September 27, 2009

Bare Rose Roulette

Buy the first outfit that rezzes.

(Initially started here - for those who don't "get" the joke, find "Bare Rose Tokyo" in the SL search and teleport there. And take some time :-) )

September 23, 2009

Love Thursdays: London Spengler

I wish I could remember how I came across London Spengler for the first time. Whatever or whoever it was, it was a blessed happening. I was a fanboi and became an acquaintance, an acquaintance who became a friend, a friend who became a lover. Here's my story.

I basically wasted my first months in Second Life on camping, meeting the wrong people and in turn getting exploited by them. Things changed for the better when I found Cheyenne Palisades and her blog (another event I do not know how it happened), and somehow, probably through a link or a comment, I found London's blog Pandora's Box. This must have been some time in early/mid 2007 - I was rather shy back then (don't laugh) and silently read blogs and did not comment. Pandora's Box is an interesting mixture of things: shameless self promo, personal takes on happenings in SL and - love and sex. So there was a woman who could program (back then this seemed like an exception to me), who could express herself, and who openly wrote about love and sex? Whoaw!

It took me ages before I sent her the first IM. By then I have commented a lot on her blog. The sim she shared with her partner - Pandora's Peace - was one of the favourite places for me to hang out. Partly because I loved it's beauty, partly because I hoped to run into her. I considered many times to buy her signature product, the "Pandora HUD", but I was pretty much living on a budget and it was out of my reach.

Out of my reach... that was like a motto for my relationship to London for many, many months. Not only did I assume she was out of my reach intellectually and with her skills (something she always denied but her skills still put me in awe), also the romantic interest which soon developed put her out of my reach. She was rather open on her blog about being straight in the atomic world and somehow being more surrounded by woman as romantic partners in SL, but more important - she had a partner. Even though I somehow gathered she had more than one lover - the term polyamory confused me - I still considered her way out of my league.

The IM's we exchanged became more frequent, but still I was shy until finally on December 1st, 2007 she sent me a friendship offer which I gladly accepted. London was not a close friend. But a reliable one. I loved her dry humour, her cheekiness, but also her brutal honesty. More than once she set my head straight over things. Always with understanding for my view, but also always putting her finger exactly where it hurts - and pushed. We also talked on occasion about technical things - something I very much enjoyed. London was there when I was troubled, but London was there for silly jokes too. It's not that we talked every week, but whenever we did, I enjoyed it a lot.

Then, some time in early fall 2008 (mhmm... interesting), she unfriended me out of the blue.

The unfriending happened with style. I got unfriended before - sometimes during fights, but mostly silent, finding it out weeks or months later - but she sent a note. Explained her crazy lifestyle, how it affects her RL, how it affects her love/hate relationship with SL, and that she needs to cut activities short, and that I should please not take it personally, but that she cuts her friendslist down to the handful of closest people. It felt like a slap in the face.

Being stunned, I wondered how to react. I knew, from a rational point of view, that we were not close friends. I knew that was partly for me being a busy bee and not putting enough effort into the friendship. I swayed between offence and ignorance, between not-caring and not-giving up. And I finally decided that I want to fight for her friendship. That London was a person I am not willing to let fade away, not willing to let drop back to acquaintance, not willing to let her become a stranger over time. And I fought for the friendship. And I probably was a pain in the ass. And I discussed a lot with her. And we exchanged notecards. And we discussed more. And grew closer. And refreshed friendship. And on December 1st 2008, we friended for the second time. And fighting for her friendship was one of the best things I ever did in SL!

One thing that prompted the initial unfriending was a conflict she had, extending intimate encounters to close friends. Except for my fanboi phase with London, I have always been in SL relationships. The revelation that London had romantic and even intimate feelings and desire for me hit me like a brickwall. Self esteem is not my biggest character trait, and thinking that I get desired and loved is a concept that is hard for me to accept. London's reasoning was that she can't be close friends with someone she can not extend physical affection to was both hard and easy for me to understand. I need cuddling and skin contact a lot, and I regret that Western Civilization usually rules this out. In SL cuddling comes more natural, but my monogamous nature was a hindrance for London.

What I did not know by that time was that my current SL relationship was dying. My partner was less and less in SL, and when she was, we talked mostly about her business. The relationship was ended by her in early January 2009, completely surprising to me and I fell into a deep hole. London and Nadine Nozaki where the ones who dragged me out of the hole, and London was the one who suggested I should rethink my lifestyle, rethink my approach to SL relationships. It was a long learning curve, and many nights were London and I discussed well beyond any sensible bedtime. London was a patient teacher, she explained, she gave her point of view, she showed examples. And we became lovers. Clumsy, anxious at first, so helpless, so shy. But I noticed the love has been there all the time, and now it finally could express itself. London also taught me about responsibility in those complex arrangements that involve more than one partner. And I learned a lot, and I think I even surprised her at times.

Among the most important things I learned from London was faith and not fearing. I am a worrier at heart, and our relationship had a lot of aspects that frightened me, and a lot of times where I screwed up. And she taught me to have faith, and not fear, and that the love is stronger than the screwups. Which did not mean she did not bite my head off as soon as I calmed down and told me what an idiot I was.

Faith is what I need now. It's fall again, one year after the unfriending spree of London, and while I did not get unfriended this time, London said she can't have me (and others) as lovers anymore. I hope what she taught me in 9 months will now help me to manage this new situation. I hope I have the faith to believe in our friendship, and to believe in the mutual love that is still there. I hope that I have the faith to realize "lover" is just a word, and that what I share with London is beyond words.

On this Love Thursday, my love goes to London Spengler, who owns a spot in my heart.

September 22, 2009

The theft nobody talks about

SL gets rocked by two incidents these days: Stroker Serpentine et. al. sues Linden Lab on not acting hard enough on content theft, and Rebel Hope et. al. got copybotted on large scale. I am not going to talk about this, because people who are much more elaborate than me did already in more eloquent words.

I am talking about the everyday content theft and IP infringement happening in SL on a daily basis, and where nobody talks about.

For example, Live DJ's who play music on shop and sim openings, or at clubs, and accept payment or tips for it. I know some SL-DJ's personally, and this is not a personal attack against them. I don't know the respective laws in their countries, but in my country this would be seen as commercial use of IP work and would require a fee being paid based on the number of listeners (and not on revenue). I can only assume it is similar in most countries.

For example artwork, photos and images donwloaded from Google Image Search and uploaded to become wall decorations, carpets, building components. And I am not even talking about designers doing this and selling the creations, I am talking about home owners, club owners, office owners - resulting in hundreds if not thousand incidents each day.

For example recreation of buildings found on websites, furniture found in catalogs and clothing seen in magazines. While this gets discussed when done on a high profile level (Prad Prathivi showed an interesting comparison between RL clothing made by Diesel and SL clothing made by Armidi) it goes largely unnoticed on a more obscure level.

I am sure there are countless other examples where IP rights get infringed on a daily basis. But this is not a purely SL problem! The same examples also apply in RL, where all this happens as well, daily, countless times. Every case on a small scale, but amassed.

The problem we have is a society problem. And only because virtual worlds are very small and relatively new and - by their very nature - digital, we perceive it as a big problem. SL has the size of a medium sized town, and with an economy based on bits and bytes it IS a problem. But it is a problem on a larger scale, and not a problem Linden Lab can solve. It is a problem the society as a whole - on the doorstep to a fully digital age - needs to solve.

The internet gives the impression that everything is for free. And things taken for free and granted lose value in people's perception. Just because I find a picture of any place on earth easily in Google Image Search, it does not mean it has no value and I am free to use it for whatever purpose. What we need to learn as a society is that even in the digital age, work made by others has a value, and requires fair compensation (where "fair compensation" is not necessarily money, but can be credit or exchange for other goods/services as well). Creative Commons is one step into that direction. Global, reliable and accepted micropayment services will be another.

The current problems and issues we find in SL are toothing pains. Devastating for the involved individuals for sure, but necessary until society at large adjusts to the new reality of the digital age, and respects work done by others as a value.

September 20, 2009

9 months

Nine months seems to be a fateful number for relationships in SL, at least for me. Last night a lover that grew very close to my heart told me she can't be my lover anymore - for reasons I could not argue with.

This is the third romantic relationship that ended after 9 months. And while I know she will stay around as a close friend, and that there is still mutual love, that lack of love was not the reason at all, it hurts nevertheless. She leaves a huge gap, and a numb spot in my heart.

9 months... 9 wonderful months... bot only 9 months. Again.

September 15, 2009

Live your dream

Scott emails(!) me:

hello friend
you said you could help a SL newbie so?

A. i look like a dork.
b. i don't know what i'm doing.


Hi Scott,

that was the most funniest mail I ever got. How did you find me in the first place?


a) You need some essential things: a proper shape that does not let you look like the incredible Hulk, a decent skin, some hair, and a basic assortment of clothes. Do NOT fall into the "tuxedo" trap, and do NOT fall into the Conan the Barbarian trap when it comes to clothing. You also need a so called "Animation Overrider" that stops you waddling like a duck.

Now where to get this: there is a plethora of blogs dedicated to SL fashion, and quite a lot of them to freebies - free samples offered by designers. However that takes some time and patience to monitor those blogs. The easier solution is to take the equivalent of a movie ticket and a beer in US$ and buy a basic contingent of L$ for that (~5000 L$) and simply buy your basic outfit. If you let me know your SL name I will drop you some landmarks.

b) Now that is the much harder question. What made you sign up in the first place? Why did you join SL? What did you expect to find here? I would suggest you explore, find people to meet, learn to build. Attend concerts. Don't fall into the "I need a job" trap. Exchange a small sum of money for L$ and simply see what this world has to offer. You can find employment later - most SL businesses are reluctant to hire new users anyways - or even start your own business. Or see SL as an alternative to a night in town and use the saved money to have fun in the virtual world. The possibilities are endless, and what I do nowadays in SL is definitely not what I came here for.

Hope that helps!

September 08, 2009

Love Tuesdays: Trinity Dechou

Some of the most amazing people I met in SL, I met by pure chance. Here is the story of my SL sister Trinity Dechou.

I don't know if, founded by SL entrepreneur Luc Aubret, ever was a success for him, or at least broke even. It started with the aim to become a social network for SL avatars, just like Facebook or Myspace or LinkedIn are in the atomic world. Having read a report about it somewhere I signed up, created my profile, and checked who else was there. To be honest, not a lot of people I knew where there, but the site also showed recent signups and there was that matrix like chick who even called herself Trinity. She was as new as I was, probably found the same way I did, so I commented with a "Welcome" on her profile, and she commented back. That was in early 2008.

I can't recall anymore how it happened, but we pretty soon established a close communication, meeting a lot of time in-world as she was kind of lonely while her girlfriend attended classes. We "clicked" well and - while being fundamentally different on many things - we had a lot of common views as well and a similar background. Almost from the beginning our conversations left SL and I felt secure talking about my RL with her, and she in turn had the same trust in me.

Then came the day when my SL partner Gina Glimmer was forced to leave SL by her RL partner. The whole process took 3 hours from her breaking the news to me until she said goodbye - forever, as it seemed back then.

My world disintegrated around me, and I fell in a deep black hole. And Trinity was there and caught my fall. Trinity, who lost her RL partner less than a year ago, was at my side. Listened. Understood. Held my virtual hand, and dried my tears. And was there. More than anything, she was there. And understood.

During that time, a bond was forged that was extremely strong and durable. A friendship, based on trust, integrity and understanding. A friendship that clearly goes beyond friendship. A friendship, that became a special kind of love. And some time later - under tears - we became siblings in SL. Being both only-childs, at least for me, I felt for the first time what kind of love one might feel for a sister.

We still disagree on some things, sometimes even fundamentally, like the political spectrum we favour. We also say us inconvenient truths if we think it is necessary. Only the other day Trinity brought up an issue where she thougt I did wrong, and I - even though I did not see the problem as such - apologized. The friendship is strong enough to not mind little bumpers. The trust and honesty does not only mind such things, it actually needs such incidents to be fostered further.

On Saturday, my SL sister Trinity celebrated her 3rd rezday, and her SL/RL partner Aimee, her friend Voodoo and I arranged a surprise party for her. Would SL vanish tomorrow, we would still be friends. But it won't vanish too soon hopefully, and I wish Trinity a lot more SL rezdays.