New on Marketplace

I’ve just launched three new clothing collections on the Haven Heavy Industries Marketplace store. ‘Shades’ – A range of classy cocktail dresses with subtle ombre colour shades; ‘Icon’ – Four new dresses in homage to David Bowie and Neil Diamond (watch this space for more releases in this collection!), and; ‘Chaqueta’ – a distinctive collection of jacket-style tops, majoring on elemental and earthy themes. The dresses are reasonably priced at L$250, with the jackets at a competitive L$200.

Go on… You deserve a treat! 😉

s. x

Posted in Builder's bum, HHI, SL | Leave a comment

Plain Sailing

This has been an interesting year. Quite apart from the bonkers turn that the world has taken in so many ways since February, I’ve had some new and challenging experiences in Second Life too… Which was unexpected, since after all this time, you’d think I’d have explored all the potential virtual avenues available to me.

Not so, however: This year has seen me – after one abortive attempt some time ago to go into virtual retail – finally knuckle down and set up a business from scratch. My inworld store led to my very first outing on Marketplace, something that has always seemed to be more of a pipe-dream than a possibility, yet it’s very much up and running, and expanding rapidly. I’ve even had a commission for a bespoke piece – so there’s at least one person out there who thinks my work is worth the money!

Those things, in turn, have proven to be the prompt to up my game when it comes to the production line and I have, after many, many, many false starts in the past, started to get to grips with Blender – which, like the Rubik’s Cube, I’ve never previously managed to master, but I know that it must be possible because other people seem to do it with ease, (although I’m well aware, that only comes after many hours of practice and hard work).

I’m enjoying it too, which is a definite bonus, but – as with any gainful employment – all work and no play is likely to make Seren a little doleful. However, there’s always plenty to keep me occupied inworld, and of late I’ve been spending a fair bit of time on the Mainland doing what I’ve always done – exploring and adventuring. Why Mainland, you may ask? Mainly because, despite the vast swathes of abandoned and empty land, it’s the only place in SL that truly affords the possibility of roaming free, and it’s big enough to hold lots of new experiences and locations that I still haven’t come across begore. Evene better, it comes with all the infrastructure you need to explore in style.

I’ve always enjoyed driving the roads of SL – it doesn’t bother me that traffic is almost non-existent; where else are you going to find miles of empty roads that you can treat like your own private racetrack, in any vehicle you fancy? It’s also quite exciting when you do run across (sometimes literally) another road user, or pedestrian, as you try your best to show off your killer driving skills, without actual becoming a killer yourself! It’s even better lately, since the Lab accidentally discovered how to (almost) fix the borked sim crossings that have been the curse of travellers since time immemorial. These days, sim crossings are (almost) OK!

If roads aren’t your thing, there’s always rail, and the SLRR is a brilliant way to sight-see, without having to concentrate on not crashing into somebody’s house or ending up in the ocean, or having to coast to a stop every time you want to have a nose at something. Like the roads, possibly even more so, the railways of the Mainland are practically devoid of traffic, and if you do happen to see a freight train coming in the opposite direction, it’s no big deal – you just pass right through each other, in much the same way as real life trains don’t!

You can, of course fly: SL seems to have more airports than should ever be strictly necessary, although with no queues at check-in or baggage reclaim, zero passengers, and clear flight paths, it’s easy peasy. Plus, of course, you get to pilot your own plane, helicopter, balloon or whatever. It’s brilliant!

If you’re into saving the virtual planet, like to keep fit, or are just plain boring, you can always walk, run or fly, and you’ll often find me jogging along the highways of SL, hunting out the next rez zone, so that I can ease up on the pavement pounding and whip my latest monster truck out for a drive.

So, yes, over the years I’ve explored mainland by pretty much every means possible, including all of the above, and monorail and cable-car. There is one mode of transport that has never really appealed – a pursuit that even afer 10 years, is new to me. Water-borne transport.

A life on the virtual ocean wave has never really taken my fancy, but this week, that all changed. I’d been hammering down the road in my Lambo, music up, windows down, not a care in the world, when suddenly I ran out of road! This is a fairly frequent occurrence – for some reason, the Linden Moles seem to think that almost all roads should run to the coast, and then stop. It’s frustrating, but you get used to it after a bit. I figured that the gods of wasted time on the internet were hinting that maybe it was time to log out and do something important instead, so I jumped out of the car… And that’s when I saw the sign ‘Free sailing boat’, and for the first time ever I thought, “Why not?”

It was really good fun! Slow, sedate, peaceful, but I actually found it very enjoyable to potter around the coast, dodging and – more often than not – failing to crash into islands, rocks and other boats. Slow isn’t usually a word you’d normally find in my vocabulary, but being at the mercy of wind and sail meant that, for once, the world had plenty of chance to rez around me, rather than whip by in a sea (what pun?) of grey, and it made a pleasant change to be able to see where I was going before I arrived there! I’m not saying I’m a complete sailing convert, planes, trains and automobiles will always be my first love when it comes to getting from A to B, with a random scattering of other letters in between, but should the ocean ever get in the way again, I don’t think I’ll be treating it with the same disdain I have in the past, besides which, it’s opened up even more parts of SL that I’ve never seen before, and from a whole new perspective too. And, I didn’t even drown!

Just goes to show, even for old stick-in-the-muds, like me, there’s always something new under the SL sun – that is, if you’re prepared to give it a go.

s. x

“And every night finds us rocking and rolling on waves wild and wide,
Well we have lost our way, nobody’s gonna say it outright.
Just go”

Okkervil River – Lost Coastlines

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, SL, Tales of the Road, Tour Guide | Leave a comment

Political agenda?

I’m all for free speech – I think it’s one of the fundamental tenets underpinning civilised society, and to that end I would never deny anyone the right to express their views and opinions, whether in accord with mine, or otherwise. I will caveat that however, in that I should be afforded the same degree of tolerance and freedom to respond, and that I reserve the right to terminate the discussion, should it descend into anything other than a rational argument, or simply because I don’t wish to engage with you any more.

I will also always defer to hard facts, something that people often seem incapable of accepting themselves. It doesn’t matter what the subject, personal opinion, beliefs and misinterpretation do not obviate factual data. In summary, I expect you to do your research before stating your case. So, whether you’re arguing that installing a horribly expensive, all-singing, all-dancing, graphics card will massively improve your Second Life experience, (it won’t), or that a girl wearing a miniskirt is implying consent to sex, (she isn’t), your opinion is wrong – that’s not my opinion, it’s fact. Whether you choose to accept the facts is irrelevant.

So, when it comes to free speech, those are my ground rules. You may well argue that by setting rules, I’m negating my own premise – how can it be free speech, if there are rules limiting it? It is still free speech, but to remain cogent and appropriate, it requires structure and reasoning, otherwise it’s likely to descend into an unmoderated, inelegant verbal punch-up. You are welcome to dissent to this contention, however I won’t force the point – it is after all, just my opinion – and I’ll agree to disagree with you. 🙂

I’m also firmly of the opinion that there is a time and a place for certain discussions to take place. If you want to pitch an argument with me over whether or not the moon landings were faked, (they weren’t), then the middle of a work team meeting is not the appropriate forum for that discussion – save it for the lunch break. Similarly, just because you can say and do whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want in Second Life, doesn’t mean that you should. And, in my experience, there is one specific, highly emotive topic that is pretty much guaranteed to raise hackles and cause grief inworld if it’s not carefully moderated and even, if necessary, policed: Politics.

Please don’t misunderstand me – people are perfectly entitled to bring up politics inworld, just don’t do it around me, and keep it out of situations where there can be no moderation or appropriate control. As previously stated, there’s a time and a place, and the middle of a social event at a music venue, by way of example, is neither.

I’m going to make some sweeping generalisations now – forgive me. I’m a Brit, and furthermore, part of a generation for whom politics holds little interest. With the exception of the Thatcher the Milk Snatcher years and the impact of the Miners’ Strike, Falklands, Poll Tax riots and struggling to pay mortgage rates rising month-on-month, politics has always been a bit of a non-event for my generation, except where it had a significant negative personal impact on our lives. Gen X, the Boomers before us, and Gen Y really have little interest, however it seems that our present raft of Millennials and Snowflakes – those who mistakenly consider themselves ‘woke’ – are fiercely political; something that, if I’m honest, I just roll my eyes at and can’t help thinking that they’ll become old, bitter and thoroughly disillusioned way before their time. Another sweeping generalisation, I’m afraid, is that unlike the majority of Brits, Americans are far more engaged politically, and far more likely to take personal offence to political views at variance to their own, no matter how cogently argued.

Having said my piece on that, I shall now assume the brace position and await the barrage of invective!

One thing, however, that is very clear from my own inworld experience of political debate, when it does occur outside the appropriate time and place, and without any sort of moderation, it can be insanely damaging.

I’ve seen longstanding social venues permanently closed down, friendships severed, unfounded accusations flung at innocent parties, activities abandoned, blacklisting, muting, boycotting and worse, simply arising from an out-of-control political conversation or because of a dissenting view that’s been expressed. It’s particularly bad when you get Brits and Americans joining forces, because the gulf between understanding is seemingly impossible to reconcile. That’s why, at any of my venues, any and all political discussion in local chat is expressly banned. You get one public warning and thereafter, I’ll throw you out, no matter who you are – and I’m not open to negotiation on that – my venue, my rules.

This is why I’m so dismayed to see that Second Life, of late, appears to be developing its own political agenda.

It all started with the quiet update to the Lab policy on network advertising and ad farms, with a new category of banned material: ‘Ad content may not be political in nature’. This, apparently to combat a rash of electioneering billboards appearing on Mainland in the run up to the American election. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with that change – in my view, a virtual world, with a world-wide userbase, is not an appropriate forum for such content, besides which, ad farms are an abomination anyway! It does however indicate a developing political awareness on Linden Lab’s behalf – no doubt they’d be anxious not to be accused of seeming to foster political bias inworld, and all the legal ramifications that brings.

What does beggar belief, as far as I’m concerned, is the sudden ‘in your face’, heavy-handed politicising of official communications from the Lab which we’ve seen in the wake of that change. First, there was the bullying of SL users to exercise their right to vote. Excuse me? What business do Linden Lab have in telling anyone to exercise their constitutional rights, unless there’s an intrinsic link to their core values and those of their users? More so, whether or not LL is an American company, they have an international userbase, so why the focus on a single geographical segment of that demographic, when it’s not merited? Where was the blog post encouraging Brits to vote, or the Swedes, or the Aussies in their respective elections? Are we less important, are our political views second class? I could, of course, choose to ignore posts that are irrelevant to me, but the particular approach the Lab has taken speaks volumes about how they choose to capitalise on their position as influencers, and where their user loyalties lie.

Let’s not leave it at that, Labbies, eh? Why not follow it up with a promotion for an inworld US election Simulator? Are you seriously trying to alienate a massive chunk of your users on purpose? Whilst I acknowledge that around 30% of SL users are Americans, 25% are Europeans and – trust me – the only interest they have in what’s happening over the pond is as a source of amusement and bemusement. Besides which, no-one with any sense is going to visit that particular location, because it’s simply going to result in an all-out virtual fist fight between warring political factions. Great advertisement for fun things to do in SL, chaps!

My perspective is simple: Second Life is not real life, the clue is in the name. I escape to SL because inworld I don’t have to concern myself with reality. I want to fly and dance, shop and create, do silly stuff and hang out with friends in a convivial setting. What I don’t want to have to deal with is all the unwelcome nonsense I’m lumbered with in RL, and if Linden Lab is hell bent on forcing it down my throat, then that is not what I’m here for, and I’m certain I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Oh, and just for the record, I’m not deriding Americans or their politics, just the Lindens’ approach to it – I’d write the same if we were talking UK politics, Armenian or Asgardian. I’m just not interested, thank you very much!

s. x

“Well it was bad enough the feeling, and the first time it hit
When you realized your parents had let the world all go to shit
And that the values and ideals for which many had fought and died
Had been killed off in the committees and left to die by the wayside”

Frank Turner – Love Ire & Song

Posted in Linden Love, Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

What can you get for a tenner?

WordPress surprised me twice this week – firstly by lumbering me with their supposedly wonderful Gutenberg Blocks Editor, which I’ve successfully resisted using for the past year, but now it’s mandatory. Imagine, if you will taking a piece of precision machinery that does its job perfectly well, and giving it to a six-year old to remodel in plasticene, and you have some idea of how awful it has suddenly become to write these posts. It’s like cruising onto the motorway from the sliproad, accellerating, then gently slipping the clutch and changing into reverse, rather than 5th gear. Unpleasant, messy and enough to throw you completely off kilter.

So, my apologies for any clunkiness you may experience with my posts for a while… My writing gearbox needs a rebuild!

The other unexpected surprise was a notification that I’ve now been blogging for 10 years.

Is it really that long?

Apparently so – although it’s actually probably a bit longer than that, since there was another blog prior to this one which ended up consigned to that great big recycling bin in the sky – and, almost certainly, that was a good thing, although some might think that’s what I should do with the current one too 😉

The third suprise, which has nothing to do with WordPress, is the fact that I’m still here at all – the blogger has a whole raft of obstacles to overcome if they are to persist, and that I am still typing away is testament to something, although I’m not altogether sure what, although stubbornness probably has a lot to do with it! The odds are quite definitely against me, however. To begin with, in the blogoverse, I’m a rather tiny fish in a stupidly large pond: In 2019 there were 500 million blogs clogging up the interwebs, although that figure doesn’t take into account the rather depressing statistic that the average blog has a lifetime of only 100 days, which means that an awfully large chunk of that 500 million is pretty dried up and crusty. So it would appear – by all accounts – I’m well over 36 times past my sell-by-date!

The next obstacle is entirely of my own construction. Who in their right mind thinks that it’s a good idea to concentrate, almost 100%, on a single topic – Second Life – and it’s a topic that by any measure is pretty niche. If that wasn’t daft enough, did I go down the tried and tested route that any SL blogger with an ounce of sense would take… Fashion blogging? Hell no! I plumped instead for the more esoteric and off-the-wall approach of just having an opinion on stuff, and sharing it. Clever, huh?

Somehow though, I’ve survived, which is as baffling to me as many of the weird and arcane things I’ve often been moved to write about. However, none of this would have been possible without, (here comes the Oscar acceptance speech!), the one constant source of inspiration, content and material that I’ve relied so much upon, and which has persistently been there for me throughout these 10 long years… Second Life. There are, of course, many who share the same sort of surprise that I have about being around this long, about SL itself still being alive and kicking!

Second Life, from my perspective, is a blogger’s dream come true. No matter how your own experience may differ, I’ve yet to find it lacking in terms of inspiration. Whether it’s sharing my explorations and wanderings around the Grid, retelling the stories of my discoveries and ‘eureka!’ moments, pontificating and ranting about virtual injustice, idiocy, faults and failures, extolling the virtues (and otherwise) of friendship and the pitfalls of those who might be a little less friendly, and even – at times – waxing poetic. However else SL may have let me down, when it comes to providing a rich source of raw material to write about, it has never been lacking.

When I dwell upon that thought, I can’t help but wonder whether the capacity to see the richness of SL is related in some way to writing about it? I know so many people for whom the virtual world is simply the same old routine, day in, day out, rinse and repeat; those for whom the very idea of exploring and discovering new things that aren’t simply what their current peer group happen to be doing, is either anathema or or unthinkable, many of whom – for those very reasons – would struggle to find a hundred words to discuss their experience, let alone a thousand. Yet, I find plenty, and if there’s nothing new to inspire me in the immediate vicinity, I go hunting for it. And so I write, and still I see that there’s far more to write about.

Maybe it’s just that I have an enquiring mind and a thirst for knowlege, and yes that stubborn streak isn’t going away either.

I do feel sorry for those for whom SL loses its magic and sparkle, but that’s how it seems to go, however for me, it’s very much still there, and while it is, I’ll carrying on writing about it, (you poor souls!)

As for the next 10 years, who knows? If SL is still around in 2030 and – all being well – so am I, then I’ll probably still be writing about it; and as sure as I am that I still won’t have mastered walking through doorways and flying, I’m also pretty certain that I’ll still have a vast wealth of material at my disposal to witter on about!

As for you guys, especially those of you thick-skinned and daft enough to have hung around these parts – some of you for as long as this whole thing has been going, (I know who you are, mwahahaha!) – I just want to say a great big Thank you. It’s been a fun ride with you.

Here’s to the next 10?

s. x

“I don’t have a Plan B.
You’ve gotta believe in a Plan A.
No Plan B for me.”

Christina Perri & PS22 Chorus

Posted in Linden Love, Philosophicalisticality, SL | Leave a comment

New at Neon Dreamz

Introducing a frightening selection of new glow-in-the dark fun and games in time for Halloween. Spiders, ghosts, witches, skeletons and much more, starting at L$150, or grab yourself to a fatpack of all 19, and save a whopping L$1500 on the individual cost… All treat, no tricks!

See them inworld at Neon Dreamz, or on the Marketplace.

s. x

Posted in Builder's bum, Neon Dreamz, SL | Leave a comment

What’s on in Serentopia?

This Thursday, 15th October, The Savoy Ballroom is proud to present Caitlain McCarren, who will be bringing us an evening of 1940’s musical entertainment. Dance and socialise to the easy listening sounds of Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Bennie Goodman, Count Basie and maybe the odd jazz number or two. It’s always a good night with Cait, so why not come along and chill?

No annoying hosts, no irritating contests, no hassling to ‘show some linden love’… Just great music, good company and a fun atmosphere. Dress code: Keep it classy.

9pm UK/1pm SLT – The Savoy Ballroom

Read more about the Savoy here.

s. x

Posted in Events, Musicality, Party guests, SL, Tour Guide | Leave a comment

CSI: SL

Those who’ve stuck with me over the years will know that I’m an avid profile perv – you can pick up so much from a profile, not just the things that people want you to know about themselves, but also the juicy morsels about an individual’s character that can be gleaned from reading between the lines. Very often, there’s more to be learned from what’s not written in a profile, than from what is there.

From the classic ‘Disclaimer’ pick, that screams drama queen, to the creepy and often extremely weird ‘family’ members that people feel it necessary to wax lyrical about ad nauseum, and on to the meaningless, random and totally unfunny quotes from friends (no doubt in blatant disregard to those individuals’ own disclaimers forbidding sharing of chat logs), perusing a profile can paint a vivid picture of the kind of person you’re dealing with, before a word has been exchanged.

There are some profile snippets, of course, that are practical and useful – when Nebulosity Resident rocks up, sporting the screen name, Geoffrey Pockbottom, it can be quite handy to be directed by their profile to call them ‘Arnie’ – it saves embarrassment, confusion, and the occasional virtual middle finger, especially for someone like me, who has never turned on screen names, and consequently never has any idea what anybody wishes to be called at any given time.

Similarly, one’s profile picks or groups can often shed light on common connections. An unexpected newcomer in the midst can be swiftly assimilated into a gathering, when their profile is studded with groups and picks, maybe even a narrative, that belies a commonality with the people they’re amongst. Furthermore, a well-informed profile can provide myriad conversation starters and topics for debate, without the need for probing questions or guesswork when it comes to initiating discussion.

On the other hand, we see those profiles that resolutely refuse to be drawn on any topic whatsoever. They’re the ones with no picture, no picks and the absolute bare minimum of information it’s possible to disclose. Understandable, maybe, for those new on the scene, but irritating and occasionally disquieting when the owner happens to have been in SL for ten years or longer. You can’t help but wonder what’s the story here… Privacy? Laziness? A ruse to appear mysterious? A very outward display of anti-socialness? Something deeper, darker and unpleasant in the past, perhaps? You always want to find out more, but if somebody has been around that long and made such an effort to stay distant, it’s a brave person who attempts to breach that shell of anonymity.

Quite apart from being a nosy type of person, I do enjoy piecing together the subtle, and not-so subtle character traits that somebody’s profile may be hiding. I’ve always been fascinated by forensic profiling in RL, maybe because I do like to keep one step ahead of the opposition, (I’m not paranoid, honest… I just have a healthy regard for not compromising my position with those I don’t wish to have showing an unhealthy interest in my activities), and it struck me that it could be fun to try something similar with the snippets of information that an inworld profile might provide, in order to build a comprehensive picture of the individual.

Let’s call my unfortunate random victim ‘Oddkraut Wrangler’ to protect their inworld identity, and avoid the risk of being sued into oblivion! According to their profile, which contains an ancient avatar picture, they’ve been around SL for well over 13 years, are unpartnered and have exchanged financial information with the Lab. They are showing as ‘online’, so they aren’t hiding from anyone at the moment. Other than those basics, personal information is rather thin on the ground – no profile narrative, RL picture or information, and their interests are bland and boring.

Time to snap on the latex gloves, whip out the luminol and UV torch, and start probing with the profile swabs!

Only 2 picks: Communist Party of Second Life, and SL Triathalon. (Now, that’s my kind of triathalon… One which doesn’t involve running, cycling or swimming and you can do it whilst enjoying a nice cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit). I tentatively conclude that my subject is a heavset and implacable ЯUSSIAИ body-builder.

My suspicions are further aroused, and refined, upon examining the list of groups to which she subscribes: Anarchism, Anarcho-punks and no less than three coffee shops, (who knew that there was a group for fans of Starbucks in SL?) – aha, maybe my mark is a bodybuilding, Russian double-agent spy then; someone who frequents coffee shops in order to pass on anarchic information to their subversive contacts?

And boy, are some of these guys submersive – and in some cases, submissive! Those of a delicate disposition should look away for the rest of this paragraph. I’ll just give you a flavour of some of the groups listed in this profile… Naturist SunLand Beach; Mature Doggers; A wife to share with my buddy MFM; Freelance F*ckdolls; Freelance F*cktoys; Crackden Roleplay; Cuckold Matrimonial Agency; Harries Threesome House… I’ll leave it at that.

My kinky athletic double-agent, does however have some clearly defined musical tastes, notably several groups dedicated to the Beatles, a couple of indie groups and two groups dedicated to the B52s (presumably the musical ensemble, not the bomber). She is not lacking in the playful department either, as evidenced by her membership of groups based on Ready Player One, Monkey Island Pirate Club and erm, Pink Castle.

So, despite being somewhat lightweight on the information side of things, with my razor-like forensic skills I was able to successfully ascertain that Ms Wrangler is a anarchic, althletic Russian spy who spends their time passing sensitive information about the kinky sexual habits of senior Kremlin members to the West under cover of an occasional soy latte at Starbucks, whilst spending their downtime listening to music and LARPing as pirates and princesses.

I bet I’m right, too!

s. x

Oh I’ve got your numbers, taken notes
I know the ways your minds work, I’ve studied

Pulp – I Spy

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The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one… Apparently

I’m just going to come right out and say it: It sucks!

As to what it is exactly that sucks, that’s somewhat harder to explain. It’s not so much that SL sucks – although there’s plenty of suckery going on right now… The grey goo, the plethora of long-established institutions that are rapidly vanishing from the virtual world, the escalating cost of doing anything creative or constructive – but it’s more a case that, for me anyway, SL is a lens that has of late brought the innate suckiness of people in general into sharp focus.

I dunno if it’s the weirdness of life in the time of Covid that’s changed people, or whether they’ve always been like this, and I just haven’t noticed before. Personally the whole pandemic thing still baffles me – you’re still twice as likely to die from diarrhoeia than C19, and cardiovascular diseases manage to see off over 200 times more people every year than Covid ever has… Yet nobody is throwing everything we have at those and describing them as pandemics. Then you have vegans, the whole inequality thing, the breakdown of normal everyday humanity, and idiot twats at the head of governments who in any sensible society would be rounded up, stuck in a cell together and played Cliff Richard Christmas songs, on repeat, for the rest of eternity. The world is a very weird place.

Anyway back to the virtual sheep of SL, because that is the overwhelming impression I’m getting lately: A bunch of people who seem to be aimlessly and uncomprehendingly following the same old formulaic things day after day, week after week; following a herd mentality whereby, wherever one goes, everybody else follows whether they really want to, or not; sacrificing any individuality of their own just to be part of the aggregate blob. For weeks now, I’ve seen people trudge around SL from event to event, place to place, venue to venue, en masse – nobody ever suggesting ‘Hey, let’s try something different!’, and many spending hours of their inworld time with people they don’t particularly like, doing activities they don’t particularly enjoy.

I really don’t understand why anyone would want to do that, unless it’s some desperate attempt to hang with the cool kids, be popular, or perhaps as self-penance to punish oneself for one’s choices in SLife. Whereas I, being fiercely independent, stubborn as a bucketload of mules, and having a very clear appreciation of my own self-worth won’t allow myself to become part of the McDonaldised, cookie-cutter virtual life brigade, and frankly, being absolutely honest, it’s turning out to be a helluva lonely place to be!

It seems that the vast majority of the people I frequently associate with have fallen prey to being assimilated by the hive mentality. Every week, off they go, following the well-worn paths that they’ve begun to establish of late, which sees exactly the same people, doing exactly the same things, in exactly the same places, every day of the week – you can tell the time by them: They log in a couple of minutes before that day’s scheduled activity, do their thing, then log off. What upsets me is that many of them I’ve known for many years now, but – because I don’t fit the new pattern and succumb to doing things, that I don’t particularly enjoy, according to other people’s timetables, rinse and repeat – I now have virtually (pun intended) no contact with them at all. I don’t see them, we don’t spend time together, and hardly anybody, including those I’d count amongst my closest virtual friends, ever IMs me any more.

I grant you, I’ve never been the most forthcoming when it comes to casual chats in IM, but even I’m starting to feel as if my virtual phone has no signal. Worse still, when I do get the occasional message, most of the time the sole reason is to nag me to take part in one of the aforementioned diversions, or to whinge about me not being part of it. Thankfully these tend not to go on too long, because the moment I say I’m not interested, it’s immediately back to being-ignored-time.

Only a few months ago, things seemed very different. My friends and I would often do the virtual equivalent of hanging around on street corners, just having a laugh and chatting, or we’d gravitate to our regular hangouts, not because there was anything going on, but because it was fun to spend time in each other’s company, without any specific reason to do so. Friends would chat to me in IM, or we’d spend time sitting and putting the world to rights… But now, nobody is ever around, nobody every wants to chill, nobody ever wants to chat, except – it seems – for me.

I’ve toyed with the idea of quitting SL, because basically it’s becoming boring. I’m faced with the choice of staying in virtual isolation, or becoming one with the hive and losing the will to live. It’s a Kobayashi Maru scenario, and on this occasion, I can’t figure out a way to cheat.

It sucks.

s. x

You look so tired, unhappy
Bring down the government
They don’t, they don’t speak for us
I’ll take a quiet life
A handshake of carbon monoxide
Radiohead – No Surprises

 

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, SL | Leave a comment

A grey area

One of the ways that SL manages to very successfully mirror reality is in its complexity. Life is complex, at every level, and almost every aspect of it is volatile, interwoven and multi-faceted. The same is true of SL, and whilst I seem to spend a great deal of my time griping about how so many people seem to live such cloistered and mundane virtual existences inworld, I suppose it’s a fairly natural response to overwhelming complexity.

From a technical standpoint, understanding the cogs and gears spinning away behind the scenes to produce what we see in the viewer when we log in is certainly not going to interest a great number, and to some it will simply be gobbledygook anyway. Even learning all the controls, settings and associated paraphernalia that comes with the viewer can frustrate all but the most engaged, particularly when in the real world, the trend is ever more about hiding complexity under the simplest and most intuitive of interfaces – whether that’s the engine that powers your car, or ordering your weekly shopping online. People, it seems, want clean and simple, straightforward and clear.

I guess this is why so many are happy to log in, TP to the same destinations, do the same things and log out when the lag becomes too much to bear, time after time, without ever expanding their horizons or attempting to improve their lot, other than by following the latest trend in hair, skins or clothing… And preferably with a HUD that does everything for them. That, at least, would explain the frankly baffling market in avatar shapes, which has always confounded me – why on earth will people pay for a shape, when they could just as easily knock up their own with a couple of mouse clicks and tweaking a few sliders? Perhaps someone can explain that one to me – are SL people such technophobes that even that simple exercise is beyond them? (It doesn’t, of course, explain why people will throw away good money on shapes that defy all laws of nature, physics and good taste, but what do I know about it?)

Throw in the additional complexity of relationships, cultures, language, timezones and dealing with the borkedness that SL frequently throws up, and I suppose it’s no wonder that for so many people, SL is simply one long round of: Log in > Shopping event > 4 hours trying on clothes > Dance at Frank’s > Log out > Rinse and repeat. It’s just so much easier than trying to make sense of it all!

Then you get the idiots like me who, for some reason, feel they have to to compound the complexity beyond all sensible rhyme and reason. People who are always fiddling with settings, use the Developer menu more than the Avatar menu, recklessly play around with Debug settings and subject themselves to the joys and trauma of pre-release and beta testing of anything that they can get their hands on!

All of which is fine, if that’s your thing… But, it can make things just a little difficult when you start to run into problems.

To be fair, it’s not often that I do run into problems, and much of the fiddling, tweaking and debugging around goes a long way towards making that the case, but sometimes, even geeks get stumped…

The particular problem giving me the blues right now, is the greys. Not the tall, thin, extraterrestrial guys, with the big eyes, but the stubbornly refusing to load, no matter how patient you pretend to be textures, without which SL is a very dull and confusing place. I’ve had the problem now for almost a month, the commencement of which unfortunately coincided with some experimental tweaking of my SL settings, testing a new pre-release viewer, unreliable internet thanks to C19 usage upsurge, an increase in SL user concurrence – which I’ve started to privately refer to as ‘the viral load’ – and, the unknown quantity: Behind the scenes moves to cloud services by Linden Lab. All of which has made it rather difficult to narrow down any possible root cause.

Did I break things with my technical tomfoolery, or was it a glitch in the new viewer? Is it down to internet latency, or the Lab moving stuff to the cloud, (or maybe both)? I had – and still have – no idea. I did think, at first, I was the culprit because it seemed that no-one else was complaining, and one of the sure signs that something is broken in SL is that EVERYBODY moans about it! It was just me suffering, or so it seemed, and when I say suffering, it was a downright pain in the rear end – where previously textures had loaded instantly, or had made a decent attempt of showing themselves over the course of a few seconds, now I was facing vast swathes of grey that refused to reveal themselves for minutes on end, if ever. When they did, it was painfully slow and then I’d have to suffer the same thing all over again whenever I cammed in a different direction. Resetting textures seems to have no effect, and it’s all very annoying indeed.

Thankfully, I’m starting to pick up a few reports from others now that they too are experiencing an SL of lesser hue, so maybe it’s not me, after all. I am surprised however that it’s not been more widely reported, or perhaps SL now has so many who never step outside their complexity comfort zone that they haven’t even noticed, or – worse than that – they’re just accepting that this is the way things are, before going back to trying on their new outfits?

s. x

Sent la pluie comme un été Anglais
Entends les notes d’une chanson lointaine
Sortant de derriere d’un poster
Espérant que la vie ne fut aussi longue
Visage – Fade To Grey

 

Posted in Half-Baked, Linden Love, Rants, RL, SL, Techietalk | Leave a comment

Didn’t see that coming!

Oh my goodness! The news today is confirmation that I probably should never go into dealing stocks and shares, as I apparently have absolutely no ability to predict how business deals are likely to fall.

I’m talking, of course, about the announcement that Linden Research is to be ‘acquired’ by an ‘investment group’. Whadd’ya mean, this is news to you? Don’t you keep abreast of developments at the Lab, or are you just here for the freebies and the clothes’ shopping?

As always, whenever any sort of news surfaces about Linden Lab, the banshee howl that SL is doomed inevitably follows, and for the first time ever, there might be a very tiny suspicion that the doomsday clock may have started ticking – although I’m yet to be convinced, either way. It’s far too early to be making assumptions about what this means for the future of either the Lab itself or SL, and there’s way too much sketchiness about what we do, and do not, currently know to even begin to guess at what outcomes may be on the cards. Quite aside from a number of hoops that have to be jumped through before acqusisition can take place – the most difficult of which is likely to be financial regulatory approval for Tilia, arguably the Lab’s most attractive investment opportunity – all we really know is that Messrs Oberwager and Waterfield are bringing a lot of investment experience to the boardroom table, and despite what certain commentators may be asserting about investment groups only being interested in bleeding companies dry before dumping their gutted husks into the garbage, I don’t necessarily subscribe to that view.

I think that Ebbe is an astute businessman who understands the marketplace – the offloading of Sansar and launch of Tilia have been timed to perfection and were clearly part of a wider game plan. He also has a personal reputation that I imagine he’ll not want besmirched by alienating a big proportion of a potential future userbase should he unwisely cut and run. Maybe I’m over-estimating the guy, but if I was him, I’d be wanting to make this venture a success in a positive way for all concerned.

As for the investors, they still have a board of directors to deal with, whose focus is surely going to be on extending the 17 year tenure of a successful company, rather than selling out. Plus, despite what people may think of investment portfolios, these guys are in the business of making a decent return on their investment and, whilst Tilia certainly has the potential for making big bucks, SL is the cash cow that’s kept Linden Lab in profit, and can only do so if it’s operating to capacity and continues to be developed. Pulling the virtual plug would – as far as I can see – be financial suicide. Let’s face it, there’s little in the way of tangible assets that could be sold off to make a profit, aside from SL. I do find it a bit odd that Philip Rosedale has been brought in to add his supporting voice to the acquisition… Maybe we haven’t seen the back of him, after all?

This could certainly be a turning point for LL – if the investors have money to give and the drive to build margins, then that spells good news for SL. We may, of course speculate that there will be a push to bring the Lab’s flagship product – SL – kicking and screaming into a model more akin to its virtual companions, but as I’ve discussed before, otimising, speeding-up and modernising the physics engine is going to break a huge amount of legacy content, drive users away in their droves and, in doing so, won’t make SL any more attractive to the gaming platforms and sites that are proliferating across the market. Far better to keep the users sweet, give them incentives to stay and make SL better from the inside-out and keep the cash flowing. When you consider the punch-up that ensued as a result of taking away last names, just imagine the blood bath if more drastic ‘streamlining’ were to take place!

It’s likely though that we may see a more focussed approach to incentivising SL. I anticipate that a gulf will start to open up between the basic and premium experience and perhaps we’ll see tighter controls over inworld content and activities – but that’s just pure speculation on my part, and I may be completely wrong.

It is unfortunate however that at a time when many old-timers are returning to SL, or seeking stability in a virtual world, as a result of their real world being turned upside-down, that they may now face uncertaintly in their second lives as well. Bad timing, but who really knew we were going to be hit by a global crisis? Let’s just hope this isn’t the dawn of a virtual global crisis too!

s. x

I can’t believe this all came from dust
And all of some people I love
Can’t believe that I might just be projecting a dream

And I hope this finds you when things are good
And I hope that you’re not facing loss
Chester French – Interesting Times

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