Archive for the Op/Ed Category

Is Amazon Destined to Replace Marketplace and Buy SL?

Posted in Op/Ed, Real Life, RL, SecondLife®, SL® Business, Virtual Worlds with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2013 by Valiant Westland

For years I’ve been predicting that the next wave of Virtual World development would be driven by the inevitable competition of e-commerce, marketing and gaming heavyweights like Google, Amazon & Microsoft.  All of these players have a huge vested interest in capturing the annuity income produced by the rapidly expanding world of Virtual Products and services.

SL Now On AmazonSo imagine my “surprise” when I saw the Second Life Community announcement, about Linden Lab offering Start-up and Enhancement Kits on Amazon!   I believe this is a first step towards the eventual disbanding of the Standalone SL Marketplace, in favor of an Amazon-powered alternative.  If I’m right, SL itself could be an acquisition target for Amazon in the not too distant future.

The early failure of Google’s Lively Virtual 3D World and the lackluster performance of Sony’s PlayStation Home Virtual World offering, should not be used to throw out this line of speculation.  These earlier efforts have one thing in common that Amazon and even SL doesn’t, a lack of profitability.

In addition to an Alpha-level user interface, no realistic profit potential is the main reason Google pulled the plug on Lively.  Interestingly enough, Sony, in response to Microsoft’s hugely successful xbox.com webstore, has used this years CES show to announce it is bringing its own SEN (Sony Entertainment Network) store to the US and integrate it with the PlayStation Home experience.

Amazon Web ServicesSo why would Linden Lab give up running its own primary revenue source (Marketplace)?  Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and a potential increase in Net Revenues by outsourcing e-commerce to an organization like Amazon.  Amazon has arguably the most cost-effective and efficient e-commerce platform in the world.  They also have something Linden Lab does not, more than “164 Million paying customers!”  This is a huge potential untapped market for Second Life, that would be almost impossible to reach, without this type of partnership.

Many people, not directly involved with Second Life’s back-end development, might be surprised to learn that since 2006 “Linden Lab has used Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to store elements used in the Second Life world and to distribute the Second Life Viewer to end users.”  In fact, Amazon has featured Linden Lab in a Case Study, from which this quote was taken.

Every company reaches a point where one or more things happen.  They either fail, diversify with new products & markets to sustain growth, go public, acquire additional private capital or are acquired.  Linden Lab has thus far failed to expand its market.  Their attempts to diversify their product via their Enterprise product was, as reported by Hypergrid Business, “a costly mistake.”  Their more recent Time to Sell!Patterns and Creatorverse products seem unlikely to generate the type of revenue or market expansion required to have a measurable impact on their overall business.  Going public is an unlikely option and it is doubtful any more private capital would flow into a stagnant business model.  The only remaining choice for the original investors to cash out, sell Second Life!

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has proven he is a fierce competitor who is willing to take risks and sacrifice margin to dominate an industry.  In fact, a Jan 8th, 2013 Bloomberg Businessweek story on Amazon was summarized like this: “As long as consumers are consuming and shareholders are buying what Bezos is selling, Amazon looks fairly unbeatable.”

Hang on to your virtual hats ladies and gentlemen, I think 2013 could shape up to be an interesting year.  My advice.  Buy Amazon (AMZN) stock and look forward to a Virtual e-Commerce SL Marketplace experience powered by Amazon in the near future!

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Second Life ‘s “Cloudy” Future

Posted in Op/Ed, Real Life, RL, SecondLife®, SL® Advertising, SL® Business, SL® Education, SL® Fashion, Virtual Worlds with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2013 by Valiant Westland

2012 – The SL Future That Wasn’t

Before we look forward to what I believe is/should be SL’s “Cloudy” future, we might want to glance back at what 2012 brought us.  As we entered 2012, Linden Lab CEO Rodvik Humble told us we could look forward to:

  • A New Path-finding SystemMesh Avatar
  • Server side performance upgrades and bug fixes
  • More Premium benefits/features and content
  • New tools, like those used to develop Linden Realms
  • Stable tier pricing
  • Additional advanced features (Mesh!?)

Two of the most anticipated upgrades of 2012, Mesh and the new Path-finding System, are still not fully deployed.  I and many others have begun upgrading our inventory with Mesh creations, but the lack of a completed Mesh Deformer as part of the release viewer continues to generate wailing and gnashing of teeth for those with other than model-“perfect” forms.

Redgrave, one of Second Life’s most respected and innovative brands has refused to wait and introduced their own “Liquid Mesh (TM)” solution, that automatically adjusts their Liquid Mesh clothing designs to most avatar shapes.  It remains to be seen whether this bold move will result in a net gain in market share or cause confusion and ultimately frustration, when the lab finally releases built-in deformer technology.

Path-finding is another “almost here,” enhancement that can’t seem to make it to prime time.  The promise of enhanced path-finding is vehicles, BOTs and other objects being able to move more smoothly, including over sim boundaries, with less lag.  The reality for most users, who know nothing of these enhancements, is a strange new symbol and accompanying message appearing in their viewer.

Second Life URL Bar with Pending Changes Icon

Navmesh has pending changes The region has pending changes that have not yet been baked into the navmesh.

My primary SL property is a mainland region that is bisected by a Linden Road.  I have yet to see any path-finding benefits.  The same vintage automated 2005 vehicles continue to bounce and bumble up and down the road, in the same herky jerky manner, typically stalling, sinking sideways or even sling-shotting violently over the SIM border crossing near my home.

Why “Clouds” Matter

Disclaimer:  For those who are not aware, I make my RL living as a Consultant, helping companies develop and implement Technology and Online-media Marketing Plans that align with their strategic business goals.  I always urge my clients to be unabashedly “market-driven” and “surf” the technology waves whenever possible, rather than trying to fight them or create their own.  In 2013, I’ll be publishing a book on “Technology Planning In/For The Cloud.”

Cloud PartyWhile Linden Lab was busy trying to roll out in-world enhancements like Mesh, obviously designed to boost its revenues, through upgrade and new item sales revenues, the greater (Real) and virtual worlds continued their headlong flight to cloud-based computing.  In the Virtual World space, two cloud computing-based offerings, Kitely and Cloud Party saw significant user growth.  Many SL developers are eagerly porting content, in the hopes of establishing themselves as brand/solution leaders on these new cloud-based platforms.

Meanwhile the Google Apps cloud-based office productivity suite and Google Drive continue to steal market share from Microsoft’s venerable Office solution offerings, despite Microsoft offering their own cloud-based Office 365 solution.  There has been an explosion of Smart Phone and Tablet use.  In fact, tablets are now out-seLumiya Viewerlling laptops!  Unfortunately, with the exception of a couple of txt-only clients and one limited graphical viewer for Android devices called Lumiya, there is no way to access Second Life or even my.secondlife.com, from a Linden Lab official Smart Phone or Tablet client.

Although Linden Lab dabbled with a browser-based client over a year ago, there is no official timeline for the release of a full-featured cloud-based offering that I’m aware of.  Worse still, the primary user experiences in SL are still tied to antiquated 1960’s-era plain text NoteCards and graphics formats that 99% of the world doesn’t use!

Now Is NOT Time To Listen To Your Mother!
(Translation:  Get Your Head In The Clouds!)

If Second Life is going to survive, I believe they must aggressively move towards cloud-based offerings.  The longer the Lab waits to make their move to the cloud, the more regions, developers and regular users they will see opting for other platforms.

A 2013 Wish List For LL/SL

What follows is my personal 2013 wish list of SL enhancements, that I believe would go a long way towards slowing or even reversing SL’s slow downward spiral into irrelevance and make a majority of SL users happier and more productive! (Listed in no particular order)

  1. Deploy SL in a current-content-compatible cloud-based platform, similar to Kitely’s, with a pay-as-you-go option.
  2. Give us TRUE, persistent, Universal Status Indicator, that appears next to each persons name.  Allow status to be set prior to login!
  3. Consolidate login, account maintenance and inventory among “Alt”ernate accounts.
  4. Bring back user selectable Last Names!
  5. Provide automatic synchronization & watermarking of Pictures/Textures with users choice of Picasa, Flickr, etc.
  6. Replace the antiquated NoteCard system with integrated Google Docs / Drive functionality
  7. Upgrade My my.secondlife.com so that it’s mobile friendly and supports bi-directional web<>in-world messaging!
    Better yet, how about replacing the messaging engine with Google Chat!
  8. Deploy a C# application development/scripting environment and enhanced APIs for bi-directional object/data manipulation

Last but not least…   Please consider creating a true Reseller/Partner Network for the next generation of Second Life.  I continue to believe there are thousands of small businesses, franchises and vertical markets that could benefit from Virtual World solutions.  This market can ONLY be effectively tapped, if resellers have a S.M.A.R.T. annuity revenue incentive, support structure and marketing that originates with Linden Lab!

To all my Virtual Friends, Business Associates and Clients, whether still in SL or not, I wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year!

Response To MetaReality’s – No One’s Driving This Ship PodCast

Posted in Op/Ed with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2012 by Valiant Westland

Proactive Communication, Collaboration and Effective Leadership Are Key!

Let me start by saying I agree 100% with Draxtor’s call for an “Adult” approach to the future of Virtual Worlds and specifically Second Life. It’s a huge challenge though, as these spaces are populated with a vocal group of people who tend towards emotionalism, rather than reason and feel strongly that whatever they “believe” has more weight and validity than any facts that may exist.

I also agree that Second Life has been horribly undersold. This ties into the first topic, as anyone who would otherwise consider doing business in Second Life, is put off by all of the whining, griping and constant predictions of doom & gloom.

Esbee’s and Charlar’s departure will remain a puzzle, without a clear road map by the Lap regarding their future product strategy. People leave companies every day, due to changes in the market and the company’s needs.

Proactive, positive communication is the key to this and most of LL’s other challenges. Whether or not SL is “dying,” LL pulling back from reporting SL Stats sends the wrong message to the user community. If things are bad, let’s hear some inspiring communication about how we can ALL make things better. If things are good, let’s hear more about the wonders and successes in-world and what LL is going to do to facilitate future opportunity and success for everyone!

As pro Second Life & Virtual Worlds as I am, I share the opinion that neither the platform nor the community are ready for a huge influx of people. One of these “not ready for prime time” issues is certainly user names.

Rod Humble’s Decision on Last Names is frankly, puzzling. In my opinion, the BEST thing that could happen would be for LL to assign each verified user with a “permanent” account number and allow people to choose BOTH a First AND Last Names. If people want to share a last name with someone else, let them voluntarily choose the same last name! If someone wants to be called “DufusIAm Stupid,” let them.

Relating to user accounts, what I WANT to see is shared user accounts, where machine ID’s / MAC Addresses are used to uniquely identify users and multiple “Alts” can share inventory. I believe this would be something that would be a tremendous improvement for both uses and vendors. I would like to see this discussed in an upcoming segment of Metareality.

Second Life truly is a beautifully chaotic world. However, as someone who is a Master Citizen Planner, Charrette Planner/Facilitator and two term Elected Official, and has 20+ years of IT planning experience, I have seen first hand the benefits of effective strategic planning, zoning and communication. My experience has taught me that almost every challenge, that is not engaged proactively, with community-driven citizen and stakeholder participation, ends up costing far more money/time than it should have!

Pssst… Alts Are Taking Over The World

Posted in Op/Ed, Parody, Satire, SecondLife® with tags , , , , on October 17, 2010 by hawksrock

I recently had an experience akin to that of the matrix or terminator movie franchises, whereas I uncovered a nefarious plot by not the machines in this case, but by the alts to take over the world.  Luckily we the chosen few have been well trained in special alt SL-ops (or SLops) by some of the best masterminds out there.  I mean if you do not yet understood the new math of 6 degrees of Elexor Matador… then how can you even call yourself a Second Life resident?   I guess for the uninitiated, or simple minded out there…  you might be wondering what the new math is or maybe you slept through that period in SL-algebra?  First read up on the old school math here.   That was sooo  circa 1999.  You see Kevin Bacon was limited by the fact that he was only one person, and therefore was somewhat limited in his capacity to reach out and touch someone.  In the current world, through the power of alting, you  now have the ability to have an exponential impact on those around you.  You are limited only by your own imagination and ability to multitask conversations.  The new math dictates that one in 6 avatars IS Elexor Matador.  So yes… if you have had SLex with at least 6 avatars (a number probably on the low side of average driven up by the number of horndogs out there who seek the truth) then you too have probably gotten a lil blingy penis without even knowing it.

The reality is that the six degrees of Elexor Matador phenomena has just gone viral.  It has recently come to my attention that alting is taking over THE WORLD… well at least social networking which is our LINK to THE WORLD from our basement safehouses.  I will admit that I was taking life easy, enjoying a little sunlight and fresh air for a change, while venturing abroad into that great abyss known as the great outdoors during my self imposed hiatus from SecondLife.  When all of a sudden, boom… my SLops training started tingling and I realized that my 17 year old daughter was falling for the ploys of a Matador initiate.  It started when I noticed a little thing on that link to life Facebook called a “relationship status” change.   It appeared that our daughter was now “in a relationship”, and it wasn’t even “complicated.”  Well, Jellybean and I immediately dusted off our cyber-sleuthing skills and went to work.

A quick backlink trace showed that this initiate was either a bit sloppy or at least pretending to be.  You see it appears that his wall, photos, info, and historical files were all readily accessible.  The first redflag appeared when we checked his date of birth which showed 1989.  I know many of you are still reeling from the SL-algebra above, but I will help you out and explain that this would put his age at 21 years which ranked up there in the “oh hell no” of ages.  Second, it was time to check his wall.   It appears he was speaking in some sort of code or foreign language.  It appeared that all of his status updates were pure gibberish to the uninitiated.

A few examples:

“BE BAK ON SOON TXT ME MMK ! NEMO BE BAK LATR:) FISH GOT SWIM BIRDS GOTTA EAT:) LATA DUDE:)”

“u showd me nuthin but hate but just like thy say, wat comes around gose around…”

“luvin du fuckin life im livin… its like a DREAM…”

At this point the daughter was brought in for questioning.  A few things were brought up such as her moral imperative to be additive to the global gene pool and not to assist with the dumbing down of America.  How was a 21 year old attending high school?  Do they not teach spelling in school any longer? Is this really the best option on the table?  She then dropped the bomb.  You see this facebook account wasn’t a true depiction into the intelligence and moral aptitude of the new relationship.  He just chooses to “act this way on Facebook”.  He put his age in as older so he looks “cooler.”   OMGWTFBBQ!!!   Does he have a blingy penis?  And you better not be able to answer that yet missy, since this is only day two of the new relationship status!

Well needless to say, this sort of put me back on high alert status.  It appears that there is a new push to hide your true identity on Facebook.  People are alting under various guises at various ages and with varying intelligence levels.  They are seeking to infiltrate the very fabric of our social existence.  They are on the lookout to RULE THE WORLD!

Perfect Partnership

Posted in Op/Ed on July 11, 2010 by Daila Holder

Hindsight is 20/20

Posted in Op/Ed with tags , , , , on June 30, 2010 by ♥JellyBean♥

So I was thinking that I’d have some witty & awesome post to put here. I mean I logged in, took a pic and everything… but honestly I just wanted to take a picture of my pixelated ass and blogging about it just seemed a little bit unnecessary because well, look at that ass. I know right!?! Stay tuned though because it looks like I’m going to be researching prim tatas or some crap as directed by plurk because as we all know I’m out of the loop. Bare (*snicker*) with me, I’m forcing my way back in.

-JellyBean-

Freaky Sex vs Ethics?

Posted in Op/Ed, Review with tags , , , , on June 13, 2010 by hawksrock

So one of my little time wasters lately has been playing around with Dragon Age Origins.  It is a basic RPG format, where you are in charge of a party of 4 players who specialize in different types of combat and fight their way through ever increasingly complicated enemy scenarios.  It is a very visually well done game, with enough entertainment value to keep you busy for at least a few weeks of time.  One of the aspects of the game that I enjoy is that it has a built in reputation meter that takes into account what choices you make when responding to the dialog of the NPC characters that advance the plot throughout the game.  It isn’t quite as integral to the experience as some RPG’s I have played, but it still allows you to either kill, mangle, and destroy your way through… or take time to help every sorry excuse who stumbles along your path with a sob story.  The choices you make don’t make a huge difference in the rather linear game-play, but your decisions do impact your reputation with the different characters in your party.   It doesn’t take long to figure out that if you wanna get into Morrigan’s freaky virtual pants (I mean she isn’t nicknamed a Witch of the Wild for nothing) you are going to be rewarded for taking the lowest moral path.

Morrigan’s visual aid:

This relationship got me to thinking about how I have seen this scenario play out before… in many different RPG’s that allow for you to take control over your characters actions (like StarWars Knights of the Old Republic franchise).  If you happen to live under a rock and not understand how the gameplay works in these RPG’s it is very similar to the old choose your own adventure books, that I used to love as a kid.  You are presented with a scenario, you then choose option A, B, C, or sometimes even D in response to the scenario.  Instead of now skipping ahead to the correct page number, the software does all the work for you, and the situation responds to your input.

Let me give you an example scenario:

You come across an old man, whose one and only daughter has been taken by a group of brain eating zombies back into a castle.  He is not aware if she lives or not, but he has the utmost faith that she still is alive, but he is too weak to go in after her.  He requests your aid to go into the castle and either retrieve his daughter or at least bring him back confirmation of her death so he can grieve and put the matter behind him. Do you…

A.  Swear to him you will sacrifice your own life and limb to assist him to find his daughter.

B.  Tell him you do not have time to assist him with this matter because otherwise the entire world will be consumed by the plague.

C.  (Force Persuade) him that he does not have a daughter.

D. Kill him for wasting your valuable time.

If you think you are a male player who always picks option A:  Then you are going to end up with a really “chummy” veteran male soldier willing to swap spit with you, and a loyal dog.  If you are an option B or C kinda player:  You are going to end up working through the plot line without any real close companions, and you will be forced to go it alone.  If you are an option D kinda player… you will have all the hot chicks thinking you are the next Colin Farrell.

So what is it about the psyche of these programmer types that think that only the bad boys are going to get the hot chicks?  Is it the traditional cliche?  Is it true that to really become appealing you are always going to put yourself ahead of any other thing?  That altruism is a turn off every single time?

I like to think that I am smart enough to see through it, but you kinda have to wonder about all the young pre-teens out there who are being taught the stereotypes from their actions.  I am not a big proponent of video game violence causing real violence, and don’t want to get into that here… but it does seem to be a play to modify behavior types to teach kids that you are going to be rewarded with the girl by picking all the least altruistic options.  It is also built from a sexist viewpoint, because a female playing can easily still find male suitors by picking from the high road options.