Thoughts on my own second life, premium membership and blogging

The end of October marks a year since I returned to Premium membership. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been mulling over whether to renew again or not.

My reasons for re-upping to premium came about as a result of a renewed optimism about SL, particularly following last year’s SLCC-2011. A lot has happened since then.

It is fair to say that, particularly of late, there are elements of my premium package I’ve come to appreciate. I’m spending far more time in my Linden Home now than I am at my “main” home. Even with just 117 prims, the Tahoe offers comfortable and flexible living space. Shop right, and it can easily be furnished for a very modest prim count.

Linden Home, modified and furnished for 19 prims, including loft conversion and scripted lighting

Yes, the build quality is very 2007, it may even be cookie cutter (although im my opinion a lot less cookie cutter than other Linden Home offerings) but the fact is that it works. The real art in getting a good Linden Home is picking the model you want carefully (including going and seeing them in-world) and being prepared to hop around with multiple applications (bearing in mind the 5-in-24-hours rule) until you find a location you like. In this I was lucky. I hit the bullseye first time.

I’ve also only recently discovered the full freedom of sailing due to one of the premium gifts.

Enjoying my time sailing aboard “Exotix”

I have a new appreciation for places like Blake Sea and the ability to sail around coastlines and across water from continent to continent. All this is to the good; but there is still a problem. When all is said and done, premium membership really only has strength of appeal to incoming users to SL and / or those who have yet to establish themselves. For anyone who has been here a while, particularly if they’ve invested in a decently sized parcel of land on a private island, the benefits of upping to premium are perhaps harder to quantify.

One can actually understand why LL bias the premium offerings towards newer users. Getting people to pay for something they can otherwise a enjoy “for free” and be as much a contributing member of the economy as anyone else, is a tough nut to crack. So to make the package more attractive, LL aim for enticements which will encourage those signing-up to opt for premium directly. My only real objection to them doing this, as I’ve covered elsewhere, is the elastic nature of some of the descriptions of the premium benefits. More privacy? More land? A personal and private home? These are all things anyone can enjoy regardless of account. Sure, the last one costs – but it will even with premium if you want something bigger, prim-wise than a Linden Home.

Premium membership benefits, as defined by Linden Lab

Of course, there have been numerous suggests as to how to improve the premium offering, up to and including revamping it to a “professional” account, ideas which themselves are liable to lead to as much debate as to the value of the present system. However, unless and until LL indicate a willingness to put more effort into making premium attractive to a wider audience we, have what we have. As such, my previous advice to those long-established in SL as basic members remains the same. Consider your options.

So, does this mean I’m be abandoning premium from the end of the month?

My Linden Home

Actually, no; I fully intend to carry on with another annual payment. Not because I do see value in premium, but rather because my SL times and activities have changed dramatically over the last 12 months.

On the one hand, I still find a lot of magic in SL, and still believe that LL (for the time being at least) are trying to pump new life and new blood into the platform in terms of people and capabilities rather than simply strip-mining it as some would have it. I love exploring places and reviewing them; fiddling around with viewers, digging-out news stories, finding out about events, seeing the incredible artistry in SL and so on. I may not get to attend everything I write about, but I love getting the word out and showing what support I can, because despite all the doom and gloom which can so easily become the focus of attention, SL is still pretty amazing. Not free from fault or issue, but amazing.

Annon

Yet on the other, I’ve found myself shunning many aspects of SL I once found of interest and which captivated me and got me involved. I tend to shy away from large gatherings; old haunts are increasingly rarely visited and old interests, such as building, no longer have quite the appeal they once did; certainly not to the point where I need a huge amount of space of my own in which to shape sculpts and bang prims together. The result of this has been something of a conscious withdrawal from parts of my “old” SL life, coupled with a gradual downsizing of things like my private landholdings in SL.

Water Reserve

It’s an odd dichotomy in some respects. I still feel “involved” in SL, simply because of the time I do spend (if I say so myself) rooting-out stories, visiting regions, witnessing artwork, playing with viewers and so on.. Yet, at the same time, my energy  / desire to engage in various aspects of SL life which used to interest me is virtually nil; in fact there are times when I am content to log-in and go off and do non-SL things elsewhere.

You might say that over the course of the last year, my raison d’etre for being in SL has shifted and in many ways I’ve become less a participant and more an observer, and that much of my focus has shifted towards blogging about SL rather than being “a part” of SL. Perhaps that is true, and this blog bears some responsibility for my shifting focus; but on the other hand, I love to write – and so the blog gives me creative expression.

Even in those areas where I am still directly involved with in-world activities, such as sailing and now flying, don’t really require things like private island land holdings and are things I can enjoy every much on my own.

Memento Mori, Chouchou

So, given all this, remaining at premium and shelling out another $72 (+ VAT) for a year actually makes sense for me, simply because it is so cost-effective. Not only will it save me some $24 a month in private land rentals (and so pay for itself in 3 months), it actually provides me with what is currently the one anchor I need to my SL time:  a modest little house where I can “be myself” (oor park myself) and in which I can entertain friends occasionally and from which I can continue to explore the grid and enjoy those things which are increasingly of appeal to me.

However, this also doesn’t mean my underlying opinion of premium has changed; I do still think it is skewed, and that those who has established themselves via basic membership do need to consider their options clearly before leaping into premium. Had my personal circumstances over the last year not changed so dramatically, there’s a fair chance my decision would have been different.

So, as with all things SL, YMMV.

14 thoughts on “Thoughts on my own second life, premium membership and blogging

  1. As with so many other inexplicable LL behaviors, it hard to understand why they encourage Premium membership but so steadfastly resist giving it much value (and also discourage it with the threat of canceling your account if you are late making a payment). The main perk would seem to be access to support, but the quality of that support is inconsistent. Merchants and others have made excellent suggestions about valuable perks that would cost LL nothing and provide great value. Some of those would be resisted by those who like to play, and sell, for free or close to it, but LL is a business. If part of their business plan is to increase Premium membership, then they should provide some valuable exclusive Premium-only (or Professional Account) perks and they will find people signing up in droves.

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    1. It’s the idiotic cancellation clause which put me off of re-upping for a long time, quite separate to the overall lack of appeal with the “benefits”. It’s also why I also opt for an annual payment: one it is done, it’s done. I’ve been fortunate in my SL time in that, the one time I’ve had to deal directly with support it was with regards to a billing issue, and quite outside of my first or current premium stint – and they did deal with it very efficiently. So that’s potentially another reason why extended support may be of questionable value.

      As to making the premium account a lot more attractive to existing users, I fully agree; but it is a tough nut to crack, as all the schemes and ideas I have seen put forward tend to themselves have limited scope in terms of overall appeal – which probably leaves LL thinking that the effort required to implement them won’t result in any greater take-up than they’re already getting by hooking people into premium as they come through the door. Not saying I necessarily agree if this is the thinking, just that I can see why it may be prevalent.

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  2. A good start would be to give 1024sqm free parcelfor the same price. instead of the lame
    silly 512sqm where you cant do anything usefull on.

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    1. It depends on whether you opt for the “empty” 512sq (and how you use it) or opt for a Linden Home. Increasing the allowance to 1024 sq m may sound attractive, but brings with it problems of its own, particularly where the private land market is concerned.

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  3. Premium accounts could do with more options and the model to look to is mobile phones, where you have pay as you go or contracts and contracts can be tailored so that people who text more have a package, people who phone more, have a package, people who use roaming internet, have a package.

    In Second Life the package is the same for everyone, but there are other options, some people might prefer x amount of free uploads a month rather than the 512m of land or a Linden home, because they aren’t using those options, they already have a parcel, but they would see the benefit of the free uploads.

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  4. Well, Im premium since i joined (still belive i Was the 3th user to receive LL home, lol):
    So far i can’t complain about support, most the Live 1!
    But only a few months ago i manage to convince my Love to join as premium as well, cause land auctions and abandoned land made us get 4 homes for a amazing prize!
    So just cause of that we stay premium and for sure if LL would allow to get more m2 without raizing tier level, many more would join!

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  5. I loved to read your “reflections” article because, in so many ways, it echoes my own thoughts. Ironically, the more I get actively “involved” in anything SL-related — part of my life in the last half-decade were dedicated at establishing a RL business dealing with SL content; the other part to get back to school and study more, and see how the academic world actually works with SL and why — the less time I actually log in to SL and engage in its myriad of activities! This seems to be rather stupid: I’m getting to be an SLintellectualoid — someone who talks and boasts about SL all the time, who breathes SL, but who actually hasn’t got so much experience of actually logging in as the current generation of SLers. Long are gone the days where I usually spent 3-4 hours per day, every day, logged in. I still do that once a week, of course; but my daily usage, on average, is way below that.

    It was just recently that I sort of “forced” myself to get back to hosting some events, and take the plunge and get back to a bit more participation in a 8-year-old community which I saw being born and grow. What I found out was that some of the magic never goes away. Doing events in 2012 is still like doing them in 2004, when I started hosting some discussions — you never know if people will ever come, or, if they do, if they will come back. I never figured out the “magic” of hosting successful events back then, and I still haven’t figured it out today. But the whole point of doing them was to learn something. And this really hasn’t changed. Even after 8 years, every time I do anything in SL, no matter what it is, I still have tons of things to learn. Even the most trivial things — like figuring out what size of mesh dress will fit me! — require learning. And, well, I might not have known that about myself, but the truth is, I really love to learn something new, whatever it is, however simple it might be. SL continues to bewilder me because of that: there is always, always, something more to learn!

    Of course the usage pattern is different, and that’s why your own article touched me so much. I certainly enjoyed different things eight years ago, or even four or five years ago. I have undoubtedly changed in my own tastes. For instance, I used to like hopping around more and loved to snapshot everything in sight. These days, having to bear with a crippled, outdated computer, taking pictures of interesting places is not so enticing as it used to be. But on the other hand, there are other, completely different things to learn and master.

    So, yes, I’ve also renewed my Premium account on September, for the 9th time. My reasons for that are neither logical, nor rational. I’m not even taking much advantage of my almost-empty Linden home, which I often forget that it exists (I tend to return to ancient parcels I have been continuously renting for over six years now…). The reason is purely emotional: I’m quite thrilled about so much I still have to learn about SL, and while I have that feeling, I will continue to be a happy Premium user. 🙂

    Of course, this is not the kind of thing that LL can use to sell more Premium accounts…

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    1. Getting back into the swing of things is always hard :).

      We do change over the years, and it’s not unnatural for interests to change; what I find curious is the huge degree in which my interests have shifted in just the last 12 months (well, closer to the last 6 really) in comparison to the last 6 years with SL. One thing I didn’t touch upon in the article is that part of i is due an ongoing change in emphasis with a portion of my RL as well. That’s been ongoing for a good while, and is reflected in the drop-off in my writings elsewhere, but it has had more of an impact with various elements of SL more recently than perhaps it has previously.

      You’re right on part of the magic is learning something new; it’s particularly why I’ve focused on sialing and flying of late – and have started folding more of my SL explorations into sailing (or perhaps sailing into my SL explorations). As I get more proficient with flying, I’ll likely do the same there, at least where the mainland is concerned. It’s also why I like writing-up places in SL; hopefully the pieces encourage others to explore (I’ve tended to spend more time this year visiting places relatively “new” to me rather than favourite spots, as I hope the enjoyment I get from finding the “right” place will come across in the writing). As to photography, that’s something I’m still getting my head around; especially as Photoshop tends to leabe me crying into my milk / hot chocolate / wine / JD & Pepsi (in order of escalating frustration!).

      I’d still like to see LL better leverage the Premium account for wider use, but I think that’s something for another article :).

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  6. Oh, this article and Gwyn’s reply touches real! Due maybe we all ask this so-what?-question in maybe different form from time to time.
    Even if i do not need to ask me the PAQ (Premium-Account Question).
    It’s this SL-world which is still appealing to me. Sure, sometimes bothers too.
    Due my start in 2006 i were hanging around here&there, but found fast the idea of helping newbies and managed to learn at that so many&much, which i really do not want to miss. And even this days i sometimes grab myself a newbie and give what i think is useful.
    Some month after landing first in SL i were taught sailing and discovered we can take snapshots! Both i still love to do.
    Honestly i still do not see why i personally need to ask myself the PAQ – even if i can see it well fitting for others and would never argue them on their positive answer.
    In my view LL would be doing good in giving PA an additional value, which do not exclude BA’s (the 512m2 were a right start at its time).
    Ah, the usage pattern. Yes, a shift in use. Yes, new interests and weightings.
    Its something i discovered for myself too here&there. – In SL as well as RL too.
    But belonging to this is imho the question of Deepness of Involvement(DoI). Some years ago we read about the 2month- and 2year-cycles of interest shift in ppls hobbies. As my observations show thees theories are mostly right. The main question for ‘surviving’ this 2year-mark is: if the DoI is so high, that the involvement has become some more as hobby? Even if so many really nice ppl have faded away on this 2year-mark, there are still ppl surviving this mark and i do not want to miss them 🙂

    Thank you for sharing Your personal view!
    Dil 🙂

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  7. I come up for my annual renewal soon enough, and the figures are still good–the value of the land parcel and the stipend is about what you pay as a fee. Since I’m in the UK, and get hit with VAT, it only just breaks even at the annual rate. But shifting to a Linden Home might be the way to go: it very nearly gives you that 1024m
    On the other hand, a lot of things have stopped been fun, and the Halloween season feels depressing. A lot of it seems to be the usual “dance” of uncoordinated animations and music, only painted black. I wonder if some places have realised the lighting system has changed.
    I do like the look of the Tahoe homes, but all that interior height triggers my inner heating engineer.

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    1. You’re in the same boat as me.

      VAT does have an impact; but in my case things still work out on balance. Like you, I no longer find a lot of what I used to do in SL to be centrally appealling – but I’ve compensated for that through other outlets.

      Tahoe – yeah, the ceiling heights and vertical space really are “?!?” when you seen them, but the flip to this is, get one of the longer styles of build and they do lend themselves very well to “modding”. I went for the Aspen specifically because of this, as looking at it in-world before needling LL to get it back on the options page (from which it had all but vanished – a popular choice, perhaps?), I immediately saw the layout lent itself naturally to a range of possibilities; the simplest being the one I eventually built. I’ve since installed the same basic layout into a couple of the other designs on behalf of friends. Mind you, using Penny Pattons camera offsets helps, as it means that for the most part I can ignore the cavernous space above the lounge area 🙂

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  8. i think Ciaran is exactly right that the one size value added fits all approach isn’t the best one for LL to take. sailboats are nice, but i think i deleted mine after the first test drive. Linden homes i have had, (and might even still have one), but their chief advantage has always been there is no one else there – ever, so that says a lot about the value of Linden homes to users. I think an option for Linden shops, Linden playgrounds, or even Linden garden plots located within the acres of empty Linden homes might have more takers, and might help to turn the Linden homes sims into something other than a suburban ghost town.

    I will be renewing my premium membership again because LL and SL both strike me as worthy causes, not because i expect any direct benefit from doing so.

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    1. Yup.

      Don’t get me wrong. My decision to re-up to premium last year was born of a renewed enthusiasm for SL and LL, not as a result of getting something in return. However, this year circumstances have changed for me purely as a result of what I’m now spending time doing in SL compared to even just a year ago such that premium does make more sense purely on a cost / benefit basis.

      Had I still be actively involved in other activities, I may well not have renewed, but poured my resources back into enlarged land holdings, etc., once more as a basic member and continued to show my “faith” (for want of a better word) in SL / LL that way, because leave us not forget that basic members still contribute directly to LL’s bottom line as much (if not more) than premium members. They rent land, after all, and most of the tier from that goes to LL, not simply into the pockets of “Land Barons” (as some bloggers elsewhere tend to insinuate). further, many rent land parcels of 2048 sq m and upwards which can equal (and sometimes exceed) premium membership payments. So it really is swings and roundabouts in that regard; hence why LL do try to sweeten the premium deal.

      As to making the package more varied in style and approach is a good one, but for LL, the matter will be one of manageability, and unless reall, solid benefit can be shown in going that route in terms of a clear and sustained upswing in premium take-ups, I’ve a feeling they’re likely to continue to steer a safer course.

      Linden Homes and empty regions – funnily enough, I’ve had an article on that sitting in my pile of draft pieces for over a month now, as I’ve been watching things in my region to make sure that what has been happening hasn’t simply been a short-term fluke. All I’ll say at this point is that while your comment on acres of empty homes seems to be changing, at least where I am. The problem is, ascribing an underpinning reason (hence my hanging on to the piece before publishing 🙂 ).

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