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Benjamin Duranske's Second Life Avatar 'Benjamin Noble'As of today, it has been exactly one year since I wrote my first post and launched Virtually Blind.

A Note of Thanks to Virtually Blind’s Readers

This year saw virtual worlds and multiuser online games explode in popularity, and with that, legal questions were pushed to the forefront. The massive increase in players and users led to quite a bit of litigation, some serious conversations about legislation, and a number of huge internal policy shifts. Legal scholars started weighing in with greater frequency, the mainstream press started to pay closer attention, and the virtual world and game industry itself began really scrutinizing the legal issues that impact these spaces.

It has been my privilege to report on these changes, but I am very much aware that virtual law is, at this point, far better suited to a conversation than a lecture. I can think of no better way to kick off this anniversary post than by saying “thank you” to VB’s readers. Thank you not only for visiting regularly over the last year — though I certainly do appreciate that — but also especially for adding your thoughtful voices to the emerging dialog about virtual law.

The Year in Bullets: Numbers, History, and Thoughts

  • Lady Justice Statue at Second Life's Law and Justice CenterI was one naive blogger when I started doing this. It didn’t even occur to me that it might be nice to know how many readers VB was getting until the site had been running for almost a month. The first day that I installed a stat package was February 19, 2007. On that day, VB was visited by exactly 75 people. That seemed like plenty for a site like this. I was absolutely ecstatic a few days later when daily readership broke 100. I had no idea what was about to happen.
  • VB now is now read by about 2200 unique visitors every day, give or take a few depending on what’s going on in the world of virtual law. Because many regular visitors hit the site a few times a week, it works out to around 26,000 unique visitors each month.
  • Many visitors read more than one article or check the comments, so the site is getting around 2700 page loads a day — sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on what is on the front page.
  • Since the site’s inception, VB has had a total of 156,489 unique visitors, and a total of 327,255 page loads. This month (as of January 21st) already accounts for 47,667 of those page loads. At this pace, VB should hit a million page loads mid-summer.
  • Every time I check these numbers, I am just shocked at the growth of this specialty, but I suspect the trend will continue for a while. Virtual law is only now getting mainstream recognition, and courts have just started looking at the issues we’re examining here.
  • Old VB BannerFor the first few months, the site’s banner tagline read “Justice, Law, and Politics of Virtual Worlds.” An earlier version included “Economics,” too. I changed it to “Virtual Law | Legal Issues that Impact Virtual Worlds” because I discovered that I didn’t have any real interest in covering politics or economics. I also wanted to focus attention on the term “virtual law,” since nobody seemed to know what to call this emerging field. (I figured that readers could puzzle out “blind justice” on their own.) It turned to be one of the best early decisions I made about the site; with everything that happened this year, VB could not possibly have tracked a broader portfolio.
  • To date, readers have left 1,243 comments.
  • Of the 156,489 readers who visited VB over the last year, only one is prohibited from leaving comments. A big thanks to every one of the rest of you for consistently focusing your sometimes strong disagreements with each other (and with me) on ideas rather than people. You keep the dialog here both challenging and respectful, and I appreciate it.
  • Avatar ChangesOn a personal note, my avatar in Second Life (the virtual world that I visit most often) changed quite a bit over the last year. Thanks to a custom skin and a new pair of glasses that match mine almost perfectly, it looks a lot like me now (at least when my real-life hair is cut short). An aside for Second Life users struggling to get a professional look for a male avatar — consider getting a high-quality skin that includes texture-based hair, if you don’t mind a close-cropped look. Your mileage may vary, but I have yet to find prim-based hair that doesn’t make my avatar look like he’s a stage magician in his off time.
  • About 60% of VB’s visitors use Firefox. That percentage has been pretty stable since the site started.
  • World Map in Second LifeAbout 65% of VB’s traffic comes from the United States. The U.K. and Canada account for another 15%. Another 15% come from Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Japan, Spain, and France combined. The other 5% comes from everywhere else. That includes exactly one non-automated visit from each of the following countries/territories: Andorra, Mauritius, French Polynesia, Saint Vincent, Ecuador, Anguilla, Togo, Myanmar, Rwanda, Antigua, Maldives, Belarus, Honduras, Bahrain, Kenya, San Marino, Uruguay, and Suriname. These visits, particularly, make me happy.
  • California, with the highest population, is (unsurprisingly) the U.S. state that sends the most traffic to VB. Wyoming, with the smallest population, equally unsurprisingly sends the least. The biggest disparity comes from the District of Columbia, which has just a handful more people than Wyoming, but is 14th in overall traffic to this site.

Search Terms

  • Aside from the name of the site and my own name, the search terms that were most likely to lead here over the last year were “ginko financial,” “rase kenzo,” “kwari,” “second life bar association,” “world of warcraft erotic,” “eros LLC,” “club penguin filter,” “virtual pornography,” and “IGE class action.” Each of these has resulted in hundreds of visits.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, each of these odd (occasionally disturbing) search combinations resulted in one single hit: “fugazi everybody move,” “virtual rape game,” “fake chair sit,” “age eight to ten in second life,” “superhero game grief.”

Top 5 Posts

These are Virtually Blind’s top five posts in terms of direct traffic over the last year. Some may surprise you.

  • Ginko Logo#5. Commentary: Ginko Wrapup – No AVIX, IPO, or Funds (July 31, 2007) — The end of last summer’s sad coverage of the Ginko implosion. Legacy? US $750,000 in balances left outstanding, something around US $200,000 in real money deposits missing (around $80k admittedly pocketed by the people who ran it) no lawsuit, no arrests, no certainty about who ran it… and no more banking in Second Life.
  • De Morgen Headline#1. Reader Roundtable: “Virtual Rape” Claim Brings Belgian Police to Second Life (April 24, 2007) — This was by far the most visited post on VB over the last year, nearly doubling the second most-hit post’s numbers. Oddly, I very nearly did not cover this story, but it kept popping up in unlikely Google alerts, so I tracked down the original articles in the Belgian papers, got translations, and ran links. Why all the traffic? Regina Lynn linked to this post in her “Sex Drive” column in WIRED (one of VB’s first major links). The article is also footnoted in Wikipedia Germany’s entry on Second Life, and it gets quite a bit of search traffic too. As far as I know, nothing ever came of the investigation.

Top Three Incoming Links

The links that sent the most visitors to VB last year may also surprise you:

  • Something Awful Logo#1. Second Life Sucks: The Reckoning. In this Something Awful article, which ran shortly after VB launched, Chris “Petey” Peterson takes some fairly funny shots at the site, at the Second Life Bar Association, and at me. The article has generated more overall traffic to the site than any other link in the last year. I think Petey is a pretty good writer. Once he realizes that four years of screwing around on teh intarwebs have qualified him to do nothing except go to law school, I might even let him write for VB.

Closing Thoughts

It has been a blast so far — I have never had so much fun doing something that involves this much work. I very much hope you all keep coming around, participating in the discussions, and making the site what it is.

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6 Responses to “One Big Year in Virtual Law”

  1. on 22 Jan 2008 at 3:47 amRoland Legrand

    Congratz and thank you for one of the most serious and informative blogs on Virtual Worlds!

  2. on 22 Jan 2008 at 7:57 amAshcroft Burhham

    Congratulations on making it to a year!

  3. on 22 Jan 2008 at 9:36 amTony

    It has been wonderful to read your articles and participate in the discussions! I look forward to reading many more!

  4. on 22 Jan 2008 at 10:55 amTaran Rampersad

    excellent growth in a growing niche, Benjamin. :-)

  5. on 22 Jan 2008 at 4:25 pmjasmine

    It is fantastic thank you.

  6. on 24 Jan 2008 at 1:43 amUnggi Yoon

    Congratulations! and I am looking forward to future growing.

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