Friday, February 21, 2020

SLife And Times: Two Sides of Banned For Being Furry

By Bixyl Shuftan

For most clubs in Second Life, it's not a big deal what you look like as long as you can fit through the door and behave yourself, especially if you tip. Being the lone furry or tiny at a mostly human club, or the sole human in a venue of furries might get you a few odd glances, but it's my experience seldom is anyone rude about it. If there's a contest that night, you might actually get a few extra votes and win as you're instantly recognized.

But as most people in Second Life know, eventually you're going to run into someone who has a problem with your looks. This was the case of one furry friend of mine whom was invited to a venue by it's hostess, and got booted because the rules of the place stated only human avatars were permitted, "I was sent an invite, to a club, only to get told I have to leave for being ME!" His name was an obvious clue to his avatar, "She KNOWS I'm furry. What the frack would someone knowing I'm no human invite me for?" He was furious, "I want to go back and torch that f**king club." But once he had a moment to calm down, suggested I try to get the point of view of the hostess, if she was willing, if I was going to write about the event. He did admit that the word "human" was in the invitation he'd gotten, but didn't realize it until after he came back from being away from keyboard pressed the "accept" button to the teleport request, so the part about it being a human event had faded away after several seconds before his return.

Contacting the woman in question, once she heard her name wouldn't be mentioned in anything written she only asked that the article be objective, "This is an important subject, I think." She was tired though, and trying to set up a time eventually we settled for answering questions by notecard. She had first met the fur in question through friends and had a positive first impression. Where she was hosting that night was in a formal ballroom, "In the ballroom it is clear that it is humans only. On the rest of the sim, everyone is welcome as long as they are covered. Not only is it clear in all the literature, the TP I sent that ******* took was very clear. To wit: '? I'm hosting at romantic *** **** ****** 2-4 PM w/ DJ _________, International Romantic Music. Join us? FORMAL, HUMAN?'"

She described the situation after the fur in question showed up, "I knew as soon as he landed as a furry that he was in violation of the venue's policy but there was no pressure. As host, I was in charge of dress code violations (DCV). One of the owners was there, as was the manager. They were very relaxed, both welcomed him in local chat, as did I, calling him my friend." She told me she decided to do nothing as long as no one complained, "****** was there for over an hour before anything was said about him violating dress code. ... The owner responded that Raccoon was my friend and that I would take care of it. ... When the guest complained, I reiterated that he was my friend and posted some comments I always make in support of furries when I see exclusion. One is, 'Did you know RL furries donated 12 Million to charitable causes last year?' ... I had to apologize to him on IM and remind him it was a human only ballroom. I have many furrie friends and always feel badly when they are excluded though I know from speaking with them that they are used to it. I also respect that each venue has a right to design and run things as they choose. My responsibility is to abide by the rules and in some instances, enforce them."

She would go on to say that avatar discrimination happened in other places in Second Life, "There are many exclusions in SL. Children are not allowed some places, non-human AVs, pregnant AVs, collared AVs, or particle emitters, for instance. As a woman, I am excluded some places. Sometimes it for dress, like 'must be nude.' I've been ejected from venues for non-compliance with that rule."

The way she saw it, the fur had fair warning, "He had notice before coming that it was human only so he chose to come as a furrie. He and I chatted, we all enjoyed the event, no one said anything until one of the guests complained." She did acknowledge that he was booted by the owner instead of being allowed to walk out on his own accord, "He said he would leave rather than create drama. Then he posted other's text in local chat, creating drama, disrupting the event, and violating TOS."

That last detail was the one big difference between how the two persons described the event. Talking to the fur later, he told me he never posted any IM conversation out in the open, "I have transcripts of everything." He also stated he was there for less than a minute before being asked to change. As mentioned earlier, he did admit to accepting the teleport request before noticing the word "human" in the invitation, but he had been away from computer, and the notice about it being a human event had already faded.

The hostess did have some final words, "We have the perfect opportunity to make something positive of this unfortunate incident. My personal philosophies and practices are to celebrate diversity and promote inclusion. When we were planning the .... Clinic, some administrators wanted furries excluded but acceded to my argument on why they and everyone should be welcome. The salient points here are that being an activist can be noble, valuable, and serve the greater good. There are ways to be an effective advocate and ways to hurt your cause. ******'s behavior in this instance gave all those there valid reasons to exclude furries, setting back rather than helping. If you feel furries (or any group) is excluded, make a valid and rational case for why this should be reconsidered. I have shared a few of the points I use. Respect the venues. They have no obligation to follow any course other than their mission or business plan. If the venue is considerate enough to state an exclusion policy so there is no surprise, be grateful. Speak privately to the owners if you would like them to reconsider their policy. If you wanted to be respected and treated well, act that way toward others."

The idea of being grateful and respectful in the face of being given the boot is likely to be too much for many of my fellow furs in Second Life to ask for. They are very proud of their looks, and will see exclusion as an insult to who and what they are. A historic RP area such as 1920s Berlin they can usually let slide as the idea is to make it as close to the history books as it was. But a venue that's purely for entertainment such as the infamous "Frank's Place" that sees a furry avatar as the equivalent to ragged jeans and a t-shirt at a high-class establishment, that viewpoint is seen as a pile of waste matter.

Looking at the hostess' comment about "exclusions" one way, it could be seen as saying discrimination is a part of Second Life, and there's nothing that can be done about it. But looking at it another, it could be seen as saying not allowing someone into a club just because they're furry (or because they're not) is as justifiable as saying women are only allowed in if they're naked without anything covering their private parts.

While the Newser has written about this kind of situation in the past on occasion, fortunately, this kind of incident is rare. The amount of time I've been asked to leave a place because of my having a furry avatar can be counted on one hand after over thirteen years here. I've been to high class places with first rate musicians that while asking me to be neatly dressed didn't have a problem with my avatar. One investigation of a place in which someone was thrown out for having a nonhuman avatar revealed that there was a nonhuman on the staff and the incident was likely the result of a hostess' inexperience. Of those who prefer human avatars, most would rather be in places where they can invite their friends. One SL church operated for months with a number of furs in it's flock before getting a new pastor whom then insisted on "keeping it real" and telling the parish human avatars only. The majority of people, humans and furs alike, left.

So while this sort of thing does happen once in a while, it shouldn't define our Second Lives. It's best to take ourselves, and our tip money, to places that appreciate our company.

Addition: It turned out that the hostess had no problem with her name being given.

Bixyl Shuftan

Thursday, January 30, 2020

My Expirences As A Hostess

By Angel Fencer  (Ender Leven)   

It all began an few years ago when I was in Second Life looking for an job and stumbled upon DJ Uncle Pedro and the club he was DJing in. Since it was an while back, I don't remember much about how I found it. But I do remember the things we did.

I had fun in hosting and made an good income (tips only), traveled club to club with Pedro and sent loads of VIP notices and cheerfully met a lot of people. I even remember Pedro loved me so much, he asked a band to make me a song. I listened to it it, and it  was so beutiful and kind. He really was a gentleman and an amazing Blues DJ.  It only ended when I left Second Life for another grid called OSGrid.

After two years, I returned to Second Life. I tried making Lindens through scripting, but my scripts wouldn't sell. So I was searching for a new job. I went and searched for job groups, found one and then joined Friendlys. I chatted an bit with one of the staff and filled my application, which got accepted. I will have my first shift this Friday. I talked to an few people like Debbie, Tabs, and some others. It was amazing and I hope to have fun and can't wait to hype up people, make friends, party, chill, and hope to earn some lindens with tips.

What do hosts do?
A club host's job is to send notices, entertain the users, have fun, advertise the club, send notifications, and thank people for tips and such in group chat. It's an amazing way to meet people and earn some hard cash if they like you and the club is full enough.

So I wanna become an host, how does one become an host?

If you go to clubs, ask them for the application format and if your lucky, you get accepted. Be sure to ask them if they train hosts.

Where do you host currently?

At Friendlys at 12pm - 2 pm SLT/PST
Angel Fencer

Monday, January 20, 2020

Interview With Bixyl Shuftan

By Penny (Deaflegacy Resident)

Bixyl Shuftan had been a reporter covering Second Life for 12 years now.  He worked with the SL Newspaper from November 2007 until June 2010, which then closed because at that time the owner, JamesTJuno, was leaving Second Life.  The editor, Dana Vanmoer, didn't feel she had the authority to just up and grab ownership without his permission.  Dana gave the news to the crew in April 2010. After their initial shock, Bixyl started talking to the others on what they should do.  Gemma Cleanslate, Shelie Sands and Grey Lupindo agreed to form a new paper.  "Since I was the 'office manager' of Second Life Newspaper, taking care of it when Dana couldn't," they felt Bixyl should be the editor of it. 

Because Dana didn't want Second Life Newspaper to end with just a simple and sad goodbye article, instead she wanted to have a party as a tribute to their time and work together.  SL Newser was officially announced at the closing party of the old one, on June 5, 2010.  In SL Newspaper's final article, Dana credited Bixyl in keeping the old paper regularly updated.  "The paper's front page was 'closed' with a link to the Newser at the bottom," said Bixyl.

Bixyl helps out with the Relay For Life, both as a news reporter and a volunteer.  He gets the news about Relay For Life out through the Newser by Press Releases and news stories of events. But he's also a member of the Sunbeamer team. According to Bixyl, the Relay for Life is the largest fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.  "There are chapters all over the United States, and presumably in Canada and elsewhere." replied Bixyl.  "The Second Life chapter, last I heard, we were the 17th largest."  Bixyl believe that the Relay has been going on in Second Life in some form since 2006. Bixyl covered some of their events for the Second Life Newsppaer, and under the Second Life Newser, it remained a priority.

The Sunbeamers are the team of the community of where Bixyl make his home in Second Life, the Sunweaver/Angels. Covering their events gives Bix a chance to both highlight the good Second Life does, and putting his community in the spotlight. Rita Mariner is the team captain. Every year, they have gotten an award for fundraising.  The first year, it was silver.  Last year, it was Jade. "A couple times we've gotten one for the campsite, which Cynthia Farshore and Shockwave Yareach deserve the bulk of the credit." said Bixyl.  

He writes on more than just news stories. At the moment, Bixyl is working on a novel. "The working title for it is 'The Corsean Encounter,'" he explained, "While science-fiction, it's not your standard space opera with spaceships shooting lasers at one another. In a sense, it turns the scenario of the evil alien invader upside down with the invaders being human. The hero of the story, a human who came to the world to help out, has to help his new friends deal with them."

I asked him about who his inspiration is, and he said, "I guess you can say the rest of the Newser crew is one inspiration."  Bixyl also liked to read and have kept up with the news in real life.  "I guess it's fitting. Here in Second Life, I help keep residents posted about it."  When we talked about a single high point when it comes to the Newser, he said that it was interesting coming face to face with Ebbe Linden. 

"Covering the Relay and Second Life Birthday has always been nice, even if it does make me busy."  Bixyl went on to say that he often calls May and June his "busy time," between the SL Birthday and Relay Weekend. Though that could also apply to October and December, with Halloween and Christmas.  "I've written about many people, places, and events over the years.  "I guess it can be a challenge keeping it up." replied Bixyl.  "But the compliments and people saying 'thank you' have been another inspiration.  I asked Bixyl what he thinks when someone like me says that he is an inspiration.  "I feel happy, proud," said Bix with a smile.  Bixyl added that he has very intention of continuing the Newser to its' tenth anniversary, and beyond. "Probably until that one day Linden Lab makes the decision to close this world, whenever that is.  Probably not for several years though," commented Bix.

On the same night I was working on the article, Bixyl got a "thank you" from the Veterans Tribute team.  Keep up the good work, Bixyl. 


Friday, January 17, 2020

Fearless Nation PTSD Support Virtual Community

By Bixyl Shuftan

Fearless Nation is a group and sim in Second Life with the purpose of helping people with Post-Tramautic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Their description is, "Fearless Nation PTSD Support is an RL 501c3 Nonprofit Organization for people with PTSD, their families, partners, children and communities: We provide education, support and advocacy. Since 2009 we've had a virtual, online community that spans distance, with a small carbon footprint bringing people together in a common goal: Trauma Recovery."

I recently had a talk with Anya Ibor  the director of the group, at the main building at the sim. "This is Main Library," she told me, "where there is lots of education/info about PTSD and an art gallery upstairs." After I asked how the group got started, she told me, "We started in 2009, on parcels I pulled together. There are many misconceptions, and lots of stigma about PTSD. We had a Library there, a small house, and meetings. I started to play around with virtual environments for people with PTSD, like a couple of nice meeting places, a Remembrance Place for loss and grieving, companion animals, Yoga Nidra (a mind/sleeping yoga), information on nutrition and bodycare for PTSD, creative arts and art therapy. The idea is: Engage with your avatar, and then take it to RL for PTSD symptoms."

I asked about the misconceptions. Anya answered, "Misconceptions about PTSD include: Thinking that we are 'ticking time bombs,' that we pose a threat to others, that we are weak and unreliable, that we are psychotic. Not true, unless there is a co-morbid psycholigical condition that includes psychosis or voilence. That is rare. Also, veterans and military make up only a minority of PTSD sufferers, most of use are victims of crime, and all abuse (psychological, physical, sexual). Our group includes military in real life, but mostly police personnel, trauma therapists, EMTs, survivors of abuse--and we have people engaged here who are trauma therapists and friends and family who have what is known as 'secondary' or vicarious PTSD."

And when did Anya think the public was starting to take PTSD seriously? "In the late 70s/early 80s," she told me, "through the work of Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and Judith Herman, working with Viet Nam vets and crime victims -- I can send you more detailed information about the pioneers of PTSD. Now it is more widely accepted however, there is still a great deal of misinformation out there. After 9/11 and all the wars of the last 20 years PTSD has gained much more ground in research and simply 'being believed.' The psychiatric/psychological community has made great strides in PTSD understanding. For example, the DSM-5 (2013) separated PTSD from anxiety disorders and put it in its own trauma-centered category. Because there are different types of PTSD, C-PTSD, Combat PTSD, etc. and PTSD is the only condition caused by external forces. For example, some ppl with PTSD have a 'before trauma' and after trauma" view, and some never knew anything but trauma from childhood. But the symptoms remain the same across the spectrum of PTSD.

"So far we have gotten strongly positive feedback. So because I have been getting my Ph.D. in psychology, I focused in doing my Dissertation research on the lived experiences of ppl with PTSD who engae in SL (virtual worlds). The formal name of the study, conducted under Walden University's Institutional Review Board is named: 'The Experiences of PTSD Sufferers Who Participate in Internet-Based Virtual World Activities in Desktop Virtual Reality Environments (DVREs).' ”

I brought up the study, mentioning she was looking for volunteers. Anya answered, "Yes. I need 5 more people with PTSD who are active in SL/virtual worlds to answer a ten item questionnaire about how their lived experiences in SL might affect, or not, ther PTSD. The study is completely confidential and private per APA Ethics Code and Walden University standards. All identifying information will be coded and hidden. So no one has to worry that their real-life identification will be revealed."

And where did the idea for the study come from? The idea came from, well, me," she answered, "I have PTSD and back in 2009 when through work for IEEE Standards Association in RL I was introduced to SL/Virtual Worlds. I started noticing all the potential to work out PTSD issues in-world, and take that knowledge and lived experience into RL. Then I met other residents who were doing the same thing with their trauma, and we just banded together and, well, started growing.

"I have 15 responses now. I need at least 20 participants. Sounds small, but this is Qualitative (QUAL) research project, where the participants provide rich, robust information about their experience inworld in light of their PTSD. I will collect all the Questionnaire answers - which are meant to be easy, engaging, creative, fun - and 'code' the responses to detect patterns of meaning.

"The responses HAVE been rich and robust as well! There have been responses that have surprised me, but they will be included certainly as areas for further future research. For example, sometimes in-world, personal relationships can be as heartbreaking or upsetting as any real-life relationship. That begs a question as to whether SL might be a triggering or exacerbating influence on a person's PTSD."

When I asked how many were in the group, Anya answered, "There are currently about 275 members across two groups (because in the beginning, 2009, I didn't know what I was doing, ha-ha). We have had some terrific events, from 2009-2013 we would have 24-hour events with music (live performers and DJs), lots of art installations, and of course, information. Let me get the YouTube channel link because we had these events filmed in-world. Great videos.

"We've had outstanding support from the music and arts community in SL. Really amazing support. And Linden Labs has been understanding and supportive too, of course. (laughter) Not as financial as I'd like, but understanding and tolerance of us doing something different with the technology in here."

I asked about how much can art heal someone. She answered, "As for the power of art to heal: It can help immensely! Using creativity to express the confusion and anguish of trauma (survivor guilt, anxiety, etc) can sooth the wounded soul. In fact when trauma occurs, memories become divided into verbal and _non-verbal_ memories because the brain hunkers down into 'fight or flight' mode. Using art in-world, such as building, making art, muisc - even how one designs their avatar - are ways to express trauma, verbal and nonverbal. It helps one process the traumatic event, and work on living easy with the trauma memories."

"I am hoping that this research study might show that the engaging and creative activities in-world may prove a legitimate approach to easing PTSD symptoms. But we will wait and see what the data tells us. It is very interesting and exciting to be able to conduct this study. On these sims, I have used research in environmental design, color theory, art to create moods, curiosity,etc. Even the windlight settings are to calm and encourage relaxation and calm. This approach to the sims design has been a work in progress for over 10 years now.

"Unlike other VR sites that use VR for 'exposure therapy' we absolutely do not re-create war zones or trauma events. Exposure therapy was developed for phobias--PTSD is not a phobia. Far from it."

And what were Anya's future plans? "Well, I would love to work for Linden Labs or another VR company," she answered, "and I want to continue to explore the use of VR for trauma reconciliation. I will certainly continue working to help all people with PTSD learn to live in peace with their trauma. ... for anyone who would like to participate, or simply view the questions for the study and think it over, contact me via my Walden University email:

"By the way: Here is quick, simple PTSD education slide show on my website so you have more background on PTSD. "

To check out the location, head to

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, January 6, 2020

Dorie Bernstein And The Dreams Sims

By Marcel Mosswood

Good and evil do exist everywhere including Second Life, there are good avatars and evil ones. Dorie Bernstein is one of the many good-hearted avatars I know in Second Life. She manages Dreams sims along with several of her teams to present a safe and comfortable sim for the visitors in community and practice building in Second Life.

“Golda Stein is the rat behind the scenes," Dorie explained, "making sure the finances are in order as well as being the head boss for everything. Kely is a co-manager and ably manages the weekly Texture Contest and Speed Build, as well as many other duties behind the scenes. We have many who contribute time, support and L$ to keep our group thriving. Everyone makes this happen.

Dorie went on, “We have support groups that meet regularly for ShockProof, Brigadoon Explorers, and ADHD. ShockProof is the group for stroke and TBI survivors and their loved ones. Those meetings happen once or twice a month. Brigadoon Explorers is our group for those on the autism spectrum as well as their loved ones. They meet once a week. The ADHD group meets once a week as well.

"Building and texturing contests happen on a weekly, monthly and semi-weekly basis. Speed Build and Texturing Contests happen once a week on the same days and times used since the beginning. A monthly contest for building centers around a theme, often tied to the time of year. Until fairly recently, that contest was a pure building contest. Now, the rules allow for folks to create their vision using objects made by anyone at any time. This change was necessary to maintain engagement in events as mesh hit the grid and changed the relationship between builders and content creation. A semi-weekly building challenge (WBC) maintains a pure build focus, for those who want the challenge of creating something entirely new to meet the theme and particular challenge. Each week, we have our own version of 'Primtionary' for those liking to do quick-draw builds for others to guess the given word.

"Art has always been celebrated at Dreams, with various events through the years focused on different forms of artwork possible in Second Life. Huntress Catteneo rents our third sim, and has created a haven for artists of all sorts. She runs an art festival each year to raise money for charities. One of our members, FionaFei, created a marvelous art installation and gallery 2,000 meters high in Dreams. It has become the site of Friday night concerts with live music each week.

"The Dream Creations store offers a spot for group members to sell their creations. It also is where we have a yard sale and gacha resale area to help bring funds into the sims for paying the tier.”

Dreams are made to help people with disability to explore Second Life. But Dreams also is a safe place for normal people. Have you ever had a problem when protecting the interests of people with disability when they are in the midst of normal people in Second Life?

“While we do have a focus on helping those with disabilities find a safe place to be in Second Life, we don't make that the most visible part of our programming," Dorie answered, "We never require folks to identify if they have any particular disability, or what it is if they have one. Our rules and culture is designed to create the safe place and allow people to choose whether to share what they're dealing with behind the keyboard. Sometimes it helps to let that all go and have a sense of escaping the normal realities. We do expect all of our visitors and members to behave in a respectful and kind manner, regardless of what disability they may or may not have. The health of the whole group is important, and won't be sacrificed to 'save' someone who is causing massive disruptions. When handling difficult situations, I do try to be aware of where someone is coming from in order to figure out the best path forward. I'm only human, of course, and will fall down on that from time to time.” 

You have maintain the Dreams tradition and programs for many years, this is not easy. Do you have tips to stay consistent with these programs?

Dorie answered, “The main thing is to know just what is important about the traditions and programming. Find the essence, and work to maintain that. Embrace the changes that come to the grid and see how they can be worked into the old. I know that our group's founder would have embraced the new and found ways to use it. Trying to stop time doesn't honor the past. We do have nods to tradition sprinkled around the sims. A set of 'drama frogs' made by the founder sit by a pond. A stray micro prim from jewelry a past member is enshrined in the wall of the store. There is always a wall of some sort in the sandbox, as a reminder of our early wall-sitting sessions. We'd gather in the sandbox to chat, play with prims, work on projects, and bond over crazy fun.”

I had two questions about Dorie as a person:

With your very limited time in Second Life and real-life, how can you manage Dreams?

“We have a good team at Dreams," Dorie explained, "Each member runs their part, and that makes life so much easier for all of us. On my own side of it, I am learning how to use the word 'no' better. I do try to determine where I can save time without sacrificing quality. Engagement and participation are more valued in our events than attempting to maintain traditions simply for the sake of tradition.”

You have a unique way of thinking, including when building with basic prims. And I admire your ability to arrange SL's basic prims into new, very symmetrical shapes. What is the basis of your creative thinking?

“I like to challenge myself and see if I can do something different with prims," spoke Dorie, "I've played with them enough to know that there are a lot of shapes hiding with sufficient prim torture. With the new mesh Land Impact accounting system that can be applied to the 'traditional' prims, I'm having fun adding in the details that once were just cost-prohibitive in terms of prim counts. Some builds, I am trying to mimic something from real life. Other times, I am looking for ways to add an off-beat touch to things. This is Second Life, after all. Why stick to 'normal' all the time?”

I’m so in agreement with the last sentence.

Visit Dreams:


Monday, December 30, 2019

Nine Questions For Xiola Linden

By Bixyl Shuftan

1. What were you doing before time with Linden Lab?

I worked on social games, heading up the community and support teams for a popular Facebook game - but creator communities were always something I wanted to have the chance to get to be a part of as my job. Second Life was a perfect fit.

2. How did you first find out about Second Life? 

I had a friend from Live Journal who introduced me to Second Life, and I was so intrigued. I loved hanging out with these people I'd met online in Live Journal, MySpace, and other text-based social platforms. Suddenly we could run around in cool avatars, dance together, explore together, talk and have fun. We'd all chatted via Yahoo! Messenger, but suddenly it was just a more authentic and 'real' experience. More immersive, before immersive was cool kind of thing.

3. How was your time here as a resident?

As a Resident, it has been amazing. I talk a lot about wanting to find a sense of tribe. Second Life was that for me. As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, Second Life was an opportunity for me to socialize more comfortably then I could do in the atomic world, at the time. The chance to build friendships that have lasted 13-plus years, with people who would let me crash at their place anytime, even though we might not have ever been in the same town, country, physical space - that's something you can not get in a lot of places. I will be very honest - the world can be a very scary place sometimes. It's also beautiful, but to be able to construct a world to my liking within Second Life is a way for me to imagine doing the same in the physical world. Moving through the chaos and focusing on something so specific as putting together 'a look' or taking a picture, or texturing and building or making something, or flying around visiting and exploring so many exciting and unknown places - that is therapeutic and magical. I look forward to continuing to enjoy all the things that Second Life has come to mean to me, even though I will not be doing so as a Linden. For me, that part -just being a Resident and loving what that is like - that has never changed. And it won't.

4. How did you end up joining Linden Lab?

After my friend had introduced me to Second Life, I was obsessed - so, I started watching the career page. It took about 5 years for the perfect job to come up. I applied and joined the Lab in November of 2011. I will never forget - when I came to interview, I'd been told by the recruiter that the office was a short walk from the train station. It's not. While it's just under a mile, I thought it was more like a few blocks - so I was actually five minutes late! I thought, for sure, that would cost me the job. Luckily it didn't!  

5. What has been your biggest surprise working at Linden Lab?

I like to crack jokes that after working on Second Life, that my surprise/shock radar is broken. But really, it's that something that has over 16 years of history is still so magical. The community is unparalleled. I understand why it means so much to so many people; that part isn't surprising at all. But that it exists in the first place, how much hard work has gone into it and continues to go into it both from the product side and from the community, that is surprising in the best possible way.  

6. What do you have to say to those who think the Lab cares nothing about the residents, aside from how to get their money?

I've always tried to find the middle ground in situations. Even before I worked at the Lab, I was always playing the part of the mediator, bringing people to common ground, searching for the compromise. I have this overwhelming desire for everyone to get along and for everyone to be taken care of. Customers, or in our case Residents, may not have access to the conversations and planning sessions, and development process that take place internally. Let's be honest, companies have to make a profit to continue to develop their product. No one is bathing in champagne or buying new cars every month (maybe inworld!) What they are doing is working very hard to make a product that is profitable and that continues to be profitable for a long time to come. They can not always get into the specifics about why many of the decisions are made (which I find frustrating too, but understand), but it really is about continuing to provide this incredible platform to people for as long as possible.

One thing I have come to learn (and not just in this community but others) is that when people feel so connected to something, even the smallest changes can seem impossibly major. I, on a personal level, am a creature of habit, and it is tough for me to adjust to changes sometimes. I think this community has such a strong connection to Second Life, that it can make smaller changes seem and feel much more drastic than they are. Conversely, I think there is always room to grow internally, to not just get better at communicating these changes, or admitting when a change needs to be revisited and fixed, but to also be more cautious about how those changes might emotionally impact the community. My personal philosophy has always been that I am here for you, not that you are here for me. The Linden 'SLebrity' thing has always been strange to me. What is special about Second Life and should be celebrated is the community. I've spent some of my time here trying to continue that message, and I hope that idea remains. I hope, in return, that the community might better understand that changes come from a desire to keep Second Life vibrant and vivacious for a long time to come. Keeping it that way is good for all of us!

Additionally, I think it is unfair to say the Lab does not care about Residents. It's simply not true. Caring for someone or something does not mean that you can always give them everything they want, or keep them happy 100% of the time. That's not caring, that isn't love. Caring is providing. It also does not always feel like it - I can think of all the times I told my parents that they didn't care about me when I was growing up. I was wrong, but at the time it felt like the case. I hope that anyone who feels that they are not cared for comes to understand the incredible amount of care that goes into developing this platform. Does it mean that mistakes aren't made? Absolutely not - but there is so much care and love that goes into this platform. That's part of how it continues to be amazing after 16.5 years. 

7. What would you say your biggest accomplishment in Second Life has been?

Coming into the Lab, at the time that I did, there was a lot of conflict because, frankly, the Lab had stopped communicating. It had moved from one extreme to another. I spent a good part of my early days trying to change that, to find a good middle ground. I made a lot of progress, but there was still some resistance. Fortunately, when Ebbe came to join, he really helped unblock some of the legacy ideas about being able to interact with our Residents more. It is an ongoing process. Like any relationship, it takes work to continue to move forward. I hope that I've contributed to this strive towards ongoing engagement with the community. To be told your first week on the job that you can't log in to talk to the community  - when you're the community manager? I wasn't going to be having any of that.

Also, I am really proud of some of the events I've brought into the mix. And I hope they continue. Music Fest, the Shop and Hops, Lab Gab, Creepy Crawl.  I hope to see those continue after I depart.

8. Can you say why you're leaving Linden Lab?

As I mentioned on Lab Gab, this has been my dream job. Because I am a creature of habit, it is very easy for me to settle into something familiar and I'd honestly have stayed here forever if I could. But, I needed a chance to grow and challenge myself in new ways. As I said, I needed to dream a new dream. It has been one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. I want the community to know that I spent sleepless nights thinking about this. I am very protective of you (the community). You were the one part of this decision that made it the most difficult to make. You are the reason that I still stay up and wonder if I've made the right decision. I need to explore what's next for me in my career path. I will still be working with a creative community, and I will still be able to enjoy the Second Life community from a Residents perspective. Believe me, though, I will still have a lot of thoughts to share with my friends on the inside of the Lab.

9. What do you think you'll be doing as a resident, or is it too soon to say? 

Nothing about that will change. As a Resident, I will continue to do what I've been doing all along on my non-Linden account. Maybe even more of it too since I will not be having it as both my job and my hobby. One thing my alt and Xiola share is a love of shopping. So of course, I'll be doing that. Hanging out, making stuff. I'd still love to learn how to mesh. I made one mesh thing with a TON of help from a friend and never made anything again after that. It is so hard! I have so much respect for those who not only take the time to learn it, but continue to better their skills and put out such great stuff. I would love to be able to visualize a look that I wanted in SL, and then have the skills to make it a reality. So maybe I will have time to try again at that. But really, just returning to enjoying SL as a Resident full time, all of the time - that is the part of this that makes my decision to move on a little less painful. Everything I love about Second Life is still there and I will still be able to enjoy all of it.



Thursday, December 26, 2019

My Decade in Second Life

by Cyfir (Cyfiremmerich Resident)

I didn’t start regularly using Second Life until 2012, but I’ve spent the majority of the decade being a part of the furry community in Second Life. I actually first logged in to Second Life a year or two before but I couldn’t quite grasp how it worked at the time and ended up forgetting my username and password so I had to start over with a new account and this has been the account that I stuck with. I mainly was pulled back in to Second Life at the time by one of my exes. I spent most of my time with him on his little parcel at first, but I started meeting other people and I eventually met someone that introduced me to Fox Haven after my relationship went south.

I started out there renting a little house and hanging out with my new friends. It wasn’t like before I felt like I belonged there, which is honestly something that I had never felt before. I had always felt out of place anywhere I was and this got me hooked to the platform. I began to believe in the potential of the platform to do the same thing for others and I wanted to help anywhere I could. I began by volunteering my time as a “sim checker.” Since the sim was also rented out by others, many residents would lose their objects around the sim and it was my job to find them and return them. Many objects would get captured by the bottom corner of the sim, and I always thought that this was a weird bug.

I slowly became friends with the sim owner and took on more roles to help the sim grow. I learned how to DJ from real life DJs at the time. I managed the club, did security, and eventually became a sim co-owner. I went to the main sim-owner’s house in real life a few times to hang out. I was there when he purchased a new sim and I got to learn how that works and what the initial processes are.

Unfortunately, Fox Haven closed, and I had to find a new community. I ended up applying at Furry Fashion as a DJ and got the job. I met new friends there as well as my current boyfriend. However, I originally got to know the sim owner first and we ended up clicking and dating for over a year. In that time I was given opportunities to manage their club and sim and I helped turn some things around for them even while the sim owner was away on medical leave. I felt really accomplished in regards to this. But unfortunately my relationship with the sim owner started becoming less and less healthy for me. And after we broke up I started to be treated differently and by that point my mental health had deteriorated to the point where I realized that I needed to make an exit because I could not effectively make improvements that I thought were needed. We’re all human and stuff happens. I wish things would have turned out differently, but there’s nothing I can do to go back.

For the past year I’ve mainly used Second Life to be with my boyfriend on our parcels, which is oddly how I started out. I have not found another community that I’ve really meshed with and aside from maintaining my store, for the most part I don’t really pay attention to it and just have the browser open in the background most of the time. I reverted back to real life hobbies to fill my spare time, and since writing was one of those hobbies I started writing for the Second Life Newser. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from Second Life it’s that it’s not real life. I spent so much wasted time in Second Life worrying about it like a career and dealing with trolls and politics when in retrospect the only thing that’s real on the platform are the relationships you foster with others. The only thing that separates a sim owner from anyone else is that they’re willing to pay Linden Labs a stack of money. The only thing that ever separated me from anyone else was that I was on friendly terms with the sim owners. It doesn’t work that way in real life. Second Life is not worth losing sight of what’s really important because in the end it doesn’t last and your real life will still be there.

What’s next for me on the platform? I don’t know. If an opportunity came to maybe help out another sim I don’t know if I would take it. I might if the situation was right. I’m focusing more on my real life. I’ve racked up plenty of experience to manage a whole sim and create something fun for others if I had the money but I don’t. At this point, I’m assuming that once my long distance relationship is no longer long distance, I may end up abandoning Second Life as there would be no reason for me to be there. That might sound like I’m being negative and dramatic, but it just means that it’s possibly run its course in my life and real life will go on when my Second Life ends. I really don't know where to go from here, it's been a year since I've been involved in the Second Life community beyond writing articles.