Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Freebie-izm and the Reality of Monetizing a Thriving Metaverse

There has been a lot of debate over the perceived 'entitlement' mentality out there when it comes to how to pay the bills for the Metaverse. At SpotON3D, most of our users understand and appreciate the need for the $2.99/mth premium membership, as evidenced by approximately 50% of our users opting to upgrade. But, every once in a while someone voices their feeling that its unfair to ask someone to pay to own land or build on a grid, since they've been given that option for years in SL for free. I'd argue that, that is exactly why Second Life(r) isn't OUR GRID any longer. It forced them to reach out to more investors for help to fund the programming and better hosting that the users are calling. This may have been the reason for the shift in focus from community to the bottom line at Linden Lab(r), because by most estimates only 10% of SL users actually pay anything to LL. This is not a sustainable monetization model and any grid built upon it will most likely end up doing the same as SL- turning to big advertising agencies and deep pocket investors to pay the bills. In the end this strips US, the user base, of our voice.

The reality is that it takes real money to pay programmers, bills for co-locations, marketing and promotion to make our Metaverse a reality. If we are not part of the monetization of that, then the focus once again will stray from the us and the community to investors & advertisers, so in my eyes, paying in is like voting. It gives us a voice - a real say in how things are done and how our favorite grids grow.

Having said this, there are many other very good reasons SpotON3D, in particular, has its $2.99/month fee. It helps address security, permission and stablity issues that have long plagued the Metaverse. When we created SpotON3D we took a look at the historical top five problems people expressed about their virtual world experiences, besides the usual learning curve complaints and tried to remedy them as reasonably as possible.

1. Lag & Instability
2. Griefing, Money Laundering & Fraudulent CC Charges
3. Kids in inappropriate places
4. Personal Drama
5. Scams, Disputes & Copybots

As any oldie of to the Metaverse will attest, anytime you open up to unregulated freebie accounts you get a flood of kids, griefers, and other users that don't want their real world ID's attached to their avatars via a traceable payment, along with a lot of great community. Problem is that the first bunch quickly flood the server systems, overtaxing them to the point of negatively affecting everyone's experience, and many grief just for the "lulz." This is exactly what happened in the summer of 2006, when LL changed from paid to freebie for all accounts. Even with $28m in investment funding, LL was unable to handle the massive wave of new users coming at their doors. Many of these free accounts weren't contributing to the bottom line, so revenues could not keep up with the demand for servers and co-location costs. As a result you saw many people fearing Second Life was on the brink of a melt down. In came IBM to the rescue, loading up LL with a ton of blade servers. It is assumed IBM was compensated for their help with company assets and influence and might have ultimately led to the exit of Corey, and eventually Phillip's initial stepping down, due to the shift in ownership as a result.

While large investors like IBM and Mitch Kapor can definitely be important in any company's long term goals, the shift in focus from community to purely profits was a misstep by most people's accounting. Linden Lab grew a staff of individuals who were not even involved with the grid life, and ignored the needs of their core user base -- the paying members -- not something we want to have happen with SpotON3D.

You make the users the investors, keep an open dialogue with them, and ensure that the monetization model is transparent and rational to most reasonable-minded users. This gives us many reasons to keep YOU as our primary focus and concern, be it a role playing group, educator, business owner, or creator. It's simple mathematics. It takes a lot of money to run a grid and while this small $2.99 a month fee certainly doesn't come close to covering all our expenses, it does make a difference.

By tying our Premium Memberships to PayPal payments, we dramatically reduce the risk of griefing, because a verified or confirmed PayPal account is required to upgrade. This means that, if needed, a user can be held accountable for their actions in real-world terms, which cuts out about 95% of the risks of not only griefing, but money laundering and fraudulent credit card charges. If we accepted credit cards for payment, the potential for fraudulent CC charges would have required us to raise our prices by at least 30% to accommodate the additional costs - not something we felt was worth the risk and we hope you agree. SpotON3D doesn't think it's fair to accept the risk and make the user base responsible for the additional costs fraudulent charges raise, but ultimately the only way to avoid those costs is to make sure everyone paying is who they say they are. The fact is that our system does work. We've yet to have a report of griefing or fraud. We think our users agree that $2.99 a month is a small price to pay for the peace of mind it affords them, along with the other benefits below.

This one is near and dear to me AS A MOTHER of a 16-year-old and as an adult who occasionally enjoys grown-up pursuits in virtual environs. Discussions and mature activities that kids would roll their eyes at and groan loudly and basically do everything they could to disrupt if they were around, or role play and sexy dress-up that I'm just not comfortable doing around kids. It's also a fact that KIDS can do things that drive me nutso, like play the same currently popular song ... over ... and over ... and over again! *sigh* Or crash things over and over again, just for fun. Or break sims with their antics. *ugh* Yes, we adults do deserve and need a place online to be adults and not have our whole lives dummied down for our kids. They have gobs more to do online, on console games, and on TV. A virtual environment meant for adults is one of the places we can relax and enjoy the company of other adults.

Now, how do you go about making that happen in a reasonable manner? We could ask invasive questions, like your Social Security or driver's license number, but lets be real. Kids can swipe that info anytime they want on the sly and register/upgrade their account to get into grownup areas. We wanted to be more responsible about this issue by using PayPal again as our gate keeper. The reality is that parents regularly give kids their CC's to run to the store or mall, but most would be loath to give out their PayPal password to their kids, because it is directly linked to their banking info.

When kids DO come on our grid, it is required that they do so using an avatar from an adult's Key Account. We welcome and encourage our users to share and loan out one of their 5 included avatar accounts to family and friends that they trust. We feel a parent or an educational institution's representative should be there to guide minors in their virtual pursuits and we think it also keeps the adults from sometimes behaving like brats with each other. :P

While there will always be drama of a personal nature wherever there are humans, we have seen that people on our grid just behave more civilly around each other when they know they are not completely anonymous. Its amazing the effect our grid has on people, even when they are visiting as a FREE4EVER user. I've seen people, who in SL groups and/or on online forums are bonafide trolls, participate in discussions like human beings again. While we want our users to identify themselves to us, this does not mean we ever share anyone's personal information with other users in any way. We take privacy of our users very seriously. But, if you're very very tired of all the drama you see on other grids, then maybe this is something you'd consider as a positive.

For all the same reasons stated above, our premium memberships limit these risks, too. People feel compelled to keep it real and above-board, while playing, working and socializing. We want to be the promoters of responsible adult interactions and minimize any need to be the investigators of negative activities.

The real point here though is, even with a small army of volunteer mentors and paid employees no grid can effectively handle the griefing that occurs when a freebie state of play is enacted on a grid. SpotON3D made a conscious decision to make the users our primary source of funding, so that when investors do come around, we can earmark that funding for innovative solutions and collaboration with others rather than have it decide who is steering the boat. Yes, as a result of this decision we are growing at a slower rate than others, and that's ok. We're in this for the long haul. This only happens when you have a truly dedicated community, which we most definitely have the beginnings of.

If any of you out there disagree with our vision, we can appreciate that. We don't expect to be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're looking for a technically advanced grid that works hard to ensure your experience is as trouble-free as possible then maybe you'll see the value in that little $2.99 a month ... under $36/yr for access to ALL our public grids. That's less than half of what a year's worth of SL memberships costs. AND REMEMBER - there are other benefits for paid accounts on our grid, such as NO UPLOAD FEES, NO LISTING FEES, AND FREE MICRO-STORES while supplies last and access to our FREE SANDBOXES.

We are also considering opening up a free-4-all sandbox that would not require an upgrade membership so that any Doubting Thomases can give our grid a test. Should be an interesting experiment. Will the civility be maintained, or will the griefers run amok? Time will tell. Stay tuned to this blog to hear more about this experiment.

As always, we welcome your constructive feedback.

Co-Founder & COO of SpotON3D - Tessa Kinney-Johnson

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Come crash our cloud Xmas party with Anek Fuchs!

Just a quick reminder to all of those that like to have their socks rocked off - In true rock'n'roll spirit we'll have a big Xmas party today where we'll try to tear down the venue. How fun is that?

While the brave Anek Fuchs is giving the best of himself of stage, from 2 till 3pm pacific time today, we're going to try to crash the cloud server the performance is on. Come dance, have fun and a good laugh with all of the SpotOn3D® users while we're pushing our cloud driven Web Worlds™ to their limits.

Log into your SpotOn3D® account - or mail Tessa at for a free, fully functional, disposable account. Download the viewer at - or just log into your SpotOn3D® account.

For all info on how, what and why - refer to yesterday's post at

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Crash my Cloud - OpenSim Stress Test

You're cordially invited to come crash our server... Yes, you read that right - we're gonna try to crash a cloud serviced region in our Web Worlds™. Sounds like good fun, no?

Come join the SpotOn3D® team on December 15th 2010 between 2 and 3 pm pacific time for a "crash the cloud" OpenSim stress test. We're looking for over a 100 avatars to join us for this pre-upgrade benchmark test on the performance difference of OpenSim v6.9 vs v7.1 backend on a dedicated cloud instance.

If you're interested in joining us, but you don't have a SpotOn3D® avatar yet, please contact Tessa at for a free and fully functional disposable account and don't forget to download our SpotOn3D client at Otherwise - log in to your avatar and come join us!

Why are we doing this? Another benchmark test will be conducted after the first of the year, upon completion of our 7.1 upgrade and those present on this test will be invited to the next to help, plus asked to bring a friend as we'll be testing up to 200+ users on that benchmark test. All results will be published to the OpenSim Wiki for community use.

Like in any games, there are a few rules however;
  • NO GRIEFING, NUDITY OR INAPPROPRIATE LANGUAGE - Seeing we're a very diverse and mixed population we will probably have minors as well as adults helping out.
  • NO new and/or unapproved/untested scripts. You will be provided with a box of test items. Please only use those so we can accumulate successful testing benchmarking results for the OpenSim Wiki.
  • NO PHYSICS until it is time for the physics test
  • DO Dance and enjoy the music and just HAVE FUN! *-)


The team at SpotON3D® is most happy to announce the introduction of HotSwap Scenes™, expected first quarter of 2011. HotSwap Scenes are one of the upcoming revolutionary features SpotON3D® offers their residents, as well as being a new source of income for sim developers.

With HotSwap Scenes™ SpotON3D® users are able to swap the whole region setup for a new one, choosing from pre-designed sim builds by professionals. With just a few clicks you’ll be able to transform your sim into a tropical paradise, meeting and conference center, discotheque... The possibilities are endless. Users will also be able to add their own items to the scenes, and save their personalized version of each scene.

HotSwap Scenes is slated to be launched first quarter of 2011 and will have a introduction subscription of just $4.99/mth for the basic package. This provides the user with five freebie default HotSwap Scenes and hosting for up to 20 more scenes. Of course this means that there will be a big demand for prefab sims from region renters and hourly cloud rental services giving sim developers a a free ‘try-it-before-you-buy-it’ showcase option.

So content creators? Ready to get back to work making gorgeous regions. Just drop an email off to spoton3d but this time are invited to join us in the SpotON3D Web Worlds™ and to create scenes and collaborate together. To get started email us at to fill out the sim developer group registration form, get added to the inworld group and get your Sim Developer’s Packet, which will explain everything else you need to know. Participating sim developers will be able to offer a lwo cost subscription for their scenes, usually $100-$500 $SO per HotSwap Scene, or a once time purchase price of $1,000 to $5,000 $SO through the SpotON3D® marketplace,

Thanks to this subscription system, content creators can rest assure that their content is well protected, as the user never gets possession of that scene’s files. In turn, the users get a low cost solution for a whole sim build at a pricing point that encourages them to invest in more scenes. As a whole, this will make SpotON3D one of the move diverse and compelling virtual world experiences on the web.

And remember, if you don’t want to have to share a development space with your peers, then remember that SpotON3D® still is going strong with its Land Rush offer. At $39.99/mth for a 5K prim region and $59.99/mth for a 15K prim region it's still one of the best products on the market on one of the most stable grids out there and a guaranteed low price for as long as your subscription is in good standing. Don't wait any longer and go to to find out all about it.

More exciting news to come soon - Keep an eye on this SpotON3D® blog, we might have something to tell about a certain VERY POPULARE VIEWER that is rumored to be coming to the SpotON3D grid ... shhhhhhh.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Today: Gridwrap with Chris Collins

It's Thursday, and you know what that means; GridWrap!

Tessa and Dousa will be joined by former Linden Lab staffer Chris Collins, who has created a Unity3d based viewer that is touted to be able to embed virtual worlds like SpotON3D®, OpenSim grids and even Second Life® onto a web page, giving them the ability to reach out to a wider audience via such social communities as Facebook® and more.

Scoot over to Metaverse Island at 3PM to join your hosts Tessa Harrington and Dousa Dragonash for a very promising episode of Gridwrap.- or keep an eye on the Gridwrap website at where today's episode will be available soon, and where you can also browse through all the previous episodes.

Tech Highlight: Cloud-driven services

Welcome to SpotON3D’s Tech Highlight, a series of informative blogs designed to keep you in the loop on the latest technological advances SpotON3D has engineered.

Today, we’ll be covering the SpotON3D Boost Cloud™ service, an exciting new option that enables any region renter ramp up the power on their regions to support 50 or even 100 users. And after we upgrade our servers to the 0.7.1 server side version of OpenSim we should see additional concurrency levels possible, with expectations of up to 200 users. These advances promise to reach a much larger audience that has asked for higher levels of service and a more stable experience. So, let’s break it down.

Every region in one of our Web Worlds™ has the option to turn on the Boost Cloud™ service for a self-determined time period. it’s available on demand for just $2.99/hr for up to 50 people and $4.99/hr for up to 100. This takes your region off the shared Lite Use grid server, and places it on its own secure dedicated cloud virtual server. This means your region is suddenly hosted by a ton more muscle, enough to host 50 or more users simultaneously for a lag free experience. Wanna pipe in some music? No problem. It comes Shoutcast® capable. Want to lock it down to a select group of people? You’ve to that too, and not just from a region security level. But at the front door of the cloud server too. And with your region being hosted on a ocean of other virtual cloud servers on the huge Amazon® Cloud Network you’re about as incognito as you can get – everything you’d need to throw a great party, event, class or training webinar and you didn’t have to pay $300 bucks a month to get it. You say a few hours isn’t enough? Need a Boost Cloud instance for a 24-72 hour event? We’ve got bulk rates for such heavy hitting needs. Just email us at or give us a call us at 330-776-8663 to get a quote.

Next up on SpotON3D’s Tech Highlight: HotSwap Scenes™ - How these same Boost Cloud™ servers get jacked up with unique whole region builds at the touch of your mouse – without loosing your own region’s setup!

Interested in getting your own regions up and running in one of our Web Worlds™? Then don't forget about SpotOn3D's land rush action. Check out for all information, or contact us today to find out all about it!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Press release: Purdue University announces collaborative partnership with SpotOn3D®

for immediate release

The Virtual Collaboration Laboratory within the Purdue University Department of Organizational Leadership and Supervision (College of Technology) announces the beginning of a collaborative partnership with SpotOn3D® (SO) - a software firm whose main objective is to bridge the gap between the 2D web, real world technology and the 3D Web.
Purdue researchers, including Scott Homan Ph.D., Michael Beyerlein Ph.D., and Amy Caryn Warneka (CEO of IPaSS Consulting and Purdue doctoral student), will work with SpotON3D’s Co-Founders, CEO Stevan Lieberman, also of Greenburg & Lieberman - a Patent, Trademark, and Intellectual Property attorney out of Washington, DC and COO/Art Director Tessa Kinney-Johnson to establish an online virtual reality research laboratory using the SpotON3D virtual worlds platform.

Powersynch, LLC, the parent company for SpotON3D® began development of their grid systems in November of 2008. With the help of a team of dedicated programmers, web developers, modelers and grid experts, they have succeeded in creating an exciting new experience that includes answers to many of the complex problems seen with their contemporaries. With a ten year vision for the development of the 3D Web, SpotON3D’s secure and business centric focus caters to an augmented reality experience that embraces existing 2D web assets and real world meeting functionality, attracting a diverse pool of users from the business, academic, technology, and artisan communities alike online. Short term goals are to provide a stable beta grid platform for early adopter businesses and organizations to use, either as a member of the SpotON3D multi-grid micro-community through the adoption of Private Label Grids. The long term goals are to create the infrastructure to enable these professional grade grids to interconnect via the SpotON3D client and the rest of the Metaverse grids and platforms with a blend of open source and proprietary software. Research and business support activities at Purdue will specialize in Virtual Collaboration and the use of virtual simulations in educational, training and business applications.

For more information about the OLS Virtual Collaboration Laboratory or SpotON3D®, contact:

  • Scott Homan, 440 Young Hall Purdue University West Lafayette, In 47906 765-430-6193
  • Tessa Kinney-Johnson (Tessa Harrington in Virtual):2141 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Suite C-2 Washington, DC 20007 USA 330-776-8663