Jul 182014
 

Episode 13 of The Drax Files Radio Hour featured an excellent interview with Richard A. Goldberg. I covered it here : Second Life TOS – Why Bergs Should Collide. I’m not going to go over it all again but Richard made some excellent points on why the TOS was problematic, why Linden Lab should not need all the terms they require, why there should be limitations and he did all this in a very calm and rational manner. Ebbe Altberg should at least listen to what Richard A. Goldberg had to say and then he may understand more of what the issue is.

The Linden Lab blog post on the updated terms of service states :

As part of an update to our Terms of Service today, we have made a modification to further clarify Section 2.3. The updated section still provides Linden Lab with the rights that we need in order to operate and promote Second Life, so you will see that we have retained much of the language as the previous version. However, the updated section now also includes limits that better match our intended meaning, and we hope will assuage some of the concerns we heard about the previous version.

Now the problem arises with the words that have been left in. First of all let’s rewind a little and give Linden Lab some credit for the change they did make, but also let’s rewind further and see what the controversial section said before the changes of last August, a time when it wasn’t remotely controversial :

You agree that by uploading, publishing, or submitting any Content to or through the Servers, Websites, or other areas of the Service, you hereby automatically grant Linden Lab a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, sublicenseable, and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content solely for the purposes of providing and promoting the Service.

I’m struggling to understand why that is no longer suitable, it’s clear, it’s to the point and there’s no ambiguity as to whether it refers to the Second Life service or not. However let’s move on to the controversial TOS and break this down, again, first of all this part :

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)

Now that’s better than before because of the part about being with respect to Second Life, inworld or otherwise. That’s the big plus point from the change, the problem is with the next part of the TOS, which makes absolutely no reference to this limitation.

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Jul 102014
 

On another question, its also unfortunate that in some countries in the EU that gambling is allowed, but because our servers are all in the US these residents cannot gamble. This is something we can fix and we’re working on it. In the meantime, unfortunately no gambling. – Zee Linden 1st August 2008.

The above quote from the then CFO of Linden Lab, Zee Linden (AKA John Zdanowski) was actually in relation to a discussion about Linden Lab annoying the life out of us Europeans by introducing VAT to our bills. Eventually a lot of us realised Linden Lab were the wrong target and I still find the law silly as it applies to Second Life. There are good reasons for collecting VAT for electronic services, but Second Life isn’t a good example. The problem is that the EU regulation simply isn’t flexible enough. However I’m not here to talk about VAT today, I’m here to talk about governance and in particular governance in a virtual world.

The VAT discussion was an example of laws applying to one set of Second Life users based on where they live. However this was only an issue for European residents, it didn’t apply to Americans. The gambling ban on the other hand applied to all Second Life residents, even those who lived in countries where online gambling wasn’t illegal. I should point out here that even in those countries, gambling in Second Life would have been questionable as it was unregulated. However even a licensed gambling outlet would not have been allowed in Second Life because Linden Lab are based in San Francisco.

Now if we go back a bit further in time to the Second Life Community Convention of  August 2007 we can find an old Reuters interview with Philip Rosedale. This interview is interesting because it gives an insight into where Second Life was back then and what they were hoping for. However the section I want to highlight is this exchange :

Reuters: Is there a problem where German laws are more restrictive than American laws on ageplay? And likewise, American laws may be more restrictive than European laws on gambling. Are we moving to the lowest common denominator?

Philip Rosedale: No.

The lowest common denominator is just not what you want to do. It’s not going to happen on the Internet, and it’s not going to happen here. We’re doing what we can as a platform to try to make that the case.

If you want to apply a local jurisdictional law to people, we’re going to make it so you apply that to people who are individual avatars trying to go to one place. That’s what we’re doing with age verification. We’re making that a feature that’s tied to land and people, not a feature that’s tied to the whole system. When we’re confronted with a legal or regulatory matter where we need for legal reasons to enable a certain type of restriction on behavior, we do that as locally as possible and not have a lowest common denominator.

Reuters: So there may be code in the future where your avatar is tied to your real-life nationality and then based on that nationality certain restrictions may or may not come into play?

Philip Rosedale: Right.

If the local restrictions that countries for example are making on avatars, if those restrictions are well-published and transparent and in the public light, I think we’re going to get to a good overall set of choices. Countries will make the right choices about how they want to restrict people’s use in Second Life if they can see what other countries are doing rather than us being the sole decider of what’s right locally.

So we can see here that Linden Lab wanted to be able to restrict behaviour locally. However this is very challenging when Linden Lab are the only governor, more on that later but what fascinates me about this is that the new skill gaming policy is actually going to try and enforce this notion of restricting people’s access to areas and activities based on their local jurisdiction. This has been quite a long time coming.

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Jun 252014
 

Ebbe Altberg (AKA Ebbe Linden) has been engaging with the Second Life community on the official forums. In a forum post Ebbe reiterated that Second Life isn’t closing down, despite the announcement of plans for a new Linden Lab virtual world.

I’m still somewhat at a loss to understand why people seem to be ignoring the fact that Second Life isn’t closing down, but people seem convinced that the new virtual world is a replacement for Second Life, rather than just another virtual world from Linden Lab.

In the forum post, Ebbe stated :

I pretty much only said these things:

We are embarking on a huge project to build a better virtual world from the ground up.

We are not going to constrain how good it can be by forcing some levels of backwards compatability (Sine then I’ve added some detail that identity and social connections and Lindens$ will come across and quite a bit of content as well, but with content we need more time to figure out exactly what will be backwards compatible, people will have plenty of time to see how this plays out and get a chance to try the new while still also hanging out in SL)

We will continue to invest in SL and keep improving and have no plans for any shutdown.

The rest is all speculation that has since then popped up.

That really is pretty much all Linden Lab have said, yet people seem to be reading between lines that don’t exist. Here’s the thing, even if Linden Lab wanted to force migrate people to their new world, a lot of people wouldn’t go because their virtual world love is Second Life, if Second Life closed down some people would give up on virtual worlds, others would move somewhere away from Linden Lab properties and some of course would go to Linden Lab’s new world, but it would be extremely foolish of Linden Lab to close Second Life in the next few years and to be fair to Linden Lab, there are absolutely no signs whatsoever that they intend to close Second Life.

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Jun 242014
 

Back in March 2009 Tateru Nino wrote an article for Massively : Give Us More Worlds Linden Lab. The general point of the article was that Second Life should not be the only virtual world Linden Lab managed. Tateru’s idea was that there could be multiple grids running on Second Life technology and that each world could have different characteristics. However Tateru also wrote :

One-size-fits-all doesn’t just doesn’t work in the mass-market. Otherwise there’d only be one kind of iPod. What the Lab really needs is a number of differentiated ‘world’-products, each offering something a little different.

In October 2011, I wrote a blog on a very similar theme : Multiple Linden Lab Grids For More Virtual Worlds. I also talked of Second Life technology being used for multiple use cases and that Second Life did not need to be the only club in town :

This isn’t to say I feel the main grid should close, the main grid is where it’s currently all at and Linden Lab should nurture and cherish what they have, develop it and make that product an appealing product to current and new users who want that level of freedom and creativity, it remains a wonderful idea. However in terms of wider appeal and getting others interested in their own controlled spaces, Linden Lab could well consider making Second Life the technology the option for those who seek it, rather than Second Life being the only product in town on their servers.

Now Tateru and myself were largely talking about multiple grids using Second Life technology, rather than virtual worlds running on completely unrelated technology. However with news of Linden Lab’s new virtual world plans making the news, I really don’t see why Second Life and the new world can’t exist at the same time. They will simply offer different options and appeal to different people. Obviously both worlds will also appeal to people who want to engage with both worlds but this is no different to how things are now with people who engage with one or more of Second Life, Kitely, Inworldz and Opensim. People are also keeping an eye on High Fidelity.

I’m a bit bemused at the reaction in some quarters to Linden Lab’s announcement on the new virtual world. People are talking of how problematic it will be to migrate. They are talking of how they should be compensated for their Second Life land. They are talking of how higher sales tax fees and lower land tax fees will hinder rather than help content creators. The reason I’m bemused about this is because Linden Lab have not announced that Second Life is closing and that people will have to move to their new world, indeed, as Inara Pey reported, they’ve said :

Does this mean we’re giving up on Second Life? Absolutely not. It is thanks to the Second Life community that our virtual world today is without question the best there is, and after 11 years we certainly have no intention of abandoning our users nor the virtual world they continually fill with their astounding creativity. Second Life has many years ahead of it, and in addition to improvements and new developments specifically for Second Life, we think that much of the work we do for the next generation project will also be beneficial for Second Life.

Now I can understand people being cautious about the future of Second Life, especially those who own a lot of land, but I can’t understand some of the outrage at this point in time. I would have a different point of view if Linden Lab were telling people they must migrate, but that is not the case.

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Jun 122014
 

The Guardian is so famous for it’s typos that it has a nickname of The Grauniad, so much so that http://www.grauniad.co.uk redirects to The Guardian website. However, despite their support for The Liberal Democrats it remains a decent newspaper, more so probably for the left leaning types, but it’s a decent newspaper.

They have also long had an interest in technology and that has included Second Life. Back in 2006 Suart Jefferies and Victor Keegan were talking about their Second Life experiences. Victor Keegan’s experience would later turn a little sour as he got involved in a trademark case regarding use of “SLART” over Second Life art galleries.

However The Guardian has boldly continued to cover all sorts of virtual world issues and has now issued the following call :

we want to hear your favourite virtual places – from a beautiful view in GTA to that 20-million-strong SimCity megalopolis you’ve been building (or possibly destroying). What are the best game cities to live in? The worst? Perhaps you’ve designed one you think would be better than your own city?

Second Life users were quickly on the case using Guardian witness, which revolves around user generated content. 1920’s Berlin, New Babbage and Philomenaville have all made an appearance as favourite virtual cities.

Linden Lab have been tipped off about this by 1920’s Berlin owner Jo Yardley. Linden Lab have blogged about The Guardian call and in doing so, exemplified a degree of spotting a good marketing opportunity when they see one :

This is a great chance to share some amazing Second Life locations with The Guardian’s readers. Whether it’s a place you created personally, discovered (maybe through the Destination Guide?) and love, or just a spot you always find yourself returning to, the Second Life locations that ‘wow’ you are great ones to share to help show off Second Life to the uninitiated.

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Apr 172014
 

Metareality Podcast has returned to the airwaves … well it returned in March but I’ve only just noticed! The third episode in the return was released on April 11th. The good news here is that now we can get an Anchorman style fight between Metareality Podcast and The Drax Files, although as Metareality Podcast has a three person team they won’t be allowed to use William Reed Seal-Foss whom I strongly suspect is really Dr Octopus, which would make the fight unfair anyway!

Also they possibly should do transfers between the presenters. Drax has been on Metareality before, so maybe Jo Yardley could go on Metareality and Qarl could do a guest spot on The Drax Files. Reed would have to stay on Metareality, as I’ve already explained, being Dr Octopus comes with complications.

There’s certainly room in the market for both of these podcasts, particularly as they cover different subjects, obviously they also cover similar subjects but the styles of the two shows are different enough to mean that listening to them both covers enough different ground for them to be worthwhile.

One of the interesting discussions in the latest Metareality podcast is a discussion about the character creation in Black Dragon Online :

This does look quite interesting and character creation is an issue for virtual worlds, but I’ve always found too much choice to be a pain too, sometimes you just want to get on with it.

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Feb 222014
 

One of the things about being a blogger is finding something to write. A lot of the time a blogger finds the material to base their post on elsewhere, … actually this happens a lot. This post will unashamedly use material from someone else. The reasons for this are because the material is cutting, funny and relevant. I’m heading off to Twitter for this.

There’s a lot of advice going around on what Ebbe Linden needs to do to make Second Life awesome. Both SLUniverse and the official Second Life forums have threads full of advice. However one brave soul has been collecting this advice from Twitter users, adding their own, putting their tongue firmly in their cheek and creating a Twitter account of @EbbeNeedsTo.

Now some of these are funny, some of them may not tickle your fancy, you may found the whole thing a bit silly. The first thing to say is that you should ensure that you have your sense of humour turned on if you read that Twitter feed because some of the posts may be about one of your important issues or pet favourites.

For example:

I mean come on, Versu is a brilliant project … that Linden Lab decided to ditch because they don’t think it’s so brilliant and they have a lot more information about it than me! Pah, but hey I can take it, healthy disagreement is good. I mean it could be worse, the account could be poking fun at SLUniverse, which is a site I think has a lot of good information on … oh wait …

Noooooo! However this poking fun at suggestions and ideas is actually quite brilliant in so much as it brings issues to light and also brings to light the fact that we don’t all agree. Healthy disagreement is good. There are many more issues raised, far too many for me to post about here, but I will cover some more.

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Feb 212014
 

Pirates? Ahoy?

Today is the last day to enjoy Cloud Party, the browser based virtual world. The Cloud Party team announced back in January that they would be closing down after the team moved to Yahoo!

We’re excited to announce that the time has come for the Cloud Party team to start our next adventure. We are joining Yahoo! The last two years have been an incredible experience for everyone here. We’ve been continually amazed by your creativity and the worlds you’ve built and shared with us.

Cloud Party will continue to run until February 21, 2014.

Since that announcement there hasn’t really been more to add from the Cloud Party team, there are no end of the world parties being ran, there are no goodbye posts as of yet, the platform is quietly disappearing.

Panic

This isn’t like when City Of Heroes closed, I was quite upset about that even though I hadn’t played it for years. Of course the big reason for that was that I didn’t embrace Cloud Party in the same manner that I embraced City Of Heroes. That was part of the problem for Cloud Party, not that I didn’t embrace it, but that enough people didn’t embrace it.

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Feb 122014
 

It seems very likely that the freedom people have to create local regions or islands within Second Life with different forms of governance will result in many different utopian ‘experiments’.  This is something that will be fascinating to watch, and may even inform decisions about the real world.

Philip Rosedale 13th April 2006 – INTERVIEW WITH PHILIP ROSEDALE, SECOND LIFE

In my opinion the solution is focusing a lot more on letting players make and be content for each other. Battlegrounds are an excellent example of an Evergreen style of content where it’s the players themselves that actually create the content. Auction houses are another example. So are things like storytelling tools in SWG.. or the brilliant music system in LOTRO. Building systems into the games that let the players interact with each other in new and unique ways gives us the ability to watch as the players do stuff we never anticipated. We’ll see a lot more creativity in action if the players are at the center of it. Imagine an MMORPG of a massive city.. and the Rogue’s guild is entirely run by players. Where the city has an entire political system that is populated by players who were elected by the playerbase.

John Smedley 11th February 2014 – The Sandbox MMO

I’ve opened with the above quotes to demonstrate firstly that eight years is not as long in technology circles as many think. Secondly it’s to emphasise that sandbox concepts are spreading and are going to create virtual worlds galore. John Smedley is the president of Sony Online Entertainment and in the blog post I’ve linked, makes excellent points about the power and potential of a sandbox MMO. Sony Online Entertainment are really starting to impress me lately, Everquest Next Landmark will allow user created content.

They are also dipping their toes into the water of allowing players to sell content. They are bringing together some of most wonderful concepts of Second Life in a more controlled environment, but they also recognise the beauty of such an environment.

So why is it that when we see talk of sandboxes and user generated content, the media shy away from talking of the ultimate sandbox that Second Life is? Why is it left to people such as Draxtor Despres to highlight the many wonderful use cases of Second Life via The Drax Files? Part of the problem of course is the mainstream media who don’t want to talk about the brilliant sandbox that Second Life is when they can create seedy headlines instead. This is why people don’t realise there are Orcs in Second Life!

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Feb 082014
 

On the 10th October 2007 the Reuters news agency in Second Life published a news story : IBM, Linden Lab seek open borders for virtual worlds.

IBM and Linden Lab said on Tuesday they will work on ways to let people use a single online persona in different online services.

Interoperability is emerging as a key goal of the nascent virtual world industry, which attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in investment on the hopes that video-game graphics and rich 3-D environments will supplant flat Web pages.

The idea was that you’d be able to create an avatar in one virtual world and take that avatar to other virtual worlds. This was an extremely interesting development. There’s a quote in that article from then Vice President of business at Linden Lab, Ginsu Yoon:

“When you talk about avatars going in and out of virtual worlds, we truly believe that expands the market …..It’s not a situation where there is a fixed pie and everyone is fighting for slices. It’s really key to making the market bigger.” 

So Linden Lab were interested and within a year, further exciting developments would be unveiled. On the 8th July 2008 … I think .. American dates are arse about face, yes I’m sure they mean 8th July 2008, anyway on this date, Hamilton Linden revealed that a major breakthrough had been achieved in Virtual Worlds :

This is a historic day for Second Life, and for virtual worlds in general. IBM and Linden Lab have announced that research teams from the two companies successfully teleported avatars from the Second Life Preview Grid into a virtual world running on an OpenSim server, marking the first time an avatar has moved from one virtual world to another. It’s an important first step toward enabling avatars to pass freely between virtual worlds, something we’ve been working toward publicly since the formation of the Architecture Working Group in September 2007. These are still early days, however, so amid all the excitement, we thought it would be helpful to clarify exactly what we’ve done — and what still lies ahead.

There was even a video, directed by Torley. The existence of the video of course led to accusations that the whole thing was faked, that the OpenSim grid landing never really happened and people pointed out that a flag was waving when it should not have been as there is no air in the OpenSim atmosphere. Others suggested that there should have been a crater or at least some imprints from the landing from one distant virtual world to another. However I disagree with the conspiracy theorists, this really happened and here’s the video to prove it:

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