Dec 022015
 

Project Sansar Concept Art

Fancy a bite,
My appetite,
Yum yum gee it’s fun,
Banging on a different drum,

There seems to be a concern in some quarters that Linden Lab’s Project Sansar is poised to eat Linden Lab’s Second Life. I’m not quite sure where this concern stems from and that’s before we mention that Linden Lab have another product; Blocksworld, which people don’t pay much attention to in terms of eating too much of the Linden Lab pie.

Yes, Project Sansar is the project that Linden Lab have most employees working on, yes it’s new and shiny, yes it will tie in better with HMD’s than Second Life does. None of this means that Second Life will be swallowed by the Project Sansar shark. A lot of the current concern seems to stem from the recent Lab Chat and a question from long time Second Life resident and all round good guy, Qie Niangao :

Assuming Sansar makes it into a revenue-generating beta, how will the Lab organization be structured to keep SL and Sansar from sabotaging each other’s success?

This has been a problem for the Lab, historically, most disastrously with the competition between Marketplace and the Land product, but this could be worse: the Sansar team has a natural incentive to cannibalize the Second Life business — but if that’s premature, LL could be left with no profit from either product. How will you prevent this?

(Yes, eventually Sansar’s market should be so large that the current Second Life business doesn’t even register as a blip on the adoption curve. But initially, Sansar Marketing will be tempted to feed off SL, potentially leaving neither platform viable).

Good question, which deserves a good answer and it pretty much got one from Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab CEO :

Well, I’m not sure why we would try to sabotage ourselves in the first place. But they are two very separate teams, from product and design and engineering are two completely separate teams … at some point they meet-up in the organisation higher up, but they are working very independently today.

And there’s some pieces the two products will share. Clearly we don’t want to have to replicate the whole virtual economy pieces, and all the compliance work that goes with that, so that is something we try to make sure we only do once; and that will be a service both Sansar and Second Life will leverage. but other than that, the teams are free to work completely independently on what they think is best for them and their users every day.

However the answer went further, it went into the cannibalisation issue and that’s where things get a bit messy in the minds of some.

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Dec 012015
 

Linden Lab today launched a new terms of service, which has been updated in three areas :

  • Remove outdated references to Desura and Authorised Resellers.
  • Explicitly address our intolerance of harassment of Linden Lab employees.
  • Clarify the arbitration provision in accordance with applicable law.

Some of these changes reflect the fact that terms of service changes can be a slow process. Desura went long ago, as did authorised resellers. The arbitration issue, I have absolutely no idea what that’s about, although I’m sure others will highlight those changes. The harassment of Linden Lab employees change is something that can be easily found in section 6.1 :

(iv) Post, display, or transmit Content (including any communication(s) with employees of Linden Lab) that is harmful, threatening or harassing, defamatory, libelous, false, inaccurate, misleading, or invades another person’s privacy.

The important point to note here is the any communication(s) part. That is going to cover, well, any communications. That means outside of Second Life, on Twitter, Facebook, email etc. Now I’m not sure what has happened to force Linden Lab to make this change, as I would have thought that this section would cover Linden Lab employees without explicitly stating that it does. The general points about not posting, displaying, transmitting said content would in theory cover it. However Linden Lab feel the need to explicitly address their intolerance of harassment of Linden Lab employees, so this will give it more teeth I guess.

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Nov 252015
 

Yuletide Showcase

I’m having a few technical difficulties this week, which means I’m not able to get inworld as much as I’d like and seek out truth and justice! However, that doesn’t mean I can’t keep track of some things that are going and one thing that has caught my eye is The Fantasy Creators Yuletide Showcase. The event, which opened on November 21st and runs until January 9th, features 20 of Second Life’s fantasy creators, in a snowy setting complete with decorations, lights and more.

The event also features live music and then there’s a Yuletide Hunt.

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Nov 202015
 

Diana Budds has published an article over at Fastco Design; The Future Of Shopping Is . . . Second Life On Acid? The article features the work of British designer and filmmaker Allison Crank, who is based in Eindhoven, which is in The Netherlands, not Britain!

The basis of the article is that e-commerce is trumping the mall and therefore, the social experience of the physical mall is being lost. Allison Crank suggests that one way of bringing back the social side of the mall is to introduce virtual reality.

Allison’s concept is the basis of her thesis from June 2015; The Reality Theatre: Shopping In The Ludic Century and in the FastCo Design article we get to hear more of the concept:

Crank calls it “a new third place for the public to meet, perform, indulge, and play in immersive environments.” I call it Second Life on acid. The designer envisions her concept working with augmented reality devices like Microsoft’s Hololens or Magic Leap to superimpose this virtual world over our own. For example, if someone were commuting, he or she could strap on an augmented reality headset and participate in the Reality Theater.

The major problem I have with Allison’s idea is that we’ve seen malls in Second Life, lots and lots of malls. We’ve seen malls with impossible physics, we can teleport in Second Life. However, malls in Second Life have been undone not by a future more immersive product, but by the ease of point and click shopping that the Second Life Marketplace offers. This isn’t unique to Second Life by the way, I’ve seen people in OpenSim asking for web based marketplaces, indeed Kitely has a web based marketplace.

People love the ease of shopping that web based marketplaces provide. This isn’t to say that Allison’s idea is dead in the water, far from it, but it is a warning to people who think virtual reality shopping is going to be a popular tool of choice compared to a web based shopping experience.

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Nov 192015
 

Lab Chat Studio

Lab Chat, a new Q&A show in Second Life, launched today in Second Life with Saffia Widdershins and Jo Yardley discussing many things Second Life and Project Sansar related with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg.

The show itself went quite smoothly, which was quite impressive with a four region setup that attracted over 150 people. The show launched on time, without any technical issues, although one problem that was apparent was that people who had submitted questions were unable to make the live show. The questions had been selected from a pool of 46 questions submitted via the official Second Life forum.

 

 

Keira Linden

Ebbe talked about land, commerce, marketplace, experiences and much more. Experiences was a very interesting subject as Ebbe pointed out that in Second Life, people struggle to make experiences pay their way. This is something that people who have created roleplaying ventures or interactive game experiences will be quite familiar with. Project Sansar definitely has experiences on its radar.

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Nov 182015
 

Meet Ebbe Altberg

The first edition of Lab Chat, a new Q&A show in Second Life, will take place on Thursday November 19th at 10:30am SLT :

Lab Chat is an opportunity for you to ask Lindens your questions during a live taping that will be recorded and archived for everyone to view.

The first Lab Chat will be Thursday, November 19th, at 10:30am SLT at the Linden Endowment for the Arts Theatre – with guest Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab.

Now since that initial blog post, a complimentary website has appeared : https://labchatsl.wordpress.com . This website contains a lot more information about the production. For example in a post; Thank you for your Questions for the first Episode of Lab Chat! The Lab Chat team explain why the questions were selected :

We had a great many great questions from you all for the first episode of Lab Chat – so thank you all for contributing!

Sadly, there won’t be time to ask all your questions on the show, so we have selected a number of questions that the Team thought were important, relating to Second Life, the Marketplace and Sansar.

If your question wasn’t asked this time, you can:

Come to the show and, if there’s time at the end of the set questions, submit your question in text chat – we hope to get to a few of them!

Ask your question again, next time we call for questions

How will you know if your question has been selected for inclusion in this show? Well, there’s going to be a big clue there.

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Nov 182015
 

Several have asked if this is in some sort of panic move in response to poor sales. This is absolutely not the case, in fact sales of islands have been very consistent through Q1; we sell between 100-110 islands per week plus a fair number of Openspace regions.

Technology and service costs vary over time and we as a business have to respond to that in sensible ways. In addition, we have to continually assess our business model and make changes where we need to. By and large we have worked hard to keep prices static for long periods, and when we have had cause to increase prices in the past, we allowed grandfathered monthly fees to continue because we value the time and energy those people had put in. Nearly 18 months on and that grandfathered pricing is still in place for many island owners.

This was the right time to reduce the setup price of an island. As any business would, we will review the effects of these changes over the next period and make adjustments or leave them unchanged according to how it goes. If we are able to make savings, then we feel that passing those on to our customers is a good thing.

The above is a quote from Jack Linden in a blog post published on 10th April 2008; Details on the Q2 2008 Island Price Change. The headline news was that the setup fee for a private region had been reduced from US$1,675 to US$1,000. This was a controversial move and generated a lot of positive and negative feedback.

Yesterday, more than seven and a half years later, Linden Lab decided the time was right to reduce setup fees further; Decreased Land Set-Up Fees and Changes to Transferring Regions. The new pricing structure is :

  • Full Private Island – previously $1000, now $600.
  • Developed Full Private Island – previously $1029, now $629.
  • Homestead Private Island – previously $375, now $225.
  • Developed Homestead Private Island – previously $395, now $250.
  • Openspace Private Island – previously $250, now $150.

Along with these new reduced setup fees we’re also seeing the return of Grandfathered status for regions when they are sold on. However this comes with a twist in terms of vastly increased transfer fees if Grandfathered status is required on transfer.

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Nov 162015
 

UWE Education In Virtual Worlds MA

The University of The West of England (UWE) have published an article relating to autism and how technology can be put to good use : Head-mounted virtual reality could help people with autism learn social skills and develop employment opportunities.

Whereas the headline and the latter part of the article are related to HMD’s and how a small test group of people on the autism spectrum reacted, the earlier part of the article deals with autism, games and virtual worlds, with positive results reported by Dr Nigel Newbutt, Associate Head of Media and Digital Cultures at UWE  :

Dr Newbutt has investigated how virtual world platforms such as Second Life can help people with autism navigate social situations such as visiting a coffee shop, going to the cinema or even attending a job interview.

A further quote from the article informs us :

“There is a growing evidence-base that suggests many people on the autism spectrum find interaction with technology easy and, in some cases, more natural than interacting with people. There is some evidence to suggest that games such as Minecraft™ and virtual worlds such as Second Life™ (which have been designed for the general public) have great potential to help someone on the spectrum practice and develop social skills; building their confidence in virtual simulations without the fear of real-life consequences.

This sounds positive and seems to fit in with other reports of the benefits of virtual worlds when it comes to health, support and encouraging people to participate in something new.

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Nov 132015
 

IDRAC 2015

Virtual Ability Inc. are hosting the the fourth annual Internaional Disability Rights Affirmation Conference (IDRAC) this weekend. The conference is in progress now.

There is an official blog post from Virtual Ability; 2015 International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference. I’ll include the full schedule of the conference in this post, unfortunately some of the talks have already taken place but I feel that it’s important to highlight what has been going on at this conference.

The blurb for the conference informs us :

Presenters will present from the United Kingdom, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and the US. See below for details about the presenters and their topics, and join us on the 13th and 14th of November as we celebrate successes, identify issues and re-affirm the rights of people with disabilities across the world.

This conference highlights not only a very good use case for use of virtual worlds in terms of bringing people together from various parts of the world, it also highlights a very good use case of helping people to interact with others to discuss issues that are very personal in a setting that makes the participants comfortable.

Now for the schedule.

FRIDAY November 13, 2015
Times listed are US Pacific Standard Time/Second Life Time

9:00am – Effectiveness Study of a Community-Based Pain Clinic, Muhammad Abdul Hadi
Chronic pain. a significant disabling condition, is often managed ineffectively in the primary care setting. Dr. Hadi led a research team that investigated the role of nurses and pharmacists, operating out of community-based pain clinics, in providing effective care for chronic pain patients.

Presenter Bio:
Dr. Muhammad Abdul Hadi is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Pharmacy at the College of Pharmacy, Umm-Al-Qura University, Makkah, Saudi Arabia. Educated at the University of Leeds, he previously taught at Monash University. He specializes in mixed methods research.

10:30am – The Edge of Normal, Hana Schank
What is normal? In Hana Schank’s memoir “The Edge of Normal” about raising a visually impaired child, she discovers that the very definition of normal is up for grabs. In this session Hana will talk about what led her to write the book, the concept of redefining normal, and she’ll read a short excerpt and then will open it up to discussion for others to share their experiences on the topic.

Presenter Bio:
Hana Schank is a writer and essayist. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, the Washington Post and The Atlantic.com, Hana writes on a range of topics including parenting, education, disability, technology and travel. Her first book, a memoir about planning her wedding, was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. Her Kindle Single, The Edge of Normal, was excerpted in Longreads and the Sunday Times Magazine (UK) and is currently being translated into Chinese. In addition to writing, Hana runs a technology consulting firm, and is the mother of two young children.

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Nov 132015
 

Linden Lab’s Tax and Account requirements have been baffling Second Life content creators and business owners for a while now. Initially Linden Lab were a bit slow with information regarding why they were sending people notifications that they had to file information. However Linden Lab got their house in order and provided a lot more information and these days they have some good resources.

Linden Lab are bound by US law to gather the required information. There’s a further issue for Second Life residents based in the USA :

Additionally, for U.S. residents with 200 or more transactions with a total amount in excess of $20,000 in a calendar year, we are required to file a Form 1099-K with the IRS reporting those transactions for that year.

Paypal are another payment processor, Paypal are also bound by the same US laws to gather information, as they explain here and this is where some people felt things may go a bit awry :

Under the legislation, we’ll report to the IRS the total payment volume received by US account holders whose payments exceed both of these levels in a calendar year:

  • US$20,000 in gross payment volume from sales of goods or services in a single year
  • 200 separate payments for goods or services in the same year

IRC Section 6050W applies to all payment processors, including PayPal. Our goal is to help PayPal sellers understand and comply with the new requirements.

This raised concerns on various Second Life related forums that there may be a possibility that an error could be made here, if a Second Life content creator who cashes out to Paypal filed a form for Linden Lab and Paypal, would the IRS miss the fact that it’s the same money. Surely that couldn’t happen? According to Hamlet Au over at New World Notes, it has indeed happened; Second Life Content Creator Couple Double-Taxed $66K by the IRS – Here’s How to Avoid That Fate.

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