Goodbye, Facebook

Today was the day I finally deleted my Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram accounts. I also deleted all three apps from my iPhone and iPad. In addition, I removed the Facebook and Instagram social media buttons from the left-hand-side panel of my blog.


I have mixed feelings about this, of course. I know that there are certain people that I will no longer be in touch with because of my leaving. But I made sure that everybody knew how to get ahold of me in other ways. I still feel strongly that it was the right time to take this step. Facebook tells me it won’t delete my data for 30 days, in case I change my mind, but I won’t be coming back. My sense of trust in Facebook has been completely betrayed.

This also means I am leaving Facebook Spaces, which is really no great loss.

If I feel anything right now, it’s anger. Angry that I wasted so much time on Facebook in the past. Angry that I was an active promoter of Facebook to my family, friends and acquaintances in past years, urging people to get accounts. Thinking that Facebook was going to change things.

Well, Facebook certainly changed things, all right. And not for the better. The Cambridge Analytica scandal showed how Facebook was misused to tilt the most recent American federal election in Trump’s favour. And look at the mess we’re in now, just from that one event. Not to mention the overall negative effect that Facebook, Instagram, and other social media are having on society as a whole.

From now on, I’ll be watching Facebook (the company) and Facebook (the social network) evolve from an outsider’s perspective. Goodbye, Facebook.

VR is NOT Dying: Members of the Virtual Reality Group on Facebook Respond to My Blogpost on Drift0r’s YouTube Video, And Set the Record Straight

VR is NOT dying.jpg

Not too long ago, I wrote a blogpost about the video which avid VR gamer Drift0r posted to YouTube, which outlined his take on the state of virtual reality in general, and VR gaming in particular. The blogpost and video were controversial and I got a lot of feedback. (For the record, I myself did NOT say that “VR is dying”, like Drift0r did in his video. I said, and I quote, “Virtual reality may not be dying, as this YouTuber asserts, but it isn’t looking overly healthy, either.”)

Well, nowhere did I receive as much feedback as I did when I cross-posted that particular blogpost to the very active Virtual Reality group on Facebook, with over 47,000 members.  I got by far the biggest and best responses overall in this group. The members are great bullshit detectors overall, and I learned a lot by reading through the comments.

So many people made so many well-reasoned arguments that I wanted to post a follow-up on this blog, with a compilation of the best positive and negative comments. Where I explicitly received permission, I have attached the person’s name to their comments; otherwise, the comments are anonymous.

And yes, it would appear that this triggered a lot of people who got upset. I get that. From my perspective as a still-learning-the-ropes blogger (and a NON-gamer), I found that Drift0r’s video raised some interesting points I had not previously thought about it and merited more discussion. I got that back in spades! Thank you to everyone who responded.

One commenter shared a TED Talk by Los Angeles sculptor and street artist Zenka explains why she thinks VR and AR will have a huge impact on society:

I can recommend this inspiring 15-minute TED Talk unreservedly.

Some commenters thought my blogpost was clickbait journalism, plain and simple:

Such a clickbait title… of course its not dying. Sure, some in the industry have a goal that goes beyond the Moon… but how do you go from unreached goals to “VR is dying!”? Thats just stupid and wrong. VR is steadily growing and obviously not going away.

“Clickbait”? Well, maybe (I certainly did try to choose a title that would make people click through to read the article/see the video), but “journalist”?!?? Hardly. I do not consider what I do on this blog and what a professional journalist does to be the one and the same thing. I am an amateur VR enthusiast, and I do try to be as accurate as possible on my blog, but sometimes I miss the mark. This just happens to be one of those times.

A great many commenters took exception with the premise of Drift0r’s video that “VR is dying”. Here’s just a sample of opinion:

Although I can see how many in the game industry have reasons to complain. VR training for the cooperate sector is booming, we continue to get more and more clients and create experiences that are not only useful but really help people gain a better understanding of the task they plan to perform in the real world. We save companies millions of dollars in on sight training and offer something beyond games. The VR market is filled with people with complaints but it’s usually because they were too cheap to buy a quality setup. Not everyone drives a Ferrari, not everyone lives in a million dollar house, new tech requires financial investment and to think that over night everyone would buy a high end VR headset is just silly and unrealistic.

No its not all of VR. VR is starting to take off in the education sector. Now think about that for a minute. We are getting kids into VR early and done right it builds a fanbase.

Thank god our clients don’t agree with this article! There’s a lot more to VR than just game applications. Just ask the military, hospitality, healthcare, transportation, real estate, automotive… etc industries. Obviously the writer of this article needs to get out of the house more often.

And of course, in writing up my original blogpost, I had completely forgotten about the many good and useful non-gaming applications of VR, such as education and healthcare (e.g. the treatment of phobias). This was definitely an oversight on my part, and I’m sorry!

Raphael Baker commented:

I found his video raised all the cliche rhetoric I’ve heard over the past few years. He opens with a false statement about VR was supposed to go mainstream and it went downhill from there. His statements won favour largely with non-VR gamers who dislike VR and also people like himself who are unable to distinguish between quality VR titles versus unregulated amateur pish flooding steam. Even his critique of popular VR games was largely DECEPTIVE and unrepresentative of quality VR titles.

The problem is there is too much of that kind of crap posted about VR and people who don’t know better are easily swayed.

His whole speech was built on a false narrative that gaming VR had a course set for total mainstream infiltration within 4 years. That is absolutely insane but people just buy it automatically.

Those who understand VR including its much longer history than post oculus era; know that not even gen 2 will see mainstream adoption. 

Gerald Ferreira said:

So Here is my opinion – Posts like “VR is Dying” is attracting a lot of attention and people who is willing to invest in VR reads this bull, and then decide not to invest into VR because of bull post like this. In the end it is more damaging to the market than the clicks one receive for posting “VR is dying” articles. I am doing very well in the VR space, I have more clients that I can handle at the moment. My prices are good and my clients are happy and see the value, my biggest clients is marketing agencies, banks, entertainment and education.

Another person added:

If you want to be a successful social media blogger today, I guess you’re on point. If you want to write without using trendy blanket statement headlines and actually care to shed light on a medium you are (I hope) enthusiastic about, you have some work to do. Like Gerald Ferreira says, this type of clickbait is what turns people away from the medium.

Follow some actual VR streamers like Derky Sprawl or Rowdy Guy. Read some Jaron Lanier or Jeremy Bailenson for pioneer reference and history. Do your homework.

And I mean all that in the nicest way possible because you clearly enjoy writing and the industry needs good writers, but don’t confuse sensationalist backlash with constructive criticism. I look forward to your writings either way.

One person talked about how smartphone-based VR really did nobody any favours in terms of setting user expectations:

honestly talking from experience id blame mobile phone vr…while kind of cool at first.. it was one of the main reasons i didnt even care to try the more expensive ones like the rift…but after getting into projection mapping and 3d as well as augmented reality …i decided let me give this a try …..and now im hooked…but yea those cardboard / half ass VR devices i believe is sending the wrong msg while kind of cool im not spending all that money…even tho the rift and Vive are way beyond that level…honestly the way i feel right now about it i can shut up to people about it…so ive been doing my part to educate people that VR is more then just games.

This was a major discussion point 2 – 3 years ago. The general point being ” is smartphone VR good enough to be an entry point into VR, or is it going to sour the perception. ” Here we are a few years later and so far I’m going to say Sour the Perception. This is from talking to people at festivals showing high-end VR, and just talking to people far outside of the tech bubble in general.

Many whom I’ve talked to that had tried smartphone VR cases thought “what’s the point” and didn’t look any further.

Also as a VR dev who targeted the smartphone VR market for at least one published project: It’s very difficult to know if the software is working right across the hundreds of devices that are listed as good enough to play it. So one person might get a great experience with it, while the next it doesn’t play right.

And a few commenters said that they agreed with what Drift0r was saying:

I’d say VR is dead right now. But will make an awesome comeback in a few years, it’s inevitable. But currently my Vive is more used as a tool than a gaming system. I use mine for 3D modelling/creation, and VR racing. That’s about it. if I didn’t do simulation racing, I would probably regret my Vive purchase. Gotta say I’m quite disappointed with the softwear/gaming side of VR.

Yup. I was just in a meeting and brought our headset in. Client was like “I like it on a tablet, but hate those helmets”.

It’s got a long way to get, imho. Until the resolution is on par with HD it’ll struggle. No idea when that will be, but seems years away at the current rate.

He has some pretty valid points in my opinion. But I’d layer it with this lens… he’s talking about “desktop VR.” The one with the wire that costs a minimum of $1k to get into (for the average user). In that case, he’s on target. Sales of those machine/headsets/games are pretty disappointing when compared to traditional AAA title sales. That’s the folly of the whole argument… the market for desktop VR is desktop gamers with a budget. That’s all there is to say about that, really.

The real VR market is emerging right now… the one without wires, where the consumer experience is controlled like Android/iOS – by designers, not engineers. The one where the experience is so smooth that one person buys several (price point) so their friends can join them in the fun.

It’s not about games, though that’s important. It’s not about GPUs and specifications or which CPU is the most amazing.

It’s about the feeling that the user has when they put on the headset for the first time. That is the next generation of VR… and it’s beginning now.

One man, Robert Long, even shared his inspirational story of how he has lost 200 pounds so far by using VR games as exercise:

VR is going to be big. Sure it has had the most hype of all tech ever made. Well aside from quantum computers lol. It can take as long as it likes. Once Gen 2 comes out it will shake things up. The tech just needs to match the hype. And it is starting to with the new added tech such as suits that give feedback and even neural connections that move when you think to move. The 1-way end of course. But 2 way is going to change everything. The ability to send and receive signals with the CNS. But that 2-way tech is a long ways away from reality. Right now its limited thanks to the bulky head displays and huge controllers. But it is getting there. Point is. Once the tech is solid cheaper and they see people living inside their virtual avatars instead of real life they will get jellyfish and everyone will want them. Those graphics just need to match 4K and up and that will attract more people. Plus once more software companies get involved in making AAA games for VR only. That is when it will force people to get one. But the mobile units are doing pretty good to get people to get involved and want more VR stuff. So just sit back and relax. It will happen. I dropped over 200 pounds using VR. So if it can do that for people. You would be surprised how well it will do this upcoming year. With all the mobiles they have coming out that are pretty decent.

Not gonna lie. I have always dreamed of VR stuff my whole life. I see its bad and good areas. And sure we don’t come close to the hype at all. But the issue is not the tech really because it works fine for gen 1 consumer level. It is coming along at least. The issue is the games atm. They are nice and all but they really don’t make any VR only titles that are considered AAA games that everyone wants to play. The first place to sign a deal with a VR tech company that releases best sellers on consoles and they make it VR only and hype the living shit out of it to the point that you dream about playing it and hate those that do. That would be when I see VR taking off and getting the consumers and money they need to merge other tech needed to get it to where it needs to be. But like all guesses on what is coming it’s all best guess. Just like science. But so far I am happy. I was going to die and now I am healthy thanks to VR. Do you know what its like to have anxiety issues for a few months because you are healthy and don’t remember what its like to be healthy?. Well VR got me out that fat man prison I built for myself. So I love VR even more. But the point is my 2 cents and all. I think it is doing just fine. The price tag on the tech is a major issue atm. Like the vive pro. That 1600 bucks for a pretty decent setup is why people laugh at VR right now. Because no games that would even make you consider putting that kind of cash out does not exist. Say they created Red Dead redemption 2 for VR only. You can bet your ass people would be playing the hell out of it and showing it off. Next thing you know that Christmas everyone has VR. And we hit the next level for progress in the field. But like I said. Just my 2 cents lol.

And for the record yes I was being hard on myself. The car wrecks did cause depression and not being able to get around added to me getting to like 500 pounds. But at least I got only like 70 pounds to go and I am back where I was before the wrecks! And VR helped me do that. Gen 1 tech did that. I can’t wait to see what gen 2 tech can do.

So, it seems pretty clear to me that VR still has a lot of life in it! VR is far from dying. Thank you to all the members of the Virtual Reality group on Facebook for the reality check!

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Altamura Akakor Male Bento Mesh Head and Delphinus Male Skin Applier

As promised, Altamura has given a free group gift of a fully-adjustable, Omega-compatible Bento mesh head for male avatars, called Akakor, which appears to be named after the mythological Amazonian ancient underground city. (See what you can learn from Second Life?)

It’s the 12th gift of their 12 Days of Christmas gifts, located under their Christmas tree to the left of the main entrance of the Altamura store (it’s crazy busy right now and will be throughout the holidays, so you might have some lag issues). Here’s a SLURL to guide you.

You do have to join the Altamura Design/Mesh Avatars group to pick up all the Advent gifts (the group join fee is L$25 during the Advent/Christmas season; usually, the fee to join is L$50). It’s worth it to join the group and stay subscribed, since Altamura often offers special deals to group members throughout the year. For example, Altamura offered Valentina, a fully-featured, fully-adjustable, Bento mesh avatar head and body package for women, for only L$300 during the 2018 Skin Fair!

Here is what the default head looks like, out of the box, with the with the included eyebrows shape, body shape, and head/body alpha:

Altamura Akakor Mesh Head 23 Dec 2018

This is a really great-looking male head!

Note that this head only comes with one HUD, for animating the eyes and mouth. There are no other included HUDs for different skintones. However, it is Omega-compatible, which means you can use any Omega skin and makeup appliers on it. You will have to buy and install the Omega System Kit for Altamura. A message recently posted to the Altamura group included a notecard (which you should get a copy of, for future reference), and it states:

Go to the Omega mainstore and buy the Omega System Kit for Altamura. It’s cheaper to get it there than on the Marketplace (MP). (It’s 99L at the Omega inworld store, but 199L on the MP.)

If you’re on a viewer that has Area Search, you can just search for Altamura when you get there. Please note that there is only ONE system kit for Altamura, so it doesn’t matter if you buy it from the Men’s or Women’s section.

Here’s the taxi:

And here’s what the vendor looks like at the Omega mainstore (the SLURL should place you right in front of it):

Omega Store19 Dec 2018.png

Note that there is a tattoo on this head on either side of the neck of this mesh head (which you can’t see in the picture I posted above). I hate wearing tattoos, so I removed it using one of the free Omega makeup-removal HUDs available on the SL Marketplace (such as this free NEFA Clear All Layers Omega HUD).

Now, one of the other gifts under the Altamura Christmas tree is the Delphinus male skin applier, which comes in both Altamura and Omega versions. The Altamura version of the applier doesn’t work on this head, but the Omega version does, and here’s what it looks like. BE CAREFUL though; once you apply it, you cannot revert back to the original skin unless you re-unpack it and re-install the Omega system installer and relay on the new head. Here’s what the Delphinus skin applier looks like:

Altamura Delphinus Applier 23 Dec 2018.png

It’s nice too, but I think I like the default skin better. In the following picture, I have paired the default Akakor mesh head with the Altamura Robert mesh body, which I picked up as the Men Only Hunt prize last year:

Altamura Akakor Robert 23 Dec 2018.png

Note that there is a slight mismatch between the skin tone of the head and the body, which I hid by adding the Nina unisex choker by RxK (free from the Ajuda SL Brasil freebie store; more details here). If you picked up the free Altamura Robert mesh body at the Freebie Megastore at the London City sim, you will not be able to remove the head to replace it with this one. I find this to be a rather irritating limitation to all the free mesh full-body avatars that Altamura has been giving away this year, but it is a freebie so I can’t really complain. If you really like this head, perhaps you will spend some money and buy a fully-featured male mesh body from Altamura (or wait until another special deal for group members comes along).

Happy shopping!

Linden Lab Issues a Second Life End-of-Year Update: User Concurrency Figures Are Remaining Steady

Linden Lab has released a Second Life End-of-Year Update, outlining some of the achievements and events of 2018, and things are looking pretty good overall.

They shared some statistics on user concurrency, which show that it has remained steady over the past two years. It’s not increasing, but it’s not going down, either, which is encouraging:

As the year comes to a close, we’ve rounded up some interesting statistics to share insight into how the Second Life community is spending its time and money.

One thing is clear: Second Lifers were a busy bunch in 2018.   You spent an estimated 336 million hours inworld in the past year alone!  And there are 50 million+ chat messages daily.

Our daily concurrency rates remain stable, too. Take a look at this chart, which shows the overall traffic trends on logged in Second Life users over the past two years.


Pictured: Second Life concurrency rates from early 2017 to late 2018.

Also, They shared some stats about sales this year, and they’re pretty good too:

This active population helped keep the Second Life economy healthy in 2018. Approximately $65 million was paid out to Residents in the past year for a variety of items and services. On the Marketplace, there are currently over 5 million virtual goods for sale. Since we lowered prices on the Mainland and maintenance fees on Private Estates, we’ve seen some growth in the overall land market as well. For example, we saw increases across the board in land ownership – more Region owners, more parcel owners, more group-owned land, more Regions on the Grid. As many owners traded up from Openspaces and Homesteads to full Regions to take full advantage of the lower pricing, we saw growth in overall SQM owned by Residents.

Back in 2011, ReadWrite reported that Second Life made almost $100 million in revenue a year, so sales appear to have gone down, but I still think that $65 million is a pretty impressive figure. It’s clear that Second Life is still a cash cow for Linden Lab, the profits of which are funding not only SL development but also the company’s work on Sansar.

Here’s to the next 15 years!