personaEvery one of us – whether consciously or otherwise is capable of, and probably does, exhibit all the traits of possessing multiple personalities. The persona we display to the world will frequently change, depending on the circumstances, often without us even being aware that it’s happening.

It’s quite likely for example, that we will come across to others as completely different personalities, according to the situation – when at home with our family, we’ll behave, talk and even think differently to the way we do when at work, on a girls/lads night out or when experiencing a stressful situation. There may well be further layers of personality beyond those: A manager in the workplace, for example, should – if they’re any good – be capable of switching their persona from empathy and reassurance, to uncompromising disciplinarian, as the needs dictate.

In the main, outside the business world, the manner in which our persona changes is unconscious and takes no effort on our part, but those of us who inhabit SL also have at our disposal, the opportunity to exploit the virtual world and consciously explore personas that are very different to those you might see us demonstrating in our real world lives.

skel1_001Although there are some parallels in RL – theatre and cosplay, come to mind – these are nothing compared to the incredible range of opportunities that SL provides for transforming our persona, even to the point where our real selves might be entirely unrecognisable. Indeed, SL permits us to completely reinvent ourselves, should we so wish – a temptation that many of us happily succumb to, content in the knowledge that the nature of the virtual world is such that this is a low risk strategy that can often work to our benefit, particularly in terms of confidence-building and emotional security.

However, there is a caveat: It is difficult, if not impossible to entirely divorce our real life persona from that which we might manufacture inworld. Many personal qualities are so much a part of us that they will be evident in how we portray our virtual selves, no matter how well we may think we’ve disguised ourselves. This is probably a good thing, since it provides subtle clues to those around us that help them to form their own opinion of whom they are dealing with, notwithstanding the avatar and associated characteristics that we may think we are seamlessly portraying. Those subtle nuances that say to our associates that we are someone who can be trusted, (or otherwise); the qualities that single us out as friends or enemies; the ‘tells’ that declare us to be a good or bad person. Despite the digital noise and the ephemera that you’d think would hide our true selves, they still creep into our SL persona and declare us to be who we really are, even if we try our utmost to hide it.

Some, of course, wear their heart on their digital sleeves – you know what you’re getting without having to dig for clues and, similarly, there are those for whom the SL and RL persona are pretty much identical, but we’re fooling ourselves if we think that by slipping into avatar form, adopting a different style of speech, acting out of character and generally distancing our virtual self from the real picture we’re fooling anyone. Our true character – unless we are a genius at deception, or possibly psychopathic – is always going to leak into the virtual world to disclose our true natures, and others will notice.

You can’t hide the truth!


s. x

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful
And you may ask yourself-Well…How did I get here?
Talking Heads – Once In A Lifetime


Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment


a7921a6ce8755bcf65b78f7d1ac08a96Recently, I came across some discussion regarding the use of the word ‘community’ when speaking about the people who inhabit SL. The SL community, it was argued, is a myth – what we have instead is a collection of disparate groups, collaborations and smaller – specific interest – communities within the wider context who simply share a common platform: They are not a community in the true sense of the word.

I’m not sure that I agree with that contention. In the pages of this blog, I frequently refer to the SL community, and when I do so it is certainly intended to convey a sense of commonality, shared space and experience. I don’t necessarily believe that to be a community it is necessary to demonstrate similar traits and characteristics. To me SL, and for that matter any community, are analogous to a patchwork quilt. Such a quilt begins its life as a motley collection of scraps of fabric – they don’t match, may well be made of varying materials, some will be recycled from other sources, some specifically acquired for the task at hand. Our quilt will include leftovers and offcuts as well as squares carefully prepared, measured and specially chosen as motifs and accents.

Then we come to the task of bringing all these separate pieces of material together, and it is from here that the sum of the total becomes more than its individual parts, because this is where a commonality begins to emerge and where each of those individual pieces of fabric – no matter how wildly different – contribute something to the whole.

Each square of fabric is tailored to fit with those around it – some pieces, too small to fit, become incorporated into others – and all are joined together, quite literally, by the same thread, whilst beneath the surface an ‘infrastructure’ of wadding ensures a consistency and coherence, no matter what the outward appearance might say.

We have a quilt – a gathering together of uncoordinated, varying and even confused components, yet creating something that has form, function and purpose through common bonds that may not even be apparent to the outside observer.

RL communities are created in very much the same way, although rather than scraps of fabric, it is groups of people that form this particular patchwork – and those groups, like our fabric, can be formed from very different materials: Interest groups, age, locality, faith, social convention, status, political persuasion… The list is as diverse as people themselves. Yet all these different communities are encompassed in a wider sense of community that binds, rather than divides. In every town, city and even countywide, there will be that underpinning commonality and a shared thread that creates something greater than the individual parts. Often this is evidenced as civic pride, cultural identity or patriotism but, at its root, it’s that sense of belonging to something that brings people together despite boundaries and differences. Ultimately, as a species we can even talk in terms of a ‘global community’ – that in itself speaks volumes.

patch_001How then does SL differ from this model? I’d suggest that it doesn’t, although the relatively small size of our virtual world may serve to accentuate the differences rather than the connections. Even so, all the hallmarks of my patchwork quilt can be found – we may all be very different and gravitate towards very specific inworld interest groups and gatherings, but SL demands that we also share a great deal in common – things we cannot opt out of and which link us to our virtual neighbours at a fundamental level.

We do have a shared sense of pride, of belonging and of being part of a wider virtual community – and, like it or not, SL brings us all together, and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

s. x

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
John Lennon – Imagine


Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 2 Comments

One size fits all?

alphaThis is going to be one of my rare fashion posts – and, I’m sorry to say, it’s a rant, which is probably one very good reason that I should stay away from blogging about the SL rag trade, since many of the things I do have to say about it can be quite negative.

That’s not to say that I’m not wholly supportive of those in SL who toil on our behalf to give us lovely things to wear – I think that on the whole they do a great job, and having applied my own best endeavours on several occasions to manufacture my own clothing – the sum total of which has been some rather uninspiring t-shirts – I’m full of admiration for those who manage to come up with things that I not only want to wear, but I’m also willing to spend my hard won lindens on.

I particularly admire designers who have embraced mesh – heaven knows how difficult it is to construct even a simple building using this arcane art, but to design and create from scratch an item of rigged mesh clothing that looks realistic and comes in six different sizes, ten different colours and is still a reasonable price takes patience and skills of a kind that I can’t ever imagine possessing myself.

Which makes the subject matter of this particular rant all the more difficult to comprehend… And it is simply this: Why would anyone spend hours planning, designing, creating, rigging, texturing, packaging and marketing something that looks awesome and is practically begging me to spend my money on it, only to to leave me disappointed, frustrated and angry with the finished product simply because it’s packaged with a crappy, ugly and badly matched alpha layer that completely ruins the end look?

How many times have you slipped into a brand new mesh outfit, only to find your armpits are missing, your boobs poke out where they shouldn’t, and there’s a gap between where your skirt ends and your legs begin? It’s almost as if the designer has just thrown in any old alpha they had knocking about in their inventory with no thought about whether it’ll actually be fit for purpose.

alpha_001Before you give me a slap and a lecture on how it’s just not possible to cater for every possible body type and shape, I’m perfectly aware of the difficulties that such things pose… But surely, if a designer can make clothes that otherwise fit perfectly, it can’t be all that tricky to knock up an alpha to match? Instead, I’m regularly faced with dodgy looking transparent bits, with ragged edges, weird shapes, and bearing little resemblance to the clothing they’re supposed to be matched with.

Ultimately, a poor alpha layer is the difference for me between an item of clothing that I’ll wear and enjoy, and one that’ll end up in the trash after trying on the demo. Occasionally, for something really special, I might make up my own alpha to suit, but it isn’t something I want to be doing when I’ve already shelled out for an item.

I really don’t understand the logic behind not going that extra mile in order to keep customers happy – it’s akin to building a house with doors that don’t open! And it does impact on how people perceive a brand… There are stores that I no longer bother with, simply because I know that even though the clothing is lovely, the alphas are awful.

I just don’t get it!

s. x

Fashion! Turn to the left
Fashion! Turn to the right
Oooh, fashion!
David Bowie – Fashion

Posted in Rants, SL | 2 Comments

Mostly academic

I’m indebted to a friend – sadly no longer an SL regular – for bringing today’s morsel to my attention; I doubt I’d have otherwise come across it without them passing the information my way, so the credit for my inspiration is due to them; which is really what this post is all about – credit.

This is what my friend sent me. It’s from the Open University’s guide to the Harvard Referencing System for academic papers:


Yes, it seems that communications and messages in SL are referred to within academic circles frequently enough to merit their own convention for citation, which points me in the direction of two possible conclusions – either all of those surveys that pop up with annoying regularity from university students wishing to write dissertations about living in a virtual environment are actually real; or, there’s an awful lot of academic writers quoting avatars in their theses. Both possibilities give rise to some interesting speculation.

If there are indeed a large number of published academic works that reference SL, it opens a whole can of worms about the role, impact and implications of virtual worlds – SL in particular – and what can be learned from them about the real world. A simple Google Scholar search for ‘”second life” virtual’ produces around 49,400 results, and a quick skim of the first 10 pages of results confirms that pretty much every one is relevant to what we were hoping to find – this is a not insubstantial canon of text and must cause us at least a moment’s reflection of the value of SL for providing insight and evidence into a vast range of experience: Medicine, learning, socio-economics, advertising, problem-solving, business acumen, information systems, literacy, museum curation, non-verbal communication, cyber-archaeology and heritage, hallucination… just a few topics from the many that academic enquiry is pursuing through the medium of SL. It says a great deal about the diversity and flexibility of SL that so much insight can be derived into real world applications. It would seem that our virtual world is fertile ground for exploring a whole range of subjects  that many of us would never have even remotely considered. Oddly, I found relatively few papers that dealt with SL in terms of gaming – the spectrum seems to be far broader than that limited arena.

Let’s return to my second possible conclusion: Are academic writers citing the words of SL avatars in support, or otherwise, of their arguments? Logic says there must be an element of this because the literature I’ve already discussed is so copious, but I can’t help wondering about the veracity of such quotations.

grad_001Unless our specific aim is to highlight the disparity between the character of an SL participant and their inworld persona, just how much reliance can we place upon information based upon inworld interactions and conversation? Given that a great many avatars in SL are – at best – an approximation of the person behind them and that there may be little need for honesty, integrity or even rationality in many inworld situations, what weight can reporting such an interaction be given? Let’s be honest, given the freedom we have to be whom and what we choose, there is no reason not to assume we’re going to exercise the same freedom in our verbal, and even non-verbal communications.

If, for example, I am a woman in RL with a male persona inworld – am I likely to compromise the illusion I’m perpetuating by reverting to feminine attributes, whether or not I know I’m the subject of study? I’m pretty sure the answer to that is in the negative, and therefore whatever conclusion is drawn, based upon observation or interpretation will be fundamentally flawed. At best, any researcher must present their findings with a caveat that they may be based on entirely false information and assumptions!

I won’t pretend that this blog is anything more than a random collection of musings – particularly when you consider that all of the last couple of paragraphs can apply equally as much to anything you see written here! There are some bloggers who do conduct highly scientific and rigorous examination of our virtual world and the strange bunch who inhabit it, and they do so extremely well. However, I’m just here for fun, so anything I say here should really be taken with an unhealthily large pinch of salt… So, if anyone out there ever does feel the need to quote me, you have been warned – and, if you’re foolish enough to do it anyway, get the citation right! (It’s spelled with a ‘D’!)

s. x

Oh academia you can’t pick me up
Soothe me with your words when I need your love
Sia – Academia

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment


beatlesFunny old evening: Arrived home; put the kettle on; felt stressed; felt depressed; ate chocolate – lot’s of chocolate – no, let’s be honest… way too much chocolate; counted some animals; slumped in chair.

Put some music on – happened to be ‘Lucy In The Sky’, which naturally led to listening to a large part of the Yellow Submarine album, and thereafter the evening has turned into a veritable orgy of Beatlelisticality… Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, Abbey Road, Rubber Soul, Hard Day’s Night and Let It Be, (which I’ve realised is definitely my all-time, unequivocal favourite Fab Four album, ever… at least until I decide otherwise).

lennon1_001I am not, by any means, a Beatles nut – they were part of musical history long before I came on the scene, although I was aware of them from quite a young age, and sure, I like their music, and on pretty much every album there’ll be something to make me smile, dance and frequently cry, (did I mention Let It Be?), and the fact that I’ve spent an entire evening listening to John, Paul, Ringo, George and Jeremy shouldn’t be taken to mean that I favour their music above any other – that’s just the way it’s panned out tonight. However, I think I might have something of a tough job trying to persuade anyone that really is the case if you were to call into question the evidence to the contrary that SL presents.

sub2_001To begin with, I live on the Penny Lane Sim, where home is Nowhere Land and Marmalade Skies – prior to taking up residence, the parcel was the aptly-named Magical Mystery Field – a Beatles-themed homage to the band. My neighbour has created the delightfully hippy Strawberry Fields and Beatles music can often be heard forming the soundtrack to the sim. As for me, I have the distinction of being Polythene Pam – an honorary member of The Penny Lanes – a Beatles tribute group from way back in 2007, comprising Lucy In The Sky, Lovely Rita and Dear Prudence! One of the most spellbinding and moving moments I’ve ever experienced inworld was Beatles-related.

But really, I’m no super fan.

You may choose to believe otherwise based on the evidence above, but the simple fact is that a whole series of happy accidents has led to me finding myself occupying the niche in SL that I find myself in. Somewhere in the midst of this four-track, psychedelic playground of the absurd and magical, I found friendship – people who were caring and carefree, who encouraged and supported me and gave me a place to call home. We shared common interests, connections, dreams and ideals and it just seemed right to me to allow myself to fit in and build my own little extension of that ethos – and, if I’m honest, that was exactly the right thing to do. So, with a little bit of effort, and a little bit of help from my friends, my SL has become a whimsical, colourful, musical place – and surely that is fundamentally what this strange, virtual existence is all about? It’s a place of shiny fire-engines, newspaper taxis, yellow submarines and blackbirds singing in the dead of night – a place where nothing is real, and where I can go when I feel low and come together with like-minded people.

Not so bad, is it?


I think there are occasions when SL shares a synergy with the things of the real world, allowing them to take root in the virtual world in a way that seems entirely natural, and it really doesn’t matter whether it makes sense or takes you on a journey that is completely at odds with the real you, if it works what does it matter?

So no, I’m not a Beatles nut in RL… But I think SL might well convert me, given half a chance!

s. x

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe
The Beatles – Across The Universe


Posted in Musicality, Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 4 Comments

Organised chaos

chaosI really should have learned not to trust the weather forecast by now, yet time and time again I make the mistake of believing what they tell me and, as a result, end up wearing my thermals in tropical temperatures, or being soaked to the skin in a torrential downpour, because the forecast assured me there was no chance of rain today.

I admit that part of the problem is me – I like to travel light, and struggling through the day, laden down with clothing suitable for any possible eventuality is just not for me. The other issue lies with the inherent unpredictability of weather itself. We like to think we have it sussed, but in reality, there’s still a lot of luck and educated guesswork involved.

Weather patterns are governed by chaos theory, and any chaotic system is by definition, pretty unpredictable. At best, we can identify some broad rules that govern how things might turn out, but there’s no guarantee that they’re going to hold true.

You might think the same could be said about life, but – unlike the weather – human beings, on the whole tend to be pretty boring and predictable. No matter how diverse we ourselves and our activities may be, we tend to follow clear patterns of behaviour and much of what we do is well ordered and structured. Whilst this still leaves plenty of space for surprises and the unexpected, it’s generally a pretty predictable system: Most of us will have little trouble in predicting what tomorrow, next week, next year or even further into the future is likely to bring, even down to specific details.

Then we have SL – somewhere that you’d imagine would be more ordered and less variable than RL. Computer systems and applications are fundamentally different to organic, chaotic systems – they are based on logic, fixed rules, and should be inherently stable. SL as a platform is no different, however as a virtual world, it’s a different story. The countless variables and choices that face the virtual resident, together with the almost unlimited freedom SL offers and the unique set of circumstances, scenarios and opportunities it presents means that the inworld environment is far more unstable and far less predictable than the real world.

All of us will have stories to tell about the weird, wonderful and downright bizarre occurrences that we’ve experienced inworld, and every time we log in, it’s with the certain knowledge that no matter how well we’ve planned things out, the chances are that the unexpected will occur. Few would disagree that SL is pretty much organised chaos, but that’s not a bad thing – it’s the chaotic nature of the place that adds so much to its charm.

I for one wouldn’t want an SL that was as routinely predictable and well ordered as my day to day life… But maybe that’s because my life is already a study in chaos theory anyway!

le cactus5_001

s. x

I am the wilderness locked in a cage
I am a growing force you kept in place
I am a tree reaching for the sun
Please don’t hold me down
Oh Laura – Release Me

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Has Christmas come early?

giftApparently Christmas has arrived – at least around these parts. The Christmas lights have already gone up in the city streets, Christmas music has been pumping out of the speakers in half the shops I’ve visited, and the aisles are chock full of cards, decorations, tree lights and all manner of festive nonsense. My plaintive cries, (and those I suspect of many others), of “No! It’s far too early!”, are falling on deaf ears and I know that the next six weeks are going to be one long, depressing round of pre-Christmas cheer. I like Christmas, really I do, but the relentless, commercialised marketing juggernaut that accompanies it, almost as soon as Easter has passed it seems, absolutely drives me nuts.

It’s one of the reasons that I tend to do all of my Christmas gift shopping as late as I possibly can: Usually Christmas Eve, but it’s not unknown for me to still be shopping for presents right into the new year.

What I didn’t expect however, was some early gifts from Linden Lab… All of a sudden, after what seems like an age of silence from the Labbies, they’ve sprung upon us a whole host of goodies, quite out of the blue; and the best thing about them – like the best type of Christmas prezzies – not only are they unexpected, but they’re also exactly what we’ve been hinting we want for months, and months, and months!

Our first early stocking-filler – new starter avatars. Big deal, you might say, with your 9-year old, carefully designed and customised virtual self, but this new release of noob-friendly creations is exactly what the doctor ordered. They are a big departure from the shockingly inept attempt that was the Lab’s last attempt to upgrade the noobiverse – gone are the mesh avatars that so confused newcomers. Incompatible with clothing, incompatible with body editing, incompatible with making SL a fun and intuitive experience for noobs, and a complete nightmare for anyone trying to help anybody take their first steps into virtual residency…

Noobavatar Resident: Hey, how does I change cltohes?
Friendly WelcomePerson: Simple. You need to find somewhere that does appliers for Linden mesh bodies – which I’m afraid is impossible. Or you can try wearing other creators’ mesh, or even normal clothing, knowing full well that it’ll never fit and bits of you will poke out all over.
Noobavatar Resident: So there are no cltothes I can wear, apart from what I alredy have on?
Friendly WelcomePerson: That’s correct
Nobavatar Resident: Second Life sucks
Friendly WelcomePerson: Yes

So, it’s back to sensible – fairly attractive – system avatars with, wait for it: Mesh clothing! Yay! Smart move, Labbies.

welcome_001Bubbling under the surface for a while now, we’ve had the promise of another present in the offing, and – much as the new avatars are a bit of a throwback to a better time – so is this. Remember the good old days, when you could sign up to SL from a webpage, and log in to a privately managed welcome area, with volunteer mentors who would talk you through taking your baby steps? Well, those days are back, with the Lindens opening up opportunities for SL Gateways and calls for new mentors already going out to the SL community – you can read more about the Gateways over at the Firestorm blog.

But that’s not all, and in seemingly another attempt to recapture past glories, there’s more that the Lab are doing to improve communication. If you were around in the distant SL past, you may remember and may even have partaken in Office Hours, when the Lindens would descend from their lofty heights and move amongst us lesser mortals to discuss pressing issues, answer questions, and generally be chatty. Well, they’re back! Re-branded Lab Chat (catchy title, huh?), all very 2007, but actually very exciting too.

Wait… There’s another big shiny present the Lab have just produced from behind their back – and this is one you’ll really want to unwrap and get stuck into just as soon as you can: Revamped and revitalised, all new Marketplace search! It’s still in beta for the moment, but this is something we begged and pleaded the Lab to give us for years, yes YEARS!

There are, of course, those who will moan about all of these lovely new things and tell us that SL is dead – frankly, those are the sort of people who would moan about the price of the phone call to claim their prize if they won the lottery – however, their will also be an awful lot of us with great big smiles on our faces, uttering squeals of joy as we unwrap these gifts and see what the Lab have given us!

And, wait… what’s this? Lurking at the very back, hidden away under the tree is another parcel with our name on it. Give it a shake, and you might just guess that hidden inside is Project Valhalla, but it’s not quite Christmas yet, despite what the shops might be telling us, so maybe we should leave unwrapping that one until the Lab tells us we can? But, I’ll tell you what, I’m finding it hard to wait!

s. x

I had a dream so big and loud
I jumped so high I touched the clouds
American Authors – Best Day Of My Life

Posted in Linden Love, RL, SL, SLarcheology | 2 Comments

Life changes

thingschangeIt has been something of an interesting year – if I were to tot up my scores according to the Life Change Index, by the time the end of the year comes around, I’ll be nudging 250 points and – if the theory is to be believed – 50% chance of stress-related illness occurring some time in the near future. However, I firmly believe that experience can be a great driver for becoming more adept at handling change, so in some ways big life changes, if they occur frequently enough, can actually make the process less stressful and far easier to accommodate. That’s what I think anyway, whether it’s true or not I don’t know, but it seems to be the case for me.

One of the more unexpected changes that I’ve had to adjust to this year is that of becoming a lot less settled and far more mobile than ever previously. In the past month I’ve both purchased moved house, but prior to that I’ve have had to get to grips with my work role becoming less centralised and a lot more spread out – where, not so long ago, most of my time I was in a fixed location, travelling at most around 50 miles on a busy week, my new responsibilities mean that I’m all over the place and easily clocking up hundreds of miles a week and many hours of time spent on the move. Throw in overnight stays – anything from one to four nights a week – means that I’ve had to get used to the fact that I’m no longer a fixed asset; and routinely finding myself in familiar, comforting, homely surroundings isn’t something I can rely on any more.

usn1_001That’s possibly one of the more difficult things I’ve had to adjust to: I’ve always cherished the concept of ‘home’ – somewhere that I can set down roots, feel safe and secure, and that I can tailor to meet my own tastes, routines and needs. If Maslow is to be believed, it’s one of the fundamental security/safety needs that we all have and without which we can struggle to maintain an even keel in life. Even so, my new routines are by no means unique, and many, many people across the world face exactly the same challenge in their day-to-day lives and manage perfectly well.

As I said at the beginning, I’m pretty adaptable, and it’s one of the characteristics of the human race that we’re able to accommodate even the most far-reaching of changes to our environment, surroundings and circumstances. When it comes to the less world-shattering things and the smaller, personal challenges that we’re called upon to meet, we’ll often develop a coping strategy that substitutes one norm for another. Those of us who’ve become accustomed to spending time in SL will no doubt be familiar with this form of substitution – the virtual world, after all, is envisioned to be a ‘second life’. Many will have taken advantage of SL to offset needs and gaps that the real world cannot accommodate; whether that’s by the simple expedient of providing an environment, activity or opportunity that doesn’t present itself in RL, or in a more complex manner that can compensate for, or ease the process of change.

teaparty2_001I have a friend inworld who is happy to say that SL feels more like home than any real world place: Frequent relocations, not only regionally, but also transatlantic on more than one occasion, have robbed them of the stability and permanence of a place to call home in RL, whereas the place they’ve set down their roots in SL has remained relatively constant throughout. Whilst real world friends and relationships, locations, activities, pursuits and employment have constantly followed a process of breakaway and renewal, inworld locations, friends and activities have endured and, in doing so, SL has substituted a virtual equivalent for ‘home’ that fulfils all the requirements that the concept embodies. It works extremely well for the person concerned and, over time, has provided them with a stability and consistency that RL simply hasn’t been able to furnish.

I’m fortunate, in that the changes in my own life are not such that they demand a real upheaval, I simply need to adjust to the new regime and find a new routine in which to become established. Even so, it’s good to know that, no matter what the changes in the real world, SL and my friends and familiar places will still be there.

s. x

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
David Bowie – Changes

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Core stability

citiesDown my way, there’s a bit of a cover-up job taking place. Tower blocks of 1970’s vintage are systematically being swathed in scaffolding and plastic sheet, hidden away for months, to be eventually disrobed of their temporary clothing to reveal an outward transformation.

Ugly concrete blocks become colourful, sleek high-rises; dirty, weathered windows become fashionable and clean, whilst unappealing and utilitarian façades have turned into bright and tasteful eye-candy. What were once undesirable complexes of dirty, grey tower-blocks now sport a tasteful and welcoming appearance; but what really has changed?

Dig beneath the outward appearance and modern cladding and you’ll find that the structure of these buildings hasn’t changed at all. The old walls and pillars are still there beneath the cosmetic niceties that modern building techniques have employed to hide what lies beneath. At the heart of all that fresh paint and gleaming windows you’ll still find what is essentially a 1970’s concrete tower block, in all its ugly brashness.

And inside the insides, you will find the people who live there. What difference does dressing up the outward appearance make towards improving their lot? I suppose, if nothing else, dressing a place like that up can have an effect on people’s esteem and pride – it can make them feel good about their environment and care more about it, but what really makes a difference is when those external, cosmetic, improvements are supplemented by real efforts to improve what’s on the inside too. And, to be fair, that’s exactly what’s been happening in those tower blocks: Whilst the builders have been busy outside, the internal fixtures and fittings have been upgraded too – new electrics; improved plumbing; re-vamped lifts; better lighting and internal decor – from the point of view of the tenants, they might as well be living in brand new apartments.

Yet the structure remains essentially unchanged – it is still, underneath all the glitz and glamour, a 1970’s concrete tower.

Trilborough_001The work that has been undertaken on these buildings has given them – and the people who live in them – a whole new lease of life. What were once ugly eyesores, a blight and a blot on the landscape, unloved, unwanted and probably destined for the caress of the wrecking ball in the not too distant future, will now stand proudly for far longer than you would have given them previously, and they’ll provide a pleasant environment that will enhance the lives of the people who live in and around them – and all at a fraction of the real, and emotional cost, of relocating residents, demolishing and rebuilding from scratch. Clever stuff – and it works.

All of this puts me very much in mind of SL, because a very similar process has been taking place for the past couple of years, and many of us haven’t even noticed. This is partly because a huge number of us are still of the mindset – and I’ve no idea why – that still subscribes to the fatalistic view that SL is dead or dying and that its days are fast running out, along with a somewhat hard to justify assertion that SL is irreparably broken, barely limping along and so far behind the times that it’s an embarrassment.

However, this really isn’t the case. Like my local tower blocks, there was a time when SL could justifiably have been labelled as decrepit and stuck in the past, but that was before the scaffolding went up. Like it or not, (and there will be those for whom every silver lining has a cloud), over time SL has taken on a new lean, mean and clean appearance – there have been a lot of very visible, high profile improvements in the past couple of years and anyone coming back to SL after an extended break would be impressed with the changes that have been made – if they really are honest about it. SL today is faster, more responsive, more feature rich and more capable of meeting expectations that ever before – it’s just that most of us choose to ignore those improvements. Similarly, behind the scenes, a huge amount of work has been taking place to fine tune the interior ambience – what we tend to call the ‘user experience’. In fact, an awful lot of the errors and problems that people experience with SL today are nothing to do with the platform or the software, but are increasingly a result of sub-optimal internet connections and hardware playing second fiddle to what is becoming a polished and rather clever virtual experience. Yet there are still those who fail to see the bright, shiny, modern fixtures and fittings; instead they choose to stick with the rather warped and inaccurate perception of the SL they know and love to hate – the ugly edifice that they believe they still have to suffer.

In real terms, that concrete tower block is still there – or at least the shell, structure, concept – call it what you will. It is, after all, the framework upon which everything else hangs; but why, if it’s inherently sound and solid, why should the Lab not strip away all the old and broken, unfit for purpose bits and replace them with new? That way, they achieve exactly the same effect as can be achieved by tarting up a tower block – it improves life, and the experience for the residents and the community.

More than this, it extends the life of the whole structure – nobody is going to knock it down before its time, and I’m pretty sure the same holds true for SL too: So I think we can safely put away the mourning clothes and black armbands, SL isn’t likely to be departing this world any day soon… And, if I’m wrong, you can come back here and say “I told you so!”

s. x

And you’ll live there forever
And the day that you die
when you’ll go to that
Big high-rise block in the sky
Carter USM – The Taking Of Peckham 123

Posted in Builder's bum, Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 1 Comment

Tap, tap, tap… Is this thing working?

backTesting, testing. Can you all hear me at the back?

Yes, it’s me – I’m back! All systems up, running and operational, although it’s going to take me a little while before I manage to settle back into any sort of routine, so please bear with me whilst I sort myself out. Posts are likely to be sporadic for the next couple of weeks – I have a million things to get sorted, and work is going to take me away from Basecamp Seren a fair bit too.

Anyway, it’s good to be back!

avid3_001What have I missed? Well, as far as I can make out, SL is still doing its thing in much the same way it always has; and, of course, whilst I’ve been kicking my heels client side, I’ve missed all the Hallowe’en festivities, which is a bit of a bummer, since I do like to dress up and enjoy a good party. Not that missing out is going to stop me dressing up anyway – I fully intend to go all witchy-poo for at least the next week or so… I laugh in the face of convention!

Elsewhere, the big news is that we’ve had our first sneaky, sneak preview of what we can might expect from Project Sansar. Sneaky because it’s not footage that the Lab are planning to release publicly, but if you’re going to show this kind of thing to an audience, somebody’s going to film it and publish it for you!

Looks pretty cool, huh? And usually this is something I’d get terribly excited about, however there’s reason to be wary. We’ve all seen those Linden Lab promotional videos, with smoothly animated, avatars interacting seamlessly in perfectly crafted environments…

Enough said.

The other big question that forms in my mind when I see those spaceships dodging around the Golden Gate Bridge, with all that fancy lighting and smooth framerates is: “Would it look anything like that on my computer?” – I’m pretty sure the answer to that one is “Probably not!” – So I’m just going to hang on for a bit and see what happens next year when, with any luck, we’ll be getting more than a sneak preview grabbed via someone’s mobile.

The other thing I really have missed is the company of my inworld friends. I can’t tell you how many times in the past couple of weeks, after a long day shifting boxes, moving furniture, wielding paintbrushes and falling off stepladders, I’ve collapsed into a chair and wished I could jump inworld and laugh off the aches, pains and tiredness in the company of my pals, and it’s been a frustrating time. When I finally did get my internet back, the best thing of all was the warm welcome I received from everyone – it was lovely. The worst thing, however, was realising I hadn’t changed my clothes for over a week! Thank goodness the virtual experience doesn’t extend to olfactory stimulus!

nye20139_001So, just a short one today, but I won’t go without touching on the date – for the past couple of years, November 5th has been something of a significant day for me in RL. I won’t go into the details, although one or two of my inworld friends will know the story, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a day to celebrate, and of course the rest of the country just happens to be in a celebratory mood too. As I type this post, I’m watching the fireworks through my study window, and they look fab. I’m having my own virtual fireworks too – head off to Echo Beach at Nowhere Land if you’d like to enjoy the spectacle – I’ll leave them lighting up the sky until the weekend is over, and you’re more than welcome to come along.

s. x

The fireworks from the rooftops fall down around whole town
So tell it seems like so long since I’ve had you beside me here
We used to walk together
Gin Blossoms – Fireworks

Posted in 2.0, Linden Love, RL, SL | Leave a comment