Monday, December 30, 2019

Nine Questions For Xiola Linden

By Bixyl Shuftan

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

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

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

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

3. How was your time here as a resident?

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

4. How did you end up joining Linden Lab?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Thursday, December 26, 2019

My Decade in Second Life

by Cyfir (Cyfiremmerich Resident)

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Interview With Nydia Tungsten: 11 Years, 11 Questions

By Cyfir (Cyfiremmerich)

Nydia Tungsten has been around in Second Life for over 10 years. In fact, her 11th rez day is coming up, so I thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to meet up with her and ask her 11 questions regarding her time in Second Life as well as her other projects.

Cyfir: How did you get started in Second Life?

Nydia: Someone I met randomly gave me the downloader. I forgot I even had it for over a year. Then I found it, BARELY remembered that it was supposedly a game, and tried it.

Cyfir: What initially drew you in to Second Life and why did you stay?

Nydia: I can't say anything drew me here but luck. I almost deleted the installer. What made me stay is I had found furry art on the internet, as well as furry comics such as "Sabrina Online." That kind of drew me to the furry fandom and I didn't even know it. Hell, I didn't even know there was a fandom until I came here and I met some many wonderful furs. THEY are why I stay.

Cyfir: What were your first few years on the platform like?

Nydia: I was shy, unsure of what to do, where to go. But that was only a few days. My first friends in Second Life were Skylark, Treminari, Limly,  Rita, Lomgren, just to name a few. They took me under their wings and helped me to grow here. They taught me about land, clubs, and tried to teach me building and scripting but, I don't have the mind for it. But they helped to mold me and helped me to grow here and to be honest I have grown a lot.

Cyfir : I understand that you are a sim owner. As I am a previous sim owner, I understand that there are many challenges involved. Can you give any aspiring sim owners any pointers for running a sim?

Nydia : Friends! Hee-hee. They are always a good thing, and are your best renters. I have known a few of my renters since they started Second Life and a few others since 'they have started SL. And don't be greedy. Be fair to everyone. Sometimes that’s difficult because it might be a dispute between your friends, but you HAVE to remain neutral or it could ruin everything. And each time has a good reason, and have people you trust completely as admins. Another trick is to create "Bank" accounts. That way if anything DOES happen to the AVI that owns the sim, you still have the money to take care of business, and have a "Sim owner" account as well. Again, to save your main account from Linden Lab.

Cyfir: What do you feel is most rewarding about being a sim owner?

Nydia: Helping people. Making sure they have a SAFE home, not just a parcel but a HOME they can enjoy and feel safe.

Cyfir: What have been your favorite memories thus far in Second Life?

Nydia: There are so many… Mostly, having fun with my friends. Sometimes making a fool of myself, *laughs* and yeah, I have done that a LOT. Oh, I have some doosies. *laughs* Like... I logged into a convo in the Hidden Vally chat, which is one of the groups I am in "Tiny Empires" and someone asked about watersports, and I piped up with “I LOVE water sports!" and the chat DIED and someone asked  "YOU like water sports?" and I told them hell yeah!  I LOVE swimming and fishing and the chat exploded in laughter. I had no idea why until someone explained what type of "Water sports" they meant. ... There have been others, but lets just say I was very, naive. And when people talk about "Scat" here, it is NOT the music genre.

Cyfir: How long do you think that Second Life will continue to stick around?

Nydia: I think it has a long life ahead of it. I know they were trying to get people to the other world they made. I went ONCE and I was shocked at how primitive it was. You could not interact with 99% of the stuff there. You had no volume control, no way of controlling where you could go reliably. It was just a new form of IMVU I think it is? So nothing new was done. They tried to reinvent the wheel and failed. So Second Life is going to be here for a good long while.

Cyfir: If Second Life shut down, where do you think that you would go?

Nydia:  I am not sure, to be honest. I have plenty of ways to keep in touch with a lot of my friends here in Second Life, mostly my Angels.

Cyfir: You mention in your about section that you run a radio station in Second Life. Can you tell our readers about that?

Nydia:  KVXN Internet Radio. It started as a kind of joke. I DJ'd for almost twelve hours just on a whim, and Rita said I should start a station in Second Life. So I did. *laughs* We are now a licensed Internet radio station.

Cyfir: You previously did Second Life music videos on YouTube. Do you plan to make any more in the future?

Nydia: Because of the latest “COPPA" debacle, I have closed my Youtube channel until the dust settles.

Cyfir: I understand that you’re also a novelist. Can you tell us about your previous novels and where to find them and are there any future novels on the way?

Nydia: Yes. I am waiting on my daughter to finish a family chart. Then I will be releasing the second book. Book two,  "Switched Destinies: Kevin's Return," continues with Kevin's adventures in his new world. (The synopsis of the story is) "Two souls, viewed by many of their kinds’ as eccentric lunatics, suddenly find themselves switched within their parallel universes. Now in strange new lands, each is having to learn about the other side of the mirror. In the all new Switched Destiny's.”

You can visit Nydia’s radio station “KVXN” here, and you can check out her latest novel “Switched Destinies” here.


Friday, November 29, 2019

Interview With Emorald of Montecito Bay

By Bixyl Shuftan

Among the people whom make the sim and community of Montecito Bay run, Emorald Resident is one of them. Often mentioned in the same sentence as her partner Lem Aiko (LemonPledge) as "Lem and Em," she has been around since the start of the place. Recently, we met up at the sim's Magnum Opus and I had a few questions for her.

When we found a place to sit down, we attracted some attention from a few others nearby, including Emorald. When he was told what was going on, he chuckled a little, "It's kinda funny. Ya get an interview with one of us, and you get all of us at the same time. But we all family here." He smiled and let

When asked to describe what her role was here, Emorald answered, "Well, I am the head of Parks and Recreation (smile). Pretty much, I do the hiring of DJs and hosts." When asked how she found out about Second Life, she responded, "I had heard about it a few times. Never though much on it till .... oh .... I would say 2015. Then decided 'What the heck, might as well check it out.' And well, been on here ever since.

"It's a rather nice way to stretch my creative side," Emorald went on, "I was never a good painter or anything like that. But many people told me I have a decent eye for photography. So I have been using Second Life to take pics of the avatars I fix up." It didn't come about right away, "I had taken pictures in SL (early on) a few times and thought nothing of it. But I had shown some people what I took and some liked it. So as time went on, I began trying to get better at it. I do use photoshop to make them look a bit better (smile)."

Emorald does get other ways to stretch her creativity, "Little bits of role playing when I get a chance, but mostly in photography. Getting my AV pose just right, getting the perfect lighting, It's always fun (smile). I do a little building from time to timem but, nothing really amazing."

I went and asked Emorald just how early on did she hear about the planning of Montecito Bay. She answered, "I want to say I had heard Moff talking about doing it after he left Furry Fashion. He had always wanted to make something really nice. So Monticeto Bay came about. It's been through a few changes, and next year there is gonna be another change (smile)." I of course asked what the change was, but she just giggled, "Hehehe.... That my friend is kept under lock and key (smile). But I can say it should prove to be pretty awesome. Hopefully the upcoming change will bring about more and more people."

So what did she think was Montecito Bay's most noteworthy event? Emorald told me, "Oh man, the Alien Invasion was pretty crazy, and a lot of fun (smile). The NuYu that is coming up in December should prove to be a lot of fun as well. ... This entire month this sim has been busy setting up for (it). ... I really enjoy this place."

Emorald besides being in charge of hiring DJs does some DJing herself, "I do a bit of everything, to be honest. If I can find it, I will usually play it. I never try and stick to just one type of music. I enjoy pretty much everything. Today i did a Disco set (smile)." I asked which of Montecito Bay's several venues did she like the most. "Always did like Studio 86 and Envy Nightlife," she answered, "two of my faves, guess 'cause of the neon and such." She thought for a moment, "Really though Bix, I love ALL the clubs we have here a MB. I know this place here is Moff's baby (smiles)."

I went back to her earlier saying she liked taking pictures of avatars, and asked Emorald what inspired her particular avatar and outfit? She giggled, "Heheh, that is a story in itself. When i started Second Life, my first av was a dragon. I think I still have it set up, I forget. But as time went on, I just got more and more avatars 'till I ran across this otter av.

"This is technically one of Brae's old avs. But the more I worked with it, the more it spoke to me. It's been through a few changes. But this latest version has a bento head (smile). It used to have the old PAWS otter head, which *is* a nice head. But, I don't think it has the, expression, this head seems to have. With this head she looks more sophisticated, and, just as cute and sexy (smile). The head I have now is the Happy Paws Lionet head. I paid Brae to fix up the otter head texture to it, and I played around with the sliders 'till it looked right. The tattoos, I fixed them up to be on the skin and not just a layer on the Maitreya body."

So what are her future plans besides the NuYu and next year's "surprise?" Emorald answered, "To be honest I dunno yet. I just live life one day at a time. I do play on continuing to take pics in Second Life. Hopefully I can get more stuff to help me get better and better at it." The last thing she mentioned was the NuYu, "I hope to see a lot of people (there) ... gonna be several shows, plenty of vendors selling things, should be an awesome time (smile)."

It was about then we parted and went our seperate ways. For those looking for Emorald, she can usually be found at one of Montecito Bay's events, often with her partner Lem.

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Interview With Emilia Dagostino, New CDS Chancellor

By Bixyl Shuftan

A few days ago, the Confederation of Democratic Simulators had it's biannual election. There was only one candidate for the office of Chancellor: Emilia Dagostino (Emilia Avindar). I recently met with her at her art-filled building at the community, the Bauhaus. She called it, "a labor of love that I haven't changed much since a year ago." It was a rebuild of a building of the same name in Germany, "Bauhaus was a revolution in life style and aesthetics, which found itself marching to a different drum. It was truly a portable lifestyle; an array of objects and styles that were portable to other places and other schools of art. Still a basis for contemporary art, a sense of freedom of style but strengthened by utility. Art is so much a part of our CDS sims. I hope to update a gallery listing soon; as you can see, even my next door neighbor here is an artist. (smile)"

When asked how she first found out about Second Life, Emilia answered, "Honestly, I found it mentioned in a tech article back in the founding period, and I signed up. But I must not have been successful because I hesitated to use a credit card to pay the ten doller fee, but I had never put a credit card online back in those dark ages, hahahah. So I must not have made an account. I never found where I had later to try to reclaim it.

"So, in 2009, I wanted to find something fun and went back. Still could not get in, but tried a third time a few months later, and landed in Helfel and flew with elephants and butterflies and became hooked that day, never looking back. (smile) I even remember the first people i met, to this day. I soon searched for Al Andalus, because of a personal interest at the time, and that led me to CDS."

And how were her first few days at the CDS? Emilia told me, "Hmm, tentative. I was shy, and avoided people ... mistake! Everyone was friendly, of course. Pip had poetry readings, which I discovered, and I loved those, and other small social get togethers, which were a great way to actually meet people. We still do these things, but we need more poets and lonely hearts to attend. ..nice place to live and coexist here. (smile) When the lake freezes, we'll ice skate and drink hot cocoa.
Horseback riding, snowmobiles, snowy owls.... all sorts of amusements, thanks to our very own citizens."

When asked how long she had the Bauhaus, Emilia answered, "About a year actually, almost exactly. I was about to give it up last summer, and Kyoko said she'd included it in an arts announcement so I quickly reclaimed it and had to rebuild it in a few days, (laughter). The windows have the feeling of the early Bauhaus school, and I even have the radiator in the hallway, just as Gropius did."

Emilia has been involved in other places in Second Life, ".... SL Birthdays, since my first one in 2007, Burning Man (Burn2) and (New Bastogne) WW2 roleplay, where I was Captain Avindar eventually, but not forever, (smile). I battled there and walked the lonely streets, buying fashions from a seamstress, Sunshine Juneberry, yes. (smile). We flew combat in real skirmishes then."

Things are a bit different in the CDS, "Here we wrangle with self governance and land management, enjoy casual and formal events, but no role play. When I returned, I became interested in the elections that were underway at the time. I became the PIO for Kyoko, who was elected Chancellor, and got to know the group at a much deeper level of detail. I bought a little fachwerk house and got to know all of these CDS sims, each with its own natural flavor, Bavaria, Alpine, Tuscan, Roman, Greek fishing village. So much has been added in only the past year."

When I asked Emilia about what gave her the idea of running for Chancellor, she answered, "Friends persuaded me." She smiled, "Thankful to have good support and people are willing to help and mentor. This group is amazing in being so good at this for 15 years. We have a Constitution, a Code of Law, Land & Covenant, a regulatory body, The Representative Assembly, the Judicial body, 'Scientific Council' and the Executive body, in the Chair of the Chancellor, but also in the Estate Management."

I brought up the election, which seemed pretty quiet. Emilia told me, "I was unopposed, and we had six stand for five seats on the Representative Assembly, and they posted signs which gave Notecards, and there were some spontaneous questions sessions and group chat. I look forward to making some appointments that will reward folks for their daily efforts. Living here is its own reward, but friendships continue to grow, and thus the history of the group will continue to flourish, hopefully, for many more years." Of her plans as Chancellor, "To be available for anyone, and to not hurt any feelings."

Emilia had to go and take her real life daughter to a movie. She reminded that anyone could look up information about the CDS at .

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, November 25, 2019

Commentary: Twelve Years of Reporting SL News

By Bixyl Shuftan

It was twelve years ago this month that yours truly started writing the news about Second Life. The actual anniversary was a few weeks ago. But as so often, have been busy with both keeping up the Newser, as well as other activities in Second Life.

I'd been in Second Life for a little less than a year, and logging in regularly for the past few months, hanging out at Luskwood and the now-vanished STA. I was browsing newsletters and blogs, and in October 2007 came across an invitation by the Second Life Newspaper for reader submissions. After sending in a few, in early November 2007 owner JamesT Juno and editor Dana Vanmoer offered me a position as a reporter.

And so for two and a half years, I would write articles once or twice a week for SL Newspaper, writing on a variety of subjects about the people, places, events, and things around this virtual world. I was part of something that kept readers new and established in the know about Second Life.

In June 2010, my mission here would change as the Second Life Newspaper closed it's doors, and a new newsletter, the Second Life Newser, opened with Gemma Cleanslate, Grey Lupindo, Shelie Sands, and myself as it's writers, with me as the editor. So it was up to me to go through the articles of the others and post them in addition to putting up my own. Most weeks, I only have two good-sized articles up. The Newser being a team effort, the rest are done by other reporters.

Over time, I've written many stories about Second Life. This includes some annual events such as the Second Life Birthday and Relay Weekend done again year after year. The latter is one example of the good that virtual worlds are capable of. I've also written about some interesting new places, people continuing to find inventive ways to express themselves in an online landscape that's gone on for over sixteen years.

And then there are the people. Some are well off in real-life, successful on both sides of the computer. Others have physical or mental disabilities, and Second Life allows them to accomplish what they couldn't in real life. I've had to write about some great places closing down, though happily a few have come back. Sadly though, I've had to write about a few people here passing away, including a few I had personally talked to. While I do feel some sense of pride in helping that they will not be forgotten and people will know more of the good they did, it's still a sad feeling that I won't be talking to them again, at least not for a few decades.

"So how do you find the time?" and "How do you keep it up?" some might ask.  Over time, I have ended up with additional inworld responsibilities, such as helping a friend with her club. And I do enjoy some gaming, a little time to relax, often with friends. But I've always liked writing, and have almost always found some time to do so. Occasionally, there's so many things going on that catch my attention, I need to pick and choose what gets written about now, and which gets put to the back burner. There have been a few subjects I haven't been able to write about in detail, or at all, due to so much happening at once.

The reaction I've had in real-life to my writing has been mainly positive, especially when it concerns topics like the Relay or Veterans. I have had a few people tell me it's time to move on, such as writing for a "red meat" political blog for some quick cash. But I'd rather not alienate half my audience. I am writing a science-fiction novel on the side. But the Newser has been my best audience as a writer, as well as the means as a writer I've done the most good. I am not giving it up any time soon.

As for the future, how long I keep writing about Second Life depends on how long Linden Lab will keep it going. For years, there's been predictions that the virtual world is on the verge of dying. Over time, the Lab has made no shortage of decisions that looked like they were going for a quick buck and not thinking of the long term, or made no sense to anyone but themselves. But unless there's some great calamity such as a worldwide depression, it's a safe bet to assume the virtual world will be around for many more years. Eventually, someone will make a better product, and Linden Lab will be bought up or close it's doors, taking Second Life with it. But until then, or I end up in a real-life accident I don't walk away from, I have no plans to quit writing.

Happy to keep you informed about Second Life for twelve years, and here's to many more.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, November 8, 2019

Flattop Ewing and Sarah Ewing on the Veterans Tribute

By Bixyl Shuftan

When I was contacted about the Veterans Tribute, it was suggested that I talk to Flattop Ewing. Flattop I was told had returned after an absence to help organize the Tribute and it's music events. So I contacted him, and we arranged a time to meet up for an interview. We soon met up at the Tribute grounds, with his partner Sarah Ewing (SexySarah Svenska). "It has been amazing this year," Sarah spoke about the event. Flattop mused, "is my tie straight for the interview? ... I used the good deodorant."

I asked Flattop how the Tribute got started. He answered, "I started it 13 yrs ago in a club as just a two day event (with) two hours each day. There were no memorials, there was no wall at that time. I was just a DJ that wanted to do something regarding veterans. I was truly unprepared for the response it would receive. The first day was a good response for the two hour gig.  The second day we nearly crashed the sim with people trying to come in."

The club, Rockstar, would since close down. But Flattop was in position to repeat the tribute a second time in 2007, "By then Sarah and I had opened up our own club and bought a sim.  We picked up the club and put the tribute together.  We sought out various creators all over Second Life that we had seen create various memorials." "And the wall was born," Sarah added.

Flattop went on, "That's also when we realized what we felt the tribute was to become, was bringing together different people and showcasing their talents and their desires to honor veterans in their own way. That second year we actually had DJs and live entertainers come to us asking to be a part of it.  I honestly don't remember the number of events, but we had I think four days of events." I asked more about the wall. Flattop answered, "Initially the wall was just representing those that were assisting to coordinate the tribute and our friends.  Then we (had) visitors that would start asking to add their real-life loved ones to the wall to honor them." And how many bricks had names put on them? "There were a lot," Flattop answered, "I remember logging in each morning and having a lot of them to make. I think we ended with something around fifty blocks compared to the ten we started with of coordinators and friends. Wildroses Pevensey does them now and she does an amazing job.

The tribute became larger, "The next couple years we had some other close friends, some of them veterans themselves, become part of the tribute staff.  We received such a response still even more than we imagined.  We had a Second Life flight squadron do an air show and give helicopter rides to those visiting the tribute. Again, the wall (was) growing and becoming the focal point of the entire tribute. The venue always a place for those within Second Life to come reflect and remember those that have served or are serving."

The 2010 Tribute would be the last Flattop and Sara would manage, "In 2011 Wildroses Pevensey, another coordinator took over when real-life called us out of game until recently." Sara would comment, "She and Sabre, another officer, built this SIM up this year, too.  It is beautiful and reflective." Flattop went on, "We felt that it was part of the tribute taking on a life of it's own, to honor all veterans around the world."

Of the wall right now, Flattop would say, "currently on the wall are about 900 names. I'm not sure how many have been added so far this year." Of the conflicts the veterans were in, "Names range from WWI through current, including WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Desert Storm, and some that were submitted for other country's conflicts, and of course those that are currently serving as well."

And of the smaller events, which did Flattop find the most memorable? He answered, "My personal favorite was when we had an air show." Sarah commented, "It isn't so much an event, for me, it is the wall and the stories people have of their own, or a loved one's, they have to tell.  So many amazing stories of so many lives, we have been honored to hear through the years."

I asked about this year's smaller music events. Flattop told me, "We have a handful of DJs that have offered their time this year for around Veterans Day weekend.  As Sarah had mentioned, real-life had pulled us out of Second Life for some time.  We only came back a few months ago, and unfortunately we weren't able to get more events like we hoped." One event they planed would be held on the Veterans Isle sim instead, an anniversary party for the US Marines. "The US Military Veterans group was gracious to offer to host the Marine Corps Birthday Ball this year," Flattop told me, "I will be DJing the ball on Nov. 9th at 6pm, The day before the actual Marine Birthday."

While I was there, several people dropped by the Tribute. Sarah and Flattop would greet them, answer any questions, and the people would go on to look around.

Of their future plans, Sarah told me, "We have tossed around the idea of having a traditional USO show, if we could get it together.  We are also looking for more interactive content that people can walk through, etc, to have." Flattop added, "We would also like to bring back an air show at some point as well. The first and foremost has always been about the Veterans and the wall. As Second Life continues to grow and change, we never know what might be available to do in future years."

It was soon time to part, and I asked them if they had anything else to mention. Flattop answered, "We are continuing to look for more content from around the world. We would also like to have a little bit of a learning aspect for those that may not know some of the historical aspects of Veterans Day/Armistice Day."

Be sure to drop by the Veterans Tribute at Northern Lights (129/32/38). Music events are being planned there for Saturday  November 9 to Monday November 11.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, October 21, 2019

Remembering Tai'lahr Winnikow

By Bixyl Shuftan

It was a few days ago that my attention was drawn to the Historical Hunts group. The reason for the announcment was that group founder Perryn Peterson had made a certain announcement.

I regret to inform you that Miss Tai' (Tai'lahr Winnikow) has passed away in RL.  This is the message I received from her RL husband:

"Tai'lahr left us this day without ever realizing how many people she touched and how much she was appreciated."

Please keep them in your thoughts.  A suitable exhibit will be established at the Mieville Memorial Gardens for Miss Tai'.

Checking the place at Mieville Lakes (127/203/22), I noticed a picture of a lady with a candle nearby, "In memory of Tai'lahr Winnikow, creative, clever genius." Asking around, Oldesoul Eldemar of the Relay for Life told me, "She was awesome and so helpful in (the) Fantasy Faire and Fallen Gods groups. She helped us moderate Fantasy Faire backstage and fans. She did the hunts for Mieville."

Oldesoul recommended I contact with Wyvern Dryke, also known as Wyvvy. "I was glad to call her one of my friends," he told me, saying she was here for eleven and a half years, "I knew her about five years of that." When I asked what she did, Wyvern answered, "Many things. She helped a great deal with the events in Mieville, including checking that the merchants were all ready for the hunts, helping hunters who needed assistance in the hunts, and creating games for the events." She had been doing so for about four years, "She was so giving, she said once she'd rather give things away then sell them. ... She also helped others create their own products.  She taught them scripts, among other things. She was very giving and generous. ... She is missed by all of the Mieville community.  Her absence leaves a massive hole which will not be easily filled."

Wyvern suggested I talk to Kerryth Tarantal for more information. As it turned out, she was a longtime friend who knew her before they both came to Second Life, "I must have met her in 2006 or 2007. We were in the version of Myst Online - Uru Live that was carried by GameTap at the time. We shared some of the same activities in that game. Like SL it had a lot of free form social qualities." They came here about the same time, "In February of 2008, GameTap announced that Myst Online, or MOUL, would close in two months. By that time, we had a close engaged community of several hundred people. We 'emigrated' kind of in a body. Some went to games like Eve Online or Lord of the Rings. But most came to Second Life who were old enough, beginning of April, 2008. Tai and I have rez days one day apart."

Of their first days, "I don't think we had a lot of contact in the early days. It was a large community. I was going crazy becoming a shoppaholic and going on hunts, and she was already building and inventing. There were a lot of parties. Hers were the most fun. Because there were so many of us from Uru, we all kind of cocooned in our group for quite a while. And we had a lot going on. The best memory I have is when she helped organize a box-bot themed party that was hysterically funny and almost the most fun I ever had in SL. She made costumes and cereal box bumper cars and playground equipment and rides and toys. This must have been late 2008 or 2009. I wasn't building then, and I was amazed at the creativity of it. People still talk about it. Someone brought it up today."

Kerryth told me Tai' was a source of her encouragement, "I started a little fractal art gallery around that time and started making clothes in 2009. She was the person who encouraged me the most. In fact, she got behind and pushed! (She) helped me organize a fashion show - right before I had surgery and couldn't use a keyboard for weeks. We got it done. The thing about Tai was that she was always like that. Encouraging, helping other people. It didn't always sit right with everyone. (smile) She was always creating and inventing, and it was all pretty much outside the commercial world of SL. She gave things away. She was embarrassed to sell things. She just wanted to give, so people could have fun. There was a spirit of exploration and discovery in those early years of SL that's kind of hard to find now. She was whole heartily into that."

While Tai' did a lot, she preferred to work quietly behind the scenes with no one else besides a few friends in the know. Kerryth told me she "Never wanted to be the center of attention. She hated it in fact. Very private." She then went on about her, "Excellent scripter. We used to brainstorm silly ideas. So much fun. I'm going to miss that very much." And what kind of ideas did they brainstorm? "Things I could make for my store. Or for Burn2 or events like that. I would create the objects, do the texturing, run the business. She was all about 'What can we make this thing DO?' That spirit has changed the direction of what I do. In the direction of what gives me joy and less concern about 'marketing.' Or she would make a mock up out of prims and I would make a mesh to do what she envisioned. But she was getting to be fairly good at making mesh herself these last couple of years."

So what next? Kerryth told me, "I'm going to bring some of her creations out for a retrospective, probably next month. Toys and gadgets. There are a lot of things around my store that we worked on together. Everywhere you look, in fact. But her greatest contributions were hunts and games for Mieville events. I have a gallery space at my store." She felt her best quality was, "Her generosity - I think I mentioned that. She was always popping up to offer help in hunts. She was passionate about Fantasy Faire, though she avoided any kind of limelight. I think Fantasy Faire appealed to her exploring, discovering side. It's like two weeks in a theme park for those of us who are involved! Her absence leaves a huge empty space in my work and in the communities she was part of." Of the attention now on her, Kerryth told me, "It would have made her terribly uncomfortable. We were reflecting today on how all this attention would probably have sent her offline. (smile) That's how she was."

Remaining in the Historical Hunts group, I would hear occasional talk about Tai', "Hope everyone is out crunching bones. There won't be any more of Tai's amazing fair games unless she passed the setup to someone else. (frown) Just one of the superb creations we have enjoyed over the years and won't have around any more." Only now is how much this woman meant is becoming more widely known, and it is clear she will be very much missed.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Blind Users Support Group

By Bixyl Shuftan

Most people depend on their eyesight so much, life without it can't be imagined. Indeed for most of human history, those who lost their vision were dependent on others. Today, modern technology allows the blind to live independently, and many surprise the rest of us with how well they can adapt and live surprisingly normal lives. This includes using computers and going about Second Life. A few years ago, the Newser interviewed DJ Keao, whom in real life was completely blind but still able to get about the virtual world. As surprising as her situation sounds, it is not unique.

Longtime readers may be familiar with Mermaid Celene (CeleneHighwater Resident), whom was with the Newser team a few years ago. Among the things she wrote about was the Radegast third-party viewer which turned out to be an invaluable tool for the visually impaired. Since then, she has founded a group for them in the virtual world, the Blind Users Support Group.

Welcome to Blind Users Support. This group is for sighted and blind SL users alike who want to work on in world accessibility projects. This group also provides technical support to those using the Radegast viewer or other low vision or blind friendly viewers.

Recently, I met up with her and interviewed Mermaid. Our interview started off on an amusing note as she arrived at the Newser with a fishing pole in her hand, though quickly removed it, musing, "I just took off my fishing pole. I have been told it is a hazard when not in use. I am sure I have hooked at least one person with it."

Asking about how she first found out about Second Life, Mermaid answered, "I have always been a creative person and I always had a desire to play games that involved life simulation, town building, management, things of that nature. The problem is that none of that is accessible. So one evening I had just discovered another inaccessible game and started to cry. My real-life husband asked if he could check in to something and he came in-world. He found his way to Virtual Ability and he was informed that there was a new text-based viewer called Radegast. I tried it and studied it for two years before starting to train others.

"Back then there was no user guide, so it was purely trial and error. Virtual Ability was instrumental and getting me on my feet in Second Life. I wanted to help other blind users discover SL because it is so different than anything else available to us. And it is so much more accessible than people think. With a little time and effort it is doable."

I then asked when the group came about. "It is about a year old," she answered, "Virtual Ability suggested that we start a group for blind users and it grew in to a group not just for them, but for people who wanted to work on in-world accessibility projects. I have been shocked by the outpouring of support from the Second Life business community. We have over a hundred members and growing." There was no group for blind users beforehand, "We were all just in Virtual Ability. Now we are a secondary group to them. But Virtual Ability is still home, for those of us who have disabilities anyway."

She spoke more about her supporters, "Seeing the support of stores like Allura has been incredible. Kenzie is fantastic and has been so supportive of our cause. We think a lot of her. Others too have been great. We have several clubs who are members as well. ... Foxy's, Always Amazing, Fishermen's Warf Beach Club ... There is no way I am going to be able to get all of these." She would later mention three others, Codfathers, the I Love 80s Club, The Maldives, and one with a store, "Simply Shelby is another great one that has a very accessible store for the blind user."

 "A number of residents would be surprised to encounter blind residents," I reminded Mermaid, "What do the various members of the group do here in Second Life?" She told me, "People are surprised. They are also very friendly and do their best to accomidate us for the most part. Different users do different things. One owns his own sim and I believe he runs his own club. Others DJ, role play and shop. ... They are very active in various communities in-world. I don't see some of them often any more. They have left the nest. (laughter)

As Radegast was a few years old, I asked her if there was another viewer in development that would be as helpful or moreso to blind users. Mermaid answered, "Yes. It is being developed by Cinder Roxley. I would interview her about it for further info, honestly. I don't know a whole lot. She is doing a great job and she is developing it alone so it is difficult. She is maintaining Radegast while she works on it. So we are always looking for C++ programmers willing to donate their time to helping her. Radegast is our only avenue for using Second Life. So if it were not here and updated we would be shut out of SL."

Mermaid had messaged the Virtual Ability and Blind Users Support group chats about anyone else whom I might want to talk to, and told me, "Gentle just suggested that you might want to talk to Nilesh. He is a brand-new user who is exploring Second Life for the first time this week. He might have a unique perspective. ... He is a quick study. They learn so much faster than I did. It took me a year to learn to do some of the things he is doing. Of course, we were learning as we went. It was one of those things where you just had to experiment to see what did what."

Meeting up with him took a little effort, and the two of us were soon on the Virtual Ability sim with NileshMistry Resident. He had been on Second Life for only a few days. There were some introductions, then I asked him how was Second Life going for him. "Not bad," Nilesh answered, "I am enjoying it. Second Life has a lot to offer. A bit of a learning curve as a blind screen reader user, things work very differently. But I'm getting my head around things." And what were some of the more challenging things? "Mainly just trying to not go around looking awkward (laughter), so things like knowing where to face, the socially excepted distance you should keep between people, not walking into things or tripping over people, things like that." Mermaid commented musingly "still stumbles over people even after eight years (and) has impaled at least one with my fishing rod. He is wanting to learn to fish so I am thinking I won't be the only one!" That got Nilesh chuckling.

The newcomer went on, "Walking into a new place is difficult obviously its hard to no how far or close you are from people, or if you have your back to them." Mermaid stated, "You won't run in to anyone in SL unless you teleport in on top of someone or sit on them." "Over all though, its great, been getting involved with a lot of events, and finding new places."

I brought up to them that neither had profile pictures. Mermaid responded, "You can put pictures in place but I honestly haven't experimented with it. When you are blind sometimes that slips your mind. Or at least it does for me. Haha." Mermaid tried to get hers in place, but it didn't work and decided to get a friend in real life to take care of it later. Nilesh's luck was not better, "I'll either try again later, or get a friend to do it."

It was about this time we had to go our separate ways. Niles would say about the virtual world, "In general though, Second Life is great and a lot more than I thought is accessible to blind people, and it looks like its just going to be getting better. The client we use is brilliant, Radegast." Mermaid would say, "It is pretty amazing how far we've come in a year. Thank you guys for doing a story on us. Hopefully it promotes us further. The group is open to anyone who is interested in in-world accessibility."

For any questions about the Blind Users Support Group, contact Mermaid Celene (CeleneHighwater Resident).

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, September 23, 2019

Interview with Tealcie Annibles (Tealcie Resident) of SL Regional Search and Rescue.

By Bixyl Shuftan

Recently, Gemma Cleanslate wrote about an exercise of the Second Life Regional Search And Rescue group. They are led by Tealcie Annibles (Tealcie Resident). I recently met up with her at their headquarters in Euryalus. Of the radio stream, besides music there were occasional "weather reports" describing sim lag and other glitches.

I asked Tealcie about how she first found out about Second Life. She told me, "Back in about 2006ish, I heard the buzz and came to have a look.   I had a terrible connection and ancient computer and of the nine or so days I was involved I spent maybe 45 minutes in world and the rest trying to get in.  It was horrid. I forgot all about it until December of 2017. I was in a store doing some Christmas shopping and two young ladies were in the checkout ahead of me and one said 'I don't know how you do it I still can't even find my left shoe.'  And the other laughed and replied, 'Well That's Second Life.'" That got me interested and I came for round two, fell in love and stayed." She had come back because of a casual conversation about it in real life.

"I spent the first week figuring things out," Tealcie continued, "rented a quarter region and learned terraforming and such and then bought a private region. That became too limiting. So I dumped the adult region and came mainland. Here, the story gets good.   I was naive to the ways of this world and immediately albeit inadvertently, ticked off a bunch of people. I ran afoul of my own ambition.  I quickly bought land and built thirteen bases all around the world. My meteoric rise from unknown to omnipresent, combined with some really ugly builds , (laughter) , seemed to get under peoples skin. My error finally dawned on me. So I dumped back down to one base for awhile. I survived a griefing that even Linden Governance called 'epic' , and I stayed low for awhile after that. Then apparently not having learned my lesson I began to build again."

I asked about what could a griefer do that would get attention of the Lindens. She answered, "Oh it was a really cool grief. Imagine your most used item, In this case my logo with white background.  It was everywhere: signs, flags, etc. This grief intercepted the UUID and changed the image to one of the griefers choosing and it only affected me.   Everyone else saw the logo. I saw a woman flipping me off. Linden Lab said it was impossible until I proved it to them by forcing them to enter my account and do some photographic work real time. After that, I have no idea what they did. But within three weeks it was over. I named my mystery griefer The Gaslight Griefer    and I'm somewhat honored to have drawn out such an epic attack."

Tealcie went back to the Search and Rescue group, "All this time since coming mainland the SLR-SAR group has floated along.  It's just a few people having fun." She had founded the group herself, "I just wanted a way to enjoy the things I love with other people   flying, boating, climbing, exploring. I figured create a group and hopefully attract like-minded folks." Since the group's start, "We have hovered around thirty members with varied participation. I try to create fun events and time them so everyone around the real-life globe can attend at a decent hour. I usually bite the bullet with the 2 AM SLT slot  on Sunday morning which works out to about 8 PM down under.  So everyone around the clock can attend and still get to bed for work Monday. It really depends on the scale of the diasater being staged."

I brought up Gemma's article of the train wreck, and asked about other examples. Tealcie listed a few more, "We crashed a 757 into an oil platform out on Gaeta V, punched a DC-9 into a hillside in central Sansara, another harbor fire on Corsica, various ship sinkings around the Blake (Sea). This next weekend should be a hoot.  I'm using the rental region Iridium again but no spoilers on the actual disaster. I have found first responders like the real time call for mutual aid with no heads up. All our events are set to public rez so first responders from any agency have no trouble getting their equipment out."

I asked which exercise was the most challenging to set up. She answered, "Most challenging?  The 757 had (an) airliner, oil platform, and underwater elements.  It was fairly intense in detail. This last build, I had great help from Lale who rocked the train tracks and tunnels and did a great job dangling the cars. This upcoming disaster will be pretty intense as well."

I asked how long does it take to plan an exercise and set one up? Tealcie answered, "Planning is usually just a five minute brainstorming.  Dasha came up with the train wreck we saw last month and it was penciled out in minutes. The build has to be done in two days as the regions are a three day rental. I generally terraform and rough it out Friday evening then do the build Saturday night after work.  We encourage the public to attend and I think one of the best ways to watch the event is to jump into a victim position and cam around while hamming it up awaiting rescue.  Watch, Participate and have fun."

And where does Tealcie and the group get their ideas for their drills? She responded, "Well, the ideas come from lots of people and places.  I take the ideas, mix in some pure evil like booby traps, landslides, explosions and just have a blast, pun intended. I try to give the first responder community a challenging, but winnable fight. These events are really about the community not SLR-SAR.  We put them on for everyone to come together and represent their home groups and work together doing what they love. The more different tags I see the happier I am." I asked if any of the ideas came from movies and television. She answered, "More from the real lives of people who have witnessed tragedies.  The commuter train wreck was something close to home for Dasha.  And yes some media stories of disasters ignite ideas as well. I try to tailor the events to our community strengths too.  The SLIAFF member agencies are all well equipped for fires fought from air, land and sea so there is always a fire element. My people enjoy technical rescues and heavy extraction situations. SAREMSUK group are extreme flying and airborne specialists and frankly Sophie and her SAR EMS UK group are the bar we wish to reach someday. There is a vibrant first responder community here in SL and I'm the new kid on the block just trying to do my part for that community."

Recalling some people can be stickers for realism, I asked how difficult were the helicopters to fly. Tealcie answered,  "Well, there are three basic levels of helicopters in Second Life. The first level are extremely simple to fly. The middle level are a little more difficult and offer a bit of realism. Then there are the SA helicopters. Kelly Shergood and her team construct very realistic expert level helicopters. I lack the skill required to fly the SA helis into rescues yet, but there are many who would not fly anything else.  SAREMSUK for instance use the SA built Sikorsky 92  to great effect." How much practice do those need? Tealcle told me quite a bit, "Practice, patience, and possibly even expert instruction.  They are the pinnacle of Second Life Helicopters. Several of my members have the requisite skills.  Lia and Alma both totally rock the SA helis. As for learning SL Helicopters I start people on the middle tier and can generally have a student flying in 10-15 minutes. I do it that way so people don't give up by being defeated by the expert level helis. Get the basics down, then move up a step.

"And there is so much to learn along the way that doesn't involve flying. The EMS gear in Second Life is phenomenal. Also you need to swim, climb, be injured, scuba, drive, and operate equipment. First responding is one of the more intense pursuits in SL. Fortunately we are blessed with creators who 'get it' and build amazing gear and vehicles. ... I have several builders I contract with and I am slowly bringing responder gear to the community filling niches where gear is needed.   That's not at all easy since there is already so much here.  But as I find things missing, I get my builders working on the items. Like our operational Jaws of life-esque cutter and pry tools. They are designed to aid in roleplay at extraction scenes."

As the interview drew to a close, I asked Tealcie what else she had to say. She answered, "I'd like to see the community grow.  And I hope my no tag required events promoting pride in whatever group you represent, helps along those lines.   There are still some groups who demand you belong to no other groups to belong to theirs.  It seems exclusionary.   I say I don't care what group or groups you belong to you don't have to join mine to play.  Jump right in.  Represent whoever and have fun. I got that philosophy from SLIAFF and the way they run their mutual aid responses.   Numerous agencies respond and work with a common purpose.  I am trying to spread that wisdom across the entire first responder community. I wish I could take credit for the idealism but I'm just repeating what I have learned here from people with double-digit SL ages who learned themselves through trial and error.

"I'd like to add that SLR-SAR is an open group and free to join.  You do not have to leave your current group to join us and you are free to leave and return to your hearts content.  But the main thing is you don't have to join the group at all to participate so be sure to watch your frequencies Sunday the 22nd for that mutual aid call and come have some fun."

And with that, the interview came to a close. A few days later on Sunday September 22, the SL Regional Search And Rescue was one of the two groups that took part in a large exercise in Iridium. And this was a disaster of epic scale, an ocean liner that collided with an oil rig resulting in fires and the potential of a massive explosion. Tealcie tool part as one of the injured. But the rescuers were well equipped. Despite a mishap or two due to lag, the exercise went well. Cleanup was soon after, so what was left were screenshots and memories to talk about with one another and friends. And of course they would soon be planning for the next disaster.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, September 9, 2019

Interview With Umber (Vermillia Urnestone)

By Cyfir (Cyfiremmerich Resident)

Umber (also known as Vermillia Urnestone) is a talented Second Life mod maker. She makes mods for multiple avatars, many of which are based on popular characters from series such as Pokemon and Digimon. I’ve known her since she first started her store in Fox Haven so I had to take the opportunity to interview her for the Second Life Newser.

Q: What got you started in creating things for Second Life?

A: I think the first thing I ever actually made in Second Life was a mod of my fursona on the Curious Felis avatar. It wasn't pretty! But it got me interested in working with textures. Then when I started taking 3D animation classes in college, I started experimenting with mesh. I figured, "Why not sell these things?" And MOOPA Inc. was born. We started as a little hole-in-the-wall store back when Fox Haven was still around, and I never expected to go this far with it.

Q: What have been the challenges of getting started and creating mods in Second Life?

A: The first time you ever look at a texture map for mesh, the first thing that comes to mind is "What am I looking at???" and that was my exact reaction. My first mods were very messy and minimal in what I actually did with them. Over time, though, it gets easier to understand how textures and UVs work.

Q: Is there any advice that you would give to new or experienced mod makers?

A: I've found that the most efficient way to texture for mesh is through trial and error and being able to preview your changes as you work. The Edit menu has an option for "local" textures - absolutely use it! This will save you a LOT of L$. I can't tell you how many times I have to test the seams of texture maps to understand exactly where they match up. That's just part of being a texture artist.

Q: You mention in your profile that you have social anxiety, which I do too. For those who may also suffer from this, do you have any suggestions for how to deal with it and still run a store or otherwise have a public image?

A: I think the idea of seeing customers so happy and satisfied with my work is a big part of what helps me work past that social anxiety. Do I still get anxious when I get a PM from someone who's mad or someone who found a major issue with a product and needs help? Sure I do, but those are few and far between and the idea that my brand is recognizable and loved by so many people helps me keep going! I guess my advice is to consider your limits when it comes to anxiety and not push yourself too hard. Put your stuff out there, but if you need some time away, then do it. Take a deep breath and take your time responding to messages.

Q: What are the inspirations for your work?

A: As can be seen in my current selection of mods, I've been really inspired by franchises like Pokemon and Digimon. I've seen it as a fun challenge to try to recreate these things using a premade avatar and my own (limited) mesh skills. Sometimes I just have a vision in my head and say "Yeah, I need to make that real." When it comes to clothing, it's just a matter of "I want this kind of outfit for my kobold avatar, let's make it."

Q: What have been you favorite mods to work on?

A: I think my favorite one that I made so far was the dinosaur mod for kobold. I love dinosaurs, man. That was also the first mod that I actually used specular maps for, after learning how to make them for a set of clothing me and my rigging partner had finished.

Q: How did you come up with the name for your store?

A: It's based on a really, really stupid inside joke started by a coworker at a club I used to host at quite a few years ago. My avatar glitched while changing outfits and I was a mix between a koopa and a cow. My nickname for the remainder of my time working there was "Moopa.” Fast forward to making my store. I needed to think of a name on the dot, and, inspired by the store DERP, I came up with the goofy store name of MOOPA Inc. and now I'm stuck with it! Hahaha!

Q: Are you currently working on any new products?

A: Right now, the only projects in progress are for the upcoming Gacha Guild Halloween event. Unfortunately, production of new clothing and mods has slowed dramatically since I graduated college. I've been busy with a part time job as well as commission work. I absolutely want to create more, and plan on releasing more mods in the near future. However, the future of our clothing line is currently unsure, as my rigging partner may no longer be able to keep working with us. I myself am unable to rig.

Q: What has been your favorite aspects of mod making and being part of the Second Life community?

A: My favorite part of mod making is just bringing my ideas to life and then watching others take that creation and make even more diverse and amazing things out of it with outfits and shapes and other moddable parts. As for the community itself, I just love how it feels like home. It's comforting and allows for and inspires so much creativity. I love seeing what other people do with all the possibilities on here.

Thanks for having me be a part of this. I hope anything I've said here has helped anyone even a little bit. Hahaha!