Author Archive

Yet another boldly stupid idea LL. :high five:

Posted in Op/Ed, SecondLife®, SL® Advertising, SL® Business, SL® Fashion on November 18, 2009 by luth brodie

In the state the SL economy is in, you’d think a good course of action would be to help residents out by figuring out ways to ya know… help them. Not stick us with yet more fees.
Today in an act of absolute stupidity, LL announced the following:

Monthly Listing Fee for Freebies of L$99:
• Listings for free items will now be treated as a marketing/promotional tool and thus will have a price.
• L$99 is the price of our least expensive listing enhancement and so we will start there.
• Depending upon desire for this marketing opportunity and perceived value given such demand, we will adjust the price as necessary to maximize this value and keep the freebie listings from becoming bloated again.
• Expected Delivery: 30 – 60 days

Minimum Commission of L$3 on all items priced L$1 or greater:
• We will enact a minimum commission of L$3 on all sales of non-freebie listings.
• Since Freebie listings are now considered marketing and are charged as such, they will not incur this fee.
• A L$3 commission will raise the commission on all listings under L$50. This was a range suggested by residents, but it turns out that this is the price range where there is a very high transaction volume and low commission income which combine to cover the costs of those transactions.
• We may adjust this minimum commission as we see its effects on the marketplace. L$3 does not cover the full cost of a transaction, but the goal here is first to manage freebie growth first.
• Expected Delivery: 30 – 60 days

Monthly Listing Fee of L$10 for all items L$1 or greater:
• All non-freebie listings will now be charged L$10 per month to remain listed in the Xstreet SL Marketplace
• Currently, less than 20% of Xstreet SL listings make at least one sale per month. This displays just how much clutter of unsold items exists on Xstreet SL.
• Doing this will provide an incentive for merchants to remove listings which are not selling, while keeping this fee low enough to have a minimal effect on listings which are selling and are desired by shoppers.
• By reducing the overall number of listings on Xstreet SL, the shopping experience will drastically improve which will please our shoppers and be a boon to the business of all of our merchants.
• Expected Delivery: 60 – 90 days

Keeping the commission system after buying xstreet was bad enough. Taking down the better webiste of onrez after buying both was annoying, especially given most of the trash was on xstreet.

They get a commission if something sells. That should be enough. If not, the stupid high prices for featured listings (which don’t actually do anything since everything is listed high -> low) still should be enough. Tacking on extra on top of it in this economy is just yet another slap on the face.

Demos:

Hair and skin makers can’t sell anything without offering a demo. So for every colour variant they are charged L$10 and then an additional L$99 for the demo version. On top of the 5% commission. Awesome.

They aren’t marketing material. They aren’t freebies. They are to demo an item for sale. It’s out of necessity to do this because there is no system LL has ever set in place in order to try things out. Yes you see people walking around in demo skins and hair because they are too cheap to buy anything, but we just point and laugh at them.

However, the feedback from our office hours sessions was that many merchants already charge for these demos and that these new controls would not be a major hindrance to merchants with demo listings.

Um. I’ve never seen a demo above L$1. Maybe I need to get out more.

Eventually, we’d like to add better “demo listing” functionality.

All well and good. How about doing this before fucking them in the ass? I’ve been around long enough to know “we’d like to add…” means it may happen eventually (years later) if at all. Usually it’s just something they say and point to when people complain.

Lack of tools for listing multiple colours once:
Someone makes a dress in 10 different colours. They have to list each one separately, which takes a lot of bloody time. Until the change, they were only charged for the colour the person bought. Now they get to be charged L$10 per month per colour. Awesome.

It’s not a lot, but that kind of thing just starts to add up. L$10 for every upload. 5% commission. Land fees. Classifieds. Commission on using lindex.

Things found on xstreet but purchased in world:
Most of my things are in this category. I sell poses and a few animations and not many people buy things without trying them out if the ability is there. But I have no idea how many of my sales comes from this.

I don’t buy anything on xstreet. I search for things, find a few items, then decide in world. I know a lot of people who are like that.

I’ve read a lot of different people say the same thing, that after doing the math the L$10 per month per item charges on anything over L$10 isn’t worth it. If they would give reporting on how many tp to your store based on listings then maybe it’d be worth it. Maybe.

Who decides what listings are stale?
The Shoppers, as indicated by the number of times an item is purchased. If shoppers are purchasing a listing with some frequency, then it is not stale. If shoppers are never or rarely purchasing a listing, then it is stale.

Fuck you very much, LL. I get all sorts of views daily on my items and yet I make in a month on xstreet less than 1/4 of what I make in a day at my main store. It’s always been like that. I have things in my discount section of my main store that you may think as stale, but the people who weren’t around in 2006 when I released it and just now found it may just have a different opinion.


End Rant:

But this is LL we are talking about. They are more than well known for doing half assed changes disguised as helping after pretending to listen. 3 office hours? Really? You’ve got to be kidding me. No one goes to those stupid things. Cause. You. Don’t. Listen. To. Logic.

Perhaps making it easier to find things on xstreet would have been a better solution. Oh wait, there I go with the logic again…

By reducing the overall number of listings on Xstreet SL, the shopping experience will drastically improve which will please our shoppers.

Um say what? I’m all for getting rid of the trash on xstreet, but my trash is another person’s treasure. Improve the shoddy search functions would be a start. Freebies cluttering up the place? Just throw them into their own category. Allow us to filter them out. Overcrowding in general? Add more categories and subcategories. I’d like a couples poses section please. Due to inactivity? Make us log in or auto delist the item(s). How about getting rid of all that ripped content too? That’ll clear out loads of clutter. Oh even *gasp* actually following through on things that violate copyright and trademarks.

There is all sorts more junk and clutter out on the grid. Did you know that? It’s what makes finding very specific things, even through the trash on xstreet, easier. Are you going to do some hamfisted thing with that next?

And as usual there are many better ideas people have thrown out in the 4 hours since the announcement than they seemed to have gotten from the useless office hours.

In addition to the survey they sent out about new (and rather expensive) marketing programs they are thinking about doing, it makes me wonder if LL is taking SL more in the direction of where people fear Blue Mars is going: only people with a lot of cash and/or already established will have a chance.

In case you missed it, here are some highlights:

Second Life-Certified Vending Machines
-Usage of the vending machine will allow the merchant to receive premium support for merchant activities, enable automatic listing on XStreet SL, and ensure that all items are delivered…. guaranteed. Additionally, the vending machines provide rich data reporting and business metrics.
– Linden Lab would assess a 10-15% surcharge on all purchases

Listing and Promotional Program

– By joining this program, any item you list for sale in-world can also be auto-listed on XStreetSL. Cross-posted items will automatically be displayed, in rotation, in a premium position as a sponsored listing in on the Classifieds page.
-To participate in this program, a small surcharge will be assessed a fee 5-10 $USD for each item cross posted.

Merchant Marketing Program
– The program would provide exclusive use of branding systems, customized store systems (such as a custom URL/SLURL and web storefront), and automatic consideration for large scale promotions. Also included is a data dashboard to enable you to track purchases in real-time. Customer service tools such as AvaLine mean that you are always able to talk with your customers.
– Membership in the merchant marketing program would be available at a cost of $10-100 USD monthly, depending on sales volume.

The Mall of Second Life

– In exchange for the free land and promotion of the Mall, Linden Lab will assess a 30% surcharge on all purchases.

copying, copying, copying…

Posted in Op/Ed, SecondLife®, SL® Business on October 30, 2009 by luth brodie

I’ve been rather quiet on the copying/ripping fiascos that happen in what seems like a weekly event around SL. Mostly because it’s a debate I just don’t have time for anymore. I’ve personally never had my stuff ripped (well… that I know of), but I sure have been copied. It’s annoying and frustrating but there isn’t much I can do about it. Ripping on the other hand is an absolute shitty thing that something should be done about.

There are three victims when it comes to content being ripped. 1. The content creator who slaved over that item from conception to creation to marketing. 2. The buyers who unknowingly supported the rippers because there is no sign clearly pointing out fakes. 3. The customers of creators who get ripped and loose all faith in SL and humanity.

In this slew of conversations about copyright issues, we seem to forget about everyone but the person getting ripped off. Which is an actual shame.

The reason why it’s so rampant in SL is because it’s easy to do, people can make money off of it, there are little to no repercussions for it, and it’s generally a fluke that anyone finds out about it. The lab needs to get off their asses and do something to combat it on all fronts instead of these constant broken promises. But I’m bitter enough to believe that’ll never happen.

Those far more in the know about the tech than I am say you can’t actually plug the holes. Granted, opening up the client to things like copybot (LL helped with that if you remember) and alt viewers that have copying capabilities made the situation far worse. Go LL. But there are things we as a community and LL can do.

Back in 2006 when copybot came out, some Lindens sat down with some of us content creators to discuss what can be done. Part of the list of things was metadata tags help with the DMCA process. Where is that? Is anyone actually working on that?

XStreet was where most of the exchange of stolen goods happened. Mostly because no one wanted to file a report because the retards who ran it gave out personal information to the offending party. With the recent purchase of XStreet by LL, why has this not changed?

Or how about that seller directory that has been talked about for a while and still nothing has been done about it?

Today the shit has sort of hit the fan with two rather controversial sides that I’d like to blather on about.

Copybot is good for the economy?!

Get out the tar, feathers and pitchforks kids. If there was anyone in the SL universe that I wanted to punch in the face more than our least favourite LL lapdog Hamlet Au, I’d be rather shocked. If anything to wipe that constant smug look off his face and maybe make him cry like a little bitch.

He’s been annoying us with his trite rhetoric and lack of journalistic integrity for a better part of 6 years. It isn’t reporting, it’s biased spin. I mean who can forget his calling libSL “talented hackers creating cool applications” directly after LL in their infinite wisdom supported the release of copybot? And of course that content creators who were upset about the entire situation and foreseeing what SL is like today with rampant content theft as “having the crazy mob mentality.”

His latest spin on the copyright infringement issue is actually worse. He contends that with the release of the latest PR spin of economic figures by LL being on the rise, that copybot has actually helped the economy.

That is poorest example of false correlation that I’ve ever seen.

1. Figures released as PR from the lab can hardly be counted as proof of anything. Every content creator knows full well what is going on with the economy. I don’t know a single person who isn’t feeling a hit. The lab telling us that it just isn’t the case doesn’t make us feel good; it’s a bloody slap in the face. Just not as demeaning as Hamlet is.

2. If the figures are correct, without side by side comparison of the population increase and what people were spending on, this point is impossible to prove. Therefore even bringing it up is demeaning to the many who have dealt with this issue first hand.

More people = more land rented = more transactions. More people = more purchases. More people = more content creators = more content = more purchases.

I don’t even call myself an economist, let alone an internet economist and I still call duh on that.

3. Copyright infringement does not help the economy, no matter how you’d like to sugar coat the current situation. The more people get copied, the less likely they’ll make anything worthwhile. The less worthwhile things to buy, the faster the economy will go into the toilet. This is happening as we speak since there are many who are creating less or have stopped all together because what’s the bloody point anymore if someone can rip us off with a couple of clicks with little to no repercussions?

4. Did he even think to bother to get actual data from someone willing to give absolute proof of what copyright infringement has done to their business? You know see what happened to the sales of their copied item? It’s not like this is being done on a small scale. Many people are getting hit and sometimes in mass, so it’s not like it’s difficult to find a few people to interview. That’s kind of what being a journalist is all about isn’t it? Getting all sorts of data, lay it out in an unbiased way and let the reader decide for themselves. Or at least that’s what it should be about.

5. At first many people really weren’t using copybot. It wasn’t until the easy to find and easy to use alternative clients that it became as much of an issue as it is today.

6. The last quarter of 2006 is when SL blew up. When we all thought we were going to get rich. My sales exploded. As was the same with everyone else I’ve talked to. Copybot couldn’t do animations and yet my sales during the x-mas season that year was 7x more than all the rest of the year combined.

The 5th of November Boycott

First of all, thank you for taking my favourite holiday. My birthday is on the 6th and going to fireworks in the park was one of the best things about living in London and one thing I’ll very much miss. I mean what is more awesome than a celebration over parliament almost being blown up?

Even if you could get enough content creators to join in (you won’t) the fact of the matter is is that LL doesn’t care. They. Don’t. Care.

Does the copybot boycott of 2006 ring a bell? A decent percentage of creators got in on that (including me) and it did fuck all. Or how about the letter to the lab which I believe was the same year with all sorts of signatures and surrounded by bad press?

That kind of thing worked in 2003 and not a single time since. Because they don’t care. They will still get tier. They will still get their precious money. They don’t care about bugs. They don’t care that animations have been broken for years. They don’t care about copying because it’s not like they don’t know what’s going on with it. Getting LL to care is about as useless as repeatedly bashing your head against a brick wall. And about as fun.

Even if they did care, what exactly would a boycott do that the current class action suit won’t? It’s giving them bad press and the potential to hit them where it hurts – their wallet a bit more effective? Honestly I don’t know if this entire thing will do anything, but it’s certainly more potential than a boycott will ever do.

Next up, why punish the people who are already being punished by this issue? Content creators are struggling so let’s punish them. Customers are already being punished by other drastic theft prevention measures and from knowing that what they spent their hard earned money on someone else got for free or cheap, so let’s punish them too while we are at it. The people that need to feel it are the copiers and LL. This will not accomplish that.

One of the suggestions for how to survive 48 hours of no sales is to set out freebies and have a sale afterwards. Uh… what? You do know that one of the reasons for falling sales is the over saturation of the market with freebies right? Just as much as the saturated market of an unthinkable number of items for sale is. And that when everyone is having a sale, it pretty much doesn’t do what it used to because it gets lost in the commotion.

The upload boycott is a bit of a better idea – at least less harmful to those who are already being punished – but it still won’t do anything.

In Closing:

LL is going to do whatever it wants no matter what you do. Call me bitter but after more than 5 years of this sort of thing, you can kind of see a pattern. You could pick up your toys and go play somewhere else, but there are many other people chomping at the bit for your sales. LL won’t notice you are gone. You are a blip to them.

Stop blaming content theft as the sole reason for your sales decline. It’s not, but it’s the only one that gets mentioned. It’s part of a large puzzle of suckage. Other stuff is the RL economy, drastic increase in content creators, over saturation of the market, over production, lower quality and innovation due to over production, glut of the market from freebies, SL is just too big now for the lack of advertising options, and probably a bunch of other things I haven’t thought of.

Yes it fucking sucks to get ripped off. But your sales before came from your customers who I very much doubt are going out looking for ripped copies of your items. The people buying those things either don’t know they are ripped or don’t care and probably wouldn’t have paid full price in the first place. Those who didn’t know were potential customers and sucks to have lost them, but the meat of your biz should always be the returning ones. Return customers buy partly because they want to support your work because they want to be able to buy more down the road.

There are many things you can do to be proactive without causing harm:

1. Educate. Get the word out on what is going on, how you can spot a ripper, and what to do when someone finds copies. Do this in a way that isn’t insulting. Most people who buy copies don’t actually know that they are copies. Textures and notecard givers in stores are a good step in the right direction.
2. Others have said this and I don’t really think it’ll work, but start bugging the fuck out of Lindens during office hours. Pick a Linden and go to every single office hour. They are people and people will do just about anything to get you to stop annoying them, just be careful on taking them at their word. Get proof. Just not Jack cause he’s kind of a douche. Well I think it would be funny if everyone chose him, but he’ll do fuck all.
3. There are loads of ideas of what LL can do to combat this in many different venues. SLU threads are a good place to start. Gather them up, list them in a notecard and start harassing Lindens with them. Email it to them. Again, I doubt LL will listen but it’s better than a boycott.
4. Have some extra time and know the players of an industry? Wander around the grid and XStreet looking for those mischievous rippers. They are pretty easy to spot. Ugly stores, ugly adverts, usually new, and a wide rage of products in different styles. Just please leave the pitchforks in the garage and quietly inform the original content creator.
5. I’m kind of tired at this point so if anyone has more ideas, feel free to post a comment

Cheers
Luth

Blue Mars – User Experience Now

Posted in Blue Mars, Guides, How To, Virtual Worlds on September 5, 2009 by luth brodie

The download:
While there are only a few places to visit, you have to download them all prior to starting the program. The first day of open beta that amount is 1.3G. Mildly frustrating now as I download just to take updated screen shots for this post and check out the new UI, its going to get even worse as time goes on.

This is a trade off and I’m not certain what they will do in the future about it. One of the many reasons why SL is more lag invested than your standard MMO is that normally all the assets are optimized and on your computer already. It takes a while to load once you port in; you have to dl the assets of every person around and continue to do so as more people port in. And as we all know after spending enough time in SL and porting around, you have to clear all that information out.

So your download is going to be long, and will only get longer each content update but the trade off is more detailed areas with less lag. The annoying part is in the future when you need hard drive space for cities you don’t like and never want to go to. Another downside of this is that it means it’ll take until the next update for new content to be added, which is unheard of when we are used to the immediate update of SL. Does this mean only cities and not user created content items? Only time will tell.

The Zones:

loading
When you log in you get to the above screen. You click on a floating picture to choose a city. While this isn’t so bad with so few places to go, it’ll get frustrating quickly as more are added.

So, right now you have 5 different cities/zones/whatever you want to call them to explore. 2 of them are games and rather fun for a short time. The other 3 are empty cities, pretty but empty.

Graphics / Avatar / Camera:

The graphics are stunning. The shadows, textures, water, and the way the clothes and hair move are amazing.

You can not change your avatars shape other than the face. Hands down this is probably one of the things I’ve heard about the most. From what I’ve seen from scouring the wiki, there is a high probability that people will be able to make and skin a skeleton in a 3d program and sell it as a package. There is so much more you could do with that way beyond the sliders we have in SL.

So other than all looking like Ruth except for the face (ok the standard av does look better), current hair and clothing options are seriously limited. However you do have some immediate make-up tweaking that isn’t exactly simple. Changing from the horrid purple eye shadow to a more neutral black wasn’t too difficult to figure out.

cosmetics editor

The camera (like general MMOs) is locked to the avatar. Those of us who spend most of our time in SL alt-zooming around will find it extremely tedious to walk everywhere. Who knows if this will be changed in the future?

Shopping / Inventory Awesomeness:

I’m going to kind of gush here for a few mins so just bear with me. Bloody hell this is what has been missing from SL. No more shopping for 3d clothes/shoes/whatever on a 2d box. They are fully rezzed on mannequins where you can actually walk around them to see it all. Since there is only 1 shop that I could find, I’m not certain if this is standard or if the city dev set it up this way – though the shoe shop that is no longer also worked like this.
clothes display

If that isn’t enough for you, you can click on it to bring up a browser of sorts where moving the mouse will rotate it:

No longer do we have to remember the names of items in our inventories. A picture is right there for you:
inventory

Sadly though, there just isn’t much to play with due to the complete lack of content.

Animations:
BM has a built in animation overrider where you can change the walk, idle stance, emotes, dances, and everything else found in the animation menu:
built in ao

Granted the animation editor hasn’t been released so I haven’t been able to play around with much of this yet. The idle stances currently are very annoying and twitchy short loops that are on a much longer timer than SL’s 5 stances. Depending on lots of factors, this is better or worse. For instance, if animating a sway works better in BM and we are able to upload longer anims that aren’t constantly moving we can do some interesting things with this.

Another annoyance is activating an animation or dance as you have to go into the animation menu. Plus the ability to expand the list is non-existent at the current time. Though they do have a scripting language so content fixing this may be in the future.

One thing to note, you can easily shake hands with someone by clicking on them.

Apartment Living:
New to the open beta is the model apartment and being able to play around with moving furniture bits around. It’s pretty simple: just right click to bring up a menu, choose “move”, move your mouse and a highlighted version of it moves, left click to place. To rotate it, you have rotation arrows that you click on. Here is my sound free demo:

In The End:
Like I keep saying, there isn’t much to do right now unless you are a registered dev. Unless you really like walking around empty cities. There are people (sometimes) to chat with, and it’s better now that there is a chat box instead of just the chat bubbles.

The next post will be about content creation. I have it partly typed out, but it’ll be at least a week until I have time to finish it.

Cheers
Luth

Blue Mars – Not Ready For Prime Time

Posted in Blue Mars, Op/Ed, Virtual Worlds on September 2, 2009 by luth brodie

Unlike a lot of mumblings I’ve read, Blue Mars does have loads of potential. Problem is is that very few people look past what is and look at what will/could be. They log in, go oooo pretty, get bored, log out, and then publicly complain somewhere.

I’ve been a registered dev since early June and have had a lot of time to play around, read the dev wiki, and troll the forums. This will be a series of posts as public beta goes along and depending on how I feel continue on through release.

First up, it is not going to be a “SL killer” for the simple reason of: some people really do like the Wild West Sandbox. Some like creating for the sake of creating without learning some seriously intensive and rather daunting 3d programs. Some like the feeling you get finding something completely awesome that you never thought possible. We like the freedom it gives us to do pretty much anything we want… well almost.

Having basic tools that everyone can use is great, but we do have to admit we loose a lot of new users because of this. Sturgeon’s Law has never been proven better than in SL and many people would rather play in a prettier sandbox instead of spending loads of time to find something interesting. There really are enough people in the world (the real one that is) that both SL and BM can happily co-exist.

BM is not SL. It’s something different. More advanced. No matter what LL tries to force SL to be, it is and will forever be “your world, your imagination.” It’s a sandbox. You can make it into anything you want. However, there are some serious limitations that LL will never be able to fix like lots of people in one spot, effective advertising and proper IP rights. Whereas BM sits more in the middle of being able to create whatever you want to and a perfect ideal world imagined by a group of professional 3d artists (ie video games). Sort of more like: people who can afford a city’s world you can play in, can bounce around to different worlds and also buy some stuff.

BM is for those of us who’d rather have more power to create things without having to overcompensate for SL’s quirks. It’s for indie video game developers to make a game people don’t have to find and dl off of Steam. Or for fully immersed RP communities to have full control over their piece of the world, including the type of content you can bring in.

Granted they are touching on things that SL has tried to be or we’ve tried to make it, but many of those things SL just doesn’t do very well. However, the structure of BM and how it works makes it more viable for those types of things. Like crowds, RPG Sims, and much more detailed worlds.

And if I read another “SL does X so BM should do it too” I swear I’m going to punch someone in the face. For instance, having the ability for anyone to create without using those daunting 3d programs and then edit on the fly means there is very much a performance hit in SL because of it. I’d rather see what they do differently (better) instead of having a SL 2.0 – that’s what all the opensims are for.

SL is this crazy messed up place where anything can happen, and your options are almost limitless as long as you are clever enough to find the work arounds. Whereas Blue Mars is a bit more controlled and you have ability to make a bit higher level of quality along with many more functions available. If I sound at all more positive of BM, it’s really only because I already know my limitations in SL where I don’t yet in BM.

As It Stands Now:
That took a long time to get here…

Yes I know it’s a beta, but it’s not even ready for a public open beta. I’ve been in a lot of betas and will usually be the first to scream “its beta.” I think it was great letting devs start playing with the tools as early as possible. I would have even played around with the item editor more if I could texture decently and had more time. However, I have never seen anything go to open beta this unready.

The amount of things to do in it right now, if you aren’t a registered dev, you can see in a matter of hours. If you are a registered dev, the documentation will leave you spending another couple of hours banging your head against a wall until you give up. That is unless you have previous 3d experience and like to figure things out. And even then, it’s so buggy and finicky people are getting extremely frustrated.

Any MMO with this level of not much really to do for a user would fail as a private beta, let alone a public open beta. But it’s not really an MMO. SL you could torture prims or fly around and watch other people torture prims in beta. But it’s not really like SL. However, I’m guessing that a high percentage of those signed up for beta are from SL and they will be looking for something to do.

For a public beta test to work – as in thoroughly test the technology and get people interested in the game/platform – you need to have enough content for them to play around with. No loads of users for a couple of hours – maybe days in this case – and then most bugger off out of absolute boredom. This was the point of having registered devs in a private beta, or so I would think. They are seriously jumping the gun here since we haven’t actually had time or the ability to at least partially fill up the current empty cities. The only thing (content wise) that’s been added since I first got in beta in early June was a new empty city.

Part of the problem is that the developer tools aren’t ready. As a content creator there is no way to create and upload animations, skins, hair, shapes, accessories, or script anything. They may be included in the city developer SDK, but that’s under a different NDA so I don’t know. But the fact of the matter is, is that the few things that you could buy have been sitting there since my first walk around.

What they really should have done, in my opinion, is to first finish the content creation tools enough so we could put some things in all those empty shops in Beach City and/or New Venice. I know some would scream favouritism, but we are talking user retention here. Which would be better: 2 shops with a few things in it surrounded by empty ones or all the shops with at least something in it?

Right now it seems to be more of a “look at the potential of this platform” directed at developers instead of what a public beta generally means: something for the users. If that’s the case, then why not open the dev beta to everyone who signed up first?

Why would anyone take as much time as it does to develop for BM when the place will be empty of users due to lack of anything compelling to do? BM might be infinitely better to look at, have loads more capabilities but SL has the users. Why would a dev choose an empty BM over an overflowing SL?

Does AR have on their road map the time it’s going to take for someone to develop actual compelling content without the promise of users in order to bring them in?

SLCC ’09

Posted in Op/Ed, Real Life, SecondLife® on August 16, 2009 by luth brodie

It’s that time of year again. Autumn is about to hit. School is about to start. SL sales summer slump is about to (hopefully) end. And there is a large gathering of sex crazed nerds violating a city somewhere in the US. While the months leading up to it had far less buzz than any year I can recall, as it’s happening the buzz certainly has gone up.

The following rant can be summed up by: Future United, please pay attention to what the community wants/needs and not what the money wants.

I’ve been to two – Chicago and Tampa. If you go with the sole intention of getting smashed, meting interesting people, talking about SL in RL to people who don’t stare at you funny, and having a laugh it’s a good time. However any other reason will probably leave you frustrated and annoyed then grumbly at the price tag. Unless of course you are there with a corporate expense account.

Yeah, complaining about SL issues face to face with a Linden is fun, but rather disappointing when you realize it’s just a waste of time. And watching everyone drool over Philip is amusing for a while, then makes you gag.

Most of the people I enjoyed being around in years past aren’t there. Most of the people who made SLCC what it is aren’t there. I mean how can you have a SLCC without the Leather and Lace Ball? SL is what it is and if you sanitize it, it sort of well… makes it a lie.

Over the weekend, I’ve gotten loads of txts from people complaining. Lack of people – I hear it’s under 300 this year. Lack of anything remotely interesting. And a serious lack of organization. For instance, they had to postpone registration because the person with all the files wasn’t even supposed to be there until much later in the day.

There are rumours abound about a cluster fuck of power and that just a single person is allowed to make all the decisions. However, whatever decisions that are being made are taking the entire event from what it started out as into something so far from what SL is and forced into a shiny corporate package in order to be viable for expense reporting.

Second Life Community Corporate Convention

They really need to change the name so it’s not misleading. It is not for the community. It is for the big sponsors so much that the only tracks that future united organize is for business and education. But don’t let the name “business” fool you. It’s for big corporate business and how they can utilize SL for X, Y, Z.

There is not a single thing for us small time solely SL based content creators. There are a few panels that sound like it, but not really. Where are the classes on making content? I would have loved to take a class on say, scripting. Content creation is such a large part of SL, whether you sell it or not, but it doesn’t exist at SLCC. Yeah taking fashion from SL -> RL is interesting, but how many people really want to or will do that? There are scores more people who want to just learn the SL part, or increase their skills by watching a seasoned creator do it. Or at least I would assume so.

Why is it that every con that exists has a vendor area and SLCC doesn’t? Yes they may have a hallway for the big ticket sponsors, but wouldn’t it be great if smaller merchants could have a small booth where you could as least see pictures of what they are doing and stop and have a chat with them. Hell, I would have paid money for something like that and perhaps tried to be sober for it. This isn’t a new concept and I know it’s been brought up to the organizers, but it’s been rejected for a reason I just can’t understand.

I also hear complaints about the lack of social tracks, or at least the removal of one after ’07 in Chicago. Since most people socialize in SL. But I hide under a prim rock so I am unable to give any constructive criticism of that point.

Then you have the other mini tracks. These are organized by the first person who can write up a proposal that the string puller likes and can come up with the cash. For SLCC 2008, that number was $2,500 and granted it was the first year of this. Yes they get to organize the entire section, hand pick speakers, spend loads of time doing all of this, and pay a nice chunk of change. It’s no wonder the brand/company/website is overly hyped as being the best thing since sliced bread. If I paid that much money, the only thing that would come out my mouth would be my store name and my website. But listening to it is another matter all together.

How the speakers are chosen is completely by who you know. The talks really are hit or miss and generally over self promoting of the speaker’s work whether they pay the $ for the track or not.

Location, Location, Location.

This is probably the largest downfall for this years con. You may or may not know that every year Future United asks for the communities help in choosing a location. The community chose Vegas and the con is in SF. A lot of people were considerably upset by this.

Now I love SF. It’s my favourite city in the world, and I’ve been to many. However, it is one of the most expensive. In a world wide recession and during a grid wide sales decline, this was a lame move. The hotel chosen at first was the Marriott with a nightly cost of around $249 and 4 night’s stay of $996. But because of choosing a hotel chain that supported prop 8 and the large amount of LGBT people in SL, they switched to The Westin St Francis. With a nightly cost of $173.92 – $495.84 and a 4 night stay of $695.68 – $1983.36. And both have an extra price for the ability to use broadband in your room. (Prices were searched for 1 person in a room. The Westin just had more choices).

Food is expensive unless you know where to go. Booze is expensive. I hear the hotel bar is $8 a beer. Everything in the downtown area is just well… expensive.

You don’t have to stay at the hotel the con is at, but it’s much easier to stumble back to your room at 7am if it’s in the same building. Besides, the last time I checked there aren’t many hotels much cheaper in SF, let alone downtown.

It’s really no wonder that attendance is down this year to under 300.

The People:

Let’s face it. We are nerds who spend much, if not most, of our spare time in a virtual world. We are not cool. We are a bit crazy. Every year I hear the scoffing at the physical appearance from the picture feed. Not only is it rather cruel, it’s absurd. We are nerds. Trendy and pretty nerds exist, but we aren’t generally the subset that is drop dead amazing to look at.

There are some awesome people who have gone to SLCC that have been an absolute riot to be around. There are interesting conversations. And there is that absolute awesomeness of being around someone in person where you can bitch about SL to. The people are what make SLCC bearable. However, there are some to watch for…

The ego circle jerk. Many times it gets so nauseating that you have to walk away.

Then you have those people that instead of having a chat, it’s a rehearsed promotional speech about their in world biz. Thing is, I have yet to hear of any sort of collaboration come out of SLCC that hasn’t fallen through.

Add to that the uncomfortable moments of certain people so full of themselves they down right ignore the existence of others they consider below them. Even direct questions. And even if they are your customer.

The Sex:

I very much doubt that anyone has not heard “and then we hooked up” or “so and so hooked up” at least once when hearing about SLCC. Or at the very least about some snogging. Anyone there has to be blind not to see it. Or far too drunk in some people’s case 😛

Where ever there is a lot of drinking there is a lot of sex. Add in some easy access to a room, ya know being in a hotel and all. Add in the general social awkwardness of nerds and the sexual nature of SL and I’m shocked it’s not just one giant orgy. Or maybe it is and I didn’t go to that party.

It is more sex crazed than a frat party. It’s thick in the air and lingers. If people aren’t talking about SL, they are talking about sex. People bring out their sexy strategically placed articles of clothing. If you are prepared for it, it’s amusing. If not, it hits you like a truck.

In the end…
Now I didn’t go this year. Partly because of the mentioned issues I have. Partly because the people I most wanted to see again had no intention of going. Partly because I’m knee deep in a documentary I’m editing. Partly because I’m quitting smoking and that much booze won’t help. I could have crashed on a number of friend’s couches if I wanted to, but I just really didn’t see the point.

Oh and blame hawksrock for this post, cause he asked for it.

This year might have been different, but I haven’t heard anything good coming out it. If not, there is always next year – if they have one.

Yet Another Freebie Post

Posted in Op/Ed, SecondLife®, SL® Advertising, SL® Business on May 5, 2009 by luth brodie

I was about to comment on another blog, but I’m way past due posting here. And well… I can write more now. So live with it.

The problem isn’t the existence of freebies – high quality or not-, it’s the sheer amount of them. The daily freebies. The endless amount of hunts. Large amount of items inside 1 lucky chair. And all of this apparently needs to be advertised as much as normal releases.

Never ending one-upmanship is what caused it. Designer 1 sees designer 2 put out new freebies once a month, so designer 1 does 2 a month. Designer 3 sees this and steps it up to once a week. Every hunt has to better/larger/more important than all the previous ones. And of course everyone has to be in as many hunts as possible.

What people failed to realize in this mess is what the point of freebies are and what happens in the long run.

1. Freebies are an advertising tool. A lot of people complain that the issue is the high quality of the freebies, but throwing your worst work around the grid isn’t really going to get new customers. This is to target potential paying customers to come buy something, so what is the bloody point of updating them so often?

2. Lucky chairs drive traffic without resorting to bots. If it didn’t work, people wouldn’t do it. But with the increase in hunts, freebie releases, group gifts and picks rewards few will even bother standing around waiting for that item.

3. Demos. How many times have you seen something on the feed or in the store and thought it looked awesome, but once you put it on there were massive quality issues? Many times it’ll look great in the picture, but like ass on the avie. Photoshoping the ads (never understood why taking extra time to fix it in the ad instead of fixing the item in the first place), lighting issues, no side shots to show the seams and probably other shit I can’t think of right now. A quality freebie can give potential paying customers who somehow found your store an idea of how good your stuff for sale is.

4. Customer appreciation. Loyal customers should be given something, but what that is depends on the creator. I hear a lot of talk about going through your transaction histories and I stop reading. I’ve got almost 5 years of them. No thanks. Personally I think this is where it’s getting out of hand at. The idea that giving away more than your competitors do is going to take their paying customers. Might be true in some cases, but people buy what they want and it’s not just for the perks. If you want to steal their customers, do better work. Or ya know *gasp* something different.

5. It keeps noobs around long enough to be invested enough to start buying stuff.

Freebies have their place, obviously. But it’s gotten out of control on both sides of the fence.

If you put out constant freebies, where is the incentive for people to buy anything from you? In this economy, fewer and fewer have the ability to care about the specifics. That free skin you sent out doesn’t have the stigma it used to and if it’s not the exact make-up someone was looking for, there just isn’t as much of a need to go buy the one that they wanted.

The Entitlement Mindset
This isn’t a new thing or just a SL thing. It’s why we are in this economic fuckup. The idea that we are entitled to something when we did nothing to get it. And honestly, it goes both ways.

Buying and selling is a symbiosis. Customers want new stuff to buy and creators want compensation for the time spent. Neither is more important than the other. If there wasn’t any decent crap to buy, people would rather quickly trickle out into the real world or a better virtual one. We can tout how creating is this amazing process and we only do it for the love of it, but without some type of compensation that really only lasts about a year. It’s not easy work by any means and keeping the stamina needed is rather difficult.

We as creators are partly to blame for this issue. Look at the blogs, the amount of fuss for a freebie release is about the same – and generally more often than – a new release. Putting something out for free and treating it the same way you would something you charge for is only encouraging a mindset of everything should be free.

Complaining about prices being too high on an item that rarely costs $1 or lack of freebies isn’t really any different than complaining that not everyone who picks up a freebie buys something. Just because you put something out for free, doesn’t entitle you to get a sale. Just because you make something, doesn’t mean people have to pay for it. And just because one person puts out their hard work for free doesn’t mean everyone else should too.

Why a boycott/ban/whatever won’t work
Because those who did the most creating the problem, aren’t going to join. People who use overly aggressive business tactics generally aren’t joiners. You can scare them all you want to about being banished from the cliques, but most don’t care about them. Not to mention they probably aren’t all reading your plurk/blog/whatever.

It’s going to seriously anger the customers who like freebies and feel your annoyance to the percentage of people playing the freebie game is directed at them.

People who only stopped by your store to pick up the freebies, just aren’t going to stop by anymore.

People will still complain to you about something, it’s just in their nature. It has nothing to do with freebies or your high prices or whatever else you may think. They are having a bad day and feel the need to take it out on someone. Get over it.

Solution?
There really isn’t one to the overall problem of saturation. It’s just going to get worse unless everyone changes. Everything is oversaturated. Blogs, fashion shows, sales, freebies, releases, and other stuff I can’t think of right now. At one point in time they really meant something, but it’s seriously diminished now.

But it doesn’t mean freebies should stop all together. They have their place. Thing is that it’s only a piece of the puzzle that is the current SL economic state. It’s one of the many factors including: huge increase of creators, rapid releases, fucked real world economy, inflated traffic, inflated classifieds, recycling ideas, copybot, copyright/trademark infringement, shady biz practices and the seemingly impossible task of reaching that 95% of the residents who just don’t read the blogs.

If you really want to take action, seriously take a look at how many freebies you are giving out and what you are using it for. Once a day is overkill. Sorry. Weekly? Still a bit of overkill. Strike a balance between what is fair for both sides and that makes sense with what you are selling. Skins are typically not a bulk item, so sending out a freebie with every update is probably hurting you.

While freebies are a good marketing tool, you don’t have to use it and it’s not the only one out there.

Bah! Valentines Day

Posted in Op/Ed, Real Life, SL® Fashion, SLove & Romance on February 14, 2009 by luth brodie

Valentines Day – the seemingly endless vomiting up of pink, red, hearts, roses and lace. Add in societal pressure to celebrate it if you are in a relationship and the idea that you are somehow less of a person if you are single, it can make anyone bitter.

As a content creator I fully understand the desire to cash in on it, especially in this economy. But does it really need to last this long? I first started seeing it pop up into the feeds in early January. Couldn’t we have a holiday breather after the insanity that was xmas and new years?

There are two types of holidays that I hate: consumer holidays and those christianized from pagan rituals. In both cases the meaning and history of it tends to get lost in the shuffle by governments, religion and/or the media. Valentines Day is so effected by both that the actual history behind it is covered in myths and theories.

The Roman festival in mid February, Lupercalia, was to avert evil spirits and purify the city. It celebrated the god of shepherds named Lupercus, and also honoured Lupa – the she-wolf in the founding of Rome myth – to bring on spring.

Legends say these festivals included whipping women in the streets with the hides of sacrificed animals for increased fertility in the year. Another legend is that all young women in the city would place their names in an urn, the bachelors would choose a name and they would be paired for the year.

The legend of St Valentine being the patron saint of lovers for performing secret marriages for soldiers is undocumented, even in the early biographies of the many saints of the name. It wasn’t actually until the 14th century – around 1200 years later – that any link was made.

This was the time of Chaucer and “courtly love,” typically illicit affairs between the nobility. Remember marriage was a contract between families for money and power that rarely had anything to do with love. Many historians believe that these secret trysts were mental and rarely physical, so it’s pretty easy to assume that love notes were extremely common.

It wasn’t until the 17th century that Valentines Day, as we associate it now, was popularly celebrated. By the mid 18th century it was common to give handwritten notes and small tokens of affection. Now it has morphed into a consumer holiday of limitless items to purchase, usually based more in a media induced fear of the consequences than in actually showing affection.

But in SL™ it’s taken a step further. Anything that you can make with red, pink, hearts, flowers, and/or lace… you can buy. How is wandering the grid while poofing hearts showing affection? How exactly does the endless festive dresses available going to tell my partner I care?

Of course it didn’t start in SL™ by any means, but it’s more apparent that the main theme seems to have more to do with lust than love. The increased amount of sexy clothes (usually in pink or red), naughty poses, lingerie, ect. I suppose with the highly sexual nature of SL™ that it really shouldn’t come as a shock. Lust just has very little to do with love. But what I really don’t understand is using Valentines Day as an excuse for sex. As if we actually need one. Sex is awesome and should be a daily thing… right?