UGCFTW5!

Well, the news has somehow leaked out that today is my fifth rezday; it’s been five years since I joined Second Life (presumably on 22 November, 2006).

I remember some time back (must have been quite awhile) I was lucky enough to attend a Fifth Rezday Party for Washu Zebrastripe (the inventor of prim hair!), and we were all astounded that anyone could have a Fifth Rezday Party. Of course, as I recall, this was shortly before SL5B, and for a Resident to be older than the world itself is pretty amazing.

I can’t claim that distinction. :) But I do have a last name (or a dot in my name, depending how you look at it), and I remember when the Grid used to go down like every Wednesday (at the very least), and when we had real lag, not these tiny slowdowns that youngsters complain about these days. (We didn’t have none o’ these “sculpties”, either; flexi-prims were new and shiny enough for us!)

I thought I would take a few minutes’ break from the fireworks and parades in my honor and so on to say how great I still find SL, and scribble down my thoughts on some of the reasons why.

It’s very significant, I would say, that I’ve just starting taking a serious look at PvE combat and combat scripting in the last couple of weeks. And similarly that I just started breeding my first breedables in the last few months. Two things, each of which have been around for a long time, each of which are The Big Thing about Second Life to a significant number of people, and yet it’s taken me Five Years to get around to them. And there are still more things waiting for me that I haven’t tried at all yet; probably haven’t even heard of yet.

On the other hand I haven’t played World of Warcraft in weeks (months, maybe); because I’ve done everything that I want to (one 85 DPS, one 85 healer, one 85 tank, all the raiding experience I felt like getting). I may get lured back in for awhile to play a Pandaren, and to get my main toons up to level 90, but then I will probably get bored again.

And dearly as I love Glitch for its humor and quirkiness and art, I haven’t been doing any more recently than poking my head in, tending my little garden, squeezing my chicken and milking my butterfly, maybe gathering a few beans from the nearest bean-trees, and leaving again. There’s a complete encyclopedia of everything there is to do there, and I’ve either done, or decided not to bother doing, just about all of it. I know the devs will be adding stuff, eventually, and then maybe I’ll come back to look at it.

I occasionally get messages from other virtual worlds I’ve tried, like Blue Mars and Twinity and all, about how a new shopping mall has been added, or how they’ve added a new beach where there’s a vehicle you can drive around. And these make me laugh, because they’re so trivial. Can you imagine getting a piece of mail every time someone made a new model of car or motorcycle in SL, or opened up a new shopping mall or public beach? Talk about information overload!

The reason, the only reason that Second Life has been able to hold my interest for five years, is that users can create stuff.

(The people I’ve met there also hold my interest, but that’s interest in the people, which could have been maintained via Skype or email or even (gasp) actual visits, even without SL.)

So this is going to be another post like my original UGC FTW post (three years ago, I see!), only somewhat less organized. :)

User-generated content instantly gives Linden Lab a huge staff of unpayed (and for that matter of paying) content developers, who produce the content that keeps people coming back to the world, and keeps them wanting to live there, and keeps there being brand-new stuff all the time, driven by the Invisible Hand of the Market to cater to users’ wants. User-generated content isn’t just about the creators; in fact it’s not even primarily about the creators. It’s primarily about the people who see or get or buy or otherwise experience the work of the creators, and thereby find the world an interesting and enjoyable place.

(I say it’s “primarily” about the content consumers rather than the content creators because, with a few exceptions, we all consume more content than we create; we all enjoy more stuff that other people make than we make ourselves. I create lots of content that I like and that I hope other people like, but I experience orders of magnitude more content created by others.)

I think this is the key thing that most of the people tossing around the weird little milkshake analogy lately are missing. (The original article, headlined as it is “Why Second Life Failed”, of course seems to me to be coming from some Zone of Deep Cluelessness, since as far as I’m concerned SL is doing just fine thank you.)

All of this “milkshake” thing seems to boil down to saying that you can figure out which products are going to succeed by figuring out what they are for, and then seeing if that is something that people want. (Deep, eh? I wish I could think of deep stuff like that and then write books about it and all.)

I think this is actually wrong and/or stupid in many cases; I would argue that most innovations have been potentially able to do lots of different things, and the reason they succeeded is that their owners were able to figure out pretty quickly which of those things people actually wanted, and bend them in those directions. (In fact even the original milkshake example shows that, if you consider the product to be the store and its services as a whole, rather than just the milkshake line.)

And that’s exactly the right way to think about Second Life. It’s not designed to provide one specific thing; it’s designed to let people create and provide to each other whatever it is they want (within the capabilities of the platform). That general approach can’t lose. The platform has to have good enough affordances for people to actually use it, it has to have good mindshare and stability and so on, it has to be sufficiently funded to survive dry times, and so on; but the general principle is just pure win.

From this point of view, it would be exactly wrong to try to figure out what Second Life is, or should be, designed to do, except for the very high level “to enable people to create and experience stuff that they want to create and experience”. As we (and the Lab) notice some kinds of things that people are using it to create and experience right now, we can definitely make sure that the world is, and stays, good at those things. But that doesn’t mean we can decide that those are The Things, and focus only on those. Enabling User-Generated Content in general, and keeping the world good at that, in general, is in my very strong and pronounced opinion the right way forward. If Linden Lab doesn’t do that, someone else will; and whoever does do it will win.

(And that will eventually mean lots of money, as I’ve observed before.)

So anyway. :) Those are my Fifth Rezday Thoughts on why it is that I’m having a fifth rezday at all, and why and how Second Life has held my interest for all this time, and how it can keep doing that, for the Good of All.

Now, back to the cake!

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Plummeting again!

RezDay4a

“I’m supposed to jump off? Naked?”

“Boy Dale did it last year; now you get to!”

“My joy is indescribable. Naked?”

“It’s the tradition.”

RezDay4b

“Okay, naked, check.”

“Well, um…”

“Hey, no clothing at all!”

(As I’m writing this, I realize that I think I stole this idea from v good friend Michele, who mentioned she’d been thinking about a rezday jump in an alpha.tribe skin; I hope I am not selfishly stealing her thunder. Her rezday was a few day ago; Happy Rezday, Michele!)

“Oh, all right. Now, the umbrella.”

“I’m thinking, parachute.”

“The umbrella is traditional.”

“Ha, I remember he used the umbrella last year, and if he hadn’t been lucky and drifted off of damage-enabled land on the way down, he would have been killed!”

“Which would have meant being teleported about ten meters to the left; not too scary.”

“It’s the principle of the thing. Besides, my Terra e-chute, by Cubey Terra, rocks.”

“But it’s not –”

“Woooooot!”

RezDay4c

“Oh, all right.”

RezDay4d

Falling so fast, my hair and neko ears couldn’t keep up.

Until the ‘chute deployed.

RezDay4e

Wheeeee!

RezDay4f

Drifting gracefully over Hughes Rise.

And into a smooth landing on the Dreamliner over the Park.

RezDay4g

“Hey! Gesture gesture! Thanks for coming by to watch the nude skydiving!”

RezDay4h

That was fun. :)

I don’t have alot profound to say on this rezday; feels like the last one was just last week.

Various things have happened, and started, and stopped, but the important things are the same.

This is the neatest world ever, and I have the bestest friends. :)

Thank you!

Happy Rezday, Ches!

It’s Chestnut Rau’s rezday! Yay!

Here is a picture of her being fetching:
Ches

Ches is one of my favorite SL people. Who I ought to IM out of the blue more often. :)

(No offense to other v good SL friends whose rezdays I haven’t weblogified; I am very random!)

Thoughts on a third-rezday plummet

Height 300 by ceoln, on Flickr

Just me and the sky and a prim

When I first came to Second Life, three years ago last Sunday, I was mostly intrigued by the idea that you could make things there, in this “virtual world” where the laws of physics would be perhaps kinder, and more mutable, than in the real world.

Although we all know that the difficulty of The First Hour Experience is one of the Big Problems with the platform today, I wasn’t a victim of it: I was hooked after about ninety seconds. A whole, and apparently pretty large and complex and random, world to explore, without having to drive anywhere or get dressed or even get out of bed! And (see above) where anyone could just stick out a hand and build random things! Amazing!

For awhile I and/or it was crashing so much (you kids don’t know how easy you’ve got it these days!) that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to stand it, but it and I got used to each other, and I stuck around.

It’s been a fascinating three years. As I say probably far too often, I came for the building and scripting and stuff, but stayed for the people. I still love the building and scripting, but I’m pretty sure that I spend less time on that than I do on talking to friends, dancing in clubs, meeting new people, and generally hanging out.

There is for obscure reasons a tradition in some subcultures of Second Life, that involves leaping naked from the sky, holding an umbrella, on one’s rezday.

How sure are we about this?

How sure are we about this?

So there I am, again ‘way up in the virtual sky, on a slightly more sophisticated virtual sky platform (my floating rocks build, which is still up there over the Hughes Rise park), with my virtual umbrella, pondering the drop.

It really is a significant drop, isn't it?

It really is a significant drop, isn't it?

This would be a good place for Deep and Significant Thoughts about Second Life, virtual worlds, the real world, the nature of consciousness, and so on. If any thoughts like that come to me while I’m typing here, I’ll try to pass them along. :)

Being Dale has, I’m about 100% certain, been a good thing for me. And continues to be. Different people have very different attitudes toward, relationships with, their virtual selves. For me it’s pretty simple: I am Dale Innis. Saying that I identify with my avatar is as much of an understatement (and an overstatement) as saying that I identify with my RL body. (Much more on that thought here.) My Second Life friends are friends of mine, just like my First Life friends are friends of mine. I don’t necessarily know where my SL friends live in RL, or what they do for a living, or whether they are married or have children; but since I can’t remember that sort of fact about my RL friends for more than five minutes either :) that’s not a very large consideration for me. The main difference, really, is that it’s so much easier to visit the SL ones.

Completely naked?

Completely naked?

(Yes, completely naked; don’t complain to me, that’s the tradition.)

I continue to think, as I said all those years ago, that when we eventually look back on these very early days of virtual worlds, we will see it as the beginning of a huge and important change in the ways humans live their lives. Exactly what that change will be, I don’t pretend to know. I used fiction to speculate about it some back in Meaties; I like that story quite a bit (he said modestly), and it’s one possible answer to that question. It might even be something like the right one; time will tell.

It's pretty chilly up here.

It's pretty chilly up here.

Lots of people that I know in SL, and even more people that I know of, have been talking lately about the Good Old Days of Second Life, and how it’s going downhill, and the best parts are over, due to some combination of floods of newcomers and ‘bots, bad media reporting, stupid and/or malicious actions by Linden Lab, drama and trollishness, personal burnout, and whatever else.

I do sympathize with the feelings, and I am often puzzled by how completely clueless Linden Lab seems to be about communicating at least with the more engaged and articulate and clued segments of their customer base. I continue to attribute it to organizational randomness rather than to any self-destructive attempt to drive customers away, or even a desire to replace unruly individual customers with large wealthy better-behaved corporate ones (I think the Lindens would like to have both, and are just not all that good at communicating with the former).

And for myself, I’m still having a great time. :) I have my first real store-like things, I’ve been exploring lovely places and having adventures with friends, actually enjoying official organized events, and (of course, still, always) building random odd things (and things that build random odd things).

There have certainly been days and nights when I didn’t feel like going inworld; so I didn’t! But in general when the day is done and I have no more chores, and I can settle down into a comfy chair or bed with my laptop (yay, laptop!) on my lap, and fire up a viewer and find myself in my Park, or my Extropia pod, or wherever, and the IMs from friends, and the freebies from last night’s Midnight Mania boards, and the announcements of new Midnight Mania boards, and the scripting questions, and… all begin to flow in, and I open my inventory to decide what to wear and do some token inventory-sorting, it feels kind of like coming home.

Okay, deep breath...

Okay, deep breath...

Not that I’m knocking First Life; that’s pretty wonderful also. And when talking about Deep Things I think it’s a mistake for me to think of them as two different things. I have a life, and part of it is spent in Second Life, and part of it is spent in other places. And it’s all good. And, in the Spirit of the Season here in the US and A, I’m thankful for all of it.

One, two, three, WAHOOO!

One, two, three, WAHOOO!

In Second Life, I can be a boy, a girl, a panda, a child, a tiny elephant, or a bright shiny sphere. I can fly, I can walk under water, I can build a dirigible with my mind. I can meet people from countries I probably couldn’t find on the globe, and I can meet someone from down the street without knowing it. It has its share of people with issues, of griefers and trolls, of misunderstanding and even some cruelty, but well, that’s humanity for ya. I can build, create, explore, do art, try things out, experiment with my own shape and size and color and consciousness, and hang out and talk with other people who are doing the same kinds of things, and also very different ones.

That makes my life richer. Not my First Life, or my Second Life; just my life.

And not only mine.

Plummeting into the unknown future

Plummeting into the unknown future

So to my friends, my friends-to-be, my “would have been friends except we never actually both logged in at the same time”, and everyone else who’s made these last three years such a blast, and who will I’m sure do the same for the next three, five, seven, a million years, my warmest thanks, and if there’s anything I can do to help make your own journey more interesting and enjoyable, just drop me a line…

The Expedition comes upon a Floating Island of Ice

This is actually a “how much fun I had on my second Rezday and how wonderful ppl in Second Life are” posting, but the title goes so nicely with the picture that I couldn’t resist.

The Expedition comes upon a Floating Island of Ice

My Rezday itself (last Saturday) was great fun. I spent most of it party-hopping (no, not Rezday parties for me, just random parties that the fates had decreed should happen on my rezday), starting out with the Giant Snail Races in the morning (sitting on the “Yay Amber!” bench), and later on the Night Flower opening (which was wonderful fun, all sorts of great SL people, Plurkers and otherwise), and sometime after that the Triumvirate opening (a lovely dark erotic gallery show by Sysperia and Calli and someone I don’t know, all of whom do amazing work), and finally (I think it was finally) a Hollywood themed party in Amicitia, featuring the best and brightest and most wisecracking of that sparkling community.

Along the way, one wonderful friend gave me one of Carrah Rossini’s amazing airships (the Steampunk Dreamliner pictured first in that NPIRL post, in fact) for my Rezday, Shenlei of Shengri La gave me one of her amazing frocks (which I haven’t yet been a girl long enough to try on!), and at the Triumvirate opening one of the artists said “which of these do you like the best?” and gave me one of the (limited edition!) copies of a really striking artwork.

The Dreamliner is a really incredible device / craft / artwork / living space; I am completely in love with it (I think I can even put the rezday artwork into the picture mode of its built-in TV screen if I do it right). On Saturday I’d left an IM for the creator just saying “You’re a genius”. On Sunday she IM’d me back and we had a nice conversation about building and creativity and inspiration and RP standards and stuff, and when I mentioned in passing that the Dreamliner had been a Rezday present she gave me a copy of the Phoebe as a gift.

People in Second Life are so generous!

Also on Saturday, as another lovely rezday gift, another friend invited me to the Black and White Ball at the Crown and Pearl on Sunday; it was a marvelous opportunity to dance and be silly in a crowd of smart witty silly other people, and to wear (at least the black and white parts of) my fancy Rfyre suit. Later in the day I took the friend that had given me the Dreamliner up for a ride in the Phoebe to show it off :) and while we were jetting around Shengri La an artist friend that I had dropped a script on earlier in the day sent me a mysterious something, saying only “be sure you have lots of space when you rez it”. Since we were like 300m above Shengri La at the time there was lots of room, so… see picture above. :)

The mysterious something turned out to be a lovely ice-pavillion (with sculptie icicles), so we tethered the Phoebe and explored it for awhile before heading back down to land.

All in all a marvelous Rezday weekend; I continue to be in awe of the kindness and generosity of both my Second Life friends and for that matter of Second Life total strangers. Oh, and thanks also to all the folks who sent good wishes in IM and on Plurk; and anyone else that I forgot to thank here! Some of the festivities were late at night, and I don’t always retain those memories very well. :)