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Archive for August, 2010

I tried Emerald back before Emerald was cool. Before breast physics or inbuilt animation overrides, I took the viewer for a spin. It wasn’t bad, really. I didn’t care for the way it implemented radar, preferring a HUD onscreen to needing to keep a window open to monitor nearby activity, but otherwise, I liked what I saw. My favorite thing was having direct access to Windlight settings from the main viewer screen. I used that constantly.

But even way back then, drama seemed to follow Emerald. I sat at live music events and watched people who criticized the viewer mysteriously crash when Emerald developers showed up and moved into the region where they sat. Rumor surfaced from what I considered reasonably reliable sources about some of the extracurricular activities of some of the project’s developers, even as other people who I respect deeply started joining the team.

I looked hopefully around the Emerald preferences panel, hoping there was a check box labeled “Drama,” but there simply isn’t. So I gave up the handy tools, uninstalled Emerald, and went back to Snowglobe. I dragged the Advanced Sky Editor window to the bottom of the screen and treated it like a built-in pop-up menu of Windlight settings. Adaptation wasn’t as hard as I expected.

Since then, I have been able to watch the drama from a distance:

This last transgression appears to have been the breaking point for some Emerald users, and social media yesterday evening was abuzz with people  looking for the Drama check box, too.

All this makes me wonder about the future of Emerald. After all,  only a fraction of Second Life users are plugged into SL-related social media. Those casual users don’t read the official blog, much less the blog postings, tweets, and plurks from other users. Emerald’s did not gain mainstream acceptance until they introduced breast physics, and that was through word-of-mouth of the new feature. Word of questionable behavior of a viewer’s development team doesn’t seem to travel anywhere near as quickly as word of full-motion body parts, so it will be interesting to see whether drama overcomes the average user’s inertia.

I’ll be watching with curiosity from the cheap seats of my LL-issue viewer. I may not have the bells and whistles, but at least I am not trying to uncheck the “Drama” preference.

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A Visit with my Tribe

Even now, days after saying goodbye to friends at SLCC, their voices still echo in my mind. Much has already been said elsewhere of the policies and upcoming SL features announced during the conference, but this isn’t the place to debate those. Some of the other new perspectives I gained about SL from new-found friends would fill up posts by themselves, and my thoughts on some of that aren’t yet distilled to words. Right now, I am still thinking about the human experience of the event.

There was a moment on Friday evening when I sat in the hotel bar, sandwiched with two others on a loveseat obviously not meant to hold three adults. Friends were gathered all around, with conversations overlapping the way they do when you are in a group of a dozen people. In a lull in the conversation, Chestnut Rau looked across at me and said, “Look at that huge smile Feline is wearing!” I was embarrassed that it was so apparent, but she was right. Of course I was happy. I was with my tribe. After a year of adversity, I could laugh with them, watch expressions on their faces as we discussed serious topics, and hug them tight. At that moment, it felt possible to gather enough laughter, conversation, and hugs to last until the next time we gathered together.

I don’t mean for it to sound like all of SLCC is a cocktail party. If anything, this year was less so than in the past two I attended. I had the chance to ask Tiggs Linden questions about region crossings.  I talked shop with Jeremy Linden about what the documentation team is doing. And there’s nothing like sharing an elevator ride with Philip Linden, giving me the chance to ask him anything I wanted. It probably says something about the way I chose to consume SLCC this year that given that opportunity, I didn’t ask Philip about search or viewer 2.0. I asked a human question. Knowing he had flown in on the red-eye, I asked Philip if he was going to find time for a nap. He, in turn, had a very human answer: He would like a nap, but one of the other Lindens was in the hospital, and he wanted to visit him. (I realized the next day that he had been referring to Q Linden, who called into a keynote address from the rehab center where he is recovering from a stroke.)

Looking back on the SLCC weekend, I saw and learned a lot of interesting things. Yet the most memorable things about the weekend were the people. Daphne Abernathy and her legendary power strips. Tamara Sands making Gwampa Lomu blush while publicly cornering him into a duet of “Phantom of the Opera.” The priceless look on Chestnut Rau’s face when she met her partner, Zha Ewry. ArminasX Samian wearing his sunglasses in the dark ballroom to dress as his avatar. The laughter that met my blurted comment that I needed to “log out of the hotel room.”

Several times during the weekend, I said, “It’s all virtual.” It was my flippant replacement for the usual, “It’s all good.” But you know what? It’s not all virtual. Those were real hugs, real laughter, real eye contact. It’s not all virtual at all, and that’s what makes the human side of SLCC the most powerful and memorable part of the event.

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