Nov 282014
 

Inara Pey has a post up regarding the new DX Exchange marketplace for Second Life : DX Exchange offers SL Marketplace alternative. The post details a lot of the ins and outs of the new Marketplace but it also points out some of the challenges facing DX Exchange.

The DX Marketplace has an aim :

It is our ambition to create a special place for Pro designers, who make good quality goods, of their own creation to display their collection. A place for them to stand out from the crowd of products and designers inSL.

For the customers, it has to be a tidy, well organized place where they can be sure to find only goods of ‘good standing’.

From a merchant point of view Inara states :

all goods can be sold at 0% commission for the time being (commission will eventually be 4%)

I’m not convinced that undercutting the commission from the SL Marketplace by 1% is really a selling point because commission is only due when an item is sold. I’m sure merchants are happy to pay an extra 1% commission, which in reality costs them nothing, for volume of sales. The reason commission doesn’t really cost merchants anything is because they know if they make a sale that commission is due, so therefore they build that into their pricing. Customers pay the commission in all reality, not merchants. Obviously commission will dictate pricing in many ways, but 5% for free listing is pretty low already. There’s not much wiggle room here.

This would be different if listing fees existed, but they don’t.

However Inara does point out something about DX Exchange’s Marketplace that is interesting :

There are some important points to note about this site when compared to something like the SL Marketplace. In particular, the engine used to power DX Exchange is Magento, and the stores within it are pretty much self-contained e-commerce sites contained within the DX Marketplace “wrapper”. This is important on two counts:

  • Merchants have access to virtually the full range of Magento e-commerce tools. These include not just product listing and sales reports, but options such as customer tracking, , creating and generating custom reports, running a store newsletter and / or blog, a range of CMS functions, setting custom search terms for product finding, and so on. In fact, far too much for a review such as this to cover.

  • Each store actually stands as its own e-commerce site, with its own dedicated URL (if people want to use it), its own shopping cart and its own checkout.

I believe that DX Exchange’s advantage may well be in those dedicated URL e-commerce sections rather than as a direct competitor to the SL Markeplace as a marketplace on its own.

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Nov 272014
 

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! – Robin Linden, former VP of Marketing and Community Development

Second Life grew out of Linden World and it landed with Da Boom. Da Boom in this case being the first region to be born in Second Life.

Da Boom Linden Playground

This quickly grew to sixteen regions :

Da Boom, Ritch, Zoe, Stanford, Federal, Freelon, Minna, Natoma, Taber, Welsh, Clyde, Hawthorne, Shipley, Clara, Varney and Stillman. Those sims are all still there by the way and you can happily explore them.

The first resident, Steller Sunshine, was a busy bee and there’s a climbable beanstalk in Welsh.

Climable Beanstalk

Taber is the home of Fairchang Park which offers freebies and has a lot of old original character to it.

Fairchang Park

The park is also dedicated to Garth Fairchang and there is a bench there with his name on it.

Garth Fairchang Bench

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Nov 262014
 

Outside Royal Retreat

If you want to visit some of the Royal Courts of Second Life a good starting place is the Ning site of : Royal Courts of Second Life. That’s far from the only place but it’s a very good starting point if you want to explore the grandeur and opulence of some of Second Life’s more regal areas. The areas have a definite European feel to them, such as the Italian themed Rocca Sorrentina. This place is considered to be some sort of Royal Retreat.

Inside Royal Retreat

Inside the decor is rather impressive. However these sims aren’t just produced for eye candy, there are literature events, roleplaying and where there’s roleplaying there are content creators assisting with furniture, buildings and of course clothing.

Sanssouci Park Doorway

Sanssouci park captures more of these sort of themes and is a wonderful location to explore. These sort of places need to be seen to be appreciated because I certainly can’t capture shots to do them justice.

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Nov 252014
 

Any predictions on what the future holds for virtual reality theatre?” Draxtor Despres asked MadameThespian Underhill in episode 24 of The Drax Files : World Makers. MadameThespian gave a very interesting answer :

In the future I want motion tracking technology, so that our bodies can be used to flesh out the acting, be free from a keyboard and a mouse. Eventually the way an avatar can be manipulated will be so detailed that it will be like being there in real life, totally immersed. Twenty years from now when everyone is doing this and going ‘Oh wow isn’t this cool’, hey I’ve been doing this in a virtual space since 1997, I’m still here, I love it.

The above quote demonstrates quite a few things. The first being that virtual spaces have been around in one form or another for quite a while now. Another being that the future has a long way to go and a further point is that those who are involved in virtual worlds have different ideas on what the future may hold.

However the most relevant part of the quote as far as this blog post is concerned is to do with body tracking. I’ve raised concerns as to whether people are going to be comfortable wearing headsets, setting up motion trackers and whether people will actually embrace having their movements captured. I’m not totally alone in this view, even enthusiasts of new technologies admit that there are concerns in this area.

Ebbe Altberg was asked by Ben Gilbert of EndgadgetWhat is the greatest challenge that the medium of virtual reality must overcome in the next five years? Ebbe’s answer touches upon these issues of comfort :

Ease of use remains the greatest challenge. In order to truly reach the mainstream, virtual reality experiences will have to be easy, natural and comfortable to create, interact with and consume.

Ebbe also touched upon this on the Endgadget Expand panel : The Future Of VRBeyond Gaming when he admitted that after about half an hour of using the Oculus Rift he feels tired. This isn’t so much about the comfort of wearing the device, it’s more to do with frame rates and resolution in virtual experiences that were not really built with the Oculus experience in mind.

However one could imagine that having to wear headsets or get in tune with a motion sensor may well suit those who have an acting and live performance background, they are familiar with the concepts of dressing up, making eye contact and being fully aware of what their expressions may convey.

Storytelling in virtual reality is a glaring use case that goes beyond gaming and if consumers can afford to get immersed from the comfort of their own home, it’s one that could really take off. We’re in the very early stages of this here but one company who have been happily playing to their peripherals are High Fidelity and they exemplify this yet again in their latest blog post :  Rock-Paper-Scissors Showdown: Using Leap Motion at High Fidelity.

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Nov 242014
 

Looking For Salazar Jack

On September 13th 2012 Salazar Jack went missing after an accident in the Forest Of Kahruvel. This is documented on the Kahruvel website as well as a further update on the Poultry Report from December 2013 where we are told that Osprey Therian went looking for Salazar Jack.

Mysterious communications have been appearing on Twitter recently, so I decided to take a look and started my investigation at the location of the last known sighting of Salazar Jack. However all I really found was a stone pillar with a stickman adorned upon it. I decided to work backwards, indeed I went a long way back. I went to the birth place of Salazar Jack, Nova Albion.

Nova Albion Infohub

The lands of Nova Albion were discovered by Magellan Linden back in 2004 and it does in places have a feel of a land that time forgot. Nova Albion is a set of city sims, Grignano, Miramere, Sistiana and Barcola. Bay City, which was discovered later, is not that far away.

Nova Albion Resident Adverts

There’s a definite nostalgia to the place, there s a display board featuring videos from Torley. There is a resident advertising board and there’s even a prim from Blondin advertising the showcase, which morphed into the Destination Guide.

Nova Albion Street

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Nov 222014
 

show #46: unter den lindens

Episode 46 of The Drax Files Radio Hour sees Draxtor Despres visit Linden Lab HQ in San Francisco whilst Jo Yardley stays in an attic in 1920’s Berlin. Drax gets to talk to the Great Bug Hunter Of Olde Linden Town, in the shape of form of saying hello to Alexa Linden! I’m so jealous, Alexa is a legend and yes she does usually work in the Seattle office.

He gets to talk to Michelle Linden who ensures that Ebbe Altberg doesn’t spend all day on Twitter. He talks to Xiola Linden, who has a very cool hat inworld.

Xiola Linden

He also gets to talk to Ebbe Altberg, Monty Linden who talks about the content delivery network, Brooke Linden who talks about the SL Marketplace and he goes to the basement of the Linden Lab HQ to talk to Shaman Linden and Kona Linden. I used to love playing Monty Mole on the Sinclair Spectrum. Those were the days! Where were we? Oh yes, back to the future. Drax also got a glimpse of the next generation virtual world Linden Lab are producing, whose project name is currently a closely guarded secret, to such an extent that when someone mentions the name in the radio hour, it gets bleeped out and this also meant that an interview with Bagman Linden had to be pulled from the show.

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Nov 212014
 

Finding Marketplace settings in viewer

Linden Lab have blogged that the new Viewer-Managed Marketplace is available on Aditi, better known as The Beta Grid. The blog post informs us that :

The new Viewer-Managed Marketplace (VMM), now available* on Aditi, allows you to easily manage your inventory on the Second Life Marketplace using the Second Life Viewer. Items no longer need to be loaded into the Merchant Outbox or a Magic Box, and are instead sold directly from your inventory.

VMM will allow all Merchants to get off of Magic Boxes in addition to supporting modification of listing inventory directly from the Viewer. While Merchants will still need to go to the Marketplace web site in order to edit listings, they will be able to create listings and list or unlist them from the Viewer.

The blog post is accompanied by a Wiki article and a Knowledgebase Article which both have extra information and instructions on how to use the coming new feature. The Viewer-Managed Marketplace (AKA VMM) addresses some outstanding issues from Direct Delivery. The first is a biggie, VMM allows you to list no copy items. Currently, Direct Delivery does not support no copy items and merchants selling no copy items have had to continue to use magic boxes.

Another issue is that there have been intermittent issues with the Merchant Outbox and VMM addresses those issues too because once this is fully rolled out there will be no need to move items to the Marketplace because they will be being sold directly from your inventory. At this point can I just add, I remain unconvinced that this will end well, but we’ll see!

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Nov 212014
 
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Episode 24 Of Drax Files

Episode 24 of The Drax Files : World Makers features MadameThespian Underhill, Actor-director with the Avatar Repertory Theater and Builder/seller of Victorian homes & items, pianos, harpsichords, pipe organs and scripted music. Then there’s more, MadameThespian is one of those rare beasts in Second Life, she’s a Charter Member! Even Lindens get excited when they see Charter Members. Charter Member status means that someone is rather old in Second Life terms, in this case MadameThespian has a rez date of 18th December 2002.

More importantly Charter Members played a very important role in keeping Second Life afloat during its early days. They paid an upfront fee which I believe guaranteed them a 4096m plot for life with no further land fees. However the upfront fee they paid, around USD$160.00, provided some much needed cash to keep Second Life in development.

Outside Theatre

Virtual worlds, explains MadameThespian, are an extension to the ancient art of live storytelling. The Avatar Repertory Theater have produced many shows over the years including original productions and adaptations of existing works.

They build their own sets and create some of their own items but sometimes someone else makes a better item and they take full advantage of the fact that there are plenty of other content creators in Second Life who create suitable wares for their shows.

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Acting in Second Life

MadameThespian comes from, a thespian background. She was a Chicago based actor through most of the eighties but now lives in the mountains of Montana where she is a member of the Montana Shakespeare company. However there are certain areas of acting where the virtual world provides opportunities for actors where the real world may close doors.

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Nov 212014
 

Linden Lab have done a great job in providing the press with some good images for Second Life related articles. This was exemplified well in a recent excellent interview Ebbe Altberg gave to Dean Takahashi on Venture Beat : Linden Lab explores VR for its next-generation virtual world (interview).

Second Life Image - Island Village

I mean that looks like my kind of village and the next one doesn’t look bad either :

Venice

The main difference between the top and bottom one is that I know where the bottom one is because Ziki Questi added a comment on Flickr. The second photo is of a sim called Venexia. Now obviously this Flickr resource is merely designed to provide decent images of Second Life, rather than the old outdated ones, but for those of us who like to explore, it would be nice if at least the name of the sim appeared.

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Nov 202014
 

Linden Lab have blogged about the reasons for the maintenance this week : The Hardware Issues Behind Recent Region Restarts. The problem, the blog explains, was down to a hardware failure which first manifested itself in July when the hardware failure took down four of Linden Lab’s new generation hosts. These things happen and Linden Lab put it down to, these things happen. I’m not surprised, that would be my first port of call too because you don’t want to think it may be a nasty hardware fault.

However in early October the same thing happened with another four hosts, which would have raised suspicions. A fortnight later the same fault manifested itself with another four hosts, at which time Linden Lab fully realised that this wasn’t just one of those things. Linden Lab’s blog post is very transparent on what happened here and also gives us some insight into how things work server side :

Each host lives inside a chassis along with three other hosts. These four hosts all share a common backplane that provides the hosts with power, networking and storage. The failures were traced to an overheating and subsequent failure of a component on these backplanes.

After exhaustive investigation with our vendor, the root cause of the failures turned out to be a hardware defect in a backplane component. We arranged an on-site visit by our vendor to locate, identify, and replace the affected backplanes. Members of our operations team have been working this week with our vendor in our datacentre to inspect every potentially affected system and replace the defective component to prevent any more failures.

Now the question some may have is “Why didn’t Linden Lab explain this at the start of the week?” The answer I suspect is that Linden Lab wanted to be sure that the issue was being fixed during this maintenance window before informing their customers of the details.

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