No more Google+

Back in July this year I was one of the people who got into Google+ pretty early on. I was rather excited by this. Having watched SL avatars turfed out of Facebook (although never having used it myself), and having become frustrated with Plurk, and wanting something more substantial than twitter while more social than this blog, I jumped at the chance.

And then the nymwars started.

I didn't get that involved in the nymwars, didn't really comment on them, not as me (Antony) anyway. Many others have done a far better job of commenting on the issue, and battling with it, than I ever could have. Instead my initial enthusiasm for the platform, as a way to express myself as Antony, outside of Second Life itself, in a social networking environment, waned. I generally used it less and less.

I expected my profile to get flagged pretty early on but, to my surprise, it didn't. I imagine that, to some degree, this was because my name is a pretty "ordinary" name. But, today, I found that I'd been flagged and I was presented with the usual choice. Change the name on the account to comply (presumably change it to my RL name and give proof that that is my RL name) or close the Google+ account.

I closed the Google+ account.

I guess this is giving in, giving up, giving one small victory to the side of the nymwars that detests the idea that some might want to express themselves in different ways. To those who are fighting and continue to fight the nymwars, I apologise. I'm sorry, I wish I could join you, take part, be part of the fight but... this isn't a fight I can take on.

Meanwhile, I'll concentrate on my blog and make occasional use of twitter.


New Workshop

The Z&A workshop is an important place for me in Second Life. Unsurprisingly I spend a fair bit of time there and, through its various incarnations, I've had some of my most favourite times in Second Life in it.

The most recent incarnation, which replaced the MkII workshop, was built when Shackles was first created. It's served us well for a year, even surviving being moved across the sim earlier this year, around the time that Z&A expanded.

But it did start to get a little crowded when we got into building cells -- cells are so much bigger than our normal builds and take up so much more floor space. So, when that happened, I created an extra basement as something that was tacked on the bottom. On top of that the roof was getting filled with ad-hoc created photo booths. Oh, and there was the link/unlink accident that I won't detail or Zardia might get annoyed with me. ;-)

So, anyway, yesterday, I cracked and started to throw together some prims and, before I knew it, the MkIV workshop was born. This one has 3.5 floors (three full floors and a mezzanine). The very bottom floor is still the cell building basement and the top floor is now a proper photo studio for shooting our products (one half our "traditional" background and the other half a plain black background that we're now using for some products).

The whole thing looks huge though!

It was fun to build. Normally Miss Vila is the one who throws around the big prims so this made a nice change for me.


Needs more Richard Burton

So... this guy followed me home from the SL marketplace:

Do you think Miss will let me keep him?


Yet another case of "Check your sources"

Yet another one to add to the "Check your sources" thing. I just saw this posted into group chat of one of the groups I'm in:
WARNING  !!!!!!
Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 11:03:57 GMT
Never accept something from: [removed]
It's already proven he spreads a hud that takes all the money from your account.
Leaving aside the fact that this sort of thing is a great way to Joe Job someone, and leaving aside the fact that a HUD can only give away money unless you give it permission to give away your money (unless you know of an exploit that gets around this -- in which case shut the hell up and go report it to the Lab), the above still makes no real sense.

Think about it: if there really is an avatar giving out a HUD that "steals" money (and let's assume for a moment that the HUD uses the usual permissions to get the rights to take money and so works in the idea that a subset of people will be ignorant, or stupid, enough to accept the permission request), how will banning them from your plot stop this?

If your plot is a subset of a region then they can see and be near your plot. But that misses the point. You could ban them from every plot in the region, or do a full estate ban, and the problem wouldn't be solved because you don't need proximity to hand out items.

Seriously, if you wanted to pull this sort of thing off, wouldn't you just join a busy group, work through the members connected to chat, or even the whole membership list, and just drop a copy on each one in turn. And do that from anywhere you like on the grid.



So... the neighbours on the other half of the sim have a snow thing going on. I think some of it got into the workshop...

(Okay, not quite, the first part is true but the second part isn't. That is snow though. Things are afoot...)


In the cell store

Hmm, so, the bigger cell store is full of cells (hence not much blogging this past week or so, been busy with that). I think I need to build a few more now so we have to add a second floor. ;-)


Cream Filled Oddness

Today I finished what might be the oddest build I've done to date. Well, okay, perhaps not "odd", just a bit silly. I built it for the Cream Filled Hunt which starts this weekend (we're #15 in the hunt). Here's a teaser:

As silly as this is, I'm a bit delighted with how it turned out too. Zardia still laughs out loud when testing it -- which I take to be a good sign.

RLV rumour control

If you've not seen it yet then run, don't walk, over to Forceme's blog and have a read of this blog entry.

Now, hopefully, you're not the sort of person who falls for that kind of nonsense. At least I'd hope not. But it's worth hanging on to that URL for future reference. The next time you see someone spreading baseless rumour about RLV in SL point them at that URL.

It probably won't make a difference, but at least you'll have tried.


RLV, relay settings and consent

I'll start off by saying that, normally, I wouldn't get involved in inter-blog debates -- it's long been my experience (even before I discovered SL) that they can be a great source of drama and unfortunate falling-outs so, for the most part, I'll read them, formulate my own opinion of the subject and those involved and try and keep out of them.

But the subject I've seen crop up in a couple of places, and which I take to be all related, is close to my heart and one I've thought about a fair bit, on and off.

I just got thinking about it again after seeing this post on Forceme Silverspar's blog. I imagine I'm missing some of the background, but the points raised there are pretty self-contained and reasonably summarise the problem and one take on it.

I also imagine that, in part, it relates in some way to this post on the Brigadoon Station blog too.

My interest in the subject stems from three things. First, and foremost, is that I build and script in Second Life and the vast majority of the things I build and script make use of RLV. Second, I'm an avid user of RLV and have been since January 2010. Third, I'm the co-builder and co-owner of Shackles and Raven Park -- both those locations (the former a public space, the latter a private space mostly open to the public) contain many RLV devices, a minority of which are in trap mode (albeit the sort of trap mode where you have to get on or in first).

With all that in mind: to anyone that does read this I ask that you read it and comprehend it in the spirit it was written: a written record of my thoughts as I read the output of others.

Taking a broad view of the subject it does seem fair to see the issue of relay settings, and consent, as a simple dichotomy. On the one hand an open relay would seem to be implied, perhaps even implicit, consent to make use of the avatar wearing it (and goodness knows there's enough profiles that say as much). On the other hand there is the much finer view of "consent" that would demand that, even if a relay is open, anyone seeking to make use of the wearer should seek direct consent. Both views strike me as fair and genuine views that should be supportable by cogent arguments.

The Brigadoon Station blog post does make what appears to be a very compelling argument in favour of the latter view. An analogy is drawn between seeing an open relay as consent, with the view that (paraphrasing) "dressing like a slut means you're available for sex". After I first read that I thought it was a pretty good analogy that made a compelling argument. But I'm not so sure now.

Where I'm stuck with that analogy is this: while they do have a minority of other uses these days (although the main one -- outfit management -- is mostly taken care of by viewers these days), I think it's fair to say that RLV (the viewer and the API) was designed for, and is still intended for, giving up control to a third party (be it a scripted object or another avatar). The primary design goal and primary use is one of lost control.

For the analogy to hold, for it to remain as compelling and as seductive as it first seemed, it would require that I see some types of clothing in the same light. It would suggest, I think, that I have to buy into the idea that you can "dress like a slut", that you can dress to look like you're "asking for it" because some types of clothing are designed to do that. I'm struggling with that idea. If an avatar comes to me, with RLV active, wearing a relay, and with the relay open, I think it's fair of me to assume that they have that kind of setup in place because they want to enjoy the consequences such a setup implies.

That's not to say that, in a face-to-face situation, I wouldn't be reading their profile, looking for clues that they wish to be captured, generally interacting so as to be sure (actually, I wouldn't be doing any of that, being purely sub myself, but let's ignore that for now...). Of course I would. But I think it's safe to approach the situation from a "they're happy to enjoy the fruits of an open relay" point of view.

On the other hand... I'm not sure that a short dress was ever designed with getting raped in mind and, to make the analogy work, I think I'd have to take that very negative view of women (simply put: attire equals RLV+relay). I can't do that.

And so I'm stuck on that analogy now. I can see why it's seductive, I can see why it's compelling, it works at a superficial level. But, sadly, it appears to buy into the idea that "this clothing is designed to make you slutty".

Now, at the other end of the scale, I don't think it's fair for anyone to just assume that an open relay is an invitation to "play". I'd encourage anyone, when faced with another avatar sporting an open relay (and it's easy to find them, I even built a simple scanner myself), in a location/situation that isn't designed as, or advertised as, "open capture", to make a point of reading that person's profile and getting to know them, getting to know their wishes, ensuring that whatever they might have to offer the "victim" is what the "victim" is happy with.

That just makes sense.

There is, of course, the issue of unattended devices (which is what this mostly seems to be about). Communicating that an area has such devices is tricky at the best of times. I do think that a parcel owner has some duty of care to let anyone arriving on the plot know that such devices exist (I make this clear in the Shackles rules, for example), but it's equally true, if not more so, that an avatar wandering onto a private plot, has a duty to themselves to make sure that they're welcome there, that they're complying with the wishes of the owner and that they are sure about what sort of devices might be active on the plot.

Mostly, though, when it comes to wandering around the BDSM world in Second Life, my instinct seems to sit mostly at the "don't make your relay open if you don't want to suffer the consequences" end of the spectrum. Not because I think an open relay is the same as clothing that indicates that you're "asking for it" (as I say above, that analogy only seems to work if you have a very negative view of women), but because an open relay is designed, from the start, to respond to other devices that are looking for it.

If a real world analogy is needed, I think it's more akin to this: most relays have degrees of openness. You can set them to off, you can set them so they ask you about every request, you can set them so they always "just work" if the owner of an object is the owner of the land, or they can sometimes be set in a "playful" mode (the latter asking permission for any "binding" restriction but just accepting a fleeting restriction -- the latter being things like stripping or force TPing). Simply put, you have control over what requests from the world around you get through.

The best analogy here then would seem to me to be how safe you want to be when you have sex. If you're being very promiscuous you probably want to be using the maximum amount of protection possible. If you have a fairly stable relationship, or set of relationships, you might decide that you need to be less protected (and, hopefully, you do all the sensible checks and you understand all the risks involved). If you're in a single long-term committed relationship you might throw caution to the wind and use no protection -- again fully understanding the risks, doing on the sensible checks, and fully accepting the consequences of any bad choices.

With that analogy nobody is absolving the other party if you catch something nasty, but neither can you claim that you're without blame.

And so it can be said to be the same with relays. It is vital that you understand the consequences of your choices and, while nobody should absolve anyone abusing your choice of setting, you have tools at your disposal to ensure that you are safe and your time in SL is spent safely.

Of course, analogies almost never help to further an argument, so it's best not to read too much into them and, instead, concentrate on the actual issue being explored.

Before I finish off here (sorry, this has rambled a little hasn't it?), having read all of the above, I wonder what you, the reader, think my response to the following situation, which happened just a couple of days ago, should have been.

Funnily enough it involves Brigadoon Station. Because I rent a spot there for a vendor board for some of our products I'm in the group associated with the land. A day or so ago the owner of the group sent out an object as an attachment. I copied the object to my inventory. I rezzed it in world. Initially it was set for sale (to myself, of course, given I was now the owner) so, because it was mod, I unset that. I then noticed it had touch active. So I touched it...

...and without warning, without being asked for my consent, I was teleported to a location on the Freedom Continent. I smirked and teleported back home.

Should I feel violated because my consent wasn't sought before the TP was done? Or should I, as I did at the time, accept that a device caught me in exactly the way I permit via my relay?


Lazy eye?

I'm working on an animation and, after a test of it (non-upload preview of it in Phoenix) my eyes seem to have gone a bit Thom Yorke!

Seems the blink animation has stopped and one eye got caught mid-blink, or something. Might have to build myself a bowl of water!

WEB-4125 causing permission information to be dropped?

I've had a few issues with my marketplace listings since the announcement of WEB-4152. Nothing too serious, I just noticed that the names of some listings had gone a little wrong. With some of the Z&A products I carry (and don't even get me started on how two avatars can't combine their marketplace listings to create a single store) the boxes are named "Product Name (Boxed)" and I change the name in the listing itself to show "Product Name" -- nothing clever, just neat and tidy. With WEB-4152 hitting I found that some of those names reverted to the pre-edit version.

Today though, I noticed an extra annoyance. It seems that the permissions information on many (but not all) of my listings had been lost. It also seems to have been on those where the name had "rolled back". So I had to go and check the permissions again.

As a shopper there's nothing I find more frustrating than finding a listing on the marketplace that gives no clue as to the permissions, so I was a little horrified to find that, through no fault of my own, I was now one of those vendors.


Linden Labs own all the things?

First off, let me just say IANAL. Not even close, and I don't even try and play one on the Internet, or even in Second Life. But I tend to be curious and I do read. So...

While I was working on a build today I had half an eye on a discussion that was taking place in the group associated with the Little Blue and Fermi sandboxes. The discussion was wandering about a bit but mostly seemed to be relating to which alternative grid was best and why the alternative grids are better than Second Life (or not).

I didn't pay too much attention to it. Second Life works for me at the moment and I generally can't be bothered with holy wars.

However, one comment, that was chalked up as something against Second Life, was that Linden Labs own everything you create. That caught my attention and caused me to raise an eyebrow. I watched the debate evolve a little and saw a couple of people chime in that this was, indeed, a fact. One person said that it was "like university where anything you create in the lab belongs to them" (I'm ignoring how true, or not, that is, or how parochial it probably is too). Another claimed that if something lives on their servers they own it. Yet another claimed that this was indeed true and that "it's called Possession is 9/10ths of the law".

Everyone making these claims seemed very sure of what they were saying, yet none of them were backing any of it up with citable sources (a common problem in SL in my experience). And, yet, it would be so easy to be sure, wouldn't it?

So I went to the obvious place: I went to check what Linden Labs assert. It's not hard to find, you need only look at section 7 of the terms of service. And what's the first thing we see there? Do we see Linden Labs say "all your works are belong to us"? Erm... not quite:
You retain any and all Intellectual Property Rights you already hold under applicable law in Content you upload, publish, and submit to or through the Servers, Websites, and other areas of the Service, subject to the rights, licenses, and other terms of this Agreement, including any underlying rights of other users or Linden Lab in Content that you may use or modify.
What follows is, of course, the usual requests that I extend Linden Labs a licence to distribute my works. That's fair enough. They'd have a devil of a time getting what I create down to your viewer, or onto various servers, if I didn't allow them to distribute copies of my work.

And, of course, there's potentially a lot of debate to be had about the possible scope for interpretation of the rights they request (this has been a common feature of people's readings of the ToS of various photo-hosting and sharing websites, for example), but that's a different issue.

I raised this in the group chat. I pointed to the ToS. I pointed out that Linden Labs, far from claiming to own everything you make, make a point of asserting that you own it and then go on to request a licence from you that you can only grant if you own the works in the first place. Nobody seemed convinced. Not even by Linden Labs' own words. One person just made their claim again, another brushed it all aside as it being just my opinion (presumably I formulated my opinion and then hacked LL's ToS to have it fit?).

Of course, in practice, it's not all quite that simple. Given the nature of Second Life your works mix with my works (sometimes actually linked together, or embedded in my work, etc...) and a lot of things that get created end up being derivative works with no clear single owner. But, again, I see that as a side issue. The claim was made that by the very nature of your work being on Linden Labs' own machines, they own the work and you don't. I think it's fair to say that that claim isn't true at all.

Even Linden Labs don't appear to believe that.


I don't normally cross-dress...

...but when I do there's obviously some sort of Time Warp involved.

And, yes, that is Miss Vila. Yes she did go blond.

In the background you can see a build I quickly did leading up to the dance.

Can't help thinking of a great quote from Spaced though (from Gatherings):
Mike: Wanna go back into your party?
Tim: But they were playing 'The Time Warp'! I hate 'The Time Warp'!
Mike: Daisy likes it.
Tim: I don't care! I hate it! It's boil-in-the-bag perversion for sexually repressed accountants and first-year drama students with too many posters of Betty Blue, The Blues Brothers, Big Blue and Blue Velvet on their blue bloody walls!
For what it's worth, I'm not sexually repressed. I'm not an accountant. And I'm very much not a first-year drama student. Still love The Time Warp though. :-)


Grid Status Notifier

If there's one constant source of vague annoyance in Second Life (okay, there isn't one, there's many more than one) it's the inability of other residents to check with the resources provided when there's a problem. While Linden Labs might not always update the grid status as a priority, it generally alerts people to upcoming planned outages (as does do the rather useful calendar feeds they provide -- subscribe to it in your calendar software of choice and you'll never be surprised by a planned rolling restart again). So it's always a little annoying (but not surprising) to see people asking why some sim is missing, or why it's restarting, etc..., when the grid status clearly says what's going on.

Of course, sometimes, problems hit out of the blue, they aren't planned, and, again, that's where the grid status comes in. If you're running a sim, or a store, or an event (dance, hunt, etc...), knowing about these issues as soon as possible can be very handy. While I personally try and keep on top of things by subscribing to the RSS feed of the grid status I'm seldom paying attention to my feed reader when I'm in-world.

That needs an in-world solution. What follows is what I'm now using. I can't and won't claim this as an original idea, the code is based on code by Dermot Core/DigitaL Scribe, but that code didn't work quite how I wanted so I re-wrote it from scratch (as much for fun as anything) and made it work "just so". I'm sharing what I wrote in the same way.

Just rez a prim, drop this in, and you're good to go. When it first loads it'll IM you the current status. Any time the latest status changes (either because it's a new status, or because it's been modified) it'll IM you it. This check is done every 5mins. Also, if anyone touches the prim the script is in, the current status is spoken in local chat.


The cake is a lie

Random find on the marketplace. This makes me happy. I wonder if I can set up a sentry bot to catch Zardia out in the workshop...


As the crow flies...

This one crops up every time Z&A are taking part in a hunt, and I was reminded of the problem again this weekend as The Femdom Hunt kicked off... the need to quickly measure the distance between two or more points on a sim (for those who don't know: many hunts, including The Femdom Hunt, have a rule where the hunt object has to be within 30m of the hunt sign or the end of a hunt path).

There's all sorts of tools and tricks (I often use the one of having Zardia stand with the gift, I'll stand at the sign, and we'll check how far apart we are on the Phoenix radar) but I decided to knock up a quick script for my own use next time.

If it's of help to anyone else: Z&A As the Crow Flies.


Not long now...

...until The Femdom Hunt II kicks off.

And that's not the only thing happening. There's something else about to happen at Z&A...


Last Login Tracker

I wrote this one a little earlier this year when some friends were having problems with their internet connection. They run a bot and that bot's online/offline status was a good indication as to how long it was since they'd lost their connection.

To use it, make a prim and drop this script in. Also drop in a notecard called Keys which has the UUID (one per line) of the avatars you want to track.

Note that the time is always recorded and displayed in UTC. Converting that to your local time is left as an exercise for the reader. ;-)

No such thing as too much testing

I was right to be nervous as well as excited. Even though I'd tested "everything" I felt the need to do one more set of tests on the thing I'm working on right now and, sure enough, I uncovered a really simple error. Simple in that it was easy to find under the right circumstance and simple in that the cause was obvious and it was easy to fix. It was just one simple thing I'd left out, forgotten about.

And now it's all fixed.

And, of course, now that everything is tested I'll be doing one more set of tests.

And I'll still be nervous.

Making stuff is such fun.


Nervous and Excited

I'm rather nervous and excited about this week. There's a fair bit going on. The main thing, of course, is that The Femdom Hunt II kicks off this Friday. The first hunt was a massive success, it turned into a much bigger even than we'd hoped for or dared imagine. Following that up is a little daunting. Will it end up being smaller? The same? Bigger? Does it even matter?

What I do know is that the builds I've seen so far from vendors look great. I've already seen some that I can't wait to get my hands on.

And then there's our build, the Z&A build (we're also doing a Shackles build too, of course). The thing we've made is quite a departure for us and it's something we've been working on quite hard for the past couple of weeks -- I've been in a scripting frenzy since late on last month. It started as a crude experiment and has ended up, not only with our hunt gift, but also a new line of products.

Which, all being well, we'll be launching at the end of this week too. (Shhhh! You didn't hear that from me).

And that's why I'm nervous. Releasing a new product, a new body of code, to our customers... always a big deal for me. I want to get it right, I want people to enjoy the work, I want them to have fun, and I want it to work well for them.

I'm sure it will. We've been testing as much as we can. But, still...

Okay, I'll stop waffling now. :-)


Organisation Fetish

I drive Zardia crazy with this sort of thing, but I can't resist. It's time to get the hunt objects ready for The Femdom Hunt II. Bring on the super-organised build platform!


A very fine pirate hat

Okay, I'll admit it, I don't really suit it that well:

Roses have never really been my thing. Perhaps this is more my style:

Whatever your taste in hats... you can get both of these, and lots of other goodies, over at The Velvet Thorn right now. This includes the chance to get your hands on four Z&A builds.


Check your sources!

I know this'll make no difference. It'll make no difference mostly because 99.9999% of SL won't be reading this blog. But, worse, even if 99.99999% of SL did read this blog people would still do this....

Stop reposting unsubstantiated rumour in SL! Please, just stop it. Yes, I know, you mean well, you want to help your fellow resident, you want to be nice to people around you (and, doubtless, some want to feel like they're ahead of the curve, they're the "FIRST POST!" types on busy blogs).

When I say this, I don't mean posting rumours about other people (although that's not nice, and there's a class of that that I'll come to in a moment), I mean "facts" about what's happening in SL right now. Almost always, if said "fact" comes without a URL to a primary source, it's nonsense. Take this one doing the rounds today, I've seen it in two groups so far, multiple times in one of them:

Linden Labs has recently made the decision to kull older unused accounts from the grid. The reason given for this is that the amount of unused accounts are lagging the inventory servers. If every avatar has just one alternate account, that's twice as much storage unnecessarily being used.  On October 1 2011, Linden Labs will commence kulling any account that has not been signed into for 60 days.....So if you have alts you want to keep, you need to log them in before 10/1/11.

There's a couple of things in the above should tip anyone off that it's dodgy. For one thing, notice the spelling of "cull"? We all know that Linden Labs is capable of making mistakes but you'd think, if the message did come from them, it would have been proofed a little. Another thing that raises the alarm bells right away is the reasoning given. It suggests that the data associated with each account (we'll be generous and assume that this "lag" it speaks of is a result of the inventory data) is equal. That's a very obvious nonsense right there isn't it? I control four accounts (me, an original account from a long time ago which is my "quiet time" account, Zanda the shop bot and "Crash Test Mistress" who I use as a stand-in domme when I'm building something that needs a domme and sub -- METABolt is so handy for that) and the inventory sizes of those vary wildly. My inventory is far larger than those other accounts.

And Miss Vila's inventory count puts mine to shame.

And I know people who have inventory counts that make Miss Vila's look tiny.

On top of all of that the whole thing just doesn't read right anyway. It's badly written.

Even then, they're just some alarm bells that should make you skeptical. But there's one big glaring issue with this too: where's the primary source? Really, come on, if Linden Labs were going to do this it would be noted somewhere. I know many like to talk down LL, like to portray them as incompetent idiots but, mostly, they do release information on changes before they make the changes. A change of that nature would be noted up front. It just would.

There was another example of this a couple or so months back. Most will recall the SNAFU with the Adam and Eve avatars that could be found in your Lost And Found folder. Here's the JIRA for that incident. Again, this got mentioned in a handful of groups and, in one group I'm in, a group manager posted a note saying that nobody should use these items because they were a virus and that we should delete them right away. I contacted the person in question, even pointing them at the JIRA. Their response was that they didn't want to risk it not being a virus. Even after I pointed them at the status message about it, they did nothing to retract the original group notice. Meanwhile, the rumour will have rolled on. Doubtless, to this day, there are people who "know" you can't trust anything called "Adam and Eve" because they're a virus.

The "rules" should be simple enough. If it looks like nonsense, it probably is. If it's full of spelling mistakes and/or punctuation errors, it's likely not from an official source. If the primary source isn't given (ideally as a URL) you should distrust the information and ask for the source. And, if none of the above are satisfied, it's probably a good idea not to pass it on.

As a closing point, and relating back to the issue of rumours about people, there's one class of rumour that I think deserves special attention, for different reasons. It's the group notice and copy/pasted text (or notecard) that goes around informing you that a named avatar has griefed a sim. Sometimes the sim will be named, often it won't be. And, yet, the details of the attack (at least the effects of it) will be given in some detail. This sort of thing is a little more tricky to check the veracity because, of course, this isn't something that has an official source. One thing I would say though, if you're faced with such information and a desire to pass it on: read up on the concept of a Joe job first. Can you think of a better method of trying to get an innocent avatar banned from as many sims as possible?


Possible Correlation

I'm sure I'm not the first to propose this but it's my observation the chances of a profile saying "No payment info on file" increase with the number of groups that start with punctuation.


Impact of the Marketplace

Some time last week I was reading the Second Life subreddit over on reddit and I saw a thread of conversation about the state of selling things in SL these days. There were some mixed responses, but one that interested me was the suggestion that the move from XStreet to Marketplace had killed their sales.

I find this a little curious because, over at Z&A, our experience has been very different.

The day we opened for business we also had all of our creations for sale via XStreet. XStreet did very well for us in the early days. In the first month the only sales we made were via there. After a while we started getting people visiting the shop (this was by the time we'd moved to the second shop). By the time we were at our third location we were in a position where around 2/3 of our sales were via the main store and 1/3 via XStreet (I'm ignoring malls for the moment -- they're a whole other blog entry).

Like many people we were rather worried by the move from XStreet to the Marketplace and, initially, it seemed like a pretty bad move. A number of things seemed like backward steps, others just didn't work at all. But, after a while, those things seemed to get sorted and, generally, these days, we're happy enough with how it works. Sure, there's a whole bunch of things it could do better, but it works well enough for us.

And the one thing we didn't see was a drop in sales.

Well, not in the long run. Initially, after the switch from XStreet to the Marketplace, there did appear to be a bit of a dip in sales. However, when this happened, we made a point of going through and tidying up all of our listings and (and I think this one was crucial) also using the related products system to link our products up.

Since then Z&A has grown, we've seen sales increase. Now, of course, we were (and still are) a young build team so we're still getting known, word is still spreading (and things like The Femdom Hunt will obviously have an impact too) and, we hope, our market is still increasing. We'd hope and expect to see sales increase anyway.

But one thing stands out, that makes me wonder about those who have seen sales fall since the move to the Marketplace: whereas before the move the split in sales was approx 66%/33% in favour of the main store, these days it's close to 50%/50% for main store vs Marketplace. Both Marketplace sales and main store sales have increased while, at the same time, Marketplace sales have increased faster.

It's hard to point to any single cause with all the variables involved but, for us at least, it's hard to see the move to the Marketplace as anything other than a good thing.


Knowing when your region has restarted

Often I'll be in-world when a rolling restart comes around. When this happens I'll generally TP away (usually to Z&A's "head office" -- a little 512 plot we have where we keep backup magic boxen and the like). Once there it's always been a case of either checking the map (not reliable at all), attempting to get landmark information (also not reliable) or attempting to TP home (fails: not back up, works: back up) so as to find out if the home sim is back.

None of them are the smartest solutions. So, a few months back, I realised that the simplest solution was to rez a prim (in this case in the Z&A workshop), throw it on the "gadget self" and have it detect when the sim is back and IM me. The code is simple enough:

As you can see, I've also made it so that a touch tells the last restart detected.

The handy thing about this is that I have offline IMs going to email so if the sim gets a restart when I'm not in-world I'll also get to know about it.


A quick fly around ZEXPO 2011

I'm just having a quick fly around ZEXPO 2011 (as part of Z&A I'm one of the exhibitors there) and already I'm finding some fun things. For example, as a kid, many times, I got to climb on the lions, but I never got the chance to do this:

And how neat is the DLF build? A scale model of their Femdom!

It's a building I know well from the first Femdom Hunt, having got stuck there for a while (in the best possible way).

I guess Elephant football makes a bit of a change from subbie football (although I guess you could combine the two):

I also see that the Femdom Community in SL is represented here:

and that they have some sort of naughty chair thing going on:

I wonder who could have built the chair. ;-)

And, of course, Shackles is represented at ZEXPO because Miss Vila and I built a version of The Femdom Cafe:

As I say, this was just a quick fly around. I've not even scratched the surface of the place. Hopefully I'll get some time next week to come and explore some more with Miss Vila. I'd recommend you pop over and have a good look around. And don't leave it too late, there's only 10 days to explore...


They're Here!

So, by the looks of things, today's server upgrade has brought mega support to the main grid. Which means self-made "megas" up to 64m on the longest side.

Awesome. :)



I've just been taking a new photo of the Z&A main store. The website has had a picture of the old one up for some time so I decided it was time to update it.

Here it is:


New Sun deck

Earlier today Miss Vila and myself put out a new Sun deck on the edge of the bay at the northern end of Raven Park. We've had a deck out there for quite some time but it had been a temporary build until we either made, or found, something more suitable.

Here's what we now have:

We've equipped with with a two seats. One the Z&A Productions Outdoor Chair:

the other the Sun Lounge Cage. Both the chair and the lounge have tables (which a sub can hold for you), one of which has been equipped with the all-important tray of drinks.

You'll also find a Shackles/Raven Park leash post on the deck, should you need to stop a sub, slave or pony from wandering off.


Sea of Yellow

The original co-owners of the sim known as Shackles have had to move on, meaning that half the sim is now up for rent. It looks odd, seeing Shackles, Raven Park and Z&A up against that sea of yellow:

If you know anyone who fancies living nextdoor to a friendly Femdom/BDSM hangout, do let them know. We make very good neighbours. And Z&A will be right on your doorstep. ;-)


On Organising a Second Life Event


What follows is not intended to be a howto guide. Neither is it intended to suggest that I have any special insight or any special experience. I write this mostly because a) I've been meaning to write this for my own benefit for some time and b) I wish I'd found something like this when I first got involved in organising a Second Life event.

First a little background, in case you don't know me (which seems unlikely if you're reading this blog but, just in case...). I'm one half of the team behind Z&A Productions. As such, over the past year and a half, I've been involved in promoting our work. For over a year of that time we've also taken part in many grid-wide hunts (as vendors) and have seen many different approaches to hunts. Also, in that time, we've been invited to and have taken part in a number of events that either seek to raise money for charities, or which simply aim to promote a community or sim.

And, of course, I was also part of the team that produced The Femdom Hunt.

What follows are my thoughts and experiences based on all of the above. What follows is what I've personally learnt about running an event where you expect the support of third parties.

Contact People Early

"Early" is hard to define and will, without question, depend on the nature of your event, but I'd suggest that the most important thing you can do is contact people as early as you possibly can. As soon as you have a concrete date for your event, get in contact with the people you'd like involved. There's a good chance that they're busy most of the time, both in SL and RL, so the sooner they know of the dates, the sooner they can put you in their calendar, the better.

Contact People Often

In my experience this one is vital. As a builder and vendor nothing is more frustrating than agreeing to take part in someone's event, or applying to be part of someone's hunt, and then have them go quiet. If the event is large it might be a good idea to create a group for it and ask all those involved to join it (now that the group limit is much higher there's less of a reason for this to be an issue).

Whatever system you use to keep in contact, use it often. Of course, you need to keep a balance between not enough and appearing to be annoying and spammy. I'd say that a good rule of thumb would be that you contact people whenever something important happens, when an important milestone is reached, when important dates happen (for example, you might want to give a weekly countdown and then, in the last week, count down the last few days) and when frequent requests for information come in such that it makes sense to let everyone know the answer.

If the people you want involved don't hear from you for a couple of weeks it's going to look like you've lost interest or you're not very well organised.

Be clear about what you want

Whatever the nature of your event, you're the one with the big idea, you're the one who sees the big picture. Be sure that you let everyone know what it is you expect from them. From personal experience there's nothing more frustrating than being told "do whatever you want". Zardia and I already do whatever we want: we build stuff that takes our fancy and we put it on sale in our shop. That's what we do, that's whatever we want. When we take part in someone else's event it's generally because we want to show our support, but we need to know the plan.

Of course, mostly, you don't want to appear to dictate to people what they should do. But if your event has a theme, be clear about it and the type of input you're looking for. If, for example, you're looking for people to make fresh builds for your event, tell them clearly the sort of build you're looking for (tell them that it must be on theme, tell them what the theme is, tell them how happy you are for them to deviate from the theme, etc...).

From a more practical point of view, if your event is a location-based showcase, tell them early on what the constraints are. Space and prims are finite in SL so there's a very good chance that your event will have very clear limits. Tell people how much space they have (ideally, make an object available that illustrates the space they'll have to work in). Tell people how many prims they have to play with. Tell them early exactly what their constraints are so they can be sure they're producing the right thing.

Tell people exactly what to do

Zardia and I thought and debated about this one a lot when we put together The Femdom Hunt. The issue was, exactly what level of detail should we put into any documents we sent out or wrote on the blog. The initial feeling was that, if we included too much detail, people might think we thought they were idiots. In the end we decided we were wrong. People generally appreciate too much information when it comes to SL events, we found. And, when we think about our own experiences, taking part in hunts, this makes sense.

In SL we often work with and interact with people in very different timezones than our own. This means that a lot of information exchange can be very disjointed. We have to rely on offline IMs (which can be killed by capping) or notecards (which can and do go missing) or trying to catch each other on at the same time (and when we're online we're often busy with something). As such I'd suggest that the more detail you include the better.

A case in point: hunts often kick off at midnight. It's as good a time as any to start a hunt. You'd think it would be obvious to all what you mean when you say a hunt starts at "midnight on the 15th". Turns out, that's not actually the case. We watched at least one hunt have a very chaotic start because what was commonly held to be "midnight on the 15th" (most people, myself included, take that to mean midnight at the start of the 15th) wasn't what the organisers had in mind. Things got worse when the organisers started getting visibly annoyed with the hunters, and even some vendors, because they didn't share the same view.

So, as simple and as obvious as it might seem to you (no matter when you think midnight is), it doesn't hurt to explain exactly what you mean when you say midnight. Be explicit. Say "midnight at the start of the 15th", or the equivalent for whatever item of information it is you're trying to convey. Remember, you'll be talking to people from many different cultures and many different backgrounds, their assumptions won't always match yours if an assumption has to be made.

Simply put: don't force people to make assumptions, don't put them in a position where they either have to guess or have to try and get hold of you, give them everything they need to know.

Be clear about when you want things done

This might seem obvious but it's vital. If you have a clear timetable, make it known to people as soon as possible. Have it readily available in any communication you create. If you're using a website or blog (see below), make it easy to find on there. If you send out regular notecards, always have it in there. If you have a group for the event (see above), include the timetable in the group description (not all people will read the latter, but those who do will appreciate the effort).

Use a blog or website

If your event is big enough to warrant it (this is almost always the case for hunts, for example), create a blog or a website for it. Two obvious services to look at using are Google's Blogger and Google Sites. Other facilities exist, of course, but I've personally used both of them to great effect.

Grab yourself one of those and update it often. It's also a great place to include the "static" information about your event (see above about providing general information and a calendar of events).

Also consider using something like Google Docs. For The Femdom Hunt I used Google Docs to maintain the location list and this proved very popular. It also meant I could update the status of locations very quickly and the change flowed through to the blog instantly.

Use a service like bit.ly

If you are using a blog or website you're obviously going to be sharing those URLs with lots of people, inside SL. The problem with that is, in most cases, the URLs are going to be long and unwieldy. Personally I'd recommend using a service like bly.ly to make short URLs. They better fit in group notices and in group chat, for example. The really nice thing about bly.ly is that, if you create an account (it's free) you can customise the URL. This means you're able to make URLs like bit.ly/FemdomHunt or bit.ly/TFHLocations.


That's it, for now. I doubt there's anything that surprising here, but having dealt with a lot of this for the past year or so now, and having learnt as I went along, I felt the urge to get this down in writing. Doubtless I'll expand on it at some point.

If you have an ideas for things to add to this, please do feel free to add them via the comments.




When RL meets SL

I think I whined one time too many about how hot it is here in RL right now. One moment Miss is thinking of sitting down in front of her fire, the next...

...I'm stuck in the DoD hanging cage, on the corner of her patio, overlooking the ocean. Mention was made of a "cool sea breeze".

And as for pointing out that the patio floor texture was kind of dirty-looking...


Firestorm's RLV Restriction Window

I'm still giving Firestorm a try and am using it pretty much every day. I've found a couple of problems, the odd bug and the like, and have made a point of reporting them. There's one or two things at the moment that get in the way and require that I drop back into Phoenix but, mostly, I'm getting used to Firestorm and, in some places, prefer it.

I'm still finding the odd new touch that impresses me. For example, just now, I was checking the RLV restriction list (Advanced >> RLVa >> Restrictions... in Phoenix and Firestorm). In Phoenix this has the restrictions and exceptions all mixed in. While it doesn't make the list useless (far from it, it's been a very useful debug tool in the past) it does mean you don't always see what you need to see at first glance. Firestorm has solved that problem rather well. Restrictions and exceptions have been placed in different lists:

I can also see that "Copy to Clipboard" button being very handy at times, especially when you're helping someone else out with RLV issues. Well played Phoenix/Firestorm developers!

Miss Vila's Return

After my storming even further into the lead on the local En Garde board, Miss Vila was rather keen to take the top spot back. So we had another match today. Miss had her wish:

 A close match, it has to be said (5 to Miss, 4 to me), but a win for Miss anyway.

Oh, yes, and did I mention the RLV-enabled stripping add-on that Miss insisted on purchasing?


On Rubbish Dominants and RLV

AKA "Stop being so bloody judgemental"

The other day I was watching a discussion take place, in group IM, between a small group of subs. The subject turned to (as it often does) good and bad dominants. The group in question has a membership who are generally heavy users of RLV so, unsurprisingly, knowledge of RLV is seen by many of them as an important quality in a dominant.

Which is fine. I'm a fan of RLV myself (and have been know to defend its use on a number of occasions -- that's a future blog entry). While my use of Second Life, as a venue to explore D/s, doesn't require RLV at its core, I do find that it adds an extra dimension that I deeply enjoy. I think it's also fair to say that any Domme I would ever submit to would be the sort of person who feels the same (it's a compatibility issue really, it's about being like-minded, about seeing things in a similar way). I consider myself very lucky that Miss Vila is just that person, that she enjoys using RLV, and that she accepted my submission.

What concerned me about the discussion was the very negative terms that were used about dominants who don't know RLV very well, or at all. The general opinion, in the discussion, seemed to be one of "how can anyone not know RLV?" or "why don't dominants know how to use all of the restraints I own?"

Not direct quotes, but that was the general thrust.

The wider complaint, of course, was that it wasn't possible to find a "good" dominant and part of that definition was that all "good" dominants must know how to use RLV, must know how to use RLV well, must know how to construct a good scene with RLV and, above all, must have a deep understanding of all possible toys and all possible combinations of #RLV folder contents.

I find that thinking more than a little crazy and very self-defeating. Sure, I can imagine it's very frustrating to be in a roleplay with someone who has given the impression that they're handy with RLV but who spend all of their time just button-pushing and not RPing. But they have to ask themselves this: how is anyone supposed to learn RLV in the first place? Where are all these RLV-expert dominants coming from? How do they get to be so handy with RLV?

A related complaint, from one of the subs, was that they spend a lot of time and a lot of effort making outfits, and even whole avatars, in their #RLV folder. And, yet, almost none of the dominants that they'd met knew how to make good use of this or how to "correctly" RP the use of those creations. Which is no surprise, I imagine that is the case, but I'd suggest that it's not the dominant's fault. The problem (not that it is a problem) is that dominants are not mind readers.

Think about it: any sub or slave who cares enough to put together sets of restraints (or, in my case, build RLV toys) will have a fantasy in mind. I'd suggest that it's almost impossible to not fantasise about how those items will be used on you. I'd suggest that it's the fantasy that creates the urge to put together those outfits and those whole avatars. And there's no way that any random dominant will know what your fantasy is. They just won't. And, so, without setting out to do so, you've set them up to fail before you've even met them.

My suggestions to those subs are:
  1. Stop expecting Second Life to hand you RLV-knowledgeable dominants on a plate. Use of RLV doesn't make anyone a dominant, and the mark of a dominant isn't use of RLV. An RLV-using dominant might very well be your ideal (join the club), but surely the spark, the common ground, the ability to communicate and create a scene together is what matters first? And if that person isn't so good with RLV, why not spend some OOC time with them, do the whole button-push thing, show them your cool toys, tell them why those toys make you hot and how they push your buttons. If you do that the "supply" of RLV-knowledgeable dominants will increase.
  2. Stop expecting dominants to be mind-readers who will know your every fantasy because you have a well-stocked #RLV folder and/or because you've given some clues in your avatar name and/or in your picks. It doesn't matter that you've got a mind-control-implant-wearing banesuit-clad ponygirl avatar in your folders, that communicates nothing about the story you had running through your mind that caused you to hit the SL marketplace in the first place. If you really must play out your fantasy, don't be so passive and expect the dominant to do all the work. Get to know them, tell them about your fantasy, spend some time (perhaps days, even weeks), work on playing it out.
Of course, it could be that you're looking for a quick play, that you can't or won't spend the time that's needed. That's okay. That's understandable. But, if that's the case, stop being so bloody judgemental. Consider the idea that that dominant you met, who you wanted to play with for a couple of hours, wasn't crap just because they didn't know your particular cuffs, or didn't know about your fetish that caused you to have a custard-filled bunny suit that they could have forced on you. Consider the idea that, perhaps, just perhaps, they were willing to learn, willing to have fun along with you, were willing to help play out your fantasy, but you didn't help them.

And, consider this: I've being wearing Miss Vila's collar for 15 months now. When we met I was just learning about what RLV could do, and Miss knew even less about it. When we met, I taught her what little I knew, and from there we learnt together. At the start I was leading, teaching, suggesting, setting the pace, because I was the one who knew what could be done and how you might do it. And then, one day, it all switched. Miss was fully in charge, was comfortable and confident with RLV, and knew what she wanted from it and used it to satisfy her wishes.

Imagine if, at the start, I'd decided she was a rubbish Domme because she didn't know RLV...

Oops Again

So, after pulling ahead of Miss on the local En Garde board, she decided that we should have another match so she could get back in front.

That went well then. ;-D


Giving Firestorm a Try

This evening I got brave and downloaded the new Phoenix Firestorm beta. It's quite a while since I last looked at Linden Lab's own v2 viewer, which I really didn't like at all, so, despite all the assurances from the Phoenix team that Firestorm didn't suck like v2 does, I was fully prepared to hate it.

I prepared wrong.

As well as it being nice to finally try things like web-on-a-prim (see above), and wearing multiple items of clothing on the same layer (finally! jacket-layer shirt with a jacket-layer vest!), there's a few other things in it that I'm really enjoying.

The big surprise is the new layout for chat and IMs. That was one of the things I really hated about v2 when I first tried it, the way that chat and IMs worked made no sense, felt all wrong, was horribly untidy. But the Firestorm crew seem to have got it spot on (or v2 has moved on a lot and works the same and I don't know 'cos I've not used it since). I'm also liking the dock system (which does come from v2, of course) that lets you undock and redock -- the way that works now makes a lot of sense.

There's a lot that isn't right yet too, of course. I think it's fair to say that Firestorm is a touch builder-unfriendly right now. Some of the handy tools that we're used to in Phoenix aren't there (yet), and I'm unconvinced by the white background for the script editor. Also, the script editor seems to save too fast (no, really, I mean it -- it seems to say that the script has been saved way before it can have been uploaded and compiled). On top of that there's handy things like spell-check that are missing.

But... it's a beta. There's still work for them to do. They acknowledge that there's still work to do. I'll be keeping it on my machine and using it, on and off, as well as updating when new versions come out. We know for sure that v1.x viewers will be killed off at some point so I feel that easing myself into the world of v2.x viewers is a sensible thing to do.

Grabbing a Region Map

Following on from yesterday's post about the map thing I made, I thought someone might like to see the code for grabbing the map. It's nothing clever and, after I threw it together, I realised that the gridsurvey.com API docs had an example anyway, but I'll post it here anyway in case anyone finds it useful.

It's written such that all you need do is drop the script in a prim (ideally a cube, I guess) and it'll "just work". Note that it places the map on face 0 of the prim -- this is handy for creating a one-prim framed map of your home.

You can find the code on gist, and embedded below:


Map of Home

After playing about with some code, the other day, for getting at sim maps (using the Grid Survey API), I had an urge to make a bigger map of our half of Shackles. A bit of texture repeat and offset tweaking, along with some coloured transparent prims, later...

Black is Raven Park. Red is Z&A Productions. Green is Shackles.

No, I'm not sure what use it is. But the urge to make a thing has to be satisfied.



And, so, a new blog.

Chances are you're reading this knowing that I maintain the blog for Z&A Productions (and/or The Femdom Hunt blog, when the hunt is under way). You might, then, be wondering why I feel the need to have another blog. The reason is pretty simple: sometimes I see or notice things (in Second Life) that I want to write about but which aren't really directly Z&A things. I don't want to use Z&A as a soapbox for my own views (which Zardia might or might not share), neither do I want to dilute the purpose of the Z&A blog with any random rambling of mine.

So, what can you expect here? Well, for one thing, expect it to be infrequent. I can't imagine I'll be adding that much. I can't imagine I'll be blogging daily (even weekly might be impressive). What I will be doing is, when the urge strikes, writing about issues that I feel the need to write about, and perhaps talk about products I've purchased in SL (so, yeah, perhaps the odd mini-review). These products are very likely to be RLV, BDSM, D/s or Femdom-related.