Sunday, January 31, 2010

tell me how's the way to be, to evoke some empathy

A brief bit of RL in your SL coverage, but I guarantee you, if you like chocolate, you will love LuLu's.

They are boutique chocolate, they are decision chocolate--for their prices, you can buy a new book, or get a bar of their batch-crafted chocolate. You can go see a movie, or get a jar of chocolate. You can get a sample vial, plus shipping, of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab's Candy Butcher (if they ever decide to make another batch), or get a vial of LuLu's Pure Cacao Essence (to use as a perfume, or to flavor food--how cool is that?).

But. Consider: for what they charge, you get:

* organic chocolate bought only from fair trade farms
* wrapped in origami paper, can be used for art projects or wrapping other gifts
* wrapped then in paper made in ecologically sustainable ways, infused with wildflower seeds--to encourage people to plant the wrapper, over simply tossing it away in the trash.

A lot of thought went into this, and most of the chocolate bars hearken back to the original flavor of dark, hand-harvested, hand-crushed xocolātl, with a little added low-glycemic coconut sugar.

(In case that doesn't set your brain on fire? Coconut sugar--in moderation--can be consumed by diabetics because it won't spike their sugar levels. Yes, that means what you think it does.)

They are dedicated to being rarities, even in an industry surfeit with the rare and distinctive, using flavors as distant from each other as holy basil, waterlily and red cedar. They are, so far, only on the West Coast, but more than worth ordering to see if you'll become a fan.

MMORPG ponders virtual goods in the UK and the US. Interesting comparison.

A few days back, Miss Muse Carmona tipped me to what was put as an ongoing court case involving BMEzine.com and Greg Ricks, who apparently has a history of doing this kind of thing.

Now, at this date, they've finally gotten BME.com as a domain under their control, pursuant to this legal decision with the specifics of the case. And while this case proves out good uses of IP rights to guarantee consistency, I'm wondering why it's coming up now.

Something else that started out in Twitter, ended up on the blog: Data vs. Every Other Android. Fun article, and I'm amused by Data's sole loss--to Gort, because Gort could "destroy everything on a whim" and Data can't. Hee!

The Information Age blog covers Life 2.0, with a special emphasis on why Second Life is ideal for thinking outside the box. And I believe that; at the end of the day, that's my sole singular truth about SL.

Pity M Linden doesn't see it that way.

(If you haven't heard of the film, try their website--you can see teasers of the film's content, learn more about the production behind it, and read reviews. It is not, at least yet, available on DVD.)

There's an SL Register of Historic Places? Not officially; but this is a pretty comprehensive list of all major RL-themed historical builds, with emphasis on accuracy and history. Well worth the wandering time it will take to explore them all.

It's now February. Gear down and brace yourselves--SLRFL is coming. The trick to surviving RFL is remembering it could be worse. (Seriously: your dance had low attendance? The Regatta across the Kingdom of Sand fizzled? Your event didn't go quite as planned? Keep in mind we could always be at war again.) Things go live on the grid closer to March, but start saving your ha'pennies now, and decide what you want to support. (And yes, yes, rah rah rah to Caledonians, but it all goes to a good cause, and there's nothing wrong with supporting more international causes. Fighting any disease that takes so many lives is worth your time. Just don't go overboard and do everything.)

Sort of in the same vein--only not--are you tiring of your local Mad Scientist in Babbage, Caledon or Steelhead? It could be worse. To date I don't think anyone on the grid has experimented with sewing two avatars together, but I do note there has been a groundswell of studies all over on the causes of genetic mutation, as well as using avatars for live test fires of weapons.

I suppose it's a good thing that, by and large, avatars don't die, unless their guiding spirit does.

Focusing (no pun intended) again on RL manifestations, I present an unordered list of wild contact lenses. I remain amused that two of the creepiest contacts on that list feature Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty. (Though, can I track down where to buy either set of contacts? No, I could tell you where to buy a Hello Kitty vibrator faster. It's annoying.)

I will say that if bling eyes catch on in SL? I'm figuring out how to mute bling once and for all.

I ran across a mention of Dina Goldstein's Fallen Princesses series again, and I have to admit, the original criticism of the series still applies. Some of the photos--Jasmine and Ariel are the two that come to mind immediately--are startlingly relevant, now as they were when they were initially exhibited. But some of them just tragically fail. Why is Cinderella in a bar? Why is Belle under the knife? Snow White only makes sense if you take into account that she was a young girl living with seven dwarven men, but even so....It remains a compelling, but flawed photographic effort.

Finally, someone else addresses M Linden's social issue, regarding the acquisition of Avatars United, and Second Life in general. This is a point that cannot be emphasized enough, and it should penetrate with startling clarity: if SL is to make money--serious money--then SL needs to concentrate on things that people want to do.

And in Second Life? That is, in large part, look at cool things, listen to good music. Live music is a godsend that M Linden should celebrate, and I'm not the first, I'm not even the thousand and first, to say that. And digital art is so relevant, year after year--Second Life should be showcasing art, music, educational efforts, and why aren't they doing this?

What will save SL is not big corporate contracts, unless they're endorsing sims that people will like. What will save SL is not sequestering all the "naughty" people--who spent an amazing amount of money on naughty things--to a big empty wasteland separate from the rest of the grid. What will save SL, in the end, is art. Is music. Is making wonderful, beautiful spaces for people to gather--to listen, to learn, to appreciate all the creative potential that we have as avatars, as individuals.

Anything less will sink the company. Anything less is a goddamned waste of effort. Anything less is "Oh, yeah, whatever happened to Second Life, anyway?"

And no one wants that.

could we fix you if you broke?

[14:40] Taymi shivers and whimpers, as its clit is nibbled softly...

For a moment, even being a sex-positive sort, I was extremely irked at seeing this message in open chat. My sim had apparently glitched, or the server halted, and I'd been shunted off to a welcome hub, which is always disorienting and guaranteed to make me more than wee bit cranky in the process.

[14:40] Taymi writhes, its belly muscles clenching, as its clit is suckled rhythmically

Then I looked up. The region I was in said Araipaima - Safe Hub (Adult). Ah, the natural default "safe zone" hub whenever Caledonian sims are having trouble on the grid.

[14:40] Taymi gasps as loving fingers slide smoothly into its pussy
[14:41] Emilly Orr sighs. Wonderful. So the grid's having problems again?
[14:41] Taymi shudders with desire as its clit is captured between teeth and tongue...


I ported off as soon as possible, and logged out and back in for a system refresh before getting to work. But seriously, now, in all the months this has been happening, I still have two major questions:

1. When, in any rating of sim, is this ever considered not deeply tacky, at the least, if not offensive? And--

2. Who was the idiot who decided an Adult rated sim was the perfect place to shift the neo-Victorians?!?

Because that? That right there is a design flaw, people, and it's been a design flaw since Zindra went up. And believe me, I would adore knowing who the bonehead in question was, because that should be going on his or her permanent file at the company.

I can't conceive of the thinking that even goes into that process. Is the Adult continent simply that near Caledon? Not that I can tell. Did someone think it would just be funny, to send the bustles-and-boots set to anything-goes Zindra? No real clue.

Really, the only thing I do know is that the Arapaima hub seems even more afflicted with stupid than every other hub on the grid. The welcome hub system needs to be seriously revised, damn it, and long before now.

Miss Taymi Criadic is a Brazilian lass, by the way. I hate to sound biased, though I very clearly am, but really, does that surprise anyone? She was also born January 10th.

Of this year, yes.

In idle perusing to see if anything had hit the blogs yet on Dame Ordinal, I came across Architect of the Diamond Age; I highly recommend the interview to all and sundry.

Her blog, by the way, is back. The outpouring of contact, or her own desires, brought the final decision to leave back into the realm of maybe; she is keeping her land (though nothing will be there), and she is staying on the grid (though likely seen on a terrifyingly rare basis). It doesn't make the base issues which drove her away any easier to apprehend, however.

This world is not for me, she says on her latest entry, and increasingly, I think that's how many of us feel. But for us, it's also paired with there's nowhere else to go, which keeps many of us here, as well as it USED to be for me, and that is the one that burns, children. The world we embraced, flaws and virtues alike, and eagerly told our friends and families about; the world we happily walked in, learned in, embraced, danced in, loved in, built in...increasingly, and, it seems, in large part by design, is pulling away from us.

We are still here. We still want to walk the world. The world is trying to put away.

And it's not just one thing that we can point to, it's everything, really. Dame Ordinal says she doesn't blame the Lindens; I cannot be that fair. If the world they've built has soured, since the new management took over, I must level the finger of blame at the new management. It may not be that they, directly, are trying to drive away all their residents by deliberate intent; but something is going on, and it's going on in deep enough, permanent enough ways to drive long-term and short-term residents alike far, far from the grid.

When do the Lindens wake up and see this? They haven't for all of last year; I've lost all hope they ever will, frankly.

In the meantime, [42] is closing. Miss Imandra Wycliffe may or may not be starting another business; I truly have no idea. What I do know is that, until the store closes, all of her skins--which are yes, all female, but which also yes, come in shades of flesh far from the norm (and by that, I mean all skin tones, but also green, purple, blue, yellow, and a host of other interesting shades) are going for L$42 each. (In some cases, you can buy fatpacks of skins or clothing for L$42 for the job lot.)

She also has a line of Replicant skins. Which are also L$42 each during the closing sale. This amuses me greatly.

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.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

everything else is a waste of breath

If you like Deviant Kitties hair, keep in mind this week, maybe next, the lag will be HIGH. Miss Vindaloo is having a hair sale on her older styles. Traipse off to Deviant Isle, let things load, and then walk forward to where the sale hairs are.

L$20 per shade pack, L$200 for all colors in that style; that's not bad. As I said, if you like her hair, this is the time to come down!

A little bit about Matthew Albanese, pun fully intended. He makes photorealistic miniatures that frequently can be mistaken for actual photographs of our world. Bottle brushes for pine trees, powdered stained tile grout for mountains, rippled glass for wind blowing over the surface of lake water.

Brilliant concept.

I want to point some eyes to another MMORPG article (what can I say, they've got some good minds over there, thinking things out) on the different payment models used for MMOs over the years. This passage in particular caught my attention, from the Box Price Only section:

This particular revenue model never really caught on for one of two reasons: either it may not have been as financially successful as it could have been using this model and so wasn't repeated or other developers realized that adding an item shop to the free to play model would garner higher profits.

Now, I do grant that Second Life is not, strictly speaking, an MMO. It is multiplayer (perhaps not quite as massively), and there are things to do and things to buy, but no "quests", no "NPCs", in the same sense of EverQuest, World of WarCraft, Runes of Magic, and certainly no baseline level advancement.

But it occurred to me--where's the "item mall" for SL, if we take the model of SL equalling (at least some features of) an MMO?

There are multiple "item mall" concepts in play right now, few of them very successful--but just looking at the past initially, the first two were SLBoutique (later ShopOnRez before being bought wholesale, then phased out entirely) and SLX (later XStreetSL after being purchased by Linden Labs). And the really startling thing, that is different from other more game-designed MMOs, is that for Second Life, the item mall is pretty much funded and stocked by the players, not the company who owns the game. I'd have to ask around for folks who play WoW, to confirm or deny this, but in most other MMOs, there's a tendency towards selling very rare items, or enhanced game-generated items; there's no strict player-made objects for sale.

For example, in Runes of Magic, the Auction House stocks Green Leaf Coats because they're a common item--but due to the proliferation of items that create new rune slots, and variations on upgrade kits, some of those are basic and some have very fun enhancements that are completely individual. One person makes a coat that enhances best Scouts, for instance, with runes that amp up speed and agility; another person will use runes that enhance mana (magic) points available, and up wisdom and intelligence; a third will raise the total value of the Green Leaf Coat until it adds comprehensive stat bonuses and a +3 to armor rating.

Second Life, as far as I know, is unique in that players can freely create (at least until recently) whatever they most desired in world, then sell that object for whatever they thought other residents would pay for it, in world, and online through the online listing services.

So. What do you have when you supply people with almost unlimited creation tools, and take a commission off the top of every listing? A constant steam of micro-payments supporting your company.

Which is fair--as Jon Wood points out in the article, companies make games to make money: it is not unfair or price-gouging for them to want to make money. In point of fact, Second Life also functions in large part on the subscription model, whose biggest benefit to the player is granting the ability to own virtual land; and whose biggest benefit for the company is to guarantee a (mostly) steady revenue stream, of monthly subscription fees and land tier support costs.

Which is all okay as far as it goes, and gives us a mixed revenue stream from which Linden Labs derives support costs: namely, they hope it will be enough to support upgrades to software, hardware, and the costs of paying employees and rent on their own non-virtual office buildings. But there is a catch, here, and it's a big one.

What happens when the company that owns the shopping services out of world, destroys one (and, by everyone I've spoken with, destroys the far easier to use, friendlier to access, and simplistic-search-enabled service), then revamps the other so that everyone who uses the service pays a fee per item listed, then also takes a cut off the top, in addition to charging weekly fees for listing the items at all?

I won't lie to you, most MMOs, in their item malls, get players coming and going--and that's ordinarily fine with most players. To use the example of Runes of Magic again: I have a long, magically-enhanced robe to sell. To list it for other players to see, I:

* open the Auction House in game;
* go to the section for my auctions;
* Drag the item from my inventory into the listing box for the new item;
* Click the History button to get an average of what similar items sold for;
* Adjust the bid and buy prices for the item;
* get presented a cost for listing this item;
* confirm listing of the item.

That may seem like a lot of steps, but really--on virtually any online service, no matter how diverse, that has anything like an item mall, this is mostly how it works. There are more steps, less steps, but that's basically it. From Gaia to Etsy to SL to WoW to eBay to Runes; that's basically the process, anywhere items are listed, somewhere, for sale.

But several months back, SL revised how it was selling items on XStreet. Now it's more like:

* go to XStreet;
* hit "Add New Item" once the proper section of the screen is tracked down;
* Click off the boxes, half with information missing or misremembered;
* add in the name of the item; describe it; price it; add in the prim count if known;
* make sure the picture given is for the right item;
* choose between listing options for that item (starting at L$99 for monthly bold listing of that item, all the way to L$2899 to list it for thirty days on the extra-special homepage rotation);
* hit Update Item;
* THEN realize that after all that work, whether or NOT that item sells, it's going to sell with a 5 to 10% commission, PLUS any listing fee to encourage people to see it, PLUS at least L$10 per month flat fee (for non-freebies) up to L$99 per month flat fee (for freebies alone), regardless of anything else.

People are leaving XStreet in droves, because it's akin to the merchant prince at the bazaar taking you aside and saying, for only three drachmas now, and seven drachmas later, plus of course thirty drachmas per month and my cut of the profits, I'll sell your item for you. It will be easy, you'll love it. You'll make millions of drachmas.

We don't love it. We wonder why we're being charged list fees, commission fees, and surcharge taxes just to list an item that, even if it sells wildly, will generally be priced at L$300 or below (on average, and closer to the freebies/cheapies market, that price drops to L$10 or below).

It's the worst of all possible solutions to the perceived problem.

In other news, the fallout continues over Wallace Linden's post on how we'll manage identity and self in the future--I actually had to read this article twice, then go back and read the original Linden blog post again, to really understand the point.
,
So--even though I and everyone read the post and reacted as if he did--Wallace wasn't actually saying These are the new rules, you keyboard monkeys. Instead, he was making a convoluted post on the philosophy and potential issues behind separation and maintenance of complex and possibly overlapping net personas?

Yeah. I'd agree, he did a lousy job of conveying that. Wonderful. Will the next incompetent Linden step up? Because man, after Kate, M, Pink and Wallace, how can it get worse?

(Gods, don't answer that. Please don't answer that.)

Speaking of communication on the blogs, in this post the resident in question gave out the entirely wrong information in the first few paragraphs. It turns out later that she was not speaking of system-layer clothing, but of the prim parts she was wearing--in other words, she was still wearing clothing, just not the prim parts that go along with it.

Which is odd, but whatever--until we get to the comments.

The comments list many cases of the exact thing I face off and on, between Emerald (I refuse to use Emerald until it fixes its inventory bug for me and have in fact uninstalled the viewer), Snowglobe and Imprudence--namely, changing any system layer of clothing removes all clothing, requiring either a logout and relog with different viewer, or a total change of all items--eyes, hair, bald cap, shape, skin, putting all all layers of system layer clothing, taking them all off again, and THEN--assuming I'm not in Emerald where I can't see anything that's stored inside a non-system level folder--being able to change into the outfit I want.

This takes time I don't want to lose and patience I don't have. But weirdly, I never thought to bug-report it. I really need to bug-report things more often.

try to leave out the love that goes against the grain, but I can rationalize it if I have to

Steampunk Wallpapers? Why, yes. To that end, all hail the Propnomicon! I'm fairly sure that's going on my o'ercluttered equivalent of the blogroll. He's a lot of fun.

Working a bit currently (aka, cursing the Zbrush designers hourly) with actual sculpting programs, and baking textures designed for sculpts. As Zbrush is about as intuitive as an obsidian scalpel--in a locked box--in a small ornamented chest--covered with hieroglyphs--in the lobby of the hospital next to the operating room--well, things could be going better.

In the meantime, dropping a link here I found in searching somewhere: a fairly general list of 2D and 3D design resources, most of them royalty- and copyright-free.

Michael Wilson of Makena Technologies just might be responsible for Wallace Linden's pigheaded optimism about aligning RL info with SL avatars: according to this article, he's quoted as saying "The problem with most virtual worlds is that they are islands. So we're currently working on a very deep integration with the major social media companies."

Ah. So, therefore, extrapolating: all virtual worlds should seek this "deep integration" with major social media companies, because otherwise, they are severed from the fluid cross-communication that all social media companies share? How does that work?

Okay, I've joked about the WoW gateway in Second Life, but really, by and large--people play WoW; they may also play in SL; they may also play in other games, on or offline. This is not the problem. The problem is what the CEOs and mid-management officers (see, Mark Kingdon/M Linden and Walker Spaight/Wallace Linden for this) seem to be taking from this: namely, that more is better, that integration with everything one might be potentially interested in (like those icon scrolls below viral links, that invite the viewer to link to Digg/Twitter/Facebook/MySpace/Buzz/Discus/and whatever else is out there at present) is what keeps people awake and alert and, somehow, paying money to the things that make them happy. (Which is the part where I lose understanding--the LOLcat folks, to take the obvious example, got big enough to sell site advertising and get the book deal; the lady behind Cake Wrecks signed on a coffeetable volume. But the sites, in and of themselves? WERE AND ARE FREE.)

MMORPG strikes again with a very thought-provoking What were they thinking?!? article (for once, do follow all the links; they're amazingly worthwhile. Plus, Jennings (apart from the ubiquitous its/it's errors that plague so many online writers today) is really, really funny.

Normally, I don't bother linking slash stories--good or bad--on this blog, because first, there's an annoying plethora of them in virtually every fandom you've ever heard of, and second, there's not much of interest to the readers of this blog.

Today only, I'm changing this, but only because of the staggering piece of vile dreck that is My Immortal. It is stunning to the forebrain, inconceivable on nearly every level, will make any teacher who spends their days imparting knowledge to students curl up in a fetal ball by their laptop, and even worse, it's spawned a comic.

Dear gods, the pain.

Speaking of insanity, though...I do wish to state hereforth that I am not responsible for the next bit of lunacy:

Hello Kitty,Steampunk,vintage

Sir Edward Pearse came up with the original concept, and Lord Bardhaven provided me with the appropriate "steampunk" name for her. NOT my fault. Blame THEIR brains.

With help from Icons My Way, and of course, all rights reserved to Sanrio, because Hello Kitty is their baby. (Thisissatiredon'tkillmeSanrio.) It's not perfect--I may go back and tweak the concept further--but it is sized for wallpaper (the large version, I mean.)

*coughs*

*slinks off, pointing at the MEN who deserve blame for this, with the small feeble cry of "Not me! Not me!" as she goes*

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

on the steps of decision, it's revenge or forgiveness

The object 'Rent-O-Matic 2.02 Des Mod' has sent you a message from Second Life:
Caledon Penzance (169,179,23) Your rent spot will expire in 7 days. Visit me and pay me L$ 475 per week to renew. Renewals will be added to time left, no reason to wait. You can also IM Desmond Shang to pay directly and save the trip


But...I sold Penzance...

Oh, DEEEEeeees....

Justin Webb from MMORPG takes on the new user experience for MMOs. Yet again, I think this is an important article in terms of all MMOs and online games, not just World of Warcraft.

I can't recall how many times the Labs have redesigned Orientation Island, I only know that five minutes in, we're still losing sixty to seventy percent of people. And eliminating the new resident experience altogether? Has only resulted in more trauma, more newcomer drama, than SL had before 2006.

This still kills me:

Second Life,cougar,shopping,Lakota

This is Lakhota Craft's cougar avatar. It is just out of range for comfortable purchase. But it has the best facework for a big cat I have ever seen that doesn't involve muzzle prims:

Second Life,cougar,shopping,Lakota

Even in my base shape, with no saved changes to accommodate the muzzle work, it still looks amazing. And don't take my word for it--the somewhat-lamented Katt Krap establishment (because really: lousy name, okay clothes, but for the time great catface skins) provided me with my first cougar:

Second Life,cougar,shopping,Lakota

See the difference?

But alas, Wanagi Itmutanka, lovely as she is, is L$2000. And honestly, on my best days, I get L$2000? It goes to rent. Tch.

Still, after everything, it's a very good skin. Least I can do is encourage anyone interested, since I went out and found them again and everything.

It's a good point--and a funny video--that there is a gender gap in gaming, between men and women. But I'm more with the author of the article in which that video is embedded--it's not about hiring more women, it's about understanding the games women want to play. Hiring women who already play the games that are out there, won't help in the long run.

Though me? Yeah, the breast physics get kinda old, and sometimes, running around Runes of Magic, all I want in the whole world is one single pair of pants...I still like the eye candy. And a lot of other women do, too.

I mentioned Dusan Writer's blog entry on linking SL to Facebook (and other social media conventions) yesterday; now Miss Dio gets involved. She links the original thread that gives me this PERFECT image comic to describe M and Wallace Linden. Digging through Mal Burns' Twitter posts on the topic also brought me Snicker Snook's take on things, wherein we find out where Wallace Linden, aka Walker Spaight, comes from.

So the Labs are hiring muckrakers and tabloid journalists to...what, stir up things on the forums? Maybe I should look into that Linden liaison position again...I have the feeling if they'll hire Spaight, they'll hire anyone...

Finally, some things you cannot unsee.

MST3K,media,movie

Just sayin'.

No, no explanation. It stands better without one.

Monday, January 25, 2010

oh, I'm scared of the middle place, between light and nowhere

Want to join in on the fun of Kung Foo (the MMO game)? It's in closed beta; see if there are keys left by registering!

Reasons why Dusan Writer occasionally rocks and rocks hard, #39: sarcastic excellence.

On identity directly:

So – first, this idea of linking to identity is to facilitate tapping into the viral power of social networks, and it's meant to make people feel somehow 'better' about coming into SL. As if somehow people just WON'T come in if they can’t use their real names. As if in a world of Twitter handles, anonymous blog posts and fake mySpace pages we're suddenly all terrified of digital spaces where we have to put our real life names in our profiles rather than in a corporate database somewhere.

This may be something slightly stunning to people who didn't grow up as the web evolved, but believe, once upon a time, in the world then: handles were our only online identity, some creative, some thuggish, some plebian, some archaic; and we played by the simple words, names, places and ideas we pretended to be.

Emilly, for instance, goes back farther than SL; and there are other names before her that would pop up in searches from five years ago, eight, ten, fifteen.

I won't dissemble and tell you people didn't choose unwisely; and really, if the choice is between Steve Sumner, for instance, and Ychebotarev ProductEngine (look him up, he's out there), I think Steve would reconsider the mouth-filling nominatives in favor of the simplicity of meatspace. After all, even God has a real name (though I'm amused that the name of God's typist? Is Peter) on Twitter.

But put that aside (who hasn't seen the endless parade of Sexxygirls and FoxxyLadys on SL? And I dare you, I double-dare you, to count how many avatars are named some variation of "Vagina") because stupidity is everywhere; I want to talk about why it's deemed so important, in these days of instant communication, to go by the real names our real faces wear.

Think about that. I link up my RL name to my SL avatar. Now I'm one step closer to anyone who has that name to go in and find my RL address. My RL phone number. My medical records. My bank accounts. An overhead shot of my house. I don't want this. No one who's sane wants this.

This rush to link avatars to "identity" funnels us into a way of thinking about avatars that saps them of their potential magic.

This magic also works on the level of heuristics. My avatar, to me, is a representation of a particular mental modelling of the world, a way of interacting with information, and a mind-set through which I view creative work and value generation. Avatars increasingly become representational not of the "person" but rather of a particular data-rich persona which signals to communities the cultural and values-driven perspectives which we enact.

Again, the rush to link avatars to "identity" saps them of their power to signal the creative domains from which we tackle problems as other users bypass this signalling capacity in order to find the short cut to "real life name" with all the promise it seems to hold of "oh, ok, now I know you".


This is a longer passage, but I wanted everyone to understand what I meant. What Dusan's talking about here has nothing to do with who the avatar, per se is, and everything to do with what the avatar represents, to us, to those viewing us.

If that still didn't make it clear, let me offer two examples.

Mr. Drinkwater remains one of the best examples for this concept. It's a national Caledonian secret-that-is-not, the identity of Mr. Drinkwater's typist, his "Boswell", as he says. He is polite and affable and cheerful and feels no compulsion to hide this fact; it's come out, and there it is, and life goes on, and it wasn't really that hidden in the long run.

All right as far as it goes; if you put up a picture of Mr. Drinkwater next to a picture of Boswell, you would understand these are two radically different people. And yet, the same sense of humor underlies them both. That same fierce hunger for knowledge and experience, page by page or in living breathing color; that same curiosity about people, from the taste of skin to the appropriate symbols to paint on the sole of the foot: these are earmarks of the avatar that are recognizable, solid, unwavering. And these things shine through if the avatar in question is tall, lithe, and erudite, or short, frenetic and furred.

And I should add, the best second example I have is me: my profile, a long while back, used to contain the phrase If you don't recognize the face under the nametag, it's me. That still holds true a great amount of the time; but most of the time, my identifying markers are that I'm short, I'm oddly colored (be that color skin, outfit or fur), and my movements, sad as I am to say it, are tilted either towards the twee or the confrontative. (Right now my AO contains both.)

And I have a language of symbols that goes beyond that, that also is reflected in the images I take in world. Stitches; seams; patchwork; pale skin or hair; vibrant, occasionally unsettling eyes; a wide-ranging love for the anthropological and costume design both. I rarely consider it getting dressed anymore; I consider it closer to painting a canvas, and I have a wide-ranging palette from which to draw.

Anyone who knows what I look like RL would again, note the wide disparity between me in RL, and my avatar on the grid. And yet, I spent so long using the same AO during my first two years I still fall into two poses off the grid. My mouth frequently looks amused, yet paradoxically rarely smiles fully (though these days that is changing). And my avatar falls into building the way I fall into research--pursuing it for hours at a time, barely speaking, entranced by the potential gain--with new build techniques, or new information both.

And both my avatar and I communicate best through inference and allusion, over actual conversation.

All of that? Is not tied into my name. All of that would be discarded by the wayside if I was forced into the shell of mundane reality on SL. All of that is what makes me living, vibrant, and real in my own way on SL.

I loathe Facebook. I use MySpace for the music links only. I use Twitter, but though I do follow people, and I have made friends there, it comes and goes in stages--two, three days with no word, then one day of every-two-minute sends. It depends entirely on how much I want to communicate, on any given day.

Or perhaps, bundle all of that up, and see it in this light: my RL name? Is protected only to the extent that it's my legal identifier. Beyond that, I don't consider it that often.

But Emilly? Hit Google, Emilly shows up--and so do some of my other chosen nommmes d'net. I am invested in what Emilly does, says, thinks, writes. My words come up, good or bad, when my SL name is employed.

And yes, there are still more people who call me "Em"--or by other handles--in RL than by my real name. Why would I ever want to lose that cachet (whether it brings to mind a sneering malice or the infamous past) to move it to my real name--a set of words with no set value (save what other people put on it), that I did not choose?

I chose Em. I chose that identity. And just as with family members we choose, over those we're simply born with, it does make a difference.

And I agree with Dusan--it would be the beginning of the final death knell for Second Life, were it to demand compliance to real-world ideals. Because "your world, your imagination" still means something to some of us. And it should mean something to the Labs.

(Also: thank you, Dusan. Thank you for changing the word in your paraphrased statement to "character". I will be a character, I will be a ragdoll, I will be an avatar--BUT I AM NOT A GODDAMNED TOON. For the love of all gods, I loathe that word with a fiery vengeance.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

and when it all comes crashing down, what can you do?

I should have known there would be problems when I introduced God to Echo Bazaar:

Man or Astro Man?: Well, I went insane
Man or Astro Man?: Nightmares at 10
emilly.orr: DUDE
emilly.orr: I've never gotten above eight!


I'm still not sure how one can get above eight. At eight I'm always slapped right into Yep, you're bonkers-land. How do you go two points past madness?

God works in mysterious ways.

Man or Astro Man?: THERE WAS A WELL
Man or Astro Man?: I looked
emilly.orr: And it talks to you
Man or Astro Man?: there were voices
Man or Astro Man?: I know, it wasnt a good idea
emilly.orr: Don't buy the Fourth City rags, either
Man or Astro Man?: I bought those too
emilly.orr: *snerks*


Yeah. God--at least, my God, the PBR-drinking, stay-up-til-dawn-partying, asking-me-for-chick-advice one--doesn't exactly learn by doing, unless the doing involves FIRE.

Man or Astro Man?: I really had it coming
Man or Astro Man?: I clicked to see where I was and it said
Man or Astro Man?: Your nightmares have overcome you. You are as mad as a bright brass button. Everything around you is red and gold.
emilly.orr: Apparently.
emilly.orr: Hee!
Man or Astro Man?: You can drink water and lose persuasion or talk to people and loose watchfulness
Man or Astro Man?: so Im losing a lot of watchfulness


That makes a stupid amount of sense, too. God doesn't change? There's some security in that...limited though it is.

It's a strained and archaic joke which I must, perforce, repeat here...One Name2KService to rule them all? Maybe. You've got two options there: Miss Ordinal Malaprop's original script offering on her post (linked to the main), and Schmoebag Hogfather's (wau, what a name) alternative. What's the difference? One (Miss Ordinal's) is a single script that can be dropped in a single prim. Mr. (I'm assuming Mr.) Hogfather has a different approach: open a new window, type in the query string, his device will poll the Second Life website for the UUIDs of people you want to send the package to, without ever having to access their UUIDs yourself.

(Of course, before that lovely little program was developed, at least two well-known browsers already lift the UUID numbers and place them lovingly on redesigned profiles. But it's still a nifty idea.)

There's already a website on how to learn Na'vi. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, there are multiple books written in Klingon at this point...

Continuing in the media vein, Mr. Allen pointed me towards the Wilhelm scream notes on Wikipedia, and that's good to know, but sadly, what I'm really after is the female version--and I suppose the question really is, is there a female version? I think I've heard it in Total Recall, but I can't seem to track down the precise place. I also know that there's a moment very clearly in Spiderman--where the Green Goblin turns and attacks Spiderman in the burning building after posing as a woman in trouble)--and in the film Copycat (where the lead character Helen receives a threatening email about a dancing girl who's about to die).

Is there a female version of the better-known Wilhelm scream?

And to tie up the media section, let me introduce you to the Akinator. He wants to guess what you're thinking. He's also available as an off-the-web app for the iPhone. He's still learning, but he's not bad with the less arcane stuph.

Mr. Dirk Talamasca tipped me to the phantom prim sit issue on JIRA; I thought it was just me. I've been having the worst time just sitting on things, sculpted or not, so I thought it was just that I'd forgotten the Art of Bench. Please go vote for it; there's a lot of powerful ("powerful" equalling scripters/makers/teachers/inventors on the grid, that just might sway a few Lindens--maybe) names on the list, so hopefully this is a JIRA bug that will be identified and fixed.

In a brilliant case of miscommunication, the owner of the sim that Autogenic Alchemy and Lady Disdain had their new main stores on decided to repurpose the sim for non-commercial concerns. This meant every commercial client--not just us--had to move.

We thought we had three weeks. We have less than one.

So of course--me being me--I pulled up everything and put it down on the Overlook, the new parcel. It's a gorgeous place, it really is, and the view is incredible. You can see it anywhere you look, because at present? There's nothing on the ground.

Because--no matter what browser I use--there seems to be a unique flaw in the ability of Second Life, at present, to hold fixed coordinates in memory. I picked up the Witch House in Black Sands, carried it to the Overlook, placed it down, took everything out of edit--and watched as two walls moved--in different directions--a full ninety degrees from where I set them down.

I've been building for several hours over the course of two days, high overhead, and what's come out is a small little fenced parcel, with fog, and gravestones, and I'm trying not to take it as an omen for other things. It doesn't help that this:

gothic,Second Life,haunted,halloween

is the current avatar. Yes, the needle goes straight through.

It also doesn't help that the sim of Twilight Tears, of which the Overlook is a part, is a gothic-themed sim. This was a view at the neighbors across the small river:

ghosts,haunted,Second Life

Their tree drips blood.

This is not a bad thing, by any means, but I'm discovering that most of my gothic decor is very, very primmy. The cupola, f'rinstance:

gothic,Second Life,haunted,halloween

or gazebo, or whatever the word for that thing is, clocks in at fifty prims. Plus particle effects. The altar:

gothic,Second Life,haunted,halloween

(one of the first things I bought in SL, as it happens), while still amazing and I adore it, is forty-eight. And includes blood spatter, three poses, and fog.

The standard deal I have to gain access to this land (it's not owned by me, you see), means I have use of two hundred and fifty prims. I'm just not sure how that's going to work out, with what I have.

--

[Update: in the day and a half I've been holding to this blog entry, I decided screw the primmy props, and screw the Witch House, though likely, it would have dropped cleanly onto the site with only a need for retexturing the outside. No, I went for something far more odd:

Lady Disdain,shopping,Overlook,Second Look

I present to you the Graveyard Shop. Yes, I planted a lot of gravestones and tilted vendors on them, and I still have to work to update the landmarks in the vendors. And I'll probably still have a skybox overhead because I don't want to leave the clockwork citrus collection--soon, with any luck, to develop three more members--outside. So those and the rugs and likely the texture sets will all be inside another skybox...somewhere.

[Hee. I'll put up a freestanding door.

At any rate, we're up, we're running--at least Lady Disdain, in the all-new outdoor venue. Mr. Allen is still working on getting his shop up and running.

We have until Wednesday to clear everything off of Black Sands. Here's to us succeeding.]

Friday, January 22, 2010

it's hard to say that I'd rather stay awake when I'm asleep

My want of the week: a gorgeous deck of illustrated playing cards. $18.00 plus shipping fee, for the fully illustrated deck of Victorian/anatomical/zoological designs (the $18.00 is for domestic US orders only; but for international orders, it's only $24.00, or around €17.00 in Euros, or close to £15.00 in pounds sterling). It also supports artists with goals; and I should affirm, setting goals works. Granted, I haven't culled through them, to see if there's anything publishable, but I once set a goal of a poem a day. I ended up with over four hundred...

In the meantime, I heard over on the Lucky Kitty blog that Discord had updated their lucky chairs.

Discord,shopping,Second Life

Oh, this could take a while...

Meanwhile, over at Looking for Group, Lar puts everything into perspective:

Hey folks,

Wow. In the virtual world we've got the constant celebrity bombardment of Leno vs Conan. In the real world we've got the much more important crisis of the earthquake in Haiti. And here in our little corner of the Net, we have hopefully been able to provide you a few laughs to take the edge of of Life's heartaches for awhile.

Y'know there have been times in my career when I click on my television to see catastrophe and devastation and it's easy to despair. These things are so big they defy imagining and can cause us to turn in upon ourselves in feelings of depression and helplessness.

Don't. Don't do that. Don't forget you have value. If you can't trust yourself, then trust your friends and loved ones who hold you in value in their lives. Depression is a very selfish place where you dig yourself a hole and crawl in face first.

Don't.

Even in the face of disasters like Haiti, differences can be made. We can't all donate money and we can't all be on the ground to help dig out survivors or distribute water and food, but we can lighten the loads of those around us. Just a little. And that's a worthwhile endeavour.

All I can do most days is draw funny pictures. I hope they'll make you smile for a bit. Tonight I'll be ustreaming as usual. Maybe I can make you smile a bit there too. In the meantime, go hug someone. You'll both feel better for it.

Yeah. Like that.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

waging wars to shake the poet and the beat

I hadn't been in the yard five minutes when it burst into flame. Near as I can tell, from my perspective a day later, everything went up. Trains, rail cars, tracks, signposts, outbuildings--everything radiating a bright phosphorescent glow.

Color Me Chaos is closing. On January 23rd, they close their doors forever.

chaos,shopping,fashion,creating,Second Life
(The skin, alas, is not part of the Spring Jester outfit, it is from Sin Skins' Etheria line, the skin called Epimelia in green & orange. But everything else is, save for the hair, which is Curio's Hera in Dark Green. I'm honestly not sure if either of these offerings are still on offer.)

I can't say I saw this coming. I had no reason to see this coming. I radioed the main dispatchers on duty and asked, even, and there was no conceivable reason the recent changes to the yard would cause spontaneous combustion.

There's a variety of reasons why--lack of inspiration is chief, but also, the changes on the grid and the death, for many of us who create, of XStreet off the grid. In two days, Miss Ona Stenvaag and Mr. Haydn Bellic will close their doors, indefinitely.

chaos,shopping,fashion,creating,Second Life
(The Autumn Jester; skin from FallnAngel Designs and hair from Launa Fauna.)

I admit to being more than slightly taken aback. Partially because I thought I was done and past done talking about the train wreck, and partially because I thought I'd long since managed to resolve all those pesky issues that led to the napalm, rinse, repeat.

This was somewhat startling to me, I have to say.


She doesn't know if she's coming back. She doesn't know if she has the heart for it. I know she is having a grand deal of fun going through her inventory and finding things she'd forgotten she made to toss out on the cluttered floor.

I also know that at this point, everything is at least half the price it was, some things more. She's made skins, tattoos, outfits, hunt skins (clothing layers, hair, all in one, for avatars who come in at one slim and beautiful ARC), holiday outfits, steampunk outfits, furniture, and poses--and maybe more that I don't know besides. I know she has one build, the Dreambox, available outside her main store; there was a teleport I saw that mentioned buildings, plural, so she may have more.

chaos,shopping,fashion,creating,Second Life
(The hair is from FallnAngel Designs, the Lemanuel in Blood; the skin is Sin Skin's Cursed Ruby Glow in Whisp.)

For rather longer than I should have, I just stood on the overlook above the yard, watching. I watched as metal slagged and twisted, repair rivets popped, water flashed to steam in instants and merry fire danced, white-hot, everywhere I looked. It was akin to slicing a sharp-as-thought blade across my finger, and having that moment of pause, watching the blood well, before my body even thinks to hurt over the wounding.

She did make all five of the Jester outfits--the monochrome Winter and the sunshine Summer, that I don't own, and the Spring, Autumn and Royal versions that I do, depicted in this entry--with resizing scripts. I tend to loathe resizing scripts these days but, because all my humanoid shapes are close with certain parameters, I am able to fit both sections of the boots and the skirt with no real issues. And there is a handy "delete" button in the drop-down menu that then fixes the items in place; no fuss, no muss, no further lag.

chaos,shopping,fashion,creating,Second Life
(The Lorelei outfit--what you don't notice here is that hair and skirt use animated textures. There are two varieties of hair--on the small pic is the secondary hair she created, the larger pic has the "non-wild" version. They're both intriguing, though I'm more wild about the fact that skin and eyes come with, and that the gloves included are comprised of dark aged blood spots along the arms and hands.)

Shock, surprise, confusion--I had them all, watching. And that moment of further reflection, as with all my reflections now: because I know the yard and the railcars, the tracks and the engines, they're all metaphors. My way of coming to terms with what I feel and how, with how I feel for who, with stating without stating names and places and exact locations. Of being seen without being seen.

I know this. I know the truth of this. And still, I watched as my heart burned, with nary a thought of self-preservation...at first.


She has casual outfits, Victorian outfits, and three levels that she and her partner have populated with frenetic oddity. I've been charmed by her store for many months now, but alas, she's just not making enough these days to justify the expense of the place. More's the pity; she and her love had a genuinely unique flair.

chaos,shopping,fashion,creating,Second Life
(Inside the Dreambox.)

Several hours later, hands of hours of conversation, of discussion methods and repercussions on all sides, and I was no closer to understanding much of anything but--one sole thing: I will not be pushed. That one would rather I reconsider a decision; well, I'd rather the whole yard burn and I rebuild from scratch than reconsider that one thing.

Because that one thing is too much. That one thing
I will not budge on. That one thing I will let the landscape burn rather than retreat and replay.

I actually argued with myself on buying this one, while I was wandering her store today. Do I really need yet another skybox? But this is just a charming bit of magic in prim form. I adore the shading on the inside, I adore the yellow-green patterns on the bricks that make up the outside, and it even has a scripted door! It's small, but perfect for a meditation cushion, or a small lounge, just a simple getaway spot to soothe the jangled nerves.

So of course I had to do the entire photo shoot for this entry in the thing; because I had to show it off, too.

Because that one thing would change everything else. That one thing would bring back all the halting, painful progress, point to agonizing point; the metal buckled, the engine on fire, on all of its journeying. That one thing would bring back the barbed wire around the broken heart, the walls around the cages, and I will not return to those days. I fought through several hells to get here; and I will not leave, having tasted sweet water and breathed air free of ash.

I will not. I will not. I. Will. Not.

Do drop by if you can, before the 23rd is over? Creativity should be encouraged, and who knows? With enough encouragement, when she has time to rest and reflect, she could return!

Even if she doesn't, stop in and appreciate what they did, while they were here. Tip the hat and move on; find something if you care to. One more thing vanishing, of originality and grace; the least we can do is recognize that it exists before it's gone.

the trees are bare and everywhere the streets are full of strangers

Runes of Magic has finally introduced the Demon Lord. The whole point of the game, 'til now, has been blocked in place--the main Epic-level quest, the Quest for the Demon Blade, always stopped at some point because Sirloth, the Demon Lord of old, had not yet arrived.

Now? It seems he has. And it's gonna take a full dozen high-level players to even get to him, let alone beat him. If--and it's a big if--the player group beats him? They get the Demon Blade of legend to carry home.

That might just drag me back into the game.

Cryptic Studios strikes again? AKA comparing City of Heroes to Champions Online...two games with the same premise, competing with each other...that were developed by the same people.

Any college students want to know true and deep fear? This is your day.

Jon Wood at MMORPG takes on adaptations in online gaming, especially books/television shows/movies to MMOs. He brings up two short examples on Lord of the Rings and Star Trek, but there's still good points in there that apply to other properties.

[18:50] Bookworm Hienrichs: So. This all comes from a Mystery Science Theater 3000 newsgroup a number of years ago.
[18:50] Searra Weatherwax grins
[18:50] Bookworm Hienrichs: Someone wrote "I might be found picking off unsuspecting children with snowballs (no ice, what kind of monster do you think I am?)"
[18:50] KlausWulfenbach Outlander hears the whine of the weapons warming up
[18:51] Bookworm Hienrichs: Someone named jess replied, "The rocks kind of ruin the sediment?
jess, wondering if a boulder statement than that is possible"
[18:51] Bookworm Hienrichs: So I replied...
[18:51] Bookworm Hienrichs: Ah, jess, igneous as you are, I think you're taking too much for
granite. Must be your sedimentary lifestyle...just sitting around, leaning your arms on the window silt...you really should get more exercise, orthoclase I breccia you'll get sick. Of quartz, it would be gneiss if I followed my own advice...
I really should stop pyrite-ing this, shouldn't I?
[18:52] Bookworm Hienrichs: Another person replied to me...
[18:52] Bookworm Hienrichs: Although I marble at your wit, don't expect us to gravel before you. It's too slate that. Besides people will talc (they're coal that way). So don't use that stone of voice with me - ore else!
[18:53] KlausWulfenbach Outlander: I've seen Caledon do this...
[18:53] Bookworm Hienrichs: My final reply was...
[18:53] Bookworm Hienrichs: Albite already! No need to basalt me, or call the coppers in on this, or get a pyrope. I'm not adamite on receiving adularia-tion for this--having Arseno(pyrite) Hall call me or something. I just want to gabbro a little bit of the newsgroup's attention--you're usually so jadeite about my cascade contributions. It can be quite tuff for me to contribute amusing posts, and have someone say to me "That was really greywacke. I *love* it!" So I'm going to keep at this until you all rutile the day you started it. But I'll mica it up to you...maybe get you all cinnabar rolls.
[18:53] Bookworm Hienrichs: Thankfully, perhaps, for all, it ended there.
[18:53] Bookworm Hienrichs grins.


I had to preserve that for posterity. Had to. It was a moral imperative, or something. Or perhaps it's just my sedimential nature...

Monday, January 18, 2010

turning tricks with absent guile, reeling in your crooked smile

Ciaran Laval asks, Do you want your first life linked to your Second Life? My answer, every time this question is asked? No.

It took me over a year to verify as my RL self to get Adult access, and that was back when I was considering returning to the trade.

Introducing the Peregrine Glove, the Splitfish, and the Razer gaming mouse. The future looks very, very bright indeed.

Stiv (Not really listening): oh god
Stiv (Not really listening): just went down stair slide
Stiv (Not really listening): of matressess
Stiv (Not really listening): and had combat along the way


More than two years ago, the Church of Stiv was formed on the grid. He was an inconstant and surreal god, but we followed his teachings as well as we could.

When we understood them.

Stiv (Not really listening): i am alive
Stiv (Not really listening): and the matress slide has blocked the only door to the outside
Stiv (Not really listening): and we ordered a pizza


I still hear from him, from time to time. (Obviously.) But on occasion, his adventures confuse me briefly. Is it live, or is it Memorex? Sometimes, in the beginning, I'm never sure.

emilly.orr: Game or dorm?
Stiv (Not really listening): aptment
Stiv (Not really listening): is 2 stories
Stiv (Not really listening): stairs
Stiv (Not really listening): i have burns all over now
Stiv (Not really listening): and people want a smoke break
Stiv (Not really listening): but the door to the outside is blocked


So apparently, this is what happened: for whatever reason, Stiv and his friends decided to line a staircase with mattresses. Then some fellows stood on the mattresses, beating people as they came down. The people sliding down could fight back, as well.

Deranged.

emilly.orr: Demand they clear the doorway. :p
Stiv (Not really listening): cant
Stiv (Not really listening): too much fun to destroy it
Stiv (Not really listening): its like a horrible fun god
emilly.orr: You should name it Stiv.


It just came to me. "Horrible fun god" pretty much equals Stiv in my book.

Sadly, I'm more of an agnostic now, I guess--I know where Stiv is, he's just not in SL anymore. So God has left the grid, but still wanders the world.

Odd.

And go figure, Stiv would be the one to incur philosophical reflection on his religion...entirely by accident.

Social Bliss has a wonderful post on her blog about Second Life fashion, and blogging of same. I doubt it will change some behaviors, but we all could likely stand to be a bit more polite, and remember that designers with mad skills, at the end of the day, are just people. Tired overburdened people, usually.

Liana Linden starts the 2010 Linden idiocy sessions off quite admirably, all things considered, by saying that the Google search engine SL has been employing is working:

For some time, we have been using Google Search Appliances for parts of Search, such as the "All Tab" in the Viewer, and we've been monitoring its effectiveness. What we've found is that the All Tab is one of the most used search tools, and Resident feedback tells us that it gives them a largely successful search experience. That's great, and we will build on the system to do better.

Who is she talking with, that's what I want to know. Because everyone I've talked with, for more than a year? HATES THE NEW SEARCH PASSIONATELY. And deeply. And treats it with scathing condemnation and contempt.

Just to throw up a few examples, in case you don't know why:

* The plethora of 'payment for picks' offers that plagues everyone? Started because Google search ranks by mention, not traffic or popularity.
* Ditto, most places of employment now demanding you put their store in your picks if you work for them. Same reason.
* Ditto, the random hash of keywords at the bottom of all in-world advertising (and, until recently, all XStreet listings) got a lot worse once the new search was implemented.

See, and this is the big problem for everyone on the grid, not just merchants. Whereas before, to get their business noticed, a merchant had to buy a chunk of advertising, or be popular, or both, under the new search restrictions, a merchant can only be found if a certain number of profiles--which is part of what the Google application uses to search with--mention them. So to be in the top rankings, it's no longer buy an ad and have sales, and have an active in-world group (especially with the popularity of subscribe-o groups); no, now, they have to get X number of avatars to list them in their picks, and keep them listed in their picks, and they still have lowered numbers to deal with, because people still aren't finding them...

...AND THAT'S IF THEY'RE NOT ON ZINDRA. Because Zindra search, and Adult search in general? Is handled entirely differently. If anything, it's handled worse, if that can be believed. Most Zindra merchants are suffering from 30% clear up to 65% loss of sales, by what I'm hearing. Some, in point of fact, have thrown their hands up and moved back to the mainland, where they either change their stock radically...or sell the same exact thing that got them booted to the Adult ghetto lands, because the Lindens? Don't really seem to care now that the continent exists.

Lovely to know that the Google Search app that destroyed business as we know it on SL is something so many people have found "successful". Good for you.

For the rest of us struggling to make some sort of impact under the new system...it doesn't work, it never worked, it won't get better, and the Lindens want it that way.

Still thinking, more than ever, that what the Lindens really want? Is a corporate playground, fully paid and funded, with no shady stuph anywhere, where people will just happily own land and buy things on sale--from the Lindens, natch--and never have another thought in their pretty little heads.

Sadly? They played the "Your World, Your Imagination" card one too many times in the beginning. Now the idealism is gone and the hard-edged corporate bureacracy is taking over, but the people still want what they want.

What they want--what we, living breathing people behind our avatars want--is profoundly not what M Linden wants.

But then, what M Linden wants? Is eventually going to be what M Linden gets. How long are we willing to fight for virtual autonomy? Because trust me--we don't have it now, what makes us think we'll have it later?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

so come out in the middle 'til midnight

There's been a lot of SL response to the crushing disaster in Haiti, but Miss Chatnoir does a marvelous job listing all the relief efforts she's found. Please, if you can contribute, do so; every Linden, dollar, pound, ye--whatever--counts.

In Second Life, there is no place for memories.

In the meantime, with much trepidation, I took on another grid-wide hunt. First, for anyone who doesn't know--and to reaffirm for those who do--grid-wide hunts are a good idea gone horribly, horribly wrong. The idea--the original idea--was genius: Invite a large number of stores to make an item to hide within the same object--the original hunt hid ghosts--and advertise. It was explained as a benefit to shops that maybe weren't doing so well, because it would bring a lot of traffic to their door, in exchange for time spent crafting an item for the hunt. And the hunt blog can guarantee lots of hits for people curious about the hunt, and maybe sell advertising in or out of world. There could be people falling in love with what creators do, and sticking around to wander, driving up traffic, or best of all, buy something from the store in question. Any way you look at it, benefits all around.

How'ver, at this point? The grid-wide hunt concept has exploded. Just in January of this year alone--not counting last year's hunts, the year before's hunts--we have the Death Becomes Her hunt, the New Year's Resolutions hunt, the Heat Wave hunt, the January Snails hunt, the Burning Hearts hunt, the Shoes and Accessories hunt, the 40 Below hunt, the Broken Resolutions Hunt, the Music 4 the Soul hunt...and those are just the ones I know about, and that's not even going into the twenty-one hunts in December!

And we're not done with January yet.

And the hunts now are not simply beam in to the location, find the sign, find the hunt object near the sign, go to the next store. Oh hell no. Most hunt organizers want their merchants to hide the damned things, whatever the things are. Let me be blunt and honest, here: If I am hitting one to two hundred stores (I did a hunt for two hundred and thirty-three items once, and NEVER. AGAIN. will I do that) the last thing I want is to have to dump an hour and a half searching for whatever small quirky thing the organizers have come up with--a death mask, a snake winding around an apple, a ghost, a small snowman--WHATEVER. It makes me mad at the hunt organizers--thus ensuring my enjoyment in hunting goes down; it makes me mad at the merchant--thus ensuring I'll either leave and try to find the next place without that item, or worse, set it in my mind that, good or bad, I will never shop at that merchant's store again; and it makes me mad that I've fallen for the grid-wide hunt concept again.

For the most part, I avoid grid-wides. As a matter of course, because I know they're going to frustrate me; because, for every single landmark I make to peruse later, there are going to be at least ten stores so tawdry or ill-built I remain baffled at how they got into the hunt in the first place; because I know it's usually just me, by myself, hunting alone (because my loves have lost all affection for the grid-wide concept, and usually refuse to go).

So what do I really get at the end of a grid-wide hunt? The "satisfaction" of inventory bloat. The "sense of accomplishment" I get from knowing I could have done anything else and had more fun doing it. The deep and abiding resentment at myself, at the merchants who participated, and at the hunt organizers, for making me think that this hunt--whatever this hunt was--would be different.

No. They're all alike. Every last damned one of them. Just the themes change.

That having been said, how'ver...I participated in the Hunt for the Forbidden Fruit. I know, I know, but I wanted to see what the organizers meant by a "dark kinky adult" hunt. I've participated in so-called "adult hunts" before--in fact, the first Twisted hunt took place before there was an Adult continent. But this was one of the first big hunts, post-Zindra, to feature mostly stores on Adult-rated sims.

So I gave in.

First thing, if you want to follow along: prepare for frustration. The hunt organizer flipped out early on (I don't blame her as to why, but it did make everything more difficult) because people started passing around exact grid coordinates to the hunt prizes. Not only is this deeply tacky, but it also ruins the experience for everyone else, to wit: Danika Mavendorf (who owns the Kass' Kink Art Gallery in Guittarez) urged all her merchants to change the locations of the hunt prizes and "hide them well"--and they did, making this hunt nearly impossible to finish.

Second thing--what you're hunting for is actually really nifty:

Second Life,scavenger hunt,Adult

It's one of the better sculpts I've seen--the snake, I mean, the apple's straight from the library, along with the texture for it.

But the snake wrapping it, that's clever; wrong, of course, "Eve eating the apple"--but beautiful in its own way.

At this point, while there are no direct hints (and any scavenger hunter, for the most part, doesn't really need direct hints), there are location lists and pictures. The Hunt Locations blog, as I said, has the list of participating stores, and Anna Zweirs covers the hunt with pictures of most of the items.

Still. Ninety-nine stores participated. Two decided to back out, to make ninety-seven by the time I started hunting. I couldn't find twenty of the gifts, leaving seventy-seven. I ported in to twenty-five stores, shook my head and left immediately--either they refused to rez for me at all, or had moved, or I knew at a glance their interests were not conjoined with mine. That's not always a condemnation--there are some extremely talented designers of modern-style furniture, for instance, that looked very nice--but since I live in Caledon, they would just take up space in my inventory.

That left fifty-two, the fifty-two apples I found and took home. And of those...

Fourteen.

Fourteen items out of ninety-nine, I kept. And two of those are skyboxen I will have to rez out and check to see if I want to keep them. Now, I will say to that--there are items I did not find, and I might go back and hunt harder, if the pictures of the items really intrigue me. But for the most part, I'm done.

Fourteen. Out of ninety-nine stores that participated, fourteen. And that is a high number of items I've kept from any grid-wide hunt.

Note, this is the grid-wide phenomenon in living color; hunts I've participated in on the FallnAngel sims I've thoroughly enjoyed. Azriel Demain is a diabolical fiend for finding impossible places to hide things; and he's stricter than a martinet on his hunting rules. But I put up with the rules and fry my brain finding things because I love his design sense. This is also the reason, when I can, that I buy things from FallnAngel, because I love his design sense.

The problem is not devious places to put hunt items. The problem is the sheer scale of the grid-wides. One hunt, ten stores on that hunt taking some extra effort to hide items, that's irksome. Running fifteen hunts at once, and having all of those stores be arcane in where they hide things? Impossible. And, I personally think, unfair.

I won't get this, but honestly, what I really want? Is a universal set of rules for grid-wide hunts. That all hunts will be compliant with.

1. Hunt items must be hidden within twenty meters of the hunt sign. No exceptions.

2. Hunt items can be no smaller than one quarter the size of a normal prim. No exceptions.

3. Hunt items can contain no more than ten prims. No exceptions.

4. Hunt items may not be hidden inside other prims. NO. EXCEPTIONS.

Honestly, grid-wide hunt organizers obeyed these four rules? Just these four? I'd be happy to go on more grid-wides. Hells, I'd make an effort at the stores I liked to buy something.

But really, if I have to spend an hour and a half crawling inch by inch in goddamn wireframe over four stories of complex for one hunt prize? The prize isn't worth it; the store isn't worth it; and I have better things to do with my time.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I run off, where the drifts get deeper

I found another article on the ongoing issue of potential Avatar infringement. It's still too soon to tell whether Poul Anderson's estate will file suit. Or if they've even heard the rumors.

The iVictrola, ladies and gentlemen. Translated--badly--from the German, it says: "Matt Richmonds created perfect with iVictrola a combination of modern and historical technology. iPod the Touch and/or the iPhone is put on the wood foot and the favourite music is turned on. The sound is led into the acoustic horn and vertärkt by a small hole accordingly there. Which worked with Grammophonen already well, stop goes also still with modern technology.

It retails for around $400 US, so it's far from cheap. Still, it's very well done, and could be used as is, or, with a little tinkering, easily hide the iPod at the base.

Dr. Mason delicately pointed out to me there was an error in yesterday's entry; he says as far as he's aware (from his own explorations in Neath), there is no moon to shine. In fact, moonpearls are so highly prized in Neath because they show the phase of the moon beyond Fallen London.

Otherwise, we would forget.

There are those who say the sphere holding the world, and the dark waters of the Unterzee, is the skull of a fallen giant in which we live. There are others who deny this, saying the sphere is made of stone.

There are others still who wonder why it couldn't be both. They point to the recurring dreams, the nightmarish visions of fire and shadows that plague us all. Perhaps they're right...at least where the visions are concerned.

I am still on the hunt for a good pair of en pointe ballet shoes, with or without animation, but these...these are different.

Second Life,fetish,ballet heels,neko,shopping,winter

Anima Temptation in Pirandello Bay--a rather quiet, but elegant, fetish community on Adult land--sells these.

Second Life,fetish,ballet heels,neko,shopping,winter

Miss Adira Aeon makes these extravagantly high-heeled ballet shoes. In three days of wearing them, I haven't noticed one single sculpt glitch (though Fawkes tells me they're not sculpted, he can see the joins of the prims; all I know is, I can't) or invisibility prim glitch; though the invisiprims used do show up against alpha backgrounds. Apparently, each shoe contains one script that cycles invisibility prims in and out, so they defeat most transparent prims awkwardness most of the time.

Considering the level of detail, it's not surprising that each shoe weighs in at sixty-eight prims apiece. Before my faithful readers reel back in horror, let me remind everyone that my plain Lassitude & Ennui 'Elizabeth' grey plaid boots are thirty-five prims each--and come in two pieces. My DV8 Marchioness boots? One hundred and eighty-eight prims--and also come in two pieces.

Good primwork costs, it always has. It can be alleviated by sculpts, if the sculpts are good, and there's some great sculptwork out there. But for comparison, considering shoes and boots, these are actually mid-range on the prim count.

Second Life,fetish,neko,shopping,winter

Do you dare to walk in the highest heels? screams the ads in bold type. And I won't kid you, she is not cheap. And she has no demos. But, she is more than willing to coordinate times to meet, where she can show you what the boots look like on, and help you adjust them properly, if they still aren't fitting right. (For some of her boots, where they're attached in three places along the leg? It's a blessing she believes in good customer service.)

Second Life,fetish,neko,shopping,winter

The dress is from Fricka Morgath at her store Frick!, and I'm so amazed with it. It's only L$50, right now, for one thing. This is the vendor picture in her store:

Second Life,fetish,neko,shopping,winter

One picks up some detail, of course, but nowhere near the level I actually got, was what I expected when I put my fifty Lindens down. For one thing, this is the corset section:

Second Life,fetish,neko,shopping,winter

I made sure I had some center-point bending going on. I have had details stretch or crumple where the midsection is concerned, and this particular pattern just flows amazingly well.

Second Life,fetish,neko,shopping,winter

The vendor also doesn't show you the adorable simple bow detail on the skirt. Over to the left you can see the Blood Lolly dress in red and black--also L$50 during this launch--and the Lemon Lolly, in very bright melted-sunshine yellow, currently only L$15.

Don't get me wrong--Miss Morgath has done wonders with her business since she launched it, almost entirely composed of Eloh Eliot skins retextured, and usually, only slightly.

But she's grown into her skills, and these five dresses prove it: they are simple, cheerful, lovely additions to any Lolita's armoire.

On the second floor, you'll find her small, but I sincerely hope, growing, clothing line, and on the third for for a limited time, you can pick up a copy of the Winter Scene Skybox for L$75. It's also quite lovely, and while the sittable bubbles may not be included, a small set of rugs with couples' poses are, and the tree, the grass and the particle snow emitter.

Second Life,neko,fetish,shopping,winter

On a personal note, I picked out the outfit yesterday, just tossed on a pink panther skin I had in inventory, and the lavender-tipped pink bob from Calla I keep in my neko folder. I like coordinating skin, hair and eyes, and since I wanted to cover the shoes, I thought a pink outfit would go well with them.

I ended up going by Frick and dropping a mention there, and after this, I'll send this out as another fluff fashion entry--even if they're very nice fashions.

Not until I'd logged out of SL did it occur to me: I'm all in pink. And it's not because I'm feeling defensive, feeling wary and watchful, because I'm frightened, angry, or paranoid. I'm just...wearing pink.

That's all.

Because I want to.

There are those reading along who may not catch the significance of this, and I'm not elucidating further. I just note it in passing.

I think...it's a good thing.