Hi all. It’s Velvet again, back with some rather bemused (but apparently necessary) commentary on external websites and databases, and how these interact with your Second Life experience.
While fulfilling my CSR duties over the last few weeks, I’ve had several customers express distrust over the fact that I was referring them to help articles hosted on an external website. I’ve also had several customers complain about the fact that our redelivery terminal takes them to an external website. All of these customers expressed their belief that, essentially, “what happens in SL should stay in SL” — that everything pertaining to their SL experience should somehow be contained within the viewer or virtual world itself.
While I can definitely appreciate the desire to keep one’s information private, the ideal stated above is unreasonable — and frankly, utterly impossible to achieve. My hope is that this article will demonstrate why that is, and banish some of the distrust and fear that certain customers seem to feel. Because of the many (many, many) coding limitations imposed by SL, external databases, servers, and websites are necessary to achieve the modern SL experience. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that you interact with them almost every single time you log into SL.
Where are they? Well… everywhere!
- Subscription services that allow you to sign up for updates without using a group slot (such as Subscribo) keep your information in an external database, off of SL. (Please note that some of these databases aren’t even owned by the stores or groups using them to gather your information — Caspervend has a subscription service that store owners can use, for instance.)
- Many rental apps that allow you to claim and pay for property, whether you pay via an SL kiosk or on a website, keep your information in external databases.
- Any games with advanced licensing or achievements, such as those made by K.R. Engineering or 7Seas, record certain information about your game and store it in an external database.
- Caspervend and similar order fulfillment services use both external databases and servers. The databases record your purchase history so that you can track delivery and request redelivery of previously purchased items. All of your in-world purchases go through an outside server to be fulfilled.
- Many stores offer external help websites for their customers to access. Some well known examples include Maitreya, Omega Solutions, and Catwa.
- The vast majority of shopping events in SL have external websites that allow customers to browse their current offerings and get support. Examples include Fameshed, Epiphany, and the Arcade.
- Third party SL “reporters” have websites that contain a ton of information — whether they report on events and hunts like Seraphim, scout out freebies like FabFree, or showcase interesting events and creations like New World Notes. Some of these bloggers invite readers to interact with their material by liking or commenting.
- Oh, did we mention the SL fashion bloggers? There are too many fashion bloggers out there to name.
Every time you interact with one of these examples — even if you’re just browsing the latest in SL fashion on your RL lunch break — you’re interacting with Second Life content that is hosted outside of Second Life. There are no rules against creating and posting this type of content. There are no rules stating that “what happens in SL must be confined to SL,” and it is not a violation of LL’s TOS to use external servers, databases, or websites.
- We only have access to information that is already public, or that you choose to share with us. In SL, your username and key are public information, available right in your profile. When you contact us via IM or by using our Contact Page, you are never required to share any RL information. If you choose to email us from an email address with your RL name attached, again, that is your choice. We will never ask you for your RL name, email address, or any passwords associated with your account.
- Unless you are logged into one of our websites (and you can’t be logged into the Knowledge Base, it’s just not possible), we have no way of connecting this bit of RL information with your SL account. We also have no interest in doing so.
- You can opt out of Gaming.SL Live and its associated data collection at any time. You can find detailed instructions on how to do so here.
- We create, maintain, and manage all of our servers, databases, and websites. No third party is ever involved in what we do, other than our web host. Karsten Rutledge and VelvetPurrsons are the only people with access to your information, and we keep it under lock and key.
So, why do we rely on external servers, databases, and websites? In short:
- Due to coding limitations in SL, you simply cannot run a database within it. Databases must be hosted outside of SL to work.
- Due to the broken permissions system in SL, in order to make our game tables copy while our game licenses are no-copy, an external database and some code magic are required.
- In order to keep track of customer purchases for support purposes, and to facilitate redelivery, we must use an external database.
- We offer our Knowledge Base and encourage customers to use it so that they can find the answers they need quickly.
- If they can’t find the information they need, we often refer customers to the proper page on the Knowledge Base because it’s simply impossible to spam them with the content of most of our help pages via IM. IMs are limited to 1024 characters, and some of our help articles are hundreds of words long.
- We can’t host the entirety of the Knowledge Base on notecards in SL. If we tried, we’d be talking about HUNDREDS of notecards. And what if we needed to update something? It’d be a vast undertaking.
Whew, that’s it! Hopefully this page gives you a better understanding of why external support is needed for activities inside SL, and offers some assurance that we don’t have any dark and dastardly designs on the tiny bit of personal information we may be able to glean about you. Even when dealing with our rudest customers, I have never personally felt the urge to track them to their house in the middle of Provence and show up with a sign that says, “I know what you did on SL.” The idea is absurd.
Thank you all, and happy gaming!