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Friday, January 28, 2005

LINK OF THE WEEK! (AND ANOTHER WILDE UPDATE)

In the Comments section that ends "The Nine Souls of Wilde Cunningham", the group's "mascot", lilone Sandgrain, recently posted a link:

"i wanted to share that this experience has revolutionized their lives in many many ways! feel free to check out our blog for the latest on whats happening with them and in relationship to second life."

And the blog's January 27th entry begins with:

the new computer has arrived~ share our joy!! woo hoo! we plugged it in at the end of the day and is up and running for tomorrow! we zipped into sl for about 10 min long enough for me to show them the difference i'd been telling them about and point to the buttons we werent able to see or access before. the room was filled with squeals of delight and the look on each face was priceless! no more second rate playing now!!

Much more on Live2Give and its private island ("An innovative online community for people dealing with Cerebral Palsy and similar conditions") here.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

JENNA FAIRPLAY AND MASLOW'S HIERARCHY OF BOOTY

Part II of "THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN SECOND LIFE", a series of random interviews with Second Life residents—details here, Part I here. Today’s resident was blindly selected from among the group of residents who own the most popular Second Life hang-outs (based on Dwell foot traffic.)

"They look like ants from here," Jenna Fairplay says, chuckling. She's standing with me in the private VIP suite of her pyramid-shaped nightclub, watching her clientele through a floor that's translucent from this side. "Just lets me see if someone is being bad." She laughs again. "They dont know I see all."

"Well," I point out, "they will now!"

"I'm clever, I'll find other means," she replies, unpreturbed. Then suggests obscurely, "Make my snake pit with laser beams again."

For the longest time, Jenna's nightclub, The Edge, has been among the most popular spots in Second Life, so when I clicked her place at random, I was expecting that our interview would be all about how her phalanx of casino games, live DJs, and half-naked pole dancers had transformed her into the ruling impresario of the in-world club scene. I wasn't quite expecting her to tell me that a Jewish-Russian immigrant psychologist who taught at Brandeis was the one who'd taken her to the top.

"Well," she explains, "I go by Maslow Hierarchy." In Maslow's model, human need is shaped like Jenna's pyramid nightclub, with the base being the fundamental requirements for survival, the second layer being safety and security, and at the pyramid's apex, self-actualization.

"I didn't know Maslow had booty in his hierarchy," I note.

"Yes," Jenna says earnestly, "booty is a very, very basic need." She laughs. "People come into Second Life and need to find their basic needs, before they want to grow. Safety, food are needs in real life-- belonging and booty are needs in Second Life."

Which is why, she says, the Edge has done so well in such a short time. "I think it's how we make anyone feel welcomed," Ms. Fairplay continues. "People come into the game and they are labeled 'the newb', regardless of their real life skills. People need to feel welcomed, find a place to belong and want to then do more."

"Topless dancers probably help in that regard," I suggest.

"Oh no no no," she answers quickly. "I don’t require any of that. That’s the thing many assume: it's a club [with] sex dancers, escorts. I pay the dancers, yes, but that’s all to dance. They are free to do what they want. Same goes for escorts. They asked for a safe venue where they aren't degraded. They are allowed to say Yes or No to me or any person who requests something. If they want to do more, it's up to them... I only pay them to come and dance."

Downstairs on the Edge's dance floor, one of Jenna's managers is barking out a sales pitch. "GENTS AND LADIES THAT SWING THAT WAY! ANDEE SAID SHE'D STRIP FOR TIPS! WANNA SEE THE PROMISED LAND… GIVE HER THE TIPS SHE NEEDS!"

But back to Maslow's hierarchy. "It's that," she says, "and what I call the Great Big Circle of Stuff. People come into the game, and they aren’t gonna run to the sandbox, or run to a skill class. [Sandboxes are regions where residents can practice building objects; skill classes are Linden-sponsored events which teach new residents how to use the building and scripting tools. - HL] They want to find a place. Form relationships. Have some aspect of real life in-game that they can connect to. Clubs are the first step [for] some who don’t go to them [in real life] anymore, or [have] never been to one. It allows that social life they never had.

"Once they feel a sense of belonging," Jenna goes on, "they then try new things, from making their own furniture for their house, to figuring out how the particle [system] works, so they can have those cool dance sticks. And then it goes on from there to higher levels and higher skills."

"Though to be a stickler," I say, "doesn't that mean they skip the first few rungs of the Maslow ladder? Where's shelter and food and protection?"

"Shelter, though, is security," she replies. "To some, security comes in the form of self-esteem. In Second Life, you can be anything, look like anything. So that in turn helps their esteem, which makes them feel secure.

"Then you got the Great Big Circle of Stuff. Social players are in part the majority of the game and a necessity. Without them there are no clubs, malls, vendors, etc. Social players are the ones who want to enjoy being able to shop, 'cause to them, that is something they don't get in real life, or [is] fun to them..."

And from all this, Jenna Fairplay built for herself a club that came to dominate in-world foot traffic in three months.

"Bought this land, 8/12. Did a small event, 8/24. Did some lag tests, 'cause this is Daboom. And opened on 9/01. Hit number one, 9/12. Hit record Dwell, 12/24." She grins coyly. "Interview by Hamlet, 1/19."

DaBoom is one of Second Life's first regions, or simulators, to exist, even during the world's pre-launch Beta period. Simulators of this age tend to lag, due to the accretion of objects from the many residents who've come and gone, over the years.

"Many said I was insane to buy land here," says Jenna. "I had to buy up a lot of land just to free up prims and scripts [i.e. building blocks and custom programs], make the place open and lag free. But we still suffer, but most feel it's worth it. We are the stepping stone for many new players."

Her rapid success has been the source of speculation, she says. "In real life, I'm a college student." She laughs. "And no, not a business [major] or something, as many think. I hear that I’m a millionare in real life, or I own some huge website and such. I have helped [game] sites, but as a player, not as a job… but no, I’m just a simple college student." She's actually studying to be nurse, she says, but given how well she does at this, she wouldn't reject an offer to work in games.

"I've played other online games, simple ones, where I held a high status as well. I just tend to... find what works and structure it so. Neopets was my first. I had a guild of 25,000+ members." She left that game, leapfrogged to many others, and stumbled into Second Life during a Google search. "Got sucked in. " In real life, Jenna is interracial, and decided to create an avatar which is, she says, based on her real life appearance. "Some can see it, some don’t."

Then came her Maslow realization. "I see it in many games, just in Second Life," she adds. "It's more important [here], because this game is not like any other... just something I saw the moment I realized I didn’t have to be 'the newb'. When I explored, spent my Linden Dollars on some attire, then was stuck with the question, 'Um, what now?' No L$, no fun for a new player. I went to some establishments and all they said was, 'Oh yes, you can be a dancer or escort.'" An evil grin crosses her face. "All those establishments probably kickin' themselves in the butts for not hiring me now."

Below us on the dance floor, one of Jenna's Managers is barking out a new pitch: "FEELING THE ANGST BURNING IN YOUR SOUL," Valin McTeague bellows. "FEELING THE DOOM OF THE WORLD COMING OVER YOU! WISH TO NOT SPEND YOUR ENTIRE TRIFLING EXSISTENCE ALONE? THEN TALK TO AN ESCORT. THEY MAY CHIP AWAY THAT BLOCK OF ICE HEART!"

"[The Maslow realization] just happened," Jenna continues. "No 2001 musical moment. I guess when people wouldn’t leave my [in-world] home and looked to me to provide them something they weren’t getting elsewhere… You can go to any club-- hello, there are heaps. So many clubs just like freakin' Tringo." Tringo is a kind of multi-dimensional Bingo. "Don't get me started," Jenna seethes. "Tringo is evil. It's a game fad. Hit Events," she commands me.

"Events" is an interface button that displays the day's scheduled activities. "Look at the TRINGO INVASION." And indeed, the calendar seems to be crowded over with Tringo. "Anyone can offer Tringo," she sniffs. "But if you go [where] you’re getting your Maslow needs met then it's good times, and you return... It's funny. I’ve at one time employed most of the SL social community. The owner of the top clubs... [m]any worked for me and were trained by me. So it's interesting, I think."

I ask Jenna Fairplay how many hours a week she's in-world.

"Let's say average, I can play 8-12 hours. That's me in denial of my addiction, don't forget."

"10 hours a week?"

"Nooo, that's a day. See? Denial. I'm to the point where ideas flood my mind... you can be in real life and see something as you are shopping and be like, 'Oh my god, I’m gonna make that outfit.'

"[Second Life is] inspirational," she says, "which is why I like it so. And don't like having my time wasted with in-game drama and such people who can take something small so seriously, 'cause it costs them real money."

Which is probably as good a cue as any to ask Jenna about the recent policy changes that will impact The Edge directly.

But those will have to wait for another time.

Jenna Fairplay on Second Life's New Economy, next week...

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NWN AT 200K!

New World Notes was launched as a blog almost exactly a year ago, on January 29th, tallied up 50,000 page views by late June, then made it to 100,000 by mid-September. Thanks to a late assist by MSNBC's Clicked, NWN crossed over into 200K territory early yesterday. (And once again, the lion's share of credit for this goes to the residents who've let me write about them and their wild imaginations-- and, of course, fellow bloggers at sites like Boing Boing, Waxy.org, Slashdot, and the many more who've noticed us along the way.) Here's a compilation of the twelve most popular entries throughout that period, based on direct page views, trackbacks, and/or Google ranking:

- SITTING PRETTY
- WHERE TWO OR MORE ARE GATHERED
- FROM CAVE TO CATHEDRAL IN 15 MONTHS
- LIVING MEMORIAL
- GIVING IT AWAY: TO THE EFF
- THE TAZ OF OZ!
- SHOOTING TO KILL: THE COMBAT OF TARTARUS
- SHOOTING TO KILL, PART TWO: THE COMPACT EXPLODER OF FRANCIS CHUNG
- A LEVER TO MOVE THE MIND
- FOXY'S SELF-FINANCED HOUSE OF HORROR!
- NEVERLAND: WHAT THEY BUILT
- THE NINE SOULS OF WILDE CUNNINGHAM

So five stories on game and mini-world creation (NEVERLAND, FOXY'S, SHOOTING I & II, and TAZ), four on socio/political/cultural issues in SL (LIVING, CAVE, WHERE, SITTING)-- which are, by implication, on virtual worlds in general-- and three on Second Life/real life crossover (WILDE, LEVER, GIVING). Not a bad spread. Be interesting to see how the stories break down, when we hit 400K.

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Monday, January 24, 2005

PLAYING CATCH-UP

I've been behind on updating my Archive sidebar with highlight stories of the past few months, so today I posted a bunch in a flurry. If you're just discovering Second Life and/or New World Notes and are still trying to get its gestalt, the Archive (center of the sidebar to your left) may be the best place to start.

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

AUSTIN STATESMANSHIP!

If you've found this site through Joe Stafford's extensive and well-reported Austin-American Statesman article on Second Life, welcome. Many of the residents and stories mentioned there were first featured in New World Notes, and you may be interested in reading more. Orange-skinned Loki Pico has popped up several times, such as here ("In the Air"), when he accompanied a real life bomber pilot on an in-world flight in his jet plane; fashion maven Munchflower Zaius and her work was profiled here; architect Nada Epoch offered thoughts on the Tyrell Corporation, the group of cyberpunk city builders he helped found, here. Wilde Cunningham, the avatar collectively controlled by a group of disabled people, and Lilone Sandgrain, their "mascot", were profiled here. The virtual AIDS quilt was reported on here, the in-world tsunami relief effort, here; I've yet to come across the Vietnam Memorial that Stafford mentions (and residents, if you know of one, please send me a tip), but perhaps he means the Iraq War Memorial, featured here.

Some overlapping themes with different residents: if you were interested in reading more on college students employing Second Life as an educational tool, that was covered at length in three parts, beginning here, and the emergence of religious worship in Second Life is featured here and here. Much was written on Second Life's burgeoning economy, so here's a story on some of the world's wealthiest residents. And while residents who happen to be Furry have made many appearances in New World Notes, the story of an emerging subculture of Furries has yet to be written in this space, but likely will soon. (Props to Stafford for that scoop.)

A couple other Lone Star State-related entries, for good measure: veteran game designer Harvey Smith, formerly of Ion Storm Austin, now at Midway Studios Austin, made an in-world appearance last year, coverage beginning here, and I made an appearance in Austin, at last year's South by Southwest, with notes for my talk posted here.

Speaking of which, I'll be on a panel at this year's SXSW, too, accompanied by two other Second Life bloggers-- details to come early next month.

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Friday, January 21, 2005

LINKS OF THE WEEK!

Spotted in this week's stroll through the Second Life blogosphere: a crazed killer narrowly avoided, and a cops-and-robbers shootout that escalates into all-out war. Over on Clickable Culture, meanwhile, Tony Walsh has an update on policy changes, and his perspective on the community's response. Freshman SL blogger Newfie Pendragon has an extended rant against the pervasiveness and popularity of Second Life nightclubs. (Which is excellent timing for this space, because next week, I'll be profiling one of the most successful nightclub owners, and get her thoughts on the phenomenon.)

Closer to home, Cory Linden has just announced publication of another epic white paper called "Changing Realities", now available for download-- it's required reading for everyone looking to understand the big ideas that help drive Second Life.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

GAMESPOTTING!

If you just arrived here via my Gamespot article, welcome. You may be interested in this recent entry that brings together a year's worth of articles profiling Second Life users who've developed in-world games-- RPG, survival horror, RTS, FPS, puzzle, etc. It also includes last year's in-world interview with Deus Ex: Invisible War director Harvey Smith. And if you're a fan of online shooters or classic RPGs, you'll want to take a look* at Second Life's latest newsletter featuring U:SL, the upcoming player-created multiplayer FPS project (more screenshots of it here), and Dark Life, a fantasy-based mini-MMORPG now in Beta.

*UPDATE: No, seriously: look at them. And while you do, keep in mind that none of the people who created it are in the game industry. Last I spoke with them, the main developer's day job involves handling maritime shipping routes, and the team leader runs a title business out of her home, and to relax, spends money on shoes, and, well, creating things like this.

Why do they do it, and how? More on both, just before U:SL goes public in February...

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GREENSPANNING THE GLOBE-- PHILIP LINDEN INTERVIEW, PART II

Continued from yesterday. Discussed in Part Two: more questions (and criticisms) on policy implementation; the selling of links on eBay, and the potential for real world commercialism around it; in-world culture clashes over the policy shift; the Big Picture relation (if any) to Second Life socio-economic theory, and the real world.

Hamlet Linden: Another resident asks, "Now that Linden support for events has been restricted to educational events only, will you be loosening the restrictions currently placed upon the event calendar for non-supported events, so that residents can have more flexibility in posting the events that they are now funding out of their own pocket?"

Philip Linden: Hmm... I'm not sure off the top of my head exactly what restrictions we place on event creation. Well, there is a limit on recurrence, how many events you can have at one place in a day for example. Those rules are designed to keep the events system from being an advertisement listing... we will not simply allow any events to be posted, because it is likely that the system would be misused by[residents] posting thousands of events that were simply repeat advertisements for locations. We recognize the need for better ways to advertise Second Life content, but the event listings aren't the place.

HL: Related to that, tell me about selling sponsored links on eBay. [This change was also part of the policy announcement. The Second Life interface features a Top Links button, with descriptions of cool/fun/interesting sites and builds—before the recent policy changes, these were selected by Linden Lab staff - HL] Some residents wonder if that has anything to do with eBay's founder now being an investor in Linden Lab. True? In any case, discuss the decision behind this change.

PL: What a story of unintended consequences! We wanted to test what would happen if we let people simply pay for the content in the former "top picks" section, because we were unhappy with the quality we could deliver picking them ourselves. It isn't fair to everyone, because we can't possibly survey all the great content anymore to find top picks. So it seems like the way needs to become resident-driven. We need to get it out of Linden hands.

HL: So Omidyar didn't suggest it?

PL: Good grief of course not. I suppose he might not like it if he notices... who knows? I haven't mentioned it to him. But we just wanted to test selling the spots as sponsored places, and the way to do that quickly as a test was to use an auction. Our [web-based] auction code is for land not for stuff, so it wouldn't work well enough. So we needed to use an auction... something we could set up quickly. I suppose we could have picked another auction service... but I think eBay was easier and faster to set up.

HL: Another resident asks, “Will any real-world business advertising be allowed with those sponsored links?" Also, will some of these be auctioned for L$?

PL: I am not sure whether we will sell those spots for L$... No, we will not allow real-world advertising there.

HL: What if it's by a company which owns a sim, for example? Auction a sponsored link for Gap™ Island, for example?

PL: I think the value of those spots is in showing really great content to mostly newer users, who want a quick overview of what SL has to offer. I have no interest in having those spots do anything else-- they need to be great SL content. I can't see how selling jeans in those spots could possibly help SL.

HL: But if a company buys an island and buys a link, is there any mechanism to stop that? Especially if the content they make is really good quality-wise (albeit promotion for real world goods and services)?

PL: We reserve the right in the SL Terms of Service to not allow real life advertising. I would certainly invoke that right to keep those listings directly beneficial to SL resident content.

HL: A veteran resident asks, "Philip, given the huge effect that these changes can have on the Second Life economy, why was only 2 days notice given for a patch?"

PL: We gave a week's notice, the two day notice was the L$25 cost for ratings. I think that was OK. We felt that the ratings change needed to go in, and we wanted to see what folks would think with it in place, more than debate it a priori. As with everything else, we can change this stuff if it doesn't make sense. It's all just code!

HL: There seems to be a culture clash, if not conflict, between residents who are content-creators, and residents who are more casual users who enjoy nightclubs and other chat/social-oriented activity. [Broadly speaking, content creators tend to support the changes, while casual users and the event hosts who cater to them do not. - HL] How do you think these changes will impact these cultures?

PL: I was sad to see the fighting there. I love that Second Life brings people together, and I feel bad whenever it fails to do that. I think that the differences were very exaggerated in that debate, as they often are in these sorts of conflict. The fight seemed to be more one of degrees. I think we all enjoy the people part of SL-- the social scene, the clubs, the events, to a lesser or greater extent. A line seemed to get drawn in this debate at some degree, and everyone picked a side.

HL: But these changes seem to impact casual users much more than content creators; for example, increasing the cost of rating, which is something people do a lot at nightclubs (i.e. rate parties). It also seems to benefit content creators more.

PL: There are still lots of overall subsidies that allow casual users who don't pay for SL to reward event sponsors, content creators, or landowners. So I think things will be OK-- it is still very possible to use SL in exactly that way.

HL: How do you think increasing the cost of rating residents will affect the culture of SL?

PL: It will increase the “meaning” of the individual rating, either positive or negative, which will be good for everyone. [Where it once cost L$1 to give someone a positive rating, under the new policy, it now costs L$25 per rating. - HL]

HL: There's a meta question here, about how the control of the money supply, regulation of money, and so on, shape and change a society, sometimes for good, sometimes (often?) for worse. Do you and Cory [Linden] have any beliefs on these, which shaped the decision to implement these changes?

PL: I think our principles here are simple... there are few things you can predict or direct, in something as wonderfully complex and open as SL. This means, therefore, that unless you are foolish or vain, the number of ways in which you act on the world should be few. We don't know much, so we should make few and small attempts to guide. I think the shared values of the Second Life culture, as they exist in everyone's minds, will more affect SL than any Linden Lab-driven policy, for example.

HL: Do you think your real world political/economic opinions influence your thinking on this? These new changes seem to skew Greenspanian/fiscally conservative, actually.

PL: Hmmm.... I think a lot more about Second Life than real life, when it comes to politics or economy. So I'd say it is the other way around, honestly. I think I'd be more likely to vote differently or respond differently to stuff in real life.

HL: What have you learned in this regard, that affects your real life [political] opinions, then?

PL: After the things I've learned and come to value in Second Life, I am more a believer than ever in letting people decide their own future, and in letting markets decide economies.

HL: Ah! So about Bush's plan to privatize Social Security...

PL: Don't even know about that one!

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Monday, January 17, 2005

GREENSPANNING THE GLOBE-- PHILIP LINDEN INTERVIEW, PART I

20 Questions on the New Economy for Philip Linden. Discussed in Part One: An overview of the in-world economy; the changes being made to it, and why; questions on their implementation; their impact on businesses and residents; the community protest against them.

It's a little like interviewing the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board-- if Alan Greenspan was a heavy metal guitarist who lived in a stucco mansion on a hill, and there was a torch-wielding mob outside.(Figuratively speaking, of course.) Some recent Linden Lab-instituted economic changes have sent shockwaves through the community, and the backlash, featuring an online petition, protest prose, and at least one actual protest, has been significant. Because of this, I sought a rare interview with Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale (i.e. Philip Linden), to explain his case to the public. (For that reason, I also sought questions from Second Life residents, many of which I relay to Mr. Linden below.) Yesterday, we sat down in the living room of Governor Linden's mansion in Clementina for an hour-long chat regarding Linden Lab theory and practice for running Second Life's microeconomy-- and how it impacts the culture of the world they've created.

Hamlet Linden: To first give my readers some context, give me a brief overview of how Second Life's economy works, in terms of money coming in and going out, and controlling for inflation.

Philip Linden: Sure. The Second Life economy is a lot like a foreign currency, so there is a total amount of money that everyone collectively has in their accounts, like the level of water in a pool. There are things we do that put money into the pool, and things we do that take it away. Since Second Life is growing very fast, and because new users get less money than the average amount that everyone else has, we have the opportunity to put additional money into the economy in a way that doesn't cause inflation. So the tough decision is how much to add, and where to add it. So this is the work that we have to do that is much like the US Federal Reserve... we have to decide what is right amount to add, and how to add it.

We add more as residents come in, based on the idea that as additional people enter SL, the “pool” of money can grow at about the same rate without causing any inflation. So 10% more users means we can add 10% more money.

HL: So in a nutshell, what are these new changes, and what inspired them?

PL: As it stands today, there are several 'incentive' programs where we add the money I described to the economy. We created these programs, because we thought it made more sense to take some of the money that would be allocated to new users, and instead give it to the existing population in a way that would help SL develop. This is very similar to things like the US government's SBIR program, which is something where the government gives money to small companies that are trying to make products that are generally useful for people all over the country.

So the programs we have in place today are:

- Dwell/Traffic: we pay some money for folks who have lots of people visiting their land.
- Ratings Stipends: We pay some money for having a positive reputation.

We reduced the size of two of the subsidy programs. In the case of ratings bonuses, we reduced by 50% the extra amount of weekly stipend that you can receive for having a high reputation. This change had a mean impact of about L$37/week on people. The second change was to reduce support for events. In the past, we have allowed anyone who holds an event to ask for up to L$750 in support for the event. In the future we will do this only for educational events - those that specifically help new users.

HL: A resident asks, "Was it necessary to implement all these changes en masse, as opposed to gradually?" If so, why?

PL: I think that we will generally review the economy about once a quarter, see whether any changes need to be made, and make them. So these two changes could have been staggered, I suppose, but there is also an argument for keeping stuff like this on a simple schedule, etc.

HL: A resident says, "People go buy hundreds of thousands $L [on 3rd party exchange sites] to just give away in clubs, 5k raffles etc etc. None of this money is generated in SL. NONE of it. And you're supposed to be building an economy based on this... HOW?"

PL: Hmm.... I'm not sure I really understand the question… but the idea that folks are buying currency from each other to support events-- that is EXACTLY what is supposed to happen. Money is moving around within the economy to reward what people are enjoying and wanting to do. In a working economy, the prices of things correspond to their real value to everyone else. So for example, after the 1.4 release [which added customizable avatar gestures – HL] the cool animations people created were immediately able to command good prices.

In the case of subsidies, the problem is that there is no mechanism for pricing them. So the number of people at events was only partially due to inherent appeal, and partially due to our giving away money to sponsor them. It is better to start with some small subsidies, and then let the market take over.

HL: Maybe the questioner is pointing out that third party site exchanges of L$ are an artificial imposition of real money into the SL economy. So they're "buying their way" into the economy, instead of growing within it organically. Is that a fair concern?

PL: Sure... it is. One of the big appeals of Second Life is that to a large extent, the value of things and the wealth/success of people here is due largely to their real skills and merit. But anything that has value can be converted to another currency. This is true all over the world and all over the online world. If we had tried to make currency trading illegal, it would have made very little difference-- it would just have hurt the progress of those folks wanting to turn some of their profits here into real money.

Consider the strength of what we've built so far... every month, people who have created things in Second Life turn about US$180,000 in currency into real profits. [This is Linden Lab’s estimate of the average dollar value of Second Life money sold for real money via sites like Gaming Open Market. The value of all existing Linden Dollars is estimated by Linden Lab as close to US$1,000,000, at current market rates – HL] Some of them are now able to pursue the dream of working completely within Second Life, not having real life jobs. I think that is fantastic-- that they can do that.

HL: A resident asks, "Given that Second Life clubs pull in a large percentage of SL's total community, and these changes will adversely affect them, aren't you afraid they'll have a substantial impact on the community as a whole?" [Many night clubs benefited significantly from the previous subsidies policy, by holding events for which they received Linden sponsorship, for example, or by indirectly encouraging “rate parties”, in which club goers would actively rate each other, largely as a way of boosting their weekly allowance. Each of these activities would be impacted by the new policy- HL]

PL: I think SL clubs are very compelling, and that club owners will adapt to these changes. I doubt that these clubs will cease to exist because of this change - many are very cool, and I suspect that people will still go to them, and where appropriate, pay to do it. There are amazing experiences - live DJ'ing and dancing, for example, that you cannot do anywhere but SL. Given that for a basic user, we charge nothing on a recurring basis to access SL, I think paying a small amount to go clubbing is a very fair deal.

HL: Another resident wants to know if there will be any new Linden Dollar-related programs/initiatives you plan to introduce, to balance these changes out.

PL: Overall we felt that the subsidies were too high and causing a bit of inflation in the economy, so it wasn't a matter of balancing out-- we needed to make some overall reductions. In the future, though, we may introduce other subsidies, yes.

HL: How did you discern an inflation trend? By monitoring the rise in cost of certain items, or what?

PL: We looked at several factors... there was a gradual increase in the price of objects in Second Life. We can look at this, for example, by averaging the prices of everything sold. Also, we saw a small but steady downward trend in the currency pricing on Gaming Open Market. Taken together, these indicators were suggestive of an inflationary trend.

However-- in fairness, it is hard to make these decisions, as it is in real life. The inherent and rapid growth in the SL GDP-- by that, I mean the increase in the quality of objects people are making. Is a driver of price increases as well. So we have to subtract that change, and look for an inflationary trend independent of it. I mean, for example, clothes today are WAY cooler than they were in SL 6 months ago, because the designers are getting better and better. So that by itself causes prices to go up.

Sorry for the long macroeconomics lesson. These were the classes we all slept through.

HL: A resident asks - "Isn't Philips stat from the [in-world] Town Hall meeting a bit misleading about the effect on Basic users stipends? He quotes the median as his example: 'There are about 2400 basic users affected by this change. The median ratings stipend they get is L$75. So we are talking about a L$37 weekly change.' But median isn't a particularly good indicator, is it?"

PL: Hmm..... what median basically translates into in this case is 'most'. Let me explain. Fifty percent of the people in SL get NO stipend bonus. They get either L$50 [per week] as a basic [subscriber] or L$500 as a premium user. For the folks with better than average ratings, there is a bonus payment. The median payment, in this case, means the 'middle' value... So if 2000 people got bonuses, it is the amount the 1000th largest one got. Because of the way the bonuses are 'tiered', this also means that the amount was very common. Many people got that L$75 amount, so I would defend that it as a very accurate representation of the effect on most people. Very few people get more.

HL: There's an online petition of some 500+ residents, calling for Linden Lab not to impelement these changes. What would you say to these residents?

PL: I thought it was amazing and cool that we could see that kind of a poll! How inspiring that SL has taken on such meaning! I think that poll says that people are having a great time going to clubs and other events, and that is a huge success. We need to make that work without subsidies, because, for the reasons I gave earlier, content in SL needs to be driven by the residents, not Linden Lab. We will figure out how to keep events exciting and keep enough of them... I suspect the economy will rapidly sort itself out on this count, but let's see.

Continued tomorrow...

Posted at 03:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

HAPPY MLK JR. DAY!

The first part of my extensive interview with Philip Linden on the recent controversial policy changes to impact Second Life will be up shortly. Meanwhile, in honor of Dr. King, here's a look back at how the great man's legacy was celebrated (and debated over) last year:

"I think Dr. King would be both happy and sad by this place," says Nala Galatea, after Bhodi opens the floor for audience comments and questions. "I think he would be sad because most people I know here are white, with white behaviors and mannerisms. And things of culture, of any kind, are almost non-existent here. So while the opportunity presents itself to exhibit those things here, they aren't."

Read the whole thing here...

Posted at 12:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack