Thursday, May 31, 2012

Magic of the Marketplace

A post by Tali here sent us both off on a frenzy of speculation about Marketplace and stuff....

I've mentioned, before, the apparent effect the Marketplace is having on SL as merchants increasingly rely upon it and downgrade their inworld presence.  (Found another instance of this only two days ago, actually, when I popped over to the Alruneia Sentry sim to browse their interesting selection of SF/fantasy gear, only to find nothing but an empty stretch of grassland with a rental notice on it.  Store appears to be Marketplace only, now....) 

It's hard to disagree with Tali's conclusion, that the Marketplace just offers too many advantages over an inworld store for a merchant not to prefer it.  (I am not a serious merchant, so I have no Marketplace presence... and I have near as dammit no sales, and those facts are not unrelated.)  Also, many of the pro-inworld arguments sort of fall to pieces when you look at them.  It's all very well saying that you can't see what an item actually looks like inworld from Marketplace, but most often, you can't do that inworld either - no clothing designer maintains dozens of models to wear and display outfits, and furniture or gadget makers who spend hundreds of Land Impact to show off stock are the exception, not the rule.

So, everyone should just hightail it for Marketplace, yeah?  But you have to consider the implications of that for SL as a whole.... as I've discussed before, changes in land usage, and a contraction in the size of the Grid, are already apparent as this trend starts to take hold.  And fewer sims being rented means less income for LL, and I have voiced my concerns over whether their cut of increased Marketplace revenues will make up for the shortfall.

Besides, there is going to be a knock-on effect - indeed, has already been a knock-on effect - on people whose business models are predicated on serving inworld stores.  When Direct Delivery came in, it effectively destroyed the revenue stream for people who rent out space for other people's Magic Boxes - you can easily think of other SL businesses that are going to be hit by a general retreat of business from inworld.  Some of them, I grant you, I won't miss - no one will be greatly upset by a decline in the number of traffic-gaming or advertising bots clogging up sims.  Others will be a sad loss - promotional things like Shep Korvin's Lucky Chairs and similar won't be much good if there aren't stores to put them in, even though Shep has managed to build a sort of SL subculture all his own around his product line (I am a Lucky Tribe member myself, and have delicious toffee to prove it).  I would miss Lucky Tribe if it went.  For that matter, there is that other well-known promotional tool, the hunt, that you might remember I do a bit of (Silk Road 3 starts tomorrow, eep eep eep!).  It's going to be bloomin' hard to hunt if there are no hunting grounds... and another SL subculture comes under threat....

Mention of subcultures, though, leads me to another point... Shopping is a social activity, after all (note to gentlemen readers, if any: it is, seriously, even if you don't get it), and some of the big stores have their own communities which have grown up around them... and this sort of thing can keep a main store going, even when the bulk of the catalogue has moved over to Marketplace.  However, this is an advantage for the big stores that already have a strong, established following... there is no chance of me developing anything like that.  For the small-scale beginning merchant, the rational choice has clearly got to be to go with Marketplace from the outset - and it may even prove to be a rational choice from LL's viewpoint, too, as the "long tail" of low-level transactions generates an overall profit for them.  (Admittedly, LL's commerce team have been actively dismissive of the whole "long tail" concept in the past, preferring to concentrate on a smaller core of "prestige" merchants... well, it would not be the first time LL have been clueless, would it?)

But, well, I don't do SL for economically rational reasons....

So, it occurs to me, is there some way to promote the inworld side of things and keep the efficiency advantages of Marketplace?  At this point, the techy side of me comes to the fore, and I happily lose myself in an orgy of unbridled speculation.

First off, each Marketplace page can contain - if the merchant has an inworld store - a "see item inworld" link, a SLURL that will get you to the inworld location of your item.  Suppose, to climb up on one of my hobby-horses, we had a better integrated version of that - an in-browser viewer that took you directly to the store, instead of doing all that fairly tedious SLURL-ing type stuff (I apologize if I'm getting too technical here, all that jargon, you know how it is)?  Back when I was yapping about the proper uses of Basic Mode, I mentioned the idea of using it as an in-browser viewer... now, you would need inventory options, which Basic Mode didn't have, to shop this way... but LL are already working on their Simple Inventory project; would it be beyond their abilities to merge the two?

However, there are no immediate signs of a browser-based viewer coming up... But there are new developments in the pipeline that could be used inworld, namely the Experience Tools coming soon to a beta-release channel near you.  If you want to see how something looks inworld, the temporary attachments feature - as Tali pointed out - offers an excellent opportunity to try before you buy.  And you could envisage some sort of shop-catalogue HUD, too, which would help you to find stuff in the first place.  (In fact, I can think of at least one shop that already offers a HUD for in-store navigation...)  Couple this with a general beefing-up of the inworld search function - which still leaves me staring at a blank black panel one time in every three - and you might have some inworld functionality which approaches Marketplace's ease of use.  Maybe.

Now, the techy side of me looks at the Experience Tools and makes loud squeeing "ooh shiny!" noises, but my more cynical side thinks of the possibilities of these things for abuse, especially in a commercial context, and hears a faint grinding and grating sound, as of several cans of worms being opened in the not too distant future.

But, of course, this is SL, and new cans of worms are opened every day.  Still, it seems increasingly clear that a seismic shift in usage is taking place as a result of Marketplace... and we need to think about how it will play out, and what technical factors might influence it.  This has been an awfully long blog post already, and yet I have a feeling I've hardly scratched the surface of this subject, yet!  Does the readership-at-very-small have any ideas?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Changing faces

I have changed my SL profile picture.  Of course, very possibly the readership-at-very-small knows this already, since an event of this epochal importance is automatically announced via my profile feed.  (The same would apply were I ever to change, or indeed use, a Display Name.)  Some people, the real enthusiasts for Facebook and Twitter and their ilk, wax lyrical over these sorts of little details, imagining a world of ultra-connected social media in which everyone is announcing everything cool or interesting that happens to them, all the time.  I remain unconvinced.  In a world where everyone is talking all the time, who will have time to listen?

Anyway.  This is, in fact, the third profile picture I've had in all my SL career.  The first one, I put up simply to avoid having that dreadful grey silhouette facing me whenever I looked.  It was OK, I thought, but when I tweaked my face to remove some bugs, I thought I'd better put the new face where people could see it (even though I'd spent quite a bit of effort and ingenuity making it as much like the old one as possible, apart from not having the bugs).  I thought the second one was OK, too, though it did prompt one of my friends to IM me and say "Hello, Ellen"....  However.  I have settled on a pair of eyes I like, and am slowly updating my outfits to use them, so I decided a new profile pic was indicated.  Hopefully, too, it looks a bit less butch.  Ellen, indeed.

I suppose, really, the profile pic ought to say something about me, but I'm blowed if I can think what, other than "I'm Glorf and this is what I look like".  So, there it is.  That is what I look like....

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cheese and Whine

Long-time blogger and resident Botgirl Questi has, according to this NWN article , created a timeline of every controversy ever to afflict SL.

I'm sure it's a fascinating cyber-sociological document.  I'm also sure I can think of few things more depressing!

Just think.  Ms. Questi has assembled 123 incidents, and rising, so far.  And each one was enough to Bring About The Death Of The Grid and End SL As We Know It.  On that basis, SL has more lives than thirteen cats...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Infohubs 3: the naughty bits

So I went round the five Adult infohubs - which, as far as I remember, were never in the Destination Guide anyway, so wouldn't be affected by the delisting.

Four of them are pretty much identical - the "Safe Hubs" at Arapaima, Nelsonia, Ungren and Vilania.  The fifth is the River hub on the borders of the Oritz and Gilda sims; it is relentlessly modernist and has a nasty habit of dropping casual visitors into its water-filled basement on TPing in.  Some things don't change.

The "Safe Hubs" have the same general regulations as any infohub (the Welcome Area Guidelines, somebody should probably read those someday.)  So, you should be as safe at Ungren as you are at NCI Kuula from spambots, vampire attacks, gunfire and general griefer obnoxiousness.  And, because the Welcome Area Guidelines are never enforced, you are.  In half an hour, I was hit by spambots at Vilania, Arapaima (twice), Nelsonia and River, with a vampire attack at Nelsonia to boot.  Safe Hub my aunt Jemima.

The thing is, the Adult hubs are populous, and that brings in nuisances.  Now, I get the distinct feeling their popularity has grown over the time I've been in SL... and that sets me to thinking about why.

You might expect, just on random-traffic grounds, the Adult hubs to be busier; after all, there are only five of them, compared with more than twenty Moderate level hubs, so if the same number of people are being spread around the Adult hubs as around the Moderate ones, that means a greater concentration of population.  (The populations of the hubs ranged from 15 to 25 people during my visits.)

Now, this, to me, implies that a lot of people - very possibly an increasing number of people, because I don't remember those Adult hubs being so busy when I started infohub touring - are choosing Adult content and setting their maximum maturity level rating to Adult.  And I am moved to ask myself why.

The obvious answer is that SL is, as we all know, that weird online sex thing, and we are all cyber-perverts, and naturally we gravitate to those areas that allow most cyber-perversion.  Obvious, but, in my opinion, wrong.  It's my belief, actually, that rather less sex goes on in SL than in RL; a substantial number of people just don't "get" cybersex and SL sex, don't find it arousing, and hence don't go in for it.  (It may be a substantial number, but I am not among it!)  Even though there is also a substantial number availing themselves of SL's freedom to do things they wouldn't or couldn't do in RL, I think, on average, SL is less sex-crazy than RL by a notable margin.

But, the Adult areas are, well, Adult... and that doesn't just mean sex.  Indeed, if you look on the login screen, you will see a number of - for example - "edgy" role-playing environments with Adult ratings; not because they are non-stop sex-fests, but because they are tackling material like horror, or graphic violence, or simply psychological themes that are best left to a mature audience.  And that, I think, is at the core of the popularity of Adult areas in SL.  (And they are popular - as I have found out, just looking at the comparatively buoyant Zindra land market.)

The key appeal of Adult areas, it seems to me, is that they are areas where you don't have to fret about the nature of your content; where it is assumed that everyone around is a responsible and mature adult who can make their own choices about what to do and what to view.  This is, in some ways, what SL was in the old days, before the Teen Grid merger and what some people regard as the "Disneyfication" of SL.   The Adult areas are, in short, places where you have full creative freedom, and you don't have to worry about people saying "but think of the children!" when you build your dark-RP community, or your challenging artwork... or, of course, your giant statues of dongs.  Nobody says adults have to have good taste.

It's not unusual, too, in Adult areas, to come across adults actually acting like adults.  Certainly, when someone is hitting on me in some sleazy sex sim (never mind why I'm in a sleazy sex sim in the first place), they respond to a rejection, as often as not, with a cheerful "OK", and move on to someone who might be interested.  Or they stick around for conversation on general topics; I've had some surprisingly good times in sleazy sex sims, none of which actually involved sleazy sex.   (Or, at least, none of them that I'm telling you about, because this is still Not That Sort Of Blog.)  Compared with the horny adolescents who pursue inappropriate behaviours with relentless repetition across inappropriate venues like General-level welcome centres, your average naked Zindran cyber-perv is actually quite the gentleman.  (Or lady.  Or other.)

In short; there are legitimate reasons for seeing the Adult areas, not as sinkholes of depravity, but as places actual grown-ups can go to be grown-up in.  And that is a good thing.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Infohubs 2: General electric boogaloo

Well, I said I'd do it... even though, really, there isn't all that much point.  It is the Moderate (and, I suspect, the Adult) hubs that see most of the traffic, due to the vagaries of the random-teleportation thing that slings people into infohubs in the first place.  So, my suspicion was that the General level hubs wouldn't have declined significantly, on account of their traffic was at rock bottom already.  So off I went:-


With a due sense of doom, trepidation, and general foreboding, I aim for the "Welcome Area on the Mainland" in everyone's library - which straddles four sims, but is best known by the name of one of them, Ahern.  Well.  It is still laggy, it is still crowded, there are still people in voice cackling about how you could... no, best not to go into that in any detail.  Anyway.  It is, if I'm any judge, slightly less busy and slightly less horrible than last time I saw it.  So.  I have been to Ahern.  I need a shower now.


The Confederation of Democratic Simulators infohub, in the Snowlands where I make my Mainland home.  There is one other person on the sim when I arrive, and I land on top of them, which is par for the course in every imaginable respect.  Actually, I was expecting this place to be busier, for a reason I will get to at a more appropriate juncture.  But, busy, Anzere is not.

Calleta's Hobo Railroad

The Hobo hub is still there, which is a good thing.  It even has one or two people about, which is also a good thing.  It's been a while since I visited, but it looks like the place is keeping up to date.  Still, it seems quite quiet, here.

Chalet Linden, Wengen

The other Snowlands infohub - the one with Rudolph's head mounted over the main entrance.  The gangsta-rap soundtrack has gone.  There is no one in sight.  Actually, now I think about it, it's kind of sinister.  Isolated cabin in the snows, no one around, severed head of beloved childhood icon over the front door?  I shall leave here before I start typing ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY over and over again.

emOt(i)Con, the Mauve infohub

Still "IN DEVELOPMENT", I see - hasn't developed much since I last saw it.  As with my last visit, all the people on the sim are in the adjacent sandbox, and a whole lot of Not Much is happening at the hub itself.  Well, it still looks... um... very modernist.  And that's about all you can say about it.

Governor Linden's Mansion

Give the Governor a harrumph!  Which is about all you're going to get here.  The place is empty.  To be fair, it was empty last time, too, so no change there, really.


The other Korean welcome area, the general level one that nobody goes to.  Well, actually, there are six people here, which is pretty busy for this hub.  It always surprises me, though, how many old people (you can tell they're old, they have two names) you see hanging around the hubs.  Some of these avis are five years old or more, surely by now they've found something more interesting to do than hang out at infohubs?  But, then, I'm visiting infohubs myself, so who am I to judge?

Help Island Public

This is one of the three landmarks we all get in our libraries, so it is still popular.  Really, though, in the interests of truth in advertising, it ought to be renamed "Blaring noise, idiots and vampires Island".  So that you know what to expect.


This is another one that's popped up since my time... except I think it hasn't really, it's been around a while - as the main hub for the old Teen Grid.  Before this was amalgamated into SL as a whole (in one of those Terrible LL Decisions That Brought About The Death Of The Grid) the Teen Grid sims were around, but inaccessible to ordinary SL residents, just as the teens couldn't get onto mainland.
The incorporation of the Teen Grid is the main reason why I think the General level infohubs should be busier than they are.  Because, when you are hurled at random into a hub, you are hurled into one at your maximum current maturity setting, and because most people don't bother changing theirs away from "Moderate", the Moderate level sims get most traffic.  But, with the influx of 16-17 year olds from the former Teen Grid, we have a bunch of people whose maximum maturity setting is General, so they should be popping up at the General level sims.  That's the theory.  But in practice they're not.  They're certainly not popping up here, the place is deader than Ruislip on a wet Tuesday afternoon.

Linden Land, Hanson

Well, this certainly used to be an infohub... and some of the old buildings are still around...  but the hub symbol is gone from the map, and the sim's arrival point just shows as "Protected Land" now.  One of our infohubs is missing!  It's a General level hub, though, so no one even noticed.  (It is, or was, the other other Snowlands hub.  Perhaps it was felt that the Snowlands were well enough served for infohubs anyway.)


The other volcano-based infohub, the one that doesn't do anything like as much marketing as Zebrasil.  It's empty.  There is nothing new about that, the Mahulu hub always was; interesting, volcanic, and empty.

Memory Bazaar @ Ross infohub

I've always rather liked the Memory Bazaar; it has a style of its own, offbeat, cluttered, quirky and authentic.  This is not enough, alas, to get people to visit it in any great numbers.  Once again, as I pass through it, the bustling throngs are conspicuous by their absence.  Tsk!  Come on, throngs, what's gotten into you?

Murray Temporary Welcome Area

This made it to my notecard, despite not being live as an infohub at the time... It is the only infohub I've seen on the Destination Guide since the rest of them were purged.  Still no actual hub symbol... and, mostly, still empty.  Nice, but empty.  Except for a "rez zone" in one corner, which provided my first breach of the hubs' no-weapons policy.  You don't see that one broken all that much.  (The last time, actually, I saw someone banging away with a gun, it was in Braunworth, the one I forgot to do, last time.)

NCI Castle Kuula

Well... you would not expect the main NCI sim to be anything other than bustling, would you?  And indeed it is.  But I suspect it's got nothing to do with the General level infohub.

Nova Albion

Spanning four sims in the east end of Bay City, with transport lines and many, many extremely expensive plots of land nearby, Nova Albion always won the trophy for Best Provided And Positioned Infohub That No One Actually Goes To.  It's still holding that crown.  One newbie in Busy mode when I arrived, and a couple of far-off green dots, presumably residents of Bay City doing whatever one does in Bay City - I don't judge.  Anyway.  No great activity at the hub.

Orientation Island Public

Third and last of our automatically-provided library landmarks.  And this one is usually heaving with people, so I was genuinely surprised to see only eleven people there.  Still, between them they managed a quite impressive number of policy violations, so the place is still maintaining its standards.  (Mostly sexual references, some weapons, if you were interested.)


The railway station in Periwinkle was always the most minimal infohub around... So, that hasn't changed.  And I don't think it could have had a lower occupancy without actively throwing people out... and that hasn't changed either.  The trains are still running, at least, that's something.  Periwinkle!  Once you get here, you can go somewhere else.

Violet Welcome Area

The otherwise attractive Violet hub has a well-established subculture of its own, and this is still, apparently, flourishing.  In its way.  Took all of thirty seconds for the first burst of hate speech (I'm not going to repeat it) cropped up.  Also, more weapons violations.  Why have guns become so much more popular?  ... In this place, it's best not to speculate.

Warmouth Infohub - the Nerditorium

Like the Memory Bazaar, this was one of the hubs I actually liked, a bit - some creativity and thought had gone into its design; compare and contrast with the Adult "Safe" Hubs.  It is, of course, completely deserted.

All of this was pretty much what I expected.  People just don't restrict themselves to General content in any significant number, so the General hubs get little or no random traffic.  The ones that are populous are the three that are listed as landmarks in the library (Ahern, Help Island, Orientation Island), the ones with nearby major attractions (the sandbox at Mauve, the NCI campus at Kuula).... and, for some reason, the Violet hub has a well-established and enduring clique attached to it.
The one hub whose emptiness rather surprised me is the old Teen Grid hub at Lewis.  I was expecting residual interest and loyalty would keep more people hanging out on the former Teen Grid sims, and that this would spill over into the infohub... but, apparently, this is not the case.  Well, one of the arguments LL used for merging in the teens was that Teen Grid in itself was more or less moribund... it would seem they were right!

I will do the Adult sims, but I don't expect the policy change will have had any effect on them - they didn't appear in the Destination Guide anyway, to the best of my recollection.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I missed one!

Braunworth.  How could I forget that one, for crying out loud?  It's practically on my doorstep in Kuhrang!  And it is, if anything, slightly less badly affected than the other Moderate hubs; I see it on my world map, it still gets people in it.  (Though, apparently, not enough to make the nearby shopping malls an attractive rental proposition.  Lots of empty stores last time I looked.)

Friday, May 25, 2012

The grandeur (?) that was infohubs...

So, what with the infohubs being dropped from the Destination Guide (see here ), I decided to pull out my old notecard guide to the hubs - yes, at one point I was the Baedeker of SL infohubs - and see what effect, if any, the policy had had.

I started off, of course, with the Moderate hubs that make up the bulk of infohub traffic.  Had this policy change had any effect?  Any positive effect, even?  Well, I worked down the list in alphabetical order...

Scenic Ambat Infohub!  Still scenic.  NCI infonode still accessible only via a tortuous mountain stair.  Population... down.  Way down.  All of three other people on the entire sim while I was there.  Even the hippos in the fountain look discouraged and dejected.

Bay City Municipal Airport
Landing spot is occupied by a flying snake guy who seems to have been there for weeks.  People pop in and out, but the population level is down.  There are some folks sitting  on the booking desk, as there usually were... BCMA always did have a little clique of regulars there to sneer at the newbies, but this seems significantly depleted, too.  Even the troll has gone - I forget his name; his schtick was being deliberately obnoxious - which was what made him a troll, I guess.  Anyway.  Not there any more.

Bear Dream Lodge

Used to be bustling and full of idiots shouting in voice (a "Chat Hot Spot" in LL-speak). Now?  Four silent newbies and me.  I mean, good grief, the place used to be so full, you had to walk to the next sim to TP out.  Now look at it.


I was given my first ever griefer object at Boardroom infohub!  So nostalgic... (No, of course I didn't wear or use it, even in those days I wasn't quite that daft.)  Anyway.  Time was when even the advertising and traffic-gaming bots were stacked six deep at Boardroom.  Now?  A whole six people on the sim.  And not one of them a manic kilted Scotsman trying to hump my shoulder.  Times have changed.

Castle Valeria

Still there, still an impressive build - for its time - but empty.  For the first time, I find someone eating crisps with his mic open.  I mean, it's only at the fifth hub I visit that I find someone using voice?  Bizarre, isn't it?  This one is actually busier than most, but still a shadow of its former self.  No problem TPing out, so I don't know if a failed TP still drops you in the dungeon....


Was never very busy anyway, so it all looks much the same, now.  There was one new guy there whom I'd seen, a little bit previously, at Bear Dream Lodge.  Perhaps he's infohub touring the way I used to, before I accidentally set a home spot for myself.  He had turned into a jet fighter in between hubs.  People do that, you know.  There was one woman naked except for pant cuffs, bra and sunglasses.  Six hubs, now, and that's the first Community Standards violation I've seen?

Ferry Terminal Barbarossa

This one wasn't on my old notecard, it is new, since my infohub-touring days.  As the gateway to the Blake Sea, or some such, it is still reasonably busy.  Quiet, though.  But there are people around, including vampires on motorbikes.  What would SL be without vampires on motorbikes?  And they provided my first sighting of inappropriate public sexual activity, too.  You can rely on the vamps to come through!  And, just as I TP'ed out, my first Bloodlines attack of the day.  (From a werewolf.  I don't want people to think I discriminate against vampires, you know.)


Same story.  Helfell used to be a reliable place to go if you wanted to get gesture-spammed to within an inch of your life.  Now?  Barely half a dozen people and not a "HOWLZ" in sight.  First instance, though, of a Portuguese speaker coming up to me, saying "oi" and walking off.  Nice to see some old traditions being kept up.


Oh, this is more like it.  People!  A dancing twit with his mic open!  Even... gesture spam!  Hyannisport always was a traditional sort of place, and it may be one of the last bastions of the old-fashioned infohub experience.  Truly, a blast from the past.

Hyles Info Center

This one has been redeveloped since I first came to SL, but is still here, and still more or less worth a visit - if you're new - on account of the handy freebies on display.  The new look seems more bland and bleak than the old pseudo-Arabesque style.  There are a few people about.  Not many, though.


Ah, the Shelter is still popular!  And, blimey, I could buy an 1136 chunk of land here, if I had the odd L$1,250,000 spare.  Oh, wait, that'd put my tier up.  Never mind.  The Shelter's associated hub hasn't changed all that much; it's still busy, which is probably why people are trying to charge Bay City prices for land here.  And, with active participation from the nice people at the Shelter, Isabel infohub continues to be one of the more civilized ones to visit.

Moose Beach

Well, gosh, this is a sign of the times, isn't it?  About five people on the whole sim, and only two of them in voice, and they aren't even swearing!  Are the end times upon us?

Pooley Stage

I don't think I've ever seen this place this quiet.  There is particle snow falling, and it is the loudest thing about.  Pooley is one of those standard sims you go to when you have inventory loading problems, so there is almost always someone about.  But not very many, today!  First instance of getting n00bdozered at a hub.  (For the uninitiated - jostled around by someone who has not yet realized that avatars are physical in SL and you can't just walk through them.)

Temple of Iris

I still haven't worked out what is so all-fired historical about this Linden Historical Site.  Unless "historical" is LL-speak for "inconvenient"... Why no stairs, Lindens?  Why no stairs?  Anyway.  Some people around, but not many.

Waterhead Welcome Area

Wow.  It is coming to something when this place is quiet... the way I remember it, every time I came there was something going on outside the entrance.  Some people might call it performance art, others might just call it a bunch of people being twerps, but there was always something happening.  And now there  isn't.  And it looks weird.  A twit in a gas mask tried to hit on me, but that was the only echo of a once-proud tradition that I found.

Welcome Area Korea

Yay!  Korea is still four whole sims of lag and obnoxious pillocks!  It is a triumph of stupidity over common sense.  Obscene group tags, people SLing while drunk, and I'm sure some of these folks have been standing in the same places since I first visited here.  It will take more than delisting the hubs from Chat Hot Spots to change the essential nature of the Korea Welcome Area!  A lot more!  - Does anyone have a tactical nuke I can borrow?


The volcano infohub hasn't changed a lot either - population appears normal, by the loose infohub standards for "normal", at least.  Some time after I gave up infohub touring, the famed volcano in the next sim turned damage-enabled; I used to send my alt there to suffer (she deserves it).  Standing on the diving board over the bubbling lava in the crater is surprisingly bad for your health.

So there we are.  I may go on and do the General hubs (most of them were empty anyway, though) and the five Adult hubs (I don't expect much change there).  Still.  It seems the listing change is having an effect - based purely on my anecdotal evidence, and one trip around, probably at a bad time of day anyway....

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Maddeningly incomplete

OK... so, I can understand why the viewer comes up, at login, with a list of my favourite places to log in at, on account of, y'know, this is what I tell it to do.

I can understand it not doing that, because clearly the malicious viewer pixie has flipped the bit that says "show favourites at login" - it is annoying and it shouldn't happen, but if LL chooses to install a malicious pixie into their viewer, who am I to argue the toss?

What I don't understand is why it only shows some of the list.  Sometimes.  Not all the time.

Are there a couple of places it disapproves of?  Are two of my seven favourites places which are not the In spots to be Seen At?  I can't think of any other even semi-sensible reason.... Well, no, maybe I can.  The missing places are the oldest and the newest of the entries on my favourites list.  Maybe there is some sort of fencepost error going on with the database query, and the top and tail of the list are being chopped?  It is strange, but it could happen.

Not for the first time, I wish LL would just fix this crap.

An idea bites the dust... or not

I had a thought for something I could do for SL9B - a spoof "Museum of Avatar Prehistory", with faux-archaeological commentary getting everything spectacularly wrong about old video games.

Unfortunately, SL9B's published policies mean, basically, I would have to get written permission from every copyright holder of every image I used - even though it would be totally "fair use" under the most rigorous standards of copyright law.  I really don't have time or energy to jump through all those pointless hoops.

However... I may wind up doing it anyway.  I have prims spare in Steam SkyCity, it's a fun idea, and not doing it for SL9B would mean it didn't have to vanish when the birthday-party sims close down.  And I wouldn't have to do it all in a bit of a rush, too.  So.  This is one I shall add to the background list of Stuff I Mean To Get On With.  More on this later, perhaps.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Catznip is catnip?

Tried out the (fairly) new Catznip third party viewer last night... actually, I was pleasantly surprised.

I've always been a bit leery of the TPVs, for several reasons.  The absolutely relentless promotion of Phoenix/Firestorm by their advocates evidently works, in terms of attracting "market share", but it is very wearisome to those of us who don't use it... frankly, the sheer rudeness of some of their more vocal supporters is offputting in itself; I've had otherwise reasonable people tell me I'm an "amateur" for not adopting their viewer.  One of the reasons LL cited for eliminating that TPV feature that tells you what viewer people are in was that new users who hadn't switched to Phoenix/Firestorm were being verbally bullied and abused over their choice... and, you know what?  I believe it. 

I was also around for the whole Emerald fiasco, which doesn't help... and, besides, I want to keep up with the latest advances in viewer technology, and (as I think I've said before) these are more likely to come along in the official LL viewer than in a TPV - particularly a TPV whose main selling point is "basically, we are never going to change the interface".  And, let me reiterate a point here, too; unless you're used to it, the old V1.23 interface sucks.

So, no Phoenix or Firestorm for me (actually, I did try Phoenix, once.  Besides the overall suckiness of the old-style interface, the default colour scheme struck me as eye-bleedingly horrible.  I know you can change it... or I could just, y'know, use something else, which I actually prefer!)  But Catznip seemed to be interesting, and I decided to give it a little whirl.  As I said, I was pleasantly surprised.

For a start, it is a V3 based viewer, none of the old (sucky.  Did I mention it was sucky, yet?) interface about it.  So, I have my outfits and my received items and my flexible toolbars, and niceties like legible fonts and menu bars that aren't a horrible clutter.  Also, the big thing that Catznip's dev team seem to be touting, above everything else, is stability.  This viewer clocks up enviably low crash rates, and the developers seem to be enthusiastic about that, and think it is something to aim for.  I approve of this.  I've said a few times that, had I the choice, I would happily declare a moratorium on new features for six months or so and put all LL's dev teams onto fixing the damn bugs already.  Since my system is prone to falling over in a gentle breeze (I suppose my running the bleeding-edge dev version of V3 doesn't exactly help there), I am in favour of a dev team that regards Not Crashing as a priority goal.

I didn't explore all of Catznip's features last night (I only had a few hours, and most of that time was spent in traditional SL things rather than testing viewer features), but I formed a more or less positive impression.  My frame rate was lousy (it always is) but it was slightly less lousy than usual, and I didn't crash.  The IM interface was a bit more old-school that I would like... but that was offset by the profiles viewer also being old-school, and that I did like; as an inveterate profile perv, I have always found the new, slow-loading HTML profiles an irritation, and being able to get a quick view of people's groups and interests came as a welcome flash of nostalgia.  (So, I couldn't read anyone's Facebook wall profile feed that way... big deal.  Does anyone have anything remotely interesting on their profile feed?  I know I haven't, and I use the darn thing.)  I didn't find some "standard" things in TPVs (area search, object derender); I don't know if they're not there at all, or if I just didn't look hard enough; either way, since I don't use them, I didn't miss them.

So, yes.  Catznip.  I think this one may well supplant Singularity as my go-to TPV of choice.  When I choose to go to a TPV at all, of course, which will not be often.  But I can live with this one, I think.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Key issues

My keyboard worries continue apace... really, I need at the very least to send this laptop in for a service.  Unfortunately, I also need to use it on pretty much a daily basis; you can see where there is a conflict of needs, there....

This makes stuff like scripting so frustrating as to be darn near impossible... which means Tali, bless her, is currently doing all the work on the rebuilding of Caledon's ferries.  And she - and I - have been running into some issues with the (relatively) new keyframed movement system.

Basically, this is a setup where you can feed an object a list of positions and rotations and times - all the details for a key frame, in fact - and SL will move it smoothly from one specified frame to the next, without all the faffing around you would normally have had to do with setting position and rotation (for non-physical objects) or applying impulses (for physical objects).  It is neat, it is easy to script, and it gives a surprisingly smooth ride.  When it works.

Tali is running into an intermittent but persistent bug where the first frame in a sequence gets ignored, which, naturally, throws all the rest out of whack.  Meanwhile, I have found that region restarts are extremely bad news for anything that's executing a keyframed movement sequence when the restart happens.  I have four "gravity lifts" running on keyframed loops up and down sections of my tower, and not only do they all freeze in place when the restart hits, they all behave in different ways once it's finished and I try to reset them.  It's as if the sim is trying, in some rather patchy way, to preserve state in the keyframed sequence over the reset... and sometimes this takes precedence over any attempts I make to restore the things by hand!  One of the lifts, in particular, simply won't respond to manual script resets, or even a complete recompile - I have to delete it and rez a fresh one from my inventory after each sim restart.

It's a nuisance, as we were kind of hoping to use the keyframed movement stuff on the new ferry system! - It really is good, when it works.  And Tali's implementation of the Catmull-Rom algorithm to generate intermediate waypoints makes for a very smooth ride indeed.  Now, all we need to do is get the damn bugs out, somehow!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I love a challenge

But hunting is just getting too easy these days.... so, I'm doing this weekend's Paradise Landing sim hunt with one eye closed, just to give myself a handicap!

(If you're interested, it's the "Terror of the Skies" outfit from Jolbey & Jasper, worn with the big stompy boots I got on the Steam Hunt from Pop Tart & Urban Assault.  Those things take my height up to seven foot six - really, I don't actually need built-up boots!)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Trying too hard?

So I TP into a place... that had better remain nameless, I think.

"(name redacted) has invited you to join a group.  There is no cost to join this group.  (details redacted)."

Well, OK, fair enough.  But then I walk ten meters west....

Up pops a dialog box, welcoming me, inviting me to visit a website and join a group (the same group?  Probably.  I didn't check.)  At the same time, an automated object nearby welcomes me, tells me about promotional offers, and also informs me how to apply for a modelling job.

Now, bear in mind I've not even got to the flippin' front door yet...

So I go through the front door... and I wander towards the Midnight and Mini Mania boards... and am hit by another dialog, inviting me to join another group, apparently solely for calling the letters on the Lucky Chairs here.  And one pace further on, I'm hit by the same dialog again... And, in fact, this is an improvement on the last time I was here, because there are four Lucky Chairs, and last time I got a group invite from each one of them.  Not to mention, there are frequently live greeters on duty too....

Yes, yes, you want potential customers in your update group, you want to build brand awareness, you want customers to feel you're aware of them and you value them... You also, at some point, want to just shut the flip up and let us shop.

(If you walk onto the welcome mat at Hebe GBE, you will find it says hello to you and offers you a notecard and a landmark.  And then it shuts up.  You can jump up and down on it as much as you like, and you can deliberately click it to get it to repeat its message... but it won't spontaneously talk to you again until another fifty people have trodden on it.  Irritations like the one I've just described are why I scripted that welcome mat.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

They seek her here, they seek her there...

No, not the Scarlet Pimpernel... think Kinks, instead.

I have been fiddling about with potential outfits for an Ashraya Project photoshoot, as I mentioned a couple of posts back....  This fashion thing is hard work, really, isn't it?  I thought the only effort involved would be in opening the boxes and deciding what to wear, but deciding what goes with what to construct the look we want for a shot (Tali is doing the photography.  I pose, she goes off into RL and works her digital alchemy via PhotoShop, and eventually I see the results.  Which, so far, are distinctly interesting.  But I digress) is not as easy as it sounds.

I suppose, really, this is bleed-through from RL... I do not get to be glamorous in RL!  And, since SL-me mostly looks good without effort, I tend to coast along on that... so, working out exactly how to fit together makeup and hair and clothing for the best effect, rather than just a good-enough effect, is more of a challenge than I expected.

Still, I progress, I think.  And at least my evil hunting habit is paying off, in that I know lots of places where I can get gear I want, if I don't have it.  Last night involved a trip out to Gugu Dada for specialist lipstick.  In RL, I don't even wear lipstick, not more than once in a blue moon, anyway.  Normally I just smack myself in the mouth instead.

So... At the very least, some interesting photos are on the cards.  (Evening gown from Azul, accessorized with an Alruneia Sentry cyber-fantasy helmet and visor, anyone?)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

LL are so ahead of the curve

I was just reading this article on Cracked.... (I should probably put in a warning about NSFW and "adult language"... wait, I did say it was on Cracked already.)

Network issues due to mishandled demand?  TOS getting in the way of user experience?  Bland status messages that tell you nothing except that the problem is being worked on?  Service crashing because of something someone else did on a different server?  Problem's supposed to be fixed, when it's still going on?  Does any of this sound... vaguely familiar?

I read the whole thing, and all the while a little voice in my head was saying, "Welcome to our world.... sucker."

Happy birthday

LL announced, some time ago, that it wouldn't be setting up official events or sims for the ninth anniversary of Second Life, leaving it up to the Residents at large to celebrate however they (we) might want.

I am more than a little pleased to see that the Residents at large have stepped up to the plate!  See here ... So far, sixteen sims and more than fifty exhibitors, and hopefully more to come.  Will I be there?  As an exhibitor, probably not, given things like work and RL and stuff.  As a visitor, you bet.  With bells on, even.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Ashraya Project

It's a worthy cause and it deserves a link.

So there you go.  I have to admit, I've bought some stuff there - bulking the inventory out again!  But it is a worthy cause, and I'm not quite back up to 53,000 items yet, so there we are.

One thing they're doing is a photo contest, which Tali and I may do something for... we have had some ideas.  Basically, we would both play to our strengths for it; Tali would compose and take a wonderful picture, and I would buy clothes and wear them.  Equitable division of labour, it seems to me.  Do what you're best at, I always say.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Eyeballs in the sky

I have decided, with some trepidation, to update my image a tiny bit - specifically, by getting some new eyes.

Now, I operated for quite a while wearing only freebies, and operated pretty darned well, in my own opinion at least.  It's only fairly recently that I took the plunge and bought a set of skins, instead of wearing a set of (very good, by the way) freebies that I found at Tuty's & Mr. S.  (They don't seem to do that set any more, which is a darned shame.  At one point, Tuty's was my default place for sending new people off to get decent free skins and a pretty nice freebie AO.  They even had free skins in a range of ethnicities, which has always been a sore point with me - LL please take note: when the Nordic blondes tell you your virtual world is too whitebread, it is time to listen.)

But anyway.  I have, mostly, been looking at SL through a set of "Eyes - Blue-grey" that I think I found at Hyles infohub when I was about a month old.  And, when I happened to be wandering around the Ashraya Project fashion sim, and I happened to see a display of eyes for sale, I thought, what the heck, and went for some.

New peepers in place, I asked Tali for an opinion on them.  One of Tali's many virtues is, when you ask her for her opinion on things like this, she will give it to you, honestly...

There are a number of problems with eyes in SL.  One of them is that they are, often, too small on your screen for you to notice details.  I've got some quite exotic and beautiful designs from some places (freebies, or from hunts, mostly), but when you've got them in and are looking at your avi from normal ranges, all you get is a vague impression of "something's odd about those eyes".  Details being too small to notice is not a problem restricted to eyes, of course.  It happens with jewelry quite a lot, too.  And this is why bling was invented, to draw one's attention to a fine-cut stone by creating a fugitive gleam of light.  Or, in most cases, to give the impression that the wearer's hand is the centre of a feeding frenzy of miniature comets.  Never mind.

Another problem is photo-realism.  You'd think, wouldn't you, that an actual photograph of an eyeball would look convincing, right?  The problem, though, is that the lighting conditions under which the photo is taken can differ a lot from those under which it's seen... and there seems an awful tendency, among some designers, to include spectacular and therefore overcomplicated reflections and silhouettes and whatnot in the design.  (The problem pre-dates SL by a generation or more; eyes were always a weak point in Gerry Anderson's puppet shows.... hmm, I have the remake of Captain Scarlet on DVD, maybe I could copy over the iris maps used for the CGI characters there?  No, maybe not - I don't want Destiny Angel's eyes, I'd be too worried about getting her bum as well.)

Anyway.  Latest sit-rep is, I found a pair which are OK in terms of detail and reflection, except they are a somewhat darker colour than the blue-grey I'm used to... Can I live with that?  Or will I have to engage in an unending quest for ocular perfection?  The eyes, after all, are (proverbially) the windows of the soul - do my soul's windows need a good cleaning?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Welcome to SL,and you're welcome to it

A certain tendency - of which I approve - has been visible in the Destination Guide in the past few weeks.  Until fairly recently (I wasn't paying attention, so I can't say exactly when!) a search among "Popular Places" or "Chat Hot Spots" would be sure of turning up a long, long list of infohubs.  Now, they are all gone from those listings.  The only infohub I've been able to find in the Guide is the hitherto inactive one at Murray - and, from the way it seems to be deserted every time I look in there, it's probably still inactive as an infohub (i.e. people don't get randomly routed to it).

Now, this is all well and good, because I have vented before on the toxicity of infohubs, and describing these hotbeds of LOLspeak, gesture spam and casual racial abuse as "Chat Hot Spots" is like saying the Black Hole of Calcutta was a cosy place to meet new friends.  But, as reforms go, this one still isn't going anywhere near far enough.

The problem, as I see it, is that new people are still going to be routed randomly to infohubs, often quite early in their SL careers, often also quite late in their SL careers, as there is nothing like a crowded infohub for putting you off SL for good.  For that matter, oldbies can get sent to them from time to time as well - people attempting logins on unavailable Caledon regions, apparently, often end up at the Adult-level hub at Arapaima, and it is hard to imagine a greater contrast with Caledon than that.  So, infohubs, it seems, are still a cross we have to bear. 

It's something LL really should do something about, and there are a couple of possible things they could do.  The first one, of course, is to staff the damn hubs and enforce their own rules.  Put an on-duty Linden in each active hub, sitting under the no-weapons-no-nudity-no-disturbances-no-spamming sign, with a banhammer cocked and loaded ready to fling offenders off the sim.

It's an option.  I doubt it's anyone's preferred option, although it would have the benefit of putting some Lindens back on the Grid - I have seen one in my entire SL career to date; if they're out there, they're not in the places I go to.  But, it would require dedicated staff resources, and the Lab is feeling the economic pinch like everyone else these days, and it would be a soul-destroying job.  So -

- the second option: let the Residents do it themselves.  (Hey, if it's working for SL9B, why not for this?)  There used to be a programme - everyone who reads this will remember it, I think - whereby some sims were designated as Community Gateways, with tutorials on SL in place and volunteers on hand to acclimatize new people into the ways of the Grid.  And, for the most part, it worked; indeed, for the most part it still does.  When LL axed the Community Gateway system, many of the help sims carried on regardless; places like Oxbridge, NCI's sims, Ajuda SL Brasil, other names we can all think of, all kept rolling on.  Without SL support, some of them fell by the wayside - I miss the old LGBT hub, which used to have a walkthrough tutorial almost as good as Oxbridge's, but which was just a conference venue last time I saw it.  But many of the Gateways are still there, the staff are still ready and willing to help... and sending people to them will give a much better impression of SL than bunging them off to be spammed, sexually propositioned, vampire-bitten and generally abused at an unmonitored infohub.

There are probably other options I haven't thought of.  But I am certain that there is a real need for people to be able to get into SL and be welcomed into it - for new people to be routed to places relatively free from predators, trolls, and other species of griefer.  And there are people willing to help, so - come on, LL, why not take that help?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Base ingratitude

Actually, not so much base, as premium ingratitude....

Recently, and with virtually no fanfare at all, the third in LL's occasional series of Premium membership gifts hit the Grid.  Previously, we've had a suite of furniture, and a yacht; this time, we have received a working railroad handcart, plus a list (hopefully still current) of places where we can go to stick it on a railroad and use it.

Which is all very well, and I haven't really looked at it, but I'm sure it's very nice.  However, as an incentive to take out Premium membership (or, in my case, retain it now I've got it)... well, I can safely say it makes no difference whatsoever.

I will not go so far (as others have done) as to say they are negative things, competing unfairly with the hard-pressed merchants of the Grid, because frankly a few vehicles and sticks of furniture are neither here nor there in the overall SL economy.  But as an incentive, they are pretty much duds.  Seems to me that anyone who takes out a Premium membership does it for a reason, and that reason, overwhelmingly, includes the desire to create.  Even if you're not buying space-for-prims directly to make your own objects, you are doing it to have some space to do your own thing... the overlap between land owners and content creators is damn near total.  OK, often you will buy in stuff that takes more time and effort to create than you'd spend yourself; the chances, however, of those three Premium gifts being exactly what you need are too slim to calculate.

I've quite happily snapped up the Premium content because, hey, freebies.  But considered as a benefit, they don't even qualify as the icing on the cake.  Other things, like the Premium sandboxes, are genuinely useful from time to time.  But the gifts?  The furniture came out during Steam Hunt 5, I think, or one of the big Hunts at any rate - a time when I was picking up quality free furniture right, left and centre.  One more folder full of stuff in my inventory is not something that makes me think how worthwhile my tier fees really are....

So, what might LL do instead of these occasional toys?  Or how might they use them more effectively?  Could they become promotional tools for the creators involved, somehow?  (Though one wonders how much cachet might be attached to a sign that said "Official suppliers of premium freebies to Linden Lab"... some people might be inclined to throw virtual Molotov cocktails through a store's windows if it sported that logo!)  At the end of the day, land ownership is the main revenue stream for the Lab... so, how could they use Premium benefits to sell it more effectively?

Answers on a postcard, please.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

(Don't) talk to the wall...

The uncertainty over the existence of my block list continues... as does that bizarre bug, the one where you don't get offline messages unless you have a currently-non-empty block list.

As a result, as often as not, when I log in, I spot an unaccountable silence in my communications window, I give a nearby wall the Cut Direct, and as soon as the block goes through, a deluge of messages (I have reached the point of having my offline IMs capped) comes washing over me.

On those occasions when everything works, therefore, my block list shows a collection of snubbed walls that may be enough for some sort of record.

I have to wonder where, if anywhere, these things are on LL's priority list of Stuff What Ought To Get Fixed.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Gloomy prognostications

Having bought that extra plot in Kuhrang, I felt I had to do something with it... it was the work of mere moments (OK, about three-quarters of an hour) to put together a small building and copy across all my vendors from Steam SkyCity - yes, folks, Hebe G.B.E. now has a Mainland presence!

By way of product demonstration, I rezzed an Infallible Divinatory Sphere.  And then curiosity got the better of me, so the following exchange took place:-

[12:51] Infallible Divinatory Sphere whispers: Give voice to your dilemma (in the form of a yes/no question) and the Infallible Divinatory Sphere will answer...
[12:52] Glorf Bulmer: Will this place turn a profit?
[12:52] Infallible Divinatory Sphere: No, no, no, a thousand times no!  Or at least probably not.
[12:53] Infallible Divinatory Sphere whispers: Give voice to your dilemma (in the form of a yes/no question) and the Infallible Divinatory Sphere will answer...
[12:53] Glorf Bulmer: are you sure?
[12:53] Infallible Divinatory Sphere: I wouldn't bet on it.  I wouldn't bet on anything, not the way my luck's running.... you don't have any spare change, do you?

So there we are.  Not the most promising of signs, but we'll see.

Today Kuhrang, tomorrow the world?

The doomy Gothic building just to the south of my Mainland home in Kuhrang - the one I planted a small tree to hide, in fact - vanished recently, and a cursory check told me the land had been abandoned.  After a bit of thought - probably, in all honesty, not enough - I decided to take the usual Mainlander's insurance against a naff build cropping up next door: buy the plot myself.

This was enough, of course, to nudge me up into the next tier bracket, and it leaves me with 512 square meters of unused tier, at the moment.  So, I thought some more - probably still not enough - and went on a little road trip out in Zindra, to see if there were any abandoned or cheap parcels available out in the Land of the Rising Libido.

The "Adult" continent of Zindra has been shrouded in controversy since it first rose from out of the depths... I'm sort of pleased, in a way, to report that I couldn't find anything, at least not in one afternoon of searching.  It's easy enough to find abandoned Mainland in Moderate zones - about half the time, just TPing to an old landmark will do it for me!  But the land market in Zindra appears distinctly more buoyant.

I suppose, really, what's buoying it up is precisely the sort of thing that made me look for land there myself - fewer restrictions, a sense of being on the "frontier" of SL, where, as the saying goes, men are men, women are also men, and children are FBI agents.  However.  There is a sense of activity, of vitality, in Zindra that you don't often see in the Mainland.  There is Stuff Going On in Zindra.  Not even X-rated stuff, either, at least not all the time.

I got to talking to Tali, later (as is oft my wont), and she commented about the way forward for SL being, perhaps, a contraction of the number of sims into a smaller but denser group of self-defining communities - like the Steamlands, or the SF communities, or many others on groups of private islands small or large.  Tali cites the successful areas of the Mainland as already tending towards this pattern - the perenially popular Bay City being the stand-out example.  I think, in some way, Zindra might be trending in that direction too; it has, in a way, a community linked by a common interest.  OK, so that interest is smut, but is that necessarily a bad thing?  If it brings people together?

It's easy, of course, to spot areas where community-building has been tried, and has failed - the themed Linden Homes areas being the outstanding example; there are others I can think of, though.  And communities of interest need to watch out, too, in case they become too insular and too complacent....  But, as I have said before, the social function of SL is one of the two key things that keep me coming back to it, and if building a community isn't a social function, I don't know what is.

In the meantime, I have 512 square meters of snow that needs some sort of development on it... and if I can get another 512 square meters of smut cheap, that would be good too.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Famed in song...

A minor issue which caused me to make some caustic comments during Steam Hunt has prompted someone else to set their objections to music... it did the rounds on the Caledon Oxbridge University Group chat last night, and I think it merits a link here!

Just Glue Some Gears On It (And Call It Steampunk)

Talking of hunts, there will be one starting soon at Armada Breakaway.... I am torn.  On the one hand, designers like Albus Weka and Sidney Arctor, you don't want to miss out on.  On the other hand.... :: looks mournfully at her inventory ::

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


So it's still not the world's best picture, but I cranked my draw distance up to suicidal levels to get it.... Me and Tali standing on top of the tower in Burroughs, watching air krakens playing in the setting sun, while the Iron Cloud hovers over everything.  (If you look close, you can see Dear Ophelia, the white CAT airship, coming in to dock at the Cloud.)

It was, as Tali pointed out, a very Caledonian moment.

Well, except for that mini-skirt, which is not Caledonian at all.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bunnies in bondage

No, this is nothing to do with that suggestion I made for a tinies-Gorean crossover... that was just a piece of idle conversation... I absolutely haven't even thought about tiny slave gear or any such stuff... oh no.  (Besides, I'm sure it's been done already.)

No, this is a more serious topic, the problem-plagued rollout of Direct Delivery for Marketplace items.  I referred to this a while back, airily commented that "of course there are teething problems", and went on to talk about the effects on land usage.

However, those teething problems have, as it were, come back to bite me on the butt, because they are still in evidence and show every sign of being an intractable difficulty.

Basically, a number of products - how many?  I really couldn't say, but more than enough to notice - in the process of swapping over from people's Magic Boxes to their Merchant Outboxes, have become confused.  Names and images and descriptions are getting scrambled, leading to quite understandable confusion about what you might be buying and who you might be paying for it.  Merchants are, equally understandably, up in arms about the whole business, and I for  one don't blame them.

The reallocation is quite random, and it affects enough stuff that I, for example, noticed an "Ozimals bunny" in a search with an image and a description for some pretty exotic bondage equipment instead.  (Was I searching for Ozimals bunnies, or for bondage gear?... I think I will just have to stay mum about that one.)  Now, this means lost sales and/or angry customers for merchants, and a great deal of effort expended in sorting things out.  The shift to Direct Delivery is already putting stress on merchants, some of whom have many, many items to convert.... and this mix-up is adding to the load.

And it is still going on, I notice as I trawl through Marketplace looking for shoes, as is my wont.  And there is a deadline looming, now, in the form of the date when LL switch the magic boxes off for good and all.  You have to think that they must get this issue addressed before that date (June 1st, last I heard, but I could be out of date myself on that one.)

One can't expect changes like this one to roll out with no problems at all, of course... sometimes we forget to what extent SL is operating in unknown territory (there are virtual worlds out there with more membership, but there are none with the combination of distributed assets, user-generated content, and numbers that SL can boast.)    But we can judge LL, I think, by how effectively it rises to these challenges... and how it treats its users in the process.

We have a situation here, and LL is going to need to work with the merchants to resolve it - whether by postponing the deadline to make the changeover slower and easier, or by working hard to address the problems arising and set solutions in place.  And it really, really needs to do one or other of them, I think, or it is going to have a whole host of legitimately annoyed users to deal with.  Basically, LL has an opportunity, here, to not shoot itself in the foot.  I do hope it has the wit to take it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

More SL misandry... justified?

They do seem to be coming out of the woodwork at the moment - obnoxious males!  Since the "hello whores" guy a couple of days ago, I've run into two more who made him look almost charming by comparison (one earned an eject from Oxbridge, the other a full-on AR, and no I am not going into details about what they said and did!).  And my friend Lindal Kidd has done an interesting and insightful post here about the effect this has on the demographics of the grid....

Now, I will bend over backwards not to be a knee-jerk man-hater, despite my own preferences... but some of these guys are not making it easy for me!  And the question in my mind, of course, is why should this be the case?  After all, I have many male friends, both in RL and SL, and they are all perfectly nice people, and only one or two of them are idiots who persuade me to let myself be called "Glorf"....

I'm inclined to think, frankly, it's down to gender roles.... There are, in my opinion, roughly as many dumb-and-unpleasant women as there are men - believe me, I have known many people whose two X chromosomes didn't stop them being massive dicks!  But, dumb-and-unpleasant often goes with dumb-and-unimaginative, and that means dumb-and-unpleasant people tend less to think for themselves, and more to conform to existing stereotypes about gender behaviour.  And, well, those stereotypes tend to require men to be more pushy, more macho, more aggressive than women.  You do meet the dumb-and-unpleasant women, and they have their own dumb-and-unpleasant ways - they are the spoiled whiny princess types, the ones who say everything is "lame" and demand to be flattered and entertained.  They are toxic in their own special way, but they stand out less than the males.  You have to talk to them before they show you how awful they are.  The awful men, unfortunately, let you know right from the start....

Lindal's suggestion, that this state of affairs drives lots of nice men into female avis... is an interesting one, and I wouldn't be the one to say she was wrong!  (Should I be angry at those men for representing themselves as something they're not?  Well, no, I don't think so, because we all do that, to a greater or lesser extent - trust me, I don't look anything like my typist, and the way I look in SL does make a difference, because it influences the way other people act towards me, and that in turn feeds back and affects the way I act towards them.)

In the final analysis, I suppose, the toxic minority make life unpleasant for everyone, each in their own way.  Perhaps we should even be glad that the dumb-and-unpleasant males are up front about it!  But there's no denying they make SL hard for the smart-and-pleasant males... and, in a world where you can be who or what you want to be, is it right to blame them for turning into smart-and-pleasant females instead?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

An intimate dysfunction

I complained a while back about my wonky keyboard - specifically, the sticking G key (took me twelve tries to get that!), though there is other stuff wrong besides.  It is still a problem, even after attacking the laptop with a variety of cleaning methods.  And it is having a terrible, and somewhat unexpected, effect...

It is putting a real crimp in my sex life.

Now, this is still Not That Sort Of Blog, so don't expect me to go into explicit details here, but.... SL sex, basically, is cybering with better graphics, and though the graphics can (and do) add to the experience....

:: muses over looking into her lover's silver-gilt eyes, the sight of our bodies entwined together ... ::

... where was I?  Oh, yes.  The graphics enhance the experience, but the experience is still all about communication - effective communication - building up an emotional rapport between the participants, and enabling that to develop to its, ahh, natural conclusion.  And that rapport is just not going to happen unless the communication is articulate, and unimpeded. (A note to any "gentlemen" thinking of approaching ladies with the by now traditional "hi ur hawt want 2 do it?": this is more or less equivalent to tattooing a notice on your forehead saying "I am rubbish in bed".  Unless you have the verbal skills and dexterity to build the mood, it just isn't going to happen.*)

So, yes.  Unimpeded communication is key.  And, it transpires, having bits of one's utterances mysteriously transposed, and having to pause every few seconds to think of a synonym that doesn't have a G in it... is a real mood killer.

I will persevere, of course, because my partner also has needs, and I want to meet them... I want to meet them very much, in fact!  But, there is no point denying it, I am finding this an oddly frustrating situation.

There is a joke in here, somewhere, about being unable to find the G-spot, but I am far too mature to make it.

*Worth noting, of course, that there are ladies, too, with a similar... directness of approach.  And my criticism applies equally to them!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

An utterly shameless plug

Tali has put her musical spheres and ambient soundtrack generator up on Marketplace.

So it's a shameless commercial - it's also been fascinating for me to see how a real pro goes about it, from the initial idea to the final product, with a lot of cool interludes along the way.  (One development session involved hooking up the sound generator to Sauce Sorrowman's chessboard - oh, what the heck, he deserves a plug too - Sauce Sorrowman's chessboard - and hearing the pattern of pieces on the board being transformed into music from the generator.  Playing chess... as a musical instrument.)

Anyway.  Tali has produced a lot of good stuff, including tools and tutorials available for free from her website... she deserves (at the very least) the feather-light weight of my recommendation added to her products.  (Besides, the thing really is totally cool!)

Friday, May 4, 2012

All too typical

A young charmer turned up at Oxbridge last night, wandered up to where Tali and I were standing, and introduced himself with a "hi whore".  When suitably rebuked (suitably for Oxbridge, where death rays are not allowed), he made small talk in a hesitant but nearly polite way for a few minutes, only to wander off to someone else - specifically, Oxbridge's esteemed Dean Martini Discovolante - with a merry cry of "fuk"....

What is it with these guys, I have to wonder?  Am I supposed to be impressed at their unconventionality, their daring, their free speaking?  All of us can say "fuk"; most of us can go one better and spell it.  We don't say it often, though, because we have more interesting things to say.

Is it an attempt to overawe us with his sheer raw alpha-maleness?  There is, in fact, a difference between an alpha male and an arsehole.  More people should be aware of this, especially people trying to be alpha males....

Or is this the phenomenon known as "negging", where members of what's called the "pick-up artist community" disparage women until their self-esteem is eroded until they will sleep with, well, pick-up artists?  Here's the thing, guys: women will want to be with you if you are actually fun to be with.  Most of your pick-up artists are going to die virgins, and even the ones who don't will only score with women who are damaged and/or stupid enough to fall for that tactic... women, in short, who aren't worth being with themselves.

Or is it just that awful sense of deficiency you seem to see so often these days, of someone who is acting destructively or unpleasantly because they have no idea how to do anything else?  Or no idea even of the rewards of doing anything else?  Someone who has been told, or told themselves, that good manners are for dorks and losers, and then wonders why nobody wants to be around them?

Whatever.  It's another case, I fear, where someone has come into a social medium - and "social" is one of the two key things about SL - and decided it's a good place to be antisocial.  I guess all the rest of us can do is sigh and move on....

Thursday, May 3, 2012

But then again...

128 meter tall tower?  Compared to Hugo Gernsback, I am just an amateur.

Topping out

The basic structure of the tower is now complete!
There is still work to be done - that big globe at the top is supposed to revolve and shoot out mind controlling rays harmless sparks, for a start - but the fundamental structure is all in place.

It is a hundred and twenty-eight metres tall, roughly, and looks nothing like what I originally had planned.  Never mind!

Of course, the most important thing to do next is to find someone with a much better graphics setup than me, and badger them into taking a beauty shot of it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Basic Mode: how they could have done it

Following on from yesterday's post, and the comment on it (I have a reader? Wow!), I thought some more about how Basic Mode might have worked as intended.

The problem with it was, it was very much all-or-nothing - you either had Advanced Mode and full functionality, or you had Basic Mode and the restricted subset.  If you wanted to do stuff that wasn't available in Basic Mode, you had to log out and change modes.  (At first, changing modes from Basic to Advanced meant relogging twice, which made one more very sound reason to switch to Advanced as soon as possible and never look back.)

Inara's comment yesterday got me to thinking, though, about how they could have made the Basic Mode viewer the introduction to SL that it was meant to be.  We all know, of course, that not every menu option is available by default - we are familiar with pressing Ctrl-Alt-D to get the Advanced menu up, and, if you're in V3, Ctrl-Alt-Q for the Develop menu.  So, I said to myself, why not extend that concept?

You could start with a viewer that had the functionality of Basic Mode directly available, but which contained all the other features as "unlockable", just like the Advanced and Develop menus.  So, say you realise that there are 5,271,009 other people running around in that stock vampire avi, and you want to look different from them - you find an information point or a more experienced resident somewhere (ideally, a welcome centre like NCI, Oxbridge, White Tiger, the Shelter, someplace civilized anyway) and instead of telling you to log out and log back in, they show you the keypress or whatever it takes to unlock the Appearance editor.  You feel the urge to spray plywood cubes over the landscape, so you find someone who tells you how to unlock the Build editor.  And so on.

Of course, you couldn't use a viewer like that as a thin client, like I was talking about yesterday - it'd need the full functionality set built in from the start.  But, if you wanted a sort of "SL-with-training-wheels" approach, where you gradually grow into the full set of SL activities - or, if you like, stop at a level that makes you happy - then that is one approach you might go for.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Thin clients

An offhand comment in a NWN discussion thread - about how good it would be to be able to drop in to a sim via a web browser - got me to thinking about this.

It's not a new idea, of course - in fact, LL did trials on implementing it.  I forget who it was who visited Oxbridge using an in-browser viewer; he had to log in under a throwaway test ID, and he wasn't able to do complicated things like move... but, there he was in the Oxbridge plaza, chatting away neat as you please, via a web browser.

Then there was Basic Mode, and it is hard to think of a more complete misapplication of a potentially useful idea.  Basic Mode became the default for new sign-ups towards the end of V2 development; it was a viewer mode which deliberately made most of the menus and functions inaccessible - you couldn't change your look except by picking a different default avi, you couldn't TP except by going through the Destination Guide, you couldn't build or buy anything, period - and it was the bane of our lives at Oxbridge for a while, because new people kept on turning up, and they would want to know how to do things, and nine times out of ten whatever they wanted to do was something you couldn't do in Basic Mode.  We had to set up gestures that told people how to log out and log back in again in Advanced (i.e. normal) mode.  It was hellishly frustrating, and I'm sure it can't have been much of a welcome to SL for the new people.  "Welcome to SL!  Now get out, and don't come back until you can do it properly!"

Basic Mode was announced with much fanfare and hoopla in the SL official blogs; it died silently and unmourned a few months later... but.  If you knew what you were doing, and had set up an avatar look that suited you, and didn't immediately need to build or buy anything, and had friends who could offer you TPs to social events... if you just needed an SL presence for a bit... Basic Mode was something you could live with; certainly a big step up from running in a text-only viewer.  And, it always seemed to me, the reduced feature set of Basic Mode was something that might just squeeze into a browser plugin.  In short; as a starter for SL for beginners, it sucked mightily, but as the basis for a thin client that would allow access to SL through the web, it just might have been some use.

I have no idea if the Lab is thinking along those lines, or even if they should be.  Goodness knows there is plenty of stuff on their plates right now to keep them busy.  But... it always struck me as a possibility, and a potentially interesting one.  It'd do a fair bit to open up SL to the web-going public at large, I guess.  That might not be a bad thing; let people come inworld via browsers and see what it's like, rather than getting their ideas from CSI or vampire-themed advertising campaigns.

Then again, these casual visitors would probably end up at an infohub, so....