Monday, December 30, 2019

Top Stories of The 2010s, Part Two

By Bixyl Shuftan

This is the second of our series of some of the top stories of the 2010s. For part one, Click Here.

The Pony Community and Bronyville's Fall

Second Life is noted for it's variety of avatar types. The first ones were human and humanoid. Soon after came other kinds, neko, furry, tiny, and dragon. Since the Newser came to be, two more have come about. There are the petite avatars, which I've seen mostly pixies. And then there are the pony avatars, based off the characters of the "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" cartoons. Unlike previous "generations" of the franchise, "Friendship is Magic" gained a following among teenagers and young adults. It wasn't too long after the cartoon started airing when the cartoonish pony avatars started appearing in the virtual world, and in May 2011 came the Bronyville sim. It quickly became a thriving community. While naturally there were a few bored trolls showing up to harass the ponies, they were quickly dealt with.

Then in July came real trouble when Linden Lab took down Bronyville. It turned out that the sim's two owners were ban-evasion alts of people the Lab had banned from Second Life. For many communities, this would be the end. But once the ponies recovered from the shock, a new sim was acquired and named Bronytown. A few months later in February 2012, they had largely recovered.

Several years later, the pony sims are still around. Trotsdale and it's surrounding sims soon replaced Bronytown as the best known pony area. But there are others with their own people. As the cartoon series that inspired the fans to create the community and sims aired it's last season this year, it should be interesting to see what the Second Life ponies do.

The S.S. Galaxy's Closing

I had the fortune to visit the SS Galaxy in it's early years. This was a cruise ship built in Second Life. And what a ship it was! Three sims long, it was not just the largest ship in the virtual world, but one of the largest structures of any kind inworld. And like a cruise ship, people could rent cabins, and there were numerous parties. It would be one of the first places the Newser would report on.

Then on April 26, 2015 came shocking news to the ship's fans: the SS Galaxy would be shutting down. Why was the ship being scrapped after eight years? An investigation revealed the ship had recently suffered the worst griefing attacks in it's history over a period of several days, and the Linden they talked to told them they would be allowed exactly one rollback to fix the damage and then no more, period. Fans gathered for a few last parties. And on May 3, the place closed down, leaving only screenshots, memories, and a number of residents feeling it's leaving was the result of the Lab acting like it didn't care about longtime customers.

Finally, the Lab realized it had goofed, and on May 13 it was announced that the ship would be coming back, but under Linden ownership.  In September, the ship was once again on the Grid. While residents were happy to see it back, their enthusiasm was dampered by that it was basically a museum piece. Gone were the live events, the renting of cabins, and the crew to greet people.

The closing of the SS Galaxy would be just one of a few incidents that year that got some people wondering about Linden Lab's intentions and competence.

From Passionate Redheads to Sunbeamers

Over the years of covering the Relay for Life,  I've covered the efforts of many teams. Some have continued their efforts year after year, such as Team ACTS and the Gorean team. And some make a good showing for a short time, such as the Relay Wizards and Team Strange Journey, then fade away.

The first Relay team I got to know really well, and the one I eventually joined up, were the Passionate Redheads.  This was a team of both human and furry residents led by co-captains Sabine McGettigan and Daaneth Kivioq. Having been raising money for the Relay since 2007, it was clearing in the big leagues, raising over a million Lindens in 2010. Many of it's team members were from the Sunweaver community, including estate owner Rita Mariner. So it really was the community's team. It had some great campsite builds, such as the "Wild West" one in 2009. And there was the late Artistic Fimicloud who lost her life to cancer, whom became a symbol of the team's determination.

But in April 2011 came some horrible news. Co-captain Daaneth suffered a stroke. Shocked, the Relayers sent him numerous well-wishes and held events in his honor. Various members stepped up to raise a some Lindens of their own, such as Rita, Nydia Tungsten, and myself. And the Relay Weekend went great. What could have ended up a canceled year ended up another successful one for the team, with Daaneth being awarded the Spirit of Relay for 2011 in the "Wrap-Up" event in August.

Sadly, the stroke had lasting effects. Shortly after the 2012 Relay season started, Sabeen left the team and Daaneth both left the team and took an "indefinite break" from Second Life for personal reasons. placing Dusk Griswold and Lomgren Smalls in charge. Despite this trouble in addition to others being sidelined due to real-life troubles, the team made it to gold level, and onto the Relay Weekend.

In January 2013 came more sad news, the Passionate Redheads were disbanding. After six years and many accomplishments, the banner of the Readheads would no longer be paraded down the Relay track. The Sunweaver community was saddened, but two people stepped forward to form two teams. Sadly, the leader of one would soon leave Second Life for personal reasons. But Sunweaver leader Rita Mariner would lead the Sunbeamer team. But while the Passionate Redheads had been a proven team, with the Sunbeamers we were basically starting all over, "We are a small team." Still, we persisted with events and our campsite for the Relay Weekend, in which we reached Silver rank fundraising. But by 2014, the team was making Gold once more.

Since then, the Sunbeamers have continued to do well year after year. The "small team" became "the little team that could," and a force in the Relay. But we haven't forgotten our roots. Every year in the campsite, one can find a small pink fox statue in honor of Fimi.


On August 23, 2011, came a new way of building things in Second Life: Mesh.  One complaint Second Life was getting in the late 2000s was that it lacked the detail of many popular online games at the time. So in 2010, Linden Lab announced it was working on a Mesh import project.

Reactions were somewhat varied. Some were anxious to see what they could do with the option, or at least curious. Others were skeptical, or fearful that the Lab would end up blocking viewers that couldn't see it. Another concern was security vs safety vs convenience, that mesh would make it much easier for the unscrupulous to import and sell material others had copyrighted, and that Linden Lab's security precautions would end up blocking some builders or making it too big a hassle for them to continue.

After it was enabled, there were some early adopters. While at least some called it the most important development in Second Life that year, others expressed skepticism, among them myself. I and others felt there were too few mesh-enabled viewers being used in the first several months for mesh to have that great of an impact. There were other problems as well. While touted as a way to make objects that would be more efficient to process, the truth was it took skill to do this as a mesh objects "prim equivalency" could easily surpass the same item made with prims and end up causing more lag. And then there was that for the first time in Second Life, people had to worry about their clothes fitting. Many people dreaded having to shop for clothes in real life as they had the hardest time trying to find clothes that would fit, and now the issue had come to Second Life. 

Still, skillfully made mesh objects and avatars looked better with smoother movement, one example being that mesh furry avatars have smoother speaking movements. And with mesh people could accomplish some things they couldn't before, such as the creation of impossibly tall avatars.

The use and adoption of mesh has been a long slow process. Linden Lab for instance would offer mesh starting avatars a few years later in 2014. But unlike earlier starter avatars, they couldn't be modified to be slightly taller or shorter or slightly different facial features, or able to wear another set of clothes. So in 2015, they were replaced with another set of starter mesh avatars, though some people commented they looked less like what one could expect in Second Life and more like "The Sims." These comments would continue with the added Fantasy and Sci-fi inspired starting avatars in 2016.

Over time, mesh would see improvements. In 2014, Fitted Mesh allowed for better fitting clothes, though while a step forward wasn't a perfect solution. In 2018 came Animesh, which offered the promise of much more detailed NPCs/bots inworld. 2019 would see the arrival of 'Bakes on Mesh,' which offered the promise of less complexity for detailed avatars.

Today, while mesh has won over much of Second Life, perhaps the majority, there are still some whom have little or anything to do with it. It's made dressing more complicated, and while Fitted Mesh has helped, there's still the problem of mesh outfits not quite fitting one's avatar. All the updates eventually mean some third-party viewers that seldom get updated soon become less and less useful as more and more glitches appear due to more avatars using material made possible by recent updates. It's also been brought up has Mesh been a good thing for Second Life's content creator community. While anyone can still learn to build and script, the arrival of mesh meant creators had to learn more to make a product the masses would buy, perhaps to the point that someone with the skills to make fine mesh clothes would make more money using similar skills outside the virtual world's community. In the end though, the demand for mesh products has ensured it's become an established part of the virtual world.

As Second Life enters the 2020s, the story of Mesh is still being written.

For part three of the series, Click Here.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, December 27, 2019

Top Stories of The 2010s, Part One

By Bixyl Shuftan

As the decade comes to a close, there's been some looking back at some of the events that have happened. For the people of Second Life, ten years ago there was the creation, the rise, and then the peaking of the popularity of the virtual world. For the 2010's, Second Life hasn't made Big Media very much. But there's been no shortage of events that were for a time were of great interest to many residents. Some made news more than others. So here's some of the decade's top stories.

The Linden Lab 30% Layoff

Just a week after the Second Life Newser got started came our first big story to cover, when on June 10 2010 Linden Lab announced a "Restructuring" in which thirty percent of it's staff lost their jobs. Residents were shocked at the news. Gone were favorites such as Blue and Teagan Linden. One resident reacted by setting up a memorial to those whom lost their jobs. There was an also an "Independence Day" party in their honor as well.

A company giving a third of it's staff the pink slip is usually a sign of deep trouble. So naturally people were worried about what was going to happen next. Rumors were around for months Linden Lab was in talks with Microsoft for a buyout. This was just one of many changes at the Lab in 2010, including the resignation of M Linden as CEO and Philip returning for a short time as intirem CEO. Second Life's future was very much in doubt for the remainder of the year. It wasn't until December with the arrival of a new CEO, Rod Humble/Rodvik Linden, that the fears of Second Life being closed down had largely faded.


2010 was when Linden Lab began offering a new viewer for the residents, Viewer 2. It was not popular with established residents, and people looked for alternatives. The Emerald Viewer, offered for free by a group of volunteers known as Modular Systems, or Team Emerald, quickly became the most popular alternative, the first third party viewer to hit it big.

But on August 20, there was a DoS attack on a website of one of their critics. The attack was traced to computers using the Emerald viewer to access Second Life at the time. One of the team stepped down, and the Lab presented them with a list of demands, notably three of the team stepping down. When one refused to, the team split in two. One group led by Jessica Lyon would go on to start Team Phoenix and the Phoenix viewer. The other faded away following Linden Lab blocking the viewer from accessing Second Life, some of their leaders banned by Linden Lab or never seen again.

Emeraldgate is notable as it's the incident that sparked the creation of what now is Team Firestorm, the people behind the Firestorm Viewer that remains the most popular viewer used by residents.

The Teen Grid Merger

Also in August 2011, it was announced at the Second Life Community Convention (or the SL con) that Linden Lab would soon be closing the Teen Grid, and those 16 and 17 of age would be allowed in Second Life. Philip Linden called the grid with it's population of under 18 residents a "mistake," and expressed confidence that Second Life with it's filtering system could handle the influx of 17 and 16 year olds.

But the announcement created a storm of comments by residents whom feared this would soon lead to adult areas being shut down. The Lab tried to assure residents that there would be a smooth transition. And there were efforts by some residents to welcome them in. But others called this an accident waiting to happen, having no confidence in Linden Lab to do the job, "I'm sorry LL shafted you all. ... many of us BEGGED for a PG continent that you and us could have and be safe together. We saw what was coming and wanted to make the grid safe for all. Now it isn't safe for anyone.”

As it turned out though, not many of the 16 and 17 year olds would be coming to the Main Grid. When the Teen Grid was turned off on Dec 31, 2010, most apparently went to online games or other Internet activities. Exactly why is speculation, some wondering if the teens just didn't want to hang out with "old people," but preferred a place where they could be with just their peers. Others felt the teens were around, just simply fibbing about their age and always had been.

The Redzone Controversy

One thing many residents fear in Second Life is someone harassing them getting around bans by creating alts to torment them further. So it's no real surprise eventually someone starting offering an "alt detector." As far back as December 2010, news started going around about "Redzone." That the creator developed juvenile products such as a "Toilet HUD" probably helped in the masses not taking the product product seriously at first, especially with stories that the product stunk at delivering what was promised. Privacy activists however were very worried Redzone could potentially be used to trace people to their real-life addresses, leading to doxxing and stalkers taking their harassment to real life.

Eventually, Linden Lab responded, taking down Redzone from Marketplace on March 2, 2011. Redzone's creator, zFire Xue (Michael Prime), remained defiant and was banned a few weeks later. It turned out that zFire was a convicted criminal on parole, and in May he turned himself in when a warrant was issued for his arrest. He would be sentenced to four months in jail, and the judge ordered part of his conditions would be parole were no access to computers or Internet access, Second Life specifically mentioned in the ruling.

For some residents, it was "Emerald all over again" in that a malicious coder had caused so much worry for the residents. Privacy activists such as the Greenzone group remained vigilant for any other alt detector that might cause trouble, getting into a tangle with the Voodoo security system a year later. Fortunately, there wouldn't be another like Redzone.

Second Life Ninth Birthday

2012 was a year Linden Lab put some distance between itself and the residents. There would be no snowball fight between the Lindens and residents. Nor did the "Kiss a Linden" Valentines Day event take place. Later in the summer, it was announced there would be no Second Life Community Convention that year. Residents expressed disappointment at these events being canceled. But then on April 16, 2012, Linden Lab announced they would not be organizing the Second Life Birthday celebration that year. In a statement later on the forums, they stated they were leaving it up to the residents, expecting numerous smaller celebrations.

But instead of following Linden Lab's suggestion, some residents banded together to hold the Second Life Ninth Birthday themselves, with both sponsors and some noted SL personalities behind it. Those taking part had only a short time to get things done, so they hurried things up. It would take place on a twenty sim area, and last from June 18 to June 24. There would be lots to see and do. And the event ended with fireworks at the Cake Stage. While there were a few minor things that went wrong, the SL9B was a definite success.

For five more years, the SLB events continued to be in the hands of a volunteer staff. Although Linden Lab would slowly start to be more involved in the anniversary with "Music Fest" and shopping events, "The Birthday" was still resident-run until the SL15B. In 2019, the Lab finally fully took over, saying over time they had been observing what worked and what didn't. While it meant saying goodbye to some new traditions such as "The Cake," the residents as a whole were glad Linden Lab was taking care of Second Life's anniversary event.

*  *  *  *  *

For part two of the series, Click Here.

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

News and Commentary: More on Youtube And COPPA

By Bixyl Shuftan

In recent days, I've gotten a few requests for topics to write on. Some were about Linden Lab's announcement they were bringing back last names, in which they also stated they would be doubling their commission on Marketplace sales. The complaints along these lines was that once again, the Lab was being greedy.

One other topic was not within Second Life, but could and was affecting Second Life music video makers, the COPPA controversy. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had hit Youtube with a massive fine for violating the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act for collecting data on kids watching, whom weren't supposed to be watching to begin with as to avoid trouble Youtube had a policy of not allowing viewers under 13 to watch videos unless under special accounts. Youtube's response was to tell video makers to mark their videos if they were aimed at kids or if they weren't for kids. But a video's rating could be changed if either Youtube or the FTC determined if a video marked not aimed for kids was appealing to them, and the maker would be subject to a fine of up to $42,000, per video.

The reaction of the music video maker I know best, Nydia Tungsten, was to take down most of the videos from her Youtube channel. While people could still message her for the videos, years of work by her and her friends, done not for money but to entertain, was gone from public access. Very little of her Youtube channel remains, most of it being a number of videos about a discussion on the Inworldz virtual world several years ago.

As it turns out, Nydia was not alone. Shawn Keller, whom used lioness and fox animated characters to discuss topics on the scientific and supernatural, announced he would likely stop making videos. Vivienne Medrano, best known for her "Die Young" animated music video whom more recently has gone into "Hazbin Hotel," an animated cartoon that is definitely not for kids, expressed anger about Youtube's move on her Twitter. I've come across a number of other videos and comments expressing disain over Youtube's move. I've also come across a few videos and a number of comments saying there's nothing to worry about. But it's my impression those who are afraid greatly outnumber those who are not.

So why the fuss? In short, the rules video makers now have to work under are more than a little vague when it comes to COPPA. A reader directed me to one FTC page, "Is Your Content Directed at Children?" One section was "How Channel Owners Can Determine if Their Content Is Directed At Children." Among the factors listed was "the use of animated characters." While later on the page would state "the FTC recognizes there can be animated programming that appeals to everyone," this could easily be interpreted as that Youtube and the Feds were reserving the right to go after any video with animated characters, including computer-generated ones. That certainly explains a lot of the fear as the new rules could be seen as anyone posting an anime or furry animated video on Youtube could be on the chopping block.

Youtube and the FTC seem to be saying "trust us," but many video makers feel they have too little reason to do so, especially with the potential for such heavy fines.

So what can be done? Right now, it looks like a number of video makers are taking down their videos from their Youtube channels. I imagine others are keeping theirs up, but hesitating to make more. Alternatives to Youtube are certainly being sought, such as Viemo. One I keep hearing about is Pornhub. Yes, there is the stigma of a porn channel, they state, but there's no danger of the videos being taken down and being bankrupted by heavy fines.

Hopefully there will be some changes with both Youtube and the FTC on the issue that can get clear up the vagueness so video makers will feel at ease. But a recent video I came across by ReciewTechUSA isn't giving me much hope, at least on the part of Youtube. It seems Youtube also recently made changes in it's anti-harassment policy that in his opinion are being used to silence not just online bullies but brutally honest criticism as well in an effort to make the video service more advertiser, and corporate, friendly. "The Youtube that we once knew and loved is gone," he would state, "the day where you could make content you would see nowhere else and not be corporate controlled is over."

Like so much on the Internet over time, Youtube has been changing. But some of the recent changes are making it less of the place it was where you could just post videos (other than porn or gore) for your friends and anyone else interested to watch. With the new hoops to jump through and potential hazzards, it looks like some videomakers, in Second Life and elsewhere, will be saying goodbye.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, November 22, 2019

One SL Music Video Maker's Reaction to COPPA

By Bixyl Shuftan

This week, there's been quite a bit of talk among some Second Life residents about COPPA, or Child Online Privacy Protection Act, and what recent changes and actions could mean to filmmakers who post on Youtube. Recently the law was cited by the Federal Trade Commission in enacting a $170 million dollar fine on Youtube. Youtube reacted by announcing a plan that required all makers of videos aimed at a child audience to label them as such. This left people wondering what would be considered aimed at children, and if something could be considered as such no matter what the content creator did to say otherwise. The plan was pretty vague on the subject.

One such Youtube content creator is Nydia Tungsten. For years, she has made numerous music videos on Second Life. Hearing the news and seeing some videos made about the subject, she made an announcement on Monday November 18 in several groups that she was seriously considering taking her videos from Youtube due to these recent changes.

Angel Productions on Indefinite Leave

Due to the FTC becoming involved with Youtube and the possible ramifications, I am looking into ether shutting down my videos channel or moving it. if you want to DL one of our videos do it now.  I MAY be moving platforms, but I don't know which one if any I will go with yet. it has been a fun ride and I thank you all for your support.

Thanks for the memories

On Discord, she would reference a video done by J House Law.

Soon after, I went to talk to her about the issue. She told me, "I have already noticed a major change in some of the Youtubers I watch. To help maintain their non child friendly perception, they have stopped censoring themselves on what they say. One of them have have even said while cursing, 'this will help us against COPPA,' while they were playing the game.

Nydia went on, "First Youtube hits us with 'You will be demonetized if your content isn't "family friendly" .' So we all comply, sugar coating everything for those easily offended. NOW they are telling us not only will be demonetized ( because if you mark your videos kid friendly you lose 90% of that videos income) but FINED over $42K if you mark it incorrectly. All because parents can't be bothered to raise their crotch goblins the rest of us are forced to do it for them!

"I am looking for alternate sites to play my videos on, not too excited about what I have seen so far." When I asked Nydia about Vimeo, she told me she didn't know enough about it, "The issue is, if the FTC sees a video and THEY determine that it appeals to children, and marked NOT for children, they will fine the creator. (All) because Youtube doesn't want to stop gathering DATA on it's viewers. THAT is what kicked this off to begin with.

"Youtube got hammered by the FTC for over 170 million dollars for collecting data on children, that were using Youtube because Mommy and Daddy couldn't be bothered to create their crotch goblin a child Youtube account. So Youtube in corporate fashion is side stepping any more responsibility by throwing it's creators under the bus and painting FTC targets on our backs.

"So no matter if a video maker says, 'This is not for kids,' " I asked, "he or she can still be slapped with such a heavy fine?" "According to everything I am seeing, yes," Nydia answered, "Like I said, this isn't the first time Youtube has screwed it's creators over. I am sorry if I am coming across a bit harsh, but we have ALL but so much work into these videos. And it is tearing me up so much just thinking of doing this. You KNOW the FTC will be actively hunting to make an example out of someone. With as vague as that wording is, they will get someone FAST!"

Nydia went on, "So instead of more 'family friendly' content, they are going to end up with cussing monkeys or constantly broke channels." She mentioned Yogscast's Minecraft videos, who was adding a lot more profinity to the videos, "It is a tactic to avoid being 'kid friendly.' The FTC can't ding them for appealing to children if they are swearing."

So what would have to happen for Nydia to feel comfortable about adding videos to Youtube again? She answered, "Only the FTC rewording this law so the creators are more protected." What did she feel would be the consequences of this move? She felt, "A lot of great creative creators will leave and just stop. Youtube will become full of cursing monkies and child friendly content will disappear because there is no money in it. And kids will STILL be watching it because hey, the Internet is the ultimate babysitter right?"

Going back to alternatives to Youtube, she told me, "Several people have recommended I put my Videos on Pornhub, because evidently Pornhub would like to take in all the traffic from formats that are being strangled by the 'protect the children's babysitter' mentality as well. I will be looking there. I am just concerned with how many viewers will have a problem going to a known porn site for my little music videos."

"Something else youtube is doing and I think it is to drive child friendly creators out is IF they are marked for children,  viewers can not up vote, comment mark to watch later or save or even favorite that video. so the creators get NO FEED BACK. none what so ever. and I see no reason for that at all. is that because all of those actions are tracked? is THAT the detail to which we are being mined for our data?"

Nydia had to take care of something in real life, so our interview came to a close. She would later message me, saying in one of the videos about COPPA she had watched, "it shows that children's videos will be hidden, 'They will not send out notices saying that a video is out that videos will be un searchable.' Then HOW will they ever be seen? so youtube is punishing children's video creators by hiding their videos?"

Nydia would later post in several Second Life groups the following message.

I would like to thank everyone for all your support of my channel and for helping me by working so hard to make some great videos,  we had a great time and it was a fun ride while it lasted. I am truly sorry for this happening. I will be trying to back up everything I have up now, and if you want to down load anything, do it now. I may be putting them in drop box for down loading, but that might take a while.

She would also announce on some Discord groups the following:

I just left a comment on the FTC's page about Coppa:

I create Videos for youtube, and these new regulations  are going to kill a lot of family friendly content. it will in the end encourage channels to "up" their videos out of the family friendly range to a more mature range just to make sure they will comply. Add to that parents that use the internet as a baby sitting tool will leave children exposed to more of the harsher side of the internet. if you want to truly help the children and protect them, have the parents take more responsibility for what they expose their children to with out a thought. to much legislation has been enacted that takes the responsibility of parenting off of the parents, and harming others on how they make their living, affecting them adversely through no fault of their own. youtube currently has a child viewer for the children to watch content for then and protect them. make it the parents responsibility to use it.

Please do the same.

People have until December 9 to leave comments.

When I last talked to Nydia about the issue, on Thursday November 21, she told me she would start taking down her videos from Youtube on December 1. She was considering two platforms to move them to: Pornhub and Vimeo.

So for one music video maker in Second Life, changes in the law and how it applies to the most popular platform mean it can no longer be used without risk. After over five years of doing videos, she feels she will have to give it up.

Sources: Youtube, The Verge

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Commentary: Second Life Is Dead, Long Live Second Life

By Cyfir (Cyfiremmerich)

Over the past two years, I’ve struggled to honestly see the point of Second Life, but for some reason I keep logging in and stay logged in. I believe that mostly has to do with me now owning a store (as well as being in a long distance relationship). I’ve always looked at Second Life as a social platform, and as I’ve witnessed the social aspects of Second Life dwindle, I’ve equated that to Second Life dying out. I mean, it would make sense. Social networks come and go. Since the Internet’s inception, the popularity of platforms seem to dwindle over time in favor of new platforms.

This begs the question then of why people still log in. Sims sit empty while Linden Labs collects on the rent. Clubs seem to pop up overnight just to go away a few months later. There doesn’t seem to be a point in trying to build a social space anymore unless you’re already established and have the equity to ride things out. But I believe that everything has shifted to creation rather than it being a social platform. Even though the bulk of my sales are on Marketplace and I just view my in-world stores as advertising, people still line up in droves outside of big shopping events like the Gacha Guild.

You see, Second Life has something that many social platforms don’t have and that’s a near boundless ability for talented creators to create and have others enjoy their creations. This is why it has survived this long. The Marketplace is still popular and the viewer itself has become just a way for many people to enjoy those creations and to create things for themselves and others.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Salem Halloween Event and SL's Top Haunted Places Tour and Hunt

By Gemma Cleanslate

Creepy crawly time.... the Halloween craze time in Second Life is here! Already the ghouls are beginning to appear. I will be looking for fun places to visit but at this time am looking at places where one can get decor or outfits or anything to help you enjoy the holiday at your home or club.

My first visit was to check out Salem, and event that will run right up to October 31 so you can get your fill of last minute things  you need. There is a decoration contest going on in the communties of the new continent, Bellisseria, so everyone has been talking about Salem 2019  put on by  Prism Events.  “Designed to evoke the tenor of the 1692 witch trials, Salem hits the grid with over 100 vendors and two ways to shop! Dive into Salem's Macabre Market or if you dare, try your luck in the Gacha Gallows. Salem runs 9/28 - 10/31 and promises to bewitch you!” is the land writeup .

When I arrived there were parts of avatars adding to the macabre by floating all over the place.. be prepared for lag.  The market is huge. Many of the outfits are can be used for daily use as well as Halloween parties. Some of the makeup will be great for those special events that will be held at clubs.

For those building haunted houses you will find some eerie creatures and skeletons  as well as old furniture to fill the rooms.

My next stop was at “"SL's TOP HAUNTED PLACES TOUR and HUNT"  in Quincentival . Oct. 1 - 31st.

“The 10th year for SL'S TOP HAUNTED PLACES TOUR and HUNT! There are many creative Haunts and Hunts you can visit and enjoy grid wide and if you like you can also do some Halloween shopping at some of SL'S best stores. “  Pick up your card and get information on the Hunt and grab your first gift next to the sign. Then walk and visit all the wonderful decor and houses filled with wispy ghostly creatures.

Here I am watching a football game with some friends in one of the houses. 
 This whole place is a creation of Carolyn Avro of Favorite Things.

Before you leave stop into the Candy Cauldron and pick up some wonderful treats!!

And stop off at Carolyn’s Halloween shop where you will find pumpkins and trees and other decor for your yard for sale.

Gemma Cleanslate

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Goodbye Premium

By Cyfir (Cyfiremmerich)

After years of being a premium Second Life member (over half a decade), I’ve decided to downgrade and at the end of December I will no longer be able to enjoy the “premium” perks that this service offers. So why did I do it? There are actually multiple reasons. Back when I first started paying for premium membership, things were different in my life. I was a sim co-owner. I was logging on every day to manage a community. I had a group of friends in said community that I hung out with on a daily basis. I was just more invested in the platform. Even when that community left Second Life, I rather quickly found myself in a new community that I could call home and became more and more involved in that community as a leader.

All good things must end however and I ended up leaving that community for personal reasons. This time, I didn’t find a new community or place to call home. For the past year, Second Life to me has been a largely quiet place for me. I spend most of my time in a rented parcel, admittedly jaded from my past experiences in Second Life communities and not believing things would be different if I started over somewhere else. I came to realize that the major driver behind why I loved Second Life so much was the community and social interaction, and I don’t get that anymore.

So when the bill for my premium membership came around this month, I took a hard look at it. For one, I don't remember it being so expensive. Over thirty dollars a quarter means over $100 a year. Even though there had been news of Second Life switching up their pricing, I had largely ignored it until now. However, this time I took a good long look at just exactly what I was getting for my money. 

One of the premium perks which Second Life touts with their premium membership offer is their Second Life homes. I rarely use mine and prefer to rent a place on a less laggy sim. Another perk is the ability to set your home location to anywhere, which really doesn’t matter to me because I know how to use the places menu in Firestorm. Another perk that I might miss out on is the weekly stipend, which is 300L per week. In actuality, this does help to cover costs with rent and gives me some extra L to do what I want with, but is it worth over $100 a year? No. One of the features that I’ll lose that may end up biting me in the butt later is the ability to gain priority in to teleporting in to nearly full sims during major events, but does this matter to me enough to pay for premium? Again, no. What about prioritized account support if something were to go wrong or if I was wrongfully banned? I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to contact customer support at one point and gave up. It’s extremely hidden. I also didn’t own any land aside from my Second Life home. The other perks are just inconsequential at best. So then why am I paying for the service?

There just isn’t any major reason for myself to justify the premium membership. It’s probably still a good idea for those who own land (you need the service to do so after all) or otherwise run a community, but to the average user there is just no justification to pay over $100 a year for a trickle of features that really don’t matter. You can rent a parcel for fairly cheap and buy Lindens when you need it and end up spending less than $100 a year if you’re careful.


Monday, August 26, 2019

A New Computer

By Bixyl Shuftan

Yours truly recently got a new computer, the fourth I've used to get on Second Life. When I first logged on Second Life in December 2006, it was with a PC I'd gotten used a few years earlier. Getting on Second Life and the games I was playing at the time was slow. So I decided to try to add some memory to it, and ended up frying the machine. So like it or not, time to get a new machine. As computers at the time were not being sold with the reliable version of Windows I knew but Vista, which was getting friends and family alike frustrated, it was time to go "back to Mac." So I got an iMac, and that was the computer I would get to know Second Life with, and experience to about November 2013.

As time went on, Second Life would be updated again and again. And my viewer began to slow down and freeze a bit. By Fall 2013, things were getting to the point the viewer would pause in the middle of my typing a sentence. So I began looking for a new computer. As Macs were more expensive and Vista had long been replaced by more reliable versions of Windows, in this case Windows 7, I decided to look for a PC, one with a good graphics card. Windows 8 was coming out, but someone I knew whose machine ran on it was having trouble to the point the computer froze up and couldn't be saved. So when I found one, a Cybertron Power PC, I made sure it had Windows 7 installed. The machine arrived in November, and my Second Life experience was back to normal. I could also start playing more of the games my Second Life friends were playing.

All was mostly well for a while, aside from the computer needing to be taken to the shop a few times, and once my screenshots vanishing (later recovered them). Then late one evening in early August, the computer finally died. There wasn't much of a warning other than the viewer acting slower and crashing more, though it wasn't nearly as slow as the last couple months I was using the Mac. Fortunately, the hard drive was still good (I had backed up my most important files anyway). Also, with Microsoft about to abandon support for Windows 7, I had been giving some thought to getting a new machine soon anyway. But like it or now, I needed to get one now.

What I wanted was another machine that would serve me well for years. I recalled a friend who got a new machine, only to find Second Life actually ran *slower* on it than her computer that was several years old. So I talked to a few friends as well as checking the recommended system requirements on I soon came across a Dell Inspiron Gaming Desktop. What got my attention was the NVIDIA GTX graphics card and 8 gigabytes of RAM to cut down on the lag. Plus it was on sale. I ordered it, and after several days it was ready to pickup.

I was soon back in business, and my Firestorm viewer was running much faster than on my old machine. Maxing out my viewing distance at 1064m, I didn't have to wait nearly as long as before to wait for everything to rezz. Highly complex avatars nearby didn't slow me down like they had been recently. I've enabled shadows to appear in my screenshots, at least for now. As for games, they load faster, and I'm able to play at better resolutions. I should note I still crash occasionally, and TP fails seem to be occurring a bit more than usual, though the latter could just be SL being a bit buggier than usual with the latter.

So here's to more years of going about Second Life and occasional gaming. Hopefully I won't need another machine for a very long time.

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Second Life Regional Search And Rescue

By Gemma Cleanslate

“Sunday the 18th at 9:00 Am  SLT will be the opening calls for mutual aid and we look forward to a  community of skilled first responders  participating.  “

I often see and have seen many first responders around Second Life, but have never seen such an event in the time I have been here, except for the  9/11 event that was held for many years.

I saw this call for 9:00 for a multi-agency event in Iridium and went over to see what was going on. It was an amazing display . A train had derailed on a bridge over a deep ravine above water. Cars were strewn around in the water on fire and above on the bridge with victims  waiting for help. Some were on the bridge, some in the tunnel, and down below in the water.

Liam Steele (Liam3017 Resident) shouts: Got a young lady here with a pulse, no response.
L.Krause (MarkRenard221 Resident) shouts: OK COMING

The organization was amazing. A fire truck deployed a winch to lower the fire fighters and carry the victims to safety.. A helicopter lowered another first responder to help.I saw three victims rescued and winched up to the helicopter. They were transported to an area set up near the area with medical personnel waiting .  This took place over 4 hours.It was so professional.

At one point one of the responders has an accident himself, Jᴀᴍᴇs L. Qᴜɪɴɴツ (MikeStoker Resident fell off the bridge into the water and was covered in oil and needed to be rescued himself.

A wide variety of mutual aid responders showed up at various times from various rescue groups the the hours passed went on. A marine fire and rescue boat appeared to check the waters and the train cars under water . One entered and swam the cars to check for people. There was a victim trapped in there for a long time with her head above water fortunately .   After all were rescued then everyone took part in knocking down the fire.

I spoke to Tealcie Annibles (Tealcie Resident, ( Founder and Commander of Second Life Regional Search And Rescue - A Mutual Aid Response Organization.  Co-Founder/Owner TLC Land-Co),   who runs these activities and she told me that she tries to do it as often as possible . She has been coordinating them for the past two years.  Next month will be another disaster involving an oil rig and a cruise ship. When they are called to respond the call goes out in real time to anyone who can come as first responders and they arrive in various times as they can and search for victims and disaster relief.

I asked her if there was a practice before hand and she answered, “No we go live with no warning”. She passed a video of a past event that you can see here . .

If you want to see or participate in this activity get in touch with a first responder and find out how to get involved. I found it all amazing as I watched it occur and offered to be a victim some time. There is a group for those who might like to be a survivor. You can find it on my profile. I stayed to watch for over three hours with a few other observers sitting high on a hill and camming in on various parts of the activity . This is a particular sort of roleplay that takes time and patience. It is a slow process that moves along with the pace of discovery of victims and planning. It was a great experience for all .

Gemma Cleanslate

Friday, July 19, 2019

Blau Rascon and The Second Life Avatar Index

By Cyfir (cyfiremmerich Resident)

Blau Rascon currently maintains the Second Life Avatar Index and works at Kinzart Kreetures. I recently had a chance to interview him- regarding the Avatar Index as well as KZK. The Avatar Index can be found here:


Cyfir: What inspired you to create The Second Life Avatar Index?

Blau Rascon: From mid-2011 through early 2013, I was a writer at a similar site called Second Life Avatar Review Files (SLARF). I loved writing for SLARF, but when I was brought on at KZK, we decided that it would be better if I retired from writing there to help avoid any conflicts of interest. I stayed on as a senior staff member, but the site got quiet not long after. SLARF is now inactive, and currently only available to visit through the Wayback Machine. I was pretty bummed to see that - it was a really good resource, and I had hoped it would go on for longer.

I put out a poll last September to see how the community would feel about me starting a similar site, and the response was very much in favor. The first three entries were published on September 25th. It feels good to be writing again!

Cyfir: Can you tell those who don't know what the site is about?

Blau Rascon: The Second Life Avatar Index is a website dedicated to cataloging avatars - primarily, but not exclusively, anthropomorphic / "furry" avatars. The goal is to have a place where people can come and browse avatars, discover new creators, or share entries with friends.

Given that I currently work for an avatar company and know that there are some who would be uncomfortable with a competitor's employee writing reviews of their avatars, I don't write traditional reviews; rather, I present data points about an avatar, in an effort to be as neutral as possible in my writing.

Entries include a text section describing the avatar's features and details, a gallery section including turnaround images, HUD images, and an imgur album of detail shots and GIFs of animations, and a video including a 360 turnaround and a demonstration of an avatar's functions and features, if applicable.

Cyfir: How has it been received by the community?

Blau Rascon: So far, the feedback has been pretty positive! I've gotten some IMs from folks that were pleasantly surprised to see their works on the Index, which always makes my day.

Cyfir: What are your plans for the site in the future?

Blau Rascon: I plan to move the site to its own host in the semi-near future, which would allow me to do some more neat things with plugins that I can't currently do while hosted on Wordpress. One of the ideas I had was to make a calendar and allow avatar creators to add events like release parties to it, and I'd like to see if that could work someday.

Many people would like to see mod parts / modkits on the Index - I'd love to add them in, but for now, I'd like to keep the site focused on full avatars. There is definitely an interest there, though, so I'll be revisiting the idea when I can!

Cyfir : You also work at Kinzart Kreetures. Can you tell us what you do there?

Blau Rascon: I do a little bit of everything - beta testing, troubleshooting, moderating, demoing, keeping things organized, and so on.

Kat is often not logged in to SL while working to keep himself focused, so I help handle most in-world things while he's unavailable.

Cyfir: Is there any upcoming news you would like to share from KZK?

Blau Rascon: There have been some long delays due to in real-life events, but we're working on finishing up the bug-fixing and preorder bonuses for the Direwolf hybrid avatar we released a few months ago. No set dates for these, but we're doing our best to get them out soon.

As thanks to our community for sticking by us through these rough times, we're doing a pretty neat project. Together with the community, we're designing an original anthro avatar that will be given away for free. We're doing several phases of polls to determine the details. The species basis is still being narrowed down, but as of writing this, the species will be a hybrid of "Eastern Dragon" and "Canid - Misc / Extinct". There will be more polls coming to determine things like whether or not it'll have wings, what kind of tail, what kind of legs, and so on. I'm excited to see what will happen!

If folks would like to keep up with the project or participate in the polls, they can join our in-world groups or our Discord.

Cyfir: Is there anything else you would like to share with the Second Life community?

Blau Rascon: I'd like to tell folks - keep making cool stuff! And even if you think you can't draw, or model, or mod, don't be afraid to try. You can learn a lot just from tinkering!

And something more personal, drawing from recent family events - please consider donating blood and/or bone marrow if you are able to. There are many people that need the help!


I personally think that the Avatar Index is a great resource for those wanting to browse different avatar options and I’m looking forward to seeing what the free avatar will be like from KZK!


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

LiaEx Freight Shipping

By Deaflegacy

I had a chance to meet up with Lia (female.winslet) recently to talk about her business, LiaEx.  My first question was about what LiaEx is about. “LiaEx is a leading freight delivery company here in Second Life," replied Lia, "We compete with GridEx and other freight carriers and we proudly serve much of the grid.”

I asked to know who is the creator of LiaEx and Lia answered that she is the creator. I wondered how long she had been running LiaEx.  Her response was, “Oh gosh. Probably close to a year. But it's only in the last two to three months that it has really taken off.”

I asked Lia if she is planning to make it a long term thing as in longer than a year or so. “Of course!," she answered, "Assuming that the SL economy remains strong and airports, seaports and other facilities continue wanting us to build facilities there, I see no reason we could not continue indefinitely.”

Lia (female.winslet) went ahead and gave me a tour of the place.  “Here is our list of services. Eventually(tm) is our equivalent of Priority Mail, FedEx Express, etc.” replied Lia.

In the customer service area, there was a stack of packages in front of the counter. But when I looked at the spot later, they were gone. In their place was a hole going to who-knows-where.

The next stop was the employee only area. Lia told me, “Freight coming into us departing to our interline partners or being picked up goes in and out here on this belt.  Hmmmm.... no wonder nothing has been going out lately. I think I see a slight issue.   I'm sure it will get fixed though.”

Lia went on to tell me, “Well, we are hiring. And if anyone else would like us to setup shop at their airport, seaport, or truck terminal, just have them reach out to me. We are hiring for our air, land, and sea divisions as well as back office operations personnel.”

“And, on a serious out-of-character note," Lia grinned, "I'm sure you've figured this out, but LiaEx only exists as a joke to parody real world companies. If anyone wants in on the joke or would like us to setup a disaster prone facility at their freight terminal, just have them reach out to me. (smile)”

Real life unfortunately came calling, so I had to go.  I did leave with a smile on my face after what Lia said.

The locations:

LiaEx Corporate Headquarters, Paneer (104, 19, 24) – Moderate

Janie's Landing, Avignon (23, 211, 66) - General

LiaEx : Eventually (tm) it gets there
When you absolutely don't need it there tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month.


Editor's Note: Jaine's Landing where LiaEx is doubles as a stop for the "Get The Freight Out" game. Lia would later say, "Janie is very kind and hosts LiaEx for free," and would add there will be a skit about LiaEx being performed on July 12 at Club Vipera.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Moonlight Ducklings, A Daycare In Second Life

by Marcel Mosswood

One interesting thing about Second Life is that it is a role-play game, where you can be anything and anyone you want. Being a child is also an interesting choice, especially with a variety of interesting tools to be explored as in the Moonlight Ducklings Daycare.

What is Moonlight Ducklings Daycare? Dreamer Kyrie, the owner, explained to SL Newser about the facilities she made for children in Second Life. "Moonlight Ducklings Daycare (MDD) has two missions, FUN and SAFETY! Learning and safety can be made fun, and we are here to prove that for the Littles of Second Life! We accept kids to 6 years of age and are open Monday - Friday from 12 - 4 PM SLT and please note that the hours of business is a recent change!"

She described the schedule of the daycare as the following:

Hours of operation are Monday - Friday, 12 - 4 PM SLT.
Daily activities may vary but if it’s a normal schedule day then the line up is as follows:
12:30 - 1 PM: Lunch Time
1:15 - 2 PM: Learning Trivia
2 - 4 PM: Play/Movie Time

"Although our hourly schedule may not be doable for every child in Second Life," Dreamer explained, "we also host events from time to time where which anyone, parents and children alike, may attend.We provide meals, naps if needed, movies, and of course, learning and play! There is a blackboard for our learning sessions as well as various activity tables. Here children are encouraged to bring toys as well with the stipulation of them being picked up at the end of play time! However, a child bringing their own pets probably wouldn't be a good idea seeing as they tend to cause lag if there are too many."

Dreamer explained more, "The main team behind MDD is my Mom, 'Mama Duck', who handles the finances of the Moonlight Ducklings Daycare and then me, 'The Main Helper', I am the one that operates the schedule hours and activities.

The daycare does charge some Lindens, weekly and monthly rates, with discounts for siblings in the same SL family.

Interesting? Here is the LM:

Marcel Mosswood

Monday, June 17, 2019

Anbor Mole At Work

By Bixyl Shuftan

On Wednesday June 12, the Newser reported on new sims and Linden Home areas being set up at Bellisseria. That evening, I got a tip about someone there from my friend Ed (Edconnect Gufler). He sent me a TP over, though taking it, I ended up in the water. Swimming up, I noticed on the map a group of people on land to the west. So I went over, and among the group of people, and one squirrel, there was Abnor Mole, working away while an audience was watching, and chattering.

For the most part, Abnor just quietly listened as he worked on the houses and roads. But he would occasionally speak; "Feel free to watch from a distance all you like. (smile)"

When someone expressed a desire for a house to be next to some rocks, and another commented, "It would be cool if some waterfront homes were centered on the parcels so that the back of the house faced the water," Abnor answered, "Some of them have them, and some don't. But we can't make add or change them. The LI on the main parcel had to have enough remaining to always support the houses. The LI on the main parcel has been carefully calculated to allow for that. If we add more, we run the risk of not having enough LI for a house.. and that would be... 'bad'."

As there had been a talk about fences, Abnor commented, "But the fence is in the content pack, so she could add her own."

"Abnor, would there be like a little hang out area or park being added for the sims?" "That's what community areas are for... that red ring you see in the next region is where a community area is going to go."

More questions would be asked, and Abnor would answer. "Why are the LOD's so high?" "So they don't collapse into itty bitty triangles when you get more than 20m away."

"Are the houses and houseboats in this next release the same builds as the first ones?" "They look the same to me. (smile)"

"Oh Abnor, are we allowed to do shell's on the outside of the houses for more paint options, or would that be going against the look too much?" "Yeah... but if we start doing that then we'd spend all day just moving fences and trees and making sure the LI balances out... we'd never have time to make new houses."

When Abnor was asked about when the houses would be available, he answered, "The only person who can tell you is Patch. until he says something I know nothing. *winks*"

Someone brought up the green markers in the sims, "Did we already find out what the green spikes are for? If so I missed it." Abnor answered, "If people just type in the name of the region they teleport to the center. So from now on we are making it a point not to have that location be a resident's parcel."

There was also a little joking around. When Abnor was talking about when the moles built Nautilus, one resident responded, "Found the big eye under a bush (laughter)." The robot mole answered, "*whistles* I don't know nuthin bout no alleged 'eye.'"

Eventually, someone asked, "You probably  get asked this but why did you chose 'Abnor?'" Another resident promptly gave the answer, "Abnormal, Abnor Mole." "ABNORMAL ! (laughing) I just got it!" "Like Whacka Mole." "(laughter) A few of the moles have punny names." "(I) would completely get 'Guaca Mole' as a Mole name ..." Abnor mused, "I still like my name. (smile) Someone I worked with for years just finally got the joke."

"All playing aside Abnor, what you guys have done with this is incredible and such a great effort all around." "We appreciate it we really do." Abnor soon responded, "This is different because I invited everyone to come, but I do want to thank you guys for letting us work in peace for the most part. Everyone has been really good about it and I wanted to thank you all for that. It makes the job a lot easier." The residents were appreciative, "Thanks for taking the time to talk to us and show us the new ones, Abnor." "Thank you for the sneak peek all are doing such a great job!" "THANK YOU MOLES!" Someone then spoke, "Who wants a 'YAY MOLES' sign to hold?" Then the person started passing them around.

Abnor also revealed what the source of the pickle jokes of theirs around the new continent, "... people said (the original SSP area) Bellisseria looks like  a dragon sitting in a boot eating a pickle.. so... We took that pickle and were going to cut out the center. So we started calling it 'the squished pickle.' But instead I terraformed the whole inside. But the name stuck. So that became 'The Squishy Pickle,' and then the bar followed."

Abnor went on, "What we call a 'community center' is just public places people can gather, like the swimming pools, the Squishy Pickle bars... locations like that. Someone asked, presumably about the one to be built for this area, "is it a huge secret what you are doing with that?" The mole answered, "It's a surprise Patch has, and Patch doesn't like moles ruining his surprises. (smile)."

Abnor soon carved a river into the ground. One resident went, "Oh, I love rivers! Will like to live there." "Drawbridges for big boats!" someone else quipped. "Yes, I know. I've made them before," the mole responded, "They get tricky though." A couple people talked about when pranksters would open bridges when cars approached, or shut them when sailboats approached, and wondered if there could be a way to stop that. Abnor answered an ideal solution was unlikely, "Once you start getting into things to make it not work under XYZ conditions but always work under LMNOP, the scripting can get stupid complicated."

Eventually, Abnor had to go, "I think the refreshment I need now is sleep, and then I start back again in the morning (smile). But if you want to see regions in different stages of production... walk north from here over the bridge, keep going and hang a left at the big river." He then told the crowd goodbye, and called it a night. The crowd then dispersed, one getting a sailboat, and going up the river the little robot had just made.

So that was my chance encounter with Abnor Mole at the new Linden Home area. It was fun and informative, the kind of "abnormal" circumstances a resident of Second Life likes.

Bixyl Shuftan