Five years

Tuesday December 5th 2006; the day I logged in to Second Life for the first time as Inara Pey. Little did I know then how much that name would come to symbolise my on-line time.

I’d been active in SL prior to that date – although not for particularly long before wandering away again – and curiosity brought me back for a second look. As I wanted to do so unfettered by previous experiences, Inara was born.

A lot has changed in the intervening time; rather more than I care to remember, but which a flick through Google and the official blog archives brought to mind. Yet reading some of the blog entries and the comments that follow them, it’s interesting to see an old adage hold true: the more things change, the more they remain the same. So by way of saying “hippy yardbath” (any AA Milne readers out there?) to me, here’s a few random reminders of times gone by…

First, a little context: on the day I returned, Second Life had some 1,791,246 registered accounts of which 690,800 had been active over the previous 60 days. At one point during the day, 16,124 of those accounts were logged in, which was somewhat on the high side for the times, as we shall see (my thanks to the wonderful Wayback Machine for spitting out the data via a half-formed snapshot of the “old” SL website).

Back then, SL was not only in the media – it was the media darling, although some were then (as now) bemused and confused by its presence, while others were convinced it was The Next Big Thing (little did we know then how much that would come back to bite us in our collective bum…hello, Mr. Kapor!). Philip Rosedale was popping-up all over the place, as was Ashe Chung (who had yet to encounter flying penises – such things doth success bring, sadly).

Within Second Life itself, Windlight was still more than a year away and Mono  even further over the horizon. We did have skyhomes – but none that could be built or placed above 768 metres; we didn’t have sculpties (although they were coming, and were even LL’s darling for a while!), but we did have flexiprims. We also had Torley and his wonderful “tips of the week”…

..a reminder that actually makes the lack of his on-going video presence within the SL website that much sadder…

Log-in info found on the Viewer

Back then, the Viewer log-in screen used to carry some interesting data; while concurrency was very different in terms of “high volumes” causing problems.

Also back then we didn’t have weekly roll-outs. Things were a lot more direct! Each and every Wednesday the gird would be shut for an average of 4-6 hours (and sometimes as many as 8-10) without any log-ins at all, while LL went and – as they put it – “banged on things”. Oh, the time spent waiting for the monkeys-and-monolith (that’s one image Google failed to find for me 😦 ) to vanish and log-ins to reopen….

(with thanks to Robin Cornelius)

We only had one Mainland continent (although a second was coming), but we did still have gambling (although not for very much longer).  We had Viewer updates causing video woes, but had yet to reach release 1.17 and the start of the introduction of a new “communicate” floater panel would get a lot of people all in a tizwas for bringing change to the UI.

And that’s without mentioning the major points in SL’s history such as the Adult Policy and age verification, the OpenSpace / Homestead fiasco, the arrival of Rivers Run Red and their thinly-veiled hostility towards the user base (whatever did happen to Justin Bovington? No, don’t answer that 🙂 ).

I was also very different back then. In 2006 I started off blonde and blue-eyed – about as far from the real me as I could get. Over the years, like many in SL, my look changed and evolved – and at times grew closer to my real life appearance before straying away again until I reached 2010 and the perfect expression of self-through-looks.

During the last five years, Second Life has given me so much. I’ve met many amazing people, some of whom have since left SL; others of whom are still on my Friends list to this day. I’ve learned to be creative, discovering the joy in taking pixelated bits of “plywood” and turning them into something delightful; I managed to get my head around simple scripting and experienced the joy of having my first door swing open and my first lamp illuminate.

Fallingwater: my first “serious” SL build

I’ve had an entire world to discover and explore, made possible by amazing talents and featuring mind-boggling works of art.

“Through the Lens of Dreams” @ Art Screamer – just one of the many places I’ve been lucky enough to explore

I’ve also taken time to wag a finger and growl at LL over actions and decisions; but like everyone engaged in this marvellous platform, I’ve done so simply because I do love it so much. So I make no apologies for pointing the finger where I’ve felt it warranted, just as I make no apologies for the times I’ve supported LL at the times I’ve felt they’ve got it right or that they are being unduly chastised.

I’m not sure what my family and friends outside of SL would make of the time I devote to it – both in-world and in blogging about it. I’m pretty sure most would be at best bemused. The truth is that, five years on from the height of the hype about Second Life, we’ve still to reach that point where having a virtual extension of ourselves in a digital world is as accepted by society as a whole as going to work and paying taxes are.

But that’s also what makes being involved in Second Life attractive. While a lot of the hype has evaporated, and while we might not always appreciate it when we see things going wrong, the fact is that SL, in so many ways, still sits on the leading edge of a digital wave, riding waters both rough and smooth leading to who knows where.

All I can say is with certainty is that good or bad, high or low, it’s been fun. What’s more, it is still fun – and it’s very likely I’ll continue to be here for as long as that remains the case.