Saturday, July 31, 2010

the unknown troubles on your mind

Runes of Magic is going to host a bit of Gamescom, Germany's largest MMO/game convention. They're hosting a fashion show where the winners win specially-built CaseMod PCs with a specific Runes of Magic theme.

Oh, to be closer to Germany...

All I want is an admission, the writer says, but will she get it? I have serious doubts. (So does Tateru Nino, who also took on the topic of the office hours meet.)

How'ver, the points Bronxelf makes are undeniable, and I want to expand on her post a bit.

Her list, as it exists:

1. Sim owners/concierge service.

I don't deny, this should be her, our, and LL's PRIMARY concern. These are the people paying the bills, funding new development, keeping people at the Labs employed, and providing space so everyone can say all the wonderful things we say about Second Life as a whole. Anyone who owns a lot of land, anyone who owns a lot of sims, anyone who rents whole servers--these are the Labs' base.

Of course, the problem is the Labs are renowned far and wide for terrible customer service, and especially now, these are the people getting shafted. And if you're an individual laying out $100-$350 per month for a sim, and getting it back from renters, that's one thing; if you're that same individual laying out $100-$350 per month for a sim, and being, to put it bluntly, screwed by the Labs in some fashion...sooner or later it stops being in any way fun, and people start to wonder why they're bothering.

This is completely antithetical to what the Labs should want; it behooves them to wake up and keep this point glaringly in mid.

2. Business owners and content creators.

This is second on Bronxelf's list, and I agree with this placement, too--beyond making it harder for sim owners to stay in business, the last thing the Labs should be doing is making it harder for business owners to stay in business. Most business owners, if they're any good at what they're doing at all, eventually want to raise their game and buy a sim to really get their vision of whatever in place. This is not a bad thing--desire creates opportunity, always. So the Labs should listen to business owners, pay attention to their needs, because at any moment, any one of them can pony up the price of a sim--or more than one sim--and join that vaunted group that allows for employees and health insurance and investment plans and vacations. The Labs should want to be nice to these people, because they may become the people listed above.

Yet, they seem to be trying very hard to interfere in every way with business owners. From the requirement to move to Zindra (and the subsequant mangling of Search entirely which allowed Zindra-based sales to drop on average 40% per merchant who moved) to the current refusal to allow picks information to be used in search metrics (when search is STILL largely broken), they're hobbling the people who create on SL. And here's the problem: the people who create on SL are a large part of why people stay in SL. In addition to virtual scuba-diving, virtual parachuting, virtual climbing, swimming, hiking, running, walking, dancing and ROLEPLAY--shopping is a large part of what people come into world to do, and a larger part of what people choose to invest in, Linden-wise. It's pretty much 50% of why people buy Lindens in the first place--to shop.

3. RL business concerns with presence within SL.

I'm still not entirely convinced educators and students shouldn't be higher, and this group lower, but as far as it goes, RL business concerns oddly are a mix of position 1 and position 2, with needs of their own. Their biggest need, though, is good, solid, dependable customer service.

And, as we've already established, "good customer service" are words that turn to so much static when perceived by Linden Labs. It's practically--or for all established intents and purposes--nonexistent. Even the Concierge Team doesn't have it together these days--reports back from people who've spoken with them are that they are friendly, with a deep desire to help, but ultimately do very little, if anything. And the rest of the Linden help team? The outside perception still remains: fundamentally useless in nearly every regard.

This needs to change now. This needs to change yesterday. Virtual worlds are still seen as "the wave of the future", but more companies than the Labs may know are choosing to develop their own virtual worlds in-house, rather than go through Linden Labs. Word has gotten out.

Now, to change the perception of the Labs as a bad deal, that's going to take a lot of work, mostly on the part of the Labs. But that's neither here nor there--currently, that is the perception. Linden Labs need to change that perception if they're going to survive.

4. Educators, and their students.

Without substantially developing an "Educational Enterprise" package (considering the bulk of the Enterprise team got sacked), keeping educators in SL is going to be challenging enough. For once, the problems surrounding education in SL is at least 40% on the educators--they need to make their courses approachable enough, and their virtual 'classrooms', for lack of a better word, enough of a draw on their own, to make SL being part of the package an attractive one. To this end, owning a sim, and making it over in their image is not a bad thing, putting them at least partially in the first group.

Here's the essential problem: what educators on SL really need (in an ideal world, because this won't ever, ever happen) is to sit down with the developers of the Restrained Life Viewer, and customer service representatives on SL, and see if something can be worked out to allow students to access certain regions of SL ONLY during class time (which would include blocking logging into anything BUT the campus during class), receive notecards but no IMs, and be restricted in movement during the educational period, with the understanding that these restrictions would drop once the time of the class was over.

This, unfortunately, is dependent on three things. First, that the educators would meet with RLV developers. Second, that RLV developers would meet with educators. And third, that customer service representatives for educators exist at the Labs.

5. New Residents.

Why are new residents left until nearly the end? I think it's something of an oversight by both Bronxelf and the Labs, honestly, but consider: several years ago (back when we had wood-burning cats), there was something called Orientation Island. The standard neophyte user couldn't get off OI until they had completed a range of tasks, meant to demonstrate their understanding of the basic principles behind Second Life.

And we are talking basic, here, things like:



Ωchoosing an avatarΩchanging clothesΩacquiring new clothes
Ωrezzing out a box primΩinteracting with objectsΩthe basics of flying
Ωthe basics of sim-crossingΩbuying objectsΩopening objects
Ωsearching inventoryΩsearching in-world inventoryΩteleportation

All of which matters not a whit if these students aren't taught these things, but rather pick them up in whatever slipshod fashion the particular log-in they've found allows. Because, about a year after I walked through Orientation Island, someone with a grudge proposed to the Lindens that really, honestly, OI was a pain, and businessmen didn't have the time to spend an hour, or two, or more on what was essentially character creation. They wanted to get in there, get working, have fun--that magic word again. And Linden Labs, in their infinite something, thought this was just the coolest concept since raw toast. And they implemented it on the spot.

Why do I say someone with a grudge? Because this, beyond any other feature that's changed since the game was first designed, has been the single largest threat to the game. I do mean that.

Listen. Take ten average people. We're not talking NASA engineers, here, we're not even talking college students. Just ten people who've heard about Second Life and want in.

At least one of those, I guarantee you, will be 1) gay or 2) into steampunk or 3) both. They'll likely end up in the steamlands, somewhere.

Two of our average set will be players of WoW, or another big MMO. They'll wander a bit, make jokes, sneer at everything, never figure out how to change their clothes, or shop the mens' armor section of Bare Rose nigh to the exclusion of all else. Without quests, fun new gear, or leveling,

One, you will ponder 'til your brain hurts the very concept that they own a computer, and knows how to use it--because he or she types that badly. This usually isn't even an international issue--I mean, they literally cannot spell, cannot seem to think, and wander around with boxes on their heads or hands for hours. Sometimes they can be helped, though it's always a puzzlement how they manage things on the other side of their screens. Most of the time? They can't learn, they don't interact well, and unless they have a specific agenda (rape fantasy, serving girl, sword-swinging barbarian, whatever), they soon fade from world.

This leaves six. And while the Lindens are likely right in that three of those six got frustrated on OI and left in disgust, that still left the final three turned out with at least rudimentary skills. At this point? All six log in, choose an av, and are out roaming within the first half hour. And, depending on what they're told, by anyone they come across, they'll either stick for a week, or leave the first day. Why?

Because they can't do anything. People get frustrated--if they can't use the viewer (which is now default viewer 2.0 or 2.1, depending), they can't figure out how to access things, they can't figure out how to type back to people that type to them--or, worse, they wander around yelling "Hellooo!" on voice for hours...let alone shopping, understanding the difference between 'demo' and 'full purchase', and that, of course, is assuming they logged into the game WITH Lindens....they're really, really lost.

There are some places where they can still get a good basic education--Oxbridge Village comes to mind, Solace Beach has an orientation area, and if they're lucky enough to come across someone with a landmark to Help Island, that's a godsend. But for the most part? There's not a lot in world that will talk newcomers, step by step, through learning SL.

When I'm asked, I answer what I can, but I'm not that different from anyone else--I don't automatically friend, I won't go with them on long shopping trips, I'll help them with landmarks, but I won't hold their hand through getting them outfitted and up to date--and I don't date, anymore.

Now, I'll help out friends of friends--who wouldn't? But whatever genetic quirk is responsible for really, deeply caring about people I don't know, it's missing in me. Give me a name, a liking for dark chocolate, a favorite color--something to hang what I see of that avatar's personality, and I'm good. Don't give me that? I don't know you, don't ask.

I'd say this is an American failing, but I've been talking with groups containing international typists, and a newcomer duck-walks up and asks for help, there's that mutual--and observable--drawing back. Just about everyone does it. And it doesn't mean we're bad people--most everyone I know on SL will help, and some groups I'm in go overboard with landmarks, script assistance, advice--it's heartwarming to see.

But if you're a university, and you're thinking about buying land on SL to put up a college and show the value of the experiment to course-takers? Think about this. Maybe put up a place they can learn about SL, first, or have ways to send them there, before you expect them to know everything and attend your class.

Which brings us to:

6. Genpop.

Which is Bronxelf's handy catch-all for established residents, whether that's six months in or six years. And we're a diverse group with an insane number of different motivations, psychological impairments, and interests, but we're the easiest of just about everyone to program a viewer for. We want a viewer that WORKS, more than anything else, and works UNOBTRUSIVELY; whatever else we want the viewer to do from there diverges (and wildly). But what almost every person on SL wants more than anything else is a viewer that isn't so code-heavy, a viewer that lets things rez in decently well, a viewer that lets us move, shop, build, talk, listen to music or media, WITHOUT CRASHING.

But maybe that's too much to ask.

7. (and this really is added at the end because it’s real, but it’s a strange duck) people who are running SL on limited computer resources.

I don't know that this is really a separate group, but maybe there's enough people now where it really does count: and if so, the killing of the Ajax text-only viewer becomes relevant, because it was one of the few well-known--and, more importantly, cleared, alternate viewers for SL. While it had its drawbacks--a security bypass as a scripted 'feature' that was huger than the plot hole in Citizen Kane--it did apparently work on some mobile devices, as well as from lower-graphics-enabled computers.

The whole point of a viewer, for any game, is (or should be): does it work on a computer five years old? Because if it doesn't, not everyone being in the land of shiny SOTA newness, then there won't be mass adoption of that game.

Of course there are arguments to the other side as well--if you don't play to the money, you don't make the money. Everyone knows that. But if it's just a money game, then hold that focus--because the minute that focus is lost (through, say, TERRIBLE CUSTOMER SERVICE 24/7), you might as well start playing to the cheap seats again.

And here's the real difficulty with that level of either/or thinking--if the Labs want the game to be popularly adopted, it's in their best interests to encourage playing for free (and their current ads reflect this). But if all they want is the money, then they need to earn that--by respecting their customers, working on anticipating their needs, or at the very least being there when they try to contact the Labs with problems.

As far as we can tell, there's at least one avatar whose typist has lost her mind entirely. Which is nothing short of sad, and also, kind of scary. Plus, first she's using a Homestead page--I thought Homestead pages went out in the '90s--and second, my gods, the color scheme. And the emphasis. And I'm sure the picture included is to show us how normal she is, but all I see is a woman in black leather sitting in a rusted-out car, and I think Oh good. Backwoods sociopath.

I'm still trying to track down the rest of the story; unfortunately, I can't contact Miss Tuqiri, because...I don't want her any closer to me than I can throw her typist. Maybe far less close.

Lastly, ponder the puzzle of the Mysterious Box! I have two thoughts on this video:

1. What was in that thing?

2. Did they stop filming and repack it to ship later, or did they just retrieve it, pass it further down the line, and X customer got the highly-thumped-and-rotated box later from Amazon?

Concerned viewers want to know.

Friday, July 30, 2010

faded pictures on the wall (it's like they're talkin to me)

Ah, Sarah Jane...and that ridiculous, yet beautifully charming haircut...Dr. Who girls are something special, aren't they?

The news was both good and dire from Echo Bazaar:
Congratulations! You've reached the end of Book 2, Part 1!

Content is currently capped at level 83. But we'll be adding more very soon. See blog.failbettergames.com for details. Or you could try one of the Shadowy, Dangerous and Watchful tracks instead. The Bazaar applauds your progress! We have given you a very small present for reaching this point.

You now have 7 x Ragged Clothing.
Well, they weren't kidding about small...but wau. And I would happily jaunt over to the Shadowy, Dangerous or Watchful tracks instead, seeing as how I'm capped on Persuasive, save...my Watchful is 82 and my Shadowy is 81. Aheh.

MMORPG put out a list of why gamers should embrace free-to-play games over more traditional subscription-based versions. The list itself is fairly standard, but the first comment from SnarlingWolf caught my attention:
Two of your items in the list are the same and they basically say that it will be cheaper. Most people that currently have no issue paying a sub will likely pay MORE a month with f2p because they can. There will be more people who try the game, never spend a cent but also don't stick around. There will be more people who play it every now and then when they're bored, don't make much progress but don't spend any more. There will be far more people spending over $15 a month. So I find those two points to be dead wrong. Games like DDO have shown they make more money with F2P, which in turn shows that the average money brought in when factored by number of players is higher. This in turn means that more people pay a lot less and more people pay a lot more but the average in the middle pays more then it used to. So not cheaper.
Those are very good points, and true, overall. I know in my case, I can't afford that much, so carry no active subscriptions to any games, and even those games I do play, I try to work to earn currency (in Runes, they offer surveys in exchange for diamonds, though when finances allow, I will buy $5 or $10 diamond cards when I'm out and about; and in Second Life, though it's hardly MMO territory, I have bought Lindens for the game) rather than simply pay a set monthly fee. How'ver, I am largely in the minority here--most people, even in, or perhaps especially in, so-called "free-to-play" games, end up paying on average at least $15 to $25 per month--if not more.

At that point, are those games really "free" to play?

"Convergence is real, it is happening…but it will never make everything possible in a single device in my lifetime."

Which, honestly, is both good and bad--I still yearn for the culture that exists in Robert Heinlein's novel, Friday, wherein the screen in every room is computer, television, live music broadcast, research station, programming center, games center, and interplanetary/international telephone service...but he's right, it's not going to happen in my lifetime, nor in the lifetime of the children I don't have.

And is it really something we need, right now, anyway? I mean, I can make my computer play music, and my netbook play music, and my .mp3 player play music; I can play games on two out of three of those; I can read on all three; but it's what's suited to the task at hand. My .mp3 player is easiest to carry, my desktop can't be as easily carted around. What do I want my devices to do?

I promise you, I will never want a single handheld device that can get me up in the morning, start my coffee going, warm up the car I don't own to take me to the job I don't work at, tell jokes to me on the way home from work, and hand me my mail as I leave the garage. (And if you're the kind of person who really wants that? We aren't on the same page. Unless you're currently inventing that kind of device, and if you are, hey, toss me a line, I'm open to suggestions.)

What I want is pretty much in line with the article--I want my tech to do a few things, but not every thing; I want to be able to take what I want with me, be that programming, music, books or games. But I'm not looking for the One True Gadget.

It doesn't exist.

Is SL group chat still broken? Yes, but they promise it will be fun, fast and easy....soon. You just wait.

Any day now.

Yep.

"The ship of Linden state is listing pretty heavily to starboard."

I'd actually agree with nearly all the points made in this article, especially this one:

"First off, Linden Lab doesn’t appear to know what its core business is. Hint: it’s server hosting."

I'd pair with that the nigh-perpetual complaint that the Lindens do not spend any, or hardly any, time on the servers they're hosting. They have no idea how people actually play the game they've developed.

This is a hard-core blindness issue that doesn't seem to be going away regardless of how many Linden changeovers/layoffs/outright firings they have.

Which brings us to the next inescapable point: the utter and complete lack of any vestige of customer service or, dare I say it, customer support. This is verging on criminal, at this point, and we've long since passed the verging on stupid. As Mr. Jennings puts it:

"Second, after the server hosting is there and done, the second neglected feature that is killing Second Life – customer service. Or rather, the lack thereof. I’m sure it will surprise few MMO watchers that much of Linden Lab’s recent bloodletting was in customer service."

I doubt this comes as a surprise to anyone. I doubt it will further surprise anyone that now, post-bloodletting, there's virtually zero way for the end user--the customer actually paying the Lindens money--to get anything even resembling abysmal customer service.

For all the sarcasm of that essay's end, and for all the perpetual emphasis on overweight men wanting to be hot fashionistas...The market Linden Labs has found for their product seems to want, in large doses, to be:
  • attractive, young, "fun"
  • sexually capable, with an emphasis on sexual poses
  • almost exclusively devoted to high heels or cleavage-enhancing tops/gowns/minis
  • interested in programmable collars, viewers and toys to enhance said sexual experience
  • wanting really great, highly detailed prim hair
What, in any of this, said Let's move all the icky adult stuph to Zindra so we don't have to think about it, cripple search so no one can find anything, introduce a viewer no one wants to work with, and neglect to fix group chat, group notices, and grid stability? Because I don't see that on the list.

A bit more on the Ikaru Aichi ban...Still no clue on when, if, or ever Miss Aichi will be unbanned; considering she just launched a new sim, the timing is especially morbid. But Aura Falta's throwing a 50% off sale at Tacky Star, and has introduced a new skin specifically for the sale. I still don't know precisely how it works on paying tier when your account has been banned, thus erasing that access to your Lindens...but hey, if you spend it in the stores dotting the Bad Blood sim, they'll at least have money to move if it comes to that.

Are we finally in the era that contains the death of the phone call? Maybe. Or maybe we're just evolving, using better systems to inform us when people can talk, and when they don't want to, and working from there. This is not the worst place to be.

Finally, if you're in one of the countries directly affected by ACTA legislation--or even if you're not--you should consider learning about ACTA and how best to fight it. Because if legislators have their way, it's coming. And it does not have our best interests in mind.

And one last mention of oddity: "I know more than one superstitious critic who will not say anything bad about Gallo in print. And no, I’m not kidding." Wau. I had no idea.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

disconnecting, no one calls, the phone don't even ring

Sometimes, playing Echo Bazaar ends up a uniquely trippy experience:
A dream about a corridor lined with brass mirrors

In the dream, the mirrors on the left-hand side reflect you walking through a desert of ash, spiked here and there with the blackened stumps of trees. When you turn to your right, you fall out of bed. You open your eyes. Moonish light filters into the room: for a moment the floor beneath you seems to ripple, reflecting it like a pool of mercury. No, hang on, you're awake. This definitely just happened.
I've had nights like this.

At the turn of the century, a Danish painter named Vilhelm Hammershøi predated the Second Life effect of viewing the world over your avatar's shoulder. Notwithstanding the fact that he's apparently the go-to artist for 'serious literature' book covers, I find myself very comfortable with the view of the back of his wife's head. It seems natural to me, at this point.

And, following up on the current bans from yesterday and on Monday, this is by report the exact letter Hybrid Ansar got from Linden Labs as to why she was banned.

I guess that answers that.

[15:28] Tomoyuki Batra: The update is that they have changed Azriel's password so he can't get into the site or xstreet. He is getting ready to call them.
[15:28] Sakura Rajal: O>O what?

For those who don't remember yesterday's mention, Azriel Demain has been banned from Second Life. The thinking was this would only be for seven days. An additional email made it clear that the ban could be for seven days, or "indefinitely".

"Indefinitely" is a bad, bad word at this point.

[15:29] Tomoyuki Batra: They suspended Azriel for a week starting yesterday
[15:29] ZombieToy Fretwerk: wtf
[15:29] Tomoyuki Batra: because he had the words 'inspired by dracula' on one of his xstreet listings

Here's how we think it goes--Azriel has the listing up. Doesn't think to change it, because it's been that description for at least two years. Someone happens across it--who knows who? For all we know, it could have been a wandering Linden. This soul then reports it as a violation.

And Linden Labs freaks out completely and bans Az from the grid.

[15:30] Vylna Daviau: when Second life ADVERTISES - come on second life and be a vampire?

I should point your attention towards the current ad in the sidebar--it's been replaced with text-only, but the ad I had before for SL, if anyone remembers, was the one Vylna's referring to. Apparently it's okay as long as they don't say "Twilight" or "Dracula"...

(Though to that end, just as a side note...why haven't KayKay Stine, Xtasy Veil, Acekala Porthos, AngelinaJolie Laville, Azriel Watanabe, Caroline Tairov, Madonna Ohare, Sherry Moleno, MK Magic, TrishaNicole GossipGirl, TheCureAndTheCause Ghost, snoe Halostar, or Tristan Careless, just to mention a few who are quite blatantly ripping off the "Twilight" film series, been banned, then? There's no equality in the ban process? Or maybe it's that "Twilight" and "Avatar" are so much bigger than SL, and nobody will mind or notice, but Universal might sue Second Life for the "inspired by" line? Help me understand the thinking, here.)

[15:31] Tomoyuki Batra: yesterday he was able to access xstreet and secondlife.com
[15:31] Tomoyuki Batra: now he can't.
[15:32] Tomoyuki Batra: that means no transferring of moneys from xstreet into second life for tier, sim, anything else
[15:32] Rayven Zelmanov: How can they do that to him???

Well, pretty much because they're Linden Labs, at this point. But what Azriel is most worried about is that tier, which is due on 2 August. And he doesn't get in at the earliest until 8 August. What happens on the second when tier isn't paid?

[15:32] Tomoyuki Batra: that means he can't pay his vendor spaces
[15:32] Tomoyuki Batra: that means no creating, no new releases, nothing
[15:32] Rayven Zelmanov: totally unfair
[15:32] Tomoyuki Batra: this basically screws him completely because this is his rl livelihood.

I've been saying for most of eighteen months now, that the end goal of Linden Labs' new management is to finish user-created content, once and for all. Because they seem to want a safe world, a sanitized world, a world that's flirty enough for adults and bland enough for the tweenybops and hot and cold running events for everyone else. Where money comes in and doesn't go out and everyone on the planet has a Second Life account.

This isn't a bad dream...well, actually, yeah, it's kind of an absurd and ridiculous dream that's completely delusional, but compared to, say, placing a private ad for a young man to slaughter and consume, well, it's a small fluffy happy dream. More power to them.

But the Lindens--old or new--still don't live in their world. They keep failing to understand the basic premise--if people are banned from creating; if people are turned solely and wholly into consumers of existing content; who's making that content? And if it's turning into that kind of game, where everyone has a choice between the jeans and the green t-shirt or the magenta disco dress, then we might as well be playing the Sims.

[15:33] Tomoyuki Batra: this could mean the end of falln if they keep going.

If Azriel Demain is permanently banned for something that was easily correctable, and it turns out to be entirely Linden-contrived, no one else noticing at all--that means this entire thing could have been avoided with a phone call, a personal note, hells--a notecard or IM sent in world.

This may well be the worst PR disaster the Labs have ever suffered, because--and especially so soon after the mass lay-offs--it will mean pretty much anyone is fair game. That no one is sacred anymore. That it doesn't matter how many sims we might own, we can go down on a whim.

This is not what the Labs want us all to be thinking.

When we were having this discussion this morning, there was at least one fellow who didn't get it, and kept making inappropriate comments in the group.

[15:34] VIKTOR Faerye: chill out ppl , just get the stick right out of ur asses

Tomo finally bounced him. Me being me, I couldn't leave it there:

[15:50] Emilly Orr: We did try to warn you. Apparently you don't listen.
[15:50] VIKTOR Faerye: cmon i have things to do here and that window keep coming
[15:51] Emilly Orr: So close it. That stops the window from popping up. Instead, you've now irritated the highly stressed partner of Azriel, who has banned you from the group and from the store. Consider it your lesson in being polite on SL.
[15:53] VIKTOR Faerye: lol i dont even know why i was a member,so how can i tell u i dont care

Yeah, I should've dropped it there. But I am stubborn when frustrated, and I am frustrated in so many ways at present.

[16:02] VIKTOR Faerye: why ppl is so hostile these days, i just was trying to have fun
[16:02] VIKTOR Faerye: i dont even know wat the problem is
[16:03] Emilly Orr: Azriel Demain, the owner of FallnAngel Designs--the group you got kicked from--got banned by Linden Labs for using what they consider to be a copyrighted word in a description on an XStreet listing.
[16:03] VIKTOR Faerye: wats the word_

(As it turns out, actually, it was the "inspired by", not so much the "Dracula", near as we understand things now.)

[16:03] Emilly Orr: It is now July 29th. He was told he was banned yesterday. This gives him seven days before he will be able to log back in--IF the Labs don't make it a permanent ban.
[16:04] VIKTOR Faerye: but wat was the word he used
[16:05] Emilly Orr: On the 2nd of August, tier is due for his sims. If he doesn't pay it in in-world currency, there are two ways that Linden Labs can deal with this. One is to pull funds from his personal checking account, which means certain longer-term RL plans will be scotched; the other is to declare the sims defaulted, return everything, and reclaim the land.
[16:05] Emilly Orr: Which word?
[16:06] VIKTOR Faerye: damn he is in some trouble then
[16:06] Emilly Orr: Yes. And you came in with your sense of humor and pretty much stomped on Tomo's last remaining nerve.
[16:07] Emilly Orr: Do you understand why this is a little big bigger than 'damn, people, chill, pull that stick outta yer asses' territory?
[16:07] VIKTOR Faerye: lol poor tomo im sorry bout him too * no kidding *

Go figure. He's sorry now that he's been bounced from the group and estate-banned. Some people.

[17:21] Emilly Orr: Did they tell him anything about payment on his sims?
[17:21] Tomoyuki Batra: they just kinda said 'oh well'
[17:22] MichaelE Eiren: don't they WANT their tier??
[17:22] Emilly Orr: This is a PR nightmare, but I'm not entirely convinced the Labs care.

This is the exact listing from XStreet's current "Report Item" policy:
Report Item

Before you continue to file a report, please review the following:

Are you having delivery problems with an item? Is this a general complaint better handled by Customer Support? Please DO NOT use this tool. Instead contact the Customer Support team directly.

Contact the Customer Support Team

Do you want to report an intellectual property violation? If you are an intellectual property owner with a complaint about a marketplace listing, contact the Intellectual Property team directly.

Contact the Intellectual Property Team

If the above situations do not apply to your complaint, then use this tool to report basic listing issues. Examples include: miscategorized listings, adult content, wrong language, listings for real-world goods or services, non-item listings, item or keyword spam, re-listed items, references to other e-commerce websites, anti-competitive or abusive behavior, or other Second Life Community Standards violation
It sounds like "inspired by" anything isn't even an issue, by what they're looking for. What they're looking for according to this would be:
  • adult content in non-adult listings
  • item or keyword spam in the listing
  • re-listing the same items with new names
  • referencing websites not XStreet/SL Marketplace
  • abusive language or "gaming" tactics used in the listing
  • assigning listings to the wrong category
  • using the wrong descriptive language in the listing
Maybe the Labs are just that nervy, but if they're telling him he can't re-enter SL, or use any SL-related services, until August 8th...he's going to lose all four sims.

FallnAngel Designs at that point will be a dead fashion house. Does Linden Labs really want this?

One last thing: on this YouTube video (don't ask, Fawkes is dragging me through Phineas & Ferb), they list the allowable use section of the Copyright Act of 1976:
"Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for 'fair use' for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."
Does that matter a whit in terms of DMCA provisions, or Linden Labs' own internal Terms of Service? Not a lot, no, per this section:
2.6

Linden Lab may suspend or terminate your account at any time, without refund or obligation to you. Linden Lab has the right at any time for any reason or no reason to suspend or terminate your Account, terminate this Agreement, and/or refuse any and all current or future use of the Service without notice or liability to you. In the event that Linden Lab suspends or terminates your Account or this Agreement, you understand and agree that you shall receive no refund or exchange for any unused time on a subscription, any license or subscription fees, any content or data associated with your Account, or for anything else.
Yeah. Like that. So according to that passage, it may not matter why Azriel was banned, just if the Lindens will let him get back on. But this is making a great many of us nervous about many things--creating in world; living in world; and staying in world.

It is becoming a very, very hostile Second Life.

In other news, there's news on MyWorld--is it the next Second Life? Or the next Facebook? From here, it's hard to tell. All we know so far is it's an international social game--there are no avatars, but there are vehicles--be they cars, trucks, planes or trains--that one can use to compete in mini-games.

[23:59] Poppet McGimsie: this really happened: a friend of mine was teaching a logic class, and explaining how two negatives can make a positive, but two postiviers can never make a negative, and someone in the class said (very sarcastically) "yeah yeah"

Showed them, huh? And that's all from the cheap seats for tonight. Ta!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

we're one breath away from our judgment day

Back we go to the Ikaru Aichi ban.

As previously covered (here and here if you haven't read the previous ponderings), now she is saying that it wasn't her ex-boyfriend (who was not, as was reported in a hearsay fashion, responsible for going in under her account and doing anything), but the avatar--who may no longer even exist on the grid--who also lifted items from Hybrid Ansar (as well as other people, most recently mentioned, Roslin Petion, whose hand-painted and hand-detailed corset was ganked), the unfortunately-named poo Blackheart (btw, on that link? Half an hour ago there were items there. Now? They're all gone. That's very interesting, don't you think?).

Recover from that run-on sentence for a bit, it's okay. My head is not in the most grammatically correct space today. I'll wait.

Hybrid Ansar, btw? Has also been banned. What in the hell is going on?

[18:20] Aura Falta: what we have seen her do is as soon as she is contacted by iki or another creator, she seems to close shop immediiately and deletes that SL account
[18:20] Aura Falta: but then she pops up a few days to weeks later with a new name, avatar and store, and start putting the same shit out
[18:22] Aura Falta: the lesson we have all learned from this is to never ever contact the copybotter directly, as it gives them time to close up shop
[18:22] Aura Falta: and time to get your ass banned

Honestly? Everyone who reads this, listen to this one passage, if nothing else.

1. DO NOT contact the person in violation directly.
2. Contact Linden Labs, giving them full information in the AR on exactly where each prim containing the copyright infringing goods are found, in world, or exactly where the listings are on XStreet or SL Marketplace.
3. Two things are ESSENTIAL: Be POLITE, and be SPECIFIC. Attach examples if allowed. If contacted later, be POLITE, and be SPECIFIC. Send examples to the Linden who contacts you, if allowed, and you can still find them in world, or on XStreet.

I'm going to give Aichi some leeway on on this one, for the story-changing. For a) being forced to communicate through other people, which distorts things; b) being in an emotional and overwrought headspace, which distorts everything; and c) learning things day by day and announcing them too soon. Does that mean this is the end of the tale? Not likely, not until at least Ikaru herself knows who helped to ban her...and she may never find that out.

(Though I will add, that in light of how easy it seems to be to ban someone from the game, for petty personal reasons...the fact that Aichi banned Serenity Semple for doing nothing other than being a good hunter from her sims seems morbidly relevant. I'm so not saying Serenity had anything to do with this--she didn't. But there is that spark of kinship, here--Linden Labs doesn't seem to care, either, if they ban paying customers...)

Along those same lines, Azriel Demain has been banned from Second Life--by Linden Labs--for the next week. Why? Well, it's apparently due to the Julius suit--and not the one sold in-world, but the one sold on XStreet (as I recall, there was a black or silver version which seems to have been removed from listing; the original red, and the white, remain).

Why? Because of this line in the listing:
A stunning suit with a gothic flare. This was inspired by the 'grey suit' Gary Oldman wears in the 1992 movie Dracula.
Apparently "someone"--again, he doesn't know who, because one of the many peculiarities of DMCA filing is that anyone can just tell the Labs they're in violation; it is then up to the accused to prove their case (which includes putting down your real name and accurate contact information), not the other way around.

Here's what's getting me about all these cases. In a nutshell:

* Ikaru Aichi owns a sim.

* Hybrid Ansar owns a sim.

* Azriel Demain owns FOUR sims.

Lindens? Are you listening? If that doesn't make it plain, let me state it outright: at what point is the dividing line between "investigation of allegation" and "corporate profit"? Because it doesn't seem like you investigated any of these bans like you should have, and, beyond that, you already have a situation where your userbase is shocky and unsteady from their perception (perhaps in error, but emotions are not known for being rational) that Second Life as a whole is starting to fall apart.

And, just to hammer this point into the ground:

Why isn't Lunk Portal banned for copyright infringement? What about Butkins Sugarplum? How about Santana Zeplin? Or Webby Merlin? Or Magicka Moonites? Or brunhild Uriza? And then there's Guinevere Dagostino and Scooty Gearbox and SugarFree Delicioso and Dely Breen; why aren't they banned too?

I'm not even TRYING HARD, here. What about:

Amdir Exonar's "Return of the Jedi" outfit? Or Sorelli Productions' Sith armor? Or Lunk Portal's Stormtrooper voice HUD? Or Rogue Harsley's complete Ahsoka Tano avatar?

You can't be that stupid and run a company this long. But Lindens, you just might be that blind. What all of these people should work on finding out is, exactly who in Linden-land is responsible (currently, because the position likely, and recently, shifted hands) for bans and DMCA filings. My thinking is, either they don't know the limits of their job, or they don't have the manpower to do their job effectively.

So which is it, LL? Because something needs to be done.

[14:08] bigbossmoney Artful: you cant just keep my money
[14:08] bigbossmoney Artful: have you not read the sl


It's a point. You know, I try to keep up with the new periodicals, but some of them, they just slip my notice....My gods, that might need to be a new catchphrase.

Have you read the sl? You may want to! It could tell you things!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

no more gas, in the red, can't even get started

Organica is actually participating in a hunt, wherein she offers up her Japanese Alder bonsai for free (for finding the hunt item, of course). Just my luck I prefer the look of the Japanese Maple bonsai, but for either, I'd have to ponder where I'm going to put such a thing--because I would not want to leave it in my inventory! Both versions are gorgeous, and they have seasonally-changeable leaves.

More RL than SL, and Miss Kamenev, do not click this link, but some of these three-dimensional tattoos are stunning.

Next up, I want to talk a bit about Gorean fashion. More in general, than anything, but consider this a small guidebook from the uninitiated (that would be me).

For a while now, I've been on the lists of "25LT", a rotating group of Gorean merchants who design at least one item for L$25 every Tuesday--hence, "25LT" for short. Part of it is that some of the folks on the list do things other than Gorean items, and I like what they do. Part of it is that one of the stores, nearly perpetually on the list, I like a great deal--both the look of the store and the items for sale. (In fact, if you want to get into the subscribe-o of the group, going to Painfully Divine is a safe bet to get on the list.)

How'ver, at least one-third of the items, on any given week, fall into the "camisk" variety. And it's not that they're unlovely pieces; but they seem to be designed to be worn as the sole garment, if you take my meaning. And most of them reveal one, or both breasts, and end about mid-hip...revealing everything lower than that.

So I finally broke down and went hunting on the net. It has been some time since I read the Gor novels, and being as I'm not Gorean, these little details can slip my mind quite painlessly, as it happens.

The City of Lara's page lists a passage from Outlaw of Gor:
Camisk:
A rough rectangle of cloth, worn like a poncho and belted at the waist. The Turian camisk is shaped like an inverted "T" and is tied behind the girl's neck, her back and in front at the waist. "She wore only a single garment, a long, narrow rectangle of rough, brown material, perhaps eighteen inches in width, drawn over her head like a poncho, falling in front and back a bit above her knees and belted at the waist with a chain."
Okay, so a rough, simply woven, plain garment. Like this one from Coquetry Clubwear:

camisk,Gor

Only, well, in green. The page leading up to that link had more information:
"The camisk is a rectangle of cloth, with a hole cut for the head, rather like a poncho. The edges are commonly folded and stitched to prevent raveling. The camisk, I am told, normally falls to the knees...The camisk, I am told, was at one time commonly belted with a chain. However, the camisks that I have personally seen, and those we were given, were belted with a long, thin strap of leather binding fiber. This passes once around the body, and then again, and then is tied, snugly, over the right hip....The belt of binding fiber not only makes it easier to adjust the camisk to a given girl, but of course, the binding fiber serves to remind her that she is in bondage. In a moment it may be removed, and she may be secured with it, leashed, or bound hand and foot....The camisk, in its way, is an incredibly attractive garment. It displays the girl, but provocatively. Moreover, it proclaims her slave, and begs to be torn away by the hand of the master. Men thrill to see a girl in a camisk."
This is from the book Captive of Gor.

So obviously, the point of a camisk is to sexually entice; I don't think it goes too far beyond the pale to say that slave girls wear camisks, and nothing else beyond the "leather binding fiber" (a more cumbersome way to say leather belt likely has not been invented) or chain. Simple garment, sedate enough as it falls to the knees, revealing, but not...what's a good word...slutty? Or hells, since I actually have a folder in my inventory labeled "slutwear", let's go with trashy. Because a female can be darn near completely revealed, and have a very slutty look about herself, without crossing that line into trashy. Burlesque queens did it all the time.

Mer-Elf Creations started making some reasonable ones about a year and a half ago. They had a tailored bodice, but otherwise were simply structured lengths of cloth, bound around the body with a leather cord. Done. Then things got complex...

From the Pretty Pretty Dress Up blog comes a few articles under the heading of "Camisk Week": they're found here, here and here, to give you an idea of the wide variety of items that are put out, shouldering the weight of the world "camisk". There's also a whole category entitled "Camisks" for entries on the Arachne's Silks blog, and if those fishnet numbers that start it off really are considered camisks, I'm woefully out of my depth, here.

Haven Designs,Gor,Second Life

And then there's this sheer number from Haven Designs (again from 2009). And yes, before you say anything, I do think it looks better without the "censorship" hearts, but I also don't want to have to transfer this to my private server...

...because I can't remember the password to get in....

...AND ANYWAY, that's not the point of this.

I guess the point of all this is, I still don't know what a camisk is. Are they essentially rough tabards with a head-slit, bound by a length of cord, chain or belt? Are they enticing little numbers of silk and beads that reveal in no uncertain terms that you are absolutely IN NO WAY IMPAIRED from being thrown against the nearest wall and taken by any random thug with a momentary interest in you? I mean, really...what does "camisk" mean for the Gorean culture?

Someone help me out here, because the stores in SL? Do not help.

In related news, Miss Searlait of Roawenwood has several items out currently at her mock 25LT board; she's not officially in it anymore, due to...well, let me have her explain it:
Hello!!! Guess what? I'm not in this weeks 25L round. And guess what else?

I'm not going to be next week either. *sighs*

Things been switched around on the list and the way it is working I'm probably going to have a harder time getting onto it than in the past unfortunately. Was going to try for next week but missed the window and have a feeling that is going to happen often.
So she's right--she has a wickedly revealing set of black silks (appropriately titled Wicked Fantasy), four male short-sleeved tunics in various colors, and on the other side of that sign, she has a potted palm on a burlwood pillar, and a reading couch with five very good animations, both also for L$25.

Roawenwood,Gor,furniture,silks,Second Life

Go look sometime today (she might even keep them up for a bit tomorrow); they're worth the trip.

I linger in the doorway of alarm-clock screaming monsters calling my name

Okay, this one? There's just no other word for it beyond "bizarre".

This comment from Anonymous (and I'm getting very nearly tempted to ban Anonymous accounts past this point, save some friends of mine do post with Anonymous accounts, as it happens) I thought was actually well-written...save for the links:
Rihanna established her dance-pop credentials in summer 2005 with her debut smash hit, "Pon de Replay," and continued to demonstrate such hit potential in subsequent years (e.g., "S.O.S." in 2006; "Umbrella" in 2007; "Disturbia" in 2008). However, it was the singer's third album, Good Girl Gone Bad, that made her a full-fledged international pop star with a regular presence atop the charts. Born Robyn Rihanna Fenty on February 20, 1988, in Saint Michael, Barbados, she exhibited a certain star quality as a young child, often winning beauty and talent contests.
{link to a website purporting to show Rihanna naked redacted}

Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born in the parish of Saint Michael, Barbados, on February 20, 1988. Growing up, Rihanna led a relatively simple, average life on her island home. She attended Combermere, a kind of technical high school, and, despite having a natural singing talent, she didn't give much thought to performing -- aside from singing with her friends for fun.
{link to that same website purporting to show Rihanna naked redacted}
Well, now. This is actually...literate. What's the world coming to?

Even better? It was originally sent to an entry from 2008 on steam rap, which featured nary a mention of Rihanna. Not one. At all.

(Though it did and does mention Tea Sea Records, and Tom Caruana, aka Elemental, who's been foundational in establishing Brighton rap as a geographical music style. Go figure.)

There's a Hellboy hoodie. There's also a Tron hoodie that glows in the dark, and a Green Lantern hoodie, and Aquaman and Flash versions. No, I have no idea why, either. I've never really "gotten" the whole hoodie thing. To me it's a sweatshirt with a zipper, big deal. I want a hood, I get out my cloak.

In related news, someone named KittyZilla has designed Watchmen felt badges and iPhone cases. I admit, the concept of low tech surrounding high tech always intrigues me. (Hells, my nifty state-of-the-art-at-the-time player? Is hanging from a hand-quilted, hand-embroidered pouch around my neck bedecked with buttons, beads, ribbon, and a cloth strap that buttons shut over the top.)

This is currently making the rounds, and as off-the-cuff as it is, it's not hard to see why. It's a little snip of Comic-Con that demonstrates several things effectively, all at the same time:

* Kids are cute;
* Geek kids are cuter;
* Ryan Reynolds knows the Green Lantern oath;
* but doesn't just know it, reads it with very little prompting involved;
* but doesn't just do that, since it's perfectly understandable he'd have to have it down for his character of Hal Jordan, but instead, reads it as if he, himself is a comic book geek;
* and happens to be a comic book geek on top of everything else.

Plus?

Ryan Reynolds,Blade: Trinity,vampires,action,movies

Abs. My gods, those abs.

*coughs* We'll move on.

Moments of pure beauty and pure joy and pure pain. Back in March of this year, Tale of Tales Studios put out an insanely complete postmortem of their latest title, The Path. It's an excellent, unabashedly honest, point-by-point cut-down of exactly what worked, along with what didn't, in developing, programming, and marketing the game.
"To some extent, those critics were right. The Path only wears imaginary clothing. You have to be willing to put yourself in the game, to let it touch you in places where you might not want to be touched. The Path is about you, your life, your memories, your stories. There’s an inherent risk in such a design that some people will not be able to enjoy it because they either have no life experiences that correlate with anything in the game or they are unable or unwilling to open up to the experience. Which is entirely understandable. And perfectly fine. And it doesn’t mean that The Path is beyond criticism. But if you’re going to judge the flavor of a dish, you need to chew and swallow. Even if it makes you sick."
They're not wrong. Moreover, reading through it--it's a long piece, to be sure, but if you have the time, even if you haven't played the game, I highly recommend reading through it--one gets the idea that The Path is akin to a smooth, polished rock chipped from a killing stone, tossed into a beautiful woodland lake where that one girl drowned when she slipped and fell from a high branch that summer day, and the ripples are still moving outward.

Farther, and farther still.
The Path was not an easy project to make. It delves deeply into our psyches and touches on some very sensitive bare nerves. Things that we have trouble talking about. We used the creation of The Path as a roundabout way to explore these things. And roundabout is probably the only way we can talk about them. Because they are complex and are accompanied by contradictory feelings. It’s probably good that language does not allow us to approach this. Language expresses these kinds of ambiguous feelings with difficulty. The Path is about fear and doubt. And about embracing both. It’s about control. And losing control. About a secret desire to submit, to let go, to fall, but proudly. A morbid fascination with helplessness. The fragility that becomes us because it makes us human. We are all like those girls, lost in a colorless forest. In search of our wolf. And in that split second, as his claws rip open our tender skin, like lightning in the dead of night, we are.

We know the intensity of these emotions. We know how disruptive they can be. That next to them, nothing seems real. And this frightens us. Because we cannot live like that. The intensity is unbearable. The truth of pain slits the night of life with blinding light. We seek shelter in the lie, in the mask, in the story, and in the game.
We are not ashamed.
It is the only path through the forest.
Let’s go.
How powerful a statement is that? It reminds me of another quote from Kenneth Patchen I first heard long ago:
come now, my child
if we were planning to harm you
do you think we'd be lurking here beside the path
in the very darkest part of the forest?
The expected answer to that is always "Well, of course not" because of the phrasing, but then, there's the words between the polite request and the end. They do get in the way from time to time...

And, beyond anything else, this essay does one thing with great, and perhaps deliberate, intent: reinforce beyond a shadow of a doubt my conclusion that The Path is not a game, according to Roger Ebert's rules. But it is a phenomenon. A year from now, I think people may well still be discussing what everything means, with no greater surety of their conclusions then, as now.
"We don’t know what everything in The Path means either. It doesn’t matter. Not anymore. Creating The Path was as much an intuitive experience as playing it can be."
Art, not game. Art as much as any live installation in a gallery. But art you can walk through, interact with, touch, appreciate, even if at times it does get under your skin and tug uncomfortably, perhaps even painfully, along the muscle fibers.

This? Is no more than it should be, and much more than I think anyone expected. And none of it would have been possible had the designers not strayed from their own set path, faced their own Wolves--and, by and large, conquered them.

I'll be very interested to see what Tale of Tales puts out next.

Monday, July 26, 2010

when your heart was open wide and you loved things just because

I don’t understand how the principles of cordial business behaviour suddenly don’t apply in SL.

The RUTHED blog bugs me on a lot of levels; but to be fair, those are pretty much all technical ones. Beyond the typos, occasionally freakish grammar, and missing words, there's a lot of truth to be found. There's a genuine heart there, speaking powerful words, and misspelled or fractured or lolspeak-encoded as it sometimes is, there's power in the words put down in (digital) print.

And, forgive me for waxing nostalgic--my fourth rezday passed two weeks back without even me being aware of it--but it's innately refreshing to find someone who speaks of the "old days" on SL and she's referring to 2004. The real "old days" of the game. Damn right.

Do I agree with her all the time? Hell, no. But is that the point of any blog, that I completely, wholly agree with everything said? And at least she's putting it out there--right or wrong, she's standing on her own merit.

So--and admittedly, at the behest of Mr. Allen--I have downloaded the new release of the main Second Life client again. To be utterly clear, I loathe with a fiery burning vengeance viewer 2.0; I think it was pushing too many changes, too fast, with no clear idea of what the bulk of the population of Second Life wanted, or cared to use; it had too many bugs at launch and should never have been approved for beta delivery without those bugs fixed; and when I used it, I discovered two things, right off the bat:

* Never make ALL YOUR GODDAMN MEDIA default on in a new viewer; this, above any other single factor, cemented my loathing of 2.0. I logged in to my home--a previously considered "safe place"--and, within moments of rezzing in, had to deal with music on (no clear way to stop it), media on (no clear way to stop it), voice (no clear way to stop it); and media playing on a prim Fawkes had rezzed as a demonstration (with no clear way to stop it). At the time, I had a less sensitive sound card, so my only recourse was to be screamed at, freak out utterly, and mute everything. I am not a person who multi-tasks, aurally, that well on the best of days. To suddenly have four inputs screaming in my head made me phobic of the entire viewer--a phobia that unfortunately still exists. I view anything on the 2.0 structure now with wary dread, and that's not likely to disappear any time soon.

and

* Never make it impossible to build, or script, or texture, in a viewer, unless the point of that viewer is to ensure people don't build with it. Which rather invalidates a large part of why many people log in to SL in the first place!

Apparently? They've corrected these two fatal flaws, and at least made others less buggy, so--carefully, with wary watchfulness, I'm willing to try it again. Conditionally.

[15:40] RockAndRoll Michigan: Our world, our imagination went out a long time ago, now it's their world, their rules, their office, bug off
[15:40] Magdalena Outlander: Well, I think they've shown that customer service is their top priority. . .except for all the priorities that come ahead of it.

Gad, that's so true.

Now, in continuing news from yesterday; there's more oddity behind the Ikaru Aichi ban.

First, the report (from Aura Falta) about the IP ban was in error; it wasn't an IP ban, it was just a standard ban from Second Life. (Though by report at least one roommate was also supposedly having trouble logging in.)

Second, there's additional weirdness to this case. First, Falta swears this is the first time Aichi has been banned by SL. This is not the truth; she had been banned previously, in 2008, for unknown reasons (unknown by me, obviously, not by Aichi).

Secondly--and I don't have logs to support this, I wasn't online at the time--but apparently, Falta stated in group chat that Aichi's boyfriend was abusive, and bullied her into giving him her password, and then logged in under her account and used Copybot with it. I have no verification if this is true or not; just the word of a source. This changes both the story I was told initially, as well as Aichi's own version on her own blog.

Secondly, by Aichi's own account, the original incident happened over two years ago; and what my source was questioning (and, now that I think it through, what I'm questioning as well) is--why on earth would Linden Labs wait two years? If they had evidence of ToS violation, they would have taken action against her then, not wait. It nearly has to be recent bad activity under her account.

Something else my source mentions--with the previous ban now on record, it may just be a 'last straw' motivation--that this last infraction (whatever it was) wasn't so large in itself, but taken as a pattern of directed misbehavior from 2008 (or before) to now? It may have finally caused the Labs to say enough is enough.

Again, this is all speculation, and please note: I am not saying anyone lied, specifically, I am not saying Aichi is a bad person; I don't want to log on tomorrow to a new spate of messages about how I'm a heartless whatever attacking the poor abused chicklet who's just trying to get back onto the grid, how could I....whatever. Don't want to see it. Not going there.

But there's still more to the story. Something else is going on.

Next, there's some controversial oddity at the Dead Carrot exhibit at the Summer of Love fair. I'm not sure how long Photobucket is going to host these pictures, and the large versions are definitely not for the faint of heart. This is, mind, at an event which is at least partially to raise awareness on mental illness and how various types affect us.

Summer of Love Fair,awareness,abuse,Second Life,fashion

The oddly-named "Why hate my tits?" Which, for me, phrased in such a way, implies that someone else did that to one of her breasts. Which, okay, fine, we're talking extreme roleplay, we may even be verging on Dolcett girl territory, but even with that...this is disturbing and unsettling.

Summer of Love Fair,awareness,abuse,Second Life,fashion

Next up, "What happens when I sparr" (with the double Rs, yes). What happens when I spar with someone else (and it's happened rarely, but it has happened): I get things bruised. Things swell. Perhaps there are scrapes. Sprains? Quite possibly.

In no combat scenario, real or virtual, have I ever had my nipple sliced off.

Summer of Love Fair,awareness,abuse,Second Life,fashion

The offering titled "Shorts are unfun now". Again, that's not a 'drat, I should wear longer pants' realization, that's "oh dear God I can see bone. Hospital! Now!' realization.

Summer of Love Fair,awareness,abuse,Second Life,fashion

I am not saying these items don't have their uses. They do. Trust me, even now, in the age where anything dark or adult is pushed off to one side so "normal people" won't have to deal with it--there are still roleplay scenarios, in a lot of diverse settings, where avatars could likely use all three. I am not saying the artist behind Dead Carrot is bad or evil or any loaded descriptive term for making these; that's not my point.

My point is--and I think it's excellently illustrated by the above photograph--if the whole concept behind the fair is to raise awareness of mental health issues, then why, for the love of all gods, have something this potentially triggering on display?!?

That's where I think Dead Carrot crosses the line--and keeps right on going. Because inducing panic attacks or abuse flashbacks while someone's browsing fashion? Just not cool.

(Again. Not saying me. Both my nipples are still very much attached, thaaaank you.)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

now I'm freedom unbound, cut the laces of life: the pistol, the poison, the noose or the knife

I've been getting a lot of meaningless comments on old blog posts. I'm not entirely sure what I've done to be indexed by all the spammers; I think of all the comments I've gotten, I've only let a few post. Maybe it was those first few that labeled me an easy mark; I don't really know. I do know that all of them now are pretty much insta-deleted.

The one sent recently to this entry, though, I had to preserve (though not publish on the entry itself; screw you and your inserted links, spammer):
HELP! I’m currently being held prisoner by the Russian mafia xyzrxyz {url for penis enlargement deleted} xyzrxyz and being forced to post spam comments on blogs and forum! If you don’t approve this they will kill me. xyzrxyz {url for teaching males how to have 'good sex' deleted} xyzrxyz They’re coming back now. xyzrxyz {url to buy knock-off Viagra deleted} xyzrxyz Please send help! nitip {url to buy knock-off Vimax deleted}
So...not to sound callous or anything, but...if your life is really being threatened by the Russian mafia to post spam comments on blogs and forums? They're really smart, then. Why, no one will ever, ever find you. I guess there's no way to get around it; they're going to have to kill you.

Better luck next life.

bangin’ heads there ‘til we all went broke

The first I'd heard of anything was a couple days back, when Aura Falta, owner of Tacky Star, screamed into the Violent Seductions chat, freaking out:

[2010/07/23 0:49] Aura Falta: i am freaking out

It seems--for no apparent reason--Ikaru Aichi, owner of Violent Seductions (**see note) had been banned. No one at that point knew why. And Aura--among others--was very worried.

Then the 5th and Oxford blog tossed a mention of the ban, in with a serious allegation that the two events are tied together. This has made me ponder several things, including the nature of Linden Labs bans, themselves.

But there's still something so odd about this one: first, I don't care how much any avatar in question wants you dead and gone--unless they a) know someone at Linden Labs, and, more importantly, b) can prove their accusations--LL won't budge. In all cases I've been personally aware of, the person banned did something to deserve that ban. Whether or not we think it's right, the Labs are legally sure that, by their ToS, they can stand on their bans.

And they've rarely been wrong.

[2010/07/23 0:50] Aura Falta: The decision to terminate your Second Life access was reached after investigation of your use of the Second Life software and service
this email is notification that Linden Lab has terminated your access to the Second Life virtual world due to severe or repeated violations of the Second Life Terms of Service or Community Standards.
[2010/07/23 0:50] Aura Falta: that is what they sent her

"Repeated" violations; "severe" violations. Does that sound familiar? The previous two cases, where someone I knew, and knew well, got banned, involved:

* garnering someone's account details without permission to use to purchase Linden currency; subsequently banned (they later made an alt, after presenting proof of restitution to the Labs, and promising not to do it again).

* releasing personal account details to another person; subsequently banned (*coughs* Supposedly IP banned, so any potential alts that might or might not be roaming around are obviously not using that IP address).

So what did Aichi do? Yes, both Ikaru Aichi and Aura Falta tend towards the abrasive; yes, they've both made enemies on the grid. This doesn't surprise me; so have I. But for Aichi to be banned out of the blue for "severe" and "repeated" account violations? That one of her business partners didn't know about?

Something else is up.

Notwithstanding the fact that IP banning a single person who lives in a single dwelling is one thing, but IP banning a person who lives with other people, who in this case also play Second Life...Guys? I know you're Lindens and all, but that means they can't play either. What the hell?

And adding onto that, this is someone who owns a sim. This is not some scruffy little griefer, bored out of his mind and looking for the next thing that goes bang between getting drunk that night and finals the next day. This is a merchant in, I would assume, good standing; someone with strong community ties; and, like her or loathe her, a sim owner.

She's banned; okay, fine, that may or may not be reversed in the next few days. But what happens to everyone on that sim with her? What happens to people she may have on her business' payroll? She loses the sim, all those stores have to relocate. She loses her account, she can't pay anyone; or put out new product; or get involved with any other charity efforts...

And what if this account is part of what's paying her RL income? She loses that, maybe she loses her home. Which means her roommates--which, again, are IP banned from Second Life, despite their blamelessness in all of this--are out of a house.

There has to be a better way to do this.

But I keep coming back to--what did Aichi do? What was the offense? What was so damaging that they had to ban her without notice?

[2010/07/23 0:51] Sakura Rajal: how was she doing this supposed repeated offense? and what was she doing?
[2010/07/23 0:51] Aura Falta: nothing
[2010/07/23 0:51] Aura Falta: she was doing nothing

So Falta says, and personally, I have no reason to doubt that's what she's being told. But it just doesn't hold up. What's really going on?

(**note: If you've followed the Violent Seductions link, Aichi herself answers the accusations:
I was not banned for copybotting. I have never personally exploited any kind of hack or copybot.

However; I did participate in the creation of some of Emerald's earlier addons (Namely; the PAR plugins). Some were questionable; one in particular used by my ex boyfriend.

Basically he used the exploit inappropriately and sent me the copybotted items.

You have to take into account that I have over 30,000 items in my inventory and I have never cleaned it; so things of that sort can very easily be lost.

Unfortunately for me; my ex boyfriend decided to report me to Linden Labs; blaming me for copybotting when in reality I had only received the items from him.

All of this happened nearly 2 years ago; before the creation of Emerald.
And okay, that I can see as being both "repeated" and "severe", especially if she's one of the Emerald developers, because let's be honest, while Emerald has been a godsend for the grid, from the development of Copybot on down, Modular Systems, and all its prior incarnations, have an established history of doing things with code that can be staggeringly misused. Note: I am
not saying they are bad people. I'm saying they don't always completely think things through.

(I'd also note that hello, the ex rearing the vindictive head--be careful in who you date on the grid. Don't date people crazier than you are. I like to think that I'm always the most damaged in any relationship, but I have been terrifyingly wrong, and more than once. This entire thing could have been avoided had her ex not been a complete and utter git.)


On the heels of that, I want to touch a little bit on the Summer of Love fair. Hosted by the same organizational crew as the minds behind the Black & Blue Fair, this one is so much better organized. Less lag, more space, more vendors, the notecard givers work for the most part...and from go, rezzing in, there's a dropdown on the space that says Not everything sold here is for charity. Right away, going in, we know that.

But also, the notecards are a great deal more in-depth than the few I managed to get on the last fair. All in all, this feels like a much better event.

And it's still for raising awareness of mental disorders, only this time they've tossed in gender disorders and domestic abuse, too. And there was a notecard specifically from Keira Seerose. I'm presenting it as I got it, typos and all:
My name is Keira Seerose and I own III - a clothing brand. These freebies are from that brand, but if you know me at all you are more likely to know me as the creator of the Summer of Love Fair where you got this freebie from.. and if you've been to that fair you might have been to my event before that, the Black and Blue fair.

The Black and Blue fair was my first major event. Born out of sheer bloody mindedness, ambition and persistance I tracked down designers I loved and got them involved. Half way through the planning I gained Melisande Metaluna, my personal assistant, who wrote all the mental health notecards and helped me deal with designers while they set up in the venue.

The event was an unexpectedly huge success - not just for fashion but for mental health awareness. Every day I would log in to messages from people thanking me for helping them come to terms with a situation they or a loved one was in. It was amazing to be a part of something so good.

My own mental health is under severe strain and has been for many years, sexual abuse, my sisters death, my parents divorce, emotional abuse, self harm, suicidal thoughts, a severe anxiety disorder that left me house bound, 47 suicide attempts in a year, acute depression and mood dysthymia (The medical term for permenant low mood)..... I was and still am a mess, for want of a better word. But throughout my troubles I have always tried to raise awareness of what it means to be 'mentally ill'. In my online travels I have touched thousands & thousands of peoples lives in various ways, and the best way I know how is to be brutally open about what Im going through - in the hopes that anyone going through the same will feel less alone.

The black and blue fair opened on June 4th 2010. I had worked hard to make everything perfect, with the help of Melisande and a small team of people who contributed their own skills. When I was online my driving force was relentless, pushing the venue, the designers and the whole event forward...

On the 20th of May 2010, a week and a half before opening night, my grandmother, Rosaleen, was taken very ill. I am very close to my grandmother... her and my grandfather (on my mums side) were like another set of parents to me. They helped me through all of lifes trials - including my sisters death and the sexual abuse, but more recently in life they had been my reason to leave the house.

It is near impossible for me, on a normal day - for example - to go to the shop for a pint of milk. But if my grandmother fell over I would go over to help lift her without a thought. I took them to hospital appointments, doctors appointments, x rays when they broke bones, lifted them when they fell.. the stuff you do for the people you love...

On the 20th of May we were told we would lose her. Her kidneys had failed and she was on morphine for her pain and because it couldnt leave her system it had put her into a deep sleep. We sat by her bedside all night, and at 6.45am the next morning, same as any other day, she woke up.

I stayed in the hospital for a week, with various family members coming and going my mother and I stayed there all the time, struggling to keep our eyes open at 4am to make sure if the worst happened it wouldnt be alone. When she was awake she was mostly incoherant, but spoke of her sisters - and mine - long gone, as if she were talking to them.

I helped the nurses wash her and change her bed, when she asked for water I gave it to her on a sponge on a stick - an odd contraption but it stopped her from choking on a drink. When she asked for a cup of tea (gotta love the british) I gave it to her through a straw. Brushed her hair, wrapped her rosary around her hand, sung to her in the night when my uncle fell asleep in the visitors chair.

Why am I telling you this? Because its important to know how much I loved my grandmother. It is important for me to tell people how much I Loved my grandmother. On the 27th of May 2010, around 4am - she passed away. With her husband, daughter, son, and two grandchildren (Me and my sister) at her side.

Throughout that week Melisande held the black and blue fair together, and the fair would not have been possible without her help. The day after my grandmother passed I came back to SL and back to work - luckily I was still in shock which lasted until after the fair opened.

This fair, the Summer of Love Fair, is in her memory. Because she was always proud of the little things I did to try and help other people. She supported me in all that I Did, and loved me despite my flaws. There were many days and nights when I felt like I had no one in the world... a feeling I Know that a lot of people have. I know now how wrong that was.

It feels like the world should have stopped. It feels like I shouldnt have to tell strangers reading a notecard about my grandmother, that the whole world should have known and loved her as I did. Loss is an illogical and cruel beast.

The other notecard in this folder will tell you all about what bereavement is and its signs and symptoms, but if you've felt it you know. Bereavement is a broken heart without hope. It is utter darkness and shock - because it cannot be undone no matter how hard you wish. It steals the light from your life and shows no remorse.

Bereavement can last days, weeks or years. I am still affected, weekly, by the death of my sister when I was 7... and I am not sad about that. The pain is the only reminder to the world that she mattered. Does that sound familiar? Don't be ashamed to value the pain and not want to let it go. Although life must move on, its alright to feel like it shouldnt. Its part of grieving... and while I will tell anyone whos having those feelings to talk to someone about them - I would like to end this notecard by saying thank you to all those who enjoyed this fair or the Black and Blue fair. Anyone who learnt anything from it. Anyone who took more than fashion away from this place... because the love and compassion and desire to help people that made me create these events came from my grandmother. So this ones you for Granny.
You can reach the Summer of Love fair here.