Linden Lab has announce the coming introduction of a new account security mechanism: receipt of an e-mail notification when your account is being accessed from a previously unknown (aka “new” to the SL services) device.
Receipt of such e-mail notifications is something of a common standard for many platforms and on-line services, helping to provide an additional layer of protection against unauthorised attempts to access and use an account.
No actual date as to when this service will be going live is provided, but the Lab note that as it is rolled out, it is more important than ever that users make sure they have verified the e-mail address they use in association with their Second Life account.
We are going to be introducing an additional way for you to keep your account safe! When we detect that your viewer is being accessed from a new device, we’ll send you an email that looks like this:
SUBJECT: Important: [FIRSTNAME LASTNAME] used from a new machine to access Second Life.
Your Second Life account has been accessed from a new machine. If you recently logged in to Second Life from a new device you may ignore this mail.
Account: [FIRSTNAME LASTNAME] Time: [TIME IN SLT, example 2022-02-11 09:09.00 SLT] Originating IP Address: [IP ADDRESS OF NEW COMPUTER] If this was you, you don’t need to do anything. If not, we will help you secure your account: What To Do If Your Account Has Been Compromised.
Following the creation of Meta accompanied by the grandiose announcements by the media singing the praises of future metaverses, we can rightly ask ourselves, which metaverses and what future are we talking about? … My friend, Yann Minh, a fellow explorer of cyberspace shares with us his thoughts and fears.
– From the introduction of Mon Métaverse by Tutsy Navarathna
With these words, Tutsy Navarathna leads us into his latest video, one that among his most thought-provoking (which is saying something, given the depth of content and ideas that are always embraced by his work).
Published on his You Tube channel on January 16th, Mon Métaverse (“My Metaverse”) offers thoughts and reflections on the futures of “the metaverse” from both Tutsy and cyberspace explorer Yann Minh, who has been active within, and considering, virtual spaces for over 20 years.
Running to just a touch over 5 minutes, the video is a fascinating dissection of the current hype around “the metaverse”. Within it we are invited to consider what we have had up until now, and the choices we may face in the future. Do we hold on to we have thus far had: a digital life of almost limitless horizons and infinite diversity in which freedom of expression and creativity are embraced; or are we going to allow ourselves to be herded into sanitised corporate-defined spaces where expression and creativity run second to the surrender of personal data to feed the corporate revenue machine, and activities are governed by fake corporate morals.
When I thought twenty years ago that we were heading towards a more flexible, versatile and mature future, in fact the opposite is happening. We are clearly heading towards an infantizing, paternalistic future similar to the time when religious morals massively imposed their absurd rules on individuals.
Yann Minh, Mon Métaverse
This is a subject that can be debated at a length that will easily exceed the 5 minutes of the video. However, the beauty of Mon Métaverse is that Yann encapsulates these concerns eloquently and concisely, challenging us to think about our digital future without belabouring the message. In doing so, he positions things perfectly for Tutsy to present a – frankly – marvellous and honest look at the richness we have within Second Life, perfectly illustrating what “the metaverse” should really be about: the creativity of individuals, built without the data-hungry maw of algorithm and data collation sitting beneath it.
Beyond this, and on a personal level, I couldn’t help but see a possible broader context within the video; a more subtle questioning / challenge. It comes both in Yann’s comments around Facebook / Meta as the tip of an iceberg and the follow-on statement regarding religious censorship. We already know Facebook is responsible for the spread of disinformation – a practice it is unwilling to stop, and which has assisted the open growth of authoritarian politics that are, to no small extent, founded on a fake moralistic and divisive organised religion. As it turns out, this was in fact something that both Yann and Tutsy had also been considering in developing the concept of the video, as Tutsy informed me.
We are faced with a system that’s increasingly dominated by normalising algorithms in the service of a radical, conservative, authoritarian right unchallenged by most of the media. Within digital spaces, Meta is just the tip of the iceberg which as Yann Minh puts it, “leads us to a paternalistic, infantilizing future”; it seems high time we express our opposition to the way our freedoms and democracy are being so challenged least, as Yann notes, we see the absurd rules of the religious conservatives imposed on all of us within virtual spaces as well.
– Tutsy Navarathna
Thus, Mon Métaverse folds into itself a broader narrative that is not entirely out-of-place, and which adds further depth to its message for those who like to ponder such matters.
But, leaving messages and narratives aside, Mon Métaverse stands as a superb promotional piece for Second Life, both within the broader context of “the metaverse” and as a means of offering insight into the platforms power to attract, engage and retain users. This makes it more than worth the time take to watch it, and I encourage you to do so, either by viewing it below or clicking on the link within the video panel and watching it directly on Tutsy’s You Tube channel.
Tuesday, December 7th, 2021: Linden Lab have announced a forthcoming change to e-mail notification preferences in respect of the receipt of Group notices received via e-mail when users are not logging in to Second Life.
To quote the blog post in part:
We will soon be adding an option to email notification preferences. Currently, you can choose to receive IMs in your email when you are not logged in to Second Life. There will now be an additional setting that controls whether you receive Group notices in e-mail.
We are rolling this change out in stages. If you change your settings, it may be up to two weeks before it takes effect.
The default for the new setting affecting Group notices will be OFF. If you wish to receive Group notices in email, you will need to visit the web page and opt in.
This change is motivated by feedback from our community as well as residents frequently marking Group Notice emails as spam. We want emails to our residents to be as relevant and useful as possible.
The ability to opt-in to receiving Group notices can be found on your account dashboard at secondlife.com (there is a direct link provided in the official blog post), under Account → Change Email Settings.
Note that this is an option subject to multi-factor verification when accessing it, and the option includes a check box and dedicated Save button that must be clicked in order to update any changes, as per the image below.
Finally, and as per the comment in red on the Change Email Setting page, and the note within the official blog post, this option must be checked by anyone who wishes to continue to receive Group notices via e-mail when not logged in to Second Life, from December 15th onwards. Also note:
From December 15th the IM’s to e-mail preferences setting within the viewer will no longer be valid; only the web page options will work to change these preferences. Until the option is removed from the viewer, attempts to use the Preferences option to change the setting will return an IM directing users to the web page).
This change does not see any change in the current cap on IMs-to-e-mail caps. However, if Group notices are set to off (the default), the cap should only apply to off-line IMs, rather than counting both IMs and group notices.
Cube Republic pointed me towards an article appearing in the French on-line newsletter, Le Journal du Net (JDN), a reference site for corporate executives produced by media group CCM Benchmark. The interview is also referenced on the Lab’s official In the Press page. Entitled Second Life’s annual GDP is $650 million, the article is the banner piece for the October 25th issue of JDN, the piece in places makes for interesting reading whilst also covering ground with which many SL users may already be familiar.
The piece starts with a discussion of the recent rise of “the metaverse” as a catch-all buzzword among tech companies from Epic Games to Facebook, and outlining the fact that much of what is now being hyped was similarly hyped 18-20 years ago, with Second Life one of few platforms that actually attempted to achieve it, and which should now, by rights, be regarded as a forerunner and living example of what “the metaverse” might be.
From here, she draws on a key differentiation between Second Life and the vision Zuckerberg’s company is offering – and the barriers they may well face.
I think they themselves realized that the reputation Facebook has forged over time can be a barrier. This lack of confidence in the company exists and there will have to be a number of levers of confidence to allow those who wish to explore these virtual worlds. But it is still too early to get a clear idea. At Second Life, we ensure the privacy of our residents. For example, some assume their homosexuality in Second Life, but we know that some may live in areas of the world where their sexual orientation could lead them to prison. We are therefore extremely vigilant on this issue of data security. With the immense wealth of data in the hands of the digital giants, it will be necessary to ensure the protection of the privacy of the users of these virtual worlds.
– Grumpity Linden (aka Anya Kanevsky, Linden Lab’s VP of Product), talking to French newsletter JDN
Later in the piece, she goes on to make a key point that has helped Second life achieve its longevity and which seems to be a point missed in many of the discussions / statements by other companies wishing to stake their claim to a vision of “the metaverse”:
Everything in [Second Life] was created by our residents and not by Linden Lab employees. We just play the role of facilitator. This represents our vision of the metaverse. I don’t see how creating different games that would be connected to each other could be akin to the metaverse. In my eyes, this is content created by companies for users. For the metaverse to exist, it must be created and managed by the people who live there.
– Grumpity Linden talking to French newsletter JDN
The more familiar waters sailed by the piece include things like the 200,000 monthly unique log-ins SL enjoys, the uptick in engagement seen during the core months of the Sars-CoV-2 pandemic (and that the Lab feel they are seeing many of those who turned to the platform to remain even as the freedom to get out and about in the physical world gets easier, even if at a reduced number of hours per session). It is in these discussions that the article’s headline – SL having a GDP of US $650 million – is references, and that in 2020, users collectively withdrew a total of US $73 million from the platform (potentially hinting at an overall rise in general revenue flowing into / through the Lab over 2019),
Whilst being cagey on the Lab’s overall financial footing, the point is made that it has been profitable for a long time. This sits alongside a comment on the way in which the lab has attempted to be responsive to changing economic needs by realigning where and how it generates its income from the platform. Tilia Pay is also touched upon, together with its importance to Second Life – if not its potential as a revenue generator for the Lab as a whole; an honest assessment is also given on Sansar and immersive VR – which also hints towards the Lab’s vision looking to a future that is broader than any reliance on VR headsets.
While a number of early adopters shared their enthusiasm with us, we also observed resistance from some users. Many were not thrilled with the idea of carrying these VR headsets that are quite heavy and require enough space at home to be able to use them. If virtual reality allows for an immersive and incomparable experience, we observed that few of our residents were ready to wear these helmets for more than thirty minutes. So we plan to keep trying new things around virtual reality, but VR isn’t the only possible future for Second Life.
– Grumpity Linden talking to French newsletter JDN
In terms of this broader view of the future for SL in particular, Grumpity notes the need to provide access to it “on all platforms and on different devices,” even if the experience in accessing SL is not identical across all such platforms / devices.
The article itself is relatively short, but covers some good ground in a manner that will met the needs of JDN’s general readership. It provides a good “executive summary” approach, transmitting its core information without undue exposition. In closing the piece, the journalist, Adrien Tsagliotis, offers a quote from Grumpity that mirrors something I’ve long believed myself (and is actually evidence by the reality of SL’s user numbers), and which stands as something all those hyping “the metaverse” should perhaps keep in mind:
We have observed over the years that the population as a whole is not necessarily open to living this immersive experience in a virtual world. Once the hype around the metaverse is behind us, I think we’ll observe that not everyone is necessarily interested in experiencing virtual worlds.
– Grumpity Linden talking to French newsletter JDN
On Thursday, October 21st, Linden Lab took to their blog and to social media to announce the Zenescope x Second Life Sweepstake. Featuring some 40 NFTs – non-fungible tokens – the announcement met with a certain amount of “WTH?” reactions, my own among them.
The NFTs concerned are produced by Epik, and are focused on a series of digital images related characters from the Zenescope Entertainment’s “Grimm universe” (that is, characters somehow connected to stories associated with the Brothers Grimm).
Some may recall that Zenescope (and Epik) are in a partnership with Linden Linden that launched on August 4th with the opening of the “Zenescope Metaverse” in Second Life; a place promoted by LL as “bursting with magic and mystery” where people could “Experience storytelling and comic books in a whole new way”, a “huge” region “so highly detailed that it might just take several visits to see everything”, but which I found decidedly underwhelming.
The sweepstake is a continuance of that partnership, and marks a further extension of it that many SL users may not have been aware of, so I’ll just dip into here to offer a little more context.
As a part of this partnership, October saw Epik start to offer through their Epikprime marketplace, NFTs tied to nine individual Zenescope character images (apparently sponsored by LL) in various quantities. So, for example The Gretel and Belle images each have 1,000 NFTs (with each NFT having a minimum price of $27.00) while the Sky Mathers image only has 125 NFTs (with each NFT having a minimum price of $147.00.
For sweepstake prizes, I believe LL has taken 10 each of the NFTs bound to the Belle, Gretel and Cinderella images, and a further 10 from a “Halloween” image to be issued on October 25th.
What is an NFT?
VERY simply put for the purposes of this article: an NFT is a digital “certificate of authenticity” created using blockchain technology that represents an easily-reproduceable digital item (a piece of art or music, a game, a document or photograph, etc.), recording the provenance of that item – its origination (creator, date + time of creation, etc), and its subsequent chronology of ownership / custody location in the digital ether.
It is the uniqueness of the data in the NFT that generates its value, not the item to which is bound, which can still be copied and shared just like any other file on the Internet.
When it was launched, the Second Life / Zenescope / Epik partnership was framed by LL as a part of a drive to expose SL to potential new audiences. But as noted, the “Zenescope Metaverse” revealed itself as a tepid environment, and even now, some 2.5 months later shows no sign of delivering on hyperbole surrounding its launch, or present itself as a gateway into SL for Zenescope readers. Of course, that could change quickly – I’ve no idea what LL / Zenescope have planned; but right now it does feel like a hollow promise, and combining it with the sweepstake event leaves one feeling the whole LL / Zenescope / Epik partnership is decidedly lopsided and lacking in reciprocity¹.
Insofar as the sweepstake itself is concerned, another cause of a “WTH?!” reaction came when reading the rules for entry as published by the Lab. To whit:
[winners] may be required to execute and return an affidavit of eligibility, a liability release and, where lawful, a publicity release within seven (7) days of date of issuance
– from the Winners Notification section of the sweepstake rules
Each winner, by acceptance of prize, except where legally prohibited, grants permission for Sponsor and its designees to use his/her name, address (city and state), photograph, voice and other likeness and prize information for advertising, trade and promotional purposes without further compensation, in all media (including digital media) now known or hereafter discovered, worldwide in perpetuity, without notice or review or approval.
– from the General Conditions section of the sweepstake rules
Obviously, given NFTs are intended to prove the provenance of a digital collectable, the recording of the owner’s identity in some form is to be expected. However, that the Lab – a company that has traditionally prided itself on respecting its users’ anonymity – should offer the suggestion that any personal information might be requested could be passed to whomever they designate (such as Zenescope and Epik) for purposes of their advertising and promotion, makes for uncomfortable reading².
For me the biggest “WTH?” reaction, however, came with the idea that Linden Lab – a company that oft wears its social conscience on its sleeve – would opt to engage with a technology (blockchain) and format (NFTs) that has been repeatedly shown to be environmentally unsound.
The most common blockchain environment used to create and curate NFTs is Etherium. According to the Digiconomist website, a single Ethereum transaction, such as creating an NFT or selling it, a carbon footprint of about 33.4 kg of CO2 – the equivalent to 74,000 Visa card transactions or watching 5700 hours of You Tube videos, – and consumes enough electrical energy to power an average US household for a period of 6 days³. Others put the impact of individual NFT transactions even higher, indicating the “minting” of an NFT produces up to 83 Kg of CO2 and consumes up to142 KWh of electricity (enough to power the average US house for around 12 days), with an subsequent transactions generating an average of 48 Kg of CO2 each.
So, if I’m reading the Epik marketplace pages correctly, if all 5,125 “Zenescope x Second Life” NFTs currently being promoted. are all minted, they will generate a total carbon footprint of 171,175 kg (using the Digiconomist figures), with a further 33.4 Kg added with each sale or other transaction related to each of them. By comparison, were 5,125 print of the images to be made and individually shipped anywhere in the world, each would only generate (according to Quartz and others) a carbon footprint of just 2.3-2.6 Kg, it’s a far more ecologically responsible option.
True, printed copies removes the animated uniqueness of the actual images – but this could be compensated for by the prints being individually signed and numbered by the artist., something that would also help the prints maintain there resell value. And you’re thinking any such resale value would be less than that of any NFT equivalent, let’s just be honest: these particular NFTs really aren’t going to set the NFT collector market on fire and demand stellar prices.
But if LL feels it must jump on the NFT hype train, then I cannot help but agree with this tweet on the subject:
Obviously, this is in many ways easier said than done, but there are potential opportunities to be had:
It would demonstrate LL’s engagement with and support of their own users and platform, removing the perception they are simply “shilling” (to use a term that has popped up in several places in reference to this sweepstake) for a third party.
Properly promoted and broadcast, the availability of NFTs produced through SL could speak to the world about relevance of the platform as a place of creative endeavour and expression, potentially encouraging other artists from all walks to come and give it a go.
It could be combined with other opportunities for outreach and promotion to more broadly demonstrate the “multi-role” nature of Second Life in addressing use-cases from all walks of life, and offer a place of relaxation, learning, fun, business, and so on at a time when others are still struggling to define what they mean by “metaverse”.
As it is, this “sweepstake” is generating a lot of “likes” and “loves” on social media – although it is hard to tell if this is the result of people actually reading the associated blog post / wanting to winner one of the prizes, or simply the result of instinctively clicking the “like” / “love” icon in response to a posting from an official SL social media account. Whether it results in the Lab seeing this particular offer a “success” and thus worth possibly repeating, or whether they’ll heed the largely negative comments that have similarly left on said social media posts and so think twice about any repeat, I’ve no idea. Purely from my own perspective, I’d rather they didn’t run with any repeat, and instead continue to devote their time and effort on those things that are actually going to raise broader awareness of SL’s continued presence, vitality and relevance – and which can encourage people to come and experience the platform for themselves.
It was recently pointed out to me that Aura Linden recently opened a viewer repository focused on puppeteering, something which has lead to some wild speculation on my part. Might this be a means LL are looking to use within the Zenescope region to allow visitors to “Experience storytelling and comic books in a whole new way”, through the use of NPCs based on the characters being promoted via Epik? Given the state of the repository code, this does seems an awfully long guess (and so probably wrong).
I have actually contacted LL on this and the idea of distributing personal information, but have yet to receive a reply.
And if you think that is bad, Bitcoin is even worse: Digiconomist estimate a single transaction carries a carbon footprint equivalent to 1,880.406 Visa card transactions or watching 141,404 hours of You Tube videos, while consuming enough electrical energy to run an average US household for two months!
Some might say it’s a long time overdue, but on Friday, September 25th, Linden Lab announced the launch of the official Second Life Merchandise Store offering a range of physical world merchandise related to Second Life and Linden Lab.
The on-line store is hosted by RedBubble, and currently comprises a range of SL and Lab branded clothing items and accessories utilising both the “new” and “old” logos, with the promise that more items t come soon, including seasonal and limited time items.
As with most virtual market stores, the RedBubble Second Life Merchandise Store feature a list of categories down the left side of the page (note: these are a part of the site design, and not all of them may apply specifically to Second Life / Linden Lab). The main part of the site is then devoted to displaying the displaying the essentials on available merchandise, with filter options, and the ability to use at the designs offered with applicable products, rather than the product itself. Obviously, clicking on an individual item will open a page devoted to it, where things like size, etc., can be selected.
A nice aspect of the site is that it appears to automatically recognise your country of origin and presents prices in your local currency. Payments can be made via Credit / Debit card or using PayPal, whilst shipping options are available for “regular” or “faster” delivery. Joining RedBubble allows for faster checkout: your own personal page, a complete order history and tracking option, and the ability to follow favourite merchants on the site (such as Second Life / Linden Lab) and receive notification of new items as they are added to the store.
I’m not entirely sure why the site features a couple of skydivers snogging as its banner image – perhaps this will change according to some site criteria, but it did strike me as something not really immediately representative of either Second Life or Linden Lab – not that either is particularly easier to pigeon-hole in a single image for those unfamiliar with either.
That very minor niggle aside, the store would appear to be a good move – hopefully we’ll see merchandise such as mugs (Lab Gab mugs have oft been requested), coasters, key fobs and other handy items, as well and more clothing items appearing in due course. Actual Linden Bears would be fun as well, if perhaps harder to produce in a cost-effective manner.
In the meantime,those interested / curious can hop over the the official store and have a mooch.