Despite Second Life's Draconian Terms of Service Change, SL User Activity Growing Strongly Since Then

When I reported that Linden Lab is attempting to revise its contentious new Terms of Service, some readers complained that the company's reaction to the controversy has been so mild and slow. But there's a very good likely reason for that: Not only is there no discernible evidence that the controversy has hurt the SL economy, Second Life user activity has been growing, not shrinking, since the ToS change. Take a look at this concurrency chart from Grid Survey:

Second Life concurrency ToS

Since the ToS change in mid-August, when Linden asked users to agree that the company had rights over "all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats", more people, not less, have been logging into Second Life. In fact, user activity in SL has been going upward since June/July after a long declining trend, and the ToS controversy has done nothing to substantially stop this momentum.

This doesn't mean there's been no impact, or that Linden Lab should not revise its ToS to be more fair and transparent -- in my opinion, it should -- however, it's also worth keeping this data in mind. Because having consulted for Linden Lab many years ago, I can make a educated guess at what they're thinking right now:

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Linden Lab Attempting to Amend Terms of Service to Appease Anxious Content Creators, Company Confirms

Second Life ToS Controversy UCCSL

Linden Lab is attempting to revise its contentious Terms of Service to satisfy the concerns of SL content creators, spokesperson Peter Gray confirmed to me last Friday. "It would be premature to offer any sort of timetable" as to when those revisions will go into the ToS, Gray added, "because as the message notes, 'we are currently reviewing what changes could be made.'" Gray is referring to an e-mail he sent last week to Kylie Sabra, head of the United Content Creators of Second Life, which has since been made public. Whoever uploaded it to Google Docs accidentally dated the message 2003, as opposed to this year, but Gray confirmed that the body of e-mail is indeed from him. (I've included a copy below.)

Also notable in his e-mail: As some have suggested, the reason the new Terms of Service claimed "all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats" is not to deviously steal users' content. Instead (according to Gray, at least) it's to give them more markets to make more money from their own content:

"[T]he revision to our Terms of Service was made in order to further extend the ability for content creators to commercially exploit their intellectual property through user-to-user transactions across Linden Lab’s other products and services (including our distribution platform, Desura), not just within Second Life." (Emphasis mine.)

Let the irony sink in. If Linden Lab had publicly said something like that when making the changes to the ToS, it's likely little or none of this controversy would have kicked in. And as SL Bar Association member Agenda Faromet suggested to me, an additional 10 words to the ToS would have probably prevented a lot of agita too.

Anyway, full text after the break:

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9 Years Later, Virtual Democracy Experiment in SL Still Thriving (Comment of the Week)

Neualtenburg Second Life
Neufreistadt in 2006 (from this post)

Last week, an SLer named Tor Karlsvalt stopped by New World Notes to offer his update on Neufreistadt/Neualtenburg, an ambitious experiment in virtual democracy on a cooperatively-owned simulator created to look like an old Bavarian city 9 years ago -- a project which was subsequently wracked in internal strife and, ironically enough, a DMCA trademark dispute which I wrote about in 2006. According to Tor, Neufreistadt still thrives in another version, not just on a single sim (which is how it began) but on many:

"Just browsing through your old articles and found this one pertaining to a period of Neufreistadt history that is now more part of the 'national myth' of CDS than anything relevant today," he wrote in the post's Comments. "Neufreistadt is still in SL and not in any danger of disappearing. This Oktoberfest we traditionally celebrate our founding, just as was done during the time of Kendra and Ulrika. This Oktoberfest will mark the ninth anniversary of the foundation of Neualtenburg. Yes we were renamed, but alas the citizens of Neufreistadt were on the land while our prominent members left to form a different group, Port Neualtenburg, which has since closed back in 2008." Here's what's happened since then:

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SL10B Memories: Ms. FairChang Meets Her RL Husband

Garth and Garth and Pituca

I asked NWN readers about their most important experience in Second Life over its 10 year history, and fittingly, the first memory comes from Pituca FairChang, who's been a member for that entire decade (and then some, since she joined in Beta):

"The memory that has impacted my life is joining The Americana Group back in Beta and meeting Garth Fairlight (later to become Garth FairChang) there." (That's them at their wedding, at left, which many of their SL friends attended.) "He would later immigrate from London to Southern California to marry me. Tragically his life was cut short by pancreatic cancer. I stay on to keep our 38 regions of FairChang Islands alive and running in his memory."

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5 Things to Remember About Second Life Content Creators to Minimize Drama Around Second Life Content Creators

Aemeth Lysette

Here's five important things to remember about Second Life content creators, written by Ms. Aemeth Lysette after a rash of drama around SL content creators which reached such a pitch, as she puts it primly, "we’re still screaming and throwing tampons across the room". Sample:

They are not excusable in their actions, just because they’re talented... Everyone should be treated with respect, and if a designer can’t learn this, they’ll learn by the amount of customers they’ll end up losing over time. They don’t have endless patience, either. No one is, honestly. Me, personally, if I tell someone something over and over and they don’t get it, I become very sarcastic. Manners are important, but everyone’s got their bad days.

Read the rest here. Not sure I get her "They aren’t a doctor" point, but maybe that's a metaphor, just like Jesus meant to bless makers of all dairy products.

I Largely Left Second Life to Avoid the People of Second Life (Comment of the Week)

Savoree LeDesir Second Life user

Discussing her reasons for minimizing her use of Second Life, reader Savoree LeDesir offered one I often hear from others: Exhaustion with the negative social experience in Second Life. Here's how she describes it:

"Part of the appeal of Second Life was that it promised to fulfill that lifelong dream of many - the ability to 'reinvent oneself,' and, at least for a moment, to escape reality and experience the fulfillment of one's ideal self. After several years of dealing with trying to deal with constant technical difficulties, in-world politics, relentless cyber-bullies (as it turns out, a lot of people reinvented themselves into the kids they hated in high school), and a 'community' of people who are all trying to be something other than who they really are, many have become disillusioned with the whole premise of this type of virtual experience...or perhaps they've simply outgrown it.

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New Meme About SL Pet Peeves is a Meme Worth Spreading

SL meme pet peeves

Here's a new SL blog meme from SL bloggerista supreme Ms. Strawberry Singh, and I really like this one: Share your top 5 SL pet peeves. Ms. Singh starts with her own, and I relate with this one most:

People who don’t read profiles: I think SL would be a much better place if people just took two minutes to read someone’s profile before contacting them. This is especially geared towards those fashion bloggers that spam designers (and their managers) with lots of notecards begging them to send items to blog or sponsor them (unless it’s written in the designers profile that it’s ok to do that).

Or to take another example, when someone (by which I mean me) puts a note in their profile politely asking people not to send them notecards, and to send e-mail instead... getting notecard after notecard after notecard anyway. Which I consequently ignore, ignore, and ignore.

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The Value of Raising Awareness of Real World Violence Against Women With a Virtual Dance Party (Guest Post)

One Billion Rising in Second Life

Last week's One Billion Rising event in Second Life caused a fair amount of controversy, mainly because the dance party, an official part of a world-wide awareness-raising collective dance event against rape and other violence against women, seemed by many to be an ineffective response to such a deep and serious issue. Saffia Widdershins of the excellent SL blog Prim Perfect offers her answer as one of the event's lead organizers:

This event was planned and held within five weeks. The people behind it (and there were over a hundred and thirty people involved in the event) were experienced event organizers in Second Life (events including Second Life Birthdays, Relay for Life etc etc). This was short notice for a wholly new event, but a blog was set up, a Facebook page and a Twitter stream. It received publicity through the real world OBR event as well - and even featured on the Guardian newspaper's live blog of One Billion Rising!

There were four sims open for twenty-four hours, with people coming and going all day long. On average, I'd say there were 120 people at the event at any one time - attendance might have dropped to 80 at some points, and rose to nearly 200 at peak times - at which point the sims were really groaning. I would suspect that well over a thousand people visited the event in the course of the day - and more watched on Livestream - it was broadcast for the whole 24 hours.

And we got nearly five thousand hits on the OBR blog on the day itself - so maybe I'm being conservative with visitor numbers.

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Can SL Secrets Stay 1 Month Drama-Free for a Good Cause?

SL Secrets drama

The editors of Shopping Cart Disco's SL Secrets, a weekly blog post of anonymous secrets from the SL community which is largely a forum where "ugliness is catharsis and entertainment", has issued a challenge to readers who contribute these secrets:

If you people can go Four Weeks starting today without submitting one shitty mean spirited secret... [we] will donate $100 to a charity that you will select via a poll that will be put up later.

More about the challenge here. Basically, it's like the Prisoner's Dilemma, if the prisoners were SL fashionistas and Plurk users! Here's hoping the community of Secrets sharers can keep the meanness to a minimum for a good cause. Like I noted last year, the best way to do that is to follow the lead of Post Secret, and emphasize secrets mainly about oneself, not what one thinks about others.

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Flatterbots Violate Second Life's Terms of Service, Argues Mr. Epsilon (Comment of the Week)

Beggar Bot Second Life

Controversy continues over the plague of "flatterbots" in Second Life, which are reportedly earning their owner $160 a day, and in the comments of our latest post, NWN reader "DBDigital Epsilon" makes the interesting case that Flatterbots violate SL's Terms of Service:

"For those that doubt is not against the Terms of Service: While there isn't directly anything saying 'begging' I would like to point to:

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