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Archive for January, 2009

IslandI’ve been doing a heck of a lot of sim-hopping lately – visiting about fifteen new places a day. And I’ve noticed something: A very large number of people put little effort into first impressions. They’ll do a write-up for their sim, they try to sell it’s appeal and the items available there, they spend how much time and money on actually purchasing and building the place, and yet two vital pieces of the first-impressions puzzle keep falling short: The picture in the search, and the arrival point on the sim itself.

The picture doesn’t have to be done professionally, but at least cycle through the four day-settings to find the best one for the sim! And consider boosting graphics to their highest level for the picture, that helps. I’ve even seen pictures in sim searches where the photographer didn’t let the sim rez properly before taking the snapshot (such as having big bubbled shapes of what are meant to be edged rocks when fully rezzed) – a bit of patience when taking the picture, or waiting until a good day when things rez properly, is a great idea. If I had my own sim and knew I couldn’t do a good quality picture for it I would pay someone what is often only a hundred or so lindens, to do a proper one – it’s a small investment that makes a big difference to how many people will visit the sim. (Hell, if you’re reading this and you want a picture done, ask me if you like, I’ll give you a discount if you mention that you read this blog entry.)

Then there’s the TP point. If someone has chosen to visit your sim, you can make them want to leave by placing the TP point in such a place that the normal camera angle makes sure all the arrivee sees is a wall, or a cloud of branches – both are equally off-putting. Sticking it in the ocean is pretty annoying too. Place it somewhere visually interesting and inviting as well if possible – as wonderful as the rest of the island might be, what will rez is what they are closest too, and if that doesn’t capture the imagination they probably won’t stick around for the rest.

I’ve been visiting places despite bad search pictures and very poorly placed entry points, and by doing so have found some very special places – places that are unlikely to be otherwise discovered by many people because of the lack of attention to these vital first impressions. It’s a shame – these are such small things that don’t require much time or money, that can make such a huge difference if done well.

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Everyone in SL tonight had such a huge array of issues that it was pretty much all people were talking about. It was so bad, it was funny. I’m going to share some of the funnies with you, all taken from the same group chat (names have been changed to protect the funny people). You’ll also get a feel from this as to just how bad it was (and still is as I write this):

[2:00]  Annoyed Person: great.. now search broke too
[2:01]  Agreeing Person: yep
[2:04]  Agreeing Person: I can’t tp anywhere
[2:04]  Other person: me either
[2:04]  Other Person: i get logged off when i type

[2:07]  Site Reporter: almost 3 hours later…  [1:15AM]  This is still being looked into.  For now, there is nothing new to report.
[2:08]  Fatality Noticer: and got this Fatal error: Uncaught [InternalErrorException] mysql_connect(): Lost connection to MySQL server during query thrown in /local/www/search.secondlife.com/lib/Init.php on line 90
[2:09]  Hair Loser: great lol i can’t attach my hair!
[2:09]  Bald Lover: all bald!! yeahhh
[2:10]  Hair Loser: one of my boots is silver and the other is black lmaooo
[2:10]  Redgrave Seeker: Hi could someone please give me an LM for Redgrave.  Search is all gibbled.  Thank you.
[2:10]  Site Reporter: yeah, they say to refrain from rezzing/derezzing no copy items so if your hair is no copy SL just might have you pulling your hair out today
[2:11]  Lost Soul: Does anyone have “Loading…” amount of L$? :-/
[2:11]  foehn Breed: I have no profile
[2:11]  Fatality Noticer: im just going to stay still

[2:11]  Worried Resident: I don’t want to stay home my pervy neighbor is home!
[2:11]  Laughing Person: lol
[2:12]  Helpful Person: ohhhh
[2:12]  Another Laugher: hehe
[2:12]  Helpful Person: have a party with him /her!!
[2:12]  Helpful Person: better than be stucked in the middle of nowhere as me
[2:12]  Worried Resident: …they don’t speak engli …hey no! yuK
[2:12]  Helpful Person: use hands language
[2:12]  Helpful Person: hahaha
[2:12]  Hiraani Heartsdale: lol
[2:12]  Worried Resident bites your desk
[2:13]  Worried Resident: =p
[2:13]  Helpful Person: or little flags
[2:13]  Extrahelpful Person: shame tp is buggered…we could all come to your house and scare the crap out of your neighbour lol

[2:15]  Clicker Person: *clickity click click …click …*
[2:16]  Question Guy: helps that Clicker Person??
[2:16]  Stuck Person: omg i am stuck here lol
[2:16]  Clicker Person: …no, nothing is working 😕
[2:16]  Argh Person: aaaarrgh
[2:16]  Grr person: grrrrrrrrr
[2:16]  Grr Person: nothing
[2:17]  Helpful Individual starts printing flyers for a “Stand around and do nothing protest” lol

And so it goes, for ages, and is still going. Gotta love night like these. Hopefully by the time all you Northern Hemisphere people wake up it’s behaving better 😀

Oh, and just to end on a high note, I’m about to log out and I notice this lovely sentence:

[2:49] Random Person: i dont think a B is comming but theres a dog in a car here

What more can I say? I love SL ^^

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You may be aware that people can set their islands to only allow access to people with payment info on file. A friend told me about this a while ago and after a bit of thought I decided it was time to give Linden Labs my credit card details so I had payment info on file, and therefore wouldn’t be restricted from enjoying those sims. I gave Linden Labs my credit card details three weeks ago, and it still shows as no payment on file, in-world. I submitted my credit card details again a few days ago – still, though the Second Life site says they have my details, my in-world status is no info on file and I am suffering the consequences of not having access to these places. I have submitted a support ticket after reading that this is a very long running issue, according to this it dates back to at least June 2007. That’s a year and a half ago. Come on!

Now even if Second Life didn’t have this running issue, even if my payment info was showing as on file, I would still be think it a silly decision to make your island only grant access to people who had payment info on file. I can sort of understand the motivation for the people who have introduced this restriction: I’m guessing they think that it will lower the number of griefers, and will lower lag on their sim from having people there who have no intention of actually purchasing anything..? As soon as I say that though the flaw in the reasoning becomes obvious: There are huge numbers of people in-world (and I am one of them) who makes and spends lindens without ever having had payment info on file. By placing this restriction on access to their islands they are blocking legitimate customers from their products. Note also that having payment info on file does not mean you ever bought a single linden or have a premium account, all it means is you gave Linden Labs your credit card / paypal info.

As for griefers, having payment info on file doesn’t magically stop you being a griefer, though I’d agree that it lowers the chance a griefer would make it to your land. Having said that, you would have to have very wide spread griefing and significant lag issues, to think that blocking everyone without payment info on file was a good decision. I just don’t see it. I see so many more bad things than good things that come from implementing this policy on your island.

Having being blocked from one significant location so far because of this restriction, I can tell you another result of the policy: Bad blood. It’s a very unpleasant  feeling when you get told you’re not allowed onto an island, particularly when – for the one I’m talking about – I’ve given the owner lindens previously as a thank you for the sim because I loved using it for pictures. I was under no obligation to give them money for letting me do that, it was just something I often do. But now that I’m blocked I feel like it wasn’t appreciated and that my pictures which promoted the place as well, weren’t appreciated. Maybe it sounds like I’m taking it personally… well it is personal. I’m considered a lesser resident in the eyes of these people, even though I am part of the economy since I both make and spend lindens in-world. It makes me not want to go to these places once the payment info on file issue is cleared up. Once it is dealt with I won’t be able to tell which places do and do not block me based on this factor because I won’t get the warning when I try to teleport,  but in the meantime I will be keeping a not-happy mental note of each sim which does this to me.

Yes it is their own land, they can block or grant access as they choose. But it is insulting to the people excluded, and it strikes me as a bad business call. If I owned an island it is not a measure I would implement, not least of all because it detracts new members who are just getting a feel for Second Life from experiencing whatever I’d have to offer on my island – whether it was a store, a club or “just” a beautiful sim. I would actively encourage traffic and make people feel welcome. Maybe that’s just me, what am I missing here?

So until Linden Labs sorts out this issue (which they should have done before implementing the option for island owners to block people with no payment info on file, don’t you think?), I am on the outside looking in. And it all looks bad and pointless from this side of the divide.

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Art has all sorts of inspirations – music, emotions, people, scenery – there is no limit to what might inspire you to do that next masterpiece. I often state who or what has inspired my Second Life art. One of the lesser known inspirations for my art comes from a passion my husband has – Magic The Gathering cards. They are “collectable” cards that are used to play a game, it has tournaments with rewards and it’s an international phenomenon – chances are you’ve heard of it. What you might not have noticed though is the amazing artwork on some of these cards.

A recent example got my imagination fired up, a newly released card called “Progenitus“. There is so much I love about the art on this card. It’s ominous subtleties directed inspired this recent picture I shot in Second Life. Don’t ask me to explain what the card’s ability means, I don’t know – that’s fancy pants stuff for great men like my husband. But I love the quote on the card that goes with the picture: “The Soul of the World has returned”. *breathes* I love that! There is a lot to be said for the words that are presented with art: One of my friends, Prad Prathivi, has a real knack for finding the right words to enhance a piece of art, it really makes a huge difference and can take art to the next level.

One of the special aspects of these Magic the Gathering cards is that they need to match the feel and story of the card’s ability (and reading about what would go visually wrong when they didn’t is amusing). I often try to convey a story or a message in my art pieces so this strongly appeals to me. Once you get into an appreciation of the artists who’s talents go into these cards you start discovering their other work too, like this by Jaime Jones who did the card art I showed you above. Tell me you don’t think that’s some amazing work, and this guy is only 22!

I’m considering starting my own collection of this amazing card art because they get my creative juices flowing every time. Thankfully the house is full of literally thousands of the things because of my husband’s existing passion for their game aspect, I’m sure he won’t mind if I take one of his $1000 valued rare cards (I’m not kidding, some are really worth that much o.O) and add it to my collection of pretties…

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Very late last night I set my blog to be empty – set all the posts to private. I did the same for my Flickr (I also took off the link to my blog on my Flickr profile, so that won’t explain what I’m about to tell you…). Very early this morning I went through and reinstated the posts and pictures I had decided to retain. I won’t go through all the whys for taking things down, or the whiches for what went back up. This post is just a big old “huh” at the fact that the few hours my blog was totally empty, it sky-rocketed to the most hits it’s had in one day, ever:

The hit numbers prior to setting things invisible was like any other day, nothing special (around 50 a day lately is the average), but by morning it was 133 views, quite a bit higher than my previous peak of 97 in one day. And only 37 of those views were people clicking through to actual post topics, whereas that usually makes up the clear majority of hits. To put it simply: People were actively viewing “the nothing”. The extra irony is all my previous peak / very high view days were whenever I’d posted three topics in one sitting – which understandably increases reading as people are more likely to find something that interests them or come back to read the other posts later in the day.

I monitor the hits on my blog because I do like it when people read and think about what I write, it does matter to me that people find my opinions interesting and worth their time. That’s a buzz. I am solidly amused though that the most interesting thing I’ve ever done on this blog turns out to be when I did nothing. Go figure!

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When I was doing my law degree I unfortunately chose not to do the course on Law & Technology (it had too much internal assessment required and a lot of it had to be done online – I didn’t have regular Internet access so that was a no-goer). I did however inevitably get exposed to bits and pieces of the theory behind it through my other courses – like Evidence and Intellectual Property. One of the technology-and-law related things that I got shown intrigued me and stuck with me, and I think it’s incredibly relevant to Second Life. And I’m going to share it with you, you lucky wee things.

When new technology emerges it is essentially unregulated. Some law will exist that can be stretched or interpreted to cover it – such as trying to apply classic copyright law to digital images. This is often awkward though, and applied in an inconsistent way. A body of law will slowly build up through the court system and there will come a point when the government steps in to regulate “properly” – through new express statutes that either clarify how current law applies to the new technology or (and more likely) creates entirely new law to cover it. The government usually steps in under pressure from lobby groups, and they sometimes even listen to the legal fraternity (shock horror).

The pressure groups should be familiar to you, they say things like “but think of the children!” and “zomg, no, people have freedom!”. And don’t lose sight of the effect of regulation that is of most interest to the government: tax revenue *nahm nahm nahm*.

Now that I’ve told you the theory (and it does seem to hold true in my observations), I’m going to tell you what I think of it and where I think things go wrong in the regulation.

Law should be based on core unchanging principles that can be applied to any new situation. Figuring out how it applies can take a while, but it does not require entire new swags of law to deal with it: Law that comes out of the nothingness like that often ends up contradicting other areas of the law and being counter-intuitive. You often get a flood of new law coming out to fix the new technology, and it tends to whittle down to something more sensible and concise over time, but you still seem to end up with a bunch of silly over-complicated laws trying to cover discrete situations instead of being based on the application of core principles. Intellectual law in the virtual environment seems to be going through this process right now.

You’ll always get a bunch of anarchists saying “leave my new technology alone, man, this is the way of the future, we don’t need no laws” (throw in a few extra “dudes” too). I sympathise with this to a point: I agree that freedom is awesome and society is way over regulated, but there is good law and bad law – don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. For a while this view is very popular, and it was true of the Internet too. It was quite popular for people to state that the Internet was the great unregulated world of the future and that law should never touch it. It was quite popular. These days people who hold that opinion are slowly but surely becoming the minority and people are becoming more aware of the trend I’ve told you about: That with new technology will eventually come regulation and law – it appears to be an inevitable process of progress.

Each side ends up accusing the other side of being stuck in the past: The anarchists think the law-lovers are not realising the “true nature of the Internet”, while the other side think the anarchists need to realise that law doesn’t magically stop existing just because some new technology was discovered – that it is rather the anarchists who are stuck in the past in thinking the and not realising that the Internet (for instance)  is part of the world and people’s real lives too. Both sides thinking they see the “true nature of the Internet” and trying to convince the other of who’s right.

Don’t forget too that new technology will evolve to be able to control the new technology that was at issue. Let me make that clearer: The Internet supposedly gave people anonymity and the ability to get away with all sorts of things that would have been illegal in the real world. But the ability to trace people and their behaviour, to lock down their identities and thereby hold them accountable, has similarly evolved. Does anyone still think they are completely anonymous just because they’re behind a computer screen? It definitely used to be the popular opinion. In turn governments find ways and permissions to trace your money as it moves around the Internet so they can tax you “properly”.

All of this applies directly to Second Life of course. I’ve already mentioned here the issues of intellectual property and tax, but don’t forget what happened to gambling there too. And I have no doubt you can think of more Second Life specific examples. The application of intellectual property to Second Life needs a heck of a lot of work – there is a lot of clarification and cleaning up required here, in fact I believe it is the unpleasant and confusing mix of over-regulated and under-enforced. Gambling should have never gone from Second Life, the plonkers – it was fun and I miss it. Remember how everyone was saying Second Life would die when gambling went..? I’d love to see what actually happened to their user numbers and profit when it went.Gambling is of course tied up with taxes *shudders*and morality. Taxes and morality are huge discussion areas that require whole blogs to themselves, I’ll tackle those separately some other time.

I’ve followed this pattern of behaviour for new technology and the internet at a local level too – particularly in regards to a New Zealand website called http://www.trademe.co.nz, it’s essentially our version of E-Bay. It is apparently the most used New Zealand site. It started off a free haven with very few restrictions but the restricted and immoral items (porn and alchohol for instance) got cracked down on, and soon enough the government started rubbing its hands together with it realised how many household wives were making money off selling their old books and children toys to other household wives *shock horror*. There are lots of people making real money off it too of course but lots of small timers were suddenly having to calculate their earnings and decide if they were selling for profit etc as the tax collectors made their rumblings and settled in for evermore. I’m sure you have some local examples and experiences too, feel free to share them.

So where does that put us now? The great thing is we have the chance to effect and direct this process since it’s ongoing. The regulation and application of law will happen, let’s accept that right now. Instead focus on what we want it to look like; there is good law and there is bad law, the trick is trying to make it the good kind.

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Lucky ChairingI’m writing this while flicking back and forth from a store which has four lucky chairs, each set to re-choose a letter every 20 or 30 minutes. And I am neck-deep in the complexities of Lucky Chair thoughts. I’m not kidding, this stuff is full of politics, politeness and preferences.

It started properly yesterday when I visited a store to buy some hair, and ended up watching the three lucky chairs there which were on five minute rotations. I eventually won everything those chairs had in them – three sets of hair and a “model set” which included skin, shape, eyes and hair. We’re not talking junk either. Before that store I had been hair shopping at another place which also incidentally had a lucky chair, where I won these cool sock thingies which are hard to explain but also good quality. The place I’m currently at I’ve already won two sets of what look like quite high quality silks, with scripts built in o.O

A perfect example of Lucky Chair politics just cropped up as I flicked back in-world: Someone who dared to have a name beginning with L walked into range of the chair I’m counting down besides. I’ve been camped out here for ages and my first thought is “oh no you don’t little missy, just keep walking, any L that comes up is MINE.” She’s just standing there beside me staring at the same two lucky grab things that I am and I’m thinking, what the hell is going through her mind? Are we going to have a who-clicks-fastest-race if L comes up or will she do the polite thing and let me take it since I was here first? Or is the polite thing for me to step aside and let her take any L prize because I’ve already won some items here today? And she’s got bling. I mean seriously, that’s how catty I’m getting here “back off bling bish, that chair is mine”. (No I didn’t say that out loud, but I thought it damnit). Sheesh. The shame of it. Standing in one place for 20 minutes watching a chair can make you a bit loopy though.

There’s also an odd feeling of camaraderie though if there’s lots of you in the room all with different letters starting your name, this sort of “we’re all in this together” buzz as you watch out for each other and speed along the letters ticking over while everyone gets happy things.

So here’s the thing – I’m not an official addict. The official addicts belong to Lucky Chair groups and listen to group chatter about what’s available where. I do IM my friends if there’s an item available that I think they might like, and I do get IMs from other people doing the same. If you can rez fast enough once you arrive, you can usually pick up something worth the bother. And yes, I too thought about joining the Lucky Chair group… but which one? There are heaps of these things – some stores (like this one) have a group solely set up for the lucky chair addicts (to keep them out of chatting on the main group it appears). Other groups just exist for Lucky Chair addicts enmass.

It appears that Lucky Chairs have a few useful functions for the store owners: They increase traffic, particularly because most (maybe all?) prizes are no transfer so I’d be silly to stand there and hog all the letter L prizes if they were the same thing over and over, and I’d be smart to bring in friends to take prizes to help the letters tick over to an L faster. Yes, you don’t need to ask, I did contemplate bringing in my alts to tick the letters over at one stage, but the chairs tick over and people come and go faster than I’d be able to log them in, plus no transfer, so you see, I have to be nice to people don’t I. Just not people whose names start with L. Oh and while you’re standing around waiting on your letter you get bored and check out the rest of the store and inevitably contemplate just buying what you want. Me, I get a small case of the guilts and tend to buy something from the store to show my appreciation for the free goodies regardless.

Brief interruption; I just caught myself saying this to a friend over IM in world: “My name does not begin with any of these letters. I KEEL THE CHAIRS”. They no longer believe I am not an addict. I believe my frenzy can be read in multiple ways… I just can’t think of any alternatives right now is all. Ooooh, and there’s this prize pyramid thing here with five tiers also based on letters, bought to me by the makers of Lucky Chairs…

*hangs head in utter despair*

Ah well, a little bit of addiction and running round after letters, getting excited each time a L pops up, is really a small price to pay for a lot of high quality goodies. At least that’s what I tell myself. And it’s not as bad as “camping” right..? Right? Stop looking at me that way >.<

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Edit: At the time of publishing this I have now won four different sets of silks from this place and I’ve now joined the Lucky Chair Stalker Group. My initiation, is complete.

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