Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happy 2nd Birthday, NPIRL!

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

This Saturday, July 4th, after hundreds and hundreds of in-world notices, 700 blogposts (this is the 701st), and thousands of happy hours celebrating great content that would not be possible in Real Life, we will mark the passing of our second year in the metaverse.

If you consider that each human day is the equivalent of 8 days in Second Life® and OpenSim, that would make NPIRL 16 years old. So either we are entering our terrible twos or we are sweet 16.

This photo by Sugarbloom Cupcakes

So here's a great big thank you to all the passionate and dedicated members of the incredible Not Possible IRL and Impossible IRL groups who made all this... err... possible! We couldn't have done it without you.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Keystone Bouchard, building community with prims

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

If I were to commission the design of a building - whether commercial or residential - I would vastly prefer the opportunity to walk in and around it before brick and mortar were employed, over looking at CAD animations and illustrations, a flat screen, or even a 3D printout. Wouldn't you? It is such an inexpensive step and so basic to our senses (including common sense!). Using virtual worlds to bring blueprints to life is not only possible but a daily reality in Second Life®.

To me, it looks like the body of an acoustic guitar, or maybe a key hole, or perhaps it is a musical note. When I met with him just hours before the Metanomics studio he had created was about to have its public debut, I completely forgot to ask Keystone Bouchard (aka Jon Brouchoud) if he had implemented Feng Shui techniques in the design. My guess is that he did, whether he is aware of it or not. The thing just flows.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or are very new to Second Life, then you know that the secret sauce over at Metanomics - the talk show that explores the serious uses of virtual worlds – is its community of suits and geeks who are there to mobilize mostly biz and tech ideas through conversation, together with the occasional sprinkling of left brainers, a smattering of educators and hard-core scientists, and a dash of memes. It’s a hale and hearty concoction.

Le Corbusier defined architecture as the “magnificent play of volumes brought together under light”

Keystone and I had been chatting for well over an hour, with just one interruption (he had to step away from the computer to say goodbye to his grandmother who was visiting his Real Life home – a real family man!), when it occurred to him to share with me that he’d been notified minutes before our meeting that his Studio Wikitecture, which he co-founded along with Theory Shaw (aka Ryan Schultz), had just won the Linden Prize: $10,000 USD for developing an “innovative in-world project that improves the way people work, learn and communicate in their daily lives outside of the virtual world.” And that should give you an inkling of the kind of fellow we’re talking about here.

Fast facts about Keystone Bouchard

  • Architect, urban planner and artist; Master of Architecture, School of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.Co-founder of Crescendo Design, a residential design studio located in Madison, Wisconsin (Real Life)
  • Creator of Autodesk Island, the virtual U.S. House of Representatives, Linden Lab’s Virtual Headquarters, a build-out for a TED conference event, and many other edifices and islands. (Second Life)
  • Co-founder of Studio Wikitecture, an open group composed of a diverse range of individuals from varying disciplines, interested in exploring the application of an open-source paradigm to the design and production of both real and virtual architecture and urban planning. (Virtual worlds)

Early Keystone Bouchard video, dating back to January 2007
  • Founder of the ARCH Network, a community resource for architecture and virtual worlds, including consultation, training, virtual design, BIM/CAD model import, and hosted Virtual Project Spaces.
  • He created the Reflexive Architecture installation, where I first discovered and fell head over heels for virtual architecture.

This photo by Keystone Bouchard

Keystone began the design process for the Metanomics building in February, and it had its unveiling on May 6, 2009. Here is the transcript of our conversation just before the opening.

Would you say that this was the most complex project you've taken on?

Keystone Bouchard: It wasn't terribly complicated from a functional perspective, since the intended use of the space was very clear. As far as complexity, I would say the Linden Lab HQ 4-sim project I worked on in 2007 while I was working with Clear Ink was quite a bit more so - given the magnitude of different program elements it had to accommodate, and the functional goals were much more difficult to quantify.

The biggest difference, I think, was in openness. The Linden Lab headquarters had to remain confidential, and it was harder to gain access or feedback from most of the people who would actually be using it, whereas with Metanomics, I was able to more fully engage the community of people who will actually end up using this space. Everyone was invited to stop by at any time and provide feedback. I think the incorporation of that feedback ended up making it a much stronger design than I could have come up with on my own

Who was on the Metanomics team to create this space?

Keystone Bouchard: Discord Schism, Metaverse Engineer, and Dusan Writer were the main collaborators. I was responsible for conceptual design, Dusan designed the set, Metaverse Engineer did all of the landscaping and various detail elements, and Discord Schism built out the event partner hub and other detail elements. Joel Savard was the Project Manager. I also did 99% of the construction on the main building shell and most of the texturing.

What was the plan?

Keystone Bouchard: My brief was to provide an event space for Metanomics that would span 2 regions - the set on one (to help resolve lag issues), and audience on the other, and also to provide space to display additional content - material from past shows - and design for the site to scale over time, with additional buildings to be added later. My goal was to design something that everyone could feel comfortable with, and to invite community wide feedback throughout the design process. We had regular community forums, where we solicited feedback, and presented the design's progress.

One of the things I observed before starting this project was that Metanomics can be as much about the back-chat as it is about the show itself. So many people expressing so many different ideas and opinions, yet, they're all coming together at that moment - around this show. I wanted to design something that was a visual metaphor for the coming together of ideas – the coming together of the community - so, the early conceptual designs were very literal. There were lots of building pieces coming together from all different angles - to create the auditorium.

In the final manifestation, that visual metaphor was represented with structural columns, while earlier on it had been more literal. It became a much more subtle expression, as though there are many individual pieces that are working together. None of them could visually support the structure alone.

How was this experience different from designing in Real Life, other than taking backchats into consideration (although nowadays twitter IS the equivalent of backchat in Real Life)?

Keystone Bouchard: It was much easier to express the idea here. In Real Life - conveying a design is a very abstract experience. You're sharing 2D plans, or sketches, and trying to imagine what it will look like - and trying to help the client imagine what it will be like, so, you're always trying to build a portal into that dimension - and show them that world - like from the outside looking in.

That’s similar to how it went down for DB Bailey (aka David Denton, AIA, in Real Life) and his Egyptian client recently. Once the client saw it in Second Life, it was something palpable. He could walk around it. He had a sense of perspective. In Real Life, the best you can do is create an illustration - which is static - and it is only one view. Animations (via CAD) get closer, but they're time consuming and expensive and still very prescriptive. The viewer has no control, and creating that illustration is an 'event.'

So how does the experience compare directly with CAD?

Keystone Bouchard: You decide, at some moment in time, to take a look at what the design will actually look like; whereas here, it’s always there… constantly. You're always in real-time 3D. There's never a moment when you have to stop and say, “Ok, let’s look at it in 3D.” It’s always 3D.

How often do those moments come up in a Real Life situation?

Keystone Bouchard: That's the other part of it. The client only gets to see your progress at bi-weekly meetings. Here, the client can make an appearance at any given moment. And that is just the design process. Some designers might consider that unnerving - but I find it to be invaluable. I like sharing the burden! If I'm stuck on something, I love being able to bounce ideas off of people. It becomes much more efficient because I’m not working in some direction for two weeks and then showing it to the client.

At what point in the design process did you introduce the stretched canvas texture? Did you originally think in terms of canvas? I'm reminded of Franklin Lloyd Wright and also Paul Klee. It seems organic, like a skin.

Keystone Bouchard: Yes, I've always been a fan of the idea of translucent marble that is cut so thin that light can permeate. It is possible to do in real life, but incredibly expensive. The idea with the outer shell was for it to be 'skinnable.' This is just one possible solution, but I hope in the future that it can be re-skinned with other textures: perhaps dynamic, maybe reflexive, or maybe (it) changes color based on concurrency or the mood of the community - like a visual display.

Or seasonal?

Keystone Bouchard: Yes, maybe something about the upcoming show; maybe competitions to design the best skin. Whatever the result, the goal was to make it very flexible.

What was the stickiest point?

Keystone Bouchard: Scale. It is still a challenge. I think the seats are too far away from the set, for example, because I wanted it to feel intimate, yet, it has to accommodate a large and growing audience.

Is that for purposes of the studio cameras? What percentage of the design discussions took the camera into account?

Keystone Bouchard: Camera had a lot to do with it. I was told 'no alpha' early on. I designed an inner shell where the camera is, for the lion's share of the show - with no alpha - so I could get away with having an alpha outer shell.

The spiraling swirls above the building...

Keystone Bouchard: NPIRL ;-) (Not Possible IRL). At one point, the idea was for the build to start very “Real Life” at the base - where it meets the ground - as though there were already this kind of historical archeology - and building over the top of that as it rises in the Z-axis, it becomes increasingly NPRIL. The idea of NPRIL came up dozens of times in design iterations. At one point, I was talking to Scope Cleaver (another virtual architect) about this. I pinged him often during the course of design development, and he said, “Wouldn't it be cool if the building were actually rising up out of the ground - as though the community were a kind of current - and this building was picking up on that, and crystallizing around it?” A brilliant idea, but as I thought about it, it’s more like something that zips around and orbits.

Later in the conversation I learned of Studio Wikitecture's Linden Prize win, and of course, I had to ask about it.

Keystone Bouchard: When we first started brainstorming the idea of applying principles of open source, and Wikipedia-style collaboration to architecture and the built environment, we knew that Second Life was exactly what we needed to make this work. The ability to customize and program elements within this platform was huge. We were able to build the Wiki-tree here, using this platform, and do lots of unique things with it, like being able to tie it in with a website. The diversity and size of the community is requisite in collaboration like this. Also, prims - believe it or not, prims! - are an important part of why Wikitecture works in Second Life. They're granular, so individual parts of the design can be modified, and the building tools are easy to learn.

That's why Second Life became a platform for experimenting with an augmented form of architectural collaboration that I sincerely believe could be an improved design methodology - and a more effective means of harnessing the collective wisdom of communities - the people who actually use architecture and the built environment. Buildings are just too big, and too complicated for a single firm or individual to fully comprehend and, ultimately, the urban fabric is a lot like one vast operating system upon which we run our lives. Linux was developed by many, many people - maybe architecture can be, too.

How radical is this thinking in the architectural community today?

Keystone Bouchard: O'Reilly called it 'Radical Collaboration' - so - I guess it is radical.

There is no other platform that offers this combination of features - the simple building tools, the immersive, realtime, multi-user experience - the ability to program a technology plug-in into it - and more - because of the fact that this combination doesn't really exist in other software applications. There isn't anything quite like it.

About a year ago... at least that is how I recall it... you seemed to be going through a period of real disenchantment with Second Life and virtual worlds. I felt as though you were... disengaging. Is this true and what happened that changed that?

Keystone Bouchard: When I started using Second Life, I was most impressed by what I assumed it was 'about to become' - not necessarily for what it was. I saw it as a tool. A platform. I knew an environment like this could be powerful in architectural and AEC practice, and I couldn't wait until X, Y and Z feature were implemented. I kept saying, “Imagine what this will be like in a few years!” After two years, it started to feel like nothing had changed and nothing was really getting any better, but that's when a kind of transition occurred and I started to think of it more like a place than a tool. It was then when I began to appreciate it for what it is - not for what I hope it will someday be. I think the fact that it has this 'real life' association - the land, the sky, the human avatars - is why we get disappointed with it when it isn't Real Life. We're comparing it with the physical world, when it really is a place, a context, and an environment all its own.

You can teleport to the Metanomics building directly from here.

See also:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Poetic steampunk flight, by a Victorian Japanese

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

Japanese steampunk creator Yooma Mayo is probably best known for his whimsical bicycles and the delightful steam-powered monorail that transports you from the ground up to his cliff-perched shop in Second Life®, YGD.

Bryn Oh zipped up the monorail on a recent visit with me

In Real Life, Yooma likes to fly kites - the dual-line kind - so when he learned of human aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal's glider, he determined that he had to make his own. Virtually. The irony is that Yooma is afraid of heights but joined Second Life because, "I wanted to talk with people from other countries, use "build tools," and fly in the sky."

Lilienthal (1848-1886) in flight

The resulting virtual Courant d'Air glider is a thing of beauty and heaps of fun to use and fly.

Both photos by Katati Noel, for whom Yooma created a "special edition."

You can visit his YGD shop by teleporting directly from here to Winterfell Anodine, a Caledonian sim where, according to Yooma, "The street and the scenery there seen from the sky are beautiful. When I looked for the land for my new shop, I knew that it was the place. Now, I have built my first shop in a "foreign country."

Special thanks to Yooma's friend, Katati Noel, for alerting us to this and for the use of her photos.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Second Life, online adult games to be banned outright in Australia" - ???

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

JUNE 26 UPDATE: Two posts that are must-reads on this topic:
- Tateru Nino's blogpost "Could Australia be barred from Second Life access?" She continues: "Darn straight they could."
- Lowell Cremorne's "Open Letter on virtual worlds for Senator Conroy"


With his blogpost "Australia to ban Second Life?" Dusan Writer brought my attention to an article in today's Inquisitr "Confirmed: Second Life, online adult games to be banned outright in Australia," and yet another in today's Sydney Morning Herald: "Web filters to censor video games" that outline the Australian Federal government's intent to "block websites hosting and selling video games that are not suitable for 15 year olds."

What might this mean to Second Life® users from Australia? How might they be affected? Would we lose many of the best artists, writers and creators on the Second Life grid: Adam Ramona, Gary Hazlitt, Glyph Graves, Nonnatus Korhonen, Paisley Beebe, Tateru Nino, the entire crew from TREET.TV, the ABC islands, the Pond islands, among many, many others?

On Artists and their Patrons: An SL6B discussion to help shape the future of the Arts

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

On June 1, the New Media Consortium's (NMC) CEO Larry Pixel (aka Dr. Larry F. Johnson) guest blogged here on a topic that has sparked a vibrant dialogue: On Artists and their Patrons: Nurturing Support for the Arts in Second Life®.

The arts in Second Life may be blossoming, but the level of sophistication in terms of sponsorship, promotion and funding still lags far behind Real Life. Also of much concern: lands that were previously available, and amply so, are drying up.

What do our artists and their patrons need to do to get up to speed? How can we encourage more of Second Life's residents to step up and provide meaningful support to the arts?

Please join us tomorrow for a critically important panel presentation to discuss how we can foster and shape the future of arts in Second Life... and begin to put them on par with their Real Life counterparts.

ON ARTISTS AND THEIR PATRONS, Nurturing Support for the Arts in Second Life

WHEN: Friday, June 26, 2009 at 7pm SLT - (60 minutes)
WHERE: NMC's Cooper Coliseum (teleport directly from here)

The session will be conducted in Second Life voice.


* Alexandar Vargas (multi-sim arts patron, including Welsh Lakes, artist)
* DanCoyote Antonelli (aka DC Spensley, artist)
* Douglas Story (artist)
* Mondray Chandler (RL Museum)
* Nur Mo (founder/owner of Poetik Velvets; patron)

Chair: Bettina Tizzy


* To inspire more land owners to provide significant land and other means of support to artists.
* To compare and contrast funding/support methods in Real Life versus Second Life. This level of sophistication and understanding has to begin with us.
* To encourage artists and their patrons to discuss expectations at the onset.
* To come up with a tool set, sort of a Chinese menu, that is mutually beneficial to both parties.

Many thanks to Larry Pixel for bringing attention to this important issue and to the NMC for their support and the use of their venue.

I was at the Hair Fair...

Posted by Alpha Auer... :-\

Like most other females on the grid, all year long I live in joyous anticipation of the annual Second Life® Hair Fair. I am also experienced enough to know to detach every single prim on my body before I venture forth. Same this year. And not only did I divest myself of every attachment that I had but I also took Laynie Link's hair fair tips on avoiding lag at the location posted on the dedicated Hair Fair 2009 blog to heart and reduced all of my Graphics settings as well.

None of it helped. This was quite simply the laggiest Second Life experience that I think I have ever had. After arriving and realizing just how horriifyingly stuck I was, I also disabled all the render types from the advanced menu. All that I could, including rendering the sky! So, there I was painfully groping for prims to which I was getting stuck, completely unable to move, surrounded by a largely gray landscape which when it eventually materialized I was seeing with no shaders, no volume, under a pitch black sky. Granted I did manage to get about with the usage of the red locomotion boxes provided by the organizers but why would I even have wanted to move given that hardly any shop contents rezzed themselves? Nonetheless, I tried, I really did. I have lost count over how many times I crashed, but I was determined enough to log back in every time - until I eventually gave up...

I ran into several acquaintances while I was out there. Chatter was pretty much impossible due to lag but I did contact them subsequently to ask them how it had been for them. The answer was unanimous: Worst lag experience in Second Life to date.

I am writing this because I think I may have identified one of the reasons of the problem and maybe my two cents worth of input might help the builders of these very large scale locations which attract vast crowds of visitors, should they stumble upon this post: I believe the lag at the hair fair this year was due to an over abundant usage of sculpted prims. As I said, it was too laggy for me to be able to inspect the prims, the information as to who their creators were simply did not rezz, so I have absolutely no idea who the designers and builders of the 4 sims are. I am in no position to comment on their output either, given that I really did not "see" it. All I saw was a specter of a landscape devoid of all shading and volume. But I did manage to identify the presence of hundreds if not indeed thousands of sculpty prims through their highlighted contours when I right-clicked on the structures that they were embedded into.

I realize of course, that many of these sculpted prims were used repeatedly and that it can be argued that once one sculpted texture rezzes all of them will have done so. But, as far as I could tell, there were still enough individual shapes present to seriously undermine the overall rendering process. And also, even though in theory it holds true that once one texture is rezzed all identical textures in your location will also have done so, for some bizarre reason, in practice I find that this is not necessarily always the case.

All in all, I am wondering why far more minimalistic design strategies do not get implemented at locations where the primary objective is providing an easy access to the goods displayed therein. An excellent example of such a location are the Hairspray sims (as it turns out a particularly appropriate example in this case, given that our primary area of discussion here is in fact hair ;-). These sims are the epitomy of the maxim "form follows function", the function here being the showcasing of "hair" with no further obstructions from the surrounding environment. Indeed I would suggest that their huge success as a design system and their ultimate beauty lies in their designer Damien Fate's having diligently followed this very fundamental design tenet first coined by the great architect Louis Sullivan.

So, my dear friends, I did not really get to see the hair fair at all this year. From the isolated few stands, the contents of which I actually did manage to rezz (and where what I saw captured my attention), I have obtained landmarks and will be visiting their main stores in due course.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Impossible Made Possible - A Panel on the Future of Architecture

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

Most Real Life architects who join Second Life® do so because they are seeking a new tool. In the beginning, there is much confusion as they acquaint themselves with the interface and become a part of one or more communities.

And then they begin to build recreations of Real Life buildings.

And then...

This Friday and on the occasion of Second Life's sixth birthday, hear the stories of seasoned Real Life architects who arrived in the metaverse to explore the possibilities and discovered that their path was not at all what they expected to be. Walk through a visual history of their trajectory, as they explain how one thing lead to another, culminating with them learning that the impossible is possible in virtual worlds. Cut short your own learning curve and advance your understanding of how virtual architecture can - and already is - richly benefiting Real Life architecture.

Event chair DB Bailey landed an important commercial contract thanks to his work in virtual worlds. Seen here in front of a building he created in Second Life for Stanford University

WHEN: Friday, June 26, 2009, 10am SLT - 90 minutes
WHERE: Cetus Gallery District, teleport directly from here


* DB Bailey (aka David Denton), Architect, urban planner and artist, event chair
* Keystone Bouchard (aka Jon Brouchoud), Architect, urban planner and artist
* Lou Tones, multi-media producer and founder of Green Islands
* Bettina Tizzy - Introduction from the founder of the Not Possible IRL group

DB Bailey is designing a Real Life project (for Cairo, Egypt) in Second Life. He will be giving a tour of the commercial building and discussing the meaningfulness of this venue for architectural design in the future.

DB Bailey and Keystone Bouchard have both gone full circle in Second Life, starting off in Second Life by recreating Real Life architecture as do most when first starting to build virtually. Then they both discovered the truest potential of this technology: to produce environments they would never have conceived in Real Life.

Multi-award winner and the creator of Reflexive Architecture, Keystone Bouchard has benefited Real Life with his virtual work in ways he never could have imagined

DB, Keystone and Lou Tones are all seeing the wall between the two worlds disappear as Second Life becomes more of a tool - but not how they originally expected it to be - in their Real Life work.

Lou has been observing for many years the evolution of the virtual world. He will discuss the ecological advantages of Second Life and the importance of Real Life buildings designed in Second Life.

Feel free to contact Bettina Tizzy should you have any questions. Please be punctual as the presentation will get underway at precisely 10am SLT/PDT.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grendel's Children and Avaria featured in new Nitwacket machinima + A chat with Flea Bussy

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

Perched high in the sky over the four Avaria sims in Second Life® is a place that holds as much magic as the virtual constellations that surround it, for within the Grendel's Children store are the seeds of imagination and playtime where grownups go to shrug off the stress of their daily real lives and explore other parts of themselves. This, the largest emporium in virtual worlds for non-human avatars, is the land of pretend... turbo-charged.

Flea Bussy, the founder and lead creator of this empire, didn't set out to provide tens of thousands of people with therapeutic tools, but I can personally attest to their power. To put it in purely quantitative terms, I must own over 200 avatars from Grendels (not including color variations) and I've worn every single one more than once.

It's been nearly 18 months since I last did a serious post on Grendel's, and Pyewacket Bellman's latest machinima - gorgeous! - featuring Avaria and several of their newest avatars prompted me to touch base with Flea.

I thought I'd kick it off by asking him to update me on some of the fast facts I published back then. His responses in italics:


* Rez day: 6/29/2006
* Flea is only 22 years old!
I'm now 20 years old! Wait, no, that's not right, how do we do this again?
* Works an average of 20 hours a day, 7 days a week
Works 25 hours a day, sleep was given up in the 24th hour! 365, all year!
* Was kicked out of art class
* First store opened on September 1, 2006
* Grendel's Children has produced more than 800 avatars
Grendel's has made way too many avatars to count. It hurts my little brain! [Note from Bettina: Many, many hundreds more]
* Average price per avatar: $150L to $250L, with many freebies available
Average price per avatar: $1L to $150L, with many , many, many freebies available

Favorite recent creations?

Flea: Does my staff count?

You and several members of your staff collaborated in-world while in Skype conference back then. Are you still doing this?

Flea: Oh, depends if we have to have little meetings on new ideas or such. Otherwise it's just normally us typing in the box actually. [Bettina: Working in Maya, plus Skype, plus the SL client is a formula for lag.]

How has the environment changed for avatar creators in the past year? Copybotting, more advanced sculpty work, a stabler grid, etc.

Flea: We wouldn't know, we kinda just stay in Avaria. I'd assume that those things like a stabler grid might exist, but, only in stories n song, you know, mythological stuff! We've never noticed anyone bothering to copybot what is almost all free here anyway. It's probably more work to copybot our stuff then just get like, $5L and buy it.

Avaria & Grendel's Children from Nitwacket Machinima™ on Vimeo.

The Avaria sims, were rebuilt in just 5 days and are now unified by a single river cutting through sandstone canyons and lined with hardwood forests and surrounded by drier pine uplands.

Terraforming: Flea Bussy, Ryan Snook, Psyra Extraordinare, Sanje Batra, Constant Riel, and Toady Nakamura

Rocks, sculpts, caves, tree and plant creation: Flea Bussy, Ryan Snook, Sanje Batra, RaptonX Zorger, Merlin Falworth and Toady Nakamura.

Prim installation: Flea Bussy, Ryan Snook, RaptonX Zorger, Sanje Batra, Psyra Extraordinare, Constantine Riel, Merlin Falworth and Toady Nakamura.

Village: Flea Bussy, Ryan Snook

Scripting - Craft System: Flea Bussy
Scripting - Drakelets: Piper Zuhal
Scripting - Geysers, sun dial, sound prims, rockfalls: Toady Nakamura
Waterfall and statuary particles; water and motion - Flea Bussy

Teleport to Grendel's Children directly from here, and don't forget to explore the Avaria sims below.

See also:

* Flea Bussy's empire: Grendel's Children, one wacky avatar at a time...

* Climbing walls, sky dancing (in HD!), and weightless sex/showers - Part IV in our Gravity in Virtual Worlds series

* Flea Bussy - Makin' stuff for the love of orks 'n goblins

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mescaline Tammas' sunglasses for Second Life

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

I've been shouting from the roof tops in Second Life® for at least a month now about Mescaline Tammas' set of delicate, dusty and seriously elegant Windlight presets. If you enjoy photography or just wandering around in a haze of beauty, these are a must. I was astonished just now to discover that his post on Flickr (with links and instructions to download and install them) has only had 783 views.

Ah well. I guess I'll have to keep one of Second Life's best secrets to myself.

Windlight makes it possible for you to adjust and customize sky, water and atmospheric lighting effects in-world, so while the person next to you may be seeing everything from a nighttime lens, you can be enjoying your world in the comfy haze of London's dawn, or within a dusty Western patina.

Oh, I know this has nothing to do with Second Life, but just look at this animated film clip Mescaline created. Talent, eh?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pay the Second Life (builder, DJ, performer, scripter, artist)... or not?

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

There are all kinds of virtual creators and performers in Second Life®: the freebie/Open Source advocates, the folks who produce industrial quantities of things and then sell them low, the artists who make one-of-a-kind pieces and sell them - if you ask nicely - for hundreds of dollars, and still others who toil away like the Dickens to raise $Lindens for non-profit efforts. I personally know several dozen creators who pay their rents and mortgages, and the dog's vaccinations from money they've earned working in Second Life. It's a mixed bag out there, and the discussions as to whether people should make money from their virtual work rages on.

I recall how you could almost see creator Arcadia Asylum go blue in the face when the topic of selling virtual goods came up. She has since left the grid, but many of her fellow Hobos still strongly agree with her. Her profile read, "If you payed (sic) for anything made by me, even for L$1, you were SCAMMED!!!" Every single object she made was full perm, and most are available still thanks to people behind the Arcadia Asylum museum (teleport directly from here).

The economic outlook for most these days is uncomfortably tight, and given that residents of Second Life spend so much time creating or performing in-world, it seems natural that they would look to supplement their incomes there, right?

As people go, writer Harlan Ellison is a rowdy, controversial, quick-witted but nevertheless highly admired character. I met him once at a conference, and I can tell you that the standing-room-only attendees were spellbound. He managed to insult most of us in some way during the presentation, but had trouble leaving the room afterwards because so many wanted to shake his hand.

One builder who shared this video with me wondered out loud what Ellison would have to say about content creators in Second Life and how they deal with the constant requests for land/art/scripts, etc. Perhaps... "So you want to use my sims and prims for your money making venture?" Why does everyone think they are doing you a favor? Is there a culture of entitlement going on here?

This is a segment from the documentary on Harlan Ellison called Dreams with Sharp Teeth

evets Igaly - R.I.P.

We received some sad news via Earth Primbee, co-owner and creator of Inspire Park. He just learned that his virtual friend, Second Life® resident evets Igaly (rez: 4/12/2007) died of a heart attack a few days ago.

evets loved to create particle shows. "His performance to the music was right on. Dancing to the music with ethereal lights he drew us deeper into the sounds. He didn't make all his particles, but he used all of them so well," said Earth.

In tribute, Earth created this video and wrote:

This beloved man, friend and artist was one of the stars of an online music and visual event. His work was as dear to us as he was and I dedicate this video to his time on the surface of Planet Earth.

The beautiful song in this video is "Butterflies and Fairytales" by Galaxy Girl. She graciously granted permission for me to include it with this work.

To me, the combination captures the spirit of evets's love for his art, his friends, and our love for him. Many of us only knew him through Second Life, but that was enough to know his soul.

Earth created a dedicated Flickr group for friends to add all photos related to evets.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New viewer for the Second Life power user, by INSILICO's Skills Hak

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

June 28 Update: I've just concluded a meeting with the creators of the Emerald, the GreenLife Emerald and the Gemini viewers and will be doing a new blogpost later this week listing features and benefits of each one. All of the creators of these three viewers have published their source code and have pledged that their viewers are clean and malware free. As always, it behooves the end user to exercise caution and download extra-official viewers directly from the creators and not from mirror sites. I'll be providing specific URLs, as well. Many thanks to Dirk Talamasca and Beezle Warburton who counseled me before and during the meeting.

She's a masterly creator with unparalleled taste. She's spawned an epic kingdom of a city, with towering edifices, buzzing drones, and dark hideaways. Her avatars are monstrously good. She's a businesswoman, and her virtual megacorp of apartment dwellings and shops thrives. In fact, is there anything INSILICO's creator can't do?

Now Skills Hak has created a viewer for Second Life® that's getting rave reviews from the most demanding members of Not Possible IRL. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Things tend to happen in batches, don't they? On Tuesday this week I shared the news about the Open Source Meerkat Viewer by Pleiades Consulting and the Open Metaverse Foundation with Not Possible IRLers. The Meerkat makes it intelligently possible to move content (objects, selected geometry and textures that you have created) from Second Life to OpenSims.

Not an hour had elapsed when the King of Glow, Spiral Walcher, pinged me to share his excitement over the Open Source GreenLife Emerald Viewer and its numerous features that are heavily advantageous to builders.

I hadn't even finished that conversation with Spiral, when Skills Hak's IM came in. She had just put the finishing touches on V5 of a viewer of her own... the Gemini. Two days have elapsed since we've been playing with it and the praise just keeps rolling in.

Click to see large

When I asked Skills if the Gemini is useful to non-builders, she replied, "I wouldn't say it's a client for builders. It is more for Second Life's power users... for people who know the Linden Lab viewer already and are asking for more."

Skills was quick to point out that she's not really a programmer and that this has been her first C++ project. She also stressed that she can't give much support for the Viewer since she's busy with all her other projects, so go easy on her, guys.

Click to see large

What about the Emerald Viewer appealed to you that you used it as the foundation for Gemini?

Skills: I wanted to to have a *clean* version of the Emerald Viewer, so I compiled it myself. I am also very snoopy and need to take everything apart to understand how it works. This is basically what happened during the last month.

Emerald is a stable, balanced viewer with a lot of useful features, so I "borrowed" a lot from there. Credits for many features go to the Emerald team, Chalice Yao, Zwagoth Klaar and to many other patch contributors in the JIRA (too many to name them all).

What are the three biggest features and the three biggest benefits that Gemini offers?

Skills: I think the most important plus is the stability and render speed. I carefully balanced out settings and optimized it for graphic-intensive environments like my own sims. I have uptimes of up to 12 hours here now! (which is really good for the high end INSILICO, haha!)

I removed many of the building restrictions, giving people more freedom to be creative, while stomping bugs that give builders headaches every day. The new import/export function should be very handy for grid hoppers, too.

I just love the comfort the UI gives you: No long click sequences anymore to get to frequently-used functions. That alone saves me 50% clicks per day :) You can ditch your radar HUD, too, and save script lag. It's all built into the client now. I plan to implement a combat system at a later point, but need to improve my weak C++ Kung Fu some. :)

... and the security: It's really hard to crash this viewer by using exploits and you can basically stand in the middle of a griefer attack and just laugh at them.

I optimized it for speed, comfort and security. It has no shadows and the new mesh transparency effects yet, as it is based on the LL 1.22.11 source code. The official 1.23 viewer is a rather rushed release; it was only a RC4. Other versions had up to 14 RCs! Linden Lab just needed to release it quickly for the adult content changes. There is absolutely no need to update at the moment. Everything is working as it used to be. I picked some of the goodies from the 1.23 though, and put them into mine. I'm also thinking about implementing optional RLVa. Many people seem to need that functionality in an everyday client.

You'll find the full list of features here, and my to-do list is full of ideas. There's a lot more to come!

See also: Doomed in the Skies: INSILICO

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

There's a hair in our cake

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

That Pandora Wrigglesworth has struck again. I'm still chuckling, even as I type.

The annual Hair Fair 2009 in Second Life® is a massive (hairy?) affair that just about everyone loves, despite that fact that it lags us nearly to death (attendance is sky-high), but we like it especially because it benefits Locks of Love, the charitable organization that provides hairpieces to children suffering from hair loss due to chemotherapy and other medical reasons.

Now, Pandora is known for her utterly surreal, over-the-top and laughter-inducing creations and her exclusive coiffs for the fair do not disappoint.

She writes:

"None of these styles will be available until the fair opens and, for the duration of the fair, will only be available at the fair."

The "Lampshade Hairstyle"

"Why choose between glamour and frivolity? You can have both and be the life of every party! When you walk in with Lampshade hairstyle, you are sure to light up the room!

Lights up just like a Real Lamp! Just tug on the single spring curl beside your right ear.

Hide in plain sight from Stupid People!"

The Let Them Eat Cake Off Of Your Head! style

"The people may be revolting but don't hold it against them. Let them eat cake with the Let The Eat Cake Off Of Your Head hairstyle! Treat your guests to six delicious varieties of cake, artfully arranged within a tower of lavish curls and garnished with delicate flowers.

People can help themselves to any of the three cakes you are currently wearing simply by touching the cake they want. Forks and plates are complimentary."

Hostess and Buffet in One!

The most SCRUMPTIOUS hairstyle ever!

Infinite Cake!

The Cake Menu includes:
- Chocolate Cake
- Strawberry Shortcake
- Carrot Cake
- Cherry Cheesecake
- Red Velvet Cake
- Birthday Cake

It seems we can expect three hairstyles from Pandora, and we haven't seen the third yet. I am all anticipation!

Photographs by Pandora Wrigglesworth.

Why you need to pay attention to Brooklyn is Watching's "Best of Year 1 Festival"

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

It's been a big year for Brooklyn is Watching (BiW), the mixed reality arts project sponsored by Popcha and taking place simultaneously at the gallery Jack the Pelican Presents in Brooklyn, New York and in Second Life®.

In fact, it's been the only year that BiW has been in operation, and what a year it has been. In March of 2008, I reported on the new performance space and presentation/sandbox that had been set up in Second Life (teleport directly from here), and the avatar in the shape of an eyeball and going by the name "Monet Destiny" that would be viewing and projecting the goings-on there onto a large screen monitor at the Real Life gallery.

Now the project's founder, Jay Newt (aka Jay Van Buren), has announced The Best of BiW Year 1, a two month-long festival spanning parts of 3 sims and the Jack the Pelican Presents gallery in Williamsburg (Brooklyn), with artist talks, panel discussions and two art shows leading up to the BOBIWY1 Prize. Anyone may nominate artworks that have been rezzed at Brooklyn is Watching during its first 52 weeks, but the key difference between this and other virtual art competitions is that the five finalists will be invited to create new works or adapt existing work to be displayed in Second Life and at Jack the Pelican. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm tickled that I've been asked to be one of the five judges, along with AM Radio, Amy Freelunch, AngryBeth Shortbread and Sage Duncan.

Nominations have begun and the Brooklyn is Watching Year 1 Prize (the golden eyeball) will be awarded on August 23, 2009.

I caught up with Jay to get the skinny:

Has your work with BiW impacted Jack the Pelican gallery? How are things different there from one year ago?

Jay: The biggest evidence of it having an impact is the fact that it is still there. Don (Carrol - he runs the gallery) was really going out on a limb to give the project space in the beginning. So the fact that now, more than a year later and even in these tough economic times, he's still devoting space where artwork that could be sold means that he must feel it is important. Many of the artists who hang around at Jack the Pelican have told me how blown away they are by the quality and variety of artwork that SL is showing us at BiW. BiW has kind of become a fixture at the gallery, and now with the coming RL show, it will be getting a much bigger profile than its ever had.

Have any non-SL users been won over by experiencing BiW from Jack the Pelican gallery?

Jay: Both Jenna Spevack and Norene Leddy (Norene is the first site if you Google her first name! She's like Cher!) were not that much into SL before they became involved and they have both got so interested in it that they joined the project and became my collaborators.

How has YOUR view of virtual art changed over the course of a year?

Jay: I just continue to be amazed and excited by what artists are doing. I think that the work is getting better. I don't know that my view has changed that much. I feel my belief that this is an important medium has been vindicated.

If you were to identify the three things that most helped to transform BiW in one year, what would they be?

Jay: Well - we would have never got off the ground with out Amy Wilson, and then I think Beth Harris and Steven Zucker really brought us a lot of fresh energy. The biggest thing is the growth of the BiW community, and I love that they complain when they don't like the podcasts - there is a reciprocal relationship.

If you could have three wishes come true in regards to BiW, what would they be?

Having Dekka Raymaker and Penumbra Carter show up in RL with a bottle of champagne was fantastic. I loved getting to go to Estonia for Estonia is Watching, and the last one is this upcoming RL show which will bring a new level of attention to some very deserving artists.

Who is sponsoring the land on the three sims?

Jay: We're going to have the "30 Best" show which on part of the University of Kansas Department of Visual Arts Sim, and Part of a new sim the University is getting called "Impermanence" that will be the new home of the regular Brooklyn is Watching Tower and space which will continue through the Festival as well. And lastly, the "Final Five" show will be at the Odyssey sim.

Do you remember most/all of the artwork that has been rezzed at BiW? What if an artist who has rezzed there wanted you to see something different? Would you be okay with that?

Jay: I don't think I even saw half of what was there - there's been so much it's just staggering - it's mind boggling. The idea of "30 best" is that its all artworks from the past, so we're going to be including specific works. Certainly the artists will be welcome to put notecards on those works that offer TP's to places where more and newer work can be seen. In the "Final Five" show the idea is that the five artists can create an entirely new work for that show, or choose to adapt and existing work.

What's showing at Jack the Pelican these days?

Jay: There's a painting show up in the front room - a group of young New York artists who all work in a style of fairly realistic looking images of fanciful, improbable or just slightly "off" subject matter. They're really good paintings.

Jay is especially excited about the Nomination Wiki: "It is going to be a fantastic resource for future art historians. I predict that sometime in the next 20 years at least 5 of the artists that have shown at BiW are going to have one-person shows in Real Life museums, and monographs written about them.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Get wet!

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

Oh, I know... I've been away for a while, but it's time to get rockin' again. Thought I'd get you wet behind the ears while I conduct some research for my next blogposts, so here's a ZeroG shower, courtesy of Oni Horan.

Don't worry! The water at Space Colony Necronom is recycled and purified for your crystal-clean and sensual enjoyment, but do keep in mind - before you hop over there - that Necronom is a dark role-playing environment.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Big game hunting in the sky

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

Now and then, the letters I receive are far wittier and informative than anything I might manage to pen on the topic at hand. Such was the case with the irresistibly charming missive I received late last week from resident Marion Questi. It reads...

Dear Miss Tizzy:

Martini Discovolante and I have created something that might amuse you; it certainly qualifies as Not Possible In Real Life.

What we have created is essentially an artificial life form: the air kraken of steampunk mythology.

"Air kraken are very territorial," explains Mr. Questi. "The females patrol the cloud layer and will attack any avatar who ventures too near."

The air kraken takes the form of a giant squid that lives in the clouds. It patrols the cloud layer (~200 meters), gliding gracefully about the sim. If an avatar comes too near, the kraken will attack it. In a damage enabled sim, such an attack can kill an avatar. What makes the air kraken a challenge is that they can also be killed if struck by physical bullets. So what we have is big game hunting in the clouds.

It's clear that Mr. Questi relishes "the dangerous, but exciting, business of hunting air kraken with a pistol."

Miss Discovolante, a sculpty master, created the kraken. I am the scripter who animated it. It looks very realistic with it's wriggling tentacles and deadly beak. (Together we are known as the Questi & Discovolante Mechanical Consortium.)

"...But hot lead ignites one of the hydrogen pouches that give her lift and she explodes in a coruscating cascade of kraken blood and ink," details Mr. Questi.

You can see them and interact with them in Lovelace Liberty (teleport directly from here). There are usually a couple in the sky. CoyoteAngel Dimsum has generously permitted the use of her sim for air kraken hunts.

Good hunting!

Marion Questi

I dropped in to have a look myself this morning, and was promptly attacked and killed by an air kraken that simply leaped on me. It was great fun! I plan to head back there fully armed as soon as my schedule permits. Meanwhile, Mr. Questi, take care you don't get hurt!

Photography courtesy of Mr. Marion Questi.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Flora of the Rain Forest and Jedda Zenovka

Posted by Alpha Auer

"Welcome to Wild Designs... (says Jedda Zenovka) Home of unique and funky Organic designs....

You can take the girl out of the jungle...
But you cant take the jungle out of the girl!
Rainbow Obsidian
A usually dark outer appearance contrasted by a soul filled with burning light
Jaguars dont need self help books!

... Live light free and happy

And have a wonderful day!"

Initially introduced to me by Truthseeker Young, Jedda Zenovka is a regular visitor at Syncretia. During the year or so that I have been Jedda's friend I have come to care a great deal for this lovely, sensitive, talented lady with a huge flair for converting the flora of her home land, the Australian Rain Forest, into formal investigations of botanical shapes, using a virtual 3D building environment and terrain to achieve some remarkable translations/transformations from the organic to the synthetic.

Her flowers and mushrooms have been used to create the virtual garden at Happy Clam Island and I urge you to go and check out this shimmering, glowing virtual space by teleporting from here.


A complex underwater garden in which Jedda Zenovka weaves together a multitude of shapes and colors to great effect can be seen at Terravia Island. Teleport from here.


You can teleport to Jedda Zenovka's Wild Designs from here, and also here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wherein I attempt to describe what I am looking for: NPIRL content guidelines

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

By the time each Thursday rolls around, I'm frantically trying to catch up with all the first-rate landmarks and notecards and emails I've received, rich with hot tips on new and undiscovered content and ideas that just might be worth sharing with the 2,600 members of my Second Life® groups Not Possible IRL and Impossible IRL.

I send at least one in-world notice a week - usually late on Fridays - featuring some 3 to 20 items that I've culled from hundreds of these suggestions, and I'm often asked what my selection criteria is. In addition to intriguing building tips, info on other virtual worlds, and advocacy for the rights of content creators in Second Life, my main focus is on creations that are Not Possible in Real Life.

Are my selections opinionated, discriminating and highly subjective? Yes, they are. There are many other ways to discover information and calendar listings on the topics relevant to your particular interests in Second Life, so this is my personal attempt to provide you with a distillation of what I think is cool, trendsetting and even groundbreaking, always within the context of Not Possible IRL.

Am I an academic, schooled in the arts? I am not. Jay Newt of Brooklyn is Watching once called me a theme park mistress and I can subscribe to that. Not Possible IRL and Impossible IRL are not art groups, and for that matter, this blog is not an art blog. They do feature and include art, but that is not all we are about.

That said, what follows is an attempt to describe virtual content that is Not Possible in Real Life or NPIRL. These guidelines were drafted with only prim and/or script-based content in mind, as I don’t believe – but I’d like for you to prove me wrong - that there is such a thing as NPIRL music. How that music is generated, however, can definitely be NPIRL (Komuso Tokugawa and Dizzy Banjo, I’m looking at you!).

Theatre and live performances often enable suspension of disbelief via real-time special effects and situations (think DanCoyote Antonelli’s ZeroG SkyDancers, CARP's Metropolis, Gazira’s Hammering the Void, and Grace McDunnough’s Musimmersion, for example).

Not Possible in Real Life (NPIRL) CONTENT (architecture, art, landscaping) is a generous combination of the following:

* Surreal, fantastical

* Indulges our sense of make-believe (can do strange, wonderful and surprising things; makes us laugh)

* Can fundamentally affect our behavior, perception and even our self-perception

* Physically impossible in Real Life, or could only be created at enormous/unrealistic expense (defies the laws of gravity and physics in general)

* Immersive

* It almost goes without saying that NPIRL creations in virtual worlds are three-dimensional. While photography and other 2D images may portray NPIRL content, they are difficult to render in-world and for this reason, I enjoy them best on the web. I am an avid user of both Flickr and Koinup, where so many of you post images taken in virtual worlds. I wish more machinimators would join the Not Possible IRL YouTube group, though their group management tools there are very poor.

NPIRL FASHION is garment-based and not a biological part of the avatar. In addition to clothing the avatar, it might do strange and wonderful things, or make us do strange and wonderful things. It can defy the laws of physics or expose the avatar’s body to extreme heat or cold or exploding particles or sharp things. It might include elements (such as clouds, or sunshine, or snakes, for instance) that could never be used in Real Life.

NPIRL AVATARS are fantastical, surreal, or funny, or surprising, but they all have one thing in common: They are definitely Not Possible in Real Life. They aren't human, or dogs, cats, horses, etc., unless they are exceptionally unusual (a unicorn, for example). While nekos, faeries and elves are NPIRL, their appendages must look integrated, credible and not like props.

I want to especially thank the members of my working group Not Possible IRL for their guidance and inspiration, and the extreme explorers and content creators of the vibrant Impossible IRL community who have sent in priceless tips and ideas. All this is possible because we've pooled our efforts and share an intense appreciation for the 3D platform. I adore you!