RyanSchultz.com Reader Survey

This morning it is -34°C in Winnipeg with a strong wind, so with the wind chill it feels like -50°C (which is -58°F to you Americans). Winnipeggers take a sort of perverse pride in the winter weather they can deal with, but even this is a little extreme:

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It’s a good day to stay indoors, stay warm, and write a blogpost before I have to bundle up and head off to work! I received some good feedback early this morning from a regular reader of my blog:

Have you ever considered paraphrasing instead of copying/pasting almost an entire article from someone else’s website? I respect your work but in every industry I’ve worked in, this is usually considered rude if not blatant plagiarism. And I never even read the copy/paste anyway (just click the link to the real article) because your copy/paste usually lacks any of the originally formatting (like bold, italics) which removes important context.

My favorite blogs in the past always only copied maybe one or two paragraphs, if any, then advised the reader to go to the original article for the full story, to support the original author of the story.

I know no one’s probably mentioned this to you before but it’s the one thing that’s always bugged me about your blog. I say it with complete respect, it would improve the quality of your blog 1) if you were more respectful to the original authors, and 2) the whole reason I go to your blog is to read your commentary, not just some massive quote from someone else. When one of your post ends up being just that, a massive quote, with only 2 or 3 sentences of actual original thoughts from you, there’s something wrong. IMHO.

This is why Inara’s blog is so good, it’s almost entirely her own thoughts and commentary, with very minimal quoting. She pretty much only quotes when it’s someone official like a Linden, to give added credibility to the information she’s sharing. Other than that, it’s all her own work.

And, I must admit, I probably did over-quote the Hypergrid Business article I quoted in my blogpost about Islandz shutting down. However, I want to make it clear that I always post a link back to the original source whenever I make a quote. (I also quoted a very long comment made to an earlier blogpost, which I felt was important to provide some necessary background to the story.)

But the comment about how much I quote made me realize that I don’t really know how my blog is coming across to my readers. So I have decided to do my first-ever reader survey, to get a better sense of what other readers think about my blog:


InWorldz Successor Islandz to Shut Down

Islandz 3 24 Nov 2018

Hypergrid Business reports that Islandz, Beth Reischl’s attempt to replace the failed InWorldz grid, is shutting down:

Islandz, the official successor to the InWorldz grid, is shutting down, owner Beth Reischl announced today on the grid’s Discord channel. Residents will have ten days to wrap up any current projects.

Reischl, who is also known as Elenia Llewellyn  in-world, cited financial difficulties.

“I’m not working for free for another month, period,” she wrote. “I’ve done that for 8 months now and I have to consider my family.”

She said that she will not be making filtered OAR region export files available to members. “I’m not going to spend the next 3 months working for free to filter out stuff.”

Instead, she said, she will simply mail full OAR files to members.

Many creators chose InWorldz as their primary OpenSim home because it was a closed grid. That means that the content could not be exported to other grids via hypergrid teleports, or via OAR exports. According to some creators on the Islandz Discord channel, releasing full OAR files would violate the grid’s original license terms.

“Knowing and willing taking IP like that is not a good legal position to be in,” wrote one group member.

“There are people out there who would take advantage of the full [perm] content,” wrote another.

OAR files are full exports of regions — including the terrain and all the objects rezzed on that terrain. They can be uploaded to any other grid that allows OAR imports, as well as to grid that people have on their personal computers via easy OpenSim installers like DreamWorld. This is particularly troubling with creators who have high-end scripts or animations in their content, which can’t be stolen with regular copybot hacking tools. Competitors will be able to copy those scripts and use them in their own creations, for example.

InWorldz was OpenSim’s most popular closed grid for many years, and was the most popular of any grid for a good portion of that time as well. The decision to release OARs will affect a very large number of creators who came to OpenSim becaase of their trust that InWorldz would keep their stuff safe.

The decision to release the content is extremely controversial.

“Doing that could ruin some creators with all their stuff out in the wild,” wrote one group member.

Most OpenSim grids today either have a fully open policy, allowing all content to travel freely, or have filters in place to keep proprietary content from leaving the grid and taken to places where the scripts can be exposed. Kitely, for example, has a very robust permissions system in place that allows content creators to determine whether their creations can be taken elsewhere.

The important thing is that creators know up front what the rules are, so they can decide whether to bring their content over and how to manage the permissions.

“Quite honestly, I don’t really care if content creators like it or not,” Reischl wrote. “We went through all of this because of them, trying to make everyone happy. Fortunately, I do have all the OARs on my computer.”

As several commentators pointed out, releasing the content without the permission of the original copyright holders is a violation of copyright law.

“What are they going to do? Sue me?” Reischl asked. “Good luck, there’s nothing to sue over.”

It’s been a difficult period for Reischl. InWorldz shut down last summer after financial problems, bureaucratic mistakes and communication issues caused the grid to go down.

I hardly find this news surprising; many of the comments I received on my blogpost about the launch of Islandz were from people who felt they had been burned by the InWorldz shut-down and were never coming back to any project with Beth at the helm. Snoots Dwagon commented:

“The even bigger question is: will the content creators come back? Some of them, upset at the handling of (and communication about) the sudden shut-down of InWorldz, have since moved to other OpenSim grids and will likely not be coming back to set up shop in Islandz Virtual World.”

That’s the question of the day– and it affects everything. If content creators don’t “opt in” (and many have already said they want nothing more to do with Inworldz/Islandz)… their content will be filtered out of OAR files. So even if some ex-Inworldz members return, they may very likely find their lands largely barren even after pulling back in the OARs.

As you say in the article, many members have moved on. Elf Clan is now centered on OSgrid with a 75-region fantasy continent. Elf Clan members are scattered throughout the Hypergrid– on 3rd Rock, Discovery, DigiWorldz, Kitely, OSgrid and other grids– and after some 4 months we’re pretty much settled in our new homes.

After spending a TON of money with Inworldz over 8 years only to lose it all due to extreme mismanagement, we’d have to be out of our minds to support Islandz at $75 a region. Beth has decided to not honor her original agreement with our group, claiming this is a “new company”.

Well, I haz news for Beth: it’s a new age. We’re running our own lands now on three different servers. Our expenses have dropped to the cost of electricity. We’ve found OSgrid runs just as well as Inworldz and offers the added benefits of VARs (super-size regions), Hypergrid access, and full 100% control over our assets and inventory.

Beth has given Inworldz members zero reason to support or even respect Islandz at this point. Our lands and assets were destroyed. It’s unlikely the OARs are going to restore with any degree of success due to the simple fact of so many creators refusing to give Islandz permission to use their creations. Inworldz originally started with six founders, who left one by one because of frustration with how the company was operated. Now Islandz is down to one founder– the same person in charge when Inworldz tanked.

The question is: how many creators trust that one person with their creations? Considering the highly questionable destruction of Inworldz, the fact that no one was told with sufficient notice there was any problems (not even their main Dev was told), considering the way the GoFundMe donations were handled, and that Beth has stated her word and agreements to Inworldz members are no longer valid because this is a “new company”… who will trust their creations to a new grid run by the same person?

And, in the end, Beth Reischl was unable to get enough people to trust her and come back. It’s sad, but it happens. But what makes me so angry about this, is that Beth has (without advance warning) shut down the official Islandz Discord server, leaving Islandz users unable to communicate with each other unless they meet up somewhere in-world before Islandz is shut down. (There is still an unofficial InWorldz Diaspora Discord server, though.) Beth may have done this to avoid the outrage that is no doubt being directed at her, but frankly, she is doing a terrible disservice to those who supported the replacement grid. I’m not impressed.

Some content creators who did not give permission for their items to be saved in the OAR files saved from the InWorldz regions are going to be furious with Beth over her decision to simply give the unfiltered files back to InWorldz users, but there’s not much they can do about the situation, unless they want to involve a lawyer, which will result in expensive legal fees for the plaintiff. One commenter on the Hypergrid Business article stated:

I am disturbed people are going to receive unfiltered OARs. It means the company failed ultimately to protect the IP licenses of the makers of the products. Permissions will be cracked, proprietary graphic art, assemblies, and programming will be exposed. This is the ultimate insult to the protections that closed grid offered.

Atom Universe: A Brief Introduction

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Atom Universe (formerly known as Atom Republic) is a desktop (non-VR) virtual world with some integrated carnival games and pastimes such as golf and bowling, which is available via Steam or on the PlayStation 4. According to its Steam page:

Atom Universe is a Free-to-Play social Virtual World: a theme park featuring fun people and fun things: plenty of games, rides and amusements, as well as advanced social interactions.

Atom Universe is the best place to hang out: Everything you’ve ever loved about Fun Parks is here for you! From Carnival games like Coin Pushers, Shooting Galleries, Whack-a-Mole and Skeeball to big ones like Bowling, Mini Golf and Batting Cages, to the REALLY big ones – Ghost Trains, Rollercoasters and Karting. And the BEST thing about Atom Universe is that you can do all of these things in the fine company of other people – bring friends along or come and meet lots of new ones!

Atom Universe is first and foremost a hub for people to meet, chat and socialise. It’s essentially like a chatroom, but with loads of fun to have alongside. All of our games involve some sort of element of multiplayer, some competitive and some co-operative, so you will always find people to get involved with!

This is the first desktop virtual world I can recall where the arrow keys don’t work; you have to use the WASD keys to move around, and it is always at a run; there doesn’t seem to be any way to just walk around. The user interface is frankly a bit clunky to use, in my opinion (or maybe it just takes a bit of getting used to).

Avatar customization is extremely limited, with only eight avatar heads to choose from (four male and four female), with no face or body sliders to adjust how you look. Atom Universe has two types of in-game currency, Atoms (which you get for free every time you sign in, and can use on games and other attractions) and Molecules (which you have to purchase, and which you can use to buy clothing and accessories for your avatar from their marketplace).

The user interface is also at times a bit busy/distracting, with lots of overlapping elements. There’s an overly cheerful voice-over guide, which very quickly gets annoying.

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Here’s a few pictures of the public areas you can visit:

Atom Universe 3 27 Jan 2019Atom Universe 4 27 Jan 2019Atom Universe 5 27 Jan 2019

And that’s pretty much it! The games (like Orb Runner) are pretty simple. Compared to more fully-featured and long-running virtual worlds like Second Life, there’s not a lot to do, and there’s not a lot of other avatars around to interact with. Another one to add to my list of social VR/virtual worlds, and to keep an eye on to see how it develops over time.

Oh, and one other thing. I hate that the only way I could figure out how to exit Atom Universe was to hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete and use the Windows Task Manager to shut down the app! Update: I discovered that the Esc key quits the program, but overall? I’m not really very impressed with this product at all. For a virtual world that has been on the market for over two years, I expected something with a bit more polish. Here’s a two-minute YouTube promotional video from September 2016 (the program has not changed significantly since then):

Editorial: Turning 55

Fifty-five is a LOT of candles! Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Tomorrow morning, at approximately 6:00 a.m. Central Standard Time, I will turn exactly 55 years old. And I’m still not quite sure how I feel about that fact.

There was a time, back when I was first invited into the Sansar closed beta, when I cherished the idea that someday in the future, I would emulate the many successful avatar fashion designers whose stores I visited in Second Life, and create and sell clothing for male and female avatars in virtual worlds, and be wildly successful. But the brutal reality is, that NOBODY is yet making any kind of liveable income on ANY of the newer social VR worlds yet. It’s simply too soon. My dream of taking an early retirement from my job and earning a comfortable side income from virtual worlds is just that—a pipe dream. It’s just way too early. And I have to accept that.

Today, in order to inject a little much-needed perspective amidst the general midwinter gloom of the Sansar Discord channel, I posted the following historical video of the earliest days of Second Life, before it was even called Second Life:

And I said:

Here is a video showing SL back in 2001, which makes it FIVE YEARS until it became popular with Anshe Chung appearing on the cover of Businessweek (item #6 on this list).

SL came a long way in those 5 years and I have no doubt Sansar will do likewise.

The problem is that software development takes time. And software development for a project with as many different moving parts as a virtual world—and a virtual world that supports virtual reality, at that—takes a LOT of time. What’s happening is that people are looking at High Fidelity and Sansar and Sinespace and VRChat (even though the last one doesn’t even have an in-world economy yet) and expecting it to be just like Second Life with its over 15 years’ worth of features and opportunities for vendors, and I’m sorry, but it just ain’t gonna happen. At least, not yet. Fortunes are not gonna be made overnight. We need a reality check.

Some content creators have decided to sit on the fence and see what develops over time with the various social VR platforms, perhaps waiting to see which ones take off and become more popular. Others, disappointed by slow sales in those virtual worlds that already have marketplaces, have scaled back their work. Still others are boldly plunging ahead and churning out content. Only time will tell who made the best decisions.

But with increasing age comes (hopefully) some patience and a little bit of wisdom. While I cannot yet retire and rely on a steady side-income from blogging about virtual worlds, hosting a brand-new show about social VR, or creating and selling avatar clothing, I do take some comfort from the fact that I am fairly well positioned, regardless of what happens on the various metaverse platforms. If one falters (like Virtual Universe, which only six months ago had seemed so promising), well, there are plenty of other places to write about, and people to interview, and fashions to learn how to create using Marvelous Designer and other software tools.

At 55 (well, OK, technically still 54.999…), I may have finally learned not to sweat about the small stuff. And ultimately, it’s all small stuff, isn’t it?

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash