The Piracy Paradox


James Surowiecki, who wrote the highly recommended Wisdom of Crowds, has a great article in the New Yorker on the economics of the fashion industry and its notably weak intellectual property laws.

The paradox stems from the basic dilemma that underpins the economics of fashion: for the industry to keep growing, customers must like this year’s designs, but they must also become dissatisfied with them, so that they’ll buy next year’s. Many other consumer businesses face a similar problem, but fashion—unlike, say, the technology industry—can’t rely on improvements in power and performance to make old products obsolete. Raustiala and Sprigman argue persuasively that, in fashion, it’s copying that serves this function, bringing about what they call “induced obsolescence.” Copying enables designs and styles to move quickly from early adopters to the masses. And since no one cool wants to keep wearing something after everybody else is wearing it, the copying of designs helps fuel the incessant demand for something new.

While I admit that texture theft in virtual worlds is a different situation I think there are lessons to be learned from how the RL fashion industry handles intellectual property theft. Of course real life fashion designers aren’t happy about companies ripping off their designs either. The smart designers, though, are starting to directly compete with the stores that sell the knock-offs from their couture collections. Vera Wang at Kohl’s? Fantastic. The companies that peddle knock-offs will lose in the face of such strong, established brands.

What can you do?

Build a strong brand: create a cool store experience, design great packaging, build strong relationships with your customers and reward them for their loyalty. Communicate with your customers via in-world groups or something like Subscribe-O-Matic (haven’t used this, so can’t vouch for how good it is). Create a weblog. Get your stuff on onrez and SL Exchange. Keep innovating and creating new stuff. You’re the one with the talent so use it as best you can to beat the thieves. The reality is that they’re not going away.

Second Life is a huge place now, which makes it easier for the thieves to peddle your designs without your knowledge. The great thing about building up a loyal customer base is that they’ll tell you if they see your stolen designs. When that happens, take a deep breath, and handle it in a business-like fashion. Do what you can to handle the thief, informally at first and then via Linden Lab if need be, but don’t let it consume you and don’t let it dishearten you or keep you from working on your next piece, because then the thieves really win: they’ve robbed us all of your next design.

Using 3D Tools to Model in Second Life


Recent news gives promise to the idea that one will be able to model outside the Second Life viewer in a more traditional 3d application and import to the grid. This has always been possible for at least a year with Jeffrey Gomez’ Prim.Blender and Blender, but while Jeffrey’s work is a technical achievement nonpareil, I’m not a fan of Blender and it wasn’t an easy process for complex models.

Recently, though, some projects have been quite encouraging, including, of course, sculptie prims. Even more exciting are some of the complex models that can be created using sculpties and a recently created uber sculptie exporter for Maya: qLab.

Also on the horizon is a new script from TU Delft that will aid in importing complex models from Maya.

The TU Delft Second Life working group has now written an import function for doing this from Maya. So now all technically drawn objects such as buildings or cars can be converted in one go into Second Life.

It’s not clear from the news release (English | Nederlands) if the imported models will be sculptie or prim-based; my sense is that it might be prim-based, which would be a great achievement.

Update: just saw this weblog post from last Autumn over at eightbar about a Sketchup importer. Looks like it’s only useful for very simple models and doesn’t appear to have been enhanced any further. (via Vint Falken).

Creating a Tattoo -- Now in HTML


Finally! I’ve completed moving my PDF tutorial to HTML; now it’s lightweight, accessible, and easily updated. Here’s the last piece:

Creating a Tattoo in Second Life

I’m still looking for volunteers to translate any of my tutorials. I notice a lot of people using Google and Babelfish to translate them. Feel free to contact me if you have some time.

Twitter for Second Life


! (Twitterrific)! The inimitable Ordinal Malaprop has created TwitterBox, an object for sending and receiving tweets from the Twitter service. A couple of prominent SLers are Twittering already including Mark Wallace of 3PointD and the never dull Prokofy Neva. The icon is from IconFactory’s awesome Twitterrific (Mac OS X only).