Editorial: “Behold the Field…”

Note: This is a personal blogpost, one that I have written and rewritten a couple of times, and to which I have added and removed several paragraphs, trying to find the right words to express how I feel. I may still have missed the mark, and for that I will apologize up front.

I am still feeling upset and angry about certain situations, and I take this as a sign that I should take some time off over the Christmas holidays, recharge my batteries, and come back with a refreshed perspective. So don’t be too surprised if I do announce a break from this blog soon.


I will be the first to admit that sometimes, I do not have the best overall temperament, the best combination of personality characteristics, to be a social VR/virtual worlds blogger. I lead with my head instead of my heart, and while this passion ignites what I write about and how I write it, it can also get me into trouble, time and again.

Longtime readers of my blog can see this happen in certain blogposts where, indeed, “the field in which I grow my f*cks is barren”. At times my anger about a situation which I see as unfair has led to almost a scorched-earth response, where a less emotional writer would have backed down. Yes, I do get triggered. Yes, I do get upset. Yes, I do lash out.

I am mindful of at least two situations in the past couple of months were I became emotional over something, and responded by blogging about it. The first was reporting on the layoffs among the Sansar team at Linden Lab, something which brought me into conflict with a number of people who felt that I should have kept that news secret, and frankly which has probably put strain on some formerly good working relationships.

Would I have done anything differently then, knowing what I know now? No. I am hard-wired to respond with outrage to outrageous circumstances. It is what makes me human. It is what makes me, me. If you were looking for a dispassionate, clinical response to the pain and turmoil of a mass layoff, I’m sorry, but you won’t find it on this blog. Heart first, head second.

And the second situation led to this particular sarcastic, angry blogpost.

I am old enough to recognize that the things that irritate me most about other people are the very things that irritate me about myself. I am too quick to take offense at perceived slights, and I sometimes strike back in harsh criticism, sarcasm, or anger. I realize that this is a personal failing, one which I will continue to work on. And I am sorry.

I grew up in a family where I quickly learned that to become angry was to put yourself in danger of physical punishment. So as a result, I spent most of my younger adulthood repressing my legitimate anger, often having it turn into crippling depression as a result, which hindered my life and career more than if I had simply expressed the anger appropriately, at the right targets, at the right time. It is only through years of hard work and therapy that I have been able to acknowledge and express my own anger, and in some cases, the pendulum may have swung a little too far in the other direction.

Being a blogger means finding your authentic voice, and I think I have found mine here. But it also puts you into situations where you realize that you are not always as prepared, as cool and calm and collected, as you would like to think you are. So every so often you need to pause and reflect, and make adjustments as necessary. Now is one of those times.

My first, learned-in-childhood response to incidents such as I have described here is to suppress my anger, which is wrong. My second, more recently-learned response, is to lash out in anger as my father did, which is also wrong. What I need to learn how to do is ride out my first and second gut responses, and opt for a third one: a measured response which is still passionate but not overemotional, taking into account that there can be multiple perspectives to any situation, some of which might not be obvious to me at first (or even second) glance.

Life is a process, where you are usually presented the same lesson to learn, over and over again in different guises, until you finally learn it, and then the next lesson presents itself. So I can look at my responses to recent events which made me angry, and see them as learning opportunities.

Once again, please accept my apologies.

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1,500 Blogposts!

Today I reached a new milestone for my blog: this is my 1,500th blogpost! I have made 1,500 posts over 830 days, which works out to almost two blogposts per day!

Here are my Top 15 most popular (i.e. most viewed) blogposts since I started this blog on July 31st, 2017:

  1. Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Free and Inexpensive Mesh Heads and Bodies for Female Second Life Avatars (originally published on Sept. 24, 2018, and with 12,101 views to date)
  2. The Dirty Little Secret of VRChat: Hidden Adult Content (March 28, 2019; 10,647 views)
  3. Meet the Man Who Has Lost 200 Pounds Playing Beat Saber in VR (August 6, 2019; 10,207 views)
  4. More Details on the Upcoming Ability to Change Your User Name in Second Life (March 22, 2018; 7,009 views)
  5. Linden Lab Announces a Mix of Good News and Bad News for Second Life Users (May 29, 2019; 5,689 views)
  6. RyanSchultz.com Reader Poll: What Social VR/Virtual World Do You Spend the Most Time In? (Feb. 21, 2019; 5,553 views)
  7. Oasis: A Brief Introduction to a New, Adults-Only Social VR Platform (Aug. 7, 2018; 4,670 views)
  8. Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: The Four Best Freebie Stores in Second Life (May 15, 2018; 3,830 views)
  9. Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Free and Inexpensive Mesh Heads and Bodies for Male Second Life Avatars (Oct. 4, 2018; 3,541 views)
  10. The Mesh Project Releases New Mesh Male and Female Mesh Bodies for Second Life Avatars: Why I Won’t Be Buying One (April 23, 2019; 3,402 views)
  11. Comprehensive List of Social VR Platforms and Virtual Worlds (which is a constantly updated page; 3,092 views)
  12. Second Life Versus Sansar: Why Linden Lab Can’t Win, No Matter What They Do (March 9, 2018; 2,816 views)
  13. Linden Lab Lays Off 30 Staff (Nov. 4, 2019; 2,697 views)
  14. Lindsey Stirling to Perform in Wave Monday, August 26th (Aug. 22, 2019; 2,556 views)
  15. Earning Money Creating Custom Avatars in VRChat: An Interview with Ghoster (April 27, 2018; 2,435 views)

I still find it somewhat amusing that #2 and #7 are ranked as high as they are; obviously, people keep searching for adult content in virtual worlds, and they keep finding those two blogposts in their search results! And #3 somehow got picked up by Google News, which explains the spike in viewers. Most of these posts were made in 2018 or early 2019, with the notable exception of #13, which was posted only three days ago!

Seven of my Top 15 entries are either fully or partly about Second Life. Two (#2 and #15) are about VRChat. And only one is about Sansar: #12, which lends further support to my decision to cut back on the volume of reporting I do about Sansar on this blog.

The Joys of Second Life Photography

Among them

Image: Among Them, by Karin Verwood

In 2017, I decided to take a blogging course offered through BVuNiversity, the educational arm of the Blogger & Vlogger Network of Second Life (BVNSL for short). I was unique among the students attending, in that I was blogging about Sansar more than Second Life at the time (remember, this blog first started out in July 2017 as a blog about Sansar, launched when Sansar opened the doors to the public).

You can see the “test” Second Life blog which I set up to use for the course here. I’m no longer updating that blog; I just find it easier to have one blog (this one), where I can talk about various social VR/virtual worlds, including a section devoted to Second Life!

Anyways, a few of the weekly BVNSL classes were devoted to learning how to take good photographs in Second Life. And ever since then, I have found myself attracted to well-done SL photography, like the image at the top of this blogpost by Karin Verwood (you can see the rest of her pictures on Flickr, which is home to many talented Second Life photographers).

There are so many exceptional SL photographers that it would be impossible to list all of my favourites! Some focus on landscape or home and garden photography; others do portraits or fashion shoots; some focus on telling a story with action scenes!

If you are at all interested in Second Life photography, may I recommend you follow Wurfi on Twitter, who is a friend from both Second Life and Sansar? I have learned about so many wonderful SL photographers through his tweets.

Here are just a few recent examples of work from the many talented Second Life photographers whom I follow on Flickr. (You can click on each picture to take you directly to the Flickr page for the photo; from there, you can click on the photographer’s name under the picture to see all his or her work in chronological order.)


. you make me feel... like i'm alive again .
Crystal Gardens
Cyberpunk
Beauty is the ordinary
FGI19 Contest Entry: White As Snow
you are born to be real, not to be perfect
| { P A P P A D O } | CLOSED
Lost in the thrill of it all.
airplane mode.

The BVNSL also hosts an annual awards show, The Bloggies, where the public votes for bloggers and vloggers in various categories. Voting takes place from now until Oct. 19th, 2019, so don’t delay! The full list of categories and nominees and the link to the voting ballot is here.

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 f*** up—and I tend to f*** 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.