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cyfishy: (selfport)
At the long-lost Diversionarium, there was a marvelous game called Quoste where you had to guess words that made up a notable quote. One of the quotes was from Mark Twain: "Buy land. They're not making any more of it." Every time that quote came up, of course, all of the avies would laugh, since we inhabit a world where they are, in fact, making more of it. But knowing that going in, why would anybody be foolish enough to think that the laws of supply and demand for virtual land would be the same as for the physical? (Heck, even physical real estate is having a bit of a time of it right now.)

Suppose you have a big sprawling building owned as a sort of artistic collective creative space. There are public areas where people can come in and work on stuff, but they also have an arrangement where you can rent studio space, which works something like this: for a monthly membership fee, you have the right to rent space. You pay a one time "key fee" for the studio itself and your rent is based on how large the studio is. If you have a larger space, you can sublet to other people or even add some walls, get an extra door and sell the key to someone else.

Now, you don't absolutely have to buy a studio, of course. There are, as before, open space where people can do stuff and some artists leave their studios open for anybody to use. But those places can get a little crowded and unruly and sometimes you just want a place to call your own.

The arrangement worked well enough, and they even added extra buildings for the collective and had enough space left over to build entire mega-studio buildings that individuals could own and operate. The owners of outbuildings could run things in there the way they liked, and could even have the same key-and-rent arrangement as the collective buildings, except that the rent went to the owner instead of directly to the collective, and membership wasn't required.

And somewhere along the way, somebody realized that you could make good money buying keys for studio space and then turning around and selling the keys for profit. Especially if you did things like fix up the studio so it was ready to move into, or managed to get a space with a window to the outside.

And maybe this wasn't so bad. At least until people started doing things like blaring death metal in their studios 24/7 and if the neighbors complained, they were told they could always buy the key for an extortionate amount of money. Suddenly, the outbuildings started to look pretty good. Then again, the outbuildings had the problem of certain unscrupulous owners abruptly vacating, leaving all the tenants stranded.

Even people who tried to conduct their key-selling business fairly got ultimately screwed over by supply and demand, as more space kept getting added, both public and private. Suddenly, it was a lot harder to sell your key for enough profit to make it worth your time. Some people got really upset at this and felt that some kind of promise had been broken because of it.

Two recent developments in . . . studio space, if you will, have gotten me thinking about this particular issue.

So they added some new outbuildings that were sold for cheaper because they shared walls with other outbuildings. But because the walls were a bit thin, they asked that people keep it down and try not to get too crazy in them. Few people listened, and the bleed-through of sounds and smells made things a bit difficult for everybody in the outbuilding. So they had to step in and change the way they went about it and people are still bitching about it to this day.

Now they're talking about dealing with people who have been dividing their studios into closets and trying to sell the keys for extortionate amounts.

I've probably stretched this metaphor to the point of snapping, but it pretty much frames the way I feel about land in Second Life. I don't see it as an 'investment', I don't see it as 'private property', I see it as space to create that is sublet under the good graces of Linden Lab. Complaining to Linden Lab because your 'investment' in virtual real estate didn't pan out is the biggest waste of time and energy I can imagine. It's like key-sellers bitching that artists have too much room to create in. Did that thought make you cringe? Because that's how I feel every time the Linden blog announces another development with the mainland and the land sellers bitch and moan about it.
cyfishy: (whitehair)
Dear Linden Lab:

I understand that this is a bit of a difficult time for you. Rumors have it that you're trying to shine things up for an IPO, and between stabilizing the grid and appeasing your angry customer base, you've got quite a bit on your plate.

I know you want to clean house before the nice guests in the suits show up, but, let me tell you, flinging out the dirty bathwater and ignoring the screams of the infant you flung out with it is really not the way to go about it.

The lawyers who have been advising you on the trademark issue need to pull their heads out of the case history and pay a little attention to how things like this actually work. Because, at this point, much of what you're doing is solving a problem that you're not really in danger of having.

I can indeed understand that a site like talksecondlife could be inadvertently seen as having some kind of connection with you. I think you might want to unclench a bit on the SL business, but that's just me.

But insisting that people refer to "the Second Life world" and "the Second Life viewer" is incredibly pointless and just makes you look like you don't even know what the hell Second Life is.

I presume the fear is that "Second Life" will somehow become genericized the way "Xerox" and "Kleenex" have. This fear is absurdly unfounded, when you look at other examples of similar situations.

Example #1 -- Software programs in general. My fleshy self works in an office that uses both Word and WordPerfect for word processing. The preferred program is WordPerfect, but they reluctantly use Word when dealing with documents to be emailed to clients. While documents can be converted from one to the other (with occasional wonkiness) I can quite assure you that one program is not mistaken for the other at any time.

Example #2 -- Websites. MySpace and Facebook are both social networking sites. They are not, however, interchangeable. One does not say one has a MySpace account when one, in fact, has a Facebook account, or vice versa. In the same way, while Hotmail may have been one of the first web-based email services, at no point did "hotmail" become the generic noun for a web-based email account. If you're on Yahoo, you say "I have a Yahoo account." If you have Gmail, you have a Gmail account. Et cetera.

Example #3 -- Open Source variations. This is sort of an expansion of point 2, specifically regarding the fact that other virtual spaces using the Second Life code are in the works at this point. You might be concerned that these other places will be generically referred to as "Second Life." You would be wrong. For example, this letter is being posted on LiveJournal. The source code for LiveJournal is also open source, and a number of other journaling services have sprung up to make use of it--JournalFen, InsaneJournal, DeadJournal, GreatestJournal and others. Here's the thing--if it's not on LiveJournal.com, nobody I know of calls it a LiveJournal. It's called a DeadJournal, or an InsaneJournal or, um, a JournalFen account, as the case may be. At most, there might be a reference to the fact that the LiveJournal source code is used, but that's about it. And, to my knowledge, this isn't because LiveJournal did a great deal of saber-rattling about enforcing their trademarks, but because it doesn't make sense to say you have a LiveJournal if you're actually on InsaneJournal.

Second Life is Second Life. Nothing else is going to be mistaken for it. If you want to lay the banhammer down on somebody who deliberately attempts to be mistaken for it, fine. But, really, do not worry that people blogging about it are going to get people confused about whether they're associated with you or not.

I have taken the legal disclaimer that I used on my Newbie Site and transferred it to the sidebar of this blog. I will also, with much grumbling, work on a redesign the heading of said Newbie Site so it no longer uses the artwork that you previously provided me with and urged me to use as long as I disclaimered it. I will operate under the assumption that this should be sufficient to appease your legal department unless otherwise informed directly.

Thank you and goodnight,

CyFishy Traveler
cyfishy: (whitehair)
The thing about Second Life that probably garners the most hype is the fact that people can, conceivably, make actual cash money from it. This is one of the reasons that my business partner is so eager to get our store going, having met others who are actually making a modest income off of making and selling things in SL.

So somebody posted this forum thread asking about a site called metafortune.com. Having fallen for a few "Make Money At Home" scams back in my desperate college grad days (I still keep them in my filing cabinet to remind me) I was able to parse the ad and cull the puffery from the facts. It looked like the guy was selling an e-book on how to set up a store in SL. Well, no harm in that, really, though the income expectations were perhaps a little overstated. The one testimonial on the page claimed that someone had been able to buy a car with their SL income, but what kind of car they bought is a little hard to gauge from the photo, and chances are it just means that they're pulling down enough cash each month to cover the car payment.

But a few hundred bucks is nothing to sneeze at, so what the hey. And the e-book was only $7.99 (that's US dollars, not Lindens) and I figured it might have some tips and advice that I hadn't thought of, for when we get Social Butterfly launched.

So on my lunch hour I went to my house, made the PayPal payment and downloaded the e-book. And opened it. And read it. In its entirety.

It was only twelve pages long. Twelve. Pages. That's not an e-book, that's an e-pamphlet. It was double-spaced, badly written and in some cases, just plain WRONG. (Buy First Land and sell it for a profit! Um, yeah, that's great, except for the fact that they got rid of the First Land program precisely because of so many people doing that.)

The only things I learned that I didn't already know were (a) that affiliate links pay L$2000 (though the book doesn't mention that the referred person has to upgrade to premium for you to get paid) and (b) apparently setting up a MySpace profile for your avatar (which I'd been vaguely thinking about doing anyway) is a great way to get traffic to your store.

Everything else was stuff I already knew. And it's so confusingly written that somebody who has no clue about Second Life will be completely lost. There's a half page on renting land for income, well and good, and just says airily "search SL for a rental box" and offers no help on, say, how to set the thing up, how to set properties on your land so it doesn't become a massive sandbox griefer haven, or any of that.

There's one page spent recommending getting your business 'verified' by a BBB-like organization. It offers three examples--The Better Business Bureau, TrustE, and talksecondlife.com. Now, the first two are for actual businesses--to my knowledge, they don't even deal with SL-based businesses. So that leaves talksecondlife, which is specifically targeted, obviously, to SL businesses.

Now the punchline: the founder of talksecondlife and the author of the book are one and the same--one Jacob Roundel. Yet the book acts as if talksecondlife is simply this nifty service that he stumbled upon and, wow, it's served him so well.

Oh, and purchase of the book includes a 'free' Business In A Box, which turned out to be a furniture store of middling quality. And it doesn't even seem to have been created by the author of the book. I really don't see the point of reselling things from a Business In A Box, myself, considering that anybody else can buy your entire inventory from the same vendor you bought yours from. (The only other Business In A Box I've bought was a batch of dresses for L$250, only about four of which were worth wearing, but those made it worth the $L250 to me.)

So, yeah. Eight bucks down the drain for nothing more than a good laugh. Go figure.

EDIT: Okay, give the guy points for this--I demanded a refund on the forum thread and I just got every penny I spent PayPaled back to me. So it's now just a good laugh.

EDIT2: Oh, my word, it gets even funnier. He's selling the site. He put it up for sale the day he put that link up asking about it. I wonder if he's worried about revenue going down since word got out about how shite it was?

EDIT3: Some four years later, the original author has asked that his RL name be removed from this post, on the basis that he sold the rights to the book ages ago and is no longer in SL. I have, with some admitted reluctance, assented to his request.


cyfishy: (Default)

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