101308 Moentizing The Metaverse Metanomics Transcript
METANOMICS: MONETIZING THE METAVERSE
OCTOBER 13, 2008
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Good afternoon, and welcome to the 51st edition of Metanomics.
This is Rob Bloomfield, Beyers Sellers, speaking to you from the top floor of the Embassy
Suites Hotel in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, looking out my window at beautiful Lake Erie, as
I prepare to go to the Cleveland Browns--New York Giants Monday night football game.
Here with my family. I actually have my mother and father here in the room, listening to the
broadcast. Would you like to say hello?
BLOOMFIELD’S MOTHER: Hello, hello, everybody. I have an avatar too.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: My mom has an avatar too, but actually doesn’t remember its
name. So anyway, we have a great show today. In the midst of so much economic
uncertainty in the Real World, we’re going to be focusing on in-world commerce. We’re
going to be hearing from Stevana Case, of fatfoogoo, and Jay Geeseman, of Xstreet in
Second Life, formerly SL Exchange. Fatfoogoo works directly with game and Virtual World
developers to provide a system to support virtual transactions, while Xstreet provides a
solution directly focused on Second Life transactions. As always, thanks to our sponsors:
InterSection Unlimited, Kelly Services, Language Lab, Learning Tree International and, of
course, Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. We are coming to
you from inside Johnson School of Management’s Sage Hall atrium.
Well, I should say most of you are watching from one of our event partners: Colonia Nova
Amphitheater, Meta Partners Conference Area, Rockliffe University, New Media Consortium
Educational Community Sims, or Orange Island or JenzZa Misfit’s historic Muse Isle. As our
audience has grown, so have the number of event partners that we are bringing in to let you
all see. Many of you are probably watching on the web at metanomics.net, which is a great
way to do this if you can’t get into Second Life. We use InterSection Unlimited’s ChatBridge
technology to transmit local chat to the website, website chat to our event partners and the
event partner chat from one Sim to another. ChatBridge brings you in touch with people all
around Second Life and on the web, wherever you are. So speak up, and let everyone know
Today I’m pleased to have the opportunity to put Eshi Otawara On The Spot. Eshi is one of
the high profile members of Second Life’s large community of artists and builders. She’s
famous for her virtual fishhook dress, which recently sold for a whopping 1,750 real U.S.
dollars in a charity auction. And she’s also known for her creative one-hour Sim builds, in
which she rebuilds a region of Second Life in about as much time as it takes to watch an
episode of Metanomics. In real life, Eshi is Irena Morris, a Croatian-American artist. Eshi,
welcome to the show.
ESHI OTAWARA: Hello there. Thank you for having me.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I’m really delighted to have a chance to talk with you about
the things that you have been doing in-world. If I could, I’d actually like to start with a very
intriguing Real Life portrait, that you provided, of your husband. And so if SLCN can bring
this up, this is a really nice piece of work, to me, the brush strokes, the heavy brush strokes
are reminiscent of Van Gogh. But then you tell me this is actually two by three inches in
Real Life, is that right?
ESHI OTAWARA: Yeah. Yeah, there’s reverse painted on glass, and it’s only two by three
inches. It's small. I’d done this about five years ago, and it really could fit into the palm of the
hands. It’s one of my favorite portraits of my late husband. So for people that don’t know my
background, this is basically who I am. I am primarily a painter.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And you mentioned this is your late husband so first let me just
offer my condolences to you. And also I understand that is one of the events that led you
into Second Life.
ESHI OTAWARA: Yes, absolutely. I really just came across Second Life because I was
looking for a three dimensional chat, and that is the phrase that I put into Google. And I
couldn’t find anything. I found just silly kids’ communities and kind of kid chats, and I didn’t
like any of them, of course. And basically I found Second Life, and I realized I can have
social contacts without the necessity of actually leaving the house, because I was really
stricken by my grief, and that’s how I ended up in Second Life. Oh, my! When I found out
that I can actually make stuff here, even better.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And so now you’re something of a celebrity in Second Life.
You’ve got your website, and you have made quite a bit of fascinating clothing, in-world art,
but I’m sorry to say I am an accounting professor and business on the mind. I mean one of
the things that is really pretty interesting to me is that this is now how you make your living
through selling your work, in part, through your storefront in Bloomfield Island Chambre du
Chocolat. One question I had is: How do people find your store, to find your stuff? Foot
traffic isn’t quite the same in Second Life as it is in Real Life.
ESHI OTAWARA: Yeah. Well, I do have a little advertisement in my profile, and my profile
pics have the direct teleport to the store, under “business” tab. Mostly people find me just
through word of mouth, and I would like to take this opportunity actually to announce that I
will very likely abandon the Chambre du Chocolat because neither I speak French nor am I
French. And it turns out most people do know me by Eshi rather than the clothing brand that
I’d chosen so many months ago. So makes this the official that I will be re-branding myself
to just simply my avatar name.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Eshi Otawara. Now there’s an Australian clothes line named Eshi.
Is that something you’ll have to be careful of as you brand yourself thoroughly as
ESHI OTAWARA: I don’t think so because it is going to be Eshi Otawara, which is quite
different than just simply Eshi. So I don’t think I should be worried about--but I will definitely
discuss this with more businesspeople as I am not a businessperson. I’m more of an artist
than anything else so I’m open for suggestions [for that though?].
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I have to say I just want to point out in the backchat I’m
seeing IYan Writer, who mentions: Next step is avatar trademarking. I think many
Metanomics viewers probably know that Amy Weber has already trademarked her avatar,
and you have a lovely avatar, so you could be next.
Now I know you also sell quite a bit of your stuff through the companies that support
resident to resident transactions. SL Exchange, now Xstreet, and OnRez. And you
mentioned to me before the show that actually you have one; I guess Xstreet is primarily
selling your auditoriums, the buildings that you created in Second Life quite a while ago.
Whereas, your clothing tends to end up selling through OnRez. Do you have a sense of why
ESHI OTAWARA: Well, I started selling my products on Xstreet quite a while back before I
even started the clothing business. And basically I just couldn’t stop myself from creating,
and I figured there was a need for a kind of a commercial building such as auditoriums. So
I’ve created about three or four auditoriums in different sizes, and I just posted them up on
Xstreet just to see how they would sell, and they kept selling.
So eventually, as I ended up in the clothing business, I put some items up there, but I think I
don’t have as many clothing items up there because shopping--and I make mostly clothing,
well, pretty much exclusively clothing for female avatars. I think it’s because female avatars,
they like to shop in-world, and it’s quite a social experience rather than just clicking a button
and having the stuff delivered to you. So I would say that would be a reason why I don’t sell
as much on Xstreet as far as clothing goes. But other stuff is always on FLX--I mean Xstreet
catches the building components and my commercial builds.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Mm-hmm. Okay, great! Well, we only have a couple more
minutes with you, Eshi, before we go on to our main guests, and I know that this is a
business show and that I am an accountant, but I don’t want to be one of those people who,
as they say, know the price of everything but the value of nothing. So if I could, I’d like to
spend just the last few minutes here taking a look at some of the work that you’ve done in
Second Life. One of this is, I guess, the Flower Tower. This is one of your very short builds.
I think you told me this took about an hour to create an enormous tower of lotus flowers. So
I know SLCN can bring that up for us. Can you just tell us a little bit about that?
ESHI OTAWARA: Well, Flower Tower was the eleventh and the very last one of the series
called One-Hour Sim Project, which I really fell into spontaneously. A friend of mine,
Dirk Talamasca, had a void simulator, and I was the management of that particular Sim. He
went idle one day, and I decided that I would completely change the look of the Sim so
when he would come back, he would not recognize where he was. And it was so much fun
because I was so speedy, and I was just rushing to change everything I could possibly
change for him to not recognize where he is. It took me about an hour so I figured, after
people came over, and they really liked it, I figured that I would just keep redoing it, and I’ve
redone the same Sim eleven times. It was so much fun just basically using the simplest
component that I have handy in my inventory and just to see how much I can create with it.
I’m very, very, very proud of this very last one because actually Philip Linden came over to
see it, and he really liked it a lot, and he sent a bunch of other Lindens to come see it as
well. And he recognized me by that particular art piece at Second Life Community
Convention. None of the other ones exist anymore because I would just wipe them and
rebuild, then wipe and rebuild. But they can see short videos on my website, under One
Hour Sim Project, and it’s eshiotawara.com, and the videos were taken by Crap Mariner, of
[Star Ridge Falls?], and Dizzy Banjo. They were just around me documenting everything
single one. So thanks to them, I still have them so people to see videos of them.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And the Flower Tower is still in place on Dusan Writer’s Remedy
Sim, isn’t that right?
ESHI OTAWARA: Yes. Yes. That was the last one, and they just basically begged me to
save it and not destroy it because I was about to wipe that one as well.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I, for one, am happy that they let it stay.
ESHI OTAWARA: The whole experience was just phenomenal because, from the first one
where 150 people showed up in 24 hours to see the first one, and the last one, over 2,000
people came to see it in one day. I’ve learned that, as far as the Metaverse goes in the arts,
you really have to keep a certain dynamic to keep the audience. It was a great experiment
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Now I guess I know you best as a clothing designer, and
you have a new dress, I understand, and I think SLCN has a picture of you wearing the
dress, surrounded by flowers. So can you just tell us quickly about this dress?
ESHI OTAWARA: Yeah. This dress is not really new. I’ve had it for quite a while. My
designs are like my children, and I kind of have this issue of just releasing them to the public
right after I make them. I’ve had this one for months now, and I haven’t released it yet, and I
will take this opportunity announce that this particular design called the Samurai in the
Storm will be released in a very, very small edition of the total of seven on the grid. And, for
people who like to spend a buck on something that is unique, I will announce the sale of this
pretty soon. They can join either my group, Eshi, or they can follow Fast-Time or my website
when this is going to be released.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Wonderful. I’d like to close just by taking a look at one of
your recent of your Real World--I’m sorry, not a recent painting, but one of your Real World
paintings “Victims of Terror,” which I understand you painted shortly after 9/11. I’m
wondering if you can just sort of talk us through this work. Give us a sense of its scale in
Real Life, and the two striking things I see in this painting myself are, one, that there are a
lot of faceless people in sort of dark colors, and, two, that there is a young girl in a very
colorful dress turning away from the scene. I’m just wondering if you could talk about that a
ESHI OTAWARA: Sure. I painted this shortly after the attacks on the Towers. Because
back then I was still in college, and I was getting my painting degree, and a lot of people just
kind of, you know--the climate after that for immigrants was just not good because
everybody who was an immigrant was just not welcome. I went to a college in a really small
community, and I didn’t feel like they liked me the same way after the attacks. And this was
just something because I grew up in war in Croatia, from ’89 to ’95. And war is something
that is very, very personal to me. I have a lot of emotions that I can put out on canvas or in
any other medium that I express myself with. So this particular painting came out in about a
couple of hours and was just kind of my intuitive reaction to whatever happened and how I
see the whole thing. Because a lot of people asked me, “Oh, do you even care? Do you
even care?” To me, of course, I care. It’s people. I don’t see the world as a map. I see it as
people on the planet, and we all share it. And I show a lot of my emotion in my work. So this
is one example of how I express that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: That definitely does come through in this piece. So thank you so
much, Eshi, for talking with us and sharing your Real Life and your Second Life creations on
Metanomics. And I wish you the best of luck selling all of your art. Perhaps the Real World
art is for sale as well--
ESHI OTAWARA: Yes, it’s for sale.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: --and people can contact you through eshiotawara.com. Okay.
Well, again, best of luck, and thanks for talking with us.
ESHI OTAWARA: Thank you very much. Absolutely. Thank you very much for having me.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let’s move on to our main event for the day. We have two guests,
and our first is Stevana Case, a 15-year video game industry veteran, who is currently
serving as vice president of business development and sales at fatfoogoo, heading up the
company’s North American business. But Stevie is also one of the first professional female
gamers in the cyber-athlete professional league and is famous for defeating John Romero in
Quake Deathmatch, single-handedly beating him the first time they played. Stevana worked
then on game design at Ion Storm, co-founded Monkeystone Games. And then her move
into business development at Tira Wireless and Spleak Media. Spleak Media Network
placed her in the Twenty Women to Watch in Business Under 30, by Working Woman
So, Stevie, I guess before we get into fatfoogoo, I just want to say that I love your story
here. You’re a competitive gamer turned game designer, now in the sort of back-in-business
side of gaming in Virtual Worlds. I feel like I’m interview a Superbowl quarterback turned
football commentator. There just haven’t been enough competitive gamers out there to
know what the career path is. Do you think this is pretty standard?
STEVANA CASE: Thank you. Well, I feel very lucky to be here. I mean I think that you’re
right, there just isn’t enough history yet in professional gaming to kind of know what the
career path is from there. I think we’ve seen so many people do just completely different
things, and, for me, this was always really the end goal. So I’m just excited to be doing what
I’m doing now.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, it’s great to have you on Metanomics. Our second guest,
Jay Geeseman, is the owner and operator of Virtual Trade and Xstreet SL. Xstreet SL touts
itself as the premier Second Life integrated commerce website featuring real-time shopping,
real estate listings and full-fledged currency exchange. So, Jay, it sounds like you got into
this because you were thinking a long time ago, before you even heard of Second Life, that
you’d like to set up some sort of large online mall. So this is what came of it?
JAY GEESEMAN: Yeah, basically. Back in, I guess, 2002, I had an idea for a large online
shopping mall for Real World products at the time. But being just one person, no access to
funding or anything like that, I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Basically, since then,
amazon.com has gone and done exactly what I had in mind. What I found was, when I
found Second Life, I realized it was possible and immediately went to making it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And I understand it’s not just a one-person thing anymore. Is that
right? You have, what, seven employees?
JAY GEESEMAN: Yeah, we have seven full time employees and a few contractors.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, that will definitely keep you busy, and we’re all very
interested in hearing more about Xstreet. But first, Stevie, let’s go back and take a look at
fatfoogoo, and question number one on this is the name. Is this like the killer sushi?
STEVANA CASE: Yeah, I guess you could think of it that way. Yeah. I am told at least--I
was not involved in the naming--but I’m told that the name comes from the foogoo, the
puffer fish, so it’s a fat puffer fish. But I don’t claim credit for that one.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, it’s certainly a memorable name and a good conversation
starter. Now let’s talk a bit about your business plan. You refer to basically three buckets for
your business: subscriptions, the primary market and the secondary market. Can you walk
us through those?
STEVANA CASE: Sure. So essentially what we have is a piece of technology, a platform
that we license to anyone who has created a Virtual World or a massively multiplayer game.
It really could be anything. It could be a social network, a browser game, whatever their
interface is. They would plug our platform in, and we would enable them to charge for really
anything you could imagine: a subscription to play the game monthly or to access features,
a primary market in which they would sell items directly to their users or their players, or a
secondary market which is when users sell to other users. So for us, the World itself is
great, but we leave that to the World designers, and we just handle the management of the
economy related to the selling of digital goods and all those micro transactions that happen
along with it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now your business plan sounds really quite similar to another
company that I know of, Live Gamer, which also has partnered with some Virtual World
MMOs. I’m wondering if you could talk about how you differentiate yourselves from them.
STEVANA CASE: Sure. There are a few differences. I mean one of the bigger
differentiators is that we are what you call white label solutions. So when we offer our
platform to someone who’s created a World, they would integrate it on the back end. We
provide access to APIs, and it would tie directly into their systems, so as a user you would
come into the World, and you would make purchases in the World that’s familiar to you. You
would never see the fatfoogoo name or our branding. It would just look like your World, and
you would make purchases in the way that the creators of that World wanted it to look and
feel. So we’re completely on the back end, and we just enable the transaction; whereas, the
Live Gamer is more of a network. So you would be in your World or your game, and then
you would log into the Live Gamer network, and there are some interesting things that come
along with that, but it’s a second login. It’s a separate network from the game itself or the
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: You’re a relatively recent startup, but you have announced some
partnerships and, in particular through Sun’s Open Source Virtual World platform Project
Darkstar you have announced a partnership with Gamalocus. They’re makers of Call of the
Kings. Do I have that right?
STEVANA CASE: That’s correct. Yeah. We announced this integration with Project
Darkstar. So essentially what we’re doing there with Sun is, we’ve taken our platform and
pre-integrated it with the Project Darkstar code so that anybody who comes in and creates a
World or a game using Project Darkstar has very, very simple integration with our platform. I
mean the Gamalocus guys were the first partnership we announced. They’re out of Europe,
and Call of the Kings is their browser-based MMO that they’re working to wrap up now.
They had kind of a custom use of Darkstar, and they told us it took about ten hours to
integrate our technology, but that if you follow the Darkstar code to the letter, it should be
about a ten-minute integration. So it really just simplifies that process, and anybody using
Darkstar should have very easy access to plug our technology in and be able to start
processing micro transactions very quickly.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now Project Darkstar as purely Open Source project, I’m just
wondering how your revenue model works. Do people need a licensing agreement with you,
separately, in order to integrate your software into the Open Source Project Darkstar
application they’re trying to create?
STEVANA CASE: They do, yeah. They need a separate relationship with us so they would
have to sign a licensing agreement, but, in particular, with the Project Darkstar partners, we
make it as painless a process as possible. And our business model is very flexible, so any
time we’re dealing with smaller Project Darkstar partners, we can typically do something
that’s a rev share only or a rev share on their transactions, with just a small setup fee to
make it very easy for them to do. So typically it’s really quick and simple. We just do the
licensing agreement, and they’re good to go.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, let me ask. I see in our backchat we have a question from
Tammy Nowotny, which is: Can you deliver PG ads to teenage virtual residents and mature
ads to adult ones in the same World? Do you have technology for dealing with those? We
had a long discussion last week on Metanomics about government policies protecting
children, so this is also of interest to me. Do you have ways to deal with it?
STEVANA CASE: Sure. So there are a couple of things to cover there. Number one, we
don’t specifically do ads. We would enable the sale of items themselves, but what we can
do there that’s applicable is that, based on a user’s profile, and that profile can take a pretty
detailed form, what region they’re coming from, a user’s age, their subscription level,
whatever it may be, we can use that profile to determine which items should be offered to
them or which items can even be resold to them. So say you’ve got an item that you only
want to sell to people who are over 18, we could do that either by using the age they’ve
entered in a profile or by saying this item can only be bought by credit card, and therefore,
it’s age verified.
So we’ve got a number of ways that we can kind of control the sale of items and the flow of
goods. And then we can also make items that are re-sellable and other items that you may
not ever be able to resell to other players. So we’ve got some pretty tight controls that allow
you to manage your inventory in that way so you can certainly use that to control mature
content versus content for kids.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: One of our backchat audience members is cutting to the chase
more quickly than I am. Austen Scanlan wants to know: What’s your cut?
STEVANA CASE: It’s a very fair question. It’s a very fair question and not to be dodgy, but
it is somewhat dependent on how much of the platform you use. I mean one of the nice
things about our technology is that it’s very modular. So you could use anything from a
single module that is, say, our payment gateway where we’ve got this payment gateway that
manages transactions and would interact with the individual types of payment methods so it
might interact directly with the credit card gateways or with a premium SMS provider or
prepay cards. So if you use just that module, that’s one business model. If you use the
entire platform, it’s a bigger business model. I mean I can’t give specifics, but I’ll tell you it is
a percentage that is less than 20 percent, depending on how much you use. There is a
pretty big range in there though.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Great! We’ll bring the two of you together to discuss some
issues that I think you will both share. But let’s bring Jay into the conversation now. And,
Jay, the first thing that I’d like to ask about is: SL Exchange is probably one of the most well
recognized brands in Second Life, and, as of October 1st, you have changed over to
Xstreet in SL. Now I know that Linden Lab has taken the position that a name like
SL Exchange infringes on their brand. I can understand that. On the other hand, other well
known brands, including my broadcaster, SLCN, have not changed their name, and they are
standing their ground. So can you tell us what considerations you were weighing when you
made the choice you did?
JAY GEESEMAN: Well, the main consideration is, we didn’t really want to fight. We’re kind
of hundred percent dependent on Second Life right now so a fight wouldn’t be good for
anyone at this point. Besides that, also when the new trademark policy came about, it really
presented an opportunity to re-brand ourselves. Back when we first started SL Exchange,
that name wasn’t really given a whole lot of consideration for future growth. So any new
names, any kind of expansion we’d have to do, we’d have to come up with a whole new
name every time. As we went through this re-branding process, the name Xstreet came up,
and that name is really flexible. It can be used for multiple services. Figure we want to do
the same service in multiple Worlds, it can be Xstreet this World, Xstreet that World,
whatever, and that works a lot better. But the main consideration for changing the name in
the first place was really to not fight about it because a fight doesn’t really help anyone.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. So I’m actually looking already at the backchat. You talk for
30 seconds, and we get some things up. So Eshi Otawara says, “I forgot to mention Xstreet
gives best rates on currency sales, significantly better than Second Life.” And I guess you
know it’s true that, as you just said, you are dependent on Second Life at this point. On the
other hand, you are in the currency markets, competitors. How does that work exactly?
JAY GEESEMAN: This is something that I actually had a little discussion about with one or
two of the Lindens at Second Life Community Convention. We are competitors, but the
competition between us actually works to the benefit of both of us, and, yeah, the prices are
better. We actually take a loss on money that people send us, which is a little known fact
that only a few people have realized to date.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Little known ‘til just now, Jay.
JAY GEESEMAN: Yeah. Yeah.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let’s just go there, I guess, into your revenue model. Currency
exchange is a bit of a loss leader for you. Can you tell us how you’re making your
JAY GEESEMAN: Well, when I say that that’s a loss leader, it’s not the currency exchange
itself; it’s mainly the way that we allow payments to be sent to us. As with any payment
processor, we mainly use PayPal right now. They take their cut. We give people more than
that cut. That’s where we take our loss. But our main business model, the revenue model, is
highly driven from advertising. The currency exchange is a small percentage. The
marketplace commissions that we charge, those are a small percentage, and the great
majority of our income actually comes from advertising, through banners in-world and item
enhancements in the marketplace.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Can you give us just a little insight into what you mean by item
JAY GEESEMAN: Sure. When you list a product for sale through our marketplace, there’s a
number of options you can add to an item to increase the visibility. You can make it bold.
You can outline it. You can highlight it. You can feature it, and you can feature it on the
home page, the home page being the top tier. And basically, these are things very similar to
what eBay allows with its own listing enhancements. As far as I’m aware, the home page
featured ads actually really do increase sales for a lot of people, and, for that reason, it’s
actually our most popular enhancement.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I guess we’ve gotten kind of on the floor a basic sense of the two
businesses that you’re in. Fatfoogoo is partnering with game developers to allow the
developers to create and support their own micro transactions. At this point, you’re saying
you’re specifically in Second Life but that your name change is giving you a little more
flexibility to move into other Worlds. So I guess first let me ask: Do you have specific plans,
Jay, to move into other Worlds? And, in particular, Intlibber Brautigan asked about
OpenSim, the Open Source Worlds that are created sort of on the structure of Second Life.
Do you have specific plans for OpenSim or non-Second-Life-based Worlds?
JAY GEESEMAN: Sure. We have plans; there’s nothing actually totally solid yet. Obviously
OpenSim and the various OpenSim-based grids, sure, we’re going to look at those once
they reach a certain level of maturity. But more near-term, we’re actually looking more at
non-Second-Life Worlds, and I’m not going to go any further into that at this point.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Well, I understand that it’s hard to get our entire audience
to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Let me move on to some other topics that I’m sure both
of you are struggling with, and the first one is the international dimension of Virtual Worlds.
Virtual Worlds are global, and so you need to be able to handle a variety of languages.
Actually, if I could, Stevana, can you talk a little bit about what fatfoogoo is doing on that
front, to make sure you’re fostering not just U.S. sales?
STEVANA CASE: Sure. Absolutely. I mean one of the things that really makes fatfoogoo
stand apart from the competition is that we are, in fact, a European company. Our
company’s run out of Vienna, Austria, and that’s where our technical team is. So from day
one with the technology, we took a much more international view, both on the tool side and
then on the payment side. So on the tool side what that means is, if you’re a business that
has created a Virtual World and licensed our technology, it’s extremely easy to localize the
tools for any of your development orgs around the world. So we’ve made that very simple.
We’ve got a file you pull out, and it’s just very quick and easy to localize. It’s already
localized into a few different languages.
But, from a user standpoint, we also offer a couple of different things that are very
meaningful. We offer the chance for game operators to create what we call offers in any
language they would like to. So our platform supports all the languages available in the
world, including Asian languages as well. And so we can create these offers that are
bundles of items or individual items at a certain price, and they can be specific to a
language or to a region so you can really customize them in them in that way. That said, we
also offer a huge number of payment types, with the prepaid cards and premiums SMS and
credit cards, really globally at this point. We started out with much more of a North American
and a European focus, but we’re broadening that every day and bringing in new payment
methods and supporting new currencies that are meaningful to a wider audience.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Actually I have, Stevana, a follow-up on that for you from
my producer, Bjorlyn Loon, who says: It’s great to see the disbursed model for fatfoogoo’s
staff. I mean I believe you said U.S., UK and continental Europe. Do you use Virtual Worlds
for meetings and internal communications?
STEVANA CASE: You know, at this point, we don’t. We’re a fairly small team, and it’s just
something we haven’t started to do yet. We make use typically of Skype, and then if we
need to do distance presentations, so far they’ve all been more of the kind of WebX variety.
And we’ve been able to make do with that, but it’s something I definitely see that we’ll need
to explore, and we’ll be very likely to do over the next year or two.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Great! And on the international dimension for you, Jay,
certainly Second Life is not known much in Asia, but certainly heavily in Europe and, I
guess, South America shortly after that. Do you struggle to keep up with the international
JAY GEESEMAN: Well, the main thing we’ve focused on really is internationalizing our
website, which we did in the first part of this year. Now that effort isn’t done yet, but we plan
to complete it and expand the number of languages we have, in the first part of next year.
But, as for what Bjorlyn was talking about with contracts, I actually haven’t seen much of an
issue there. All the contracts we have pretty much transverse that issue.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And so for those who aren’t following the backchat, Bjorlyn Loon
was asking about international contracts and enforcement of those. We’ll have to get our
legal expert, Ben Duranske, back on the show to talk about international contract law. But
that, I think, refers to contracts between you, Xstreet, and people you do business with. But
another aspect of this is the contract that one resident makes with another when someone
posts something for sale, and another gives them whatever type of money, and then, if
either party is unhappy with the way that turned out, they have a problem, and you have a
problem. So I’m wondering, to both of you, how you deal with resident-to-resident disputes.
And, Jay, let’s start with you on that.
JAY GEESEMAN: Sure. We have a basic procedure we go through with this. We do
reserve the right to review items that our merchants have for sale so if we receive a
complaint that item isn’t as advertised, we’ll actually grab a copy of it and review it in detail,
to make sure it’s what the merchant advertised. Now, if it isn’t, we’ll usually refund the buyer
out of our pocket and then take disciplinary action against the merchant at that point.
Otherwise, it’s really a pretty smooth process.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. And, Stevana, what does fatfoogoo do to deal with
STEVANA CASE: Well, we have a few modules, a few pieces of the platform that aim to
avoid disputes whenever possible. So we do have an escrow system built in, and we’ve got
a couple of other elements that really aim to reduce fraud and aim to reduce those kinds of
complaints. That said, we also do track all of our items in the system as well. So in a similar
way, we can pull back the details of a transaction and, say, if a user complains that they
never received an item, we’re actually able to go in and confirm that it was delivered and
confirm all the details of transactions in that way. And then we do also have a customer-care
module and a dispute-ticketing system, so we’ve got ways to track all this. And then, at the
end of the day, there are customer-service representatives that sit with our partners, and
they have to make the call, but we enable that entire process. And, if there’s a need for a
refund or a need to credit something back to a user, even if it’s real money, we’re able to do
that through our platform and through our payment gateways right there in the
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Great! Well, I’m looking at the backchat. There are a bunch
of questions here. I do have to say thank you, Tizzy Teardrop, for putting in off topic: Dow is
up 825 points, which is something that’s hard for me to track while I am doing this show. So
thank you, Tizzy, for the news update. That’s some happy news to hear.
Let’s see. We’ve got a few other questions I would like to get to, and one deals with content
theft, and I think, Jay, this is probably mostly for you, since Second Life residents have
concerns with content theft and especially with the possible move to OpenSim. Do you have
firm, clear policies on that? What is your plan going forward?
JAY GEESEMAN: Sure. We’re a registered DMCA service provider so what that means is,
any time someone has a copyright complaint, they just send us a DMCA. It’s a fairly simple
form. It only takes about ten minutes to make up. You send it to us. We review the item or
items, and the content will usually be taken down that same day. We follow the process to
the letter of the law. There’s no real flexibility there. Where we do have a little bit of flexibility
is how we treat repeat offenders, and we’re actually fairly strict on it. If it looks like someone
is intentionally breaking the law, we’ll kick them out pretty quick. And, in that case, we also
have the standard policy for the counter-notifications. Say someone submits a copyright
notification that’s either false or incorrect, there’s obviously a procedure to get that content
Beyond that, there’s always the CopyBot issue, and we have a very strict policy about there.
There have been a few times people actually tried selling CopyBot through SL Exchange,
back when we were SL Exchange. We haven’t had it recently. But anybody that we can find
that has actually done anything like that and who is actually willingly breaking the rules, we
have a very hard stance against those people. And, for the most part, the process works
when the content owners report the problems.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Thank you. We are just about out of time. I do have one
last question specifically for you, Jay. You probably have better insight into the economy of
Second Life than just about any resident. You were quoted in a recent article of Linux
Insider saying, “Since we have a large number of transactions, we have unique insight into
the Second Life economy. As a whole, the economy is steadily growing just as Linden Lab
has stated. However,” you go on to say, “most individual businesses have seen a downturn
in the past few months. From what I can see, it looks like this perceived downturn is
because there are more and more people starting businesses in Second Life so there’s
I know we have a graph that shows this pretty steady growth in resident-to-resident
transactions that are coming through Xstreet so while SLCN pops that up on the screen for
people to look at, could you just give us your take on where the economy is now and where
JAY GEESEMAN: Yeah. I just want to make a note: The graph is actually item sales
through our marketplace. It’s not all the transactions through our service. But, yeah, as you
can see by the chart, if it’s up already, things are steadily growing. And there may be a
seasonal downturn during the summertime. That’s what it seems like there usually is in the
springtime and then in the summertime again. But, really, from what we see, it looks like
there’s more competition so the people who might not keep up with marketing and
advertising so much, they might see a downturn that they can’t really explain, and I think it’s
really increased competition. I still see people spending money. I see people spending more
money over time.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I guess that increased competition is bad news to the
people who are competing with one another as producers but good news for the consumers
who are able to buy more and better creations from Second Life residents. So I guess there
is mixed news in that. Nice to see overall that the economy is growing. So we are pretty
much at the end of our show. I would like to thank both of you, Stevana Case, of fatfoogoo,
and Jay Geeseman, of Xstreet, for taking the time to share your insights and business plans
with us. So thanks a lot for coming in this week.
STEVANA CASE: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
JAY GEESEMAN: Okay. Thanks for having us.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now before we close today, after a talk mostly about the business
of fun and games, I want to talk about something a little more serious in my brief closing
remarks that we call Connecting The Dots. The Real World economy has very serious
implications for the Virtual World industry, and a single day of strong news on the equity
markets doesn’t personally give me a whole lot of confidence that all of our problems in the
credit markets and the venture capital markets are going to be over. When times were
getting a little tough a year or so ago, high oil prices started pricing a lot of firms out of the
travel market, but the economy was doing well enough that people felt that they still had to
travel because there was good reason they could bring in business. And so I thought things
then looked pretty good for Virtual Worlds, that allow people to communicate without travel
across the world.
But now the economy has fallen on much harder times, and I think this means Virtual
Worlds are going to get hit in two ways. First, demand for oil is expected to drop so much
that the benefits of avoiding travel costs aren’t quite so appealing. And getting Virtual
Worlds up to the standards demanded for enterprise use, that’s going to require a lot of
capital, capital that right now looks like it simply isn’t going to be available. I’d like to give a
hat tip to Roland Legrand at the business desk of Belgium’s Mediafin and a frequent
contributor to Metanomics for pointing out some articles on the tech websites GigaOM and
TechCrunch that are talking about how venture capital is drying up for tech firms and how
the new tighter markets are likely to play out for entrepreneurs. So my producer,
Bjorlyn Loon, will pop some of those links into chat so you can follow these.
The reason I’m discussing this now is that next week we are going to have the first in what I
hope will be a number of serious discussions about these issues targeted specifically to the
entrepreneurial and tech crowd. Next week our guest will be Maureen O’Hara, a colleague
of mine at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, former president of the
American Finance Association, Western Finance Association and now president of the
Financial Management Association, a world-recognized expert in both banking and financial
markets. So Maureen will be in a great position to give us a better understanding of the
roots and larger implications of the credit crisis. And, as the weeks go by, we will also be
bringing in experts to hone to a finer point the implications for venture capital and tech
investment. So I do hope you will join us here at Metanomics at noon Pacific Time, to talk
about the credit crisis and hear from one of the world’s experts.
So thank you so much for joining us this week. This is Rob Bloomfield sitting in downtown
Cleveland, Ohio, and looking forward to my next show back home in Ithaca, New York.
Thanks, everyone, for joining us, and, see you then.
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com
Second Life Avatar: Transcriptionist Writer