Linden Homes – whither next?

At the end last week, Linden Lab started putting out a survey aimed at Premium Members on the subject of Linden Homes. This is in all likelihood the follow-up to a comment made by Vogt Linden at SLCC 2011 that the Lab would be looking at Linden Homes, wherein he noted that – and without going into specifics – the scheme had been good for user retention, but had grown somewhat stale, and that as such LL would be looking at how to refresh the offering.

my Linden Home

The survey is a good first step, and in keeping with recent moves by Linden Lab to seek feedback from the community (such as with overhauling inventory). The survey itself is a multi-page affair, largely with multiple choice responses in the form of radio button (either / or) and check boxes (multiple responses). It takes a couple of minutes to complete, and it by-and-large asks pertinent questions on Linden Homes and the wider matter of Premium benefits (which you are asked to individually rank in terms of personal importance to you, the options for each benefit running from Very Important to Not Important, with Neutral as the middle ground).

There is also an opportunity to provide more specific feedback to the Lab at the end of the survey in the form of two free format text boxes in which Linden Home owners are encouraged to give detailed feedback and thoughts / suggestions.

In some respects, Linden Homes straddle a difficult divide. On the one hand they offer a quantifiable benefit for new users that encourages them to take out Premium membership and helps guarantee they remain engaged with SL as a result of the “investment”. On the other, there is a risk that they impact on the overall land rental / housing market, particularly for those who gear their business model specifically at smaller land holdings and what might be termed “starter homes” in SL. How big an impact this actually is itself hard to quantify – at least for those of us not engaged in that specific market segment.

Certainly, it is probably fair to say that Linden Homes, as currently implemented, haven’t worked entirely as originally intended – when launched, LL did see them as a means of getting people “onto” the property ladder, with the aim of people then moving on to “bigger” things land-wise as their needs grew. I’m not entirely convinced this has been the case – and the desire to revamp the offering would suggest that LL feel the same way.

The problem is, of course, how do they improve the offering, without running the risk of being seen as “further” eating-in to the rental market as a whole (if this is indeed an issue)? Making Linden Homes more attractive through larger prim allocations, larger land footfalls, etc., does run the risk of drawing people away from renting elsewhere – and I suspect that LL are fully aware of this risk, as the survey suggests some possible enhancements in other areas:

  • The ability to build more complex objects
  • Decorate a home more elaborately
  • Have more control over the Linden Home land parcel
  • Replacing the Linden Home with a personal build
  • More community events and social opportunities
  • Tutorials such as building & scripting
  • Land market expansion opportunities.

Of these, the last three strike me as the most flexible of options if harder to practically implement, although the first three are liable to be potentially the more popular among respondents. Land market expansion I would see as a useful element to add, simply to try to help stimulate the “upward” movement of those coming into Linden Homes that LL originally hoped would be the case – although I admit, I’m somewhat stumped as to how this could be practically achieved.

Community and social events might also work – the Linden Homes are billed as “communities”, but the truth of the matter is, “community” plays a very minor role. Most Linden Home regions have the same issue as everywhere else – large tracks of land, few people. Were LL to be more pro-active in stimulating regional events it  might encourage a greater feeling of “community” – although that is admittedly a big might, and one very hard to measure in terms of overall benefit / success compared with the amount of effort required to get things organised (or in even encouraging residents to take up the challenge).

As it stands, the Linden Homes regions do have “community centres” that largely seem to be devoid of traffic and simply going to waste – so attempting to put these to better use might be worthwhile. As might opening them to advertising by in-world businesses and estates, which itself has two potential benefits: money raised from the use of vendor boards could be put towards the cost of monthly (or whatever) entertainments, it demonstrates practically that LL are working more “with” rental estates rather than in “competition” with them.

A further idea might be for LL to simply reduce the volume of Linden Homes per region (or offer more in the way of regions devoted to parkland and / or water), and offer Linden Home residents greater opportunities of using such “rural” sims – such as allowing them to rez their own boats to go sailing or explore the waterways, or vehicles / horses to explore parkland and country tracks – perhaps even supply rez-on-demand facilities for home owners to use.

These are entirely off-the-top-of-my-head ideas which may or may not be practical. I’ve tried to give full and detailed feedback to LL on Linden Homes via the survey, complete with a range of thoughts and ideas. I’d encourage any of you yet to receive the survey / yet to respond to it to do the same. That LL are seeking feedback is to be applauded, even if (like me) you don’t use your Linden Home that routinely or as your primary place of residence in SL and / or see little reason to change things.

23 thoughts on “Linden Homes – whither next?

  1. We had discussion about this at both the Home and Garden Expo and at the SL8B events (which were hosted by Prim Perfect). The magazine has always had an interest in Linden Homes – right from the start of the program, we’ve featured a designer decorated Lindn Home each month, showing what can be done with only 117 prims. Last month, the Home and Garden Market Village created six lovely Christmas cottages in the mountain style homes; this month The Cookie Jar community have shown how the modern Meadowbrook style can be made to look romantic – in six different homes.

    From our discussions last year emerged two main ideas

    1) If homes could be built not by anonymous moles but by SL builders, the residents might be interested in moving out to larger homes created by the same builders.

    2) A sense of community could be fostered by a greater variety in the homes. At the moment, each stands in a little plot of Governor land, and some people might like that.But others might be happy to be more cheek-by-jowl with their neighbours in the right environment – say a street of brownstones with a cafe on the corner, or an Irish dishing village with views out over the sea to one side and maybe some standing stones on the hills behind. Obviously, there would be a pub somewhere in that scenario – although it might have to sell non-alcoholic Guinness (and what an abomination that would be!). Or it could be elegant Regency streets out of Jane Austen …

    One could argue that this would eat into the rental markets of existing themed estates, but our feeling was that this would be a better way of building communities, and that sooner or later, 117 prims would not be enough – at which point people would decamp, quite possibly following the theme, and taking their new friends with them – after all, a themed estate would give them the chance to live in the proximity they want.

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    1. Offering Linden Homes as a opportunity for SL Builders is a good idea, provided such can avoid the inevitable claims of FIC…

      I’d personally opt for more variety within the various “communities” as well – although would sway for a thinning-down of the concentration of houses. The Linden Home regions are densely packed, and lag is very evident, even with only a few other people present in the same region. A plus side of this is that it encourages one to minimise draw distance, a downside is that in the case of explorations, it creates problems. I’ve experienced sever issues trying to simply walk through the local parklands near to my Tahoe home, to the point of the Viewer repeatedly crasheing should i stray too close to a region boundary.

      I’d really be interested to know how much upwards movement there is in terms of people coming into Linden homes as a “first time” home & then progressing onwards. Part of me rather suspects that the percentage of those moving this way compared to those (like myself) who have their Linden Home pretty much as a “second home” or “escape hole” is liable to be rather low… Did any figures emerge from your discussions?

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    1. Linden homes are about the bigger picture, who cares about your singular rental income (or mine for that matter) when the problem is more fundamental. LL might not have solved that problem, but I don’t think they can be called a failure.

      Besides, I would rather rent a single quarter sim to someone then a dozen 512 plots and then have to manage the ongoing massive turn over. Linden Homes did us a favour.

      The abysmal in world search is hurting more, it’s driven all commerce to the marketplace and that is simply not a good location to sell rentals.

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  2. Personally, I would say get rid of Linden homes. They were introduced to try and bring in more money for the Lab as if tier/setup charges were not high enough. They wanted to sell more premium accounts and this was done at the expense of land owners which ever way you look at it. Linden Labs built Second Life on the principle of user participation where the residents would make the content and engage in trade which included land rentals. But they have never been content to stand back and concentrate on the maintenance of the system or the many bugs people complain about would have been fixed long ago. The Lab did the same with the web market place and emptied the malls and stores. They let people pay for empty stores while the Labs reaps a profit form the web. And they still use the slogan “Your world, your imagination” as if they believed it.

    Here’s the rub; traffic has remained static for several years and it rarely peaks above 60k and yet the Lab claims over 10,000 new sign-up’s a day. So where are they? Looks like people are leaving SL as fast as more are joining if you assume a lot of those Noobs stay. Clearly they don’t. The best thing LL could do is butt out of the economy and turn all those ghost towns they call Linden homes into large islands with plenty of coastline looking out over Linden oceans where anyone can sail. Then sell off the islands to land owners and let them do the business of renting and building up communities around themes. Close the web market place too and let’s get people back in-world to do their shopping. In short, lets get back to “Your world, your imagination” before more people leave and everyone’s investment goes down the pan.

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    1. I’m not sure that the Marketplace is closing stores. Closing malls, definitely, and that is having a huge impact on landowners – land agencies, themed estates, roleplaying regions etc are all going to the wall. But stores are selling on the market place and selling at their main stores. Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that people browse the market place and maybe make some purchases there, but will very often then go inworld to the owner’s main store and make purchases there.

      One thing you pick up on – and that’s important to remember with regard to the rental market – is that Linden Homes are available to Premium Members – which is a very small proportion of the user base. Very few people will come in with Premium account – they will come in with free accounts and, if they decide to stay, might upgrade IF the benefits seem strong enough. For a very long time the benefits were, quite frankly, crap – a small stipend once a week and free tier for 512 on the mainland that few people really wanted. What the Linden Homes did was to give people a benefit that encouraged them to take out (or keep) premium membership – as they are now doing with the gifts.

      But something like seventy per cent of members are still Free Accounts (someone might have more respectable figures than me) and therefore NOT entitled to a Linden Home. So cries that Linden Homes are destroying the rentals market aren’t really convincing to me. I’m not even sure how deeply they are impacting it; most people, by the time they take on a Premium account, have already made a commitment to Second Life that involves owning land. And while they might take a Linden Home as a bolt-hole (I do myself), they are not really interested in downsizing to 117 prims. The only area of the rentals business I can see it impacting is the lost cost starter land parcels on the mainland operated by people like Sarah Nerd; when Linden Homes were introduced, she said on Designing Worlds that she thought the impact of the land economy on the mainland would ultimately be beneficial. I’m not sure if it was. But I’m also not sure if it was the Lindens Homes alone that caused that.

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  3. @primperfect – I definitely saw the small roadside stores on the mainland, especially the redundant ones, vanish when Marketplace became popular. It used to be profitable to have shops scattered around the various continents, now even a home store is questionable if you only have a limited range of goods.

    As to Linden Homes, I had always hoped they were a comfortable place for newbies to start with a place of their own before moving on to something more personalized. Not sure it has worked out that way though.

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    1. Yes.
      People like me who have a small catalog of a few items made for personal interest that a friend smacked them over the head and said “you should sell that”…
      – We have no rational -self- interest in keeping an inworld shop.

      I do anyway.

      Because we have a very rational community interest in keeping that shop.

      Keeping an inworld shop as a rental on an estate sim directly helps keep that sim alive.

      There’s a less rational justification for keeping one on mainland. Here it becomes about the health of the inworld presence – and an effort to encourage inworld activity so that people become less alienated at shopping at inworld shops in general.

      (This is why until last week I kept 2 shops, one on my land and one on an estate – but I cut the estate one after 8 weeks of the landlord never putting out a box for me to pay into that had the rate listed for the other shops there…)

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  4. Where is this survey? On the website dashboard somewhere?
    I’ve got 5 premium accounts, and even more opinions on linden homes and where they can be stuffed, er… what could be done to maximize their potential. 😀

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    1. Mine came via e-mail on Friday 10th. a friend commented he got his over the weekend, while someone on Plurk mentioned they’d had the survey around the middle of last week. It might be going out in bursts….

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  5. Personally I think linden homes needs to be slowly scaled down and retired, with the homes themselves moving out of those sims and onto abandoned mainland.
    – that will help revive mainland by putting people out there, where they can also see the appeal of moving off of the covenanted lot and onto a ‘nearby’ parcel with more control.

    Likewise, these homes need to come with less prims, or regular land needs to get some bonus…
    – One solution, which LLs will -NEVER- go for, would be to give everyone with premium 1024 land, not 512, but make the linden home in its -CURRENT- size use up 1024m of your land allowance.

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    1. YAY! I am not the only one to think that a premium account should come with 1024sqM of land. That would refill the mainland, and give the Linden Homes residents someplace to move up to, trading the structure of suburbs for the freedom (chaos?) of Mainland.

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      1. Are you suggesting that premium accounts should have 1024 (rather than 512) free tier on the mainland? It’s an interesting idea, but one that could have a significant effect on the economy – it would make land flipping more attractive, and might move people out of private estates (after all the hits they’ve taken, private land owners would really just love that).

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        1. If I’m following Pussycat’s thinking correctly, I *think* she means provide 1024sm of land but pegged at 117 prims, with or without a Linden Home. At least, that’s how I’m reading, “Make the linden home in its -CURRENT- size use up 1024m of your land allowance.” If I’m misunderstanding you, Pussycat, my apologies!

          If I am reading things correctly, then it’s an interesting idea if applied directly to Linden Home regions, in that it might possilby score a couple of goals: a) reduce the sheer volume of houses packed into LH regions and ease the feeling that many have that they are “ghetto”-like places; b) it might also encourage people to more seriously look at renting elsewhere (“I have all this space, but only 117 prims :(.”).

          However, I can’t see it working in terms of tier alone: how do you differentiate between “free tier” 1024sm parcels with just 117 prims and “full prim” 1024sm parcels without things becoming artificially segregated / confusing to manage?

          Obviously, if we *are* talking in terms of 1024 tier with a “full” allocation of 234 prims, then I’d have to wholeheartedly agree with you in the more negative impacts of doing so.

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        2. I do not see moving people out of private estates as a down side, rather as a re-balancing of a system that has given the land barons an advantage over Mainland. Private estates would still have significant advantages; better control and assistance and ability to pay in L$ among them.

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        1. The thing is – land flipping as a risk is dead because land has no value anymore.
          Rental estates can’t be hurt more because they’ve already been mortally wounded.

          BUT mainland can be saved with this.

          And rentals that come with added value in covenants, community, theme, and so on, are already better than getting a 1024 lot on mainland.

          My idea is a suggestion as a way to get people to move from ‘basic linden home’ over to full participation in land ownership while at the same time also reviving the vitality of mainland.

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        2. and ps: If we could bring back land flipping, at this point that would actually be a -good- thing… It’d be some energy put back into land, which would get folks paying attention to land in SL again…

          Sure everyone “hates” it when a flipper arrives on their sim – but in the present climate its better than dead sims, and flippers at least work to get the land moved into someone’s hands.
          – the ones that have survived into the current market are much more savvy than those of days past, and often take steps to improve the places they work in in order to make what they’re flipping more appealing.

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  6. For those who live outside the USA or Europe is very difficult to make payments by Pay Pal, as it only accepts international credit cards.

    Linden Lab could consider regional alternatives to pay for Latin America and Brazil as “Western Union” with a strong presence in Argentina.

    Unfortunately, the “inclusion” in Second Life simply translate a few pages of your site into Spanish, have never had a global vision of business.

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