Sansar: Sans detail

It’s the middle of the summer, which means that Linden Labs’ promise that we’d see a Sansar open beta in the early summer is starting to look a little bit optimistic.

I can’t say I’m at all surprised: The way in which software is developed today means that dates come and go with predictable regularity, and having spent the last couple of years at the sharp end of project implementation, I’d say from experience that it’s a brave, foolish or uninformed person who would be willing to put a firm date on deploying any user-ready application.

Personally, I think LL have made an error of judgement in that regard, far better to be vague about plans and be criticised for taking too long, than to commit to dates and Then fail to deliver, especially when you have a highly critical and cynical userbase like SL residents just waiting to haul you over the coals.

However, that’s not the most damaging aspect of LL’s communications about Sansar. Although I’ll be the first to admit that their PR and comms policies appear to have improved dramatically since Ebbe Altberg took the helm, both the lack of any concrete information and the unwillingness of the Lab to engage with potential users about what they consider to be essential information about the new platform has left everyone in something of a vacuum – one that is not particularly helpful in terms of building confidence in this fledgling virtual world.

That’s the trouble with allowing snippets of information into the public domain, whilst withholding anything that would serve to provide context or aid end user understanding of the product.

Here, it may be useful to summarise what we do know about Sansar so far:

  •  It’s not going to replace SL
  •  It will have its own currency and market place
  •  You probably won’t be able to take any SL assets with you to Sansar, except perhaps  your name
  •  Creators will need 3D modelling skills and software
  •  Scripting will not use LSL – it will utilise C#
  •  There will be both free and subscription access
  •  The graphics are apparently awesome
  •  No penises or pussies, (and I assuming, no nipples)
  •  Its primary focus is on a 3D VR interface
  •  It won’t be a contiguous world, it will have unconnected virtual spaces
  •  It will have a shard based architecture

What we don’t know, but most people would like to know:

  •  What do the avatars look like?
  •  How well will it work without 3D goggles and other VR kit?
  •  Can we use Linden dollars there?
  •  Will I be able to take anything at all from SL with me?
  •  How will I be able to socialise with friends or participate in events if everyone might  potentially log in to different shards?
  •  What spec machine will I need to run Sansar?
  •  How much will it cost?
  •  What model of land management will it offer?
  •  Why do the Lab keep churning out the same old screenshots time after time?

Even without the unanswered questions, the information that the Lab has made available raises even more additional questions than it answers. A most unfortunate position, and one that – even without trying – has succeeded in alienating quite a few potential recruits to the new virtual world already.

There is, of course, a fine line to be drawn between commercial sensitivity and appropriate sharing of information in the public domain, but I can’t help feeling that Linden Lab still haven’t managed to get it right and haven’t yet learned from past mistakes, and for Sansar, that’s a great shame. With Sansar, Linden Lab had a massive opportunity to send out a hugely positive message that would have gained publicity for all the right reasons, as well as support from existing SL users. What they have instead achieved is to cause speculation and conjecture – much of which may be wrong, and even harmful to the product – and to send out a message to potential users that says ‘it’s none of your business’ – hardly the best way to engage with the people who might otherwise be prepared to take a punt on the new platform, but are now having second thoughts.

From the outset, the Lab have made it clear that they haven’t necessarily had SL users in mind as the target demographic for Sansar, which in my view is shortsighted and stupid, since a large number of current SL users would have relished the chance of trying out a new, improved and altogether better virtual world which might not be SL, but certainly could be appreciated by SL devotees. Instead, the Lab has turned a blind eye to them and largely shied away from any opportunity to engage with them… And, if interest in Sansar fails to meet the Lab’s expectations, a lack of support and buy in from the existing SL user base could spell disaster.

I’m not a doom-monger – never have been – but when it comes to Sansar, I don’t think that Linden Lab have done themselves any favours by taking the approach they have; and that could turn out to be a costly mistake in the long run.

s. x

I don’t know what’s going on here
I don’t know how it’s supposed to be
I, I don’t have the vaguest notion
Whose it is or what it’s all for
The Byrds – What’s Happening?

Posted in 2.0, Linden Love, Philosophicalisticality, Rants, SL | Leave a comment

Steam powered

Much excitement at the station today: The Flying Scotsman is passing through and all the steam buffs, rail enthusiasts and photographers are out in force. There’s quite a buzz about the place.

I must admit to a geeky fascination with such things – not trainspotters, steam locomotives – they hail from an age when form was every bit as important as function and, no matter how else you may feel about them, you have to admit that they are, in engineering terms, masterpieces of design. That aside, it can’t be denied that there’s a certain majesty and grandeur, and a romanticism about them that is hard to ignore.

However, as I’ve mentioned, it is a bit geeky to be seen as an enthusiast about such things, so my admiration is kept in check; at least it is in the real world. SL however is that place where the inner geek can feel free to express themselves and have fun, which is why you’ll often find my own inworld parcel unashamedly given over to such indulgences.

I suppose the logical extension of the theme is that weird and wonderful world of steampunk – something that, apart from the very occasional foray, I’m not at all caught up in. It’s maybe a little odd but even though the whole steampunk culture is something I completely understand and even admire, somehow I’ve never really bought into it in a big way. Even in SL, where there are whole sims and communities dedicated to the steampunk way, much as I enjoy exploring them, that’s about as far as I tend to go. Perhaps it’s because there is, for me, a clear distinction between ‘proper’ old fashioned engineering and true Heath Robinson style machines, and modern technology wrapped in a veneer of aesthetically pleasing, but otherwise functionless, decoration. I’ll take the authentic over the imitation any day.

I do think that we’ve lost something of value from the past in so many ways. I’ve previously bemoaned the dumbing-down of our architectural heritage, and I feel much the same about other elements of everyday life. Take any car, train or kitchen appliance from the past and put it alongside its modern day equivalent and I know which would hold the most aesthetic appeal to me every time. We seem to live in a world where grey and white, featureless, bland, boxes rule the day, and any attempt at decoration, frivolity or uniqueness is frowned upon and is to be avoided at all cost. No fun at all.

Thank goodness the same complaint can’t be levelled at SL, if there’s one thing that’s true of the virtual world, it’s that individuality, quirkiness and frivolity are very much alive and kicking wherever you look. Maybe steampunk isn’t your thing, but whatever your particular thing might be, there’s almost certainly something that will appeal inworld – and, in the unlikely effect that there isn’t, you can always make it yourself!

I’ve often thought that I was born in the wrong century – but, since there’s nothing I can realistically do about that, I may as well make the best of what I have, and what I have is SL. Which, of course, I wouldn’t have had if I’d been born a century earlier!

Can’t have it all, I guess.

s. x

I’ve sat alone and watched her
Steaming through the night
Ninety tons of thunder
Lighting up the sky
Saxon – Princess Of The Night

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Signs

I’m sat on a bench – or should I say, perched precariously on the only narrow sliver of bench that doesn’t come complete with a strategically placed puddle of wetness – waiting for a train. Staring across the tracks to the platform opposite, I’m struck by the number of signs, of various types, that a disembarking passenger is suddenly faced with upon leaving their train.

It’s a morass of arrows, barely decipherable icons and bold capital lettering, that in any other context would be considered unseemly. And the vast majority of the signs plastered over the walls, pillars and railings opposite are, I’m afraid, completely redundant and unnecessary.

There are at literary four ‘Way Out’ signs, all pointing the same way, a couple of which are adjacent to each other, plus an ‘Exit’ and a variety of symbols which appear to be saying exactly the same thing. In fact, along the length of just one platform, there must be something in the region of 50+ items of signage, almost all of which is multiply redundant.

It’s the same in the street – signs everywhere, in their masses, all demanding our attention and dictating our paths and behaviours. Throw in the satnavs , map apps and the plethora of navigational aids that are such an ‘essential’ part of modern everyday life, and you have to wonder how anybody ever manages to get lost at all!

Yet we do, frequently.

Even though I have frequently had the need to be immensely grateful for a strategically placed and timely pointer that has averted disaster and saved me going completely off-track, I can’t help holding the opinion that human beings basically have little or no sense of direction. Compared to members of the animal kingdom that might migrate thousands of miles, without any prior knowledge of the route or assistance, we’re definitely lacking in the navigational department! Even when we have every possible aid at our disposal, it can be too much for us: I fondly remember wandering, hopelessly lost, around the souks of Fez – despite following the ‘clearly signposted’ walking route, whilst the locals had a good laugh at my ineptitude as I found myself passing through the same alleyways, time and time again!

I like being lost; I like wandering aimlessly through back streets and lesser explored byways; I enjoy going off the beaten track, taking the circuitous route, and following my unerring sense of non-direction. It’s precisely by doing just that, I’ve discovered some truly wonderful places and had some amazing experiences. It’s one of the reasons that I enjoy exploring SL so much. When inworld, you never quite know what’s around the next corner, and even if you are using either the world or mini map, they can only really tell you the general lay of the land, and an awful lot of the virtual landscape isn’t even down on the ground!

I’ve been asked on occasion how I manage to find some of the great inworld places where I spend my time entertaining myself. Almost always, the answer is simply that they are random discoveries I’ve come across whilst wandering the Grid, usually without any clear plan or path. Occasionally, I’ll wind up somewhere interesting that I’ve been ‘signposted’ to – more often than not by grabbing an interesting looking landmark from somebody’s profile – but, as we all know, landmarks can be terribly ephemeral and temporary things in SL, and can be awfully unreliable at doing the very thing for which they are intended.

To be honest, I don’t think that SL would be half as interesting if it was well-signposted. The one thing that signage in the real world is rather good at is getting us from A to B, without diverting from the chosen route – it may be quicker, more straightforward and much more efficient, but I personally think that it’s a prime way to miss out on a lot of scenery, points of interest and fun. Given the choice, I’d always pick the rambling country roads over the straight, fast, but boring, motorway and the same holds true for me in my virtual travels.

By all means, point me in the general direction of adventure, but don’t be too prescriptive in how I get there. I’m far more interested in finding my own way, and I don’t really need any help, even if I happen to be going in completely the wrong direction!

s. x

This is the sign of the times
Time to be alone
This is the sign of the times
Piece of more to come
Belle Stars – Sign Of The Times

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

Awkward conversations

“Wow… You guys are just so friendly, what a great welcome, I’m so glad to be here. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a club where everyone is so helpful and friendly. Thank you so much for your welcome!”

“Erm, hi. Were you aware you aren’t wearing any knickers? It’s just, with that short skirt, I think you’ll find that everyone in the room – and I do mean everyone – is currently camming your lady bits! Might explain why the guys are being so friendly and helpful” 😉

=ooo=

“This place is fun, although I’m not sure why you all rave about the light show; it’s not all that impressive.”

“Girl! Where the hell didya get that facelight? It’s like you have the sun plugged straight into your face! For all that is good and holy, please turn the damn thing off before we all die of radiation exposure!”

=ooo=

“Welcome to the club, remember it costs money to maintain the sim, and don’t forget to tip the DJ, dancers, and of course, your greeter!”

“Seriously? You do realise that I’ve only just this second walked through the door? At least give me a chance to enjoy myself first… And I’m hardly likely to forget about tipping any of the hangers-on here when I’m getting reminded every three seconds that I’m ‘obliged’ to!”

=ooo=

Hooooo!                 Hooooo!                 Hooooo! Hooooo!                       Hooooo! Hooooo!
Hooooo!                 Hooooo!         Hooooo!                Hooooo!          Hooooo!             Hooooo!
Hooooo!                 Hooooo!    Hooooo!                        Hooooo!    Hooooo!                   Hooooo!
Hooooo! Hooooo!Hooooo!   Hooooo!                           Hooooo! Hooooo!                      Hooooo!
Hooooo! Hooooo!Hooooo!   Hooooo!                            Hooooo!Hooooo!                      Hooooo!
Hooooo! Hooooo!Hooooo!      Hooooo!                         Hooooo! Hooooo!                    Hooooo!
Hooooo!                 Hooooo!         Hooooo!                    Hooooo!     Hooooo!                Hooooo!
Hooooo!                 Hooooo!              Hooooo!            Hooooo!             Hooooo!        Hooooo!
Hooooo!                 Hooooo!                   Hooooo! Hooooo!                        Hooooo! Hooooo!

“Get off my screen!”

“Wanna go somewhere quiet and get jiggy on some poseballs with me?”

“Frankly, I’d rather wade naked through raw sewage on my hands and knees whilst being shot at by rabid hordes of evil zombies, accompanied by an orchestra of primary school violinists playing Justin Bieber’s greatest hit for the rest of eternity. Not gonna happen sweetie.”

=ooo=

“Does my bum look big in this?”

“Yes”
(so do your tits – seriously, you think that’s attractive?)

=ooo=

“Hi. Nice place you have here.”

“Thanks, unexpected complete stranger. Erm… You seem to have made yourself very much at home, not that I’ve a problem with that, but this is actually my home and I was kinda hoping for a little privacy on my own land – hint, hint – and my word, what a lot of boxes you’ve rezzed, and I couldn’t help noticing the lovely little cottage you’ve built in my back garden… I’m sure you couldn’t possibly be thinking of leaving it there, surely?”

=ooo=

“Hey! You looking at my man, bitch? Keep your hands to yourself and your eyes off! You hear what I’m telling you?”

“Indeed I do hear what you’re telling me, but I must confess my bemusement, since I certainly was not looking at your, or anybody else’s man, and if you’re so paranoid that you have to have your ‘look at’ targets permanently switched on, in order to pounce on anyone whose gaze might accidentally flick in his general direction, then I’d suggest you’re either suffering from teeny weeny insecurity issues, or you simply can’t trust your bloke to keep his prim man bits in his pants. You hear what I’m telling you?”

=ooo=

“Why are you so short? You’re not one of those age play freaks are you?”

“Why are you so tall? You’re not one of those freaks who has absolutely no concept of realistic human body proportions are you?”

=ooo=

“You don’t do that Second Life thing, do you?”

“Err… yes!”

s. x

Who cares anymore, who’s there anymore
(I question everything)
Five Finger Death Punch – Question Everything

Posted in Poetricity, Rants, SL | Leave a comment

HUDtopia

Until I discovered SL, the acronym ‘HUD’ was not one that often found its way into my everyday life. Back then, the only time it might have crept in would perhaps be in the context of a discussion relating to fighter pilots and the technologies they employed to do an inverted 4 gee loop at mach 2 and 20 000 feet, (yes, my knowledge of aeronautical manoeuvres is entirely based upon Top Gun and Jonathan Livingston Seagull!)

And that would have been entirely appropriate, since the original ‘heads up displays’ were indeed the province of fightet pilots and astronauts. Today, you’re just as likely to find them in a car, but you’re probably more familiar with the concept – although not strictly true to its proper form – due to SL and other video games.

The idea is simple – a pop-up menu, control or representation that allows you to interact with your environment, without taking your attention away from what’s in front of you. However, it’s a fine balancing act between building functionality and maintaining simplicity – ideally, a HUD is a fully self-contained, all-encompassing system – a one-stop shop, if you like, but instead what we tend to have in SL is a multiplicity of HUDs cluttering our screens, each concerned with a particular element of our virtual existence.

Consider a typical scenario – there’s a HUD for your AO, your dances, another for your poses, then there’s the one you need to manage your alphas so you can clothe your mesh body. Oh, then there’s the two Bento HUDs, one for your head and the other for your hands. Throw in a couple of extras for facelights and wearables, and you have a screen that’s mostly HUD and very little else!

It doesn’t stop there: The HUD dependant avatar these days is going to be spending an awful lot of time pressing buttons, tweaking settings and making adjustments, just to interact with their environment and the people around them. I can’t help thinking that there must be a growing number of people out there in the virtual world who are spending more time messing with their HUDs than they are doing anything else. Surely that can’t be the way forward?

As things stand, even at present, I know a number of people for whom HUD juggling is already a right old pain in the gluteus maximus. More and more frequently I hear people complaining that they’ve spent hours trying to get their alphas to fit their clothing and bemoaning the fact that when they swap outfits that their HUDs lose all their settings. There are, of course, ways around this, but the end result is a whole host of HUDs – so many, in fact, that at some point someone is bound to develop a HUD to manage all your HUDs… Where will it all end?

It’s a bleak day indeed when the very controls that are supposed to ease out virtual existence are the very ones that turn it into a nightmare, but I really can’t see any alternative if SL creators continue to build their products in their way we’ve become accustomed to. It’s quite likely that in the not too distant future, we may be spending our entire time inworld frantically clicking buttons and adjusting settings for hours, simply to grab a couple of minutes of free time just to do the things we take for granted at the moment… Unfortunately, everyone else will be doing exactly the same; which I guess will spell the end for SL as a social platform, but at least we’ll all look amazing, even if everyone else is far too busy adjusting their own appearance to notice us!

s. x

And she screamed out kicking on her side and said,
I’ve lost control again.
And seized up on the floor, I thought she’d die.
She said I’ve lost control.
Joy Division – She’s Lost Control

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, SL | Leave a comment

Petrichor

Sometimes I can almost smell it:

The moist, fertile soil of the forest grove, as I amble through the leaf litter and wet grass; the verdant swathes releasing their earthy tones of woodland musk and damp foliage;

The stench of the sewer, as bile green, vile green ordure flows between my feet; splashes echoing eerily from the concrete walls as foul odours permeate my clothes;

The tang of leather and latex, rubber and rutting, sweat and sex; the sounds of passion and pleasure mingle with whiplash cracks and faint notes of baby oil;

Traffic fumes, clogging the smoggy air, street smells of oil and wet pavements; a heady mix of diesel smoke, hamburgers and week old dustbins assailing my city senses;

Rustic tones of fresh-cooked pasta, tomato salsa and chopped Basil; a sensory accompaniment to the trattoria’s streamed accordion, little Italy in the heart of Second Life;

The floral bouquet of a wildflower field, pixel sun beating down as I run barefoot through the blooms; new-mown grass scents the air as the breeze ruffles through my hair.

Sometimes I can almost smell it.

Haven’t we all from time to time?

s. x

Happy are we when we choose to wear the blindfold
and mark our own place with
the smell of our own
The Hidden Cameras – Smells like happiness

Posted in Poetricity, SL | Leave a comment

SL Snippets

Virtual footsteps
Along a digital shore;
Pixel waves crash.
A salty particle spray
Fills the air

Simulated car horns
Punctuate the Windlight smog
As poseball hookers
Ply their trade beneath
Full bright, streetlight glare

Swirling colours
Fill phantom fields
With hippy vibes
As cutout Beatles watch
Under marmalade skies

The sky is crowded with
Imaginary floating homes
Jostling for space;
Whilst the land far below
Lies barren and bare

Space is not the final frontier
It’s a virtual playground
Of make believe monsters
And roleplay reconstructions:
Where everyone, can hear you scream

You fly through the air;
Fake wind streaming,
Grace personified.
Only to land
Like a badly-driven blancmange

Everything you can imagine
Is real.
Some things are real
That you don’t wish to imagine.
I can’t imagine why

Music fills the air
As if the world
Were a giant elevator.
But fortunately, there’s a button
Marked ‘off’

A virtual melting pot
Of creed, colour, faith
And nationality,
Speaking the universal language
Of typing in the wrong window

Scantily clad maidens
Mingle with furry creatures
Dancing salsa
To rock n roll music;
And nobody bats an eye

Teleportation,
Virtual sensation,
Lack of information
Leads to desperation:
The LM has gone

RL is not SL,
But same in both worlds;
There’s a person behind the avatar,
But this is just a game
So, who exactly is right?

My groups are hidden
But I have nothing to hide
Honest!
Yours are not,
(But maybe they should be?)

Log in.
Log out.
Rinse.
Repeat.
Relog.

s. x

For the benefit of Mr. Kite
There will be a show tonight on trampoline
The Hendersons will all be there
Late of Pablo Fanques Fair-what a scene
Billy Connolly – Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite

Posted in Poetricity, SL | Leave a comment

Mr Bling

He’s Mr Bling, with his flashy ring
And his scripts set oh so high
He’s such a drag, as he causes lag
Whenever he passes by
With his manly chest and wifebeater vest
He thinks he’s mega cool
But the girls don’t care for his system hair
And they think he’s just a fool.
It’s no surprise he has outsize thighs
And a six pack sculpted on
But at nine feet tall, his look overall
Is just completely wrong.
His way with words, to impress the birds
Isn’t quite as suave as he thinks
They share his IMs with all their friends
And giggle into their drinks.
And you should see, when he is free
To strut his stuff on the floor
His chim is naff, so it makes you laugh
And then you show him the door.
He’ll compliment your rack, then ask you back
To his bachelor pad in the sky
But he’ll have a pout, with his sex balls out
When you say he’s not your type of guy
It’s not just his games or his roleplay aims
That’ll have you running away
Or the fact that you’ll find him at Giggles Beach
Almost every single day
It’s his lack of finesse and state of undress
Though he thinks his charms a draw
But the truth is plain, he’s not your aim
And his character you deplore.
But, here is the thing, about Mr Bling
He’s not on his own I’m afraid
Across the whole Grid there are many like him
All plying their distasteful trade
Randomly sending TPs without call
As they try to score and get laid:
But ‘mute’ is your friend, and defender will help
To keep these guys out your hair
And if that doesn’t work, you can always try wit
And bring heavy sarcasm to bear!
At the end of the day poor Mr Bling
Is simply doing his best
But his shiny medallion and dated prim cock
Simply proclaim him a pest
So next time your see him, pass on this advice
And hope that it’s going to work
Tell him to keep his prims in his pants
And try not to be such a jerk!

s. x

So shine bright tonight,
You and I
We’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky
Sia – Diamonds

Posted in Poetricity, SL, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unnoticed

Second Life groups are a fantastic thing. They allow people with similar interests a forum and a meeting place, they are a great way for organisers and creators alike to keep people up to date with what’s happening, and they provide a collective space for sharing the inworld experience. Most everybody who creates a group will use it in the same way, and many will never even think about exploring some of the advanced functionality groups can offer – deeding of land, setting up user hierarchies, functions and roles etc – but almost everyone who does create a group will use the ‘notices’ functionality at some time or other.

It’s a facility that can be really useful when used well, but I’m afraid that seems to be the exception, rather than the rule, and the inability to employ notices sensibly and effectively is something that irritates me immensely. In particular, there are two approaches to notice sending that really raise my blood pressure.

To illustrate my point, let’s look at two – entirely fictitious – case studies:

Case study #1
Sugar Moves is a popular dance and live music venue with a large and eclectic inworld following. This is reflected in the type of music you can expect to hear on a club night. The trouble is, you never actually know what to expect, at best until the starting time of any event, or even some time after its started, because the host has no idea how to use notes to give advance notice of what’s going on.

Whilst this may not initially seem like a big deal, it can be hugely irritating to turn up at a venue with little or no idea of what to expect, or worse still, arrive to find that you have no interest in the sort of entertainment that’s being laid on. It’s no fun trying to guess what to wear, when you have no idea what to expect – nothing worse than dressing down, only to arrive to find it’s posh frock night, or spending hours getting dressed up and then discovering it’s fancy dress theme night!

It can be embarrassing too – if you hate reggae and have no prior warning that tonight is a celebration of Bob Marley, you’re faced with making your excuses and doing a runner, or sticking around for a polite length of time, putting up with music you can’t stand… And all because the host thinks that event notices need not be sent out until the last possible moment, If not later – who in their right mind could possibly want to know in advance what to expect?

Case Study #2
Monomoronic is a popular fashion and accessory store that encourages its clientele to subscribe to its member’s group to receive product updates, news and details of special offers and deals. As an incentive, group members also have access to exclusive discounts and members-only perks. To manage their customer service, they have a number of delegates within the group whose role is to maintain updates and group notices.

All very good, you might think – it all sounds very organised and well thought out. However there is one fatal flaw: Group members are subjected to a near continuous barrage of updates, offers and previews of new products, and I do mean every single new product, as soon as it hits the shelves, and – just to make absolutely certain – repeated several times over! It’s not unknown to receive a dozen notices in the space of an hour, most of which are just duplication of a previously sent notice. Sometimes, just for fun, you’ll even receive the same notice in English and then in Portuguese!

The customer is at liberty, of course, to switch off notices and just avail themselves of the freebies and instore offers, but that is clearly not what the store intended… They’ve just got their communications and advertising policies badly wrong – so badly wrong, in fact, that the very means by which they try to reach out to their customers merely serves to alienate them.

Neither of the above case studies is factual, but they are based, with a fair degree of accuracy, upon real SL models, and I can’t help thinking that the people and businesses concerned really should pay a little more attention to getting things right for their group members. Group slots can be at a premium, and when it comes to dumping an annoying group or one where the benefits of being a member are hard to discern, I’ll have no qualms about doing so.

A well organised and managed group can be a brilliant tool in the right hands, and a positive boon to its members, whilst those groups that would neatly fit into my fictitious case studies above are quite the opposite… Don’t let yours be one!

s. x

I’m just looking I’m not buying
I’m just looking keeps me smiling
Stereophonics – Just Looking

Posted in Rants, SL | Leave a comment

Bombshell

I think we’ve all experienced one of those moments when, out of the blue, a friend, colleague or family member has dropped a complete bombshell that we’d never have anticipated, without warning and often in totally incongruous circumstances or settings. Moments like, when out shopping with a close friend you’ve known for years and, seemingly at random, they turn to you, holding up a skirt: “Do you think this will suit me? And by the way, I’m gay!”

Such revelations are often followed by a stunned silence, as we try to process this new and totally unexpected information, in a setting that’s really not conducive to any sort of heartfelt emotional response, and by the time we’ve managed to compose ourselves, we’re already on the back foot, as our friend seems to think that a brief pause is all that we need to assimilate this new found knowledge… “So, the skirt; is it me, do you think?”

Such moments are, thankfully, a fairly infrequent occurrence in RL, and they’re often the precursor to a whole series of related events and extensive follow-up conversations over coffee, wine and kitchen tables – I suppose that is the nature of families and friendships.

Sometimes, on reflection, we might realise that such revelations were perhaps not quite as unexpected as we initially thought – perhaps there were subtle clues that we’d missed or ignored, pointers that we’d not really taken notice of previously, or hints dropped that we’d never picked up on. Other times though, the bombshell can truly come from nowhere. The nature of such things is such that there’s never really a right time or place for them to come out into the open… When exactly is the right opportunity to tell someone you’re getting a divorce, leaving to spend the rest of your life in Bratislava or that you once killed a man? So the chances are they’ll come at the most unexpected moments too.

Is not just in RL that people can drop bombshells…they can happen in SL too, and they can be no less revealing and earth-shaking. Unlike the real world however, because we rarely know our inworld friends as well or as closely as those in RL, many of the subtle signs and prompts that might otherwise alert us to potential bombshells are simply not there. So when the bomb drops, it can be an incredible surprise and shock.

I’ve found myself in that situation a number of times, and it can be extremely uncomfortable. Not only are you in a position where a friend is telling you something possibly very personal and of huge significance, but because we are unlikely to have the same closeness in terms of relationship than we’d have with a friend in RL, we may struggle to know how to react, what to say or understand why we are the recipient of this privileged information. In such a situation, it’s hard to know what to do or a say – in real life we might offer a consoling hug, crack open a bottle of wine, or possibly call the police; offering a text *hug*, /me uncorks a bottle of Chardonnay, or picking up the phone to report a crime committed by somebody you only know in pixel form are just not the same, and are almost certainly not the most appropriate responses to a weighty disclosure.

This is where SL tends to fall down – as do most forms of ‘social’ media – in terms of being sociable, they don’t really work that well at all. To be on the receiving end of an emotional bombshell we need to be able to react in an emotionally intelligent way: Frequently, this will mean providing a tangible response that requires some kind of interpersonal exchange that goes beyond mere words; or may mean ‘being there’ for someone… A bit tricky, when you’re patently not there, wherever ‘there’ may physically be, and in circumstances where giving your undivided attention may not be an option.

We understand that SL certainly can provide a means of building relationships and fostering friendships, but they doesn’t necessarily mean that they are of the same calibre as those we may enjoy outside the virtual world, and they may fall down badly in some respects – not because we cannot empathise, but because some of the basic essentials of a strong, supportive relationship are just not available to us in SL, or are at best, a poor substitute for the real thing.

So, if you are thinking of dropping some sort of bombshell on someone inworld, just be aware that their response might not be what you’d necessarily expect… It’s not that they’re not taking it seriously, but there’s are very good chance they’re in some sort of virtual shock, and may take a while to come around!

s. x

No alarms and no surprises
No alarms and no surprises
No alarms and no surprises, please
Radiohead – No Surprises

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment