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 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

Earlier this week Linden Lab made changes to the transaction history page on Second Life accounts, this didn’t go down well with many a merchant. Indeed Linden Lab have decided to roll back the changes and revert to the old transaction history page for now : Update on the Transaction History Page

So what exactly was the problem, well the backlash started with a post on the Second Life Forum : THE WORST THING THEY HAVE DONE YET  .. yes the title is all caps!

Now I have to MANUALLY total the days sales — no longer does it show the total.

Now I can’t download XLS files, only CSV ones.

And it takes a long time to load.

The time the page took to load was a minor complaint, the lack of functionality was another charge with users complaining that the reports always downloaded 30 days of data, this prompted people to wonder if the changes were incomplete.

There were also complaints about this over at SLUniverse :

The format has been changed and now tries to load every transaction for the last 30 days. You can only filter it for fewer days after they have all loaded. The transaction number is no longer visible. The only format to download the transactions is CSV; the program I’ve been using for nearly 7 years uses XML. I log in every morning to view my transactions to check my sales and expenses, and it no longer gives you a total. 

The complaints prompted Ebbe Linden to post on the Second Life Forum thread :

In an attempt to improve we made a few mistakes and caused some misunderstandings as well. We rolled back the changes and will work on getting it right. The team is looking at feedback and will communicate a plan for how to get there. 

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Apr 112014

The heartbleed bug has been causing mayhem this week, many a headache has been felt in IT departments the world over. Second Life users were obviously concerned about this and Linden Lab have produced a blog post relevant to Second Life : Account Safety and the Heartbleed OpenSSL Bug.

There’s some really good news from the lab about this:

You do not need to take extra action to secure your Second Life password if you have not used the same password on other websites. Your Second Life password was not visible via Heartbleed server memory exposure. No secondlife.com site that accepts passwords had the vulnerable SSL heartbeat feature enabled.

However it should be noted that Second Life properties were not immune to this issue, as the blog post explains :

Supporting sites such as Second Life profiles are hosted on cloud hosting services. Some of these sites were previously vulnerable to Heartbleed, which may have exposed one of these servers’ certificates. As an extra precaution, we are in the process of replacing our SSL certificates across the board. This change will be fully automatic in standard web browsers.

Initially this may seem confusing, but login to Second Life profiles is done via the main website login, rather than a login directly on those servers, so the initial advice that there’s no need to take extra action stands.

However there are circumstances whereby you may want to change your Second Life password and that is if you use that very same password on a site that may have had login information exposed.

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Apr 102014

CommerceTeam Linden has posted an interesting blog : Help Customers Buy Clothing that Fits their Avatars. The idea is for merchants to help customers to find the right clothing for their avatar by using standards when it comes to labels and descriptions for Second Life clothing and avatars.

This is a noble aim because the rise of Mesh clothing has left many a consumer confused as to whether an item will work with their avatar. Merchants are encouraged to use both icons and text to aid consumers. The blog post advises merchants to use the following terms for the appropriate item :

  • Classic avatar: original default (non-mesh) Second Life avatars.
  • Standard mesh avatar: a classic avatar wearing a rigged mesh attachment, created using the standard fitted mesh model.
  • Custom/branded avatar: an avatar of either type (i.e. that does or does not use mesh) that is a custom size or shape, requiring custom-made clothing to fit it. A brand name for the shape will help users easily identify which clothing fits which custom avatar.

Initially many edge cases will be raised where items don’t seem to fit a single category, which may lead to some confusion but the categories appear to work from where I’m sitting. Over at SLUniverse some points have been raised in a thread there. Tamarsk raises a point regarding the initial confusion :

So, say I have a fitted mesh jacket – is that classic or standard or both? It seems that the market space for the two last categories is very small. Aren’t 95% of the items out there just classic? Somehow I don’t think this solves much of a problem but again, I am confused.

I would say that was Standard mesh avatar myself, as long as it has been designed using the standard fitted mesh model, but I could be wrong. I’m not quite sure where  mesh clothing made prior to the introduction of fitted mesh goes though, it is custom made so probably in the custom/branded category.

However Linden Lab do provide more information in a knowledgebase article, although I feel Linden Lab have missed a trick here in terms of promoting these concepts after reading that knowledgebase article, but I’ll come to that later.

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Apr 052014

This week’s Drax Files Radio hour covers a variety of topics, Oculus Rift, SL Go and the Linden Lab terms of service being the big ticket items.

There’s an interview with Dennis Harper of OnLive about the SL Go pricing changes. Dennis explains the reason for the changes, feedback from surveys, blogs and comments suggested that people love the idea, love the concept and are impressed with the technology, but the only really big problem people really had was with the pricing model.

However OnLive went further than people expected with their pricing changes, in the interview Dennis Harper says that the price they’ve announced is around half of what people said they would pay to use SL Go for a month.This suggests that plenty of people said that they would pay around 20 bucks a month for SL Go, rather that the just under 10 bucks a month that has been announced. Dennis also comments on Second Life being free to play and therefore some resistance around paying for Second Life usage does exist, but it doesn’t exist to the extent that some may think. Discretionary spending in Second Life is the big money maker and SL Go fits firmly into that category.

Jo Yardley talks of her personal experience of using the Oculus Rift in Second Life. Jo is impressed by it, although she points out that if using dev kit 1 the resolution is bad, but the experience is still wonderfully immersive.

Jo also points out that use of the keyboard whilst trying to use the Oculus Rift is pretty much impossible for her, which is something that will eventually need to be addressed. However on a positive note, Jo didn’t experience any nausea. Hower Jo makes the extremely important point that people really need to use The Rift before forming an opinion and that’s really the crux of the issue at this stage. Jo’s feedback and the feedback of those who use the device will be crucial to its development, although as in most technological cases, there will not be a solution that pleases everyone.

However the really big interview this week comes with Richard A Goldberg who has done work for Madpea Games in Second Life. The interview is about and Richard’s views on the Second Life terms of service change from last August.

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Apr 032014

Linden Lab have blogged news of what may well be a very interesting move by Onlive in terms of their SL Go product aimed at mobile devices. The pricing changes include a reduced per hour pricing but more importantly, there’s a monthly subscription plan.

The update prices are :

  • Monthly unlimited usage subscription plan for $9.95US/£6.95UK. No commitment – cancel anytime
  • Reduced hourly rates – only $1US/£0.70UK per hour (the free 20-minute trial remains in effect)

However there’s more, when SL Go was initially launched it was only available to people living in Canada, United Kingdom or United States but now the product is available in 36 countries, including The Vatican City, I wonder if his holiness is popping in now and then. The full list of 36 countries :

Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican City.

These are really positive and brave moves from OnLive, when the product was first launched there was a lot of debate about hourly fees and what many perceived as a 1990′s pricing model. However Dennis Harper of Onlive did say to Draxtor Despres : “We need to study usage pattern and we may be able to in short order offer a subscription package! “

Well it seems they have indeed studied those usage patterns and decided that a subscription package can be offered.

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Mar 292014

Bopete Yossarian has started a thread over at SLUniverse to discuss an article that appeared this week on Gamasutra : Why Facebook should buy Linden Lab. The article is posted by a community member called Nick Harris, rather than a regular member of the Gamasutra staff, the opinions in the article are therefore not the opinions of Gamasutra or its parent company.

The article doesn’t really delve into the reasons why Nick Harris thinks this is a good idea, which sort of undermines the article. However the idea is an interesting one, so is the idea that Microsoft or Yahoo! should buy Linden Lab. The ideas are interesting in terms of discussion but generally lack any real meat on the bones.

The article also falls into the trap of saying :

Facebook have tried to retain its dominance through simple critical mass, if that is where everyone is, if you have to join Facebook to not miss out on invites to your friend’s impromptu parties then their hope is that you will and you won’t mind the data mining they do on you for market research and the targeted advertising. You aren’t in a position to complain, really, as it is a service they are providing to you for free.

This is a pet peeve of mine. Facebook is not free, it’s an exchange of resources. They provide the service, users provide the content, Facebook then realise value from said content. Although there’s no money exchanging hands in terms of basic usage of Facebook, there is a trade of content for service. However that aside, the author really doesn’t make much of a case for Facebook to buy Second Life :

Not only is this primarily a social nexus like Facebook (a place where you can project whatever version of yourself you choose others to see, either using a younger image of yourself, or making an effort to dress up for the photo when you are actually a slob in real life, or use someone else’s image entirely out of low esteem, or some catfish scam), but you are encouraged to create an escapist alter ego through which to indulge your fantasies, to travel without time, cost, or hassle to “see the sights”, to meet new people who share your interests unrestricted by enormous geographical separation.

Whereas I can see to a degree what he’s trying to get at, he seems to be missing a gaping point about the differences between Second Life and Facebook.

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Mar 252014

To fully appreciate the full extent of the slow down in region losses it’s best to turn to an expert. Unfortunately Tyche Shepherd doesn’t blog here, so you’ll have to read me instead. However the good news, I’m basing this post on the expert work of Tyche Shepherd and Tyche has kindly agreed to let me use her charts. Now please remember, these charts are Tyche’s work and copyrighted by Tyche, in other words, they shouldn’t be used without permission.

Ok on with the show.

Private Region Changes 2012 – 2014 (2 years)

Chart Of Private Region Changes 2012 - 2014

Private Region Changes 2012 – 2014

Unfortunately this chart doesn’t display well on a blog this small, you can get a much better view of it on SLUniverse because there when you click the link, it enlarges. This chart shows the change in private regions between 1st Jan 2012 and 29th December 2013, so that’s around 2 years, give or take a few days. Private regions shrunk from 23,857 down to 19,273. A loss of 4,584 regions or 19.2%. That’s an alarming figure but hopefully you can see the slow down. The second half of the chart shows very few weeks where the third line down was reached.

Private Region Changes 1st January 2012 – 23rd December 2012

Chart Of Grid Size Image

Private region changes during 2012

This chart shows the private region changes during most of 2012, 51 weeks of it. Two things to note, the losses during 2012 came in at 2,863, this means the majority of the two year losses came during 2012, it works out at around 62.46% of the two year losses coming during 2012, which of course means, the slow down in private region losses did not get well under way until we hit 2013.

Private Region Changes 30th December 2012 – 29th December 2013

Private Region Changes 2013 Chart

Private Region Changes 2013

Above is the chart for those losses in 2013 and what we can see is that there was a total net loss of 1,719 regions or 8.2% for the year. As I said, this is considerably lower than during 2012 but still probably a little high. The losses are heavily loaded towards the first half of the year, the slow down really starts to become apparent around July and August but as we head into the Autumn we do some weeks where the losses picked up again. None of this really indicated what was to come during the first few weeks of 2014, but the slow down is most definitely apparent.

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