How long, and how rich?

A picture of my weblog, for my weblog
So the first question in the Big Bad Blogger Challenge is: “How long have you been a blogger? How has it enriched your life?”.

For some reason I shudder at the words “blog” and “blogger”. :) But I’ve been writing a weblog since October 1999 (woot!), or perhaps since August 1999 (depending on how you count the rather weblog-like “news” page on my personal domain). On September 17th, 1999, I presciently wrote:

I think everyone in the world should be forced to write a paragraph a day of thoughts, events, rants, or whatever, and to put it up on the Web for everyone to read. Of course that would imply universal literacy and computer access, but that’s OK! Anyone who refused to post their daily paragraph could like have their livers eaten by eagles or something.

thus personally kicking off the entire Personal Publishing Revolution single-handed.

On the other hand, I started weblogging here on June 20th, 2008.

Hey, so I’m coming up on my tenth year of weblogging in general, and my first year of SL weblogging. What fun!

How has it enriched my life?

I’ve always loved writing, loved speaking in the textual voice; and similarly (I freely admit) loved reading my own words, listening to my own voice. In general I don’t speak in voice-voice nearly as much or as comfortably; I’m not that fond of the sound of my voice, and I speak kinda fast (not to mention I say weird things) so people often don’t hear and/or don’t understand what I’ve just said in voice. In print, they will at least see the right words, and they can reread them a few times if they seemed too nonsensical the first time. Not that that always helped. :)

Writing stuff in general has wildly enriched my life, I’d say, in ways and reasons that I can’t lay out in obvious milestones or promotions or new family members or titles of nobility. I’ve made friends, of that mysterious delicious textual sort of friend that one makes through letters, through words, through text. I’ve recorded bits of my life and later gone back and read them again, to great advantage in memory and placidity and general happiness. I’ve had nice validating comments from various people (you read what I wrote! you considered it significant enough to react to! maybe you even liked it!). And in general I think writing to the world, and hearing back from interesting parts of the world (I have the best readers) has kept me sane (more or less) and enriched my life marvelously.

Also I get to post pictures of myself! :)

Teh Rules!

Bar Rules

Ladies and Gentlemen, treasured Readers, the days of lawlessness here on the weblog are finally at an end! The Council of Weblog Aldermen is proud to present:

Teh Rules

Lemme know if they are annoying. :) They are mostly for fun, but it occurred to me that I might someday want to enforce some sort of rule here, and I thought it’d be sociable to have written them down first, to sort of set expectations…

What does your SL look like?

Contributing to a meme I first saw on HeadBurro Antfarm’s weblog, here’s a screenshot of what my SL (at least sometimes) looks like:

What my SL looks like

(Also availlable in larger size.)

Answering the questions that seem to go with the meme:

1. Name: I always have display of nametags and grouptags turned on. Mostly because I always want to be able to see who’s who and what amusing tag they’re wearing (it’s a great icebreaker), but also just because I seldom remember that it can be turned off, or how.

2. Group tags: I usually have some group tag or other showing, and this only leads to embarrassment once in awhile.

3. Chat bubbles: I never turn on chat bubbles, I even tend to forget they exist. Do other people use them? Are they useful?

4. Mini map: On when exploring, or even just moving around, off otherwise. Used extensively for dot-chasing.

5. Camera/Movement Controls: Never have either of these on; I am pretty good with the mouse-based camera and the arrow keys for moving around. And for really tricky navigational situations I can sit on my hoverdisc and use “teleport to camera position”. :)

6. HUDs: I hardly ever wear any HUDs at all. The only exceptions are my swimmer (which hasn’t worked since the latest Havoc update and I really need to upgrade) and Girl Dale’s special elegant-lady AO (which I use only at really grand affairs). Oh, and the occasional trick-skating controller or something. My equivalent of MystiTool / MultiGadget’s AV radar (a HUD thing that shows you who is around) is my magic bracelet’s radar, which is a command-line thing (i.e. I say something in chat on a particular channel, and it answers me via chat-to-owner).

7. Text colours: Pretty much the defaults, although I’m unhappy enough with the current default of “unreadably dark blue” for stuff that I say in chat that I might actually change it.

8. Selection Beam: On, and either the default color or whatever I last whimsically changed it to. :)

9. Hovertips: Always on, on all objects. (But not on land, for some reason.)

10. UI windows: I have the IM window open at the top most of the time, because I seem to be in four or five (or seven or ten) personal or group IMs most of the time. I will occasionally close it, but not usually for long. I have the Local Chat window open on the lower left if there’s local chat going on that I might want to scroll back in. And I have inventory open in the lower right if I’m, um, doing things with inventory. Other stuff gets opened temporarily more or less in the middle. Ah, and the edit box replaces the local chat window when I’m building or inspecting.

11. Search area: What search area?.

12. UI Size: 1.0, I think? And running in a window. I don’t even really know what the “UI Size” control does.

13. Bandwidth and Cache: Bandwidth at 500, I think, and cache at 500MB.

14. Graphics: These vary around alot; I sometimes turn them way down to (try to) reduce lag, or way up to see things pretty. I used to turn off Avatar Imposters, but now I’ve gotten used to the little paperdolls. At friend Bamika’s suggestion I’ve turned Video Memory down to like half of what it was, and that SEEMS (touch wood) to have reduced my really horrible sub-one-fps problems in crowded scenes (yay!).

15. Web links: open in the internal browser, just ’cause why not. I don’t click on web links much anyways.

16. Logging: all chat and IM, and new chats start up with previous log tail showing. The more information the better!

17. Camera constraints: disabled, always.

18. Away: pretty useless, as one always pops out instantly anyway.

19. Busy: I never use it, as (a) I don’t know quite what it does, and (b) I believe that one thing it does is if someone tries to give you something, you don’t get the thing. Hello??

20: Look at recent chatting person: wow, I always forget we have that! That would be a useful feature to use. :)

So in the screen shot, the windows on the sides (local chat and inventory) would often be closed in practice, as would the minimap sometimes, but that’s where they show up when they’re up. And the fact that my camera is somewhere off to the side of the default view is typical; I’m always camming around here and there and around and through.

What does your SL look like?

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…

My probability density

Due to Stuff going on in RL (not bad stuff, just Stuff) over the next few days, I may (or may not, but I’m mentioning it just in case) be less visible in the digital words (RL, Twitter, weblogs, etc) between oh say today and oh say July 1st. Just so y’ know… :)