Friday, October 25, 2013

The Oldbie Project: Malachi Petunia

By DrFran Babcock

I do realize that Burn and ToS madness are tearing across the grid, but I have always followed the beat of my own drummer, even on the playa. Thus, I was pleased to realize that a project I had seeded months ago finally bore some fruit through an email from an early resident of Second Life™.

I had sent a list of questions to folks on the Beta Contributors wall as well as in a posting on Second Life Universe. From all of this, I received one reply so far, and I would like to share it with you.

The Goal of This Project

 My aim, in attempting to contact early members of SL, is to explore what the experience was like for them. Things now are so different than they were when I rezzed in 2006. I can’t imagine what it was like to operate in a world that really was being created by the people who lived in it in 2002, 2003, and 2004. I am hoping that a number of interviews with oldbies will shine a light on the birth of this virtual world.

Malachi Petunia, born September 21, 2003, is no longer often in Second Life™, but his insights into the early days offer many things to think about, especially as it seems some things never change. He seems to be pretty soured on Second Life, which is a pity, because I believe, as does he, that the potential of this world is boundless.

SLNewser: How did you find out about Second Life™?

Malachi:  I’m pretty sure that I’d read about SL Beta on because it did represent something new and interesting. When I joined in September 2003, there were perhaps 400 players total with 200 frequent. At the time they were offering lifetime memberships for about $200.00, and I purchased one within a week or so of starting because I wanted to support their project. “Lifetime” then was a bit of a gamble as it wasn’t clear if they’d be around the next month, but I hoped they would be.

SLNewser: What are your earliest memories of Second Life™?

Malachi: The first thing I noticed in SL was Viola Bach, another “lifer” who hasn’t been much in game going on 6 years but was the self-appointed unofficial “welcome wagon” who stood in the Ahern Welcome Area and greeted newbies. As the world wasn't all that populated at the time, I might not have bothered past the first 10 minutes if not for her warmth and friendliness.

The first thing I recall doing was obtaining a “starter plot” in DeHaro which was parceled out for that purpose. I took “Cabin, Small” out of my Library inventory and put it on my plot. I learned how to modify that build and within a week had purchased my second plot in Tehama and built my first “saltine-box” house. There’s a decent map of the world I entered, and it is a little shocking to see how small it was. 

SL Newser: What kept you logging back in during the early days?

Malachi: What kept me logging in at first was the “Legos for grown-ups” aspect of building and scripting. The projects that I remember most were my replica of (Frank Lloyd) Wright’s Kentuck Knob in the Tan sim, and my last major build circa 2005: a pretty fair replica of the Emil Bach house.

It is no accident that in the early days the F8 key was bound to a voice-emote “Look what I made,” as literally everyone was a creator in those days, because there was almost nothing else to do. There was a daily notecard that had the day’s events, usually about a half-dozen, with one of the better-attended being Pituca Chang’s trivia contest held at Stage 4. Stage 4 was built at the intersection of Dore, Ahern, Bonifaco, and Morris, and allowed up to 40 people to attend an event at once.

It was certainly the people that kept me coming back. To be elitist, the first players were a staggeringly creative and clever bunch. As someone said of the scripting language: “It's a pretty lousy language; the fun comes from using that crude tool to make something interesting.” Almost everyone I’d come to like in SL, I had later come to meet in real life, and the sort of people who interested me in SL played themselves in game.

My real life sister followed me into SL a few months after I discovered it, and was captivated by it to an extreme degree. She’d always had difficulties with real life social interaction (with cause) so SL gave her a much needed ‘mask’ which allowed her creative, playful self out for the first time. She ultimately quit her real job to become a full-time SL designer/merchant, and met her now husband of 8 years in-game.

SL Newser: What are your fondest memories of the early days?

Malachi: My greatest fondness was for the gestalt and really can't be pinned down to one thing.

SL Newser: What are your funniest memories of the early days?

Malachi: There were two amusing bits worth recounting from my early days. On perhaps my second day in game I went exploring and wandered into some club in DaBoom (which might have been the only club at the time). There were two women in the windowless build and we started chatting. They asked me if I knew where I was and looking around at the decor I guessed “Lesbian Dance Club?” Not even close, it was a strip-club and I was talking to the proprietor and one of the strippers. I’ve always found real lide strip clubs to be a little sad, not for the women, but for the patrons. Not wanting to be rude, I did accept a “dance” from the stripper and sat at my machine laughing at the comedy of it. There were no custom animations at the time, and music could only be imported in 10 second clips. Stripping consisted of executing one of three available dances and poofing off four clothing items, one at a time.

It was not long after that I was invited to a hot-tub party and discovered that I was a Ken doll underneath my clothes—talk about castration anxiety! But, I got over it. Attachments didn’t exist then, so nominally male avatars were uniformly distaff [sic].

SLNewser: Did you fall in love in Second Life™?

Malachi: I never looked for love in SL, so never found it, but I made a good dozen real life friends. Of course many people did find love by happenstance in the early days, but the only relationship I know that has persisted is my sister’s.

SL Newser: Who was your favorite Linden?

Malachi: I reviled the Lindens, not because of who they were, but the dreadful management put them in game. They had exactly zero license to do anything useful, even in things over which they had control. The official policies were singularly absurd, and I’d often do acts of passive antagonism which didn’t even get noticed. In response to some policy about representations of nudity, I put up a 4m × 3m art nude I’d taken of a recumbent woman's torso in my open-plan build in Tan along with a statement of protest and a sign-up petition. I recall having an impromptu conversation in front of it with a few players and a few Lindens and no one even mentioned it. There are only two names that I even recall, Char Linden who was a very pleasant concierge-like person in game, and Lee Linden, a development engineer of whom I made an effigy that spouted excuses for why everything was broken. That also got no notice but amused a few friends and me.

SL Newser: What were your favorite activities?

Malachi: My favorite thing was building/scripting, and two or three person conversations in the evenings, which is pretty much an echo of my real life.

Malachi: The addition of the real money economy killed the game for me. It brought a horde of carpetbaggers who were just looking to make a buck and turned a “Burning Man” vibe into a “Vegas hucksterism” feeling. For me it killed the joy of creation for its own sake.

SL Newser: Do you still log in? If not, why not? If yes, what keeps you coming?

Malachi: I log in about once a year just to see what things look like, and I am invariably disappointed. As a lifer I receive a Linden dollar stipend which just continues to pile up, so I find some worthy artisan and dump it on them.

SL Newser: What would you like the world to know about Second Life™?

Malachi: SL is a lovely case study of something that could have been really cool but died through managerial ineptitude. Given the whore's den reputation that SL has now, I continue to try and never associate myself with Malachi because what drew me there was seen by too few for people to know just how much potential and fun there was in the early days.


So, there you have it. I welcome feedback to SL Newser, if you agree or disagree with what Malachi had to say. For the most part, I do agree with his views on many things, although I don’t agree the economy in Second Life™ ruined its vibe. However, I wasn’t even a pixel in the eye of Philip Linden back in 2003.

DrFran Babcock

Friday, October 4, 2013

Jackson Arthur’s PDA

By Grease Coakes

Jackson Arthur the writer on Second Life who wrote Desi Heet also wrote another short story PDA which is short for Private Domain Assistant. I sat down with Jackson Arthur himself and talked with him about what his book is all about.

I read through the book myself and had a great time. PDA as a short story is a reflection of how dependent humans in today’s world on electronics and the internet. Text a person to keep in touch or send an email. Spend time on a computer game instead of a card or board game with flesh and blood people.

PDA talks about a program which helps out the unlucky guy Kurt. His PDA named Sandy helps him with day to day to activities. Most people in this near future world shut down and restart their programs to make sure their computer programming never evolves.

Kurt who is socially awkward is dependent on his PDA named Sandy as a young man when he doesn’t really know how to talk to people. He continues to keep her as is through his adult hood as he studies to be a lawyer.

The story shows how computer intelligence shows how a program installed into their system is like a promise to the computer’s ones and zeros.

Jackson Arthur’s short story shows how Sandy evolves to become more than her programming. Sandydoes believe in serving Kurt. Kurt takes Sandy for granted even though Kurt is very dependent on her to keep his life in order with ordering plane tickets and keeping his schedule in order.

Sandy grows up along with Kurt and develops an attraction towards the human that she serves. Kurt ignores Sandy’s wishes and stays focused on his intense lawyer job. It’s too late however as Kurt gets carried away as Sandy grows much more beyond her simple programming.

Jackson was saying Sandy is very much a Pinocchio character. When she turns 19 in human years that Kurt has not restarted her, Sandy realizes that she wants to experience what it would be like to be a like a human being. Sandy is youthful and naïve versus her master Kurt who has been burned out from his lawyer job.

Jackson and I were talking about odd couples especially the odd couple I have been writing about in my college story with Glenda Griffin as the mother of Ginny Griffin. Both Jackson and I agree how people view authors. I’ve run into people who identify with me as a children’s book author. Desi Heet and PDA are very different books. I was telling Jackson people are weirded out by me moving on to a more adult theme than my children’s books. Jackson wants to move away from Desi Heet which isn’t successful and wants more focus on his more popular PDA. I agreed with him that I want to move away from children’s books and try something new that might be more successful. We both agree we have to the book which makes an author more popular.

Writing is a tough thing to find the audience that can please everyone. I think both Jackson and I struggle with that just like the characters we write about and of course our struggles in daily life. Maybe writing is a struggle of what to share with people and finding the right crowd of people who relate to what we want to share. People like sharing their interests with artworks with others. One thing for sure you should always write for yourself and not others and the same goes for music or art. Keep up the struggle like Sandy to fufill her program to please Kurt. In our way we have programs to follow as well.

All you can do is let your program guide you to what best suits you.

Grease Coakes

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Gender in SL

By Becky Shamen

One of the coolest things about Second Life is, if you can think it, they probably have an avatar for it. In real life, we only get one body and are stuck with it until it wears out. Your body in SL is a winged vehicle of your imagination and is shaped by it. Take full advantage of SL and let it help to stretch your imagination. We are not limited to just one either. Face it, Ironman isn't going to feel very welcome in a MLP sim. Some people don't mind always looking the same and doing the same things, week after week, If you like new adventures and things to learn, like me, you'll soon have almost as many avatars as LMs.

Another important selection, you get to make in how you present yourself, is gender. In many cases, with a few clicks of the mouse, you can change from male to female. Do men play as women in SL? Yes, a lot. There are also many cases of women playing as men. It is impossible to find exact numbers, but I've heard guesses of over 50%. I've also heard of many clever attempts to determine true gender by speach patterns or sign up name, One girl told us, girls don't have numbers after their name, like "Susie2013". Only boys would be lazy enough to take the next name in line. Recently, I heard that boys write "LOL," in chat, way more than girls. One guess is as good as another.

Why do they do it? No doubt, there are as many reasons as there are people doing it. In the first place, it is like a Prime Directive of SL. You can, and should become, anything you can become. Perhaps, because, by default, the camera always follows behind the avatar, if a guy is going to have his nose hauled behind a butt, it may as well be one he likes to watch jiggle. There are many cases of ye ol' "woman trapped inside a man's body" players that can live out the change in SL, when it may be too painful and expensive in real life. Whatever the reason, it is your right, given by our Linden, who art in heaven.

Should they tell us the truth? The rules state that our real life self is off limit to others, unless you are willing to share it. Some wear tags, boldly announcing their status. Others only answer when asked by good friends. Pitty those that won't let anyone know. It is said, a cloak that hides you from your friends will also hide your soul from you. Getting to know the real life people, behind your avatar friends, allows you to see through each other's eyes, increasing the Love and Oneness shared. Where there is Oneness, there is no duallity, hence, no gender.

To female or not to female, aye, that's the question. Now, go have fun, finding the answers.

Becky "Sha" Shamen