Feb 27, 2012

Get Real

A cynicist, an optimist and a pragmatist walk into a bar… #SecondLife


I get accused of being cynical about virtual worlds more times than I can count, and it never ceases to wonder if anyone knows what that word means. Cynicism is looking for the worst case scenario for the simple purpose of being vindicated when that scenario plays out. Optimism is when you are only looking for the best of any situation while disregarding any negative view to the contrary. Being a realist (pragmatist) means you’re doing everything you can to see that the optimists aren’t disappointed, even if you have to deal with the ugly things that the cynical people are rooting for. Cynicism, at the root, essentially means you’re being jaded or mistrusting of the intentions of others or a situation with no indication it will be as bad as the cynicist makes it out. This is what makes me the pragmatist, in that I have many years of indications and experience to see where things are likely to go wrong, and that the motives of people in certain situations rarely differ unless thoroughly provoked otherwise.


A pragmatist, therefore, embodies a practical, matter-of-fact way of approaching or assessing situations or of solving problems. It is neither optimistic nor cynical in nature unless such is actually warranted.




Aeonix February 27 2012_001



I'm a realist. I travel the path down the middle where I look for what is wrong for the sole intention of making it better. Unlike cynicism, I don't want the worst case to play out - in fact, I want very much for the best case to play out at all times. When things are good, I also shower praise when it is due, but that praise is earned just like anything else and I’m not going to blow smoke.


Calling me cynical is like calling the guy who wants to avoid driving over a cliff cynical for pointing out the end of the road and saying we should make a left turn instead.


An optimist would instead tell that person that the bridge will be there by the time we get to it and ask the guy why he's being so negative. Just have faith that the construction crew will work diligently to complete the bridge as we're barreling down on the cliff. I mean, how would I know if they weren’t intending to have that bridge ready by the time we get there? You’ll have to pardon me for pointing out that the bridge is out and the workers are on union break.


If you want to make anything better, you're not going to do so by playing off or ignoring what is wrong and surrounding yourself with people who will tell you nothing is wrong at all, because that's a recipe for disaster. If you need an analogy, think about Fukishima - there's at least one person who demanded those water retention walls be made higher than was "needed", and for years he was called cynical and obsessed. He was accused of wasting money and time over a period of years, when "good enough" would have sufficed. He was told he was worrying over things that wouldn't happen, and he needed to relax.


Funny thing is, he was a realist. When the earthquakes hit off the coast of Japan, and wiped out huge amounts of towns and villages, causing one of the worst disasters in Japan history, his village went untouched. He wasn't saying the worst was going to happen and wanting it to - he was saying the worst was going to happen and he wanted to avoid it at all costs - because his village meant everything to him, and so did the people living there.


This is what I want from virtual worlds, including (but not limited to) SecondLife:


I want a system that is open ended, a sandbox, where the participants of that system not only make the environment and the content in it, but are treated with respect and admiration for the magnitude of their accomplishments. After all, you are the people who have literally created an entire virtual world and ecosystem from absolute scratch. That is no small undertaking, and you don't get enough credit for it. A system by which the company responsible understands that their greatest asset is not on a server, but in the community itself - and that unfathomable amounts of ingenuity, innovation, and a organic nature stems from the ability to live by the words "Your world. Your imagination."


What I want from virtual worlds on the whole is an inherent understanding of what it means to provide a fully astonishing social medium that allows its participants to remake their digital reality into anything they want, even if it is different than what others are making. There is no single vision for a virtual world, because it is a shared hallucination, as it was so succinctly put in Snow Crash.


My view of the Metaverse may very well be different than your own, and I celebrate that in every way - even encourage it. I want virtual environments to do the same, instead of looking for a one size fits all mentality. I expect virtual environments to excel in their niche' and not to settle for second best. I expect they will not impose that second best mentality on its participants, or stifle legitimate innovation to suit their own needs. I expect that the shared experience is different from person to person, and that no individual experience should be taken as the homogenized experience of all. The virtual world represents many different things to many different people - and no single view is going to encompass that. If anything, it is naive to think it will.


I expect a lot more than I have seen over the past 15 years. From virtual environments as well as the population that uses them. In many cases we have virtual Stockholm syndrome, and refuse to speak honestly about what ails our virtual worlds, opting instead for blind optimism and devotion. This is a line that should never have been drawn to begin with.


In every case where something is wrong, I aim to make it better to the extent of my ability. We cannot fault the mother for wanting to protect their children from danger, or to warn them. We cannot fault them for wanting to make things better. They are not cynical, they are realists trying to impart a bit of wisdom, and trying to save a world of pain and regret from happening.


If I were purely cynical, I'd be encouraging that world of pain and regret instead. I'd feel absolutely nothing for you, the most underrated content creators in history. If I were cynical, I'd actually take pleasure and glee from your demise or the demise of a virtual environment. Clearly I do no such thing. If anything, it saddens me to no end to see the worst things play out time and again, because they are entirely avoidable. Seeing Blue Mars crippled was avoidable, and I believed they were onto something big if only they would exercise caution and understanding of their ecosystem and virtual world history. Watching Active Worlds go from the darling of media and touted as the future of the Internet to barely a blip on the virtual world radar, while whomever is left as their supporter (a few hundred in the main universe) stand by in increasing isolation as their countless builds turn into digital ghost towns, frightens me. Watching SecondLife rise to the darling of media and the "future of the Internet" invoked deja-vu because I knew what was going to happen next - the unavoidable decline.


When I stated originally that Blue Mars was making serious mistakes in the beginning, I was accused of being cynical and bitter. The truth is, I wasn’t bitter or cynical at all, but instead pointing out that they were making the same mistakes as Worlds Inc with similar structure and operation, while betting the farm on an overkill of graphical potential. For the time that Blue Mars was in popular operation, even representatives from Blue Mars thought I was being harsh – until the day they announced a majority of their staff was being laid off (including the CEO) and that they were running on borrowed time at best. Was I being cynical and bitter? No, I was pointing out that there was a cliff and that they needed to make a left turn.


Similarly, I had the same realist attitude about Active Worlds in its heyday, in that I forewarned of a massive decline, aging technology, and a dwindling user base in the future if they weren’t willing to keep up honestly. I was called cynical and bitter then, as well. I was even banned from their forums indefinitely (and that ban still stands today). I was laughed at, and my credibility was called into question as people decided I was just an angry person.


Today, Active Worlds boasts roughly a few hundred co-current users in their flagship universe, and on average that number is under 100 on a good day. This is from thousands of users in its heyday, where the virtual world was always hopping and something was always happening somewhere. The remaining population has virtual Stockholm Syndrome in that despite the virtual world continually in decline, they choose to stick around in hopes that Active Worlds will come out with something amazing again, to rekindle what it had. Those are the sad optimists who stick around, and will defend ten year old technology vehemently like an Apple fanboy.


All that time and effort poured into Active Worlds, hundreds of thousands of hours of model creation and in-world building over the course of years, and now it’s a virtual ghost town.


Where once Active Worlds was hailed as the future of the Internet, and the darling of the media (they even had articles in PC Magazine at the time), the hype initially didn’t stand up and that was the beginning of the decline to where it is today. This is why I’m worried about Second Life, because it’s following in the footsteps of the worst trends of virtual environments – first hailed as the future of the Internet, massive hype, all the major brands having a presence, and tons of media exposure and praise – only for that hype to burst and those brands pulling out in droves.



Aeonix February 27 2012_002



I speak not as an alarmist, but as a guy who has seen this all before, and want to warn people that we don't have to let it happen again into perpetuity, or at the very least not to be so blind to the very real possibility that it will happen again. We're not going to stop that vicious cycle by pretending nothing is wrong or refusing to speak about it. We're going to win that fight by actively shining the harsh light of truth on every flaw we see, and burning those dark spots away so that nothing is left but something far better than we have today.


All of these things I want to avoid going forward. I don't want to see virtual world enthusiasts pouring their hearts and souls into any particular platform with optimism only to have history repeat itself. It is heart wrenching to see over and again. Ask the people who were all in for There.com and sat in shock when they announced they were closing their doors. The virtual worlds graveyard is far larger than the virtual worlds roster today.


That does not mean I want anyone to abandon a particular technology. By no means do I believe all virtual worlds are wholly inadequate, either. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. I’m simply not the one to ignore the weaknesses, because I believe they can all be much better than they are today. I’m not one to bullshit you, either, and tell you a particular technology is adequate for something it is not when there are far better options to be had.


Case in point, Second Life, by nature, is not a robust games development platform. Yes, you can make games in there, but those games are nothing compared to what you could accomplish outside of Second Life. Yes, Second Life supports mesh upload – but by no means am I going to accept this as some sort of great achievement. This is standard fare literally everywhere else, so why on Earth should I be expected to act like Linden Lab isn’t ten years behind and just now catching up to what is common knowledge in the industry?


That doesn’t mean I’m cynical, it means I’m telling it like it is.


Now, if we want to take an honest look at the situation and tell it as it is -


Linden Lab hasn’t finished their implementation of Windlight. It has been on the shelf since 2007 and ignored to the point that TPVs had to create a work around to implement things that weren’t on the table (Parcel Windlight). Mesh implementation was half baked at best (pun intended) and it was the community raising the funds to hire an ex-employee of Linden Lab that gave us Mesh Deformer so that clothes and attached Mesh items would at least attempt to fit right and not be broken. It was the TPVs that started the body physics with Breast Physics, and it was the TPVs that innovated in ways we’ve become accustomed to today, with features that aren’t in the main viewer.


Please don’t tell me how great Linden Lab is. I hold the community in higher regard than the company they are benefitting at every turn. Second Life is a great advancement, and I agree to that. But that doesn’t give it a free pass to ignore all of its shortcomings to be an idealist. Likewise, I’m not going to be a yes-man when that company starts acting against the best interest of the community or the devs that played an enormous part in making Second Life what it is today.


The truth remains: Linden Lab is a company that has burned through three separate CEOs on four occasions, and has at least once skirted the edge of bankruptcy. A company that had to lay off a large percentage of its employees worldwide. A company that had the adoration of the whole world, and brands handed to them on a silver platter, only to burst the hype bubble and lose that standing. I’m not making this up, or seeing bad things that aren’t there – I’m stating fact.


As a matter of fact, I don’t want that situation to get any worse. If I have to point out when the problems are arising so they can be acknowledged and addressed, so be it. Somebody has to, and it sure as hell won’t be the optimists constantly praising Second Life who will do it until it’s too late.


What that means is this:


I want a better Metaverse, and that means acknowledging when we've gone wrong so we can make it better for ourselves, and for the generations that will come after us. That means that there are people in the world (real and virtual) who will tell us all to make that left turn, or acknowledge when a particular system isn't up to par for a particular use. It means that I will also be one of the few voices in this industry not "drinking the kool-aid" but instead not afraid to say when even a company is being underhanded or making a mistake that can lead to severe losses in the long run.


I've seen it before, and it is not pretty. Watching scores of content creators pour their hearts, money and time into a platform for it to tank is heartbreaking - especially when they're so positive that it's the place to be.


It means that I'm not cynical, but I'm also not going to be sunshine and rainbows optimistic, either. I'm going to simply tell it how it is, and if that happens to be wildly good or bad, then so be it.


That's called honesty, and we all need a dose of it now and again in our virtual worlds.


My job in life is to be the rain on your glitter parade when you’re marching over a cliff. If everything is all clear, I’ll be the one passing out the poptarts and having fun with you. I think of contingencies so you don’t have to, so you can afford to be an optimist.


Don’t hate me. Simply understand my position, and that it is not against you.

Feb 24, 2012

Buffalo Theory

Linden Lab breaks the ecosystem in favor of their own ego-system in #SecondLife @Rodvik


Ego-system: noun: forced destruction of an effective and innovative ecosystem by a singular entity (such as Linden Lab) wishing to impose their own lowest common denominator as the defacto by forcing everyone else to lower their standards instead of raising their own.  This, in turn, shows a force of individual ego (selfishness) at the expense of an entire community of rapid advancement and innovation. In short, this is the exact opposite of how a social platform and community works.


This word and definition will be my next application to the Pooky-pedia for The 1st Question.



February 24 2012 Aeonix

What the ever loving hell, Linden Lab? Seriously.


The Buffalo Theory is a humorous take from the old sitcom Cheers, in which the resident know-it-all Cliff decided to explain to Norm why we always seem to feel smarter after a few beers. In natural selection, the idea is that the weakest of the herd is killed off in order that the strongest will survive and make the entire ecosystem better for it. In the case of Linden Lab, and their recent detrimental additions and alterations to the Third Party Viewer policy, this becomes not a matter of survival of the fittest, but instead survival of the weakest at the expense of the strongest.


Well ya see, Norm, it's like this... A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members.


In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first.


In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That's why you always feel smarter after a few beers.


This Buffalo Theory is an excellent analogy to the recent TPV changes in that it clearly highlights the ideal (if not completely farcical) scenario of survival of the fittest in favor of a smarter and faster ecosystem overall. However, as I have stated, it would seem that Linden Lab has had one too many beers in their approach because they have gone ahead and reversed this selection process and destroyed the natural order of things in favor of not the ecosystem but instead their own ego-system. So instead of eliminating the weakest of the herd for the betterment of the smartest and fastest, Linden Lab seems to believe lobotomizing the smartest and fastest of the herd will somehow make themselves seem smarter and faster by comparison.


Overall, what it generally says is thus:


If we don’t have it, neither can you. If you want it, you have to ask us first, and then wait until such time as we do it first before you can follow suit. If you already have it, and we don’t, you need to start stripping it out until we approve of it.


This approach is a direct violation of the developer ecosystem which exists on survival of the fittest and instead forces the strongest of that ecosystem to lower themselves to the weakest of the herd – in this case it is Linden Lab and their own official viewer. It is a clear case of forcing competition to self-sabotage under threat of duress.


I’ve known this was going to happen since about December 2011, when I was in a conversation with Jessica Lyons. She had given me the heads up that these changes were on the way and that there would likely be some serious fallout. At the time, my reaction was the same as it is today, in that I believe these are probably some of the most egregious violations of ecosystem that a company could invoke purely for the benefit of their own ego-system. It is a violation of user and developer trust and faith to take some of the most ingenious and innovative advancements from the community and cut them off without merit or basis other than the inability of your own company to be just as innovative as your community or at the very least work with them to help you catch up instead of forcing them to degrade themselves over your ineptitude.


It is just plain lazy and overtly malicious for a company to enact these sorts of rules, because the alternative is to simply raise your own standards and work harder. When a company opts instead to lobotomize all of the innovation and ingenuity of the ecosystem in order to lower the bar to their own level, we have a problem.


The most troubling of the new policy changes comes in the form of the much discussed 2.k amendment, as shown and discussed by Jessica Lyon (Phoenix Team) on the official Phoenix Viewer blog:



2.k : You must not provide any feature that alters the shared experience of the virtual world in any way not provided by or accessible to users of the latest released Linden Lab viewer.


This means that third party viewers will no longer be allowed to innovate features which relate to the shared experience unless LL has the features in their viewers first. However LL has indicated an interest and preference in working with third party viewers to develop such features together.


Second Life, and any open-ended virtual environment which relies on user generated content, is an ecosystem which not only thrives on, but by design absolutely demands, the involvement and innovation of the community in order to continue. The third party viewer changes at this juncture are tantamount to nothing less than a direct attack on that very foundation in an attempt to dismantle the very foundation of what makes Second Life all that it is.


In terms of social media and understanding the organic nature of engagement in the digital society, this is a classic example of twentieth century push media mentality versus organic prosumer mentality. A company attempting to control a message and platform, even by force, and destroy innovation outside of its control is a recipe for disaster. Virtual environments like Second Life, as is true about social media, are not a static platform but instead a very dynamic and organic platform overall, and this extends to the actual viewer itself.


This is why the fallout from these third party viewer policy changes will likely be that I expect, over time, that third party viewers will be less likely to abide by Linden Lab and more likely to let them have their lonely tea party with their stuffed animals while the TPVs begin migrating over to Open Sim or outright shutting down development under the constraints.


The 2.k amendment is broadly and vaguely written as to be construed as anything that Linden Lab doesn’t have themselves, and thus, interrupts the shared experience because a TPV works differently than another. The moment that becomes common knowledge in-world, it becomes a shared experience. The moment your avatar can do anything in plain view that the main viewer cannot, it becomes a violation by the 2.k amendment. It is the ultimate blank check for Linden Lab to use as their excuse the moment they want to throw a temper tantrum and take their toys home.


Does your TPV have finer camera controls and graphics options for photography and machinima? Too bad. You are doing things that other people using the main viewer cannot. Is mesh broken? Too bad. Until Linden Lab decides to fix it, if they do at all, you’re out of luck. It doesn’t matter if the community can afford to pay Quarl to make Mesh Deformer. Thought of a novel and innovative way to – nevermind. You can’t implement it until Linden Lab does, and first you have to write a proposal and hope they like it.


See where this is heading? This is a complete and inclusive insult to the developer community on the whole, and the people who will suffer most for it are the rest of the Second Life population for having to use the lowest common denominator viewer, no matter what. If I were to make this into an analogy, it would be like all web browsers being forced into the same set of features and any innovation outside of that would constitute no longer being able to connect to the world wide web. Now, in this scenario, the Official Linden Lab Viewer is the equivalent of Internet Explorer controlling how all other browsers behave, instead of all of the viewers agreeing on the much more advanced usage of HTML 5 standards.


Hopefully you now understand what a monumental dick-move this is on behalf of Linden Lab.


So here’s the bigger question for @Rodvik and Linden Lab:


Why are they planning for a sprint when they’re going to utterly and humiliatingly lose the marathon as a consequence? If their development team is incapable of raising the bar to meet the innovations and speed of the TPVs, what makes them think their  team will compete with those same dedicated TPV developers when they turn their attention away from Second Life and toward Open Sim? At this juncture, they’ve removed just about all reason and incentive for a Second Life TPV to actually exist, let alone support them. They have, however, just given them all a reason to become dedicated Open Sim TPVs instead. While this may seem like a really good idea to eliminate their “competition”, it will have long reaching consequences they may not have foreseen.


When the TPVs turn their attention solely to Open Sim, and turn their collective backs on Linden Lab, what gimmick is Linden Lab going to pull out of their hat to convince the majority of users who originally chose those TPVs for the specific subset of features and abilities to stick around and not abandon Second Life as well? We’re talking a majority of the Second Life community that use third party viewers.


Linden Lab is appealing to a casual gamer demographic, but forgetting it is the niche community demographic that has ultimately built a majority of the content and venues that those casual gamer demographics will want to experience, or buy.


Linden Lab is building a platform in the sky by intentionally and ignorantly dismantling the foundation it sits on.


Like many others, I don’t think I’ll want to be around when that platform comes crashing down.


However, the other possibility is that Linden Lab is now running an entirely different race and it no longer involves Second Life as you or I know it. Maybe it won’t be as bad as I’m painting the picture, but then again – I’ve never seen a company that didn’t write a blank check without the intention of abusing the hell out of it at every turn.

Feb 13, 2012

Challenge Accepted

Dating in #SecondLife and the value of Authenticity.


It’s been some time since I stepped back into the “dating” scene of Second Life, or more appropriately, trying really hard to reconcile reality against the virtual. Being an INTJ personality type isn’t exactly the best starting point for me, because I’m a no nonsense sort of person and honesty is a big deal to me. As a matter of course, honesty will almost always win out against any other situation I could be presented, no matter how much I would like to overlook it.






I think the reason for this is fairly straightforward, in that there is this preconceived notion that a virtual world is just pixels, and can be treated like such. I know first hand that this isn’t true, and that anyone who attempts to reconcile this differently is setting themselves up for drama and severe heartache in the long run. I usually call this the “honeymoon” phase of virtual worlds relationships, because they tend to explode spectacularly in the long run regardless of how great it was in the short term.


I liken it to the scenario that Vaynerchuk said in his keynote about social media – that businesses fail at social media because they are acting like a 19 year old trying to close the transaction on the first date – they are treating it like a sprint and not a marathon. More time spent in planning the wedding than any consideration on the actual marriage.


I would like to tell you a story, and it is a story that is deeply heartfelt and meaningful to me. I’m usually not the sort of guy that gets all choked up or emotional, so this is going to be a rare glimpse of me that you are unlikely to see often.


Years ago, when I first got into virtual worlds, I ran into a woman named Daphne (Active Worlds name). Now, I’m not entirely certain if Daphne was really her name, but to me it didn’t matter. What transpired between her and I wasn’t romantic in the least, but more of a very deep and emotional connection, a relationship that really shaped me as a person going forward. Daphne was what we could call today my first virtual worlds “mom”. We see a lot of “families” in Second Life today, but I’m never quite sure that they have the same meaning and depth that Daphne had for me when I was younger. I knew her for a number of years, and by her guidance and patience, she became a second mother to me in a virtual sense, but also in a very real sense.


This is what I mean when I say that pixels and emotions aren’t the same thing. No matter how much we try to set those boundaries up front, emotions never listen to our silly rules.


After a number of years, I grew up from a teenager and even as a young adult, Daphne was still considered my virtual mom. One day, well.. the most heartbreaking experience that I have ever felt in a virtual and real sense happened.


Daphne had passed away.


I will be honest with you when I say that just thinking about it right now has me choking up. I am as heartbroken and remorseful now as I am about the murder of my step-sister London, and the loss of multiple family members over the past few years – all have the same impact on me, and when I really think about any of them, it is hard for me not to cry. She meant that much to me as a human being, a mentor, and so much more than words could ever describe. I wish today that I hadn’t lost the chance to tell her these things before she passed away – how much she meant to me, how her being in my life (even virtually) had an immeasurable impact on who I am today. I am a better person today because of her, and because of Daphne, I may be spoiled when it comes to virtual worlds because from that point on, I always chose authenticity over the fantasy.


I had lost the chance forever to tell her how much she meant to me and how much I truly and deeply did appreciate her being in my life. I’d be much lesser of a man today if she hadn’t been there when she was.


Going forward, I chose an equally fitting way to always remember Daphne in that many years later, I still have her name on my in-world contacts list in Active Worlds. I absolutely refuse to remove her name from that list, because I never want to forget her or what she has done for me in my life. I believe it is the best and most fitting thing I could do under the circumstances, and while so many people have forgotten her in the virtual world, I choose to never forget.


Later on, I also ran into Magz in Active Worlds who, at the time, was running a world called ViperX. She became my virtual world mother from that point on, and she has had the same impact on my life that Daphne has had. I’ve known Magz since I was about 17 years old, and I am turning 33 in April. Magz was and is a reaffirmation to me that emotion and deeper meaning in virtual worlds, so much that it changes you in real life and makes you want to be better, to aspire to cast away shallow behavior, is completely possible.


Magz is in Second Life now as Magzee Yootz, and even when I was younger she has had health problems. Being young and foolish, I’ve always spent a lot of my life caught up in myself or my own pursuits, too much to really look up and really accept what people truly mean to me, but thinking about Daphne the other day really hit home. Magz isn’t getting any younger, and I really don’t believe her health is getting any better. There will come a day when she will simply no longer log in, and I will never see her again.


This time, however much it would break my heart to see her pass away, I intend to tell her how much she has meant to me in my life before that happens. How immeasurable her involvement has been in making me who I am today.  I’ve missed that chance countless times already with people who have been close to me, either in a virtual sense or a physical sense, and I won’t lie when I say I am wiping the tears from my eyes as they stream down my face as this reality hits me. People in my life who have either passed away or have left my life for various reasons… all are missed opportunities to tell them how much I loved them, and how grateful I am and was for them to be in my life.


This reality, virtual or physical, hits me deeper than I can ever find words for. 


This authenticity breaks my heart when measured against the frivolity that I see in virtual worlds.


Authenticity is what I expect from all people in my life. I was taught to be a better person by people who are in and out of the virtual world, and who understood the meanings that really connecting with people will have. I have been taught, over the course of my life in a very personal and real way, that emotions and deeper meaning will supersede in our lives regardless of the boundaries we put up to restrict that.


In a virtual world, the people behind the avatars are very real and so are their emotions. If you are in a virtual world only as an escape or fantasy, then it is inevitable that over time your pixel boundaries will be completely and unremorsefully shattered. Reality is a cruel master indeed and doesn’t care about your fantasy, or what you are pretending to be to yourself or to others.


It is never a matter of if, but simply a matter of when.


As I have been “dating”, what I have come across disheartens me to no end. I am, for the most part, disappointed in the virtual world – but more generally I am wholly disappointed in ourselves for letting the virtual world represent something that is shallow, dishonest, hollow, and cruel. I am heartbroken that we continually pursue these things hoping to find something we are missing in ourselves, only to find that the honeymoon is over so soon. We have the choice and ability to make virtual environments into what we choose them to be, and I believe for the most part that we have chosen poorly – with few shining examples to the contrary. I believe that this balance is wrong, and should be reversed.


More often than not we are dishonest with ourselves and with others in order to facilitate a short term illusion, when I know for a fact that the power is within our own hands to make that instead into a long term reality with far deeper meaning. We can touch each other’s hearts with such meaning and immeasurable intentions – even when that person is thousands of miles away, but we more often than not choose to put up a boundary – we separate our real lives from our second lives as avatars.


This is where the problem begins, because no matter what, you are always the real person behind the persona – regardless of whatever fantasy you are playing out in-world. We start on that foundation and artificial boundary and act surprised when emotions and matters of the heart never respect those boundaries. We cannot control what we feel for others, and when emotions run deep, no amount of pixels are going to take away that meaning.


In order to find a better Second Life, we must begin by finding a better First Life. Our virtual selves will not offer the salvation we are seeking if we are not first, and foremost, honest and accepting of our first lives and willing to live them better instead of constructing an illusion to compensate. Conversely, it is for the rest of us to learn that we must also be accepting of others as well if they are willing to be authentic with you.


Authenticity implies that we are being real, and that we are not trying to substitute an illusion for reality when it truly counts. We must be accepting of our own realities before we should ever try to include others in it. This means, whether we like it or not, that in order to find what we are looking for – true and honest acceptance, we have to be honest with ourselves before we can be honest with others.


I see a lot of married women in Second Life, looking for relationships. This is dishonest to me, because it involves affairs of the heart under the constraint that we somehow believe that we have any control over whether or not we can keep our emotions from running deeper. This is both a lie to ourselves and a lie by consensus between two or more parties because if you are going through the motions of a relationship, the heart will make no distinction if it is being honest.


If you can separate this and keep the emotions from running deeper, then you really aren’t being honest to begin with in your intentions, and the relationship doesn’t mean a thing. In the most literal sense, you are simply using people. This is why it is not uncommon to find people with many alternate accounts in a virtual environment, because they are for the explicit purpose of lying by omission to people. You are in one alt with your partner, while using your other alts to be a different person altogether either for yourself or while including others under this false premise, and I never really believed that this was a fair or honest thing to do in real life, let alone a virtual life.


I know many will tell me that this is just a “lifestyle” – but it is a lifestyle that has all the hallmarks of total collapse over time. We can’t expect to enter into any relationship, romantic or otherwise, on false premise and expect anything but the truth to come out eventually and destroy the fantasy we’ve so carefully constructed. This is the root of our drama in virtual worlds – not so much that we’re deceiving others but more that we have become accustomed to deceiving ourselves.


Sure, a virtual world is just pixels and we can even say it’s just a game or fantasy. But we’ll never escape the fact that behind those pixels happens to be very real people with very real emotions and very real lives.


When it comes right down to it, virtual environments aren’t about saving a princess in a castle like in Super Mario Bros. but instead, saving each other for real.



Again, we’re back to understanding authenticity and that we are doing a very bad job at saving ourselves and others. We’re acting selfish in an environment that really begs for us to be selfless and truly caring.


All of this really breaks my heart because we’re running a sprint when our hearts are demanding a marathon. This is most present in the dating scene of virtual worlds, because the most common thing I have read in these profiles are that they are looking only for SL relationships.


We’re belittling our virtual reality and the experience on purpose when it can be so much more.


I’ve been to in-world marriages where two people recite wedding vows, and at least one of those people are being serious while the other is married and just treating affairs of the heart like another game to be played.


That’s just cruel…


Reality is harsh, but virtual reality isn’t going to give you actual acceptance unless you’ve fixed what you think is wrong with your real life first. You can run from real life all you want, and you can live a string of escapist fantasies to try and compensate, but it will catch up to you, and quite often does after awhile.


I choose authenticity in my real life and virtual life, because I know that reality will have the final say no matter what I believe to the contrary. I’ve chosen to fix my real life before having a second one, because that is the level of honesty we all need to have if we’re going to change our meaningless experience in virtual worlds into something far deeper and meaningful.


I’m honest with myself, so I can be honest with you – whether I am an avatar or whether I am face to face with you. I’ll accept nothing less than a meaningful experience in my virtual life because I know it will touch me deeply in my real life and even be interchangeable at some point.


So this is my status update for “dating” in Second Life:


I’m still single because I’m demanding more of myself, in order to be honest with others, and I expect nothing less from others in the process. I may have set the bar too high, I may be stronger in my convictions, or I may just be standing on a soapbox… but either way, I hold out hope for a better reality, and it starts with being a better person for real.


I don’t expect that I’ll find true love in the virtual world, because I have only met one single person in all my years in virtual worlds that I would consider true love and worth my time. It is a total and inconceivable miracle that she existed, even for the time she and I were together, and I know that the likelihood of lightning striking twice is small indeed – especially when the entire virtual world is filled with people looking for a fantasy.


Despite that, however, I believe that true love does exist and it can be so electrifying that even lightning will strike twice if given the honest chance.


I believe this because I know that even the virtual can be real, if we let it and are truly honest with each other. I found what I was looking for once before, and I know it is possible to find it again if I continue to look. I’m not so much “dating” as I am simply waiting for an honest woman again.


I know she’s out there if I am patient. In the meantime -


If we want a better Second Life, we have to start by making a better First Life.




Challenge Accepted

Feb 8, 2012

Who Ya Gonna Call? Ghost Writers!

Linden Lab looks for guest bloggers, finds laughter instead. #SecondLife


Are you a passionate Second Life resident who loves to write about your Second Life experience and are looking for exposure for your own existing blog? Looking for a way to connect with other bloggers and open your door to new Second Life community readers?  If so, you might want to submit an original blog post (no links please) to us and it could end up being featured in the Second Life Community blogs.

As the movers, shakers, and experts on everything Second Life, we’d like to invite you to submit your original blog articles to us at blog-call@lindenlab.com with the Subject Line: Guest Blog Submission.  Selected submissions will be posted to the Blog section of the Community as a featured guest post!




Dear Linden Lab – My laptop in-world sucks less than yours. I’m actually blogging from it.


If you’ve been paying attention, Linden Lab recently put out a call for guest posts from the prominent bloggers in the community, and as much as I’d love to give them kudos for trying, I have to concede that the response they received from the community was expected.


It’s about ecosystem and the community of sharing, and on this point Linden Lab dropped the ball very publicly. We live in a world of content creation and sharing, and we take pride in our blogs because these blogs represent our freedom of expression and ideas on not just the virtual world but also all the things that go with it. We’re the Digerati because we’ve been so diligent in building our own brand and avatar presence, not because we’ve been busy building it for somebody else. That’s the lesson about Second Life – It’s not about Linden Lab, it’s about us, and every time Linden Lab acts selfish in this regard the community calls them on it.


This isn’t to be mean spirited, either… it’s just the way it is in this media-as-commodity society and prosumer culture. I’ll post a video at the end of this for you (and for Linden Lab) to thoroughly explain what the hell is going on, and how they (and you) can benefit going forward.


It wasn’t so much the offer from Linden Lab that made me laugh, but the guidelines and constraints they set for submissions -


If you would like to submit a guest post for the Second Life Blog, please consider these guidelines. Only submissions that meet these criteria will be considered for publishing.


  • All selected posts must adhere to our Community Participation Guidelines.
  • All selected posts should support the inclusiveness of the Second Life community.
  • Selected posts must not include marketing-related links and must not be entirely self-promotional.
  • The post may include links to your website and blog in a brief author’s bio (approximately 3 sentences), which will be published at the end of the guest post.
  • Please limit the number of images included in your submission to 4 or less.
  • We reserve the right to review and edit. We regularly edit posts by our contributors and guest bloggers.
  • Guest posts must be original and may not have been published elsewhere online already.  


I’ve put the offending terms in bold for which I would believe the most astute of bloggers who would be of any interest in this co-op posting would disagree with. We’re capable of editing our own content, and aside from minor edits, I’m not comfortable with a third party reconfiguring what I have said behind closed doors to suit their own needs. More importantly, the last requirement flat out misses the point of the sharing atmosphere and community which it is soliciting responses from – in that you are being asked to write content, without compensation of any kind, that Linden Lab can freely edit and manipulate as they see fit, and to top it all off, they demand that the content you are writing is exclusive to them alone.


This would exclude simultaneously posting the same article on your own blog, and to wit, makes you little more than a ghost writer for a company that is looking for free SEO content to fill their blog roll.


Like many blogs, this blog carries a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported license (or a variation of Creative Commons). This means you are free to repost my blog posts in full or in part anywhere you would like, as long as you give me attribution and as long as you aren’t charging people to read it or making money on it. This does not mean I endorse you, your blog or magazine, or anything you say. It simply means you are free to share what I’m saying here with little restriction. The choice of license does not necessarily exclude commercial use of my work, but it does require that you seek written permission from me to have that constraint waived.


In stark contrast, Linden Lab is immediately shooting themselves in the foot by demanding the exclusivity of submitted articles, which is a direct violation of what many established bloggers adhere by. In the event that exclusivity is required, the next logical question from any blogger is going to be –


What’s in it for me? I mean… why should I write for you?


For this question, Linden Lab gives no substantial answer other than they assert promotion of your own blog, which to me sounds a lot like the website client that says they’ll pay you for making them look good by putting a little by-line on the bottom of the page to promote you.


No self-respecting website designer would agree to those terms, and no self-respecting blogger of any merit would agree to those terms either.


The bigger issue with all of this is that the very idea of exclusivity and tight constraints in a digital media ecosystem is a direct contradiction to the ecosystem itself – in a world of sharing, Linden Lab is asking for permission only to take and gives nothing back, and by association alone are showing that they are thinking like a traditional company that simply does not understand social media.


Despite all of this, however, I’d like to offer a better solution for everyone – far be it that I should be the Debbie Downer for Linden Lab’s hopes of building an army of bloggers willing to write stuff for them with little or no incentive.


Instead of asking for bloggers to submit content specifically for Linden Lab to publish exclusively, if they were truly interested in celebrating the diversity of culture and opinion in their community, they would instead be asking for their community of bloggers to be submitting posts from their own blogs to be reposted on the Linden blog in a celebration and expose’ of their community and wide reach. Any editing that is done to those submissions should be done in a transparent manner with the actual writer, because the writers themselves are the creative force behind what is being said on those posts – what they are saying is very deliberate and intentional.


For those of you into social media (and that’s probably quite a lot of you) the following video from Gary Vaynerchuk should be highly interesting and informative. This video should also be considered homework for the people at Linden Lab to take notes on.




It’s time to learn what a prosumer is all about–this is worth every single minute of watching it. Trust me.




Seriously… I wasn’t joking before. This isn’t a mockup. It’s my actual laptop in Second Life, on a desk that I made myself, and running a fully functional Cloud OS through Shared Media.






I wasn’t kidding when I said my laptop in Second Life is better than the one that Linden Lab used for their screen shot. Unlike their laptop, mine actually has a cloud operating system on it with a full suite of actual applications. Let’s just say I happen to like using Shared media to the absolute fullest potential.

Feb 2, 2012

Inference Pattern

Steve Jobs gave you the iPod, but he listened to vinyl at home.  #SecondLife

I've been listening a lot to binaural audio lately as a result of my recent research paper which touched on the subject briefly for the future of virtual worlds. Over time, this got me wondering about the perceptual quality of LP (Analog) versus Digital outputs and what exactly it is we're hearing that is different.

record player

As part of the research, I came across things like "Holophonic" recording and the theoretical (if not a little quirky) explanation from Hugo Zuccarelli with unsubstantiated claims concerning the holographic nature of sound and the interpretation thereof within the brain.

Usually I would believe this to be an open and shut case, but something has been nagging me about the whole situation.

You see, the way that binaural audio essentially works is the HRTF or Head Related Transfer Function, which is the subtle difference in arrival time between each ear, coupled with the precise shape of the head and ears in which the sound waves are molded in order to give subtle and consciously imperceptible cues for spatial positioning inside the mind - often referred to as the Cetera Algorithm.

This got me thinking about what the commonality for those who listen to hi-fidelity analog audio and how they commonly describe it to be "better" but can never quite give a direct answer as to exactly how it is better.

The untrained audiophile will likely never be able to hear the differences, and to make a better point, even the most well trained audio engineers today are unlikely to be able to accurately determine the differences.

I believe this has to do with the actual difference between hi-fidelity analog and digital recording, in that the frequency response is the key to this mystery, coupled with some key understandings about binaural audio, as well as a cursory look at what Hugo Zuccarelli calls "Holophonic" audio.

The idea behind Holophonic audio is that Hugo insists there is some sort of reference information in high quality audio that is interpreted in the mind alone, and while this seems silly up front, this is essentially how the Cetera Algorithm works. The subtle difference in arrival time is calculated in our minds on a subconscious level to give us the perception of spatialized audio. This is why you know that a bird is chirping in the forest in a tree, about 100 feet in front of you, and roughly 200 feet in the air, and to your left by about 50 feet.

But when we record binaural audio, the frequency response rate likely plays a much larger role than we were originally aware of; in turn separating our audiophile experience into two categories, whereas today we like to think of it only as a single category of conscious perception my theoretical thinking distinguishes our audio into two categories as subconscious perception and conscious perception.

The standard for CD audio began around 40khz and early CDs recorded at this rate up until recently, whereby that was raised to 96khz response range, even though audio engineers will say that the average human ear cannot hear above 40khz. When you open a wave file, the standard encoding rate is 44.1khz and this is not a coincidence - it was just a little more than the stated average hearing ability for CD quality to give it some leeway. Even though (as stated in the video) the capture of the audio was roughly half of what it actually is.

When listening to binaural audio, often times we can say that the positional cues are accurate to a degree, but often times the cues for "in front" and "behind" the head are hard to make out. This is also true for positional cues such as "above" and "below" in combination with in front and behind. Looking over the information for the binaural tracks, I noticed a common thread between them and the ones which seemed to have better positional cues (where the in front, back, above, and below were much better represented). The difference seemed to be in the recording quality itself, and the frequency response.

So I looked it up further and found the video below showing the definite difference between analog and digital, and the drop-off of that frequency range. Analog Hi-Fidelity goes right up to 120khz frequency response, and should be well out of the range of hearing, while original CDs stopped around 40khz before dropping off, and more recent digital recordings stopped around 96khz before the sharp drop-off.

I suppose the digital future wasn’t as great as we were told…

What this leads me to believe is that the difference is in subconscious audio cues as maintained by the capture of the audio in frequency response. Everything after 40khz would be subconscious information much like we infer the positional cues from subtle difference in arrival time to each ear, positional audio quality, and fidelity, hinges on the superior capture and playback of upper frequency response range which is carrying the consciously imperceptible audio cues for the mind to reconstruct for a full audio experience.

In short, it's all in our heads - but in a very good way. Hugo Zuccarelli might have been spot on with his assumptions about “Holophonics”, but for all the wrong reasons. MP3 destroys this upper limit of subconscious audio fidelity due to compression models, so we actually are losing quite a lot of the fidelity of our audio by chopping off the upper frequency range. Even at 96khz frequency response, we're still stripping away subtle cues in the audio which help our mind reconstruct an audioscape, though admittedly not nearly as much information as our early "superior" digital CDs at 40khz.

I believe this is the ultimate secret to the claims of "Holophonic" audio, which for all intents and purposes is recorded the same way as a standard binaural audio track, but with what I would argue a very important difference that Hugo Zuccarelli is unlikely to say publicly:

Hugo Zuccarelli has designed ultra-low distortion microphones that are quite possibly unparalleled in the recording industry, as well as loudspeakers that are also ultra-low distortion. His frequency response ranges may be past even 120khz in recording binaural, which would likely result in capturing an ultra-high fidelity spatial audio binaural that preserves far more subconscious cues than some of our standard HD microphones and recording today.

Hence, the difference between binaural and "holophonic". Binaural, then, is the equivalent to the low-fi of 3D Audio, while Holophonic would rely on ultra-low distortion custom microphones and ultra-high capture of frequency response to capture well above and beyond the conscious range of hearing but capture an amazing amount of subconscious audio clarity that the mind is interpreting at an audio resolution superior to current digital means. It would also mean that in order to truly appreciate this process and playback, a standard pair of headphones won't cut it, nor would even your high-end headphones that range up to 1,000 dollars.

For instance, audiophiles who pride themselves on high-end headphones and balk at things like Bose or Skullcandy are in no better position themselves, as even if the headphones can reach 120khz, your audio formats and the equipment it is hooked up to much of the time destroys that subconscious fidelity before it reaches your ears (and subsequently your expensive hipster headphones).

Even your "HD Audio" card for your computer is likely well below the top end audio fidelity of 120khz, so plugging in your expensive headphones gains you absolutely no real stated benefit other than not bastardizing the audio any further than it already has been before it has reached your ears. However, the audio quality you hear is only as good as the process by which it is interpreted and delivered - so all of the components in between your ears and the audio translation matter the most.

It's only as good as the lowest common denominator in the chain.

Personally I have a pair of Bose headphones, and I know full well  that they distort the bass response more than they should. This is why I use them mainly for MP3 music (where it doesn’t actually matter), but not when I need clarity like with binaural audio. I know that unless I'm using hardware capable of 120kHz frequency output and the audio file itself is recorded at ultra-high frequency response and without compression, that no pair of headphones will make it sound as clear and amazing as it should.

At least... not yet.

I think Neil Young and the late Steve Jobs were onto something here... 

In the context of virtual worlds and augmented reality, if we expect to construct more compelling and immersive environments, we’re going to have to step up our game in the audio department. What this means for audio quality in general is that the trade off between quality and file size means a lot more than we previously thought.