Ciaran Laval

Apr 232014
Image For Fantasy Faire 2014

Fantasy Faire 2014

The Fantasy Faire 2014 website has been updated with information about sponsors, roleplay communities, stores and more. Unfortunately the sim of Wiggenstead Mooring will no longer be making an appearance under it’s original purpose due to the unfortunate ill health of Nya Alchemi. However the sim will make some sort of mysterious appearance during the Faire.

There will be Pirates at this event, they come in the shape and form of The Pirates Of Trade Winds who invite you to fill your mug with grog and join them. However if Pirates aren’t your thing then don’t worry, there will be other roleplay communities at the faire.

However for some people the faire is about the merchandies, personally I like the grog, but hey, I appreciate that some folk like to shop! Fortunately, the list of designers who will be displaying their wares is now out.

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Apr 212014

Back in March the IRS issued more guidance on virtual currencies in the guise of Notice 2014-21. The purpose of this notice is to provide some answers to frequently asked questions regarding virtual currencies. One of those questions for those of us who use virtual worlds is whether Linden Dollars are actually a virtual currency, the answer remains unclear. However over on Forbes Peter J Reilly blogged : Bitcoins Not Tax Fairy Dust – Second Life Still A Tax Haven?

Bitcoins are specifically mentioned in the IRS document, Linden Dollars are not. However it’s the scope of the IRS notice that makes some people believe that Linden Dollars do not fall within the tax bracket :

In general, the sale or exchange of convertible virtual currency, or the use of convertible virtual currency to pay for goods or services in a real-world economy transaction, has tax consequences that may result in a tax liability. This notice addresses only the U.S. federal tax consequences of transactions in, or transactions that use, convertible virtual currency, and the term “virtual currency” as used in Section 4 refers only to convertible virtual currency. No inference should be drawn with respect to virtual currencies not described in this notice. 

The Treasury Department and the IRS recognize that there may be other questions regarding the tax consequences of virtual currency not addressed in this notice that warrant consideration. Therefore, the Treasury Department and the IRS request comments from the public regarding other types or aspects of virtual currency transactions that should be addressed in future guidance.

The part of the scope that Peter J Reilly feels leaves the Linden economy unmolested is with respect to payment of goods or services in a real-world economy transaction. This is not unusual, when I raised the issue of VAT within Second Life with the UK tax officials at HMRC I was informed that transactions that take place entirely within a virtual world are outside the scope of VAT, in other words, VAT did not apply to inworld transactions with Linden Dollars when I queried HMRC, which is just as well as Linden Dollar transactions would cause a mighty headache for Second Life merchants if they were within the scope of VAT.

However grey areas do remain and one can’t help but feel that things will change in the future.

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Apr 202014

Last year Second Life celebrated its tenth birthday, you don’t need to be a genius in maths to realise that this year will be its eleventh birthday, although technically it’s a tad older as Steller Sunshine celebrated turning twelve in March!

However let’s not let that spoil matters, the celebration this year is the eleventh birthday and there will be music and magic, fireworks, puzzles and much more in yet another celebration of the virtual world that leads all virtual worlds, the Mom and Dad of them all, yes I’m still talking about Second Life!

Originally, during the Alpha period, the grid was known as Lindenworld. As we were getting ready to launch the Beta, we decided we needed a name that would convey the expansiveness, involvement and complexity we hoped would characterize this world as it grew. We started by debating the merits of a ‘place’ name versus a ‘descriptive’ name. We believed a place name would give people a sense of destination, and possibly some added layer of meaning. And we thought a descriptive name would help people understand this new concept of a shared, 3D collaborative space.

We had a lot of ideas for place names — one of my favorites was Sansara, which was not only euphonic, but had an interesting meaning in the original Sanskrit, meaning roughly ‘ever changing world’. Ultimately, though, we chose to go with a descriptive name, and looked at many derivatives of Terra, Viva, and life. We kept coming back to Life2, and then landed on Second Life as more interesting, more evocative and more what we hoped the world could become as it evolved and grew to be as big as life.

And that’s how it came about!

Originally there were just 16 regions, eleven years on there are over 26,000. However enough of this, what of these celebrations, well I’ll post the press release after the cut.

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Apr 182014

One of the issues that has been raised regarding the new Transaction History page is the issue of transaction ID’s not being present. The argument goes that as only a portion of the transaction ID is present on the page, it’s not guaranteed to be a unique value and therefore is not as useful as it could be. The full ID is available in downloads and will continue to be available in downloads.

However, part of the transaction ID being present is better than none of it being present. Here’s a scenario, a customer has an issue, the merchant asks them for the transaction ID from the SL website, the customer complies, the merchant finds the transaction and from there, they can see what happened with that transaction or at least engage with the first steps in finding out what happened.

Some people seem to believe it’s better to ask customers for date/time, item, price etc. instead of trying to go for a single lookup via a transaction ID. I’m finding this all somewhat bemusing as the chances of the portion of the transaction ID on the SL website not being unique in a certain range is minimal for the vast majority of merchants and customers, the only strong argument against their inclusion is that they are incomplete, but as the issue of duplicates is not likely to happen often, it seems odd to want to withdraw this.

Again this seems like it’s something that busier merchants may find less useful, but busier merchants are in the minority. There should be a happier compromise here, collapsable fields. Therefore those who don’t want to see a certain field can hide it, but for those who still find it useful, it will still be there.

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Apr 182014

The greatest trick the FIC ever pulled was convincing the world they did not exist.

There are rumblings afoot regarding just whom Linden Lab are talking to and trying to appease with some of their recent changes. Let’s take a look at the recent initiative to standardise clothing descriptions. In the blog post Linden Lab said :

In order to make this easier for shoppers, we have worked with Second Life content creators to define a way to clearly communicate this to customers.

This seems completely reasonable to me, but there is a concern regarding just whom these selected Second Life content creators are, prompting Sassy Romano to post a thread in the merchants forum : Commerceteam Linden and the secret meetings :

So, let me get this straight…

There was a “project” that merchants helped with (who?) yet not one single mention of this project or initiative mentioned here, in what should be considered one of the primary communication vehicles and now…

NOW… LL asks that all merchants standardise on the outcome of this covert project when they were all but nearly all excluded.

Here’s the thing, Sassy has a point. Why wasn’t this discussed in the merchants forum? Where was it discussed? Who were the merchants involved? Where’s the transparency? I have been one of the few who sees the merit in this initiative and I do think this sort of standardised labelling is a step in the right direction, but surely the discussion should have been made more public considering it’s an initiative that Linden Lab want the wider public to embrace.

Then there are the changes to the transaction history page, which some now suspect is being changed in the interests of some of Second Life’s most successful merchants.

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Apr 172014

Metareality Podcast has returned to the airwaves … well it returned in March but I’ve only just noticed! The third episode in the return was released on April 11th. The good news here is that now we can get an Anchorman style fight between Metareality Podcast and The Drax Files, although as Metareality Podcast has a three person team they won’t be allowed to use William Reed Seal-Foss whom I strongly suspect is really Dr Octopus, which would make the fight unfair anyway!

Also they possibly should do transfers between the presenters. Drax has been on Metareality before, so maybe Jo Yardley could go on Metareality and Qarl could do a guest spot on The Drax Files. Reed would have to stay on Metareality, as I’ve already explained, being Dr Octopus comes with complications.

There’s certainly room in the market for both of these podcasts, particularly as they cover different subjects, obviously they also cover similar subjects but the styles of the two shows are different enough to mean that listening to them both covers enough different ground for them to be worthwhile.

One of the interesting discussions in the latest Metareality podcast is a discussion about the character creation in Black Dragon Online :

This does look quite interesting and character creation is an issue for virtual worlds, but I’ve always found too much choice to be a pain too, sometimes you just want to get on with it.

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Apr 162014

The new transaction history page is back, but as an alternative page for the time being. Linden Lab have blogged about this, it’s a brief blog so I’ll copy it:

Last week, we made a new page available as a replacement for the old Transaction History page. Due to your feedback, we rolled back the changes to this page to allow us to gather more feedback, and we are now providing this new page for review, without removing the old Transaction History page.

We have not yet made any changes to the new page, because we would like time to collect your feedback and review it. We have created a wiki page giving background on why changes were made to this page, where the new page is, and how to provide feedback. We will be closing feedback on April 30, 2014, so please take a look before then.

The link in the blog post at this stage for the new transaction history page actually links to the wiki, which then has a link to the new transaction history page. I don’t know if that’s on purpose or not, I suspect not.

The new transaction history page was initially panned by some users, to such an extent that Ebbe Altberg stepped into the thread and LL then rolled the changes back. Now it is back and rather strangely it’s back in its original form, without any changes. This seems rather odd as a starting point.

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Apr 152014

I’ve blogged before about the strange issues regarding subscription payments for The Elder Scrolls Online. The crux of the matter seems to be when is 30 days of free game time not 30 days of free game time. Whereas my previous post was largely about the odd pre-authorisation charges whereby customers were reporting they were temporarily having the full subscription charge held on their accounts after setting up payment methods, the latest issue is more about those for whom a credit card wasn’t an option and this remains a very odd issue.

Due to confusion over the issue an official statement has been released :

Every customer that purchases the game receives 30 days of play included. Upon registration, customers are required to choose a payment method for the subscription fee associated with game play beyond the first 30 days of service.

Customers who choose to pay for a subscription with a recurring payment method, such as a credit card, are advised they will not be charged until the first 30-days of use included with the purchase of the game expire. Further, they are informed that they can cancel their chosen payment method up until the first 30-days included with the purchase of the game expires.

That sounds reasonable, you buy the game, it includes 30 days of game time, you setup a subscription method and can cancel before the end of the 30 days. However where matters have taken an odd twist is with their attempts to be more flexible with their payment methods :

In order to give our customers the most flexibility in how they pay for their subscription, we also offer non-recurring payment options, such as Webmoney and iDeal.
Customers choosing to use a non-recurring payment method for a one-time subscription purchase are advised they will be billed immediately for subscription and that their purchase is final. Customers who utilize these non-recurring payment methods will receive immediate access to the 30 days of use included with the purchase of the game plus the additional amount of time associated with the subscription plan they selected – e.g. 30, 90 or 180 days.

Whoa back up there, those who are using non-recurring payment methods are therefore not getting their 30 days of game time included in the game, unless they pay for more game time. That’s not really the best way of going about matters, if something is being included with 30 days of time, that should be honoured and it will be to a fashion now. The Elder Scrolls Online team also insist they were open and upfront about this and to reiterate that fact, they point this out in the official statement as well as explaining how they are going to be flexible over the issue, even though it’s not their fault ….

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Apr 142014

Daniel Voyager and Inara Pey have both posted excellent coverage of Virtual Worlds Best Practice In Education (VWBPE). There’s plenty to read and plenty to listen to but I want to focus on something that is closer to home for many Second Life users, the controversial Second Life terms of service changes. Inara quotes Ebbe Altberg as saying the following regarding the terms of service :

I am working with my Legal Counsel to try to try to figure out how we can make it more obvious – or very obvious – that the creators of the content own the content, and we obviously have no intent of ever stealing your content or profiting off of your content independently of the creators in some fashion.

The current terms might indicate that we might somehow have some plan to steal people’s content and somehow profit from it for ourselves, without benefitting the creator, and that’s obviously not our intent at all. It would be very damaging to our business if we started to behave in that way because this whole platform is all about the content you all create. And if you can’t do that, and trust that it is yours, that’s obviously a problem. So I’m working on that, and I can ask you right now to trust us that we’re not going to do what the current clause might suggest we’re going to do, but we’re working on some simple tweaks to the language to make that more explicit.

We also have no interest in locking you in; any content that you create, we feel you should be able to export, and take and save and possibly if you want to move to another environment or OpenSim, that should be possible. So we’re not trying to lock you in either. Obviously, it’s very important to us to get content both in and out, so I just want to put that right out there.

Whereas that mostly sounds reassuring and is completely plausible, the ownership aspect hasn’t ever really been at the heart of the TOS debate, the ownership angle hasn’t really changed but as the new terms allow Linden Lab to do anything they like with the content that somewhat undermines the ownership clause. The prior TOS granted rights to Linden Lab in order for them to provide the service, that’s a perfectly reasonable clause, the changed TOS goes way beyond that and that’s where hackles get raised. Linden Lab’s intent is not the problem, the wording however remains a problem :

Except as otherwise described in any Additional Terms (such as a contest’s official rules) which will govern the submission of your User Content, you hereby grant to Linden Lab, and you agree to grant to Linden Lab, the non-exclusive, unrestricted, unconditional, unlimited, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, and cost-free right and license to use, copy, record, distribute, reproduce, disclose, sell, re-sell, sublicense (through multiple levels), modify, display, publicly perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, translate, make derivative works of, and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula, or medium now known or hereafter developed, and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed, and to advertise, market, and promote the same. You agree that the license includes the right to copy, analyze and use any of your Content as Linden Lab may deem necessary or desirable for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service. The license granted in this Section 2.3 is referred to as the “Service Content License.” 

That simply goes way too far and undermines the concept of ownership that the content creator retains. In all reality Ebbe Altberg should have a meeting with Richard A Goldberg who in his interview during The Drax Files Radio hour episode 13, explained in a calm, constructive, non-confrontational and informative manner why the new terms of service are problematic.

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Apr 112014
Image For Fantasy Faire 2014

Fantasy Faire 2014

I’m currently listening to The Drax Files Radio Hour Episode 14, which is all about Philip Rosedale and High Fidelity. The thing is, as funky as High Fidelity may turn out, as technologically brilliant as it may turn out, it won’t be magical until it has Fantasy Faire! Now who does have a Fantasy Faire? Second Life of course! Drax knows all about Fantasy Faire!

Draxtor Despres

Now in this post I’m going to talk about blogging Fantasy Faire because Sonya Marmurek announced on April 1st in a serious post : BLOGGER APPLICATIONS ARE OPEN! First of all, let’s take a closer look at Sonya Marmurek because if you’re going to blog Fantasy Faire, you’ll need to know Sonya :

Sonya Marmurek

Ok now you’ve seen Sonya! This year they have changed the blogging details. Traditionally you would apply to be a blogger and if you were accepted you would likely be assigned to some stores, last year they started to change this  and this year they have changed it further, this year bloggers will get blogger challenges as an option. The beauty of these challenges is that they are open to official and non-official bloggers.

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