Interviews With Entrepreneurs: ButterflyKiss Ophelia

Thursday, August 28, 2008 Thursday, August 28, 2008

Today’s post is the first of a series of interviews with true SL entrepreneurs, who, through creativity, hard work and good business practices have succeeded. In previous postings I’ve described many business techniques that can create success, but in this series we will interview people who use sound business principles in action.

I first bumped into ButterflyKiss Ophelia a year ago, and at the time (and probably now) she could be the largest business owner on my friends list. While I was quite proud of my 8192sm shop, she calmly noted that she owned six entire islands. Much later I learned she had over twenty! She must be doing something right; let’s find out what that might be.

Second Effects: What is your SL business? What do you sell, and to whom do you sell?  

ButterflyKiss Ophelia: For the past six months I have been involved with my partner Nitrox Peel. Everything that we have done since March 1st has been a joint venture. I /We (Now partners with Nitrox Peel) are partners in:
  • Paradise Properties - Purchase or own your own piece of Paradise whether it be a small piece of land or a full Island Estate. Residential only.
  • Paradox Estates - Paradox Estates is our newest venture. A full sim dedicated to commercial activity. Shops of all kinds but we do not allow gambling of any kind.
  • SiT - A furniture store featuring wonderful designs by us both. Dining, Kitchen, Living Room, Bedroom and Bath Suites are featured in SiT.

SE: How did you get involved in SL in the first place? How and when did you find out about it?

BKO: A few years back I was addicted to Sims Online. Played that for three years and met some warm caring friends. One of my friends left and started to play SL. Missed him a lot and all he did was talk about how the graphics were so much better in SL.  So ... I checked it out and was Awed! The rest is history and now I am addicted to money making in SL.

SE: At what point did you realize you wanted a business? How did you get started?

BKO: I immediately wanted to make money. Well enough money that I wouldn't have to pay for me playing. I started out with building in Second Life. When I played Sims Online I did own a casino and a few money making projects, so it came naturally to me.I purchased my first 1/4 sim which by mistake for me was PG and mainland. I knew I wanted to rent out villas and needed a mature space for all those private moments, so PG was not a good investment. I immediately sold it and realized I paid quite a lot less for this property and upgraded to 1/2 a sim (Island Estate this time) and made sure it was Mature.

SE: What advice would you give to prospective business owners about to start up?

BKO: I believe it's all about your location. Ensure that you place ads and sell your product. Don't let others do your footwork, because it doesn't really sell you or your product. Do not get in over your head. Start small and work your way up. This may take time, but we all have "time" in Second Life. Market your product in SL Exchange or OnRez.

SE: Has your venture been successful over the long term? How large is your operation these days?

BKO: I have been in business for over two years and quite happy with everything I have done to bring me this far in Second Life. For the past six months I have expanded my business / our businesses at a slow but steady rate. We now have over 23 Estates between us and plan on steadily increasing over the winter season.

SE: How has business been lately? Many business owners report a downturn.

BKO: Our businesses are stable and running smoothly. Summers are always usually slow times. Winter months when there is less to do RL, will of course create a more stable economy.

SE: You’ve been expanding your business continually; what approach have you used that’s been so successful?

BKO: Rollover profits and never get over your head. We pretty much just rollover and purchase. Someone needs land and rather than constant purchasing we just purchase as we can afford. Rolling over profits.

SE: Where do you see your business going over the next few years?

BKO: We plan on taking over Second Life! *rubs hands together and laughs evilly*

HUDs, Hats and a Tuna

Sunday, August 24, 2008 Sunday, August 24, 2008

I've been working on a secret project recently with a new friend, Tuna Oddfellow. For those of you that don't know him, he's a magician. No, really - he's a RL magician. And he also does magic in the virtual world, too.

Tuna performs the most amazing visual shows I've ever witnessed in SL, and he does them twice a week at his studio in Research Center. The shows take place on Sunday at 11AM SLT and again later on Monday at 7PM SLT. Each show is different - and by that I mean unique and also totally mind blowing. There are lights, particles, textures used in ways never seen before! Everything is moving, colorful and astonishing.

Here we see Tuna's "Beautiful Assistant" Shava Suntzu, who also assists his magic shows in RL.

Robwag Soothsayer dances away with Pooky Amsterdam as the scene changes yet again. Tuna controls everything you see via a complex system of HUDs and you never see the same things for more than a minute during the entire two hour show.

What was the secret project? A major theme of Tuna's show is the top hat - every magician's favorite wardrobe item. In the studio he's long used a giant top hat as the centerpiece, but he had an idea for something quite interesting. He wanted to be able to hand out hats to attendees and then make the hats change texture or emit unusual particle effects on command. Eventually he showed up on my doorstop and I worked out precisely what he wanted. Here's a picture of PetLove Petshop wearing the hat!

So I built a special script and HUD that provides Tuna with buttons to do exactly that - and lets him use whatever textures he needs to use in his amazing show. The HUD controls particles and textures on all the hats worn in the vicinity and it turned out quite well. Each week Tuna intends on adding more effects and textures to the hat so it can only get better.

Pooky Amsterdam is exploding! Actually, she's using my Nova Blue wearable particle effect; it fit in very well at Tuna's.

If you have any thought of blowing your mind (and graphics card) please come out to Tuna's show. You won't regret it!

In-World Economy Tanks? Part 1

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It has been a strange time for many in-world businesses in recent weeks. Specifically, it’s lack of sales. I thought it was just me, but evidence seems to be growing that in-world sales are being hit, and hit badly.

Sales at my shop have grown in a more or less predictable manner since the shop opened in spring 2007. However, ever since April/May 2008 sales (and corresponding traffic) have leveled off. Worse, my sales have dropped off precipitously in this month of August, sometimes to only 50% of “normal” levels.

And it’s not just me. Damien Fate of Loco Pocos complained on Plurk of having only a very small percentage of normal sales on one particular day, and Jacek Antonelli reported not selling her wonderful Squidograms at the expected rate as well. I know of several friends who have closed their operations in the past few months as they are unable to make tier, even though they had in some cases been successful for years. Word from the virtual grapevine indicates similar issues at many in-world businesses. There are no doubt some businesses running just fine and a few could even be growing. But I suspect they are the exception.

I posed the question to SL Plurkers and found that several had also experienced a downturn, although some attributed the change to “seasonal” effects. A few indicated their business was up – but it appears the wedding industry has a seasonal upturn at this time of year.

What’s going on? I’m not totally sure, but I have a few theories:

  • Seasonal Effects. The Northern Hemisphere’s summer often sees many residents limit their virtual time to enable more RL time, and fewer online means lowered sales. However, as mentioned above there are certain industries that can see upturns during this period: weddings and related operations, such as jewelry.
  • Windlight. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but my revenue issues seemed to coincide with the introduction of the Windlight viewer. How could this affect sales? Well, for one thing the SL population growth leveled off at about the same time. Even today I constantly encounter people who are afraid of Windlight, avoid Windlight, don’t have a PC that can run Windlight, etc. Did Windlight scare off a big chunk of customers? Does its hardware requirement cause some users to leave or others to not bother signing up?
  • RL Recession. In the US specifically, it’s a bad RL economic moment. People lose homes, jobs and generally don’t have as much disposable income. Lack of disposable income means less in-world spending, thus lowered sales.
  • Pseudo-Grid Issues. I’ve written about this before, but my always-logged-in spies tell me that on some days Linden-issued warnings appear, asking residents to avoid making transactions, building or manipulating inventory. Bingo, sales stop. They stall for days until people gain the confidence that things actually work. A related effect might also be occurring: as people can get on the grid to chat but not to transact, they may be getting accustomed to that mode and their buying habits could diminish forevermore.
  • Population. Or lack of population growth, specifically. We’ve heard of horrifying persistence stats from new SL signups, and thus older residents increasingly populate our virtual world. And guess what? They already have most of the products they want and don’t need to buy as much as a newbie might.
  • In-world Competition. I’m mentioning this as a possibility, but I don’t believe it is the cause. And who else makes Squidograms or Loco Pocos tiny avatars, anyway?
  • Chain Reaction. I’ve heard tales of sims being more or less given away by owners who can no longer afford the tier. It’s my impression that quite a few landowners are operating only at a break-in level and any economic disturbance could easily put them under, such as any of the phenomenon above. As these “former” owners drop off, their purchases also disappear, as do the purchases by their customers of items required to participate in the closing sim (like specialized outfits or equipment.)

Do you operate an in-world business? How has your revenue fared in recent weeks?

It’s bad times for some; that is certain. Will it change? I am not sure, but it seems to me that there are some steps that could be taken to recover the in-world economy. Let’s examine that in an upcoming post.

I’ve Got Consistent DID, Part 2

Thursday, August 14, 2008 Thursday, August 14, 2008

In my last post I described the issue of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), a medical condition previously known as “Multiple Personality Disorder”, as applied to our virtual reality conditions. While the real life condition is a serious matter, some symptoms of DID occasionally occur in avatars. Or at least in people trying to operate with multiple identities, since many people choose to create avatars with identities completely separate from their real life identity. We examined four identity strategies followed by most people:

  • Unique Identities: create a truly unique identity for each environment, in addition to your “real” identity. In practice this approach is unworkable unless you belong to only very few services.
  • Unified Identity: extend your real life identity across all the services you use as much as possible. Again, in practice this is difficult to achieve due to naming conventions and the need to be something other than your real identity in certain services.
  • Blended Identities: create multiple identities, but have no barriers between them. Your real life is not explicitly separate from your virtual identity.
  • Consistent Identities: create a small set of distinct identities and isolate them from each other. Use one of the identities to register with different services.

To use the Consistent Identity strategy, you probably have to do these things:

  • Create an identity, perhaps with a unique personality. It will have a name and an attitude. Register this identity in the virtual world.
  • Register the same name consistently on any additional Web2.0 social networking services you care to use, or rather the ones that specific identity cares to use. Sometimes this can be difficult, as we shall see.
  • Take great care to isolate the identities from each other. This means any linkage between services is done consistently with the identity. For example, if a service requires an email address, use the email associated with that identity, not your personal or work email address.
  • Swap identities when you wish to assume the personality of your other identity. This part is the most difficult.

I postulated that many people choose the Consistent Identities strategy, so let’s examine the issues that can arise if you use that strategy and how you might be able to overcome some of them.

  • Naming Conventions: Some services have restrictions on the form of the registration ID, and you might not be able to get the precise identity you want. So instead of “Is Full Of Crap”, you might just get “Crap”.  Nevertheless, if you choose a similar name, a portion of your name or even a variation, your friends will likely find you.
  • Naming Collisions: You register with the new online service, only to discover that someone else has already taken your favorite name! Your friends may be confused as to who which one of you is the “real” you. Two approaches may resolve this. First, register early to any service you suspect you might use in the future. Register even if you don’t intend on using the service, just in case. Often services are free, so why not? A second approach is to have a very unique name that is unlikely to be used by anyone else. “Robert” is probably going to be gone long before you show up, but “Moggs” might not. However, if your name is famed it might be gobbled up by squatters.
  • Service Overload: Not only must you register your identity with multiple services, you sometimes have to register your multiple identities with multiple services. Naturally, this is continually confusing: “which ID should I sign on to which service?” is asked constantly. This gets even more confusing when you try to simplify your services, as most web aggregation services (e.g. FriendFeed, etc.) mistakenly assume that you have only a single identity. Of course, you don’t, and end up having multiple aggregators – but then they aren’t really aggregating for you, are they?
  • Cross Talk: While the other issues are most often annoyances, cross talk can cause serious problems. Consider the case where your identities have vastly different personalities and conflicting activities, and you accidentally use the wrong id for your email or IM service. Bad. Possibly Very Bad.  How to avoid this? There’s no easy way, I am afraid. You simply must be very careful. Always check before you email, IM, comment, Plurk or tweet. Take a second before you push that button, and you just might save your life.

In spite of these issues, Consistent identity could be the way to go for most people. But be warned, it’s not an easy life. Or two. Or three.

I’ve Got Consistent DID, Part 1

Sunday, August 10, 2008 Sunday, August 10, 2008

Confession: I have DID, and probably you do, too. What is it? Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is defined in Wikipedia as:

a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a condition in which a single person displays multiple distinct identities or personalities, each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment. The diagnosis requires that at least two personalities routinely take control of the individual's behavior with an associated memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness

I really don’t mean that I am crazy. No, I’m referring to a situation many of us find ourselves within. We’ve got multiple identities, and it can be very difficult to manage.

How many identities do we have? At a minimum, Second Life residents have two: their Real Life identity and their avatar identity. It’s often even more complex, as some people have Alt avatars that may or may not take on another distinct identity.  People may participate in yet other virtual worlds, such as WoW or LOTR where more identities exist. As for me, while I do not game, I do operate other blogs in which I take on even more secret identities. How does one deal with all these identities? How do they affect us? According to Wikipedia, DID has the following symptoms, some of which are exhibited by certain SL residents:

  • multiple mannerisms, attitudes and beliefs that are dissimilar to each other
  • headaches and other body pains
  • distortion or loss of subjective time
  • depersonalization
  • amnesia
  • depression

Given the reality that you’ll have to handle multiple identities across multiple web based services, how do you do it? There are only a few strategies available to us:
  • Unique Identities: create a truly unique identity for each environment, in addition to your “real” identity. In practice this approach is unworkable unless you belong to only very few services.
  • Unified Identity: extend your real life identity across all the services you use as much as possible. Again, in practice this is difficult to achieve due to naming conventions and the need to be something other than your real identity in certain services. Example: Hamlet Au, many A-List mainstream bloggers
  • Blended Identities: create multiple identities, but have no barriers between them. Consequently your real life is not explicitly separate from your virtual identity. Example: Jessyka Richard
  • Consistent Identities: create a small set of distinct identities and isolate them from each other. Use one of the identities to register with different services. Example: Veyron Supercharge.

Which strategy is best for you? I think it depends on your need for anonymity. For some of us, anonymity provides the freedom from the constraints of real life to experiment with new approaches to life or the ability to speak freely. If that is the case, then the Unified or Blended strategies are not for you. You may desire separate identities, identical identities, or perhaps it doesn’t matter to you.

I believe that most people choose the Consistent Identities approach, which enables them to achieve anonymity while keeping things as simple as possible when using multiple online services. However, having chosen that identity strategy, what problems will you encounter? How can you overcome them? Let’s save the answers for Part 2!

Ten Tips for Better Exploration

Wednesday, August 6, 2008 Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Frequent readers will know that I like to explore the Second Life Virtual World. It’s full of highly creative people building amazingly creative things. Sure, there’s lots that is not-so-great, but in hidden places we can always find something beautiful, amazing, fun or educational. The best places have all those attributes.

The problem of exploration is simply “where should I go?” Answers are found in several places:

  1. Ask your friends, particularly those who like to explore or always seem to know a good place to visit. They’ll be happy to tell you of their most recent adventures. I certainly do.
  2. Read the SL blogs. There are literally hundreds of SL-oriented blogs on all manner of topics. Some are dedicated to exploration, and those blogs often uncover new and unusual tourist destinations. One good example is Ambling in Second Life.
  3. Try the Showcase. With the end of the universally abhorred “Popular Places” search feature, a new feature, “The Showcase” has emerged. I haven’t really used it, but some say it has been useful.
  4. Profile Peeking. If you don’t care to ask your friends (or don’t have any) you can frequently find interesting locations by peeking at the Picks in avatar profiles. Remember, they found the place so interesting they spent the time and effort to put it into their entry-limited profile, so it’s probably worthwhile visiting. Just ignore the adverts and inevitable buddy pics.
  5. Creator Tracing. Have you ever seen an interesting object or building and wanted more of the same? Simply EDIT the object (even though you may not have modify authority) and you can quickly determine the owner. The owner’s profile picks could lead you to their store, or other locations they find interesting.
  6. Random Flying. This is perhaps the first technique I used to discover new places, before I realized there were other methods and I still use it occasionally. Simply fly around in a random direction. Maintain your height or you may be bounced by security systems, but keep an eye on the ground for anything unusual. You’d be surprised what you find. And also who you might find.
  7. Map Pegging. Call up the MAP, zoom out. Click randomly somewhere. Teleport. Voila – you are exploring. More than likely you will not be in an interesting place, but you can use this location as a base to fly about and bump into something interesting nearby. Alternate approach: look on the map for a clump of green dots, and probably something interesting is underway. However, be warned as you might TP right into the middle of a demonic initiation ceremony, a sim-wide orgy, a private event or a machinima recording session. Best to spot your landing a short distance away from the clump and approach silently, ready to CTL-SHIFT-H if necessary. 
  8. Eye In The Sky. Call up the MAP again, and zoom to an intermediate level where you can see some details of 20-30 sims. Scroll randomly so that you are looking at an area you’re not familiar with. Examine the aerial views of the sims until you see something interesting. What should you look for? Trust me, you’ll know it when you see it. It may be a large and unusually shaped architectural build, for example. For an interesting sample of what you might see from above, search for the “Rouge” sim.
  9. Random Word. Open SEARCH on the PLACES tab. Obtain a random word by flipping open a dictionary or newspaper, and punch it into the search. Teleport to where ever the search leads you. Amazingly, this technique actually works quite well, especially if you use interesting words. I’ve even had people visit my store via this method.
  10. Record It. No exploration is complete without a record. Upon arrival, create a landmark immediately. Take pictures, especially if it’s worthy of sharing with others. Create a notecard with, well, notes! Finally, if the build is truly awesome, make certain you tell everyone about it, so that the creator can get credit for their astounding creation.

Regardless of where you go, remember that you are a visitor and that you should respect the owner's property and privacy. Although many areas are considered public, some are not and you should act appropriately. If you make a mistake, just fess up quickly and you may be forgiven. Or indoctrinated if you happen to land in the wrong place.

It’s probably obvious, but one more tip: combine these techniques together and you’ll soon find the most interesting places you’ve ever seen. Happy trails!

Museums, Robots, Donuts and Reality

Sunday, August 3, 2008 Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Museum of Robots is a very special place for me, as I’ve been a science fiction fan for many years. This virtual museum provides 3D representations of all the most famous robots seen in the movies, ranging from Robby in Forbidden Planet to R2D2 and even more recent mechanical men. I’m standing above beside Isaac Asimov’s famous three laws of robotics

When I visited a few weeks ago there was a robot-building contest taking place outside the museum. There were many entries, all of which were interesting in their own way. Some were incredibly elaborate, and there were several Forbidden Planet Robbies, but my favorite was the electronic maids from the Jetson’s, who were cleaning up a spill.

As if the robotic displays weren’t enough, the museum seems to offer periodically changing temporary exhibits as well. At this time was a showing entitled, “Robots and Donuts”. Now, you might ask yourself what those two esoteric and common topics would have to do with each other? Frankly, I immediately thought “this is going to be baaaad.” I went inside anyway to have a laugh. And, it turned out I was entertained – but not in the way I expected.

“Robots and Donuts” is a series of paintings by artist Eric Joyner, who, strangely enough, specializes in the obtuse theme of robots and, yes, donuts. First, the paintings are of high technical quality. But secondly, the artistic elements are weirdly interesting. Each picture is a totally bizarre clash of robotic scenes and giant donuts. Not only do most of the famous robots appear in the works, but also all the donuts are represented too: chocolate glaze, sprinkles, etc.

In spite of the unreality of the robots themselves, and the unbelievable intersection of robots and donuts, the placement of the two together in seemingly normal scenes somehow makes it all seem very, erm, normal. Even so, all of this takes place in virtual reality.

If you can, I’d suggest you take a TP to the Museum of Robotics for a good long look around. It’s worth the trip. You can visit the museum right here.

Related Posts with Thumbnails