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Wednesday, September 19, 2007


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Laukosargas Svarog

As someone who created an avatar which is the complete and total opposite of myself in RL I can sympathise with Mr Gibson. I've encountered more racism, sexism and intolerance ( and even a surprising lack of imagination) in SL in 3 years than I have in a lifetime in RL. And with the introduction of voice it's got even worse, with those who use voice ignoring those who don't. Is that really a price we have to pay for anonymity ? Or maybe, like RL, we'll see our personal rights and freedoms gradually eaten away, which is starting to happen in SL now too.

As for what Gibson saw when he flew around. Anyone who knows me will tell you I've always maintained SL resembles a landfill site. But search and dig around in it for long enough and you'll find a few gems in there for sure. But many of the older resident artists have left and what I see now around the place is far more corporate these days.

3 years on we have almost the same SL as when I joined in terms of user experience. Very few real improvements; movement is still like wading in mud, building is still just as awkward as it ever was. Textures still take an age to rez. Scripts still fail to run, items still fail to rez. I think this is SL's greatest shame and for me it's just not worth the greater concurrency. It's pretty much driven me away from SL. I expected far more than this after 3 years. I'm just about hanging in here waiting in hope but now I'm not holding my breath any more.

Valerie Bethune

Lauk is right about the lack of real progress in the user experience. If it wasn't for the people I've met, I'd have bailed ages ago. But there *are* the people, and unlike Mr. Gibson, that good experience started from my first day - though maybe it did have to do with me being just a plain ol' human-looking Ruth (hard to believe I looked that way for 6 months, but it didn't hurt). I met a couple helpful folks in Waterhead, they took me and some other n00bs from the teeming masses and it took off from there. And I sucked in the high school lunchroom and in Edmonton. :-) Now, I try to help out as best I can when someone wanders by my house and bumps into my door. That's supposed to be how it works.

When I entered SL, I thought I'd read that one of the founding principles was not to judge people based on how their avs looked. While that kind of made common sense since everyone has so many options how to look and it would be dull and stupid not to take advantage of those options (okay, granted, I'm pretty far on that dull-and-stupid scale), it helped me to open up more socially than maybe I would have otherwise. I've made a point to be nice to furries, tinies, fairies, dragons, warrior robots, vampires and Gothic Lolitas, and have never regretted it. Of course, it's a good practice to carry into RL. (Yes, I sound pretty hippyish.) I've seen those principles bastardized by Residents and by Lindens, but it's seen me through a year and a half, and has helped me wade through a lot of muck. So thanks, SL, whether you like it or not.

Marianne McCann

I've actuaslly found my SL and RL experiences to mirror each other. In both I have a level of fame for the things I do (which, unsurprisingly, are the same things in both worlds: newspaper work, design, etc.). I never had to "announce" who I was (and still haven't, thankoo) I had the benefit, though, of having a former friend guide me about the first day or two, but did a lot of exploring on my own. Overall, aside from intolerance due to my choice of avatar (I'm a kid), I've been purty lucky.

Part of dis world, I tink, is this: If you wanna find only the bad stuff, it's all there for ya, an easy to come across. If you want to find better things, you might have to work a bit more, but you will be rewarded.


Marianne McCann

@ Valerie
When I entered SL, I thought I'd read that one of the founding principles was not to judge people based on how their avs looked.

Not so much anymore. People see my avvie, and I'm labeled a pedophile, which make no sense on any level. Yet it happens.


Cubey Terra

This isn't a case of beauty discrimination. Residents have learned through repeated and hard lessons that troublemakers usually create throwaway accounts with grossly distorted avatars. It's all just for the "lulz", as they say. So when someone shows up having gone to lengths to look ugly, there's a 90% chance that they're about to cage and orbit people randomly. It's because of these throwaway accounts that mainland residents are so paranoid and hostile, for the most part.

It's a shame that Mr. Gibson encountered SL in this way, and as a result failed to find the really excellent groups who help new residents.

Finally a note to commenter Valerie, the mainland has some truly beautiful locations, if you just look.

Cubey Terra

Oops. Correction. My last comment should have been directed to Laukosargas, and not Valerie.

Atlwolf Blabbermouth

I suggest people work on making your avatar looking presentable and then judge people's reactions. Most griefers have grotesquely overweight and ugly avatars so therefore people fitting this criteria are ignored. Try some decent AV parts from the gnubie store and spend some time on your appearance. It's not about looks (most of us don't look as fabulous as our avatars. It's about showing you spent the time to learn how to make yourself look appealing. Looking liek a noob makes people ignore you because they don't want to spend an hour explaining how to remove a box from your head.

Tenshi Vielle

Yeahhh... see, that's why you aren't a jerk to people you don't know...

pavig lok

I think mister Gibson's experience is pretty much what you would expect for someone who "set all of the avatar's sliders in the opposite direction than I assumed most people would do". SL has a culture and aesthetic that newcomers often blunder upon by committing extreme faux-pas. I know this from the bitter experience of doing pretty much the same thing as mister Gibson as a newbie. It takes time to learn the visual language and politeness theory for secondlife, especially if you aren't aware that other people may be reading your mouse movements on screen to see where your attention is (or other such mysteries).

Given time in SL i'm sure mister Gibson would look back on his early days and ruminate that perhaps his frosty reception was, amongst other things, because he dressed like a troll. I'm sure when he get's griefed by the third grotesquely overweight bright blue av in a tutu something might click.

Secondlife sortof runs parralell to real life in some ways, and what's cool to do doesn't always translate directly between the two. Coming to secondlife you really do walk around quite lost for a long time - it's not newbie friendly at all. given time in the culture though most folks learn the ropes.

I wouldn't expect mister Gibson to take to it any easier or quicker than other folks. I remember an interview with "the father of cyberspace" who, after writing his first cyberpunk novels on a typewriter or something, got dragged out to the apple shop by a friend and bought a shiny new mac. When he got it home and plugged it in it made this grinding noise, and calling up his friend to see what the problem was they said "oh that's the disk drive, it's like this little record player..." The world of computers was nowhere near as slick and polished as the author had imagined.

Secondlife too is one of those things one imagines one way from the outside, but the experience of it is quite different up close. I think everyone who has spent some time here took a while to cross over that initial conceptual gap. If mister Gibson had known what the internet was going to look like when he first wrote about the matrix... well I'm sure he would have written a very different set of novels (most probably more like his recent stuff). As it stands SL has turned out more like Gibson's early work than perhaps he imagines; a thriving culture composed mostly of micro-cliques who live in a vast wasteland, invest their identity in the products they buy and the enhancements they adopt...and read in each other an inexplicable language where the cut of someone's suit or pop cultural reference of their choice of firearm speak volumes in the secret language of their group. A place where visitors come ill equipped to understand the local patois can easily get lost.

Or maybe i'm taking the metaphor too far :P

Hen3ry Mensing

I found this article interesting not because it was a famous person that was having the issue but more because the things he felt were so similar to the feelings the rest of us have when we start in sl. I am not famous man in sl or in rl I am a average man and it was nice to see even famous people can have a crappy time when they first start sl.
It does get better.
I guess I understand the frustration that people face when they first get in world.
My theory has always been, that a lot of the griefers that are out there are actually not people that came in world to start grief, but people who became frustrated because they did not understand how the social interactions worked and with that frustration they then proceeded to act out to elicit some response, any response from someone.
I think a lot of people (myself included) thought when they started sl they were joining a small club and by mere entrance we would be welcomed as fellow sl‘ers (or whatever the hell we call ourselves) but the sad truth is that with in every club there is still another club and another club sl is like peeling a onion at some point you don’t want to cry any more and you stop peeling.
I guess when we all start in sl we become that new greasy haired geek at the first day of high school and being that geek we don’t get a lot of attention.
Not many people want to go out of their way to talk to a beige skinned noob wearing an all lime green outfit with a big funny misshapen 3 foot long pink phallus.
It’s like those scenes in the old movie platoon, except no one calls the new people cherries they call them noobs.
There is a little bit of a elitism in this game, time in earns you the right to be received quicker in social situations.
Maybe, once in a while we should all be forced to be noobs again, and like having to wear flood water jeans and glasses with tape on them in high school, being a noob again would teach us humility and sympathy.
When I started there were always people sitting around saying they didn’t understand the point to the game.
I have been in sl for almost a year now and I realize that during that year I went thru many stages of trying to understand the point of this virtual world.
I thought at first the point of the game was there was no point to it (I liked this viewpoint very much),the world was a place you went to that wasn’t your crappy apartment or your job.
Then I realized the point was it was just a different medium for all those old chat programs, meet mingle chat and cyber.
As time wore on I realized the point of the game was art and creation.
Soon I met people and the point became love and the attraction of minds that were meeting intimately.
Then the point came home to roost, and the point was the hard lesson that there are many things the virtual world still can not provide to people forced to live in the real world the rest of the time.
Then I had an epiphany, and I think I have finally found the point to this game,
The point mimics real life so closely it’s kind of scary.
The point of second life is to just keep going there is no other point.
It is a life that although in some ways may be unfulfilling that must still be led trudging on towards the horizon full well realizing the horizon can never be reached.
But it’s a hell of a nice trip.

Arcadian Vanalten

It always entertains me somewhat when people expect other people to be, well, something other than people. SL or RL, the dynamic remains the same. Folks tend to cluster into groups w/ similar interests or characteristics (be it all the boys on one side, all the girls on the other at the junior high dance, or frat kids in colleges, or any other example you choose to cook up from your own life). The Us/Them dynamic is simply wired into the human animal and takes some conscious effort to overcome. Virtuality doesn't change that automatically, it seems.

That being said, it CAN be done if one is prepared to reach out a bit. SL is a great opportunity for folks to connect to others one would never have the opportunity to meet. My life is far, far richer for the friends I've made here. As in RL, these are friendships built on both time and shared experience. I count some of my SL friends among my dearest friends in either world now, and I am grateful that I've had the chance to encounter them.

I am sorry that some are disappointed that they don't just walk immediately into a warm welcome of instant friends, but if one takes the time to meet people and cultivate those relationships, one will be richly rewarded.

Incidentally, on the appearance thing, don't expect that creating the perfect Ken/Barbie avvie will shortcut that process. As a host/DJ, I started upgrading my appearance for work; over time, I've accumulated well over L$15 K of skin upgrades alone and Linden only knows how much in hair & clothes. However, I realized it really didn't seem as important; it's the DJ's whose music sizzles, the host whose chat sparkles that earn the most tips, regardless of what they wear/look like. If anything, I find I blend into the crowd much more. I very rarely get approached or noticed at all unless I start cracking jokes, etc. Otherwise, I'm simply one more pretty face in a sea of Adonises, LOL. I now wear whatever expresses my whim at the moment w/o any expectation of the appearance alone accomplishing anything.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Hen3ry, your journey through experiencing the different reasons for what Second Life is supposed to be is very, very interesting — but perhaps you haven't even realised that you're almost bordering on the religious!

In effect, "finding out what Life is for" is a religious experience — where we ask questions like "why am I here?" and search for answers. Some of them give us temporary comfort; some are more definitive, like your ultimate answer: "The point of Second Life is to just keep going there is no other point."

In fact, it's fascinating to see an answer like that emerging through an interative process. Some spiritualist teachers would also claim the same applies to our real life: it's a process where the goal is simply to go through the whole process. There is a quite deep meaning there. Curious that the ones finding that answer become solid, regular users; the rest simply go away, frustrated; a part rebels against it and become griefers. The parallels to our real world are staggeringly interesting. I'm sure this comment of yours would give Richard Dawkins a lot to think about. It's certainly my case. Hmm, Second Life as a religious experience has a smack of Snowcrash...

As for Gibson's experience, I find it very amusing to imagine he might be around somewhere (hopefully having found out the way to set those sliders properly). It would be even more amusing if Gibson came back regularly, keeping himself utterly anonymous, and started to invest on a certain aspect of his life that he never explored: say, become a life musician or a land baron. His avatar would attain fame and glory and be universally recognised in SL. And one day, in two years or so, he'd announce that he's William Gibson.

I can imagine the shock :)


Second life users take the VR too seriously. 3d sex is just about the weirdest thing on the internet. THe important thing is the space and place rather than the avatar.ugeeks.
I know, I been building 3dvirtual onlineworlds since the last decade.


second life is NOT close to gibsons vision, imho. if snowcrashes worlds are like second life, then all the 3d worlds that are dispersed throughout the internet are much more akin to gibson's cyberspace. these "outerworlds" are t he descendants of html, opensource, text editable.
Representing a company'sweb site in 3d and 2d is the way to go the future. And that company's site is its own url.

Kami Harbinger

What's ridiculous is, Gibson didn't ask for help. You go exploring a new world, and have trouble getting started, you have a choice: ask someone established to help you (or read a tourism book), or flounder around and have an unpleasant time.

Would it have killed him to ask directions? He's not that smart a guy, and not at all technologically competent, so he shouldn't be surprised when he can't work it out himself. But there are multiple books now about SL, and plenty of getting started guides on the Web, and plenty of people at The Shelter or NCI willing to help out.


And yes, deliberately making yourself look like a slob is a good way to be excluded from any society, SL or otherwise.

Synn Mounier

Starting out in Second Life is like going to a party where you dont know anyone, you dont know what the dress code is and you are flat broke. As it has been stated, most dont realize that many of the same social rules that apply in RL also apply in SL: if you look like you dont care about the way you look, you will get shunned. If you act like a jerk, no one will talk to you. Cliques exist and they may not want you around. There are also some wonderful avatars out there that will be happy to show you around get you started, as well as some genuinely nice people that enjoy talking to anyone, even an odd-looking noob. So be patient, hang out a bit, talk to people. Like RL, it can take some time to find your niche.

Dave Levinson

Mr. Gibson is personally responsible for my avid interest in virtual worlds and gaming. Reading Neuromancer 20 years ago set a path in motion for me that hasn't wavered since. These days I sound less crazy when touting visions of where this is all going. Time to jack in...

Constantine Kleene

It seems like some people have a bias against Second Life, in general from the get-go, and this as a basis for exploration won't produce the best results. Now I like Gibson's work (and suspect that he's generally a decent guy) but you have to wonder, (aside from looking a bit off), if he was doing other socially inept things in-world like TYPING IN ALL CAPS (or otherwise behaving obnoxiously). People can sabotage their SL experience just like their RL experience. This may save them from feeling the need to do any further work in making that life better. It's fairly well known that he doesn't like computers to begin with -- so disliking SL isn't that bizarre. But I don't see why he should bother bashing something that he obviously doesn't understand and doesn't even want to understand. Hell, if he wanted to he could be an online cyber-luddite! Anyway... some people get SL and some people don't -- and then there are those in-between. I know I quit for quite a while but came back and am having a much better time my second time around. The future growth of this world will be interesting to observe.

Rhiannon Chatnoir

Definitely an interesting concept to analyze...avatar discrimination based on appearance.

I agree that most people either create an avatar in what feels innately comfortable for them, which more often than not is human. I myself, when I created my avatar in what will be 3 years ago now, literally spent hours in the orientation sims making her some slightly idealized variant of myself...with a tinge of fantasy thrown in...since I came to SL hot off the heels of playing in Neverwinter Nights and Everquest. Yes, my avatar has pointy ears :P And, in all of the time spent in SL (aside from when I am playing dress up as say a animal or robot or fantastical beast, etc.) I have not changed my avatar shape at all...well except to make my feet smaller to fit in shoes.

In the first few months within Second Life I got involved in the communities that were near the main Ahern welcome areas (Darkwood, Dore), bought land there and still am there today. In fact I own a good portion of the Darkwood sim presently and because of it's proximity to what was for the longest time, the key entry point into Second Life I would encounter a plethora of newbies throughout the years. Sometimes they would come in search of the money tree I keep for them there, other times they would come flying in full force from the welcome area and smack into the side of my cathedral and flop to the ground like wounded birds. But, I have always made the space open to the public and made anyone (even akward, uncertain newbies) know that they could hang out as they wished...irregardless of if they were a blue/purple troll or a blingy barbie princess or just Ruth.

I guess it is a combo of the artist/idealist in me (and yes probably also a bit hippy) that I saw beyond whatever choice of sliders and pixels any given avatar in front of me possessed. And, maybe from that is how I have seen most of my experiences withing SL to be contrary to what the Amazon interview present...but one of philanthropy and personal giving that is often more noticable virtually than within the real life world.

I think another interestng glitch in my personal earlier experience of SL compared to others is that in the first few months I experienced what seemed to be a bug in that I could not launch SL from the actual executable file but could only go in through SL via the listing of web events that was kept online. Clicking on an event then would successfully launch the client. In some ways what was an odd bug, became a way for me explore "so what shall I do tonight" and thus experienced less of the empty desolateness that often some have complained about the space.

PS. Hugs to you Lauk...hopefully some day you will feel that SL is a space worth exploring/contributing to as wholly again...you really are an amazing builder/scripter that brought magic to SL's virtual spaces.

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