I was reading this article and it got me thinking. It is a common pattern with MMO games (like WoW, DAoC, EverQuest, etc) that fans tend to savagely and repeatedly attack the company running them in forums, blogs, and the like. They call you nasty names, rant about your incompetence, comment on your lack of brains and your likely ancestry. Who wants to be on the receiving end of that day after day?
If you get a lot of hate-mail you're doing something right. It shows your product has earned commitment and passion from the people using it. People are emotionally invested. As your customer base becomes invested in your product, they want more control over how it works, how it grows, and how it is administered. They aren't passively watching TV; they want to participate. In Second Life, whether or not it was intentional, this commitment is actively encouraged - the client comes with building and scripting tool, and people are encouaged to create content. It is "your world" as they say on the front page.
I've heard several times (with WoW, DAoC ) that roughly 10% of regular players even look at their MMO's company hosted forums. Fewer than that post. You have to log in with your account information to read SL's forums. Linden Labs potentially knows who and how many of their users read their forums. I'd love to know how many different accounts logged into SL over the last month, how many logged into their forums, and what the overlap ratio was.
I understand the desire not to spend more time and money on moderating the forums, but they are moderating their new blog as well, so I'm not sure how much of a savings this will prove to be. Trying to protect your team's morale while still appearing (and hopefully being) accessable to your user base isn't an easy task. The move away from Linden sponsored forums may be worth it in the short term; the new blog format doesn't thread, so I expect long-winded "conversations" will move to other venues.