Second Life: The peasants are revolting

A quick note to virtual gods: If you create a virtual world, you’re probably going to wind up with virtually everything that occurs in the real world, and that includes crime, sex, economic upheaval and so on. No one knows that better than Linden Labs, the creators of Second Life, which has seen a variety of such behaviour over the years. This time, the virtual proletariat are up in arms about an increase in what might be called virtual taxes — the fees that Linden Labs charges for various features inside the world/game. In this case, it’s a fee increase for what are called “Openspaces.” Here’s a description from the Second Life blog:

“An Openspace is a type of private island that we made available for light use countryside or ocean … but Openspaces differ from normal regions in one particularly significant way; unlike normal regions that effectively get a CPU to themselves on the server, there can be up to four Openspaces on a single CPU (so 16 on a quad core machine), sharing the resource (hence them being ‘light use’).”

The issue, Linden says, is that people are using the Openspaces for things that they weren’t intended to support, and that is putting a strain on the company’s infrastructure. Just as cities and states raise taxes to pay for repairs to highways and so on, Linden clearly feels that it needs to charge more to offset the cost of maintaining these private islands. Sensible enough, yes? Not if you’re a Second Lifer. Or rather, not if you are a Second Lifer who has built a business based on the services and features that are attached to that Openspace. Here’s the problem as one person sees it:

“There is demand for the ‘original’ OpenSpace ‘void sim’ application: lower primcount, very few scripts, very few avatars–just very light load, and only in areas surrounding other, full-primmed sims. There is also a clear demand for heavier use OpenSpaces–still much lower density than full-primmed sims, but posing much more demand on the backend services than does the ‘void sim’ application. These need to be separated into two distinct products with different fee schedules; let’s call them ‘Void’ and ‘Low-Density’ sims.”

Don’t feel badly if none of this makes any sense to you. I’m pretty familiar with Second Life, and a lot of it makes my head hurt too. It’s a little like reading a science-fiction book, in which the author has made up new words for everything, and you have constantly flip to the index to figure out what everyone is talking about. The issue is whether Linden underestimated what people were going to do with Openspaces and priced them too low, or whether people are misusing the world somehow and should therefore be expected to pay more. Regardless, people are upset.

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mesh: we’re hiring — you interested?

As the mesh conference has grown — I find it almost hard to believe that we’re putting on our fourth next year, but we are — we’ve realized that we can’t actually do everything ourselves (funny thing, that) and so we’ve been reaching out more and more to the community. That’s what we’re doing now, in our search for someone to help with sponsorships and that kind of thing. Here’s the gist from Stuart’s post on the mesh blog:

In the past three years, mesh has grown from humble roots – five guys who just wanted to do something to talk about all the exciting things happening online – to become Canada’s Web conference. Now is your chance to be a part of mesh by joining us in part-time sponsorship sales.

So what’s involved? Mostly, it means working with the mesh gang to manage our existing sponsors and find new ones. So, what’s in it for you? You will earn a commission on each new sponsor you secure, and most importantly, an opportunity to help make mesh thrive.

Are you interested? We’d like to hear from you. Email your C.V. and other particulars to stuart (at) meshconference (dot) com.

Media: Okay, so is it time to panic yet?

I’ve been doing my best to remain calm, but I have to confess that it isn’t working as well as it usually does. I’m speaking, of course, about the tsunami that is currently wreaking havoc on the traditional media business, an industry in which I happen to have spent virtually my entire working life. The earthquake that created this particular tsunami occurred ages ago, and those who were paying attention have long since headed inland to safety, but the shock waves are now starting to hit with real force, accelerated by the economic uncertainty all around us.

Bad news has been trickling in for months, or even years — newspapers cutting back staff, closing editions, companies on the ropes financially. But it’s been a thousand small cuts, mostly at smaller publications, and so it hasn’t really had as much impact as it might otherwise. It seems to be accelerating though, and now it’s not just small papers or magazines but ones that everybody has heard of. It hit home recently while reading through a summary of industry news that I get daily from the folks at I Want Media. Here’s a sampling of recent headlines:

— “Newark Star-Ledger cuts 40% of staff”
— “TimeWarner to cut 600 jobs in magazines”
— “Gannett to cut 3,000 newspaper jobs”
— “Orange County Register to cut 110 jobs”
— “LA Times cuts 10 per cent of staff”
— “Thomson Reuters eyes massive layoffs”
— “Washington Post profit falls 86 per cent”
— “New York Times debt cut to junk”

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Moderators: Internet Evolution needs you

Internet Evolution is a site owned by United Business Media — the company that publishes magazines such as Information Week and Light Reading, and puts on conferences such as Web 2.0 Expo — and its goal is to create a kind of digital think-tank, where ideas and commentary can flow around some of the big issues facing technology and society. I write for them from time to time, and they asked me to mention that they are looking for some site moderators, whose job it is to keep an eye on things and to post thoughtful comments and links in order to keep the conversation going. In return, they get the chance to read some interesting and thought-provoking commentary, and they also get perks like Starbucks gift cards, T-shirts and even cash. If you’re interested, drop them a line at and tell them I sent you.

Geek Alert: The Archimedes Palimpsest

I just love the Internet sometimes. Thanks to a link at Metafilter, I just found out that the entire text, data and images from the Archimedes Palimpsest have been released on the Web under a Creative Commons license. Palimpsest is an odd word that refers to a manuscript that has been scraped or wiped clean and had something else written over top of it, and that’s exactly what the Archimedes manuscript is. It’s actually what’s known as an “euchologion” or prayer book from the 11th century, but in order to save money the authors reused some parchment they had lying around — and that happened to include a copy of a manuscript by the Greek scholar Archimedes, including several treatises that don’t exist in any other form. It took four years to dismantle the manuscript and prepare it for imaging, something that was done with some help from the Canadian Conservation Institute, and then to scan and use optical-character recognition and translate the text. All of that material is now online.