Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Today I are been mostly wearing...

Developments aplenty in my personal SL, but it is not quite time to disclose them all yet... so, in the meantime, and in lieu of any more rants about TPV policy, here is the outfit I wore to the Founder's Day Ball.

Dress, "Tango" from Lady Thera; stiletto pumps from MEB; jewelry from Lazuri; hair, an old standby, "Carolina Jasmine" from Calla; skin from Obsidian's "Truth" line, with body shine from DeVicious and tattoo makeup from Glamorize; eyes, a custom job given me by an ex; AO, "Cassie" from Maldita (no longer around, I think, which is a shame, if so); physics package (not visible in this still shot, but trust me, it's effective) of my own design.  I think that's the lot.  This SL fashionista thing is hard work, isn't it?  Don't think I'll be doing much more of this!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Good fences make good neighbours

I've had surprisingly little of the angst and trouble which supposedly come with owning property on the Mainland.  My little plot in Kuhrang - well, it's not much, but it's in a fairly stable neighbourhood, and, while I'm not there often enough to get heavily involved with the social life on the sim, the contacts I have had with my neighbours have been generally pleasant.   Long may it continue, say I.

But, not all is sweetness and light - looking out of my window today, I caught a glimpse of something odd, cammed closer, and saw this:-

Baffled?  Well, there are a few things you can't see on that screen grab... like, for example, property lines.  Or the hovertext over the Union Jack box which reads "Get this bed off our land!"

Yes, it is an encroaching object... I'm not quite sure, though, what the story is, here.  The bed is almost completely covered by the box; I'd have to guess that the bit that isn't is the illuminated headboard, which is over the other side of the property line - and that that illuminated headboard contains the root prim, so the property owner can't just click on the thing and return it.  Why can't they talk directly to the other landowner, though, and get them to move or return it?  Or just AR it for encroachment?  Of course, I don't know why my neighbours do many of the things they do.  (I don't have a clue what those two square things are on the ground to the right, for example.  Or why anyone would want a sex bed out in the open air in Kuhrang, anyway.  It's a Snowlands sim, it looks chilly.  One of the nice things about having my bed indoors is so that I can snuggle up to a partner and think about how nice it is to be inside and warm, amid all that snow.  Also, my doctor has advised me to spend less time in parentheses.)

Anyway.  What does all this Drama portend?  Blessed if I know.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Grace under pressure?

I don't have much in the way of photographs from the Caledon Anniversary Ball, I'm afraid.  The reason for this is pretty simple - I have a home computer which is very much at the low end of performance, and when I'm on a busy sim, with lots of people coming in and out, mostly wearing extravagantly gorgeous outfits - as you might expect from a "do" of this magnitude - well, it takes a lot out of my clapped-out little lappy!

Now, some people might find this frustrating, and indeed I often do, myself!  It would be really nice to have a draw distance above the minimum, and be able to use atmospheric shaders and shadows and lighting effects and so on, and as soon as RL permits me to get myself a better computer, I will be retiring this one and embracing the new possibilities with gusto. 

However... there is a peculiar advantage to running up against the limits the way I do, and that is, you get to know where those limits are.  And if you know what the limits are, you can plan accordingly.  I have learned to be very chary about things like script times and particle effects, and other such stuff that can cause client-side lag (more so, even, than server-side).  The outcome is, I tend to build stuff that will look - and work - reasonably OK on my ropy old equipment, so I can be pretty confident it will be reasonably OK on anybody else's, too.

As a habit, this carries over into SL in general...  I popped over, earlier today, to the "Festival of Sin" fashion show, where at least one commentator - I forget their name - had already objected to being caught at the entrance by a script counter, and not allowed to proceed until they'd done a "script-tease" of their scripted attachments.  Well, here's how I looked when the counter flashed green and let me walk through:-

Pretty much the usual me!  You can see from my stance that my AO  is still on, and you may be able to make out my discreet facelight... and those are the only scripted items I wear, most of the time.  (And, really, I should get around to making a "dumb", non-scripted, version of the facelight, sometime.  I hardly ever bother to use its scripted features anyway, so why not cut them entirely?)

It's just a question of being aware of my limitations - because I know I can stress out my own client with all too much ease, I tend to refrain from making too many demands on either client or server.  I have plenty of heavily scripted items - HUD-controlled shoes, resizable clothes (though, since I don't change my shape - as readers may well remember! - I delete resizer scripts whenever I can, as soon as I'm comfortable with the fit of clothes), various scripted multi-tools.  But, by and large, I only take these things out when I actually need them.  Most of the time, I tread fairly lightly on the face of SL, and my SL experience is enhanced by that, at least if you take "enhanced" to mean "not crashing so much".

(I might add, though, for the record, that - in my possibly biased opinion - myself and my scrumptious date were absolutely the hottest thing on the dance floor last night; and we went on afterwards to a quiet and non-laggy sim and... no, this is still Not That Sort Of Blog.)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Six years of Caledon

I'm prepping for the Caledon Anniversary Ball this evening - my outfit is chosen, my draw weight and script counts do not too far transgress the bounds of decency and reason, and, barring bake fails, I should be ready to knock 'em dead on the dance floor tonight.  (And it doesn't hurt, either, that I have a particularly scrumptious date to go with, too!)

Six years of Caledon!  Given that Internet-phenomenon years are traditionally like dog years, that's the equivalent of 42 normal years, nearly two generations.  I came late to the party - to SL in general, I sometimes think - and, as a member of the younger generation, I'm very much aware of how much shared past, shared imagination, and shared creativity have gone into the development of Caledon from a single private sim to a veritable virtual nation with a landscape and a history all its own.

I'd heard of Caledon even before I joined SL myself, through some desultory reading in Dame Ordinal Malaprop's blog (linked from my sidebar).  My first direct experience, though, came about three weeks after I joined SL, when I TPed, virtually footsore and weary, with the stench of a thousand Mainland infohubs about me, into the reception area at Caledon Oxbridge.  And there I found, not just strangely familiar architecture (my typist lived in the real Oxford for many years), but also - people!  People who spoke to me!  People who could, and did, hold genuine conversations!  People who didn't try to hit on me, or give me peculiar griefing objects; people who explained how things worked and helped me in my newbie perplexities!  It wasn't long before I was coming back to Oxbridge again and again, as an oasis of calm and civilization amid the whirl of SL in general.

Of course, Oxbridge sets out to be a welcome area... but, still, it is not an exception, within Caledon, in having a high standard of civility.  Civility, Innovation, Tolerance and Cake are the four virtues enshrined in the Caledon motto, and the community does genuinely try to live up to them.  I think this helps make the place an example of what's good about SL - the Victorian/Steampunk design aesthetic, and the overall light-roleplay environment, serve as a framework for creativity without being a constraint, and the emphasis on Civility and Tolerance means that content creators in Caledon don't just create by themselves, but bounce ideas off each other and share information.  The result is a satisfyingly diverse and fascinating landscape with enough of a unifying theme not to be just a mish-mash, and an online community with a strong and vibrant sense of being a community.  To be sure, nothing in this world is perfect, and there are fallings-out and family quarrels from time to time, not to mention the vicissitudes inflicted by RL or the vagaries of the Lab.  But, in the main, Caledon is a delightful place to be, and its inhabitants as fine a set of avatars as ever stood in virtual shoe leather.  I am - I freely confess it - proud to be Caledonian.

All credit is due, of course, to his excellency the Guvnah, Desmond Shang, whose tireless work, boundless generosity and indefatigable optimism have kept this show on the road in spite of hell, high water, griefers and Openspace re-pricing.  And all credit, too, to his helpers, in large and in small; from the Estate Managers and Dukes and Duchesses to the single-plot renters and the itinerant members of the ISC chat group - the people who make this crypto-Victorian online micronation what it is.  My Lords, Ladies, Gentlemen, Distinguished Members of Other or Indeterminate Genders - I salute you all.  (You may imagine me, if you will, raising a glass of my favourite Cavorite Cocktail - "Gives You That Extra Little Lift" - at this point.  And raising it is easier than putting it down, let me tell you.)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

TPS Reports, I mean TPV Policy

I might as well weigh in on the latest controversy to shake the metaverse and Bring About The Death Of The Grid, namely the revision of LL's policy for including Third Party Viewers in its official directory of same.

The basic points of contention seem to be two-fold; firstly, a tightening of controls on privacy - specifically, information that can be requested about another user by the viewer you're using - and, secondly, the requirement that a TPV cannot include stuff that "affects the shared world experience" of SL users.  And, honestly, one can see both sides, about both these points.

To start with the obvious - the first constraint means a lot of useful stuff, things like identifying what viewer someone else is running in (for example), will no longer be allowable and will disappear.  The second is easily seen as LL excercising a strict and onerous creative control over the product, stifling innovation except on lines that the Lab defines or permits.  Commentators have been quick to suggest how this is going to cripple development for compliant TPVs, some going so far as to infer than LL has declared war on TPVs in general.

You can see their point.  However, you can also see LL's point, albeit you might have to think about it a bit.  The tightening up on private information has fairly obvious roots; in this age of Facebook and data mining and suchlike, people want to be able to control what personal information is given out about them online, and strict privacy controls in the viewer code help to ensure that nobody learns anything about you that you don't want them to know.  LL has always been big on privacy in SL, it's a cornerstone of the TOS, it's a consistent position for the Lab to take.  (And, arguably, some TPV creators have been abusively intrusive in garnering data from their users.)

The second point is more a matter of interpretation, and, while some commentators have taken interpretations to all sorts of extremes, it's fairly easy to deduce what LL wants this policy to mean.  It's all about the world of SL being consistent for everyone.  The first thing I thought of, when I saw this, was a TPV development which breached it in a very obvious way - the old Emerald viewer's extra attachment points.  If you had Emerald, you could stick attachments on places other people didn't have; if you didn't have Emerald, you saw those attachments placed in some pretty bizarre arrangements on the avatars in question - I've seen one person apparently impaled on a feather boa, another with her prim (ahem) floating around her midriff (and, really, that one is something you'd want to keep private).  So, LL wants, not to impose a vicious Fascistic hegemony onto TPV development, but simply to prevent the world from turning into a complicated visual mess.  (Again, you have to note that LL's own work on extra attachments actually resulted in more possible attachments in a  more flexible arrangement than the Emerald approach.  So, it would make sense, wouldn't it, to nip the less productive development approach in the bud?)

In short, the whole situation is rather like the English Civil War, with TPV devs in the role of the Cavaliers (Wrong but Wromantic) and LL as the Roundheads (Right but Repulsive).  And, one has to say, the LL developers really could have tried a little harder to be less Repulsive over this.  I can't help feeling that they have an attitude - not, by any means, uncommon among developers - that they are proceeding along logical lines of development, and of course they are doing their best, and of course they have SL's best interests at heart, and of course they know what they're doing, so, really, we should all leave things in their capable hands and trust them to get on with it.

In much the same way, I think, developers at Microsoft once said to themselves; hey, our new Active Desktop stuff has communications protocols based on web stuff, right? and we need HTTP integration at a low level in that, so of course it makes sense to take this to a higher level too, and of course it makes perfect sense to bundle our Internet viewer with our OS, and hey, no one's going to object to us giving away IE4 for free with every operating system, are they?

Regrettably, sometimes developers need better political senses.

As someone who is usually described on the charge sheet as a computer programmer herself, I can't help but sympathize with the Lab's team a little, here; I feel they do genuinely mean well, and if you stop to think about it, they do have perfectly valid points here.  At the same time, somebody should have thought about how this policy change was to be presented.  Users and TPV developers are wary, not without reason, of such obiter dicta coming out of LL... and, also, there's no doubt that this will have a negative impact on users, and that it will hobble the pace of development in TPVs, possibly to the same pace as LL's, which is worryingly slow in some important areas.

The thing is: this is not an attack on TPVs, or an attempt to wrest away creative control of projects.  But, for a number of reasons - some of them perfectly sound - it's being seen that way.  And the Lab really should have seen that in advance, and done something to prevent it - annouce proposals in advance, invite discussion, make their case in a persuasive manner.  You might argue that they don't need to do this - SL is, after all, ultimately their property - and that it would take up time that could be better devoted to other things, like bug fixing for example.  Possibly.  But LL does need not to butt heads with its users on issues like this, too.  It's not enough for them just to be Right; they really need to be less Repulsive, as well.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Don't judge a book by its cover

Before plunging into the technology required to create actual working books, I decided to have a bit of fun.

As you can plainly see from the title, this is a weighty and impossibly worthy tome, giving the impression that I am a serious and sensible person.

But, if we look at it from another angle....

... we see that first impressions are not always correct.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Birth of a Legend

Was amused to see this item on New World Notes about Kingdom of Loathing... I don't play it myself, but it's where my name comes from, as (bad) luck would have it.

What passes for my mind, you see, went blank when I realised I had to make up a name for my Second Life avatar; as it happened, an idiot friend of mine was around at the time, and he suggested... the name of his KoL character.  So that is how I came to be called Glorf.  (My friend has a long and silly explanation of why his character is called "Glorf Pwlg", but I really haven't the strength to get into all that right now, and anyway it is extremely distasteful.)

We had been leafing through the recently published (at the time) reprints of the "Steel Claw" comic strip that day, and when I paged through the last names, I chose one in honour of the creator of the Claw, hack SF writer and editor Ken Bulmer.  And that's how I became the Brady Bunch - wait, I'm not the Brady Bunch.  Pity.  That name would have been almost sensible.

After all, I thought, it didn't really matter, I would just poke about this whole SL thing for a little while, see what it was like, and probably just let it drop when I got bored with it....

Well, that was March 2010, and here I am, still not bored yet.

I'm not sure if there is any moral to this story, except maybe "think about your name, you may be stuck with it for longer than you think", and also "I need to start hanging out with a better class of people".  (He doesn't read this, don't worry.)

Reading matters

A remark by the redoubtable Miss Tali Rosca (seen there on the pile of cushions) led me to make this thing, which is basically just a rug with some cushions and reading animations (from Dyer Maker, if you're interested) thrown in.

Looks not bad, but, of course, if people are to read on it, it really needs to hand out books.  Fortunately, Tali and I were both prepared (she has a sweet[ish] little picture book, and I have the Necronomicon, in that snap), but I will need to rig the thing with some sort of dispenser... which led me to think about how books are made, in SL.

Lots of stuff is available in notecard format, of course, but notecards are not what you'd call nice-looking, and anyway they appear on your viewer interface and not inworld.... I've seen several kinds of HUD books, mostly working the same way as Tali's book there (panels with touch-to-flip textures), but attaching to your display rather than your hands....  It would seem straightforward, if a little pricey in upload fees, to prepare screenshots of texts in a nice font and format, and drop them into your book prims, but there must be a more elegant solution....

At which point I drift off into thoughts of media-on-a-prim, and accessing some sort of cloud-storage thing for content - I suppose simply sharing stuff via Google Docs or similar would work, wouldn't it?

Anyway.  Once again, a simple straightforward thing gets all sorts of involved and complicated when I start to think it through!  And now I have to look up how to do MOAP properly, and set up an imaginary person (me) on Google Docs, and oh look, isn't that a nice little lot to add on to volume 12 of my to-do list?

:: retires, muttering darkly, and heading in the general direction of the SL wiki ::

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Possibilities, Filters, and Identities

"Huh," says the readership-at-very-small, "didn't take you long to break the one-post-a-day pledge, did it?"

Mea culpa.  Yesterday turned out to be a busy, busy day, with lots going on at a personal level, that I don't propose to discuss any further here, because it is private, and anyway this is not That Sort Of Blog.

However, it led to some generalized musing, based on the idea of how people use the many possibilities of SL to present themselves inside it.  Such musings on personal identity have featured here before, I know; I am actively interested in the relationship between Glorf Bulmer as she appears inworld, and the real-world creature currently giving voice to her opinions in between ham sandwiches.

The interesting question is: when you can be pretty much anything inside SL, why and how do you choose what you are?

Some people, it seems, make sadly limited choices, and I honestly do think that represents a failure of imagination.  The epitome of this, I think, was a guy I saw once, who opined that the great thing about SL was that you could say whatever you liked without getting punched in the mouth.  (He was shouting this on voice in an infohub, thereby getting full marks for some sort of cliche trifecta.)  Now, this is a freedom which has been around online before SL - it was pretty well established when I first ventured online on JANET in '89 - and, well, it seems to me a very meagre sort of ambition, in a world where you can dream golden palaces into existence with a mere effort of will.

But, in a way, the shouty guy had a point.  You pick and choose so much of how you present yourself in SL, and you have a pretty complete freedom to do that picking and choosing, so much more than in RL.  You can check your gender, skin colour, ethnic heritage and even species at the door and pick new ones more to your liking on the inside.  The shouty guy chose to check a whole set of social constraints, so that he could behave in SL in a way he'd probably never do in RL.  And this is fine; I don't have to listen to him, people like him are why God gave us the "block" option.  (Also, of course, he's technically wrong; anyone who's explored SL's possibilities more thoroughly can, in fact, punch him so hard in the mouth that he flies off the Grid - although the resulting AR wouldn't be worth it.)

But... you choose what you bring in to SL, and what you filter out, and you can choose to filter out the bad stuff, too.  I don't mean lie about your criminal past and multiple convictions for mopery or whatever; I mean you can choose to exclude a lot of personal and emotional baggage which colours your expectations in RL.  I came into SL with a general idea of making a fresh start in a new world; my social relationships were a clean slate; my expectations shiny, untarnished and optimistic.  And you know what?  For the most part, they still are.  I have met my fair share, of course, of griefers, liars, trolls and general pains in the backside.... I have also established that they are a lot less common than they appear to be, and that the majority of SL residents are, in fact, decent people who will be delighted to be treated decently and will respond in kind.

And just being free of RL niggles helps so much.... My avatar gets to be in perfect health, all the time, for instance, and looks it.  SL-me doesn't need glasses, isn't dolefully counting the calories in those ham sandwiches, doesn't need to fret about RSI and her workstation's ergonomics.  She gets to be free, and is a freer spirit as a result.  Sometimes RL-me is very, very jealous of SL-me!

In SL, you have choices.  You can, like the shouty guy, choose some simple and obvious things, and run with them to their conclusions.  But, if you give more thought to the possibilities, you can choose things that actually make you a better person.  And this brings benefits in return - I have made real friends in SL, and fantastical machines; I have explored wonders and had adventures, and in general I've had a heck of a good time.  The shouty guy got to call people arseholes and get away with it.  Is he having more fun than I am?  Somehow, I kind of doubt it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

On the catwalk

It's London Fashion Week or something - or maybe it was last week, I forget.

Anyway, that spurred me to revisit an old project and make some progress on it:-

I know, it's just too sexy for words, isn't it?

Not quite finished yet - I want to script that flashlamp along the left arm so it actually lights up, and some particle bubbles for the air tanks wouldn't go amiss, and I think I need to tidy up the alpha layer around the feet a bit.  But I progress.  Oh yes.

(I tried it in an off-the-peg male shape, too - seemed to work OK, though I don't know how well it might fit the muscly man-mountain avis that are so common.  Oh, well, it'll all be copy-mod if I sell it, so that's not really a problem, is it?)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Literary Inspiration

Although I've already fallen short of my (admittedly over-optimistic) goal of having a new product ready every week, I do have some irons in the fire, there.  I've managed to sculpt some reasonably decent candle-holders, and am planning, naturally enough, to put candles in them; these, however, will be spooky candles, that glimmer palely in an encroaching gloom.  I can guarantee the encroaching gloom, on account of the candle-holders will be emitting black light at the highest reasonable intensity.

By black light, of course, I don't mean ultra-violet, I mean they will be emitting light that is coloured black, and hence will provide that encroaching gloom whereof I speak.  Milton's hellish tower, from which flamed "not Light, but rather Darkness Visible" is an entirely practical proposition in SL, I do assure you.

Some other literary-flavoured projects are under way; another gizmo from the Carnacki stories is in the planning stages, as is a gadget inspired by one of the "Father Brown" stories I've been reading to my mother.  Sometimes it is helpful to be au fait with geriatric literature, like I am.  Not often.  But sometimes.

Constructing a full-scale replica of Milton's Hell, or even Carnacki's "Haunted Jarvee", though, might have to wait until I have more time and prims to play with.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

All very unmilitary

An idea or two is revolving inside what passes for my brain, and part of it involves making a bunch of quasi-military uniforms.

Now, I may have mentioned previously that clothing design is not really my thing... so, to make my life simpler, I have been off trawling inworld stores and Marketplace for some appropriate template images.

And, after some hours doing that, I have reached some conclusions:-
  • I am going to have to do the damn things myself from scratch.
  • It is one whole heck of a lot easier to find skimpy crop-tops than it is to find complete coverage jackets or tunics.  Either the military is under-represented in SL, or it is under-dressed.
  • I will never understand product pricing in SL as long as I live.  There is no discernible link between price and quality... and, presumably, someone must be out there buying the expensive tat.  Who are these people, and how can I persuade them to visit my shop?

Friday, February 17, 2012


One of the good things about going shopping in SL is exploring, seeing the sort of things designers and creators have displayed in this virtual world, relishing the sheer flood of creativity that makes SL what it is.

Or, of course, not.

I sometimes think we might all be relying on Marketplace overmuch.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dubious Characters?

My long-suffering friend Tali Rosca, recovered from her repeated immersions in the waters of Caledon, has pointed me at the latest Big Thing In SL, now in development on selected sims in the Aditi beta-testing grid, just the way mesh was.  A whole host of new LSL functions are being developed for path-finding and guiding autonomous objects; you will be able to set an object to find its way between waypoints, to seek out and follow a particular target - a person, say - or to wander within a fixed area.   There are a whole host of interesting status codes associated with these commands, which will allow you to develop a pretty intelligent sort of wandering object, one which can patrol, or attack, or run away as situations demand....

"But are there not plenty of scripted patrol or follower objects out there?" you might ask, not without reason.  "Isn't this just going to be an easier way to script them?  Isn't it going to make it easier to replace things like Miss Schism's old dog, which was supposed to follow waypoints, only it took her about half an hour to program them in, and even then the dog just stood around revolving slowly around its long axis whenever the lag got bad?"

Well, maybe, but... the telling thing, for me, is the word used in the LSL documentation to describe these objects.  That word is character.  This is a major step forward towards having actual programmable NPCs in Second Life.

The "character" in the documentation is an abstract thing, a place-holder enclosed in a "capsule" that helps define its interactions... but this "character", inworld, is going to have a physical appearance, and there is no reason why it shouldn't look like a character, or in other words, a person.  No reason at all why you can't drop one of these scripts into one of those "sculpted n00b" objects you can buy - and, with patience, and a readily-available tool like Prim Puppetteer, you can have a human-like figure that moves around in a human-like way....

.... and why stop there?  The wiki notes, here, indicate that your character has to be priced up for Land Impact using the new rules for mesh uploads... so, why not make your character a mesh?  Why not make it a mesh based on a standard avatar mesh?  (A copy of which is on my hard drive right now, as I think is true for most even semi-serious content creators.)  And there is no technical reason, though the SL software might not currently permit it, why an avatar-shaped mesh can't be animated the same way as an ordinary avatar.  In short, it may soon be possible to build something which looks, and to some extent acts, exactly like any everyday SL avatar - a true NPC; not a scripted-agent bot, but a physical (well, SL-physical) entity that you can build and operate inworld.  Heck, it wouldn't take much - a bit of Photoshop work and a simple particle emitter - to give it a realistic-looking nametag, even.  It would still talk in green, and wouldn't show up on the mini-map ... but that might be the only way to tell it from a normal avatar!  Link it to some off-grid "Eliza"-like system - and there are scripted objects that do that already - and it could even carry on a conversation.

By now, I am seeing all sorts of possibilities, here, and some of them are good, and some of them are less good.  There is a substantial market - baffling to me, I admit! - for SL pregnancies and prim babies; would you like a prim baby that talks?  that grows up into a prim child, running around and getting into scrapes, even maybe playing with other prim children?

The various SL "menial" professions, already few and far between, will be further threatened.  Heck, models in shops are already obsolete, really; the only thing that stands between them and oblivion is that it's generally too much of a faff to bake clothing textures onto a Blender avatar model in the same way that they're baked onto real-live avis.  But greeters and so on could be replaced with scripted "characters"....  not to mention the possible effects on the (ahem) older professions.  There are already things like "stripper HUDs" which will regurgitate appropriately "sexy" messages without any of that tedious flirting and emotional involvement which (so some people say) just gets in the way of pixel sex... how about we hook one of those up to a sex bed which generates its own partner(s) for you?

And here we start getting into all sorts of dubious possibilities, I think.  As with any other technology, the potential for abuse is there, and is quite substantial.  Suppose you made an NPC bot based on another avi?  Or a famous person, living or dead?  What's to stop you?  Again, all sorts of possibilities... imagine, say, Hamlet in SL, acted out by a virtual Laurence Olivier or Henry Irving; heck, you could automate the whole cast, couldn't you, if you had enough time and land capacity?  Or you could make your own copy of M Linden and have him try to flee from you when you hunt him down and exact a just and frightful retribution.  It's really up to you, your creativity, and your conscience....  The average SL user does have a conscience, right?

Maybe I am worrying unnecessarily, based on an alpha-release project that's still in its early days.  But... most of the technology for this exists right now, and what doesn't isn't exactly rocket science.  If I can come up with a list of possibilities like this, other people can come up with more.  Maybe we should all be thinking about this a little bit.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Linden Realms getting spicy?

A colleague who had better remain anonymous has described being complimented on (ahem) parts of his anatomy while visiting the Linden Realms game.

I've never been too enamoured of Linden Realms - it feels more like a technology demonstrator (for the teleportation and the temporary HUD attachments) than a serious effort at a game, or an SL environment.  In particular, I've never been too happy about the way it's touted as an introduction to SL.  Because it's not like SL at all.  You can't build in Linden Realms, you can't fly or point-to-point teleport - I, a mad scientist of some small standing in the community, am forced to run away from rampaging rock monsters like some ordinary prole who can't build death rays.  It's an outrage I tell you.

And, above all, there is this disembodied voice sending you on missions.  The thing that just about everybody asks when they get into SL is "So what do you actually do here?"  And finding a suitable (for you) answer to that question is one of the things you just have to do for yourself.  But not in Linden Realms, where you are told what you do in SL; you collect ten crystals, and you run up the mountain and then into the caves....

So.  No building, no flying, and clearly defined mission objectives.  Linden Realms is nothing like the real SL, and it's a mighty poor preparation for the real thing....

... or, at least, it was.  But if it's now full of robots telling people at random that they've got nice bums - ah, yes, that is more like the SL that I recognize.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Say it with flowers (or jewels, or planets, or heavenly virtues...)

A conversation with Mr Alastair Whybrow, mostly about shops and jewelry (on which topics the gentleman is pre-eminent), led me to dig up some stuff about the blazoning of arms by jewels, and by other methods besides.  Heraldry has been an interest of mine ever since I was a wee Glorf, and I have C. W. Scott-Giles, J. P. Brooke-Little, A. C. Fox-Davis and Count Alexander von Volborth in my private library.  (Their families have offered to pay the ransom, but a set like that, you don't want to break it up.)

For the benefit of people who have lives, and are therefore ignorant of heraldry; coats of arms are described using a technical language all their own, and this jargon starts with the definitions of the colours that are used - more properly, the two metals (Or, or gold, for yellow; Argent, or silver, for white) and five colours (Gules, red; Azure, blue; Vert, green; Purpure, purple; Sable, black).  However, jargon like this is all the better for more obfuscation, and some people developed tricks of using other things to represent the colours.  Idle conversation with Mr Whybrow brought up the topic of "blazoning by jewels", or using different jewel names to stand in for the colours; a short trawl online brought me to a useful little volume called The British Herald, (published in 1830) by one Thomas Robson, which contained a useful little table of these conceits, part of which I shall reproduce here.

The various colours can be represented by Jewels, Planets, Flowers, Metals, Classical Elements, Temperaments and Heavenly Virtues, as follows:-

Or (yellow): Topaz, Sol (the sun), Heliotrope, Gold, Light, the Blithe temperament, the virtue of Fortitude.
Argent (white): Pearl, Luna (the moon), Lily, Silver, Water, the Phlegmatic temperament, the virtue of Hope
Gules (red): Ruby, Mars, Rose, Iron, Fire, the Choleric temperament, the virtue of Charity
Azure (blue): Sapphire, Jupiter, Bluebell, Tin, Air, the Sanguine temperament, the virtue of Justice
Vert (green): Emerald, Venus, The Field, Copper, Life, the Bilious temperament, the virtue of Strength
Purpure (purple): Amethyst, Mercury, Iris, Quicksilver, Thunderbolt, the Serious temperament, the virtue of Temperance
Sable (black): Diamond, Saturn, Scabieva, Lead, Earth, the Melancholy temperament, the virtue of Prudence

Some of these fall into the category of the bloomin' obvious, especially if you already know some classical symbolism stuff (like the association of iron and Mars or copper and Venus, for instance).  And some of them have clearly been stretched to fit the scheme; you may notice that Bilious, Blithe and Serious have been added to the list of the four "humours", and that the four classical elements have been padded out to seven by the addition of Light, Life and Thunderbolt.  You will also note that the virtue of Fortitude sneaks in a second time as Strength, the heavenly virtue that should be on the list (Humility) presumably being too humble to appear on a coat of arms.  And I'm honestly not sure what "Scabieva" is, unless it's the scabious, or teasel.  Presumably Robson, as a botanist, makes a very good herald, or something.

What's the point of all this?  Well, it's sometimes interesting, as Mr Whybrow and I remarked to each other, to know where some of these symbols come from, and how far back our cultural roots go... besides, to SL content creators like Mr W and (in a small way) myself, this sort of stuff can serve as inspiration.  I've seen all sorts of symbolically inspired jewelry, outfits and so on.  So, maybe somebody out there is struggling around thinking "what sort of colours would suit a serious person?", and we can all answer, now, "Purple.  With irises."  Or whatever.

My search also led me to a much more complete disquisition on the whole thing by a bloke called John Ferne, whose Blazon of Gentrie was printed in 1586, and takes the form of a discussion, mostly between the herald Paradinus and the knight Torquatus, on the symbolism involved.  So that's my bedtime reading sorted, then.  How have other people been spending Valentine's Day, anyway?

In which I fail to rise to a challenge

Specifically, Adorkable Peapod's challenge to blog the opposite of what we normally blog.

Unfortunately, what I normally blog is pretty much any trivial thought that crosses what I laughingly refer to as my mind.  So, to do the opposite of that... well.  I could try to have a non-trivial thought, I suppose, but I'm not sure my little blonde brain is actually up to that challenge.  The alternative, I guess, is to blog about a thought that hasn't crossed my mind... umm... is that even possible?  I mean, when I write something down, anything at all - "The purple aardvark laughs at the singing brick," there, that's something - but did that cross my mind before I wrote it, or in the instant of articulating it, or what?  Does it even count as a thought if it doesn't mean anything?  I left my complete works of Wittgenstein in my other pants....

Aaaarrgh.  I'm just going to put a silly tag on this entry and hope for the best.

Monday, February 13, 2012

It's the Gift that Keeps On Giving

Logged on this morning to collect three copies of the same notecard from a place I've shopped at a few times... I'm wondering if this is fallout from the latest shock-horror to rock the grid, the throttling of the llGiveInventory function by Linden Lab.

Basically, this is meant as an anti-griefer measure, not unlike the famous "grey goo fence" that prevents objects from self-replicating excessively.  Anyone who's been out on the Mainland when the script-kiddies are at play will have noticed griefer objects relentlessly trying to give copies of themselves away - there is always a chance that an inexperienced person will accept one and rez it, thus giving the plague a new lease of life, and in any case the constant flood of pop-ups is annoying.  So, the Lab introduced a cap on the llGiveInventory function, which essentially shuts your scripted objects off from doing it once a certain threshold is passed.

The problem, of course, is that there are legitimate users out there - large merchants with centralized product servers, for instance - who have perfectly sound reasons for sending large bursts of inventory items every so often, and they are getting hit by this cap too.  (One example I've seen quoted is the 7 Seas fishing game - I do that myself from time to time - which has hundreds of venues potentially listening out for messages from its central server at any one time, and which can therefore hit the llGiveInventory cap any time.)  These merchants are, necessarily, among the largest and most prosperous on the Grid, and they are, quite understandably, unhappy.

It strikes me as something I thought the Lab had grown out of, in recent times; making an arbitrary (if necessary) decision without consulting the user base, or even understanding how the user base would be affected.  Yes, the griefer issue needed to be addressed, but there should have been some thought given to the people who had legitimate uses for the function....  I'm hoping the duplicate notecards I got indicate someone is trying to find a workaround.  Indeed, I hope very much that Linden Lab is working with its affected customers on finding that workaround.  (It shouldn't be impossible.  Off the top of my head: set up a whitelist where merchants can register legitimate server objects that won't be subject to the cap.  That took me two minutes; someone with more time and better brains than me can probably come up with more elegant solutions.)

Lately, Linden Lab have shown a lot more of a tendency to listen to their users and give them stuff they want, or even stuff they didn't know they wanted, but can use.  This particular brouhaha strikes me as a retrograde step.  I hope it's an isolated one.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Silly steampunk outfit and scripts...

Got round to updating this outfit, which I used to wear quite often in the old days....

The backpack is scripted with several little whizzy things, the goggles have a complicated colour-and-texture-change system, the hat contains several features, including avatar radar and a gizmo for giving out free beer....  So, having updated the basics like eyes, skin and hair base, and added a physics package (my own homebrew, described eloquently in my inventory as "Glorf's jiggly bits (skirt safe bottom)", I hied me over to a script counter to see what the damage was.

Comfortably in the green zone... bit more script-y than I usually am (I generally have an AO, and I have not got round to changing my facelight for a non-scripted one, even though I never actually *use* any of its scripted features), but nothing too serious.  And yet, I have everything I need, and several things I don't usually bother with.

But if I'd worn one set of colour-changing shoes that I have, or any badly-scripted resizable hair - whoo boy!  My name would have been up in red on that particular sim, I can guarantee it.

There's possibly a moral here, about efficient scripting and the absolute need for resizer scripts at the very least to have a "delete" option in them....  But anyway.  Nice to have this old fave out of the wardrobe for once.

(And to anyone saying, "yes, well done on the scripts front, but what about the ARC/draw weight, Glorf?"... oh, shut up.   It's under a quarter of a million anyway.  I swear, some people are never satisfied.)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Customer service?

My friend Lindal Kidd is kind enough to say some nice things about my customer service here - possibly undeservedly nice, since there should never have been a problem with the product in the first place!  At the same time, or at least within a couple of days, SarahAndrea Royce has some alarming cautionary tales here about bad customer service.  It's the sort of thing that gets my little blonde brain into musing mode; mainly, musing about what I might be doing right, and how to keep right on doing it.

I have to say, though I've heard awful stories like SarahAndrea's a few times now, I've never actually had a bad customer service experience in SL!  - and, I suppose, this motivates me to try and make sure my customers don't have cause to complain about me either.  (Well, that, and my obnoxious tendency towards perfectionism, and my general upbringing with its emphasis on Doing The Right Thing - I was abandoned by wolves as an infant and raised by Anglicans, you see.)

I'd put my own good experiences as a customer down to three main factors; firstly, most people by and large are decent sorts, are not hucksters out to rip you off, and will genuinely try to work with you if there's a problem.  Secondly, basic politeness will get you a long way, especially in SL where it is so often in short supply - "I'm afraid there has been a problem with a product I bought from you" works so much better than "This thing sux and is a ripoff and you suck too", when you're starting a dialogue with someone.  Thirdly, after *coughcoughmumble* years of working in software development, I know the importance of setting out all the relevant information clearly and concisely - "transaction [transaction_id], on [date], paying L$[howevermuch] for [product]", all that kind of thing - it saves both you and the merchant time in the long run (and, I may say, if you give the impression that the facts are at your fingertips, you also give the impression that arguing with you may be more trouble than it's worth!)

I suppose, too, that on the whole I tend to deal with people who are creators first, and merchants second, and who therefore understand their own creations completely and are able to deal with any issues arising.  (The second of SarahAndrea's awful stories seems to revolve around someone who wasn't like that.)  From my own point of view, as a creator, if something is wrong with one of my creations, I want to put it right, for its own sake!  (I will own up to a feeling compounded of anger and mortification when the matter's brought up, of course - I am only human. [On a good day.])

There seem to be a lot of different approaches to being a merchant in SL, and I suspect some are better than others, or at least give better experiences for the customer.  For myself, I regard it as something of a sideline in a Second Life spent mostly fiddling with scripts and builds - I have always put SL down as an entertainment expense, something healthier to spend my spare money on than an extra bottle of gin, and I know I have no more chance of becoming a Linden-dollar millionnaire than I do of becoming Pope.  So, my approach to my little shop, I guess, is strongly coloured by a feeling of "do it properly if you do it at all", and considerations of profit or expense don't really come into it all that much.  I'm sure it would be nice to be a Linden-dollar millionnaire, but I'm not going to strain myself trying to get there.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rezzed to be Wild

Feeling rather out of sorts, for the past couple of days - my typist has a head cold, the silly moo - so, I decided to cheer myself up by dressing inappropriately and going out for a ride across the Mainland.

I didn't get very far, though, before a dodgy sim crossing hurled me, first into the sea, and then off the grid entirely....  What is it with sim crossings at the moment?  I once rode that bike all the way across Bay City with no mishaps (except jumping a couple of hundred meters into the air when I arrived at Moose Beach, but even that wasn't fatal).   But these days, I seem to be fighting invisible treacle every time I cross a region boundary.  Bah, I say, bah.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A vignette from the real world

A bitterly cold day where my typist lives, today...  My dear mother wins a special award for Good Taste, for going to a neighbour's funeral and remarking, on her return, "At least it was warm up at the crematorium."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

On to fresh projects!

Since everything that is up for sale in the little shop must now be assumed to be Definitely Finished (barring mistakes that need urgent fixing!), I have to go back to my collection of incompletely formed ideas and pick some that can be completed.

At the moment, I'm fiddling with a vehicle; I have not previously managed to build one of those before, except in Oxbridge classes under stringent supervision!  However, I have picked the brains of wiser people than myself, I have delved into the numerous online scripting resources, and I believe I can make a go of it.

This may, of course, take some time.  My first prototype could be seen, earlier today, on the waters under Steam SkyCity, wobbling alarmingly and going uncontrollably sideways, up to the point where it collided ignominiously with the CAT dock.  Never mind!  I'm sure I shall figure it all out in the end.  Watch this space.

Brand Identity Is So Important

My friend Lindal Kidd was kind enough to remind me of a minor detail... the little shop of horrors in Caledon Steam SkyCity does actually have a name: it's "Hebe GBE".

Ahem.  Minor omission corrected.  Carry on!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Heartfelt Plea

Please, please, please, nice Linden people, please get the bugs out of llSetRegionPos so that people can use that instead of sit-target teleporters that bounce you off the walls and the floor and the ceiling at your destination.

: : retires, muttering darkly and nursing her bruises : :

... oh, all right.  The llSetRegionPos thing is a scripted function that has been in the works for a while now, and will, when it's ready, do exactly what it says on the tin - set an object's or an avatar's position within a region.  So, you will be able to put out a scripted object that, when someone touches it (or whatever), teleports them to a position you choose.  (I presume - well, I hope - that it will request permissions to do so first.)

Currently, we have three options for teleporting, mainly:-

The simplest one does not actually teleport you at all, it just opens your world map for you and invites you to teleport yourself.

Sit-target teleporters take advantage of the fact that every prim has a settable sit target - a position, relative to the prim, where your avatar will appear if you sit on it - and that sit target can be placed quite a long way from the prim itself.  Like, anything up to three hundred metres away.  So, a sit-target TP relies on you sitting on the item, which then promptly un-sits you - only it un-sits you from its sit-target position.  Mostly.  Assuming there are no rounding errors in the process, and the bounding box of your avi doesn't collide with anything else's bounding box at the destination point.  It is little details like that which make sit-target TPs such an occasionally bruising experience.

Probably more common, because more flexible, are warpPos teleporters.  These things use the llSetPos function; they rez a prim, which you sit on - you may see that as stepping into the beam of a teleporter, or through the swirling portal of a magic door, or whatever SFX people put on these things - and it llSetPos-es itself to its destination, where it unsits you.  The thing is, llSetPos is supposed to have a range of only ten metres.  The warpPos method really takes advantage of a bit of - well, a useful bug - in the system, whereby, if you make a lot of calls to llSetPos in quick succession, SL does not actually bother rendering the moving object until it's stopped moving - you don't see all the intervening ten-metre steps.  There is still a practical limit on warpPos teleporting, basically the point at which SL says "stuff this for a lark" and refuses to shift you any further*.  This method is also vulnerable to a few things, like trying to cross parcels which are full or have bars to object entry, or to random lag in the system which makes the server pause and the traveller materialize at one of those intervening points.  Somewhere I have a picture of what can happen when this thing goes wrong - oh, yes, here it is:-

I had to relog to get myself unstuck from that floor.

Anyway.  Yes.  High time for a simple, reliable, not-abusable teleport function that takes a person from grid position X to grid position Y without messing about.

*Technically minded people will realise that I am oversimplifying horrendously here.  Though why a technically minded person should bother reading my pifflings, I really don't know.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Open for business!

The little shop in Steam SkyCity is finally done.  Mr. Alastair Whybrow had the dubioussignal honour of being my first (and so far only) customer; to be honest, I am not expecting any great rush!

Between that, though, and this thing, I am feeling more involved with SL, all of a sudden.  Flogging and blogging, evidently that's what it's all about.  (I mean flogging as slang for selling things, of course, I'm not talking about... well, never mind that.)

I suppose I should be all commercial and put out a SLURL ... and I should say something about the stuff I've put out.  Let's see...

There is the reduced-impact Lightweight Hall I talked about a couple of blog posts ago.

There are two packs of sculpt maps - one for laboratory glassware, one for drinking glasses; I suppose it's best not to get the two mixed up.

There are three freebie items, which most of my friends and acquaintances will have seen before, in my Christmas giveaways if nowhere else.  There's a scripted Oil Lamp with three light settings (four if you count "off"); there's the Confrontational Hexapod which suddenly appears to scare off visitors when you walk into his range; there's the Cavorite Personal Levitator, a steampunky backpack with a simple built-in flight assist.

If the free Confrontational Hexapod doesn't scare people off, his big brother the Slumbering Guardian Heptapod is now up for sale.  This one is bigger, and wakes up to wave his tentacles and throw Linden damage prims at you when you trigger his sensor.  If you prefer tentacle monsters smaller, friendlier, and sitting on your shoulder, there's always the Cthuddly Pet, which I think a lot of people have seen before, too.

There is plenty of weird lab equipment for a weird lab; an Experimental Aetheric Power Supply to power it, an Infallible Divinatory Sphere to provide advice, an Electric Pentacle to protect you if you brew up something nasty, and of course a big red button marked Do Not Press which you should absolutely not press under any circumstances.

If you still haven't seen off any intruders with the tentacle monsters, you can try to hypnotize them with the colourful Hypnochromatidromeon, or zap them with the (arguably) deadly Grindell-Matthews Death Ray - though the hand-held Elephant Gun might prove more effective (use only the elephants provided with the gun).

Or if you don't mind visitors, there is a Radio Cooker with which to feed them, a Drinks Dispensing Decanter for liquid refreshment, and an Antigravity Stool for them to sit on.  If they want to announce themselves in a civilized fashion, there are Doorbells for them to ring, too.

Finally, a couple of personal attachments; the Momentary Lightbulb (which also appeared in a previous blog post, I'm such a huckster) and the Mk XIII Aetheradaptive Backpack with its multiple functions, some of them sensible.

So there we are.  Commercialism.  I guess, if I'm going to maintain any sort of momentum, I will have to come up with new gadgets to add.  Actually, that's fine - the shop may provide me with an incentive to complete some projects and/or experiment with learning new stuff, and both of those are Good Things.  I'm not expecting to get rich off this thing - I'll be surprised if it even pays its way, to be honest - but if it gets my lazy bum in gear to get creating, that will be quite enough.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I might have to become a Communist...

... because this capitalism lark is too much like hard work!

Anyway.  A whole bunch of products are now ready to go out into the wide world.  Another whole bunch still need work, though, or so it seems.  Life is just full of complications, isn't it?

The main problem, it seems, is objects that contain and give out other objects - there seems to be a continual struggle with SL to get the right permissions set on those!  It doesn't help, of course, that it's the weekend, and the servers are sluggish and erratic.  I should have waited till a weekday, really.  Dumb Glorf.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Now 30% reduced!

This thing here is one of the items I'm packaging up for sale:-
(photographed at one of our bustling Premium-only sandboxes, ooo I could hardly breathe for the crowds.)

Doesn't look all that much, does it?  But in its own quiet way it's a demonstration of the changes that have come with the introduction of mesh... and it may be a harbinger of things to come.

To start with, of course, this thing has a fair sized footprint (roughly 15x20), but is only 10 prims in total.  "So what?"  I hear you say.  "So we can get single prims up to 64 meters size now, we knew that, and anyway we could always get megaprims before there was mesh.  This is old hat, Glorf."

Well, yes, but that's not the clever bit.  The clever bit is that this is measured, not by prim count, but by the new (post-mesh) Land Impact method.  And in LI, it's only the equivalent of 7 prims.  Yup, 10 prims for the price of 7.  Like it says in the post title, 30% off.  And there are already builders out there doing better than me.

See, since the introduction of mesh (and the new calculations that go into pricing up a mesh upload), a whole raft of features, that were inside the SL engine all along, have been exposed for people like me to play with.  One of these is the collision type of the prim.  Anyone who's bumped into thin air around a complex sculpt - like the entrance arch to that hall, for instance - knows that there's a difference between where a prim looks like it begins or ends, and where you actually collide with it.

The mesh changes introduced three collision types.  By default, prims have a "prim" collision type, but mesh objects use a "convex hull", which sounds fearsomely technical but basically equates to "the outside of the thing, not taking account of any holes that might be in it".  There is also a collision type of "none", which you can set on any prim except the root prim.  This has the effect - much desired by builders - of turning that prim effectively phantom, without any need for scripting, or setting flexi, or any such cheats.  (It's the only way you can get through that arch, for instance.)

Now... when you start fiddling with these defaults, SL takes a whole new look at your build, and recalculates its Land Impact based on three main factors; how complicated it is to download, how complicated it is to handle collisions with it, and how much server time needs to be devoted to it.

This is where we can nip in and make some reductions, taking advantage of the fact that not all prims are created equal.  Some shapes have a much lower download cost than others, and if we further simplify things by reducing the complexity of their collisions - "convex hull" and "none" are cheaper for the simulator to handle than "prim" - and we don't up the cost by sticking any scripts into the build that the server has to handle, or set up a whole new raft of calculations by making the build physical...

... then we find that a simple, uncomplicated prim, an uncut cube or cylinder for instance, costs much less for SL to render than one of those complex tortured toruses we builders love - and this is now reflected in the cost.

The converse, of course, holds true: if you start trying this on curvy shapes, things like spheres and toruses - any non-linear prim, in fact - you find that these suddenly cost more, and also get less convenient.  (Set "convex hull" on a torus, for instance, and you will find the hole in the middle of it has turned solid.  And if you need the hole in the middle of it, that's going to be a problem.)

The thing is, a single "prim" in SL is supposed to be a rough-and-ready approximation of the amount of server resources it takes to produce it - and that simply isn't true.  Rendered 3D worlds like SL work, not in terms of single objects, but in terms of the number of planes used to produce them, and the edges and vertices that make up those geometric forms - a mesh of edges and vertices.  You will sometimes hear video games designers talking about the "polygon budget" of their 3D objects; well, the polygon budget for one "prim" can be very different from that of another.  Take a look at this wireframe shot to see what I mean:-

On the right, a tetrahedron - barely visible in wireframe view, and the simplest 3D shape there is; four vertices connected by six edges.  On the left, a sphere - too many vertices for me to count, and even so there needs to be a bit of creative fudging going on, because in theory a sphere has an infinite number of edges.  (Behind, my jeans, vertex count uncertain.)

You can see, then, that the tetrahedron is much, much simpler... so, shouldn't it be cheaper?

Well, now, if you're prepared to fiddle and experiment for a while, it can be.  Possibly, we will see a move in SL towards a situation where we have more of the real costs of our builds exposed - the actual cost in terms of sim resources devoted to rendering them.  It may make life more complicated, while we adjust - but, as I think my little building demonstrates, with all that complication, there may be some opportunities, too.

Friday, February 3, 2012

More on commerce

Following on from my chat with Mr Whybrow and Miss Bluebird, I've taken some positive steps towards putting some things out for sale.  Once again (as with making clothing), I'm taking steps into an area of SL unfamiliar to me; once again, I'm impressed by the people who have made these steps before me, because it is darned hard work.

I mean, OK, all you need to do is put out an object, set it "for sale" and stick a price on it, right?... Well, no, not really.  First off, if you were to do that - particularly when your stock in trade is ornate and complicated steampunk gizmoes - your prim allowance would be eaten up even by the limited amount of stuff I've created so far.  So you have to box it up, which means putting some sort of picture on the box that will tell people what's in it... which means photographing all your products.  And you need to do things like checking the permissions on things, especially for devices which give away other items to all and sundry.  And you need some sort of explanatory text about how these things are supposed to work - it may be obvious to the person who made them, but it sure isn't obvious to everybody.  And, while you're at it, you need to decide on a general policy about how your store will operate, what permissions you'll set by default, how you intend to deal with customer complaints, and so forth.

And that's without even considering the pricing of items (where, after due deliberation, I have decided to follow the immemorial SL tradition of pulling a number out of my fundament.)  And right now I don't even want to think about SL Marketplace.

So it's a whole load of work.  I suppose it gets easier with practice, and it would be simpler to add items gradually to one's stock (if I could do, say, one a week, that would be a good thing, and an incentive to finish some of the incomplete projects I have hanging around.  I almost certainly won't manage it, though.)

Still... I progress.  Watch this space.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Name Game Blame Game

The naming of avs is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games.
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you an av must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES...

To wit, your User Name, Display Name, Full Name and possibly Legacy Name.  Wait, that's four.  I'm confused already, and so are a lot of other people.  And it may be about to get worse.  Let's recap....

Prior to the late-middle of  2010, avatar names were actually quite simple.  You signed up for SL, and you picked yourself a first name, which could be any sequence of ordinary letters, and you then chose from a list of allowable last names supplied by Linden Lab.  This was not popular with everybody, but it worked OK, it created a weird sense of community among people with the same last name (I have wandered over with a cheery "Hello cousin!" to the odd other Bulmer I have encountered, and some of them are very odd, let me tell you), and in general people got by with it.  So, all right, some people picked silly names like, for example, "Glorf" and were then saddled with them, but that wasn't really all that much of an issue....

... well, except for two or three classes of people who wanted some ability to change their names.  The first group consisted of people with a legitimate reason for wanting a permanent name change.  These might be business people who wanted to use their RL names in SL, or it might be people who, for example, had taken SL partners and wanted to change their surnames to reflect their SL family status.  (A third example, of people who just had rubbish names and wanted to upgrade, can safely be ignored; they should have known better than to call themselves "Glorf" in the first place.)

The second group consisted of roleplayers who wanted to be able to shift between multiple personas as whim (or RP need) took them.  After all, if you start off in a Roman RP sim and drift away a bit and get invited to take part in a Star Trek RP, it'd be pretty grim if you had to keep an inappropriate name like "Tiberius".... wait, bad example.  But my point stands.

Now, it may be apparent to you that these two classes of people actually want different things.  One of them wants a permanent name change, one time only (or at least one time for the foreseeable future only).  The second group wants a whole constellation of different setting-appropriate aliases that they can change between at will.  Can you see the difference, there?  Well, that makes you smarter than Linden Lab, then!

In the latter half of 2010, LL announced a completely new and different approach to names, and fur has been flying ever since.  The whole first-name-last-name thing would be gone; you would have a single user name that was just one single string of letters.  But, people said, surely people would soon run out of coherent and sensible things to call themselves, and would be forced to resort to things like "33434434" and suchlike?  (Genuine example, btw, I know the guy.)  That doesn't matter, said LL, because no one will ever see these names.  All they will ever see is the brand-spanking-new Display Name, which can be anything you like, can include all sorts of funky Unicode characters, and can be changed whenever you like!

Astute observers will have noticed that that's not the system we've got now; it was pointed out, with some force, to LL that a setup where anybody can change their name to anything is as close to a full-scale griefers' charter as one could possibly imagine.  And so, after some hemming and hawing, the current system was adopted, whereby:-
  • The basic User Name is always visible,
  • If you do bother with a Display Name, other people can choose whether or not they see it
  • You can change your Display Name only once a week
  • There are some protections against impersonation - especially in the case of the Linden last name, for pretty obvious reasons
  • Because a whole bunch of existing scripts, and even the login screens of third party viewers, would get broken by the change, a setup was introduced whereby the word "Resident" was used as a placeholder for the last name in the case of a new, single-named avatar.  This is where the idea of "everyone now has the last name of Resident" comes from
Clear as mud?  Right.  But this is where the three different names come from.  I used to be called "Glorf Bulmer", but that is only my Legacy Name now, only it's sometimes also referred to as a Full Name.  My actual User Name is "glorf.bulmer".  I don't bother with a Display Name, normally, though I did once call myself "Brian Spartacus" just to make a point.

I sometimes wonder if the Lab could have come up with anything that so singularly failed to meet anyone's needs or expectations.  You want to change your User Name to reflect your in-world marriage?  You still can't.  You can change your Display Name, of course, but many people won't bother with it, and anyway it isn't the permanent change you were hoping for.  As for the roleplayer communities; well, I just hope you enjoy playing the same role for a minimum of a week at a time.  (Actually, you can change from your Display Name back to your User Name - well, OK, your Full Name - I think - any time you like, but you can't take on another Display Name for another week once you've done that.)

(Are you still mixed up about these Full Names?  So am I.  It might help to think about a newer, single-named avi; if their User Name is "affordablecustompcsdotcom" - again, not a made-up example - then their Full Name is "affordablecustompcsdotcom", but their Legacy Name is "affordablecustompcsdotcom Resident".  Clear as mud, I know.)

Ancillary problems have, of course, developed.  Gibberish User Names very quickly became the norm, as new users discovered the names they wanted were already taken, couldn't think of an acceptable alternative, and settled for adding on random strings of numbers and letters until they found something that worked.  The option to include Unicode characters in Display Names allowed many non-English users to have names in their own alphabets, a triumph! - except for English-speaking users who had no idea how to type in those new names.  (And if someone's Display Name is in Chinese ideograms, and their User Name is something like "ituweds7533dkfteq", one's conversational options are pretty much limited to "Hey, you over there with the face".)  The whole "Resident" marker became synonymous with "newbie" in people's minds, leading to discrimination and distrust, leading to resentment and further distrust.

And let us not even talk about the problems for scripters, or for merchants (LL made the boneheaded decision to use Display Names in transaction logs, the one place where you absolutely have to have a clear record of who you've been dealing with), or people with obscene or otherwise unacceptable Display Names and even User Names (like "affordablecustompcsdotcom" and his wife "mrsaffordablecustompcsdotcom", lovely couple that they were)....

Now, it would be fair to say that this state of affairs has attracted adverse comment.  Granted, pretty much everything LL does from breathing upwards attracts adverse comment, but in this case it was fairly well deserved.  A change request (SVC-7125 ) was officially made, and it has attracted thousands of votes and a comment trail a mile long.

And, now, Linden Lab is moving on this.  And I just hope they're moving in something like the right direction.

Granted, I am more confident about LL these days; under the direction of its new CEO, things seem brighter and happier than they were.  Rodvik Linden has not been afraid to listen to SL residents and introduce improvements (the new V3 viewer answers pretty much all the genuine criticisms levelled at Viewer 2, for instance) and even to reverse his own mistakes (the much-touted and thoroughly horrible "Basic Mode" was quietly dropped once its Bad Idea-ness was amply demonstrated).  So I don't think it's unreasonable to expect some effective change on this issue.

Except... the latest messages we've had on the topic indicate all sorts of odd things being considered, "user-community-granted titles" being among them.  And I am dreadfully worried that this might mean they are thinking of some new system of Byzantine and wonderful complexity - and that this might prove to be even more of a dog's breakfast than the current system.

So... all I can say is: please, Lindens, don't eff this one up again.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gin a Body Meta_Body, Comin' Thro' the Rye...

I followed one of the events links on the login screen, this morning, by way of a change, and logged in at the Meta_Body project in the Porto region.

It's an interesting project, and a weirdly atmospheric place to arrive in; a dark and desolate-looking space, with some traces of dead vegetation, and lots of picture frames hanging in mid-air, some of them empty, but others filled with pictures of strange and outlandish creatures, extreme variations on the human form, some of them even non-human forms....

... and, the thing is, every one of those pictures is a zero-Lindens vendor, containing within it everything you need - shapes, skins, accessories - to turn yourself into the being depicted.

It's one of those interesting art projects which are only possible in Second Life - well, surgical body modification is possible in RL, I  suppose, but it tends to be a bit permanent!  The creators of the Meta_Body project are asking people to think about applying a creative process to themselves, using their own shapes and bodies as a means of artistic expression.

Now, I suppose, to some extent we all do that, don't we?  Anyone who's tweaked their shape or their outfit does it, at least to some degree.... But the Meta_Body thing seems to be about exploring just how far you can go, or are prepared to go, with this.  (If anyone's reading this, they might remember an earlier post of mine, where I intimated that my personal answer to this question is "not actually all that far".  But... this is bodily plasticity in a good, or at least an interesting, cause, I think.)

This is a weird-looking place, and I don't know what my readership-at-very-small will make of it.  I'm not entirely sure what I make of it, for that matter.  Except that I approve.  The creative aspect of SL is what keeps me coming back to it, time after time, and I am glad to see people exploring that creative aspect.  Off-beat arts projects like Meta_Body are a good thing, in my opinion.

I mean, at the very least, it's a chance to pick up some unusual freebies, isn't it?