Thursday, March 27, 2014

Farewell to Utopia in Second Life

Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment that was known
As Camelot.

Arthur, Camelot

          This is a sad story for me to write. 
          Just several days ago, I learned that Utopia Naked Isle Resort in Second Life (SL) will be closing on March 31st. 
          I’d first visited Utopia last May shortly after they opened.  I was visiting nudist resorts inworld (No snickering please, they’re a large community inworld.  And, yes, Significant Other is aware and is content to have me at home – where shoulder surfing is possible.) 
          Then I met two of the three owners, Dai Aloix and Lori66.  They took the time to answer my questions, show me around, and make me feel welcome.
          I found a well laid out clothing optional resort with a tropical theme and a very active social calendar.  For those seeking something a little quieter there were pathways, beaches, caves, and jungles to wander off into either by one’s self or with a friend.  The free areas were well appointed and fee based VIP zone added additional features.  Utopia was not was of those sims bloated with every AO that was ever scripted inworld. 
          Overall, a nice place to visit and hang out at. 
          During the course of the last year, I visited, not as often as I should have.  As I suffer from in Real Life (RL), I have a very bad habit of regretting not going to see someone or visit somewhere until it’s too late.  (Significant Other tries to reassure me that I’m not as bad I make out.  This is one of those days when I’m not so sure.) 
          My first story came out.  It was received well.  Utopia even put my picture on their friends’ wall at the landing zone.  (My RL mother didn’t even have my picture on her walls!  Significant Other cautions me about bring up my mother.)  I wrote another about the time I accidentally almost caused a near riot at an erotic story telling event.  (I still say it was all an accident.)   Another was about the beautiful renovations recently done on the VIP zone.  My story about Utopia’s Winter Wonderland was fun to write.  I was planning a series of stories to coincide with the first anniversary celebrations in April. 
          Along the way I made many friends.  Lisah Lorefield is one I’d like to call out as she helped me with background for my stories and showed me several other sims which will be the basis of future stories.  Lisah was also a great help to me when technical problems kept me off the Grid for a while last year and she helped get messages inworld for me.  Meanwhile, she was doing superb work as a builder in Utopia. 
          But, now, all this will be gone in a few days. 
          Utopia had a weekly tradition every Tuesday evening called Pack the Bar (PTB) with a different theme each week.  This past Tuesday, March 24th, Utopia had its last PTB event with a Disney theme and I made sure I attended.
          I arrive on time and walk down to the dance floor.  Since there was short notice, I didn’t have time to find a Disney costume so I wandered around nude.  All the other guests who eventually arrived wore some sort of costume (although a few might have raised old Walt’s eyebrows) but, Utopia being Utopia, no one even noticed. 
          I ran into Dai dressed as Minnie Mouse and asked what happened.  She replied that trying to balance RL commitments and running Utopia was getting a bit complicated so the decision was to shut down.  I guess it’s better to go out on a high note unlike some sims that outlived their useful lives and still don’t know to shut down.  (No names!)
          I stayed for most of the evening.  Guests continued to arrive.  This was the largest crowd that I’d ever seen at Utopia which is saying a lot. 
          DJ Xavia did her usual superb job of spinning the tunes mixing Disney songs with favorites from PTB’s gone by.  Occasionally, the crowd broke in song singing along.  There was banter about Disney movies and characters.  Somehow Marvin the Martian snuck in and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang played but no one seemed to notice.
          The mood was festive and happy.  People didn’t focus on this being the last dance.  A few like me wished they had come more often.  As guests left they said farewell, wished everyone well and hoped to meet them again elsewhere inworld.  Bubbles flowed overhead and the most poignant moment for me was when the closing theme from the original Mickey Mouse Show was played. 
          Then it was my time to leave for the last time.
          The dance floor was full as I made my good byes and took my leave.  I walked a short ways toward the landing zone and turned to look back for one last time.  What I saw was how I want to remember Utopia.  People laughing and dancing, having a wonderful time with their friends.  That’s what I want to remember.
          I then teleported home. 
          I’ve blogged before about loss and community in SL.  Since I began my journey across the Grid way back when I’ve learned that the value and the enjoyment inworld come from the people and the groups they form and where they hang out when they rezz in. 
          Whenever we lose an individual or a community we all lose.  Yes, maybe in this case we know what happened and we’ll probably get to meet everyone again someplace else.  But, that one brief shining moment that was known as Utopia will be gone shortly and SL is the poorer for it.
          Utopia will be open until March 31, 2014 and then will be nothing but a memory.  I encourage everyone to visit and walk around (Remember either bathing suit or nude!) and see what a really beautiful sim could be like.  Dai says the VIP group will remain open for possible future events so you may wish to consider joining.
          I’d like to thank Dai, Lori66, and Max, the third owner, for all their hard work over the last in creating Utopia and a fun, welcoming experience for all their guests during this past year.  It was a great run guys and I hope to see you doing something soon elsewhere in SL.
          I also want to thank Lisah and all my other friends from Utopia for their friendship and the good times we shared.  I’ll be seeing all of you around the Grid!
          Below, I’ve included links to a few pictures from Utopia as it is and some earlier shots from prior stories.  But, please go and see for yourselves before all that we have left will be these pictures!        
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 Utopia Logo
Photo No. 4 Utopia Welcome Sign
Photo No. 5 Utopia Pathway
Photo No. 7 Ruins at Utopia
Photo No. 8 Lisah Lorefield
Photo No. 9 VIP Area

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Why I Won’t Try SL Go in Second Life

My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.

Abraham Lincoln


          Once again, I’m going to be controversial.
          (Significant Other rolls eyes and heads off for the television mumbling something about having seem this film before.)
          I’m also going to step out of Second Life (SL) and blog about Real Life (RL) right at the point where both worlds meet.

          Why am I doing this? (Drum roll please!)
          I’m doing this because of the latest “thing” to come along in an effort to salvage SL while being a nifty piece of technology only picks the pockets of its potential users.
          Here’s my beef…
          Recently, with much hype and fanfare, a company called OnLive introduced a new product by the name of SL Go.  SL Go is an app designed for Android devices such as tablets to provide a true 3D experience in SL for residents.
          So far, so good.  The lack of a true mobile device for SL has been a long time gripe of mine and others.  What I have a problem with is the pricing and the paltry free trial offer.  Obviously, OnLive hasn’t been paying attention to recent industry trends.
          Let’s start in reverse order.
          The free trial period is twenty minutes.  So after downloading the free app from the Android store, a user has only a short period of time to determine if they want to sink any money into this.
          How expensive can this be?
          Fasten your seat belts folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
          One hour costs $3 US.  Three hours costs $8 US.  Ten hours costs $25 US.
          Don’t believe me?  Can’t say I blame you.  Check them here for yourself.
          Whom are they kidding?
          How many people can afford or will pay these prices?
          The limited trial only adds insult to injury.  Ever try to do something in twenty minutes in SL? 
          When many highly successful app’s like Evernote and Hootsuite not to mention SL itself use a free and premium versions pricing model to attract subscribers and then offer additional services for a fee, a reasonable fee mind you, what was OnLive thinking?    
          My guess is that they were running low on venture capital and needed to bring in cash flow.  I get that but this isn’t how I would have gone about it. 
          The really sad thing here is that the app appears to be a neat piece of technology.
          Three SL bloggers whom I have a lot of respect for and trust their opinions were beta testers of SL Go and wrote reviews.  There were Frau Jo Yardley, Wagner James Au, and Daniel Voyager.  (Please don’t think poorly of them just because I think highly of them.  They’re very influential in the community.  Au literally wrote the book on SL.)
          Additionally, there’s competition.  Maybe not as technically appealing as is SL Go but it’s something.  The two competitors are Pocket Metaverse Pro and Lumiya.  I’ve experimented with both.  I used the former on an iPhone and it saved my bacon once when I had a problem with my laptop.  The latter I used on an Android tablet and is probably the closest of the two to the SL Go experience.  Neither is great but they’re affordable and in a pinch they’ll keep you connected inworld. 
          For someone who’s looking to use this app it’s going to come down to economics.  If you have the money to throw around then go for it.  If you’re like me and you’re careful about what you spend inworld (Or, your Significant Other monitors your spend and return on investment.)  I recommend sticking with your desktop/laptop or using one of the tools I mentioned above.
          One of the beta testers acknowledged the cost issue but said the pricing model was beta too and could be changed.  I’m afraid my colleague is a little na├»ve.  I’ve been around the block long enough to know that when a new product launches with a pricing scheme that’s it.  Too many business cases have too many spreadsheets showing all the money everyone will make.  If anything these prices are the floor not the ceiling. 
          Interestingly, when I recently ran a story on suggestions for improvements in SL to be given to the new CEO of Linden Lab, Ebbe Altberg, my respondents didn’t even mention mobility! 
          I’ve had my say!  If anyone does use SL Go, I’d really appreciate hearing about whether the functionality is worth the price. And if OnLive ever decides to have a more reasonable trial period I’d be happy to check it out. 
          Now, if anyone would like to see me get excited about new technology for SL and virtual reality then let’s keep an eye on Oculus Rift.  It’s a 3D immersive headset for virtual worlds like SL and this could be the killer app for virtual worlds.  This is innovation.  Still a ways to go here but definitely something I’d consider spending some money on.  More to come!
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, March 15, 2014

Are You Going to STEAM IX in Second Life?

Not all those who wander are lost.

J. R. R. Tolkien


          Well, it’s that time of the year again!
          Spring is getting closer.  (At least for some of you.) Getting out and about after spending the winters indoors becomes more appealing.  (Significant Other can’t wait.) Meeting friends and doing things with the Sun on our faces can happen once again.
          All these things occur both in Real Life (RL) and Second Life (SL). 
          One of those things that occurs every year at this time is the only remaining Victorian STEAMpunk Hunt in SL, namely STEAM IX!  
          Continuing in my unbroken stream since STEAM VIII and STEAM VII (I sometimes go walkabout inworld and miss events.  Significant Other says I’m guilty of this in RL too.  What can I say other than I tend to wander.)  I’m here to blog about this year’s STEAM event which runs from March 1st to 31st across the Grid. 
          Once again, Perryn Peterson has outdone himself in organizing this event and bring together many merchants and residents to partake in all that SL has to offer. 
          The starting location for the Hunt is the Steampunk Information Center in Mieville.  From here hunters begin their hunts across 126 stops with 124 vendors participating all with gifts for them.  This year’s theme is “Romancing the STEAM” and if past Hunts are any guide, the merchants will be very creative in their offerings.
          Participation has been very good so far.
          Perryn reports that over 10,000 residents visited the starting point on the first weekend which was a new record for Mielville with over 1,000 actually starting the Hunt.  The kickoff party was held simultaneously with the Mardi Gras party and over 6,000 attended that.  (As I’ve reported before, Perryn does know how to throw a party!)  He also reports that this has been the smoothest kick off yet for a Hunt.
          There are new merchants and several are already in the running for the Fave Five trophies awarded to those merchants cited as being the best by the hunters.  So, maybe there’ll be some surprises this year! 
          For more information, there are a blog and website.  Pictures of the merchants’ gifts can be seen on the former, details of the Hunt at the latter.
          My old friend, Glorf Bulmer, has returned to SL and as is her custom has completed the entire Hunt (Glorf’s an overachiever.) and has reported on the gifts in her blog which I recommend to all!
          There is still time to visit the Hunt and see all the hard work and wonderful gifts from Perryn and the merchants.  So, please come and enjoy!  Tell ‘em web sent you! 
          Maybe we’ll meet there! 
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’ve included below links to a few pictures of the Steampunk Information Center.  Hopefully, you get the sense of all that happens in Mieville there. 
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 Starting location

Photo No. 2 STEAM IX Poster

Photo No. 8 Perryn Peterson  


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Helping Others in Second Life

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


          With this story I want to get your attention.
          I’m doing something that I don’t often do in this blog.
          I’m going to get serious for a few moments and I ask that you please stay with me.
          The reason I’m doing this is because I’m going to ask you to do something we do in Real Life (RL) often and without thinking about it.
          What’s that you may ask?
          That’s helping others.
          In RL we just do it.  Whether we contribute money, take the time to visit a shut in, or help out in some other way.  We do it and the world’s a better place for it and I’d like to think we’re better people for it.
          Well, now we have an opportunity to do it in Second Life (SL) as well.
          The annual Relay for Life (RFL) in SL is getting underway as I write this blog. 
          This is the annual fund raising effort in support of the American Cancer Society.  Through this event, thousands of dollars are raised to support cancer research in RL.
          Now, some may say, ‘I gave at the office.’ And indeed they may have.  They may ask why should I give inworld?
          I’m here to tell you why.
          Some in RL think that SL is at worse a bunch of oversexed clowns with too much time on their hands, or at best, a good way to keep people with inadequate social skills off the streets in RL.
          After almost three years of exploring inworld and blogging about my travels, I can confidently say this is neither a fair nor an accurate description of the people and communities I’ve encountered.  (Yes, there’re a few examples of each type described above, but then I can say the same about some RL organizations I’ve been associated with whose names many of you would recognize.) 
          Inworld, people care about one another.  They help each other.  And, as in RL, they do it without thinking about it. 
          Today, I want you (Notice how I not so subtly switched to the second person?) to stop and think about it.  You help people every day.  A noob who can’t figure out how to walk.  A lonely person on the edge of group too shy to approach.  You help all of these and so many more. I’ve seen you do it.  Sometimes I was the person you helped.
          So, at the risk of being considered an ingrate, I’m going to reach out to you in your comfortable place and make you uncomfortable.
          Cancer reaches in and touches everyone.  A good friend in SL is going in for a double mastectomy in RL in a few days.  Someone I worked with in RL passed away from lung cancer a few days ago.  A RL friend’s father has only months to live.  I’ve lost relatives to the disease.
          Is there anyone here inworld who doesn’t have similar stories? 
          Now, I don’t say these things to evoke pity from you for either these people or myself. These people are brave, some of the bravest I’ve ever known in my life.  They don’t need pity but they and people like them can use your help.  I say these things to call you to action.  Here’s how you can help.
          If you can afford to donate money then please do so.  Research is expensive.  Care, sadly, doesn’t come cheap.  If you can’t afford to donate then can you come out and help the fundraisers in their activities?  Or, if all else fails then can you please come out and hang out with the fundraisers as they run their functions.  Having a big crowd helps them feel that people are paying attention. 
          In case you’re wondering why I’m pushing RFL this year there’s a couple of reasons.  First, as I mentioned above, there’s bit of it around me this year.
          Second, my good friend in SL, Jessii Warrhol  approached me recently and asked me to participate with the Tribute City RFL team.  The time was right for me.  After several years of passing through RFL fund raising events I decided to join. 
          I’ll blog for the cause, I’ll donate money, and I’ll try to help out in some other ways.  (Significant Other suggests that just staying out of Jessii’s and the team’s way might be enough.) 
          That’s me.  Everyone is different.  There are other RFL teams inworld if you’d rather go with them.  (Sorry, Jessii.)  The point is do something, anything! 
          Here are some logistical details to help you get started!
          The Tribute City Relayers Relay for Life Team is co-captained by Johannes1977 Resident and Rob Fenwitch.  Three other sites are relaying with Tribute City this year.  These are Zorro’s Tavern, Zenland, and Requiem. 
          There is a blog where all of Tribute City’s and its partners’ activities will be listed  for the duration of RFL which will run until late in the year.  The team even has its own clubhouse inworld.  Check it out! 
          The blog contains information on contributing and participating. 
          As a matter of fact, Zorro’s is having a party and fundraiser on March 9th from 1:00 to 3:00PM SLT.  But, if you can’t make it, don’t worry, there’ll be plenty more! 
          The Tribute City Relayers were established by Jessii two years ago and won several awards last year including the Cancer Education Award.  Their dedication and commitment are evident.  I look forward to working with them and enjoying myself. 
          With that, I’ll take my leave for now.  I’ll be blogging on this topic for a while and reporting back on progress.  Please think about what I’ve said and maybe I’ll meet you inworld!  SL is a community of caring, compassionate people and here’s our chance to show that once again!
          I’d like to thank Jessii for inviting me to join the Tribute City Relayers and I thank her and all her friends for their work on this very worthy cause.     
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’ve included below links to a few pictures of sites associated with RFL inworld.  Hopefully, you get the sense that there’s a lot going on here. 
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.