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Saturday, October 29, 2011

A very brief update

Well, I got the powerful narcotics...but as it turned out, I haven't had to use them.  The pain went away the next day.  I guess my nerve endings saw the bottle of Percoset on the shelf and took the hint.  Had a lot of fun with the new field trip segment I built into my Virtual Land class! 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

When Real Life Attacks!

I had surgery the other day.  Nothing major, just laser surgery on one eye to give me better vision.  The doctor said to plan on taking the following day off from work.

Well, the following day wasn't too bad.  My new vision was...OK.  (They tell me it will continue to change for about a month, maybe more, so I'll have to be patient).  But the following day...ow.  Ow!  Unless I keep my eyes closed most of the time, my eye hurts.  And it especially is uncomfortable when I try to use the computer.

It feels just like something under my contact.  Which, in a way, it is.  It's the lasered cornea under the protective contact lens "bandage" they put on the eye.  But it is darned uncomfortable.  I am going back to the eye doctor today, and I am going to stand up on my hind legs and loudly demand MORE PAIN MEDS!  Preferably powerful narcotics.

If I can't be in Second Life during my convalescence, or even read, dammit, I want to be unconscious.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Expanding Inventory

Second Life inventories are like the universe...they constantly expand.  It's the rare person who finds both the time and determination to actually sit down and go through all that junk, delete the unneeded stuff and pare down their inventory.  I know I've been meaning to do just that...for about three years now.

There are a few places where you can make fairly rapid inroads, though...

1.  Calling Cards.  Every time you add a friend, you get a copy of their card (their profile, actually) in your inventory.  Even if you remove them as a friend, their card remains.  Over time, these build up.  You can safely delete everything in this folder.  These days,the ones for your current friends list will, drat it, regenerate automatically -- they used to stay deleted. 

2.  Textures.  You may find that you have duplicate textures.  There are also a lot of textures you probably don't use often.  Delete the duplicates, and store the others in texture organizer objects.

3.  Megaprims.  If you collected a lot of these, you can delete any that are less than 64 meters in size.  These days, you can build prims up to that size directly.

4.  Photos.  We tend to take a lot of pictures in SL.  And people give us ones that they have taken.  Go through and delete all the garbage in this folder, and save the best images in a slide show object.  Any that you just can't decide about, download to your hard drive.

Trimming down these folders won't entirely make up for those five hundred pairs of shoes, or two hundred ball gowns.  Or all those skin and hair demos you've been meaning to try on and sort out.  But it's a start, and you get quick results. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Body Swapping

In Second Life, the only thing that you can't change about yourself is your user name.  Everything else is negotiable.  Switch your clothes, your size, your shape.  Go from Snow White pale to the darkest skin tone.  Change your gender...change your species.  Change your Display Name.

Some residents don't change very often at all.  I know some who don't even change their clothes for days or weeks at a time, or even longer.  Like Clark Kent, they wear the same blue suit all the time.  Others switch avatars five or six times while I'm having a conversation with them, like my friends Xymbers Slade or Zaphod Kotobide.

You can go further, and create an alt -- another Second Life account with a new user name.  Most long-term SL residents have at least one alt.  Some people who are dedicated roleplayers may have dozens of "characters".

But some residents take change to another level, one that (arguably) violates the Second Life Terms of Service.  They swap accounts.  For some period of time, they literally "become another person", using someone else's avatar, their inventory, and their Friends List.  There is at least one in world group you can join if you want to meet others who share this interest.

No, I'm not going to list that group name here.  You can find it in Search if you are really interested.  As for me, I am against this sort of extreme roleplaying, for several reasons.

  • It's against the Second Life Terms of Service. Here are a couple of relevant excerpts:
3.2
You are responsible for all activities conducted through your Account. In the event that fraud, illegality or other conduct that violates this Agreement is discovered or reported (whether by you or someone else) that is connected with your Account, we may suspend or terminate your Account

You are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of your password and are responsible for any harm resulting from your disclosure, or authorization of the disclosure of your password or from any person's use of your password to gain access to your Account or Account Name. ... Your disclosure of your password to any other person is at your own risk.

13.2
You may not assign ...your Account without the prior written consent of Linden Lab.
  • You risk your account by allowing another person access.  Yes, you can minimize the risk by using an alt with no funds in her account, and changing the password as soon as your swap period is over.  But every account has at least a Real Life email address contact associated with it.  Do you want to risk an anonymous stranger being only a support ticket away from that information?
  • You risk your account being permanently stolen.  What if the other person changes your account password, and deletes the account you know them as?  What are you going to do...Abuse Report them and explain to Linden Lab you compromised your own account?  Good luck with that.
  • You risk your account being Abuse Reported and suspended or banned.  If the person you swap with commits a serious violation with your account, YOU are the one who gets the penalty.  Worse, if the violation is bad enough, ALL your accounts could be banned from Second Life.
  • Your friends can be hurt.  At the very least, they may wonder why "you" are acting differently.  At worst, you could return to your account to find that you have left your partner for someone else, alienated your best friend, and been banned from your favorite club or group.
  • And of course, the same applies to the friends of the person you're swapping with.  You are deceiving them, pretending to be someone you are not.  Maybe you get a thrill out of that, but you can be sure they won't.
I'm not sure I have ever encountered someone who's swapped accounts with someone I know, but I have had similar experiences.  A couple of times, a friend has let someone else take their seat at the computer back there in Real Life and use my friend's avatar to talk with me.  This is a very unsettling experience.  One becomes used to thinking of avatars as distinct people.  To have one of those people suddenly become someone else while still looking like the friend I know is deeply disturbing, even when I know what is going on.

There's a limit to the amount of malleability we can accept in our world, and for me at least, "body swapping" (or perhaps more accurately, "account sharing") goes beyond it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Self Abuse

Today I was at a mentoring class, and someone asked the question, "can you Abuse Report yourself?"  Nobody knew the answer to that one.  Not that it's very likely a griefer or copybotter would have an attack of conscience and turn themselves in, but we were still curious.

So I decided to try the experiment.  I Abuse Reported myself.  It turns out that you CAN do this.  At least, the report went in, and I got the usual acknowledgement of it by an automated email from "Indra Abuse".

Whether LL will actually pay any attention to it is another matter.  In the report, I explained it was a test, and requested an email response from a Linden if this was, in fact, a legitimate AR and they would handle one submitted against oneself.  We shall see if I get a reply...or a suspension (eek!)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On the Hunt

"Gridwide hunts" are a very popular activity in Second Life.  I'm not a big fan of them myself, generally speaking.  I quickly get tired of swinging my camera all over the place, looking for a tiny little prize item hidden away somewhere behind a potted plant.  It's the same frustration I felt when trying to solve the "Where's Waldo?" puzzle books we gave our kids (were those educational, fun, or just a subtle form of torture?)

Still, hunts can be a great way to see new places, meet new people, and find new stores and designers.  They are a lot more active than just standing around and waiting for a lucky chair to decide to display your name's letter, or slapping a Midnight Mania board.

If you haven't tried a hunt yet, here's the basic idea:  The hunt organizers come up with a prize object, a single recognizable container for all the prizes.  For instance, in the Steampunk Hunt, it was a gold cogwheel.  Merchants sign up to participate, and each merchant submits a prize to be put into one of the hunt "prize box objects", and then hides the prize somewhere in their store.  Each merchant also creates a clue that's supposed to give you a hint.  The prize, and the landmark and clue for the NEXT prize in the hunt, are all put into the prize object.

There is usually a website for the hunt, with a list of the prizes.  Often, there is also an in world group you can join, to contact other hunters and ask for help with a particularly tricky prize or a clue you have no clue about.

You start out at the first location, find the prize, and gleefully teleport to the next location, where you repeat the process.  There may be well over a hundred locations to visit in a given hunt.

Sounds simple, yes?  Only one problem...those prize hiders are diabolically clever, and very often the prize objects themselves are very small and blend in well with the surroundings.

If you are using the Phoenix or Firestorm viewers, you have a tool that makes hunting a LOT easier:  Area Search. For Phoenix:  Phoenix/Area Search; for Firestorm: World/Area Search.  Open the Area Search window and enter the name, or part of the name, of the prize in the search window, then hit Refresh.  You will get a list of the objects within range which meet the search criteria you entered.  Double click one of them and you will see a red arrow and a beacon highlighting the location of that object.
Using Area Search to Find a Radio

Some merchants try to foil us "cheaters" who use Area Search, by placing a number of decoy objects with the same, or very nearly the same, name as the real prize.  That's only fair, and it makes the hunter's life a little more...interesting.

For a ton of information about hunts, see this blog:  http://slhunts.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Enabling the Disabled

One of the communities within Second Life is the disabled. Our virtual world provides people who can’t get out of the house easily with a way to have a social life. I’m not the best person, maybe, to comment on this segment of our world. My friend Zippy, among others, has made a formal, scholarly study of SL and the disabled. Another friend, Treasure Ballinger, is involved with the Virtual Ability group and newcomer help area. Either of them, or any of our residents who are disabled in Real Life, could probably handle this better than I. Such people are welcome to comment on this post, or contact me to do a guest entry. In the meantime, I’m going to give it a shot.

Here are my personal observations.

First, the disabled come to Second Life for the same reasons as everyone else. They come because Second Life offers them the opportunity to change something, or escape something, that they don’t like about their Real Life. Ask yourself: What do an obese 20 year old, a paraplegic, a deaf person, a 79 year old with arthritis, and a high school dropout stuck behind the counter at Burger King have in common? Answer: They all have something about their lives that they aren’t happy about. I don’t think there is anything special about disabled people, at least in this sense.

Second, the disabled exhibit the same three approaches to Second Life as everyone else. Go back and re-read my entry about Immersionists, Roleplayers, and FaceBookers. The disabled person who’s an Immersionist or a Roleplayer will most likely have an avatar that is not disabled. They may completely omit any reference to their RL disability in their profile. In Second Life, they become “normal”, and they want everyone else to see them as normal and treat them as normal. This is a very rational approach. They’re using SL to escape their disability, to forget about it, and to eliminate it from the way other people see and react to them.

The FaceBookers are the ones you see on crutches, or in a wheelchair. (I saw one disabled person once whose avatar had a white cane and an assistant. I wondered if he was really blind…and if so, how SL was any different for him than a hundred other text based web sites and chat rooms.) In any case, these people aren’t at all shy about telling others about their disability. Their attitude is “hey, this is a part of who I am. You don’t like it, that’s your problem.” This too is a rational approach. One might even argue that it’s a healthier approach than denial or escape, but I disagree. Either approach to SL serves a useful purpose for the person who follows it.

Mental and emotional disabilities are rather a different matter, because they are harder to hide than physical shortcomings. People who are intensely shy, clinically depressed, or have other problems that interfere with person-to-person interactions can find themselves just as alone and friendless in Second Life as in Real Life. One disorder that SL seems to help is Asperger’s Syndrome. The behaviors that make Asperger’s sufferers hard to get along with socially don’t seem to come through in text. In general, I would encourage people with mental or emotional problems not to “self medicate” with Second Life. It can, however, be a useful tool when used under the supervision of a mental health professional.

In any case, Second Life offers some real benefits to just about anyone who can operate a computer. In that sense, SL is at the same time a filter (keeping out people who can’t operate a computer, or don’t have access to one) and an equalizer (if you meet that basic requirement of computer literacy and access, you’re every bit as good as the next person).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Boo!

It's October, and another Halloween is just around the corner.

Halloween is a fun holiday in Real Life, but it's an even bigger event in Second Life.  A Search will find you seasonal events, costumes, thousands of things to decorate your home or your region, and scary haunted houses to visit.  The Marketplace is also a good place to search for seasonal items, it can save you a lot of time compared to visiting a long list of stores in world.

I decorated our sim this year.  The biggest single change I made was to use Parcel Windlight to "set the mood".  Normally, Masocado is a sunny, tropical place.  But now, if you happen to be using a viewer that supports Parcel Windlight, it looks eerie and gloomy.  If you want to see the effect I chose, but can't visit our sim or don't have the Parcel Windlight feature, set your sky to "Ghost" and your water to "Pond".
The New Masocado Graveyard

What, you don't know what I'm talking about?  Your viewer has the ability to change the look of the sky and water that you see.  There are tons of pre-made settings that you can download and install in your viewer.  Just search the SL website, or do a general Google search of the web for "windlight presets".  You can see what presets, if any, you already have by checking the World/Environment Editor menu.

Parcel Windlight is an extension of this feature.  Using a viewer such as Phoenix, Firestorm, or the Linden Lab beta viewer, you can establish Windlight sky and water settings for your parcel of land.  Anyone entering your land who ALSO has the feature, and has enabled it, will see your land as you have designed it to be seen.

Oh...if you do visit Masocado to see the spookiness...watch out for the pool sharks.

Monday, October 3, 2011

THOSE People

No matter what society we are talking about, people seem to get sorted, or sort themselves, into different social classes.  Of course, every individual is unique and it’s important not to lose sight of that.  Still, there are groups of people within a society that have enough viewpoints and beliefs in common to distinguish them as a group.

Guess what?  It’s not so very different in the virtual world of Second Life.  Last night, my partner and I were standing in a large and busy store, people-watching.  We both noticed that the two of us looked, and acted, quite differently from the other shoppers.  The store itself was not one which we usually went to – in fact, I had found it more or less by accident.  Earlier that day, I had noticed a woman wearing an attractive hairstyle, had Inspected it, and backtracked the store through the profile of the hair’s creator.

The store was quite nice and had a large selection of clothing as well as hair.  However, the styles seemed to lean heavily toward the slutty, grungy teen look and most of the pictured models sported pouty Angelina Jolie lips, Neko ears, and tails.  We (especially my partner) like sexy, even provocative styles, but generally in what I’d call a more “sophisticated” mode.  (To be fair, those who favored the younger fashions we were seeing would probably call our preferences “old fashioned”.)

The other shoppers seemed a lot more in keeping with the store’s fashions.  They were young, in SL terms – most of them had been in Second Life around ten to fourteen months.  They used chatspam gestures a lot.  Some of them used voice, and their voices sounded youthful…so we concluded that they were probably young in Real Life terms, too.  Seeing them, I started thinking about the social classes in SL.  Surely you have noticed some of these?

The Upper Crust.  This segment of SL includes the land barons, those who own multiple regions and, in many cases, make some or all of their Real Life living from renting out land to other residents.  It also includes the more successful store owners, those with products purchased by thousands of residents.  Names like Stiletto Moody, Stroker Serpentine, and Shylah Honey.  This group loves SL, but also spends most of their time tending to business, because business has become the overriding factor for them…an inevitable consequence of success.

The Intelligentsia.  While not as well off in economic terms, this group tends to be very well-educated, and may be educators themselves.  They are erudite, long-winded, and philosophical.  They stand apart from the hurly-burly of the mob.  While they consider Second Life a fascinating social experiment, they would never buy a skimpy dress or a pair of 6 inch stilettos to adorn their avatar, and would instantly mute anyone so crass as to suggest a sexual relationship.  A prominent offshoot of this group is…

The Artists.  They’re creative, but not motivated by money like the Upper Crust.  They may create some of the most beautiful and interesting things and places in SL, but seldom make a profit while doing so.

The Monomaniacs.  This group is very diverse.  Each member has some all-consuming interest, passion, or sexual fetish.  Some might focus on designing the fastest sailboat in Second Life.  Others want only to wear bizarre latex costumes and painful restraints, hopefully at the command of some strict dominant.  Whatever their fascination, it makes them very one-dimensional, and for them Second Life is very narrow and focused.  An ideal companion if you share their interest, boring if you don’t.

The Roleplayers.  Vampire clans, dark and dangerous cities of the future, the Old West, the Lands of Faerie, the Star Trek and Star Wars universes, the world of Gor, Medieval and Steampunk…this diverse group’s members are almost always on stage and in character.

The Swingers.  For this group, SL is one endless party, and a search for their next cybersex experience.  Pleasure is their goal, and other people only exist as a means to that end.  Male Swingers can be readily identified because they address any female as “babe”.

The Lonely Hearts.  This group tends to intermingle with the Swingers, but they are looking for Mr. or Ms. Right, someone to fall in love with, eventually to meet and marry in Real Life.  Because there are so many more Swingers, they are very often doomed to heartbreak. 

The Kids.  These people want to re-live their childhood.  Maybe their real childhood was unhappy, or maybe they remember it as the best time of their lives.  In either case, they become a child again in SL.  The Kids are really a subset of a much larger group, those who for whatever reason want a “do over” for their lives.  Aging Baby Boomers, people in boring or unhappy marriages, the unemployed or those with dead end careers…so many of us want a life that’s better than the one we were issued.

Gamers and Griefers.  Mostly teens and young adults who haven’t matured much past 16 emotionally.  Bright and quick, but to them SL and other residents are playthings.  Many of them come to SL briefly, and move on when they find out that SL isn’t a “game”.  If they stay, they love annoying others with practical jokes.  If they have a darker bent, they may become…

Criminals.  This group is out to “beat” Second Life by getting money in any way they can.  Content theft, rigged gambling, pyramid schemes, confidence games, land scams, and outright theft are their tools.  The more successful ones can make off with hundreds of thousands of dollars.  But if they are caught, they shrug and say, “Hey, it’s only play money after all”.

The Psychos.  This lunatic fringe, if you’ll pardon the expression, is intermingled with the Criminals, Swingers, and Lonely Hearts.  They are extremely personable and plausible, at least at first meeting, but their goal is to mess with the minds and emotions of others.  They leave chaos and heartbreak in their wake.  In my opinion, they’re worse than the criminals who are only out to make a quick buck, because the damage they cause is harder to detect and evaluate, and they are much harder to catch and stop.

Another way to sort people is by their Second Life age…we all progress through the stages of Newbie, Young Resident, Experienced Resident, and Jaded Old Hand.  The trick is to wind up at the latter category still warm, friendly and mellow…and not sour and embittered.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Thief! Thief!

That was what I got called today.

My partner and I were checking out the new animations at SEMotion, and a three day old avatar came by and joined us on the demo pose stands.  She was bald...probably detached her hair and didn't yet know how to find it again.

In local chat, I asked her if she would like some hair, and when she accepted I passed her my folder of freebie hair styles.  I'd gotten this folder long ago from another mentor, and it contains maybe thirty different freebies.

Another avatar witnessed this exchange, and accused me of giving out stolen goods.  That really floored me...no one had EVER accused me of content theft before.  I told her they were legitimate freebies and passed her the folder too, telling her to check them herself.  She did...and said, "Armidi, Truth...these are all stolen.  I'm reporting you and muting you."

Now I was even MORE flabbergasted.  I've been muted a couple of times, but I don't think I've EVER been Abuse Reported before.

Now, my point here is not to strike back at my accuser...I'm not even going to give her name.  But she was wrong on several counts, and I want you all to understand what they were so that you don't make the same mistakes.

1.  Don't Abuse Report a suspected content thief.  Linden Lab won't take unilateral action.  Contact the creator whose work you believe was stolen.  If they agree, they can submit a Digital Millenium Copyright Act "Takedown Notice" to Linden Lab, who is then legally required to take action to remove the stolen content.

2.  Stolen content is hard to identify.  My accuser looked at the item names, which had the maker's name included.  If I had ACTUALLY stolen hair from Truth, it would not say "Truth" in the item name!  And it would list ME as the creator.  One clue is that all of the stolen item's prims will have exactly the same creation date and time.

3.  If you get into an argument with someone, Muting them can be a good call.  But doing it as quickly as my accuser did prevented me from discussing the issue further with her and possibly defusing the situation.  In this case it probably would not have done any good; the woman was absolutely convinced she'd just witnessed a huge, awful violation of ToS.  But still, it would have been nice to be able to get in a few more words.

4.  Don't rush to judgement.  Things may not be what they seem.  I remember kicking a couple out of one of my tenant's apartments, only to find out later that they were not trespassing.  They had the tenant's permission to use his place.

In the end, I did the only things I could.  I submitted a counter AR (just to make sure LL had my side of the story too), and I assured the poor frightened newbie that she was not, after all, the receiver of stolen goods.

[EDIT, Oct 16.  -- OMG, she was right!  I'm so embarrassed.  I had a friend check out the items and sure enough, they WERE copybotted.  I could see it myself when I inspected them more closely.  Here were some of the things we noticed:

1.  Many of the hairs had "cabelo" in the name.  Cabelo is Portuguese for "hair", and my helper noted that a lot of copybotters are Brazilian (but not all Brazilians are copybotters, I hasten to point out).
2.  The creators of the hair were NOT the creators you'd expect.  For example, Shylah Honey makes Damselfly hair.  A Damselfly style made by some other avatar raises a red flag.
3.  The prims of the hair were all made within the same couple of minutes.  This is a sign they were copied by software.
4.  The creators were younger in SL age than the creators of the original design, created the hair within a short time after their rez date, and were now no longer to be found on the grid.  These are signs that the creators were alts, made for the purpose of stealing and copying items.

I contacted the mentor I'd gotten the hairs from and let her know.  She thanked me, and said that she'd recently discovered it for herself and had reported the stolen items to LL. 

My accuser was still wrong, I think, to be so confrontational, and assume I was a knowing thief.  But I have to thank her for waking me up to what was in fact a real problem.]