Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 14 Mar 08 15:37
Brian, are you making money at SL? Or is all of your commerce just for the fun of it? (I love the shop!!)
Lisa Harris (lrph) Fri 14 Mar 08 16:17
All of this is fascinating. I barely have time in my life to keep up with the WeLL. How much of a time suck is SL? I mean, I guess if I were pulling in $5K a month, time wouldn't matter, but it seems like a very few people in SL actually do that.
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Fri 14 Mar 08 16:54
Cool recounting, (bwsmith)! Far as time suck, it really varies with what you want to put into and get out of it; I know folks who go in-world for a few hours a week to catch a live concert, play some games, whatever, while others are in there 20-40 hours a week or more. "Does Second Life have to contend with griefers? Did the tech developers of this world try to find ways to build it so that this kind of game-playing was hard to pull off? Is it possible to develop an online world where griefers can't engage in disruptive activities?" Yes, yes (not always successfully), and yes. One interesting phenomenon is that many of the more talented griefers end up realizing they can be fairly weird and anarchic without actually violating any rules, and evolve into relatively accepted members of the community.
Lisp Hax in SL (bwsmith) Fri 14 Mar 08 20:05
Linda, its certainly not showing a profit... Actually if you are paying for maintenance on residential land, there is a monthly charge for the server if you "own" land, and there is weekly rental for commercial space, its seems to me that it is probably quite difficult to break even, much less make money. So, for me it has to be the entertainment value. For the houses I've built, I like being able to go by someplace and say, "I built that." For the things in the shop, I've probably given away more as gifts than I've sold. Oriental rugs are not one of the "gotta have" items in SL. I suppose that there is a strategy for maximizing return... Only invest in land that you use for commerce, or as a land baron own to resell or rent at a profit. Have a diversified product line of things that are easily sold and popular. Most of those are probably personal items like jewelry, clothes, shoes, hair, skins, etc. So, if one really wants to concentrate on the business aspect of the game, there is probably a way to maximize your "winnings." But really, then it would just seem like another job. It's kind of my reaction to a comment by Richard Bartle (one of the original creator of MUD and another author concerned with "Designing Virtual Worlds") that he couldn't enjoy SL (or any other VW for that matter) because every time he went into one he wasn't there to enjoy himself. It was all work and research for his book. He was there to get the facts, see how much lag there was, and how horrible the interface is... He doesn't have the time of inclination to just look around and see what the experience is. Personally, I like being able to waste a few hours in the evening looking for an event to attend, randomly teleporting to locations that sound interesting to see what other folks are doing... (Found a set of sims last night that are owned operated, and populated by Brazilians. All I can say is, wow. Skins, cloths and accessories and building are all completely different to what I have seen on the "US" and European sims.) So, its a "costly" game, but to me a game that is indicative of what the Internet will evolve into over time. For my "day job" I work with people all around the country and for the last two years have been using tools like GoToMeeting to collaborate on work. I can visit and work with folks in California, Tennessee, Florida, and New York with out having to leave my office. What I see in SL is the beginning of an environment that could make that sort of interaction ubiquitous. If everyone you work with is online and everyone has IM and their space to meet, interaction with the folks you work with who aren't in the same office building could becomes as natural as if they were. SL may crash and burn (as did Prodigy before everyone had a www. in front of their name) but something like it or better than it will survive and I'm trying to learning as much as I can as I wait for something like it to be the mainstream. (Just realized that I get too wordy and off-topic... sorry.)
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 14 Mar 08 23:56
Not too wordy at all! And very informative.
What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Sun 16 Mar 08 08:48
James, where do you see SL headed? Are there coming changes in tech that are going to make a difference, hwo big an issue is scaling, might some new competition knock it out of the box? Tell the future for us, man.
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Sun 16 Mar 08 21:28
Totally on topic, (bwsmith), thanks for riffing. I sometimes wonder how much of SL's flavor I've missed by never running my own in-world business/estate, and getting it from others second hand.
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Sun 16 Mar 08 21:55
"Tell the future..." To me, it's a lot more murky in the very near future, than the mid-to-long term future. As others have noticed, LL founder and CEO Philip Rosedale just announced they're actively searching for his replacement, while he becomes a more visionary, Chairman of the Board type figure. CTO Cory Ondrejka left/was pushed a few months before that. The company's ramping up to scale the world and truly take it mainstream, is my read on all this corporate tumult; quite possibly an IPO in the next year. Assuming this works, then a lot of my predictions from the book happen sooner rather than later: worlds like SL become the Web's next generation, human knowledge and imagination is Wikipedia-fied in 3D, the metaverse becomes a fully operational platform that subsumes all the other tools that have come before, so that real artifacts can be made with 3D printers. Etc, etc.
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Mon 17 Mar 08 08:43
I'm sorry I've been out of the conversation for a while. I was busy this weekend so I'm just catching up. I wanted to also add some thanks to <bwsmith> for the fine description of his own Second Life experience. Didn't seem to wordy to me. James, I wonder if you could talk about about the raising and re-raising of Nexus Prime, and the role of that place in the SL universe. When I read your descriptions of the very fluid life of the place, it's almost like tripping or being a little insane. The Be-bop Reality you talk about isn't entirely comfortable to me, but it clearly allowed for vast creativity to arise in people who can tolerate it. Nexus Prime seems like a perfect example of that, with all its promise and difficulty.
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Mon 17 Mar 08 09:28
Nexus Prime is an evolving "city of the future" project that's existed since SL's Beta period in 2003-- "evolving" because it keeps changing according to the whims and general plans of Tyrell Group, the individuals who created it (and continue to do so.) I chose that as a leading example of Bebop Reality-- which is how I describe the fluid, freeform, jazz-in-3D nature of Second Life creativity-- because it's existed for so long, and also because the Tyrell members have been in SL longest. Most of them have gone on to work for Linden Lab or a third party metaverse developer, so Nexus is also microcosm of SL's general history. As you say, there's also a lot of difficulty in making it happen, because it's dozens of people (most of whom have never met) working on the same project, a lot from totally different backgrounds (a female pornographer, a military police officer, a young woman squatting in an abandoned apartment, etc. etc.) so there's bound to be ego clashes.
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Mon 17 Mar 08 10:43
Given those clashes, it's not surprising that these groups will often form around a central personality - some strong creative person who can help hold the group together, and maybe mediate some of the fights. I was interested, though, that you state that this central figure is often a woman. Why do you think that is?
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Mon 17 Mar 08 11:19
Because women tend to be the central figures in Second Life. The most active users in terms of hours per week in-world are women in their 40s. Projects like Nexus Prime require so much communication and empathy (lots of personal strife, etc), and I think it's fair to say women are generally better at that than men. A lot of the best content creators are young guys, and there's often a besmitten quality, dudes trying to impress the Queen Bee with their talent. So many of the leading women have a motherly/crone kind of quality. A glamorous woman in her 30s/40s who lives on a boat in real life once told me the teen denizens of her vampire community even called her Mom.
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Mon 17 Mar 08 12:17
I love that. And you talk also about how people can use their Second Life experience to re-design their first lives as well, that they can mirror their in-world successes back to reality. Can you tell us an story or two of that happening?
Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 17 Mar 08 13:58
That's a fascinating concept! I just want to comment about the Tyrell Group. Tyrell, as in the Tyrell Corporation from Bladerunner, the company that creates replicants?
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Mon 17 Mar 08 19:56
Yes, it's a nod to Blade Runner. Lot of Dick fans in SL. :) "And you talk also about how people can use their Second Life experience to re-design their first lives as well, that they can mirror their in-world successes back to reality." I call it Mirrored Flourishing, which is the Second Life expectation (bolstered by numerous anecdotes) that productive activity in SL should benefit a person's first life. I mentioned the Tyrell member who was temporarily homeless, when she was helping build Nexus Prime-- impressed by Catherine Omega's SL programming skills, people started paying her to work in Second Life, and she began making a real living that way. A broader example would be people with Asperger's Syndrome, who are very frequent in Second Life, and tend to be very popular and social in SL. They get a chance to show off their geek skills that usually put people off in the real world, and the avatar-based interaction seems to give them a layer of protection to reach out to others in ways they wouldn't in the real world.
Ian Betteridge (ianb) Tue 18 Mar 08 02:56
"Lot of Dick fans in SL" That made me splutter coffeee on my keyboard, James! :)
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Tue 18 Mar 08 07:01
Lots of fans of both Dick and dick, of course. Like I mention, the Lindens half-seriously considered licensing "Detachable Penis" for a Second Life commericial.
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Tue 18 Mar 08 08:23
And we can take that nice segue into the topic of sex in Second Life, which you discuss in your book, James. I know that around the 'net generally, among people who haven't spent much or any time in SL themselves, there's a tendency to dismiss SL as a haven for furries and pedophiles, as ultimately about kinky sex and nothing more. I think we know that isn't correct, and yet sex is certainly a large part of the SL experience. What's the best way to understand how sex fits into the Second Life experience?
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Tue 18 Mar 08 10:37
The best way to understand the *perception* of Second Life being all about kinky sex is the Rimm Report, which WELL veterans will remember quite well: that was an undergraduate's bogus report in the mid-90s claiming that 30% of pictures on the Internet (which was just starting to go mainstream) were pornographic. Despite the patently dubious claim, Time Magazine made it the anchor for an alarmist cover story. (Which WELL folk like Donna Hoffman and Mike Godwin duly shredded.) A similar alarmism is happening with sex and Second Life, especially as it starts getting described as a forerunner to the Net's next generation. No one knows exactly how much cybersex happens in SL, but Linden reports that just 18% of the total landmass is designated as having "Mature" rated content, and an academic survey reports just 14% of SL users have virtual sex on a regular basis. So rounding down (after all, even if you're an active sex freak, you're probably doing a lot of other stuff too), I think it's safe to say sexual activity is considerably less than those numbers. Interestingly, non-sexual *romantic* activity is probably about as popular, if not more so among the active community-- many PG-rated gardens and other date-friendly locations are very popular, as are several jazz nightclubs for fancy dress dancing. There's an SL truism that if you want to meet an actual woman in Second Life, go to a ballroom; if you want to have sex with other guys cross-dressing as dominatrixes and porn stars and whatever, go to a sex club. According to a top furry leader (!), the active community is about 6% of the total.
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 18 Mar 08 15:01
Sex! On the Internet! <throwing up hands in mock horror> The way things are laid out in imvu, you have to pay extra to go into the more "adult" places. Is that true in SL? And unless you have that Access Pass, there are places you can't go and things you can't buy.
Lisa Harris (lrph) Tue 18 Mar 08 15:21
Sex too? Amazing.
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Tue 18 Mar 08 15:40
"The way things are laid out in imvu, you have to pay extra to go into the more 'adult' places. Is that true in SL?" Not generally, no, but that's up to the individual landowner. Many of the most popular sex clubs have free L$ giveaways to attract new users, leading me to think the bulk of sexual activity happens among newbies, and much less so with the established community. I mean, who ever heard of an orgy where the hosts actually pay people to visit?
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Wed 19 Mar 08 12:34
I think a lot of people would be surprised that the number you quoted were so small, given how wild SL's reputation is in general. People really misunderstand the place. I was really amused by your description of some of the sexual mechanics in Second Life. Maybe you could explain why the sex beds all have little softballs on them, and how that works (or doesn't, as the case may be). I liked that the whole thing was apparently so often light-hearted.
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Wed 19 Mar 08 13:12
"why the sex beds all have little softballs" They're called "poseballs" in SL, and they're embedded with animations which automatically trigger your avatar, when you sit on them. So sex beds (or for that matter any object, a tub, a car, up against the mini-bar) are strewn with pairs of poseballs, generally pink and blue for Him and Her. So you and your partner have to sit on the correct pair at exactly the right time to get a convincing sex scene going-- otherwise, one or the other is bound to be humping away at thin air. That largely contributes to the level of light-hearted wackiness that seems to be a big part of the experience, more like Barbie and Ken play doctor than some kind of intense, super-immersive sex fantasy. Of course, when all the animations fit together just right, it can be intensely sexy for the participants.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 19 Mar 08 13:19
oh my... This really sounds like a remarkable environment! It's hard to believe that two weeks have already gone by. this has been a fascinating conversation and I'm so glad you've joined us, James and Jennifer. Though we've now launched an interview with a new guest, this doesn't mean yours must stop. This topic will remain open indefinitely for further posts, so if you're able to stick around, we'd love to have you continue. If you have to get going, thanks so much for being here, and good luck!
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