Nov 29, 2008

Reuters' Pull-out is NOT the End of Second Life

I'm on the offensive against all the bloggers and journalists who have read the posting by Eric Krangel about his noon-story of why Reuters left Second Life. For some reason, folks who have never commented on Second Life, or who comment irregularly, have crawled out of the woodwork to pontificate about how this event presages the end of Second Life. But let's get the facts straight.

1. This is a posting by ONE guy, who has left his employment with Reuters so speak for himself.

2. The article does NOT say why Reuters left - it says how Krangel found it become increasingly boring and what HE things LL should be doing.

3. Reports on the Reuters Second Life site have been decreasing in frequency for six months prior to Krangel leaving - does that not suggest something?

4. Reuters is NOT the only press organ in Second Life and never was.

But here's the irritation: folks are taking this article as if it were the revealed word of the Lord. The writers have completely ignored the rest of the SL media - the media that is SL born and SL orientated.

Here's my response to one of the critics who wrote Reuters Pull Out Of Second Life:

I hate to point out the obvious - again - but what we see here is ONE person's experience of Second Life being treated as if it were the Voice of God. Furthermore, Krangel's "suggestions" have been made before by many Second Life residents and, yet again, are HIS ideas. The Reuters' "pull-out" is partly due to the obvious fact that Krangel - who was the only Reuters person covering the beat - has actually changed job and now works for Silicon Alley Insider, and that if you look at the paucity of coverage that he has produced for Reuters Second Life, it is hardly surprising they have decided not to re-appoint. That's a reflection of return-on-investment, not an indicator of the death of Second Life.

News of Reuters pulling out seems to have caught media attention, but that's because Reuters has a much larger platform than other news organizations. The Second Life Herald celebrated its fifth anniversary last month yet THAT piece of news never made the mass media. Why? Because it is focused on SL and virtual worlds so doesn't have the "pull" of a Reuters. Nevertheless, it continues to provide comments and observations on items of interest to Second Life residents. The SL Enquirer is four years old and the SL-Newspaper has been publishing since 2005. None of these long-lasting publications have been touted as successful - we simply hear about Reuters, as if Reuters ALONE was the SL Press."

There IS an independent Second Life press, some good, some bad. But the real world doesn't see it, doesn't read it, and so believes anything it reads in the real world press.

Nov 25, 2008

Second Life: What's a Guy to do?

A post by ex-Second lifer Paul Carr asks the question, "Why is it called Second Life when there's nothing alive there?" He goes on to explain that, "Wandering around Second Life today is like visiting Blackpool in February; all sad empty shops, deserted car parks and the stench of loneliness — and the opportunity to buy a fake cock for two quid."

It seems that Carr has had a bad experience of late and found that nothing was happening when he was there, ergo nothing is happening anywhere, ergo Second Life sucks and its death is imminent. Where have we heard this story before?

You intrepid blogger was first to reply:

"Blackpool? I suspect you more likely hit the virtual equivalent of Morecambe... in February... when it's raining... and when the buses are on strike. If you'd been in virtual Blackpool you'd at least have bumped into one drunken Glaswegian and an American exchange student who thought London was much closer.

Maybe you need to buy a traveler's guide to Second Life... oh, wait, you have one! I seem to have little problem finding busy places, to the point that my biggest challenge is not crashing due to activity. Of course, any "traveler's guide" in SL is an historical document even before it goes to press, with changes to the virtual world happening more frequently than Donald Trump's hairpiece. Checking out your "old haunts" in Second Life is a bad experience - as Don Henley sings in The Boys of Summer, "Don't look back, you can never look back."

As for Eric's stint in-world, I don't see the big deal. He's one guy among many who write about SL and he left for a new job! Anyone who had been following the Reuters' site was very aware that the posts were becoming menopausally irregular. The issue with SL is simply that for many "residents," it has become just like real life; tedious, repetitive, and punctuated by occasional fun things. My typical trip into SL involves reading the mail, chatting with some friends, checking out leads, interviewing folks, then hopping back to real life to write up copy for whatever SL press outlet I'm pitching at. Article gets printed, I get paid, and around it goes again.

This pattern of Second Life banality isn't "bad" or "wrong"; it just is what it is. I get a kick out of it because I love talking to people and writing about stuff that has - ultimately - no value. And getting a bit of cash for doing it helps my iTunes habit. I don't see that folks who "waste their time" in Second Life are any more stupid than folks who, for example, play golf. I mean, honestly, what is the point of walking around a field using sticks to knock balls into holes? Or how about those who spend a night at the pub, where all they do is drink alcohol, use yet another stick to knock balls into holes, stuff a 2000 calorie kebab down their chops and then complain they can't sit in an airplane seat? And even skiing (more sticks but this time strapped to your feet) seems pretty pointless when you consider that all you're really doing is sliding down a hill in freezing weather and pumping out vast amount of cash for the privilege.

For ever business that closes its doors (like Reuters and the Avastar), others get started. And don't that the darling of the SL tabloids, the Second Life Herald, is still going strong after five years.

If you don't enjoy the SL experience, fine. Try something more exciting. Like golf, drinking, or skiing."

I suspect Carr's tongue may well have been pushed slightly into his cheek - after all, he was trying to write humor here, not a critical analysis of Second Life culture or attempting an investigation into why Reuters retired their writer from the Second Life beat. But then again, the way in which humor is used to express a point of view matters too, and Carr is clearly no fan of the Second Life experience.

Oh, and for a fairly unbiased review of the book, check out Prokovy Neva's piece in the Second Life Herald. Make sure you read the comments - it's priceless!

Nov 24, 2008

Second Life's Demise Forecast - Again

Three Second Life-related topics have peaked my interest in the past few day. The real life divorce of Amy Taylor and David Pollard after she found him dipping his virtual wick into another SL resident; the posting by Eric Reuters about why Reuters left Second Life (which didn't actually tell us why but merely let Eric toss out his own ideas about what Linden Lab should be doing); and how the closure of Lively heralds the ultimate demise of Second Life.

Well, welcome back the non sequitur! Google's Lively closes its portals therefore Linden Lab is next. Which logic class did folks miss? There's another argument that says Linden Lab's position is now strengthened by this, and it's based on old-fashioned supply and demand.

Imagine everyone wanted to "play" in virtual worlds. Also imagine we only had 24 hours per day to do this. If logic isn't your strong point, surely simple math is: The more worlds available, the less time you can spend in each. Ergo the fewer worlds available, the more time you can spend in each.

No-one assumes Linden Lab doesn't have problems. Software (in)stability; server issues; dissatisfied customers; bad press (what, you haven't heard - people have SEX in Second Life); and others. But take a look at the SL forums. Thousands upon thousands of posts from residents attest to the fact that even if you think it is the worst company on earth, people are ENGAGED to the point of near-fanaticism.

I appreciate I am in a minority but the actions of Linden Lab in handle their business - and the resultant revolt of Second Life residents - neither indicates a conspiracy nor a complete disregard for its customers; it simply indicates some bad management. And bad management is a feature of many businesses. What Linden Lab needs is a review of its products, policies, and procedures.

And once again, least anyone think I am a raging apologist, I am not. However, I do think that knee-jerk reactions along the lines of "LL is full of assholes," or "they don't care" distracts from any real analysis of where mistakes are made and what should be done. Furthermore, it needs to be remembered that LL is as driven by the desire for profits as any other company so painful decisions (such as the repricing of Openspaces) have to be made and implemented.

Nov 23, 2008

Critical Blogging - or "I am NOT an Elitist!"

My friend Seikatsu Koba commented a few days back that I was an "elitist" when it comes to blogs. I hadn't really thought that this was the case, but I suppose I can see her point. On a number of occasions I have been openly critical of the standard of writing on the Internet, and that includes blogs.

What I would rather admit to is being critical, in the same way that a music critic or a film critic is. I used to worry about being a critic because I imagined that one has to be "better" than the people you criticize. But many music critics can't sing a note, play an instrument, or download something from iTunes. And a movie critic doesn't have to have won an Oscar, written a screenplay, or brokered a deal between Lionsgate and Disney to create the cartoon version of "Saw 6."

No, all I have to do is appreciate good writing and bad writing. Or point out bad writing masquerading as good. In fact, I just need to have my "Everyman" hat on, because if something is badly written, 95% of people will see it. True they may not be able to pin-point the specifics but bad writing is like porn - I know it when I see it.

I have been a good boy really. So far I don't think I have named any names - well maybe one or two. But my criticism will, in the long run, benefit the whole blogosphere by challenging bloggers to put-up-or-shut-up.

And I don't claim to be perfect. Some of my stuff may have flaws. Tell me. Some of it may be boring. Point it out. Some of it may be wrong. Tell me what's right. But I promise that I will learn from folks who criticize me, just as I hope people can learn from my being critical of them. Nothing personal.

Oh, and as of today, I have still not been approved to join the Second Life Bloggers group. Hmm, how should I interpret that one! I'll give it a few more days - then I'll start the rant.

Eric Reuters Speaks: Sort Of...

The closure of Reuters' Second Life operations, along with the closure of Bild's Avastar, both in the past two months, is taken by some as a "sign of the times" or even a sign of the End Times. And after suitable period of mourning, Eric Reuters, real world Eric Krangel, has posted his thoughts on what he believes Linden Lab needs to do.

But he doesn't actually explain WHY Reuters pulled out. All he says is "So what happened? Is Second Life dying? No, but the buzz is gone." That's it. He does outline a list of four points that he thinks Linden Lab should address in order to improve, but these are, in fairness, not new.

It's also clear that postings to the Reuters site had been tailing off for a long time. Was this because corporate Reuters wasn't interested or that Eric Reuters wasn't? After all, he says things like, "As part of walking my "beat," I'd get invited by sources to virtual nightclubs, where I'd right-click the dance floor to send my avatar gyrating as I sat at home at my computer. It was about as fun as watching paint dry" and "I didn't find it compelling."

We could speculate that Reuters Second Life was always a "side project" that Eric was allowed to do as-and-when, so long as it didn't interfere with real work. Google's Lively was a "20% project" - Google employees can spend 20% of their time on speculative projects that may, or may not, come to fruition.

I have to point out that the Second Life Herald has been around for five years, so the closure of Reuters isn't because there is no "market" for SL news. Other SL newspapers continue too.

Maybe we will hear the full story at a later date.

Nov 21, 2008

Adding to the Media Portfolio: Reporting for MBC

Well, after a few weeks of "will I won't I" in regard to doing some work with the Metaverse Broadcasting Company, I finally completed my first field report this evening. With MBC anchorman, Recka Wuyts as the camera operator, I visited the Robodock Festival at the Resonance sim to report on the two-week event.

I also met with artist, Bryn Oh, who made a rather spectacular clock, filled with tiny details and insects! She also has a hidden store that is hard to find - allegedly. She has had 10 customers. I love the idea of "The Quest for the Secret Store" as a concept, bu it really sucks as a marketing tool ;)

Bryn also runs a quiz: You answer three questions and you get a free sculpture. Get one wrong and you are orbited. Needless to say I couldn't resist the challenge; and needless to say I failed on the first one. All I can say is that being orbited isn't the end of the world.

The other interesting component of the TV piece is that I got to talk to Robustus Hax via Skype as he recorded my script. And blow me down if I didn't do it in one take! Actually, I have done that in real life with recorded interviews so it isn't too tricky.

Nov 20, 2008

Playing the Blogging Game

Now I've signed up to become part of the Second Life Bloggers group in another attempt to marketing the SL(C) on SL(TM) brand. I feel a little conflicted because I tend to feel that there are more crap blogs out there than good ones. Sure, some folks may want to lump this blog in with the steaming pile of shit that clogs up the Internet, but that still doesn't make the others smell any sweeter.

Another chunk of blogging dross comes from those that turn out to be nothing more than advertising for products and services in Second Life. Fashion blogs can so easily become that way inclined, with some blogs being wholly owned and scripted by the designers themselves.

Then there are the "experimental" blogs - which are basically written by folks who cannot write but feel that if they label what they do as "avant garde," "daring" or "provocative" then they can't be judged. Oh yes they can! There is no excuse for bad writing, especially when masquerading as "poetry/" Those of you who have never read my damning article on verse should click this link to the Second Life Herald. Those of you who claim to write poetry might want to do the same before you start the flame war.

Feel free to add a comment to this post. It ups my ranking.

SL on SL Added To Second Life Directory

In an effort to achieve the critical mass needed to become an uber-blogger, I have add SL on SL to the Second Life Directory Topsites site. This means that if you click on the Top Sites button to the left, I get ranked. Mmmh.

So, go ahead and click and let's see if I can achieve fame and fortune before I reach fifty.

Lively is Dead

According to an official release from Google, the much-hyped Lively virtual world will cease to be. It is an ex-world. It has gone to meet its maker. It's a fucking stiff.

The Second Life killer turned out to be nothing more than a damp squib. This is not a terrible thing in relation to the world of virtual fashion because in all truth, the notion of "style" had no meaning in Lively. Here I am in my Lively incarnation:

Although the blond hair and blue eyes are there, the normal raw sexuality and masculine hunkiness are missing. If I were to turn up at an SL fashion show looking like that, I would deserve to be banned on sight and shunned by the models. And I love the models.

It seems that although everyone and their dog thinks that creating virtual worlds is "a good idea" and "pretty straightforward," it turns out to be a lot more challenging that it appears.

Nov 19, 2008

Ohio Public Library's Second Life Bash

The Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN) is having an in-world holiday party on December 17, from 8:00 am to 10:00 am Second Life Time. For those Ohio residents who are temporally challenged, that's 11:00 am to 1:00 pm EST).

According to the announcement at the official OPLIN site, "We'll provide the food and music, and we hope you'll help us provide the holiday cheer! There will also be a contest and prize for the best holiday quote; quotes can be from a famous person or a not-so-famous person, as long as it can be attributed :) Librarians from all around the U.S. and the world have been invited as well.

"Festive attire encouraged but not required. For questions or RSVPs, please IM Lebachai Vesta in SL or email Drop in if you're able!"

I'll try to hold back the excitement, but as an Ohio resident, I guess I should try to stop by and get an interview for one of the SL Press outlets.

Nov 15, 2008

Adultery in Second Life: No Shit, Sherlock!

Ever one to be on the cutting edge of virtual news, the UK's Daily Telegraph printed an article on the danger Second Life experiences leading to adultery. It seems that the only tales that grab the attention of the real world are focused on some sort of sexual behavior. This can be between a man and a woman, a man-who's-really-a-woman and a woman-who's-really-a-man, a adult and a child, a toaster and a skillet, or any combination of these. The kinkier the better.

Of course, the truth is that adultery is adultery whether it's in real life, Second Life, over the phone, or mediated by business trips by company executives. Like all things either novel or not understood, sex and Second Life are as compatible a pair as bacon and eggs, beer and wings, or ice-cream and chocolate. And the creative nature of Second Life also allows for residents to indulge in fantasies that are bounded only by an individual's ability to construct prims and scripts.

So if you're looking to get your name in print, just remember that sex still sells, and that if you can include an animal, a kitchen appliance, an old priest and a young priest, you'll stand a much better chance of making the big time.

Nov 9, 2008

Vote for Sig - Again

Prior to the US election's completion, I began campaigning for my own stab at the Presidency. I know, avatar don't have a vote but that's just a minor detail. Not too long ago, women didn't have a vote but it didn't stop them campaigning. For those who didn't see the effects of my campaign, click the link below:


Sadly, the country is not yet ready to elect an avatar as President, yet another example of why prejudice has not yet been stamped out. Why, until we see a black, female, disabled, gay avatar in the White House, how can we say Democracy has triumphed?

But I refuse to let this little setback affect me. In a recent post on Second Thoughts, Prokofy Neva revealed the creation a new parliament. Although you need to own land in order to be a part of this parliament, I have enough, so his is just the place for me to launch the next phase of my political career.

So here's what I wrote to Prokofy about my candidacy:

"Cool! My meager but adequate 512m2 buys me in then. In line with most progressive parliamentary systems, I'd like to lobby for any post that is "without-portfolio." This, in effect, means I get to enjoy the fruits of abuse - sorry, "parliamentary privilege" - yet don't actually have to do any work. I'll be happy to turn up at any junket or bean-feast with my current mistress-du-jour in tow ("Oh, Siggy, I love that you're so powerful and important!") and make bold, sweeping pontifications with maximum sound-bites and minimum substance.

Of course, I think all parliamentary posts should come with an official residence. I'm thinking of a multi-roomed residence on a whole sim with enough prims to befit the status of "parliamentarian" and well- tended gardens groomed to perfection by noobs looking to make $5L per hour in a real job, not wasting time camping.

So, I humbly submit myself - selflessly - to serve as a simple representative of this great world of hours. I promise - nay pledge - to uphold the Truth, stand for Decency, and work to ensure that ALL the residents of Second Life can live in Liberty, Egality, and Fraternity - or whatever they chose to name their sim.

Er, any Post 6 Grrlz looking for secretarial work?"

So vote now, vote early, vote SIG!

Nov 5, 2008

Openspaces and Land Barons: Who is Really to Blame?

I'm bucking the trend and not going after Linden Lab(R) with all guns blazing in relation to the current Openspace debacle. It's not that I don't believe LL haven't made some mistakes - and I outline them below - but I am seeing many, many posts from "landlords" and "renters," which shouldn't be happening. Why? Because the original terms for the use of Openspace clearly state the following:

“It is therefore important to understand what these regions are; they are provided for light use only, not for building, living in, renting as homes or use for events.”

This suggests that there should be NO Openspace landlords. It appears that many people took the opportunity to buy cheap land but then use it to rent out in order to make a profit, expressly against the conditions of purchase. I suggest there are three basic mistakes made here by Linden Lab(R):

1. They should have been more proactive in clamping down on the renting of OS land much much sooner. They let things slide too early and the problem just escalated.

2. They have penalized everyone who owns OS land at the expense of those who abused the system. I do not know how many people stuck to the rules and how many broke them, but the demonstrable reality is that everyone has been hit. it would have been political better to identify and sanction those who were clearly manipulating the OS concept and leave the others as-is.

3. There is no “grandfathering” allowed. Folks who bought in good faith have to face the increases as well as new buyers from January onwards.

Such errors are costly in PR terms and the OS landlords will exploit this. Many renters who are about to lose their homes are blaming Linden Lab and not their landlords. In fact, many of the protest in-world are, I suspect, organized by landlords. By pointing the finger at LL, they can not feel guilt or remorse for their customers. I also note that not one of them has yet suggested reimbursing their clients - they seem to be Ok with making a profit themselves while calling for a Linden Lab "bail out."

Openspace always seemed to be to be the Second Life(TM) equivalent of “Green Space” or “Green Belt” property - a way of slowing the urbanization of server space and maintaining some “natural” environmental features. Almost like a private version of the US National Parks system or the UK’s National Trust.

Sadly the Openspaces have now become fields of war rather than fields of green and only some flexibility on the part of Linden Lab is likely to make the outcome much more than bitter and acrimonious.