Top Posts of 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008 Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Each year I publish quite a few posts. Some are very popular, and others, well, not so much. Today I list the posts that you read most often in 2008. Why are these so popular? It’s hard to say, but the readers have spoken with their clicks. So to you frequent readers, or those who have just joined us, here are the top posts of 2008.

The Name Series
By far the most popular posts were the articles on how best to name your avatar. We’ve all seen horrifying avatar names, and some of us are even stuck with them ourselves (/me is guilty). How could this happen? How can we prevent it? And, find out exactly how good or bad your avatar name is with the scoring system. 

The Economics Series
In my business I often bump into club owners who seek fogs or other particle effects, and I get a sense of their issues. I wrote my thoughts in a three-part series that explained some of the problems and potential solutions. Not a terribly kewl topic, but they’re very popular reads.

The Plurk Hoax
In June of 2008 several SL types including myself began to use Plurk, the microblogging service. It quickly became addictive and after many, many invitations we now find hundreds, perhaps thousands of avatars using it daily. It was so wildly popular for avatars that I could not resist using an extremely provocative and misleading title.

The Mix’n Match
The story is well-known now; Vint Falken and I conjured up a rather insane project for the SL blogosphere. We made blogging volunteers write random posts on random blogs. It was a ton of work, but we managed to get it done and the results were astonishing. I am still proud of all the participants.  

The Rouge Thing
One of my Canadian SL friends is the amazing builder/designer/bonvivant Codebastard Redgrave, who executed a textbook-case sim opening. I covered the opening itself, but then analyzed how she pulled it off so well.

In the course of analyzing the most popular posts above, I went through all 2008 posts and found myself re-reading some of the not-top posts. While they didn’t seem to get the massive hit counts of those above, I like them a lot, probably because they made me emo for one reason or another. For what it’s worth, here’s my personal favorite posts of 2008:

I managed to attend the Second Life Community Convention during September, and it was one of the most amazing experiences ever. I can’t tell you how much fun I had, and was able to write down only a tiny bit of it in my post convention report.

The 2015 Series
I’m constantly thinking about what might be in the future, and I realized I’d better start writing it down. I began a series of fictional “days in the life of a future avatar” that describe some of my crazy ideas. These were not especially popular, but I really enjoyed writing them. I am certain I will do more in 2009.

Gods of Second Life
A friend pointed me to a rather unusual exhibition that poked fun at the Lindens, and I wrote it up in this post. Why do I like this one so much? The bit about Lagnor at the end had me howling for quite a while.

It’s Not Bad!
Many SL blogs tend to be highly critical of, well, everything. I try not to be critical because I believe that things are really never as bad as is often claimed, and that if progress is to occur we must have a positive attitude. In this post I tried to demonstrate that the blogosphere negabuzz was a bit offbase.

My All Time Favorite Post
I wrote this one in early 2008, and I often think of it. You’ll see why.

I am still smiling. Best Wishes to Everyone in 2009!

Dear SLanta

Tuesday, December 23, 2008 Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dear SLanta:

I haven’t written to you in quite a while, but this year I feel it’s necessary. That’s right, I believe that I’ve been a very, very good avatar all year long. With a few exceptions. Mostly I’ve been good. Well behaved. Usually. No one could question that! Except, well, um. Don’t worry about that, SLanta.

Oh, I clearly deserve some Christmas presents, and just so you have an idea of the items I desperately want, I’ve prepared this short list for you to give to the SLelves. I’d be very happy if you managed to get me one of them, but even happier if you sent me more than one, especially if you send all of them!

  • A software fix for those fatal graphics errors that occur all too often to the SL Viewer on my Mac. They always seem to happen at precisely the wrong time. I’m so glad my friends understand when I abruptly disappear in the middle of a deep conversation.
  • A reduction in Linden Lab tier fees - not so much for me, but for all those who were adversely affected by increases. Well, yeah, I’d like some too if you’re handing them out.
  • More customers! I get quite a few customers showing up at my shop, but I can always use a few more. In fact, SLanta, if you need some snow, I happen to have some you might be interested in. Drop by Electric Pixels and I’ll give you a deal!
  • I want the guy with the oddly-shaped 208 sm parcel smack dab in the middle of my property to reduce his price from the outrageous L$35K (that’s L$170.00+ per sm) to something, anything more reasonable. SLanta, believe me when I say that he’s been a very naughty person. In fact, why not just give me the parcel! Yeah!
  • More time in the day. I realize that everyone will be asking for this one, but I really, really need this one more than anyone! I have so much to do, so many people to see and so many places to visit that I must get more hours. SLanta, I know that this one is asking a lot from you, but I believe you can do almost anything. Please!
  • Tickets to SLCC 2009 for all my friends who were unable to make the 2008 episode. Nothing could make me happier than being able to meet my close friends in person, and SLCC 2009 would be a terrific place to do it. And you can come too, you wouldn't be out of place!
Thanks again, SLanta, for your consideration of my meager requests. I know you can do it! I’ll leave a cookie for you.

It’s Not Nearly As Bad As They Say

Friday, December 19, 2008 Friday, December 19, 2008

There’s been extra helpings of doom spooned out at the dinner table of late. Blog posts complaining of this problem or that issue. Residents leaving. Bad press. More bad press. Linden staff leaving under suspicious circumstances.

We’re doomed! Give Up Now! Run away!

I disagree. Strongly.

As far as I can tell, the universe is unfolding as it should, and I have evidence suggesting that things are indeed going to be much better in the near future. Second Life is a grand experiment, a new technology unleashed upon the world, and as such it must pass through several distinct phases. My RL friend Jackie Fenn, VP of Emerging Trends at Gartner, described these phases in a precise manner. It’s called “The Hype Cycle”. (Note: I just discovered Jackie has written a great article on precisely the same topic as this blog post yesterday, even though I had already written but not yet posted this article, sigh.) This is the Hype Cycle:

The phases are as follows:

  • Technology Trigger: The initial period after a technology is invented, where typically very few people know about it.
  • Peak of Inflated Expectations: After a technology is introduced, many people soon realize its POTENTIAL and assume the technology is sufficiently mature to hit that potential immediately. During this phase you typically see many mass media articles touting the amazing things that COULD be done. After reading these articles, some individuals and companies actually attempt to do them, too. Many of them fail.
  • Trough of Disillusionment: Of course, the technology is still new, not only in terms of its raw capability, but also of its users ability to know how and what to do with it. Typically the majority of keen users, initially attracted by the positive media blitz during the previous phase crash out as their projects and activities do not meet their overinflated expectations. Word of these failures is passed around and a general malaise over the technology occurs. You start seeing a negative media blitz. It’s just bad stuff; run away quickly! You’d have to be crazy to do that! There’s something better over there!
  • Slope of Enlightenment: While the majority of users fled, some stay. Their perseverance yields discoveries that show how to really use the technology properly.
  • Plateau of Productivity: Over a long period of time, their successful new enlightened approaches find their way back to the majority of users and increasing numbers of people find great use of the technology. Potential IS finally achieved.

Does this really happen? Yes, absolutely it does. Virtually every technology follows this sequence of events. “It’s a great idea; It doesn’t work; Oh, maybe it does!” It’s a learning scenario for the public at large. I’ve personally observed this effect happen to many different technologies over the years. It’s definitely real, and Gartner actually tracks the exact phase of dozens of technologies along this very curve.

The question is, where is Second Life on this curve? I pondered different techniques for measuring this, but eventually realized it’s pretty easy: Google Trends provides the answer. (Aside: it's the same technique Jackie used in her article.) Google Trends shows a graph of the proportion of searches for a term over time. If we check the search trend for “Second Life”, we get this:

And amazingly, we see a massive peak in early 2007, just at the moment when many people and companies arrived. You may recall seeing dozens of positive media stories about SL during that period. We then see a huge drop-off in searches for "Second Life", suggesting that more people became disillusioned with the technology. You may also notice the numerous negative articles more recently. This is as classic a case of Hype Cycle as could exist. Also, the graph probably matches your feelings toward Second Life over the same time period; it does for me.

Notice on the right hand side of the graph we see the beginnings of an upturn, precisely as the Hype Cycle predicts. Could this be due to the recent actions of M Linden? The gradually-more-stable software? The amazing resident builds? The rise of educational use of Second Life? I can’t say, but whatever it is, there’s a plateau starting to grow.

You may ask about OpenSim and say that many are fleeing to it, leaving Second Life forever. I don’t doubt that some have indeed left, never to return. But let’s find the search trend on “Second Life” vs. “OpenSim”:

As you can see, OpenSim Doesn’t Even Register! Yes, people are leaving, but clearly they are a tiny proportion. The general public has simply no idea what OpenSim is at this point, and those using OpenSim might be called pioneers. If you were to rank OpenSim, it’s probably earlier in the Hype Cycle, starting to head up the Peak of Inflated Expectations. The implication is that at some point people will get disillusioned with it, too.

For fun I also checked the trend of “Virtual Worlds”, and found that it does register, but only just.

The plateau I speak of may not actually be Second Life itself; it could very well be OpenSim as users are introduced to the concept of virtual worlds via Second Life, but then realize there are other options. Today the general public tends to use the words “Second Life” instead of the more generic “Virtual Worlds”. We’ll have to watch these trends carefully over the next year or two.

There’s another interesting aspect of the Second Life trend graph. It more or less seems to match my in-world store’s revenue stream. There were a lot of sales until late 2007, and then things mysteriously dropped off. Only now are they beginning to recover for me – just as the plateau is emerging.

So stop frowning and try to smile; things are definitely not as bad as they say.

Who Knows You?

Sunday, December 14, 2008 Sunday, December 14, 2008

I’ve been watching two entirely different but strangely parallel ongoing events in recent weeks. What events am I referring to? First, it’s Crap Mariner’s TunesInSL campaign, which is intended to promote many of the wonderful SL-based musicians. The other is Eshi Otawara’s announcement of her new fashion line.

(Photo courtesy Chimera Cosmos)

Now you might wonder what on Earth these two radically different activities might have in common, other than they are being done by two very close friends. The common factor is that they are both promoting something. Fashion products in one case, musicians in the other. Both are following a complex process to meet a difficult goal.

This got me thinking about what it means to promote something in a business sense. At the root of it, there are only three steps involved:

  • Make a large group aware of your “thing”.
  • Make sure that interested individuals consider your “thing”.
  • Ensure the very few individuals who decided to take part actually can (by purchasing, for example)

Ah, but they are not very simple steps. There are specific methods of achieving each of them. In this post, let’s look at the first one, Awareness, which turns out to be the most difficult – but also has the biggest opportunities for creative solutions. How do you make people aware of your “thing”? Here are the main ideas an SL business can consider, although there are likely a few more:

Blog posts. Many SL makers have an accompanying blog in which they can post the details of their new product.
  • Example: I do this now and then
  • Positives: a blog post is hugely rich and can include significant text, images and even videos and can potentially reach a lot of people. 
  • Negatives: Few will read a blog solely for product announcements, and you’ll have to commit to a significant amount of high quality writing.

Notecard. Notecards are not nearly as rich as a blog post, but can be useful if carefully worded and sent to a group of friends.
  • Positives: Almost assured delivery to each recipient; can be perceived as a personal message. 
  • Negatives: Can be perceived as SPAM by some recipients; Typically low numbers of people can be reached compared to other methods.

Group announcement. A well worded announcement can be sent to a group, either a true SL Group or a Subscrib-O-Matic group.
  • Positives: Those who subscribe are more likely to partake of your offer than the general public, as they’ve previously expressed interest in your activities; Potentially large numbers of people can be reached. 
  • Negatives: The message sent is not nearly as rich as a blog post, and in some cases is severely limited in size.

Advertising.  This involves somehow visibly placing your product name in a place where many people will see it.
  • Example: SL classified ads. 
  • Positives: Massive numbers of people can potentially be reached 
  • Negatives: Expensive if you want it to be effective; Very complex to understand how to do this properly; Creation of effective advertising material is really hard to do. (I think I’d better go deep on this in an upcoming post.)

Promotional idea. This one is a little vague, as I mean any kind of game or contest that can be associated with your product. The possibilities here are as endless as your imagination.
  • Example: Grid-wide hunt. 
  • Positives: These can be incredibly successful. 
  • Negatives: These can go catastrophically wrong. You must have tremendous imagination and effort to attempt to do a successful promotion.

Show Appearance. A podcast interview or an appearance on a popular machinima show can make many aware of your product.
  • Example: I appeared on SL Under the Radar a while ago.  
  • Positives: This medium is vastly different than all the others and so you can portray your story in a unique way. 
  • Negatives: Show audiences vary considerably, but in all cases few people actually know how to view/listen to them, and thus the potential audience size is limited.

Microblog. Twitter and more recently Plurk offer ways to announce your message.
  • Positives: Extremely easy to do, and no cost at all; Large, dedicated audiences are potentially available. 
  • Negatives: For one, you get only 140 characters, so there’s only so much you can say; You must gain the trust of a large number of people, and that can be very difficult and time consuming, especially if you’re not trustworthy!

Mass Media. You somehow manage to get into one of the major media outlets (press, magazine or TV).
  • Example: Crap Mariner’s CNN iReport
  • Positives: Massive number of eyeballs on this one. 
  • Negatives: Extremely hard to do, and usually out of your control entirely (with the exception of the CNN iReport concept.)

Event. This approach is commonly done by many SL business in the form of a product launch, fashion show or opening party.
  • Example: Eshi’s fashion show where she unveiled her new line. 
  • Positives: Moderately easy to do; Usually effective in bringing good amounts of traffic your way; Fun! 
  • Negatives: Can be expensive, depending on what you do.

Forum Post: Discussion boards are a great way to post a message viewed and responded to by many people.
  • Example: Crap Mariner's SLBuzz posting
  • Positives: Very easy to do; potentially large audiences available. 
  • Negatives: Unless you have the trust of the audience, you will be ignored.

Press Release. A concise method of documenting your announcment.
  • Example: Codebastard Redgrave’s press release on her new filtercam product
  • Positives: Appears very professional; Relatively easy to produce. 
  • Negatives: Awkward to include video; Who do you send it to? PR services that can send it to many for you are expensive, otherwise it’s just a specially formatted blog post.

Each has their advantages and disadvantages, mainly in the effort-to-effectiveness ratio. It’s been my experience that best results occur when you use multiple techniques on the same campaign, and even better results when you link them together into combination approaches, like this:

You issue a press release on a blog regarding an upcoming event to reveal new product lines. The announcement is echoed on all microblogs, and the text is sent by notecard to relevant groups. Appearances on several shows prior to the event raise the event’s profile, as do strategically placed advertising signs. At the event, door prizes keep people talking, guessing and anticipating.

You can see that there is quite a bit to the seemingly simple task of making people aware of your product. Next time, we’ll talk about what you do after that.

By the way, you can find Eshi's amazing collection at her store, Chambre du Chocolat.

After Much Debate

Sunday, December 7, 2008 Sunday, December 07, 2008

Yes, I’ve made a decision. And it’s why I haven’t been posting this week. I’ve been shopping – for land.

My main shop is located on mainland in the Caso Milo region, and has been unchanged size-wise since June 2007. However, I’ve been gradually filling it up over the past eighteen months with products, displays and even a rather wacky lounge. I’ve even begun to worry about prim counts, something I’ve never had to do before.

Last week I noticed a few parcels adjacent to me on sale! After much debate (hence the title of this post) I decided to expand onto mainland instead of getting into the island game. The bottom line was that I just could not justify the expense of an island without having a solid approach for a return on that investment. In other words, I could not think up a way to actually use the land on an island effectively. Sure, I could USE the land, but would I get any RETURN from it? A business does not last long if it spends without returns.

Besides, as everyone knows, islands are a risky proposition if you are not willing to fund it from your own pocket. You must have a substantial income from your business, massive donations, subsidies or a complete complement of renters. None of these are guaranteed, and you’ll have to work very hard to make sure they come through. Worse, there are no guarantees that tier rates will remain stable, as we’ve seen recently. So I proceeded to engage something I know I can afford and make good use of. A bigger mainland shop.

After some quick “buys” and “joins”, my parcel is now almost twice its original size, as you can see in the top image. One issue is that I did not quite get all the space nearby. There was a 256 sm parcel subdivided into a 208 sm and several 16's. I'm negotiating for the 16's, but the 208 sm is priced at the ridiculous price of L$25,000+, if you can believe it! It's using some kind of automated script to gradually lower the price. Fine, I will build around it, and I've placed some particle stanchions around it to keep people from falling to their death below.

Meanwhile, I have obtained significant space that can be used for a variety of purposes. The question now is, “what exactly will I do with this extra space?”

My goal is to rectify an ongoing issue in my particle business: sales seem focused on very basic items, such as chimney smoke, white fog, fire and a few other staples. Meanwhile there are many other fascinating particle effects that don’t sell as well. I have pondered this for a while, and now have a theory that I can test with the new land.

The theory is that unusual particle effects are very difficult to understand, and simply cannot be sold from a box picture or even a basic small-scale demonstration. People already understand smoke and fire, so they buy them. They don’t understand the more unusual products, so they don’t buy them. I sell many strange star effects, but I believe the reason they buy is because I usually have a parcel-wide demonstration running that people can’t miss seeing. In other words, if customers see products properly, they are more likely to purchase. My job as the merchant is to truly show them what the other stuff is all about. And I could not do it when limited by the space.

Thus, the new area will be used to provide rich demonstration experiences, far more detailed than ever before. For example, I suspect I’ll end up with a gigantic area for showing fireworks effects. And another for dance floor effects. And so on.

So if you don’t see me in the next while, you can find me hidden in the back, building demonstrations!

I Feel an Eruption Coming!

Monday, December 1, 2008 Monday, December 01, 2008

The holiday season is approaching, and I wondered what kind of new particle effect to build for the busy sales season. I wanted something new, and while tossing ideas around in the Particle Lounge with friends, we noticed one of the strange effects beside us, Rainbow Smoke. 
The Rainbow Smoke is quite cool, but definitely not a holiday item. But could it be made into something special? Yes! A bit of red and green color, ornaments, garlands, stars and a bit of swirl resulted in this, the astonishing Ornament Eruption! It’s not exactly a Christmas tree, but the imagery really feels like one.  

And that’s the thing about particle effects. It’s not just the color, motion and textures. It’s how it makes you feel. That’s how I judge success – does it make you feel something? Does it make you feel what was intended? If so, it’s probably just right. That’s how I felt when the Ornament Eruption first went off in my Lab.

One friend said “There’s another holiday, you know!” Thus, I managed to tweak out a Hanukkah version too. There’s just one teeny problem. What is the one, true way to spell Hanukkah? Hannukah? Chanuka?

In any case, if you really need an eruption (and who wouldn’t?) you can get them now at Electric Pixels – and the Hanukkah versions are also available at the Jewish Store.

Second Life, 2015 AD, Part 3

Friday, November 28, 2008 Friday, November 28, 2008

In part 2 of our series, the avatar of the future has deftly teleported to a party to meet his friends.

They were easy to find, as their titles were highlighted. Sometimes it’s best to turn on Social Proximity mode: titles are colored according to your social affinity to them. Close friends are bright red, acquaintances are yellow, those you haven’t met have gray titles and every shade inbetween. The last time you used it was at a Halloween party, where everyone was in unfamiliar avatars and outfits. But that was cheating; it was too easy to identify your friends.

As it was in the past, so it continues in 2015: dancing is a favorite activity for most avatars. But now there’s a difference, a choice in fact. You’re wearing your motion-detecting top, and it allows you to directly control your avatar’s arms. That's become essential these days, as it is just so convenient to operate the HUDs. But you chose not to snap on the legs, so you cannot control the avatar’s legs. That's a good thing, since you are a terrible dancer in RL. You start up a reliable and fun dance animation and join in.

It's just as well, because your lower-body capture unit is not very good. The best ones go all the way to the toes and can detect ankle twists and toe wiggles. But yours is a very inexpensive unit that just gives the basic limb movements. No ankles. No toes. Even if you could dance, it would look terrible.

Your friend is also a terrible dancer, but tonight she seems to have been taking lessons because she’s doing extremely well. Too well, in fact. You suspect she’s using a new dance animation, but you can’t recognize it. You decided to call her on it and ask in voice.

For a moment you reach for the headphones on the side of your desk. But then you remember and stop. Impromptu voice is tremendously easy now because no headphones are required! Software automatically detects voice or sound echoes and digitally eliminates them, freeing ears from the tyranny of hot headphones or ear-numbing buds forever. Volume fiddling has also long since disappeared.

“Where did you get that dance?” you ask, in a South African accent, which you unfortunately left active last night.

She laughs. “It’s not an animation, silly!”

“But you are dancing so well. Did you take dancing lessons? From that Phil guy?”

Miffed, she answers, “Oh, stop it about Phil! There were no lessons, I’m still a bad dancer. I just got a new Dance Assist!”

Now you recall what she’s talking about. It’s not exactly a dancing animation, but works like one. You wear it, and it monitors your movements through your motion-detecting equipment. It takes your awkward (and all-too-frequent drunken) movements and re-interprets them into smooth dance maneuvers. Some of the better ones map the slightest arm or leg movements into basic dance moves, so that the wearer can “compose” a new dance on the fly just like playing an instrument. 

"I love my DA!" She wails.

No wonder she’s dancing rings around you. It won’t be long before standard dance animations are a thing only newbs would use. You decide you’d better go shopping straight away. Or sooner, as you realize that she probably received the Dance Assist from that Phil guy!

Just a Pile of Products?

Sunday, November 23, 2008 Sunday, November 23, 2008

I’ve added some new items to my store in the past few weeks, taking up more space on the product shelves. In fact, a count today revealed that I now have 196 unique products for sale. I’ve talked before about how I arrange the product shelves for shopping ease, but today I want to talk about extra features that every store should consider having.

The issue is that when you have a great many products, things can be confusing for visiting shoppers. Where do they start? What’s different from the last time they visited?  What’s it all about, anyway? Over the past year I’ve developed a few solutions for my shop; they may work for you too.

Problem: How do customers find new items? At first I would simply place a “NEW” sticker onto the appropriate product boxes. That was fine when the number of products is low, but as the number rises it becomes increasingly difficult for customers to make their way through the entire store to find those shiny new items.

Solution: New products are displayed in an area specifically set aside for that purpose. Of course, it should be visible immediately upon arrival to the store. I’ve made such a display at Electric Pixels in Kiosk form. I automatically know when to clean it out, too – whenever it runs out of space for new items, I clean out the older ones.

Problem: How to deliver custom-made items to customers? One can, of course, have them pay you directly and then you hand over the item. But that method can screw up in various ways, not the least of which is incorrect payment amount.

Solution: I’ve created a “Special Deliveries” area, in which I place one-time product boxes containing special orders. I set the floating text to the name of the customer and also set the box for sale at the agreed upon price. A quick IM to the customer leads them to come by and “pick it up” (which really is “buying” it.) This ensures that your transaction log shows more detail than “Give Inventory”. A side benefit of this approach is that while they’re in your store, they just might buy something else, or perhaps bring someone else along with them.

Problem: Depending on the season, there’s different combinations of products that go together. For example, during Halloween you might want scary Vampire items alongside with falling leaves. Or at another time you might want Christmas and winter items placed together. Either that or you force your customers to thread their way through your shop looking for them. Except that they won’t, and you lose the sale.

Solution: Recently I built a “Seasonal” area in which I can display different combinations of products throughout the year. (That is, if I get off my can and actually move stuff around – note expired Halloween items in photo. Sheesh.)

Problem: Visitors are not sure what to do with your products.

Solution: My solution is to build a demonstration area, where I can display interesting combinations of products. It’s not selling anything directly, but instead the purpose is to stimulate the imagination of the customer, which may lead to purchases they wouldn’t have made otherwise. (Pictured: Eureka Dejavu and myself, testing the demonstration area.)

Problem: Visitors don’t know much about your store.

Solution. You could use one of those accursed Landmark givers, but I don’t like their intrusiveness when I shop, and I suspect my customers don’t like them either. Instead, I’ve built an all-in-one gadget that upon a click offers a landmark, group join, explanatory notecards in multiple languages and a link to the website, too. It also tracks visitors and emails reports periodically.

You can see that a store is not simply just a pile of products pasted on a wall or laid out on the floor. I’ve tried to make the shopping experience as simple as possible. You can too!

SWOT Away Those OpenSpace Problems

Thursday, November 20, 2008 Thursday, November 20, 2008

I haven’t yet reacted to the OpenSpace controversy, but today I will.

I believe it has been a bad thing for some, but of little consequence to many others. It just depends what you are doing in the virtual world.

I watched with interest when OpenSpaces were announced, because, like you, I secretly lusted for my own island. A place where I could control things, with limitless prims and a décor to match my tastes. I saw OpenSpaces as a possible way to achieve that goal, as they were quite a bit less expensive than a full island. But there was a problem. According to the Land Store, you have to own a full island before you were allowed to buy even a single OpenSpace.

Today I own an 8192sm mainland parcel, more than suitable for my business, with a tier of only USD$40 per month. It’s a great situation, as my business provides more than $40 per month in revenue, so all costs are easily covered, with plenty of profit leftover. Buying a full island would increase my tier to $295 per month in addition to the horrific task of moving an active business. I could not justify spending an extra $255 per month just to get more space and control. You do not run a successful business by spending without expecting a return on your investment.

In other words, I would have to do something profitable with the extra space to recover the $255 increase in monthly tier. But I could not think of anything, other than hair-brained schemes that probably would not work. So I discarded the idea, for the time being.

But then land prices decreased (although tier did not). Tempting. But how to recover the extra $255 every month? One approach, used by many others, is to rent out the excess space to others who cannot afford a whole island. But wait, I want the WHOLE island to myself! What to do? The answer, it seemed, was OpenSpaces. Here’s the formula:
  • Buy a whole island and commit to paying $295 per month.
  • Buy several OpenSpaces at an additional $75 per month each.
  • Rent the OpenSpaces at a rate higher than $75 per month each.
  • Cover your costs through the profit on OpenSpace rentals.
Hey, this could work! If I charge $XXX per month to YYY renters, I cover ALL my costs, including the $295 for my home island! Easy money!

There’s more. If I can cover my costs, why don’t I do more? Yeah, if I have twice the number of renters, I can pull in a significant profit. Wait, why not 4X ? Or 10X? I’m rich!

I went through this logic, as appears did many, many others. But I did not proceed. Why? Because I did an analysis that any business owner should perform. It’s called “SWOT”, which stands for: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

It’s pretty straightforward. You simply carefully consider each of these aspects with respect to your business idea. Let’s take an abbreviated tour through the OpenSpace rental scenario:

Strengths: There are some great strengths to this proposal, including the potentially large profit, covering expenses for a whole island, and even getting to meet many new people through the rental operation.

Weaknesses: Hm, as the business expands, the amount of administrative and management work will probably increase, so the benefits are not obtained for free. There's lots of work to do.

Opportunities: The excess space on the home island could be used to develop a new business or other operations. Additional OpenSpaces can be added ad infinitum. Groups of OpenSpaces could be joined together for events or other joint activities.


This is the dimension that stopped me cold. Threat analysis says, “What could happen that is out of my control?” and “If that happens, how can I prepare to meet that challenge?” If you cannot handle the possibilities, then it is perhaps not a good idea to proceed. Here are the threats I saw:

  • Linden Lab could change their OpenSpace ownership policy. For example, what would happen if they dropped the requirement that you must own a full island before purchasing an OpenSpace? Well, the customers would simply rent their own instead of yours, and you are instantaneously completely out of business. There is no way around this scenario, you’re dead – unless you intend on picking up the entire island bill yourself. (Note: this was actually mentioned as a possibility by the Lindens at a recent office hour!)
  • Other rental operations could set their prices artificially low and drag away your customers, even though their pricing may be lower than they can sustain over the long term. This could prevent you from having ANY renters. The only way to mitigate this risk is to be prepared to drop your prices, perhaps significantly. Perhaps lower than you need them to be to break even. Oops, this suddenly isn’t so good.
  • Linden Lab could change their pricing structure for either OpenSpaces or full islands. They have done this in the past, and there is no way to predict the future. The only way to mitigate this one is to simply be prepared to raise your rental rates and hope your customers can handle the extra cost. Obviously, some may not and your carefully constructed cover-the-costs model is broken.
At the time I felt these threats were more than sufficient to scare me away from the idea of becoming a landlord. So I declined to proceed with buying islands and OpenSpaces, in spite of others suggesting that it could be a good idea. “Look at all the landlords with so many islands! Look at the money they are making!” Yes, but those threats were always there.

And, as it turned out, one of them came true. At least it wasn’t the worst one.

Today I’m still in my $40 parcel, profitable and relatively happy. But there are many landlords who are very unhappy because their business model is broken and they are caught holding investments that are not paying back. Even worse off, I fear, are those who use OpenSpaces as a community facility. They are different from the business operations I’ve described above in that they generally rely on donations. Their fundraising may not be able to make up the difference, and they may shut down operations.

The moral of the story? Always SWOT before you leap.

1st Annual SL Blogger’s Mix’n Match: My Thoughts

Sunday, November 16, 2008 Sunday, November 16, 2008

The suggestions, the assignments, the writing, the postings – all done.  Mission accomplished.

From a simple idea grew a truly amazing online event, The SL Blogger’s Mix’n Match. The event was quite popular, and both Vint and I were totally surprised at the number of entries (60) that were submitted given the short notice and newness of the event.

There were some fears from the beginning. What if no one entered? How would people react if they were assigned an awful or embarrassing topic? Would bloggers really do it, and on time? Who would get sued?

Our fears proved massively unfounded.

I sensed things might go well when the topics began to arrive. The topics were current, amusing, meaningful and some quite profound. On scramble day we greatly feared a train wreck as topics, blogs and people might have been horribly mismatched. But it wasn’t so. I frequently found I really did want to hear what X had to say about Y.

I wondered why the mix was so interesting, and came to this conclusion: if you take a list of excellent topics and mix them with a list of amazing bloggers, the results will be good, every time. And they were.

The assignments were set and sent. Fortunately, there were very few issues to resolve and everyone got writing.

And did they! As I read post after post, I became increasingly astonished at the creativity, meaning and sheer effort put in by the writers. I noticed several patterns:

  • As the event began, several bloggers expressed great concern or even fear of writing on an unknown topic. Without exception, they took up the challenge and wrote not only good pieces, but wrote truly outstanding articles. Were these actually the same people writing? They overcame their fears and broke through their personal barriers into a new level of confidence. They will be better bloggers because of it.
  • Many articles were quite profound, as each author deeply considered their assigned topic and developed a unique view on the situation. They were thinking about SL in ways they’d never done before.
  • Other bloggers strode confidently into unknown waters, writing on topics they had no knowledge of. But they investigated, researched, surveyed and interviewed to gather information with which they built amazing posts. They went well beyond their normal levels.
  • A very small handful of participants seem to have forgotten or otherwise were unable to fulfill their commitment. I am not concerned at all about this, as everyone knows RL takes priority and things don’t always get done. I’m sure they will return in future events.
  • Many people commented that “I had never read that blog before – it’s good”, or “She’s an amazing writer”, or “I’m friends with him now!” Many new connections were made, and I am certain some of them will last a long time.
  • Within SL, on Plurk and via Twitter I observed many people discussing their posts or waiting in anticipation for the publication date to read about topics they found intriguing. There truly was a buzz developing across the SL Blogosphere. And that buzz, I believe, helped glue the online SL community together a bit more than it was before.

Many thanks to Hamlet Au, whose just-in-time article on New World Notes sent many readers towards the event. In fact, there were more than just a few people asking if they could enter event the next time it’s held after Hamlet's article was posted.

The buzz was such that not only did two Lindens, Katt and Torley, enter the event, but the event itself was announced on the Second Life viewer login screen (seen above), which I believe to be unprecedented for a SL blogging event. I offer my most humble thanks to those at Linden Lab who helped promote our community event.

How do I feel about all this?  I’m sitting here quietly with a hint of a smile, feeling very satisfied that Vint and I managed to make our community a teeny bit stronger and our bloggers even more capable than they were before. I thank everyone who participated for a job most masterfully completed. See you next year!

1st Annual SL Blogger's Mix'n Match Posting Update

Wednesday, November 12, 2008 Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Today is the day, and the postings are appearing. I've prepared a list of the postings that have occurred as of this writing. Note that not all participating blogs have a post yet. This could be due to several reasons:

  • The blog post author did not submit a post to the host on time
  • The blog host forgot or was not able to post the submission

I'll try an update this as events unfold, but it appears that we have an excellent list of posts available already. I have also corrected a few errors in the previous list. Good work, everyone!

UPDATED 14 November 21:00 CST ... Now includes direct links to Mix'n Match posts.

Alphonsus's Random Drivel POSTED

Unique Needs POSTED


The News from BardHaven POSTED

Torley Lives POSTED


Botgirl's Second Life Diary POSTED

Writing the Sonnet POSTED

Common Sensible POSTED

The blog of Danni- Christian Socialist Computer Addict POSTED

Dusan Writer's Metaverse POSTED

Eladrienne's Other Life POSTED

What is this crap? POSTED

Free Finds For Men POSTED

Gany's take on (any) life POSTED


Girl Wonder Speaks...About SL POSTED

Gwyn's Home POSTED

Harper's Bizarre POSTED

Her Royal Highness, Princess Ivory POSTED

Ingmann Design Group POSTED

Joonie's Journey POSTED


Wonderland Travels POSTED

One Girl | Two Worlds

Living in the Metaverse POSTED


Constructs of a Mind POSTED

My SLife on the D List POSTED

n0nSLensical!! POSTED

Nightflower POSTED

Tenth Life POSTED

The Poultry Report POSTED

Quirky Quaintly POSTED

Reading Radar

click heard round the world POSTED

Stories From Another Life POSTED

Samantha Speaks POSTED

Second Effects POSTED

The Shockwave Writer POSTED

SL Fashion Avengers POSTED

Socially Mundane POSTED

Second Stindberg POSTED

The Insane Life of Stuart Warf


The Dressing Up Box POSTED

The Winter Market POSTED

All Things Tiessa POSTED

Tiyuk's Second Life Adventures POSTED

What the Fug?

Wild Words POSTED

Metaversally Speaking POSTED


Second Life of My Dreams POSTED

Vint Falken POSTED

Writers in the (virtual) Sky POSTED

Aviatrix :: Zoe Connolly

Stay tuned for even more updates!

SL Blogger's Mix'n Match Underway

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Today is the day we expect to see some 60 top SL bloggers rotate their chairs to appear on strange blogs writing about weird topics. Or at least we hope so.

I've done my part, as you can read my post on "Visions of SL in 5 Years Time" as suggested by SL Blogger(s) Rik / Osiris Pfalz of Stories From Another Life on Chestnut Rau's blog. As well, you can see the previous article on this blog was written by Noelyci Ingmann.

Vint Falken and I hope to post a summary of the published scrambled articles very soon. Thanks to all who participated! Meanwhile, here is a complete list of participating blogs:

Alphonsus's Random Drivel

Unique Needs

Ari K

The News from BardHaven

Second Life

Second Life


Botgirl's Second Life Diary

Writing the Sonnet

Common Sensible

The blog of Danni- Christian Socialist Computer Addict

Dusan Writer's Metaverse

Eladrienne's Other Life

What is this crap?

Free Finds For Men

Gany's take on (any) life


Girl Wonder Speaks...About SL

Gwyn's Home

Harper's Bizarre

Her Royal Highness, Princess Ivory

Ingmann Design Group

Joonie's Journey


Wonderland Travels

One Girl | Two Worlds

Living in the Metaverse


Constructs of a Mind

My SLife on the D List



Tenth Life

The Poultry Report

Quirky Quaintly

Reading Radar

click heard round the world

Stories From Another Life

Samantha Speaks

Second Effects

The Shockwave Writer

SL Fashion Avengers

Socially Mundane

Second Stindberg

The Insane Life of Stuart Warf


The Dressing Up Box

The Winter Market

All Things Tiessa

Tiyuk's Second Life Adventures

What the Fug?

Wild Words

Metaversally Speaking


Second Life of My Dreams

Vint Falken

Writers in the (virtual) Sky

Aviatrix :: Zoe Connolly

Digital Suicide

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Editor's note: This is a guest post from Noelyci Ingmann of Ingmann Design Group, and is part of the first annual SL Blogger's Mix'n Match event. He's writing on a topic suggested by Alphonsus Peck of Alphonsus's Random Drivel

One of several hanging tools you can find on SLX

“I’m leaving Second Life!”  “That’s IT, this character is dead!” “I can’t take it anymore, I don’t know if I’ll ever be back!” Live long enough with a significant portion of your creative juices flowing through digital play and you’ll hear something similar. From pen and paper roleplaying through the UNIX Bulletin Board Systems of my youth to the AOL and Compuserve chatrooms, into worlds like Ultima, SWG, WOW and Second Life there’s always been a reason to commit suicide of a character, now it’s digital rather then analog, but what drives a person to do this? The other question is, is it still a character if you don’t think it is? If you’re just ‘yourself’ in Second Life, does that mean you’re killing the digital you when you ‘suicide’?

The fact of the mattter is that we all play roles, in every aspect of our lives, and when we decide we aren’t going to associate with those people anymore, we may find that we can stop playing that role, in fact it’s often why we stop hanging out with them, because we don’t like ourselves when we’re around them. This is a common reason for leaving Second Life. Because we lose balance, and lose part of ourselves in something ‘too deep’ that ‘isn’t real’ or detracts from our responsibilities and commitments outside of the digital realm. Most commonly the people I know who’ve left Second Life do so for this reason. They may have had a broken heart and been surprised by the strength of the feelings that the ‘unreal’ caused. They may have just lost track of time once too often and disrupted their sleep schedule, they may have not liked the fact that their avatar and fantasy fufillment didn’t fufill them the way they thought it would. But they leave because they don’t like the part of themselves that Second Life brings out, they excise that part of themselves, hoping that they can be different without. They have to commit digital suicide to maintain what they want or have to be. Does this work? I am not qualified to answer that and I am sure it depends on who you ask. The characters who ‘died’ in the course of my roleplaying are still very much a part of my Psyche, their stories just ended…. So even the ones that were destructive to play, and there were a few… don’t completely disappear from who we are as holistic people. Hence, the idea that “It’s all real!”

So why else would we commit digital suicide? The idea that the character is done with their story, or it’s just too painful to play leads to Alts most of the time, unless it’s a balance issue brought on by real life concerns. But the other major reason I see people committing digital ‘suicide’ is because they disagree or protest the decisions made by the company. In this instance it would be Linden Labs, but this has happened before, Star Wars Galaxies is a fairly big example, when they completely changed the game and experience while people were playing, they lost at least half their user base. So, are open space pricing issues enough to make you commit suicide from Second Life, to never go back? The people I find who do this the most are people who don’t have ‘real’ friends in Second Life, but use it as a tool, they get upset that their tool dosen’t function properly so they leave. If you have a social group in the game then it’s unlikely that it matters as much to you, you’ll adapt to hang out with those people. Neither is wrong, just observations on my part.

Could we truly commit digital suicide? I’m not sure I could. Think about it… could you stop signing on to a computer to have anything to do with our ‘second life’? I’m not talking about not signing onto the grid. I’m talking about deleting the email that has your avatar name… Never contacting anyone who you met in Second Life… Never posting another blog post under that name… Being dead. I know that for certain people this is the step they have to take, but I suspect some of the friendships they have made continue, in forms outside Second Life. This leads me back to the assertion that it’s all ‘real’. Could you kill off part of yourself completely? Sure, we all do it when we grow, it’s how we transform and become what we ultimately are, but it’s not as easy as you think. The more I reflect on the term ‘digital sucide’ the more I like it. You may not be actually killing anything other than pixels but you’re certainly putting yourself through agonizing transformative pain if you do it right.

As always, written by ‘a random collection of pixels’ ~Noel.

Second Life, 2015 A.D. Part 2

Saturday, November 8, 2008 Saturday, November 08, 2008

Part one of this series introduced the idea of following a day in the life of an avatar of the future. What might we see? So far, the avatar has gone full immersion 3D mode and is about to head off to an event.

As is today, we must teleport to the event location. You strike a key to change the your hand from “Physical” mode, where it can interact with virtual objects, to “HUD” mode, where it interacts with various popup HUDs clinging to the sides of your view. Touching the event calendar HUD brings up a concise list of scheduled activities, including tonight’s event. Touching the event itself brings up the teleport interface.

The teleport interface is quite different from today. A medium-sized 3D representation of the TP destination appears floating in front of you. It looks a bit like a floating chessboard with some structures and fuzzy edges, but you realize that it is actually a live display, as tiny avatars (not simply green dots) are moving about. You can even just barely hear the music and sounds coming from that location if you hold your virtual head close to the teleport interface.

This particular location does not seem to have a specific landing point, so you grab the chessboard-like teleport interface and spin it slowly around until you spy an empty spot appropriate for your arrival. You touch that spot and the teleport commences. And completes instantly.

It’s a typical party, with only 200 or so avatars present, far less than the 15,000 supported by the sim. No one actually gets 15,000 avatars on a sim, because that’s a theoretical limit, achievable only if there are no other objects and all avatars are stripped naked. The other reason you never see 15,000 avatars is that it is simply too hard to organize an event that might attract that many. Nevertheless, you recall attending a concert with 9,500 others last month by a very popular artist. It was laggy, of course.

The sim is brilliantly engineered and is astonishingly beautiful. You don’t really notice, because so many sims are like this these days. You could easily do this yourself on your own sim by purchasing one of the many self-building kits. They look simple, as they first rez as the classic standard plywood box. But when you touch them, they use mathematical algorithms to automatically generate a unique build that fits your property. You recall watching your neighbor try one – they had to re-run it seven times before it produced a build they liked. Sure, it’s a very easy way to make good use of the 1,000,000 prims permitted on each sim, and you make a note to shop for one another day.

You wade into the crowd and dance with the others, but you’re wondering if you really know anyone here. A turn of your head swims the display around the area, and you quickly notice your friends because their titles are highlighted. You deftly navigate through the crowd to get closer to them. Being nearby is very important, because it will be much easier to hear them.

Like any event in the past year, there is a lot of voice. The big migration to voice from chat happened when voice masking was finally introduced. It lets you specify how your voice is to be heard, and there are many who use it to filter their real voice to appear as a different gender. The latest craze is South African accents, which you can buy as a plug-in for your voice-mask. Hardly anyone uses text chat any more, except those logging in from quiet places, but their text is automatically voice masked for others, too.

You’re not into voice mask filtering very much, other than using the automatic language translation. Last week you finally found a useable Portuguese plug-in, and now your voice can be heard and understood by those Brazilians you’ve been hanging with. Of course, you can now understand them a lot better as well. 

The translation has become extremely important, because there are so many new avatars from third world countries now. It took them a while to discover virtual reality, but they latched on to the concept very quickly. It lets them finally escape their real world, which is often far worse off than the real world of more elderly avatars. The best part for them is their ability to make full time real-world living from virtual reality. Affluent users of the past ten years thought that there wasn’t much money to be made, but the new third world users find that a little money for westerners is in fact a lot of money for poorer areas of the real world. Most of the content is now produced by Africans, Pakistanis and smaller places in South Asia.

Finally, you reach your friends and the party can truly begin.

To be continued in Part 3.

Mix'N Match Assignments Ready!

Sunday, November 2, 2008 Sunday, November 02, 2008

As you may have read last week, Vint Falken and I proposed a massive blog swap for this week. We have had an amazing 56 people enter the event, from all manner of SL-related blogs, including!

A random scramble of topics and blogs has resulted in specific writing assignments for all the entrants. You can view the assignments here. We will send detailed assignments, including email addresses, directly to the participants so that they will know how to contact the blog they are to publish on.

I must say that I did fear the worst when opening up the idea of writing on anything SL related. But my fears were completely unfounded, as the all of the topics suggested were very interesting and I am looking forward to reading the resulting posts. Thanks to all for the terrific topics, and for volunteering your blog to host all of these posts.

Vint has written up the official instructions to follow from this point:

Write your blogpost.

Check on the .pdf which we emailed you what you'll be writing about and for whom. Write an well-researched, incredibly funny and kick-ass blogpost that exists of a maximum of 1000 and a minimum of 500 words. There should be at least one snapshot/illustration/graph/... to go with it. Make sure those are 'safe for work'! You will email both to your 'blog host', the person that will be publishing the article before Sunday November 9th 2008.

Publish the blogpost

All blogposts should be published on Wednesday November 12th*, the format for that:

Introduction by 'blog host' (optional)
Blogpost and pictures. Style at will.
Author name (+ link to his/her blog)
Person who suggested the subject (+ link to his/her blog)
Link to the blog where your blogpost will appear (optional)
Link to the person who will blog the subject you suggested (optional)

* Most blog platforms allow you to 'pre schedule' blogpost, so you can't forget to publish it. Of course we will also send out an email reminder to you.

Let Vint or ArminasX know

Drop Vint or ArminasX an email to tell them you've published the post, that way they can include it in their overview list.

No trading topics or blogs!

No trading topics or blogs! Period.


If there is any confusedness, or if you and your 'assigned writer', or you and your 'blog host' don't get along, we are more than willing to be the impartial persons you can complain to. You know our emails. (But you should first try to solve this as mature adults. Except for the ones whom are writing about SLdrama maybe!)

Finally, you can posts your enthusiastic comments on a Vint's special project page. Good luck, everyone!

Last Day to Enter the SL Bloggers’ Mix’n Match!

Thursday, October 30, 2008 Thursday, October 30, 2008

You’re expecting my response to the OpenSpace controversy?

Not today; I intend on doing that later this week. Instead today I post a reminder for the 1st annual SL Bloggers Mix’N Match, which was announced by Vint Falken and myself last week. Tomorrow, 31 October 2008, is the final day for you to enter the event, because this weekend Vint and I will scramble the entries to produce your blogging assignments.

To enter, simply add a comment to this post with your information (which means your Avatar name, Blog name, Blog URL and the Blog topic.) If you don’t understand, just look at one of the other comments and you’ll soon get the idea.

Vint and I are still wondering why certain bloggers have not yet entered? (Hello, Hamlet Au, Luna Jubilee, Veyron Supercharge and numerous others... )

For your reference, here are all 33 entries received as of this writing in alpha order:

  • Ari Blackthorne  -  Why Lindens who face the public get a bad wrap
  • Ari Blackthorne  -  Why is fashionista drama is both a good thing - and a bad thing?
  • ArminasX Saiman  -  The Economics of Freebies
  • Bone Mosten  -  Sounds Like SL
  • Brandy Rasmuson  -  the ways the SL experience is affected by avatars connecting outside SL with sites like plurk and flickr
  • Chestnut Rau  -  What groups can't you live without and why
  • Crap Mariner  -  The Best Moment In Your SL
  • dandellion Kimban  -  SL-specific art and expression forms
  • Danni Ohara  -  A child in an adult world- being a child avatar in Second Life
  • Dusan Writer  -  The deeper meaning of Philip’s hair: if hair is such an important component of the user’s experience of virtual worlds, what does it say that Philip Linden has awful hair? Is he too visionary for prim hair? Is he missing something? What kind of hair would you recommend? (Photos and SLURLs welcome).
  • Eladrienne Laval  -  SL as an Exploration of Culture & Diversity
  • Ganymedes Costagravas  -  Paying it forward: I used my knowledge on [???] to help [stranger(s) / noob(s) / friend(s) you haven’t talked to in ages / ???] today!
  • Gwyneth Llewelyn  -  What will the impact of OpenSim 1.0 be to the SL land economy? (Hint for your text: don’t assume that OpenSim-based grid will be as reliable or as fast as LL’s own; explore the business opportunity of getting cheap, low-cost sims running on low-end, unreliable servers)
  • Joan Kremer  -  Biggest life lessson (first or second life) learned in SL
  • Joonie Jatho  -  Alts in Second LIfe - necessary evil, fun diversion, or an easy way to be dishonest?
  • Kanomi  -  The funniest thing that ever happened to me in SL
  • Kirasha Urqhart  -  Is Second Life Truly a Second Life or an Extension of the First?
  • Meara Deschanel  -  Love and Romance in Second Life
  • Meara Deschanel  -  Do’s and don’t of SL avatar fashion (using pictures as examples!)
  • Merrick Thor  -  Mixing RL and SL - The dynamics and pitfalls of living and playing in SL with your RL significant other
  • Nightflower Blossoming  -  How SL has helped or hurt your RL
  • Noelyci Ingmann  -  Creator vs Consumer
  • Peter Stindberg  -  SL as a tool for personal improvement
  • Prad Prathivi  -  Segregation in Second Life
  • Princess Ivory  -  Gender Identity in SL: Living your SL as the opposite gender.
  • Quaintly Tuqiri  -  Can SL and RL truly be kept separate from each other?
  • radar masukami  -  community in SL
  • Rik / Osiris Pfalz  -  Visions of SL in 5 years time
  • Stuart Warf  -  The future of business in Second Life
  • Teagan Blackthorne (maybe w/ Laynie Link)  -  A history of the birth and emergence of prim hair into Second Life as a thriving business and culture.
  • Tiessa Montgolfier  -  Write a true story of your early personal experiences in SL, including humor, a touch of sex (or innuendo), and some new surprise you discovered about yourself through your introduction to SecondLife. Similar to my Mistress Strangelove series of posts.
  • Tymmerie Thorne  -  Toilets in SL: Yes? Or no? Discuss
  • Vint Falken  -  The evolution of SLex
Stay tuned for the weekend scramble!

Halloween Stuff!

Monday, October 27, 2008 Monday, October 27, 2008

It is getting dangerously close to Halloween, and I decided to try something a little different. I prepared a large collection of my Halloween items all together in the seasonal department at Electric Pixels. It's my belief that placing related items together may result in more convenience for the customers, and perhaps even more sales. We'll find out after Halloween.

The Halloween items on display include:

  • CandyGiver - a special gadget that will throw streams of chocolate bars at an intended victim
  • Bat Hair Day - a new effect that produces teeny-tiny bats all around your face. And just for Halloween it's on sale for only 1L !
  • Halo Vampire - a particle halo colored red and black
  • Cloud Vampire - an installable cloud that is a frothy red and black color. Evil!
  • Demon Haze - a very subtle reddish haze appears around you. Everything will be colored
  • Demon Breath - every seven seconds you exhale a blood red breath!
  • ForestFog Vampire - a creepy red and black thin ground fog
  • BatMaker - a brand new effect that makes stationary bats appear around you for a radius of 60m
  • BatMaker Thick - another brand new effect that produces moving bats around you, with a configurable distance up to 96m. Bat a whole sim!
  • Leaves Red/Yellow/Brown Thick or Thin - a variety of falling leaves in different colors and frequencies
  • Quintos Chronometer Halloween/World or US edition - a special "guest product" from our pals at GREENE concept. It's a five-clock strip with either US or World cities on it. What makes it Halloweenish? The clock faces are pumpkins!

I'll keep this special display up until sometime after Halloween. Happy pumpkins, everyone!

Mixed and Matched

Friday, October 24, 2008 Friday, October 24, 2008

Readers will know I love to try new things, and I had an idea to include guest posts from other bloggers on I approached blogger extraordinary Vint Falken with this notion and we began talking about it, and before long we came up with the crazy-ass idea of doing Random guest posts! Yes, that's right – we want to recruit willing and able SL bloggers to submit themselves to our first annual Mix and Match Blog Carnival. 

Here's how it works. You'll enter the contest specifying a topic and your blog information. On the designated day, Vint and I will randomly mix and match all the entries and come up with your blog assignment. In other words, we'll notify you that you must write a post on this topic on that blog. And it must be good, of course. We want all the entries to be published on the same day; it will make for some very interesting reading.

Oh, you want specifics?

How do I enter the event? Simply add a comment to this post (or the corresponding post on Vint's blog) containing your avatar name, your blog name, your blog URL, the SL-related blog topic and an email address that actually works (very important).

When does this take place? Entries will be accepted until close of day 31 October 2008. Random selections will take place on November 1st, and the writing assignments will be posted both here and on Vint's blog. You have until November 9th to send your post to your assigned blog owner for them to post on your behalf. All event postings should occur simultaneously on November 12th.

What do I need to do? After entering the event, simply wait for your assignment to appear on our blogs. Then, carefully write an excellent post, as you can be certain it will be read by thousands. Well, hundreds. Probably. Package it up and send it to the assigned blog author by email containing the post's text, at least one appropriate picture, your name and link to your blog in case the poster doesn't know who you are. And don't forget a title for your post!

What happens next?  Check your inbox for an incoming post. You should be expecting one for your blog based on the mix and match selections. If you don't get one, you might consider bugging the person assigned to your blog. When you receive their post, prepare a post for your blog that contains the text and image(s), the name of the author who wrote it, link to their blog, name of the topic suggestor, link to the suggestor's blog. Publish it on November 12th.

Is there anything else I should do? You might want to include a link to the blog where your own post appears and a link to the blog that suggested your topic, if you feel anyone would benefit by reading it. You can also put in a brief explanation for your own readers who may be baffled by the strange material suddenly appearing on your normally well-behaved blog.

If that isn't totally clear, try reading Vint's instructions, which are far better than mine.

And so begins the first annual SL Blog Mix'nMatch Event!

The Second Life Product Lifecycle

Sunday, October 19, 2008 Sunday, October 19, 2008

I realized that I am not doing my job properly. I mean, my store doesn’t seem to have new products appearing on the shelves as often as it should. Does this mean I am not spending time building new particle effects? Not at all – in fact, a recent inspection of my increasingly poorly organized inventory reveals a dozen partially built products and another ten that are actually completed but not yet put out for sale. This is not good.

I thought about how this came about, and realized that building a product is only part of the story. Each product has a lifecycle that must be traversed in order to be sold. My problem is that I am not following the lifecycle. Be it due to interruptions, social priorities, RL distractions or downright laziness, my product ideas have not been flowing through correctly of late.

So you want to understand the mysterious lifecycle? Here’s my steps to creating a successful for-sale item:

  • Need. Somewhere you must find the inspiration for creating a great product. Often this is simply a need expressed by someone you encounter. They may not explicitly express this need, but you may observe their need. For example, someone might be visibly struggling with some aspect of SL. That’s a need you can fill by removing or reducing their pain.
  • Idea. Once you have inspiration, you have to conceive of something that will fill that need. This step may take some time, as you may have to mull over several different approaches before you come across one that is feasible to build. Yes, this means you have to mentally work out how you will build the item before you get started. It’s not that hard, though – just make sure you have a reasonable chance of successfully building it.
  • Prototype. Now that you’ve figured out how to build it, you must TP to your favorite sandbox (or in my case, my Laboratory) and get down to it.  Use the approach identified earlier to actually build something close to what you imagined. Do your best, but recognize that it won’t be perfect.
  • Experiment. This stage is where you really try out your new item. Actually, it’s not you; it’s someone else. You have to find some friendly, honest, reasonable and talkative beta-testers to give your product a good run through.
  • Refine. If you selected appropriate beta-testers, you will have received some very useful feedback on your new product. Listen carefully to them, because they will look at the product in ways you didn’t expect. Then refine your product by making the changes they have suggested. Even if you don’t entirely agree with them.
  • Box. Your product is finished. Not really, since you probably have to box it up. This means placing it in a vendor, creating informative notecards, box photography, setting descriptions, etc. Then you have to assemble it all together into a salable unit.
  • Price. You might think this is just part of boxing up a product, but there is quite a bit to the art of price-setting. I’ve written about this controversial step in the past. The only quick out on this step is if your product is a variation of an existing product where the price is already established and you need only copy the price.
  • Place. The completed box or vendor has to be placed where customers may make purchases. Where is that, exactly? Your store? A mall? In a vendor somewhere? Depending on the nature of the product, it may be sensible to place it with related items to increase the probability of a sale. Choose the location carefully!
  • Place again. Wait, we already placed it, didn’t we? Yes, we placed it on sale in-world, but there are other places where it can be sold: XStreetSL and OnRez are examples of third-party services that can sell your items to avatars.  Put the box into the third party’s vendors and set up placements on their websites for the new item.
  • Advertise. No one will buy your new product unless they know it exists, so you have to tell them. It’s way beyond the scope of this article to describe the techniques of advertising, but whichever methods you use, use them now!
  • Promote. Now you’re finished, right? Nope. You have to continually promote your new item. Mention to friends that it exists, tell others when it is appropriate to do so. Give out samples or freebies occasionally. Make sure the word is out that you have something interesting to sell.
  • Monitor. Sit back and watch what happens. Is the new product selling? Is it not selling? Why? Ask for feedback from those who purchased it, and if you can, ask those who did not buy it. You may be surprised at what you find out.
  • Retire. Eventually, the product stops selling at a useful rate, and you must decide whether to have it occupy your valuable prim space. If the product is boxed, then only a single prim is used and therefore it isn’t a lot of trouble to leave it around. On the other hand, if you have a 750 prim flying elephant that hasn’t sold in 16 months, you might consider retiring it.

To be successful, you really have to make sure all of these steps are addressed. Following these tips can make the difference between a successful business and one that fails, even though a great product was created.

At this point you probably have noticed that the “Build” portion is only one of many steps. There may be more steps that others use, but for me this seems to do the trick. But it is indeed a lot of things to do, isn’t it? That’s why I sometimes don’t keep up. But I will this week. Honest. For sure.

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