Linden Lab's land-team honcho, Jack Linden, posted a heads-up this week of upcoming changes to Second Life mainland (that is, Linden estate) policy. That's right, townies -- you're going to have to make way for the ... errr ... townies. The announcement itself is more of a piece of expectations-management. It's thin on actual useful content (in fact, there's virtually none -- and what little it has is mostly there by implication), but provides ample warning for users not to be blind-sided by upcoming policy announcements.

The warning comes in two areas. One is the introduction of zoning, and the other has to do with in-world advertising. Jack identifies advertising particularly as a critical issue, but suggests very little about what will be done, and much of that is confusing.

Right now, though, we're wondering if this is more than talk, as Linden Lab seems to lack the resources to make anything stick.


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As we've discussed previously - the governance team, which acts largely as the enforcement arm of Linden Lab in Second Life is overloaded, overworked, overstressed and actually not terribly effective. Contrast this with the Land team who seems to be likewise overloaded, and unable to keep up with basics like resetting abandoned land and feeding it back into the auction pipeline in any sort of timely fashion.

The workload of the new policies ultimately fall onto the governance team, and possibly also the land team. That isn't very comforting.

Let's assume that there is, for example, a comparatively small number of enforcement actions required to enforce last year's gambling/wagering ban. Given that Linden Lab cannot keep up with that number to effectively enforce the ban on gambling, we wonder how they can possibly hope to address the number of enforcement actions required to tackle zoning, let alone whatever it is that they're planning to do with advertising.

Even given Linden Lab's relatively laissez faire approach to-date, they have not had the resources allocated to make that approach effective. It seems there can only be two possible reasons for this, either an inability to do so (problems hiring or retaining suitable staff or cost issues) or an unwillingness to do so (incorporating a wide variety of fundamental causes ranging from competing internal priorities to the false perception that the existing resources are adequate).

Both these reasons prompt questions. If Linden Lab has been unable to keep up with rules-enforcement to-date, why do they expect to be able to do so now? Or if they've been unwilling to adequately resource the teams to-date, why should Second Life users expect that situation to improve?

While Jack's references to advertising are vague enough that we cannot reasonably infer what shape upcoming advertising policy changes might take, he makes it clear enough that new Linden estate areas will come with a variety of zoning covenants intended to make for a better overall user-experience, at the risk of marginalizing or ghettoizing (some others have suggested far stronger terms) existing properties and owners.

Retrofitting zoning covenants onto such areas to level the field doesn't seem any better, in that it would cause tremendous friction and upheaval.

The moral of this story seems to be that such things should have been enacted sooner (eg: When it was asked for by users originally) rather than later. Every week that passes makes the process ultimately more expensive and painful -- for everyone.

This article was originally published on Massively.