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.)