Jan 302015
 
An Image Should Be Here

Drax Files Episoed 26

Episode 26 of The Drax Files : World Makers takes a dip into the world of Second Life fashion, more notably the world of a Second Life fashion model, in this case, one who goes by the name of Absinthe.

Now regular readers of this blog may well be aware that fashion in Second Life is not my comfort zone, but this is part of the beauty of Draxtor Despres’ excellent series, it breaks down barriers in a simple fashion by letting the person being interviewed do most of the talking.

In this case we also see someone who plays a role in Second Life that is not a direct representation of their RL self. Absinthe in Second Life is a white female. The person behind the avatar is an African American female. An interesting point to note here is that the person behind the avatar admits that she doesn’t really see colour when it comes to people and she puts this down to growing up with a father who was in the armed forces. This meant that she grew up with different cultures and different races.

Ferosh Inside

This even extends to the point whereby the RL person behind Absinthe doesn’t really view her as white, more of an extension of her inner self.

We also get an insight into what being a Second Life fashion model entails. The Second Life fashion scene is huge and plays a major role in the economy and therefore plays a large part with regards to the content users create. However being a model entails a bit more than some may think, you need to know about animation overrides, poses and Absinthe even admits that she gets performance anxiety when performing at a show, even though she’s only pushing arrow keys.

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Jan 292015
 

re/code recently reported : AOL Likely to Shutter Gaming Site Joystiq in Larger Content Cleanup. This has not been confirmed yet, but Joystiq themselves responded to the rumour :

Sources tell Joystiq that the staff is aware of the closure, but corporate hasn’t officially told them, so they are unable to acknowledge anything out of concern that it will cause immediate shutdown. We’ve reached out for more information. We will update, as we always have, when we know more.

This post may start to sound like an obituary, so let’s get some things cleared up here near the start. The rumours about Joystiq closing remain simply that, rumours. However they look like bloody well informed rumours. There have been no comments regarding what this all means for Massively. The talk is of a restructure.

You may be wondering “Who cares”, but the simple fact of the matter is that Joystiq has been a good friend of Second Life in the past. Largely due to sites such as Second Life Insider that then got merged into Massively. There are plenty of posts from the Second Life category over at Massively. The output certainly slowed down over the years, especially once Tateru Nino moved on. However Beau Hindman did keep up the good fight and Moo Money and Eloise Pasteur, who blogged about Second Life earlier also deserve a mention.

You can go all the way back to 2006 for a history of Second Life Insider. Back then the site was part of Weblogs, which was part of the same network as Joystiq. The bloggers back then were people such as Akela Talamasca, Callandris Pendragon, Aimee Weber, Master Penguin and Local Jezebel. The site had a more fansite appeal.

Back in October 2008 Massively interviewed Tateru Nino : Meet the Team: Tateru Nino, who explained what she did at Massively :

I’m a general writer, though I act as the team specialist for collaborative virtual worlds (particularly Second Life), and legal analysis. I help brainstorm and do some proofreading, and examine the philosophy of MMOs and virtual environments.

Eventually Second Life Insider would become part of the main Massively site, but even before that happened Massively were covering Second Life. On a site more about games and MMO’s in particular, this wasn’t always popular, as a post from November 2007 addresses : Why Second Life belongs at Massively :

Or: Why gamers and virtual worlders should care about each other.

We’re shy of a month in to Massively’s existence, and one of the more persistent bits of feedback we continue to receive regards the inclusion of Second Life content on a site about MMOs. There are really two questions to answer here:

  1. Does Second Life coverage belong on Massively at all?
  2. Is the amount of Second Life content disproportionate to its mindshare?

I will herein state a claim for a definitive yes on point 1, and readily admit that point 2 is arguably a matter of taste. Maintaining editorial balance surrounding all of the many, varied games we cover is an ongoing process, and we’ve selected a suite of “core games” based on many factors including subscriber/member numbers, overall buzz and mindshare in the industry, and input from a secret algorithm I would love to call “interestingness” if it weren’t already taken. We are proud to offer in-depth Second Life coverage as one of those core current titles.

Those sort of discussions would rage on whenever Second Life was talked about, it still happens today.

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Jan 282015
 

Morphe Inc

I’m talking to Marsha Wawillow, Editor in chief of SL Goth Magazine, an inworld publication which I covered in a part 1 of the interview. In this part of the interview Marsha gets a little more personal, although she readily admits she’s generally shy. However we start with location, the SL Goth HQ sits in a corner of the home of Morphe Inc. Abel Dreamscape’s wares are readily available around here and they are very pleasing on the eye.

Morphe Inc In The Middle

I ask Marsha, how she got here :

I’ve known Abel Dreamscape for a long time. In the earlier days of the magazine he made gifts for readers as well as did the special event buildings for SL7B. When I left, and returned, I contacted him because I just think he’s so talented, and reliable, and genuine – I trust him. He is our patron here and we are ever grateful for his hospitality.

SL Goth HQ

Marsha took a break from Second Life for around three years but on her return she quickly got back into the swing of things and relaunched SL Goth Magazine with a HP Lovecraft special, so how big a fan of HP Lovecraft is Marsha? Marsha squirms, a little uncomfortably and then answers, somewhat sheepishly :

“I actually do not know very much about Lovecraft, although I did have a big dose with the Special issue and learned a lot. It’s interesting – there’s a HUGE Lovecraft following in Second Life. Very dedicated, and creative fans, who have a strong community. The people in that community are just top notch – storytellers, role players, creators, sim builders, you name it. I’m just always blown away by what comes out of Innsmouth.”

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Jan 282015
 

Interviewing Marsha Warwillow

I find myself inside a gothic building at the HQ of SL Goth, a website and inworld magazine dedicated to all things gothic in Second Life. The magazine describes itself as :

slGoth Magazine is an independent showcase of gothic Second Life residents, places, philosophy, fashion, entertainment and events. The articles are written by resident avatars and cover a variety of topics in the gothic community. It is published monthly in-world and is a wearable HUD which supplies landmarks and gifts from sponsors.

I’m joined by Editior in Chief of SL Goth, Marsha Warwillow. The magazine was launched in June 2009 further editions appeared in July and August of that year. The fourth edition appeared in May 2010, with further editions appearing in June and July of that year and then Marsha took a break from Second Life.

The magazine reappeared along with Marsha in August 2014 with a HP Lovecraft special edition and since then there have been editions in September, October, November and December 2014 as well as January 2015.

I ask Marsha about the return of the magazine, she pauses and then replies :

Well, some people enjoy building and making things in Second Life. Some people DJ, dance, hang out, take pictures, etc. My thrill is making magazines, and I love goth culture, so it seemed a fun way to explore goth/dark SL and learn new things and just basically document it as I went along. 

But it became collaborative, and I do not write at all really any more, it’s based on submissions and people who volunteer to contribute now.

How many people are involved, I ask Marsha, “It varies from month to month, I call it “an open invitation” and send out a theme note, people respond who are interested and have time and are inspired.” she replies.

Marsha On The Couch

Sl Goth has a website and inworld publication, I ask Marsha about the challenges of the inworld version compared to the website, she pauses and then tells me :

Hmm… with the in-world magazine, making edits is a bit harder after it is published, and adding to it. It IS possible to do just a lot more work compared to simply editing the text on a webpage. Also the magazine contains gifts from Sponsors. There’s a bit of a process with that, and it’s not always easy, but worth it.

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Jan 272015
 

Bridge

The City Of Harrison in Second Life is pretty damn stunning. This is an urban roleplay area that spans two regions and manages to pack a hell of a lot in to packed streets which are surrounded by numerous buildings.

City Of Harrison

As with most roleplay regions in Second Life, the trick is to not tag yourself as being into the roleplay if you’re just visiting. City Of Harrison has a very simple way of helping you opt out, there’s OOC tag, there’s nothing to wear, indeed that’s the trick, you simply don’t join their group or wear their group tag. That means you can even join the group, but avoid roleplay by not wearing said tag until you’re ready.

Detailed Streets

So what exactly is going on here? Well this is a good time to head over to their website to find out more :

The City of Harrison is a casual modern urban roleplay environment – that is, we are a modern-day big city aimed at everyone simply living their lives. Unlike many other urban roleplay environments, Harrison does not focus on being “dark” or “dangerous”; rather, we cater to anyone that wants a chunk of a bustling metropolis. Whether you aspire to be a financial magnate or a criminal mastermind – or anything in between – Harrison is the place for you.

There are perks to getting involved in the roleplay, you can rez items and drive around the streets.

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Jan 262015
 

These days Yoz Grahame works for 18F, a USA Government website that bills itself as : “Building the 21st century digital government“. However in a former virtual life Yoz worked for Linden Lab, unsurprisingly he was known as Yoz Linden. However he has also long been harbouring a secret, that may or may not have been closely guarded.

Yoz it seems was involved in keeping a alive a forum that had a life of its own, as reported by Kotaku : The Secret Douglas Adams RPG That People Have Been Playing for 15 Years. The RPG itself, known as Starship Titanic, is, claims the Kotaku article, pretty unplayable these days. The book of the same name was not written by Douglas Adams, it was instead penned by Terry Jones, but the forum? That’s where Yoz comes into play.

Yoz worked for The Digital Village and as part of his work on the website he created an employee forum, that wasn’t just open to employees. Cryptic clues were provided as to the existence of this forum. However Yoz forgot all about it, for around six months, and then decided to take a peek :

Visitors to the forum had created fictional employees and passengers on the Starship Titanic and begun role playing as them. Someone would make up an implausible, Adams-esque scenario, and everyone else would react to it in character, resulting in some enormously complex storylines and in-jokes that developed and diversified over years. And this strange fictional world had appeared entirely spontaneously, without any input from Douglas Adams or The Digital Village. Indeed, Yoz was as surprised as anyone when he stumbled across it: “It was like ignoring the vegetable drawer of your fridge for a year, then opening it to find a bunch of very grateful sentient tomatoes busily working on their third opera,” he says.

The beauty of user generated content, even in forum form appears to have been a sight to behold.

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Jan 232015
 

Ok first of all, as I’m a great believer in ethics in Virtual World Blogging I will declare from the outset that I have no connection with SL Go, or OnLive. At the moment, I’m on my iMac, which isn’t new and I’m struggling to find the bloody hash symbol. This reminds me of the time I was in the United States and phoning home and the phone told me to press the pound sign, which confused the living daylights out of me as there was no £ sign on the telephone, eventually I realised they meant the old pound sign for weight, which is #. Aha alt + 3 on a Mac. Ok, so #Theonlywayisethics

Now on with the show!

I logged into SL Go from OnLive for the first time in ages. This is largely due to the problems I’m having with AMD graphics in Second Life. The results, were quite staggering on my mid 2007 iMac. Now, wait, I hear you say. A 2007 iMac won’t have AMD graphics, this is true, but I was downstairs watching Cambridge United v Manchester United in the FA Cup.

Anyway, the first thing I noticed was that my experience of the wonderful Escapades Island was vastly improved because all of the textures seemed to load right away.

Rickety Market

Wait wait wait! You can’t save Snapshots to disk with SL Go! This is true too, the images in this post were taken on my PC with the regular Second Life client, but here’s the thing, whilst I’m waiting for scenes to rez on my PC, I see the textures loading, they turn from grey and lifeless to being filled in. This doesn’t happen when I’m using SL Go.

Escapades Islands

However I do like my snapshots. So the ideal scenario for me is to be able to use SL Go and a regular Second Life or TPV client and I’d imagine a lot of people are the same.

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Jan 222015
 

Regular readers of blog may be familiar with the fact that I’m a big fan of Storytelling and I’m happy to see quite a few storytelling groups in virtual worlds. Some are in Second Life, some go beyond Second Life’s borders but they all have a story to tell.

In this post I’m going to list some of the forthcoming events from The Alexandrian Free Library in Second Life. The Alexandrian Free Library is a community based group, supporting libraries in Second Life and their members come from lands such as :

Caledon, Winterfell, Steelhead, New Toulouse, New Babbage, Amatsu Shima, West of Ireland, Steeltopia, Deadwood, Al Andalus & Constantinople.

With that said, on with the forthcoming events :

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Philomena Public Library
Philomena Public Library Weekly Book Discussion Club
3:00pm – 4:00pm SLT
Where: Philomena Public Library
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Bruda%20Plateau/15/38/57

Description:

A 1903 novel by Frank Norris set in the wheat speculation trading pits at the Chicago Board of Trade Building. Aspects of love, marriage and wealth are included. We get a glimpse of urban life in the early 1900’s.

You are invited to attend the informal discussion. We often assemble in 1900 – 1920 period clothing. We meet over tea and often talk over other topics as well. All are welcome to attend.

Reading Schedule:
January 25th: Chapters VII and VIII
February 1st: Chapters IX, X and Conclusion

A copy of the book can be found in the Town of Philomena Public Library.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Philomena Public Library
Philomena Public Library – Oral Reading
4:00pm – 4:30pm SLT (immediately following the weekly Book Discussion)
Where: Philomena Public Library
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Bruda%20Plateau/15/38/57

Description:

Skilled Sage and Bard Big Red will continue reading from Jules Verne’s “Master of the World.” This is a serialized book and will end with a cliff hanger each week. Red will also read a personal letter written by his uncle during the first world war circa 1916 – 1918.

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Jan 202015
 

Group Picture

There’s an interesting article over at The Wall Street Journal : Practice Personalities: What an Avatar Can Teach You. The article by Robert Lee Holz highlights research from the likes of Stanford University to suggest that not only can our avatars and inworld interactions change the way we behave, they can also be used to change the way we behave via role-playing in areas such as corporate diversity :

As digital experiments in identity, our personal avatars mingle real and virtual worlds in ways that scientists are only beginning to analyze. While data is scarce, emerging technology such as 3-D virtual reality goggles and more immersive computerized experiences promise to make avatars more common. Scientists and psychologists are finding new uses for avatars, including role-playing for corporate diversity training, for business conferences and for teaching.

I’ve seen this discussed before but there is a theory that people often create an extension of themselves when they create an avatar for a virtual world or game experience and that in many ways the customisation choices available reveal far more about a person that they realise. I’m not 100% sold on this theory as I’m often a Dwarf, Drow or Wizard. I would also like to be an Orc … actually some of the powers of those characters would be beneficial outside the virtual world, maybe they’re on to something :

American Scientific Blogger Jennifer Ouellette is quoted as saying :

Your brain will start to incorporate your avatar into your sense of self, the more strongly you bond with that avatar, the more it will impact your behavior in the real world.

Jennifer is very familiar with Second Life and is involved with Virtually Speaking Science, a podcast that takes place in Second Life. I’ve covered Virtually Speaking Science a couple of times.

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Jan 202015
 

Sometimes you see a news item or a blog post in a stream and you wonder if it’s something that has been rehashed from many moons ago. That was my first thought when I saw the story I’m about to blog about, however after delving further it looks like the real deal.

BCM Momentum, the blog for Baylor College Of Medicine informs us : Online program aims to aid in weight loss for women with physical limitations. The program addresses a very serious issue, as Margaret A.Nosek PHD explains :

If you really want to see something rarer than a vegetarian at a rib cook-off, try looking for a woman in a wheelchair at Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, or 24 Hour Fitness. Why are we such rare birds in these environments?

The answer is simple – these programs don’t really understand what it’s like to try to lose weight when exercising is simply not an option.

Therefore there’s a need for women with physical limitations to share ideas on how to lose weight and of course a good way of doing this is to meetup in small groups to discuss methods that may work. However there are times when physical limitations are problematic for people who may benefit from meeting up in a central physical location, so what better way to address this than via a virtual world :

We are now testing this program with small groups of women who have mobility limitations, but instead of making them deal with all the hassles of coming to one location, we hold our meetings in the virtual online world of Second Life.

Whereas this program is aimed at women in the Houston area, it still shows the power and benefits that a virtual world can bring.

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