Dwell-style payments

I brought this up in this afternoon's product meeting, so I thought I should open it up for discussion here, too.

In Second Life's early days, Linden Lab offered what they called "dwell payments". They measured traffic to each parcel of land. You can still see the traffic numbers today. They used that traffic number each day to compute a payout value for parcel owners. The idea was simple: stimulate creation of original content by pumping money into the nascent economy to reward hard work and creativity. It worked very well, too.

The biggest problem with dwell payments was that residents figured out how to game the system. It took a year or two before it was so bad that LL stopped offering them. They continue to crack down on parcel traffic gaming schemes that emerged back then.

So why would I propose that LL start offering dwell-style payments in Sansar? After all, LL rightly wants to earn money, not lose it. The answer is exactly the same here as it was in SL: to kick-start the economy. Creators with even small amounts of money in their accounts will buy goods from the Store and pay admission fees to experiences, starting to spread their money around. This will instill a sense among people here that there really is money to be made, even if it's in small amounts. Second, that general feeling will reach outside Sansar and draw more creatives in, speculating on their opportunities as early adopters.

One way of looking at this question is in simple money terms. The current Halloween contests are offering a combined US $20,000 in cash prizes and hundreds of dollars of value in subscriptions. The first contest offered even more cash payouts. So let's say, for argument's sake, that LL is planning to shell out $20k in prizes each quarter, for a total of $80k a year. Now let's say they decide to keep using half of that for contest payouts, leaving $40k for dwell payments. If there were 1,000 experiences decent enough to earn dwell by their merits, that would average out to US $40 per year for each of them, or S$4,000, which can buy a lot of stuff from the store at current prices. It could also be used to pay for premium subscriptions so creative people can make even more things available to Sansarians.

Okay, so how do you avoid abuses? For starters, maybe LL should gate-keep experiences that meet basic standards to qualify to earn dwell. That's similar to the curation they are currently doing for the featured experiences in the Atlas. One stipulation would be that anything like "camping chairs" and other traffic gaming tactics would disqualify an experience, providing a strong disincentive. The rest could be based on simple traffic statistics, like in SL's dwell days.

Long term, dwell payments are a bad idea. They should be tapered off once Sansar's economy gets growing on its own. That will surely mean some beautiful experiences go away, like in SL. However, it probably won't be as bad because it costs nothing to have a few experiences. We wouldn't see the mass collapse of popular experiences that were not designed to be monetized like when SL got rid of dwell payments.

I predict that this move would very likely turn the heads of the VR community toward Sansar. It's a critical time, right now, as everyone is wondering who holds the keys to the future. Sansar may be half-baked right now, but if people really believe in the total story of Sansar, it will likely draw more people and money here in a gold rush similar to what SL experienced early on. Monetization is a critical part of that total story. It would probably take about a year to have its full effect, which should coincide with what I think is LL's timeline for making Sansar a more production-ready service.

So I propose that LL announce the introduction of dwell-style payments beginning January 1, 2018 and run the full program until 2019, tapering off payments over the first quarter of 2019.

What do you all think?


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