Monday, May 7, 2012

Interview with Michi Lumin

The Luskwood community is a unique one in Second Life, both as the most well known "furry" place on the Grid, and probably the oldest one furry or otherwise with it's ninth anniversary coming later this year. Among the four residents whom started the place, or founders, the most known is Michi Lumin. Recently I met up with Michi, and we agreed to meet for an interview. So a couple days later she sent me a teleport to her home far over Luskwood, and we got to business.

Bixyl Shuftan, "So how did you find out about Second Life?"

Michi Lumin, "Well, Eltee actually told me about it. I was on FurryMuck at the time, and I remember Eltee kind of talking about this 'Second Life' thing in casual conversation... and showing me a picture of her, just kind of wearing 'fox ears' at the times, standing in front of this LindenWorld build, an amusement park."

"I remember thinking 'what is this, some kind of virtual dating service?' She told me I should try it, and I logged on mostly as an 'Ok ok Eltee whatever you say' sort of thing, humoring her, fully intending to log off and never go back again after I 'gave it a shot' for Eltee's sake, heh."

Bixyl Shuftan, "Sounds like it was much better than you were expecting."

Michi Lumin, "Well, yeah, I mean it was different than I was expecting. When I got in, after doing some customization of my avatar (human one at that point of course), I guess the first thing I realized was the difference as far as customizability goes and I was really building my own image from the second I started. Later that day, I went to a little gathering put on by Candie Apple (I believe that was her name) who Eltee knew, and it was sort of a quick building tutorial. So a few hours in, first thing I made in SL was a hat, a fedora with a purple band."

Bixyl Shuftan, "So building from Day One?"

Michi Lumin, "Yeah, Building from hour one, really. It was different then, though. Everyone on the entire grid knew each other. I think that's something that folks don't understand as possible these days. Concurrency was maybe 100 people at most. Ahern was a 'nice place to be' and Lindens hung around all day long, interacting with residents. So as soon as you logged on you were pretty much welcomed in; there weren't griefers then, and nobody was figuring that anyone was going to log into SL for any reason but to be part of the community."

Bixyl Shuftan, "Sounds quite different from today, or even a few years ago."

Michi Lumin, "Well, yeah. I've told folks the stories but I might as well put it down on paper now as history really -does- seem to get rewritten or at the very least, lost: The biggest worries back then were 'taxes', Linden Lab would charge you 'height taxes' and 'light taxes'; every prim would cost L$10 to rez but you'd get that L$10 back for derezzing it, or finding prims on public land (which there was lots of) and returning them."

"You could walk around the world (the mainland, since there were no private estates or sims, just the mainland) and with 'Show Owners' on, instead of seeing: group land (blue), your land (green) other people's land (red) or land for sale (yellow), you'd see something you NEVER see anymore: WHITE patches of land with 'show owners' that were just patches that were L$1/m2."

"They'd lay there, waiting for someone to buy them. I remember when we were first building out Luskwood, we spent a few days thinking on buying 'that L$1/m2 patch of land across the sim', we could really spend a few days considering it as there were no land bots or land barons."

Bixyl Shuftan, "Sounds like more service fees than the bank .... pretty different with the land too. How did the idea for Luskwood begin?"

Michi Lumin, "We had our little group, Liam, Arito, Eltee and I, and we'd sit around in 'eltee's treehouse' (image left), which was just really a treehouse in Lusk that she was building. Liam, Eltee and I had all come from the text MUCK/MUSH background and had a furry background, and then there was 'this guy Arito' who had been toying with ideas of sticking prims on the human avatar to make them look like furry costumes."

"The four of us would hang out at Eltee' treehouse and talk about the world, build things while we were talking, sort of the social dynamic that still happens in today's Luskwood, just a much smaller group." (image just below)

"So, we were all there tinkering and we were buying up this land and expanding around the treehouse, and Liam made this, wooden owl. Kind of the thing that your grandfather would have, and we joked about it. We could open up a little 'general store', and sell country-bumpkin sort of trinkets; wooden owl lamps, there was a disco ball, I made a lava lamp, Eltee made a 'wooden indian'- and built this little round hut to put our projects in and Liam called it jokingly the "Luskwood General Store."

"The General Store sat right next to Eltee's treehouse, and they were of comparable size at the time. Some nights we'd make weird stuff (Eltee made some wooden art-deco and glass looking 'quiz machine'), and other times we'd work on our avatars. Having a furry background and with Arito toying with this 'prim-on-your-head' method of building out a human avatar to furry, we'd all work on our appearance, some days, too. Every few days there would be a "show and tell" in Ahern, and, naturally, when we had our stuff ready, kind of one by one. Arito made his dragon, at the time; he made Eltee's fox. Liam made his own weird lizard creature and Arito started on my dragon -which I also was at the time- and I kind of went with it and added to it and finished it. We'd go to these Show and Tell sessions and show them off."

"Now keep in mind, back then Lindens announced EVERY single event to the ENTIRE grid. So if Show and Tell was going on in Ahern, everyone (which wasn't -that- many people) knew about it."

"So, here we were customizing our appearances in ways that nobody had really done before, and naturally we got a lot of 'Hey can you guys make one of those for me?' Arito started building them out; and Liam jumped into doing it too, to cover the demand. Pretty much all we did at the start were customs, and we charged something ridiculously low, like L$1000-1500 for a full custom avatar. Sure, they were simpler then and didnt take as much time, but L$ had a different meaning then, too."

"Everyone relied on stipend since there wasn't really a LindeX or anything, and the most your stipend would cap out at was 'whatever took you to L$3500', based on ratings: what other people thought of you, displayed on your profile, your rank on the 'leaderboard' (yeah, people got 'points' back then and L$ for them) and stuff like that. So, L$1500 was a pretty significant amount then."

"Most of the first furry avatars in Second Life can still be seen, well, images of them at least, in the bottom of our tree. Those were all the customs we did when Luskwood was starting out."

"After a period of time, though, demand got too high. There's some historical notes here: Arito set out to make something called the "Luskwood Creature Creator," where potentially you could choose your ear styles, head type, muzzle type, color, eye type, hands, body type, texture, color, etc etc. It looked like a little kiosk and had an 'old time steam engine' behind it. This, while ambitious, proved to be too much of an 'n*x^y' problem; especially with LSL's limitations back then. Essentially, making a 'build-a-bear' type machine was just too complex."

"So, what we did was we made a bunch of pre-made versions of the avatars, in a number of different colors; starting with cats, bats, foxes. and just let people pick between those baselines and made them copy-OK and mod-OK, since we definitely wanted people to customize them."

"We got rid of the 'steam machine' behind the kiosk and replaced the 'parts' buttons with pattern buttons which would show the 'base' avatar you were picking. We priced that at L$900, because back then every signup got L$1500 on their first week. We figured, in their very first week, from the get-go, they could log in and buy a furry av for L$900, and have enough left over for clothing, and 'prims' to customize themselves."

"So there are a few historical things there. People wonder why our vendors still say something like "LCC Wolf Black", when our name is Luskwood, or Luskwood Creatures, not "LCC" anything. That's an old holdover from "Luskwood Creature Creator" (LCC) which was what the 'machine' which is now the vendors, became. And, because of that 'L$900' decision, most furry avs to this day are still around L$800-L$1000 in price point."

"Also, this kind of started the trend of furry avatars being 'no transfer but, copy-OK and mod-OK,' we wanted to set things up as a customizable 'tweak your own' market. Other markets went in different directions. For example, you'd see a lot of 'no copy' clothing, since they wanted you to buy another of the same shirt for every 'outfit' you made. (This was recently made obsolete with SL 2.x's 'outfits'). But this was the first instance of 'avatar vending,' and the whole concept of this kiosk you could walk up to, pick a few options, and it'd send you a furry avatar to put on as a starting point."

"And that, also, I want to underline this:  we did this to take care of demand. We had a lot of people coming to us, 'I want to be a fox,' 'I want to be a cat' and they'd ask for the same ... basic thing. So we ended up doing the same thing over and over again. We never thought that things would expand or that even furry avs would be big in SL. The (used to be) famous line was, from Arito, 'If we sell 100 of these, I will eat a prim, in real-life.' Meaning he would eat an actual block of wood I guess. He actually said that and I think we were all kind of jokingly on board with it. We figured this would kind of cut down on the customs demand for a bit so we could concentrate on the more unique species and stuff, instead of building 20 foxes in a row. We absolutely never meant for it to, or thought it would, go anywhere beyond that."

Bixyl Shuftan chuckles, "So did anyone ask him 'You want salt with that?'"

Michi Lumin, "Well, heh, I remember when we went to SLCC 2006, Linden Lab gave out these LED flashing cubes. They said something on them like 'It all starts with a cube,' meaning that's how all builds started back then -- no sculpts, no mesh. And we joked, 'You know Ari you could eat that and make good on it.' (grin)"

Bixyl Shuftan chuckles

Michi Lumin, "I don't want to give exact numbers but, even with the change in SL demographics and trends, we passed 50,000 avatars out there quite a while ago."

Bixyl Shuftan, "Sounds pretty great."

Michi Lumin, "It's very odd to think, that it was almost a decade ago. When we were starting, things like YouTube and Facebook weren't even thought up yet."

Bixyl Shuftan, "When people started out in Second Life around 2006, 2007, one of the starter avatars was a Luskwood. How did this come about?"

Michi Lumin, "Well, Linden Lab was looking for starter content for new folks. They let everyone know that, you could contribute something and perhaps get it put in this new 'library' folder, where some starter content was. Back then, already, in the signup screen, they had a picture of one of our avatars - the fox, and I remember it was actually a picture of a really shy dude, who never talked much. How he got his picture, in our av, as signup picture, I don't know. But, the furry crowd was growing at that point and I know a lot of them were pinging LL for a bit of 'representation.' "

"A lot of people joke about it or even deride it now, 'What have furries ever done for SL.' But truth be told we were a very large part of the formative population from the beginnings of Second Life. So Linden Lab basically told us if we made something, they'd put it in the library. By then there were some other av makers coming up, I forget the names of all of them but I know Lost Furest was one."

"So, Liam and Eltee got together in Perry, in our Perry build box - which is actually still there, we just don't use it anymore. And, there was a bit of liquor involved, and with Arito doing the prims and Liam doing the textures, they just did this whirlwind building session and came up with something called 'Library Wild Dogs' or something. They got carried away, and, added these stripes, tribal markings, dreamcatcher-like earrings and stuff, basically going at it because they hit their stride that night, and ended up with this 'tribal dog' that was all sort of decorated."

"We stepped back and looked at that and (really, heh) thought: 'If we put this in the library, some of the upcoming smaller av vendors are going to be totally decimated by this being a freebie.' Because, at the time, for the time, it was pretty dang good."

"So, we put those away, and figured, well, Arito had this ringtail he made a while back and, we could 'redo it,' clean it up, make it a bit less rough around the edges and put THAT in the library instead. It was a specific av, and didn't have this weird broad "dog and cat at the same time" appeal like the 'tribal dogs' did."

"The ringtail was also really simple, and could get someone started on a furry, and even modification. Remember though, Second Life itself was really limited then, too. I think people don't remember that when they see our old stuff. But it was enough to get their feet wet, and a lot of people DID modify that ringtail into something else."

"As for the 'wild dogs', those went on to become Jogauni.The Jogauni, which, at least over the history of things, honestly were probably one of our most successful avatars. Which we actually don't intend to give up on, updates to something with that kind of 'canon' have to be done carefully. They were made on a whim and almost by mistake."

Bixyl Shuftan, "Sounds quite interesting."

Michi Lumin, "Well, yeah, back then stuff was, often, a lot more carefree and less political, heh. We spent the majority of our time just doing what we wanted to do, versus what we had to do (grin)."

Bixyl Shuftan, "What have been some of the challenges over time?"

Michi Lumin, "Well, the market shifts for one. It's hard to quite elucidate in the proper nuanced manner but: the Second Life furry population does demand a certain look right now, which really was never quite our style. We are working on merging our techniques into it. But, we don't want to in any way just become another follower. So, people who are new out there, may see our stuff and say 'Hey, how come your avs dont look like x?' -- And it's hard to answer to someone who doesn't know the history and roots by saying, 'Well, we're not X, we're Luskwood, and we're going to make stuff the way we believe in.' There's really absolutely no point in just cloning everyone else. Sure, it may confuse a few people into some new sales, but the moment you start chasing other people's visions, you lose track of your own."

"There will, I believe, always be people who see our stuff and like it on its own merits, versus what everyone else is wearing. I continue to see that. We still, absolutely, sell lots of avatars, and we still, absolutely, have a lot of designs in process. Most recently, the cat updates, which are still on their way; really seeing Cat 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 shows just this amazing evolution while retaining the basics of our look and personality."

"Real life has gotten in the way of that release a touch, but the delays have not been for design reasons at all. Me, I've got my own real-life things I'm dealing with. And Liam, well, Pre-Med isn't exactly a cakewalk. But the fact that we can still do this in spite of everything else we have going on I think speaks positively, not negatively."

"Our Crow Gryph was one of the first, if not the first, production furry av to use mesh. I think it looks pretty awesome by today's standards, and that one took Liam 10 days from back-of-napkin idea to release."

Bixyl Shuftan, "10 days? That's fast."

Michi Lumin, "It was. When it's based on pure creativity and unencumbered by real-life, it goes fast. It was similar to the 'jogauni session' in spirit. We're going to be releasing a more complete line of the gryphons, that was sort of a 'taste', and we released it as a Halloween av because of that. We didn't even consider it final, but for something that wasn't even final I think it's pretty complete."

"Other difficulties are griefers and politics, but, I'm not so sure there's a whole lot of interesting 'there' there. I think we all know how that stuff goes. It's just a noise floor. A louder one than it was back in the day, but still just noise."

Bixyl Shuftan, "Yes, in your opinion, why does Luskwood seem to attract griefers? Especially given it's squeaky-clean image."

Michi Lumin, "Well, I think that's a huge part of it actually. Causing trouble in a G-rated sim is a whole lot more satisfying to them, I think, than causing trouble at some weird, off-the-wall, raunchy A-rated sim where their daily lives are more 'shocking' than anything a griefer could pull out. Obscene particles in a G sim have a bit more impact than obscene particles at a strip joint."

"Of course there's also the fact that we're out in the open, and, while furries themselves in Second Life know of all of these other venues, we were the first to really make headway as far as recognition goes for the non-furry population. A lot of non-furries still think 'Luskwood' when they hear 'furry and SL'. Plus we're there on the mainland and easy to get to."

"We're right next to Ahern, after all, and Ahern is a hive of scum and villainy. (grins)That was a joke. Not an entirely inaccurate one, but, still a joke.

Bixyl Shuftan chuckles, "What about Ahern?"

Michi Lumin, "I think there's this idea that some other furry sims go and hide themselves away and 'mind their own business' while we're seen as trying to put ourselves out there 'on the mainland for everybody to see.' It's like folks who say they're 'okay with gay people as long as they don't thrust it in MY face' etc. It means they're really NOT ok with it, and they seem to think we're somehow 'continuing to exist on the mainland' as a big middle finger to 'the normals.' It really isn't that. It's that this is where we started, and people don't realize that private islands didn't exist and the mainland was tiny. And, in my opinion, we *are* normals. I have to make it clear that you do not have to be furry to come to Luskwood any more than you have to be Chinese to go to a Chinese restaurant. It's just silly to think otherwise, but a lot of people with a chip on their shoulder will come by, act up, and claim we're booting them because of their avatar. Personally I don't even notice their avatar since my head is too buried in the text going by."

"Ahern? Well, Ahern used to be a really kinda nice chummy place where folks would hang out with Lindens. Now, it seems to be the de-facto gathering spot and, not even being a full sim away, it's also another world away. Ahern appears to have its own power structures these days, and its own norms, and its a bit chaotic. So while Ahern regulars aren't bad people, a lot of times, some questonable folks will go there to show off, since they know they have an audience."

"And, of course, once they're 'done there,' they'll say 'Hey let's go to this furry place with the big tree that has the word wood in the name, you know,' 'Huhuhuh, you said wood! Huhuhuh.' "

Bixyl Shuftan, "Heh, sounds like some rather sophmoric characters."

Michi Lumin, "And I think us being G-rated, (General, note: not MPAA-G, we aren't a movie) is just icing on the cake to them because griefing in Luskwood is a whole lot more like farting in church than belching at a biker rally."

"Sophomoric? Yeah, there's a sort of troll ecosystem. Old trolls grow up and get bored, and then new ones come in and do the exact same thing their forefathers did, and seem to think it's the most clever thing since plastic testicles on diesel trucks. For us mostly its just ' here we go again,' and it's more sort of a boring rote annoyance. I'm sure they feel it's outright shocking, but really for us it's just another eye-roller."

Bixyl Shuftan, "One question someone asked me was how come Luskwood places a time limit on it's bans, four hours I believe it is, even for the most obvious griefers."

Michi Lumin, "Ok, that's not entirely true at all. We do use a graduated system, but people see the 'initial ban'. For 'normal' offenders, we will do a 2 hour, then a 4 hour, then a 6 day, then permanent. However, generally there's a 4-hour ban which is just to 'get them off of the parcel' and if it was especially egregious they'll be entered into the system and banned again upon return, if its a 'permanent ban.' The land ban list maxes out at a certain number, and to avoid us ever hitting that number, we use the land-ban list as nothing but a 'cache'."

"So, if the bans only reside 'on land' for 4 hours, you'll never fill that up, and you're not using up ban slots on people who aren't even online at the time. Our actual sequence is: warning, eject, 2 or 4 hours, depending on seriousness, then 6 days, then permanent. But for sure, people who we know right out are never gonna be anything but a negative, we do 'opt out' of their shennanigans, and that ends up being a permanent ban."

"It seems to me that Second Life is changing in that respect, too. Many new SLers seem to feel that any ban, for any reason, whatsoever, is unjustified. Kind of like, 'Sure, they crashed the sim 3 times but man, you didn't have to *ban* them, that's just rude!'  So the social sphere is changing again, and we're getting some static for not getting with the program. We have our own program, and a lot of people like it. There are folks who would rather be in a friendly neighborhood pub than in the audience for an ultimate fighting cage match. I'd rather we be more like 'Cheers' (this dates me, I know) than, say, some underground hardcore club."

"As much as people will say, 'Well, I ran a sim and…' or 'I went to this club and…' and tries to compare it to us -- again we are not trying to be like them. We've been doing this for near 10 years, and I think if we were 'getting it completely wrong', we would have shut down a long time ago. There are still new faces, at least a dozen I can think of in the last few weeks, in Luskwood, and there will continue to be. I think it's cool now that we have some human av semi-regulars who come by just to discuss stuff. That'd be unlikely to happen in a lot of other places."

Bixyl Shuftan, "Yes, Luskwood is one place in which you can always count on a group being around, even at odd hours. I've also seen some people from places such as Russia."

Michi Lumin, "We can't be everything to everyone. But we can be the sort of place that has the social climate that we and our folks really believe in. And if you've never been to Luskwood and come in during a more active time, without preconcieved notions, you may be surprised. (smile)"

"Oh, we have staff members and regulars from Russia, the UK, Australia, Germany, Spain, Japan, Canada, Sweden, even the Isle of Man. I could go on, there. We're trying to get more regular events going, stuff that isn't mind-shatteringly spectacular, but stuff that folks can look forward to."

Bixyl Shuftan, "I recall a few events over time, such as the spontaneous stack of avatars."

Michi Lumin, "Yup. That was before the current physics system. Folks would get an idea to just stack themselves as high as they could go. Now, I think that doesn't work, but I don't recall how high they got, 30 or so, maybe more. This New Year's is actually going to be our 10th New Year's party, as we began a bit before the end of the year. And it'll be our 9th anniversary in September or so."

Bixyl Shuftan, "What are your plans for those? And does Luskwood plan an SL9B event, on it's own or with anyone else?"

Michi Lumin, "Well, we didn't exactly set fire to the city with LW8B or our 9th New Year's. But '10' is more of a landmark so I think this New Years we'll try to make it pretty significant (smile). LW10B next year is going to be, well, presuming everything goes as planned, it should be huge. If Second Life makes it that far, right? But that's always been a question (grin) I never thought we'd make it to 5 years."

Bixyl Shuftan, "You're afraid SL might come to an end soon? I recall people expressed worry that Congress might pass something that would potentially cripple online places such as Second Life, as well as Facebook and Youtube."

Michi Lumin, "Oh… That? Well, eh, okay, the legislations, yeah, I see the concerns but, I don't think that'll actually happen that way. Potential to, but, kind of like the Australian net filter that never quite happened; people won't let that happen. There's a lot of hysteria about it, but I've been online since the early 80s. I just don't think people are going to take that sitting down. So that's not my worry."

"I'm more worried about Linden Lab selling Second Life off, or changing its focus completely. Linden Lab as a company is a huge, huge mystery. So I don't have any reason to think they're about to drop Second Life, but, in a vacuum (which we all are in, as residents) you tend to fill in a lot of 'what ifs'."

"Linden Lab says that Second Life is profitable for them. And they are, for sure, working on newer projects. But, since LL has this policy of 'Residents? What residents?' - they're a very closed society (they used to not be), and they don't really engage SL's population at all. So, they could be making decisions at this very moment that absolutely do not have Second Life's resident population in mind whatsoever, and we wouldn't even know about it until it was rolled out."

"I wish that would change, because there was a time when Linden Lab was more transparent and open, more engaging and interested, and resdients were really able to participate in more than token manners. But that time has long since passed and I think the corporate culture over there has been cemented in a few times now, and is unlikely to change. There are still some REALLY GOOD Linden Lab employees, and I'm not saying Linden Lab is cackling behind steepled fingers. We just don't know. As residents, we just aren't looped in about these things."

Bixyl Shuftan, "So despite that things have gone more or less smoothy, despite what some consider questionable changes (which are noted in the Newser), you feel they might pull something that would end up crippling the Grid?"

Michi Lumin, "Not crippling so much as changing it. Obsoleting these old forgotten models. I've been here longer than a good portion of Linden Lab employees have, and I've had a lot of LL employees come to me saying 'why are you doing it this way?' and I answer, 'well, because that's the way we've always done it'. And they don't get that, they don't know Second Life's history, they aren't engaged in its social spheres, and can't fathom why anyone would be. Linden Lab, I think, sees old cultures here and old residents here as a bit of an annoyance that keeps them from doing new things. I'd differ on that, I think we just feel that we have some stake in this world and want a say in the process. Not that we don't want them to do anything new. Just that we want to be formative like we have been in the past."

"I don't think Linden Lab necessarily understands that we do have vested interest in this world. Well, some Lindens do. But I don't think that as a corporate policy they really take current users into account all that much. It's always this idea of 'why coddle the users you have, when around the corner, if we appeal to this group that isn't even here yet, we could have ten times as many.' -- That, it seems, really hasn't worked all that well for them so far and I'm not sure why they insist on that line of thought. Second Life used to grow due to word of mouth, and maybe the current board doesn't think that's powerful or rapid enough. But I think it'd be a lot more powerful and a lot more rapid than what's going on now. Second Life still could be seen as a really cool thing out there. 'Social' is a buzzword now but people keep trying to get there by throwing tech at it, by throwing widgets at it."

"Social isn't about widgets. Social is about society, and Social is about community. I'm surprised that Linden Lab hasn't sunk their project direction into encouraging community and helping them operate. Community is what converts and retains people, not a UI. If the people and the place are compelling enough, the UI falls into the background and becomes nothing but a detail. But for some reason LL seems to think there's an interface design they could change, or some features they could simplify, or an operational/mechanical trend they could follow and suddenly they'd be the apple of the Internet's eye."

"Facebook, for example, isn't popular because they've got walls, or they've got likes, or they've got a timeline layout. They're popular because that's where all of your friends are. If Second Life really nurtured communities more, and yeah some of that may be walking a bit away from the 'wild west', completely hands-off attitude, I really believe more people would come. And more folks would bring more folks, and we'd see some real growth again and some opinion changes out there.

"There's a whole lot of 'broken windows theory' going on in Second Life right now. A new person logs on, folks are rude to them, or they grief them, and the company who owns the grid seems non-present and non-engaging, and they walk into this sprawling no-man's-land and have to fend for themselves from day one. Instead of finding one of many vibrant communities that are using the SL system to their vision. I have so many people come to me and say, 'Michi, this is my second time 'round at Second Life. If I had found Luskwood 2 or 3 years ago I would have stayed.' "

"But we don't get to concentrate enough on stuff like that. On building community and stuff. Because on one hand we'll be dealing with external issues, such as grievers. Which, by the way, really we have seen a drop in, in the last two years or so. But I don't think this is due to Linden Lab's intervention. I think it's due to griefers not being really interested in SL anymore."

"And on the other hand we'll be having to cope with some new change or defect or shift in way of doing things that Linden Lab just deposited on our doorstep. I think it was Blue Linden, before he left Linden Lab, who said to us once, 'Wow, Michi, we really don't make it easy as we could, for you guys to exist on here, do we.' - and no, really, LL doesn't. We've gotten pretty good at knowing the ins and outs of the system where we can though, to keep flying."

Bixyl Shuftan, "Oh yes, I remember Blue. He would go to events and interact with residents."

Michi Lumin, "Yep. And that, I feel, is one of the reasons he was one of the first folks out the door when the revolution came. There's some view, somewhere in Linden Lab culture, that takes a very negative view of residents. And that isn't official policy, in fact I think one of the main tenets of LL corporate mantra is 'How will this affect our residents?' But, I think the unofficial tagline is: 'Residents. They just get in the way. They're just a bother.' Maybe that's a bit harsh and believe me, I have to underline twice: there are LL employees who do NOT feel that way (and I'm sure you know who you are). But at the same time, Linden Lab *as a company* does NOT see Residents as their customers or clients. And that's one of the main problems, along with Lindens not 'living' in SL, or 'understanding life in Second Life' because they aren't generally 'on the ground' with us residents."

"Linden Lab, in my opinion, and it is just my opinion, sees themselves, or their board of directors, as SL's 'clients' or 'customers.' It's really mind-blowing. I don't know of any other place, any other company or service, where you can pay upwards of $295 a month, and not have any sort of SLA, or any sort of real customer service. If I had a T1 from the phone company, I'd have better service, -as a customer-, than I do with Linden Lab. I suppose they figure there aren't any viable alternatives. And, with us, I suppose they figure we've got our legacy here, and we do, but there are some other projects I've been involved in besides Luskwood, which really could have gotten off the ground. But, sims didn't work, stuff crashed, regions were unavailable for extended periods of time, etc."

"And you call Linden Lab, or use Live Chat, and they pretty much seem to just exist to 'say no' much of the time. Again I'd say in the past 6 months maybe that's changing a little. But if I'm having a problem with a region's stability, that we're paying $295 a month for, historically, they won't really do much for you. One of the projects I'm involved in, one of our sims was down for a full day late last year. Calling Concierge and Support pretty much lead to us getting told that 'there are rolling restarts, please wait.' "

"The problem wasn't rolling restarts. (grin) After a day, we finally got someone who gave a damn, and said 'Huh, if this was a rolling restart it should have been down for an hour, not 26.' -- and it was just the toughest thing to even get someone at Linden Lab to take us seriously, as 'real' customers who may even know what they're talking about, having done this thing for quite a while. It's a bit disparaging to get told to hit F1 for help when you were part of creating a good portion of what 's in the knowledge base to begin with."

"We generally don't go to Linden Lab support unless we know it's a real problem that we absolutely can't affect. For one, it's not a pleasant experience. And I don't think they want it to be -- I think they want to dissuade folks from it. And second, we don't want to cry wolf. We still want to be good customers, even if we're not really seen as customers."

"I would -love- to see an engaging, 'meet-you-half-way' change in Linden Lab, and one that does see community as important, residents as essential, and their users as actual clients and customers. I still have hope that it can happen. Meanwhile, we're going to try to maintain being this little spot of 'SL as we see it' in spite of all of the paradigm shifts that happen. We still do good things. We still have great people. We still have a good time and we still believe in what we're doing."

"Long road, yeah, and we've always been hoping to hit smoother pavement as time went on, but I know full well that was never guaranteed to us. I wish I could name some of the good people that are still in Second Life,  Linden, av maker, resident -- that really still do contribute to the common good here. I want to make it clear that I feel that there are still plenty of those. I just think SL could be a lot better than it is these days, and I hope that potential isn't squandered."

Bixyl Shuftan, "Besides the anniversary events, and the avatar updates you mentioned, what do you think the future holds for Luskwood? Someone once told me even if Second Life vanished overnight, you'd pop up somewhere else."

Michi Lumin, "Well, we absolutely plan to have contingency plans. So yes, if Second Life went away, I'd tell people to watch the Luskwood site for what's happening next. As far as SL goes, we're talking about renovation plans and some kind of interesting expansions into other arenas that I can't fully talk about right now, but they're pretty cool."

"One thing we don't do, is give up easy. Luskwood may have been born on SL, but I really doubt it will die on it. The fact that 9 years in, we're still getting motivated folks who really want to be part of a forward direction, be it in av making, the community and events, the design of the sims, and even branched-out offshoot projects with Luskwood as their root, shows that on an evolutionary scale, this phase may just be seen as the beginning. I never thought I'd be here in 2012, so I've learned to not predict where we will, or won't be, down the line. But the tree still has a lot of life left in it."

Bixyl Shuftan, "Anything else you'd like to mention, like that top hat and goggles? Where did that come from?"

Michi Lumin, "Heh it's funny, it's such a part of my image now. People ask where to get them. These were a gift from Arito, who, well, while frenetic (and, he is still around! I talked to him, today, he's just very busy with personal real-life projects), he asked me once,'What kind of hat do you like?' And I described this, and he made it in, 20 minutes?"

Bixyl Shuftan, "Nice."

Michi Lumin, "A lot of what I wear has personal significance. The hat is from Arito. And, I like to say that it's what weights down my personality, and I hope to not get 'too big for my hat' (grin). I'm not a big deal, I just have a big hat. (smile) The knife on my arm, that was made by Tengu, and he's been here since the early days, helping us and defending us, as the years rolled by. And that signifies I think that I'm willing to put up a fight. And I am, most people know that. (smile) The bat necklace came from Anne, from AnneDroid Lily, and i've worn that on every avatar I have, since the early days. She gave that to me as a gift too. So, I carry a lot of people around with me, through Second Life."

Bixyl Shuftan, "That was nice of them."

Michi Lumin, "It's kind of like why Eltee wears her old fox av. Sure it's not the most modern thing, but it was given to her by a friend, by Arito as well, for her birthday. And really I think that means a whole lot more than looking like the slickest thing in the sim. Fans come and go, (and more often go) Friends stay even when times get rough. And we've had our share of rough times (smile).  I'd rather have 12 friends than 120 fans. I'd rather have 2 friends than 1200 fans. (smile)."

Bixyl Shuftan, "Well, thank you for your time. By the way, one of my friends bought up a bunch of Lusk Fox avatars. I recall one friend asking about the Husky avatars."

Michi Lumin, "Oh? Soon, we're going to be hitting the updates for those. I don't want to say when because whenever we say when, life rears its head and things get changed. But watch for new stuff on those down the line here. We get a lot of questions about which avs will be updated next (smile). We cant do them all at once of course and it always seems like 'your' av, is the one that isn't getting updated (grin). But, we will do it, and we are working on new ones too."

It was about this time the interview ended, and we went our separate ways.

Michi is most often found at the Big Tree platform in Luskwood, or at nearby places in Lusk during events such as the theater or the Primatory stage. But she, and other founders, have been seen elsewhere, such as Bay City a few sims away to the west.

Luskwood's website is located at Michi Lumin also has an entry in Wikifur (image credit).

Bixyl Shuftan


  1. In a sense, this was like interviewing the mayor of the town one first lived in after striking out into the world. I've heard people criticize the place as "Dullwood," and I myself don't hang out at the Big Tree like I used to. But it's a great place to get started in Second Life, the technical talk can get interesting, and it's one spot in Second Life in which there's always someone there.

    1. Well, different places for different people, Bixyl. The norm in furry seems to be the pulsating/flashing/bass-driving "club", and no, we aren't that. So to folks who expect and want that, I can see why they might think that. We're also not adult, so we can't really cater to that, either.

      But, as far as an equivalent of your 'local town bar', I think that there's a need for that, a conversational place that isn't neccessarily sploders, sparkles and super-mega-events 24/7/365.

      There seems to be an attitude of "I'm here, ENTERTAIN ME!" on not just SL but a lot of the internet right now. So I can see why folks who see this as the norm could think that we're "dull", because our modus operandi isn't, say, events and big traffic numbers.

      The thing is, the technical talk is mostly momentary and based on a few people there filling the conversational gaps. Really, anyone can bring anything up, and we sure aren't going to have a problem with them doing so; just like anywhere else it's a matter of catching someone else's attention.

  2. I go to Luskwood often.

    Though I'm usually a wallflower there.

    Sometimes I sneak by and pretend to be looking at the vendors when really I'm looking for a good bit of the conversation... :)

    But a lot of times that conversation feels like its part 327 of a very long clique based conversation, and one never knows anybody or when and where to join in.

    Oddly they seem to be talking about 'gaming rigs' half the time I end up there, and I'm not a gamer, so I get lost.

    I've -never- seen griefers there, so am surprised to notice that it gets them. I've seen the sign warning them - and just figured it was a quaint reminder of war-days gone by - like a rusted out pillbox bunker on an old beach or hillside (such as just north of San Francisco's Golden Gate).

    Still, it remains my 'go to choice' to send someone when I see a request for furry or animal avatar info or communities.

    Will have to sneak by there again soon.

    (must figure out updating my... gravitar I think... avatar, for these comment thingies, as its years out of date...)

    1. Pussycat -

      I've seen you around and I am sorry that it seems like the tech conversation overrides. I'm not really a gamer myself, so I dont even participate in those conversations.

      In any place there are going to be a few dominant personalities and, I think sometimes, as I mentioned in the comment above, the 'gap filling' gets perceived as the "official stance" of the place.

      It's hard to tell people to, say, not talk about computers, or something; so as there are folks who are into them around, it'll sometimes default to that. Or photography, or, something.

      I've spent a few years trying to decode the 'clique' interpretation, because from a first hand point of view I'm sure that's not what -actually- is going on. I think it's just that there's an involved back and forth usually with some of the 'bubbled to the top' personalities that I mentioned, and it's hard to break into conversation when that's going on.

      For sure though, bringing up something of YOUR interest or just saying "hey I stopped by because I was looking for folks to talk to" will liekly get you looped in. If it ever causes problems, for sure, *let me know*, because I don't want it going that way in Luskwood and, sometimes people need gentle reminders to be polite.

      But, never feel that a conversation is the 'official stance' of Luskwood or anything. They just happen organically, and when left to their own devices, some of the Type A's tend to fill the silence. That's true of a lot of areas, and, just because they happen to be the one talking, - remember, that doesn't mean they have dominion.

      (And, really, if anyone has any suggestions on that matter, let me know. I'm all ears. Well, mostly tail but, also ears.) - I do consider newcomers and oldbies alike to have just as valid input (so long as it isn't seated in griefing or trolling.)

  3. Very interesting to read Michi's comments on the current way the Lab treats residents compared to the way things were way back when, or even just a few years ago.

    1. Corcosman--

      It's sad, I think, and I think LL could be doing much better, if they had this organic support of the residents like they used to.

      SL used to be recommended by word of mouth and the community strongly defended it. The "alienation" really started in earnest in 2007, got stronger in 2008 and has been going full steam ever since. I do NOT understand it, since it seems absolutely contrary to their goals.

      I keep hoping that they figure it out, and that a resident-focused strategy would help them. But they seem to not really be able to comprehend that their users support is actually a good thing. You see this in a lot of current internet phenomena though, like Facebook -- they seem to enjoy riling their userbase.

      So, maybe it's some strategy that we just don't understand. That said, just because it is a strategy of some sort - if it is one - doesn't mean it's a correct or valid one.