Editorial: New Year, New Directions—Why I Am Substantially Cutting Back on My Coverage of Second Life, and Refocusing the RyanSchultz.com Blog on Virtual Reality and Social VR

Photo by Jordan Ladikos on Unsplash

When I started this blog in July of 2017, I had never intended to become a Second Life blogger. There were hundreds of other bloggers out there who were doing a far better job than I could of covering Second Life, and they still are! Throw in the Facebook groups, Discord servers, and YouTube channels, and you have a thriving commentary community on the vibrant ecosystem that is Second Life.

The original purpose of my blog was to write about Linden Lab’s foray into social VR, Sansar. I had been fortunate enough to get into the closed beta test of Sansar in January of 2017, an event which prompted the purchase of my first virtual reality headset, and I timed the launch of what was then called The Sansar Newsblog to coincide with the official opening of Sansar to the general public, on July 31st, 2017.

Over the five-and-a-half years that I have been writing this blog, I slowly broadened my coverage to report on other early social virtual reality platforms, such as AltspaceVR, VRChat, and Linden Lab’s founding CEO Philip Rosedales’ ambitious project, High Fidelity. And, as the number of virtual worlds and social VR platforms increased, I began to write more about them, too. My list of metaverse platforms remains one of the most popular pages on the RyanSchultz.com blog.

But my abiding passion for all things metaverse was born on March 20th, 2007, when I set up my first Second Life avatar, Heath Homewood. I often joke that I got my Ph.D. In the Metaverse from nearly 16 years of study at the University of Second Life! And I still believe that SL is the perfect, fully mature model of a metaverse, which newer social VR companies would be wise to study, learn from, and emulate.

I started writing about Second Life because I wanted to share my bounty of tips and tricks on how to pull together a good-looking avatar, without spending a fortune in Linden dollars! I still get an immense sense of satisfaction from creating a polished, head-to-toe avatar look as inexpensively as possible, and sharing with you exactly how I did it, so you could do it, too! I wanted to share my passion with you all.

Second Life was my first love, my introduction to the concept of the metaverse, and a love I still have, and probably always will have. But I have also been doing a lot of thinking these past few months about this blog, and the direction in which I want to take it.

Therefore, I have decided to cut back substantially on my Second Life coverage, and refocus on the reason I started this blog in the first place: virtual reality in general, and social VR in particular.

This doesn’t mean that I will never write about SL again. For example, Second Life will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer, and I have every intention of reporting on that milestone!

But it does mean that my days as the (uncrowned) Freebie Queen of Second Life are now over. I have decided that will no longer be reporting on bargains and free items in SL. Yesterday’s report on the imminent closing of The Free Dove seems a fitting final post in the Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies category on my blog.

I turn 59 in a few days, and it’s time for me to re-find the joy and wonder I once had when I first slipped on my trusty Oculus Rift VR headset five years ago, and went exploring, to see what I could discover. There’s a lot going on in the VR/AR/MR/XR space, and I want to refocus my attention on that.

I know that many of you who followed my Second Life coverage will be disappointed, but I hooe that you will understand and respect my decision. And I also hope that you will continue to join me on this journey!

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

UPDATED! Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Updates on Two Long-Running Freebie Stores, The Free Dove and Ajuda SL Brasil

The Free Dove freebie store in Second Life is closing after almost 17 years

I’m still taking a break from blogging, but this morning I came across the news on the Pure Eggs & Spam blog, and I wanted to share it with my readers: Palomma Casanova, the owner of The Free Dove (one of Second Life’s most popular and longest-running freebie stores), has sadly passed away after an illness. I’m going to post the complete text of a notecard sent to The Free Dove group by her colleague, Dollen McMillan:

Hello dear friends of Palomma,

It is with great sadness and pain that I have to announce you that Palomma Casanova left us on Saturday, January 14 after a long illness. This is a shock to me and a huge loss. She fought her illness with all the energy she had and endured the pain very bravely. Her passion for her work and for helping others was admirable.

For almost 12 years, this kind, generous and talented woman was by my side day after day. She will be missed by all of us who had the chance to know her. May she rest peacefully with all my love.

About Free Dove

When the subject of her eventual departure was brought up, Palomma’s response was that Free Dove would POOOOF when it was over for her. Free Dove was her baby, the vehicle that allowed her to express her love of people and her willingness to help them, but she didn’t want it to outlive her. She had created Free Dove in 2006 and when she left, her group had reached nearly 150,000 members, a rare achievement. We will remember her as the generous woman who dedicated 17 years of her life to SL citizens.

I have no idea when Free Dove will disappear. In the meantime, I have blocked all payment boxes for Free Dove shops, I am unable to refund your last payments, but your shops can remain in place until the end comes.

Regarding Christmas trees and Christmas gifts, I will be returning them this Wednesday because the holiday season is over. As for last month’s Hunts panels, I will try to change the textures and replace them with an image to pay homage to Palomma.

Concerning The Free Dove group, you will retain the ability to send notices as long as the building exists, but please don’t abuse and follow Palomma’s rules. The day the building disappears, I will remove the ability to send notices to all.

As for creators’ gifts and the prims belonging to other people, they will all be returned the day the land is abandoned.

Thank you for taking the time to read me.

Dollen McMillan

The Free Dove group notices are full of people posting notes and testimonials about Palomma, as word filters out. I do not have further details about Palomma, but I will also miss her and her tireless work in Second Life. I would advise you that, since we do not know when her freebie store will shut down, pay your visit now.

The Free Dove, along with the freebie store at the Ajuda SL Brasil Portuguese-speaking community gateway sim, were my top two picks for the best freebie stores in Second Life (you can see my full list of recommendations here). And, unfortunately, after a recent visit to Ajuda SL Brasil, I must report that this once-excellent freebie store appears to have fallen on hard(er) times.

There are now many empty walls at the once-excellent freebie store at Ajuda SL Brasil, especially on the first floor, and many vendors I remember from before are missing.

I noticed that of the vendors who once offered fashionable free items here have vanished, leaving many empty walls in the freebie store. Much of what remains is the older, system-layers-and-flexiprims clothing which most Second Life avatars don’t want to wear. There are still a few good mesh clothing finds here and there, such as this outfit I was able to cobble together for an alt (see image, right).

The Nia top is one of a collection of gifts for women from Fran Gustav on the main floor, and the patched and worn Bella blue jeans are a freebie from Dreams, located on the third floor. (Please note that some of the freebies in mesh clothing at Ajuda SL Brasil come in standard sizing, instead of sizes to fit Maitreya Lara and other brands of mesh bodies.)

On my return visit today to double-check the locations of the free clothing in this image, I noticed that there seems to be some effort underway to move content and reorganize the third floor of the store, but still, a lot of fabulous freebies I remember from before are no longer there.

So, I regret to report that one well-known SL freebie store is closing soon, and yet another is not what it used to be. This could be a sign that the era of freebie stores in Second Life is coming to an end.

UPDATE Jan. 19th, 2023: A memorial, with books of condolence which you can sign, has been set up for Palomma Casanova (and her alt, Dyannia!) just inside the main entrance of The Free Dove, if you wish to come and pay your respects:

Also, there is a discussion thread about Palomma Casanova’s passing on the official Second Life community forums, here. As with The Free Dove SL group I mentioned above, people are sharing stories and memories of Palomma and The Free Dove.

UPDATE Jan. 23rd, 2023: Tastic (one of the many SL brands who had free items available through The Free Dove) has created tops for both men and women, to commemorate the run of the venerable freebie store. (By their calculations, The Free Dove actually started in 2005, so that would indeed make it 17 years, a remarkable achievement!)

The tops are free, and you do not need to join a group to get them. Just click on the signs inside the entrance, near the stairs. The tops come in a wide variety of sizes to fit most male and female mesh bodies.

P.S. these tops will also be available at The Free Dove, next to the memorial to Palomma Casanova I mentioned above, until the store shuts down. Thanks, Tastic!

UPDATE Jan. 27th, 2023: Shelby Monitor posted an update to The Free Dove group yesterday:

Patch Linden will keep Palomma’s Park as a memorial and will not change. [The] Free Dove has 90 [days] till [it] will be no longer [be around]. The store will remain open and untouched till then, and we receive further notice from Linden Lab.

Her land will go to market, and I hope possibly to purchase the land and be able to make a place for people to get help, and
hopefully I can find designers to put [out] free gifts to help those in need.

Thank You everyone for all your support.
Shelby Monitor

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: The LeLutka Holiday Special, Running Dec. 20th to 30th, 2022!

Once again this year, the popular Bento head creator LeLutka has teamed up with over 50 other Second Life stores to offer you a bounty of Christmas gifts! This year, the Holiday Special runs from December 20th to 30th, 2022. However, please note that last year, all the freebies were unavailable on the final day listed on the poster advertising the event, so I strongly recommend that you do NOT wait until Dec. 30th to pick up these wonderful presents for your avatar!

Here’s a list of stores participating in the LeLutka Holiday Special. Click on the store name in the list to teleport to the store, and look for a sign saying “54 Designers”, or the Holiday Special Christmas ornaments logo shown in the picture above.

Yesterday evening, I visited all 54 stores, and I have written up a notecard with a description of each gift, along with an exact SLURL for the location of the gift in the participating store. Please note that in some cases, a sim will have a forced central spawn point, but just save the SLURL from the notecard to your SL inventory, find it in your Landmarks folder and right click on it, then select “Show on Map” from the menu which appears (see image, right). Then, all you have to do is follow the red arrow to find your present!

I also added a few notes to alert you to things like which stores do not need a group join to pick up the gift, and which stores also have other (previous) group gifts which you might want to snap up once you have joined the store group for free. For example, you can pick up the Avi-Glam presents (a nice unisex fatpack of eyes and a male skin) without a group, but did you know that if you join the Avi-Glam group for free, you can pick up eleven free group gifts?

Oh, and did I mention? ALL the stores participating in the LeLutka Holiday Special have removed their usual group join fees (if they had any). Yes, that’s right, you can join all of these groups for absolutely FREE between December 20th and 30th! So, for example, if you join Ives Beauty now, the group join is free, you can pick up the Holiday Special gift plus all the other group gifts of skins and makeup, and after the promotion ends, THEN STAY IN THE GROUP, because it will cost you L$99 to rejoin it later if there are other group gifts announced by Ives Beauty during 2023. This is the time of year to join many of those store groups which you’ve had your eye on, but couldn’t afford to join!

PRO TIP: Did you know that you can turn off the crowd of avatars around you, so all you can see on screen is you and your friends? Just select “Show Friends Only” from the World menu in the Firestorm viewer (see image, left). Poof!! They’re gone! I do this all the time, rather than have my computer get bogged down trying to render all the surrounding avatars at busy shopping events and sales in Second Life.

Anyway, getting back to the list I compiled yesterday… I am doing something a little different from what I usually do (I hope that you will indulge me!).

I went and posted that detailed list of stores, notes, and SLURLs to my own Second Life group, called the RyanSchultz.com Steals, Deals & Freebies group (just search for “ryanschultz”, all one word, under Groups in Search, and you will find it easily). More information on the RyanSchultz.com Steals, Deals & Freebies group can be found here. The group join fee is only L$50, and you will find it money well spent, as I often share many bargains and freebies throughout the year, which never make it to this blog!


Now let’s take a look at some of these generous gifts! The gifts from LeLutka and its sister skin store, LeLapeau, are available from one of four sims (please join the LeLutka group for free, and check the group notices for notecards with all the details). The gifts you can pick up here are:

  • the LeLutka Raven female head (version 3.1)
  • the LeLutka Quinn male head (version 3.1)
  • the LeLapeau Elsa women’s skin fatpack

Below, my SL supermodel, Moesha Heartsong, models the Raven LeLutka head, plus three of the Holiday Special gifts from other participating stores (please click on each image to see it in full size):

  • the Lacey head skin from Koonz, which comes in a full fatpack of skin tones which match Velour body skin (I chose Amber for these pictures);
  • the Venus muscular limited-edition body skin by Velour, also in Amber (which comes in both Meshbody Legacy and eBody Reborn versions; the Legacy version had some problems in the toes area on Moesha’s Maitreya Lara mesh body, but the Reborn version worked perfectly!);
  • the Gift hairstyle by Studio Exposure, which consists of a complete fatpack of hairbases, combined with a bun adorned with a large bow, which comes with a colour-change HUD.

And here, one of my male alts (who has the actual, honest-to-God, Second Life legacy name of That Guy 😉 ), is wearing the LeLutka Quinn head, plus two more Holiday Special gifts: the Andrej face skin and shape by Clef de Peau, and the Christian hairbase from Volkstone. (The body skin That Guy is wearing was a gift from last year’s LeLutka holiday event, the Eros Lite soft fit skin in the Moon skin tone, and I picked a version of the Andrej skin in the same Moon skin tone. Unfortunately, there is no male skin gift from Velour this year!) Again, please click on each image to view it in a larger size.

The final look is Lily Pond (yep, that’s her legacy name, too), who is modeling the LeLutka Raven head, plus the following :

  • The Raven shape from Holloway Beauty for the Raven LeLutka head and the Meshbody Legacy body (I used this shape as my starting point, tweaking the body sliders quite a bit, but the head shape is pretty much still the original from the Holloway Raven shape, I just made the eyes a little bigger);
  • the Raven head skin from Amara Beauty in the Chantilly skin tone (I used the matching Ipanema body skin from Velour, which was last year‘s LeLutka holiday event gift);
  • the beautiful Noel eyes from Amara Beauty (they come in a full fatpack);
  • the Christmas hairbase by Not Found, which goes with this long, long ponytail from Doux! Both are fatpacks, coming a variety of colours. You can pick up each part separately from the L’Etre/Doux and Not Found stores during the LeLutka Holiday Special event.

Please click on each picture int his gallery to see it in full size:

Happy holiday freebie shopping!

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Ryan’s Quick and Dirty Guide to the 2022 Holiday Shop and Hop

Yes, I am still percolating, but of course, the holidays wait for no one! This year, the annual Second Life Holiday Shop and Hop covers 16 sims, simply groaning with discounted items for sale. And each vendor booth has a free Christmas present for you—and a few have more than one!

I have spent the past week scouring social media for information to learn which stores are participating in this year’s Holiday Shop and Hop, and what gifts each store is giving. Then I drew up a draft list, loaded up Second Life supermodel Moesha Heartsong, and hit all 16 sims, to pick up, unpack, and inspect each gift from that list. As more information came in, I edited and updated that list, and it is now at version 3.0!

This final list consists of my picks for the best gifts from this season’s Shop and Hop (mostly fashion for female avatars, but also some male fashion, as well as any offers of gift cards or free store credit). Each item on the list includes an exact SLURL, so you can teleport directly to the gift, pick it up, and head on to your next score! Having all one sim’s gifts grouped together means less teleporting back and forth between sims, a factor to consider early on in the event, when some popular sims get congested with avatar traffic.

I have posted that detailed list to my own Second Life group, called the RyanSchultz.com Steals, Deals & Freebies group (just search for “ryanschultz”, all one word, under Groups in Search, and you will find it easily). More information on the RyanSchultz.com Steals, Deals & Freebies group can be found here. The group join fee is only L$50, and you will find it money well spent, as I often share many bargains and freebies throughout the year, which never make it to this blog!

As an alternative to my list, or if you really want to make sure you haven’t missed any gifts that I skipped over, I still feel that the single best way to tackle the Shop and Hop events is to watch Naria Panthar’s videos on YouTube.

Naria always posts one or two videos where she unpack every single gift from the event, both non-wearable items and avatar clothing, and shows you what they look like. Watch the videos with the audio at two times normal speed, and keep a pen and paper handy to note the stores which have gifts you want (Naria herself recommends watching and listening at 2X speed, so it doesn’t take as long!).

Then, use this handy list which Linden Lab has provided to find your Shop and Hop store by name, teleport in, and snap up your present! (Note that, in some cases, a store SLURL from this list might accidentally stick up behind a wall or, in one case, on top of the roof! This is another good reason to join the RyanSchultz.com Steals, Deals & Freebies group—I have tested all the SLURLs, and that should not happen!)

The Holiday Shop and Hop event is on now, and runs until January 2nd, 2023, so you have plenty of time to pop in and scoop up some fabulous freebies for yourself!