You may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging as often as I used to. I’ve been on holidays from work these past two weeks, and I have been…percolating.
I’ve been feeling exhausted, and sleeping ten to twelve hours at a stretch, without feeling guilty or lazy. There’s been no shortage of things to blog about, but instead of leaping on top of them with a hot take, I have decided to just sit back and…percolate.
Hopefully, I’ll know when I am ready to jump back into things. But I think it’s good sometimes just to pause, take a deep breath, and relax. Recharge my batteries. Distance myself from the fray. Dream. Daydream.
While I am away on vacation from work, I am currently working on a special project with my fellow freebie fashionistas of the Freebie Queens Discord server, where we are drawing up a comprehensive listing of Second Life stores with free gifts. (Trust me when I say this: it’s like herding cats, people! Stores open, move location, and close with alarming regularity.)
And in my travels across the SL grid, I came across an unusual freebie which I wanted to share with you, from a store called Twilight (SLURL). Click on the sign shown below to join their store group for free:
There are a couple of gifts available here. One is a mobile phone with a Bento hold pose (just click on the panel indicated by the red arrow in the image below). However, this is not just any old SL cellphone, with a static screen or a HUD with a selection of static screens; it actually has a working web browser built into it!
In the picture below, I have it set to the homepage of the RyanSchultz.com blog:
According to the included documentation:
Double-Click on white screen to start the browser. Search for any website on web with Google search. Or enter the URL you want to access in the search bar to open the website. You can scroll on the prim too and click links and watching videos and so on, like on your own Google or Firefox browser.
This phone also comes in a separate, rezzable version to use as home decor (say, to leave on a desk or an armchair). It also has a working web browser. The documentation notes:
*** Having multiple phones or web browser screen item in the same parcel can cause bugs. Use with care.
This mobile phone itself is Copy/Mod to enable multiple ones to be rezzed and [resized].
The Bento hold pose affects your avatar’s right hand and head, so you are looking down at the phone. It’s a high-priority animation which seems to work quite well with my animation override /AO.
This is a cute freebie, and I really like the fact that you can customize what you see on the screen! It’s actually a gift from the old Stay at Home Club program, launched in the spring of 2020 as the pandemic lockdowns started, and Second Life’s monthly active users (MAU) count jumped from 600,000 to 900,000. The program ended in September 2020, but some stores like Twilight are still making their gifts from that program available (for which we thank them!).
And how’s about this for a final, meta image? Looking at this very blogpost while I’m in Second Life!
As longtime readers of my blog know full well, I have already severed all ties to Meta hardware and software, even going so far as to vote with my wallet and replace my trusty Oculus Rift PCVR headset at home with a Valve Index. (My final link to Meta was cut in August 2022, when I replaced my work VR headset, a second Oculus Rift, with an HTC Vive Pro 2.) This means that I am not on any of Meta’s social media: no Facebook, no Instagram, no Whatsapp. I shut down my Facebook account a couple of years ago, asking the company to delete all the personal data it had collected on me. I am done.
So, when Elon Musk announced earlier this year that he was going to take over Twitter, I already had some experience in cutting social media platforms out of my life. I responded by setting up an account on Mastodon, which I talk about here, here, and here.
Mastodon is a federated, FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) microblogging app, quite similar to Twitter, but it is decentralized, and not subject to the capricious whims of billionaires! It’s free, but I choose to support it financially through Patreon. If you are curious and you want to kick the tires yourself on Mastodon, start here. You can also watch this two-minute YouTube introduction video:
I unfollowed 90% of the people I was following on Twitter, sending messages to most of them that I was moving to Mastodon, and inviting them to join me. Of course, most didn’t. I get it; change is hard.
So, while I was now posting to my Twitter feed automatically via my blog and via my new Mastodon account, I still found myself having to sign in to Twitter to follow certain people. I grew weary of dealing with Twitter’s algorithmic feed, with its pernicious advertising, and its suggested posts and topics, and its trending hashtags (usually an echo chamber for whatever the latest outrage happens to be). I looked for a solution.
I found it via the recommendation of someone I follow on Mastodon, named Per Axbom. who had posted a link to a blogpost he had written, titled Why I left algorithm-based social media and what happened next. I read about the process Per took to free himself from algorithmically-driven social media and take control over his own newsfeed, and one of the tools he talked about was Feedbin.
Feedbin is a newsreader with a website and associated mobile apps (to set up an account costs US$5 per month or US$50 per year), but it’s more than just that! In addition to following RSS newsfeeds, you can also use it to follow people on Twitter, as well as your favourite YouTube channels. In addition, it gives you a special email address to be used in subscribing to your newsletters, so that they feed into Feedbin, too. You can also use it to follow podcasts. I’ve been using it for a month, and it’s great!
Here are some of the features:
Twitter: Stop mindlessly scrolling through tweets. Feedbin fully unpacks media-rich tweets. If a tweet links to an article, Feedbin will attempt to load the full article and display it alongside the tweet.
YouTube: Follow your favorite creators, with channels and playlists. There’s no algorithm or confusion about what you have already watched, just the videos from your favorite creators in chronological order.
Newsletters: Get newsletters out of your inbox and into Feedbin. Every pro account gets a unique email address to subscribe to and follow newsletters.
Updated Articles: Articles are updated whenever the original changes, so you don’t miss any important changes. You can even see the differences to know what changed.
Full Text: Feedbin can extract the full content of an article for feeds that only offer partial-content. This way you can keep reading without leaving.
Search: Feedbin supports a powerful and expressive search syntax to find exactly what you’re looking for. Save frequent searches to always have the results a click away.
So now I only post to my Twitter account via Mastodon, and I only read tweets from people I follow via Feedbin. This means that I spend next to zero time actually on Twitter—no advertising, no trending hashtags, no outrage machine! My Twitter feed on Feedbin also pulls up any items retweeted by people I follow, and in many cases, any linked articles in the tweets will have their full text loaded, saving me a click. It’s not the same as quitting Twitter entirely, but until more people come to their senses (and when/if Elon Musk drives Twitter into the ground), it’s a fair compromise.
As for YouTube, I can finally browse through only the channels I follow, without YouTube’s irritating suggestions for what it thinks I want to watch next. (And suggestions of music mixes based on my YouTube Music listening habits.) And no advertising unless, of course, the videomaker has a sponsorship in the video! I may never visit the YouTube website, or use the YouTube mobile apps, again. I should have done this years ago, folks.
Feedbin is the greatest thing since sliced bread, in my opinion, and well worth the subscription in alleviating the aggravation of having to deal with Twitter and YouTube algorithms! And, if Elon Musk goes through with his plans to lay off 75% of Twitter’s staff and the platform becomes overrun with toxic content and spam, I already have one foot firmly planted in Mastodon, and between it and Feedbin, I barely have to interact with Twitter at all, aside from keeping my account there.
At the ripe old age of 19, the virtual world of Second Life has a thriving in-world economy, and part of that ecosystem are the regular shopping events, which SL’s store owners often use to showcase their new releases. One such event, Kustom9, is celebrating its 9th anniversary with a treasure trove of gifts, if you join the Kustom9 group for free.
The rechristened Moesha Heartsong is showing you two of these free gifts in the video below. The animation override (AO) is by Body Language, and has a youthful, cutesy, kawaii air to it, don’t you think? (What I usually like to do is reuse only the animations I like, adding them to an existing AO, and discarding the rest. I mean, how can you go wrong for free?)
The dress Moesha is wearing is the Kustom9 present from the Luas booth. It’s a special Hallowe’en edition of the Sena dress, which comes in the following sizes: Maitreya Lara and Petite; Meshbody Legacy and Perky; INITHIUM Kupra; and eBody Reborn.
The gift from Apple Blossom is the Shay minidress in a champagne colour (sizes: Maitreya Lara and Petite; Meshbody Legacy and Perky; and INITHIUM Kupra).
One fun unisex gift is from Spoiled, and it’s this highly configurable heart-shaped Cheeky balloon, with comes with a variety of full-body and arm-only Bento poses (the arm-only poses mean that you can use it with your existing AO).
There are 3 separate Bento hold poses for each of the right arm and left arm, and you get a HUD with endless colour options for the balloon itself, and even the string! There are also many options for the quote on the balloon (most are birthday related), or you can turn the text off completely, as you can see in the black urban angel picture above.
Now, this is my opportunity to tell you about one of my pet peeves in Second Life—HUDs with text so small that you cannot read them! You cannot tell me that, on this huge HUD, you couldn’t have made the quotes section larger, and actually readable?!?? Despite this admittedly minor quibble, this is a very generous gift, and I expect I will trot out all my SL alts to pick one up!
The ninth anniversary round of the Kustom9 shopping event runs from October 18th to November 8th, 2022, so you have plenty of time to swoop down and sweep up some fabulous freebies!