Editorial: Upon Reflection…

Taking a much-needed break from blogging has given me an opportunity to reflect a bit on my journey over the past three years, and ponder where I might go from here.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Frankly, I never expected to become a journalist covering the ever-evolving metaverse, with a growing audience; this blog started off as a tiny little niche blog, where I wrote about my (mis)adventures and explorations in Sansar. And everything that happened after that—writing about more and more social VR platforms, hosting the Metaverse Newscast show, focusing on freebies in my beloved Second Life—just kind of happened organically. I didn’t have any sort of plan; I just made choices along the way that led to this point.

But for me, the seeds for this journey were first planted in Second Life 14 years ago, which since its earliest days has been this strange and marvelous phoenix that keeps rising from the ashes, again and again, confounding and bewildering many casual observers who continue to predict (wrongly) its failure. Even a cursory glance at the official Second Life Community News feed (curated by the highly capable Strawberry Linden) reveals the absolute torrent of creativity that the platform has provided to so many people. Second Life is not going anywhere, honey.

Source: My Dark Fantasy

SL is a fully-evolved, vibrant, mature virtual world which has become the model which other metaverse companies have spent countless programming hours and (in some cases) millions of dollars to try and recreate, with varying degrees of success.

I think that the ones that have been the most successful (so far) are NeosVR, ENGAGE, AltspaceVR, VRChat, Rec Room and, somewhat to my surprise, three blockchain-based worlds: Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space. And there are many other platforms slowly but surely building up their business, taking advantage of the unexpected opportunities presented by the coronavirus pandemic (one example is Sinespace, a company which is patiently and cannily playing the long game, and which is extremely well-poised to snatch Second Life’s mantle, if and when it is ever dropped).


And, during my break, I have been also thinking a lot about Facebook/Oculus and their impact on virtual reality in general, and social VR in particular. I have decided that, despite my new, personal boycott of Facebook products and services, I will continue to write about their upcoming social VR platform, Facebook Horizon, as it launches in public beta, probably before the end of this year.

I, like many other people, now absolutely refuse to have a Facebook account as a matter of moral principle. In August of 2019 I wrote (and yes, it bears repeating at length here):

In this evolving metaverse of social VR and virtual worlds, is too much power concentrated in the hands of a single, monolithic, profit-obsessed company? I would argue that Facebook is aiming for complete and utter domination of the VR universe, just as they already have in the social networking space, by creating a walled ecosystem…that will have a negative impact on other companies trying to create and market VR apps and experiences. The field is already tilted too much in Facebook’s favour, and the situation could get worse.

More concerning to me is that, at some point, I may be forced to get an account on the Facebook social network to use apps on my Oculus VR hardware. In fact, this has already happened with the events app Oculus Venues, which I recently discovered requires you to have an account on the Facebook social network to access.

Sorry, but after all the Facebook privacy scandals of the past couple of years, that’s a big, fat “Nope!” from me. I asked Facebook to delete its 13 years of user data on me, and I quit the social network in protest as my New Year’s resolution last December, and I am never coming back. And I am quite sure that many of Facebook’s original users feel exactly the same way, scaling back on their use of the platform or, like me, opting out completely. I regret I ever started using Facebook thirteen years ago, and that experience will inform my use (and avoidance) of other social networks in the future.

Yes, I do know that I have to have an Oculus account to be able to use my Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest VR headsets, and that Facebook is collecting data on that. I also know that the Facebook social network probably has a “shadow account” on me based on things such as images uploaded to the social network and tagged with my name by friends and family, etc., but I am going to assume that Facebook has indeed done what I have asked and removed my data from their social network. Frankly, there is no way for me to actually VERIFY this, as consumers in Canada and the U.S. have zero rights over the data companies like Facebook collects about them, as was vividly brought to life by Dr. David Carroll, whose dogged search for answers to how his personal data was misused in the Cambridge Analytica scandal played a focal role in the Netflix documentary The Great Hack (which I highly recommend you watch).

We’ve already seen how social networks such as Facebook have contributed negatively to society by contributing to the polarization and radicalization of people’s political opinions, and giving a platform to groups such as white supremacists and anti-vaxersThe Great Hack details how Cambridge Analytica used Facebook data without user knowledge or consent to swing the most recent U.S. election in Donald Trump’s favour, and look at the f***ing mess the world is in now just because of that one single, pivotal event.

We can’t trust that Facebook is going to act in any interests other than its own profit. Facebook has way too much power, and governments around the world need to act in the best interests of their citizens in demanding that the company be regulated, even broken up if necessary.

Of course, Facebook is well within its corporate rights to insist that, henceforth, Oculus Go, Quest, and Rift users have to use Facebook accounts. Just as I am well within my rights to avoid providing another smidgen of personal data for Facebook to strip-mine for profit. It will be very interesting to see how more the consumer-privacy-oriented First World countries (such as Canada, and those countries within the European Union) will respond to the Facebook juggernaut.

I also have absolutely zero doubt that Facebook will continue to use every single lawyer, lobbyist, tool and tactic at its disposal to fight to maintain its market dominance, even as the Facebook social network continues to foster divisiveness, bleed users and lose advertisers. Believe me, Facebook would not have taken the unprecedented step of forcing Oculus device users to set up Facebook accounts if they weren’t afraid of losing the younger generations of users who have, thus far, resisted joining the social network their parents and grandparents belong to. (Of course, most of them are already on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.)

It is relatively easy to bypass the tethered Oculus Rift VR headset and its associated Oculus Store ecosystem with competing PCVR products and services (such as the Vive headsets, the Valve Index and Steam). However, it is difficult—frankly impossible at present—to find a non-Facebook alternative to the standalone Oculus Quest VR headset. I have no doubt that the market will throw up a few capable competitors to the Quest over time, but Facebook has built up a huge lead, and it will be very difficult to unseat from its dominance in that particular market segment.


So, as you can see, I have been doing quite a bit of thinking while I have hit the pause button on this blog. I will continue to spend the rest of my summer on my self-imposed vacation from this blog, and no doubt I will have other thoughts, insights and opinions to share with you when I return, hopefully feeling more refreshed.

I feel that with this blog, after a few stumbles and setbacks, I have finally found my voice, and you will continue to hear it over the next three years, and probably far beyond that! Enjoy the rest of your summer! I will be back in September.

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Fitch’s Freebies for Men

I’m still in a very foul mood from yesterday’s Facebook announcement, so I decided to distract myself by escaping into Second Life for a little while today, which tends to be my preferred way of dealing (or, perhaps more accurately, not dealing) with messy, painful, dumpster-fire reality these days.

I was once again enjoying the blues at Bray’s Place (my new favourite hangout in Second Life), when an avatar beside me rezzed out a wearable lawn chair (complete with a big bowl of popcorn!) and sat down to catch the next set, munching merrily away.

Of course, that was my cue to do a quick right-click/inspect to find out where I could get this wonderful wearable chair, which led me down the SL rabbit hole to Fitch’s, a spot with literally dozens of freebies, which I had never been to before! (Even after 14 years, I am still amazed at the places I find that I never knew existed on the grid.)

Now, I do know that a great many men (and particularly, straight men) seem to really hate going shopping, both in real life and in Second Life, and appear to be quite content with a very limited avatar wardrobe. Fitch’s is a dream come true for these men: one place where you can pick up all your basic clothing needs in one stop, and best of all, it’s all free! This place is a hidden gem.

Fitch’s offers freebies for both classic, system male avatars as well as for newer mesh avatars, and most of the mesh clothing includes HUDs with an extensive variety of colours and patterns to choose from. If you hate going shopping, well, this is the place for you, guys! Ten minutes and you’re done, tops! (Although I would still recommend visits to a few other freebie stores to augment your look.)

But first, that lawn chair. Among the many freebies available at Fitch’s is this Drama Watching Chair, which you wear as an attachment. Simply turn off your avatar’s AO and you’re sitting back, scarfing down popcorn from a huge bowl, intently watching whatever Second Life drama is going down! It’s the absolutely perfect accessory! Of course, this chair works for female as well as male avatars. Fitch’s is worth a visit just to pick up this wonderful freebie, alone.

The Drama Watching Chair (popcorn included!)

But there’s so much more! If you are rocking a classic, system avatar, you will find a full selection of complete (nude) male starter avatars, each complete with hair, eyes, skin, shape—even a penis! You can mix and match them to your heart’s content, to create your own unique look!

And tucked away in one corner of Fitch’s Freebies, there are many free men’s outfits! On the left are panels, each with a basic capsule wardrobe to fit eleven different brands of men’s mesh bodies. Among these bodies is Altamura, which is a real find because it can be hard to find high-quality, free men’s clothing to fit male Altamura mesh bodies (this clothing will work with both the free and paid-for versions). There are also similar capsule wardrobe packages specifically designed for Slink, Signature Gianni and Geralt, Belleza, TMP/Classic, Aesthetic, EXMACHINA*, Adam, Mado, and NX-Nardcotix male mesh bodies. Something for everyone!

The Fitch Altamura capsule wardrobe jeans and sweater (shown here on the freebie Altamura Robert mesh body; the sandals are a free group gift from VERSOV, a free-to-join group)

To the right are even more men’s mesh outfits, just click the big orange button! Most of these come in standard sizing, but a few items also have mesh body fits as well. Be sure to unpack all twelve mesh outfits to check them out (there’s even a handy rezz spot nearby, just for unpacking boxes).

Lots of menswear freebies!

All of the clothing at Fitch’s appears to be original items, created by Fitch himself, which you won’t find at other freebie stores in Second Life.

The Jason jeans and Andrew shirt come in a truly mind-boggling fatpack of colours and patterns—and you can even tint various parts of the shirt and pants separately! (I am also wearing the same Jason jeans and Andrew shirt, but in much more subdued colours, in the first and third pictures in this blogpost.)

A look at the extensive HUDs for the Jason jeans and Andrew shirt

Here’s another look, an unzipped hoodie and the Chicago jeans, both of which come in a fatpack of colours and patterns. You can tint five different parts of the jeans separately using the included, interactive HUD:

The HUDs for the unzipped hoodie and the Chicago jeans: lots of options

Below are three more looks from the bounty at Fitch’s. First up are the Boston cargo shorts, paired with the Bryan T-shirt (again, both come with a HUD with a wide variety of colours, patterns, and slogans to choose from):

The Bryan T-shirt and Boston cargo shorts come in full fatpacks

Need a formal tuxedo for that special evening out? Fitch has you covered there, too! The black dress shoes are included in this outfit. Looking sharp for zero Lindens!

Fitch’s free men’s tuxedo

Finally, my favourite outfit is the Blues Brother suit, with comes complete with shoes, fedora, and sunglasses!

“We’re on a mission from God”

Here’s your taxi to Fitch’s Freebies! Happy freebie shopping! (Please note that this is an adult-rated, gay sim. No child avatars are allowed.)

*I have tested the EXMACHINA clothing on the new EXMACHINA Evolve mesh body, and it does not fit. The clothing should work with older EXMACHINA bodies, though.

UPDATED! Editorial: Facebook Announces That It Will Require All Oculus VR Headset Users to Have Facebook Accounts (and Why I Have Bought a Valve Index as My Next VR Headset)

I am angry. Make that furious. Let me tell you exactly why I am so angry.

Facebook dropped a bombshell announcement today:

Today, we’re announcing some important updates to how people log into Oculus devices, while still keeping their VR profile. Starting in October 2020:

■ Everyone using an Oculus device for the first time will need to log in with a Facebook account.

If you’re an existing user and already have an Oculus account, you’ll have the option to log in with Facebook and merge your Oculus and Facebook accounts.

If you’re an existing user and choose not to merge your accounts, you can continue using your Oculus account for two years.

After January 1, 2023, we will end support for Oculus accounts. If you choose not to merge your accounts at that time, you can continue using your device, but full functionality will require a Facebook account. We will take steps to allow you to keep using content you have purchased, though we expect some games and apps may no longer work. This could be because they include features that require a Facebook account or because a developer has chosen to no longer support the app or game you purchased. All future unreleased Oculus devices will require a Facebook account, even if you already have an Oculus account.

I have written on this blog, at length, about why I distrust Facebook and the reasons I first left the Facebook social network (here, here, here, and here). I would strongly suggest you reread them because I do not intend to rehash all my arguments here, again.

I only begrudgingly rejoined Facebook when it became clear that I would need a Facebook account to be able to use their forthcoming social VR platform, Facebook Horizon. At that time, I still naively felt that it was somehow important to include Facebook Horizon in what I hoped was going to be my continuing, comprehensive coverage of all social VR platforms on this blog.

But you know what? After today’s announcement by Facebook, I no longer feel the need to write about Facebook/Oculus products and services—and certainly not if it means letting Facebook strip-mine even more of my personal data than it already has to date. Enough is enough.

And so I have posted the following short update to my little-used, soon-to-be-deleted Facebook profile:

Today, Facebook announced that it will require *all* users of Oculus VR headsets (Rift, Quest) to create an account on the Facebook social network in order to use them. (Previous to this, you only had to create a Facebook account if you were using a few of their apps, such as Oculus Venues, or the upcoming Facebook Horizon social VR platform.)

Many of you already know that I quit Facebook (and asked them to delete all of the data it had collected on me) as my New Years resolution in December 2019. I only returned because I wanted to be able to write about Facebook Horizon, Facebook’s new social VR platform, when it launches later this year—and THAT required a Facebook account. So I rejoined, even though I have successfully broken my Facebook addiction and I rarely log in anymore.

Given today’s announcement, I have now changed my mind. I will be deleting my Facebook account again later this week, and I will no longer be buying any more VR apps from the Oculus Store. From now on, I will no longer be buying any Oculus VR headsets (my next VR headset will probably be a Valve Index).

I have had enough. This time, I am not coming back to Facebook. You can find me on Twitter (my handle is quiplash).

In addition, I will no longer be covering Facebook products and services on this blog. I now have zero intention of writing about Facebook Horizon, since after deleting my Facebook account, I will not be able to visit their social VR platform. Frankly, I no longer have any desire to see or participate in whatever Facebook is planning.

Also, I will no longer be purchasing any more VR apps from the Oculus Store, instead choosing to buy them from Steam (or directly from the developer, if possible).

I am currently the owner of an original Oculus Rift tethered VR headset (which I bought in January 2017), and an Oculus Quest standalone VR headset (which I bought as soon as they became available in May 2019). They’re well-made devices, which have not given me problems. But I can no longer in good conscience continue to support, in any way, the company that makes and sells them, from this day forward.

As Facebook has stated in their news release:

If you’re an existing user and choose not to merge your [Oculus and Facebook] accounts, you can continue using your Oculus account for two years.

And I intend to use that two-year window to sell or give away my Rift and Quest, and purchase only non-Oculus VR headset(s) from now on. At the moment, I am leaning towards the Valve Index, but we’ll see. I have time; a lot can change in two years. But I have checked and my computer is already powerful enough to run an Index:

My computer is already Valve Index ready!

UPDATE August 19th, 2020: Today, I put my money where my mouth is. I went and placed an online order for the complete Valve Index VR Kit. I am told that it will take eight or more weeks to get to me, because of coronavirus-related delays in production. That’s fine. I can wait. And I’m not going anywhere.

I will be boycotting Facebook hardware and software from this point forward. It’s time for me to kick the Facebook habit, once and for all.

UPDATE August 20th, 2020: I just wanted to update this blogpost to say that, instead of not writing about Facebook and Oculus products and services on the RyanSchultz.com blog, I will still be writing about them in future—just not from a first-person perspective, obviously. I still have lots of opinions about Facebook Inc. and their approach to business and privacy.

And I steadfastly refuse to give Facebook any more of my business, and that means I refuse to join Facebook Horizon.

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: The New Bae Bento, Bakes on Mesh Head by META Is Only L$99 for a Limited Time

PERSONAL NOTE: Well, I actually lasted a whole TWELVE DAYS between blogposts, which I think is a new personal record!

I was going to save this particular blogpost for when I resume blogging in September, but I didn’t know how long this special, promotional price would last, so I decided to publish this post now rather than wait.

Because I need to work overtime (including evenings and weekends) on my full-time university job in order to meet some firm deadlines this fall, I regret that I will not have any time to blog about the various social VR and virtual worlds, at least this month. Consider this a one-off, single-time exception.

See you in September!


I swear, you come across great deals in Second Life in the damnedest places.

I was enjoying the blues at Bray’s Place (my new favourite hangout on the grid) and idly checking out what the other avatars were wearing (using the handy free What Is She Wearing? HUD) when I discovered a model of Bento mesh head that I hadn’t encountered before, from a company called META. And it’s a real bargain if you are looking for a Bento, Bakes on Mesh-compatible female mesh head!

It is currently on sale for only L$99, in what I assume is a special, time-limited promotional offer (here is the link to the SL Marketplace listing):


This is what the Bae head looks like, using the included brow shaper and body shape, right out of the box, with zero adjustments to the sliders. The shape of this head reminds me a bit of the freebie Catwa Freya head (sorry, it’s no longer a freebie!).

The head skin you see in this image is actually a full-head tattoo layer included with this head (I experimented and found that the butter body skin tone of 7 Deadly S[k]ins matches it well). I am wearing it on the freebie Ariadna body by Kalhene, which is, sadly, no longer available*. There was a slight neck seam visible, which I covered with the golden choker you see here.

After making various adjustments to the head and body sliders to my liking, here is my final avatar look, using the Bae head and the Ariadna body. In these pictures my avatar is wearing the Elvira skin from 7 Deadly S[k]ins in the butter skin tone (this was an Advent calendar gift from last December). I found that this Bento mesh head responds very well to the sliders, and of course it works with any Bakes on Mesh skins and makeup:

Here’s a full-body shot:

Now, I don’t know how long the L$99 promotional pricing will apply to the Bae head, so I would snap it now if you’re interested! I think this is a real bargain, especially when you compare it to Bento mesh heads that cost L$5,000 or more.

*Note that the L$1,695 Anya mesh body by Kalhene (which is frequently updated, and simply gets better and better with each new update!) is the successor to the original Ariadna freebie mesh body. Anya is available to buy at the Kalhene store, and is fully Maitreya Lara compatible; please see this blogpost for further information. I am mightily impressed with this body!