Top Posts of 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007 Sunday, December 30, 2007

Second Effects began in 2007, and it is still undergoing very strong growth in readership. So it really doesn't make mathematical sense to list the top posts because so many new readers have only read the most recent posts.

But I will do so anyway!

These are the posts most frequently read by you, the readers of Second Effects:

10. Particles at Burning Life. This report detailed my exploration of particle effect exhibits at Burning Life, and what a festival it was. Maybe next year I will try creating an exhibit myself.

9. Why RL Businesses Fail in Second Life, part 1. This was my first attempt at explaining the usual fate of real world businesses when they attempt to go virtual. Essentially, I believe they simply don't understand what's going on in Second Life and treat it like any old website. Hence, failure.

8. Insane Way to Increase Parcel Traffic. This post came from one of those lucky occurrences when you bump into something interesting right under your nose. Or, in this case, it was my neighbor's nose.

7. Tips for Successful Second Life Clubs. In a very recent post I described some very intriguing techniques for managing a Second Life club.

6. Particles in Bloom. My first attempt at making "vegetation" based particle effects was for some unexplainable reason very popular. Maybe I should make potatoes next year?

5. Why RL Businesses Fail in Second Life, part 3. The final post in the "RL Failure" series garnered 4 diggs as well as a great many views, since it explained some potentially viable approaches for RL businesses.

4. Top Ten Tips for Starting a Second Life Business. Many people ask me what they should do to start a business, so I thought I could answer all of them at once with a blog post. Evidently this is a very popular topic, as many people are indeed starting SL businesses.

3. Why RL Businesses Fail in Second Life, part 2. Part 2 of the "RL Failure" series ended up with 6 diggs. The post described my theory of virtual experience and how it is not properly addressed by RL businesses.

2. Burning After Alexis. Thanks to a very fortunate pointer from New World Notes and editor Wagner James Au, this amusing post was the second-most read of 2007. It describes a bizarre solution to a build problem.

1. More from Rezzable / Greenies. This post from early September was the single most popular post of the year, and was picked up by several other blogs, including Your2ndPlace.

I want to thank all Second Effects readers for a very successful year in 2007, and wish everyone the best in 2008.

Customer Service Saves Database!

Friday, December 28, 2007 Friday, December 28, 2007

Did you know that customer service can fix database problems? I do! How do I know this? Because I have to use that technique at least once a week.

Here's the scenario: customer arrives at my store, browses and selects an item for purchase. They click on it to pay. Lindens are transferred from their account to mine. However... the item somehow doesn't get transferred to their inventory. This is a database problem. It's a Linden Lab problem.

But at the moment of purchase, it's MY problem.

Typically, the customer gives me a shout and asks what to do. I check my transaction log to ensure they actually did purchase something, and if they did I simply toss them another copy. Sometimes I give them a bonus to make up for their trouble. Everybody's happy.

Not so typical is the maniacal customer who explodes all over you, such as happened this week at Electric Pixels. I am certain that most shop owners have identical scenarios occurring at their locations too. But this one was just crazy.

Taking a cue from Sarah Nerd's frequent conversational posts, I reproduce the sequence of events here (which took place by email on my side as you will see). I defy anyone to read this and understand what is going on. This has to be more than a simple language translation issue. Names have been changed to protect the innocent, but otherwise is intact:

[12:06] Unruly Customer: hi
Unruly Customer has offered to become your friend in Second Life. Log in to accept or decline the offer.
[12:10] Unruly Customer: Face I bought an effect of green thy $ 99L and I did not get the goods. I receive you is safado sacana.
[12:46] Unruly Customer: hei
[12:51] Arminasx Saiman: Hi - got your message. I have a record of your transaction 999999999 today at 12:00:03 SLT MultiBalls Personal for L$99 and no other transactions. Did you receive MultiBalls? I have no record of you buying any Green effects. Let me know what happens and we will fix it.
[12:53] Unruly Customer: I just more expensive to buy, my many friends bought a little now. I am not lying, help me
[12:54] Unruly Customer: I will face gives me the product
[12:55] Unruly Customer: I bought, I will report this abuse
[12:58] Unruly Customer: Porra because you merdas these green? I bought this porra and caralho not received, I want to receive you received rather the dollar.
[12:59] Unruly Customer: Poxa you face is a sacana even me wrong
[13:00] Unruly Customer: I bought this shit, and not received, boy I can return my money one of the effect that I bought.
[13:03] Unruly Customer: I shit game, and give the goods safado
[13:04] Unruly Customer: I shit game, and give the goods safadoI shit game, and give the goods safadoI shit game, and give the goods safadoI shit game, and give the goods safadoI shit game, and give the goods safadoI shit game, and give the goods safadoI shit game, and give the goods safadoI shit game, and give the goods safadoI shit game, and give the goods safadoI shit game, and give the goods safadoI shit game, and give the goods safado
[13:05] Unruly Customer: Pilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleadingPilantra misleading
[13:07] Arminasx Saiman: I do not want you mad at me - I just do not yet know what happened. I always fix up problems for my customers - and I have to do this every week for someone because Linden Lab's database is not reliable. Often things are not delivered when bought. By the way, I am not online until several hours from now. but when i come on, I will fix things for you.
[13:10] Unruly Customer: Then please give me my goods, I am stating
[13:10] Unruly Customer: Then please give me my goods, I am statingThen please give me my goods, I am statingThen please give me my goods, I am stating
[13:12] Unruly Customer: I will have to wait, my friends, XXX, YYY, ZZZ bought effects a few minutes and all received, but I did not get that.
[13:14] I will give you the goods, BUT I AM NOT ONLINE NOW! I can only do this later today. And you must tell me EXACTLY which effect you purchased that you did not receive. I have many GREEN effects. WHICH ONE????
[13:16] Unruly Customer: You can just see how we buy ai effects, more myself I have not received
[13:16] Arminasx Saiman: This is what I have recorded in transactions today: XXX buys Sunballs Gang for L99; ZZZ buys MultiStreaks Personal for L99; Unruly Customer buys MultiBalls Personal for L99. Did you receive MultiBalls?
[13:17] Unruly Customer: I will tell you what is now Wait a moment
[13:19] Unruly Customer: multiballs personal
[13:19] Unruly Customer: This is exactly the multiballs personal, which was 99 lindens
[13:20] Arminasx Saiman: OK - then it is no problem. I will give you a fresh new copy of Multiballs when I am back online in a couple of hours. I am at RL work right now and cannot get online. Is that OK?
[13:23] Unruly Customer: Rightly, my name is Unruly Customer, I bought the effect multiballs personal and not received in my inventory
Unruly Customer has offered to become your friend in Second Life. Log in to accept or decline the offer.
[13:24] Arminasx Saiman: Yes, I will give you a good copy of MultiBalls in about 2 hours or so. Undelivered items happens to a customer at least once a week - the Linden database system is not reliable. This week it seems to be your turn! Don't worry - I will fix it.
Even more confusing to me is the fact that the MultiBalls product is NOT green.

Later that evening I met "Unruly Customer" in person at the store and gave him not only a new copy of the missing item but also an extra bonus item too, in hopes of making him happy. Nope. He accepted the items and swiftly disappeared into the aether without even a thank you or a goodbye. Sigh, another week of SL business completed.

Burning After Alexis

Tuesday, December 25, 2007 Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Alexis Lange is not only a friend of mine, but also a Battlestar Galactica pilot based in Eleggua (call sign "Panther".) Last week she came to me looking for a way to make her flyer more realistic, specifically by adding a massive rocket plume.

Easy, I thought. Just build a particle emitter that shoots out the right mix of shapes and colors to visually appear as a plume. Then paste it on the a**-end of the flyer. I quickly constructed a disc-shaped "Afterburner" emitter that could fit well within the thrust tubes of the powerful flyer, shooting out white-yellow flames.

It was going fine until I dropped by the Eleggua airfield (which is itself hundreds of meters in the air) and gave Alexis the Afterburner prototype for testing. The device worked perfectly, and even synchronized with the flyer's start and stop chat commands.

The trouble began when I suggested that Alexia link the Afterburner to the flyer so that she could fly off and not leave the emitter behind on the deck! However, it turns out that the permissions on the flyer were no-Modify, meaning she cannot link any objects to it, including the Afterburner.

I was about to abandon hope of getting this done easily, short of begging the flyer's maker to somehow include the Afterburner, when I had an idea.

Instead of attaching the emitter to the flyer, I realized we could attach it to Alexis! Yes, while she's sitting in the cockpit, the emitter goes off as designed, but the plume still appears as intended. Flames blast out from her spine backwards and appear to come from the flyer's engines. With some simple adjustments, I'll be able to make a rocket plume Alexis can wear in any vehicle.

In fact, I think I'll be making an entire line of wearable aircraft effects including explosions, smoke trails, rat-tat-tat or what ever else seems appropriate or just plain cool. There will be no need to equip every vehicle with effects - just bring them with you instead! Thanks for the inspiration, Alexis!

Two things were very important for me on this adventure:

  • There are always more ways to solve a problem than you think at first. Never give up - just keep trying, even ideas that are, well, crazy at first! You may bump into the answer.
  • No matter how bad the situation, you can usually find a way to make something good out of it. Learn something, change something, change your self!
And Alexis, one thing to remember about the Afterburner - be very, very careful where you are when you say the word, "start"!

Tips for a Successful Second Life Club

Saturday, December 22, 2007 Saturday, December 22, 2007

I came across some very interesting Second Life business ideas the other day quite by accident. Readers may recall my rantings on how best to organize your store for traffic management earlier, but these ideas take them a lot farther.

ATown Fall is the owner of multiple successful sims, most of which involve 24x7 DJ clubs - a rarity itself in Second Life. He sets up sims one after the other, hiring staff and gathering residents and merchants to populate them. While he certainly does the basic things, ATown has several very unique Second Life business approaches that I hadn't considered:

  • ATown's admission policy echoes real life - you often must pay a cover charge to get in. This makes the events more important, if only because those who are inside really want to be inside because they paid to get in! This raises the profile of the events.
  • Because you must pay a cover to enter events, the concept of VIPs becomes real. All too often clubs hand out "VIP" tags to basically anyone, but that makes the concept of VIP meaningless. However, ATown's cover charge is waived for his VIPs, and the tag is no longer meaningless. You really are "important".
  • Many businesses try to increase their traffic by planting as many poorly-paid campers as possible on their parcels. But these zombie-like operations appear quite artificial and often scare away real visitors, who immediately recognize it for what it is - a scam to game the traffic counter. Meanwhile, ATown has a very unique approach to camping. Instead of paying people to camp, he simply has people wait for a specified duration before they are given a pass to enter the club. Of course, you could pay the cover charge and get in immediately, but instead many people simply wait out the time for their pass. And in the process, cause the traffic count to rise - because their wait time in the line is equivalent to a row of camping zombies. But it's much more realistic.
  • I've written before about the importance of traffic flow in a shopping mall. Essentially, the problem is that TP allows people to skip by the shops and go directly to and from the entertainment. Many, many clubs have this issue. They hope to make money by renting space to shopkeepers, but fail to encourage traffic to the shops. The shopkeepers fail, and ultimately the clubs are unsuccessful. I've previously recommended using careful placement of the landing point such that arriving TP'ers must walk past or near shops on their way to the entertainment. This has proven successful in a few malls I've seen. However, ATown takes this concept a bit further. He sets his land to no-fly. This, combined with the landing point trick, means that visitors must walk past the shops - and walkers are more likely to see items they'd like to purchase than someone flying by at warp speed.

Why do these techniques work? Simple - they are already well proven in real life! ATown has recognized that the same things can also be done in Second Life. And evidently very successfully.

Birds, Fogs and Cheese - New Effects!

Sunday, December 16, 2007 Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ok, it isn't really a cheese particle effect, but it does involve cheese, as you can see in the picture. My Dutch model, Sennaw Beck, is showing off the latest National Poofer from Electric Pixels: I Am Dutch. There have been several requests for this effect lately, so I thought I'd better make it. She's wearing the poofer version; there is also a ring version available.

It's always challenging for me to make national poofers for countries other than my own, since I have to guess at the right kind of icons and symbols to use. Sometimes my stereotypical notions of the country are correct. Sometimes they are catastrophically wrong. Fortunately, my friends from around the world, like Sennaw, are there to correct me. This time the Dutch effect passed Sennaw's test... she even liked the cheese! When I asked her if I missed any Dutch symbols, she said that it is complete, "except for the weed!" Argh.

Meanwhile, I have also produced two other interesting effects. One is Doves. Wear it and some lovely doves will gently float away from you. I believe this could be very useful at weddings. There is also an installable version of Doves if you want your SL crib or wedding stand to have particle birds floating around it.

Finally, I've made another "AnkleFog". This time the color Green is featured. EmeraldFog is worn on your lower leg and it emits a greeny-white ever-changing fog. It comes in either large or small sizes. Your choice. Hmm, this may be useful on St. Patrick's day?

Up and Down. Way Down!

Thursday, December 13, 2007 Thursday, December 13, 2007

Like any business, Electric Pixels has its up days and its down days. But this week has been ridiculous, especially on Tuesday the 11th. On that day I had my lowest sales ever. A single L$1 box of freebies was purchased by Bobbi Voom. That's it - one sale! For one single Linden. Thank you Bobbi Voom, whoever you are. Really, thank you.

Even on the first day I opened in January, visitors purchased many times more items than on December 11th 2007. So what's going on?

When I first started selling items in Second Life, I was quite pleased when people purchased items from me. After a while sales became more or less regular. But certain days sales were down substantially - and I wondered what I was doing wrong. Several possibilities immediately arose in my panicked mind:

  • I am not spending enough on advertising! Quick! Double the classified payment!
  • A secret competitor has suddenly opened and is taking away all of my customers!
  • Somebody had a problem with a product and has told everyone in Second Life to avoid my stuff!
  • I'm losing my edge and can't make something people want! Auggh!
Rationality prevailed then, and also now.

Asking other business owners how they did on these bad days often came back to a single answer:

"Oh, the grid was down/broken/slow/laggy/sucked today"

That always happens when I experience a bad day. The 11th is just particularly bad. Pictured is the graph from Second Life statistics of concurrent logins from that disastrous day. In other words, it shows how many people were logged in for each moment of that day. You might notice a slight dip in the middle of the 11th. Well, maybe not so slight. Perhaps you might describe it as a Massively Dead Afternoon.

That's why no one was at the shop that day. The grid was busted.

You might ask why items weren't purchased during the rest of the day. I suspect it's often because the grid was shut down because it was in bad shape and few bother or are able to shop in those laggy times. Or people avoid starting a shopping trip if they know the Grid has a scheduled outage. The "outage" is often much larger than the actual declared outage for most business owners. Especially for me on the 11th.

Meanwhile, sales resume sometime after the grid perks up, and things are back to normal. I wonder how much correlation there is between Second Life sales and Grid status? Now that might be a good topic for a future post...

Mountain Biking!

Monday, December 10, 2007 Monday, December 10, 2007

I fell into a very interesting place the other night - Weather Island. While they have many of the typical features you'd expect, there was one that piqued my interest: Mountain Biking.

Yes, there are lots of bikes in Second Life, but there aren't that many you can get from a shop that is right beside a gigantic mountain biking area. Hills, pits, cliffs, and other natural features appear in the desert-like ride area, ready to test your biking skills.

Once in a while you get a puff of dust as you make a hard turn, but my favorite bit is the mud puddle, which sprays muck everywhere. (aside: why is ArminasX so fascinated with mud? Perhaps because it is a particle effect? Sigh.)

You can visit the biking area by starting at Desert Jack's Bike Shop and Pit Stop. (Note: SLURL puts you at the main landing point for Weather, not precisely at the bike shop. Just head to Weather (140, 231, 35) and you will find it.) You can pick up a bike for L$0, a good price indeed. They also have helmets and backpacks available, so you can look the part. Of course, I always lose my hair when I wear a helmet. Just remember to put it back on when you are done. Oh, and bring your biking shorts, unlike me...

Starving In Second Life

Saturday, December 8, 2007 Saturday, December 08, 2007

I didn't realize it was possible to starve in Second Life. But it is possible. I have a friend named Xena Bikcin, who I think is very talented. She knows how to build, script, sell and organize. She's even constructed a unique vehicle (pictured, that's her at the controls flying me around Furumachi.) But she's always having trouble in Second Life. She tries really hard to earn a living by doing various business activities, most recently running fireworks shows. She's also had a store that sold artwork, and managed events as well. Unfortunately, she never seems to make enough money to be financially independent. I think she's very typical of many in Second Life who struggle to survive.

There seems to be two modes of financial existence in Second Life: Earner and Consumer. The Consumers are content to spend whatever they need to satisfy their immersionist roles, and they are the foundation of our virtual economy. Meanwhile, the Earners create the items and services that are purchased by the consumers. Both need each other, obviously.

However, I propose a third financial category: Non-Earners. These people, such as Xena, are inbetween Consumer and Earner status. It's a very uncomfortable position indeed, as they transition from one comfy mode to the other. They try to be Earners by creating businesses, but never seem to make enough money to offset the costs of creating their business. They act like Earners, but must spend like Consumers. It must be a very frustrating existence. Many must give up and go back to being consumers or even leave Second Life altogether.

I often encounter Non-Earners, and am always impressed by their (Second Life) youthful enthusiasm. I want to help them. I give them tips and suggestions, and sometimes they benefit. Or at least I hope so. I believe I help many more Non-Earners by posting Second Life business tips here on the Second Effects blog.

Their enthusiasm and creativity is absolutely required. But there is something else they need, something that Xena has: Persistence. You cannot give up. You have to keep trying. Trying different things until you find something that works for you. Yes, it is always disappointing that a business idea didn't work out, but that's OK. You learned something valuable for next time. You must build on your failures and successes. But you won't have any failures or successes unless you try.

Xena is still trying, and I help her when I can. Someday she will be a successful Earner, because she has all the things she needs. Do you?

Flashy Dance Effect

Wednesday, December 5, 2007 Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Finally I've gotten around to making a new dance effect - something you can wear while dancing. If you haven't tried wearable dance effects yet, please do so. They can profoundly change your dance experience.

The new effect is called "DanceFlash", and it might appear simple at first: every three seconds it flashes a white spray that lasts for half a second. The interesting part is that you get twelve (that's 12) copies! This means you can simultaneously wear up to twelve at a time, all flashing at different intervals. What does it look like? The picture here doesn't really capture it properly - when all twelve are active, it looks like, well, think Papparazi at feeding time!

Of course, you don't have to wear them all at once - just pick the right number for the situation and put them on. By default they attach to various points on your avatar, but if you don't like that you can always attach them to the bottom of your foot or other silly places easily enough.

One other effect is also available: Snow Sparkle. It's a tiny random sparkle for your snow fields. Just sprinkle copies of this tiny effect and your snowbanks will twinkle just like real life. (Thanks to Landon Gibbs for this brilliant idea.)

Both are available now at Electric Pixels.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007 Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I received a surprise message yesterday from the folks at Sweet Second Life. It's a site that uses the SocialRank service to identify “hot” Second Life blog postings. It seems like a fab place quickly get the SLBlogosphere buzz of the day. I registered the Second Effects blog on their site just for fun a while ago.

But today, the message from them was:

Did you ever wonder how your blog stacks up compared to all other blogs on Second Life?

Well, um, yeah! Duh.

Congratulations, you are one of the community leaders!

As you might know, every day SocialRank algorithm is tracking thousands of blogs and identifies the hottest posts on Second Life.

Not only does your blog rank in the Top 50 of all Second Life blogs, we have also created a badge so that you can proudly display your blogs overall rank on your blog.

Ok, I get a lot of SPAM messages, and at first that's what I thought this was. Or at least some kind of scam to promote their site. However, I went to Sweet Second Life and examined their list of “hot” sites, and found that it did have the popular blogs listed, such as my pal Nobody Fugazi's Your2ndPlace (16th), New World Notes (9), Torley (3) and my new acquaintance Zoe Connolly (15). So it seems quite legit – and useful.

Surprisingly, I somehow made it into the top 50! And I have to thank you – my readers for placing me there. Way to go, guys! We were #48 as of this writing.

I've also pasted the Sweet Second Life badge on the right hand side of this blog so we can see where we are ranked. Maybe it will go higher, if I'm lucky.

So how does this ranking take place? Well, Sweet Second Life says:

We use SocialRank software to monitor each of the best Second Life sites and determine today's hottest articles and bloggers in the field. This is done by analyzing how sites and users link, connect, and discuss each other's content. Add a touch of math and what we have is a powerful filter into the hottest stories of the day.

Translated, this means “it's a secret”. And that's a good thing too, since if their algorithm was public, people would be gaming it for certain, and all value would be lost. I think that's already happened to Digg (think “Top Ten Barf Pictures”, etc.) Regardless, I think the SLBlogosphere is growing, but a lot of people don't know their way around it yet. Sweet Second Life can help you out – you can find pointers to many of the best Second Life blogs right there.

Where are the Avatars?

Saturday, December 1, 2007 Saturday, December 01, 2007

Mainstream media often complains that the population of Second Life is tiny. Perhaps it is, and I constantly see debates on the best way to measure it. But here's my opinion on the matter.

I think that among the general RL population, many people are unwilling or unable to enter Second Life or any virtual world. You all know them – the people who give you a blank look when you try to explain your virtual reality experience. Or worse, they give you that you're-out-of-your-mind look. They say things like, “but it's just pixels on a screen!” or “Why don't you talk with real people?” These folks will never go virtual. And that's why Second Life and other virtual worlds will always attract fewer users than traditional web services. At least until virtual reality concepts become widespread.

I heard a good story that illustrates this common phenomenon when I was introducing a friend, TwelveBar Botha, to Second Life. I told him about my store, my “second life”, how it works, etc. Later, he was relating all this to his senior-age parents:

TwelveBar: “I have a friend who owns land in a virtual world.”

Parents: (skeptically) “Oh?”

TwelveBar: “And he has a store on it.”

Parents: “What does he sell?”

TwelveBar: “Fog!”

And then they “lost it.”

Parents: “What do you mean, he sells fog?!? What kind of a store would sell fog?”

It seems that I have this kind of conversation with somebody in RL almost every week. I almost think that some proportion of the general population has a gene or type of brain structure that seems to prevent comprehension of virtual reality.

Regardless, there are tons of people who can fit into Second Life, and we can see them every time we login and get the concurrent online Second Life count. Say what you want about Second Life problems, but that number just keeps growing, week after week. When I first rezzed just over a year ago, that number hovered around 15,000 or so. Today it's almost four times as large. That's pretty decent growth for one year. I expect it to continue and certainly will break 100,000 within a few months. But how can this growth be sped up?

I believe that the major barrier to growth (aside from the segment of the population that can't grok virtual reality) is the user interface. I'm a techie (if you haven't noticed already) and even I find the interface clunky at times. Here is the historical sequence of events:

  • Linden Lab creates Second Life, with the principle that users will build everything.
  • Accordingly, the viewer contains all the tools necessary for users to create things.
  • Innovative and early adopters willing to suffer through non-optimal clunky builder tools show up and build stuff. Wonderful stuff.
  • Non-builder users are attracted by the wonderful stuff and the population swells.
  • Non-builders are subjected to the same viewer as originally intended for early-adopter techies, and many give up because it's just beyond their capability to understand how to use these tools.
The mere presence of "Orientation Island" indicates that the interface is too complicated. Most people won't spend the time to go through it, and if they don't, they'll likely have a bad Second Life experience before too long. In fact, I often hear of people of basically skip the orientation and just jump into the world. And then make a mess.

The solution is obvious. In RL I discussed this issue with Gartner's Virtual Reality Analyst, Steve Prentice, and he had the same idea. Second Life needs a simplified browser suitable for general users, especially those who have no intention of building anything. Builders will find their way to the necessary tools, don't worry about them.

We've seen a couple of steps in this direction so far: First, Linden Lab open-sourced the viewer code, and secondly Electric Sheep built their simplified browser with that code, broadly distributed during the famous (infamous?) CSI episode. What will the next step be? A simplified interface usable from a web browser? We can only hope.

Rezzable's Been Busy... The Greenies Guys Strike Again!

Sunday, November 25, 2007 Sunday, November 25, 2007

Rezzable has indeed been busy. I flew by their sprawling complex of now 35 islands to see what's up (probably by the time this is posted, they'll have added another dozen!) And to no one's surprise, they've been quite busy since my last visit. Yes, the creators of the Cannery and Greenies seem to have several secret projects underway. Here's a list of their island inventory (at least the ones attached to their "continent"):

  • Greenies Home Rezzable
  • Cannery Rezzable
  • Crimson Shadow Rezzable
  • Mars Areas01 Rezzable
  • Rezzable 01-16
  • Stratos Legend Rezzable
  • Stratos Home Rezzable
  • Cascade Rezzable
  • Surfline Wave Rezzable
  • Surf7
  • Surfline Epic Rezzable
  • Surfline Aloha Rezzable
  • Surfline Hang10 Rezzable
  • Black Swan
  • Ebuddy Metro Rezzable
  • Ebuddy Sndbx1 Rezzable
  • Ebuddy Sndbx2 Rezzable
  • Ebuddy Rezzable
  • Toxic Garden Rezzable
What are they doing with all these islands, which by the way costs them approximately USD$10K per month in tier payments? Here's my guesses:

  • Greenies (1 sim) Been there. And you too.
  • Cannery (1 sim) And here too. Be sure to visit, it's worth the TP.
  • Crimson Shadow (1 sim) Inside a large spooky castle is what seems to be a nightclub. Not open yet, but could be interesting.
  • Mars (1 sim) Not sure what this is - could be a game?
  • Stratos (2 sims) These are puzzling... there are two sims, one with desert and monstrous amounts of dinosaur bones, the other with an icescape, woolly mammoths, etc. I have no idea what might happen here. If I had to guess, I think it could be another Greenies-type spectacle.
  • Cascade (1 sim) No idea on this one, as it seems to be in the initial construction stages.
  • Black Swan (1 sim) Again, I cannot guess the purpose of this one - but it does include a bizarre surrealistic theme that reminded me somehow of Salvador Dali. It's quite beautiful... and deadly. Just watch out for the spikes... and the swinging axe... and...
  • Surfline (5 sims) Definitely residential. These 5 sims have typical (but high-end) accommodations, attractions, space for shops, beaches, campfires, etc.
  • Ebuddy (3 sims) No idea on this one. One of the 3 sims has a kind of giant industrial junkyard and garbage dump, but I can't tell much more than that. Ebuddy seems a bit more complete than the rest, but it's hard to understand what they are up to in there.
  • Toxic Garden (1 sim) A most fascinating place. Read on...
Of all the secret Rezzable projects you can visit, the Toxic Garden seems to be the most interesting. It's a theme world in which you:
Wander one of the most interesting and exotic gardens in SL--but at your own risk. The plants have accessed the grid and now want to keep human life away.
From the moment you TP into the arrival zone, there is a strange atmosphere. It's definitely not friendly. After handling the entry protocols and proceeding through to the main area, you are surrounded by a park, but it's like no park I've ever been in.
The area is filled with semi-overgrown sidewalks and animated vegetation (some of which looks, um, hungry!) Obviously, I stayed clear of the vegetation. The man-made artifacts appear old, as if they have been abandoned for a long time. Reading the provided notecard, I see that:
Apparently people tried to settle this area around time of World War 1. However only a few traces of that attempt at establishing a utopia remain. Only the plants with sumptuous flowers and enticing fruits are here to tell the story of the Toxic Garden.
Upon entering the Toxic Garden, you are presented with numerous warnings of extreme danger. They are not kidding! You even have to wear special protective devices to keep alive (note the gadget attached to my left arm in the pictures.) Worse, as I bumbled through the beautiful but somehow devious-looking foliage, I encountered a giant beetle trundling along the path. Suddenly:
Arminasx Saiman is attacked by the angry drone, tearing them apart...
And thus I was killed! For the first time in SL! By a bug... argh. Finding myself back at home in Caso Milo, I resolved to go back another time and continue exploring this very interesting exhibit. Toxic Garden is open to visitors, but is still in beta. The builders are asking for help to find:
  • Unusual plants and foliage
  • Steampunk artefacts with european styling
  • Plant inspired weapons with organic effects
  • Clothing items for sale
The bottom line is that anything Rezzable makes is truly wonderful. I can't wait for these sims to be completed. Meanwhile, you can visit the Toxic Garden right here. Enjoy (but for pete's sake, Be Careful!)

Dreams Mighty Prim Competition

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Today I happened to get invited to vote at a building competition. Dreams is having a "Mighty Prim Competition" that focuses on the Torus prim. It's all about building something beautiful and dreamy using only 55 prims (5 of which are the base and name holder). And get this - only Torus prims may be used! Haley Salomon (semi-finalist in NWN's Uncanny Valley Contest) and I are pictured inside one of the exhibits.

Walking around the competition area reminds me of Burning Life, just not quite so crazy. The competition rules state that no scripts or particles may be used, so the sculptures are all static. I observed entries with themes from Christmas, Veteran's Day, Animals, Flowers, Faerie Houses, Giant Food Items and of course the completely undescribable.

There are 27 entries at the competition site, some of which are quite attractive - and even more so when you realize they are built only from Torii. My favorite was Anhayla Lycia's, but there are many other terrific builds. I'd encourage you to drop by to see the ingenious entries.

If you come, you should vote for your favorites. The contest began on 11 November, and voting commenced on 20 November. You must cast your vote by 29 November, since awards are at noon SLT on 29 November.

You can visit the competition at: Dreams Entry, Dreams (155, 161, 24)

Vampire Stuff, as Promised

Friday, November 16, 2007 Friday, November 16, 2007

The other day I promised I would build something for Vampires, who often visit Electric Pixels. The new evil item is "ForestFog Vampire", which produces a rather thin black and red ground fog - suitable for evil forests, dank dungeons and other spooky places. The fog flows along the contours of the ground and spills over edges.

Also I now have the two new fireworks effects available:

Roman Candle looks like a giant roman candle and acts like one too. It spurts out a massive stream of streaky flame accompanied by stars. I have included a new control mechanism that lets you set it to automatically go off every 60, 30 or 10 seconds - with only a quick touch.

Fireworks Nova is a spectacular effect that starts with a white flash followed by a monstrous white explosion. Tiny white bits fly out afterwards. I'm not sure what they represent, but they sure look cool! FWN includes the 60-30-10 control system as well.

The fireworks were used to spectacular effect by Xena Bikcin the other night in furumachi at her famous fireworks show. She used three Novas and two Candles, as well as a few other fireworks effects.

Fireworks Show!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007 Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Up to now I have had only one fireworks product. But last night my friend Xena Bikcin gave me a shout and said she was organizing a fireworks show and needed my help. She explained that she needed something "big" and "white", so I got started working right away.

While I will describe the new effects, Roman Candle and Fireworks Nova in another post, I have to say that we tested them last night at the show location - and the results were startling! I've never seen a fireworks show quite like this in Second Life. The colors, shapes and motion were just amazing in the way Xena put them ingeniously together. She's used some of my effects as well as some others she's collected from across Second Life. Together with master-event-organizer Mustang2 Bing they are going to run an initial fireworks show this Wednesday from 10PM - 2AM SLT.

Where, you ask? It's in the furumachi sim. This is where one of my mall locations is placed. I'm in the same mall as Xena's shop - that's how I came to meet her. Anyhow, if the show turns out well, and I am pretty sure it will, Xena and Mustang2 may run additional shows every Wednesday. Here's the SLURL to the event:

furumachi (173, 198, 22)

Hope to see you there!

Top Ten Tips for Starting a Second Life Business

Sunday, November 11, 2007 Sunday, November 11, 2007

I seem to have developed a rather successful Second Life business, and I am often asked how I did it. There's no magic to it, you just have to do the basics of any start up business and follow common sense. Here's ten tips that might get you started on the way to your first million Linden $!

  1. Pick the right type of business. There are limitless possibilities for Second Life businesses, but you should pick something that fits the following: You must be reasonably familiar with the area or topic; You must be sufficiently skilled to do the necessary work, which might include leadership, social, artistic or technical skills; There shouldn't be too much existing competition, especially large and mature competition; Most critically you must have sufficient time to do the work. Don't pick a labor-intensive business model when you have only a few hours per week available to do it
  2. Know your customers. To whom are you selling? Is it everyone? Is it a particular Second Life species or group, such as Furries, Japanese, Builders or Club Owners? You must know exactly who they are because all of your subsequent actions - advertising, branding, product types and even product names - must be engineered towards their peculiarities and characteristics
  3. Know what your customers need. If you talk to and observe avatars, your close attention will reveal the kinds of things they want. If you understand your customers very well, you may even be able to develop products they need even if they haven't specifically asked for it. Identify a problem they have and solve it! Answer their question, "If only I had...." This is why you should select a customer niche; you cannot listen to everyone to solve all problems
  4. Forecast your finances. All too often I find someone setting up an entire sim with a business even before they have a single customer. What are your monthly expenses? Consider not only tier/rent, but also advertising fees. How much revenue will you make? Divide your known monthly expenses by the average price of your products and you'll know how many products you must sell each month to break even. Estimate how many visitors you need to generate that number of sales – and not every visitor will buy something. What's that? You need more customers than you can reasonably attract? In that case increase your prices or reduce your expenses. Business success is often just simple arithmetic
  5. Grow slowly. Match your expenses to your revenue over time. In other words, start small and expand when you feel you have enough revenue to pay for increased expenses. That way it's not likely you will lose money. If your revenue doesn't grow, why would you expand? Worse, if you started out too big, you get the same result as if you expanded too rapidly, just a lot sooner
  6. Make it easy to buy. You've got visitors in your store, but can they actually purchase your items? Are they visible, findable, understandable? What information do you provide customers from which they decide whether to purchase? Just a product name? A picture? A demonstration? Can they try out your product? Or is it just a colored box? Would you buy if you were a customer?
  7. Experiment! Second Life makes it easy to try different approaches. Mix up your products, advertising and store structure from time to time. Not a lot, but do try different things. Then, do more of the things that do work and don't do the things that do not work! Over time your operation cannot do anything but improve
  8. Promote your business. No one will buy from you if they cannot find your store. You MUST advertise. Where you advertise depends on the nature of your business, but you must find the right places to promote your products. Don't be afraid to try different and multiple approaches (See "Experiment")
  9. Provide great customer service. No one likes an abusive store clerk, so don't be one! Give people refunds if they genuinely have problems. Help them use your products. Ask them if it worked. Give out some freebies now and then, especially to faithful customers. Follow up with them later to ensure they are still satisfied. While this may seem like work for nothing, it is simply the best way to promote your business: word of mouth rules in Second Life
  10. Ignore your competition. Avatars can TP to anywhere instantly. Therefore, there is little geographic advantage that you see in RL. Your only hope is to produce new and unique products. How can you do this? By ignoring your competition. If you see what others are doing, you will tend to copy/duplicate/emulate what they are doing. They will be unique and you will not. Have faith in yourself and always do your best

Running a Second Life business is very similar to running a RL business, so many business principles still apply. You can get a lot of excellent ideas simply by reading some business books.

Above all, remember that your business should be addressing the needs of the immersionists. Don't know what that is? Read this!

Fall Effects

Friday, November 9, 2007 Friday, November 09, 2007

This post is completely out of order. As you may recall I posted about new "Winter Effects" a few days ago. Well, I did build those winter effects - but today I am announcing new "Fall Effects". Why Winter before Fall? Who knows! When I get an idea to build something, I make it, regardless of the season.

Available today at Electric Pixels are six new "Leaf" effects. They are devices that you can place within your trees to produce a stream of falling leaves. The six different types correspond to the amount of leaves and the color. You can choose between Red/Yellow/Brown and Thick or Thin. Pictured is Red Thick.

And one more new effect is available: FlowerRing. It's very similar to other Ring effects I've made before, but this one produces slowly rotating ring of flowers around you. It's quite beautiful, although I suppose it's appropriate only for some people (sorry, Vampires! I'll make something for you next time!)

Swindle or Urban Legend?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Today I received a group notice containing the following:

IMPORTANT WARNING: to all members . It is communicated that a serious swindle is in course on Second Life: an invitation with a link is received, if we accept it the avatar is stolen . The persons who take possession of the avatar obviously take possession of all the powers and also of the data of the credit card. The name to watch for is : Cora Lewsey, who joins groups at random. She just sent the link to over 20 groups thru chat then quit the groups.
We have closed the group to new members.

I get a lot of email in RL, and quite often these types of warnings fly by and most (if not all) of the time they are fake. Not that the sender is attempting mayhem, as they could have been fooled by the message.

Now the same type of warning arrives in Second Life. Is it real? Is it fake? Internet searches reveal nothing about the accused avatar. Could this actually happen? In my opinion, I suspect there is a very slight chance this could technically work. The perp IMs URLs to a web site that takes advantage of a security hole, perhaps similar to the Internet Explorer hole that was fixed by Linden Lab a few weeks ago. If I recall, the hole enabled a perp to capture your Second Life ID and password, which of course could then be used to do the bad things mentioned above.

I am not closing down my group at this time, since I suspect this is not real. However, the best approach is simply to not visit URLs if you are not sure about their validity and safety. Especially so if they are thrust upon you without request. This goes for both Second and First Life!

Sailing with Toshiba!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007 Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Normally you'd go channel surfing with your Toshiba, but tonight I ended up doing some sailing instead.

In my ongoing obsession with RL companies entering Second Life, I was doing some searches to examine the traffic counts of various RL companies. (For those of you who don't know, the "Traffic Count" of a land parcel indicates, more or less, the number of minutes avatars spent on the parcel during the previous day.) I was hoping to learn something about the popularity of various company islands.

As usual, the traffic counts are completely dismal for most corporate islands. Here's a sample of today's numbers: Reebok, 1641; Microsoft Visual Studio, 974; Dell Factory, 333; Toyota, 202; Coke Virtual Pavilion, 98; Amazon Developer, 32. Today even I had 444, which is more than Toyota, Coke and Amazon combined!

Among the worst traffic I found in my quick survey was at Toshiba, who have a poorly promoted island. The traffic at Toshiba Image Festival was only 66 at the time of this writing. However, I found Toshiba to be somewhat interesting.

While you arrive at a tall tower, the highlight of your visit will be on a gigantic ocean-going sailing ship that is for some reason floating high in the air. I estimate its length at around 150m, but it's actually quite a bit longer due to the tusk-like extensions on the bow. You can tell its floating because you can see rotating spotlights coming out of the bottom of the hull. On deck are several interesting submarines, but they don't seem to be operable. Well, I sat on top of one, but that was fun for about two seconds only.

The ship build is magnificent, and clearly a massive number of prims have been consumed by the detailed features. For example, the very complete rigging that goes up the 100m main mast seems to be actually made of individual prims. The submarines have elaborate landing gear, complete with shock absorbers. Large, semi-translucent curving sails extend over the main deck.

Below deck is where the action is. At first glance it appears to be some kind of cubicle farm, but in fact it's a large number of video viewing stations. Unfortunately, no one was viewing anything. I'm not precisely sure what's going on here since most of the signage is in Japanese.

Outside the magnificent ship were a menagerie of animalistic escorts, including animated seagulls, dolphins, and of course flying pink elephants. What? Yes, with animated wings, too. This is all wonderful, but could someone explain what it's for? In english?

You can visit Toshiba right here:

Getting Ready for Winter!

Sunday, October 28, 2007 Sunday, October 28, 2007

Somehow I had some time this weekend to build some new effects, including an entirely new line of Teleportation effects.

Geez, I think I need a coat in this picture! Brrr! These three winter effects are now available at Electric Pixels:

  • Snower Personal, which produces a vast amount of snowflakes around you when you wear the effect.
  • Snower Subtle, which produces a much smaller amount of snowflakes. I am not sure which one is best for you, but now you have a choice.
  • WinterKit, which includes not only Snower Personal and Snower Subtle, but also the new Breath effect. It produces a frosty breath every seven seconds and when combined with the snow effects makes the scene look very cold!

I've also produced three new Teleportation effects. These are worn like many other effects, except they are inactive until you teleport. Then when you rez they will activate for two seconds. What happens next depends on the effect:

  • RaveRinger TP produces a small blast of multicolored streaks along a randomly angled plane. It goes off only once when you teleport, like all of these teleportation effects.
  • NightFog TP instantly produces a 10m area of complete darkness. The effect slows after two seconds and the darkness gradually lifts. This would be great for a spooky halloween entrance!
  • SuperFog TP instantly produces a 10m white cloud all around you. Again, it disperes in about two seconds.

A word of warning: the teleportation effects might be considered rude in some areas, so be very sure that you will be well received when you teleport!

Why RL Businesses Fail in Second Life, Part 3

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 Wednesday, October 17, 2007

This is part three of my analysis of the ongoing failure of RL businesses in Second Life. Part one was in response to the infamous WIRED article, and part two expanded on my thoughts. In part three, we'll discuss ideas for how RL businesses may actually succeed in Second Life. So, what could a RL company do?

There are only three basic approaches to using Virtual Reality by a large RL business:

Indirect or subtle marketing. We have all seen how the hard sell has not worked. Dell, Coke and other major RL corporations set up large Second Life operations, sometimes covering multiple islands. The islands are usually covered with logos, branding, analog virtual products, etc. Few come to see these. Why would you want to visit a billboard? What kind of immersive experience is that? We immerse to engage our own fantasies, not a corporation's! Some have gone further by arranging events or activities at these sites in attempts to attract visitors. But it's all "pull", and little genuine interest.

The only successful approach I've seen is by General Motors on Motorati Island. They've created a sandbox for virtual automotive businesses within the sandbox of Second Life itself. They've out-web2.0'd Second Life! Why does this work? Simply because it promotes the cult of the car, and it does it well. A visit to Motorati Island reveals many interesting automotive businesses, including GM itself. It works because it addresses our immersive fantasies, not GM's. GM approach is very subtle, and it's a shining example of how to leverage Second Life for business purposes.

Collaboration. We all know how much different a 3D meeting is from a typical conference call or chat session. There just seems to be something extra in the experience that makes it a little bit closer to reality. No, it's by no means perfect, but it is definitely better than audio or chat alone. Businesses can certainly use Second Life as a platform for collaboration, as long as they take appropriate precautions against griefers.

Go Native! This is perhaps the most interesting approach, where a RL business simply attempts to compete as an in-world company. They produce products and sell them.

But what should a RL company sell? I suspect they should simply do what any sensible business does: find out what people want, and then make it! Most RL businesses seem to believe that a virtual presence will lead to RL sales, but I don't see why that would be so, considering that most people use the virtual world for immersive reasons. A RL business should carefully consider their strengths and then see how they could apply in a virtual world.

Here's some obvious suggestions:

  • Retailers like Wal-Mart or Best-Buy are good at determining buying patterns and arranging easy ways for consumers to buy products from multiple manufacturers. Well, Just Do That In Second Life! A well-organized virtual Wal-Mart that is properly advertised and promoted would be an incredibly busy place. And I suspect it would be desired by many scattered builders desperately trying to attract shoppers to their small plots – and who really have little idea of how to do so effectively, as compared to the skills of a big retail chain. Builders should build; Wal-Marts should sell.
  • After the many recent virtual bank failures, isn't it clear that a RL financial institution could quickly set up a similar service – this time backed by their solid RL reputation? Who would use a fly-by-night bank then? That segment of virtual business is theirs for the taking.
And there are many other similar ideas if one puts your mind to it. But there's a problem.

The problem is that even if these RL mega-corps were to set up such virtual operations they'd be profitable, but probably only make a few thousand dollars. Maybe more, but certainly not millions. Not worth their time, perhaps. Revenue would eventually top out, not because they are doing something wrong, but because there just aren't that many customers. Second Life is still just too small, at least at this point. You can make only so much money in a small city.

But wouldn't it be a good position to be the premier virtual bank as Second Life's population grew? Double the population, double the revenue. Think long-term. Where will virtual reality be in five years? Ten? Start now and gain experience and reputation for the future.

My Customers are Getting Old!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I've been using one of those "Traffic Meter" gadgets at my store in Caso Milo to track the number of visitors. It's a very interesting device because it sends the data to a website which records the information regardless of whether Second Life goes down or not. You can visit the website ( to obtain a detailed report of visitor counts from your Traffic Meters.

The TrafficMeter can be obtained at no charge in Dirty, courtesy of the developer, Mark Barrett. By the way, you can also pick up the very useful SLStats wristwatch near that same location - it automatically tracks the places you visit and the people you encounter. According to my SLStats today, I've visited 839 sims and encountered 5,788 people so far.

Up to now I've really just been observing the total number of visitors per day. Generally the traffic has grown over time, but it's always up and down.

However, I noticed a strange effect taking place over time. In June when I installed a Traffic Meter at my Caso Milo main store there was a very typical mix of ages among the visitors. In subsequent months the ratios changed - in a consistent pattern. The ages of the visitors are definitely increasing as you can see in the chart.

Why would this be happening? I have a couple of theories:

  • The same set of customers continues to visit, and they simply get older over time? (This can't be true because inspection of the transaction log shows few repeat long-term customers. Yes, there are repeats, but the majority of customers are new to the store.)
  • Perhaps as my avatar gets older and more experienced, he makes more sophisticated products that attract a more sophisticated clientele? I'd like to think so!
  • As knowledge of these products increases via word-of-mouth, older avatars become aware of Electric Pixels and come by to shop? If so, where did the young ones go? This graph might be indirect evidence of word-of-mouth viral promotion, which is typically not easily measurable.
  • Perhaps the more recent arrivals to Second Life simply don't buy as much as those who joined earlier? We know that Linden's policy changes have affected the makeup of the Second Life residents somewhat - maybe this is one of the side effects?
I think a combination of the latter three are causing this aging effect at my business. But it is a little disturbing to think that new arrivals are not spending as much as they used to. Is this happening elsewhere in other stores?

Halloween and Frosty Effects

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This week I created two new unique seasonal effects.

Since Halloween is coming up, I thought it would be appropriate to have at least one effect. But instead of making a "spooky" effect like everyone else, my pal DeForest Beck suggested I make a "nice" effect instead. Thus was born the idea of the CandyGiver. It's simple to operate, as all my effects are. Just wear it and you may scan the vicinity for other avatars. You are presented with a list of names, and the one you select is given dozens of candy items. There are eighteen different types of candy, including a selection of chocolate bars, gum, lollypops and of course chocolate kisses! Don't eat too much!

The other new effect is quite obvious, but I have never encountered it. "Breath" is a tiny object worn on your nose (yes, it is transparent so no one can see it). Every seven seconds it emits a puff of steam. What is it for? Winter! This is what your breath actually looks like in -20C weather, and I should know, living in a cold RL country. This is just the thing for those of you who like to romp in the snow.

Now, if only I could find a snowsuit somewhere...

[Update: I did find someone with a snowsuit!]

Why RL Businesses Fail in Second Life, Part 2

Tuesday, October 9, 2007 Tuesday, October 09, 2007

In my previous article on RL business experiences, I explained my theory that there are more immersionists than augmentationists, and that RL companies fail because they do not correctly address the larger market.

In RL companies have discovered products that people require for their RL activities. Massive businesses have been created around these needs: fast food, clothing, entertainment, manufacturing and many others. Business that do not address RL needs generally don't exist because they die out.

In Second Life the same principles are in play: companies must discover products that are useful for Second Life activities. These products are not necessarily the same as RL products. Consider the following scenarios:

  • A RL company produces perfume. Second Life has no means of implementing a sense of smell, so a perfume product simply cannot be created.
  • A RL company produces food. Food objects can be created in Second Life, and to some degree might be animated to emit steam, sizzle or slowly disappear as they pretend to be consumed. But no one “needs” food in Second Life. Second Life “Food” is merely decorative, adding to the rich visual experience (but not the smell or taste experience).
  • A RL company produces clothing. Clothing is commonly created and sold in Second Life, so you might figure that clothing can be routinely “carried over” between worlds. However, there are subtle differences between RL and Second Life that can affect the clothing experience. Avatars are have different (often exaggerated) size and shape ratios, making the clothing hang differently, color and texture appear somewhat differently due to visual resolutions. RL clothing stretches and moves; Second Life clothing doesn't. These subtle changes can mean the difference between a successful clothing item or a failure. As in RL, Second Life clothing is decorative, adding to the rich visual experience. Hey, didn't I say that already?

Yes, I did. Because there is a clear pattern here. The visual richness of many successful Second Life products directly adds to the avatar's immersionist experience, perhaps because of a deep and powerful psychological effect where RL memories or concepts are visually triggered.

Like art. Second Life products are essentially a kind of artwork. I recall a long time ago I learned that the measure of art is not what it looks like, but instead how it makes you feel. That's what's going on with the successful products. That's why they sell.

A RL running shoe is sold because not because it looks cool; it sells because it makes the owner feel cool wearing them! A Second Life running shoe sells because it makes the owner feel cool, or get closer to their immersionist universe. A RL shoe sold in Second Life does not sell just because it is a top seller in RL. It must also make the owner feel cool or otherwise aid their immersionist vision. I know this to be true since my customers very often “Oooh” or “Ahhh” when they see products I have built.

Like clothing, RL products cannot simply be duplicated in Second Life. The only market for duplicates is the aficionados who are already weirdly compelled to buy, like someone who collects Coke paraphernalia. And bad news for the RL company: the aficionados probably already own that product in RL and few net new RL sales are made.

Now you might think there are some exceptions to this. For example, some successful Second Life products are gadgets of some kind. I suggest, however, that the ultimate purpose of most gadgets is to indirectly add to the rich visual experience by simplifying steps to achieve that experience. Consider the numerous HUDs that allow the user to more easily control their rich visual experience.

So my bottom line is this: successful Second Life products should add to the visual experience, either directly or indirectly.

By now RL companies must be asking, “but what can I do in Second Life? How can I make money like I do in RL?” I think there are some answers, but that's something I will save for another post in coming weeks.

Particles in Bloom

Thursday, October 4, 2007 Thursday, October 04, 2007

I had an idea to use particles to create life-like vegetation, and it seems to have turned out rather well. After some experimentation and a lot of photoshopping, I first built an effect that emits grass! Once triggered, grass flows slowly away from the emitter as shown in the photo.

This emitter has some interesting properties. First, you can raise or lower the height of your grass merely by moving the emitter up or down. As with all of my installable effects, the emitter is MOD so that you can blend it into your site, or even make it completely transparent.

I really wanted to create a wavy field of grass, much like you would see on the prairies. But unfortunately, that's not how particles work. You can't easily make individual particles change shape - you can just make them move and stretch - but not wave. However, I had another idea! It came to me as I watched the grass particles slowly flow away from the emitter. If you place several Grass emitters separated by say 10m or so, their grass particles inter-weave together and create a bizarre flowing carpet of grass. Not exactly waving grass, but pretty close and very fun to stand within.

Once Grass was made it was straightforward to create two additional effects: Flowers, which emits a selection of wildflowers, and Sunflowers, which emits.... oh you can guess that one!

All three of these new particle effects are now available at the Electric Pixels Particle Shop in Caso Milo.

Does anyone have any suggestions or requests for other types of vegetation?

Particles at Burning Life

Sunday, September 30, 2007 Sunday, September 30, 2007

I've never been to Burning Life before (mainly because I am not old enough!) So I thought I would pay a visit. I am fascinated by interesting builds, and there is no better place to see the envelope of ingenuity pushed than at Burning Life. My visit to Burning Life today turned out a lot better than my first attempt - no griefing in sight today!

Since I am sure others are reporting on Burning Life in general, I am reporting on Particle Effect builds at Burning Life. I am not sure if anyone else is doing so. Basically, I tromped around the site looking for interesting particle effects. While there are many wonderful physical builds, I have to say that there really are not many particle effects present. I suspect some shun particles for fear of generating lag, or perhaps there just isn't many people able to build them. Lag doesn't really happen, of course, unless you build massive particle bursts as are often found in freebie particle baskets.

JT Dagger built this amazing creation, called the "Atom Spinner". Perhaps I should have taken a video of it, since it is quite animated. This item rotates, changes colors and emits multi-colored shape-changing particles. Particles need not be like anything in the physical world. It's cool particle sculptures like this that I admire.

A friend of mine, Carrie Cronenwerth, is refitting a mall and is wondering how best to attract more traffic, as many landowners do. She and I toured several Burning Life sites the other night (pictured) to get some ideas. I suggested she might consider placing some fascinating sculptures in her mall to attract visitors - they seem to attract me, so why not others too? And what better way to find builders than to visit Burning Life? It's almost like a trade show for builders.

This one is quite basic, but it certainly collects your eyes! It seems to be made/owned by TheDreamingDragon Nighbor and Legith Fairplay. In fact, there seems to be several "eye" oriented effects at Burning Life for some unexplainable reason.

My friend Jopsy Pendragon has perhaps the best particle display I've seen. The display includes not only the amazing lightening particles, but also sound and animated textures. You can't see it in this picture, but it includes a dancing fountain, like a simplified version of the Las Vegas Bellagio fountain - all made from particles.

And of course, the most notable particle effect was the Burning of the Man that took place today. It was probably the biggest fire I've seen in Second Life so far. Well done, Burning Lifer's! The fire proceeded for many minutes and then gradually died out to the applause of the hundreds present.

But that was not all! After the burning died out, the toasty near-the-fire participants were handed the "Dance Effect Orb", which as you can see produces an iPod-commercial-like appearance. Everyone danced with more particles flying above. Sweet!

Griefing Attack at Burning Life?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007 Wednesday, September 26, 2007

After toiling at my laboratory building new particle effects tonight, I thought it would be a good idea to visit Burning Life. My friend Jopsy Pendragon has a very cool display there, as do other legendary builders. And I was not disappointed, there are some truly interesting parcels. I am always amazed at the ingenuity of Second Life builders. Tonight was no exception... in more ways than one.

One parcel seemed a little strange. It had some rotating blue cubes hovering above it. Of course, weird stuff is the order of the day at Burning Life, so I assumed it was part of the site's display.... until I noticed the same cubes at another parcel. And another. And...

Well, you get the idea.

Before long, I was seeing wacky blue cubes and hearing their rather annoying scream on various parcels. Not all, but several. Probably it had infected more than I could see, and I couldn't stand the noise any longer so I did not investigate further.

I did manage to check the provenance of a nearby cube and guess what? It was made by an avatar born today! Who would have thought that something that ingenious could be constructed in less than a day by someone with no experience at all? Or at least, no brain at all. Sigh.

I'll try Burning Life again tomorrow.

A Few More Particle Effects...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In my quest to achieve and even exceed 100 products I am announcing these new items, bringing my total at the shop to over 90 particle effects:

Solar - An effect very similar to "Eclipse", except without the Eclipse! It's just like having your own personal sun. Very big and bright.

FireSparks Wearable - This effect is similar to "OnFire", except that it is positioned lower so it makes you appear as if you are walking through fire! "OnFire" makes you look like you are on fire. Oh, FSW includes sparks too.

HeartsFog Subtle - A completely new installable effect that emits five kinds of tiny colored hearts that gently flow along the floor. Ideal for weddings or other romantic situations.

DanceKit Ultimate and DanceKit Ultimate Auto - Two new collections that include both personal and gang-sized effects in one package. The Auto kit includes emitters that automatically rotate between 14 effects, while the not-Auto kit includes separate emitters for each of the 14 effects.


Insane Way to Increase Traffic to Your Second Life Parcel!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Somebody MUST have already thought of this, but I certainly didn't.

I was having a conversation with my parcel neighbor (and all around great person) Aspasia Arliss (pictured at my Particle Shop) and she commented that she often receives many uninvited guests. She had a theory that because her parcel is located directly in the sim's center visitors accidentally drop in.

It turns out that this is actually true! If you are in SL using the MAP function, the default coordinates upon searching for a sim name are 128,128,x. This means that anyone searching for Caso Milo in MAP and hitting the teleport button will drop right onto her property. That's why she receives many uninvited guests.

This got me thinking.

Each sim has the same special effect, unless the parcel owner of 128,128,x has set a specific landing spot. This means that the parcel located at 128,128,x in most sims will automatically get some amount of random visitors over and above other parcels within the sim. Therefore, these 128,128,x parcels should be more valuable than others - if your goal is to attract traffic.

However, I don't see these parcels priced any differently - but perhaps they should be. Darn, I wish I would have thought of this earlier! SL Business tip # 64: if buying land to set up a store, make sure it contains coordinates 128,128,x.

Why RL Businesses Fail in Second Life

Thursday, September 13, 2007 Thursday, September 13, 2007

I've had more thoughts about the Infamous WIRED article about RL businesses failing in their attempts to conquer Second Life. I first wrote about this earlier in my post rebutting the WIRED article.

First you must understand the difference between Augmentation vs. Immersion in Second Life. Basically, “Immersionists” go to Second Life to create a new reality for themselves, while “Augmentationists” go to Second Life to aid some RL activity. An example of a typical immersionist would be a club-goer or perhaps someone who builds/buys themselves a castle, unaffordable by them in RL. An augmentationist example would be someone who uses Second Life as a means to collaborate with others to support a RL charity group.

The immersionist tries to create an environment they cannot easily achieve in RL. Perhaps it is a big house, a circle of friends, kinky activities, blingy clothes, role playing or something else. Slavers, Star Trekkers and Steampunkers are all types of role playing immersionists. They are immersing themselves in their own particular fantasy world. That's why they are there.

Sometimes individuals exhibit a bit of both characteristics, but in my limited experience avatars tend to be mostly one or the other. What type am I? After some consideration, I realized I am primarily immersionist. No, I'm not into role-playing or bling – but I am into creating and running a standalone business that makes things for people to enjoy. That's something I'd like to do in RL sometime. That's my fantasy world.

There are debates whether Second Life residents can truly be classified in this way, but I believe that such a classification is useful in understanding why businesses fail in Second Life.

So what does this have to do with RL businesses? I alluded to this in my previous article but here it is in more words: I believe the simple answer is that there are more immersionists than augmentationists. Of course, augmentationists exist (and some immersionists even become augmentationists from time to time) but augmentationists seem to be fewer in number. Or at least the number of people "augmenting" seems to be lower at any given moment.

So let's see what happens:

A RL business sets up shop in SL, perhaps selling RL-analogous products, trying brand-recognition schemes like offering games of some sort. But they receive little traffic, and conclude that Second Life just doesn't work. Worse, they spent $100K's to do so, and presumably expected to gain their investment back somehow.

Meanwhile, these RL businesses are often out-trafficked by in-world businesses. My own particle shop sometimes beats major RL players on certain days. Why is this so?

It's because the in-world businesses are implicitly addressing the actual needs of the most numerous avatars: Immersionists. Immersionists need virtual artifacts to enhance their secondary reality. They typically do not need analogs of commercial RL products. They need products that fit into their secondary reality. They especially do not appreciate brand recognition schemes (er, advertising), since its presence greatly disrupts their immersion experience. Indeed, branding that interrupts an RPG experience would obviously be viewed quite negatively.

In other words, in a mostly-immersive virtual world, the RL companies often have little to offer. What should they do? I have some interesting ideas, but let's save them for another post.

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