CodeBastard Redgrave, scripter extraordinaire, blogger supreme (her blog is #2 according to SocialStatus), recent winner of the “AvaStar of the Year 2007” award, having her picture hang up at Linden Lab’s HQ and definitely an excellent photographer & Photoshopper, is now fast becoming one of the most entertaining and fun people that I had the privilege to meet in the past few years through Second Life 🙂
“Gwyneth,” Commander Au said to me, twirling his moustache behind the floating desk at HQ. “We have, uh… an issue.”
I dropped the pad on my lap and looked up to him. His mischievous smile was getting on my nerves. Sighing, I scratched my head, and mumbled: “What issue?”
“Well, the guys at the old asteroid mining station in Epsilon Eridani told HQ that production has dropped dramatically. We don’t know why, but we suspect the worst. It could be only laziness. It could be something unleashed in those tunnels — a new form of radiation, a biohazard, who knows. That mine is old, Gwyn. They’ve been working at it for centuries. Eons. Who knows what’s down there… Well, it’s your assignment. Talk to the locals. Get clues from them. There is a bar or diner on the mine, see what people are saying. The CEO of the mining operation fears a strike or even worse.”
I thought what would be “worse than a strike”. Come on, boss, this is an asteroid mine! What possibly can go wrong there, except someone dropping a charge and blowing themselves up by mistake?
Nevertheless, I saluted (which got a chuckle from Au), grabbed the pad, and, shoulders dropping, went to the Quartermaster to pick up my old suit. Time to get the old, rusty Spacebug ready.
If you haven’t heard the big announcement by Linden Lab that they’re finally closing down “illegitimate virtual bankers” in Second Life, you’ve been missing all the fun 🙂
The announcement on their Official Blog states:
As of January 22, 2008, it will be prohibited to offer interest or any direct return on an investment (whether in L$ or other currency) from any object, such as an ATM, located in Second Life, without proof of an applicable government registration statement or financial institution charter.
As you might expect, getting such a charter is pretty much impossible in almost all countries in the world, so this effectively means: no more virtual banks in the “Wild West” of Second Life. More information is available here (you need a valid Second Life account to log in).
Responses to Linden Lab’s decision have been interesting. Prokofy Neva, for instance, turned libertarian for a while:
And so ends the geek dream of a vast international space where money would never become an option…which made it possible for money everywhere to become an option growing out of every prim with a dollar sign hover-text. Money *is* needed to finance this Wild West world. Where will it come from now?
It will be interesting to see if any of the banks survive this transition, and if they don’t, what comes along in their place. It will also be interesting to see if there is a run on the banks now.
You can bet on that — Eloise’s colleague at Massively, Tateru Nino, usually reporting on community issues, statistics, and events that impact the virtual world, covered the protests at JT Financial, one of the leading virtual banking institutions that will now go out of business:
Of course there are panic withdrawals right now, because, at the end of the day the depositors simply don’t trust the banks to be able to repay the deposits, so everyone wants to get their account completely withdrawn as soon as possible, while the money holds out.
Most “banks” have already closed down their ATM networks, of course — at least the most fraudulent ones. They’ve learned the hard lesson from Ginko — it doesn’t pay off to be honest and stay around to try to fix things. Better to cash out and head for the next Caribbean island 🙂 Others, like the World Stock Exchange, have at least tried to keep their customers informed and provided them options to deal with the “banking ban” in the case it affects them.
The legal groups in Second Life, of course, see this as being only natural. Benjamin Duranske writes on his blog Virtually Blind:
My only complaint with this policy is that it has been too long in coming; it is clear and concise, and it undeniably makes the grid a better place. In the long run, policies like this, which acknowledge the obligations facing a company that offers users the chance to “make real money in a virtual world, that’s right, real money” (emphasis in original), will keep Second Life, and the grid in general, healthy and relatively free of regulation.
The irreverent lawyer Jessika Holyoke, writing on the Herald, suggests that different things are at stake here:
Additionally, Supply Linden generates revenue. Each purchase of Linden dollars is straight revenue. […] No capital investing in world, because they may be crooks, means that to raise massive amounts of Lindens you have to buy it through the LindeX.
An interesting theory. Would that mean that Linden Lab is actually just covering their own revenue streams by “monopolising” all currency-related issues? Does this mean that Raph Koster’s Metaplace, which will be open source and free, but will require people to buy microcurrency from his company, is actually getting it right?
In this new year (*waves*!), the first thing I did was upgrading my WordPress installation, and, while waiting, I thought it would be nice to read through DreamHost’s blog for some news.
DreamHost is my hosting provider. Any blog post I might make here talking about why I still use them for about a hundred sites (some of them quite “sensitive” for customers; several are just experiments, joke sites, or similar pretty useless things that need to be stored “somewhere” as one lives through the Internet age…) will just like advertising for them, and I apologise in advance for the “free advertising”. But for you Second Life residents, you might understand a bit of their philosophy: they’re to Web hosting what Linden Lab is to 3D content hosting. Namely, they are also somewhere in California (they used to co-locate pretty near to Linden Lab); they’re not the biggest web hosting company in the world, but like InMotion Hosting they’ve got an impressive number of users; they are perhaps one of the few last hosting companies providing “best effort” service (as opposed to sign service level agreements, which everybody pretty much does these days); they’re strangely honest and open (the first question they answered to me was about mature content; they have exactly the same approach as Linden Lab); they’re also pretty much insane, as you can see from their blog, and nobody would take them seriously for doing business with (which does not explain why they have 600,000 domains registered with them, almost all fully hosted).
Also, like Linden Lab, they’re plagued with database servers going rogue, routers that fail with improper software, servers that drop out of the network without reason, and basically handling too much traffic for what their over-stressed hardware can handle. And, yes, they have to deal with the equivalent of griefing — nasty customers running rogue applications that take all available CPU time (like, well, spamming…) and/or consuming all traffic to a server, thus demanding that someone manually logs in as administrator and shuts that rogue customer’s script down. This gives non-DreamHost customers the idea that they’re unreliable, always failing, don’t care about their customers, and are making millions of US$ every month out of the poor customers who don’t know better and refuse to move elsewhere for some reason.
Well, why do customers remain faithful to DreamHost?
Estonia, a small member state of the European Union with 1.3 million inhabitants living by the Baltic Sea, has since the 1990s been labelled as one of the leading “Information Age” countries, having a surprisingly high penetration rate of computer use and Internet. They’re very strong supporters of e-voting and e-government and known for their leading projects in those areas, as an example throughout Europe. It is thus not surprising to see that they’ve fully embraced Second Life and launched the official site of the Estonian Embassy in our virtual world. Estonia’s limited budget only allows it to maintain diplomatic relationships with about 40 countries, so the building in SL is planned to allow Estonia’s government to further these relationships at a very low cost.
Appropriately named “Virtual Estonia”, it does feature a huge and geometrically complex ultramodern building made by the architect Scope Cleaver, famous for his unique style that has given him the fame of being the “Calatrava or Leary of Second Life”. According to Scope himself, quoted by Distant Signals (who was one of the managers responsible for Estonia’s official presence in SL), “he thinks it is possible to create this building in real life ‘by some very angry architects'”. It features shiny, modern rooms with complex intersections of glass and concrete, dividing the space in interesting ways. An art/photography exhibition commemorates Estonia’s 90th anniversary as a Republic. The very interesting “Technology Room” appeals to Estonians’ high-tech know-how by proposing some creative devices that give SL residents a glimpse of the near future. There are also a few meeting rooms (featuring Scope’s amazingly detailed and realistic furniture), an amphitheatre, and some chilling out areas, which were being used by several members of the organisation to do informal meetings here and there.
Perhaps unlike other “embassies” in Second Life, Estonia’s is interesting because of its focus: they’re not here to show off the natural beauty of their lovely country and attract tourists. Instead they have settled to invite the visitors to experience a very high-tech country which is at the forefront of the computer and Internet revolution. It’s very likely that they’re planning to attract similarly-minded individuals, organisations, and governments from other countries to learn with Estonia how to expand and develop the roots of e-government and an information society inside a democratic country — Estonia having been ranked by “Reporters Without Borders” as having the fourth highest index of press freedom (the US ranks at #44) and by the State of World Liberty Index as the country with the highest level of individual and economic freedom and limited government (the US ranks at #8).
I just wished to thank all my friends that so nicely wished me a Merry Christmas!
For all of you and your families, my sincere wishes of a wonderful holiday!
Last year, American Apparel, a popular US clothes brand, opened a shop in Second Life with a lot of positive press. Avatars could get for a few L$ relatively faithful replicas of their clothes in SL. Their project lasted almost a year or so, and then, as they finished their experiment, it was shut down (with a promise to return in the feature).
The media interested in reporting all sort of doomsday predictions about SL was obviously eager to know the reasons why American Apparel went away. Was the experiment a failure? Didn’t they reach their goal? Were they really expecting to sell more SL clothes than the popular SL-only brands? What, in fact, was their purpose?
We won’t probably know more than what was officially announced. Still, although I visited the SL shop, I never thought much about it. It was “just another brand”.
For about half a year, we also have Bershka in-world, a similar clothes brand, popular in several European countries. What is the difference in their approach? Will they also go away like American Apparel did?
The SLogosphere has been busily trying to “interpret” the meaning of the Electric Sheep Company’s layoff of about a third of their workforce and since some of their projects are being shut down, there have been all kinds of wild speculations. There isn’t a real official press release about the layoff, just some comments from some of ESC’s representatives and an explanation by a former employee, so this is a good background for rumours, on a week where all we read is how companies are leaving SL or other virtual worlds are growing like crazy.
So it’s time for a new round of metahype and doomsday predictions? You bet!
Prokofy Neva has released his predictions for 2008 which make for very interesting reading, even if his predictions for 2007 were actually not close to the mark, but made for interesting reading nevertheless.
Sadly, Typepad (the software his blog runs under) thinks that my comments are “spamming” (well, who knows…) so here follow my answers. Make sure you read his excellent article first, though.
In part one of this essay, we examined that most infamous of dystopian nanotech outcomes, the ‘grey goo’ of self-replicating machines. In this second part the view shall be widened as we examine how molecular manufacturing might affect society as a whole. I am obviously not the first person to attempt such a thing. In fact, ever since Drexler established the field with his books ‘Engines Of Creation’, ‘Unbounding The Future’ and ‘Nanosystems’, there have been no end of speculations regarding how society will adapt to this paradigm shift in engineering. Some of these speculations are decidedly dystopian, others defiantly utopian but if there’s anything their authors share in common it’s the fact that none of them have had first-hand experience of a society built on widespread access to molecular manufacturing. This is simply because the technology is still very much in the theoretical stage of development and no practical nanosystems currently exist. Read More
Ana Lutetia tagged me!
Oh no! This means I now have to write eight things about myself, and tag another eight people to do the same. This is almost like spamming. Help!
Well, let’s start with the rules:
- Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
- People who are tagged need to write a post on their own blog (about their eight things) and post these rules.
- At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
- Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
Now the bit that hurts!
- I hate talking about myself. Really. I can deliver a 5,000-word-essay from one day to the other, including some research, but then the editor/publisher will ask me “for a short bio” and I’ll be stuck. For. Ever. I truly don’t like that. It sounds like bragging. Anyway, who cares about what people are, what matters is what they do and say, right?
- The more times goes on, the more I hate phone calls. Or VoIP calls. It’s hard to explain. Back in 1996 or so I started compulsively abandoning phone calls, which took too much of my (work) time so that I needed to focus on real work. There is no such thing as a 30 second call to deal with something quickly and efficiently. They all take 30 minutes and are a waste of time. If you’re not able to write what you want to do convey, unless you’re dysgraphic (and that’s a disease), you really have nothing worth listening to.
- Old age is when you start losing patience with people that turn from “clueless” into “stupid”. When you’re young, you’re more tolerant about human stupidity and tend to shrug it off as “merely uninformed”. I’m 104 years old.
- I’m the worst driver in history. All people around me claim to “drive better than the average”. Since this is statistically impossible, I have to be the one that compensates for all the rest. I’m the singularity of bad driving. To prove it: I think I’m the only person that had an accident while driving the car to do some repairs — inside a garage!
- I don’t own a TV since 2000. Really. I thought we should move on with the times. Some things should be discarded as we plod along into the 21st century. I don’t miss it a bit. The day gained a lot of extra hours!
- Never underrate reading. When all else fails (power, computer, your CD player or TV if you’re into it), a book is still portable, lasts a few hundred of years, doesn’t use any power, and is always a source of pleasure for several hours.
- As a teenager, I worked very hard to become an artist, since that’s what everybody else was doing. I failed at painting, sculpture, playing any kind of instrument (I learned the flute, the violin, and the piano), singing, acting, and writing — all were attempted, several times, and simply never worked out. Frustrated, there was only one source of creativity for me: computers, which are not demanding on the kind of crap you do with them. I’m now too old to be called a computer geek, but I guess that’s what I was as a teenager — and still, I failed at programming, computer-created design, modelling, or music composing! I’m the only resident of Second Life with over three years that can’t build, can’t script, can’t do textures, and can’t do animations. When I tell that to newbies, they ask me how I spent over 1300 days in SL! My answer: having a lot of fun 🙂
- People are the most fascinating things in the universe. Really! I hope to become a sociologist, anthropologist, or even a psychologist in my next life, and study human beings for a living, because it’s the most entertaining activity in the universe. For this life, I content myself in meeting a lot of people, chat with them, learn from them, and hopefully keep a few good friends along my journey in this world.
And finally, the people I’ve tagged, in no particular order:
Tao Takashi, Extropia DaSilva, Hiro Pendragon, Onder Skall, Tara5 Oh, Hamlet Au, Lem Skall, Frank Koolhaas. I didn’t tag Eloise Pasteur, Tateru Nino, or Prokofy Neva, who were already tagged, but definitely at the top of my list! I would have tagged a lot of more people, but I’m afraid they’ll kill me slowly! (The ones above will probably only roast me in a slow fire, but after I’m dead!)
I found this very interesting blog entry, thanks to my friends: http://youthedesigner.com/2007/11/30/20-horrible-habits-of-clients/
It’s done by a web designer, but it applies exactly to Second Life as well.
Customers are customers everywhere!