Monday, October 26, 2009

Content theft -- the deck is stacked against us

Some disturbing news today... Stroker Serpentine has reported over at SLUniverse that a massive content theft has taken place, using what were probably some of the known exploits of the permission system, notecards, etc.

As far as I know, my work is not involved. I feel fortunate that after all this time I have not been a victim of this, but I'm sure time will only tell when someone thinks its time to start ripping small time merchants like me.

I feel terribly for everyone whose work has been stolen, and I feel incredibly helpless. It seems that SL has no real interest in preventing what has clearly become large scale content theft. I'm simply at a loss as to what to do -- so many voices much more influential than mine have risen up in the past to protest this, and nothing has been done.

I'm not sure what this all means, what the future holds for content creation in SL. Like so many other virtual and real world places I've invested myself in, everything from Facebook to my health care insurer, it feels like Corporate America has no accountability for their actions.

It's the new corporate profit model -- well, perhaps not new, but big business seems less concerned with keeping their real motivations a secret anymore.

What it is, is risk assessment gone horribly wrong. Businesses no longer seem to be interested in what the customer wants -- they are interested in knowing how long they can keep making money while they knowingly rip off customers, or allow them to be ripped off? When the litigation finally comes, will the payout we have to make be substantially less than the profits we earned while ripping off people?

In Second Life, the folks at Linden Labs happily take the money content creators spend on uploading textures, sounds, animations. They happily take the tier payments my landlords pay for virtual real estate, that I in turn rent from them for my shops.

They don't seem to see that content theft is problem -- because it really costs them nothing. It's not really "their" content that's being stolen. Linden Labs is in the real estate business and the asset storage business, not in the content creation business. They provide servers, and sit back while Second Life residents do all the heavy lifting.

Not to diminish the service that LL provides -- obviously that takes a tremendous amount of resources. Someone has to pay the electricity bill.

It seems to be the nature of community building that it always reaches a critical mass, where it simply becomes too large to effectively administer or police. This happens simultaneously with larger interests entering the picture, who see a new opportunity for investment... and profit.

You hit a threshold where a community of individuals is much harder to stabilize than a community of larger interests.

And this is what is happening with Second Life. Administering to a handful of corporate entities, who already have their own management infrastructures, is much more profitable and efficient than trying to keep thousands of "mom and pop" content creators and landowners happy.

For now, we wait. I personally am waiting for when LL finally announces exactly what "a minimum threshold for content transactions" is as part of qualifying for their content seller program... while my business is just beginning to grow, my content creating days very well could be over before I ever get a chance to prove myself in the market.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Expeditionary campaign desk & chair set

Once again, time gets away from me. But I have a good excuse -- I've been working on a commission.

I spend most of my time designing clothes, but about a year ago I started making low prim furniture. At first I was just doing this for personal use -- I was having trouble finding Victorian era low prim furnishings for my shops, as well as for my apartment and the hotel I own in a western RP sim.

Now I completely admire (and envy) those with the skill to make the amazing Victorian furniture I've seen out there -- unfortunately, when you have a 100 prim allowance for your residence or shop, you have to come up with creative ways to cut corners in order to have a realistic looking interior.

So I began photographing furniture textures from my own house, the houses of friends and family and a friend's antique shop. I started simple by building basic one prim items like armoires, dressers, bookcases, etc.

Slowly over time my skills have improved slightly, and I've made fireplaces, china cabinets and other Victorian era furnishings. Nothing fancy, but they are functional.

So it took me by surprise when I was asked to make an item I only had a passing knowledge of -- a campaign desk and chair set.

What is a campaign desk, you ask? Historically, officers on battlefields (hence the term "campaign"), as well as scientists, explorers and well-to-do tourists on safari or expedition, brought along a portable field desk to use for correspondence, sketching and journals.

Such a desk would typically have a hinged writing surface/lid that closed flush with the other edges of the desk box and was locked with a key. The edges traditionally featured brass hardware to protect the desk while transported, and had handles for carrying. The legs were often hinged or unscrewed and stored in a compartment under the desk box during travel.

My Second Life version was commissioned by a roleplayer who is a scientist on a paleontology expedition in the Black Hills of Dakota Territory, in the RP sim Deadwood. He had acquired the simple, one prim cherry wood map cabinet I'd recently released, but had trouble finding a portable desk to his liking. So I agreed to see what I could come up with.

And here it is: his desk, at 6 prims, features a "hinged" writing surface that can be opened by touch. The 5 prim chair was designed to look like a folding chair (though it does not actually fold) and includes writing animation. The inkwell, when touched, delivers a quill pen that will attach to your right hand when worn.

For more authenticity the set includes rolled and flat maps that depict the Black Hills in Dakota Territory, circa 1876 & 1878, and an 1874 map of the Rocky Mountain Territories: Colorado, Wyoming, Dakota and Montana.

I think it turned out rather well -- it's now got me thinking about other multi-prim furnishing projects.

If your interested in viewing it, it's on display in the 2nd floor at my Caledon Oxbridge Village shop shop, as well as on Xstreet.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Texas, we hardly knew ye

Sadly, after just three weeks in operation, the new Texas sim where my newest MNC location recently opened, is ceasing operations.

This isn't the first time I've opened a location in a promising new sim, only to see it fold not long after its unveiling. I still miss Londinium, a Dark Victorian sim which had all the makings of a fantastic RP world.

It's never good to speculate on what misfortunes are behind the closing of sims -- too often, however, it's that people aren't fully prepared for the tremendous financial investment that a sim requires, as well as the tremendous amount of marketing that must follow in order to make the sim pay for itself.

$1000 USD down and $300 USD a month in tier has always seemed like a steep price for the privilege of "owning" a 65,536 sqm piece of a virtual world. Yet I have daydreamed many a time of having my own private estate, where I can set up a residence, or build an immense flagship storefront. But the economics of such an investment have never been within my reach, and looking at the numbers, it's unlikely that will ever change.

I understand the resources that go into maintaining the vast network of server farms Linden Labs hosts. They are a private company and have the right to charge whatever they please for their product -- and considering at the moment they are the only game in town, so to speak, in this type of virtual world, more power to them.

Inevitably the economic conditions in First Life were bound to trickle into Second Life. People are losing their jobs, having their homes foreclosed on, watching helplessly as their credit is frozen or their bank arbitrarily jacks up their credit card interest rate.

In that scheme of things, Second Life is a disposable asset. And yet Second Life is something that many people right now need more than ever -- a place to temporarily escape from an oppressive set of First Life circumstances.

I've been creating specialty clothing and furnishings long enough to know that no matter how thorough my marketing is, there's just never going to be a larger demand for my product line. Let's face it: for as wonderful as the Victorian/Steampunk/Gothic communities are in SL, they are a small, specialized minority in the larger scope of the SL population.

I think I'm okay with that. I make enough now to cover my rents in world, to pay a miniscule portion of my rent in the real world, and to put some of my earnings back into the SL economy and support the work of other builders and designers. Perhaps if I had arrived in SL earlier, during the upswing of the content creation economy, things might be different.

But that's neither here nor there. The important thing is that I enjoy creating the clothing and furnishings I sell. It's a great stress reliever, it's a self esteem booster. It's something I should spend more time on.

So what would happen if I did devote more time to designing? That would mean less time devoted to, well... facilitating other people's need for drama. Hmm... now there's a thought.

So the door to Texas may be closing, but perhaps a window is opening elsewhere. Perhaps too it's my time to close some doors in SL, and open a window two for some fresh air.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

MNC news & new releases for October 2009

The best laid plans... suffice to say, RL knocked me for a loop, hence the absence of posts since September. I hope to rectify that this month.

Now onto the news! This is the beginning of my favorite time of year, so Montagne Noire has several new releases and news to share with you.


Our 2009 Halloween ball gown is now available -- "Samhain" is a rich black velvet dress with black beaded trim in a Gothic/Dark Victorian vein that comes with a ruby & silver spider choker necklace. The gown retails for just 100L.

Last years gowns are also available again -- "Hallows Eve" is a traditional taffeta crinoline gown that is available in citrine and amethyst. For the month of October, these gowns will be on sale at 50% the original price -- just 50L!

As many sims in SL will see snow fall following the end of Halloween celebrations, MNC is now releasing "Le Pelerine", a full length ladies winter cloak. Available in black velvet, red velvet and mink fur, Le Pelerine's slender silhouette can be worn with or without the matching hood. The cape retails for 200L.

In our merchantile department, we have several new additions to our low prim Victorian furnishings, including a map chest, a carved oak bar featuring a quaint brawling scene, a cast iron fireplace, and an oak truck with an open/close lid.


In addition to the markdown on last year's Halloween dress, our entire stock of "Petit" girl's dresses is also 50% off original prices -- reducing all outfits to just 100L-125L each.

MNC will also be marking down a limited selection of women's and men's outfits this month for retirement later this fall. These clearance clothing items will be reduced to 50L -- 80% off original price. Our clearance items will only be available at our main store in Caledon Oxbridge Village.

We have also made a permanent markdown on all our Oriental rugs and antique advertising signs, now just 10L each. The entire inventory can be found on XStreet.

(All markdowns are reflected in the purchase menu when you select the item).


Montagne Noire has opened a new location in newly relaunched Texas State USA sim, featuring a special selection of ladies, mens, and girls fashions.

Montagne Noire Merchantile, devoted solely to showcasing our low prim furnishings, is now open in Texas' sister sim, Kansas Territory.

(If you click on the landmark a second time once you arrive at the sim HUB to be teleported directly to each of these locations.)


Montagne Noire's main store is located in Caledon Oxbridge Village. We also have locations in Antiquity, Deadwood and the Victorian Village @ the Isle of Fatima's Desire.

You are welcome to peruse my inventory via Xstreet as well!

Thank you as always for your support, and enjoy you Halloween and harvest celebrations!