Monday, January 27, 2014

Craft Turns Four

Tonight was the big party on Craft, celebrating the grid's fourth anniversary with a building competition, a ceremony and of course a knees-up. There were 23 of us, by the end, and I don't think a single one of us didn't get kicked off the grid, or the sim, at least once during the night, although (as always happens) it got much much easier once the speeches were over and the prizes all handed out.
At the beginning though, the lag was eye-watering, and did scary things to some of the guests.
I've never seen a clustersit quite like this one.
I think this might have been Mexi Lane.  So goodness knows what I looked like to other people!
Taking photos was challenging, between the clouds and the mesh and the grays popping in and out but it felt all very familiar and deliciously nostalgic. About an hour after I got there, the prizes were awarded. Debbie Lighthouse took third place, Rumegusc Altamura came in second and Dade Catronis got first place.
This is Dade, with Rume, on the podium, but they're all winners on Craft, not because the grid doesn't occasionally shrug everyone into temporary oblivion, but because when it does, you just have to go back. That is the secret of the grid, the sense of loving community, and they know it.
Tosha Tyran: Craft is the place where I feel at home, can wander about, meet the nicest bunch of people and can build all I want to build :) and I love it to be absolutely non-commercial! I am here since the very beginning and have seen it grow and become the nice place it is now - and I feel very proud of having participated in the making of this wonderful grid.

Another long-time resident is Ger Orsini, and he is proud of the way the grid has been growing, especially since this last summer, and has been sought out by educational initiatives like edu3d.
Ger Orsini: Craft is what Italy ought to be like, and not just in this time of economic crisis. Here we help one another!
Prize-winning teacher Michelle Tech seen above has been here three years and loves it too. Hey try out your translating skills! There will be a quiz at the end.
Michelle Tech: Io sono entrata qui in corrispondenza del primo anniversario. C'era una grande esposizione dei lavori e subito ho capito l'ottimo livello tecnico quiil mio ingresso qui ha fatto si che potessi utilizzare i mondi virtuali per la didattica. C'era una grande esposizione dei lavori e subito ho capito l'ottimo livello tecnico qui. Il mio ingresso qui ha fatto si che potessi utilizzare i mondi virtuali per la didattica perchè la comunità aveva quello spirito di condivisione delle conoscenze che mi ha aiutato.
(See wasn't that hard. She likes it.)
Blogger, 'builder'  and collector Virtual Christine hasn't been here as long as many, but she's here to stay. She has a collection of Arcadia Asylum treasures that makes her the envy of the metaverse, and it's on display right here in Craft at Monte Gorgo.
virtual christine: I chose Craft, because had I not stumbled onto this grid and met GeR and Licu and Tao, I would have left OpenSim and never come back!  I have been here two years.  I have gone from having a region full of junk  to having  the first Arcadia Asylum museum in OpenSim! Craft actually donated an extra region to the museum, instead of saying 'make it smaller!!' They dumb things down and give me articles to read They never complain no matter what crazy bullshit Shawn and I try. To someone like me, with virtually no technical knowledge, Craft has been a godsend. I tell EVERYONE to try Craft first on the hypergrid. This grid has a tremendous amount of heart and soul. It is an honor to be here, with these people.
This is Rumegusc Altamura's sculpture.
 Rumegusc Altamura: I'm not fond of anniversaries, but I am extremely grateful for the constancy and the kindness of Licu and Tao. They have put together a free grid, the dream over the rainbow, and this build of mine is a tribute to craft and opensource. Beneath it you see the mud, where the money is. The tenacity and patience of Licu and Tao are the strength and the glue that  keeps the opensource motor together. I think that is the right solution for the whole world.
Well done, Licu and Tao. May they bask in this much deserved praise, and may their Craft go on virtually forever!
And now, some more dancing!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Life's Illusions: the end of Cloud Party

I really don't know clouds at all
Both Sides Now, Joni Mitchell

Cloud Party is closing because they got busted by the WWF for allowing residents to shoot transgender unicorns. OK, that may not exactly be what happened, sigh, it may just a boring money thing. I bet that's what it was. You can find out what happened here because Maria Korolov and her team are all over it.
It's been ages since Thirza went into Cloud Party, so it's all my fault, and yours too, you bastard, for not creating a paying account or whatever it is that would have kept it afloat. 
It seemed only right to pop back in. 
Got my little paradise island, messed with all the settings as you do, managed to actually flip the land upside down and ended up trapped underneath it. 
Then followed a tremendous battle with the camera, I heroically resisted all offers of help, tutorials and common sense.  In the end, I broke down and gave the tutorials a shot, but I hate learning new viewers and I hate the hair. 
If they'd had less greasy hair, this thing would have been the next SL, as so many gnomes predicted it would be, as recently as last year.
It is amazing how much your avatar appearance matters. Arrive in a grid, and the first half hour is spent - wasted, really - on not looking like an idiot or at least attempting the same. Grid builders beware! make quality skins and clean hair available to all!

There were a few builders on, they were commenting on the end of an era. Someone said 'what am I going to do with the 15 Cloud Coins I still have!' but she was only joking. They can't be cashed out, but then again, you play, you pay, right? Someone else said that maybe Kickstart could save Cloud party; someone else set up a forum as to 'where to go next'. This is a community in meltdown, after all. I asked them where they were planning on going when CP closed. Open sim seemed the number one choice.
Jesse Thompson suggested some places worth seeing before the build closed so I went to check them out.
The first was Rustica by Maxwell Graf , which failed to load. Maybe it's already packed up in the artist's portfolio. 
I tried Failed Inventor's Land of Lulz next, which Jesse said should have some content (in fact there was pathos in the "work in Progress' doormat to the fort. It has a Legoland meets Minecraft look about it, and while the structure was interesting, there was not anything to do - and indeed why should there be?
Ylvis: The Fox by Emma Wordsmith was more engaging. Unlike SL or elsewhere, youre avatar is immediately grabbed by the build and involved in the action. 
No clicking on Blue permission windows here! The foxy dancing was a sequence of poses, colors and magical cutouts (there were horses, but I was too slow to get a screenshot of them. Plus I was having too much fun.) It has a brilliant chilling misty pagan feel about it.
Into the dark by Lilli Thompson again throws you in at the deep end. A dark night, and yours is the only lamp. No boring atmosphere-ruining notecard with an overblown explanation. A forest of dead trees, with one live one in the middle, and these creatures, white, mysterious, perhaps bunnies, perhaps wolves, that follow you. It took me ages to realize they wanted me to take them to the tree, and I ended up tarrying on the build, trying to lead them. This build makes an instant and genial connection to your inner nature. The dark simplicity makes it literally enchanting. 
There were quite a few visitors on CP today, no doubt, like me and Cody Rhapsody, all had heard the news and were wondering what they had missed. Everyone I spoke to seemed to have presences either in SL or open sim or both. Like we were all remembering a garden shed we'd neglected for years, and now that it was collapsing, wanted to check out what had been stored in there. 
Sarah Kline very kindly suggested I visit Reflection by Ashara and perhaps this build above all suggests the 'Post Photo to Facebook' imperative that seemed central to the raison d'etre of CP. There are loads in Picasa now, and probably everyone's look the same, but in the moment, it feels like you've captured a moment. As minutely unique, and vastly unrepeated as the sea.
 Jesse Thompson very kindly also told me about his own build Tartarus, which is fantastically spooky. I have no idea how they do this particle effect, but it's great.
 That yellow stuff may be toxic sludge, or the blood of Yahoo users, it's not clear. Definitely the Tomb of the Unknown Startup, though.
Another great suggestion was Misfit Toys by Phate Shepherd, which reminded me a bit of Cornflakes Woodcook in OSGrid. Same sense of humor and love of the wheel-of-death style ride.  
 Gosh and I got to sit down! for the first and, wow, sad to say, last time in Cloud Party. What will happen to the blue dog? Do they have a blue section in dog heaven?
Lastly, I couldn't miss out on our old friend Patrick Moya's builds. The ultimate party animal, how could he not have a strong presence in Cloud Party?  There is a strong latex vibe in this build which is, somewhat ironically, a museum. 
It is sad that CP is going away, and hopefully as Cody said, they'll make their code open source, so others can build and learn from what they have done, and maybe that blue doggie will get another life.On the whole, one gets the feeling that even for the hard-core partygoers, the end of the world is not - the end of the world, if you see what I mean. All virtual lives are an illusion, after all. The learning curve these builders have followed in Cloud Party will feed into a great river of experience, which will live on in open sim (I hope most of all!) and in SL and other worlds too. 
What remains is just to thank all those creators who have invested so much imagination and talent into making lovely things for us to see, and to remember to appreciate what we have when we have it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Dorena's World, and The Singing Sands

Depending on the day, hypergridding is five parts serendipity, four parts tenacious determination, and two parts swearing. There was no particular reason to hypergrid to Dorena's World yesterday, except that it's always easier to jump on a weeknight when the voodoo gods of internet provision are at their most beneficent, ie nobody's in the house sucking up my bandwidth watching videos of One Direction and Violetta. Don't even ask.
Dorena's World (URI: has been around for a long time, in virtual terms. I've been through here before a few times, and always found it empty, so it was quite exciting to see three avatars were in world, among them the actual Dorena!
Dorena Verne and Anachron Young met in SL, and ended up getting together in RL. They built this grid about four years ago as a sort of hideaway, but now share it with over a hundred friends.
So exciting that, of course, everything went pear-shaped. Thank you, Singularity Viewer! The main landing point on Dorena's World appeared to be an underwater chamber. This was problematical because as you know, when you first arrive in a new grid your viewer is already freaking out, there is blurriness and slow loading and instability. In general terms, the best landing place in a grid, speaking strictly from a hypergridder's perspective, is a fairly wide-open, low-prim space that gives you and your viewer time to acclimate. Mystery and ambience are great, but they create frustrating lag. In Dorena's World maybe a large part of the residents live under the sea, making it piscean-appropriate, and why not. I guess newcomers can just suck it up.
But hey! They have a freebie shop! There were actual people on the grid - that was too good an opportunity to pass up. How thrilling to say hello in IM and get a reply! That rarely happens (even in SL).
However the grid took ages to load, then sim-to-sim tp'ing wouldn't work, then there was some freezing, then some crashing and having to re-start my journey from my home grid, jumping through Hyperica Lower (I don't know why they insist they've fixed that 4095 bug, because the latest Kokua and Singularity viewers both still show me the 'No go' message). When I got back to Dorena's World for maybe the third time, I was in the presence of Dorena  and  Anachron. They could see me, but all I could see was deep endless blue sea water, although when I'd seen them for a millisecond on my first arrival, they were in a fairly conventional living room. Knowing I'd probably crash again, I got some quick questions in about the grid, this way in the 7-8 minutes it would take me to come back, they could think of some really good answers. Stuff like: had they found it hard to make their own grid, and what's the greatest satisfaction it gives them? Anachron answered as his English appeared to be the best.
Anachron Young: It took a while to get into making our own grid, but some experience in computers and network technology proved helpful. The best thing is we don't depend on other commercially interested companies. We are a big family, and care for each other.
Well, that's about all I found out. I did ask what I know you're wondering, 'what's up with the people wanting to live at the bottom of the sea?' Apparently, they don't know.
When it comes to events, this week is a good time to visit, because they're celebrating their 4th anniversary and in fact tonight at 10pm they'll be holding a guided tour. They have a bi-weekly dance night on Tuesdays, from 8pm European time, and I would have liked to know more in general about their philosophy regarding community events, because as you're aware that Hypergridding is a slow, serendipitous, open-ended activity. Anachron dismissed me with a link (I hate when people do that) which you'll not be surprised is all in German. It would also have been cool to get a picture because by now I'd finally rezzed on dry land, at a spot of high ground overlooking the town. Fearing that a point-to-point TP would once again screw things up, I asked if they could kindly come up on the hill for a 2 minute photo-shoot. They couldn't. They were off to SL. So that's all folks.
Here's the thing with hypergridding. It's all about patience. After those four or five false starts, the problems melted away. It may also have been that the three avies on the grid had taken off by then; that sometimes helps. Time to sight-see; there were some rough patches when crossing sim borders, but no more freezing and the crashing.

The grid has an old-world SL feel in many ways, primmy, not meshy, so if you have to fall back on Imprudence Viewer (my ancient but remarkably stable HG viewer of choice) you'll not miss out on much. One of the oldest things to see is a picture-show of, let's call it 'Big builds in the real world' (real, and a bit legendary) on sim Anachronia.
Then Vanish appeared.
Vanish Seriath (sometimes Vanish Sands) has been playing music since he was 6, and started playing the guitar at 15. he had a band, the name of which has followed him into virtual worlds: TGIB which is The Grey In Between, but also The Good In Bad and a host of other things. He did a show here in Dorena's World a few days ago, performing on this stage. I missed it, but he has several more coming up, notably in OSGrid (on Events Plaza) on February 16th, and in Metropolis on March 7th.
Apparently all the cool kids of open sim are in Google+ nowadays with explains eloquently why I know jack squat about what is going on; if you'd like to have Vanish come perform his music on your grid, you should look for him there.
Vanish.Sands: I've been writing my own stuff since 1999, so far about 60 songs or so. Much of that predates Virtual Worlds, and I'm really pretty embarrassed about many of them.   Since I've been in Virtual Worlds, I've been writing some poems, and lots of musings and stuff about VW, but no songs so far.  But honestly, the cool thing is that here I can play for audiences from all over the world, which is really the best part of being a musician.
With his partner El Firecaster, Vanish inhabits a fairy-tale grid called TGIB (of course) This is the terrace on The Loom. All the sims have poetic names; the grid is semi-private, but if you get the chance to go over there, I highly recommend it. It is a magnificent confection of light and space. It's one of the first places I visited back in the good old days of Pathfinder and the Hypergrid Adventurer's Club. So many grids fall into the trap of replicating the boring concrete boxes of the real world - actually a lot of them are worse than RL architecture, let's be honest - but this place is a fluid fantasy, a symphony of sinuous curves at twilight.
Vanish came to open sim after two years in SL, where he had been a fee-paying sim owner. Out of curiosity, he experimented with an early copybot, to understand how it worked, and got banned. The adventure had begun.
Vanish Sands: That was back in 2009. The biggest differences I've seen in open sim since then are the thousands of bugfixes that make it as stable as it is today. I don't want to sound like I'm talking about how things were back in the war, but man... it was rough. Other than that, I really like the way the hypergrid works now.
As you know Vanish runs OpenSim Creations, an excellent online resource for free content.
Vanish Seriath: We've grown roughly double the last year, both in terms of items, as well as in terms of users. Right now, we get about 5000 visits per day, which puts us in the upper spots of OpenSim related sites. There's about 1500 items and they've been downloaded about 250.000 times.
I wondered how he deals with the age-old problem of provenance on his site. You know, people in SL claiming their stuff has been ripped off and is 'selling' in open sim.
Vanish Sands: Hm. As a provider, I don't check. There's several reasons for that:
          1. I can't possibly know every single item in SL and whether or not someone has the right to upload it to OSC. 
         2. Even if I did, it's really not my job to police the site. That's the police's job.
         And 3. I would put myself in harm's way if I did so, because it could be held against me when someone does something wrong. Like: "Why didn't you remove this item when you say you're checking them; it's clearly infringing." There were a few court cases that went terribly wrong because someone gave the impression that they were actively policing items and then something slipped through. I'm kinda professionally interested in copyright law, so I keep track of all manner of stuff like that.
So what is available on the website?
Vanish Sands: We definitely have a lot of buildings, like houses and such. And all manner of oddities. Avatar accessories and clothes not so much, so those are always needed. The most popular item is a butterfly generator, which is basically just a scripted box that emits butterfly particles, but people seem to love it.  I made a small shop for myself, which is going better than I thought it would, so that's a plus. What I want to do more is make OpenSim items more attractive to merchants, i.e. creators who try to make some sort of income off them. I've started a site where you can click yourself a shop to sell your items online, but so far it didn't get a whole lot of attention. I guess the Kitely Market will be the place to go.
Having your own grid is a bit like having your own tardis. You can keep all kinds of stuff in there.
Vanish Sands: Mmmh, want me to show you something?
Thirza.Ember sure
Vanish Sands: You remember AM Radio from SL?
Thirza.Ember i do
Vanish Sands: WEll, hold on.Let's go to a region called "surface".
Vanish Sands: When he announced he would leave SL, it broke my heart to think that his artwork would just be gone, so I made a backup for myself.
Thirza.Ember just lovely. This is the beauty of having your own place
Vanish Sands: I know. I loved his items so much.
Thirza.Ember it makes me laugh when you hear in SL the artists squabbling about one poxy sim in the LEA
Vanish Sands: Haha, yeah. I've got about 6 sims full of his stuff. And with the power of OARs I can load them whenever I want.
Thirza.Ember "with the power or oar". I like it.
If you'd like to read more, go to TGIB is the blog of Vanish and El, with lots of musings, fashion thoughts, philosophical ramblings networking and techie advice, and/or follow him on Twitter. There is a nice article by Johnny Waugh about Vanish here  - hey! that's my photo of Vanish, John you picture bandit! I tell you, these open sim people.... shocking.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

More Emphasis

The Emphatic Eccentricia show is still on, at the sim of the same name on OSGrid. It marks the 4th anniversary of the group which started in SL but which has high hopes and big plans for an open sim future. 
OhMy Shalala; Systemic Candida Build

          We were at the opening event on January 5th, which featured music by Danger Lytton who had a pirate-themed build in the event, in the shape of a ship and some pretty noisy cannons. Danger is a mesh guy; despite all the detail, his cannons only count 7 prims, which means you can get a lot of firepower on deck without risking lag. (Lag I hear you say? Whats that?) With that Jack Sparrow look going on, you won't be surprised to hear that ships are kind of his specialty - and not just the water-bound variety. 
Danger Lytton: I am trying to create a battle sim patterned after Disney's Pirates of the Carribean, complete with cannons firing and ships on fire and sinking. With availability now of NPC Clones it is fun to populate a scene with 'real' avatars. Currently my Region names are "The City at Night", "OS Shipyards" (currently under renovation) and the "OS Proving Grounds - Dry Lake Flight Test Center"  which is being patterned after the dry lake bed aircraft testing areas in California. The Proving Grounds are currently being used to construct a club for the Sohlarious mega region which will include a space ship ride from the ground, into orbit, through a worm hole and finally arrive at the space station in orbit around a distant star.
The City at Night
 It was also nice to see some soror Nishi trees in OSGrid; they are at ground level, or should i say sea level? and are enlivened by OhMy Shalala's ghostly flame dragons. 
soror as you may know mostly builds in InWorldz these days, although real world art has in many ways gotten the jump on her virtual activity there's a lot about it in her excellent blog. how's that working out, and how do the two creative processes compare?
soror Nishi:  I spend a lot less time on the computer than I did. When I was very busy in SL it was partly because my RL job was not full-time. I had time to spare and no workshop in RL so virtual worlds gave me some great opportunities. Over the last 12 months I have a garage/workshop and, after finishing my latest RL sculpture, have turned my hand to woodwork. If I lost the RL workshop I might go back to spending more time in VWs.  Real life art is easier in that you can use your hands. Your fingers and hands are amazingly clever... on the computer you can only use your finger tips. I do like Matter. I like materials, so I think both RL and VW are valid media.
If you've read her blog at all, you will have seen how her love affair with wood grain is blossoming into a real passion. the agony and the ecstasy! To see how she has beautifully combined the two apparently different art forms,
click here to see a recent painting by soror of a build in SL, and look at this adorable bonsai reminder of her great virtual forests.       
You can also see it on Flickr so don't forget to go there too, and show the love by favoriting the pic!
       Both Danger and soror started out in SL (duh) but have moved on; I wondered why they think more artists don't leave, considering the much-hated TOS which have driven even the likes of Bryn Oh out of the arms of the Lindens. 
soror Nishi: I think artists think that they have to have the maximum "traffic". They have to have lots of people seeing their work. Many think that there are more people in SL and therefore it's a better place for artists. I think this is rubbish, but it is what keeps people in SL in spite of the ToS, lack of prims, poor building tools and so on.  Making art is not about how many people see it, that is just egoism. Everyone wants to be famous...but I have no idea what could be done to help people move.
Danger Lytton spends a lot of time talking up OS Grid in Second life, using his profile pics to showcase places and scenes in OS.
The Lytton shuttle
Danger Lytton: I have invited many people to come here. Although most of them find OS Grid a challenge compared to Second Life, many of them have stayed. 
Almost since day one in OSG I have said coming here was like packing up the Conestoga Wagon and moving West. It feels more primitive yet more alive. We all share our challenges and our solutions. There are builders and scripters here that are far better than I am, but I still have some of the best there are ask me how to do some things.  The biggest difficulty in OS is stability. Unfortunately I have restarted regions many times because they refuse to work. Often this appears to be because the build I have created is too hard on the system. Other times I think as I am also fond of saying, "It's Sunday." The greatest thing about OSG is that there is no pressure. There is no cost to do most of our work here therefore no rush to finish. I do things over and over again until I am happy with the result.
OS Shipyards
      A lot of pixels have been spilt recently on the subject of the projected figures of SL and OSGrid. Predictions are bunkum, and the multiplication of sims is no guarantee of use or quality.  Call it loneliness, call it traffic, call it community, call it exploring the boundaries; the virtual experience is in the end what you make it. If you go online looking for company, and you're not too fussy, you can always find people in SL. Not true of OSGrid. Yes, moving is irksome, finding a place and a look and a group of like-minded individuals is not child's play in any grid, just as it isn't in the real world.
Danger Lytton: One of the things I would like very much to see happen is for the Burning Man Regional in Second Life to branch out into the OSG. Collaboration is the best way to get folks to come here. Listening to what they would like to accomplish here  and then helping them find ways to do it will go a long ways towards keeping them interested. I keep a welcome package of avatars and clothing for noobs to wear so they can feel presentable before they head out into the Grid. One of my desires would be to attract my RL artist daughter to discover the medium of a virtual world. 
   I for one can't wait to meet her!