2016: a look back at Second Life and more – part 1

A look back through this blog's 2016 coverage
A look back through this blog’s 2016 coverage

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.

January

Telrunya - Forest of Dreams; Inara Pey, January 2016, on Flickr Telrunya – Forest of Dreams – one of my first region visits for the 2016 Exploring Second Life series

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.

Sansar

I offered some thoughts on Wearable’s coverage of Sansar, and the platform also formed a focus of the 2nd Lab Chat event (see the link above).

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.

Personal

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.

January Travels January Art Reviews
A journey through Nightfall Images and sculptures at The Living Room
Let it Snow! Through a Blogger’s Eyes in Second Life
Discovering The Keys in Second Life Windlight Fellows January-February 2016
A dreamer’s forest in Second Life The pastel world of Silas Merlin in Second Life
A medieval meander in Second Life Bananas, trumpets, trailblazers and cacti
Stepping through the Gates of Memories in Second Life Cica’s Beginners in Second Life
Return to an enchanted Cauldron in Second Life Dutch Masters at Holly Kai Garden
High Water in Second Life Seanchai Library’s Crazy Eights in Second Life

February

The cost of experience ownership in Sansar still has yet to be determined, and will be influenced by other factors - and may be pitched on an "experimental" based when initially announced
New images of Sansar made their debut in February 2016

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.

Cale continued her series on events promotion in Second Life, with parts two and three, and an address by the Dalai Lama to the Mayo Clinic was relayed into Second Life.

Sansar

Further images of Sansar were released, prompting further debate, while comments at the January Lab chat left me pondering on maps and metaphors, to the consternation of some!

Other Worlds

High Fidelity played with 200 avatars in a single location, looked at a commerce project and got into scanning faces. Amazon launched Lumberyard for games developers.

Personal

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.”

February Travels February Art Reviews
Calas Galadhon re-opens Thea and CioTToLiNa at The Living Room
Experience the Adirondacks in Second Life Terrygold’s Visions in Second Life
Visiting The Village in Second Life Exploring the City in Second Life
Sorrow’s Snow in Second Life Getting some Funky Junk  in Second Life
The Yorkshire Moors in Second Life Within the Shadows of a Dream  in Second Life
Casablanca: a classic movie in Second Life Holly Kai Art at the Park February / March
Free-form role-play in Second Life Wounded Angels in Second Life
 Spellbound by Imesha in Second Life TerpsiCorps ARTWerks; Performance Art in Second Life

March

The HTC Vive and Microsoft HoloLens: available to pre-order (sort-of in the case of the HoloLens)
The HTC Vive and Microsoft HoloLens became available for pre-order in March

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.

Personal

I updated this blog’s menus system to hopefully make finding information easier, and continued fiddling with the island home.

March Travels March Art Reviews
A return to Binemist in Second Life Slow Motion riot and a nude in Second Life
A little bit of Hemingway in Second Life Artists and solitude in Second Life
A story of a summar affair in Second Life Skip Staheli at The Living Room
Finnish legends and auroral displays in Second Life Of Heritage and Wrecks in Second Life
At home at The Mill in Second Life The Edge: fashion and art in Second Life
A return to Ironwood Hills in Second Life Terrygold’s Black Box in Second Life
Enjoying spring at The Trace in Second Life The Good Days for art in Second Life
Follow Your Bliss in Second Life The universes of Barry Richez in Second Life
Visiting Nowhere in Second Life Shorelines and solitudes in Second Life
A Cheerful Visit in Second Life Essence and existence in Second Life
A return to Baker Street in Second Life Strawberries with Cica in Second Life
A visit to the 18th Century in Second Life Chronophobia and Mementos Mori in Second Life
Waiting for the hurricane in Second Life Balance and a Clockwork Skimmer in Second Life

April

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

Linden Lab opened applications for the Creator Preview programme, while High Fidelity moved to an “open beta.”

Personal

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.

April Travels April Art Reviews
Mediterranean meditations in Second Life April at The Living Room
Travelling through Noire’Leans in Second Life Poems and art in Second Life
Oriental mornings in Second Life Thoughts of light and form in Second Life
Stepping into Luane’s World in Second Life A Queen’s Gambit declined in Second Life
Capturing the Lake District in Second Life Walking by Moonlight in Second Life
Serenity and tranquillity in Second Life Gravity is a Mistake in Second Life
A rugged corner of England in Second Life Red – Girls – Hot – Fruit in Second Life
The serenity of Peacehaven in Second Life Serotoin Reuptake Inhibitor in Second Life
Landing in New Caelestium in Second Life Silas Merlin: Pastels and Mirrors in Second Life
The hidden paths of Osprey Ridge in Second Life Celebrating Derry and Bear at Holly Kai Garden

May

Inside Sansar, courtesy of Linden Lab
May gave us our first look inside Sansar, courtesy of Linden Lab

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.

Sansar

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.

Personal

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.

May Travels May Art Reviews
Of Pirates and airships in Second Life Gem Preiz: a retrospective in Second Life
Savouring a Honeycomb in Second Life Mysterio Hifeng at The Living Room
A Playa of a different kind in Second Life Solitude at Dathúil
Enjoying Rosemoor in Second Life May at Holly Kai Park in Second Life
Returning to Alki in Second Life Imagine in Second Life
Recreating buckingham Palace in Second Life Lyrical Abstraction in Second Life
A summer’s farewell to Frisland Silas Merlin at Visions of Beauty in Second Life
Visiting Royaume de Versailles in Second Life Postcards from the Subconscious in Second Life
A Beautiful Suicide  in Second Life Flowing through The Path in Second Life
The art of nature in Second Life
Cica’s web in Second Life
Art in trees and Tiny hosts in Second Life
A Small World for art in Second Life
Surrealism in Second Life

June

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.

Sansar

Ebbe Altberg talked Sansar at the 7th annual Augmented World Expo.

Personal

Cale and I continued our experiment with Stories at the Park, and definitely had something popular on our hands. At home, work progressed on the island.

June Travels June Art Reviews
A trip to the Countryside in Second Life Mourningstar: exploring a fallen angel in Second Life
A Snuggles Forest in Second Life UTSA re-opens its gallery
Standing at The Gates of Melancholy in Second Life Landscapes and Anatomies in Second Life
Visiting an eternal corner of Second Life Galerie 17 re-opens in Second Life
Journeying through The looking Glass in Second Life Cica’s Keys in Second Life
La Vie in Second Life Terrygold’s Windows in Second Life
A new take on free-form role-play in Second life Organic Geometry in Second Life
Enjoying a tropical Smile in Second Life MetaLES at seven in Second Life

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 🙂 .

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