Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Is Linden Labs in Self-Destruct Mode?

 Following Linden Lab's internal restructuring which saw it lose 30% of its staff, and the recent decision to close the Teen Grid, with little or no consultation, they are now about to abandon discounts for Educational and Non-Profit (EDNP) organisations from the 1st January, 2011.

Will there be an exodus of a large number of EDNP organisations after the 1st January? I think so.

Currently EDNPs pay US$147.50 per month for their Maintenance Fee. All renewals after the 1st January will be invoiced at the standard rate for Private Regions, i.e. at US$295, or double their current rate. Here are a selection of some of the responses to this news:
Oh dear, this is very bad news. Budgets for educators are often set well in advance and in some cases very fixed even looking across a grant period of some years. In our case I have just negotiated funds to renew some of our regions from 12 months from now, so changes on a short time scale that double prices are quite a shock. In one case I have funding fixed for 2years out too.
Ai Austin
As one of your Educational customers I am furious! Fiscal Year Budget planning and approval happens in Aug-Sept for most Universities then you make an announcement like this in Oct!! I just had my budget approved 2 weeks ago and now I gotta go beg my superiors to approve an increase to the budget despite budgets being cut on every level of the University due to the economy. All of our sims exceed the maxium capabilities of Homesteads and OpenSpaces so there's no way we could use them.
Ron Ghostaltar
Doubling the price of regions for nonprofit and educational use strikes me as a really bad idea. Do we really need a mass exodus of these important members of the Second Life community at this time?
Shirley Marquez
I'd say that about 75% of all educational or non-profit organizations will leave next year.
Yuukie Onmura
Ah well Linden you have finally made the decision that tips the balance for us.  I have been hanging on in SL as I still truly believe in the value of the educational community that has been built here but over the last few months it has become increasingly difficult to justify not moving to OpenSim.  This however will be the final straw as I see no way that my institution will be able to justify paying double the price for our two islands. Fortunately we still have until Aug 2011 but I suspect we will be long gone by then!
Arwenna Stardust
Of course, some may abandon their Virtual campuses altogether rather than face a doubling of their invoices, but if there is to be an exodus there has to be somewhere for them to move to. So just where is the Promised Land for EDNPs?

The obvious alternative is any of the worlds built using Opensim, the Second Life open-source clone, which will give them the same look and feel as their current regions, and allow them to use the same viewer. However, one of the prime considerations for EDNPs is to avoid having to live cheek by jowl with some of the more 'adult' activities that go on in these virtual worlds.

Fortunately, several Opensim-based grids have sprung up that cater exclusively for the EDNP communities.

Cybergrid is a German language grid for young people of 12-17, and consists of 5 regions with over 500 registered uers. It is the Homeland of Cyberland-Jugendcommunity, netzcheckers, and netbridge. Regions cost €120 setup fee, and €40/month maintenance fee.


The jokaydiaGrid Project has a number of aims including:
  • Exploring ways to ‘multi-grid’ – eg. creating strategies, techniques and best practices for creating presence across a range of virtual worlds, and learning how to best use each environment for and to its best advantage
  • Engaging kids in our virtual worlds adventures – the jokaydiaGrid gives us the freedom to create a PG environment which is much more viable for k-12 educational use
  • Learning about Opensimulator – we are excited to be joining the opensource virtual worlds community and look forward to both learning about and contributing to the development of opensource virtual worlds options for education
  • Developing new 3D educational resources – Leveraging off the flexibility available to us on the opensim platform for public and private delivery (without the scary pricetag!)
  • … and most importantly t0 Play! We aim to continue to create a community that learns, inspires, explores and shares.
Regions on the ojokadiaGrid cost $50.00au setup fee + $25.00au per month.

ReactionGrid Inc. is a 3D world development company with offices in Orlando FL and Boston MA.  Their focus is educational, business and entertainment use of  3D environments.  Similar to a modern video game but oriented towards return on investment whether that is time saved, data visualized, or collaboration sessions for training or communications. 

Their clients range from Fortune 100 firms like Microsoft, IBM, Raytheon, Siemens, to government entities like the Veterans Administration to institutions like Boston College, Future University Japan, Hong Kong Polytechnic, University Autonomous Mexico and more.

ReactionGrid Inc. hosts and develops virtual worlds, and provides products that enable you to express your 3D ideas and share them with your colleagues, peers, and community. We deliver our systems virtualized on a platform we call Harmony.

They are able to deliver templated virtual worlds for specific industry and use cases both in the cloud on their hosted servers and firewalled. They make sure your system is setup quickly and support your project needs as you grow.

Because of ReactionGrid's firewalled solutions, all the grids they host (and an example is  the jokaydiaGrid above) can enjoy security and privacy, and is thus ideal for hosting Educational Projects.

ReactionGrid has a range of prices for Regions, starting from just $75, full details here.

The goal of ScienceSim is to enable new usages in education and visualization through the construction of persistent 3D spaces build and deployed by a federation of organizations and users.

To accomplish the goal, they propose to create a foundation with three objectives:
  • Maintain a stable distribution of the OpenSim 3D application platform
  • Document best practices for the use of OpenSim in science and education
  • Provide content and applications to support those best practices
 They propose to establish the foundation in two stages. The first is an interim stage focused on developing a stable release of the OpenSim code base. The second stage creates the full foundation structure.

ScienceSim is primarily a grid, i.e. it is mainly used by EDNPs that have their own Opensim-based world on their own PC or server, and would like it to be connected to a grid of other like-minded worlds.  Currently, ScienceSim provide their grid services free of charge.

Getting Help
For  EDNPs who need help in migrating from Second Life to another grid they may wish to consider the services of  Firesabre a company that specialises in this type of work.