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.