Second Life 2.0 – my initial hopes for doing the new ‘base avatar(s)’

(this post is a tad stream of thought as it was not an intended blog, but just hit me as something I wanted to get out there, pretty much as I have been typing it in…)

Over on Hamlet’s blog, in my comments to a new article, I outlined my thoughts on how I feel they should do the avatar for Second Life 2.0.

I like -some- of what I said there, but I don’t so much like my first comment there (I got a bit dumb / juvenile when one of my triggers was pulled by the article claiming the SL avatar is actually not bad… Thus I’m not going to link back this time…)

So here are my thoughts (and somebody remind me to come back and add images from some of the things I mention here):


The SL 1.0 avatar is bad, and was bad even when it was made.

I can pull out Possette from Poser 4 in the late 1990s and show you all the ways, in detail, that the SL avatar has been bad from day one.

And I can take Possette into a 3D modeling application and scale her polygon count down to whatever SL’s is – and she will STILL be worlds better.

And Possette is considered a BAD 3D model…

SL’s avatar has anatomy problems from head to toe. Poor rigging. and absurdly bad morphing range choices (the fact that a female avatar’s arms are too short unless the dial is set to 100, and that is still too short if she is over 5’6″ tall… this is just WRONG).

Time is no excuse.

Primitive technology is no excuse.

There simply was no excuse.

The lessons to learn from it are simple: Look at that. Now do something very different.

Here is my idea of different:

The mistakes in the SL-1.0 avatar can be avoided by hiring actual 3D-modeling professionals who have specific game-design experience. People who will know how to rig for real-time animation, how to model for it, and how to model morph points for the needed levels of variety.

The mistakes can be further avoided by making 3 completely different meshes: male, female, child.

- This also lets you put in ways to force the child one into ‘G-rated’ skins, and prevent the adult ones from being ‘morphed’ into too-childish of appearances.

You might then need some ‘swap points’ – specific cut points in the mesh where limbs can be removed and replaced with other 3D models, including the head, and in the adult models the ‘pubic region’.
– so that your community can easily customize the avatar later on.

In the adult female, also the bosom as a swap-part. The shape of this can vary a lot from woman to woman, and recent products in the SL Marketplace show that there is high demand for that reality to be met in our avatars. By having it as a swap out spot, “where to connect” becomes a lot easier for future content developers to determine when making their product.

(I should be able to go into appearance, and use a pull down menu or something to simply select what head to show, what kind of left upper limb to show, etc… from among those I have made or bought then linked to that point).

- this kind of customization was seen in MMOs from 2004 on (think of City of Heroes as an ideal example – some of which can be seen in the modern replacement MMO Champions).

From the get-go, every model should have the ability to bake at least 3 kinds of textures onto it: a skin, a shadow map/tattoo layer, and an alpha-mask.
– Even for rezzed objects. There is no reason alpha maps should be limited to the base “nude” avatar, and the “tattoo layer” is more or less akin to a “shadow layer” on a rezzed object so those should be treated as such in a uniform sort of way.

There is no need to ever add support for texture based clothing in today’s modern 3D – just start out doing “mesh worn clothing” right from day one… Using a comform to shape system akin to some of what is now seen in Daz3D’s auto-fit system… but more locked in because you’re only dealing with 3 meshes…

Next up…

A system to swap out the ENTIRE mesh, and its rigging, for a custom one… so that users can later add in animals and whatever… But with some tight limits.

(alternatively, you start with a 4th mesh, that is just balls connected by sticks, in a quadruped form, and then have a rigging for that – thus helping boost consistency for animators.)

Proportions:
This is so vital…

Unless you are going for a specific aesthetic, a cartoon look – you MUST have correct proportions as the default.

That means you model these 3 meshes for real human proportions of an adult male, female, and a child of the ‘default chosen age’ (which my GUESS would put at 8 based on what I observe in SL as the norm among child avatars that are dedicated to being such).

- Your middle of the dial, unmorphed avatar, MUST be proportionate.
As in, the ’50’ setting of every shape dial is proportionate, and as tall as the global average, or the average in your ‘nation of choice’ (and here you pick something reasonable like the USA, and not like my Amazonian Jungle cousins).

- You then do 3 ‘special head morphs’ to start… Caucasian, African, Asian. Yeah I know that doesn’t even cover my own ethnicity… I think those 3 suffice however as, in art, other ethnicities are usually doable as blends from them.

This is something seen in a number of Daz3D / Poser figures. A couple of full head morphs that if dialed to ‘fully applied’ give a generic look from a given ethnicity. You do these as morphs and not head swaps, because its much more interesting to apply them partially in a mix.

Victory is… still down the road a bit. But we’re walking forward again…

If you love something, you don’t flee – you work to get it fixed. And you put feet to the fire over it.

We all know that last year the Second Life Terms of Service got put through the wringer of a rather nasty change that no one liked. Its possible even some inside of Linden Lab were none too pleased – though that is speculation.

Back when this occurred some SL Pundits called for people to ‘leave SL if this bothered them’. Some see the only metric of protest for an online service being ‘abandonment or disengagement.’

You have to wonder… if this is reflective of people’s upbringing…

I didn’t leave SL. I didn’t stop buying stuff for my avatars. I even near doubled my land holdings.

I was not one of the big bloggers on this at the time. I just said my piece in the comments of other people’s blogs.

I didn’t leave Second Life… because I care about Second Life. And not just the ability to have a sandbox to play pixel-pusher in. I care about the communities. Even and especially the ones I’m not personally in. I care that they are possible, that they exist.

I care that a dying friend (who I did not know was dying at the time), was able to give and receive so much love at the final stages of her life. Because of Second Life.

There is a magic to Second Life that goes WAY BEYOND prim acounts, tier, Marketplace, and the Terms of Service.

Its the magic of the people in Second Life. Even and sometimes especially the Linden employees we love to deride but sometimes secretly admire (if you’ve ever squealed at the sight of meeting a Linden inworld, you cannot fully pretend to hate all the Lindens… I’ll give you a pass, but I’m also holding onto a knowing grin)…

Heck… we lambaste those Lindens so much BECAUSE we care…

Some would say nobody cared about that TOS change last year because:

“Since this controversy began, there not been a noticeable drop in the amount of Second Life content created, bought, and sold, let alone any dip in actual usage of Second Life.”
- Linden’s Revised ToS for SL Still Troubled, Says RL Lawyer

And that we had no reason to be up in arms because:

“there is no evidence it was ever intended maliciously, nor that the clause caused any noticeable drop in the amount of Second Life content created, bought, and sold, let alone any dip in actual usage of Second Life.”
- Linden Lab Amends Draconian Clause in SL’s Terms of Service (Months After Anyone Was Really Angry About It)

But it changed… for some reason Linden Lab decided to amend things.

So…

Apparently Linden Lab pays attention to more metrics than just people giving up. Apparently they also pay attention to community goodwill, and community commentary.

So if the dollars didn’t move, if the users didn’t flee… then what and why?

People spoke up, blogged about it, got third parties to pull support (places like Renderosity), they called Linden Lab out on it all over the internet.

I would hazard to guess that the Second Life userbase even managed to get the former CEO of Linden Lab tossed out (speculation again – deservedly or not, it was under his watch and flipped the dial for many in regards to him).

Some Pundits think nothing happened and no one cared…

They would push the notion that the ONLY valid way to protest an online community is to rage quit it…

Well, I’m pretty freaking pissed at Congress these days…

But it doesn’t mean I decided to “quit” the USA and move myself to Jupiter… (or even further to Canada or Utah or something).

Only the really crazy sorts actually try and fly off the planet when these things happen. Especially when there’s no other planet to go to, let alone spaceships to get there with.

“the fact remains that there’s been no noticeable drop in SL usage or Marketplace activity since this controversy cropped up.”

That’s just looking at it all wrong…

SL is a community first, and in communities you pay attention to attitudes and general conduct. Not just numbers. Perception is a whole lot more important in the longer picture.

Even if its just the content uploaders / re-propagators that are ticked off… that can spread in a viral manner – and they alone are still a significant community.

But to just pretend like they don’t even exist?

That’s just irresponsible.

Because people didn’t and don’t burn down THEIR OWN communities in protest (absent ghetto riots – and maybe because of them folks are more aware of how poorly that tactic fairs).

The thing is… its BECAUSE WE CARE that the one thing people did NOT do is leave and destroy their communities…

If no one cared… then yeah – that is when all the users would vanish and Marketplace would drop off.

But we do care. Maybe too much.

So instead we rant and rave to the point that the Second Life brand gets toxic… which itself may not be wise… but it is the sort of protest people WILL do because it can seem to be done without hurting the existing communities… (even though it does, it is too indirect for most people to perceive)

Linden Lab is however, wise enough to see that keeping the users happy helps the brand – and that the ‘bottom line’ is not just the dollars.

Sure they fumble in meeting the community’s needs, and get it wrong more often than right… but they at least understand it actually does matter.

So a tossed out CEO, and now a new Terms of Service. I’d say – rightly or wrongly – Linden Lab is at least trying. They’re aware of the problem.

GI-Joe may have said “Knowing is half the battle.” Linden Lab just has to learn how to handle the other half… (pipedream maybe, but I care, so I keep hoping) O.o

I think the whole point of bringing in Ebbe Altberg was to get a CEO who had the skills to be able to understand and relate to the users.

(I am never going to get over that this guy’s last name basically sounds like ‘Alt Neighborhood’ to me) :)

He’s not made changes as fast as we might like – but I think its clear that he has better intentions than in past, and is obviously putting in the effort.

To me, that speaks volumes of how Linden Lab got hyper aware after the Terms of Service changed last year, that they were doing something wrong, and needed to figure out what. So they got themselves a guy who could deal with that…

Ebbe Linden’s somewhat exposed that among a number of lindens… they too had been getting frustrated with the prior direction, and wanted to reach out again (or, I am reading too much into some statements. But when I listened to the Drax File Interviews, I got the impression they wanted to get to know us more than they had been allowed to in recent past).

So… I think the way the community acted after that last Terms of Service change last year was exactly right.

Rather than abandon Second Life and our communities in it – we called them out on the change, and got very vocal. But we stayed engaged to show we cared.

And now, though its not everything we wanted… we’ve got a much better CEO, and an improving Terms of Service.

There is even mention now on Daz3D (a major source of 3D models) as a result (Daz3D models are still barred from use in Second Life – which if you understand what their models are, makes sense regardless of the Second Life Terms of Service).

So…

I’m calling this one a partial victory, and a road we’re now walking down.

We got their attention, they’ve begun addressing it, and not just that – they are now trying to become a more responsive company as a result.

Because… abandoning the thing you love is the LAST way to fix it. Engaging with it is just so much better.

Ever burning fire – Ever Dreamscape

Ever Dreamscape
An ever burning fire has gone out.

That is how it feels since I learned.

On May 8th, 2014; a friend of many made the move on to her account in Third Life. It took a few more days for us to find this out.
Ever's Memorial - Ever had the perfect smile
Ever Dreamscape was a spark of inspiration for so many. She was the Clown Princess of Bay City. The glue that held so many pieces together.

At the tender age of 53, Ever logged out of First Life.

I first met Ever on an individual level during one of her random escapades. I’d gone to a few Bay City events and noticed how after a while they always took a turn for the humourly weird. One person seemed to dragging folks along for a few things, so I thought I’d stick to that person for a bit, maybe say something, and see what was going on.

Ever was full of an absurd amount of energy and drive. She seemed to be at the center of so many things, the sort of person who just had to be that extreme extrovert out there all over the place in both RL and SL. It would be some time until I knew better.

Its probably not right for me to share those of her secrets that I held; but I can do better. Or rather she can. She can share her secrets for us:
Hero’s Journey – Ever Dreamscape’s story
The Abuser – Ever’s struggle

It was always a thrilling experience to connect with Ever. Over time the conversations got deeper and I learned there was a soul of some amazing substance behind this bubbly silly avatar. She struggled with many things, and had her battles to wage. SL was the place where she could recapture a time where she had been able to be outgoing, and she took that, and quite literally set it on fire.

I mostly ran with Ever during 2012. I had a lot of fun just randomly popping in on her and seeing what she was up to. Sometimes it was a blast. Other times I’d surprise her alone somewhere in SL and this is how I got to know how much she had to struggle with – those were the moments when I just tuned in my big cat ears and set the whole thing to listen.

Do your friends a favor, if you read this. Sometimes, just let them ramble at you and go on for hours on end. SL is a great place for people to pour out their hearts and heal each other.

Ever showed me that. And she showed me that our ideas about who our friends are might not always be right. Sometimes the people we know are so much more amazing than we could have ever imagined.

She must have known that – she gathered up so many people’s hearts like a silly mother hen. Or maybe mother chimp. Or mother shark. Or drunken crazy lady on the corner with a match and kindling stuffed into your mailbox. Kind of… all of that. In the right ways.

She had her own set of superb ears as well I should say. I’m a fighter, and I get myself into scraps all the time. She was very good as just hearing me rant and rave and then having something useful to toss back for a little sense and perspective.

You can see, or remember, some of Ever’s magic, as she was one of those rare people who recorded some of her SL for all of us. Here is Ever’s youtube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/user/EverDreamscape

When 2013 came around, I don’t know why – but I stopped coming to SL. For most of that year I didn’t log in for more than a minute or two every month. I just sort of dropped the mic and walked off stage.

I never managed to reconnect with Ever. She was there everytime I sent her a message, but I stopped showing up. I kept thinking to myself… next week I’ll be back in SL again and I’ll hang out with all my friends there.
Her last words to me were on the SL Feeds:
ever.dreamscape
“Happy New Year!!! ..and yes it would be nice to see you about ! :D”
Nothing important then. Just a friendly poke. But now I feel it.

Ever’s passing makes me realize putting of those who are dear to you is never wise. I’ve got some people I need to find a way to talk to now.

It feels like the fire has gone out for me in SL. But I strongly suspect Ever would not want that. She was an ever burning fire, an eternal party, always putting up cheery face and meaning it. People can be happy and sad at the same time – even being so happy you need to put on shades to be around them. That was Ever.

Her last words to us all are both humorous and sad:

ever.dreamscape:
“ok her’es th deal, i’ve suddenly taken very il….. if i ralley may spend a couple more years to harass you all hoping! did not takw the thoraze. it’s been lovely dancing w you all…..gnight George muahhhhh”

So everybody just keep on dancing:

For some reason when I view Ever’s youtube, it keeps recommending Boy George. So here’s one more for the party, Ever:

In quirky faith, you knew what your heart was for, and now you’ve got a halo.

And yes, no matter where you are now, Fire haffi burn:
Fire Ever haffi burn
Till we meet again;

Go light em up in heaven for us.

Second Life’s “Sexy Time” advertising – thinking twice about the opposition to it

This is cobbled together from some posts I’ve been leaving on Hamlet Au’s blog.

You might think that as a spiritual person, active about my faith in SL, who often comments about ‘that stuff’… that I’d be on the bandwagon against the new ads.

Especially as those ads are basically “the sexy white people” routine again…

But I’m not so willing to fight this one.

Let me use a bit of over the top silly exaggeration to make a point.

Imagine its 2009 and you’re a corporate user looking to use Second Life for business meetings, showcasing your real life business achievements, selling product, branding, etc…

Problem is… the place is full of so-called furries and XXXers and RPers and educationals and “commie-liberal-hippie-artist-scum”. All those people you don’t want in your store scaring your customers. The weirdos you picked on in 6th grade.

So you call up your mate from school, M. Linden, and ask him to take an accounting of things and correct all this. You’ve got money to dump, and he just needs to clean up the place. Get rid of the geeks and losers.

So he tries.

And we all know the result. SL goes into a tailspin, policies get odd, prices go up, venues close, and then business realizes it doesn’t even want the product anyway. In fact; the whole call M. Linden got seems to have been dreamed up in his head: business was never really on board anyway. They were the customer Linden Lab wanted, the freaks were the customers Linden Lab got.

Even SL’s founder is on record calling his users ‘disabled freaks’. He used more polite language, but basically back then he called us all ‘the crazy cat lady down the block and the old guy telling you to get off of his lawn.’

Now its 2014 and Linden Labs is looking at marketing again so they look at what people ACTUALLY USE SL FOR…

Hamlet Au posts this almost every month.

Top sims?

XXX-this and XXX-that, with a bit of Borat sexy time thrown in for good measure and a few furries and goreans. PLus some dating and dancing places for those ‘so-called online dating freaks’.

The rest of us? We’re a bit like those 2009 business users (OK, I’m a furry half of the time… this is just a silly parable after all).

Now everyone’s all up and trying to call E. Linden and ask him what for… Asking him to clean up the place so your respectable art and live music and charity work doesn’t have to sit next to the gorean-furry-luvulongtime-escort-interracial-child-xxx operation…

But… well…

At the same time we’ve been demanding for years that they recognize who’s using SL, and market to them.

Now they are.

And we don’t like it.

Pick your poison folks.

Because its right there in Hamlet Au’s blog… look at who the top sims are (note how similar this 2011 link is to the 2014 one – this stuff is pretty static in theme).

If anything, LLs needs to get MORE explicit in these ads. It might chase us “regular respectable folks” away… but at least then they’d be appealing to their actual users for a change:
Those ‘noobs’ on the xxx sims…

Now, I don’t mean to imply that the XXX and ‘fantasy self’ crowd drove away the business crowds.

Rather I am trying to show that we’ve already seen what happens when Linden Lab tries to market not to the customers it has, but the ones it wishes it had.

Now… they are marketing to the actual people that show up at the door… and folks don’t like it, because most of the Second Life users are NOT from the same crowd that composes the Second Life commentators.

Commentators, critics, and bloggers want them to market to people who are here for “something greater”… But the very data we love to talk about and promote shows that we are not the viable audience for Second Life…

And that like it or not… maybe they actually are marketing to the right crowd now… at least from a ‘capitalist bottom line’ POV…

I hope my opinion here is not seen as mocking the ‘freaky’ people that end up in Second Life – as that is not my intent. I’m stating it like that above to be over the top, and to hopefully show a little of ‘this is how what gets said gets read’.

Plenty of people seek acceptance online from a world that rejects them offline. I know for a fact this is why many minorities ‘hide as white’ in platforms like Second Life. I’ve always been a fighter so that notion never appealed to me.

I actually am mostly fit and healthy for my age, and still seem to have my looks – despite the scraps I’ve been through.

So given a choice between a kick in the face for speaking up, or having a group hug by playing nice… I’ve always chosen the kick… I’ve got a dentist appointment soon because that is NOT an analogy for me…

I try to remember that about others too. That everyone needs a place to feel accepted and to explore – though I do fail at it sometimes because I tend to fight back and can end up misdirected.

Too often people are scorned merely for what they are, rather than who/how they are – I say that all the time about race, but it also very much applies to gender, physical ability, fitness, attractiveness, social class, and other ways people are unjustly biased against.

Second Life is a fantasy world that lets people find their own ways of skipping past that bias. Its also just a place to have some fun in – and each side of the fence here needs to get over its bias of the other because to the world outside of SL, we’re all 10x freakier than any of us might actually be.

It is a bitter pill to swallow when the fantasy the majority here seek is not the one oneself is seeking – but better to recognize that it is still doing good for people in letting them find their fantasy.

People who do not like that Linden Lab is now advertising to its actual users can consider the alternative… going the way of Blue Mars or Cloud Party – vanishing.

When does it become more costly to sell on Marketplace than inworld?

I’ve a theory, that I suspect most merchants have already run through their heads, but which has only just occurred to me…

Marketplace is actually costly for a successful Second Life merchant.

Consider the math. First I’ll look into how much is ‘lost’ in the fee taken by Linden Lab for each sale. The 5%. Then we will compare that to the cost of owning premium land at various tier breaks. After that I’ll comment a bit about what occurs if you rent land instead, or if you use the various enhanced features of Marketplace.

At a 5% service fee for every sale a merchant makes on Marketplace, how much does it take to be charged $10 US-currency. I’ll use this number for my math as its a nice round figure.

As of right now, $10 buys you… (runs off to check) L$2480. When I became active again in SL, in 2009, that same $10 got you L$2600. The figure fluctuates – but tends to be fairly stable. It has had a downward trend – your money buying you less lindens – but a slow one.

By converse… Losing L$2480 today is losing 10 dollars. It took losing L$2600 back in 2009 to lose 10 dollars. For people outside the USA, this figure will math differently. Run my math below using your own conversion rates and VAT (if applicable) locally. The more of your local real life money it takes to buy linden dollars… the more Marketplace will hurt your profits, unless it balances equally on the other side with a similar cost for paying for a premium account (is VAT charged on that fee as well).

A 512m premium account costs $9.95. Lets just round that up to $10. That actually favors marketplace to round that up… (By contrast if you pay your premium quarterly or annually – Marketplace becomes much more expensive in comparison).

For marketplace to cost you L$2480, or $10 – in a month you have to do L$49,600 in sales.

Now for me that would be insanely high. I have a sort of non-shop and I make maybe L$100 a month out of it. :) My “Shop” is mostly there because I like building places and having places… I guess that’s a fixation from having grown up rather harsh and even for a time homeless. You folks do not even want to know how much I spend on land in SL. I purposefully avoid looking and split it across 5 accounts so I will be less likely to know… :)

On the other hand if you consider your SL business a viable one, L$49,600 linden had better be small… That’s only $200 dollars. Or… one cup of coffee at Starbucks (OK maybe not… but prices sure seem to be headed that way sometimes…)

I think my mobile phone bill every month is higher than that… San Francisco is not a cheap place to live…

But how much volume is that in SL terms? Lets assume your average product sells for 350L. For most places I shop that’s cheaper than what it really is… For a few high volume places its high. I’ll call it normal because I hope it is and not the 500-600 I’ve been seeing more often of late. :)

At that average price, you need to sell 141.7 items a month.

Pipe dream territory for me. But when I go to some popular shops, I suspect they make that many sales in a matter of days.

If I look instead to some brand name mesh places… where I think the average price is L$500… They need 99.2 sales in a month – which is really about 3 and a third a day…

If you are not making sales like this – you are not a successful merchant. You’re just a hobbyist like me. Frankly if you’re the kind of merchant who can “pay real life bills” with Second Life, and I know a few of them, you’re making about $2000-$3000 real life dollars a month in SL. Or… L$496,000 – L$744,000.

Ok… so lets say you have just made exactly L$49,600L in sales on Marketplace. Just now, some fool bought your ‘prim in a box’ and got you to that number. Linden Lab has taken away 5% of that this month – for $2480. If you had sold those items inworld, they would not have taken away ANY of your profits, but you would have paid them $2480 in tier for your little 512m shop.

EVERY SINGLE SALE YOU MAKE ON MARKETPLACE AFTER THAT POINT LOSES YOU MONEY.

Every further time they charge the 5% fee – that is money Marketplace it taking from you that having an inworld shop would not have taken.

Now some very successful merchants get by on a 512m shop because they have zen-like design skills and know about product display. Others cannot as they lack these talents, and so need more land. And some are just land junkies (waves paw).

So here is a list of tier costs, and how much in sales on Marketplace would have instead paid for that land, always rounding up to nearest dollar:

Base Land
Premium + Tier
Total Land
With Group Bonus
Premium + Tier
Cost
Marketplace Monthly Sales
with same cost
512m 563m $10 L$49,600
1,024m 1,126m $15 L$74,400
1,536m 1,689m $18 L$89,280
2,560m 2,816m $25 L$124,000
4,608m 5,068m $35 L$173,600
8,704m 9,574m $50 L$248,000
16,896m 18,585m $85 L$421,600
33,280m 36,608m $135 L$669,600
66,048m 72,652m $205 L$1,016,800

So the way to look at this chart is if you are making more than the linden dollars of any entry up there – consider if you think a shop on a plot of land of the size listed in the group land column could make the same amount of sales. If so – you belong inworld and not on Marketplace.

I strongly urge people here to consider that they don’t need a mega-sized shop to do well. Very effective shops exist in SL on rather small plots of land. Often they are more successful than the giant shops because they are built by people who know about shop display, product placement, and designing for an appealing ‘shopping-mood’ experience.

You can’t control the environment on Marketplace – how appealing your products look in that grid, what the user is experiencing when browsing there, what other products they see next to it, and so on. You can’t set the mood.

Effective inworld shops know that inworld they can control all of this – and motivate people to buy.

Counter examples of badly laid out shops that create a negative shopper experience litter the grid. I won’t call out malls here because some great shops are found in malls – and some horrid shops are found stand alone. But if you DO know how to design a shopping experience – consider very strongly who is adjacent to you in that mall – are they making your customers feel alienated by having ugly displays that people encounter when camming around or walking through?

That is why I began my focus on premium people – they have the ability to control for that.

But mall renters, and shops on estates – are often MORE valuable for keeping SL alive – they support land tier of the places we enjoy. Rent your mall shop only at a place you want to see stay alive in SL… and one that cares about the quality of merchant shop builds…

Renting at malls and on estates is often dramatically CHEAPER than going premium. This is because of discounts as one holds more tier – which get partly passed on to renters to encourage them to rent.

So if you put your shop there… then Marketplace is even LESS attractive… If you could rent a shop for say… 1,500L a month… that’s only going to be $6.05 US dollars (plus the 30 cent fee to buy lindens). If you can make L$30,000 a month, that rental shop inworld is a better deal than Marketplace. And what I see here is that often merchants will pad this with some small mall vendors they rent for even less in places with known good volume (this seems the trend in the furry community) or the landing spots of roleplay venues that attract people looking for the kinds of designs that merchant sells (if you sell genre wear or make genre furnishing).

But this requires keeping track of whether or not your inworld sales are enough to meet the breakpoints.

ANYTIME 5% OF YOUR SALES INWORLD IS MORE THAN THE COST OF THE LAND YOU COULD HAVE BEEN ON, SELLING ON MARKETPLACE WOULD HAVE BEEN MORE EXPENSIVE FOR YOU IN FEES.

But what about all those enhanced listing features on Marketplace? Lets put aside whether or not they work…

Well lets not. I will say it right here and now: they do work.

If they don’t work for you, its because your listings are bad. You need to improve your listing images and maybe even your actual products.

So how do I know they work?

Well… lets be brutal here – where do you think I get ideas for what I end up buying half the time I buy from marketplace… Yep: as a consumer, who is not your competition, I’ll be brutal and say I bought from the person who’s enhanced listing caught my eye. The other half of the time was from a search. Granted much of the time I quickly favorite enhanced listings and return to them later – sometimes months later. Once a year later…

Most of my shopping is inworld though – but that is just preference. Often I look in one and buy in the other. I almost never buy from a merchant I can’t find inworld. I can clearly think of two examples – and they were fairly cheap allowing me to overcome my concerns.

So… enhanced listings… they work.

But they also cost you a LOT, and you could easily pay for a larger shop inworld where you could have a lot more control over the experience – which frankly works even better. A vast portion of my inventory is things I bought that were in an inworld shop nearby whatever had brought me there originally.

I will see things rezzed around in a theme – and that theme will make me realize something like “oh, I like how that chair goes with this bed over here, and I have a similar bed… I think I’ll buy the chair. And what’s this picture frame by the chair, and oh look at that coat that matches the pants I got last night…”

$$$ – how it happens. Good display.

On Marketplace – your enhance listing is often sitting there next to some ‘forced XXX HUD for Vampire Furry Breedables’ that is listed in ‘General’ for who knows what reason… and I have been known to click to the next page just to get that thing off my screen, just as I notice you, click back, but you’re gone. Now instead I have assorted child AV and Gatcha machines and am like… well… none of that’s for me though the gatcha machine looks nice enough, wonder if I can descript it and rez it by my SL Home’s fishtank?

- Yeah… Marketplace is too random.

And, as the point of this blog noted: actually more expensive for a merchant than it might seem at first. Just because you can list it all for free – doesn’t mean its free to sell it.

If you’re a new merchant or a struggling merchant; Marketplace is good. But if you have a brand name that attracts people – you are paying fees you shouldn’t be paying, and you could control that better by creating an inworld experience instead…

Why moving a shop to Marketplace ‘hurts’ the SL economy.

In response to:
I don’t contribute to the economy?!

I wrote a comment, that I think is better served as my own blog entry:

She notes, heavily paraphrasing, giving up an inworld store, shifting to marketplace, and now buying lots of new toys to go and take pictures and make inworld art.

This is pretty normal for today’s Second Life merchant. Shifting to Marketplace and then using the saved rental bill or tier fee to buy more goods in world – thereby feeling they are contributing to the SL economy.

And they are. But not where it is needed to keep SL around.

What such a merchant is no longer doing is helping to support the existence of the venues they visit and enjoy the use of

Venues we enjoy are largely paid for by renting out portions of the land. Tipping in clubs or shops – is trivial by comparison. Look at the ‘how much has been paid’ meters on venues. Even in high traffic spots it is usually a paltry sum when compared to the tier for that location.

If one neither owns land nor rents land – then one is not significantly helping to support the continued existence of places to see and enjoy. That is the problem of Marketplace; it breaks the fundamental link that holds the ‘Second Life Economy’ together.

Formerly there was a cycle of goods bought from merchants who paid landowners or their own tier – thereby keeping in existence places for people to go to in order to enjoy using or showing off the goods they bought from those or other merchants.

Linden Labs stayed in float by collecting the rent bill.

A ‘circle of life’ if you will.

  1. Buy goods at shop B to use at place one loves A
  2. Shop B pays for land at A.

The second part of that is gone when a merchant moves to Marketplace.

Now it is:

  1. Buy goods at Marketplace store B to use at place one loves A
  2. A has no major source of income to pay insane tier bill, and closes.

People do not tip enough to cover the difference.
Venue A won’t succeed by selling advertising – that works for websites though often by the slimmest of margins, but for SL it would create an unpleasant A, and not be as effective as merchant B merely adjusting their settings on MP…

Some things do advertise in world at places you visit – but it is usually groups related to the place itself.

Or the venue’s mall. And of course… that mall is shrinking as its merchant’s go to Marketplace…

With every merchant that leaves their inworld shop, the ability to support inworld venues to visit and enjoy decreases.

Soon people will start having real trouble finding places to use and enjoy the things they bought from those merchants…

Therein lies the danger for Second Life.

Linden Labs though? They are now still collecting rent on what is left, plus also skimming off the top of your sales on Marketplace…

- It might be that if you have an inworld brand that does enough volume, it could even be cheaper to keep that inworld shop…

In addition to helping the larger Second Life economy…

MeshMaxConcurrentRequests, TextureFetchConcurrency, HTTP Textures, Texture Thrashing, and Why isn’t my stuff rezzing yet?

Its been a very long time since I posted to my blog. I’m still out there, though I’m not as active in SL as I was, I haven’t moved away from it at all.

(I even have more land now than I did when I was more active, but that’s another side topic about land obsession… I rebought my original plot of land in SL, in Fietzo sim, just… because…)

Back in April I wrote about a problem with meshes often failing to download. Looking in the settings and reading some comments of a rather techie worded nature I came to the conclusion that it was driven by a setting in debug known as:

    MeshMaxConcurrentRequests

Now lets look at the Debug Settings wiki, which is a little more detailed now than it used to be, though it is also possible I just missed this bit before.

It says this:

“Number of threads to use for loading meshes.”
Defaults to 32.

Yeah um… OK. Like, whatever. What’s this mean and why do we care?

What that comes down to is that it is not a setting for the total number of meshes you can see at a time, but a setting for how many you can download at the same time.

So lets think of a bridge, like the Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland. That bridge has I think, 5 lanes… that’s like your internet speed – how much room you have. In your preferences there is a bandwidth setting. That setting is basically: How many cars can I put on the bridge at the same time?

So this debug setting is basically… How many of those cars can be Priuses? This being San Francisco… everybody wants to pack a Prius on that bridge, and the more of them we put on there, the less room we have for SUVs and Civics…

Or… the more mesh you can download at a time, the less other stuff you can download at the same time…

So what you’re setting here is priority… do I want my Mesh, or my Prims, or my animations, to come in first and most…?

Or… well… do I want my textures… and this one is the real issue:

    TextureFetchConcurrency

- The secret killer for people on newer settings. This one says on the wiki:

“Maximum number of HTTP connections used for texture fetches”
Defaults to 0.

Wait, what? 0? Um… Oops? Does that matter?

When does it get used?

Well, current viewers default to turning on HTTP textures. And it seems this setting comes into play when you turn on… HTTP Textures… This is your setting for ‘how many yellow cars can be on the bridge at once?’

And apparently the cops here really like stopping yellow cars, cause they’ve set it at 0.

Now I could be just as wrong this time as I was last time… but in my own testing I’ve found a major impact from tweaking this.

First, up until recently I always avoided using HTTP Textures. I had noticed that if I ever turned it on, nothing would EVER rez fully… textures would just freeze to how they were before I’d flipped it on, or worse, blur out…

It looks like when it is at 0, textures START to download, then the setting kicks in on the next ‘pass’ to see what we should be downloading and says “oh hey, not those,” and so stops (my non-techy guess at least). Before I changed this off of 0, whenever I had HTTP Texture on, SL looked like a webpage used to back in 1996 and dialup – lots of half loaded blurry images reminding me to call my ISP and ask for the 56k option… :)

After finding “TextureFetchConcurrency” and trying out a modest setting of ‘8’… Its was like a Emeril moment: Bam! Everything suddenly started rendering. I just sort of watched in my viewer as it felt like I’d finally found the ‘unpause’ button on the VCR, and the world becamse crystal clear. It looked even better than it had before using HTTP Textures.

Now I’m an HTTP Texture junkie…

BUT…

Remember that all these settings work in tandem (together, unlike Congress, or perhaps…)

If you dial up TextureFetchConcurrency to 5 million, all you get is yellow cars on that freeway…

Somebody tell me where I can buy a yellow Prius? Oh wait, you can’t…
(I used red cars at first in my bit above, but yeah: apparently they DO sell Prius in red. :) Who Knew?)
EDIT: Oh… they make them yellow too. and every other color I tried for this analogy… Oh well. A ‘color of unspecified variety’ prius. :P

In other words, the higher you go with TextureFetchConcurrency, the more it fights with MeshMaxConcurrentRequests. You can’t max them both.

Max TextureFetchConcurrency and you will get all your Yellow, but not the car. Max MeshMaxConcurrentRequests, and you’ll get a bunch of unpainted cars.

Except you can actually set it higher than even the total cars: you can tell it to make 125 out of every 100 of the cars Prius, thereby not only losing all other cars, but also losing 1/5th of your Priuses… (setting it too high can be very bad), and leaving the rest unpainted…

Like Congress… they fight over who gets to get their way, and if you given any one set of them too much sway, you end up with a shutdown of your SL…

And remember that bandwidth setting? If you let too many cars in the bridge at once, you get a traffic jam. Bandwidth doesn’t give you more lanes on the bridge… to do that you need to call your internet company and hand them more money… (little secret: we ALL get super ultra fast Cable or DSL, but then the company throttles it on that modem they rent to us, and charges us to dial back the throttle in steps – if a speed is available at all in your area, you’re actually already getting it, but software on your account is holding you back until you pay to have it unblocked).

This mess is not LLs fault. Well… the wording of those debug settings is… and setting the texture one to 0 is…

But giving us the ability to pick priorities is not so bad…

The smart money is likely on leaving the mesh one at its default of 32, and setting the texture one, TextureFetchConcurrency, to 32 as well. Then see how each performs and adjust them in small steps up or down. It might not even be bad to lower BOTH to 8 to 16… if not on super fast internet.

If you just up them all, and let your internet sort it out, some of those “cars” will drive right off the side of your bridge…

As in, items will get lost, and never download at all, when the clutter overtakes the speed of your internet.

So having it lower means you let just a few cars at a time race across the bridge on near empty lanes – everybody gets over, and after a moment of blur or pause, your SL renders beautifully.

Wonderful right?

Maybe… it gets worse…

In your graphics, hardware settings, there is a slider for how much of your graphics card memory to use… if this setting is too low, items that were downloaded will ‘undownload’ and start downloading again…

Just to make sure people would be aware of this, for Mac users LLs set a flag to make sure it could only use half your graphics memory…

(facepalm).

They had a reason for that, but the issue is a rare one. However the issue of seeing the entire world of SL constantly flicker as everything re-downloads constantly, clogs up graphics memory with multiple copies in various states of download, and so starts again, clogging up even more…
– That is a very common issue caused by this flag.

Basically, to avoid a giant monster attack on the bridge, they decided to only build half a parking lot on the side we’re driving too… and failed to realize that meant that a lot of cars would have nowhere to park and so would just drive right into the water, taking your view of SL with them… or just as bad, any time a new arrived, the attendants would just toss one of the parked cars into the bay to make room… again taking your view of SL with it.

Some have called this “texture trashing” – I’m not sure if that’s a common term or just how I’ve seen it referred to.

The solution is ANOTHER debug setting:

    RenderTextureMemoryMultiple

Defaults to 0.5

Set it to 1, and then you can dial your graphics setting up as high as you want.

For me, on my Mac, with a Cable internet connection of 30mbps down, 12mbps up, I’ve current got these setting like this:

HTTP Textures on
RenderTextureMemoryMultiple 1.0
TextureFetchConcurrency 16
MeshMaxConcurrentRequests 8

Memory slider on my Graphics -> Hardware dial up to max, which for some reason is around 380-something and not 512mb…

But with these settings I get clean fast renders, with no thrashing.

Sometimes I tweak the TextureFetch and MeshMax around a bit. I’m still playing with them to find out what’s ideal for how I use SL – which is to exist in a heavy mesh build with all mesh clothing but a lot more detailed textures than I should have… :)

    EDIT:

The numbers I originally had here were actually WAY TOO HIGH. I’ve edited above to my new ‘8’ for Mesh. Kept textures at ’16’ and might still lower it. See down in the comments. A ‘1’ does not mean 1 object, but one pipeline of objects. So… imagine you have a big plastic pipe going from ‘the box outside’ to ‘your computer’, and the ‘internet guy’ puts 1 wire in it. That’s a sort of kinda of way like a ‘1’ on this. But hear this in that Dr. Who voice where he will often say “yeah, time travel paradox, its kinda like a mouse with cheese, only not at all.” In that… I am no techie and I’m assuming my readers aren’t either – so this is the analogy I’ve got… :)
– So you dial that number up to 2, and now there are 2 wires in that pipe… Not two objects moving on it, but 2 wires. How many wires will fit in the pipe until the thing bursts and you’ve got electricity sparking out the side and frying random passing pigeons… but not giving you your ‘interwebz’?

I don’t know… but obviously the pipe isn’t getting bigger, so don’t put too many wires in it.

I’m going to be playing with putting both my numbers at 8 and seeing what happens, then comparing it to 4, and 16… Why? Cause those are easy to remember. I’m like a Congressperson balancing a budget here: I go for the dumb numbers that just sound good on TV. :)

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