Saturday, January 30, 2010

I know it's time to be strong, now when all hope is gone

Sometimes the train wreck is not mine.

I spent several hours in limbo today, dealing with needed provisioning and support of RL. When I came back, I fully intended on making a brief but amusing fluff post, detailing my (VERY) recent success making sculpts. Sort of the standard, Huzzah, I can haz better sculptz nao! missive.

This was not to be. Within moments of going active on Gmail, I got the briefest of tips on a major occurrence on the grid. I went to investigate, and on Dame Ordinal Malaprop's Twitter feed, saw this:

I've just killed at least three years of myself, and I can't talk about it with any of you.

This was the first I'd heard of it. I set to researching. There seem to be two major fracture points leading to that line--and the commensurate actions, of Dame Ordinal abandoning her land, her business, her Twitter feed, and her blog on SL and related matters--along with, of course, her avatar.

The first line leads to JIRA issue 4107, which was resolved and completely fixed--by telling everyone to stop changing object permissions in inventory. Some fix.

So that's annoying, sure, but what really made her snap, I believe, is the second line. The one that leads to Avatars United. This, from their "tour" of the site's features:

What is Avatars United?

Avatars United is a social network for avatars from all MMO's/virtual worlds, or as Massively puts it: "It's like Facebook for your virtual personas". Anyone can set up a profile for each of his/hers virtual world personas for free, in less than 2 minutes.

M Linden thought this was a marvelous idea, and the Labs bought the company that makes Avatars United. This was the chief problem Dame Ordinal noticed when she investigated the service: there were no verification procedures, anywhere, on the site.

From the Avatars United FAQ:

Q: I have several avatars on several games. Can I register them all?
A: Yes. Currently Avatars United has no limit on avatars to any given account.

So register once; then register any number of names tied to one account.

Q: Can I register avatars from games I am not currently playing?
A: Yes, as a matter of fact we hope you will. Do register avatars from games you previously have played and you will allow old friends you previously played with to find you.

So register once; claim any number of avatars from any game you can think of that you've played; plus register any number of avatars from other games--or, one now assumes, entirely fictional avatars. Or avatars that are not yours...which brings us to the third question posted in the FAQ:

Q: Are you verifying that all the posted avatar information is accurate?
A: No. Avatars United is mainly a community for existing groups of friends and as such we believe fake identities will isolate themselves.

No verification. I could walk in and register as myself, or anyone else, with zero attempt at verification. What was the point of this again? Oh, right, Facebook for avatars--like Wallace and M Linden seem to want to turn Second Life into, in a year or so.

She said (in an entry which has now been deleted, along with everything else connected to Dame Ordinal):

The fact that one might apparently register not only a name that has nothing to do with one's actual name, but in fact, a name that has already been registered, I'm sure is just a feature.

As of now, Dame Ordinal is gone. Her blog is gone. And she has destroyed all that held her in Second Life, as of now. Her scripting forum is gone (though I am still only a struggling baby scripter, I did learn from that), and many will really notice that one. Plus, being the person she is, I cannot imagine this is an idle threat, nor is she in the habit of flashy dramatics so people will sing sweetly in her ears.

This was an action meant to cauterize, not dramatize.

She said in the ending to that post (which, I stress again, is gone with everything else relating to her virtual persona):

Is the concept of "identity" even thought about, let alone appreciated? Signs point to no.

Indeed, they very well might. The ArsGeek blog interviewed the creator of AU, and said "If persistent virtual worlds are going to stick around, a service like Avatars United could come in awfully handy." Maybe, but on the same site was an article called How Social Networking Will Kill You. Think that says it all, really.

She's gone; unless a miracle happens, she's not coming back, and even then, that avatar and that name are dead. Another bright and precious thing gone, from a world already impoverished.

Meanwhile, over at Rag Dollz, Miss Morgenstern has developed "steampunk" eyeglasses:

shopping,steampunk,Second Life

These things aren't connected, but finding out about them within a day of each other was disheartening, at the least.

Do I think discovering that Avatars United has a huge blind spot where people are concerned is what really drove Dame Ordinal over the edge? No. Honestly, having talked with a few folks over the last few hours who knew her, this sudden--and shocking to some--move was just the latest in a long string of setbacks and heartbreaks she, and other makers of content, have been dealing with on the grid.

As I've been saying, ad nauseum...Second Life is changing. And it seems it's changing into something we won't want to support or encourage. My only hope, my single hope at this point, is that someone at the Labs wakes up and sees that all these recent "innovations" are innovating good people who want to support the Labs...right off the grid.


Peter Stindberg said...

Linden Lab seems to be obsessed by Facebook. They want the viral success and the growth rates for SL as well (funny, viral is a disease and strong growth can be caused by cancer). I think the ethnic cleansing Facebook does for the second time regarding digital personas finally got the Lab thinking. And the conclusion was that if they can't get loved by Facebook, then they get themselves a Facebook.

Avatars United has been around for a while. It is full of good ideas, and full of shockingly half baked execution. It would have been probably better to silently buy them, and then silently work on improving the platform, and THEN (re-)launch it. But the Lab was almost drunk with excitement for this aquisition, that these "minor issues" were overseen.

Edward Pearse, Duke of Argylle said...

So what software are you using for the sculpts?

Emilly Orr said...


I'm still trying to figure out why. Maybe it's just me, but Facebook is AOL 2.0. It's boring, it's packed with spam and stalkers, and the one and ONLY time I established an account I felt as if I was the rabbit who'd just landed in a circle of wolves--and the wolves were closing in.

Second Life becomes that rapacious and attention-seeking--and, for all of me, that's where it looks like they're going--I can't stay.


ZBrush 3.0, because SculptyPaint remains baffling, Tokoroten and Rokuro are very simplistic, one-note programs (they're good at what they do but they don't do ANYTHING else), and I can't figure out Blender to save myself.

Even with ZBrush I'm still struggling with the tool set, but, for what it is, it works remarkably well for what I need. Give me a shape I can mold and smooth and carve, and I'm really good.

My big problem is remembering all the steps, one, and two, getting the output sculpt to look like the in-program sculpt. We'll see how that goes.