Social dynamics

The way that we interact with each other can be a complicated old thing, especially when in an environment as creative and diverse as Second Life, where cultures, individuality and personalities can collide far more frequently and, occasionally destructively, than they might do in a real world setting.

There’s a lot of emotional juggling that we have to do in order to stay on top of things, as well as a whole host of behaviour modifications that we often have to get to grips with ‘on the fly’, otherwise we run the risk of offending others, creating bad feeling and alienating ourselves from those with whom we share a social space. Then there’s the tension that exists between being authentic and true to yourself  or fitting in with the status quo – not something that I personally struggle with, since I’ll always do what comes naturally, even if some may feign offence at it, or alternatively, I’ll absent myself from the situation rather than affect a fake persona.

What can make things even trickier is that the rules we’re expected to follow are rarely written down or made explicit. There are, of course, global rules enshrined in the SL TOS and Community Standards, and general guidance that can be inferred from sim ratings, and we’ve all found ourselves at some time in a new location, being pestered by a persistent greeter imploring is to read the sim rules, nobody wants this to be the norm, and most of us would like our virtual lives to be unhindered by such draconian measures and left to moderate our own behaviors, using common sense and instinct, and the behavioral clues that can be picked up from those around us. Unfortunately, however, these can be often misleading and misunderstood, especially when context can change everything.

Take the example of a friend of mine who recently got a telling-off for inappropriate behaviour. The circumstances, in this case, were misleading – he was partying with a bunch of people whom he frequently partied with; behaving in a manner that – whilst it might raise eyebrows in some contexts – was the norm in that company especially in a party situation, and at any other time, nothing would have been said. So why the telling-off? It was a different club to the usual… Same people  same atmosphere, same reason for being there, but different venue with – apparently – different standards. He’d been caught out by assuming it was business as usual, because all the signs he was unconsciously seeing said so.

There’s a fine line to be drawn inworld between doing whatever you want – because this is SL – and holding back, because you don’t want to upset other people. And it’s so easy to fall foul of this, rather arbitrary distinction: Say the wrong thing out of context, decline someone’s offer of a dance or a freebie, not turn up for an event, fail to respond to an unsolicited IM or TP, being busy elsewhere when somebody wants your company, log out when you intended to, which just happens to coincide with someone wanting a chat… The list of potential tripwires is extensive, and so much of it can depend on the setting, the mood and not knowing what you’ve landed yourself into, that it’s amazing most of us manage to get on with each other, most of the time!

It’s can be a downward spiral too… Once we’ve tarred ourselves with the brush of being that person whose timing sucked and LOL’d right at the point the tragic news of someone’s death was announced, things always seem to go downhill: A joking comment gets interpreted as sarcasm, then your absence at the next gathering becomes suddenly noteworthy, and – before you know it – you’ve become a social pariah, scorned and reviled, and all because you accidentally caused offence when absolutely none was intended. We broke the unwritten, unspoken, unexplained rules, and we pay the price ten times over.

But, this is SL and we should be able to break the rules, even the ones that might cause offence. Unlike the real world, it’s a relatively simple matter to deal with things that we don’t particularly like – mute, block, derender and then carry on. Hell, I once muted half my friend’s list for weeks because all they would ever talk about was football!

SL is a great place for making friends, but it’s also a crazy melting pot for the forging of drama, grief and misrepresentation. I sometimes think that maybe we should occasionally step back, take a deep breath and remember that it’s all supposed to be fun – and maybe we should also take a good long look at ourselves while we’re at it, just in case we might have unintentionally broken the odd rule or two, and maybe offer a virtual olive branch of reconciliation.

Of course, if you’re like me, you probably did it on purpose… And there’s absolutely no hope for you!

s. x

I look to the future it makes me cry
And I just hope that you can forgive us
But everything must go… Go… Go… Go…
Chemical Brothers – Everything Must Go

 

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Top Pickers

Whenever I’m working away from home there are some habitual behaviours I tend to slip into that, at home, you’d never catch me doing. There are, for example, TV viewing habits I adopt that are alien to my normal way of life.

To begin with, I don’t possess a TV at home, which in these days of on demand Internet entertainment doesn’t necessarily preclude me from enjoying the occasional foray into TV territory, but does mean that I’m somewhat insulated from the wider populace in terms of viewing habits and current trends; and when I do feel the draw of televisual stimulus, it’s invariably on my terms and tailored to my own tastes, preferences and timings.

Not so when I’m away, sealed inside an anonymous, soulless hotel room, with little to entertain me other than calculating just how many cups of tea I can eke out of a single, individually packaged, tea bag and whatever might be available on the room’s TV set. It’s at this point that I tend to develop square eyes – or, more accurately, 16:9 eyes! My choice of viewing however is limited to a very narrow subset of the options avaliable: Top Gear, Taskmaster, American Pickers, and any of those blue light, fly on the wall, shoulder-cam programmes that seem to fill the schedules after a certain time of the evening.

I suppose it’s a bit of an odd mix and whilst I don’t have any problem rationalising the attraction of the TM and 999 stuff, the other two are really something of an enigma… I’m not entirely sure why watching a trio of idiots driving cars I will never own, in a manner I will never have the opportunity to do myself should be in any way entertaining, let alone addictive, (especially considering I’ve seen most of them before). Similarly, I’m not really sure what the attraction of watching a couple of American blokes negotiating over a piece of rusty junk might be… All I know is that it’s one of the few things I look forward to when I’m away. Oddly, I don’t even bother with any of these hotel night staples when I’m back at home – but then again, I’ve plenty of other things to fill my time when I am home, and watching the goggle box isn’t particularly high on my list of priorities.

So, what is the attraction?

Certainly the subject matter may have something going for it – I mean  everyone likes fast cars being driven crazily, and rusty 1940s oilcans, don’t they? But there’s more to it than that, and after some thought, I think I know wherein the real attraction lies.

Both Top Gear and Pickers are less concerned about the subject matter, than they are about the central characters. The real entertainment comes from engaging and empathising with the slightly crazy, but unequivocally enthusiastic presenters.

I love enthusiasts.

I don’t care what you’re enthusiastic about – whether it’s fast cars, Stephen King, Star Trek or tropical plants, what makes your subject of choice compelling is the way in which you approach it, and if you approach it with unrestrained enthusiasm, then you’re my kind of person.

You’re also the kind of person that tends to find that SL is the perfect vehicle for expressing your enthusiasm, because here is a world with few constraints, in which almost anything is possible and where the chances of finding a kindred spirit with whom you can share your enthusiasm is unparalleled. SL is chock full of music geeks, alternative lifestylers, collectors and hoarders, obsessives and nerds, and the way they express themselves in the virtual world is limitless. And it is because of this that SL is such a rich environment.

If it wasn’t for the enthusiasts, we wouldn’t have biker chapters in SL; Bladerunner themed regions wouldn’t exist; dance clubs would play only generic, radio music – mod, soul, trance and industrial music clubs would be absent from the grid; nobody would make bondage gear; we wouldn’t have sailing clubs, railways and airports… SL would be a barren, empty, half-hearted simulation of a real world that would be infinitely less appealing to the vast majority of us.

However, that’s not the case. Few of us would argue – even if our real lives are completely fulfilling – that there is not something compelling about the virtual world, and what is compelling is the enthusiasm with which so many approach the virtual world. It’s a fascinating place because people pour their heart and soul into it and invest so much of their time and energy into making it an expression of what matters to them, and that’s something I can really relate to, even if it’s not really my thing. When Mike and Dave successfully negotiate a cracking price for a old porcelain garage sign, I’m not caught up in the moment because I’m a sign aficionado, I’m grinning because I’m caught up in the sheer joy that’s expressed in their faces and the real enthusiasm they have for their business… And I experience that same enjoyment of the moment time after time in SL.

I hope you do too!

s. x

I don’t know what you’re looking for
You haven’t found it baby, that’s for sure
You rip me up, you spread me all around
In the dust of the deed of time
The Cardigans – My Favourite Game

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Stairway to Haven

 

 

 

 

There’s a lady online
And if you have the time
I’ll tell you a little more about her

She knows the world will always turn
And have no concern
For the people and things
That may be seen there

Oh, woe, oh woe
Ohh, ohohohoh
And she’s looking to find a haven

If the stores are all closed
She won’t go unclothed
Her inventory is full of outfits

And she can always mix and match
The one and only catch
Is to make sure that all of the mesh fits

Oh woahoh, woaohohohoh
And she’s camming around to find a haven

If there’s a tussle in your friends list
Don’t be alarmed now
It’s just a spring clean
To clear the dead wood
There may be some times you IM her
And she ignores you
Your message hangs in the system wind

And as she walks on down the road
Ban lines clash and lag scolds
She seeks a place that we all know
Somewhere safe that she can go
A place that’s not on any map
And where you won’t find any crap
Landmarks cannot be your ride
Because this place
Is deep inside

And she’s found her own pathway
To heaven

s. x

There’s a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiving
Led Zepelin – Stairway To Heaven

Posted in Musicality, Philosophicalisticality, Poetricity, SL | Leave a comment

Off piste

Well, it’s been a strange and unexpected weekend. In RL, I’ve been suffering from a cold – and it’s been a monster one, in fact at one point, thanks to blinding headaches, excruciatingly painful neck and shoulders and mysterious pains in what I imagine were my kidneys, accompanying the usual coughs, sneezing and snot, I found myself frantically checking for mysterious rashes, fearing meningitis or worse. Thankfully not, but you can’t be too careful I think  when something that horrendous comes on so suddenly.

It didn’t help that this bout of plague came at the tail end of a week working away; depressing enough at the best of times… So when Friday evening finally arrived  and I’d wearily crawled home after four hours on a train that was as congested and bunged up as my own respiratory system, all I wanted to do was catch up with friends, relax and remind myself what having fun is like.

I think I may have been a bit feverish when I logged in: I can be somewhat ‘effervescent’ at the best of times, but on this occasion even I was surprised at the constant stream of barely coherent witteration flowing from my keyboard. It was fun and spending time in the company of maniacs certainly did a lot for improving my mood.

Then the unexpected happened.

There comes a time – both inworld and in RL – when something casual and low key can suddenly, and dramatically, attain a whole new degree of significance. Like the moment the face hugger erupts from its leathery egg case beneath the mist and attaches itself to the front of Kane’s helmet… Things would never be the same again. It’s the moment you suddenly find yourself snogging a casual acquaintance… The plain brown envelope that contains the news of the winning premium bond… The day your boss gets escorted off the premises for sexual harassment and you’re suddenly in charge… The news that tells the third lieutenant they’re now admiral of the fleet  because all the other officers are dead… The wrong turn that takes you away from the nursery slopes, off piste… Those, ‘we’re not in Kansas any more’ moments. All these things happen, but you never quite expect them to and, with hindsight, you’re never entirely sure how you’ve ended up where you are.

It was indeed one of those moments.

It was a moment where a casual conversation opened wide the entrance to the rabbit hole.

Now, to be completely honest, I’ve been down this particular rabbit hole before, (and not exclusively in the virtual world). I’ve been around SL for a long time and invariably, when that’s the case, there will be lifestyles, activities, groups and factions that you’ll entertain for a while, but not all will stick and so you move on. Its a constant process that most of us go through – there was a time, for example that I would have laughed at you if you’d said I’d ever be playing music in my own nightclub, yet now that’s a regular occurrence – but in a few years time, that may well all be in the past and all but glossed over. We change, our interests change, the people and situations around us change.

That doesn’t mean we can’t change back.

So, I’ve found myself, for the first time in years, opening up inventory folders labelled ‘retired’, having conversations that are rather unconventional in terms of the normal topics I tend to talk about, shopping in stores that I’m surprised are still around, and doing things that – had you asked me about a week ago – I would have looked at you as if your were a little bit mad.

I’ve never been particularly mainstream anyway, whether inworld or otherwise, so I’m more than happy to ditch the nursery slopes for something completely out of character, unconventional and different, at least in the eyes of those who’ve only known me from certain perspectives. Having said that, in RL, if you knew me well enough, you’d probably be surprised to see how there are some parts of my real life that – up until now – are simply not mirrored in my Second Life at all: Imagine, for example, somebody deeply religious in their real life who gives no indication of their leanings inworld, and you’ll be somewhere towards understanding the oddball nature of my existence!

Anyway… The rabbit hole is revealed, the abyss beckons and I’ve taken the plunge. I doubt anyone – apart from a select and privileged few – will even notice a difference, but that’s probably just as well.

And, for now at least, that’s all I have to say about the matter.

s. x

Kiss the boot of shiny, shiny leather
Shiny leather in the dark
Tongue of thongs, the belt that does await you
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart
Ganjil – Venus In Furs

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Unpredictable

Oh dear, it’s that time of year again… The time when every blogger takes on the somewhat pointless exercise of reviewing the year that’s passed and offering up their predictions on what the new year is likely to bring. It’s a bit daft really: Everyone already knows what’s happened, and nobody really can predict with any real accuracy what the future may hold. Even so, I can’t help myself!

At this point, I usually take the opportunity to go back over my predictions from the end of last year and see just how accurately I managed to guess how SL was going to evolve and change, however I did somewhat take the easy option last year and fudge it a bit, with some rather general predictions with few specifics, however I did hazard a few guesses:

  • I guessed, correctly, that my RL work situation would interfere with my inworld activities more than in the past. Almost every month this year has seen me working away from home for at least a week or more, during which time I’ve not been able to log in to SL. Unfortunately, although I’ve had opportunities to write, without being able to glean material from my inworld adventures, my blog output has also dropped to an all-time low. Hopefully, things will improve in the New Year, but I can’t guarantee it.
  • Much of the technological change I anticipated for 2018 has been slow in coming. Although a great deal has taken place behind the scenes in reforming the way inventory and assets are managed, stripping out old and redundant code libraries and preparing to move to the Cloud. In real terms, the introduction of animesh is probably the big success story, sneaking in at the very close of the year, and other advances, such as EEP (and here) and bakes-on mesh are tantalisingly close and will almost certainly hit the main Grid in the first quarter of next year;
  • I did suggest that 3D would definitely not feature highly in the Lab’s plans, and it seems that I wasn’t wrong about that or about the general lack of interest in 3D headsets and gaming across any platforms out there – for what it’s worth, I don’t think that will change next year either;
  • One prediction that was more on the mark that I would have liked to hope for, was that the political world climate would impact upon the virtual world. Whilst the jury is still out on exactly how this is going to make a difference, we’ve definitely seen the warning signs already – EU Article 13, and Article 11, are still a worrying unknown that could adversely affect SL significantly, and the repeal of net neutrality and re-authorisation of surveilance activities in the States could also significantly damage a platform such as SL. And let’s not mention the damage that ‘fake news’ has caused to those concerned with maintaining the integrity of internet-based systems.

What I never predicted was how my own personal experience of SL would change over the course of the year. Maybe I should have realised that the aforementioned work situation would distance me somewhat from inworld events, but alongside that I never anticipated how the interpersonal and group dynamics amongst the people with whom I spend time with in SL would also fluctuate. Although, over the years that I’ve frequented SL I’ve seen many changes in relationships and connections, I don’t think I’ve experienced quite so many disruptive changes as I have this year. At times, it’s been something of a roller-coaster ride, bringing instability into situations that I would previously have believed to be rock solid.

In terms of personal inworld change the latter part of the year, in particular, has led to some interesting and unexpected developments. I’ve made a few new friends and acquaintances – an unusual occurrence for me, particularly since this has led into new areas of my SL experience to explore, breaking away from the groups and situations that I’ve been comfortable with for a very long time… From new music, venues and locations to new activitites that can occasionally take me outside my comfort zone and into unknown territory. I sure that this will continue into the future and that there’s still much that I’ll be learning and experiencing inworld for the first time – in some ways exciting, in others, for someone as shy and retiring as me, quite daunting!

Those things aside, I think the New Year will bring fresh opportunities to utilise my building skills. I have a couple of ideas about what I want to do, but these are yet to find a firm foundation. One thing I’m certain of is that I’ll make my first forays into building with mesh – how successful that might be remains to be seen, but I reckon it’s worth a try.

As for SL, my gut feeling is that we’re on the cusp of some quite radical changes that will see the virtual world adopt a more game-like feel and become slicker, faster and better all round. Animesh has the potential to be a game-changer and could easily pave the way for low-impact, interactive NPCs and a more immersive experience, if cleverly put to use. Similarly, EEP will permit greater customisation of regions and more inventive use of environmental conditions. Allied with cloud-based services, we could see some pretty impressive inworld improvements. Personally, I’d like to see better implementation of GPU functionality and less reliance on CPU, but that may be asking too much, since it would mean a complete rebuild of the graphics pipeline… But, one can dream!

We’ve already seen rumblings of discontent in relation to non-optimised mesh bodies and I think that will come to a crux sometime next year, possibly when bakes-on is implemented. Whatever happens, I’m certain that we’ll have a much better SL this time next year, although I’m pretty sure that we’ll still moan about it, no matter what!

As for what’s left of this year, it’s over for me in terms of SL – I won’t be logging in tonight, so last night was my last evening of 2018 inworld, and it was a good one too. I spent some time with friends at my local inworld pub, then received a surprise invitation to a live music event to finish off the night – something I don’t do nearly enough, and perhaps should more often in the future. It was fun and enjoyable, and if I’m honest, if all that 2019 brings me inworld can be classed as fun and enjoyable, then I’ll be more than happy!

So, until I catch up with you next year, I hope that the coming 12 months brings you plenty to smile about and enough in the way of challenges to keep you on your toes! Happy New Year!

s. x

And so we’re told this is the golden age
And gold is the reason for the wars we wage
Though I want to be with you, be with you
Night and day
U2 – New Year’s Day

 

Posted in Linden Love, SL, Techietalk | Leave a comment

Alt. life: Ghost

Christmas is coming. A time when suicides peak, apparently; a period when the lonely feel their isolation most keenly; and where the baser desires of greed, gluttony and selfishness rule supreme.

What on earth would the Baby Jesus make of it all?

In the spirit of the festive season, I thought I’d give you all my own little gift – although you make not like it at all, and I’m sorry, but you’re not going to be able to exchange it for something nicer when the January sales come!

Happy Christmas! – Alt. life: The Ghost of Christmas Present.

s. x

In the silence of your room
In the darkness of your dreams
You must only think of me
There can be no in between
Shakespear’s Sister – Stay

 

Posted in Alt. life:, Unlikely stories | Leave a comment

Don’t go changing

If there’s one thing that really gets on my nerves, it’s political correctness, and unfortunately the PC Brigade are so belligerent when it comes to getting on their soapboxes that very little these days doesn’t at some time or other fall within the PC remit. It can feel sometimes that no matter what the topic, we have to bite our tongue and avoid saying what we really think for fear of offending somebody. We can’t wear ethnically influenced clothes or hairstyles for fear of being accused of ‘cultural appropriation’, and what used to be considered perfectly acceptable humour is now a surefire way to fall out of favour with the overly protective and super sensitive.

That’s how we end up with idiot scandals where quoting Churchill condemns us to being racist and Christopher Columbus is vilified, simply for acting like anybody else of his time would have acted. Even historical fact, it seems, isn’t immune from being tarred with the PC brush, and we’re fast becoming a world where we’ll happily rewrite history, or conveniently sweep its more distasteful moments under the carpet, just because they don’t fit in with our current – and likely just as distasteful to our descendents some time in the future – world view. It won’t be all that long before Orwell’s Ministry of Truth becomes reality, mark my words!

What really irks me though is the way in which influential groups and organisations fall into the trap of toeing the party line and bowing to perceived popular opinion in order to institutionalise politically correct ways of thinking. That is, rather than allow us to make our own minds up about such things, we’re forced into a corporate, narrow-minded way of thinking what somebody else is dictating. It’s effectively attempted brainwashing, without any real attempt to disguise it as anything less.

One notable example of this approach to force feeding us political correctness is the recent regeneration of Doctor Who into a woman. Now, I’m all for women’s rights, breaking through the glass ceiling and equality, and all that, but some things simply don’t need to be changed, particularly if it’s a cynical move by a massively influential public corporation to show off just how politically correct it can be. I grew up with Doctor Who – it’s been one of the constants throughout my whole life, for a long as I can remember… And Doctor Who has always been, and will always be a man! His sex isn’t dictated by popular opinion, political agenda or the current flavour of the day: He is a bloke, plain and simple, and to make him otherwise – especially just to earn Brownie points, because Auntie Beeb wouldn’t have done it for any other reason – is wrong, and a little bit insane.

I resent the BBC taking an icon that people have grown up with and turning it into a tool to hammer home a message that I don’t subscribe to, and which – knowing the BBC – neither do they really, either. In fact, I’m confidently waiting for the scandal to break when we find out that Jodie Whatshername is being paid less than any of the male doctors that went before her.

You have to admit, that despite its many faults, Linden Lab goes the right away about letting SL residents live their virtual lives without imposing any sort of PC or other agenda upon us. This is an adult and grown up way of doing things, implying acceptance that not all people share the same sensibilities, and that we should be allowed to express ourselves and live in a way that we choose, even if that may sometimes be offensive to others. The other side of the deal, of course, is that we are also expected to behave in an adult fashion: Exhibiting tolerance and respect for those whose lifestyle choices may not gel nicely with ours, and ensuring that where we may cause offence to others, we moderate our behaviours accordingly.

Considering just how diverse and  at times, outrageous, SL can be, the whole thing works amazingly well  I won’t deny that sometimes things do go awry, but most of the time  the Lab’s hands off approach works very well. We don’t need to be told how to act, or react; we are rational, sentient beings who are more than capable of getting on with our lives within a complex social structure. Sure, sometimes others will offend us, but we have a multitude of ways in which we can respond: Take it on the chin and move on; give as good as we get; ignore; mute; humour; punch in the nose… And many more besides. But the last thing we want is for the Lindens to wade in, all heavy handed, and start dictating to us their own version of right and wrong.

We may be stuck with it in RL, please don’t ever let us have to suffer it in SL too!

s. x

I smoke weed, eat pussy all the time
Straight, bi or gay, they all stand in line
It doesn’t really matter, I don’t know what to say
They got a thing for my ass and I’m here to play
Ängie – Smoke Weed Eat Pussy

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Lies!

If there is a Universal Truth it is that our lives are built upon Universal Lies. There is nothing particularly nefarious about these lies – we all know they are blatant distortions of the truth, yet we accept and tolerate them without question and still seem somewhat bemused and disappointed when the obvious, equally blatant, truth becomes apparent.

Here are some common examples of the Universal Lie:

  • I’ll pay you back next time I see you;
  • This won’t hurt – just a little scratch;
  • Two generous servings;
  • I wasn’t looking, honest;
  • You’ll laugh so hard you’ll cry/faint/fart/won’t be able to stop;
  • 48mpg in urban conditions
  • Flights from as low as £19.99
  • Covers in just one coat

That last one is particularly pertinent for me at the present moment, since I’m currently in the throes of redecorating my bathroom. You’ll know by now that I never do things the easy way, and this is no exception – rather than chisel off a whole load of tiles, redo them all, grout and all the other nonsense, I’ve decided to paint over the existing ones… This has meant cleaning and sanding them down, applying a coat of primer and then covering with a specialist top coat of paint. It’s bright yellow, and absolutely guaranteed to cover any surface in just one coat.

As I write this post, I’m currently on my third coat, with a fourth definitely required, and possibly – depending on the outcome – a fifth!

I’m not surprised, I’ve done a fair bit of decorating in my life and no matter what paint, what surface and what method of application I’ve employed, I’ve always needed a bare minumum of two coats, and usually several more to achieve a decent end result. It’s not as if I’m doing anything wrong either – decorating is one of those things that I try not to have to do too often, and I know that whatever I do will remain visible for a while to come; so I try to prepare surfaces properly, use proper materials and good tools, and take my time – besides which, my dad was for many years a professional painter and decorator, so I dare not make a bad job of it!

I guess, like most things, that we live in the real world, not under laboratory conditions, and what ideally in the perfect world would be the truth of the matter – like our ‘covers in just one coat’ – is rarely borne out by experience, and so the Universal Lie is perpetuated. It’s not a blatant untruth, since under specific conditions it may well be true, but for the other 99.999% of the time it’s pretty much never going to happen.

I suppose that the Universal Lie applies to the virtual world too: Take a look at any of Linden Lab’s advertising videos and images for the last 15 years, or indeed for any similar product by any other company, and the hype will rarely be mirrored by the (virtual) reality. Like those movie trailers that only show the explosions and car chases, there’s a lot that’s missed out and nowhere near as exciting. Similarly, there are those advertisements for video games that lead you to believe that they’re almost like reality… Until you spot the small print, ‘Not actual gameplay’! Second Life is no different – the Lab wants to show SL as sexier, sleeker and slicker than it really is, simply because it’s very hard to sell anything on the reality of what you can expect to be getting.

Take a look at this promotional video from 9 years ago, (which seems frighteningly like yesterday!), it’s always been one of my favourites:

Around 90%+ of that video is taking at least a little, if not a lot, of artistic licence. I particularly like the bit where the businessman puts down his briefcase and shakes hands; as if that particular scenario is ever going to take place inworld. (Even if you leave aside the challenge faced by the average user for animating two avatars to be able to mimic that simple activity!).

However, it’s not just the Labbies who rely on stretching the truth a little when upselling the virtual world, if you were to listen to most of the people who spend any amount of time inworld, myself included, you might be forgiven for thinking we were talking about something else entirely. Much as we might think that we’ve become a little disengenuous when talking about SL and that we may think we tend towards focussing on all the points which we like complaining about, we are also pretty good at painting a rosy picture of the platform too. We’ll encourage others to give it a try, tell them about the benefits and good things that we’ve discovered, and gloss over the difficulties, dumbing down the learning curve and in general putting rather a good spin on the SL experience.

I think that it’s all very much part of the same pattern that we fall into in RL. We know what things could be like in the perfect world and we also know that, very occasionally, that’s exactly the experience you can have in SL – but, just like the real world, the everyday reality is quite a bit different. It’s not the deal that we’re led to believe it is, but it’s still perfectly serviceable and pretty much as you’d expect it to be. We are after all, realists, no matter how much time out of the real world we might choose to spend!

s. x

It’s like I’m huffing paint and I love it the more that I suffer
Eminem – Love The Way You Lie

 

 

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Top tips

One of the disadvantages of being a Brit and spending a fair bit of time in an environment, such as SL, which can tend to have such a strong US bias is that I can struggle to get my head around some of the Americanisms that are often inescapable when living in a virtual world.

One such thing that I don’t think I’m ever going to reconcile satisfactorily in my mind is the mindset in relation to tipping, which can sometimes seem, to one from the other side of the pond, to be overly prevalent, and often hard to justify.

Maybe I should say from the outset that the concept of tipping isn’t alien to me, and it’s something that I’m entirely comfortable with. I’ve spent enough time in cultures where it is both the norm, and an important part of a person’s earnings in some sectors, to completely understand that in some cases it is both expected and a necessity. I’m also fully conversant with the American service industry norm, where tips can form the greater part of a living wage thanks to a remuneration system that is both fundamentally flawed and totally inconsistent with what purports to being a forward-looking and progressive nation.

To understand where I’m coming from, you probably need a basic grasp of the British way. Over here, tips are neither mandatory, nor are they necessarily expected – rather than a supplement to income, they are a method of expressing satisfaction with a job well done; specifically, excellent service, or something over and above what is expected. They are, in a way, a reward for making the customer feel special. We don’t work to fixed percentages, neither do we reduce the amount for poor or disappointing service – essentially, you either get a tip, or you don’t. Tips are not considered a necessary expense, and indeed you’ll find that companies who reimburse their workers for meal expenses incurred whilst working will never cover tips – they are not a right or a necessity.

Despite that, should I ever find myself filling up on food Stateside, I’ll certainly be more than happy to pay my way and tip as much as a native.

I suppose it’s inevitable that this particular aspect of the American Dream should find it’s way into the virtual world, but the fact that it is so prevalent both bemuses and irritates me. Whilst I can see the justification for tipping in RL, I find it much harder to reconcile with a virtual setting, and with very few exceptions, I find it something of an anachronism.

Let’s take the common scenario of a music club, where tipping is apparently part and parcel of having a good time. Certainly, I understand there are costs associated with running a venue, and it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for a contribution to those costs and – other than charging an entry fee –  I guess that putting out a tipjar is a sensible alternative. Fine, but then you have the DJ, who also expects to receive something for their efforts, or at least that’s the impression you get. Personally, even after playing music for a couple of years now, I still get embarrassed about being tipped, and whenever I can, I avoid it – I’m playing music because I enjoy doing so and all the thanks I want is to see those assembled enjoying themselves. I daresay there are those who DJ as a means to boost their inworld finances, but frankly – unless there’s an element of skill involved – do you really deserve my hard earned lindens simply for loading a playlist into some software? From my point of view, if you’re going to tip me for something that takes little effort and which I’m doing for the fun of it, then you may as well tip me for being in the crowd dancing, while somebody else plays the music!

Then you have the club dancers. Seriously, you want to be paid money for jumping on a poseball? And, my particular pet hate: Hosts/greeters, or whatever they want to call themselves… I mean, you can’t possibly be serious? Perhaps I should also be shelling out my hard earned bucks to every Tom, Dick or Henrietta who randomly says hello when I arrive at a club, because, as far as I can see that’s essentially all that these people do?

And, what if I’m not enjoying the music, the ambience is awful and the club is lagging like it’s been pumped full of glue? Even then, a tip is still expected; and I’m sorry, but if you think I’m going to pay not to enjoy myself, you can think again!

I have friends who frequent numerous clubs most nights of the week, sometimes several in one night. I can only imagine they’re rich as Croesus, or have far more money than sense… Or, somehow they’re avoiding the impulse and all the pressure exerted upon them to line the pockets of those around them through the medium of tips? Guys, if you want to give your money away, give it to me – I’ll even say ‘hello’, whilst poledancing to the music I’m playing in my own club, if that will assist!

There are other examples of gratuitous gratuities in SL that confuse me even more: Tipjars in shops, for one. Surely the whole point of a place that stocks things for sale is that you make a profit from the things that you sell? Isn’t that what commerce is all about? Why then, after shelling out for a new shell suit am I expected to leave something in the pot on my way out in addition? It makes no sense to me… But what makes even less sense to me is that some idiots are perfectly happy to do just that!

So, am I a cheapskate, or is the virtual world just money mad?

s. x

I’ll just sit and grin
The money will roll right in
Nirvana – The Money Will Roll Right In

 

 

Posted in Linden Love, Musicality, Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

The taste of rhubarb

How do you explain Second Life to someone who has no knowledge or understanding of it?

I don’t mean in simple terms, but in the sense of the complexities of how it makes us feel, the way it influences our real lives, and the relationships, interactions and transactions that are all part and parcel of our virtual lives?

I suppose you could take the approach of finding common ground and extrapolating from there – maybe employing a multiplayer game, social media, even church by way of comparison? But that doesn’t address the fundamental point that SL is none of these things, and whilst it may share similar characteristics, when you depart from those shared areas of understanding, confusion tends to set in.

Maybe you take the more selective approach, focusing on a single angle, or just a few aspects of SL that are easy to grasp, but that always seems to me a bit like getting the proverbial three blind guys to describe an elephant by touch alone. SL is far too complex to render down into a few easily understood points. The trouble is, I would argue, that SL is not only complex, but unique – two qualities that can cause difficulties in translation in their own right, but together in combination are capable of stumping the most erudite communicator.

Explaining SL to the uninitiated is like explaining the taste of rhubarb to someone who had never tried it.

The only way you can possibly get to grips with it, is to try it; and, like rhubarb, your own experience is going to vary wildly compared to that of others. You may love it, or hate it; you may be unsure and want to wait until your palate becomes accustomed to the taste, or you might be unimpressed right from the first mouthful and not want to bother should it ever come your way in the future.

This is one of the problems that Linden Lab faces when it comes to promoting SL. We’re constantly griping that they don’t do enough to sell the virtual world, but seriously, with something as complex and unique as SL, how the hell do you do that anyway? Do we really imagine it’s possible to explain to anyone about the subtle complexities of the unique taste of rhubarb in a way that will appeal to anyone, no matter what their tastes? Yet that’s precisely what we expect the Lab to do when it comes to promotional activities related to SL.

Whether we are drawn to, or appalled, by the infamous vampire adverts of a few years back, the allure or otherwise of Linden Homes, new avatars or inworld games, will depend massively on what sort of things appeal to you personally, and to a very much smaller extent, on the quality of the advertising… And neither will have much at all that can give you any sort of idea of what SL is really about – it’s just not possible, it’s far too complex.

With that line of reasoning, you have to wonder whether any sort of investment is marketing for SL is even worthwhile, and my feeling is that it really isn’t. The vast majority of people for whom SL plays an everyday part in their lives, (that is, the sort of people that any advertising campaign worth its salt would wish to attract), are there often completely by accident, or through association. Many who joined up in the early years may have been caught up in the whole ‘virtual worlds are the future’ hype, others would have followed the evolutionary geekist progression from Usenet to MUDS and MMORPGS, and onwards and upwards. Still others will have been introduced by friends, family, pop groups, and even guitar and car manufacturers. Then there are those – like myself – whose curiosity was was sparked, maybe through reading Snowcrash, Ready Player One, Otherland, Neuromancer, seeing magazine articles, reviews or glimpses of SL on TV and elsewhere; but very few – if any – would have logged in to SL that first time with any real idea about what to expect.

I imagine that some of us are still finding ourselves in that position, even after years inworld!

We’re used to periodically passing through times of doom and gloom, when SL is supposedly on the decline and will soon find itself on the scrapheap of virtual failure and most of the time, we unthinkingly and happily lay the blame squarely upon the Lab’s inability to promote SL to the masses. However, as I’ve explained, that’s not a easy thing to do, if it’s indeed possible and – if it was such a deal breaker – how come SL is still going strong, even though Linden Lab has done little in real terms over the years to market it in any significant way?

I’m pretty certain that it’s those very qualities that make SL so hard to sell – its uniqueness and complexity – that are its biggest selling points and greatest assets. People who sign up to SL and stay, are precisely the sort of people that find this mix intriguing and captivating and it is exploring this environment and seeking what appeals to them that keeps them interested.

Just like rhubarb, the only way you’re ever going to find out what it’s really like is to try it.

And the same is true of Second Life.

s. x

This is my world today
and I couldn’t have it
any other way
in my world…
Secret Affair – My World

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