Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Case Against Camping

Written 23 April, 2008

The Case Against Camping

A month or so ago I did an opinion piece for the Second Life magazine SL Entrepreneur. You can see the editorial in its original context here.

And it follows. In my next post I'll 'splain why I am posting it here.

The Case Against Camping

By Cheyenne Palisades

Camping— enticing avatars to remain on your property by paying them small sums to sit in a chair, stand on a ladder pretending to wash windows, or pretend to sell virtual hot dogs from a cart—can raise your traffic rating and can theoretically entice people to your place of business, but at what price? What price to you, what price to me, what price to the grid? Consider:

* By keeping avies sitting in chairs, you encourage deadbeat behavior. Don’t kid yourself: $2L an hour isn’t going to buy a camper much, but it will certainly prevent them from engaging in meaningful activity in world. While they sit in your poorly-textured camping chair, they won’t be exploring, learning the interface or building skills, engaging in interactions with other avatars, or contributing in any meaningful way to the economy of Second Life.

* Many new avatars and more than a few older ones think SL is a game, and Lindens are the goal. Camping chairs encourage and perpetuate this type of thinking—there the chairs are, and how easy it is to sit! But when campers realize they’re making real-life pennies to be bored stiff for hours, they go away in search of a more interesting virtual world.

So think about it! You are driving people from the world. Avatars who might otherwise become content generators or heavy-spending fashionistas go to There! or World of Warcraft and Second Life is robbed forever of their creativity, talent, and real-world income.

You would serve your fellow citizens and yourself and society better if you got rid of your camping chairs, or better yet scripted your camping chairs to tell whoever sat in them that camping is stupid, then kick them out Lindenless with a list of interesting places to visit.

Consider also: You are paying for this foolishness. Sure, 2L every 10 minutes doesn’t sound like much, but if you have four camping chairs and they stay filled three-quarters of the time, you’re spending more than $3 US every day or $95 monthly, enough to pay tier on half a region! And not only that, you’re promulgating what is questionably the biggest problem in Second Life—grid clogging by inactive avatars.

Linden Lab’s open sourcing of the Second Life client has allowed the development of text-only browsers that consume little RAM or processor power, enabling a single computer to run dozens of instances of Second Life. This creates dozens of sim-clogging bots that are scripted to find and sit in camping chairs. And you know what happens to any sim when there are a couple of dozen avatars present? Right. The sim grinds to a stop, making a miserable experience for everybody. And when tens of thousands of these bots share the grid with real citizens, it leads to crashes, failed teleports, misplaced attachments, and a generally miserable experience for everybody. If you don’t think people leave Second Life to escape this, you’re mistaken.

And finally, consider the theory behind camping in the first place, which is that the avatars who are “paid” to camp will become customers and will attract other avatars to your site. That’s nonsense. Before the ban on gambling, many campers spent their Lindens on site, but now they they’re more likely to keep their pennies. They can get by without that butt skirt of which you are so proud, thank you very much. Most campers will never become productive citizens. They will remain virtual leeches. At best, you’re going to get a portion of your lindens back.

And as for attracting others to your land, you’re kidding, right? Most citizens steer clear of laggy, clogged areas—and if they do investigate and find a bunch of robot campers and a time dilation of .38, they’ll immediately leave. I mean, wouldn’t you?

Finally, let me share with you a search technique practiced by myself any many of my friends—we simply disregard the top three or four hits in Search and skip down toward the middle of the page. Why? We know those places with 999,999 traffic counts are going to be bot-ridden, ugly, laggy, and probably pornographic, places we don’t want to visit.

The places we DO want to visit will be a feast to our eyes and ears, filled with high-quality merchandise we will be happy to by—and if the place is laggy, it will be because the avatars present are spending money—not costing you $2L each every 10 minutes.


Peter Stindberg said...

Count me in on that search tactic of disregarding the first few search result spots.

queenkellee said...

I agree 99% wholeheartedly. But I have seen one way that that "camping" can work a little bit, but it's a different beast, really...

The other day I was somewhere that offered some cute hairs you could only get by camping for 10 minutes in a chair. I sat down and in my 10 minutes cammed about and looked at the area. The area was a RL company trying to sell me their RL haircare products. It struck me as a good balance: a short amount of time, they have my eyeballs and assume correctly I would be camming about looking at my surroundings, their marketing messages. I got something tangible I wanted (and could not buy otherwise), and they had my eyeballs...but of course I could have gotten up to make a cup of coffee, checked the blogs, etc. But 10 minutes goes by pretty quick.

This kind of "camping" I could also see TP'ing my friends to come join me (none were online when I was there so I didn't try that).

The key to this tho was
A. a short timespan (I'm not a normal camper, but 10 minutes felt "do-able")
B. a product given away, something of high quality that is clearly displayed so I know I want it, not just $L
C. something interesting and cool to look at while I'm there (the build was quite detailed and nice, and offered other normal freebies)

Anyway, just a thought :)

Anonymous said...

-- Sweetie says...

I agree with both Peter and Queenkelle. I avoid anyplace with Extremely high traffic numbers and I avoid anyplace with a million asterisks before the name. I wasn't o visit artisans in SL, not shopping malls.

That being said i have camped in a few places in situations much like queenkelle. Artisan shops where in order to get a temporary surge in traffic they offer a lovely dress for a short amount of time. I usually end up camping the rest of the inventory and frequently buy. I have also sent friends to such places knowing that the store owner was offering a fair exchange rather than exploitation.

I've seen surveys with gifts in exchange or lindens in exchange by large companies who thought 1000 lindens for 15 minutes of your time was a very reasonable expense for them.

Locations that treat the camper like a dumb beast, an object to be used for gain are dehumanizing. don't believe me. I bet everyone in the game knows a player who came in, thought camping was a valid way to earn lindens. To a one, these campers followed one of two paths. a) They realized the payment offered was so out of scale with the real economy in SL they had the epiphany that life is to short for camping and disavowed it fervently. b) They camped until any excitement or joy in the game was destroyed. they had no social life, they learned nothing of the beauty or imagination that rolls out at your feet as you roam the game. They were players not citizens, and worse players who couldn't win. What they were feeling was objectified and dehumanized. Just a lone green dot on the grid.

That abusive form camping is abhorrent.

Maybe in orientation centers in SL they should give them a chunk of change in good faith, and a short orientation on the economy in SL with average prices for clothes, homes, how we tip performers or buy land. Then they would understand in their first days, why that camping chair just isn't worth it.

Corgi said...

[does some catching up]

What about hair camping, for example? I'm not entirely sure what Calla and Goldie Locks get out of it, but it's almost like a competition - will you finish your sit time before the asset server or your nVidia 9600 crash you?!

Tanarian (woof!)