Saturday, January 25, 2014

Can I Find Someone in Second Life?

Antarctica is otherworldly, like nothing I've ever seen before. Stark, cold, beautiful desolation.

Mark Hoppus

          After several years of wandering and blogging about Second Life (SL), I’ve come to the conclusion that from all walks of life in Real Life (RL), people have come inworld to become avatars and do whatever it is that they do.  (Sometimes totally contrary to what they do in RL.  I wonder does anyone ever come inworld to become more conservative?)
          While one never knows another’s true identity inworld nor should they unless it is given voluntarily, I get the impression I’ve met technical geeks, writers, educators, librarians, artists, university students, homemakers, the curious, the unemployed, retirees, and many others.  In conversation with many of them, I’ve come to realize that I’ve met people from every continent but one. 
          That continent is Antarctica. 
          This has now become my quest (Yes, one among many as Significant Other reminds me.) inworld, to meet someone who is actually in Antarctica when we get together.  With this, I’ll have met someone from every continent.  (What can I tell you?  I’m easy to please.)
          Now, some may argue, like those who deny Pluto is a planet, that Antarctica is not a continent.  (Significant Other has asked, that for the record, Pluto is a planet and Antarctica is not a continent.)  I being the traditionalist that I am firmly believe that Antarctica is a continent and Pluto is a planet.  (Significant Other and I have learned a long time ago to reconcile our differences.  As long as I’m OK with being wrong, we have no issues.)
          Somewhere under all that ice is a big rock anchored to the bottom of the ocean.  (My apologies to geologists who may be cringing right about now.)  There is native life.  Maybe just some penguins and seals (Again apologies to any life forms that I may have omitted.) but they’re alive and they were born there.  There are human inhabitants.  Admittedly, SL probably has more on any given day than Antarctica does but they’re there.  Even if their survival depends on the navies and air forces of several large countries who may have ulterior motives (Don’t worry, I’m not going to start any conspiracy theories here.) they live and work there.
From my traffic analysis on Blogger, I get some very rough high level data on the geographic distribution of the readers of my blog.  (No need to have any privacy worries, very high level and I’d call it metadata except that term seems to have fallen out of fashion lately for reasons that I won’t go into here.)  North America, Europe, and Australasia typically have the most readers followed by Asia, South America, and Africa in that order.  But, never once have I seen anyone drop in from the South Pole.
Why is that?
I watch enough shows on the National Geographic channel to know that the inhabitants there aren’t exactly living in igloos chewing on seal meat to survive.  In fact, their accommodations look better than some RL hotels former employers have dispatched me to. 
          Watching the recent world news about the Russian exploration ship trapped in the pack ice off the coast of Antarctica, I know they have broadband access (and pretty good bandwidth from the looks of it.) 
          Many of the inhabitants are the technical sorts who love to surf the Internet and visit virtual worlds.  (I gotta believe that if you’re in Antarctica then you have some desire to travel and explore.  Either that or you did a really bad job of reading the job description you just posted for.)  They must have lot of time on their hands.  What do they do with it?  (Keep your minds out of the gutter!  This is still not that kind of blog.) 
          There are Americans there after all!  I believe that it’s impossible for my fellow country folks to go anywhere without smart phone access.
          Does Blogger perhaps lump the traffic into some nearby place like Australia?
          To date, despite my best efforts, I have no good explanations.  (We won’t go into Significant Other’s explanation that maybe an entire community is just showing good sense and avoiding me.)  I’ve made inquiries inworld.  I’ve searched the Internet.  I’ve tried to contact Antarctica.  (I’d hate to think what government agencies may be trying to figure out who I am.)  I’m beginning to suspect that they really like their solitude down there. 
          So, as always I turn to my readers for help.
          Does anyone have any ideas as to why we don’t seem to have any representation from Antarctica?  If anyone is reading this and they’re down there I’d really welcome a reply.
          Does anyone know anyone stationed down there and would they be willing to reach out on my behalf?
          Finally, if folks could ask around in their SL or RL (academia might have some promise here) about how Antarctica is connected to the Internet I’d be grateful. 
          I also plan to try and contact other places in RL that theoretically could access SL like the International Space Station, submarines, and any other places people might care to suggest.
          I’ll keep everyone posted on my progress and thanks in advance to all who help!
          And, if you’re following in Antarctica please drop us a line and let us know you’re there!  We’d love to hear from you!           
My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld 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 18, 2014

Is It Quiet in Second Life or Is It Me?

being alone never felt right. sometimes it felt good, but it never felt right.

Charles Bukowski

          Is it me or has Second Life (SL) gotten very quiet lately?
          I mean the kind of quiet you experience when you’re out late at night in a city known for its nightlife but all you’re hearing is the sound of the street lights hissing in the fog.  When you don’t even look over your shoulder because you know no one’s there.
          That’s the kind of quiet I’m talking about.  (Significant Other is accusing me of channeling Raymond Chandler here.) 
          Once upon a time, SL was everyplace, both inworld and in Real Life (RL). 
          There was all the RL media hype around SL which culminated in the well known cover story on Businessweek back in 2006.  Inworld seemed to be crowded all the time.  When I first rezzed into SL, there would be a little drop box which showed the number of residents online at that time. 
          Linden Lab (LL) employees (“Lindens”) were everywhere and residents would recount tales of aid and support from the famous blue dots. 
          Blogs abounded in the Metaverse about SL. 
          Where are we today?
          Well, mainstream media hardly says peep about SL.  Sometimes, I encounter RL friends who act surprised when I inform them that SL is still around.  Does anyone remember who Anshe Chung was or, if they do what she’s doing today?
          While there are still vibrant and active communities inworld, the large, noisy crowds of merry makers-cum-strangers who just happened to come together for a good time when I first rezzed seem to be a thing of the past.  That fresh sense of discovering a brave, new world is gone. 
          That little drop box showing online residents?  That disappeared years ago.  (I’m always suspicious when people stop sharing information that they used to make freely available.  I mean I could understand if they wanted to charge for it but just going away?)  Rumors of membership stagnation abound.   
          Lindens?  They are now the stuff of legend like the ancient gods of Greece.  Maybe they’re somewhere on Mount Olympus in San Francisco looking down on us mere mortals or maybe not…
          The blogs?  Sadly, many of these seem to have ended abruptly about the time the Great Recession started in 2008.   
          In some of my travels across the Grid, I visited some of the great builds.  I saw magnificent work.  But, frequently, I was the only one there.  Some of these have gone away I’m presuming because of the high tier pricing or maybe the owners/builders just got lonely. 
          There are small signs of life and the old vitality.  The terms of service controversy got a little notice in the Metaverse if not the mainstream media.  Oculus Rift and Google Glass offer a hint of technical revitalization.  Mesh appears to have excited builders and scripters and new products are being offered and old problems solved. 
          So, what’s going on?
          I see inworld what I’ve seen happen in my RL home, America.  Where once there were thriving, vital small communities scattered across the continent connected by railroads, the interstate highway, and the telephone (Don’t forget radio stations and TV sometimes before cable.) there are now near ghost towns populated by aging Baby Boomers.  The businesses closed down and moved away long ago.  Even the malls are dying.  (There hasn’t been a new, indoor shopping mall built in America built since 2006.) What has to be bought can be acquired at a big box Wal-mart which offers minimum wage jobs (frequently being the only private employer with the possible exception of a McDonald’s) and an increasingly limited choice of merchandise sourced from overseas. 
          Am I being negative?
          Perhaps so, and I apologize because I do try to avoid that trap.  I want to avoid being like the priest on Sunday who harangues his regular Mass goers for all those who do not attend every Sunday. 
          I once asked the question is SL viable as a civilization.  I believe it can be but without the props of a real civilization such as an economy with safeguards for intellectual property and other forms of commerce then we may stagnate and become just a virtual form of a board game like Candy Land with certain adult overtones. 
          Do we hit the wall?
          But I’m always an optimist.  (Significant Other thinks it’s one of my more redeeming features.)  There is still a hard core of dedicated residents inworld whom I’m proud to be part of and whom I’ll continue to visit with, explore, have experiences together with, and blog about.  The inworld tools even with their limits are incredible and great work is still being done by many talented residents.  Finally, the sense of community and purpose is still strong among those still inworld. 
          LL could help.  SL is like the shoemaker’s children.  A more caring and interested corporate parent would be helpful.  Maybe a first sign might be Lindens returning inworld?  (Yes, I know, they may be overwhelmed at first but that’s the price of bringing everyone together again and revitalizing the brand.) 
          Other tools like social media that I’ve recently blogged about can help.   
          Let’s not forget what we can do ourselves.  (I may get a little preachy here.) When was the last time you invited a RL friend inworld?  (OK, I get it, some of you may be doing things inworld that you don’t want their RL friends to know about.)  Or, how about this, have you invited a stranger wandering around your sim to join you and your friends?  Maybe simply have a conversation with them?  (Some of you, please try to keep your minds out of the gutter.)
          If all else fails, how about supporting local merchants inworld when you can afford to?
          Yes, it’s quiet in SL now, too quiet.  Hopefully, we’ll start hearing more noise again and it will overwhelm the sounds of our footsteps echoing down once empty roads. 

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld 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 11, 2014

Utopian Renewal in Second Life

It is always quietly thrilling to find yourself looking at a world you know well but have never seen from such an angle before.

Bill Bryson

          Here we are, hardly into the New Year when already a major event is happening in Second Life (SL).  My good friends at the Utopia Naked Isle Resort are staging a major reopening of their VIP section after extensive renovations over the Christmas Holidays.
          Utopia is noted for its impressive building programs as evidenced by its Winter Wonderland sim not to mention the elaborate redecorating that occurs weekly as they prepare for their Tuesday Pack the Bar (PTB) revelries.  My good friend, Lisah Lorefield,  is the driving force behind much of this work and Utopia’s latest makeover is probably her most impressive work yet.
          While Utopia Naked Isle Resort is open to all and supported by visitors’ donations, (Hint: Tier fees aren’t cheap so please contribute if you like what you see.) the VIP area is for paying members and offers privacy for those seeking a more intimate setting surrounded by fields and beaches.  The design is of a very high quality.  As with the main area, it is clothing optional.
Recently, I dropped by to meet with Lori, one of Utopia’s owners about the construction effort and the upcoming grand reopening. 
          After exchanging greetings, Lori and I begin talking about the newly renovated VIP area.  I ask why the renovations were necessary.  Lori replies that Utopia’s owners weren’t happy with it because it didn’t offer enough things for its members to do particularly of a non-sexual nature.  (Get your mind out of the gutter, this is a serious review!)
          Lori continues saying that new caves, hang gliding, sky diving, floating rocks, a mer area (underwater zone) will be available when the facility reopens on January 18th.  The intention is to have a place where people will want to come and hang out with their friends so the non-sexual activities were added to diversify the activities. 
          The VIP area will be open to all for the first twenty-four hours on Saturday, January 18th.  At the opening party on the same day, live musician Tukso Okey will play at noon SLT.  There will also be a week long scavenger hunt for that twenty-four period to help visitors familiarize themselves with the new features.  The first person to send in the twenty scavenger hunt items will receive a prize of 2,500L.  The VIP membership will be reduced to 150L during this period.  (Which is a bargain BTW.) 
          Lori drops hints of hidden themed rooms in the caves for visitors to find and even I with my press pass am not given any more clues.  But, she did tell me a few skeletons might be found in cave walls near the hot tubs.  (They seemed like such nice people here compared to where I grew up but these days, who knows?)
          Lori has to leave for her Real Life (RL) responsibilities and I thank her for her time.  Later, when I return for pictures for this story, I learn about the canoeing which is new and stumble onto the new orgy room. (Nice to know, some folks still respect tradition.)   
          While with Lori, I also learned that Utopia will now have more weekly events on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays in addition to Tuesday’s PTB function.  Events can be found posted at the Utopia LZ. 
          The renovations did not harm the VIP area’s original inherent charm but have only added new features.  Lisah does an outstanding job of creating the effect of more space while still working within the confines of the original sim.  She accomplishes this by building up and digging down.  (Lisah is also showing a fascination with rope bridges in her recent builds.  I have to ask her what this is all about the next time I run into her.) 
          The grand reopening of the Utopia VIP area will take place on Saturday, January 18th and will be open to all.  Utopia has planned many activities as Lori describes to make this a fun filled time for all.
          I can speak from personal experience that it is very difficult not to enjoy one’s self at a Utopia party.  Staff, members, and guests are always very friendly and inclusive.  After all, they let me hang around.  (Significant Other thinks someone probably just lost a bet.)
          More information about Utopia can be found at their recently established website.
Please come if you can and maybe I’ll see you there! 
One more item!  Utopia’s first anniversary is fast approaching in the spring.  I have it on good authority that there will be much celebrating and merry making for a week at that time.  Watch this blog or Utopia’s notice boards and website for more details! 
          I’ve included links below to pictures of the new VIP site.  These do not do it justice.  Come and see for yourselves!   
My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld 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 VIP Area Entrance

Photo No. 2 Rope Bridge to VIP Area   

Photo No. 3 Ocean View I

Photo No. 4 Hang Glider Location

Photo No. 5 Sunset

Photo No. 6 Orgy Room

Photo No. 7 Gazebo in the Rain

Photo No. 8 Ocean View II

Photo No. 9 Waterfalls

Photo No. 10 Field

Photo No. 11 Flora

Photo No. 12 Picnic Spot

Photo No. 13 Pond

Photo No. 14 Underground Caves  

Photo No. 15 Skyboxes TP’s

Photo No. 16 Overview


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Asking for Assistance in Second Life


You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.

John Bunyan


          Having just had my look back on 2013 in Second Life (SL) I now want to look ahead into 2014 and…
          I have a request of my readers.  (Ah hah!  I’ll bet you thought that you could just cruise along while I did all the heavy lifting, huh?) 
          As many of you know by now, I travel across the Grid inworld a lot and don’t stay very long in one place.  Being a transient I don’t stay connected very well with many of my friends and the people I meet along the way.  I oftentimes don’t return to sims I’ve blogged about and remember fondly.  (I don’t get thrown out of everyplace.) 
          Recently, as I’ve been working on the story plan for this year (Yes, believe it or not, there is some method to this madness.)  I’ve found once again that sims have gone away and friends are no longer around.  (We won’t go into Significant Other’s assertion that this may have something to do with my writing.) 
          In my recent story about social media inworld I blogged about the use of these tools to extend the boundaries of SL out into the Metaverse and Real Life (RL).
          Here’s my request: 

          Let’s use social media to extend our conversation beyond the confines of SL in order to have a more robust community and build stronger ties.

          Why should we do this?
          First, as I wander about inworld I meet many people.  I find it difficult to stay in touch if I’m not inworld.  My meanderings are all over so I’m not always plugged into what’s happening in SL.  Then, not everyone is inworld all the time. (Nor, am I suggesting that they should be.  Significant Other is worried about this last one.  A lot!) 
          Next, what happens if SL goes away?  Linden Lab has made no commitment of indefinite support that I’m aware of and seem to be engaged in a maintenance only model.  I ask my famous question, when was the last time anyone met a Linden inworld? 
          Finally, I’m curious to see if this can be done.  Is SL a technological and social dead end?  (I, for one, am tired of RL friends who say SL is for those with No Life in Real Life (RL).)  How committed are all of us to this wonderful thing we call Second Life? 
          Sims are closing.  The number of residents who are online has been static if not slowly declining for years.  Books used to be written about SL.  If you haven’t already, go and read Wagner James Au’s great book, The Making of Second Life.  It talks of that time before the Golden Age.  I’d like to see him or someone else write the next book about SL and I don’t want it to be its obituary either. 
          How do we do this? 
          We take advantage of social media tools like Twitter, Facebook (FB) (avatars and SL businesses can have FB pages), and Goodreads (used effectively by Zoe Foodiboo with the 1920’s Berlin Book Club). 
          These tools will permit us to organize around or to take advantage of new or existing inworld groups for either book or film discussions, technology (mesh is a great topic these days), or for social functions.  The message can be gotten out to a larger audience. 
          Now, here’s the catch.  This won’t happen if we just sign up and wait for something to happen.  We have to listen, engage, and contribute.  Many of us are already doing this all in different ways.  Frau Jo Yardley builds Weimar Berlin.  Perryn Peterson scours the world looking for festivals while consolidating SL businesses needing homes.  Wagner Au blogs.  Tera Trenchcoat, my Research Assistant, helps me with the drudge research behind my stories.  (If any of my stories are drudge it’s my fault.)  There are many others who each in his or her own way contribute to the experience that is SL.  Even the avi who just sits in a bar somewhere on the Grid and asks someone how things are going helps.  Can all of us together take SL to the next level? 
          My ask gets specific at this point.
          How many of you in the week will set up a Twitter account in the next week, send a tweet, and follow others and me?  Then begin to engage in the conversation?
          How many of you will set up a Facebook page for either yourself or your business or group?  Or, like other people’s pages? 
          How many of you will join groups inworld and ask how you can contribute?
          Anyone who needs help with any of this, please reach out to me.  I’m even willing to do training classes inworld for small groups. 
          Some of you may be asking a good question right about now.  “OK, we got it.  We do this.  What do we expect to get out of this?”
          It’s a fair question.  Here’s my reply:
          We revive our community as existing residents become more active because they can interact more effectively and easily.  We break the tether to the PC.  We may begin to attract back those who left out of boredom.  The old criticism, still valid in my opinion, of SL was, alright I’m in with a lot of effort what do I do next?  We may begin to attract new residents. 
          Further, the community can show Linden Lab that SL is viable, sustainable, and worth further investment. 
          Most importantly, our community begins to exist beyond SL’s servers.  Like the RL astronomers always tell us, once we break away from Earth and move out among the stars, mankind will live forever and be dependent on a small speck of dust somewhere in the Milky Way galaxy. 
          Likewise, while SL may last a long time, once the dependency on it is removed, the Community will live forever. 
          Who’s with me?        
My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.
           As always, I’m grateful to all inworld 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.