July 31, 2009

Betting with Trinity regarding Linden Lab actions

Back in January Linden Lab announced to take over Xstreet SL and OnRez, and I had some heated discussions with my friend and SL sister Trinity Dechou about future developments.

While we both agreed that the major reason for the XStreet takeover was the control of the Linden Dollar exchange run on that site (and its eventual blending into the LindeX), we disagreed on sales commissions. Trinity assumed that in order to make XStreet even more attractive, the commissions will fall, while I was (and am) convinced that LL would be foolish to plug what turns out to be an addition to their portfolio of L$ sinks (upload fees, tier, partnering fees).

Another area of speculation was the limitation on group slots. Linden Lab keeps telling us that the 25 group limit is deeply coded into the structure of SL and that changing it is far from easy (which does not keep them from occasionally granting 26 groups). However systems like Subscribe-O-Matic have effectively taken away the pain of the group slot limitation and basically taken away any sense of urgency for the matter. While we both agreed that incorporating a SoM like system into SL would bring a whole bunch of benefits, Trinity could not agree to my speculation that rather than making a system of their own, following the XStreet/OnRez example LL simply buys Subscribe-O-Matic. She rather suggested LL will implement a two-tiered system of their own, with "real groups" as we have them now, and "watered down" groups used for announcements etc and no limitation to the number of them.

What happens if an anglophile and a Scottish lass strongly disagree on things? They wager! So on January 22 the following bet was placed:
Peter: I bet 100 L$ that by August 1st LL has bought Subscribe-O-Matic. And I bet 100 L$ that by August 1st we still have commission for sales on what used to be SLX.
Trinity: I bet 100$L that by August 1st LL won't have bought Subscribe-O-Matic and instead will have introduced their own two tier group system. And I also bet 100$L that by August 1st commissions on what was SLX will be gone.
As defined by the conditions of the bet, tonight at midnight SLT the time runs out. And as far as things look like, my beloved sister Trinity owes me 100 L$:
  • We still have commission on XStreet, and while many changes have happened to the system - and some obvious ones (like unifying the XStreet balance and the in-world L$ balance) are down the road, there were no indications that the commission will fall. Unless this changes in the next 22 hours, it is a full win on my behalf.
  • Linden Lab has not bought Subscribe-O-Matic, nor are there any indications or signals they will. So this is a full fail on my behalf, however...
  • ... Linden Lab has neither introduced nor announced nor showing any hints that they will touch the group system in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, they still claim extending the 25 group limit will turn SL in a screeching snail if ever extended due to database issues. So this is a fail on Trinty's behalf too, and according to the conditions nobody wins this part of the bet.
There is still 22 hours to run, and the folks at Linden Lab are known for surprises. But I think I'll be 100 L$ richer by tomorrow.

July 30, 2009

Mystical Cookie is back!

Missing-in-action SL icon Mystical Cookie, creator of the must-have MystiTool and owner of the Avendale estates, is back and healthy!

Mrs. Cookie (that sounds somehow silly) has been reported missing several months ago. She only started blogging in December last year, her last blog entry was of January 2009. Since then noone was able to contact her, and even Linden Lab officials got involved in the process of getting in touch with her regarding the future of her estates. The forums and blogs started to wonder about her fate, and we even saw what eerily reminded of a obituary.

Residents also feared about the future of her landmark product MystiTool, and many residents reported to have finally bought the full MystiTool for their alt-accounts "as long as it is still available".

According to her blogpost she had a whole bunch of things going on in RL. And while I personally think a single email to a friend "I am well" should be manageable in any case, of course I don't know what challenges she faced. But I am very glad she is back and well. And maybe my issue with the ATM system she made now gets fixed too :-)

Welcome back, Mystical Cookie!

July 23, 2009

On copying...

Copying is a fact. Copying has happened over the millenia. The first cavemen copied fire from lava flows or burning trees. Cultural advancements were based on copying. Things like a number system and written language got copied. Copying helped win wars. Copying helps fighting AIDS in Africa. Copying comes with a whole variety of names like "learning" or "inspiration". Babies copy their parent's behaviour when growing up. Copying is deeply ingrained in the human nature.

If you want to read more about my thoughts, check out my guest post "A short history of copying" I made for Rez Magazine.

Soylent Green

"Like Soylent Green, Second Life is made of people."
(Official Linden Blog, July 21, 2009)

The movie Soylent Green came out in 1973, and Charlton Heston - aged 50 by then - played a detective who unearthed a government conspiracy around the new and revolutionary food for the overpopulated Earth, called Soylent Green. The wicked twist of the plot was that this new food was generated out of the corpses of people who commited federally sanctioned (and facilitated) suicide. The population was fed with their own deceased.

It took some years until the movie got shown in my country, and my dad - an avid watcher of scifi movies at late night TV - happened to see it one day. Up until today I have never watched this movie - and probably never will. I don't know if it was some wicked sense of humor or simply thoughtlessness, but my dad told me what the movie was about. And for years to come teased me with the words "Soylent Green" whenever some food looked dubious or I did not want to eat it for whatever reason. Even today the words "Soylent Green" make a shiver run down my spine. And not a good shiver.

What did Torley Linden think when he compared Second Life with a food substitute a desperate government makes out of the corpses of deceased to feed their residents?

Yes, it is a clever pun on words. Yes, it touched a sensitive spot in me. But this is the most tasteless comparison I ever heard!

July 15, 2009

First meme of 2009

My wonderful SL sister Trinity did it, and the admirable Gabby did it. They both claim Kitty did it but I can't find it. But OK, I do it now too. Here's (my) first meme of 2009:

1. Who was your first prom date?
We don't have proms in my country, and to reveal a secret, I never took dancing lessons either. The only girl in my class asking me to join in dancing lessons was someone who used to gallop around the schoolyard like a horse (no kidding!) and stalked me otherwise. Her asking me to join was the guarantee for me not joining at all.

2. Do you still talk to your first love?
We lost contact a while ago. She even visited uni in the same town I studied, but our paths took different directions. I still think of her, and I still wonder why it did not work out since we clicked very well.

3. What was your first alcoholic drink?
Growing up in a famous wine region, it was white wine. Only much later I started to drink beer. Still can't get used to red wine. I barely drink any alcohol anymore these days and if, it is the occasional glass of good Scottish Single Malt whisky.

4. What was your first job?
The first self-earned money was for selling self made hardware gadgets for the Commodore 64 computer to classmates and friends. The first money from a company was from an IT magazine for articles I wrote. The first money as an employee was during the (mandatory) internship for my university studies at a mechanical engineering company.

5. What was your first car?
It took me well into my twenties before I owned a car, and it was an Opel Corsa.

6. Who was the first person to text you today?
Since I barely use a cellphone I can only count instant messages. The first person that I texted/IMed was Quaintly Tuqiri, the first person to text/IM me was Flutter Memel.

7. Who is the first person you thought of this morning?
My RL-wife, because she had to shake me to wake up since we had some errands to do this morning.

8. Who was your first grade teacher?
An incredibly old gentleman who recently got 90 and is still alive. Tough but just, with incredibly large sweat-stains under his arms in summer. He must have had a horrible time during war, because every time we had fire drill, the poor man flung himself under the desk and started to cry. That was quite an unsettling sight for a 6 year old. Much to my shame I have to admit we made fun of him because of that.

9. Where did you go on your first ride on an airplane?
My first airplane ride ever got sponsored by Microsoft, and the destination was Seattle, USA. Well, Redmond, to be precise. It was back in 1995 and the release of Windows 95 got postponed yet another time, so Microsoft rallied up the worldwide press for a promo event, showing them how cool it all was. They paid for everything, so this was not only the first flight I ever made, it was also the only First Class flight I ever made.

10. Who was your first best friend and do you still talk?
In SL this probably applies to Cheyenne Palisades with who I talk way too little in the past year. Sorry, Chey, it's not meant rude. I don't understand it myself.

11. Where was your first sleep over?
I can't recall that anymore. However I DO recall a sleepover as a teenager where I shared the sleeping bag with my girlfriend back then, and our hands had a life of their own. We whispered and giggled, assuming the others were fast asleep. She had to leave a day early, so the next night I slept alone, but another couple shared their sleeping bags, and I realized that you hear EVERYTHING.

12. Who was the first person you talked/will talk to today?
My wife and the kids.

13. Whose wedding were you in the first time?
I only attended two weddings in SL. The first one was the (first?) wedding of Ryker Beck and I got dragged along there by someone I liked very much back then but who backstabbed me in an unimaginable way several months later. I did not know Ryker very well back then, and I doubt she will remember me having been there, especially since her SL partnership with the guy ended in huge drama.
The wedding I prefer to remember was the one of my SL sister Trinity Dechou and her wonderful and smart partner Aimee Trescothick.

14. What was the first thing you did this morning/first thing you will do when you log in?
Turn the alarm off and take a shower to resemble a halfway human being. First thing I did upon logging in to SL was take a photo of a party invite for Quaintly.

15. What was the first concert you ever went to?
The first "real" concert (where "real" means by a nationwide/international recognized performer and not a local hero) was actually Chris DeBurgh. Living in the middle of nowhere, with no car and not a lot of money ruled concert-going out a bit. But I had the chance to see Marillion, Jeff Healy (poor chap died a year ago) and Joe Jackson. The best concert I ever visited was Billy Joel + Elton John when they performed their joint tour in Dublin, Ireland. It was also the last concert of an international star I attended.

16. What was your first record/tape?
I recorded a lot of tapes from radio shows, so memory is blurry there. The first vinyl I bought was "Thriller" by Michael Jackson. The first CD I bought - actually the first THREE CD's I bought (since I bought them together) was "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" (Beatles), "90125" (Yes, the album where "Owner of a lonely heart" is on) and "In Visible Silence" (Art of Noise) - the latter I sold again because I did not like it.

17. First hospitalization?
First and only one so far (/me knocks on wood) where Polyps at the age of 12 or so.

18. First foreign country you’ve been to?
Living in the part of Europe I live in, there's a whole bunch of countries nearby. The closest literally in walking distance. So the first "real" foreign country I went to was Great Britain on a pupil's exchange. Three weeks in Poole Harbour, one of the best times of my life.

19. First movie you remember seeing?
The first movie I WANTED to see was "The spy who loved me" - but I was too young for it. There was some Disney stuff I saw, but the first memorable movie I saw was "Flash Gordon" (the one with the Queen song).

20. When was your first detention?
Believe it or not, but I don't remember to ever have been detained.

21. Where did you first meet your spouse/partner now?

22. Who was your first roommate?
The only roomates I ever had were during my military service, and to be honest I forgot their names the day I was done with service. I probably would not be allowed to name them anyways, it's prolly top secret or such.

23. What did you do with your first paycheck?
Call me a nerd, but I bought books from it...

July 14, 2009

Gone fishing. Not. Ranting instead.

"Let's go fishing" was what Zippora said the other day, licking her Neko lips in anticipation of some tasty catch. "Sure", I replied, having done some fishing a year ago (Elusyve Jewell is to blame for that) and actually became quite hooked. For a week or so.

So I put on some, ahem, "typical" fishing gear (hats in SL suck) and teleported to the Straylight sim which has a rather nice fishing spot. I teleported Zippora in and rezzed my "(7S) Casual Fishing Rod". Zippora meanwhile paid the vendor to get her own rod.

I cast the rod, but the fish slipped away. I cast it again - no catch. I cast it for a third time, and then the rod told me it is outdated and I can't use it here and I should please update it. Right enough an update package got sent to me upon rezzing, so I sighed and rezzed the updated rod. Meanwhile Zippora waited for her delivery.

The updated rod (version 3.4) went through a rather chatty startup sequence, saying I need to contact the folks of 7Seas if I want my experience and bait parameters updated, but since I deliberately chose the casual rod and did never acquire experience or bait points, I ignored it. And tried to cast the rod. Without success. Meanwhile Zippora waited for her delivery.

A bit frustrated, I unrezzed the rod again, and rerezzed it. It went through the chatty startup sequence again, and this time I read more carefully. It claims I updated from a very old rod (uhm... hello?), and therefore I need to contact their service rep (and ONLY their service rep - never, ever the creator) to get my XP and bait settings updated. Well, I do not WANT my XP and bait settings updated, I want casual fishing! Clicking, casting, chat-commands - nothing worked. I checked the profile of the service rep, who was not online. Meanwhile Zippora waited for her delivery.

I finally read through the mass of notecards coming along with the update pack, and finally found a note saying I need to contact the service rep (and ONLY their service rep - never, ever the creator) and ask to be cleared as casual fisherman in their database, only then will my rod function. Of course the service rep was still not online. Meanwhile Zippora waited for her delivery.

Frustrated and disappointed we gave up and did a few stops of the Neko hunt instead (Peter: "OK, lets go hunting nekos instead." Zippora: "I don't like the way you say this."). We had quite some fun, and when it was time to say goodnight I remembered the rod she tried to buy and asked her if it has arrived in the meantime - which it did not.

Time spent in frustration: 30 minutes (multiplied by 2 persons)
Money spent: 100 L$ for a rod that never got delivered
Problems resolved: Zero - neither did the rod arrive, nor did the service rep get back to me so far

Well done, 7Seas!

Update: of course 3 minutes after I posted this rant, the service rep got back to me:
[2:49] 7Seas Sass: I just set up your account as starting. Since this is a free upgrade, please delete your older rod versions to avoid confusion. Your new ones (the 3.4 upgrade pack which it sounds like you have) should work now. They are copy-OK and interchangeable, so you can make backups, color variants, or whatever... they'll all know your XP and bait level. They also have a nice new auto-decline feature under the Configure menu.... Also, if you haven't been there in a while, you might want to check out http://7seasfishing.com ... lots of info there, lists of 1,500 new community-built fish you can catch, new forums too. :)

July 13, 2009

When worlds collide

Yesterday I went to fix the internet access of a RL acquaintance and hooked up his new roommate to his ISDN telephone connection. While I was busy with the hardware, the roommate and I had a little smalltalk and suddenly she disclosed she has a talent for languages and works as translator for 5 languages, and intends to learn Arabic next.

I literally had to bite my tongue to suppress the reflex of offering her a job with my Second Life company Babel Translations. That was such a weird moment, where the worlds really overlapped and almost became indistinguishable. What she told me fit so well into my concept. It felt so normal and natural to talk with her about a business opportunity.

What would have happened had I not stopped myself in time? She would have assumed I run a RL translation business. She might have even been interested in the job offer, and then the explaining would have become awkward. On the other hand, who knows, maybe she does even know SL? For all I know she might be a well known Fashion Blogger or content creator.

Nevertheless that was one of the most bizarre moments regarding SL I ever had. Did you encounter colliding worlds as well?

July 10, 2009

Stasis in relationships in virtual worlds and beyond

[[This is not a blog post to blame a certain person, even though I talk a lot about her in the following paragraphs! Her reasons for what she chose to do are more than valid, and I am blessed that despite those reasons, she still maintains contact with me and a few others. This is a blog post about what makes a second life, and a relationship in this world.]]

A few days ago a close friend told me of her challenges in her SL relationship. Due to timezone issues she barely meets in-world with her partner and when they meet they usually end up under their virtual blankets pretty fast. She did not complain about the cybersex - however she was lacking something. It turned out that they barely have time to create joint memories of doing things together except having sex: exploring, building, visiting events - even shopping together is scarce. The depth of her relationship was suffering.

Still thinking about this, yesterday evening I received an email from another of my friends. She is one of my closest friends and lovers in SL, and she announced that for the time being, she will not be in SL at all, unless for specifically set up dates. Her RL situation - already good by what she told me before - has taken a turn to become even better. I am genuinely happy for her, even envy her a bit for the good fortune. Being the person who she is, her feelings for her friends in SL are genuine, and she also takes on responsibility for the people she allowed close to her. She has always been struggling for the proper balance, and this struggle has entered a new stage. Being the person she is, she will manage to maintain a balance, and she will continue to be there for her friends and lovers in SL.

At first I felt warm and cozy after her email. I know I am deeply appreciated by her, I know she will manage to make room for me and others. And I know that I would probably not even notice any change. But a certain feeling of creepiness manifested itself. A certain feeling of a very awkward situation. Something was wrong, but I could not point a finger on it.

This morning on the bicycle ride to work I realized that in SL terms she put herself into stasis, she became a spirit that only comes when summoned, she stopped to live an active SL life and became basically a TV set which you switch on when you want to watch another episode of "Friends". We will continue to have joint memories - something my other friend craves so much. But she will stop to have separate memories. Finding a sim that inspires her and showing it to me later. Building something and asking me for help when it is half finished. Changing something on her parcel and presenting it with pride. She will come when summoned, but her Second Life stops until she gets summoned the next time.

When asked what a good relationship is about, people think a relationship is about doing things together. Loving and cherishing each other. Building a nest with each other. Acquiring physical items together, building up shared memories with each other. Trusting each other. Being weak while the other is strong. Being strong when the other needs support. All this is true of course.

But a relationship is also about who you are. This aspect gets sometimes forgot in RL where good looks are deceiving and sometimes hide a shallow package. The field is leveled in SL where everybody looks good, so it comes down even MORE to the individual personality. And the one thing that shapes your personality is what you experience. The things you do, the people you interact with. The places you visit. The mistakes you make. The successes you have.
This is why I have a hard time with new residents of SL - we are, literally, worlds apart. Worlds of experience, worlds of living in SL, and I find it more and more difficult to bridge the gap.

I am using online chat systems since 1989, and even though I got close to people that way before, only in SL I have the feeling that I formed lasting, true and deep friendships. The virtual environment is what makes the difference between talking together, and experiencing together. Joint and separate experiences is what forms a common ground, on which friendship and love can be built.

There is no danger for the relationship of me and my friend. We have richly acquired joint and separate memories. We connect beyond the reach of SL. It is not too far fetched to hope we will remain lifelong friends, even should SL vanish tomorrow. But this development showed me again how much I need the interaction with my friends inside the world of SL, and how important their individualism is for me.

July 03, 2009

Interpreting statistics in your favour - Second Stindberg boosted Snowglobe success

Today, Philip Linden posted a nifty little graph showing how many users use the Snowglobe viewer - a project initiated by him.

On June 23 I blogged about the Snowglobe viewer and announced it on Plurk - now look closely at that graph. Doesn't it make a significant jump from the 23rd on?

Truth to be told, on June 24 there was the official announcement of version 1.0 on the Second Life blog. And as much as I like the idea that my blogpost and Plurk had a little to with that sudden pike, the effect I had would be most likely dwarfed by the effect the official post had.

But this is a nice example how you can interpret statistics in your favor...