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.

Second Life, 2015 A.D.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I often read suggestions for improving Second Life, particularly related to the viewer. Things like sorting the inventory window a different way, or perhaps rearranging the buttons so that they are more usable. Good ideas, all of them. I wish those projects well and support them as much as I can.

But today we’re going to look beyond that level of change. Way beyond.

Imagine the world of 2015. You’re entering the virtual world. What might you see?

You open your browser. Yes, there is no viewer. You need only a browser to access the virtual world, and all popular browsers have the required 3D plug-ins. You poke a bookmark that invokes the plug-in and starts up the virtual world.

It’s not exactly Second Life you are entering, either. Yes, Second Life sims are still around, but they’re only a small part of the InterGrid. The InterGrid now contains more than 10,000,000 sims, most of which are operated independently of Linden Lab.

You rez in your own sim. It’s one you’ve been renting from a big-name SSP (Sim Service Provider) for the low price of USD$15 per month. There’s no one else here at the moment. And why should they be, when the InterGrid now contains so many sims?

You decide to go for Full Immersion, which is the latest interface technique. You slip on a very light jacket that is covered with sensors on the arms and torso. Next, you gently place an unusual set of glasses on your face; they detect the proximity of your face and turn on automatically. Suddenly your sight changes to a true high-definition view of your sim. The startlingly clear scene shifts very precisely as you turn your head left and right.

And it’s a true three-dimension view. Far away things appear to be actually distant. You feel as if you could reach out and touch close-by items.

A calendar item pulses with a soft glow at the edge of your vision. It shows there is an event you intend on attending tonight, but of course you need a different outfit. Some things just won’t change, ever.

But how do you put on the new outfit? First, you call up your inventory, but not in the way you do today. Instead you lift your arm, which directly controls your avatar’s arm. You see your virtual hand rise up and touch a HUD-like button, which swiftly and smoothly expands into an inventory window.

The inventory window is a list, but much improved over today’s inventory as icons provide an instantaneous recognition of each item. Your finger touches an item and drags it down, causing the list to scroll, somewhat reminiscent of iPhone scrolling. You stop on a folder containing a good outfit.

You reach into the inventory and grab the folder by closing your fingers around it, and you pull it towards your chest.

The instant your hand touches your chest, the outfit is worn, rezzing instantly. The outfit, containing more than 48,000 prims is truly immaculate, but not unusual as outfits go in 2015. All these prims are sculpties, each uniquely shaped by a generator used by the maker. More than that, the shapes are automatically subtlety different each time they rez, so that no outfits are truly identical.  

Having completed your change of clothes, you are now ready to attend the event.

To be continued in part 2.

This Means…. Not War!

Saturday, October 11, 2008 Saturday, October 11, 2008

In the course of business, you sometimes encounter someone who’s a bit upset. Maybe more than a bit, on rare occasions. They may be a customer, prospect or even a supplier. The question is, “how do you deal with them?” or “how do you avoid making the situation even worse?”

Everyone encounters these situations sooner or later, and everyone has a different approach. My solution is to follow certain principles that have served me well over the years in RL, and it turns out they work well in Second Life too.

In any conflict situation, my initial assumption is that at least 90% of all problems are caused by poor communication. Somebody knows something the other person does not. To solve the problem, often you merely need to make each side understand the same information, and that’s the basis of my approach. Here are my principles, in no particular order:

  • Action. You have a situation, deal with it! Do not let situations lie, because they tend to grow. The first step to solving the situation is deciding to take action.
  • Listen. It is so important to listen to the other party. Force yourself to be quiet and let them say everything they want to say. Some of it may be wrong, accusatory or perhaps evil, but let them say it. They will feel better if they do. But don’t immediately jump on every point they make, as that simply escalates the problem. Remember, you’re here to solve a problem, not to create a war.
  • Ask. If something doesn’t sound right, ask them. Ask them to clarify what they are saying. Sometimes when you do this, information (or lack thereof) comes to light and resolution may suddenly occur. Consider asking a question that directly or indirectly leads to information you suspect the other party may not be aware of.
  • Be Honest. Never tell fibs, especially when in a confrontational situation. If the truth comes out (and it always does, sooner or later) you will be in a very bad position. While it may take only a moment to destroy your credibility, it takes one hundred times longer to build a good reputation. You can’t easily resolve a situation if you are not considered credible.
  • Empathize. When you listen to the other party’s story, empathize with them. Ask yourself how you would feel if you were in their shoes, if you knew the information they knew. More often than not, you will quickly understand how they came to be in conflict with you and thus you can then formulate a solution.
  • Apologize. Yes, sometimes you can be wrong. And you must admit it. It can be humbling, but your future reputation depends on you being honest. So if you are truly in the wrong, just come out and say so. Your credibility and honesty will be raised as a result. In most cases like this, the other party simply wants an apology.
  • Solve. At some point in the discussion you will reach a stage where you should propose a solution. You’ll have to think on your feet, and quickly to determine some course of action that will satisfy the other party.
  • Offer. Don’t hesitate to offer something to the other party, if it is appropriate. You are running a business that presumably has resources and capabilities. Be creative and conjure up something imaginative that you are willing to do or part with in order to save the relationship.

I am certain some readers may suggest these are wimpy or passive techniques, and that more aggressive confrontational approaches should be used. I’m just not comfortable with them, as they very frequently do not work and usually make the situation far worse. They may be personally satisfying for the moment, but they usually compromise your future reputation.

While I write these principles with respect to handling business disputes, they are really quite usable for many other types of confrontational scenarios. I try to avoid the drama that so often unfolds in SL, but I’m pretty sure some of these approaches may help resolve some of that drama.

These approaches may not work for everyone in every situation, but they usually work for me. Really, they do - Ask my customers!

Blogger's Party October 2008

Wednesday, October 8, 2008 Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Yep, this is another ultra-light post with very few profound thoughts. I managed to attend the most recent Blogger's Party, this month held at the virtual residence of one Veyron Supercharge. It's our tradition that the host gets to choose the party's theme. As usual, Ms. Veyron selected a Slave Auction, which last month raised a considerable amount of Lindens as notable bloggers were put on the block and sold the highest bidder.

Somehow I managed to stay for only 15 minutes as I had RL activities to fulfill and could not place myself for sale, in spite of pleas and begging from certain attendees. In fact, as I prepared to escape, er, go do my RL activities, I mean, I overheard chat contemplating how to sell someone in absentia. Nevertheless, my trusty SL camera did snap a few poor-quality images of the event.

Zoe Connolly, owner of the Second Life Blogger's Ning site and podcaster Nika Dreamscape. 
The lovely CeNedra Riviera, who is alternately quiet and not quiet. Here she was very quiet. 
SL Photographer Extraordinary Raul Crimson and friend Khamudy Mannonen.
Jene Tempura in a dapper full body latex tuxedo (I wonder where he shops?) with Belgian Blogger Vint Falken, as usual in the most amazing outfit. 

These parties are always a lot of fun, but I so often miss them or cannot stay for the duration. I plan to rectify this by hosting one of them in the near future.

The Perils of Remote Contracting

Thursday, October 2, 2008 Thursday, October 02, 2008

I love to help people achieve their dreams by making gadgets or particle effects to suit their desires. But sometimes it’s just very difficult to do.

Sure, I try to follow my own advice on contracting, but a recent engagement posed some difficulties. I really try my best to work with customers who often desperately need something unusual. In this case I had not one, but two key barriers to overcome:

  • Distance. The requester was located many time zones distant. Due to the difference in times, we rarely found each other online at the same time. This causes many delays in discussing the product design, as you often resort to drop-notecards that are picked up and replied to the next day.
  • Language. This particular engagement involved a requester who did not speak any language that I spoke. That’s ok – I believe in translation services if they can be used interactively. Sure, the automated translators often produce poor translations, but if you are with the person, you can paraphrase and confirm. This should lead to a good understanding and agreement on the work to be accomplished.

One of those problems can be overcome. But two are nearly impossible. Because of the distance, we had to communicate by notecard. Because of the notecards, we could not communicate interactively. In other words, we had a very trying time comprehending each other. The two problems worsened each other to a point where I wondered whether this was achievable.

So what is the moral of the story? When you decided to take on an engagement, make sure you understand all of the issues and logistics, otherwise you may have a difficult time.

That’s all for today, because I have to finish filling my hovercraft with eels.

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