Second Life Novel Launch: Huckleberry Hax’s ‘AFK, In Pursuit of Avengement’

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AFK, In Pursuit of Avengement Cover ArtJoin me in celebrating the launch of an all new Second Life novel by Huckleberry Hax at Harvey’s Bar at Basilique on Thursday 26 February at 3pm SLT.

Mr. Hax is launching his eagerly awaited fourth instalment in the ‘AFK’ series of novels set in Second Life – ‘AFK, in Pursuit of Avengement’.

At the launch, Mr. Hax will read an excerpt in voice. If you’re a fan of the series up to now you might also be interested in knowing this will be the section of the book which explains the twist at the end of ‘AFK, indefinitely’. Visitors attending the launch will be among the first able to download the book on Kindle from Amazon.com!

I first met Mr. Hax years ago, after reading his novel “Your Clothing is Still Downloading”, a story of deception and infidelity, with some pretty serious real life consequences, which I enjoyed tremendously. I was so excited to not only be asked to model for the cover of his latest book, but also help design the cover art and typography of the final cover you see pictured above. I’ve since read an advanced copy of the book, and I can assure you that it’s yet another riveting exploration into the dark side of Second Life relationships that every Second Life resident would enjoy.

AFK, in Pursuit of Avengement is the fourth novel in the AFK series (and his tenth writing as Huck) and picks up the action from the unexpected ending at the end of book 3, AFK, Indefinitely. The novel will launch at the event in print and Kindle formats, with an ePub edition following soon after.

If you haven’t read books 1 to 3, the first novel, AFK can be read here – and is a free Kindle download at Amazon.

More about Second Life novelist Huckleberry Hax.

Basilique’s Bar Moderna featured on the Second Life homepage

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The Second Life Homepage Feb 2015

The Second Life Homepage Feb 2015

Here’s just something I thought was really cool.

We residents don’t often see the Second Life homepage because it knows that we’re already residents and therefore redirects us with our Dashboard.

People who are not yet residents; however, see the homepage you see pictured above. While preparing for my interview for The DraxFiles Radio Hour, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Bar Moderna (at the Basilique) as a set for the centre picture:

A group at the Bar Moderna

A group at the Bar Moderna

It’s a cool picture and I’d love to know who the artist is, so I can personally thank them for choosing it as a set!

I’ve since updated the Bar Moderna with a new ceiling from the marvellously creative Specian, who’s creations have to be experienced in 3D to be fully appreciated. The blue waves in the ceiling below actually MOVE! Here’s a picture of it by the wonderfully talented Caity Tobias:

Monday night at Bar ModernaJoin usat the Bar Moderna every Monday at 2pm for our Monday Music Socials where I’ll be spinning my favourite tracks and taking requests. The dress code is smart casual.

 

Marketing Second Life

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Draxtor Despres and I have tried to have this conversation for weeks since we butted heads over our differing views on Second Life marketing.

Yesterday, we finally got the opportunity to sit down and have this chat, which is featured today on the DraxFiles Radio Hour.

We covered a lot of ground, including

  • increasing the number of Second Life user registrations
  • improving the new user experience through gamification
  • enhancing resident loyalty with gamification
  • clarifying brand essence and market positioning
  • owning ideas in the brains of consumers

I hope you enjoy the show!

A big thanks to Drax for having me on the show – and a massive happy rez day (his 8th!) to him, which we’ll be celebrating today at the Vortex Club with DJ Loki at 2pm. Hopefully see you there!

On tokens of engagement and not taking things personally

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Becky:

Tokens or Engagement

I’m a new contributor for Second Life Blogger Support and kicked things off with this post about how we, as bloggers, often confuse tokens of engagement (likes, comments, shares and follows) with the value of our contributions. If you’re a blogger, and have ever been emotionally affected by the feedback (or lack of feedback) to your posts, have a read (and don’t forget to follow [SL] Blogger Support! If you want to… it’s up to you… I’m good either way… really.. ;)

Originally posted on [SL] Blogger Support:

Tokens or Engagement Don’t allow tokens of engagement obscure what’s more important

Valentine’s Day annoys many men because they are compelled to buy tokens of affection (roses, chocolates and greeting cards) as stand-ins for what most of us really care about, which is caring, respect and love.

Stand-ins; however, can be like shiny pennies for both parties. These shiny pennies might get your attention, but in the overall scheme of things, they’re not worth as much as other more important things. Clearly, it’s way easier to buy chocolates and roses than it is to care more.  The problem with stand-ins, is that they’re rarely more than symbols, and everyone who has been around the block at least once knows that symbols sometimes lie.

Similarly, as bloggers, we often confuse stand-ins for the real thing. We might spend hours publishing a post we’re really proud of, only to feel vaguely disappointed at the deafening silence of our audience. Or we might…

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Second Life History Quiz: The Results after 500 quizzes!

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Update 11.02.14: Since publication of these quiz results, Sniper Siemens, the curator of the LEA14 Second Life History Exhibition entitled “The Greatest Story Ever Told” has let me know that she has corrected the errors in the exhibition itself. Kudos to Sniper for fixing it!

First, let me say how happy I am to see over 500 people show enough of an interest in Second Life history to spend the time to complete a 31-question quiz! Generally speaking, most people said the quiz was very challenging and fun! In this post, I’ll share not only the answers, but how everyone taking the quiz answered (in anonymous aggregate).

Second, if you’ve not yet taken the Second Life History Quiz, read no further! The quiz is still open, so go there first, then feel free to come back and read this post.

Overall results

Overall, 74% of respondents passed the quiz (a pass was 50% or higher) with the mean average result being 59.19%. For the statistically inclined, the median average was 58% (the middle score) and the mode was 55% (most frequent score).

Yeah… it might have been a wee bit tough, and it’s fair to say that some people might have lost points on a couple of errors on my part (I count 3 total). Nevertheless, I wouldn’t say these errors led too many people astray.

There were, as I expected there would be, several quibbles about the factual accuracy of some the questions and answers. Whilst relying mainly on the facts as presented at the LEA17 Exhibition “The Greatest Story Every Told”, I did find myself needing to slightly change some of the wording, dates, and in one case, kill off one multiple-choice option entirely (I detail the errata below). I am somewhat caught between a rock and a hard place with accuracy – on one hand I want to make the quiz a useful companion to the exhibit (which has a few flaws), on the other hand, I want to have the quiz align with the facts (which are often unreliably reported).

Therefore, I’ve decided to only change questions and answers when I see (what I consider) to be evidence that is credible. To be fair, wikis, whilst not approved by a review board, are sometimes the best we have for the moment at least. Also, I must trust them more than one person’s unsubstantiated version of the facts, even though a wiki might have been written by only one person. At least the wiki has had a chance to be challenged in a more public way, so I’m going to go with that source as the lesser of all evils.

Fortunately, most of the changes I needed to make were not materially significant to the question (they were typically referring to specific dates that were tangential to the essence). Still, as I’ve said in the past, there is only one true version of the facts, so I’ve made first efforts to find original (and credible) source material to verify the claims, and change them when they were found lacking. Suffice to say, the quiz is still a valid test of one’s Second Life history knowledge.

I also received some criticism that this quiz was too focused on trivial dates. Again, I must refer to the source of the answers I used, which were very much date driven. This isn’t the quiz to end all quizzes, and I hope that we see more ways of approaching our history, and challenging ourselves to recall it.

For future editions, I’ll take it upon myself to check (and double-check) the sources for accuracy – because in this world of unreliable memories and multi-editor “encyclopaedic” references – one can never be too careful about one’s facts. Nevertheless, barring a few niggles, it was a very fun and education exercise for many!

Question by question results

So let’s dig into the answers shall we? By the way, if you can’t see the detail of the Question images below, you might want to widen your screen of your browser, so that they become a bit more clear. If there’s anything on the image you can’t read, just click it and the image will become larger. Sorry about that, but my theme has a width limit that is sometimes rather… limiting.

Second Life History Quiz Question 01

One of the best parts for me about writing this quiz was dreaming up the more silly options to the questions, and seeing people actually select them! I’ve no idea if they were just fooling around (in some cases, I truly hope so!). Nevertheless, 22 people responded to Question 1 that Second Life was invented as a way to spy on Americans…

Second Life History Quiz Question 02

I think it’s kind of cute that 71 people answered Question 2 by saying that Linden Lab was named after Philip Linden, and not the other way around. To those not in the know, Philip Linden is the avatar of the human named Philip Rosedale. He, like many people who work at Linden Lab, get the last name Linden (hmm, if they can do it, why can’t we…) when they get their Second Life avatars.

Second Life History Quiz Question 03

Question 3 was fun to come up with options for. Terra and Viva both, were both actually considered as prospective names for Second Life, but not together as TerraViva. Phillip’s World was just a fun idea, and he actually did refer to it as the 3D internet in some interviews. Sayonara, was a twist of one of the other options, which was “Sansara”, meaning ever-changing, in Sanskrit. A fitting place as a home for our Avatars, which in Sanskrit means a “manifestation of the creator”.

Second Life History Quiz Question 04

It just goes to show how crazy the idea of Primitars is when you consider that 153 respondents answered Question 4 with the answer that it just wasn’t possible.

Second Life History Quiz Question 05

Ok, now this one was a subject for debate. Hamlet Au took issue with Question 5, saying “it was Doug and Ian Linden, not Cory and Philip, building the actual snowmen.” Cubey Terra, in a comment, said: “Cory indeed had an early presentation about Ators and birds, but he also had a presentation with a Primitar lobbing grenades to terraform.” My reference for this, as it was with nearly all the other questions, is the exhibition and that says something different. Nevertheless, none of these views are what 40% of respondents imagined it to be. So, as my friend Ylva just said quite poetically “the sands of time obscure details”.

Second Life History Quiz Question 06

Question 6 was kind of tricky, with most respondents assuming our esteemed founder to be the Neil Armstrong of our virtual world. That honour will forever belong to Steller Sunshine, born 03/13/2002 – who was reportedly a 20-year veteran of virtual worlds before Second Life(!?) I didn’t even know there were virtual worlds before Second Life, but there you go. Apparently, in his first night online, Steller made a game. Interestingly, Steller’s profile today says “I want to……have fun, yep! Thats it!  =0)” under Interests, and “I tend to try to leave the “Real World” behind in SL.” under First Life. The most funny part of this question for me, however, is the fact that 18 respondents assumed it was actually Jo Yardley! Ok, she often says she’s an old lady, but she’s not that old (she’s actually under 6 years old in Second Life).

Second Life History Quiz Question 07

I have to admit I got a little devious giggle out of the answers to Question 7. I threw in Welcome Island on a bit of a lark, and it turns out that most people assumed the it was indeed the first region in Second Life. Sure, it might have been for many of us, but the first region was actually called Da Boom. Apparently, the name was chosen to symbolise our universe’s inception, or “The Big Bang”.

Second Life History Quiz Question 08

Question 8 was subject to some debate. Cubey Terra disagreed: “The Linden Dollar was not introduced in December 2003, as it was already implemented when I first tried SL in September 2003. I remember being annoyed at how much it cost just to rez something.” The official Second Life History page, however, supports the factual accuracy of the question: “It was in the end of 2003 when the Linden Dollar was introduced”. In this case, therefore, I have to go with the publicly edited wiki on this, but I am open to seeing counter-claims supported by evidence.

Second Life History Quiz Question 09

Question 9 is one of those “I don’t believe it” questions. We rez prims with such abandon today, paying for the privilege hardly seems possible, and 38% of respondents felt similarly.

Second Life History Quiz Question 10

Question 10 is in the same vein. Again, Cubey took issue with this saying “When I arrived in SL, there were no telehubs. You could teleport anywhere, but cost was increased by distance. Telehubs were later brought in an attempt to control movement and creat (sic) communities around telehubs.” Cubey didn’t tell me when he/she arrived, so I’ve no way of verifying their claim. In any case, again I must refer to the Second Life history page, that says “While population and land slowly grew, Linden Lab released Second Life in June 2003. As shocking as it may seem in hindsight, back then, SL had neither a currency nor were Residents able to teleport.” and that “(T)he first Telehubs were introduced in Version 1.1.0, with the feature of paying to teleport from one Telehub to another.” Still, 38% of respondents considered the idea of once being unable to teleport unbelievable.

Second Life History Quiz Question 11

Question 11 was yet another debatable question about animations! Gattz Gilman said “The question “Q.11 User-created animations were first available in” seems to be wrong, as I joined SL in early 2004 and there were not user made animations. We were just stuck with the default linden ones. To dance at a club you had to wear a dance bracelet that would just play the couple LL dances at set intervals. If you wanted to to do the deed, you had to sit on a box that would go invisible, one would be in the motorcycle ride animation, the other in either a standing animation rotated horizontally or sleep animation, and you would move the prim up and down… It wasn’t until later that they allowed people to upload their own animations, around 2005.” First, moving prims up and down to simulate the throes of passion is uproariously funny, but you gotta do what you gotta do, right? Gattz seemed so sure, however, it made me question my notes, so I checked out Second Life Wikia (one of the sources used for the exhibition) and found that the Release Notes for SL version 1.4.0 (released June 15, 2004) are the first to include a reference to custom animations: “You can upload animations from Poser 4 or 5 by exporting .BVH files” So, I’m afraid that Gattz was moving prims up and down needlessly from summer of 2004 onwards!

Second Life History Quiz Question 12

The answer to Question 12 shocked me. The whole story, however, is chronicled in the AlphaVille Herald, which even includes an alleged IM conversation between Second Life hacker Plastic Duck (aka Gene Replacement, who was behind the work-around) and Philip Rosedale! It turns out that Plastic Duck, who was also responsible for creating the first megaprim by finding a way around the viewer code limitations of the day, openly showed the security fault in our currency accounts to the Lindens, and even helped them sort it out.

Second Life History Quiz Question 13

There must have been something in the water during 2007 (perhaps the Linden’s realised that I had finally joined Second Life and decided to pull out all the stops!), but there was real progress in the air with the introduction of three innovations many of us now consider essential. Unfortunately for 29% of respondents to Question 13, audio streaming was not one of them, arriving on the scene as early as 2004.

Second Life History Quiz Question 14

Today (according to Second Life Grid Survey), Second Life has had 41,102, 737 resident signups up to February 9th, 2015. Whether they’re real people is beside the point. It’s a remarkable number, considering it took 3 years to reach 1 million residents in October 2006. I’d love to know if anyone knows the name of the millionth arrival, because they should really get a prize of some sort, don’t you think?

Second Life History Quiz Question 15

The answer to Question 15 is another shocker. Like me, 24% of respondents had no idea this happened in September 2006 (also known to some as “Black September”). The wildest thing is, the security breach hit the media, which ironically resulted in new sign ups trebling. Who says that all PR isn’t good PR?

Second Life History Quiz Question 16

I must admit to an error in Question 16, in that I initially referred to Viewer 1 (the “Blue Viewer”) as Viewer 1.2.3, which understandably might have screwed a few people over with this question. For that, I’m sorry. Thankfully, Innula alerted me to the error in a comment, and I corrected the problem at 12:05 SLT on February 9th. So, if you completed the quiz before then and got that question wrong, I owe you a solid… just join the queue.

Second Life History Quiz Question 17

Call me easily amused, but I’m still chuckling at the fact that not everybody chose the correct answer to Question 17 :D

Second Life History Quiz Question 18

And finally a question about everybody’s favourite poster-girl for the “get rich quick in Second Life” hype of 2006-7. Most respondents got Question 18 bang on the money, although Jase Byrne did make me laugh when he whispered in the comments “They sanitized Anshe’s history…she had the land investments, but …there was this leetle sideline of hers…..”

Second Life History Quiz Question 19

Question 19 was tricky for some. I am tickled that 19 respondents chose the aptly named Zero Linden, who reportedly responded to his inclusion in this quiz by saying “Lord.”

Second Life History Quiz Question 20

Question 20 relates to a prevalent belief that Linden Lab takes every conceivable opportunity to screw Second Life residents over, with 37% of respondents still believing that Linden Lab killed off casinos by inviting the FBI to investigate Second Life, when all they were doing was obeying pre-existing laws.

Second Life History Quiz Question 21

The key word in Question 21 is “every”, which underscores a rule… always question statements that contain absolutes like “every”, “no one”, “always” and “never”, because they are rarely true! Yes, Premium Residents today “earn” a weekly stipend of $L300, but they are a minority of the residents across the grid. Still, Cubey said “While some residents may have been paid a weekly stipend of L$50, the number has varied over the years, and may well have been L$300 at one point. In 2003 it was L$500. Oldies who bought an account at that time still get a high stipend as we’re grandfathered in. So the answer was unclear.” I disagree, because the question clearly includes the word “every”, and that makes all the difference. According to the Second Life Wikia, Basic Account residents have never received more than $L50/week, which they report started at an unknown date and ended on May 28, 2006.

Second Life History Quiz Question 22

I’m grateful to Inara Pey for being early to point out that Question 22 might have been made more clear by clarifying that Philip Rosedale stepped down as CEO in 2008, without leaving the Linden Lab in an executive director capacity (I had said he “left”). Fortunately, she picked that up very early, and I clarified the question at 12:00 SLT on Feb 8, so if you got the answer wrong after then, that’s tough!

Second Life History Quiz Question 23

I was just having fun with twists on names that people might remember from somewhere (XStreet, LeTigre Release Channel [which to me sounds like a sexy french Tiger], and Project Shining). Still, 26% of people didn’t choose the right answer to Question 23 .

Second Life History Quiz Question 24

Arrrggg! Question 24 was a mess :( . I apologise profusely. Again, I referenced these answers from the placards I found at the exhibition (pictured below), only to be later corrected by Cubey who said: “Q24: While mesh was indeed not introduced in 2009, neither were Premium Memberships, which were available at least as early as 2005.”

In this instance, he is correct that Premium Memberships predate 2009 – although it is unclear about when they were introduced, as I verified through Second Life Wikia. To make matters worse, this error followed out another error pointed out by Han Held, who said “I’m also positive that the resident surname came out in late 2010, not 2009 (I spend 2010 making alts and all of them up to Dec 2010 had surnames)”. She’s right. After further research I found that “In 2010, Second Life changed from registering new accounts with a “first name” and “last name” to a single-word username If you registered your account after mid-2010, you created a unique, single-word username; for example: mortimer1980, or jsmith57. When you log in to Second Life, you simply enter the username you selected when you registered.”

Arrrrgggg you lying little green eggmen!!!

Errata - Resident Names 2009_001

Second Life History Quiz Question 25

Question 25 heard no complaints, thank goodness. I did find it funny that many people seem to imagine the worst possible outcome at the prospect of any significant change in the viewer interface. I suppose that’s the case for pretty much every popular piece of software in existence.

Second Life History Quiz Question 26

Question 26, was also not controversial. Still, I was surprised that given how recent this history is, only 30% of respondents got it right.

Second Life History Quiz Question 27

Question 27 was similarly non-controversial. There was still, however, a wide range of answers. Cubey pointed out that “there was a “Materials” setting for prims at least as far back as 2003, but it was for physics and sound fx rather than for rendering.” I’m doubtful if that particular ambiguity would have thrown many people off, given the context of the dates provided as options. But who knows? It does remind one to be as clear as possible with quiz questions that might be misinterpreted.

Second Life History Quiz Question 28

Hurrah for another non-controversial question! You’ve got to admit, when you look at the list of innovations in Question 28, Ebbe has had a pretty good run so far.

Second Life History Quiz Question 29

Ok, thank goodness most respondents got question 29 right. I am myself guilty of using the term Second Life 2.0 as a nickname for the next generation virtual world, but I never believed it was the real name. I do think it’s awesomely cute that 27 people chose “Higher Fidelity”. “NextLife” is a nickname I pilfered from Gwyneth Llewellyn, and V-World is straight out of Caprica (the prequel to Battlestar Galactica) which has some close similarities to a simulated reality version of Second Life.

Second Life History Quiz Question 30

Just when I thought I was out of the woods, Han Held pointed out that the “The OpenSimulator project was founded in January 2007″. Upon verification, she was right about that too. Doh! I again must admit that I took the exhibition’s placards at face value, and I have an image to prove it (see below)! It just goes to show you can’t trust placards written by little green eggmen!!!

Errata - Open SIm 2008_001

Second Life History Quiz Question 31

Thankfully, we can finish off in the clear, with Question 31, about the first interworld teleport. I thought I’d throw in some quirky options just for a laugh, and was surprised to see almost half of the respondents selecting them. Perhaps they were similarly messing about. The interworld nudism, by the way, refers to the fact that our intrepid gridnauts arrived in Open Sim without any attachments or inventory.

Conclusions

I’m happy that so many people enjoyed my Second Life History Quiz. It, like the exhibition itself, is not without its faults. Still, I think it the exhibition is a fun thing to do for many residents, and with further improvements, both it and my quiz should continue to be a fun way to learn about Second Life history in the future.

One thing that the quiz results suggest, is that we’re a bit so-so when it comes to the history of Second Life. For that reason, it’s even more important for exhibitions, and exercises like these, to become more permanent fixtures of our culture for years to come.

Does Second Life history matter?

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The History of Second Life - 1In this post, I’ll share why I think it’s important to know our history – even if it’s virtual – my impressions of the new Second Life history exhibition at LEA17, my suggestions on improving and enhancing the exhibition, and my hopes for the future of exhibits like these.

Why is Second Life history important?

I’m fascinated by history. I see it in everything, everywhere, and all the time. I’m even interested in the history of Second Life. What? Second Life has a history? Sure it does, and it’s a very interesting history too! But why should we care? Why do we have to remember all those facts years after they happened. It’s not like there’s a test is there? After all, what difference does yesterday’s news make?

A lot.

In the introduction to his YouTube video series on Crash Course: World History, John Green answers the question that nearly every teacher has heard at least a bazillion times: “Is this gonna be on the test?” In response, he delivers one of the simplest yet most convincing answers that should explain why studying history matters:

Yeah, about the test. The test will measure whether you are an informed, engaged, and productive citizen of the world, and it will take place in schools and bars and hospitals and dorm-rooms and in places of worship. You will be tested on first dates; in job interviews; while watching football; and while scrolling through your Twitter feed.

The test will judge your ability to think about things other than celebrity marriages; whether you’ll be easily persuaded by empty political rhetoric; and whether you’ll be able to place your life and your community in a broader context.

The test will last your entire life, and it will be comprised of the millions of decisions that, when taken together, make your life yours. And everything — everything — will be on it. I know, right? So pay attention.

[As an aside, if you even have the slightest inkling that you might want to become more aware of the world, then I urge you to subscribe to CrashCourse and look at their fun and education videos on everything you might have slept through in high school.]

The History of Second Life - 2

A copy of the oldest still-standing build in Second Life, that statue of “The Man”, and a banner of avatars as they looked in 2003.

Right! Enough about world history! Let’s get back to Second Life! This past weekend, Sniper Siemens opened a Second Life History exhibition at  LEA17 called “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. The exhibition asks you to invest a couple of hours of your time to fully absorb. It is a chronological path through the woods, winding through the sometimes very twisty history of Second Life. This, my friends, is a very special opportunity you shouldn’t miss. In fact, I think this little trip down memory lane might just be the most important LEA installation I’ve had the pleasure to experience.

Will people visit and walk through it? Only time will tell. The numbers look pretty good so far and I hope it continues. But, why should you spend two hours doing this when you could be taking pictures, shopping , dancing or playing Gachas?

If you care about Second Life enough to comment on it in blogs, forums, social media, or even in idle chat with friends and strangers, then you really owe it to everyone within earshot to know your history. Fortunately for you, Siemens has done an admirable job of carving out a path for you. Doing this yourself might have you spending days digging through multiple sources – many of them dubious.

I was so surprised by what I learned there, that I wrote a Second Life History quiz from my notes. I feel this quiz highlights the important and fun elements of the story that spans over 16 years. It can act as a companion to the exhibition and is available to visitors at the end of their journey. It’s not an easy quiz – in fact, only 65% of respondents have passed it so far – but you will find nearly every answer to the questions at the exhibition.

Second Life History Quiz

Impressions from the exhibition

I won’t bore you with a step-by-step walk through the exhibition, because like so many things in Second Life, it deserves to be experienced more than simply read about. I will however share some of my impressions as I experienced it.

As I walked through the exhibition, I couldn’t help but think of all the times that I hear people moan and complain about Second Life and Linden Lab. I remembered Strawberry Singh’s recent tongue-in-cheek meme Second Life Problems, which did a good job of helping many of us make a little fun of ourselves for thinking this way.

How lucky we are

If you consider the odds that Second Life exists at all, we should all thank our lucky stars every time we log in, that a shaggy handful of geeks thought it would be super-cool to show investors a live demonstration of a giant snowman surrounded by a small horde of snowman worshippers. And even more lucky that Mitch Kapor (the founder of Lotus) was fascinated by what he saw!

Back in 2002, who could have imagined what this thing could become (except for Philip Rosedale, I guess he might have imagined it), let alone plot an efficient pathway towards realising it? Having been involved in start-ups in the past, I know the unknowns, pitfalls and challenges one faces in just scraping by enough to get to the next day, let alone entertain grand visionary plans. The many challenges you face often compel you to change your mind about important things. I saw, in the early stages of Second Life’s history, many examples of this kind of decision-making (e.g, the naming, the business models, the survival tactics). To many, their chops and changes might have seemed erratic, but let’s give them some credit for successfully blazing a trail over slippery stones that might as well have shifted with every step of the journey. It’s not an easy road the trailblazer takes, and we should be thankful they did.

The History of Second Life - 3

An exhibit showing the new build interface introduced in 2003.

How little we know

I thought of about all the times I’ve heard people throw out opinions that are often without benefit of the facts. This not only applies to Second Life, but to so much else we create half-baked opinions about. I find that if there is one thing that makes it hard for me to relate to others, it’s when we don’t agree on fundamental knowns. When I am engaged in a conversation with someone, and they say something to which I ask myself “where do I even start?”; that’s a sign that our shared knowledge is so different; and the hill to climb towards a mutual understanding is so steep, that continuing the conversation becomes fruitless. Author Patrick Moynihan summed this up perfectly in the oft-quoted phrase: ”

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

Even when we do know the facts, our interpretation of them may differ. This is great. Differing perspectives on the same facts are the stuff of which great conversations are made.

Similarly, understanding what’s been tried before – what’s failed, what’s succeeded – is critical to suggesting ideas for improvement. This is not to say that whatever someone has tried before will have the same results if they try it again. The environment is forever shifting, and what might have been yesterday’s lead balloon might be tomorrow’s big idea.

The upshot is: If we’re to speak intelligently about the present; if we hope to project our ideas into the future; we need to be mindful of our past. This applies to the virtual world in every way as much as it applies to the real world.

The History of Second Life - 4

A real telehub made by the Lindens. This was once the only way one could teleport.

How far we’ve come

I thought about the cascade of innovations that we’ve seen over the last decade. There are so many things that we take for granted today. Today we might fret about a little neck seam between our mesh body and our system heads, but who among would enjoy walking around avatars made of prims? Imagine a time when all we had to build were cubes, which was the case before Linden Lab introduced differently shaped prims. I can’t even imagine what we might have done without the build interface tools. There was a time when we didn’t have a currency system? How did the world go ’round then?

Can you even imagine a time without audio streaming? Think of all the DJs and performers that we would have never heard in the clubs that today are ubiquitously spread across the Second Life grid. I remember the day I upgraded my viewer so that I could see windlight. I was standing on the top of a lighthouse somewhere, looking at the sky above me, and the water below, thinking “Wow, this is amazing!”

Imagine a world without open-source viewer code; for all of us that don’t use the Second Life viewer – it’s almost unthinkable. Firestorm is today the viewer of choice for most Second Life residents, and I’ve heard many threaten they’d leave Second Life if forced to use the official viewer (which I don’t believe for a second).

There was a time when – annoying as it sometimes sounds – we didn’t even have the option to communicate in voice. These days, the Vivox voice service now supports over 1 billion minutes of voice communications per month. There was a time when the Marketplace – slow and clunky as it sometimes feels – wasn’t run by Linden Lab. Since these changes, we’ve been given easier and more ways to communicate – from the basic viewer for new residents, to social web profiles, and the community platform with its blogs, answers, forums, and the knowledge base.  Every day we benefit from the under-the-hood improvements rendered by Project Shining – like SSB, interest lists, and object caching.

Today can share our world on social media using Facebook Share. We can resuscitate our old hardware, or even take Second Life on the road using SL Go. Soon, we’ll be able to enjoy the many immersive benefits of Experience Keys. And today, we can even imagine an entirely new virtual world experience, as alluded to by Ebbe Altberg’s announcement of the next generation virtual world that Linden Lab is developing.

It’s all pretty amazing if you think about it. Second Life has come a massively long way since 2002, and we’d do well to be somewhat more patient with the old girl. Like a jenny that just won’t quit, she’s tread many, many miles whilst supporting us all on her back.

The HIstory of Second Life - 6

Me and “Philip Rosedale” waiting for a cab after he stepped down as CEO of Linden Lab in 2008.

Suggestions for improvement

The exhibition has weaknesses (what doesn’t?) Most of these weaknesses are related to the labelling and scope of the exhibition. Critiquing someone’s selfless contributions should always be done with sensitivity to the limits and challenges of time and access to expertise in virtual worlds. Regardless, I believe it’s important to make constructive suggestions, and anyone serious about their work would appreciate criticism made in this way. I’ll be the first to note the weaknesses in my own work, and am always open to hear how I can improve it. With that said, I hope these criticisms are taken as constructive, with the hope that future exhibitors attempting equally challenging projects might benefit from their consideration.

Labelling

Labelling of museum exhibits is usually done with placards or other types of signage. In regards to the labelling used in this exhibition, I’ll make the following suggestions:

  • Information Architecture. Differentiate (with colour or shape) between the placards that introduce the key events of the year, and the placards that describe the context of these events in more depth. I can think of many examples of times when I didn’t know whether I was reading the content for “year at a glance” or the content for the “event in detail”, which led to me to wonder if I was losing the plot.
  • Comprehensiveness. Include more placards that describe the images or installations on display. Many placards refer to installations or images (e.g. Viewer 2 was released in 2010), but do not explain their relevance, or the context of this event in the greater theme (that when Viewer 2 was introduced many responded negatively defending the virtues of Viewer 1; despite responding just as negatively to the introduction of Viewer 1).
  • References. Paraphrase the long paragraph excerpts, quoting only things that are worth quoting, and including sources for these quotes. There were some instances where the writing style changed a lot, and where I’d noticed I had read certain perspectives elsewhere, word for word.
  • Order. Keep events chronological if that is the way you are organising information – there were some instances where I was reading the placards, and would find references to events that happened before the event I was reading about.
  • Mutual exclusivity. Avoid joining paragraphs that were unrelated to each other on the same placard
  • Typography and design. Lay out the text on the placards more narrowly to enhance readability and so that it doesn’t run into the margins. The description of the events of the teen grid, for instance, exceeded the space of the placard, making the text very small to read.
  • Language. Get a native English speaker to write the opening placards in English, if you are going to choose English as the language for the exhibition.
  • Pitch. Avoid jargon, and do not assume that every resident has a level of knowledge similar to a veteran resident. On one occasion, I visited the exhibition with a friend that has very limited experience in Second Life, and found that she was at a loss for the context for many of the more technical aspects the exhibition described.
The History of Second Life - 5

Looking at one of the first grid maps of Second Life. Yes, that’s all it once was.

Scope

In terms of scope, Siemens does an admirable job of including the most important events in Second Life history (which is itself a big challenge). However, I feel she excluded key events, aspects and trends from the narrative that I believe deserve a place. These include:

  • The arts in Second Life. I know this is itself an LEA sim, but I think many people may not be aware of when and why the LEA came into being, and the impact it has had on the arts in Second Life. Similarly, no artists or their works were mentioned at all.
  • Social history. This is a difficult aspect, as there is little written on the subject in comparison to the more technical aspects, but it’s important to note that history doesn’t just happen from the outside in (what Linden Lab does to Second Life) but also from the inside out (how residents affect Second Life)
  • Entrepreneurship, and specifically, fashion. I know that Second Life fashion is greatly influenced by fashion in the real world. Still, I’d have loved to see examples of the quality of our clothes and avatar shapes over the years. It’s such an important aspect of Second Life, I believe it needs to be an important topic in our history.
  • The introduction of Private islands. Many residents now make their homes and businesses on private islands and there is little on how this option came into being or how it influenced social patterns.
  • A current map of Second Life, or even yearly maps at the start of every year, to show the changes that have occurred in its 11 year lifespan
  • The contributions of Linden Lab CEOs other than Philip Rosedale and Ebbe Altberg. Rod Humble, as an example, was omitted completely, yet he did have a measurable and recent impact on Second Life.
  • How the media has viewed Second Life. While we would rather avoid it, Second Life’s reality has been shaped by the media in many ways.
  • Population figures and trends. It would have been good to have something about population, beyond the date of the millionth resident registering in Second Life. Further, I would have liked to have seen where the population comes from (i.e. countries).
  • Third-Party Viewers. No attention is paid to how most of us use Second Life, through third-party viewers like Firestorm and Phoenix.
  • Charitable giving within Second Life. There is a proud history of charitable giving that would be useful for new residents to aware of (e.g. Relay for Life)
  • Subcultures in Second Life. In some ways, human avatars are like white people in the West. To ignore subcultures in Second Life is tantamount to ignoring the role of multiple ethnicities in real life western countries.
  • Money. The financial aspects of Second Life are surprising and deserve inclusion. Further, it would be good to have an exhibit about how the current business model actually works, and the impact of real life economics in our virtual lives.
  • Lifestyles. Very little mention of what residents actually did in the eleven years they have spent here (e.g. social activities, dancing, sex, role-play, education, creating, building, performance, machinima)
  • Real Life. I would have liked to have seen more real life illustrations of what I was seeing, where applicable. For example, what does the real Linden Lab look like today? What are the faces behind these famous Lindens we’ve all heard about? What does a data centre look like? How does it all work?

Lastly, the exhibition gave a large amount of attention and space to Burning Life. Too much, in my opinion. Whilst I have nothing against Burning Life, I don’t see how this event deserves as much attention and space as it gets, or why it would be presented separately to the Second Life historical narrative. At first glance, a new resident might imagine that Burning Life was another virtual world comparable with Second Life. Better to have spent the energy of presenting the history of Burning Life separately, and spend more time on expanding the scope of the main exhibition – sometimes less is more.

Despite everything, I applaud Siemens for her efforts, and would happily offer my help with all the areas I’ve suggested above, with an aim to improving this exhibition (or future iterations) in the future.

The History of Second Life - 7

What happens when it’s over?

“The Greatest Story Ever Told” will end on May 31st, 2015. Then, Siemens will either need to take it all back into her inventory where it will sit, or find a new home to rez it and continuously improve it. It’s common and understandable for most LEA exhibits to come and go. In this case however, I think we need a place where we can continue to learn about Second Life History, as it happens. We need a place where newbies can go to learn about what’s come before they’ve arrived, so that they appreciate the context in which they live.

Should the curator wish it, I hope someone comes forward with the vision (and the region) to place this exhibition in a more permanent setting. I’d hate for it to evaporate into the ether, like so many of the memories it seeks to keep.

Take the Second Life History Quiz!

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At "Linden Lab HQ" on Battery Street.

At “Linden Lab HQ” on Battery Street, San Francisco.

I’ve just had the most amazing time at what I consider to possibly be the most important LEA installation I’ve had the pleasure to experience. I’m busy writing a review post about my many visits over the past couple of days, but whilst I was fact-checking, I couldn’t help but think this would make a fun quiz!

Are you ready to test your knowledge of Second Life History?

All of the questions in this quiz can be answered by visiting the LEA17 Second Life History exhibit called “The Greatest Story Ever Told” curated by Sniper Siemens. You might enjoy having this quiz open as you visit the exhibit, or if you’re a very brave super-genius, try it before you go! The exhibit runs from Feb 7 to May 31, 2015, so don’t delay!

Note: I have no official affiliation with Sniper Siemens, or LEA, and everything that’s informed this quiz was collected at the exhibit. If you’d like to challenge any of the answers to the quiz (or the questions), just leave a comment and I’ll take it up with Sniper!

Please share you score in the comments!