SpotON3D forum ends in tears

SpotON3D attempted to address the controversy over its plans to patent technology for putting an OpenSim viewer on a webpage in an outreach event this morning, but some of the company’s toughest critics failed to show up, the company failed to answer key questions about its technology, and the meeting eventually ended in tears.

The new plugin – which allows SpotON3D to embed a fully-functional viewer inside Facebook or on any other webpage — could potentially attract a mass of brand new users to OpenSim.

However, the company did promise to donate some code to the OpenSim community next year.

Lackluster attendance

The event was attended by a couple dozen people, but almost all were local SpotON3D residents, company employees, or friends of the founders.

Tessa Kinney-Johnson

The outreach event was run by SpotON3D CEO Stevan Lieberman, an intellectual property attorney with Greenberg & Lieberman, and by grid cofounder and COO Tessa Kinney-Johnson and both answered questions in a detailed — and, eventually — very emotional way. However, there was little new actual information to be had.

Part of the problem was that there was little notice about the event. The event announcement was issued at 5 a.m. U.S. eastern time — or 2 a.m. — Pacific time — for a meeting beginning just a few hours later, at 11 a.m. eastern or 8 a.m. Pacific, on Sunday morning.

According to Kinney-Johnson, the short deadline was a result of the fact that Lieberman had to leave to attend a conference.

“We wanted to do this before he left for a week,” she said.

In addition, the meeting was scheduled for a venue on the SpotON3D grid, not a neutral location, which some critics found objectionable.

Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner

“They haven’t published my comments on either one of their press releases,” said Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner. “And I don’t trust my mic won’t stop functioning if they don’t like what I have to say.  This discussion belongs in open forums where they can’t censure what other people get to say or when.”

Tochner did not attend the event.

“If they intend to hang the sword of patents over people’s heads then they shouldn’t be taken of the hook because they held a press conference inside their own grid at a time that is convenient for them,” he added. “I have no intention to let this PR ploy divert people’s attention from this fact.”

In fact, none of SpotON3D’s loudest critics, including those who called for a boycott, made it to the forum.

No patent number, no new details

There was no new information about the patent number, details of the technology involved, or pricing information for licensees.

Lieberman said that it was not common practice to release the patent number before the patent application is published, which generally happens about 18 months from the original patent filing date. Until then, he said, there’s no point in releasing the patent number.

“It’s not traditional to do that in the patent system,” he said. “The number we have currently is essentially useless.”

And there is usually time after the patent application is published for critics to weigh in.

“Only twice have the patents been issued prior to publication,” he said. “The chance of this patent actually issuing prior to publication is a ridiculously small chance.”

According to Lieberman, there are even security concerns about publishing this number too early.

“Someone can pretend to be us with the current number that we have and try to access it or cancel the patent.”

Once the patent application is published, then critics will be able to write in and point out problems with the patent, such as whether the same technology has already been invented elsewhere.

However, all the prior art that critics have pointed out, such as the inDuality browser-based viewer, is already part of the patent application, he said.

“The patent examiner who is going to review this is going to look at everything you guys have listed,” he told critics, “plus many things that you’ve never heard of.”

In fact, some technologies that have done something similar have already received patents, Lieberman said. In fact, there’s a chance that the SpotON3D patent will be rejected because it overlaps with an existing patent.

“There are a number of other patents out there on methods doing exactly what we’re doing, but with slightly different twists,” he said.

Lieberman said that he would look up and release the information about these other patents once he returns from vacation.

“If people put up their own plugin they could end up infringing those other, already issued, patents,” said Lieberman.

One of reasons that SpotON3D filed for the patent was to ensure that it itself was not infringing.

“The last thing we want to do as a company is hand out licenses to use technology and then find out that you have no right to do that,” said Kinney-Johnson. “We want to be on solid ground.”

In addition, the company decline to explain what specifically made SpotON3D’s technology different from that of other implementations.

“We believe our technology is unique,” he said. “It does things that prior technology does not do.”

However, when asked for specifics, he said that he was not a programmer and did not know the details.

“No, I will not let you talk to one of our programmers,” he added.

In addition, neither he nor Kinney-Johnson could say how much the plugin would cost if other grids wanted to license it for their own use.

“We haven’t had a team meeting about it,” he said. “We haven’t discussed it. We honestly don’t know the answer yet.”

Visiting SpotON3D via a Facebook plugin. (Click on image to see higher resolution picture.)

Will donate code in 2011

One of the complaints that critics have made repeatedly about SpotON3D is that — unlike many other OpenSim vendors — the company has not donated improvements back to OpenSim.

That is going to change now that OpenSim developers have formed the Overte Foundation, which not only puts OpenSim licensing issues on a solid legal footing but also allows developers who previously worked on the viewer to donate server code. SpotON3D’s programmers work on both — and since the two pieces of software have incompatible software licenses, have not been able to donate improvements fore, Kinney-Johnson said.

For example, one thing that she would like to change about OpenSim is that today, an OAR file export saves every single item on a region — whether or not the region owner has full permissions or not.

This might be useful for companies doing backups of their private grids, but is a security risk for open grids that allow users to connect their own regions.

“Next year, we will work on having automated OAR file exports just for full-perm items, and we will donate it to the OpenSim community,” she said. “And you can quote me on that.”

SpotON3D would also like to sit down with other OpenSim developers to talk about the direction that OpenSim should take, or to participate in a group of OpenSim grid hosting companies joining to get their voices heard.

For example, she said, there’s a potential security exploit with the permissions systems  that she’s approached a core developer about — a fix made it into one of the OpenSim distributions, but the fix disappeared  in a later release.

“The exploit still exists in every new version of OpenSim that is rolled out, and we have to fix in every release of the code that we roll out,” she said.

This exploit, it if becomes publicly known, could cause problems for other grid owners, she said.

Meanwhile, she said, it’s not right for other grids to attack SpotON3D for keeping code private when they do the same thing.

“Kitely hammered us,” she said. “And we think it’s unfair because they haven’t open sourced their trigger code.”

Kitely has a system in place for instantly starting dormant regions by sending a command from a website — and then putting the regions away into storage again when they are not used. If this system was widely available to other grid owners it could dramatically reduce OpenSim hosting costs across the board.

“We’re not interested in replicating his system,” said Kinney-Johnson. “If we did, we would have implemented it. It’s not terribly difficult to do what he did.”

“We think he’s bullying us, trying to get us to give up code when he doesn’t done it himself,” she added. “I think that’s hypocritical.”

Kitely has not patented this technology and pledged not to patent their OpenSim-related innovations, and has donated other code to the OpenSim community.

Grid still small

Kinney-Johnson continued to answer questions until almost 3 p.m. eastern time (noon Pacific). For example, she gave out numbers about the size of the grid — about 200 regions, about 5,000 registered users, and about 200 active users.

By comparison, one of its chief competitors, Avination, as of today, has more than 36,000 registered users, 890 total regions, and more thatn 6,000 users active during the past 30 days. InWorldz, its other major competitor, has more than 41,000 registered users, 909 regions and, while it does not publish active 30-day user numbers, had 209 users online simultaneously on Sunday afternoon. (Avination had 180.) In other words, Avination and InWorldz see more people in one day than SpotON3D sees in an entire month.

“We’re not really focused on the numbers,” Kinney-Johnson said. “It’s really more about what the people on our grid are actually doing.”

It comes down to creators having faith in the technology, she said, making a leap of faith to come to another grid, then bringing their communities with them.

SpotON3D went live in June 2010 (it was in beta since the summer of 2009), making it older than Avination, which launched the following month.

Like the other commercial grids, SpotON3D focuses on protecting creator rights.  It has some unique features, such as the “Double Dutch” delivery system, which allows creators to sell products to multiple grids — including grids owned by other companies.

SpotON3D's Synergy marketplaces uses "Double Dutch Delivery" to deliver purchases to SpotON3D grids and to Second Life.

However, other grids haven’t joined the system, even as they have been joining two competing multi-grid marketplaces — Cariama and HGExchange.

“It’s been out for over a year, and we’ve had no interest,” said Kinney-Johnson. “Maybe we haven’t been shouting out about it enough.”

Kinney-Johnson spent the last half of the event trying to explain her motivations, and her problems with being understood.

“It hurts to be accused of not caring,” she said. “I put everything on the line, to try to do everything I can on this technology and push it forward. I’ve had this vision for 16 years, and I feel so blessed that I have someone at Stevan behind me to guide this company. I have some of the greatest developers here, working for peanuts. People think we’re making gobs of money, when actually we’re in the hole.”

She said she was motivated by a desire to help creators, to protect content, and to grow the community.

“Our business is to make sure we at least break even,” she said, so that the people who are doing all this creative community stuff won’t abandon it.”

Even the Facebook plugin, which she expects to attract a mass of new residents, will also help other OpenSim grids.

“There are people who don’t fit in our community,  and they will go to other grids,” she said.

However, SpotON3D plans to close the loophole that allows the plugin to be used to access other grids, she said.

Kinney-Johnson ended the event with a plea for understanding.

“I need to remind people that we are human beings, we have emotions and motivations, and reasons why we do the things we do,” she said, in tears. “Don’t assume. $300,000 in debt does not make us greedy.”

Related Posts

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • While I feel for Tessa on a personal level and I'm sure she isn't being insincere when she says she feels hurt, I can't overlook the fact that her company's conduct is abusive to the growing open metaverse community.

    Claiming other people have gotten software patents so it's okay for SpotOn3D to also take advantage of the fact that the patent system is broken to deter other people from competing with them shows their approach towards business ethics. This is not everyone unjustly singling them out, if other companies come out with similar patent threats against the future of an open metaverse then they can be sure the community will react in a similar way to defend its interests.

    Claiming that Kitely is being hypocritical by not releasing its non-OpenSim-related code is rich coming from SpotOn3D when Kitely has contributed ALL its OpenSim improvements back to the community and SpotOn3D has contributed none.

    Claiming that they need to get a patent to protect themselves from being sued for using the software they created while saying they intend to monetize their patent by targeting other companies that use their own software to compete with SpotOn3D is hypocritical.

    If all they wish to do is protect themselves from being sued they can join the community in its fight against software patents being used against its members. In the meantime, if they wish to gain additional legal protection, they can publish what they believe they have invented so it will become part of the published prior art.

    It is in the community's best interest to not relent on this so that any company that will attempt to stifle competition using patent threats will know we won't let it get away with it. If we create an environment where pursuing this kind of anti-competitive path will result in bigger losses for the would be patent troll than any license fees it may be able to extort using the broken patent system then even exiting patent holders won't threaten the development of the open metaverse community.

  • As you know Maria, I did attend the meeting late just to make my apologies and note the notice had been too short for me. I tweeted the notice soon after it appeared on my blog comments so anyone who was interested at least had access to the details. For me, Sunday is a family day and I was due to travel to make a visit with no certainty I could be back in time. As it happens I did get back but really too late for the meeting.

    I did want to be there to get first hand information and I appreciate Maria's coverage in the article here. I am disappointed that the issues about the patent was still not really addressed but glad SpotON3D did at least say they would contribute code back to Open Sim once the foundation was fully established.

    I don't agree with Tessa's claim that Ilan of Kitely are bullying them into releasing their code. That is absurd. Many, myself included, are seeking answers to questions SpotON3D refuses to give clear answers to. They accuse Kitely of not releasing their code but Kitely are not seeking patents so others can, if they work out a way to code it, develop similar methods to deliver cloud-based sims on demand.

    SpotON3D could have done this with their code – simply demonstrated the technology and kept the code secret without seeking a patent and this controversy would not have erupted. Quite the opposite, in my view. In fact my own review was fairly balanced and I found the method to be very useful and polished. The problem is the patent and until SpotON3D gives the number and/or a full explanation as to what it covers then no amount of PR meetings on their grid is going to satisfy those apposed to it.

    I have been trying to gage opinion on this issue by speaking to people who have not posted comments and the reaction I get is one of general disgust at SpotON3D's actions so the views expressed in comments to my blog, here on Hypergrid Business and a number of other blogs is by no means an isolated reaction.

  • First off, let me say I didn’t attend SpotOn3d’s PR event. Despite the short notice, I could have made the effort, but it was a bad time for me (not their fault, just a time-zone issue). However, among the more major reasons I didn’t try harder to be there was that when I saw that they were promoting it on their own grid, I made the (possibly mistaken) assumption that it would require downloading their (patent-pending) software, not to mention creating yet another new account, giving my contact details to a company that has already given us plenty of reason not to trust.

    To rephrase a comment I left on the NWN blog, as righteous as the argument is about whether or not this violates GPL, the core issue that will make me actively avoid SpotOn3d, as well as discourage others from using it, is their effort to patent the software in the first place.

    They continue to keep the (public) patent number secret after repeated requests. What are they hiding?

    To look at this quote from the article: “She said she was motivated by a desire to help creators, to protect content, and to grow the community.” If this is true, why are they persuing a patent? There is overwhelming evidence that software patents stifle creativity, and obviously this will not “grow the community.” Additionally, how does this patent protect any content besides their software, which in concept is clearly un-original and also potentially violates the lisence on existing code.

    Another quote that is rather telling of their true attitude towards the virtual world community: “SpotON3D plans to close the loophole that allows the plugin to be used to access other grids.”

    Software patents are anti-competitive and in this case actively destructive to the open internet. Software patents are no less than a threat to the community, and as such, SpotOn3d deserves to be condemned for this.

    Here’s a (rather timely) program that provides a glimpse into how the software patent ecosystem:
    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/ep

    If SpotOn3d wants their appeal to ring true, they need to cancel their patent application and find a business model that doesn’t rely on mafia-like “protection.”

  • Another problem with SpotON3D's notice of the meeting was where they posted it. I found it on their blog, which is not on their main site, and as a comment on one of the posts on Ener Hax's blog, iliveisl at http://iliveisl.com/how-your-online-voice-matters… .

    As for the reason for such short notice, that's a bunch of bovine fecal matter. They would have been better off scheduling it for after Stevan's conferance, giving everyone a full week to make their own arrangements.

    SpotON3D's actions versus their statements has left me distrustful of them.

  • Shammy

    *stops reading the many many misquotes and is very thankful this entire things was videotaped to that when posted, people will hear the truth of Tessa's and Stevan's words

    “I need to remind people that we are human beings, we have emotions and motivations, and reasons why we do the things we do,” she said, in tears. “Don’t assume. $300,000 in debt DOES NOT make us greedy.”

    I'm making the DOES NOT in caps because that is not what was said. Tessa said.
    " People hear that we've invested over $300K and think that means we're bringing in gobs of money, when in fact its Investment Debt, nor revenue. Don't assume $300K is debt means we're greedy."

    and It would have been more factual if you clarified why she got emotional. Tessa has personally been attacked for being the head of SpotON3D and daring to do a professional production ready grid, the most hurtful being someone saying "Tessa spreads her legs for business" and the continual attacks that happen from within the very opensim community in SL and beyond.

    I attended this meeting and I know both Tessa and Stevan very well. Tessa has become like a sister to me but as I have said many times and will say many more "it is mush easier to believe the lies, misunderstands and opinions of other instead of taking the time and making the effort to research and form your own opinion based on true facts.

    Once again as I sit reading another such attack on a woman I consider closer to me than my own sister, I also sit reading more lies that will be claimed to be misquotes. There is video evidence of Tessa's words.

    • Shammy — I kept the quotes as accurate as I could. I may certainly have misheard something — that happens a lot, both to journalists and to people in general. If there's a misquote, I'll be happy to fix it, and look forward to the video coming out.

      Meanwhile, business executives get attacked a lot. So do politicians, celebrities — anyone in the public eye. You turn to your friends for support, counselors, coaches, family — you don't unload onto the public in a general meeting. I'm sorry people said hurtful things about her. It happens. If SpotON3D grows, there will be even more attacks, some even more personal. You don't deal with it by crying. You deal with it by getting a PR staffer to run interference, to manage public expectations, and to present a company in the best possible light.

      This whole situation has been a PR disaster for SpotON3D of their own making. They didn't have to patent the viewer. Since they decided to patent the viewer, they could have made it more palatable — offering it free to non-profit and personal grids, for example. Or they could have taken the high road and ignored the whole bruhaha — after all, the users they plan to attract via Facebook aren't going to care a bit about the patent issue. People didn't stop shopping at Amazon because other people got upset at the one-click patent.

      In fact, they could have turned it into a positive — "People are attacking us, so it shows we're on the right track. Clearly, we've got a hot technology — become our customer, and you get to use it!"

      I don't have a personal opinion on patents one way or the other. There are plenty of instances in which the system is abused. And plenty of other examples where it works well. (Which isn't a stance that will make me popular with either side!)

    • I, for one, would welcome the video "evidence". Just for posterity.

  • Shammy

    As for the "unanswered questions" part, Tessa and Stevan answered ever one of them unless you asked the same question twice in different ways. Most do not understand the patent laws or the way in which the patent system works or they would not be asking for patent numbers just filed. It will sometimes take 5 to 10 years for a patent to be granted. The 18 month waiting period allows the patent application to be filed. At the end of that period with it on record, the patent examiners begin researching the content of the application. Decision are not based on a Google search and the misquote of Stevan's on this point is vastly misleading. The bottom line is, Stevan said what information the patent examiners have access to may be unknown to most. They are professionals who making their livelihood doing what they do. they have sources for information not accessible to us. If the patent is granted 7 years from now or 10 years from now, it is because it is new technology but there is also the possibility it will be rejected. Stevan also explained several times that if he released the patent number and one tried to search it, it would be blank. Useless to anyone because the information has not been recorded but will be within 18 months.

    Let's keep in mind that Stevan is a very successful patent attorney and this is what he does every single day of the week and has for years. he explained it so anyone listening would understand the process. Not he will not instruct a programmer on his team to take the time to tell everyone what technology they have or how it works. It's unrealistic to expect him to pay someone to give you information they developed. They not only have the right to enjoy the fruits of their labour, they have a world to build and their programmers are needed elsewhere. Why do you expect you a business (yes it's a business) to pay an employee to give away their achievements. Try asking Coke to have one of their highest paid employees give you the exact recipe for their product and see what happens.

    After this I stopped reading this post. I have the utmost respect to the author for making the attempt to bring this to the public. I applaud you. I do not agree with making things personal attacks against the people involved. For those who have said nasty disgusting things about the woman I call my sister, if that's the best you can do, I'm happy. Personal attacks show me that you have nothing to say about the project, technology, advancements or refusal from the OpenSim community when asked to become comrades. When Tessa reached out to the community, she was rejected and attacked personally.

    • Patent application numbers are not the same as patent numbers.
      It would be possible to get hold of the claims and application document using this number, and more importantly to protest it.

      As for "they have the right to enjoy the fruits of their labour" – that does not extend to kicking competitors off the market using patents. Coca Cola do not hold a patent on carbonated drinks, nor should they.

  • Shammy

    When you put every single waking hour of your existence into a project that has taken 2 1/2 years to get to this small milestone and are attacked for what you are achieved rather than applauded, of course you are going to be hurt. Put yourself in that position and just think about how you would feel if it were you. Or maybe your life is just so miserable you can't be happy unless you are hurting others.

    Yes this event was held in SpotOn3d where else would it be held? If you disagree this was the perfect venue then you need to go find another way to spend your time. You can't comment or even understand what you have never experienced or sought the truth from. your arguments are invalid without research and that means going to the source. Don't let others misunderstanding guide your life. Stand up, discover, explore, ask questions of those with true facts then form your own opinion. As much as it pains me to hear the pain in Tessa's voice, i make my own way in life by learning. Yes I cried too hearing her chocking back the tears as I though she is doing a better job than I would. There is no crime in being passionate for the things you believe and care about. There are things you care about too and would also be hurt to see them harmed after that much time, effort and sacrifice.

    Tessa does not have the time to sit and respond to these blogs. She has a business to build and a community to form. You may choose to be part of it or not but do yourself the biggest favour you can. Make that choice based on your experience, knowledge, understanding and passion. Do not allow other to choose for you and be lead. Stand up and lead yourself.

    • You forget there are many many people and businesses, some very profitable, who get along very well with the community. There is a reason why SpotOn3D is treated the way they are, and it's up to them (you) to adress it.

    • Tessa has plenty of time to send spammy messages to the architecture working group in SL advertising her grid…. which is pointless as many there are grid operators.

      This action doesn't speak of 'building a community', it speaks of 'we've got money and lawyers and we're going to rule over you and make you pay for something we didn't actually conceive of'.

      The idea is not innovative, did not originate with SpotOn3D or Tessa.

      also, it's not a winner. Facebook people don't want into SL or an equivalent. Virtual worlds in the browser, with technologies other than Opensim and the deficiencies associated, appeal to a different market.

      And, 18 months from now, there will be other browser based virtual worlds that will outpace anything SpotOn3D can come up with.

  • Maybe this can put things into perspective. Taking the following quote:

    "…I have some of the greatest developers here, working for peanuts. People think we’re making gobs of money, when actually we’re in the hole…"

    Combined with:

    “I need to remind people that we are human beings, we have emotions and motivations, and reasons why we do the things we do,” she said, in tears. “Don’t assume. $300,000 in debt does not make us greedy.”

    These statements are fine and very truthful and get to the core of the issue. However, the companies that this patent would be leveraged against aren't large corporations. The thing that I'm not seeing SpotOn acknowledge here is that we're all small startups. We all have our growing pains, and we could all use more resources (money, software developers, customer service staff, etc).

    If your original business plan is not working out the way you had hoped, I dont think the answer is to try and hold a patent over the heads of companies in your ecosystem that may be in a similar situation as you but finding more accepted ways to grow and stay profitable.

    Most of us understand your frustration because we're all trying to provide services in a very tight margin. Believe me as you gain more customers that margin gets even tighter. But by your own words it appears that you're looking to seek direct financial gain by this patent. The big guys wont pay you, they'll find a way around it. The only people threatened by this are the small companies who are connected directly to your peers and customers.

    If you turn the table around, it should be painfully obvious why the reaction to this was so strong and who would be hurt by this. You're also potentially stopping small innovative startups from continuing to move forward because no one has any clue what the patent will cover other than "VW in a browser". I surely hope that's not your intention.

    Remember just as you state to everyone else: "we are human beings, we have emotions and motivations, and reasons why we do the things we do". We've all done innovative things, and most of us are ok with you doing something similar without bullying you about it.

    I'd never want to go after someone for reimplementing something I came up with. I'd want to see if they did it better and try to one-up it afterwards.

    • You raise one of the other issues I have over this, Tranq. Future licensing fees. I hope to start my own little grid. I have no ambition to become a commercial grid, I just want something for people to visit and enjoy. In other words, there is no way I could ever afford to pay for the license. Which effectively shuts me out of a potentially huge segment of the VW society.

  • A couple of comments from Stevan Lieberman:

    First, he explained that simply applying for a content does not mean that you're not infringing.

    "I am not sure we will get a patent, but having done a patent search I am quite sure we are not infringing any of the other patents out there," he said.

    He also clarified his reasons for not providing technical details about the patent:

    "We declined as (1) the particular twists we took to avoid infringing the other patents are quite complicated and I did not want the discussion to get into an extreme technical discussion between two people that no one else would understand and (2) it is more likely than not that our patent claims will change before the patent issues thus changing the scope of the patent, making anything I explain now, not quite true in the end. "

  • Shammy

    tp://www.livestream.com/spoton3dcom

    Is the link for the Q & A session today

  • Shammy — Thanks for the link!

  • please! “It hurts to be accused of not caring,”

    barf!

    the language in the official notice is not one of caring, it is one of righteouseness!

  • Shammy, your points make no sense! i learn too, and i go my own way, but when i read language like that in SpotON3D official patent notice, then my way is threatened and i shall not stand idly by

  • Shammy. I have not seen any of the personal attacks you speak of, neither on my blog, Maria's or Ener Hax but if they happen elsewhere as you say then I agree it is shameful and the work of someone with low mentality – someone who has lost the argument usually. That said, I know myself what it's like to be attacked in the most abusive manner but when you step up to the pulpit you become a target and that sort of thing happens. It dose not, however, change anything. This issue is not going to go away out of sympathy for Tessa. Steven, in my view is blowing smoke to avoid saying exactly what the patent is for. No one is asking for him to reveal code or detailed technical information. We need a general statement on what the patent claims. For example

  • Continued…

    For example; dose it claim exclusive rights to run a plug-in to enable a viewer in a browser window for the purposes of accessing Open Simulators, Second Life or even Unity3d? Dose it claim exclusive rights to use this thing on the web in general or in Facebook in particular? I am sure others could put this better than I but my point is that I see no reason for Steven to avoid giving a general explanation of what he is seeking to patent at the present time.

    Avoiding this issue will only make it worse and fuel speculation, leading to increasing damage to SpotON3D's reputation. The issue is not going to go away with any amount of PR exercises totally stage-managed by SpotON3D either. Please get real. OSgrid would be a better choice. In fact, anywhere else is better other than the grids of those most closely involved in this debate. The blogs are better provided the owner allows all view points other than out right abuse.

    Personally, I want to be honest in this debate because it is in the best interests of all advocates of a free and open Metaverse.

  • Hi Shammy,

    The dialog with the community should be held in the community blogs where it is currently being discussed. Claiming that running a business precludes Tessa or Stevan from doing so ignores the fact that many of the people who go around commenting on those blogs are also working people, some even running businesses that make very similar demands on their time. You may wish to look at how often I've been commenting on other people's blogs these last few months. I think that if I can do it and still run a business then so can they.

    I also know very well how it feels to invest a lot of time in building a service and then be personally attacked when your business has just gotten some positive headlines. The difference in our reaction is that when it happened to me I went out and talked to the community in the many blogs in which the discussion was being held, listened to what people had to say and changed our business accordingly. This change did not come without a financial cost to our company (which comes out of our own personal savings): we have yet to deploy our billing and continue to subsidize now more than 1000 worlds because we felt it was more important to deal with various community requests than start earning money.

    As Tranquillity correctly stated, we are all running small businesses with very small margins at best and we can't afford for anyone to come in and start making patent threats. It doesn't matter if software patents are still legal. They are immoral, anti-competitive and insulting to a community which is almost entirely based around open source and the free exchange of ideas.

    The GPL compliance issue can be evaluated by a third party that has no interest in the matter and no one will have anything to say about them keeping their plugin code for themselves if it doesn't violate the GPL license.

    It is not too late for SpotOn3D to side themselves with the community instead of against it. All they need to do is abandon their patent ambitions and start playing nice with everyone else. This really shouldn't be very difficult for them to do.

  • Ilan — It's actually pretty standard practice for companies to hold events at their own facilities. And SpotON3D certainly did not try to keep me from asking questions — in fact, I ran out of questions before the event ended. (Though I'm still kicking myself for forgetting to ask the plugin-derived-from-GPL question.)

    And, personally, I enjoyed seeing Whisper/Mumble working for the length of the event — it works great, no cutting in and out like with Freeswitch.

    If you guys were to hold a public meeting, you would probably automatically think of holding it in Kitely, right?

    Holding the meeting on their own grid was a bad PR move, and, had they had shut down a questioner, it would have compounded the mistake.

    But a lot of startups suffer from PR problems — their founders typically have to be developers, customer support specialists, salesmen and PR guys all at the same time. Some people can do each job well — most people do just one job well, and stumble along on the rest.

  • Hi Maria,

    SpotOn3D initially began by replying to comments in several blogs and news sites then at one point decided to stop and issue their first press release on their own blog. Several people, myself included, wrote polite comments on that blog post that SpotOn3D chose to keep hidden to this day. Following this shutting up of the opposition in their own website we published those replies in the community blogs where the discussions where being held without censorship. Their second press release had a similar outcome. This type of behavior may be common practice but when companies act this way they shouldn't expect people to trust their fairness.

    I watched part of the video they put up and it seems it just shows Tessa and Stevan talking while your own questions where being read out by them. This does not create a level playing field where everyone has an equal voice, it creates a situation where SpotOn3D can control perception. This is much more akin to a press conference where the host can ignore questions than to an open discussion.

    When I hold a company marketing event I listen to where the people inviting me wish to attend not the other way around. While some Kitely marketing meetings where held inside Kitely others where held in SL and some are to be held in other online learning environments.

    When it comes to an issue with such a PR backlash they can't expect people to let them dictate the debate venue be inside an environment where they have shown bias in preventing an open exchange of ideas. Blog posts allow everyone to participate at their own leisure while a scheduled inword event prevents the majority of the people who have something to say about the issue from having a voice. An event held inside a grid that is managed by someone who buries comments from their opposition is even less likely to allow open dialog.

    There are various things that companies do that are considered standard practice but that doesn't mean all of them are nice practices. Filling and asserting software patents is still considered legal standard practice, but intending to use them to force people to "pay up" if they compete with you is still evil. Companies following legal but immoral practices need to be held accountable in public open forums which they do not control.

  • Shenlei

    Patents + Opensim = surefire blog-o-sphere coverage and outraged commentary from an open source community.

    Announcing a patent that may or may not have been filed around technology that may or may not exist and then engendering a firestorm of response from the community – masterful PR move! Seriously, we won't know for another 18 months or so if such a patent application was filed or what the claims are…but perhaps they need the coverage now?

    In fact, we have to wonder if this wasn't just a grand sweeping PR scheme. Usually the strategy of filing and obtaining patent is to keep the application quiet to minimize filing counter claims against it when it does publish. And 'announcing' any sort of patent around OpenSim is sure to stir controversy and generate a lot of heated responses in the blog-o-sphere. So what gives with the big 'announcement'? Need to give encouragement to the angel funders or preparing to pitch it and need more coverage?

    We're not sure about the "weeping female executive maundering on about her 'hurt feelings'" was as planned – although perhaps that was also part of the script, too, since there's so much fodder that can be made with a female executive weeping because her company and its strategy has been attacked.

    That being said: it's a small privately held company. The founders do not 'owe' anyone except their investors explanations about their business decisions; nor is it likely they will post their patent filing no matter how many people in the community are banging on their castle walls with sticks to do so.

    We question their decision to even air an announcement of filing of a patent application that has not yet been published…unless as mentioned above, it was a PR move designed to create stir and controversy, and hence coverage.

    It does seem to be working on one level, but how much antipathy are they creating for themselves? Is this a strategically wise decision, if one does have a patent application in the USPTO? After all, one would imagine that those who are most concerned here will set up a Google alert to be notified the moment this thing publishes so they can counterfile claims of prior art and perhaps get some or all of the patent application denied.

    Interesting business strategy.

    • After this month, prior art won't matter anymore:
      http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/first-to-f

      Very scary times ahead. I fear if SpotOn goes through with this, other companies in the space will have no choice but to follow suit before they're sued for their own inventions, as Ilan stated. I for one would not sit idly by while our release notes are used against us to provide companies with patent fodder.

    • sorornishi

      I have to wonder along with you, why on earth they made the announcement.

      Tessa has previously commented on negative views on my bog too in an emotional manner and I simply concluded that she just isn't very good at PR. However, this press release was badly considered from all points of view. If it's intention was to say 'hello, we are still here' then a more positive tone should have been considered.

      As for how hard a life Tessa has… please! …. and now she's just made life harder for others…isn't that the definition of Crocodile Tears?

      • I'm actually more worried about the fact that they seem to have more programmers on staff than customers. (Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration.) And I got the impression that they weren't willing to adapt to give customers what they wanted. Are they sitting around cranking out patents so that when OpenSim hits the mainstream they'll make it big?

        $300,000 is a lot of money to invest in a social grid. It's not a scalable proposition the way they have set it up now. Each new region requires more servers, each new user requires more social management — events, help and support, and so forth.

        I can see investing $300,000 in something like Kitely — infinitely scalable, no heavy social overhead, users do their own training, and self-help support. But SpotON3D is designed as high-touch grid in a very competitive market.

        In addition, land prices are likely to drop dramatically once Kitely's on demand technology becomes more widely available. PioneerX already runs regions in a private cloud setup (not the Amazon cloud — a private cloud, on their own servers). Switching to on-demand regions would dramatically lower region costs — down to zero, practically, for residential regions. I don't think that SpotON3D is prepared to cope with that, even though the trend is probably clear and obvious to most grid owners.

        That makes sense if making money from the grid itself isn't the end goal.

        Or it would make sense — if not for the fact that the explanation of simple PR incompetence is much more likely than that of evil genius.

  • It's not too surprising to see a patent application from a grid whose CEO is a patent attorney. I would assume it's inevitable. Those in the community may know the kind of negative backlash it would provoke, but when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail. I'm just saying that it seems that all of this is to be expected, at many levels.

    From there perspective, I'm sure this looks like the natural progression of steps during the development phase. It's legal. It's just that it is also legal for the rest of the community to react with vehement rejection of this attempt to bring lawyers and legal handcuffs into what is effectively otherwise mostly unconstrained innovation. The outrage and community condemnation is also legal. We're allowed to be seriously pissed off by this kind of thing.

    I don't have a lot of sympathy for the tears of someone unleashing the lawyers on an otherwise cooperative community. Sure there are several commercial enterprises who technically compete, but do so in various technical and managerial ways, trying to provide better products and services. The different owners often meet, talk, and even help each other. They challenge each other to do better. Everyone wins in that kind of environment. This is a major disruption in that community. It is not surprising that the community might react negatively.

    • From the article: "SpotON3D CEO Stevan Lieberman, a patent attorney with Greenberg & Lieberman"

      I stand corrected… I have been informed that the CEO is not actually a "patent attorney"; that the article above is incorrect. His partner at the firm, Michael Greenberg, is a patent attorney, but the my comment was based on Marie's description that specifically states he is one. That said, I'm not sure it really changes the overall nature of my comments.

      • Jim — Thanks for the correction. I had it right in previous articles, but all the talk of patents must have thrown me off! I corrected the article.

  • While I disagree that this concept is patentable and question the motivation of SpotOn3D to pursue such a stifling move — especially where prior art exists…. I disagree more with the headline of this article and it's closing, and the tone it sets.

    I really think it's somewhat inappropriate to convert someone's emotional turmoil into ad revenue.

    I don't always like people in the metaverse, but I don't think they deserve to 'feel bad' and certainly not to have a bad day or financial troubles publicized on such a level.

    It would have been much better to omit some of those details.