Aug 302014

The movie Mary Poppins turned 50 this week, which is an impressive milestone. A less impressive milestone is Linden Lab’s refusal to allow people to mention Dick Van Dyke in all his glory on the Second Life forum. I’ve mentioned him in his full name here in this blog post, I haven’t been struck by lightning, I haven’t been stampeded by a rampaging mob! Well not yet anyway. Come on guys, apply some common sense with those word filters and ditch the Dick Van **Bleep** silliness.

However one area where Linden Lab are doing a superb job is with their excellent promotion of The Destination Guide. The Lab have been regularly promoting the destination guide and this month is no exception as they blog : Highlights from the Second Life Destination Guide 8/27/2014. I’ll ignore the arse about face date format, I still don’t get the reason for that in a numerical sense.

One of the really nifty features of the Destination Guide is the ad widgets :

Hot Bay City Nights

Now in its third year, Hot Bay City Nights has hot roads and cool cars. Come see established vintage automobile designers in the Bay City Fairgrounds from August 23-30 as they present the best in vintage and retro vehicles for all avatars. Additional events provide plenty for all to do, including the crowning of 2014’s Miss Bay City and a number of charity car washes. The event will raise funds for Child’s Play, a charity that provides toys and games for children in hospitals around the world.

Visit in Second Life

It’s a shame these widgets can’t be used for promoting events. However the destination guide, now that Linden Lab pay it plenty of care and attention, is an excellent resource and Linden Lab are to be commended for promoting, updating and utilising it.

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Aug 282014

I’ve recently suggested that Second Life Should Cut The Facebook Cord due to the fact that Facebook is not Second Life avatar friendly. Back in July I suggested that Linden Lab Should Embrace Google+. This was based on the fact that Google + had changed their naming policy to one where people can now use any name they like. Prior to that Google + required you to use a name you were known as, which did allow Second Life avatars to have a presence of sorts, but was still a grey area. There’s no real grey area with Facebook, they want people to use their real name only for accounts.

A good way for Linden Lab to encourage people to embrace the better fit of Google + would be for them to include their Google + page in their connect with us or follow us sections on their website. The Google + page isn’t as popular as the official Facebook page but has had over 4 million views, which is none too shabby.

However like Second Life in virtual world terms, Facebook is where it’s at in terms of social networking. Personally I’m not a fan, I mean I’m really really not a fan. However I do have a Facebook Page. Why do I have a Facebook page? Well because it’s not a breach of Facebook’s terms of service to do so, whereas using my Second Life name as a Facebook account is a breach of the Facebook TOS.

Many Second Life users have tried to use Facebook under their Second Life name and many have found themselves having their accounts deleted, due to that TOS breach. So if you absolutely must use Facebook with your Second Life name, then create a Facebook page for your avatar.

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Aug 272014

Linden Lab have issued a reminder : New Skill Gaming Policy in Effect September 1, 2014. The blog post also contains a warning that the new policy will be enforced. Skill Gaming in Second Life is basically defined as :

  • A game where the outcome is determined by skill, rather than by chance.
  • Has the option for payment to participate in Linden Dollars.
  • Pays out in Linden Dollars.
  • Is legal according to United States and international law.

That’s pretty much the gist of it, so if the game allows you to pay in with the option of paying out if your skill allows you to win, then it’s a skill game. Now if those criteria aren’t met, say for example you can pay in but there’s a random chance of the game paying out, such as a traditional fruit machine style game, then that’s gambling and is strictly forbidden.

Now if you haven’t been paying attention then you may be wondering how on earth Linden Lab know if the game you play or create meets this criteria. Well that’s what the Skill Gaming Policy is for. Games of skill will only be allowed to be played on approved sims. Only approved games, created by approved creators are permitted and they can only be operated by approved operators. This means that if your game meets the skill gaming definition, you will still be breaching the rules of the new policy if the game, the land or the person operating the game have not been approved.

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Aug 222014

On August 13th I blogged about the problems both Linden Lab and Skill Gaming applicants had experienced with the application process : Skill Gaming Applications Appear To Be A Skill Game In Their Own Right. In that post I highlighted the moving goalposts of the application process and how they were proving challenging to applicants.

Linden Lab had initially set a deadline of August 1st for this policy, that was later pushed back to September 1st. In my post I felt that September 1st was looking a little problematic, indeed I said :

I’m firmly in the camp that believes that this deadline will need to be pushed back again, but that in itself is no bad thing because we can see that this is a learning curve for Linden Lab and applicants. The important thing to do is to get this right.

Days passed and my opinion did not change, there were no signs on the public wiki of any approved games or operators. However it seems that I was wrong, something I’m not afraid to admit, because approved operators, regions and games have started to rear their heads, as we can see if we look at the public wiki page : Linden Lab Official:Second Life Skill Gaming Approved Participants.

Whereas there are a number of listed Skill Gaming Operators, I’m not sure they are all different people, here’s a current list :

  • MooTownGames SLSGO
  • SushantDiesel SLSGO
  • SushantYing SLSGO
  • SushantLecker SLSGO
  • EchoBlaylock SLSGO
  • PokaMachines SLSGO
  • PIGamesResident SLSGO

At this stage I’m not sure if all Skill Gaming operators will have SLSGO after their name or whether this is indicative of this only really being one applicant. The same applicant certainly appears to have more than one operator licence because the contact email addresses are the same in some cases, or extremely similar in others.

There are a number of listed regions associated with each operator, but again we see some regions listed next to more than one operator.

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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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