Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: NEWCLOVER

If you’re looking for the latest in hipster clothing for your trendy male avatar, have I got a deal for you! The back half of the NEWCLOVER store is all marked down to zero! That’s right, everything is free!

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Now, the sign says the sale is only until Oct. 17th, but I was still able to pick everything up for free today, so you might want to hurry down, just in case it all ends soon. If you join the NEWCLOVER group for free (there’s a sign at the entrance), you can also pick up a nice free group gift, packed full of men’s clothing.

Here’s one hipster look I was able to put together. Everything except the sneakers is from NEWCLOVER:

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This avatar is wearing:

Bento mesh head: Keiji head by Akeruka (no longer available for free). If you haven’t yet joined the Akrueka group (called [AK] Heads News & Support) for L$150, you should really consider it. If you had joined the Akeruka mesh heads group a year and a half ago, you would have picked up no less than six fully-adjustable Bento mesh heads (three female and three male), all for a single group join fee of L$150. That works out to only L$25 per Bento mesh head, a truly outstanding deal!

Bento mesh body: The free Altamura Robert avatar from the Freebie Megastore at London City (see here for more details). One advantage of this body is that you can remove the head to use another mesh head with it (as I did here).

Hat: Fedora hat in black from NEWCLOVER

Coat and sweater: Neo coat in black check from NEWCLOVER

Pants: Neo slacks in black from NEWCLOVER

Sneakers: I’m pretty sure I picked this pair up from the men’s section at the excellent freebie store on the Ajuda SL Brasil sim; I’m not sure if they are still available, though.

Total cost of this avatar: L$150 (the group join fee for Akeruka)

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3DX Chat: A Brief Introduction (and the Biggest Problem with Most Adult Virtual Worlds)

(Yes, yes, I know, I know, I said I was taking a break. You know how bad I am at keeping these sorts of promises by now, right?)

*sigh*

Before we get started, I want to make it clear that I am not going to get into the habit of covering adult/sex-based virtual worlds. There are literally dozens of them out there, and frankly, I find them boring as hell.

So, why am I writing about 3DX Chat? Well, as you will learn, I discovered that they have a free-to-access test version available for a limited time, so I decided to check it out. (I first heard about it from a Second Life blogger.)

Frankly, the very few adult virtual world platforms which I have mentioned before on this blog (namely, Utherverse/Red Light Center, LivCloser, and Oasis) have not impressed me very much. The biggest problem is that many of these newer adult/sex-based virtual worlds simply cannot compete with everything that the entrenched frontrunner Second Life, with a 15-year head start, has to offer:

  • SL now has extremely attractive, realistic-looking mesh avatars (male, female, and any mythical creature you could ever dream up), with a near-endless array of avatar customization options (hair, clothing, shoes, accessories, etc.). You can outfit your avatar to fit into any style or scene! No other virtual world can compete.
  • In-world stores and the SL Marketplace sell tens of thousands of different animations (dance, cuddle, sex, etc.); again, there’s something to suit every taste. Again, no other virtual world can compete with the endless selection.
  • Finally, Second Life offers hundreds of adult locations, many staffed with dozens of avatars who are ready, willing, and able to roleplay sexual scenes (via chat, voice, even webcam!). Again, no other sex-based virtual world comes even close.

Now I want to assure you (despite SL’s reputation in some quarters) that you can easily enjoy and appreciate Second Life without setting foot once in any of these adult areas. You can easily set up your client software to avoid showing adult-rated places to you under Places search, for example. But they are there, if you are curious. And some of these places are quite popular. Frankly, sex is one of the reasons that Second Life is still as popular as it is, for a certain minority of visitors.


I decided to take advantage of an opportunity to explore yet another sex-based social VR space/virtual world, called 3DX Chat (WARNING: ADULT CONTENT! This link is MOST DEFINITELY NOT SAFE FOR WORK! Consider yourself warned.).

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Normally, you have to purchase a monthly subscription to visit and use 3DX Chat, starting at US$19.99 a month:

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But, for a limited time, I discovered that they are offering free access to a new test client and server, so I decided that I would investigate. (WARNING: This link has pictures in it that are NOT SAFE FOR WORK! Again, consider yourself warned.).

So I put on my reporter’s cap and went to check out this new world (well, not so new; 3DX Chat is apparently already 5 years old).

The good news is that, at least compared to LivCloser, Oasis, and Utherverse/RLC, the avatars do actually look pretty good. Here’s what I able to pull together for a more modest look for my test female avatar:

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It’s a very different pricing model than Second Life; your monthly subscription fee seems to include all possible options for body shapes and sizes, hair, makeup, clothing, jewelry, shoes, etc. You can also tint your hair and clothing to any colour you desire. But all these options are still limited to about a dozen hairstyles, a dozen dresses, a dozen styles of footwear, etc., so most of the 3DX Chat avatars land up looking a lot like each other anyways. (Not to mention that most in-game women seem to prefer that starving, anorexic look. Get that poor woman a sandwich, pronto!)

You can also choose from several kinds of locales where you can meet, chat with, dance with, and have sex with other avatars, like this luxury yacht. At the highest settings, the environments are very attractively rendered, and you can control the time of day or night on all of them, everything from midday to sunset to midnight:

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The experimental high-quality water setting is actually quite realistic-looking, among the best water I’ve seen in any virtual world:

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But let’s not kid ourselves. Any socializing that does take place here is essentially foreplay. 3DX Chat is ALL about the sex. It’s not unusual to walk around couples and triples engaged in the act, wherever you go: on a sofa in a club, in a prison cell, up against a wall or a stripper pole, etc. After a while, your eyes glaze over at all the non-stop sex.

There is also an option to use 3DX Chat with an Oculus Rift VR headset, but I found navigation to be rather buggy and clunky. It’s not ready for prime time yet, in my opinion. However, you can move around well enough in desktop mode.

So, what do I think about 3DX Chat after my reporter’s excursion? 3DX Chat certainly offers better-looking avatars than Oasis, which is critical for a successful adult virtual world, but you still have far fewer options available than what Second Life offers you. For example, you only can choose about a dozen dances for your avatar on the dancefloor in 3DX Chat, as opposed to tens of thousands of dances available to you in SL.

I will close with a quote from reporter Susannah Breslin, from my blogpost on another product, CamasutraVR:

 Susannah Breslin has written an article for The Atlantic about the current state of the porn industry in the San Fernando Valley, which also mentions CamasturaVR and the Uncanny Valley:

Whether or not people get turned on by VR pornography, the technology is changing the places where adult content has traditionally been created. Porn Valley is being displaced by porn’s uncanny valley—an X-rated version of the theory holding that a robotic or simulated entity that appears to be human, but not quite fully human, revolts us. Losing a connection to the material world—the skin and sweat of reality—may also lose what makes porn alluring.

She concludes the article by stating:

Everyone wants to feel something,” Adam Sutra told me of his experiments in virtual pornography. He’s right about that. Porn isn’t about sex at all, I’ve learned. It’s about wanting to feel something. And until technology figures out how to make me feel the way that I do when I’m on a porn set, I’ll leave virtual-reality sex to the start-up boys.

Perfectly put!

I Do Not Have Cancer!

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Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

Yesterday, I went to see my urologist for the results of my biopsy.

I do not have cancer!

The doctor told me that it was just inflammation, and that I had no cancer of any kind. He wants to check my bladder regularly, of course, so I have to see him again in six months for another cystoscopy. He also ordered a couple of extra blood and urine tests.

I’m still digesting the news. I guess you could say that I’m still in a bit of shock that everything is going to turn out all right, after all the stress and worry of the past three weeks. What I really feel right now is tired. I feel like I could sleep for a week.

Good thing that I decided to take two weeks of holidays from work. I thought I would need that time to fall apart and put myself back together when I got the bad news, but now there’s only good news! So I am going to enjoy my holidays.

Thank you to everybody who sent me their best wishes and kept me in their thoughts and prayers.

I’m going to take a break from blogging for a little while. But I’ll be back!

CNN Business Takes a Look at Social VR with Visits to AltspaceVR and High Fidelity

CNN Business teamed up with BEME News to produce a nine-minute segment on avatars in virtual reality, visiting both AltspaceVR and High Fidelity:

How realistic virtual reality experiences impact your mind

Widespread adoption of virtual reality may depend on bringing people together in familiar ways like going to a party, seeing a band, or networking at a conference without leaving your couch. How real do VR connections feel?

Here’s the complete video segment on YouTube:

I like how this segment includes the part where the reporter steps into the Doob scanner to create a photorealistic avatar of herself. I would love to be able to do that, but alas, I live too far away from any of the locations that currently offer this service.

And then, I love the part where Philip Rosedale leads the reporter to a mirror within High Fidelity so she can see what she looks like…absolutely wonderful! (By the way, does Philip do anything else lately besides public relations for social VR in general and HiFi in particular? He’s popping up everywhere lately! Does the man sleep?!??)

And I still chuckle whenever I see tarted-up AltspaceVR avatars (such as Katie Kelly’s avatar in this video), which look way better than the limited default options offered to the regular customers! AltspaceVR avatars are still totally unappealing compared to what other social VR platforms can offer such as Sansar and High Fidelity. When is Altspace going to get off their butts and fix that? They’ve got all that Microsoft money to work with, for Pete’s sake! Do something!!

Anyway, my carping at AltspaceVR’s dreadfully cartoony avatars aside, it’s a great video. The reporter’s sense of awe and wonder were genuine, and quite infectious! This video segment will introduce social VR and its possibilities to a whole new audience. Well done, CNN and BEME!

UPDATED! Are YouTube Celebrities and BetterHelp.com Taking Advantage of Vulnerable People with Mental Health Issues?

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Photo by Claudia on Unsplash

Social media stars are the new superstar celebrities of our age. Their antics attract massive audiences, and companies sometimes use them to shill for their products and services (for a fee, of course, and often a hefty one).

The Atlantic magazine has just published an article that takes a critical look at how some YouTube livestreamers are using their celebrity to profit off their viewers’ vulnerability and depression, by collecting a per-person “finder’s fee” to refer them to a site called BetterHelp.com. (This service has also been advertising heavily on Reddit, among several other places on the internet.)

Titled YouTube Stars Are Being Accused of Profiting Off Fans’ Depression, the article states:

Some of YouTube’s biggest stars have found themselves embroiled in controversy over videos that critics say allow them to profit off fans struggling with depression.

Over the past year, mental health and burnout have become big topics in the YouTube community. Stars like Philip DeFranco and Shane Dawson have posted heartfelt videos about their struggles with depression, encouraging fans to get help with their own issues. At the end of each video, they promote an online counseling service called BetterHelp, and include a referral link that earns them money every time a fan clicks the link and signs up.

…For a starting fee of $35 a week, BetterHelp will match you with an online counselor who you can then speak to via text, phone, or video, theoretically making it easy for tech-savvy and time-strapped teens to get mental-health care. But some people who downloaded the app after being prompted to by their favorite YouTubers have claimed that it has far from helped them.

Eighty-six users have filed complaints about the app with the Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit aimed at holding businesses accountable for bad practices. In a Reddit thread, several users describe being charged excessive fees (likely due to the fact that they didn’t realize the plan they had purchased charged the full annual fee up front), and claim the counselors on the app were unresponsive, unhelpful, or refused them treatment.

As Polygon points out, BetterHelp’s terms of service state that the company can’t guarantee a qualified professional. “We do not control the quality of the Counselor Services and we do not determine whether any Counselor is qualified to provide any specific service as well as whether a Counselor is categorized correctly or matched correctly to you,” the terms of service read. “The Counselor Services are not a complete substitute for a face-to-face examination and/or session by a licensed qualified professional.”

It’s a growing firestorm of controversy, and some YouTubers who have promoted BetterHelp.com are beginning to feel the backlash:

YouTubers, sensitive to the growing backlash from their fans, have nearly all put their partnership with BetterHelp on hold after others on YouTube began calling them out. In one of her videos, the YouTuber Deschroma, who had never endorsed the app previously, said she “couldn’t in good conscience” recommend the app to others. The YouTube channel Memeology 101 produced a nine-part series on the scandal, calling it “one of the biggest cons pulled by YouTubers in 2018.” PewDiePie, one of the biggest YouTubers on the platform, has denounced the app and the YouTubers promoting it, saying in his own video, “BetterHelp turns out to be … even worse than what I thought.”

On Monday, the YouTuber Boogie2988 posted a 12-minute mea culpa video, apologizing to his 4.5 million subscribers. “Here’s where I really screwed up: I didn’t read the terms of service for myself. I trusted the other YouTubers that were advertising it. And maybe that’s not something I should do moving forward,” he said. He also announced that he’d be donating all the profits he had made through the partnership to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

But YouTubers rely on trust and authenticity to grow their audience, and even an implication that they might be trying to sell a subpar product or service can damage the relationship they have with their fans. “I really wish big youtubers would stop pushing BetterHelp, its a scam and the fact they’re (youtubers) making money off of exploiting mental illness makes me sick,” one fan tweeted. “fyi the therapy service ‘betterhelp’ that youtubers like shane & h3h3 are advertising is a scam & they’re paying these youtubers loads & they’re capitalising ur depression,” another said.

“Why do youtubers shove shit in our face like #betterhelp #freeiphones and stuff without trying it first or doing research?” a fan said today. “I’ve lost respect for some due to this better help crap. We’re not dollar signs. We are supporters.”

Here’s the PewDiePie video mentioned above (it’s quite good):

And here is a YouTube playlist of the Memology 101 video series (also mentioned above), titled Why YouTubers Are DepressedThe series is now up to eleven episodes, and it worth watching, just to get the whole story! It’s quite damning.

As a mental health consumer myself, who has struggled with a chronic form of clinical depression for many years, I can understand the appeal of an online chat service that offers to connect you to a trained and caring professional. But BetterHelp.com goes out their way to warn users in its Our Client Terms & Conditions that:

  1. The Counselors and Counselor Services
    • The Counselors are neither our employees nor agents nor representatives. Furthermore, we assume no responsibility for any act, omission or doing of any Counselor.
    • We make no representation or warranty whatsoever as to the willingness or ability of a Counselor to give advice.
    • We make no representation or warranty whatsoever as to whether you will find the Counselor Services relevant, useful, correct, relevant, satisfactory or suitable to your needs.
    • We do not control the quality of the Counselor Services and we do not determine whether any Counselor is qualified to provide any specific service as well as whether a Counselor is categorized correctly or matched correctly to you…
  2. Use of the Platform
    • You agree, confirm and acknowledge that although the Counselor may provide the Counselor Services through the Platform, we cannot assess whether the use of the Counselor, the Counselor Services or the Platform is right and suitable for your needs. THE PLATFORM DOES NOT INCLUDE THE PROVISION OF MEDICAL CARE, MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, OR OTHER PROFESSIONAL SERVICES BY US. As operators of the Platform, our role is strictly limited to facilitating the communication between you and the Counselor and to enable the provision of the Counselor Services. It is up to you to consider and decide whether these services are appropriate for you or not.
    • You agree, confirm and acknowledge that you are aware of the fact that the Counselor Services are not a complete substitute for a face-to-face examination and/or session by a licensed qualified professional. You should never rely on or make health or well-being decisions which are primarily based on information provided as part of the Counselor Services. Furthermore, we strongly recommend that you will consider seeking advice by having an in-person appointment with a licensed and qualified professional. Never disregard, avoid, or delay in obtaining medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare counselor, by face-to-face appointment, because of information or advice you received through the Platform.
    • THE PLATFORM IS NOT INTENDED FOR DIAGNOSIS, INCLUDING INFORMATION REGARDING WHICH DRUGS OR TREATMENT THAT MAY BE APPROPRIATE FOR YOU, AND YOU SHOULD DISREGARD ANY SUCH ADVICE IF DELIVERED THROUGH THE PLAFORM.
    • You are advised to exercise a high level of care and caution in the use of the Platform and the Counselor services.
    • IF YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT SUICIDE OR IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING TO TAKE ACTIONS THAT MAY CAUSE HARM TO YOU OR TO OTHERS OR IF YOU FEEL THAT OR ANY OTHER PERSON MAY BE IN ANY DANGER OR IF YOU HAVE ANY MEDICAL EMERGENCY, YOU MUST IMMEDIATELY CALL THE EMERGENCY SERVICE NUMBER (911 IN THE US) AND NOTIFY THE RELEVANT AUTHORITIES. YOU ACKNOWLEDGE, CONFIRM AND AGREE THAT THE PLATFORM IS NOT DESIGNED FOR USE IN ANY OF THE AFOREMENTIONED CASES AND THAT YOU MUST NOT USE THE PLATFORM IN ANY OF THE AFOREMENTIONED CASES.

Which is the most cover-your-ass, weaselly-legalese statement I’ve seen in quite some time. Essentially, BetterHelp.com is not taking responsibility for anything that happens to you from using their service.

So, BetterHelp.com “do[es] not control the quality of the Counselor Services and…do[es] not determine whether any Counselor is qualified to provide any specific service”, eh? That one statement is enough to put me off that service completely. They don’t even bother to vet the counsellors they connect you with? That’s just complete bullshit.

Here’s another recent YouTube video which gives a good explanation of why BetterHelp’s terms and conditions are so terrible:

There are two lessons here. The first lesson is that you should take what anybody on social media tells you with a grain of salt. Ask yourself: What’s their agenda? What are they selling? (Watch the Memology 101 video series from the beginning.)

And the second lesson here? That lesson is to very carefully read the Terms of Service of any online counselling service you are considering spending any of your hard-earned money on. In my opinion, you’d be much better off getting a referral to a real-life, qualified specialist through your family doctor, local clinic, or your community services department.

If you are currently experiencing a mental health or addictions related crisis:

If you are not in crisis, but still need help, here are some other good places to get started:

When you absolutely need someone to talk to online, one of the best places to try is The KindVoice subReddit and Discord channel, both of which are staffed by volunteers:

“Sometimes we need to hear a human voice on the other end of the line telling us that everything’s going to be ok. This subreddit is for people that aren’t in a suicidal crisis, but feel depressed, alone, or want someone to talk to.”

A similar service is called The Haven, another Discord channel for people who need someone to talk to. Both Kind Voice and The Haven are free, volunteer-run services.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. NEVER. Give. Up!


UPDATE Oct. 16th: I have included a professional lawyer’s opinion on BetterHelp.com. This video is by Lior Leser, who specializes in technology, internet and software law:

Here’s Lior in a longer, hour-and-a-half interview with another YouTuber, talking about all this in much more detail:

VR Trivia Battle: Kiss or Kill Relaunches Under a New Title

The social VR game show formerly called Kiss or Kill has now been released with a brand-new name, VR Trivia Battle, on the Viveport subscription service for both HTC Vive and Oculus Rift users, with releases to follow later this month both on Steam and the Oculus Store.

Here’s a brief YouTube promo:

According to the promo video, up to 8 avatars can compete against each other in trivia contests drawn from a quiz bank of over 10,000 questions.