Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Modern Classics @ StyleHive

ContentConfessional, a blog about in-world design (primarily furniture and the sorts) will now be carried over to SLOG. You can also read it at


The StyleHive fashion show went off last weekend, truely one of the highlights was the actual venue of the event, built by none other than Aimee Weber. She recreated some modern classics in SecondLife for seating during the swanky show.These peices are now available for purchase in world!

The prim work is awesome, she did an amazing job capturing the shapes of peices such as the Luna Lounger, its harder than it looks to make things like that with prims!

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Also as alaways amazing texture work to create the fabrics these classics are required to carry.
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And of course the little baked texture details really give it a cool feal.

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I also really liked the poses in them, you of course can't tell in the pictures but they are animated sits with subtle movements so you dont just sit like a statue.All the poses and animations were done by Kiari LeFay.

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Go check it out! I didnt take pictures of all the peices, but thier is some increadible work there.

StyleHive Headquarters, Rivulet (68, 16, 28)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Comments on hold

Note: Some of the tweaks we made to the blogger template seem to have broken the word verification feature. We tried having comments open without word verification, but we have sadly been found by the spammers. So until we figure out how to turn the verification feature back on (assuming any of us have time to figure it out) comments are sadly turned back off. Very annoying, but such is the state of the Net.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Designer Spotlight: Fallingwater Cellardoor, Simone Stern and hyasynth Tiramisu

For the second installment of the Designer Spotlight, I sat down with Fallingwater Cellardoor, Simone Stern and hyasynth Tiramisu (listed in alphabetical order and oldest to youngest in SL time). These are three talented designers who provide an interesting spectrum of styles. We did not have a huge amount of time to go into depth with three people, but the conversation took some interesting turns, and we ended by listening to each creator discuss a new or favorite item. The below has been edited for clarity and flow.

Forseti Svarog: I would like to kick off with a short intro from each of you. What you focus on here in SL?
Simone Stern: *cricket cricket*
Fallingwater Cellardoor: ok I’ll start because I’m the oldest
Fallingwater: I run 2 businesses -- Shiny Things which is mostly shoes and jewelry and Fallingwater Flowers which is garden flowers and bouquets and related things -- and it's all my full time job
Simone: I'm the head cheerleader for the store Simone! I design clothing. I'm also teamed up with hyasynth Tiramisu on a joint venture for limited releases. We hope to make it long term. And I am a member of Prim Divas, a collaborative effort of designers. This is also my full time job.
hyasynth Tiramisu: And since I'm new , I get the simple response. *winks*
Simone: "Ho, my name is Bunny... I like cats, and Bon Jovi, and Payless Shoes.."
Fallingwater: haha
Simone: *ducks*
hyasynth: I am the creator/designer for ~silentsparrow~ which is for the moment is a women's clothing line. ;) As Simone mentioned before...we are collaborating on a line of clothing as yet to be named :)
Fallingwater: bunnyhos

FS: can I ask what tools you all use?
Fallingwater: I mostly do prim work, but also use Photoshop to make my own textures. I also love my pen tablet!
FS: I know Simone uses gimp primarily no?
Simone: Yes!
FS: How about you hya?
hyasynth: For the most part Photoshop, I also use Adobe Illustrator for the manipulation of lace/ruffle pieces if the need presents itself. And long live the tablet! *smiles*

Fallingwater, Simone, and hyasynth

FS: what do you think of the fashion market in SL right now? is it too crowded? are there opportunities for newcomers? is it fun?
Wow is it crowded. :) But that's a good thing, I think.
I don't think it's too crowded, there's a ton out there but there's always room for more high-quality original stuff
Well as a newcomer I think there are plenty of opportunities for new designers. :) Everyone has their unique perspective to bring here.
Yeah, I still vote for saturated, but the reason I say that's a good thing is that it offers shoppers a lot more selection, and puts creators in the position of having to be even more creative.
FS: what have your big challenges been hya?
For the most part...self confidence. With so many established long-term designers it can feel very clique-ish.
Fallingwater: on the other hand, look how you've been welcomed by us established people, hya!
hyasynth was typing that :)
Fallingwater: sorry:) I type too fast!
hyasynth: Yes Fally, and Simone and Hosey, and Zyrra to name a few have been wonderful :)
hyasynth: But I consider myself blessed... to have met them. I spent many a month with my little 512 plot and store with no contact with other designers ;)
FS: how did you meet them hya?
hyasynth: Simone I met in Fallingwater's Associates store.
Simone: Yep. The day of the prim skirt lesson :D
hyasynth: I think I had just stopped by to take a look at the new build and Simone was there.

FS: Fally do you do any marketing?
Fallingwater: I've only recently started marketing, with an ad on snapzilla... and experimenting with the classifieds. It's my weak point, marketing.
FS: You're not alone in that Fally... common with creative people. Do ya'll think a single main shop works best or lots of locations?
Fallingwater: For my flowers, a single main shop is the only practical thing. My main shop is important as a showcase but my connection with more successful designers has been enormously helpful in getting my work out there
Simone: Depends on what stage you're in and whether you've connected with more established designers.
FS: hmm yes Simone, I can see that. How about for you now?
Simone: For me at this point it is better that I draw people to my main location to see the bulk of my work. There's really no way to effectively show all I have done in a little rental spot with prim limits, etc.
FS: how about random rentals around the grid?
Fallingwater: traffic to my main shop is growing though. Random rentals are less valuable, I’ve found.
Simone: Connecting with other designers is essential, though you are better off showing your things in a store that doesn’t carry anything like what you already do.
Fallingwater: you don't think there's synergy when you're with people who do similar things?
FS: how about renting in malls?
Simone: Malls are okay when you're starting out. They get your work seen, and that's the thing: to get your work seen.
hyasynth: I think it is best to limit the amount of stores you have a consumer, if I see a shop too often I'm likely to not stop in. The Starbucks effect maybe?
Simone: *chuckles* Not me, man at one time I had like 40 locations. It was insane on update new items day. It worked short term, though, in getting my things seen.
hyasynth: 40 Wow… I would be doing nothing but flying, especially before p2p
Simone: I did a lot of flying. =/

FS: do the forums work or help?
Fallingwater: yes
Simone: Yep, I think they do, to a certain extent.

FS: let me change gears. What drives you to do what you do? Why is it fun? IS it still fun?
Simone: Yes, creation is still fun for me. I love making things that I envision come to life.
hyasynth: Well for me it's really exciting. To be able to create something and have people want to buy it and adore it is so rewarding. There are few ways in RL to expose so many people to your artwork and get immediate feedback.
Fallingwater: it's still fun for me too. When I started in SL I got hooked on building. I never imagined I’d make it a business. I’m always finding new challenges and new ways to express myself. And yeah, the fact that people want it is great.
FS: that feedback loop can be rewarding. It's hard to create in a silo. Simone, what keeps you going in the creative process?
Simone: I haven't figured that out yet. There are days that I absolutely HATE the thought of opening GIMP, and yet there I am, dinking around, drawing. At this point I seem to be trying to create without deliberately setting out to create something, if that makes sense.
Fallingwater: Simone I think that's the way to do it. I go through uncreative periods so I just force myself to play with prims and I end up coming up with stuff
Simone: I get a lot of ideas in dreams, I wake up with solutions for design obstacles I'd had the previous day. Honestly very little of this is 'conscious'.
Fallingwater: wild
hyasynth: I haven't reached the point where it's difficult....yet.
FS: nice, hya. I hope it keeps flowing.

FS: do any of you work in RL mediums? fabric? paint? sculpture? etc
Fallingwater: nope
Simone: Yep -- knitting, crochet, tatting, needlepoint, sewing... I loved all of it.
hyasynth: I paint whimsical birds and do illustrations of fey creatures. My outside artwork has gone on the backburner since I’ve started creating here though.
Fallingwater: and you use the word fey!
Fallingwater: I don't have the patience for RL crafts. Somehow SL is different. For me working with prims is somewhat an engineering challenge. There are rote aspects to what I do, but it's puzzle solving too. That's what keeps it engaging.
Simone: Sewing, tatting, detail work like this... demands an incredible amount of focus and patience. It can take months to make a single item. It was almost a test of will, with me, and I just was determined to not let a slip of cloth or a piece of thread kick my butt. :D In the process, I think I developed even more patience and focus.

FS: let me flip the earlier question around: what *bothers* you about being in fashion in SL?
Fallingwater: nothing bothers me!
hyasynth: is the men's mesh an appropriate answer? :)
FS: For example, all the finger pointing about "who stole what" bothers me, unless it's a clear-cut theft situation like your belt Fallingwater
Fallingwater: oh I decided if things like that happen again I’ll let them slide
FS: can I ask you to speak more on that?
Fallingwater: it feels petty, I ended up feeling petty. My work can stand on its own, it doesn't matter what other people do.
hyasynth: The original will always have the genuine quality of inspiration. :)
Simone: Word gets around, though, about who is the originator of something. Either way, copied or not, it plays in the originator's favor. People get around to coming to see the work of the innovator.
hyasynth: Well not having experienced someone "stealing" design… I'm not sure how I will react. I'm sure Fally and Simone will help me see things in perspective though.
Simone: Don't worry, hya, your turn's coming. :) You're too good at what you do to NOT be 'borrowed' from. ;D
Simone: The best way to handle it is to go to a friend that you KNOW has the discretion to keep his or her mouth shut, and bitch. No posting in the forums, no fit throwing. Blow off your steam with friends, and then go back to creating the NEXT innovative thing.

FS: I know Simone's been working with prims in clothing. Do you do prim work too, hya, or stick to the texture side of things?
hyasynth: I've made two prim gowns, a feather plume, and a wee little top hat. Prims are a challenge as I am very much a two dimensional artist...but hanging out with these two is good motivation to give it a try. ;)
Fallingwater: I find clothes-making to be incredibly hard, that's why I had to start making shoes! There were almost none I wanted to wear. Same with jewelry actually.

At this point we shifted to discussing an individual item presented by each designer.

Simone: this lace shirt I am wearing -- I LOVE this shirt.
hyasynth: the scalloped edge on the neckline is perfectly executed Simone
Simone: this is one of the things I am most proud of.. the detail, the shading, the ... sheerness that seems to make the shirt appear to float away from the skin. This one almost didn't go to sale. I walked around with it in my inventory for months :D
Fallingwater: why?
Simone: Well, look back away from this top. Can you see the detail till you zoom?
Fallingwater: it's subtle, but still has enough variation that you can tell it's fancy.
Simone: It also took days and days of work :D
Fallingwater: I can imagine
Simone: One piece with 30 or so hours in it. That's NUTS.
Fallingwater: we're all nuts
Simone: So. I gave it to a few friends, and left it at that for a while :D And it still doesn't sell well. I think two people have bought it :D Just goes to show that what I think is good isn’t going to be popular with others. That is one of the many aspects of design here that keeps me humble.
hyasynth: I love it when something you don't think is good enough becomes a product because your friends and passers-by insist it's great. We really are too harsh on ourselves sometimes.
Fallingwater: yeah, some of my favorite creations haven't sold well
Simone: It's subjective. Art is subjective. And we as artists need to decide whether we're creating to convey something to ourselves (designing in a silo) or if we're creating to convey something to others. I decided I am not here for me expressly. I wish to share, and be a good artistic communicator.
hyasynth: I alternate between outfits, or try to ... It's hard for me as of yet. Separating the two is very new for me…never having produced art for a commercial market outside of SL.

FS: do you want to walk through your process of creation on that shirt?
Simone: I actually started out trying to make undies for another set I was working on. But my mind somewhere took a left turn and I went in another direction.
Simone: About creating this shirt.... sometimes when I am working on something, my head, or my mind, whichever, 'tilts'. It's like I'm seeing it from another perspective, and off I go, following that perspective. My better works usually happen that way.
FS: how about the creation process for the shirt? did you draw from scratch, collage from a photo? grab from net sources?
Simone: Oh, I started with drawing. I always do.
Simone: I get an outline and start to fill in the lines, either with hand painting or textures. Once that's done I go through and add shading or whatever, by hand or with a filter. If I'm happy with the end result, I load it to SL, and once there, make a decision about whether it's shite or not. :D

hyasynth: This is my favorite outfit so far...though I think the gowns Simone and I are working on may trump it. There is a Circus that performs every year around Halloween here. Very much a Tim Burton inspired performance. The costuming is always amazing. So the idea of a "gothic" circus outfit kept running about in my head. This was a matter of create or go insane thinking about it!
Fallingwater: what do you love about it?
hyasynth: Well it's one of the few times where the idea in my head made it to SL completely.
Fallingwater: well done -- that's hard!
hyasynth: *nods* impossible for the most part. thank you :)
FS: what was your creation process?
hyasynth: *smiles* in general I start with the base "fabric" -- I tend to create like it's real clothing, even though it's not needed obviously. I hand drew the striped pattern ..aged it with paintbrushes... tinted it to look a bit more moth eaten. Like Simone, it's a lot of hand drawing. The plume is the first prim anything I made in game beyond a wall :)
Fallingwater: the folds on the back of the skirt, are they hand painted?
hyasynth: *paint and motion blur and paint and motion blur and stretch" over and over and over. More than I would like to admit to.. :)
Fallingwater: they look awesome. I've tried doing drapes/folds so I can imagine the time it took.
hyasynth: I only wish I had saved it in it's original un-edited form ;) First lesson for anyone making clothes here should be...if you think you can use it later save it! haha
hyasynth: This outfit just makes me feel happy. :) Also not very popular either. Though I'm not surprised not much call for "gothic circus performer" here.
FS: any other lessons to pass on to other clothes makers hya?
hyasynth: Read the forums :)
Simone: HA! I would tell them to avoid the forums like the PLAGUE.
hyasynth: Fally and Robin and Chip and many others are the sole reason I didn't go insane learning to make clothes.
FS: you mean the design & texture forum then?
hyasynth: ok read the Design and Textures Forum
FS: any other advice hya before I let you off the hook? Don't be shy
Simone: *coughdontgiveupcough*
Fallingwater: haha

Fallingwater: ok hmm, talking about shoes… I spent 5 days on these, including 1 1/2 days choosing just the right colors and making the textures, plus some thought in my 'off time'. I wanted them to be perfect -- no flaws, as much as possible. I'd been wanting to make pointy toes for a while but didn't have a technique I was happy with. After my last project I gave it another shot and came up with something just right.
Fallingwater: one thing I try to do is think about how a real foot is shaped and bent, and force the prims to work for that. SL feet are horrible so you've kind of got to fool the system into making real looking shoes. I've gotten better at that over time as I make more shoes and refine my techniques.
Simone: *nods* Same with the SL female torso. Don’t get me started on the inaccuracies of SL boobs. =/
FS: do you texture as you work or after the prim work is done?
Fallingwater: usually after. I can reuse textures I’ve used before, but I usually find myself refining those too and making new colors. I'm weird, I think some colors are only good for some shoes, so like I may try a color and not like it or try one and revise it 3 times before its right

FS: I find it interesting how different people do prim and texture work.
Fallingwater: oh for large builds I sorta texture as I go along. I can't envision my work without that. I can't see where it's going without that, but for shoes it's easier.
FS: do you do all your own textures? or purchase any?
Fallingwater: I do all my own...with jewelry for gems I photosource and modify. I've made about 1000 different metal textures from scratch and they all suck in some way
FS: lol it's hard without dynamic light. Do you have any lessons for those starting out in any kind of fashion area?
Fallingwater: toughest question yet
Fallingwater: make what you love and be patient and experiment with prims as much as you can stand if you're doing prim design. It takes time to learn the subtleties of what you can do. There's some good info about microprims on the forums. Don't expect whatever you do to be easy money.

FS: does anyone have any additional lessons for new people to add before we wrap?
Simone: Hmm, that's a big one! There are all sorts of people who will tell you that you suck, but not how to make better. Determining from early on you're not going to give up till you CAN convey what your inner vision is telling you to create gets you through the 'I suck' stage.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

So, you wanna be in business - thoughts on SL project management startups from someone who's been there

Cristiano gave me the idea to write a post about going into business for yourself in SL a long time ago, but as I hit a new stage in my SL-related career, I thought I'd take the time now and look back on what it took to get here, and offer what paltry advice I can to residents who may be considering the move themselves.

What I won't cover in this piece is the uniquely-SL creation of your own inworld business of content for sale to all - the clothing, furniture, prefabs, knick-knacks, and scripted gadgets that we all comb the classifieds for. Mostly because I never did that type of business successfully myself. There's a whole other set of personal rules to follow - mainly consistantly producing product and updating your stores - that I never managed to get the hang of.

Write about what you know, as they say, and what I know the most about is project development and content creation on a client-by-client basis, for a specific project goal. I started out as freaked-out and noobish as anyone else on the grid, totally intimidated by the "big names" that had been around much longer than I. But, as fate would have it, my talents and my goals coincided with the arena of utilizing SL for project development, and with added time and practice and a damn good business partner, it paid off.

First off: it sounds great when you're in the heady stages of SL addiction to make SL your RL workplace. And, frankly, it has its perks. But just like any other job, you have to take into consideration what is going to be a good fit for you personally, both what you can handle and where your talents lie. Just because something sounds like a dream job doesn't necessarily make it the perfect job for you. And working in SL is just that - work. If you don't want the shine to wear off your "SL as rapturous enjoyment" or "SL as awesome place to hang out with my friends", you may want to reconsider if you want the grid to be the place you HAVE to log into as opposed to the place you WANT to log into. If SL is your job, then you're still working, just in a different location. You have to enjoy the work you do.

If you can stomach that, your next step is identifying your talents. Mine are texture work, first and foremost. I can build, but not near the level of a lot of SL talents out there. I have 7 years of working in Photoshop professionally that I could apply to learning the ins and outs of texture application in SL - and there's quite a bit to learn to get good at it. But the real bonus skill that worked in my favor was that I also had over three years as project manager and lead developer at my last RL job - essentially, I was head of my department, which meant I handled everything, from selling clients to developing project timelines to interpreting what the client wanted to creating the product itself to final delivery and followup customer service. I can't stress the importance of those skills enough. If you're interested in project development, you're on the front lines repping your business to people that expect professionalism and results.

Mad bonus points: find the best talent inworld you can find and work with them, hopefully get them to join your team as well. No one person can do everything. I was lucky enough to have Makaio cross my path, and our goals coincided. Everything I can't do, he can do in spades. We complement each other very well, and together we were able to offer a wide variety of services, to the point where naming ourselves a "project development team" wasn't so out of the question.

The next steps are the hardest: don't be afraid to devote the time and energy a startup business requires to succeed. Unless you can function on 4 hours of sleep a night and ignore everything else going on in your life, working a regular full time job and starting up a new one at the same time is almost impossible. I need a full 8 hours, but my living situation allowed me a few months leeway where I could quit my job and devote all my time to making my SL business succeed. Of course, I wanted to get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible too - your requirements may vary.

Coming soon: Part 2, or I have a business, now how do I *get* business?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

How to "corner a market" in Second Life

Maybe you did not realize it yet, but the prices of a certain type of land in SL recently doubled! Fresh waterfront parcels that could be bought for a little more than 9L$ per sqm a week ago are now 15L$ per sqm and more. The most attractive parcels go for 19L$ per sqm or so. Yep, this all happened over the weekend, or better yet: in a single night.

"How can this be?", one might ask. Easy. A single land business group, bought up (nearly) all available waterfront land a week ago and reset the prices according to the new pricing. Waterfront parcels which for some reason were not grabbed up in this night were raised in price by their old owners - why should this land be cheaper than the rest of waterfront in SL, the owners thought. And the latest round of auctions for new land already reflected the new pricing, too. Sims with a long waterfront sold for more than 2,000 US$ - prices which have not been seen at the auctions since the Killing of the Telehubs.

Auction results from the night of Saturday, the 11th or March

This is interesting - even to those not in the land business and not interested in buying waterfront anytime soon - because it shows how easily some markets in the SL economy can manipulated; or "controlled" if we want to use a more neutral word.

The Rules of the Game
Actually, what happened is a very old scheme in business, which is called "cornering the market". It goes as follows:
  1. You identify a rare commodity; preferably one where the supply is limited and there are always times when demand outpaces supply.
  2. You secure possession of a large chunk of this commodity. A good idea is to try for at least a third of the world supply.
  3. You start selling the commodity at a significantly higher - or constantly rising - price.
  4. You wait patiently.

    What happens at this point is usually, that the other owners of said commodity realize the new profit potential and start raising their prices, too.

    Next, new speculators enter the market. They see the rising prices and want to take part in the bonanza. Demand for the commodity gets bigger and - simple rules of supply and demand - prices rise even higher.

  5. You sell your stockpiled inventory.
  6. You live happily ever after from the huge profit you made between the price in Step #1 and #5.
This is a strategy which has been tried and tested a lot in the First Life economy. The most famous case in the last years (at least to my memory) was practiced by the Hunt Brothers, Oil Billionaires, who in the early 1980s tried the scheme with silver. It was said that at one time they owned more than a third of the silver in the whole world.

Like in most of the cases before, the story ended slightly before step #6 with the bankruptcy of the Hunt brothers. This is not always the case. There were examples where at least some players in the game succeeded to make huge profits. As usually the timing is most important: when to liquidate.
Nelson Bunker Hunt

Is it really this simple to get stinking rich?
No, cornering the market in First Life most often needs either huge amounts of money or lots of criminal energy - or both. A famous quote of one of Nelson Bunker Hunt was "A Billion dollars isn't what it used to be". Even scarce resources are so abundant usually (and expensive) that we are talking about a starting capital of 100s of millions or some billions of US$. Depending on how you do it, it can be seen as illegal. So you not only have to accept the risk of going bankrupt but of ending in jail, too.

The SL Version
Contrary to the situation in First Life it is astonishingly easy to implement such a scheme in Second Life. First: while SL seems to be huge to us humble residents, our world - and its economy - actually is rather small. The land market probably is one of the biggest. But the whole land market wasn't the target of this move. Land is not really scarce in SL, and trying to corner the overall land market would require a lot more financial resources and risk before you got to a point where you could dictate prices.

The waterfront market is different. Only a small portion of the land coming online each month is waterfront - especially if you want mainland. Of course Linden Lab could bring more land online in the coming months. But they would have to change their policy for creating land completely to "produce" more waterfront. And as waterfront is the "dream land" for many residents, demand is always high.

So we have a situation where demand remains high but the total sub-market is relatively small. I did not have the time to actually survey the market, but making a rough estimate I would say that it did not cost more than a six or low five figure sum (in US$) to buy up all the waterfront - in addition to all the land the group already owns.

Will it work out?
Hard to say. As I mentioned, most of the time these schemes do not work in First Life economy. So why would someone try it again in Second Life?

Because there are some unique aspects that might make it work:
  1. The market is really small (in RL terms). So you don't need to gamble all of your money and still control well over 50% of the market. Such opportunities are rare in First Life.
  2. Customers who try to avoid the expensive mainland and move to rent on private sims fill the pockets of the main player in this game too. is already the biggest owner of private sim space in Second Life (a lot of waterfront here). The group already was the largest owner of "bulk sales" land, too - which accidentally features a lot of waterfront. Which leads to the last advantage:
  3. The group starting this move already owned more then 50% of the market in question before this newest game started.

A piece of land like this (8192 sqm) costs nearly 160,000 L$ now. Maybe we have to get used to it.

So, do we have to live with the new prices? Maybe. It mostly depends on what the Baby Barons will do. Many of them will consider this move advantageous for themselves (it is, short term) and "go with the flow". They can't undercut Anshe large scale (she would simply buy the land and mark it up). Undercutting these prices may be hard after all, because first you need to win the land at the auctions to resell it and prices at the auctions are determined by the expected valuation after the land is prepared. So you would have to buy high and sell low -- not a good idea.


Dear Readers, please don't get me wrong. Nothing that Anshe did (and where most competitors willingly followed in synch) is "illegal". There are no rules governing business in SL. Everything that is possible is legal. Everyone has the right to price their goods at whatever he or she thinks its worth, of course.

I don't think that it is a good sign for the maturity of the SL economy that such a strategy can be implemented so easily, though.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The SL Economy in Review – 2006 February

February was a relatively uneventful month in SL, IMHO - at least, as far as those events touched the SL economy. There was a constant stream of updates (scheduled now every Wednesday) and no lack of drama at the forums. But, looking back to the past month I only can identify four major topics of relevance to the economy of SL as a whole:
  • SLs Growth is slowing down
  • The End of the "Land Bulksales Experiment"
  • Inflation or no Inflation
  • A Bold Move on the Waterfront Market

The Cold Facts - SLs Growth is Slowing Down
In the last month the official population of Second Life grew by 15% from 130,000 to more than 150,000. Sounds impressive at first. But only, if you don't take into account that the growth rate in the previous months was more like 20% per month or above.

The Number of residents online at 8pm every day

Even more dramatic is the slowdown for "inworld population" (the number of concurrent users online at a given time). This growth rate was down to 5% per month at the end of February (down from 15% - 20% in November, December and January).

I don't have any good suggestions for the cause of this slowdown. Maybe it is just seasonal. Maybe the outphasing of the Developers Incentive comes into effect (less camping chairs?). If this trend stabilizes it might be very important for anyone planning medium term projects inworld. The difference between a growth rate of 5% per month and 15% per month is one between a factor of 1.8 and one of 5.35 over the course of a year!

The average daily trading volume at the LindeX now grows by some 17% to 18% per month. This is down from growth rates of more then 20% in January. Daily trading volume hovers around 6 Million L$ these days (more than 21,000 US$) compared to 5 Million L$ per day in January. Peaks are at over 7 Million L$ at the weekends.

The decline of the exchange rate was temporarily stopped in February. 1 US$ bought you between 275 and 280 L$ during most of February. The new functionality for buying L$ integrated into the client lead to some increased demand and a rising exchange rate in mid February. At the end of the month it was nearly back to 280.

The End of the Land Bulk Sales Experiment
The (in)famous Land Bulk Sales Experiment from January (the sale of fully terraformable mainland sims to residents in huge blocks) was not continued in February. While Linden Lab has never said that this variant of the land auctions would be available forever (it was an "experiment"), it is hard to see this as a sign of success. Only three groups participated in the experiment. The larger block sizes were not contested at all. And the biggest chunk by far went to one bidder already dominating the land market in SL.

Maybe even more less satisfactory then the level of competitiveness were the results in the land produced. Although the new sims are connected to the main continent, most of them were terraformed in a relatively monotonous style optimizing for value (waterfront) and easy resell-ability. That is completely understandable from the buyers point of view. It would be naive to expect anything else. But still, it is hard to see connected continents on the mainland extended in this way; especially since there were very visible borders between the different land barons areas.

Consequently the new direction of LLs strategy for land creation by residents now seems to be focused even more on private sims - and large clusters of them like Anshe's Dreamland. Some of the new features for version 1.9 are clearly aimed in that direction.

Typical bulk sales land "optimized for sell-ability" (developed by CyberLand now sold by

While it might be a bit early to already think about it, the biggest question that comes to mind with this development on the horizon seems to me: Will this further increase the fragmentation of the SL society and market place?

If it does, like Gwyneth Llewelyn fears, this might have interesting consequences for the retail business. In the past, shopping in SL shared some similarities with physical shopping in First Life. There was a chance to accidentally discover a shop while flying over land or strolling around. The implementation of direct teleporting already has led to a situation where residents can teleport directly to any shop they have "found", look around a little and then tp on to the next one. "Physical proximity", malls, shopping districts etc. are already less important than they were in previous versions. And you have to teleport a lot! The flagship stores of most successful designers are now on their own islands usually. This has some advantages - but "strolling around" is hardly possible anymore. And for the retailers this means that you have to get customers to your shop by using the classifieds or other means of marketing.

With residential areas moving to private sims more and more this (especially marketing) could get even more important in the future. And the available means to do marketing are woefully inadequate. On the other hand, local communities might develop which tend to frequent local stores and local sites for entertainment and socializing more intensely than those on other "continents".

Inflation or no Inflation?
While this is no measurement of inworld "value", the L$ lost more than 10% of its value in relationship to the US$ between November and January. There was some heated debate going on at the forums if this constitutes "inflation" or not (it does not) and what are the reasons for the ongoing devaluation. The latter is a question that is hard to decide. There might be many reasons, actually - like the recovering exchange rate after the addition of the new "Buy L$" functionality clearly shows.

But for all those who have to convert large amounts of L$ to US$ this devaluation is an incentive to raise prices. Luckily - for the consumers of SL - changing prices is a very time consuming job in SL. Any retailer who uses many vendors in many locations will be very reluctant to adapt prices regularly. It would take hours and hours to do so. Every time you bring out a new product you have to decide on its price, though. And for all those utilizing networked vendors price changes are easier at least (if not easy). And these kind of systems enjoy rapidly growing popularity in SL.

that's why it is hard for me to believe, that the devaluation of the L$ at the LindeX will NOT lead to inworld inflation after some delay time. And, while I lack the resources to do large scale market research in the retail market, I got the impression lately that goods like clothing, furniture, certain poseballs etc. did get a little more expensive on average. This is a very slow and gradual process of course, though, which is hard to measure objectively.

A Bold Move on the Waterfront Market?
There is no doubt about rising prices on the land market, though, or - to be more specific - in the market for the most desirable land in SL: waterfront.

Since last weekend (OK, I admit, this was already in March), waterfront property on the mainland costs at least 15L$ per sqm - up from 9L$ or 10 L$. Many properties now list for nearly 20L$ per sqm. Mind you: this are not some special parcels or some crazy owners setting up one or two parcels at ridiculous high prices. This is the new norm for waterfront!

The raise from 10L$ to 15L$ or more happened overnight on Thursday or Friday! It seems like Anshe or other officers from her group took a quick survey of the marked in that night, bought up all available parcels and set the new prices. The rest of the Land Barons quickly followed suit of course.

This relatively unspectacular piece of land (8192 sqm) now goes for 160,000 L$ (click on the picture and zoom in.)

After only a few days it is unclear how the market will react to this move. But if I look at the numbers and scenarios available I have to say that this strategy at least could be successful! I wonder what will happen if residents realize that this category of land has risen 50% in price - or in other cases nearly doubled. But it is a perfectly legal move of course, especially in SLs completely perfectly liberal economy.

It just goes to show how much power a single player can wield with very limited financial resources over a small economy like SLs. I guess it has relevance to more than just the land market in SL.

But, as this seems to be a textbook case of "cornering the market" I will follow up this monthly review with a little more detailed analysis in a separate post.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Community Team Roundtable - March 2006

First off, this roundtable wasn't publicly announced. Only place where the time and date where mentioned was in the mailing list. This is done because of the chaos of at the roundtables in the past, where people talked through each other and often addressed issues that aren't suitable for the round table, and of course lag.

This a double edged blade, because now people interested and capable of discussion will have to sign up to a mailing list that won't hide their email address or name. Of course email accounts are free and easy to set up, but one extra hurdle. This was evident at the low amount of people that was present, at max there where about 30 avatars, for a place that can hold 120.

I think the idea is that we regulate ourselves and invite the people we think will be able to contribute to the discussion. We will have to see how this works out.
Distributed messaging
There where 2 main topics and some other interesting things mentioned here and there.
We started with Phoenix Linden who was invited to come and answer questions about distributed messaging in the 1.9 preview and the impact of that on email and XML-RPC.
“ Phoenix Linden: It's been my personal project for about 9 months (off & on) and has picked up steam, and other developers for the last 4 months. We are trying to peg a ship date right now.

Cutter Rubio: What was the impetus for the change?

Phoenix Linden: The reason has a few impacts:
1) reduced central services load
2) increased resiliency under bad grid conditions
3) more simultaneous users & sims

We were starting to bump up against the limits of the 'user server' which will fall over around 10,000 or so concurrent users ”
Gwyneth Llewelyn asked about what the impact of this would be on things like llEmail and XML-RPC across sims. And if we could get a change to test it on the preview grid, since that is not possible now. Phoenix explained that most changes are under the hood and won't be visible, and that llEmail is something separate, but that they did rewrite email->task and email->im which would will consume fewer central resources, and work more reliably. Robin Linden promised to talk to Karen Linden to get a test scheduled.

Of course there aren't only positive effects, Phoenix also mentioned some side effects.
“Phoenix Linden: There are some cons.
Heavily loaded sims will have a slightly longer region-crossing time.
Expect times to move from about .2 seconds to upwards of .8 seconds
Attachment save frequency has been reduced.”
And then there was a question that got a answer that was quite puzzling.

Vehicle Region Crossing
“Tateru Nino: I assume that will shake up vehicle crossings some.

Phoenix Linden: Actually, vehicles are exactly the same.
Which, as I discovered last week, is slightly broken.
For example, the UniBike dives into the ground on every region cross.
We are using ballistic interpolation for vehicles, which is just not the right thing during region cross.
someone will look into that soon.”
Let's rephrase, Phoenix just discovered last week that region crossings in vehicles are broken? To be honest, I had a WTF?! moment of Zen.
Diving into the ground during a region cross has been my experience since my first days in SL. It is so common that most people just accept it as a part of vehicles in SL.
I suppose we should be happy because someone will be looking at it “soon”, but still, i just keep thinking WTF?!

Flipper's Privacy Proposal
This a proposal Flipper made here and on the forums and got a pretty good response. It basically suggests that the whole friends list/calling card system gets completely revamped and gives us much more different levels of accessibility, depending on how much privacy we want. In all a better way to manage your Social Life.

Before Phoenix left she shared some thoughts on the technical aspects of this proposal.
“Phoenix Linden: I don't know what our final IM plan will involve. However, it will almost certainly move data over TCP, which has been added to the grid with this release.
Currently, _ALL_ traffic is over a low latency UDP message system, which causes many problems.
We will undoubtedly add more IM controls and widgets, and probably pick a solution with better global integration, ...before we add privacy but, I don't make all of those decisions, so we may prioritize more controls over a better overall IM client.”

Robin continued and explained that a project was in the queue to improve the mute function beyond sound, to include objects and possibly even visibility. But she is rethinking the project that instead of first improving mute and then redoing IM, that there maybe is a solution that starts from a completely different place, and that place might be Flip's proposal.

It was obvious from the start of the discussion that there definitely is more need for the ability to hide from your friends, but the big subject was how much hiding should be allowed.
One of Flip's suggestions is a mode where you appear offline in find and remove your green dot from the map. It was suggested that this in combination with a invisiprim could make you the ultimate stalker. No way to know if the obnoxious jealous ex lover is online or nearby.
Flip's blacklist could help here, the blacklist is a simple list of names who will never see that you are online. This would help, because the stalker wouldn't know if you are online. But that means you will have to know who is stalking you.
One way to counteract that, in my opinion, would be to at least keep showing the green dots on the mini map, and maybe a avatar count on the mini map so you could easily see how many people there are in the sim.

A other good point made, was that removing your online status from find would make it hard to avoid certain persons you rather not run in to. If there is some really public event in which it is likely the other person would show up, it is nice that you can look at the find and at least know if the person is offline or not. That way you could decide to go or not, or at least be prepared.
Taco Rubio made a very good suggestion that we should get a popup when a muted person is in the same sim as you. I think that is a good idea and should be extended to the blacklist as well. I'm not sure if this is enough to remove the online status from find, but it would definitely be a good improvement.

Since this also a social life problem, Gwyneth Llewelyn suggested that there is also a job for the community to teach new and old Resis, Sl Etiquette, and not rush LL in rewriting the current im/friends list system if they are going to do that anyway later when they start to implement Jabber.
While Gwyneth pointed out that the current system is being used for 3 years and we can wait a bit longer, it is also true that in those 3 years no SL Etiquette classes have worked if they have even existed. Else we wouldn't be discussing this issue. I personally don't have much hope for such classes to make a difference.

All in all, i really got the feeling from LL that they where listening and understood the issues and wanted to find a way fix it in a robust manner. And i agree that LL shouldn't rush this, but find a way to make one overarching system that incorporates mute, IM and better privacy.

More Groups!
Just after the roundtable was closed one last question was asked.
“Gus Plisskin: Anybody know the status of the added number of groups?
Robin Linden: Soon....soon....
Looks like it will be in one of the early 1.9 patches.”
We will get more groups, good news if you ask me. :)

  • Distributed messaging will reduce central server load and prepares SL for 10,000 or so concurrent users with very little side effects. Only heavily loaded sims will experience slower region crossings.
  • Some time to test llEmail and XML-RPC on the preview grid will be scheduled.
  • Vehicle Regions Crossing will be looked at and we might see some improvement on that.
  • Better Privacy controls and mute options are considered and LL is open for suggestions but no decisions are made yet.
  • More groups, soon after 1.9.
After the meeting ended chaos ensued, when the Lindens opened fire on the audience.