Angel Manor: a fine venue for fine art

Angel Manor - a fitting venue for displays of fine art in SL
Angel Manor – a fitting venue for displays of fine art in SL

I last blogged about Angel Manor a year ago. Since then, Kaya Angel’s magnificent house and grounds have both undergone some transformation – so much so that I really should find the time for a camera-laden revisit. One part of the manor which only got passing mention last time around is the gallery there, and it is time to set that to rights.

Masako - Angel Manor Art Gallery
Masako – Angel Manor Art Gallery

Curated by Kylie Sabra, the Angel Manor gallery is one of SL’s foremost venues for fine art and special art events. The gallery covered several exhibition halls on the upper floors of the main house, which are put to good use hosting displays of a number of SL artists at any given time. It was here that I recently visited Ride the Universe, a magnificent exhibition of Gem Priez’s fractal art, which genuinely a must-see.

TwinkleStarlight, Angel Manor Art Gallery
TwinkleStarlight – Angel Manor Art Gallery

The gallery spaces are laid out to allow easy viewing, and each has an info board which displays an image of the artist on display, and can be used to obtain a bio on the artist and also, if written, by-lines  on the exhibit itself.  As well as Gem’s installation at the gallery, other artists featured during my tour include Masako, TwinkleStarlight and Angel  Kingmaker, as well as Kylie Sabra herself.

Angel Kingmaker - Angel Manor Art Gallery
Angel Kingmaker – Angel Manor Art Gallery

The beauty of Angel Manor is that not only does it offer exhibits covering a number of different SL artists at any one time, it presents them in a quite magnificent venue itself, one which allows you to combine your time viewing the exhibits with exploring a quite magnificent house and its gardens and grounds, making it the perfect destination for a “day out” in Second Life. And don’t forget the Angel Manor ballroom, the Angel Manor Rose Theatre and the Angel Manor Opera House for live events.

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Of trans-Atlantic murder, little pigs with big hearts and more

It’s time to kick-off another week of fabulous story-telling in Voice for 2014, brought to Second Life by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library SL.

As always, all times SLT, and unless otherwise stated, events will be held on the Seanchai Library’s home on Imagination Island.

Sunday January 26th, 13:30: Tea-time at Baker Street: A Study in Scarlet concludes

Caledonia Skytower and Shandon Loring bring the case which first introduced the world to Doctor John Watson and the renowned Consulting Detective, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

study-in-scarletA Study in Scarlet was written in 1886 as a full-length novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and published the following year. It is actually one of only four novel-length stories Conan Doyle penned about Holmes and Watson in the original canon (the remaining 56 tales of their adventures are all short stories).

The novel is split into two parts. The first of which served to introduce Holmes and Watson and establish their nature and initial relationship, as recalled by John Watson. Their meeting, through a mutual acquaintance, was fortuitous, Watson having been recently invalided out of the army and needing a roof over his head, and Holmes looking for someone with whom he could split the rent on a rather nice flat (apartment) at 221B Baker Street.

Holmes is then called upon to lend assistance to Scotland Yard in solving a murder. Initially unwilling to do so, he is encouraged by Watson, and so we are introduced to Inspectors Lestrade and Gregson. A second murder soon follows, with Holmes already at odds with Scotland Yard over suspects and motive.

As the story unfolds, so we are transported across the Atlantic in the second part of the novel, and the distant shores of America. Here unfolds a story both pitiful story of Jefferson Hope, his lost love and the cruelty of others, which leads, inevitably back to London and the murder of two far-from-innocent individuals.

Monday January 27th, 19:00: From an Alien Point of View

More thought-provoking sci-fi from the collection of Gyro Muggins.

Tuesday January 28th, 19:00: The Te of Piglet

Winnie the Pooh may have been a Bear Of Very Little Brain often bothered by long words, but in 1982, through him, his friends in the 100 Acre Wood and their adventures, Benjamin Hoff found the perfect means of introducing a western audience to the principles and ideals of Taoism.

That work was covered in a series of readings in mid-2013 by Caledonia Skytower and Kayden Oconnell. Now they continue reading from the 1992 companion volume to that work, The Te of Piglet.

Te is a Chinese word commonly interpreted to mean ‘power’ or ‘virtue’, but which has far more depth than either, being more a special quality of character, spiritual strength, or hidden potential unique to the individual. Through this book, Hoff further explores Taoist concepts, notably that ‘the virtue of the small’, showing how Piglet has great Te, not just because of his diminutive stature, but because he has Tz’u – a great heart, even if – as is so often the case – he’s generally unaware of the fact that he has.

Taking a somewhat different approach to the original Tao of Pooh, this book uses the other characters from the 100 Acre Wood to show how our own humanity, in is different facets and forms, is seen by the Taoist as a series of impediments to our living in harmony with the Tao.

Wednesday January 29th, 19:00: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

In 1915, a 54-year-old Sherlock Holmes find his retirement to the Sussex Downs, where he is studying the habits of the honey bee, to be interrupted by the unexpected arrival of 15-year-old Mary Russell. American by birth, Ms. Russell had come to England to live with her Aunt following the tragic death of her parents in an automobile accident.

Holmes is impressed by the young lady’s wit and intellect, ne before he knows it, he finds himself teaching her his former tradecraft of solving crimes. Thus was formed a new partnership is formed between the very modern young Miss Russell and the very Victorian Great Detective.

Now Caledonia Skytower returns with more tales from the pen of Laurie R. King, and her series of stories for young adults which focus on the adventure Ms Russell and Mr. Sherlock Holmes shared.

Thursday January 30th

16:00: Stories from Ozland Pictures

With Llola Lane and featuring the art of Derry McMahon.

19:00: The Early Adventures of Finn McCool

Shandon Loring continues reading Bernard Evslin stories about the legendary Finn McCool – Fionn mac Cumhaill – the mythical hunter / warrior who appears in folklore spanning Ireland, the Isle of Man and parts of Scotland, as well as sharing some links with Welsh mythology.

finn McCoolAlso known as the “Green Hero”, Finn McCool drew his name “Finn” or “Fionn”, meaning “blond”, “fair”, “white”, or “bright”, from the fact that his hair turned prematurely white. According to legend, he was born of Cumhall – leader of the Fianna (small, semi-independent warrior bands found in both Irish and Scottish mythology) and Muirne, daughter of the druid Tadg mac Nuadat.

Raised in secret, Fionn, who was originally called Deimne, became a skilled hunter and warrior, serving several local kings, albeit incognito, due to the events surrounding his mother and father – and the latter’s death.

Evslin draws upon the famous legend to weave a series of stories about the life of a young Fionn in the times before he became the giant of Irish folklore.

21:00 Seanchai Late Night

Details still TBA, so please check with the Seanchai Library blog as the week progresses.

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Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule. The featured charity for January and February is The Xerces Society and their efforts at world-wide conservation and education for some of the smallest creatures on our earth.

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Three in ten: a look back over Rod Humble’s tenure at LL

It’s been a great 3 years! All my thanks to my colleagues at Linden Lab and our wonderful customers I wish you the very best for the future and continued success! I am starting-up a company to make Art, Entertainment and unusual things! More on that in a few weeks!

With these words, and a few personal notes to the likes of Jo Yardley, who broke the news to the SL community as a whole, Rod Humble’s departure from Linden Lab entered the public domain.

Rod Humble, with a little reminder from his past
Rod Humble, with a little reminder from his past

Rod Humble officially joined the Lab as CEO in early January 2011, although according to BK Linden, he had been logging-in during the closing months of 2010, “exploring and experimenting in-world to familiarise himself with the pluses and minuses of our product and the successes and challenges faced by our Residents”.

Prior to his arrival, and under the much maligned Mark Kingdon, the Lab had been investing in hardware and infrastructure, with Frank (FJ Linden) Ambrose being recruited into the company to head-up the work. This continued through the first year of Humble’s tenure as CEO, paving the way for a series of large-scale overhauls to the platform in an attempt to improve performance, stability, reliability of server / viewer communications and boost the overall user experience.

Much of this work initially announced in 2012 as “Project Shining”.  It had been hoped within the Lab that the work would be completed within 12 months; however, so complex has it proven to be that even now, more that 18 months later, elements of core parts of it (viewer-side updates related to interest lists, the mesh-related HTTP work, final SSA updates) have yet to be fully deployed.

Even so, this work has led to significant improvements in the platform, many of which can be built upon (as with the HTTP updates paving the way for HTTP pipelining or the SSA work already generating core improvements to the inventory system’s robustness via the AIS v3 work).

SSBAsaw a complete overhaul over the avatar rendering process in order to eliminate the bane of users' lives: bake fail
SSA, aimed at eliminating the bane of users’ lives,  bake fail, was one of a number of projects aimed at benefiting the user experience

It might be argued that these aren’t really achievements on Humble’s part, but rather things the company should have been doing as a matter of course. True enough; but the fact is, prior to Humble’s arrival, the work wasn’t being done with anything like the focus we’ve seen under his leadership.

A philosophy he brought to the Lab was that of rapid development / deployment cycles, as he indicated at his first (and only, as it turned out) SLCC address in 2011. This saw the server release process overhauled and the three RC channels introduced, making it easier to deploy updates, patches, and fixes to address bugs, issues and exploits.

Humble referred to this as “putting the ‘Lab’ back into Linden Lab”, and in fairness, it didn’t always work as advertised, as with the initial experience tools deployment in June 2012, which resulted in a spate of grid-wide griefing. However, it is fair to say it has generally resulted in less grid-wide disruption and upset.

More recently, this approach has also been applied to the viewer release process, allowing the Lab to focus more sharply on issues arising within the viewer code as a result of changes or integrating new capabilities. This in turn has largely eliminated the risk of issues bringing viewer updates to a complete halt, as happened in the latter part of 2012.

One of the more (to many SL users and observers) controversial aspects of Humble’s tenure was the move to diversify the company’s product brief. When talking to Giant Bomb’s Patrick Klepek in October 2012, he candidly admitted his initial attraction to the post was born from the company being “ready-made to do a whole bunch of other products, which I wanted to do.” He’d also forewarned SL users than the company would be diversifying its product brief during his 2011 SLCC address.

Many objected to this on the grounds it was “taking away” time and effort which might be focused on Second Life while others felt that it was a misappropriation of “their” money, or that it signalled “the end” of SL. In terms of the latter, the reality was, and remains, far from the case. In fact, if it can be done wisely, diversification might even, over time, help SL by removing the huge pressure placed upon it as the company’s sole means of generating revenue.

Diversification isn't in itself a bad idea; the problem is ensuring that a company diversifies wisely. Some of LL's initial efforts under Humble's guidance mean the jury is still out on that matter
Diversification isn’t in itself a bad idea; the problem is ensuring that it’s done wisely. The jury’s still out in that regard with some of LL’s initial efforts

The problem is that the direction that has been taken by the Lab thus far doesn’t appear to be the most productive revenue-wise, at least in part. The apps market is both saturated and highly competitive (and even now, two of the products in that sector have yet to arrive on Android). Similarly, it might be argued that Desura could be more valuable as a marketable asset than as a long-term investment), and dio appears to be going nowhere. All of which leaves Patterns,  which in fairness does appear to be carving a niche for itself, and has yet to be officially launched. It will be interesting to see what, if any, appetite the Lab has for continuing with these efforts now that Humble has departed.

There have been missteps along the way, to be sure. Humble’s tenure has been marked by a series of ongoing and quite major issues with the SL Marketplace which the company appeared to be completely unable to bring under control. These prompted me to wonder if “putting the ‘Lab’ back into Linden Lab” might actually work in all cases.  Worse, they led to a clear and continued erosion in customer trust where the Marketplace was concerned and quite possibly damaged Humble’s own reputation. Despite promises of “upping the tempo” with communications and updates, all merchants saw was the commerce team reduce communications to the bare minimum, and refused to hold in-world meetings which might otherwise have improved relationships.

Similarly, some projects were perhaps pushed through either too quickly or without real regard for how well they might be employed. Mesh was perhaps prematurely consigned to the “job done” basket, particularly given the loud and repeated calls for a deformation capability which were spectacularly ignored (and are only now being addressed, after much angst and upset in the interim, all of which could have been avoided).  Pathfinding has failed to live up to the Lab’s expectations and still appears to be something that could have been pushed down the road a little so that other work could carried out which might have left people more interested in given it a go.

Continue reading “Three in ten: a look back over Rod Humble’s tenure at LL”