Coming Soon To Firestorm: Customized, Kickass Skies For Your Second Life

Coming Soon To Firestorm: Customized, Kickass Skies For Your Second Life

If you use Firestorm, the popular 3rd party viewer for Second Life, and enjoy shooting outdoor photos and machinima, you should connect with Stevie Davros. He’s creating what you’re looking at above: an alternative cloud system for use in Firestorm, which he plans to put on the Marketplace in March. The words “alternative cloud” don’t quite convey how vivid, jaw-dropping, and insanely cool these customized skies are, so you should watch that video and the one below: they totally transform the low-res, default skies of Second Life into something pretty profound.

“I have been a RL travel and landscape photog rather for decades,” Davros explains, “and skies are a fundamental part of what I photograph. In SL I was delighted with all the imagination and care taken in sim design and also the creativity on show, but was disappointed in how bland the skies looked compared to real life.” Firestorm developer Cinder Roxley added a feature that made it possible to swap the system skies with custom ones — and Davros’ photos and others made his system possible: “The TGA graphics files I have used are all extensively modified from numerous cloud photographs, some from my collection, some sourced from public internet weather images.”

His skies are not just taken from reality, however:

“[I’m also working on] fantasy clouds, hand painted clouds (including one sampled from Vincent van Gough’s brushstrokes), and some novelty and prop clouds.” (He created these cartoon clouds I blogged about recently.)

Stevie Davros Custom Skies Firestorm SL

“The standard SL sky uses a TGA graphics file which is 512x512pixels and 263kb in size. Pretty low res, but it works. The largest I have created is 4096×4096 pixels and 67Mb in size, most however are 4096×4096 and 16.7Mb in size. The big files seem to have no performance impact, so I am unsure why a better default sky has not been introduced by the developers?” That’s a good question, because who cares how large the sky files are, if you download them beforehand, and they make your virtual world that much more awesome?

Emphasis on “your”, because, of course, only the user with Davros’ Firestorm feature can see these skies — which is just fine for photographic and machinima purposes.

“If you are just sitting indoors doing glam pics, like a lot of people enjoy doing, it will be of little interest,” as Davros puts it. “But for those who like to get out and about and explore SL beauty, it is for them. And yes, will make kickass machinima and photo blog imagery as this [above] shows.”

More on Davros’ skies when they’re available!

Gacha creators frustrated by Second Life Oversight

(Image courtesy PocketGacha.)

Second Life, with a much bigger economy than that of OpenSim, also has a much bigger problem with copyright infringement than OpenSim.

For instance, copybotters have long been using specialized third party viewers to duplicate creators’ content and offer them for sale, lowering demand for the legitimate versions of the items and demoralizing creators.

More recently, content thieves have been exploiting a glitch to create illegal copies of products are reselling them.

These dupers may have cost creators and original owners thousands of dollars over the past two years, Oobleck Allagash, founder and creator of PocketGacha in Second Life, told Hypergrid Business.

This is a particularly vexing problem for the extremely popular Gacha ecosystem.

Gachas are vending machines that give customers random items, some more rare and valuable than others. Customers who get items they don’t want can trade them or sell them, creating a hot resale market and increasing the appeal of the Gatcha system.

“The best I can muster for a speculative look at this would be that tens of thousands of real life dollars were lost over the past two years,” he said. “That would be a significant blow to sales by creators, many of whom are one-person cottage industry artists whose livelihoods depend on every sale.”

Allagash recently discovered that items from his company were being resold without permission on the Second Life Marketplace. He discovered this by checking the back-end records for PocketGacha, a HUD-based system for merchants that tracks players and sales.

“It is an exploit that involves the person crashing a sim and duplicating a transfer item in unlimited amounts,” he said. “It duplicates perfectly with all the original aspects intact and the creator name the same.”

PocketGacha helps users to “buy on the fly” as they demo products and avoid lag issues in a crowded sim. Without PocketGacha, users would need to first gather demo items, go home, try them on, make a list and then go to find the items at the event to buy the ones they like.

For the past few years, Second Life has been lax in addressing the problem, said Allagash. The company has been reluctant to remove dupers from the ecosystem, and instead remove only the affected Gacha, but the duper remains in the ecosystem, and continues to re-post the removed Gacha.

“Many of these dupers have multiple DMCA take-downs of single sets yet continue as users and sellers without being banned or removed from the game,” he said.

That is beginning to change.

On Wednesday, Second Life banned one well known duper, an act Allagash applauds.

“We are very happy that in light of it taking time to patch all of the exploits Linden Lab is now taking steps to properly remove violators and a develop a stop gap to protect creator content,” he said.

The company said in post last month that they are continually creating new tools and discovering new techniques to solve this problem and have put in place techniques and methods that are bearing fruits. They also said their move to the cloud would allow introducing new products that would help stop the bad guys.

But while errors and glitches that allow copy of transfer items can occur, Linden Lab should, after two years, have come up with a method to identify and remove the bad actors from the grid, according to Allagash.

“Linden Lab has the ability to investigate the dupers and see within minutes irregularities with listings on Marketplace which have impossible quantities loaded for sale,” he said. “In addition, while an IP ban might not completely work, each person is required to have billing information and there are ways to regulate things with these obvious culprits.”

Being too aggressive about removing these sellers may hurt the bottom line, both in terms of resources spent addressing the problem, and in the form of lost revenues.

Linden Lab collects a five percent commission on all products sold in the Marketplace.

The behavior is also unwelcome and those doing it also hurt their creativity, another creator who has been in Second Life since 2003, Lupus Furyo, told Hypergrid Business.

“Second Life creators, just like any other, infuse their spirit in their digital creations, and it’s impossible to steal their work by just copying and selling their stuff,” he said. “That’s exactly what many people engaged in such activity never got right. One does not learn anything by following that kind of path in their life whether virtual or real”.

Meanwhile, High Fidelity has already rolled out Digital Asset Registry, a blockchain-based system that lets virtual world users attach digital certificates to their creations using digital fingerprints to secure item origins and unique ownership.

Item ownership will remain on the items regardless of where the items are distributed in the virtual world. There will also be a new cryptocurrency-based High Fidelity Coin that users can use to purchase products from the marketplace Avatar Island, and which can be traded on cryptocurrency exchanges.

Users can also offer their items for sale to other users on the Avatar Island.

Shop and Hop is Open! 60 Merchants, 60 Gifts, 3 Regions and Too Many Deals to Count!

Shop and Hop is Open! 60 Merchants, 60 Gifts, 3 Regions and Too Many Deals to Count!

The holiday hustle is in full effect – as we make mad dashes to finish up all of our holiday prep work and get ready for the influx of family, friends, and merriment – we also enjoy a little retail therapy!

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We’re happy to celebrate the season with an epic shopping extravaganza! Sixty of Second Life’s Merchants with some of the most popular brands in Second Life have set up shop across three Regions  –  Golden, Gilded and Halcyon – each providing a FREE gift and some major discounts on their top-selling items! From now through January 1st, 2018 – drop by our Shop & Hop event inworld and take advantage of these incredible steals.

Several of our Merchants have extended their sales to their Marketplace stores – so be sure to check there as well for some additional deals and steals!

Shop & Hop Participating Merchants:

!APHORISM! / !Rebel Hope Designs / .{PSYCHO:Byts}. / .TeaBunny. / [ JUSTICE ] / [ west end ] / /*KC|Couture* / *YS&YS* / #adored / ~Tableau Vivant~ / ADRIATIC line / alaskametro<3 / alme. / amara beauty / Apple May / AZ Emporium / bella moda / Blueberry / by Crash / Cae / Canimal / Cheeky Pea / ChiC buildings – surrounds – prefabs – decor props and poses / CONSTRUCT / Contraption / Dictatorshop / Dynamic Evolutions / e l i a v a h ~ / E.V.E / Envious / etham / eXxEsS Hair / Fancy Decor / Grimes Central Design (GCD MESH) / Heart Trees Flowers Plants / hello dave / Hucci / ISON / Lapointe Bastchild / Lemon Chilliz / Lune Bleue / MadPea / Maven Homes / Maxi Gossamer / MOCO HOMES Emporium / Musa / Nani / Never Totally Dead … / New CHEZ MOI Furnitures / NOX. & Third Eye. / PATRON / Petit Chat / Potomac Signature Homes / ROC / Sweet Thing / The Forge & EZ / The Mesh Shop / Vanity Hair / www.studio-skye.com / zed designz / Zibska

Merchants Participating on the Marketplace Shop & Hop:

!APHORISM! / !Rebel Hope Designs / .TeaBunny. / [ JUSTICE ] / *KC|Couture* / *YS &YS* – YourSkin & YourShape / #adored / ADRIATIC line / alaskametro<3 / alme. / amara beauty & Zoul Creations / AZ Emporium /Bella Moda / by Crash / Cae / Canimal / Cheeky Pea / CHEZ MOI FURNITURES / ChiC buildings / CONSTRUCT / Dictatorshop / Dynamic Evolution Industries / E.V.E / Envious / Grimes Central Design / Heart Trees Flowers Plants / Hello Dave / Hucci / ISON / Lemon Chilliz / Lune~Bleue / MadPea / Maven Homes / Maxi Gossamer / MOCO HOMES Emporium / Never Totally Dead… / Petit Chat / Potomac Signature Homes /ROC / Studio Skye / Sweet Thing. / The Mesh Shop / Vanity Hair / Zibska / [ west end ] / ::ZED:: Designz for Men

Have you ever wanted to pummel a Linden with a Snowball? Here’s your chance!

SAVE THE DATE – RESIDENT and LINDEN SNOWBALL SHOWDOWN!
Holidays have traditions – the gathering of families, the giving of gifts, the food and merriment, and – in our case – the Linden/Resident Snowball Showdown! This is your chance to arm yourself with some sweet snow-slinging artillery, take to the sparkling ice, and attack your friends, fellow Residents, and some Lindens with snowballs galore! But, you had better be prepared to get pummeled in return, because much of the joy of the holidays is giving – even if that means giving someone a snowball sandwich when they are least expecting it. Join us at the Snowball Fight Arena on Friday – December 15th from 11 am to 1 pm (SLT) and prepare to get pummeled!

Take a break from checking off your list, and have some fun at Winter Wonderland !

Settle in with a warm beverage and your favorite blanket, because we have a trove of twinkling winter treats to share.

 

THE SNOW SHINES BRIGHT in the VILLAGE of LIGHTS
Holiday delights are some of the best, and your journey begins in the Village of Lights – a quaint little town with spectacular lights, that buzzes with the charm and warmth of the season! Click the red gift packages that you encounter here for some freebies and gifts to enjoy. Once an hour, the Village of Lights pulls out all the stops for a spectacular fireworks show you don’t want to miss and most certainly will want to share with a special someone.

SNOWBALL FIGHT ARENA
While the scheduled Linden and Resident Snowball Showdown isn’t happening until December 15th – the arena is fully loaded with snow, snowball arsenal and some ‘capture the flag’ type castles for you to get lots of practice and training in! Many an epic snowball showdown (and one pumpkin smash fight!) have graced these fair lands – and this year will prove to be among the most epic! Grab a few friends and family members, and make some memories!

WINTER SNOW TRACK
Attention thrill-seekers:this may be just the spot for you! Grab a snowboard and/or snowmobile from the nearby vendors and hit the icy slopes at high speeds! Swish and whoosh as you through the glinting snow tracks. Be sure to hold on tight as you race other Residents to the finish line.

ICE SKATE ARENA
Glide with the grace of a swan across the frozen lake at the Ice Skate Arena – we’ll even provide the skates –  free from nearby vendors. This romantic spot is the perfect place to take your sweetheart for a spin before some hot cocoa and a snuggle at the ferris wheel.

FERRIS WHEEL
The Linden Department of Public Works did an incredible job on creating breath-taking views all over Winter Wonderland, and you will be hard-pressed to find one better than the romantic view gleaned from atop the Ferris Wheel.  Have your snapshot finger ready, and your special someone at your side because between the lights, sights, and delights of the fireworks show, you are sure to witness some magical moments you’ll want to preserve.

Stay tuned for more wintery fun to come – and watch this blog for info about our upcoming inworld holiday shopping event, and much more.

See you in the snow! (I promise that’s not a snowball bazooka I am hiding behind my back).

Getting Your Business in the SL Spotlight

Often I get  asked for tips from residents to get their businesses seen and get their brand marketed.  Events are definitely one of the many ways you can get your name out there…there are I’d say hundreds in Second Life now…ranging from home and garden, mesh body apparel, hair, and even just a bit of everything.  Many of these events run themed monthly events – where designers can apply to be included.  For each event a listed criteria will be provided on application pages where you can see if you’re business meets the requirements.  These events often get so popular its nearly impossible to get in without a teleport hammer HUD. Below is a list of event calendar and advertising pages with alot of public eye on them.  Seraphim features gallery pictures so you can “preshop”, which is awesome when you’re waiting to enter!

Seraphim – Hosted by a great group of people! / Lists ongoing events, major events and sales within the SL Community.

Second Life Event Calendar – Hosted by Sanura Snowpaw / To Submit Event: Apply Here

Hunt SL – Hosted by Rosamoo Mendlesohn & Xia Nishi / List of current hunts and submission to set up a hunt to be posted can be found on their blog.

Hunting SL – Hosted by Alianna Logan and Alon Alphaville / Second Life Fashion Feed as well as listing of events and hunts.

Here are some helpful tips for getting seen found via Second Life Wikipedia:

Appeal to humans, not search engines

Help people understand what you offer by providing useful, clear, and accurate descriptions that communicate what’s valuable and unique about your place, group, or event. Know your target audience and speak to their interests as specifically as possible. This helps you stand out from the crowd and helps new Residents become long-term members of our community and economy.

Be specific and descriptive

Avoid filling descriptions with nothing but a list of keywords. Use phrases and sentences that are human-readable. The search engine will return results for words that are based on the linguistic root of words in your description. This means that if you sell tango dance animations, your description does not need to include every version of the word dance (dances, dancing, and so on). Searches on the word dancing will include your listing in the results.

Note that a large portion of searches include more than one keyword (in fact, many searches are for phrases). Including relevant common phrases in your listing will increase its visibility.

For example, if you sell Jazz-age clothing and accessories, say so. If your location also looks like a speakeasy and hosts events, let people know.

Create a brand

Top merchants and events in Second Life are successful in part because they have created a unique feel around their product that helps people identify what’s especially valuable or appealing about their offering. Communicate the vibe of your store or group through its name, imagery, and targeted descriptions.

For more info on advertising opportunities, check out How to market your products and see the Classifieds FAQVisit the Business and Marketing wiki portal for more tips on starting a Second Life business or bringing your business into Second Life.

Maturity ratings matter

Be sure to mark your listing with the maturity rating appropriate to the content and location. Listings that are not marked appropriately will miss their target audience and may be blocked from search results. See Maturity ratings for more info. Note that all searches on secondlife.com return only  General results.

Stay current

Second Life is a changing world, and Resident search behavior changes too. Based on our monitoring of user behavior and satisfaction, we continually update our relevance and rank algorithms to serve the broadest user base possible. New releases to Search will be announced in advance, whenever possible, on the Second Life Blog Technology channel. As user behavior changes, so too should listing strategies change — ask your customers what drew them to your listing, and learn from others you admire.

Technical guidelines

Check Show in Search

Click the Show in Search check box to include your listing in the search index. This option is available on places, profiles, groups, and objects. If it is not checked, search results will not return these items. Events are automatically included in the search index. Note that items in the Search index are also available to be viewed on the web and may be indexed by web search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo!

Note: None of your personal information is available on the web unless you write that information in your listing descriptions.

Some tips

  • Spelling and grammar matter. Avoid using non-traditional spellings. Also, be sure you’ve got the correct spelling. Avoid over-use of capital letters or symbol characters.
  • Internationalize. Second Life is an international community in which many languages are spoken. If you are targeting non-English speakers, be sure to use their language in your listing name and descriptions.
  • Indexing. Updates are usually available within 6 hours.
  • Parcels. Take care when changing parcel boundaries. A variety of parcel data is used in calculating search rank, and changing the boundaries of your land parcel can cause that data to be reset or lost. When joining two parcels, the larger parcel keeps much of the parcel data.

Frequently asked questions about search rankings

Relevance and rank: what are they?

Linden Lab monitors and fine-tunes a wide variety of Second Life-specific data signals to weigh the relevance of listings for each search request. We first determine if a listing is relevant to a particular search query; we then determine the importance of that listing relative to other relevant results. Searchers can refine their results with filters or sorting features.

To create the best search tool for everyone, we are constantly improving the relevance and rank algorithms. Following the guidelines, policies, and tips in this document will help you create effective listings that reach your target audience.

Why did my listing move in the search results?

Search leverages advanced statistical regression of many different measures to determine the statistical significance of user behavior.  Put more simply, search changes over time as people use Second Life and we gather information about what they are doing.

How do I boost my ranking in search results?

Read the guidelines above. These guidelines are the best resource for improving your visibility in search.

What is traffic and what role does it play in search rankings?

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Traffic is a numerical metric calculated for every parcel of land inworld. This score can be summarized as the cumulative minutes spent on the parcel by all visitors to the parcel within the previous day. (The value shown in About Land is based on data gathered from midnight to 11:59 PM, Pacific Time.) It is calculated by taking the total seconds spent on the parcel, dividing by 60, and rounding to the nearest whole minute. For example, if your parcel has a cumulative seconds total of 121s over the course of a day, the traffic score is 2.

Traffic has a mild influence on the relevance of search results. It’s one of many factors included in the search logic.

To see the traffic score for a parcel, right-click on the ground in the parcel and choose About Land; or choose World > Place Profile > About Land. The General tab shows the traffic score for each parcel.

If I have zero traffic, do I drop from search results?

No. This rumor is not true. The amount of traffic (that is, the number of avatars on your parcel over time) has a small effect on search ranking, but it will not cause you to drop from search results altogether.

How does size affect search rankings?

Search treats very small parcels, especially parcels that are smaller than the 128 meter size restriction allows, as less important.  For more information about  land parcels in search, see Search FAQ.

How else is ranking determined?

In addition to traffic, size, and many more ranking mechanisms, we also apply a small negative boost related to how spammy a listing seems to be. We determine this using software that evaluates content and gives it a rating. This spam ranking is viewable on the source code of your world page listing, and there are several inworld merchants with free objects that tell you if your parcel has been flagged for spam. Adjusting the title and description text associated with your parcel affects your spam rating, and that new rating is picked up in the next update.

Are inworld business owners subject to a periodic re-shuffling of search criteria?

Search is a very important tool for users and business owners, and we constantly strive to improve that tool to meet all our Residents’ needs. We release periodic updates, new features, and bug fixes that may affect the performance of particular listings in the search results. Whenever possible, we communicate about these releases in advance on the Second Life blog.

Do classifieds that have paid more for inclusion always appear at the top of results?

Ads shown in both the Classifieds tab and on the right of all search results pages are ranked by a combination of keyword relevance and price paid.

Linden Lab Exciting Improvements to SL & Fee Updates to Enable Even More

Linden Lab recently announced some spectacular changes and improvements int he works for all of the Second Life community.  I’ve recently seen alot of also negative posting about the Credit Processing Fees, unfortunately good things cost money.  In the end of things, the new rules and laws/regulations are in place to protect from money laundering and lining the pockets of not so good people.  I remember the days when it took well over a week to even process a credit, if I process a credit today – I have the funds next day via paypal…and 24 hrs later in my bank account.  Now – granted if I cash out on a Friday – I do have to wait til Monday, but still a significant improvement from past for sure! To protect the MANY good ones – sometimes we have to sacrifice a little for ultimate end game.  I personally and looking forward to the new Animesh features – this is a game changer guys! This feature will enable creators to use skeletal animations with non-avatar objects – like wild animals, pets, vehicles, and scenery objects

As we recently announced, we’re making multi-million dollar investments in Second Life that will benefit Residents in the near and long term, while also ensuring that the virtual world’s bright future ahead is even more awesome than its 14+ year history has been. Exciting times!

Today, we want to update the Resident community on some of the initiatives funded by those investments, and also announce two fee changes that will enable us to invest in even more Second Life improvements in the future.

Updates to LindeX and Credit Processing Fees

Second Life’s vibrant Linden Dollar economy and the ability to process credits has a very real impact on the lives of many around the world. Residents have built extremely successful businesses in Second Life, charitable organizations have raised millions of dollars for important causes, and a great many creators earn enough L$’s to fund their hobbies and shopping habits.

Underlying SL’s user-to-user economy and the ability to buy and sell L$’s for real currency is a significant amount of ongoing work to ensure that everything remains compliant with applicable laws and regulations, while also preventing fraud and money laundering. This work comes at a cost, and we are adjusting related fees in order to help cover those costs and enable us to continue to invest in Second Life’s future. The changes are as follows:

  • Effective today, the fee for buying L$ on the LindeX will be $0.99 per transaction (previously it had been $0.60 per transaction). These changes impact only buys on the LindeX, and the fees associated with buying L$’s during SL Marketplace transactions remain unchanged.
  • On January 3, 2018, the fee for processing credit transactions (i.e. paying real money into a PayPal or Skrill account) will be 2.5% per transaction, with a $3 (USD) minimum, and no maximum. This fee is currently 1.5% per transaction, with a $3 (USD) minimum and a $25 (USD) maximum.

New & Upcoming Improvements to Second Life

We’re investing across a number of areas for SL, including new features, engineering support, customer support, billing systems and upgrades, and customer acquisition outreach. Some of these will be long-term initiatives, but here are a few updates on some of the improvements you can enjoy right now (or very soon!):

More fun, for everyone in SL. We introduced SL’s first grid-wide game Tyrah & the Curse of the Magical Glytches, giving all Residents a new experience to enjoy throughout SL. The game is designed to encourage a grid-wide level of participation and exploration, and already it’s been played by nearly 5,000 Residents. Very soon, we will enable Resident-owned locations to host portions of the game, and we will announce those details when ready.

New creative tools. We recently released Animesh in beta, enabling creators to use skeletal animations with non-avatar objects – like wild animals, pets, vehicles, and scenery objects. Coming soon is EEP!  (Environmental Enhancements Project), a series of extensions to Windlight that enable you to trade or sell your own environment settings. EEP will also allow Parcel-based environment settings and an extended day cycle too!

More value for Premiums subscribers. In the coming weeks, we’ll be rolling out a new perk for Premium subscribers (hint: it’s a feature that’ll be helpful for merchants and shoppers…).

More customers for your businesses. We’re making changes to help get new users active in the SL economy more quickly and easily. The sooner a new user has L$ in her wallet and understands how to use them, the sooner she can become a customer for every business owner in SL, and so we’re working to streamline user flows and update tutorials to make that happen.

New ways to stop the bad guys. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for successful platforms to attract cheaters and bad actors. Some of these villains attempt to hurt Residents’ businesses by bypassing creator protections in SL, and we’re continually developing new tools and techniques to combat this. Recently, we closed an exploit that fraudulent gacha re-sellers had used. Our governance team can now catch them when they attempt the cheating method that we have already fixed. Many bad actors have already been banned from SL, and additional changes will soon make our team even more effective. Protecting your creations and your SL businesses is important to us!

We continue to make progress in the massive upgrade to SL infrastructure and move to the cloud (we call this project Brave New World). This move will (among many other things), help make SL more performant for Residents around the world, and may also enable us to introduce new products and more flexible pricing in the future.

We continue on our mission of only sending email to verified addresses (more here). Missing IMs lately? To never miss an offline IM again, log in to your account on the web, click on “Account,” then “Change Email Settings,” and then simply click “Verify” next to your current address.

Much more to come!

Of course, we’re working on improvements to the SL Viewer, Simulator (servers), and Web properties all the time, and there’s more than we can fit into a single blog post.  As we forge ahead you can keep up with the latest developments with the release notes we post to the forums: