Archive for September, 2009

Internet: It’s Not You. It’s Me.

Posted in Op/Ed on September 28, 2009 by Daila Holder

Right off the bat, I am going to throw out two statements that I have recently forced myself to acknowledge as true, though I realize that many people may disagree:

What happens online matters, and

Unlike Vegas, what happens online does not stay online. 

Before we delve deeper into those two statements, I want to ask the following questions:

Have you ever logged into Second Life or on Plurk, because you felt like you were “missing something” when you weren’t online? 

When you are online in Second Life, have you ever looked at the clock and said wow, where did the time go?  I was going to log off an hour ago. 

Do you ever feel the need to justify the time you spend online by saying, “Well if I wasn’t doing this, I would just be wasting time watching television.”? 

Do you ever feel guilty about being online or lie about how much time you spend there? 

Are you logging online out of habit versus actually having a specific reason to log on? 

Most of you probably answered no to all of these questions, but I can tell you that I did not.  I answered “Yes” to all of them. 

Most active online users know of or have heard of Problematic Internet Use (PIU), but many people may believe that “if the time they are spending online is time they would normally be spending doing other “useless” type activities”, or “if the time they spend online is controlled to just a few hours in the evening or perhaps on Sunday afternoons”, then it’s not a problem.   But I begin to realize it’s not just the number of hours that I spend actively involved online, it’s also the number of hours I spend thinking about it or reading blog posts or Plurking.  Do I spend more time on my virtual life than I do actively engaged in my real life?  Can you judge problematic internet use just by looking at time spent online? 

I started thinking a lot about PIU in regards to my own online behavior after reading the following study.  I was surprised to realize that “problematic internet users were more likely than nonproblematic users to use the Internet for meeting new people, seeking emotional support and playing socially interactive games.”   I actually would have associated the social aspect of online interactions as a positive outcome of online activity versus problematic. 

According to this study, you are at a higher risk of developing problematic internet use if:

You derive a sense of community from online relationships.

You use voice.   Players that use voice are among the most social players and have the strongest social connections. 

You feel immersed in your online activities.

You spend real world resources, i.e. money, to support your online social activities. 

Ironically, time spent online was the weakest predictor of PIU.  It is the quality of your online interactions versus the quantity of the activity that could present a problem. 

Compulsive, rather than excessive, Internet use is more likely to result in negative outcomes.

So what sort of online behavior could be seen as compulsive?  I begin to look back at my time spent online and think about what sort of behaviors stood out to me as problematic.  I identified three possibilities.  Two types of problems which I have actually suffered with and seen others suffer with, and one I have just observed. 

ONLINE RELATIONSHIPS

tweets-415x480

You can’t talk about problematic online compulsive behavior without discussing online romantic relationships.  Online romances can be healthy. I know many people that are able to maintain a healthy and loving online relationship, but it is very difficult to define and maintain boundaries online.  Plus, many people online have other issues that may interfere with keeping an online relationship in perspective.  When you start letting your imagination run freely, an online relationship can get out of control in just a few days.  It can become more of an obsession than a relationship. 

Though no matter the duration, you will find that your online dalliances will begin to influence you even offline.  You may find that your behavior becomes compulsive, and in turn, your internet use could become problematic unless you begin to set clear defined boundaries and take time to step away from both the relationship and the computer.  If you step away from both for a short period, and your online relationship does not survive the break, then you know you made the right decision and kept yourself from experiencing further heartbreak and wasting a lot of valuable time. 

Unhealthy online romances are one of the prime examples of problematic internet use. 

ADDING VODKA MAKES EVERYTHING BETTER 3926925390_5e51f22531

What happens when you take a person with a possible internet addiction and combine absurd amounts of alcohol?  You could potentially take the possible internet addiction and turn it into massive problem.  

I like to drink.  In fact, I love drinking.  Drinking can break down barriers and encourage bonding.  But in an online environment, a lot of boundaries are already pretty much nonexistent.  People say whatever they want whenever they want.  What good can possibly come out of plurking to your 200 plus friends how drunk you are?  Everyone does it occasionally, but if every weekend, your online friends look forward to being amused by hearing you slur your words on voice, than you may possibly be combining two problems. 

It also leads to other potential problems such as stripping on webcam or saying ridiculous and/or mean things and blaming it on liquor.  Even if this type of behavior doesn’t indicate a problem to you, it can be very annoying to those around you. 

I know that many will say drinking online is better than going out and getting drunk, which could lead to other more serious and possibly even life threatening problems.  Perhaps that’s true.  But for those of you that may even remotely think that your online interactions could possibly be having a negative influence, then adding alcohol is not a good idea. 

It is also interesting to note that alcohol/substance abuse has also been shown to be present in people who exhibit the signs and symptoms of PIU. 

YOU CALL IT E-STALKING, SOME CALL IT LOVE

 facestalk2

We tease about it.  We laugh about it.  We all admit doing it at one point or another, but checking someone’s online profile, memorizing their interests or favorites movies or even knowing their profile well enough to recognize when they delete a pick can be a big sign of compulsive and problematic internet behavior. 

Little things like this done in a repeated fashion means you are becoming a bit obsessive and could be crossing into online stalker territory. Yes, the term “stalker” may be harsh. But there is a firm difference between casually glancing at your ex’s MySpace and religiously analyzing every aspect of their Facebook page. 

Most people obsessively check profiles, because perhaps they no longer have the same level of friendship with the person that they once had and see it as a way of keeping updated on their activities.  Though checking when they log into Second Life, when they Plurk or when they blog is self-damaging behavior.  It’s like picking at the scab that is trying to heal, all you are doing is making it worse. 

Been there.  Done that.  It is a problem!

SOLVING THE PROBLEM

I wish I had the magic solution to help solve these compulsive or problematic behaviors.  Many experts recommend logging out and off.  Though I don’t think completely avoiding any and all social networks is even a feasible solution.    

The way I am trying to deal with my problematic behavior is by acknowledging I was having a problem and ending the cycle of denial.  I have also decided to remember my two beliefs about online activity.  What happens online matters: which means that my online activities have a real impact on my real life, and I can not try to pretend that they don’t.  I also have to remember that what happens online does not stay online, so at anytime my online behavior could be exposed for my entire real life to view.  I spent way too long trying to pretend that what happens online stays online, because I wanted it to.  Pretending that my online activities didn’t matter and that no one would find out was my way of denying I had a problem.

Admit it is an issue.  Acknowledge that it matters, and it does affect your real life.   Attempt to solve it.

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JellyBean vs. SL Hunts

Posted in Op/Ed with tags , , , on September 21, 2009 by ♥JellyBean♥

This is an Op/Ed which means that this is my opinion, and yes, it’s open for debatical.

🙂

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who gets annoyed, frustrated, angered, bothered, disturbed, irked, provoked, and troubled by certain SL crap. The latest? SL Hunts!

I am not a huge fan of hunts. I do remember I participated in my first one a few years back & I thought it was fun. However lately it seems there’s 10 hunts going at any given time now in SL. At what point do we say “Enough is enough!” either as designers or hunters?

Hunters will bitch about the hunts stating that the freebie items they receive are craptastic, and/or that they only kept 5 out of 100 items out of the last hunt that they felt were worthy of remaining in their already bloated inventory. They bitch about it being a waste of time comparative to what they actually “got” out of the hunt.

Designers will also bitch that they have spent x amount of time on this hunt, are getting ready for the next hunt, people not appreciating the time put in, or the items.

With both sides bitching, why are there still hunts popping up on a daily basis? Is it because there are more people not bitching that make hunts still worthwhile?

Growing up I was taught, as many others have been, that the less you have the more you are able to appreciate. I feel this may be the same type of deal with hunts. There are just so many now that any sense of appreciation has flown out the window.

One can argue that these hunts give exposure to new upcoming designers, and I’m all for supporting new designers. I think a lot of newer content creators get discouraged & give up before tapping into their full potential… but I’m not sure hunts are the best way for such exposure. Especially when the hunts get “cherry picked.” Every hunt I’ve participated in lately has in one form or another had a “cheat” list attached to it letting you know exactly where to find each item via a notecard or a blog post complete with SLURLs. Cheat lists & word of mouth are perfect for anyone willing to cherry pick a hunt to acquire those worthy items without sifting thru tons of crap. So just as hunts have become as common as lag, so have the cherry pickers. This seems counter productive to the New Designer Exposure argument unless the “new” designer is busting out some kick ass stuff.

Also, what happened to the “exclusive” hunt items? That was one of my motivators, and probably remains one of the biggest motivators out there for reasons to participate as hunters. If I’m not able to just stroll into the store & buy this “must have” item and it is only offered up in a hunt – I will cherry pick that like nobody’s business. I guess this question is for the designers. I wonder if there are just so many hunts now that it’s just become too hard to keep up with an exclusive item for each hunt, keeping up with regular store releases & still finding time to not go crazy from it all?

I have no solution to all this madness but I do think that too much is really too much. You can’t honestly think that anyone will appreciate cotton candy if they’re on a cotton candy diet and you can’t honestly expect the cotton candy makers to step it up if they’re not appreciated. From where I stand I don’t see much of a win-win sitch here. I do feel it’s a great topic to debate though.

What do you think? Hunter perspective vs. Designer perspective.

Have you had enough of the SL Hunts?

-JellyBean Madison-

The Social Media Integrity Challenge

Posted in Op/Ed on September 20, 2009 by Valiant Westland

Many of us create and reply to posts on a variety of Social Media networks and blogs, including Facebook, Twitter, etc. every day. Many of these posts contain content and links to content that express opinions designed to sway reader’s toward a particular position.

I read one such post today, on the subject of Net Neutrality. This is a subject I myself, with more than 25+ years of Internet experience; do NOT consider myself an expert in. I couldn’t help but wonder; how many posts like this are authored or shared by people who have little or no subject matter expertise in their content? How many posts contain content that has undergone little or no or critical analysis or fact checking by the poster?

The seemingly endless flow of non-expert, un-fact-checked 3rd-party content, begs yet another question. What is the source of the “trust,” imparted to various sources, be they people or an institution, which emboldens people to repost this content as fact?

Journalism’s “Code of Ethics”

Are there ethical issues or matters of “journalistic integrity” to be considered by average bloggers and posters, before submitting a post? To try and find answers to these questions, I turned to the very web that spawned them.

Even in the arena of “Professional Journalism,” there is no universal oath of integrity or ethical standard. A recent post by Beth Harte revealed that:

The Society of Professional Journalists “requires” its members to:

• Seek Truth and Report It
• Minimize Harm
• Act Independently
• Be Accountable

And the American Society of Newspaper Editors (founded in 1922) Canons of Journalism holds that journalists should display:

• Sincerity, Truthfulness, Accuracy (good faith with reader)
• Impartiality (news reports free from opinion or bias)
• Fair Play, Decency (recognition of private rights, prompt correction of errors)

Despite being encouraged by their peers and trade associations, many “professional journalists” have a tough time abiding by these “codes of ethics.” The “mainstream media” and professional blogosphere is filled with stories that contain questionable facts, disingenuous “truths,” and even outright lies. Bloggers and Social Network posters who spread these falsehoods, regardless of their motivation, not only join in perjuring the truth, but are often lying to the people closest to them, their coworkers, friends and families.

Blogging With Integrity

In July of 2009 a new organization called “Blog With Integrity” was created. The goal of the organization is simple; encourage bloggers to blog with the highest levels of integrity by:

• Providing clear disclosure of their interests so readers can evaluate their words.
• Treating others with respect.
• Taking responsibility for their words and actions.

I have signed the Blog With Integrity pledge and would like to see all of the bloggers I follow do so as well.

The Social Media Integrity Challenge

In the same spirit of integrity, I propose the following ethical standards for those who post content from blogs and the web:

I will:

• Post only from blogs with a published integrity policy
• Never post content designed solely to inflame or incite
• Never represent unsubstantiated theories as fact
• Think critically, write clearly and post with integrity

“I am for integrity, if only because life is very short and truth is hard to come by.” Author Unknown

Viva la SL Revolution

Posted in Op/Ed, SecondLife® with tags , , , , , , on September 20, 2009 by Prad

Twelve months ago, a group of smart and switched on people combined two of Second Life’s most popular multi-authored blogs and formed The SL Revolution – a blog with the aim to not hold back from what needs to be said. A group of people who didn’t take themselves too seriously – guys and girls who simply enjoyed Second Life, and didn’t think of themselves as journalists or fashionistas. They were simply normal people who were too busy laughing at the dumb things going on within the SL community (in particular the SL blogging, or SLogging, community) with the same out blogs churning out the same old dramas.

So the Rev was created to give a wide angle lens – to inject some humour back into the SL blogging community, and remind everyone that actually your petty little dramas are meaningless and you should really try being constructive to the Second Life efforts, instead of just trying to bring each other down all the time.

We mocked Plurks with extreme sexual content and made fun of the PostSecrets. We laughed at the girl who liked to make lists of names, and we’ve reminded you all what an opinion is really worth.

But then we’ve also offered advice on how to create eye catching promotional images and thought about the Freebie issues and how it affects the SL economy. We’ve looked at the impact of blogging on ourselves and in world, and

And we’ve talked about Drama. Again, and again. And then again.

You see, the SL Rev makes fun of these things, but then we’ve also caused drama too. And on an opinion blog, that’s pretty easy to do. But there’s a smart way of calling people out – it involves not saying anything, but saying everything, and that’s an artform which most the writers here at the Rev employ in their writing. We’re fortunate that we’re not a trash blog which creates witch hunts. Or is fortunate the right word? After all, blogging is about who has the most page views, right?

Wrong.

Blogging is about intelligent discussion where people are happy to give thought out opinions on matters and discuss/debate in a civilised manner which doesn’t involve trashing someone without reason.

A year ago, I wrote that the growing popularity of blogs which are kicking off witch hunts will cause nothing but paranoia and ill-feeling within the SL community – I said the situation would hit a point where people would start basing their opinions simply on what a blog has published, rather than seeking out the truth themselves.

And why? Because by giving into this witch-hunt mentality, we create group-think. The type which involves someone who is quite happy to go after someone they don’t know (probably due to a lack of self-confidence or immense jealousies). They exploit a part of human nature in which people love drama (as long as it doesn’t involve them) and this creates an atmosphere where it becomes normal for ideas and opinions to be suppressed, rather than openly discussed in a sensible manner.

The number of bloggers who have risen up by trying to crush others is on the rise, and I can only see it creating an SL where people will be too afraid to say what they think. But blogs like the Rev continue pushing back the boundaries and will carry on fighting the good fight – because no matter what the fucktards say, we refuse to be silenced, and we refuse to be told what to write. We won’t put up with self-referential little spiteful groups who feed drama and insanity – we’ll carry on mocking those types, and we’ll carry on speaking our minds as individuals. Without fear or favour.

So Viva la SL Revolution – here’s to the past year, and may the diversity of writers here long continue to bring some of the best discussion to the SL community.

Introducing the Plurk Drinking Game: Plink!

Posted in Op/Ed with tags , , , , on September 19, 2009 by ♥JellyBean♥

As anyone who has me on their plurk knows, I’m very opposed to today’s International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Especially on Plurk, oh gawd I hate it so much! However to help me get through it and maintain my karma, Rosie Shark  & I have devised a new game called “Plink”, a Plurk drinking game.

Here’s what you’ll need if you decide to play along at home…

The drink of choice will be Lemon Drop Shots (if you use anything else, we’ll silently judge you, so don’t tell us! *wink*).

Vodka of your choice
1 lemon cut into slices
Sugar

Place sugar on your hand (like you do with a Tequila shot with salt), place lemon slice in same hand, lick off sugar and take shot, then bite down on the lemon.

It’s as easy as that.

Now for the Rules:

(Our names will be in place here but feel free to mod your game to fit you or leave your plurk name in comments & we’ll include you in our game)

  • If anyone plurks about food. (example: Daila I have fruity pebbles…) [JellyBean drinks]
  • If anyone plurks about feeling emo. (example: Rosie says I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize for being so self-absorbed…) [Rosie drinks]
  • If anyone plurks a complaint about SecondLife. (example: alarm Isa cock is furious with her own inability to stay on sl.) [JellyBean drinks]
  • If anyone plurks “Talks Like a Pirate” lingo. (example: Dancien says Ahoy ye Scrogs! Myself and me mates be playin some Champions today then we be going on the account to some pubs,flirtin with the wenches) [everybody drinks]

Please post any other suggestions in the comments. 😀 Happy whatever day you wanna make it. I call it KU Football Day! :p

-Jell-

Second Life’s Voice To Be Heard On Facebook

Posted in SecondLife®, Virtual Worlds with tags , , on September 15, 2009 by Valiant Westland

vivox_logoThe announcement that Vivox, the current voice services provider of Second Life, will be supported on Facebook is interesting.  Although, I don’t think it’s going to be a game changer (pun intended).  Those of us who’ve been using Second Life for the past year and a half are very familiar with the Vivox application.  It’s a great way to communicate with people in-world… when it’s working.
skype-300x300
Many Second Life users use Skype for conference calls or even person-to-person communication, because the Skype platform, at least up to this point, has simply been more reliable.  Skype also offers the benefits of file transfer and video conferencing, two features NOT provided by either Second Life or Vivox.

It will be interesting to see what any potential interest by 3rd party game developers will yield.  I already mute 98% of the “games” on Facebook.  Frankly, if I’m going to play a game, it’s not going to be some lame 2D SPAM-generating Facebook application.  Adding voice to Facebook games will probably boost my block rate to 99.9%.

Although the potential of voice interoperability between social media platforms, like Facebook and Second Life, may hold some allure, we should be wary of a single monolithic solution, owned by a single provider.  History has taught us that the communication needs of consumers are best served by open APIs, standards and competition.

Blue Mars – User Experience Now

Posted in Blue Mars, Guides, How To, Virtual Worlds on September 5, 2009 by luth brodie

The download:
While there are only a few places to visit, you have to download them all prior to starting the program. The first day of open beta that amount is 1.3G. Mildly frustrating now as I download just to take updated screen shots for this post and check out the new UI, its going to get even worse as time goes on.

This is a trade off and I’m not certain what they will do in the future about it. One of the many reasons why SL is more lag invested than your standard MMO is that normally all the assets are optimized and on your computer already. It takes a while to load once you port in; you have to dl the assets of every person around and continue to do so as more people port in. And as we all know after spending enough time in SL and porting around, you have to clear all that information out.

So your download is going to be long, and will only get longer each content update but the trade off is more detailed areas with less lag. The annoying part is in the future when you need hard drive space for cities you don’t like and never want to go to. Another downside of this is that it means it’ll take until the next update for new content to be added, which is unheard of when we are used to the immediate update of SL. Does this mean only cities and not user created content items? Only time will tell.

The Zones:

loading
When you log in you get to the above screen. You click on a floating picture to choose a city. While this isn’t so bad with so few places to go, it’ll get frustrating quickly as more are added.

So, right now you have 5 different cities/zones/whatever you want to call them to explore. 2 of them are games and rather fun for a short time. The other 3 are empty cities, pretty but empty.

Graphics / Avatar / Camera:

The graphics are stunning. The shadows, textures, water, and the way the clothes and hair move are amazing.

You can not change your avatars shape other than the face. Hands down this is probably one of the things I’ve heard about the most. From what I’ve seen from scouring the wiki, there is a high probability that people will be able to make and skin a skeleton in a 3d program and sell it as a package. There is so much more you could do with that way beyond the sliders we have in SL.

So other than all looking like Ruth except for the face (ok the standard av does look better), current hair and clothing options are seriously limited. However you do have some immediate make-up tweaking that isn’t exactly simple. Changing from the horrid purple eye shadow to a more neutral black wasn’t too difficult to figure out.

cosmetics editor

The camera (like general MMOs) is locked to the avatar. Those of us who spend most of our time in SL alt-zooming around will find it extremely tedious to walk everywhere. Who knows if this will be changed in the future?

Shopping / Inventory Awesomeness:

I’m going to kind of gush here for a few mins so just bear with me. Bloody hell this is what has been missing from SL. No more shopping for 3d clothes/shoes/whatever on a 2d box. They are fully rezzed on mannequins where you can actually walk around them to see it all. Since there is only 1 shop that I could find, I’m not certain if this is standard or if the city dev set it up this way – though the shoe shop that is no longer also worked like this.
clothes display

If that isn’t enough for you, you can click on it to bring up a browser of sorts where moving the mouse will rotate it:

No longer do we have to remember the names of items in our inventories. A picture is right there for you:
inventory

Sadly though, there just isn’t much to play with due to the complete lack of content.

Animations:
BM has a built in animation overrider where you can change the walk, idle stance, emotes, dances, and everything else found in the animation menu:
built in ao

Granted the animation editor hasn’t been released so I haven’t been able to play around with much of this yet. The idle stances currently are very annoying and twitchy short loops that are on a much longer timer than SL’s 5 stances. Depending on lots of factors, this is better or worse. For instance, if animating a sway works better in BM and we are able to upload longer anims that aren’t constantly moving we can do some interesting things with this.

Another annoyance is activating an animation or dance as you have to go into the animation menu. Plus the ability to expand the list is non-existent at the current time. Though they do have a scripting language so content fixing this may be in the future.

One thing to note, you can easily shake hands with someone by clicking on them.

Apartment Living:
New to the open beta is the model apartment and being able to play around with moving furniture bits around. It’s pretty simple: just right click to bring up a menu, choose “move”, move your mouse and a highlighted version of it moves, left click to place. To rotate it, you have rotation arrows that you click on. Here is my sound free demo:

In The End:
Like I keep saying, there isn’t much to do right now unless you are a registered dev. Unless you really like walking around empty cities. There are people (sometimes) to chat with, and it’s better now that there is a chat box instead of just the chat bubbles.

The next post will be about content creation. I have it partly typed out, but it’ll be at least a week until I have time to finish it.

Cheers
Luth