What changed is my perception. When I ranted about Premium membership, I primarily had the Mainland parcels in mind. Paying almost 120 US$ a year to be able to buy parcels in a constantly changing, ugly neighbourhood seemed like a bad joke to me. But if you change the perspective, things seem more attractive again. In a recent discussion fellow blogger Uccello Poultry suggested to me:
"As for you not having a premium account, I can only encourage to you think about it more seriously. A successful and influential business owner friend of mine had a basic, No Payment Info on File account when another resident (falsely) accused her of stealing his product designs. Her account was canceled without a hearing or any reasonable recourse for appealing. She lost land and property of substantial value."This made me think, especially since I had similar notions from two other people in a rather short time frame. Like it or not - Linden Lab seems to deal different with Premium and non-Premium members. As a non-Premium member I can't file support tickets, and can't call support. So I started to look at the Premium membership as a sort of insurance.
Another thing that bothered me was that Linden Lab wants hard currency for the Premium membership. All I ever put into SL was 15 EUR - and my personal situation does not allow me to spend the amounts each month some of my friends spend. My friend Rika Watanabe opened my eyes to the possibilities of the LindeX, explaining to me that Linden Lab first charges your US$ balance before they start to charge your credit card. Provided you have enough US$ balance on your account - and this can be filled by selling Linden Dollar on the LindeX - your credit card never gets charged. So I can - with only a little complexity - pay for my Premium with Linden Dollar. With this final piece of information, I sat down and did the math:
26.78 US$ quarterly Premium fees, thanks to Linden Lab's double taxation of European residents, equals 6990 L$ at an exchange rate of 1:261. I could game the LindeX a bit and probably get a better deal like maybe 1:259 but that hardly matters. In those three months I will receive a stipend of 12 * 300 L$ = 3600 L$. This effectively reduces the Premium payment to only 3390 L$. The bottom line is that I will pay 283 L$ per week to become a Premium member and have a direct line to Linden Lab.
Up to now, this only focused on the "insurance aspect". However I am entitled to get a 512 sqm Mainland parcel at no extra cost with my Premium membership. As ugly as Mainland is for the most parts, a Mainland parcel has a few advantages, the major one is that Mainland won't go away. My translation office and the GREENE concept shop are on a beautiful sim, of which I am resident since August 2007. It is owned by a company who has various other sims in SL, and managed by an employee of said company. For all I know, right this second the folks at that company might have a meeting and decide to stop their SL efforts. Or right this second my landlady might get an offer from a different company and leaves her current employer. I might log in tomorrow and the sim is gone. There is no guarantee it won't. However, Mainland will stay. So if nothing else, a Mainland parcel is a pretty secure server location for your SLX,
But why stop here? Rika shared a few other interesting facts with me. I can donate my land to group and get a 10% bonus. Ivanova, my partner in GREENE concept, could donate her unused Premium land allotment to group as well, and together we could buy a 1126 sqm parcel with approximately 256 available prims - at no extra cost. This would make for a nice little rent free shop - provided a stable neighbourhood can be found. An additional benefit of group owned land is that it can be in arrears with tier payments for a pretty long time before being reclaimed - a fact that not a lot of people seem to know (and which can change anytime).
Finally I expect Linden Lab to make Premium membership a better deal in the short term future. It has been discussed that Premium members might be preferred access rights during high concurrency. I assume there will be other benefits as well like maybe lower upload fees or more land. I also expect the additional benefits will come with higher Premium fees. And since Premium accounts are known to be grandfathered I might get a better deal by getting in early.
Bottom line is: my perception changed from "why should I pay hard currency to buy an ugly Mainland parcel" to "for 283 L$ / week I get recognized better by Linden Lab, can file tickets and get at minimum a secure server location or even a small shop for free".
Sometimes a change of perspective is a good thing.