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  Electric Sheep Company Sets ‘Second Life’ Minimum Wage  
 
 
Posted 2007-01-09 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
SLNN.com's Marvel Ousley reports that metaverse development firm The Electric Sheep Company is offering $10 USD hourly to qualified workers in virtual world Second Life for performing hosting and other social tasks. The rate of pay generally compares favourably to minimum wages offered in countries around the world(prices in local currency):
  • United States: $5.15/hour
  • Canada: $6 - $8/hour
  • United Kingdom: £4.45 - £5.35/hour
  • Australia: $13.47/hour
  • Russia: 1100RUB/month
The rate of pay vastly exceeds typical wages offered to "gold farmers," and is about as much as skilled sex-workers at some of Second Life's busiest clubs earn hourly.

I think this is a fantastic move by The Electric Sheep Company. Not only is the firm offering reasonable wages (even generous, depending on what part of the world you live in), it has addressed the common complaint among new Second Life residents that there is little gainful employment to be had in the virtual world aside from sex work. Furthermore, the company has set the bar for a "minimum wage" in Second Life, paid in US--not Linden--dollars.

So far, a handful of labourers have been hired through an invitation-only social network supervised by the Sheep's John Swords, who told SLNN "candidates can e-mail him at swords@electricsheepcompany.com with their SL name, e-mail address, and a brief summary of their experience in event hosting or machinima acting."
 
     
 
   
 
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  8 Comments  
 
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
January 9, 2007 @ 11:56 am
     
 
Tony,

The Electric Sheep aren't "setting a minimum wage". That's preposterous. They aren't elected, they aren't a government, and they aren't even in charge of the servers and software.

Governments set minimum wages.

If you mean to say they are "setting an industry standard," well, that's pretty silly too. Anyone can offer a lousy 10 bucks an hour, which is poverty level in the cities where they work in the United States, for hanging out and socializing in SL.

And what kind of job market are they contributing to?! You said yourself here that only those on an invitation-only social network get to have these jobs as they hang out online and socialize, going to movie showings or corporate rollouts or whatever.

It's also wrong to try to shame others who don't offer this wage in Second Life and make it seem like they run sweat-shops and don't care about labour rights -- that's REALLY over the top.

A great boon of Second Life as an economic marvel is that people can enter it on their spare time, people who may be on fixed incomes, disabled, retired, dependent, etc. or students/housewives/semi-employed and work their way up. In starting a business, they may not be able to pay themselves, or in working for a designer as an apprentice, they may not get a living wage, but they are learning, developing and contributing. The freedom that is SL couldn't exist as it does if there is to be some regulatory or social shaming that takes place because some companies that don't have the huge corporate sponsors that ESC does and the fabulous budgets don't pay what is REALLY minimum wage in REAL LIFE, $5.00 or $7.00/hour.

I really think you miscalled this one, and with you keen ear and eye for social justice, I'm just not getting it.

What you should really look at is the discrepancy between what the ESC project managers and "architects" get and the event organizers -- event organizing which is a labour-intensive and hard job which actually takes a complex set of skills is looked down on in SL -- and gets only $10/hour instead of the $35 or $50 that these "architects" are getting.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
January 9, 2007 @ 1:43 pm
     
 
On one hand you say "Anyone can offer a lousy 10 bucks an hour" and on the other, you say "some companies [...] don't have the huge corporate sponsors that ESC does..." I'm not clear about your opinion of the pay rate. From where I'm standing, it's generous. It is practically double that of the US minimum wage. It's crazy good money in some parts of the world.

Could you please explain in detail who I am "shaming" and how I am doing so? I don't understand the accusation, and I have doubts that it's a reasonable one to make.

You are welcome to examine the differences in wages between regular ESC employees/contractors and irregular temp labour. I'm not interested in doing so, because I don't have any issue at all with the wage differences. ESC is offering a fair wage for temp labour. If they were paying in L$ at a rate below American minimum wage, I probably woudn't even be interested in reporting on it.

I thought you were in favour of a free market, Prok. I'm not much of a capitalist, but even I'm in favour of letting the market decide whether X or Y pay rate is fair. As it stands, nobody's going on strike against ESC for more pay. However, ESC has set a high bar for a fair wage in SL. I don't care if they can afford to do so while others can't. That's business.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
January 9, 2007 @ 1:57 pm
     
 
Tony, um, Second Life and Real Life are different, you know?

$10 is double the minimum wage, and sure, a good wage for poor people and those really at the working poor level in the city of NY where ESC works.

ESC employees themselves don't earn $10 an hour; they earn considerably more.

They are in Real Life. They get good pay. In Second Life, which is a kind of Asia for them, they can outsource and pay only $10 to get events hosts and other semi-skilled and skilled labour.

They can get credit for providing working-poor level wages in America, sure. They can get credit for being fantastically

But it's all by very cynically exploiting the differential between RL and SL. If they had to hire an events planner in real life in New York, they couldn't pay her $10/hour, they'd have to pay more. They pay that in Second Life because they ahve a ready and willing supply of people online and socializing anyway and wishing to get paid at least something.

That's the one side of it.

The other is that within the world, I don't think we should have these hugely high (by inworld standards) wages set by metaversal sherpas squiring in big business as the "minimum wage". That's absurd. It's unfair. And it IS NOT a free market. That's just my point. It's like some absurd, extremist version of a high union wage in some hugely wealthy tax-you-to-death country.

If you set up THAT as a "minimum" or a "standard" no one will be able to reach it.

Second Life thrives precisely because people online and socializing anyway and just making stuff and exploring the world can also work jobs, jobs that sometimes let them be AFK sometimes. Perfect jobs for stay-at-home parents, etc.

When you celebrate this ESC largesse as a "minumum" and a "standard" you are -- with them -- trying to shame people in world who offer less.

Trust me, this isn't my own personal issue as I don't have employees. But if I did, I would never be able to offer them $10/hour -- it's too much for the market in SL and means there's nothing left over to take home.

You are looking at this SOLEY through real-life eyes, and you simply have to see that this is not real life. IT is not America. It is Second Life. With a huge differential and with many levels of incomes. And it's economic miracle is precisely in the fact that it gives the freedom to employers and employees not to have to be confined by some controlling notion of a minimum wage because it is not their sole form of living wage, but an add-on for most as they get started.

What you're not getting is that it is NOT a free market if you insist that $10/hour is the "minimum wage". It isn't! As I pointed out, inworld, no government or Linden or sim owner or congress met and decided "let's make this the minimum wage".

ALL that happened, Tony, is that a company is getting PR for itself by flacking this and you're picking up on it.

A labour and economy isn't free if only the rich set the standards and the press celebrate them and shame others for providing less.

Fortunately most people ignore what ESC do and take what they can get. Working as a sex escort might give them more freedom and flexibility than standing around a laggy sim with execs at a hypervent.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
January 9, 2007 @ 2:18 pm
     
 
Basically it comes down to your obvious perception of Second Life as a mere add-on program for businesses like ESC -- a business application.

So the 40 people that make the big bucks and the few who make the $10 bucks in their group seem to loom large for you.

I'm looking at the other 999,860 who are online this week and thinking that for them, figures like $500 Linden will seem more like it. It's as if you are looking at one end of the telescope.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Satchmo Prototype
January 9, 2007 @ 2:50 pm
     
 
Thanks for the good words Tony. I just wanted to reiterate, that while we are looking for the best event hosts, anyone can apply by emailing swords [at] electricsheepcompany [dot]com

Along with event hosts we're interested in SL Educators, DJ's, live musicians and just about every other event type which makes Second Life such an amazing place.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Ace Albion
January 10, 2007 @ 8:18 am
     
 
I think it's ok. You have this differential already between, eg, the senior service staff at michelin star restaurants, and waitresses in local cafes, and probably by a similar amount. A host/dancer in some clubs already can expect $500 per 2 hour shift ($1USD per hour roughly) plus tips of over 2KL$ on a good night (another $8 or so, making your $5 per hour). That's not bad money for saying some hellos and a few emotes while chatting to your friends on your alt in the second SL window, or watching TV.

That $10/hour isn't going to be an SL standard/minimum wage, it's going to be SL Top Dollar stuff for playing the perfect geisha with huffy old guys in suits from Chicago or something. With your just short of stylish, conservative outfit handed to you and a cute prim name badge and clocking in and out. I'm sure they don't have jobs for purple haired girls with arms with more tattoos than a docker :)

But there is that kind of shock that hits you when you see "real" money values in SL context. It's the kind of shock I'm thinking of using by suggesting a realistic hourly rate to do custom work just to stop certain requests sometimes.

Anyway, I know one or two people in the sherpas, and the stories I get about frustrations around the work have put me off sending in an application to any of them. That, and finding that working for myself- even in a small SL way- is hugely more rewarding (if not financially) than wage slaving.

If this does become commonplace, it might be as part of a general uplifting of value of SL related goods and services. Given what people will pay for land these days, maybe we're closer to pay-to-attend events and such.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
January 10, 2007 @ 8:32 am
     
 
>playing the perfect geisha with huffy old guys in suits from Chicago or something.

Yeah, it's essentially the call girl work only with better outfits and on a less laggy sim : )

I find it hilarious that sherpas and clients in search of sherpas will download everything I know out of my avatar's brain for an hour, then tip me what they imagine as a big fat tip of $250 Lindens, which is like 50 cents, when I spend time telling them how land works, how the market is doing, etc.

That's why some weeks ago I decided not only to sell ad space on my avatar, which has a lot of eyeballs, but to put that if people want to keep draining my time outside my regular rentals business, and beyond my regular non-profits, they can right-click and pay this avatar $18/hour US or $5000 Lindens, which I felt was a low but fair wage.

My point about this isn't that there's something *wrong* in a huge differential. I see people pitifully working the land business under land barons for dollars a day but they are dollars of day they wouldn't have otherwise.

My point is that we can't celebrate anything called a "minimum wage" set as a PR stunt, not a governmental directive, and which doesn't actually reflect any real market study of the inworld and outworld businesses.

What's sad about this, Ace, is that Supply Linden has sold one million dollars US -- one million dollars US!!!! -- to artificially depress the value of the Linden against the dollar. That's devaluing your labour and my labour by shocking amounts. We can't have a genuine labour market inworld when Supply Linden has a brick set on his printing press like that.

People think, oh, well I'll go outside the system to PayPal and obviously I pay builders real money on Paypal, take rentals on Paypal, and the sherpas probably live on Paypal and never even get or spend a Linden. But that's like a black market or remittance economy or something.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Ace Albion
January 11, 2007 @ 7:10 am
     
 
Well the dire state of your yankee dollar will do enough damage as it is, if I cash out past paying tier :)

I didn't mean to infer some salaciousness with the geisha comment- I meant it as stressful, focused work relating to perfect hosting- but for McJob wages. I've seen and experienced enough bad in-world club management/employment drama to know I never, ever want to work in that area again. There's nothing like being treated like dirt when you're only even getting paid non-existent tips. Running clubs (the biggest employer of host type occupations) is a vanity deal for most, so maybe they just see their tier bills and expenses and get into an attitude that the employees are parasites. Working for someone like the Sheep would be different in theory, because with their "real" business stance, playing at spiteful inside-the-fourth-wall drama would be way beneath them with the bad PR it engenders. I did say in theory ;) So it looks like a good job in comparison to most amateur black box sploder clubs, until it clicks that it is actually a *job* not scooping some shoe and prim-skirt tokens for mucking about on a dancing ball for a couple of hours while Skyping.

I think people will still be happy to "work" for less, in the in-world employers, because they don't see it as work if they found a good spot- it's an hour or two that covers their "playtime" costs. Working for the Sheep probably reminds you too much that you're not playing.

It's not something to celebrate, nor is it a minimum wage. I can see why it's a story, and in that, at least, it's paid off for the Sheeps already.

I don't know much about economics, but I am thinking that the stronger the L$ gets, the more people might check it against it's "real" value, and I might have to lower my prices- net gain Zero?

It's a good point about all the paypal whizzing around out of sight- a real unknown economic quantity that the people who pooh-pooh SL numbers don't seem to want to add back in when counting transactions. I mean you can't count what you can't see, but that paypal business must be pretty sizeable- comparable to the likes of ACS tier bills.

And yes, being "tipped" 200-250L for spending half an hour of your time working on someone else's problem is a funny thing. It's like they're saying "See how generous- and CHEAP- I am at the same time!"

I wonder if anyone has done research/analysis into typical event personnel wages.
 
     
 
     
   
 
 
     
 
     
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