Can I make you some bucks?

how the net is transforming the way we work and earn

Is Google hampering your chances of getting a job? July 22, 2008

I discovered some interesting things about myself the other day. It turns out that I am 21 years old and come from a city in Virginia called Chesapeake. I also seem to have a fetish for books to do with Wicca and am the Senior Marketing Coordinator at HTC. Who knew? I certainly didn’t.

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That’s why when faced with self-doubt or a mild existential crisis it is best to look no further than Google. Yes, I unashamedly Googled myself. It took only 0.27 seconds and produced 2, 280 results for “Nicole Hyman” – aren’t I lucky? And some of the results were just too amusing, like this one:

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Ask the Magic 8 Ball

Will Nicole Hyman ever go out with Dillon Campbell? yes or No? Will Jessica Pupu have the same lunch as Lauren Kellers & Nicole Hyman in sixth grade?
m8ball.nicksoft.info/index.php?answer=114212 – 18k –

CachedSimilar pagesNote this

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Well, it seems that neither I nor the magic 8 ball are certain whether Nicole Hyman will go out with Dillon Campbell. I have never heard of a Dillon Campbell and the Magic 8 ball had this to say when I clicked on the link: You were very bad and the Ball is mad at you.

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While this is very amusing a part of me wishes I could copyright my name. I can see it now, with one simple symbol © I would be safe from the empty riff-raff intent on hi-jacking my brand. I would own my own identity.

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Impractical, I know. But you must understand, it feels as though someone has stolen my identity. For I am not 21 years old , don’t live in Virginia and have no interest in Wicca and yet these individuals all go by the name Nicole Hyman, or at least Google says they do.

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And before you jump to conclusions, the two month break from this blog has not muddled my mind and I haven’t forgotten the topic of my blog. Identity theft and your online behaviour can severely impact on your ability to get a job.

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Think about it. You apply for your dream job with what you think is a flawless CV. You go for an interview. And while that may go well, your future employer may want to know a little more about you. About the ‘real’ you.

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And so they turn to one of the many search engines. And be afraid, because there are search engines designed specifically to search for people like Wink , Pipl and Spock. This doesn’t only lend itself to your identity being stolen but also means that you can be defamed. Last year, blogger John Aravosis was accidentally tagged on Spock as being a paedophile because of a blog post he wrote about Congressman Mark Foley.

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But it doesn’t end there. Have you ever thought that your future employers might decide to look you up on Facebook? That is, after all a perfect way to do a quick background check on a person and their online lives. For a second ignore any questionable photos or messages you have been meaning to delete from your profile page.

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Imagine that someone registered on Facebook under your name. That they then went to the trouble of finding a picture of you somewhere online , oh believe me these are available , and then used this picture as their profile picture. Is there anything to stop them?

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This actually happed to a to Mirror writer, Samer Elatrash. The fake profile which was set up under Elatrash’s name made all sorts of false and potentially damaging claims about him including adding a Facebook status which read: Samer is in hiding because Yoni Petel has sent the Israeli Mossad to terminate him. Facebook eventually did shut this imposter’s profile down. But the damage had already been down with the imposter Elatrash adding many people as ‘friends’ on Facebook.

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Then there is the case of a top Yale Law graduate who struggled to get a job because of defamatory comments posted about her on an online forum called AutoAdmit. Another Yale graduate discovered that the forum featured her name and a discussion of her breasts. According to a December survey by the Ponemon Institute,

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Roughly half of U.S. hiring officials use the Internet in vetting job applications. About one-third of the searches yielded content used to deny a job.

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So, as I have discovered online identity is such a precarious thing. And while there are services to help protect it, like Reputation Defender , it never really belongs to you. There is nothing to stop someone commenting on a forum or blog using your name and tarnishing your reputation in the process. That’s why you should Google yourself as habitually as you brush your teeth. Or at the very least, do so before you go for a job interview.

 

You can’t be MIA forever – as fun as it might be

Filed under: Adwords — Nicole @ 8:40 pm
Tags: , , ,

So, I have been away for a while. Recuperating. Catching up on some much needed Vitamin D. But I am pleased to announce that I’m back with my regular weekly blog post.

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Those of you who have been following my blog or perhaps are using Google Adwords to make money may be amused to know that Google is also back with more of its antics and another law suit.

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This time it’s to do with ads being placed on parked domains, pages that are all ads and no content. And in true Google style, this is done without the client’s knowledge.

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Welcome back to my blog and, of course, to you Google.

 

Paying others to do your dirty work May 27, 2008

Today I had a long chat with my brother. Well, it was more like one long venting session with me moaning about this blog post and how I had no idea what I was going to write about. Now before you roll your eyes and stop reading there are a couple of things you need to understand. I’m in Grahamstown. My brother , at that point was remotely connected to work from his home in Joburg and in between moaning about his dirty, hole-ridden socks, chatting to me and watching his daughter of 15 months he was working (or so I’m lead to believe). How incredible is that? And it really has little to do with him having exceptional multitasking skills, sorry to break it to you Gary. That’s the power of the internet. So by the end of the conversation I knew all about my brother’s socks and how he has now resorted to wearing two pairs to cover up the holes. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, we did discuss other things besides socks and by the end of it all I had effectively outsourced a topic.

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I hope he will forgive me, but I just couldn’t resist. Here’s a snippet from our conversation:

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Gary: lol

i want to pay to have a hit on someone

does that make me a bad person?

is organised crime really that bad?

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me: mmh, i think u may have just given me my blog post

9:47 AM wow

dude

u need help

like seriously

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Gary: no i don’t

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me: ahh , yes u do!

082 – 498 – 6230 .. that may help

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Gary: NO I DONT

It’s a very tempting thought

🙂

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me: LOL

committing murder is a tempting thought?

mmh

9:48 AM ppl have and do go to jail for less

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Gary: no

not me you tool

someone else can do the dirty work

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me: there’s my topic

out-sourcing

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Out-sourcing murder? Sounds like a crazy idea and he was joking, I hope. The point is that outsourcing is becoming quite an industry and the possibilities seem to be endless. You can outsource your child’s homework. Just think about it, no more irritating questions about high school algebra that you can’t remember. GetFriday , offers services that range from paying bills, organising for electricians to do repairs to reading bed time stories to children over the phone. Think of all the mundane things you have to do every day. They can probably all be outsourced. And no I am not joking.

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One man , A. J Jacobs, did just that. He outsourced every aspect of his life that he possibly could with the help of a remote assistant from Brickwork India. Jacobs used his remote assistant to send emails to his colleagues and to patch things up between him and his wife when they’d had a fight. Yes, he got someone in another country to email the person he sees every day. And it doesn’t end there. Some women in India have started outsourcing babies for just over $5000. I suppose it isn’t as terrible as it sounds but it’s still interesting and begs the question, what can’t be outsourced?

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Personal outsourcing, as it known, makes up a tiny portion of the entire outsourcing industry but the internet is making it easier to exploit cheap labour in countries like India, China and Bangladesh. Things like instant messaging and VOIP make meeting in person unnecessary. Why hire a tutor in your own country when for a pittance you can find one online? In the US, the average tutor charges $40 to $60 an hour while a skilled tutor in India charges between $2 and $3. And it’s because it’s so cheap that outsourcing is rather appealing.

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Take a look at some of the outsourcing services available online:

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  • Payroll is a South African service which enables you to outsource the payment of domestic workers and can also be used by companies which have less than 50 employees.
  • Workaholics4hire is a service which caters to the needs of both telecommuters looking for freelance work and to businesses who wish to outsource.
  • YourManInIndia is for outsourcing only in India. They describe themselves as “a much needed lifeline for Indians worldwide to keep their bonds with home alive”.
  • DoMyStuff is for outsourcing a chore or can be used to find a task and make some money.
  • RentaACoder is for people who wish to outsource their specialist programming skills.
  • There are also several virtual assistants that you can hire and outsource certain tasks to like confirming appointments, managing your calendar or for bookkeeping tasks. These companies include World Office Support and Odesk.

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While this is good news to those who want to pass their responsibilities on to others it should also make job-seekers smile. The internet has opened up the workplace and means that the job search is no longer restricted to one country or time zone. Now anyone with the relevant skills and access to the internet can register on one of these outsourcing sites and offer their services. And it seems there is definitely money to be made in this industry. According to Evalueserve:

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Outsourcing revenue from small businesses was more than $250 million in fiscal 2006, and is likely to grow to more than $2 billion by 2015.

 

Should we forget degrees and buy webcams instead? May 20, 2008

Filed under: selling yourself online — Nicole @ 5:30 pm
Tags: , ,

One of the relics from my childhood was 7-11, a café near my house that stayed open from 7am until 11pm. Imagine that, 11pm! That seemed scandalous to my 9 year old self. But you see, it was more than just a café. Of course they sold all the usual coke and tomato-flavoured chips. But there was also a bakery and for me that made it all worthwhile. See often there would be freshly baked chocolate or poppy seed muffins and sometimes even Mosbolletjies. And who can resist anything freshly baked? So, often my mom would treat us to something.

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I remember standing with her in my school uniform waiting to pay and all I could think about was how I shouldn’t look up. How I should just keep my eyes on the people serving us instead of on the many different types of condoms which for some odd reason were kept on a rack at the pay-out counter.

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Now, as a 22 year old the idea still embarrasses me. I can’t quite imagine myself walking up to a counter and asking for a pack of Rough Rider condoms or Studded Dreams or whatever else they are called. Perhaps I’m just prudish. Maybe it’s time for me to stop being so conservative. It’s just sex after all. And yes everyone does it.

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In 6 months I will, hopefully, have completed my degree (fingers crossed) and then what? I’m starting to realise that it’s not that simple to find your first job. But have no fear. I have a computer. I have access to the internet and a webcam. The three ingredients needed for a rather successful online career, believe it or not.

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People, sometimes referred to as camwhores, actually make a living exposing or broadcasting themselves online. They pose and strip and I guess titillate until the customer and his or, perhaps in some cases, her wallet are content. And, the upside is you get to do all this in the comfort of your own home. Aren’t they lucky? Who wouldn’t want to strip and pose while doing the unimaginable so someone you have never seen gets off on it? And there are even places online which allow you to produce introductory videos for a potential client’s iPod. Just think of all that exposure.

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But maybe that isn’t your thing. There are plenty of other online jobs available that will make you quick money. You could be an online phone-sex operator. Just think about it. You get to work from home and can get paid as much as $24 per hour – that’s over R200 – and all you have to do is put on a sultry voice and add the odd moan in the appropriate place. It can’t be that difficult.

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And traditional sex-workers shouldn’t feel left out. The net can be a very useful tool for them to screen their clients. Some have even used it to shop around on sites like ebay and why shouldn’t they? Why should sex-workers just settle for the going rate? Often the people looking for sex online are wealthy and willing to pay. Some sex workers have been paid up to $20 000 for one nights work. Sound tempting?

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But it doesn’t end there. A few years ago there was a case of an 18 year-old college student, Rosie Reid, who auctioned her virginity to pay off college fees. Reid was working part time while studying but found she just couldn’t keep up with her bills or her work. And so, for £8,400, she sold her virginity to a 44 year old man. The sick thing is that Reid is in no way an anomaly. It seems it’s becoming a bit of trend. And it’s not just virgins who have something the sexually-depraved are interested in. Other, older women have also taken part in online sex-auctions.

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So yes, it does seem that it is terribly easy to make money by selling yourself online. So, maybe I should just drop out of university. Get some sexy underwear and start using my web cam. That would probably make me more than I’ll earn at my fist job. Isn’t that a sick thought? Taking off my clothing will make me more money than a four year degree? This sickens me. But I doubt this will ever change though. The sex industry is the oldest one alive and it continues to reinvent itself. I leave you with this from Caslon Analytics and adult content industries:

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Whether you call it adult content, smut, erotica or pornography; whether you consider it disgusting or titillating, the facts are clear that without business and technical pioneers in the online sex business, the World Wide Web would never have grown so big so quickly. Without consumer demand for big, bandwidth-hogging sex pictures and streaming video, Cisco would never have sold so many routers and Sun Microsystems so many servers. Without programming pioneers trying to perfect video streaming software that would deliver images of copulation and procreation to paying customers hooked up with a 28.8 kbps dial-up modem, it is unlikely that CNN would be effectively delivering news clips of global breaking news. Without sex-oriented chat and forums to sustain its early years, America Online might never have survived.

 

Want to make millions online? I’ll tell you a little secret … May 12, 2008

Filed under: making money online — Nicole @ 6:31 pm
Tags: , ,

I broke up with my digs mate this weekend. I just wanted to see what it would be like. How she would re-act. If there would be any tears or dramatic pleas. “Oh please, don’t do this Nicole. We are made for each other. I’ll do anything for another chance,” I imagined her saying. Well, not quite since we have never nor do we have any intentions of dating each other. But I still did break up with her. That part is true. Though it was more for a laugh really. Some harmless fun. After all I broke this news to her over email.

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See, I came across this website which generates a break up email based on a form you fill out. It’s a free service and so I decided to test it by breaking up with my digs mate. As any normal person who comes across such a gem of a website would do. Based on how I filled the form out this is the email that was generated which I subsequently emailed to her:

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Dear digs mate

I’m writing you this email because I think our relationship has run its course. I don’t know how to break it to you, but I found someone else to replace you. You know what they say: out with the old, in with the new! The wise Righteous Brothers wrote a song called “You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling.” You might want to listen to it a few times, because I’ve lost that loving feeling. I don’t really do the whole long distance relationship thing. New area code, new market, and it’s time for me to go shopping.

Sometimes you need to take things a bit slower, and just have fun. Unfortunately, this relationship is becoming too serious for my tastes.

Even though our relationship is at its end, I hope we can still be friends. It’s not you, it’s me. Really. You’re more like a sibling to me, you know? It may be a typical line, but it’s true: we just aren’t meant for each other. I’m sure we’ll see each other again, if you’re ok with it. I think you get the idea: this relationship is over.

Wish it could have worked out,
Nicole

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Of course we both had a good laugh about it. It seems ridiculous to me. Breaking up with someone over email. And getting a website to generate the message. Who does that? It seems people do though. And some are even willing to pay to have others do the dirty work for them.

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  • Breakupservice.com breaks the news to the person being dumped either in the form of a letter or a phone call. And all this for only $50.But wait, there’s more. You can even request that the mediator meets the soon to be dumped somewhere to give them a gift as a sort of peace-offering. How thoughtful.

  • Justbreakup.com sells break up letters to suit various occasions. These are then sent, as part of a handmade parcel, anywhere in the USA.

  • DatingIntervention offers three services. You can get them to check-up on the status of your relationship if you are worried about mixed signals from your partner. Or maybe you want an easy out and don’t have the chutzpah to dump the person in person. DatingIntervention can do the dumping for you for only $9.99. You are also given the option of deciding how amiable you want the break-up to be. Lastly, they offer a make-up service to reconcile any relationship which has gone wrong be it between lovers or even family members.
  • Divorce-online allows you to get an online divorce without the expense of a lawyer
  • In Japan there are break-up agencies, many of which can be found online, called wakaresaseya. They are used to end relationships and marriages or to help win back a lover’s affections. Some have even hired one of these agencies to fire an employee. Fees range from $12 000 to $ 15 000.

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It doesn’t end there though. It seems there is an online industry which has developed simply to exploit people contemplating or going through a break-up. And yes I mean exploit.

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After a break-up you’re often left with sentimental flotsam like rings or perhaps a pair of earrings. And what are you meant to do with all this stuff? It would be emotional suicide to continue wearing any of it. And yet burying it at the bottom of a box or giving it away somehow seems callous So why not make some money out of your heartbreak?

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It may not make you a millionaire but you can definitely make a profit selling your break-up memorabilia online. On Ex-boyfriend Jewelry (and yes that is what the website is called) you register the items you want to sell, you set the price and provide a brief explanation about the item and the break-up. And for those looking to buy jewelry, you could pick up an engagement ring for $1, 500. 00 from this site. But, I’m not sure what that might mean for you in terms of karma.

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Making money online from break ups seems to be the latest trend. Another website, Ex-cessories.com , which is similar to Ex-boyfriend Jewelry , also gives you the option to buy and sell items given by exes. “Don’t get mad … break even,” says the website. A novel idea.

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Then there is Smashing Katie. An online boutique which provides retail therapy to help you through your break-up:

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We understand the roller coaster of emotions one goes through during a breakup. We understand that breakups happen for various reasons. We understand that sometimes the decision is one-sided, mutual, or for those special breakups, there is a third party involved that “helped” in the process. Smashing Katie spawned from such a breakup where a real Katie was the inspiration.

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Here you can find things like a Get Back Out There Breakup Package . For $29.95 this includes a book with advice to you get back into the dating game as well as playful vouchers which you can use to claim things like hugs from friends. Or maybe you’re still at that angry-post break up stage and so the Call Her A Slut Mug may be more your cup of tea. This online boutique has quite a good variety and if nothing else is bound to make you laugh.

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What does all of this mean? Well, consider this. In 2005 Americans spent over R500 million on online dating services. Research suggests that the U.S. online dating industry will be worth $932 million by 2011. Online dating services are popular largely because they exploit a human need. There are even dating agencies in virtual reality spaces like Second Life, which says a lot.

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So you want to make millions online? Set up an easy to use; inexpensive yet efficient online break up service. A service which gets the job done without any mess or fuss. Maybe you could partner your break-up agency with an online dating agency. Or is that just heatless? It seems though, that making money online is about seeing a need and exploiting it no matter how heartless that may seem.

 

Should we tax virtual income? May 5, 2008

Paying Tax. Something everyone looks forward to. And who wouldn’t eagerly anticipate the day when their slogging earns them enough to have some of it deducted by government? I know I do – said with all the sarcasm I can muster.

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But it’s all part of the you-scratch-my-back and I’ll-scratch-yours policy. So I suppose I shouldn’t really complain. After all, my first pay-cheque (when I do receive it) might help improve something like the state of South Africa’s roads. Imagine a pothole-free South Africa – if you’ve ever been to South Africa you’ll understand? And all from paying your taxes? Wow, the Receiver of Revenue should pay me to work in their PR department.

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But I digress. The point is that we pay our taxes, well some of us do. Others, like Wesley Snipes seem to have better things to do with their money. He was recently sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion. He isn’t the only one though. Richard Hatch , who won US Survivor in 2000, and Gordon Ramsay , celebrity chef, are two other celebs who have also been charged with tax offenses recently. In Ramsay’s case he was forced to pay a 450 pound fine for missing certain tax deadlines. When it comes to policing tax, governments are relentless. And so they should be, some would argue.

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Despite my cynicism, I do see how paying tax benefits the tax-payer. But what about income earned in a virtual reality world like Second Life? Should people be taxed on their virtual money and assets and if so how will governments regulate this?

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The Swedish government seems to think so. This officiousness shouldn’t surprise anyone after all Sweden was one of the first countries to set up a virtual embassy in Second Life.

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It would make sense to tax any virtual earnings which have can be converted into real-world income. This would affect Second Lifers like Anshe Chung who was one of the first virtual reality millionaires. She began selling custom-made animations in Second Life and used the profit to buy and develop virtual land as part of her Second life estate agency. Chung also owns several Second Life shopping centres and virtual clothing stores.

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And it’s because Linden dollar, the currency used is Second Life, and Project Entropia Dollars (PED), the currency used in another virtual reality game , can be converted into real-world dollars that there should be some sort of tax regulation. After all there are cases where virtual money has been converted into real-world income. Brad Welch is one such case where PED where used to pay for his $10,000 dollar hip-replacement surgery. There is also the case of Julian Dibbell who says in his blog :

On April 15, 2004, I will truthfully report to the IRS that my primary source of income is the sale of imaginary goods, and that I earn more from it, on a monthly basis, than I have ever earned as a professional writer.

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It makes sense to tax virtual money which is used as real-world income even if it was earned in virtual reality. But what the Swedish government is proposing is that even in-game transactions should be taxed. A statement they released says the following:

Transactions between participants in a virtual world, where the deal is about the sale of a “product” or a “service” against reimbursement in an internal currency, should be considered, according to the Swedish Tax Agency’s ruling, [actual] sales of electronic services, if the internal currency can be exchanged to a valid legal means of payment. If the internal currency cannot be exchanged to money, the transactions should not be considered [actual] sales.

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You’re probably thinking that that’s a summary of my ramblings. Well, not quite. See what this means is that you will be taxed on virtual money or assets regardless of whether or not you actually convert it into real currency.

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Think of the implications this will have for players of games like World of Warcraft (WoW). This is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game which involves fighting monsters, going on quests and developing the skills of your character. In order to progress in WoW a player can buy WoW gold or can exchange things like swords for things your character might need. Can you imagine being taxed for this? Or perhaps being taxed for all your virtual reality assets like your swords and castles?

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And if players are going to be taxed for their virtual reality assets what does that mean when the player dies? Will this player’s heirs be forced to pay estate taxes?

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The Swedish government is also trying to introduce legislation which taxes players who earn over a certain amount in virtual reality. According to a statement released by the Swedish Tax Agency:

The Agency also finds that a participant who, without carrying on a trade, independently and with certain permanence sells electronic services for more than 30 000 Swedish kronor [about 3 000 €], is carrying out an activity that is professional according to chapter 4, 1 §, first paragraph 2 of the value-added tax statute.

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Understandably, governments are worried that virtual reality makes tax evasion and money-laundering easier. Perhaps there is some need to regulate virtual reality money. But please, let’s be sensible about it. The you-scratch-my-back and I’ll-scratch-yours policy doesn’t apply if governments are going to tax players for virtual-reality assets which never leave the virtual world. Surely if anyone is going to be doing the taxing it should be virtual governments. But since there aren’t any , maybe it’s the job of companies, like Linden Lab and Mindark which created these virtual reality worlds.

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Consider this section of Second Life’s Terms of Service:

1.4 Second Life “currency” is a limited license right available for purchase or free distribution at Linden Lab’s discretion, and is not redeemable for monetary value from Linden Lab.

You acknowledge that the Service presently includes a component of in-world fictional currency (“Currency” or “Linden Dollars” or “L$”), which constitutes a limited license right to use a feature of our product when, as, and if allowed by Linden Lab. Linden Lab may charge fees for the right to use Linden Dollars, or may distribute Linden Dollars without charge, in its sole discretion. Regardless of terminology used, Linden Dollars represent a limited license right governed solely under the terms of this Agreement, and are not redeemable for any sum of money or monetary value from Linden Lab at any time. You agree that Linden Lab has the absolute right to manage, regulate, control, modify and/or eliminate such Currency as it sees fit in its sole discretion, in any general or specific case, and that Linden Lab will have no liability to you based on its exercise of such right. (My emphasis)

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With so much control over its currency, what really separates Linden Labs from a real world government? It would make more sense for these companies to decide how virtual money and assets are taxed.

 

The Power of Bimbo Bucks

Filed under: virtual money — Nicole @ 7:29 pm
Tags: , ,

My last post explored the link between virtual spending and consumer habits in reality. So is it really possible for the one to influence the other? Here’s a bit more information for you to mull over.

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According to research done at the Bailenson Virtual Human Interaction Lab the way you behave in a virtual reality affects behaviour in reality. Time spent in virtual reality blurs the distinction between your virtual and real self. Jeremy Bailenson, a professor at the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab, says that what happens in virtual reality doesn’t necessarily stay there. Experiments in Bailenson’s lab have shown :

That what you experience as your digital doppelgänger lingers after you power down the PC—and bleeds into your real-life identity, at least for a while. His Stanford research team has begun exploring how those virtual experiences might be used to tweak who you are, for better or worse.

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There are arguments that a virtual self is seen to be an extension or type of self-representation. Bailenson says:

It only takes 90 seconds of exposure to a mirror image transformed in age, height or gender to cause drastic changes in behaviour.

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Then there is the Proteus Effect. This looks at how the characteristics you adopt in virtual reality are transferable to real life situations. For example someone who is given a tall avatar tends to behave more aggressively in virtual bargaining situations than those with shorter avatars. When the same task was repeated in realty, the person who had the taller avatar still behaved more aggressively.

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If having a tall avatar can make you more aggressive in real life then strutting around virtual reality as an emaciated bimbo must affect young girls. And perhaps the creators of Miss Bimbo have finally realised this as they’ve removed the option of giving your virtual bimbo diet pills.

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But I’m not convinced. Will this really make a difference? After all, the aim of Miss Bimbo is to keep your bimbo as thin as possible and, as I discuss in my previous post, you are encouraged to spend your virtual money ensuring your character stays that way. If the research from Bailenson Virtual Human Interaction Lab is correct then this virtual spending is likely to influence real world spending.