Eeep…

…it looks like I ended first in the SL Interface Contest finals. My heartfelt congratulations go to Jacek Antonelli and Rick van Wal, aka Digado, whom I undeservedly relegated to second and third rank, and to all other finalists. You did such a wonderful work — nobody should pretend I did better than you.

I’d also like to thank Dusan Writer for starting the contest, organising everything, and being a sweetheart all around, and also the judges, Keystone Bouchard, Vint Falken, Ordinal Malaprop and Eristic Strangelove. I’m still speechless and trying to get to grips with their decision.

Anyway.

Eric Reuters asked me yesterday what I was going to do with the prize money. In all honesty, I answered him I have no idea. Which is still true in a way, but I am thinking about it (or rather, thinking about what exactly to do besides blowing it on shoes, clothes, and hair). And one thing that has struck me since is that there is no need to sell my mainland plots any more. Until now, I have only had offers by land sharks, and have been loath to let go for the price offered. Now… I won’t either, but I will do this instead :

I will transfer the land, the total approximately 10.000 sqm located in Spinold’s Flats, as a whole or in parts, to any number of charities or artistic project(s) that can put it to good use.

This will take the form of a land sale for a symbolic price (I was thinking 1 L$ per plot). I can subdivide or merge plots if needed, too. Please contact me (in-world or through the contact form) if you think you’d like to take me up on the offer, and forgive me for announcing right away I’ll ask a lot of nosy questions when you do.

That’s all for now, I fear. See you on Plurk until RL relents.

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And another kick…

…proving I’m still alive, albeit barely. Well, to the blogosphere, that is. Anyway, here goes :

Thanks to Dusan Writer’s and his judges’ incredible sweetness in accommodating my RL schedule constraints, I will have the opportunity to present my entry to his Second Life UI Design Contest this Sunday, June 27th, at 4 p.m. SLT on Dusan’s sim. Although this is not a publicized event, it is open to the public, and I for one would welcome anybody interested enough to watch.

As to the rest,well, all I can say is :

Our programme will resume as soon as RL allows.

[Update : well, I went, saw, and bored everybody out of their minds with an erratic, decidedly too long presentation. Still, everybody was very sweet, or I would probably have crumbled into a nervous wreck (or more of a nervous wreck than I was already, actually). Ta an awful lot for being so supportive and accommodating, all of you !

The results of the contest will be announced in the opening segment of the next Metanomics show, if I understood a recent communication by Dusan correctly. I’m having a little wager with myself on the results (don’t ask : I won’t be sharing what I bet on, beyond letting on that it is definitely not myself winning 🙂 ). I will be very interested to see how close my guess came to the actual decision by the judges.]

Dear passengers,

this is your captain speaking. We are scheduled for lift off in the next twenty minutes. Our flight will take us to Italy and back, with our return scheduled for Sunday, June 1st. The weather conditions are clear and we expect a quiet flight.

Please note this is a non smoking, non drama flight, and that our plane does not afford mobile internet facilities. Emails will not be answered and comments on posts might stay in the moderation queue until our return.

Unluckily, the on-board entertainment system has suffered from a slight technical setback we are diligently trying to repair. Until then, we kindly ask that you make you own entertainment ; in case you are stuck for ideas, we propose the following quiz :

  1. Read the instruction manual carefully from end to end.
  2. Answer the following question : it is widely considered bad style to escape from life. But if you consider escaping to instead, what is the place every escape leads to called ?
  3. If you wish to try for bonus points, answer the following question too : how do you call a place you are not meant to escape from, and the people who are making sure you don’t ?

Also, please take note the correct terminology for the crew of this plane is not escapists — it is escape artists.

Have a pleasant flight.

The Silence of the Lindens

Catherine Linden does not listen.

She does not answer questions asked of her either.

Granted, the marketing director of Linden Lab did post a second time on the official Linden blog about the new trademark policy, in response to the outcry in the Second Life You-know-Where blogosphere, but this was nothing but a reiteration of the original position. The Lindens did not budge a millimetre.

Truth be said, there was one good thing about the second post : with the rephrasing cutting through the legalese, shortly after the revised ToS enforcing it was force fed on all residents at logon, many more bloggers started noticing things are really amiss — for one example, see Ciaran Laval’s change of mind on Your2ndPlace. Most important maybe, it spurned Gwyneth Llewelyn, whose « Second Life® Bloggers Require Clarification » (reproduced by express permission on my own blog) clearly put the blogosphere’s questions before the Lindens, to the next logical step of presenting them with a petition to reconsider their policies. Thanks to Gwyn’s efforts to mount a real campaign, the petition has been open to for review and suggestions by other SL Y-K-W bloggers before publication.

Whether you think already this is an issue, are convinced it is not, or are at loss about what to make of the whole fuss, I urge you to take the time to read the petition. Because, as you will realise when you do, Linden Lab are going far beyond the legitimate aim of protecting a vital business asset of theirs in the form of their trademarks. Not only did they suddenly revert a policy which has led thousands of residents to create blogs, fansites, services and similar around the world they live in, and that quite in agreement with the then lenient guidelines of Linden Lab, effectively thanking good and unpaid community building with a kick in the vitals and breaking all rules of good faith, both legal and moral, in my book — they also have abrogated themselves a censor’s right to decree how, and what is to be written about their products anywhere on the internet as long as you are a resident and wish to stay so, as Kit Meredith succinctly resumed.

But don’t take my word for it. Gwyn and her contributors have put all of the matters at hand much better than I could ever do it on my own, and the petition even offers what I think is quite a reasonable compromise to the Lab. Find it quoted in full after the fold : Continue reading

Second Life® Bloggers Require Clarification

Disclaimer : The following manifesto has been published by Gwyneth Llewelyn, on her own blog. It is reprinted here to show my support of its intent. All credits for the manifesto itelf go to Gwyn. As I quote it verbatim, I have excepted it from the new terminology in vigour elsewhere on my blog.

Dear Linden Lab®,

Your recent change of policy regarding the usage of your trademarks — Second Life®, Linden Lab®, and others registered by Linden Research Inc. — will effectively prevent the operation of the very vibrant community of bloggers, forum posters, websites, community portals, and even 3rd party services, that have provided Linden Lab® with links and driving traffic to your blog, and raising brand awareness for free for your product Second Life®.

Probably thousands — if not dozens of thousands — of sites include (now illegitimately) the name “Second Life®” or “SL®” somewhere in their names. From sites like Reuters (which has a Second Life® channel) to whole companies that have a “Second Life® Division” (and promotes your product by the explicit naming of it), a plethora of online communities, products, and services — some free, other commercial, many in the limbo between both extremes — include, in some way, your registered trademarks.

Your previous policy, established in May 2004 (”Second Life® Fansite Tolkit”), and later reinforced with referral programmes like “Viva La Evolution”, positively encouraged the widespread use of your trademarks, so long as it was quite clearly displayed that no infringement was intended. To requote your own terms of agreement for the usage of your trademarks:

USE OF SECOND LIFE MARKS

While you are in full compliance with the usage guidelines described here, you may use the “Second Life” name on your website, as well as the related logos and graphics available at Toolkit, solely in the form described there. Additionally, you may use screenshots from Second Life to the extent that Linden Lab has the right to authorize use of the content within such screenshot, including screenshots of Linden in-world objects and Linden avatars, subject to these usage guidelines.

Under those very friendly terms, a plethora of fansites of all sorts popped up, driving traffic to Second Life®’s main website, its blogs, forums, and other related sites — making SL®’s own ranking quite high on Google, Alexa, and other systems — while at the same time, in a period of a little less than four years, allowing the number of registered users to skyrocket from 10,000 to 13 million.

Fansites, blogs, 3rd party sites, Second Life®-related online communities, 3rd party sites that create products and services related to Second Life® are the “off-world” counterpart of the dynamic and enthusiastic community that made Second Life®, as a brand, get world-wide recognition — without the need for Linden Lab® to spend millions in advertising and campaigns on the media. We worked for free on the promotion, brand awareness, and market recognition of your products — while, at the same time, we also worked for free creating the fantastic content of the 3D environment that makes Second Life® a place worth to visit, to enjoy, to chat, to socially connect, to do business, and launch the pillars of the upcoming metaverse — fulfilling Philip ‘Linden®’ Rosedale’s dream of having more users in Second Life® than on the Web.

We’ve been the ones ultimately promoting that vision, spreading it around, and making sure that the world noticed your product and your brand. We were very successful — thanks to your gentle and encouraging former policies.

And for four years, you have been thankful enough to allow us to do that promotion, by establishing very reasonable and clear guidelines of the terms of usage of your trademarks.

Your sudden reversal of position — effectively limiting the display of the name “Second Life®” on most sites, domain names, products, and services, through a mechanism of explicit approval that you fully admit “can take long and might never finish” and will only be available to a very limited number of sites — means that suddenly all the off-world promotion of Second Life® will necessarily have to stop; or face a lawsuit in court; or, at the very least, receive a Cease & Desist letter from your lawyers and be forced to shut down.

The current terms can be aggressively enforced or not. According to your blog, we are supposed to have a 90-day grace period to remove all mentioning of Second Life® and its logo from our fansites, blogs, forums, or 3rd party sites offering products and services related to Second Life®. In fact, what this means is that we are forced not to talk about Second Life® any more — or, if we do, we cannot explicitly name the product at all.

This is, obviously, absurd.

The compromise between Linden Research Inc. (owners of the registered trademarks) and the community of volunteers that have so faithfully promoted your product, Second Life®, was quite clear for the past four years. We had clear guidelines of what we could do and what we couldn’t. Abuses could still be effectively dealt with by your legal department; to the world’s knowledge, these cases were few and scattered, if any. They were not significative to prevent a vast number of dozens of thousands of sites of all sorts to draw traffic to your own site; to reach out the huge audience on the Internet; and to drive new users to register. The numbers fortunately speak for themselves: with almost zero promotional costs, you managed to grow a thousand times in four years, thanks to crowdsourcing the promotion of Second Life®.

The “inSL” programme is definitely interesting, but a small new logo, worthless to an audience of hundreds of millions of users that are familiar with the eye-on-hand logo, without a massive campaign of promotion behind it to reflect the logo change, is not enough. “inSL” doesn’t say much, and it cannot be expanded to talk and promote Second Life® directly. And, anyway, the same restrictions apply to the usage of “inSL” as with all your other trademarks. We appreciate the grant to use that new logo, but we also feel it will be unable to gather the same support and promotional effort as the old logo and the product name did in the past four years.

We would thus kindly request that you clarify your position regarding the usage of the trademarks Second Life® and the logo on all fansites, blogs, forums, or other 3rd party websites offering products and services related to Second Life®. This clarification should be as easy to follow as your previous policies on the usage of those trademarks. They should make clear that all people intending to promote your product and raise your brand awareness are not facing lawsuits because they have faithfully used your trademarks using the old policy, and wish to continue to do so in the future.

We consider that an appropriate response should be forthcoming in the next few days, or we will be forced to shut down our own blogs, websites, forums, community portals, and other 3rd party sites to avoid litigation — and thus deprieving Linden Lab® from the traffic generated by millions of direct links and millions of viewers that learn first about Second Life® through all those sites.

Personal note: This blog will enter on strike on April 15th, 2008, for a period of 3 days, if no clarification by Linden Lab is published before that date.

Don’t we bleed white like you ?

Grace McDunnough challenged me to it, and I took up the gauntlet : I downloaded and tried the Dazzle First Look viewer, just to see what I was ranting about up close.

Now, I’m not going to be a Mac fan girl again and complain about the fact it now looks even less native on OS X than it ever did. That is a fate I have made up my mind to bear with dignity. No, in fact, I published an entirely unbiased pictorial review of the interface bling revamp the Lindens are pushing on us. Head to my Flickr stream and read through my comments if you care. And forgive me for going to bed, I have acute snow blindness to cure.

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