Avatars Against Trump, Linden Labs, and the Travel Ban

It shouldn’t be a large surprise to anyone reading this blog (both of you, in all likelihood) that I am a libertarian on most issues.  That means I am a “social liberal” (won’t rush out and cut my throat for loving differently, nor do I expect others to do so), mostly, while also for a strong (but intelligently-funded and deployed) military defense and for government spending within its means.

Nor am I an admirer of Donald Trump.  I just despised the culture of criminal government Hillary Clinton was part and parcel of under Barack Obama and would have perpetuated had she been elected President.  And that’s the last you’ll hear from me on that.

I’ve heard everyone out I intend to on how bad Trump is.  Feel free to tell me about specific mistakes you think Trump’s made, but spare me the rest.  I can reconstruct most of it from my chat logs, believe me.

Linden Labs actually kept their remarks on the travel ban within those strictures, mostly. I’m skeptical, to say the least, about a nationality-based ban, but Jimmy Carter imposed a similar ban against immigration from Iran.  I think both bans are morally and legally defective as anything but a temporary measure until more effective vetting procedures than those now in place can be instituted.  If Green Cards are being confiscated from those who have them, that’s not good, either (that’s an example of an ex post facto governmental action, in my opinion).

Avatars Against Trump is a different story, altogether.  Demonizing anyone before he’s actually had an entire month to do anything is wrong.  It’s unlikely to change the person’s behavior and no guarantee that you or your favorite politician’s any better.

One of my favorite Second Life bloggers, unfortunately, is promoting Avatars Against Trump.  I’ve already explained my opposition to parts of the travel ban.  I play in Second Life, however, not to engage politically.  I have good friends in SL who are from places governed by at least one or two people I don’t like.  I don’t bring that up to them, because it doesn’t matter to our Second Lives.

I reluctantly have come to the opinion that Avatars Against Trump is an attempt to hijack MMORPGs in general for a political end I don’t agree with – the demonization of someone who was lawfully elected President of the United States of America.  Its proximate goal appears to be to get what they could not get through legal means – Trump not in the White House.

Sorry, folks, you had your chance last November – and blew it. Try to use my Second Life to make your point, you get muted.  For those of you reading this who are not American citizens, you don’t get a say in my country’s government.  Do me the same courtesy I do you, and withhold comment on a topic you know less about than I do.

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Forgotten places of SL 2 The Gulf

Second Life has an active aviation community, and the Second Life Airmanship blog is a good resource for information with no drama or self-referential filler. Just info about cool planes, how to fly in SL, and nice places to fly TO.

Second life Airmenship

It has been a long weekend, you may be sitting around bored wondering what to do sick of being slapped by sim crossings or trying to pretend the latest Drama in the sailing community has not happened. (More on this later this week)  How about venting your frustrations with some war games? And where better to enjoy a a few war games better than the Gulf?  Even if you are not into war games This is an amazing area with plenty to see ant to visit and explore Many aviators in SL forget this place exists or just avoid it but you are missing out. so Lets all out on our combat boots and helmets and visit the gulf.

WW2 central

First and foremost the gulf is a World War 2 combat zone so you better come prepared. Of you don’t have combat gear your first stop should be WW2…

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High Fidelity, Sansar, and How Little They Have To Do with Second Lifers.

Manthorpe reports that Second Life’s player population has dropped from its plateau a few years ago of about a million to half that more recently. He then says a more hardware-intensive VR platform such as Philip Rosedale’s “High Fidelity” or Linden Lab’s Second Life spin-off “Project Sansar” will attract more players. Over six and a half continuous years in Second Life have shown me no evidence for that being true.

The Wired UK article says “The game still has a sizeable community and a GDP of “half a billion”. ” That estimate may be conservative. Most people in Second Life have at least US$120 a year invested either in cash payments of US$9.95/month for Premium Member status, rent of property from Second Lifers who invest in Second Life property to rent it to others, and payment for virtual objects such as clothing, weapons, art or vehicles they’ve purchased.

A six-year veteran of Second Life has probably accumulated at least several hundred dollars’ (US, not Linden) worth of virtual goods in her inventory – gowns for those of us who like a new one for each formal event, motorbikes, boats, spaceships and aircraft, not to mention houses and landscaping prims.

SLers who create places in SL are why Second Life can claim to be “The Largest-Ever 3D Virtual World Created By Users”. They pay US$150 to over US$270 a month for tier (the SL version of ‘ground rent’ or ‘property tax’) to make Second Life the “Largest-Ever 3D Virtual World Created by Users”.  In-world purchases of virtual goods and services from other Second Lifers make up the rest of Second Life’s ‘gross domestic product’.

Manthorpe notes, “Using the proceeds from this “money-generating machine”, Altberg has invested heavily, building the team up to 75, more than a third of Linden Lab’s staff. The moment he committed completely to VR was when he heard that Facebook had bought Oculus. “As soon as that sold, we were just like, Sansar is going to be fricking awesome for VR. We knew that people were going to want to create content in massive quantities – right now it’s too damned difficult.”

What’s too damned difficult is finding US$150 to over US$270 a month to help make Second Life the “Largest-Ever 3D Virtual World Created by Users”. Good sims die in Second Life every month because of that, and problems with lag, crashing and attacks on the entire Second Life grid by hackers (we had one in late February 2018) which prevent us from using the service at all for hours at a time.

When were we paying customers ever asked if we wanted Linden Labs to use the money we give Second Life diverted to create another world which most of us can’t afford the computers to play?  The price of admission to Sansar – in the expensive hardware you need to play it, and the lag and other issues not addressed by Linden Lab lose Second Life more players than not being able to make quality content in some way yet to be demonstrated – I can’t get my quad-core laptop to run long enough in Sansar to find out.

Tier’s expensive, yet SLers pay it to make content for other Second Life players. Sansar’s yet to make a dime for Linden Labs and wouldn’t run on my laptop very far past the splash screen. The Wired UK article reports that Second Life’s management funds Project Sansar comes from money Second Life’s customers pay into that world. That money could reduce server latency (“lag”) – which slows down play in Second Life.

As I write this, lag’s worse than it’s been in the last few years. Since the first time I wrote this article, we suffered a grid-wide service interruption reverberating over two days. Living a Second Life is much more frustrating than it has to be. Large sims with lots of content such as my role-playing home Araxes have to be reset almost daily because avatars rez hundreds of meters (in game) from their actual locations (or won’t rez at ALL, even as orange mist) and other weirdness. The future of Second Life seems to be lag in 2-D or lag in 3-D.

Why’d Philip Rosedale start a new virtual world after he created Second Life?

According to the Wired article, Rosedale saw from studies of his users’ demographics what the people who stayed had in common: “”The one thing they all had was a huge amount of time to invest in it.” Second Life was a retreat for escapists, an outlet for pent-up creativity – a place, as Rosedale once put it, for “smart people in rural areas, the disabled, people looking for companionship”. But for less motivated visitors with limited time, it was hard, confusing and alienating.”

Why didn’t Second Life target their advertising more aggressively to the millions worldwide who fit the user analytic profiles he’d identified and make Second Life’s user interface closer to Utherverse’s much easier one? Or actively assist Caledon University and other tutorial sims in educating us in how to use Second Life seamlessly and make content there?

Second Life’s current CEO Ebbe Altberg (AKA “Ebbe Linden”) told Wired UK “You will have the freedom people, the anarchists, whoever, who will say I want 100 per cent control and it should be open,” he says. “Then you will have the vast majority of users that obviously don’t give a shit – because how many billions of them are on Facebook every day?”

Second Life’s open-source nature saved it from losing players to its own awkward-to-use Second Life Viewer. I couldn’t have selected the viewer that most suits me from a wide variety which wouldn’t exist, but for SL’s open source nature.  I chose Phoenix Viewer because SL Viewer’s interface wasn’t easy enough to use, and stayed with that team all through the roll-out of Firestorm (has it really been years that we’ve had Firestorm?).

Rosedale and Altberg say they can find different kinds of players as willing to spend the money we now do in world for their new worlds, and even more on the bigger, faster computers we’ll need to even do that. They’re chasing the same market demographic – the players in MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft.

What Altberg calls “democratizing content creation” probably means Sansar will define exactly what people there can create – democratizing content creation by reducing it to a lowest common demoninator. We’d have the “quality content” World of Warcraft has – fewer choices and less appealing ones than we do now, and instead of sailing down long waterways, we’ll be limited to sailing two virtual kilometers in any single direction. No space battles.

According to Altberg, “Most people are just consumers of experiences as opposed to creators,” he says. “It’s the same in VR as it is in any other medium, especially when you come to creating quality content.” (the boldfacing is mine).

What Second Life does Ebbe Altberg live in?  Almost everyone I know in SL knows the rudiments of building, because you can modify your own things to suit you or pay someone else to do it – and we learn that much world creation fast. Most fashionistas would be lost without being able to resize and edit prims on their avatars’ costumes.  

Second Life tells customers that it’s “The Largest-Ever 3D Virtual World Created By Users”, but tells reporters “Most people are just consumers of experiences as opposed to creators”. I’ll be charitable and call that “cognitive dissonance” – but what they advertise isn’t what they’re telling the computer press.

By publicly dismissing the way Second Lifers use SL, but spending their money on other projects and neglecting paying customers, Second Life and Linden Labs may find out how many SL players will move to Sansar, instead of going to one of the Open Sim grids – where their computers will still work.

Second Lifers don’t need VR goggles. If they host their own servers to play as High Fidelity’s residents do, it’ll be in the Open Sim grids, with a wide selection of virtual worlds which play just like Second Life. Money poured into Project Sansar could have been used to grow the Second Life which brings in the money, and more servers and staff to keep Second Life playable and a world full of wonder.  What’s wrong with a world of wonder, anyway?

Much Ado About Sansar.

Orcaflotta has some very to-the-point criticisms of Project Sansar.

Thar She Blows!

And again our glorious leader Ebbe produced a lot of hot air, and after reading this article we’re still as ignorant as before:

SansarZDnetWafflewafflewaffle…

Thx to Jo Yardley for giving us her honest opinion about what Ebbe told the ZDNet reporter. I only want to elaborate on one point Ebbe made:

“We’re very fortunate to have over a decade of experience regarding what people want to do when they immerse themselves in a digital world,” Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg said.  

What?

  • Ebbe himself doesn’t have over a decade of experience, he’s much too fresh with LL to know shit.
  • But ok, LL as such should have over a decade of experience regarding what people want to do in SL. Sooo, why the fuck didn’t they ever act accordingly?

I guess you don’t need to be a resi in SL for very long to have figured out how lackluster…

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And now, for something completely different… Araxes!

Those of us old enough to remember when all of the members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus were still alive will recognize the tag line with which their trips into surrealist humor began.  Arguably one of the highlights of the BBC’s oeuvre, along with their adaptations of great novels to film.

I promise you, this’ll be different from my last post (the one before I shared R. Crap Mariner’s post on collaborative creation with you), where I either bored you or made you look askance (what the emoticon O_o means) at me for sharing about my verbal jousts over politics in SL.

I’ve got better things to do with my Second Life. Here’s one of them.

Araxes is a sim which hosts a rich, multi-threaded tapestry of science fiction role-play based very loosely on Joss Whedon and Tim Minear’s tragically short-lived US television series Firefly and the movie Serenity based on the same characters, as well as other science-fiction and mythopoeic fantasy, going back to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

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Above we see downtown  Araxes, nestled between huge bluffs against the sandstorms which blow in from the surrounding desert.

Araxes and the neighboring space and land are a hive of internecine intrigue, usually seriocomic. There’s a subplot of resistance against the Alliance dominating the cluster of stars to which a remnant of Earth-that-was’s population fled, when their ancestral planet’s ecology died.

The town has a starport on its outskirts. It has the sort of ambience that makes me hear Sir Alec Guinness intone

“Mos Eisley Spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”

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Across the starport’s runway , that grey blocky building with red trim on its sides in top center-left in the photo above is my workplace, Araxes Medical Center.

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Here, I’m Patricia, Comtesse de Chenier, MD, FCCP.  I’m also a not-all-that-secret agent from the Chenier Moiety of Worlds headquartered on Gliese 581c, 30 light years away. I’m here to investigate a common threat to Araxes, the other worlds on the Rim of the ‘Verse, and my own group of home worlds. I’m just not clear on what it is.

I do my little bit to keep the pot stirred here in Araxes. Between political and diplomatic maneuvers, I treat the orphan Cheryl Anne, whose illnesses are puzzling and strain even the combined resources of Chenier and Araxes.

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Especially puzzling, and not a little disconcerting, are when Cheryl Anne acts out violently, which places me and medical gadgets fetched here from 30 light years away equally at risk:

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At times like this, a quick shot of sedative works wonders.

When I’m not being mysterious and secretive or trying to avoid chairs flung by Cheryl Anne (or trying to find out why she wants to do that), I’m an epidemiologist doing my plodding best to comb Araxes for what’s making people (it’s not just Cheryl Anne by a long shot) turn unpredictably violent.

That involves lurking around every inhabited spot of Araxes, one of the first things I did. (You can tell that from the snapshots, because I didn’t wear hijab that day, and spent my whole day’s water ration washing sand out of my hair later).

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You have to admire the sense of humor of the folks who named this one place “Haven”, though during terraforming, it might have been a haven by default….

But I went as far as checking out orbital facilities where some of the minerals mined here, like “energon” are assayed and processed:

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For trips like this, I don’t even try for “space pretty,” and keep a firm hand on a hypo gun full of “the last kiss good night”.  Just in case “space pretty” is close enough….

Araxes has Firefly-class transports all over, just as, in medieval times, “obsolete” military transport aircraft were found all over Earth-that-was decades after the wars in which they were made and first used, hauling all sorts of things of a non-military nature, like tourists or cannabis sativa.

If you look out the window past me, you’ll see a Firefly parked alongside the shuttle I took back from the orbital mining station.

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What’s making my patient and an increasing number of those who live on or pass through Araxes violently ill (in every sense) could have come here from off-planet, so I took the chance while this freighter’s crew was grabbing cold refreshment in the bars of Freeport to crawl under their ship and take samples around the hull and landing struts.

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Gawd, what a sexy beast!  Modern shuttles and freighters are more efficient, faster, and you can hang more guns and other deadly toys on them, but the Firefly transport just stirs something in a pilot’s soul.

One day, when I’m too old to be useful to the Moiety of Worlds or do any other chores that my older clone-sisters are too busy or exalted to do, I’ll buy one of these handsome brutes and.. well, smuggling’s about the only thing they do better than anything else.

You can touch a Firefly down anywhere, take off anywhere, send its shuttles out for side trips (or smuggle merchandise that’ll fit in a Firefly’s shuttle), and it’ll run on swift kicks and prayers.

And smuggling has a certain homely appeal compared to what I’m doing now.

“Take off those No-colored glasses” – by R. Crap Mariner

“Take off those No-colored glasses” – by R. Crap Mariner

Words to (second) live by, by an SLer with the best avatar name, EVER. Seriously, this guy explains how creative collaboration happens, and he explains it very clearly.

SL Blogger Support

Happy to annouce that R. Crap Mariner (Crap.Mariner) is the first in our new series of guest-bloggers! According to his own SL Profile: ‘I am a sentient clockwork mechanism, manufactured for The Great Exposition of 1851. Various inventors and scientists have tried to improve upon my original plans, but have only twisted and damaged me further.
Crap has his – Secondlife – home in Edloe and is the founder of 100 words stories. His blog is retired but he uses Flickrto tell us about his ideas and views.


Hi there. Caitlin asked folks for helpful advice for bloggers, and I want to tell you a little story about getting over yourself…
Long ago, I used to do some SL Birthday stuff, but things got a bit strained between that crowd and me. I took a few years off from the lag-fest, but during SL13B…

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Bush Said it All in Three Short Sentences

Bush Said it All in Three Short Sentences

“Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”

Former President George W. Bush, at the memorial service for the slain policemen at Dallas, Texas.

Music to read this by (I can’t get it out of my head, and it bears on this column):

“There’s been some hard feelings here                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      About some words that were said                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Been some hard feelings here and what is more

There’s been a bloody purple nose                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           And some bloody purple clothes                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              That were messing up the lobby floor

It’s just apartment house rules so all you ‘partment house fools                                                                                                                                                                                 Remember one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor                                                                                                                                                                                                 One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor…”

One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor, Paul Simon

It’s time to break up the circular firing squad we have going, and discover what unity we can as a nation, and as a world.  I’ve found very few occasions when there’s been anyone in Second Life who didn’t come here to make friends and have fun – without hurting others.

That said, a political argument I had with someone from another country got out of hand last weekend.  Doesn’t really matter over what.  Nothing about this issue would have changed, had one of us been converted to the other’s viewpoint.

As the argument escalated and became more personal, I pleaded for us to stop, just stop conversing at all for a while, and give each other a day to relax and view it all in perspective. That wasn’t happening, so I blocked her for a day.

Suddenly, all the complex science-fiction related role play infrastructure, world creation, everything we’d been developing fell apart. I was kicked out of one RP-related group we’d worked together on.  She left me on another such group, but I was also angry now, and resigned from it.

Months of work on what might have been great Second Life gaming fell apart, just like that.  I can’t control what she did, but I ought to have had better control over what I did.

I ought to have explained why I was blocking her and that it wasn’t hostile; exactly the opposite, I was trying to preserve a friendship and a good working relationship. I suppose just dropping out of world was an option, but that seemed cowardly to me.

So it went.

RL Politics will kill Second Life if we let it. It’s not uncommon, unfortunately, to read comments in Nearby Chat criticizing one of the candidates in this year’s Presidential elections.  I don’t like either of them, to be honest. My decision will turn on who’s the lesser evil.  Who I think that might be is my business, and I don’t go to dances to hear who someone else thinks should be President.  I’m holding out for Elon Musk in 2020.

Anyone reading this, I don’t care what you think on RL political issues. I hope you don’t hate anyone for their religion or their heritage or their politics. If you do, let me know so we can part without rancor, or keep it to yourself and consider working to overcome it.