“Business? Mankind was my business!”

That’s a lit’rary allusion; ol’ Marley (the ghost of ol’ Marley) says that to ol’ Scrooge, after Marley’s said how he wears the chains he forged in life, an’ Scrooge says “But you were always a good man of business, Jacob….”.

Marley goes on to say that “The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

In his My First Two Months at Linden Lab posting on the official Second Life weblog, Marley, I mean M, Linden talks about how wunnerful SL is an’ all, and I respond in the comments:

Very nice to see this level of communication with us residents! My main reservation about the post concerns how utterly business-oriented it is; I mean, sure, SL has lots of possible business uses that are really killer, but I’d like to see the CEO also appreciating and acknowledging the potential for creativity, for individual transformation, for silliness and FUN.

“2. The diversity of use cases in Second Life is mind-boggling. If you were able to read every story around the world about Second Life, you’d see a tremendous variety of use cases presented – e.g., medical research and treatment, education, marketing, customer support…and the list goes on.”

It would be good if a list like this also mentioned music, art, dance, social interactions, international friendships, discussions of important world issues between people who would never otherwise have met, creativity, imagination, and so on. To my mind that’s really where the transformative power of SL lies.

Oh and… no one should ever say “and the list goes on”. No one. Ever. Just sayin’… :)

Which is to say, the “use case” stuff that M talks about is, in my incredibly humble opinion, but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of the cool stuff that people do in SL, and that they are going to do.

I have no doubt that there will be amazing killer business uses of SL, that will save people lots of money and make people lots of money, and change the way that we do business, and that will be fun and good and all.

But beyond that I think that SL has the potential to change the way we live. And that’s vastly more interesting and important, and I hope M realizes it…

Lags, Freezes, and RenderGeom

So for a long time I was having occasional whole-machine crashes in Second Life, where I’d get a Blue Screen of Death from Windows, blaming the video drivers for something, or the screen would go black and the machine unresponsive, or the machine would stop responding with the screen just frozen on whatever I was last seeing, or the machine would power down entirely.

Camming around too fast or too far from my AV seemed to increase the crashing, so I slowly got trained not to do that (although ordinarily camming all over the heck is one of my chief occupations).

There were a few days when the entire machine would lock up about half the time that I tried to start up the SL viewer, and the other half the time it would usually lock up or crash within an hour or so. That was horrible, and I was afraid I’d just have to give up SL entirely. Then it stopped doing that for no apparent reason, and as of 1.19 I’ve pretty much stopped having SL-related machine crashes entirely. The viewer itself crashes once in awhile, but not often, and it’s pretty quick to start up again.

Now I’m running 1.20, the former RC now actually Released, and things seem even better. FSP seems higher, and camming and zooming and so forth seem smoother. I’m back to camming all over the place, and I haven’t had any crashes at all yet on 1.20 (knock wood), although I expect that I will eventually. And I like some of the new 1.20 features (stretching images in the image previewer, clicking on names in chat and IM to bring up profiles, being able to be smug about how low my Avatar Rendering Cost is, etc, etc), and I haven’t found anything I really dislike. Yay!

There’s still one very annoying viewer behavior left, though. Sometimes at random (and I think more often when there are alot of AVs around, but I could be wrong about that) my fps (frames per second, the framerate) will drop from some normalish value to significantly less than one; that is, my view of SL will get updated less often than once per second! And it’s not only the view; because of the way the SL viewer is written, it means that it also won’t notice my keystrokes or mouse actions except every second or two (or three or…). Which makes it pretty much impossible to do anything, even chat!

If I turn off prim rendering (control shift alt 9, natch), things get fast again. On the other hand everyone is bald and all buildings and objects vanish. :) So I can chat again and stuff, but I can’t sit on things, and I tend to walk into walls.

My investigations so far reveal that pretty much invariably what’s happening is that the “RenderGeom” part of the viewer has gone insane, and started to eat up huge amounts of time. The figure there shows the timing graphs (control shift 2) during one of these “freezelag” times, both with and without prim rendering on. The top part of the graph is with prim rendering on and a horribly low FPS rate; note that almost the entirety of each horizontal bar is the grey color of RenderGeom. The bottom half is with prim rendering off and a high FPS; RenderGeom is still significant, but not like 95% of rendering time. The bottom part is also what the bars look like, roughly, when I have prim rendering on but I’m not freezelagging. (Note that the chart is in normalized mode, so each bar is the same size, even though the absolute scene rendering time is much much much higher in the top ones.)

Has anyone else experienced similar stuff? Have any clever suggestions? There’s a JIRA on the problem, and it has an internal Linden issue number, but it doesn’t seem to be getting alot of visible attention or work. If anyone has seen any other related JIRA (I did search for “RenderGeom”), a pointer to that would also be greatly appreciated.

Isn’t that all fascinating? :) In other news, I’ve been flying around and exploring and dancing and talking to people and writing scripts and stuff!

La plus ca change

So Botgirl Questi has posted an extremely cool (if slightly disturbing) morph that she made between Boy Dale and Girl Dale (and back and forth). Here’s a nice androgynous midway frame:

(I was going to embed the movie here rather than just having a linked still, but it turns out that wordpress doesn’t allow embedding those big scary advanced “Flash movie” things, phht. This reminds me of the advantages of good old hand-written and FTP-uploaded HTML.)

I keep meaning to write down all the slider numbers for my most common shapes, for the purposes of recreating myself in OpenSim grids an’ all (but there are so many sliders!). I’ll be curious to see how similar Boy Dale’s numbers and Girl Dale’s numbers are; I frankly can’t remember how much shape and face tweaking I’ve done over the months. From the morph, I’d say there’s a strong family resemblance at the very least… :)

Still not a party at Indolence

I still haven’t had a party at Indolence, but on Thursday night there was sort of an alpha-test. I was sitting around at Botgirl‘s place in Extropia, talking to bg and Vidal and Peer Infinity (who was in pink-bunnygirl form). When the conversation turned to strip-clubs (as it usually seems to in SL hahaha) I mentioned Indolence, and it was suggested that we go and take a look at it.

After we arrived and were playing around and bouncing off the walls and so on, I invited Michele over, and Peer invited a fellow bunnygirl, and Vidal invited Kanomi™, and someone who has yet to admit it :) invited a guy named Alonzo something in a newbie AV, who seemed to be trying to be unfriendly or something but left pretty quicky. Botgirl also brought in her ‘bot Majik, who danced naked on the sexy-dancing chair and kicked off a discussion of shyness, intimacy, and the significance of who or what is “behind” an AV.

A grand time was had by all.

Not Party Guests

That’s me an’ Michele doing the tango, Kanomi dancing with Peer (or possibly the other bunnygirl; in keeping with the stripclub theme they both removed much of their pretty fur, revealing pretty human skin underneath), and Botgirl (in wings and startlingly brand-nonconformant red hair) dancing with Vidal (in futuristic-fae form).

I think this was more people than have ever been in Indolence at one time before! We still haven’t played Word Frog, or raided the ‘fridge much, or drank the drinks. But we did play on the furniture some!

Mistress Vidal

That’s me and a scantily-clad Botgirl, submitting ourselves socially to Playboy Bunny Vidal as she looks out over the festivities from the throne on the dias in the corner.

Really must have an actual party sometime….

Owning stuff: WoW, SL, owners and holders

So this is going to be just a little rambling on the subject of how virtual worlds keep track of who can do what to what objects, who owns things, and so on. I’m thinking about these things for a paper that Zha and I are (slowly) writing, and I’m posting about it here because, hey, this is a weblog, and you’re supposed to write down every single tiny thought that you have (aren’t you?). There probably won’t even be a picture.

I spend lots of time in Second Life (SL), and also in World of Warcraft (WoW). In both of these (as in most ALGOL-60, I mean ADVENT, derived games), one has an “inventory”, where you have lots of Things.

In SL, each of these things has some data associated with it saying, roughly, what you can do with it. There’s a copy bit that says whether or not you can make copies of it (by copy-and-paste within inventory, or various other ways), a modify bit that says whether you can modify it via the Edit dialogs, and a transfer bit that says whether you can give it to someone else.

There are lots of subtlties (things can be set to, or shared with, or deeded to, a group rather than a person, things can’t be directly set to  no-copy, no-modify and no-transfer (i.e. all three bits set off), although there are simple tricks that let you get the same effect, the effective permissions of an object depend both on its own bits and the bits of any further things that are inside the object, and so on), but this basic “c/m/t” model captures most of what SL lets you do with your stuff.

In WoW, every thing that you have in inventory is of a certain type, and every thing that’s of that type is identical to every other (except for enchantment, which we’ll mention in a second). Every Essence of Fire is the same as every other Essense of Fire, every Blue Lake Cloak is the same as every other Blue Lake Cloak. SL doesn’t have any corresponding notion of type that I can think of.

You can never make a copy of a WoW thing (so in SL terms everything has the copy bit off, and is no-copy). You can’t really modify things either, except to the extent of, say, enchanting armor. Whether or not you can enchant a particular piece of armor isn’t a setting on that particular piece of armor, but on every piece of armor of that same type; so if this particular Bracers of Yogurt Strength can be enchanted, then so can every other Bracers of Yogurt Strength.

In WoW you can give most things to someone else via the Trade window, except for some things, which are “soulbound”. Soulbound is pretty much the WoW equivalent of no-transfer.

WoW objects can also have a “unique” attribute. If an object is “unique”, then you can have only one thing of that type. This also extends to numbers greater than one; if something is “unique 100”, then you can have none of them, or one, or two, or fifty, or 100, but not 101. SL has no corresponding concept.

In both SL and WoW, you own the things in your inventory. If you give something to someone else, they become the owner. There are exceptions to this in both worlds: in SL it may be possible to have a group-owned thing in your inventory without becoming the owner (I actually don’t know if that’s true), and in WoW you can sort of hold something out to someone else for lockpicking or curse-removing or whatever by putting it into the “will not be traded” slot in the Trade window: they can act on it as long as it’s in that slot, but they don’t come to own it. (And that’s not really an exception, because it doesn’t get into their inventory.)

Isn’t that all fascinating? :) I’d like to do a similar analysis of some other virtual worlds. Maybe I’ll go dig up an Entropia or Eve Online player or something. Or try out Twinity or vSide or There.com again.

Oh, and: it occurs to me that the second feature, that you generally own all the stuff in your inventory, smooshes together what are two different concepts in RL: owner and possessor. In RL, I can lend you something and I still own it, even though it’s you who has it right now. Would there be anything useful about having this concept in virtual worlds? What if I could lend something to you to use, but retain ownership, and with ownership certain powers over it? And what powers should those be? Should I be able to see what things I’ve lent out and where they are right now? Should I be able to reclaim them with a click, and have them return to my inventory from the lendee’s inventory, or wherever they were rezzed?

No idea if this would actually be useful for anything, but it bubbled up in my mind, and I thought I’d toss it out there…


When the negotiations were over for the day, Vystar and his team spread their wings and spiraled down out of the tree, landing on the enormous lily pad at the base as protocol demanded. With nods and whispers to each other, they each blinked out to their separate evenings. Vystar went a few thousand meters up and several regions west, floating in an undulating purple mist as he changed from avian form to something more relaxed, a curvy young woman with feathers for hair and long purple fingernails, dressed in cotton lounging pajamas.

She whispered to Patrice and Gentle Logan, to AnyFred and WhaTilde, and eventually was summoned to the latest version of the Sound Crystal Amphitheatre, suspended above an orange desert, where five or ten of her friends sat or sprawled on cushions in the crowd listening to a young dragon playing a citern and singing imaginary folk songs. Patrice had a new collection of semi-autonomous follower objects swarming around her head, and Vystar amused herself sending them little rushes of force and meaningless commands, just to see what they would do. Patrice stuck out her tongue, but was too absorbed in the music and some quasi-sexual exchange with a winged warrior to do anything about it.

The dragon finished his set to general applause and the launching of numerous color-rockets, Vystar fended off a pair of whispers from annoyingly persistent ex-lovers, and people had just begun discussing where to go next when she frowned and lay back in her ornate golden seat.

“Excuse me a moment, folks. Something happening Outside.”

Patrice crinkled her face at her, and Gentle Logan said, “Be careful”; Vystar’s eyes glazed over and her body relaxed.

He put down the controller and stood up from his lounge, blinking as he pulled his gaze away from the screen that covered half the wall. He flexed his arms and shoulders, opened and closed his hands, out of the healthy habit that everyone tried to cultivate when going Outside. The noise that had disturbed him continued, and he crossed the room to the window, a slightly pudgy pale man in undyed cotton pants and a thin shirt.

The room was small and spare, clean, subtly lit by indirect lighting. It contained only the lounge, the screen, the terahertz box, a selection of controllers and goggles, a small refrigerator in one corner, a door leading to the shared bathroom in the other. Vystar stepped to the single window, and looked down.

Down below, the usually empty street was half filled by a mongrel band of ordinary Outside humans, who walked or slowly drove battered-looking autos between the plain faces of the apartment blocks on each side, blowing the horns and whistles that had disturbed him, and waving signs.

“Come out and play!”, the signs said, “The Real World Needs You!”, and “Remember What Matters”. One of the leaders of the ragged march was a tall unnaturally fit-looking man that Vystar remembered vaguely having seen on an Outside feature on some news program; the former owner of a defunct automobile company, or newspaper, or something.

Slow and noisy as it was, the disturbance moved out of sound and sight soon enough, into what looked like an Outside evening. Vystar shook his head and went back to the lounge, rejoining the world to find that most of his friends were still there in the Amphitheatre, looking at the night’s list of public performances, debating the merits of the artists, remembering old adventures, making ridiculous hats.

“Back,” she said, stretching her legs and putting on a tall conical headpiece with a slowly-turning propeller.

“What was it?” Patrice asked, from under what appeared to be a squid.

“Bunch of noisy Meaties out in the Outside street. Having a protest or something.”

This was met with much laughter and rude noises.

“Walking right down the street?” asked Scarflame, a friend or associate or alt or something of Patrice’s.

“Walking, and even driving. Old automobiles! Can you imagine the carbon footprint?”

More rude noises.

“Meaties,” said Gentle Logan, the swirls around his horns expressing exasperation.

“Yeah,” said Vystar, shrugging her shoulders, “what can you do?”

Thanks to someone, maybe Ahuva, for pointing me at an article that I can’t find right now that suggested that, far short of brain-uploading, people might simply start leading sparse and spartan RL lives, because their virtual lives would be so much more interesting and rich. So here we are. This story is not intended to express any particular opinion, positive or negative, of the possibility…

Lively Dale!

Time for another shallow and unfair review of a non-SL world thing: Google’s new Lively is great!

Lively Dale!  Woot!

Here I am being an adorable pig in a hat, sitting on a chair in an oval room I made (well, chose), with some other chairs and lava lamps, saying “Woot!”.

Click through to flickr for more of my exciting adventures in Lively!

‘course now I’m done with it and back in SL, but it was a fun fifteen minutes! Woot! :)

(Main problem with Lively: when you’re a tiny pig, the floating box with your name covers up you feet (and sometimes pretty much your entire body except for your enormous and cute head). )

Why I don’t use voice in SL


I wrote this a little while back, but it’s still pretty much accurate. The topic came up over on Plurk the other minute, and I thought I should post it here as well as inworld, for when I’m (well) here rather than inworld.

It’s a bit outdated, using funny old meanings of words like “immersionist” and “extensionist” (I think I may have accidentally made that one up trying to remember “augmentationist”), and worrying more seriously about voice fragmenting the community than I would today (because for whatever reason that doesn’t seem to be an active problem right now anyway), but it still accurately reflects my views. Comments are more than welcome!

by Dale Innis
Version 1
23 July 2007

I don’t currrently use voice in Second Life, and I don’t except to be using it (except maybe in business meetings) in the near to middling future. Lots of ppl have asked me why I don’t, and since the explanation is long an’ involved I thought I’d like write it down on a notecard like this one here. There are actually a whole buncha reasons; here are some of ’em in no particular order.

1) I’m not alone in RL.
Quite often when I’m in SL, I’m around other people in RL; either there are other folks that live here in the same room doing their own things, or there’s someone sleeping on the other side of a none-too-thick wall, or whatever. It would be too rude for words (not to mention sometimes really embarassing) to be carrying on voice conversations in SL with RL folks around. One exception to this is when I’m at work or otherwise willing to sequester myself away the way that I would for a business teleconference; so this objection doesn’t apply to RL business meetings, say.

2) I’m an immersionist.
Which is to say, I consider SL to be a world of its own, rather than a sort of “networking” extension to RL. (I once read some clueless mundane refer to SL as a “business networking site”: I larfed and larfed.) There are at least five AVs that I use on a more or less regular basis; it would not imho make sense for the adult woman, the adult man, the little boy, the little girl, and the Pandaren Brewmaster from Warcraft III (the Frozen Throne expansion) all to talk with my RL voice. Voice-morphing software isn’t yet up to the task; it might be someday, at which point this part of this objection goes away.

There’s a similar problem with background noises; it’s really offputting when the President of the Imperial Council is about to make an important and solemn announcement, and suddenly the entire kids’ birthday party comes in from the RL pool behind him and starts whooping it up. Push-to-talk doesn’t really solve this problem. It’s probably not a killer all by itself, but it’s another straw.

Again there’s an RL business-meeting exception to this part, in that when I’m in an RL business meeting, I’m perforce being something of an extensionist, and I can just wear a form that goes more or less well with my RL voice, and RL background noises seeping in are only annoying, not reality-breaking.

3) Voice is single-threaded.
I can carry on three or four (or five or six, if I’m really in the zone) conversations at once in text chat an’ IM. Not gonna happen with voice, clearly.

4) Text favors the rational; voice favors the loud
Similar to (3), since only one person can really be talking in a voice venue at a time, voice favors the loud and pushy and aggressive. On the other hand everyone can talk at once in text, and the obnoxious are just ignored. I don’t really like being dominated by loud pushy ppl. On the other hand rational an’ polite ppl are pretty reluctant to use the mute button against anyone who isn’t actually violating TOS; mute has v anti-social effects.

5) Can’t scroll or search or archive voice
I save all chat an’ IM. I can figure out easily who that was I was talking to about sculpties last week. I can scroll back in any given conversation to see if I missed anything in (say) the conversation in the dance club while I was talking in the Scripters of Second Life IM channel. Voice enables none of this.

6) I like music
One wonderful thing about text chat is that I can be in a club with the music just as loud as I want, and I can stil be talking to the other ppl who are there with no difficulty. With voice, do we sort of shout over the music? Or turn off or down the music while we talk? Or what?

7) We can’t all talk (comprehensibly), or hear (well)
I’m somewhat shy in RL. Part of this is because ppl don’t understand me when I talk; when I talk to someone new in RL the first reply is usually “Huh?”. I talk too fast, I mumble. Other ppl want to communicate in languages that aren’t their first, or can read but not hear. (Text-to-speech is much easier than speech-to-text.) Voice disenfranchises all of those ppl to some extent (varying from a little bit, for me, to quite a lot, for the deaf). It’s possible that there are some people that voice enfranchises over text; but given how visual the rest of SL is, those ppl are probably not here (yet?) anyway.

There are some other reasons, but I think these’ll do for now I think. :)


Now really if you live alone an’ aren’t the kind of immersionist that I am an’ only want to carry on one conversation at a time an’ don’t need to search or scroll back in conversations an’ don’t mind having to compete conversationally with other folks an’ are good at talking an’ hearing an’ don’t mind talking over the music, then I should say go ahead an’ use voice all you like an’ more power to you.

But, well…

I have most of the same concerns about voice fragmenting the community that Gwyneth does, and that she expresses better than I’m going to here:


If I don’t use voice, and you do, we may well end up not talking. Now that’s not really really awful at first glance; if half the ppl use voice an’ half don’t, that means I have maybe 40,000 ppl I can talk to instead of 80,000. Given that I’m probably not going to get around to too many thousand anyway that’s perhaps not a huge difference.

But still.

What if most new people coming in sort of start with voice by default, without realizing that anyone does anything else? Some of them will encounter the problems above, maybe, and switch to text if they happen to run across texters. Others may give up an’ leave. Others will stay an’ be voice users. And all the people in that latter two categories I maybe don’t get to talk to. And that would be too bad!

’cause I like talking to ppl…

So that’s all for now. Responses an’ replies an’ thoughts an’ chocolate are all mos’ welcome.

Hogs and quiches to all,

Dale glances into Twinity

So in randomly clicking around the Web last night, I found myself on the signup page for Twinity, and I signed up. I was on OS X at the time, so couldn’t actually try it, but this morning on a Windows machine I came across the “you’re signed up, download now!” email, so I did that.

I messed around for just a little while, not nearly enough to make much in the way of fair comments about the world, so I’ll make these unfair comments instead.

First (to get the pain out of the way), here is a screenshot of Dale in the Berlin welcome area on Twinity (wince):

The Twinity Bunny Hop

Two things are immediately obvious.

First, my hands are in a weird position. This is because I was playing with gestures / animations, and I bought and tried out the free “Bunny Hop” one, and couldn’t turn it off. Remember being a noob and not being able to stop dancing in SL? This was very similar, except even funnier because I was hopping everywhere, and less embarrassing because there was no one else around to see it. I logged off still hopping, but I hope when I log in again I will have stopped.

Second, I look like a slightly-doofy middle-aged German guy. This is because (a) they make you choose a gender very early in the signup process, and there seems to be no way to change it later (sheesh, what’s up with that?) so I flipped a coin and it came up male, and (b) I messed around for quite awhile with the male appearance dialogs, which let you choose your appearance from a vast array of thousands or millions of possibilities, all of which look like a slightly-doofy middle-aged German guy.

I think this is because the appearance dialogs let you fiddle with shape, but not with what SL calls skin, and the one default male skin is modeled after some middle-aged German guy (Twinity being a Germany-based thing, I think), who while probably fine-looking in real life looks slightly doofy when mapped onto polygons.

There’s a thing you can do to make an appearance based on an uploaded picture, which sounds like one of those things that would be great except they don’t work. The very helpful support person who appeared in the support area about five minutes after I arrived told me about it, and I said it sounded kinda freaky and asked her if she’d done it. She said that she had, but didn’t have it active right now because she needed “a better picture”. Which suggests to me that in fact it doesn’t work. This isn’t really too surprising knowing how much skill it takes to make a decent-looking SL skin; the idea that a program could do it given a random snapshot of a face seems implausible to me.

The obvious thing to do would be to take a good face-shot of Boy Dale from SL, and try uploading that and see what Twinity makes of it. But, it occurs to me, if I take a picture of Dale wearing, say, Naughty Designs’ “Gabriel Early Tan”, and upload that to Twinity to try to automatically make a face-skin from, what are the copyright implications? The mind boggles.

I ventured slightly outside of the Welcome Area, and there was a place with a fountain and some benches and stuff. I was unable to actually sit on the benches; all I could figure out how to do with them was find out that they are called “benches”, and report them for abuse. Fortunately they weren’t abusing me, so I didn’t have to do that. I would have liked to sit down, though.

There was some amazing lag; at one point even with only like four people around (me, two other newbies asking how to change a shirt, and the nice support person), turning around got suddenly very jerky, and interacting with the appearance menus and things got very slow (not that it was ever fast). The support person said “Yes, we’re always working on the lag”. Don’t know what their underlying server sharding model is; ought to find out.

So that’s my unfair and clueless story of Twinity. I ought to go back and try uploading a photo for my face, or explore further outside the weclome center, find a dance club, maybe have my own “apartment”. But at the moment I don’t see it being a high priority; not seeing great advantages over SL here so far…

Foom foom foom!

Although I’m not all that fond of my government much of the time, I’m pretty fond of the country, as well as loud noises an’ bright colors. Foom foom!

July 4th, 2008, Indolence

July 4th, 2008, Huges Rise Park

Click through to flickr for larger sizes and cetera. These fireworks (actually a perpetual and silent particle-swam, but close enough) are my modification to the very wonderful “partycules” object that I was amazed by in the Help Island sandbox when I was like two days old. Fun times, fun times!

The Tyranny Of Those Who Show Up

At a recent Zero Linden office hours, someone asked of Saijanai Kuhn what body had elected him to be in charge. Never being one to hold back just because a question wasn’t addressed to me, I said that it was because Saijanai had stepped up and volunteered to do things like collect and post chat transcripts, write various Wiki pages, try to coordinate meeting schedules, and stuff like that.

And it occurred to me after I said it just how awful and elitist this sort of thing is! Why should someone be allowed to carry out sometimes difficult and often thankless tasks, just because they’re willing to? What about all those people who aren’t willing or just can’t be bothered; why should they be excluded from what might turn out to be a position of power, or at least one that someone might remember to say “thanks” for once in awhile?

The initial suggestion, that some body might elect people to be in charge, doesn’t solve the problem. Elections are decided, after all, by those people that vote. What about the non-voters? Elections and “democracy” are, at bottom, just ways of hanging onto power by those people that lots of voters like; hard to imagine anything more elitist!

This sort of problem is pervasive in Second Life. The Lindens hold “open” office hours, but are they really open? Of course not! The only people who can speak at these “open” events are the people that bother to show up! And that’s a vanishingly small fraction of the population. Even among those who do show up, only a fraction of those people actually express an opinion. And there is the great fallacy behind all this talk of “openness”: those in power are listening only to those who take the trouble to speak up. How can that be fair?

The AW Groupies group is another example: three people are the “admins” of this “open” group, which means they’re the ones that allow in anyone who asks, only banning (and only in theory, apparently they’ve never done this!) people like porn spammers. And why do they have the privilege of adding the dozens of people who IM them wanting to join, and of maybe someday having to ban a porn-spammer? Because they volunteered! They signed up! What about all those thousands upon thousands of SL residents who didn’t volunteer? Why shouldn’t they be doing this as well?

The problem is everwhere. There are “open” forums where “anyone” can post their opinions about the policies of various organizations and estates in Second Life, but are they really open? No! The only people who can speak in these “open” venues are those who take the trouble to do so. How can we call this “openness”? All of these so-called “open” mechanisms in fact just define an elite, of people who take the trouble to find out that they exist, and then to express their opinion. This elite (which I call the “Self-appointed Volunteer Posse”, or SVP) are the only ones whose opinions count, the only ones who get to provide input!

Even with those surveys that the viewer pops up on the screen at logon time; are they open to all? No! Only those who bother to respond, and who are therefore members of the SVP, will have their voices heard. This is the tyranny of those who show up!

So what is the solution? Dominance by the SVP is clearly elitist. Voting just creates another elite, consisting of the friends and sidekicks of those who bother to vote (SVP again, you see?). The only solution would seem to be a strict rotation: every week, say, a different set of Second Life Residents (and Linden employees) should be put in charge of a different aspect of the world. For that week, only the opinions of that set of people will be heard, and they will be heard whether or not the people in that set care to express them (details are still to be worked out). This is, it seems to me, the only way to get the SVP out of power. And I sure hope someone steps up to implement it soon!

Soiree on the Rocks

Rock Soiree

Random happenings and IMs last night led to an impromptu soiree in the park at Hughes Rise, which eventually moved up to the Floating Rocks build above it. And for reasons too complex to explain we were mostly girls in lingerie. :)

It was one of those great times when you gather some friends who don’t already know each other, and they all get along fabulously.

We sat around talking about nothing and playing with the toys (a hangman, a flying vehicle rezzer, meditation and sitting and swooning poseballs, etc), getting to know each other. I’m sure at least a few new friendings resulted.

Yay us! And apologies to anyone who was around but didn’t get a TP; at seven or so folks we sort of ran out of places to sit, and I didn’t make any concerted effort to invite folks; it was all just random happening by.

I won’t identify the lovely ladies above, just in case they don’t want to be named as sitting around on rocks in their dainties. :) But they should feel free to identify themselves in comments if they feel moved to.

Click through to the flickr page for, well, another copy of exactly the same words above. Hee hee!

Dancing at the Odd Ball

RL things (both errands and fun) kept me out of SL almost entirely yesterday, but I did dive in just before bed to chill out a bit, and TPd over to Tuna Oddfellow’s Odd Ball, which takes place in this wild complex of nested megaprims with rotating and flickering textures and sometimes particles. Quite hypnotic!

At Tuna Oddfellow's Odd Ball

(Click through to more-impressive large size image on flickr.)

I get to the Odd Ball by clicking on the landmark in these notecards that show up in my SL inbox periodically for reasons that I forget. If you want to come too, googling on “tuna oddfellow” or exploring further from this old event notice are likely to be helpful…

Against “blingtard”

So can we not say “blingtard” anymore? I’ve come across it in a couple of different weblogs or feeds by people that I generally like and respect lately, and it sort of made me wince. And since I have a weblog now and am required by Federal Law to post my every little thought and feeling, I thought I should mention why I wince. Two reasons.

First, like Prokofy Neva’s “fucktard”, it’s a play on “retard”, the nasty elementary-school name for people with developmental retardation of one kind or another. Some of the nicest folks you could hope to meet have some sort of retardation, and using the condition as an insult is unnecessarily nasty to them, and most likely an inaccurate characterization of the person being described. (And yeah, this is probably taken more or less verbatim from the lecture I got from Mom when I was six and she heard me call someone a “retart” in the back yard; that’s how the world works.)

And second, people who use tons and tons of bling don’t really deserve to be insulted or to have their intelligence impugned anyway. I mean sure it isn’t my fashion sense, and blingy people are probably not members of my immediate ingroup, but that’s not a good reason to insult them. Bling itself is relatively harmless; it causes negligible server-side lag, and most likely less total lag than the 200-prim dress and 300-prim hair that the next person over is getting away with uninsulted. And it’s easy to avoid if you don’t like it; use control-alt-shift-equals to turn off all particles (including bling), or use Preferences to turn down your maximum particle count. Sure neither of those is a good solution if the problem is happening at a particle-art show, but again there are circumstances when the person wearing hundreds of prims would similarly be inappropriate, and again we don’t call that person names.

Not that I’m advocating ignoring blingstorms altogether; by no means! “omg my eyes my eyes!” can be entirely appropriate; it’s just “what a blingtard” that I’m suggesting is overly mean.

So anyway, that’s why I wince. :) End of rant.

Learning to love DRM

$10LIt occurs to me that Linden Labs have done two very interesting and perhaps world-changing things with the SL infrastructure:

Making micropayments work: at the current exchange rates, one Linden Dollar is a bit less than 0.4 US cents (that’s four tenths of a cent, four one-thousandths of a dollar). And people are doing transactions of one or a small number of Lindens all the time, 24/7/52, for a huge variety of goods an’ services, and those Lindens are easily convertible into Real World currency. They’ve been able to do this, and succeed where for instance poor Bitpass failed, because they own the infrastructure on which it happens, and they control the systems that keep track of who has now many Lindens. Which limits the range of things that you can buy directly with Lindens, of course, but still within the (large) field where they work, this is micropayments in the yummiest sense. When I buy (or sell) a T-shirt for $10L, I’m spending all of US$0.04, and yet the amortized overhead of the system that I’m using to do it is so small that a non-zero amount of that actually gets to the creator of the shirt.

Bringing DRM to the people: Until SL, DRM, Digital Rights Management, was this annoying thing that kept certain CDs from playing in certain players, or kept you from playing a European DVD in an American player, or installed Sony Trojan Horses in your computer, or outlawed the general purpose computer, or allowed media companies to extract money from consumers by clinging to an outdated business model that should have withered away. Or it was something that you’d never heard of at all.

Now, though, DRM is what makes it possible for me to make a bit of tip-money by selling my “Light Sweet Crude” T-shirts in a little kiosk in an SL mall somewhere (if I wanted to), for other people to make lunch money by selling virtual paintings that they made by uploading nice images they found on the web and sticking them onto SL prims, for yet other people to make actually noticeable amounts of money by selling hair, or skins, or clothes, or lovely and amazing devices, or gorgeous original photography, or NPIRL artworks, in all of those thousands of stores lovely and ugly that pepper the landscape of SL.

So in addition to Sony, and to those RL artists and performers who got good enough contracts that they actually made some money from sales, there are now some hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, of people who make digital content, and who (thanks to the aforementioned micropayments) make some amount of money selling it. And who, typically, would not want every person who buys one to be able to make unlimited copies of it to give away, or sell to their friends, or drop onto SL from airplanes. And who, therefore, are (whether they know the term or not) are now fans of DRM, and to some extent invested in questions like how DRM gets enforced when residents start to be able to move off of the Second Life Grid to other grids, perhaps carrying objects with them (as is the subject of today’s Zero Linden office hours).

Pretty odd!