Siddean Munro has been a long-term content creator in Second Life, having joined in 2007 (and as a point of trivia, is one of the few Second Life residents to have to also have an entry in IMDb!). She has perhaps been best known for the Slink mesh bodies, which have been popular among many Second Life users, myself included for that least few years.
As a brand, Slink has always been at the forefront of innovation in Second Life – notably with regards to mesh: in 2011/2 she released her mesh hands and feet – the latter of which, replacing the system feet, did much to ignite the mesh shoe market in Second Life – and the release of the first of her mesh body types, Physique Original, in 2014.
As such, the sudden announcement made on January 1st, 2023 that, with immediate effect, her Slink brand, together with her more recent Cinnamon & Chai body and her One Bad Pixel brand, have been shuttered, and Siddean herself has withdrawn from Second Life.
As a Slink Hourglass user myself – I moved to Slink from Maitreya on account of Slink being somewhat kinder on the viewer when it comes to rendering the body (and allowing for the complexities and quality of attachments and rigged meshes also worn, of course) – I admit to being shaken by the announcement. For those who made the move to Cinnamon and Chai, launched just 12 months ago, the news is likely to be even more of a gut-wrenching lurch.
However, before, anyone starts stamping feet or getting upset at the apparent forewarning (although I could be wrong about the latter), as Siddean offers good reason for why she has made her choice, and there are also a couple of points to bear in mind.
Following two stressful years of pandemic which I am sure we have all been affected by in one way or the other, I suddenly lost my mother in September of 2021, my grandmother in January of 2022 and my cat Cleo in June. I have been unwell and enduring a lot of chronic pain. I have to be very honest, my spark has dimmed a little and I no longer have the energy to pour into this business like I once did.
I’ve done a lot of soul searching over the last 18 months and have come to the very difficult decision that for my own physical and mental wellbeing, I need to move on from Second Life.
– Siddean Monro
In coming to this decision, Siddean also notes that the break is needed as she wants to focus on a new endeavour – as is her right, and we shouldn’t begrudge her this change in direction.
This latter point is doubly true in that while her decision is somewhat sudden in its implementation, it does not mean that it is the end of the road for the Slink ecosystem as a whole; the bodies still work, and there is a wealth of mesh and applier-based clothing still available on the Marketplace and in-world, the bodies still work with Bakes On Mesh, and so on. This isn’t all just going to vanish – so there’s no need for panic.
Of course, there is a risk that a major change with the avatar skeleton will “break” Slink avatars somewhere down the road on the basis that the avatars are no longer maintained – but there is as yet nothing on the horizon that threatens to do this – and it may never happen; as such, things are not going to vanish overnight. There is also a risk that creators entering the mesh clothing arena may opt not to support the brand and focus on Maitreya and Kupra, etc. However, the entire mesh clothing ecosystem has been skewed towards Maitreya, so this will unlikely make things any worse for Slink users. That said, things may be somewhat different for Cinnamon and Chai users, simply because of the newness of that brand; however, I’m simply not familiar enough with that body to know the potential repercussions, so will not speculate here.
As it stands, I don’t plan to move away from my Slink Hourglass any time soon – although I’m fortunate in that I have a Maitreya body “in reserve”, so to speak, so swapping away from Slink isn’t hard for me were I to decide to do so.
But what I will do here is pass on my thanks Siddean for all her work over some fifteen years in supporting Second Life users. I hope her new endeavour brings her as much success and – despite the rigours of the last 2+ years – all the enjoyment most of her Second Life has brought her.
So I’m sweet sixteen! Or at least my avatar is – would that it applied to me once more…
When I reached 15 continuous years in SL I really had little to say (although I managed to say it in around 900 words!), as not that much had changed with me personally over the course of 2021 – and SL itself had remained fairly well balanced.
2022 has been slightly different – there have been new features and capabilities deployed to Second Life, with LL working to try to increase the platform’s appeal and engaging with users in the development of new features. True, some of the planned work hasn’t quite come to fruition and so won’t be popping up until 2023 – but one project in particular should over time very much change how SL looks for the better.
On the “personal” SL front, things have changed a little. While blogging takes up a lot of my time – thank you to everyone who follows and supports and helps me along that journey – the second half of the year has allowed me to spend a lot more time enjoying the company of those closest to me (notably Imp, who has given me endless reasons to smile and laugh – there’s a reason I’ve given her that nickname!). That said, things in the physical world have been turned upside down on a number of occasions through the year, resulting in blogging efforts taking a back seat here and there.
But that said, I’m still nicely settled within Second Norway (and still recommend it to anyone looking for land they’ve like to rent and establish a home within), although I’ve not actually done as much sailing, boating or flying as I’d like. Regulars may have noticed (and been breathing a sigh of relief at the fact) that I’ve not been boring people with write-ups of the latest changes in house and / or island design. Not that I’ve stopped; I’ve simply reverted to building things from scratch, rather than using any rebuilds as an opportunity to review a particular commercially available house designs – although admittedly, the current house was heavily inspired by Cory Edo’s Jura Waterfront Cottage, a genuinely stunning design which (unfortunately) didn’t quite marry up to my kitbashing needs, so I opted to build from scratch whilst keeping the look of that design in mind.
One thing I had considered doing this year was to take time out to look at some of the other worlds I’ve visited in the past. However, the truth of the matter is, there is nothing out there (outside of OpenSim) which offers the broad creative richness and freedoms as Second Life; not just in terms of content creation, but in how we expression our personalities, how we interact, how we have fun, what we can do to encourage and support others (in-world and out-world), and so on. Thus, I just haven’t felt the incentive to do so. As I said on occasion of my 15th rezday, I really don’t see anything like Second Life emerging from the haze of verbiage people call “the metaverse” any time soon.
In this regard, I am far more excited – even as a comparative lay person – by the new features and capabilities Linden Lab is working on to further enhance SL. I’ve particularly appreciated the performance boosts we’ve seen in the viewer thanks to the Performance improvements work, and have appreciated the efforts to bring users directly into the fold in developing things like support for glTF 2.0-compliant PBR materials / reflections probes (which lays the foundations for even greater glTF compliance in the future, making content creation for Second Life a lot more predictable when using external tools and workflows), and the Puppetry Project work, both for the capabilities it can bring to a range of SL activities and for the foundations it lays for potential future enhancements to the platform.
Other than that, I really don’t have too much to say on the occasion of my rezday – other than maybe one day I’ll get a card / cake from Linden Lab like others do on their rezday *sigh* – but for now I’ll shut up and return this blog to its usual schedule! 🙂 .
On Tuesday, November 1st, 2022, Linden Lab announced that Homestead regions are now available to Premium Plus members directly from Linden Lab and without the need to hold a Full region.
The offering was first indicated as a “coming” Premium Plus benefit during the Lab Gab session with Grumpity and Patch Linden held on October 21st – see here for a summary of that event – and the November 1st announcement builds on this.
In short the details are:
Premium Plus members are now able to hold one private Homestead region from Linden Lab against their account:
Place an order via Land & Region → Order Private Region.
Provide a unique name for the region (in accordance with the region naming rguidelines) and a preferred location on the grid for placement.
The region can be held only as long as the member maintains their Premium Plus account. Should they downgrade to Premium (or any forthcoming Premium subscription level that does not include the Homestead “benefit”) or to Basic will lose the region.
There are no other changes to Homestead ownership, including the fact that anyone is able to own Homestead regions as long as there is at least one Full private region owned on that account as well, and pay the required fees.
Does This Make Premium Plus More Attractive?
Whether the ability to hold a Homestead region when taken on its own will make Premium Plus a worthwhile upgrade is questionable.
If you are not already a Premium or Premium Plus member, then looking at Premium Plus purely in terms of a means to obtain a Homestead region probably isn’t a worthwhile proposition.
When you add the minimum monthly fee for Premium Plus (US $20.75) to the Homestead region tier of US $109, it likely comes out to more than the monthly cost of renting a Homestead region from an established private rental estate.
Both renting privately and holding a Homestead via Premium Plus have the same core risk: paying the monthly tier.
If you are currently a Premium Member, then looking at Premium Plus purely as a means to obtain a Homestead region is a little less clear-cut.
On the one hand, upgrading to Premium Plus from Premium costs at least an extra US $12.5 a month.
On the other, this fee, plus the month Homestead tier will still be a competitive outlay when compared to renting a homestead through a private estate.
If you are a Basic or Premium member who already sees value in other Premium Plus benefits (such as the reduced fee for Name Changes, the other reduced fees, etc.), and are attracted to the idea of holding your own region, then upgrading to Premium Plus is liable to be worthwhile and cost-effective.
This last point is really the key to this offer: obtaining a Homestead is not the sole benefit available to those upgrading to Premium Plus, so it needs to be considered as a part of the overall package of benefits, and any decision made on upgrading should be made on that basis. For example, the option of holding a Homestead region is of little interest to me – but the forthcoming Premium Plus Linden Homes do. I’m therefore waiting to see what happens on that front before I make any decision on a potential move from Premium to Premium Plus.
On Tuesday, October 4th, Linden Lab announced that Premium Plus members can now leverage the Speedlight client as a part of their Plus benefits.
For those un familiar with Speedlight, it is a client specifically designed for use within browsers and on suitable Android and iOS devices, one I have covered in these pages – although admittedly, not the more recent updates.
Since its inception, SpeedLight has steadily increased the capabilities it offers such that it now includes (but is not limited to) chat, IM, Group chat, inventory management, friends list functions, search options, the ability to switch between devices (on SpeedLight) without having to re-log – and basic 3D world view rendering with avatar movement capabilities. A full list of available features and capabilities is available here.
The core product is offered free-of-charge, albeit it with some limitations (log-in time is limited & requires re-logging every 6 hours). However, there is also a dedicated subscription option called Gold (and quite distinct from the Lab’s Premium Plus), which in turn can be tiered through associated Patreon options to offer additional benefits,
The benefits offered to Premium Plus subscribers have been placed between the existing Free and Gold options offered directly by the SpeedLight team, and are summarised within the Lab’s announcement as:
Unlimited online time at SpeedLight.
Access to Speedlight’s Advanced 3D World view [the cutting-edge element of Speedlight’s 3D rendering capabilities, offering options and abilities first, some of which may (or may not) eventually filter down to Free accounts].
Prioritised support (tickets and live chat).
Given the frequent calls for the Lab to supply a mobile option for accessing Second Life – particularly since the stagnation of Android-based Lumiya -, and with its multi-platform reach, list of capabilities and a basic world rendering capability, Speedlight does have a lot to offer.
However, I would be remiss if I did not mention the graphics used in the Lab’s announcement. Placing a full-feature in-world image of Second Life on both a laptop and mobile device screen might lead to misguided expectations among some (e.g. users relatively new to SL) that SpeedLight offers the same graphics fidelity as an actual viewer; something the SpeedLight team would be the first to acknowledge is not the case. So perhaps a footnote stating the images are not from SpeedLight might be in order to avoid this and accusations of misrepresentation?
That aside, this is an interesting turn in Premium Plus subscription benefits. Not so much the SpeedLight offer itself, but rather if the move might signal a start of other “partnership benefits” for Plus subscribers – such as with creators / businesses from within SL own ecosystem, or with some of the Lab’s content partners. If this is the case, it’ll be interesting as to what might come next.
Yup fifteen years as Inara Pey; I’m pretty sure that in SL terms, that officially make me a OAP – where can I claim my pension? 🙂 .
Usually I try to write something on the occasion my rezday, but this year I really don’t have a lot more to say than I noted in 2020, I continue to log in (pretty much daily), I’m still blogging – and appreciative of all who read my ramblings and take the time to offer comments / feedback. I’m still enjoying kitbashing, building, landscaping, exploring et al. So really, not that much has changed in the last year :).
Sadly, unlike many others this year, I don’t have any stats from Linden Lab that I can share about my on-line times, etc., (not that I set much stock by such things as they always seem to have an air of elitism about them (or maybe that’s me just being crabby 🙂 ). That said, were I to approximate the amount of time I spend in SL, the answer would likely be “too much!”, as I don’t think there has been a day in the last 36-ish months (at least!) when I haven’t logged-in.
I’m not sure if that reveals something about me or about Second Life – or both. Admittedly, a lot of the time when I am logged-in, I’m actually parked somewhere, either blogging about it or something else, or actually off away dealing with physical world matters (like stuff that pays the bills, given I work from home), but at least my avatar can impersonate an answer machine for catching incoming IMs!
I’ve certainly not got a lot to reflect on SL-wise or personally; things have chugged along on both front pretty much “as is” throughout the year. Platform-wise, as the work on “bedding in” SL at AWS draws to some kind of initial completion, there will hopefully be a lot more to play with and ponder in 2022, but we’ll see.
On the personal side, I did make the decision early-ish in the year (with thanks to Vinyl for giving me little nudges!) to re-engage in some of the things I was involved in years ago, and this has been fun. I’m still happily settled in Second Norway (with my Linden home as a useful bolt hole from region restarts and the like!); after some 15 months since moving, I have absolutely no hesitation the estate and Vanity and her team to anyone looking for a island parcel with plenty of open water access for sailing / boating / flying, but which maintains its own sense of tranquillity by being off the more regular boating / sailing routes.
Back in 2016, I pondered on whether a decade of virtual living was really enough, and that perhaps it was time to consider stepping away. Truth be told, I still have such thoughts from time-to-time; I think any of us who have been engaged in SL for an extended length of time has similar thoughts. Yet, here I am, half as much again beyond that point, still enjoying the many forms of freedom of expression SL offers all of us.
In this regard, when we discuss SL, much is made of its “secret sauce”, with people pointing at this or that. To be honest, I don’t believe there is a single “secret sauce”; rather it is – like many recipes – made up of multiple ingredients, of which one of the core items is that freedom of expression (which in some technical respects is also SL’s Achilles Heel). With all the hype and yack-yack around “the metaverse” we’ve seen this year, this freedom we enjoy in SL – be it to create, to generate an income, to role-play, to use SL as an artistic outlet, to socialise (and find romance) – is what really already separates SL from anything we might see spawned by the likes of Meta, Microsoft, Google, Nvidia, et all.
This doesn’t mean I think those “big players” won’t succeed – likely they’ll all end up with there own walled gardens of various sizes. Rather, I mean that I just don’t see any of them being remotely interested in offering such broad-based freedoms of expression we have with SL. Thus, and while such freedoms may not be something the vast majority are looking for in this age of instant gratification, I tend to feel that there enough people with a similar outlook as those of us who remain engaged in SL year-on-year such that if LL can find a balanced means to market SL and make initial engagement smoother for those who are out there who can appreciate SL’s potential, then there is no reason why this walled garden cannot continue to flourish in its own modest corner of the digital landscape for the enjoyment of users and the pockets of investors, unnoticed by those now rushing to put their own stamp of authority in “the metaverse”.
Obviously, whether or not I’m right in thinking this will be revealed in time. For now, I think I’ll just got on with getting the start of my sixteenth year in SL kick-started!
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.
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
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:
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.
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).
I have actually contacted LL on this and the idea of distributing personal information, but have yet to receive a reply.
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!