Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Animate your Sculptys

Adrian Herbez, currently a web developer for Linden Lab, just released Maya exporter for animated sculptys.

Adrian writes:
I've created a tool to make it (relatively) straightforward to create mesh deformation animation within Second Life by leveraging the power of sculptys.

The actual exporting of images is lifted from the original sculpty exporter script written by Qarl (with a minor change to keep the scale the same). I've expanded on that script to provide a nice clean workflow for woring with animated sculpties, and one that allows for a great degree of control on the part of the artist.

I have seen some animated sculptys and it is a pretty cool effect, and any effort to simplify the effort is always appreciated. I haven't tried this out yet so can't comment on how well it works, if you do let me hear your comments. :)

Second Life Statistics: 29-Dec-2007

SL Stats 29-12-2007

Around 18:30 was a sudden drop of about 3000 users, no indication what the cause was. By 18:50 everyone that wanted back was back in.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dead of the Beacon?

The red beacon that guides our way in Second Life have been mostly removed in the latest client and the recent release candidate. This makes it hard to find your destination in sims that work with a central telehub. Ordinal Malaprop's blog post alerted me about this and she sum it up like this.:
  • Teleporting by any mechanism apart from clicking on the World Map to get a red circle and then going there, or by selecting “Show On Map” from a window before using it to teleport, does not provide a red beacon and arrow to the destination any more. This includes landmarks, SLURLs, the use of llMapDestination, secondlife:// links, and the New Search.
  • People who teleport into an area which has a Landing Point set will still arrive at that point.
  • But they will not have a beacon to their destination.
  • Therefore they will not be able to find their destination easily. They would actually have to track it down by comparing the X, Y and Z co-ordinates of the landmark to their current ones, fly around aimlessly in the hope of seeing a sign, ask for directions, or, far more likely, go somewhere else. Experienced and dedicated visitors will likely find a way but even they may simply give up, and the casual browser or visitor will simply pop somewhere else if unable to find the spot that they came to see. (Customers would quite frequently ask how to find my shop with red beacons available.)
  • This means that landmarks and SLURLs and so on are now pretty much useless in any region or parcel that has a landing point set. This is actually more places than one might think. Not only does it encompass many islands such as Caledon, Babbage and so on, it also affects such large parcelled establishments as malls and shopping centres upon the Mainland.
  • The whole thing is therefore a serious matter for anyone who owns property in a region with a landing point and wishes others to find it - or for that matter wishes to be able to find it themselves.

This seems like a simple matter to fix, vote on issue SVC-1125 in the jira to alert LL and get this restored.

Second Life Statistics: 28-Dec-2007

SL Stats 28-12-2007

Friday, December 28, 2007

Second Life Statistics: 27-Dec-2007

SL Stats 27-12-2007

Made some more updates, the numbers now have decimal notations for easy reading. I have made the axis of the graph auto adjust to the values, this will give some more definition to the graph on lower peak concurrency. I also removed the times from the bottom of the graph. Lastly I added a Peak concurrency record indicator, which you don't see now but will when there is a record concurrency.

I have the daily graph now in a state where I like it, but I'm open to any ideas or suggestions.
A future plan, is linking this graph to a page that has more statistics on Second Life and other virtual worlds.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Second Life Statistics: 26-Dec-2007

SL Stats 26-12-2007

The Christmas break from SL seems mostly over and concurrency is going back to normal levels. At 15:20 was a sudden unreported systems failure that dropped about 3000 users.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Second Life Statistics: 25-Dec-2007

SL Stats 25-12-2007

Another relatively quiet day in Second Life yesterday. Around 6:30 some service problems occurred which caused concurrency to drop with about 3000 users.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Second Life Statistics: 24-Dec-2007

SL Stats 24-12-2007

As you can see it was a quiet die yesterday on Christmas Eve.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Second Life Statistics: 23-Dec-2007

Merry Christmas Everyone!
SL Stats 23-12-2007

Made some adjustments, been polling every minute now for the last few days instead of once every 5 minutes. This gives better results because depending on which server you hit you can get old data.
As you can see I also added the SL logo as a background, what do you think, is that nice or to noisy?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Second Life Statistics: 22-Dec-2007

SL Stats 22-12-2007

Just in time! In time for what you may ask, well in time to keep my own sanity. Wouldn't want to post the daily statistics a day to late. ;)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Second Life Statistics: 21-Dec-2007

SL Stats 21-12-2007

I have updated the stats collection scripts, actually the old and new are running side by side. It should have less odd data. Will work on the graph creation today and try if I can improve those.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Second Life Statistics: 20-Dec-2007

SL Stats 20-12-2007

The minimum concurrency and new signups are clearly wrong. Guess I really need to do some fixing and changing of how I handle the data, but that is the fun of work in progress. ;) Also it is my Birthday so even more Fun! =)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Second Life Statistics: 19-Dec-2007

SL Stats 19-12-2007

The graph looks funky, but that is because the grid was having a bad day yesterday. The grid monkeys must have had fun with the asset server problems. ;)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Second Life Statistics: 16-Dec-2007

sl stats 16-12-2007

There is a text error that i couldn't fix on the graph, there where 2 peak concurrency times after each other, and the numbers overlap each other. If that can't be avoided I will change to other graph engine.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Second Life Statistics: 15-Dec-2007

SL Stats 15-12-2007

This is my first public version of daily stats, any comments or ideas are welcome.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween in the USA, and Second Life!

Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year (even though it isn't really a holiday, but I'd love to have the day off every year, for future reference... it is too bad my boss doesn't read this blog).

More than any other American tradition, Halloween is a day where imagination and fantasy is celebrated. I was posting to the SLUniverse forums earlier today, trying to explain the phenomenon to someone across the pond, and it hit me; Halloween in first life is much like every day in Second Life. That combination of imagination and creativity is not nearly prevalent enough in our real lives.

Adults get to act like kids again, more so in the past decade than ever before, when Halloween has become a holiday for everyone, not just those still in junior high and younger. Halloween is now the second biggest economic windfall to Christmas in the United States for spending on an holiday event. Too often in the United States, we repress our fantasies and dreams, but Halloween is an excuse to live them out... maybe we need more of that? Of course, it is the children who make it so much fun, but the adults are now having as much fun alongside them.

Boys dress as girls.

Girls dress as boys.

People dress as animals.

I even saw someone this year who incorporated a Roomba from iRobot into their outfit, and someone dressed as a Philadelphia downtown skyscraper.

Every other day of the year, I only get to see this kind of creativity within Second Life itself, and that creativity amongst our residents is what keeps me coming back. The avatar is a daily expression for many of the spirit that makes Halloween such a special day. Peoples' avatars in Second Life on Halloween are almost an exponential expression of creativity and imagination!

Additionally, I think Halloween allows us to appreciate one another's differences. How often do most men get to appreciate the joy of a runner in a stocking, or navigating a pair of high heels? How often do people get a chance not just to pretend they're a professional athlete, but appreciate just how heavy a pair of American football pads weigh, or how much work a clown does on a daily basis on their real life avatars?

How often do people get a chance to pour their creativity into an artistic project, who are no longer making macaroni drawings in kindergarten? Outside of Burning Man and the SLCC, Halloween is often the only chance we get.

The best parties of the year are also around Halloween, just because of the general freakiness of it. It is America's Carnivale, Guy Fawkes night, or Mardi Gras. The same spirit that highlights Halloween also highlights Second Life. Appreciate our differences; allow yourself to be a dreamer for a night; live out that wild fantasy. An old Native American adage tells us to, "Never judge a person until you have walked a mile in their moccasins." Perhaps Halloween is a chance for us to do that in real life, an exercise we should do a lot more often to try to understand those who differ from us.

I will proudly continue to allow my inner child out every chance I get, and Halloween is a day when our entire country celebrates that pure, simply joy.

Eyetracking Second Life.

This is a promotional video by Enquiro Research which shows how their eyetracking software works, one of the examples is in Second Life. It is a just a short bit, but it is interresting to see where we focus our eyes while navigating through SL.

I do have some questions about the heat map they show at the end. The heat map looks 2D, and would only be useable from one fixed point of view. In reality people would be all looking from different positions and that will influence where we look.

What would be interresting if there was a 3D overlay in SL of the eyetracked data, that showed what object was looked at, but also from which position looked. Maybe something like that could be created in combination of the several sim visitors tracking services that are out there.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Save yourself a lot of trouble: use the right channels to get in touch with Linden Lab

Recently, a lot of my friends contacted me because they couldn't get Linden Lab to deliver their newly bought islands; or, in some instances, LL did deliver the islands, but they configured them wrongly (like disregarding their relative positions, or names, etc.) and there was no way to get in touch with them.

In the past, this meant getting in touch with the Concierges. Several options were available: emailing them (there were even two different addresses for that), or IMing the Concierges directly (there are about 10 Concierges for 11,000 private islands, or thereabouts), or patiently waiting a few hours at the Linden Estate Services (I did that with several friends), or using the message gateway set there (it shows who is available and on duty), or, well, trying to get hold of them on the phone.

Lately, however, doing any (or all) of the above did not have any results whatsoever. Not after a few days; not even after a few weeks. Furious, my friends complained to me, and 'demanded' a solution — in most of those cases, I was directly or indirectly the reason why they came to SL and started to invest time and money in it. I was helpless. Nobody seemed to give a good reason for not delivering/configuring the islands properly. Why the sudden lack of support? Why were they ignoring all channels of communication?

I first apologised for LL. With the huge demand in islands for CSI:NY, they might have been temporarily swamped with requests. Well, around 300 islands were "dropped" a couple of days after the episode was aired, so this couldn't be the reason. After another round of protests, growing to "I'll go to the media with this!" and "LL can only afford to treat their customers like s**t because they have no competitions" or "my boss threatens to fire me because I told him we'd have an island in a month" and similar frustrated comments, I decided to investigate. Something was simply not right.

A few IMs later on some groups, some tweets, and a long conversation with a friendly Linden, who clearly confirmed that there was not a single request on file from my friends, the mystery was finally solved.

Simply put, there is just one entry point into LL's new support system: the Support Portal and filing a ticket there. Besides that, you can try Live Chat (if you're entitled to it; only Concierge-level customers can use it, and I'm not qualified as such so I've never tried it out). And, if you're lucky, phone support. But all are tied together into the new support request tracking system. This is the only way in; the only way that Linden Lab knows about your requests. Forget emails (they're discarded and never read), don't attempt IMs (they get lost way too easily), don't drop notecards on Concierges (they get way too many stuff dropped on them), don't waste your time clicking on the Linden Estate Services request board (it often fails to send the message) or even waiting for Lindens there (they have way more to do, on at least 20 IM sessions, so they won't be looking at your request).

Instead, use exclusively the Support Portal.

Linden Lab should very likely make this even more clear on all their documentation, namely, on all pages requiring confirmation on an island purchase (both the Land Store and the Special Orders page), and probably on all emails sent to customers. Or on Lindens' profiles. Sure their home page for SL says "Extended support: Visit our support page" but it's not clear. A big image saying: "Need Technical Support? Click here!" is way more helpful, since people might think they don't want "extended" support, just regular support, using the old email addresses...

Yes, the new Support Portal is daunting. You need a double PhD in Computer Science to click all the options and figure out what you need to activate in order to send a ticket. But at least it means that the ticket gets to the right person and you'll get an answer — usually quickly — from them. (And the Support Portal is way easier to use than the JIRA Bug Tracking system, which you need to be a Physics Nobel Prize candidate to learn to operate)

Thanks to Eloise Pasteur to point it out on a Second Life Insider article too. We need the message to be widespread. Quick support is to be had from LL, if we only go to the right place for it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

CSI:SL — The Dawn of the Mainstream Second Life

A page gets turned, and Second Life is now mainstream.

For us residents what this means is that from now on, we're not "early adopters" any more. We just happened to "be around" when SL became mainstream and started hitting regular TV shows as if it were the most common thing on the planet.

Oh sure, we might say that just a tiny fraction of the planet's population has ever joined Second Life. That's ok. Not everybody drives a Rolls Royce or wears an excluive outfit designed by Giorgio Armani. In fact, I seriously suspect that more than 10 million people in the whole world drive Rolls Royce's or wear Armani's exclusively designed dresses and suits — indeed, the point is that a few billion recognise the brands and have heard about it, but they might never in their lives buy a product of those brands. Many hundreds of millions, in fact, will never see them in their lives.

But they've seen them on TV and read about in on magazines and newspapers. They're part of our collective, mainstream culture, even if they're not actually used by everybody — yet.

The distinction is not so subtle. A cellular phone, for instance, was a mainstream product in the late 1980s — but only a few millions could afford it. Today, it's used everywhere in the world, even on very poor countries (in fact, even more so than "regular" phones). Similarly, a personal computer in the early 1980s was "known" and "recognised" by anyone who had a TV, but only a small number of geeks and early adopters had them at their homes. You can add a lot of examples to this list if you wish — from technological gadgets (who doesn't know what an iPod is?... compare its success and acceptance to the Sony Walkman from the last decade), to magazines and newspapers, to products, services, and the whole Internet (itself also an early-adopter-thingy from 1969-1990, but definitely mainstream in 1995) with its myriad services (you expect 2 billion people to recognise an email address).

All these usually go through two stages — becoming mainstream, and then mass-market products. Sometimes simultaneously, but not always at the same time. Most "gadgets" go through the "early adopter stage" (only geeks and nerds use it, and it's a close-knit group that knows about them), following through the mainstream stage (everybody has heard about it, although only a few have ever used it or even seen it), and finally becoming mass market (everybody has one).

Second Life is going through all these stages at a neck-breaking speed. Well, perhaps not as fast as, say, MySpace or Facebook. The "Internet generation" has given us lots of these services that pop up one day, and after a year have a hundred million users. Many are hard to estimate for how long they'll survive. People have predicted the downfall of Yahoo after the emergence of Google as the "search engine leader", but Yahoo is still around, solid as a rock, and leads the way in attracting page hits. Microsoft's lead in the OS market — and several other areas, like Microsoft Live — is frowned upon by millions of nerds who "predict" that their Golden Age — like IBM before them — is soon over. Steve Jobs is regularly the scorn of the industry when he launches something else and critics will come and say: "this time, he's gone too far, and this will be the doom of Apple". Nobody believed that he could pull off the iPod, iTunes, or even Apple TV, but all three are here to stay, and we'll see about the iPhone (which everybody is so keen on scorning with a loud: "hah! I told you so!").

Interestingly, it's not the "high exponential curve" that always leads to high-profile products and services on the technological market. Amazon, eBay, and PayPal are good examples — they took a decade until they became the services we now have, and we all take them for granted. Amazon went from the "ludicrous — nobody will ever buy books over the Web!" stage to the "cute idea, but financially unsound, they'll soon disappear from the market" to the effective leader of e-commerce sales of books, selling way more than many major bookshop retailers and their brick-and-mortar physical shops.

So this is what the CSI:NY episode (and, to an extent, "The Office" episode last week) brought to us: a Second Life that the mainstream cannot ignore. Sure, most people will never use it (at least not in the next years). Many will just see the "underculture" depicted on SL, and say "it's not for me" (interestingly enough, as I have briefly mentioned on my own blog, this underculture does, in fact, exist, and is not so different than what is actually shown, even if we all dismiss it as unimportant or worthy only of anthropological studies), or likely people will try it (as certainly 100 thousand users did in the past 48 hours, as the Second Life Insider reports) but then quickly give up. This will be very likely the case, ie. people will not start to use Second Life more because of the CSI:NY episode. Neither do I expect that the number of regular users (1.5 million or so) will increase exponentially, but very likely follow the same patterns of all residents that have signed up so far (85% leaving SL in less than 2 months). No, I'm not expecting miracles — just a higher registration rate for a while, peaking again when the second episode of CSI:NY is broadcasted in February, and as it rolls out world-wide.

What the world-at-large cannot ignore any more is the simple fact that Second Life is now a mainstream product.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bye Bye Megaprims

As Second Life goes on to boast more than 10 million accounts, a shadow of doubt on the future of the megaprims has descended on the hearts of eager SL residents.

Linden Lab has requested "comments" on the use of megaprims — a useful hack, once created by Gene Replacement, allowing prims larger than 10x10x10 m (as well as nanoprims, smaller than 0.1x0.1x0.1) to exist and be integrated into buildings just like "normal" prims. Gene's popular package of oversized prims have been copied over and over again, and after several months of being around, they're now regular features of Second Life.

It's major advantage, of course, is to allow to build with far lesser prims. If you need to create, say, a 50x50m bit of ground, instead of using 25 10x10 prims, all it takes is a single megaprim. Megaprims can also be tortured, and this allows things like giant staircases made of a single prim that are seamless, or doing racing tracks with a handful of prims instead of hundreds. Megaprims can also be sculpted and thus create fascinating and amazing statues, or very large, organic structures, or even smooth landscaping, by economically saving prims.

Less prims does obviously mean less viewer lag, but there is even another hidden advantage: it also means far less textures to manipulate. Even if a stretch of wall or ground has always the same texture — thus requiring a single download, and a single texture on video RAM — using a 50x50 megaprim means that the rendering engine only needs to track down 6 textures, instead of 150 using normal prims.

We are all aware of the huge consequences of using megaprims as the ultimate building tool — it means faster and better building (less tweaking of unaligned prims and textures), it means faster rendering of the scenes, it means less prims (less work for the sim server to do; less client lag), and, well, ultimately, it leads to a far better Second Life experience.

Linden Lab is getting rid of all this. Why?

There is a social reason, and a technical one. As is sadly more and more common with Linden Lab, they get the social consequences all wrong, and throw sand in our eyes with the technical reasons.

Megaprims are one of the uncountable thousands of ways used for griefing on the mainland. It has several uses: fast encroachment of whole plots, huge megarotating prims, but more important than that, since many of these prims with unusual sizes are complexly sheared/cut shapes of far huger prims, they create weird oddities when rendered — namely, bounding boxes get miscalculated (making avatars and vehicles collide with what seems to be empty space), or you can effectively place prims on other people's land which cannot be returned (megaprims, like linked prims, can be rezzed on "your" place nearby — sometimes a sim or two across, and overlap everybody else's prims).

So Linden Lab is cleverly capitalising on the few people that have been griefed on the mainland — but who are pretty vocal about it! — to gather a strong "moral" support to remove all megaprims.

The issue, obviously, is that the mainland is collapsing under its own anarchy, as less and less Liaisons are able to do their duties there. Because of LL's lack of policing, and no real enforcement on the mainland, they're removing features from the whole grid?

Not likely. After all, there are hundreds of known (and possibly thousands of lesser known) ways to grief people, and we haven't seen any announcement on the removal of particles, llRezObject, or, well, scripting altogether. So the argument that LL's is removing megaprims just because of griefing doesn't stick to the wall.

The second reason is more important one, and it's the technical one. Apparently, Havok 4.0 is not much better (or might even be worse) at dealing with megaprims than Havok 1.0, and LL seems to be pressing very hard to get Havok 4.0 on the main grid quickly (who knows, perhaps they're preparing for October 24). A quick fix is simply to delete all megaprims from the 1 billion asset database, launch Havok 4, get CBS and IBM very happy, and then deal with the horde of furious residents later.

It's not just the residents that are going to be furious this time. From one day to the other, Linden Lab is going to hurt the ten thousand RL companies in SL, too; one might believe that whole virtual presences (hopefully not CBS's own!) will be left with gaping holes where truly amazing content once sat. And the companies will demand from their outsourced builders to replace all the prims as quickly as possible, or threaten with a lawsuit. In some cases (like the Greenies sim, which uses sculpties on megaprims) this might not even be possible — on others, there might not be enough prims left to suddenly redo everything with the regular prims any more, thus forcing content to be remade from scratch — all unpaid work, of course, just to keep the corporations happy.

Needless to say that this is a major catastrophe. But knowing very well Linden Lab's modus operandi, it seems that this post on their blog is yet another one of their a posteriori discussions, well after the decision has been made.

I eagerly await the first company that will sue LL in Europe, where their ToS doesn't hold, and demands compensation for getting all their content destroyed.

What Linden Lab needs to do in these cases is to give people options. And there are many: like enabling/disabling megaprims on demand, say from the Estate Tools (or, in another word, turn Havok 1 or 4 on, depending if you wish megaprims to work on your estate or not). Since megaprims are forbidden on the mainland anyway, it'll be a matter of disabling them all on Governor Linden's estate; but LL has to keep in mind that the griefers' utopia on the mainland is not any more the place where most people live and spend their time.

Getting rid of them is no short-term solution; it's just wasting people's time, energy, and patience as they go through yet another ordeal, and hope that their RL customers understand that the content creators have no leverage on the tyranny of Linden Lab, who still behaves as if they're allowed to do what they please with our content. Again, forget what the ToS says — it has more holes than an Emmental cheese anyway — but what the world will look like after the ultimate griefer attack: Linden Lab's removal of a lot of content based on their technical inability to deliver Havok 4 quickly.

[UPDATE 20071017] Andrew Linden apparently is listening to us, and only the megaprims over 256 m on a side are going to be removed (or "clamped" down to 256 m, as he describes it).

More info here:

And here:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

European Residents to pay Value-Added Tax on Second Life

All European users (yes, the 4 or 5 millions of them) received today a nice email from Linden Lab with an unexpected "surprise": starting immediately, all European residents will be charged Value-Added Tax on their purchases from Linden Lab.

According to this page, this will include the following:

  • Premium account registration

  • Purchases from the Land Store

  • Land use fees (tier)

  • Private Region fees

  • Land auctions

So is Linden Lab being very nasty with the poor European users, that suddenly saw their expenses going up, without explanation (not even an official blog post!)? Is LL tired of the growth in Europe? Are they afraid that content creators and landbarons in Europe are too successful and wish the rest of the world to get a chance to catch up?

Not at all.

As the Wikipedia so clearly states,
Following changes introduced on 1 July 2003, (under Directive 2002/38/EC), non-EU businesses providing digital electronic commerce and entertainment products and services to EU countries are also required to register with the tax authorities in the relevant EU member state, and to collect VAT on their sales at the appropriate rate, according to the location of the purchaser. Alternatively, under a special scheme, non-EU businesses may register and account for VAT on only one EU member state. This produces distortions as the rate of VAT is that of the member state of registration, not where the customer is located, and an alternative approach is therefore under negotiation, whereby VAT is charged at the rate of the member state where the purchaser is located.

So Linden Lab is just really complying with European Law. And yes, they have no chance but to comply, if they wish to keep those 4 or 5 million users!

What does this mean for the European crowd? Basically, if you're unlucky enough to be employed (or unemployed), you're going to pay more for having fun in SL — more than your fellow non-EU residents, at least. There will be an assymetry between, say, "cheap" US-based landbarons and more expensive EU-based landbarons. But on the other hand, if you're self-employed or a company (even a one-person company!), this will be a blessing. For the ones unaware on how VAT works, here is a very short explanation (you can read it up on Wikipedia or any other similar site):

VAT is only charged to the end customer. If you provide services and/or goods, you charge VAT, and your own suppliers charge VAT to you. As a service/goods provider, you can subtract one from the other, and have a running account with your local revenue service. In effect, you only pay VAT to the State if you provide more services than the ones you buy (most successful businesses will, of course, be in that situation).

Thus, for a company or a self-employed individual, it's good to be able to get VAT charged to you, since you can now use that VAT to deduct from your regular (monthly, quarterly, or yearly) accounting with the revenue service. More interesting than that: you can now file your expenses with Second Life (assuming you're drawing an income from providing services in SL!) as operation costs, thus, this means less income to be taxed on personal revenue.

Getting billed with VAT is thus a double blessing — less VAT to pay, less revenue taxes to pay.

For end-users — ie. employees (or unemployed people), retirees, etc. — things are quite more unfair. They cannot deduct VAT from the services they acquire; they cannot use expenses with Second Life as "operation costs" whatsoever, it's a service they're buying for their pleasure and enjoyment, and thus taxed as a "luxury" item (between 15-25%, depending on the EU country you're in).

What does this mean for the regular resident? Well, if you have little land, you have no choice really — Second Life will be more expensive for you. Very likely, European residents will simply tier down to Basic and pay in L$ for plots on private islands run by American landbarons. On the other hand, if your business (content or land) is considerable — ie. earning more than €2000 or so per month — it's very well worth becoming self-employed, and start cutting down on taxes!

And finally, as some of you might have noticed, Linden Lab has opened their offices in the UK (Brighton), headed by Babbage Linden. Now that they have European offices, they have to be more careful to comply with European legislation. They're a multinational now! (well, technically, trans-national...) So this means that SL is going to be a very, very complex place to "live" in :)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Commemorating Three Years of Self-Government at the Oktoberfest '07

Three years after its launch in Second Life, the self-governed, democratic community that started from the old Anzere sim and currently has two sister communities, one in the Confederation of Democratic Simulators (Neufreistadt and Colonia Nova), another in Port Neualtenburg (in Funadama), will commemorate together this year's Oktobertfest together, one party at each location, lasting all weekend.

After over two years of posts and articles all over the SLogosphere predicting their "imminent doom", both are here to stay, both have not given up, both are growing, and both still get together for this annual events. Democracy is far harder to shake off than the most pessimist doomsayers have predicted and failed :)

So get your Dirndls and Lederhosen dusted and join us at the parties for a nice Stein of Bier and have fun listening to silly Schlager music and dancing the Polka or the Waltz in the streets :)

Political discussion is, of course, not mandatory!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Art Moments

I'm taking a few moments to listen to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic play in SL (well, actually it's intermission at the moment) after having come from a really neat sculpture by Light Waves over at the "Ebuddy Battle Rezzable" sim. If you have a moment, go check out Light Waves' work. It's some marvelous megaprimmage!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Grundfos Energy Saving Island Opening - Presentations and Live Music

So, if you enjoy discussions on environmental sustainability, wish to learn a bit about the subject, watch some pictures from a photographer that works for National Geographic, or simply enjoy music, there is a rather densely packed schedule of events for Grundfos' opening in Second Life today, September 12th.

Grundfos is an environmentally-conscious Danish multinational pump manufacturer, and their approach to be in SL is more to focus on how their technology can help out to solve access to fresh water in undeveloped countries, teach some simple tips on saving energy, water, or limit the carbon emissions, and even raising funds for donating water pumps to Africa, as well as planting some RL trees. It's an experiment that is going to last about 6 months, while several people will present workshops on environmental and sustainability issues, sponsored by Grundfos and see if this model works in SL.

If you're interested, here is the schedule of events for today, as announced on the SL event list:
  • 12 (Noon) to 12:30 - Grundfos Welcome to Second Life
  • 12:45 to 1:00 - Water for Life and Overview of water and other environmental issues we face -- Delia Lake
  • 1:00 to 1:45 pm - Brazillian Music -- DJ Speelo Snook. 
  • 2:00 to 2:30 - Climate Changes -- John Galland, RL climate scientist and researcher presenting the latest scientific thinking about global climate change.
  • 2:45 to 3:15 - You Can Make a Difference -- RiverSong Garden will tell about projects in African villages.
  • 3:30 to 4:00 - Solar Sunrise. -- Bjerkle Eerie will talk about Solar power for Africa
  • 4:15 to 4:45 - Water for Life and Overview of water and other environmental issues we face -- Delia Lake
  • 5:00 to 6:00 - Water Music -- Enniv Zarf, pianist and composer will play piano improvisations inspired by environmental photography

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Verification is Insurance!

It's probably bad form to quote myself, but I think that the message should be spread through all means: Linden Lab's planned verification is not the "end of the world as we know it". What Linden Lab is effectively doing is buying some insurance against lawsuits!

You might have read elsewhere the huge drama about Robin Linden's series of blog entries on Identity Verification Coming To Second Life. If you have missed it, understand that LL will very shortly put a new system in place, where you can optionally go to a special web page, which ties into Integrity' system, and re-type your RL name and addresses, add a number from a valid ID card (which varies from country to country; for the US, you're allegedly supposed to put the last four digits of your SSN), and that's it: your avatar will be instantly "verified".

Very briefly, two points are important to remember:
  1. Linden Lab does not know what information you're sending to Integrity, so they are unable to know what RL data you're actually providing to them.
  2. Integrity has no clue on which avatar is doing the request. All they know is that "someone from Linden Lab's Second Life" is asking to get verified, but they don't know who it is.
Most important is to understand that Integrity apparently gets all their data from publicly available databases. That means that they are not asking you for any data that they don't already have. And they're not passing that data to Linden Lab, either. All they're doing is a check on their databases, see if the addresses match with your ID card, and send back an "ok" to LL. There is no point of "fearing a third party that will now know your ID" — they already have it stored on their databases!

So this is quite different from what certification authorities like Verisign (or even PayPal) are doing, who require you to send them data — usually by fax, in extreme cases through a notary public, or any other form of "real" communication — in order to verify your identity. Integrity works the other way round: first they collect all the data from those "publicly available databases" and store them on their servers. And then they resell the service of allowing people to know if their users do, indeed, match to the data they have — without revealing what data there is.

It's also important to see through the smoke and mirrors. Linden Lab doesn't really "care" about avatar verification; the whole "story" of "more trust in SL" is, frankly, pretty irrelevant. It's a nice pink & fluffy story for children. What they really want is something way more interesting. As part of Integrity's service, they accept the liability in case of a mismatch in their data. This means that if a minor is "checked" by Integrity (because they're using their parents' ID card), and the parents sue LL for some silly reason, Integrity will pay the costs. It's a risk business. Or, if you wish, Integrity is in the business of selling lawsuit insurance.

This is what you should have in mind when clicking on that checkbox. Forget LL's "change of the world". Forget Big Brother, 1984, or oppressive tyranny in a world where everybody knows who you are and what you're doing. You're completely missing the point! What LL is doing is buying insurance, since they're scared of those crazy individuals with nothing else to do but filing lawsuits against LL and getting a pro bono lawyer willing to spend a few hundreds of thousads of US$ in court just because of the huge media splash. LL can't afford to continue to operate with all those lawsuit-trigger-happy fanatics who live in our era and age. So they pushed all responsibility towards a third party. Like they have their servers insured at their co-location, they're now getting insurance against lawsuits, too.

You have to admit that is pretty clever of them. And for us SL residents it also means that we can sleep in peace knowing that people won't be able to sue LL so easily any more.

But LL is not an Evil Corp™. They even tell us more: if you flag your content, and keep your land parcel blocked to unverified avatars, we'll extend the protection towards you, too. This is what scares the merchants who fear that nobody is going to use verification, thus forcing them either to block unverified avatars (and lose customers), or risk the liability of having minors showing up, or, well, shut down and go. In the short term, losing customers might be unavoidable — but in 2008, we'll have another 10 million fresh users who will all be verified since their rezdays, and they'll be the good customers of the few adult content providers that had the courage to remain in SL for a few more months instead of packing and going.

Incidentally, you now know why LL shut down gambling: Integrity's insurance does not work (yet) for gambling sites. So now you know: no, it wasn't the FBI that forced gambling out of SL, but a requirement of Integrity's contract with LL. And the good news: Integrity's own political agenda is to lobby for a change in legislation that allows verified adults to gamble online while keeping children out. Of course, they're promoting their own service here, and they will be able to insure those sites then. I have no idea how strong this lobby might be, but you have to admit that it's a pretty cool idea — no matter your personal feelings about the "morality" of gambling. All that Intergrity is claiming is that the US could make a few billions out of taxes from Internet gambling, so long as they could guarantee no access to minors.

For a more thorough analysis, feel free to read my own blog.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Letter to Linden Lab: Intellectual Property, and Respect [Edited]

EDIT: someone from Linden Lab has reached out to me and let me know that this is a video file error, not a deliberate edit, which is nice to hear (and yes, I do believe them!). I did note in my discussion that this letter was more about Linden Lab's need to deal with a perception among the community than a particular case. Even if this perception is due to misunderstandings, it is something to actively address because it's been simmering for some time.

Dear Linden Lab,
For a company that prides itself on fostering a world of user-generated content, for a company that has reaped the benefits of a savvy decision to grant users IP rights to creations, you can be awfully casual about customers' intellectual property.

I've been listening to upset Second Lifers for years complain that Linden Lab takes their objects and images and uses it for marketing purposes, with nary an attribution. Shaun Altman, a fairly high-profile SL resident, bent my ear on the subject for an hour the night before SLCC. Here is someone who wants to see Second Life succeed, and who I think would not begrudge Linden Lab very much, but was seriously angry at a perceived lack of courtesy when using his creations, land and virtual home for Linden Lab's own promotion.

Now Linden Lab clearly states in their TOS that by "submitting your Content to any area of the service", you are giving Linden Lab the right to "use and reproduce...any of your Content in any or all media for marketing and/or promotional purposes in connection with the Service."

The agreement states nothing about notification or attribution, which is understandable in terms of business burden and the letter of the law, but shouldn't Linden Lab try to hold itself to a higher standard?

How about for things that aren't actually submitted to the Second Life service?

In February 2007, I was involved in the iVillage fashion show and took some machinima, posting it up on and YouTube. I was intrigued today when someone brought me to's fashion page and pointed out that not only was my video on Linden Lab's website, but it had been edited and the credits removed.

Given that this film was not Content submitted to the Second Life service, how exactly did Linden Lab's actions fit with the TOS? Someone must have taken the video from Blip or YouTube. On it is clear that the video is posted under Creative Commons-No derivs license (i.e. you must give attribution and you cannot make derivatives). YouTube makes it less clear, but since Linden Lab never approached me, the rights of the filmmaker appear to be irrelevant in someone's eyes. I can understand why you would crop out the racy ending to the video, but why strip out the credits (including the music attribution)?

Now, as a pragmatist, I feel a bit for Linden Lab's position on this general issue of "credit". You cannot stop a demo to rattle off names, and you cannot give attribution in every situation and for every prim visible in a scene in a user generated world. I will also admit that I'm not really upset about this incident personally, since I really made the video for some designers I admire and I'm glad to see greater awareness of their work. If Linden Lab posted this video, and you think it will help Second Life, then great - you are welcome to continue using it. I have more important things to worry about.

However, as an idealist, I am upset by what this represents. I am upset for all the folks who have been hurt by this very thing for years, and now I have something concrete that I can write about.

Respect and courtesy. It shouldn't be that hard.

I am rather fond of my fellow entrepreneurs over at Linden Lab. I think there are plenty of people in Linden Lab, like Robin Harper, who understand the need to respect residents not as worker ants building Linden Lab's work of genius, but as equals in creating something amazing together. Clearly there are some who let ideals slide in return for expediency.

Linden Lab, you can do better. I know you have it in you.

Forseti Svarog

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Tiberium Earth

I stumbled on this neat project a couple of days ago, which I thought I should share. EA has made models available in google's 3dwarehouse of Command & Conquer 3(c&c3), a rts game set 40 years in the future. What they ask of the fans now is to populate a new layer over Google Earth with your vision of what the C&C3 world will look like. You can use their models with is simplest, but you can also add your own.

In the year 2047, Tiberium-a self-replicating alien substance-has invested the planet, which is now divided into zones based on the level of Tiberium infestation...

How do you envision a Tiberium-infested world of 2047? How have popular world-wide landmarks changed? Showcase your talents and imagination by creating your own 3D models using Google SketchUpTM and then upload them for inclusion in the official Tiberium Earth project.
Tiberium earth

You can see this as a community mod project, but it has some interesting side effects. By doing it over google earth they are basically creating their own virtual place based on their story and world but with minimum investment. In the same time engaging and empowering their fans to contribute to the world. very web 2.0 ;)

What makes it even more interesting if you add other addons to google earth at the same time. Recently Unype was released which makes google earth a multi-user experience. Combined with Tiberium Earth you suddenly have a new virtual world, based on a post Apocalypse story, where you can meet and socialize with your friends.

It is all still very basic, but it shows that Google Earth is slowly moving in the space as a platform for virtual worlds. As long as google keeps it open, all they have to do is keep moving the software forward and focusing on delivering the meatspace, others will just build on top of it and create the fantastic.
It might be one of the most accessible platforms, what is more accessible then the earth it self?

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Don't signup to Quechup

This post has very little to do with SL, other then that everyone in and out of SL that i have ever emailed or have emailed me, has recieved a invite from me to join And this a good way to reach a lot of those people.

If you have recieved a invite from me or anyone else, don't signup.
They pose as a normal social network site, and ask you, just like linkedin if they can look in your adress book to see if your friends are already signedup. But instead they just send every adress in your adress book a invite to Join.

What makes it worse, I had cancelled my account with them many hours before they started sending the invites. I thought i was lucky and had cancelled soon enough, because stories of this practise where already being twitterd and blogged. But alas 30 minutes ago the emails, and all the email list and out of office replies it got back hit mine and my contacts inbox.

So seriously if you have signed up, cancel your account and if you get a invite just trash it.

I apologise for haveing become so trusting in web2.0 sites.

Other blog posts about Quechup:
Techorati blog list about it.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Second Life Parent Control Tool

In the section: Things that make you go *hmmm*
Virtual world news reported on a competition to create a open-soure parental control in Second life.
TUV and Beatenetworks announced a competition for an open-source parental control tool in Second Life. Earlier this year, the German television network ARD reported on depictions of child pornography in Second Life, prompting nation-wide concerns over content control in Second Life. In June CEO Philip Rosedale discussed country-specific filtering tools with the German magazine Focus, but nothing more on that front has been announced. It looks like TUV and Beatenetworks are trying to capitalize on the demand for age controls without requiring a more intrusive age verification scheme like the one discussed by Linden in May.

parental control
Funny is that this was annouched on the 22nd just before Linden Lab gave more information about there own sceme, last week. But there is something more delicious ironic about a parental control tool for Second Life.

Second life and specificly the maingrid is in the present for adults only. Parents have already lost control when their childern are there already. So what is the goal of this tool? It would basicly promote the use of Second Life by childern, and give parents a fake sense of security.

Instead if making a account for them on Teen Second Life they would send them to the adult grid with this tool. However good this tool will be, there will always be ways to circumvent it.

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The shady truth about Barnesworth Anubis

Barnesworth has finally come out and admitted it: he is a thief. I always knew that guy was sketchy. Thank God he has publicly apologized to the indigenous peoples of Indonesia and their ancestors.

OK, his post is pretty funny, but it is sad as well. Barnes has the ability to deflate hot air out of a drama balloon with a poke of good humor, but these petty accusations of theft have been going on for so long.

If you take an old concept into a new medium, you do not all of a sudden gain ownership of that concept. You might consider yourself an innovator, but please do not think of yourself as an inventor. We see this nonsense all the time in the US patent system with obvious software patents, and we've seen it for years in Second Life (you brought a miniskirt into SL? no you thief, I did that first! you made a virtual log cabin?! that was MY idea!).

We see people using third party textures or images they find on the internet, and claiming ownership because they think they are the first to load it into Second Life. Absurd. Particularly rich is when someone steals IP from a major brand, and then accuses someone else of stealing when it is duplicated in Second Life. We also see people throwing fits over the natural process of artistic influence that has been going on since time immemorial.

Well, ok, I admit that I think Braque is a second rate Cezanne but that's neither here nor there.

These claims and petty dramas dilute the importance of real IP theft that does go on. Of course, I don't expect any of this to stop but one can always dream.

Still, thank you Barnes for the laugh of the morning.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

SL Woodstock event

There is a cool music event going on in Second Life today and tomorrow. Here is the latest notecard I received on the festivities:

August 16 , 17, & 18th
7:00PM-9:00PM SLT

Things are changing every day, so please visit us at for all the latest changes from performers to times.


Twilight Gardens on Edloe (61,131,29)

7-8 PA SL Band/ Real life band name Produto Acabado
8-9 Grateful Stryker
7-8 Clayton
8-9 Cylindrian Rutabaga

Nowhereville (181,189, 23) -Los Arboles

7-8 Sebastian Jacks
8-9 Spence Wilder
7-8 FoxyFlowr Cure
8-9 Grace McDunnough
12-1 Natalie Moody
1-2 Jacek Zehetbauer
2-3 Rich Desoto

Club Cocomo on Pitt Island (133,113,25)

7-8 JueL Resistance
8-9 Ictus Belford
7-8 Lyndon Heart
8-9 Sojurn Rossini

SLWoodstock currently sponsored by:
DJ Doubledown Tandino spinning the 60s Phychadelic Funk & Rock

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Grant awarded for Accesible Second Life Client.

Someone on the educators mailinglist send notice that a $90k Grant was awarded to Eelke Folmer from the Univerity of Nevada, to develop an Accesible Client for Second Life. Number 7 on this list.

Now what that exactly means i'm not sure, and what kind of improvements he has in mind. From reading his 2 website Eelke and Helpyouplay i do see he is very much in usability and accessibility, which the current SL client could a lot of improvements on.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Parody Song about Second Life

Jurinjuran just twitter'd this great mp3 about Second Life by sarcasticgamer. Seeing that name it will not surprise it is sarcastic. ;)

Powered by ScribeFire.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Second Life Relay for Life '07

With all the drama and the fuss about casinos, Second Life's annual most famous charity event, the Second Life Relay for Life '07, almost escaped notice!

It's the third year that the American Cancer Society is promoting this fantastic event, all crammed full with events as usual, and with more — and better designed! — sims than ever. And yes, in spite of all the attention gathered by so many things happening in Second Life — the major news media in SL are far too worried with other things — the sims are not empty, rather the contrary!

Still, to raise funds for victims of cancer, every L$ counts, so make sure you drop by and run a few laps and contribute to this fantastic cause!

Monday, July 09, 2007

William Gibson to visit Second Life

Jeremy Ettinghausen (aka Jeremy Neumann in SL), Digital Publisher for Penguin Books UK, has recently announced that William Gibson, masterclass cyberpunk author (who is credited as a co-founder of the whole genre with his book Neuromancer written in 1984), is going to be around Second Life to launch his latest book, Spook Country. There will be a few Gibson-promoted activities, like watching Gibson's latest movie No Maps for These Territories.

The fun part of the whole event is the contest for creating a Gibson avatar. If you're interested, just IM Jeremy Neumann!

Image of Gibson is © 2005 Michael Carpenter/Zenwerx Custom Programming

Coverage on Boing Boing available here.

Update: The date for Gibson's appearance is August, 2nd!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Stop the SL Criminalisation!

For a while now, the press, tired of talking about "sex" and "freaks" and "addiction" and "escapism", and, later, after a couple of years of talking about "business", have found a new way of misinforming the public: now the 7.7 million users of Second Life are portraited as criminals.

This is a new phase of the press. Probably they think that they can indeed insist on this new theme to gather the attention of their readers. After all, if sex doesn't sell a story, crime is the next best thing. And thus we're now labelled as people engaged in all sorts of criminal activities: from paedophilia, to gambling, to exploitation. There hardly isn't something every week to make the press happy — from the Bragg vs. Linden case to the German government's allegations that Linden Lab has to control content better (Linden Lab, in fact, is considering giving RL governments the necessary tools to enforce this — which might be far more important to stimulate growth in countries like China than Germany, anyway), to all sorts of scams and dubious business surrounding the World Stock Exchange or other SL-financial institutions, or pure and simple content piracy (always a recurring topic). Get a grumbling resident on an interview, and they'll have a story to tell. In a world where journalists hardly require to verify their sources (they can always apologise after the fact and retract their words), this is starting to worry 99.9999% of all residents, who definitely are far from being anything but "criminals", but are all thrown into the same bag by the ever-stereotyping media.

Well, it's time to fight back. And this is what Mario Gerosa/Frank Koolhaas is promoting: the Stop the SL Criminalisation campaign. His purpose is very simple, in his own words:
These days the italian press is representing SL as a bad and dark world.
I don't subscribe to this point of view. As I say in my book SL is very eclectical, art oriented and full of creative people. Don't let that a few people destroy the reputation of this world!
Let's fight the crimes in Second Life but let's also contribute to know this world better!
For this reason, I launch a campaign against the criminalization of SL and I invite all the ones who read to send me a photo of their avatar like the one I posted, taken in Imogen (227, 253, 28).
It's not only the Italian press doing this, of course. Thus his campaign might be well worth considering as a worthwhile endeavour — world-wide. All it requires is taking a picture and mentioning it to anyone who asks the infamous question: "Is it true that Second Life is a world of crime?" Which it most certainly is not.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sculptie image protection

I thought I would help spread the word of one workaround proposed to better protect your sculptie images: make the files 32-bit alpha transparent, says Neph, passing on the advice from a poster tmp on SLCitizen.

This will of course increase the file size, and I've heard some grumbling recently about the dangers of lag produced by excessively large sculptie map images. If anyone out there is an expert and can comment, that would be great.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Bridges of Second Life

I'm one of those many people drawn to bridges. Even in Second Life where we can fly, people love bridges and photograph them all the time (I loved Jill Linden's series of Linden bridges in 2005). This weekend I decided to run around Second Life and capture as many bridges as I could find, and put them up in a Flickr set [link]. I'm not planning on making a book out of these since they're just quick snapshots, but wanted to share.

I hope you enjoy the pictures, and if you know of bridges I can add to the set please let me know.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Beware the tyranny of the majority

I've been bothered by Daniel Linden's response to Hamlet on New World Notes in regards to the latest furor to sweep Second Life (but one that has been brewing all this time). To quote:

Hamlet: You say "our community has made it clear to us that certain types of content and activity are simply not acceptable in any form." When did the community decide simulated rape was broadly offensive? Some consensual roleplay areas include activity that would arguably be called that, and some are relatively popular.

DL: The Community actively defines what is and is not acceptable in Second Life by providing feedback to Linden Lab via Abuse Reports, blog commentary, forum discussion, and other communication channels. Linden Lab sets standards and acts in-world according to the expressed wishes of the Residents.

I understand that it's hard to discuss some of the current issues around unsavory behavior in a soundbite, but Daniel's response is dangerous in its scope. I firmly believe that the individual and the minority needs protections from what de Tocqueville called the tyranny of the majority -- pure democracy without protections can become an ugly thing. Daniel's statement is unnerving in its implication that the individual freedoms Second Lifers have enjoyed could fall prey to the mob.

Some folks have long called for an avatar bill of rights, while most have been content to live under the benign and hands-off dictator of Linden Lab. A fundamental trust has existed between LL and residents that Linden Lab has to be careful not to break. What does an avatar bill of rights even mean in a new, intangible world which has no real regulatory standing, since at the end of the day, we're subject to the laws of our nation of residence and policy is just starting to wrestle with the supranational issues brought upon by the Internet?

I will say that one of the brilliant things about Second Life has always been its libertarian nature. There were a few basic rules to respect, and if you felt the need to wrap yourself in "more government", you could do so on a local level (Neualtenberg, now Neufreistadt, was an example of a local government). It has been a world based on choice rather than compulsion. Second Life to so many people has meant freedom -- freedom to be who you really are or even who you are not. Freedom to stretch your wings outside of the norms and confines of your local society. People are exploring a new world and in doing so, exploring themselves. SL will inevitably turn more mainstream but these dynamics will remain.

I've always said that SL is a reflection of humanity, from our best to our worst. Unfortunately, and inevitably, SL is used in some horrible ways, including some ways that should not be permitted. However, human beings have a tendency to get over-emotional on certain issues and throw a lot of good out with the bad. I have no tolerance for child pornography or abuse (as a father, it triggers a primal reaction in me as in most people), but when the torches start being lit for every small avatar or playful childlike avatar in SL, rationality and balance have lost their sway. It's all fine and good if the number of torches remains loud but limited, however history shows plenty of wreckage where mob mentality took hold.

Am I really really worried about all this? Frankly no, because I think the Linden leadership cares too much about individual rights to let this run amuck. But I would love to see further clarification from Linden Lab, and I imagine there are some intense discussions taking place among the company's leadership and legal advisors.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Second Life Community Convention 2007 Update

As most of our loyal readers know, I'm one of the founders and organizers of the Second Life Community Convention. This year's convention is looking like it will be the best yet, as we're moving to a multi-track format and have a diverse and wonderful organizational team. Here is some of the latest news regarding the Convention:

  • Registration is open and going fast! You can register at
  • Rooms at the special rate of $159 per night at the Hilton in Chicago (where the Convention is also happening) are also going fast:
  • The social & entertainment track is going to feature discussions, DJs and live musicians.
  • The machinima track is set to have keynotes by both Buhbuhcuh Fairchild of Alt-Zoom Studios and the Ill Clan, as well as teen-made machinima highlighted by Global Kids.
  • The business track has put out a call for papers and will feature discussions on successful business strategies, open source, the future of the metaverse, and a panel of attorneys with experience in Second Life doing a presentation and Q&A session on IP rights of content creators.
  • The education track is locking up a keynote speaker which will definitely garner some attention and has a call out for papers.
  • RatePoint is our music sponsor, helping our with Friday night's entertainment as well.
  • Eros 3-D is throw a party Saturday night, the first ever SLCC Masquerade Ball.
  • This year's in-world Convention may feature some high-profile panels not available at the RL convention.
  • Phreak Radio is going to audio stream all four tracks and the parties to the grid.
  • SLNN and the Metaverse Messenger are both doing RL publications; for more information contact doeko.cassidy {at} slnn {dot} com for SLNN and advertising {at} metaversemessenger {dot} com for the Metaverse Messenger.
  • We really can't thank our sponsors enough. Without their generosity, there is no way this event could happen, at the low cost we offer. Please be sure to give all of our sponsors (listed on the SLCC blog) a pat on the back for keeping out prices low and supporting the SLCC!
We're hoping the multiple options available this year allow everyone to have a rich experience and a good time, maintaining the SLCC tradition of attempting to enrich your mind and tickle your funny bone at the same time. As always, if you have ideas or want to help out, feel free to contact any organizer. More info is available on the SLCC blog at - here's hoping you can attend this year, and we look forward to seeing you!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Age Verification Makes Sense - A Lot of Sense

A few weeks ago I wrote a column for the english/german SL tabloid The AvaStar on the separation between the teen and the main grid. I concluded with the prediction that Linden Lab will add ways to identify certain characteristics of the people behind avatars, soon. This prediction does not require a sixth sense. Such tools are the only way to avoid some serious legal hassles coming towards us. It took Linden Lab just two weeks to announce the first such tools: in the near future, land owners will have the ability to ban avatars, which don't have their "adultness" verified. Actually, land owners will be obliged to use this banning ability, if they are displaying "mature" content on their land.

Robin Linden's posts about the introduction of this feature here and there were greeted with the angry outcry, which seems to be the usual reaction of some vocal parts of the Second Life community to nearly every change of policy in our society. But actually – not judging every little detail of the planned policy and processes – I think this is a step in the right direction. As Second Life grows, it becomes virtually (<- pun intended) impossible for Linden Lab, to control what is happening on the grid. Computer software just can't do this. And human intelligence is much too expensive for policing a platform, which is basically free for the majority of users. So – from a purely pragmatic point of view – it is necessary to shift this responsibility over to the residents. But I think it is not only pragmatic, but fair, too: it is the residents responsibility to make sure that what they do, complies with the relevant laws. But to do this, they need effective tools – like age verification.

This is only a first step. Expect to see more kinds of "verification" in the near future! Why? As Second Life grows and becomes more important for business and other aspects of society, legal problems stemming from absolute anonymity will grow.

This does not mean, that we will have to give up anonymity. Like in physical reality, we will be able to do most day-to-day activities without telling anybody, who we are. But for certain other activities we will have to prove that we are "qualified".

I am fairly certain that there will be a way to optionally "deposit" your complete RL identity info with Linden Lab in the not too distant future, for example. At least for those of us doing substantial business within Second Life the national tax authorities won't be satisfied with anything less. Until now the Lab still tries to formally upheld the illusion, that the L$ is of no value and is no real currency. But when you have assets worth a few 10,000 US$ in Second Life and you are able to convert them into US$ with a few mouseclicks - through an application which suspiciously looks like a currency exchange ...

Actually, your account in Second Life is not too different from one with PayPal. And PayPal is very insistent on verifying your identity as soon as the transaction volume reaches a certain level - because local authorities would shut them down, if they wouldn't.

We might not like this development but "the powers that be" will try to make sure, that a virtual world is no save haven from the laws that govern our lifes. And Linden Lab's reaction to the allegations of child pornography going on in Second Life shows, that our benevolent rulers are more than a little interested in placating First Life goverments.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Peak concurrenct of 42k+ For Second life.

It took longer then I expected, but the peak concurrency of Second Life has today for the first time gone over 40k, to be precise the max concurrency was 42.285. I actually logged in to see how the grid was behaving and everything seemed to be doing fine, all the searches worked, profiles loaded, scripts uploaded and objects rezzed from inventory. Even sim border crossings where causing no extra troubles. Only thing that didn't load for me was my friendslist, which I understand is a the cause of a bug and not due to the high peak concurrency.

I was just to late for a picture of the peak.

Makes you wonder why on other days the grid is behaving so poorly? Are there still some unknown factors in the system, or are Sunday users just less demanding of the system?

Friday, May 04, 2007


A cosmetic change was made by Linden Lab several years ago, when the decision was made to change the name of the land parcel popularity statistic from "dwell" to "traffic." In the most recent town hall, Cory Linden has announced that the statistic, which has been gamed since it was introduced, will be removed: "Removing the current traffic metric is part of the new search project, so the goal is to pull it as soon as possible." Many artificial systems were put into place by Linden Lab to encourage community building in the early days, to attract the initial user base. Many of these programs, such as subsidizing events with money, and giving bonuses to more social players through rating systems, have already long since departed our grid. Once a system can be gamed, Linden Lab either morphs it into something else, or removes it, which is completely understandable. Dwell had actually replaced an earlier system with voting booths, where avatars would click a booth to register their vote as approving a place, once per day. You can still see some of these booths around the grid, although they do nothing.

The benefit of gaming traffic hasn't been what it once was for some time now. Traffic used to pay out a daily bonus to the land owner, and determine the monthly "Developer Incentive Awards", or "Dwellopers," as they became nicknamed. Frankly, it amazes me the amount of money and server resources people are willing to waste just to seem popular, which is the only current benefit of having an obscenely high traffic number. While I will miss it as a metric of how much foot traffic my plots get, it was always a fuzzy metric, at best. More accurate systems are now available, that track actual visitors, and how long they each stays on your plot. Traffic was always somewhat tainted as a metric, since camping chairs and other methods ruined the purity of what a single traffic point was worth. The only way to get a truly valuable metric is to have one that isn't tied to popularity in a search listing or financial rewards in any way. Hopefully the end of traffic will lead to a better reporting system for all of us.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Havok 4, for Real?!

Upgrading the physics engine has been a long, long wish by Linden Lab and the second life community. It was always pushed back and left us with the old Havok 1.0. Havok 4 could bring us better vehicle physics, springs and other nice features. Most have give up hope that it would ever arrive after many disappointments, but reading Cory's latest blog post might give us hope once more.
Havok 4 is in testing prior to hitting the Beta grid and the Mono project has fixed the major blockers for us, so we are waiting for resources to free up from other projects there.
I can hardly believe it is for real, but who knows, maybe in a couple of months it will finally arrive.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A future for Live Music in Kaneva?

Oftentimes, when exploring brave new worlds or re-visiting old and forgotten ones, the ever-churning mind of the futurist sometimes has to endure the very things that others would be so quick to dismiss. It's not an easy job, and it certainly thrusts the futurist far outside the comfort zone.

I find this when studying Kaneva, one of the other virtual worlds that may surpass to be one of Second Life's major competitors. One of the areas that I see success for Kaneva is with music-- live and otherwise.

But before I go into that, I have to explain a bit about how I have to prepare for the exhibition of Something New: I must know what the criticisms are before they are said (I probably share them too!) and I must understand how people react when presented with Something New. I am aware of the following behaviors:

More often than not, a loyal user is a loytal user-- if something is better, well, frankly, it doesn't matter.
In other cases--and this is especially true for the techie mind--if Something New does not match 'item for item' then it is immediately disregarded as inferior, a waste of time, pointless or, simply, "I don't get it".
There are valid flaws and room to grow in the future. Just because something doesn't work like A,B,C *today*, is not necessarily how it might work in the future.
And naturally, the presence of the strawman will always exist. "It's Windows only, ergo, it sucks for all time!"

Now, with the place settings of expectations neatly arranged at the table, let's talk about Kaneva, another virtual world, that might hold much promise for live (and not live) musicians that currently perform in Second Life.

Kaneva (, windows-only), is curently an interior-only virtual world that feels a bit like It is in no way as flexible as SL is for content creators, and building is probably one of the more frustrating exercises I've ever engaged in (Second Lifers will be inside Kaneva, most certainly complaining about how crappy their hair is. Trust me, I'm a hair geek. We SO have it better).

One thing that Kaneva does right out of the gate is something Linden Lab is possibly working on for our own grid: a web-based interface to do SOMEthing, although the release date has not been announced. Kaneva's web-based front end is online, active, populated and resembles the architecture of mySpace-- this is important.

Before I go a step further, let me attempt to adjust thinking on mySpace, because there will certainly be an eye-roll or bashing of mySpace. What I look at when I talk about or use mySpace is not the oftentimes *hideous* designs or performance, but the structure of data. Indulge me. :)

If you go to, you'll see my profile-- everything starts with a profile. I can receive private messages there; I can maintain friends; I can blog; I can share media (audio, video and pictures). Other users can comment on my blog; other users can comment on my profile; and most importantly, I can start my own group-- my own community.

When you first start in Kaneva, you are given a place-- an apartment, which can be upgraded later. That's a concept that doesn't exist in Second Life or There. Instead of being on the street, on the beach, in the forest-- you have a roof over your head (amusingly, you can't go outside in Kaneva but hey, you start someplace where you can stash your stuff).

And more importantly, when you click that 'start a community' button on your profile, you are essentially creating a group, complete with the functionalities I mentioned earlier-- blogs for the group, media files just for the group, access control *just for the group*. And that community creation process also generates a community hangout in the world of Kaneva, which, like your apartment, can be upgraded into a conference room, coffee shop, or nightclub.

Now let's talk about inventory inside of Kaneva, at least, the inventory of media--- textures, audio, video, photos. It all starts on the web site-- something which is certainly not foreign to us in the Web 1,2,3,4,5.0 era. If I want to put a texture on something, it has to be uploaded web-side. If I want to make a playlist of music or video-- it's uploaded to the web, and I can access it in-world.

This makes what I create bi-directional-- something of great importance to the performing musician. Upload media to a player that others can embed on their own sites (or their own profiles), very much a la YouTube, and have it readily available in the world.

Having even a fraction of that group/inventory management inside of SL would be a blessing-- sadly, it's not for a long time to come.

The final point to illustrate is about who is a creator and who is a consumer. It could be argued that in the event of a live concert, there are concert-goers (shut up and dance!!) and the musician and finally, the venue owner (which can very well be one in the same). The *need* for content creator certainly leans toward the musician in this case, while everyone else is there to consume, watch, listen or dance.

The figures aren't a secret that most people in the world consume and a much smaller percentage of the population creates. Forrester Research has yet another testament to this by way of the graphic shown here.

This whole idea is a very early, high level overview of what *could* be. Live broadcasting is on its way as indicated by a brief conversation I had with a VP from Kaneva at the Virtual Worlds 2007 conference in New York a couple months ago.

But put those pieces together--- mySpace-like structure to managing media inventory AND community, that is accessible to the outside world AND the in-world world, with pre-fab places to get started. That could be a recipe for expanded success for a musician or band that wants to tackle those new frontiers. Your hair won't necessarily be as hot, but you'll have an infinitely larger amount of control over groups and announcements.

We're not yet at the point where an industrial indie band can perform atop a mech in Battlefield 2142-- but who knows? Second Life, Kaneva, and many others to come-- they might very well change the video game industry to evolve to a social platform. It's the same conversation all over again that we had about blogs and podcasts and videoblogs and of late, Second Life, and that's what excites me the most.

See ya at the show?