Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Fiftteen Years of Writing Second Life News

By Bixyl Shuftan 

Where to begin ...

By late summer 2007, I was just starting to find my way in Second Life. Although my journey here started in December 2006, shortly after I got high-speed Internet, for months I didn't log on much as the lady who invited me over was suddenly given more responsibility. Then in July 2007 she told me about the Relay Weekend and suggested I check out the area. So I did, and my interest in the virtual world was rekindled. I began dropping by more often, eventually finding Luskwood and making some friends there, and getting my first paid-for avatar, the red Luskwood fox. I girl I met at Luskwood told me about another place, the STA, and there I met more friends and found another hangout. 

I wanted to find out still more about Second Life, what events were going on and what interesting places were around. So I started checking out blogs and newsletters about this virtual world. Among them was the "Herald," which stared off as a Sims Online newsletter, which while occasionally informative was basically a tabloid. There was "New World Notes," a newsblog by Hamlet Au. Informative, but as Linden Lab's "embedded reporter," he was obviously limited in his ability to criticize them. And then there was the Second Life Newspaper, owned by JamesT Juno with Dana Vanmoer as the editor. It had a number of reporters and several sections, reporting on various people, places, and events around the virtual world, plus the latest on what the Lab was up to. Something else that got my attention, they occasionally called for submitted articles and pictures from the readers. So I decided to send in a few pictures plus a couple personal stories of mine at the time. I guess I impressed them, as James and Dana invited me in for a job interview. After some talk, they told me I had the job, and offered me the use of one of the office spaces.

In real life, I had been keeping up with the news on a daily basis since I was a teenager after hearing about a mob taking over our embassy in a foreign country and the government there siding with the hostage takers. And now, I had the chance to be a news reporter myself. I would use the payment for my first official article to get a fedora and leather overcoat, the classic reporter's look. Along with my fox avatar, it became my trademark appearance, one that continued as my main look with only minor alterations for over a decade. And of course there was the "Fox News" pun.

I did feel a bit of uncertainly in the first few weeks. I was the "new guy" and finding my footing. But I soon got the hang of things and was writing about various people, places, and events in this virtual world. With my sense of humor, I also ended up becoming the main source of the SL Newspaper's cartoons. Sometimes I would write about larger events, such as the Second Life Birthday and the Relay for Life and more noteable sims. Other times, I would describe more out of the way places and smaller events, such as of the STA, Woodlin Community, and Bahama Beach Club that I was a part of. After some prodding by James, I would also do one article about one of the more adult places and it's manager: ZZ Studios and it's owner Cindy "Zig-Zag" Babi. 
Sadly, not all of the articles were happy ones. I would end up writing about the closing of the STA just a few months after I joined the paper, and later on the sunset of Woodlin and the BBC. And the paper itself would soon run into some trouble in fall 2009 with the high-profile bankruptcy of our sponsor BNT, and James having to step away due to real life. I was made the office manager of SL Newspaper, which meant updating things when Dana couldn't. And in 2010, this was happening more and more. Finally in April 2010, Dana told the staff due to real-life she would have to step away from running the paper, and as she didn't have the authority to turn over the paper to anyone made the decision to close. So I talked to Gemma Cleanslate and two others, and as the Second Life Newspaper closed in June 2010, a new newsletter began, the Second Life Newser. And my role changed from just another reporter to the head of a team. We hit the ground running as our first big story was a week after our start, Linden Lab laying off a third of it's staff. It was a very interesting year newswise, and we were there to cover it.

So week after week, month after month, year after year, I've been continuing to write about this virtual world and what it has to offer. There have been numerous stories about how this world helps people, such as fundraisers like the Relay for Life and Veterans Isle concerts, and help groups such as the Survivors of Suicide. I have written about controversy on occasion, but it's never been for it's own sake. Occasionally I've written about Linden Lab's goofing up, which was more common early in our history. Perhaps I've gotten a softer edge over time, but there's been less spectacular goof-ups over time such as the closing of the SS Galaxy due to a Linden telling a longtime owner of the sims he wouldn't get any more rollbacks due to damage by griefers. An incident like that hasn't happened in a long time. More recently are the stories of Linden Lab getting new owners and it's place in the Waterfield Network. And as always the occasional story of my home area: the Sunweaver community.

Sometimes real life gets reflected into Second Life. One example is politics. In 2008, there were numerous political groups and locations for the candidates and discussion. But as time went on, the groups and locations became less common as political discussion in real life got more and more toxic and confrontational. One talk show held here would be canceled as the host felt no desire to keep repeating what had become an "echo chamber." Another would be the Coronovirus Pandemic that hit in 2020 and with people in quarantine were spending more time online, and here. 

Sadly among the things I've had to report on are the closings of some well done sims. Even sadder, I've had to report on the passing of a number of residents. Last year, this would include two friends of mine who were noteable members of the community I became part of. They would join the ranks of those who made great content for others, and then there would be no more. While it was an honor to write about them, these were some of the saddest articles I've had to write.

So what does the future hold? Over time there's been no shortage of "the end is near" comments about Second Life. With the virtual world currently in healthy shape, unless there's some kind of global calamity, it's a safe bet it will be around for several more years at least. For yours truly, I've also been doing some writing other than news stories. I have been doing a novel on the side, "The Corsean Encounter." It's mostly finished, just needing some editing, then I need to figure out how to publish it on Amazon. 

While there may be occasional disruptions, as long as there's a team to back me up, I'll be writing about the people, places, and events of Second Life for some time to come.

"And that's the way it is." Good day from Second Life Newser.

Bixyl Shuftan

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