November 11, 2010

Second Life attachment points

New fashion release from Inga Wind shows limitations of SL avatar attachment points.

In case you haven't figured it out by now, Inga Wind is a friend and my fave designer. When I got her latest release, Cosette, I fell crazy in love with it simply based on the package photo!

When I put it on, I was blown away. How would you describe it? Professional? Yes. Perky? Very. German hofbrau? Kinda. Totally cute? Definitely!

The outfit includes everything you see in the photo. Skirt, top, glitch pants, belt, sleeve ruffles, shoes and a prim bow for the bodice. The total price is $350L or, $150L for her group members -- a total bargain!

However, in trying to do the photo shoot of the outfit for this blog post, I started going crazy because the belt would "dig" into the skirt with some of the fashion model poses that move your hips sideways. So, I started playing with the belt trying to see if I couldn't make it behave better with my hip-shifts!

After 15 minutes of fooling around, I moved the belt to the spine and the bow the "left pec". For my fashion shots, it all worked fine that way. In fact, I thought to myself, wow, this is how it should be.

So I went to see Inga in person to show her what I'd done. After turning on my AO and standing in front of her, she (very graciously) pointed out that now the bow was moving up and down the dress as I breathed! Ughh. Plus, when my AO switched to a different stand, the belt was now digging into my stomach which looked awful! I had solved one problem for my photo shoot but created two new ones that didn't work for normal wear. :P 

Bottom line, Inga HAD indeed picked the best attachment points in the first place. She has tried the different spots I had and what comes out of the box is the best you can do given the limitations of Second Life. Normally belts and skirts are linked together so they move as one. However, the outfit is designed so the belt rides higher, almost like a mini-corset. That means it can't be part of the skirt or it would move completely outside your body with any twisting or shifting motion. Sigh.

Anyway, it's a gorgeous outfit and only those terminally picky and slightly anal retentive people like me would ever notice this stuff. :P

November 7, 2010

What's in your SPAM folder??

This is sort of an off-the-wall topic. You see I actually bothered to look in my Gmail Spam folder today for my Second Life email account and for my throwaway real life account. I don't think I've checked either for maybe a month. I was surprised to find that, in both accounts, 90% of the ads were for male enhancement products with the remaining 10% for Canadian pharmacies.

Since Gmail does a pretty good job of filtering spam, I'm not as reluctant to give out my Gmail addys as I am with my professional personal email. So I'm not surprised that I end up with a fair amount of spam. I've read that spammers try to guess your email address on Gmail using names they find by searching on the net. So if you're "Snickers Snook", they try every variation including snickers_snook, snickerssnook, snickers.snook, snickers-snook, snook-snickers, etc. which in my case, happens to work for my SL account.

It doesn't quite work for my RL Gmail account although my name is part of the address. However, both accounts have clearly female names (well OK Snickers might be a little ambiguous). Yet, both accounts are mostly filled with ads designed for men with serious inferiority complexes, stupid streaks and / or excess money.

On the other hand (or body part), I can't recall ever seeing a spam for breast enlargement. Oh I get a few here and there for diets, wrinkle creams, random household products, African money schemes, lotteries and porn. But the ratio of male-oriented stuff drowns out everything else. Does that mean women are smarter than guys about this stuff so spams targeting females don't work as well? Or are there lots of women who buy online Viagra and penis enlargement pills for their BF's or husbands?? (Here honey, I got these pills for you for my birthday.)

Now spam in my RL professional account is very different from Gmail stuff. There I get mostly pitches for seminars, unreadable foreign language emails, African money schemes and lotteries with few, if any, male-oriented pitches. Weird that they're so different in content. Maybe it's a difference in filtering?

So I'm curious. What's in your spam folder?

November 3, 2010

More aDiva Stuffa

Just to show that I can still acknowledge a good outfit in spite of the mistreatment I may have received by its creator, I wore AnneJoy Paine's "Blood Red Bitch" outfit to a large Halloween party in SL the other night. I received several compliments on it but especially on the cape. To the one person who really wanted to know where I got it, I gave him a LM to her shop. :P

October 7, 2010

aDiva also aThiefa?

As a follow-up to my rant about my treatment at the hands or typing fingers of AnneJoy Paine (the owner / designer for "aDiva couture" in Second Life), an anonymous person pointed me to doing a Google search on her. Wowee! I found a number of references to AnneJoy as either an outright content thief or certainly, a blatant copier.

Both Nicky Ree and Blaze Columbia filed DMCA actions against AnneJoy. In Nicky Ree's case, Linden Lab forced the takedown of a number of outfits from the aDiva store. I don't know what happened with Blaze Columbia. Here are two linkies that compare the works.

Blaze Columbia vs. AnneJoy Paine

Nicky Ree vs. AnneJoy Paine

I wonder if her slavish minions know the history here? What makes it more interesting is that I own one of Blaze's gowns he says was copied, "Celestial" (and it's gorgeous), plus I'm pretty sure I have Nicky Ree's "Julia" dress somewhere in inventory.

DISCLAIMER - I'm not implying in any way that AnneJoy is engaged in any sort of copying now. I wouldn't know.

October 2, 2010

How not to treat a customer in Second Life

Warning -- this is a rant about something that happened to me in Second Life today.

Does "aDiva" mean arrogance or are you simply a Paine?

I don't like writing blog posts like this because it can come across as petty sniping. However, I'm soooo annoyed with how I was treated by well-known designer, AnneJoy Paine (aDiva couture), that I had to say something.

First, to be clear, AnneJoy is a very good designer. I have bought several of her outfits AND even paid the $250L to belong to her group. I also blogged about one of her outfits that I won last year during Halloween (read Blood Red Bitch). So this is in no way any dissing of her design skills. Rather, it's how she treats a customer who dares to question her in any way.

Today, AnneJoy sent out a group gift -- a cute mini-dress with matching garter stockings called "Virtue & Vice". Here's the outfit as it comes from the box. As you can see, the stockings end well above the ankle. Normally, when I see garter belts and stockings, I think stilettos or pumps. Which made me wonder, hmm, how should you wear this?

Running through my inventory, I tried almost every boot imaginable. All the ankle boots were too short and showed the skin. All the calf boots just looked clunky.

So, being curious, I went into the aDiva couture Grou Chat and asked a simple it is from my chat log:
[2010/10/02 15:24]  Snickers Snook: Hi the new group gift is yummy but the stockings end above the ankle. Any suggestions for how to wear them? The outfit doesn't look right with boots. ^_^
A few suggestions popped up on boots which were fine when AnneJoy herself jumped into the conversation with a small wall of text about how boots would be great and that's what I should do. So then I said....
[2010/10/02 15:29]  Snickers Snook: ahh well when I see garter stockings, I always think and feel heels ;)
At this point, the conversation took a weird turn with Anne telling me I need to learn about the difficulties of SL and their "templates". Here's the rest of the chat log (for the record, I moved a couple of lines around that were chat delayed on my end).
[2010/10/02 15:30]  AnneJoy Paine: and learn about the difficulties of sl and their templates ;)))
[2010/10/02 15:31]  Snickers Snook: Well since a stocking layer wasn't included, you could combine the undie and stocking for one continuous set right?
[2010/10/02 15:30]  AnneJoy Paine: ;)
[2010/10/02 15:30]  AnneJoy Paine: i would suggest
[2010/10/02 15:30]  AnneJoy Paine: then
[2010/10/02 15:31]  AnneJoy Paine: and you can complain
[2010/10/02 15:31]  AnneJoy Paine: as you prefer
[2010/10/02 15:31]  AnneJoy Paine: yes
[2010/10/02 15:31]  AnneJoy Paine: ;)
[2010/10/02 15:31]  Snickers Snook: just a suggestion not a complaint Anne
[2010/10/02 15:31]  AnneJoy Paine: ;)))
[2010/10/02 15:32]  AnneJoy Paine: i thnk you should start design yourself
[2010/10/02 15:32]  AnneJoy Paine: to make things like you want them
[2010/10/02 15:32]  AnneJoy Paine: or pay for a gift
[2010/10/02 15:32]  Snickers Snook: and I also blog about fashion
[2010/10/02 15:32]  Snickers Snook: including your items now & then
[2010/10/02 15:32]  Snickers Snook: but I will find something that looks cute in my inventory :)
[2010/10/02 15:32]  Snickers Snook: and I've always been very favorable toward them
[2010/10/02 15:33]  Snickers Snook: (And yes Anne, I have designed fashion items too)
[2010/10/02 15:33]  AnneJoy Paine: i am pretty sure there are lots of designs which are better then mine ;) just try them
[2010/10/02 15:33]  Snickers Snook: sigh
[2010/10/02 15:33]  Snickers Snook: ok
[2010/10/02 15:33]  Snickers Snook: I know when I've hit a sore spot here
[2010/10/02 15:34]  AnneJoy Paine: ;)
[2010/10/02 15:36]  Snickers Snook: For crying out loud, I made one little comment suggestion -- I've bought many aDiva items full price.
[2010/10/02 15:36]  AnneJoy Paine: snickers
[2010/10/02 15:36]  AnneJoy Paine: ;)
[2010/10/02 15:36]  Snickers Snook: forget it
[2010/10/02 15:39]  AnneJoy Paine: yes and save some space for upgrowing designers like Snickers ;)))

Kicked out of the aDiva couture group

Right when I said "forget it", AnneJoy kicked me out her group but chat continued to run and I picked up the one last snarky line from her. In between all of this were comments from group members varying from "you're wonderful Anne" to a couple that told Anne to lighten up. I also got two private IMs both saying they thought Anne had gone over the top and one saying I was wrong to criticize a freebie. However, when I told them I had been booted from the group, all expressed outrage. Remember, you have to pay $250L to belong to aDiva couture in the first place.

So here's the real issue. Does a pixel clothing designer really believe she is so good that she can never take a customer comment without acting like she's been personally insulted? Or is it insecurity? I have dealt with many designers and yes, I design clothes too. Virtually ALL of them treat customer comments as valuable feedback -- in fact I can't remember EVER having a response like this from any other creator. They either take the time to explain why they did something the way they did or the tell me it was a good idea or suggestion. But not AnneJoy. Sad because her designs are generally quite good.

Now as to the stockings, YES, you can connect the garter portion to the foot by using the underwear layer and the socks layers together. I've done it myself and I have several pairs of pixel pantyhose. :) Even if my design was a freebie, I think I would still make it versatile enough to allow for boots OR heels.

Oh and I finally found some boots in my inventory that looked "right" with the outfit so to be 100% fair, here's the end result. Pretty cute huh?

P.S. If you think I was wrong here, let me know. I welcome honest criticism. :)

September 25, 2010

Transaction black hole at Second Life Marketplace

In the push to migrate everything out of XStreet SL to the Second Life Marketplace, some major problems have cropped up. One of the biggest is the lack of a clear trail between the customer's purchase, the delivery of the item and payment of the merchant.

A pJira has been opened on it.

The problem is all transactions go through an intermediary account - Marketplace Linden. It's similar to how the XStreet SL system worked but the reporting is not right. The transaction ID the customer gets is NOT the same as what happens when the merchant is paid. If you look through the Jira issue, Sassy Romano has done a great job of showing where things get lost.

I know the Linden Lab programmers are working long and hard on SL Marketplace but seriously, it looks to me like the migration has been pushed too fast too soon. While I had the occasional delivery glitches with XStreet SL, I could solve them fairly easily because there was a clear trail between the transaction as reported via email and the Magic box delivery. Now it's sort of all muddled together.

Several merchants are reporting not even seeing the money going into their accounts -- which is very disturbing.

LL, you have to fix this before shutting off XStreet.

September 18, 2010

Early Adopters of Facebook

I just got these from a friend (thanks Ben) and they have to be the funniest things I've read in weeks! I don't know who did these originally but kudos to them!

September 10, 2010

New release from Inga Wind - Connie

A sort of 1920's can-can look meets gypsy girl! Whatever you call it, c'est très jolie and it shows once again that Inga really has her design-style firmly on the girly-girl side of fashion.

As far as fitting goes, I had to adjust both the prim skirt (make it a big bigger for my butt) and move the ruffles up. Both simple to do and no stress. As always with Inga's outfits, the textures match perfectly and the blend from system to prims is almost seamless.

NOTE: If you join Inga's inworld group, Connie is yours for $300. Otherwise, it's $450. Outfit comes with matching shoes and the belt is built into the prim skirt. Hair orchid and choker are my own accessories.

September 7, 2010

Emerald Viewer to be blocked from Second Life

As of Wednesday, September 8, 10:00 am, all versions of the Emerald Viewer will be blocked from accessing Second Life. This includes the last release. Read Joe Linden's blog post about it. Anyone logging in to SL or with a valid email contact should have also received direct notice from Linden Lab about the change.

This is truly sad in many respects because Emerald held such promise and was, for a long time, my viewer of choice for building, creating and playing in Second Life. However, it does show the limitations of open source projects especially when they are tied to people with shady records in Second Life.


If you must have an Emerald clone going forward, then the Phoenix Viewer ( might be a good option. The development team, composed of some Emerald folks with some new members, has promised complete transparency. This is not a guarantee of a drama-less future however. The team is large and the Emerald project has always been very ambitious. So who knows?

Other options are Imprudence (which I'm using) or Kirstens Viewer (which I like and KirstenLee is awesomeness).  If you want the last version of Emerald itself compiled from "known trusted sources" by LordGregGreg Back, the go here.

If you use an official viewer, I'd lean toward Snowglobe or maybe the old SL version 1.23 viewer. While Viewer 2.1 has greatly improved texture loading speed over the old lines, the UI is just so arcane and difficult, it may well lead to short-term insanity. If you feel like being on the bleeding edge, then you can play with Project Snowstorm AKA the Development Viewer which is also available from the SL main viewer download page.

That is all -- back to your regularly scheduled viewer drama my dahlings!

September 3, 2010

Second Life viewer drama

I think I'm about to go crazy with viewer madness. Can anything be more strange than all the drama unfolding with Emerald? Seriously, I leave SL for a few weeks and return to a warning from Linden Lab about Emerald being non-compliant. WTH??

Running off to the official Emerald website, I found a new version available for download. WTH again! Then I traipse over to the Modular Systems blog, where I found Arabella Steadham's somewhat overwrought poetic note as an end to Emerald ( Eek.

Then I came across a notecard from one of the groups I belong to in SL which was a quote from Jessica Lyon's final good-byes with her saga about being locked out of the developer site and so on. Uggghh!

I had actually heard rumblings about problems with the Emerald team a few months back so, being a cautious kitty, I installed Imprudence and started playing with it. I dearly missed some of Emerald's features but when push comes to shove, I really do NOT want to risk my password or other nonsense to an untrusted team. Plus, if even half the stories about one of the Emerald devs logging IP info were true, well, you get the picture. :(

Now the latest just came in from another group notice that Jessica is reforming the development team under the name Phoenix! Woohoo! Added drama! Read here!

At least I know one of the names on the Phoenix developer list -- Kitty Barnett. She seems like a good sort. And Lord Greg Greg has promised (really, really) that his days of griefiing are behind him.

OK, so what should a Snickitty do? Like most of you, I think I'll just wait and see. If things work out, so be it. If not, I sure hope Viewer 2 gets its act together because trust is sadly lacking on many fronts. Right now I'm sticking to Imprudence.

UPDATE: OK, please tell me. Why does Jessica Lyon list her name variously as Jessicai Lyon, Jessica Lyon and Jessica Lyons depending on which site you're viewing. On the Phoenix site, she is Jessicai. On the Emerald site she was Jessica Lyons and Lyon. Color her confused? And me too?

July 30, 2010

New releases from Inga Wind

Inga Wind just released two new color ways for her very stylish "Jackie" and "Kelly" outfits. Jackie in orange is very striking. Ready for business but with a nod to fun! Kelly in navy is what I might call "cocktail caberet". It sort of has a French can-can grrl look but still modern and tres chic. $250L and $300L respectively.

SLURL to: Inga Wind Clothing.

July 28, 2010

Hope for Second Life Marketplace?

I had a long chat with Brodesky Linden last night which I think was productive and somewhat eye-opening. Brodesky corrected me on a few things I put in my previous blog post while giving me some sense of what Linden Lab plans for Second Life Marketplace. He also took some of my suggestions to heart and indicated that you might see them in the next iteration of the SL Marketplace beta. I'm not going to detail some of the things that were a bit "internal" to the Lab but I will tell you that I thought Brodesky was being as honest and straight with me as he possibly could. One thing he did make clear was that the 30% layoff at the Lab has hit them all really hard. We were chatting up to around 11:00 pm SLT and Brodesky was still working (via laptop at a cafe). Most of the development folks are working 18-hour days. :(

One thing Brodesky mentioned was that, while he might not have wanted to put the beta out so soon, the Lab did convert over 1.2 million listings and perhaps 30K of those didn't come over correctly. But of course, the 30K that got fouled up generated a lot of negative posts and a ton of tickets.

Also, he told me there are 100 merchants of all different sizes participating in the design & beta of the Marketplace -- but the reason you don't know what their feedback is or how things are being incorporated is because they're all under NDAs.

So here we go on some specrfics (I hope I got all these correct):
  1. Formatting for listings. The "no BBCode" statement is a final, however that doesn't mean that some form of editor for offering limited formatting might not be included. Bullets (& numbering??) may be added right off. Bolding and italics maybe. However, it's pretty clear that LL is not going to back away from the uniform look and feel they want in the marketplace.
  2. Custom fields. My comment was that if you couldn't do a lot of formatting for a listing, you needed to make up for it more fields for information. This seemed like a good idea to Brodesky -- we'll see where it goes.
  3. Color / size options. Not sure we really pinned this down but it sounds like there are plans to implement something along this line.
  4. Picture formats. I was not aware that 512x512 is now allowed and will not be scaled.
  5. Picture limitations. The limit of 8 probably won't change in the short term however they are looking into some way of addressing texture vendors and their unique problems. Coverflow was mentioned as a possible solution (I have no idea what that really is). :)
  6. Object ID and updates. Many of concerns voiced by creators like me who have versioned objects seem to have been heard. They are looking at some way of handling these uniquely. The primary concern at the Lab seems to be preventing "gaming" through bait and switch of high rated items with junk. Personally I've never come across this in all my years of shopping OnRez, SLX and XStreet so I'm not sure if it isn't a solution in search of a real problems. Regardless, I was pretty adamant that we needed SOME way of preserving good ratings and reviews for items that simply change via bug fixes or added features. One issue is that LL would really like to get rid of Magic Boxes. However, that's what allows you to sub a product in name only.
  7. Search. Haha, we never got around to discussing it.
  8. Networked vendors. There seems to be a split internally about what to do about these. No conclusion here. 
  9. Storefronts. The new URLs will consolidate all of a merchant's items. And the product listings will be SEO-friendly. We also discussed having something like  /snickerssnook or /snickers.snook also point to all of the merchant's items. However, due to uniqueness requirements, no custom store names for this. :(
  10. Video vs. GIF89a. Clearly the Lab-rats don't like GIF89a for product demos. It's a design issue, not technical. However, they are open to embedding video from a trusted site (like YouTube) in listings to give better product information. I thought may they could allow ONE animated GIF and all others must be static formats.
  11. More categories -- suggestions wanted! Finally, Brodesky challenged little old me to suggest more categories that could be included in the Marketplace. I'm not sure I'm the best for this. So, if you have any suggestions for categories, post your list up here and I'll pass them along. Or I'm sure Brodesky would take them in a notecard -- or a JIRA could be created.
  12. Multiple categories. I hit this point several times. We need a way to have ONE product appear in more than one category. I don't care if the Lab charges a premium for each extra one. It would cut down some clutter AND increase sales. I could see limiting it to a maximum of three. However, category abuse should be a reportable offense.
  13. Abusive reviews. We both agreed that some way of flagging abusive or inappropriate reviews needs to be found. I know there are lots of ways to handle this -- from a flagging system to "this review was helpful or not" system. I think a merchant advisory board could handle this.
So there you have it. Very long chat and hopefully things are being nudged in a better direction. That said, the proof is always in the pudding, or prims, or plywood cube. Until things actually happen, you're never 100% convinced. But I'm a shade more optimistic now. :)

July 25, 2010

Second Life Marketplace -- headed for failure?

Historical perspective

First some background. I've been creating and selling virtual goods since mid-2007. Shortly after I opened my first shop inworld, I created a web-based store at OnRez. (For those who don't remember, OnRez was created as an alternative to SL Exchange (SLX) which at the time, was the main web-based site for virtual goods shopping.) After roughly six months of moderate sales through OnRez, I put all my items on SLX too. Between the two, I did pretty well. In fact, my web-based sales soon outstripped my inworld sales by 3 to 1.

Since I had started with OnRez, I could really see the difference between the two platforms. While OnRez always seemed to me the more organized and elegant venue, SLX clearly had the critical mass of shoppers that made it more viable. As things progressed, my OnRez sales dropped to maybe one-fifth those of SLX. But I always remember thinking how great it would be if someone could take OnRez' good points (real merchant storefronts, customizable product listings, excellent search, working filters) and combine them with SLX's (mass listings, templates, ratings systems, etc.).

So it was with both great anticipation and trepidation that I took the news that Linden Lab had bought both SLX (changed to XStreet SL) and OnRez. For sure the lack of real competition would be a negative, but the potential for the Lab to combine the features of the two services would be a real positive for both customers and merchants!

Alas (and alack), twas not to be the case. All that happened was that OnRez was closed down and XStreet SL was allowed to "bump" along with virtually no changes other than the XStreet merchant forums were closed and forced into a raggedy migration into the SL blogrums.

The dreaded "Freebies Roadmap"

The first hints of real change to XStreet SL came with the abrupt announcement by Commerce Team leader, Colossus Linden, of the "Freebies Roadmap" --an ill-conceived and poorly thought-out plan to treat freebies as "advertising" and charge significant monthly listing fees. While there was some merit to the idea in general, it was presented as a solution to solve the problem of "stale listings". And, it was "sold" as something that merchants had been adamantly demanding.

You would have thought the gates of Hell had been torn open. Between the organized protests at Commerce & Pink's office hours (I participated in one myself) and the posts in the Merchant and public forums, it was clear there was really very little solid support for what Colossus outlined. In fact, the reality was a handful of large merchants had been pushing to remove freebies altogether (so they wouldn't rob sales). Colossus' solution would have still allowed them but it would have been so prohibitively expensive that only those same large merchants could have afforded to offer them. Plus, they would have been completely crippled by being hidden in their own separate area of XStreet SL -- segregated from regular listings -- that even their value as advertising vehicles would have been minimal.

In spite of the numerous calls for a rethink by an overwhelming number of shoppers and merchants alike, Colossus' and Pink's attitudes were essentially -- it's done, we don't need to listen, it's our way or the highway. What really annoyed most of us as merchants was that the Freebies Roadmap did nothing to advance the usability of XStreet SL. In fact, it was perceived by most as a solution to a problem that really didn't exist.

The real problems with XStreet SL

So what were (and are) the real problems with XStreet SL?? Here are my thoughts -- in no particular order of priority.
  1. Search has been "broken" for a long time. What you search for is rarely what shows up in results. While there are advanced search techniques available, the average customer of XStreet SL isn't aware of them and gets easily frustrated by what's returned by the default.
  2. Inadequate listing categories. Some items, such as clothing, receive relatively high levels of granularity while others, such as textures, get none. Textures for fabric, builds, landscape, clothing, etc. all get lumped into one meta category. Categories are often capricious. In addition, there is no way of listing one item across multiple categories. For example, one of my items can be listed in Chat Devices, Babies or Humorous. But not all three like it should be.
  3. No way to combine product listings based on color or size variations. For example, one style of stiletto heels may be offered in 20 different colors. Yet, the merchant has to create 20 separate listings for each color variation. The same holds for other product variants such as size or perms. This problem is awful when applied to inexpensive merchandise. I can't tell you how annoying it is to wade through literally 30 or more (awful) $10L bikinis that vary only in color when a simple customizable dropdown could reduce 30 to 1 listing.
  4. Ratings system is easily gamed. While ratings are a good idea and generally helpful, they can be gamed positively through artificial buying or from malicious efforts by competitors. Plus there's no way to pull a bad rating once one's been given regardless of how it came about in the first place.
  5. Listings with little or no sales activity are allowed to stay up forever. This is one of the problems the Freebies Roadmap was supposed to address. However, regular purges of items not selling for 6 months or for merchants who haven't logged into SL for 6 months would have solved the problem with far less angst.
  6. No merchant storefront capability. OnRez let merchants create virtual storefronts for their products. You got a dedicated URL ( in my case) that was a nice landing page that showed everything I sold by category. XStreet only offers an obscure Merchant ID number and there is no landing page.
  7. Incoherent and inconsistent listing "enhancements". The cost / benefits to different types of listing enhancements are totally out of whack. While some are effective, others, especially those in the clothing categories, are useless simply due to lack of granularity. It's like trying to boldface an ad on Craigslist when every other ad is already boldfaced.
  8. No real partnership between customers, merchants and Linden Lab personnel. Ever since Linden Lab took over XStreet SL, the "Commerce Team" has seemed hell bent on straining what little relations existed between the average online merchant. Further, the interaction with those team members has been contentious, one-way and arrogant. This "attitude" continues to this day even in responses to JIRA requests and bug reports dealing with XStreet SL / SL Marketplace issues. Clearly, the Lab has only been listening to very large merchants while actual customers have all but been ignored.
  9. An ill-considered attempt to put product wishlists onto Facebook. In spite of  a resounding chorus of "don't waste your time" comments by merchants in the forums, the Commerce Team went ahead and tried (but never really succeeded) to put product wishlists into Facebook. Obviously they never considered that Facebook doesn't allow avatars as users making it a futile exercise from the start. Yet even after being told that, they went ahead anyway. The plug was pulled thank god.

Now a couple things that Linden Lab has done right with XStreet SL is to merge the payment system so you can pay for an item on XStreet SL with your regular SL account AND to promote using XStreet SL to residents. Oh and the Freebies Roadmap was ultimately abandoned due to "technical problems" (but most of us think they realized how ill-considered it was).

And now, the Second Life Marketplace beta

So naturally, one would think going forward, that Linden Lab would look at the landscape of what's available for real life shopping, see what the strong points of OnRez were, see what the strong points of XStreet SL are, and then find out what merchants want and what customers want. BZZZZZZZZTTT. WRONG!!

None of that happened. In fact, the FIRST hint of what was to come with SL Marketplace was when merchants were TOLD they needed to resize all their product photos because the Marketplace would only support images with one fixed aspect ratio. At first, it was going to be 5:4 which caused all sorts of screams from merchants since it's not even a normal SL ratio or real life shopping ratio. Ultimately the ratio was fixed at 4:3 (700 x 525) but it was still a thumb in the eye for most merchants since 90% of all product and package photos are square due to square packages inworld AND due to the fixed ratios for inworld uploads. Oh and you're also now limited to just 8 pictures per listing.

The next clue that bad things were happening was when merchants were told to REMOVE all BBcode and HTML formatting from their product descriptions in preparation for the migration to the SL Marketplace. This was (and is) a killer. Imagine a product listed on Amazon or eBay without bolding, italics, bullets, numbered lists, font changes, underlines, block quotes or links. Yep, that's your new Marketplace. Sterile and wiped clean of any ability to create readable listings for users. One of my own listings has become unreadable in its migration to beta. Coupled with a new limit of 5000 characters for listings, many merchants are starting to throw in the towel.

Oh I forgot to mention -- the rationale for taking this huge step backwards in flexibility over listings is supposedly about creating a more "predictable experience" for the customer. Well I can tell you that NOT one customer I've talked to or read forum posts from thinks this new experience is better. To a person, they all think it's much, much worse.

There are currently some 50+ pJIRAs connected through a meta issue dealing with the new restrictions Linden Lab has put in place. Yet, those working on the SL Marketplace have indicated absolutely ZERO willingness to backtrack and they continue to move toward a less-capable, less-user and merchant friendly web market.

For example, here's a JIRA to restore some sort of formatting ability to listings. In spite of 104 votes for it plus some very rational arguments in favor, the issue was summarily closed by Linden Lab and Brodesky Linden made one comment, "Sorry no bbcode in the site." No reasons, no other comments. He effectively dismissed everyone's concerns with an imperious wave of his keyboard.

Now, one of the biggest issues of all has just cropped up and that's the inability for the new Marketplace to handle "product upgrades". In the past, when a merchant has upgraded a product (like offering a new feature or a script that fixed some bugs), all you had to do was drop the new version into the magic box. As long as the item name was the same, the new version became the new item. NOW, it appears that because the item has a different Object ID, it is going to be treated as a new and different item!!! This means that any product ratings or reviews the item had will no longer apply to the new version!

TOTAL INSANITY!!! I sell a scripted product (Evil Pregnant Tummy Talker) that I've made numerous improvements to. Some are bug fixes, some are actual added features. The product has ALWAYS received 90% 5 star reviews and currently is rated about 4.75 stars. For me to LOSE that rating and all the reviews tied to it just because I added a new feature is just crazy!! Yet, Linden Lab's code rats aren't taking this into account in the new Marketplace. GRRRRR!!!!

Closing thoughts

The Second Life Marketplace beta has shown that instead of moving forward with all the wonderful possibilities for virtual shopping, Linden Lab seems to be moving backwards -- choking the life out of their own platform. And so far, virtually NONE of the good suggestions offered by merchants and customers (ie. those outlined above as XStreet SL limitations) have been put into place.

Where are the multiple product listings? Real storefronts? Flexible listings? Formatting? Working search? All of the things merchants have wanted for years aren't there, but a slew of new technical and policy limitations are. That's not progress. Plus, a LOT of merchants are very disheartened over a "we know better than you" attitude coming from members of the Commerce Team and those responsible for developing Second Life Marketplace.

I sincerely WANT the Marketplace to succeed. If the Marketplace succeeds, I'll make more $L, customers will be happier and Linden Lab will make more real money. So my suggestions and comments are really designed to push in the direction that I and a lot of my fellow merchants see as necessary for that success.

P.S. Philip Rosedale, I hope you're listening 'cuz teh Lab got some 'splainin' to do. You need to kill Mark Kingdon's "predictable user experience" mantra and do it quickly. People didn't join Second Life for predictable experiences. We joined to let our creativity shine.

July 19, 2010

Help organize my blog!

I just noticed today that my arbitrary "tagging" of articles I've written has gotten out of hand. Tags or labels as Blogger calls them, are how content sort of gets organized. After getting rid of all the single occurrence labels, I noticed that some, like "second life" applied to almost everything I write about (although not all). You can see the results of my cleanup in the "cloud" listing of topics in the right-hand column.

So the question for all you who bother to read my ramblings, what sorts of labels would make more sense to you? How would YOU like to see my blog organized? Are there other labels you think would make more sense? I don't organize this thing into discrete page areas and ain't about to. So give me your thoughts on how I should use labels. Thanks!!!

Shut down Second Life's web-based shopping!!!

To be clear up front, this is not what I want to do!

But I'm frankly surprised by the increasing number of people in the Second Life forums (blogrums) who are calling for Linden Lab to do exactly that. They seem to think that closing XStreet SL / SL Marketplace (and by extension, Apez or any other third-party shopping site) will be some kind of magic bullet that will restore the wonders of in-world shopping to its former, pre-web glory days. I say "only in your lag-induced dreams people."

Numbers don't lie.

As a part-time merchant who first began selling my clothing creatins inworld and then expanded to OnRez when some big merchants like Simone Stern did, I've always seen the majority of my sales coming from the web alternatives. Whether via OnRez or SLX/XStreet/SL Marketplace, sales of my products consistently do much better via the web than in-world.
Some of this is traffic related. When my shop has been in a busy area, I do better. But even at my best locations (the mall outside of Blackhearts Cafe and a brief stint in the New York sim), in-world sales never passed web sales. I've been told I have a really nice looking store and the packaging is pretty good so I think it's really just a difference in medium. Many of my products in fact, are more suited to the detailed, extended presentations offered by XStreet SL.

When I pulled ALL of my items off XStreet SL for a month in protest over Colossus Linden's "Freebies Roadmap", my sales (and those of my fellow merchants who did likewise) plummeted in spite of the extra promotion I threw at the in-world location.

So what's wrong with in-world sales?

In-world (store-based) sales suffer from some very real limitations that often make the web-based shopping experience better for the average Second Life customer. A few come to mind:
  • Broken search
  • Lag
  • Poor display paradigms for many products
  • No ratings or reviews
  • No filtering or price sorting
  • Higher barriers to entry for new creators
Second Life has been plagued by crummy search for a long time. Whether it's due to traffic gaming or the inability for the Google search engine to effectively find what people are looking for, there's no denying that for most, search just doesn't return good, relevant results. Search for "babydoll dresses" and you're just as likely to end up with a dance club or some BDSM place as you are with actual outfits.

Lag is a big issues for me. My time in SL is valuable and if a store takes 15 minutes to fully rez, I'm not going to stay.

Many products (technical ones for example) don't lend themselves to the "picture-on-a-box-plus-notecard" approach that inworld presentations largely limit you to. Detailed, in-context listings with multiple photos and text (even with the 5000 character limit) are for more useful to many shoppers than camming through endless walls of unsorted, unfilterable, unrezzable items. I sell 20 Evil Tummy Talkers via the web for every ONE that I sell inworld. The added listing features of web-based presentations including sorting by price or relevance, product ratings & reviews and the ability to easily "gift" something clearly put web-based virtual goods shopping out in front of in-world shopping for MOST people.

And finally, for new creators, setting up a web-based presence is much less expensive and generally lower in maintenance than trying to create a quality in-world presence. It's time-consuming to build a store and the extra costs for land or rental often make the difference between profit and loss.

What's right with in-world sales?

This is not to say that there isn't a place for in-world sales. Of course there is. I love to find that special store or sale. If the lag is OK, it's more interesting shopping for something physically than it is looking through a catalog (although the usual "picture-on-a-box" presentation doesn't make the difference all that great). And for certain items, like furniture, builds, hair or skins, there's NO substitute for seeing the item rezzed in-world. Sure you can buy a demo from XStreet SL, but it's just not as seamless as playing with it in-world.

Snick's conclusions

What really needs to happen with BOTH in-world sales and web-based sales are improvements to the engines that power both. Right now, if the SL Marketplace beta is any indication of where Linden Lab is going with web-based sales, creators and customers alike are in for a greatly REDUCED selling and shopping experience. And unless the Lab can address tier costs, lag and search in meaningful ways, the same can be said for in-world sales.

July 17, 2010

Back to the Basics - Philip (Rosedale) Linden

Interesting after-hours blog post from Philip Linden. Of course it raises more questions than it answers but at least it signals an awareness that the underpinnings for Second Life (server code and Viewer 2) are in serious need of fixing.

I'm optimistic about the comments regarding making Viewer 2 the best. People forget that Philip actually uses SL and Snowglobe was largely his side project. Most experienced users and content creators hate Viewer 2 and opt for Emerald instead. Believe me, if Viewer2 could do 3/4 of what Emerald can do, I'd drop Emerald in a heartbeat just because of the trust issue.

As to the server side stuff, I'm less optimistic there. So many things have been ignored in the JIRAs that it will take major triage to address those things that residents think are important and even more work sorting through what the Lab thinks is cool vs. what's needed. The promise of faster iterations in software also seem to me a pipe dream -- especially with less staff.

My personal concern, being a part-time content creator and full-time fashionista, is what happens to both in-world and web-based content sales (XStreet / SL Marketplace). Linden Lab has royally screwed up the web-based markets and shows no signs of ever doing those right. In buying both XStreet (SLX) and OnRez one thinks they would have taken the best features of both to create their new platform. Instead, they started over from scratch with a hacked together combination of open source junk and incompetent design to come up with the Second Life Marketplace beta. The results have even the most ardent Lab fanbois & fangrrls screaming bloody murder.

Likewise, it seems that no matter what the Lab does to address search, concurrency, lag, photos, postcards, chat and groups, it just keeps getting worse. Plus, the ever-escalating hardware requirements further isolate Second Life. Getting rid of mentors and helpers shows the Lab's cluelessness about customer retention. Installing Jive SBS (Clearspace) to replace functioning forums was clearly an answer in search of a question no "customer" had asked (and of course, only made the problems worse).

And finally, the arrogance with which some Lab members (Wallace and Colossus in particular come to mind) treated customers (residents) only underscored an almost "us vs. them" mentality that I think was allowed to fester under Mark Kingdon.

I personally hope Second Life can succeed and that Philip can follow through. Lovely blog posts are not enough. We as residents really do need to be involved in the overall direction of SL and the tactics used to get there. We need to feel like real customers. Above all, we need results.

June 26, 2010

New Release: "Kelly" by Inga Wind

I love flirty, fun dresses and Inga's latest release, "Kelly", has to be one of the flirtiest, funnest, little numbers I've ever seen. Or worn. This outfit is "cute" defined. The textures on the prim frills match the outfit perfectly and, as usual, the perception of detail in the outfit is excellent. $300L including matching pumps.

Outfit: Kelly by Inga Wind
Shoes: Inga Wind
Stockings: LMI freebies
Skin: Rose Tan by Sncikers
Hair: "Svelty" by Damselfly

Inga Wind main store:

June 24, 2010

Mark Kingdon out as Linden Lab CEO

OMFG, this is the best news I've had all month (well, as far as Second Life goes).

Philip Rosedale returns to lab.

I have no idea what it portends but it's GOT to better than what Kingdon has wrought on our community! Philip at least "gets it" while Kingdon never did.

June 17, 2010

Great take on the state of Linden Lab

I was chatting with Joel Savard (Joel Foner in RL) in SL this evening. We were discussing the recent press release by Linden Lab (30% staff reductions etc) and the letter from M Linden (Mark Kingdon) to all SL residents which puts a slightly different spin on things from the press release. Bottom line? It's all BS. We're screwed. As a corporate PR grrl, I should know. I write this stuff for a living. Too bad they didn't even give the mess believable spin. Sigh.

So, if you want a great take on what's really going on with Linden Lab and Second Life, you have to read Crap Mariner's (aka Second Lie aka ??) blog post. It's a laundry list of grips and issues -- and every one of them is dead on.

Awesome blog post by Crap Mariner!

Also highly recommended reading:

June 9, 2010

Linden Lab Restructures - What next?

I'll start with the press release from Linden Lab today:

Linden Lab Restructures

Highlights - 30% personnel reductions, combining engineering and product teams into one, restructuring customer support to provide more "scalable services"  and moving toward a browser-based technology. Uggggh.

Is Linden Lab on crack? Why do I get that feeling all my content creation and that of others is destined for the trash bin? Why do I think we're headed for a Habbo Hotel morphed with Facebook experience? Maybe it's because Mark "Im a God" Kingdon seems to be pushing that direction with every executive decision this company makes. Does Teh Lab honestly think everyone has the bandwidth for a rich browser-based technology? Or am I thinking it's going to run on Flash? And can support get any worse? (Don't answer that, it probably can.)

Maybe combining engineering and product teams isn't such a bad thing -- after all, right now the two don't seem to talk to each other. Commerce, for example, makes decisions, announces them and then finds out months later that it can't be done. JIRA's go unanswered. Resident ideas are ignored. Even with Torley pushing big-time on the snapshot to email bug, it's still not fixed.

<sarcasm> But don't worry folks, all is OK. The balance sheet looks great. We're doing well. Ignore the man behind the curtain.

I'm getting a little tired of being whipsawed back and forth by this silly company that created a playground (where its residents can make such a rich experience for many of us) but seems destined to chuck it all in favor of the next new shinies. How about you?

May 28, 2010

New Releases: Forest Nymph Outfit + AO (Inga Wind & Ruy Bury)

Now for something a little different. Unless you've been living in a cave (virtual or otherwise), you know I'm a huge fan of Inga Wind. She makes some of the most complex and interesting outfits in Second Life -- especially if your tastes lean towards cocktail or "fairy" formal. This time, Inga has teamed up with Ruy Bury of CI to offer one of her fanciful "fae" (fairy) outfits along with a really fun Animation Override!
So here's the outfit exactly as it comes in the box -- complete with flapping wings, fanciful formal hair with foresty twigs for a crown and matching sculpty pumps. The only thing not included is the skin or shape. Since I was in an elfin mood, I went to Chakryn Forest to take the photos.

The fun really began when I tried out the AO. OMG, so cool! Everything from walking to sits, stands and flying comes out as if you were a forest nymph. Standing, for instance, floats you about 1 meter off the ground while you periodically do random flits, circles and spins. And there's nothing cheezy about these animations -- they are all very smooth and realistic (well as realistic as any forest nymph can be). There are two versions of the AO -- basic ($200L) and advanced ($400L). I used the advanced one for this review and it's well worth it for any self-respecting fairy. Also included with the advanced model is a wearable lady bug and a mushroom with several sit poses. Ohh and as a bonus, the animations are mod/copy! So you can take them out of the AO and use them elsewhere. Woo hoo!

I believe Inga has a group price for both the outfit and the AO together but I didn't have that as of the article writing.

CI Main Store (SLURL)

Inga Wind Fashion (SLURL)  -- Also carries the nymph AO with working demos

May 14, 2010

New Release: Jackie by Inga Wind

This outfit is a bit of a departure for Inga. I'm so used to seeing her wonderful fairy costumes and amazing cocktail dresses that when I looked at Jackie I was shocked! A business casual pants, vest and top set!

What impresses me is the top! The detail in the texture is incredible and does an excellent job of covering over those weird stretchy spots in the mesh. But what really blows me away are the vertical shadows and highlights that give the top a shiny, shirred look without the usual fakiness I see in so many other attempts. The boob shadows and highlights add to the sheen look. Add to this the integrated peplum in the pants and you have one original design that will knock your business casual panty hose off! The top also includes a cute little scarf with a prim bow which you can't really see in these photos.

If I had one small picky point it's that I'm not real crazy about the high belt. Like just about every belt that's on a fabric layer, it doesn't quite look "real" enough. Yet, a prim belt would be impossible here so it's just a limitation of the system.

As usual, Inga offers Jackie as a complete outfit including shoes (matching dark red pumps) and a second "plain" top without the butterfly trim (but who doesn't like butterflies??). Now the big surprise. This one's only $250L! ZOMG!

UPDATE: I have been wearing this outfit out in SL tonight for an hour and have had 3 unsolicited compliments on it!

SLURL to Inga Wind Clothing

Something's phishy with Second Life signatures

After the great phishing exploit of the Second Life Blogrums, Linden Lab disabled "certain features" of the Jive SBS (aka Jive Turkey) software that runs the forums / blogs. As it turns out, those features included some of the most common ones used by residents: quoting, smilies, bold formatting, images (to be expected) and video (to be expected).

Next on the hit list for security was Linden Lab limiting images on XStreet SL to only those served by Linden Lab's own servers. So no more YouTube vids or similar product demos. While none of those really affected me directly other than the royal PITA the blogs have become to use (as if things weren't awful enough), I found that trying to update my profile signature to use an <img> tag failed utterly. What I couldn't understand was why other residents had working active sigs with animated GIFs and all but I couldn't even stuff a stupid static GIF even off of an XStreet listing.

Several of us starting posting about this and low and behold, up pops Yoz Linden with this gem:

Yoz Linden post in SL blogs

So basically, sigs with images are grandfathered for residents who already had them because Linden Lab "assumes" they are safe. But anyone trying to update theirs is SOL. What a crock!!! I'm no webbie expert but from what I've learned (thanks in part to friends Patchouli Woollahrah and Maggie Darwin), it's trivial to replace an existing image with something malicious. It's not just the <img> tag itself that can be used maliciously but the file being linked to as well.

Plus, even if simply disabling sig editing is a sound technical answer, letting some residents have image sigs while others can't is inherently unfair.

On top of this, no one has said anything at all about the potential security holes in "Media on a Prim" (MOAP) which lets those so inclined watch even more pr0n from inside Second Life (she says sarcastically).

OK so again I ask the question, WHY did Linden Lab throw away vBulletin in favor of JIVE SBS (Clearspace)? Oh yeah, the reasons they gave were because vBulletin wasn't secure and wasn't scalable. Yet, as I pointed out here, some of the biggest community sites in the world (with far greater hacker exposure) run vBulletin and phpBB. JIVE SBS doesn't even crack the top 500 for sites in terms of posts or user base.

So let me translate Linden Lab speak for you. "We had no clue then. We have no clues now. We like shiny things. Ooooh SQUIRREL!!"

May 3, 2010

Donut guns, yellow submarines and sculpty ovens!

I've been really busy putting my new store location together so I haven't had the chance to get out and explore SL much lately. But a few nights ago (actually early early AM) I saw my friend Patchouli Woollahra online inworld (@PatchouliW on Twitter) and decided to say hi. That simple greeting led to the exploration of an amazing shop full of toys and gizmos including my newly acquired giant donut gun and wearable yellow submarine plus the results of Patch's sculpty baking in her new oven!

For those who don't know Patchouli, she is a somewhat geeky, very smart, sharp-tongued, always witty, usually blue avatar (cartoon kitty or chibi-robot) from Singapore. I love her tweets on Twitter but really never met her in-world until this little side adventure.

The donut gun!

First thing I saw was Patchouli and her new donut gun. It fires off regular donuts (in a variety of flavors) plus the occasional giant donut. Patch says she was looking for giant police to use it on but I don't know if she found any.Anyway here's how every fembot should model their weapons:
Sorry that the whites are a little blown out. I had the studio lights on and should have turned them off for this photo. A little bit of color shift to the green side but then if I tweak it back blue -- ick. Ohhh well. (Sorry girl, you look much better than this but due to the big crash, the retake wasn't going to happen.)

S2 Store

So next up was my visit to the store that offers this silly thing. It's a group gift at the S2 store (links are SLURLs) -- home to mad genius sTwo Acker who makes all sorts of strange and fun things. The TP is a landing point so you'll need to cross the two bridges and go to the basement looking store. Join the subscribe-o-matic group in the front of the shop and get your gun for free!

Now here's where it really gets fun. The store is not only the shop for some amazing SL toys and tools, it's also the demo for the creator's "SLRail" system which is sort of like a kids train set you can build from parts. There are several jump-on points but be warned that they take you deep into another sim and it's difficult to get back to the shop.

So what can you find in the store? How about a wearable ground submarine? Wear it and you're off tooling around above, under or floating on the water. A HUD attachment lets you pick the mode. Very fun and attracted a lot of attention as I tooled around my home sim. Since it's wearable, no need to find a place to rez and ride. Of course, that means there's only room for one passenger -- you.

One of the interesting tools from xxxxx is a knot maker -- you position beads along a path and it creates a rope that follows them. Could be used for jewelry, artwork or other strange build that you couldn't achieve otherwise.

Sculpty Oven -- bake & take

But the most amazing tool of all is the Sculpty Oven! In fact, Patchouli was squealing with delight over it! It turns up to 16 ordinary prims into a pretty good copy using just 1 sculpted prim! I was very impressed after seeing the results from Patch when she copied a small bookshelf and sent the output to me:

Yes, that's 1 prim! Pretty cool huh?

So not my usual type of day in Second Life but definitely a fun one.

April 23, 2010

Jump, JIVE and fail!

Phish out of water!
As if things couldn't get any worse, yesterday Linden Lab was forced to shut down all Private Messages (PMs) in JIVE SBS as well as several other program features due to a successful phishing attack that used a security hole in PMs to gain access to people's passwords and account info. The other proggie features disabled include embedded images and vids as well as some formatting stuff.

I wondered why I saw a PM notice in my email account but when I went to the flogs to read it, a message simply said that feature was "unavailable". So did Linden Lab notify everyone up front? Oh no no noooo!. They buried it in the Community section. Did they do a MOTD? Oh no no noooo! Trusting our real life information to the current regime at Linden Lab is becoming increasingly suspect. Now on to the original article....

Jump, JIVE and Fail!
Today's topic grrlz, boyz and furrehz is JIVE SBS, the software platform that Linden Lab uses to power its dreaded blog / forums aka the "blogrums". First a disclaimer, I'm no expert on bulletin board software except as frequent user of different forums and as a beginner/intermediate LSL scripter. So take what I say with many grains of virtual salt. :)

I'll admit I was thoroughly ticked off when teh Lab shut down a perfectly good, working forum at XStreet SL (aka SLX) and moved it to their fancy, shiny Clearspace (JIVE Software) platform. And I was likewise ticked off when they moved the Resident Answers forums over to same. Why? Because the old vBulletin forums were searchable, organized reasonably well, used screen real estate efficiently, had a functional editor and allowed signatures. Plus they were in a "standard" format that most other web-based forums use. You didn't have to learn to drive the car all over again.

What we got with Clearspace was flashy looking (yeah it "looks" like Web 2.0) but offered nothing more usable and in fact gave us broken search, an editor from hell (jumping cursor, no multiple quoting, random indenting, no embedded spell check, etc.), took up huge amounts of screen real estate for minimal content, no signatures, no real thread tools, poor organization, reduced readability, etc., etc.

And of course, when asked why Linden Lab moved to Clearspace in the first place, we were told that vBulletin simply wasn't "scalable" or "capable enough" to power the new, improved (The fact that some of the largest web bulletin board sites in the world use vBulletin seems to escape Teh Lab -- more on this later.)

The failed upgrade.

Needless to say, thinking the blogrums couldn't get any worse, most of us SL'ers were eagerly looking forward to the long promised upgrade to the second generation platform, JIVE SBS ("SBS" = Social Business Software). We were told it would address many of the usability issues, fix bugs, improve speed, yada yada.

And what happened? JIVE SBS got installed and just about everything went to hell. Let's see:
  • search is worse than ever
  • editor is still borked -- jumping cursor, broken quotes, broken indent, HTML no longer works
  • can't edit (change) your own post once posted
  • serious security flaws that exposed real life email addresses and apparently, for some, their real life names.
  • history for many was deleted
  • password integration was used from XStreet SL but doesn't translate correctly to the blogs so you don't stay logged in
  • many residents can no longer login period and are now forced to using alts to post
  • logins treat "Snickers Snook" and "snickers Snook" and "snickers snook" as separate accounts
  • recent activity is blanked
  • response has slowed down dramatically -- sometimes taking minutes for new pages of posts to display
And yesterday, we got this acknowledgment by Wallace Linden of the problems:
Thanks, everyone, for your patience while we continue to iron out the upgrade to our blogs and forums software. We're actively working on the issues that have been brought up in this thread (as well as others we've uncovered) and have already begun pushing fixes to the software. Each of these, of course, requires additional testing, so you won't see all the bug fixes all at once, but you will start to see the effects of things over the next few days and early next week, and going forward from there. It has definitely helped to have people reporting these bugs to us. Again, thanks for your patience, and thanks as well for your feedback.
Another JIVE SBS failure - Harmony Central

So once again, WHY did the Lab roll out such a flawed piece of software and WHY are they using JIVE in the first place?? This led me to do a bit of internet searching for other sites using JIVE SBS. While my search wasn't real productive (hey, there aren't that many sites using JIVE), I turned up an interesting one called Harmony Central. It's a very popular bulletin board / web portal for musicians featuring product reviews, user-to-user discussions and user-to-expert posts. Lo and behold, Harmony Central JUST converted to JIVE SBS from vBulletin, much like Linden Lab. Apparently the rationale was similar -- scalability and integration with their other web shinies.

Well guess what. Users on Harmony Central hate JIVE SBS! (Click to read some of the posts.) The level of vitriol being thrown at Harmony Central's management is nothing short of astounding to me. It makes the invective often directed at Linden Lab sound mild in comparison.

They rolled JIVE back and out!

In fact, the hate and rate of attrition from the site obviously became so bad that HC's management actually did something about it. (SHOCKING!!) The CEO announced a rollback to the original forums (vBulletin)!! OMG!! I think I'm gonna faint. If Mark Kingdon ever admitted a mistake like that and actually did something similar about it, I'd expect the world to stop spinning on its axis and look for the immediate second coming of Jesus. Now admittedly HC does not appear inclined toward rethinking their whole JIVE move right now but at least they're "looking" at it. So half the site was rolled back to a previous version of JIVE while the other (most important) half reverted to vBulletin.

What more on the JIVE front?

The next part of my search adventures led me to another interesting site -- where you can find most of the large web-based bulletin boards ranked according to number of posts, users and software. Well guess what? Most of the largest BBS are either running phpBB or vBulletin! The largest site running JIVE is Sun's Java forum ranked #748. I guess Sun would use JIVE since it's the only one of any size written in Sun's own Java.

So my conspiracy twitchy nose says this smells like a backroom venture capital or board-level connection between Linden Lab and Jive Bunny Software. On the surface, there sure doesn't seem to be any rational explanation for a company that so clearly depends on user-to-user communication to want to shoot itself in the foot with JIVE SBS. Is there?

April 20, 2010

Microsoft Guided Help - Amazing!

OK, I think I'm a fairly smart cookie -- or candy bar -- but sometimes I overlook the obvious.

Due to a horrific crash and an accumulated slowdown on my PC, my tech friend and I spent the better part of Sunday and Monday reinstalling Microsoft Windows XP and my software. Now I'm back up and running (mostly) with a few things left to do (like install all my Adobe stuff -- ughh). Anyway, after the install, I couldn't figure out what happened to my old favorite icon -- Show Desktop. It wasn't there. So I did a Google search for "missing show desktop icon". What pops up? This page from Microsoft.

Several solutions are offered including Windows Key + D (which I didn't know) plus an icky script thing which I'm too lazy to do. And what's this?? A "Fix this problem" button. I've never seen that before. Being a curious kitty, I clicked it and got the usual download request for something mysterious called GSA ACW packages.
Hmmm OK, I'll run it. Told you I'm a curious kitty. (Which is probably why my system was so junked up it needed reinstalling. My tech friend was like uggghhh.)

Anywho, next thing I know, I'm getting a guided tutorial on how to fix the problem including a moving cursor, dimmed Windows and highlights. What it did was tell me the icon was already installed and activated my Quick Launch bar (see I really do sometimes miss the obvious). Yay! It was very cool watching it do all this automagically while showing each step. So Microsoft, you have a winning approach with this one!

April 6, 2010

Two new outfits - Hope & Black Beauty

Black Beauty by Venusdesign
OK, I admit it, I'm a sucker for inexpensive stuff. When a notice came in from FashCon for a $5L outfit from Venusdesign that looked pretty cute in the photo, I hit the TP limo immediately! And there I am to the right wearing it! What you see is what you get -- boots, skirt, top (with prim cuffs), stockings and an adorable hat that just happens to fit my rather fluffy hair (Pya by Damselfly). Click the photo for a larger view.

My only criticism is that some of the details aren't very sharp -- the buckles on the top look hand drawn and the boots are newbish. But hey, what do you want for only $5L??? The concept is great and it could be the perfect outfit the next time you need a goth girl/french maid look. I also looked around Venusdesign a bit and found lots of interesting looking outfits with much more detail in them than this. There's also stuff for guys including some nice looking suits if you're so inclined. Prices are very reasonable.

SLURL: Venusdesign

Hope in Yellow by Inga Wind

I covered the original Hope outfit in my blog about a month ago and was amazed then. Well I'm even more impressed by Hope in Yellow! I think it complements the textures much better than the peachy color of the original. It also sets off the green leafs in the prim dress much better and has a more "spring" feel. Plus I love lemon yellows which you don't see a lot of Second Life clothing.

The outfit includes everything you see in the photo plus a tiara (not worn), special diva hair (not worn) plus a cute swingset for your yard (note shown). Click the photo for a larger view. Visit my older blog post on Hope to see the hair and tiara worn.

Hope is $1200L regularly but Inga usually has a special deal for group members on new releases. Last time it was $800L

SLURL: Inga Wind Fashion

So that's it for now fashionistas! Next it's back to our regularly scheduled Linden Lab bashing.

April 3, 2010

Open Source and the Second Life Viewer

I got to thinking about this today in light of a number of different blogs I've been reading about the new Second Life Terms of Service and Third Party Viewer policy. One of those was Rob Lamphier's (aka Rob Linden) who wrote a piece about dual licensing and contributor agreements which I THINK was obliquely referencing Linden Lab's approach to the issue.

I won't pretend to be an expert on Open Source since I'm really just a user of the end results. However, I have an appreciation for what goes into the development process since I do a little scripting myself and am a connoisseur of third party viewers. Here's the punchline:

Linden Lab completely misses the point about the Viewer and where the value lies.

The Second Life Viewer (in any form) is ONLY a means to access content. It's like a browser. The real value is on the Linden Lab servers! It's the content. The financial system. The uploads that cost you money. The SIMs they rent. The XStreet SL commissions. The virtual land they sell.

I would argue that ANYTHING the Lab can do to make it better, easier or more convenient for the end user (Resident) to access all this and fork over money to them should be a good thing. It's a win-win for the customer and the Lab. If Emerald or Hippo Viewer make my SL experience better, then why should the Lab really care much beyond ensuring that nothing malicious is going on? The Viewer is simply a means to an end.

Yet, every move the Lab has made over the last two years says to me that they think the Viewer has some sort of intrinsic financial value. The TOS & TPV seem designed to stifle new development and push it into the Lab. Numerous bug fixes have been offered up by the 3rd party developers but never incorporated (Nicholaz for example). New features have been developed but never used (multiple attachment points, breast physics, better chat, etc. -- Emerald). Inventory backup that respects permissions (Emerald & SL Inventory). Most of these are features and fixes that users love and want. JIRAs go unresponded to for years.

Yet the Lab continues in its own narrow path developing a "new user experience" in Viewer 2 that has almost universally been panned with the exception of a few cool features. And I don't believe for a second it's because they really want to address copybotting or griefing -- hell the new TOS says they're not responsible for anything that happens at any time or any place.

The question is why? Why spend all those resources on something that really has no value? Why make it harder and harder for 3rd parties to add value? Maybe they think someday the Viewer is something they can sell? They look at MySQL and think, hmmm, that's the model we could use and make millions. Or maybe they think the code has value if the company is sold?

Whatever strange view the Lab holds, it's wrong. The Viewer should be a commodity. Free. Open. And easier, not harder to develop for. After all, it's the end user that's important and the server-side that makes the money.

April 1, 2010

Second Life mother files for child support

You can chalk this up to “just when you thought Second Life couldn't get any weirder”. In my three years as a resident of SL, I've read many stories about SL crossing into real life -- from broken marriages due to playing around to Stroker Serpentine suing Linden Lab over copyrights to his virtual sex toys. Yet now, I think I've seen it all.

The original link to this article was sent to me by a friend, Toysoldier Thor, in Texas:

Women files child support lawsuit for "virtual babies"

PROVIDENCE, RI via URA Newswire - Erita Sasti, female, age 41 of Pawtucket, RI has taken the groundbreaking action of petitioning the court for monthly child support payments for "virtual children" she allegedly had with a male companion in the virtual reality world of Second Life. Second Life (SL) is a 3D computer game simulation featuring realistic avatars and fantasy worlds whose players often engage in role play including virtual sex, gender switching and simulated pregnancies.

Sasti "lives" in SL as Yllis Norom (her avatar name) with twin virtual "daughters", Latota and Joram, also being role played by two (unamed) real life humans. Sasti filed her petition to the Rhode Island Family Court (Providence) today  against "Lirpaloof Frychester", the avatar name of the alleged virtual father. Because Sasti apparently does not know the real life name of the human behind the avatar, the petition also contains a demand notice on Linden Lab, the California-based makers of Second Life, to release Frychester's private information to her for service.

In the petition, Sasti claims Frychester had virtual sex with her as "Yllis Norom" and that the two of them had agreed to extend their role play by having virtual children. It goes on to detail how "Lirpaloof" abandoned Yllis after the children were "born" and that Sasti continues to support their "feeding, growth and education" in the Second Life world. Because this form of role play apparently requires buying virtual clothing, food and shelter using virtual currency or Linden dollars ($L which are converted from real US dollars), Sasti is asking for $15,000L per month for child support until the virtual children are two years old plus $65,000L in emotional distress.

When we contacted Sasti for more information, she referred us to her lawyer and real life husband, Mac Sasti who explained, "Mrs. Sasti has suffered humiliation in Second Life of having been kicked out her partner's virtual mansion and of being obligated by convention to continue to care for her two daughters. Since the eviction, Yllis and her girls have been forced to live as a homeless family in welcome centers and to breast feed in public.

While this may be somewhat ground-breaking, we feel that legal precedents for similar situations in virtual games like IMVU and World of Warcraft establish her rights as both a real person and as an avatar."

When asked why the suit wasn't filed as a breach of contract, Mac Sasti said, "The humanitarian aspects are more appropriate for family court which, in Rhode Island, can also deal with property division and abandonment."

Wow, just wow!

So either this is a major publicity stunt or someone has a few screws loose. I guess we'll have to wait and see how things evolve. I put a few emails into some of my contacts at Linden Lab to see if they'd heard anything but no replies yet. The whole thing seems a bit foolish but then again, when it comes to Second Life, nothing surprises me any more.

March 31, 2010

Major Second Life changes - ARRRGGGGGHHHH!

Just when I thought Linden Lab couldn't get any more arrogant, non-strategic or silly, it just introduced a slew of changes to the Second Life service today. I haven't had time to review everything in detail but content creators, power users and landlords should be afraid -- very afraid. It starts with a blog post titled (with the usual Lab spin and disingenuousness), Unveiling an improved new resident experience.

Items covered include new TOS, new viewer, new region ratings, new viewer policy, new welcome stuff and new starter avatars. I'll hit points on stuff I really care about:

Terms of Service & Privacy Policy changes

We'll start with the new TOS and Privacy Policy blog post which is linked above. If you simply view it as "Linden Lab can do anything, you have no rights, you're screwed" you won't be too far off the mark. In these days of corporate non-responsibility, Linden Lab is simply taking it to the nth degree. Understandable maybe but not good. (Complete TOS here. Complete Privacy Policy here.) Some of the highlights:
  •  New machinima & snapshot policy allows anyone to take photos or machinima of anything, anytime and reuse it anywhere without regard to copyright (with confusing exceptions where Land policy prohibits it). This would apparently include flat shots of textures which could then be reused. While it seems to make it easier to take piccys and things, it  muddies the waters over texture rights. Creators beware.
  • Third-party viewer policy has formally been incorporated into the TOS. As I read it, and many others too, it would seem that viewers that don't self-certify compliance with LL's viewer policy will not be allowed to log onto the grid. Notable viewers not certified as of now include Emerald, Hippo and Cool Viewer. Logging in with them could result in your being banned.
  • No inventory backups unless ALL prims AND textures in object are verified to be yours as the original creator. Effectively, this means that if you are the creator of an outfit but it uses a full-perm sculpt somewhere that was created by someone else (and which you have the license for), you can't back it up. This would also apply to builds that use huge prims (where obviously, you won't be the creator since no new huge prims can be created. Again, if you back something using Emerald (even though it verifies the root object), it may be a banning offense since the child prims aren't checked.
  • Everything is a license. This includes $ Lindens (currency), land, software, server access, software provided, machinima & photos, user content and Linden content. While people are still trying to work out what's really at stake, I think it's a bottom-line CYA.
  • Copyrights be damned, Linden Lab can now do whatever it wants, whenever it wants with your original content including using it to promote Second Life externally (TOS 7.2). 
  • With respect to user content, it sounds to me like Linden Lab is formally distancing itself from having to police DMCA or copybot violations since they are formally disclaiming responsibiliity for ensuring copies don't exsit. Yes, you technically still "own" the copyright on items you create in world, but Linden Lab now formally says they ain't responsible for any part of it. This is probably a result of Stroker Serpentine's lawsuit.
  • Land is a license. Teh Lab now says you really don't "OWN" land any more. You just rent it from Linden Lab. Yeah anyone with a half a brain knows this is the reality. However, in the past, the Lab has used terms like "own virtual land" in its promotions. This could get ugly because some huge landowners could make the case this is a unilateral contract change. I have a lousy 512 so I don't care.
  • $Lindens are a license. Mmmm hmmm. It means that when you transfer $L from one avatar to another or to the Lab, you're really transfering the license to use those $L. It kind of boggles the mind a bit but probably clarifies things from a tax standpoint -- that $L don't really have intrinsic value until they're converted to $US.
Viewer 2 formally released

I have real hard time with this one. Viewer 2 is buggy, poor for advanced users and doesn't, in my opinion, make things any easier for new users. But, it's now the official viewer and 1.23 is the optional but still available one. Technically V2 is still beta but the next version isn't due out until "sometime this summer" so I'm really not sure what they're doing here.

New region ratings

Ahh more semantics. PG = General, Mature = Moderate, Adult = Adult. Login with 1.23 or earlier and you see the old ratings. Login with Viewer 2 and you get the new ones. I get the PG to General change but Mature to Moderate? What next, Liberal and Conservative?

Third-party viewer policy

This has now been formally incorporated into the TOS and, as usual with the stuff from the Lab, it's confusing and conflicting. The big issue for most people is that unless Emerald (or your other favorite viewer) self-certifies compliance, after 4/30/2010, you will technically be in violation of the TOS if you log in using it. And the big one that effectively kills inventory backup or content backup schemes:
You must not use or provide any functionality that Linden Lab’s viewers do not have for exporting content from Second Life unless the functionality verifies that the content to be exported was created by the Second Life user who is using the Third-Party Viewer. Specifically, before allowing the user to export the content, the Third-Party Viewer must verify that the Second Life creator name for each and every content component to be exported, including each and every primitive or other content type, is the same as the Second Life name of the Third-Party Viewer user. This must be done for all content in Second Life, including content that may be set to “full permissions.” 
I'm sure there are some content creators shouting hooray over this but I won't be. It kills being able to back up something that's used a full-perm texture unless you also created the texture!! Want to backup that castle of yours? Unless you also made the stone & wood textures, forget it. Even those items where the original creator name is gone can't be backed up. I'm sure this will push many creators onto alternate grids even sooner than they planned.

Well that's about all the energy I have for this crap. Does Second Life seem increasingly like Constrained Life to you? It does to me. :(