You might be wondering where the Q4 2011/Full-year 2011 Second Life economy figures are. Sure, they’re late, but it isn’t unusual for them to be very late for Q4 and Q1.

Well, those reports are discontinued. We won’t be seeing one for Q4 2011, or any others.

Linden Lab spokesperson, Peter Gray told me today, “We don’t plan to publish a Q4 2011 economic summary. We are discontinuing regular reporting of aggregate economy-level data, because landowners and merchants have told us that the information is of limited value to them. Moving forward, we will instead focus on improved reporting tools that help individuals better manage their businesses in SL.”

Now, before you start pulling the start-cords on your outrage machines or kicking the starter-pedals on your doomsday prediction devices, bear with me for a moment, and keep in mind that I’ve benefited tremendously from those quarterly figures – my write-ups of those reports have pulled in nearly a quarter of a million unique readers each time around; which is pretty good, considering they’re mostly about numbers, statistics and metrics (topics that generally turn people off faster than an icy shower on a Winter evening).

Linden Lab, on the other hand, doesn’t get anywhere near that many readers on their economic reports. At a guess, I’d say they’d be lucky to be in the low hundreds.

Why?

Well, because the figures that have been being published in the last two years are just a shadow of what they once were. They’ve been cut down on something like five different occasions, and what is left can now only be properly interpreted by maybe a handful of people who know the ins and outs of the Second Life economic underpinnings well enough to translate them for others. And yes, for landowners and merchants they’re just not all that useful, even with a translator.

Essentially, over the years, the figures have been progressively stripped of the supporting data that gave them meaning, and now hardly anyone can understand what’s left. That kind of makes it a waste of time to extract the data and generate the reports in the first place.

Of course, the other side of the coin is this: When a company stops reporting some key statistic, it is almost always because the figure suddenly has gone South or otherwise looks bad. The Lab has stripped key items out of the reports on a number of occasions, as I mentioned, and it doesn’t take any great stretch of the imagination to figure that they were taken out because those figures were going sour, or that they appeared to be going sour because other data that would have aided in the interpretation of the figures was absent.

The latter tends to have a bit of a snowball effect. You stop publishing a metric that might be misinterpreted as bad, and then eventually its absence makes another metric misinterpretable as bad, until you’re left with a small set of metrics that don’t tell anyone anything terribly useful.

Now, I can’t tell you what happened here. Are the metrics suddenly taking a dive? Do they just look bad without other data? Or is what’s left just so recondite that it isn’t worth producing them anymore?

I don’t really know – and neither do you. The economy has been stable through the first three quarters last year, with no real signs of decline or signs that anything else that’s been going on has been causing it any trouble. It’s been as steady as you please, and while some might like to see high-growth, there’s something to be said for staying stable. There’s nothing really to indicate that Q4 was troubled.

On the other hand, if it were any almost other company, this would be immediately interpreted as a signal that things had gone bad. Linden Lab isn’t any other company, however.

Once upon a time, this was a company that was prouder of its fumbling attempts at transparency (though its successes in that area were limited and few), or of its successes in any other area of the business/Second Life. I am saddened to see this one pass into history, for whatever reason it might be.

You may start your outrage and/or doomsday-prediction machines now, if it pleases you to do so.

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