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Archive for December, 2008

Holiday Over

I didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas, but the past ten years or so, I have put up a tree because it’s beautiful and festive.

Three years ago, I spent Christmas night sitting up with my cat Cyrano, and he died the next morning. Now, I take down the tree on December 26, and I remember.
Cyrano Photo on Desk

Holiday’s over. Time to face forward. What’s next?

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Merry Christmas

Wishing you all the magic and wonder of the season.
Happy Holidays from Chris and Feline

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First Candle

I’m not going to pretend to remember all the stuff my Jewish grandmother would like for me to have remembered. I also didn’t marry a Nice Jewish Boy. But I do remember enough to know that it’s time to wish all of my friends who celebrate it a happy Hanukkah.
Feline First Night 3

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I should preface anything I say here by saying that yes, I have a sailboat in Second Life. Anyone who has visited Harbour has seen it tied up at the dock.
Fishing Bear at the Harbour Dock 12-20-2008
Regardless of what’s sitting at my dock, I don’t really consider myself part of the sailing community. This is, in large part, because I totally suck at sailing in SL. I used to sail for real, years ago, but I seem to have lost all ability to do much more than run aground. So my sailboat is a lovely, and rather primmy, decoration in Harbour, but it isn’t really what I would consider a pastime. I had to search my Flickr photostream to find a single photo of me with the sailboat underway to include in this blog post.
Sailing 6-13-2008
That said, the sailing community just seems to have scored a major victory in the openspace skirmishes. An official blog post announced a 40-region sea is being put into place next to Nautilus. After insisting that the sailing community can’t afford to keep their regions under the homestead policy, and also insisting that they can’t use the new and not-improved openspace regions due to the lowered agent limit, they’re getting a shiny new sea of homestead regions, funded by the the Lab. Merry Christmas for sailors!

Additionally, the estates who own the United Sailing Sims just got a special perk: being attached via this new sea to the mainland. We’ve come a long way from the owners of those regions threatening to shut them down in the wake of the openspace announcements. Of course, this coming summer, the same price hikes that those estate owners were insisting would cause them to have to abandon their regions will come into place. Is the added value of being uniquely attached to the mainland enough to make them more valuable and save them from sinking into the Linden ocean?

What about the other estate owners? While I don’t think that the lab is terribly interested in having a Gorean continent (Jack Linden made it pretty clear in his forum post that the PG nature of the USS was important to this venture), and I don’t know that themed areas like Caledon would be interested in being connected to the mainland, other estate owners are likely to want a piece of the action, especially if it means higher value/occupancy in their regions.

I’m curious to see if this is a big policy shift in how the mainland will be managed and developed, and if so whether it stabilizes mainland land prices. If so, I’m sure that from LL’s business point of view, it was a good thing to do with 40 regions worth of computing power that were abandoned by openspace region owners who can’t afford the rising prices.

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I participated in my first Photohunt last night. A Photohunt is a venture where a group is given a location (or, in the case of last night, a selection of locations) and given 60 minutes to bring back their best snapshot from that location. No photo manipulation, just the 4:3 aspect snapshot you took, so the hunt challenges your in-world photography skills, not your Photoshop skills.

Creeve Town, Fairchang Lost Isle 2 12-17-2008

My entry for this week was a shot from underwater looking up at buildings in Creeve Town. I had never visited Creeve Town, and it’s a pretty amazing spot. Very dark and moody at default lighting, with tremendous use of phantom megaprims to make some astonishing, huge interlaced arches. If you haven’t been, it’s worth a visit.

Before the end of the hour, you return to the Virtual Artist Alliance and place your entry on the board, and the participants and spectators vote on the winner of the week. Cyanide Seelowe ran last night’s hunt, and I got a quick snapshot of her with the entries in the Photohunt Gallery.

Cyanide Seelowe at the PhotoHunt HQ 12-17-2008_001

The Photohunt was a lot of fun, and the group was welcoming and friendly. I’ll have to do it again when the hunts start back up in January, after the holidays.

If you’d like to join in the fun, Photohunts are held at 6:00 pm SLT on Wednesdays, with the starting point at the  Virtual Artist Alliance in Chiaksan. The next hunt is scheduled for January 7.  Rules and a FAQ are available on their wiki.

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The Spaceship Has Landed

The Second Life blog today unveiled the first bit of work from Big Spaceship: the redesign of the Second Life home page.

I was a little underwhelmed, and I posted my immediate thoughts in response on the SL Forums:

Part of design is organizing visual data, but the first glance at the screen shot gives the impression of a busy jumble. It took me probably 5-10 seconds to figure out where I would click to move from this page. The page isn’t the destination, it’s a portal to lead you toward that destination. And it doesn’t lead, it mires you. It needs more organization and prioritization of what’s being presented.

I thought about it afterward and tried to distill what bothered me, and it comes down to usability. I wondered if the Big Spaceship folks ever heard of the 5-second test. The 5-second test is when you sit someone down in front of a web page and give them only 5 seconds to view it, then ask them questions about what they saw.  When I looked at the site, I saw all the confusing boxes and didn’t know where to go to do anything. From the comments I saw on the SL forums, it appears that many men saw “woman with big boobs!” I went back and looked, and I don’t know how I missed those the first time.  So we have a first impression of a confusing place, with big boobs. Not exactly the kind of first impression that Linden Lab probably wants to give potential customers. Maybe  was having a particularly dense day, but I didn’t even see the orange Get Started button at first. I was looking from box to box, puzzled.

The fact is, people who are browsing the web are like five year olds who just ate a glob of cotton candy the size of their head. They jump from place to place, multitasking, and if something doesn’t grab their eye in the first few seconds they are on a site, they’re off again. Studies have shown that you have less than ten seconds to grab someone’s attention with your web site. They aren’t going to figure out that slidey control at the bottom of the screen in ten seconds. They’ll be reading horoscopes long before that.

Speaking of the slidey control at the bottom of the screen, what’s up with that? Navigation of your site should be self-explanatory. If the site visitor has to wonder how to use the navigational controls, then Houston, we have a problem. As soon as they start wondering that, they aren’t thinking about your content. Then again, maybe it will distract them from the boobs.

The other serious concern about the site is Flash. The ten seconds you have to catch a visitor’s attention on your site includes load time. Even on a fast connection, Flash consumes 20% or more of that time.  Not everyone has flash installed, and those who browse from phones, PDAs, and other gadgets can’t install Flash. Flash isn’t very friendly to navigation by the disabled.

Overall, not so good. We’ll treat this like it was the chance to brainstorm, realize that maybe what you came up with isn’t quite right, and take it back to the drawing table. I hope that Linden Lab does that with the new Second Life home page. If they do, I have one suggestion: Your front page doesn’t have to be all things to all people. It only has to give you easily-navigable access to find all things. Make it so that the ADHD five year old who just ate the cotton candy can navigate from the front page to the next page on the site in less than five seconds, and you’ll be a lot better off.

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Santa Was Here?

What is it about the holiday season that compels us to put Santa hats on things and consider them decorated for the holidays?
Santa Lighthouse at Edloe 12-12-2008

I noticed as I wandered the grid that rather than replacing objects that are regularly on parcels, some residents — me included — have simply dressed up common objects with santa hats.

Santa Monkey at Freudian Slip 12-12-2008

Wearing a silly hat, bears seem less fearsome.

Santa Bear at Alienbear on Bratz 12-12-2008

Elephants in red hats are less likely to trample you.

Santa Elephant at The Jungle 12-12-2008

Even giraffes are getting in on the act, bringing holiday spirit to the treetops.

Santa Giraffe at The Jungle 12-12-2008

What funny places have you seen santa hats placed this holiday season?

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