Opinion: LL, NFTs and a “WTH?” moment in Second Life

via Linden Lab

On Thursday, October 21st, Linden Lab took to their blog and to social media to announce the Zenescope x Second Life Sweepstake. Featuring some 40 NFTs – non-fungible tokens – the announcement met with a certain amount of “WTH?” reactions, my own among them.

The NFTs concerned are produced by Epik, and are focused on a series of digital images related characters from the Zenescope Entertainment’s “Grimm universe” (that is, characters somehow connected to stories associated with the Brothers Grimm).

Some may recall that Zenescope (and Epik) are in a partnership with Linden Linden that launched on August 4th with the opening of the “Zenescope Metaverse” in Second Life; a place promoted by LL as “bursting with magic and mystery” where people could “Experience storytelling and comic books in a whole new way”, a “huge” region “so highly detailed that it might just take several visits to see everything”, but which I found decidedly underwhelming.

The sweepstake is a continuance of that partnership, and marks a further extension of it that many SL users may not have been aware of, so I’ll just dip into here to offer a little more context.

As a part of this partnership, October saw Epik start to offer through their Epikprime marketplace, NFTs tied to nine individual Zenescope character images (apparently sponsored by LL) in various quantities. So, for example The Gretel and Belle images each have 1,000 NFTs (with each NFT having a minimum price of $27.00) while the Sky Mathers image only has 125 NFTs (with each NFT having a minimum price of $147.00.

For sweepstake prizes, I believe LL has taken 10 each of the NFTs bound to the Belle, Gretel and Cinderella images, and a further 10 from a “Halloween” image to be issued on October 25th.

What is an NFT?

VERY simply put for the purposes of this article: an NFT is a digital “certificate of authenticity” created using blockchain technology that represents an easily-reproduceable digital item (a piece of art or music, a game, a document or photograph, etc.), recording the provenance of that item – its origination (creator, date + time of creation, etc), and its subsequent chronology of ownership / custody location in the digital ether. 

It is the uniqueness of the data in the NFT that generates its value, not the item to which is bound, which can still be copied and shared just like any other file on the Internet.

One of the character image / NFTs purchase pages on the Epik Marketplace – Gretel is one of the characters for which NFTs are being offered as prizes in the sweepstake

When it was launched, the Second Life / Zenescope / Epik partnership was framed by LL as a part of a drive to expose SL to potential new audiences. But as noted, the “Zenescope Metaverse” revealed itself as a tepid environment, and even now, some 2.5 months later shows no sign of delivering on  hyperbole surrounding its launch, or present itself as a gateway into SL for Zenescope readers. Of course, that could change quickly – I’ve no idea what LL / Zenescope have planned; but right now it does feel like a hollow promise, and combining it with the sweepstake event leaves one feeling the whole LL / Zenescope / Epik partnership is decidedly lopsided and lacking in reciprocity¹.

Insofar as the sweepstake itself is concerned, another cause of a “WTH?!” reaction came when reading the rules for entry as published by the Lab. To whit:

[winners] may be required to execute and return an affidavit of eligibility, a liability release and, where lawful, a publicity release within seven (7) days of date of issuance

– from the Winners Notification section of the sweepstake rules

And:

Each winner, by acceptance of prize, except where legally prohibited, grants permission for Sponsor and its designees to use his/her name, address (city and state), photograph, voice and other likeness and prize information for advertising, trade and promotional purposes without further compensation, in all media (including digital media) now known or hereafter discovered, worldwide in perpetuity, without notice or review or approval.

– from the General Conditions section of the sweepstake rules

Obviously, given NFTs are intended to prove the provenance of a digital collectable, the recording of the owner’s identity in some form is to be expected. However, that the Lab – a company that has traditionally prided itself on respecting its users’ anonymity – should offer the suggestion that any personal information might be requested could be passed to whomever they designate (such as Zenescope and Epik) for purposes of their advertising and promotion, makes for uncomfortable reading².

For me the biggest “WTH?” reaction, however, came with the idea that Linden Lab – a company that oft wears its social conscience on its sleeve  – would opt to engage with a technology (blockchain) and format (NFTs) that has been repeatedly shown to be environmentally unsound.

The most common blockchain environment used to create and curate NFTs is Etherium. According to the Digiconomist website, a single Ethereum transaction, such as creating an NFT or selling it, a carbon footprint of about 33.4 kg of CO2 – the equivalent to 74,000 Visa card transactions or watching 5700 hours of You Tube videos, – and consumes enough electrical energy to power an average US household for a period of 6 days³. Others put the impact of individual NFT transactions even higher, indicating the “minting” of an NFT produces up to 83 Kg of CO2 and consumes up to142 KWh of electricity (enough to power the average US house for around 12 days), with an subsequent transactions generating an average of 48 Kg of CO2 each.

So, if I’m reading the Epik marketplace pages correctly, if all 5,125 “Zenescope x Second Life” NFTs currently being promoted. are all minted, they will generate a total carbon footprint of 171,175 kg (using the Digiconomist figures), with a further 33.4 Kg added with each sale or other transaction related to each of them. By comparison, were 5,125 print of the images to be made and individually shipped anywhere in the world, each would only generate (according to Quartz and others) a carbon footprint of just 2.3-2.6 Kg, it’s a far more ecologically responsible option.

True, printed copies removes the animated uniqueness of the actual images – but this could be compensated for by the prints being individually signed and numbered by the artist., something that would also help the prints maintain there resell value. And you’re thinking any such resale value would be less than that of any NFT equivalent, let’s just be honest: these particular NFTs really aren’t going to set the NFT collector market on fire and demand stellar prices.

But if LL feels it must jump on the NFT hype train, then I cannot help but agree with this tweet on the subject:

SecondLie may be a parody account with a slick hand for the snark – but it can also offer clear and honest commentary

Obviously, this is in many ways easier said than done, but there are potential opportunities to be had:

  • It would demonstrate LL’s engagement with and support of their own users and platform, removing the perception they are simply “shilling” (to use a term that has popped up in several places in reference to this sweepstake) for a third party.
  • Properly promoted and broadcast, the availability of NFTs produced through SL could speak to the world about relevance of the platform as a place of creative endeavour and expression, potentially encouraging other artists from all walks to come and give it a go.
  • It could be combined with other opportunities for outreach and promotion to more broadly demonstrate the “multi-role” nature of Second Life in addressing use-cases from all walks of life, and offer a place of relaxation, learning, fun, business, and so on at a time when others are still struggling to define what they mean by “metaverse”.

As it is, this “sweepstake” is generating a lot of “likes” and “loves” on social media – although it is hard to tell if this is the result of people actually reading the associated blog post / wanting to winner one of the prizes, or simply the result of instinctively clicking the “like” / “love” icon in response to a posting from an official SL social media account. Whether it results in the Lab seeing this particular offer a “success” and thus worth possibly repeating, or whether they’ll heed the largely negative comments that have similarly left on said social media posts and so think twice about any repeat, I’ve no idea. Purely from my own perspective, I’d rather they didn’t run with any repeat, and instead continue to devote their time and effort on those things that are actually going to raise broader awareness of SL’s continued presence, vitality and relevance – and which can encourage people to come and experience the platform for themselves.

  1. It was recently pointed out to me that Aura Linden recently opened a viewer repository focused on puppeteering, something which has lead to some wild speculation on my part. Might this be a means LL are looking to use within the Zenescope region to allow visitors to “Experience storytelling and comic books in a whole new way”, through the use of NPCs based on the characters being promoted via Epik? Given the state of the repository code, this does seems an awfully long guess (and so probably wrong).
  2. I have actually contacted LL on this and the idea of distributing personal information, but have yet to receive a reply.
  3. And if you think that is bad, Bitcoin is even worse: Digiconomist estimate a single transaction carries a carbon footprint equivalent to 1,880.406 Visa card transactions or watching 141,404 hours of You Tube videos, while consuming enough electrical energy to run an average US household for two months!

Looking at the (award-winning) Second Life video ad

A still from Children of Creation, Linden Lab / Leverage Media

During the Lab Gab special on Monday, June 21st, that featured board member and Executive Chair Brad Oberwager (Oberwolf Linden) and the SL leadership team of Grumpity, Patch and Brett Linden, a “commercial break” was taken to show – I believe for the first time – a complete advertising cut of the video filmed for Second life as a collaborative project between Linden Lab and  Levitate Media.

I’ve extracted the video via timestamps and embedded it at the end of this article so it can be seen without the interviews that come on either side of it, and during the show, Brett linden revealed more about it:

  • The overall project for the video has the internal title at the Lab of The Children of Creation.
  • The version shown (and embedded below) is one of several cuts of the recorded film, and is specifically geared towards teasing out the ideas of freedom of expression and imagination taking flight, hence the emphasis on flying.
  • Other cuts of the video (I believe from Brett’s comments) emphasise Second life in other ways, some offering a “considerable amount” of Second Life footage, and a “directors cut” that does not really show the virtual world, but acts as a teaser.
  • The ad (as seen here) was entered into the 2021 Telly Awards for artistic achievement in video advertising, where it received the following adjudicated awards:
    • Gold Telly winner – Online Commercials Craft-Visual Effects.
    • Gold Telly winner – People’s Telly General-Online Commercials.
    • Silver Telly winner – Online Commercials Craft-Music/Jingle.
    • Silver telly winner – Online Commercials Craft-Directing.
  • The video is regarded as a “concept  ad” and has not as yet been widely deployed as a part of any advertising or other campaign. However, there are plans to discretely test some of the edits (including the “director’s cut”).

You can list to Brett’s comment on the ad below:

Personal Viewpoint

From a purely personal perspective, I think the advert as shown works pretty well; the images are well-matched to the narration, and the overall impact is the idea of liberation and freedom of expression. The intercuts of changing avatar appearances particularly underscores this, as do more subtle elements (take the still used as the banner image for this article, for example – the person / avatar flying away from the bright “Hive” sign, alluding to escaping humdrum, unified thinking and moving to new horizons). There is also a good sense of mystery to the ad that present the encouragement to go find out more about what it means

However, I have to caveat this by saying the phrase “if you’re travelling beyond this life” perhaps doesn’t sit as well as it might, given that terms like “beyond this life” are often using in reference to people passing on. This and other phrasing in the video might push uninitiated ears towards thinking the add is about some kind of cult or similar, rather than promoting a digital world; perhaps “beyond this world” might have been a better choice of words.

I’d be curious to learn how well the ad (and variations thereof) sit with assorted audiences, and maybe we’ll find out in time. For now, however, here’s the ad as shown during Lab Gab.

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Opinion: in consideration of Ebbe and the Lab’s next CEO

Source: Google

Friday brought the sad news that Ebbe Altberg, the CEO of Linden Research Inc., had passed away. And while it is perhaps too soon to be thinking about things as people are still coming to terms with the news, polls, comments and opinions have nevertheless already started circulating as to the kind of CEO the company should now look towards.

Chief among the opinions being expressed is that it should be “someone who has been in Second Life for a good amount of time and has plenty of experience.” But is this accurate?

Ebbe Altberg: perhaps linden Lab’s most successful CEO. Souce: Linden Lab

As I noted in  my own tribute to Ebbe, while he did come to Linden Lab with a good degree of foreknowledge – his son Aleks had been very successful with the Teen Grid before transitioning to the Main grid, and Ebbe himself was a close friend of Jed Smith, the former chairman of the Lab’s board; as he readily admitted himself, he was not in any way either a long-term user of the platform or who had “plenty of experience” with it prior to joining the company.

And yet, as we’ve all noted over the pass several days since the news broke, Ebbe has been without a doubt, the most popular of CEOs at the Lab among users. His tenure was by no means perfect, but overall his presence strengthened both company and principal product enormously – up to and including spinning-off a revenue-generating subsidiary that in time might help both, in the form of Tilia Pay.

Thus, I would suggest that the qualities needs for CEO are not so much any deep / long-term exposure to or involvement in Second Life, but rather the qualities and skills needed to manage and lead a company and leverage the strengths inherent in its management team and staff. In this, I would say that long-time friend and commentator R.( R. Dismantled) has summed up the requirements of any incoming CEO the best:

Not a celebrity, but a manager of managers, making the good and difficult decisions. And not just talk and hype and making Second Life something it isn’t, but making it better…

… I hope that the next person entrusted to manage the managers of our weird little social soap bubble will be cut from the same cloth.

– R. (R. Dismantled) commenting on this blog

From the outset, Ebbe was “a manager of managers”. He trusted those reporting into him to run their departments in a manner that would best support the company, its core product and its users. At the same time, he was prepared to make the necessary hard choices to swing the company back onto a more solid course of product development – shutting down the Creatorverse, dio and Versu projects almost immediately (and later allowing the creators of Versu to spin it off into its own platform), winding down work on Patterns and selling Desura, whilst allowing Blocksworld to serve its community through until mid-2020. And – while it may not have entirely worked out as hoped – he set the company on paths that might seen the development of additional revenue-generating opportunities, through both the aforementioned Tilia Pay and through the development of Sansar.

Ebbe Linden, aka Ebbe Altberg.  Credit; Strawberry Singh

There’s also the fact that the CEO’s brief is a broad one, encompassing skills and abilities far beyond general team leadership and product understanding.

While such skills can be acquired from within organisation, they do make promotion from within potentially more difficult even when – from an outside perspective, at least – there may appear to be “obvious” candidates, simply because they do take time to acquire and effectively wield.

As such, the “hire from without / promote from within” is a difficult path to tread – with the latter aspect further compounded by the fact that even if there are potential candidates within the organisation that could transition and acquire the skills of a CEO over time – they may not actually want to do so, simply because it means they must relinquish aspects of their work they actually enjoy the most.

In the specific case of Linden Research, things are perhaps further compounded by the fact that Ebbe Altberg was somewhat unique in his background. This spanned running large and small corporate entities, presenting him with the broadest base of skillsets, and was coupled with his own “left-brain / right brain” balance of technical and creative skills and knowledge that – even without a long-standing involvement in Second life – provided him with a solid foundation for quickly understanding the complexities of the platform and its communities of users with their needs once he was at his desk at the Lab.

There is also another factor to consider here: does the Lab actually need someone to take over directly as CEO?

Since the acquisition process closed-off at the end of 2020, incoming investor Brad Oberwager has been conspicuous in the degree to which he has been hands-on in his role as Executive Chair within the management team, as reported by the likes of Grumipty, Brett and Patch Linden at various in-world events. Mr. Oberwagerf has also brought long-term business partner/colleague Cammy Bergren into the LL fold as the company’s Chief of Staff.

Linden Lab’s Chief of Staff, Cammy Bergren (centre left) and Board member / Executive Chairman, Brad Oberwager (centre right) and their respective avatars. Both appear to have been very much at the helm of Linden Lab since Mr. Oberwager and his fellow investors acquired the company at the end of 2020.

Between them, they have considerable experience in running corporate entities, and as such are well-placed to steer Linden Lab through the next several months without the need for any immediate appointment from without or within, giving staff more time to deal with the loss of Ebbe whilst ensuring both the company and Second Life adjust and move forward under a broader management umbrella (I exclude Tilia Pay here as that entity appears to be almost entirely self-managing).

So, with all that being said, right now it is far too early to be considering “what ifs” and “who mights” in terms of the role of CEO at the Lab. Ebbe’s legacy is huge and something that we should all spend more time reflecting upon  – and we should allow Linden Lab space to reflect on the  loss of a man they knew better than the rest of us, rather than speculating on “who should be next”.

Oz Linden announces his forthcoming departure from Linden Lab

Oz Linden, circa 2014

On Tuesday, February 16th, 2021, and in a surprise to Second Life users, Linden Lab’s Vice President of Engineering, Oz Linden (aka Scott Lawrence in the physical world) announced his forthcoming departure from the Lab.

Oz joined Linden Lab in 2010, taking on the role of Director of Open Development. At that time, the viewer was in something of a state of flux; the “new” Viewer 2 had not long been launched, the development of which had largely excluded the user community and, particularly, developers who had long been associated with viewer development through the submission of code contributions.

As a result of this and other factors, users and developers alike were at the time feeling alienated and disenfranchised – facts that Oz immediately recognised and sought to address.

In the first instance this was done by replacing the open-source viewer Snowglobe project with a new Snowstorm project, intended to bring as much of the viewer development out into the open as possible – an approach Oz continued to push for throughout his time at the Lab, thus bringing order and surety out of a time that might be best described as having been “chaotic”.

The most obvious areas in which this was demonstrated was his adoption of weekly Open Source Meetings, initially held on Mondays before moving to their current Wednesday slot. These meetings continued alongside other technical in-world meetings such as the Server and Scripter meeting(now the weekly Simulator User Group), which took place even during the drought of other office hours meetings. He also implement the fortnightly Third Party Viewer Development meetings, allow Third Party Viewer developers to discuss all matters relating to the viewer directly with him and members of the Lab’s viewer engineering team.

In 2013, Oz oversaw the complete overhaul of the Lab’s internal viewer develop process, officially called the Viewer Integration and Release Process, which greatly simplified viewer update and viewer feature development. This project also brought me into my first direct contact with Oz when I offered a summary of the new process.  It marked the start of a long and informative acquaintance that I’ve continued to appreciate over the years.

As well as direct contributions to the viewer, Oz also helped open the door to user-led projects aimed at providing broader capabilities for the viewer. While constraints on what could / could not be accepted would always have to be enforced, this approach nevertheless resulted in the adoption of materials in Second Life, and helped to encourage project-based contributions to the viewer that have included capabilities such as the hover height slider, and graphics and camera presets. This approach also included major lab-led projects such as Project Bento also encompass direct user involvement pretty much from their outset.

While it has always been the Lab’s policy to try to recruit personnel from the ranks of users as and when there is a suitable “fit”, in his time at the Lab, Oz has become perhaps one of the most enthusiastic proponents of this approach, frequently seeking – and often succeeding – to recruit qualified users into technical positions under his management.

Oz in his human form. Credit: Linden Lab

As the Lab opted to start work on Project Sansar, Oz decided to pro-actively campaign to take on the work in continuing to develop Second Life, drawing to him those within the Lab who also wished to stay engaged in working on the platform. It is not unfair to say this resulted in one of the most intense periods of Second Life development we have seen, interrupted only be the need to focus on the work of transitioning all of Second Life and its services to run on AWS.

In 2019, Oz – together with Grumpity and Patch Linden – officially joined the Lab’s management team, taking on the role of Vice President of Engineering and putting an official seal on what Grumpity refers to as the Troika: the three of them being largely responsible for determining much of the product and feature direction for Second Life.

In announcing his departure, which sees his last day with the Lab being Friday, February 26th, 2021, Oz states that it has been something he’s been considering for a while:

Some time ago, I reached the point that I could afford to think about retiring but decided to stay to finish moving SL to its new cloud platform. I can’t imagine a better last act in my working life than ensuring that Second Life has this better platform for its future growth. Now that project is done (well, except for a few loose ends), and it’s time for me to move on to the next phase of my life.

He also emphasises – hopefully to prevent the rumour mill turning its wheels – that his decision to leave the Lab is not in any way connected to the company recently being acquired by new investors:

I want to emphasise in the strongest possible terms: my decision has nothing at all to do with the change in ownership of the Lab; the timing really is a coincidence. If anything, I regret that I have overlapped with them for only a few weeks; in that time (and in the time leading up to the change) I have come to respect and appreciate the skills and energy they bring to the company.

For my part, I cannot claim to know Oz as well as I would like to – but I’ve always found find his enthusiasm for Second Life never to be anything less than totally honest and infectious, and his high regard for users utterly genuine and sincere.

As such – and while his actual departure from the Lab is still more than a week away,  – I’d like to take this opportunity to offer him a personal and public “thank you” for all the times he’s provided me with insight and / or encouraged me to get involved in various projects, all of it has been greatly appreciated. I am, and will be, genuinely saddened to see him leave the Lab; we are all losing something in his departure, and the void left will not be easy for the management team to fill.

Second Life land and users in 2020, via Tyche Shepherd

Sunset at home in Second Life

The last few months of 2020 saw Tyche Shepherd release some brief summaries related to Second Life that – as always – make for interesting reading for those interested in the general state of the platform.

In the first, a tweet Tyche issued in October, we were offered insight into general use of the platform in terms of sign-up and concurrency. It came as a the last in a brief series of tweets from Tyche on the subject that started after the Lab indicated that with the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, they were seeing an increase in general usage of the platform, particularly among returning users.

Following-on from Tweets in June -, Tyche confirmed that overall, median concurrency on the platform saw clear growth in March through mid-May (when the first ’bout of lockdowns hit a fair portion of the world  due to the pandemic, before gradually falling through until mid-August, when a further “bump” occurred that lasted through until October (when Tyche made her Tweet). She also showed that overall, median concurrency remained well above that seen in 2019.

SL concurrency, March-October 2020. Credit: Tyche Shepherd

That concurrency is up can be taken as a good sign; it means that more people are engaging in the platform at any given period, allowing greater opportunities for interactions  – which can be particularly important for incoming new users looking for things to do and people to meet. However, it is with regards to the latter that Tyche’s observations have been more mixed.

On the one hand, the second graphic included in her tweet appears to in part confirm commentary from the Lab itself: that 2020 has seen an upswing in the number of users returning to the platform, whilst also suggesting that – again, understandably, given the pandemic – that existing users were spending longer in-world in 2020 that had been the case in recent years. All of which is also to the good (particularly if returning users find reasons to maintain their engagement in the platform once more).

Second Life new user sign-ups 2020. Credit: Tyche Shepherd

However, on the other, the graphic reveals a niggling concern: whilst sign-up have remained relatively stable for a number of years, with occasional peaks and crevasses, 2020 saw a distinct decline in sign-ups from the end of March through until early October, despite an initial spike in sign-ups in the March-April period, again potentially fuelled by the pandemic. In particular, the drop-off not only saw sign-ups fall below the average set in the first two months of 2020, but also fall and remain below average sign-ups seen throughout 2019.

As such, Tyche’s figures tend to suggest that, while the Lab is determined to grow SL’s user base through the attraction of new users – a programme it has, to varying degrees,  indicated it has been focused on since around mid-2019 – there is still a lot to be done in this area, if the hoped-for growth is to be realised. However, this is somewhat tempered by the fact that given the rise in median concurrency is in part fueled by returning users, it demonstrates that the Lab is correct in focusing a portion of its marketing efforts towards former users who have drifted away for one reason or another.

Land use – or more correctly, grid size – is another metric Tyche tracks, providing as she does regular reports on the overall size of the main grid and the comings and goings of both private and “Linden owned” regions. While the relative size of the grid, if looked at in and of itself only, can be a false or misleading indicator of the overall state of SL, tracking the number of private regions does help in building a picture of LL’s core revenue flow – region tier.

On January 3rd, 2021, Tyche tweeted her year-end analysis on private region numbers, revealing that 2020 saw an overall net growth of some 919 private regions (Full and Homestead) through the year, representing a 5.7% increase.

Second Life private regions in 2020. Credit: Tyche Shepherd

The majority of this growth came in two bursts: mid-April through to the end of May (with one significant period of shrinkage during the week to Sunday, May 10th, 2020), and then November-December 2020, immediately following the period of unavailability of new regions through the mid-months of the year resulting from the work transitioning SL to AWS services.

While the increase in the size of the grid is not exceptional when compared to increases seen prior to 2011/2012, it is still positive, indicating that there is a general willingness among users to invest in land, helping the Lab’s bottom line. The uptick in 2020 has meant that when the general reduction of Linden-held regions through the year is taken into account, the total number of regions in the grid grew by 3.3%.

Given the difficulties of 2020, Tyche’s figures tend to show Second Life held its own through what has been what might be termed a less-than-optimal year. With the Lab looking to further ramp-up advertising in 2021 (and perhaps further tweaking of the on-boarding process), it’ll be interesting to see how the overall level of users / size of the grid fares through the year.

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Fourteen years, Oh my!

Contemplating fourteen years

I logged into Second life to receive a greeting from Johan Neddings congratulating my on reaching my fourteen rezday – and I have to state that, but for his IM (And tweet, when I looked at Twitter!), the date honestly would not have registered with me at all.

While I try not to bring the personal and the physical world into this blog too much, the fact is that 2020 has been a real stinker of a year for all of us, thanks in large part to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which has impacted so many people around the world in so many ways, and in relation to work and things, I’m no exception. There have also been some personal matters, particularly in the last month or so and which will continue through the next few months to varying degrees, that mean SL is not currently a primary focus for me, although I am trying to keep abreast of news and articles.

Within Second Life, 2020 has certainly been interesting. On the technical front, things have clearly been dominated by Project Uplift and the Lab getting everything transitioned to run on Amazon AWS services. Much could be said about this,but I think the most important aspect to it is that while some remaining services have yet to be migrated, and we have yet to go through a period of fine-tuning / performance tweaking, overall, the entire process has been really smooth. Yes, there are some visible teething problems that need to be sorted, but when you consider there were a fair few SL services transitioned to AWS without users ever noticing they had been moved, LL have done a really good job with what might have been a really disruptive undertaking.

Of course, one of the visible changes to SL that has come along this year is EEP – the Environment Enhancement Project. While this also has some issues that are still to be sorted (and some UI niggles that may not be, given they tend to be subjective in nature), I’ve found it to be a very flexible and usable capability, if a bit of a beast to get one’s head around at first. I’ve particularly had fun creating a number of personal Fixed Sky environments, as well a 24-hour  day/night cycle for Isla Caitinara (and I will at some point get back to my tutorial on Day Cycles, which has again be pushed to one side due to the aforementioned physical world matters).

A gibbous Moon rising over Isla Caitinara, part of the Day Cycle for our island home

On the personal SL front, things have been pretty quiet. Circumstance / opportunity led to us shifting home to settle within the “new” Second Norway estate, now under the management of Vanity Bonetto and her team (which also includes Ey and his team), and as someone who has followed that entire situation from initial rumours through the takeover to becoming a resident there, I can honestly say Vanity and her team have done a superb job, both in maintaining the core of the estate in its “mainland” regions, and in revamping the estate’s island offerings, and in bringing in new opportunities and features to the estate, as I noted in Second Norway: a closer look. In fact, we’re so settled that we actually recently up and relocated to a slightly larger island within the estate!

2020 also saw me unexpectedly get involved in administrating an in-worlds arts group – the Phoenix Artists Collaboration. Things  haven’t gone quite as well as had been hoped, particularly in the area of exhibitions, largely due to all three of us who have taken on the responsibility for managing the group all being hit with physical world demands. But hopefully, once the page has turned to mark the start of 2021, we’ll be able to start properly pulling things together.

The garden of our new Isla Caitinara home
Fourteen years in Second Life is a long time, so do I have any insights to share? Oddly, no I don’t think I do. Second life is still offering me the three things I enjoy: fun, discovery and freedom, so I’ve little doubt I’ll be marking 15 years in-world in twelve months time. Perhaps the one thing I would say is that while fourteen years have passed since “Inara Pey” first arrived, I actually don’t feel any older than my first days in-world with her. Wiser (I hope!) perhaps, yes.  But not older. In this, I think my avatar has been a positive influence; largely unchanged in terms of looks for 10 of those years, she has – as past studies have pointed out in reference to people and their avatars – she has encouraged the vanity in me to exercise regularly and (generally!) mind my diet in an attempt to (in my own way) also look as good.

And of the future? perhaps the most burning question is that of Linden Lab and Second Life post the current acquisition process.

As I’ve noted before, I’m interested to see the overall shape of the revised board, and whether or not some current members will retain a minority holding. I’m not overly concerned about the risk of LL being stripped or sold on; as I’ve noted in these pages, the two incoming principals between them have good track records for long-term investment and company growth. Certainly, the Lab aren’t slowing down their own plans for SL: beyond / alongside of the “uplift” work, there are major plans for overhauling several aspects of the viewer to hopefully make it more performant and efficient, and projects to further improve things on the back-end as well. Much of this  work is fairly long-term, which speaks to a good level of confidence for the platform’s future, and I currently see no reason not to share in that confidence.

In the meantime, here’s to a happier time of things in general in 2021.