Saturday, September 26, 2009

it's never the amateurs that reckon it's damaging us, it's the major labels saying it's fatal

From the last entry I wrote, and a conversation offline: I'd told been bemoaning that this was likely to get me in trouble. In fact, I'd said to him that "I really want to run with this, but....I really want to keep paying rent."

And I do. Believe me, I do. But I also believe that beginnings must be clean. If you begin in bad faith, if you begin by co-opting others' work, especially if your protest is entirely concerning copying of others' work--it just cannot be done. Fighting fire with fire? Only works if you're willing to set things on fire.

As far as it goes, Dan Bull has an absolutely brilliant song response to Lily Allen on the whole filesharing of songs (do I hear "content theft" again? I believe I do).

People, at heart it's not as simple as "stealing is wrong". Libraries buy books (or get them donated) and then loan them out for free, so that the information, adventures, poetry, songs, and art within them can be preserved for future generations. Like a book? Buy it. If we can't, there's the library. And it was the same with music--new bands frequently played small venues, handed out their music for free, appeared on any radio station that would have them, anything they could think of--and then, there's libraries again. Hear the music and didn't pay for it? Doesn't mean we won't pay for it, if we like the artist. Doesn't mean we won't support the music later, buy concert tickets, buy movie tickets to films they're in, buy the posters, the sheet music, get inspired to play the guitar and become our own stars because of their work...

On the grid it's the same thing. Any hair shop worth its prim count has demos for each hair style so we can see what we look like in the style. After a while, everyone gets a feel for what looks good on them, but still, for the pricier options, I'm dead grateful Adam & Eve see fit to demo out their fantastic frocks, so I can buy the demo and see how that looks on me before I shell out L$1500 to buy the dress. Joining store groups for the freebies, going on scavenger hunts, deciding whom we like by what they put out for free and how it looks...if we like the designer, we will buy what they make. That's the simple equation to all of this. If we're not flush, we'll wait for sales, we'll wait for store clearances, we'll wait for freebies or cheapies on offer--but we'll still be there, putting our money on the line, because we want the dreams those dreamers make real.

The bottom line is--if your textures, your designs, your art is taken--DMCA as soon as you can, as soon as you figure out where to send the complaint, but don't give up. Don't let them stop you. And if you're good, if you get the sim and the big store and the fan base--use them. Make sure they know your design aesthetics, and they'll look out for you. They'll notecard you when they find your designs on some discount sim to make a quick Linden or two on the turnover.

And just hang on until the dust settles. See who wins. It just might be you.

Two years after the need for it is far, far away, more than a year after the advent of sculpted prims emerged from the dank protean Lindenspaces...finally, someone has released a black goat avatar.

Don't get me wrong; I'm still tempted. That would give me, finally, the three main mythical phouka forms--black rabbit, sable goat, ebon horse--but by the same extension, I don't need it anymore. My days of playing phouka for the Unaffiliated Winter Court are long over.

Still...it's there. And he has some very interesting cheetah forms, too.

The difference between scientists and "normal" people. On the other hand, what's really "normal"?

Prad Pravithi weighs in on Linden Labs playing the marketing heavy.

Finally, from a post on the SL blog concerning the economy, London Warden asked "What is your feeling about the SL economy? If you are a big merchant, have sales changed for good or bad?"

And boy, did London get answers:

Clyde Lindman: "If you want to look at land values, I'm still seeing a lot of mainland for L$2/sqm so that's definitely been flushed down the toilet."

Andie Ramona: "Sales for me are down the toilet. True, I had a nice business, and a pretty good run there for a couple years, but things took a huge plummeting dive into the abyss about a year and a half ago..maybe longer, and I seriously, at this point, don't ever see them ever improving for me at least."

Merlynn Draken: "With the state of of the rl economy, the Zindra move and re-settling of things, camping/bot ban, a huge influx of new businesses into the grid... and so much land for sale these days, the map is turning seriously yellow... time's are a'changing... that's all I know."

Ann Otoole: "The tier for next month has been paid so I am still in business. For that I am grateful despite LL's best efforts to steer commerce away from most of the bushiness in Second Life to the select few they have decided to promote with their own secondlife.com domain."

Couldbe You: "I can't really comment on the rest as being a purely adult content provider the fact I'm hidden from search for a lot of people skews my results. The only thing I can say is that my inworld shop sales are as poor as they have been since I was forcibly moved to zindra so I assume that's my new reality. Perhaps being hidden means I'm no longer vulnerable to discretionary spending variations.

I can say that my xsl sales have dropped by around 40% this month. Again whether that's the economy or just the way LL previously kept tinkering with XSL in their attempt to make it as difficult as possible to use is moot."

Alpha Winger: "Adult tends to bounce back first as people begin to spend cash again.

So if it gives u any hope, SexCam Island is popping with new sales and new customers. Get off that PG sim .. thats my advice.. all you have is teenagers with no money setting up fake accounts."

Indeterminate Schism: "I'm seeing fewer and fewer people when I journey around SL but just as many bots. Involvement in SL reduced by 5/6th since March, still feeling more and more pushed-out. Traffic and sales have disappeared this week, but I can live with that."

Gemini Rotaru: "This has been a summer of upheaval and change for many people, and I know for even myself 90% of my Landmarks are out of date. So finding favorite stores, much less shopping there has been difficult. Looking through search is an absolute joke."

Eureka Karu: "Funny you should ask this. I just had to close my club today. So I went to 25 clubs based on search order and here's what I found.

Empty clubs
Clubs full of bots
a few clubs with 3 to 4 starving strippers
landmarks to now empty land."

Lady Sakai: "Land Ive seen / had people either leave or downsize due to economy. I just got a notecard yesterday from a landowner that couldnt afford to own land at the present (he had a hard time finding work in SL - musician)

My sales at the store is avarage its up and down somedays nothing and some days pretty good (note Im a small merchant also)

The club is at a "standstill" its a fanbased / supported club but I still see people comming to hang out and some of the DJs spin a little for the fun of it - no money in it though."

Prokovy Neva: "One very obvious sign of their hiding what is going on is their deliberate, conscious removal of the "statistics" link from the front page. This went without a bang or a whimper. First, they jollied people along telling them that it was just down temporarily for overhauling and bringing it in line with real figures after they cleaned out the dupes and try-mes from the account list. The link to the page was still featured, but only with partial filling of the data. Then they took forever putting it back up, saying that they needed to tinker with the island count after the consolidation of the void sims back into full-prim sims. Tateru Nino would call them out every now and then on her column at Massively, but they didn't return it. Then, they did, kinda sorta, but stuff was missing (like number of premium sign-ups). Then, they finally took it out behind the woodshed and killed it.

Let me repeat this again, for the doubtful: the Lindens have *entirely removed* all links to the economy statistics as a promoted feature of their product. The link is *gone* from the front page or home page of secondlife.com and lindenlab.com It is not accessible through any obvious tab like 'Land' or 'Community'.

You have to dredge it up with Google or search on here, after some tries:

http://secondlife.com/statistics/economy-data.php"

Ela Talaj: "Have owned an exotic club for more than 2 years. Seen traffic dropping like a brick, seen traffic picking up... never made a dime out of it anyways, hardly paid the tier. I think the club business basically died after gambling was prohibited, which of course had to be done to comply with the law."

Elanthius Flagstaff: "I can't comment on product sales but from my perspective the mainland market has been utterly decimated. Mainland prices are now so low that compared to the tier costs they might as well be zero (land can be L$2/sqm or less and tier costs ar L$0.8/sqm/month). So land has no value as a commodity it is merely a service that you pay for monthly, like a cell phone."

madddyyy Schnook: "[I] am 4 years in sl now, heading for my 5th and i think sl has died for those who have been here maybe longer than me and been here over 2 years. Conventional sl the way it was is dead. the sl of now is in transitional mode. so its all messed up."

Chase Quinnell: "My sales have also hit a major slump lately. I have had several days pass without any sales. My limited time discount offers no longer have the same pull they once had; even my 71% off megasale only yielded a minor increase in sales volume. September has been a pathetic month overall for me."

Reading through the original blog post does give small peaks of hope here and there, but mostly by way of smaller merchants who a, don't have as much to lose, and b, don't sell in the same categories as everyone else. Sex is still selling in SL, though it's harder to find; role play items are selling; home decor (and I'd be willing to bet, gardening centers are in the same bracket) seems to be running well, but not expanding, as far as sales.

Land? If it's mainland the best you can hope for is two Lindens per square meter. Estate land seems to be doing better...

Overall, the impression I get? SL is no longer a place to merchant, but, as Elanthius Flagstaff mentioned, just another service you pay for month to month, like cable and cell phone usage. I'd like to see that change, for every designer out there. Maybe, with enough protests, it will.

But the answer still isn't an orange ribbon and a dance.

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