Aug 202014
 

An odd article has appeared in The Economic Times Of India : A Tumkur start-up VentureNext earns Rs 10 lakh a month by creating virtual creatures. The article is odd because it starts with a headline about how a startup has been selling virtual creatures in Second Life and making a living at it, diverts in the middle to a discussion about online gaming and ends by suggesting that Second Life is dwindling and that business people are turning to new ventures, such as Bitcoin.

The virtual creatures in question are Fennux, which are a breedable creature within Second Life. I’m not sure how popular these have been but they have been around for quite some time. Indeed I can recall that back in 2013 their adverts managed to find their way to the Second Life forum :

An image should be here

Fennux Advert

However Sathvik Vishwanath. the name behind Fennux is taking his company in a new direction , they are moving into bitcoin territory :

“I’m not able to constantly develop new things for Fennux because of my new startup. I’ll keep it running though, When one door shuts, others open, That’s just how the Internet is.”

According to the article, his new startup UnoCoin, raised $250,000 (Rs 1.5 crore) from Barry Silbert’s Bitcoin Opportunity Corp. That’s an interesting change of direction.

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Aug 172014
 

Facebook has never been a good fit for Second Life users, whereas other social networks such as Twitter and now Google + have no objection to people having accounts with their Second Life names, Facebook has stuck rigidly to it’s real name policy. Obviously this policy is somewhat flawed in as much as there’s no real authentication of those real names, but it remains a poor fit.

Yes there are plenty of people who are happy to use their real name Facebook accounts and link them to their Second Life accounts, but it remains a Second Life unfriendly domain. Now comes news that Facebook have donated $10,000 to a politician who is fighting gay marriage.

Facebook made the donation in May to Utah attorney general Sean Reyes and have defended their decision, in a statement to the Huffington Post they said :

Facebook has a strong record on LGBT issues and that will not change, but we make decisions about which candidates to support based on the entire portfolio of issues important to our business, not just one. A contribution to a candidate does not mean that we agree with every policy or position that candidate takes. We made this donation for the same reason we’ve donated to Attorneys General on the opposite side of this issue — because they are committed to fostering innovation and an open Internet.

There is some merit in that statement, many of us will vote for political parties with whom we disagree with on certain issues. However gay marriage is quite a big ticket item to be overlooking in favour of a so called open internet. Facebook’s defence of their support is extremely mealy mouthed and does them very little credit.

However the wider point is that Linden Lab should be promoting Second Life on networks that are more Second Life friendly than Facebook. Indeed Linden Lab have their own outlets such as the blog and Second Life profiles in which they should be communicating with Second Life users.

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Aug 162014
 

Inara Pey brings news of some improvements to the SL Go Viewer from OnLive. The improvements include SL share for Flickr and Twitter now working as well as a fix that means fitted mesh now works properly via the SL Go viewer. SL Share for Facebook should also work but Inara doesn’t have a Facebook account to test that with.

SL Go offers the potential for people using mobile devices to use Second Life as well as offering the opportunity for people running older hardware to get a better experience. This is because you run the Second Life viewer via Onlive’s hardware and therefore you can have higher graphics settings without bringing your machine or mobile device to its knees and feel like you’re walking through treacle. This of course comes at a cost, which is currently comes with the following options :

  • $9.95 (£6.95) per month for unlimited access. Starts with a 7 Day Free Trial.
  • Pay as you go for only $1.00 (£0.70) per hour.

I’m not associated with SL Go in any shape or form, nor am I on their list of bloggers, but I will say that this is not a bad deal at all for those who want to explore Second Life. The system does have some drawbacks, one of which Inara explains in her post :

There is still no capability to save snapshots locally. This isn’t surprising, given SL Go is a streamed service, rather than something running locally with access to the local hard / flash drive, and so is likely going to take a lot more banging on things before it works – if it can be made to work.

As I said earlier, you use SL Go via their hardware and therefore the local disk drive is going to be their hardware. This should not be insurmountable. There are security issues with allowing people access to the SL Go local hard drives, but with some care this could be worked around. Another option would be for a SL Go viewer only email texture option, although this would be rather clunky for end users, it would work.

Inara also posted an very interesting blog about the fitted mesh improvements as well as information regarding paid contract work for viewer developers : SL Go: viewer update fixes fitted mesh issue.

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Aug 142014
 

Earlier this year Mitch Wagner had an article published in Information Week about High Fidelity : Second Life Founder Pursues Second Chance. The article talked of how Second Life had not reached mainstream appeal and pondered whether High Fidelity can. Mitch wasn’t convinced because of the time investment, but he did acknowledge that Second Life got a lot right. However for the real reason Second Life hasn’t reached mass appeal we need to go to the comments on the article and consider the issue of Orcs :

Second Life would have fared better if it had appealed to MMORPG fans, the primary proven market for such activities. Philip Rosedale, you need orcs.

This comment misses the point of Second Life somewhat and yet in doing so, highlights one of the issues for Second Life and any other virtual world. People see Second Life as a singular place, it’s not, but the architecture of the platform can make it appear so, which brings us to another comment on Orcs :

I think the Orcs comment is spot on. It’s one thing to fix the technological elements, but Second Life never appealed to me because it was so open and amorphous. Part of the fun of an immersive experience is having an objective and a set of limitations to work within (or against). An open world where you can do anything sounds great, but then you run up against the limits of your own imagination.

This comment hits the nail firmly on the head. Second Life needs to deliver experiences as well as offering open creativity, people want something to do. This also goes back to the points Mitch made about time investment, people want to pop into a virtual world, experience something and logout. They don’t want to build, they want to be guided. The problem here isn’t Second Life itself, it’s the way people view Second Life as .. well, Second Life. I’ve said something along these lines before, but for Second Life to reach mainstream appeal it requires people to stop talking about Second Life. This may sound somewhat odd but my point is that Second Life should be viewed as the technology. The experiences the places people visit, the places people learn at, the places people role-play, they should be at the forefront of the major discussion, Second Life should be consigned to the geeky conversation about technology.

Now of course virtual worlds offer a sandbox experience and the concept is absolutely brilliant. Virtual worlds such as Second Life, Kitely, Inworldz, OpenSim etc. offer authors, creators, designers the opportunity to build their very own stage and bring their own visions to life. This really is a fantastic opportunity for people who want to get creative, to do so. However there are many many people who want to be guided through an experience, they want to teleport right in to the end product. Virtual worlds do indeed offer great potential but to some, a blank canvas is very difficult to grapple with.

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Aug 132014
 

The Skill Gaming applications for Second Life seem to be involved in some sort of skill game of themselves as operators try and seek approval for their game. At this stage I wouldn’t be surprised if the deadline is pushed back again because this is turning into a challenging experience for applicants and Linden Lab.

Let’s just rewind a little, Inara Pey recently covered the Second Life Bar Association discussion on the new TOS and the skill gaming policy. I’ve looked at the TOS discussion but not the skill gaming discussion, so let’s take a look at the skill gaming discussion.

The presentation was headed once again byAgenda Faromet. The discussion is a little bit muddied at times due to the fact that gaming and gambling seem to intermingle, but they do get to the differences about gaming and gambling early on :

  • Gambling - betting, wagering something of value, money, on a contest, sporting event, game of chance.
  • Gaming - playing skilled games that require skill or a player’s control of the game.

There are some areas of the discussion that border on being a little bit wrong, for example :

So gachas, breakables, stuff like that? They’re not gambling. I’ve answered so many questions about that. Not affected by the policy because they don’t have a pay-out in Linden dollars. If it doesn’t have a pay-out in Linden dollars, not gambling.

It doesn’t matter what the rick versus reward is, it doesn’t matter that you can sell your rare breakables for a gazillion dollars; they’re not [gambling].

Stock exchange: not gambling. Contest boards … depends on how they’re set-up, but if it costs Linden dollars to play, and it has a pay-out in Linden dollars, it’s gambling. If it doesn’t, not gambling.

The part about not having a pay-out in Linden Dollars meaning it’s not gambling isn’t actually 100% correct. The wagering policy actually states that the pay-out can’t be Linden Dollars or any real world currency or thing of value. The thing of value issue is where people ponder whether certain activities fall foul of the wagering policy, it’s a vague statement. However I suspect it applies to real world things of value, rather than inworld things of value, but I wouldn’t bet on that!

Then there’s a discussion on where attorneys are required to be licensed to practice law :

Comment – If you are from Europe It is rather difficult to hire an attorney who is licensed both in your country and the USA.

Reply – You don’t need an attorney that is licensed in the USA. You need an attorney who can write a letter that says what you are doing is permitted in your country.

However the FAQ does indeed state that the reasoned legal opinion should be provided by an attorney licensed to practice law in the United States. Initially that wasn’t mentioned as a requirement, the goalposts have been moving on these applications.

However it’s interesting that the presentation viewed stock exchanges as not gambling because SL Capex, who bill themselves as the number one stock market simulation in Second Life, are currently in the middle of a skill gaming application and they seem to be having a few difficulties in completing the process.

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Aug 082014
 

When Linden Lab announced changes to the controversial section 2.3 of their TOS a lot of people cheered, until they read it properly, then a lot of people groaned and finally they scratched their heads trying to work out what it all means.

To this end the Second Life Bar association held a presentation last weekend and the legend that is Inara Pey has audio and transcripts of not one, but two presentations surrounding the TOS. Inara has broken the presentation down into a part about the changes to section 2.3 and a a part about the changes relating to the new skill gaming section of the TOS.

Now first of all, we’re a week away from the anniversary of the first controversial change to the TOS, August 15th 2013 was the fateful day.  Then in July 2014 Linden Lab tried to address this issue and made some changes, what exactly changed? Well the presentation regarding section 2.3 explains that as best as it can :

The words on the list of the rights that you grant Linden Lab changed order. That’s really the most important thing that changed. And also a parenthetical limitation was added.

And this is really important to understand, and when I say it’s important to understand, it’s because I don’t understand it, and I don’t think anybody that I know, that I’ve talked to, really understands it. I write Terms of Service for a living, and I don’t understand what they did here. And I think this is where we need to talk about what they did and why they did it.

So there in a nutshell comes the first major issue with the change to the TOS, someone who writes terms of service for a living doesn’t understand what Linden Lab have done. Now at this point I should pause and point out that attorneys, judges, lawyers, solicitors and the whole legal profession make a living of not agreeing with each other over what something means, but in this case, there’s really no excuse for it to be such a confusing matter.

This isn’t to say that the TOS change in July is a waste of time, it might be more positive than people think, the problem is, nobody is really sure. The problem lies with the parenthetical limitation, so let’s take a look at that in action from the Second Life TOS :

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, modify, display, publicly perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, translate, make derivative works of, and sell, re-sell or sublicense (through multiple levels)(with respect to Second Life, Inworld or otherwise on the Service as permitted by you through your interactions with the Service)

The end part is the confusing area, does it apply to sublicense? Does it apply to sell, re-sell? Does it apply to everything that goes before it? Nobody knows! Now this is a game changer depending upon what it applies to, the SLBA presentation said that this could be brilliant :

This limitation limits their power to … it limits their power to activities on the service, which is something we were asking for, and it limits their ability to use your content to the creator’s permissions.

So if you have done something that indicates to Linden Lab that they can’t use your content. for instance, you have deleted it, or you have put restrictions on it; no copy or no transfer, this indicates what the permissions should be.

So this is a great limitation; it’s beautiful. But there’s a problem. And here’s the problem. Let’s go back. They changed the words in this list of rights; they changed the order.

The permissions system is not the only limitation placed on content, so that could come across as misleading. For example texture sellers will sell their textures full perms because that’s the permissions level that textures need to have applied to them in order for textures to be useful to an end user, but textures will come with a EULA specifying limitations above and beyond the Second Life permissions system. Linden Lab do recognise this in their terms of service section 2.7 to be fair.

The problem here is one of application. One really has to wonder if this is a deliberate move so that Linden Lab still have these overreaching rights but give the appearance that they have addressed concerns. I would like to think that they would not do that but I’m left wondering why they’ve produced such unclear terms, to get this into context let’s go back to pre-August 2013.

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Aug 072014
 

Second Life doesn’t have an equivalent of the wayback machine, however the Second Life Origins section of the destination guide allows us to step back in time and experience Second Life in its former glory in parts. The section has replicas of old experiences as well as having the old places that are still really there!

Let’s start by going back to 2002, before Second Life was officially even born. This is the pre-release world and a visit to the first Second Life region, we’re going to Da Boom!

Da Boom Linden Playground

Alas I did not find the disco that I’ve seen pictured in Governor Linden’s mansion. However I did find a part of mainland that has a special area, the Linden playground! This is protected land, it sits near the middle of the sim and it has an arch built by Alberto Linden, whose age is quite eye catching.

Da Boom Stores

This isn’t a replica, this is a real sim, there are stores here owned by existing residents, there’s the amusingly titled Primternet cafe too. This is where it all began and it’s quite a nice location, people aren’t arguing about access here because of that special piece of protected land giving everyone a pleasant experience.


Da Boom

Visit Da Boom, the very first region in Second Life, founded in 2002. It’s named after the real-life “De Boom” street in San Francisco, and Residents have speculated it’s also a reference to the “Big Bang” of our virtual world’s conception.

Visit in Second Life

However the section of the destination guide isn’t just about pointing us in the direction of old sims, it also points us in the direction of Linden Lab giving thanks to their old residents.

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Aug 042014
 

Just over a year ago I blogged : Could Linden Lab Follow Amazon’s Lead In Fan Based Creativity? This was based on Amazon’s Kindle Worlds deal whereby they had struck deals for people to be able to write, publish and sell fan fiction via Amazon.

A year is a long time for my memory these days, but I was reminded of this issue when I read a press release from Linden Lab relating to Blocksworld.  The press release though does not appear on the Linden Lab website, it comes courtesy of Gamasutra and carries a headline of Blocksworld Adds MY LITTLE PONY Sets. Part of the press release states :

The new sets are the result of a licensing relationship with Hasbro, Inc., through which Linden Lab also recently added TRANSFORMERS characters to Blocksworld.

So apparently, Linden Lab have negotiated a deal with Hasbro for this content to exist in Blocksworld. Now of course Blocksworld is very different to Second Life and the content is more strictly managed. However Linden Lab may be able to agree terms to sell content from a Linden Lab store, whereby approved creators submit content. They may even require sim owners to apply to be able to place and buy said content. In short, they may be able to take a leaf out of their skill gaming policy and have approved creators and users of said licensed content.

However the last thing a roleplay sim needs is an increased tier fee, so it’s not straight forward, on the other hand, it should be feasible in some form for Linden Lab to find a way to allow users to make and use licensed content within Second Life.

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Aug 022014
 

Episode 21 of The Drax Files : World Makers features an interview with Editorial Clarity, the founder and CEO of Love To Decorate (AKA LTD), a publication about home and garden products in Second Life. This episode is, at its heart a love story. Wait wait wait, wasn’t that a theme from my previous blog post? *Checks Notes* … ah it applies to this one too!  Love is in the air. everywhere I look around, Love is in the air, every sight and every sound.

The episode opens with Edi opening a real physical 200 page edition of LTD magazine. The items in this magazine are products made for Second Life. The magazine is funded by advertising and the way it works is that they decorate a home from scratch to show people what can be done.

Edi, who seems to have a rather slight West Midland and London tinge to his accent, explains how he’s not a creator but he does create spaces. I feel that creation in Second Life isn’t just the domain of those who create products, I see land and spaces as being part of the creation process too, so I disagree with Edi about him not being a creator.

Edi talks about how Second Life helped not only his confidence but  his love life too. Love is in the air, in the whisper of the trees, Love is in the air, in the thunder of the seas. He met his partner Rico in Second Life back in 2010, at a time when he had not yet, in his own words, come out of the closet to his family. They met in real life a year later and have been going strong ever since.

The episode features some wonderful footage of their inworld marriage, a spectacular looking Alice In Wonderland themed affair that also doubled as a fashion show for Second Life designers.

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Aug 022014
 

Caledon Oxbridge University

Karyne Levy, Senior West Coast Tech Editor fir Business Insider, has penned an article about Second Life : Second Life Has Devolved Into A Post-Apocalyptic Virtual World, And The Weirdest Thing Is How Many People Still Use It. The article starts badly with the headine and on first reading doesn’t get any better when you read the body.

Now the easy thing to do here would be to don full Second Life fanboi suit and rip the article to shreds, but upon reflection there are positives and fair criticism within the article. However some of the article remains bemusing, for example Karyne says :

When I open the events tab, I see listings ranging from night clubs to pornographic classified ads and little else. Yes, avatars can get naked in the game, with special nude skins available for purchase.

Now unless something has changed, new users need to opt in to be able to see and visit adult content, so I’m a tad bemused why someone would opt in to being able to access adult content and then comment on the fact that they are seeing adult content. Obviously if things have changed and by default those who vouch that they are over 18 are automatically able to see adult content then this would be a fair point to raise.

However this article is at its heart a love story. The person who shows Karyne around Second Life met and married her husband inside and later outside, Second Life. The article is as much about the story of Karyne’s guide as it is about Second Life itself, it’s a personal article in many ways. Karyne’s guide points out that many of her favourite Second Life locations are now closed, which is something many Second Life users can emphasise with, places do come and go.

The article also delves into the issue of the new user experience. Although Karyne isn’t technically a new user, having first tried Second Life many years ago for a couple of days, she does go through the new user experience with all its flaws.

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