Tag Archives: Second Life

Ebbe Altberg discusses “Sansar” and Second Life with TNW

Second Life: "almost as diverse as the physical world we live in" - Ebbe Altberg

Second Life: “almost as diverse as the physical world we live in” – Ebbe Altberg

Martin Bryant, Editor-at-Large at The Next Web caught up with Linden Lab’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg, in Dublin at the start of November, where they had both been attending the 2015 Web summit conference.

During a 10-minute audio interview, Mr. Bryant offers a series of questions which, while they may not reveal anything new to those engaged in Second Life or following the unfolding news about “Project Sansar”, nevertheless cover interesting ground and offer food for thought on a number of fronts.

Martin Bryant, Editor-at-large for The Next Web, discusses SL and "Project Sansar" with Ebbe Altberg

Martin Bryant, Editor-at-large for The Next Web

The recording is prefaced with a series of useful bullet points under the title Think Second Life died? It has a higher GDP than some countries, itself is an eye-catching title, which help put some perspective on just what Second Life has actually managed to achieve over 12 years, and sets the stage for the broader discussion.

The interview starts from the position that the media have tended to get Second Life wrong, noting that far from having failed or gone away, it is still operating, still engaged some 900,000 active users every month, just 200,000 a month down from when it hit a peak of around 1.1 million 7+ years ago. Not only do these figures tend to highlight Second Life’s (albeit very niche) ability to attract and hold an audience, they also put oft-repeated claims that people are somehow leaving Second Life en masse into perspective. The outward trickle of active users is there, but it’s hardly a the deluge all too often portrayed. And those who remain are still capable of powering an economy with a GDP of some US $500 million.

From here, the conversations travels by way of the kind of virtual goods on offer inside Second Life to arrive at a question about the “typical” Second Life user, which generates a well-rounded reply.

Well, it’s a huge variety … there’s no typical about it. It’s like asking, “what’s a typical person from Ireland?” There are educators, there are students, there are health professionals, there are patients, there are fashion fashionistas, there’s partiers, gamers, role-players. People just socialise around pretty much anything you can think of. It’s almost as diverse as the physical world we live in.

Further into the conversation, there is a re-emphasis that even with “Project Sansar” coming along, there are no plans on the part of the Lab to discontinue Second Life, with Ebbe again demonstrating a pragmatic view on the amount of investment users of Second Life have made in the platform.

Second Life will continue. We have no plans to shut down Second life or forcibly migrate users from one to the other. So users can ultimate choose where they want to spend their time. And there are probably so users that have spent so much time creating incredible communities around all kinds of interesting subject matter that might just fine it too much effort to do it all over again on a new platform. so they can stay in Second Life, that’s fine.

Obviously, if the vast majority of users in Second Life opt to make a full transition to “Project Sansar”, then it will call into question how long SL can remain a commercially viable platform – but is this likely to happen overnight? Probably not  (which is not to say it won’t, at some point happen) over time). The transition is liable to be gradual, simply because it is going to take “Project Sansar” to grow to a level of sophistication offered by SL: as the Lab has made clear throughout 2015, everything isn’t simply going to be in place when the open alpha commences in early 2016 – that’s why they’re calling it an “alpha”.

An image from the Project Sansar: looking to the future of VR

An image from the Project Sansar: looking to the future of VR

The more detailed discussion of  “Project Sansar” starts with a reiteration that it is being specifically – but not exclusively – developed to operate with coming plethora of VR HMDs and other devices, and that it will be “consumable” (i.e. accessed via) computers (initially PCs) and mobile devices. It is here that mention is made of something that may have been missed in broader discussions about the new platform: there will be no “one-size-fits all” client / viewer.

Instead, client functionality will be determined by client device capability. If you’re on a PC platform, you’ll have access to the full range of capabilities to both “consume” (that is, access, use and participate in) “Project Sansar” experiences and you’ll have access to the tools to enable the creation of those experiences. If you’re using a mobile device, you’ll be able to “consume” experiences, but not the tools to build them. Which makes sense.

Ebbe Altberg: talking Second Life, "Project Sansar" and virtual currency compliance with TNW's Martin Bryant

Ebbe Altberg: offering a good perspective on LL, SL and “Project Sansar” for TNW readers / listeners

In discussing the likely impact of VR, Ebbe takes the pragmatic view that things aren’t going to happen overnight, just because the first generation of high-end headsets are going to appear in a few months; it’s going to take time for the market to grow, and there is still much more to be sorted out.

This is a view I hold myself, so no argument from me. However, where I do perhaps hold a differing view on things is to just how important avatar based virtual experiences are actually going to be outside of some very niche environments.

Even if VR isn’t overhauled by AR in terms of practical ease-of-use, widespread practical applications, convenience, and appeal, I also cannot help but feel consumer-focused VR might offer such incredible opportunities for immersion, entertainment, training, etc., that it will see the use of avatar focused virtual environments remain somewhat marginalised in terms of acceptance with the greater VR community, just as Second Life has been marginalised with the greater on-line social community.

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Linden Lab and Tilia Inc. – speculations on the Lab’s new subsidiary

Linden TreeFriend and fellow blogger, Vick Forcella contacted me at the end of October concerning some interesting items related to Linden Lab he’d uncovered in digging around a few places.

The first comes in the form of documents relating to a relatively new Linden Lab subsidiary company, and the second in a partially filed trademark.

The subsidiary company is called Tilia Inc., and at first glance it seems to be completely unrelated to the Lab, being referred to as being involved with ” Packaging Machinery”. However, an examination of the company’s papers will reveal it is registered at 945 Battery Street – the Lab’s headquarters, as a check on Buzzfile confirmed to me.

Tilia Inc appears to be a defunct corporate entity, first registered in 2002, which has been acquired by the Lab. This, and the further registrations of the name across several US states  as a “foreign” entity (meaning the filing is by an existing corporate entity registered in another US state), tended to suggest the Lab might be using the company to leverage certain tax advantages – a common practice among corporations around the world. Further support for this appeared to come from the names of the directors: the Lab’s CFO, Malcolm Dunne, their Legal Counsel, Kelly Conway and, from outside of the Lab, Benjamin Duranske, founder of PayCom Consulting, and LeAnne Hoang, the Lab’s former Chief Compliance and AML Officer (remember that name).

Companies registered at 945 Battery Street, the Lab's HQ, via Buzzfile. Note Philip Rosedale's "Coffee and Power" sitting in the middle - and its associated industry description!

Companies registered at 945 Battery Street, the Lab’s HQ, via Buzzfile. Note Philip Rosedale’s “Coffee and Power” sitting in the middle – and its associated industry description!

Obviously one way to get more of a clue was to ask the Lab directly. So I did.

“Tilia is a subsidiary of Linden Lab, focused on payments and the compliance work associated with operating virtual economies,” Peter Gray, the Lab’s director of Global Communications said in answer to my initial questions, “and it will provide services for both Second Life and Project Sansar.”

Following my initial enquiry (which is not to say it is related to it), the list of senior personal at Tilia Inc., dramatically increased. The additional appointees  comprise: Bjorn Laurin (Bjorn Linden), Vice President of Product (Blocksworld, Second Life and Sansar), Landon McDowell (Brandon Linden), Vice President of Operations and Platform Engineering, Jeff Peterson (Bagman Linden), Vice President of Engineering, Pam Beyazit, Senior Director of HR, and Peter Gray.

"Tailia" and Tilia Inc appear to be geared to providing virtual currency and related services to both "Project Sansar" and Second Life

Tilia Inc is said by the Lab to be focused on the compliance work associated with operating virtual economies, and will provide services to “Project Sansar” and Second Life

The trademark, USTPO document 86374264, originally filed on August 22nd 2014, relates to the name of “Tilia”, which is described as, “Computer software, namely, electronic financial platform that accommodates multiple types of payment and debit transactions and the transfer of funds to and from others, in an integrated mobile phone, PDA, and web-based environment.” A further document located by Vick pertaining to the trademark application reveals even more information, and makes for interesting reading on its own.

What this all adds up to is still hard to determine. “Tilia” and Tilia Inc., might be totally coincidental. What follows is pure speculation, which should not be taken to mean it’s what I believe to be the case; rather it is a collection of thoughts which have been bouncing around. complaince quote

As indicated in June 2012 by Ebbe Altberg, the Lab has been focused on four areas of activity, one of which has been that of compliance (see the quote on the right).

This work appears to have been overseen by LeAnne Hoang, prior to her departure from the Lab in July 2015. More recently, the Lab has also transitioned to a new payment processor for credit and debit card payments, which may be related to this work.

Again the two – the compliance work and the new payment processor – could be entirely unrelated. However, given that “Project Sansar” and SL will both operate virtual economies based on the same virtual currency, it would make sense for the Lab to develop a central transaction and payment system capable of supporting both. Doing so could reduce the complexities of managing two payment / transaction systems and have to update each of them with evolving compliance and anti-fraud regulations and requirements. If so, could “Tilia” be the proposed name for this new service? But why run it under a separate entity? Why not simply run it under the “Linden Lab” umbrella? Is it a matter of compliance, as stated be Peter Gray in his response to my initial questions? Perhaps so.

Another option might be that the Lab be considering making the Linden Dollar and all its attendant services a pre-packaged solution / service they can offer to other companies wishing to operate a virtual currency, with Tilia Inc., as the nominal operating company for the service. After all, they have made much of their leadership in matters of virtual economies and compliance, so spinning it out and offering it to others might be a means of generating additional revenue, although admittedly, given the complexities potentially involved, this might be seen as a bit of a stretch.

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Lab launches 2015 Halloween Photo contest with L$19K prize pool

secondlifeLinden Lab has entered further into the Halloween mood with a new photo contest, offering a total prize pool of L$19,000.

The competition, launched on Thursday, October 15th, runs through until 17:00 SLT on Thursday, November 12th and challenges residents to take a snapshot of their avatar in a suitable Halloween theme in Second Life.

Competition entries should be posted to the competition page in the Second Life forums, where they will be displayed together, and open to popular vote by other Second Life residents.

The blog post announcing the competition reads in part:

In Second Life, every day is an opportunity to dress up, but come Halloween time, Residents step it up and take it to a whole new level of fun and creativity. If this is your first Halloween in Second Life – or even if it’s your 12th – you are in for something incredible!

All over the grid, regions decorate, put together trick-or-treat style hunts, blast some chilling tunes for your move your avatar bones to, and generally run amok in the undeniable excitement of Halloween. We couldn’t be left out of the spooky shenanigans, so there’s a few official events you won’t want to miss out on.

Entries are limited to one per avatar account and must conform to the Second Life General maturity rating, as defined by the Lab’s Maturity Ratings guidelines. In addition, images must be submitted in a valid .jpg, .jpeg or .gif format(s) no larger than 20Mb and cannot have been submitted previously to any other promotion of any kind, or exhibited or displayed publicly through any means.

The prize pool is made up of the following individual prizes:

  • L$ 10,000 Grand Prize (estimated value at US$40.00)
  • L$ 5,000 First Prize –(estimated value at US$20.00)
  • L$ 3,000 Second Prize (estimated value at $12.00)
  • L$1,000 Third Prize (estimated value at $4.00).

The winners of the competition will be contacted no later that 17:00 SLT on Sunday, December 6th, 2015.

Please refer to the competition rules page for further guidelines / requirements.

P2P: Helping those with disabilities in Second Life

 It’s widely recognised that for many with disabilities, Second Life offers a major source of engagement, support and enjoyment which might otherwise be beyond their reach. As a result, there are a number of charities, organisations and support groups active within Second Life providing a wide range of services and support networks for those with disabilities and / or disabling illnesses.

One such group, of which I’m embarrassed to say I only quite recently became aware, is the  Pixel to Pixel (P2P) Foundation. Founded in 2009 by Jadyn Firehawk (also known within P2P as Pixel Falconer), it offers a unique service to Second Life users who in the physical world are supporting themselves purely through disability benefits.

“Second Life is a lifeline to many people with disabilities,” Jadyn says in discussing P2P’s function. “Some may live in social isolation, so SL keeps them connected with friends. Others may suffer a physical impairment, and SL gives them the virtual experience of full mobility and freedom.

“But there are costs associated with being involved in Second Life, and for those who are reliant solely on disability assistance programme benefits can struggle to meet those costs. So, the P2P Foundation gives direct financial assistance in the form of weekly Linden dollar stipends to people on disability, to help them enjoy their time in-world.”

Pixel to Pixel foundation HQ offering information, fund-raising kits and more

Pixel to Pixel Foundation HQ offering information, fund-raising kits and more

This stipend, L$500 (approx US $2.00) per week, may not sound much, but for someone who is living purely on benefits, it can mean a lot. As one participant states, “two dollars for me means a loaf of bread for a week.” So the stipend can lift the burden of choice, allowing the recipient to put it to use in Second Life – help cover their rent, upload textures, buy goods or clothing in-world, or spend it however they like, without necessarily having to draw on their physical world finances. As well as the stipend programme, P2P will occasionally award discretionary grants to recipient, so that they can start a business or pursue a major creative project in Second Life.

Because P2P operates purely in-world, beneficiaries can reside in any country around the globe, and their disability assistance can be either from their government or from a private disability insurance company. However, in order to be eligible for the P2P programme, applicants and recipients must be able to demonstrate, if asked, that they are on disability benefits. This is done by sending a copy of their disability benefits award letter (or similar document) to Jadyn via regular, physical world mail, with their personal identifying information blacked out and replaced with their avatar name.

The 3LI P2P donation Kiosk is available as a part of the P2P fund-raising kit available from the P2P HQ

The 3 LI P2P donation Kiosk is available as a part of the P2P fund-raising kit available from the P2P HQ

The money used to pay out the stipends comes directly from donations and fund-raising activities. These currently enable the Foundation to support 20 people in Second Life through payouts amounting to L$10,000 a week.  However, as Jadyn notes, there are a further 20 people on the Foundation’s waiting list – and it can take in excess of two years for someone to secure a place in the programme.

“People who are on disability and in Second Life tend to stay, because SL becomes such an important part of their daily lives, meaning that new slots do not often open up,” Jadyn tells me.

Currently, P2P can generally only take on new recipients as a result of others leaving the programme, such as by becoming self-sufficient through their own entrepreneurial activities in SL – hence the discretionary grants programme P2P operates, which can help facilitate this.

One way to increase the number of people the Foundation can support is through greater guaranteed inflow of donations. Anyone can help with this, simply by making a donation of any amount directly to Pixel Falconer, the Foundation’s donations account, or through one of the Foundation’s donation kiosks located throughout Second Life (see the list at the end this article for the current locations).

Businesses, venues and groups can also help with fund-raising by visiting the Foundation’s HQ to obtain a fund-raising kit, and then setting-up kiosks, posters, etc., in their store / on their land. The kiosks not only help with generating funds to run the programme, but also help raise awareness of P2P’s work. Jadyn would also be delighted to hear from any business, venue or group interested in organising and hosting a P2P fund-raiser.

The P2P Foundation gallery features the work of disabled artists, all of which is available to buy, the proceeds of sales going to the Foundation's work

The P2P Foundation gallery features the work of disabled artists, all of which is available to buy. The proceeds of sales going to the artists to help support them directly, although some may opt to share the proceeds with the Foundation

Two of the most effective means of assisting the Foundation is to either become a weekly / monthly donor, or by sponsoring P2P participant.

If you would like to become a weekly / monthly donor, you can do so by making your payments  directly to Pixel Falconer. Or you can also grab a donation kiosk and use it as a visual reminder to donate, rather than relying purely on memory to make payments to Pixel Falconer it might  also encourage your friends to support P2P!).

Should you wish to sponsor a P2P participant, either as an individual or through your business, please contact Jadyn Firehawk directly in-world.

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