I sell houses!

Well, that is to say, I put the Beach shack, one of the houses I was talking about the other day, into my tiny and neglected Marketplace store.
 

Beach Shack Box Cover

 
Is that not exciting?

And I may box up the other three I’ve built lately (the Marketplace doesn’t actually require or even encourage boxing things anymore, but I’m used to it, and used to buying things that way, so I think I’ll keep doing that for now), and maybe even have a Combo Pack of all four at a discount, and even put a tiny vendor or store somewhere on my land, and take part in Hunts, and, and, and…

Or maybe I will just leave this on the Marketplace for a bit and see if anyone buys one. :)

Pricing is so odd in SL; some things of about this same quality are available as freebies, others would probably cost five times as much. I tried to price it so that I might consider buying it myself. Which means it’s at the cheaper end of the scale!

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Horns on the street in Costa Rica

So I still don’t use voice to speak of (haha!) in Second Life, for pretty much all of the reasons I gave so long ago; but that doesn’t mean it’s all bad, and when good things happen I do like to mention them.

The other night I was hanging about as usual, and some of us were on voice and some weren’t (which is always an interesting dynamic), and gradually noticed this sound of distant music.

“There’s someone playing a horn out in the street outside my window, can you hear that?” someone said; someone who happens to be physically RL-located in Costa Rica, which is a place far away from here.

“Yes!’ We could indeed.

And that was extremely neat.

I took a little online survey about SL the other day, and the first question was like “What do you primarily use Second Life for?”, and the possible answers were things like education and training and business networking, and buying and selling, building and scripting, and stuff like that. I had to check “other (specify)” just to write in “social interaction”.

If the second thing hadn’t happened before the first thing, maybe I would have written “listening to the horn from the street in Costa Rica”.

(This is why I’ve said in various places that virtual worlds will be important for business not primarily because they are directly useful for business, but because they will revolutionize the way we live, the ways we interact, and that means big changes to revenue streams, and that means business.)

But business aside, this is the kind of thing I love about SL; lying around writing scripts into parts of the world that didn’t used to do anything, watching fireworks on demand, sitting listening to live music and browsing the audience’s profiles, and talking to friends I’ve never met, hearing in the background of their voices the sound of horns on the street in Costa Rica…

Good customer service: Chop Zuey

I don’t usually talk about stores and things here, ’cause this isn’t a stores and things sort of weblog (it’s more a “scripts and pictures of amusing weird things” sort of weblog), but I thought that in this case one good turn deserves some publicity…

I got an email about three things that were incoming from the Marketplace (“Items will be found in the Objects folder”), but in fact they were not found there, or anywhere else. I looked in Recent, and in Objects, and in my entire inventory by item name, and by suspected creator, all to no avail.

I waited overnight and searched again. I cleared cache and relogged and endured the wait while all (hem hem) 75,000 or so inventory items reloaded. And still there was no sign of them.

From the web page in Marketplace I found the owner’s name, and read the instructions in her profile about what to do in case of nondelivery (including clearing cache and relogging), and (per instructions if all else fails) I wrote a notecard with a copy of the email and dropped it to her.

And the next day I had an email saying that I had had three items redelivered from the Marketplace (“Items will be found in the Objects folder”), and lo and behold there they were, and there was also a now copy of my notecard with a brief note from the store owner saying that they had been redelivered and I should let her know if there was any problem.

And that was good!

The store in question is Chop Zuey, who makes Couture Jewelry, as in say:

(That is, needless to say, not me there.)

So if you are looking for some nice couture jewelry, especially of the big festive sparkling type, and you want to frequent a place that is nicely responsive to its customers’ problems when they have them, this is a place to put on your list.

(And as to why the Marketplace messes up deliveries so often that store owners have instructions on what to do prominently displayed in their profiles, well, that’s a whole nother thing…)

Life after Google

There’s certainly lots of turmoil within Google right now, between the clever and non-evil people who made it successful, and the “Google Plus At Any Cost, we will own the world!” people; and there’s no telling how it’ll come out.

But at the moment the g+ fanatics seem to be winning. (Even this Official Google Announcement was apparently posted only on Google+, so I can’t give a real link to it; but hopefully the URL there will continue working and pointing to the right thing.)

Over the next week, we’ll be adding support for alternate names – be they nicknames, maiden names, or names in another script – alongside your common name.

If we flag the name you intend to use, you can provide us with information to help confirm your established identity. This might include:
– References to an established identity offline in print media, news articles, etc
– Scanned official documentation, such as a driver’s license
– Proof of an established identity online with a meaningful following

We’ll review the information and typically get back to you within a few days.

(Gotta love that “typically”.)

And for anyone that’s nervous about sending their driver’s license to strangers, we are assured on mashable that

Google will destroy all documentation you send them once the account verification process is complete.

Everyone who feels they need more quasi-governmental agencies in their lives, demanding proof of identity and scans of your driver’s license, and assuring you that their random employees can be trusted with your information, raise your hand…

Didn’t think so.

There are at the same time reports that in order to sign up for any Google service these days, you have to also sign up for Google+ (including, presumably, telling Google your real name, and being prepared to offer official documentation for any nicknames you might want to use); and Google’s search results are starting to return Google Plus pages even when they are by no measure the best hits, which is incredibly stupid and the techs are already telling us how to get around it.

So there are clearly two things going on:

  • The Google Plus people at Google either don’t understand Internet culture, or think that they can change it (with themselves as the central storehouse and universally trusted driving engine of that change), and
  • Someone with power at Google thinks that (unlike Wave and Buzz, which were allowed to die when it turned out no one really wanted to use them) Google Plus is so important that all of Google’s other services can be taxed to supported it, by forcing anyone wanting to sign up for those other services to also sign up for Google Plus (and, if they don’t want to sign up for Google Plus, to go off to Yahoo or someone instead), and even corrupting search, which is Google’s base offering and frankly the only thing (well, maybe webmail) that we really want from them.

Of course Google may still save itself from these people; it’s far too early to give up.

But what if they don’t? Where will our bellweathers go to escape the stupidity, leading most of us along with them? Facebook for social stuff presumably, because that’s where everyone is anyway. But who will we use for search, and for webmail? And whatever else Google does that I’ve forgotten to mention?

Maybe the best thing would be for us to fragment again, and have there be more than one Big Obvious Search Provider, and more than one Big Obvious Webmail Provider, and even more than one Big Obvious Facebook-thing, and so on. If nothing else, Google’s failure would be a lesson on the dangers of bigness and obviousness, and the arrogance that tends to come with that.

On the other hand, Google’s implosion would open a very big opportunity for someone else to come in and take its place, by doing the good stuff without the dumb mistakes. Not sure who that would be; opinions welcome. What’s Yahoo doing these days? I tend to think of them as an old company that fell into the “web portal” rathole and never really returned, but maybe there’s potential there.

I really ought to make some bold prediction here, so that if Google does implode and my prediction turns out to be right, I can prove how clever and prescient I am. :) But for the moment I will just cross my fingers and hope that someone smart and powerful over there decides that shilling Google Plus isn’t worth corrupting all of the company’s other offerings, and that Google goes back to being the good guys. ’cause I am always an optimist!

(I will get back to the Combat System Scripting eventually, I promise! Or at least I have a good-faith intention to. But you know… shiny things!)

UGCFTW5!

Well, the news has somehow leaked out that today is my fifth rezday; it’s been five years since I joined Second Life (presumably on 22 November, 2006).

I remember some time back (must have been quite awhile) I was lucky enough to attend a Fifth Rezday Party for Washu Zebrastripe (the inventor of prim hair!), and we were all astounded that anyone could have a Fifth Rezday Party. Of course, as I recall, this was shortly before SL5B, and for a Resident to be older than the world itself is pretty amazing.

I can’t claim that distinction. :) But I do have a last name (or a dot in my name, depending how you look at it), and I remember when the Grid used to go down like every Wednesday (at the very least), and when we had real lag, not these tiny slowdowns that youngsters complain about these days. (We didn’t have none o’ these “sculpties”, either; flexi-prims were new and shiny enough for us!)

I thought I would take a few minutes’ break from the fireworks and parades in my honor and so on to say how great I still find SL, and scribble down my thoughts on some of the reasons why.

It’s very significant, I would say, that I’ve just starting taking a serious look at PvE combat and combat scripting in the last couple of weeks. And similarly that I just started breeding my first breedables in the last few months. Two things, each of which have been around for a long time, each of which are The Big Thing about Second Life to a significant number of people, and yet it’s taken me Five Years to get around to them. And there are still more things waiting for me that I haven’t tried at all yet; probably haven’t even heard of yet.

On the other hand I haven’t played World of Warcraft in weeks (months, maybe); because I’ve done everything that I want to (one 85 DPS, one 85 healer, one 85 tank, all the raiding experience I felt like getting). I may get lured back in for awhile to play a Pandaren, and to get my main toons up to level 90, but then I will probably get bored again.

And dearly as I love Glitch for its humor and quirkiness and art, I haven’t been doing any more recently than poking my head in, tending my little garden, squeezing my chicken and milking my butterfly, maybe gathering a few beans from the nearest bean-trees, and leaving again. There’s a complete encyclopedia of everything there is to do there, and I’ve either done, or decided not to bother doing, just about all of it. I know the devs will be adding stuff, eventually, and then maybe I’ll come back to look at it.

I occasionally get messages from other virtual worlds I’ve tried, like Blue Mars and Twinity and all, about how a new shopping mall has been added, or how they’ve added a new beach where there’s a vehicle you can drive around. And these make me laugh, because they’re so trivial. Can you imagine getting a piece of mail every time someone made a new model of car or motorcycle in SL, or opened up a new shopping mall or public beach? Talk about information overload!

The reason, the only reason that Second Life has been able to hold my interest for five years, is that users can create stuff.

(The people I’ve met there also hold my interest, but that’s interest in the people, which could have been maintained via Skype or email or even (gasp) actual visits, even without SL.)

So this is going to be another post like my original UGC FTW post (three years ago, I see!), only somewhat less organized. :)

User-generated content instantly gives Linden Lab a huge staff of unpayed (and for that matter of paying) content developers, who produce the content that keeps people coming back to the world, and keeps them wanting to live there, and keeps there being brand-new stuff all the time, driven by the Invisible Hand of the Market to cater to users’ wants. User-generated content isn’t just about the creators; in fact it’s not even primarily about the creators. It’s primarily about the people who see or get or buy or otherwise experience the work of the creators, and thereby find the world an interesting and enjoyable place.

(I say it’s “primarily” about the content consumers rather than the content creators because, with a few exceptions, we all consume more content than we create; we all enjoy more stuff that other people make than we make ourselves. I create lots of content that I like and that I hope other people like, but I experience orders of magnitude more content created by others.)

I think this is the key thing that most of the people tossing around the weird little milkshake analogy lately are missing. (The original article, headlined as it is “Why Second Life Failed”, of course seems to me to be coming from some Zone of Deep Cluelessness, since as far as I’m concerned SL is doing just fine thank you.)

All of this “milkshake” thing seems to boil down to saying that you can figure out which products are going to succeed by figuring out what they are for, and then seeing if that is something that people want. (Deep, eh? I wish I could think of deep stuff like that and then write books about it and all.)

I think this is actually wrong and/or stupid in many cases; I would argue that most innovations have been potentially able to do lots of different things, and the reason they succeeded is that their owners were able to figure out pretty quickly which of those things people actually wanted, and bend them in those directions. (In fact even the original milkshake example shows that, if you consider the product to be the store and its services as a whole, rather than just the milkshake line.)

And that’s exactly the right way to think about Second Life. It’s not designed to provide one specific thing; it’s designed to let people create and provide to each other whatever it is they want (within the capabilities of the platform). That general approach can’t lose. The platform has to have good enough affordances for people to actually use it, it has to have good mindshare and stability and so on, it has to be sufficiently funded to survive dry times, and so on; but the general principle is just pure win.

From this point of view, it would be exactly wrong to try to figure out what Second Life is, or should be, designed to do, except for the very high level “to enable people to create and experience stuff that they want to create and experience”. As we (and the Lab) notice some kinds of things that people are using it to create and experience right now, we can definitely make sure that the world is, and stays, good at those things. But that doesn’t mean we can decide that those are The Things, and focus only on those. Enabling User-Generated Content in general, and keeping the world good at that, in general, is in my very strong and pronounced opinion the right way forward. If Linden Lab doesn’t do that, someone else will; and whoever does do it will win.

(And that will eventually mean lots of money, as I’ve observed before.)

So anyway. :) Those are my Fifth Rezday Thoughts on why it is that I’m having a fifth rezday at all, and why and how Second Life has held my interest for all this time, and how it can keep doing that, for the Good of All.

Now, back to the cake!

Second Life’s Transformation into Profitable Chicken Farm Seriously Threatened by Second Life Users’ Hate and Fear of Change

I was recently talking to one of my very good CEO friends with whom I regularly hang out at exclusive meetups and other trendy events, and while I don’t know if he agrees with me about everything, I do know that many present and former Lindens, US Presidents, and the prophets of all major religions, including Philip Linden, probably do, because after all I am right, and Second Life is doomed unless it changes completely.

In particular, Second Life will inevitably vanish into oblivion unless it does three things:

  • Implements “click to move your little person around” like the Sims,
  • Integrates intimately with Facebook,
  • Transforms itself into a chicken farm.

And I don’t mean some stupid virtual chicken farm, I mean a real-life chicken farm, with chickens and stuff. Have you seen the profit margins those places make? It’s insane!

The chicken franchise is, after all, orders of magnitude larger than the Second Life franchise, or even the Sims franchise. Everyone eats chicken! mmmmm, chicken!

Of course Second Life’s current stuffy narrow-minded piggish repulsive decaying stupid users, who don’t listen to me and even satirize me in their weblogs even though they have probably never even talked to Rodvik, will moan and whine and kick their little feet about this, because they hate and fear change. And chickens. They are chicken-haters!

The inevitable changes to the UI that will allow you to click and move your little person to the window where they can buy Linden Lab stock, the only necessary operation once the company is transformed into a profitable chicken farm, will be met with stuffy narrow-minded piggish repulsive decaying stupid whining, but I will counsel my good friend Rodvik (who I call “Rod”, or even “Roddy-baby”) to ignore them, since one’s current users are always less important than the millions of users that one might have in the future if a miracle occurs.

And you should by no means read or pay any attention to people who advise listening to current users, because they are wrong.

Why virtual worlds are important for business

(“Ooh, an important-sounding weblog entry! Can we put in pictures of kittens?”

“No, no, this is important grown-up stuff! No kittens!”

“Maybe just at the end?”)

There is a ton of debate and discussion and information Out There about why virtual worlds are, or aren’t, or might someday be, important for business. Important, that is, to people who are wearing their money-making hats to know about, or to use, or to invest time or effort or money in.

There are a lot of smallish reasons that virtual worlds are important, today, for various businesses in various senses. They can fit cost-effectively somewhere between teleconferences and face-to-face meetings for some purposes; they can be at least potentially effective education and training platforms in some use-cases, and so on.

But I don’t want to talk about any of those reasons right now. I want to talk about a much bigger, if somewhat speculative, reason.

Virtual worlds are important for business, right now, because they are going to be extremely important, for just about everyone, eventually.

I believe, in a way that I can’t prove but through intuitions that I’ve come to trust over the millennia, that in the medium term virtual worlds are going to transform the way that we think of and use computers, computing, and information, and the ways that we interact with the world and with each other, in significant ways. At least as significantly as, for instance, the internet, or mobile phones, have done recently.

Even if I’m only halfway, only one-quarter, right about that, there are going to be some huge revenue streams associated with virtual worlds, and there are going to be moments at which pretty much any business that’s out there doing stuff is going to be in a position to capture, or to fail to capture, some part of one or more of those huge revenue streams.

In order to have a good chance of making that capture, a business organization is going to need to have enough people who, when an opportunity related to virtual worlds appears, will be more likely to think “hey yeah, that could work”, rather than “isn’t that that porn thing I saw on CNN last year?”.

So this doesn’t necessarily mean that a business should, today, be moving their weekly manager’s meetings into Second Life, or that your average high school drama class should have their own OpenSim region to meet in. (Those things might be true, or false, but this particular thought isn’t about that.)

What it does mean is that a business should have people who use virtual worlds. Who aren’t afraid to reveal the fact to their management. Who maybe even try using the technology for a business-related thing now and then. Maybe an IT guy who runs a little clump of four OpenSim regions on a spare server in the corner, and gives accounts to whoever happens to ask. Without getting in trouble for it.

And IT businesses, in particular, especially in software and especially in services, should have some pilots going, some studies. Maybe they’re on the shortlist to be cut when revenue is down, but they should be there. In the corner of someone’s eye. Being worked on in what’s left of the skunkworks. Being brought up in the last five minutes of executive briefings, under “ad-tech activities”.

The short-term benefits of virtual worlds have, I think, sometimes been oversold, and that’s led to us riding the usual hype curve more than once.

But if the long-term effects are anything like what I think they are going to be, businesses are well-advised to have, as well as any short-term stuff they’ve got going on with the technology, a culture in which the thought leaders have an eye on virtual worlds, are playing with them, and working with them. And management knows about it and is cool with it.

’cause, ya know, we won’t be selling buggy-whips over the counter forever…

(And in closing:

)