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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Giving it Away

Here's a short tutorial for the newcomer!

I'm often asked how to transfer something to someone else.  It's easy...in fact, there are so MANY ways to do this that have been added from time to time over the years.

But first, a few provisos:  You can't sell or give away items that are No Transfer, and if you give away something that is No Copy, you will no longer have it.  No Copy items behave like a Real Life item, they can only be in one place, or in one person's possession, at a time.

Also, transferring items is called "sharing" in many places in the viewer.  This can be confusing, because you can't "share" a No Copy thing!

You can transfer anything...notecards, animations, clothing layers, body parts, landmarks, scripts, sounds, textures, and objects.  Everything except Links, which are just shortcuts to things.

Now, how to do it!
  • Drag the item from your inventory and drop it onto the recipient's avatar
  • You can drop it onto the name tag over their head, too
  • If there's a big crowd or your recipient is a moving target, or they are not there with you, you can drop it onto their Profile picture
  • Or you can open an IM window with them, and drop the item into the IM window
  • You can right click the item in your inventory and select Share from the context menu
  • Many viewers also have a Share button at the bottom of the inventory window
If you want to get complicated, you can rez the item in world, set it for sale (for $L0 or for an actual price) and then set it so that the original item is the thing sold, or have it provide a copy of itself to the person who buys it.  Then tell your friend or customer to right click and Buy the item to get it.

Back to transfers from inventory, though...you can transfer up to, I think, 40 items at once by putting them into a folder and transferring the whole folder.  If you have more items than will transfer in a folder, you can put them into a "box"...a containing prim...take the prim into your inventory, and transfer that.

There's only one thing I don't understand...with so many ways to give things away, why does my inventory total keep going up?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How to Be A Land Baron(ess)

I rent out land to residents in Second Life.  Technically, that makes me a "land baron" although we usually reserve this term for those Private Estate owners who own and manage large numbers of regions.  My own enterprise is much smaller...less than one region, on the Mainland.  Still, I've been doing this for about five years now, and since my little business is FINALLY showing a (small) profit, I feel qualified to write about How To Do It.

First of all, it's not all that easy, at least not at first.  Those of you who think that Land Barony is a quick road to riches, please go back and re-read the first paragraph.  Note the "five years" and "small profit" parts!  But if you are still serious about trying this, read on.

First Steps.  Well, you need some land, obviously!  If you have never owned land in Second Life, I STRONGLY urge you to start slow.  Be a land OWNER first, with just a parcel for yourself, before leaping into renting land to other residents.  There are three ways to get land.
  1. Buy Mainland directly.  You'll need to be a Premium member to do this.   You can start with a free Linden Home, or buy a small 512 square meter parcel from another resident.  You don't have to pay a monthly land fee until you own more than 512 m2.
  2. Buy Mainland through an auction.  The majority of Mainland parcels are sold resident-to-resident, but some are offered through an auction process.  You can find the land auctions here: http://usd.auctions.secondlife.com/  These auctions work like the auctions on eBay, with an automatic bidding process.
  3. "Buy" a parcel on a Private Estate.  You don't have to be a Premium member to do this.  "Owning" a Private Estate parcel is a little like Mainland ownership and a little like renting.  You will probably have full control over parcel access privileges, and may have some terraforming privileges...but you will pay your monthly fee to the Estate Owner, not Linden Lab, and you may not be able to deed the land to a land group.  You are also subject to the rules, not to mention the whims, of the Estate Owner.  A good Estate Owner can make your Second Life more pleasant and preserve the quality of the neighborhood.  A bad owner, on the other hand, can make your life miserable.
While I do enjoy living on a well-run estate, I don't recommend buying just part of a Private Estate region if you intend to rent some or all of it to other residents.  The Estate Owner might not allow sub-leasing, and even if they do, you're competing directly with the Estate Owner for tenants -- and by the nature of things, she can charge less than you can.

Learn how land works!
  • how to rez things
  • how to limit the ability to rez things to only those people you want to have that ability
  • how to find lost things
  • how to return unwanted things
  • how to use Autoreturn
  • how to terraform the ground
  • how to build things.  You may use a lot of pre-fab objects like trees and houses, but you should at least be able to build and edit simple things like walkways!  The more things you can create yourself, the more you will save on pre-made things, and the more unique your land will be.
  • how to put up a skybox without violating parcel boundaries
  • how to share or deed land to a group  (and how to create and manage a group, if you haven't ever done that before!)
  • how to get a radio or a TV working on group-owned land
  • how to fight lag
  • how to deal with trespassers or stalkers
  • how to get LL support when needed
  • how to set up and use a rental box
  • how to set up and use a security system, and how (and when) to use banlines
I have not described how to do all this in detail.  For one thing, it would turn this blog post into a book.  For another, I'm leaving them as Exercises for the Student.  You'll learn them better by DOING them.  When you feel comfortable with these things, then you are ready to take the big leap and become a landlord.

What To Offer?   You can offer your tenants bare, unimproved land...just parcels for them to put their own house on.  Or, you can create homes, or buy prefab homes from other creators, and put them on your land, ready to move in to.  You can even buy fully-furnished and scripted homes and rent turn-key residences.  Each of these approaches appeals to a different market segment.  You may want to create a complete environment for your tenants...a city, a science fiction setting, a fantasy forest, or an underwater realm for mer-folk.  This approach may appeal to the roleplaying crowd.  Remember that the more prims you use in creating a desirable environment, the less prims you can allow your tenants.  You must work to achieve a balance.

What to Buy?  You can buy Mainland, or you can buy an entire Private Estate region.  A new region, bought directly from LL, costs an initial fee of $1,000 USD, but you can often buy a region for much less by taking it over from an existing owner.  There's a forum where you can find such regions on offer: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Regions-for-Sale-Full-Private/bd-p/RegionsforSaleFullRegions
There is also a specific procedure for this type of transaction.  DO NOT pay the owner anything directly!  Instead, follow the directions here: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/English-Knowledge-Base/Managing-Private-Regions/ta-p/700115#Section_.3

Your Private Estate region will cost you $295 USD per month.  Be prepared for at least several months of negative cash flow while you get your land set up and get the word out to prospective tenants.  Tier is less on the Mainland ($195 per month for a full region) but the initial purchase price may be higher, depending on the land's location.

Private Estate regions offer you more control.  You can see more information about what scripts are running there (and causing lag.)  You can write your own Covenant and have it show in the land window.  You can terraform more (+/- 100 meters, vs. +/- 4m on the Mainland.)  You can re-start the region yourself, and you can assign the terrain textures.  On the other hand, the Mainland is very large and if your land is well located offers your tenants (and you!) the opportunity to explore widely on foot or by vehicle.

Location is very important, especially with Mainland.  Land around the Blake Sea sailing regions is especially desirable (and will be priced accordingly!)  But if you want to offer skybox rentals, any old bombed-out hunk of Mainland will do, since your residents will be far above and never see it.  Be sure to check the Maturity Rating.  This is set by LL and cannot be changed, so be sure it supports what you want to do with the land, and what your prospective tenants will want.

Once you own at least one full Private Estate region, you can purchase Homestead regions as well.  These cost less to buy and maintain, but support fewer avatars and prims than a full region.  They are, however, the same physical size as a full region, so they are popular with tenants who want a large piece of land for a comparatively low price.  (You could buy OpenSpace regions too, but these are really intended as untenanted ocean or empty land.  They aren't suitable to rent out.)

Landlord On A Budget.  Maybe you can't afford to buy a whole region, either on the Mainland or as a Private Estate.  I think the practical minimum for a rental operation is a half region ($125/mo).  You can probably get as many as eight to twelve nice rentals on a parcel of this size.  However, you may be able to go with even less...just buy some small 1024 m2 parcels and rent them out.  They don't have to be connected, or even in the same region.  This approach is like the Real Life investor who buys up houses here and there all over town, and rents them out.

Commercial Property.  Some landlords build shopping malls, and then rent out store space.  This is a VERY hands on business, because you must work to attract traffic to your location.  If you don't, your store owners will quickly depart for greener pastures.  Merchants WILL pay attention to your traffic statistics.  Hold events, advertise, help your tenants advertise.  Organize sales with your merchants.  Talk to some of the more successful SL business or club owners and see if you can attract one or more of them to be "anchor" stores for your mall.  You are competing with the SL Marketplace, so you must provide a place that both merchants and customers can easily find, and visit.  Malls that have both a ballroom and stores that sell formal wear may do well...one hand washes the other, as it were.

How to Get Tenants.  This is the hardest part.
First, you must make your land a desirable place to live.  A great location is a huge plus!  Nice terraforming and landscaping is the next step, and finally, either sites with pleasant views, or well-made and textured living spaces.  Having amenities helps, too.  For example, we have a singles and couples dance system that works anywhere in the sim, with plenty of remote access points and a good assortment of dances.

Next, you have to get the word out.  You should list your land in Search ($L30 per week per parcel) and you should take out a Classified ad.  Places get a higher ranking in the Classifieds by paying more for their ad, but don't try to compete with places spending thousands of $L per month.  Just get yourself listed.  You can purchase space on ad boards in many places in SL, but I have not found these to be very productive.  You can hold Events on your land...parties, games, scavenger hunts...and list them on the SL Events page.

There are Land forums on the Second Life web site where you can advertise your rentals and sales.  There is also a Real Estate section of the Marketplace where you can offer a notecard with information about your properties.

I also have my land rentals prominently featured in my Profile.  There's a link in my Forum signature too, and I make it a point to be an active participant in the SL Forums.  This blog is another, very low key, method of advertising (RENT AT MASOCADO, Y'ALL!)

Word of mouth is your best form of advertising.  Mention your land rental business to everyone you talk to!  Mention it in group chats (but for heaven's sake, don't spam groups, that will get you banned from them!)  Ask your friends to tell THEIR friends.  Most of all, Keep Your Tenants Happy.  If you do, even if they leave they may come back, or tell their friends what a nice place you run.

What to Charge.  This is very tricky.  Some landlords who can offer a very desirable location can charge more for it.  Others whose offerings don't stand out from the crowd must offer lower prices.  I charge by the prim, at a rate of roughly $L7.5 per prim per calendar month...but I also have land with direct access to vast areas of Linden Ocean.  You should at least calculate your monthly expenses, and set your prices so that your income meets or exceeds those expenses.  Be sure to figure in a vacancy factor...you will probably almost always have some un-rented parcels.

Minimize Your Tier per Square Meter. On the Mainland, the tier system is set up so that the more land you own (up to one full region,) the less tier you pay per square meter.  You can see this by studying the tier table here: https://secondlife.com/my/account/landfees.php?lang=en-US  So buy the most land you can afford.  If you find that you are "in between" tier levels, either buy more land right up to your tier level maximum, or rent out your spare tier to another person who needs it.  (See my earlier post on this, "Wheelers and Dealers.")  You'll probably be making a land rental group for your tenants, so consider deeding your land to the group.  Groups can own 10% more land than an individual for the same tier payment.

How to Charge.  Most Mainland rentals charge by the week.  I have found it much more convenient for both me and my tenants to charge by the calendar month.  They are hassled less often with reminders to pay their rent, and I have many fewer reminders to send out!  Most land owners use some sort of rental box system to collect payments.  I use HippoTech, and I like that it allows me to manage all my rental boxes from a single web page.  Some landlords set up a central payment location with a kiosk or ATM type system.  Some landlords allow payments in $USD, direct to a PayPal account.  You could even, if you just have one or two rentals, just use an informal agreement with your tenants..."Pay me $L3500 directly, on the 15th of every month."

How about promotional offers?  There are several possibilities.  You can offer a "referral bonus" to tenants who bring in another tenant.  You can offer a month's free rent...but don't make it the FIRST month, everyone will come and stay for that month, then leave!  Give 'em a free third or fourth month!

Be Friendly!  Greet all visitors to your land politely.  Respond as quickly as possible to tenant problems and requests.  Be on the alert for a new tenant paying a rental box on a vacancy, and get back to them quickly with a group invitation and a friendly welcome.  If you're holding an event, be sure to get out some group notices about it.  Do your best to be fair if there is a dispute to settle, either between tenants or between a tenant and yourself.

Land management is a hands-on business.  Don't expect to just buy some land, divide it into parcels, plop down some rental boxes and sit back while the money rolls in.  It doesn't work that way.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Oh, My Aching Back

I've continued to follow my Real Life self-improvement plan of the Atkins low-carbohydrate diet, and exercise.  (See my post, "Losing It.")  It's continuing to work, too!  In spite of various holiday indulgences, I've lost about 14 pounds from when I started back before Thanksgiving!

But today's post isn't to brag on myself.  Really.  It's about my (and, probably, your) unhealthy sedentary lifestyle.  We spend too much of our time sitting in front of computer monitors!  And that can lead to problems.  I've even heard it said that "sitting is the new smoking."  Get up out of that ergonomic seat every half hour or so and walk around for a few minutes.  If you're even more motivated, get yourself a computer workstation with adjustable height, and spend more time standing up while working at your monitor.  One example is shown in the picture below.


If you, like me, are subject to occasional backaches, here are some simple exercises you can do that will both provide some immediate relief and give your lower back muscles a gentle workout.

  • Lie flat on the floor, with your knees slightly elevated and the soles of your feet on the floor.
  • Rotate your pelvis, pushing the small of your back flat against the floor.  Hold for a slow count of 5.  Release.  Do 10 repetitions.
  • Bend your right leg, lifting your knee to your chest.  Grasp your leg with both hands and pull it up and against your tummy as far as you can.  Hold for a slow count of 5.  Release and extend your leg out straight, parallel to the floor.  Repeat with the left leg.  Do 10 repetitions. 
  • Bring your right knee up and to the left, rotating your pelvis to the left, while keeping your shoulders flat against the floor.  Hold for a slow count of 5.  Return your leg to the floor and repeat with the left leg, rotating your pelvis to the right.  Do 10 repetitions.
  • Repeat the above sequence three times.
If you simply can't bear to leave Second Life long enough to do your Real Life exercises, find a gym and park your avatar on an exercise poseball while you take your RL health break!

(For those wanting to add a little spice of danger to your exercises:  Try washing your cat.  Let me know how that works out for you.  By mail, not in person.) 

FLASH! Blogger Review of Mesh Bodies

I've mentioned complete mesh avatars several times in this blog.  Heck, even Linden Lab's new "starter" avatars are full mesh bodies, which leads to frustration for newcomers when they find that the normal avatar editing tools don't work.

But, not being into these mesh body replacements myself, I haven't done any detailed reviews of them here.  But Pussycat Catnap has!  If you want to read up on the various products on offer, and a comparison of their strengths and faults, check this out:

https://catnapkitty.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/mesh-bodies-themeshproject-vs-belleza-with-a-little-on-slink-physique/

Sunday, January 4, 2015

What's the Best Looking Avatar?

A newcomer asked me today, through a mutual friend, if I could recommend a "good place to buy a beautiful avatar."

While it's true that you can find many places to buy a "complete avatar"...some of them free, others going up in price all the way to "eek!"... I don't think that any one-stop-shop will result in getting the most beautiful avatar, although it may certainly give you an "acceptable" avatar.

Something every new person should keep in mind is that there are literally thousands of creators in Second Life.  Most of them are very good at making one thing in particular...skin, or hair, or shoes, or jewelry, or animations.  But however talented a person may be, she is not going to be outstanding at EVERYTHING.  The best creators in SL are specialists, and that means you are going to have to go to more than one place to achieve a truly outstanding look.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your avatar represents YOU in the virtual world.  It's a statement about yourself -- your taste, your attention to detail, your thoughts, your preferences.  You might not be the actual creator of ANYTHING on your avatar, except maybe the shape...and sometimes not even that.  Nevertheless, your overall look is a result of a whole bunch of choices, and it determines, to a large extent, how people you meet will react to you.  It takes more time and effort, but a unique look you create yourself is going to say much more about you than something you bought straight off the shelf.

Creating a dazzling look seems daunting, especially to the newcomer.  My biggest piece of advice is, take it slow.  Don't rush.  Your look isn't an end, it's an ongoing journey...so GO SLOW and enjoy that journey, and the scenery along the way.

(A short aside here.  If you are VERY new and still wearing your "starter" avatar, you're going to have problems.  The avatars most people choose at sign up are "full mesh" avatars, like a whole second body worn over your regular body.  They are not editable!  Go to the Avatars button, the top button on the left side of your screen.  Choose an avatar from the "classic" group.  These don't look quite as good as the mesh avatars, but they are editable, and you're going to change that look!)

Let's start with the most basic part, your shape.  Get a set of the free Standard Mesh Sizing Shapes from the SL Marketplace.  Pick a size, any size.  Now, customize that shape so that it has the look you want.  Concentrate on the facial slider settings, and leave the body alone.  Because it's a Standard shape, it will fit standardized Mesh clothing better...but not if you go messing with the body sliders.

Save your work as you go.  This will not be a one-hour process.  Most of us "tweak" our shapes for several weeks, or even months, in several sessions, as we notice things about our appearance.

Next, go to several of the major skin makers and get a pile of demos from each of them.  Try them on back home.  Look at yourself under different lighting, in different poses, and from different angles.  Pick a skin that works well with your shape...or if you fall in love with a particular skin, adjust your shape so you look your best in that skin.  Once you have a shape/skin combination you like, go back to the skin store and buy the fatpack for that skin.  What do I wear?  Laqroki, but be sure to try several different skin makers!

Find some eyes you like.  Eyes are usually inexpensive, so you can collect quite a few.  Not all eyes look good with all shapes, the iris diameter must be a good match for your eye opening.

Next, the hair.  You can go wild and wear a different hair color every day of the week, or you can buy several styles in one shade...this will make it appear that you are simply wearing your hair a different way.  Decide whether you like mesh hair or not.  It has the advantage of not poking into your shoulders like flexi hair, but it is also stiffer looking and doesn't move as naturally as flexi hair.  I recommend having at least one long style, one ponytail, one shoulder length, one short, and one updo to begin with.  As with skin, TRY DEMOs for hair!  Many styles don't look as good on you as they did in the picture.  Some of my favorite hair stores:  D!va, Analog Dog, Amacci, Truth, Damselfly.

Your next major purchase can be an animation overrider, or AO.  How you move plays an important part in how you put yourself across, so try out several before making a choice.

By this time, you've probably also picked up some clothing.  You can save a lot here by getting freebies and group gifts, and by shopping the "60 Linden Weekends" or "Steals and Deals" or similar programs.  Google "Second Life fashion blog" to find a huge assortment of resources and links!  See my earlier post, "Bargain Hunting."

Learn about the different types of clothing!  The most basic is "clothing layers."  These are textures painted directly on your avatar shape.  They are skin tight, and always fit.  They have their own unique symbols in your inventory...a jacket symbol, a shirt, a pair of pants, and so on.  Then there are attachments.  These may be regular prims, "sculpted" prims, or (most often these days) mesh.  They can add bulk and realism, and stick out away from your body, but they may also need the addition of an "alpha mask" clothing layer to hide parts of your body that would otherwise poke through them.  All attachments, no matter what they are, have the inventory symbol of a little cube.  Clothing may combine these parts...a cute blouse might have a Shirt clothing layer, plus attachments for the collar and the cuffs.

Shoes...here you need to decide whether you are going to get Mesh feet (and maybe hands.)  If you do, then you will look for shoes that are made for your specific brand of feet.  The SLink feet and hands are very popular.  My current favorite place for shoes is N-core, and for boots it's Bax Coen...but neither one makes products for SLink feet (yet, anyway.)

Jewelry...you will want both casual jewelry and formal jewelry.  I like Earthstones and GeWunjo for casual, and Lazuri or Chop Zuey for formal, but there are tons of others out there too!  You'll want to edit your jewelry for the best fit on your avatar...get that necklace as close to your body as you can, without poking into it.

(A word here about bling.  "Bling" is the sparkle that flashes from some jewelry, and from some other items.  Bling seems to fascinate newcomers to SL, and I have seen people walking around blinging away like a light show.  They may attract incoming airliners, but experienced residents avoid bling, or only use items with very subtle bling.)

(And a similar word about facelights.  I like a subtle facelight, but it's easy to overdo it and walk around in a dazzling brilliance.  You don't need one, but if you want one, see my blog post: "Facelights - Arrgh or Ahhh?")

There are many other touches you can add.  Accessories like sunglasses or a purse or belt, false eyelashes and makeup tattoos, mesh breasts and buttocks, and the list goes on.  Remember, it's a JOURNEY, not something you do once and then it's over.

Enjoy the ride!

Friday, January 2, 2015

FLASH! Marketing in Second Life

Here's a quick note and a couple of links for those of you who have, or hope to have, a business in Second Life.

No matter how good your product or service is, no one will buy it if they don't know about it...so marketing is a key factor in your success.

Here's a great blog post about some ways to get the word out.  Brandy is writing mainly for those advertising a music event, but her advice is appropriate for just about anyone.  http://brandymaltas.blogspot.com/2015/01/marketing-for-second-life-venues.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FMgMbfc+%28Brandy%27s+Journey%29

And here is an archived discussion thread from the old Second Life Forums.  Think of it as a long running roundtable discussion between Second Life business owners!  http://forums-archive.secondlife.com/327/ac/274749/1.html

Those resources should help get your business off to a great start in 2015!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dead and Gone

Last night, I dreamed that I was dead. Not dead-dead...but in my dream, everyone THOUGHT I was dead.  Including the government.  And including Linden Lab and Second Life.

My savings were gone.  My accounts were closed.  My credit cards were canceled.  My Social Security checks stopped coming (well, they haven't STARTED coming yet...maybe this dream was set in the future!)  No one would talk to me except for one lawyer, who advised me that rather than trying, probably unsuccessfully, to get the world to admit I was still alive, I should pretend amnesia, throw myself on public assistance, and start a new life as someone else.

As if being dead in Real Life wasn't enough of a problem, I had some real problems in Second Life too.  I own a sizable chunk of Mainland, and I have a sizable store of $L  I have tenants who pay me rent every month.  Not to mention my various jobs and duties and commitments, and my 50,000 item inventory.  That money was about to vanish into thin air, and that land was going to be reclaimed by Governor Linden if I couldn't do something about it.

As scary as this scenario is, it could actually happen, except for the still being alive to experience the frustration part of it.  In fact, someday it WILL happen, it's inevitable.  Only the specific date is uncertain.  Any of us can die at any time.  It will happen to me, and it will happen to you.

So...have you made plans for it?  Any lawyer can help you draw up a will, or you can even do one yourself that will (probably) hold up in court, using the helpful resources of the Internet.  You should do that, and you should also write down a list of all your bank accounts, investments, credit cards, pension plans, mortgages and debts, insurance policies and last year's tax returns.  YOU know how to find all this stuff, maybe with a little digging through the files.  But will your heirs know?  Write it down!!  Current contact information for all your relatives and close friends will be a big help to them, too.

But planning for what will happen to your virtual life when your real one ends presents some unusual challenges.

Linden Lab will do nothing with your account, until one of two things occurs:
  1. Your payment method becomes invalid through expiration or cacellation, and they can't collect your tier and other bills.  Then they will simply terminate your account and confiscate your land.  
  2. They are contacted, in writing, by your executor who proves she is authorized to settle your estate with copies of your death certificate and her power of attorney.
Here's what I recommend:  Talk to someone you know in Real Life who understands Second Life and how it works, or at least understands computers and the internet.  This could be your computer-savvy teenager, your spouse, or a close and trusted friend.  Tell them where they can find your Final Instructions.

Then write down those final instructions, and store them somewhere safe.  Include your account names and passwords, your payment method and the password or PIN number for it.  State what you want done with your land and your transferable inventory, which of your friends you want notified, and so on.  If your Trusted Person is unfamiliar with SL, either include links to guides for the newcomer such as Linden Lab's "Quick Start Guide" or the name of a helpful friend in world.

Be sure and review your Final Plans, both RL and SL, at least once a year and update them as needed.

Maybe you have, shall we say, a tricky personal situation...your wife is your executor in Real Life, and you have a Second Life partner too...that you never got around to telling your wife about.  I will leave how to plan for your demise in this scenario as an exercise for the student.  But you know what?  Maybe you should just let LL terminate your account.