Monday, December 28, 2015

SL Geography

Second Life Grid Map

When we began writing for SL Newser, in 2013, our first article was about the major continents, or mainlands, of Second Life. In that article, it was calculated that one could undertake the longest possible journey, without use of teleportation, by traveling from the Southern tip of Satori all the way to the Eastern end of Gaeta. Readers were challenged to attempt to verify this, by making the journey themselves. On the above map, this journey is shown by the red line. Seven months later, one of our alts, a dragon named Katzu made the journey, which covered 25 miles and took three days to complete.

If you have been following my articles in the Newser, many of them are about adventures to places, scattered all around the virtual world, called "The Grid". As each article is being prepared, we open a "world map", which can be found in the viewer and at the website. From this map, we can pinpoint the location of the planned adventure, on the grid, and make local maps, to show greater details. The map, shown above, is a composite and shows the main part of the grid. There is more to the grid than shown here, but these fringe sims are, for the most part, used for premium account homes and land developments by LL. We have surveyed some "fringe" sims, but found little in the way of adventures to write about there. All of my articles for Newser took place at locations on the above world map. In preparation for new articles, I ask myself where have I not been and what have I not done. This time, I found myself asking, how big is the virtual world and how many people live in it. The search for the answers to those questions proved to be enlightening for me and I felt would also be of interest to readers of the Newser. An online search took me to a web page called, "Second Life Grid Survey". This page is updated every day and the world map is also adjusted daily. Let's have a look at what I found, on the Grid Survey, Christmas day.

The total number of residents is given as 44,357,627 Keep in mind that a large number of these could be alts or even bots, so that brings it down a bit. Fortunately, there are closer to 30-50 thousand online, at any given time. How much space do all these avatars have, to move about in?  The current number of sims is 24,909, with 13% of them rated for [G], 67% for [M] and 30% for [A]. The total area of all sims, sea sims included is 1632.44 square kilometers. That means, if you packed all the sims into one, giant square continent, it would measure 25 miles on each side, 625 Sq.Mi. (green square on map), or slightly larger than the city of London, England. If all of the 44+ million came on at the same time, and spread out evenly, there would be 1700 avatars on each sim. The entire grid would shut down, long before they could all get on. With the typical number of people on line, spread out evenly, the number would be a more comfortable 1.5 avs per sim. This is more like the numbers I see, when I visit sims to write about. When avs gather for events, lag increases, because they are being rendered by the computer that you are viewing them on. Most of us can handle a party of about two dozen avs, but there are some clubs and events that attract such large crowds, low end computers get stopped in their tracks, litterally.

Some final words on the grid map:

You can use the world map in your viewer or at the site. and zoom and pan to see all of the grid. I found the composite maps online, added details and reduced the size to fit here.
The gold diamond, just below center, is the location of the Sunweaver Estates, home to the SL Newser and this Reporter. Download a copy and find your home sim. I'm going to hang the map in my castle. The sims are on a blue base, giving the impression of islands on a vast ocean. In fact, most of the blue area is really space which has no sims or servers at all. If you could go there, which I recently did, you would experience being a singularity. There is nothing to see in any direction. You cannot move and even your [HOME] button won't work. You are point A. There is no point B.

The base map would also make an incredible movie, with each frame advancing one month since the beginning of Second Life. Another animation could use overlays to show population densities, over a day or week. How about an animation that shows everybody that's on with a dot of different color,depending on the time zone the player is in RL. I don't know if the data needed to make such animations exists. It would be a major project, any way you look at it.

We hope you have enjoyed the little map-hopping adventure. Hopefully, you'll be inspired to get out and blaze your own trails, in our vast virtual world. There are endless adventures for all of us.

Happy Trails,

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Real Santa

The Real Santa

We are now in the last week of the year, the week between Christmas and New Years. These end days of the year have come to be known as "The Holidays", but few know that the tradition is even older than Christianity itself. These holidays took root, even before the development of the ancient Roman Empire.  The Etruscans, forerunners of the Romans, had an unusual calendar. Their year was divided into 12 months of 30 days, for a total of 360 days. They knew the real length of the year, so a wise king declared that the extra days were a special time for celebrating and giving gifts. During the year end days, the king would give out small sacks of money and grant pardons to his subjects. Long after his passing, legends of the great king were still being told, at year's end, by countless generations. By Greek and Roman times, the legends of the king had deified him as Cronus (Father Time) and Saturn. Many generations of spreading the name throughout Europe softened it from Saturn-Cronus to Santa Claus. The well known "St. Nickolaus" story was actually fabricated, by early Roman Christians, as a means of turning old "pagan" legends into Christian ones.

Today, with all the commercialization of holidays, the only thing "holy" is your pockets, after buying all the gifts. If you want to have a truly "old fashioned Christmas" and give an inexpensive gift, that will be cherished for a life time, give them your forgiveness. It is the one gift that is as much fun to give AND receive.

Happy New Year

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Sunweaver Community

When one contemplates the workings of the universe, adjusting our perceptions of scale and time, to view it in it's entirety, down to the tiniest sub-atomic particle, we discover it is all controled by a single fractal formula. This formula is the matrix of life. Everything is connected and part of the whole. The universe is a living thing. It and all of it's parts, for optimum health, act as one. Small lives gather to form greater lives, with greater powers, from clod to god, as the saying goes.

My life long involvement with family, friends and community carries into Second Life. As I explore the grid, for new adventures, I always keep an eye out for signs of evolved communities. I've found quite a few fine communities and, for most of my years in SL, have lived in the one I love the best, Sunweavers

The Sunweaver group is founded by Rita Mariner and is about nine years old, with 660 current members. The group's roots go back to a gathering on the MUD sim, that came to be known as MUD's Women. As they grew in size, the gathering moved to Pockwock and filled half the sim. The first full sim was named Sunweaver Isle. I wasn't around, when they decided on the name, but have always felt it inspires faith and hope in a greater life. Over time, new sims were added around the isle. They were all connected, up to 9-10 at one point. The included map shows an up to date view of the cluster of sims, Sunweaver Estates. The six sims are connected face to face, permitting ground and air traffic, from end to end. Boating will involve a short portage on HV Community. A new roadway allows ground traffic and has a single rail trolly to all the Sunny neighborwoods. I'm a Sunweaver Highway Junkie. I'll walk, ride or fly the length and back, several times a week, discovering new points of interest and making new friends. We'll take that journey, checking out some of the points of interest in a moment.

There are other sims which are tied to Sunweaver, but not "physically" connected. A few sims distance to the East, we find Sunweaver Isle, Rita's home. There are isles between her and the main group, but they parlez vous Francais and little else is known about them. A few miles west of the cluster, you'll find pleanty of Sunweavers on the Purrfection Estates, especially at theme parties, Tuesday and Thursday nights, at the Happy Vixen Beach club. To the South, there are MLP themed sims,which, at one time were connected to the Sunweaver sims. I should mention that, although Sunweavers are predominately Furries, they are open, friendly and helpfull to all other avforms.

Hop on my jet hover bike and we'll take a quick tour of the six connected Sunweaver sims. We'll point out some of the better known points of interest. We could name many more, but a) after all this time, I am finding new interesting areas and b) you should come and explore them for yourself. We'll begin at the Southern end, my home in Second Life.

Sunweaver Bay
When I am not out exploring the SL world or dancing at the many local theme parties, you'll find me keeping watch on the sim and teaching new members how to build, make clothing and be good citizens. My two castles are always open to the public and often have house guests,staying until they get a place of their own. The bay has two large nightclubs. Cutlass VI hovers above the bay and, as the name suggests, has a long, successful history. It's open on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, for theme parties. You'll find pleanty of friendly folks there. Bring your funny bone and try to out-pun Bix.

On the N.E. corner of the sim, we find a dark castle, Primal Passions club. This club is owned by Nydia Tungsten's daughter. The atmosphere is "Noir" and attracts a different clientelle than Cutlass, but also hosts Sunweaver events, like the Kiss concert for RFL. There are also two smaller, less known clubs, to gather with friends; the Drunken Parrot Pub, located at the trolly stop and the Rainbow Club, hidden behind the Fire Station, for those that like Ragae music to chill by. Two more stops, before we leave the sim. To the East of the fire station there is a large structure with a landing strip on top. The interior houses our Sunbeamer RFL team meetings and a museum of Sunweaver history in pictures and 3D models of sims. East of the air strip, be sure to visit the Fimi Memorial Tree house. As we take a last look around, the Castle towers, tree houses, air strip and Sunbeamer's HQ and flying night club give us the impression, the inhabitants of Sunweaver Bay have their sights set to the heavens.

Sunny Beach
This sim is still trying to decide what to be, when it grows up. For a long time, it featured surfing and a beach club. After that, Club Fur made it's home there, for about a year. Currently, it is available for rent and wears a winter coat of snow. I call it the over the river and through the woods sim. Although in reality I avoid cold climates, this sim has always been a favorite place to chill. Those wishing to make this homestead sim their home can contact Rita Mariner or Nydia Tungsten, for details.

HV Community
As we head East, to this sim, we are greeted by businesses on both sides of the highway, including Angel Creations, Alien Wise Enterprises, Hidden Valley, Brandi's, Angel Beach Land Rentals and SL Newser's office. There is far more to this sim than just the 9 to 5. As we pass the Newser office, we thumb our nose at Bix and head for higher elevations.

As we climb, we note that a good portion of the Northern part of the sim is owned by RECoyote and his partner, Perri Prinz. At ground level, it's a wonderful playground, for kids of any age. At the higher altitudes, they have skyboxes and platforms for their lofty pursuits. Perri's Spectral Shadows Art Gallery is a showcase of her story telling talents. Higher still, we find the Vinyl Museum, a night club featuring Perri and other master DJs. The club is currently dormant, but still in the same location. I caught up with REC, in the club and was told it would always be there. I noted that it had a new name over the door. We look forward to when events will be held there again.

While we are thousands of meters up, notice there are many sky objects to navigate around. Passing through this sim, the radar shows that most of the residents are in the sky. Ahead, you will see a large, man made moon. Within it's phantom shell, you might find Ranchan, building her next generation star craft. Dropping altitude to navigate, we again head East, to the next sim.

Sunlight Bay
This sim is mostly water, with the highway and trolly passing through it. On the East side, there is a large castle, the home of Nydia and Brandi Tungsten and friends. I understand the castle is open to the public and, if your timing is right, they might even show you around. I have written about it before, so we will move on with our tour of Sunweaver. We are now heading North.

Sunweaver Space
This is one of the older sims in the group and has a large and varied population. Space was the previous home of club Cutlass and right below it is the Sunweaver Mall. There are also some cool venders on the S.W corner of the sim. This reporter loves going shopping. You'll also find me here, every Sunday night, at the Feral Fury, watching movies, provided free by Shockwave Yareach, with my friends. There's even free popcorn. From Feral, we head down and find ourselves lining up for a landing on the final sim.

Pacific Waters
We come in for a landing at Farshore Field and taxi off the runway. There are some vintage aircraft, lining the tarmack. At the Far end, check out The Puddle jumper Mall. On the S.E. corner of the sim, there is a seaport for ships and sea planes. Around the perimeter of the isle, a race track allows you to test your latest hot wheels. In the hilly woods, in the N.E. quadrant, there is an underground bunker/clubhouse. There's no guard posted, so walk right in and take the elevator down.

This sim is the work of the well respected Cynthia Farshore. She and Shockwave built Cutlass VI, together.

In this article, I have given the names of a handfull of Sunweavers out of the 660 total membership. Dividing the few by the many, I have introduced my readers to the most notable one percent of Sunweavers. For closing comments, I asked what people liked about Sunweaver. I'll end with a few of my favorites.

Shockwave, "I like it here. That's why I stay here."

RECoyote, "Yal are my kind of crazies"

Bixyl, "I've lived at a few places before the 'weavers. Most didn't last very long. I've probably called it a "prac-topia" at times. Not an utopia, but as close as one can practically get. Little drama and level headed discussions on how to handle what issues we have."

The saying is true, "when you live in Sunweaver, you get more than land. You get a community."


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dark Dharma's Haunted Manor

At  our last Newser staff meeting, I was asked to prepare an article about a sim, designed by a big name SL artist. After visiting the exhibit, I was more than disappointed. I felt insulted, that a so called artist would expect anybody to witness such trash. I told Bixyl Shuftan, the Editor, that my conscience would not allow me to publish the name of the sim or it's creator. As I looked through the Destination Guide, one quickly gained my attention, "Dark Dharma's Haunted Manor and Haunted Forest". Dark Dharma was the creator of the North Pole Village & Santa's Workshop, which I had just published an article on. I was impressed with Dark Dharma's work, because it goes beyond mere technical abilities and effected my heart and mind. I felt sure that this artist was well qualified to scare the socks off us and just had to go see for myself. Yes, we are well past Halloween, but for two reasons, I'm offering it here and now. For one, this artist had impressed me and two, when my daughter was young, she talked me into playing a video game, called "Alone in the Dark". I stayed up late, many nights, playing ahead so I could coach her through the scary parts. I learned a good trick on that game. Each time I got to a door, where I knew there was a big challenge awaiting, I would save the game, so I didn't have to start from scratch if the ghost killed me.

The first thing I do, at any new sim, as things begin to rez, is take a look around, check the map to see where I am on the grid and check radar to see how many avs are there. I noticed, across the street from the haunted house, a shop that sold scary props, used in the haunted house. In a small graveyard to the right of the shop, there were about a dozen complete avatars for sale. When I saw the Elvira (Cassandra Peterson), I knew I had to buy and wear it for this adventure.

Dressed for the role and approaching the entry to the manor, we are informed that music should be turned off and sounds turned up. Personally, this theme is one that has always given me the creeps, so I was already on the edge of my seat. I will not spoil this adventures for my readers, by scouting ahead and warning you of any dangers, the way I did for my daughter. However, I will tell you there are indeed dangers and, like in "Alone in the Dark", they will send you back to your home sim. One misshap sent me to a location between sims, a Limbo I didn't think was possible in SL. The only way out of this Limbo was to restart the viewer and begin from scratch.

In all, I was very impressed by what Dark Dharma created here and I am pleased to share this adventure with my readers. Don't be surprised if you find a tombstone with my name on it there.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Santa's Workshop

Santa's Workshop

  When searching for the next great adventure to take my readers on, there is one thing we can all count on. If you can name it, there is probably already a sim for it. With that in mind, we are pleased to find that a search for "Santa's Workshop" provides us with a whole list of sims to explore. In theory, the search will list places with the highest traffic (popularity?) at the top, so we head to "North Pole Village and Santa's Workshop" at the Winter Porvoo sim (208,136,127)

  Porvoo sim is located in the part of the SL mainland which is perpetual winter, so we were prepared for a snowy landing. As our suroundings came into focus, we spot some signs. The first sign informs us that we must follow the path, to get to Santa's Workshop. A larger sign calls attention to the fact that there is a Santa's Elves Hunt in progress. There are 12 gifts, well hidden in the workshop and North Pole Village. We are advised to click everything, if we want to find the hidden gifts. As we walk along the path, we keep our eyes open and our radar on and notice there are many other avs on the sim, enjoying the adventure. A message comes in local chat,for maximum effect, turn of Music and turn up Sounds. Wearing headphones makes it even better. As we negotiate the path, the wind in our ears, snow crunching under foot and the tintinnabulation of ice crystals bring up the thought that it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. At the end of the path, we find a signpost, showing the direction to the various local attractions.

  In the search for Elf gifts, I wanted to leave no snowflake unturned and began by exploring the near-by Crystal Cave. Seen one crystal cave, you've seen 'em all, is our first impression, as we enter, but the soothing sounds and colorful lights weave their way into the mind.  It wasn't until I began writing about it that I thought something strange had happened there. I returned to the scene to revive my memories and yes, there was indeed an abominable surprise within.

Across from the cave entry, we climb the stairs to the workshop area. Here, you will find, in addition to the toyshop, the launch ramp for Santa's sleigh, the reindeer barn and a garage for sleigh mechanics to work in. You can even buy a full size animated reindeer here. Moving on, we find the toyshop. This area is full of wrapped presents and goodies to buy, to decorate your home, for the holidays. You'll be here a while, clicking on everything, to see if any provide free gifts.

Leaving the workshop area, we enter the North Pole Village, to see what it has to offer. Here, you'll find the Bakeshop, the North Pole Post office, the North Pole Newspaper press room, Elf Comm Central and the Elfamentary School, all around a central skating pond.

   At Elf Comm Central, they have a high tech, computer communication system, to keep tabs on who's being naughty or nice, so you better watch out. On the hill, behind the center, they even have their own coal mine.

Santa keeps his elves well educated, thanks to the Elfamentary School. We stopped in for a lecture on toymaking, that kept getting interupted by the new elf, behind me, Alfred Elf.

Seems that at least one elf prefers learning on his own. At his vacant desk, I spotted a big yellow book, called "Toymaking for Dummies". Perhaps it can be ordered from Amazon and arrive before Christmas.

After a fun adventure at this Santa's Workshop, I made a quick stop at another destination, where a "Santa's Workshop Photo Contest" is in progress. It turned out to be a promotion by the near-by mall and only open to their group. I snooped around a bit, to see if they had any seasonal backgrounds, for my Christmas card photo and noticed an oddly familiar old building. There was a gathering of people and animals, so this reporter inched closer, to see if there was a story here. What a great joy to find, after traveling to the four corners of SL and even to the moon, for a story, your humble informant is given a photo-op with the King of Kings.

Peace on earth, y'all,

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Bot Invaders

   Shortly after joining SL, six years ago, I got my first job as a dancer in an adult club called Escort Oasis. I went to the club to dance and enjoyed the music, friendship and generous tips. Having avoided the "Escort" side of the business, I left with only fond memories of the club. I am still a member and return to my "Alma Mater", for fun, now and then. Recently, while at a party at Club Cutlass, I got a group chat from Escort Oasis. The owner, Jenwen Walpole was explaining the plight that many new, smaller clubs were experiencing. Jen emphasized that her concerns were not for her club, but rather for those trying to start new clubs, as she did eight years ago. Because I share Jen's desire to make SL a fun and profitable experience for every one of it's residents, I quickly volunteered to help get this story to a larger audience, by way of an article in the Newser.

   When my party ended, I flew to Escort Oasis and joined Jen in the overhead control booth. We talked a while and she gave me a notecard, which explained the problem. I have cleaned up the typos, written in haste, while managing a large club, and submit it below, in the hope that bringing it to public attention will aid in solving the problem of robots taking over SL.

Jenwen Walpole explains the bot invasion to Sha

   Recently quite a few clubs and venues have closed in SL. A few old favorites and quite a few newer ones. A few of these clubs and venues were great places. Their only issue is that their traffic never really grew  even though they put great efforts in getting the word out. They ultimately failed due to low revenue streams from advertisers and a general decline in clients throughout SL. 

   During this same time, places with lower real traffic thrived. Why? Those clubs used bots to boost up their traffic numbers. This has two effects. First is obvious, advertisers see the higher traffic numbers and will advertise in those locations, providing them revenue. It also gives an artificial boost to a likely inferior location raising their traffic numbers and having them show higher in search, allowing them to be seen by more potential clients. 

   The negative impact is that first, and newer users to sl, going to these places with fake traffic are greeted by inferior clubs with very few people in them or even worse, a room full of non responsive bots. This ultimately turns them off to adult SL. We loose a lot of newer users this way. Second is that newer clubs with great concepts, and great staff never get a chance to succeed because they are over shadowed by those that cheat the system.

   What is a bot? A bot is just an unattended avatar logged in usually using some kind of text based client. 
A typical location using bots to boost traffic will have 20-40 bots. How much does this increase traffic? 30 bots adds over 43,200 to their traffic score. So, a location that would normaly have 10,000 in traffic, will show as 53,200 and be near the top of the search.

   Is the use of bots against terms of service, yes, and SL is supposed to be policing it, but the reality is they do not. Also, reports of places using these bots seem to be ignored by second life. There are locations that have been using bots for years with no response from sl.

   The reality is that use of bots not only benefits the places using them at the expense of those who do not, but it adds to SL's bottom line for number of concurrent users, increasing the apparent usership of SL. It is generality believed that because of SL's usership decline that there is little incentive for sl to police this.
This practice is killing the adult world in particular. The potential clients that the adult community counts on get fed up with the faked  traffic and poorer quality than the numbers would suggest. This leads to a decline in the persons we need to keep adult SL going and thriving.

   Are there legitimate uses for bots? Sure. and SL actually has a facility to mark an avatar as a "scripted agent" so it dosn't count as traffic. However most do not do this, and would be counter to the whole purpose of using a bot to increase traffic.

   What can be done? Well education is key. 

   Advertisers who patronize those locations using bots should be made aware of the negative impact they have on patronizing places that use bots. 

   Performers should be aware that their support of locations that use bots is hurting adult SL and will ultimately lead to more difficult times in finding clients.

   Clients should be informed that these places are not the norm, and that very good places exists that have real traffic. and be encouraged to explore and question traffic numbers. Removing the incentives of revenue and support for false traffic by the community will deter those who use bots in the adult community.

   We could start a campaign to report such places to SL. However many feel this would fall on already deaf ears. For those wanting to do that, reports should be filed under the help/report abuse, in your client.