Category Archives: News-Opinion

Lab: new Community Platform coming for Second Life

secondlifeOn February 17th, Linden Lab announced the Second Life Community Platform will be undergoing update to a “fresh look and feel”, with the new layout scheduled to open its doors on Monday, February 27th, 2017.

However, ahead of the launch, there will be some important points to note. All of the data held within the existing platform – blog posts, images, forum posts, and so on must be migrated across to the new platform in order to ensure continuity.

This means that from Tuesday, February 21st, all of the existing forums will be switched to READ ONLY. During this period, the forums will be open to browsing / reading, but it will not be possible to create new threads, reply to posts, etc.

Providing all goes according to plan, the new-look community pages will launch on Monday, February 27th, and full forum posting capabilities will be restored.

The Lab will provide updates on the migration / launch of the community pages through the blogs during the transitional period.

The change marks the first major overhaul to the Community Platform since 2011, when the current Lithium-powered platform was launched. An example of the new look for the platform is included in the blog post to give an idea of the layout (the actual content is entirely mocked-up and not related to any real information), and I’ve reproduced it below.

New Second Life Community page layout - note the images and text content are placeholders. Click for full size

New Second Life Community page layout – note the images and text content are placeholders. Click for full size

In overall look, the new layout broadly follows that seen with the Community Landing pages, the website log-in page, etc., offering a consistent look-and-feel when compared to many of the Lab’s other Second Life web properties. Usability can obviously only be judged once the new set-up is live, of course, and I’ll have an update once the new service is live.

In the meantime, keep an eye on the official blogs for updates on overall progress with the migration.

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Horizons land auctions: final round-up

The Horizons land auctions having finished

Horizons: rounding-up the land auctions

On Tuesday, November 15th 2016, the Lab launched the Premium members’ Horizons community, a “retro-futuristic” mainland environment featuring 36 residential regions each with 24 parcels available for auction to Premium members, with auctions commencing on Friday, November 18th 2016, with parcels being auctioned in batches of (generally) 10.

Obviously with 864 parcels to auction, it would take some time to get through things, but Whirly Fizzle and I decided to monitor things to see how they progressed, and I gave a brief snapshot at the end of the first week of auctions, and another when the auctions reached a half-way point.  The final lots of parcels was auctioned on the 12th-14th February, and given this, I’d thought I’d round-out the updates with an overall look at things.

All L$  / USD figures are approximate and based on available data. Some approximations have been made using the average parcel price for a region if the actual bid price was missed in collating data (applies to a total of 8 parcels across 864). The US dollar figure is based on a rate of L$260 to the US dollar.

SUMMARY OF AUCTION BATCHES AND TOTALS
Batch
No. Regions
No. Parcels
Total L$
Total USD
Batch 1 10 240 8,744,976.00 33,634.52
Batch 2 8 192 4,304,186.00 16,554.56
Batch 3 8 192 3,334,978.00 12,826.84
Batch 4 10 240 4,489,691.00 17,268.03
TOTALS
36
864
20,873,831.00
80,283.95

Note: a total of 4 regions have been re-auctioned; however, two may have been re-auctioned as a result of original bidder defaulting on payment, as the parcels were apparently re-auctioned without being claimed. If the original payments were made, then a further L$59,131 / approx US $227.42 should be added to the appropriate totals.

Unsurprisingly, this batch of auctions drew the highest bid prices, due in part to the fact that two of the region – Horizons Apollo and Horizons Pandora – have genuine access to sailable open water – the open water to the west, north and east of the Horizons regions currently represent the grid edge, and is not accessible.

Both Batch 1 and Batch 2 were part of my half-way report, and since then, there has been some juggling between those parcels initially put up for sale, those initially offered for rent, and those offered for either rent for purchase.

For those interested in a more granular breakdown of auctions by batch / region, a complete set of tables is available here. The following tables provide a breakdown of parcel usage, based on original bidder’s actions with the parcels they obtained.

GENERAL STATUS OF PARCELS – ALL REGIONS, 864 PARCELS
Parcels Obtained For
Auctioned Sale Rent Either Comm. Private Unkn Re-auct’d
Batch 1 240 100 59 13 4 17 46 1
Batch 2 192 57 55 24 7 13 35 1
Batch 3 192 101 15 37 2 11 26 0
Batch 4 240 69 57 17 5 10 82 0
TOTALS 864 327 186 91 18 51 189 2

Notes

  • Comm = obtained for commercial use
  • Private = obtained for residential or group use
  • Unkn = those most likely obtained for sale / rent but which either have not (as yet) been offered for either / do not appear to have been made available (parcel holders did not respond to enquiries)
  • The re-auctioned parcels are limited to those were a second payment for the re-auction amount can be confirmed. As noted above, two other regions re-auctioned may not have been paid for by the original bidder prior to being put back up for auction. These are currently available for rent, and have been classified in the Batch 2 rental figures.
SNAPSHOT OF PARCELS OFFERED FOR SALE BY ORIGINAL BIDDER
Total for Sale Unsold
Commercial
Private
Offered for re-sale / rent Withdrawn from sale
327 180 23 31 81 12

Notes:

  • “Offered for re-sale / rent” indicates parcels purchased from original bidder and offered for sale / rent by purchaser
  • “Withdrawn from sale” indicates parcels initially offered for sale by bidder, but then set to  “not for sale” & with no indication they are available for rent.
SNAPSHOT OF PARCELS OFFERED FOR RENT BY ORIGINAL BIDDER
Total Offered for Rent Available for Rent
Rented Commercial Rented Private
186 157 12 17

 

SNAPSHOT OF PARCELS OFFERED FOR SALE OR RENT BY ORIGINAL BIDDER
Total Offer for Sale / Rent Available
Sold Rented
91 64 10 (5 on resale) 17

Notes:

  • Of the 10 sold, the 5 not up for re-sale have been sold for commercial / private use
  • The 17 rented parcels represent a mix of commercial and private use

General Observations

General interest in Horizons appears low – however, this many change now the auctions have finished. Currently, most of the land sales which have occurred post-auction have been between those land resellers / renters originally bidding on the parcels, rather than onward selling to those interested in using Horizons as either a home or a business location.

Sale prices across the  regions appear to be settling into the mid-20K through mid-40K range, although some – notably those with direct open-water access  (as opposed to river / canal access) or perceived water access can carry a premium. Rentals appear to remain at low ebb. As noted previously, this could be down to a lack of direct promotion by those offering them for rent.

Of the 189 listed as “unkn”, almost all are held by those selling and / or renting parcels, so it is not unreasonable to anticipate these being made available for sale / rent if / when current offerings are sold / rented.  One of those holding such parcels did confirm they would be offered for rent, but declined to indicate when.

Those interested in Horizons parcels – whether to purchase (Premium) or rent (anyone), should tour the regions with care. A number of parcels are offered for rent / sale offering boat docking where this is not strictly accurate (e.g. the parcel doesn’t directly join water, or the water it faces is actually off-sim). The regions are also unzoned, so judging how well they may keep to the desired theme is hard to quantify. There are a number of decidedly “non-sci fi retro” buildings across the regions, but many of these are place holders, and should be seen as indicative of the overall region styling.

Michael Linden Departs Linden Lab

Michael Linden in his usual Mole look, attending the February 2017 Mole Day

Michael Linden in his usual Mole look, attending the February 2017 Mole Day. Credit: Marianne McCann

As explained below, long-time Lab employee (over 13 years with the company) and head of the Linden Department of Public Works – the Moles – Michael Linden, has departed the Lab. I didn’t know Michael that well, having only chatted on a couple of occasions, so I invited Marianne McCann, someone who has known him for a long time, to write a piece about him and his impact on Second Life.

By Marianne McCann

Over the weekend of February 11th and 12th 2017, it was noted that Michael Linden’s profile was not showing up in Second Life search, nor was he showing as a member in several groups within his profile. Many began to question if he had left Linden Lab, and – given he was known as the head of the Linden Department of Public Works – if the LDPW was being shuttered.

At the Bay City Alliance meeting on the 14th of February, a trio of LDPW staff, Shaman Linden, Squishy Mole, and Sylvan Mole, attended in part to address these concerns.

Speaking at the meeting, Sylvan Mole confirmed that Michael has indeed left Linden Lab, but was unable to give many specifics. It is assumed that he left of his own accord.

Michael once showed up at an impromptu Lab / resident get-together aboard the SS Galaxy, (2015) complete with an Starax wand, and proceeded to set about with good-natured mischief: until he doused himself beneath a giant faucet!

Michael once showed up at an impromptu Lab / resident get-together aboard the SS Galaxy, (2015) complete with an Starax wand, and proceeded to set about with good-natured mischief: until he doused himself beneath a giant faucet! Credit: Inara Pey

Michael Linden started with Linden Lab in the autumn of 2003 as an in-world Liaison, moving briefly to Governance in 2007 before becoming one of the heads of the LDPW with the former Blue Linden. The LDPW has expanded to include several Linden staff members and a fair number of “Moles,” as the resident contractors working on content for Second Life are known.

One of the first projects released by the LDPW under Michael was the Bay City mainland regions. Last week, Michael added a rail and boat terminal to Bay City, in the Grub Beach region. It is believed that was his last project under his Linden name.

Michael has been heavily involved in the past with vehicles as a Resident, in particular with Second Life railway projects. It is expected that he will again do so, but no longer as a member of Linden Lab’s staff. Resident and Linden alike will miss his presence within the LDPW.

Grub Beach Station - thought to be the last of Michael's projects while at the Lab

Grub Beach Station – thought to be the last of Michael’s projects while at the Lab. Credit: Marianne McCann

As to the question of the LDPW’s future, they are most certainly still an ongoing department under Patch Linden, with Shaman, Dee, Keira, Kona, and Vitae Linden as an active part. As we’ve seen, the LDPW has just recently completed the multiple-region residential and experience-laden Horizons project, and they have several current and future projects on their plates.

Those of us who know Michael will miss his presence and guiding hand as a Linden, as well as his sense of fun. We all hope he enjoys every success wherever his career and work take him, and offer three cheers as he sets sail to pastures new.

Michael's love of vehicles can be seen in his collection of vintage seaplanes

Michael’s love of vehicles can be seen in his collection of vintage seaplanes. Credit: Inara Pey

Many thanks, Michael for your years of work within Second Life!

An adept look at Second Life

Virtual Ability Island, featuring in the Backchannel article

Virtual Ability Island, featuring in the Backchannel article

First They Got Sick, Then They Moved Into a Virtual Utopia appeared in Backchannel on February 13th, 2017. Written by Kristen French, it’s an adept examination of Second Life, with a focus on the help the platform has brought to disabled people around the globe.

The piece starts with Kristen spending time with Fran Serenade, perhaps best known through an early segment of The Drax Files World Makers in 2013 (I covered her story a few months prior to that, as a result of seeing a story about her in the San Diego Union-Tribune). Suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, Fran has found that her involvement in second Life has generated physical world benefits for herself, and she has been – among others – the subject of studies by Tom Boellstorff, a professor of anthropology at the University of California and Donna Z Davis, a professor at the University of Oregon (see my reports here and here).

Kristen French

Kristen French

From Fran’s story, the article broadens its canvas to explore the work of Virtual Ability Inc., touching on the story of Gentle Heron and how VAI came into being and the services it provides. Through this, the piece enfolds the fact that Second Life has been an enormous book to those with many disabilities, including illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, conditions such as autism and PTSD (See here for more on one way in which the platform has been used to help hose suffering from PTSD),  physical disabilities and more.

Much of this may not be especially new to SL users, particularly as a result of our being attuned to the likes of The Drax Files #22, which looked at Sl and health through the work of Virtual Health Adventures. However, for anyone who has not been exposed to Second Life, the piece offers a refreshing, clear-cut insight into one aspect of why the platform remains so popular and well-regarded among its users after 13 years.

It has long been shown that Second Life can have a range of benefits for all of us: it puts us in contact with people, and the ability to visit places and enjoy activities with them where otherwise we might be house bound and confined to little or no physical interaction with anyone of days at a time. It can help us stay healthy, physically and mentally;  it can help healthcare agencies reach their patients (see here and here), and it can be – as seems to very much be the case with Fran – physically and mentally therapeutic.

Fran Swenson (Fran Seranade) and her daughter Barbara Richard (Barbi Alchemi) - images courtesy of San Diego Union-Tribune / Bill Wechter

Fran Swenson (Fran Seranade) and her daughter Barbara Richard (Barbi Alchemi). Credit: San Diego Union-Tribune / Bill Wechter

This examination of Second Life and how it is used makes taking the time needed to read the article worthwhile, but there is more. Through a neatly-encapsulated piece on why Second Life perhaps isn’t as easy to update as extensively as some might believe, the piece moves on to a look at the potential of new worlds like Sansar and High Fidelity.

This is again a considered examination, laying out fairly the benefits more immerse VR environments might be for those with disabilities – and touching on some of the potential barriers. As a part of this exploration of the future, the piece offers a solid reassurance that Second Life isn’t – as yet – facing the end of the road. Instead, it underlines the point the Lab (and I) have often made: SL’s longevity lies as much with its users as it does with LL. So long as there are enough users engaged in the platform to keep it viable, there is little reason for it to be arbitrarily shut down.

There are a couple small misconceptions within the piece. For example, the origins of Radegast: while it is true it was conceived and developed by someone engaged in SL’s Adult / BDSM world, but that doesn’t actually mean it was primarily developed for that market.

However, these really are quite minor quibbles, when noticed. The fact is, First They Got Sick, Then They Moved Into a Virtual Utopia is an engaging, informed and informative piece adeptly written by someone who intrinsically “gets” Second Life. It’s a piece which should definitely be on your reading list if you’ve not come across it already.