Category Archives: Opinion

Second Life Marketplace: full permission product scams

The Second Life Marketplace is both a convenience and a pain. Convenience because it provides an ease of selling / buying to users. Pain because its sheer size can make it difficult to effectively police, leaving it open to various forms of abuse.

However, Strawberry Singh has highlighted one area of concern content creators are facing, and has asked for people to pass the word on.

In Full Perm Marketplace Scams,Strawberry points to the abuse of full permission items content creators make available on the Marketplace.  Typically, these items are offered individually or in kits as templates for people to re-use in their own creations, and they generally come with an end-user licence agreement (EULA) specifying their intended use. More often than not, these EULAs forbid the re-sale of such items on an “as is” basis and / or re-sale as full permission items. And if a dedicated EULA isn’t offered, the fact that the items are not intended for full perm resale can generally be found in the listing description.

However, there are unscrupulous individuals doing just that: purchasing the items and reselling them unchanged, as full permission items, thus violating the original creator’s intent and licensing. To add insult to injury, the items undercut the original creator’s own market price.

To help raise awareness of the problem, Strawberry offers some advice on how to identify or avoid such items:

  1. Before purchasing look at the seller’s other listings. If there is a hodgepodge of brand names and the vendors all look different, they are most likely an illegal seller.
  2. Purchase the items from the in-world store of the full perm creator instead of the marketplace, to ensure that you are not purchasing from an illegal seller.
  3. Most of the illegal sellers have blank profiles. Real full perm sellers usually have a full profile filled with links to their websites, main stores and marketplace stores.
  4. Most Full Perm sellers have started using water marks on the vendor ads which say the name of the avatar that is supposed to be selling it. The illegal sellers are still using those ads, even with the watermark. So it is important to look at the name of the creator on the watermark, and if it isn’t that person selling it, don’t buy it.
  5. Try to find a way to report these items, either to Linden Lab by flagging the listing or to the original creator of the items.

It’s sound advice for anyone looking at full permission items. I’d perhaps only expand a little on point (5.) for clarity. While we may grumble about the DMCA process, it is the means by which such items can be most effectively removed from the Marketplace, as the nature of DMCA filings requires that Linden Lab respond to them accordingly.

So, if you believe an item on the Marketplace is being illegally sold and can identify, or are aware of the original creator, do be sure to contact them directly and make them aware of your concern.  Provide information on the item: where it can be found (listing, etc.), so that they might investigate for themselves, and if necessary, file a DMCA. This approach not only helps the creator take the required action to have violating listings removed, it also potentially helps to establish a history of violations which they can also put to the Lab, if necessary, which might in turn encourage the Lab to take more stringent action against repeat offenders.

Strawberry also has an article concerning in-world Giftbot scams as well. Given these are still very much a problem in-world,I’ll point you to that piece as well.

Gaming Islands: introducing users to Skill Games in Second Life

The new Gaming Islands - designed to introduce Second life users to Skill Gaming

The new Gaming Islands – designed to introduce Second life users to Skill Gaming

In a blog post on August 2nd, 2016, the Lab introduced their new Gaming Islands: regions designed to help Second Life users – particularly (but not exclusively), I would assume, new users – understand Skill Games in the platform, how they can play them (and why they may not be able to play them), together with a means to find them.

I’m not sure when these regions  – there appear to be two at present – opened, so whether the blog post has been timed to coincide with their launch or whether, like much that is in the blog post, they’ve been around a while but simply not promoted, is hard to tell. However, on reading about them, I jumped over to take a look – but before I get into the details, a quick bit of background.

Incoming new users can find their way to the Gaming Islands via a dedicated teleport portal on the Social Islands

The Social Islands provide a dedicated teleport portal  to the Gaming Islands for new users; established users can reach them via the Portal Parks

Gambling laws in the USA and around the world can be complicated beasts. What some might consider to be gambling to others might be viewed a game of skill, and vice-versa. This makes determining what is and isn’t allowed and by whom a difficult practice, particularly where the Internet is concerned.

Because of all this complexity, the Lab banned gambling in Second Life, whilst allowing games of skill to remain. Then, in 2014, the Lab sought to further refine the kinds of skill games involving money and payouts which are permissible in SL through a complete overhaul of their Skill Gaming Policy, together with the introduction of new Skill Gaming regions where such games can be played.

The new Gaming Islands are designed to help SL residents understand what Skill Games are, where they can be played, the kinds of games they might encounter, how they can get to play them – and why, in some instances, they may not be allowed to access the regions where they can be played, and finally to offer a means to reach Skill Gaming regions.

One of the example games in the Gaming Islands

Gaming Islands: one of the example games

To achieve this, the new Gaming Islands are split into four areas: the arrival point, a game play area; a Learn area which explains more about Skill Games in SL and how to access Skill Gaming Regions; and an Explore area which provides direct teleport portals to Skill Gaming regions provided by various in-world Skill Gaming Operators.

The game play area offers what appear to be “skill-based slot machine” games (yes, there are  such beasts in the physical world) with L$ pay-outs – although I have to admit, even after reading the instructions, I was unable to determine where the “skill” factor came into effect over and above the “chance” element (the requirement for Skill Games in SL is that their outcome “is determined by skill and is not contingent, in whole or in material part, upon chance”).

This is not to say that I think the games are not skill-based, but simply that – as a non-gambler / player of skill games, I simply didn’t get where skill enters into them, even after reading the instruction tabs. Perhaps this might indicate more practical explanations are required, or maybe it just indicates I just don’t get Skill Games. I’m also a little mystified as to why, more than an hour after I left one of the islands, the GamingIsland Operator made a small payment to my account – but hey-ho (addendum: apparently pay-outs are made at regular periods after play).

Gaming Islands Learn area - discover more about Skill Gaming and how to access Skill Gaming regions in SL

Gaming Islands: Learn area – discover more about Skill Gaming and how to access Skill Gaming regions in SL

The Learn area, designed to get people up-to-speed with Skill Gaming in SL, how they can ensure they are eligible to access Skill Gaming regions and why, even if they meet the SL criteria, they may still be unable to do so, is a little more straightforward.

To one side of the are a series of information boards designed to help people ensure they can access Skill Gaming region; on the other are explanations of what Lab’s define a Skill Game (lifted from the Second Life Skill Gaming FAQ), together with information on why, legally, some SL users may not be able to access Skill Gaming regions even if they meet the SL criteria for doing so. The split path perhaps isn’t the best approach here, given it might encourage some to simply go around one side and then up the stairs to the final section, but the use of teleport boards in the final section makes this a minor quibble.

The Learn section of the Gaming Islands provide information on what is required to enter Skill Gaming regions (together with step-by-step instructions on ensuring the criteria is correct), and why, even if the SL criteria are met, some users may still not be allowed to access the regions

Gaming Islands: a more detailed look at a couple of the Learn area info boards, which explain what is required to enter Skill Gaming regions (step-by-step instructions to meet the requirements are provided on the other side of the  area), and why, even if the SL criteria are met, some users may still not be allowed to access the regions

This final section, entitled Explore, offers teleport portal directly to a number of Skill Gaming regions provided by different Skill Gaming Operators. Should anyone find they cannot use the teleport portal, boards between the portals will teleport them to the Learn section of the island where they can double-check they meet the SL / legal (in the case of US residents) requirements for accessing Skill Gaming regions.

The Explore section of the Gaming Islands, with teleport portals

Gaming Islands: the Explore section with teleport portals

Skill Gaming isn’t to everyone’s interest, to be sure. However, providing information on what it is and how to find it is, I would suggest, a good idea, as is joining the dots for new users to be able to find their way to such regions, which give the opportunity to play for Linden Dollars. As it is, Skill Gaming operators pay a premium for their regions, and so providing a means by which they can obtain traffic on the same footing as other types of activity in SL is only fair.

In terms of the Gaming Islands layout, and my own problems in “getting” the games aside, the design is straightforward and does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. Which is all one can ask, really.

USA Today’s further look at Project Sansar and Social VR

Project Sansar promotional image via Linden Lab

Project Sansar promotional image via Linden Lab

On July 4th, I noted USA Today’s video short on Project Sansar and the Lab. At the time, I indicated that there didn’t appear to be a related article to go with the video. However, that’s now changed, and Ed Baig, USA Today’s tech reporter, has indeed written an article to sit alongside the video, which appeared on July 6th under the title Second Life’s creators try for a third — in virtual reality.

“Third”? You may wonder. “What third?” The answer is something of a play on words – Linden Lab’s “first life” is (like the rest of us) firmly rooted in the physical world, where it sits as a corporate entity employing over 200 staff, 75-ish of whom are focused on Project Sansar (the rest doubtless made up of those managing Second Life, running Blocksworld, taking care of the company’s administration and management and (potentially) working with Tilia Inc.). Their “second life” is, obviously, Second Life itself, thus leaving Project Sansar as the company’s nascent “third life”.

Ed Baig: looking further inside Sansar and Social VR for USA Today

Ed Baig: looking further inside Sansar and Social VR for USA Today

As with the video, the article doesn’t reveal much that is new about Project Sansar itself per se, however, it does delve more into the concept of “social VR” – the term that Linden Lab and the likes of High Fidelity,AltSpace VR (both of whom are also mentioned in the article) and Facebook are increasingly using to define their new platforms.

In the case of Sansar, this “social” element is not just about people together who are already engaged in the virtual domain, but in allowing the creators of the environments hosted by Project Sansar to directly attract their own audiences to the experiences they build.

At this point, it’s probably worth diverting slightly and stating something that by now I would hope would be straight out of the British Guide to Stating the Bleedin’ Obvious, particularly for those who have been following Project Sansar’s development, but is worthwhile repeating just in case.

And it’s this: as with various other aspects of discussing Project Sansar, “creator” actually has a wider context than perhaps it does within Second Life. In the latter, by-and-large, we tend to regard “creators” as the folk who design and make the goods we use to dress our avatars and furnish our land. Outside of lip service, it’s perhaps not a term closely linked with those who obtain land and regions in SL and use these goods to create and environment. However, with Project Sansar, it is pretty clear “creator” is intended to encompass both: it applies to both those who can build and model with the tools supported by the platform, and those with the desire to “build” an environment they can share with others, even if “build” refers more to shaping the land and obtaining content designed, made and supplied by others.

Ed Baig was able to explore Mars within Sansar, using one of the Lab's early experience set pieces

Ed Baig was able to explore Mars within Sansar, using one of the Lab’s early experience set pieces

In his article, Ed Baig illustrates this, together with the concept of “social VR” and the ability for experience creators to be able to attract their own audience by quoting the idea of learning the French language:

If you search Google for “I want to learn French” you might find in the search results a virtual reality experience in Sansar where you can actually “go to virtual places in France, meet French people and have French dialogue at the boulangerie,” Altberg says.

This actually brings up another point – and one I really must remember to ask the Lab about next time I have the opportunity to do so. And that’s the idea of Project Sansar as a “white label” environment. This was first mentioned back in early 2015, and hinted at in interviews since. If it is still a central aim for the platform, then it could be a powerful aspect to Project Sansar, allowing experience creatorsattract audiences through gateways they define and in a manner such that the audience isn’t even aware they are entering an environment hosted by Linden Lab or is something of a relative of Second Life.

But I digress; Sansar as a white label platform is a topic for another article (and one long overdue to appear in these pages!). In terms of the USA Today piece, the social aspect is further touched upon with the idea that in the future, people from geographically disparate locations will be able to meet and work together far more easily in virtual spaces than up to now has been possible (thanks largely to the work in facial and body tracking, which allow avatars to be a lot more nuanced and expression in their reactions to others).

Elsewhere, the idea of the potential “cannibalisation” of Second Life by Project Sansar is touched upon.  This has been a controversial statement when raised in the past. However, while it is true that Second life thus far in its history faced serious competition, the times really are now changing, and just because SL hasn’t yet faced a competitor capable of luring its user base away doesn’t mean that at some point in the medium-term future it won’t.  As such, references to the risk of “cannibalisation” shouldn’t be taken as a sign the Lab is in any way willing to “sacrifice” Second Life on the alter of Sansar, but rather that it is a pragmatic acknowledgement that the risk actually now does exist for Second Life to be supplanted in people’s hearts and minds, and thus, for the sake of the Lab’s own survival, better it came from within than from without.

Like the video before it – which is included at the head of the article,  there’s nothing here that’s particularly revelatory about Project Sansar for anyone who has been keeping abreast with developments on that platform. However, the overview of the “social VR” approach is worth a read in and of itself. While for anyone who has not thus far dipped a toe into the waters of Project Sansar, Ed’s piece offers a pretty good starting point in understanding what it is about.

Grandfathered buy-down contributing to Lindex fluctuations?

The Lindex has been in a state of flux of late, something that has been the subject of discussion and speculation on a number of fronts. Reader Ample Clarity first pointed things out to me earlier last week via IM (I’ve been rather focused on other things of late, so haven’t been watching the broader news as much as I should), and I’ve been dipping in-and-out of conversations and reports on things since then.

The fluctuations started towards the end of 2015, and were perhaps first discussed on the pages of SL Universe. The discussion resumed in April, when further swings were noted,  causing additional concern among those looking to cash-out L$ balances, while sparking some of the more widespread discussion.

Lindex fluctuations (with thanks to Eku Zhong for the screen capture)

Lindex fluctuations (with thanks to Eku Zhong for the screen capture)

Various theories (and not a few conspiracies) have been put forward to explain what has been happening – although determining precisely what the cause is, is pretty much anyone’s guess. But purely in terms of the more recent fluctuations, New Worlds Notes (NWN) is promoting a theory which might just be plausible: that one (or more) large land estates have been liquidating L$ stocks in order to realise additional US dollar funds to take advantage of the Lab’s grandfathered buy-down offer.

The theory actually comes from Plurker T-Kesserex, who is quoted by NWN as saying:

I think it’s people cashing out to get capital for the $600 dollar sim price reduction … If you own 10 sims you need $6000, so that’s not easy without some cashing out.

At the start of the buy-down offer, Tyche Shepherd, of Grid Survey fame, estimated that around 85% of Homestead regions were already grandfathered, but only around 11% of full-priced regions of all types, leaving enormous potential in the market. During the first month, this figure increased to almost 21%, with the number of grandfathered full-priced regions rising from around 1,039 to 1960, demonstrating a thirst for conversion. Thus, the idea that one or more large estates might be liquidating L$ stocks to cover the cost of further conversions isn’t an unreasonable speculation.

But even if it is a fair assessment of the situation, it doesn’t offer any hint as to what  – market forces or otherwise – has been pushing at the Lindex since late 2015. Nor does it offer any comfort to those concerned about cashing out at a reasonable – or at least stable – rate. All that can be said for certain is that, if you have the need for L$ in your account, buying them hasn’t been this attractive in a good while.