Search me?

Ihave an enquiring mind, and because I do, I spend a great deal of my time investigating, probing, questioning and exploring, using whatever helpful tools may be at my disposal. I can often be found punishing multiple internet search engines and ruthlessly comparing results; poring over Google Maps and Earth; and seeking out the advice and experiences of others to inform my own understanding.

However, it’s a long-established principle of computing that rubbish in equals rubbish out, and that if the data you’re relying on is poor quality in the first place, the results you’re going to get will also be poor quality. Poor quality data can have many causes – a lack of information, erroneous knowledge, misguided helpfulness, and even saboteurism and disinformation. Just to get a feel of the outcomes of those scenarios, imagine you’re on the way to the airport, lost, and running late – would you want to ask for directions from someone whose knowledge fitted into one those categories?

We wouldn’t, of course, but unfortunately we’re often in situations where we have no choice and we have to rely on whatever sources of information we have available to us. Worse still, we have no real means of ascertaining the credibility of that information, other that just hoping it’s right.

There are however a few more criteria that can affect data quality that anyone familiar with SL will have found themselved frequently frustrated by: misrepresentation, poor design, and obfuscation. These are one of the ongoing banes of virtual living, costing us wasted time and a great deal of irritation. The misrepresentation and obfuscation is generated by SL residents, whilst the poor design – which, in part at least, facilitates those other problems, sits firmly in the hands of Linden Lab.

I’m specifically talking about the search functionality that the Lab has recently ‘improved’ – which apparently only stretches to cosmetics. Nothing has changed about how it works, or rather, doesn’t work. If there was ever something that really should work well for something as complex and extensive as a virtual world, it should surely be the one thing that enables people to find what they’re interested in, without hassle or fuss? Which is precisely what we don’t have for SL, either with general search or Marketplace.

Let’s start with the Marketplace, perhaps one of SL’s greatest assets, and certainly streets ahead of any other grid in terms of content and quantity, yet absolutely hopeless when it comes to finding whatever it is you’re looking to buy. The search categories are baffling, botht for buyers and vendors – even after 12 years, I still don’t know the difference between avatar accessories, appearance and components, or why hair is an accessory, but eyes, skin, tattoos and make-up are components, yet I can find all of those, along with complete avatars in avatar appearance. This is clearly because nobody else has any idea where they should go either, so it’s just an arbitrary choice and pot luck, basically. Then you have sub-categories in apparel for costumes, even though there are independant categories for ‘communities’ covering many of the same types of item, and what the heck are ‘Heaven & Hell costumes’?

The end result is not only confusion, but inconvenience for the shopper, who may have to search in multiple categories, just to find what they’re looking for. If only LL would curate or properly moderate their Marketplace, it would be a much simpler process, but they don’t – it’s left up to individual creators to set their own search metadata, and therein lies another problem – misinformation and obfuscation. Ever noticed how you can search for raincoats, and get pages of underwear; or search for traditional costumes and receive results for latex bondage gear and noodle carts? Yep, it’s rubbish, and entirely down to unscrupulous creators cramming every search term they can think of into their item descriptions, or assigning completely incorrect categories. They may consider it to be ‘marketing’, but to anyone searching MP, it’s a real pain in the butt!

Whilst we’re talking about pains in the butt, let’s ask why, when I exclude demo items from my search, I still get loads of demo items coming up? Well, once again it’s the fault of sellers who choose to bypass the filter by not specifying an item as demo, in a cynical attempt to take advantage of the search function. You can, of course, attempt a Boolean search, but this powerful tool is rendered pretty useless too, in the face of such shameless gaming of metadata.

Marketplace is fundamentally broken and really needs a complete revamp and rebuild to make it a meaningful and effective element of the SL experience.

Much of the same is true of general search, both web and inworld. What is the point of categories if the first few pages of every search result is filled with sex clubs and nude beaches? Why bother with a ‘places’ search, if half the results lead to non-existent landmarks? And, why rank results by traffic, rather than relevance, or even alphabetically, that way giving everyone equal opportunities, rather than piling up the most popular results at the beginning?

Search could be so much better if the Lindens were to invest a little more effort into really improving it, rather than just giving it a snazzy new interface, and – heaven forbid – if they took a look at it from the perspective of the end user! At the moment, I wouldn’t be surprised if most people simply don’t bother with search, because it just keeps bringing up the same old places and things, no matter what you look for, and the one thing that should be a logical extension of search – the world map – simply does none of the things that we’d want it to. I’d love to be able to click on any point on the map and have it bring up the location profile, but no, all I get is a button letting me visit the location: How do I know if I want to visit it, if you haven’t told me anything about it? Imagine if you could drop links, and images of locations on to the map, so that others could get a feel for what a place is like, just like Google Maps lets you? But, wait a minute, the map API is Google Maps, so why on earth can’t we have those functions? It defies reason.

So, searching for all those things we want to buy, would like to enjoy, or want to visit is a task only for those persistent, (or in my case, stubborn), enough to keep trying, despite the odds stacked against them… But what about that other element of search that each of us face with growing frustration almost every time we feel like changing our clothes?

We turn to the brooding horror of inventory search, and this time, the blame for the wholesale mental and emotional carnage it manages to inflict upon us sits squarely with content creators who, for some evil and unknown reason decide to make it as difficult as humanly possible for us to find those objects of desire we’ve splashed our hard-earned lindens on once they hit the morass of our bulging inventories. ‘Not a problem’, we think, scrolling down to the letter Cs in our ‘Summer Dresses’ folder, confident that we can easily find that lovely little number we picked up from ‘Chatterbox Fashion’… But it’s nowhere to be found, because some twit thinks that it’s cute, clever or cutting edge, to spell their store’s name with a variety of idiotic unicode characters, presumably so that it stands out amongst all those other dull and boring, alphabetic names, when in point of fact, it’s doing the exact opposite!

I am never going to think to search for ֍࿈࿇ ©hatterbox Fashion ࿇࿈֍ when looking for that pair of socks I fancy wearing, because I don’t speak blooming symbols! Neither, if your store is called Chatterbox Fashion, do I understand the logic of labelling every folder and its contents as ‘CF’. If you don’t like typing your store name, then don’t expect me to make up for your deficiencies.

Oh, and whilst we’re talking about labelling, how about including a clue as to what we’re looking at in the name. If I’ve searched for ‘Blue’, how on earth am I supposed to know what ‘Emily in blue’ is? Is it a dress, a pair of shoes, a skirt, a content creator’s expiring corpse gasping for air as I dangle it from a noose? Give me a clue! It’s easy… ‘Emily Dress in blue’ – simple!

I think I should stop there, before my blood pressure becomes cause for alarm!

Although, now that I’ve written this, it does make sense of a few things that have puzzled me for a while. I think I now understand why so many people never seem to go anywhere in SL and are always wandering around half-naked… It’s because they can never find anywhere to go, or anything to wear, and have decided it’s simply easier just to stay put as they are, rather than foolishly attempt to try and use search!

s. x

I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
But yes I’m still running

U2 – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Posted in Rants, RL, SL | 2 Comments

Generation X

Aging is a funny old thing. As a youngster, we want to be grown-up, and look foward to being older and knowing more about the world; birthdays are fun and occasions to be looked foward to and celebrated, and it seems that life is full of excitement and interest.

Over time, as we grow older, we see a reversal of our feelings occurring: We look back on our childhood with fondness and wish we could hold back the advancing years, birthdays become markers of growing older – something we’d rather not think about, and less of a celebration, than an unwanted reminder than we’re not getting any younger. Life loses some of its gloss and mystery, becomes more predictable and less interesting, and the future never looks quite as rosy as it did when seen through youthful eyes.

Today is my birthday. It’s not a notable or ‘special’ one, just another notch on life’s bedpost, confirming that I’ve survived the ravages of another 12 months, and a reminder that it’s time to rinse and repeat, all over again for the next 12. I’m not particularly distressed or depressed about it – but it does cause me a little concern that I seem to have reached an age when – if asked that irritating question, ‘what do you want for your birthday?’ – there is absolutely nothing that comes to mind. When my sister asked me that question last week, I was determined to come up with a decent answer, rather than just ‘errrmm…’ and I spent a good hour poring over the pages of Amazon trying to spot something that I’d really like, but all to no avail. That’s rather disappointing, don’t you think? All the more so, because now I’ll inevitably be the recipient of at least one book I’ll never read, chocolates I really shouldn’t eat, or some sort of ornament or home decor that will have to be placed on display, but which I would never have entertained buying for myself in a million years!

I’m not ungrateful. Just getting old and grumpy!

To be fair, I’m glad that I’m not younger, (or older, for that matter!), 10-15 years either way and I think I would have missed out on the best period in recent times to grow up in. A little older and I’d have been a ‘Boomer’, which although would have seen me exposed to the joys of psychadelia and being a free spirit, I really don’t think I’d have fitted in, and then to be thrust thereafter as a young adult into the austerity of the 70s, along with Cold War fears and a somewhat grey and unappetising world, isn’t something I’d have relished. As for more recent times, who’d want to be a Millennial, all wrapped-up in cotton-wool, and full of entitlement and misplaced attitude? No thanks!

Fortunately, I grew up during the remarkable sweet spot in between those two periods that saw me able to thoroughly enjoy the late 1970s through to the 90s as my formative years. Yes, I’m a proud and fully paid-up member of Generation-X, and I consider myself extremely lucky to be part of it. We, hands-down, had the best music: From the tail-end of proper punk, denim-clad heavy metal bands and grunge, all the way through to new wave and some of the greatest and most enduring music that’s ever graced the pop scene. We enjoyed the first pioneering days of digital entertainment, and the excitement of the birth of the internet, and nobody cared that unemployment and interest rates were sky-high, apart from our parents, because we had cheap Special Vat cider! Political correctness hadn’t been invented, and women’s lib, meant that Sarah Jane Smith had more ballsy roles and less screaming in Doctor Who, although – thankfully – there was never any chance that the Doctor himself would ever grow boobs! (How times have changed).

Happy days indeed, and a time that I probably appreciate far more now, than I ever did when I was growing up through it. In comparison, the world today is a lot less colourful and very bland: Everything today mirrors everything else, we’ve become a cookie-cutter, McDonaldised, watered-down version of society, where everything appears in muted tones, and any sharp edges and rough surfaces have been smoothed-out, for our own protection. Everything is standardised, categorised and stabilised, practically euthanised! Originality and creativity are frowned upon, and everything feels very, very safe boring.

Today’s world is one where rock concerts are viewed through an iPhone held shakily aloft, photographs are meaningless, unless duck-pouting selfies or following meaningless trends mimicking the latest nonsensical viral meme. Whilst ‘news’ is filtered through the lens of censorship, popular opinion and ‘mother-knows-best’ pseudo-mentality. Cars are grey and shapeless, silent and follow routes planned by satelite… Safe, unadventurous, on-time and with no interesting diversions with all their potential for discovery and exploration.

Perhaps that’s why growing older is such a disappointment to a Gen-Xer? The world today pretty much sucks. Yet we grew up during a time of hope and imagination – the future we dreamed of was exciting and visionary; the music that accompanied it was daring and mould-breaking. We wanted cyberpunk… And instead, we’ve got spam! When we look back, we see how things could have been, and we wonder where it all went horribly wrong?

Small wonder that so many Gen-X refugees find solace in SL. Here, at least, is a world that still dares to dream, where innovation, diversity and creativity are valued, and where any one of us can explore as far as our imaginations dare to take us. This is the future we expected, this is the cyberpunk that was promised, this is Snowcrash, Neuromancer and Otherland smashed together and on a collision course with the unholy offspring of Bladerunner and The Fifth Element! It’s just that, somehow, the rest of the world never caught on, so we happy few, the rag-tag, yet glorious band of escapees from reality, we dreamers, ensconced and terminally embedded in our little niche virtual world are quite definitely in the minority… But how fortunate, how utterly blessed, are we?

I feel for those unfortunates born too early, or too late to be part of Generation X, I don’t think they can ever truly appreciate what that means for those who are in Team X. In the same way, those avatars inworld who joined bearing the name ‘Resident’ can never really understand the allure of those old-fashioned second names, and the sense of belonging to something bigger that they gave us. I suppose, like ‘Nam, they simply won’t ever really understand… ‘You weren’t there man!’

Traditionally, one receives gifts for one’s birthday, but today here’s a gift from me to you. Pick it up on Marketplace for free, and if you’re one of us (and even if you’re not), put it proudly on display to proclaim your impeccable heritage!

And finally, according to Judas Priest, you don’t have to be old to be wise, and I guess I’m not that old really. So, perhaps you’ll take this pearl of wisdom from a mere ‘youngster’ to heart: However old you may be, whenever you happened to grow up, appreciate and treasure it because nobody knows what the future holds, but you’ll always have your past.

s. x

Identity
Identity is the crisis, can’t you see?
Identity, identity

X-Ray Spex – Identity

Posted in Musicality, Neon Dreamz, Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL | 1 Comment

$999!

Awise accountant once told me that we pay for those things that we value. If we see no value in something, or perceive something as overpriced, we’ll pass on by.

This is something that Linden Lab really need to appreciate, since they are running the risk of pricing themselves out of the market in some respects, and are definitely failing to understand their core user base. Let’s put aside, on this occasion at least, the ridiculously expensive (and needlessly complicated) land tier system, which is long overdue for a complete overhaul and simplification, if they ever want to attract more people to aspire to land ownership on mainland – instead, I want to consider the Lab’s latest offering in the arena of private regions.

First, let’s get the congratulatory stuff out of the way. Well done Labbies, for recognising some of the flaws that have always caused issues in SL, and using your new-found, cloud-based, Amazon webbiness to find some clever solutions. So, ten out of ten for creativity… Minus several million for coming up with a sensible approach to implementing it.

I’m talking about the all-new, sparkly and shiny, Event Regions. Yes, finally the Lab has tackled the annoying problems experienced when you bring together a massive number of avatars, (OK, technically a maximum of 100, but usually 40, so not so massive, really), in a single region, all of them wearing billion-triangle mesh bodies, performance is going to take a huge hit. Anyone who’s been to a shopping event, expo, or SLB will have experienced the joys of being unable to move, surrounded by a mass of curry-cloud companions, whilst your hair hovers somewhere in the air off to one side and your clothes stubbornly refuse to even think about rezzing, will appreciate the problems that large-scale gatherings pose for SL; and so… Event Regions.

These all-new private islands allow an extra 75 avatars, 10k extra primmage, and a few other bells and whistles including ‘white glove concierge service’ – whatever that is (presumably, a step up from the ‘latex glove, bend over and brace yourself service’ the Lab normally offers!). All of this, with a promise that you’ll get improved performance, (unless you happen to be using all those extra prims, in which case, you probably won’t).

Wow. How cool is that? Just one small thing, how much is that going to cost me?

Well, let’s skip the – month of June only – ‘cheap’ introductory offer: Most events are months in the planning and preparation, so won’t be in a position to take advantage of this until it’s at its normal full price, which is just US$999 set up fee, and a mere US$899 every month thereafter.

How much?

Yep, only triple the cost of a normal full region to set up, and over four times the monthly cost to keep it running… And those aren’t linden dollars, that’s real hard cash, and a disconcertingly large amount of the green, folding stuff at that.

Who on earth at the Lab thought this was a bargain, and one that will entice event organisers in their hoardes to part with all their profits just to have a bit less lag? Let’s face it, anybody with a grain of common sense would have shot that idea down in flames without any hesitation. Nobody in their right mind will be paying that sort of cash for land, and here’s why:

Let’s imagine a typical conversation at Sexy Themed Clothing Events Inc as they plan their next inworld expo…

Sexybeach Resident: ‘So, there’s these new Event Regions. Gonna cost us, like megabucks and completely wipe out our profits, but hey, no lag, extra prims, white gloves… Whaddya think?’
Beachsexy Resident: ‘Are our existing regions always rammed, but people keep trying until they get in, anway?’
Sexybeach Resident: ‘Yep’
Beachsexy Resident: ‘Are they laggy as hell, but the punters still come?’
Sexybeach Resident: ‘Yep’
Beachsexy Resident: ‘Any creators bugging us for more prims, so they can make even more lag?’
Sexybeach Resident: ‘Nope’
Beachsexy Resident: ‘And they don’t cost us a grand a month?’
Sexybeach Resident: ‘Nope’
Beachsexy Resident: ‘I say, we stick with the deal we’ve got, and rake in the profits.

Like I said: Perceived value.

What baffles me is the thought process behind such massive fees in the first place. What do the Lab think they’re selling here? It’s literally just a little bit of space on a hard disk, and a few inconsequential maintenance costs on top; it’s not like they’re selling real land, studded with gold nuggets and vast quantities of buried treasure!

I can’t help thinking that maybe the Lindens have managed to get caught up in the metaverse virtual land explosion hype, where chunks of virtual real estate are apparently being bought and sold for thousands, even millions, if the stories are to be believed. However there’s a huge difference between ‘virtual worlds’ which have been set up (almost certainly) as vehicles for large-scale laundering of highly volatile crypto-currency, and good ol’ SL, where all land is ultimately owned by Linden Lab and is merely a convenient solid surface to dump a store on… But, clearly the Lab have a completely misguided understanding of their own commodities and on this occasion I predict, with a high degree of confidence, will end up with yet another virtual product gathering dust on the shelf.

Now, I don’t dabble in other virtual worlds – proper ones, that is, as opposed to those of the ilk of Decentraland and Sandbox – but I’m also pretty confident that there’s nothing else out there comparable to SL that comes even remotely close to charging the sort of sums that the Lab is asking for here, and I really don’t understand why the Lindens are seemingly blind to this fact. So, a word of advice that the new CMO at the Lab should really focus hard on: Come on, guys, get with the programme, won’t you? How about being reasonable for once? What about some competitive pricing that incentivises people to invest in land, explore their creativity and make the most of the virtual world? I, for one, would love to have more land to play with, but my budget is already maxxed out, and that’s purely down to the obscene cost of land inworld that estate owners are forced to pass on to their tenants. If land was more competetively priced, more people could afford it and the economy would receive a huge boost.

If you’re still unconvinced, just pick a random mainland spot on the map and count how many abandoned parcels proliferate in almost every region; how about the thousands of parcels up for sale for years on end, with nobody ever buying? Bring down the land prices, chaps, and just watch how that changes.

Or, on the other hand, you could just introduce a new type of region, and price yourself out of the market with it. Your world, your choice.

s. x

I’ve got the brains
You’ve got the looks
Let’s make lots of money

The Pet Shop Boys – Opportunities (Let’s Make lots Of Money)

Posted in Events, Rants, SL | 2 Comments

Could do better

I’ve always liked people who have a ‘can do’ attititude, I consider myself to fall into that category – where others might see difficulties and obstacles, I tend to see opportunities and alternatives. ‘Can do’ people are great to have on a team and just get on with the job without dithering, or messing about.

Whilst it’s usually a very positive and productive thing to either be that sort of person, or be around them, there’s a world of difference between those with a ‘can do’ attitude who really can do what they set out to, and those who think they can, but quite definitely can’t! How important this may turn out to be depends entirely on context: It’s one thing, for example to say to a teenager who thinks they know it all, ‘you’ll have to make your own supper tonight’, knowing full-well that when it all goes horribly wrong, they’ll just order in a pizza; it’s quite another thing to have a brain surgeon who’s happy to ‘have a go… After all, what’s the worst that can happen?’

Usually, in the wider scale of things, everything works itself out though: Mistakes are made, lessons are learned and damage limitation is deployed. It’s all part of life’s rich pageant.

When it comes to SL, we seem to have way more than our fair share of ‘can do’ people, or should I say, ‘can do’ people, who really can’t do – and, more to the point – shouldn’t!

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Recently, I came across an homage to an historical sim that disappeared from the Grid around 10 years ago. What a great idea, and one that I’m all in favour of. You could tell, from the creator’s profile, that this was something they felt passionately about, and they were incredibly proud of their efforts, however no amount of self-conviction that they could pull off a great recreation of this iconic location could hide the fact that, whatever the talents of the person behind it all, building was not one of them! Unless, of course, the intention was to recreate the original location in all its 2007 glory, with none of the improvements that have become available to SL builders in the intervening 15 years since! In fact, I happened to come across some pictures of the original sim, and to be brutally honest, it was better built back then, in prehistoric SL, than the inexpertly cobbled-together collection of flat prims and textures I explored recently.

What was abundantly clear was that here we have an enthusiastic ‘can do’ person who lacked the requisite, or indeed any, skills to realise their aspirations. Nevertheless, despite their complete absence of builders’ credentials, they’ve gone ahead and attempted to build it anyway, with predictably crappy results, although I imagine that they’re absolutely thrilled with the end product and are completely oblivious to the fact that it sucks.

That’s just one example, I’m sure you’ve come across many similar locations inworld too and wondered ‘what on earth were they thinking?’

I’m not sure if it’s a symptom of the modern age, where everyone with a mobile phone is a photographer, anyone capable of typing is a blogger, and all you have to do is watch a Youtube video to become an expert plumber/gynaecologist (much the same thing); or whether it’s the mark of an ever-entitled generation who imagine that just because their best friend and mum say they can sing, all they have to do is appear on a TV talent show and be assured of becoming the next superstar sensation. Maybe it’s time for a few home truths to be stated and for people to be told that just because they think they can do something, it doesn’t mean that they should do it!

I find that profiles are often a dead giveaway for those possessing dubious ‘skills’. Any time I read a profile that states someone is a DJ, musician, or singer with a repertoire that runs the full range from country & western to grand opera, I inwardly groan – never, I’m afraid, has the expression ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ been more acutely apparent than inworld, and yet these people appear to be utterly confident in their abilitities, despite all the evidence to the contrary, and so they persist in inflicting their offerings upon the virtual world in general and littering the Grid with the detritus of wistful dreamings and garbage that will never attain their potential. They are offerings on a par with the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation’s Nutrimatic Drinks Dispenser, which tasked with producing a refreshing breakfast beverage, manages to only come up with ‘something that tastes almost, but not quite, entirely unlike, tea’.

The acid test of capability, for me, is not that your Auntie Beryl thinks you’re amazing, but how others – without a vested interest in your success – perceive you and your creations, and that holds true in SL too. If your friends like what you’ve made, played or imagined, that in itself is no guarantee it’s any good – it’s equally likely that they’re just being nice, or are after freebies. If random people show their appreciation, particularly if they’re prepared to part with hard cash, or put their appreciation in writing, then you’re probably onto a good thing. When complete strangers approach you out of the blue and want to book you or commission you because they like what they’ve seen, there’s a strong chance that you’re pretty good at what you’re doing. And, at the end of the day, if your diary is full and the lindens are rolling in, then that’s a pretty good sign you’re a success.

On the other hand, if none of the above is true, then you’re probably not as good as you think you are, and you may need to reconsider what you’ve written in your profile about what a great builder, DJ, singer, dancer, fashion model, sex worker, or wherever else you may think your forte may lie… Because, it almost certainly doesn’t.

One thing that SL has taught me over the years is that many of the things you can apparently do with ease inworld, are not quite as simple as they first appear. Just as in real life, to do something well takes time, investment, effort, learning and perseverance – if that wasn’t the case, we’d all be making a comfortable living from SL, every one of us a land baron, successful entrepeneur and expert builder, texure creator, designer, couturier and so on. We’re patently not, but there are those amongst us who sincerely think that they are, when in fact, the opposite is true.

It’s not quite that simple though, and herein lies a dilemma for me. SL allows anyone and everyone to explore their virtual lives in whatever way they wish, and unlike reality, there is absolutely no reason at all for them to shine, excel or do well. As long as you’re having fun, why shouldn’t you build, create, play or whatever, even if it is complete rubbish? Maybe it won’t be pretty, and maybe it will jar the senses, but if it floats your boat, then who am I, or anyone else, to judge? And, you never know, having that freedom to express yourself and start small, may one day produce sheer brilliance – there’s no reason why not.

Then again, you may always stay crap! But, I’d take crap and happy over brilliant and miserable any day!

s. x

You’re no good
Baby, you’re no good
I’m gonna say it again
You’re no good

Van Halen – You’re No Good

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

New at Neon Dreamz

Neon signs are great – nobody can deny that, but there are other light-up, flashy, fantastic eye-candy thingies too, and over the past couple of months I’ve been experimenting, fiddling about, and generally looking at diversifying my product range beyond simple signage and neon niceties.

As you know, almost everybody in SL is a DJ or club owner, and if they aren’t, there’s a 99.99% chance that they have been in the past, or will be in the future – it’s the law! So, I thought I should offer something to appeal to that group of SLociety.

New, from Neon Dreamz, the FX Screen Club System, available in three tasty varieties!

The Standard Club FX screen, designed to sit behind a DJ booth and suitable for itinerant DJs, clubs, music venues and anywhere where you want to stand out from the usual crowd. Comes with animated speakers with on/off control and 10 different effects with a cycle time of 10 minutes before repeating. Resizable: 6-21LI.

The Industrial FX Screen, designed to fit behind your DJ booth, this animated FX screen will set you apart from other DJs! 10 different effects, change every 60 seconds, to give a total cycle time of 10 minutes. Classic industrial style, ideal for rock, metal and grunge clubs or anywhere with an urban vibe. Complete with triple industrial-styled horn speakers.

The Triple FX Club System, designed to fit behind your DJ booth, this animated triple FX screen is the ‘Big Daddy’ of the range

Three independent screens: The main centre screen with 30 different effects, automatically changes every 60 seconds, to give a total cycle time of 30 minutes before repeating.Two secondary screens with animated dancers, one male, one female. Each with 6 different effects, automatically change every 300 seconds, to give a total cycle time of 30 minutes before repeating. Click any screen to independently manually advance to the next animation.

To see them in action, check them out on Marketplace at Haven Heavy Industries.

s. x

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Easter Eggs

Much as I enjoy a bit of chocolate indulgence, one can have too much of a good thing, and I try my best not to go too overboard on Easter goodies at this time of year, even though every shop I go into wants to entice me into filling my basket with sweet treats. To be honest, I don’t find it that difficult to resist, and I find that Easter eggs, in particular, can be somewhat disappointing when all is said and done. Give me a giant bar of choccy over a hollow apology for chocolately goodness any day!

Whilst I don’t struggle too badly with fighting the urge to overload on chocolate, there is another type of Easter egg that I find hard to resist: Those little hidden features and quirks that developers and coders sneak into applications that only the most dedicated of nerds are ever destined to find.

I’ve always loved these particular Easter eggs, and from my very earliest dabblings in technology and cyberspace they’ve fascinated and intrigued me, and – of course – I’m always on the look out for new ones, although they can be incredibly elusive, sometimes only appearing on a particular date, or more often, you have to follow an arcane and complex pathway to discover them: So, this post is dedicated to anyone who’s ever entered the keystrokes [up][up][down][down][left][right][left][right][B][A] and know therefore knows the true joy of cracking eggs!

Easter eggs first became a thing when a chap called Warren Robinett was so proud of the game ‘Adventure’ he’d created for Atari back in the late ’70s, that he created a hidden room containing his own game credit. Atari were not amused, but thereafter, Easter eggs became a thing – a tradition that has been carried on ever since.

Some Easter eggs are never meant to be found, whereas others are sneakily hidden and left to be discovered by those wily enough to figure out the clues, or lucky enough to stumble across them. I found my first Easter egg back in the days of 8-bit, when – in the course of messing with stuff I really had no business poking around in (enquiring mind, don’t you know!) – I discovered a story hidden in the code of a binary file in the operating system for the Amstrad CPC (Yes, I’m a nerd!). It was an adventure tale about a bunch of intrepid developers, led by the wizard Niloc, and I wish I’d kept a copy, because nobody believes me when I tell them about it and any sort of search for ‘hidden story in Amstrad knife.bin’ or any variation always comes back with zippo 😦 I firmly believe it was a secret in-joke that the developers never intended to be found, but they didn’t reckon on tenacious little me!

Microsoft went through a period of adding Easter eggs to their products and have continued the tradition to the present day – Excel has had a couple of hidden games embedded in it over the years, and Word 97 had a pinball feature; before that, I spent many a happy hour back in the days of Win 3.1 playing the hidden snake game in MS Dos, to while away the time whilst defragging my hard drive, and there’s even a Star Wars ASCII text ‘movie’ hidden in Windows 10, if you know where to find it… Although it’s embedded in functionality that’s been a barely-used part of every version of Windows for many years. Most games have their own Easter eggs, as does Google and a number of other websites, but I’ll let you discover those for yourself.

So, what about SL? Surely there are Easter eggs to be found in our virtual world? It stands to reason!

Well, I’ve only ever found one, which first made an appearance in 2012: Try hitting [CTRL]+[ALT]+[SHIFT]+[H] together, and see what happens! (If you want to know more about hippos and why Linden Lab is obsessed with them, check out this wiki article. That, however, seems to be it, and no matter who I ask, beg, bribe or threaten, nobody ever seems to have found any others, which I think is a great shame.

It won’t stop me looking for them though, and in the meantime there’s another rich source of unexpected jollity that the unsuspecting SL resident may come across without warning, which in my opinion is every bit as good as discovering a secret Easter egg… The freaky glitch, borkism, or ‘oh sh*t’ moment when SL throws a wobbly and the most peculiar and outrageous things can, and do, happen. This of course, is nothing new, and it’s not only the preserve of our virtual world. Back in the day when I was hooked on Tombraider, there were sneaky bugs that allowed you to squeeze through locked doors, and another that would let you escape the confines of the walled gardens of Lara’s mansion. My favourite driving game, Gran Turismo had a glitch that would see you flying off the racetrack into unexplored territory, if you happened to aim at specific points at a specific angle and speed, and I think – rather than break the game – these mischievous glitches added immensely to the fun. And the same, I’d venture to suggest, holds true for SL.

Sadly (yes, I’m weird), glitches that used to be commonplace inworld happen far less frequently than they once did, but when they do, I think that only adds to the excitement! So, in no particular order, here are my top 5 glitchy ‘Easter eggs’ that I think define what it means to be an experienced and world-savvy resident of SL: If you’ve not had them all happen to you at some time, then you’re still a noob in my book!

  1. The rubber band boomerang. Few things can be as hilarious as going for a walk and finding that you’re unable to stop walking, as you stroll happily through buildings, people’s bedrooms, and out and away off the sim edge, far out to sea. Until, suddenly and without warning, you’re snapped viciously and unceremoniously back to your starting point, having made no progress at all!
  2. The Exorcist effect. Not a case of eyes in the back of your head, but your whole head on back-to-front. At least you have the advantage of seeing where you’ve just been. Often also associated with suddenly finding you’re wearing your shoes on inappropriate parts of your body.
  3. I’m over here syndrome. You’re in the room, but you can’t see yourself because somehow you’re almost simultaneously 3 miles out above the ocean on the other side of the sim, dancing alone in the sky. If you find yourself in this position do not take the opportunity to do a sneaky quick change, as everybody else will see you perfectly normally right in the room with them… And nobody wants to be subjected to you flashing your alphas in public!
  4. Dizzy, I’m so dizzy. Somehow, and you’ve absolutely no idea how you got there, you’ve managed to embed yourself in a wall, or the floor, where you spend the next few minutes slowly spinning, to the great amusement of everyone around you, until embarrassed beyond belief, you log off and vow never to go back to SL again.
  5. Reconstructive surgery. You know that something’s up because you logged in ten minutes ago and you’re still a curry cloud. Then, horror of horrors, you receive a pop-up message ‘Failed to find body part in the database – replaced with default’, with a nice little ‘OK’ button underneath. No! It’s not at all OK! What have you done with my bits? And which bits have you done it with? If you’re lucky, a swift relog and a stiff drink will resolve the problem, or – if you’re unlucky – you’ll spend the next week wandering round in an amber haze, and will see 3000 items of no-copy inventory disappear down the toilet forever, as happened to me recently! This is probably not a fun Easter egg to find – it’s more like unwrapping the foil to find a live grenade with the pin already pulled, instead

There’s always something new to be discovered however, and even if you think you’ve seen it all, you probably haven’t. Only a couple of weeks ago, I managed to fall off my build platform in the sky and, quite unexpectedly, got stuck, mid-fall, unable to go up, down or sideways. There I was, hanging, upside-down in mid-air, with my face – rather disconcertingly – buried in my own cleavage! What fun!

Happy Easter!

s. x

I am the egg man
They are the egg men
I am the walrus
Goo goo g’joob
Oingo Boingo – I Am The Walrus

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New at Neon Dreamz

Last week, I promised you more new signs, and because I always try to keep my promises, here they come!

There’s only two this week, but I’ll give you advance notice there are some new upcoming items in the pipeline which I’m quite excited about, and which are likely to be of particular interest to club owners, DJs and anyone who likes bright, shiny, cool stuff! Keep watching this space.

This week’s two new signs are icons in their own right.

The first was inspired by my good friend Moon, the powerhouse editor behind Moonletters, and marketing guru and half of Moon Bunny Inc. Moon is, like me, a child of the 80s and we both have a strong affinity for the music, movies and culture of that decade. Recently, she happened to mention that she needed a ‘Save Ferris’ sign… Not the 90s Ska Punk band, Save Ferris, (although I am a fan), but the iconic movie reference to ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off‘. How could I possibly resist?

And, here it is!

The second of my new signs, is so iconic that it should be instantly recognisable to pretty much anyone, anywhere in the world! So, I shall say no more about it, other than just imagine how cool it would look on your wall, whether at home, entertainment venue, or even… Travel hub!

Both are now available from Neon Dreamz on the Marketplace at a very reasonable L$250 each.

s. x

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A Haiku: The Man With The Bicycle

Tangled in his spokes
A man lies dead in the street
Murdered by Putin

s. x

Posted in Poetricity, Rants, RL, Tales of the Road | Leave a comment

New From Neon Dreamz

You know how it is when you suddenly have what you think is a good idea, and it takes over all your spare time in a fever of activity to the exclusion of everything else? No? Just me then!

Well, I had a daft idea for a new range of signs, and for the last few days I’ve found myself unexpectedly motivated to spend hours on end inworld, putting together a brand new collection.

Do you have problems with zombies, ghosts, vampires, noobs, drama queens, mutants, aliens or, erm… unicorns? Well, health & safely considerations mean that you really should be taking measures to prevent nasty incidents, accidents, near-misses and possible transitioning to the ranks of the undead! One of the simplest ways you can achieve this, is through strategically-placed signage.

Or, alternatively, if you’re looking for something cool to go on the wall of your home, store or club – might I suggest you could do a lot worse than some of the fab new offerings from Neon Dreamz?

All the new signs are low impact – between 1 and 3LI, copiable and resizable with a click. L$250 each – the cost of half a cheap espresso! Bargain!

And, there’s more to come next week – watch this space!

s. x

Posted in Builder's bum, Neon Dreamz, SL | 1 Comment

Out of sync

It’s that weird time of year inworld when, for people like myself who don’t happen to reside within the boundaries of the 50 states, the reality that SL is an American-centric product hits home hard.

Now, I’m not into bashing anyone of any nationality – my friends and acquaintances in both the real and virtual world encompass every part of the globe, and that’s something I’ve always valued immensely. The opportunity to learn and appreciate other cultures, ways of life and share my own with those from elsewhere is one of my greatest pleasures, and it’s something that SL enables in a way that would be difficult to achieve in real life. In fact, it’s so easy to mingle and mix with those from all over the planet, when inworld, that it’s easy to forget sometimes that, geographically, we are often widely dispersed. I personally think that’s a wonderful thing, and to its credit SL usually does a great job of bridging cultural gaps and raising the profile of different lifestyles across every continent.

However, there are certain times of year when those of us outside the USA realise that we are in the minority, and also somewhat out of sync with those who make up the major part of the inworld population – no fault of Linden Lab or those fortunate enough to live in the States, but it’s quite a jarring experience, when for the rest of the year, we tend to get by blissfully unaware that we’re separated by thousands of miles. I’m sure that those of you on the other side of the Big Pond, also feel the same sense of disconnection, and I know from experience that you also feel the effects.

It all starts in mid-March, when for the majority of Americans, the clocks go forward. This, of course also means that SLT advances an hour, and since the rest of the world don’t alter their clocks for another couple of weeks, the outcome is guaranteed to be temporal carnage. Nobody knows what time events start in SL any more, Americans turn up an hour early for appointments based elsewhere in the world, and wonder why nobody else is around, and then have to leave an hour early to go to work, leaving venues feeling half-empty. And then, just as everybody has finally managed to get their head around the change and is starting to settle down back into some sort of routine… Bam! The rest of the world switches to Summer time, and everyone is baffled all over again.

Then, in amongst all that, lands St Patrick’s Day – a celebration that 99% of the world outside the States has little or no interest in, and finds themselves utterly bemused by the fact that America has suddenly decided it’s inexplicably an integral part of an island, just off the West coast of Wales. The deep affinity that Americans apparently have to St Patrick is evidenced by the fact that it even has its own Marketplace category – which, to most of the rest of us, seems just a little odd. My interest piqued in this regard, I was curious to see whether the patron saint of my own country generated anything like the same level of interest, so I searched for ‘St David’ on Marketplace, and was disappointed to find it only produced a mere 14 results, of which – unbelievably – precisely 2 were relevant, and 11 of those remaining were actually for… Yep, you guessed it, St Patrick!

So, for a couple of weird and glorious days, we have a bunch of American leprechauns, drunk on green beer, turning up an hour early for parties, then leaving before they’ve even got properly started, and absolutely nobody, wherever in the real world they might be, has any idea what is going on.

At this point, things quieten down a little. Hangovers are nursed, shamrocks and emerald green outfits are neatly packed away into inventories, clocks are adjusted, routines re-established, and everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief at the prospect of things settling back into their well-worn tracks. Indeed, by the beginning of May, all seems to have reverted back to normal; and then, quite unexpectedly and without warning, everyone Stateside starts handing out bunches of virtual flowers, giving unsolicited hugs and wishing their friends a happy Mother’s Day.

What?

‘Erm… no’, we protest, ‘that was way back at the end of March!’

Yes, once again, the rest of the world has fallen out of step and we are all abruptly reminded that – to misappropriate L P Hartley – ‘SL is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’

It used to be, before the golden age of travel and communication, that we were acutely aware of the limiting factors that geographical distance and different cultures imposed upon people. A couple of hundred years ago, it would take a lengthy voyage, or ongoing exchange of handwritten correspondence to forge a connection with someone from another distant country, and that separation, imposed by distance, ensured that cultural differences were able to remain distinct and noteworthy. With the advent of the telephone and more accessible international travel, distance became less of an obstacle, and a certain amount of cross-contamination of cultures began to erode social differences; yet still, even as recently as the 90s, you only had to make an international phone call to realise the immense distance between countries still remained – a couple of seconds frustrating and annoying lag between the two sides of a conversation, drove that home, if ever you were in any doubt.

Today, however, things are very different. Communication is almost instantaneous between any points on the planet, and the McDonaldisation and globalisation of cosumerism means that wherever you go in the world, there will almost always be a sense of familiarity and commonality. We truly are becoming a global village, and that’s something that most of us today have grown to be comfortable with, accept without question and treat as normal.

That is, until mid-March, when suddenly, it becomes abundantly clear that those global gearings are not as tightly meshed as we’ve become accustomed to. Suddenly, we’re confused, flustered and our neat little picture of the world working as it should, becomes disturbed and untrustworthy. Suddenly, we’re very much aware that – no matter how close we may be to SL friends in every other sense, there are still some aspects of life, even those as simple and unremarkable as a shift in dates that we normally wouldn’t think to question, where the distance becomes painfully obvious.

I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing though. If there’s one thing that makes the world interesting, it’s those little quirks and differences between us. Life would be terribly boring if we all did things the same way, and I for one, am eternally grateful that we don’t! And, I think sometimes it does us good to be reminded of that fact and for us to be jarred from our comfortable, cosy, everything in its place and as it should be mentality.

They do say that variety is the spice of life, after all!

s. x

A connecting principle
Linked to the invisible
Almost imperceptible
Something inexpressible
The Police – Synchronicity

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 1 Comment