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Friday, June 11, 2004

MONEY FOR NOTHING (GIVING IT AWAY, PART III AND A HALF)

I'm standing in front of an in-world ATM with dollar signs that flutter around it like cartoon parakeets. And Linden Dollars that spew out of it, just for the asking.

"This gives out free money?" I ask one of its creators, just to make sure I understand. "Linden money?"

"$L50/day maximum," says Adam Zaius answers, "$L5 at a time." He checks the machine, and laughs. "Someone's cleaned it out."

I quickly calculate the conversion rate. "Ha, so like a free quarter a day for anyone who asks."

"It helps new users out a little," says Zaius. "The amount isn't significant for any older players. But for someone low on funds, or new to the game, it can help a lot, in getting established.

"It also helps older players," Francis Chung adds, smiling, "when newbies ask them for money. Somewhere to send them." (Wealthy residents are often inundated by the pleas of virtual panhandlers.)

The ATM, located in Tan, (214,154), is actually a lot more complicated than a mere money dispenser. Their creators operate an off-world server that retains a database of residents who've used it, to make sure none of them withdraw over the maximum amount. To do this, there's an automated e-mail messaging script, so the ATM can query that server. "[I]n order for [the ATMs] to give out cash," Chage McCoy explains, "they e-mail this other server-- it then checks to make sure the person is allowed to have money and then e-mails back an Approved or Declined message."

If that sounds like an over-ambitious way of giving away money, that may have to do with the ultimate goals of the ATM's creators. The Ouranos group are the owners of a private island or two, and they are building an even more ambitious project that should be open to the public in the coming weeks (or months.) I had a chance to take a tour of Aleph island, and will be able to write more about it, as Ouranos' debut approaches.

Meanwhile, notes Chage, "[W]e are applying the stuff learnt from here to create our own OS in aleph."

I'm astounded. "Operating system?"

"Yes," says Adam. "Using a combination of script, email, and a server backend. You saw the front end of it, down in the [Aleph] meeting room." The Ouranos developers even have a name for their own personal operating system. "Those terminals were powered by the Yggdrasil OS. (Named after the 'pagan' tree of knowledge)."

The conversation returns to the Second Life Economy. "How much money is moving around SL at the moment?" Kavai Onizuka muses out loud. A few figures are suggested by various Ouranites, but no one can come up with a convincing total.

"Look at the top two people [leader boards] with the top net worth," Onizuka says. "Both added [together] equals $L5 million. The top fifty people in Second Life have six figure accounts." He calculates in his head, and gasps. "My God... some people are worth $10,000 real life dollars if they converted their Second Life money!"

"Well," Kex Godel replies, "the first two [on the Net Worth leader board] technically don't count, because they are 'banks'." (She means that the top two residents are actually the in-world representatives of two third-party currency exchange sites, Internet Gaming Entertainment and Gaming Open Market, respectively.)

The conversation about how much currency there is in-world continues, with no definite conclusions, but I have to go. Meanwhile, the money signs keep wildy orbiting around us.

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Comments

thanks a lot. Cheered up my day. Sarah Jane.

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