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Showing posts with label commerce. Show all posts
Showing posts with label commerce. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

UNDERSTANDING THE SCRIPTS OF COMMERCE: An in depth interview with Abranimation's Abramelin Wolfe - Dean Lawson Reporting

While investigating potentially harmful scripts in Second Life I contacted Abramelin Wolfe, the owner of Abranimations and sent him questions to help me understand how scripts and commerce works in Second Life. Abramelin explained in great detail some of the potential pitfalls Second Life Residents should watch out for. The following are excerpts from our conversation.

Dean: According to your response it does not seem that you believe that the script was introduced to the item by a third party but is in fact commonly used by legitimate vendors. Is that correct?

Abramelin: Yes, and this is not a specific script.  ALL scripts that take debit permissions display this warning, the most common of which are vendor scripts as they are dealing with money transactions. Our affiliate vendors allow customers to sell our items and take a commission. They need permission to take money for refunding over payments and paying us the commission.

Dean: Based on my research, when an item is rezzed a message appears on the screen as follows; “Object wants access to take money from your Linden Dollar account. If you allow, this it can take any or all of your money from you at any time with no further warning or request.”

If I see this message my reaction is to click "deny", because I do not want an object to take my money at any time without further warning. Why would a legitimate vendor use a script with this type of message? Are there no other scripts that vendors can use?

Abramelin: Yes it also says after that... 'Before allowing this access, make sure you know what the object is and why it is making this request, as well as whether you trust the creator. If you're not certain, click Deny.'

That above statement makes all the difference. Legitimate vendors use this type of script because there are no other scripted ways to take money from an Avatar. You always need them to specifically give you permission. In the case of a vendor though you cannot have it ask every time because it needs to be left out for other people to purchase from even if you are offline. 

Linden Lab gives you this warning to make sure you know what the script is and who it is from. As I already mentioned, this is not a specific script displaying this message. This is a warning given by LL when a script requests debit permission. If you do not know the source of the script or trust the source then you should always click deny.

Dean: Do you feel the use of this script in objects that are affiliated with your business could damage the reputation of your business?

Abramelin: No, We have commission vendors for our ice skates because we have been asked for them a gazillion times, especially around Christmas. I think the warning LL gives quite adequately explains the risks, hence the conversation we are having, but also explains that there could be legitimate reasons why.  Affiliate vendors are common place in SL and this script function has always existed in SL. If anyone is uncomfortable granting debit permissions they can and should click deny and not use those vendors. It’s really no different than passing your credit card details to a company over the Internet. If you do not know or trust the company you should not do it. 

Dean: How is it possible for a customer to pay too much for an item? When I have paid for items in Second Life, a message is displayed; "Buy for L$(amount) from (name of vendor) underneath is the option to "buy" or "cancel". Could you explain how I can accidentally overpay in this type of transaction?

Abramelin: The vendor script dictates whether it has those quick pay buttons or not. If a vendor is not specifically scripted to have them it displays a box where you can enter any amount. Originally all scripts were like this actually, the button feature was added to SL much later. Some third party viewers possibly do not support those buttons either so even if it is scripted with them they may not display. This is just one situation though...there are actually loads of other scenarios where you might need to refund. (eg. Rental booths giving bulk discounts. Some transaction failures can be detected and refunds issued automatically. Some vendors that contain inventory might need to refund if the inventory is missing...and the list goes on.)

The thing people need to remember is that drop down warning is a one warning fits all solution. The warning will be displayed in all cases where debit permission is required. It does not and cannot display different messages depending on the situation or script.

Dean: If a script is used to extract a share of the proceeds from an affiliate vendor, should the script clarify the percentage being extracted?

Abramelin: Yes people certainly should understand what the vendor is for before they use it. Affiliate vendors by their nature extract a commission. Our ice skates vendor for example is labeled ‘Ice Skates Affiliate Vendor (30%)' and the instructions note card also explains it is a 30% commission vendor. The vendors we use cannot run until this debit permission is granted. Once it is running though they also have an Admin Panel accessible that shows transactions and percentages and some other info.

Dean: Who writes the scripts used by your affiliate vendors?

Abramelin: Our store vendors are scripted either by myself or use Caspervend (by Casper Warden). The ice skates affiliate vendors use Caspervend which is very respected and trust worthy. No one else creates any of our vendors or has access to our scripts.

Thanks for answering my questions, your help is appreciated.

Abramelin: No problem, hopefully your article can shed some light on this for folk in SL so they understand the message and what it means. I've seen this concern come up over and over through the years, but it’s mostly due to people not understanding what the message is telling them. The debit permission function is not a fraudulent function by itself. It is only fraudulent if it is used in a fraudulent way. It has many legitimate uses too. The above ice skates customer that contacted you was quite right not to accept permission with the ice skates as they did not understand why it was being taken. What I think I'll do is put the affiliate vendor inside a box in the package so it cannot be attached accidentally with everything else. I think the confusion probably came from everything being attached out of the box without looking at what the items were. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


The first thing we do when we enter the virtual worlds is find out ways to earn virtual currency. It doesn’t take us long to understand that to fulfil all our desires in a virtual setup, we would need an inflow of virtual currency. If we could make good friends and we like what we have and we could stick long enough, sooner or later, there is one more desire we all have, “Why not start a business?”
Few people start a trade ingame within a inworld, like Second Life has G&S System to trade goods, food, metal etc for Gorean Community. Few indulge in clothing line by either making original mesh items like Just Because and others re-texturing the mesh items adding prim clothing to make it unique like Heth Haute Couture. Few get into sale of estates like IrishGent of Seychelles Isles and others either get into re-renting the lands and skyboxes or designing the sim like Sera Bellic. Few make homes like Robert Galand of Galand Homes others get into making furniture like what’s next. The list of established businesses can get exhaustive. These big names of Second Life, inspire us to ask a simple question, “Why not me?”

Exactly, why not me? We too can start a business. We too can run a successful one. So what’s the next step? I asked three such entrepreneurs around the grid for their views and also the mistakes that we make when we indulge in a start up in a virtual world. Here are their replies.


Indea Vaher: Second Life is microcosm of our real world, and anything that is achievable in the real is obtainable in our virtual world.  Most residents want to try their hand at the business they’ve always dreamed of which can be opened with a click of a mouse. 
Sometimes we jump into these businesses based on our own passions, our fantasy of the dream job we wished we had in real life, the postal worker becomes an artist and opens their own gallery, the hardware store clerk becomes a big time club owner, and with a few clicks of a mouse, the retired building inspector is now a popular DJ.  People have found in Second Life that any business you want to start you can in a blink of eye, however what is often not done in the virtual world is a study of where your target audience is or if there is a demand for the commodity/services you have to offer.
Many jump into a venue without a business plan or revenue projections to ensure profitability and as a result fail.  However, for many of these businesses simply turn into social venues, and they justify the expense like a hobby doing something they enjoy and never get a return on their investment.
The most successful entrepreneurs in virtual worlds are those  who approach it in the same manner as it’s done in the real world, they establish that there is a demand for their creations, products or services. They have the necessary professional skills to create the product they offer, and for many it’s usually utilizing a skill they’ve obtained in real life.  They don’t think in terms of lindens but in actual currency, reconciling expenditures with incoming revenue.

The following is the conversation with IrishGent, owner of Seychelles Isles.

Debby Sharma: What are the few pointers that you would suggest a resident before they start a business?
IrishGent: Determine the business you want to start.  Research the basics using other like companies on SL. If you are selling products using Market Place, research (wiki) as a starting point on the setup of your account, TOS (Terms of Service), Copy Write Laws, etc. If you are interested in being a Land Lord, research other like estates on their land offerings and creating a brand. 
Debby Sharma: According to your experience, which has been the most difficult time while you started your start up?
IrishGent: Resource management and staffing.  SL is a volatile universe with peoples interest working on an estate mirroring the volatile culture of SL. Sitting in front of their computers people have a different level of commitment which to say the least is lacking.  There are a few exceptions to this rule which I have been very fortunate to have a staff that is dedicated and very supportive.  It took many employees to get to this point but I must say I am impressed with my current staff.  Patience is a must giving everyone their objectives and assignments.  A long leash is a required so that they may maintain a level of balance between work and play in SL.
Debby Sharma: Should a resident start a virtual business with a motive of earning or for a generic motive of fun and pleasure?
IrishGent: I believe both.  Balance is a requirement in SL and to be out of balance you will see a negative effect on both.  That is established early on when you formulate the mission and vision of your business.
Debby Sharma: What mistakes according to you, do you see most virtual business committing to?
IrishGent: The big mistake from my perspective is micro management and not establishing realistic goals.  Remember SL has seasonality with the number of on-line avis.  You have to plan your business to adjust to this seasonality thus not to overestimate earnings to offset expenses.

The following conversation, I had with Sera Bellic, owner of Lick Sim Designs.

Debby Sharma: What are the few pointers that you would suggest a resident before they start a business?
Sera Bellic: Take some time to explore SL and find what you are passionate about.
Debby Sharma: According to your experience, which has been the most difficult time while you started your start up?
Sera Bellic: I have tried many different businesses. I think finding the one I was passionate about was the most difficult. Surprisingly, it was right under my nose.
Debby Sharma: Should a resident start a virtual business with a motive of earning or for a generic motive of fun and pleasure?
Sera Bellic: I think all business should start as something you did or do for fun, just because you love doing it. Then grow it as a business.
Debby Sharma: What mistakes according to you, do you see most virtual business committing to?
Sera Bellic: Not honing their skill, jumping in before really understanding Second Life.

The above interviews might have already given you an idea. Here is a short list of pointers that might be helpful.

·         Idea
Have an idea of what you want to do. If you already have it to your liking, then start by looking at other existing businesses. If possible join them as a staff and learn. It is wrong to imitate a business idea, but it is not wrong to learn from an actual business. May be in future, you may develop an idea along the lines. May be while working, you may have a completely new idea. But, this experience would be useful.

·         Time
It is very important that you have time for such business. Remember, it is a virtual world; although, there are exceptions who have made real money with virtual currency. Still, a business has its clients and clients are the only ones who keep a business steady. To satisfy your client, it is important that you have enough time for them.

·         Research
Although, this is a virtual world, still there are loads of Intellectual Property laws that are prevalent in every country. Read them, be thorough. In my two years of writing career, I have witnessed big business names being sued for real cash. So, it is highly advisable, you must know the laws like the copy right laws etc.

·         Budget and Audience
Prepare your statements, estimates of expenditure and incomes. Like in any real life business, there might me a need of investment, but the amount needs to be justifiable. It is not possible to incur losses for long periods of time. In my 3 years of virtual existence, I have witnessed over 7 businesses closing down due to this. Plot a draft may be, but have something as your spinal cord for the business. Understand who your clients are. Have a list of them ready in your spreadsheets. Even if you started the business for fun, it still needs to raise enough revenue to sustain your dream for long term.

·         Team
No business will ever survive the test of time without a team. It is the most difficult aspect of virtual business. One person can do all the job of a business, virtual or real. Sooner or later, you need another hand and it won’t come free or easy. Hence, the above point is important. By team, it doesn’t mean that you hire many people in your staff. Have as many as required. Have serious, enthusiastic and passionate people who also share your dream. It will be difficult in the start. Sometimes, it takes more than a year to find the right one and sometimes not. With this we come to the last point

·         Patient and Passionate
Be Patient. No business is built in a day. Some of your friends might get lucky and some not. Don’t lose hope. Success will turn eventually. The only thing that will drive you on will be passion. If you were passionate in the first place when the idea immerged, recognition is bound to follow.

I hope these pointers were helpful. If some of my dear readers are wondering, why take advice from a writer, to them I say, it may be just over 3 years in-world, but it includes 9 times failure in virtual writing career and over a dozen failures in trying to set up a successful virtual business. The above pointers are few that I have gathered while learning. Writing did not happen by chance but by a choice.