AvaCon: A Brief Introduction

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AvaCon is another virtual world company that is notable for its work in organizing and hosting real-world conferences in the past. They run an OpenSim grid called AvaCon Grid, and they appear to have hosted a series of real-world Avatar Meetups:

AvaCon hosts and produces a series of educational lectures and community gathering meet-upsthat reach approximately 15 to 40 attendees per event and take place in various regional cities such as Austin, Boston, New York and San Francisco.

These meetups feature a single panel discussion, presentation, artistic or musical performance, or community event to foster knowledge sharing and social networking among attendees who are interested in broad technical, scholarly, scientific and creative uses of virtual worlds, augmented reality, and 3D immersive and virtual spaces.

These meetings appear to have stopped in 2014, however. Their news page hasn’t been updated since October 2017, and I notice a lot of somewhat dated content on their blog, which leads me to believe that AvaCon is not nearly as active at the moment.

I was surprised to discover that AvaCon produced the Second Life Community Conventions of 2010 and 2011. (There hasn’t been an SL Convention since then. I guess people just lost interest, or maybe the organizers got burned out. Organizing a convention is a lot of hard work!)

More recently, AvaCon was a co-host of the 2017 OpenSimulator Community Conference, so it would appear that they are still at least somewhat active in OpenSim projects.

Finding Your Way Around Hypergrid-Connected OpenSim Virtual Worlds

So, here’s my OSGrid avatar at Lbsa Plaza, all dressed up and nowhere to go:

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Where to go? Well, it so happens that there are a few handy directories to Hypergrid-connected OpenSim virtual worlds.

The first one is called OpenSimWorld, and it’s a directory that you can search by keyword (e.g. “freebies”) or you can just click the Browse Regions button and then select by Popular, Latest, Most Liked, or by category (e.g. “adult”).

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Another OpenSim directory is called Hyperica, which maintains a detailed spreadsheet of Hypergrid-connected OpenSim virtual worlds.

How do you travel from one OpenSim grid to another? It’s easy! Simply take the grid address (e.g. hg.osgrid.org:80), open up the Map on your client (I use Firestorm), and paste it into the address box and click the Find button. Once it locates the OpenSim grid on the Map, click the Teleport button. That’s all there is to it!

The OpenSimWorld and Hyperica directories also give you an option to click a button which then pops up the location in your already-open client software (just look for a button marked “HG” for Hypergrid in the OpenSim world’s description).

I have discovered that the overwhelming majority of OpenSim virtual worlds are Hypergrid-enabled. You can use OpenSimWorld, Hyperica, and other active grid lists like the one maintained by Hypergrid Business to find your way around. Hypergrid Business also maintains an up-to-date, handy list of the most popular Hypergrid-connected OpenSim worlds, if you want to start with the most popular ones.

Another grid list you can use is the one maintained by the OpenSimulator project website itself, although I’m not sure how up-to-date that list is. I have noticed that some of the grids listed, like Avination, have closed.

Another good spot to find out what is going on in OpenSim-based virtual worlds is the Google+ group called Opensim Virtual, which has over 2,000 subscribers.

Happy grid hopping!

Intellectual Property Issues in OpenSim/Hypergrid

I have been exploring a couple of OpenSim-based virtual worlds that were recommended to me by people who were leaving InWorldz. One of the features about OpenSim that fascinates me is the Hypergrid feature, which allows you to visit other OpenSim-based grids without having to create a new avatar from scratch.

OpenSim grid operators advertise their grids as “open” (Hypergrid enabled) or “closed” (you are unable to visit other grids from that grid). I must confess that I have never visited open grids before, so it has been quite the experience teleporting from grid to grid. Most of the time I didn’t even know what grid I was actually on!

At one of the grids I visited, someone kindly gave me a list of freebie stores, and I went exploring. I didn’t even know which grid I was on when I came across this particular sim:

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With this prominent sign:

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I entered the Mesh Body Shop you see in the background of the first picture, and I found a lot of free items that looked very familiar to me from my time in Second Life: Catwa mesh heads, Belleza mesh bodies, Bento AOs from Vista Animations, etc.:

Hypergrid 3 28 July 2018Hypergrid 4 28 July 2018

And I thought to myself, “That can’t be right.” So I did a little investigating on the internet, and I discovered that intellectual property theft happens on some OpenSim grids. Moonrise Azalee posted an item to the Opensim Virtual group on Google+ a year ago (here’s a link to her post):

I know this isn’t a popular opinion – but when I see regions advertising themselves on OpenSimWorld with ‘freebies’ and those freebies are Catwa heads, Freya, Maitreya (clearly pictured), and upon checking these freebies out they also include Blueberry clothing and other rigged mesh items specifically for Freya and Maitreya – I find it really disappointing.

I don’t condone botting – but I know its pretty common. Someone has an item they paid good money for elsewhere and have no moral or ethical qualms about taking it out of the Big Grid so they can use it elsewhere. That in itself is a different topic outside of this. But to see these items taken from creators who spent a lot of time and money of their own to use programs and create items that take many hours to do – just offered for free to anyone as though it is some sort of good deed is kind of sad.

When I first found a body called Athena, I was pretty excited. Then I put it on and realized it was Maitreya’s Lara. Even some parts were still named as such, and the clothing for it was identical to the blueberry clothing I have for Maitreya in SL. So trying another body – one called Mesh Body I believe – I saw it was Freya and had freya clothing.

And in a few other stores I saw these same bodies not even being disguised but actually just called Freya – and the Maitreya sales box with Athena written on it.

It just kind of discredits the OpenSim community. I understanding wanting to be a free comunity – but commercial creators DO deserve to get paid for their hard work. I am sure we have people here talented enough to take on the task of creating great content and they can do so and then give it away for free. But using exported items without permission KNOWINGLY (i do realize some people might not know what these things are, especially if they weren’t familiar with them in SL) and giving it away for everyone else to use just seems kind of cruddy.

In fact, the owner of one OpenSim grid, DigiWorldz, has gone so far as to ban the Athena mesh avatar body from their grid:

Hello All,

I want to clarify a few things concerning the banning of the Athena Mesh bodies.

Some users are upset about our decision and understandably so. After you spend time setting something up, it tends to be a pain to have to change and start all over.. I get that.

Please understand, this isn’t being done based on “Rumors”. Granted, it started out with “Rumors” from users telling me the bodies were copybotted and are not legal. These rumors continued and finally I started telling people to please contact the creator and have them send me a DMCA claim and I’ll be happy to remove them. The DMCA never came. Meanwhile, other rumors started being spread about DigiWorldz allowing copybotted items and that we condone the use of illegal content, which is very far from the truth.

Since our inception that has been a basic core belief of mine.. to protect “All” creator’s content, no matter which grid they live on.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I want to prove my point that I have always been interested in doing the right thing by protecting the rights of the creators in OpenSim.

I don’t care if the creator is on SL, OSGrid, Metro, InWorldz, or any other grid. I will always stand by them and do my part to help protect their content.

The facts are that this issue with the mesh bodies has been reported multiple times. We have been waiting for a DMCA claim from the creator of the “Lara” body in SL to come forward and put in this claim so that we could take action. This claim never came. Meanwhile our name was being dragged thru the mud as a haven for copybot content which simply is not true.

Today, we contacted the creator of the Lara body in SL and asked them specifically if the Athena mesh bodies found in OpenSim grids was a direct copy of the lara body. The answer was yes. We asked if she had given permission for these bodies to be in OpenSim, the answer was no.

Based on that exchange, it makes these bodies in OpenSim illegal.

Now, I don’t just remove something from the grid when I get a report from someone. I have to have substantial proof of the claim before I will act on it, otherwise, anyone could cause trouble for someone by claiming illegal content.

We now have legitimate proof these bodies are in OpenSim illegally based on direct communication with he creator in SL.

Unless someone can prove the creator of the Lara body in SL is wrong, these items will stay banned.

So, when exploring the Wild, Wild West of Hypergrid-connected OpenSim grids, you should be aware that some of the “free” items you are buying may be property stolen from Second Life creators.

Kitely: A Brief Introduction

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Kitely is another OpenSim-based virtual world that I haven’t visited in quite a while. According to its Company Overview:

Kitely is the biggest commercial provider of OpenSim regions, hosting more than 17,000 regions (as of January 2018). Kitely is considered to have the most user-friendly administration tools in the entire OpenSim hosting industry.

Work on Kitely began in 2008, with the vision of enabling people to use virtual worlds as an on-demand utility. It took the company more than two years of intensive development until it was ready to start its public beta in March 2011. Kitely is now the leading provider of affordable high-performance OpenSim hosting solutions.

As of today (July 4th, 2018), Kitely has 103,725 registered users and 17,549 sims or regions, according to the statistics on their login screen. They seem to have a healthy marketplace, with thousands of items for sale. Kitely has their own currency, called Kitely Credits, which you can use to buy things.

The one thing that drives me crazy about Kitely is that many unvisited sims are stored offline, and you quite often get the following message when you try to teleport from one place to another in-world:

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Basically, you have to wait until the sim you want to visit is restarted, and then you are teleported to it automatically. The delay is usually less than a minute, though sometimes it takes longer. But I still do find it annoying, especially after years of being able to teleport instantly to other locations on other virtual world platforms like Second Life. The tagline for Kitely is “Virtual Worlds on Demand”. and they aren’t kidding about the “on demand” part!

Kitely is an interesting take on OpenSim, and they have a small but active community. You can find out more about Kitely from their website, their Facebook page, or their Google+ community.

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The Kitely Welcome Center