Epistemology

Knowledge can be a powerful thing, although it’s also quite possible to possess quite useless knowledge, or for that matter, knowledge that works against us. It’s one thing, for example, to know where the Christmas presents are hidden – but that’s of no use to us at all, if we have no means of peeping. Similarly, we may feel justifiably smug if we’ve managed to grab that sneaky peek at the presents but that feeling soon fades when we find out on Christmas Day that there’s no excitement in knowing beforehand what’s in those parcels. If knowledge is to serve us well, it has to be the right knowledge, about the right things, with an ultimately useful purpose.

What happened to the talking parrot?

Those of us for whom sl presents an opportunity to express our creativity or to explore our potential, spend an inordinate amount of time in pursuit of precisely that sort of knowledge and, unfortunately,  sl isn’t always particularly helpful when it comes to giving up its secrets. i’ve seen many a commentator bemoan the difficulties faced by newly signed-up novices… “there’s nothing intuitive or simple about the viewer”, they say and express surprise that any noobs ever get any further than the arrival point… even i’d admit that the new Destination Islands are somewhat lacking in any instructions at all! Not that such things have ever been a barrier to me – i’m pretty much the last person in the world to ever read the manual, follow the instructions or look at the diagram; as far as i’m concerned, there are few things in life that cannot be figured out with a bit of intuition, a smattering of luck, a fair chunk of inspired guesswork and a decent dollup of twisting, turning and fiddling. It’s an approach that’s served me well, up to a point, and that point happens to be Blender.

Faithful adherents to this blog will know of my epic struggle to get to grips with sculpties, (well, life in general, actually), since they’re a bit like the Holy Grail of sl building for me – the way i see it, they lend themselves to wild flights of fancy much better than prims but without the complexity of rigged meshes – although if meshing was ever going to be on my list of things to give a bash, along with skydiving and exploring the crater of a live volcano, sculpties are a handy half-way point towards that goal. However, try as i might, Blender has constantly defeated me with its quite incomprehensible workflow. It’s another case of having the right sort of knowledge to unlock its arcane mysteries and, unfortunately, the right sort of knowledge, in the right form, at the right level can be pretty tricky to come by; not because it doesn’t exist, but rather because the form in which it does exist can be just as incomprehensible as the software itself!

Please don’t think that i’m being mean-spirited – i really do appreciate the effort and the hard work that so many enthusiastic amateurs put into producing, uploading and sharing their own hard-earned knowledge, so that plebs like me can have a stab at developing new skills – however, having sat through innumerable video tutorials, for hours at a time, after which i’ve emerged none the wiser and more addled than when i started, i can’t help feeling that there are some ‘Golden Rules’ that anybody wanting to share their own knowledge with others really needs to get to grips with:

  • Speak clearly – If i have to turn the volume up to 11, press my ear to the speaker and i still can’t make out what you’re saying, it’s too damn quiet! Similarly, an instructional video isn’t a conversation in the pub – cut the waffle and tell me what i need to know, and i wish you wouldn’t tail off at the end of sentences! Oh, and please use a human voice – electronic, distorted, weirdly intoned phonics that say ‘bough’ when they mean ‘bow’ may fit with your character, but they’re downright hopeless when it comes to helping this fumbling amateur. Please don’t have background music either – i’m struggling enough as it is trying to get to grips with the software, without having to struggle to understand what you’re saying too!
  • Script it – Ummm, er… ah, uhh… errrmmmmm… Annoying, isn’t it? i want to be inspired with confidence, not left doubting that you know what you’re doing! Also, it’s not particularly helpful to fly through a presentation then say ‘Oh, I should have mentioned earlier…’ – bear in mind that i’m probably trying to copy each step right now – with frequent jabs on the pause button – and wondering why the hell my torus looks nothing like your prism.
  • Tell me, don’t show me – It’s pointless clicking on a menu option and expecting me to know what you’ve done; it’s all over so quickly, i’ll have absolutely no idea what you clicked on Try saying which menu and then say which option, better still, tell me the shortcut key. Please speak, don’t type… by the time Youtube has mangled the video, even on fullscreen, ‘Stretch the prim but only in the z co-ordinate’ looks like ‘Scratch terrapin butt out in the zoo primate’! While we’re at it, turn off IMs, notices and all other pop ups – otherwise i’ll be convinced i’m missing important steps or, (more likely),  i’ll be trying to work out who all your friends are and what they’re saying.
  • Be enthusiastic – You don’t have to be Torley, but at least make me think you want to be doing this!
  • Put yourself in my shoes – They’re cool – erm, i mean, watch the video before you post it and ask yourself, ‘would Seren have a clue what I’m on about?’ – if the answer’s ‘yes’, go right ahead!

Blending like a, erm… beginner!

Again, i’m not trying to be ungrateful and i do appreciate what people do in sl to help others, out of the goodness of their hearts, for absolutely nothing in return… but c’mon folks, it’s no good complaining that the Lindens never do things properly if we can’t show them how it should be done!

(And yes, i did managed to make a sculpty that actually looked like it was intended, and even drew some appreciative comments from the people i showed it to! Today, a peaked cap… tomorrow, well, let’s just wait and see!)

s. x

“Techniques should complement, not confuse the message you are trying to get across”
Harris Watts – ‘On Camera’ (BBC, 1984, p34) 

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2 Responses to Epistemology

  1. James says:

    I too tried learning how to make sculpties in Blender following any tutorials I could find but found the learning curve very steep. At the moment I’ve lost interest because there isn’t anything I can think of making right now that I couldn’t find on the marketplace. It made me think was it all worth it?
    I know exactly which tutorials you mean that have Mrs Stephen Hawking telling you how to create boughs. The voice is one issue but the Italian creator’s broken English translation is another. They were clear for the most part but I was lost at the texture baking tutorial. I was able to ape the video and come up with the same hat but I understood nothing of how they got there.
    With Blender especially, most of the tutorials and resources for exporting to SL use Blender 2.4. I found very few for 2.6. As you no doubt know, the change from 2.4 to 2.5 is like SL Viewer 1.23 to 2 – completely different and not easy to find your way around. Even simple things that can be done in 2.4 don’t work with the latest version so you have to wade through a mire of other tutorials and google searches on this forum and that to find an answer – but, I guess that’s what open source software is like.

    • James, i agree completely – understanding is, of course, the key to learning any new skill: the ability to copy or follow instructions may well get you on the road but if you don’t understand the process by which you got there, it’s a dead end.

      Even so, i think the journey is worthwhile if you seriously want to reach a specific goal, and i think that’s where many of us fall down – we want to learn how do do something, but the drive to do so fizzles out when a) we can’t think of a particular application for our new skill, and b) we see the quality and range of the competition! Like you, some of my impetus to learn has been tempered somewhat by my inability to come up with ideas.

      As for Blender itself – i started to make tentative baby steps on v2.4, switched to 2.5 and wondered whether i was even using the same application! i’m sure the later versions are significantly improved, but i wouldn’t mind betting there’s a lot of sculptors out there who will be happy not to upgrade, considering the drastic changes to the interface.

      s. x

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