The end of the year is once more approaching, which is often a time of reflection as we look back over the old before pausing to await the arrival of the new. It’s become something of a tradition in these pages for me to look back over the the articles and coverage of the year’s events I’ve managed to write-up, and offer a chance to revisit the ups and downs and the good and the bad the last twelve months have brought us.
To keep things digestible, I’ve broken this year’s review into two parts. This one covers January through June, and July to December can be found here.
The year started with a photo contest from Kultivate Magazine and a celebration of the 100th episode of the Drax Files Radio Hour (if you include the re-runs!), which included a chat with Oz and Troy Linden about the (then) still in development Project Bento. When Things Went Wrong with the grid rather badly over a weekend, April Linden gave an excellent a blog post explaining what had happened and why, which as I noted, marked a welcome continuance of communications on matters like this from the Lab.
Second Life’s first press appearance for the year came via an article on published UCI News, the on-line newsletter of the University of California, Irvine, which explored the work of Tom Boellstorff, a professor of anthropology at the university. The article particular examined Tom’s work in SL around Parkinson’s Disease.
In mid-January, VWBPE 2016 put out a call for papers, while I recalled a Starry Night in Second Life. Then, in the latter half of the month, Lab Chat returned with Ebbe Altberg taking questions on the Lab, Second Life and Sansar, and I provided the transcript and audio.
January also saw Caledonia Skytower joined me as a Guest Writer, with the first of her hugely popular series, If you just build it, they might not come, on promoting events in Second Life. The first month of the year also saw the Linden Department of Public Works Moles honoured in Bay City.
Other Worlds and AR/VR/MR
Stephen Wolfram became the latest high-profile person to join High Fidelity’s advisory board, while the Oculus Rift VR headset became available for pre-order, with a price which shocked a lot of people, prompting me to ask, At what price VR? Then HTC announced upcoming Vive pre-ordering whilst responding to talk of a split within the company.
I was delighted to be invited to exhibit at the Art on Roofs Gallery, Second Life (see Through a Blogger’s Eyes in the January Art Reviews, below. I also made the acquaintance of artist Silas Merlin, courtesy of Kayly Iali (see The pastel world of Silas Merlin in Second Life, below), which I’m happy to say grew into a friendship. Timekiller was the fist major event of 2016 I managed to get along to, and emboldened by recent exhibitions I opened a small studio gallery.
The 2016 events season started to ramp up in February. The 2016 RFL of SL team registrations opened, and the Home and Garden Expo took place later in the month, followed by Paint it Purple at the end of February. One Billion Rising put out a call for volunteers ahead of the February 14th event; BURN2 Burnal Equinox was announced; the Lab, with Isle of Love supported Team Fox and Parkinson’s research with their Valentines event; the ALS Awareness week took place; the VWBPE 2016 schedule was published.
Elsewhere in Second Life, Calas Galadhon re-opened (see the link below), and both Catznip and Achemy viewers updated, the former after a long break. the platform suffered more operational woes, with April Linden once again providing an explanation. Draxtor Despres gave insight into Project Bento via a World Makers special, and I was able to provide some additional material. Thing got a little tense mid-month with a sudden slew of bannings, many of which were subsequently reversed, although one creator made an urgent plea and the whole situation left me wondering if someone had been a little too eager with the ban hammer.
Caitlyn and I opened Caitinara Bar at Holly Kai Park to help encourage traffic and visitors to the park’s facilities. Anthony Westburn became our headline DJ on Wednesdays, followed by Joy Canadeo on Fridays and (through until late summer) Kess Crystal on Sundays. I also launched into the first phase of 2016’s “lets rebuild the island…again.”
I launched into March with a look at the work of Tom Boellstorff (Tom Bukowski in Second Life) and Donna Z Davis (Tredi Felisimo in Second Life) and their study, Virtual Worlds, Disability, and New Cultures of the Embodied Self. ReWrite took a look at SL and Sansar, and I offered thoughts. March sadly saw the passing of Tony Dyson, SFx creator, writer, and Second Lifer. It also brought news of the loss of Latif Khalifa, open-srouce developer, creator of Radegast, OpenSim supporter and all-round powerhouse.
The Lab announced faster credit processing – which to a while to arrive for some – together with an increase in handling fees, which didn’t go down to well with some.There was also a reminder / warning about phishing scams, and I offered an update on the renewed Community Gateways Programme, which has stalled slightly (more on that from both the Lab and I in 2017!).
Kokua updated, and a new occasional series – Tips and Tricks from the Community appeared in the official blog, grabbing my attention, which prompted a chat between Xiola and myself, and a call for tutorials and tips from Second Life users. The VWBPE conference for 2016 opened, and I presented a transcript (with audio) of Ebbe Altberg’s keynote address. We had our first hint of things to come at Fantasy Faire 2016, although the 2016 Sci Fi Convention warped in ahead of the actual event, while MadPea got ready to launch their latest in-world game, The Interview.
On the viewer front, Firestorm 4.7.7 arrived, with my usual review.
Other Worlds and AR/VR/MR
HTC Vive and Microsoft HoloLens Developer Kits pre-ordering opened – the latter at a heart-stopping US $3,000.
April Fools bought with it a little joke from the Lab, which went a bit flat for some due to the video failing to play nice in-world. Then things got serious with the launch of the private region buy-down offer, which proved popular for many. April also saw the first Premium membership offer of the year, with some thoughts from me (as usual). I also opted to look at Tyche Shepherd’s grid surveys on the occasion of her first full private region survey in 28 months. Meanwhile, the VWBPE 2016 proceedings were published, and I was able to give a further update on the Community Gateway API issue and visited the Hope RFL of SL photography exhibition.
Applications to participate in SL13B opened, Apple’s decision to suddenly drop QuickTime support for Windows caused a bit of a stir, and prompted the Lab to look at alternatives for media support – eventually settling on LibVLC. Fantasy Faire opened, and I celebrated with an little video, and later offered some reflections on the event, together with a video of Otherworld. Drax took a look at non-profits in SL, while Alchemy issued another update
In the press, another of my favourite writers, Cecilia D’Anastasio, returned to the subject of Second Life with Men Are Working Out Their Issues By Playing As Their Lovers and Exes in RPGs, and Emanuel Maiberg asked Why Is Second Life Still a Thing?, and I looked at both pieces.
Sansar and Other Worlds
We launched the first Stories at the Park event at Holly Kai Park, when writers produce 100-word stories and poems inspired by the art we have on display.
Morgane Tual, on-line edition of France’s Le Monde, kicked-off my month with Absurde, créatif et débauché : dix ans après, « Second Life » est toujours bien vivant (Absurd, creative and debauched: ten years later, “Second Life” is still alive), a marevellous piece on the platform which I couldn’t help but write about. MadPea indicated that UNIA, their sprawling Second Life game I previewed ahead of its opening in 2015 , would be coming to an end.
After a break to take care of Seanchai Library projects, Cale returned to these pages with the fourth part of her series, If You Just Build It, They Might Not Come, looking at promoting SL events. Lab Chat #3 took place, and I produced the audio / transcript, followed by a shorter summary.
More technical woes hit SL, and April Linden informed us about what went wrong. The Lab also gave advanced warning of the switch to TLS 1.2 in support of web payments (Marketplace, Lindex, etc) – although as time went by, mixed messages led to confusion over exactly which payments would be affected.
Bay City turned eight, and received special recognition from Child’s Play, while 1920s Berlin Project turned seven. Second Life rallied to help those impacted by the terrible Alberta wildfires, with Models Giving Back leading the charge. Creations for Parkinson’s also held a fund-raiser for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and Linden Lab once again announced there would be a Music Fest at the SL Birthday celebrations, while Lindex continued to fluctuate, floating all sorts of theories on the cause, including the idea that the region buy-down offer might in pert be responsible.
D.J. Pangborn penned a piece for The Creator Project (TCP), which appeared to offer insight into the revenue model for the platform – specifically charging for virtual services. Following my piece on the article, Peter Gray, the Lab’s Director of Global Communications, indicated that Mr. Pangborn may have confused Second Life and Sansar. Thanks to a Lab appearance at the Collision 2016 tech conference, we got an actual look inside Sansar.
I was delighted to report that a brilliant young film-maker, Radheya Jegatheva, son of Second Life’s Jayjay Zifanwe, had won the People’s Choice category in the MyFreoStory video competition, run by the City of Freemantle, Australia – with a little help from Second Life users.
Project Bento, the work to extend the SL avatar skeleton to better support mesh bodies (human and non-human) arrived on the main grid for a wider period of beta testing. I demonstrated Lumiya, the Android client for SL and OpenSim running on a low-end Windows system, and the SL13B Music Fest auditions took place.
With the viewer, the Visual Outfits Browser surfaced, and did the anticipated VLC Media plug-in viewer for Windows, with LibVLC replacing QuickTime; I looked at both. TLS 1.2 rolled out, and after the confusion about what would be affected, I wrote a little what is / what isn’t piece. Singularity issued an update, as did Alchemy, and I put out a call to Community Gateways.
Following the horrific events in Orlando, Florida, Second life residents once again rallied around, with Capser Warden leading the way. Elsewhere, the Meet the Lindens schedule for SL13B was announced, and I provided selected highlights (with audio) for Torley and Brett, Oz and Landon, Pete and Xiola, and Dee and Patch, plus full transcript (with audio) of Ebbe’s appearance.
The Other Bits
And throughout the year I attempted to keep people informed on the state of assorted SL technical projects, including both Avatar Complexity and Project Bento, as well are reporting on viewer news via the fortnightly (for the most part ) TPV Developer meetings. And of course my Space Sunday reports continued, looking at things literally out of this world 🙂 .