Monday, December 21, 2020

Looking Back at Dax Loon and Woodlin

By Bixyl Shuftan

I recently found out from a friend the other day that Second Life resident Dax Loon had passed away. And looking at her profile, it stated that she had. For me, it was a reminder of earlier times in Second Life, several months of happy occasions followed by a sad parting.

Early in my time in Second Life, I didn't really have a home. It wasn't until Summer 2007 I began coming on regularly, and while there were places I hung around, notably the Student Travel Association and Heaven's Sky Garden Village. At the latter, I was given a room to stay for several weeks without being asked to pay for it. Sadly both places would close, and my home area would be the private office I was given at Second Life Newspaper.

Sometime in Summer 2008, a human friend I'd met through another human friend I made at Luskwood told me about an interesting club called 6th Circle. Dropping it, the place was a hell club with flames and lava all around, and in the middle of the place was a red-eyed skunkgirl named Dax Loon, with red streaks in her hair and sporting heavy leather boots, whooping and cheering. She was the owner of the club, and cheering everyone on to have a good time.

The second time I went there, I came across a few more friends of hers, and ended up going to ground level of the community: Woodlin. The place was made up of two sims, Dreamers Cove being the main one and Hopefull Shores being the smaller one in terms of content and capacity. The first thing I noticed was the trees. There were a large number of them of various sizes. There were one or two that were especially high, a few hundred meters I think, with plenty of apartments. Most were smaller, such as medium-sized trees with two or three, and small trees with just one. The sim also had a number of hills, caves, and streams, looking much like a forest when looked at from some angles.

And this wasn't all. There was a shopping mall where people could get new clothes, accessories, avatars, and more. The sim also have a movie theater, and for a time people could see movies in their own homes as well. They didn't clash with the natural landscape as the way they were build and looked from the outside blended in. The largest of the caves had a temple for anyone to meditate at.

6th Circle would close soon after my arrival. But Dax soon opened up a space club: Star Tails. She would later start building a space station next to it, and had plans for a space combat game at one point. Later on was the Margaritaville beach club. One of my regrets is not taking more pictures of the place, though I did take a few.

And there were the people. Dax had a close friend named Staticminded Waco whom went about in a husky avatar. Others I knew there were Mistressbubbles Bondar the pandagirl, Marai the snow leopardess, Jessicabelle the skunkgirl, Isegrim the wolf, Miki the demoness, Megathearon the neko, Ekedo the young fox, Rory Langdon the blue skunk, Galvenized Hammerer whom went about in a freebie purple feline, and a number of others. We'd party at Star Tails, "Enjoy the Silence" by Depeche Mode being played almost every night there, and when the space station started going up play a few games of "Una" and spend half the time laughing in Voice mixed with chat. We'd watch a few movies together, once watching "The Hulk" and I changing to a green Wingless fox in the middle of it and at the end we all had a good chuckle. There were also gatherings in the social area of the larger treehouse that turned into improvised parties. I had some of my best times in my early Second Life days there.

And of Dax Loon herself, she was Japanese-American in real life, a small woman whom was a survivor. She had overcome a difficult childhood, made a living for a while as a waitress in Hooters, and eventually came here to Second Life, becoming one of the personalities at a club called DV8. Then came trouble. She developed cancer, and the treatments to save her life ended up costing her voice. She would tell me only one person in Second Life ever heard her speak. And the medications she was still on could cause trouble. She once told me a heavy television ended up breaking her arm when it fell on her, the bones a bit weakened by her prescriptions. Still, she refused to let that get her down, and was determined to make a happy place for herself and her friends. She once commented she imagined Woodlin as the place she would like to be after she passed away.

The happy times continued for months. Then Dax went on a trip to Japan. She had been adopted, and the only blood relative she knew was a brother she'd gotten in contact with a few years earlier. The brother finally talked her into going over to meet her biological parents. But, it did not go well. And it showed in her reactions with others. The once happy skunkgirl was often withdrawn and depressed. There were times I found her at the temple area, sitting there, alone. And not sure what to say, I could only sit with her as a show of unspoken support.

Plenty happened in these few months, some that's probably best left unspoken and unwritten about. During this time, one close friend of mine did a prank on someone. But he reacted badly, and as he was now the manager of the place ordered her to leave. This was followed by others leaving. But the big incident was when Dax's account was supposedly hacked and whomever it was was shouting a string of profanities while deleting or returning everything. We wouldn't hear from her for hours, eventually the sim manager calling the Lab and getting the place rolled back. Dax would eventually contact us, saying she had logged in through an alt, and seeing everything happening fell off her chair and knocked herself out. But talking to one friend of hers, the person wasn't so sure she was hacked as Dax had up and lost it in the past.

I'd hoped Dax and those friends of mine who left would patch up their differences and all would be well again. I didn't want to pressure Dax as her high hopes for a happy family in real life had been dashed. She would soon return to America. But the problems continued. After one more incident, the details which are best left unwritten, more friends of mine left. And I myself came to the sad conclusion it was time to leave. I gathered everything of mine that was non-copyable in my apartment, and left, never to live there again. I would make one more trip to the sim a few weeks later. Much of the place was a mess, many of the trees gone, and various items scattered about like some sandboxes. The smaller sim was offline and gone. Perhaps it was a reflection on Dax's state at the time. Soon after in late March 2009, the sim closed down. The community that had been my happy home for months was gone.

With Woodlin gone, Galvenized I never would see again, him having left Second Life. Bubbles went to a fantasy sim. I would join several others including Jessicabelle and Marai whom made a new community, Foxworth. It might not have been as exciting as Woodlin was, but it was home. The owner left the clubbing to Rory Langdon, whom had the Bahama Beach Club in another sim and invited us over a few times a week for events. But about a year later, the sim owner couldn't keep things going due to one big renter moving out and the Lab discontinuing another big source of his Second Life income due to a technicality. So in March 2010, the Foxworth community closed. Rory would have to take a break from Second Life due to real life not long after he retired the beach club after several months. A few of us moved to one small corner in another place, but there wasn't enough room for me.

By this time, I had been going regularly to Club Cutlass for a while, and when I mentioned I was looking for a new place to stay, Rita Mariner invited me to rent a spot in the Sunweaver community. As it turned out, it was cheaper than either Woodlin or Foxworth. Still, I missed my former home. And when someone told me that there was a treehouse in the style that was around Woodlin, I got it and used it. This would be my home for years, until I finally got a mesh treehouse with a ladder, and no need to fly up or fall down.

I would come across Dax only once more. Someone told me about another sim, and to my surprise I saw Dax DJing to the crowd, dancing with Static. We had a few words, and we parted once again. That was the last time I ever saw either one of them, and would hear nothing more until being told she had passed away. Supposedly she had gone on a trip on foot through Europe. While the cause of her death was unlisted, as she was a cancer survivor it's probable she had a relapse she couldn't recover from.

If there's a lesson in what happened at Woodlin, perhaps it's that happy times don't always last forever, and sometimes neither do friendships. Second Life being a virtual world, places come and go and I've heard of many nice places soon having faded away after being around just a short time. The real-life circumstances of the people who make them can change, and without help they can easily fade away. Friendships can last for years, even decades sometimes. But sometimes when people change, end up having disagreements, or both, friendships can be tested. And when two friends of someone end up fighting, it can be quite a mess for the person caught in the middle and a dilemma. And sometimes too much has happened for a friendship to keep going.

But while I was sad at the place closing, there were also many happy memories. So it's best to remember Dax as the high-energy enthusiastic skunk girl whom for a short time held together a community of friends in a fun place. Of her wondering if Woodlin was the kind of place where she'd end up after she passed away, perhaps she has.

Rest in peace, Dax.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, December 4, 2020

Moonlit Night Shores

By Bixyl Shuftan

One of my friends recently told me about a new pony-themed community: Moonlit Night Shores in the Coral Outlet sim. Among the first things I saw there was a huge pony statue in the public circle in the middle of the grounds. Different areas of the place have different functions. The shops are in one area. The local houses are in another. There's also a dance area, a beach area, a sandbox area, a theme park, and a manor for the owner and the community staff. The area looked a bit winterized at the time with snow in places, and the housing area had a Christmas tree in the middle.

While going about the area, I came across RosieDrop Honeydew (RosieStarfield Resident). "Sorry if I seem busy," she told me, "I'm just trying to edit the windows so people cant see into others' homes." She asked to change to voice, as she was more used to chatting that way, "This is a pony related sim, but it allows all species, humans, furries, ponies, nekos ... we do have some rules that we are in the process of making. ... certain things allowed, certain things not allowed." 

When I asked where did the idea of the place come from, she told me she'd been working on the idea for over a year, "I just haven't been able to accomplish it." She tried with a friend, but failed. So she was trying things again, this time with a staff to help her out. She introduced me to Barcode, the "co-owner," whom helped out with rules in addition to his theme park and other things in the area. There was also Evra Nolan (VioletBogues Resident), the superviser. Six String (RolePlayismylife Resident), whom was there was one of the staff, one of the music performers. Not there but mentioned by Rosie was Janus, whom along with Barcode "are putting in the major help of funding the sim," and another officer named Whale94 aka Captain Whale, whom Rosie had known since the first sim.

Of the Sandbox, "Or as the kitties call it, the Moonlit Litterbox," Six mused, it was built by Evra. "Don't get messy," she laughed. It was set up so people in the community group could rezz and build things there, though a few items were there for good such as the posing platforms and seats, "I set up seating with the plush tigers too to chill if anyone wants." Barcodeland was the name of the theme park, which had walls and a floor with white and balck lines resembling the maker's namesake: barcodes. It had a ferris wheel, merry-go-round, "Duck Hunt" shooting game, a funhouse, and more attractions.

Next to the homes was the tallest structure of the community, the watertower. "... straight out of Animaniacs, but with a Moonlit twist" Six commented, it having the logo of the community. Of the houses, Six commented, "There are homes for rent here for a more than reasonable amount. rent costs so low, it's practically criminal." Of the shops, none of the buildings were occupied yet, though they had high hopes they would soon be filled. The beach area was a strip of sand, a few beach towels, a lifeguard stand, and shallow water. Next to that was the stage and dance area, where a DJ or live performer could entertain a crowd.

I was invited to take a tour of the staff residence, the manor. It was usually off-limits to others, but this time they made an exception. It was the place for monthly meetings, in the staff meeting room. Each of the people also had their own rooms. Barcode's place was a "drug trip of a room." Of Evra's room, "I honestly just wanted to go a little ham on decor, thank barcode for some of the ideas ... the room is basically very horror themed." Of Rosie's "We went kinda crazy and made it Picasso."

Once the tour was over, Rosie talked a little more about the backstory, "I just wanted a nice calm relaxing place ... where people could relax with their friends, add to the pony community, make the pony community better." She had been at other places with drama issues, so she thought about how it could be handled better, wanting "A place where people can be themselves so as long as they're no drama. We act like ourselves .. sometimes there's some ...  tease each other, but we do it to be funny, not being actual trolls. ... we don't want to p*ss people off." Evra commented, "We know when to be serious and mature but we like to be good and fun." The staff were serious about their rules. But when it was just them around, they felt free to horse around.

Rosie made the snow textures, as well as the textures on the water. "I consider myself an artistic person ... drawings, cutie marks. Of her pony avatar, blue with honey-colored swirly stripes, she told me it was inspired by her original pony, and took pride on it being unique. In pony roleplay, she had a magical ability that could be chaotic. She considered the character not unlike a fallen angel, comparable to Discord, that liked to cause chaos and make everything look silly. Once she got to know someone, she might get a bit flirty. She was easily angered, but her stunts were mostly limited to pranks like covering things or the one angering her in honey, or games.

Of the sim, they planned something for Christmas, possibly a secret Santa. There also were plans for kareoke events, as well as something for the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Ox. Rosie hoped that the place would be around for many years.

Dropping by some time later, the look of the place had changed some. There were plenty of houses around, but instead of the manor was a castle, and instead of shops there were stalls. There was plenty of empty space around this area, though I did see the beach area further away, along with an ocean liner and a couple other places. Messaging Rosie, she told me they had gotten some more of the sim's land and were in the middle of expanding. So it seems my tour was done just before a rebuilding that would result in a bigger and better Moonlit Night Shores. So what will it look like when it's done? We'll have to wait some time to find out. In any event, feel free to drop by and relax, just pardon the dust.

Bixyl Shuftan.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Caledon Newcomers Ball

By Bixyl Shuftan

On Saturday November 21, the Caledon Newcomers Ball took place. The event took place at the Governor's Mansion at Caledon Oxbridge Village from about 7 to 9 SL time. The party is to celebrate recent arrivals in the community. "Welcome to Caledon and Second Life! To anyone here who is new-ish," one local spoke after my alt Rezzdammit arrived. Stero Nacht would comment, "We take all kinds! The only prerequisite is not to be bothered by the madness of their neighbours! (grin)"

There were a few seats available for those who didn't want to dance, as well as animesh butlers and maids offering drinks. On the wall were old maps of Caledon, one from just after it's founding, and another from a few years ago when it had a few more sims. The music was a mixture of pop tunes, classic rock, and some steampunkish songs.

People talked about a few things. One was a pumpkin carving contest, of which the results would be the next day. Also the following day was an airship race. Someone commented, "I'm a refugee, I needed airspace to relocate my big airship to." Beth Ghostraven spoke, "At this year's Harvest Festival I'm exhibiting some pictures of a long ago airship race." Stereo would say, "I expect it will take an hour or so. The course is quite short. If even I can do it in less than a minute, we should have time enough for a few laps, even if we have to split the contestants in a few groups."

Of new members, Cynthia Farshore stated, "We had quite a few new citizens this year." Stero remarked, "We have a couple of 'not-quite newcomers' whose information had been lost in the mail at previous installments." He added the new members "did not *all* send me info. But I got a decent crop nonetheless!" A KayCooper spoke, "I'm not technically new, but was never properly introduced, so I'm up there too. ... I sort of snuck in while no one was looking and then I was just here all the time." Shockwave Yareach noted one name, "I swear I know the name Soup Johnson from someplace." Stereo chuckled, "But when I checked, he was never featured, so I *slightly* pressured him to provide some info. (grin)"

There was no tip jar, though there was a donation jar in the shape of a rotating Caledon coin for the upkeep of the Caledon Oxbridge University for newcomers. At one point, a number of people were dropping in amounts. Beth commented, "Heavens, that coin appears to be catching fire!" Stereo commented, "It *was* on fire; it is cooling down, now." Major General Badger (halesuhtem Resident) remarked, "I hope the fire systems have been tested recently." Shockwave suggested, "When the machine is on fire, turn it down a little." Stero added, "Pretty much everything is either highly flammable or flame-proof in Caledon. Since the mansion is still standing, I'd say it's the second case. (big grin)" Badger commented, "Flammable or inflammable - I keep getting those two mixed up." "Both mean the same, General!" "Really? Ha, no wonder my insurance company didn't payout."

When the song "White Rabbit" was played, Badger commented, "I'm chasing rabbits - damn things are digging up my garden!" Magda Kamenev (Magdalena Kamenev) responded, "I thought rabbits rightfully feared badgers." Shockwave suggested, "Build a steampowered fox." "Oh, that's a good idea." Cynthia commented, "And to think they were imported for sport." "I read recently that a Japanese village with a rabbit problem built a bunch of mechanical wolves." Badger told them, "I'm thinking of putting motions sensors out there hooked to a speaker." Cynthia mused, "What's it going to say General - 'Damn rabbits get off my lawn.'? Magda suggested, "YouTube loop of fox and wolf sounds? Maybe some cougars for variety?" To that, Badger answered, "I just googled cougar sounds - all I got was the clinking of champagne glasses." "Different type of Cougar, I'm afraid," someone responded. KayCooper suggested, "Train the bandicoots to team up and chase them away." Badger responded, "The rabbits and bandicoots just nose kiss each other." Cynthia then mused, "Then cops come in with siren from all the neighbors reporting a bunch of wolves, cougars, and God knows what else are running rampant all over the place."

Other songs got more conversation. When one Voltaire song played, Shockwave chuckled, "When you're eeeevillll ...." KayCooper added, "This song is so catchy." Badger misheard one line, "I'm the pea in your soup." Magdaresponded, "Um, don't most people like pea soup?" Badger grinned, "I misspelled pea," Shockwave chuckled, "Urine trouble now." KayCooper joked, "Don't let the bandicoots near your soup." Badger commented, "They have gourmet tastes." Magda commented, "I'm trying to think of a response that wouldn't get me thrown out of Caledon, and I'm failing." Badger then handed her a 'get-out-of-trouble card.' She then tucked it into her pocket, intending to use it "for the next time she gets near the Guvnah."

There were some other lines of conversations. And near the end, there were a few fireworks from outside the building. The dance was pretty much a fun event for all.

Bixyl Shuftan

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Kayly Iali, CDS Artist

By Bixyl Shuftan

Recently I had the chance to interview Kayly Iali, an artist who makes her home in the Confederation of Democratic Simulators. I met up with her in front of her studio at the Locus Amoenus sim, and we sat down at her patio, commenting with amusement if I wanted I could play the guitar as I interviewed.

When asked how she found out about Second Life, Kayly answered, "I read an article a few years I got on about how people can own land and basically do stuff in SL that you can do in real life. The avatars of course looked very primitive. At that time I wasn't very computer savvy and was afraid to touch the keyboard other than to type. And also I was very busy gettting my second degree but in art and raising a family." But later on, she would sign up for it. Of what convinced her, "I'm not sure. Maybe I had more time. Or I was playing Yoville on FB and just love how I can make friends from all over the world and have my own place. SL offered that so I decided to give it a try. As you know though SL has a high learning curve. I was often getting frustrated and quit, and playing on a laptop that wasn't gear to SL graphics caused me to crashed constantly."

She had a rough time at first, "But once I joined the Help People group and became a volunteer to help others to get started into SL that became a turning point. It was called Help People Island...I don't think  it is around anymore. That was over 10 years ago." For two to three years, she was a volunteer for the group. But that wasn't her only activity as she was, "... probably just getting to know SL and learning how to dress and redesigned my avatar. I came in as a different avatar not as Kayly Iali. I took classes and became familiar with Building Brewery, Oxford, NCI, took a bunch of classes."

She wasn't showing art at first, "I wasn't exhibiting art at that time. But I did go and visit galleries. During my travels through all these different galleries, I happened upon a gallery, Park Galleries, that was curated by Samara Barzane ... aka Kyoto." She brought up Kyoto had been a CDS Chancellor, "So Samara and I go way back. She is the CDS PIO Team (and) a very active member here in CDS." So at the time what caught her attention to the place? "Samara was running the gallery for a friend who was had either passed from cancer or was dying from cancer. It was a fundraiser. Samara took me under her wings and taught me the ropes about hanging in a gallery. It propelled me into the art scene, showing at different galleries like Pilate who had several galleries. They were well known for their reception and heavy promotion for artists."

Of when she thought about running her own gallery, "I mainly show in galleries run by other people. But here in CDS I can rent my own place and make it my own gallery. I did run a gallery on Avalon Art Center a few years ago where I exhibited other artists works. In fact I have a blog on it." She would show me the blog, at, then went on, "I would interview  the artists and have receptions. There were some fantastic artists, mainly those who brought their real-life works into Second Life." When asked who stood out, "Silas Merlin, Xirana Oximoxi, especially Ieko Catnap, Maymay Matova and Miss Longtail. All of these artists are real-life artists. Oh I can't forget Sheba Blitz. All of them are still around. But Silas Merlin is doing more SL sculptures than his pastels portraitures nowadays."

Checking the blog, I noticed the last entry was in 2016. I asked about that, and Kayly answered, "Avalon got very laggy when there are too many avatars, and it was time to leave Avalon. It was a great place to have a gallery at one time but now when I had gone back to visit there's a lot of to be rented signs everywhere." The gallery is not as popular as it once was, "If you go there now you'll see what I mean. There are still artists there. besides I couldn't afford the rent."

Of how she found out about her current home, "I met Tor Karlsvalt at Help People Island. So  that's how I came to know about CDS." But she wouldn't move there until, "about one or two years ago. I rented the blue cafe next to me first, but it did not look like that. And then I went over to the docks and rented the corner place there. And now I'm here." So her art gallery has been at the CDS for about a year, "I'm planning to stay here for awhile. I love being near the water and hearing the sound of the ocean. And the layout of this place is perfect."

Of her artwork, "I just enjoy painting; I really don't have a point to make like a political statement of sorts. So I paint whatever is around me or what I feel I need to paint. When I started to paint seriously, this is right after I got my art degree in 2009, I painted a lot of fruits and objects, just to get a handle on oil painting. I did start off painting abstracts in college. But I wanted to paint more representational, something that is in front of me. Now I'm into landscape painting and more so into painting buildings, cityscapes." She only does real-life landscapes, though of the possibility of those in Second Life, "That might be a thought. I should mention that since I have a dog, I started to paint pet portraits. My clients had asked me if I would paint them as well. So now I practicing painting people as you can see in the exhibit at Visions." And downstairs, she had a number of cat and dog pictures.

"I tried to make this place more coffee shop like," Kayly spoke of it, "Sit and relax. I noticed in one corner of her studio, painted on the wall was, "Every journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step." She was happy about it, "I would love to do more word art like that, it was done in Inkscape. I was once a calligrapher so I love typography and lettering."

Of her future plans, "As far as Second Life goes, I'll take it one day at a time. As far as real-life goes, I want to get into a gallery. I applied to enter an artist coop, pretty well done in the region. But I was rejected, not because my art is not up to par but because there were other pet portraits artists in the coop. I would have been a competition to them."

That was about everything on Kayly's mind at the moment. So we bade farewell, and parted ways.

Kayly Iali Art is located at Locus Amoenus (71/173/24). She also has a Flicker page at .

Third image from Gallery 24

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, October 9, 2020

Jasmine Dawn on The Halloween Haunt And Her New Computer

 By Bixyl Shuftan

There's a club tradition at the Happy Vixen. Every October, a Halloween-themed build goes over the club. Over the years, it's had something different every time. The creator of each of these builds is Jasmine Dawn. This year, it's a double build. There's a haunted house for club events. But there's also a spooky maze for people to try and find their way through.

Just before it was completed, I had a few words with Jasmine.  She was at the haunt, but the public door had yet to be set up, the only one active being one only a few she told knew about. "A sneaky way to keep people out of here while I work above the club," she called it.

Jasmine had done mazes before. But she called this one, "My most complex maze to date, at over a staggering 1600 prims.  Brandi loves mazes and gave it a go last night. She was lost within minutes. ... She uses the trick that if you follow a wall around all the twists and turns, that it will lead you to the exit, (a) process that many maze runners use. ... I used all that I know to defeat the usual tricks people use to solve mazes. One such trick I used is pitfalls. (It) drops you into a sub area with four ways out. One stairway will hinder you and leads nowhere. Two will put you close to the exit. And one with a bit of navigation and negations will put you back on the right path. Not to say there isn't other, surprises, in the maze."

It was decided to close the Happy Vixen for club events for a week for Jasmine to do the Halloween build. Jasmine felt she could do it in less time, but felt a few extra days wouldn't hurt in case something happened. As it turned out, something did happen. "I had played some Minecraft that morning and then had a chat with Nydia, a short chat with Kryxia, and then had to go outside and do some needed maintenance on my car. ... I had left it on, it would go into sleep mode when not used for more then 30 minutes. Came back and sure enough, sleep mode, or so I thought. But the lights in the keyboard was out and the lights in the mouse was off. No response whatsoever. I powered it down and commenced to take it apart to see what had gone wrong. I finally discovered popped capacitors on the motherboard and burnt circuit paths.  It was non-recoverable."

With her computer gone, she took her smartphone and gave her friends on Second Life the bad news, "I let everyone know. Kryxia the next day surprised me by having set up the GoFundMe. I thanked her, but during this Covid-19 pandemic I was thinking realistically that people was already having a hard enough time, that we couldn't or wouldn't meet the $1500 goal. I know people has it tough right now. Many people out of jobs and having to scrimp and scrap to get by. I honestly didn't expect us to make (the) goal.

"But thanks to many generous donations from all my friends, we met goal and then some. There was a last minute donation that covered the gofundme sites fees and a additional $200. The final total raised was $1700. I was quite literally speechless and it brought me to tears, knowing what everyone had done. Everyone pulled together to help me. Even my brother while he is in Rehab for his legs, he allowed me to use his desktop computer to be here now. Normally we fight and argue, but he was actually cool with me using his system. Not like he can use it where he is currently. And to note, his legs are getting better. I prayed he would get to come home soon."

"One the workers at the Rehabilitation center tested positive for Covid-19. The place enacted a 28 day mandatory lockdown. All residents are confined to their rooms and the only saving grace for my brother is his XBox. He's slowly learning to play Ark: Survival Evolved. So while he is there, I am here taking care of myself, my Dad and his house and area, his livestock in the mornings and afternoons. He claims it's boring, nobody except him and the critters here. He sleeps a lot, watches his hunting shows." When I asked if he applies what he sees there to the Ark game, Jasmine answered, "He's struggling to build a base on the Eastern Side of the Island Map, complains that the raptors keep getting him.

"Back to the computer and the GoFundMe.  Due to a time period on the funds transfers, I have to wait to receive the funds from Kryxia. Once I receive the funds and place the order, the parts should arrive within a week, two at most. And then a few hours for assembly and setup. I could be up and running on the new system by the middle of October. 

"I wanted to say thank you to everyone that helped me, everyone that contacted me, those that gave of themselves to help. Some couldn't but wished they could. I asked that people do what they can and no more. To not short change themselves for me. I've been helping my dad with his bills and helping take care of both his place and mine. I was already on a budget and the death of my computer would have sunk me into debt.

Giving the maze a try, Jasmine recommended a light source. She had a lantern rezzer by the entrance, the lamp originally made by Richard Linden. The corridors were grimy-looking brick with an occasional spooky sight such as a dead body. Trying to navigate it, it wasn't long before I fell into the drop-zone underneath. Then there were the eerie noises, which could be disturbing-sounding heavy breathing to cries for help, to animal growls to sinister laughing. While it's likely to frustrate you, it won't be boring.

As for the rest of the Halloween Haunt, much of the upper ground consists of a spooky forest with a misty fog covering the ground, with  a pumpkin patch to the side. Walking to the back is a haunted house, with a cloud with lightning just overhead. The lower floor is the dance area. The upper floor is a tribute to a certain movie monster, with some "mad scientist" equipment around, including a table with someone strapped in. Anyone wanting to tip Jasmine for her work can do so with a pumpkin tip jar on the lower floor.

A delightfully spooky place fitting for the Halloween season. 

To get to the Halloween Haunt, head to the Happy Vixen, and go through the door in the middle of the dance floor.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, August 24, 2020

Interview with DJ Fritter/Applebloom

By Bixyl Shuftan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, August 21, 2020

Philip Rosedale at Lab Gab

By Bixyl Shuftan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Youtube chat, the Tao of Linden would be posted -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So see the video of the interview, go to:

Bixyl Shuftan