Friday, December 1, 2017

Can You be Raped in Second Life?

Every now and again, this question comes up.  For example, there's a thread with exactly that title on the SL Answers forum, Can You be Raped in Second Life .

In a similar vein, another resident started a very long forum debate about whether LL should continue to allow very violent and explicit activities.  She was specifically concerned about a group whose purpose is to roleplay "snuff" sex, scenarios in which a victim is slowly killed during the act of sex.

There are a number of very dark scenarios that can be played out in SL.  Slavery, rape, murder, kidnapping and torture, involuntary body alteration, even Dolcett (an innocuous term for the rather horrid practice of sexual cannibalism.) 

But the only form of kink that LL explicitly forbids is "sexual ageplay," situations in which an adult avatar has cyber sex with a child avatar, or an avatar with a childlike appearance and manner.

There are two schools of thought in any debate on these matters.  One school says, "It's only pixels on a screen.  It's roleplay.  People can use it to explore their darker sides without harming anyone, so maybe it's even beneficial."  In short, they are on the side of maximum freedom of expression for everyone.

The other school of thought says, "It's like a gateway drug.  Repeated exposure to horrors makes us indifferent, when we should be outraged.  Those who indulge in such things on screen may go on to commit actual crimes in Real Life."  They are in favor of establishing some sort of moral code, and not permitting behavior that violates those moral principles.

Early in my Second Life, I was "raped."  I had just discovered how to edit attachments, and I was standing on a pose stand in a public location, making some tweaks to my jewelry.  Suddenly, another avatar jumped on my back and started humping me, all the while whispering filthy statements in my ear.  I was paralyzed with fright...what was going on!?  After a short time, he jumped off and disappeared.  I finally remembered to log off, and I shook for what seemed like about an hour afterwards.  Of course, it was only pixels on a screen.  There was no physical harm done.  Nevertheless, I felt violated.  I felt shame, and helpless anger.

Whether or not you see a situation as "just pixels on a screen" or it arouses deep feelings in you depends on your sense of "immersion."  Immersion is the term we use to describe the feeling that many people get in virtual worlds like SL, a sense that you are really there, that you ARE your avatar.  Gamers, for example, while they may be intensely concentrating on game play, are generally not immersed.  If their character "dies," they don't feel devastated...just a bit frustrated at the need to go back and re-do that level again.  On the other hand, when I was "raped" I was immersed.  It produced a real reaction...not as strong as if I had been raped in Real Life, but still.

Experienced Second Life residents develop an ability to turn this sense of immersion on or off at will.  If they are in a romantic situation with a partner, immersion is good; in fact, it's the thing that makes cyber-sex so popular.  If they're dealing with a griefer attack, they un-immerse; they stand back a bit emotionally and deal with the situation.

So a sense, you CAN be raped in Second Life.  You can be affected emotionally by things that happen to you in a virtual world, at least until you develop the ability to separate yourself, to step away from what is happening and remember that "you" are not really there, you're sitting behind your monitor in your room.

Does that mean that we should prohibit rape roleplay, or any of the other kinks I mentioned at the start of this post?  I don't have the answer to that.  It must be one which we, as a society, reach by consensus.  Generally, I am in favor of the most freedom for the greatest number of people, so I would probably say, "no, we should allow it" even if some of those activities disgust me.  But those who argue that such things desensitize us, or make it more likely the participants will go on to even worse things also may have a point.  The most I can say now is, if everyone would work harder on developing their own better natures and wrestling their own inner demons into submission, we'd all probably be better off.

Friday, November 24, 2017

We Love Your Comments!

I love getting comments on my posts, I really do.  It assures me that somebody out there is actually listening.  Unfortunately, when I made the blog open for comments from everyone, I got a LOT of spam comments.  For that reason, I have limited comments to people who actually Follow this blog. 

That doesn't mean I don't want to hear from you!  Please Follow me, and feel free to leave me a comment.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Another long-standing problem fixed

For many years now, people have complained about the Transaction History feature of Second Life.  The complaint usually takes the form of, "I bought something a couple of months ago and I need to provide proof of purchase to the creator.  But my Transaction History only goes back 30!"

But there is no help in this situation.  Your Marketplace History goes back all the way to your very first Marketplace purchase...but unless you are in the habit of saving your Transaction History as a spreadsheet every month, there was no way to get information on your transactions in world further back than a month.

Until now, that is.  Linden Lab has recently increased the amount of data stored in your Transaction History to THREE months.  Now you can review up to 90 days' worth of data!  However, this only applies if you are a Premium member.  Basic members continue to be limited to 30 days.

If you run a Second Life business, or are just the anal retentive type, you will still want to download and save your transaction data...but at least now you only have to do it once a quarter!

Kudos to the good folks at Linden Lab for this small but useful improvement.  They keep adding little goodies to a Premium membership.  Many of them are small benefits, but they do add up.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

$L Transaction Fees Go Up...Again.

It seems like only a few months ago, LL raised the fees for buying $L, and for transferring cash out of Second Life to your PayPal account.  But last week, they went up again.

Now it will cost you $0.99 every time you purchase $L.  And the fee for a process credit transaction is no longer capped at $25, but is  2.5% regardless of the size of the transfer.

Linden Lab claims that they are doing this to offset increased expenses related to combating fraud, and I believe them.  The number of people losing control of their accounts due to phishing attacks is rising...due both to the sheer number of attacks, and their increasing sophistication.

It's one more example of how the actions of an unprincipled few hurt all the rest of us.

Here's the link to the official Linden Lab announcement:

It's not all bad news, though.  LL points out that Second Life is continuing to gain new features and new functions.  One is a grid-wide hunt-type game, "Tyrah and the Curse of the Magical Glytches."  And another is the coming advent of "animesh," a new capability that will allow the animation of non-avatar mesh objects.  You can play the Glytches game right now, and I expect animesh to be at least as big a change as Bento. 

There's still a lot of life in Second Life!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The WayBack Machine

Today's post is about a couple of pieces of Second Life history!

The first is what is reputed to be the Oldest Object in Second Life.  "The Man" is a statue constructed of basic prims.  It was created during the initial alpha testing of Second Life (then known as "Linden World") in 2002 by oldjohn Linden.  It survived the destruction of the build that surrounded it, an experimental prototype of a city.

Although it has moved from place to place, it's always been located in the Natoma region, itself one of the oldest Mainland areas of SL.  It currently stands on a grassy hill overlooking the rest of the sim, Philip's Hill.  The name of the hill, of course, refers to SL's creator, Philip Rosedale (Philip Linden in SL.)

The second item for today is also in Natoma, and can be seen from Philip's Hill.  The Ivory Tower Library of Primitives is perhaps the oldest educational/tutorial venue in SL.  Originally created by Lumiere Noir in 2004, the Ivory Tower reminds one of one of those interactive science museums.  As you wander its halls, you encounter a series of self-paced tutorials that teach you all about Second Life's built-in object creation features. 

In 2014, the original build was replaced by a very lovely round tower with oval or arched glass windows and a unique glass dome roof, designed and executed by Avi Arrow.  In keeping with its purpose and history, the new Ivory Tower is constructed entirely of mesh.

The Natoma region contains several other early Second Life builds.  Go there on pilgrimage, young avatar, and marvel at how far we have come!

"The Man" Statue

The Ivory Tower Library of Primitives

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Trade $L Like a Pro

Today's post is a tutorial about a subject that confuses a lot of people...even me!  That subject is currency trading; specifically, how to buy and sell Linden Dollars ($L) to your best advantage.

The $L is the currency of Second Life, and it is bought and sold on the Linden Dollar Exchange, or LindeX.  Like any stock market or currency exchange, the LindeX is a system that brings buyers and sellers together.  You're not buying $L from Linden Lab, you are buying them from some anonymous resident who's offered to sell.  The price of the $L varies up and down, following the laws of supply and demand.

That means that the price for buying $L right this moment is probably NOT going to be the price a few hours from now, or a week from Wednesday.  But we can breathe a sigh of relief, because Linden Lab regulates the market to prevent really huge price swings by trading with their own account, "Currency Linden".  So the $L generally trades in a range from about $L248 = $US1 to $L256 = $US1.  For rough conversion purposes, we can say that you get about $L250 for a buck.

That's good enough for most folks.  If you click the "Buy $L" button in your Second Life viewer, you'll be buying at the current market rate.  Simple and easy.

If you click the Buy $L link on your Dashboard page on the Second Life website, though, you are presented with two choices.

The "Instant Buy" is the same as clicking the Buy $L button in your viewer.  You're buying at the current market price.  Note a couple of details are specifying exactly how many $L you want to buy (2500 in this example).  You are given an "estimated cost" of $9.66.  After adding the fixed transaction fee of $0.40, your total estimate cost is $10.66.  (Note:  This is an old screen grab.  The current transaction fee is $0.60) The cost is estimated, because the market goes up and down.  The price might be slightly different by the time you click the Place Order button.

But it's the other choice, "Best Rate Buy" that we're going to talk about.  It's also the one that gets a lot of people in trouble, because they choose it without knowing what they are doing.  After all, who doesn't want to get the best rate?  For a best rate buy, or Limit buy, you specify the exchange rate you're willing to buy this example, $L269 per dollar.  You also specify the quantity of $L you want, 2500.  After adding in the transaction fee, the total cost is going to be $9.70.  In this case, it's not an estimated cost, because we know the exact exchange rate and amount.

But what we DON'T know is time.  Depending on how much the exchange rate fluctuates, and how many orders have been placed at this rate, it could take hours, or days, or weeks...or even never...for your order to be filled.  LL provides an estimate of how long they think it'll take, but this estimate can be wildly incorrect.

It's pretty clear that we need to know more in order to select the best exchange rate.  We'd like to get a better deal than simply paying the market price, but we don't want to wait until hell freezes over to get it.

Right next to the Buy $L button on your Dashboard is another one, "Manage".  When you click that, you'll get a bunch of further choices.  Click "Market Data".

...and you'll see a page with all sorts of confusing stuff on it!

Let's take a closer look.  The graph at the top left shows a history of the daily exchange rates.  The red bars show the spread between the high and the low for the day, and the blue dots are the average rate for the day.  You can see that in this example, the $L has been trading in a range from 246 - 256 per dollar, with the average price just under 250.  The Volume graph below shows how many $L were bought and sold each day.  The table below shows the same information as the graphs, but in tabular form.

At the top right, you can see more numbers.  I pretty much ignore the "Best Buying Rate" and "Best Selling Rate".  They are the same as the high and low numbers, and while choosing this rate may get you the best deal, as we said before, there's no knowing how long you'd have to wait for it.   But the numbers for "Today's Open" and "Today's Close" can give you an idea of the range you have to work with.

Next, go back to your Dashboard and either click "Buy $L" or click "Manage" again and select Buy.  But when you see those two choices, scroll down the page...and you'll see another table:
You can use this table and compare the volume of open orders at a particular exchange rate with the daily volume figures from the market data.  You can see there are about $L46 million in outstanding Buy orders at $L256 per dollar.  At a daily volume of around $L75 million (at ALL exchange rates) it's going to take a while.  There are fewer orders at higher rates, 257 and up...but these are long shot bets, because the daily fluctuations in price don't encompass those rates.

Now we know a bit about what the market is doing, and what sort of options we have.  Let's do a little experimenting to see what kind of deals we could get.

In the "Instant Buy" window, enter the amount of $L you'd like to buy.  In this example, I'm going to use $L25,000 as our target figure, or about $US100.00.  I recommend you buy as large a quantity as you can afford, because that way the transaction fee becomes a smaller cut of the pie.
I will ALSO choose an exchange rate over in the Best Rate Buy window.  In this case, I picked 255 per dollar.  

Now we can compare our options.  If I do this limit buy, I will wait an estimated time of 10 minutes (I'd give it a few hours, myself), but I'd save $102.23 - $98.64 = $3.59.  If I select higher exchange rates, I'll save more, but I'll wait longer.

Selling $L works exactly the same way, although the windows you see are a bit different:

Enter trial amounts in both the Market Sell and in the Limit Sell windows and compare the results.

Now let's say you made your Limit Buy offer.  Linden Lab will immediately bill your payment method for it, so when they don't immediately get their $L, a lot of people get concerned!  But what happens is that LL places that money in an "escrow" account until either the order is filled or canceled.

If you get tired of waiting for your order to be filled, you can cancel it.  Go to your Dashboard, and click Manage/LindeX Order History, and look in Open Orders.  When you cancel an open order, the money is immediately transferred to your $USD Balance.  You can then use it to place another order at a different exchange rate, or a market buy.

The narrow range in which the $L trades, plus transaction fees from Linden Lab, make currency trading impractical for most people, unless you are trading really huge amounts and are willing to make many tiny profits in hopes they'll add up.  But knowing how to make Limit buys and sells can definitely save you a few bucks!

Two Charitable Causes in Second Life

A very quick post!

Many people in Second Life raise money for worthy causes.  For example, there's the annual grid-wide Relay for Life campaign.  But just recently two events came to my attention that I thought I'd pass on for your consideration.

The first is a shopping fair set up by Second Life creators and the group Models Giving Back, called "Hope After Harvey."  Money raised from sales will be sent to victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana.  There are some rather nice outfits here, too!  If you don't see anything you like, there are handy donation boxes in several places.  Here's the SLURL: Hope After Harvey

The second is actually a series of events.  Spoonful of Sugar is holding their third Fall Festival to support Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders.  The event takes up five sims, with the theme "Fall in New England." There are over 150 SL designers participating, and you'll find fashion, home and garden, and breedables.  Not to mention lots of DJs and performers.  The festival runs from September 16 to October 1.  Get more information and check out the calendar of events here:  Or just teleport to the Festival with this link: The Spoonful of Sugar Fall Festival.