Archive for Second Life

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!

Linden Lab’s Second Life Adverts

Posted in Parody with tags , , , , on July 10, 2010 by Prad

I love the Second Life adverts which Linden Lab have come up with. When it’s not some random SLer you’ve never heard of being morphed into a pixellated form, it was an obvious rip off of Avatar. Amazing how IMVU had the exact same idea..

Amazing how the LL vigilantes are cleaning up XStreet SL for anything which vaguely looks like it’s infringing on real world copyrights, but they have no issue when it comes to jumping on the Avatar bandwagon and using such blatant advertising to misleadingly draw people in. Oh, this is the new one, by the way:

Is there a vampire movie coming out or something? I can’t say I’d noticed.

Of course you can be a blue-skinned utopian dreamer, or a glittery pale-skinned bootylicious vampire. Alternatively, Linden Lab can put out more direct adverts which are guarenteed to be much more appealing.

Hey Linden Lab’s Marketing Department – you can have these for free, because I’m feeling generous:

Art of Leaving SL

Posted in Op/Ed, SecondLife® with tags , , , on May 31, 2010 by hawksrock

So in my attempt to continue to cover every single aspect of Second Life from every single angle of every single position of every single ball… errrr wait, I think I lost my train of thought there.  Well anyways, ahem, the one aspect of Second Life that I have never written about is the art of living life after it.  So here you go…

I left Second Life immediately following my public declaration of my intention to leave it on this very blog which happened on October 18, 2009.  I know that you all suck at math, with the exception of those few builders out there who actually know what X, Y, and Z coordinates hafta do with why your picture won’t line up with the wall on your house.  I mean hey, I lived with Jell long enough, I got kinda use to having a lot of angles to work around.  So anyways, I can relate to the odd time flux continuum stuff that happens within Second Life which distorts such rational concepts as math.

So let me explain to you how long ago that was in terms that you can actually understand:  it was right about the time Jiggly boobs came out.  Okay, well at least the guys have some perspective now.

For the rest of you, let me try to find a few more ways to explain just how long ago that was:

  • It was prior to SL gaining a number… we were still back in version 1.18something or other.  You know… back before you could check out your shadow as you lag through walls.
  • For the average SL’er it was about 6.7 relationships ago.  And only 4 of those were with the same people… just not in the same order.
  • It was back when copybotting was bad, before people’s ideas about fighting copybotting were worse, and way before people were like wtf is copybotting?
  • It was way before plurk developed trending topics which showed that 14% of the discussion was about fashion designers, 25% of the discussion was about fashion bloggers, and 61% of the discussion was around bloggers who criticize fashion designers.
  • It was back when Prad only had like 12 blogs he was writing on, instead of 145.  My personal favorite of which is the daily crackberry photo of his bellybutton lint in 365 day time lapse format.
  • Truth, Troof, or Troofa deleted his plurk account only to add it back because he missed it only to delete it again because he can’t stand it to miss it and add it back again to delete it again to add it back again.
  • SCD hired 37 writers for their outstanding propensity to generate a veritable shitstorm to then end up firing 36.5 writers for their outstanding propensity to generate a veritable shitstorm.
  • It was back when new viewers were the cool rage, and not some sort of identity theft hijacking personal information destroyers of the universe.
  • It was a little over 100,000 views on the Rev, which just goes to show that you don’t need me (or anybody for that matter) writing on the Rev to keep that traffic coming.

In other words it was back in the salad days of SL.  Well honestly, I said that just so I can now check “salad days” off the list of my “top 1,589 cool words that I have no idea what they mean, but I gotta work em into a blog post” list.  But anyways… I seem to be in a digressing kinda mood atm.  If only I had a site with a cool little emoticon I could flag this entire post with as “in a digressing mood” then I would make millions I am sure.  But seriously back to the story…

I don’t think it is possible for anybody who has made SL such a huge part of their lives as Jellybean and I had, to quit SL cold turkey on your own, unless you just went through some sort of major SL or RL drama which is at the root of your departure.  So my personal first step to leaving SL was to turn my entire friends list off so they couldn’t see if I was online.  Because, by god if I said I was leaving… the last thing I need is people catching me when I am sneaking back in!!  But surprisingly to myself, I really didn’t find that I was sneaking back in all that often.  Literally I was in maybe once or twice that first week, and then maybe once a month if that since then.

I even went so far as to cut my bloglines down to only 3 SL blogs… one of which was this one.  Next up, I went and cut down my plurk list from right around 400 friends to only 24, so I could focus on just the ones I felt like I had a connection beyond SL.  I didn’t mean it as an affront to anyone else on my list, I just needed to get back in charge of my time.  Then all of a sudden I had all kinds of time, and I found that I was still needing something in my life to keep me busy.  I think that certain people in our generation are just wired to hafta be in some sort of online community or activity.  For me, I started playing WoW again.  In fact, I started putting a lot of time into WoW, and made a switch over to the Horde that I was really enjoying for a while.  But then I found that I was putting too much time into it, so again I pulled the plug (well at least until Cataclysm comes out.)  So now, here I sit pretty much gameless, although I will admit I am messing around with Dragon Age Origins a bit – although I don’t see it holding my interest for long.

I actually found myself logging into SL a few times over the last couple of weeks.  Partly because Jell was feeling the itch to do some machinima, and partly to try to figure out how to turn off those last few subscribomatics that keep hitting my email.  In the end though, I ask myself if I miss it.  The answer is that yes, I do miss certain parts of it.  I specifically miss the high times of Tringo back when it was booming, I miss hanging out/DJ’ing at Clockworks with Alex/Myg/Wrath and the gang, I miss writing on the Rev and still hate that there isn’t really a decent replacement out there for our niche for our readers, I miss the dramz…because sometimes it is just fun to get in the middle of the craziness if you are opinionated like myself.  But unfortunately, most of those don’t exist anymore.  At least not for me when I am logging in.

So at least for now, I am still going to be staying away.  I don’t have any big pull drawing me back in.  In fact, I even have an entire machinima scripted out, but for now it is shelved on my bookcase until the urge builds up a little more.

I really miss every one of you Rev readers, and I wish you all the best.

Hawks

Speak Now, or Forever Hold Your..

Posted in Op/Ed, SecondLife®, Virtual Worlds with tags , , , on January 30, 2010 by Prad

I was once criticised by irrelevant individuals for “sitting” on the story of VirtualGet which appeared to be a phishing scam, in that it asked for credit card details in return for a subscription to unlimited goods from SL merchants.

However, on first appearance, the website appeared to be an elaborate marketplace for copybotted content. Upon asking the merchants whom’s products I recognised, it became clear that they hadn’t consented to this, so emails were dispatched to the website owners as well as informing Linden Lab themselves.

The irrelevant critics felt I should have come out publicly with the story and let everyone know about the huge marketplace of copybotted content.

The reason I didn’t was pretty simple – if a website like that is getting no coverage whatsoever, then it can be dealt with quietly and cleanly by the relevant parties. In broadcasting to everyone who reads an SL blog, you are basically holding up a big sign saying “STOLEN STUFF HERE!”. And that big sign is visible to both the concerned and the unethical.

Certain Second Life blogs cover copybot on a regular basis, and will often mention the names of these copybots. I am unable to fathom how this is helping anyone’s cause, as a simple Google search for the said copybot client will allow any person to download it and use it to rip SL content.

There have been a few occasions where the name of a website distributing copybotted builds in XML files have been passed to me (presumably to blog) which instead I’ve passed onto the relevant parties (including the ripped creators) for it to be quietly removed. Observing the traffic, these sites disappear swiftly and quietly, and the content creator’s work doesn’t get mass-distributed, which in my opinion works out better for them.

So I can’t understand the logic in causing a mass-hysteria when stolen content is found in isolated incidences – surely it’d be better to deal with it quietly, rather than letting the would-be thieves know that it’s out there for them to find?

Curbside Confessions – Round 3

Posted in Satire with tags , , , on August 29, 2009 by hawksrock

Hey all about time for another round of Curbside Confessions.  Enjoy!

#1

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#7