Tuesday, June 19, 2012

digging through the dark, gathering particles

(from the random album, and the SL Secrets blog)

Oh look! They found the blog!

No, not really, and regarding the emotional drama--as clear as I can be without compromising discretion is...absence is not a breakup. It's annoying, and worrisome, and I may have more very depressing days to come, but--it's still fog we're dealing with, not bloodshed.

But over on New World Notes, there was an intriguing point made, a very distinct (and not at all subtle) difference between Post Secrets (the blog that SL Secrets is based on) and SL Secrets, and it all boils down to self vs. other. Expanding a bit, the theory is that Post Secrets (in general) are pointed at the poster, whereas SL Secrets tend to be pointing at other people. In Mr. Au's own words:
Whereas the secrets in Post Secret are likely to be cathartic and therapeutic (both for the secret teller, and the Post Secret reader who shares a similar secret, and in reading, is relieved to realize others feel the same way), the secrets in SL Secret are not likely to be either. (Cathartic or therapeutic, that is.)
I don't think he's wrong, but why does this huge a difference exist? I think it comes down to the chosen medium.

While Post Secrets now accepts emails, for the most part they remain what they were when they started--a place people could send postcards, as in actually physically mail postcards, and have that little space of venting something deeply personal. It falls into the same category as writing letters then burning them, or talking to your priest, or driving outside city limits to go to a bar you've never heard of and strike up a conversation with a total stranger. Just to tell someone, at times, is often healing in itself.

Conversely, SL Secrets is wholly by email only. One doesn't need to be an artist in either place--scribbling on a card or scribbling in PhotoShop, same difference, really--but I find it's easier to dash off a quick graphic to upload somewhere, than it is to sit down with pen and paper and write a letter. Even if that letter's a postcard.

But more than that, while some Post Secrets entries are themed--for instance, currently they're celebrating Fathers' Day--for the most part, secrets of any level, from the dire to the commonplace, can show up at any time. And while the same can be said of SL Secrets, there's an interesting metric to reading it over the course of a few months (or years): namely, with the right analysis (plus help from Twitter or Plurk), one can reasonably chart any particular dramasplosion that occurs in SL (or slightly off it).

How? By watching the secrets that get posted. Sure, a lot of them don't seem pointed towards any particular thing other than secretive revelation:

(from the random album, and the SL Secrets blog)

or are secrets that can speak to multiple people, not simply the one under discussion:

(from the random album, and the SL Secrets blog)

But a surprising number of them point towards specific areas of high drama (namely, Plurk, which is one reason I still won't join Plurk--I generate enough drama on my own, thank you) or posting about one or two rather specific characters: to generalize, the Designer Who Complains That She's Not Selling Enough (and it's nearly always a she), or the Complaining Blogger (generally, complaining that no one will give her review copies). These have become SL Secrets tropes, in a sense, right up there with the Man Who Done Her Wrong, the Resident Who Has No Life, The Bitchy Friend, and the Man Who Plays a Girl in SL. (That last one, I still don't get--what is it with people and gender? My gender's important to me, but in terms of how I'm representing my avatar, it shouldn't be a factor. If my choice was to be male in SL, then to my way of thinking, people dealing with me should deal with me as male. What's the confusion?)

Essentially, if you wander by SL Secrets, and read through it, and then use potential keywords in search engines (or as targeted finds on Twitter, say)--sometimes you turn up exactly what's going on behind the scenes.

This is both fascinating, and creepy.

I do want to bring up one more "secret", though:

(from the random album, and the SL Secrets blog)

Having just crawled through the Mesh Around hunt (all twenty-one entries of it), I can understand why this is a huge concern. And, while this "secret" doesn't apply to me specifically, I thought it was important to address it, because this kind of thing happens a lot.

For me, it's partially stubbornness. I have three basic shapes: "human" (curvy, short, fairly compact), neko (taller, thinner and earless), and fae (MUCH shorter, much curvier, and with pointed ears). I do not like changing them. I should not have to change them to make clothing fit. I think it's relevant that all my shape variations are still running off the first shape I got when joining Second Life, six years ago. I have integrated those shapes into my consciousness as "me" a long time back, and changing them seems as if I'm altering my own physical self. It is an emotionally painful process.

Unfortunately, mesh clothing is not, per se, clothing--at least, not that we understand it. Thinking of it as armor, say--some material shaped like your body, but which is profoundly not your body--gets us closer to understanding mesh in the first place. And, for those pieces I elected to keep from the hunt--and I ended up keeping a surprising amount--I do plan to put the work in necessary to make it fit me--even if it means making a mesh-clothing-only shape alternative.

But that's something I do have the time to do--set up a folder with a lovely frock, a skin, hair, eyes, shoes, and a shape that fits the mesh--for one or two items. Past, say, six or so outfits? Hell no, not interested in having targeted shapes that shift every time I change clothes. I'm not the only one who feels that way, either.

And it is galling, designers; without a better understanding of 3D modeling, I just don't get why there are such huge sizing variations. If our joints are in the same places as your designer poppet's are, then rigged mesh should fit us in the same places. It is frustrating to realize that rigged mesh has nothing to do with the joints and everything to do with the avatar size. This is not something we were told when mesh was first mentioned.

And unless Qarl's mesh deformer works as it's supposed to--which is not a guarantee--mesh just isn't going to get better, at least not for the foreseeable future.

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