Friday, September 19, 2014

Finding New Friends in Second Life


Old friends pass away, new friends appear.  It is just like the days.  An old day passes, a new day arrives.  The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend or - meaningful day.

Dalai Lama



          As many of my readers hopefully know by now, I’ve been looking at social media to improve the sense of community among residents of Second Life (SL). 

          Initially, this was intended as a means to keep the community together in the event that SL went walkabout.  (Love that word, Significant Other contends that I’m only trying to show off that I once saw an Australian movie.)  Later, this became more pressing as Facebook started making noises that they didn’t like my type. (No skin off my nose, I’ve been thrown out of better places than theirs.)   

          Just prior to all the turmoil of my hasty departure from Facebook, I came across a new social networking site exclusively for avatars from virtual worlds.  Its name is the Avatar Social Network (ASN) and, oddly enough, I learned about it while on Facebook.

          Joining, I found several old friends and started to make many new ones.  Since the Facebook diaspora has begun to arrive the numbers are steadily increasing.  No one asked about my Real Life (RL) identity.  I could offer friendship without people coming back asking snarkily who did I think I was trying to friend them.  There’s a Help Center staffed by real people who came back promptly and helped me when I was trying to figure something out. 

          I must admit that this was an entirely different experience from the other so called social network that’d just run me out of town.

          Then to top this all off, I met the founder and general manager of ASN who friended me, had a pleasant conversation with me, and accepted readily my offer of an interview to do this story. 

          His name is Arkad Baxton and with his help, I’ll introduce ASN to you. 

          Now, to be fair, I’ve never met Mark Zuckerberg so he hasn’t had a chance to snub me or decline my friendship offer.  But, somehow I don’t think I’d have gotten the same reception as I’ve gotten from Arkad.  (That offer to guest blog here is still open Mark!)

          Arkad is an avatar in SL.  He’s been inworld since 2004 and his current persona was born in 2008.  For him, the attraction of SL is privacy.  No RL needs to be shared.  Like me, Arkad enjoys his privacy.  This was the reason why ASN was created. 

          ASN is intended to be an alternative to Facebook for non-real accounts such as ourselves.  Arkad stresses that no RL information being required was the driving force behind the decision to establish ASN. 

          As Arkad puts it, a person can be whomever they want to be inworld. He cites the example of Anshe Chung, a Danish school teacher in RL, a Chinese land baron millionaire in SL. 

          The goal of ASN is to bring and keep the virtual worlds and games communities together without any obligation of providing real information, thus offering more freedom than other social media websites. 

          I continue asking if ASN was a reaction to Facebook’s policies or did that develop afterwards.  Arkad replies that ASN was the result of a mix of things.  The original concept, yes, is ensuring privacy and that no RL data is being shared or requested.

The other, he continues, is that there was not any kind of social network available where virtual world members can share their photos, connect, promote, play games or interact like there now is in ASN.

          Arkad says proudly that ASN has it all in one place. ASN is the flickr, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Forums, etc. for virtual world residents and gamers all at one place.

          As far as I’m concerned, Arkad seems to have hit both nails squarely on their heads. 

          I next ask about the funding for ASN as all this takes money.  Arkad explains that originally investors were behind ASN but, now, advertising and sponsors are helping.

          When I ask about who ASN’s members are, Arkad says they come from all over and cites Second Life, Little Field Grid, Island Oasis, Virtual Highway,, IMVU, World of Warcraft, and even flight simulator enthusiasts.  A pretty diverse group in my opinion. 

          Arkad states that there are several reasons why people join ASN.

          First, they come to make friends.  Next, they join to promote their activities such as photography and blogging.  Finally, there’s a lot of useful information to be found at ASN and members avail themselves of it.

          My next question came from one of my readers.

          The question concerns intellectual property (IP) rights for content posted on ASN.  (Remember the ToS controversy with Linden Lab and SL?)  The question is does ASN consider itself the owner of IP posted on ASN.

          Arkad replies that no, ASN is not the owner.  What’s posted on the Internet is available for all.  ASN has no claim on it.  (Ebbe Altberg and Linden Lab could learn a few things from this guy.)

          I inquire about any issues that ASN may be experiencing. Arkad replies that server capacity had been an issue but has been addressed by the recent upgrade.  (I have to add that this migration was done very professionally and with transparent communications with the user community.  I know some large global companies that could learn from this.) 

          My last question has to do with ASN’s future plans. 

          Arkad says that short term, the immediate plans are celebrate the first birthday of ASN this coming September 20th (which is why this story is one day early) from 10:00AM to 11:00PM SLT. 

          The festivities will be non-stop with performers, gifts, and parties.

          Oh, you’d like to know where the celebrations are?

          Well, I can tell you without having to… (You know the rest!)

          Until just a few hours ago this was a tighter secret than the personal mobile phone numbers of Linden Lab management.  (Don’t ask.)

          The first anniversary celebrations will be here.  See you there!

          The location will be announced the day before on the website so keep an eye out is all that I can say now!

          Longer term, after the parties, Arkad’s plans for ASN are to introduce new features onto the website, fix some bugs in the Android app, and launch the iPhone app.  A pretty impressive list!

          Arkad next takes me to ASN inworld location to show me where residents can join and use the ATM for credits.  (More about this feature in a future story!)

          Wanting to be mindful of Arkad’s time, I thank him for his openness and hospitality then take my leave to return to Nowaki.   

          ASN is a well run, tight community of avatars from across the Metaverse.  In my short time here, I’m impressed by the friendliness of the other members and the helpfulness of the staff.

          For those looking for a social networking application to assist in their enjoyment of SL and other virtual worlds, I strongly recommend ASN. 

          You’ll see me there!

          I would like to thank Arkad for his time and hospitality while meeting with me for this interview.        

          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’ve included some pictures from my meeting with Arkad in his private offices inworld.

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I can be found on Google+ as webspelunker Ghostraven.

On Skype I’m webspelunker Ghostraven.

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.

          Open roads and safe fires!




Photo No. 5 Arkad Baxton
Photo No. 6 ASN First Anniversary Announcement

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