Statistics – they are what you want them to be

I’ve held off commenting on the recently release of the 2010 Q4 economic statistics released earlier this week because, well, I didn’t want sarcasm to get the better of me.

Over the last 12-18 months, we’ve seen LL repeatedly not only move the goal posts when it comes to reporting economic stats – but damned-near change the entire playing field at the same time – as Hitomi Tipomi points out with a link to 2010’s Q2 economic stats. With the current figures, things have reached a point of near ridicule.

Concurrency was, for a very long time a key measure – now it is gone, leaving us only with “repeat log ins” which are promoted as being “good” as they are “up”.

But how, precisely, is “repeat log ins” a “good” economic measure? People log in and out all the time for a variety of reasons – up to and including crashes. Ergo, far from being a “good” measure, all “repeat log-ins” tends to indicate is that:

  • Second Life is not as stable as LL would like (and this is certainly supported by anecdotal evidence)
  • People actually have lives outside of SL which require them to log in and out several times a day.

In this respect, concurrency is a far better measure (although not perfect, as, like repeat log ins, it doesn’t differentiate between Main accounts and Alt – both are considered “unique” even if operated by the same user) in that it shows an overall trend in SL usage. But – concurrency has been more-or-less flat (around the 70K mark at peak hours, dropping to around 20-30K at the more “unsociable hours”), therefore it is now a “bad” measure, it would seem.

Similarly, while a rise in online sales volumes is something of a useful indicator, it is still very limited in its overall value. While I won’t be as uncharitable as some and say the only people it benefits is LL (as they get the commissions), I would agree that it is questionable as a statistic if it is not published alongside a measure of total volume/value of in-world sales.

Again, as has been noted in the comments following the figures, vast increases in web-based sales are actually potentially bad for the SL economy and the Grid as a whole. Let’s face it, LL is largely dependent upon tier for its revenue. Push the web side of things, and merchants are going to start moving away from their land holdings and focusing solely on web sales, with Linden Lab losing the tier revenue as more and more Mainland is abandoned and the demand for new private sims tumbles to the point where that market stagnates – or even shrinks as estate owners cut losses and divest themselves of sims.

Certainly it is worrying that, despite LL’s best attempts to fudge the figures, we’re seeing around 48-49% of Mainland effectively “empty” and non-revenue generating (the land is either abandoned (7-8%) or Linden-owned (40-41%).

In many respects, the figures published are reveal more for what they don’t include than anything else. LL have been busy tooling around with the stats for a while now, largely under the guise of “trying to get more meaningful information” out to us. I don’t doubt there is some truth in this, but things are now pared back to such a degree, it fuels suspicion that overall, SL is in worse shape than LL would like to admit.

And whether that is true or not is beside the point; it’s simply a very damaging perception that in turn fuels people’s reluctance to invest in the platform – and that is bad for SL. Period.