Sunday, April 18th will see the Community Virtual Library celebrate its fifteenth anniversary with the opening of their new in-world library building and resource centre.
Founded in 2007, the Community Virtual Library (CVL) carries the tag line of “a real library in a virtual world”, and is affiliated with the American Library Association. As a library, it includes all of the facilities you might expect: the ability to select and read books on a wide range of subjects (courtesy of the Gutenberg project) and categorised as one would find in a physical world library; a reading room, resources to help with research, links to world literature presented by country / language that reflects the international nature of Second Life, and so on.
However, CVL is far more than just a virtual reproduction of a physical world library – it is a community hub offering opportunities and resources for learning, resource-sharing, and exploration. It offers facilities and presents opportunities for CVL members and affiliated groups to mount exhibitions and presentations and hold events and meetings. It also connects with library communities throughout Second Life, bringing together digital citizens with the information and resources they seek, and provides support to educators and educational organisations.
CVL’s Full region provides a range of facilities operated directly by CVL and also by affiliated groups, offering a rich mix of literature and arts, and is a core member of the IRC 501(c)3 non-profit New Media Arts Inc. In addition to a presence in Second Life, CVL has also extended into various virtual worlds utilising OpenSimulator, including 3DWebWorldz, Avacon, CybaLOUNGE, and Kitely, either by establishing a dedicated facility within these worlds or by partnering with libraries already operating within them.
To mark CVL’s 15 years of operation and the opening of the new library building, there will be a special 2-hour event visitors and CVL members alike are invited to attend. Commencing at 12:00 noon SLT, on Sunday, April 18th, 2021, it will include opportunities to tour the new building and hear from staff and volunteers about CVL’s history and future plans.
Ten years ago, on March 11th 2011, the fourth most powerful earthquake in the world since modern record-keeping began in 1900, took place off the coast of Japan. The epicentre of the magnitude 9.0–9.1 megathrust ‘quake lay some 72 kilometres east of the Oshika Peninsula of Honshu, at a depth of around 32 km below the surface of the ocean. It caused an upthrust of between 6 to 8 metres that gave rise to a massively powerful tsunami.
The wave front of this tsunami struck the northern islands of Japan at speeds of up to 700 km/h and a maximum wave height of 39 metres (Omoe peninsula, Miyako City). It travelled inland up to 10 km, creating widespread devastation and caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accidents. As of 2019, the death toll as a direct result of the tsunami was put at 15,899, most killed as a result of drowning. A further 6,157 were injured and 2,529 remain missing.
In the aftermath, national and international relief efforts were launched, and people around the world sought to help those affected by the disaster through a wide variety of fund-raising efforts. In Second Life, Curator, who was still relatively new to the platform at the time, put together a special art exhibition with funds going to a number of charities dedicated to recovery efforts.
Entitled One Year After, the exhibition featured the paintings of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi and Katsushika Hokusai, two of Japan’s foremost exponents of the ukiyo-e genre of woodblock printing and painting. Yoshitoshi’s career spanned the end of the Edo period of Japan and the rise of modern Japan following the Meiji Restoration, and he was the last great master of ukiyo-e. In particular, the exhibition featured his major series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon. Hokusai preceded Yoshitoshi (their lives overlapping by just ten years), and he was largely responsible for transforming ukiyo-e as an art form, with his greatest work being 36 Views of Mt. Fuji.
To mark the 10th anniversary of the Tōhoku earthquake and its tsunami, Curator once again offers one Year After for people to appreciate. Hosted at the gallery space above Bagheera Kristan’s Bohemian Underground store, it also has the alternate title of (now) Ten Years After to mark the tenth anniversary of the tsunami. And if you’ve never encountered either Yoshitoshi’s or Hokusai’s work before, I highly recommend paying a visit.
Ukiyo-e first rose to prominent in the late 1670s and continued to flourish through until the Meiji Restoration saw it enter a sharp decline in the rush towards modernisation. As an art form, it initially focused on portraiture featuring courtesans, geishas and kabuki actors. However, Hokusai, however, broadens the genre to include landscapes, plants, and animals, a broader expressionism Yoshitoshi would embrace.
There is particular relevance in using Yoshitoshi’s One Hundred Aspects of the Moon to commemorate the tsunami. While he was fascinated by all that was happening as a result of Japan opening its doors to the rest of the world, Yoshitoshi became concerned with the loss of many aspects of traditional Japanese culture, so much so that towards the end of his life he turned more towards Ukiyo-e, using it as a means to comment on the passing of Japan’s traditional ways in its headlong rush to modernise.
Thus, One Hundred Aspects of the Moon as presented here provides a poignant means of commemorating both the washing away of translational Japanese ways in the tide of change witnessed by Yoshitoshi, and the loss of life caused by the tsunami.
Each image in One Hundred Aspects depicts figures from Japanese and Chinese legend, history, literature, folklore and theatre captured at a moment in time, often in a poetic dialogue with the Moon. The presence of the Moon additionally references the role it played in the pre-industrialised Japanese calendar, when specific events on both a national and personal level being marked by the lunar phases. In this, the choice of this collection for the exhibition adds a further layer of meaning, marking as it does an event and point in time that affected some many lives and a nation as a whole.
Similarly, Hokusai’s 36 Views of Mt. Fuji has a certain poignancy in the context of commemorating the tsunami. It’s a series in which several of the images embody Japan’s long relationship with the seas around it – the most famous being The Great Wave off Kanagawa, depicting a large rogue wave about to overwhelm three boats. They also, as the title of the collection suggests, feature images feature Mount Fiji – the enduring symbol of the nation, the people and the spirit of Japan throughout the ages.
Although some of the pieces are slightly blurred as a result of the reproduction process, these are genuinely engaging copies of an evocative series. Each piece has a a richness of narrative to it and a deep sense of history, and those that you find attractive enough can be purchased for L$100 each.
For those unfamiliar with it, IndieCade is the only standalone festival for independent games in the United States. It was founded in 2005, and held its first showcase event at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in 2007, with its first festival following in 2008. Between 2009 and 2015 the festival took place in Culver City, California, moving to Santa Monica City College in 2018. A “sister” event, IndieCade Europe was held in the UK between 2007 and 2009, before being rebooted in 2016 as the IndieCade Conference and Expo, held France.
Regarded as “the video game industry’s Sundance“, IndieCade gives invited independent video game developers the opportunity to showcase their work alongside of a conference track featuring classes, panels, workshops and keynotes related to games development. In doing so, it has become a major attraction for independent game developers and others in the industry.
As with so many events the world over, the SARS-CoV-2 situation forced the IndieCade organisers to “go digital” in 2020, hosting events and activities through various on-line mediums. As a part of this IndieCade 2020 Anywhere and Everywhere festival, a presence was established in Second Life: IndieCade Oasis, which for 2021 will play host to SLarp Fest.
Conceived by IndieCade and the Playable Theatre Project, SLarp Fest is an experiment in adapting live action role-playing games – a long-standing part of IndieCade’s repertoire – to a digital format, the idea being to allow experienced and novice role-players alike to join is a series of specially-adapted live action role-play scenarios, and to participate in a number of other activities.
A live action role-playing game (LARP) is a form of role-playing game where the participants physically portray their characters and enact a plot of the game. The players pursue goals within a fictional setting represented by the real world environments while interacting with each other in character. The outcome of player actions may be mediated by game rules or determined by consensus among players. Event arrangers called gamemasters decide the setting and rules to be used and facilitate play.
– Live action role-play definition, via Wikipedia
SLarp Fest is curated by Celia Pearce (Artemesia Sandgrain in Second Life), one of the co-founders of both IndieCade and the Playable Theatre Project. She is also the author of a number of books and papers on viral worlds, including Communities of Play (MIT Press 2009). Working with IndieCade Oasis region designer Jenn Frank (Nova Conundrum in Second Life) – herself a long-term Second Life resident through her main account and a writer focused on games and technology – Celia has sought to provide an environment that is more interactive and immersive than can be achieved through the more “traditional” approaches to digital engagement, such as Zoom.
I was growing increasingly frustrated by the limitations of the Zoom proscenium, so I invited some of my favourite LARP designers to experiment with avatar embodiment to see if we could adapt their work for a virtual world. Jenn and I worked with the creators to take advantage of the capabilities of the Second Life, along with the massive amount user-created content, to build something truly unique and immersive. Our play testing thus far has indicated that the experiment is working!
– Celia Pierce (SL: Artemesia Sandgrain) on the origins of SLarp Fest
Commencing at 09:00 SLT on Sunday, March 21st, SLarp Fest is open to anyone who wishes to attend. Throughout the day the festival will present a range of activities for attendees, including card games, a carnival, pirate ships, the chance to play MadPea’s Escape Room and, of course, the opportunity to participate any of the four live action role-play scenarios that are the focus of the festival. These are:
09:00-11:00 – First Impressions (aka D&D Speed Dating): find your fantasy character their own adventuring group in a speed-dating-style event! A fast, zany take on conventional fantasy tropes. Game by Marc Majcher, Adapted for Second Life by Evan Torner (UC Game Lab).
11:00-13:00 – Angel Falls: players attend a funeral as conflicted humans and comforting but flawed angels in a scenario about seeking resolutions when it is already too late to resolve anything. Developed specifically for Second Life and SLarp Fest by Celia Pearce, Jenn Frank and Annika Waern, and inspired by the film Wings of Desire.
13:30-15:30 – Romancing Jan: a racial, orientation and gender inclusive take on a Regency era matchmaking game, played in full costume at a fancy outdoor tea dance in a period pavilion. Game by Athena Peters, who also adapted it for Second Life.
16:00-19:00 – The Sleepover: play as adolescents learning and sharing knowledge about sex, sexuality, and gender identity at a sleepover party during summer camp” From the IndieCade 2021 Finalist anthology Honey & Hot Wax by Julia B. Ellingboe and Kat Jones (Candyland Games), and adapted for Second Life by the authors.
Those wishing to attend the event should register their intent to allow the organisers to get a feel for the potential number of attendees. In addition, registration will provide access to the sign-up forms for the LARP scenarios. Note that registrations will close at 23:59 SLT on Thursday, March 18th.
Further details on SLarp Fest and IndieCade can be found via the links below, and I’ll have more on the event, including the SLurl, ahead for the opening.
It may not be widely known, but for the last thirteen years, the last day of February has been Rare Diseases Day – and Sunday February 28th, 2021 will continue that tradition, both around the globe in the physical world and in Second Life.
Approximately that one in every 20 people suffering with one or more of over 6,000 of the currently identified rare diseases, with the overall impact of such diseases impacting the lives of between 3.5% and 5.9% of the worldwide population.
Roughly 72% of these diseases are genetic in nature, with 70% of such diseases starting at childbirth or during childhood, whilst the remain 28% of rare diseases are the result of infections (bacterial or viral), allergies and environmental causes, or are degenerative and proliferative.
Often diagnosis of such a disease can be complicated by the fact they can be hidden by relatively common symptoms, thus delaying what can be vital treatment. Many are quintessentially disabling, dramatically impacting the patients quality of life as a result of the often chronic, progressive, degenerative, and frequently life-threatening aspects of such a disease.
Treatment is made more complicated for a variety of reasons, such the lack of scientific knowledge and quality information on a particular disease; the lack of appropriate quality health care, or lack of access to treatment and care; and / or the fact that symptoms can vary between patients suffering from the same disease.
Given all this, Rare Diseases Day encompasses two aims. The first is to raise awareness amongst the general public and policy makers, public authorities, industry representatives, researchers, health professionals about rare diseases and their impact on patients’ lives.
The second is to achieve equitable access to the diagnosis, treatment, health and social care for those affected by a rare disease and to ensure that have access to equal social and work opportunities.
Initially European-centric, Rare Diseases Day has grown to a world-wide event, with oner 100 countries participating in 2020, with thousands of individual events organised at the local level.
Within Second Life, three core events will be taking place on February 28th tied to Rare Diseases Day:
Midnight SLT, on Saturday, February 27th through Midnight SLT on Sunday, February 28th: a mix of live performers and DJS on stage at the Rare Diseases Day music event. Details of those performing are available at the event and in the panel on the right.
10:00 SLT: Research Pavilion, Healthinfo Island – Congenital Heart Defect Awareness, presented by Gentle Heron (February is also Heart Health Month).
12:00 noon SLT: a discussion at the Rare Diseases exhibition presented by the Community Virtual Library (CVL) in association with the Conrado F. Asenjo Library at the University of Puerto Rico, to be followed by a trip to the Rare Disease Day music event.
The Third “RL Photo Festival” (formerly the Annual International RL Photography Festival) will take place between Wednesday, March 31st, 2021 and Sunday, April 25th, 2021. organised by photographer Nils Urqhart, and hosted at the Helvellyn Gallery).
The festival is intended to be a celebration of artistic photographic expression for the physical world, and is open to anyone from across Second Life with an interest it, or passion for, photography. All submissions should meet the following guidelines:
Submissions must be original photographs recorded in the physical world (to images captured in Second Life or computer games).
Submissions may be in colour or black and white, and may be on any theme, and in accordance with the following criteria:
All content must be family friendly. Submissions can depict the human form in all of its forms, but any content with nudity must be presented tastefully.
No sexually explicit imagery will be tolerated (and will be returned).
All content must be in keeping the the requirements of the Second Life Terms of Service and Community Standards.
Images may be offered for sale (there is no fee or commission for any sales), and participants are free to promote their SL and RL presence as a part of their exhibition.
Submissions for participation should be made to Nils Urqhart in-world.
All submission must include:
Four sample photographs in the form of individual textures of at least 512×512 pixels resolution.
All textures must have the following permissions: Copy, No Modify / No Transfer.
The textures must have the photographer’s avatar name (NOT display name) in the Name field and image title in the Description field.
If desired, submissions can include a photographer’s biography note card.
Submissions can be made in the form of a single note card containing image textures and biography – please do not forward them as boxed items.
The deadline for submissions is 23:59:59 SLT on March 20, 2021.
Successful entrants will be contacted with details of their location within the exhibition space. Up to 20 LI may be used per display, and entrants are responsible for the layout of their images. The four images sent as a part of the submission process must form a part of the exhibit. It is requested by the organiser that scripted items are not used.
For further information, or should you have any questions concerning the festival, please contact Nils Urqhart.
On Friday February 26th, Lab Gab, the live streamed chat show hosted by Strawberry Linden on all things Second Life, returned with a show of two halves.
Featuring guests Grumpity Linden, the Lab’s Vice President of Product and Oz Linden, the Lab’s Vice President of Engineering, the first part of the show took a look at the latest of the work to migrate Second Life and all its services to running on Amazon Web Services (AWS) hardware and infrastructure and attempted to address questions forwarded to the Lab by Second life users.
The show was also an opportunity to say “farewell” to one of the leading lights at the Lab – Oz himself, who is retiring from the company and from full-time work as a whole – after more than 11 years with the company.
The official video of the segment is available via You Tube, and is embedded at the end of this article. The following is a summary of the key topics discussed and responses to questions asked.
Please be aware that as some topics were touched on more than once during the conversation, the notes blow collect references together, rather than presenting them in chronological order. However, where relevant, time-stamps are provided.
All of the services related to Second Life were transitioned to running on AWS hardware and infrastructure by the end of December 2020.
The last aspect of the core work was the removal of all of the Lab’s own hardware and equipment from the Arizona co-location facility that had been hosting Second Life, which included the shredding of 10,588 hard and solid state drives to ensure data security.
The majority of the work went a lot more smoothly than had been thought might be the case, however, there are some services that have given rise to some problems that are still being resolved.
Chief among the latter is the Land Store, which was once again turned on ready for use on Thursday, February 24th.
Map title generation has also been a issue sine the migration, but work is progressing on fixing this.
[9:09-11:34] A core issue with the Map tile generation failure lay in the fact that the code had not been touched in a “long, long time” – so long, in fact, that the code isn’t geared to rendering mesh objects, hence why they can look so abstracted on a map tile.
In terms of the current problems, the code made a lot of assumptions about the architectural environment in what it was running, assumptions that are no longer true with the move to AWS.
The current work is focused purely on getting the service to generate Map tiles one more, without making any additional changes to the code to account for things like rendering mesh objects correctly or addressing other bugs.
Most of this work is now thought to be complete and Map tiles are now being generated as they should. however, there is some work to be completed on stitching tile images together when a user zooms out on the Map.
There is a project to improve the overall appearance of Map tiles, but this was put aside in the focus of migrating to AWS, but will hopefully be picked up again at some point in the future.
While the physical migration of Second Life services from a proprietary environment to AWS is complete, the Uplift Project work is not, and so will continue to be a focus of engineering efforts.
In particular, the immediate focus is on optimisation work, which encompasses:
Optimising the performance of the various series on the new hardware / infrastructure.
Optimising (for the Lab) the cost involved in running within an AWS environment.
Fine tuning systems and operations within the new environment.
Working to leverage the new hardware options and infrastructure presented by AWS to favour Second Life as a product running in that environment.
In this it should be remembered at the initial migration work of getting Second Life transitioned to AWS was devoted purely to taking all of the SL services – front-end simulators, back-end services, middleware, web properties and services, supporting tools, etc., – from the proprietary environment in which they had always run and just getting them running on AWS in what was called a “lift and shift” operation, whilst making as few changes to any of the services as possible.
With the “lift and shift” aspect of the work completed, the engineering team has turned its attention to gathering data on exactly how the various services are running in the new environment and understanding where opportunities for making the improvements noted above may lie, and how they might best achieve them.
In this, the Lab now has much improved service monitoring tools at their disposal, and these are now allowing the initial work on tuning performance on key services to be made.
Two practical benefits of the move are:
Regions running on AWS can run more scripts / script events in the same amount of time than can be achieved on non-AWS regions.
The way in which simulators are now managed mean that LL can more directly obtain logs for a specific region, filter logs by criteria to find information, etc., and the entire process is far less manually intensive.
There has been an idea circulating among users that running SL on AWS is “dramatically cheaper” for Linden Lab; but this is actually not accurate.
Prior to the migration, all of SL and its services had been running on LL’s own hardware for which there had been no capital expenditure for years, and which had completely depreciated.
The move to AWS represents something of a new capex spend, increasing the Lab’s costs [although it is not unfair to say that the capex involved is liable to be significantly less over time than repeatedly buying-in new server clusters to allow SL to run on more modern systems].
Rather than presenting LL with reduced costs, the move to AWS is designed to:
Present the company with far broader options for delivering a more performant and capable service to users – although as noted above, it will take time for all of this to be delivered.
Improve the overall longevity of the Second Life service through the noted performance improvements and access to better hardware and infrastructure services.
Mobile has taken longer than expected to bring forth, for two primary reasons:
The first is that while the initial release will be more of a communications tool, considerable foundational work has been put into ensuring the app can be encompass a lot more functionality than that in the future.
The second has been that as a result of testing by Apple, the Lab has been forced to make changes to the way in which chat works.
These changes will, in time, be filtering through into the viewer as well.
They should actually make chat more reliable in the future.
No commitment as to when the app may be more widely available.
Other Technical Questions
[11:38-17:47] There have been numerous niggling issues of late: further issues with search (e.g. avatars failing to show in search), profile issues, etc). When are these likely to be addressed? Should users report bugs then find?
Whilst the majority of the migration process did go smoothly, there have been glitches, and the Lab is working to address them alongside of working on the performance, etc., work mentioned above.
There are a lot of aspects of SL built on old technology, so there is an expectation that, over time, and as things can be looked at, not only will niggles go away, but software and capabilities as a whole can be made a lot more stable and resilient.
Bugs should most definitely be reported using the SL Jira. Information on how to file bug reports (and feature requests) can be found here:
[17:55-19:18] Will capabilities that were being worked on some time ago (e.g. 360 snapshot viewer) ever be completed?
The migration work has demonstrated what can be achieved with a tightly defined set of goals and teams focused solely on those goals.
This is an approach Grumpity would like to carry forward, with a commitment to review current and past projects to determine what might be required to bring them to completion (input, time, resources, etc), and then make decisions from there.
Since then, board member Brad Oberwager has joined the Lab’s management team in his capacity as Executive Chairman).
The overall feedback that the new board and their staff are enthusiastic about the platform, and have brought a lot of energy into the company.
Mr. Oberwager has apparently made an impact with the management team by not only putting forward ideas but responding to ideas by saying, “Do the right thing for the residents” – a phrase Ebbe Altberg brought into the company when he took over as CEO.
The latter half of the programme looks back over Oz’s time at the Lab and provides him with the opportunity to discuss what attracted him to Linden Lab, the nature of his work, why he regards his time with LL as potentially the best job he’s ever had, and to discuss his post-retirement plans and answers various questions.
Rather than offer a summary of this part of the show, I encourage people to listen to it in full, as it really is informative and enlightening, particularly if you’re not familiar with Oz’s work, his teams, or the Lab as a whole.
The end of the show sees Strawberry teleport Oz to s special in-world retirement party, where the teams reporting into him and other LL staff have gathered to wish him well. This again a touching and moving tribute that says so much about Oz and the high regard in which he is rightfully held, and should be seen without input from the likes of myself.
For my part – and because Oz has been both a direct and indirect influence in my SL time – I’d like to just repeat what I wrote a few days ago on reading of his upcoming retirement:
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 … 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.