If I were to make a list of the top three things that are responsible for Second Life being as great as it is – and that is exactly what I’m doing today – it would read equally well as a list of things that hold Second Life back.

It’s all about you

The first is you. That is, you, me and all of us. From the user who only spends ten minutes logged in and then gives up forever, to the most dedicated content creators, land barons, and everyone in between.

We are Second Life. We are the experience. All that you see and hear in Second Life and everywhere you go is that which we have wrought together. It is wonders piled upon wonders. We are those wonders, and we are that from which those wonders spring forth.

And some of it is amateurish crap, and half of us cannot agree on the slightest thing with the other half of us, and some of us behave like complete dicks.

That’s people for you. Both amazing and terrible at the same time. The rising ape and the falling angel in one confusing package.

We drive Second Life forward, and we hold it back, and we have no idea where we’re going – but Second Life is us.

It’s all about Linden Lab

Linden Lab is the man behind every curtain, behind ever rock and tree, behind every grid-wide policy, suspension and ban, behind every standardised feature. Without Linden Lab and its contractors and employees, Second Life simply would not be. Without their ongoing efforts, and their incredible patience with us, Second Life would have simply collapsed, long ago.

They use Second Life too, many of them. As alts, they run shops and businesses, they hang out with us, they dance and socialise and explore and do all of the things we do. However, their perspective is small. Despite the diversity of their activities, and the depth and breadth of their internal statistics, their aggregate view is not much broader than that of any other single user community in Second Life.

Second Life is big. Really big, and there’s no way to experience it all. Even a thousand people only ever see a slice – a slice divorced and disconnected from the Second Life experience of many others. In short, while Linden Lab sets directions, their view is not necessarily any better or worse than any hundred or two hundred of us. How could it be?

It’s all about weight

Resource allocation in Second Life is based on land, specifically on land supporting so many prims per square metre. Considering the complexity of the resources being apportioned, one of Second Life’s key strengths is that we have been provided with a simple, straightforward system that we can all understand.

It’s simple, and straightforward, and easy to understand, and it is completely and utterly wrong. It’s a convenient lie.

The premise is simple enough – that any basic prim weighs about the same (in resource terms) as any other. That just isn’t true.

Take any simple, unscripted prim, and I can make another that weighs a fifth of that in resources. Or I can make another that weighs eight times the resources (or more).

The idea that one prim uses the same resources as another prim is like saying all people weigh the same, eat the same amount of food, drink the same amount of fluid and breathe the same amount of air. That only happens in math problems in the back of your high-school textbooks.

This simple, comprehensible and elegant system allows us to overload our regions and our parcels, trusting in prim-resource limits that it actually renders almost meaningless. Your one hundred and seventeen prims aren’t the same as my one hundred and seventeen prims.

And yet, if you look at what has been done with mesh, and you watch the land-impact numbers change, do you even understand why? Are you willing to undertake the extensive research to understand the complexities of server resources and the way our content interacts with them?

Probably not.

Which leaves us with a simpler system. A simpler system that lies to us, and lets us lag our own regions, because we trust it when we really shouldn’t.

 

There’s no solution for any of these three things, that I can see – nor do I necessarily think that there should be. They just are what they are, and we’re going to have to live with them.

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