Monday, November 23, 2009

An Explanation of metaLIFE's Fee Structure

Since this issue confuses a lot of people, I'll take the time to explain it for everyone.

Primary Affiliate: This is ignored when you are selling your own items from a vendor. However, when you are selling someone else's items through your vendor, this is the percentage of the profits that you keep.

Secondary Affiliate: If you are selling someone else's items from a branded metaVENDOR, then this percentage goes to the brand owner. If you are selling someone else's items from a metaVENDOR that is not branded, then this percentage is kept by you. If an item of yours is sold from the web site or from the metaHUD, then it goes to the person who referred you.


Just as some examples, I set Primary to 20%, and Secondary is left at the default value: 5%.

  • If someone sells one of my L$500 phones through a branded metaVENDOR, I keep a total of 70%, or L$350. 10% goes to metaLIFE, 20% goes to the seller, 5% is kept by me, and then the remainder is kept by me.
  • If someone sells one of my phones through a metaVENDOR set to sell "All Content", I keep a total of 65%, or L$325. 10% goes to metaLIFE, 20% goes to the seller, 5% goes to the owner again, and then the rest goes to me.
  • If someone buys one of my phones though the website or the metaHUD, 10% goes to metaLIFE, 5% goes to the person who referred the buyer, and the rest is kept by me.
  • If I'm selling my phones through my own metaVENDORs... I keep 100%

UPDATE (11/26/2009):
The Fee Structure has been changed today! Now, there are NO commission fees on sales from the website or the metaHUD. The only fee associated with them is the 5% referral fee. If you have no referrer, then it's no fees, period!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

metaLIFE's Single Object Vendor

Today, I told Pauly Richez of metaLIFE about a feature I wanted: single-prim vendors networked through metaLIFE. I prefer selling items through single prims on a wall, rather than through a multi-panel vendor. It lets multiple people browse my shop without waiting for someone to stop using a vendor. But, when you update your products, updating multiple single prim vendors is a hassle, especially when you have multiple shops. So, I suggested this to Pauly Richez.

metaLIFE already has it. It's a single prim vendor. First, you rez it and grant debit permissions. Then, you select "My Content" from the menu. Then, you click navigate, and use the menu there to find your item. Or, if you're selling a lot of items, you press "Search" and enter your product's name into the vendor. Then, you're done!

Using this system, one can quickly set up shops that are easy for shoppers to browse, instead of waiting for one user to finish up with a multi-panel vendor. I intend to use this feature extensively. It is MUCH nicer to look at than a multipanel vendor, more eye-catching to shoppers, and I get more sales too!

Way to go, metaLIFE team!

XStreetSL and Linden Lab's Epic Failure

I remember when I started a year ago in the SL Exchange, or SLX. It was a great concept for me: amazon+ebay for second life. I started using it, and I was making plenty of sales. Then, it's name changed to XStreetSL. Sorta interesting. I also started using the alternative marketplace, OnRez.

That was before 2009. Starting in January, XStreetSL and OnRez were both bought out by Linden Lab. XStreetSL became a Linden Lab product, and OnRez was shut down. Several merchants backed out when this happened, expecting Linden Lab to ruin it despite their promises for increased sales. How did that turn out for me? A huge drop in sales. Now, any time I get a sale in xstreet, I'm genuinly surprised.

In August, I was introduced to metaLIFE, an alternative to XStreetSL that had many features which reminded me of OnRez, such as in-world vendors. It also features an affiliate program, which is something I had been looking for after a long time. Since I've started, my metaLIFE sales have been at least twice what I earned in xstreet.

So, we come to today, with two announcements from Linden Lab. First, they're shutting down the mentors group. And second, they are adding listing fees to XStreetSL. Both decisions are too stupid to be real for me, and it took a while for it to sink in. L99 a month for freebies, L10 a month for non-free items, and a minimum L3 comission.

Just another scheme to line their pockets at the expense of consumers and consumer confidence. Smaller merchants are now leaving XStreetSL, as well as any merchants who cannot afford the listing fees for their products. I myself would be paying well over L$1000 for it, which just isn't viable for me. I've made a bit over L$4000 in xstreet since June 1st. So, 4k spread over 6 months just isn't viable. I make at least twice that in metaLIFE, but with the increased costs of operating in XStreetSL, it's just not worth it.

I've abandoned the xstreet platform. I'll be doing all my sales from now on in metaLIFE and through in-world vending. And if Linden Lab decides to make ecommerce sites like metaLIFE illegal (and they somehow evade antitrust prosecution from the US Justice Department), then I'll just switch to affiliate vending instead of online vending.

So, for now, goodbye, XStreetSL. I've tossed my xstreet magic box into the garbage disposal.



PS: A token of my esteem (or lack therof) for XStreetSL:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

California's Proposed Ban on Divorce

Short blog post, but posting it here because it's too long for twitter. Okay, this morning I read about some California politicians who want to ban divorces on the grounds of "protecting the sanctity of marriage". All I have to say to that is this: If a couple is divorcing their marriage, then there is a *VERY* good chance that their marriage did not have any sanctity in it.

Where's the sanctity in a marriage where there one spouse is cheating? Where's the sanctity when husband and wife are swingers? Where's the sanctity if there's no loyalty? Where's the sanctity if there's no love? Where's the sancity when one spouse is abusing the other, or their children? Can anybody answer that?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Reducing Your Lag!!!

Here are the contents of a notecard I received in Second Life on how to reduce lag. Credit goes to Dave Carmichael for collectingt his information!

REDUCING LAG:

Find yourself jittering around when you walk? Or walking through walls and finding yourself in a whole other place, only to snap back where you were before? It's frustrating, very common, and we all hate it.

WHAT CAUSES LAG?

Could be any number of things. People sometimes complain of lag in bigger stores like Damage, and the biggest reason for it is the number of textures we have to use to show all the great products. We keep scripts minimal here, with few of the features known to take a great burden on the servers (a big cause of a laggy experience). All our textures are 512 pixels or less, and we are constantly looking for ways to reduce the burden on you (for example the walls of the entire store are completely untextured.)

WHAT CAN I DO?

Actually more than you think. One obvious reason for lag is having your draw distance too high. Most of the stuff I'm going to talk about has to do with your graphics settings which you'll find under "preferences" after you click the "custom" checkbox. Let's start there. To make it easy I'll number the things you can do under this graphics tab, assuming you've clicked "custom" for more options.

1. BUMP MAPPING AND SHINY: I have not found much difference with this being set either way.
2. BASIC SHADERS: This CAN cause slower response because it adds features like being able to see things "glow". Still, I would leave this on.
3. ATMOSPHERIC SHADERS: I haven't seen a lot of difference with this, and it has to do with the way light affects your SL experience. I would turn this off only as a last resort.
4. WATER REFLECTIONS: A beautiful effect, but if you can live without it, turn it off. It is a bit of a burden on your graphics card.
5. AVATAR IMPOSTORS: This is actually a lag reliever. It causes avatars to draw more simply when there are a lot of them and they are at a distance. Turn this ON.
6. DRAW DISTANCE: I know it's cool to see things that are farther away, but having this too high IS THE SINGLE BIGGEST CAUSE OF LAG. Turn it way down. I have mine at 64m.
7. MAX. PARTICLE COUNT: Again, particles are a huge part of the SL experience, but if you want a big speed boost, turn this way down, or right off if you can bear not seeing poofers and flames and things. (Make sure you go down under our dock and see the cool fish before you do this though ;)
8. POST PROCESS QUALITY: I have mine on high without much detriment to my experience. Experiment with this one, I honestly don't really have a good grip on how it affects things.
9: MESH DETAIL - This is a set of six different sliders that change how detailed things are in SL. Make them all as low as you can stand. Adjust them and look around then decide how low you can stand it without hurting your experience.
10: LIGHTING DETAIL: I can't stand having this one set to sun and moon only, but if you can, click it. I don't notice much difference myself.

There are other options on this screen but mine are grayed out, like hardware skinning and avatar cloth. Chances are if you can see these options you have a better processor or graphics card than me.

11. HARDWARE OPTIONS: This is a button most people don't notice. Click it and it brings up a new window. Here's what I have mine set at:
*Anisotropic Filtering: off
*Antialiasing: Turn it off, but if you want to take awesome photos, try turning it on only then. (it makes edges less jaggy)
*Gamma: Doesn't matter and mine's greyed out anyway.
*Enable VBO (vertex buffer objects): I leave mine on without any apparent performance hit, but try it off and see what happens. Could be that makes it worse depending on your graphics card.
*Texture Memory -** a big one**. If you have this set too high it is going to slow your experience down BIG time. I have mine set at 96.
*Fog distance ratio: Doesn't matter.

Okay hit OK and let's move on to "NETWORK"

The network tab is just two above the Graphics Tab where we've been doing all this. Click it and we'll mess with these settings.

MAXIMUM BANDWIDTH: From what I understand this tells how big the chunks of data can be that your computer is asking for from the server. The instinct is to have this maxed out. Right? Wrong. Put it below 500 and you'll see a huge performace boost.

DISK CACHE SIZE: I would set this at 500 MB, and just clear it evey once in a while. This is what I do now and i think it's the right choice. A huge Cache just seems to slow things down.

OK let's move to the AUDIO and VIDEO tab.

None of these settings matter except the "play streaming media". Click this off and your machine won't always be trying to play movies when you enter a sim. If you're like me, however, you'll want to keep "play streaming music" on. I like the toonz.

NEXT: let's hit the INPUT AND CAMERA tab.

Not much here, but there are a couple things that bring me a snappier experience. "Camera Transition Time" and "Camera Smoothing". If you have this at anything other than zero, your viewer will put a cinematic damper on your view as you pan around. This is just adding more burden on the system, and I just have it off, even though it can look cool. Put em at zero.

The only other thing to change is under the VOICE CHAT tab. Unless you actually do any chatting in voice, turn this off. It loads a whole other program that takes up both system resources and internet bandwidth.

Next let's talk about a few things you can do with your avatar.

AVATAR ATTACHMENTS

If you want to do not only yourself a favour, but all others around you, remove anything that has a script from your avatar. The reason I say this is there are quite a few scripts that have special instructions to pull information from the server. Everytime a function like this is called it lags the whole sim, not just you. Like what?

RADAR: this is a big cause of lag. Take it off or just sleep it.
BLING: If you are wearing jewelery, make sure it's no-bling. Shoes also. Why? Two reasons. The particles it uses to make the bling use up resources, AND most bling scripts have a voice command to turn them on and off. This is called a "Listen" command, and it is a huge burden on the servers. Take off the bling.
FLEXI: Do you love flexi? Me too. However it causes lag. If you are wearing a big ol 1000 prim flexi hairdo, with a robe and flowing wings with particles, please reconsider your wardrobe. It lags not just you but the whole sim. If you're curious about how much your avatar is a burden on the system go to the Advanced menu (CTRL-ALT-D to make it show up) and go to ADVANCED--> INFO DISPLAYS --> AVATAR RENDERING COST. You will then see a little number above your head. Note its color. A green color is good. The redder it is the more of a terrible citizen you are ;). For example just try taking off your hair and see how that affects this number.
GESTURES: Every time you do a gesture with a sound, it forces everybody around you to download your sounds and animations whether they can hear it or not. Do everybody a favour and go easy on the gestures.

I hope these changes improve your experience in Second Life and that you enjoy your shop at Damage.

Very sincerely,
Dave Carmichael
Creator of Damage


In addition to the above, there's two additional things you can do in the advanced menu:
* Advanced->Rendering->Run Multiple Threads, which yeilds better performance on multicore systems
* Advanced->Rendering->Fast Alpha, which reduces the transparency of distant alpha textures from 256 levels of transparency to 2 levels of transparency, which can yield a noticeable performance increase on older systems. One of my friends got lagged whenever she tried to type out a message. Enabling this option removed that lag.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hints & Tips for New SL Merchants - Part One

I've been in business for over a year now within Second Life, and lately I've been doing more work to improve and promote my business. I've learned a number of things from both strangers and friends that have help to improve sales, and some things to watch out for. I'm recording this information here in a series of blog posts to aid new merchants trying to get their business off the ground.

Part One: Product Signs
This is one of the first ones you need to get under wraps when you start your business. When a potential customer comes to your shop, mall space, or is browsing on xstreet, the first thing they see is the image you put on your item or product listing. Take, for example, the image below:


It's just a snapshot of a bomb resting on sculpted rock with a low-resolution rock texture. When a person is browsing in a shop, they just think "oh, a bomb". Would they guess that this is a tip jar which self-destructs when tipped? No, not unless they have a clue as to what it is. So, you may be tempted to use hovertext scripts. This, however, is not recommended, because it forces you to use up more space in your store, and the text shows through walls, which makes things look ugly and may make your neighbors angry. Some malls forbid you from using hovertext, so that makes things more difficult.

Which leads us to the right way to do it: take a snapshot of your product against a solid background, save the image to your hard drive, and open it up in GIMP, Photoshop, or whatever your preferred image manipulation program is, and work on it. Put a label on it, list the price, set the perms, and quickly state or list the products features. Make sure the arrangement is nice, and pick out a good font. So, you'll go from the vague snapshot above to the sign below:


This is a good example of a product sign. Customers will know what it is and what they're getting. The font I used is thematically appropriate to what is being sold. The permissions are listed as well. The product allows copying and modifying, and this is shown by displaying those words in medium green. However, it does not allow you transfer copies to other users, so it is marked "No-Transfer". The text is in a slightly dark red, and the text size is reduced. As well, the text is large enough to be readable when reduced in size:

Making the sign readable at smaller sizes is a good idea for a number of things. When the image texture is rezzing slowly in-world, it helps that it can be readable before being fully loaded. And believe me, this will come up quite frequently, especially on weekends or lagged sims. As well, readability at small sizes improves the sign's readability from distances, or when it's on a small prim used in a scripted vendor. Lastly, it's good for when you use the sign for product listings on xstreet, as they are reduced in size in lists of products and for the product pages as well.

Notice that I did not use "Lime Green", or RGB 0, 255, 0. It is lazy and easily spotted. That, and lime green can be difficult to read against bright backgrounds. As well, I did not use "Red", or RGB 255,0,0. Using it isn't as bad as lime green, as it is readable against bright backgrounds, but darkening it slightly improves readability, and improves the overall appearance.