A fond “farewell” to our favourite Second Life Gridbun

April Linden’s info page in the SL17B “Meet the Lindens” campaign designed to provide SL residents with short profiles on 47 Lab employees who volunteered to take part. Image courtesy of Linden Lab

November 5th 2021 finds me an unhappy / happy bunny Second Life bunny supporter.

Unhappy, because the day marks the last working day April Linden has with Linden Lab, and the grid will be the poorer for her departure. Happy, because the day marks the start of a new chapter in her life and career.

For those (can there be any?) unfamiliar with April, she has, for the last seven years, been a member of the Lab’s Engineering Team, the group of engineers responsible for keeping the servers that run all of SL’s various services purring (or grinding) along.

For the last few years she has been managing that entire team – and has used that position to keep Second Life users informed of all that goes on – the good and the bad – with SL’s servers and systems. In this regard, she has been our Number One Gridbun – so called because of her instantly-recognisable purple bunny avatar.

I’m the manager of the Second Life Operations team! It’s my team that helps keep the servers that run Second Life running. It’s my job to make sure they’re well fed, have the coolest toys, and know that going on vacation is okay!

– April Linden, in her official profile

With some 20 years experience in systems engineering environments, April was one of the many Lab employees who came to the company by way of first being a resident user of Second Life. Her attraction to the platform came via the empowerment it gives people to express themselves positively in a variety of ways. For April this was both the freedom to create (she had her own regions as a user), and – perhaps more importantly – because Second Life gave her the opportunity to undertake self-exploration in a safe, open environment without fear of repercussion, as she noted in 2018:

I come from a background – well, I’ll just be frank, where LGBT issues were not to be discussed, and it was through Second Life that gave me the power and the anonymity and the courage, really, to learn more about myself. And Second Life gave me the power to make my life so much better.

– April Linden

In this respect, April is a living example of the Lab’s recognition and support of people’s right to positively express themselves within an environment that embraces diversity.

April probably came to the notice of many Second Life users through her informative and insightful blog posts that would explain What Went Wrong and Why (what I call her W4 blog posts) after significant issues.

The bunny and the wizard: April Linden poses with her former boss, Oz Linden for an SL16B  session

Reporting on technical issues and resolution had always been somewhat spotty where the Lab was concerned.  During the “old, old” days of the Second Life website and blog, updates were fairly frequent – potentially due to the need for “Black Wednesdays”, when the grid would be down for between 6 and 8 hours on that day for deployment purposes (and often longer if things did go sideways). However, some time around 2008/9, communications became somewhat splotchy across the board, and technical updates a rate thing. Frank Ambrose (F.J. Linden) attempted to reverse this, up until his departure from the Lab at the end of 2011, but it was not until April took up the mantle once more that we were given informative and engaging blog posts on W4 situations.

And I really do mean informative and engaging – April has a way with words coupled with a deep understanding of the hardware and architecture running Second Life that she could communicate what had happened and what had been done to both rectify a situation and to try to prevent its recurrence in a way that many, many, users came to appreciate. So much so that, after particularly disruptive events, the first question that tended to be asked at User Group meetings tended to be, “Will April be blogging about what happened?”

In this respect, April did much to follow through on the re-opening of Lab / user communications initiated by Ebbe Altberg after he took over as the company’s CEO, and helped give users the confidence that communications really were opening up after a noticeable period without them.

April’s farewell announcement

Most recently, April has been key to leading the Engineering Team through out Project Uplift – the work to lift, transition and place all of SL’s complex systems and services from a dedicated operational environment and into “the cloud” and Amazon AWS hardware and infrastructure. With the completion of the physical moves, she and her team have been engaged in the post-uplift work to better bed systems into their new environment and leverage new monitoring and engineering capabilities offered by AWS.

April announced her departure via Twitter, and the news was immediately responded to with a wave of well-wishing mixed with regret at see her leave the Lab. And it its true, April will be missed – not just because of her blog posts, but also because of her bright outlook and irrepressible positivity.  Whoever takes over from her has some awfully big (bunny) shoes to fill.

To April, I can only repeat what I said in my own reply to her tweet – that I wish her every success with her new career path and all the very best for the future. BUT – I’m not going to say “goodbye”, as I’m absolutely sure that she’s find the time to remain a part of Second Life as an active resident.

An Accidental No Exit in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Milena Carbone – No Exit

No Exit is the title of the latest 2D art exhibition hosted by Dido Haas at her Nitroglobus Roof Gallery. It features the images and words of Milena Carbone, and is very much something of an “accidental” exhibition which still nevertheless offers food for thought – something Milena is prone to do with her art.

I’ll let Dido explain why No Exit might be considered an “accidental” exhibit:

[Milena] initially intended to work on a totally different project. However, this was cancelled due to her RL work as well as to her lack of motivation. So the images shown at the walls of the gallery this month were not created for an exhibition. Instead they were taken from the stream of images which Milena regularly produces for herself.
I made the selection and pointed out to Milena that there were always two characters in each image, .which made Milena think of the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s play “No exit” (“Huis clos” in French). And voila the title for this exhibition was born.

– Dido Haas, explaining the origins of No Exit

The connection between Satre and images is important to understand, because – as if so often the case with Milena’s work, there is a philosophical theme running through No Exit that invites consideration and, by nature of the framing of the play’s own central theme.

The title of the play actual comes from the French legal term “in camera”, denoting a private discussion behind closed doors; within it, three deceased people find themselves trapped in a room with no exit, doomed to face eternity with only one another’s company. Thus they are faced with Satre’s truth that “hell is other people” (L’enfer, c’est les autres), itself a reflection of his fascination with existentialism (perhaps most notably through L’Être et le néant), and of the internal struggle that arises when forced to view oneself from both the point of view (that is solely from how they see you in a particular moment) and the perspective (i.e. how they perceive you and your actions within the broader context of their own cultural and societal influences and personal biases / experiences) of another consciousness.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Milena Carbone – No Exit

However, before delving into these deeper themes,  I would emphasise that these are images that can be seen and appreciated entirely in their own right and free from any more layer thinking. In fact, I would say they should be seen in this manner before being contextualised within the broader scope of theme and Satre’s world of ontological thinking; there is a beautiful minimalism to every piece that renders it fully as moment of narrative, encouraging us to freely construct a story around it, or to simply appreciate its form, tone, framing and expression.

When Milena’s theme and Satre’s ideas are taken into consideration, these are images that taken on an entirely new depth. Take, for example, XXI Century. On the surface, a simple image of two women with different cultural heritages posing for a photograph – be they friends or relatives, it makes no difference. But, add the title of the piece into the equation, together with the fact one of the women is wearing an al-amira, and a more complex narrative emerges, that invokes thoughts of the manner in which during the first 21 years of the 21st century has continued to see the impact of “otherism” – the ostracising of those whose dress, system of belief and place of origin mark them as “different” and thus not to be trusted or allowed. It’s a negative attitude that has gripped many to the point of being without any exit; yet, were they to step outside of the strictures of peer / societal pressure, then the reality that we are all of one, single unique race would become that much harder to ignore.

Elsewhere, the questioning of self, and other others see is more direct (e.g. within Difference, Asymmetry, and The Invitation (the latter’s use of Black and white being particularly effective in bringing for the idea of differencing outlooks / perspectives that challenge our own). Whilst 7 Billion Bullets most clearly questions our entire attitude towards the preciousness of an individual life.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Milena Carbone – No Exit

This image also leans itself to the central cube that sits between the two arms of the exhibition hall. Apparently open from the outside, in stepping in, it becomes a closed room with no exit – a physical representation of the room from Huis clos. Here we are forced to confront the fact that we are all essentially locked in rooms of self – everything we see or experience generates our world-view, making us all, in essence selfish; the imprint of those around us, through their thoughts and actions, rightly or wrongly, shaping our own views and outlooks, thus trapping us in our own hell of thought and convictions.

The words here carry both a startling reality of creating our own hell and – conversely – of allowing ourselves to become trapped in thinking that encourages us to retain that hell. The former is most succinctly stated through the commentary that global ammunition production means that each year, sufficient bullets are produced to wipe out all of humanity. Whether or not one is rooted in “the right to bear arms”, this is a grotesque factoid.; how much better might it be if the money poured into arms and ammunition were to be devoted to green sources of energy, improved food production, medicine and education?

Conversely, the fact that we are trapped within this one world is not an argument against attempting to expand elsewhere. For one thing, we are a naturally expansive race – and right now, we have nowhere else to go – a point of increasing concern given Earth’s finite resources. More to the point, space has more than anything else, given us the means to truly understand the fragility of this world and to actually start to take constructive (if limited) action to curtail damaging activities. For 60+ years, we have simply failed to more properly respond to what as been revealed, trapped as we have become in a materialistic, selfish need to have with no apparent exit – and pointing the finger of blame to a billionaire or two isn’t going to change (much less reverse) that; we – you, me, Milena, et al, are equally as guilty.

Milena is, I understand, absent from Second Life due to those physical world commitments mentioned above, and is liable to remain so for a while. As such, whether or not you are drawn to the philosophical / ontological expressions found with No Exit, or if you would simply like to again experience the attractiveness of her art for its own sake, this is an exhibition well worth witnessing.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Milena Carbone – No Exit