Particles at Burning Life

Monday, September 29, 2008 Monday, September 29, 2008

Every year some amazing builds are open to view at the Burning Life festival. But I am not going to tell you about the best builds or the most interesting displays. Instead I am reporting on interesting uses of particle effects.

I flew around several of the many Burning Life sims in search of cool particles. By no means did I see all of the displays; I’ll have to go back for more another time. While many builds were extremely interesting, very few seemed to use particles. Those that did were generally not the greatest. But there were a couple that caught my eye.

This display was an interesting firework particle effect. An unusual spiky texture was used to form the explosion, while another effect shot up from the ground to trigger the explosion. 

By far the best particle effect I discovered was this amazing whirlwind. Actually there were several that randomly wandered through an otherwise empty area. You can’t quite see it in the still image here, but it was twisting and rotating at great speed. Dust picked up from the ground swirled about the base. Very realistic, and very well done!

After all that exploration, it was time for a rest. Or something.

A Steamy Interview

Thursday, September 25, 2008 Thursday, September 25, 2008

Several weeks ago I was contacted by one Mitch Wagner, the social networking reporter for Information Week. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Information Week, it's one of the most prestigious and well-known Information Technology periodicals. Initially a magazine commencing in 1979, it now has an extensive web presence, live events and even research services.

What did Mitch want? Information, of course! Mitch dropped by my parcel for to interview me regarding my thoughts on the current state of Second Life, wearing a rather interesting robot avatar that spewed out audible steam every few minutes. The article was a follow-up to an earlier article interviewing new Linden Lab head honcho Mark Kingdon. The question was, “has Second Life changed since M arrived?”

We discussed the question at length in the Particle Lounge over some virtual drinks. The discussion took perhaps an hour, and of course only a few of my quotes made it into Mitch’s excellent article.

So how is Second Life? It seems we often hear bad news or complaints about our virtual world. In fact, when I told Philip Rosedale I was one of the bloggers, he said “oh oh!” There seems to be a lot of negativity, and that’s known even at the very top.

What do I think? I am optimistic. Very optimistic, in fact. Yes, there are problems, issues, confusion, drama, controversy and lots and lots of bugs. But we’re still here, in spite of all that.

The concurrent user maximum is beginning to grow again, sales are starting to turn in a positive direction and we see significant efforts aimed at fixing the overly confusing user interface. There are even some companies creeping back into virtual reality, taking the reigns from earlier failed expeditions. Big developments in open source grids promise to blow open the whole space in coming months and years.

But most of all, I see endless numbers of enthusiastic creators and others building and using a wonderful world. They are the future. And they are us.

Your Second Will

Monday, September 22, 2008 Monday, September 22, 2008

A while ago I posted hints for running your business after you die. Morbid, for certain – but a necessary consideration for anyone doing serious work in Second Life. This post is a bit of a follow-up that offers you a template that you can use to manage your post-Second Life non-existence.

Here’s what I mean. You’ve spent many hours in Second Life, establishing strong bonds with interesting people, building businesses, coordinating massive events.

And then you die.

What happens to all those friends, that stuff and your events in progress? You may have close friends or relatives in RL that are already aware of your SL existence, but more typically they will know nothing. In that case all things fade away in a terribly ungraceful and wasteful manner. But what if you could ensure that at least some loose ends were properly tied? To do so you’d have to make arrangements with one of your survivors to take the appropriate actions, but generally I suspect that your survivors won’t have a hot clue what Second Life might be, let alone being able to deftly handle your virtual affairs.

My idea is to ensure the right things take place, and the only way to do that is to make certain your survivors know what to do and how to do it. But how could your RL survivors know what to do? Simple – you must hook them up with avatars who can help them deal with the situation. In other words, you have to enlist several trusted friends who you believe will be capable of assisting your survivors execute your instructions. I say several because you don’t want to count on only one; you’re not the only avatar that might disappear, after all.

The key is to provide your survivors with very specific instructions. I’ve written a template in text below that you can cut, paste and edit for this purpose. Not every section is appropriate for everyone; use what you need. Once you’ve completed the form, sign it, seal it in an envelope and give it to your RL survivors, indicating that it must not be opened until you are dead or incapacitated.

--- CUT HERE ---
To: -name of trusted RL person-
To be opened only in the event of my death or incapacitation.

From: -your real name-   
Dated: -the date-

If you are reading these instructions, it means the worst has befallen me. Please read the instructions below and take them seriously.

As you may or may not know, I have been involved in an online service called “Second Life”.  Normally the use of an online “game” would not warrant special notice, but Second Life is not a game. It was such a significant part of my life that there are certain actions that must be taken by you in order to wrap up my affairs, since I can no longer do so.

In Second Life, I have grown many significant friendships, as strong as any in real life. The following people should be notified of my demise, with a request that they pass on the information to others who will also be interested. Although you do not know these people, I consider them to be entirely trustworthy and they can advise you on how to handle the intricacies of Second Life. Please use their talents and skills to guide you through the actions listed below. They have been told that in the event of bad news you will contact them directly:
-avatar name, real name, email, skype, IM, phone number, etc. any known info-
-avatar name, real name, email, skype, IM, phone number, etc. any known info -
-avatar name, real name, email, skype, IM, phone number, etc. any known info -

In Second Life, I own several holdings that are of significant value. As of this writing they could be worth $xxx if liquidated appropriately. They must be sold or gifted as you would do to any other asset, but you must do so on my behalf. As of this writing, my holdings and instructions include:
-Parcel description, sell / abandon / gift to avatar name-
-Island name, sell / abandon / gift to avatar name-
-Business name and description, sell / abandon / gift to avatar name-
-Object names and descriptions, sell / abandon / gift to avatar name-

In Second Life, I have certain obligations to fulfill, without which my Second Life assets may be in jeopardy. You must, with the assistance of my trusted friends, ensure these obligations are kept at least until the assets are disposed of.
-Parcel / Island rent description-
-Mainland or Island tier payments-
-Premium membership-
-Other obligation-

In Second Life, I coordinate several recurring events, which could be in serious trouble as a result of my absence. You must contact the following avatars and advise them of my demise and pass on my instructions:
-Event name and description--avatar name, real name, email, skype, IM, phone number, etc. any known info--continue without me/shut it down/other-
-Event name and description--avatar name, real name, email, skype, IM, phone number, etc. any known info--continue without me/shut it down/other-

In Second Life, I am primarily known as -avatar name-. You can access my virtual environment by signing in to Second Life with the Second Life viewer available at: Please do not pass the following information on to anyone, including the trusted friends unless there is no other option. My identities are:
-avatar name, password-
-avatar name, password-
-avatar name, password-

Outside of Second Life, I had a presence on several third-party websites that provide significant value. These services will also have to be closed down or transferred to others. My trusted friends can assist you in handling these services. Currently, my services include: id and password- id and password-
-blog name, url, id and password, instructions on posting a final entry, perhaps including text-
-flickr account and password-
-other third party service-

Once you have completed the actions above, the best action is to close the Second Life account(s) and cash out any residual funds. You may have to sell any remaining Linden Dollars on the Lindex Exchange, again with the assistance of the trustworthy friends.  Withdrawn US dollars will be sent to the following account:
-paypal id and password-

This is obviously a trying time, and I do not wish any extra work for those cleaning up my affairs. However, even though the Second Life environment may be invisible or unknowable to you, it is indeed very significant and cannot be ignored.

Thank you for all this work, from myself and the virtual friends you do not know.


--- CUT HERE ---

Needless to say, you probably should update your form at least once a year or when ever a significant change to your virtual life occurs.

Live long, and prosper!

It’s The Economy, Stupid! (But Which One?)

Thursday, September 18, 2008 Thursday, September 18, 2008

That’s right. I believe there are two separate economies at play within Second Life. Sure, there is a single monetary system based on the friendly Linden Dollar, but it’s clearly being used in two ways.

The first way is as one might suspect, casual in-world transactions between avatars. What’s so unique about that, you ask? It’s the magnitude of the transactions: they are all small. For example, a pair of virtual pants might cost 299L – approximately $1 in “real” funds. The pants are so cheap because they are virtual and perhaps have less utility than “real” pants.

And so it goes. Many things are priced at this microscopic scale. Cars, boats and other vehicles are available for a dollar or two. Good ones may cost you $8. Oops, I mean 2000L . Two Thousand sounds a lot bigger than 8, doesn’t it? The Linden Dollar has a small intrinsic value because it is addressing a micro-economy. Goods and services are bought and sold, but their prices are microscopic compared to real world rates.

Many residents allocate a small portion of their real dollars towards virtual activities and expect to have a full and fun virtual existence. They can, because there are virtual business owners who sell them goods and services at a micro-economy rate. Pants are indeed for sale at 299L. Who would buy them if they were priced at the shocking rate of 24,000L, equivalent to the price of a fancy real life pair?

But then there is the “other” economy. The one where the real world intrudes on the micro-economy. Some real-world businesses have thought it possible to make money in Second Life. By “make money”, they mean “make money at real-world rates”. Is this possible? Perhaps, but it’s going to be difficult because the majority of the SL economy is at micro-economy rates. It’s like selling those pants for 24,000L, and expecting to sell a lot of them, too.

Real world companies thought they could get around this conundrum by selling atomic goods in the virtual world: buy a real PC or shoes at a virtual store and have them show up at your door. I don’t think that approach worked out very well. Perhaps it’s because of the collision of economies.

Problems do occur when the two economies collide. For example, if someone is making their entire RL income via SL, they have a right to charge RL rates. However, those expecting the micro-economy are in for a factor 250x shock. But remember, the seller is not overpriced, and the buyer is not too cheap. They are simply nodes of the two economies crossing paths. They should keep going and look for buyers and sellers within their own economy.

I know several business owners who recognize this principle and explicitly price their goods and services towards one economy or the other. They would feel uncomfortable pricing their items any other way. Neither economy is wrong, they are simply different. What’s the moral of this story? When you are selling in SL you must decide which economy you wish to belong to. Then set your prices appropriately.

Linden Lab Acquires Plurk!

Thursday, September 11, 2008 Thursday, September 11, 2008

No, they didn’t; that’s just an eye-catching headline, which clearly worked because you’re reading this post. But it is an interesting idea, at least in concept. Why do I think so? Because it, or services like it, fill a gaping functionality hole in Second Life. That hole is a way of keeping in touch while you are not actually in-world, an “alternate environment” that’s a lot lighter than the normal SL viewer.

You see, while we avatars can “see”, "hear" and “touch” while in-world, the text-based communication is really focused on providing chat that, by design, mimics real-life interaction. In other words, you type at people nearby. Sure, technically you can IM anyone, but it is awkward to do, especially if your correspondent isn’t on your friends list or is offline. SL instant messages are just not good when you want to communicate with someone who doesn’t happen to be in your proximity:

  • You must be in-world to be able to send a message, meaning you have to run that big fat SL viewer. Not always convenient or even possible in some situations.
  • Out-world responses by email are awkward, confusing, delayed, mislabeled, and replies are rejected when the originating IM goes stale.
  • There is no way to keep track of conversations; it’s just a big pool of emails mixed in with whatever other emails you might have.
  • There is no way to include anything other than text, such as links, pictures, SLURLs, etc., except as text strings.

I believe Linden Lab recognizes this deficiency and they have been beavering away on a solution: SLim, a separate instant messaging client. Initial reports indicate that although it sorta works, it is apparently awkward to set up and use, especially compared to other more advanced communication systems.

Enter Plurk. It’s a microblogging service that is becoming the favorite “alternate” environment for Second Lifers. What, you want to know what “microblogging” is? Basically it’s blogging, but one short sentence at a time. The posts are more frequent, because they are short and easy to create. The swirl of short messages from someone accumulates in your mind and builds a vision and understanding of your correspondent in a way that email and other communication systems simply cannot achieve.

One of the first and currently most popular microblogging services is the venerable Twitter. Many Second Life residents still use Twitter, but it suffers from two key problems: first, it has been frequently broken or degraded, and secondly it’s nearly impossible to have any kind of ongoing conversation as all messages are treated as a giant pool.

Back to Plurk. Based on their experience with Twitter, the Plurk Gods created a better microblogging service. Yeah, it sure looks a lot different than Twitter (a scrollable timeline view instead of a simple message stream), but that is how they are able to thread the conversations. As a result, per-user messaging seems significantly higher between Plurkers than between Twitterers. Some who are accustomed to Twitter don’t get the timeline interface, but once they do, they usually like it. Other Twitter stalwarts don’t want to migrate at this time because they have gathered a huge following on Twitter and would have to start over. I think that could be a temporary situation.

In early June of this year a few technologically adventurous residents fell into Plurk, including Codebastard Redgrave, GoSpeed Racer, Gabby Panacek and myself. We rapidly gathered a significant following of other residents. Today there are many hundreds of residents and it’s growing daily, because it just works as an alternate communication channel.

It may seem like a glorified chat room, but once you get past that we seem to have developed ways of leveraging it to better our second lives. Here are some techniques we’ve discovered so far:

  • News is distributed instantly, far faster than notecards or group notices
  • You can add to your group of friends without much risk and your Plurk list can thus be larger than your in-world friends list.
  • New friends are identified much faster than in-world, and can later be added as in-world friends
  • The Plurk social space operates 24 hours a day, non-stop. Messages are recorded and easily read later.
  • In-world events can be announced, and follow ups (e.g. location, whether it’s good, etc.) can be rapidly added, even as events are underway.
  • Assistance is instantly available just by asking and others will respond from around the world, perhaps because it’s just text and everyone is “equal”.
  • Conversations can hold lists of instructions or tips and can be referred to in the future.
  • Pictures of events, products, shopping locations and avatars are frequently posted and discussed.
  • Group activities are organized and coordinated quickly and efficiently.
  • If your Plurk friends are all residents (typically so), the social space is always in “SL Context” making discussions of in-world things much easier.

And that’s not all. Resident and scripter Thraxis Epsilon has built a “Plurk HUD” for SL, available here. The HUD is simply a button that permits you to Plurk from in world – and it can even automatically add a SLURL of your current grid location (this is called SPLURKing). Imagine how easy it is to start a party: SPLURK it, and people appear! I’ve done this several times requesting (and receiving) volunteers for ad-hoc projects or other activities. And it works. Very Well. If you don't believe me, sign up on my page here and give it an honest try.

So, should Linden Lab buy Plurk? Maybe not, but certainly there are many lessons to be learned by examining how residents make use of an advanced communication system. Come to think of it, I should have mentioned this to Philip Rosedale when I spoke with him on Saturday

SLCC 2008: The Undiscovered Reunion

Monday, September 8, 2008 Monday, September 08, 2008

This past weekend I attended the annual Second Life Community Convention for the very first time, and for me it was a major transition in my real and virtual existence. The event was full of profound moments, both personal and general. I saw, I listened, I met, I learned, I transformed and I belonged.

For you who have not had the opportunity to experience this event, you have missed something, something terribly important, something that is or could be part of your virtual existence: a true, deep and honest sense of belonging. We all belong to our virtual communities, and we truly feel part of them. But there is a higher level that we cannot experience through normal virtual channels. At SLCC the atomic reality channels were opened to their fullest extent.

The collision of reality and virtual existence was constant, and for me began the moment I nervously stepped forward to the registration desk and was confronted with the baffling question, “and what is your name?” I honestly paused for several moments while questions flew through my neural circuitry. “Exactly who am I right now?” “What name should I say?” “What should my persona be?”

I awkwardly wrote my avatar name on the name badge, and at that very moment I became ArminasX.

For real.

Confidently, I strode down the conference halls, with an unfamiliar swagger eerily similar to my AO. But my graphics system displayed humans, and I saw no avatars. Name badges, when intermittently readable, were of no assistance as they spelled out avatars unfamiliar to me. No name recognition, no face recognition. Nothing. No one.

A prearranged meeting with avatar Bevan Whitfield triggered it all. We met in the lobby, and she directed me to a patio table where avatars were sitting, just as they do in virtual reality. I stood by the table and said, “Hi. I am ArminasX.” They introduced themselves and transformed from anonymous atomics into friendly avatars, even if I had never met them in-world. Discussions of all topics ensued and did not cease until the final moments of the convention. And those discussions were invariably momentous, memorable, astonishing and truly surprising.

You see, our virtual world is composed of things people built. Every single item, object and texture in every parcel on every sim was made by someone. Someone creative, and some who are very creative. Those creative people were the attendees.

Without a single exception, each and every person I spoke with was amazing. They ALL were doing something spectacular, interesting, gigantic, familiar or incredible. It was greatly humbling to look around during the keynote session and realize that these hundreds of brilliantly creative individuals were only the scant few who were able to attend, and that many times that number remain out there, out there in virtual reality continuing to build our new world.

As the weekend progressed, moments of amazement accumulated. Here are a few of my personal moments:

  • Meeting LifeFactory Writer, an up-and-coming machinima artist, whose new short film has been seen on CNN and was invited to enter the prestigious Cambridge Film Festival. And then learning that my Sunflower particle effect was used in that very film. LifeFactory has a sticker on her laptop of the Sunflower scene.
  • Meeting Heidi Ballinger, the woman from Denmark who is changing her legal name to her avatar name (Ballinger). Why? Because her online presence in multiple services is so pervasive that no one actually refers to her by her real name anymore.
  • Meeting podcasters Daphne Abernathy and Crap Mariner and seeing the faces behind the voices I have heard so many times. It is eerie to be so familiar with someone you’ve never seen.
  • Meeting the Metanomics crew, including mastermind Professor Beyers Sellers, Bevan Whitfield and others, with whom I often found myself hanging with until extremely late hours.
  • Having dinner with Nonny Writer, another machinima producer.

  • Hanging out with Kerria Seabrooke, Chosen Few and the rest of the machinima gang who did the CSI TV episode and many other famous and groundbreaking machinima shorts. These guys cracked open the largest frigging blue-and-red-neon-adorned, satellite-speakered two-inch-thick laptop ever seen in the hotel lobby at 3AM and showed us their work. They love their work so much they live it 24 hours a day and were even vid-capturing our lobby party non-stop.
  • Being told that Nonny Writer was nominated for an Academy Award. And realizing that I had dinner with her the previous evening. 
  • Being in the room during an epic but very subtle confrontation between the OpenSim team and Linden Lab regarding the future of asset transfer between the Second Life grid and independent OpenSim servers. Discussions with those in the know afterwards described it as a “defining moment” in the history of the 3D Internet. The future course of events is now set in motion, and I was there when it happened.
  • Meeting Philip Rosedale/Linden in person. The man exudes charisma beyond all measurement. I explained to him that I am “one of the bloggers”. He replied: “Oh oh.”
  • Learning how many people have heard of my work, my store and my blog. “Electric Pixels? That’s a great brand!” one person said.
  • Crashing a suite party put on by Honda to demonstrate a new AI system under development, and encountering numerous friendly Lindens. No, Torley was not there, but every Linden I met was extremely friendly. The highlight, however, took place on the suite’s balcony where a certain individual was revealed to the world.
  • Hanging in the SLCC suite party with around 100 other avatars. It was great fun, full of an amazing variety of individuals. Until the police were called at 4:30AM. Scenes of people racing down halls, stairways and elevators …
  • Realizing that many attendees actually never slept during the event. Many people “budgeted” only a few hours or a single short sleep to maximize their interaction time. “I slept on Friday”. And then realizing that I was one of them.
  • Liveplurking the Philip Rosedale and Mark Kingdon keynote address. As the speech began, I plurked that I was watching, but then realized I could provide live updates by adding responses as interesting statements were made. To my astonishment, discussions and feedback occurred in the plurk while the speech was still in progress! It was a bit busy for me to do this entirely via iPhone, but I got it done. I was told later that Second Life IMs were flying around directing people to observe the plurk Right Now and that perhaps hundreds of people were reading it live, seeing the words of Philip and Mark as they were spoken. You can see the entire plurk here. And if you have not yet signed up for Plurk, do so here at my page. In fact, I ended up plurking quite a bit during the event throughout my timeline.
  • Spending 20 minutes chatting alone on a balcony with a very sharp lady about issues and solutions for SL. And then realizing it was Robin Harper/Linden.
  • Meeting The Internationals. I guess I am one too, but because of that I felt an extra bit of affinity to those from far away, like Mariis Mills from Denmark, and Dr. Yesha Sivan (Dera Kit in SL) from Israel who are now good friends in all dimensions.
  • Meeting amazing builders, organizers and artists like Sami Tabla of SL Exchange, virtual financier IntLibber Brautigan, builder Angelle Marquette, organizer Coughran Mayo, musician Cylindrian Rutabaga, Luskwood founder Eltee Statosky, Holdeck inventor Loki Clifton, DJ and SLCC organizer Nexeus Fatale, developer Peter Newell, broadcaster Starr Sonic, virtual magician Tuna Oddfellow and his beautiful assistant Shava Suntzu, Dancing Ink Productions’ Eureka Dejavu and Schmilsson Nilsson and many others.
  • Meeting educators like Kendall Vantelli and JS Vavoom who are using the virtual world to make the real world a far better place.
  • Networking throughout the event via SMS, Flickr and Plurk to coordinate activities. It was a common sight to see laptops uploading pictures during sessions, tweeting or plurking. The vortex of electronic communication made my visit very smooth indeed.
  • Meeting the famous Stroker Serpentine, mastermind of the SexGen series of “personal animations” and associated gear. Stroker put on a rather unusual offsite party, in which all manner of unusual activities took place, astonishing outfits were worn and door prizes that were totally unsuitable for carrying across the border home were awarded.
  • Meeting master builder and artist Eshi Otawara, whose tragic tale is surpassed only by her courage, artistry, humbleness and sense of humor. I spent many hours with Eshi and she is a true friend that I am very glad to have. And she gives a killer massage, too!
As the convention drew to a close, I reflected on my experience and realized I had a familiar feeling. It was like a high school or family reunion. Of people I did not know, but now do. I now belong. And you can, too.

SLiding Into Tampa

Thursday, September 4, 2008 Thursday, September 04, 2008

I've frequently written on the topic of reality, specifically those rare moments when your virtual life collides unexpectedly with your real life. Yes, those moments are rare and special. This weekend I expect to have many of them, because I'm heading to Tampa for the Second Life Community Convention.

It's the first such convention for me, although in the past I've attended many other conventions and conferences (and even presented at a few). As one typically does attending a conference, you must make arrangements such as hotel reservations, airline tickets, packing clothes, making plans, etc. But this experience was just a bit different than your average conference prep.

How was it different? Let me count the ways:
  • Persona. Exactly who am I when I attend? Am I ArminasX, with his unique personality and habits (some bad), or am I me? I must decide, and quickly. Or perhaps I am both. Hmm.
  • Attire. Again, whose style should I follow? Mine or the avatar's? Plurk friends suggest taking my in-world full-body red and black latex outfit, but somehow I am not certain that would be appropriate in the blistering Florida sunshine. If I had one, that is.
  • Anonymity. In SL it is relatively easy to be anonymous, if only for a while. This could be a little different when faced with actual atomics within photon range. Do you give them a business card? What should be on the card? Are phone numbers appropriate? Should you not give anyone anything?
  • Recognition. I had the startling revelation that I actually have no idea who anyone is or what they might look like. In other words, I could walk into a room and would recognize no one at all. There won't even be names and titles above their heads!

Somehow these issues will be resolved, one way or another. Stay tuned for an on-scene post, assuming the WiFi works.

In-World Economy Tanks? Part 2

Tuesday, September 2, 2008 Tuesday, September 02, 2008

In part one of this series, I proposed the theory that our in-world economy is having a few issues. This is reflected by lower revenues by seen by at least myself, and evidence from multiple other in-world businesses. Recently New World Notes ran a poll that indicated a slight majority of businesses were experiencing a downturn. In a healthy economy, a large majority of businesses should be expanding, not shrinking or remaining stable. Let’s try to identify what could be done about it.

The most basic measure of the economy is how much money is being spent. The formula would be: (Number of residents)  X (Average Spend) = Total Spend. It comes down to this: if that is our goal is to increase the economic activity, there must be more residents and those residents must spend more money. But how can we do this? Solutions must address either the number of residents or the amount of spend. Here’s some ideas to consider:

  • Increase machine accessibility. Windlight requires more hardware than many people seem to be able to provide. Solution: a dumbed-down viewer that runs smoothly, but displays less graphics fidelity. Is this as simple as setting graphics settings to less power-hungry defaults? Possibly. The Low-Mid-High-Ultra graphics slider is a good step, but obviously it is not nearly enough to counteract the tribulations of users who appear to be avoiding SL. I still encounter people who insist on running older viewers and others who claim they “don’t have a good enough PC”. Meanwhile, other virtual worlds have astonishingly low fidelity graphics (even comical 2D in some cases) and yet they have very high participation. Can’t we share our virtual world with those running viewers that can’t see quite as well? Instead of shutting out those users completely, why not let them “graduate” to better viewers over time? If they can use SL even in a simpler mode they might join SL instead of joining other simpler virtual worlds (and never trying SL).
  • Reduce Viewer Complexity. While we’re talking about the viewer, I have to say that the sheer complexity of the interface certainly scares off a large segment of the population. Just as people can survive without fancy graphics, they can surely survive without most of the controls. Think about it: how many buttons, knobs, sliders, menus and selections are available? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? How many of these do you Actually Use in normal activities? Very few, unless you are a content creator. For most users, just hide them. Users truly interested in them can turn them on when they are sufficiently competent, while the majority of new users would be less inclined to give up. By the way, a significant new initiative has started up, independent of Linden Lab, to address this:, which I hope will either solve or provoke a good answer to this important issue.
  • Rectify Asset Server Issues. As many regularly online residents may have noticed, these problems and associated official bulletins cause residents to avoid transactions, including purchases. Not good for business. The obvious solution here is to repair the asset server software and/or hardware configuration so that it is has consistent and trustworthy reliability. I don’t know the specifics of the technical issues, but Google and others have proven that it is quite possible to implement massively scalable real-time databases. If they can do, so can Linden Lab, and perhaps even with the same software.
  • Improve Real World Economic Conditions. Off-world, recession in the US and other countries looms, shrinking the available capital to spend in-world. There’s not much that can be done to counteract this issue, other than waiting. Lowering the price of entry to the virtual world and raising the overall attractiveness of SL so that more people try it out in spite of economic conditions could help, but I think that's been done already: free accounts are available. Also, the ongoing virtual population is still far lower than the real world, and there are many people who could take part even in bad economic conditions.
  • Reduce Tier. For all the chatter about the price of land, I believe the key factor in the economy is monthly tier. A business must produce more revenue than tier, every month or it becomes nonviable. The tier price affects everyone, even those who do not own land, since ultimately the tier is passed on to all renters and shoppers. I’ve observed businesses that operate at or near break-even levels, and these ventures are highly susceptible to variances in revenue. In other words, those businesses fail if their revenue happens to drop too far below tier. The solution: lower the tier, particularly on islands. Yes, it’s a major source of revenue for Linden Labs, but it could also be the major barrier to economic growth. Imagine how many businesses might not have failed if the tier were say, half of the current rates.
Will any of this come to pass? I have no idea, but I certainly hope some of it does. Especially reduced tier.

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