Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

This just in. Eshi got her Green Card!

[14:15] Eshi Otawara: guess what i am holding in my hand?
[14:15] Eshi Otawara: :)
[14:16] Harper Beresford: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
[14:16] Eshi Otawara: mhm
[14:16] Harper Beresford: Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[14:17] Harper Beresford: john's singing, "Eshi got her green card, Eshi got her green card.."

Eshi wanted me to add this:
[14:33] Eshi Otawara: i am really greatful to SL community for supportive words and for getting involved
[14:35] Eshi Otawara: i wish they'd still remain involved because this cause affects not just me but many other families. It is important and I hope that my struggle will teach a few how important it is that we all be involved in out government, no matter how we might sometimes feel that our voice doesn't make a difference- it DOES.

I blow up a nightclub owner and game maker

I was busy today carefully patching up the big hole I made at RFyre when I got a call from my friend Jackson Vantelli. I put down the duct tape and prims I was using to try to patch it up and answered his IM. FYI, Jackson is the owner of Quarters nightclub, a rather fun place for dancing and gaming (though not my personal taste in music as I tend towards the less mainstream). He is also a supermodel, builder, publisher, and general SL extraordinaire. Jackson wanted to show me his new Blackjack table. I needed to get the hole fixed before Raven saw it, but I guessed I had time to see his new toy.

I tp'd in and Jackson offered me a seat at the table. When I went to take another, he said, "Oh no, sit here, Harper. Right next to me." He patted the seat. I was a little suspicious and narrowed my eyes. "Just want to look at those pretty green eyes, darlin'." Jackson is a notorious flirt. Somehow he gets away with it (and finds time to do it on top of all the other stuff he has going on in SL). I can't believe with all that he can survive in SL--women can be pretty vicious here. But he slides through.

I sat down and proceeded to get myself beat handily at Blackjack. Now, I know a lot of this is the luck of the draw, but the luck seemed to be falling on the side of the "dealer" and Jackson. I am glad the thing didn't take bets or I would have lost a bundle.

Then Jackson proceeded to explain to me that HE made the table, building, textures, and scripting. Now it all came clear. Jackson had to have coded that thing so he could win.

Well, all I could do was take out my own weapon--a sweet piece of candy. (You know what's coming next.)

"Candy, Jackson? Got an early batch of holiday humbugs." Jackson happily (and obliviously) took one.

I winced when, on the third crunch, Jackson blew. I guess this will be the last time you ask me to "hit you," hm, Jack?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An appeal regarding the Widow Penalty (do it for Eshi!)

As you know, Eshi Otawara is still pending notification about her status in the US. While recent news has been positive for her, things are not as good for all widows of American citizens.

Brent Renison is a lawyer fighting the Widow Penalty in the US. Eshi contacted Brent a few months ago after listening to a podcast both Crap Mariner and I told her about, and he agreed to help her with her case. At the same time, Eshi met my friend Mike in SL. Mike also contacted Brent, and they put together a case for Eshi. Mike forwarded this letter to me and asked me to forward it on behalf of Eshi and the other widows who have been unfairly penalized because their American spouses died before they were able to get a fair hearing.

Please join us in assisting Brent and Eshi in this cause. Click through to the website, read about, consider if it is something you support, and contact your legislator.


From: Brent Renison
Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 3:30 PM
Subject: 60 Minutes Exposes Widow Penalty - from Brent Renison


I promised to let everyone know when I would appear on CBS 60 Minutes. The time has come. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Bob Simon, the most honored journalist in international reporting, will expose the “Widow Penalty” to the nation this Sunday night , November 23rd on CBS 60 Minutes.

America is deporting widows of American citizens automatically and without appeal when their spouse dies during bureaucratic processing of the green card application.

My sincerest desire is that, after watching the broadcast, Monday morning you will do something about this terrible practice. There are a number of ways you can help to end the widow penalty. The most important is to tell your elected officials that a change must occur in the abysmal way that we treat widows of American citizens. Whether you effect a change in the way the current or future Administration handles the cases, or push through a legislative amendment signed by the President, this practice must stop. Click on the box to find out how you can help.

Please be a part of that change on Monday morning, and please forward this email to just one person whom you trust to do the right thing. Forward to more than one person at a time, and accountability is lost – people will delete the email, just as you might delete mine.

Brent Renison

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How Real is SL?

This is a linkback to Zoe Connolly's blog, on which I was privileged to be a guest blogger :)

Zoe Connolly's blog

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Second Life as an Exploration of Culture and Diversity

I have the honor and privilege of having Young Geoffrion as the guest blogger for my blog, so kindly offered to me through Arminasx's and Vint Falken's Mix and Match challenge. So without further ado, I give you Young Geoffrion....

An explorer learns to tread carefully around marshy ground, and there is no landscape so littered with quagmires and fraught with hidden dangers as those of Culture and Diversity. Where does Culture begin and Personality end? Is Culture received by the individual or created? How is Diversity to be measured and characterised? And is Diversity a Good Thing?

Melting pot and multicultural communities have always struggled with such questions because the personal self-identity of its members is built on these shifting quicksands. We no longer have the luxury of living unquestioningly in the stone farmsteads built by our grandfathers, where most of our day is spent in the company of those who look and think and act like us. We live instead in busy cities teeming with strangers, foreigners, mixed classes and races, where personal roles and social ambitions jostle. A wilderness of diversity and culture sits at our doorstep and waits at our fingertips.

Second Life was created in such a community, sprung up in one the most culturally diverse cities in the world. Diversity is implicit in the promise of a world imagined and created by its residents, and promoted in its advertising. We are born to this Life as Ruth but immediately begin a search for our own identity.

However, the Second Life pursuit of personal self-identity reflects a Western preoccupation. Other cultures emphasize the relation between the self and others, by defining the interdependent self, often employing extended kinship terms. Such cultures tend to view conformity as a virtue and diversity as a selfish unwillingness to accept a role in the community, an indication of moral immaturity, or even a dangerous untrustworthiness. East Asian traditions, military and regimental cultures and religious communities generally eschew diversity as disruptive and dangerous. They offer clear roles for individuals who want them and find them useful; I have lived a large part of my life in such a culture, and my sense is that they are barely represented in Second Life.

Why explore diversity in the first place? Is Diversity beneficial for the individual and the social collective at large? It seems to me the answer depends on how individuals manage and integrate multiple social identities across culture, gender, class, or race, profession and ideology. In the United States, assimilation of immigrant cultures to the dominant American mainstream is encouraged, while in Canada and Europe one tends to see a public effort to maintain a separate identity or integrate multiple cultural identities. In other societies we see ethnic cultures marginalized. In Second Life, at least among English-speaking residents, no single dominant culture has emerged and identities are generally designed to be as distinct as possible.

Second Life celebrates play as a social dynamic. Though some come to work, the majority of residents are here to entertain themselves and their friends, and this too is a typically Western preoccupation. It could be argued that diversity is an advantage in a social environment designed for entertainment, but not in situations designed to accomplish other goals. Communication problems and relationship conflict hamper information exchange in diverse teams, and one way to reduce conflict is to emphasize the common identity of the team. On the other hand, homogenous teams may suffer from reduced group creativity and smaller skill sets by marginalizing or assimilating diversity.

Some avatars enjoy frequently changing appearances; I think most settle on a single appearance and experiment with a variety of roles within different groups. As Second Life permits us to participate in behaviors typical of identities other than our own, we learn to identify with multiple social groups and discover compatibilities between different cultures. This process unlocks knowledge and unleashes creativity. But whether it helps or hinders the pursuit of social goals is still unclear.

Second Life turns this morass into a playground, where diversity is a given and managing personal identity is a valued skill.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Business blunders in SL (or a treatise on requests for Raven's free time)

I am not sure if you all are aware, but I am Business Manager for RFyre. For over a year, I have worked for Raven Pennyfeather and her small business on a part-time basis for a real life wage.

Over the year, Raven will tell you one of the things I have firmly impressed upon her is the value of her time in SL and out of it. For Raven, who derives her sole income from her business here, using her work time wisely is incredibly important.

As a relatively well-known content provider, Raven gets a slew of offers and solicitations from people in world. They can be anything from charity events to fashion shows to magazines to freebies wanted. She passes these on to me because, frankly, she's a nice lady. She would like us to at least acknowledge these solicitations. I am not so nice. I have no problem saying no.

Let me give you the bottom line on this one. Raven's time is money. She doesn't give it out for free nor should she. Nevertheless, countless people ask her on a daily basis to do so. And they do it unprofessionally, rudely, and rather foolishly. (I call all of this stuff "foolishness." Raven finds that hilarious.)

That being said, let me share some correspondence that I received today for our involvement in a magazine... or something... not sure what it is because the corresponder was not very articulate (and let say, at least this person bothered to notecard, which is more than most do):

Hello Raven, I am the Business Relations Manager of a new SL publication called XXX that showcases all SL talent/creators from SIM makers, fashion designers, prefab and furniture makers, photographers, and etc. We are currently reaching further and making the publication international being published in 6 different langauges amongst other projects to further showcase SL talent. Currently we are looking for sponsors/partners and the support from (name of comapny) would be wonderful. I have sent you a folder containing the current issue and information on the publication. hope to hear from you soon. :-)

Many thanks for you time


I am sure you can see I bolded "(name of comapny)." I did this because I laughed when I read it. I responded thus:


Thank you for your interest in RFyre. At this time we don't have time budgeted to contribute to your magazine.

Please contact us in three months to fill us in on what you have been able to do with the magazine and we can then reconsider participation.

Thanks for asking for our participation.

Raven Pennyfeather
Empress of RFyre
CEO (name of comapny)

Harper Beresford
Duchess of RFyre
CMO (name of comapny)

She IM'd me back and thanked me. I don't think she read below the first "no." I took the time to read her thing!

Regarding charities, I think it is time we all start asking about the charities asking donations of us. I know Relay for Life has been extremely successful and I fully trust that monies made in Second Life go to the American Cancer Society, which is a fine organization. However, there are many other "charities" and fund-raising things that go on in SL which have no documentation.

Therefore, I have written a policy for RFyre which I am sharing on this blog. You are all welcome to cut and paste and put (name of comapny) in it.

RFyre's Policy Regarding Charities

We are frequently asked to donate time, content, and/or money to charities in Second Life from various people. While we are sympathetic to many causes, in most cases, we feel that money is better given directly to these causes rather than solicited on Second Life.

However, we are always willing to consider any unique possibility for supporting charities in SL if they are viable and if our efforts will be effective.

To best persuade us to participate or donate to any charity event in SL, we need the following information:

1. Avatar name who will be handling the funds
2. Real life name of that avatar
3. Charity name, website and address
4. Means of contacting the charity to insure that the avatar's representation in SL for their charity has been cleared

Thanks for asking for our participation.

Raven Pennyfeather
Empress of RFyre
CEO House of RFyre

Harper Beresford
Duchess of RFyre
CMO House of RFyre

We also get requests for freebies to be offered in hunts on sims where we have satellite stores, for charity hunts, etc. When I was a newbie, freebies were a valuable way for me to learn how to shop, how to dress myself, and what a broad variety of looks can be achieved in SL. They were great--when I got them from Free Dove.

However, there are people who actively seek freebies on SL and blog about this. We have offered freebies. Hundreds of avatars stream in, jam up our store, and stream out. We found no spike in sales. In fact, Raven has packaged a 250L GC in some freebies and never had takers.

There has been a lot of discussion among content providers about this. I spoke to one content person who had a treasure hunt at her sim on Halloween weekend and marked everything 10L to 140L. She convinced me that this was fair and would still draw traffic--but the kind of traffic she wants--people who bring money into the economy and spend it. She had a terrific idea.

So again, feel free to cut and paste, putting your (name of comapny) in it.

RFyre's Policy Regarding "Freebies"

Our policy regarding freebies or "gifts" is that we are very reluctant to provide them. Therefore, if you are receiving this notecard, our answer to you is no, we are sorry--we can not participate.

While we appreciate the traffic that "freebies" can build, our metrics show us that they do not generate sales for us or for our associates. When we have given out freebies on our sim or at other sims, we have never seen an appreciable increase in sales during the giveaway or after. We see a spike in traffic but not in sales.

We can only conclude that the audience that typically looks for freebies is not the demographic that brings money into Second Life. If we are looking for a promotion for getting money-spending customers to see our products, this is not it.

Additionally, our philosophy is that time spent producing content of the level that RFyre provides is worth some compensation. We are RL people spending substantial RL time on this content. Second Life has given us the opportunity to be compensated for our time and skills. Offering freebies devalues those skills and time for us and other creators. It sets into the economy a belief that this work should be free. In other words, it's devalued if we devalue it by offering it freely.

That being said, we have adopted a policy of offering deeply discounted items to potential customers. If an avatar can come up with 50L, that is more than enough to purchase our promotional item. We will gladly set out a promotional item at 50L to supplement your promotions.

Thanks for asking for our participation.

Raven Pennyfeather
Empress of RFyre
CEO House of RFyre

Harper Beresford
Duchess of RFyre
CMO House of RFyre

Let it be said, finally, that we love our customers. We want to be good to them. There is nothing more gratifying to Raven than to hear a customer express their love of her art or tell her a story about how much her creations mean to them. We do offer special promotions, and Raven passes out free outfits rather freely (I know this because she gave me one the day we first met, more than a year ago, for no other reason than she was just a very nice woman.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

OpenSpaces has been addressed

So it's true. The truth is as simple as expected. Linden Labs rushed a product to market, found out it didn't work, and lost money on it, which had to end. They have heard complaints and HAVE reacted.

Occam's Razor, Hanlon's Razor. Whatever you want to call it. M Linden has responded.

"We wanted to get this product to market quickly. Openspaces was wildly popular.... Since land-owners co-habitate on CPUs, if one owner adds an ocean and one builds a carnival, the shared CPU gets overloaded. The ocean-loving Resident who followed the original intent suffers and we are called in to resolve the conflict. Second Life is much too large to do that."

In other words, Joe rented to sploder-lovers, got his residents on his butt, called Concierge OR filed a lot of tickets and cost Linden Labs a lot of money, just as I suspected. Unfortunately, the ocean-lovers who never filed a ticket and sailed along peacefully got smacked for Joe's or Joe's resident's ignorance and Linden's not-so-great product offering.

Linden Labs' mistake forced them to do something that NO BUSINESS wants to do--raise prices. Linden makes more money if everyone is happy--why would they intentionally piss off their customers? There is no conspiracy.

Linden Labs has come up with a compromise--a week and a day after their announcement. I can bet there were a LOT of meetings about this one but it appears they read the blogs. People will still complain, but M Linden says, "We believe this is fair." I agree.

On another note, "Go Obama Go!"

Monday, November 3, 2008

The First Hour

Well, Linden Labs giveth and Linden Labs taketh away. I think Linden Labs has taken a right step in the direction of new user experience by deciding to hook up with Big Spaceship to tweak that new user experience. Does this mean we will have newbies who hook into this space, bring in Linden$ and content and make this a better place to be? I am hoping so. We need some good news.

As a Second Life Mentor, I have been frustrated with the questions people ask--not just "how do I fly," but also "where do I get my free land?" (Apparently that little offer is still out there...) Perhaps Big Spaceship is up to this task. It remains to be seen. Prolly just a few guys out of Brooklyn with a slick webpage. Hope they can pull it off.

Good luck!

I encourage all of you to throw your comments about that First Hour on my blog or on LL's blog. Hopefully those guys are reading this and learning something....

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Openspaces Debacle... my take

I have listened in Concierge chat, read a lot of blogs and comments to the original blog from Jack Linden, and discussed this whole debacle about the Openspaces with several people. I have my take on it.

I am not sure about these statements about conspiracy regarding the manipulation of "land" prices, the naysayers predicting financial peril of Linden Labs (they have to make $50 more per person quick), or the doomsayers saying Philip is dying so they need to devote processor capacity to his life-sustaining machinery (OK, I didn't hear that last one but I am sure it's out there). If the folks at Linden Labs were clever enough to start a conspiracy, we would have more stability, more groups, and fewer bugs because they would be smart enough to fix those too.

Consider this to be a sort of Occam's Razor--all other things being equal, the simplest answer is the best. I believe that Jack Linden is entirely telling the truth about their problems with Openspaces. The description of their resource allocations (4 open sims per core in a quad core PC) is true, and I believe that people have "misused" the openspaces--simply because they can.

I put "misused" in quotes because I believe Linden Labs poorly managed customer expectations about these sims' performance. They should have driven into their Concierge customers' heads that these were the Yugo of sims and never allowed them to believe they were still going to be driving Tauruses when they moved to them. I also believe they should have limited the opening of these sims with clear instructions to the comsumers about what they should expect and been CLEAR and detailed about what "light residential" meant, over and over and over and then some more.

I believe, as a result, that they bought themselves a customer service nightmare with these Openspaces, and that is what this price increase is all about. I am envisioning this scenario: sim owner Joe is accustomed to access to personal Concierge phone service and calls whenever his regular sims are not working. Now he has Openspaces. He has just lost his butt on the land prices because of the change in regular sim entry costs, so he thinks this is another means of making money. He rents an Openspace to every Ruth and Philip who has $100 a month and a dream of having their own sim. They move in, put down butterfly rezzers and sparkly things and sploders and have parties every night at peak hours with 40 avatars. They have never owned a whole sim and now they can! They don't get fps, physics, any of that. They just know they wanted to have fun on their own little sim, maybe run a little business or start up a club. So they get a ton of lag and unreliability and the other three poor saps also sharing that core get stuck too.

Joe's residents IM him constantly about performance. In Joe's mind, he doesn't delineate between the sims he pays $295 a month for and the sims he pays $75 a month for. All he cares is that LL's sims aren't performing to his expectations. He calls up Concierge. The Linden on the other end goes patiently through a set of diagnostics and then explains for the 10th time that day the truth about Openspaces, which is they are not meant to hold 80 avatars or 120 scripts or whatever. The call takes 30 minutes and Linden Labs uses up half the tier the made on that sim right there in that phone call. The customer hangs up, mad that Linden's idea of "light residential" and his idea don't coincide. The Linden hangs up, and they are down half the tier they got on that sim this month.

What it amounts to is that Linden Labs put out a product that is unprofitable and not working for them. They are raising the price. That's business. It was bad business and now they are righting it--the best way they can. They are giving two months notice. They were honest about their error. They are saying they are reading people's suggestions, struggling for some compromise (and I really think they are because they can see people are unhappy). And they will suffer for this when some customers flee and find alternative virtual spaces.

That's my take on this. Linden Labs screwed up. Occam's Razor. That simple.