Editorial: A Blogger’s Biases

bi·as /ˈbīəs/ — prejudice in favour of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

Oxford Dictionary (via Google)

Yesterday, I got into a debate with one of my blog readers on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, who felt that I was being hypocritical for saying that High Fidelity was “doomed” when I was not similarly harsh on Sansar, which also has low user concurrency figures.

She does have a good point (she comes from VRChat, which is demonstrably whooping Sansar’s ass in that department):

Every blogger has his or her own biases, and those biases will shift over time. I will admit that I have a soft spot for the two platforms developed by Linden Lab: Second Life and Sansar. And, I will also admit that my bias towards High Fidelity has swung from positive to negative in the past year. Other bloggers also have their biases, whether they publicly admit them or not. For example, Wagner James Au, of the long-running Second Life blog New World Notes, sometimes seems to have an axe to grind when it comes to Sansar.

Am I being fair to High Fidelity? Well, I guess it all depends on your perspective. Yes, I have been very harsh towards HiFi, because I see them lurching from mistake to mistake, but I am not really saying anything new here; other observers have also criticized High Fidelity. Many current and former HiFi users have told me privately that I am writing about what many of them are thinking. And I will continue to praise the company when I see them doing things that I think are beneficial, like their recent create-an-personalized avatar app for mobile devices, which I think is an excellent idea that I would like to see more social VR platforms and virtual worlds adopt. But yes, overall I do think that the company is in quite serious trouble, and yesterday I used the dreaded D-word: doomed.

Does this mean that I am uncritical of Linden Lab? Nope. I can point to numerous instances in the past where I have been sharply (and, yes, even unfairly) critical of Linden Lab. And I have been similarly critical at times of many other virtual worlds. Because I tend to get accused of bias when I do aim criticism at any particular company, I will refer you to a quote I made when I was accused of bashing Sansar by criticizing its too-early launch on Steam:

I want to stress that this is only one person’s opinion, not an official Sansar spokesperson’s point of view. I still remain a strong Sansar supporter, but I would be neglecting my duties as an independent social VR/virtual worlds blogger if I simply posted nothing but “good news” about Sansar, as some people want me to do.

And the exact same sentiment applies to any other platform I write about on this blog. I visit and enjoy many different social VR/virtual worlds, and I have made some great friends and had some wonderful experiences everywhere I go, but I am not simply going to be a cheerleader for any platform; I want to be able to report both the positive and negative sides of all the social VR platforms and virtual worlds I blog about.

So, why do I think that Sansar is not doomed? The various sources of Sansar user concurrency stats, while still low compared to rival platforms like VRChat and Rec Room, are showing promising signs of growth. This is also borne out by a definite increase in the number of people joining and participating in the official Sansar Discord. Sansar is clearly attracting new people. While that pace of user growth might still disappointing to Linden Lab, it is clear to this blogger that Sansar is still doing better overall than High Fidelity.

And yes, I could be wrong. I have often been wrong before. I thought that Virtual Universe would be a success, too, and it failed. I thought that Cryptovoxels would fail, and it has prospered. So, what do I know? I’m just a blogger who spends way, waaay too much time exploring social VR and virtual worlds, and writing about my experiences from my own unique perspective. I have been fortunate to get a bit of attention from my blog, but I am far from a seer. Nobody can predict the future.

And I make you this promise: if I do fuck up—and I tend to fuck up quite often, both in real life and in virtual worlds—I will admit it (especially if I am called out on it, as I was yesterday), own it, apologize, and move on. That’s the best and surest way to learn and grow.

Sometimes, I will push back, and argue my stance on certain issues if I still think I am right. And, right now, I will forcefully argue that Sansar is destined to succeed, although I suspect it will take many years for that to happen. Ebbe Altberg and his team at Linden Lab are very wisely playing the long game: slowly and methodically building a next-generation virtual world that might, someday, surpass Second Life in popularity (even in the face of potential behemoths like Facebook Horizon). We’ll see if that prediction comes to pass or not.

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Cas and Chary Cover Five Social VR Platforms (Including Sansar)

Most of the people making YouTube videos about virtual reality hardware and software are men, so it is refreshing to find a new (well, new to me, anyways) channel about VR run by two women, called Cas and Chary VR.

Last week, Cas published a 10-minute YouTube video tour of five less popular social VR platforms, explaining:

So we all know VRChat, Rec Room, [and] AltspaceVR. This video isn’t about these games. It’s about 5 others that you might have missed.

The five platforms covered in this video include:

Videos like this are useful because they give viewers a look at platforms that they might not have had an opportunity to visit themselves. I was surprised to find that Sansar was a sponsor for this video. Cas says:

DISCLAIMER: This video was sponsored by Sansar. Per our guidelines, no review direction was received from them. Our opinions are our own.

I think it’s smart that Linden Lab is reaching out to YouTube influencers like Cas and Chary with sponsorship opportunities. As I have written before, social VR companies will likely have to turn to influencers more often in future to promote their products more effectively.

Sansar Pick of the Day: Susan’s Diary

Today I went exploring in Sansar, and I came across a sinister world called Susan’s Diary, designed by Sergio Delacruz (who previously created worlds such as Day 24: The Escape and the creepy Orphanage of Angels).

Susan’s Diary consists of a series of puzzles that you have to solve, to figure out what happened to Susan and her dolls. Every so often, you will encounter a stray page from her diary, which you can pick up and read for clues.

The world is masterfully done, with all kinds of touches that add to the foreboding atmosphere, like flying crows and candles you can blow out and relight! (Here’s a hint to get you started: you’re going to need that well to find the first key.)

I would have been lost without the assistance of another person who had already been through the various steps. Even so, we struggled at times to solve the puzzles. (At one step, it helps if you can read music.) The fiendishly clever puzzles reminded me of the classic games Riven and Myst (high praise indeed!).

Be sure to put on your thinking cap and pay Susan’s Diary a visit! See if you can make it all the way to the end. There’s a very satisfying and dramatic conclusion.

Sansar Pick of the Day: Community Campfire

For millennia, humankind have gathered around campfires, telling stories and singing songs under the stars. Even though the campfire at tonight’s Community Campfire event was virtual, it was a pleasure to sit with both old friends and newcomers on an evening where my real life was buffeted by howling winter winds and blowing snow.

I’ve just come through a wearying six weeks of intense project work at my university, and tomorrow marks the start of a five-day weekend for me (it’s also Thanksgiving up here in Canada on Monday). So I am going to kick back, recharge my batteries, and adjust to the change of seasons.