I'm For Sale - This Weekend Only!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I couldn't say no. So I said yes. It's for charity, after all.

What is it?

I was "volunteered" to participate in the Relay Wizards fundraising event this coming Sunday, where apparently I am to be For Sale in a Kissing Booth! That's right, you supply the Lindens, I supply the kisses and the Relay for Life benefits.

Remember, there are No Exotic Diseases!

I am not the only person participating, as my lip pixels would probably burn out. In fact, several well-known SLebrities are appearing either in the kissing booth, the dunk tank or both:

  • Hamlet Au (Reporter, Author, New World Notes)
  • Tymmerie Thorne (Girl Wonder Speaks)
  • Shawna Montgomery (Queen of Avalon in Tiny Empires)
  • Zoe Connolly (Virtual Aviatrix, Aviatrix::Zoe Connolly)
  • Vint Falken (Photographer, Rezzabler, VintFalken.com)
  • Elexor Matador (King of Sparta in Tiny Empires, Elexor Matador Jewlery, The Family Jewels)
  • Ultralite Soleil (Creator of Tiny Empires)
  • Timeless Prototype (Master Creator, Multi-Tool Creator)
  • Kim Seifert (SL Songstress Extraordinaire)
  • Jack Belvedere (SLHA League Comissioner, SL Hockey League)
  • David Jacobs (RelayForLife Co-Chair)
  • Sweegy Manilow (Creator of the Neo Realms fishing game)
  • RacerX Gullwing (Giant Snail Racer Maker)
  • Lionpride Lassard (DJ)
  • Larry Pixel (CEO of New Media Consortium)
  • Graciella Princess (Royal Media Communications Founder)
  • Hethr Engel (Closet Crisis)
  • Peachy Sassoon (co founder of Drama Libre)
  • Xerxes Sismondi (co founder of Drama Libre)
  • Elizabeth Antontelli

If you happen to be SL-famous, I am sure there are slots open for you, too! Please give me a shout if you feel like taking some Kisses for Charity, and I will hook you up with the organizers.

The event is taking place on Sunday, June 1, from 6AM-6PM SLT. If you want to catch me, I am scheduled to be dunked/kissed between 7AM-9AM SLT at this location:


I am not entirely certain when the other SLebrities are to be "on sale", but please drop by during the day and I am sure you will at least see them. Or a lot more, depending on the depth of your virtual wallet!

UPDATE 29 May : The organizers inform me of a few changes to the list of SLebrities:
  • Random Calliope (Prince of Avalon, Creator Ode Jewelry @ 6AM)
  • NOTE: Miss Vint Falken was scheduled to appear, but will instead appear in a different event at a later date. Vint has offered to take bids to give up cigarettes for up to 17 hours! Stay tuned for more details (Vint, are you CERTAIN you want to do this???)
UPDATE 31 May : This is the schedule of events for the Dunking and Kissing Booths


  • 6am
  • 7am ~ Birdie Fairymeadow ~ Queen of Wight
  • 8am ~ Jack Belvedere ~ SLHA Hockey League Comissioner
  • 9am ~ Hethr Engel ~ Closet Crisis
  • 10am ~ Bourque Rau ~ VHL Brain Freeze Hockey Team
  • 11am ~ DrCyberPHD Hammerer ~ King of Olympus
  • 12 noon ~ Sweegy Mailow ~ Creator Neo Realms Fishing Game
  • 12 noon ~ RacerX Gullwing ~ Creator Giant Snail Racers
  • 1 pm ~ KyraDevon Graves ~ Queen of Terabithia
  • 2 pm ~ Anhayla Lycia, Princess of Avalon
  • 3pm ~ Peachy Sassoon ~ Co-Founder of Drama Libre & Xerxes Sismondi ~ Founder of Drama Libre
  • 3pm ~ Graciella Princess ~ Royal Media Communications Founder
  • 3:30 ~ 4:30pm ~ David Jacobs ~ RelayForLife Co-chair
  • 5pm ~ Ultralite Soleil ~ Creator Tiny Empires Game


  • 6am ~ Random Calliope ~Prince of Avalon, Creator Ode Jewelry
  • 7am - 9am Arminasx Saiman ~ Particle Designer ~ Blogger
  • 8am ~ HALEY Salomon, Princess of Avalon
  • CHANGE: ~Deena Caballero ~ Princess of Wight standing in for Birdie Fairymeadow, Queen of Wight
  • 9am ~ Larry Pixel ~ CEO NMC
  • 10 am ~ Lionpride Lassard ~ DJ
  • 11am ~ Tymmerie Thorne ~ Girl Wonder Speaks
  • 11am ~ Timeless Prototype ~ Multi-Gadget Creator
  • 12 noon ~ Hamlet Au ~ Reporter ~Author ~ New World Notes
  • 1 pm ~ Zoe Connolly ~ Virtual Aviatrix, Aviatrix::Zoe Connolly)
  • 2 pm ~ Shawna Montgomery, Queen of Avalon
  • 3pm ~ King Elexor Matador ~ Master Jeweler ~ King of Sparta
  • 4pm ~ Kim Seifert ~ SL Songstress Extraordinaire
  • 5pm ~ Elizabeth Antonelli, Princess of Avalon

All Reality, All The Time

Friday, May 23, 2008 Friday, May 23, 2008

Something I frequently observe in virtual reality is transformation. Of ideas, personalities, opinions, and minds. Today I’m speaking of how my mind’s conception of reality has been severely distorted by my virtual experience.

Prior to my Second Life experience I viewed reality in the conventional way: things, people, molecules and matter arranged in an intricate manner. But mostly I viewed the world as a place of things. Houses, people, plants, grilled cheese sandwiches, etc.

Then I entered virtual reality. For a very short while I viewed the virtual world as I do the real world: as a place of things. Shortly thereafter I learned how to build virtual objects. After a few weeks of virtual construction (of mostly incredibly bad newbie-oriented flotsam), something weird happened in real life.

I had previously visited the virtual encampment of Canadian telecom carrier Telus. At the time they had (and may still have) a virtual store that appears very similar to their real life stores. The colors, styles and layout were nearly identical, as was no doubt their intention.

The next day in real life I happened to walk by a true, real-life, made-with-Actual-Molecules Telus store. I saw the same colors, structures and layout as existed in virtual reality. I saw that they had rezzed the real life store with a stretched prim cube along the top, and had textured the desks in a slightly transparent green.

Wait a minute...

Prim? Texture? Rezzed!!!

Those are virtual concepts, not for use in real life. Even so, my then-virtual-oriented mind was mentally decomposing the real Telus store as if it were made from virtual prims! This virtual bounce-back effect continued, as it seemed everything I looked at was no longer a “thing”. Instead real life had become “objects” made of Real Prims. I had transformed. My world view had permanently changed as I then saw real life and the virtual world in the same way. I continue to perceive reality in this way.

More recently during a quick trip to humanity’s Capital of Extreme, Las Vegas, Nevada, more transformations occurred. First, I happened to bumble into the lobby of the astounding Bellagio hotel (which, by the way, has a virtual counterpart). Just off the lobby is a giant greenhouse in which amazing displays of horticulture sprout on a regular basis.

I stopped dead in my tracks as my gaze rose up to see Huge Flowers! Flowers so tall they were Not Possible In Real Life! That's NPIRL, a term I've heard elsewhere of late.

Amazing yes, but much more so than most of the Bellagio’s patrons realized. Not only was real life similar to the virtual world in components (prims), but here they were similar in Things. As I walked among the titanic plants, cow-sized butterflies and gaily decorated giant snails large enough to ride upon I felt just as I would floating through a sim with such monstrous flora and fauna. The real world is not only made of prims, but also contains Strange Impossible Things, just like virtual reality!

As if that wasn’t enough, a final incident at the pool sealed my reality confusion. A woman beside me suddenly got up to chase her young boy, as he had galloped off toward the menacing water. As she stood, I saw the boy’s sandal attached by Velcro to the lady’s behind! Evidently the real world also has the “shoes up your ass” bug.

Real World, Virtual World. What’s the difference? It’s All Reality, All The Time.

The Strange Effects of Effects

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Eons ago I began making particle effects. Lately they seem to be changing. The new ones, I mean. My original items were quite simple, although I probably didn’t think so at the time. However, over the past year they’ve gradually become more complex, sometimes involving multiple emitters, timers, chat commands, linked messages and other tricky bits.

But more recently I’ve noticed a strange effect: the usage and purpose of new items are changing. At first I only made items to wear while dancing. Then it was items to place on a dance floor such as colourful fogs and eventually items to enhance your property, such as ground fogs or mists.

Then strange things began to appear on my store’s shelves. First it was a series of gadgets and fireworks sculptures.

And last week, it was Weather! The new Rainmaker, complete with sound, can cover up to 192m across. Pictured here getting very wet are Second Life hockey player Dyz Warburton and master builder Anhalya Lycia, who recently won a building contest at Dreams.

A similar Snowmaker produces the most amazing thick snow. Why snow in May? I’m not exactly certain how it came about, but I did sell some to a very nice fellow from Dubai this week, who said it cooled him down from his RL temperature of +48C (118F).

This week it’s a continuation of something that started earlier: Particle Fashions. I’d already made a very popular series of colourful particle halos, but this week it’s Twinkle. Twinkle produces tiny stars around your face. Sounds entirely crazy, but if you match the color to your avatar, it can look very beautiful.

But that wasn’t all. It was extremely late and I was somehow still online (from Las Vegas, where There Are No Clocks) having a late chat with Belgian Blogging Buddy Miss Vint Falken. I learned the distinguished Euro-blogger was ill and Not Very Happy. Determined to cheer her up, I quickly whipped up a “Drippy Nose” effect. It makes your nose red and continually drips offensive yellowy material. Ick. But the mission was accomplished, as Vint tossed me a =)

Except she still had a bit of a cough days later...

Hmm. Perhaps I should make a line of sickly effects? Imagine the possibilities!

Crowd Particles!

Friday, May 16, 2008 Friday, May 16, 2008

This week I built a new experimental product: crowd-based particle effects. I was contacted by friend IYan Writer, who was organizing a space/ambient music event held at MMC Island last Thursday. IYan wanted particle effects that would enhance the "spacey" mood of the show.

Headlining the show was Cypress Rosewood, whose music was indeed very spacey. According to IYan's press release:

The legendary SL space musician, Cypress Rosewood performs his musical magic with flutes, guitars and synthesizers throughout the SL world and is a metamedia treat to see live, in concert.

In Second Life CYPRESS has been a pioneer of live space and ambient music. He has performed over 150 concerts of his special brand of aural vibrations that can aid healing and relaxation. Cypress is also developing a Space Music Museum alongside working on many groundbreaking projects. He is also one of the primary designers for the first major music manufacturer on the SL grid, Gibson Music Instruments, building their "Gibson Island" to be opened in May of 2008 sometime.

I had not visited MMC Island before, perhaps because it is "an extension of the Multimedia center of RTV Slovenia (Slovenia 's public broadcaster) in the virtual world of Second Life". Fortunately for me, few were speaking Slovenian during the concert!

The stage itself was spacey: set high in the dark sky, attendees sat on pink cushions floating in the air at the Orbital Station. Dance balls surrounded the audience where the daring could dance in the air.

We decided to build a special attachment that would be provided to each attendee. The invisible attachment would produce the required particle effects.

But then the question was, "what effects would be appropriate?"

Virtually all of my wearable particle effect products would be inappropriate as they produce a fair number of particles each. If used by a large crowd of say, 40, you'd blow out the sim with particles.

I decided I'd better make something very subtle.

Instead of blasting out many particles, the device makes a single stationary star every few seconds. When used by a crowd, a subtle 3D field of stars rapidly appears around everyone.

To make things more interesting I added a few spectacular twists. Once in a very long while it emits a multi-colored nebula, and at other times it may go Nova, explode, collapse or emit tantalizing rays from the wearer.

Testing the device was very strange. My laboratory at Electric Pixels had 40 invisible devices lain out to simulate a large crowd. With a black background, the visible effects were eerie indeed. Stars always, but with occasional explosions and novas!

So how did it go? At first I was concerned, because I could not predict the number of attendees. If too few people showed up, particle emissions would be insufficient to produce a spacey view. If too many people wore the effect, there might have been a particle overload. But no, it was just right. Interesting effects appeared at just the correct rate, and I think it was a success.

What other crowd-based effects might be possible? I'm not sure yet, but imagination is our only limit. Let me know if you have any ideas!

An ARC From Here to Infinity

Sunday, May 11, 2008 Sunday, May 11, 2008

I’m obsessed with a number. Not just any number, but those amazing new ARCs. Avatar Rendering Cost!

What, you don’t know what that is?

It’s a new feature in the viewer that hatched a few weeks ago. You can access it via this tortuous and finger-straining mouse path: Advanced Menu ->Rendering->Info Displays->Avatar Rendering Cost. Once you’ve ticked that mysterious option you’ll see strange numbers appear above everyone’s head. Yeah, it’s been well described before. First here, then here and a bunch of other spots too.

It’s great sport to check out the ARCs of a crowd to see who’s got the “heaviest” ARC. Or the lowest. A visitor to Electric Pixels the other night was a mere 33, while some of my friends consistently haul around in excess of Five Thousand ARC (you know who you are!) At the Tonight Live taping last weekend someone in the audience was over Ten Thousand – so unbelievably heavy that my LCD screen actually started warping whenever she was in view.

Nevertheless, my interest in ARC lies elsewhere, specifically regarding the bit about particles found in the Official Blog:

16 points added if prim is a particle emitter. Rationale: Particles create even MORE CPU overhead and consume graphics bus bandwidth.

Hmm. Evidently particle effects take up a unit count of 16.

But do they really?

I don’t think so. In fact, I suspect the 16 is merely a guess. Why? Because all particle effects are not created equal. They vary considerably in their behaviour. Here’s what I mean: I can write a particle script that issues a single particle once every 20 minutes. Your poor viewer will no doubt strain and begin smoking under the tremendous effort required to draw that little puff. If you wait the 20 minutes for it to appear.

On the other hand, I can write a particle script that might emit 1000 particles every 0.01 seconds, and keep each of them visible for a full minute. In other words, after 10 seconds of that, your snappy viewer must draw (1000 / 0.01) * 10 = 1,000,000 particles! Yeowch! Actually, your viewer would stop drawing them after you hit the particle limit as set in your preferences, typically 4096 (although I once met a guy who preferred to set his to 4. Yes, 4. I hope they were the Best Four Particles.)

Ahem, back to the analysis we were developing.

So, a particle effect can develop a workload for your shiny PC of something between say, INFINITY and well, NOTHING! But we gotta count particles as something for the ARC statistic. Let’s see. How about SIXTEEN? Yeah, that’s it!

The Official Mandarins had little choice. They had to plug some number, perhaps based on some statistics or empirical experience. And so sixteen it is.

But you and I know that it is really a guess. So when you are in that sandbox and see a newb setting off a phalanx of sim-cracking blockbuster nukes, mentally add a few more ARC points to ‘em.

Special Delivery!

Thursday, May 8, 2008 Thursday, May 08, 2008

Hooking up with clients for custom work is often a pain in the a**. Here's the scenario:

  • Client contacts me via IM with a vague request for some type of custom work
  • The description of the work is unclear, so I must ask a lot of questions
  • Client is typically offline when I am on! (Or perhaps I am offline when they are online) and we can't converse directly
  • Negotiations occur at a very slow pace since we can't hook up
  • We friend each other, in hopes of catching each other online and be able to talk through the work description in detail
  • We don't catch each other because the client is in Australia or some other far away place (at least from me, anyway)
  • Work slows and the deal fades away
  • I end up with a bunch of "friends" who occupy space on my list, eventually requiring cleanup

That's not a good way to handle business. 

So I developed a couple of simple techniques that I believe overcome at least some of this silliness. 

First, I now try to negotiate via notecard when ever possible. I ask the client to write down as best they can a complete description of what they desire. Then we can edit the notecard and toss it back and forth, resulting in a semblance of a reasonable discussion. At least the avatar-to-avatar bandwidth is slightly better, and you should get a written record of the request for future reference. 

Secondly, I have created a unique "Pick Up" area at Electric Pixels marked as "Special Delivery". It's off to the side away from the main shopping area so that visitors don't confuse its contents with normal products. What do I do with it? I place custom work there for clients to pick up, even when I am not around. This way they can "Buy" the product as if it's a normal product and a traceable transaction is recorded instead of a mysterious "Gift". 

I also use the "Special Delivery" as a place to deposit prototypes for clients to come and test them live while I am off doing RL activities. 

So if you happen to come by Electric Pixels, you might see some strange things afoot in Special Delivery. Do Not Be Alarmed! 

Funky Contracting

Saturday, May 3, 2008 Saturday, May 03, 2008

A while ago I wrote an article describing a rather embarrassing contracting situation in which I had failed miserably to make proper contracting arrangements before starting on some custom work. I was sleepy and wasn't paying attention! Sorry! I learned my lesson, and told everyone about my mistake so they could learn too.

Today I've been reading about a similar situation involving one of Peter Stindberg's clients. Evidently Peter followed the prescribed contracting procedure:

  • Negotiate with the customer before work commences
  • Agree on the specific work to be undertaken
  • Agree on the exact amounts and timing of payments for that work
  • Complete the work
  • Execute the payments

Peter even went further by breaking the work down in phases, so that the client had an opportunity to review, change or even stop the work process in an agreed upon manner.

One interesting aspect of Peter's approach is the breakdown of payments:

  • An initial payment to begin the engagement before anything is delivered. This ensures that Peter will start work and also ensures that the client is in fact serious about the job.
  • Separate payments upon delivery of each completed work phase.

Alas, in spite of Peter's excellent contracting practices, the client did not pay as agreed. And that's the problem. No matter how you do it, there is always the possibility of non-payment (or non-delivery from the vendor). Both sides take a risk. Peter's technique of breaking down the work into phases accomplishes something very useful: reducing the risk faced by both parties. Since non-payment will happen only once in the sequence, the maximum amount that can be lost is minimized to a single phase.

But even after reducing the loss, what course of action is left for the victim? Simple: tell everyone about it on the blogosphere! There's nothing better for reputation management.

Moral of the story: be wary when dealing with clients.

Once You Have Tasted flight...

Thursday, May 1, 2008 Thursday, May 01, 2008

Readers of Second Effects will know that I like to explore whenever I have time to spare, and it can be tremendously interesting. Not only do you see amazing things, but you often meet amazing people too. And then there are those times when you run into a fellow explorer of the Second Life Virtual World™ and compare notes. 

The other week I ran into one such explorer, Dana Musgrave (pictured with myself at the Inspire Space Park). We traded interesting Landmarks like two cowboys at a shoot-out, and I am afraid I lost badly: Dana gave me 51 Landmarks that I had not visited, while I could provide her with only a mere 15 that she had not visited.

Afterwards, I marveled at Dana’s persistence and ability to explore, and thought everyone should get exploration tips from a master explorer such as Dana. I contacted her recently and here is the result:

Second Effects: Thanks so much for answering my questions today! There are many would-be explorers and I am certain they’d appreciate some exploration tips from you. How many places have you visited, and how long have you been exploring?

Dana Musgrave: Well, I would say close to maybe 400 sims, for about a year and a half now.

SE: How often do you go exploring?

DM: Almost every other day.

SE: When you explore, do you have a goal in mind or do you teleport in a random direction?

DM: Yes, I do have a goal most of the time to keep focus, then when I go for whatever it is I am looking for it usually leads me to a plethora of other things!

SE: Where do you find good exploration ideas and tips?

DM: When I see unusual objects in SL or really nicely done objects, the main thing I do is go to edit on them, then look at the picks of the profile of the person that made them, the creative people in SL sometimes have really great places that they have found and cherish and openly want to share them with others. Also, I ALWAYS have my "Camera Control" out so that I can explore a place more thoroughly.

SE: What do you do when you first arrive somewhere?

DM: CREATE A LANDMARK! LOL - Especially since SL is so capricious in nature of crashing!

SE: How do you keep track of all the places you have visited?

DM: I place all the great places on a notecard, simply drag and click them on one, you can do it just as easily as placing them in a new folder but to me quicker and easier.

SE: Favorite place ever visited?

DM: I would have to say.....hmmmm......Inspire Space Park, something so profound and tranquil about it, especially using the orbital pose balls there and the music!

SE: Where are you going next?

DM: Magnanimously into the minds of others, to do as I always try to do, inspire them to travel SL more so that they too can see much of the beauty that it has to offer and maybe, just maybe inspire them enough to create a spectacular sim to be viewed by many as well!

SE: Thanks again, Dana!

I must agree with all of Dana’s suggestions, particularly regarding stowage of landmarks. There is nothing worse than having piles of old landmarks in an inventory folder and not knowing how you came by them, let alone if they are of any value. The notecard idea even lets you write a few words about the landmark so you will always know why you kept it.

I also highly recommend Dana’s choice of the Inspire Space Park, which is truly a magical mix of sight, sound and imagination.

And just for the record, my SLBUZZ profile indicates today I’ve visited some 1008 sims. Now, if only I can remember them... sigh.

Finally, Dana added a special quote for great explorers:

"And once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you long to return......." -Leonardo da Vinci

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