Lab Chat is the name of the public Q&A series aimed at providing Second Life users with the opportunity to have their questions put to Lab management and personnel.
The first two sessions in the series took place in November 2015 and January 2016 respectively, with guest Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab. Each event covered both Second Life and Project Sansar and saw Ebbe respond to questions selected from those put forward to a forum thread ahead of each event.
The third in the series will take place on Friday, May 6th, starting at 10:30 SLT at the Linden Endowment for the Arts Theatre. The guests for this session will be:
Ebbe Linden (Ebbe Altberg, the Lab’s CEO), who requires no introduction here. He’ll obviously be answering any questions on Project Sansar which are raised during the show.
Oz Linden, the Director of Second Life Engineering at Linden Lab, and is perhaps most noted for his involvement with viewer development, including contributions from the open-source community and TPVs. He oversees almost all aspects of the technical development of Second Life, both viewer and server, and works closely with his engineers and developers to ensure Second Life continues to be enhanced.
Troy Linden, a Senior Producer of Second Life at the Lab, and has been involved in bringing numerous high-profile projects within SL to fruition, and is currently engaged in Project Bento, the project to greatly extend the second Life avatar skeleton, which Oz’s team is currently working on together with members of the SL content creation community.
Because both Oz and Troy will be present at the show, the majority of the questions this time around will be focused on Second Life and Project Bento, so this is a great opportunity to find out what is being planned for Second Life, and what Project Bento is all about and what it might mean for you.
Among many other things, Bento offers the potential for animated facial expressions and animated fingers (shown in this video by Abramelin Wolfe) on mesh avatar models
The show will be recorded in audio, which will be made available some time after the show has wrapped. I hope to attend and produce a full transcript, and those wishing to catch-up on the first two Lab Chat sessions through this blog can do so by following the links below:
Update, May 5th:As indicated by Pete Linden, the Lab’s Director of Communications, in the comments following this piece, the write of the the TCP project article appears to have got his wires crossed in reference to user-to-user transactions and the Lab’s revenue model for Sansar, which has in turn lead my speculations astray in the possible levels of commissions. I’ve now revised the piece to focus on the elements directly related to Ebbe’s comments on other revenue models under consideration.
One of the areas of interest with Project Sansar is how Linden Lab will generate revenue from the platform, given their intention to pivot strongly away from the and land model which has proven so constraining within Second Life.
During assorted presentations at the Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education conferences, Lab Chat sessions, and in talking to the media, Ebbe Altberg has made it clear that one of the ways in which the Lab intend to more broadly generate revenue from Project Sansar is through a “sales tax” (commission) on the sale of goods and content within the platform.
While no specifics of the possible commission rate(s) has been given, the idea has caused some concern among original content creators as to how much such charges might be and how they’ll be applied. However, in order to be sustainable, Sansar will need other means of revenue generation, something which has caused some speculation in various circles as to what other means the Lab might use. The Lab itself has, until recently, been quiet on the matter. Then, on April 29th, two items caught my attention, offering as they do further hints on the Lab’s thinking.
The first came through a piece penned by D.J. Pangborn, and which appeared in the April 29th edition of The Creator Project (TCP). Entitled Peek Inside Second Life’s Virtual Reality Successor, ‘Project Sansar’, the article doesn’t really offer much that was new it terms of news about Project Sansar for those who have been tracking things, despite its title; but it does include a little snippet which caused my eyebrow to rise when I read it:
As for the monetization of experiences in Sansar, Linden Lab will collect most of their revenues from charging for virtual services, not from renting land. Altberg says they plan to take very little from the user-to-user economy.
The emphasis is mine, but I found these particular parts of the statement interesting for two reasons. The one on taking “very little” from the user-to-user economy suggests that the Lab are looking to keep any “sales tax” / commission on content sales to a minimum. (See the update note at the top of this article / Pete Linden’s comment below).
The idea of the Lab collecting revenues from charging for virtual services suggests they are considering an approach a little similar to that put forward by High Fidelity – revenue can be drawn from services associated with Project Sansar. Obviously, this would likely include fees for virtual currency handling a-la Second Life, but what else?
Speaking to Draxtor Despres for show #114 of The Drax Files Radio Hour, which also appeared on April 29th, the same day, Ebbe Altberg indicated some of the additional ways in which the Lab is thinking of raising revenue through Sansar, starting at the 19:30 mark into the recording. While no fees / percentages were given, the options under consideration (and there could well be more the Lab is thinking about) are defined as:
Via fees associated with the resources used, e.g. paying for the experiences published through the platform people can visit
Via a commission on in-world sales (currently for Second Life, the Lab only charges a direct commission for Marketplace sales)
Through a series of subscription options for users / customers, possibly based on resource usage – capabilities used, size of inventories, hoe many experiences can be published, what kind of privacy controls are provided, etc.
The last idea is based on the view that in order to solve for specific requirements from certain customers, the Lab will likely have to develop very specific tools and capabilities – which those same customers would be willing to pay to access.
While the idea of paying for capabilities might not sit well with those of us using Second Life, given some of the markets the Lab appear to have in mind for Project Sansar, the idea actually isn’t too much of a stretch. Companies and organisations are often willing to pay a little extra for what they feel is a more “tailored” offering.
However, none of the above means that the Lab is abandoning the free-to-play approach entirely. As Ebbe states in the interview, “but at the same time, anyone should be able to come in for free and consume any experience any experience they have access to, whether it’s a private experience or a public experience, that someone has given them access right to. They should be able to come in for free and participate.”
It’ll certainly be interesting to see if / how these ideas develop, precisely what fees / percentages the Lab is considering on the sale of goods, , and what else might emerge as a possible option for revenue generation (price per instance of an experience, for example?).
Opening on May 5th at Dathúil Gallery, is an exhibition of art by Cicada (aspencicada) entitled Solitude. It comprises 17 images, 16 split between to ground floor and mezzanine level of the gallery, with a large format piece suspended from the ceiling, facing the main entrance.
I confess to not having been previously familiar with Cicada’s work, and this exhibition presents an interesting contrast of subject and style focused on the central theme of solitude, with the majority of the pieces depicting either individual flowers and plants, or groups of flowers seen from above, while five present avatar studies.
“Solitude,” the artists informs visitors, “is the remoteness from habitations. The sense of feeling to want to be away from everything. I’d like to be able to get away for a long time, just to think, to plan and to just be. A time to fix myself, fix all things broken, fix everything.”
This is certainly evident in the five avatar studies on display, all of which convey a certain pensiveness or pathos. Three in particular – two on the left of the entrance and one to the right – appear to be part of the same narrative,conveying that need to be alone coupled with a pensive response to being discovered and observed.
The remaining two, which comprise the large overhead image and a further picture to the right of the entrance, are more stand-alone. The latter suggests a time of solitary reflection, the overall lighting of the piece perhaps indicative that the reflections in question are centred on darker thoughts.
However, it is the overhead image which tends to dominate the space and hold the attention. This is in part thanks to the blanket of yellow flowers, matching those in the image, which carpet the floor of the gallery either side of a path of yellow tiles, all of which direct us to the image, which in turn seems to embody the idea of being alone in order to fix oneself.
The images of plants and flowers further convey the idea of solitude, albeit quite differently; so differently, in fact, that they may at first seem out-of-place compared to the theme of the exhibit and the avatar studies. But they stand as a reminder that there is beauty and peace in solitude – and also beauty in being among one’s friends and peers.
There is no formal opening planned for this exhibition, partially due to schedule conflicts and partly because Cicada prefers not to have a party. Instead, the exhibition will open in the morning of Thursday, May 5th (SLT) and will remain open through until May 30th.