Saturday, April 12, 2008

Reflections on a Second Life®: Part 1

The last few posts I have made have been a little negative (aside from the posts related to the land biz - which, of course, are all business - hehe). The last few weeks have been pretty emotional - I have been holding on to a lot of thoughts and feelings about SL - and have been having that familiar cringing feeling when I look at the Second Life icon on my desktop - a feeling in my gut that makes me want to do ANYTHING rather than log onto SL. I get like that sometimes, when I start feeling SL pressure in RL. I suppose it is fortunate, therefore, that SL has been totally borked! lmfao. i have had serious issues with the new viewer and my video card to the point where I couldn't log in at all. But that is all resolved now - so I no longer have any excuses! There are a few parcels that need renting! A few rent boxes that need fixing! And about 100 IM's that need answering! lol

In the flurry if activity recently - I almost forgot that I passed a milestone in March - my second rezday was (I think...) on March 18 - marking two years in SL. I had some time recently to think back on the two years I have been on SL, and took a look through some old chat logs and messages from "back in the day". It has been quite a ride! I should warn you that I make some pretty frank and honest admissions in this blog. I suspect that they will make some people think less of me. /me shrugs. I am who I am - whether i tell YOU about it or not... lol Keeping it to myself doesn't change anything. I should also warn you that it is waaayyy long. My apologies. As Mark Twain once said, "I would have made it shorter, but I didn't have enough time."

When I first started SL - on my first day - I met some wonderful people - a RL friend of mine (thRob Heart in SL) had been on for a few months, and showed me the "game" one day - and brought me into his little circle of friends - TLC Heart is the one I remember best, the crew from Nude West, and Victor Suntzu (who I still call "suga daddy" - hehehe). They were so amazing - gave of their time, and Lindens for that matter - trying to un-noob me and show me the ropes quickly. I took to Second Life instantly - I was simply awed at the potential and the exciting new things I was learning every day. Having tried a bunch of other worlds/games (IMVU, There, Active Worlds, Socio, WoW), SL was by far and away the best for me. Of course, at the beginning, I didn't really know how to do anything - lol - so I went to a few clubs that they had shown me, or I found myself - I still remember Topless Tuesdays at Nude West and going to the Angry Ant ALL the time because i just loved the music there! wooooooot!! HOoooooooowwwWLL!! I was in awe of Sarah Nerd - she didn't know who I was of course - but I thought she was the essence of SL cool, and ended up being one of my role models (unbeknownst to her) when I got into the land biz - but more on that later... I loved the dancing animations and gestures (Me so horny!), the chat flying back and forth - it was a free and fun time for sure and I got totally addicted to SL within about 2 days.

On my second day there - I met a wonderful woman named Anna Andalso - who remains to this day about my best friend in SL - even though i know I don't really have time to be a good friend these days (sorry, kitten...). Anna was sweet, and clever, and shocked me utterly when she asked me to be her "Mistress" on about day 3 in SL. Of course, I had only a really vague notion of what this meant - the farthest I had ever gone with pain/bondage in RL was little melted wax and some handcuffs - hahaha. But I was intrigued at the idea - and of course did what i always did - I researched it! I learned a lot about Dom/sub, BDSM, and power transfer and all that and decided it might be fun to try! So, Anna became my kitten (=^.^=) and we had a great time. It didn't last too long, because we decided to partner a few weeks later - and I wasn't really very good at it - but it was a blast! After that, Anna and I were together for about 9 months, all in all, before we decided to go our own ways - but we have always remained close and she is one of the very few people in SL that I trust utterly. Of course, as with any relationship that ends - it was bittersweet - but it was a wonderful time, and holds some of my dearest SL memories.

I said that I loved dancing and chatting in clubs when I first started - which is true - I loved it for about two weeks! Then, I started to look around for something to DO in SL. I tend to get bored easily... At about this time - I also discovered the wonderful world of.... SLex! I think I was fully outfitted with XCite bits within a week.

I have a confession to make. I totally LOVED cybering in Second Life back then! hahaha I immersed myself in it!! Truth be told - I was quite the little hussy. By nature, I am a pretty free spirit to begin with - and am willing to try just about anything. This was great - I could explore things that I didn't have the courage or the stomach (or simply the physical ability!) to try in RL, without any of the risks! So, ok, I admit it - the first few months I was in Second Life - I was a horny bitch! hahaha. (Apologies to all my shareholders that have always thought of me as the essence of professionalism - ahem). It seems a bit funny (as in odd, and possibly a bit pathetic...) looking back on it, but at the time, SL was simply electric for me - I was in a constant state of, ermm, being "aware of myself". Not that I threw myself at anyone I met (that came later - see below - lmfao), but once I did hook up with someone, I was... intense about it. hahaha.

Well, it was only natural that I became an escort. 0,o I have to admit, I did it because it really turned me on to be cybering with strangers and noobs - lol - maybe that's a bit weird - but true nonetheless! I had never thought of SL as a way to make money - it was just fun! I had some success at it, I think because i was totally into it! But, you can only titillate so many noobs before the excitement fades - and it didn't take too long before the initial electricity was gone. When Anna said that she wanted to start an agency - i thought that it would be even better to be helping run the whorehouse than WORKING in it - lol. So she set up "Grade A Escorts", and I helped her out, and we hired quite a few girls, and to make a long story short - we did pretty well at it. I made enough money to buy my first piece of land pretty quickly - and every couple of weeks, I would pick up another 1024 parcel. I remember the excitement I felt every time i would click that "Buy" button, and the amazing feeling of standing on a new parcel of land that I owned - it was almost as good as the sex. hehe.

Not everything was all rosy and wonderful of course - we all know that Second Life is like a lens that can magnify DRAMA! Not knowing any better, I got involved in a few pretty dramatic situations. The one I remember best is meeting and befriending a hot and saucy woman that had a club on the next sim over. We started doing some business together - we ran a mall with a few other people, and we became good friends really quickly. but the day came when she seemed to change - her behaviour was odd, had become manipulative and, frankly, mean. I couldn't figure it out, until it came out that in RL, her husband and she had split up, and he had taken over control of her avatar in SL! OMG, the things I told him not realizing - lol... Well, it was a lot more complicated than that, to be honest, and actually it was a pretty painful experience. But I think we all have to have those in SL to really appreciate the full gamut of the SL experience. I figure that anyone who has never had their heart broken in SL, is just not playing it right!

My greatest moment of shame in SL came during this time as well. We all do things that we are ashamed of - I am no different. But i made myself a promise that I would not impose ANY restrictions on myself in SL - that I would experience it to its fullest without the hangups and taboos that I had in RL. Usually, this was fine - I had some clients as an escort that wanted to be humiliated or degraded or have really nasty things done to them, and although that isn't my thing at all, I always tried to role-play it as best I could. Well, one day, a quiet man stopped into Grade A. I was the only one around, and asked me to come over to his place for a bit of fun. We talked for a while, and he was a smart, intelligent guy. But eventually, he got to the heart of the matter - he asked me if I would do "anything", and given my promise to myself, I of course said yes! Well, he asked me if I would be willing to roleplay being his daughter, and have sex with him. I was disturbed of course, but (and this is the shameful part) I agreed to do it - I put on a teenage avatar (he wanted me to pretend to be 8, but even I couldn't stomach that) and tried my best to get into the role. At the time, I convinced myself that if he could find an outlet for his sick desires in SL, then maybe he would not have to submit to them in RL. Now, that seems like a lame rationalization. Afterward, I felt awful - dirty and foul. In fact, it was the last time I ever worked as an escort. To this day, I am deeply ashamed when I think about that, and it is something I wish I had never done.

However... To continue... My love affair with land had started early - I got a parcel of First Land about two weeks into SL - on a sim called Danmu - a couple parcels over from another new resident that was to become (and remains) another close friend - Erik Goff who has about 100 business going in SL these days! I still own a 512 parcel on Danmu. The next sim over was a new sim called Muk, and all of the land was for sale by someone named Anshe Chung - who I had never heard of - but whenever I had the money and knew I could cover the tier - i would buy another plot next to the ones I already had - until I had purchased most of the sim! In fact, Erik still has his head office there now - and the last remnants of the first club/casino that we set up there called The Money Helix - which i was only involved in at the very beginning, but is still going strong two years later! Erik now owns the whole sim, and I still go back there occasionally just to remember what it used to look like.

When Anna and I decided to stop doing the escorting thing, I had quite a bit of land. We had designed and built some apartments for the girls (my first real build!),and in fact I had started renting out space for stores, we had a little mall going - and all in all I had quite a bit of land. I had got involved in running a couple of other malls as well by this time, but the time came to sell off the land I had bought for the escort service, and a strange thing happened. I made a profit. A good one! And the people that were renting the land wanted me to keep being their landlord! So, I started looking around and educating myself about the land biz and started buying up cheap plots (before the advent of the landbots - this was still possible - lol) and turning them over for a profit. Well - i was hooked! I seemed to have a knack for buying and selling land, or for renting it - and i totally loved meeting all of the people that wanted a spot to call home, or to put their business, or whatever. Many of the people that I rented to back in the beginning are either still renters on one of the Estates, or have become friends. Or both! I still think i know all of my tenants now - even though there are probably 150 of them - lol - it is my favorite part of the land biz - meeting them - watching what they create - sharing in a small way in their SL lives. Although I have less time to be sociable than I used to - it is still one of my greatest pleasures - the excitement that people have when they have their own piece of land to call home reminds me of my own excitement buying those 1024 plots in the beginning. And the amazing things that they do with it! I have watched clubs, malls, art galleries, zoos, gorgeous homes (and hideous ones...), sex clubs, gardens & parks, chapels, casinos, military camps, volcanoes, and whole themed medieval kingdoms spring up out of a flat patch of virtual ground - and it has been a wonder to see.

This time in my Second Life was.... intense! As with anything new - there was a wonder and excitement - the highs were high and the lows were low. I always tell people that to enjoy SL, you need to throw yourself into it. Jump off the cliff without looking at how far below the ground is. Don't forget, in Second Life - you can fly! Especially if you immerse yourself in it and allow yourself to experience, and to feel, and to experiment. Find out what you love - or who you love - and DO IT (or them - lol). Learn to build - learn to script - learn to run a business - learn to put yourself out there, and don't be held back by feeling silly that this is only a game. It's not a game at all.

Well, that's it for the first six months or so of my ongoing SL journey. If I feel inspired, i will write a Part 2! Not sure if this will be of interest to anyone - it's more cathartic for me to write it that anything - but as always, i would be interested in your experiences, or in how any of this made you feel. Or whatever. *grin*


Monday, April 7, 2008

Changes in Island Pricing

For a long time now, i have often talked about potential policy changes at Linden Labs having an impact on the value of DDE's land holdings.

LL has just released this announcement on their Blog.

So, basically, in one fell swoop, the net asset value of DDE has dropped by about 40% - Islands that cost DDE $1675 USD each to buy, could now not even be sold for $1,000USD each. So, obviously, any future plans of DDE to liquidate assets in order to wind down the business are going to have to be rethought.

Yesterday, I would have valued the total estate holdings of DDE at about $42,000 USD. Today, they are worth about $25,000.

I just read the blog post moments ago - and frankly, on the heels of all the events over the last month or so with DDE, I am at a loss.

On the positive side, at this point the tier levels are remaining the same, so the ongoing operations - the revenue and expenses of renting the land - will remain unchanged and DDE will continue to make the same profits as before each month.

However, i will need to rethink the strategy I have in place for the future of DDE - it no longer makes any sense to rush into winding down the business - the logical next step MIGHT be to do some "dollar cost averaging" and in fact to start contemplating further expansion - to reduce the average cost of each sim in DDE, thereby improving the profitability and bringing the cost of overall assets lower per unit. At any rate, it is important that shareholders know what is going on.

To repeat - this does not affect the overall monthly revenue and profit projections for DDE - it just makes the company worth significantly less.


As always, thoughts and comments are appreciated.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

SIM Joint Venture is ending

The successful Joint Venture between DDE and Sienkiewicz Investment Management (SIM on the WSE) is going to be winding down over the next little while. Pablo Sienkiewicz and I ran three sims together (actually two full sims and 4 openspaces), and all were profitable. Pablo and I have decided to end the joint venture. We have "swapped" two of the sims, each taking ownership of one, and SIM will buy out the remaining interest in the last sim in the coming weeks. As part of this overall deal - I will be transferring my shares in SIM to Pablo, and a request to that effect has been sent to the WSE.

In addition, I will no longer have a position on the Board of SIM.

I want to thank Pablo and SIM for the opportunity, and for working with DDE to develop a successful partnership, out of which both companies profited. I want to make it clear that the dissolution of this partnership is in no way a negative comment on SIM. SIM is a profitable and well-run company, and I wish Pablo the best of luck and success. Our companies are simply moving in different directions now, and with DDE's delisting from the WSE, this seemed the best course of action.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Financial Sector in SL™ - sigh

The following is a slightly moddified version of a post I made on the SL Exchange Forums this morning... It's not very positive - but it is from the heart. lol I was commenting on a post about the stock exchanges, and was reflecting on the whole "financial sector" of SL.

The whole series of financial fiascoes in SL in the last year are all predicated on one thing. Greed.

Self-appointed bigshots and experts have fueled the greed by promising big returns only to disappear into thin air. Investors, with dollar signs in their eyes - were eager to believe the lines that they were being fed, while the scammers rubbed their hands in glee at the investors' gullibility. People invested their money, expecting to make easy returns on a house of cards, ponzi scheme, or fly-by-night "investment fund".

Worse than that, individuals with no skills or credentials convinced thousands of others to invest millions of Lindens, all with the promise of huge returns - followed by the inevitable failure of the business, because the person running it was a 19 year old high school drop out who knew nothing except how to spin a good line.

Now - sure there are honest people in the SL financial world, and it isn't fair to throw everyone under the bus because of the actions of some. It isn't fair, but it is totally understandable. And some of the honest fund operators have found themselves turfed and missing a large chunk of their assets.

To say that I have become disillusioned about the whole "financial sector" in SL would be an understatement. I got involved in the WSE early on, to learn, to have fun, and to take on the challenge of running a virtual company, to see if I could make it profitable. maybe I got caught up in the greed as well - i certainly raised a lot of Lindens to expand the business and was able to go from a small land company to a much bigger one using other people's money. I saw an opportunity to grow much faster than I could do alone, and I took it. I was full of pride at how many people were willing to throw their Lindens at me - and I started to think of myself as a "CEO" - a bigshot! Hell, I must be - lookit all these people that think I am so amazing and want to give me their money! But I always worked hard to learn what i had to learn and do what i had to do.

In my naiveté, I thought that everyone was doing it in good faith, and I took on the responsibility of accepting other peoples' money in trust to grow the business. It is a responsibility that i took, and take, seriously. I have tried to be fair and honest when I have done anything in SL, from the beginning to now. It's up to others to decide if I have succeeded or not. But I almost fell into that terrible trap of greed and pride - and I started to believe my own press!

Meanwhile, I watched other business owners cut and run with the money they raised, and was infuriated. Watching the back room deals, and the dishonesty, and the chest-thumping and posturing, made me both laugh and cry at the same time. This wasn't a WSE phenomenon - it was everywhere in SL - the banks, the ponzis, the funds. gah.

As an investor in the WSE, quite aside from my own business, I have been betrayed by people I considered friends, starting back with Montana Ryder, who ran off last summer. Next was Kejo Merlin, who bolted in the fall with thousands of dollars of other peoples' money, including a substantial amount of mine. There have been others since - with my investments vanishing in a puff of smoke. I am left with a pantload of WTF shares, and an aching heart when I think about the betrayal. The worst part about it is that I wasn't even investing in them to make money - I believed in them and wanted to see them succeed, and I thought they were dynamic, ethical people that would make good on their promises. I am a sucker that way.

I have always been one of the most vocal supporters of the WSE - I felt a sense of loyalty to the organization that made it possible for my little land business to have whatever success it has had. I have always wanted to try to assure people that there ARE honest people that are involved in the exchanges - lots of them. I wanted to see the WSE succeed.

And when the WSE reopens (which it will), I still really hope it succeeds, because there are still some good honest people that are involved there, that just want to make something out of their ideas and hard work. not everyone to be sure, but many. They don't deserve to be cast aside.

But I won't be one of the people on the WSE train - now that I have delisted the company and have decided to manage all of the investors personally. This was done as a matter of conscience, in light of my own beliefs and plans for the future. I could have stayed on the WSE and probably done really well. But I couldn't.

I will continue to run the business in order to make sure that anyone who gave me their money during my time at WSE gets it back, with a healthy profit. But the magic has gone out of it - it's not as much fun any more. Swimming against the current is tiring. Sticking to your principles, when many around you are abandoning theirs, is tiring. It makes you feel stupid - like a sucker. When my responsibilities are discharged, I might wind it all down, and do something else entirely - idk. At this point I am just enjoying the freedom of being in control again - being able to work directly with my shareholders to figure out how to proceed.

I guess I just sound like a whiny bitch at this point - I know that I have nobody to blame but myself for my disillusionment, and that whatever I have done, I have done with eyes wide open. And in the end, I have been successful, have had a great time, most of the time, and really have no reason to complain. But the greed and avarice of many of the people that have coopted the financial scene in SL is disheartening, and they have made it hard for me to trust anyone at all. I am not slamming any of the exchanges - I don't know much about them other than WSE. But I have decided to trust the one person that I know I can rely on. Me.

Comments appreciated...