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« Gwyn Mugged by OpenSource Thugs | Main | Lindens in the Content Business: Magellan's Latest Adventures »

October 19, 2008

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Ann Otoole

The SL Economy is like the ancient game of Go. If you do not comprehend why then your results are probably not so great while people that "get it" are doing well.

Tara Yeats

"Critics of the concept of VWs as meeting spaces also sound off in comments, to the effect that webinars and various 2-D web solutions are easier to run."

Those same critics, or their predecessors, said the same thing about the 2-D web solutions for meetings & conferences of 10-12 years ago... and there were the same range of technical difficulties then, just with different stuff. I'm confident they'll get to eat their words in due course!

Yumi Murakami

That article and your response to it were both very interesting, Prok - thanks very much for pointing them out.

Your point about the "rise to professional" is excellent for people who manage to do it. Unfortunately, the problem is, it isn't sustainable as a model for the economy in the long term. If the only attraction of the economy is in being eventually able to take US$ out of it, or (at least) avoid putting US$ into it, then it will fail to attract genuine paying customers (who willingly pay in US$) and collapse over time. It's the people who _buy_ their L$ who have to be the stars of SL, because without them, the entire economy breaks down. Even if every content creator left (as they tend to threaten to do over CopyBot), as long as the paying customers remained, new content creators would pop up to take advantage of the money available. But if all the customers go, the grid shuts back down to just those people who will work on creating content - and then pay their own tier. And, well, the whole economy is running on the assumption that there aren't many of those.

Another recent effect has been the loss of a lot of colour from SL. The "rise to professional" is now only available if what you enjoy doing is "art for the sake of art" - if you are creating things for the sake of doing something else, you are unlikely to succeed, because you will lose out to the people whose sole interest is creating. It was this fact that enabled the buying and selling of L$ in the first place, so it's a pretty obvious phenomenon. That has also combined with the removal of dwell (which led to the loss of a lot of social contexts on SL) to remove a lot of colour and versimilitude from SL. The only place I can think of that still retains that kind of feel is Caledon, which is a tribute to Desmond's management skills, but the rest of SL is slowly turning from a virtual world into a fancy dress party, and the loss of value - to EVERY piece of content in the world - is significant.

For example, I've heard of people believing that at most SL performances, most of the audience are either friends, or alts of the makers of the costumes/props used in the performance - who are there knowing that by idling and typing "/clap" a few times they can create a phoney significance for their products and quietly laugh into their sleeves all the way to the bank. The issue isn't that people believe that - people will believe any weird thing - the issue is that SL still hasn't evolved to the point where such a belief would be obviously nonsense (which would require abandoning the "pay for content, free events" model).

Prokofy Neva

Always the socialist, Yumi. I don't say that "the rise to professional" is THE sustainable market model. Nothing of the kind. I am *not* a creator fascist, "create or die". What I'm advocating -- and appreciating, as it is still very much present -- is CHOICE and FREEDOM. That the path to professionalism is THERE for those who chose it and have the talent; for the rest of us, they can make goofy home-made Halloween treats that someone might buy out of pity because they are so hilariously made out of prims -- and for many people, a sort of middling success where they make $50 US a month selling dresses to their friends and are delighted at the fun it involves.

There are clearly more people putting US into the economy than taking out -- look at the PMLF accounts -- hundreds, thousands at the most take anything out.

In fact, the people who BUY *are* the stars of the economy, but of course, you're there at the doors to greet them, cautioning them against trying their hand at business -- even resale -- or scarifying them with stories of ripoffs so that they are afraid to change a dollar.

There are many, many more places than Caledon that have a successful Second Life. You really need to get out more. Indeed, Ravenglass Rentals is one of them, and I'm only one of many small businesses of this type.

I go to live music performances and I would say most of the audience divides into newbies and regulars, and I can't say even as a regular that we are "friends" of the musicians as such. I don't see alts, I see mains, some very old, some very young.

Yumi Murakami

Prok, well, "having the talent" is a complete confounding variable. How do you judge if someone has talent? If your answer is "by seeing if they succeed or not" then you are assuming your own conclusion, making your assertion self-evident and meaningless. Or do you have an objective and independent way of judging talent, so that your statement can be verified?

And calling $50 a month "middling success" is also wrong - according to this month's Economic Statistics, such a user is in the top 20% of in-world earners (let alone the overall userbase).

I don't know where you get the idea that I or any other Mentor put people off running businesses. I don't, and neither does anyone else I know. And live music performances are an exception to the rule - they aren't SL performances, they are RL performances using SL as a conduit.

Caledon is successful as a business and I'm sure many other places are too, but that isn't what I was talking about. What I was talking about is that Caledon is one of the few places where the mechanics of a genuine virtual world remain. Does Ravenglass have a similar theme? Do people respect the appearance of an avatar there, and treat the av's SL identity as a persona? Or is it simply a vehicle for the RL person? I honestly didn't think that Ravenglass had any similar situation, but if it does, then good for you!

That's why Caledon adds value to every item it sells - if you buy a steampunk-themed outfit, it doesn't just change the appearance of your avatar, it can change your role in their society and how you are treated there (to some extent). That used to be the case on the grid as a whole, but that has broken down now, which has reduced the value of everyone's content.

Desmond Shang

I'm recusing myself from these comments in general so I don't come off sounding funny.

All I'll say is that I'm really not all that good at management, other than making sure I've got requisite tier reserves & suchlike. Poking with the estate management-stick typically backfires, in my experience, so I try not to do it unless cornered.

ichabod Antfarm

"Do people respect the appearance of an avatar there, and treat the av's SL identity as a persona? Or is it simply a vehicle for the RL person? I honestly didn't think that Ravenglass had any similar situation, but if it does, then good for you!"

Just because Ravenglass doesn't have a specific aesthetic doesn't mean it isn't as valid a virtual world community as any other. Besides, it does have a theme, a political one - respect a few basic common sense rules and enjoy the freedom to live your second life however you wish even if that second life is nothing but a fancy dress party.

The odd thing about what you are saying is that when I want to actually do "fancy dress", I visit Caledon in my best Jane Austen finery. It's wonderful and, when I am done, I put my tail and ears back on and go back to being the punky neko that I truly am in RL.

Darien Caldwell

I don't know Yumi, My store is packed every day with Roleplayers dressed in their roles, which vary from A to Z. In fact I probably have a very skewed view of SL, as I rarely if ever see anyone 'normal' just being 'them'.

I was taken aback recently when someone put forward the notion that if an avatar didn't have a RL picture in the 1st life slot, you should not have anything to do with them. A more foreign concept in SL i've not heard, but perhaps there are places in SL where the Second Life aspect has broken down and people are just being their ordinary selves. It's just apparently nowhere I've ever cared to go. :)

Yumi Murakami

Darien - I'm not sure if you mean BDSM roleplayers there, or roleplayers in general. BDSM is an exception, because it uses sex as the OOC motivation to enable a lot of roles that would otherwise be impossible - that's why, I think, it's popular on SL.

The problem with "the freedom to live your SL however you wish, even if it's just a fancy dress party" is that it isn't as simple as that. If one person in a group starts using their avatar as a conduit for the real person (rather than a character) then others will tend to too, because real people are by and large more interesting than RP characters, and there is more to be gained by interacting with them. So if you give people the freedom to do this, you take away the freedom for them to stay in-character. It's the same reason why many RP sims disable voice - because if people are free to use voice, then it won't be long before people are not free not to use it.

Timothy Zapotocky

This web page inspired Google to slap up a John McCain ad repeating the claim that Obama voted 94 times to raise taxes. (McCain himself has voted 477 times to raise taxes, or some number like that.) Neothe McCain nor Obama have spoken up on the issue of tier fees :-)

Darien Caldwell

Well, BDSM has nothing to do with it. People wear collars for all sorts of reasons. Sure I get plenty of BDSM roleplayers, but I also get Vampires, Demons, And even Native American RPers. Nekos, Furries, ANd some things which defy description or category.

I don't know that I agree that if someone starts being their RL self, everyone else will follow suit. The fact is, I am my RL self in SL, and always have been, I don't put on an act. It doesn't preclude me from engaging in RP and being altogether different in SL than in RL. It's simply another side of my real being. And I think thats the norm rather than the exception.

Voice breaks the RP, that much is certain. There's nothing worse than finding out your demon friend has a falsetto voice. :)

Prokofy Neva

$50 is middling success in SL terms -- 20 percent of the PMLF *is* middling success, Yumi, you are *such a tool*. It's a significant amount for RL, too, as it means a few day's groceries, a gas tank, something that isn't just a latte.

Ravenglass doesn't have any theme or aesthetic. Some of the communities have a rough theme like "island" or "Tibet" or "Europe" but all kinds of people come into them -- furries, dragons, BDSM, Gor, elves, norms, gangstas, etc. I truly get all kinds. Goreans come to vacation at Ravenglass, it's funny. Furries are welcome and perhaps are taking a break from the Forest or something. Some people make elaborate role play out of the tower in Ravenglass or other buildings on site, but most people have a kind of suburban or beach cabana existence in modern human clothing and shapes. I think Tiny Empires is doing something on some of the land preserve parcels because they have people on them raising the traffic with those tags -- I have no idea. I don't pay attention to people's profiles. Unless they are some sort of blatant sexualized ageplay thing which is actually very rare, as long as they pay and abide by the rules, they are in.

People put up all kinds of houses, modern, Gothic, castle, hobbit, treehouse, etc.

I don't really measure this, but I think the clientele is divided about fifty fifty between those RPing something specific like "furry" or "Gor" or "elf" and those who are just more idealized versions of themselves in tropical garb. Occasionally I get very high-realism types who make themselves old or fat because they are in RL, or they adopt those avatars to stand out.

As far as I'm concern, the mechanics of a virtual world are alive and well in Ravenglass simply because they are alive and well on the mainland. The mainland in fact thrives, despite all the urban legends. Even if I folded tomorrow, it would thrive in other people's rentals and communities. The human spirit is indomitable. It defeats all socialism and hardships thrown at it, even by these hippie Lindens, but the worst problem, like hell, isn't the Lindens, but other residents. What people do to each other in SL is the worst of all; that's why I try to maintain Ravenglass rules.

*OF COURSE* mentors run off business. There is a hard core of mentors who hate commerce, think SL should be free and creative blah blah, and drive people away from it. And you are one! Constantly spread fear and doom and panic and gloom about business in SL -- but fortunately most people simply walk around you lol.

I think you are spouting nonsense about Caledon content versus other content. What eternally amazes me is how people sell stuff. They come up with a design or an idea, even something modest, say, a folding screen, or a one-prim chair, or a book system, or a prefab, or a fountain, and they work it and sell it. They don't wait for your approval : )

Yumi Murakami

Darien, I didn't mean "being your RL self" so much in terms of subtle personality aspects, but in terms of broad personality and behaviour. In other words, what I mean is doing something in SL that you could not do in a chatroom. (And I mean _doing_ something, not _looking at_ something.) And in many ways, SL is failing to provide that.

Prok, simply stating that people are building houses isn't enough - are they KEEPING them? If people are constantly building new ones, that means people aren't staying.

And, I don't hate commerce, Prok. I've even helped people start businesses. I _do_ warn people that SL isn't easy, guaranteed money, but anyone would do that.

And, yes, I know that "people sell stuff". But what percentage of people?

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