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  Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock  
 
 
Posted 2008-07-17 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
TechCrunch reports on the release of WebFlock, a hosted, in-browser virtual world service offered by The Electric Sheep Company. Formerly Second Life-obsessed (weren't we all at one point), the company brought a number of major brands into the overhyped virtual world (such as Major League Baseball, LEGO, and Starwood Hotels). Now, the Sheep have cut out the middle-world by starting up their own.

Because WebFlock is Flash based, it's accessible by over 90% of the web browsers out there: in other words, everyone can get in easily (unlike the recently-launched Google Lively, which requires a large plugin download and only runs on Windows-based PCs running Internet Exploder). Gotta like low barriers to entry.

Sheep CEO Sibley Verbeck reportedly puts the price of basic private-world hosting at "under $100,000" for a year of service. Well out of the range of any but rich corporations. Showtime is coughing up for the service, bringing an extension of its L-Word TV property to WebFlock after a successful splash in Second Life. I suspect many major brands will follow suit, as controlled spaces are much more attractive than "anything goes" sandboxes.
 
     
 
   
 
  6 comments  
  Mixed-Reality Sweatshops  
 
 
Posted 2008-04-11 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Annie Ok sent word that Invisible Threads, a video she co-directed and shot in Second Life is available on the interwebs. The 8-minute film outlines "10 Simple Steps to your very own Virtual Sweatshop with Telematic Manufacturing."



The film is satirical in tone, but actually, worlds like Second Life which allow user-created content and real/virtual currency exchange are viable places for hiring out "sweatshop" labor, depending on what sort of work product you're looking for.

So-called "camping chairs," which pay Second Life users to linger in specific locations (known as "camping" in gamer parlance), pay a very low wage to workers in North America and Europe, but could actually provide a decent income in some countries. A few years ago, the New York Times reported that most Chinese gold farmers make under $0.25 USD per hour. The sweatshop featured in Invisible Threads pays in virtual currency equivalent to $0.90 USD hourly.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Headless Linden Lab Seeks New CEO  
 
 
Posted 2008-03-15 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I'm about a hundred internet-years late on this 24-hour-old story, but here it is: Linden Lab founder Philip Rosedale will step down as the company's CEO, becoming full-time Chairman of the Board. In an official blog post about the transition, Rosedale wrote that he will "focus on product strategy and vision, continuing to design the right kind of company, and being an effective communicator and evangelist about Second Life."

I'm not really qualified to comment on Rosedale's move (I'm no business analyst), except to note that it follows Linden Lab's long-time CTO Cory Ondrejka's departure from the company late last year due to philosophical differences. It's curious that a replacement for Rosedale wasn't secured before the announcement--the choice of a new CEO will say a lot about the future direction of Second Life as a technology and social platform.

Previous Rosedale Riffs on Clickable Culture:
 
     
 
   
 
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  SXSWi 2008 Notes:  Human and Property Rights in Virtual Worlds  
 
 
Posted 2008-03-09 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
SXWi 2008 rough notes: "Human Rights and Property Rights in Virtual Worlds"

Susan Wu- If we don't address legal issues as publishers and developers, we will lose control [presumably through regulation]

Scenario: Your Tier 5 armor which took 6 months to acquire gets nerfed, do you have legal protection against devaluation?

Eric Bethke- No.

Boyd- Game world designers should have control over that decision [to nerf the armor, I think].

Scenario: You lose equipment following a server crash, do you have the right to have that property replaced?

Andrew Schneider- yes

Bethke- yes
Boyd- publishers can treat you however they want within the law. If I were running a game I would bend over backwards to give it back.

Schneider- This is all covered in EULAs, ToS, how rules are communicated to gamers

Continue reading: SXSWi 2008 Notes:  Human and Property Rights in Virtual Worlds
 
     
 
   
 
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  Linden Lab Launches Department of Public Works  
 
 
Posted 2008-02-09 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Looks like Linden Lab is getting back into the content-creation business. According to the company's blog, its new Department of Public Works will attempt to beautify and improve the virtual mainland of Second Life by repairing broken land, expanding certain existing "builds" (such as a city area), establishing "better gathering places" and adding "themed builds."

It's been many months since I've spent any appreciable time in Second Life, but from what I remember, the mainland looked like God had eaten a yard sale, a carnival, a suburb, a stack of porn videos, and the entire cast of the Transformers movie before barfing all over the virtual landscape. Doubtless any concerted effort to improve the landscape will be welcomed by most virtual-world residents as well as contribute to the retention of new users (who are increasingly becoming aware that Second Life ain't the only game in town).

If I understand the Linden blog correctly, the company will be using volunteer labor comprised of known content-creators to execute the Linden vision: "We will provide the team with specific build projects and will oversee progress before taking ownership of the content once work is completed." What happened to that dusty old tagline "Your World, Your Imagination?"
 
     
 
   
 
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  Games, Work, Play, And Collaboration:  Quick Links for 2008-02-04  
 
 
Posted 2008-02-04 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
  0 comments  
  ‘Electric Sheep’ Herd Culled  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-21 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Second Life's largest third-party developer became substantially smaller earlier this week. The Electric Sheep Company cut 22 staffers on Tuesday (reportedly about 30% of its workforce), as announced by COO Giff Constable, and reported by Sheep client Reuters. Unofficial blog Second Life Podcast broke the news on Monday with word that the Sheep's planned Virtual World Ad Network was also canned. According to Constable, the company will continue to work on its OnRez client software and shopping site as well as "some other cool initiatives."

I'm not surprised at the news. Although I haven't been able to follow Second Life like I used to, my impression is that business interest in SL has been waning, barely a year after a boom for metaverse developers. Since that time, it seems the developers with the most sense are investigating other platforms rather than concentrating solely on Second Life.

Having met a number of enthusiastic Sheep staffers in the past, I found the company reminiscent of a 1990s Dot Com--seemed like folks were being hired left and right. Although the timing is really unfortunate, trimming staff and refocusing the company is the sensible thing to do--lessons learned from the Dot Com Bust.
 
     
 
   
 
  2 comments  
  Roundup: Linden CTO Departs  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-14 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Earlier this week it emerged that Linden Lab and its fourth employee, Cory Ondrejka, have parted ways due to irreconcilable philosophical differences. Here's a roundup of some of the reportage and commentary related to the split:
 
     
 
   
 
  0 comments  
  Recommended Reading: ‘The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Second Life’  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-12 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Recommended Reading: ‘The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Second Life’
Last year, I started up a business in Second Life with only one plan in mind: put as little effort as possible into it. As a result, I sell a few virtual radioactive barrels, voodoo masks, and magic books for the equivalent of real-world pocket-change each month--if you don't factor in the six dollars in land-rental fees I pay out monthly. If an utterly half-assed Second Life entrepreneur like myself can offset his virtual-world expenses simply by shoveling a pile of shoddy goods into the insatiable maw of the fledgling metaverse, imagine what a well-informed businessperson could accomplish.

Technology writer and acquaintance Daniel Terdiman has authored an indispensable book for those wishing to plan, launch, and maintain their own Second Life business schemes. Entitled The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, it stands as a comprehensive examination of Second Life business basics, largely based on the input of selected residents of the virtual world. The Guide speaks in a language even Second Life newbies can understand, and offers practical solutions to common commerce challenges. Thankfully, Daniel hasn't penned a "get rich quick" manuscript, but rather offers a balanced look at what goes in to making real money from in-world entrepreneurship--in short, a hell of a lot of work.

It was only a year ago that a reported 3,000 SL residents were earning at least $20k USD annually in-world. Since then, Second Life's population has skyrocketed, so it's probable a lot more people are making decent money off the virtual world. Not me, though. I'm happy with my pocket-change, thanks.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Quick Links for 2007-12-12  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-12 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
  0 comments  
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5224 comments
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... http://www.dino.co.uk/labs/2008/45-tips-when-designing-online-content-for-kids/ Hope it helps someone... Dino...
in Dino Burbidge's '10 Things To Remember When Designing For Kids Online'


yes, many of the free little games are crappy. but as an artist who has recently published free content on the itunes app store,…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


I vote for popup radial menus. Highlight a bit of text, the push and hold, Sims-style radial menu pops up with Copy, Paste, etc....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


Hey Tony! A client of mine is looking to hire an internal Flash game dev team to build at a really cool Flash CCG…
in Dipping Into Toronto's Flash Pool


Yeah, there's a lot of weird common sense things I've noticed they've just omitted from the design. No idea why though....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


It also bears noting there's no mechanism right now for a developer to offer a free trial for the iPhone; the App Store isn't…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


@GeorgeR: It's on my shopping list :) I've heard good things about it as well. And Cro Mag Rally. @andrhia: meh, I don't know…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


...you get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


The only one I've heard good things about is Super Monkey Ball. Have you given that a whirl yet?...
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ... But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV…
in Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock


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