20 August 2007

Patches of Insanity #3: The Price of Poor Hearing

This post was originally going to be big, special, spectacular even, for the SLCC. It seems to have sputtered out before it even began though.

I wonder why... ^^;

PoI Episode 3

Small leap in furry avatar uncanniness - Muzzletalk

Matt Deigan just built this:

Cool stuff, if you can wrangle it. the toolkit from NORTEC LABS is available on SLExchange at http://slexchange.com/modules.php?name=Marketplace&file=item&ItemID=297916

19 August 2007

zomg Bioshock

Apparently, this is causing serious disruptions with Second Life beyond Linden Lab's control:

Bioshock Steam Preload

Under normal circumstances, I would question a claim like this for any other game...

Except for one problem here: Bioshock is System Shock with a new genetically engineered Art Deco flavor.

Bioshock has the world's best water since idiots tried to put infinite planes in Doom and call it water.

Bioshock has a seriously disturbed art design and direction. Even their idea of kawaii goes into the spooky.

Bioshock will do System Shock and unlike the previous two versions, it will be a major hit. I'm going to save you the continued blurb and let you google for it - it's been plastered all over the place repeatedly in recent weeks.

In short, I'm not normally keen on system disruptions... but if it's for dozens of people giving a good game the attention it genuinely deserves, I think I can live with it. Just this weekend.

Seriously, if you're running a modern, over-powered DX9.0+/10 rig and you're only using it for Second Life at the moment, you seriously owe it to yourself to go over and grab a copy even if you're not exactly a FPS junkie by default (the game has ways of playing through that deemphasise twitch if you look carefully enough, though one might question exactly what sort of sacrifices are required)

12 August 2007

Watching Ginko Closely - Tateru Commentary

No sooner had I written the previous post than this article lands up in Second Life Insider.

"Welcome to BarterTown"

Vandeverre is right ... and wrong when he says "have no monetary value". You see, as long as he sticks to first party tokens (W$, in this case) he's right. We're just talking game tokens. However, any interaction with Linden Dollars (L$) or other currencies messes up the statement. -Tateru Nino

Take it away, Tat!

As with any commentary or advice, always think carefully based on your own circumstances as well. I for one do not imagine I will continue to invest in the WSE if this is true, but I'll be asking my accountant for a second opinion.

Watching Ginko Closely

To be played softly while reading this article:

This letter just arrived in my mailbox. for those of you who have funds currently trapped in with Ginko Financial, it bears reading:

Dear Customer,


All Ginko Financial account holders now have an account on the World Stock Exchange and all Ginko Perpetual Bonds have been issued.

Any Ginko account balance with decimal values has been transferred to your new WSE trading account balance. WSE trading accounts earn a base yearly interest rate of 15.95% calculated daily and paid fortnightly (every 14 days). *Subject to change without notice.

If you did not have an existing WSE account please reset your password by visiting a WSE ATM and typing: "reset password".

You can view a list of WSE ATM locations by visiting: https://www.wselive.com/education/atms


World Stock Exchange (WSE) is a fictional securities exchange developed for use in virtual worlds such as Second Life. The exchange provides Virtual companies with the ability to raise capital using the fictional Linden and World Internet Currencies.

The journey started in December 2006 with an opportunity which was followed by the vision of Australian entrepreneur Luke Connell. Today the concept of an Internet based World Stock Exchange servicing the virtual world community of Second Life has achieved over 24000 trading accounts and over 60 virtual companies exceeding 400 million linden dollars in trading volume. The WSE has exceeded all expectations however it is an emerging and development market that will always be improving. This is only the beginning.

The World Stock Exchange includes enhanced security features such as 256-bit SSL encryption, Risk API for Second Life residents along with the ability for general Internet users with a browser to trade on the World Stock Exchange using the World Internet Currency.

The World Internet Currency acts as one fictional currency bridging the gap between the real and virtual worlds. This will encourage growth in the virtual economies around the world especially in Second Life while providing the everyday Internet users with the ability to LEARN - HAVE FUN AND PROFIT.

By visiting and using the World Stock Exchange website (www.wselive.com) you will be accepting the WSE Terms of Service ("TOS" located on www.wselive.com. Please read them carefully and if you disagree with the TOS in any way, then do not use the web site or services provided by the World Stock Exchange.

The WSE provides users with a fully automated trading platform that operates 24 hours, 7 Days per week. Traders have access to real-time and historical trading data allowing them to make informed decisions.

To learn about the World Stock Exchange and how to use the our services please visit our Education Centre which can be found at https://www.wselive.com/education


*'Virtual Company' refers to an Internet based business generating income from a fictional currency and includes many businesses based in virtual worlds and 3D multi user environments such as Second Life.

'Fictional Services' are all "Fictional" services provided by HopeCapital on the World Stock Exchange. Fictional services are an imaginative creation in a simulated gaming and education environment that are without basis in reality and hold no legal monetary or asset value.

'Fictional Currency' is used as game tokens and have no monetary value in and of themselves and as a result are not be taxable as income. In most cases a fictional currency constitutes a limited license right for use by account holders and is subject to the terms of each Fictional Currency provider. The World Stock Exchange supports the "Linden Currency" (Linden Dollar, LND$, L$, Lindens) and the "World Internet Currency" (WIC, WICS, W$).

The financial and group operations of a virtual company are controlled and managed by the controlling WSE account holder who is assigned with the title CEO.

Kind Regards,

LukeConnell Vandeverre,
Chairman and CEO,
World Stock Exchange

Kind regards,
World Stock Exchange

An interesting turn of events, to be sure. a 15% p.a. return may be considerably lower than what Ginko was offering, but more realistic (although this rate is normally associated more with credit card bills than most deposits)

I gotta ask: will you hold, or will you fold? Replies in the comments please :D

06 August 2007

The Case For Undemocracy in Software Development

The point of creating any software product or introducing new upgrades (rather than merely bugfixing) is to introduce to users new functions and ways of doing previously doable tasks with more efficiency and less waste, as well as enable new methods and activities not previously achievable.

This would seem to make the case that a democratic approach to software development would make sense: let people make more decisions as to what they want, and vote for it. Bees do it all the time. Zerg hives as well. It's a form of swarm theory - nobody sees the big picture, but they have the same interests in general that the decisions that they make wind up being the most efficient.

Swarm theory, unfortunately, only works well if you're THINKING reasonably and looking at it with a reasonable skillset. If not, you need to be able to put your foot down and say 'no' at some point. at some point, giving everyone a say and a veto for everything leads to total sloth in development.

Just ask the people who are waiting for perl 6 how long they've been waiting for their Holy Grail. :( It is not a pretty answer, and contains 300 RFCs since 2000. 6 years plus of waiting for upgrades to a language that is readable only by savants, or severe hair-tearing. 6 years is a long time in Internet years - do you want to wait that long for anything to happen?

I thought not.

Software development will always be a meritocracy or oligarchy (developer/client owned/controlled). Live with it. Let a thousand ideas bloom, and stop trying to hamper other people's ideas with FUD without reasoned analysis.


(Disclaimer: The writer uses more scripting languages and does more graphics/scripting than actual programming languages, but most things that apply in scripting development and graphic design still apply in programming too :( )

"If I listented to people all the time when I was working, nothing would ever get done."

01 August 2007

Ginko Doubles Down - Bigger Bust, or More Secure Future?

Well, with the recent upheavals that have been going around, it seems a bit obvious that depositors at SL Banks might feel the need to put more of their trust in real-life currency rather than Agnian L$. This has obviously caused a run at several banks.

Now any bank, in any world, will more often than not have very little of the finances it claims to own available for withdrawal. Money sitting in actual currency rather than sunk into investments is money that does not earn money. However, not having enough of this float to cover depositor's regular demands up front is dangerous: word gets around fast and eventually, the bank loses consumer confidence. There are also costs involved in cutting and running from investments prematurely. It's a balancing act on tightrope, perched above fiducial damnation.

One of the biggest victims of this run on SL Banks has been Nicholas Portocarrero's Ginko Financial. Eloise Pasteur writes in the Second Life Insider a summary of the matter as well as some good links to other websites that practically thrive on reporting this sort of thing. Nobody Fugazi has also attempted to tease more answers about his intentions out of Nicholas as well, and the results are in his KnowProSE blog.

It is not as if Ginko was a stranger to controversy. Since the moment it offered what was initially an effective interest rate of about 72% p.a. in its heyday, the company has been accused (fairly or otherwise) of being a Ponzi scheme by many residents on one hand, . On the other, you have Residents who have ridden the tiger and profitted significantly (encouraged in part by the explosive growth in signups in Second Life.), who urge that Ginko can be a valid investment like any other investment instrument that is native to Agni provided you do your homework before investing and never risk anything that you can't afford to risk.

So withdrawals per day from Ginko have been significantly capped, and its offered interest rate reduced significantly since then. To make matters worse, prudence has dictated that the Ginko Financial Lottery be shut down in case it falls foul of LL's recent ban on wagering inworld. While part of the rake from tickets was always going to seed the current draw and the next, there was also a portion being funnelled back into Ginko's fund.

While I was browsing over earlier today, I found that Ginko Financial has introduced two things:
  • It has cut interest on openly accessible funds to 0.1% per day from the 0.13% it offered in previous weeks due to a earlier run by residents to other banks perceived to have more financial stability...
  • and it has introduced term deposits.

What are Term Deposits anyway? Especially if you're a teen fresh off the TSL or someone who's not particulary keen on financial knowledge, this might sound newfangled.

Unlike a normal bank savings account, a term deposit is essentially a contract with a bank whereby you hand the bank an agreed amount of money for an agreed period to earn an agreed interest rate.

For the duration of this contract, you cannot take any of this money out for use on other matters. This is money that the bank does not have to budget for in its cash float till the day it matures at the end of the term, and can be sunk in to investments that require more stable funding but promise greater interest. Some banks in real life DO offer early term deposit cashouts, but impose onerous penalties to ensure that depositors do not do so unless they have absolutely no choice.

On the flip side however, the bank also pays a price of sorts for this stability in its investment funds: many term deposits are tied to a higher interest rate than the current interest rate set by the banks in order to compensate for the inability to access the funds involved, and this increases slightly with every extra month or dollar tied up in the deposit. This rate is also not renegotiable for the term of the contract - bad news for the bank if the interest rates fall.

And it still has to be repaid at the end of the term. It is still possible for a bank to default and fail to be able to make payment of depositors' demands in the end - only worse, because all that extra interest means more money owing.

Different banking jurisdictions will have different ideas about what to do in the event that a bank falls over from the weight of its obligations. For instance, the FDIC guarantees up to US$100,000 per investor per insured bank on any bank defaults in America (with extra insurance provided in certain cases), with anyone who has more than the insured limit basically plumb out of luck for the excess barring any successful legal action. Other countries may have more generous offers to cushion the blow, or totally fail to provide a safety net - check your local governmental body on finance for more details.

And there, for most of us, is the nub. In Second Life, regulation is not a cornerstone of most of our activities (excepting possibly the Terms of Service, The Big Six, and whatever covenants our landlords require us to agree to). Who watches the bank? Except for a few million depositors and a couple of more attentive, more inquisitive residents, most finance in Second Life is virtually bereft of oversight, not to mention guarantees or insurance. if a SL bank falls, you're going to be left picking up the pieces barring the appearance of some damn fool who doesn't mind spending money to pick up the tab (and possibly some other ulterior motives - banks don't get bailed for altruistic reasons)

It is a double-edged sword: it cuts out a lot of the costs many oversight bodies inflict on banks as a result, and allows them to take risks that a oversight body would disapprove of or even deny coverage for. But then, there's a reason why they were so prudent, these bodies. Having dozens of trained eyes to keep looking for possible problems in the system isn't cheap either.

So is taking out a term-deposit with Ginko, at what is effectively twice as much interest per day (and if you're taking a compounding interest deposit, considerably more than double the dividend due to the power of compounding) a good investment?

Yes. No. Maybe.

You have to ask if the future of Second Life is going to be bright enough that whatever portion of it Ginko can get hold of will be enough to service your deposit, especially if it's a compound interest deposit.

You have to ask if you can afford to let go of the money. You do NOT put your rental money into extremely highrisk investments. Let's be brutally frank - Ginko is inherently that with its lack of transparency and its insane interest rates (even if it HAS honored most withdrawals till recently). Money you don't mind losing is the best money to invest, especially with such risky instruments.

You have to ask if you can afford to let go of the money for long enough. whatever you put into term deposit is something you're not going to see for a long time. Possibly up to 360 days (just shy of a year) in this case. and especially more so if you're opting to keep the interest in play with a compounding deposit.

It's a personal choice. Best way to deal with them is to look at yourself and ask the questions you do want to hear... and the ones you DON'T want to hear (but really should).

Good luck out there.

(DISCLAIMER: The Author has sunk a modest amount she can afford to lose in a 30-day compounding deposit with Ginko. The author also recommends that the reader ideally seek more professional advice and opinion prior to committing to any financial investments, and will not be held responsible for any damages incurred due to failures in investment with Ginko or other banking companies.)

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