Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Decline and Fall of Second Life


The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.

Edward Gibbon



The recent announcement by Ebbe Altberg of a new virtual world, which for all practical purposes, will replace Second Life (SL) has, to put it mildly, sent shockwaves throughout the inworld community.

This is why I’m setting aside my regularly scheduled topic for this week and blogging about the current state of affairs with SL.  In the three years that I’ve been blogging about SL I can’t recall any single subject which has so galvanized and, at the same time. polarized residents. 

In my opinion, the lack of specifics as to Linden Lab’s intentions as well as the fears and rumors flying about have only exacerbated the situation.  Confusion reigns!

There are several reasons for all this hubbub.

First, Ebbe’s announcement was premature and ill-considered.  Something like this should have been better thought out and the possible questions, issues and concerns prepared for.  This is basic Crisis Management 101.

Next, this announcement shows a complete disregard for the SL community. I have long written that behind every avatar inworld is a real person with real feelings.  Many are there because of the vicissitudes of Real Life (RL).  SL fills a need in their lives.  Anything that threatens SL threatens their RL stability.

Finally, the state of affairs right now leads me to believe that no detailed plan exists to go from what SL is today to whatever feverish imaginings are taking place in the Linden Lab mother ship in California. 

I’ll speak from my own RL corporate experience here.  (Significant Other feels I must be feeling strongly about this as I normally don’t like to admit this in public.)  Normally, before launching a major change in direction, a company will do a feasibility study and a business case before making any announcements.  Then when announcements are made, public relations professionals use these materials to assist management in preparing to meet whatever happens.  Does anyone think Linden Lab’s announcement sound anything like this?

I suspect that Linden Lab is reacting to recent developments at High Fidelity and Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift.  I’m also vain enough to wonder about this announcement coming out shortly after I recently posted a story to my blog asking what’s going on at SL?  This whole thing smacks of a knee jerk reaction.

The days of the late, great Steve Jobs not saying anything until he launched a superb product that would leave us all awestruck are long gone.

As the virtual smoke and dust settle, the community’s very real issues and concerns are starting to stand out.  A few of the more noteworthy ones are:

·       What will happen to existing inventories and sims?  Builders have put much time and effort into creating their worlds?  Can any of this be imported into the new world?  Some feel that pre-mesh will be lost forever.

·       Will avatar names and identities be retained? 

·       Will friends’ lists and groups be transferred?

·       Will third party viewers like Firestorm still be available?

·       Will Linden monetary balances be carried over and, if so, at what rate of exchange? 

·       Will Linden Lab continue to maintain the existing world? 

·       What will future pricing look like? 

·       Will the existing ToS controversy finally be resolved?

There have been some generalizations that a few of these will be addressed.  But, saying it and doing it are two very different things.  Help desk support hasn’t been good for a while.  Who do you call with problems?

Some have said, “So what?”

Others have jumped blindly onto the Linden Lab bandwagon and are already talking about the brave, new world awaiting all of us.  My advice to them is that they shouldn’t sell their hard earned credibility so cheaply. 

Some tell us that we should all be happy that Linden Lab management is finally talking with us.  Yes, but what are they saying?  More importantly, what aren’t they saying? 

I say let’s stop for a moment and think about the bigger picture.

What’s really at stake here?

Does the SL community really need Linden Lab as some sort of an Unmoved First Mover?  (I took philosophy instead of psychology at university.)

What’s important to us inworld?

Are we more concerned about our virtual community or are we mesmerized by bright, shiny things albeit virtual and a new, possibly improved, virtual world experience?

What are our options?  Do we even have any other than blindly following Ebbe in a Pied Piper-like fashion?

Is OpenSim a possibility?

Can social media be used as I once blogged to keep the community alive regardless of what Linden Lab does? 

Here’s what I propose:

Let’s come together to meet, to discuss our situation, and to develop possibilities to keep the community alive as we go forward.

Let’s publish our manifesto and invite the other residents to join us.

Let’s go forward together and keep our community whole!

This is also in the best interests of Linden Lab.  While I doubt there will be a mass exodus from SL, there will be a natural reluctance on the part of many to sign onto another virtual world that may simply be extinguished like a candle someday at someone’s whim?

Who’s with me?

Drop me a line if you are and let’s talk before it’s too late!

I’ve included a few pictures of some of the beautiful places I’ve visited in my time inworld.  Places that we may never see again unless we act now.

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.   

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

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. 2 Beau Belle Village  

Photo No. 3 Autumn Trees

Photo No. 5 Sunset

Photo No. 7 Castle

Photo No. 9 Coastal Pathway
Photo No. 10 Asian Victorian Gardens

Saturday, June 21, 2014

My 200th Story about Second Life

Life isn't a matter of milestones, but of moments.

Rose Kennedy

OK, I made it!

I’m at my 200th entry in this blog! 

To be honest there were times when I wondered if I’d make it.  Blogging once a week seems easy but to try and have a good story ready each and every time takes some effort and planning.  Not to mention juggling Real Life (RL) to make it all happen.  (My thanks to Significant Other for allowing the time away to work on this little project of mine.)

When I look back on my time in Second Life (SL) since I blogged about reaching the 100 story mark, I wonder where the time has gone.  A lot happening in RL (Don’t worry, all good!) has probably contributed to its quick passage.

People whom I meet inworld always ask me why I blog.  Why not just wander about and enjoy myself?

I have a few reasons.

The first and most important to me is the variety of places inworld, the people in them, and the experiences offered are something which should be shared.  If I don’t share these stories there are fewer and fewer forums talking about SL.  I don’t think they should be forgotten. 

Next, I enjoy writing.  (Significant Other rolls eyes at this point.)  I’ll never be published in RL and the types of travel and experiences I once had are no longer available to me.  (No regrets here, mutual decision with Significant Other.)  Blogging about SL lets me have some fun, and hopefully for both of my readers, as I wander across the Grid and bring back my tales of wonder and misadventure.  (Significant Other’s eyes are in danger of rolling out of head now.)

Finally, people (OK, a few.) are following me and they tell me they enjoy my writing and look forward to it.  I feel obligated to do a good job and write regularly in order not to disappoint them.  (Not to lay a guilt trip on anyone!)

The next question I’m asked a lot is, what have I learned from my travels inworld?

Oddly, the answer is a lot.

The primary thing I’ve learned about SL is that there is a strong sense of community inworld.  People are here for a variety of reasons but being together with folks of similar minds is the big one.  There are tight bonds of friendship and sometimes even love among the residents.  I’ve made several very good friends in SL and when I came in I wasn’t expecting that.  (Significant Other suggests I ask them if they consider me as good a friend.) 

The other thing I’ve learned about SL is the incredible amount of creativity that exists here.  Some of the work created by residents beggar description and many times I feel I don’t do them justice with my scribblings.  (Significant Other admits that I have realistic expectations about my own work and can discern the truly great works of others.  Hey, that’s something, isn’t it?)

But, one thing I’m learning is that storm clouds may be threatening our world.  This I’ve learned only recently and will be a downer in what I’d hoped would be a more upbeat piece on my time in SL. 

As I was preparing this story I came across another one of those timely posts by Frau Jo Yardley that she is famous for.  In her blog, she informs us of a new virtual being developed by Linden Lab (LL) which won’t be backward compatible with the current SL.

(Being the cynic that I am, I found it more than a little coincidental that after I blogged about the lack of activity in SL since the arrival of the new CEO all of a sudden this news breaks.  Did I ever mention that I don’t believe in coincidence?)

Another piece of bad news is that the new world won’t be open source.  Sounds like LL doesn’t want to lose control like it did early on with SL.

While Frau Jo subsequently posted an official announcement from LL on this subject there are still more questions than answers right now.  I’ve learned from bitter experience how to read Corporate America’s press releases.  What’s left unsaid is more important than what’s said.  Anyone who doubts me should just follow how General Motors handled its ignition key problem for years until finally admitting what was going on. 

Here’s my concern.  (And, it’s only a concern for now.)  For well over ten years, residents inworld have made a big sweat equity investment to create some of the most beautiful virtual worlds ever seen by humankind.  In addition, many of these made significant RL financial investments as well. 

What happens to these?

What happens to the communities built around them?

Will everyone just be tossed off and told to re-up in the next Brave New World established by LL?

A lot could be lost forever here. 

What type of fee structure will be used?

In a brief moment, I believe Ebbe Altberg has wiped away all the good will he received when he came aboard earlier this year. I don’t want to rush to judgment here.  Maybe there’s a grand plan which will be fair and balanced.

My advice to the corporate luminaries at LL is that if they do have a grand plan then they’d better start communicating it in detail to the SL community before they lose us forever.

Sorry to end what I’d planned originally to be an upbeat piece on my milestone.  But, this latest news saddens me a little because the future of SL is in doubt.  I’ll write more about this as I learn more and its implications become apparent. 

Will SL be around long enough for me to write another 100 stories?

Below, I’ve included links to pictures that represent a few of the highlights of my last 100 stories.  Some have already joined #lostsims but others are still with us and I encourage you to go see them while you still can!

Thanks to all who read and follow me!

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.   

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

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. 2 Christmas 2012

Photo No. 4 Chinese Junk

Photo No. 6 Gorean Busker

Photo No. 8 Christmas 2013

Photo No. 10 Hobbiton


Saturday, June 14, 2014

What’s Going on in Second Life?

Study the past if you would define the future.


          I thought my opening question would get your attention.  (You’re here aren’t you?)
          No, this isn’t a bait ‘n switch ploy. 
          It’s just that after what seemed like some hopeful new beginnings for Second Life (SL) earlier this year, nothing seems to have happened!        
          First, we lost Rod Humble only to have replaced by Ebbe Altberg. 
          Then the highly touted and overrated SL Go appeared.  (Which I still won’t use by the way because of its ridiculously short trial period.)

            (N.B. After this blog was first posted, a reader brought to my attention that SL Go now had a one week free trial in response to user demand.  I checked this on their website and this is now the case.  When I'd rechecked my facts for this story earlier the change hadn't been made yet.  One week is a fair period for a trial and I'll write a review of SL Go as soon as my blogging schedule permits.  My thanks to the reader for pointing this out and sorry for the confusion!)
          New starter avatars were to be available and have appeared.  Rumors of the return of Lindens inworld were about. 
          A new Golden Age was to be upon the loyal fans who had stayed the course and hung on to being residents of SL even as Real Life (RL) friends went from making snide comments about our participation inworld to asking what it was.  (I don’t know about the rest of you but the latter really annoys me.)
          Now, mid-year, where are we?  Are we any better off?
          At the risk of being accused of nay-saying and alarmism, I really don’t think we’re any better off than we were six months ago. 
          Ebbe started strong, met with many, was engaged, but I haven’t heard a lot lately.  Haven’t heard of any new investments.  He recognized the IP issue with terms and conditions brouhaha but hid behind that old saw of business leaders and politicians everywhere, “The lawyers are working on it.”  Someone should point out to him that the lawyers work for him.
          (If I’m wrong and great strides have been made and I missed the memo – I won’t go into how nobody talks to me anyway – then I’ll happily apologize once the evidence is produced.)
          Then there was SL Go which was going to permit to all be mobile while we were inworld.  I was not a fan of the original pricing model or the twenty minute free trial but the company has addressed these issues.  Folks still find it pricey and compare it to less expensive alternatives.  This may be a case of too little too late. 
          Let’s talk about those new avatars.  Seems they have become something of a nightmare to support with the new mesh technology.  A SL friend who volunteers at a newbie support center inworld speaks of the frustration of new members who are trying to change their appearance and can’t do it readily.  Oh, and BTW, seems that the new avatars don’t work too well with SL Go.  (I’m sure a twenty minute trial really goes over well here.)  
          Then there were the rumors of the return of the Lindens inworld to lead us all to Nirvana.  (I once thought this was a wonderful idea until I realized that all the experienced ones had either been let go or left for greener pastures.  Linden Lab (LL) will be hard put to place experienced Lindens inworld who can hold their own with many residents.)  There have been a couple of sightings.  Although, from the descriptions that I read, they sounded more like they were lost and didn’t respect any of the local sims’ guidelines for dress and behavior. But, when you’re a god…
          Speaking of gods…
          Anyone remember Philip Rosedale?  You know the guy who got the ball rolling way back when SL was just a silly video arcade game for the shopping malls.  Seems he’s made the big time – again.
          Seems he was recently on CNBC talking about his latest foray into virtual worlds with his new company High Fidelity.  (I’d have included a link here but my anti-virus software didn’t like its security certificate, hmm.)  Oculus Rift is part of his strategy.  If he succeeds, and note I said “if”, then what happens to SL?  Enough said.
          OK, got the picture?
          Lots of things happening in SL but they don’t appear to be coordinated very well.
          Lack of involvement with the customer base by LL who appear to be taken for granted.
          New threat on the horizon and a lack of vision and capital to deal with it.
          Have I missed anything?
          Normally, I try to be positive and upbeat.  I can ignore dumb things inworld and focus on the positive.  But, what I’ve blogged about here affects all of us and the future of SL.
          LL has to focus on these issues and do something about them.  More to the point, they should be communicating more directly with more if not all of us.  I know Ebbe meets with some prominent residents from time to time and I applaud him for that.  It’s just not enough. 
          I’ll wrap it up and get off my soapbox with one last question to LL:
          “What’s the plan?”
          And, don’t worry. I’m still going back inworld and will keep blogging for as long as SL and I are both still around!   I believe in SL.  I just wish it did more to justify this belief.
          Finally, if I’m missing something then I’ll be the first to admit I’m wrong.  (Significant Other sees to that.)  Just drop me a line with what I’ve missed and I’ll be happy to apologize! 
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.   
My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.
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, June 7, 2014

The Great Gardens of Second Life - I

The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.

Hanna Rion

          I’m beginning a new series of stories in my blog with this post.
          (Yes, I know as Significant Other points out, I have so many other unfinished projects why add another.  My reply is that the ramshackle, unfinished nature of my blog contributes to its charm.  I know that sounds lame but that’s my story and I’m sticking with it!)
          My recent stories about the Silk Road Hunt 5 and First United Church of Christ made me appreciate the beautiful gardens existing in Second Life (SL).  Earlier stories about places like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon showed the grand scale of some inworld gardens.  Losses like Utopia Naked Isle Resort have made me realize how ephemeral the natural beauty of some gardens that exists inworld can be. 
          With these stories, I hope to raise residents’ awareness of the beauty which is there for their enjoyment inworld.  And, maybe, just maybe, with more visits fewer of these sims will end up as subjects for my #lostsims hashtag in Twitter. 
          I won’t pretend that these inworld gardens can ever replace those in Real Life (RL) but like appreciating a fine painting of a natural scene on a museum wall in RL, sometimes a virtual garden can compensate just a little when there’s no other alternative.
          For my first story, I selected the Asian Victorian Gardens in Mieville Dickens.
          These have been designed by the landscaping wunderkind, Mike Olbracht, partner to my good friend, Perryn Peterson.  I’ve encountered Mike’s work before in most, if not all, of Perryn’s projects.  His work has always been outstanding and I’ve been meaning to highlight it for some time.  This story permits me to do that as well as draw attention to the great gardens of SL.
          The gardens are physically small by both RL and SL standards.  However, as in many traditional Japanese gardens, Mike has cleverly used the space to give the illusion of much larger area surrounded by natural woods.  (I’ve seen this done to great effect in RL Tokyo.  What?  Did you think I spent my whole life in the Metaverse?)
          Arriving at the landing zone, a visitor sees a pathway leading away into the gardens.  Walking along this path, on one’s left across a stream, hills gently rise to mountains against the skyline.  On the right, is a bay which leads out to a bridge very much like San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge marking the start of the sea.  Continuing on to the end, one finds a magnificent, traditional gate marking the end of the gardens and the entrance to The New Mieville Tinyopolis – City of Tinies! 
          The grounds are covered artfully with different varieties of trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers.  Many of these are typical Asian flora found in RL gardens done in this style.  Cherry blossom trees are flowering everywhere.  Fuchsia and bamboo are in evidence.  Lilly pads are in the water over which weeping willows lean.
          A mountain waterfall feeds a stream which runs through the gardens.
          A word of caution, I’m no botanist.  Any mistakes in classifying plants or in missing anything obvious are strictly of my own making!
          In addition to the landscaping there are several Asian style buildings which contribute to the overall effect of being somewhere in Southeast Asia.  A large Buddhist temple sits on a hill overlooking the gardens.
          Frogs, ducks, and butterflies flit about adding to the natural sense of the sim. 
          Asian Victorian Gardens is a beautiful location to visit, to just sit and watch the world go by!  Perfect for meditation! 
           I can heartily recommend to all who appreciate natural beauty in a peaceful setting.
          I’d like to thank Mike for his beautiful work and to both he and Perryn for making this available to all inworld.
          I’ve included links to pictures of the gardens but please go and see these for yourself.  I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed!     
          I’ll be blogging about gardens in SL from time to time.  If you have a favorite garden that you think I should visit and write about then please forward me its name!  And, don’t worry, I promise that like this one there will be many where visitors can keep their clothes on! 
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.   
My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.
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. 2 View from Building

Photo No. 3 Garden Exit

Photo No. 4 Garden Building

Photo No. 5 Pond

Photo No. 6 Lilly Pads

Photo No. 7 Cherry Blossom Tree

Photo No. 8 Fuchsia

Photo No. 9 Weeping Willow

Photo No. 10 Footbridge

Photo No. 11 Hill Overlooking Pond

Photo No. 13 Statue of Buddha

Photo No. 14 Flowers

Photo No. 15 Hillside Flowers

Photo No. 16 Bamboo Forest

Photo No. 17 Garden Pathway

Photo No. 18 Bay View

Photo No. 19 Flowering Shrub

Photo No. 20 Mountain View