Jan 28, 2012

The Breakfast Club

Being honest and finding our true selves in #SecondLife


I’ve been in virtual environments for as long as I care to remember. The bottom line is that they all come and go over time. One thing that I am definitely not known for is praise when it is not earned, and if anything I am the first to point out the not-so-flattering reality of situations.




From left to right: Pooky, Crap, Qarl, Bevan, Aeonix | Picture: Breakfast Club (duh)


This is a post about the Second Life Brat Pack, or as a friend puts it “the cool kids”. We’re all part of this elevated status, a sort of digerati, and you know who you are (many more than the names on the picture above). So let’s be honest for a bit, shall we? I mean, since we’re hanging out during detention.


I can be overly critical at times, and I make no apologies for this behavior because it is criticism that is well earned and deserved. That being said, there are many who shy away from offering constructive criticism in exchange for the acknowledgment of the “cool kids” in the industry. I see this quite a lot in the virtual world sense, where many will sing the unending praise of a particular environment and refuse to say anything critical, or we too often want to be in a certain “clique” in the virtual world (or professionally) so we often just take on a mob mentality blindly.


Without honest criticism, praise is merely shallow ass-kissing. Plain and simple.


I am an advocate for virtual worlds on the whole, but not any particular environment, because I believe that what we have today is nothing like what we should have. This goes for whatever virtual environment currently seems to be “in the lead” – today that would constitute Second Life, but for how much longer is anybody’s guess.


There is a lot to criticize when it comes to Second Life (just as there is a lot to praise), first and foremost in the haphazard viewer and underlying structure of the technology, and continuing on with the loss of vision for the company overall. It is true that Second Life has achieved great things since it was created, but along the way, so much of that greatness was lost to “flavor of the month” mentality that I have become critical of what it has become as a result.


There is not a single part of Second Life that could not have been done far better than it has today, and no better example of this lackluster outcome can be shown than through the underachievement of Linden Lab for the past number of years by example.


I’m a realist at heart, so while others sing the unending praises of Second Life (or any technology) I’m usually the first to ask why such technology even deserves to be on that pedestal to begin with. I do give praise where it is earned, without hesitation – but you have to earn it. In the same breath, I am also looking for everything that is wrong with the same system not because I somehow have a vendetta or a score to settle – but because I know that if you want something to be truly better and to ascend to something greater, you have to be willing to point out where something is wrong so it can be made better. As uncomfortable as that may make people, the point is to continue making those people uncomfortable and take them down a few notches from that pedestal.

I want to make it a point to break the apathy and disillusionment. I want to return us to the days when we’d look at something and say “How can this be better?”


This is the premise behind being honest; not just about what you are praising, but honest with yourself as well. Honesty doesn’t always mean you’ll have your lips planted firmly on somebody’s rear end, and often times it will mean you are at direct odds.


That takes honesty, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


I’m not in the industry to hang out with the “cool kids”, though I often do. I’m in the industry to make an actual difference, and if I’m hanging out with the “cool kids” along the way, that’s a pleasant side effect. I’ve had the distinct privilege (and continue) to associate with some of the brightest men and women I’ve ever known, people who are far above the concept of merely Second Life and have contributed some of the most mind boggling innovations to virtual and synthetic environments the world may ever see. These are the people I personally admire in the industry – the unsung heroes of technology and innovation that make things like Second Life, and far more, even possible. Make no mistake, I’ve even criticized many of these people directly, and we’ve had a lot of great debates about the present and future of virtual worlds.


People like Rodvik and Will Wright stand on the shoulders of those giants, and probably don’t realize it – and if they do, neither of them are admitting it. The citizens of the virtual world seldom realize this as well, because to them, Rodvik and Will Wright are the giants.


Rest assured, they are not the giants. If you want somebody to praise, try some of the real innovators in the industry such as Jaron Lanier, Julian Lombardi or Randy Farmer. These people are the innovators, the pioneers in this industry. Those are the shoulders I stand on, and am grateful in every way for their contributions to society. It is because of them that I am able to contribute and further the industry myself along with many others.


Rodvik and Will Wright’s claim to fame is that they both made a popular video game – Spore and The Sims, respectively. Jaron, Julian and Randy helped define an entire industry. To put that into perspective, that would be like Will Wright inventing the concept of video games.


It’s all about perspective, and the moment we lose that perspective our subjective opinions on the matter become trivial at best. Are we really giving an honest opinion on the situation or are we just trying to appease the cool kids so we stay in their favor? I’ve noticed lately that there are too many people more interested in staying in favor than calling to task in order that the entire industry moves forward.


The entire purpose of virtual environments stems from our collective community of progressive and innovative thinkers constantly asking “How can we do better?” and as a community calling to task those who try and pass off half-finished work as a product. Now is not the time to lower our standards or accept less than the best.


We got to where we are today not because we thought what we had right now was the pinnacle, but because we thought it constantly wasn’t good enough and could be made better than what we had. I see a disturbing trend in the digerati of virtual worlds where they are endlessly praising and outright refusing to raise criticism, or associate with criticism, in exchange for the favor of those “cool kids” they think are the giants in the industry.


I’m not as easily bribed in exchange for favoritism.




What? It had to be said… and I know Crap is trying not to laugh.



What I want is a better Metaverse – that’s my asking price.


I will bite the hand that feeds me if it deserves it, and I have no remorse about being critical. If all you do is praise without offering criticism, you’ve lowered your standards and are simply being shallow.


If you want to make a difference… truly and thoroughly, you’ll have to remove your lips from people’s asses before you can use your voice the way it was intended. Even you have to draw a line in the sand, make a stand, and declare that you’re not selling your soul for the popularity any more.


Never accept less than the best. Hold yourself and them to a higher standard.


Acknowledge that what they have done so far has enabled many people to do amazing things over the years, but never forget that those stories are created and told by the community who want to create a better Metaverse, even when the companies behind those technologies are too misguided or apathetic to tell a better story themselves.


You tell a story, and I’ll tell mine. While your story may be some script in machinima, or hanging out with your partner. While your story may be mundane or extravagant -


where your story ends -


Mine begins with a better Metaverse for everyone in the world.







  1. Let's look at a button... a single button.

    The Quick Preferences option in Phoenix. Which became Quick Preferences in FireStorm becuse when it wasn't in FireStorm, Phoenix users demanded it.

    And when the Labbies made V2... V3... no such handy thing.

    But Exodus built on top of V3... they added a Quick Preferences button, because the code was there in FireStorm, they gave credit and used it, and added it because they use the product and wanted useful features.

    When I mentioned Quick Preferences in MetaReality podcasta few months ago, Rhett Linden showed up in the comments with so many words... "durrrrrrr what?"

    Exodus, FireStorm... the other TPVs don't have that "durrrr what" level of filtering, incompetence, waitholdonasecondness. They use the product, they answer to the customer, they are the customer, they want to be happy, they want to keep people happy.

    First, they have to hear.
    Then, they have to listen.
    And then, comprehend.
    Finally, to understand.

    One... simple... damn... button.

    Oh, yeah. I'm laughing. It's just so fucking crazy, man, and even moreso... that I still give a damn about it.


  2. Crap: It's not crazy, really. It's more along the lines that you and I *know* what it can be overall, and that this particular instance of a metaverse isn't living up to that. What drives you and I over the edge is that this is the best that we have at our disposal... this inferior instance. But we care still not because we necessarily care about Second Life, but because we care about the Metaverse as a whole and want to see it be made better overall. Even if that better version transcends Second Life (and it likely will)

  3. Palm did amazing things early on with the Palm Pilot... so, where are they now (dead meat) and where is handheld computing (gangbusters).

    Elements of VR and av-based interaction might make it... but Skype and other ways to connect and Wii Fit competitions and Dance-offs via Kinect seem to be taking the spotlight and market share.

    Apple's iPad textbook gambit appears to be perpetuating the textbook and teach-for-the-test uncreative arcane education methods... and little of the toolset building for students to learn and innovate on their own. Sad.