Friday, May 04, 2007


A cosmetic change was made by Linden Lab several years ago, when the decision was made to change the name of the land parcel popularity statistic from "dwell" to "traffic." In the most recent town hall, Cory Linden has announced that the statistic, which has been gamed since it was introduced, will be removed: "Removing the current traffic metric is part of the new search project, so the goal is to pull it as soon as possible." Many artificial systems were put into place by Linden Lab to encourage community building in the early days, to attract the initial user base. Many of these programs, such as subsidizing events with money, and giving bonuses to more social players through rating systems, have already long since departed our grid. Once a system can be gamed, Linden Lab either morphs it into something else, or removes it, which is completely understandable. Dwell had actually replaced an earlier system with voting booths, where avatars would click a booth to register their vote as approving a place, once per day. You can still see some of these booths around the grid, although they do nothing.

The benefit of gaming traffic hasn't been what it once was for some time now. Traffic used to pay out a daily bonus to the land owner, and determine the monthly "Developer Incentive Awards", or "Dwellopers," as they became nicknamed. Frankly, it amazes me the amount of money and server resources people are willing to waste just to seem popular, which is the only current benefit of having an obscenely high traffic number. While I will miss it as a metric of how much foot traffic my plots get, it was always a fuzzy metric, at best. More accurate systems are now available, that track actual visitors, and how long they each stays on your plot. Traffic was always somewhat tainted as a metric, since camping chairs and other methods ruined the purity of what a single traffic point was worth. The only way to get a truly valuable metric is to have one that isn't tied to popularity in a search listing or financial rewards in any way. Hopefully the end of traffic will lead to a better reporting system for all of us.

1 comment:

  1. This point of view is well known, but it is heavily ideological, and heavily beneficial to the class of people who either have RL corporations they work for, or older businesses with good WOM or other forms of advertising. It's a point of view that heavily discriminates against a free economy, and freedom for newbies to enter that economy. It's also a fallacious point of view, for the following reasons:

    1. While dwell and traffic are gamed, through the payment of campchair sitters or dancepad dancers, those sims where that occurs are a minority of businesses and an even tinier minority of sims. Look up the word "camp" in "SEARCH PLACES" and see for yourself that we are talking about hundreds, not thousands of camping scenes, out of 7800 plus sims.

    2. Popular Places exists due to campchairs, but even if traffic were removed, they'd still pay people to sit, because this is what must be grasped: campchair kings pay people as a form of advertising, in a world with very limited advertising capacity, due to the very messed-up billboard policy (no tolerance for billboards by a tiny minority influencing the utopian Lindens, leading to an aggressive and extortionist infestation of billboards on 16m2 plots). Campchair kings merely pay people to come and be eyeballs for their vendors, rather than pay to try to get visibility on the very limited and cramped first page of each 'classifieds' category.

    3. Search plus Traffic is the way most sales are made by most businesses that are not privileged/oldbie/FIC businesses. The lion's share of stores on the grid make their living from people using search with key words, and p2ping.

    People read search in different ways. Some skip over a parcel with huge traffic, knowing it's gamed and camped -- others head there. Some go to the middle of the list and know from experience that a respectable traffic like 2000, such as Tableau might have, actually means steady sales and good quality with steady visitors. The steadiness of traffic over time is more important than its spikes.

    4. Those bent on keeping others out of the economy they wished to dominate do not want them to have the freedom to make sales or purchases through the publicly accessible search list for only $30. They want to keep them out of the economy by force, as they will be unable to pay to be viewed atop the classifieds list. That's why they fight for the removal of the traffic metric, which both incentivizes merchants starting out, giving them important feedback, and also helps newbies shop at places besides what is essentially a gamed classifieds list.

    5. Scripts that give you information about visitors and what they do are going to cost more than many will pay, and they cannot provide a PUBLIC view of performance, only a PRIVATE view. We can all see that many of these corporate sims do not have traffic on them -- even their own people who work there aren't bothering to log in. That lets us know some of them have failed. The public can judge what is happening in the economy, and this metric helps the public's right to know, behind the hype of the PR machine. It also helps the public know which sites through their own merit, not through camping, have genuine popularity.

    6. Traffic that is not accessible as information in search is pretty useless, as it requires physically pulling up, aggregating, visiting etc. to see.

    7. There's no demonstrable drag on the database by the presence of the traffic record itself. Rather, lag comes from campchairs, and those will not go away after that metric is removed, just as it did not go away when dwell payments were removed, because the need for a) accessible and effective advertising and b) entry level income opportunities for newbies are so strong that they overcome even the most heavily controlling socialist planners of the economy. You cannot stop human nature -- people will always buy and sell as freely as they can, no matter what constraints the ideological try to put on them.

    In short, traffic must not be removed, as it will have a harsh and permanent effect on the freedom of the economy. Newbies especially will find it terribly hard to enter, without either paying huge amounts for classifieds, or sucking up to divas to get recognized in their oldbie high-fashion stores.

    Just like the campaign against the telehubs, which were another way for the world to be free of the oldbie stranglehold on the economy by being able to buy a rental instead of sucking up and apprenticing to a diva, the removal of traffic is a way of ensuring the permanent berth of people who themselves are not competitive, and are being overtaken by newer and more innovative residents.

    There's nothing "artificial" about having a traffic metric on a parcel, or "subsidizing" coming from LL. It's like a free web visitors counter on the Internet, for God's sake. The information is vital for sorting search results in some meaningful way by merit and popularity, which everyone knows cannot be gamed through the tens of thousands of store all over SL, but only by those relative minority that use camping.

    8. None of the campaigners against traffic have been able to articulate a single reasonable way for arranging search results that will lead to the same kinds of sales from p2ps as the current system. Both Lindens and apologists like FlipperPA are completely vague on what this "something better" could be. But we all know what it could be: Google.

    Googlizing SL will be even more devastating than Googlizing the rest of the Internet because it is a smaller pond with even more limited advertising and media capacity (there's no mass media inside SL). Once a system develops where merely clicking on something/p2ping it sets it up to always appear first, the new game will be paying people to do that, and will infest the list with gamed information far more than the camped lots do now.

    9. Traffic is now a formula that involves some arcane things, like numbers of persons who logged on that day, etc. It could be modified merely to be a counter of unique avatars over 5 minutes.

    10. Traffic is vital for land managers to be able to judge how well content is doing on a given parcel, and to keep changing and modifying content and easing entry and activities to increase traffic. While any manager could buy a script with a welcome mat or visitor counter, that's not the same as the visible, public, accountable metric that traffic is today.

    In short, hands off traffic! It is vital to the free economy and the culture of accountability in Second Life. Removing it makes the world that more hierarchical and secretive and privileges those who are old, connected, and rich just like RL, which is wrong.

    Prokofy Neva