Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Read my blog...

An update to a Lampoon classic for Universal Music Group Distribution President Jim Urie, who lamented in his latest pity-the-fat-leeches letter:

"The online theft of music is killing artists, singers, songwriters, musicians, retailers, production engineers and others. It is destroying jobs, dreams and careers. The music community is at risk, as is the unique culture of American music itself."

Funny... because according to all the graphs, reports, calculations and financial sheets, music and musicians are making more money now than before the net became popular. Who is not making money is, of course, the middlemen; those guys who produce nothing and suck everything... like drama queen Jimbo.

Boohoo :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Natural Born Dahls

Another Episode of IMprov Theatre

Miso Susanowa: *drive by hugging*

Nazz Lane: flashes a wide grin

Miso Susanowa: Bad girls bad girls, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they hugs on you? bad girls, bad girls...

Nazz Lane: grins wider

Miso Susanowa: *ccccchhhhhk* 1 Adam 12, 1 Adam 12, see the lady, corner of SL and Vine, hugging in progress *cccchhhhk*

Miso Susanowa: "Damn" *jingling hitching-belt-sound* "And I just got my order from Mickey D's *sigh*"

Miso Susanowa: *weeeoooweeeooweeeooowweeeooo*

Miso Susanowa: COP2 : "You think she's packing?"

Miso Susanowa: COP1: "No, but she'll grow into it. They start with hugging. Then it's kissy-kissy and squeezy. Next thing you know, they're hogging all the damned covers."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Reply Part III - Recalcitrant can also mean Faithful

"And where do we go from here?
Which is the way that's clear?"
- David Essex, 'Rock On'

In 1997, Apple had just completed a fiscal year where they lost about $1 billion on $7 billion in revenue. The company was worth about $4 billion. Rivals like HP and Dell were worth about $62 billion and $8 billion, respectively.

User dependence on desktop software meant that only the very loyal or the very strange used Apple’s products. Everyone else wanted a common desktop platform. This was the worm in Apple's vision. Apple, like many companies today, wanted a cornered, captive market; specifically the education and professional graphics markets, where they could sell 1000 computers at a time in big chunks. They weren't really concerned with the small desktop user.

We all saw how that went for them. Apple lost out to the ubiquitous desktop market at a time when people were tired of being under IBM's thumb, itching to escape it and Apple had a huge lead in product awareness that could have leveraged them onto the desktop, avoiding the Microsoft catastrophe. An inferior architecture and shady business practices became the norm because Apple had myopia. They also lost untold millions in revenue from this practice.

Apple is now the world's second-most valuable company, after Exxon Mobil Corp. On April 20, it reported net income of $5.99 billion for the January-to-March period. What Steve Jobs did for Apple in 1997 was restore vision and purpose.


The real problem at Linden Lab

This series of posts are less about technological problems with Second Life then they are about the entire experience of SL. There's a real reason Google was once considered the Holy Graal to work at; the company was geared towards its employees and its vision.

From the material I have gathered and thought on from countless articles, blog posts and conversations with many people, I am convinced that nothing LL can do in the technological department will help them stem the tide of user attrition if they do not address the serious problem they have in their relationship to their product and their customers. No fancy tricks, no sparkly eye candy; not even datafarming is going to do more than delay the inevitable. That is, the inevitable if Linden Lab doesn't revitalize its vision.

The overwhelming "user experience" that LL covets so highly can be reduced to a simple statement: No one cares about a company that doesn't care about them. I only need point to the ongoing debacle of Sony, its stance towards its own failure to follow even nominal security procedures with its customer data and how this may destroy everything they built with the PS series as far as customer desire and loyalty. As I write this, Japan is refusing to let Sony restart the PlayStation Network due to revelations this week that not only did Sony know its network was horribly insecure months ago, the network can be still be hacked from a simple browser-and-google-search [google hacking]. Sony did not secure their network as they said they did and the word is out that Sony is untrustworthy. How much current and future revenue do you think Sony has lost and will lose over this episode that could have been avoided or staunched with a little conscientious action and foresight?

Many voices, one perception

From many points of the customer base the perception is widely-held: not only does LL not care about its customers but it doesn't seem to care about its world anymore. It's running on inertia. People who have been inworld for a combined total of thousands of hours are screaming "iceberg!" but the helm isn't listening.

From the hostility of the "Welcome" areas to the arrogance on the JIRAs and forums; from the cavalier stupidity of reducing edu discounts (clue: educationals bring new eyeballs; some of those eyeballs stay around; edus bring new users and great publicity/awareness) to the reneging of openspace use parameters and pricing; the stone deafness to the overwhelming feedback on Viewer 2.mistake; all of these problems reduce to one: bad management.

This is an image problem. When you have an image problem this big, you can't stonewall it. You won't fool investors and you won't fool customers. You must address such a problem directly. In the age of the Streisand Effect, you can't sweep your troubles under a rug, move on to another market segment and expect to avoid the consequences of your bad business decisions.

I do not see a concerted effort from Linden Lab to publicize the most positive and compelling justifications for Second Life. Why do LL's Marketing and Publicity departments seem to consistently push vapor-talk and abstractions when there are so many sterling examples of the importance and use of this technology?

Where are the articles about the groundbreaking arts scene? Where are articles about what UWA, UTSA and the rest of the universities are doing? Why did I have to go outside SL to find out about the FEMA Emergency Trailer training program in Second Life? How about the work being done by the Autism community? The monies raised for Relay for Life? The money raised for the relief of the Japanese people impacted by the Fukishima disaster? The efforts of the American Cancer Society in SL? Why are the logon screens the same stupid pics I have seen now for three years; outdated, uncompelling, boring? Why did Marketing not make more than a token effort to publicize Burning Life/Burn2 and other high-profile events? Why are they silent about Skye Galaxy's amazing use of SL to bootstrap a RL career? What about Pop Art Lab? What about Bryn Oh's recent RL grant based on her SL work?


SL seems to be being promoted as some Barbie-world now, where you can dress up your avatar! Have a virtual breedable bunny! Have sex with strangers! Play dollies! BUY STUFF!!!! You know, if I want to play Barbies, I go to Barbie Girls. If I only wanted raw cybersex I'd be sexting or hanging out in Red Light Center.

As one commenter stated on my blog, "I don't want SL to be Facebook. I already have Facebook. If I wanted to be on Facebook, I'd go there, and I do. But I'm in Second Life." That is the perfect capsule argument voicing the opinion of many. I think trying to make Second Life like Facebook, or Twitter (which, btw, survives on venture capital, not income) or MySpace or Google or whatever company-du-jour catches the "oo, squirrel!" attention of the Board is a mistake in many ways. There's already a Facebook; SL ain't gonna be Facebook. You're late. You shoulda been there. You can't catch a running train. You lag, you lose. Hasta la vista, baby.



Clifford Stoll most famously opined in a post from 1995 "This internet thing is just a fad. It won't last." I guess 25+ years of existence and growth have proven Mr Stoll wrong.

"Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms, but this is nonsense."

Wrong: we have all three now. You can get valid degrees from online universities. Many people telecommute. There are quite a few interactive libraries (pushing the definition, Google Sketchup is an architectural library)

"They say the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic. I doubt this."

Wrong: Egypt, Syria, Libya, Tiananmen Square, etc. Wikileaks. The use of the net as a political tool is still in its infancy.

"The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works."

Wrong on three counts: ask the WSJ, NYTimes, etc. etc. See above.

"Try reading a book on disc. At best, it's an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can't tote that laptop to the beach."

Wrong: Ipad, Kindle, etc.

So what was so far off in Stoll's 1995 assessment of "this internet thing"? Why were his predictions and observations so far off the mark a mere 10 years before the almost-essential digital world connectivity of 2005-2011? He was only seeing what was already extant and not thinking in the future. He suffered a lack of vision, judging the future potential of the medium on his past experience with computers and networking in a closed and hierarchical system, not understanding that the Internet was a total departure [game changer] from these types of systems.



1. The most important asset LL has right now is their user base. Many intelligent, technically-competent and experienced people are in Second Life now. As a class, these people ooze potential. Many spend much of their free time in SL and have for years. They deal constantly with technical, political and creative problems endemic to their environment and solve problems. There isn't enough money in the world to pay "normal" people to work as hard as many of these people.

Someone like Jeri Rahja has put her own money where her mouth is by single-handedly supporting many virtual artists through sponsorship at her own expense. Volunteers like Wizard Gynoid help out at Welcome Island, wading through the incredible chaos and griefing to help new customers with no help from Linden Lab. Thinkerer Melville continues a superb series of newbie "kit" posts to help and orient new customers, independently doing a job Linden Lab should be doing. White Lebed had the RL experience and knowledge to run a terrific arts scene... this list could go on and on with hundreds of names of people I have met inworld in three years and not be at all encompassing or thorough, as my cross-section of personal experience is limited. I'm not even conversant with the legions of coders, scripters and "under the hood" developers who have contributed to the huge knowledge base available in the JIRAs and help forums. We can’t be “customers only” if Linden Lab depends on us to take up the slack churning out new user Help pages, mentoring, bug tracking and publicity…

2. The second asset that Linden Lab has at present is their workers. Reading the entries for Linden Lab at glassdoor.com is very disheartening. Some of the best technical workers in this growing field are frustrated in their inability to do the work they signed on for because of bad departmental decisions and petty interdepartmental politics. Some of the best work done on the infrastructure and architecture in this field is mothballed by managers who don't understand the technology making decisions about the technology.

Warnings of a technical nature (like overloading sims on cores being a severe problem down the road) are undercut by accounting types who do not understand anything beyond "we can squeeze 16 sims onto a dual-core machine and save moneh." These uninformed decisions and are the equivalent of a computer being sold with Windows 7 and 1GB of RAM: sure, it will boot up to an opening screen and will appear to function... until a typical user actually starts using the machine; adding programs, antivirus, active desktop widgets, open browsers, watching streaming content... in short, starts using the computer as advertised. It quickly becomes apparent that the promises made/selling points were either disingenuous or outright deception; a machine with 1GB RAM running Windows 7 (or even WinXP) will quickly become unusable for anything other than staring at a Windows logo. After such an experience, the consumer is liable to never go to that store or buy that brand of computer again. Penny-pinching can be the ultimate company sabotage.

If you are going to hire some of the brightest and best in the field, you can't hamstring them. When a techie explains a problem, they are envisioning the future consequences of that problem. They are trying to save you money and trouble in the long run. They are working for you. Viewing them as a drain on your bottom line is stupid.

3. The third huge asset that Linden Lab has is their experience in architecture. Despite their stumbling and fumbling, Linden Lab is still the pioneer in hanging together a true virtual world. They have reams and reams of information on technical challenges, sociodemographics, server load, distributed computing, programming and the rest of what it takes to develop and maintain such a huge platform.

LL could be the leader in this field. LL could understand that they are doing the initial pioneer/groundbreaking work that Google did from 1996 until its first IPO in 2004 [it's useful to remember now that Sergey Brin and Larry Page went to Excite CEO George Bell in 1999 and offered to sell their new search engine for $1 million USD (which Excite could have easily afforded at that time) because it was "taking up too much of their time from academic pursuits." He rejected that offer... history must make him gnash his teeth daily]. LL could have some faith not only in their own vision but in the vision of many people who have stayed with this field for over 30 years, have experienced the rise and fall of many companies and business strategies and have come to intimately understand this medium and its potential.

Linden Lab might not end up to the "the only VW" but surely it would be both respected and profitable as "The Progenitor" with the amount of talent, research and resources it can command today. It might become the Mercedes of VWs. It might, through licensing of server space, code and content, become the Google of tomorrow.


The Answers Are There

Wikipedia entry for Excite:

"In the 1990s, it was one of the most recognized brands on the Internet"

"Excite continued to operate until the Excite Network was acquired by Ask Jeeves (now Ask.com) in March 2004. Ask Jeeves promised to rejuvenate iWon and Excite, but did not. Ask Jeeves management became distracted, according to the East Bay Business Times, first by a search feature arms race with Google and Yahoo!, and then by its merger with Barry Diller's InterActive Corporation, announced in March 2005."]

There are many grids operating now that would not be in existence except for Linden Lab/Second Life. Most of those grids came into existence because of the general feeling of untrustworthiness, instability and questionable customer service on the part of Linden Lab. Most of those problems stem from bad management, not technical hurdles. With good management, the people who could have solved the technical problems could have done so, or could have made a lot of headway on problems that have plagued the platform for years. Instead, they were let go for "cost counting" reasons... resulting in the negative flow of profit because of these endemic technical problems! As is readily-apparent if you travel other grids, there are technical problems there also… but people stay despite them. Why? Because they feel the management is better/closer/available/listening.

LL has lost some of the most innovative, experienced people in computing through their own worst-practices. They have squandered resources. They have alienated their customers, most of who should be considered as PR assets. They treat the best PR/Marketing aspects of their product like embarrassments and allow outside media to direct and control the perception of Second Life.

Virtual worlds have given birth to the art of machinima, which is widely-expected to be the next Hollywood Golden Plum, advancing the art of cinema in the same way sound recording, Panavision and camera dollies did. VWs show enormous potential in the fields of sociometrics, demographics, psychology, architecture and design, synergy, collaboration, visualization of concepts, disaster training, the arts & sciences... This could be an entire series of posts in itself. I needn't delineate all these possibilities; you can read them yourself from some of the leading bloggers and thinkers in Second Life/virtual worlds.


Thy Rod, it comforts me

The recent presence of Rod Humble, new CEO of Linden Lab, is a hopeful sign. Mr Humble's experience in many online communities (Sims 2, Sims 3, Everquest), his hands-on experience in developing games ( The Marriage, Stars Over Half Moon Bay and Last Thoughts of the Aurochs) and his recent Twitter presence and willingness to engage customers of Second Life give me more confidence in his knowledge of this medium than did the previous CEO Mark Kingdon, whose experience was confined to marketing and accountancy [I worked for an accountant for 20 years, so I can safely say that in my experience, accountants are good at counting all the little beans, but they are very bad at seeing any horizon beyond a balance sheet. A balance sheet only shows you what you've gathered so far; it does not show you a road].

I am not a blind believer or fangirl; I am giving Rod some time to settle in, poke around and gather intelligence and information. It's a big job turning a company around and I am not OCD enough to demand a day-by-day state change in such a large endeavor; neither am I a fawning sycophant who will accept empty words without backing actions.

Rod's engagement on Twitter in asking honestly for suggestions from the customers of Linden Lab (Mentoring, Mentoring, Mentoring) and his involvement in the Elf Clan payment problem (only one instance of a real financial-flow problem inside the Lab that I think a good CEO would be very concerned about) show more potential in his short tenure as CEO than all of Mark Kingdon's lofty pronouncements and rule-by-fiat or the showboating "return" of Philip Rosedale.

I am not the only person who has taken this involvement as a Good Sign, worthy of watchful trust; taken this "hands-on" approach to company management as more hopeful than anything coming out of the Lab for the last 2-3 years; taken this as a much more compelling reason to remain in Second Life than any new viewer, dongle, jiggly bits or Achievement Systems offer to me.


"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." - Samuel Clemmons

The people rushing in now to declare "Second Life Dead" or "failed" are the same people who tried to throw up a web page in 1995 that was merely an electronic replica of a business card with no information, no use of the resources and no idea of the possibilities of the net.

They were the people that declared the Internet "a passing fad"; the people who blew multibillion-dollar deals because of myopia and miserliness; the people who waited for a gold rush from their 1-page non-informative, bland, dull, technically-challenged and ugly offerings and whined like babies when their pitiful excuses of a "web site" didn't bring them buttloads of ca$h in a year while the net proliferated because they wouldn't listen to web designers, who tried their best to explain that the WWW was not like The Yellow Pages and that they needed a little patience and follow-through. These are the people who cannot envision another system outside their own past experiences. These are tomorrow's buggy-whip makers.

These people have already moved on, sniffing at the new, unable to understand the fundamental sea-change coming but merely splash about in the shallows, disappointed that they hadn't caught a marlin or discovered sunken treasure in their 2-hour jaunt to the local beach. These are the Grazers, the Nomads moving constantly from here to there, stripping an area of its resources, plundering the treasures of other civilizations for their own ends, contributing nothing towards the future and making no lasting cities or monuments. They pass through Ephesus or Alexandria chiseling off bits of gold and stealing mummies to be sold for profit. They whirl through art museums buying paintings and hiding them in vaults as "investments." They contribute no research; they buy up patents merely to blackmail or destroy other companies. They don't truly invest in anything. They think too small.


I've tried to stay away from a lot of blue-sky material in these posts, offering instead a pragmatic reality-check from a business standpoint. I am not ignorant; I know that even the most selfless endeavor on the part of people needs an income stream. I am not suggesting Linden Lab become a philanthropic organization (despite the yammering of Wolves who put words in other people's mouths). I believe the profitability of Second Life and virtual technology can be made to work.

I do not believe Second Life is dead. Nor do I believe its technology has failed; the proliferation of grids beyond Agni demonstrates the truth of that belief. I do believe that Linden Lab and Second Life are at a crux. I believe that Linden Lab and Second Life could, with some good management, attention to PR and the help of its many knowledgeable customers, turn around and become once again a leader in this technology. I believe the uses and potentials of the platform to be a fundamental part of the future architecture of communication. I believe that VWs and grid technology are at the same point that the early Web was in the late 90s.

It will take some vision on the part of LL's management to recognize what they have and how it could be put to use to further the Company's aims (profitability). It will take work to rectify the mistakes LL has made in their relationship with their customers (bad PR) and their employees (over-micromanagement). It will take the admission that fundamental architecture is not a thing of moods; to paraphrase Gurney Hallack in Dune, "Mood's a thing for cattle or making love or playing the baliset. It's not for business."

Business has moved into the next phase; the paradigm shift. Modern business is not chess, it is Go. Lateral, orthogonal thinking is needed for survival and profitability. This truth is readily-available in the business and financial sections of your daily newspaper (or daily news aggregator).



We are the Recalcitrant, aye. We have stuck with this revolution in communication and technology for a quarter of a century and more. Along the way we have discovered, created and invented things that are now highly profitable. We have evangelized; we have encouraged. We have poured our time, talent and money into this continuing evolution of the next paradigm because we have vision.

I and the other Recalcitrant, who might also be labeled Adamant [unshakable in purpose or determination], Faithful, Visionary or plain old People Who Stick With Things Because They Believe In Them continue to work and play in virtual worlds as we have done for 14+ years; to offer suggestions based on observation and long use of the technology; to offer our creative visions of the possibilities for future growth. We are not at all averse to business but we think in terms of long-term stability (which means long-term profitability) and identifying problems and bottlenecks that prevent the smooth flow and growth of the Company, because the Company provides us with the platform we believe in. We have some chops and we think about the future.

The only thing we are really asking of Linden Lab is to reconceptualize the parameters of the problem.


ok, I'm done ^_^

Friday, May 13, 2011

Time As A Helix of Semiprecious Stones

Time As A Helix of Semiprecious Stones
Composition for Kandinsky

Kandinsky saw houses and churches decorated with such shimmering colours that he said "...upon entering them I had the impression that I was moving into a painting." Music was also a critical influence on his painting... In Kandinsky’s work, some characteristics are obvious while others are more discrete and veiled; they reveal themselves only progressively to those who make the effort to spend time and look into his work.

"Time As A Helix" continues my experiments with RGB color beginning with CHROMA in December and "Prime Radiant" for Misprint Thursday's "Visualizing Theorem" show at UTSA in April. I am fascinated at the computer's ability to make infinite shadings and tonals of color combined with translucency/reflection/transparency; a plastic fantastic palette.


I decided to reference the work of Mondrian in the quasi-Mondrian Grid Generator - an homage to his Composition 10 and Broadway Boogie Woogie - because Mondrian's work was an inspiration to the early "pointillist/punctualist" compositions of Stockhausen and Boulez, to me one of the main roots of modern "ambient" soundscape/music. The loops in this composition all vary across 1/4-to-1/2-second timings, so the gradual drifting of the emphasis beats takes approximately 30 minutes or so before they end up back in sync (more or less; because of the nature of network lag/packet delay, the loops may never resync exactly, which is fun).

Kandinsky's "upward moving triangle" from Concerning the Spiritual In Art also makes an appearance in this piece. Like his work, Time attempts to transmit an emotional and subjective mood to the viewer through color and movement. The slow shifts and rotations of parts of the color-cloud provide more time variables to accompany and complement the soundscape.

The outlying cubes are the ghosts of Mondrian's rectangles and squares, the colors escaping from his 2d grid into the 3d surround of Kandinsky's "interior mood".

The title is adapted from the Samuel R Delany story, "Time Considered As A Helix of Semi-precious Stones," a title which always has invoked for me a mystical, philosophic mood quite apart from the story itself; a kind-of abstract mantra guaranteed to put me in a reflective mood.

To me, one of the feelings in 'Time' is that of... walking in a city in the rain

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Miso and the Wolf

Miso and the Wolf
A Children's Story

Soundtrack by Sergei Prokofiev

One fine May Day Miso was out gallivanting, enjoying making pretty thingies and chattering to all the other animals in the forest when she heard the twitter of many birds telling her that a Wolf was on her track, oh noes!

She laughed, telling the birds that surely she was not afraid of a Wolf, especially because she had spent a great deal of time investigating the history of this particular forest and was well-acquainted with the Wolf in question, who actually used to make sensible speeches long ago before unsuccessfully trying to blow down the 3rd Little Pig's house because he was too dim-witted to tell a brick house from straw. This incident seemed to break something inside the Wolf's mind and begin a long spiral into the Wolf's present-day madness.


This Wolf was a pitiful thing. Despite bragging about going to the finest schools, the Wolf's conversation was filled with not only unsupportable slurs but obvious fabrication, dissemblings and assertions that were easily shown to be false and in language that most educated people would consider a very low-class sort of speech, fit for scurrilous tabloids, sailor's bars and the questionable tracts of unbalanced zealots and crazies [Miso wondered if the Wolf kissed her mother with that mouth].

For instance, the Wolf claimed that Miso was a chatterbox (which was well-known to all and sundry, so 2pts for obviousness) and that Miso chattered much, much more than the Wolf; the Wolf insinuated that this made anything she said suspect and questionable, because persons of good taste, like the Wolf of course, tried for succinctness in their verbiage. Miso thought this hilarious [having suffered through some pretty swampy and stenchy speeches by the Wolf] and she called her magical Word Count Fairies to come and judge the truth of this matter.

She allowed the fairies complete freedom, opening her Diary to them and pointing them to the Wolf's own voluminous speeches and asking for a fair account of word usage. After a bit of time, the fairies returned with the following results of their meticulous counting of recent entries in both the Wolf's and Miso's diaries:

Miso's longest entry to date had been 3,456 words [this was a big Dear Diary day!] but the Wolf's entry complaining about Miso talking so much was 3994 words. "Ok," thought Miso, "this was kinda close. Maybe the Wolf has a point." The fairies cracked up, hooting and guffawing so loudly that they disturbed a Bear, who was trying to wake up after the long winter nap and hadn't had coffee yet and was grumbly. The fairies entertained the bear with the Wolf's story, continuing to report their results:

MS: 2146
Wolf: 4610

MS: 1602
Wolf: 3344

MS: 1048
Wolf: 9426

"Wow!" said Miso at that last one, "And I thought I was a chatterbox!" And she looked ruefully at her Chatty Cathy Charter Club Member Card that she usually displayed proudly. This made all the birds, fairies, elves and even the grumpy Bear laugh [which is what Miso liked to do, make her friends laugh]


The Wolf, hearing all this fun and happiness, came stumping through the woods, growling and snapping. "What's all this ******* fun about?!?! You are disturbing my rentals, which bring me money, money, money with your technocommunist babbling!" The Wolf proceeded to make one of his usual windy speeches in which he claimed many absurd and impossible things, such as being able to read Miso's mind and that in true democracy [as envisioned by the Wolf] people like the Wolf would be free to express their opinions on anything, irregardless of conflicting facts and that in this Wolf-democracy, every right-thinking being would of course agree with the Wolf. People who did not agree with the Wolf's idea of democracy should be shot or perhaps burned at the stake for the Wolf's gratification and entertainment because they were members of a horrible conspiracy of technocommunistic anarchists.

Miso and her friends kindly tried to point out to the Wolf various elementary problems and conflicts of both logic and fact in the Wolf's speech [even the squirrels chimed in, and we all know squirrels aren't the best of scholars, suffering from ADHD and often being distracted -"Oooo! Human!"]. The Wolf continued to argue, although most of the animals agreed that "argument" and "debate" to the Wolf meant bullying with made-up "facts" and a foul-mouthed delivery that would have Miss Manners [as well as any fledgling journalist] blanching in dismay at this morass of viperish bombast and bile.

For instance, the Wolf claimed that a Clock Miso had made had "planets" in it. When Miso politely pointed out that there were no planets in the Clock, the Wolf insisted there were; when Miso asked what exactly the Wolf thought were "planets" the Wolf pointed to 4 circles made up of the serpent Ouroboros, which Miso had cleverly worked into the Clock as a comment on the cycles of Time [which was what a Clock was all about anyway] which Miso assumed an educated person would have recognized. The Wolf also made sarcastic comments about "wondering if the Clock actually told time." This was funny to Miso and her friends, as no person who had ever bought the Clock from Miso in the two years and more that it had been offered for sale had had the least difficulty actually reading the readily-available notecard about the Clock, which would have informed the Wolf that it indeed told Time in adjustable timezones and declinations...


On and on it went; for every mistaken or invented distortion of the Wolf's, Miso attempted in good humor to bring the Wolf's attention to actual facts, but the Wolf was in a frenzy and would brook no "opposition." Miso was reminded of the argument Alice had with Humpty Dumpty:

"'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - - that's all.'"

She recalled that this Wolf had boasted "I'm happy to hold grudges in Second Life -- indeed, as long as it takes, if not forever" and had also admitted the despicable practice of gathering freebies [flowers and nuts and fruits from the generous elves, Architects and Builders in the forest and offered freely for anyone for the taking] and reselling these free things for profit; a practice frowned on by most people of any sort of taste and ethical leanings. She also happened to notice that the Wolf was using other people's images and elements in his Diary pages by stealing these items from other places and not even acknowledging that fact, which seemed sort-of two-faced on the Wolf's part [who ranted and railed against free offerings and yet was not troubled at all by taking such benefits from his professed enemies and turning them into a profiteering opportunity].

Miso's attempts to show the Wolf his logical contradictions using his own words went nowhere; the Wolf insisted that these were "lies and distortions" despite being taken from his own speeches and the Wolf, like Humpty Dumpty, was the only person qualified to know what a democracy was and what was proper and right thinking for a democracy, which was of course whatever the Wolf said. The Wolf, growing bored with a conversation he couldn't follow due to the nature of logic and the Wolf's feeble grasp of the fine points of Debate, took umbrage and stalked off in high dudgeon to look for a kitten to kick.


After awhile, the Bear leaned over to Miso and whispered, "Don't you remember the story of the Tar Baby? You'll never be able to talk sensibly to this Wolf; everyone in the forest knows this Wolf is an insane, vindictive, vituperative, foul-mouthed, lying yellow-bellied coward, inflated with his own opinion of himself and revealing with every slimy slander and lie the constipated and mentally-disturbed nature of the husk of a mind once facile but corrupted now and decaying into pond slime and leaf mould."

Miso blinked at this statement; the Bear looked at her solemnly... and then they both cracked up! Miso hugged the Bear for making her laugh with a witty parody of the Wolf's speeches and the cleverness of the Bear in avoiding the guttersnipe words the Wolf so dearly loved to use while retaining the disgruntled and hyperbolic delivery of the Wolf's ravings.

The Bear pointed out to Miso that the Wolf loved to ladle and lather his speeches with references to many unrelated and repetetive words to fool the Search Fairies into driving traffic to his lair so he could collect some pitiful pennies off misdirected people; that this Wolf, in fact, far from being the Champion Of All Things Right And Proper [which is what the Wolf thought of himself in his own mind] was merely a petty highwayman, laying in wait for travelers; creating bog-traps to ensnare and deadfalls to bludgeon, all to profit off of anger, misery, verbal violence, content theft, defamation of character, slander and the rest of the arsenal of low-bred persons who use quasi-academic verbal bullying to defend a position that is unable to withstand even elementary debate or questions as to statements of fact contained therein.

The Bear showed Miso many instances of the Wolf asserting that he "did not have time to read/view/explore or investigate some situation or object or fact" and then go on at great length with opinions, fabrications and fantastic words put in other people's mouths to defend his idea of what a thing was, or was about, or meant... having, of course, no idea at all [given the above admissions].

The Bear then demonstrated to Miso that almost everything the Wolf said about other people could be easily shown to be the Wolf's own position as regards to almost any issue; that while declaiming to support free speech and individual rights, the Wolf in fact displayed a fascistic and rigid mental structure which would not tolerate any information contrary to the Wolf's own thoughts. [Miso wondered privately if the poor Wolf had hemmorrhoids or scabies or was constipated or something and helpfully started a list of herbal cures for various conditions and problems that might be responsible for the Wolf's mental anguish]

The Bear finished by pointing out that the statements of the Wolf regarding shadowy enemies of Order and Progress [the FIC] were remarkably similar to paranoias and lunacies like The Elders of Zion, The Illuminati, The Grey Aliens, the Reptilians of Zeta Prime, the Knights Templar, Rosicrucians, the Vril Society, Jesuits, Black Helicopters, the Secret Team and a host of other wacky conspiracy theories.

By this time, all the animals at the tea party were laughing hysterically and ran to get costumes and spend the rest of the lovely afternoon playing Spy Vs Spy, Aliens Vs Humans, The X Files [Miso of course being Agent Scully] and other games of silliness and intrigue. And a wonderful time was had by all.

[at Midnight, Agent Miso slipped away to confer with her fellow FOCers and report that the voodoo doll of the Wolf appeared to be functioning quite satisfactorily and recommended a pin in a place "where the Moon don't shine" to further the descent of the Wolf into the heartbreak of psoriasis and insanity]

Certified Word Fairy Count: 1,929

DISCLAIMER: The preceeding was a fictional story of alleged entertainment! Any resemblance to persons living, dead or blogging is merely coincidence, happenstance or the fiendish machinations of a vast diabolically-clever conspiracy designed solely for the purpose of shadowing men's minds and ruling the world.

PS: As a kindness to Wolves who might have trouble with English as a Second Language, here is a Russian translation of this post:
Ты мне надоел, сумасшедшая старуха.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

For Want Of A Nail - The Elf Clan ripples

Today something happened that spotlights some of the issues that plague Linden Lab and is quite a good example of the ripple effect a company's actions can have on the public perception of that company.


It began with a small tweet from Elf Clan, one of the oldest groups in SL, that they were closing the last EC sim - ElvenMyst - and moving it to InWorldz, where they had already migrated most of their sims. The issue is outlined in this blog post.

Basically, ElvenMyst's Eldar/Admin tried handing LL money to pay tier... and tried... and tried... filed a Support Ticket like a good elf... no answer... and finally received an email (after a week) informing him that... he needed to pay tier.

"When Peter tried to log in to Second Life... his account had been closed. He could not enter a grid for which he has paid $350 a month for the last four years-- faithfully and without missing a single payment. Linden Lab has informed him that in 30 days his entire account will be wiped... including a significant investment in inventory. "

You can read the rest yourself. What is interesting and instructive is what followed on Twitter.


Many, many voices chimes in, retweeted this tweet and adding comments. Whether or not they were past or present members of EC, many people spoke out in dismay because Elf Clan is a very old, large and respected group in Second Life. At one time they owned an astonishing array of sims, all of them incredibly crafted. Many newbies came to the Elven Lands; it was one of the first terms I searched for myself in Second Life (I mean, virtual world, elves; it just seemed natural).

Elf Clan has always been known as a newb-friendly place; I always found unpaid Mentors and Guides there; EC put on some of the most wonderful group events in SL; they were very tolerant of avatar types and people in general. EC and Wayfinder have contributed an enormous amount of time and talent to Second Life, as well as trying to help LL troubleshoot various technical problems over their years of residency. As their blog notes,
"in 2008 Elf Clan was paying Linden Lab almost $15,000 a year.

Not only has $15,000USD per year walked away to another grid (not counting Premium Membership fees), but let me assure you of something: elvenkind are a huge group of consumers. Elves buy enough clothing and an even more-amazing amount of weapons, magic wands, staffs, unicorns, bangles, particle effects, vehicles, horses, homes, trees... enough to stun several oxen. I cannot begin to guess how much income was lost from this group (and the tithe to LL of course via Marketplace).


Sure, you might write this off as just another glitch in Support. Unfortunately, this scenario can be retold countless times with countless players. For every person who says "I never had a problem with Support" there are at least as many who have had the kind of experience EC had. As was graphically-illustrated on Twitter today, EC's reach was far beyond "a couple sims of crazy RPing elves" and dynamically affected a lot more people than would at first be accounted for on some little income-graph, giving them yet one more sad and upsetting story to add to their opinion of Linden Lab's management of Second Life.

This is the type of problem I have been outlining in my Reply posts; the kind of problem that really should concern LL with all their talk of "retention" and "falling concurrency" and the rest. This isn't an isolated incident, as acknowledged on LL's own Grid Status and blog pages; the Euros have been having problems paying LL for at least a month. Other people have found themselves in the same position EC was in; unable to hand Linden Lab the money they were ready to pay and threatened with the loss of their sims, accounts and inventories.

It is this kind of cavalier inattention to user needs that is a very sore point with customers (residents). It is this kind of problem that is losing LL tier, Premium Memberships, and a lot of freakin' money. Despite all the babble coming out of LL, it really seems like they don't want our money; they don't want our participation/consumption; they don't want our presence in their world. After all, actions trump words every time.

If LL can't deal with this very real and very deep problem in management and public perception, nothing will help them. I do hope that Rod Humble, by his acknowledgement of this problem today on Twitter and his willingness to hear, will understand that this incident is not an isolated problem but reveals a much-deeper rift that is recognized by many Second Life residents, indicating a wide-area effect that is critical to the continued existence of Second Life's customer base. We are your customers and we bring through our experiences and words other customers to you.

Yes, we can put up with technical glitches; yes, problems happen. But when they happen over and over for several years, increasing with time, frustrating some of Second Life's biggest paying customers enough to have them scale back mightily on their land holdings, Marketplace ads and Premium Memberships... then the company has a very large and significant problem. It's certainly recognized by them; they publicly talk of future signups and retention...

The (forced) migration of the last Elven sim in Second Life is the small leaf that in its falling makes visible widening ripples in the deep pool that is SL. I sure hope someone at LL is paying attention; that's a whole lotta real money leaving Second Life (or already has) and adds another large weight to the opinion and calculations of other customers on whether their investment of time and money into Second Life is worthwhile, and whether they'd bring someone else into such an unstable world.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Grid Factionalism: You Have Teh Dumb

Another in-between post while I try to get Part III of my Reply done. This one's been triggered by a recent incident and I'd like to make my position clear here in light of the Reply posts and they way some have received them.

I am not anti-SL or anti-LL. I am deeply involved in Second Life, and like many others I have committed a great deal of time and money to being there. It is natural and acceptable for me to analyse my time and the conditions under which I work and I do not think it "disloyal" for me to critique Linden Lab. I have tried to be careful not to merely slam, but to organize the strains of thought I read and am exposed to inworld and outworld [not counting the Hamster Dance, which was personal].

History repeats itself

I'd like to give you some history as to my perspective:

I was deeply and fully-involved in the genesis of the WWW as well as the first VWs in 1995-1999. Those first primal "grids" went dark because of various business and technical decisions and problems, but what really shattered things and set back the tech 10 years was factionalism. People got tied into parochialism and narrowmindedness, dividing their efforts and the community with their petty little highschool politics. What hurt me more than the worlds going dark was that the community of which I gave my heart, soul and hundreds of hours of work to destroyed itself and dissolved because a lot of the people involved were uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics. They squandered any kind of cohesiveness, vision, determination and aim in their childish "loyalty wars."

This fracturing is what set back the VW idea and tech for years. It set back the WWW too. In fact, it screwed up almost everything those people professed to love because they couldn't get out of their tiny selves long enough to have a good look at the big picture.

I see the same thing happening today and it makes me sick.

Hammer-on, Garth

Since my hammer example seemed to be understood easily by people, let me make another one:

I want a guitar. Everyone says Strats are the greatest. I try Strats; I try several of them over several years and I just can't get comfortable with them. I don't like the "thin" sound of them. My hands don't like them; they like Gibsons and Takamines and Ibanez's. So I won't buy a Strat.

Do I then go around slamming Strats? That would be idiotic, as many people find Strats to be a most-excellent instrument; I do know that they are well-made and professional-level guitars, and I hear people play Strats and I like they way they play them. My own preference is for Gibsons. But I don't knock any professional-level instrument. And I certainly don't start knocking the entire music industry because I happen to prefer one guitar over another. And let's not talk about the bass/guitarist/lead singer/drummer crap either.

Such a preference will not stop me from paying attention, analysing and critiquing Gibsons. Some have super-heavy bodies that hurt my shoulder; some have different models of pickups I don't like; some have ultra-fat necks many people like but that my small hands cannot get around or work efficiently. So I have my preferences as to models. I have opinions about craptastic models Gibson put out as well as fantastic models they issued. But with those opinions and preferences I am in no way wishing Gibson to fail or go away.


I believe in the virtual worlds; post 3 of Reply will make clear why I do and what I see possible with such a technology. I am registered on at least 7 grids right now. Some offer me one thing; others, something else. I do not believe in putting all my eggs in one basket. I saw what happened with that before, and it broke my heart and made me flee the whole stupid mess and go waste my time and bury myself, removing myself from community.

In the same way I have declared myself a citizen of the net and not identified myself with a narrow subset like Facebook-follower, Tweeter, blogger or gamer, I am a citizen of the multiverse/grid/cyberspace. I haven't done much critique of InWorldz because I really haven't been there long enough, nor am I connected enough to people there to formulate any quick opinion about IW. I do know that the Founders there are present often, are approachable (at least to me) and that most people seem pretty friendly there. I am relatively new there, and I work alone a lot in my little space so I haven't much else to go on. Likewise OSgrid, which I don't visit often, or Craft or Avination, I just don't have the 3-year experience I have in Second Life to draw any conclusions yet.

My position has always been clear to anyone who might ask me, and I have tried to make it clear in this blog title and my posts: all grids are good grids. You might like the service you get from one; the prices of another; the ability to run certain scripts on another. That's your preference and your choice. But pushing political agendas to get one grid "favored" over another is, in my opinion, missing the whole point. If you're worried about the stability of this newly-born tech, proliferate; create more grids; become a citizen not just of this grid or that grid but of Gridworld. Get with the bigger picture.

I don't hang out in one block in my physical life, cursing and complaining about other blocks. I don't champion my apartment building and spit on others who live in different buildings. I go hither and yon; I shop one week at one store and another week at a different store. I watch girly movies and I watch The Matrix. I don't eat only salads and I don't eat only hamburger. Monoculture is deadly in biology, sociology and technology.

I don't get involved in South Carolina vs Ohio; in the Green Bay Packers (do they still have that team anymore?) vs the NY Yankees (yes, I know one uses a funny, brown, oval-shaped ball and the other a round white one with pretty red stitching on it) or even US vs The World. From my perspective, these are as important and engrossing as two children arguing over whether teddy bears are better than bunnies. They are parochial, myopic and waste time, energy and materials that could be used for something constructive, like getting to Mars or the stars or feeding hungry people or teaching kids to make and understand art.


My recent critiques of Second Life and Linden Lab are my attempt to digest and order all the information and experience I have picked up in 3 years about something to which I have given a tremendous amount of personal resources and time. Since the proliferation of grids, I have gone exploring these new islands and continents with an open mind and a happiness that this technology is not being held in one vulnerable and central location, subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as happened before.

Critique is not "hatin." It is not "slamming." If I thought that, I'd never have gotten past the first critique of my guitar playing, my first brush-to-canvas, my first metal sculpture or my first writing assignment for class. Maybe I should have done all 3 parts of the Reply in one huge, long modem-choking post to make clear the point that this is critique, not slamming. I wasn't sure Blogger could handle that [not counting the comments about "nice post, but so long!" :D]

You get and give critique in order to help someone improve their skills and abilities so that they are free to express their creative vision. What my Reply posts have been addressing is my sadness at watching LL make the same mistakes I have seen countless times before in countless companies over this 15-year genesis of the WWW and this technology (not counting the 10 years before that when the tech was mostly "niche geeks"). That's 25 years of experience being involved with and observing tech companies, virtual communities and the turns and twists of the long road. My posts are one person's observations & frustrations, but also contructive suggestions on how to address problems that I think are seriously hurting LL as a company and SL as a product. Why do I bother? Because I don't want to see LL fold and take SL with it. Duh!

So that's that about my aims, methods, experience and perspective. As the sign atop my House of Cards at Burn2 [taken from Steven King's The Dark Tower series] said, "Go then... there are other worlds than these." Populate, propagate; the Earth/SL is one small planet and subject to disasters natural and unnatural. It is a small, confining and vulnerable place for an expanding civilization. Go to the other planet-grids; make your home there; make a flag, yeah. Show some team spirit. Become a citizen of many gridworlds. But don't forget you're part of the solar system, galaxy or universe either; without that, you don't really have anything but a standalone world and a standalone mind.

You can still catch me in SL, where I continue to pay rent and server fees to Linden Labs in the hope that they love their world and see the awesome potential of it as much as I do.