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Monday, August 24, 2020

Interview with DJ Fritter/Applebloom


By Bixyl Shuftan

Among the people at KVXN radio is DJ Fritter, whom in Second Life goes by Applebloom (JeanetteDJennet Resident), and also goes by Hakura the Pup. I recently had a chance to interview her. We met at the KVXN building in Purfection Estates. She was in a light brown anthro canine avatar, in jeans and a white shirt with a cowboy hat. After sitting down at a table, and her adjusting herself so she didn't look like she was "cut in twine by the table," we started.

I asked her how she first found out about Second Life. She scratched her head, "Oh geez, that was along time ago. My SO Thistleblossom, who is deceased in real-life, was on here first and I was looking over his shoulder one day and watching him and he asked me if I would like to make a character and join him. So I did and I've been here ever since. That was like back in, oh God, early 2011."

Of where her names come from, she responded, "Hakura The Pup is my real-life fursona name and what I go by on KVXN. But Applebloom is because of my love for My Little Pony. I'm also a hardcore Brony and because of THAT name over one our KVXN Vixen Radio on Discord, Nydia started calling me 'Fritter' because of the Apple part, so on our server I'm known as DJ Fritter. Ya know, Apple 'Fritter'? *shrugs* She has a weird since of humor, that one. but I still love'er." She chuckled. Asking about her account name having to do with FurryMuck, she went, "OH GAWDS! FurryMuck .... I haven't heard that name in ages. Actually no, t came from another Mu** which was called 'Altered Realities.' I'm not even sure if it's still around. I was what was known as a wizz there."

And how did her first days go? She explained, "I had a lot of fun running around with Thistle going from place to place. There was this one dance club that we would both frequent a lot to go dancing. He was a donkey and I was a pony at the time and he was also a brony. We even made our own club called 'Hoof Beatz' but it was short lived. That's actually where I first got my start as a Second Life DJ."

I went ahead and asked Applebloom what experience she had with music before coming to Second Life. She answered, "Well, actually I was back in the 80's a real-life DJ at a Country & Western Danceclub in San Francisco, California that was for mostly GLBT called 'The Rawhide 2.' Not sure if you can actually put that name in here, but that's where I originally got my start DJing in real-life. There I was a DJ because I used CDs and LPs. But on KVXN, I'm what we call a broadcaster. There's a little difference. I don't 'jockey' discs, I broadcast mp3 files with the radio broadcasting program I use."

And what did she do after her first club closed? "Honed my chosen craft *ear waggles*. I started DJing on SL full time at several venues that don't exist any longer. Funny how quickly some clubs come and go so quickly. One was a Country and Western venue which I was used to because of my prior real-life experience. So I knew my Country and Western music. After that was a place called 'Dragons and Rose's which let me go back to my roots with music I grew up listening to back in Fort Worth, Texas where I grew up called KFJZ 1270 AM. They played alot of pop and classic rock, which I play now for my show on KVXN. Back then, FM was just starting to happen. Am I dating myself by admitting that? *rubs the back of her head with a paw*"

And what brought her to KVXN? She answered, "I remember when KVXN was still just a Second Life station and I DJ'ed at The Happy Vixen which is where KVXN has it's origins. It was started by someone named Nydia (Tungsten), yes the same one who gave me my 'Fritter' moniker on Discord. Anyway, I DJ'ed there for awhile, kinda with KVXN as a SL station. And then I became part of something called 'The Dragon and Raccoon Epic Fail Show' if you recall that, and had a lot of fun with them. So when JB no longer could do the days he once did I sorta stepped in for a short time and thus started "The Dragon and Pony Show" which lasted only a short time because of real-life issues, but I stayed on at Club EFS which stood for Epic Fail Show, of course. During my time there JB really liked what he heard with my show that I would do there, so when KVXN became a REAL internet station, he asked me if I would like to have my own spot there, so here I am."

I asked about her show "The Doghouse," and asked if it was from her persona name "Hakura The Pup?" She answered the show was for "Two hours, actually, Monday and Friday 4pm to 6pm Eastern Time (1 to 3PM SL time. Gratuitous plug *toothy grin*. But yeah, my show is called 'The Doghouse' and it does indeed come from my real-life Fursona, Hakura." And what were the show's most interesting moments? Her response was, "*phews* Oh boy, uhm, I suppose when the staff starts heckling me on Discord on our server page. Nothing much has happened as of yet because 'The Doghouse' is still trying to find it's footing, as it were. Footing? Pawing? *chuckles* I am in the VARY early stages of getting some things lined up, but I'm not at liberty to say what that is just yet. Folks will just hafta tune in to find out when it occurs, IF I can get it lined up and OK'd."

So what does Applebloom do in Second Life when not playing music? "Hang out with my close friends like Snowy, Nikkita and a few others," she answered, "But my second passion  on SL is drag racing, which not to toot my own horn, am quite good at. I've got enough trophies to fill this entire studio. I've been doing that for a number of years. I even have a '69 Pro Mod Mustang that is sponsored by KVXN Vixen Radio as well as a split window '66 Corvette done up in a sharp My Little Pony motif that I call 'The Friendship Vette' because like the show's title says, 'Friendship is Magic.'" But how she does race has changed as time has gone by, "Not so much oval racing anymore, which I did with a group called 'Rubbin' is Racin'." I just drag race now. Not really a lot of oval racing left on SL. There's a LOT of drag strips, though." She does say it's not a proverbial "drag," "*chuckles* Not really, but the only trouble I have is I find it really hard to run fast wearing high heel shoes. *grin* Get it? DRAG racing??!?"

After some more chuckles, I asked about her future plans. Her answer was, "I plan on staying here with KVXN. I really like the people/furs here and I know with time and a little tweakling 'The Doghouse' can become a good and hopefully popular show for the station. I have alot of fun doing it and it's the music I grew up listening to."

When asked if she had any anything else to add, "Yeah, yes there is. *earperks* STEPH, Heidi and anyone else at Palm Beach Dragway who might read this, I'm gunnin' fer ya'. I'm gunna win that monthly trophy one of these days. FEAR THE PAWS!!! *giggles*"

Afterwards, Applebloom would show me a picture on the wall of her in her fursuit of Hakura the Pup in real life. She would also show me her two racecars.

For more on DJ Fritter/Applebloom, tune in KVXN Radio on Monday and Friday from 1 to 3PM SL time.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, August 21, 2020

Philip Rosedale at Lab Gab


By Bixyl Shuftan

On Friday August 7, Philip Rosedale, the founder of Linden Lab, and therefore of Second Life, and co-founder of High Fidelity, better known here as the former Philip Linden, appeared on the "Lab Gab" show hosted by Strawberry Linden. Philip looked as he had in his days as a Linden, in his trademark "Rocky Horror" lips t-shirt and spikey prim hair, along with the speckled codpiece. This time he sported Japanese kanji tattoos on his upper arms, and had a red rose in his hand.

Strawberry called him, "everyone's secret crush," to which he responded, "I'm blushing, but you can't see that as I'm digital."

She asked him how are he and his family doing these days. He responded, "Isn't this the strangest time that any of us have ever seen?" commenting he's been around for a while. He talked about a "Saturday Night Live" skit, "It's not a good thing if a miracle is plan A. ... Captured the horror and complexity ... I've had enough of this dream for a while."

Strawberry then asked Philip how often does he log onto Second Life. What communities does he enjoy exploring? He answered, "I love it," Hr had gone to the new Linden homes and was talking to someone on his dock for a while. "I have to admit, I have fun being the founder. ... People slowly figure out who I am, I am not Philip Linden." Joked about wanting to be like Bill Murray. "I try to give as much happiness as I can."

And what did Philip think of Second Life still around twenty years after Linden Lab's founding? He replied, "I'm not surprised at all." He found it "interesting" that the size of it's community has stayed about the same so long, "over time ... most things change." While some of his thoughts and opinions have changed over the years, "I still feel humans get the chance to build new worlds now. And those worlds are becoming increasingly sophisticated. ... Look how far ahead of our time we were. ... There are still so many things that Second Life can do that have not been replicated elsewhere after almost 20 years of work."

About five minutes into the interview, Strawberry asked him about his avatar. What inspired him for this particular look? Philip stated it started with Andrew Linden (still at High Fidelity), whom had gone to college with him. "We had a contest when we first got avatar editing working. ... fifteen of us at the time, and we said 'Well, we're going to vote everybody's going to make the craziest avatar they can make ... then we're going to vote and ... whoever has the best avatar, we're going to buy him dinner in San Francisco. ... We had so many people that had great artistic skills. I did not, not visually. I'm not a visual artist. I didn't even know how to use Photoshop. And so, ... the only thing I can go for is shock value here. I'm not going to win, but I need to just be out there a little bit. And so, the first thing I got was pants, like these, but I think they've been subtly upgraded over the years." He "spray-painted" the crotch area out. He found the "Rocky Horror" shirt, made the avatar with the spikey hair, yellow eyes, and "this sort of handlebar mustache and chops, and ... so something pretty much like this. I presented and totally lost at the end of the day.

"It was Andrew whom had made himself into a kind of leviathan ... this wonderful sort of marbleized avatar. ... He was the one for whom we bought dinner. I made this kind of playful, almost kind of silly person, who was just kind of fun, what I could do in a couple hours. And I never changed it. And that identity became iconic and kind of part of me. And so, I've never been inclined to change it. I'm sure some of that is because I'm the founder, and I am a known sort of a public person. But it still is an interesting inquisition into identity, 'Why did I make those choices?' This kind of cowboy character."

Strawberry then asked him why did he think that crafting one's own identity is so important in Second Life? Phillip called it a subject people have written a lot about. It was designed at the outset that "everyone could find their own look." "I think the fact that you knew you could do something that was uniquely you, and of course ... for the first time in human experience had the ability to sculpt yourself, basically with your skills and hands. Who wouldn't be delighted by that?"

Strawberry made a reference to recent times with Facebook. Philip responded, ""I could talk about that stuff obviously for days. There's so many ways of creating identity." There was talk about using audio at High Fidelity, "2D with high quality audio. ... Still important investigations ongoing that I hope we can continue to do as an industry. ... Second Life is still a line in the sand."

Strawberry then brought up the start of Linden Lab, and asked what inspired Philip to create Linden Lab and Second Life. He answered, "I was born at just the right time for using computers over the Internet." He commented that when people like Steve Jobs were young, the exciting thing to discover was the idea one could make a personal computer. He would say he came of age later when the Internet came to be. In the early 90s, he would do experiments with networking computers together. When the Internet did come out in 1994-95, "I didn't think it was fast enough" to do a really big project. They were still on dial-up. In 1999, his San Francisco office had stacks of modems 3-4 feet tall. In 1995, worked on video compression, was hired by another company that was interested in the technology, "learned something about engineering management." "In 1999, everything changed" when Nvida released the Geoforce 2 chip and companies began putting them in their PCs, "they could do ... pretty good graphics ... that was the big motivator." The second was when people started switching to broadband and cable modems. He left the company he was working for, returned to San Francisco, "and in late 1999, I found this warehouse in Hayes Valley and moved into it. Andrew (Meadows) joined me a couple months later. And the rest as they say is history."

"So Andrew's always been there?" Strawberry asked. Philip answered, "Eddie's still with me now, it's fabulous." He would say all of the early Lindens are "still in touch" with one another. And two are still with Linden Lab.
Strawberry then asked about rumors that he was experimenting on virtual reality "with a protoype hardware device called 'The Rig.'" Philip answered, "Yes, absolutely." He was "driven" to develop "a consumer accessible magical world." Instead of a VR helmet, one would sit in front of a monitor, and the computer would determine how much you were trying to move. "The crazy thing was, it totally worked! It wasn't something that could be practically be turned into a consumer device, although I still wonder about that. ... We used it as part of convincing our earliest brave investors that what we were doing made sense." When working on the software that would before Second Life, work on 'The Rig' stopped. It eventually got taken apart into peices and boxed up. "Maybe they're at the Linden offices." When assembled, it was very large and strong.

Strawberry then asked, what were the early days at Linden Lab like? Philip told her, "Well, it was very fun. It was fun to be ... something that nobody had seen. It was a combination of working on these really delightful ideas, we could simulate a world and watch the sun rise and set ... the water would have ripples in it ... At the same time, it was an exciting time in the computer industry where companies like Google were questioning the status quo. There was an enterprise software feeling that maybe Microsoft most gave off. They're different now, but Microsoft at that time was the big evil company. And we wanted to be different. We wanted to manage ourselves differently. And we from the very beginning had a very, I guess you'd say a more bottom-up as opposed to a top-down approach. I was always 'I'm the CEO and engineer, but I'm not going to tell you what to do. I want you to do it because it makes sense. I don't want you to do it because I told you so. And so that drove a lot of our culture. And that culture evolved to respect and contain a lot of those ideas over the years. But it was very exciting that way. It was a very excited group of people that were seeing this stuff come to life"

Strawberry then brought up, "You led come corporate innovations that helped shape and inform the culture at Linden Lab, such as the Love Machine ... and you also publish the Towel of Linden, which we all still follow and it's still published." Philip responded, "The Love Machine was Corey Andreka, our CTO at the time. ... Corey and I were tossing ideas around about economies, because Second Life had this economy. The Love Machine was from about 2005, so Second Life was up and running. We knew we had chat, we had money in the system, and we had the ability to give people little digital things. So I think that shaped some of our thinking. I can remember Corey and I were talking about a sort of tipping machine where you could tip your co-workers. ... What really matters is that you describe in a sentence what you're thankful for or whatever it is you're doing. I remember at some point where Corey and I were refining that idea. And then Corey wrote a prototype of it that weekend. I said, 'Well, we got to call this the Love Machine.' That's just so great I thought of that name, and it was I think a 70s-like funk band, or something. ... You got to send people love, and that was before Twitter. It was pretty cool, especially at the time that you just send a short message. Remember, this is before Slack too. So we used the Love Machine in email. The thing that we prototyped was just a little form that you would fill out that would just say 'Strawberry' as the username, which is basically your email name, and then what you want to send, 'thank you for having me on Lab Gab, that was a lot of fun.' And you'd send it and it would go out, and it was timely.

"And also we would, I don't know how much Linden Lab does this now, but we would put these big screens that had the last ten or twenty messages that have been sent. And we'd put them near the kitchen or near the bathrooms, so that you'd be likely to encounter them all the time, so you'd get a good feeling for what was going on just by reading the love that had been sent."

Strawberry stated that she works remotely, so wasn't sure if that's in the office, "But you can see it on the site. And the Love Machine is ... great for morale." In the Youtube chat, "For those unfamiliar with The Love Machine, it is a positive way for Linden Lab employees to acknowledge each other with a compliment (and small tip) when they do good work in the company."

"By the way, we turned it into a product. And we sold it to a few companies. We still use it today. We've used it every day at High Fidelity for the whole time we've been in business, and we use it just as much in a similar fashion to how Linden Labs does. And other companies are starting to adopt that ... doing identical or very similar things that allow you to send recognition that way ."

Strawberry then asked, "What about the Tao of Linden?" Philip answered, "The Tao of Linden was, if I remember was really written first by Gene, by Jinsu, another famous Linden over the years and a very good friend of mine today. Gene really took on writing down what he felt we were doing. I don't remember which elements of it I had previously written. Probably choose your own work and no politics, which were things that I felt very strongly about at that time. But Gene really filled it in and made that first list of seven things. Of course the last one was a joke, 'Might makes right,' (chuckle) which I thought was just wonderful. I don't know whether that's still there. But Gene thought it was particularly irreverent to include in the list something that wasn't in the list."

In the Youtube chat, the Tao of Linden would be posted - https://philiprosedale.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/the-tao-of-linden/

Strawberry then asked, "If you could do one thing differently when creating Second Life, what would it be, and why?" Philip wanted to know if she wanted to hear about the virtual world first or Linden Lab, and she asked for Linden Lab. He answered, "I think that I was really a rebel. I think everybody would agree with that. I kind of liked to shake things up. So I liked the idea of building a work culture around it no being top-down management, not telling people what to do. I just loved that idea. But I think looking back, I was so aggressive about that idea that I made it into a kind of a monoculture. That was probably not a perfect fit for everybody. And I think at work, in the world right now, we're talking about inclusion. And we're talking about diversity, and that is really a powerful conversation, and an important one. And I think I had these wonderful ideas. But I think I forced them on everybody so uniformly.

"For example, this idea of choose your own work, which was one of my first crazy things. 'Nobody can tell you what to do. You have to pick what you want to do.' Not everybody  ... I jokingly at work .. say that famous Princess Bride line, 'Good work Wesley, sleep well.I'll most likely kill you in the morning,' (chuckle) which was the original dread pirate Roberts to Wesley. And we used to laugh about that. But I think the problem was like 'choose your own work' kind of felt like that sometimes, like 'Hey, work on whatever you want to and know one thing, it's not the right thing, we're not going to keep you.' And I think that's quite a task like I don't think that everybody gets on in the morning and goes 'I want to work at a company where they tell me to do whatever I want, I'll be evaluated on that, and if I'm not useful enough, I won't get to stay around.' That's not how Linden really was, and it's certainly not how it is today. But I think it kind of felt like that sometimes.

"And I wanted to be that person who was the crazy, aspiring dread pirate Roberts, like I wanted to have everything be incredibly high risk and on my shoulders. But I think culturally, what I've learned to respect as I've grown up is that while you definitely want to create a culture where some people can have it that way, you don't want to necessarily ... uniformly force that behavior on everybody. So that's an example of something that I would have done differently. I think Linden Lab has done it differently after me. So, let me say, I think it's been good that way. But I think I would have earlier said 'Okay, here are some alternative ways we can work together. Let's figure out, let's play with them.' And I think I would have been respectful of and listening to some people saying 'Philip, the way you want to do it with this incredibly high-stakes poker stuff, or internal markets or whatever, that's a bit much for me. I don't like that.' And I would have said 'Okay, no problem.'"

Strawberry then asked Philip what she thought of Linden Lab being acquired by an investment group meant for the future of Second Life, bringing up that he knew one of it's leaders, (Brad Oberwager). Philip answered, "While I certainly can't say much, what I can say is this. I've known Brad (Oberwager) for a long time, and he has been just fascinated with and delighted by the stories of and the things that he had seen about Second Life. And he was always just so respectfully ... like 'Man, I wish I had your job. I wish I could work on something like that.' He always had this kind of approach to it. And then he's .. well, you've seen a bit already. He's just a wonderful, very capable, very smart, very adaptive, great listener, person. And so, when the opportunity came around for him to become more involved in this way, I was delighted. And so, what I think at a high level it means is that the spirit of and the excitement of and the things that make Second Life magical, I think a lot of the things that are really wonderful about Second Life are going to continue on and prosper and grow. I'm just very excited abou."

"So it's going to be good news, you feel?" Strawberry asked. "Oh absolutely," Philip responded, "I'm just delighted to see Second Life continue on. Under new management I suppose. But I think that we're all going to really enjoy this, and I'm looking forward to being involved and handing out inworld and helping out wherever I can."

Strawberry brought up that prior to Linden Lab, Philip was a key executive at Real Networks. She asked about his work there and how it influenced his decision to form Linden Lab. He answered, "Well, I got all the right training. I had a wonderful opportunity to work for a wonderful boss who was really passionate about not just building a big company, but doing something really amazing. Real Networks was initially called 'Progressive Networks.' He wanted to use the ability to communicate with audio over the Internet in some way to be of service to people. And that was what he was inspired by, and I think speaking for Rob (Glaser), still is. So I think that it gave me that kind of support, that I could go after something that was really a passionate mission. So I think it really helped me that way. And then I got great experience and I got lots of relevant technical experience with stuff like video codex and things like that, that I was able to apply to the design of Second Life."

Strawberry then mentioned that a decade ago, Philip had left Linden Lab "to explore other entrepreneurial efforts." She asked him why that time to move on? Philip's answer was, "We were growing so quickly then. And I had always been a contrarian in my thinking. I'd always been a rebel. And at the time, I felt like maybe I wasn't the right CEO. We were a couple hundred people in that year, around 2009, 2008. So at some point, I was always really hardcore. I remember having conversations with my investors, some really remarkable investors that I'd be able to call on from time to time to ask things of. And I can remember asking this question, 'Look, a lot of the day-to-day stuff of being the CEO of this kind of an undertaking, I don't know if that's what I want to do. I'm an inventor. I'm a tinkerer. So I had this crisis or question as to whether I was the right leader. And I was such a contrarian. I was immediately like, 'Well, if I have that instinct, I should just be fearless and replace myself and hire a new CEO.

"So, I did this blog post and I remember the company being like 'We truly have a crazy leader here' yet again. So rather than conducting a private search or having some lengthy thing, I just did a blog post. And I said, 'You know, I'm going to look for a new CEO. I want to find a new me. And Mark Kingdon sent me an email a few days later, I think. He was like, 'I think it could be the right job for me.' So, it was really just a fascinating process where I just decided I ... didn't have the right set of capabilities for that job. We were growing so quickly. It was very exciting at that time. A lot of the early kind of legal and regulatory stuff was going on. It was just ... you can imagine, it was a wild roller-coaster to be the boss. And so I wasn't sure it was the right thing for me. And so that lead me to replace myslef and kind of, wander the Earth and do a number of other things. And I think that experience was great. And I think Linden (Lab) was just fine without me. I think the experience was a good one."

Strawberry then brought up High Fidelity, asking what is it, and how can people check it out. Philip told her, "From 2009 I left Linden Lab, and Ryan Linden (Ryan Downe) left with me as one of my two co-founders of our new work of Love Machine, which then became 'Coffee and Power,' which then became High Fidelity. So the way Coffee and Power became High Fidelity was, we had done a number of interesting things together. We were about twelve people at that time, or something. Sorry, this is about 2013. And because I'm a tinkerer, I bought one of the very first chips, a chip called an analog rate mems gyro. ... And that little tiny chip which you could buy for ten bucks from sparkfun was a tiny chip that for the first time could tell you which way it was turned. So you had this little chip, and you put it on a little board, and you tipped it in the air, and it could tell you exactly how it was turned. Now, nowdays that may seem easy, like my phone can do that. But this was in 2013. These chips that could do that had just come out and they had just become inexpensive. And I got one of those chips and I hooked it up to an oscilloscope. And I started tilting in in my hands. I held it in my fingers, and I tilted it while looking at the scope, which was basically telling me the electrical output, how it was moving. So there's a line on the scope that was moving up and down as I tipped my hand left and right.

"And as soon as I saw that, I knew the Occulus Rift was going to work. I knew it was going to be possible to build a VR headset. As I mentioned, and you talked about with The Rig, I had been very passionate about these devices. And so when I saw that chip, I made a very aggressive move. And I basically said to everybody 'We're gonna move to a completely new project. We're going to start working on VR again. We're going to go back into virtual worlds.' And so High Fidelity was a company founded with at the dawn and before ... during the kickstarter for the Occulus Rift. And so I made a guess that these headsets would work, which in retrospect I was wrong. We're still too early. But I made a guess that these headsets were going to be the way everybody did 3D in a few years. And so I said, 'Let's start building a whole new virtual world, which is designed from the very start to work with those headsets. Interestingly, Linden (Lab) around the same time began thinking about some of it's own projects in that regard. Which as we know was the genesis of Sansar.

"So anyway, that's what we worked on for five, six years. And then last year, we realized that the VR headsets weren't going to be the consumer entry point that they thought they were. And of course everybody debates this. I love debating with people, and I do routinely, to talk about all this. And of course it's anybody's guess exactly what'll happen with VR hardware. ... I could talk about that for days too. But basically we said, 'We've got to build something that doesn't rely ob these VR headsets. As much as we've worked on it, we've got to stop.' And so, we did something that is a really fun set of ninja moves over the last year or so. But where we ended up with today, and we actually built this before COVID, so it was crazy-interesting that we kind of, the timing there. But what High Fidelity is today is, we made it into, ... we decided to start it with a differnet strategy, which was to build something that was 100% accessible to everybody, but that still delivered some kind of an amazing virtual world experience. And that's what we're doing right now.

"We're in the middle of that. But basically, at the beginning of this year, we got only the audio working. So it's kind of ... that experience people talk about called 'dining in the dark.' Imagine a virtual world where you can move around because you can see yourself from the top-down on a map. But you can't see anything, well, other than a background. You can't see anybody, but you can hear them perfectly. And I mean really perfectly. ... So, High fidelity is a radical leap in audio quality and in particular, it perfectly spatializes in three dimensions where the sound is coming from. So, what that means if you haven't experienced it is, you can close your eyes and you can point at where (the) person is. You can do that by the way in Second Life today with the Voice that we're using. But it's not as good. What High Fidelity is, is it does that much better, and it does it with very high quality. So you can play music as easily as you can speak. And the other thing is that the delay, the time that it takes for my voice to reach your ears, is very low. And so, we built a system based on that. That's what we have today.

"We have a kind of a beta where you can create a virtual space and invite a bunch of people into it. So in addition to it sounding really cool, it also, and this is one of the things that I think is in the future for Second Life as well. It also breaks through that barrier of how many people you can have in one place. So you can have hundreds of people in the same place. And we're about to release the ability to have thousands of people in the same space. So we all worked on two things, and fantastic audio quality, so you'd sit with someone, and just let you be in love with the experience. If you sit in a group of ten people, or something, like you do all the time in Second Life, you hear their voices and it's so warm and wonderful. There's a demo on our website at highfidelity.com . You can actually jump into a space that has about 65 people all talking like at a party. They're bots, but they have real voices. ... You can just jump in there, it's one-click. You don't have to sign up for an account or anything. And you'll see what I'm talking about. It's a shocking experience."

There was a brief discussion of Strawberry's experience in High Fidelity, then Philip commented, "It's a remarkable experience and we're evolving it rapidly with ... we're a team of about twenty people now. So we're working away on that and having a lot of fun. And like I said, COVID happened. ... I mean I think that COVID has ... forced the entire world over the last six months or so to go through the same process of becoming virtual that we all chose to in Second Life. I mean how weird is that? So, everybody's discovering."

Strawberry then asked what's next for High Fidelity. Philip answered, "Some of it's a secret, but let me just say that first of all, we're going to work really hard to create super-accessible inclusive technology that can bring thousands of people into the same place. That's kind of where we think there's something exciting to be done and something that's say, different than something like Second Life. Because as we all know, to render a room like this, with your hair, your tennis shoes with all their detail, and the cats in the room and their flickering candles, and I can see steam coming off the coffee, I'm holding a rose that's close to photorealistic. I mean, that's incredible ... that's amazing.

"But, you can't do that with modern technology, even with 2020 technology, you can't so that for five hundred people at the same time. It's unfeasible. It's very difficult. And there there's this trade-off between the detail. And so you know in Second Life you can be in small groups of people with an extraordinary amount of detail, if you have a fast PC. So I think one important direction is to say 'How can we all?'" And I think there's roles for the Lindens in this as well, how can we get more people in the same space so that they can communicate with each other and have an amazing experience and feel connected like we do in Second Life. But maybe take those numbers up. We've got lots of other crazy ideas we're working on as well, and you'll see them in the future."

Strawberry then brought up the Pandemic and asked how it affected his plans and/or outlook for the future of virtual worlds and social networks. Philip responded, "On the one hand, it certainly is affirming. I feel it's wonderful that I've been able to spend my career working on technology which is now all the more useful. We have more reasons. We have a pandemic that forces us to interact digitally more. And so, I've learned so much about how to do that right, and Linden (Lab) has. And I'm so glad that we're here. I'm so glad we can be of service, that as High Fidelity and as Linden Lab we can provide something for people that are now more forced to come into the digital domain.

"That said, as we all know, there are challenges with being digital, with crossing the divide. We've learned a lot. What have we learned in the last six months as a human species? Well, one of the things we've learned is video is not as good as we thought it was. You know, everybody was like ... 'My goodness, I use Facetime,' or 'I use Zoom,' or 'I use Team.' 'You know, I'm just going to use video.' And what we've discovered is, and this doesn't surprise the designers at Linden (Lab) or High Fidelity, ... there are some problems with ... being on video conferences all day long. Your self-image is affected by looking at yourself view where you're badly lit. And you're not in make-up or whatever. There's this hyper-vigilance problem or this physiological arousal problem, which is when you do the 'Brady Bunch' thing with your team at your company, and you've got nine or twenty people looking straight at you. As humans, you know, although I daresay that would be the same as avatars too. But if people are just staring straight at you, pointing your noses at you, it arouses you. I'm using that term, it's a physiological term. Your heart rate speeds up. You get ready to fight or run or whatever, like you're aroused when somebody you don't know well is kind of staring right at you. And of course video, the Zoom call, or whatever, the 'Brady Bunch' sort of format totally does that to you.

"And so ... one of our advisors at High Fidelity is a brilliant researcher named Jeremy Balenson who has spent his life studying VR and avatars and how people interact and he wrote something in the New York Times very early on in COVID that really did a good job of explaining ... video makes us extremely fatigued. It's just too much. And of course sitting here as avatars is not fatiguing. And using only your voice, provided the quality is reasonably good is not fatiguing. So I think we're learning things. I do think there's a long way to go, though. I guess the flip side of that would be I'm struck by how difficult losing physical contact with people is, and how the virtual technologies don't yet capture all of that. It doesn't make me not want to be near people, or able to ... walk into a real room, shake someone's hand, give them a hug. We can give virtual hugs, but they're not real hugs. And I'm inspired to keep working on that. I'm as inspired as I've ever been to keep working on these things and keep trying to cross that distance."

Philip had time to take one question from the audience. Martin Mouni's question was the one picked, asking him how he saw the future of virtual worlds, particularly Second Life. Philip told, "I'd like to see this experience more accessible to more people ... I think we're getting to technologically to a point where we can make this experience more accessible on more computers or maybe accessible on mobile. And of course user-friendly. Everybody says that we got to make the interface better. I think that that's true. There have been a lot of good experiments in that. I think it's hard, by the way. I think it's hard to drive yourself as an avatar through the real world while being a real person. Not just playing a shooter game or something, but being a real person. I think that problem is, I'm not going to say irreducibly hard. But I would say that it's harder. ... It's sort of like everybody's saying 'Well, just make it easier.' And I tell you, I've been away from the company for a while. We have had so many people, and there have been so many products in the industry that have tried to make it easier. And it's pretty hard. ... There's still not a lot of products that demonstrate how to do the interphase better or best for people in a virtual world. So I think improvements are going to be made there, though. I'd love to see this experience be something that was a bit more accessible, so more people could have it, that they wanted to. It feels to me like the people for whom Second Life is a wonderful, inspiring, useful, helpful, educational thing, is larger than the subset of people who have the right equipment to do it right now today."

Philip had an appointment to make, so he didn't have the time to answer more questions. Strawberry thanked him again for the interview.



So see the video of the interview, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISKdUs6kLlY

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Commentary: Why The Furry Fandom Isn't A Community


By Cyfiremmerich

The furry fandom, in both real life and Second Life, can be a protective bunch. It’s perfectly natural to protect something that you’re a part of; especially when that something hasn’t necessarily been portrayed in a positive light in many cases. However, sometimes things need to be put into perspective. Those who have been part of the fandom for a while have no doubt heard about groups of furs with mob mentality going after someone for doing something perceived as going against what everyone has been working towards in the “community;” that being respect and acceptance from the outside world. This is not something that only happens in the fandom, but it’s very prevalent within it.

Let’s put things into perspective, though. The furry community isn’t a community in and of itself. Having a common interest doesn’t mean that you’re part of the same group and that other groups who have the same interest are going to like your group or want to look out for the interests of other people with the same interest. Being a furry is an interest and has nothing to do with being part of a group, family, club, community, etc. I’ve seen many people who have viewed the furry fandom as a whole as one big extended family get disheartened and burned out, myself included. However, I’ve come to realize that you don’t have to worry about others that you don’t know, and letting go of that weight can greatly improve your well being.

There are many pockets of communities, groups, etc. within the furry fandom. That doesn’t mean that any one person or group speaks for the fandom as a whole. There is no president or committee of the furry fandom. This applies not just to real life, but Second Life as well which has a number of different furry communities and hangouts independent of one another.

Relax. Enjoy your day. Failing that, there’s plenty of other things to worry about in 2020.

Cyfir

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Memorial for ComCat Fenstalker


By Bixyl Shuftan

On Saturday June 13, the people of the Meli's Maniacs Relay for Life team held a memorial service with ComCat Fenstalker, whom passed away last month. It went from about Noon to 2PM SL time. The event was held much like a wake. There was a memorial stone and picture of her, and a few flat pictures of cowgirls were around.

yes it promises to be a sad event but it needs to be done
Memorial for Comcow  @ Clubs Amarantha
DJ Jenneh Thursday and Host Violet
 there will be no contest, its not why were gathering, and Jen's own beand of musical madness.
so come as you are or dress like a cow, and come laugh cry and most of all Remember.



There was no contest. Nor were any tips taken, people instead invited to contribute to the Maniacs' RFL kiosk. People had a number of things to say about Comcat. "I have many memories that CC has left with me, and I'm thankful for each one." "I didn't know her as well as others here. But from what I do, she is a loving soul with a great sense of humor about life." At one point, Violet Solano commented, "This song Cc wanted to do a skit with me at the Blue Moon Burlesque, we never got around to doing it." "CC had that squirrel av, I thought that was so funny.. she was at your feet one second, on your head the next (laughter)." "Yes she was was awesome with the different avis and how she got to play with everyone."

"I do not think of her as gone, merely transformed into another form. I feel she is watching us now and grinning from ear to ear." "I would like to think CC is watching on as a full on cow now where they are." "Love this song. Can't hear it witout thinking of CC." "My daughter just came to look see what I was dressed up as. First she called me a sheep?!?! She as now made up a song about a purple cow which goes, 'purple cow. purple cow, purple cow you are a purple cow'. I have bribed her to stop singing by giving her a chocolate bar - great parenting skills (laughter)."

One person arrived a little late, "I am so sorry I'm late, I didn't know this was happening today until I just woke up and looked at email." Dusk Griswold was there for a time as well, "I decided to remember CC's sheep side, which was displayed a lot." Someone told her, "Yes I will forever remember her saying 'beep beep I'm a sheep.' " Dusk responded, "I'd say 'Noodle noodle I'm a poodle.' "

"I loved how she always just wanted to make people happy and have a good laugh . Always ready with a link to find something you were looking for, ( tree avatar) or a good pun, didn't we all spend a whole show one night making bad spice puns because we had too much Thyme on our hands?" "I remember cc have me a tail spin animation and were over spinning on our tails as giant kaiju on another sim." "Or all the running battles she and i had with my dubstep gun and her push shout." "Some of those times made me laugh so hard I couldn't breathe!"

There was some additional fun with a spanker at one point. There were also gestures played such as the "Beep beep, I'm a sheep," one and "Moo... Are you happy now???"

Eventually, people had to go, "This is a wonderful memorial and I wish I could stay to the end, just want to make sure to thank you for putting this together in CC's memory."

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

How To Maintain a Community in Second Life


By Cyfir

Over the course of my time in Second Life, I got the opportunity to lead and maintain a couple of communities that I was a part of as a sim co-owner and sim manager. I never actually wanted these positions, but at the time I believed in the community's efforts so much and put so much time and energy into them that the main owners gave me the positions. However, I learned a lot from the experience about what to do and what not to do in these positions. I hope to pass on what I’ve learned here so that others won’t make mistakes I’ve made or have seen time and time again from others.

Know Your Community       

Don’t treat the position like you’re above and removed from everyone. You are just as much a part of the community as anyone else. Get to know everyone. Be friendly. Be compassionate. Make friends. Only then will you truly understand everyone and get to know your community’s needs.

Don’t Fall Into The Tribe Mentality

It’s perfectly natural for humans to group up and become an “in group.” Before there was the Internet; and modern electronics for that matter, humans grouped up in tribes for safety and security. However, this can keep your community from growing. If others walk in and find that it’s hard to break into the group, they’ll go elsewhere. Welcome everyone. Invite them into your conversations. Make them feel like they belong.

Don’t Talk Behind Others Backs In Private Staff Chats

Unless it’s an obvious troll, talking negatively about other people in the group will eventually get out; even if it’s in private chats that the person isn’t in. This can cause massive amounts of drama that will make your community look bad. It may be tempting to blow off steam about someone with friends, but do that elsewhere.

Don’t Go Beyond What The Whole Of Your Community Wants

I’ve seen sim owners introduce things randomly that just end up making community members upset. For instance, one sim owner introduced a parcel area just for a group that liked to role play as children. This did not go over well with a large majority of the community, and the sim disbanded within a week. The sim owners just saw this as a way to make a certain group happy, but ended up causing drama for themselves.

Be Transparent

It’s natural for people to be apprehensive of those in power from time to time. A way to deter this, aside from being down to earth and friendly, is to be open about why you’re doing the things that you’re doing.

Don’t Treat Staff Like Employees

This isn’t real life. People have real jobs and don’t want to come home to another. Staff are volunteers and real life comes first. You will find that you will have a constant rotation of staff if you treat things like a real business, even if you pay your staff in Linden Dollars.

Have Fun

Life, especially now, is too stressful to worry about Second Life as a make or break project. Have fun. Make friends. Be yourself. People will come if it’s a cool place to hang out and the people are nice. This will never be a permanent gig. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Cyfir

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

SLPonyCon


By Cyfir (Cyfiremmerich)

In a recent article, I wrote about how virtual conventions can temporarily be an alternative to real life conventions. It seems that more people are coming to this conclusion as well as there is now a My Little Pony convention called SLPonyCon that will take place the whole month of June (June 1st-30th). I had a chance to interview the two con chairs Pop Princess Sakairi (Sakairi Melodious) and Braniac -Piper- (rosetheunicorn).

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Cyfir: What are you both in charge of in regards to the convention?

Sakairi: Piper and I are the Co-Chairwomen of SLPonyCon. We`re both in charge of making sure the convention runs smoothly, as well as making sure the rest of the staff and guests have what they need to make their jobs easier. Planning, building, delegating staff tasks... We sort of have our hands in a little bit of everything!

Piper: I mostly take care of our panelists and the general artistic direction of the project.

Cyfir: How did the idea for this convention come about?

Piper: It started as an idea to bring attention to the wide pony community in Second Life, which was already starting to dwindle due to the end of the show as well as the final brony convention. But when the COVID-19 virus happened, the idea was kind of pushed forward.

We wanted to help make up for all the conventions that were cancelled. Many people were affected by it. Since it's on SL and everyone is home due to the corona virus we decided to do it in game with all the stops we could pull for the fandom we love.

Sakairi: The main idea in all was to bring a morale boost to the community and invite people to it!

Cyfir: Who else is involved and what do they do?

Sakairi: There are so many people involved with SLPonyCon. It’s a little hard to name specifics. For starters, we have every major pony sim in Second Life representing embassies at the convention. Carbondale, Neighberry, RubyHills, Trotsdale, Ponytown, Trot Springs, Canterlot, Luna`s Empire, and even a brand new Anthro Pony Sim called Riverside Bay, will all be there to welcome people and show SL what our community has to offer. We also have many many vendors joining us like Ambix, Inzoxi, and Blackback Studios just to name a few. All of the popular pony avatar creators such as N.E.I.G.H, Flower pony, and even some newer bodies like Sparklepony and the long awaited NutBusterz Pony body, which we will be hosting a release party for! We have many many performers and panelists like Captnhoers, Haymaker, and Somberpony. But I think the most important people would be our Staff like our security team lead by Geminai Mills, TDMayo, Nick, and Akasa, Our wonderful Vendor manager Kokuma, our Social media expert Ember, and not to forget our owners LAMP, Serendypity, and Michi. Like I said.. there's just so many people who got involved!

Piper: We have so many people involved with this naming them would take forever but we have quite the team who have put a lot of effort into this project to make our little dream a big reality.

Cyfir: Who are the special guests and what panels can fans look forward to?

Sakairi: This is definitely a question for Piper. She's worked so hard to gather all the amazing panelists we have.

Piper: We have Somberpony; the author of Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons doing Writing Workshops. We have Captainhoers, an animator on YouTube and comic artist doing DND style table top one shot sessions. I will be doing how to draw ponies panels personally. We have Molly doing How to use Second Life panels for newbies. We have many shows including live music from bronies like Haymaker and WoodenToaster (aka Glaze), various gaming events, dj sessions, galas, and other fun activities to participate in.

Cyfir: Who will the live DJs be?

Piper: Various people from our SL community like Serendipity and Kota.

Sakairi: From Carbondale and Neighberry respectfully. Many of our Sim Embassies have volunteered to host many events for the convention.

Cyfir: You mentioned merchants that will be involved. Will there be an artist den?

Piper: Yes. We have a museum actually.

Sakairi: The Art Museum will feature walls for all kinds of artists to not only show off previous work, but give information about them like where to find their gallery online and how to commission them if you'd like a special piece done for yourself! It also has a really pretty interactive walkway out front that plays chimes when you enter, Hehe!

Piper: It’s pretty rad, actually.

Cyfir: What have been the challenges of pulling off such an endeavor and how have you overcome those challenges?

Sakairi: SLPonyCon has had a fair share of challenges, like most conventions would. But one of the more challenging aspects would be coordinating a team of varied individuals. The Pony Community is one big family. And like any family, we don't always agree on everything. There's always going to be differing opinions, especially with a group as big as this convention team. But in the end, the important thing is we always find a way to compromise and move forward. Our community looks to us all, and it's our hope that this convention shows them that we are all here for them no matter what!

Piper: We have a no nonsense policy as well for backup.

Cyfir: Backup?

Piper: Meaning if anyone decides no not play ball with everyone else we have a three strike policy and then they are out.

Sakairi: We have a very top notch security team who are on top of things should anything happen. <3 br="">
Cyfir: What have you learned from putting this convention together so far and is there any advice you could give to anyone thinking about putting on a convention in a virtual world?

Sakairi: Being our very first convention we've ever run, we've already learned a lot.

Piper: Teamwork is important. We wouldn't be able to pull this off without all of our amazing staff, and I think it goes without saying that friendship is magic! I would say try your best to get as many people who would like it on board as you can and play to their strengths and show how much you appreciate their hard work all the way through. Your team is what makes things happen.

Cyfir: How did you both become fans of My Little Pony?

Piper: I have been a fan of MLP since I was a little kid. My favorite pony was Sugarberry in generation 1... though these days I am more well known in the Fallout Equestria side of the fandom.

Sakairi: I became a fan through other friends of mine. I used to be one of those people who thought it was just a show for little girls. My friends, who were bronies, told me about it, and I had the excuse at the time of having kids, so I gave it a shot and watched it with them. I fell in love with the messages of kindness the show sent, and later on, the kindness and acceptance I found in the brony community. One thing led to another and I became hooked. My Favorites would be Celestia, Cadence, and my spirit pony, Pinkie Pie!

Cyfir: What about My Little Pony do you think created such a loyal fan base?

Piper: I think the show has such a loyal fan base due to it’s creative community and wholesome content in a world where it's truly needed.

Sakairi: Mostly I feel it's the positive messages it sends out to it’s fans. It teaches people that we can all be different and still accepting of everyone. The cute artwork is a big plus too!

Cyfir: Do you think that the My Little Pony community is much different than the furry community or is there overlap?

Piper: I personally think it's vastly different especially in energy.

Sakairi: I personally differ there. There are differences, sure, but it's a lot alike in other ways. It's a way to express yourself as an individual. There's things in both communities for all kinds of different age ranges and tastes. It's not really about the entire community as a whole as much as the individual and how they choose to use it. There are even Furries and Anthros IN the pony community.

Cyfir: Anything else you would both like to mention?

Piper: I sure hope this  makes people’s year just a little bit better.

Sakairi: We can't wait to see all of you! Visit our website and our discord if you would like any more information on the event!

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You can check out the SLPonyCon website here: https://www.slponycon.com .

You can check out the convention’s Discord channel here: https://discord.gg/hsD34cH .

Their Twitter can be found here: =https://twitter.com/pony_con .

Finally, for a full schedule of events, go here: https://www.slponycon.com/events-1 .

Cyfir

Monday, May 18, 2020

Looking Back at ComCat Fenstalker


ComCat Fenstalker has died.

Yours truly knew her as an occasional visitor to the Happy Vixen and Club Cutlass, and some other Sunweaver events. Standing out in a bovine avatar when most everyone else was a fox, bunny, wolf, normal human, etc, she was certainly a unique personality around. It was unwelcome, sad news when word began getting around on the evening of Friday May 15. Her real-life age was 70, something not revealed to most until after her passing.

"Came as a shock," Dusk Griswold told me, saying she and Violet Solano, "were both good friends with CC. We were almost a team. I think I first met her at Amaranth. Amaranth was her home club, but I'd invite her to Happy Viven or Cutlass if nothing was happening there. One of those people who stand out. And very creative when it came to themes. We'd always look forward to how she'd dress for themes. Might show up at 'Come as your are' as an av of a U and and R, and an R, too.

"Always had a dance chim, I'd always wait for her to show up at the club before dancing, and she'd invite me and usually several others to the chim, so we'd all dance together. Her and Vi and I were kind of an unofficial team.

"One thing I know her player liked to do was give phone scammers a hard time. Her thinking was, the longer they were on the phone, the fewer people they could scam. So she'd waste as much of their time as possible.

"She was also good at modding, I learned some of my modding skills from her. Remember my Gazelle from 'Zootopia' av? That would not have come about without her help.

"Also, could always count on CC to attend RFL events. She was very popular, a lot of people will really miss her. ... overall, we have lost one of the nicest, most creative and funny furs I have ever known. We don't know what happened, and Vi does not plan to find out. ... It has really hit the Amaranth family hard.

"Know how sometimes we meet what we realize are special people? If that makes sense. CC was one of those special people."

I would later talk to Violet Solano. She told me she had known her for seven or eight years, "It's amazing how many people CC knew. FullAuto posted a notice in Raglan shire chat, and there was 15 minutes of river dancing and mooing. ... "It's amazing how many people she touched. I have people I never knew IMMing me, thanking me for the info."

Violet would tell me they met, "at a club in a now long gone vintage Los Angeles sim. I used to go to listen to swing music. (I) met her there, brought her back to Amaranth, and she was just part of the family in very short order. There was no place where she didn't get along."

As a member of the Relay's Meli's Maniacs team, she did much to keep spirits up, "and sadly there's no possible way to tell all her friends of her passing. And that's the saddest part of it. To a lot of people, she is just going to be one of the vanished."

She would go on to say she had fond memories of her, "running battles on the sim surface between her and her power shout and me with my dubstep. Or with tanks, guns, or getting a few of us in jex avatars and big game outfits going on the great jexpidition on the old Grendal's jungle sims. CC was  a silly old graymuzzle who only wanted people around her to have fun and be happy."

"As one of our other club staff, Kulara Darkstone,  posted in Facebook : "

In loving memory of ComCat Fenstalker aka CC. Our beloved bovine avatar friend. CC was a great friend to everyone. She was Funny, Smart, Clever, Kind, Generous and loved a good PUN and loved silly gadgets in Second Life. All she wanted was a "stable" home, and she was "udderly" bodacious 

Sadly, the story of a resident whom just wanted to make others happy, has come to it's close. What are left are the screenshots, tales, and memories.

Bixyl Shuftan