Thursday, July 05, 2007

The World has Changed

Following my last post lamenting my absence from a world I was once completely ensconced with, I decided it was probably a good time to log back in and satisfy my growing nostalgia. I had thought about it for days. I even resisted for a while. And like it always has been every time I get these urges, my experience lasted all of fifteen minutes. Nostalgia satisfied and my stomach left bitter, I logged out again.

My first stop was Gibson, my home; the great city of Nexus Prime. It was empty like it once was and nothing had changed. The same buildings were in the same places as I wandered the same spaces. It blew my mind to say the least. This was Nexus Prime, a city known to never be complete! For as long as I had been in Second Life it was undergoing constant revolutions, redesigns, and developments. It's been over a year now and the city hasn't changed drastically if at all. My heart sank immediately. I couldn't stay long.

I next visited the original Welcome Area. It never changed as often as Nexus Prime, but it too was the same. Overflowing with new residents as it always has been. Mostly blank staring avatars standing around silently. I felt a slight wrench of nostalgia for the old balloon ride and the path that led to the first sandbox I ever rezzed a prim in. It would be the last wrench as I couldn't stand it for long.

I headed back to Nexus and scraped through my aging friend list. A few people were on. I knew better, but I IM'd them anyway. Hoping I guess that maybe there was still something there. Everyone was working. Like, working their jobs. Our conversations fizzled out after the initial recognitions. I almost felt another pang of nostalgia, but I was used to this one... instead it became a dryness in the mouth.

I would've searched the directories or wandered, but I knew what I would find. The world was a different place. It had changed. The home I once had is gone.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Several Months Out

I can't even really remember the last time I logged into Second Life. It must've been at least 4 months now or more I'm afraid. I'm still paying for my account every month however, so I must still desire to maintain the option of a presence. Perhaps simply for bragging rights or so I can jump back on the bandwagon when it starts rolling again. Either way, I've become exactly the phenomenon that I had never quite understood a couple years ago.

I've become a Second Life lurker.

I've become too disinterested with the current state of the culture, but am inherently curious and drawn to the concept of Second Life. Years ago when I was logging on every day for at least an hour or two (and often times far, far more); I would occasionally run into some ancient member of the Tyrell Corporation. This was always a time to take pause from one's current activity to celebrate, question, and generally pester the poor sap. We'd fill them in on what has happened, learn what they've been up to, and in the blink of an eye they were gone.

It was interesting to me because much of what I knew about them was left in relic prims strewn about Gibson or by second-hand accounts of their deeds from other members. It was like some of these older members had some group folklore attached to them. Meeting them was quite like meeting heroes or deities of legend.

While I would speculate as to how much of an impact I actually left (if any), I think I've joined them. I keep up with the goings on and log in from time to time to experience the world anew before disappearing back into the digital ether. Instead of familiarity, it's like waking from a long sleep into a world so vastly confusing and alien from the one you knew. I'm constantly amazed by the pace of cultural change within the world, as I'm sure my group's ancestors must've been. New members, people, memes, locations, policies... one wonders how these newer users aren't running around like chickens without heads.

It's also quite shocking to meet new members who know you only by the tales left behind.

(or perhaps by your mysterious name in the group list and your aging profile in the directory).

Will I ever come back? If I did, would I be able to process and accept the changes since I was last actively involved or has the world changed too much for me to adapt?

It's virtual, isn't it?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Linden Lab to Open Source Second Life Server

Keeping on the trail they began blazing when they open-sourced the client code, is Linden Lab really brave enough to open-source their server code?.

Of course, a big question on the minds of many people is, "How will Linden Lab make money?"

The idea of "free" still hasn't caught on it seems.

There are many ways for Linden Lab to make money. Hosting, consulting, and other service-oriented offerings are a start. If they register as a non-profit, they might get a certain "backdate" window in which their benefactors could claim tax refunds. They also make themselves socially important; by contributing to the betterment of society, they've given themselves the recognition and freedom to work on other projects. There may be other ways that I haven't covered even... but there are plenty of other "open-source businesses" out there changing the world (Canononical, Red Hat, MySQL AB, etc).

What will it mean for us users?

Probably nothing at first. The source-code for a sim is probably rather gargantuan. This means it will take time for developers to skim through the code and figure it all out. It could take a few years before the community of open-source developers fully digest and begin to extend the server beyond tweaks, bug-fixes, and minor enhancements.

What's important is what is possible with the source freely available.

I suspect our classifications and conventions will begin changing as we think of new ways to extend and redevelop the server. There are lists of desires and bugs that the community has wanted fixed or implemented for a long time now. However, as it will no longer be a proprietary system; the onus is largely on us as the residents. It really will become our world at last.

Maybe in the early stages of this development, we'll see a revival of a BBS-like era.

Until we, the residents, decide to connect those disparate networks with our ingenuity and imaginations.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Eternal September's Long Arm

In this op-ed piece for the Toronto Star entertainment section, author Murray White paints Second Life as a dystopian present. One gets the impression that the flood of corporations getting involved in Second Life is ruining a virtual world and community that was once Utopian and ideal. He interviews several residents and commentators to support his story and in all it turned out to be pretty good.

What I take issue with is the lack of research. I'm finicky with details. Granted, it's an op-ed — but is that any excuse to not provide at least one counter-point? It seems more like the journalist got interview with a bunch of whiny one-sided residents and wrote a story using choice quotes that support his point of view. Would it hurt to offer a little balance to support an argument?

Case in point: all of these residents that complain about the supposed "corporate invasion" of Second Life obviously forgot to mention that all these corporations occupy private islands in-world; sequestered far from the mainland. In fact, one would have to willingly teleport themselves to these islands. For all intensive purposes, it could be possible for a new resident to go about their business in-world and never even notice that there are all these evil corporations ruining their experience.

"The corporations come in and they don't understand the delicate aesthetic that's in place. And all of a sudden, all of the brand pollution we're exposed to in real life exists now in SL," says Douglas Gayeton, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker who made a documentary on SL using footage captured in-world. "They've taken a beautiful place and made it quite ugly."

Talk about melodrama! The mainland in SL shows scarcely a single sign of the existence of these brands. Perhaps if the author actually logged into Second Life and wandered around to backup this quote, he'd find it was misleading. There is no evidence of "brand pollution" and hardly anything has been, "ruined."

And then he goes on to talk about the common pattern of emergent online communities — the unavoidable Eternal September effect...

It's a path well-worn by SL's online ancestors, from The Well, a proto-online bulletin board community founded in the '80s through chatrooms, message boards and networking sites Friendster and MySpace. Early adopters shape the community as they wish, then have no choice but to stand by and watch it endlessly reshaped by the chaotic deluge of new users – some troublemakers, some commercial exploiters – that flood in as it gains popularity.

This is true of any community. It's cool until everyone else likes it. When an emergent trend reaches a critical mass, the original supporters find themselves disenfranchised and move on to new frontiers. It happened with punk, it happened to the Internet, it happened to MOO's, message boards... you name it.

But not all of the early adopters of Second Life have moved on from the world or harbour intentions to join competitor communities. Many of the avatars I've known for years (come to think of it, I think I've lost track just how long I've known some of them) are now developers for companies like Electric Sheep or else are still involved some how. While I myself still join in, I've yet to join in the corporate invasion of SL. I may be disenfranchised, but they are for entirely different reasons.

I recommend reading the article and drawing your own conclusions. Maybe you'll agree with the views and opinions expressed. However, I would suggest putting some of the points to the test. The world has certainly changed with the deluge of new users; but the future is hardly grim.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Looks like someone beat me to it.

Well, a more complete version anyway. That's the story of my life I suppose -- an erratic mess of half-completed ideas. You should see my desk. Covered in papers with notes, pages of source code, and half written stories. I've reams of half finished songs. I'm like a walking proof-of-concept.

Anyway, I should give this Twitterbox a whirl and see if there is any way to improve it. :)

Cheers to Ordinal Malaprop.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Electric Sheep to be first investors in open-source SL client?

Here's the press-release regarding Electric Sheep Company acquiring a $7 million cash injection.

Sort of old-news now, but the snippet at the bottom is what really caught my eye:

... Electric Sheep plans to use the financing to create software to make virtual worlds ready for mainstream consumption...

Could that mean what I think it means? Is Electric Sheep planning to develop their own SL client?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Stranger in Second Life

This has to be the best first-impression review of Second Life that I have ever read. Not knocking SL or anything, but it's just so true. And honest. Read it here.

Just goes to show that maybe some of those really offensive "n00bz" out there aren't entirely clueless lusers... just normal people who're just looking for a good time and get caught in the vapid stupidity that abounds in SL. I tend to stick to the bright side of things lately, and this my friends is good for a chuckle. It's honest and that's what counts.

I hope someone at LL reads this and actually finds something worthwhile in it.