the Blake Sea have and sell them.

Or rent them. The Lab has had a little-known program to lend out retail space in Luna's Luna Oaks Galleria Mall (SLurl) to Residents via lottery, though based on forum posts, I doubt the program is active (but if you visit you'll see active shops though most vendors date to 2008 .... this is something I'm investigating). Why not renew this idea but for pay? A merchant can pay another Resident for shopping mall space or they can pay The Lab. Tie it into the Second Life Marketplace somehow. I'm not the only one thinking about this (see here). Rent space to retailers, big corporations, or just Residents, but rent out the land.

Give away the land. At least for a short period. Reward active Forum users or prominent community members or simply by random chance, lend out the land someone. This could be a great Premium Membership perk ... a chance to have some free land for a fixed period (a month, six months, a year?) just because you pay an annual membership fee. Give every new Resident, Premium or not, a small plot of land to call home for a fortnight on a sim that has a tutorial-based infrastructure. Teaching Residents to use Second Life and helping them start out and retention might be higher.

The land can always be deleted. It's just electrons, after all. Kill the sim, move others around to fill the gaps if need be, and free up that server space. Or move Residents from the hinterlands to these unused Linden lands, much as the big move to Zindra was accomplished. Remember that? Owners of adult-themed businesses such as strip clubs and such were moved from parcels that were about to be zoned as safe for folks under 18-years of age to lands where visitors needed to prove they were of adult age. Then the newly empty lands could be deleted.

Any of these options would be far more efficient than just letting the land lay fallow, though I do admit that it is rather pleasant to see a well-landscaped region in the chaos that often rules the Mainland. Perhaps there is a value after all.

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