Woke

It’s taken me a little while to get around to writing this post, mainly because I wanted to avoid firing something off in the heat of the moment, rather than first allowing myself to go off the boil and writing from a more balanced perspective. So, having (hopefully) avoided falling foul of ‘Incensed from Shepperton’ Syndrome, here’s my thoughts.

Perhaps missed by many, since it followed hard on the heels of the ‘Americans are going to pay tax on SL’ news, there was another announcement from the Lab, and its one that actually does cause me concern: The Lab’s announcement of the new ‘In-depth community pages’.

Why does it worry me? Simply because SL has always been an incredibly inclusive and diverse environment, almost without even trying, but rather than be quietly pleased about that and leave well alone, the Lab have taken the idiotic decision to go down the ‘woke’ road, which is – in my opinion – the bane of modern society, and the first steps on the rocky road of banality and destructive political correctness. Quite possibly, the end of SL as we know it!

A bit harsh? Not at all, this really is something that I feel strongly about. I should say, from the outset, that I have absolutely no issues about inclusivity, diversity and basic human rights, but the whole ‘woke’ agenda is disturbing in the extreme, because its focus – despite what others may insist to the contrary – is not at all on its stated intent, but rather on something far more concerning and damaging to society as a whole.

Here’s a typical dictionary definition… Woke: Alert to injustice in society, especially racism. My definition is sublty different – Woke: A trendy assertion of intolerant moral supremacy arising largely from misguided entitlement and aggression.

Let me explain myself. To be woke one has to assume a moral high ground that refuses to acknowledge any alternative viewpoint on the assertion that it is wrong (either currently, or historically). Having done so, one is then entitled to promote one’s own opinion, using whatever language, means of protest, degree of repetition, argument or downright rudeness one chooses – no matter how, crass, innapropriate, condescending or offensive to those with whom you do not agree. To be woke effectively legitimises disrespect and acrimony as debating tools. The irony here is that the woke argument is inevitably proposed on the grounds of speaking-up for the oppressed, disenfranchised and unrepresented – and how is this achieved? By shouting down any alternative argument by use of oppression, disenfranchisement and negating any counter-representation. It’s bullying, plain and simple, which as anyone with half a brain knows, is always an effective means of negotiation </sarcasm>

I came across a particularly stunning example of this recently on the interwebs: A picture posted of a sign which, thanks to the context of its surroundings, was intrinsically humorous. To ensure those viewing understood the joke, the poster had even gone to the trouble of explaining it. Everybody laughed out loud, bar one commenter, whom for convenience I’ll refer to as ‘Twat’, who decided to take offence at an entirely different and contrived interpretation that they themselves had identified – a gay slur – for which they proceeded to castigate the original poster. Cue a full blown argument between Twat, OP and everbody else, lasting well over 100 comments, of which the majority were rational, sensible and – at worst – dismissive, except for those made by Twat, whose own contributions became ever more confrontational, offensive and bizarre, eventually culminating with them reapeating, ad-nauseum, ‘You boomers should just get off the internet, you don’t belong here!’

No, my idiot friend, it is you who should leave the internet, since it’ll be a better place without you.

This little debacle illustrates for me all of the fundamental ill-conceived tenets of woke-ism. Let’s examine them in more detail:

  • Choosing to take offence – No-one would deny that there are many truly offensive things that happen around us. Some will offend us personally, some may not affect us but we can nevertheless see they are offensive, and where this is true, I agree that we should be prepared to speak up and make our thoughts known. This is very different to the act of choosing to be offended, then taking up arms in support of your new-found cause. The whole point of choice is that it is a conscious act and, equally importantly, it never sits in isolation – you can also choose not to be offended, or to walk away, ignore, turn off or change the subject, but for some reason these never appear to be options for the woke brigade, and in their non-Darwinian understanding of evolution, having consciously elected to put themselves in the firing line, the only option ever is to fight. I do find myself wondering just how many keyboard warriors, once they’ve stepped down from their soapbox forget all about the argument for which they’ve acted as protagonist and, when safely out of of public view are quite happy to be as bigoted, politically-incorrect and unwoke as the rest of humanity!
  • Misinterpretation – In my sign example above, the whole argument stemmed from Twat re-interpreting the original post to make it fit their own agenda. The fact that they were wrong and the original intention was nothing to do with their own interpretation was immaterial – the mere fact that it could be interpreted to suit their own argument was enough to start the fight, even though they were the only one seeing it that way. The woke seem unable to comprehend context, and this is particularly noticeable when it comes to historical injustices and inequity. They seem utterly unable to conceive that society changes over time and what is now horrific, was once acceptable. There was a time in Britain when old men could legally marry 12-year old girls, kids worked in mills, mines and up chimneys, slavery was commonplace, homosexuality was punishable by death, and women couldn’t vote. Distasteful though that may be, it is fact, and just because we are more ‘enlightened’ today doesn’t mean that if we’d been around at the time, we wouldn’t have accepted all these things without a qualm, because that was the status quo. Context is everything, ignore it and your perception of reality is both distorted and likely to be way off the mark.
  • Championing – We should, of course, champion those causes about which we feel passionate. That’s laudable and to be encouraged, but please pick your moments! A funny post about a sign located in way that made it humorous, is not an appropriate opportunity to champion gay rights. It’s the irony that strikes me: Creating an issue where none exists makes the person who decides to raise it the divisive factor, and not the original post. This correlates with my initial fears about the new SL Community Pages… Why are they needed, when SL doesn’t really have any problems with community, inclusivity or diversity anyway?
  • Dismissiveness – ‘Get off the internet’ is not how you deal with those who disagree with you. A debate isn’t won by denying the opposition a right to speak (and surely, if you’re purportedly being a ‘voice’ for those who don’t have a voice, isn’t this the most crass example of double-standards and hypocrisy imaginable?) Suppressing dissenting voices simply tips the scales of injustice back in the opposing direction, and when you tell people that their opinion is wrong and doesn’t count, how does that make your argument any different to that which you are protesting? Once again, it’s particularly dangerous when applied to historical injustice – toppling statues, renaming roads and so on doesn’t change history; it negates it and the lessons we can learn from it, and it could conceivably create a whole generation who, once again, lack any contextual understanding of how the world they live in has come about, or any benchmark from the past to measure the present against.
  • Rejection & denial – One of the most insidious elements of the woke agenda is that while it ostensibly argues for a specific cause, the focus is actually on rejecting dissenting opinions and denying them any right to be expressed. This is why comedians today find themselves in an impossible position: Much of humour is about making light of human folly, suffering and failure, however there is no such thing as woke humour because whenever there’s a perceived victim, we can’t mock that situation. So, one of the greatest coping mechanisms of humanity – the ability to laugh in the face of trauma – is denied us. What woke says is ‘I’m right, therefore you are wrong, my way is the only way’. So, where I might say ‘black’ is a word with multiplicity of meanings, both literal and inferred, woke says it only has one specific meaning, and to use it in any other manner is despicable, therefore I must not. This results in ridicualous scenarios shc as a friend of mine who referred to themselves as a ‘fat pig’, thus earning themselves a 2-week ban for ‘hate speech’! You couldn’t make it up and that, of course, to any rational person is complete nonsense! The woke agenda is solely concerned with stopping us from doing things that certain elements of the populace consider wrong, (even if it isn’t), and it is rarely about the injustice itself that is used to justify those demands.
  • Misplaced – Championing gay rights on a funny signs message board is the equivalent of going to the supermarket to do aerobics, yet the woke see no incongruity in expressing their views whenever, and wherever they see fit, whether or not the audience is appropriate. Gluing oneself to the road is not going to influence climate change, it’ll just irritate motorists who will then be alienated against those protestors who made them late for work – how willing will they be to listen to protestors’ arguments after that? Not very! So often the woke voice is untargeted and just a loud and intrusive irritation, and consequently – ultimately – self-defeating.
  • Entitlement – One of the most irritating characteristics of being woke is the smug self-assurance that you are a superior being who has an inalienable and exclusive right to make your point, unchallenged by lesser mortals. The trouble is that today absolutely anybody can, and does, have their say and can potentially reach a wide audience (yep, even me!), with little or no moderation, constraint or control. It never used to be the case, in the past only those with something valid, cogent and coherent to say tended to have enough clout to reach the masses, which meant there was little white noise, lots of facts and plenty of content. Compare that today where the world and his *wife [*husband/non-gender-stereotyped significant other… Or not attached is OK too], not only has the opportunity but also feels they are entitled, nay compelled, to share their vacuous, nonsensical views with a worldwide community, all of whom are hovering, with sweaty hands over the ‘like’ button, just for bragging rights about how many ‘friends’ they can acquire through cronyism and sycophantism. All the world’s a stage, full of second-rate actors who have completely lost the plot.

I’m sorry! You came here for a fun post about SL, and ended up on the receiving end of a rant about a modern societal evil! My apologies.

The truth is that I don’t want to live in a humorless world where I have to vet every single thing I say and write to make sure that I don’t offend some precious snowflake who disagrees with me; and I also don’t want to live in a world where everyone is scared to engage in healthy and open debate in case it should result in them being marginalised, castigated and sidelined, simply for holding a valid viewpoint. So, when I see that Linden Lab is establishing new Community Pages because ‘Second Life should be an inclusive haven of self-expression, and we feel it’s important to highlight every community’, my initial reaction is that it already is, and that the problems only really start when you do start to ‘highlight’ individual communities, because this creates an artificial hierarchy along with a platform to preach from an entitled and unchallenged position. Not to mention the butthurt and backstabbing that will go on amongst those communities not selected to be highlighted!

For the first time ever, I’m really hoping that this will go the way of so many of Linden Lab’s other initiatives, and will go largely unnoticed, unsupported and struggle to reach the masses. Fingers crossed!

I normally pick a piece of music at the end of my posts that reflects in some way, even if just a few snatched lyrics, the theme of the post. The one I’ve chosen today is a product of its time and the culture of that era – today it would be considered polically incorrect in every sense of the term, which is a shame, because the sentiments are honest, insightful and – dare I say it – as woke as they could be for the period. If you don’t like it, feel free to turn it off, or even drop me an entitled, ranty comment… You’ve had to struggle through mine, after all!

s. x

What we need is a great big melting pot
Big enough enough enough to take
The world and all its got

Blue Mink – Melting Pot

Posted in Linden Love, Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL | 1 Comment

The cost of SLiving

Oh dear, just when you were thinking that life may be getting tougher than ever in the real world, at least we can escape the worst of it in SL, Linden Lab drop the bombshell that they are now going to be passing on US sales tax that, up until now the company has been absorbing, to SL residents.

At this point, I really should state that as a non-US citizen, living in a country where pretty much anything is seen as an opportunity for taxation, including SL, and where that tax has never been ‘absorbed’ by the Lab, I’m a) totally unaffected by this change of policy, and b) happy to see that all users, wherever they are located, are now going to be treated on an equal footing, rather than the inequitable position of those in the States being treated more favorably than those elsewhere in the world. (Gosh, that’ll make me unpopular with some readers!)

As it is, most US residents will pay nowhere near the 20% tax rate that I and my fellow compatriots have to shell out, but I’m still expecting the usual torrent of abuse, invective and throwing of toys out of prams to flood the interwebs from those who consider this the worst thing that’s ever happened to SL ever! Indeed, there are already some murmurings of discontent out there being shared, all utterly predictable and really not worth you spending the time seeking out – so, I’ll spare you the effort, and break them down into the usual suspects:

  • ‘How dare the Lindens do this to us!’ – Erm, they’re not, your government is, and – surprise, surprise – you have to pay your taxes, not the Lindens.
  • ‘This is going to kill creators/land owners/DJs/griefers/normal people’ – Nope. Manage your budget to take account of changes, maybe even virtually downsize, and you’ll be just fine. As for creators, and those making real money from SL: It’s commerce, deal with it, or take up embroidery instead.
  • ‘It’s the end. SL is dead. We’re all doomed’ – What, again? I doubt it. Time will tell, and I’m betting you’re wrong.
  • ‘This is so unfair!’ – That’s life, buddy!
  • ‘That’s it, I’ve had enough. I’m leaving SL!’ – Byee!

And guess what folks, it’s going to get even worse in the future when the Lab start passing on the tax on purchases, buying lindens (which us Brits already do), and those new-fangled vanity names (which are ridiculously overpriced anyway)… How on earth will we all cope?

Pass the popcorn, get youself comfortable and, expect a great deal of hand-wringing, online argument and floods of tears over the coming weeks from the SL community at large – it’s going to be fun.

Not exactly a surprise though. After all, virtual currency and online worlds are very much in the spotlight at the moment, particularly with the big players like Meta throwing their weight behind the metaverse, it’s little wonder that the powers that be are turning their gaze upon new and fruitful pastures for law-making, taxation and invasion of privacy. Added to that, the Waterfield/Oberwager acquisition of Linden Lab back in July was bound, at some point, to lead to efficiency measures and changes in the Lab’s cashflow. It stands to reason that no investment company is going to be particularly impressed to find out that one of its new holdings is happily paying taxes on behalf of its subscribers… That’s just a ridiculous business model that would have to come to an end.

So, this should hardly come as a surprise to anyone, and unpalatable though it may be, there is solid reasoning behind it; dare I say, it could even be a very positive step that the Lab has taken, and one which – long-term – may benefit those very residents who at the moment may feel the rug has been pulled from beneath their feet.

Let’s look beyond the initial furore that is bound to ensue, at some of the positives:

  • These changes will put the Lab on a much firmer footing with investors, the authorities and the Lab’s accountants. It’s a simpler, more commonsense business model that clearly delineates between service provider and receiver, with no blurred lines, unsustainable practices, or any movement of money that could ever be considered suspicious or open to abuse.
  • Linden Lab will have greater disposable income. Passing on the tax burden to the appropriate end-user, means a whole bunch of money saved that can potentially be invested in development, growing the company and new initiatives. Even if it’s only diverted to investors, it’s still beneficial, since it provides greater long-term security for the Lab: As long as it’s making money, it’s viable.
  • It means that a greater number of people are treated fairly and on the same basis. No longer will only residents based in the EU, UK, Norway or Australia be burdened with paying tax whenever they transact with LL, but the majority of SL users will in the future. It’s more equitable and there are fewer users logging into SL at a disadvantage that others aren’t burdened with.
  • It makes LL more attractive to future investors, partners and collaborators, because they can see where the money is going, and there are no weird, unusual or dodgy business practices to cause suspicion.

Considering the points above, I find myself in the rather unusual position of congratulating the Lindens for making a decision that will be both distasteful and, possibly, costly to a large swathe of its user base, because it is, nevertheless, the right, business-like and sensible one to make.

I know that you may be thinking that I’d hold a very different point of view if I happened to live in Arkansas or New York, and I’ve no doubt that I would indeed be more than a little put out by having this additional financial burden dumped on me, particularly at a time that the cost of living is escalating beyond people’s worst nightmares, but I also know that I wouldn’t argue with the logic behind it, and – at the end of the day – it is not at all unreasonable.

As for those who might consider this a step too far and are seriously considering whether SL is worth the effort and the cost: Well, it’s your money, and your decision. As Aldous Huxley said, “You pays your money, and you takes your choice”. As with so many things in life, only you can decide where your priorities lie, and no-one is forcing you to pay for your SLife.

And it’s only money, after all.

s. x

Should five percent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
‘Cause I’m the taxman
Yeah, I’m the taxman

The Beatles – Taxman

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

New at Neon Dreamz

Show your support – put this on display to show you care. Freebie.

s. x

Posted in Neon Dreamz, RL | 2 Comments

Dark Secrets… Illuminated!

It’s not every day that you get an invitation to the elite ranks of a mysterious and, probably, mythical secret society, but that’s exactly what has come my way today. It’s awfully exciting, and just a little bit freaky.

Yes indeed, Yours Truly, has been invited to become a member of The Illuminati!

I kid you not: This is what I received…

Greetings, from the illuminati world elite empire. Bringing the poor, the needy and the talented to the limelight of fame, riches and powers, knowledge, business and political connections. This is the right time for you to put all your worries, your health issues, and finance problems to an end by joining the Elite Family of The illuminati!. Are you sick, Barren or having divorcing problems, finding it difficult to get job promotions in your place of work in order to excel in life just like you wish? If YES! Then join the illuminati empire you will get all this numerous benefit and solutions to your problems.

Note: that this email message was created solely for the purpose of our recruitment scheme which will end next month and this offer is for unique ones only; if you are not serious on joining the illuminati empire, then you are advice not to contact us at all. This is because disloyalty is highly not tolerated here in our organization. Do you agree to be a member of the illuminati new world order? If YES!. Then kindly reply us back..

How exciting! An invitation to become one of the Elite, although I have to say that ‘the poor, the needy and the talented’ are not a grouping that I’d normally bunch together, but New World Order, and all that!

My only concern is that I’d like to start gently, and not go full-on self-flagellation, pope-murdering, government-toppling Illuminatist (is that the correct term?) from the start; it’s just not my style. So I was hoping that they offer a ‘low fat’ option – Illuminati Lite – maybe?

And that’s when I had my brilliant idea – clearly the ‘talented’ description is well-merited! Illuminati Lite… Illuminati Lights! Wayhay!

Yes, I’m celebrating my forthcoming induction to the New World Order and all the jolly things that it will entail with two new, limited edition, Illuminati-themed pieces from Neon Dreamz! These are only available as a set on Marketplace, strictly limited to only 100 available – once they’re gone, they’re gone, so grab them while they’re hot!

The Eye Of Providence’ – In neon blue, with a glowing red pupil, 2LI when rezzed and re-sizable;
Illuminati Ambigram’ – Chunky decor in rainbow colours, equally suitable as wall art or freestanding – you can even hang it upside-down and it’ll still read the same! 1LI when rezzed, resizable.

So mote it be 😉

s. x

It’s Here, It’s a Secret, A Secret Society
It’s Here, It’s a Secret, A Secret Society
It’s gone beyond me, beyond my vulnerability
Science fiction for the masses with no realit
y

Manic Street Preachers – A Secret Society

Posted in Neon Dreamz, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Are we having fun?

I have an SL friend who sees the world very differently to the way I perceive it. I don’t think, for example, I’ve ever known them to say that they enjoyed something. Yes, very occasionally they will say that they like or have a preference for something in particular, but they’ll then invariably go on to qualify that by adding contextual information that implies they like it, not because it’s aesthetically pleasing, but because it ticks a number of boxes that make it acceptable to their taste.

For example, whilst I might say “I love this song”, they might say, “I like this. It appeared on that award-winning album from 1982, which employed Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound concept, and Jeff Lynne played bass on six of the tracks, although on this one he was noticeably absent”. Seriously, that’s the sort of thing they might say! At times, it can be like talking to Wikipedia, or having a conversation with the Google search box considering the lack of human nuance you receive back from them.

Some might think it’s showing off – an attempt to say, ‘look at what I know’ – but I really don’t think that’s the case, because they really do seem to appreciate life through a completely academic, observational, and non-emotional lens: One that is, no doubt, very useful when it comes to dealing with the technical, rational and purely utilitarian aspects of living, but – to me, at least – seems completely ill-equipped for the emotional appreciation of the artistic, emotionally-stimulating and aesthetic elements of life. It’s a purely technical appraisal of experience, with no soul or emotional connection; life perceived by rational analysis of facts and data, rather than the touch of external stimuli.

As an emotional person, who ‘feels’ music and art, and explores and understands the world through senses and – often – irrationality and chance, I find that a purely academic approach to appreciation of anything, although fulfilling in terms of understanding and knowledge, can so easily miss the point. No matter how technically perfect a piece of music might be, if it doesn’t trigger an emotional response, evoke memories, take you to another place or touch your soul, then you’ve completely misunderstood what that piece of music is intrinsically about. Now I suppose, if that’s the way you are, then it’s really none of my business, it’s your way of interpreting the world, and – in my opinion – your loss, but what if somehow you make it my business too… How do I deal with that?

Put people into an open-ended, creative environment like SL and they will tend to fall into two camps. There will be those who think ‘I can do anything I set my mind to, and be successful at it – how hard can it be?’, and there will be those who think ‘I haven’t got a clue how to do anything, so I’ll just let other people, who can do stuff, get on with it’. Of course, it’s a sliding scale and not entirely black and white, but if you are one to take the purely academic approach, there is a very strong chance that you’ll fall into the ‘can do’ bracket, and seize every opportunity to be ‘creative’ as soon as it comes along, even if you don’t have a creative bone in your body…

  • DJ? – Can do. I know loads of stuff about music, how hard can it be?
  • Content creator? – Can do. It’s just a logical process, how hard can it be?
  • Entertainer? – Can do. I just need to jump on some poseballs, how hard can it be?
  • Landscaper? – Can do. I have excellent taste and planning skills, how hard can it be?

And so on.

When viewed in that academic, unemotional way, SL activities do seem very simple and straightforward, but the harsh reality is that it rarely is quite as straightforward as it seems. We’ve no doubt all experienced DJ sets full of disjointed, ill-conceived, disconnected music that’s made us want to run for the exits, where the person playing the music appears to have no rapport with either the audience or any real grasp of what’s on the playlist they’ve selected. I’ve even known DJs to admit that they have never heard the tracks they’re playing, but they picked them because they fit the theme/came out in the same year/are the right BPM.. or worse! I’ve known people to mess noticeably, and painfully, with the tempo of a tune just so that it slots neatly amongst the rest of the playlist. Who needs an emotional connection to a tune, as long as it has the word ‘red’ in the title, it’ll definitely fit in on ‘Best in Red Night’, and you end up with a Lady In Red/Redneck Girl/Red Barchetta sandwich – indigestion central!

We’ve all seen stores full of clothing that nobody in their right mind would ever buy, yet the creator has clearly gone to enormous lengths to create a range that runs the full gamut of colours and patterns, but is as ugly as a bad tequila hangover and about as fashionable as legwarmers, shell suits and ruff collars.

We’ve all seen parcels with all the attractiveness of a brutalist Soviet multi-storey car park, carefully designed to maximise utility and use of space, but completely lacking in any appeal, homeliness or warmth.

And I’d suggest that all these abominations, and others of their kind, are mostly the misguided output of those who are capable of rationalising how to do things in SL, but really – for their own sake, and that of those around them – shouldn’t be allowed to!

The trouble is – especially when these things are the warped outpourings of the logical, analytical, utilitarian mind of a friend – we have to suffer them, grin and bear it, and smile through the pain, because nobody with a heart wants to put down a friend, or undermine their efforts, no matter how deserved it may be. It can be hard though, and there comes a point where – for their own sakes – you feel you have to intervene, but how do you explain capturing the whole spectrum of colours to someone who only sees the world in black and white, or varying degrees of grey? How do you convince someone to try a bold sunflower design on a skirt they’ve spent months texturing in every possible variation of Paisley? How do you tell a friend their music sucks and they have no taste? How do you break it to them that jumping on a poseball from 2012 that they found at a freebie emporium does not make for good visual entertainment?

Well, if you care about them, value their friendship and want to encourage and support their endeavours, I’m afraid, you simply can’t.

What you can do, is try to educate them and guide them, but this is hard and will often bemuse and even alienate someone who sees the world from a purely academic perspective. They may resent your attempts to suggest there are other ways to approach what they are doing, or they could simply ignore your pointers as being irrelevant and illogical. It can feel like trying to explain the colour blue to someone who only perceives greys! Eventually, you just have to put up, and shut up, because that’s what friends do when there’s no other alternative, other than to heartlessly pour cold water over someone’s ambitions.

What continues to bemuse me though, is what do people that struggle to make emotional connections to the world find so compelling about SL? I personally can’t imagine wanting to spend time inworld if it didn’t provide an emotional connection, in the same way that I couldn’t enjoy music if it didn’t touch my soul, and I couldn’t enjoy art or an awesome image if it didn’t tap into my feelings. Certainly I can appreciate the technical excellence of a photograph, or a song, or an architectural triumph, but that in itself can never be enough… I need to feel the joy, strength, peace, rage, or whatever other creative force sits behind that creation, or stirs in me, in order to truly appreciate and connect to it, otherwise it’s purely an empty academic exercise. In the same way, SL can be a purely academic pursuit, a box-ticking, bucket list of challenges and objectives to be overcome and achieved; but it was never designed to be that way, and I can’t help feeling that those who treat it as such would feel much more fulfilled and entertained playing a game instead.

SL has to stimulate me, provoke me, tug at my heartstrings, make me elated or depressed, or otherwise engage in some way with what makes me tick… Without that, it’s no different to watching images on a screen: Just an observer, with no emotional investment or engagement with what I see. If I want a technical, mathematical or engineering challenge, certainly those abound within the SL environment, but without the balance of fun, enjoyment, and emotional immersion as well, then I can get equally challenged and fulfilled doing a crossword, scripting code or writing a technical report – but I wouldn’t enjoy any of that quite so much, or in anything like the same way at all.

I’m intrigued by it, in the same way that I’m intrigued by SL itself. What is it about the virtual world that appeals to those whose hearts are merely pump organs for sustaining life? Where is the joy in SL to those for whom satisfaction is calculating the perfectly balanced equation? And, how do you have fun in a place like SL, when fun itself is an abstract concept that can’t be defined in a technical drawing?

Please tell me, because I’d love to know!

s. x

But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible
Logical, oh responsible, practical
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable
Oh clinical, oh intellectual, cynical

Supertramp – The Logical Song

Posted in Musicality, Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | 1 Comment

When you’re strange…

Let’s talk for a moment about way back, when the internet was all fresh and still had that smell of new car about it; a time when the Web came neatly packaged on CDs stuck to the covers of computer magazines, courtesy of America Online, or – if you were a true geek – by way of the likes of Compuserve, and dished up on Netscape Navigator.

Back in those halcyon dial-up days, when the Web as we knew it was the new kid on the block, and the real internet dwelt on usenet, IRC and bulletin boards, if you’d anything more than a passing interest in this new-fangled fad, you’d have been considered a little strange, even a weirdo. These were the days where the popular image of the internet nerd – the one that, for some reason, movies still hawk today – was a pimply-faced, teenage boy, closeted away in his parent’s cellar, fingers-stained with cheesy-snack dust, and an uncanny knack for being able to hack phone systems to get free access, and infiltrating military grade hardware – for fun, rather than any interest in world domination.

That enduring stereotype probably didn’t reflect the reality. To begin with, some of the best hackers, crackers and 1337 gamers at the time were sassy teen girls, with a ballsy attitude and super-enquiring minds. Nevertheless, there was something isolating about the internet back then: Ironically, the .net – specifically created to connect people together, regardless of age, location or culture – often had completely the opposite effect. The internet was niche, elitist, and closeted – a hangout for the shy, retiring and introverted – weirdo central – but that was fine, because you were never going to meet, see, or even properly talk to any of the other strangers you’d connect to; you’d remain strangers, safe and secure in the knowledge that your true identity was masked more effectively than by any real life disguise. Perhaps that’s why so many top-notch haxors were girls: In the field of technology, traditionally a staunchly male stronghold, you’d have no way of knowing who sat behind the pseudonym Starmaker Neon, let alone any of their personal attributes.

I find it interesting that the Internet we have today, has actually – monstrously, in fact – become exactly what it set out to be, and if the likes of Alphabet and Meta continue to have their way, is inexorably heading down the path of total anti-anonymity. Today, the freaks and weirdos are those who don’t have an internet connection, and if you’re not sharing all your personal details, pictures, and all the minutiae of your daily life with a billion friends and followers on the likes of Farcebook, Twatter and TitTok, then you’re strange. The internet today is all about connecting and disclosing everything about oneself, whether it’s on social media, dating sites or whatever the latest trending hot app might be (don’t ask me what it is: I’m not on it!)

I digress. Let’s go back in time to when the .net wasn’t quite so intrusive, but had moved on from obscurity, say – for example – the early years of this century, (damn, that seems a weird thing to say – I’m getting old!), and the birth of a radical and crazy new concept – the virtual world, and specifically, Second Life.

Suddenly, with the birth of SL, all the dispossessed and lost souls for whom the .net had lost some of its allure and wonder, once again blossomed with the promise of a whole new way of networking; one which celebrated all those values they held dear… Anonymity, eclecticness, opportunity and creativity, and the chance to style yourself without constraints or any need for realism. Better than that, if you signed up to SL, you were quite definitely, strange. Our virtual world became the darkened basement, reserved for the odd and reclusive: A rarefied environment where only those in the know were truly ‘in’, and which the wider internet community struggled to grasp. It was virtual heaven!

And, despite the intervening years and Linden Lab’s best efforts to recruit the rest of the world, it’s very much stayed that way. Yes, there are a whole bunch of people today who form a veneer of respectability and vacuousnes to proceedings – they will not be reading this blog, instead they’ll be the ones subscribed to a dozen ‘fashion blogs’, and spending the majority of their time inworld at sales events, and the rest of their time trying on clothing. If you are reading this blog, it’s very likely that you fit into what I consider to be the real core users of SL, the latter day nerds and geeks who can tell a 28k from a 56k modem just from the sound it makes, and who yearn for the return of the frontier days of the .net, when men were men, women were also probably men, and men could quite possibly be women… But, without exception, they were all strange, fascinating and wild people to be around.

Those are my kind of people.

I like the strange and the odd, the misfits and the underdogs, the geeks and the freaks, because I’m one too. However, there is a fine line to be drawn between the harmless and inoffensive, albeit sometimes intense oddballs, and the psychos, pervs, creeps, users and abusers that hide behind the anonymity of SL to prey on others, and pursue their own selfish ends. And, I’ve met more than my fair share of those over the years too. As with the whole internet, right from day one, there has always been a seedy, dark and unappealing underside, one which far too many fall foul of, it’s a fact of both life and SLife, however those of us old-skool types, who grew up contending with the ‘real’ internet, can spot a wrong ‘un a mile off, and when we do, we’re brutal when it comes to putting them in their place! However, it’s not all bad… The vast majority of strange, weird and bonkers people I come across inworld are just that: strange, weird, and bonkers, but more than that, they are fascinating, fun and damn cool!

And, I’m more than happy to count myself amongst that number!

s. x

When you’re strange
Faces come out of the rain
When you’re strange
No one remembers your name

Echo And The Bunnymen – People Are Strange

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL, SLarcheology, Techietalk | 2 Comments

In Balance

Equilibrium is good. Life always feels better when things balance out nicely and it’s always good to know that although there may be times when things may go to one extreme on the one hand, they can equally well also go to the opposite extreme on the other, and in the process, cancel each other out. Being late out of the house for work, only to find the delay has spared you from rush hour traffic jams, can easily mean you arrive bang on time!

In general however, we don’t live life at the far extremes of the spectrum, thank goodness, instead things tend to sit somewhere in the middle – the Goldilocks Hypothesis in action in everyday life.

This everyday balancing act, of course, may often simply be a product of our own perceptions rather than actual fact, and we’re equally capable of taking random occurences as fortuitous opposites, where really none exist. Much like pareidolia, our brains are very good at seeing meaningful patterns where there aren’t any: If you saw Elvis in your cornflakes this morning, I bet it was just an illusion, unless Elvis has been living in your breakfast cereal cupboard for the last 45 years.

Let me give you a silly example to illustrate my point…

I received a ‘worrying’ email this morning, an ‘invoice’ for £28,041.14. I’ve no idea what it’s for, but apparently it has to be paid today, in Bitcoin. Now, normally you might expect me to be running around, frantically trying to get this rather monstrous sum of money together, ready to meet the impending deadline; however, I’m calm, cool and collected, by virtue of the fact that I received another unexpected last week containing the news of a surprise $3,800,000 windfall! (Thank you, Mr Ruben Jim of the United Nations), and to be honest, ever since I’ve been a little concerned about what to do with all that spare cash deposited in my name. However, I’m now in the very satisfactory position where the one fortuitous event more than cancels out the other, less welcome one, and I have nothing to worry about. In fact, I might just put Mr Jim and my unknown invoicer in touch with each other and let them sort out the details themselves!

So, you see: Bad thing + good thing = Everything OK.

Silly illustrations aside, the principle is perhaps one way in which we achieve a measure of balance in our lives, even if it’s just the way in which we perceive everyday life events. So, when one of those aspects is absent, or changes, and there’s nothing we can cling on to that restores our internal sense of balance, we can feel unease or discomfort, and often a sense that things are ‘not quite right’. This doesn’t only apply to real life either, and indeed – within the stricter confines of SL – these feelings can become even more noticeable, even problematic.

Whilst I draw no conclusions from it, it does for example, seem to be the case that whenever I spend money inworld, often within a very short period of time – sometimes a matter of minutes – something will sell in my Marketplace store and equilibrium is restored, as is my bank balance! I know it’s just coincidence, but it happens far too frequently to go unnoticed.

It’s subtly evident in inworld relationships too: I have a small group of friends that tend to gather together inworld most days. Some of us can be pretty chatty – some might say we may, at times, monopolise the conversation – whilst others are relatively reserved and quiet, in fact we’ll even joke about it at times, all in good humour of course. Now, although some may say little and prefer to remain quietly listening-in, if they’re absent from our little gathering for any reason, things immediately feel a little strange: Something is missing, and it seems ‘quiet’, despite the fact that it may not be any quieter than usual. The equilibrium has been upset, the balance has been disturbed.

Whilst small wobbles in that balance – like my example above – can feel a little odd, things become somewhat more disorientating when it tips strongly in any particular direction, particularly over an extended period of time. When, for example, inworld routines are upset, circles of friendship change or patterns of activity take an unexpected, and perhaps permanent turn it doesn’t matter that it’s ‘only’ a virtual world, we can feel pretty confused and even distressed as we try to get to grips with an environment that no longer seems to obey the rules we’ve become used to. It becomes even more of an issue when things seem to have taken a turn for the worse – perhaps long-term friends have turned out to be anything but, or places that had become something of an institution for us, like a well-loved sim, suddenly change out of all recognition or, as is so often the case, vanish for ever.

These sort of changes tend to be of a more permanent character and it can take a while to adjust to them, particularly bearing in mind that, for many of us, SL may have become our safe place and a constant within an ever-fluctuating reality. Take myself, for instance: I’ve been longer in my virtual home than I’ve ever spent in any single location in RL, and although there have been many changes inworld over those years, my virtual home is still my retreat and somewhere I can go for escape and sanctuary, no matter what the outside world might throw at me. If I was to ever lose that, it would have a huge impact in both my virtual and real worlds, and I know that for a very long time I’d be unhappy, lack focus and feel hopelessly disorientated, and that in turn would colour my whole SL experience.

Change, of course, is inevitable and healthy, and I’ve written many times in the past about how it is part and parcel of my life and not something that necessarily bothers me a great deal. The nature of my job, and life experience, means that I’m probably more robust and resilient than most when it comes to dealing with, and embracing change, but that’s not to say that we don’t all have our weak spots and vulnerabilities, and even the strongest of us – when the balance tips too far in the wrong direction – can struggle to stay on our feet.

Many will say that change is a journey, with a start point and an eventual destination – what they don’t often recognise is that sometimes people can, and do, get lost en-route and will never reach the final destination. It’s also important to understand that sometimes, we’ve already arrived at the destination, but we’re still waiting for our psyche to catch up and realise it! Being in the throes of a global pandemic perfectly illustrates this particular point – there’s much talk of ‘the new normal’, when in point of fact, that new normal arrived as soon as we started social distancing, working from home and wearing masks to do the shopping… It’s just that a significant part of the population is still waiting for that new normal to arrive, and wondering what it will look like! For those living in that kind of limbo, life becomes very challenging, because they’ve lost their sense of time and place; every day is lived in a state of nervous anticipation, or even dread; and uncertainty reigns supreme.

Maybe SL isn’t quite the same as reality, in some regards. We can certainly log out when things get tough, or choose to mute, avoid, or ignore, should the need arise, but when SL – as it is for so many – is far more than just a game, and is a place of friendship, adventure and self-discovery, the last thing we want to colour our inworld perception is uncertainty and discontent; and it can happen so easily, when we least expect it.

You don’t see it so often these days, but there was a time when almost every profile would urge the reader to remember that there’s a person behind the avatar, and – like it or not – people can be fragile and need stability and normality in their virtual lives, particularly if SL is itself a retreat from the instability and uncertainty of an unreliable real life. All of which brings me full circle, right back to my original point: Equilibrium is good – but nobody is saying that everything will balance out in any one particular life. So, how fortunate are we that we have a whole other life where the bad things of the real world can be neatly balanced out by the good things of the virtual world?

And, if that’s the case, then all the more reason to make the virtual world as fun and enjoyable an escape as we possibly can!

s. x

But this is my world today
My world you’re living in every day
And this is my world today
And I couldn’t have it any other way
In my world

Secret Affair – My World

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Life in low resolution

Despite our love affair with technology, it doesn’t matter how good, groundbreaking or high-quality it is, unless completely autonomous and self-programming, it will always suffer from one fatal flaw. Whether we’re talking cameras, phones, cars or virtual worlds, even the very best of them can deliver disappointly poor performance and results, and often produce outcomes that are completely botched, as soon as you introduce the human component.

We have smartphones now equipped with cameras that are on a par with a decent DSLR, and a whole suite of features and filters offering stiff competition with much of the basic photo editing software on the market, yet a quick trawl of any social media stream will reveal the stark truth: Thousands of poorly-composed, badly-lit, blurred, out-of-focus, rubbish photos. We’ve hardly progressed from the point-and-shoot classic cameras of the ’70s and ’80s that produced the sort of over-exposed, ‘oh dear, mum’s cut your head off again’ shots that fill my parents’ photo albums. The big difference is that hardly anyone sees those albums, whilst the whole world is able to view Jennie’s drunken night out duckface selfies, should they wish to do so, (but, why would you?).

Another pet peeve of mine is people listening to high-quality audio on tiny bluetooth speakers, paying no attention to placement, channel separation, environment or anything at all that is going to make music sound good. Better still, walking through the streets, blasting out distorted sounds from a phone, turne dup to full volume, clasped in a sweaty hand. They may as well be listening to music from a cheap cassette-tape played over a single mono PA speaker, for all the loss of quality they’re experiencing.

Then there are those – please tell me you’re not one of them – who insist on downloading movies in 1080p, or even 4K, and then watch them on a tiny laptop screen incapable of displaying HD. All that bandwidth, data and storage for absolutely no gain whatsoever!

What really galls me though is that it’s often the very same people who insist on having the latest tech, which they then misuse, who complain the most vociferously when things don’t turn out quite as expected. Like, for example, one of my more neanderthal relatives who thought they were the dog’s gonads for spending a fortune on a 60-inch, gesture-controlled 4K TV. They learned quickly that gesture-control doesn’t play nicely if you tend to ‘talk with your hands’ and that 4K programming is practically non-existent at the moment. So, a vast sum of money wasted on something that lets them watch Coronation Street at the same quality as everybody else, albeit on a massive screen that they have to sit too close to because the room was never designed for something that size. Oh, they also moan that movies look like daytime soap operas – a consequence of not reading the manual, and not adjusting the factory settings so that frame-interpolation wasn’t permanently switched on. I laughed at them, a lot!

Inevitably, the same issues occur in SL. The more features we get and the more capable the virtual environment becomes, the less that capability is understood and utilised, and the more people complain that it’s not working as they think it should – mainly as a result of their own ineptitude and unwillingness to set it up properly. I’ve even made the effort to prepare a proper scientific and exhaustively researched graph to illustrate the problem:

You may think I’ve been a little harsh in my estimation of SL user savvy, but trust me, I’m not. There are still masses of people out there happy to splash out on high-end gaming PCs and laptops, expensive graphics cards and super-fast internet who complain bitterly that they’re still only getting average performance from SL, because – no matter how many times you tell them that SL is incapable of capitalising on many of the features of modern technology because its architecture is so ancient – they still think throwing more money and tech at it from their end is going to improve their lot. That’s like giving a old, clapped-out car an expensive new coat of paint and alloy wheels, and expecting it to run smoother, faster and better than it did before!

It’s those same users who will jump on the latest inworld trendy bandwagon, without understanding how it will impact performance. The ‘must own the latest mesh body’ brigade, with all their accompanying HUDs and attachments – the ones who look glorious, but spend twenty minutes stood in one place complaining that nothing has rezzed yet. Heaven forbid that it might be something to do with that horribly un-optimised mesh body and head you’ve spent a fortune on, sweetheart.

And why, oh why, spend a month’s worth of poledancing tips on something that you then can’t be bothered to tweak to get the best from it? I still see mesh people walking round that have clearly had their head severed and sewn back on (or, in desperation, have resorted to the ‘unsuccessfully-hide-the-join-choker’), and I can’t help but stifle a laugh when I see people tottering around barefoot on tip-toe – I mean, it’s a couple of clicks at most to fix your feet; how hard can that be? Too hard, apparently, since some creators are catching on and now providing footwear not conventionally associated with standing on tip-toe, and no doubt, making a handsome profit from it. Easier to shell out on a new pair of shoes than fuss around making your feet look realistic.

Moving aside from those who want the newest and best inworld, then fail to understand or even try to make the most of it, we have the vast numbers of residents who are completely unaware of viewer functionality, any of the new and shiny features that the Lab has introduced over the last couple of years, or how to adjust their settings to optimise their inworld experience. I’m betting that ALM, EEP, animesh, pathfinding and so on, are barely on the radar for the vast majority of users, let alone understood, and they are hardly ever put to use – if at all – hence my graph above. The more features the Lab gives us, the less likely they are to see widespread use. Sometimes, it’s because of a lack of clear communication, often it’s because of poor design and complexity, but mostly it’s because of apathy from the user base.

Invariably, once again, those who do not want to try to improve their experience are the first to complain when things don’t work, lag and perform poorly. Now, I’m not saying that everybody needs to be an SL nerd, but if you’re not even prepared to read the friendly manual, take advice from those who do understand about how to improve your SLife, or make any effort to try to find out why things aren’t working for you, I don’t want to hear you whining on about how ‘broken’ SL is!

I’ll be brutal, I think that most SL residents fall into three categories:

  • Those who try and work the problems, or at least ask for help
  • Those who can’t be arsed, and whinge
  • Those who haven’t a clue, and whinge

The first group I respect and will happily associate with, the others are those who’ll be on the receiving end of much eye-rolling and sighing. No doubt, the whingeing groups will argue that they should be able to log in to SL and have everything work perfectly; and, in a perfect world, we’d be able to do just that, but – like real life – SL is not, by any measure, a perfect world and therefore to expect it to work perfectly is unreasonable. I’d argue, however, that to stick one’s virtual head in the sand and not at least try to improve one’s own experience, and then complain, is also pretty unreasonable.

SL is insanely complex, and whilst it may not exactly be cutting-edge technology, it’s still pretty clever by anyone’s reckoning. That, by definition, means instability, challenges and unexpected outcomes, it also means there will be something of a learning curve if you wish to attain a degree of mastery or get the best from it, and if you don’t want to learn, well that’s your decision, but you then have to put up and shut up when it comes to the consequences. I’m not being mean, that’s just the way it is.

So, if we’re stuck with unhappy users who don’t want the bother of having to mess with settings or try to help themselves, is there anything that could be done from a design perspective to assist? Well, yes – we could have a two-tier viewer with separate modes: Numpty/Expert. In fact, the Lab tried this back in 2011, albeit with modes not quite as cynically named as I would have done, instead we had Basic and Advanced modes, and it bombed. Nobody liked it, nobody wanted it. The problem is that if you’re asking those who want all the bells and whistles, but not the hassle, to log in to a ‘no hassle mode’ that limits functionality, lowers performance and sets the bar at a height lower than they’re already used to, they won’t be interested, and they’ll just go back to using the higher-performance, but glitchier version and continue moaning about it. And that’s exactly what happened – nobody, apart from the most noobish of users wanted a basic viewer and it quietly slipped away to the digital trash heap.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that people will always complain, no matter how good things are; they will always use smart technology in a dumb way; and they will never look to themselves when it comes to finding solutions.

So, if there’s anything flawed with SL, it’s primarily the people using it!

s. x

Change your heart
Look around you
Change your heart
It will astound you

Beck – Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL, Techietalk | 1 Comment

Boring!

Second Life has become boring!

Let me clarify that statement. I don’t mean that SL bores me, quite the contrary, in fact – even after over a decade inworld, I can still find plenty to keep me occupied, a wealth of places to explore and photograph, and a never-ending supply of activities to keep me busy. However, if I compare the SL I knew when I first signed up, with the SL I experience today, I have to conclude that much of what made virtual living exciting, edgy, weird, wonderful and wacky has either disappeared or been sidelined, to be replaced by a homogenised, bland and, yes – boring, environment.

If you hunt down an ‘old-timer’ in SL and ask them about the good old days, way back when SL was young and new, you’ll invariably see them become digitally misty-eyed, before rambling on for hours about the ‘Frontier Days’, when virtual life was more raw, wilder, wackier and smellier than anything else that had previously hit the internet, a bastion of political-incorrectness, opportunity and diversity.

Now, I’m not saying that it was all good, clean fun, and not without its downside: Whilst there was an element of excitement in never quite knowing what to expect around the next corner, you also had to grow a fairly thick skin and keep your wits about you if you wanted to survive unscathed – it was no place for millennial snowflakes, that’s for sure – and being acosted by vampires wishing to chow down on your neck, random naked people and griefers spewing flying penises around just for the hell of it, wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea.

SL wasn’t nearly so slick and reliable as we’re used to today, either. Yes, I know that most people will complain that SL is hardly cutting-edge in terms of performance, but back in the day, dealing with bugs, glitches and technical hassles was all part of the fun of virtual life. You haven’t experienced SL at its borky best until you’ve unexpectedly ended up with your head up your bum, been rubber-banded across a whole sim, or been forced to ‘Ruth’ yourself, clear cache, replace your eyeballs, scatter salt over your left shoulder and sacrifice your first-born just to become visible. All things that are pretty rare occurrences in today’s SL, but back then were likely to occur many times over the course of a session. Oh, and there were scheduled downtimes too… Just imagine not being able to log into SL on Thursday because the Grid was being updated?

Yet, despite all these obstacles, whimsies and tribulations – and, in many ways, because of them – SL managed to be a fun and engaging place to be. You never quite knew what to expect, and every day was surprising and ‘educational’!

So, what do I think has changed, and what has gone wrong along the way to prompt me to describe SL as boring? Surely I’m not saying that improved stability and performance, and the smoothing-out of some of the rougher edges of SLociety are bad things? No, of course not, but along with those visible changes, there are some cultural, aesthetic and policy changes that have diluted the vitality of SL and stripped it of some of the joy that the unexpected, the uninhibited and the unfettered can produce. What we have today is a more sanitised and standardised, McDonaldised version of SL, and as a consequence, it’s lost some of its va-va-voom!

Let’s consider each of those in turn, starting with sanitation…

Nobody can really argue that some sort of moderation in terms of acceptable behaviours is necessary in a virtual environment as open and inclusive as SL, and whilst everyone is free to pursue their latex reptilian biscuit stuffing fetish and enjoy themselves as they choose to inworld, it is equally important to recognise that others who don’t relish the thought of having biscuits stuffed into their underwear, shouldn’t be confronted by such behaviour if it can be reasonably avoided. Nobody should be concerned about accidentally stumbling across another avatar with their dangly bits hanging out if they’d prefer not to, and similarly, anyone who does enjoy wandering round in their birthday suit shouldn’t have to be concerned they might expose themselves (literally) to someone who is going to take offence and fire off a complaint ticket to the Lab. That’s a good thing, but it does mean that those on the fringes can become marginalised – those who perhaps like to dabble in a bit of naughtiness, from time to time, now find themselves in a position where they can’t just retire to somewhere discrete, but instead have to head out to the wholesale debauchery of Zindra; it’s either famine or feast, with no middle ground, and whilst it does mean that those of fragile sensibilities are insulated from any carnal contact, I think that everyday SL has become a good deal less interesting as a result.

Which brings us to standardisation…

Back in the Frontier Days, people took a very relaxed approach to their appearance and activities. Hanging out at a teleport hub, or an arrivals area, provided an often rude awakening to the wide variety of characters and types that inhabited the virtual world. Certainly, some were unsavory, but all were interesting, sometimes intriguing and often confusing. It was a lot of fun!

Somewhere along the line though, partly because of mesh clothing, and then mesh bodies, and partly because of the Lab focussing less on ‘Your world – Your imagination’ and more on ‘Let’s make everything glossy and cool’, we saw the evolution of the ‘standard’ avatar. We’ve gone from 90% weird, wacky and wonderful, to 90% humanoid, toned body, (made by one of maybe six creators), all displaying the same standard expressions, wearing the same standard clothing, as featured on the latest slew of fashion ‘blogs’, and spending an inordinate amount of time in the standard pursuits of shopping for, and trying-on said clothing, rather than travelling the Grid and marvelling at its wonders.

Once again, this ethos tends to marginalise those who don’t fit the standard model. There was a time you couldn’t go for a walk inworld without stepping in furry poop, being bitten by a vampire, or getting accosted by a noob in a badly-fitting body wanting to do teh sex. These days, you’d be lucky to find anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the norm, without actively seeking them out… Actually, in some locations, you’d be lucky to find anyone at all – they’re all out shopping, or furnishing their standardised Linden homes. So many of the various subcultures have been relegated to their own little corners of the Grid: Furries, littles, roleplayers, nekos, tinies, Goreans… All seeking the company of their own kind, because they just don’t fit into the standard cookie-cutter template that SL culture now deems to be ‘normal’. But, surely SL is nothing to do with being normal, and everything to do with being long-haired, freaky, cyber-monkeys?

Finally, we come to McDonaldisation – maybe not a term you’re familiar with, but basically, it’s the McDonalds’ effect: Fast, standardised pap that looks and tastes the same, is presented and executed in exactly the same way, no matter where you are, and is gradually taking over the world. It’s bland, it’s boring, it’s all-encompassing.

SL is fast becoming McDonaldised. People can log in, slot into their respective template for the day, and pretty much spend hours inworld without thinking, interacting or otherwise having to bother – essentially just plugging into the hive mind and becoming a drone. It’s becoming a lot like Facebook, where you see your ‘friends’ and spend the next few hours scrolling through your feed, barely noticing what’s going on around you, and absorbing next to nothing of what you’re looking at. You move from club to club, knowing exactly what to expect, doing the same dance as everyone else, go shopping to the same stores, buy the same clothes, then log out and wonder what on earth you’ve been doing for the last three hours.

So much inworld now looks and feels like everywhere else, and once again, I believe it’s down to that loss of vision. It’s no longer ‘Your world – Your imagination’, it’s more a case of the imagination of a corporate, privileged few who control the land, the fashion, the trends and the parties, with everybody else tagging-along, caught up in the net and the misguided belief that they’re doing something unique, when actually they’re doing exactly the same as everybody else is doing.

And that’s boring!

Thankfully, not everybody toes the corporate line, myself included – I guess it makes us misfits to some extent, but personally, I always side with the misfits and the underdogs, and give me character, charisma and creativity over bland and boring any day!

s. x

This one’s for the freaks
For you’re so beautiful
For all the devotion
Written in your soul

Manic Street Preachers – Underdogs

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, SL, SLarcheology | 5 Comments

WB!

It was only just in my last post that I refused to try and predict what might happen for SL in 2022, but if I had attempted to do so, I would never in a million years have predicted yesterday’s news that Philip Rosedale would be returning to Linden Lab as both an investor and strategic adviser. Additionally, along with his cash injection, Philip will be bringing with him team members from his own company, High Fidelity, and a bunch of proprietry software and solutions that High Fidelity has developed.

This is big news. Here’s a quick potted history for those unfamiliar with Rosedale, or as he was better known, back in the day – Philip Linden. Some time in the early 1990s, Rosedale – already an experienced entrepeneur in the IT industry, had a vision whilst taking a shower – if the legends are to be believed – of limitless rolling green digital countryside, an endless vista for expression, and decided to build it. In a 2002 Wall Street Journal interview, he stated “I dream about this place I’m trying to build, I can see it.” He formed Linden Lab to realise that vision and, in 1999, Second Life was born. The rest, as they say, is history.

In 2008, Rosedale stepped down as the Lab’s CEO, to assume the role of Chairman of the Board, and then, in early 2013, he left Linden Lab to set up a new business – High Fidelity – which many thought, incorrectly, would be something akin to SL Mk2. Instead, Philip’s aim with High Fidelity has been to develop immersive virtual environments built around real-time spatial audio: Think, multiple avatars experiencing Dolby 7.1 sound, from their own individual perspective, and with imperceptible latency.

And now, he’s back, bringing all sorts of goodies with him!

Now, I’ll admit to being a fan of Philip, but not everybody is. Some would say he’s all mouth and no trousers, whilst others might criticise him for being a dreamer, rather than a realist. Personally, I think the facts speak for themselves: He’s built more than one successful company over the years in an intensely competitive and cutthroat industry, and developed new technology that has gone on to stand the test of time. His vision for Second Life is still going strong, and the platform has weathered a huge amount of change since it first burst into life, yet still it persists and grows. I’ve personally been writing about it since 2010, and logging-in almost daily for longer than that, and I’m still finding new things to do and write about. And, of course, Linden Lab’s new owners obviously think he’s an asset that they need to develop an even stronger presence in the future. The guy must have something going for him!

The big question is what does this mean for SL? And, in many ways, that’s a tricky one.

When Philip left the Lab, it felt as if things had lost their sense of direction, we were on a rudderless ship, with no real idea of where we were heading, (some would say, up the proverbial creek, without a paddle). Slowly, things seemed to get back on track under the leadership of Rod Humble and, later Ebbe Altberg, but I think that many feel that Linden Lab is now following a completely different pathway to that original vision. The – now deprecated – slogan, ‘Your world, your imagination’, doesn’t seem to quite ring as true as it once did, and I know from talking to others inworld, that there’s a real feeling that SL has lost it’s ‘frontier town’ feel: It’s no longer edgy, exciting or as creative as it once was. SL today feels a little too safe, too polished, homogenised and – at times – bland and corporate.

Certainly, the Lab has made some sound decisions that have probably secured its foundations for the foreseable future, and to that end, Tilia definitely has the potential to be a game-changer, but the emphasis has subtly shifted away from SL, and that to me is where a timely restorative injection of strategic advice from the guy who dreamed it all up in the first place is sorely needed.

Where it gets complicated lies with what else Philip brings to the SL table. On the face of it, having a slew of High Fidelity developers join the Lab, bringing with them a host of new-fangled techy stuff sounds like a good thing, but you have to appreciate that SL infrastructure and the cutting-edge High Fidelity tech are – quite literally – worlds apart, and there is a vast gulf between which means it is going to be both difficult and painful to bring the two together.The technology that SL is built on was top notch back in the 90s; now it’s practically geriatric. SL, in its current form, is incapable of making the most of modern CPUs and graphics cards, relies on architecture that is paleolithic in terms of performance, and then there’s the content. Let’s not forget that almost all SL content is user-created, by geniuses like myself who make it up as they go along, and a bunch of content creators who are only in it for the money, and who wouldn’t bother to optimise a mesh if their lives depended on it. In effect, incorporating High Fidelity architecture into SL will be a bit like mashing together the latest iPhone motherboard and a Nokia 3310 you found knocking about in the back of your knicker drawer, and expecting it all to work seamlessly.

At best, I think there will be some things that can be bolted on to SL that will be of benefit: For a start, High Fidelity being what it is, it would be daft not to incorporate all-singing, all-dancing audio bells and whistles into SL, particularly since this will also do away with the Lab’s reliance on Vivox for voice services, but beyond that, unless we are to face wholesale and savage breaking of content, and a move to entirely new physics and graphics engines – something the Lab has always avoided for all the obvious reasons – any benefits are going to be fairly limited; tweaking and tuning is probably the best we can hope for. Unless, of course, the Holy Grail of SL2.0 eventually appears… Along with all the massively complex questions about porting existing content, cash, scripts, and everything else we hold dear inworld to a new environment, or possibly, starting all over again from scratch!

Those are not simple issues to resolve, just look at all the angst and soul-searching that went on when people realised that they wouldn’t be able to take their virtual worldly goods with them into Sansar, which – among a whole load of other issues – was no doubt what stopped the anticipated, but never realised, wholesale abandonment of SL for the Lab’s brave new virtual world… And a good thing too, if you ask me!

Then there are thorny questions around the use and licencing of High Fidelity tech that’s already been developed and has a wide range of commercial applications: Are the Lab, Rosedale, High Fidelity and all its stakeholders willing to farm all that cash-generating, proprietry code out to third party developers? If they won’t, then are we going to see the demise of our favourite alternatives to the official viewer… Is this the beginning of the end for the likes of Firestorm, Black Dragon and Alchemy, and – horror of horrors – RLV?

Second best thing to having Philip in the driving seat – me in the driving seat, of his car!

Who knows?

We’ll find out, eventually.

Don’t worry, the sky isn’t about to fall just yet, or maybe it never will, but Rosedale’s return may be a double-edged sword, and we can only hope it’s wielded with caution. One thing’s for sure, Philip is going to need more than his famed magical underpants in order to make it all happen… But, you never know!

Welcome home, Philip!

s. x

Back in black
I hit the sack
I’ve been too long,

I’m glad to be back
Yes, I’m let loose
From the noose
That’s kept me hanging about

AC/DC – Back In Black

Posted in 2.0, HiFi, Linden Love, RL, SL, SLarcheology, Techietalk | 2 Comments