Wednesday, October 31, 2007

SL Census

The Earth has 150, 000, 000, 000, 000 m^2 of land. That is a lot of land.

Let's check out SL. According to this graph from the lovely Second Life Economics site:

From my guesstimations, that's about 800, 000, 000 m^2 of land in Second Life. Maybe more, by now. This is just land owned by residents. It might be even more. But on with some math!
Second Life, if it were a planet, would only have 0.000533 % of the land Earth does. For every square meter of land in Second Life, Earth has about 200,000 square meters.
The City of New York has 1, 214, 400, 000 m^2 of land. Second Life makes up about 65.9% of New York. New York has 8,000,000 concurrency. Second Life on its good days gets 50,000 concurrency. Manhattan has 59, 470, 000 square meters. You could fit thirteen and one half islands of Manhattan into Second Life.
Philadelphia has 369, 400, 000 square meters of land. You could fit two entire Philadelphia's into Second Life, with enough room for another fifth of the city. Both Philadelphia and Manhattan have 1, 500, 000 residents, give or take. Second Life has maybe 1,000,000 active residents, with 40,000 online at any given time.
Second Life has a population density of 0.00125 people per square meter. That's 1,250 people per square kilometer. Compare to Philadelphia's (4,201.8 per square kilometer) and Manhattan's (25,846).
What have I learned from these meaningless numbers? One, that Second Life is large on the scale of cities, but not nations or planets. We have enough to maybe cram together a Dallas or a Phoenix. Second, Second Life, while being large, has the population and density of a small city.
While unimpressive on a national scale, SL would be very noticeable on a city-level.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Look Ma, No Hands!

Metavered discusses using campers as a 'positive force'. And my first reaction is, that campers already are used to liven up an area and create a more scenic build. Having a camper 'mop' a floor, for instance, in a 50's diner build.

Then, as if by telepathy, dandellion Kimban comments in the same vein:

"We saw animated campers long ago. They wipe the windows, clean the floors, dig gardens.... what is new about this?"

And of course, the typical dopey reply given is that Kelly services is using campers as actors rather than just window dressing.

But the thing is, that I can't see what Kelly is doing is any better than window dressing. They have a bunch of scenes, a group performing a surgery etc., but in the end, it's just really fancy camping chairs.

Listen, I admire Kelly's heart. It's interesting to watch avatars camp in ways other than cleaning the floors or window washing. But they say it will help campers interact... no, I'm sorry. Campers don't play SL like you and I. They sit in the pose ball and then they leave to watch TV or whatever else they do. A camper gets nothing out of what their avatar is doing. All that matters is the pay out rate for the camping chair. It's a hands off attitude.

And I can't imagine coming and watching avatars camp, even if the scenes are interesting or amusing, would be a big draw. As I said, it is really nothing more than taking the traditional camping animation to the next level, but it's nothing earth shaking or eye opening. I don't think that it will educate SLifers or raise any kind of awareness any more than free pamphlets advertising for charity causes any increase in donations in real life.

And I disagree with some of the commenters who suggest it will liven up sims. It won't. It will add to the creepy factor, and I suppose that will be a big draw with horror fans, but watching lifeless and non-interacting avatars going through the motions over and over again...

Hands never on the keyboard...

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Yesterday was the BIG DAY. The CSI:NY episode showcasing Second Life! Floods and hordes of new people eager to enter the the wonderful world of SL! I think they were expecting something along the lines of 50,000+ concurrency, with millions of new users overall.

They even made a special viewer and special sims for them too! I think the last official count was 416, but some have claimed as many as 450. They were decked out in a Walt Disney version of Brooklyn/Manhattan, with large obnoxious games to 'play'. The call was put out for all mentors to man the stations, prepare for the golden hordes bursting through the gates!

These sims were supposed to showcase and adequately train a whole army of newbies to SL as well as please their CSI loving hearts.

Only it didn't turn out that way. I'm only one person, but even during about an hour and a half during the show's airtime, I didn't notice a whole lot of new people coming through. In fact, most of the CSI sims seemed pretty.... deadish. There were lots of volunteers and mentors and the occasional SLer coming-to-check-out-the-new-thing-on-the-block, but only about five actual new people in that hour and a half.

Maybe people just didn't feel the urge to check out SL even after watching it on TV. My bet is that most probably thought it was created specifically for CSI, or that it's imaginary. Or maybe they just didn't feel the urge.

I was disappointed. Where was everyone? I just couldn't accept the fact that hardly more than a few hundred of the millions of CSI viewers decided to check out Second Life.

Then I went to Orientation Station. It was packed! People were literally coming in on top of each other's heads!

The pictures cannot do it justice. They were taken far after the initial tsunami had passed through. We (the mentors) ended up forming tour groups to orient people and keep the training process somewhat organized.
I think this goes to prove a point. People don't want to be condescended to. The CBS website portal, the 'special' CSI viewer, the goofy CSI sims... people didn't want to camp around the show. They wanted to explore what they saw in the show. They saw the gladiators and furries and what not, and they wanted to get into the Second Life proper, not some goofy CSI knock off.
Look at it this way: If I ran a commercial for jetskis during a SL presentation, you wouldn't run to my jetski store expecting me to sell SL memorabilia or SL lectures. You'd come expecting jetskis. On the same note, the CSI trippers weren't coming for CSI, they were coming to see SL. Why go through the CBS junk when you can have the official SL viewer? It's like the age old debate between generic and brand name!
For their part, the mentors at Orientation station performed admirably. They let the newbies proceed along at their own pace, didn't force anything on anyone. The ones at CSI... well, I guess I could criticize them for goofing around and messing with their pals, but when there's no one coming through, I can't really blame them.
Like gas station attendants in the middle of Arizona.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I Guess I Am Too Stupid To Understand Journalism

As a follow up to yesterday's post on the Herald and its descent into catalog for SL business, I will reproduce (entirely without permission) some comments from one of the ads posted.

"I see that Tenshi’s new career change (the 10th in nine months) as the SLH Advertising Manager started with the most appropriate manner. With a titanic flop of titanic proportions!

Tenshi dear, before you post you had to decide if this is a news piece or an advertisement. If it is the former, don’t tell us who to contact for rental details, thus turning the news piece to a blatant advertisement. If it’s the latter, I guess you know how to present it… or are we asking too much?

Of course, there is always time for you to go back reporting fake fashion stories. Or even better, stick to your college classes!" - Maki Kaourismaki

"Maki: Contact Morphius Barbosa. Or are you too stupid to read instead of running your mouth?" - Tenshi Vielle

Was Maki perhaps a bit harsh? Certainly. However, she brings up a relevant point: News should be news, and it shouldn't devolve into advertising. Throw ads into the banners on the side where they belong. You don't pick up the New York Times and see the headline as "MASSIVE PRICE CUT AT MACY'S. HURRY AND TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OUR LOW LOW PRICES!!"

And frankly, Tenshi could have handled herself better. I love how instead of politely refuting Maki, she's met with yet another ad (contact Morphius Barbosa! Of course! That solves everything!), and a snarky comment that doesn't deal with the matter at hand.

Also, two days later, and the Herald has added two articles, one news piece on the impending CSI wave, and one ad flogging the Herald's new book. Penned by the writers of the Herald no less.

Before anyone accuse me of misunderstanding the Herald, here is an excerpt from its mission statement:

"to observe, record and study "the legal, social, and economic implications" of life in the virtual world"

"to take a good, close, often snarky look at the online worlds that are becoming a more and more important part of everyone's offline lives"

Gee, I guess I'm wrong! Somehow, running ads as news is studying life in the virtual world! Nunchuck, I'm an idiot! (That is sarcasm)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Paid For By Tsiolkovsky Industrial Designs, Inc.

There's something wrong over at the Herald, in my opinion. There has been three entire articles devoted to advertising. Two with actual ads, and the most recent being one detailing the exact cost of running an ad article.

I understand that it is costly running a blog and that it isn't a charity. But couldn't we hold it to banner ads, please?

One of the reasons I used to somewhat enjoy reading the Herald is the information content it used to provide. I used to always go there and KNOW what was happening. Sure, some articles would be Prok flying off the handle, but at least Prok managed to keep his articles relevant and left the insane rantings on his personal site. On the whole, it seemed like an actual newspaper.

The articles were more interesting than dryer reads at the Insider and less oblivious to reality than New World Notes (home of the infamous 'only 5% of SL is about sex'. HA). It's also free and has no subscription, and doesn't require me to log into SL or download bulky PDFs. Like the Avastar. Back copies are free, but usually out of date. Plus, I read the 'interview' with Marc Bragg, which made me vomit. Bragg paints himself to be a saint wrongfully deprived of his SL property. Yeah, and I'm sure Genghis Khan was just road tripping his way across Europe and Asia.

The interview was so powderpuff, so sugar coated. There were additional columns on the 'ethics' of the matter. What ethics? Bragg turned around and used an exploit to essentially steal land. Where is the debate? Am I missing something here? Anyways, the interview was so sterilized I could hear Bragg's laughs in my house. Honestly. He lies directly to their faces about what he did and the morals and ethics behind his actions, and the reporter just swallows it all, never deviating from the script it seems. When asked if he thought his actions were morally wrong, he says no. I'd follow up with "Okay, since griefing isn't stealing, murder, or lying does that make it okay for me to lag up your sim with lulz cubes and ninja turtles?" among other things.

If I had a chance to interview anyone, not just Bragg but really anyone, I'd make sure to make the interviewee uncomfortable. Because we don't the crap you've been spouting all along. We've all heard the same old, same old. We want the details, the things you're trying to hide. I'm interviewing you because there are open questions that are difficult to answer and I want answers. I don't believe this is an interview. I believe this is more like a free Bragg advertisement. He comes, does a few speeches, and suddenly we're all supposed to think 'that horrid horrid Linden Labs'. Not that I think LL is blameless, but doesn't anyone think we should just take a closer look at Bragg before we all embrace him as the next coming of Christ?

So, in a nutshell, that's why I hate the Avastar. Back on topic.

I used to read the Herald because of what it offered that the aforementioned others did not. It had interviews that, while not as harsh as I might have liked, weren't the candy coated cellulite that others tried to pass off on us. In short, it had news.

And then we get to today.

From the current (as of Oct 23 2007, at 6 pm) front page, we have from bottom to top:

-a 'sports' post on an avatar whose user died

-a poem

-an ad for Octoberville

-Post 6

-Jimbo's 'Presidential' campaign

-News that Light Waves is Starax

-News that Orientation Islands are inescapable

-Jimbo discovers the inflatable breast fetish

-Editorial on fanatic fans and free stuff that will likely be slapped with a lawsuit

-Ad for a charity

-Editorial on SL drama

-Blatant Ad

-Post 6

-News on Ginko

-Stupid Comment Awards (in more ways than one)

-Complaint that the writer can't use the survey provided

-Blatant ad

-Blatant ad

-Ad for selling Blatant ads.

Let's total. Of the past 19 posts from October 10th to October 22nd, we have:

Five ads.
One ad for a charity.
Two Post 6 porn articles.
One poem.
Three entertainment 'Jimbo' type articles.
Three editorials.
One personal post (for sports?)
And three actual news articles.

3/19 is 15.79%. Over the last twelve days, almost two weeks, only sixteen percent of the articles have been on actual news. I'll be generous: Let's assume maybe this week is an anomaly, and the actual figure is twice that. In which case, only 32% of the content is actual news. The rest is editorials, post 6 'interviews' (arrrggggh, makes my teeth stand on edge), a bunch of ads, and Jimbo.

The Second Life Herald just doesn't attempt to report or investigate anymore, it seems. Was it really that large of an expose that Light Waves is Starax? Wasn't that already revealed, I dunno, a few months earlier? And known even before that, to his close friends and sponsors? Using that example, I can 'report' on my blog here that CSI is coming to SL and that Plastic Duck has been banned and SL Version 1.05 was released... years ago! Breaking News!

I think the most telling statistic is the times I have checked the Herald. A few months ago, it used to be the first SL blog I turned to. Now, I usually read the Official SL blog and after that log in and talk to friends and people inworld. I usually check the Herald nowadays every few weeks or so. It's just not worth my time anymore, the gems are becoming increasingly rare. Jimbo isn't that funny to keep me coming back. The Editorials are increasingly on inane things (LOL FAN FICTION IN SL? I NEVER KNEW!) and less on anything relevant or edgy today. Ads are for sale for an entire article!

Let's do a thought experiment: what would you think if Action News offered to sell ads within their own show? Not just commercials, something along the lines of "Today, a fire broke out at Market and Broad; but you can still buy Sony Blu-ray players for low low prices at Walmart!". Chances are, you'd get angry, you'd feel your news was compromised by commercialization. Ads have their time and their place. Front page news isn't their place.

Monday, October 22, 2007

When I Hear The Word 'Culture' I Reach For The Revolver

We are going to come to a massive cultural conflict in Second Life, one that has been brewing for quite some time now, and only recently has it come this close to the surface.

For on October 24, 2007, Second Life will witness an (expected and not yet realized) mass immigration of people who are in it for sightseeing. Tourists. Weekenders. Why? CSI is going to air an episode in which SL plays a pivotal role, and SL and the Electric Sheep Company are teaming up to tie it into an actual SL experience, even making a client that will cater to someone who doesn't want to deal with the daunting and intimidating SL interface.

Now, for the culture clash: It will between those coming in viewing SL as just a game and those who've been in SL for some time who see it as something more. And the former will win.

The simple problem is that community building in SL is a pain in the ass. Almost everyone I have met thinks their neighbors are assholes. It is a draining experience to deal with people who think they have a royal right to lord their will over entire sims or people who bombard you with nasty IMs asking that "you remove this penguin because I HATE PENGUINS" and when you take more than seven seconds to find it you're dealt a line of insults that would make a hardened sailor blush.

The problem in so many words is that everyone thinks everyone else is dead wrong, and due to this SL is inherently scattered into millions of fractured groups, each of which thinks it is divinely right and everyone else is destined to hell.

To be sure, there are a few communities, towns, and groups. But most of these tend to either be small, friend-centric, or a rental / role play community where a land lord or sim host dictates the behavior. In short, to be successful on a large scale in SL you need to have an overlord to enforce the rules and that everyone can equally hate.

For the most part, the only unified SL culture is one that is impressed upon SL from the Lindens and that which we draw from SL related blogs. The Lindens are the ultimate fall guys in SL culture, because as I mentioned above SL is really only in agreement when there is an overlord for everyone to hate. And dear Nunchuck, when you own the game itself, do you attract a large amount of disdain.

I won't go too far into this. Here is my point: If someone who is brand spanking new enters SL encounters this attitude (and they most certainly will), and upon seeing so much anger and drama generated in a virtual world, what will they think?

Will they join in the riots? Real life is full of enough drama. A good friend of mine once wrote that she came to SL to relax from stress, not engage in it. And lo and behold, guess which direction they will take.

It will be far easier for them to poke fun at SL, to laugh at the silly nerds taking a game so seriously. It will be a coping mechanism for them, because of the intense stress they witness from people they will likely never ever meet. They will see no point in engaging in SL in any capacity beyond a spectacle or a zoo. Look at the silly monkeys! Typing and arguing as if anything they do makes a difference! LOL!

No, it's much easier to disengage.

And over the past year, this disengagement has spread as more people make free accounts and get turned off by the unnecessary drama and debate and obsessions they see in SL. And the network effect is beginning to come into play as well.

The network effect is simple, and states that whatever is popular will continue to become increasingly popular, and whatever is marginal will stay in the margins. Everyone uses Windows because everyone uses windows. Everyone has a cell phone because everyone has a cell phone. It sounds like a circular argument, but it's an actual observed effect.

We have just seen it is much easier (and increasingly common) to treat SL as a silly game full of freaks. Old hands in SL wish for the opposite to occur, that people see SL as the next world. But network effect dictates that the former opinion will dominate and continue to, while the diehards become marginalized and ignored.

This is the cultural shift we will see. We have people who take Second Life as serious as night competing and conflicting with those who see it as Online Barbie dolls.

In order for the native SL culture to 'win', it needs to be attractive or addicting. Unfortunately, it's neither. It's annoying, stress inducing, and usually full of drama and ulcers. And it's really not much of a culture at all. It's more a hierarchy of 'who do I hate more than the others'. When I hear people talk about SL's culture, I groan and usually leave the discussion. It's nonexistent as an entity as culture is commonly defined in real life.

Whatever 'culture' SL may have had is disintegrating around us. Real life big business is moving in and attempting to press real life rules and views on us. The masses come in, become disgusted or amused by what they see and leave.

The best corollary I can think of is the Spartans in ancient Greece. They really didn't have much of a culture at all, it was all based heavily on might and military. This was all well and good, but as others increasingly encroached upon Sparta, they were reduced to a sideshow. The more democratic Athenian attitude held more gravity with the newer developing cultures like Rome, and Sparta's culture became a freak show.

SL is Sparta. Our culture is only tenuously defined, and exists but for the fact that the Lindens polarize it into being. Network effect is working against those supporters of SL-Next World, and working with those of the SL-stupid-video-game crowd.

So what will happen? Undeniably, with the way things are proceeding, SL will devolve into stupid video game. The immigrants, and those sending them our way, hold the belief that SL is a game and nothing more. The current cultural adherents are disorganized, and in accordance with their culture will never unify long enough or in enough time to reverse the tide. It's an uphill battle, and one that the natives will lose. The force in the other direction is just too great, and building every day.

I do believe that before the end, we will witness some spectacular fireworks. We may see measures and policies forced on the populace by the Lindens in an attempt to calm the very vocal and angry SL mob, perhaps stricter community standards (HA!) or an actual SL police force (unlike the role play ones that run about today). We'll get discrimination against day trippers as lesser beings in SL, even though they may pay more for land (not unheard of, there are large tracts of abandoned land from those who played for a month and left). It'll get very interesting, in this coming year.

And I fully believe it will be decided within the next year. In the next year, SL will be cemented in one direction or the other. Anyone wishing to change SL to their liking will have as long and probably less to do so.

Personally, I could care less either way. I suppose that puts me in a grey area, where I want SL to be something besides a video game, but I don't think we should take it to the point of missing the original (entertainment) point of it.

However, I certainly do derive entertainment from watching things like this.

No Worries

There has been a dramatic decrease in the number of posts on this blog.

In the unlikely event anyone was worried, this is due to real life, and nothing bad. I like posting this blog, but if I don't divert 100% of my attention to my work, then my life is going to get extremely unpleasant and even less likely to allocate time for SL.

But the good news is that very soon I may be able to pick up the pace.

So no worries at all.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

On The Question Mark



Who invented the question? Who sat down one day and said, "Gee, I wonder how I will ask a question?"

Interrogative sentences are curious? They are not declarative or imperative? They request knowledge of you, or demand facts from others? Aren't they annoying? It seems like everywhere you go you run into a question?

And while on the subject, who invented the question mark? Why does it signify that one is indeed asking a question of another? I'd just like to sit down with the person who invented it and have a nice long chat on their views on modern punctuation? Did they intend for their creation to be used at the end of each and every interrogative sentence in the English language? I'd just like to know, because no one else seems to sit down and think about question marks?

But what if we used them instead of periods? Would that ruin the context or syntax of what is being read? I don't think it would, after a while you would just adjust to it to the point where you'd expect that punctuation at the end of every sentence?

Would you know a question whether it had a mark or not? Can you tell when I'm asking and when I'm telling? How about no punctuation at all?

Then all of our sentences would be one long drivel with no clear beginning or end But really isn't that like an actual conversation Who stands around and says I had a nice day Period No one that's who So hearing a conversation and reading a conversation should be no different You should be able to tell what I am saying regardless of whether I put a period a comma or a exclamation point The words don't change and from the context you can guess my tone without having to see the punctuation at the end

But that's a pain to read? Something is calming and reassuring to see the end of a sentences definitively marked off as officially ended? A mark that sits down and says, "This sentence is officially ended? Here comes a new sentence"? Something like seeing the lights from your house down the street as you're driving down and back from a long long trip, it just is a relief, a finality?

I suppose, when it comes down to it, the reason why we write the way we do is ingrained in us from the moment we start learning how to write and spell? And our teachers learned from their teachers, and it's just a convention that's been passed down from one to another, and never once did anyone think anything more of it? A question mark is for a question, a period for a declarative?

And that, as they say, is that.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Sometimes, to really appreciate what we have in Second Life, you have to step back and examine the other options out there. And then, you know why Second Life is, for now at least, at the top of its game.

About five or six months ago, maybe more, I took a month off of Second Life to explore There. There bills itself as a stable, more intuitive, and griefer free alternative to Second Life.

I will tell you that the first shock is almost everyone looks the same. Sure, there's different color hair and skin, but for the most part everyone has the same shape and look. I thought it was rather strange until I tried adjusting my appearance. Because you can't.

You have to first find one of seven or so spas around There. All are terminally crowded, with lines. It's a pain in the ass. On at least three occasions the person in the spa went AFK and held up the lines for hours. For to each spa, only one can occupy the stall at a time. So the five spas in an area will only accommodate five residents and no more.

Once in the spa, I found why everyone looked more or less the same. All the appearance sliders are limited. There's a slider for head shape, a few for face shape, perhaps ten or so for chins/cheeks/nose/eyes, and four for body shape. It's really hard to get anything unique out of the limited options open to you. Hair isn't included as an adjustable, either. You have to buy a new hairstyle, either from the There staff or from another resident, so I ended up with the default bobbed hair style. Since I started with zero Therebucks (hereafter referred to as T$), I couldn't buy anything. As far as I could tell, there were no freebies, and if there were any they are few and far between. Many newbies ran around in the default clothes, and the whole world was one homogeneous sea of people.

Building is hard, and either freebie accounts like myself aren't allowed to build or you can only do so in specific areas and I couldn't find them. Speaking of getting around, while it's easier to run and teleport around, I could never seem to fly. I could never pull off whatever keyboard combo I had to input to be able to fly.

The There world seems fairly small. There were two or three big main islands, and about a dozen smaller ones. While each is very large in themselves, and completely seamless to walk through (a refreshing breeze to SL's crashing at each and every sim boundary), I didn't really see any unique builds, everything was default and homogeneous again.

Everything in There seems sanitized. It is SL Disney World, where any trash on the ground is picked up in 2.3 seconds. You can't strip completely to the nude, your avatar has built-in underwear that you cannot remove. You can report harassment and griefing directly to There staff and it's taken care of right away, but on the flip side it removes the delay in SL that is vital if someone is just goofing around. Most objects were bland and there are few guns. Sure, it cuts down massively on the griefers and reduces lag to a minimum, but it cuts out a lot of the freedom that one has in SL.

One lovely thing about There is that the conversion rate is extremely favourable, with one dollar buying almost thousands of Therebucks. Unfortunately, vendors adjust their prices accordingly. Also, I am not sure if Therebucks can be pulled out of game like one can do with L$. It is still one of the more positive aspects of There.

In short, I would recommend There for the person that just wants to stand around and chat, and doesn't mind pouring in forty or fifty bucks into the game to buy T$. The game may be generic and a bit bland, but griefing is at a minimum and lag is laughable compared to the amounts of it in SL. For the resident who doesn't mind trading freedom for stability.

I still play There occasionally, but not as much as Second Life. There just doesn't hold any attraction for me. SL may be laggy, unstable, and full of assholes, but I can do whatever I want, and that's all I want.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My Client I

I believe some time ago I mentioned I was starting to try some of the third party clients that are now available out there.

And I started with the Nicholaz line of third party Second Life software. It is one of the more popular ones out there (if we ignore some of the more griefer oriented clients).

First, I will say that of the three version I tried, none installed any noticeable malware or spyware or anything malicious. In fact, the download itself is fairly minimal and easy. You basically move four files into your Second Life folder, and you're done. Nothing too complex or complicated or messy. Cut, paste, finished.

The first relief is that the entire time I used it, Second Life ran like a dream. Nicholaz claims he plugged some memory holes in the code, and I believe one can really notice the difference. Rarely did I end my SL sessions in glorified lagfests, usually ending with my computer crashing out.

Another plus is that his client does away with the clunky 'Communications' button (at least, for the older SL versions. I only tried the current version with Nicholaz' client so I don't know if LL took that out themselves) and allowed me to resize the IM window to any size I desired. It made my interface a little more crowded on the bottom row, since it fits in a friends tab and an IM tab among others. But for me, I'll gladly sacrifice ease of reading client interface buttons with the ability to make the IM window not take up a quarter of my screen.

But all is not fun and games. My sessions remained lag free, but after about three hours, four hours max, it would crash out for no readily apparent reason. I don't know why, and I never sent a crash report (which I should have!). It may just be something with Second Life itself, or maybe it's in Nick's coding. It's not a deal breaker, unless you want mammoth marathon sessions. I'm of the school of playing in hours spurts, taking long breaks for sleep, eating, and RL; but not everyone is me. If you plan on playing all day long, expect to crash out and relog about three times or so daily. But it will be lag free in between those crashes.

Many of the features of this client are not noticeable or superficial. But I believe Nicholaz has hit upon an important idea. We don't want fancy new features, we want stability and a more friendly interface. Nicholaz delivers on those points: his client lags less and crashes less, and he's made almost the entire window adjustable to one degree or another. He didn't spend days and months developing some silly gimmick to get people to use his client. If LL had any mote of intelligence, they should take a hard look at what he's coded into his clients and mimic it.

Maybe then we'll see more varied comments on the Second Life Blog, comments that go beyond "Hay guyts, y is my secondlife crashign?? Pleas fix it is laggin and not stable fix plz fix plz!!1!"

I would give the Nicholaz client a 8 out of 10. I would recommend it to people using Windows (his Mac and Linux versions are kinda new and probably spotty at the moment), and who wants a stable experience but doesn't mind the occasional relog. It's great for someone who comes on, goofs around for a bit, and then crashes out and goes to bed. If you're looking for longer running clients, you might want to look elsewhere. If you like the default Linden interface, the Nicholaz version will also drive you up walls as it borrows from the much older pre-voice viewer interface. Otherwise, I would recommend it.

Updated 2:03 PDT: I Updated at 2:03 PDT

Here is a perfect example of the kind of excess I talked about in an earlier post.

Was it really necessary to note each and every increment of the rolling restarts? All we needed was the post and an update; a post that it's happening, and an update on when it's done.

Instead, we get a post that is literally updating every fifteen to twenty minutes, with such topics of importance as:

"Updated 10:55am PDT: Halfway there…
Updated 10:35am PDT: (80 / 20) x 10% = ?
Updated 10:15am PDT: Seems like it takes 20 minutes per 10%… and so it does … 30% restarted.
Updated 9:55am PDT: 20% of the regions have been restarted.

This is not necessary. It is not needed. It just satisfies the people who have extreme ADD and need to know exactly how far the update is progressing. Actually, that's not fair. I have a friend with ADD who thought it was excessive. So really, it's just the Lindens making work for themselves.


And now, a sampling of the comments from that post:

-"The last rolling restart we had, my region didn’t come back and took over 1 hour to get it back up, I hope this will not happen again!"

-"I’m in a teleport failure at moment! got logged off, but i’m showing as on-line. Don’t know if this happens alot, first time for me. Lindenlabs working on it, so i’ll be back soon."

-"It’s so nice to see from the previous blog that after about a day of frenetic resuscitation the grid has been “Stabilized.” I knew this guy who was in a train wreck and they thought he was gonna die. But then the hospital announced that he had been stabilized. I guess that meant he wasn’t getting worse

…but then he died.

Speaking of train wrecks…"

-"Rolling updates are so much better than downtime ^^"

-"hopefully this update will fix the asset problems as I am stuck right now as a very short jogauni and my SL girlfreind dosnt like it. Please help"

-"I hope it fixes the crashes !!! lol I guess SL hates me !!!! :panyway good job and will the last person to leave pls turn off the lights !!! hahhahahhaha"

-"I wish it would fix something…anything.
But I can read only that it adds code for analysing a problem..
no fix.
If we are all lucky, this investigation code has no additional bugs or will not reveal some other bugs."

-"It’s also getting to the point where the frequency of re-re-re-re-re-resolving the same problems might warrant a modicum of attention."

-"Sounds like a few of the problems you are having are client side on your PC. If you’re crashing when turning - again do as above, clear cache and update version. In addition ensure you’ve got the latest drivers for your graphics card. Also try decreasing some of the graphics settings - that may help."

-"How about introducing a survey box on logout - kind of ‘I am logging out because … tick box’

Tick box categories would include “I’m blissfully happy; I cannot TP anywhere; My hair is glued to my ass; I’m on my way to Jupiter; Could you change the shade of Grey; and so on.

The key point is to find out what the users experience is that has led them to leave …"

-"Please translate your information in french. Thank you"

-"I like rolling restarts, and jumping the restart wave. I’m going to introduce a new sport:
Grid Surfing. It’s a little like inertia surfing on a bus, but a little more complicated as it requires rebooting 16,000+ sims"

Note that I couldn’t put it where it belongs, due to the fact that LL employees somehow can’t face more than a relative few responses to a blog entry.
Here’s the deal, Ginsu. Nobody is home at LL. "

-"Is this some kind of stealth rolling restart?I haven’t seen anything happen yet …"

-"Does anyone notice anything wrong with a post saying “We value open communication” that is not open for comments?"

-"Least People or Least Bots online?" (in response to a previous post asking when the least amount of people were logged on.)

-"Now that the rolling restart is completed is there a chance the Friends Online webpage will be repaired."

On Vaccinations

Forgive me for diverting from Second Life.

Nothing riles me more than people who willingly place themselves and their loved ones at risk due to irrational and misinformed behavior. People who oppose nuclear power even as our current oil and coal power plants gradually heat the planet. People who spill hot coffee on themselves and sue others claiming 'you never said it was hot'. People who honestly believe that Stalin had the right idea and that America should emulate him. People who drive 90 miles an hour in top heavy SUVs packed with children. People who let go of and hit people with Wii remotes. People who yell 'fire' in a crowded movie theater. People who move to New York. The list goes on and on.

But those are more comical than dangerous. Well, a few are dangerous, but on the whole, we pass it by and take only enough time to laugh at the silly silly people our species produces.

Until we hit something that is really really stupid and dangerous. Today's topic is people who believe that vaccinations should be abolished or reserved for adults. Their theory is that the vaccines, whether by the chemicals used in their manufacture or the actual disease itself, are causing harm to their children and stunting them mentally and physically.

I'm willing to not completely write them off as batshit insane, so I am going to, rather briefly and unscientifically, look over some of the arguments raised. That's a disclaimer. This is going to be a very superficial study. If you quote me in your high school research paper, I will disavow any knowledge of this post, and possibly make a new post making fun of you. The best idea and advice I can give you if you are serious on this topic is to look over some of my sources and do your own research from there. In other words, use this as a jumping board, but don't use it as the pool.

First, we cannot deny that vaccines have greatly increased the health of the world. Diseases that used to inflict terrible rates of attrition on children are footnotes in medical textbooks today. Even a disease such as chicken pox has become more or less unheard of as vaccines for that have come out (unfortunately for me and my parents, it came a tad too late to save me from missing a week of elementary school). Not vaccinating children leaves them exposed to diseases like hepatitis and whooping cough. Sure, you may get away with it now, since the probability of encountering such diseases in a population vaccinated against them is low, but suppose the majority isn't in the next few generations? Then you're exposed to the possibility of an epidemic spreading through the land. We can see this with smallpox, where it is a potential biological weapon precisely for the reason that the number of people vaccinated against it is decreasing and more people are increasingly not vaccinated.

So why are people so riled up against vaccines?

First, we must understand that the very first arguments, all the way from 1800 AD, were centered on that lovely topic of religion. The Church and many other Christian sects all held the belief that disease was the will of God himself, and to circumvent his will was unholy. God obviously wanted that six month old to contract measles and die, and who are we, foolish mortals that we are, to go against His will? Being the good Christians they were, many pastors took it upon themselves to threaten and attempt to murder physicians of the time who inoculated the population to satisfy the Holy One:

"So bitter was this opposition that Dr. Boylston's life was in danger; it was considered unsafe for him to be out of his house in the evening; a lighted grenade was even thrown into the house of Cotton Mather, who had favoured the new practice, and had sheltered another clergyman who had submitted himself to it."

Only after vaccinations halted epidemics that would have otherwise wiped out parishes and dioceses did most churches grudgingly condone the practice.

This is important, as we must understand that on occasion the opposition is reacting with an almost religious fervor and resort to arguments such as "I don't like it, too much science, I don't understand it, so it should not be allowed". There is nothing wrong with being cautious, and indeed caution should be the main line of thinking with any new procedure. However, after almost two hundred years of use, it can be said quite confidently that vaccines are effective, and that God has not wiped us off the face of the earth for denying His will.

On the topic of religion and incorrect beliefs, some other adherents to anti-vaccination propose that our idea of disease and microorganisms is fundamentally incorrect, and as a result vaccines are really glorified placebos. Adherents usually subscribe to something called the "cellular theory", which I will summarize here as the cells themselves and the components of our cells cause all disease. Notice I said 'all disease'. Cellular theory states that everything from the common cold to xanthoma, and not just cancer or autoimmune disorders, are caused by the cells in your body.

The fundamental flaw in this concept is that all evidence suggests against it. Microorganisms have been seen under microscopes to invade healthy tissue and infect/destroy it. The most famous example is John Snow and Cholera. Had cellular theory been correct, Snow's removal of the pump should have had no effect on the spread of the disease through Broadwick street. But it did! Kind of. The disease was hampered. Had cellular theory been correct, this should have had no effect on the disease cells. The poor health of the infected and those around them should have carried the contagion beyond the area of the rotten pump.

Cellular theory was proven false, germ theory held the day. There is much more to it than I have presented here, and I encourage you, if you still doubt me, to do your own research. Avoid Google or Wikipedia, or the internet in general, as you'll likely get millions of conspiracy websites advocating cellular theory and the man in the grassy knoll.

For a while, fundamentalists and cellular theorists were the foremost opposition to vaccines. This changed for the most part in 1998, when Andrew Wakefield published a paper concerning the effects of the Measles Mumps and Rubella vaccine (hereafter known as MMR). To be more accurate, he was actually researching Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. In English, that is he was searching for the cause of developmental disorders, colon disease, and swollen glands in children.

The general idea was to take a dozen children with such disorders and examine them intensely through the course of a month or so. There are problems, though. Some potential big ones.

For one, his paper is terribly misleading. The tone implies that of all the possible causes, he definitively found MMR to be the number one reason for developing these diseases. I looked at it many times, hoping I was wrong and that somewhere he entertained the notion of another source, but I was proven wrong. How he came to that conclusion is rather sketchy, he notes under "Findings" that "Onset of behavioural symptoms was associated, by the parents, with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination in eight of the 12 children". Everything in his methods and interpretations is geared toward fingering MMR as the sole cause.

"In eight children, the onset of behavioural problems had been linked, either by the parents or by the child's physician, with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination. Five had had an early adverse reaction to immunisation (rash, fever, delirium; and, in three cases, convulsions). In these eight children the average interval from exposure to first behavioural symptoms was 6·3 days (range 1-14). Parents were less clear about the timing of onset of abdominal symptoms because children were not toilet trained at the time or because behavioural features made children unable to communicate symptoms. "

Six to three days? Perhaps the parents were overreacting? If my child had such a violent reaction to a vaccine, I'm sure I'd see everything linked to it as well. When my father developed leukemia, my mother claimed she saw symptoms in me, and she did that for about six months. Parents overreact, and physicians do not want to be on the wrong end of a malpractice suit.

"One child (child four) had received monovalent measles vaccine at 15 months, after which his development slowed (confirmed by professional assessors). No association was made with the vaccine at this time. He received a dose of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine at age 4·5 years, the day after which his mother described a striking deterioration in his behaviour that she did link with the immunisation. Child nine received measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine at 16 months. At 18 months he developed recurrent antibiotic-resistant otitis media and the first behavioural symptoms, including disinterest in his sibling and lack of play. "

Who were the professional assessors? Don't make an appeal to authority without backing it up. This was behavior noted before this study actually began, so it could not have been one of the researchers for this paper. Who diagnosed a slowdown in development? The parents? The physicians? Who? And in what ways did he slowdown? The paper contradicts itself when it lists the symptoms and the actual onset of the symptoms. It claims the behavioral symptoms began at 4-5 years, when according to professional assessors it began at 18 months. Which is it? Are we picking and choosing now?

The crown achievement of this paper is the discussion, which is a masterpiece of contradiction and ass covering. In it, he reiterates the symptoms that he found, and lists one or two other possibilities, besides MMR, that could cause what he found. However, it's laden with weasel words that you get the impression he really believes it's MMR. He trips over himself to say that they found no direct link between the vaccine and the disorders, but then says that he thinks further research will reveal it to be true. He also notes that this vaccine has been given (in England) since 1988, and hey! No rising incidence has been found to support his theory (although there is supposedly insufficient data according to him). Overall, Wakefield did a masterful job at painting a red arrow to MMR, saying 'This is it! This is bad!', and then covering his behind with a lame disclaimer.

There is more literature on the glaring errors in this paper, and more problems that I, as a student, cannot comprehend or discuss, and again I encourage you, the reader, to do your own research. For now, let's continue.

Despite a wide variety of following articles in science journals proving and debunking Wakefield's research and claims, the big problem is that it has all the airs of a scientific study. It was in the proper jargon, with all these fancy graphs of things, and was written by a man with a PhD. To most people, that's more than sufficient to give validity to these claims, and indeed safety in all manners of health and medicine is the foremost concern ("First do no harm"). The man may have more holes in his research than the Titanic, but if there is a possibility it should be investigated, right?

But it already has been. The National Health Service in the UK, among many others, have researched into this and found nothing to these claims. And it was found again and again that vaccines are, outside of the occasional one in a million chance freakish accident, for the most part safe and effective.

It was found that the mercury in vaccines is in trace amounts, and of a form (because chemicals almost always come in compounds, and rarely in a solid element) that passes rather quickly out of the body. The diseases being injected go through rigorous trials to insure they don't start killing children (if nothing else, then to prevent the company's and lab's loss of face and the resulting law suits). Getting a vaccine is safer nowadays then eating improperly prepared meat.

But again, we must remember that anti-vaccinationists are fervent in their beliefs. No amount of studies will sway them from their original assertion, and so we get tragedies like a Pittsburgh boy who died when his parents, scared at having learned of the trace mercury in vaccines and hoping to cure his autism, killed him with a chemical that strips metals from one's body. The problem is, this chelation treatment also removes calcium from your body. Calcium not only provides bones, but it also interestingly enough enables nerves to do their nerve thing and send messages around the body. And the most calcium greedy nerves, the ones that need a constant supply, happen to be the ones that keep the heart pumping. So, children die from cardiac arrest (among other things) while their parents keep dosing them with chelation like fools.

In that same article, other couples continue to send their children for these treatments, despite the fact that it has killed and injured several others! The truly sad part of all this is that if this becomes increasingly common, the morons who kill their children with this will lobby to have it banned from the US, and patients who really need chelation, like acute poisonings from lead paint or mercury thermometers, won't be able to get it because Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum went off and injected little Johnny without doing any kind of research on their own. "Oh, this website says it's vaccines? Guess the internet is always right!".

What is also tragic is that by wasting time looking into vaccines, we waste time and energy from actual autism and developmental research on things that have been proven nine times over.

And this, in a nutshell, is why I cannot stand people who lobby against vaccines. They fuel useless research on methods that have been tested relentlessly, they feed unwarranted fears from parents who truly don't know any better and in addition they fool these parents into treating their children with methods and chemicals that, if it doesn't kill them, will harm them physically and possibly emotionally.

If they weren't so blind, I'd call them evil.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Second Grade Sense

No sooner does Ginsu belittle a study as "not in touch with reality", than he apologises for overlooking the fact that the Lab itself is about as accurate as a blind archer.

Even this new post is confusing in tone. As Malachi Petunia (comment # 36) says, is this post an apology for blasting the previous study? Is it a boast about how honest and transparent they are about Second Life? Look at us, we're apologising for blasting someone else blasting second life, that's how you know we're a-okay and transparent?

Leaving aside the fact that the "Second Grade Math" post is riddled with errors and out-right falsehoods (which I will get into later in this post), it's a joy to notice that after a post admitting they often have no clue what they're doing (or pretending they don't know), we see calls from across the SLscape with people praising them for their transparency.

What transparency? Where? Am I not looking somewhere? I check JIRA and the Blog and my emails, and yet every time the grid absurdly crashes, usually the only reason given is "payment issues" or just plain "issues". What issues? It was never stated in the post itself, and I don't feel like digging through the 100+ comments that are laced with 'wah wah where is my land' to 'awesome!!!11!~ keep be awesome linden lab!!' as a few examples.

As some other commentators in the recent SL blog post noted, the Lindens are confusing sheer volumes of information with actual usable data. Posting post after post on grid restarts and updates on every little sneeze that occurs between a massive world failure and the issue being resolved is just belching out tons of meaningless information.

What we really need is a clear concise post on what the issue is, how long it may take (please highball the estimate, for example, if it might take you 3 hours then say it'll take 7), and one and only one update noting that the issue is resolved by whatever you did to resolve it. That's all the information I look for when the grid starts bucking like a rodeo clown impaled on a bull's horns. It would also be pleasant if they could give a least two weeks notice, and a month preferably, on any major grid upsets or major feature insertions. VAT, for example, was kinda just dropped in there, "Today we rolled restarts, Torley's giving a new tip of the week, and oh yeah, we're gonna add VAT to the Euros."

They should cut the fat from their official statements and stop trying to drop hints about future updates that are so far down the line as to be no better than mind experiments. Havok 4 is a good one, a hint dropped about two years ago which is just released as beta the last month or so. In that time span, people whined and moaned and asked when was Havok 4 coming, is it here yet is it here yet is it here yet? Or how about grid stability? How many times has that been alluded to this year already?

The Lindens treat their SL blog like I treat mine: Personal, prone to rants and ravings, and often inaccurate and misinformed. That's par for the course for me, but I'm not running a company now, am I? The Lindens are, and their blog should at least reflect that and do away with gossip and the thousands of meaningless updates that say things along the lines of "2:30 am: the tech team had a pizza while trying to find the fatal software bug in the viewer".

And more to the point, what was with Ginsu flaming out Yankee Group for giving their interpretation of the facts they have on hand? Let's examine Ginsu's calculations that are supposed to be the final word on this matter (and which he so thoughtfully provided on the "Second Grade Math" post as an example of the true figures).

The claim made was that the average user spent 12 minutes a month in Second Life. Ginsu's closest estimate to how they came up with this number is that (his own words):

"Just this past August, users of Second Life spent over 23 million hours in Second Life....

...Maybe they werecounting cumulative total registered accounts through August, 9.3 million users. Uh, but even that is still an average of 2.5 hours.

As near as we can tell, that might be the average time that users spent logged in on the Second Life website in a month."

First, let's dispense with the notion that Yankee counted people logged into the website. That's silly. I don't know many people who log into the website, they all usually just log right into the client itself. I suppose they might have taken the traffic that the site has into consideration, but I highly doubt they used any of that data to compute time spent in Second Life. Notice that. IN Second Life. The website is not Second Life.

Second, Ginsu here is taking an average. The total amount of hours divided by the total number of (in this case) registered accounts through August '07. Averages are great for many many things. But the problem with averages is that there is no weight to them. An example is in order: I could say that the average person drives 12,000 miles per year (totally made up). All well and good. But it doesn't tell me anything except that people in the USA drive a lot. Outside of a school presentation on the 21st century, this average is useless. Taking the total miles driven in the US and dividing by the population of the country is vague at best.

What would make it useful? Break it down by the environment into city, suburb, and rural so we can form an idea of the amount driven in each. Perhaps divide it up by the type of car (perhaps sedans have 7000 miles/year while SUVs go 31000 mi/yr). The key factor here is that we're making categories into our averages, making them specific enough to be useful without making it too detailed to be useful. In our case (Second Life), we might analyse a range of mileages and see how many fall into each category, and weight the average according to that.

So, 2.5 hours per registered account is rather broad. We need a weighted average. If nine million of those 9.3 million spend 3 minutes online and the remaining 300,000 spend five hours, then obviously 2.5 hours/account is flawed. And this is where I think Yankee is coming from. Be generous and assuming 974,000 users are regulars, while 8,326,000 are one day wonders. That is a 1:8 ratio between those who play dedicated and those who day trip. Only 12.5% of the population registered so far is spending any significant time in Second Life itself. The rest is spending at most three hours in Second Life, and usually less than an hour.

Do I think the 12 minutes a month figure is a tad ridiculous? Yes. But 2.5 hours per month is almost as insane. The figure (without any real calculations on my part) is probably in the range of 60-40 minutes per month. I think that balances out the SL diehards with the massive tsunamis of one-and-dones.

In any case, Linden Lab should either polish their figures or lay off third parties publishing their own figures. If they do either, I'll die from shock.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Book of Nunchuck IV

Now Qeosi was the cleverest of his people, and he knew as well as any the folly of creating a god, as evidenced by his very existance and the great war between Nunchuck and Philip. And he also knew of his people's reputation throughout the land as ruthless, cutthroats, and bloodthirsty savages.

So he came upon an outcrop, and stood upon it, boasting to the avatars and akelhians below: "Behold, you shall soon be relieved of your lives! For we, the Ony, have found the knowledge that you have long lost, and will create a god of our own to counter yours who comes not to your aid!"

It had the desired effect. The akelhians became heavily demoralized and the people despaired, for both believed no good end could come of an Ony possessing a book of such power. They waited for the moment when Qeosi would sweep down the hillsides with his new gods and savage the land. Even Fi-Suu, with the courage of a dozen avatars, felt a heavy load on his heart upon this news.

Next, Qeosi told his hordes to pull back. When the avatars saw this, they said amongst themselves, "Surely, they are getting ready for their own creation, and want not to risk casulties before their victory!" While in their doubt, Qeosi ordered two of his most loyal officers to go and search for the Femur of Nunchuck, and to bring it back so that they may receive the almighty blessings of the Most Holy.

Meanwhile, Ruth continued her search for the Femur, searching the highlands and the low valleys, and the tiniest island and the widest plains, and nowhere was there to be found the Mighty Femur. Every day she harbored doubts that perhaps Frank was wise for abandoning their people and settling beyond the land they had known.

And so she stopped and made rest in a cove fashioned from boulders fallen from the last Great War. While she took her rations, a man walked by and also sat in the cove, and watched the sun setting low in the sky.

And it was Philip.