Monthly Archives: December 2006

Flame On!

Well, no one ever said that Evans Avenue Exit was always first to every party. Reina, Triste, and Dolmere have already pointed it out, but the skilled and talented FireEyes Fauna has joined the ranks of SL bloggers, and thus joins the ranks of the Evans Avenue Exit blogroll.

FE (as he is commonly known) is a talented designer and scripter, being known around The Shelter(s) primarily for his hosting of the game show “Second Fortune,” an in-world version of the ever-popular Wheel of Fortune. (He designed and built the game setup himself, too, including the audience seats.) He’s also well-known for his funky slippers, on sale as “FireEyes’ Fauna Footies,” and for his on-again, off-again relationship, of sorts, with Reina Quine. Actually, last time I saw FE, he was actually a “she,” having assumed a female avatar. Will this change be a permanent one, ala Jacek? Only FE knows for sure…

FE has been designated “The Shelter’s Own Pat Sajak,” in commemoration of his Second Fortune efforts. We look forward to seeing what else comes from the mind of this unique genius.

UPDATE: Please see FE’s own comment to this post…your humble reporter managed to get many of the details exactly backwards.  Nothing new, I suppose… :-)

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Passage of Time

Last night, a few comments from Danielle (as we engaged in some slow dancing at the family compound) caused me to take a look through my Calling Cards folder at some of the profiles of people in there, many of which I hadn’t seen or spoken to in awhile.  Perhaps Tateru’s post on Second Life Insider about profiles was something of a spur for this as well.  I wound up dumping a bunch of cards from people that I couldn’t really remember…but, in the process, I found out some interesting things.

For starters, some people in there simply weren’t in Second Life anymore.  Searching for their names under Search People yielded null results.  (And no, I don’t think Search People is broken; I found any number of obscure names by using it.)  The roll of the vanished includes Chris Ellsworth (unsurprising, given the fact of his RL self’s passing), my former business partner Valorna Edgeworth and her sister Raine Drakes, former employee and best-man-designate at my wedding 167mamba Au, and, most surprisingly, Keeva Hayek and her partner Woodie Taft.  Keeva was my first dance partner in Second Life, she was maid of honor at our wedding (Woodie was a groomsman as well), and I still have a copy of their wedding invitation in my inventory someplace.  (I wasn’t able to make the ceremony, damn it, because I was in RL at the time, driving back from Durango.)  I still feel sentimental about her, and I hope the two of them are OK.

Aside from that, some of my earliest calling cards are a little surprising.  Rose Bradley, who I met early on at The Shelter, now seems to have taken up a master-slave relationship.  Shawna Montgomery, head of one of the first groups I joined, the Science Fiction Rangers, has now bought her own island.  (Lucky her!)  Clutch Carson, who I recall when he was still a budding artiste, is now not only an accomplished one, but a land-rental baron, and is married in SL as well.  And so forth.

“Well I am still here for you Erbo,” said Danielle as I marveled over these changes.

“I know, Love. And I am here for you,” I assured her, which caused her to respond, “YAY!”

SL is, by its very nature, an inconstant thing; there are any number of sights that I recall seeing or have heard tell of that I will never see again.  Now I see that there are people I will never see again as well.  In some respects, it’s disquieting, but there are only two things you can do about it; you can embrace the change, continually following the new, and you can do your best to create a little pocket of stability for yourself and the people you care about within the world.  I’m doing my best at both of these.

“Change is not merely necessary to life — IT IS LIFE.”Alvin Toffler

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A Christmas Greeting

After a day spent in RL, opening presents, eating, and doing all that typical Christmas stuff, I logged into SL to take care of some errands like tier payments. While I was there, chatting with Danielle and the Stovalls, who had also logged in, one of our friends, Cat Gisel, sent me a notecard with a wonderful Christmas story on it. I’d love to quote the whole thing here, but I’d want to get permission from Cat first. But I will quote something she said at the end that made me feel special:

I just want you to know that I am honoured to have met you, even if for a short time so far, and that my life is richer because of that gift you have blessed *me* with, yay! I wish you more blessings and joy than you can handle, so much that you can share some of it with someone you meet! Thank you, and talk to ya soon. Happy “Hanukwanzimas,” and Happy New Year! Thanks for keeping me up late for your silly fun events :) heehe

For our part, we’re all about Christmas here, in both RL-Erbo’s home and the Evans Family Compound. But that doesn’t mean we can’t appropriate wisdom from other religions as we see fit…and there’s an old Jewish saying I felt reminded of: “Who saves one life, saves the world entire.”

Sometimes it’s not easy being a club owner…endless things that need to be done, endless planning, endless expense, moderation of conflicts, and a million and one other details. But seeing this message–and the sentiment reflected in it–helped me remember why I do this. (Well, other than the fact that Danielle wants it, that is–no small consideration, to be sure!) If I have touched just one person enough to send me this sort of message, then that makes the whole endeavor worthwhile.

And, as Cat wishes, I’d like to pass along some of those blessings.

First, most, and always…to Blessed Danielle. Because of you my Second Life is ten times as rich as it might have been…and my First Life has been enriched by your RL-self’s influence, too.

To the Stovall sisters, Allie and Shaunny…the two of you are my strong right arms, and great friends as well. Your assistance has been and continues to be invaluable.

To all our Gin Rummy employees…you help make the place special for everyone that comes there. Thanks for being there. We’re going to make the club even more successful in the year to come, and all of you will be a big part of that.

To all my friends at the Shelter(s)…there’s just so many of you! Travis, Mera, Dol, Reina, Pati, Jacek, Alex, Merle, Tasman, Coal, Jensel, shocked, and all those other folks…I’m privileged to know you all.

To Sirux Mahoney at Fantasyland, and Doeko Cassidy at Crystal Islands…you guys are a pleasure to do business with. We hope to continue dealing with you for a long time to come.

To my three greatest inspirations in the SL blogosphere…first, Ms. Malaprop: Madam, I may never know as much about LSL as you–nay, I may never know as much as you’ve forgotten about LSL–but your example, not only as an engineer but as a human being (as Prokofy Neva recounted recently), is one I hope to eventually emulate. Tateru, it was your example that, as much as anyone, inspired me to come here in the first place…and you have personally gifted me with much honor since then. And Torley…you are unique just by being you, and every time I see a comment from you, on your blog or mine, it’s a precious, spiritually-uplifting gift.

And to the Lindens: Thank you for letting me come and play in your “garden.” May you see all the success you richly deserve in the months and years to come!

Merry Christmas to all…and to all a good night!

(Even if the night lasts only an hour. :-) )

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Okay, Maybe it IS Easy Being Green

Via Reverend Triste Bertrand, I have received the news that shockedfrog Shriner has joined the SL blogosphere (neither I, nor the esteemed Ms. Malaprop, like the term “SLogosphere”), and now, he joins the ever-lengthening Evans Avenue Exit blogroll.

shockedfrog is commonly addressed as “Green” around the Shelter(s), providing a color balance to the well-known purple coalition of Mera and Reina. (Just like the Drazi.) He’s also a topnotch SLTrivia player; I doubt I could ever approach his record. And he’s generally a nice guy, too. It’ll be interesting to see what he has to say.

For his official “tag,” I, of course, borrowed the well-known line from Kermit the Frog. Though maybe shocked will be the one that proves this wrong…

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Your World, Your Imagination…And Now Your Award, Too

TIME Magazine has just announced its “Person of the Year” for 2006. And that person is…you.

Yeah, you.

And we of the Grid get a good mention…

And we didn’t just watch, we also worked. Like crazy. We made Facebook profiles and Second Life avatars and reviewed books at Amazon and recorded podcasts. We blogged about our candidates losing and wrote songs about getting dumped. We camcordered bombing runs and built open-source software.

I now count under about three of those categories. :-)

Seriously, there’s a big shift going on out there, and SL is decidedly part of it. Many of us who would have been mere consumers are now participants in the new Information Age. (In fact,sometimes it’s tough to decide where we should throw our efforts into participation. I don’t deal in MySpace, for instance, and have kind of let things like Orkut fall by the wayside.) We’re creating and organizing and linking information at an accelerated rate…and we’re having fun doing it. Whether you’re composing blog entries or writing code for Linux or building and texturing a prefab house in-world, you are creating that which did not exist before…and enriching the world thereby.

Now, there will always be the people that just use what gets created…they read all those blogs, buy or download Linux to run on their systems, and pay good L$ for those prefabs. But the barrier to entry has been lowered…and a lot of people at least try their hands at creating something, even if it’s mediocre. Not everyone can be a Glenn Reynolds or an Alan Cox or an Aimee Weber…but a lot of people try, and keep trying.

Not only that, we’re working together better as well. We’re creating group blogs, with the participants Gmailing each other and Gtalking amongst themselves. We’re collaborating on big software projects, coordinating by mailing list and IRC channel and shared source repositories under CVS or Subversion or Git. We’re getting together in sandboxes to create fancy objects, each supplying prims and textures and scripts as needed. And some of us even create new places for people to gather and have fun…places like Electric Minds, or the Gin Rummy.

What will come of this? I don’t know, and I doubt anybody knows. But it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun finding out. :-)

In the meantime…give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it!

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Filed under Current Events, First Life, Philosophy

Setbacks, Triumphs…It’s All Part of Life

Erbo at the ComputerI thought Danielle’s RL counterpart would be in her new house by now…but she tells me that there were so many problems with the house, they’re back in a hotel again. That’s going to continue to make her in-world time scarce, to say the least. Still, the show must go on, and the Gin Rummy still runs on schedule every night.

It wouldn’t work half as well, though, without the Stovall sisters, Allie and Shaunny, and also Sarahelisebeth Brenham. These three lovely ladies are our “managers,” but what they feel like is my “general staff.” They know my methods and make many decisions for the club in accordance with the policies I’ve already set. Thanks to them, schedules get set, applicants are interviewed and scheduled in, and we have a full crew when events happen each night. Frequently, if Danielle’s not around, I’ll hang with Allie or Shaunny or both for awhile after events. (Shaunny and her fiancee Alan have recently moved in over in a corner lot in Amelia, the sim to the west of Aphrodisia, and Allie has a sky-house flying over the same property. It’s good to have them as neighbors.)

At the computerOutside of club event hours, I put in appearances over at both Shelters, the original Isabel one and the Exiled Swinside one, and pop in at a couple other places here and there. Often times, though, I park myself in my computer desk at the compound, turn on the music stream (often Club977 80’s) and spend some time writing blog posts or comments, reading the latest blog entries, catching up with my GMail or the posts on Electric Minds, doing some work on the Gin Rummy intranet site, or whatever. Being in-world, though, I can respond at once if the IM chime sounds…or pop “upstairs” to our private build pad if I get an idea.

In recent days, the Gin Rummy has scored some nice successes. We now have a real “name” DJ working for us, Chelle Moore, who will be behind the GR’s Wheels o’Steel every Tuesday and Thursday. She actually has her own fan club (100 or so strong!), guaranteeing attendance levels previously unseen at the GR outside of a Frogg & Jaycatt show. And she’s got a fun, perky style at the mic, as well as a wide-ranging eclectic taste in music. She could really put the GR on the map! We have another new DJ that started this evening, too, who looks to be working out really well. We have some new dancers, bartenders, and hosts, too, though we continue to seek out more.

So, despite the fact that I miss Danielle, things seem to look pretty good from my chair, here at the Evans Family Compound in Aphrodisia. Here’s hoping it’s looking the same for you, whereever you may be.

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Late Night with Linden Labs: Zee’s Charts & Graphs

Zee Linden (who appears to be LL’s new “Minister of Finance”) has a post up on the Grand Unified Linden Blog talking about the SL world’s economy, with a page full of charts to go along with it. Strangely enough, despite all the recent glitches, Second Life is actually doing rather well…

SL’s “land area” now masses some 229.376 square kilometers, which is over 4 times the size of Manhattan Island…or, to put it in terms I’m more familiar with, a little over half the size of the City and County of Denver. Total population, though, as measured by total sign-ups, is pushing the 2-million mark, which is nearly four times the population of Denver and approaches the population of the entire Denver metro area. Even if you go by the 60-day log-ins figure, that’s still over 700,000…beating Denver’s population by over 15%. Of course, SL doesn’t feel crowded because not all of them are logged in at once; total concurrent log-ins are at a max of near 18,000, or not much more than the city of Golden…and the population tends to cluster around places like the Welcome Areas and popular clubs, leaving many of those 3,500 sims as empty as parts of the High Plains, most of the time.

Out of those nearly 2 million Residents, only 36,000 or so have taken the plunge and become Premium account holders, thus gaining the right to own Mainland land. This suggests boom times ahead for island real estate companies (since people can own land there without being Premium, paying their tier to the island management company directly, often in L$) and rental companies. However, growth of Premium accounts is up, indicating that more people are “buying into” the overall vision of Second Life.

Much of the growth of SL, both in terms of user accounts and in terms of hours spent in-world, has been happening among people outside the US. While this isn’t exactly news, it’s nice to have a confirmation of this via official statistics. What’s a bit surprising are the economic numbers, showing that, while only 90,000 out of nearly 2 million are buying currency on the LindeX, the activity is on a steady up-slope. Okay, yes, I’m one of the 90,000. But that tells me that the money I lay out on salaries and tips and contest prizes and all those Sploder sessions is being spent multiple times before it returns to the LindeX to be cashed out. The basic Linden Dollar supply (the “M1″ of Second Life, if you will), though, seems to be growing slowly enough to avoid inflationary pressures, particularly when there is an ever-increasing supply of goods to be chased by those Lindens. Not a bad set of figures all around.

Of course, every positive story has its detractors…and for once, it’s not Prokofy. :-) Clay Shirky, in fact, has written something of a hit piece against SL, suggesting that the “total sign-ups” vastly overstates the appeal of SL, due to the excessive churn–by some reports, in excess of 85%:

I suspect Second Life is largely a “Try Me” virus, where reports of a strange and wonderful new thing draw the masses to log in and try it, but whose ability to retain anything but a fraction of those users is limited. The pattern of a Try Me virus is a rapid spread of first time users, most of whom drop out quickly, with most of the dropouts becoming immune to later use. Pointcast was a Try Me virus, as was LambdaMOO, the experiment that Second Life most closely resembles.

Hey, I remember kind of liking Pointcast! Nonetheless, Shirky seems determined to poke holes in the “hype” he sees around SL…that Xeni Jardin of BoingBoing also dismisses as “lazily reported, hype-heavy tech journalism that reeks of eau de 1999.” And yet…I can’t escape the feeling that, on a certain level, he Just Doesn’t Get It. I’ve seen this phenomenon before…my wife, my brothers, my boss, none of them can look beyond the colorful graphics and unfamiliar jargon and see anything more than a “game.” Perhaps there’s a special kind of insight one has to have…or a special kind of masochism, given the frequent glitches, update-related weirdness, and other setbacks one encounters frequently in SL. It’s that combination of traits that has led me to understand that, while SL may not be the future of the Internet, it will likely be a future. (We won’t scrap all those ordinary 2D Web-based tools; they work well, and will work better still in the future. Smart people, however, will bridge those technologies to the metaverse-worlds of those times, to increase the value of both.)

Something to chew on while waiting to see if 1.13.1 will be a boon or bane…

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Look Out, Everyone!

Dateline: The SL Blogosphere

Today is the official end of blogging as we all know it. Dixie Starr has decided that the world cannot live without a Starr-ving Artist Blog. Around the globe, you can hear people canceling there [sic] blogging acounts. There is a rumor now, that the RSS standard for blogging will be revoked in order to prevent the Dixie Blog from taking effect in cyberspace. There is even fear in the International Business Community as millions, even billions of dollars will be put at risk due to the new Dixie Starr – Starr-ving Artist Blog. The fear is that Dixie’s effect on the blogging community and the resulting changes to the RSS standard, and do we dare say it, even the TCP/IP protocal itself will have untold impacts to not only today’s technology related markets, but, even have reprecussions to future generations.

Fret not, friends. Evans Avenue Exit pledges to carry on despite this clearly calamitous occurrence. :-) But this piece of news shall not pass without consequence here; to wit, Dixie Starr has been added to the group of extraordinary, etc., bloggers making up the blogroll. As title, I have adopted her own blog’s title, except I changed it to “The Starr-ving Artiste” in hopes of boosting her cachet with a little dimestore French.

Dixie is noted, not merely as an artist, but as a fashion designer; I note that she has worn her own creations to Shelter formal balls of weeks past, which has drawn no little attention from the other attendees, myself included. She’s also a fun person to talk with, as you may have gathered from her writing style. We shall hope to see great things from her.

(Hat tip to Dolzarama for pointing this bit of news out for me.)

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Beyond the Abuse Report

If the numbers quoted by Daniel Linden can be believed, close to 2,000 times per day, Residents pull down the Help menu, select “Report Abuse…” and fill out the form to report abuse of one sort or another. But, once they hit the button to send those reports on their way, some Linden has to look at all those ARs…a Sisyphean task, to say the least. LL has concluded that “something must be done” about this, as, obviously, putting more people on reviewing ARs will work for awhile, but won’t work forever. Daniel’s posting on the Grand Unified Linden Blog says:

The main thrust of this project is to move our process away from the current one report/one resolution model and towards a system that with will quickly and accurately identity and manage those individuals and behavior that make Second Life feel unwelcoming or unsafe. The revised system will focus also on moving problems towards more useful paths for resolution – specifically by enabling and encouraging the development of inter-Resident mediation and dispute resolution options for those issues Linden Lab isn’t equipped to resolve. A further emphasis will be placed on self-resolution — by improving existing tools like mute and parcel-based access restrictions.

But what does that mean, exactly? Tateru, writing for Second Life Insider, seems to be waiting for the other shoe to drop. Prokofy, on the other hand, writing for the Second Life Herald, sees the specter of Resident government rearing its ugly head. Apparently, that’s been proposed at least once…and most Residents preferred the “benevolent dictatorship” of the Lindens. But if that threatens to devolve into anarchy because the Lindens are overwhelmed…what then?

Perhaps the answer lies, not in a full-fledged “Resident government,” but in a smaller-scale endeavor, a “peer court” system, if you will. Here are some sketchy notes on how such a thing might work; parties for whom this piques their interest are invited to comment on it and fill in any holes I might have left. (And I will not be banning anyone from this blog. I won’t even delete comments unless they’re obviously garbage, and I pledge to make a note of it if I am forced to do so. Akismet should catch all the obvious spam anyhow.)

Appointment to the “peer court” would be by petition, with each Resident wishing to become a peer judge required to submit the signatures (validated in some fashion) of N other Residents, where N is some relatively-large number, large enough to make gaming the system impractical, yet small enough that people won’t give up in frustration. I’m thinking N=100 for starters. Additional restrictions might be imposed on signatures, too, such as “no more than X% of signatures can share a group membership with the petitioner.”

Peer judges would be randomly assigned Abuse Reports to review, where they would make recommendations to LL as to what the consequences should be. (There should be a set of “best practices” for peer judges to follow, which would have to be carefully drawn up beforehand.) They would be permitted to question the victim, the accused, and any witnesses, but would be required to render a recommendation within some small time limit (72 hours?). Note that this would just be a recommendation, which LL would have to either confirm or not. The recommendation would include a report on anything the judge found 0ut in the course of investigation that would justify the intended consequence. At this stage, a lot of the obvious junk can be weeded out and the clear-cut cases handled quickly; extra time would have to be taken to review the ARs where facts are in dispute.

Since LL would review recommendations before implementing them, it would act as both the “court of last resort” in appeal and a check on the performance of the peer judges; peer judges who diverged too often from the “best practices” would be required to justify themselves to LL, on pain of removal from their peer judgeships and other possible disciplinary action. If they can justify themselves…well, perhaps the “best practices” need to be revised; this possibility should be accounted for. There would also need to be a “grievance procedure” for Residents who felt they hadn’t received a fair shake at the hands of the peer judges.

Now, I will acknowledge that there are probably more holes in the above scheme than in a shotgunned Swiss cheese; in particular, I’m assuming that all participants are reasonable people. It’s probably closer to the truth that people would try to game this system six ways from Sunday. Griefers would try to get appointed as peer judges so they can let all their friends off scot-free; the random assignment of ARs to peer judges would make this a dicey proposition at best, but it must be considered. (One might be required to pass a “background check” with LL before becoming a peer judge…but would that encourage griefer groups to try a “carnival booth attack” to find someone that would slip past that requirement?) Peer judges might act capriciously in dispensing justice, letting their friends off and throwing the book at their enemies; would LL’s review of their actions against the “best practices” be enough to act as a check on this? And real troublemakers would be the type that would cry “foul!” on the judges even when there was no impropriety; would this result in more work for LL, having to deal with grievances filed by every two-bit cagegunner who doesn’t like the thought of being held responsible for his actions? There’s also a big issue to consider: what’s in it for the peer judges? Why would someone become one? Would they be compensated for this work? (Probably not…LL has been moving away from compensation schemes like that. Example: the end of Instructor subsidies.) And I won’t even get into the issue that LL itself may be biased towards or against certain people…though some who read this will no doubt be thinking of that.

Perhaps LL would implement such a scheme, if it does so, as a pilot program, sending some ARs through this system (at random) while handling the others in the old way. This would be necessary to keep the initial set of peer judges from being swamped, too, until their numbers can be ramped up (presuming the scheme is found to work).

Anyway, that’s just one possible way LL could choose to handle this. Is there another way that would work better? If I’m completely off-base (not out of the question), tell me why. If this scheme could be improved (highly likely), tell me how. Just remember: If LL intends to devolve some of these functions on Residents, it would behoove us to carry on a discussion beforehand as to how that might be accomplished, rather than wait until LL imposes a solution on us. (Which they may very well do anyway…but I’d rather see some discussion of this before that happens than none at all.)

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Filed under Community, Current Events, Griefers, Philosophy

Purple Fans Everywhere, Rejoice!

You may recall, a month or so ago, that I encouraged Reina Quine, the Princess of Purple, to join the ever-expanding community of SL bloggers.

SCORE!

You may also notice the domain of that blog site…Reina has been graciously sponsored by her true friend Mera Pixel, who is (of course, now, forever, and I don’t care what color she happens to be wearing at the time :-) ) the Queen of Purple. The two of them make a good team…although, of course, Reina and Patience also make a good team. Reina’s just a good team player all around. She even helped us out when Frogg and Jaycatt played the GR the first time…she spread the word to their fan club and the Live Music Enthusiasts group for me, and ensured we had a sim-packing success.

The Princess, of course, has relatively modest goals in mind:

[...] I don’t intend to have many thoughts worth committing to print, being that I’m completely satisfied with my position as a useless underachiever in SL itself. More than likely this blog will read like a low-rate tabloid, chronicling the antics of my zany friends, any Pati*Rei party plans, occassional musings on music, and, above all…shopping purchases. That’s right dear readers, stay glued to this page, for lessons will be learned, love will be shared, lives will be changed!

Don’t be too hasty, Reina…when you start blogging, sometimes, the damnedest things happen. Take it from one what knows. Meanwhile, Quine-tessential will have an honored place among the elite bloggers of the Evans Avenue Exit blogroll.

(How apropos…I’m wearing my new purple polo shirt today, the one I found at the Stein Mart in Poway, thinking to myself, “Mera and Reina would be proud!” In fact, my wardrobe today is very close to my new “Default Erbo 2.1″ look in-world…maybe it brought good luck. Or purple luck, at any rate.)

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