Mal Burns “Visionz Piece” January 2017 Guest Writer

Visionz
by Mal Burns

My thanks to HG VISIONZ for inviting me to contribute this guest article. Drawing a blank on a specific subject, I’ll simply talk about what I and collaborators are up to in the open Metaverse.

“Open Metaverse” is an expression that suits. Open Simulator based worlds are all scattered, small and large, on myriad servers around the planet. They, by and large, connect to each other via the “Hypergrid” – a universal transport system that bypasses the “walled garden” approach of certain platforms. Conceptually, this Hypergrid is the foundation for a collaborative, creative and social infrastructure essential to a thriving culture of interactive 3D spaces in the online world. It has a decade’s worth of content and community and remains growing. The drawback is that connectivity only works with platforms built with the open-source Open Simulator code-base. There are no protocols yet in existence that allow this system to expand to vastly different virtual world platforms, even those that would share the ideal of an “open” virtual universe.

Consider all the wonderful places and things you read about in this magazine – regions we can actively visit and engage with during events like the weekly “Safaris”. Your friends cannot simply jump in and join you unless they already have an avatar, a “home” grid and one of the “viewers” installed on their device. All our social networks and online tools operate using the protocols devised for the “World Wide Web” and similar – however convoluted they have now become. They cannot understand or interpret virtual spaces, let alone display them.
An urgent need (and some are working on this) is some kind of “window” based on html5 (web) code that can at least “peek into” our worlds and let those not already in them experience a taste of what they are missing. In reality, I suspect, a taste of the future.

So along comes the current, almost viral, noise about VR, AR and MR. (Have I missed any?) VR, of course is “Virtual Reality” and resonates with us in particular. The term now embraces all manner of experiences from simple surround vision to elaborate interactive environments, not to mention the profusion of new input and output devices which profess their future ubiquity. To date, little of this is “social VR” and what there is remains far behind Open Simulator and the Hypergrid. Content is contrived or archaic and experimentally one of consumption rather than any really compelling interactivity with others. More to the point, it is the environments themselves and what they facilitate that is important – not the different ways we can engage with them through new hardware toys.

mals-mbtv

For me, it is also a decade since I engaged in the idea of broadcasting activity (InWorld Review, Metaverse Broadcasting Company) in our worlds to viewers on the web. Some would listen and watch, if not already involved maybe find out more and come in-world themselves. We could also use the web to chat with the audience and build a community while streaming live. I always longed for a “button” that instead of simply relaying video would say “join us in world now”. But during the last 10 years, live-stream traction has declined – the world has embraced and changed to the idea of “Video on Demand”, which is how we maintain our viewers. So much for my “live” button!

It is another year and time for more change, including our weekly flagship show, the “Inworld Review”. We are reviving (the once daily) “Metaworld News” as a weekly companion show, decanting our news coverage into it and using short format segments. “Inworld Review” will remain, but as an open-ended talk show. We can serve both those who want shorter news bites and also those who like to engage with longer discussion. The start of the news show will address impotant “VR” but also other “Social VR”, the second half focusing on our existing hypergrid. It will still be streamed, but now via YouTube.

A couple of years back, Metaworld finally moved its main HQ to the Hypergrid – we have a dozen regions which form a large island in the northwest ocean on the Great Canadian Grid. We are happy there even if “hyper-jumping” elsewhere a lot of the time. Being something of the “newshound” I had never built in a virtual world myself before. An added bonus in having all the new land was the opportunity to do so – a fun but also learning experience. I have probably broken every rule in the book but am generally happy with what I have done. It includes a vast storytelling project (I want collaborators please!!!) and more. I feel like it is barely started. But that is the beauty of open-world empowerment – the freedom to evolve and change like organic life itself.

I don’t just believe in and advocate the use of social spaces/social VR – looking at the way people use social networks and other tools on the web – it is a clear indication of what people themselves respond to.

Mal Burns

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

John “Pathfinder” Lester Nov-Dec 2016 Guest Writer

“The Growth of Content and Community in Opensim –
Building SLurtle World”

by John “Pathfinder” Lester – http://about.me/pathfinder

I’ve been exploring OpenSim since 2010. My home grid “Pathlandia” has been running on a desktop computer in my house since 2012, and I continue to use Pathlandia as my home base from which to explore the Hypergrid and welcome Hypergrid visitors as they stumble upon my little island in the vast Hyperverse. Over the years I’ve met many wonderful people and I’ve also had the opportunity to work on a number of Opensim-focused projects, mostly centered around education and immersive learning.

Recently I had the chance to work with Carina Girvan, a professor at Cardiff University who is interested in developing constructionist learning activities in non-goal oriented virtual worlds. Her original research started in Second Life where she created little turtle robots called SLurtles that kids could program to build things in collaboration with other students. Carina recently decided to migrate her work to OpenSim and approached me for help in creating a dedicated and closed OpenSim grid called “SLurtle World” for her project that would include laboratory, orientation and community spaces.

SLurtle World 01.png

Naturally, I jumped at the chance. OpenSim continues to delight and amaze me as a platform for multi-user collaborative projects. Sure, there are more turnkey virtual world platforms out there (including some that I’ve built myself using Unity). But none of them offer the flexibility and in-world atomistic content creation capabilities of Opensim. I recommended DreamLand Metaverse as the hosting option since I’ve had nothing but fantastic experiences with them in the past, and then I got to work on designing and building out the laboratory, orientation and community regions.

slurtle-world-05

To use a video game development term, my real expertise is in “level design.” Figuring out how to best lay everything out from a user experience perspective like an urban planner/layout artist/landscaper is what I do best. And while I do a some prim and script wrangling to create highly customized objects, I mostly rely on the work of talented content creators for things like buildings, trees, furniture, clothing, vehicles, odds and ends, and avatars.

SLurtle World 10.png

As I set out looking for content I could use in this educational project, I started realizing how amazing the world of content and community in OpenSim has evolved over the past few years. Content was pretty scarce across OpenSim back in 2010, but today there are so many talented content creators sharing their creations on various grids as well as selling things across the Hypergrid in places like Kitely Market or freely distributing them in large inworld malls like Lani Global’s Lani Mall. And what’s most amazing to me is to see how a real Community has developed that includes content creators, people working to help distribute content both freely and for sale, and people exploring the Hypergrid where they can now find an amazing range of content available to them.

SLurtle World 11.png

Combine this with exploratory communities like Thirza Ember’s fantastic Hypergrid Safari which showcases content on different grids each week in OpenSim, and you can see how the network is all coming together, growing every day.

SLurtle World 13.png

After a couple months work I completed the level design and building of SLurtle World. And I was humbled by the wonderful range of content I was finding to use in the project. So as I worked, I kept a list of the name of every content creator whose objects I used in SLurtle World, both freebies and items I purchased. Big or small, simple or complex, I religiously looked at every object and prim I used in the build and kept track of all creator names. I wanted to make sure I acknowledged them when talking about the project, thanked them publicly, and told them how their creations helped create an educational environment where kids could learn and create and have fun.

SLurtle World 12.png

In the end, I had the names of 60 people whose content I used in SLurtle World. I’ll be doing my best to reach out to each of them individually to thank them personally. But in the meantime I’d like to publicly thank and acknowledge all of them here in VISIONZ by listing their names.

Thank you for helping make the Hyperverse a place where dreams can become reality, in particular for kids in SLurtle World.

Thank you Adelle Fitzgerald, Aine Caoimhe, Aire Xaris, albertlr Landar, Amiryu Hosoi, Andron Rae, Ange Menges, Arcadia Asylum, Ares Halostar, beverly Zauberflote, Blaksmith Rubble, Brayla Sana, Cherry Manga, Cuteulala Artis, Daniel Hoffman, Decad Monad, Druskus War, Ferd Frederix, Fleep Tuque, Gavin Hird, Hylee Bekkers, ica84 Buildman, Katz Republic, Kayaker Magic, Koshari Mahana, Lani Global, Lara Nguya, Laura Ormstein, Leighton Majoram, Linda Kellie, LisaKathleen Kaligawa, Mara Sonnenkern, Marcus Llewellyn, Matt CMPNetwork, Mircea Kitsune, Nara Nook, Nebadon Izumi, Newfie Pendragon, Nomasha Syaka, oddball otoole, Oopsee Joseppe, Ozwell Wayfarer, PakoJones descosio, Patch Ferber, Sarah Kline, Selea Core, Sergio Rodriguez, Shane Waffle, Shelby Moonlight, Stephanie Zugswang, Super Mario, Techplex Engineer, The Wizard, Tina Bey, Tosha Tyran, Vanish Seriath, Vbinnia Radek, Zed deTremont, Zia Frimon, and Zuza Ritt.

SLurtle World 02.png

Big thanks to the HG VISIONZ magazine staff for inviting me to write a piece for this issue, especially Sunbeam Magic for being very patient with me.

If you’d like to learn more about the SLurtle World project, Carina and I presented it at the OpenSimulator Community Conference on December 11, 2016, here are our slides: http://bit.ly/OSCC16-Virtual-Robotics

CzaIcenXgAA6_Pq.jpg

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Han Held September 2016 Guest Writer

AVATARFEST

by Han Held

Sometimes I worry about this community of ours and it’s future. Scratch that -sometimes I worry about it’s future. I no longer worry all that much about the community. I couldn’t say that a year ago, September 2015. 2015 was a hell of a year and we took what is our gravest loss to date: the resignation of Justin Clark-Casey. Additionally, and maybe less well remembered we had Fleep Tuque’s silent withdrawal and Dahlia Tremble’s similar resignation, as well as OSGrid’s extended downtime. There was a metaphorical chill in the air and it was noticeable that OSCC had not been heard from.

I was scared for our virtual towns. As a Netizen since 1997 I’ve seen newsgroups, forums and other online communities fight, fragment and then drift apart. I felt that we needed to come together and rally around something – it didn’t matter much what. And with the vacancy left by the OSCC and it’s sponsors I saw an opportunity. I have felt and to this day still feel that OSCC is designed and intended for professionals; educators, corporate clients, hosting providers …and not for regular people. By ‘regular people’ I mean people who are not educators, nor grid providers. I mean people who rent, perhaps build (perhaps not) and live in this space running role play groups, or hopping from grid to grid performing or people who pay their money and do whatever… I mean the customers and the self-hosters. The folks who pay, not those getting paid.

With OSCC’s seemingly likely absence (it seemed at the time -fortunately they had an OSCC last year and a call for presenters just went out two days before I wrote this), I saw that there was an opening to have a celebration which focused on those who “live” out here, and what they do. Hopefully it would also demonstrate that even with the losses, there was vitality in the HyperGrid community.

So I posted a ranty blog and announced that I was going to have a festival – honestly, I thought it would be me and maybe 2 or three people on a standalone going “woo-hoo”. I was floored by the response. Every time I turned around I had someone offering the use of a server and region. I was blessed to have the help and skill of several people from the community -including web hosting and design help.

November rolled around and it was amazing to see it all come together. For three days (plus Truelie’s performance for the HyperGrid safari) we had a packed house. Each of those three days we had over fifty (sometimes sixty) people hanging out, dancing, talking and having fun. We had performers of all stripes …music, stories, poetry, plays… and people. It was an unqualified success.

This year I felt that it would be good to both have it earlier (outside of the holiday season) and with more time -so, in late May I started putting out feelers, and by Early June the ball was rolling: AvatarFEST 2016 was a go!

I was nervous -even more nervous than last year, perhaps. I had no idea what level of interest there would be and I was all to aware that AvatarFEST 2015’s success had almost nothing to do with me, but the hard work and talent of Eryn Galen, Isis Ophelia and Tom Frost…along with our volunteers, performers and exhibitors. If I had to do it all myself there would be nothing! If no one cared there would be no point at all!

I was lucky this year in that along with Eryn’s tireless efforts, I was able to get the assistance of 3rdrockgrid’s Zinnia Frenzy, who in turn recruited a lot of talent from her grid such as the UFS Starfleet Astraios group, DJ Jeremy, the Fabulous Wailers and Wosie Ogrady. On top of recruiting, Zinnia I asked the community for donations and within a few days we had more than we needed. Thank you Ferd Fredirix (Outworldz.com), Minethere Athanasios, Sunbeam Magic and Talla Adams.

That’s our community, folks. Even now, one year after JCC’s departure and the release of the last Opensim version we still have folks who are willing to give of their time, give of their expertise and give of their cash for the sake of doing something to make our little corner of cyber-space better. I have grave concerns about OpenSim, and the future of the HyperGrid, perhaps now more than ever… but I believe in the community and I believe in it’s future. I’ve had it’s strength and vitality demonstrated to me in the clearest of terms. This community will be going on strong for years after I’m gone and forgotten! Ours is a community that is contentious, dramatic and filled with conflict… but which is also filled with brilliance, creativity, and generosity of spirit. Ours is a community well worth celebrating and drawing strength and inspiration from.

I would like to invite you to come and celebrate it with us -at AvatarFEST. This year’s AvatarFEST, like last years’, features three days of performances (plus like last year, a post-festival HG Safari) and a month of exhibits to peruse at your leisure. It opens on September 30th and the region closes on October 30th.

We are proud to feature stunning exhibits from a variety of exhibitors and grids, from veteran creators to people new to exhibiting and all skills in-between.

Over the weekend we will have performances by:

DJ Phaandor (offsite @ Der Krater.

HG: http://phaandoria.de:8002:Der Krater )

Joao Frazao

Truelie Telling

DJ Strannik (bringing us another epic multi-hour set)

DJ Jeremy

The Fabulous Wailers

Rosie Ogrady

Tom Frost

Avatar Repertory Theatre

Eldovar Lamilton

The Senchai Library

Dings Digital And Emil Jennings (Poetry)

HOP to HG: http://avatarfest.net:6000

From Friday Sept 30th, until Sunday, October 2nd.

We hope to see you there!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Strannik Zipper July 2016 Guest Writer

Looking for Freedom in Virtual Currencies

By Strannik Zipper

Some of us OpenSim users in the United States are celebrating Independence Day on the fourth of July, but we are asking ourselves if we are really free if our money is constricted by forces outside of our control. After all, our forefathers dumped tea in the Boston Harbor for less!

Many of us in Hypergrid worlds are fans of Science Fiction Author Neal Stephenson who coined terms like “Metaversenow in common use. He also wrote Reamde, a techno-thriller novel that revolves around a virtual currency in a game, and Cryptonomicon which revolved around data havens and digital gold currencies. For many of us, virtual worlds offer unique opportunities to pursue creativity in ways not constrained by “real life”. It should not be surprising that virtual currencies also seek degrees of freedom not available in Real Life, especially with International Banking Cartels trying to rule the world of finance.

Second Life (SL) initially sparked popular imagination about virtual currencies and being able to make a living in a virtual world. Virtual currency was still a grey area in the banking and taxation worlds, creating an impression of a new wild west, complete with gold rush. As with all hype cycles, the reality eventually leveled out, and as regulatory powers caught up with the phenomena, SL closed the opportunities for third party ex-changers and other services. Virwox, Podex and other ex-changers have effectively been shut out of the SL economy. Governments have also taken an interest. One of the Edward Snowden files revealed that the NSA and GCHQ have had spies in Second Life and World of Warcraft, and the Wall Street Journal reported that Gregg Kaminsky was jailed for failing to report $140,000 earnings from SL among other things.

Second Life currency shops used to be everywhere. As OpenSimulator communities developed, they have not been as currency driven as SL. While this was partly due to technical challenges in the beginning, it is also due to the fact that many of us who are refugees from SL want to see a money-driven hype cycle happen to OpenSim. At the same time, there is some need for currencies, and some of us want to see a virtual currency world that is more free from the machinations of RL straitjackets.

Virwox has tried to create a currency that works across the Hypergrid (the OMC). It is not necessarily easy to implement, requires extra steps to make purchases, and forces adopters to use a one-size-fits-all currency. With the rise of bitcoin, Virwox suddenly discovered that their currency shop had become a major ex-changer for the cryptocurrency, ironically using Lindens as an exchange, even though they could no longer be used in SL. Other grids such as Avination experienced currency disasters (the theft of $126,000 from the grid). There are a few other parties trying to create Hypergrid currencies, such as Gloebits. Kitely owns the largest Hypergrid Marketplace, but it’s own currency is crippled by the demands of financial regulation if it were to be exchangeable.

Some of us who were early adopters and users of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, saw it as a perfect virtual currency, as it is truly peer to peer, and is not controlled by any meddling organization or government. A grid owner still faces regulatory difficulties if they implement it, as governments then require

conformity to regulations that govern financial services.

casinos-in-os

Two things have happened to make currency freedom a reality. First of all, YRGrid adopted the Microbitcoin as a grid currency. RL Macau is a jurisdiction that offers high stakes gambling. By locating grid servers in Macau, the same freedom allows YRGrid to offer gaming and bitcoin without the excessive regulation faced elsewhere.

Secondly, YRGrid is a Podex exchanged currency, which allows any other Podex currency to be exchanged for YRGrid’s Microbitcoin. YRGrid’s bitcoin is just normal bitcoin, and can be exchanged with any other bitcoin wallet.

Podex also offers a degree of protection to grids wanting to offer their own Podex exchanged currency. From the Podex website:

As a grid owner you are released from any legal or tax responsibility for managing currency. You can just enjoy the pleasure of managing your world with no risk! According to FINCEN Regulations any person, who fails to register as MBC may be liable for 5,000 USD per each violation as well as criminal fine and/or imprisonment up to 5 years.

Thanks to YRGrid and Podex, OpenSim users can let freedom ring on Independence Day!

The currency shop and exchange on Pirate’s Atoll. You can watch live market data, buy and sell Podex currencies and bitcoin/altcoins, buy digital and physical gold/metal, make or get a bitcoin loan, and even trade FOREX and Stock CFDs!

An Interview with Jacek at Podex.info:

How has the transition been from being a big Second Life exchanger to operating solely on Open Simulator?

From technical point of view it has not been a big challenge as our software needed only a few modification to be adjusted to Open Simulator environment. The bigger difference was in the way we cooperate with grid owners. Cooperation with Linden Lab was – let’s say – not easy, as their decisions were usually unpredictable and not negotiable. The situation in OS is more like in a big family, we can talk about everything and come to conclusion together.

You provide a valuable service by allowing avatars to have multiple currencies in their account across the Hypergrid and in being able to transfer funds across the Hypergrid. It is now easier than ever to set up a Podex ATM. What other Hypergrid features might be coming in the future from Podex?

I am really happy that our new features, although they can seem painful at start, are well seen by our customers. My goal is to make our system as easy as possible for users and I do hope that we are going in a good direction. The next move we are going to do is to simplify cash-out process, especially the between-grid exchange. YRGrid uses micro-bitcoin as their currency which is not only a Podex currency, but can be sent as regular bitcoin.

Did this create any unique challenges for Podex, and would you have any advice for new grids seeking to do something similar?

Bitcoin is well established virtual currency and can be easily adopted to new grids, but I am not specialist in IT so it is hard to say how much effort it needs. For us it is just another currency like any other, but the difference is that I can be purchased from many sources. Bitcoin seems to be really good solution as currency for virtual worlds but the thing that is a problem is difficulty in buying it – usually you can not buy it with credit cards and PayPal.

For a while, Podex offered an anonymous debit card that could be funded with bitcoin or virtual currencies. Is there any chance of bringing back the second-card as an anonymous funded debit card from OpenSim currencies? What are the roadblocks you would face?

Our offer of selling prepaid cards for avatars was really profitable, but unfortunately Polish banks stopped issuing them because of new government regulations and it is not possible to get them nowadays.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dings Digital June 2016 Guest Writer

Wanderlust – On Virtual Worlds: Trust, Fake and Nature

By Dings Digital

(Not a native English speaker, so writing was a bit difficult)

Some problems, if not a lot of problems, of things and relations, between people being somehow virtual have to do with trust. Is this avatar trustworthy? Can I rely on my desire to possess this thing, this space, this service in the virtual world? Or is it empty, useless stuff? Are the stories this avatar is telling true or are they just lies? Should I work with these people on this project? After all, we had our good and bad experiences.

There are two totally different attitudes to deal with these kinds of questions. One I would call the loud but uninteresting attitude. It is all too common in disputes about the internet (and – depressingly – disputes in the internet). Once you are drawn into a dispute like this, you either have to be black or white, yes or no, friend or enemy. This attitude may gain more and more popularity, but in matters of understanding things it is useless. It is stupid.

The other attitude deals with the possibility that there can be both good and bad things, that some things we like may have a crack or that people we love may have their mistakes. And places – or worlds – may have nice people, but there may be some assholes too (as is described for example in Robert Sutton’s book “The no asshole rule”). Objects or people we admire may shine, but also may have a wrinkle here and there. So it is still great to hope for the best. But take care of assholes, or flawed things, or stupid engagements. You shouldn’t trust them.

But what then is trust? When is it justified? One of the oldest words of wisdom on trust were written down 2500 years ago by Democritus. Who?! Democritus was a Greek philosopher, an advocate of a cheerful way of life and one of the founders of Atomism – the idea that the world is made up of tiny particles (yup, atoms). He had an advice on whom to trust: “Do not trust all men, but trust the proven men; the former course is silly, the latter a mark of prudence.” This sounds like old advice, maybe too old. Nonetheless, what he seemed to have in mind is that trust can go wrong. There is a risk involved in trust. Looking out for signs that minimize this risk is a clever thing, Democritus tells us. Sounds familiar. You don’t need a degree in rocket science to come up with this. Parents tell their kids this stuff. Democritus added a hint: look at what people do and look at what they want. That’s the best information you can get about whom to trust.

Another Greek, Aristotle (btw teacher of the not so well behaved Alexander the Great), added another thing to the talk about trust. It is not only people we trust, he said, but statements about things and people too. We build our opinions on trusted information. He was clear about what makes opinions untrustworthy: manipulation. When people want to gain fame or power without having in mind what is good for their listeners, then they use means and information that cannot be trusted. He had in mind situations like teaching or political campaigns. Add marketing or a fight about some very important stuff on Facebook or Twitter – and there we are in the age of the internet.

So maybe we can sum up that which is untrustworthy in a single word: fake. Yes, but no. Not in every situation. When we rely on what we hear or get to be the real thing then fake is betrayal. We are duped. Not so when we know that what is presented to us is fake. Like in a romantic movie, or a movie with aliens and UFOs. Or some comedy and satire. We love to laugh. So making up things in comedy is fine.

Another situation involving fake that I enjoy very much and think about a lot is nature scenes in virtual worlds. Nature in virtual words? Come on, this is fake! Yes, but we know it.

I love nature sims (that’s what I call them). For me they are the digital equivalent to a landscape painting. I believe they really are a good thing for Virtual Reality. Maybe that seems odd. According to the loud and uninteresting view (see above) virtual nature scenes are a bad joke. What is as pure and direct as mother nature? What could be more artificial and alienated than a natural landscape in a virtual world? It is not even plastic, it is not even real! I disagree.

I don’t need to have the either-or view. “Natural nature” – the real thing – is awesome. It has the potential to kick butt. It can be friendly or unfriendly. It can be breathtaking, even healing. The virtual replication of nature can be inspiring too. Some say it is the most meaningless thing to do. I say, quite to the contrary. Since living in caves humans loved to replicate the world around them. It seems to be a basic need. But even if it is not basic, it can be fun, or inspiring, or philosophical or whatever. And it can look good. Like a painting from Monet or Fragonard or Friedrich. Or take van Gogh’s “Starry Night”. Faked nature! And what a beautiful painting!

There can be good things and bad things in virtual worlds. Of all the good things (like meeting great people, visiting events, listening to live music, learning things) nature scenes are among my personal favorites. I am looking forward to explore all the new beautiful landscapes with their details, composition, harmony, drama and atmosphere that people are constantly building in their artist’s workshops. Welcome to Wanderlust!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Terry Ford (Butch Arnold) March 2016 Guest Writer

The Mythical Unlimited Prims

by Terry Ford AKA: Butch Arnold

We are all human. In the real world we want to find the best deal we can with everything. The more money we can save, the more money we’ll have to spend on other things. The virtual world is no different. When shopping for land in virtual worlds one must consider many things, including:

  • Available Support should you need it

  • Content Protection

  • Performance of your simulator

  • Community

  • Shopping

  • Events

  • Availability

  • Attitudes

  • Reputation

  • Land Size

  • Prim capacity

  • Cost

All of these can make or break your satisfaction with a virtual world. A grid owner has to find ways to attract new users to his/her grid. Every Grid owner knows that users attract even more users. The more users a grid has, the more content they have to offer new users. The more users they have, the more events other users will have to choose from. The more users they have, the more socializing opportunities users will have to choose from. It’s no secret…. USERS ATTRACT USERS!

Grid owners will go to great lengths to “Dangle the carrot” in front of you to convince you to choose them. Some of these owners are ethical and trustworthy, while others not so much.

I have been around long enough to know what I’m talking about. I’ve been through the school of hard knocks on this issue. Many know that I currently am the grid tech on 3 different grids and I have helped many others. Some are still around, some aren’t.

Price seems to be one of the biggest targets of all new grids.
New grids think they have to have the lowest price to attract new users. It always seems there are grids out there promising “Huge” land sizes with unlimited prims for less than $5/mo in some cases. While for the buyer, this seems like a great deal, right? I mean what could be better? You can get a 10×10 region with unlimited prims for $4/mo. What a deal!!!

You can have your dream region… lots and lots of builds, invite all your friends, maybe you can rent some of it out to other users, life will be grand, right? WRONG!!!

Let me explain to you why this is not a good deal, why you should run as fast as you can from any grid offering such a deal.
Servers cost money. Servers have a limited amount of resources available. Grid owners will not “Pay You” to be part of their virtual world.

Let’s take an imaginary grid run by an imaginary guy named “Dick”. Dick has started a grid and called it “Dick’s Wonderful, Low Priced Grid”. This grid has a single server which costs them $80/mo. For that $80 the grid has to run a database, a robust instance and then all of the regions. Let’s say this server has 1tb hard drive, 64gb ram, and dual quad core processors.

In OpenSim, a good general rule is that scripts and users use CPU, content uses ram and storage. and users also consume ram. To start out with, the operating system will consume some of the resources. The database will need approx 2gb ram for a small grid. Let’s just say, that at an idle with the grid running and a single welcome region on it it will be using around 3gb ram.

Let’s say Dick decides to attract users with an unlimited prim deal for $5/mo. The grid quickly sells 35 regions. Being the savvy business person Dick is, he thinks all is well… my marketing ploy worked I have 35 new “Paying” users. I’m now bringing in $175 and the server is only costing me $80… WOW! That’s a $95/mo. Profit! Dick decides to keep running his deal and sells another 20 regions. Now they are up to 55 regions all running on the same server, bringing in $275/mo and paying out $80/mo in server costs. Now Dick “thinks” they are making a $195/mo profit… things are going great… right? *WRONG* DANGER AHEAD!

Dick thinks all is well, but they better get another server as this one is starting to lag… we have plenty of ram left though… and so far plenty of CPU left over. Dick Wonders why it is lagging?
They buy another server, they load it up the same as the first… now they are making $390/mo profit.

They have lots of new users running about the Hypergrid and bringing things back to build up their regions, they are starting to have events, things are looking great.

Support tickets start rolling in… just the usual stuff… change my region name, change the name on a group, oops.. wrong prim count on my land… etc… just the usual stuff. As the regions continue to build up, the amount of resources they need continue to grow. Server lag gets much worse, but we still have plenty of ram and we still have plenty of cpu… and plenty of storage left on the hard drive…. must just be all the traffic.
You as the user are now one of many… you pay your $5/mo. and you expect to have a great experience, and get help when you need it. You expect to be able to have your HyperGrid friends over to show off your new land. You expect to be able to explore all the great new creations everyone is building. Your Virtual Life so far is good… all of this for only $5/mo… what a deal.

Now the grid has gotten busier, regions are starting to really blossom with some really cool, huge builds, malls and stores are going up all over. But you notice that lag seems to be getting worse. Sometimes your TP attempts fail, sometimes it takes a bit longer for you to load all your inventory, sometimes there is very bad chat lag, sometimes your region just crashes for no apparent reason… it was fine yesterday. You decide to ask for help. You send in a support request. Time goes by while you wait for a response… why you wonder, am I not getting an answer.

Dick is starting to realize more help is needed, they are getting more and more support requests, so they recruit some helpers. Like many grid owners, they aren’t making a lot of money, so they can’t afford to pay much so they offer land in trade for help. Now they have 4 new helpers. This will help lighten the support load a bit. We have lots of new users, lots of new regions, 4 new helpers and we are still putting almost $400/mo in our pocket.

What the grid owner does not see coming is that there is a very bad “storm” brewing. One which will destroy the grid’s credibility, reputation, and will upset many users. What could that be you might ask? All is good, I’m paying only $5/mo. for unlimited prims, way more land than I really need… what could go wrong?

What some new grids don’t seem to realize is that at first, many regions will fit on a server and run well. As these regions build up, the disk traffic increases and while you may still have plenty of cpu and ram… and even storage left… you find your servers are getting very laggy. You realize that as you move regions off of a laggy server it gets better… so you buy another server to spread the load. Now you are down to only putting $300/mo in your pocket. As time goes on, you have to keep doing this to keep the lag at bay… so you buy another, now you are up to 4 servers @ $80/ea. Now you are paying $320/mo. and your profit has shrunk to only $220/mo.

Now you realize that you better start thinking about backups… and you realize you don’t have a slave database to fall back on in case your core database goes down. You buy another server… now your profit has fallen to just $140/mo.

Now, you need to start looking for tech help as you can no longer do it all yourself. You have several servers to look after, but only about $150/mo profit… where can you find someone to help with your technical issues for that small amount? You can’t… at least not anyone worth their “Salt”… so, you have to continue doing it all on your own. Who in their right mind would want to assume the responsibility for all these servers for that amount of money?

Dick finds himself tied to the grid taking care of support issues, making and checking backups, trying to implement new features, attending grid events… it’s starting to get crazy. Dick is now spending 8 hours each day on grid related stuff. Let’s check the economics here… 8 hours each day times 30 days in a month… that’s 240 hours per month you spend on grid related stuff.

Why? Because Dick’s users expect his grid to run great, have great features and great support. That’s Dick’s job, remember?

Meanwhile, Dick’s regions continue to grow… remember, Dick has promised all of his users unlimited prims, so Dick has to keep buying more servers to spread the load. Suddenly, Dick realizes that he’s barely breaking even, but yet as he grows, he has to put in more time taking care of things.

Let’s say Dick is still putting $60/mo in his pocket as profit… he worked for 240 hours this month… how much did he earn per hour? Easy enough to figure out… $60 divided by 240 hours = $ 0.25/hr. Yup, that’s right… Dick making 25 cents per hour… or so he thinks.

Guess what? The storm isn’t over yet… as Dick continues to grow, he will need to keep buying more servers to spread the load… eventually he’ll be paying out of his own pocket to run his grid. Dick starts to lose his “drive” as he sees this is not going to work… so he recants his unlimited prim deal. He goes around to his largest users of resources, those he thinks are good friends and will understand… and he asks for more money.
Dick’s reputation starts to erode.

Meanwhile, Dick’s grid continues to grow… and guess what, he now has so much traffic that he needs to upgrade his grid’s “Core” to handle all of it. Now Dick decides 1tb isn’t enough space… he now needs 4tb and SSD drives to help… and… he has to multiply this by 3 as now he will need to load balance his core… so now he will need 3 more expensive machines to do what is needed.

What? I can’t afford that, say Dick… I’ll just have to make due with what I have for now until I can make some more money.  Now Dick’s grid really starts performing poorly because his current servers cannot handle the load. Dick’s reputation is being dragged through the mud, his users are upset about his performance, he is losing users at a crazy rate. Dick begins to lose interest since things are failing, he doesn’t feel like spending all that time on the grid anymore. Tech support can wait… he’s done enough today, right.. time to get away… get a breather!

Now, you the user are having issues… you can’t login… you lose grid presence, your support tickets are going unanswered, this grid sucks now… right? Now you’ll have to find a new home… and all the time you wasted building up the old region has been wasted.. but it was good practice, and really… how many prims did you end up using after all?

On to the next great deal!!

To you the user, I would advise you to do some research.
Ask yourself what is important, do you want support when you need it? Do you want to make sure you have backups available if something goes wrong? Do you want to have a home you can be proud of… and bring your friends to Do you want to have to go and do this all over again soon?

Shop around, find a grid which offers a great deal, has great performance, has great support, and you’ll be happy.
Remember, with the Hypergrid, you can shop almost anywhere now and bring the stuff back to your grid. Get land on a grid who knows what they are doing, knows how to support their users, and is going to be there for you when you need them. The money you pay each month should buy you all of these things and more.

To the new grids… You owe it to your users, yourself, and your helpers to create a platform which can sustain any growth. You should plan ahead for when the grid does begin to grow. Your expenses will only increase, and if you don’t have the cash reserves available to pay for additional servers and help on issues you can’t handle on your own because you weren’t charging enough for your services, you are going to fail.

Your users and helpers are counting on you to make the correct decisions, they have not only spent money to buy your services, they have also purchased an insurance policy of sorts.
So… Don’t be a “Dick”!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Talia Sunsong February 2016 Guest Writer

 

Confessions of a Mischievous Fae

by Talia Sunsong

talia

I’m not evil. At least not that evil. I just like to do pranks. Like putting hot peppers in the unicorn’s food (I almost got gored to death for that. Unicorns are not as sweet as they look. It’s lucky that Fae are tough creatures).

I am not a dainty fairy. I do not eat with small bites or wave a wand with a slender hand. I gobble down sweet food like a starved wolf. I have “issues” with drinking cream. It’s like alcohol to my Fae metabolism. I fly into trees under the influence of cream, and swear with Fae curses that would make a dockworker blush. I sing bawdy Fae songs about meeting shirtless male Fae in secluded spots for close encounters.

Don’t ever drink Fae juice. Apparently it’s a hallucinogen to non-Fae beings, like Halflings and Humans. An innocent Halfling naively drank the juice. He ended up diving into the river to escape a giant chicken that appeared to him (and no one else could see it).

I think the Fae juice was contaminated with purple mushrooms. I gather mushrooms in the Fairylands to trade for cream in the human marketplace. Sometimes mushrooms in the Fairylands contain traces of magic from the land, and the results are not always predictable. As I carry the mushrooms to market, spores fall off. The spores seed more mushrooms which grow, and grow, and grow. One Halfling had a mushroom clog her chimney in the shire. Mushrooms are now the size of houses and grow in strange places in the middle of town, including blocking roads. I don’t worry about it. I just use the giant mushrooms for shade, but the humans get all worked up about it.

Some mushrooms act like truth serum on humans. A gypsy, who stole from pirates, found that out the hard way. She kept telling the truth, which was bad for her business. Luckily she did escape the pirates with only a few bruises to show for it. The gypsy wanted a “cure” for the truth serum mushroom. As a Fae, I don’t understand human culture, or why you need a cure for honesty. They tried to explain to me that sometimes the truth has to be approached with delicacy and diplomacy. I’m not delicate or diplomatic. As a Fae I’m always myself, for better or worse.

I’m off to the Fairylands for now. Would you like a swig of Fae juice before I go?

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment