Destroying history

historyToday’s title and the prompt for the topic comes from a comment made on a thread over at SLU. To give you the context, you may – or may not – be aware that invisiprims, the only real option for hiding those things that needed to be hidden, such as feet, before alpha layers came along are now broken.

It’s worth considering why they’re broken before we go further, mainly because it will serve to illustrate my point, and also because strictly speaking, they aren’t really broken, indeed it could be argued that they were broken right from the start.

Invisiprims were an exploit of dodgy code that content creators were able to use to their advantage. Their unique property – the ability to render invisible anything they contained – was used in dozens of creative ways, notably the SL shoe business and to stop boats filling with system water. However, invisiprims were always a nasty hack and a real headache for developers.

Then along came the Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) – you know, that option that allows for the shadows and projectors so beloved of SL fashion photographers, but sadly slows an awful lot of computers down to a crawl in all but optimal conditions, despite repeated assurances that most modern computers should be able to handle ALM with little difficulty. If you do switch ALM on, you won’t see invisiprims, but you will see what they are supposed to be hiding, resulting in those awkward ‘your foot is sticking out of your shin’ moments. Not a huge deal up to now because relatively few people have ALM turned on all the time, and there’s been a big move towards modern alpha-layered shoes.

All that is changing, because Linden Lab, and almost certainly to be closely followed by third party viewers, is ceasing support for invisiprims, i.e. Turning them off. This will break lots of content, boats in particular, although it looks like the Lab is working on a fix for that.

Which finally brings me to my topic!

Despite what some may think, the Lab does not like making changes that break legacy content. It upsets people, causes hassle and is bad karma. However, there are times when new and vital innovations, that will keep SL functioning well into the future are going to do just that, and sometimes they just have to bite the bullet and go for it. In the same way that Viewer 1 couldn’t display mesh and Windows 3.1 can’t run modern software, SL will no longer support invisiprims. It’s tough, but it’s for the best.

It does mean that a much-loved and well-used feature of SL is now consigned to the scrapheap, and to paraphrase the SLU quote mentioned above ‘destroying content is destroying history!’

In combat terms, I guess We’d call it ‘collateral damage’, and it highlights a dilemma that we’re all faced with throughout our real and virtual lives; a dilemma that can be difficult to resolve and can cause us a great deal of angst at times. How do we achieve that delicate balance between preserving those things of historical, sentimental and nostalgic value when progress is often destructive in nature, rendering much that has gone before redundant?

phils car2I’m a great advocate of preserving those things of historical and cultural value within SL. I get a thrill when I find something inworld that is a virtual antiquity and I love to dig into the history of SL and learn about its past. I’m many ways I think it would be awesome if far more of the past could be preserved, but the reality is that it can’t, and usually when something is gone, it’s gone for good.

Some things, like invisiprims, vanish for sound, technical reasons – there’s little we can do about it, although, with these – and for that matter, any element of SL – I think there’s plenty that we, as a community can do to keep a vibrant and evolving record of our virtual world through the ages… Through photographs, machinima, eye- witness accounts and the things we choose to archive away in our inventories, but I wonder how many of us ever do?

Lindeworld100312_001I have so many questions about the SL of the past that I may never have answers to, simply because nobody thought to make a note at the time. Why did Dan Linden’s spaceship crash to earth? What was it like to attend Office Hours? What happened to all the attractions that featured at the Linden World expo? I’d love to know… Wouldn’t you?

In reality, it’s not the Lab that destroys history, it’s us. When we choose to forget the past, either by act or omission, it’s not just ourselves that lose that link, it is all those who weren’t there also. Whether you think the inworld history of a virtual world is important or not, surely it’s worth recording, because somebody, somewhere, will be grateful you did, someday.

s. x

These are the chronicles of life and death and everything between.
These are the stories of our lives, as fictional as they may seem.
You come in this world, and you go out just the same.
Today could be the best day of your life.
Good Charlotte – The Chronicles Of Life And Death

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