Sep 27, 2011

An Island Unto Themselves

#Marketing in the Prosumer Culture

For many of you, this post will seem a bit dull, but the implications from it are far reaching and profound. I'd like to state up front that this sort of topic is my forte' and I regularly advise on this to what often seems like an entirely baffled room full of executives (not to mention lawyers who are ready to grab pitchforks and torches) - but as I've often said in those situations: Bare with me, because what I'm about to say is probably the most important thing you could hear on the matter. (small_island)
We live in a digital culture of sharing and mashup, where 1's and 0's are interchangeable and cheap. It doesn't matter to the prosumer culture whether those ones and zeros are configured in a manner that yields a photo, mp3 or streaming video - what matters is the sharing of ideas and media that pertain to their topic of interest at that moment.

On the subject matter, the best advice I can give stems from what I like to refer to as the Gospel of Virtual Environments, but for most you would know it as Lessons Learned From Lucasfilm's Habitat. Written by Chip Morningstar and F. Randal Farmer in 1991, this synopsis addressed the lessons they learned from running a massive multi-user virtual environment in the late 1980's on the Commodore system known as Habitat, and while the graphics were definitely paltry by today's standards, the lessons are just as important today as they ever were - because they address the underlying nature of technology as well as the attitudes of people that use those types of systems.

One of the most important lessons from that synopsis was simply:

Work within the system

And while this lesson is open to interpretation, the story that accompanied it really set the stage for understanding how not to address prosumers in a digital age if your goal is to protect IP, or system type mechanics/rules.

I won't go into the entire story here (it’s available at the end of the post as a link for reading), but I will address the fundamental understandings that came out it, and how they still apply today in the digital world context.

Essentially what it boils down to is this:

If you are a company with a brand and IP to protect, you have more options today in order to enforce it than you did twenty years ago utilizing traditional methods. The landscape has changed quite a bit, and the 1's and 0's of today are agnostic, while the mentality of the prosumers is that of simply sharing for the sake of conversation or furtherance of devotion to a particular brand or image. In modern context, this still holds true on a much wider basis than it did twenty years ago, and so our defacto arsenal of "cease and desist" and litigation often times is met with an outstanding backlash in the wider sphere of digital culture, causing more damage and loss than had the entity utilized the "Work within the system" lesson.

No better example of this sort of backlash (humorously named the Streisand Effect) can be given than that of the RIAA and MPAA with many years of fighting and litigation efforts to curb or eliminate the acts of piracy among Peer2Peer networks. It is now over ten years later and such an approach has not only cost those entities more than it's worth to enforce, but has had the opposite effect to curbing the "violations" worldwide - eliminating single file P2P systems like Napster, Limewire, etc but giving rise to massive file collection P2P systems like BitTorrent where no longer single files are shared but large quantities of files as a single "set".

Where the RIAA wanted to stop music piracy by shutting down places like Napster which offered single tracks per download, they ended up fostering a worldwide backlash that is BitTorrent where finding a single track is unlikely versus searching for the entire discography of the artist for download. Clearly, this is throwing gasoline on the fire and acting surprised that the fire did not go out.

The interesting thing about all of this is simply the fact that digital culture and mashup mentality often do a much better job at proliferation of ideas and content than even multi-million dollar marketing campaigns, creating new content from multiple sources that transcend the originals – beneficial to multiple entities all at the same time, as we see in the Gwen Stefani vs Britney Spears music mashup below titled “Tick-Toxic”.

Whatcha’ waiting, whatcha waiting, whatcha waiting for? Prosumers aren’t as Toxic as you think.

Working within the system entails an unorthodox methodology, in that the proper approach to "infringement" no longer is a black or white scenario, but instead many shades of grey for the negative approaches (and in methods that offer mutual gain, 16.7 million colors of awesome) - often entirely dependent on the situational context. While cease and desist options and litigation are still a part of that arsenal of enforcement, it no longer constitutes the cut and dry option, and in fact should be the absolute last option to be enacted - instead of the first or only.

When you find yourself looking to protect IP or a brand, the first question that should be asked is no longer "How do we stop this infringement?" but instead should be "How do we monetize this situation, foster its growth and make it work for our own benefit?" - aka: Working within the system.

Working within the system entails a willingness to work with the people involved in that system on the same grounds and foundation that those people utilize within that particular system, whether that be business or individuals (prosumers) in order to foster a mutually beneficial situation while limiting the constraints that would cause a backlash and do widespread harm. Think of it like trying to disarm a nuclear weapon - you wouldn't go in and bash it with a sledgehammer for fear that you could cause a massive explosion. Instead you handle it delicately and with foresight for the bigger picture. Cease and Desist (litigation) is your sledgehammer, and should only be used as a last resort.

Instead we should first think about ways to work within the system at hand, for our own benefit (because we are still self-interested as companies) but also in a way that addresses the underlying and fundamental need of the prosumer mentality to spread and share IP, Brands and derivatives of those properties.

One of those many shades of grey happens to be simply allowing the proliferation of the IP or brand to continue while adding only monetization or supplemental marketing to the situation. This can be seen today in the general approach by Youtube where music in the user created videos is now more likely to come with a link saying who the artist is, the name of the song, and a direct link to purchase that music. This, in turn, offers a solution to working within the system and IP infringement in that the question answered was no longer "How do we stop this infringement?" and instead "How do we utilize this infringement to our own and their benefit?".

In the case of Youtube, however, while the approach is sound there is still no method to actually handle the mashup and derivative offerings that spawn in abundance from this culture – as we can see from the Tick Toxic video where both Tick Tock from Gwen Stefani and Toxic from Britney Spears is put together for a new take on two songs, Youtube only recognizes the Gwen Stefani part as the music to tag and offer for purchase (catching only half of the potential).

In the long run, prosumer integration of your IP or brand in derivatives or outright is the best form of free marketing for your brand or IP that you could ever hope for. You would never think to shoot down free marketing on your behalf, especially when things like videos on Youtube have this wonderful habit of "going viral" wherein hundreds of thousands if not millions of people share and view those videos, giving the brand or IP massive amounts of free exposure. The trick to all of this is to look at it from a marketing perspective and not a legal perspective.

Prosumer culture is the predominant force in the digital age, and we are best served by allowing that system of understanding to proliferate with little or no negative intervention. While this flies in the face of the crack legal team on call at most companies who want nothing more than to fight the good fight, the benefits far outweigh the costs in the long run - and only serve to offer additional revenue models, and widespread marketing and goodwill among this global system if approached properly with complete understanding.

What we have today are companies that essentially shoot first, and ask questions later (if they bother asking at all) with their DMCAs, Cease and Desists and litigation. This is detrimental on the whole because of the prior notion of the Streisand Effect, moreso because it fosters an "island unto yourself" mentality, cutting you off from the system in ways that would otherwise be beneficial on a massive scale, turning instead to a methodology that actually harms you and your brand/IP.

In order to succeed in the digital age, we must understand that we are not an island unto ourselves. This is true not only in social media of all types, but in the greater scope of the digital culture we rely on today. The rules of engagement here are different than we were taught traditionally, and we need to be willing to think creatively and innovate if we want to truly excel. While cease and desist, as well as possibility of litigation still remains, we need to keep our perspectives in check, resorting to that route only when all other possibilities are exhausted and explored in context.

Remember: Prosumers aren’t as Toxic as you think they are. They could very well be the fountain of youth to invigorate your brand and IP on a global scale.

Further Reading
Lessons Learned From Lucasfilm's Habitat:
The Streisand Effect (Wikipedia):

Sep 25, 2011

Minecraft Mayhem

Things I’d love to see @Notch add in future #Minecraft updates

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Minecraft, that wonderful indie game from Mojang that has millions of players who have paid twenty dollars for a perpetual beta. It’s not that the graphics are something unbelievable, because honestly it is a game that is decidedly low resolution. I think it’s actually the fact that it is low resolution gaming that really interests me.

Minecraft - Pumpkin Patch
 John Smith Texture Pack 32x32 resolution

Instead of putting their effort into some graphical extravaganza, Mojang is focusing on what actually matters in a game – the actual gameplay. Modern gaming companies can learn something from this today, because we end up with all of these games that are essentially knockoffs or re-hashing of prior games except with better graphics. There’s a reason why games like Space Invaders, Pac-Man and a myriad of classics persist today as genres which we continually find ourselves coming back to.

It’s about the innovation of gameplay, and less about the graphics.

While the “vanilla” Minecraft game is 16x16 resolution for the textures, there are “HD” modifications and texture packs which enhance the game further, even if they are not officially supported. This brings me to the point of this post, in that there are quite a lot of things which seem like a no-brainer to officially add to Minecraft but continue to be overlooked.

Official support for HD texture packs

While the base game itself should always be 16x16 textures, officially supporting high definition texture packs doesn’t seem like something too much to ask. MCPatcher is a de-facto patcher_mainmethod to effectively patch your Minecraft JAR file so it can handle texture packs up to 256x256, but it also adds HD Font support, custom texture animations, and incorporates Better Grass, among other things. These three things should be a staple of Minecraft natively.

 Not everyone is interested in the high definition texture packs, but it couldn’t hurt to officially include support for them built-in. At the end of the day, the point is to look at the most common things that the players are modding and reduce their need to jump through those hoops.

Craftable Obsidian (and more)

It has continually baffled me that you can craft items out of diamond in Minecraft but you can’t craft anything using Obsidian (other than a Netherportal). There is, of course, modifications that allow this to be possible such as Obsidian Plus but I think this idea needs to be better thought out and also expanded on. For instance, Diamond is supposed to be the hardest natural substance in the world, and so it should remain that way, with Obsidian armor and items being made to be as tough as Diamonds are now, while Diamonds are made 1.5X tougher

Not just tougher, but tougher to mine. Obsidian takes a disproportionate amount of time to mine with a Diamond Pickaxe, when Diamond should be tougher than Obsidian. In this case, it should be required that an Obsidian pickaxe or better be required to mine Diamonds. Obsidian should also offer some protection against fire damage, maybe reducing fire damage by half if the player is wearing a full set of Obsidian Armor. In order to get an Obsidian block, you would do the same thing as if you were making any other block – fill the crafting grid with 9 obsidian shards (much like you’d fill it with 9 diamonds to make a diamond block, etc) which brings me to the next point, which is that breaking Obsidian should not yield an obsidian block, but instead obsidian shards. These shards are then used to create armor and items, or on a grid of 3x3 filled then make an entire block like we do with Diamond, Lapiz, Iron, Gold, etc.

netheriteBut let’s not stop there… I’ve seen the idea of Netherite kicked around, and I believe this is an excellent idea – at least the base of it. A minable block type found only in the Nether that can only be mined by Diamond Pickaxe or Obsidian Pickaxe (but not Iron because it’s too weak), which is craftable into Netherite tools and armor. Netherite would be 2x as tough/strong as diamond and be immune to fire damage (obviously because it’s a native resource of the Nether). The reason that Netherite is twice as strong as diamond is because I said earlier that diamond is the toughest natural resource in the world, but Netherite is not from the normal world. Netherite would look like a bright purple obsidian shard, and the Netherite Ore would look like the image here. The Netherite tools would require Blaze Rods instead of sticks (because sticks would catch fire), so for instance, a Netherite Sword would be a single Blaze Rod at the bottom and two Netherite shards on top.

On this scale, we can say that the resources would be reconfigured as follows:

Wood < Stone < Iron < Obsidian < Diamond < Netherite < Aetherite (Skylands)

In the event that the Aether becomes part of Minecraft officially, then a resource exclusive to Aether should be the top end – maybe something like Aetherite where only Netherite or equal Aetherite can mine it. The idea is to balance the durability of resources in accordance with how much effort a player has to go through in order to obtain it. In this instance, something like Aetherite would be one of the hardest to acquire and such should be the best durability overall. You’d have to first make a portal to the Nether to get Netherite and Glowstone in order to make an Aethergate, and prior to that you’d have to mine your way up the durability scale to get to the Nether to begin with.

In this manner, Aetherite tools and armor would be 3X the durability and strength of Diamond today, but it would be very hard to get ahold of (being a rare resource much like Diamond is today in the main world, but in the Aether only). Netherite would also be the same rarity as Diamond in the main world, but in the Nether. So the Nether and Aether would both have their equivalent of Diamond resource. From what I recall, the Aether mod has a special set of craftable tools under the idea that your normal tools won’t work in the Aether. While I understand this mentality, there has to be some sort of agnostic resource like Aetherite which has a universal durability which makes it worth travelling to the Aether to get and return with items made from it.

Of course, being that Diamond, Netherite and Aetherite all would have increased durability and strength, we would adjust the strength of certain blocks to accommodate this new-found strength, making blocks in the Nether much stronger, such as netherrack being half as strong as Obsidian, but nowhere near as weak as dirt. This is, after all, the equivalent to Hell, and all that fire and pressure down there would expect things to be a lot tougher and hardened.

Which also means that it would be more likely to find Diamonds in the Nether because of perfect conditions. In the Nether, while you could find diamonds more readily (say on the same occurrence as Iron in the main world) you would likely be more interested in finding Netherite, which is the nether equivalent to Diamond and is much tougher and more durable. 

Plausible Alchemy (and Craftable Glass)

With the introduction of 1.8 came also the Cave Spider. These are blue looking spiders that hang out underground and have a chance to poison you when they attack. From my understanding, the antidote to being poisoned happens to be a bucket of milk, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

A more believable antidote would be made of a mushroom, redstone, and a glass container (from top to bottom). Since redstone is also one of those superabundant resources in the game, it wouldn’t make it too hard to craft a stock of antidotes to take with you into the caverns below. Of course, the antidote item would look sort of like the icon for the combined dyes in the John Smith Texture pack (a colored type glass container). This introduces a couple of things into the mix, most notably being the glass container (ie: craftable glass), and of course a combination use of mushroom and redstone powder in a manner of alchemy to create a plausible antidote to being poisoned – whether that is food poisoning (eating zombie flesh or raw meat) or whether you are poisoned by a spider.

The other interesting thing about the craftable glass/antidote combination is that it opens up Minecraft to other potions down the road that could be useful and plausible (at least in terms of minecraft, without getting into full out magic). Let’s say this is more like an Alchemy addition.

I can imagine an elixer made from bonemeal and netherrack that acts as a Mob disguise (changing you into a type of Mob temporarily) – working only for one night per use, but having no effect in the Nether or Aether. The plausible alchemy idea creates quite a lot of uses for plants and powder combinations.

Added Balance

I have to say that while Minecraft is a wonderful game, there are a lot of things about it that simply don’t make sense from the perspective of gameplay mechanics. Obviously the inability to craft useful items from Obsidian is one of them and how Obsidian is disproportionately tougher than Diamond to mine, but more so there are little things that bug me about the balance of items and availability.

Take for instance the common apple.

Apparently you can only find apples at random in dungeon chests, but not from breaking leaves on a tree. This never made sense to me, because apples commonly grow on trees. On the Raven’s Oddizzy server that I play on, there is a mod installed that takes care of this and makes it so breaking leaves on trees gives a small chance to drop an apple, but this should be something that is native to Minecraft out of the box. The same goes for Pumpkin seeds and Melon seeds, where they are apparently only found in chests in abandoned mineshaft biomes. Breaking Pumpkin and Melons themselves should give a chance to recover seeds normally, with the plant stems attached to the pumpkins or melons naturally. While the seeds and apples could still be an item in the dungeon and abandoned mineshaft chests, I fail to see how making items that  logically are common instead uncommon makes any sense. The same goes for Cocoa beans… there really needs to be a Cocoa tree added to the game that only spawns in the Swamps. Just like real cocoa trees, they only grow in hot, rainy areas.

In dungeon chests, I’d instead recommend a chance to find Golden Apples, since these items truly are a rarity and very expensive to craft normally, they would make the perfect treasure to uncover for successfully raiding a dungeon or stronghold.

Tamable Horses 

I’d also say that Leather should also be craftable into Saddles as well, but only if saddles are given more of a purpose, such as adding Horses to Minecraft that we could ride only with a saddle. When I say “ride” horses, I mean it in the sense that they should be controllable on land and give a bonus to speed for movement, unlike trying to ride a pig which essentially is just you wandering around aimlessly with little or no control. Of course, horses should first be tamed before we could ride them, and so feeding them Sugar Cubes would attain that.

Sugar Cubes would be made by placing 3x3 sugar on a crafting table to yield 4 Sugar Cubes. As for feeding the horses (because you would need to do that in order to keep them alive), I’d suggest being able to feed Horses only Apples, Sugar Cubes, and Grain. Grain would be obtained by placing 3x3 Wheat on a crafting table to yield 4 Grain. Horses would also fall in line with the addition of breedable animals that @Notch is working on, except in this case there is more of a need to breed horses than sheep.

Cactus Candy

While I’m on the subject, Cactus should also be craftable further than simply Green Dye. I suggest a recipe using Cactus that creates a Cactus Candy – Sugar and Cactus (maybe the same recipe as used for TNT but instead cactus in the center and Sugar on the 4 cardinal directions). Cactus Candy would be edible by the player for 1 food point replenish, but would also have the ability to Tame Mobs that you feed it to, where the mobs that you tame would act like pets and defend you when attacked. This would be a brilliant Halloween Secret Update for 2011. Tamed Mobs would of course only last until daylight, when they would burst into flames and perish, and Cactus Candy wouldn’t work on Creepers (obviously). We could use the same recipe for Chocolate Candy, but instead substitute Cocoa instead of Cactus to create a Chocolate Candy that would not only make a mob friendly like a pet but would make the mob immune to Sunlight. The Chocolate Candy wouldn’t work in the Nether simply because chocolate would melt in that environment.

While I’m on the subject of game balance, there is of course Bedrock which you cannot break. I’d like to see that you could not break bedrock with even a Diamond Pickaxe remain true, but using a Netherite Pickaxe you actually should be able to mine bedrock (and collect it). What happens if you jump into the hole you just made from mining the Bedrock? Simple, instead of falling endlessly and dying, you would be transported to the Nether (you essentially fall into Hell), and if you don’t have any Obsidian on you when you do this, you’re pretty much screwed because there is no way to get back to the main world from the Nether (unless you’re lucky enough to come across one of your old Nethergates). Bedrock wouldn’t be craftable into anything other than to be able to build with it in blocks, which comes in handy for making an near impenetrable building.

Before we worry about whether this makes Nethergates useless, we have to realize that in order to even acquire the Netherite Pickaxe to begin with, we’d have to make a Nethergate, survive and mine in the Nether long enough to find Netherite, kill enough Blaze to get Blaze rods, and then make it back to the main world with our new tools alive before they become an awesome source of mining power. With a Netherite Pickaxe, mining Bedrock would take as long as Diamond Pickaxes take today when mining Obsidian. Anything less than a Netherite Pickaxe still would be unable to mine Bedrock.


I absolutely love Endermen. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use some tweaking. For starters, they should definitely be made more rare in the main world than they are today. I was under the impression that Endermen would rarely spawn, so it would be that much more scary when you did actually run into a murder of them, (I’m using Murder to describe a group of mobs, as in a Murder of Crows. It just seems really fitting).

So making Endermen more rare in the main world would obviously need a plausible reason, right? Absolutely, and of course I have one here for you. Endermen have those glowing eyes and they give off the Nethergate particles, and they are tall, slender, and flat black. To me this indicates that Endermen actually come from the Nether and are native there, and that any which are in the main world (rare) have somehow escaped the grips of the Nether only to wander the main world aimlessly. While they are rare in the main world (as in, they should be made much rarer than they are now) they should conversely be common in the Nether.

Nothing says “Holy s*^tballs!” like being in the Nether, and seeing Endermen in abundance. Think about it, their entire purpose is to move blocks, right? And with the 1.9 update it looks like @Notch and Jeb are adding actual structures to the Nether, like strongholds and whatnot. So who actually built those structures?

Endermen, that’s who.


It makes absolute perfect sense. Endermen are the lost souls of Minecraft. Doomed to forever wander a cursed world and build tirelessly. In the Nether they are the workforce creating all of the structures, so it makes sense that they are much more common in the Nether than the main world. But also because they have Nethergate particles coming from them and possess the ability to teleport at will, it would stand to reason that some actually escape the Nether (or just accidentally teleport out), and not knowing anything else, they just continue mindlessly collecting and building like they did in the Nether. This gives us also a plausible reason why Strongholds exist in the main world as well, built by lost Endermen who are roaming the main world.

Aside from this obvious sort of back-story for Endermen, it also makes sense to include them more abundantly in the Nether simply for the fear factor alone. In the main world, you at least have a chance to run long distances and have enough space to really fight and move, but in the Nether… just look at all the unending lakes of lava and you quickly realize that on the Endermen home turf, you don’t want to mess with them.

Another thought also goes back to the idea of the Cactus Candy. If you can feed Cactus Candy to an Endermen and not get killed in the process, you deserve to have an Endermen protect you. It’s going to take balls of steel to walk up to an Endermen, stare it in the eyes, and feed it Cactus Candy. Since there are way more things in the Nether that can kill you and a mob, I believe Cactus Candy should also work in the nether as well. With all the things that want you dead in the Nether, you’re going to need all the help you can get.

Golden Opportunity

Gold is one of those ores that seems to have been completely neglected in Minecraft. While you can make tools and armor from gold, the durability is pretty pointless to make it useful for anything other than decoration or looks. However, what if Golden items became useful in the Aether? What was essentially useless in the main world, would be hardened in the Aether (upper atmosphere and colder), making golden armor and items the equivalent of Iron items and Armor on the main world below, where Iron would become too brittle to be used in the Aether (Skylands), gold would have a useful purpose up there. Considering you need a Glowstone Portal to get to the Skylands (Aether) it would make sense that Gold becomes the staple commodity in that area. As an aside I am using Skylands and Aether interchangeably. I know that Aether is an extensive modification to Minecraft and Skylands are just native biomes of floating islands. Just wanted to clear that up.
Rope (Obviously)

Made from vines, ropes let you create the equivalent of hanging ladders that you can climb. I’ve already seen a mod for this, so it shouldn’t be a big deal to officially add it. Vines growing on the sides of walls should also be climbable, but should work much like trampling crops, in that if you climb vines too much, they break.

Hookshot (Grapple)

I know this isn’t Zelda, but you can already use a fishing pole to reel in mobs (assuming you’re that creative). A craftable Hookshot would be a mechanical device you can make that officially does what a fishing pole already does to mobs, but with the added function of pulling the player if they hookshot an immovable block-type (much in the same way that pistons cannot move Obsidian or Double slab). In this manner, a double slab on the ground with an Obsidian block on top of it would make for an excellent Hookshot target, and also make dungeons really interesting to get around.


Again, this isn’t Zelda, but a boomerang would be very useful in Minecraft. The crafting recipe would be essentially an upside down bowl, and using a boomerang would shoot the boomerang out in front of the player a certain distance and return in a straight line. Hitting a Mob would stun it , and if the boomerang comes into contact with collectable items (drops) it will bring those back to the player from a distance.

Block Switches

Block switches would be essentially like a lever except that they are full blocks with a blended square indent on them. They would come in stone, mossy cobble, cobble and wood types with an indent state to denote being activated. Having block switches would make secret passages utilizing pistons (like moving bookcases, etc) more secret without having to use a wireless redstone sort of modification to make regular blocks act like switches.

Redstone Powered Lamps

Using Glass surrounding a single Glowstone, we’d create a single Lamp Block that is powered by redstone to turn on or off. When off, the Lamp is clear glass, and when turned on it becomes Glowstone (lit up). Don’t get me wrong, I really do like Minecraft, but one thing that bothers me is that the way the game is geared it seems that the most common mentality is medieval at best. Lots of castles and villages, but no real opportunity to progress into a more modern age if you wish. Redstone powered lamps would allow that to a further extent.

I’d also add in Light sensor blocks that a player could craft in order to detect when the light level falls below a certain range and activate. This would be useful for lampposts using the redstone Powered Lamp block, in that a light sensor block could power a lamp block up to 4 spaces away (including vertically). In this manner we could create lampposts with a light sensor block in the ground at the base that only activates the lamppost when it becomes night. Of course, if you buried the light sensor block, then it wouldn’t work (or would always be “on”) so in order to get it to work properly you’d have to have at least one of the faces of the block uncovered.

While there are probably many more things I could suggest for Minecraft, I think this list is long enough to make the original point. There are a lot of things that still need to be balanced and shored up with the game that seemingly have been forgotten in the rush to add new content, and I’d like for Mojang to go back and seriously re-evaluate the things they left behind.

If you can think of other things that would greatly benefit from being added to Minecraft as a native inclusion (that obviously wouldn’t outright break the game mechanics), please feel free to add them (and a link to the mod if it exists) in the comments below.

Sep 15, 2011

Moving Forward

It’s time to dream bigger, because we’re all in this together.


We are one people, on one planet. This tiny speck of dirt we call Earth is of finite resources, yet we act as though it will never end. We are divided, and pitted against each other at every single level of the social and economic ladder. We fight for resources, we fight each other, and those who fight the most and break all of the rules set into place in order to level a playing field for all of us are obviously the winners.


Yet the price we pay is global. No person will escape the costs of this broken global society.






When we have nothing left. When all the things we take for granted today as having worth simply collapse and leave us with nothing. That is when we will begin to understand the things which truly matter as a society.


A global society.


Until that time, we will likely remain in denial… because change is too hard to accept when we have no incentive to do so. But there will come a time soon, when all of those superficial worths will be stripped from you and I, and we will have no choice but to accept change, or die. There will be no other choice, no more excuses or tomorrows.


That time is coming quickly, and we’ve already far surpassed the point of no-return. If you believe that multi-trillion dollar debts that continue to accumulate based on money that has no meaning, let alone do not exist until called into existence as further debt and interest are somehow repayable, then you fail to understand the magnitude of the situation we lay under today.


This is no longer about countries, and this is far past the point of redemption or bailouts. While Wall Street, Banks and Corporations received bailout money in the hundreds of billions of dollars, they alone are posting record profits while unemployment remains stagnant at a total of zero… zero jobs created.


Nothing has changed from 2008… but soon it will, and we will have no choice but to change with it.


It’s time to think like a global species for the benefit of everything and everyone that calls this magnificent planet home. It’s the only way to move forward.


We cannot live without this planet, but this planet can surely live without us. It’s time we take responsibility and step up to the plate as a global entity, united as one, for the betterment of all.




Zeitgeist: Moving Forward | 2011 Release




Download the DVD Torrent here:

Sep 11, 2011

Existential Blues

Time Travel, God and The Wizard of Oz.


I Believe in Time Travel


I’m going to just put that right out there in the open. I know many people will tell me that time travel is some sort of impossibility, but I like to address that as nonsensical gibberish outright. Arthur C. Clarke is known for saying “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” and I wholeheartedly believe this to be true.






If we travelled back in time to the 1950s and presented them with our laptops and iPads they’d be utterly bewildered, if not think we were extraterrestrials in disguise. Likening us to the Roswell incident, and trying to whisk us off to Area 51 for examination. Worse yet, they might think we were communist spies. This is an example of how much changes over a mere 60 years of time. We’ve gone from room sized computers that can do basic math with vacuum tubes to handheld tablets that can access the sum of human knowledge via the Internet on a whim.


Let’s go back a little further, to around the 1800s. Electricity was just catching on as a way to power the world and to a latter extent we were just introducing the new fangled automobile as an alternative to horse-drawn carriages (give or take twenty years).


Even further still, and what we find to be common would have gotten us burned at the stake for witchcraft.


We’re really good at hindsight. We can look back and see how the advancement of our civilization seems so obvious, yet looking forward we immediately discount things we don’t know as if it were impossible. In a way, we’re no better than our ancestors who believed demons had to be let out through the blood in order to cure people. The notion of modern medicine to those people was as impossible as time travel is to us today.


In the same manner as proposing that the Earth revolves around the sun and not vice-versa, we brandish those thinkers as heretics for thinking outside of current conventions. What we widely believe is true today is not the sum of all knowledge, and it is all subject to change at an ever increasing rate as time moves forward.


So, time travel is definitely possible – we just don’t know all the details at this moment. Possibly.


Some would say that if time travel were possible, then we’d come back and tell ourselves about it, thus proving the existence of time travel in some cyclical proof. But of course, this is based on a conjecture about how time travel would theoretically work in our wildest dreams and has no real basis on how it would actually work in some future time. Much like trying to imagine that if time travel were true then somebody would come back in time on a magical unicorn crapping time-dilation rainbows to prove it.


Time travel, in a basic sense, would mean that all points in time – past, present and future, are of an infinite nature and do not simply include our own timeline but every variance in infinite capacity in a multi-dimensional infinite expanse. Travelling through time would then include the idea that there is world-line divergence, which is a huge variable in the equation that would likely exclude the idea that at this exact moment somebody from the future would come to have a chat.


In the world-line I write this in, there hasn’t been a future version of myself knocking on the door and it is very likely that this hasn’t happened for you either. But the real question is whether or not we’d even know what a time traveler looked like, or if we’d even believe them if they did show up.


Let’s say for a moment that a time traveler has actually visited our world-line and there are records of it. First and foremost, as a time traveller I would already assume the above in that the prior generations I’d be visiting would have little to no comprehension about what I was talking about, and would likely say I was a crackpot, so it wouldn’t really be my mission to come back and tell everybody how the next twenty years go. I’d be on an actual mission of importance and you would just be something to amuse me while I was passing through for a pit stop.


You Can’t Change Infinity


There is also the idea of divergence in that no matter what my future looked like in comparison to yours, there is always some sort of divergence which would make this time-line unfold differently among many aspects, but possibly to a similar outcome. There are many paths to the end-goal, they would say. How you got there is pretty inconsequential if we all end up at the same destination in the end. At least many of us, but not all of us.


Being a time traveller doesn’t mean you come back to give yourself the winning lottery numbers. I mean, you could, but that has no value to you in the future because of divergence. The same holds true for trying to assassinate Hitler or kill your parents before you were born. You may succeed but you’ve only done so on a 1 / infinite capacity and wasted that much time of your own in the process, and have had absolutely no change to your own time-line in the process for doing so.


So let’s put that notion out of our minds in relation to time travel. In the end, it’s really a lot like traveling across dimensions that have no real connection to your own. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so to speak.


Back to the idea of whether we’d actually recognize that we’ve been visited by a time traveller, let alone believe them if they said so. The answer to this question alone is self-evident. I can cite examples like John Titor and despite the revelations he put forward, most of the world has never heard of him, and those who have are strongly divided as to whether he really was a time traveller or just an elaborate hoax. On a personal level I actually believe he was a time traveler, because I have no real reason to believe he wasn’t.


I do not subscribe to the idea that simply because something seems impossible to us today that it will remain impossible into the future. If anything I can quite easily see how somebody like John Titor would make an excellent candidate for time travel, and also how nothing he said while he was here on our world line made any real difference in the grand scheme of things.


He was around during 2000 – 2001 and today at 2011 the world is wholly none the wiser for the things he has put forward as indications of what is to come. That doesn’t mean that everything he said was 100% accurate, either. Again, world-line divergence of even 1% will obliterate anything specific that a time traveller tried to tell you about the future, however the base of the information would remain quite true despite the differing details.


For instance, John Titor mentioned travelling up and down the coast maintaining wireless internet towers, and in 2000 – 2001 this didn’t make much sense. It barely makes sense today with our limited cell towers and mobile data plans, but in the context of 2036 it makes perfect sense. In the time between 2000 – 2001 to 2011 we’ve gone from rinky dink bandwidth on mobile consumer communications to high bandwidth options just now being standardized but yet to be implemented. IEEE standards have released the specifications for the next generation of Wi-Fi (WRAN) that is 802.22 and has a 60 mile range. I think that is promising to a point where those wireless internet towers that John mentioned now suddenly make sense to have all around the United States.


But they have yet to exist, still. As of 2011, those long-range wireless access points aren’t in wide use (though there are some companies that offer it as a point-to-point communications option that is limited by comparison). The underlying idea here is that a self-proclaimed time traveller told the world about long-range wireless Internet towers at least ten years in advance and now we’re at a point where just the standards are in place to start building the hardware required for it.


I refer to that sort of revelation as agnostic information – short of a global meltdown, the progress for it would not be changed, thus making it a safe bet to talk about. It still has no real connection to your own world-line in the future, except a commonality thread despite two different dimensional spaces.


If a time traveller did come back and happened to cross through this specific world-line variance on his or her way through we still remain to ask the question of whether anybody would notice or care.


I apply this same questioning logic to religion where the devoted faithful believe their savior will come back. Let’s assume they already have come and gone, passed judgment and continued on their way. Would we have noticed? More to the point, would we even care until it was in hindsight and too late?


Witchcraft Trials


We’re about  to make a left turn into religion, please fasten your safety belts.


If somebody came up to you and said they were the son of God and were on Earth to deliver mankind, you’d probably think they were out of their mind. Most religious today would still think that person were a heretic and condemn them, and if you’re Christian that’s not too far from what happened the first time around, now is it?


I’m not anti-God by any stretch of the imagination. I do believe there is God, but while I have unwavering faith in God, I have minimal faith in mankind. Mankind assumes way too much about God in their attempt to rationalize this entity. God doesn’t play favorites, so your religion is probably null and void. Any entity powerful enough to create absolutely everything on a whim doesn’t really give a crap about whether you’re a Christian or if the neighbors are Muslim. You’re all just humans who don’t play well together, like fighting children all trying to gain favor with their parents as some sort of one-up over the other.


Religion, to me, is the ultimate form of global childishness. We tell children that ghost don’t exist, and neither does the Easter Bunny, and that it’s childish to have imaginary friends – but we as adults drag those children to church and tell them about our own imaginary friend who we need to have unwavering faith in. The children at this point are being less childish than the adults, because they give up on at least twenty imaginary friends before they hit their teenage years while the adults can’t seem to give up a single one.


Worse still, is that our children never start wars because of their imaginary friends, and never use those imaginary friends as an excuse to hate another human being, or send our fellow humans off to die for that imaginary friend.


I am struck by the saying that “The meek shall inherit the Earth”, for entirely different reasons than the common person seems to be. On the face of it, it seems like those who are the most faithful, docile, loving and tolerant of others will in the end inherit the entire planet, and this is true, but we never seem to make the correlation as to what shape the planet will be in by the time we inherit it.


It’s like a cognitive chasm that prevents us from putting two and two together.


If we read further into things, we find that the planet will be overcome by corruption, sin, destruction and peril. Misery and woe, famine and flood. Disease and suffering will abound. Wars will rage on. A planet ravaged by mankind’s ignorance and malevolence is what the meek get to inherit, followed by countless generations of continued suffering as those who are left try to put it all back together again.


That’s a hell of a reward for being faithful. Unless, of course, you believe in the rapture. In this case, people believe the most faithful will be magically whisked away by God during that time, leaving the suffering to all the non-believers who are left.


I doubt highly that an omnipotent God would give those people, who spent their lives praying instead of actually helping the rest of mankind through action, who did nothing in their willful ignorance of others of culture, race and creed around the world, a free pass. We’re all in this together, and there is no back-door to sneak out of when the damages are done.


No, if anyone is going to stick around for the clean-up, it’s them. Just ask the last batch of people who said the Rapture was coming… everyone is still here, and God didn’t give them a cop-out to shirk their duties on this planet, or to each other.


The wages of sin is death, so the most wicked have it coming to them – call it karma. When you sit on the fence, however and let the battle rage on, you end up like Azreal the demon. Preaching things you know to be a universal lie is also a sin, and so I point to religion in that aspect – because a universally loving God wouldn’t choose sides and pit mankind against each other, but instead demand we live together in peace, as one. I’m pretty sure that’s in the Bible already, but it gets drowned out in the political and manipulative crap that it’s buried under which divides us as a people.


There is no Muslim, no Jew, no Christian, No Buddhist, no Taoist, and no religion. There is only humankind, on a speck of dirt in the cosmos that we call Earth, with a handful of universal truths meant to foster a global unity. There is only us as a collective consciousness together, sharing the finite resources that this speck of dirt has to offer.  I cannot see that any omnipotent God in any capacity would have wanted it any other way. There is no good or bad, because each fosters the other in duality – mass murderers raise awareness of those remaining to enact understanding that such should not be tolerated and so global awareness is raised in defiance of evil, and so too does good lead to evil through complacency and apathy over time. It’s not about good or evil in the grand scheme of things, but a global awareness of why in perspective of it all. No God would rob you of perspective or wisdom through experience if they truly had your best interests in mind, and so asking God to change things is kind of pointless and of course, as effective as believing a gallon of milk will answer your prayers. In the slim chance you’ve eaten habenero hot wings, the milk may be your momentary savior, but outside of that moment it’s pretty mundane and doesn’t interfere.


Our savior… whomever that may be, is simply the sort of people through history who continually try to tell us these truths. It isn’t one man, woman or imaginary entity – it is within all of us, and every once in awhile one of us gives the rest a reminder. Unfortunately we have such low cosmic self-esteem that rarely does anyone ever believe they are equals.


The truth is, we are all equals. We’re just too caught up in the fighting and divisions to see that in the end the only thing that matters is life, unconditional love, compassion, and each other.


Back To The Future


The interesting thing about time travel is that in order to understand it you have to first realize that time is infinite, and so too is existence. This is where the idea of spirituality merges. Infinity in this aspect also plays on the earlier post I did concerning dividing by zero as a thought experiment because in the grand scheme of things, there are multiple infinities within the greater whole of existence.


In the context of time travel, dividing by zero to yield a negative infinity is a lot like saying reaching a point where time reverses in correlation to your current world-line minus divergence factors. We can look at black holes as a manifestation of negative infinite, or infinitely small, and dividing that black hole (dividing zero) yields a cross section of two negative infinites.


While we’re venturing into the realm of astrophysics and Roy Kerr, just because today we cannot achieve a Kerr Black Hole or divide it for a collapse of causality doesn’t mean it is less possible than the very understanding that predicted the existence of black holes to begin with, even during a time when Einstein himself doubted black holes existed.


Is time travel possible? I’d say very much so.


Somewhere in infinite infinities it was worked out (and possibly within our own world-line), and with those sort of odds it becomes likely that time travellers in our own world line have passed through. I have the same sort of confidence that time travel is possible that a religious person would have on the return of their savior, and if they can believe in something of such odds that a person would return two thousand years later to lead them, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch so say that time travel should be higher on the list of plausibility.


But that’s the fallacy of humanity. We believe in things we cannot prove, and instead demand faith, but when something has plausibility (even if it’s outside our current level of total understanding) we say it’s silly to believe it is true, and mock others for pursuing it. What a strange world I live in. I’d rather believe that nothing is really impossible, just improbable at the moment, and eventually we’ll catch up in all aspects.


I say to either side – Tempus Edax Rerum.












Sep 9, 2011

Unconventional Conventions

When chaos theory applies, only those who seek heretics win out. #SecondLife @Rodvik |


Years ago when I was the CTO of VR5 Online, my boss at the time came to me with an interesting and possibly impossible challenge. At the time, I answered to the CEO of the company who was Mr. Clark, and he was an interesting and sly individual. One of the major purposes of VR5 Online was to explore and research methods in virtual environments while taking extensive notes on the outcomes for future applications. During that time we were engaged with ActiveWorlds as a technology, running our own world called VR5 | City of Nidus for which this blog is originally named (






There is a deeper story behind the name City of Nidus, in that the original project was run by @AdamFrisby (who went by the name Gwala). As far as I can remember, it was originally a world owned by ActiveWorlds called Flagg007, named after the AWI employee who provided the world for experimentation – Flagg (the community leader of AW). Now, Gwala at the time was experimenting with different ideas in AW with the Flagg007 world such as ideas for design and lighting, and a little bit of modeling too. There were a handful of people in that project, specifically hand-selected to participate purely for the ability to innovate ideas in a virtual sense. At that time, I remember I was invited to work in Nidus with Gwala and I brought along a friend Wesley Seay (whom to this day I call Capri).


Capri was a name I came up with because when he was a kid (he started using virtual environments when he was around 13 or so) his nickname was Liquid Cool, and my first impression was to say “You mean like Capri Sun drinks?”. Well, the nickname stuck and over the years he just kept it which is in many way how I came to use the Darian Knight nickname – I originally chose Aeonix as a nickname back in 1996 but I became known among my friends in real life for watching way too much Sailor Moon (and to be fair, it was the only thing remotely interesting on television when I was getting ready for school) so I ended up with my nickname being Darian out of habit, versus Aeonix.


This is still related to the post, by the way… it’s just a bit of context and backstory.


But I Digress


When my boss at the time, Mr. Clark, proposed some research at VR5 Online, he came to the conclusion that I should run a virtual world in ActiveWorlds by which he would give me a list of things I had to accomplish and research each year in order to validate another year renewal for that project. That went on for a few years before it was decided to close the project, but in the beginning of it, I was to find the best ways to do certain things on that list.






Now, as a professional you would normally see things in a manner which excludes all of your options. This is your scope and vision, more or less.  Some of us have a wider scope than others, while in many cases we become specialized and thus myopic in our scope. There is a place for both types of thinking and scope but we first have to understand that a limited scope and ability can be detrimental to a project or endeavor if we aren’t careful to identify that ahead of time.


I remember one of the points on the list for Nidus was simply to launch a behavioral study and utilize it toward marketing in virtual environments. The “impossible” aspect that he threw in was that I had to do so in a manner in which nobody would ever realize they were being studied, in effect I had to blend it all together as if it was perfectly natural.


What I came up with was pretty ingenious, even to this day.


It was a small town, and it had lots of different stores and aspects. But then on a more minute detail there were other studies and aspects underlying and they all worked together. The important part about this is the team that put it together.


It was a motley crew of individuals, and I’m proud of them to this day – many of them went on to become successful media designers, while others remained rogues and unconventional assets to projects. The most interesting part was that many of them were teenagers, or recent high school graduates who had simply accumulated years of experience in a virtual environment and how to create within them. I intentionally saw the merit of experience versus traditional education and decided that the experience of the individuals far surpassed the qualitative assets they could have brought to the project if they were simply of traditional education. It was a voluntary basis, and its own little community, and those teens ran circles around even ActiveWorlds Inc as a company.



Nidus 9



Now, when I say they ran circles around AWI, I’m talking to a point where they put ActiveWorlds to shame as a company with the things they could do versus what the company itself was doing with their own technology. To this day I’m proud of their accomplishments, and I learned quite a lot over those years as to the best manner to work within a virtual environment setting. Years later, the things that were discovered and innovated in VR5 | Nidus continue to shape the direction of ActiveWorlds and even contribute to virtual environments as an industry.


This is what I like to call “Unconventional Conventions” in that the best approach, and the best way to get deeper insight and progress is often times (in virtual environments and elsewhere) to abandon our preconceived notions of scope and ability. I could have put in a budget request to my boss in order to hire a staff related to the project, but I wouldn’t have progressed anything. The band of rogues did things that to this day are extraordinary and pretty amazing, and they did so because they wanted the challenge, and furthermore knew that I was a hard-ass that would push them above and beyond to do better. In the end, they did things that to this day have yet to be replicated in an open ended virtual environment like SecondLife or ActiveWorlds in any official capacity.



Nidus 2



Oh, they often hated me when I was telling them they could do better, or when I pointed out flaws. But they learned over time that the best compliment for a job well done is when somebody like me says “This is fantastic!” or when the rest of the community looked up to them as innovators, however much a set of rogues they were. Nothing said that more than when we put together a live concert, not once but twice in ActiveWorlds with the band Aztech Rising.


The first concert pushed the limits of conventional ideas for “events” in ActiveWorlds by introducing the idea that a live concert could be played in a virtual environment on a large scale, while on the second concert a year later we revamped the entire stadium with particle effects and a custom arena, complete with a fireworks show and lasers. The latter concert took it a step further by introducing the idea that a virtual event can be linked to real life merchandise, and as a result, a shop was available at the stadium during the concert to allow the concert goers to get real life swag such as concert t-shirts, hats and more. Remember, this is an innovation that came out of the minds of wild card prosumers and not traditional education.






Later on in places like SecondLife, we take these sorts of ideas for granted. We have events and giveaways, and there are plenty of live performers on a nightly basis. But in those early days, this was totally unconventional, let alone the idea of selling real life merchandise in conjunction with a virtual concert. In an unofficial capacity, this idea continued to blossom, but in a conventional and official capacity that is Linden Lab themselves, the idea has yet to catch on. If anything, the wild cards are still innovating despite Linden Lab constantly trying to put on the brakes.


Full footage of the first concert can be watched here on the Aztech Rising archive. 


The idea here is that even to this day, the rule of unconventional conventions continues to work with the same brilliant results as they did in the late 1990s and through to 2007 when Nidus reached its end goal and shut down.


Recently with IEEE Virtual World Standards  there has been an ongoing project among the group to create demonstrations for the public in order to show the ideas of interoperability. The original idea for this demonstration was to build a multi-universe game of PONG where you’d hit a ball in maybe SecondLife and have it go down the play area, and at the halfway point, disappear and show up in say, ActiveWorlds for instance to be hit back to SecondLife.


Now, the people in IEEE Virtual World Standards are some extremely talented and brilliant men and women. However the case may be, I still had an inkling ahead of time that a game of PONG between multiple virtual universes may be entirely outside of their scope. Initially, it should come as no surprise that I asked Jon Bee to contribute on my team in the IEEE group to make this happen, after all he was also one of the people in Nidus and even today he contributes in Andromeda Media Group. I knew this man would be the unconventional convention that was needed.


After a number of weeks (maybe a month or two) the group wholly decided it really was outside of their ability to create a PONG game across universes, but luckily for myself and Jon, neither of us attended that meeting to hear a collective defeat. Instead, on a random day the following week, he spent a few hours doing what some of the brightest men and women in virtual environments just recently washed their hands of out of frustration. In a few hours, Jon Bee, the rogue aspect to the high professional aspects of the group, sped through and had a working demonstration of PONG, and later that night he began the link-up between SecondLife and ActiveWorlds.


When the early demonstration was given to Tom Starai to show the initial stride in progress, I remember that he was impressed but also assumed that such a stride in progress must have taken a lot more time to accomplish than it did. In his scope of understanding, and based on the efforts prior by the rest of the group, he was under the impression that such an advancement must have interfered with real life endeavors and projects over a longer period that the rest of the group simply could not afford to give attention to, but in the scope of Jon Bee and our unconventional conventions approach what seemed like it should take a few weeks of constant work actually took a few hours in one night.


By choosing an unconventional convention, or wild card, the promise of an inter-universe game of PONG was given life in a short amount of time, thus advancing the group as a whole forward where they previously had given up on the idea.


Why is this unconventional convention idea so important? Well, by widening the scope and being willing to look for unconventional solutions and people who may not fit our preconceived notions to solve our problems, we often find a wealth of untapped talent and insight. What would seem like an insurmountable challenge becomes trivial, and often with wildly successful outcomes.


We find determination, drive and persistence but most of all we find people who aren’t blinded by preconceived notions, training or scope. This is crucial, and ultimately so when we deal with virtual environments like SecondLife or ActiveWorlds.


Unconventional SecondLife


The reason I’m writing all of this is to lead up to a current conversation I had with one of the Phoenix Team developers recently about why what Linden Lab has been doing all these years actually makes perfect sense when you understand the limited scope of operations they are restricted to.


For instance, it seemingly makes no sense to fire Philip Rosedale and replace him with Mark Kingdon, only to fire Mark Kingdon and put Philip back in place, only to replace Philip again with Rod Humble. All of the interim maneuvers that Linden Lab has taken during this constant changeup seems like a company without a clear understanding of virtual environments, and this is ultimately true but for reasons many don’t realize.


For instance, Philip Rosedale was more of a visionary than a business leader. He had the charisma and cult of personality aspect down pat, but in business he likely did not speak the same language as those which Linden Lab are indebted to. He looked at things in a manner which would say “This is good for people” but likely had little to say in describing how it was good for the bottom line or how a long tail approach would balance the scales of business versus community.


In that frustration, and lack of communication, we saw the introduction of Mark Kingdon who is arguably of a high business pedigree – and his scope for business was shown immediately as he began to shift Linden Lab away from a community aspect and into an Enterprise aspect. I don’t fault Mark Kingdon, because he was merely working within the constraints of his scope, and he really didn’t know the intricacies of a virtual environment ecosystem, nowhere near as well as Philip Rosedale.


The problem was that Philip spoke as a visionary but not as a business person. Mark Kingdon spoke as a business person but not as a visionary. When Mark took a lateral step aside and Philip resumed where he left off, we had a visionary at the helm again – but those who Linden Lab are indebted to wanted faster ROI and expansion, even if that meant cannibalizing the ecosystem to make it happen. Philip likely had a crisis of conscience which led him to leave again, being replaced by Rod Humble, who speaks the business of Video Games.


Rod is the closest we get to a hybrid of business and visionary, but there is still a lack of ecosystem understanding, and that is very dangerous for Linden Lab in the long run. His scope is video games, and while video games are close to what virtual environments like Second Life are, it isn’t a good enough match to apply the same methodologies, because ultimately the things that work for a video game scope will backfire if applied to a virtual environment scope like Second Life.



Subtractive Value


An excellent example is the recent announcement of the new benefits for Premium membership in SecondLife where you get a free “exclusive” gift and access to Premium Sandboxes to build in. The problem is that the “exclusive” gifts have no added value when free users have access to a plethora of content from the community both free and paid for, and likely those in a free membership would have half a dozen similar sets in their inventory by the time they decided to upgrade to Premium.


The other issue is the Sandboxes because this is yet another indication that @Rodvik and those in the marketing group are clearly outside of their scope of understanding. One of the reasons people upgrade to Premium accounts is for the ability to purchase land of their own, which immediately negates the usefulness of a Premium Sandbox. Even as a free user, the private sandbox idea is all but a moot offering in that even free users can rent land, and that again negates the private sandbox idea if even free users can rent their own land, effectively eliminating most of the need for a sandbox up front.


The same issue applies to giving Premium Members their own premade “Linden Homes”, in that whatever Linden Lab is offering in that aspect is a pale shadow to what a free or premium user could get on their own. Prefab houses and skyboxes are plentiful on Marketplace, making the selection that Linden Lab offers for Linden Homes look like a joke to the community.






Again, if the major added value to a Premium membership is the ability to purchase and sell land, then Linden Homes become a moot offering. Even as a free member you can rent more land and have more options than Linden Lab gives you as an added incentive to become a Premium user. What makes this worse is that leveraging access to legitimate support as a Premium user “added value” tells each and every new user with a free account that you simply don’t give a toss about them, and the last time I checked, that’s a horrendous first impression to be making.


So we have Linden Homes being an attempt at relevancy in the already existing homes, land and accessories markets maintained by the userbase ecosystem of prosumers. Sandboxes that miss the underlying understanding that Premium accounts can buy and sell land, making premium sandboxes an error in judgment. Even free users can rent land, and nearly eliminate the need to use sandboxes. Giving “exclusive” gifts is also a moot point since nobody really cares about an exclusive furniture set when they have a mountain of options otherwise, free user or premium.


More importantly, however, is that while this does show that their scope is extremely myopic at best, and their understanding is lacking, the worst part about all of this is that these seemingly innocent mistakes in succession have lasting and long term negative effects on the ecosystem that is Second Life. At every step of the way, Linden Lab continually turns in on itself to cannibalize the ecosystem and that’s a very bad thing for not just you and I, but for Linden Lab itself.


What we have here, is failure to communicate.


I don’t mean that @Rodvik isn’t listening to the community. No, he’s doing an excellent job on that front. However, there is a difference between listening to the community and actually knowing how to interpret what you are hearing into actionable outcomes that foster a balance of understanding for the ecosystem that is Second Life.


I do not suspect that even @Rodvik is in a position to be effective at that part, and it’s not a negative thing. Of course it’s not necessarily a positive thing either. What it is, is a lack of proper context in overall fashion of this system.


@Rodvik has a lot of business insight pertaining to video games. He’s not a virtual worlds visionary like Philip was, and he’s surely no Chip Morningstar, F. Randal Farmer, or Jaron Lanier.


However, that’s what is missing from the equation. This is precisely why Linden Lab continues to falter. You need balance… you need a sound business mind who at least partially understands virtual environments running the place, but you also need a visionary to guide that leader.


The visionary, or advisor, shouldn’t be the CEO in this case. No, that job is taken and should be held by somebody who knows business scope. The advisor or visionary position, guides and acts as a mediator between the chaos that is a virtual environment system like Second Life, and the business sense that is traditional thinking and scope. They are the person who can read the tea leaves and explain to the CEO. It’s also the sort of person that is comfortable doing that in reverse as well, as in interpreting the business scope into the ecosystem of the virtual environment.


It’s a complimentary sort of role, and nobody needs to be fired to make that happen.


I could argue that Philip Rosedale holds some sort of advisory position on the board for Linden Lab, but I doubt it’s an active involvement. If anything, it’s simply a courtesy sort of thing and Philip is likely wanting to put SecondLife behind him and concentrate on his other projects, like Coffee & Power.


So what we are left with is the understanding that what is needed to bring balance and healthy expansion back to Second Life is an unconventional convention. There are often times when conventional scopes have little impact, or even negative outcomes when applied, and these are the times when it is prudent to start looking for a rogue to guide you.


When we broaden the scope and start looking at unconventional conventions, we eliminate the artificial narrowing of scope we apply out of preconceived bias, and we find solutions that would normally be outright rejected under conventional means, but suddenly offer wildly successful outcomes as a result.


Just like a rag-tag group of teenagers can run circles around a corporation using their own technology, and how a wild card user can do what some some of the best in technology collectively wash their hands of in defeat, the solution of introducing a wild card into the mix is our unconventional convention for Linden Lab.


You’re not likely to find those wild cards through traditional methods, either. Looking through resumes that dictate traditional education instead of hands-on experience and real-world application will get you people who are classically trained to be blind to the proper solutions. They are trained to think inside the box, so to speak – and there is really nothing wrong with that when in proper context, just like there is nothing wrong with Rodvik, Mark Kingdon, and Philip Rosedale all having a narrow scope which excludes seeing the bigger picture. Those scopes are specialized and have a very important purpose, but without balance – without our wild cards, those narrow scopes change from being an asset to a dangerous destructive force.


The day Linden Lab effectively fills an advisory position with a true wildcard that isn’t traditionally educated, but brings a wealth of insight and hands-on experience with virtual environments (not video games) is the day that you’ll see the balance return, and Linden Lab surge ahead in to a second golden age.


A second life, for Second Life.