Second Life Bakes on Mesh: The Old Wizard

Once again, I have resurrected an older system skin and outfit, this time to create a wizard for Halloween! The mesh avatar I am using is the Altamura Romeo full-body mesh avatar, which requires a couple of additions to support Bakes on Mesh:

  • A Bakes on Mesh relay for Altamura mesh bodies (which is available for free to Altamura group members at this exact SLURL in the store; please note that this relay only works with full versions of Altamura bodies, including the Romeo body which was a Valentine’s Day group gift earlier this year)
  • You do have to buy and install the Omega system kit on the body before you can use the Altamura Bakes on Mesh relay (it’s for sale for L$99 at this exact SLURL)

This avatar is wearing:

  • Mesh Head and Body: Romeo mesh body by Altamura (a former Valentine’s Day group gift; Omega-compatible; more details here; the Altamura group costs L$50 to join)
  • System Skin: KTG Old Man skin by KTG Brand Shop HAKUOU-DO (available on the SL Marketplace for L$250)
  • Eyes: Ice Image eyes by InSight (includes eye sparkle effect; this store is no longer on the grid)
  • Glasses: KTG Glasses (these came with the skin listed above)
  • Hair: Joseph hair in snow white by Alli&Ali Designs
  • Beard: Augustus beard in silver by Bewitched Hair (no longer on the grid)
  • Outfit (Except Hat): Mithrandir outfit from Husky GFX (this is an old system-layers-and-flexiprims outfit from a store that has since left SL)
  • Wizard’s Hat: a wizard’s hat I picked up as part of a treasure hunt prize many years ago at The Arcanum
  • Boots (Not Shown): Trail Boots in black by Brii (free from the men’s clothing section of the excellent freebie store at Ajuda SL Brasil)
  • Staff: Staff of Blue Fire from Talevin’s Magic Sky Village, the best place to get staves and wands in Second Life! You can also pick it up for only L$90 from the SL Marketplace.

Pictures taken at Luane’s Magical World.

Editorial: Facebook, Free Speech, and Disinformation

Well, as many of you already know, I left Facebook at the end of last year as my New Year’s resolution. But you might not know that I have now resurrected my account on the Facebook social network.

In my first post to my Facebook timeline (and perhaps the only one I am willing to make for quite some time), I write the following:

Yes, after leaving Facebook at the end of last year as my New Year’s resolution, and asking Facebook to delete over 13 years’ worth of data it had collected about me, I have decided to set up an account again.

Why? Well, as a social VR/virtual worlds blogger, I want to be able to cover Facebook’s new social VR platform, Facebook Horizon, and that apparently will require an account on the Facebook social network to use (it launches in closed beta in early 2020).

So, I am back, but don’t expect me to post a lot, or use this account very much. After the Cambridge Analytica/Trump/Brexit scandal (covered so well by the Netflix documentary The Great Hack), I am very, VERY wary to share a lot of data here for Facebook to strip-mine for profit!

Which leads me (in a roundabout way) to the point of this blogpost. There is an exceptionally well-written, well-reasoned article by Siva Vaidhyanathan on The Guardian newspaper website, titled Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t understand free speech in the 21st century. Dr. Vaidhyanathan is a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia and the author of the book Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy. He addresses a recent speech Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave to students at Georgetown University, which has been criticized by many commentators, including Martin Luther King’s daughter Bernice:

I strongly urge you to read Dr. Vaidhyanathan’s article yourself, but I did want to quote a few sections that I thought made insightful arguments:

Facebook has three defining attributes that make Facebook Facebook. Its scale of 2.4 billion people uploading content in more than 150 languages make it too big to filter. Its algorithmic design that amplifies content judged to attract attention and interaction (clicks, shares, likes, comments) favors extremism and powerful emotions over rational and measured expression. And the cheap and effective advertising system is monumentally profitable and thus starves other sources of good information of needed revenue.

In his speech Thursday Zuckerberg boasted that the Black Lives Matter movement started on Facebook. It did. But it also almost died there. It jumped to Twitter and thrived. As the internet scholar Zeynep Tufekci has explained, Facebook’s algorithmic system squelched #BlackLivesMatter and other activist movements as it was promoting vapid images like the Ice Bucket Challenge. On Twitter, with much lighter algorithmic amplification, #BlackLivesMatter could hold attention.

Zuckerberg also neglected the fact that the largest Black Lives Matter group on Facebook was hosted by a white man from Australia and was otherwise completely fake.

Zuckerberg wants us to believe that one must be for or against free speech with no nuance, complexity or cultural specificity, despite running a company that’s drowning in complexity. He wants our discussions to be as abstract and idealistic as possible. He wants us not to look too closely at Facebook itself.

The problem of the 21st century is cacophony. Too many people are yelling at the same time. Attentions fracture. Passions erupt. Facts crumble. It’s increasingly hard to deliberate deeply about complex crucial issues with an informed public. We have access to more knowledge yet we can’t think and talk like adults about serious things.

By invoking all the progressive social movements that have found Facebook useful, Zuckerberg tries to hitch his company to their results. But ignoring the Nazis and misogynists who also use Facebook to organize and recruit, he hopes we equate motivation with free speech and democracy.

The thing is, a thriving democracy needs more than motivation, the ability to find and organize like-minded people. Democracies also need deliberation. We have let the institutions that foster discussion among well informed, differently-minded people crumble. Soon all we will have left is Facebook. Look at Myanmar to see how well that works.

This is a perfect encapsulation of what I think is wrong with Facebook. Put simply, Facebook has too much power, and it wields that power in a demonstrably inconsistent fashion when it comes to free speech.

So, informed by past experience, I will severely limit how much information I choose to share on Facebook, and who I choose to befriend. I will restrict when and how often I check Facebook (for example, I will not install the app on my iPhone, and I will only access the Facebook website via a Chrome browser with the highly-recommended F.B. Purity extension added).

And I do not want to live in a world where Facebook has the loudest megaphone. I will continue to pursue and peruse my news from authoritative sources outside Facebook, such as The Guardian. And I will actively promote campaigns such as BreakTheFake, which provide helpful tips for consumers to determine fact from fiction on the Internet.

Social media such as Facebook has been weaponized, and is being used against us. The situation demands that we all become smarter consumers of information. The future absolutely depends on it.

Ebbe Altberg Talks About Social VR as a Platform and Economy for Entrepreneurs in an Interview for ZDNet

Ebbe Altberg, the CEO of Linden Lab (the makers of Second Life and Sansar), recently gave an interview to Tonya Hall of ZDNet:

A couple of quick facts from the fifteen-minute interview:

  • Ebbe Altberg’s previous employment history includes stints at both Microsoft (12 years, working on Microsoft Office) and Yahoo! (where he was a senior vice president);
  • Last year, Second Life users cashed out $64 million in earnings;
  • Second Life has had over 200,000 virtual marriages in its lifetime!

Ebbe spends the bulk of the interview discussing the in-world economy of Second Life and Sansar (which Linden Lab is currently building based on the lessons learned from the 16 years of experience the company has gained by operating Second Life). He also talks about recent corporate branding partnerships in Sansar, such as Monstercat, Sanrio (the brand behind the Hello Kitty phenomenon) and Levi’s.

It’s clear that Ebbe wants to pursue more corporate partnerships and branding opportunities with Sansar. One thing that puzzles me is that this video, posted on Sept. 24th, 2019, had only had 22 views so far on YouTube! So please give it a watch, and spread the good word. Thanks 😉 perhaps we can send a few more companies Ebbe’s way, to strike a few more deals!

Giving a Tour of Sansar to a YouTuber: Some Thoughts

Vbunny (in an earlier YouTube video)

Yesterday, I had a different soft of experience in Sansar: I gave a guided tour of the social VR platform to an up-and-coming YouTuber from Las Vegas named Vbunny, who is a VR game vlogger and Twitch livestreamer!

I first discovered her when she posted a video review of the iOS mobile app for Rec Room. Here’s Vbunny’s YouTube channel, which is still rather small in terms of subscribers, but has what I consider to be high-quality content. I think she’s well on her way to YouTube success!

Today, she tweeted her thanks:

For my tour, I decided to show her seven worlds:

Because I wanted to keep the tour open-ended, based on what she was interested in, I made the mistake of not visiting these worlds beforehand (in order to have them added to my Codex). I had just casually assumed that they would be in my Codex somewhere because I had visited them in the past. Wrong! Obviously, the Codex only took into account my most recent world visiting history.

Because of my mistake, I landed up having to drag Vbunny back to the Nexus three times, in order to go to the Prime Portal, find the world I wanted to show her in the listing there, then open up a portal for us both to use. It was totally awkward and inconvenient, and it has made me wonder if replacing the Atlas with the Codex is such a good idea after all. (I couldn’t use the Sansar Atlas as my backup plan, as I had intended, because you can’t spawn a portal from the listings on the website. Perhaps this is something that Linden Lab could consider adding?)

Anyway, aside from that minor quibble, Vbunny had a great visit. She kept remarking on the quality of the lighting in the worlds we visited, a strong suit of Sansar. She likes the avatars. And she just loved killing zombies!

While waiting for her to show up at our agreed-upon meeting place (of course, The Nexus!), I spent a very agreeable hour or so chatting with the various people who showed up there, in a wide variety of avatars. One charming young woman’s avatar was a Chinese bowl of food, and we landed up sitting around her in a huddle, in an impromptu communal conversation! Other avatars popped in and out, both old acquaintances and new. It was a wonderfully convivial way to pass the time waiting! Despite my misgivings about the Codex, I do think that Linden Lab creating The Nexus as a meeting place was a stroke of genius, and clearly a good move overall for the platform.

The Nexus (a picture I took way back on September when it first was launched)

Another thing I discovered: I might make a great host of a pre-taped show, but when it comes to being a part of someone else’s show, I found myself surprising tongue-tied! I felt I was noticeably short on banter. Perhaps, again, it was because I did not prepare enough beforehand for this visit as much as my producer, Andrew William, and I prepare for taping an episode of the Metaverse Newscast. (And yes, we have not posted a new episode in quite a long while. Both Andrew and I have been phenomenally busy with our respective real-life jobs these past couple of months.)

Anyway, I very much look forward to seeing what Vbunny and her husband/producer come up with! She sent me the following message on Discord (which I have her permission to share with you):

Thank you so much for showing me around Sansar yesterday. I stayed on for another almost 2 hours just talking to some people and visiting the Hello Kitty world. I also customized my avatar and was blown away by how much customization you can do!