Thursday, October 1, 2009

Linking Content to Value.. How LL Might Do It

First, I am going to link you all to my fashion blog, Harper's Passion for Virtual Fashion. I have been submitting a blog daily to that endeavor for ... 70 posts now.. Ay caramba!

However, I would like to feature a little blog here about being a content designer in SL. Raven, my wonderful boss at RFyre, receives countless notices, IMs, demands, etc., daily. She is incredibly patient with them and beyond generous with her time and resources. Most of them are polite and well meaning. Some are rude. And some are just plain old stupid.

Read below:

Greetings, I own a multi-purpose adult entertainment venue & would very much like to have you sponsor one or more of our events. We would like to have you either send models or provide some of our employees with your fashions, that you are interested in showcasing. It would be fabulous if you could provide us with a prize of some sort, as we are HOUSE of RFYRE fans & are interested in promoting you in a very specific way. We already own & wear your clothing etc. & send others to you.
Thank you for your time & consideration.


Someone's Name

Owner~A Place~

We had a good laugh about this. So we wrote back (but didn't send):

Dear Someone:

We own a top of the line fashion line in SL. We would like to have you sponsor our continued existence and help Raven pay her tier and RL mortgage because to give you the kind of content you want, she does it full time. Please send models or send your friends over to shop at our store. We would love to showcase you.
It would be fabulous too if you could provide us with a prize--something like buying more of our outfits. In fact, we think everyone in your club should purchase something. Then you could sponsor US by having a Best of RFyre contest.

We love your music and love to dance on your poseballs.


House of RFyre

Then later I wrote this letter to Raven, just to push her over the edge:

Titled: *interesting* and *amazing* opportunity

(Insert Name Here)
Raven Pennyfeather

I am writing because you are a very close personal friend of mine and I think you owe it to me and yourself to hear what I have to tell you and sell you because it's the best thing in Second Life. Not only will it *improve* your business but it will also create opportunities for you. Once you discover the synergies that are created, you will be amazed and wonder why you've never spoken to me before.

I will IM you at my earliest convenience because I am a busy man, selling this to so many successful people in SL like yourself. When I do, you will be *surprised* and *amazed* and will kick yourself for having never spoken to me before. It's very economical. For 10000L, leave it all to us. You will be astounded!

Here is a lm. Use it. I have no idea where it goes but it looks official.

(no parcel), Missing Sim (128, 128, 0)

Domogato MrRoboto
CEO of Synapse Enterprises, LLC
I passed the last letter to several friends. They all said, "Hmm.. who sent this and what is their service?" They DIDN'T laugh. I asked one why he didn't laugh, and he said, "I am so used to getting this stuff I thought it was another letter you received in your business...." He paused. "You mean it's not REAL?"

I am no longer surprised. There is a deep undercurrent in SL culture that denies the hard work of content creators. This weird sort of engagement comes from a number of different sources:

1. "SL is just a game." People still consider SL a game and therefore, try to play the game by exploiting everyone else to get their means achieved.

Some are doing this very well. A media conglomerate owner who can barely rez a prim has managed to purchase 4 sims, run a magazine, have a modeling agency, create a website, and, he recently said on his new SL TV show, make a RL living out of SL. He spends a lot of time making other people do things for him to create content. And he pays them nothing or next to nothing. Which leads to my next point....

2. "Content creation does not have value. However, my brilliant idea of how to assemble it does." Content creation--creating graphic art, building with prims, scripting, writing--none of them have value. However, deciding to make a club, assemble a bunch of people to create a magazine, renting land--those somehow all have value. Both have a sort of value. Graphic art would just sit around on prims if there weren't people pitching it. However, the business of making that art is still work. And at this point, it's more skilled and more difficult work.

3. "I can't afford to pay for this stuff." There is some weird mentality that says, "The computer I use that is good enough to handle Second Life, the broadband internet connection, the ISP, the electricity--none of that is free. However, I can't afford to pay for the entertainment that I find on the Internet nor for the content I expect you to provide to promote my fun and the fun of my patrons. Therefore, the time and skills you put into content creation SHOULD be free. And you should consider it a privilege I shone down on you."

Explain that one to me.

4. "I have no idea how it's really made. Therefore, it should be free." Marx once pointed out that we were separated from the means of production--we didn't understand how things were made--and this allowed us to buy into capitalism. (OMG, YES, I just said MARX.)

He had a point that still echoes today. Many in SL are disconnected from the means by which all this rich content comes to them. They don't understand that Adobe Photoshop CS4 costs $699, that Maya costs something I can't even find online because you have to go through a dealer, that Studio 3D Max, needed to be in Blue Mars, costs even MORE. This stuff takes skill, folks, and time. And for that, I have to pay someone a measly 2 bucks so I can feel gorgeous and beautiful and have fun with my friends? It's a BARGAIN!

It doesn't help that LL puts a "Freebie" area on each Orientation Island. Yeah, it teaches people how to dress themselves and teaches them how to "buy," but it doesn't really teach them about paying.

This is my proposal, and I hope Tom Hale (T Linden) sees this, because it was at Metanomics that he said retention in SL was based on first, making a friend, and second, investing money in your avatar. When newbies enter SL, give them 500L that shows in their account that they can use to BUY things but only in Orientation. Get rid of the "Freebie" area and call it the "Store." Allow them to shop at the Orientation Store. They can meet other new friends and mentors there and shop together. Once they leave Orientation Store, they lose whatever amount of Linden they had. And make sure the content they purchase is GOOD.

Explain to them in Orientation that SL can certainly be used for free; you can negotiate the whole world without spending a penny. However, if you want to dress up your avatar, have your own land, have a house, etc.--barring making it all yourself--you need to pay for it. And this is how you do it... and send them over immediately to sign up their credit card or PayPal.

This will somehow connect content to value, to cost, to real life money. Content creators built this world for you, residents--every darn beautiful pose ball you dance with, every stinkin' prim hair you put on your mesh head (over that skin someone drew). They should be able to make money from that. They SHOULD be able to "make bank."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

DBC's JazzBaragge simulcast

Several Wednesday afternoons, I have inevitably found myself dancing at the DBC sim with my friends Lunata, Bavid, Iono, Pippi and Bergie (and sometimes Jaynine). JfR Beaumont and Mady Schumann host a live show from Zurich, chattering in English, French, sometimes German (as I struggle to understand the French--ha!).

DBC, which is an online television/radio station out of Switzerland, hosts a live jazz session at JazzBaragge, a club in downtown Zurich, nearly every Wednesday night. The musicians who play are top notch (heard members of Earth, Wind and Fire once). We dance to videos projected from the club of the band in the club and likewise, video of US is projected into the club. DBC mixes this in an interesting way to be shown on their website (that is Bergie and Pippi on the front page). You feel like you are AT the club at an intimate club concert.

Today we listened to Marc Sway.. on his RL birthday! He was incredible. I mean.. REALLY incredible (and cute!).

And JfR did us the kind favor of bringing us to Cannes when he went to the Film Festival. Yes, Harper can say she attended the RL Cannes Film Festival, even if only in pixels.

I could go on and on. I am always so happy and have so much fun at DBC. Search for DBC in world and join the club. They are doing amazing work.

This is what I hope for with my Second Life. A bridge between RL and SL, the ability to travel around the world and feel you are in an intimate space with friends, to be in a place you never thought you would ever have the chance to see.

Monday, June 22, 2009

SL's Sixth Birthday

Second Life is about to celebrate it's sixth birthday. During the festivities, we will be seeing what SL residents think the future of the virtual world will be. Undoubtedly we will see a lot of futuristic, glowy places, such as the Android Stage on the SL6B Android Stage.

However, this birthday is quite important to me, at least. My own RL son was born in March, the same year SL was born. (He's almost a charter member!) One of the most significant marks of his birth is that he managed to squeak out two days before President Bush declared war in Iraq. As I have watched him grow, I have marked the endurance of that war by seeing his progress. Through learning to walk, potty training, his first day of kindergarten, and his completion of Legos Star Wars (*sigh*), I have seen the growth of this beautiful child while my fellow citizens faced dangers unknown to me (and unnecessary to anyone it turns out) on the other side of the world.

This has relevance as we think about the birthday of Second Life. Philip Linden chose to launch Second Life during a time of great upheaval in our world. We had experienced 9-11 just two years before. We were and are witnessing our own world grappling with the agonies of a new war (and it involved more than just the US and Iraq--we have to acknowledge that), the fear of conflict, and the sinking of the world economy. And yet he, the Lindens, and the residents persist.

Probably it is a lot of hubris. We have to scoff at a group of people thinking they can make a new world. What did we think we are doing? Nation building? (Want to know what the folks at Linden Labs thought they were doing? Shameless plug here for a friend's book--read Thomas Malaby's Making Virtual Worlds--just released!)

I had a friend who asked me the other day, when you reach a goal, do you look ahead towards the next goal or do you look back and see where you have been? I said, look ahead, of course, because if I look back, I will just see all the things I could have done better. Second Life is choosing to look ahead, to see what the future of virtual worlds will hold (and, I will cynically say, picking the brains of residents for more visionary ideas of where to go).

Let me end this story about the conversation with my friend. He laughed and said, you need to look back and savor what you have accomplished. You deserve to acknowledge that. On this sixth birthday, let's acknowledge that our nation building worked out a lot better than Iraq. Second Life includes residents from all four corners of the globe, people with varying abilities (Virtual Ability), and people who love straight, gay, furry, and all sorts of ways. Despite all the drama, despite the lag, despite the lack of decent hair for men, it's pretty near utopia.

While we are walking through the 20 sims of exhibits at SL, let's take a moment to remember life without prim hair, without 25 groups, without 7 Seas and chickens, without 30,000+ sims, without sculpties and wings, without freedom from Ruth. Let's also a remember our world without Second Life. It would be pretty empty.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

fashion bloggers--yea or nay?

The business of blogging fashion is a complicated one. It needs to be acknowledged. Fashion bloggers are, for designers and content creators, their "press" and a peek into their customers' psyches. They are the "word of mouth" creators love to have with a wider spread audience. They provide an invaluable service to consumers on the grid, and the continued proliferance of them can only be of benefit to designers and to the further life of Second Life.

Fashion bloggers are also content creators themselves. LL has made it blessedly easy for us to examine our avatars and dress them and also *mostly* easy for us to take screen captures of our avatars (that latest camera "fix" in the RC stunk--good thing they fixed it). The screen captures they take and then edit, the text they write, the links they make--they are all content creation. Some fashion bloggers do exquisite montages of the creative content that they have purchased or have received with elaborate web formatting and links, many of them only with the compensation of future free content or the appreciation of their readers. In other words, these folks don't get paid for this and as anyone who knows me, I argue that people's skills and time have value.

I appreciate their efforts because I do the blog for House of RFyre, and it can be a considerable time expenditure and cost to style the avatar, find poses and locales, create the image in world and in other software, gather the links, and write a blog. I am fortunate because usually I have the content readily available and Raven makes the final images.

Callie Cline recently asked me to be officer of her fashion bloggers group, one she created to send appreciation to bloggers. I accepted because, frankly, I like Callie a lot. She has shown to me nothing but pure integrity in her dealings with me and others and an amazing savvy about marketing in Second Life. Several people I highly respect have spoken with great admiration of her as well.

So it's to her credit that I agreed to help her because, at the time, I was pretty neutral about bloggers and honestly, I was damn sick of SL. I was tired of being IM'd in the middle of my play time or build time with sometimes selfish requests from random people, I was tired of the drama between friends and others, and I was tired of the stinkin' rolling restarts. I was plain old sick of arguing with everyone. Callie coddled and encouraged me and turned me around.

I wrote a response to an entry by HawksRock Gunawan in a blog he shares with several others, one of whom had her own word to say about his post (heehee). The gist of it is, I am glad I participated and I will continue to participate. I have a new appreciation and thought process about what fashion bloggers are up to. Doesn't mean I love them all. Doesn't mean I think they all do a great job and that none of them need improvement (and will post in the future the notecard I was allowed to send to them with fashion blogging tips). Doesn't mean I am all sweet and am gonna cheerfully accept random IMs in the middle of the night. Just means I now "appreciate" better.

Below is my response to HawksRock, reprinted here because I don't think anyone read it there (not that anyone will read it here either). HawksRock was gracious enough to IM me and compliment me on my response.
I was one of the first Callie approached to help be an officer of the fashion bloggers group when she opened it. She had a simple idea–she would have a Bloggers Appreciation Week. She would hold a party for the bloggers at the end of the week on one of her sims (not the one with her store, thanks). She would send out some nice little things she made and ask others to do so as well. She really only had half an idea of the mechanisms going into it. However, her mandate was pretty simple–she just wanted to show the bloggers appreciation.

I was cynical about the whole enterprise but tempered my cynicism because, frankly, Callie is a nice lady who always comes at things with the best intentions, and after a pretty crappy week, I needed some cheerfulness. SL was really getting to me–I was sick of freebie hunters, lag, rolling restarts, drama, and all of it. To Callie’s credit, I argued with her about some fine points but she talked me out of them in the interest of being NICE to the BLOGGERS. Her message never waivered. Her intent was pure throughout.

After she started the ball rolling, she IM’d me the first day with reports about the participants. (Along the lines of “OMG, we have 50 in the group! Yay!” I am not kidding–she said this. Two hours later, “We have 87! OMG! I didn’t think anyone would join!” She did it in with her characteristic 20 page breaks–two to three words per line.) This thing really did snowball on her.

And yeah, she has some secret underlying ability to turn things into a good campaign. This is not deliberate–she just has it in her! Maybe it’s karmic. Send out to the world what you want back. Send out bile, you get it back. Callie sent out positivity. She got it back.

And yes, the officers put a LOT of time into this as did many other people, including the designers who offered items to the bloggers and Charlotte, who built the party space on Callie’s sim. Callie didn’t do this alone–she never claimed she did.

However, Callie herself sacrificed a lot of time to this–time that would have been otherwise spent on her business. If you have ever run a business in SL, you know time spent in world suddenly has great value. Cost it out–the many hours she dedicated to this group in the many ways she did (including defending it in comments in this blog) will never be recouped financially. She ain’t ever gonna get enough sales to cover that time.

Frankly, Hawks, if anyone should be holding Callie’s feet to the fire for claiming success “alone,” it should be people like me (or Shelly above). You don’t have to do it for me.

The thing is, though, I got what I needed–I saw a lot of bloggers having fun, I received lots of personal thanks, I saw lots of people being excited and creative in their blogs, I met a lot of cool people and learned some new things, and I had a pretty crappy week get turned around by Callie’s enthusiasm spreading through the group.

And Callie personally and publicly thanked me many times. Whether you or any other blogger heard it, I am not sure, but I am satisfied.

So I drank the kool-aid. I came out better for it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

RL Art in SL

One of the residents on Avant Garde and one of my dearest friends in SL is KK Jewell, the editor of KK has been an ardent proponent of bringing RL architecture to SL and taking SL architecture out to the rest of the world. She has written about Scope Cleaver, among others.

The fabulous thing about KK is she's the real deal. She knows architecture and architects. She also knows art and has many friends in the art world, including painter David Hockney. (Side note: one of the first sets of images I imported into SL for my own personal use were Hockney's paintings. I decorated my first house in SL with them. So of course, I almost died when I found out she knew him.) KK has always been generous with her knowledge, her stories, and her time and friendship. It's why I asked Raven to name a dress after her :)

A few weeks ago, KK passed me a photo of a "painting" that Hockney did on his iPhone and had sent to his close friends. It was amazing and we were both excited. KK rezzed a prim and put the painting on it and hung it in her home in Avant Garde and all the residents got the opportunity to view it and enjoy it. We didn't say much--it was a personal communication between her friend David and herself, and she was sharing the beauty with just a few close friends.

KK called last night with another of Hockney's iPhone paintings and sent me this photo.

We since found some articles about the Hockney iPhone paintings so we felt it was ok to make this public. (Read about them on the Sundance channel or below.)
British painter David Hockney revealed Thursday how he uses his iPhone to paint pictures, as a new exhibition of works he produced on his computer opened in London.

"I like to draw flowers by hand on the iPhone and send them out to friends so they get fresh flowers. And my flowers last! They never die!" he told the Evening Standard newspaper.
I am sure KK would be glad to share the beauty with others in SL. Knock on her door at our sim, Avant Garde or peek through the windows. She has a regular rotation of original wonderful art there. As do other residents on my other two sims. Will write more when I can.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Blogging about my sims...

Someone reminded me tonight that I have not blogged in a while. In part this is because I have been busy messing with my sims (Avant Garde, Vanguard and Iconoclast--by the way, does anyone need a place to live among silly intellectuals? I have a quarter left here....). I have also been blogging for some other blogs, mostly House of RFyre (shameless plug finished) and soon Nonna Hedges' Details.

Back to the sim thing. I have to say, the purchase of my sims was really an attempt to "engineer" a "living space" for some like minded adults. Kinda similar to a channel in IRC or a chat in AOL, I suppose, but with all the graphic fun inherent in it.

One of my newest residents said, "I can't believe how fun this sim is!" And I guess it is if you share our sense of humor and fun, which we all seem to.

At one time on Avant Garde, we would gather at a late hour (for me) and do the flamenco together, three or four of us. While I am in CST, one was in PST and one was in Europe, and she was just waking up, so she looked forward to her coffee and flamenco. We would discuss art, music and gossip about what was going on in SL. We were supremely happy.

Another time, another resident showed up with his dragon avatar and I dug a hole in the coast to accommodate him and his.. cookie.

Then there was the time a resident, moving to another of my sims, decided to blow up his residence REAL GOOD. As prims flew about, we crouched on a neighbor's roof and watched the carnage. When did setting physical become so fun?

A resident called one day to have me come see a house he wished to purchase and to meet one of the builders--the fantastic Fornicola Butuzova. I arrived and then called over the rest of the residents of the sim and we ended up having a party and laugh session with Forni and her business partner, Amo Lambeau. (Bah, lost the photo and it was good!)

Today I "decorated" a resident's garage with junk. Served him right. Who needs a GARAGE in SL? ;)

Recently, Mitch Wagner (I think I can "out" him), called me to show me his new avatar. I had to say I laughed because Mitch seemed so comfortable in it....

There is a point to this blog. It's hard for me to articulate tonight how communities are built in SL. Well, heck, people have written whole books about it.

What I know is there is a community here on my sims. We share a language of text and image, we laugh together, we commiserate, we enjoy the fruits of each other's creativity and work. We all find it very satisfying and we keep coming back for more.

I don't think we are unique either. I see pages and pages and pages of photos of people having fun with their avatars. I read quotes in picks. I hear stories. And I have been to SLCC (and hope to go again this year--seeya there).

Was this Philip's vision? What a grand one it was!

(Shakin' a resident down for tier. That's me with the eyes. ;))

Friday, January 30, 2009

Wishing I were in Berlin

Right now, as we speak, Chrome Underwood (SL name) and Rob Steenhorst (RL name but he is in SL) are showing their art in another show sponsored by Vision Planer and his company. At the Austrian Embassy in Berlin RIGHT NOW as I write this, my friends Chrome, Rob, Vision, Jaynine, Lunata, and KK are sipping champagne, laughing, enjoying each other's company, enjoying the art, enjoying that whole special feeling of being where you are meant to be.

I wish I were there, my dear friends. I am so glad to know all of you. Please come home to Avant Garde and Vanguard soon :)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Charities in SL

It's time for me to reveal to you all what I think about charitable requests in SL: I think the way they are handled sucks. Not the charities themselves--the requests and the way donations in SL are managed at present. I see many people--some of them treasured friends--collecting monies on behalf of charities. I know these friends are good for their word, but if you don't know them personally, how do you know?

To be honest, I suspect I have been scammed out of more Lindens giving to "charitable" causes than I have to anything else in SL. I ignore the emails from Nigerian princes asking for me to lend them money. How come I am supposed to walk into SL and watch my brain (and Lindens) go out the door? Not anymore.

I think you all kind of got a whiff of that last month when I posted RFyre's official statement about charities. I have come to solidify some of those thoughts based on the many charitable requests that have come across my virtual desk recently. The American Cancer Society has been very successful on SL, due in part to the incredible volunteer work of several individuals. Now everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon.

I have encountered "charitable" requests wherein a logo was used (easily ripped off the organization's website), a plea was made on behalf of someone's brother or dog or grandma, a personal avatar took the monies, content providers spent hours making one-of-a-kind things that sold for $5 USD when they were auctioned off, and events were staged that yielded less than my writing a check of $25 to the organization personally.

One special offender set up an "auction" for Relay for Life in SL wherein we put money in a box, but when our auction was exceeded, we did not get our bid returned to us. She could have said the item went to the highest donor. But no, she said it went to the highest bidder. And this was a high-profile SL personality (who always seems to have her hand out for one or another charitable thing--most of it amounting to keeping her sims open). I do not believe Relay for Life would have condoned how she went about her "auction"; however, she acted on behalf of them, using their kiosk and logo.

How come the content providers spend hours of time looking for others stealing their content have no problems handing over free content and time to potentially unscrupulous money handlers? Or even worse, bungling money handlers.

What it amounts to is this: I need to be assured that the monies being collected are being collected legitimately and sent legitimately. The onus is on the collector, not on me, to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they are handling the monies correctly.

In the "real world," non-profit organizations have to go through many iterations to prove this. We as donors should require the same accountability. A financial report should be presented. My alma maters do it for me every year. My charitable recipients do it. Those who ask us for money in SL should also be expected to do this. To pull out a .csv file and throw it in an Excel spreadsheet with a copy of a cashiers check or the receipt for the monies donated should not be hard to do. And it should not be a tax write-off for a recipient. In fact, if someone donates substantial monies for an auction here, I would expect them to get a receipt for THEIR write off.

What should be expected?

* Upon request, the address of the charitable organization can be provided and a means of contacting them so there is proof that they have approved of the charitable event and use of their logo for such.

* A separate avatar made solely for the purpose of gathering donations and accounting for those donations. The donations should NOT go to a private avatar.

* An accounting of the donated items that have been provided with an estimated value. This includes designs OR performances. This is so we ALL know that the content providers' time and efforts are being matched at least minimally with donated money.

* Information about how one can contact the organization for a receipt if the donation exceeds $25 USD.

I have yet to see a function operate like this. I honestly have not looked closely at the American Cancer Society thing, though people gathering money on behalf of Relay for Life have been, at times, suspicious. The closest I have seen was the Make-a-Wish promotion done at the Best of SL, run by RubyStarlight Writer. Ruby used a separate avatar for funds gathering (though she had a personal avatar gather money at the celebrity auction--tsk) and was able to prove that Make-a-Wish condoned her activities and had reviewed them. Am I *positive* that she will turn over all monies collected? No. But I am a lot more sure than if she hadn't done these things.

Finally, I wonder if it's ever been considered by anyone that if these charitable organizations are contacted for approval, they MIGHT have resources to help raise funds for them including better graphics, pre-written statements, photographs and web links? They might even *gasp* find Second Life interesting and send someone in to check it out.

We all complain about Linden Labs, their lack of professionalism, their lack of customer service, foresight, etc. Yet we don't demand the same of ourselves or our peers in Second Life in taking money from each other for charitable organizations.

In short, next time you have your hand out, expect me to ask questions. The next time someone else has their hand out, ask them questions. Let's bring Second Life back to the Real. You want my Real money, I think you should do it Really right.