I have been in Second Life going-on four years. In that time I have become what I consider as being quite adept at all things SL, except writing my own scripts. I mean everything. Including the way virtual land works in all aspects from terraforming to parcelling to buying and selling and sharing through groups and all the related tier-fees and hoops and loops of it all, including the huge differences between "private" regions and "mainland" regions.

I have now officially been promoted from "adept" to "certified expert". Okay, where does the certification come from? Linden Lab themselves and explicitly: Fog Linden. Allow me to explain...

Before I go into my diatribe, I'll qualify the title of this post, even though I explain it below. Land management with regard to tier fees to Linden Lab can be hugely confusing. But here is how LL makes even more money from mainland than you might think (and this is perfectly okay and nothing wrong with it at all, as often the reverse could be true also):

Someone owns a 4096 parcel, where their tier is due on the 10th of the month. You buy it on the 15th of the month, to add to land you already own, and your tier is on the 20th of the month. The tier was already paid on the parcel at the 10th by the previous owner. You will pay the tier on that parcel on the 20th. Linden Lab makes double tier on that parcel in one month. Multiply this by the thousands of land transactions that occur every-day. Yes, I know: over simplified (detailed posts following the next few days). But you get the point (and it could very likely even-out when the dates go askew).

Now on to my diatribe and how I have become a certified virtual land expert in Second Life...

Our store (Zodiac House) Staff Group includes a very limited number of people, a few owners and all are contributing tier to cover the 2.5 mainland sims the group owns. I have owned an estate with up to 5 private regions before. However, mainland is an entirely different (and far more difficult to manage) monster when it comes to managing the amount of land you own and how it all affects the first life legal-tender dollars you owe Linden Lab. And this is a good thing for Linden Lab. It's not a bad thing in terms of being "underhanded" or "unscrupulous" in any way. If I ran LL I'd have it set-up the exact same way as it is right now. LL is in business to make a profit and this is certainly a good way to do it, and it doesn't "harm" the customers in any way, shape or form. Unless they become careless. Or confused.

So one account is donating the majority of tier to the land group: 2-regions worth. Task: have the current major contributor tier-down to zero (save the tier-free premium land afforded) and have another account tier-up. In other words: transfer the square-meter (read: tier responsibility) in the group from one person to the other. Trickier than it sounds.

I have now become a trapeze artist of the circus known as Cirque de SL_Grid!
In a nutshell:
  • Account #1 Tiers-down by setting group contribution to zero, setting web site land-management to zero-tier.
  • Group is now in deficit and does not have enough land-credits to keep all the land it owns. Someone must donate more square meters.
  • Account #2 tiers-up to a full region on the web site, but still officially only owns 512 square meters (M2)
  • Account #2 attempts to contribute 128000 M2 - but cannot as the group widget states maximum he can contribute is 0 (zero) - even though he tiered-up on the web site.
It turns-out the only way to contribute M2 to a group is to deed land you already own to a group. However, this provides a couple problem scenarios...

Private region tier dates never change. If a private region tier date is the 15th of the month, it will remain the 15th of the month forever, until abandoned. Private region tier is paid in advance for the month. January 15th's payment is for the month of January 15th through February 14th.

Mainland regions (and any parcel - but "region" for simplicity in explaining all this) are tiered for the previous month. In other words, January 15th's payment is for the period just past: December 15th through January 14th. Here is where the first part of the confusion universe rears it's head: you are charged for the peak amount of M2 you have owned during that period, even if it was only for one-second out of the entire month.

You own 1024 M2, want to move, buy a new 1024 M2 and immediately sell the first 1024 M2. However, for the period of five-minutes, you have owned a total of 2048. That is the tier rate you will be billed for. The only way around this is to sell the first parcel before buying the second - or only do the moving just after you pay your monthly tier and then use the month to try to sell the first parcel at a high price.

Back to my scenario: Account #1's tier is due the 8th of each month. #2 is due on the 23rd. If #1 tiers down after the 8th, then they will be charged the full tier the following month. So they tier-down on the 7th. This way, no giant tier payment the following month. However, if #2 tiers-up before the 23rd - they pay the entire tier on the 23rd.

Linden Lab now gets double the tier payment for the same virtual land in a single month.

Under normal circumstances: so what? Neither the seller or the buyer feels any of this and they each pay their own respective tiers. But for me: I am both the seller and the buyer. So I do feel it. Alternative: #1 tiers down. #2 doesn't tier-up until the 24th. 8th to the 24th is 14-days. That means the group would be in deficit for two-weeks. However, it is well known by experienced SL users that group-owned land can actually skate through for some time before the land is reclaimed and the group loses it. But no one really knows how long that is.

ZH is a very strong business. Would you risk the entire in-world land assets of a business that consistently rates in the SL 500 (perhaps even top 100)? Um, hell no. I am more than happy to throw another $400 at Linden Lab just to avoid the stress of the unknown.

In Concierge Live Chat, I explained to Fog Linden that I am unable to tier-up in-world (even though I did so on my account page at the web site) - and make my contribution to the group. He disappears (to do what we all can do: check the SL Wiki and Knowledge base) - comes back with no answer. States "I will refer you to the in-world team".

That's it. Nothing else from him (or her). Oh, and "I will refer you to in-world team" means "piss-off, I can't help you, go find another Linden because I don't have the time or inclination to really find the answer for you". I thought he was at least going to contact and in-world Linden to contact me. 

Ummm, no.

And this brings me back to my problem: group deficit of two-regions worth of land contribution. So based on my own experimentation, I have discovered the "rules" and "laws" of the system, specifically "Code Law" - meaning this is how the system is designed or otherwise coded to work. Thus, the following must be considered:
  • Only way to tier-up is to actually buy land. There is no other way.
  • Sell the land to specific person, he then "buys for the group"
  • However, can a group sell to itself? (Unknown and likely not)
  • If private person buys land, he can then re-deed to group and contribute. However, what happens to all 15000 prims already set-out - returned? Deleted? Oh-no!
So, discovered the following, which Fog Linden did not know and was too bothered to discover - and does not appear to be documented in the Wiki or knowledge-base or anywhere else: a live-and-learn discovery process:
  • When land is set to sell to a specific person, that person cannot "buy for group" - only for themselves. Which brings up more concerns:
    • If land is set to sell to anyone, are the landbots still around to snag it in a microsecond?
    • What happens to all the prims on the land when it goes "private" again? What breaks? Will they all be instantly returned?
So the only real answer is to set to sell to specific person and hope for the best. I was told (and have now confirmed as accurate) that Group-owned land will not auto-return all prims instantly upon sale transaction, however if autoreturn is on, they will be returned with the auto-return clock runs its course.
So, I set the land for sale to myself explicitly. I buy it. I now personally own a region and I am "warned" my tier will increase to $195 for a full region. Hurray. I now go to deed the land to group with owner contribution.
"Deeding failed, group does not have enough land credits to continue" (paraphrased).
Ummm, WTF?! Holy crappola.
Okay, go to the other full region and do the same thing. I now personally own two full regions (funny glitch, my tier is still $195 LOL!) - I go to deed it and contribute. Same failure: "not enough land credits". Holy smackers, batman!

I go to the third region where we own about a third (we'll have the whole thing over time, problem is no one is selling right now) - I buy another 4096. I tier-up again. Return to Plain Jane region and attempt to deed to group.


The deed takes, I pop over to the other region and repeat. Finally this stressful scenario of losing two-and-a-half regions worth of land because of a group deficit is no more. And I have learnt a lot in the process:
  • You can only tier-up in-world by purchasing land. There is no other possible way to do it.
  • You cannot deed land (even with owner-contribution) to a group with a land credit deficit unless the deeding and contribution completely covers the entire deficit.
  • And the long-standing rule that Linden Lab will get double the tier on this land for this month because of the way tier due-dates works. (I don't care because of some stupid glitch, I get some serious M2 worth of free land.)
    So this little exercise gives me some good blog-fodder for the next few posts. I think I will explain in detail the intricacies of land-management as it pertains to tiers and code-law, what you can and cannot do and how to go about it in a way to save the most tier money.

    Sorry for the unusually long post. but this was a rather stressful adventure that the explaining-of I hope will be helpful to others.