The biggest and most popular jazz club in SL, Phat Cat's, is for sale, again, but this time for real, as it seems. The owner, Dilbert Dilweg, wants to get at least 1.000.000 L$ (equivalent to about 3.501 US$) for the whole private island including all buildings and objects.

Now I wonder if we are going to see the most popular place in Second Life at all according to Tateru Nino under new management soon...

Let me quote the in world sales pitch here:

Phat Cat's is for sale. The sale is 1,000,000 Lindens and will include full transfer of simulator and costs.

Buy at time of tier payed and get 1 full month without having to pay tier.

All transfers will be completed WHEN ALL monies have been transfered.

Paying thru pay pal without Lindens is also acceptable payment. Payment should be the equivelent of 1 million lindens at current market rate the total would be US$3,500.72.

Cotact Dilbert Dilweg for purchasing information if you are seriously interested in buying one of the strongest clubs on SL.

The price is quite a bargain for such a well established and good running sim, if you ask me. Other sims with that kind of traffic have been sold for much, much more money in the past already.

And if you take a look at the finished land auctions at the mainland, a new sim without any content there is still being sold for around 2-3000 US$ there, so this price is not out of reach or far too much asked for it.

SLMillions, the in world lottery where you could win one million Linden dollars, is gone for good. Seems to me that this project was creating way too much loss for the people behind it to let it run much further. 

When you take into account, which big waves the announcement from 05/04/2007 of the age verification system made and that Lindenlabs wanted to implement this on really short notice and since then it has been over one month of time and it is still not there nor any new announcements about it, it makes you wonder - when is it going to happen, finally?

I haven't even seen a public beta test of it so far, and if you consider how fast Windlight was integrated in the client, which is a far more complex piece of technology - what is taking Lindenlabs so long? And why?

The Second Life Herald is running an article named "Blame Europe" about the "virtual child pornography" by Carl Metropolitan (who dislikes it clearly) reported by German reporters.

The main thesis is this:

Sexual "ageplay" in Second Life--as repulsive as it is--would almost
certainly be legal under current US law. In the United States, only
virtual child pornography that is "indistinguishable from" real child
pornography is illegal. [1] However, many European jurisdictions are
far more restrictive. In Germany--source of the recent ARD "Report
Mainz" news reports--laws against "virtual child pornography" are even
stricter, [2] making little distinction between real and virtual child
pornography.

[...]

The First Amendment has led to United States having some of the least
restrictive laws on freedom of speech in the world. But as Second
Life's real life users become less and less American, and its servers
cease to be wholly US-based, Linden Lab will inevitably be forced into
more limits on what it can and cannot allow its users to do.

No, I disagree. This is not about enforcing laws here in the first line, or the constitution of whatever country at all. The main reason why Lindenlabs reacted promptly is: this could hurt their image great lengths and decrease their income great lenghts.

Face it, corporate plays a more and more important role in Second Life, it is making big bucks with Lindenlabs and is a thriving force and income for profit. But when Second Life's image becomes equal in the public as some kind of wonderland, where child pornography is being tolerated by the company running it, then the first part to leave SL quickly is going to be the companies, because this broken image could hurt themself, too. Later also many residents would leave Second Life, too.

So it is either satisfying the needs of Lindenlabs to grow more or tolerating this behaviour of a small part of the community, which is illegal in many countries of the world and for sure would hurt the business great lengths, but not where the HQ of LL is situated.

Either way there would be complaints, but since a company wants and needs to make profit and tolerating this behaviour would hurt profit great lengths, the solution of it is without no doubt: making Second Life cleaner for all (age verficiation) and making it very clear, that they don't tolerate such behaviour at all, even if it complies with the US law.

And while some are now complaining (what for?), I welcome this necessary step towards a cleaner Second Life and since it enables Lindenlabs the opportunity to stay much longer in business.

When you take a closer look at the key metrics of April or make diagrams out of them like here by Tateru Nine, who has been interviewed here about the growth, you can only come to one conclusion: growth is still there, but it has stalled. 

What are the reasons? There could be many. Perhaps the bad performance - but that's something you experience after you've created an avatar, so perhaps not really. I personally think that the times of the big hype as Second Life as Web 3.0 are gone now - the time for bashing Second Life starts now, meaning usage and new account creations are going down and after that somewhat up again.

The question is: is this a good thing for a while? Yes. It gives Lindenlabs more time to work on their next generation architecture and some air to solve out some big issues. It is bad still in business terms since land sales should go down a little now, so I wonder how this affects the income of LL at all.

The next big thing in the community hasn't been the upcoming voice features or the introduction of sculpted prims (which are going to have only somewhat limited use), but the introduction of age verification to the platform. I've also written an entry about it, too.

Now we know the company which is going to do it. Well, they had to choose one, anyway, and there are not so much companies in that field.

Many people have disgruntled by the fact they need to verify their age if they want to enjoy mature content. The whole verification is a paradigm shift of Lindenlabs, meaning they are using the community to keep the platform cleaner. Now that the battle has calmed down, we all can take a somewhat clearer and better look at it.

Most of the people, who already have got credit card infos on their file, don't see the usage of it, since other sites take you as verified just by entering your credit card number. But this is not even sufficient and enough in the USA, so you need to provide other data.

What's the reasoning behind it? To clean the platform, make it better for companies and to avoid possible lawsuits. At the moment something like this could happen: a mother finds out, that her 13 year old daughter is playing in RL, having sex, perhaps has even been raped virtually. So she can still say at the moment: hey, Lindenlabs, I am going to sue you now over that, you haven't done enough to keep my daughter from the main grid!

With the introduction of lawful age verification, though, Lindenlabs just could say: well, we did all the lawgiver told us to verify the age of your daughter, it's all your fault.

What is the impact going to be of this verification? I don't think it is going to be such a big thing, most things don't fall into that category, what you're doing at home is what you do at home, but of course some places and services need to be tagged. If you just walk around most normal places you should'nt need it at all.

But age verification is only one step; since LL says always the main grid is for adults only it could either happen, that one day the verification becomes mandatory for all or all questionable content has been tagged. If all questionable content has been tagged, well, there could be the possibility of a merger of the teen with the main grid.

At the end, you can never be sure if someone is of legal age or not; LL just can do all the lawful things to prevent people underage to come to the main grid and that's it. And, by the way, there are enough places on the web where it is documented how to construct certain ID-numbers yourself and so on.

All in all this is a very necessary and, don't forget it, long overdue step, to get the platform a cleaner place and reduce the access to questionable content.

There is one thought that hit my mind when I read again the news about the possible opening of the server side software of Lindenlabs: it would really, really nice to have regional datacenters at least. Ok, having the possibility to host the servers on your own would be even better, but at least this step would be really nice in addition to the two datacenters in the USA.

Why? Simple: physics at work. What we all dislike is the almighty lag. Though the internet has become very fast, the connections between the continents are very fast, too, they still cannot beat physics.

But how does the lag involve physics? Well, even if the internet is fast, the maximum speed data can be transferred theoretically is light speed (roughly 300.000 km/s). You cannot cross that border. This means, the longer your connection gets, the longer it takes for the data to reach you. That's quite simple physics.

The time packets need in the network to reach their host is usually measured in milliseconds. When people play at LAN-parties they usually have ping times < 20 ms, so that's a very good time. Of course, when the way of your connection is, let's say, 10.000 kms long, the information alone needs about 0.033 seconds to reach it's target - one way, roughly estimated, that's still less than from Paris to San Francisco, for example and this still doesn't take into account the latency that several routers are adding up on the way. Of course, this means also no satellites!

But when your customers come from many different countries it's sooner or later better to have a regional data center in that region to give them better access to the data, which means less delay and a much smoother and faster experience. Since in the top 10 of the origin of the SL players 43.24% are coming from Europe (more than from the USA), the installation of such a regional data center would be the next logical step for LL to give customers better service.

I mean, when you look at other popular online games, they usually have one-two server locations in the USA (West- and East-coast), one in Europe and one in Asia. That's exactly because of the physics I explained earlier, and that's why I'd like to see the openings of those regional data centers. The company needs to move where its customers are.

Of course, when then again they are going to open up the server side part and you can host a simulator on your own, this would not be really necessary anymore. You just get a rental machine somewhere, where it's near your customers, get it up running and that's it. Well, we are going to see where the future leads us.

Eric Kintz, the vice president of global marketing strategy and excellence for HP, is running a very critical blog entry about second life. Taglein: Top 10 reasons as why I still need to be convinced about marketing on Second Life.

While he raises right points there, there's one point missing: this is going to be the next big thing[tm], if done right, the start of something new in that kind of matter, if done right, so getting experiences in SL will help you adapt later to other virtual worlds more easily.

There is a new search tool available as beta for Second Life, being developed of the Electric Sheep Company at the moment and open for public now since a few days ago.

What's this thing and how does it work? Well, the searching part of it is a bot named Grid Sheperd, that runs from sim to sim, scans the objects of a sim and connects them with avatar names. The part available on the world wide web at the moment is a search interface, that enables everybody to lookup the items owned by the avatar. It is only showing the items of the avatar though that are tagged as "for sale". So the Sheeps are telling us: it's adding value to all of use, since it's automated and it's opt-out, if you don't want those infos available at all. They're very excited, announced the availability of this service here, described the options and doings of this search bot in this FAQ and an progress update in this blog entry. Important: opt-outs are now taking effect immideately!

Heck, I don't care about that! This thing is invading my privacy, plain and simple. I am going to ban the bot on every parcel I can and I am going to spread the word around and this bot makes me really, really angry, and I mean it!

So, what's wrong with this toy? Many things.

My few main reasons why I took an instant hate about it are:

  • Not everybody is going to know it is existant or how to ban it or can ban it.
  • On big flaw in the approach: it is opt-out! Sheesh! This thing should be opt-in only! I want to be asked before, not afterwards, it's that simple.
  • The technology used for this machine works and generates a big database. While per default only items tagged for sale are going to show up, I can visit the Sheep Island and make all of my items public available, if I wish. This means: it can be used to generate a big database with nearly all the objects I've placed in world somewhere. Bummer. Even if they don't use it to leave those items in the database, the technology is ready. Ready for what? Well, who guarantees me that not another person or company is going to use this to really scrape all data available on the main grid about me, generates files about me and is going to sell them to companies interested in my data for whatever reasons? This is a really, really big, bad breach of privacy! And this is also in my opinion a flaw in the architecture of SL and/or the handling of bots by Lindenlabs. This incident just pointed to a whole can of worms unsolved, we should be therefore thankful for it. Not everybody would announce such a thing in public, and that with good reason.
  • They're claiming it's adding value to the community. Well... perhaps to a small part of the community, but in whole this approach is very arguable. It would have been better if this bot was opt-in only from the start, but even then it's troublesome.
  • If I publish a website, I expect it to be indexed by a search engine. I can adjust the behaviour with a file named robots.txt, I can restrict access on my own and so on. When I open a store or build my house in SL, I don't expect such a thing happening at all. And if I don't read about it, I might never know it's there.

So, what's the conclusion of it? SL has lost some more of its innocence, if you want to protect your data, you must get your ass off and do it yourself. Since this bot is still in the beta, the default policy could change - perhaps. Then again, perhaps not. But if someone really wants to scrape the data of the grid about you, well, the technology is ready, and he's going to do it silently. You're never going to know what hit you until it is to late, then. And, believe me, there are many compromising objects around an avatar could place in his home which can backfire on your real life - badly. Very, very bad.

It would be even more easier for Lindenlabs, to do this on their own, since they're sitting on the whole database and just need to run some queries. Easy. But this would ruin their reputation at all, many people would perhaps threatening them with law suits, so this is not going to happen and we should trust them on that matter. Besides, you've got a contract with them.

And how is this new feature being reviewed by the community? That's really even more surprising: most are happy with it and welcome this! This seems for me that many really don't have a clue about what this actually could mean for them.

Some examples are:

Of course, such a tool has never only people supporting it; someone who got the whole shebang right and has the right views about it in my opionion is Prokofy Neva. He wrote actually a whole bunch of articles about it on his own blog and on the Second Life Herald and I must say, I share his views, that's very rare. Find his article about the search engine itself on his blog here, about the need to regulate the usage of bots (I wonder if it is possible) here and his article about it at the Second Life Herald here. He also wrote an open letter to the CEO of Lindenlabs, Philip Rosedale, in which he raises many valid points.

By the way, not only I've got a problem with this approach, according to another article of Prokofy Neva at the Second Life Herald Anshe Chung thinks this is a violation of her covenants and has banned the bot on her whole continent Dreamland. I can understand that move.

Well, what's left to say is: I don't think that ECS is evil. In my eyes they took the wrong approach to this delicate kind of matter, which is now backfiring great lengths on them. Backfiring how? Well, I know many potential investors, who are angry about it and for sure are now not going to give them orders for in world buildings and such, in contrary, even try to convince other people not to give ECS orders at all.

Another important thing is that this would have happened sooner or later, because Second Life allows this data to be scraped without much efforts at all, perhaps it already has happened many times and is still happening, done by others, and we just don't know it. Such things also have happened with different social network on the web many times, so better watch your steps. SL is like the wild west there, it seems - if you want security, your on your own - mostly. Better get used to it that an avatar is something in a database.

If you want to read more about that privacy in general, I suggest you visiting the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

A few days ago I visited Mercedes-Benz Island to take another look at their in world presence. Well, there was not much happening, anyway and there was also no employee of the company present at this time. They are around there, normally, at some time.

They've got not very tight settings on security there, either. This means - just pushing is forbidden, all else works - user scripts, flying around and placing objects is available for every visitor. This means: very bad settings in concerns of security and an open invitation to griefers. I guess, autoreturn is in action, though, but placing objects allows the use of weapons.

And guess what? There were some bored griefers, who came into the island and wrecked havoc upon it. They were somewhat harmless, though, since they did not cage or orbit people. This would have been possible for them, too, without big effort at all.

So, how do bored people or griefers look like? Well, like the gentlemen on the picture down below, for example. Click the thumbnail to get the bigger view.

Well, and how does it look like, when they're doing there hobby? For example like on the picture down below; David Hasselhoff spreaded all over the place. They also nuked virtual bombs all over the place, used weapons to bring avatars to them and made other stuff. Unfortunately there was no one of Mercedes-Benz around nor the info how to contact one of them. Well, it lasted a few minutes, then they left.

When I asked one of those, if he's bored, he just told me: "This game is shit." Riiight... then just leave it and go away playing Scrabble!

When you're online for quite a time, you're going to develop a feeling for those bunch of guys when they're around; they always mean trouble and just want to get attention. In a way they're like spammers; ruining the whole thing if you're not doing something against them.