Tonight Again!

Friday, August 28, 2009 Friday, August 28, 2009

Quite some time ago I was honored to be a guest on Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe, one of SL’s most popular in-world shows. On Sunday I’ll be appearing on the show again due to an unexpected invitation from host Paisley. 

What’s the occasion? I believe Paisley wants to quiz me about the recent SLCC held in San Francisco, California, which I (and she) attended. Not only did we both attend the convention, we hung out in Real Life several times and even managed to grab a wonderful midnight dinner together.

I’ll be appearing with two other amazing guests: Musician Gregg Huet with Machinimeister and 1st Question host Pooky Amsterdam. By the way, if you haven’t had the chance to attend Pooky’s show, I suggest you drop over to see it live sometime; they record almost every week (and if you’re not careful, Pooky will have you appearing on her next episode!)

The Tonight Live show starts at 6PM SLT on this Sunday, 30 August. Yes, it will be recorded, but there’s nothing better than watching live in the audience, and you can do so by teleporting to Paisley's Northpoint Studio.

I hope to see you there!

1000 Days

Sunday, August 23, 2009 Sunday, August 23, 2009

It is hard for me to believe, but I am 1000 days old today! My virtual existence has so permeated my life I cannot believe it can be measured in mere days; centuries are more what it feels like, as the fast paced activities in Second Life make events seem they occurred a very long time ago.

The main thing to consider is that I survived. Most people, probably greater than 90%, never make it this far. I am pretty certain on a wall in Linden Lab there’s a chart that goes something like this:  

The bluey areas represent the mass of people that survive each state. Going from left to right:

  • The Second Life website has piles of visitors, but only a few actually bother to register
  • Of those who register, only a small percentage login to the grid, create an avatar and survive the dreaded orientation without giving up
  • After orientation, avatars are unceremoniously dumped into typically hostile “welcome areas” where they are immediately beset upon by louts of various species. Many give up at this point
  • Emerging from the welcome area usually occurs when avatars find something useful and fun to do, like socializing, running a business, displaying their art, furthering a cause or playing a game. Those who don’t find something to do usually fade away

If you’ve made it all the way through those stages, congratulations! You’re one of the very, very few. And the most talented, too, because that seems to be a prerequisite for traversing all those stages.

My chart’s figures are only a guess, as we’ve seen only hints at these statistics from the Lab. But I imagine the shape of the curve is something like this. It may even be a lot thinner at the right-hand edge.

We now can also understand why the Lab spends time on the website, registration and orientation process - because if those stages are even slightly more successful, the latter stages will be flooded with many, many more avatars. And that’s just good business.

The Impossible Touch

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Second Life Community Convention of 2009 has now concluded, and I’ve returned back to my normal existence, if it can be described as normal. My sluggish posting habits mean the details of the convention have already been reported elsewhere, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about anyway. Instead I want to describe the feelings and emotions that so strongly permeate SLCC.

Certainly there were some issues, but aside from the intermittent WiFi, cardboardish box lunches and the terribly confusing session schedule, my experience was identical to 2008; magic things happened constantly that made me and everyone else smile.

Some of those smiling moments can be seen in my photostream and others, but there were many, and here are some of them:
  • That profoundly special moment when you first lay eyes on a stranger, someone whose face is completely new, never seen before; whereupon you suddenly realize it is the atomic version of a very dear friend you’ve spent many hours with in-world. Handshakes, hugs commence, and frequently screaming, too. But mostly hugs, and very long and intense ones at that.
  • Chatting with the talented and the successful, be they well known like Anshe Chung, Hamlet Au, Beyers Sellers or those I’d not heard of previously like Zinnia Zauber or Elizabeth Zeno. And how could I forget a memorable midnight dinner with Paisley Beebe and Yxes Delacroix!
  • Meeting the amazing Ms. Bettina Tizzy, who reluctantly attended SLCC for the first time only after massive arm-twisting. But during the event she came to realize how powerful and important it is to be physically with other avatars and bravely admitted so in front of the crowd. I think this event won’t be the last time we will see her.
  • At the musician’s ball, when Mariis Mills leaned over, and with wide blue eyes, she whispered into my ear, “Armi, I have only a small blog. But my blogroll has your blog in it. And his (points at Dusan Writer sitting beside me) and hers (points at Bettina on the other side of the table) and his (points at Crap Mariner beside Bettina) and his (points at Hamlet Au standing nearby)”. Although Mariis didn’t mention them, Anshe Chung and Metanomics’ Beyers Sellers also sat at our table, with Paisley Beebe standing near. It was awesomely surreal.
  • The amazing talent that exuded through every pore of the convention, be it Cylindrian Rutabaga singing in the lobby, Eshi Otawara whipping up Swan sketches in seconds, Jopsy Pendragon flying miniature virtual Sopwith Camels, Filthy Fluno continuously arting for hours, Ina Centaur’s brilliant observations, Persephone Phoenix describing Slam Poetry at 4AM or Dirk McKeenan composing lyrics on a napkin at a street cafe. How talented? Those talents were not limited to their normal skills - who knew Eshi and Beyers were tremendous singers?
  • Attending the astonishing Virtual Relationships session, attended by the most varied combination of people I’d seen in any of the sessions. The courageous presenter, Pamala Clift, deftly drove through a series of highly embarrassing topics that would challenge even the most seasoned public speakers, while audience members told tales of woe that shook everyone.
  • The laughter that accompanied everyone, everywhere (although especially near Bevan Whitfield and Sloan Skjellerup for some reason). I didn’t really notice until a gang of us were waiting for a table in the lobby of a very posh Italian restaurant, where we laughed, sat on each other, fell down, giggled and talked loudly of matters incomprehensible to non-SL’rs. I observed nearby staid restaurant patrons staring at our strangely dressed hysterical party and realized the strength of the emotions carried with us, as if a bubble of fun and fraternity surrounded us.
  • Talented though everyone was, no one can know everything. The spirit of the community meant that help was being dished out in every direction by everyone. Tips, demonstrations, fixes and instructions flowed constantly. In fact, during Hamlet’s SL Blogging Panel session, on which I participated, we helped questioners with some difficult blogging situations. Helping makes me smile, too.
  • The ebb and flow of people in the hotel lobby represented the respiration of the convention. Whether at high noon or 4AM, the lobby always had a group of avatars discussing, pondering, playing and especially laughing. As I left the hotel on the last day, the lobby was empty, confirming that the convention had truly concluded.
  • The mixed reality Musician’s Ball, where a live video/audio feed was piped in-world to Molaskey’s Pub for home-based avatars to enjoy. The in-world participants could see us; we could see the in-world avatars. And their local chat too.
But something strange happened. Many people present in the auditorium could not take their eyes off the local chat as it was displayed on the big screen. I stared too. Why, I asked myself, would we do that? It was as if we atomics wanted to reach out to those in-world.

And that’s when it really hit me; what this thing is really all about. Why emotions run so incredibly strong.

It’s about touching.
We spend time in-world with others, working, helping and interacting. So much time that for many of us, we become terribly close. But there’s a barrier, that being distance. Sure, we can “see” the other avatars, but we can’t smell them. We can’t see their body language, and sometimes we can’t even hear them. And we certainly can’t touch them.

But when the avatar is standing right in front of you, bridging that impossibly wide digital gap is as easy as reaching out with your hands. And so we did it, over and over again. We did it with handshakes, arm touches, kisses and especially hugs. Men and women, women and women and even men and men. Hugs so long and tight they were the most intense experience. The touch, always the touch, as if it would never occur again.

For a brief moment the impossible touch became possible in real life, and I’ll cherish that forever. 

SLiding Into San Francisco!

Monday, August 10, 2009 Monday, August 10, 2009

Last year was the first time I’d ever attended SLCC (the Second Life Community Convention), and in fact was the first time I met avatars in real life. It was shocking, exhausting, enlightening and endlessly fascinating. I gained many friends who’ve stayed with me ever since, and strengthened many existing virtual friendships.

Yes, I’m going again to SLCC 2009, this time located within the short-range proximity sensors of Linden Lab itself in the heart of San Francisco. I’m expecting the same kind of fun and amazement, with all the incredibly talented folks in attendance.

This year I go with a bit more knowledge of how such a convention works, and even have some friends going, too. Well, at least fifty, according to my list.

I know that some of you wanted to go too, but for financial or other reasons, were unable to make it. I wish you were there too. However, I’ll do my best to tweet/plurk during the event, and most likely will have an extensive writeup afterward.

Just don’t expect me to live-plurk Philip’s entire keynote from my iPhone like I did last year. My fingers never recovered.

Come to think about it, there were quite a few highly amusing plurks, all of which actually happened in real life. Hopefully no one gets arrested this year.

If there's someone attending you'd like me to say hello to, drop a comment here!

A Fleshy Encounter

Saturday, August 1, 2009 Saturday, August 01, 2009

Many avatars remain just that; virtual people who communicate with other virtuals. Some reveal clues about their atomic identity, while others remain entirely hidden behind an identity firewall.

Sometimes that firewall can be breached, if one takes a chance. I first did so at last year’s SLCC in Tampa, where I actually met many atomics. Strangely, it turns out many of them do not actually resemble their avatar’s appearance.

Taking that big step across the virtual to atomic void can be filled with emotion. Fear, anxiety, happiness and curiosity are only some of the feelings that occur. But it’s always exhilarating.

I recently had the opportunity to do it again. This time I happened to be in London, UK, where I took a chance and asked my long time friend, blogger and artist Vint Falken if she wished to get together. She agreed!

Then there was the usual awkward first moment, when you think you recognize the other atomic and approach them. After all the online time, the blog posts, tweeting and plurking, the comments back and forth and projects we’ve done, we were finally together.

She doesn’t look like her avatar, either.

After a wonderful dinner we landed in Trafalgar Square watching zany amateur performance art. Soon we ended up talking with a photographer, who seemed interested in us. And that’s when things got weird.

Photographer: “So what do you guys do?”

Vint and I looked at each other and chuckled. How could we possibly explain our strange and unknowable virtual life to someone who's never heard of virtual reality? We tried our best, and I think we managed to convey some sense of the magic we all experience in a world that can be anything.

Photographer: “And what are your names?”

More chuckling. I was in “avatar mode”, and had to explain that we don’t have real names, or something like that. And also that in fact this was the first time we had met in real life.

Photographer: “This is the first time you’ve met?”

Us: “Yes!”

Photographer: “I hope it works out for you both!”


Virtual worlds still have a very long way to go, it seems.

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