Saturday, January 28, 2012

Into the Wilderness: Among the Second Life Diaspora (Part I)

Sometimes we feel we straddle two cultures; at other times, that we fall between two stools.

 Salman Rushdie

Recently, I encountered some difficulties with the laptop I use when visiting Second Life (SL).  (Someday, Linden Lab (LL) has to do something about that awkward viewer.)  A polite way of saying my hard drive died.  They certainly don’t make ‘em like they used to. 

Last week I managed to post to a blog despite my machine’s vagaries.  This week I wasn’t so lucky.  I have been unable to go inworld for almost a week now.  I’m not going through withdrawal, DT’s, or anything like that. But, I do miss my friends on the grid. 

This little technical problem is also playing havoc with my planned writing schedule.  (I was so pleased with myself with having three months of stories laid out.  I guess it’s true what they say about if you ever want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.)  With the help of inworld friends, I’ve reached out to those with whom I was a no show on our appointments.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have Real Life (RL) email addresses for all my SL friends so I’m playing catch up right about now. 

My plan right now is to acquire a new machine.  (BTW, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, don’t bother with Geek Squad.  Check out my rant on their Facebook page, which was replied to nine hours later, for the gory details.)  This will take a little more time but I should be back inworld in February. 

In the interim, I plan to visit with the SL community across the Metaverse until I can go back inworld.  I want to see what they’re going and how they’re using the tools available, especially the social media ones. 

I’ve learned during my travels across SL over the last eight months that SL residents are doing a lot across the Metaverse. 

There are ezines, Inner World , The Best of Second Life , and Retropolitan  focusing on various aspects of life in SL.  Then there are blogs like New World Notes , Janey Bracken’s Janey’s place in Second Life, and Chey Palisades’ Chey’s Second Life Blog where their owners write about their experiences in SL and related worlds.  Other places on the Web where SL residents congregate are the SL Forums, Flickr, Facebook, and Google+. 

What all of these locations have in common besides SL is they don’t require a SL viewer.  (I have access to another laptop, I’m just not permitted to load additional software onto it.)  So, I can stay in contact with the SL community.  (Assuming they want to stay in contact with me!) 

So, for the time being, I’ll still be out there with the SL community.  I just won’t be inworld for a bit. 

I have a request of those reading this blog, if they run into any of my other readers inworld if they would please tell them about my current technical problems and inform them that I can be reached either at my blog or at  I’d love to hear from them! 

Finally, I want to apologize to those whom I may have appeared to have simply fallen off the grid.  I hope I haven’t caused any inconvenience and I look forward to seeing everyone again very soon!  As always, I’m open to any and all ideas for places to visit and people to meet. 

I would like to thank Perryn Peterson and Janey Bracken for helping me reach out to other SL friends.    As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What Love Creates...

Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.

Eric Fromm

I thought that title might catch your attention. Although, I can’t take credit it for it.  It’s the name of a hunt taking place in Second Life (SL) in February and is being put on by FAR Hunt Group.  I found out about the hunt and the company from Kaii Kiranov  whom I wrote my last blog about.  She told me about Ava Runner and the hunt that she is organizing and asked if I’d like to meet her.  Never needing a second invitation for an interview, I quickly said yes and went off to schedule an appointment. 

I meet Ava at FAR Concepts inworld  which is the home of FAR Hunt Group.  FAR Hunt Group is a subsidiary of FAR Concepts which focuses on hunts, networking, and marketing for vendors across the grid. 

I begin by asking Ava about herself and what brought her to SL in the first place.  She replies that she first arrived inworld in 2006 after reading a news article about SL.  When I ask why she stayed, I receive the answer that I’ve heard from many residents, because she learned basic building and was hooked!  (I wonder if Linden Lab (LL) ever wondered in the beginning that the Linden Script Language would be responsible for so many staying in SL?)

Ava has found SL to be, as she puts it, an amazing creative outlet.  During the course of six years, presenting as different avatars, she has built homes, furniture, jewelry, clothing, and even sims.  SL has been both a business and a hobby for her.  When she was not building for her business, she was building for friends or herself. 

My questions turn to where the idea for FAR Hunt Group came from?  Ava tells me that while discussing the SL economy with her partner and husband, Falk Runner, they felt there should be more ways to help businesses promote themselves and others in a way that was not overkill to the consumer.  Knowing how popular hunts are in SL, they decided to move forward with a new division and dedicate it entirely to that. 

(BTW, Ava and Falk are another one of those couples who met in SL and became a married couple in Real Life (RL).  They now have a six month old daughter (in RL).  Later this year, I’ll do a story on folks like them.) 

Within two weeks of its inception, they had filled their first hunt, “What Love Creates”.  They put in place a successful VIP vendor program as well.  Ava feels that through all the networking that they are doing with customers and other vendors they are building an impressive content base.  If approached by someone outside of her field, Ava is confident that there are other businesses that she can work with, and will, to help her customers. To date, they have been profitable enough to work on a new project for the benefit of her customers. 

I ask about the first hunt, “What Love Creates”, which is being held from February 1st to 14th.  Ava replies that it’s theme is what does love create for each of us individually.  As an example, she cites Athena Naminosaki, a VIP Vendor, who chose comfort and crafted a special outfit for men and women.    

Future hunts will be monthly and each will have a different theme.  Since, Ava’s first hunt begins in February, normally associated with Valentine’s Day, the “What Love Creates” was chosen as the theme.  She and Falk wanted something that would be familiar enough, and yet open enough, to be a creative challenge for the vendors.  Ava expects the emotions created by the theme in the vendors will inspire them to create original, one-of-a-kind items. 

FAR Hunt Group’s business model is to create monthly themed hunts for its clients and then to promote them.  They also promote specific businesses through their VIP Vendor program.  Participants receive blog mentions, photographs, and an interview.  They also benefit from special notices sent to FAR Hunt Group’s members as well as special sales.  Ava works with these vendors outside of hunts and she enjoys the special r elationships that she has with them.  In short, FAR Hunt Group acts as a marketing/advertising-cum-publicist (I’ll bet you didn’t realize that I just made this term up.) for its clients. 

The February Hunt will have fifty-two extremely talented vendors specializing in everything from full perm content (Mattie Rae’s Fabrics and Notions), to clothing (Shey Fashion by Cuba Avedon), to furnishings (BagLady Designs by Tattoodive Jules).   A complete list of vendors and information on how to apply to participate is available on the FAR Hunt Group blog. 

FAR Hunt Group charges a onetime fee to its clients which secures them automatic acceptance into all future hunts.  Ava says this fee is a fraction of what other hunt organizers charge for similar packages. 

I ask about potential competitors in other hunts and the SL Marketplace.  Ava doesn’t view these as competitors but simply as additional opportunities to promote their vendors.  She mentions Mariposarosa Resident, owner of Tiende de Textura, who owns a company called TDT Hunts.  Ava views her hunt programs as an additional means of promoting her won clients and encourages them to avail themselves of this potential channel. 

FAR Hunt Group is also developing a retail center where all their vendors can be found in one place. 

As for the SL Marketplace, Ava views it as just another tool to increase revenues.  But, since some customers prefer inworld shopping to avoid Marketplace fees, they can take advantage of a convenient, event filled location provided by FAR Hunt Group. 

I leave Ava at this point because a customer has arrived and I’m through with my questions.  (People must get tired of me.)  Ava had also called out the FAR Hunt Group staff who help her and Falk, Auburn Firelight, her executive assistant, and Athena Naminosaki of Tragic Beautiful Photography, their staff photographer. 

I feel good after this interview because I saw a small SL business getting started and being successful.  I met a business owner who is positive and upbeat about SL’s future. And, finally, Ava and Falk are building another one of those communities that I keep finding in SL and keep proving to me that there is stll plenty of life left inworld. 

And, please remember to visit “What Love Creates” between February 1st and 14th so that everyone who’s working on this program can have the satisfaction of having other residents participate.  (I can sympathize, I like to think someone is reading my blogs!)

I would like to thank Ava Runner for taking the time to meet with me and talk about herself and her work in SL.  I would also like to thank Kaii Kiranov for introducing me to Ave.  As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.
I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

Photo No. 1: Ava Runner

Photo No. 2: FAR Concepts Main Location

Photo No. 3: Falk Runner

Photo No. 4: “What Love Creates” Poster

Photo No. 5: Mattie Rae’s Fabrics and Notions

Photo No. 6: Bag Lady Designs

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Live in a Box? Why Not? It’s Second Life!

                                                    Cause I know what’s going on

In my own mind

Am I living in a box

Am I living in a cardboard box

Verve and Pigott

As I’m still recuperating from my recent twenty-four hours in Second Life (SL), my routine of regular visits to Second Life (SL) is still struggling to come back to normal.  I took advantage of this struggle to visit an old friend, Kaii Kiranov, whom I’d been meaning to meet all last year and our schedules just never clicked.  Hopefully, this is a good omen that in 2012, I’ll be able to catch up with everyone whom I owe a visit!  (I heard that!  The year will be long enough!)

Kaii and I meet at her store in Glinda and begin to catch up. 

I first met Kaii through Perryn Peterson’s Hunt5.  She and her partner, Poise Collins,  own and manage heap! –cardboard box living-.   

A moment now.  Yes, I said living in cardboard boxes. Now, I can guess what you’re thinking right about this time.  It’s a virtual world, why would anyone want to live in a cardboard box when they could live in virtually anything they wanted? 

Well, there are people who enjoy living in virtual cardboard boxes in SL.  (I’m willing to bet that not too many of them live in cardboard boxes in Real Life (RL)!)  In fact, Kaii’s and Poise’s motto is, “Why live in a palace when you can live in a box?”  (One question still unanswered at the end of this interview was do SL carboard box inhabitants quarrel over the best spots over steam grates in winter?  You have to be from NYC to get that one.)

But, back to Kaii for a little history.  She originally became involved in SL when she moved to Texas from Maryland for college in RL and was separated from her twin sister, Jai.  A mutual friend, JJ, introduced them to SL so that they could be together again and still hang out.  The three started an inworld business called Twisted Sisters. Jai and JJ were programmers so they went ahead and scripted what Kaii calls the best titler in SL.  The titler began as a tool between slaves and masters originally for those involved in Gorean culture.  Later, they made a version for clubs and social events.

However, as many of us know, going away to college means moving away from friends and family in more than a geographic sense.  Jai became involved in RL activities which kept her from SL and Kaii got stuck on SL as she puts it. 

In her early days after Jai moved on, Kaii went sim hopping, just opening the map and clicking on a sim.  That’s how, one day, she ended up in a Belgian sim at at a club called Bushy’s  where she met her best friend and partner, Poise Collins.  The rest as they say is history. 

Kaii describes Poise as an artist and one of the most creative persons she has ever met. Poise has many business interests in SL.  She owns a successful store, Poised, and has her own fashion lines.  Kaii says that Poise is one of the few who runs a successful SL business.  The main store in the mall where Kaii and I are meeting is also owned by her. 

heap! began when Kaii pitched the concept of living in cardboard boxes in SL to Poise and they decided to go into business together.  Poise and Kaii both create the boxes, Kaii putting in their animations.

Kaii gives me a tour of several of the boxes that are on display in Glinda. The first one, entitled “Kaii Kandi” is reminiscent of an Alice in Wonderland scene.  The second looks like an ordinary office one would expect to find in either SL or Rl except that it’s in a box.  Each box comes with at least six animations contained in an animation menu and multi-sit capabilities.   (Although, yours truly here managed to end up on the floor the couple of times he tried to sit down.  Fortunately, Kaii is a patient instructor.)  Boxes available in hunts generally have fewer animations than those sold. 

This may sound strange to say, but, for a SL resident looking for a small place to call home and is looking for something a little untraditional  (OK, OK, a lot untraditional.) heap!’s boxes are good value.  I suspect that there are quiet, little corners in SL where someone could probably squirrel away one or two of these and no one would be the wiser.  (Not that I would do anything like that, of course.)

heap!’s boxes are available at their main locations in Glinda and Tanglewood.  The other two locations are remote at Charisma and Depraved Nation.  They can also be obtained through the various hunts which heap! Participates in during the year.  They feel they are in all the best hunts inworld and rotate hunt locations to reach new customers.

When I ask Kaii how the business side of heap! Is going, she replies that truthfully, they give away more boxes in hunts than they sell.  Their challenge has been getting the word out about the boxes.  Kaii says she and Poise never set out to be rich doing this.  The boxes are meant to be fun and to bring a smile to people.  Well, they brought a smile to me if that means anything! 

Kaii and I talk about the Great Depression of 2008 and its effect on inworld sales.  She believes the recession has had a huge negative effect on SL sales.  She has seen many businesses and residents leave with only a couple returning.  Kaii also believes that Linden Lab’s (LL) failure to protect inworld merchants has also affected sales potential negatively.  LL has to also understand that they can’t always have it their way.  She recommends that LL require merchants to have an inworld store presence and not just sell in the SL Marketplace.  The goal here would be to ensure that there always would be retails centers and communities.  I tend to agree with her logic.

As for the future, Kaii’s not sure what it holds for her in SL.  She never thought that she would be a creator in SL and she is.  She has met many really nice people in SL and enjoys that.  Something tells me that we’ll always see Kaii on the grid doing whatever but that she’ll be having a good time is a definite. 

I thank Kaii and take my leave of her.  I think about what I’ve learned in this meeting.  One interesting point is that Kaii and Poise have never met in RL.  Their friendship and partnership exist only in SL.  I shouldn’t say “only” because if we’re friends and we’re together does in really matter where “where” is? Kaii says she spends time in SL because she can meet people all over the world.  She admits it limiting but it does simulate RL contact. 

If you have a chance, please drop by one of heap!’s locations and check out their boxes.  Especially, if you need an extra room for those in-laws who always show up unannounced.  Or, drop by the club Dare to Dream, co-owned by Kaii and Poise, and just have a good time! 

I would like to thank Kaii Kiranov for taking the time to meet with me and talk about her work in SL.  As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.
           I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

Photo No. 1: Kaii Kiranov

Photo No. 2: Kaii Kandi Box

Photo No. 3: Office Box

Photo No. 4: Dark Box

Photo No. 5: heap! Glinda Store

Photo No. 6: Poised Main Store

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Machu Picchu – Back to the Past

We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.

Albert Einstein

After my recent twenty-four hours in Second Life (SL), I’m ready to return to my normal routine of weekly visits As much as I enjoyed my time inworld, I have to balance Real Life (RL) against my time on the grid.  (In other words, Significant Other has let me know there are limits to scientific inquiry.)
For this week’s blog, I decided to take a trip back in time to the Citadel of Machu Pinchu.  The Incan ruins abandoned in the Peruvian Andes and only recently rediscovered in the early twentieth century.  I received the idea for this visit from Wulfride (“Wulf”) Blitzen.  I had encountered Wulf at the ball I attended in the 1920’s Berlin sim.  Her SL profile indicated an interest in digital archaeology and I contacted her regarding this. I have an interest in the archaeology of the Internet and thought this was what her interest referred to.

Turns out, I was wrong.  (I always get in trouble with assumptions.)  Wulf is an archaeologist in Real Life (RL) and is interested in the use of SL to recreate old worlds which no longer exist.  Something for which SL is well suited.  Although, Wulf did mention some technical details which limit its usefulness.  She recommended I visit Manchu Picchu inworld to see what archaeologists have been building. 

So, this is how I find myself visiting Machu Picchu in SL.  The sim was built and is maintained by the Faculty of Engineering and Agriculture at the Universidad de San Martin de Porres in Lima, Peru.  (The sim’s primary language is Spanish with some parts in English.  Any mistakes in translation are due to my poor Spanish language skills.  My Spanish friends say, probably more accurately, that my Spanish language skills are nonexistent.  They do give me credit for trying.  So, be warned.)

I arrive at the rez point and am surrounded by a recreation of the original ruins.  While I’ve never been to Manchu Picchu in RL myself, friends and family have and I’ve had the opportunity to review their photos and those available in books and the Internet.  What greets me looks eerily familiar. 

The effect is impressive and I can only estimate the amount of work that has gone into scripting these remains of the Incas mountain retreat.  The Citadel is nestled in the mountains very much like the famous RL photo.   

I walk across the terraces and up and down the staircases.  A site map near the arrival area indicated where various sites may be found.  Llamas are to be found calmly grazing across the sim.  While they can be petted, they do not interact with visitors.  I spy a condor flying high in the sky and while I only had a glimpse, the workmanship was impressive in addition to the element of realism added. 

One advantage of visiting Manchu Picchu inworld is the almost total lack of tourists, not to mention not having to pay the RL admission fee.  The disadvantage is that neither are tour guides available.  Fortunately, Wikipedia and Google are readily available. 

The use of SL to recreate worlds no longer in existence in SL is another good example of how SL can be used for educational purposes.  The community required to build and maintain the sim demonstrates how SL brings people together to work on a common project.  I applaud the faculty and staff of Universidad de San Martin de Porres who have built this world and made it available for everyone to visit.

Manchu Picchu is well worth the time to visit and stroll around.  One cannot help but think of the people who built the original buildings and then disappeared into the mists of time. 

I have only one minor criticism of the sim.  Pop rock music continually plays.  (Bruce Springsteen was playing when I arrived.)  Some traditional music playing in the background would permit a more immersive experience. 

Wulf also told me of a recreation of the Somme battlefield in 1917 which I will visit in the near future.  With the approaching Centennial of the First World War, the timing is appropriate. 

I would like to thank Wulf Blitzen for taking the time to meet with me and talk about her work in SL.  As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

Photo No. 1: Machu Picchu – Arrival Area

Photo No. 2: Machu Picchu – Llamas Grazing

Photo No. 3: Machu Picchu – Citadel I  

Photo No. 4: Machu Picchu – Citadel II

Photo No. 5: Machu Picchu – Amphitheater