Sunday, 12 February 2012

Aurora Based Nova Grid Shuts Down

Without warning Nova Grid has suddenly closed and the owner Enrico Ranucci has made no statement as to the reason why. Everyone appears to be left in the dark and I have asked many who might know something. They all say you know as much as I do so, on the face of it, it is looking like a silent closure although I have not heard of anyone losing money yet.


Nova was built up on the Aurora server code and some might have said this was premature given the highly experimental nature of the software. The developers still call it pre-alpha even but that's not to say the platform was not functional. Aurora sim is very advanced and fast. In many ways it is better than Opensim core, on which it is based. But it probably was too unstable for running a grid selling virtual land at this time. One source did say to me that Enrico was tired of the slow progress in Aurora sim development and it's true since Revolution Smythe took time out for his education that the project did seem to loose some of it's focus and momentum.

Personally. I still have a lot of faith in the Aurora project although I am now concentrating more of my time in OSgrid and developing a standalone with hypergrid connection to OSgrid. I still have a server running an Aurora instance but I am a bit disappointed myself too with the lack progress on the ODE physics engine. Currently, Revolution Smythe's improvements to ODE have improved motorized vehicles and aircraft a lot and they work far better than in Opensim but this, in turn, has broken wind sailing which was important to my role play game development involving Pirates and sea battles. Opensim ODE still functions better for wind sailing so in the face of slow progress in Aurora I have switched to working with Opensim again and I will wait to see how Aurora sim progresses. It must be said though, that, from what I have seen on Twitter recently, plenty of code commits are being made to Aurora sim at the present time so the closure of Nova in no way reflects on Aurora or puts that project in doubt.
Here is one of my sailing ships on my Auroroa-based standalone. On first linking the ship together and scripting it she sails fine but soon as I stand up and try again or take it to inventory and re-rez then she delinks herself as you see in the picture while she sail basically ok. On the other hand motor boats and helecopters fly brilliantly! Now, the trick will be to fix wind sailing too.


Enrico started out in Second Life then began renting sims in OSgrid through his company, New Voice. He launched Nova Grid very soon after the Aurora project began and probably relied on the rapid development promise coming from the team. Nova functioned much like OSgrid and anyone could connect their Aurora based standalone sims if they wanted to so a small community had started to develop although I do recall a serious loss of renters when there was a mishap with the asset storage code and a lot of inventories were wiped out - exactly the kind of thing that can happen with alpha software! Enrico was also a contributor and provided a sim on the Nova grid serving as a meeting place and HQ for Aurora devs. There were regular meetings at one time but this stopped back in September. More recently Enrico announced a 2012 offer of a cloud based sim for one year free and had previously reduced sim hosting to as little as $6 a month.

Without any facts I don't want to speculate what went wrong but I sure do think Enrico took on a huge challenge and appears to have been broken by it.

38 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear this. But im not surpriced as the performance was a disaster. At least when I visited the grid. I hope Enrico isnt crushed by this and will come back with new energy and projects.

    Gosh u are talented girl!! *hugssss*

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  2. Do you know what's happening with the region he's hosting on OSGrid and standalones?

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  3. Hi Maria

    I am pretty much in the dark and I did ask everyone I know that might know something and drawn a blank so my report is not very detailed as I don't want to speculate. We need to hear from Rico but as far as I know the whole operation has ceased.

    Gaga

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    1. Gaga - I haven't been able to reach Enrico in a while, by email, or Skype, or Facebook... website is down (but he's had DNS issues before)... I've heard from other folks who have had trouble reaching him, as well.

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    2. Yes Maria. I have asked everyone I know who might know something and nothing. Web site and grid both down and no sign of Rico on IRC. It is now 3 days and you would expect some kind of statement by now if this was a temp issue but nothing. I just hope Rico is ok and has not met with any tragedy.

      Gaga

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  4. hey Mera!

    Yes, I remember last time we met on Nova, it was pretty sluggish but that is not the server code because on my standalone which is well resourced it works like a dream and is much faster than Opensim. But there is a lot of work to do yet so it's not ready for my needs. No matter anyway. Whatever I build in OSgrid can be ported to Aurora eventually but I must keep developing.

    I too hope Rico is alright.

    Gaga *returns the hugs*

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  5. OT - just hadn't seen this otherwise so wanted to comment: Looks like fun, that sailing!

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  6. Oh that sucks. I had fianlly managed to figure out how to login to the place and had plans to go back and explore. I hope the guy's OK too and too bad about Nova Grid.

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  7. hi Antont

    Virtual sailing is a great experience and it can take many forms. Flying too is great fun. It's still early days for the physics but we are getting to grips with it. I know of a great deal of work being done presently.

    Gaga

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  8. Hi Jamie

    Yeash, I use to enjoy my weekly visits to Nova grid for the Aurora meetings. I guess they will need to set up their own grid again.

    It was kind of odd that Nova went down including the web site and no sign of Rico on IRC to even ask what might be wrong. I tried to find out something for two days and drew a total blank.

    Gaga

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  9. Damn. I was looking at Nova to host Excelsior Station.

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  10. dang, that's bad =(

    shutting down like that is such a poor way of doing it and leads to a black mark on virtual worlds in general

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  11. Don't worry Sarge. If I decide to keep my Aurora grid going it has a lot of capacity so I may just offer you the space you need. Come to think of it I promised Lani Global a 1024X1024 var region for her to explore putting a Dune world there.Up till now I only used it for testing and exploring Aurora and I was going to close it now I am back building in OSgrid and my Opensim mini grid.

    I really did want to bring my pirate sailing theme to my Aurora grid but the wind sailing is currently broken so, well, I don't know if I have the time of patience any more to work with both.

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  12. Hey Ener

    Yes, I do find that bad form to just vanish like that. I just hope no one has lost money over it. If that happens then it is bad for the open Metaverse. It wont help us none and undermines the huge effort from the rest of the community.

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  13. Very tough situation with Nova Grid, only grid worth looking at with aurora technolgy seem to be Altera Vita . They only have 50-100 sims or so. If anyone is thinking of moving their id get in quick i heard two servers which were coming online are allready reserved.

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  14. Is very very sad that to hear. Nova Grid was a good big thing for the Aurora-Sim Project. I hope that is not faul for the Aurora-Sim Project is ..

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    1. Well, I have now heard of a few people that hosted with Nova and lost their sims without warning or explanation. That is bad and I fear there will be others although I hope not on a grand scale. Companies hosting Opensim and Aurora as well as the walled garden grids owe a huge responsibility to their customers and they deserve transparency and honesty.

      I am sure most of the host businesses are honest and we all know small companies run from home on a shoestring can get into trouble but I think this is a rare thing and not like the early days when Open Life and Legend City started up and asked good money for an extremely limited product. Opensim and Aurora are very advanced now and it takes a lot of work and resources to maintain grid services so pricing as low as Nova had it was probably not sustainable.

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  15. What do you expect? Nova has been on re-newed Consumer Protection Alert since June 27, Sept 11, and Sept 30, 2011, due to visible commercial gaps that were not remedied to date. Sandbox developer chit-chat and shop talk are only one side of the integrated coin: software development + market delivery. The non-sustainable & un-quality way of counting empty ghost town sims like Hypergrid Business keeps repeating on a monthly basis remains a dis-service & risk for virtual worlds http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_302074397206&id=10150238171432207&notif_t=group_activity

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  16. Go get a job in Gaming Industry: Economic Data http://www.theesa.com/facts/econdata.asp Industry Career Opportunities http://www.theesa.com/careers/index.asp

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  17. Enrico is a top notch person usually , I find it unusual that he would disappear without a trace. I would wait for some word from him before deciding what exactly is going on.

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  18. Non-compliance with EU directives and other warranted consumer protection laws is not an indicator of top-notch management skills. Nova does not stand above the law.

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  19. Game Industry Virtual Career Expo https://www.facebook.com/GIVCE

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  20. @eurominuteman

    You are entitled to your opinion but I consider that Hypergrid Business blog offers a valuable service to the open Metaverse and I rather think that if people are willing to invest time, money and effort to keep sims alive and running for people to find then it is a fair gauge of the size of the Metaverse. Large parts of the real world are virtually empty of human life - the Sahara or Antarctica for example - but that doesn't make the world empty. Large parts of the open Metaverse are well enough populated to welcome all who care to travel, explore and engage with the communities.

    Clearly you don't share that view and I know you have been banned from posting on other blogs under a list of names for flooding their comments so I will thank not top steam your random thoughts here when a single post will do.

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    1. This is the true Buyer-side statistic of things for Opensim,
      Google Trends for Opensim market interest http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=opensim&cmpt=q

      Well, you see a decline since 2009, fully in contradiction to
      the non bona-fide style of forecasts from Hypergrid Business.
      These are a dis-service for virtual worlds...

      If you don't like the hard raw data, you can complain at Google.

      Maria Korolov's wasteland statistics originates from Seller-side
      information, so what do you expect... a true procurement-driven
      picture of things.

      If I look at the deductive + empirical hard raw data of things,
      and the lack of transparency, integrity, and accountability of
      snake oil peddlers, I am not concerned about the tactic of Killing
      the Messenger like in Old Rome...

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    2. I will continue to fill the role of a procurement & market delivery driven project manager and industrial engineer, which is completely different to how developers and snake oil peddlers view things.

      Developers and Seller-side sales people operate differently than Client procurement and Marketing people.

      You may check how the Software Engineering Institute SEI defines their 3 areas of interest:

      CMMI currently addresses three areas of interest:
      - Product and service development — CMMI for Development (CMMI-DEV),
      - Service establishment, management, — CMMI for Services (CMMI-SVC), and
      - Product and service acquisition — CMMI for Acquisition (CMMI-ACQ).

      The Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute (SEI) is a federally funded research and development center headquartered on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. SEI also has offices in Arlington, Virginia, and Frankfurt, Germany. The SEI operates with major funding from the U.S. Department of Defense.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_Engineering_Institute
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capability_Maturity_Model_Integration#Overview

      Well, Hypergrid Business is lacking in all 3 areas of professional and business interest...





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  21. I would love to hear from Enrico. I was paid up on my region on Osgrid until June. He is not responding to my emails.

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    1. Hi, sorry to here of your loss and I fear others will tell a similar story. I don't know all the facts but I did learn that Enrico was using the servers of their family-run hosting company and this I was told his mother is boss and gave him a limited time to break even which he failed to do so the plug got pulled on the enterprise.

      I hate to read of events like this and it reflects badly on the open Metaverse. There is a huge amount of work going on to improve and advance the project so those making money from it need to be more responsible. I would urge people to check out the hosts they engage anyway. Make sure you get a phone numbers at least and the name of a real person to speak to. I do believe if you pay by paypal you can lodge a complaint with them and seek a refund.

      Gaga

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    2. Gaga --

      Thanks for the update! I hope Enrico recovers from this -- he was energetic and innovative -- I'd like to see his free sim-for-a-year-on-Amazon revived -- and he put thought and effort into his marketing.

      He'll have to do a lot of cleaning up first, though, reaching out to former customers, handing out refunds (and OAR and IAR files, if available), explaining what happened, and reconfiguring his business model to reduce the risks of that happening again.

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    3. Hi Maria

      I agree, Enrico did put a lot of effort into his hosting business, both Nova grid and New Voice hosting. Sadly, it looks like Enrico, while demonstrating a great deal of knowledge and enthusiasm, was working on a shoestring and borrowed servers. Dropping prices to undercut competition was a cause of concern to me and I did wonder if it was sustainable and I think people who are lured by the prospect of extremely cheap hosting should look into the back ground of the host and ask questions on forums about them to see what people are saying before committing.

      It's better safe than sorry when you consider all the effort involved in building up your regions and downloading content, establishing sales or whatever you use virtual worlds for then find your host pulls the plug on you out of the blue.

      There are some very good hosting companies with competitive rates and lots of background features to make it easy to manage your sims. Low cost is good but exceptionally cheap is probably risky.

      Hypergrid Business blog publishes a list of hosting companies here...

      http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/opensim-hosting-providers/

      Gaga

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  22. Well, its good to know what happened, and I'm glad Enrico is okay, but I have to say that its pretty bad business not to give people a Notice of some kind that things were coming to an end. I do hope he turns it around, though.

    Gaga, let me know if and when you do advance further along with an Aurora grid, maybe we can work something out.

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  23. I've never logged onto Nova Grid myself, but Enrico seemed to be trying to get things going there. He was active in the Aurora community, and spent a good deal of time trying to make it work. Aurora itself seemed to go dark after the new year, a new website came out, but there was no new content on it, and the github was locked for a while. Rev is understandably busy at school, which is far more important that moving Aurora forward.

    Around this time, I pulled the plug on my grid projects as well, as you have to be realistic and look at the dollars and cents of things. Avination seems to be failing as well, and when you consider that it is run by someone that has vested allot of technical time into developing opensim, and has the technical ability to develop a dedicated platform on their own, you really have to wonder what chance anyone else will have running grids offering low priced sims as their main selling feature.

    Users seem to want the cheapest price, but they also want decent performance. Success as a grid isn't gained by providing this, otherwise Avination would be doing much better than it is. InWorldz, on the other hand, is behind the current opensim release as far as technology is concerned, has higher priced sims and yet is doing far better than anyone else in the opensim market. Management and public relations at InWorldz are great, and they have a great community there.

    I've said this before, but I believe that the issue with failing grids is a direct result of cheap sims. With a cheap sim you end up with projects that are never finished, and usually with only one person behind them trying to do everything themselves. A very large percentage of these projects never get finished, and as long as they are cheap enough there is never any incentive to do so. In SL, you have to get things up and running as fast as possible because there are tier payments looming. This results in people doing what they know, and paying other to do the services that they can reliably provide. This provides for a better quality of virtual life.

    Otherwise, you end up with DJ's that are so bogged down being sim owners, builders, club owners, scripters, promoters, etc that they never have time to actually do what they are supposed to be doing in the first place, which is to DJ. By the time they figure this out, there is the insurmountable issue that everyone else in the grid is busy repeating the same mistake, and the grid ends up with more sims than users. It's a vicious cycle and one that you can't build a successful business on as more sims means more overhead, or less performance per sim, and without consumers it is only a matter of time before the money stops coming in. This is the same thing as if everyone just registered a domain name on the internet and parked it, never bothering to put up an actual website for people to visit.

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    1. I have to disagree. I think that inexpensive regions is one of the draws of OpenSim. There are likely many factors that determine why a grid fails, but two come to mind.

      SL proves that user built virtual worlds can be hugely profitable. But if that is why someone sets up a grid, to make a profit, then they need an infrastructure. Management, customer service, accounting, everything that any company needs to conduct its day-to-day business. This is how InWorldz is set up, but Avination is a one-person show. So, while the owner is dealing with the latest update, how can she spend time answering questions or simply greeting new people? Where does a single person grid find the time to deal with everything? Without a team to run a grid, there will be many things that do not receive the proper attention, like customer support.

      Which is the other thing that comes to mind. Many of those setting up grids are techs. They do not understand the importance of interacting with the users of the grid. If an owner does not regularly visit with the users, they lose touch. The grid does not "feel" friendly. I visited Avination. Once. It was cold and empty. There are/were other problems, but that is teh main one that sticks in my mind. InWorldz, on the other hand, have a central landing place that encourages people to hang out. You land there and are immediately greeted by users and Mentors (volunteer guides). You are immediately shown where everything is that you need to setup your av for free. Furthermore, at ay given time, you have a good chance of meeting one of the Founders, who are invariably friendly. As a result, InWorldz is a warm and welcoming place.

      When it comes to virtual worlds, that is the biggest thing to keep in mind. That very first few minutes. And is likely the biggest failure of any grid. They are so immersive that the "feel" of the place is hugely important. And can make or break a grid.

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    2. hi Anonymous

      I agree with a lot of what you wrote actually and I think it's a fair assessment. I did say in my own comment above that cheap hosting is probably risky and, in my view, tends to speak of desperation on the part of small business' trying to carve out a stake in the market or, if you know the business is big and well resourced, then its odds-on they are trying to kill off the competition and take a huge share of the market.

      The hosting market is the big money earner in virtual worlds anyway. The content market in the open Metaverse is pretty small still and a lot of stuff is free anyway. We are seeing new grids opening every month now and all of them seem to have an eye on the hosting business. Really, how many can the small market sustain at this time? I think there will be more failures and tears yet.

      Avination did well last year and grew quickly in the early months but InWorldz had been building up slowly for a lot longer and they had the foundation of a good community which the owners don't ignore. On the contrary, they engage their community and listen to them. They also accept help from their residents when it is offered. They are a pretty loyal bunch.

      Avination, on the other hand, is somewhat handicapped in my view because the owner has a past that her enemies are never short of throwing. I have heard Melanie referred to as Miss Meanie and worse! But, to be honest, Melanie is a serious contributor to Opensim where, until now, InWorldz has not been although I did note Tranquility offering patches recently in a tweet to Justine which is a good sign.

      Avination just hasn't built the community or the same level of loyalty that InWorldz enjoys but I would not write them off.

      Personally, I want to see more standalone mini grids and sim clusters dedicated to specific aims like education, hobbies, social events and role playing. And even Adult stuff. We are seeing that on the hypergrid but it is somewhat hidden because Opensim software only records unique logins and not hypergrid visitors as far as I can see. Probably because their home grid holds that info (a developer could probably explain this?). My thoughts are that we need traffic metrics for all travellers as well as logins. I think you might be surprised how the numbers would start to stack up.

      I do agree anyway that cheap hosting is probably unsustainable or one needs to get their own dedicated server at least if they want low cost sims with serious performance. Hosting from home is useless for all but personal use and where they are connected to OSgrid generate a bad name for that grid when people visit them and find terrible lag. Anyway, the important thing now is to get residents interested in the open Metaverse in all it's diversity and forms. There is so much to explore and do if people band together to role play or meet up for various reasons.. The owners need to engage more than just their own small community but they should make that friendly and welcoming. Owners need to reach out and take part in what others are doing and forge links. Notice how OSgrid has grown in the last few months. It's no accident!

      Gaga

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  24. What the hell happened to my last comment??

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    1. Hi Sarge

      Sorry. I missed your last comment until I saw your tweet. I closed my aurora standalone last month due to the lack of information and uncertainty about the project after Nova closed. It was running on Aurora 4 which was somewhat broken so in need of updating. I started to learn a lot about what was happening in the back ground of Aurora and I wanted to make a decision which way to go as I have a bunch of role players waiting to use the service. I just published here a few snippets of info I found out about Nova for the sake of their customers.

      I am aware Rev has been back working with Aurora again which is great. The project was doing fine until September with him leading. I stayed in their trying to find out stuff but not a lot was happening really although I am sure work was being done on Astra. My last experiences of my Aurora standalone were pretty awful. The wifi was totally borked and disconnected and try as I might I could not fix it. Finally I found that movement was seriously affected so I guess the physics had broken too. Anyway, I had already gone back to OSgrid in November and continued development and building there since Aurora seemed too much on the back burner. I really liked Aurora but, honestly, Opensim was plodding on getting better if not breaking new ground like Aurora so I decided finally to close my Aurora down.

      It really was a waste of a powerful dedicated server that was costing me quite a lot of money each month and, though my interest is not exactly about setting up a commercial grid or renting out sims, none the less I needed to be where there was progress at least. Besides, SoaS was pretty easy to set up for a standalone mega and, with regions in OSgrid acting as portals to the standalone it did seem like a better setup for my needs. So, since the start of the year I have put my time and effort into supporting OSgrid and I might yet use Kitely when they complete the work on hyper grid and mega regions.

      I still have that other server and I was actually on the point of shutting that down too leaving just the one dedicated which is powerful enough for my needs. We could still talk privately about the Aurora server but I do need a lot of convincing now that the current Aurora team will stay focused. Rev's education is important but then so is the cost of maintaining expensive servers doing very little for the past nine months only to find the project sinks into uncertainty.

      We can meet up at my Farworldz region on OSgrid, Sarge for a more private chat if you like. I am there a lot so tweet if you are in OSgrid. I do check tweets often.

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  25. Gaga --

    I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with cheap hosting per se. As long as the vendor is up front about what you're getting. Enrico told me that he was able to make a profit even on the $10 regions. Assuming that was true, the profit may well have been razor-thin -- enough to support a huge big company doing lots of volume, for example, but not a small startup. At that point, you're making a gamble that you're going to be able to grow fast enough -- and that's not a gamble you want to be taking in OpenSim right now.

    The market isn't there yet. It will be, but unless you've got deep pockets and are able to make a loss for the first few years, it's a hard strategy to follow.

    I like what Kitely is doing - it's cheap, but it's completely automated, so they don't have to have people running around the grid helping residents move in or answering support tickets. They are quick to respond to problems -- but their responses are in line with beefing up the infrastructure, so that problem doesn't come up again.

    Many of the smaller hosting companies are still doing everything manually, which is expensive. One exception is Dreamland -- not only are they contributing back to OpenSim, but they're also continuously beefing up their self-service Web panel -- you can restart your own regions, get your own OAR, upload a new OAR, create users, etc...

    And Dreamland and Talent Raspel both offer these platforms on a white-label basis -- you can hire them to do all the technical stuff for your grid.

    So basically, today, technology shouldn't be an issue. Pick the back end that works for your grid, then spend your startup money where it counts -- in building the community.

    I'm all in favor of low prices, but I can also see the attraction of premium-priced land if its located in a community you want to be a member of. Location, location, location!

    That means you have to organize events. You have to attract popular people. Pay celebrities to show up and hang out at your bars. Get lots of positive media coverage. Advertise and market.

    If InWorldz is making any mistakes right now, is that they're spending too much time on technology. This isn't their advantage. Their advantage is the community. Stop worrying about technology -- run whatever the latest OpenSim is and buy an off-the-shelf grid management package, and spend all your money on building the community further.

    And yes, there are plenty of empty and unfinished regions in OpenSim. But that's a sign that it's growing fast. When I first started writing about the hypergrid, pretty much all regions were unfinished or empty. Today, there are some amazing builds out there, great events, wonderful shopping venues. People can afford to take their time and build something nice, use as much land as they need. And that's a great thing.

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  26. Interesting comments here. I offered cheap hosting for about a year, opensimhosting.eu, Maria had me included in her directory. It was quite a negative experience for me and in the end I just stopped doing it and let the domain drop.

    What this case highlights is the absolute importance of a good backup regime though I find it inexcusable, particularly for a smaller operation, not to be able to give customers notice that you will be ceasing operations. I myself still have a few clients running even though I closed my operation simply because I wouldn't just close anyone down without notice. Though we have no website we communicate happily by email still.

    The main reason I pulled the plug was because of abuse. When I started, I wanted to be as unrestrictive as possible I didn't want to say you can only have x prims or one sim etc. The idea was that you had a VPS and you used your head about your own limits.

    The reality was that people were trying to cram as much as they possibly could in. I had one guy who was running about 9 sims in a 2GB VPS. That in itself didn't bother me, what did was when I found out these people were then renting out parts or whole sims. That really peed me off. Not because I was losing money but that these people were then using my excellently priced, quality product to exploit residents. Maybe I should have just taken their money but it kinda took the wind out of my sails.

    I may try it again sometime but this time introduce terms and conditions or something. I do still think there is a market out there for the cheaper hosting, particularly for the less technical guys and gals. Its also a much better experience for visitors when it comes to available bandwidth etc.

    Anyway, thats my 2p worth :)

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