Balanced opinion

opinionI suppose I should start today’s post by adding a caveat: Anything you read on these pages is going to be, at the very least, coloured by my opinion, and frequently will reflect only my view on any particular subject. This is, after all, a personal blog and I’m afraid if it’s unbiased reporting or purely factual information you’re after, this is quite definitely not where you’re going to find it! That said, I do try to take a fairly balanced view when it comes to writing here, and I tend not to be too opinionated in the views I express.

I wish the same could be said of a very vocal cadre of SL commentators, who seem to have little to say that is positive, helpful or factual, and use the internet as a vehicle to conduct personal hate crusades against individuals and businesses using very public rhetoric, in a manner that is frankly both appalling and disturbing.

Whilst I have no problems with the tenet of free speech and the right of the individual to hold an opinion, I do think that it’s also incumbent upon the individual to self-moderate, get their facts straight and to present their views in a reasoned, rational tone, rather than resort to the insensitive, inflammatory and offensive… But maybe that’s just asking a bit too much?

I don’t know whether it’s endemic to online communities in general, or if SL is particularly conducive to fostering vitriol, but it does seem to me that our little virtual bubble has far more than its fair share of bad feeling and misinformed commentary, to the point that it’s even possible to identify specific stereotypes:

The Bitter ex-Resident
These are commonly found lurking on popular online forums. They hold extremely polarised opinions about SL, the vast majority of which are extremely negative, disparaging and couched in less than positive terms. They provide a popular bandwagon for others of a similar persuasion to join forces, who are more than happy to authoritatively wade in with assertions that SL is dying, is practically grinding to a laggy halt and has pretty much no traffic at all.

Oh, and by the way, none of this is based on fact, experience or first hand knowledge, because the last time any of our authorities on the virtual world even bothered to log in was back in 2008!

The Pitiful Plurker
There is a whole subculture of people who are utterly incapable of living in the real world, however because it would simply be wrong to live a hundred percent in SL, they split their lives evenly between spending their time inworld and on the SL addicts other platform of choice: Plurk. This allows them to live a complete fantasy life, where they can pretend whatever they want is real, and anything they wish can be said with complete impunity.

In pursuance of that aim, every facet of their virtual (ie ‘real’) life is shamelessly broadcast online to the world and his wife in gory detail. This, of course will include wanton slagging off of inworld friends with whom they have fallen out/shagged/gossiped with; racist, homophobic and elitist slurs aimed at those they spend time with inworld; and endless pity parties dwelling on how friends have let them down and their lives are a mess, (hardly surprising, really).

channel1_001The Evil Ones
There are, unfortunately, a group of people who will quite happily use the anonymity of SL as an excuse to act inexcusably. Equally unfortunately, there are even websites and forums that cater to this unsavoury virtual underworld – it’s no secret.

To such people, there is no such thing as decorum, reasonableness or common decency, and they are in more than happy to employ the voice that the free internet offers to stoop to any depth in order to bring down their fellow residents.

This is the domain of the backstabber, the jealous, the entitled and the malcontent, who is at their most happy pulling a fellow SL resident or business to pieces over some imagined or made up slight. Here is a no holds barred domain where anything is considered fair game… Poor health, poverty, relationship or family problems, depression – all provide rich pickings for those with an axe to grind, whilst feeling fully justified in doing so and taking personal affront if challenged.

Strangely enough, here too is the domain of the amateur self-styled protector of intellectual property, the crusader who spends their life scouring the Marketplace and Etsy with the sole intent of trying to destroy SL designers for daring to draw inspiration from the work of others. It’s a deeply unhealthy environment.

This is the murky underbelly of SL filled with people whom you’d swear have no interest in SL, other than in some twisted and perverse form of self gratification.

I can only surmise that their real lives must be a pretty horrible place to live too.

s. x

And there seems to be a problem here.
Your state of emotion seems to clear.
You rise and fall like wall street stock
And you had an affect on our happy talk.
Nirvana – Opinion

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, SL | Leave a comment

Unspending Spree

retailEven though many of us – gentlemen especially – might pretend otherwise, we’re all massive fans of shopping. Maybe not the routine supermarket sweep for everyday essentials, but few of us would deny that we quite enjoy, even if only a little bit, the opportunity to indulge ourselves, splash out on something special, or spend a day trekking around our favourite shops.

The only problem is cashflow – unfortunately, shopping can be far less enjoyable than it might be, thanks to the fact that we have to pay for goods, and when money is in short supply, or those objects of desire upon which we’re considering lavishing our hard-earned readies are just too damn expensive! All of us, at some time, have experienced ‘post purchase dissonance’ – that disturbing, nagging feeling that we’ve spent too much on something we really shouldn’t have bought, and internally beat ourselves up about it. There are occasions, of course, when these feelings are entirely justified – sometimes the temptation to succumb to the lure of the sale overwhelms common sense, rationality and sobriety and we end up splurging when we really shouldn’t.

If only lovely things were a lot more affordable…

Which they are, in SL.

The shopping bug is big business in the virtual economy – just take a look at the range of goods available on the Marketplace alone, and let’s not forget that not every inworld store is represented there either – SL is the ultimate platform for the inveterate shopaholic: A vast variety of desirables, often of high quality and holding significant appeal, and in real terms, all at knockdown prices. Even the most expensive virtual item requires very little outlay, and indeed, the more desirable and expensive the virtual item, the wider the disparity between the cost of real and virtual goods. A good quality slice of mesh cake, for example, might be sold for a couple of hundred lindens – not terribly expensive, and relatively close in price to its real world equivalent; scale up to a high quality mesh sports car, and you might be talking about splashing a few thousand lindens – a price we might balk at, but likely to tempt us nevertheless – whereas in the real world, that same sports car would be something we could only dream about possessing. SL brings the unaffordable within the reach of most pockets.

So we shop, and we shop with a vengeance!

vague_001I clearly remember making the transition from virtual freeloader to virtual consumer: that moment I first stood inworld, grasping my first wad of linden dollars in my sweaty pixellated palm and pondering what goodies were worthy of my hard-earned cash. Over the weeks, months and years that followed, my inventory became populated with shoes, clothing, gadgets, vehicles, buildings and a whole host of ephemera that I simply had to have. Sometimes, parting with the cash was hard, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and spend, spend, spend!

Then, suddenly, it stopped. My shopping habit petered out for no apparent reason. I certainly continued to visit stores and trudge the Marketplace, but my spending decreased to the point where it became almost non-existent – I had become a virtual window shopper; loving the shopping experience, but no longer feeling the need to consummate my consumerist desires. Within a short space of time, my inworld bank balance had reached a state of strange equilibrium – cash would go in at the beginning of the month to pay rent and with a little left over for tips and such like, but other than that, there was – excuse the pun – no change.

That isn’t to say that I never do anything to support the SL retail economy any more, I do, but I don’t do it very much at all any more. In some ways it’s slightly unnerving, in others it’s rather comforting: Having a somewhat addictive personality, there has always been the danger that I might bankrupt myself in the real world as a result of my inworld spending. That, it seems, is now unlikely to happen, thank goodness. In practical terms too, it’s good news – my inventory, which had grown to an extent that it had pretty much attained sentience, filled with items that had never been worn, used or otherwise employed at all, simply stopped growing and, ever since, all of those redundant items have started to find themselves pressed into service, and that can’t possibly be a bad thing.

It’s all very strange and I can’t explain it… And, if the SL retail economy does one day go bust, you’ll know who to blame!

s. x

I’m all lost in the supermarket
I can no longer shop happily
I came in here for that special offer
A guaranteed personality
The Clash – Lost In The Supermarket

Posted in RL, SL | Leave a comment

Quantitative easing

effortIt may be a rather simplistic view of the world, but I’m firmly of the opinion that there are basically two types of people – those who tend to adopt a victim mentality, and those who choose to deal with things. There are, of course, varying degrees of these behaviours and they can change from person to person over time, depending on circumstances and situation – and it’s entirely possible to swing from one extreme to the other, or even to take diametrically opposite positions in relation to different circumstances at one and the same time.

I’m not saying either approach is wrong or right, good or bad – we’re all different and we all find own way through the challenges that life throws at us, doing whatever it takes that will work to our advantage; the trick lies in knowing which route to take and having the wherewithall to take it. Speaking personally, I’m quite definitely in the ‘deal with it’ camp. I’m not particularly good at being a victim: I’d rather get things sorted than let them sort me, any day.

Whilst we’re on the subject, I think there’s a lot than can be learned from SL about human nature. The virtual world is pretty much real life in microcosm, and it can act as a lens that magnifies traits and characteristics, making them far more apparent and evident than they might appear to us in RL. In particular, the dramas and challenges of the virtual world seem to elicit a far stronger response than we see in the real world – reactions tend to be more extreme and emotions tend to run deeper for some reason. So when things do go wrong in SL, people can and do go overboard in terms of how they handle them. We can probably all think of virtual acquaintances who go into victim mode at the slightest provocation – and they make sure that everyone around them knows it too! Similarly, there are those who will take on a crusade against the merest suggestion of a perceived injustice, with all guns blazing and a zeal that is all but incomprehensible to those around them.

wind_001Thankfully, there are also a considerable number of pragmatic people in SL, who are quite capable of rolling with life’s punches, without resorting to either extreme. However, SL should be a salutary lesson to us all… Once we’ve seen just how destructive, self-serving and ineffective such behaviours can be in the virtual world, we should perhaps be more willing to take a more measured and studied approach to our real world problems too?

In fact, when we consider life in those terms, what we might perceive as problems aren’t quite such an issue anyway. If our normal approach is to be a victim, then there’s a chance that every challenge we face will be perceived as something imposed upon us, about which we have no choice, and against which we stand no chance. If we take the opposite approach, we can find ourselves ’tilting at windmills’ – with every problem assuming mammoth proportions, against which we must rail and rage, usually to our own detriment and bringing little reward. Moderation is usually the best answer: To not be overwhelmed and pushed down by life’s challenges, but nevertheless, to assert ourselves and take positive action that will place us in the best possible position to move forward.

write_001There was a time that I would do whatever was needed to get a post out on this blog – if that meant sneaking in a few paragraphs during a short break from work, staying up until stupid o’clock to get a piece finished, or missing meals, appointments and other pursuits to proofread a post, then that’s what I’d do – it was the ‘deal with it’ approach, supersized.

I’ve realised that there is a better way.

Things in my real life are very busy at the moment – I have house guests who are taking a massive toll on my available time; work is extremely busy; my time inworld has gone from 2-3 hours a day to about the same amount of time in a whole month; and, soon I’ll be away for a couple of weeks when I won’t have the time, or opportunity – and it’s quite likely I’ll have no internet access either – to blog at all. So, I face a choice… Do I become a victim, throw up my hands in defeat, and quit until better times? Or, do I manically start writing, forgoing food, sleep and essential activity, just to ensure continuity?

Actually, I won’t be doing either: I’m just going to ease back for a few weeks. Worry not, I’ll still be posting, just not as frequently as I usually do. I promise to deliver at least one, maybe two, posts a week just to keep things ticking over until I have more time to commit to the blog, and I have more opportunity to spend time inworld to gather inspiration for writing in the first place! It’s not permanent, and with any luck I’ll be back to normal by October… Just don’t think I’ve died, abandoned you, or been replaced by a bot – I haven’t!

writing_001

And, you can be assured…

I’ll be back!

s. x

“The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls.”
Disturbed – The Sound Of Silence

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 2 Comments

Ghost town

ghostIt can be a little unnerving to log in to SL only to find it’s not behaving in quite the way you’re used to. I don’t mean the usual weirdness and peculiarities that we expect and have grown used to in the virtual world, but rather the slightly offputting moments that cause us to question whether ‘something’ is going on… Moreover, something that everyone else, but us, appears to be privy to.

It’s that same feeling you get when someone has a birthday, or other celebration, and you appear to be the only person in your circle of friends who didn’t know anything about it.

On two days in a row this week, I’ve logged in to my home sim to find it suspiciously devoid of people. There’s a pretty vibrant collection of inmates residents at the Penny Lane sim, and at certain times of day, you can pretty much be assured of some company, whether in the local pub, playing games, or just hanging about in the street playing chicken with the cars or waiting for someone to mug! To find the place empty is just a bit weird, particularly when it stays that way all evening.

What’s more, none of my friends amongst whom I usually spend my time were logged in – and the one friend who did make an appearance was as bemused as myself about the situation. It could be that everyone had decided to take a couple of nights off, or perhaps it was just an odd coincidence; maybe, just maybe, I’d been the unsuspecting victim of some great conspiracy, or bizarre practical joke; or could it be that for the past few years I’ve been living in something of a bubble… A bubble that’s finally burst to reveal the shocking truth?

mooby1_001You see, my virtual hometown is distinctly atypical of the wider state of the cause throughout SL. A state that really should be pretty obvious to someone who spends as much time exploring the place as myself. The reality across the virtual world is that much of SL is incredibly sparsely populated and there are vast tracts of our world that, for much of the time, are almost completely devoid of any kind of life at all. Just open up the world map any time you like, and the reality is staring you in the face – you’ll find across whole continents those little green dots, signifying the presence of our inworld compatriots are most notable by their absence. There are, of course, pockets of activity, where avatars are stacked in veritable high rise agglomerations – invariably, these will be clubs, sex venues, large popular stores, and commercial events, but you’ll rarely come across any gatherings of avatars simply passing the time of day in each other’s company.

Perhaps I’ve been somewhat spoiled: The inworld community in which I live is vibrant, friendly, supportive and sociable, and it’s an unfortunate fact that many self-styled communities in SL are such in name only, with little activity to suggest otherwise. There are those, of course, who work extremely hard to build strong and active virtual communities, particularly amongst roleplayers – some would suggest that, on occasion this can go to extremes, but at least there’s an effort made to build those bonds. However, for a community to organically and naturally develop inworld, simply as a consequence of the right people gathering together in a way that mimics a proper RL community is, I’d suggest, pretty rare in a virtual setting and is probably something you’re unlikely to come across all that often.

Having been part of such a community for so long, it seems that I’ve assumed – probably wrongly – that it is the SL norm, when the reality is that whilst people do form like-minded groupings in SL, they tend to be far more nebulous and ethereal than what we might more usually consider to be a community. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but I do think that we should have an appreciation of those natural communities that do occasionally emerge inworld, and do our bit to contribute when we are fortunate enough to be part of one.

As for my recent Marie Celeste experience, well this is SL after all… And far stranger things happen all the time!

s. x

Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town?
We danced and sang, and the music played in a de boomtown
The Specials – Ghost Town

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, SL | Leave a comment

Button pusher

xcdo0azjkmnpi7at6wlvWhy do they put those sticky label things on bags of Cadbury’s Giant Buttons? I know it’s so you can reseal them, but c’mon… Are there seriously people out there who have the willpower not to scoff the whole bag in a single sitting? No way!

I can’t resist buttons – I know I should, but some things are just beyond human capability, and besides… What’s the worst that could happen?

Funny things buttons, they wield an inordinate amount of power over us, not just the chocolate variety, but the big red ones too, and all sorts of buttons of every description in between. So often they compel us into action, even to do things that any reasonable and sane person would never consider under normal circumstances. For example, stick a great big red button on the wall, with the instruction ‘Do not press the big red button’, and the urge that we’ll get to do just that is almost overpowering – indeed, many of us do succumb and give it a good hard whack before running away to a safe distance and adopting an innocent ‘Who me?’ look upon our countenance!

Lift buttons, (that’s elevator buttons to all you Americanians), are almost as bad. Give us a lift to ourselves and the compulsion to push all – yes ALL – of those buttons is overwhelming. Similarly, when the doors are a microsecond too long in closing, you’ll find yourself hammering away on the ‘door close’ button for all you’re worth – although I did read somewhere that these are unlikely to be wired up at all and merely serve as a placebo to keep us subdued and happy.

Oddly, those buttons we really need to push are those that we steadfastly refrain from touching – put a guy right next to a Pelican Crossing** button and he will do everything in his power to pretend it doesn’t exist… even if it means standing there for ten minutes as traffic whooshes by; it’ll take a woman to save the day by reaching past him and pressing the damn thing! (**Sorry, my Americanian friends, I have no idea what the equivalent to a Pelican crossing is over the pond… It’s like one of those ‘Walk/Don’t Walk’ things they have in the movies, but with a button that magically – sometimes – stops all the traffic).

Designers too delight in having fun with buttons. I tend to spend a great deal of time on trains, and with little else to do to pass the time, I find myself constantly amused by the spectacle of some unfortunate soul nonchalantly making their way to the loo, only to make an utter fool of themselves by stabbing ineffectually at all the wrong buttons in order to open the door. Utterly confused, they peer around all the nooks and crannies, pressing nuts, bolts, and anything that vaguely looks like a button, in the desperate hope that it might just be the one. Eventually, having finally succeeded, their embarrassment is compounded when they completely fail to press the ‘lock’ button inside and the next person along reveals them in all their glory to their fellow passengers!

Whilst SL doesn’t sport any particular buttons of note, it does have it’s own virtual equivalent – one that is fast becoming a feature of the past and a part of SL that I really think should be cherished and preserved for the enjoyment of future generations: Poseballs.

There used to be a time when every sim would have its own collection of poseballs: Hovering over chairs and sofas, lurking in corners and scattered pretty much everywhere. And wherever a poseball was to be found, so too was the irresistible urge to click it. Of course, you could never be entirely sure what the outcome might be – and clicking a poseball would often lead to embarrassing, even compromising positions and situations; but of course, that was half the fun of it!

balls_001The days of the poseball are fading fast though – where once they were common, they are falling out of favour, replaced by furniture with discrete embedded animations, menu-driven scripted HUDs, and the new kid on the block – experience keys. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that – it is progress, after all – but that vicarious allure of those mysterious blue or pink balls, or those enticing grey and red ones, without really knowing what they may lead to, is being lost. The almost irresistible urge you feel to click and sit, with absolutely no idea what the outcome might be, is one of those special pleasures almost unique to SL, and I fear that it’s something that may soon be consigned to the digital dustbin of the past.

We can’t lose these wonderful, enticing objects that meet such a deep-seated and fundamental need of the human psyche: The need to push the button… just to see what might happen!

Cherish your balls, I say – because one day, you might just lose them!

s. x

World, my finger is on the button…
My finger is on the button…
My finger is on the button…
“Push the button”
The Chemical Brothers – Galvanize

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

We love Lucy

wbLucy is back! That’s what the sign said, and it was quite obviously big news, worth shouting about.

Who is Lucy? Surely you know Lucy? Well, OK maybe you don’t – I certainly don’t, but I’m going to hazard a guess that she’s a beautician of some variety, and I’ll go further and surmise that’s she’s been away from work for a while – maternity leave perhaps? – and has returned, much to the relief of her regulars, who can now relax in the knowledge that they can now have their ears waxed, bikinis lined, and nails buffed by a consummate professional!

It’s nice to be missed, and there’s something about SL that seems to foster a sense of kinship: If you should happen to leave an inworld conversation for even the shortest duration, without returning to a chorus of ‘WB’s and ‘We missed yous, it’s rather touching to know that people are looking out for you and that when you’re not around, even if it’s just to make a quick cuppa or have a pee, your absence is noted and your return is welcomed.

DSC_0006It goes further than that, of course, amongst friends. Be missing from SL for a week, maybe two or three, and the alarm bells start ringing. In the absence of information to the contrary, people begin to worry, concerned that something untoward may have happened in RL; anxious enquiries are made, and hopes that everything is fine are expressed. Thankfully, the progenitor of all this angst usually returns a short while later, somewhat bemused by the fuss, since they did mention they were off on their holidays only a short while ago. Internet outages can be particularly perplexing – when an absence from SL is coupled with an absence from Facebook, Twitter and alternative methods of keeping in touch, we do tend to imagine the worst, and it’s a great relief when absent friends suddenly reappear, cursing their misfortune and ISP in equal measure.

Then there’s the ‘Big Quiet’ – when someone simply drops off the virtual map, leaving no clue as to their whereabouts or fortune. Occasionally, word will surface that they are OK, but SL no longer fits into their life; other times, sometimes years later, they’ll reappear as if there’s nothing at all unusual about vanishing for an extended period then popping back as if nothing had changed.

There are times, of course, when our worst fears are realised – when the Big Quiet extends across both worlds and someone we knew will never cross our path again. Those who have experienced that pain will know just how difficult it can be, and you have my heartfelt sympathy.

Let us not focus on the leavings, however, but rather on the returns – and recently, there seem to have been rather a lot of those in my own SL. Over the last few weeks I’ve seen friends return from all sorts of absences… Home moves, internet failures, hospitalisation, unexplained disappearances, and difficult real life stresses, and on each and every occasion it has been a pleasure to welcome them back. Mostly, when people return after a sojourn outside the virtual world, they’re simply happy to be back and pick up from where they left off; on other occasions, people return specifically to seek something they’ve not been able to find in the real world: Solace, comfort, friendship and help – and I’d like to hope that the relationships that are forged in SL, virtual though they may be, are able to fulfil and sustain such a vital role. Actually, I know they can – sometimes far more ably than some RL relationships.

There are some people who will remain forever in my friend’s list, even though they may have been absent from SL for years. I still miss them, and I know that if they did, by some slim chance, ever reappear, I’d have no hesitation whatsoever in giving them the biggest welcome back ever. I live in hope.

s. x

Everyone you meet wants to meet you again
Everywhere you go you leave something behind
Meet the dark souls gonna make them shine
Lucy the castles gonna blow your mind
Twisted Wheel – Lucy The Castle

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 2 Comments

Silent assassin

updateThere’s an insidious trend within the world of software development, touted as a means of making the end user’s life easier whilst ensuring that products are always at peak performance, but which I’m afraid I disagree with at the most fundamental level.

It is the silent upgrade… Those ‘helpful’ background processes that are increasingly being built into applications designed to update software to the most up to date version without prompting or any intervention from the user, if indeed the user is even aware that it is happening at all.

Ostensibly, it seems a great idea, and you may be a little surprised that someone like me, who is always banging on about people’s seeming inability to keep their graphics drivers and backups current, should disagree with such a logical strategy, but I do and I happen to think that it is one of the more unhelpful design choices that software producers elect to make.

To begin with, such updates are often not optional, or worse still, are forced. Not that I have any particular argument with developers wanting to ensure their users get the best from the product and always have the most up to date version at their disposal, but unless you happen to live in a perfect world where everybody’s computer works in exactly the same way, with the same hardware configured in the same setup, there’s absolutely no way that any given update at any particular time isn’t going to break something somewhere. Consequently, a problem created as the result of a silent update may appear from nowhere unexpectedly, leaving the user confused and at a complete loss to explain what has happened. Unfortunately, this is precisely the route that Linden Lab have chosen to take with the official viewer: So unless you’ve specifically turned off automatic updates (which makes no difference to forced mandatory updates), you can be landed with a viewer that no longer works on your system, and even if you uninstall and revert back to the previous version, it’ll just update again leaving you back up the creek without a paddle! At least there are alternative viewers, and in fact Firestorm, to their credit have stated that they’ll resist the automatic update route for precisely this reason.

imesha_001The problem lies with computers being such complicated beasts – no two are exactly the same, and so no two will ever react exactly the same to something new being shoe horned in. It’s one of the fundamental problems that developers constantly find themselves having to deal with… You can build a fine viewer that works perfectly across every platform, but then Crappysoft.com releases Mad Dog Diary Manager 3.54, and suddenly everyone who upgrades finds they can no longer log in to SL unless they’re wearing odd socks and have disabled any programmes beginning with the letter C. It’s a constant battle to ensure that your own application stays up to date and bug free, whilst also ensuring that it remains compatible with every other piece of software in the world! Who would have thought for instance that MS Skydrive would clash horribly with the SL viewer? Yet such weirdness occurs all the time.

And it’s a recent bit of weirdness that prompted today’s post, because all of a sudden, for no apparent reason, my viewer has started crashing whenever I open any other application. I don’t yet know exactly what is causing this particularly irritating issue, but my prime suspect is Google Chrome, which thanks to its habit of silently updating with no hint that it’s making any changes at all, is free to bugger up whatever it fancies without warning. I’ve had endless problems with the viewer and CEF, and there’s little doubt in my mind that this is where my sudden onset problems are springing from.

In my opinion, it should be the end user who decides when and how to update their applications. This, of course, can lead to problems, but no more so I would suggest, than forcing people into system changes without their knowledge or even permission… You wouldn’t want someone opening up your car engine overnight and fitting new parts that make it handle in a completely different way without your knowledge, neither I feel, should we permit it to happen on our computers.

Even so, developers are becoming ever more persuasive in their efforts to make us place our trust, and ultimately or machines, in their hands. Anyone who tried to tell Micro$oft that you really, really didn’t want Windows 10 can attest to that! The next step, of course, is to completely divorce the end user from any choice in the matter entirely… With products like Office 365, and Adobe Creative Suite being completely cloud based, I think it’s only a matter of time before most applications go that way, and it’s probably a good thing too: At least that way when things go wrong, it’s somebody else’s problem, not ours.

Although, even then we won’t be happy. Remember when we switched from the V1 viewer interface to V2? Boy were people unhappy about that, but at least we had the chance to ease ourselves into that particular change. In the future, when the Lab completely redesign the viewer and give us V5, it’ll happen overnight and, like it or not, we’ll be stuck with it.

Enjoy the good times while they last!

s. x

Prophesised, brainwashed
Tomorrow’s demise
All systems failing
The placards unroll
The Skids – Into The Valley

Posted in HiFi, Linden Love, Rants, RL, SL, Techietalk | 2 Comments

Somewhere only we know

privateFollowing up my SL13B retrospective (yes, I know it was an age ago, but surely you know better by now than to expect timely reporting from me), this year’s theme was one that will have struck a chord with many of us, and indeed, it went right to the core of the SL ethos – the shared adventure.

After Philip Rosedale left Linden Lab to concentrate on High Fidelity, the Lab begin to diversify under the leadership of Rod Humble and, rather than the focus being on ‘creator of virtual worlds’ and ‘your world, your imagination’, the mantra became, ‘shared creative spaces’, which some might argue is a more accurate description of what the Lab is about. Whatever your opinion in that regard, it’s not difficult to appreciate that SL is a social platform that only really comes into its own when people interact with each other in the wide diversity of ways that SL encourages and nurtures. None of the things that we take for granted in SL would work terribly well if it weren’t for the collaborative element… Music and dancing; selling and shopping; hunts; role-playing; competitive games and a whole host of other inworld activities would simply not happen if people didn’t get together and share their virtual lives and experiences.

Even so, SL can also be an intensely personal thing. A huge amount of the activity that we undertake whilst inworld is self-motivated: designing and creating, exploration, even such mundane things as clothes shopping tend to be solitary activities, instigated and pursued by ourselves alone, without the involvement or any direct interaction with others. And indeed, specific activities that lend themselves to individual pursuit aside, a great many of us spend an awful lot of our time inworld in a very private and insular manner. In a way, it’s a reminder of the old watchword… ‘your world, your imagination’ – because, the way in which we ultimately live out our virtual lives is essentially our own private perception and interpretation of that place in which we find ourselves.

amatorum2_001I would say that for every hour I spend inworld surrounded by people and interacting with others, I probably spend an equal amount of time doing my own thing, in private, and far from the madding crowd. There are times when being inworld is an intensely personal thing for me – not time to be shared with others or tied up with communal activities.

I will often choose to be alone when logged in, not necessarily undertaking any particular pursuit or activity, but simply enjoying the moment, whether that means just hanging around and doing nothing in particular, or perhaps enjoying the freedom to explore and relax with no distractions and no agenda. There are times I spend inworld that I share with nobody else, when I get to be ‘me’ – times I jealously guard and protect, and to which nobody but myself are privy, or indeed welcome to share.

Sometimes SL is mine, all mine, and nobody else’s, and that particular piece of virtual real estate belongs solely to the moment and to me. It’s a private place, a special place… My place.

I’m I’m sorry… But you’re not invited!

s. x

I walked across an empty land
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand
I felt the earth beneath my feet
Sat by the river and it made me complete
Keane – Somewhere Only We Know

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2-Dimensional

primMy (fairly) recent journeying around and about SL13B was certainly not quite the enjoyable experience I’ve experienced in previous years, however now that I’ve had some time to reflect on the event, I’ve been able to derive a certain amount of positivity from it.

One thing that has struck me in retrospect is that prims are still very much alive and kicking, which gives me some hope for the perpetuation of creativity for the masses in SL. That isn’t to say that there wasn’t plenty of mesh in evidence at the celebration – of course there was – but equally, I was pleasantly surprised at just how many of the builds were created from old school prims, something that I’m very much an advocate for.

I don’t want you to think that I’m some sort of mesh Luddite – I’m not one of those who proclaim ‘mesh… Over my dead body!’, if anything, I think mesh can be awesome, especially when it comes to building, where really good mesh can be far superior to traditional building methods in so many ways. Even so, I’m far from holding the opinion that prims are dead and I think they fulfil an incredibly important role in sustaining the creative ethos of SL.

man rear_001Building with prims is such an intuitive and straightforward process that pretty much anyone can do it ‘straight out of the box’ – if you can be creative with building blocks or Lego in RL, you’ll have no problem building with prims inworld. That is a fundamental principle which underpins freedom of creativity in SL – it is accessible, simple and requires little in the way of preexisting skills to master the basics. That’s not to say that skills aren’t required to build well, using prims, but these are skills that can be developed over time, and they are by no means essential for getting started.

The second, and unique, benefit of prims over other creative methods, is that they are an inworld process. It’s entirely possible to build a whole project from scratch without ever leaving the confines of the viewer… Objects, linksets, and textures, can all be tackled within the client, without the need to resort to an external application or ever leave the safe and familiar environment of SL.

The third, and I think essential, selling point of building with prims is that it provides a springboard to development of more extensive creative skills. Whilst it is certainly possible to create a whole project entirely inworld and employing only SL resources, the more adventurous user isn’t limited to those basics. In striving for better textures, creators may begin to experiment with Photoshop or Gimp; whilst the quest for greater realism may prompt them to dabble with Blender or similar – eventually they may graduate from prims to mesh and develop expertise in 3D modelling, and who knows what other creative and technical disciplines as a result… Scripting, animation, commerce – anything is possible for the ambitious and the talented!

As for the (equally, but differently talented) rest of us, we still have our prims, and because we do, there’s nothing to stand in our way when it comes to making our virtual world fit us perfectly. And the more we practice, the more we learn, and the better we become.

I like mesh, but I also like prims, and I’m pretty sure that if we didn’t have prims at our disposal, few people would ever eventually rise to the not inconsiderable challenge of creating with mesh, and the virtual world would be a far emptier and much less interesting place. So, long may they continue – and don’t ever be tempted to look down on prims as a second rate method of creating, because without them I’m convinced that creativity in SL would suffer greatly and it would be much the lesser for it.

s. x

I was left to my own devices
Many days fell away with nothing to show
And the walls kept tumbling down
In the city that we love
Bastille – Pompeii

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

Double Agent

Double Agents spy hint - spy trapI like to think, as most of us do, that I’m fairly unique – that there’s no-one else quite like me and I’d hope that the same principle applies in SL too. Our character, no matter how hard we might try to suppress, change or hide it, does tend to leak through into our virtual presence, setting us apart from other individuals inworld and it’s also entirely possible to customise our virtual representation to such an extent that we’re completely different from any other avatar. You might think that there are only a finite number of ways that we can modify our inworld appearance, but with what is a relatively small user base and a huge range of options, ranging from skins, shape, eyes and hair, through to clothing and AOs – for all practical purposes we can safely assume the options available to us are pretty much unlimited.

In fact, I’d say the chances of somebody replicating our inworld persona by accident, (unless of course we’re talking newbie avatars straight out of the box), are slim enough to be negligible, and even if somebody managed to capture the look and the characteristics of our avatar, to then successfully carry off the nuances and and subtle personal qualities of the person behind the avatar is another thing entirely.

Identical twins are not common in SL, neither are exact avatar duplicates, and – of course – it’s completely impossible to be logged in more than once, so there’s absolutely no chance at all that you’ll ever meet yourself.

Or is there?

A very strange thing happened to me recently – I received a message in my email inbox from the inworld visitor counter at Nowhere Land. Nothing at all strange about that, but the message it sent me was very odd indeed:

Sun 26/06/2016 00:50
The object ‘GSVT 1.5.1’ has sent you a message from Second Life:
serendipidy haven has just visited your land
 = GSVT 1.5.1 is owned by Serendipidy Haven
 = http://slurl.com/secondlife/Penny%20Lane/126/48/22

Erm… That’s just a little bit unnerving. To be told that I was caught visiting my inworld parcel when I was quite definitely logged out – asleep in bed, in fact – with nobody else in the house, and secure in the knowledge that absolutely nobody anywhere has access to information that would allow them to commandeer my PC or log in to SL, is both confusing and a potential worry. Although, having checked my logs, if I was inworld it certainly wasn’t on any of my devices. Curiouser and curiouser.

sunray_001I’m know that I’ve not been hacked, which only leaves me with two other possible alternatives: Either it’s a glitch with my visitor counter, or far more likely – and as I’ve suspected for quite some time – my avatar entertains a life of its own when I’m logged off.

I’ve often surmised that whilst I’m logged out of SL, going about my everyday life, my avatar gets up to all sorts of nonsense in my absence, living a life that I really have no inkling about. Who knows what fun and games might be going on inworld whilst I get on with the mundane business of daily living in the real world? I can’t help wondering what I’m missing out on – whatever it is, there’s never any trace of this extended virtual existence left as clues for me… No lindens spent, no landmarks collected, and no evidence that anything has occurred since last I logged in. It must take an enormous amount of planning and effort to ensure her secret is kept safe, but on this occasion it seems she slipped up!

So, now that I have the proof of this double, double life there really is only one logical thing to do: Create an alt and surreptitiously loiter inworld in the hope of running into myself and getting up to some mischief together!

Anyone else have suspicions that their avatars are up to monkey business when they’re not around?

s. x

Well, who are you?
I really wanna know
Tell me, who are you?
‘Cause I really wanna know
The Who – Who Are You?

 

 

 

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