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
 

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 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
 
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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Apr 112014
 
Image For Fantasy Faire 2014

Fantasy Faire 2014

Ok first of all a disclaimer, I’m not an organiser of Fantasy Faire 2014, so my information may be out of date! However as it stands, there are no opportunities left for sim sponsors, but there may well be opportunities for event sponsors.

The sim sponsors are :

Cerridwen’s Cauldron, Creators of Fantasy, Dwarfins, Fallen Gods Inc., Fuubutsu-Dou, The Looking Glass, NeoVictoria, Roawenwood and Solarium. The event sponsors are Curious Kitties, Dark Goddess Designs, Epic, .Luminary., L’Uomo and Spyralle.

View From Bridge

So what about creator spots? Well, back on March 15th Sonya Marmurek blogged : CREATOR APPLICATIONS NOW OPEN! In that post Sonya links to the actual creator/Event Sponsor application form, which is a most important document to read as it details the costs and rules for participation.

In an additional blog post on March 26th Sonya wrote :

we do still have some limited space for creators of fantasy and steampunk. Yes, steampunk! We have several steampunk sims this year, so don’t think it’s only about magic and fairies here!

At this point I tried to hit Sonya with a curse of agony, steampunk in fantasy land! Pah! … Oh wait, this isn’t new for Fantasy Faire at all … hmm I better cancel that curse of agony.

Nemofloor

 

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Apr 112014
 
Image For Fantasy Faire 2014

Fantasy Faire 2014

I am miles behind with my coverage of Fantasy Faire 2014, Sonya Murmarek and the team are way ahead of me! For those who are not familiar with Fantasy Faire in Second Life, I advise you to take your time to make yourself familiar with it. On a scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being pretty damn rubbish and 10 being awesome, Fantasy Faire rates as an 11! My favourite Second Life event by a country mile.

So in the next few posts I’ll start catching up with the news so far, hopefully I’m not out of date with the news, from what I can see there are still openings for merchants who want to participate.

The best place to start is with the official press release, which I’ll post below the cut.

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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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