BL09 - Hallowed virtual ground

First, a brief background about my involvement with Burning Life. I joined in 2007 as part of the Interactive Architects team and ended up being the scripter for the burn of the Man and the Temple that year. In 2008, I was asked to burn the Temple again, which was all I got done due to a death in the family that took me outside the US. In March this year, Poid Mahovlich asked me again to join the Temple crew and she said she also got Damanios Thetan to join again. Dama built the previous temples and I am honored to burn anything Dama builds. And I'm sure I'm not the only Damanios Thetan groupie out there.

Yesterday, Dusty Linden contacted me to invite me to today's kick-off meeting. She heard from Dama that we had both agreed to work on the Temple.

After the meeting today, I had a brief chat with Dama and he mentioned that he was expecting to receive "a notecard with stage demands" because the "temple is being used more as an events stage this year". My reaction was "Nooooooo". I had to talk to Dusty soon after that convo.

I told her, "I thought that the reason the burning of the Man is separate from the burning of the Temple is that the burning of the Man is more of a party atmosphere and the burning of the Temple is very solemn." My point was that the Temple is hallowed ground. It is not the place for partying.

Dusty clarified that "the idea is not to design a temple that is a stage... it's to incorporate performance space into the plan... so that we can make it the focus of all the fire related activities". When I asked if all the fire-related activities were solemn, we got into a discussion about what "solemn" means. It seems that she associates solemnity with sadness, and I disagreed with that definition.

She added that the Temple is a place to be spiritual and I agree with that. Her reasoning for doing fire events at the Temple is because "fire is an ancient ritual among us humans ;-) ... tends to evoke the spirit". I agree that fire is used in ancient rituals, however, fire is not always spiritual. As an example, I mentioned that fireworks on the 4th of July is not spiritual. In fact, the burning of the Man itself is not considered spiritual.

She finally admitted that "Basically, we wanted Yman to be able to have a pole star for her fire performances... and the drummers always ebed up there drumming... and where the drummers ars are , the fire dancing begins" [sic]. I think her logic broke down there.

I won't even ask why Yman is so special that her group gets to perform at the Temple, the most hallowed ground in all 34 sims. Or why the drummers couldn't be moved.

My question is: Do we behave differently inside hallowed spaces if they're virtual?

Even those of us who are not religious ourselves understand that temples and other places of worship are for religious rites and for quiet contemplation. When we go in, we behave a certain way, out of respect. If I were to enter a Buddhist temple, I would take my shoes off, out of respect. If I were to enter a Moslem mosque, I would cover my head with a veil, out of respect. If I were to enter a Catholic cathedral, I would briefly kneel on one knee before sitting quietly in a pew, out of respect. Even if I were an atheist, I would not go to those places and start fireworks and talk loudly and play loud music and have a party. No, I show respect for the people who go there to commune with their God.

Why then are we showing disrespect in a Temple simply because it's virtual?

SLCC 2009 - Sunday

This was a quieter day. Fewer people were around since there were fewer presentations today.

I caught the second half of the Project Management presentation in the business track, and I'm thinking of working on a version control tool for objects.

I also caught the second half of the Building a Community session in the fashion track, but I didn't learn much there and the talks tended to go off on a tangent.

At noon, I rushed over to the Avatar Design session, which turned out to be presented by Kaz, whom I met yesterday. We got a good look at her new Dravyn Hatchling project. Her work is very impressive and she makes it sound easy to make. Artists of her caliber are the ones who are changing the face of Second Life by bringing professional game quality into SL.

As I headed to the registration area to look for the location of the next session I wanted, I met Ina Centaur coming up the stairs and she turned around to ask for a picture with both of us. She wanted pictures with the women of Second Life. I think I ruined that picture. :D

Then off I went to the Benefits of Virtual Worlds for the Physically Disabled, and I saw JanythKU Techsan by the door. Janyth did the presentaion on online learning in the education track last Friday, but as I was reading through the bios later, I realized she was also Saxet Uralia, whom I met at Burning Life 2007 and who is still in my friends list. So I went to say hi and she gave me a hug after she read my name tag.

Inside the room, I found Ina Centaur again and Mia Kitchensink, who turned out to be a close friend of JamesLarken Supply, the presenter. I (as my main alt) know James only in passing, since he also used to go to Capos Calderwood's shows frequently. It was a very informative session from a disabled person's standpoint. I wanted to say hi to James at the end, but I had to rush off to catch the bus to the Exploratorium.

I overheard the doorman give instructions to someone else for the #30 bus stop. As Patio said, it was only a couple of blocks away. As I was waiting, I saw Simon again. Simon is the man who went to the wrong hotel and attended our convention instead of the one he intended to go to. He was with LizaJune Stoop, who is building a historical virtual museum in SL; I offered to help.

We arrived a bit late, but the group was still near the front, and more people arrived after us too. (We got in free, being guests of Patio.) I won't talk about the exhibits, but, hearing Patio talk about the concepts behind them, it sounded as though we were in Wonderland. It's like being a child again.

Most of our group stayed behind with Patio after the bells rang to indicate that the museum was closing. And he continued to show us a few more things. In the end, he offered to reveal the secret to seeing polarized light (this was after discussing an exhibit that involved polarized light), but he warned that after you learn it, you can't unlearn it, so you would see a bowtie shape everytime you look at a monitor screen.

Well, I had to know. Eshi (whom I just noticed towards the end) also wanted to know, but she left before Patio revealed how to do it. Well, learning how to see it is different from learning to actually see it. So, all I've learned is the method. I have yet to apply the method. And, if you're curious about the method, send IM to Patio Plasma in-world and tell him you found the teaser on Treasure Box's blog. :)

On our way back to the bus, I chatted with Simon briefly until we had to cross the street. He wanted to stay and look around the lake for a while before heading back. But before we left, he asked us to sign his Avenue magazine copy as a souvenir. (Liza was chatting with a British lady who went off on her own while we were signing the magazine.) Then Liza and I met two more people near the bus stop -- GG Writer, who is also a teacher, and DrawDweeb Latte, with whom we exchanged tips about building classes. DrawDweeb learned to build in a class given by NCI. I told him about Primtionary. And when I asked if he had been to the Ivory Tower of Prims, he took out his iPhone to take notes and he said, "This is why I need to go to conventions." :D

SLCC 2009 - Saturday

Another amazing day. Met more old friends and met lots of new friends.

My body decided that it would not stand for a shortage of sleep three days in a row, so I slept til after 9pm and I missed all of the morning sessions, including a talk by Philip Rosedale, so I guess I lost my chance to shake his hand.

More old friends

The first session I attended was Patio Plasma's session "Building Interactive Science Exhibits" in the education track. I arrived early and the next person to arrive in the room was a lady in pink with whom I had a brief exchange about power outlets in the room. When Patio arrived, I went over to introduce myself and revealed my main alt's name, whom he knew. And as we were chatting, he mentioned he was going to take out his partner later in the evening and therefore was going to miss the Musicians Ball. His partner Emileigh Starbrook is a long-time friend. And I realized he was referring to the lady in pink in the back. Oh, my god. I had to rush over and give her a big hug. And we caught up on news a bit until Patio had to start.

Patio is giving a tour of the real-life Exploratorium tomorrow (Sunday) at 3pm and I'm going to try to make it.

Afterwards, I went back to the business track and caught a panel of content developers talking about best practices, followed by impromptu talks by a few inworld entrepreneurs who talked about their businesses. I guess the "Standards" session was cancelled. In between the talks, I chatted with my tablemate Karina Linden, who is a developer based in Seattle and a fairly new resident. (I've met a few Lindens this weekend.)

More acquaintances and more new friends at dinner

The final session I attended in the evening was a workshop that Bettina Tizzy led. I saw Chenin Anabuki whom I know by reputation but never had much chance to chat with, so went over to join his table. Then we were joined by more people, including a man who went to the wrong hotel (he meant to go to another Westin hotel for another conference and decided to stay and participate). Then the nearby table joined us and we became an even bigger group. Our group's task was to come up with a few points regarding object permissions in SL.

During the presentations, Bettina talked about Siefert Surface and she motioned towards my neighbor. Siefert had referred me to planet textures that I needed a couple of years ago to make a Christmas ornament for the International Spaceflight Museum. Of course, he doesn't remember the incident.

Afterwards, I got a chance to introduce myself to Chenin and we talked about Avatrian and how he got started. Then two ladies who were sitting next to me at the table invited us to join them for dinner and we were supposed to meet up in the lobby at 6:30. I was at the lobby early and found others in our table and I assumed that it was the same group.

So we hopped on a couple of cabs (the two ladies and Chenin were nowhere to be found, unfortunately). I was in the cab with Bettina (I finally got to meet her), Mark Slate, and Cinco (I didn't get a chance to catch his last name). Mark sat to my left and we had a great conversation about the old SL (he joined in 2003). To my right was Pascale Illyer and we chatted about content I make. Across from Mark sat Kazuhiro Aridian who makes avatars. Next to her sat Siefert and Tezcatlipoca Bisiani, who did the presentation for our group.

It turned out that the outing was planned by Bettina and Hamlet Au. It was a Mexican restaurant and -- *sigh* -- I forget the name already, which is unfortunate because their carnitas were good.

The Musician's Ball

Mark had to get home, so he said goodnight as we left the restaurant, but not before he said the hotel was only a mile away. Some of us decided to walk instead of taking a cab. Silly me, I was walking with a group of young people. Thankfully, they didn't walk too fast. Siefert said goodnight several blocks from the hotel and walked in the opposite direction. Pascale, Kaz, Tez, and Cinco (I think that was Cinco) lingered near the entrance of the grand ballroom before deciding to join Hamlet's table near the back. But I said hi to Capos and TG (who was wearing a blue bandana and flower stamps on his cheeks and hands for the 60s theme). Dallas walked by sporting a long tee that had a drawing of leopard bikinis, a throwback to her leopard thong shtik in late 2006.

I met more people in the course of the evening -- Mia Kitchensink, Nassus Dumart, Lyndon Heart (whom I had seen both inworld and in Seattle when Capos and TG visited, but never formally met). Meanwhile, I got to chat with the group I was with. Tez and Kaz logged in and showed us their avatars.

I decided to stay until Capos's and TG's performances and Capos's first song was dedicated to me (woohoo!). It's the same song he usually dedicates to my alt everytime I come to his shows. I even went up front with EvaMoon and other ladies to stand in front of Capos and wave our arms in rhythm. Later, I got a real-life kazoo to blow when TG sang his "Analog Guy" song.

After TG's show, I said my goodbyes and headed home.

A critical decision

This weekend has been an incredible experience. It's more than just the sessions, although I learned quite a bit in them. It's really about the people -- the new friendships forged and, especially, the old friendships cemented, simply by seeing the real faces of the people behind the avatars. And there is something extraordinarily heartwarming about seeing a face light up after finding out who you are, followed by arms spreading wide for a hug. It is those moments that I will always remember about this SLCC, my first and most certainly not my last.

But during the day, I have made a decision, one that would significantly change my SL. My main alt will no longer be anonymous. I won't advertise my RL identity with her as I do with Treasure, but I won't take extra measures to hide it either.

SLCC 2009 - Friday

This was a great day! I've learned a lot in the sessions, but what's amazing was meeting more people I've known for a couple of years or so. And I realized that the Second Life community is really small. Well, at least the hard-core community, those of use who are serious about the platform.

Business track: SL pay rates

After finding the schedule online (which was difficult, by the way, and is surprisingly found in, instead of in the Second Life official web), I decided I wanted to focus on the Business Track, but I was also interested in a few other sessions in the other tracks. So, in the morning (I got up too late to catch the keynote speech by Ray Kurzweil), I went to a couple of sessions in the business track. The first one was a panel discussion on why pay rate tends to be very low in Second Life compared to real life pay rates. Unfortunately, the panelists mostly had the why's, but not much on how to bring it up to real world rates, or, in fact, whether it *should* be on par with real world rates. It was a very good group of panelists who made great observations and insights on the why's, but it seems that we're all focused on the business owner's side of things. What I think we need is more economists looking from a higher perspective and analyzing the effects of pay rates on the future of the SL economy. It is a complex issue and there may not be a "right answer".

During the session, a young man, who seemed very familiar, walked in, and it took me a couple of seconds to remember where I've seen him before. It was Philip Rosedale! I had not seen him before in person, only in video, but it's surprising that the brain makes these strong connections. I guess it *does* make a compelling case for internet marketing, but that's a discussion for another day's blog.

The second session was more about the enterprise and SL, and I wasn't as much interested in it as I used to be. To be honest, I think Linden Lab is disproportionately focused on its enterprise customer, which I think they define as large corporations or organizations. That's understandable, there's more money there. However, in the current economy, the number of small- to medium-sized companies is growing, especially as people turn to self-employment after the layoffs in the past year. So, I think LL should pay more attention to that segment precisely because SL is a great platform for micro-entrepreneurship. Sure, not many people make a living out if it yet, but at the same time, the investment and the risk are very low. Those of us building these micro-businesses inworld are learning business skills in an environment where making mistakes are not as costly as they would be in a real-life venture.

Second Life is a great incubator for business ideas. And it doesn't necessarily have to be a purely in-world business. Just take a look at the fashion industry, for instance; designers who had their start inside Second Life are branching out into real-world fashion.

Hugging old friends in the music track

Two more enterprise sessions were scheduled after that, so I decided to look for the location of the music track sessions. I knew that Capos Calderwood (Alex Whitmore) and TallGuy Kidd (Dale Marsh), both of whom I met while they were in Seattle last month, would be in the convention, so I decided to look for them and say hi. Sure enough, as I was standing in the hallway, Capos walked by. After a hug, I followed him to the room they were in and listened in on the presentation.

The first person I recognized was EvaMoon Ember who was sitting closest to the door. As Capos went up to the front to prepare for his presentation, I joined their table, and TG saw me before I saw him. He still calls me by my main alt's name. :D Long story short, I also met Apple McKay (whom I originally met at Burning Life 2007), Katydid Something (whom I met at Molaskey's Pub), Dallas Horsefly (whose shows I followed a long time ago before she took a break; in fact, I met Capos at one of her shows, and it was Capos who introduced me to TG, and they both performed at the grand opening of my SkyWheels Galleria). It was funny because I recognized Dallas by her voice.

Anyway, I learned a few techie things about streaming. Capos's talk was about equipment and I had actually talked to him about that a long while ago, when I was thinking of doing voiceovers for a machinima group. But I learned a number of things about streaming in Ed Lowell's presentation.

Although I never talked with Ed inworld, I have been to several of his shows and met a very dear friend in one of them. I also realized that there were several people in the room with very familiar SL names.

(And then, Philip walked in and sat down in the middle of the presentation. But, again, he didn't stay long. I think I'll make it my goal to shake the man's hand at least once this weekend.)

What I've noticed is that the SL music community is a very close-knit community. They're very collaborative and very supportive of each other. I've seen a collaboration among fashion designers inworld, but it was an orchestrated event and I get a sense of a greater competitive spirit among fashion designers, in general. But, again, that's a blog for another day.

As we were heading out to pick up boxed lunches, I made a comment that I was basically following the business track but all my friends were in the music track. CoolCat Maximus(?) overheard me and replied that I needed an alt. :D

We picked up a box lunch before returning to the room for a break-out session on one of the streaming services. Because I got distracted in the lunch area, the table I was in was already full, so I went to the next table and met Ethelred Weatherwax. He owns a museum both inworld and outworld and he was there to learn about streaming to his land.

Fashion distraction

Anyway, the reason I got delayed in the lunchroom were the two tables set up. There was one with Hamlet Au, and I wanted to say hi, but the closer table was Avenue, so I decided to go there first. I thought it would be a brief stop.

I met Eshi Otakawa. She's one of the high profile haute couture designers in SL, but her name was only vaguely familiar to me. (I know, I know, I really should be more aware of fashion names in SL.) Next to her was the chief of marketing for Avenue (and darn it, I forgot her name and I can't look it up in a chat log) and next to *her* was the founder of Avenue, Rusch Raymaker. I had a great chat with them about the business side of the fashion industry and marketing in SL in general.

I didn't even have the time to visit Hamlet's table, but I'll catch him yet.

Education track with an old acquaintance

A couple of years ago, a friend talked about bringing his alma mater into Second Life. I thought about that too with my own alma mater. I think SL is just a natural choice of platform for business students to try their hands on business building.

So, I attended a session by JanythKY Techsan who talked about using SL to enhance bonding among students in distance learning courses. We did an exercise in the beginning (making a sandcastle out of Play Doh) and ended up chatting with my table mates, Einstein Linden and his friend Jhung(?). Sure enough, after that exercise, it's obvious that group activities help people get to know each other.

Later in the day, as I was browsing through the bios of the speakers, I realized that Janyth's alt could be someone whom I had met in Burning Life 2007 as well, and who is even in my friends list. I'll have to confirm with her when I see her again.

Back to business

The last two sessions I attended were back in the business track again. One was about triggering as many different brain neurons as you can in order for customers to have a relationship with your brand. The presenter, Lesele Rose, seemed more like an anthropologist type in the way she teaches, and it's a refreshing change.

But my table also had interesting people in it. I met Winter Johin, who's a teacher both in and out of SL, and Marshall(?) and Bob. I didn't get a chance to find out more about Marshall, except that he used to live in the Bay Area (Winter used to live in LA), but they're now on the eastern coast. Bob lives in the Bay Area and, in fact, works near the St. Francis hotel, so it was just a short walk for him. I'll be contacting Winter again to chat more about education in SL too.

Note to self: I need to sharpen my memory again. I'm so used to depending on chat logs and notes in profiles to remind me of people I've talked to and what we talked about.

Finally, fashion again

The last session in the business track had Ina Centaur and Eshi talk about themselves and their fashion businesses. Ina's name is more familiar to me than Eshi's. Eshi's rise to celebrity status was a very interesting story and Ina's accomplishments were impressive. However, the title of the session was "Branding for a cause" and there was only a cursory mention of that topic. Even after asking a question about what they think made their brands stand out among the numerous other fashion designers in SL, they couldn't quite give an answer.

Eshi's fame was triggered by Bettina Tizzy's discovery of her and her fishhook dress, and by the Relay For Life auction that soon followed. It's a path to fame that's not quite reproduceable. And she did not *build* her brand; she just became one as a side-effect of being discovered. It's more about celebrity branding than business branding.

Ina has done several fundraisers for her SLShakespeare project, but she didn't talk about the relationship of those activities with building her brand.

The only takeaway I got from this session is that business owners should create something for auction for Relay for Life to get exposure.

I think these two young designers haven't yet analyzed what made them successful, but that insight will come with experience. After all, this platform is very new and things don't always work the same in the real world and in the virtual world. Although the basic business success factors are the same, there are other factors that could be surprisingly different. Yet again, a blog for another day. :)

Nine plaid pajamas

The group that recruited me in this network marketing venture focused primarily on stay-at-home moms and dads. Their training focused on how to reach that market. In fact, their group name has "Mom" in it.

I don't have kids; therefore, marketing under that group name would make me feel uncomfortable. So, I decided to split off and focus on people who want to work online from anywhere.

Of course, I needed a catchy tag and Pajama Ventures™ was born.

"Dress for success! Wear pajamas!" :)

And the first activities I had to focus on was starting a website (, getting a team site up as well for people who join me, and a home base inside Second Life, since that's where I'd primarily market.

I also figured my team would need a "business suit" that fits in with our name, so I created pajamas. In nine plaid patterns. With the Pajama Ventures logo on the pockets.

Then it occurred to me that this is a marketing tool. So, why limit it to the team? Why not let everybody in the virtual world wear them and let people get familiar with our logo. Maybe they'll want to learn about us and what we do. So, I set out vendors inworld and put them on sale in XStreet for 1L each. The package includes a notecard inviting the buyers to get to know the Pajama Ventures team by requesting a one-on-one presentation.

I had two buyers in the first five minutes after I put it up on XStreet. 33 buyers in the first 24 hours. And it's still going.

Yes, I paid 899L (approximately US$3.40) for being featured in the front page of the marketplace for seven days. No, I won't make it back on 1L sales. :D And I don't expect to make it back; it's a marketing expense.

Logo merchandise has been created and sold both inworld and in the real world. I made these logo pajamas so that people would love to wear them in public without feeling like walking billboards. The design is conservative and discreet, and the quality is... well, you can judge for yourself.

Get your own copy here. Then fill out and send back the notecard, okay?