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Friday, April 5, 2013

Elders Summit- April 2013: Is Second Life heading towards another mass exodus? Here’s what the Elders are saying- Lanai Jarrico Reporting...

I recently met with the remaining SL Elders for yet another secret summit because the echo of concern has become louder in recent months. The Mayan temple we used to meet in has now vanished and replaced by flat lands. We had to seek privacy and peace on a mountain top high in the clouds to discuss some issues. This time the meeting was different; I could almost hear the tears of the elders’ roll down their cheeks and see the frustration in their faces as we formed our circle and drew energy and comfort from each other. I was saddened to see even the core members of the Elders Summit are starting to recede in active membership. The lack of energy and motivation that once made us glow together is now a dim shadow that is forming a dark cloud of doubts and concerns over Second Life and its residents. Feelings are uneasy about the future of SL, especially with the rumor that Linden Labs is trying to get rid of Firestorm and other independent viewers used in order to force residents to use SL viewers only.  Speculation is rife and it is leaving many to question if there is an intention of a stronghold against the community.

Are the Lindens being control freaks?

One elder asked if it was a way for Linden Labs to gain complete control over its residents by limiting them. I cannot say for sure but according to some residents, it appears that way. I shared a recent conversation I had with a resident that is currently building his own sim and moving his projects to another grid. He told me many are packing up and heading to the OS Grid where they have more control over what they do, as well as save money. He asked me to go there too.

For years there have been whispers around the grid about the careless approach by Linden Labs and how they slack in taking responsibility for the rash of griefers that hinder the quality of Second Life for some residents.  I too have been a victim of countless griefers, one in particular that seems to be on the same reckless accusation crusade against others. Reports have been filed on this person, yet this avatar still putrefies the grid with their festering and foul antics.

Linden Labs needs to step it up a notch, or two or 10
 Many agree that LL’s response to the needs of the residents is also lacking. Many are feeling left in the dark about Linden Labs real agenda and motives,  particularly in how upper management continues to play musical chairs and hot potato at the same time by appointing  CEO’s and then snatching their positions back and replacing them with others with less experience on improving grid performance. One Elder said doing a hoe-down wearing roller skates and a blindfold is easier to keep up with. All elders agreed with a chuckle.
One elder made a great point by saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice to let the residents’ vote on who should be in charge based on what they have done for the community”?
 “If the foundation isn’t solid, how do we expect strong improvements?” said another.

Government and policing run by the residents
I agree we need some kind of organization or government created for the avatars by the avatars. If a simulated government option is created, I’d love to be nominated for president. My first order of business would be to create a court system where avatars with excessive conduct reports will have to go through a trial of his or her peers and handed a verdict based on the severity of their conduct.  The jury can decided what should be done. The punishment could be a ban and mute that restricts any interaction with anyone or anything. They would remain in jail until they pay a linden fine to the victim or have to sit it out in cell for a set period of time. Community members that take TOS law enforcement classes for simulated government jobs, like police officers and judges, should have special abilities to enforce those restrictions to griefers. “If the lindens don’t want to properly handle them, let the residents do it!” , shouted an overly excited elder.

Now there is a looming threat to virtual worlds and taxation by the government. Should we be ready for paying taxes on game credits for creating virtual product and services in Second Life?  It is a form of bartering. Perhaps people making real livings by converting Lindens to currency might be affected by this. We will have to just wait and see.  I imagine a mass exodus because of that alone….

Education in Second Life is dwindling
      Another topic brought up at the summit was education facilities and Universities. They once graced the landscape and offered classes to residents as well as provided a place for students to come together and learn in a virtual environment. Today, they are rare and those that remain have empty classrooms and tumble weeds rolling about.  I recently visited an education facility that teaches English to residents looking to expand their communication goals in Second Life. The University of Delaware is still doing their thing and so is a Second Life based school called New Citizens Incorporated (NCI). Let’s applaud those and other learning facilities for sticking around and trying to keep education and hope alive.

Business Conduct in SL is at an all time low
How do we expect to be taken seriously by the real world or even share what we do with others outside of Second Life if the leaders, educators and “professionals” can’t even show up on time? To some, Second Life is not a game. People invest a lot of time and money using the virtual world for an assortment of reasons and do not like that term unless they are here thinking they are an e-gangster, furry, a vampire, escorts, griefer or  they are riding a strip pole for tips.

The Real World versus Second Life, which comes first?
 It is understandable that real life often shows its ugly head at the most inconvenient of times, but a considerate back up plan should be in place when conducting virtual world business. A smart phone App allows business owners and residents a way to log in and handle certain matters that need attention.  It may not be the best quality tool for Second Life, but it does allow some form of communication to let others know you are running late, there’s an issue or event cancellation due to unforeseen RL roadblocks.

Online Romance and it’s short term Demise
An elder shared an unfortunate incident where she was on her virtual honeymoon and after an hour of passionate emoting, her new husband simply vanished. After crying in the shower at their beachfront retreat, feeling used and put on the shelf, it turned out he didn’t pay his internet bill and got cut off at the worst possible moment. They ended up making up and their marriage lasted three month, then it was back to single and mingling.

 Virtual Medicine.  Who needs a degree?
On to Medical learning facilities…. They have also become scarce in Second Life. In the early years, Ann Meyers Medical Center was on the cutting edge of virtual world and real world education integration. DoctorAnn Buchanan, created a facility to teach pre med students about equipment and procedures, using slides and a 3D facility they did mock surgeries, reviewed x-ray slides and learn together in a virtual way. DoctorAnn went on to teach medicine at a real world university. She actually got the job with the help and reputation of her virtual facility.
 The medical facilities that remain in SL today are used for role play with no real education involved.  Scantily clad nurses and doctors may be of service to residents, but not in the way one may think…

Music Skills and uneven business practices.
On to the Music Scene….Musicians still flood venues on a daily basis,  but some venue owners and concert goers have voiced concern about unforgiving lag, the quality of audio and streaming, fees, as well as singing skills. There are performers competing for bookings and virtual success every day.  When I am not working on SLE things, I like to go concert hopping until I find something that suits my mood. I like to observe the crowd and how the musician interacts with fans. It is sad to say; many times I don’t stick around for the whole set because the energy is just not there. I can think of a handful of musicians that I support because they are a complete entertainment package. The others lack something like charisma or talent… or both.
Three elders nodded their heads in agreement with that.

Don’t cry about Lindens once you’ve agreed to pay the fee
Musician fees can range from 3k-15k for an hour plus 100% tips. Venues may only attract up to 20 people on their own if they have a good reputation and marketing plans. The popular musician have their own following which helps many venues, but once they move on, so do their fans. Many times I see less than 15 at a venue and I’m being generous with the number. Venues rarely make back more than they put in. Concert goers can be cheap and many log out or teleport elsewhere without even tipping the musician or venue.

Venues with low expectations and high stakes
Another thing that the  elders see all too often is concert goers and even venue owners encouraging bad performances by shouting things like, “awesome performance!”, “amazing talent!” , “Woot!” “Woot!” and flamboyant gestures that take up a whole screen with symbols and words, mixed with applauds that often drown out more interesting local conversations. Yea I said it…but many of you thought it! One elder thought I should tone down on the bashing a bit and accused me of sounding like Simon from the first few seasons of American Idol.

Don’t Fake the Funk
  I backed up what I said by letting them know, not keeping it real and weeding out the shower singers and auto tune kings and queens from the real performers has proven to be damaging feedback, because it has only created a pool of somewhat talented performers with big egos problems.  I went on to say that they pretending to be full blown rock stars that charge a lot of money for hacking up covers or masking their tone deafness with voice enhancing programs.
The elders agreed that struggling venues suffer because they can’t meet overhead expenses due to non tipping cheapskates and excessive spending on dry talent.
 That is the cause for many failed venues that had to shut down. Believe me, I’ve seen many fail through the years.

What has become of Second Life?
 Where is everyone that made this a booming virtual world in the past going? The Community seems to be breeding more griefers and fakes, and fewer residents willing to keep it real for the sake of quality in entertainment, businesses and services.

 Please don’t hate on me
 I’m just throwing it all out there in the spotlight to educate the community, but it seems some avatars have forgotten that the grid was once a successful and creative place. It may seem active because stores still line up mall spaces on almost every sims, but you rarely see the owners there to help with customer service. You may see some stagnant Alts used as mannequins showcasing outfits.

What’s up with that?
Many are even turning to SL Marketplace to make the bulk of their sales, leaving the sim and storefront renters with less traffic.  Customer service has been replaced by obnoxious bots that repeat the same welcome messages to everyone while loading visitors with note cards, group invites, instant messages and landmarks. Let’s not get started on the subscriber thingies that promoters use by randomly adding avatars to a list by the hundreds and then spamming them with constant notices. Good Grief! An elder chimed in with, “I know right”!

 Attitude Problems and Mental Disorders are the new normal
Another elder brought up “Busy” messages becoming unprofessional and downright rude and disrespectful.   I agree! Recently, I messaged an avatar that entered a drawing for a spotlight feature, the response I got made me think there is an invasion of ignorance that helps form my perceptions of the grid’s failing health and integrity. These same people are also guilty of profiles cluttered with nonsense and messages of “No Drama” and other sayings and expressions that make them look like bitter people with borderline anti social, bipolar disorders.
An elder asked, “Since when has it become acceptable to act like an animal and bark at whoever contacts you?"

Good Question.
 My answer to that is, if Second Life has caused you to become rude to others just for a rise in personal self esteem.  It is a tell tale sign you are the problem. Another red flag is the lack of friends willing to put up with your attitude. Perhaps a therapist is what is needed and not a virtual world filled with a global audience that comes here to be creative and socialize with each other.

“BOOYA BITCHES!” shouted a dramatic elder.

 He continued the conversation by saying that there is a huge imbalance in the use of this virtual world and it is hard to contain the crazy marbles that scatter across the grid on a daily basis. These random space wasters cause others to slip and fall, and never get anywhere. “IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP AND SMELL THE FLOWERS PEOPLE”!

I have to agree, stank attitudes, ego driven lacklusterers, and poor business practices need to be unsupported. By choking off their linden supply, those that value there time here can finally breathe some fresh air, enjoy the environment, bring back the colorful creativity and move forward.

  One elder included, “Linden Labs also need to decide if their goals and agendas are for the community’s benefit or for their own. They need to quit leaving residents in a limbo, while draining bank accounts with fees to support outside projects that do absolutely nothing to improve performance of the grid.  Giving back to the community that has helped fill their pockets would be a nice start”.

Another elder chimed in asking, “How about upgrading premium public housing with more prims or incorporating more LL sponsored group activities for linden prizes”?  The community needs more incentives to avoid another mass exodus.
I second that! I kind of feel like with the time I’ve invested in second Life, I shouldn’t feel like I’m living in the ghetto with neighbors having threesomes so loud I can be hear whips and moaning. FFS!
“What can we do as longtime residents to improve our experience and get the best out of time spent in this virtual world”? , one elder asked.

The last thing we all need is for the long standing reputable media sources to start pulling out too.  How will avatars market their businesses the way we have delivered local, down to earth news? We don’t see linden reporters pounding the pavement and breaking a sweat to interviewing folks about their daily activities.

 An elder brought up that the events list can only do so much with every other event promoter using it with their best in blue contests, sexy beach bashes and Hump day parties, *yawn*…and if you use the classifieds, be ready shell out thousand to be on the top of the list or else you’ll end up with the rest of the low budget advertisers ranked 5,003.

Sorry peeps, it has been a long time since I have gone on a rambling spree, but as an Elder trying to keep it real for the sake of saving Aviekind from impending doom, I felt it was my duty to point out a few things and share what the other elders are concerned about.  We all seem to be on the same page with a number of issues.

One elder said it best during the meeting when he said, “there are just too many thirsty Indians and not enough Chiefs with water”. Another elder chimed in with, “no, there are too many chiefs puffing away on something potent at the Linden Labs headquarter and so few thirsty Indians to keep up with the supply.”The shyest of the elders laughed and said,” If it wasn’t for these special brownies, I would have never come to this meeting.”

Wrapping up this article with a final thought, I would like to say, I agree the brownies were good, but I truly believe in Second Life and the people that use it as an extension of their real life and to express themselves while sharing their creativity with others.

 I dedicated over 7 years doing what I love and serving the community by providing a tool that has helped many. Call me an addict or an expert, I accept being both.
 Second Life has helped me in my real life. It inspired me to go back to school and get the degrees I need in communication and technology so it opens more doors of opportunity in my 1st life. The perks are meeting people from all over the world and learning from them. All the elders shared similar personal growth stories because of Second Life.  One elder said, “at least we aren’t out and about, drunk driving, doing crack and bath salts!”

 The day I make my final bow in Second Life is when I am the last elder standing. With that said, may we all overcome the obstacles that hold us back both in real life and Second life, so that we can move ahead making positive and productive choices.
 I hope together we all can make Second Life a place worth staying in.

-Lanai Jarrico

Elders Summit-April 2013


  1. Hi Lanai,
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