Tiering Up

(A Tier In My Beer? Little Tierdrops? Tier-stained? I considered a bunch of tier / tear puns for the title, but none of them made quite the right kind of nonsense.)

Anyway! I decided to give myself a little present and tier up (again) to the quarter-sim (plus 512m2) level. I bought one little plot in the Rise adjacent to some of my land, that I’d had my eye on, and then found that there was no more land for sale in the sim. Natch!

There was significant abandoned land, so I went to the URL in the parcel descriptions, followed the instructions to open a ticket, and after a few days got a very nice reply from Dee Linden saying that she had put a set of abandoned Rise parcels for sale to me for the standard 1L/m2, that should just about max me out.

And they did! Here is the ownership map of Hughes Rise currently (green is me, red is Other, the couple of mysterious dots are some particles or something photobombing):

Tiered up again!

Note how nice and contiguous most of it is, and how I now have land on both sides of Wellington Road in the corner there. Fun!

(Note also that Up is East on that map, because for some reason that is always how I look at the Rise.)

I think I have like another 48m2 before my tier is full; maybe I will donate it to some worthy group (if that small amount wouldn’t be insulting and I can figure out how), or buy a tiny parcel in some totally random place just for grins…

I haven’t done anything with all the new land yet, nor do I have any specific plans, but sitting around looking at how many free prims I have and rubbing my hands together and cackling is nice. :)

Stupid Signs!

Presented without comment…

Stupid Walls!

Just fond amusement. :)

Wandering the Mainland (and the non-death of SL)

Mainland wandering is something I spend a significant amount of time doing, because it is fun. :)

Going through some of the more ancient (but unsorted) stuff in my inventory (also something I spend a significant amount of time doing!), I came across a couple of freebies from a place called The Muffin Shack. I went there some time ago, on some hunt, and I remembered it as a place with lots of smoothly-textured pretty things at very reasonable prices, in a little pastel-wood roadside store on the mainland somewhere.

So just on a whim I put on the Muffin Shack tee shirt from one of the folders, found a Muffin Shack landmark in inventory, and TP’d there.

And I landed in an empty piece of roadside land, up for sale.

Now anyone who spends any time reading SL-related weblogs or Twitter feeds or anything will have heard people (generally comparative oldbies) opining that SL is dying, because of all the people and stores that are leaving and all. And the vanished Muffin Shack seems at first to be evidence for that.

But the rest of this story is, I think, evidence against it.

Being a bit sad that there was no Muffin Shack, I looked up the creator’s profile, and looked at Picks, and found another store in there, called Old Dirty Bastards. That store, as it turns out, exists!

(And not only that, it has a wall with an assortment of old Muffin Shack stuff for free or for sale, which made me smile.)

So the Grid lost a store, but it probably also gained a store. A sign of life rather than death, there.

Then, being on the mainland, I wandered out the door and found myself on Route 1 in Spini, on the West side of the bay in Heterocera. I found a rezzing place, and randomly rezzed my Lemon Burst Scooter (from {{Ripe}}), and drove off down the road in first gear to sightsee.

About one sim later, near the Mormo-Parva border, I was here:

Citizen D, Mormo

That is Citizen D (SLURL), a great little store with robots and Star Guys toys and a variety of Jawa AVs and resale vendors for sale and random fancy and/or amusing stuff at both high and low prices (so that’s my Recommended Shopping Destination of the day!).

In the background is Deeproot Manor, a very atmospheric haunted parcel with a haunted house to explore (don’t miss the mysterious roof), and trees that turn their many eyes to look at you, and ghouls hanging from trees, and all sortsa spooky stuff like that. Also a hatrack that will give you a copy of that nice hat I am wearing (black with feather!), and various surprises for the explorer to be startled by.

(And when you visit Citizen D, don’t miss going outside to Newbie Bob’s Route 1 Mormo Souvenirs, and the Famous Mormo Sign! All very mainland, and I love it.)

And then a little further down the road in Parva, random general beauty:

Homlett Estates, Parva

That’s “Homlett Estates”, but as I’m not quite sure if it’s actually a place of public accommodation, I won’t give the direct SLURL. (Although there are greeters that tell you that they have a public rezzing room.) I just thought it was sort of gorgeous. :)

My explorations stopped there for today because I wanted to go listen to the live music at Wharf Rat Blues.

Which might also be considered evidence against the whole “SL is dying” thing. :) I think it’s just that oldbies in particular get used to a certain set of things existing, and as change happens and some of those things stop existing, and they are maybe too set in their ways to go out and look for new things, it looks like the set of things that exist is getting smaller. But actually it’s just changing. SL may have more or less plateaued in population lately, but it doesn’t seem to be shrinking in any significant way.

There’s lots of stuff out there! Scooter down the nearest mainland road, and see what springs up. Or go listen to some Jazz… :)

Welcome to Brown, 2003!

Some discussion somewhere on some weblog led me to go exploring off to Brown. As reflected in Lalo Telling’s great SL History postings, Brown is one of the “Color Sims”; not the very first sims created in the Grid, but still some of the oldest.

There are all sorts of interesting and touching and nostalgic sorts of things to be seen on Brown, giving insight of various kinds to the thoughts of the early Lindens and Residents about how the world might go, and how things have changed, and not changed, since then.

There are all these little pedestals with spinning hands scattered about, and touching one gets you this notecard from 2003, that’s worth posting in its entirety.


Welcome to Brown! Brown is a controlled building community. A small suburban area, Brown is the perfect place to build your home if you’re looking for a nice, quiet region without the stores and looming towers you might find building elsewhere.

Here are some helpful guidelines to help maintain Brown:

You can own as much land as you want, but your build in Brown MUST be a conventional residence that might be seen in a suburb. This means that stores, dance clubs, sheep farms, and any other non-house builds are not permitted within Brown.

Builders are no longer limited to using the Mini-House-in-a-Box. But it’s available at the supply stores located around the perimeter of this region.

**Note: the following zoning regulations will be enforced:
* No terraforming. The land stays the way it is.
* No buildings taller than 15 meters. All buildings must be attached to the ground.
* You must build within your own property lines.
* No objects for sale, except within the stalls in the center of the region.
* No signs permitted.
* Noisy or flashing textures, particles, excessive and/or looping sounds, or any script that puts unnecessary strain on the region will be removed.

This region is located within a PG-Rated territory. All applicable rules, laws and community standards apply.

***Open Air Market***

This area in the middle of the region has been set up for people to sell or trade goods. The following rules apply.

* Only one 8 x 13 parcel per resident per sim.
* You can sell anything within the PG guidelines but it must be displayed within the stall.
* You can buy more land in the sim to support more objects in the market.
* Don’t delete the stall walls.

For some reason I especially love “Builders are no longer limited to using the Mini-House-in-a-Box”.

How far we’ve come! :)

Explorers Information Centres

A(nother) wonderful random mainland find, while wandering idly around the Great Wall and environs. (Click through to flickr for higher-res versions.)

Explorers' Information!

A nicely-built shack right by the railroad tracks, and inside…

Explorers' Information, interior

A bunch of maps, which give out copies of themselves, and other things useful to explorers in general, and mainland explorers in particular.

I haven’t looked at all the things it gave me yet, but this is apparently just one of a number of Explorers Information Centres (or, I can’t help writing, Explorers’ Information Centers) set on some of the various continents. This one (at least) is the creation of Yevad Doobie, someone I’ve never met but now hope someday to. (He has a store near this Centre that sells various offroad vehicles and things; a related commercial website is GreenLaners dot com, and one about mainland routes in general is protected-routes dot com. Clearly a fellow mainland lover!)

As may or may not be obvious from the snapshot, the maps indicate the major named roads, and various un-named ones, as well as the names of the continents, the positions of Explorers Information Centres, SLRR (Second Life Rail Road) routes, and other things of interest.

All of the above are definitely worth a visit if you already love the mainland, think you might, or are convinced that you don’t but are willing to be enlightened. :)

Continent Detector

The continental structure of the Grid is so cool, and so many people have no idea.

Locator: Studying the Map

What can we do to help Raise Awareness?

Of course! We can write a script!

Locator: Hughes Rise

The script, stylishly installed in a subtly-glowing purple cube over my head, informs me that Hughes Rise is in Jeogeot. Which it is!

Locator: Zindra

And my place in Zindra is… in Zindra! (Which you can also tell because of the Racy Pictures in the background.)

Locator: Pteron

And Pteron (like many many other estate islands) is in the Western Ocean (so named by me, in the script).

Another blow struck for Geographical Awareness! :)

Close to the Edge…

A friend TPd me somewhere the other day to show me a house she was building, and although I could tell we were on the mainland, the map was being kinda slow and I couldn’t figure out which continent we were on (without being rude and ignoring her to scroll around on the map alot).

(See my post the other month with the map of the continents.)

So I decided to write a script that will tell me, with some plausible accuracy, which continent I’m on at any given time. I’ll probably post it to the wiki or something when it’s done.

So far I have Jeogeot and Sansara and Heterocera and Bay City (okay, Bay City isn’t exactly a continent; close enough!) and Satori and Nautilus and Corsica in it, and I was looking at the map to see what to add next…


… when I thought to myself “Is Gaeta I really sort of sliced in half like that?”.

So I went to look…


Wild, it is; what a sharp edge to the world! I wonder what it looks like from the other side…


Good heavens, the world is hollow!!

Learn something new every day…

Over Land and Sea with the City Sanitation Department

One of the (numerous) clever ideas that I’ve had that were then stolen by telepaths with time-machines and implemented before I got around to it (and often even before I had the idea!), is to make some scripted automatic vehicles that would drive around on the Linden roads, cleverly detecting turns and intersections and stuff, and roaming around autonomously offering people rides and generally being useful and clever.

This is hard, because of sim crossings and script limitations and the wonkiness of physics and stuff, but AnnMarie Otoole (who is probably also AnnMarie Oleander, but who is not Ann Otoole) has figured it out, and her vehicles of various kinds can be found all around the Linden road system.

I hopped onto one of them, a City Sanitation Department truck, today; it was fun!

I got on as the truck was passing my Darkmere plot in Clearwing (on land!), but it passed quickly through a couple of sims and then rather surprisingly headed out onto the water…

Over land and sea with the City Sanitation Department

AnnMarie’s vehicles are generous, in that they offer you copies of themselves for free (and, for 100L more, the script that powers them). They are very clever about getting themselves out of jams, and even dealing with collisions…


That’s an AnnMarie farm truck that my garbage truck is having an altercation with there.

My truck drove in a wide arc around the inside of the outer ring of the Heterocera Atoll; being very old land, and right on the water, it’s mostly a pretty classy neighborhood…

Ritzy Neighborhood

… but even ritzy folk need to have their trashed picked up I guess.

I enjoyed the ride, but eventually the smell gets to one; I popped off of the truck and onto land, and found myself by a sort of thatched inn called the Traveler’s Rest.

Traveller's Rest

It’s good to sit and get warm by the fire.

Warming myself by the fire

I do love the mainland… :)

Serendipity and Route 7

The other day I was gazing idly at the map I have in the Park, and I read the little note next to the “Gaeta I” continent, about how Gaeta is planned as a group of five linked continents sharing variants of the name Gaeta, and realizing that I’d never explored anything at all to do with that note, I opened the map and typed “gaeta” into the region search box.

Regions and continents are of course different things, and while no obvious continents showed up in the results, there was a region called “Gaeta Reef”, which was good enough for me, so (flying first, since the region seemed entirely water and I was not in swimwear at the time) I teleported over.

The region was indeed a lovely glimmering expanse of ocean. I didn’t dive down to see if there were interesting reefs to explore, but instead flew until I found a rezzing area (I still don’t really understand why Linden Protected Land like Gaeta Reef doesn’t allow rezzing with like a one-minute timeout; probably there is some form of griefing that this would enable that I’m just not familiar with), rezzed the faithful Trudeau Twenty (sorry, Ari, I still prefer it to the gunboat), and sailed happily and aimlessly about for awhile, which I hadn’t done in all too long, eventually fetching up on shore near an interesting-looking road in the quaintly-named “Phasic Foo” region.

The road turned out to be Linden Route 7, along the southern coast of what is apparently the “Gaeta V” continent (at least according to the map in the Park). I got out a lovely motorbike that really deserves a posting or two of its own, and posed scenically at the official Road Ends point.

Road Ends

If you look at the map of that part of the coastline, it’s clear that there’s something that continues beyond that pile of rocks and “Road Ends” sign.

Turns out that it’s a pleasantly-disheveled boardwalk:

Beyond Road Ends

(If you look closely at that picture, or click through to flickr and look at the larger one, you can just see the pile of rocks and the sign in the distance.)

Continuing in that direction, there is a dangerous area:

Beyond Road Ends: Killer Sharks

and not far beyond it a somewhat more definitive end to Route 7:

Beyond Road Ends: the boardwalk ends

Although one could always rez a boat. Or an airplane. Or a gravsled…

(The motorcycle behind me isn’t mine; I walked this part. Oddly enough, this particular stretch of the Linden right-of-way is not only rez-enabled, but appears to have no autoreturn. So potentially an interesting place to examine for random litter now and then.)

Back on the motorbike, heading east-northeast on the officially-existing part of Route 7, I came to a noteworthy local attraction:

Blue Moon Burlesque

The Blue Moon Burlesque Club. A well-thought out build and premise; to quote from the group info of its Patron Group (which I have not yet found a slot for in my groups-list grrrr):

Once a splendid art deco seaside establishment – The Blue Moon Burlesque Theatre has slid into a state of disrepair and misuse. Frequented by drunks, jazz musicians and refugees from Hemingway and Greene novels – The Blue Moon is home to ‘good time girls’ who entertain the masses with sizzling Dance and Burlesque shows. This is a place of fantasy and slow rhythms, soft bluesy jazz and hot sultry nights…

And when I looked to the Moon it turned to gold.

A friendly and atmospheric and really quite respectable place; being on mature land the ladies are protected by common standards of decency, but (as I found out yesterday afternoon at one of their regular and well-attended shows) this does not prevent them from putting on diverting and aesthetically pleasing performances, to an appreciative audience.

(Oh, and look! They have a website.)

A bit beyond the Blue Moon are various commercial establishments, including a large and neatly-landscaped place that sells houses and so on. But (as usually happens when I start exploring) I got distracted by something else before I got much further, and flitted off elsewhere.

But I have a landmark! :) And I expect to wander aimlessly along Route 7 again in the not too distant future. (Mainland ftw!)

Free Hobbit Holes!

Hobbit Holes!I mean, Linden Homes! :)

In a recent posting to the official Second Life “blog”, the Lab has announced that they will soon be beta-testing a program in which Premium members can get a free plot of land, with a pre-installed Hobbit hole house on it, to live on. For free.

These Linden Homes will be limited in various ways:

Therefore these parcels will be unlike normal land in that they will be restricted in various ways; the house cannot be removed and the parcels cannot be sold, joined, terraformed or divided. Events and classifieds cannot be created for these parcels; only Premium Members can own them, and only one per account.

If you can’t remove the house, I imagine you also won’t be able to modify it so that it consists of a single invisible phantom prim buried a meter underground. :)

My initial visceral reaction to this was sheesh here we go again with the Lindens sort of dipping down and futzing around with the world and the economy.

Sort of like having Athena Herself open a free pizza-place on the corner. Okay, maybe she only offers three toppings, and no Sicilian crusts, but I’m not sure how happy I’d be about it if I had a pizza joint in the same town. Or, alternately, if I was a big fan of Sicilian pizza!

I’ve read Jacek Antonelli on the subject, and she is hopeful that this will turn out to be a good thing even for the people that might look on it as wildly uneven competition.

I’ve read most of Second Thoughts on the subject (I admit I didn’t read the entire long chat transcript); Prokofy Neva thinks this is all part of the Lindens’ systematically destroying the mainland.

Whether or not the Hobbit Holes program succeeds in its stated aims, my larger impression is that, as I’ve noted before, the Lindens still think of Second Life as a thing of theirs, that they can of course do whatever they want with. They are not Deistic creators, setting the world spinning and then keeping their hands off; they are hands-on deities, reaching down and twiddling in ways both small and very large, not worrying all that much about what mortals might be swept asides in the process.

I have the feeling that the internal economy is in some sense not real to them; they probably know it exists, but it doesn’t figure at all largely in their calculations. They like being able to show big numbers in monthly press releases, but on the other hand they regularly do things that have large and disparate impacts on various sectors of the economy (freebie policies on xstreet, the Zindra exile, now the Hobbit Holes), and the only sign that they’re aware of this is typically some vague reassuring noises in the forums and the weblog.

And as I’ve probably also said before, this is entirely within their rights. It’s just a continuing sign that the way the Lab as a whole views the world, as a thing that they are doing, and that we are allowed to play in, and that they will periodically fiddle with in ways they think we will overall like, is quite different from the way that I would like to view the world, as a place where the Lab creates only the basic ‘physics’, and the Resis then create an actual functioning world on top of it. To me it is much less fun and interesting to see what a few dozen people in a California company would do with a world than it would be to see what thousands of random people from all around the world would do.

I’d like to be able to say that the world is gradually moving from the former model to the latter, but I don’t see it. It’s all too easy to tell a story in which things move the other way: in order to attract some possibly-imaginary set of neophobic corporate and mass-market users, the Lab wants more control, not less, over the way the world develops. And so over time the doings and the imaginations of the Residents become less and less important.

I hope that’s not the story we end up telling, ’cause I like Second Life, and I would hate to see it all cleaned up and sterile and dull and controlled. I hope that either the Lab decides that reducing Resident influence on the world is in fact not the best way to grow the business (and I think that it isn’t, myself), or we get some sort of compromise, where (sigh) parts of the Grid are all sterile and clean, and parts are allowed to remain as wild and wooly and unpredictable as (well) our imaginations…

Update: oh, and here is Ordinal, who I intended to quote from but forgot:

It is not First Land though. Those days are behind us. Now, residents are Content Creators or Content Consumers, and the assumption is that they are Content Consumers from Day One and will not move from that position.

Exactly. And exactly what I fear for the future of SL.

Hey you Lindens, get offa my lawn!

On the snazzy black-background Flash-driven page that Second Life dot com shows if you aren’t logged in, it says

Second Life is an online, 3D virtual world imagined and created by its Residents.

On the masthead of the pages that Second Life dot com shows to logged-in Residents, it says more succinctly

Your World. Your Imagination.

I like both of these phrases quite a bit. I like the idea that SL is whatever the Residents make it, and that Linden Lab qua Linden Lab confines itself to making sure that the laws of physics work, making sure that the land exists, and that the most basic rules of civilized behavior (i.e. no griefing) are enforced.

If the Lab wants to have some land where they do cool stuff, and wants to like organize a Winter Festival or something now and then, too, that’s okay, although I’d rather they did it as individual Residents, rather than as The Lindens; it’s fairer that way.

It’s like how the FSM created the RL universe for us, and then mostly stepped back to let us play with it. He doesn’t reach down with His Noodly Appendage now and then to put on a barbecue or a remake of Casablanca or anything. He keeps, if you will, a clean separation between the tasks of physics and culture.

There seems to be a real tension at the Lab between letting the Residents shape the world, “Your World, Your Imagination” style, and intervening to shape and mold the world the way that the Lab would like it to be. The most obvious example of that is the Great Adult Exile, but it’s relatively easy to argue that they were forced into that by RL laws about exposing people who might be children to taboo images and stuff. More subtly, though, the Lab does things like Bay City and Nautilus, parts of the mainland where rather than just putting out land for sale and letting Residents build stuff, they do big builds of their own, with Themes, and Texture Sets, and Back Story, and all like that. Whatever one thinks of the particular builds, it’s undeniable that, having been built by The Gods Themselves, they have certain advantages, economic and psychological, over anything that a mere Resident might build.

I posted a comment on this SL weblog entry about the Hau Koda Municipal Airport, with this sort of concern in mind:

This looks like a really pretty build, and I know lots of hard work and great intentions have gone into it. And I hate to be an ol’ grump but…

Why is the Lab making large elaborate builds, again? I mean okay I can understand roads, a bit, because in order to be useful they have to cut across large areas and it would be hard for a private Resident to acquire all that land from the folks in the path of the road. But why an airport? It being Our World Our Imagination an’ all, why not sell that land to a Resident or a Group and let them build whatever the imagination suggests? Maybe an airport, maybe a hockey rink, maybe a carnival-grounds, whatever.

Not that I don’t think y’all at the Lab should have the fun of building. But why do it in an official capacity? Buy the land by the usual processes and build stuff on it that way! I dunno if it’s just me, but otherwise I sort of feel like us Resies are just sort of sitting around going “ooh” and “ahh” at what the Lindens and Moles are building. And somehow that doesn’t feel all that SL to me.

Again, nothing against this particular airport or the good times that ppl are having at it. But just as a matter of general principles…

And I got an answer from M Linden himself:

Well, Dale, several reasons; some more specific to this project than others.

— build theming: we think creating a theme for urban areas is Very Good. Since the parcelling, parks, and other Linden-owned land is part of the theme, we try to seed the entire area with in-theme examples.

— public event sites: helps build community without a specific Resident having to support the cost. We have various auditoriums, meeting spaces, etc. spread around the world. Some (like the Linden Memorial Zone) are created to ensure long-term stability and freedom from the perception of bias – not that Lindens can’t be biased, but at least we have to answer for it in the forums, office hours, etc.

— hub: once the load on the infohubs is balanced a bit more, we’re gonna turn on the hub settings for this region. Even when hubs are nicely balanced, it’s now thought best to avoid having Resident-owned parcels in the same Region (to avoid the “I can’t get into my own land” problem).

— land buying: the DPW (at least) tries to avoid buying land (or other content), since our sources of Linden dollars are pretty much infinite. We’ve sometimes bought small parcels, at market rates or lower, to fill out “broken” projects (like missing pieces of roads); and we buy some stuff for personal use (avatars, props, etc.). But it’s hard to stop “bidding higher” when you have unlimited funds. And, heh, how do you know the DPW didn’t buy the Region; “Hey, [Region-creating Linden], we’ll buy you lunch for a Region!” (joke!)

In the case of Hau Koda, we knew that some sort of Linden content needed to be placed there. I chose “period airport”.

I can sort of understand the “public event sites” one, sort of; I could make a case that (like roads) big event sites are a Public Good that no one Resident or Resident Group would be incented to build, and that it makes sense to build them with tax money (so to speak). The “hub” one I don’t really understand at all: all of the infohubs that I know of are in regions that also have Resident-owned parcels (unless I’m just really confused); maybe this is some new policy?

But the first and last ones are the ones that worry me. “We think that it’s good to have themes in urban areas, so we’re gonna do builds”. Well, why? Isn’t that something that the Residents should be doing? “We knew that some Linden content needed to be placed there.” Again, why?

When the people that control the laws of physics and the land supply and so on also get to choose the aesthetic theme of various areas, that seems to me to unfairly advantage those Residents with similar tastes, at the expense of everyone else. Is Second Life really “Your World, Your Imagination”? Or is it “Our World, Our Imagination, You Allowed To Participate If You Follow The Theme”?

The latter is certainly the case in many other virtual worlds. Twinity is always sending me these notes about exciting new events and buildings and stuff that they, the Twinity gods, are putting on, and what RL city they’ve decided to model next. Vside (last time I looked anyway), was entirely designed and built by the owners, not the residents. Once in a great while I see someone trying to have a Player-run event (a sermon, a beerfest) in WoW, but they’re mostly ignored and often derided, and all of the buildings and official events and holidays and so on are written by Blizzard.

But, for reasons that I thought I’d be better able to articulate when I started typing this entry, I want Second Life to be different. I want it to be a place that grows organically from the individual activities of the Residents, and voluntary groups of Residents. The place that’s most obviously and chaotically like this is the mainland (which, as you may recall, I adore); but private estates are that way also, in that each one represents a consensus of some sort among the estate owner and those people who choose to live there. Except for having put down the dosh for an island, the private estate owners are just Residents like everyone else; they aren’t the people who run the underpinnings of the world, or control the laws of physics.

Prokofy Neva recently posted two entries that brought my mind back to this worrying tension (while I have my own problems with Prokofy, at least the first of these postings is quite cogent). It seems, he’s discovered, that the Lab has a closed email list in which the Lindens are talking with some of the major Estate owners about what SL should be like. My initial reaction to this is that it’s really none of the Lab’s business what SL is like (Our imagination, guys!), and that when caught talking about it on a mailing list with certain selected Residents, the response “oh, sorry, that mailing list was supposed to be closed” is not real real comforting.

The feeling that I get from the response that M Linden wrote to my comment, and the responses that Prokofy got from Jack Linden, and quite a few of the statements by Blondin Linden and others during the Zindra discussions, are that the Lindens aren’t even aware of any tension between their views on all this and the views of at least some of the Residents. To them, I think, it’s pretty obvious that they own the world, they will be making various decisions about how it works and how it is themed and organized and managed, they will decide who to partner with in doing all this, and the end result will be a great thing for everyone, with lots of opportunities for individual Residents and Resident groups to express themselves and build stuff that they’re inspired to build. That this would seem creepy and paternalistic to lots of Residents doesn’t seem to have even occurred to them; after all, why would any Residents be all distrustful and ungrateful like that? The Lindens created the world and continue to run it in a way that lets us do various cool things. We should be happy, not moaning all the time!

One phrase from Jack’s note to Prokofy really drove this home to me. Jack is talking about the Lab looking for ways to “add value to the Mainland” (a phrase that already makes me very nervous), and he writes:

The last part is in finding ways for the community to partner with us. As you know we’ve had mixed results there, but I still feel there is a lot of value in doing that whenever we can.

Yowch. It’s hard to read this as saying anything but “we’ve tried letting Residents do stuff on the mainland, and while we don’t really like how it’s turned out, I feel that we should look for ways to continue allowing Residents to do stuff, maybe, if we can, where it doesn’t conflict with our more important goals of making everything look nice.”

And that’s just scary!

I don’t feel that the mainland, or even Second Life in general, should grow and develop through partnerships between the Lab and whoever the Lab feels like partnering with. I think it should grow and develop through the actions of the Residents. I don’t think that’s an unusual opinion :) but I also don’t think that the Lindens are really aware of it, or even understand the difference. And I think that’s too bad. I would also love to be proven wrong.

Our World. Our imagination. Remember!

Update: Related posting by Ciaran Laval.

Update 2: In the original version of this post, I wrote that “Even in Metaplace where (some / most / many / all?) of the places outside of the central hub are user-created, the decision about which worlds to link to directly from the hub is made (afaik) by the Metaplace owners, and that gives them a tremendous amount of control over what the place as a whole feels like as you explore.” Raph of Metaplace very kindly corrected me in the comments, pointing out that while they do have some rotating Featured Worlds linked from Central (sort of like SL’s Showcase), most of the links out from Central are rented by users for Metaplace coins, and so quite user-controlled. Good for them!

Utopia is not a lie

In a recent weblog posting, Prad Prathivi bemoans the condition of the mainland, and calls for more control, saying that (and I’m probably distorting his thesis here) the more or less uncontrolled mainland is so ugly that it proves that when people aren’t controlled enough, they make icky stuff, and so “utopia is a lie”.

This posting (and some of the comments on it) came closer to enraging me than anything I’ve read in a Second Life related weblog posting in quite awhile. :) I may be reading more into it than was intended, but it seem so typical of the whole “freedom is bad because people use it to do stuff I don’t like” thought that it pushed some of my buttons really hard. I wrote a long and probably insufficiently thought out comment, which I’ll reproduce (with the typos fixed) below.

It occurs to me, also, that all of this is strongly related to the thinking in Nozick’s “Anarchy, State, and Utopia”, a book that I’ve always loved (and ought to read again sometime). In that book, Nozick starts from basic philosophical premises, derives a description of the ideal society, and finds that it’s basically anarchy (i.e. everyone can do what they like, including starting non-anarchical societies (like private estates!) within it), with just a few qualifications that it would be very hard to implement in real life: the most important one is the ability to move elsewhere if you don’t like the one that you’re in (including, as I recall, being able to move elsewhere in time to avoid that knife that’s about to sink into your back).

Nozick’s utopia is, sadly, not feasible in RL at our current levels of technology (and Nozick himself backed away from it in a sense in later works, writing about more statists and more practical arrangements of society); but it describes SL almost exactly. People can do what they like, but you can always TP away. If you want to start your own society, go right ahead: buy a private island or a big chunk of mainland, alone or with your buddies, and impose whatever rules you like there. But if someone else, somewhere else on the grid, is doing stuff you wish they wouldn’t, tough luck!

And that’s Utopia for me. :)

Anyway, here’s what I wrote on Prad’s posting. Comments and feedback most welcome.

So let’s see. There are vast areas of SL, the island estates, where there are covenants in place, where parcel owners can build only within the covenant imposed by the estate owner, where things can be just as controlled as people want. There are lots of different islands with lots of different covenants, and people can choose from a wide variety of degrees and types of control.

And then there’s an area, the mainland, where the only covenant is the ToS, and people can do whatever they want within the ToS. Everyone who buys or rents mainland knows this in advance, and presumably buys or rents mainland because that idea suits them.

From this we conclude that mainland is awful and broken and needs to be controlled! It is ugly (i.e. it doesn’t fit my particular taste)! It has things on it that I personally don’t like! People build things that I would rather they would not build! Oh no! It must be cleaned up (i.e. made to fit my personal taste better)! It must have a government! It must be maintained!

Pheh. I’m going to get a bit mean and sarcastic here, because you’re attacking something that I value highly. Apologies in advance. :)

I love the mainland for its anarchy, its unpredictability, its freedom. Most of the land that I own is mainland. My main holding is the park near the center of Hughes Rise (stop by sometime!). Yeah, I’ve had big ugly stores move in next door, and all manner of wannabe clubs, and a “police station”, and some lots with really ugly FOR SALE signs, and all of them amused me. It’s mainland, ffs! That’s how it works! If you want nice clean suburban yards where you get a fine for letting your grass grow too long, go buy estate land.

It really bugs me that people can’t stand the idea of having *any* part of the grid be free and open to anything within-ToS. Does every square meter of the grid have to be under the control of some finger-wagging controlling body? Is anarchy really all that terrifying and unbearable? It’s not like people are really in physical danger in the seedy areas. It’s not like someone’s going to trash your car if you leave it parked on the mainland (at worst it’ll be returned to your inventory).

For me utopia is a place where people can do whatever they want, with reasonable and minimal limits to prevent violating the rights of others (i.e. the ToS). Yes, this results in anarchy, in ugliness and in beauty, in chaos and unpredictability, and creativity and squalor, in stuff I love and stuff I don’t. That’s what’s wonderful about it! Managing it, controlling it, cleaning it up, would ruin it. Yes, the mainland is Utopia, and it’s not a lie at all! It’s just something that seems to enrage and/or frighten some people, for reasons I really don’t understand.

“Yet Mainland needs a good clean up – I want to see Mature content moved away”; why do you think that your wants should be the law? “but I don’t see that happening at all.” And a good thing, too. :)

end rant…