Stick a fork in me; I’m done

Or, rather, GB City is done. I’m still around, and will be for as long as SL is still kicking and screaming. But I took a long, hard look at my transaction history today, and realised that – much the same as home taping was supposed to be killing music – so Marketplace has killed my inworld store.

In the last month I have had a total of 87 transactions: people purchasing things I’ve made. 86 of those were from Marketplace, and just ONE was from the inworld store. We get plenty of visitors  to GB City, but they never go beyond the landing point. Why? Well… that’s where the lucky boards are. (And yes, I’ve tried out various things, from moving the lucky boards [in which case people stop showing up altogether, because they’re too lazy to go looking for them] to building an entire roleplay location with Daros, to try and boost visitors to the area.)

I’m sorry, guys, but I can no longer justify paying for an entire region of tier (not to mention paying for a weekly classified ad) just so you can get a freebie. GB City will be closing this month and our stores will move to being Marketplace-only. I’m going to tier down to a more affordable level, so I’m no longer paying almost £250 a month for nothing. It’s long  overdue, but I’ve hung onto all of that land for as long as I could. It took us a long time (and a lot of money) to obtain it all, and I suppose that now we’ll probably end up surrounded by shitty, lagtastic mainland-type homes full of poorly-scripted waterfalls and horses (dear god, the memories I have of some neighbours who lagged the sim to fucking soup, but hey-ho).

I could be doing much better things with that £250, which right now I’m effectively throwing away. If people would bother to shift their arses out of their skyboxes and actually go around and shop inworld  then it might be worth keeping, but since most people are too lazy to even leave a fucking review on a Marketplace item, I’m not going to expect them to haul arse to anywhere except the latest lagged-out special events that only the big-name creators get to sell at. Fuck the rest of us little guys, eh?

Bitter? Me? Yeah, I kind of am. Almost ten years in this place and I still go out to visit stores in person and shop there. It’s a shame that so many other people can’t be bothered to do that anymore, and prefer to shop from an online fucking catalogue.

Dear Diary: Did you miss me?

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

Did you miss me? Holy fucking shit, has life been busy for me in the past couple of months. A new job (with a lot of attendant new stuff to learn) and long hours (temporarily, I hope) have seen me with barely enough time to scarf down dinner and chat to Daros for an hour or two before I fall into bed each night. If I’ve logged into SL to do The Fashion Thing then I’ve been posting the results to Flickr, as I’ve just not had the time (nor the inclination and energy, to be honest) to sit down and write up a full blog post. You know me: I don’t just post a pic and credits here; I’m a wordy bastard and I like to ramble on about what I’m wearing.

So anyway, I have a day off (which is coinciding with the onset of a stinking cold, how lovely) and I thought that – as I shiver and hug a mug of Lemsip – I’d let my sartorial darlings know that Skelly ain’t dead. He’s just resting ;-)

Beautiful plumage, the Norwegian Blue cross-posted from Flickr thusly follows:

My latest look, posted last night. Back in full-on butch mode, with beard and leathers. Mainly because Skell can’t be arsed to shave. Credits here.

Doing a bit of Chloe Price male cosplay, after watching Let’s Plays of Life Is Strange  on YouTube. Credits here.

Fucking around with bowler hats for something completely random that worked out pretty well. Credits here.

Some old Mens Dept stuff. Love this look. Credits here.

Artsy-fartsing with a beautiful andro look. Credits here.

And, of course, getting in some snuggles with my gorgeous boy :-)

So yeah. I’ve been quiet, I know, and mea culpa  on that score. If life gets hectic and I don’t update over here, just check out my Flickr and you’ll see anything that I do  manage to get done in SL over there.

Dear Diary: The man from Porlock

Dear Diary,

Isn’t it funny how something that happens soon after you log into SL can colour your whole session inworld? I just had to log off and put Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross  (my bulletproof blood pressure-lowering song) on my mp3 player, because of a baaaaad login session.

I went inworld to try and put together a new look for the blog. I dropped a fair few L$ at Skin Fair yesterday and was going to blog some of the items I’d bought. Dance music blasting through headphones, I logged in… to find a customer query waiting for me. A slightly-odd one, but one I could satisfy in a few minutes nonetheless. I dealt with it, set the custom item out for sale in a special skybox away from the main store, sent the (offline) customer an IM with the SLurl and set to work stripping off and trying on new purchases in my photoshoot area.

The minimap alerted me to the fact that the customer had logged on and arrived in the sim, but no purchase came through. Ten minutes later, with me halfway through putting together an outfit (having unboxed items that were already in boxes within boxes – grrrr!) the IM came through: “I’m here, but I can’t find it.”

I realised he’d got caught in the fixed landing point we’d had to install at HASRA for the Destination Guide, so I apologised, explained about the landing point, and told him to take the teleport again. He was an old avatar with a legacy name, so I figured he knew that taking a teleport a second time while still in the sim would override a fixed landing point with routing anywhere.

Nope. He disappeared off the minimap and then reappeared about five minutes later in the same place.

Okay, it was going to be one of those  transactions. The only way I was going to get him to the skybox would be to teleport him there myself, so I changed out of my half-finished outfit (without saving it) and teleported to the skybox. I then sent him a direct TP offer.

No reply.

Five minutes went by.

I asked if he got the teleport offer.

Five more minutes went by.

I teleported direct to him. He was standing at the landing point, so I rezzed the purchase box right in front of him, sized up so he couldn’t miss it.

“Ignore that teleport offer,” I said in IM. “I’m right behind you now and I’ve rezzed the purchase box in front of you.”

No answer. He was clearly AFK.

FINALLY, he turned around. “Hi.”

*deep breath*

“Hi there. It’s right behind you.”

“Is it [what he wanted]?”

“Yes, it is.”

Another couple of minutes went by, and finally he purchased them.

After he’d left, I deleted the purchase box and went back up to my photoshoot skybox. Once again, I started stripping off the outfit and trying to remember what I’d been haflway through wearing before the customer had called me away.

Half an hour later, I gave up. Nothing was going right. I tried this jacket and those pants. Nope. How about that earring? Ugh, no. That makeup doesn’t go with this skin, and why the hell did I buy those shoes?! AAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHH!

I changed back into another outfit and logged off. That customer transaction had set the tone for my login session, and the tone was sheer frustration.

Dear Diary: The freebie effect

Dear Diary,

In the world of Marketplace-only shopping it’s very rare for me to get more than two or three visitors to my store per week these days. I would venture to say that 98% of my sales now come from Marketplace (with the attendant commission creamed off each one by LL) and the remaining 2% come from inworld sales. And that’s being generous. In fact, it’s probably closer to 99% vs 1%.

So imagine my delight when my visitor counter emailed me this morning that a total of 43 people had showed up in the store yesterday! That usually happens when something I’ve made is mentioned on a blog or in a group, and… usually that’s a freebie blog or freebie group. So it was with some small resignation that I opened up my transaction history to see what sales I’d made yesterday.

It was exactly as I’d expected.

Discounting the Marketplace sales, the inworld sales amounted to… two. One L$75 skybox, and one L$10 skybox. The remaining 41 people had simply hammered the freebie board. I have five or six free small skyboxes and photosets in that board, and yesterday I had hundreds  of ‘sales’ of those. People simply ignored the L$5 per play (try and find one that cheap anywhere else, people) gachas nearby and the L$10 simple skyboxes just on the side wall. Their focus was entirely on:

Which is fine. I know money’s scarce in this day and age, especially money for ‘a game’. And I know there are people who try to go through their entire Second Lives without spending a penny. But this is one reason why I withdrew my Free Male Avatar kit from XStreetSL (as Marketplace was once called). Every day I would get tens—sometimes even hundreds—of ‘sales’ of that freebie, while everything else just trickled off the virtual shelves.

“Well, your stuff might be crap, Skell.” Sure, it probably is, compared to some of the gorgeous mesh creations I see inworld. I’m making a bit of mesh of my own right now (still learning, though) and maybe my visual aesthetic isn’t that of everyone else. That’s fine; I never expected it would be. In the main, people are happy to pay for clothing and far less happy to pay for homes. After all, we constantly change what we wear, but we don’t constantly change what we live in, so I’m trying to focus more on furniture rather than homes.

But it can be dispiriting when you have other (very cheap and well-made!) items right by a freebie board and yet the freebie blinkers on your customers don’t allow them to see that stuff. To that end, this goes out to the non-content-creators in SL; the consumers, if you like:

Content creators will often gladly put out a freebie or two here and there. Sometimes they just want you to have a nice thing for nothing, sometimes the freebie was something that didn’t turn out how they wanted it to so they feel they can’t charge for it, but mostly freebies are a sample of their work. It’s kind of a “here’s what I do; if you like it I’d love for you to come back and maybe buy something”. The same ethos is why they participate in hunts: they hope that while you’re scanning their entire store for the hunt item you’ll spot something else  that you really like.

I’ll be brutally honest: it’s not always as altruistic as it seems. It costs real money to pay for tier in order to have an inworld store (you won’t pay L$10 [5¢] for a skybox, but I need to find the equivalent of L$57,978 [$234 inc. VAT] each month for tier). We need to make sales to help cover that cost. So we’d really appreciate it if you would just open your eyes and have a look around at what else we have in our stores after you’ve grabbed the freebie, rather than just TP in, grab the freebie, and TP out.

And you know, this is bigger than me just having a whinge here on my blog. Much, much bigger.

You know how many great stores I’ve found and gone back to shop at again and again after I’ve nipped in to get a free or really cheap item? Hundreds. And I’ve helped to keep those content creators in business by doing so. Pretty soon, if the TP-grab-run continues the way it is, the smaller content creators will no longer offer those freebies and will no longer be able to afford inworld stores. And we’ll all just stand on our platforms, buying from Marketplace (where the creator doesn’t even get all of the money we pay) and inworld stores will close one after the other. And then we’ll tell ourselves, “Well the reason I never go shopping inworld is because SL is so empty these days!”

*sigh*

Yeah, I just needed to get that off my chest. Normal service will be resumed, etc etc.

Dear Diary: Not dead

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

I’m not dead, but my hard drive is.

I mentioned back in this post that I suspected it was on its last legs. Prophetic, because it failed two weeks ago. Cue frantic backing-up of over 200GB of data, followed by surgery to remove the drive from its cage in the PC tower, packaging it up, expensive (holy shit expensive) shipping it via overnight courier back to the place that built my monster gaming rig, where they conducted exhaustive tests to confirm that yes, it had failed.

Well, DUH. Given that it kept vanishing from BIOS and failed the SeaTools Long Generic Test as well as showing up a lot of unreadable sectors in CHKDSK…

Now I find out that what I thought was warrantied… isn’t. So I now have to foot the labour costs for those exhaustive tests. Yeah, not exactly the happiest of little bunnies over here.

In the meantime, I’m running on my old Dell XPS rig. I’ve been posting some fashion stuff over on Flickr (see the sidebar images here on the blog, or click here), but to be honest I’ve not had the heart to update much on here. For one thing, my credit card has taken a hammering over this, and I still  have the expense of a new hard drive yet to come. For another thing (and this is a moan that I shouldn’t inflict on you, but hey it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I… oh no. Wrong song) RL has taken the proverbial cricket bat to my sorry arse and resulted in a lot of stress at work. It’s hard not to bring that kind of thing home with you, and decompressing has basically involved a lot of mindless stuff such as faffing around with time-eating and mind-numbing games such as Civilization V.

Anyhow, I have  got a job to do in SL, and that is as one of the official bloggers for A Clockwork Spiral. Inworld time is limited (and not helped by the fact that I’m currently waiting out a region restart in our home region that has lasted over 30 minutes so far) and it’s taking a while to put together the main post that I want to do for it. It will  see the light of day before the event is over, but it may take a few days to complete.

Did I mention I’m also coming down with the stinking  cold that’s doing the rounds at work?

*sigh*

So yeah. Not dead, but slightly disheartened :-/

 

Dear Diary: Hassle, hassle hassle

Dear Diary,

Well it’s been fun times here at Virtual Bloke Towers over the past couple of days. You may have noticed some site downtime, which has – according to my webhost – come about because the site is hammering its shared server with script requests, and overloading the available memory. When I installed a small plugin to analyse exactly what  was causing this? It turned out to be the Jetpack plugin.

Now, WordPress bloggers will know that WP removed all of their stats from installations and shoved them into the Jetpack plugin. The problem with Jetpack is that it is an absolutely massive, bloated plugin which contains something like (at last count) 20 options for your WordPress installation. It is non-customisable, which means that you either have it all or have none of it. The site analysis showed that Jetpack was taking up 60% of the site’s load time, which is unacceptable. So I’ve removed it.

This means the WordPress ‘Like’ button is gone, as are the sharing buttons. Those, plus the stats, were the only things I was using, and yet Jetpack was absolutely killing my server, to the point where my webhost’s automatic kill scripts were killing the site itself for up to 30 minutes at a time. That’s unacceptable to me, so I’d rather live without likes and shares and (*sob*) even stats, if it means:

  1. the site stays UP
  2. it gets faster

I’ve also installed a caching plugin, so hopefully the site will get a lot faster from now on, as static HTML pages will be generated and served up, rather than the far more intensive PHP pages that are the WordPress default.

And now, Dear Diary, here is the point where Skell confesses to feeling like a complete and utter idiot.

You remember how, after being hit by SO MUCH SPAM that I couldn’t handle it and blocked the countries of Ukraine and China from accessing the blog? Yeah, that wasn’t an over-reaction, by the way. The spam went from something like 40 comments per day down to about two per week since I did that.

Well, a couple of days ago I sent a ‘You have been blogged’ notecard to the creators featured in a recent post. I logged off soon after, and then came the offline IMs.

The first one was an image link. The second said just, “lol”. And the third said, “thanks, tho”. Flummoxed, I clicked the image link… and it was a screenshot of what that (rather well-known) creator had seen when they pasted the blog link in my notecard into their browser.

It was this page:

Yep. That well-known creator lives either in Ukraine or China, and they couldn’t access the blog. I was MORTIFIED O.o

I logged back in to tender my profuse apologies, but received no reply, which wasn’t surprising. I then promptly de-activated the country blocks for both China and Ukraine (the only reason I shelled out $35 for the Pro edition of the plugin, but hey-ho). And, within two hours there were five spam comments sitting and waiting for me, from – you guessed it – China and Ukraine. Business as usual, then :-/

So yeah. I guess you could say it’s been interesting times this week, in the sense of that old curse: “May you live in interesting times”. Frustration and embarrassment do not good companions make.

Dear Diary: Roll on Spring

Dear Diary,

I. am. knackered.

Dear fucking god, I am knackered. Someone at work had a family crisis this week and had to rush home. I was halfway through my shift, and they had only just started theirs. Guess who’s the only other person who can do their job? Uh-huh. I ended up doing my job, followed by their job. And I had to do that for three days. Believe me, trying to cram 16 hours of work into as close to a normal shift as possible is… well, impossible, but I managed something close to it. Now, though, I’m wiped, and consequently I’ve not been doing much in SL for most of this week; mainly logging in to clear inventory offers, check the store’s okay, and just sit on a couch and vegetate. I barely even shopped! How knackered am I? Well, I slept for nearly ten hours last night, and I almost never  do that. Anyway, hopefully my colleague will be back on Monday, so normal service etc should be resumed.

This is our beagle in SL. His name’s Smeagol the Beagol. (Daros named him. Can you tell? XD) I kinda know how Smeagol feels right about now:

As a result, there’s not much in the way of SL stuff to update you with in this post, but I’ve got a bit of blog stuff. First of all, since I’ve been both vegetating and  frazzled when I’m home, I’ve been reading a bit more and listening to more (if that’s possible) music. I thought it might be interesting to run a page wherein I document my current activities in that vein, so look in the sidebar for a new page, called Currently…

On that page, you will find my current: reading, listening, wearing (SL), making, and wishing. I doubt I’ll update it on a weekly basis, since I don’t read as much as I used to and it’ll take me more than a week to get through one book (I can read quickly, but with my 4am start for work I’m usually at the point of nodding off once I’m comfortable with a book in my hand) but I’ll keep the previous weeks’ lists at the end of each post so you can catch up if you miss any. I hope you can find some new music, or something interesting to read, from that list. You might be surprised by my first book choice, but don’t be. It’s a damned good one, and I read around a lot  of different subjects.

Now, back at the end of January, I was concerned about the number of spammers hitting the blog. You can read the post here – Spanking Your Meat – and what I did about it (including my alarm on, having installed some security plugins, seeing how many people were constantly trying to hack  the blog). I promised at the end of that post to update you on what I’d done, and show you what the stats were for February, after taking those security measures, so here’s that update.

First of all, I soon found out who the worst culprits were, country-wise, for both hacks and spam. You might be surprised at the spam locations, but probably not the hacks.

Hack attempts primarily came from: Ukraine, Belarus, Russian Federation, China. Oh, and rather weirdly… Henderson, USA.

Spam primarily came from: all of the above, plus France, Germany, and Kansas City. Yep, somewhere in the Mid States we have Spam Queen and Hacker Central.

Offending ISPs became clear over the month, as well. In Germany the prime ‘baddy’ was LeaseWeb. In France it was OVH. In Ukraine it was Kyivstar. I got to the point where I was hunting down entire IP blocks for those ISPs and banning them using the WordFence Advanced Blocking option, and in some cases, boy that really worked…

Let us begin in a surprising place: Minneapolis. Home of His Royal Princeness, but someone was trying to Purple Rain on my parade, because look at this:

Now… WHY would someone from Minneapolis be so interested  in all things ‘user’ and ‘admin’, huh? Could it be because of this?

Bet your fucking life it was. No way, Mr Comcast Business User at IP number 50-78-225-33; you’re not getting to my admin login panel after trying to sniff out a list of names of all users on the blog, nor are you hitting it with a packetstorm. Thanks to Wordfence and Bad Behaviour, he was stopped in his tracks.

Here’s just one IP block of the French OVH spammers:

More blocks. Wowrack is a server farm and is used by a lot of spammers. That ‘randomosity’ tag gets hit hundreds  of times a day. It’s one that I’ve used a lot, therefore it contains a lot of content (and a lot of images) which get sucked down by site scrapers, thereby increasing my bandwidth usage. The ‘suspicious suffixes’ IP was adding dodgy-looking code to the end of links it was trying to grab. And there’s another block of the good ol’ Leaseweb spammer IPs:

I also blocked the Russian Yandex search engine spider (hosted, oddly, in Palo Alto, US). Because YOW, that bitch doesn’t obey the robots.txt command I have to only crawl every few hundreds of seconds. Look at how many hits have been blocked!

More French OVH spammers:

Wordfence will also tell you who logged into and out of your blog (including yourself) and it logs failed attempts. Oh look, Kansas City and Henderson again! Oh, and OVH. *snerk*

Another load. Lots of confused Americans around here. These ones are trying the default ‘admin’ username.

The spam and hacks from Ukraine and China were getting so bad that I couldn’t keep up with it. Hunting down the hundreds of IP ranges for two countries (lists do exist on the interwebs, but each one is hundreds of ranges long, and I don’t have the time to copy/paste individually) was a nightmare, so in the end I forked out for the paid version of Wordfence, purely for two reasons:

  1. The plugin works and works well, thus I’m happy to support it
  2. The paid version lets you block entire countries from accessing your site

Yep, that’s what I had to do in the end. So, if you’re from China or the Ukraine, unless you’re using a tunnel or a TOR-like proxy, all that you’ll see when you try to access Virtual Bloke… is this page.

Finally, I promised you a screenshot of my Askimet spam filter results for February. It had halved since January, which is mainly a result of the security plugins, the .htaccess file and improved robots.txt files. It’s a work-in-progress, and you can see that March is already gearing up to be a bit of a bad month again. Now, though, the spam is coming mainly from the US, Germany, and France. I’m still working on this, so over the course of the upcoming months those totals should go down a bit more.

They did get one thing right in their failed attempt to hack, though:

So totally am ;-)

 

Dear Diary: Goin’ all Pharrell on ya

Dear Diary,

Forgive me, but I’ve been logged inworld for a bit, dancing along to Pharrell’s Happy  (and wishing I had my own personal Minion, but hey, there are plenty of YouTube videos for that) and it kind of sums up how I feel about Second Life right now: happy and optimistic.

Earlier this evening (after waking from an over-long nap; seriously, my workload IRL is kicking my arse at the moment and it’s turning me into an old man re: my need for sleep) I read some articles about Ebbe Altberg’s first week at Linden Lab. I gotta tell ya, my sartorial darlings, I have such  high hopes for this guy at the helm of our little pixel paradise. He really seems to get it.

Yeah yeah, I know. Rodvik really seemed to get it, too, and I had high hopes of him as well. I have no idea what happened there. We can be a demanding bunch sometimes, so whether the signal-to-noise ratio got too much for him too early on, I don’t know. But, so far, Ebbe (if he’ll forgive the familiarity) has proved himself to be eminently approachable – moreso than Rodvik was in his early tenure – and with good reason: the new CEO is a man who’s perfectly at home with social media.

I’d pondered writing an open letter (if I can get past the ‘Dear Ebbe’ greeting that’ll make me feel like I’m writing to an agony aunt) and I may still do so. There’s already been a series of great forum threads and blog posts by bigger fish than me, letting Ebbe know what needs fixing, and reminding him that – in the SL userbase – he has his greatest asset and publicity machine. I’ve been making notes for that open letter, so expect to see it sometime soon.

This transcript and partial audio over at Inara Pey’s blog from the meeting that Ebbe had with several well-known and respected SL residents gave me a lot of confidence in the future of SL. A couple of standout points for me:

It would be silly to imagine that four or five of us sitting here in the office and just thinking about it will have all the answers … I don’t know how much has been tried here, but it doesn’t seem like it’s been a very normal process to do usability testing, user testing, so that’s something i have to look into as well and see how people react to things that we create. I’ve grown-up with that. Even at Microsoft you couldn’t do a single feature for Word without sitting in a lab watching people struggle with using your feature.

Usability testing of new features – be it actually bringing people into Battery St or asking experienced and new residents inworld (depending on the feature being introduced) for their feedback and/or observing their interaction with the feature – is something that’s long been a request from the community at large.

This boils down to a far simpler point, and a longstanding pet peeve of mine with regard to the Lab: getting feedback from a wide range of users before  a feature is implemented, listening to that feedback, and acting on it. Check whether a feature will improve residents’ SLives, or cause problems such as breaking existing content. In the past, the Lab has requested feedback and then appeared to ignore it completely, or a new feature has been rolled out that causes uproar which falls on seemingly-deaf ears. (They’re probably not deaf; just overwhelmed by the volume, but still…)

Following on from that, this statement gives me great hope for a sea change at the Lab with regard to feedback and acting on that feedback:

[… ] these days you have to be able to do things very quickly and react very quickly and try things very quickly. I’m all fine with lots of little failures, but you have to constantly be trying and looking at data and users and feedback and understand whether you’re on the right track and be able to quickly adjust if you’re not.

Then there’s the outside world’s viewpoint of SL, as demonstrated here:

I think the market ended-up dictating what they thought about it, and we lost our ability to tell the story, and the story was being told to us…

One simple thing that can be done to begin combatting this is to put together a press kit that’s a portfolio of resident creativity. (I know that may provoke howls re: the new ToS, but hear me out). Take, for example, the ‘Second Life Picture of the Day’ that’s tweeted most days on the official Twitter account. Why is it that, on the average press story about Second Life, I see the same old images from 2007 being trotted out instead of the beautiful present day images that are being created?

Ask those amazing photographers for permission to use specific examples of their work (let them pick their best pieces for you to showcase) and put together a new presskit. Send it out to every major (and minor) media organisation you can think of; just a reminder that, “Hey, yes we’re still here, and we don’t look like that anymore; this is what we have now.”

The main reason why interaction with SL’s residents can seem overwhelming to a new CEO is purely because an interactive CEO (indeed, even an interactive Lab) is such a rare thing. Contact has been so infrequent in the past, and even when it started out well it was later withdrawn, and residents are quite literally starved  of communication. Keep the lines open and the initial desperation of the starved multitudes to have their voices heard will fade to a more manageable (and productive) hum. Just keep those communication lines open. That’s the most important thing of all.

See? Already I’m halfway through writing that open letter. I think I’d better stop now, and save it for the letter itself.

Further reading

Jo Yardley summarises the meeting with Ebbe (I loved the Photoshop analogy; it sums up the new user experience of today perfectly, as well as the openness of SL which is both its greatest asset and probably one of its biggest downfalls. So many people these days don’t want  to think or create their own entertainment; they’re so accustomed to having entertainment given to them in easy, bite-sized chunks of 140 characters and ‘Like’ buttons. Working with that as well as the desire for complexity that many people also want is going to be a challenge.)

Ebbe replies on the official forums (encouraging point in the ongoing discussion there that may have taken many of us by surprise: people at the Lab appear to have been as unhappy as the users were at the closure of the JIRA and the lack of communication from the Lab, which suggests that the ‘shutdown’ was an edict from On High)

– He’s also been RTing a lot of SL residents and interacting a great deal on Twitter @EbbeAltberg

In other news, I’ve created a Tumblr account for the blog. Not sure what I’ll do with it yet, but keep an eye on it, follow it if it takes your fancy. I’m sure I’ll make more use of it than the single post currently on there ;-)

Over and out (and into bed with me; GAH! I’m so fucking tired!)

Dear Diary: Mr Freebie, I wish I could help you

Dear Diary,

I came across Mr Freebie while I was in SF Design the other day. I meet him now and then, in various forms, but he’s most frequently in the guise of Mr Long-Haired McSteroid-User, bearing the following traits:

Massively-muscular torso and thighs
Tiny head (mainly because of the relative size to the rest of his body)
Too-short T-Rex arms (seriously, how does he pee?!)
Long, floufy black hair
Open shirt (often denim)
Undone jeans (oh god, just… no. Those freebie ones are NOT sexy)
Enormous boots, oversized to fit over his huge calf muscles
In-yer-face black tattoos all over his torso
That godawful ‘photorealistic Steve’ resell skin

And this chap wasn’t much different. I got only one screenshot, because his (freebie) AO kept him twitching and moving around all over the place:

He actually looks better than most of his fellow Mr Freebies. His jeans are done up (and even have a belt) and he’s at least not wearing that ‘Steve’ skin (although the face on the skin he is wearing is very feminine and gives a strange contrast to the ultra-masculinity of his torso). He wasn’t all that new (several months old) but he probably has other things that concern him more than adjusting his prims…

The guy in the background of this shot (I recall that his avatar was about three years old at the time) is a far more typical (horrendous!) Mr Freebie than the one in the pic above:

No. Just… no. Even Skell’s body language shows him leaning away in horror O.o

Back to our first (less-awful) Mr Freebie, yes it’s all free stuff. The eyes are from a free KMADD pack at FabFree, the necklace is a freebie from Gabriel. The hair looks to be a Damselfly ripoff, and the tats are definitely free (at least they’re not those godawful jet black ones you see in resell stores).

Bless his heart, he’s trying, but I wishwishwish I could have just given him a hug, taken his hand, told him to dig up $10 from somewhere (forego a couple of morning coffees or his newspapers for one week) and taken him around a few stores. $10 would get him roughly L$2500, and for that he could have:

– Joined the Belleza group and picked up their massive fatpack of group gift skins (L$250)
– Bought a long-haired mesh style from Exile (L$250) or Wasabi Pills (L$250)
– Bought mesh leather biker pants or denim jeans from Lapointe & Bastchild (L$250 – L$299)
– Bought a mesh unbuttoned shirt from Razor (L$399)
– Bought biker boots from Lapointe & Bastchild (L$499)
OR
– Purchased a single ‘biker’ fatpack from Lapointe & Bastchild, containing: leather jacket, pants, boots, belt, plus t-shirt (L$599)
– Bought a good, muscular base shape from BIG (L$100)
– Joined the IKON group (free) and waited for the next monthly group gift of eyes
OR
– Purchased a pair of eyes from IKON (L$150)
– Bought a full-torso and arm tattoo from Letis Tattoo (L$200)

If he still wanted additional facial hair, then the mesh facial hair by Marcodigi Aeon (the one Skell wears a lot) is only L$105.

Total cost? Well, I gave some variants there, but no more than L$2347 for the most expensive option. Less than $10 and he could look bloody amazing. And yes, be the chick-magnet that he’s striving for in that image.

UPDATE – I quickly threw together a similar ‘hairy biker dude’ look from the items mentioned above. Total cost (not including shape, so if you grab one from BIG, add L$100 to the total cost) was L$2152. That’s less than US$9:

Quick Marketplace links for all that stuff:

Shirt ~ Pants ~ Boots ~ Hair ~ Tattoo ~ Beard

Inworld stuff:

Skin (go here and join the group [L$250 cost], then grab the male group gift) ~ Eyes (all pairs are L$150)

I know, I know. Some people can’t afford even $10 for ‘a game’, and that poor guy is just wandering around and doing his best with the stores he finds. I may come across him again in three years time and he’s discovered mesh and all the amazing stores that you eventually learn about, and he’ll look amazing… but in my experience, the people who begin SL that way just carry on that way. And sure, if he’s happy with his freebie look then who am I to suggest he spends money to ‘look better’?

UPDATE #2

Yes, it can be done entirely free, and I have done it. I quickly logged in an alt that I kitted out, Goth style, entirely free (most of it from the Free Dove store, plus a couple of items from Marketplace; skin and shape are inventory starter avatar defaults). The only thing that I know is no longer available is the hair, but everything else? Still available, still free.

He has just one pose and no eye-direction HUD, so the pic’s limited, but he’s entirely free. Every last bit of him.

Still makes me heave a big sigh, though :-/

Dear Diary: Quirky sod, I am

Dear Diary,

Am I the only one with quirks and traits specific to my avatar? Like others out there, I have (infrequently-logged) alts, and I’ve often said to friends that those alts represent different (infrequently-expressed) aspects of my personality, but Skell intrigues me sometimes because he has habits that I – in real life – don’t.

Case in point: I don’t smoke. I’ve never smoked. In fact, cigarette smoke is one of the main triggers for my asthma and I avoid it like the plague, to the point of holding my breath whenever I have to walk past or behind someone who’s smoking in the street. But in Second Life, Skell smokes. He has ashtrays on every desk that he uses, and he’s often got a cigarette dangling from his hand or between his lips. It’s not an “it’s cool to smoke” thing (because, in my view, it’s not); rather it’s just part of who he is. I guess at least there’s no avatar equivalent of emphysema or lung cancer, but it puzzles me as to why Skell enjoys* doing something that I personally don’t like (and which, in fact, can make me quite ill).

Incidentally, I’ve seen comments on at least one very popular blog that actually tell the blogger off  for glamourising smoking. The comment that sticks most in my mind is one of castigation-by-shame, wherein the commenter informed the blogger she was ‘disappointed’ to see a post featuring cigarettes; basically implying that the blogger had failed in her usual high standards and should be setting an example, since her blog was so popular. And what better way to try and control someone else’s artistic expression than by trying to make them feel guilty?

*And we’re not even going into the slightly-odd depths that are the fact that Skell is his own person who enjoys  doing things. Yeah, so not going there O.o

Speaking of quirks, is there a reason why some female avatars enjoy going shopping in their underwear? I mean, before Project Sunshine and the whole server-side baking thing, that could be put down to varying degrees of bakefail, but now? I often see female avatars skipping and strutting around stores and open areas in bras and knickers. Not bikinis, not slutwear; actual lingerie. Sure, you’ll sometimes see me shopping in a corset and heels, but there’s no way on Philip’s sweet grid you’ll catch me indulging in retail therapy in a pair of boxer shorts or something. Even when I’m wearing a corset and heels I’ll also be wearing pants.

Seriously, was it so imperative that you get to the event as soon as the notecard arrived, that you didn’t even have time to get dressed?! :p

As for this, yeah I know it’s as much an expression of style as my own weirdness sometimes is, but my instant reaction is just, “Honey, why did you even bother? Just leave the pants at home,” –

These avatars frequently skip instead of walking. For once, just once, I’d love to see the realistic result of trying to skip in pants like that. Someone please  make a ‘falling flat on your face’ AO…

In non-quirky news, I’ve got my application in for this year’s Steam Hunt. My prize is already made (my god, I’m actually organised, but only because the Victorian skybox that I’ve already blogged is going to be my prize). I’m also going to rez and convex hull my old Renaissance Hunt prize from several years ago: the Fulcanelli  house. It’s just been sitting in my inventory for about three years, which is a shame because it’s one of my favourite builds. Time to update it, reduce the prim count (the convex hull thing) and get it out for sale.