Wednesday, March 02, 2005


(Continued from last week.)

The Gates of Central Park came down last week in New York City, as planned, after they'd completed their successful run. Last week, the Gates of Briarcliff Manor were also uprooted from that hilly island. And though their creators also saw them as a temporary art installation, it wasn't part of the plan for them to be steamrolled so a German Chinese-European land speculator could turn the place into a gated resort community for the French.

But this is, more or less, what happened.

"I am starting one new grid with zoned residential sims for themed communities," says Anshe Chung, after she teleports to join me on Briarcliff's highest hill. (This is last week, after she'd purchased the island from former owner feniks Stone, but before she'd taken ownership.)

After they're evicted, says Anshe, "I assume that feniks is going to reimburse them their rent." As for their homesteads, the small town-style shopping plaza by the water, and the Gates installations, those are already set for removal.

"I sometimes buy existing projects and continue them," she tells me, "but in this case I simply need one sim for a new project and I don't see how Briarcliff could be continued in a viable way. There are too many shopping sims now."

But many Residents had been renting Briarcliff land from feniks at bargain rates, and they weren't exactly happy to leave. Which may explain the statues holding "Save Our Sim" signs. And the shirtless man with giant pecs, who walks up to Anshe Chung in the middle our interview.

"Anshe. Don't take away Briarcliff," Valiant Darkholme begins. Then, "Hey, why do you own so much land?"

"Valiant," Anshe replies calmly, "I own so much land because there are many people who like to use land managed by me and pay for the content there. If my land would not be run in profitable way, I could not
have so much."

Darkholme chuckles in disbelief. "Do you make money off Second Life?"

"Yes, I do. I work here."

"How much a month?"

"If you don't mind speaking on record," I interject, "I'd love to know myself."

Anshe Chung winks back at me. "I think comparable to some of your colleagues."

She means my colleagues at Linden Lab. Which, were it true, would mean a subscriber to an online world was now making almost as much of an income as some of the people who created it. (And after checking her current Net Worth on the Leaderboard, I have no reason to doubt the claim.)

"What I am doing is very unstable, so I cannot say how much I will earn next month," Anshe Chung amends. "I might lose money next month."

Valiant Darkholme shakes his head, laughing. "Anshe, you got a lot of power," he says. "Seems to me kinda absurd for one person to have so much."

"I don't have power in Second Life," she tells him. "I had power in Shadowbane, but here nobody really has power. I can't buy one army and destroy your town or anything... I cannot use land or money to force people do something. Not that this is something I would wish for. In fact, I can probably do less than other people, as I have business reputation to take care of." Having said that, she sticks out her tongue. "I am servant of my customers now."

I ask Anshe if by that logic, Donald Trump also has no power in New Jersey.

"Donald Trump can use US$ to buy American politicians. I cannot use L$ to buy Philip." And sticks her tongue out at me again.

"But," I press, "Trump exerts a lot of influence also on small business owners and average citizens in New Jersey, just by dint of owning so much land and contributing so much to the New Jersey economy."

"I could grief single retailers by excluding them from my malls," she allows, "But one reason I am successful is that this is not my way. I don't use my business to exert power. This would be kinda wrong and silly."

In any case, after a farewell featuring fireworks and a dance party, Briarcliff's days as the community it once was are over.

"And then work will begin on something new," Anshe says, smiling brightly. "One chapter close, one new chapter going to be written. I have obtained two sims. The first sim will be called La Gaule and become the first sim for the French-speaking community. The second sim will be populated by other Europeans. The original plan was to use it as a German sim, [but] it will depend on how many Germans subscribe..." (And at this point, it's worth pointing out that Anshe is currently based in Germany, herself, and a founder of an in-world group of German Residents.) "So far interest was much stronger from the French [Second Life] community. In the SL Deutschland group, I think I have about twenty members now, but most are not yet ready to buy land here.

"I think there are twice as many French speakers as German speakers now," she continues. (Anshe also founded a French-speaking Second Life group.) "I started those two groups since they represented one very huge market of countries with broadband. And this market has not been approached by Second Life [the company] yet."

"So," I observe, "you're sort of doing Linden Lab's job in the European Union!"

"It needs local areas to make Second Life attractive to most people in France and Germany," she affirms. "I consider approaching existing [French and German] chat communities, but this might be in future one day. First these sims must be successful."

"So is Second Life primarily a job for you," I ask Anshe, "or is it also entertainment, or what?"

"It has started as entertainment," she says, grinning, "became an experiment, and now you can call it Second Job. I think to succeed here you have to enjoy it. People who would not enjoy Second Life as entertainment might not find the motivation to work hard here."

Despite her success, Anshe thinks there are other Residents who are just as successful.

"I know content creators who already make almost as much as I do, mostly unnoticed and without risk," she says. "There are probably more than ten people who make [about as much as me.]" And while she, like other Residents with massive real estate holdings, are pejoratively known as Land Barons, "I think all of those except for myself are 'content barons'. What makes me stick out is that my business is all public and people see my assets while the content barons are allowed to hide their transactions..."

By "content baron", she means the most successful creators of avatar clothing, custom animations, and other avatar fashion and personality accessories, for example, or the people who make and sell mini-games and other items that Residents purchase at a regular rate.

"Content barons don't need land or money to operate," she says. "They just move their L$ to Gaming Open Market every day." She believes this, Anshe says, because she's "talked to some people and received concrete figures. In addition, I am watching L$ movements between accounts (as seen on Leader Boards) carefully to predict L$ value fluctuation, and by doing this, I noticed how much L$ slowly piled up in some people's accounts during the week, until they disappeared to presumably get cashed out. It would be suicidal for content barons to admit how much money they make or to let cash pile up in their accounts. People would start to complain and ask them to lower prices. Other content creators would smell the money and copy their products."

For all her own enterprise, though, Anshe Chung still hasn't given up her real life job as an instructor.

"Teacher by day," I suggest, "capitalist land speculator by night?" And Anshe just grins at that.

As for Briarcliff Manor, she tells me later, "It is Friesland now. Avalon II has become Petite Gaule and Briarcliff has become Friesland." Once she bought those sims in preparation for her EU market, the names of these islands names had to go, too. "I completely terraformed both and offer land there to members of French and German/Dutch communities."

When I visited Friesland early today, several lots had been snatched up, with a few homes already there and sitting proudly on the newly engineered shoreside. Dozens of Dutch flags dot the land, indicating plots still available for lease from Anshe Chung.

"So, yes," Anshe concludes, winking, "Briarcliff has finally become conquered by the Germans."

Update, 3/3/05: Anshe Chung's descriptive title ("Chinese-European land speculator") changed by request of the subject.

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I don't think he makes nearly what Anshe does, but I know my friend and neighbor Cubey Terra considers Second Life his primary source of irl income.

It keeps him fed, anyway. XD

I'd be rich too if I wasn't so gosh darned lazy. :P

Like Anshe said, you have to have the motivation to work hard. It's just not worth it for me to work hard, when I already spend so much effort on my college work.

Posted by: Relee Baysklef at Mar 2, 2005 10:55:50 PM


I am truly surprise at that slant you took on the ending of Briarcliff, and I have to say that I am a bit angry. Instead of presenting Briarcliff Manor as it truly was and why it ended, you needed to completely obliterate its meaning to succumb to the need kowtow to a notion of perceived success in Second Life. At the same time insulting the residents of Briarcliff Manor. I guess unless you aren’t "somebody" in SL, it’s not important to be truthful, just slant what you need to and print what’s cool..

Maybe what Anshe does is cool, a success in Second Life, and it appears that’s why you needed to end your article with her statement that Briarcliff was conquered. Did you not see how insulting that is? Did you consider that there were other people involved besides Anshe?

It’s not ok to do your asskissing at the expense of others.

To you, Anshe and the world - Briarcliff Manor was not and in no way conquered. What a crock of self serving bullshit. I sold the sim to Anshe for personal reasons. That was hard enough, and now you have to add salt to the wounds, not only mine, but to every resident on Briarcliff.

You should have talked to the residents of Briarcliff, maybe found out a bit about them, maybe printed something about the amazing amount of talent there, maybe printed something about the bond the town had.

If you wanted to publish an article about Anshe's success, that’s fine, but you did not have to present a mistruth about why Briarcliff Manor ended. It had nothing to do with Anshe.

You should not have belittled Briarcliff Manor.

feniks Stone

Posted by: feniks Stone at Mar 2, 2005 11:10:16 PM

Thanks for sharing your point of view here, feniks. I'm not at all advocating Anshe Chung's point of view here, merely reporting it. I am sorry you were offended, however, because that wasn't my intent-- nor did I aim to belittle Briarcliff. So I encourage you and other Manor residents to write more here about yourselves here in the comments, and what you felt this story should have included about them.

Posted by: Hamlet Linden at Mar 2, 2005 11:24:27 PM


Thanks for letting me know i was going to be posted here for everyone to see. Is'nt a "real writer" supposed to ask these questions. hmmm well to me it sounds like you are kissing some major ass =) *you gotta little brown on your nose" I love the way you added "Darkholme chuckles in disbelief," or "Valiant Darkholme shakes his head, laughing." Nice touch to give your audience the wrong perseption of the conversation. You belittle me and all of Briarcliffs residents. Maybe take fenik's advise and dig deeper into a story before writing about it. You need to take some journalism classes and freshin up. Its about the truth.........and the truth lies within Briarcliff......

-Valiant Darkholme-

Posted by: Valiant Darkholme at Mar 2, 2005 11:34:41 PM

"And though their creators also saw them as a tremporary art installation, it wasn't part of the plan for them to be steamrolled so a German land speculator could turn the place into a gated resort community for the French."

I dunno... I don't mean to sound petulant or ungrateful for the wonderful coverage before. But that sentence just isn't true! It doesn't say anything meaningful, it just creates a false sense of drama.

It wasn't our plan for their location to be turned into a gated community, any more than it was our plan for them to stay up forever or for my neighbor to put one up for a day then take it down. There's no plan is the plan!

We knew it wasn't going to last.. that's why we put up so many!

Briarcliff *was* SL for me for a long time. I'm really sorry it's gone, but it has nothing to do with Anshe, or with the gates. That community there has a real story that's worth telling. And I bet Anshe's attempt to build a welcoming place for European users is also worth telling separate from the "Evil Land Baron" story.

I know it's got to be hard to balance "Current Events" with "Travellouge" with "Arts and Entertainment" and the occasional editorial... I just know I also felt kinda put off when I read this story...

Posted by: Aestival at Mar 2, 2005 11:52:05 PM

I guess the thing I should also say is that while Briar almost *was* SL for me... for a lot of other folks losing it really meant losing their home and their friends. It was emotional for all of us, and for many I think it's proably the most significant thing that's happened in SL to them, so I think you need to understand that.

In a way now I feel guilty... Because in a way I caused you to focus on the Gates in Braircliff, and then of course you would wonder what happens to them afterwards. But the real thing to come and see in Briar was the community, and what's happening to it now that all our bookmarks point into the empty ocean. For us, there's been no German invasion. Our home sank into the sea never to be seen again. Now we are scattered across the mainland...

I'm sorry Feniks, Valiant, and everybody else in Briar that I couldn't see how my promotion would end up trivializing Briar. I'm sorry also Hamlet that I basically led you to a place where there was a real human story, and told you to focus on the pretty pictures... I hope you guys can forgive my thoughtless selfishness.

Posted by: Aestival at Mar 3, 2005 12:02:10 AM

Finally, Hamlet tries to do something other than the company organ!

Good article Hamlet. Keep this up. If you want people to continue to read your stuff, you need to tackle these types of subjects.

Otherwise, it's just a lot more yawning.

Posted by: blaze at Mar 3, 2005 12:15:29 AM

Hello There,

As a resident and shopkeep of Briarcliff Manor, I'd like to express my frustrations after reading this article. I feel like the sim and its residents were sorely misrepresented.

First, the reason many of us were saddened about losing the sim wasn't because we were getting 'bargain rent rates,' as you put it. I set up shop in Briarcliff several months ago, and the price of the rent has nothing to do with my attachment to it. What made Briarcliff what it was was the community. It was a place where you knew everybody, and you'd hang around and chat with your friends while you watched them work on their latest project. I know a lot of people who, after visiting, ended up staying in Briarcliff, even if they didn't own a store, or want to sell things. We enjoyed Briarcliff for the community, and the way you describe it is disparaging.

It was some time ago when I interviewed Feniks for a paper I was writing, and she had this to say: “When we started this, we were trying to recreate the community of Beta. Basically, we wanted a place to do our thing.” Ever since the beginning, it was about creating a friendly small community where you could truly feel welcome. Its equivalent to a ring of close friends you hang out with during school, or a neighborhood restaurant where you know the owner's name, and all the people who usually stop by after work.

I don't have any laments over Briarcliff at this point, I'm simply glad to have been a part of such a strong and warm community. The friendships I made there will last forever. I want to thank Feniks for keeping it going as long as she did.

As for being 'conquered'... To my knowledge, the closing of Briarcliff and the purchase of it by Anshe were seperate. We knew around New Year's that Feniks was considering selling the sim, thats why I wasn't particularly surprised to hear that it was being sold at the end of February. To relate this to being overtaken however is degrading, to both Feniks and the residents.

Anyways, my complaints being fully addressed, I'll leave it at that. Thank you for the opportunity to portray Briarcliff as the friendly community that it is.

Take care, and safe travels,
Ack Mendicant

Posted by: Ack Mendicant at Mar 3, 2005 1:22:11 AM

I'm grateful for these insights on the culture of Briarcliff; they add more depth to the related story I decided to focus on for this entry. Please keep them coming!

Posted by: Hamlet Linden at Mar 3, 2005 1:32:13 AM

I would like to sincerely apologize to feniks and people who lived in Briarcliff for misunderstanding created by my last remark that "Briarcliff has finally become conquered by the Germans". It was meant as one joke, coming from the mouth of one Chinese girl who moved to Europe not too long ago.

As much as all drama has entertainment value, the truth is that Briarcliff came to one end on its own and I simply bought one server for my own project.

Posted by: Anshe at Mar 3, 2005 1:57:47 AM

In a way I wished that Briarcliff could have continued after the sale of the sim. Briarcliff was not just a place where I had a shop, but it was a place far from the constant bustle of the mainland and free from annoyances found with other sims. The residents of Briarcliff formed a strong bond as a community, if some of the residents were offline for a while they were missed, and still remained close to everyone.

Being an open community I've seen many visitors come and go, some deciding to stay for a while, others taking a look and never coming back again. And those who visited, sampled the atmosphere, and decided to stay even if they didn't rent out a store or apartment.

Much like the long lost community of Little Tokyo, when the beta ended the community was taken over, replaced by something else that blossomed into an endless lust for the mighty Linden.

Sure I wanted to sell a few things, but Briarcliff's real value was in those who helped shape Briarcliff into a community like no other found in SL.

Posted by: Millie Thompson at Mar 3, 2005 8:39:51 AM

Hamlet, I think the point here is that it shouldn't be up to us to add our stories after the fact. You say you were not advocating, just report, but it's become clear in the history of media that a reporter affects the opinion of their reader by what details they choose to explore most closely and how they "spin" their story.

I'm not sure an all-about-BriarCliff story would have been good NWN material, but I think half-mentioning us as a springboard for an Anshe biography misrepresented us. I kind of feel bad that the story about me and Aestival was a spring-board for something that portrayed us with sparse and ugly details.

Posted by: Lex Neva at Mar 3, 2005 9:15:10 AM

heh heh.. this is just pure oversight, I suspect.

If Hamlet knew about the other side of story he most likely would have happily reported on it, because it's great material!

In fact, I'm sure we can expect a follow up story pretty soon!

Posted by: blaze at Mar 3, 2005 1:53:16 PM

Yes, I'm always interested in doing updates and follow-ups, which is one reason why I encourage people to add their perspective to my entries in the Commentary section. (It's also one of the best ways to encouage *me* to track down The Rest Of The Story.)

The other reason I encourage commentary is the signal virtue of journalistic blogging, as opposed to reporting in other medium. A Comments section puts the blogger and the reader on a more or less equal footing. Think I missed an important aspect of the story? Please post that, and explain why. Is there a factual mistake in the entry? Please point that out too, and if I can validate it, I'll amend the story. That's the great thing about blogging-- it gets journalists away from the traditional top down model, and forces them to participate in a more translucent, open source model. That's what I want NWN to be.

Posted by: Hamlet Linden at Mar 3, 2005 3:17:06 PM

Open source journalism... oh Hamlet! ^^;;

Posted by: Aestival at Mar 3, 2005 6:42:12 PM

compelling article tho! i've read so many descriptions of Anshe, but this account- related so soon after the events- is to me more telling than even her 'herald interview. you write nice purdy, HL

Posted by: Red Frank at Mar 4, 2005 5:26:27 AM

Ah! The Capitalist Communist strikes again. I kinda liked Briarcliff because it was a coozy little place unbeknowest to most of the world. But the world is change even the second one, and really if someone is mad about the sim being Sold shouldn't you be mad at Feniks? After all it's not like Anshe could just jump in and steal it without the owner selling it on purpose.

Although this french sim thing does sound kind of interesting, though you'd probably never catch me there, what with me not knowing French and all.

Good article Hammy, something different then the usual "as little controversy as possible" type of dealies.

I'll look forward to the followup hehe.

Posted by: Artemis Fate at Mar 4, 2005 10:15:23 AM

"and really if someone is mad about the sim being Sold shouldn't you be mad at Feniks? After all it's not like Anshe could just jump in and steal it without the owner selling it on purpose.

That was the friggn point of my first post.

Look and see who's post was the most angry...


Posted by: feniks Stone at Mar 4, 2005 1:57:35 PM

It's all about personality, folks. And who has the personality to be liked by others. And who even cares if they do.

Posted by: Lisse Livingston at Mar 5, 2005 9:36:19 PM

If you really know Anshe you will find a warm and loving personality.

Posted by: Guni Greenstein at Mar 9, 2005 9:03:29 AM

Reads all the foregoing entries and falls fast asleep...zzzzz


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